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Davis/Monthan AFB ~ Home Away from Home

Nov 13th to 18th,

The Base!

 

We’ve been here for nearly a full week. The base is amazing! The ride around the central part is around six miles. This is not counting the thousands of acres that encompass the entire base. They can’t call it an Air Force Base unless it has a Golf Course, it does, just next door to the FamCamp. A very large Base Exchange and Commissary are also relatively a couple of miles down the road. The Base exchange also has a food court that equals any major mall complex. It’s interesting to watch air crews from different countries stop for lunch. Patches on their sleeves indicate they are from France, Italy and a few other European countries.

Hobby Shops!

I was particularly impressed with the auto hobby shop! Sixteen bays with lifts, with anything you ever wanted in a repair shop including, ACF Certified mechanic, if you needed one. A tow truck is available, if you break down. What about a state of the art “Paint Spray Booth” to repaint your vehicle, they got it!

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A Hobby Auto Shop? Yes, First Class!

Next door is the hobby and arts shop. I’ve already taken an “Art Framing class.” I now have a certificate to operate their equipment, or any military framing shop world-wide. How cool is that! What really caught my eye was their $3,000 double-sided frame shear, made in Denmark. I’ve been making frames, at home, for a long time, but I knew I would learn many “Tips and Tricks” from this lady instructor. Della, who is from England. She gave us nearly a four-hour class. We learned to cut framing stock, use colored corner glue and a hydraulic corner fastening machine. After a glue-up on the frame, we tackled a double matt cut. Here again, I have a matt cutter, but their, “state of the art” machine was fun to use. I may not ever have their equipment, but the knowledge gained will be useful when I get back home.

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Della our Instructor for the Framing Class

The First Week ~ Settling In

On the 16th, here at the FamCamp, a potluck Thanksgiving dinner was given at the Ramada. Now the Ramada is not the hotel that you are probably thinking of. It is an open air pavillion here in the park. An RV dealer prepared the turkey and some of the fixings. The campers brought potlock dishes. There was a lot of food! Naturally, the RV dealer had several RV’s to look at from class A, 5th wheel and class C’s. It reminds me of auto dealers having an open house with prizes. The only difference here is that the dealer came to the campground. It was a perfect time, for us, to meet follow campers.

The Eagle Nest, a restaurant at the Golf Club, started their seasonal November ~ April, to have their Friday night special, a 16oz T-bone steak, salad, baked potato and rolls. This at a very reasonalble price. Last night, we were at Mama Louisa’s Italian Restaurant with Sally and her frineds Jamie and Paul, (recently retired from the Navy) There is no shortage of places to eat in Tucson! That brings me to an important point!

Health!

Eating out often is not the best way to stay healthy. To counter this habbit are the bikes. Nearly every morning, Helen and I headout biking. First day, it was 5 miles, than 6 miles. Now that we’re limbering up 10 miles is the norm.

I had to replace both bike tires on my bike. With 2,000 plus miles, the tires were getting to the point that the tire cords were showing on the side walls.

Back to health, we’ve been here for just over a week and a couple of notable things have happened, especially to me. First, for a long time, back home, I had joint pain. Totally gone, possibly from the low humidity. Secondly, I used to wakeup around 2:30am and than toss and turn till morning. I now sleep through the night. Who knows, I’m just a happy camper!

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A Stop at Outdoor Recreation for Bike Trails!

Travel Cost!

Some of you are curious as to how much our trip down here cost. For camping fees, we spent a grand total of $42.00, no typo! For gas, just over $700.00. It was 3,255 miles, which includes a few side trip adventures. I averaged about 10.6 to 11mpg. Eating, we didn’t keep a record of that as we tend to eat the same at home or on the road! Propane about $18.00.

That is what we saw and did!

 

 

 

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Three Encounters!

Nov. 12, 2017

Sunday morning, it was time for church. Sierra Vista has a few Catholic Churches to choose from. St Andrew the Apostle was 3.8 miles away from the campground. These Southwest churches are of the old mission architecture style and are gorgeous! After mass, coffee and pastries were served outside, in the shaded veranda.

Phillip and the 3rd Encounter

Leaving the church grounds, we decided to enter Phillip’s home address in the GPS. He was the gentleman who we met at Massai Point and later at the Coronado National Forest for disperse camping. He had said, “if you can’t get a campsite at Ft Huachuca, go over to my house, park, use the water and electricity. I’ll be there in a couple of days.” We just wanted to thank him for the offer and leave him a card in the door with that message. We found his house very easily. As we drove into his driveway, there were two beautiful adobe houses. We figured he lived in the smaller of the two. Getting out of the truck camper, simultaneously, who walks out around the corner, Phillip and Mike (the German tourist who had a malfunctioning furnace, in his rented RV). Wow, what a surprise! Phillip said, that the smaller building was his garage! He took me inside and my eyes bugged right out! There in this carpeted garage, were several motorcycles, all of the best caliber. The walls covered with paintings that one would not find in a garage.

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Phillip & Helen in the Garage

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The Collection ~ A Young Man’s Dream!

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The Dirt Riders

A short time later, I was digging into Mike and Chris’ (his wife), rented RV, trying to discover why the furnace wasn’t working. After eliminating several electrical problems, I think I narrowed it down to a bad circuit board. A dealer would have to make the final conclusion.

Back in the big house, Helen was getting a guided tour of Phillip’s home. I joined them for the tour. Phillip, if I remember right, him saying, that he hasn’t worked since 1974. Originally from Vermont, he his a person that lives his life to the fullest! Not extravagant, opinionated yes, but a nice guy. We were fortunate to meet him, but that is what we like to do. Find unexpected adventures in both places and people. This whole part of the trip was unplanned, a stop at the Visitor Center, a question, “What’s to visit around here?” “Well if you have time.” And so, the journey moves forward.

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The Living Room

North to Tucson ~ Davis/Monthan AFB

Sierra Vista is a mere 75 miles south of Tucson, so the drive was pleasant and short. AZ-90 than I-10 West off at exit 265, a few more city turns and we were at the Air Force Base. I’ve been to many military RV campgrounds, but this one seems very well run. We feel like we are at a resort. Really, full of activities, nearly overload with possibilities. We’ve signed up for a couple already. We’ll keep you posted on how they turn out.

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Site 77 FamCamp ~ Davis/Monthan Air Force Base ~ Our Home for a While!

That’s what we saw and did!

 

 

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Chiricahua Apache & Cochise

Nov 10 & Nov 11 2017

This sunny morning, we said goodbye to Fort Bliss RV Campground. The short cut that David gave, us at the MWR office proved to be an excellent choice. It was nearly traffic free, no major mountains to climb and actually cut driving time. Taking the TX 3255 to the rotary circle and than NM 404 from the base is the way to go if you’re coming from the West. We were soon on the I-10 heading West in New Mexico. The plan was to drive to Tucson, AZ just under 300 miles. Traveling along, the scenery dramatically changed to long flat valleys with distant mountains. The colors of the golden grass, greenish-silver creosol bushes, the darker cactus, mountains in hazy blues, reds and orange sure made me want to stop and take some panorama photos. I’m anxious to see how the dash cam captured these vistas.

The I-10 Strait As An Arrow

When you drive long distances on this type of highway, it can get boring, even with beautiful scenery. We tend to stop often at exits (inhabited ones that is) for a coffee break, or gas. For example, we’ve been on I-10 several times and we always stop at exit 20 in Lordsburg, NM to see if the S&H Green Stamp sign is still hanging at the town supermarket. Some of you younger crowd might not know about this 1960’s vintage promotion deal. You bought products and the stores and they gave you green stamps on the amount purchased. You collected the stamps and when you had a few books, you could redeem them at the Green Stamps Store for merchandise. Further up the road, we stopped at a Visitor Center in Willcox, AZ. The same lady that we talked to several years ago was still working at the counter. We asked her what we could visit in the area. She said, “If you have time, the Chiricahua National Monument would be worth the 35 mile side trip.” We took the bate, got propane at the Travel Center and were soon on our way south on AZ 186.

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Who remembers Green Stamps?

Chiricahua National Monument ~ End of Boredom!

Turning South, on AZ 186, found us traveling through high pastures of golden grass as far as I could see to base of rock faced mountains! The road, paved, narrow and with an occasional oncoming vehicle was the norm. When a vehicle approached the driver would wave, even the UPS driver. We knew we were in a better laid back area of Arizona. An occasional ranch house dotted the landscape. Some were mansions, while others looked very poor and even abandoned.

Chiricahua, I had such a difficult time trying to pronounce this word. Well, it turned out to be a word that I knew very well. Pronounced: (Cheery-cow-wa), so well known from all the old western movies. Now, we knew that we were going into Indian country.

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Entrance to the National Monument!

We soon arrived at the National Monument gate, not occupied, with a sign reading, Visitor Center two miles ahead, Bonita Campground full, all vehicle over 29’ prohibited from the Monument! We met the length limit and headed to the Visitor Center. It was mid afternoon and we asked the ranger what we could see for the rest of the day. She gave us maps, directions and what (short) trails to explore. Most of all, she gave us an option for overnight camping, not at the National Monument, but five miles away at the National Forest for “Dispersed Camping”.

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The flower and the rock

Wow and Double Wow!

Expecting nothing, heading up Bonita Canyon to Massai Point, we both got wide eyed as this narrow road opened to a view of massive bolders, shaped like giant oatmeal containers! Our first stop, Organ Pipes, for pictures shooting. We now knew we would be in for our first, Arizona, on this trip, adventure! The paved road narrowed to a tight two lanes. Only a few cars and trucks encountered all the way up. No other turnoffs for photo opportunities until we got to Massai Point.

Massai Point Overlook

The temperature had dropped from 76 degrees to 67 degrees, comfortable. The sun was just starting to reach the “golden hour,” for photography. The summit being at 6,870 feet was equal to the highest mountain in New Hampshire. Parking in the culdersack was no problem. This is where a truck camper excels! As soon we parked, this guy, a gentleman named Phillip, formerly from Vermont, came over and started conversation over our NH license plate. Phillip was a talker and we got loads of info on the area. It’s time, for a hike! The Massai Nature Trail was only a half mile, but Teresa, at the Visitor Center said this would give us the flavor of the land. “The stronghold of the Apache chief Cochise was hidden in the Dragoon Mountains.” This was the first sign on the trail. We were in Indian country for sure. The Dragoon Mountains were derived from the soldiers of the 3rd U.S. Cavalry, who were able to fight both on foot and on horseback in the 1850’s.

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Taking a break from our short Massai Point hike!

The Geology

The geology of this land is remarkable. the rock formations were formed by a gigantic volcano, 1000 times bigger than Mt St Helens in Washington State!

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The Kiss

From the Summit

A Portal view in the West, enabled us to see the Dragoons Mountains 40 miles away. Many a photo was taken while on this Massai Nature Walk Trail.

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Me on the Trail at Massai Point

The Coronado National Forest

Dispersed Camping means no services. From the National Monument to the National Forest is five miles, but five miles of dirt roads! The last two were some of the worst washboard roads I’ve ever been on. With 80psi of air in the tires it was tough going at 10 or less mph. I could have aired down the tires, but it was now dark. The first turn off was already full. Up the road, a half mile and I found a turnoff and parked for a quiet night. So quiet I could hear every breath I took!

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Volcano Aftermath!

That is what we saw and did!

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Fort Bliss was Blissful Today!

Nov 9, 2017

Old Ironside Museum

Can you believe we stayed in one place for two days! Ft Bliss is home to the 1st Armored Division nicknamed “Old Ironsides” The 1st Armored Division celebrated its 60th birthday at home and abroad. This Fort has many things to visit and we couldn’t resist staying here another day.

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Helen shopping for a used Tank!

The museum is a very large building. I had the feeling that the exhibits were being expanded. They had a lot of history exhibits, as well as modern-day displays. The museum was large enough that a basic training class was being given. I didn’t notice the time that we spent there, but the morning was gone before knew it. Next was a visit to Commissary for supplies.

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The Sherman Tank ~ WWII Vintage

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The M1A1 Abrams (4 Gals to the mile) and 60 tons

An Unexpected Breakdown!

From the Commissary, I was driving down to the other end of the post to visit “The Buffalo Soldier Monument” I was in a very deserted or less traveled part of the Post. I was going no more 20 miles per hour, slowing down for a stop sign. As I came to a stop, I noticed one of our bikes, on the front bike rack lean right over.  With no traffic around, I just put it in park and went to the front of the truck. Sure enough the front bike was in a horizontal position! The retaining arm had slipped right off and the bike rolled over. The front bike tire was flat. This is what caused the retaining arm to slide down and release the bike. A closer examination of the tire revealed that the sidewall cords had abraded causing the flat. Remember, this was my bike and those tires had over two thousand miles, that I put on and many more miles riding on the front of the truck. I secured the bike with bungee cords and retraced my steps to the Base exchange for a couple of new bike tires and tubes. Well now it was time to head up the road to the campground. It wasn’t long before I had that tire replaced, at least on the front. I plan on replacing the rear when I get to Davis/Monthan AFB in Tucson, AZ. This evening, in the Community Room at the campground I pounder ,”What if”, that had happened on the interstate or, in heavy city traffic here in El Paso! I had double safeties on the bike rack, but now I’ll increase this to three backup safeties.

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New tire and tube did the trick!

Tomorrow’s Route of March

From the RV campground here at Ft Bliss, I plan on heading a little North before continuing on I-10. I really hated the El Paso traffic in town when getting here. I never have seen so much traffic cutting in and out of lanes. So, talking to the MWR office person, he directed me to a short detour and completely avoiding the city hassles. This was not using the Transmountain 375 road. The route would take me into New Mexico and back to I-10 without missing a beat!.

Short cut around El Paso Traffic

That is what we saw and did!

 

 

 

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Life is a Highway

Nov 8, 2017 ~ Day 8

Life is a Highway

The song lyrics go something like this; “Life is a highway and I drive it all night long”. Well you could say that’s what I did today. It started raining in the middle of the night and rained almost all day. To top that off, the temperature stayed at 34 degrees! I looked at the Weather Channel and it looked like El Paso, TX was in the clear and the temperature would be in the sixties. The only drawback was that El Paso was 469 miles from Abilene. The song on the radio was playing “Life is a highway…” that’s all I needed to motivate me for the ride. A quick trip to Wal-Mart for a few groceries, we hit the road around 7am. For 300 miles it was a steady cold rain!

A Big Boy’s Pleasure

I drove unto I-20 in Abilene and within a few miles, my eyes lit up at the site of this giant oil refinery adjacent to the highway. It was totally unexpected to see this massive complex. I was in for many more oil field related surprises. I never realized how immense this oil field country was in Texas. For over a hundred miles, I witnessed this oil industry! Everything, I’m talking of equipment along the highway, was in multiples. From mountains of pipe, to trucks with all kinds of different machinery mounted on them, to manufactures of trailers of every size, to extra wide loads on the highway, to hundred ton cranes being shuttled from one area to the next. I was living a big boy’s dream!

The last time I remotely experienced this kind of adventure was in the oil fields in Prudo Bay, Alaska back in the mid eighties. I’ve always been fascinated by heavy equipment. I can remember when I was a kid in the mid fifties and our country was building the Eisenhower Interstate System, my father would take me and travel into Vermont to see those big bulldozers and belly pans move mountains of earth. Ok, maybe I’m getting too excited on this subject and might be losing my audience.

The Change In Terrain

The major oil centers are Abilene, Big Spring, Midland and Odessa which are around 3,000 feet of elevation. This is not mountain country in nature, but flat land that is just high in elevation. That is why the temperature was down to 34 degrees. As I said before, it rained for nearly three hundred miles. When we finely climbed the Apache and Barrilla Mountains, we left the rain behind. With the sun shining on the El Paso side of the mountains, the temperature rose into the mid sixties as we pulled into El Paso, TX around 4:30pm (that was with a one hour central time change here in El Paso.

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The El Paso side of the Apache Mountains

Click on this link to view our travels today

Fort Bliss RV Park

A problem with a loose wire connection into my GPS nearly caused me to nearly miss the turn off to the RV Park. It is located on Fort Bliss property, but not on the actual base. We made it ok, but a little after five and naturally the office was closed for the day. We looked up the camp host, who said they had no openings. Bummer! Well, she said that we could dry camp and be on the waiting list. That was fine with us, we could use all the facilities, club house, restrooms, showers and to top that off it was for free! “Life is a highway and I drive all night long.” The adventure continues!

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Inside the Club House at Ft Bliss RV Park

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RV Park at Ft Bliss

That is what we saw and did!

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Abilene, TX

Nov. 7th 2017

Cold Front!

The weather plays an important part in our travels. Just yesterday, in Texarkana, TX it was in the mid eighties. Today, it was in the fifties, a sure sign for us to move on. It seems that another cold front is swinging down from Canada and that can affect the weather all the way down into Texas. Why freeze? Just get into the truck and head in a Southwesterly direction, eventually the cold weather will be behind us. The jet stream starts in the Northwest, swoops down the central part of the country and winds up in New England.

Click to view today’s travel map

Abilene, Abilene!

“Abilene, Abilene prettiest town I ever seen

Folks down there don’t treat you mean

in Abilene, my Abilene”

Well, I’m not sure about the lyrics of the above song, but Abilene does play somewhat of a role in my history. Back in the World War II days, my father was stationed here in Abilene, TX for basic training. I can’t find an Army base around, but like many WWII area places, it probably was deactivated. I just Googled Abilene and Camp Barkley cam up and was one of the nation’s largest military camps of World War II. At peak, 60,000 men were in training here. So dad was here and 76 years later so was his son! Did you figure that we are camped in Abilene and of course at a Cracker Barrel? With 356 miles behind the wheel today, we only have another 549 miles to clear Texas. A total of 2,270 miles from Berlin, NH in seven days which averages to about 324 miles a day. Sounds like a lot for some people, but leaving early in the morning and driving 5 to 6 hours puts us parked around mid afternoon. That gives us time to explore the area. If something strikes our fancy, we can stay longer or move on. Right now the weather is dictating our moves!

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Dallas Ramp to Nowhere!

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Six Flags over Texas

That what we did and saw!

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There ain’t no cure for the Summertime Blues!

More Rain & Cold!

This morning at Navy Mid-South Station in Millington, TN it was 56 degrees and looking like rain all day. On came the long pants, tee shirt and long sleeve shirt! Our game for today was to spend time in Memphis. Someone online told us that Memphis was a rough town and two other campers here said the same thing. Being fair weather sailors and especially not fond of rain and cold, it was decided to pickup and leave for Arkansas, Little Rock, that is!

At the Arkansas Welcome Center, this nice lady gave me all kinds of info on Little Rock. A campground just across the river has a wonderful view of Little Rock. The old railroad bridge was converted to a bike and pedestrian walk to the downtown. Cool! But nothing always works the way we want! Little Rock is a mere 137 miles from Memphis, a very short ride for us. Arriving into the Little Rock area, it was pouring and still in the mid fifties! I’m telling myself, I’m not stopping until it’s warmer, so here we are in Texarkana, TX. The temperature now at 79 degrees at 5:50pm and we are at the Texas Welcome Center for the night. Why not stay at the Cracker Barrel 2 miles up the road? The Welcome Center allows you to stay one overnight and with WiFi and super clean restrooms, why not!

The Split Post Office

The young lady at this Center gave us places to visit and eating possibilities! The State Line Boulevard divides Arkansas and Texas. At the end of the boulevard is the US Post Office which sits smack dab in the middle of the State Line! We had a few laughs, took selfies and explored this area. The young lady Lisa also told us of Joe’s Pizza across from the PO. Great pizza, and while waiting, the waitress gave us these rolls, shaped like a pretzel and as they say in the food world Yummy!

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Divided!

There ain’t no cure for the Summertime Blues!

As the title of the above song indicates, we are “happy campers” with finally getting to warmer weather. I don’t know if we will quickly move on towards Arizona or zig zag and see what we can explore here in Texas. Who knows, you’ll just have to be patient and read the blog! Be sure to give me a “Like” (for encouragement) if you enjoy reading about our adventures!

That is what we saw and did!

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Southwest ~ Day 4 & 5

Nov 4, 2017

In The Fog!

I had hit the sack very early because of my cold, consequently got plenty of sleep. About ten hours, but I felt refreshed for today’s travel. It was just fifty miles or so to the Kentucky border. Still very dark out. A heavy dew, I needed the windshield wipers to kept good visibility for the  dash-cam. The darkness will disappear tomorrow morning, you see there is a one hour time change plus daylight saving time kicks in tonight. Two hours back will make it daylight very early.

Back to the fog, it never seemed to clear up until noon time, buy than we were well into the State of Kentucky. Lexington, KY is noted for its fine horses and the best manicured ranches with their white fences around miles of grass land. Moving further south into the State, Elizabethtown was our next stopped at the visitor center. This was only to find it closed. The brochures outside didn’t give us much incentives to stick around for sightseeing. With Nashville only three hours away it was time to move on.

Big City Traffic!

At the Tennessee border Visitor Center I grabbed a couple of maps and al kinds of info on Nashville. Off we went, checking things out as we entered town. A place to park and a place to stay overnight were priorities! We were thinking of going to mass Saturday night and possibly staying in the church parking lot. We found a church online, but not in a safe neighborhood. Scratch that idea. I looked up another church downtown, but no parking available. So, it was time to regroup some place. I had spotted a Cracker Barrel six miles back on I-65. On the way there, my GPS lost power and so did the Dash-cam. I grabbed my phone and navigated back to the Cracker Barrel. It looked like the USB plug that I just installed was the culprit. I switched to my iPhone to finish navigation. From the Cracker Barrel restaurant I did another search and found a church up in, close by Hendersonville. We went to mass at 5pm and ask for permission to stay overnight in the church parking lot. We got permission and had a very quiet night. Not even a church mouse was heard!

Honky Tonk ~ Nashville!

Sunday morning, Nashville was in our sights. Parking is a major issue during the week days but free on Sundays (except on Titans football game weekends) Yup, Titans vs Ravens at 12pm. Parking very scare and super expensive, but, by luck I was able to find a lot that only cost $5 for six hours. What a deal! Normally, this is $35 a day with no by the hour option. It was just 150 feet off of Broadway, the main action street.

You would think that a Sunday morning would be deserted, but with the Titans playing a noon, there was a lots of purple and blue jerseys in town. We had a ball walking, talking to the fans. Tailgate parties all over the place. Took a lot of pictures, tried to go to Wildhorse Salon, a recommendation from our KW buddy Paula, but it didn’t open til way later in the day!

 

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Nissan Stadium from the bridge

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Broadway ~ Sunday morning ~ different at night!

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Nashville ~ Broadway

Navy Mid-South Midway RV Park!

Yes, on the fifth day from leaving home this was our first campground. Our water resources were getting low, our tanks needed to be dumped. Military AllStays app gave me this Navy Station on the Mississippi River. No reservations and we got one of three sites left open. The RV campground is located in a wooded area close to the Commissary and Base Exchange. Like walking 500 feet to our camper with full hookups $20.00. We are happy campers tonight.

Click to see our two day travels

That is what we saw and did!

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Southwest ~ Day 3

Nov 3, 2017

The Normal

It is customary, for me to come down with a cold either before or right after leaving for a travel adventure. Yup, I have a cold, but all is not lost. My daughter, Christy, had or I should say, also has a cold. She informed me to go to Wal-Mart and purchase Zicam tablets. They seem to really do the trick!

Behind the Wheel

Today was a driving day. We left LaVale, MD around 7:45am after publishing the blog. It didn’t take long for the weather to change and start raining off and on. Before too long, we crossed into West Virginia. Normally when we cross West Virginia, it takes about 30 minutes before we cross into Virginia. Not so this time. Today, we covered the entire state, the long way taking the entire day. Even with the rain, the scenery was perfect in its own right. Fog in the valleys, green meadows with cows, hills or mountains with hollows in every direction. The foliage gone for another year, but still rustic with its bronze remaining leaves. Very mindful of the Great North Woods of New Hampshire. It is a land that God forgot to create some flat areas or it seems that way. Everything is always going up or down. It must have cost a fortune to build highways in them “thar” hills.

Click to view today’s travel map

I didn’t get to many (any) pics today because of the rain, but I have plenty from our yesterday’s visit in Cumberland!

 

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This is Frank the gentleman who gave us history of the downtown

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The start of a bike trail ~ we should of biked it!

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One of the many murals on Baltimore St

 

That is what we did and saw!

264 miles driven today

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The Train tour starts at this station, but was only running the following day

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Southwest ~ Day 2

Nov 2, 2017

We both had a good quiet night’s sleep at the truck stop. Our departure was around 6:45am, still in the dark. I’m at my best early in the morning. By noon time, we had traveled enough to start slowing down and start exploring. We were now at the Cumberland Gap in Maryland. This a natural “V” cut into the Allegheny mountains. It was first discovered by Daniel Boone. I presume he was exploring a way to cross the Allegheny mountains in his horse camper! We spent a little time checking out the place and getting tourist info.

Click for travel map

A few miles pass the “Gap” was the Rocky Gap State Park. We stopped in to checkout the place and possibly stay overnight, but being off-season, some of it was closed. I just couldn’t see paying for just a place to park overnight. The large Casino, on nearly the same property, was full to capacity.  That’s when we decided to explore the town of Cumberland and the C & O Canal. The canal was started to connect Cumberland to the North Branch of the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay. Like many good deeds in life, they didn’t quite make it. The railroad came in and the canal wasn’t needed to open up the West. The history in this area goes way back to 1749 when King George II gave 500,000 acres to the Ohio Company for speculation and development of the Ohio Valley to the West. This area was also noted for the “Under Ground Railroad” to free slaves.

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Cumberland down by the canal

Cumberland is a beautiful city with splendid architecture in the old downtown. Many buildings have murals and frescos. Baltimore Street is a pedestrian only street. Flowers, brick pavers are the norm here. We met Frank, a jewelry store owner, who gave us insight into the history of this town. We must have talked for a half hour. He had a lot to say and we enjoyed listening. Frank told us of a new Cracker Barrel Restaurant a short distance away. Naturally, we had dinner and spent the night. Very quiet night I must say!

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Back in the Day

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Cumberland overlook with our little truck camper

That is what we saw and did!

 

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Southwest ~Day 1

Leaving our hometown of Berlin around 7:45, we followed a new, to us, route, going down on I-91 to the Mass Turnpike, (a toll road) South on I-87 to I-84 to Port Jarvis, NY The idea was to see if this would be a smoother highway when hauling the 5th wheel to Florida. It was, with several tolls. I will be taking this route in the future! I-88 going to Binghamton was so rough, last spring, that I did get a slow leak on the 5th wheel and had to change a tire at our friends home.

Click to view travel map

I was a little surprised that the warmest it got today was 45 degrees, even here 439 miles south of the Great North Woods! Our furnace is working just fine!

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Pumkin from recent “RiverFire” festival ~ It fits the occasion!

That is what we saw and did!

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Minus 6 to Migration

With daylight dwindling everyday, some 5 hours less, trees now bare of leaves, overhead cloud cover and rain, time has come to migrate to warmer, sunnier part of the country. I hate to start blogging on a depressing note, but given the opportunity to strike off to a different climate does make me fortunate! I do realize that these journeys could come to a quick end in just a few years or for that matter days. I am very fortunate to have a wife that puts up with my traveling desires.

Nearly Packed! (Minus Three)

Tomorrow morning, I’ll be working on my grandson’s pickup truck. LED driving lights will be installed with along with new blackened housings. On Sunday my truck camper will be sitting under the camper. Things will now move very fast, checked lists doubled check, fresh water tank fill, propane lines purged and the refrigerator tested for propane usage.

Sailors Take Warning! (Minus Two)

Sunday morning sunrise! “Red skies in the morning, sailors take a warning” yes indeed we got a warning. Late Sunday night, early Monday morning, the wind and rain came into our town with a vengeance! Not sure how much rain, but in the neighborhood of four to six inches. Wind gust into the sixties.  Tropical storm Philippe let us know it wasn’t happy with us not going to KW. We personally didn’t sustain any damage, but several streets did get washed out and thousands of good size trees came tumbling down. Over a hundred fifty thousand residents (in the state) without power. Tuesday spent driving around assessing the damage. Time to get out of Dodge!

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Major Street Flooding!

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River Front Property

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Only Gets Worse!

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Our Little Brook 

At This Time Tomorrow! (Minus One)

At this time tomorrow, we should be on the road. The weather forecast looks good for our first travel day. Our target destination will be some place near Chambersburg, PA.

That is what we saw and did!

 

 

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A Decision Made!

No official word as come from MWR as to an opening date for the campgrounds. December 15 is tentative, but I think it could possibly be later than that. Their (Navy) internet is still not working. The priorities are not the campgrounds, (rightly so). So, at the end of this month, the truck camper is heading south and then west! Come along for the journey and see what life will bring us. The link below will show our tentative travel route. I’m sure it will deviate as we move along. It’s not a question of getting there fast, but to stay ahead of COLD weather. Click on this link

What I hope to do is to include in the blog, a daily map of our progress and nightly stops. This may not be possible all the time. WiFi is the key to success!

The Load Plan

Every day I am advancing towards getting things in order for our departure. Hurricane Irma has changed many things here in New Hampshire’s “Great North Woods”. By now, we would be in Key West, but the 5th wheel is parked in the side yard next to the shop. This has become a problem or annoyance in a couple of ways. First, my grandson Sawyer, needed to get to his brother’s flatbed trailer out, but a fishing shack sitting on it would not allow enough room to clear the 5th wheel. My snow plow also was on the wrong side, the other issue. Why not move the 5th wheel one might ask? The RV is blocked up, I would have to install the 5th wheel hitch in the truck and later remove it. Well the solutions; I made a couple of HD saw horses and beams to support the bob-house (winter fishing shack). Jacking it up off the trailer needed to be done anyway. Sawyer said, he wouldn’t have time this winter to go ice fishing, but his brother Austin needed his trailer back. I put the snow plow on three flatbed dollies and moved it using a Johnson bar to cross the side yard. Why move the snowplow if we’re in the Southwest? I may be called for that camp host position in KW and I would need to plow the lower driveway to get the 5th wheel out. A lot of things might happen and then again might not. I’m just trying to be prepared for as many possibilities as possible!

The Departure Date

Helen & I have agreed that November 1st would be our start date. This is nine days from this Monday morning. Now comes the crunch time, did I pack this and that, did I move whatever from the 5th wheel to the truck camper? Did I leave that whatever in the house? The only sure way to positively resolve this is with a physical eyes on item and a check list! That’s what I will be doing this week.

That is what I’ve been doing!

 

 

 

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Autumn in the North Country

One of the nicest times of the year in New Hampshire is right now! The days are getting shorter, three hours and fifty minutes shorter as of today Oct. 3, 2017. Days getting shorter doesn’t make it nicer, but if you’re an earlier riser it makes for dramatic sunrises and later sunsets. This morning, I was out the door around 6:30am with my D7000 Nikon heading for the Androscoggin River. The sun was up above the valley fog and I was thinking I might grab some shots of a calm river, fog and sun light peeking through. When I got there the fog was very dense. I drove further upriver to see if things were better, no luck.

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Early Fall Morning

Back down to the 12th Street bridge. I walked onto the bridge. The fog was still a little heavy, but I did managed to capture the moment. Taking great pictures of mother nature is a matter of timing, to capture light and of course composition.

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Piece on the River

A few days have slipped by since I wrote the above paragraph. The foliage is at or nearly passed peak. Out again this morning, for more river shots! A construction crew was working feverishly to rebuild one of our six dams on this part of the river. That was my initial destinations with my trusty Nikon. This time sun and leaf colors were beaming!

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Near Peak up River

A wild apple tree, just across the access road from the dam, was full of big red apples. Click, click for a few shots of color. Heading North up river I wanted to shoot more river pictures with the mountains in the background. I pulled into Horn Field, next to the river. A bunch of guys were loading wood into a pontoon boat. They were setup skids and short pieces of lumber on these boom-piers out in the middle of the river. Next weekend it will be “River Fire”, an annual festival with hundreds of carved pumpkins set up on the old Berlin Mills Bridge.

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River Fire Volunteer Crew

The carved pumpkins are lit up to show their many intricate faces. After dark, the bonfires are lit on the boom-piers. This covers the river for about a half mile. It’s pretty cool to see these glowing fires, seemingly in the middle of the river.

 

For those of you would don’t know what boom-piers are: Back in the early logging days, different saw mills, locally that is,  needed a way to identify and separate logs cut up river and driven down the Androscoggin River to the saw and pulp mills. They devised this method. In the winter time when the river was frozen, they hauled wagon loads of stone into the middle of the river into great piles. They were encircled with wooden cribbing. When spring thaw came this created island some 100 feet apart. Tree length logs were than chain from island (boom-piers) to island. This gave a separation of logs for ownership. I believe sometime in the early 60’s was the last log drives on this river.

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Boom Piers (late 1800’s)

That is what I’ve been up to!

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The “Sprinter” and The “Lance”

RV living, both in Key West and on the road exploring this great country! This morning, I’m sitting in my  sun-room, looking out on a beautiful fall day. The leaves are starting to turn red, some orange and others still green. The weather here in New Hampshire has been exceptionally warm, sunny and nearly better than perfect!

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Our Back Yard

What I know is that all of this is going to come to an end very soon. The first week of October will traditionally bring peak foliage. After the foliage comes grey skies, rain, frost, snow flurries and a quick end to outdoor summer activities for some. Morning walks will be a burden, that is, just thinking of staying warm, dressed with a ton of clothes.

Now comes the time that I start getting desparate for a warmer climate. My iPhone is streaming US 1, Radio Key West 104.1 and playing some Blues Classics. Oh, it is so appropriate to be thinking “The Keys are for me”! All of this would be so easy to swallow and head for paradise in a, quote, “Normal Year”. This didn’t turn into a normal year as far as weather. With hurricane Irma damage, minor in some places and severe in others. I and many snow birds are in a holding pattern. The main objective is not getting us snow birds into military campgrounds, but taking care of the active duty personnel and their families. Many others who live off base lost just about everything. These are the priorities and justly so!

 Options!

We are not leaving, in the near future. My game plan is this.

  1. Wait for some kind of word from MWR (Moral, Welfare, Recreation) in Key West as to when the campgrounds might open to us retirees.
  2. If over two months wait, then maybe a trip to the South West, possibly Arizona, New Mexico and even southern California. If this is the case, I would take the truck camper and not the 5th wheel. Why might you ask? Because I’m not sure if I could stay put in any one spot for a long period of time. The truck camper is very mobile and moving into remote spots, is a breeze.  I plan to do this, which would suit my needs. I know of some cool places to hangout and explore!
  3. There is also the issue of me getting the camp hosts position in Key West. The day they were going to announce the position is the day they evacuated the base. If I was awarded that position, that would change my travel plans. I want to be  camp-host and will do what MWR wants me to do and when ever they want me to arrive in the Keys.

It’s a Waiting Game!

You can imagine literally hundreds of retirees, military families all waiting in limbo waiting to see what will happen to their plans for wintering in Key West. There was about 55 military families that were living at the campground on a permanent basis. These are our stories, maybe small in comparison to people who lost everything, houses, sailboats that are their homes year round. So many tragedies! It is said the Conch citizens are Key West Strong! I believe they really are. The Island is quickly returning to “open for business”! A few complain about this and that, but getting Key West tourism back up is critical to the Keys economy.

Calendar Update

A good week has passed since I started this blog. I’ve been watching updates from Key West and the latest MWR update said they would have a tentative schedule for the campgrounds opening on Oct 6, 2017. (That is not the opening date) The more info one has the more correct decisions one can be made.

TC and 5th Wheel Modifications

In the meantime, I’ve been working on both the truck camper and the 5th wheel. On the TC, I added two 48 watt backup lights to the rear. I did run into a problem of blowing the pickup truck fuse every time I put into reverse. (Too much of a load) I solved that by installing a relay and taking the load to the TC batteries. The truck sends a small signal or trigger to the relay and fused power is taken from the TC batteries. Cool! On the 5th wheel, I finished fabricating a movable laptop table for the new recliners. The table is mounted to the recliner base. It swivels with the chair, but does not rock with the chair. It works perfectly! When not in use it swings out-of-the-way. I also added a small side table for pencils, coffee cup, iPhone or whatever.

That is what I did while waiting!

 

 

 

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I-90 East ~ Montana

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Cracker Barrell Sunset!

This morning was spent in Butte, Montana. On this day I had a commissioners board meeting, cell conference call, for the Berlin Water Works in Berlin, NH. The meeting was at 12 noon eastern time, but here in Montana it was 10 am (Mountain Time). Not a long delay in getting started East again. Technology is so great that I can make meetings by phone or Skype. I had parked at McDonalds, so Helen could be online doing her thing while I sat in the camper and did mine.

I believe it was around 10:50am when we were on the road. The sky was already getting hazy with smoke from the several wildfires going on in the State. Forty-Eight of them, according to the Interagency tracking the wildfires in Montana! Most of the haze stay with us until we stopped in Billings in late afternoon.

Our favorite, urban, boon docking site is here in Billings, that’s right a Cracker Barrel Restaurant! There are only two of them in the State of Montana.

A very quiet night with only one other RV in the rear of the restaurant. Our evening dinner at Cracker Barrel featured a Sirloin Steak, cooked to per section for me and Helen had a dinner of Haddock which was also to her liking. Following the dinners, we took a leisurely walk around the two hotels and came back to the Cracker Barrel, sat down on their rockers out front and watched a pretty cool sunset. If you’ve ever been to this restaurant you know that the outside speakers play soft country music. It was especially fitting with the sunset!

In the morning, it was an easy quiet wakeup. After breakfast, I-90 East was very light with traffic. Montana is amazing! The landscape changed again switching from I-90E to I-94E. The latter I’ve never been on before. Some sections being so called “badlands” which means it is difficult to navigate on foot or horse back. The Interstate certainly has changed all of that. One can see, it seems, forever. Grasslands, little hills with spotted evergreen trees. Cattle in small herds, grazing, some all black, silhouetting against the blonde dry grasses. Others brown in color doing the same grazing, but looking totally different against the dry landscape.

Finally, after three days, Montana was behind us. It was a beautiful State, but a long drive. Tonight, we parked at Red Trail RV Park in Medora, North Dakota. Literally, across the street from Theodore Roosevelt National Park entrance, which we will visit tomorrow. This NP I know very little about, at least until this afternoon. Theodore had a ranch in the back country, but what makes it interesting is this is where the Buffalo roam. We’ll see and update the blog later.

T. Roosevelt Nat’l Park

An early start gave us the entire park to roam, stop and take pictures without traffic on our tail. It’s a 36 mile loop road that encompasses the major portions of the park. Many hiking trails and side trails shoot off of this main loop. What to see, was my main question? The visitor center didn’t open until 8am and we were ready to explore the park.

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Where the Buffalo Roam!

Here is what we found. At first it was scenic overlooks, than we drove unto “Prairie Town”. What we discovered here was hundreds of praise dogs living in a town like community. The field or I should say town was about 3/4 mile long by 1/2 mile in depth. It was different, totally didn’t expect that. A short distance down the paved road we encountered our first Buffalo, a few yards away. It was ok, but not spectacular. What really caught us by surprise again and was special was driving around a corner and seeing two wild horses next to the truck. They were what we needed, a little thrill. When my granddaughter, Aspen was little girl, I use to tell her a bedtime story about two horses named “Apache” and “Whiteface” Well both horses had “whiteface”, it was sort of a personal inner moment. I took a lot of pictures, I just haven’t had the time to closely look at them yet!

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Wild Horses ~ It doesn’t get better!

The “Badlands” of the park kept us looking for more scenic vistas. Not to short change the name “Badlands” it simply just refers to land that is not flat and is difficult to traverse, but is very colorful, usually due to different minerals deposits.

A few more miles the Buffalos were grazing on both sides of the road. This time, because of the absence of tourist, I was able to get the photos I wanted. A great day at Theodore Roosevelt Nat’l Park!

Tonight we are at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park in Mandan, North Dakota. This Fort was commanded by George Armstrong Custer. Remember the “Battle of the Little Big Horn”?

 

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Commanding Officer’s House ~George A. Custer

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George Armstront Custer

That is what we saw and did!

 

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The Destination ~ North of the Border

From Mt Rainier, one more item on our agenda in the Northwest! Our traveling friends, who live in British Columbia, were on our bucket list of things to do, see and visit! Catherine and Leon, we first met, at a Ferry Station in Newfoundland, Canada, on the East Coast. We had ferried over to St Pierre de Michelon, a French possession Island.

This past winter, they visited us in Key West, FL. Now it was our turn to visit them. It was a short visit, but a good one! They took us over to Fort Langley, a restored stockaded Fort. We were able to have a wonderful visit with them. It was a hectic week for them as Leon’s mom passed away, on Wednesday, and to top it off their “Rodie” van got stolen on Sunday morning.

We stayed overnight in our truck camper and were on our way out Canada early next morning. Oh, I nearly forgot to mention that they sold their house and will be temporarily moving to another house until their new house, being built, is completed. Leon and Catherine needed rest from all the activities happening nearly at once. We wish them well!

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Catherine & Leon ~ Langley, British Columbia Canada

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Catherine & Helen at Fort Langley

So, after leaving BC with headed East, yes, we are heading back to New England. The first day I made it to Spokane, WA. That was a 374 mile day. Tonight, we are in Butte, Montana with 326 miles in for the day. It may seem that we’re continuously driving, but we did stop and admire the scenery, had a cool picnic along some glacial runoff rivers. Last night, we stayed at Fairchild AFB, just outside of Spokane. Nice campground and of course, I got the last full hookup site.

Tonight, we are at the “2 Bar Lazy H RV Park” just outside of Butte, MT. The elevation is over 5,000 feet on a high plateau. We can see the “Big Sky Country” for many miles. That wasn’t the case this afternoon. Leaving Idaho, at Lookout Pass, the smell of fire started and soon the visibility worsened. This got really bad to the point that our eyes started to smart. I was thinking that, surely we would run into a detour or something, but we didn’t. This went on for a hundred miles until we got to Missoula, MT. Even now, some 200 miles from there, we both can smell smoke. I’m thinking that the forest fire was the one that started in Glacier National Park, some 150 miles to the North. I heard on the radio, that some backcountry hikers were blocked from coming out and had to take a longer hike to escape. That fire was caused by lightning.

That is what we saw and did!

Aug 14th and 15th 2017

374 miles on the 14th ~ 326 miles on the 15th

6,104 miles since leaving home. This is the 28th night out on the road!

The blog may suffer a little as we pour on the miles, but I’ll try!

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Mt rainier ~ The Most Noble!

“Of all the fire mountains which like beacons, once blazed along the Pacific Coast, Mt Rainier is the noblest.”

John Muir

The best for last

It seems that we have been climbing mountains lately! The Cascade Mountain Range is where all of these Volcanic Mountains are located. Mt Rainier, Mt St Helen’s, Mt Hope, Mt Lassen are all brewing to let off steam! The earth’s Pacific Tectonic Plate is pushing East, something has to blow to relieve pressure. Hey, we’ve been living on the edge on this Pacific Coast Highway Adventure Trip. The Volcanos, the threat of a Tsunami, driving close to ocean level, a North Korean nuclear attack, hell, I love living on the edge!

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Not another Selfie!

Mt Rainier ~ The best for last!

Thousand and thousands of tourist flock to this National Park! Some drive, some hike, camp, bike and every form of outside activities are available. The Park Service has it down pat! Even the main road in is being re-paved and wait times can be several minutes to a half hour, but very well orchestrated. Many tourists were giving the construction workers a thumbs up! The only stress came from meeting a fully loaded dump truck, on a narrow hillside road, with him on the inside and us on the 2,000 foot drop off side of the road. I must be a thrill seeker!

At the Paradise Visitor Center, the upper parking lot was very full, we had to back track down to the picnic area parking and hike up a quarter mile to the center.

The mountain is literally right in front of you. Boom! Snow fields, glaciers and green forested areas in the low views. Flowers, all natural and many colors are along the hiking paths. Perfect, and, as John Muir said in 1889, “Extravagantly beautiful of all the alpine gardens”.

Mount Rainier is the cream of the crop! Our rating is “Five Stars”

The Night Stay

Coming out of the mountains, in late afternoon, my task was to find another bed-down spot. I pulled into a McDonalds, to get out of the traffic. This guy was looking at my camper, I got out and he started a conversion. One thing led to another and I asked him if he knew of a campground close by? He told me there was a campground right in back of the Expo Fairgrounds, within site of here.

I got a full hookup site and asked the camp host if there was anything going on to visit or see. Well, she said, “The 27 Annual Northwest Country Swing Music Festival” was going on all weekend right here at the Expo. After setting up the truck camper, a shower and dinner, a stroll over to the Festival provided entertainment for the rest of the evening. We both are not country music dancers, but just watching the pros strut around the dance floor was cool. I don’t know where some of these guys came from, but it look like some were seven feet tall! Maybe the cowboy hats and boots gave them a lift!

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Lively Time At Northwestern Country Music Festival

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 Several Bands Kept it Hoping all Night!

That is what we saw and did

Aug 11, 2017 ~ 144 miles traveled

5,206 miles from Berlin, NH

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Helen, Buying Property ~ Mt St Helens

Our destination, today, was to Mt St Helen’s National Park. It was 52 miles to the park and another 52 miles back. We both can vouch that it was well worth the mileage. The last eruption was in 1980, in our life time, which made it little more meaning full. The first stop at the Longmire Visitor Center was brief. The Ranger said that it would be better to view the volcano early in the morning, rather than later, when the British Columbia forest fire smoke thickened. The highway good and we couldn’t stop noticing all the logging trucks going and coming from the mountain’s direction. Weyerhaeuser, a big lumber company, does a lot of clear-cutting, but also replanting. Signs with the year that different areas were replanted dotted the countryside.

An Eye Opener

Arriving at a very large parking lot, nearly empty, at the Johnson Ridge Observatory, we prepped ourselves with extra water, sun protection and hats and headed for the Visitor Center. A Ranger had just started his presentation outside. Behind us, Mt St Helen, three miles away, he explained the sequence of the eruption. It is nearly unbelievable how that was the largest landslide ever recorded in human history! The Pyrotechnic blast incinerated everything equaling the city of Chicago in land area. Volcanic ash was deposited in 11 States. Volcanic mudslides reached as far as the Columbia River fifty miles away. Hundreds of square miles were reduced to wasteland. The stats go on and on!

It was an eye opener! What is terrifying is the visible dome, inside the volcano, that grows or rises 5 feet a day. The Ranger said that they use the “5 foot a day” as a guide for possible future eruptions. Ironically, the last eruption didn’t exceed the 5 foot a day expansion when it erupted. While we were there, we witnessed an avalanche inside the perimeter of the volcano! We could see smoke from the avalanche area.

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Witnessed avalanche top left ~ Dome grows 5 feet a day in center

The temperature from the sun was getting hotter. We had lunch in the camper and backtracked down the 52 miles to civilization.

 

Late afternoon, we checked into Lewis & Clark SP.

That is what we saw and did!

Aug 10, 2017 ~ 174 miles traveled today

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The Lighthouses and Shipwrecks

The Pioneers

I couldn’t forget to write about the many lighthouses along the Northwest Coast! I can’t help thinking of the pioneers, such as William V. Langlois, in the mid eighteen hundreds coming by sailing ships to the treacherous coast. Fog, strong tides, very rocky shores made for a rough landing. The lighthouses, the high tech of the day, helped save many a ship, but many were lost as evident at the lighthouse museum that we visited. Yaquina Lighthouse, being the tallest, was 93 feet tall. It was built with 400,000 bricks brought in, by ship, from San Fransisco, California. Just getting the bricks to the site, on a primitive road was a monumental accomplishment!

If I remember there’s around sixteen of these lighthouses in Oregon. Each one was subject to inspection, that is, with a white glove, inspected on unannounced visits. Even the light keeper’s wife had to have everything whistle clean and orderly. The lighthouses were of prime importance!

Boomers On The Move! Every turn is an Adventure!

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The Lance and the Ford enjoying the view!

The Decision

Heading North, near Newport, the traffic was starting to get heavy. It seems that people in the interior were heading to the coast to cool off from the high 90’s to the mid 60’s. It was time to make a decision! Keep moving North along the coast or head inland to high terrain. I made the latter. A little north of Lincoln City, I took route 18 towards Portland and into Washington. What I didn’t figure on was going through Portland around rush hour! This was a 61 min traffic jam, but making the best of this meant that we could enjoy viewing the Portland City scape from the high bridges we were on.

Night Stay

Where to stay after leaving the hustle and bustle of the cities? The Allstays app didn’t provide many options. After gassing the truck, I located, yes, a Wal-Mart a few miles away, in Battle Ground, Washington. This would be our first Walmart since 2012 trip to Alaska. Allstays reviews said that this Walmart permitted overnight parking for one night. I asked the store manager and he said, “Ok, for one night as long as you park over by the garden section.”

A few teenagers were hanging around in the parking lot, but they weren’t interested in us and they disappeared in the night as we disappeared into sleep. Around 12:30 am, a refrigerated box truck parked next to us. This was annoying as the refrigerator compressor runs nearly continuously. I noticed no one in the cab. I got up and moved our TC about 300 feet and all was fine for the rest of the night. That’s the price for a Wal-Mart night!

That what we saw and did!

Aug 9, 2017 ~ Walmart ~ Battle Ground, WA

190 miles traveled today

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Big Red My Favorite

One of my first objectives on the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) was to stand next to the tallest. Yes, I’m talking about the PCH “Redwoods”. At a whopping 350 feet tall you would fall over backwards before your eyes view the top, when looking up! The diameter at the base, on some is over 35 feet! Our little truck camper looks like a toy model next to these behemoths! We really enjoyed spending time with these thousand and thousand year old trees. Thank God that they are being preserved in this National Park! We come from logging country in New England and appreciate forest management, but not tree hugging fanatics that don’t allow any management. It appears that the logging industry here is still working, which is good, as evident of the many tree length log trucks. I’ve noticed that they clear cut plots on the mountain sides followed by re-planting. Hopefully, this continues for generations to come.

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Tiny Toy Truck Camper

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350 feet tall! 

The Redwood Nat’l Park borders the coast for a long distance. It is both a National Park and a State Park. This part of the journey brought us to the Oregon border and just a few miles north to our night stay in Brookings, OR at the Beach Front RV Park.

That is what we saw and did!

Aug 7, 2017 ~ 109 miles traveled

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Lassen Volcanic Nat’l Park

Once again our travels find us doing 300 mile days. South Fork Campground was perfect for our needs. The problem is the long distances in the high Nevada desert. There is nothing to see except scenic panoramas! Hence, you drive until the next town that has more people than a total of 70 population. We don’t mind. Like I said, the scenic panoramas keep us looking and passing the time away at 65mph. The speed limit is still 80mph.

Our stop was in Verdi, CA at a Cabela’s. There were signs with no overnight parking, but I went into the store and spoke to Justin and he said, “No problem, as long as you keep the place neat”. The back parking lot of the store has a dog walk, dog kennels, horse corals RV dump station. Yah, they have signs, but it must be to keep the KOA Campground across the street happy. Night fall came and four campers were in the back parking lot with us. You could probably fit 50 or so back there. A peaceful night was had by all.

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Not a bad night’s stay

Adventure Day

Today, would be an adventure day! Our journey took us to Lassen Volcanic National Park. Our route wasn’t the Interstate way, but county rte. 89. This would take us through Plumas National Forest, hilly mountainous road with a 45mph to 50mph speed limit. The elevation gain was quick and the temperature drop was also quick. At Cabela’s it was 63 degrees at 6:30am. My first stop at 8:00am, in the mountains was 49 degrees. The long pants came on. We were at about 6,000 feet above sea level.

The Scenery ~ Big Ponderosa Pines!

Beautiful, big trees close to the road and plenty of them! The bark, light brown with black outlines. The forest dense, but very low underbrush, it looked like deer and bear and Plumas (mountain lion) country! Very, very little traffic, enough time to view the mountains, every so often a small community would popup. These were usually located in high meadows with cows grazing in the pastures. In one area we viewed Yaks with some cows!

Yaka

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Yakka-A-Dee Yak!

Smoke!

About 60 miles into this journey, we rounded a bend and smelled smoke! A little further, the town of Quincy came into view along with heavy, heavy blue smoke! Surely there must be a forest fire or something serious! In town, we saw a sign, “Firefighters kick ass!” A line of fire trucks, five of them with large crew cabs were coming our way. These trucks are especially built to get into forest, they have large water tanks and as I mentioned, have a place for extra crews on board. More “Thank You Firefighters” signs along the main street. We couldn’t stop because the smoke was choking and our eyes smarted. The smoke appeared to be to the left of our travels and no traffic signs telling us to detour. We continued on towards the next town Keddie, CA with no problems. It was time for a coffee break at a small cafe in town. I asked the waitress about the fire and she said the fire in Quincy was serious, voluntary evacuation was recommended. She also said that the fire had gone into a tunnel, making matters worst. The husband of the girl, cooking in the kitchen, was a fire boss. The fire started with a lightning strike!

Smoke

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Smoke Jumpers Staging area Quincy, CA

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Another 60 or so miles up the road and we were at the entrance to Lassen Volcanic Nat’l Park. The first place that nearly everybody stops is the entrance sign for that selfie picture. We were no different. Two motorcycles guys with their wives or girl friends were doing the selfies. I volunteered to take the group picture, Helen, asked one of the guys where they were from, “Switzerland,” he answered. Somehow, we started talking french to them. Helen was still wearing a summer dress and the two other girls were wearing their leathers. Helen asked if she could have a picture with them to show contrast in fashion, they agreed!

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Lassen Volcanic Foothills

Must See!

At the entrance to the NP our trusty Senior Pass gave us free entry instead of the $20.00 fee. The Visitor Center was helpful in telling us what to “must see” while driving through the park. He recommended: Sulphur Works, Bumpass Trailhead, Lassen Peak Trailhead and the Devastated Area. All of this was on our way as rte. 89 goes through the park.

The road leaving the Visitor Center starts off with a steep grade and switchbacks. I did not see any motor homes or 5th wheels going up Lassen Mountain. I think what these RVers do is camp at the many lower elevation campgrounds and take their tow vehicles up the grade.

Our first stop, we missed! A Park Ranger went racing up the mountain as we were leaving the  Visitor Center. Lights flashing and speed indicated that something was urgent. At the first recommended stop, Sulphur Works, is where the Park Ranger was stopped. It looked like a young girl was being attended to. No place or time to stop! On to the next stop and gawk at the beauty! I couldn’t take pictures while driving, it was just too dangerous, Helen did a super job of taking pictures and telling me to watch the road! All of the stops were worth the time to view the beauty!

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Helen’s Lake front property

The last stop was the “Devastated Area.” On June 14, 1914 Lassen Peak erupted. What is fascinating is that it was photograph by a local, B.F. Loomis! The photos of before and after really made you think of the power of this so called “plug dome volcano”. At the site, we did a short hike to see all four types of rocks originated from volcanoes. The shield, composite, cinder cone and plug dome can be found here. Some were bigger than a large truck! The mountain top is three miles from where they landed in the devastated area.

Our day ended in Redding, CA at the Marina Park RV campground on the banks of the Sacramento River. As a side note, we had planned to do more “boondocking” camping, but with the temperatures close to 100 degrees, we need campgrounds with pools, showers and electricity.

We even managed to go to St Joseph church for Saturday evening mass!

That is what we saw and did!

Aug 5, 2017 ~ miles travel today 251

Poor WiFi I can’t add many pictures

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Bonneville Speedway

Leaving the Salt Lake City area and traveling West on I-80W, we were watching for the Bonneville Speedway on the right. Little did we realize that this would be nearly a hundred miles down the road. The Speedway is located in the “Great Salt Lake Desert” which is covers hundreds of square miles. On the other side of I-80 is the Dugway Proving Grounds. This is the place that they test vehicles.

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Salt from Salt Lake

Bonneville Slat Flats

Ever since I was a teenager I’ve been waiting or should I say wanting to visit Bonneville Speedway. Craig Breedlove broke the 400, 500 and 600 mile per hour world land speed record. That was 52 years ago. Well this waiting and wanting have been fulfilled! The side road was just a few miles off the I-80 and the pavement ends with signs that proclaim “Welcome To The Bonneville Salt Flats”. Driving onto the salt for a short distance another sign read, “Rocket Launch in Progress”. Follow the markers to the site. This was out approximately ten miles, we did not do that! Just being on the salt was fulfilling enough for me.

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So Bright on the Salt Lake!

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That way to the Rocket Launch!

South Fork ~ SRA (State Reservation Area)

On to Nevada just a short ride down the road. (100 miles) I have to recall what happened at the Utah/Nevada border. So we’re driving for a long time in the deserted desert. The last town in Utah is Wendover UT, a place to gas up and eat lunch. And so we did, a Subway shop and a fill up of gas later, we head up over the hill. Both our phones announce a time change! A 1000 ft later, we are in Nevada in West Wendover, NV and here comes the surprise! From desert to multiple Casinos with glitter every where! We both chuckled how things change in a thousand feet.

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Sunset at South Fork

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Sunrise at South Fork

The day was moving on and we needed a place to bed down for the night. A stop a little pass Elko, at a Visitor Center gave us options for a campground. The lady was helpful and directed us the South Fork Campground, a little out of our way (16 miles) on TE-Moak Tribe of Western Shoshone Indians, South Fork Band. It sounds a scary, but it is a State run facility. It turn out to be outstanding campground with electric, water and even a concrete pad on our site. With only four campers in the park it was perfect.

After getting setup, a walk to the next site for a visit with our neighbors, was delightful. They were from British Columbia, Canada. This is the same province that our other Canadian friends are from. It truly is a small world that is well-traveled

That is what we saw and did

Aug. 3rd, 2017 ~ Miles travel today 302 miles

Still having problems posting photos… Poor banwith?
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Utah ~ Most Scenic!

The Road Trip

Road trips are great, even though long days on the road can be strenuous. This journey is to do the Pacific Coast highway from Crescent City California to Olympic National Park in Washington State. Part of the real adventure is getting there. This country is so diverse and beautiful, it is nearly unbelievable. Take for instance, yesterday, at the first visitor information center in Utah, we stopped and as we were walking up to the building, we both noticed the lavender in bloom. This wasn’t so abnormal, but what really caught our eyes was the bees pollinating the lavender. They were huge, about an inch and a half long. It is these little wonders that make the road trip a learning adventure.  

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Inch and a half long Bee

Leaving Fruita, Colorado, a town that we visited back in 2013, left a second fine impression on this community. The Visitor Center has a large parking area even with an RV dump station and fresh water fill. (5 stars)

On The Road

Landscape dramatically changes leaving Colorado into Utah. Colors are golden wheat, brown, reds, creosol green clumps of darker greens high up on the Mesa. From flat land to high Mesas this land is different and very scenic. Some spots on the road have signs that say, “No services for 110 miles”. Speed limit is 80mph!

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Flying on I-70!………

I cruised around 65mph, a little higher than my usual 58mph. Following I-70W for part of the way, than US-6 to Provo, UT for the rest of the journey to Ogden, our stop here for a couple of days at Hill AFB, Famcamp. Let me say that once we reached Provo on I-15N, the traffic was heavy, four lanes, 70mph, for about 50 miles. All the way through Salt Lake City, it was heavy concentration!

Let me talk a little about temperature. The late afternoon has climbed to 115 degrees, but it is very true that it is very dry! Ok, this is how we deal with it. When we stop, all windows are open and four fans come on to evacuate the heat inside the camper. It literally takes three to five minutes to do that.

A restaurant takes care of dinner time and than back at the Famcamp, the community room has A/C with TV and high speed WiFi. By now it is after sunset and the temps are dropping fast. It is very comfortable to sleep with the windows open. Early morning finds us actually under the covers. That’s life in the sunbelt! Remember some people come from Phoenix, Arizona to Salt Lake area to escape the heat! That’s life in the sunbelt!

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Welcome to Utah

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Amazing Geology in them there hills!

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It took alot of Din-o-mite to put this road in!

That is what we saw and did!

Aug 1st, 2017 …..330 miles traveled today

 

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2,667 Miles to say “Hello Neighbor”

Grand Lake to Colorado Springs

Instead of heading due west, I had a wonderful idea to travel south to Colorado Springs to visit Jerry Rouleau, my hometown neighbor and friend from New Hampshire. He was dog sitting. It was well worth the side trip to travel 186 miles south. Jerry and I, along with Helen and not mention Katie (the dog) had a good visit. Jenna and Scott (Jerry’s daughter and son-in-law have a beautiful home!)

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Jerry, Lucien and Katie 

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It did take long to make a new friend!

The trip down US 40 from Grand Lake was extremely scenic! It had extreme elevations, hair pin turns, forested mountains, ski areas, excellent paved roads! The Ford F-250 handled both the climb and the braking downhill.

We stayed in Jenna and Scott’s driveway, not that Jerry didn’t invite us in to sleep, but we have a policy of being “Light Footed” when we visit and are very comfortable in our truck camper. Thank you, Scott and Jenna, for the offer to do laundry and showers anyway. Oh, for the rest of the blog readers Scott and Jenna were gone down to do some of the National Parks in Arizona hence, Jerry was dog sitting. There is a big bond between Katie and Jerry. You see Jerry had the dog for three years while Scott was deployed.

The Continental Divide

Monday, we said our goodbyes to Jerry and headed towards the West. Another wonderful surprise was taking US 50. A super scenic ride all across Colorado. We reached Monarch Pass at noon and parked the Truck Camper right in the middle of the Continental Divide and at lunch in the camper. The elevation 11,312 feet above sea level. Now, I’m not sure if that was the Atlantic or the Pacific! Remember, the TC was parked in the middle, everything flows one way or the other.

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Driver”s side ~ Atlantic…Passenger’s side Pacific

It was a long day, as we drove 330 miles to Fruita, CO. Our campground on this night was a 5 star campground! Monument RV Campground had a site for us. We did a self-registration at a designated site, changed into our swimsuits and jumped into the pool! Oh, ha, I forgot to mention that in Colorado Springs, it was 54 degrees when we left and in Fruita it was 103 degrees!  This evening made the 12th night on the road! Loving every minute it of it!

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US Route 40 Grand Lake to Colorado Springs, CO

That is what we saw and did!

July 31, 2017 ~ Fruita, Colorado

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Well Named Mountains!

This morning at Meeker Overflow Campground, it was damp and 52 degrees. It felt good to be in our truck camper. I could see many tents out there and no one was stirring. Last nigh it poured off and on, but we felt so grateful to be in our little studio apartment. I had run the generator last night to charge our devices, but I also wrapped up the power cable and covered to Honda Generator, before the rain came down. This morning, it was a quick and easy departure. I wanted to make a loop around the area to see this side of the Rockies. Driving down route 7 over to Lyons and back to Estes Park was about a 30 mile trip. Wow, it was worth it! Going down this mountain road with sheer cliffs above us on both sides, water again rushing down from 7,000 feet to 5,000 or so feet, along the side the road was spectacular. This was in the National Forest. Many nooks and crannies had cabins built into the canyons. The rock formations were not flat and sheer, but were rounded and linked together like a puzzle. They didn’t miss calling the Rocky Mountains “Rocky” for nothing. All of this sightseeing was done in early morning with little traffic and many pull off to stop for photos.

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Stopping for Laundry ~ Estes Park

The Chores

Soon we were back in Estes Park with a new mission in mind. This would be our first laundry day since leaving home. Helen spotted an ad for this laundromat that had plenty of washers, dryers and even had showers for hikers! It even had WiFi! I worked on the laptop and on the blogs. After a quick-lunch in the camper, we were onto the big climb through the National Park. Here at Estes Park the elevation was at 7,260 feet. We would be climbing to over 12,000 feet and cross the continental divide. The great thing about the Senior Pass is the savings on entering any National Park. Free with the Senior Pass.

The Tourists

Lets talk about tourists! Thousand and thousands flock to this park and most come by car. The traffic is so congested that often the park service has to shut down portions of the roads in the park. We were fortunate that didn’t happen, but the roads were filled with people and cars. Every pull off was full, but I managed to find spots to get out and get a few good photos.

The Traffic

The distance from Estes Park over the National Park, on the other side is roughly 48 to 50 miles. Not that far, but climbing from 7,260 feet to 12,138 feet above sea level on a fairly winding road is another challenge. I had to be on alert constantly, watching traffic, taking pictures, sometimes while driving, not a smart thing to do! I can definitely  see that a dash cam is in order!

Trail Ridge Road

The Trail Ridge Road, we were told was the route to take, It was worth it! The weather could have been better, it didn’t rain, but the sky was overcast with clouds just above the mountain tops. We have traveled above the tree line several times in different parts of the world, but it is always a fresh experience every time we do.

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Rock Cut Pass ~ Trail Ridge Road 

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Heavy Traffic

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Near Top of Trail Ridge Road Elevation

The Elks

On the western side of the park, we spotted a herd of Elk grazing in a pasture close to the road. We also noticed several tourists stopped along with a park Ranger moving traffic along. We couldn’t stop, but did managed to get the herd.

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This Elk looks well fed!

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Beautiful Herd Grazing…Notice the Tourist left side of pictures

The Evening Camp ~ Grand Lake, CO

Grand Lake was our spot for the night. Elk Creek Campground had a few spots left and our luck was continuing with securing the site. Grand Lake is a bustling tourist town with an old South West flavor. Wooden boardwalks, wood store fronts, but very modern to cater to tourist.

It was Saturday evening and a very nice Catholic Church was on a side street. A mass at 5pm was perfect for us. This little church doesn’t operate on a regular basis, the priest from Granby, a few miles down the road comes to celebrate the masses.

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St Anne Church, Grand Lake, Colorado

That is what we saw and did!

 

 

July 29, 2017 ~ Grand Lake, CO

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Rocky Mountain High!

John Denver’s song “Rocky Mountain High” would be appropriate for this blog, as I sit here in an overflow campground named Meeker Park. Before I recount the end of the day, I must begin at the beginning, early this morning. I had mentioned that we stayed at the Sterling Visitor Center. The management said they do allow overnight parking. The restrooms are open and cars come in, use the restrooms and some sleep in their cars and trucks. The other side of the Center, the big trucks park and stay the night. They are far enough that the running engines noise is negligible. After our tour of the town and their tree and bronze sculptures, we went back to the Visitor Center. The clouds in a distant were getting darker. I got my camera out, hoping to get some heat lightning pictures. The lightning came and went, but I didn’t succeed except for the practice of getting night time shots without a flash and still getting a good focus photo.

We went to bed around 9:15pm, with only one other car in the lot. By morning there were six overnighters. We had a chat, in the morning, with one of them who was interested in my truck camper. I guess it was around 7:30am when we pulled onto I-75W. It was about 148 miles to Estes Park (Entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park) (RMNP), but we drove another 12 miles or so to find a campground that wasn’t full! Nothing new here, I expected the area campgrounds to be full, especially on the weekends.

After leave the Visitor Center in Sterling, we noticed a big difference in the landscape. So far our entire trip everything was green, but now everything was a blonde, dry landscape. Occasionally, giant green circle of crops dotted the land, of course this was from irrigation. When we left the Mississippi River Delta, the elevation was off and on around 100 feet above sea level. Now we were at 3,000 feet and rising. We are now at 7,240 feet above sea level.

Back to the landscape, a couple of noticeable features, oil rigs both installed and new derricks drill for that black gold. The very noticeable black and white feature was thousands of dairy cows in several places along I-75. Our first faint view of the Rockies Mountains was in Loveland about 23 miles from Estes Park, our base camp to find our bearings.

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US Route 34 from Loveland to Estes Park

After leaving Loveland, the traffic decreased a lot. The road went from straight to straight up! Switchbacks, river racing down the steep gorge. We rose a lot in just a few miles finally reaching Estes Park, a town with everything you could ask for including a first class Visitor Center!

I knew I wouldn’t be able to get a campsite in the NP, especially of a Friday afternoon. We decided to take the free shuttle around the area to see where we could camp either at a campground or boon docking. Mary’s Lake looked very good, mountain views all around. The 53 minute shuttle tour ended and I called Mary Lake Campground…No luck (full all weekend)! We decided to drive down route 7 paralleling the National Park. The National Forest does allow boon docking in certain areas. Well here we are at Meeker Park Overflow. Senior Pass (National Park)  half price, so $6.00 isn’t so bad. No internet or electricity, but Honda Generator is taking care of that. I’m writing my blog and when I get to a WiFi Hotspot I’ll shoot it off. I didn’t get many pictures today, but I was able to shoot a short video coming up that winding road.

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Notice in the background…thousands & thousands of cows!

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Oil Fields Equipment ready for production

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Loveland, Colorado nice town

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Rocky Mountains 1st View

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Church built on a rock! 

That is what we saw and did

July 28, 2017 ~ 160 miles today

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North Platte…A Second Look!

I-80 Lakeside Campground

This morning I woke early, as usual and worked on downloading and selecting photos for the blogs. It takes me better than an hour to choose, edit, download and insert photos. This works better if I have WiFi to upload to WordPress.com

The Golden Spike Tower

We were not rushing out-of-town today. The plan was to fuel up, get propane and go visit the Golden Spike Tower over at the Bailey Railroad Yard.

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Engine Repair Shop

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The Switching Yard

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Cross Section ~ Coal train in middle is 10,000 feet long

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East End Yard

The Bailey Railroad Yard

The Bailey Railroad Yard is the largest yard in the world. I just have to give you some facts before describing our visit.

  • Between 12 to 15 thousands railroad cars pass through the yard a day. I had seen a sign that said 10 thousand cars pass through a day, but that has been upgraded.
  • The yard is 8 miles long and has 400 miles of track
  • The yard has 354 track switches.
  • The engine repair shop is three football fields wide.
  • They refuel 350 locomotives a day.
  • 66% of the traffic comes through at night.

After plugging in the coordinates, we drove left and right through North Platte for several minutes. Finally, we got out of the residential neighborhoods and there was the Golden Spike Tower! Eight stories high, with closed and open balconies. This is not on railroad property, but one can see in every direction. The first floor has a lot of railroad stuff and memorabilia. A ticket is needed to ride the elevator to the 7th and 8th floors. On the 8th floor, as we got off the elevator, we couldn’t help notice the display of pictures and a video running about the Orphan Trains. Thousands and thousands of kids were transported from New York City to the mid-western states. For example, Illinois received 9172 children, Indiana 5956 and so on. Those kids were orphan in the big cities and with no adoption laws, people could pick them out like fruit in a grocery store. One guy, 19 years old, pickup a 9-year-old. It is nearly unbelievable in today’s world. I wonder how many were abused?

On the top floor of the tower, I started taking photos in every direction. I was like a kid with a giant toy train set. What was really neat was this old-timer who was the yard manager and worked in this yard, in the 1940’s, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. Did he have stories to tell! He was there with his granddaughter and company. Ironically, another guy, a former engineer was also visiting and he augmented the stories. I like the one about the older guy getting orders to get troupes over to the west coast as fast as they could. The train was going over a hundred miles per hour.

We had lunch in the camper, went to Wal-Mart for more groceries before heading out-of-town. We drove a short way into Colorado. We are in Sterling, CO tonight and staying at a city owned rest area. We have WiFi and the lady at the Visitor Center gave us tips on were to eat and what to do tonight.

We are in Sterling, CO (City of Living Trees and Sculptures) this late afternoon looking at these marvelous tree carvings/sculptures all over town. Some were inside the library, some were at a Community College and some were in city parks. A good pastime for us.

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First of many Tree Scupltures in Sterling, CO

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One Tree Scuplture by Bradford Rhea

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Very Creative!

That is what we saw and did

 

July 27, 2017 ~ 116 miles today

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Nebraska Pioneers ~ The Lincoln Highway

The Platte Rivers

We are on the confluence of the North and South Platte Rivers tonight. Here they join and form the Platte River. Covered wagon pioneers of the 19 century liked to joke about Nebraska’s Platte River. This excerpt taken from National Trails System, National Park Service. Quote: “Too thick to drink, too thin to plow, too pale to paint. A mile wide and an inch deep. A stream flowing upside down”.

It goes on: “The river’s setting, too, seemed strange. Surrounding praise, frequently cleansed by wildfire, was burned bare of trees right up to the water’s edge, and a line of low sand hills, looking like a storm-sacked beach, rimmed much of the river valley.

Yet the yellow Platte, that treeless ‘Coast of Nebraska,’ was an emigrant’s lifeline—a water source that snaked 800 dusty miles between the Missouri River and the uplands of central Wyoming.

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This painting depicts how it must of been

As I drove on I-80 West for some 307 miles today from the Missouri River to North Platte River, I can’t tell you how much history we drove by from Pony Express, to the Walker family, first settlers using this path to Oregon, to the Mormons who were also headed to Oregon, but were shunned and instead headed to Utah.

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That must of hurt! “The Walker Family”?

Even though we are to be slowing down and smelling the roses, there isn’t enough time to really study the history of this region. What I will do is when I return home and have the time is do the research. Buffalo Bill Cody was from this region. Heck, John Wayne was born in Desoto, Nebraska right down the road from here.

Nebraska is flat as flat can be. The I-80 heads west and doesn’t seem to wander from the West compass reading one degree. The speed limit is 75mph, heck again, we came across a construction zone with usual signs, “Fines Double in Construction Zone,” but the speed limit at the sign said, 75mph!

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Fines double? What does that mean…going 100mph?

I-80 Lakeside Campground

Tonight we are at I-80 Lakeside Campground on the Platte River. We were entertained by a couple next door who were on their way to a dog show in Casper, WY. They have 15 National Champion Huskies in their toy hauler RV. Two dogs at a time came by for their evening walks. Each came over for a friendly pat around their ears. Paula, we were thinking of you as we learned a little of theses beautiful Huskies.

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National Champion

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Helen’s new Friend!

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Amazing how they can talk to you…This morning they were houling for their walk

That is what we saw and did!

July 26, 2017 ~ 307 miles today

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La Crosse & the Missisippi

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A Long Distant View of La Crosse from GrandDad Bluff

After filling up the fresh water tank and dumping the grey and black tanks, we headed out of St Joseph RV Campground around 7:30am. Our destination was La Crosse, WI on the banks of the Mississppi River. George, our friend near Oshkosh, had recommended that we visit GranDad Bluff. We weren’t disappointed! GranDad Bluff sits high above LA Crosse and the Mississippi Delta. One can get a spectacular view. The story goes that in the 1850 to 1867 several fires burnt the town to the ground. The town then required that buildings were built with stone and brick. This was the start of GranDad buff quarry. They would simply cut the large dolomite bedrock and let it roll down the cliff where at the bottom it was processed for buildings and the tailings were used to make roads. The ride up to the bluff was worth it.

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Mississippi Delta from GrandDad Bluff

Just prior to going up to the bluff, we took a short ride over the Mississippi to Petibone Park. This is located just over the bridge to the north. Large oak trees adorned the grassy park. A view across Mississippi revealed a paddle boat that could have been used by Mark Twain on his journey up the mighty Mississippi!

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Petibone Park along the Mississippi

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I love trains! They run along side the “Big Muddy” all day

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Not a scale model, but from atop the cliff it looks that way!

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Notice how long the train is. The water above is floodwaters from the Mississippi

Down the Mighty Mississippi in 1814

Our journey could have continued due west from La Crosse, but as the song goes, “1814 took a little trip down the Mighty Mississippi,” I wanted to travel along and experience how and what it felt and looked like. This section of the river is in a Delta with very little land between the river and the Dolomite cliffs. Some places there is room for only the railroad and a two lane highway. Occasionally a narrow valley opens up and scattered houses are poised near or on the cliffs. The river itself, for the most part is very wide, maybe a mile wide. We only viewed three barges being pulled by a tugboat. I should note that in three places we saw Army Corp of Engineers dam and locks. Two coal fired power plants were spotted. Next to them a huge mountain of coal being manicured by a monster of a Cat bulldozer.

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Four Barges being push North Bound on the Mississippi

Prairie du Chien

Many of you will translate this subheading to “Prairie Dog”. This is as far south as we traveled down the Mississippi. I think about 60 to 70 miles. This is a good time to talk about the muddy river. A few days ago, Western Wisconsin and Iowa received sever weather with as much as 10 inches of rain. This has made the river rise. As a matter of fact, the first town into Iowa called Marquette had a tornado touch down and did some damage. We saw several oak trees, two to three feet at the but snapped. Some road signs with three steel H beams whaled over to the ground. Before any of you think that we were in any danger, let me say we haven’t encountered any wind or rain to speak of since we left Michigan.

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5 Star Campground when not under water

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Notice the Electrical site boxes!

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102 sites under water and still rising!

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When not underwater it really is a 5 star campground ***** Our site on the hill was safe!

Iowa Corn!

The landscape, nearly immediately changed from trees and cliffs to vast slightly rolling fields. My plan here was to witness immense yellow/brown dry fields of corn and other crops. Well, to my surprise the fields did have corn and other crops, but green as green can be. I can only describe the rows planted perfectly and sometimes rolling with the terrain. It is done with machines that are 32 feet wide, some wider, and with the precision of a surgeon. I deliberately took (IA13) into the heart of farm land. Remember that States farther away from the East Coast are all laid out North and South, East and West. These roads, for the most part as straight as an arrow.

Iowa Conservation Information Center

Time to take a break and find out what is a must see when traveling through Iowa. The lady was very helpful. Tomorrow, we will visit the “Amana Colonies” just south of Cedar Rapids. More to come on that subject. Tonight we are at a five star rated campground. Pinion Ridge Campground everything is a five star! The campground is divided into two areas, the Plains area and the Flying Squirel area. The latter is down at the bottom of the hill near the Wasipinicon River. Remember the 10” of rain? Well the river has flooded 110 campsites? We are on the top…high and dry. Always an Adventure!

That is what we saw and did!

Monday, July 24, 2017 ~~~218 miles today

PS No WiFi here tonight, I’ve got two blogs to upload!

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The Australian Connection

Very excited about today’s “Adventure”! Let me start at the beginning and progress. Wake-up this morning was normal and uneventful. Breakfast with eggs and some home made dark rye toast, from the 3 Seasons Cafe was my perfect way to start. Helen gets another thumbs up!

Pulling out of Gladstone around 7:30am onto M41 (State route) south was very quiet. After all it was Sunday morning and most people are sleeping in. Our goal was to make it to Wisconsin with no plan in mind. Helen said, “We should try and contact George Tippler”. George was a friend and fellow traveller that we met on our 2005 Australian and New Zealand tour. We had been in contact through the years off and on and George had been up to New Hampshire a few years ago for a visit. I should mention that George’s wife, Carol, passed away about a year after the Australian/New Zealand Adventure tour. He has since remarried to a lovely lady named Beverly. So a text or two later, we were on our way to his farm, just north of Oshkosh, WI. Thank God for the GPS as Wisconsin is divided into large squares with letters of the alphabet for names.We had lunch before arriving to their farm.

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Beverly & George

George is a farmer and an insurance agent. Now I must say, the farming that he does is on a larger scale then I could imagine. He has a beautiful farm. This year he has planted corn. This is cow corn and he really educated both of us on corn. Did you know that every kernel of corn has one silk and the end of the ear. When the top of the corn drops onto the silk the kernel starts to grow. Man, I may not have this all right, but its pretty neat to have George explain it. Now as for equipment, wow, there are some big machines in his barn and tractor shop.

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Each silk is attached to one kernel. Each stalk only has one ear of corn

Beverly, a retired kindergarten school teacher is a very nice lady. We had a pleasant afternoon chatting with her and George. I can’t say enough of how we enjoyed our visit with them.

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George said, “corn on 4th of July should be knee high”  On July 23rd its 7 to 8 feet tall!

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Little Red Wagon for corn harvesting!

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The 12 row Harvester

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Inside a corn bin

From there we had no travel direction plan except that we would head a little south and a lot to the west. George gave us a hint that La Cross might be a scenic place to visit especially on the cliff or bluffs.

Tonight, we are at St Joseph Campground somewhere about 60 miles from La Cross, Wisconsin. My WiFi extender antenna and the ALFA repeater are working so good in this campground.

We are both tired and will sleep soundly! The Adventure continues tomorrow!

That is what we saw and did!

July 23, 2017 ~ Necedah, WI

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Gladstone, MI

“Slow Down Sally”

From Brimley SP, our travels carried us on the western side of Lake Michigan, UP. Our advance to the west was going way too fast. Sally, our Key West buddy, would give me hell if I were traveling four to five hundred miles a day! With this in mind, the first part of the morning was in the country with little to see, as far as scenery or even civilization. Late morning hunger set in and a restaurant with a full parking lot made me put on the directional for a stop.

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Happy camper after lunch

We were in a town called Manistique, MI, on shore of the lake. Wow, super food and reasonable prices! After lunch, I asked the owner what is a must see when passing through Manistique? He said, “The light house, and the springs”. The light house was just a couple of miles down the street. A perfect time to walk off the lunch. The light house was way out on a jetty. On shore, a few artist were busy doing their paintings. Some kids were swimming, some others were simply walking the sandy beach. The board walk took us out to the jetty and off we went to the lighthouse. Time there was roughfly 1-1/2 hrs with a short nap back at the camper.

 

 

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Artist on the Lighthouse Painting

The Gladstone Overnighter

From Manistique, the question was where to stop for the night. We also were looking for a church for either Saturday night or Sunday morning. Gladstone was the closest Catholic church. About Fifty miles down the road, we pulled into Gladstone, MI. The church was easy to find and we attended mass at 4:30pm. After mass I asked Fr James Ziminski, if we could park overnight in the parking lot. He said, “yes”.

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Van Cleve Park Lighthouse

In late afternoon the sun was shining and we set out to explore the town. Little did we know how nice this place would be. The Van Cleve Park is advertised as the jewel of Gladstone and we both can vouch for that! From the Marina to the fishing pier to the lighthouse to the stake board park to nearly everything else could want in a community (free) park was here. Even a wedding was taking place! Cruising around, we spotted an RV campground in the same park area. We stopped in, but no vacancies, that was ok because we would be in a church parking lot in a quiet residential neighborhood. “Life is Good” isn’t it “Norm”?

That is what we saw and did! 

July 22, 2017 Gladstone, MI

PS: For those of you that are interested in my “WiFi” antenna and repeater. We are in a campground in Wisconsin and we are catching the wifi and repeating it superbly! Happy Camper!!

 

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Closer Look at Manistique Point Lighthouse

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It was a Two Lighthouse Day! ~ Gladstone, MI

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Back in the Good Old USA!

Pembroke

After publishing yesterday’s blog at McDonald we drove down to Pembroke downtown center and did a recon. Not a bad town! Plenty of flower boxes, several war memorials and most noticeably a lot of young people out and about enjoying a warm evening. Live music playing in one of the many restaurants with tables on the front sidewalk. It was really a cool place to walk around in. The teenagers or maybe young adults driving around in old restored trucks and cars. It was sort of neat to see that this still existed in small town. Pembroke, if I recall has a population of 16,000.

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Fresco in Pembroke

The ride to the Irving’s Truck Stop was about three miles on the outskirts. The big trucks were already filling up the rear parking lot. I was able to get a parking spot next to the restaurant. Naturally, the big trucks ran their engines at night, but that was not a problem because they idle at a low steady drone, actually lulling us to sleep. The disturbance was around 4:30 when the milk delivery truck backed up to the restaurant dock. The refrigerator compressor ran loud and at different pitch levels. Well, all in all it wasn’t a bad night. Helen made breakfast and as usual it hit the spot. We were on our way shortly after.

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Flowers in Pembroke

CFB Petawawa

Canadian Force Base (CFB) Petawawa was just up the road maybe 15 miles. It would be my last chance to stop and visit the Canadian Army base. I wasn’t sure where I was going, but I gambled and took the right gate into the base. It was early and not much activity, but we did manage to get a feel for the training base. As for the campground, we didn’t make it, but we could see that it was a beautiful water front location. Our aim was to be back in the US by nightfall.

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Ontario’s Rocks!

Sault Ste Marie

The terrain from Pembroke changed from farm fields to rocky jagged outcrops. One minute the road has been cut through ledges and next filled with ponds fifty feet below. I could see that the landscape didn’t have much soil covering the rock sub straight. I can imagine how yesterday’s engineers must have been scratching their heads on how to build a highway in this beautiful, strange land.

The Imperial Gallon!

It takes 0.264 gallons for 1 liter. One liter cost (on average) $1.129 x 3.785 = $4.27 per US gallon equivalent! In simple terms in the USA, I can fillip for around $65.00. In Canada it came out to around $103.00. It cost a lot more to cruise in the Provinces!

The Trans Canada Highway

Most of this trans-continental highway is one lane coming and going. Every few kilometers they have an extra lane for traffic to pass. This is ok, but traffic can back up quickly in back of a slower moving vehicle. The next thing you know some impatient fool passes 10 or more cars on a double yellow line. Scary! The only visible law enforcement seems to be in small towns along the highway. There are signs that indicate aerial surveillance, but we didn’t spot one aircraft all day.

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Diverse terrain

Michigan ~ Brimley State Park

The border crossing went smoothly, probably 10 minutes wait for our turn. On the other hand, going into Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, CA the cars were backed up at least a mile over the International Bridge.

A quick bite to eat Arby’s and a short drive over to Brimley State Park was next. The sign said, “Full Camp.” I talked to the young lady and said, “ We’ve been driving all day” ‘any chance I could even dry camp’? She checked and we got full hookups from someone who had to leave. My luck for not getting reservations ahead was still holding out. Brimley is a large campground on Lake Superior with 237 sites! We were happy campers with good hot showers that night!

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Brimley Selfie

That is what we saw and did!

(July 22, 2017 ~ Brimley, MI)

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Pembroke Archetecture

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First Ride Day Ended Pembroke, Ontario, Canada

Leaving our hometown of Berlin, NH around 6:30 am was a perfect time to watch the sun shine on the neighboring Vermont hills. Our travels took us into Northern Vermont with an entry into Canada at Derby Line. By 10:30, the Montreal skyline was in our view. Also, the traffic was nearly at a stop when we reached the “Pont de Champlain” bridge. They are building a new bridge next to the existing and the chaos is nearly understandable considering the immense scope of this project. I was busy driving and I had Helen take a few photos of the bridge and Montreal.

Next direction was towards Ottawa. After these two metropolitan cities, it was pretty easy to drive on the Trans-Canadian highway, AUT 417. Around 4:30, I was getting tired and gased up the truck. I asked if there were any campgrounds around. This lady waiting in line, grabbed my arm and started to tell me of several nearby places to stay. The one that really, really grabbed my attention was CFB Petawawa. (Correct spelling). This stands for Canadian Force Base which just happened to have a, I’m told, wonderful RV campground which is open to the public. Well, the day is long and my stamina gone, we both decided to camp out at a Irving Truck Stop. After a good delicious dinner at their restaurant, we headed for McDonalds for good WiFi and the blog.

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The Construction Maze

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Big Project!

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The “Pont Champlain

That is what we saw and did!

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Summer Get-A-Way

The Plan

We are just about a week (a day) away from departing on a tour across the great USA. The plan is to travel across the middle of America to the West Coast, follow the Pacific Coast highway from northern California to Washington State. Ever since our 2012 Alaska tour in the truck camper, this Pacific Coast road-trip was in the making. The original idea was to head south from the Alaska tour and explore the western coast, but at the time of the year the temperatures in that part of the country were very high and we took the Canadian route home. This year, we are going to do it, but we might be facing the same very hot climate! The truck camper, itself, doesn’t have A/C which might make it uncomfortable at night. I have added a few power point sockets to run D/C cooling fans. Nothing ventured nothing gained!

Getting Ready

Arriving at the end of April I’ve been more than busy getting both 5th wheel and truck camper ready for the upcoming season. I have mentioned some of the improvements on the 5th wheel in previous blogs. As for the truck camper, some improvements that I have just recently completed include: doubling the solar capacity, adding another battery, installing several USB charging stations, adding a long-range WiFi antenna with repeater. I’ve also replaced the original stop, tail and turn lights with high output LEDs. Added two 48 watt LED backup lights and added a seven pin plug connector inside the truck bed towards the driver’s side front of the bed. This will eliminate the possibility of pinching the cable (which I’ve done) going to rear toward the back number. (On the 5th wheel, this will eliminate the cable going over the tailgate.) 

 

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Ready for Adventure! Come along for the ride!

The Route

One could leave NH and head over to Vermont, New York and follow the southern side of the  Great Lakes, but I’ve been there before and the nightmare of traffic, tolls is not worth this the aggravation! Instead it is nearly a straight shot leaving NH and through Canada to Sault Ste Marie, Ontario and enter the US in Michigan. Stay tuned!

That what we saw and did!

Leave a like or a comment  ~ thanks!

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The (DIY) Mechanic ~ Part Two

The 5th wheel tire problem

Once home I discovered abnormal tire wear on the right rear trailer axle. The inside edge of the tire was extremely worn for only having 8,000 miles on it. I suspected that the camber was way out of tolerance on the axles (both front and rear). My little drawing below discribes how camber affects tire wear.

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How “Camber” affects tire wear

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Excessive inside tire wear

“Rv.net” ~ To the rescue!

You can bet that someone has run into this problem before and a “Fix” article has been written. Some fixes were horrible, but I found one exceptional detail fix on RV.net on the internet. The internet “Fix” RV.net Fix This article was very, very detailed! It gave me enough info to tackle the job myself. Before I get into the fix, I strongly believe that the reason the trailer axles lose their camber is that of “potholes” especially on some interstates. One of the most egregious that I’ve encountered, is on I-88 from Binghamton to Albany, NY! When traveling at 60 to 65 mph and your 13,000lb camper hits a pothole four or five inches deep, the axle slowly goes from pos to neg camber!

“The Fix”

Why fix it yourself? The answer is simple, there is a Camping World about 45 miles from here, but their answer was simple, replace to axle! Yah, that answer didn’t work for me! After watching several You Tube videos I felt capable of tackling the project myself.

First on the list was the fabrication of tools that I would need to measure camber and also too enable safe jacking or bending of the axle. The measurement tool was a simple matter of cutting a piece of angle iron the lenght of the mounted tire, drilling a couple of holes for bolts that contacted the rim on exactly the same spot a 180º apart. The next step was to take a micrometer and getting each bolt to be the same lenght.

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Calibrating both bolts to the same lenght

The measuring tool I used was an angle finder (anolog). I could have bought a digital angle finder, but I felt it wasn’t necessary.

 

The measuring tool completed. It was time to move on to a baseplate for the 12 ton jack. I found a 1/2″ plate exactly the right lenght and width in the shop. From there, I used a bi-metalic hole saw for holes on each end to receive the chains. I had several chians in the shop to choose from. I used a couple of short skidder chains to tie in the axle at both ends. Everything to do this project was available in my shop.

My first attempt to jack the camber back in was not working as planned. You see, I had blocked up the camper literally off the ground. By jacking in this way, the suspension was preventing the “bend”. I blocked the tires to the ground and then the jacking showed immediate response. I kept checking the degree angle gauge. I first started with a “Neg (- 1º)” reading. From my research I needed a  “Pos (+1.5º) I jacked until I had a positive 2º. When I released the jack preesure it spran back to pos +1.5º camber. From this point I took a break from this project. In the future I will verify distance from the hitch pin to axle, from axle to axle. (Another intense project)

That is what I did!

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Slotted to hold chain

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Jacking  base plate fabrication

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How I secured to axle..Note brake wiring Not pinched

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Fabricated angle tool

 

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You can see the front axle tip out with neg camber, while rear axle sets square on the block!

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The final camber adjustment!

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The Mechanic? ~ Part One

Just a few days after our return home from Key West I was busily working on my vehicles. The Ford F-250 Super Duty needed some new sneakers. The Lexus RX 350 needed new struts and tires also. Both vehicles had to have their yearly State inspections. This is besides all of the planned projects on the 5th wheel and some unplanned projects!

The unplanned work, on the 5th wheel

The hot water flow to all the faucets stopped. This happened on the way home. I was baffled as to what was causing the hot water not to flow out of the faucet. Back home, I emptied the heater thinking scale was plugging the outlet. No luck in that department. After looking at my water heater info literature, no luck for a solution! “YouTube” was my next point of the study. I discovered that the way the 5th wheel manufacturer had piped the hot and cold,  one bypass valve and a “check valve” was installed and this check valve malfunctioning. It wasn’t really a surprise that I had to remove the Suburban heater from the camper. I couldn’t get enough leverage to remove the fitting. I ordered a two valve bypass kit that will eliminate this problem in the future. Like most things I tackle, I’m not an expert when I start, but I surely gain a lot of knowledge, after I finish the repair!

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The culprit!

The Lexus was my most stressful repair so far. It needed struts all the way around. The struts are the shock absorbers. In most cases, you can order “Quick Struts” which means the coil springs and struts are all assembled. This would have been a “piece of cake”. The problem was that the big three aftermarket manufacturers don’t make a quick strut assembly for my vehicle

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The Rental Coil Compressor

. So, O’Reily’s Auto Parts had a good deal in that you can rent a coil compression tool for $54.00 for 48hrs, bring the tool back and get your $54.00 back. (The above photo) That’s the way I went, but I had a difficult time of compressing the springs enough to get the retaining nut on. This tedious task took me three days of work only to discover that I hadn’t torqued the retaining nut enough causing an intolerable clicking noise. I had to remove all four struts from the vehicle. Luckily a local garage owner, the guy who I bought $1,400.00 worth of tires, let me use their wall mounted strut compressor and in fifteen minutes all was completed except reinstalling on the car.

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The Professional Coil Compresor!

Like I said in the above paragraph, I knew little when I started, but I know a lot when I finished. Did I save money by doing the work myself? Well, yes and no, I would have spent the extra money if the quick struts where available. My new knowledge is my reward! Oh, by not going to the Lexus Dealer I definitely saved lots of $$$$’s.

That is what I fixed and did!

 

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North Bound ~ Day 10

Saturday, April 22, 2017

What’s one more day?

We had so much more to explore in Columbia, if we left today we would have to find a place to stay Saturday night and than we wanted to attend church. If we could extend another day, traffic would be lighter around Charlotte, we could go to church here in Columbia and we could hit a few more attractions. First was to wait for the campground office to open at 9 am. The website and phone give you a message that the office will open at 11 am. I had seen the little cardboard clock pointing to 9 am and I was betting on that. We were there early and decided to check out the lake a little closer. The sun shining made the temperature already close to 69 degrees. I spot a couple of fisherman on the west-end towards the outlet. The concrete sidewalk was just calling us in that direction. I ask, “Any luck fishing”? One answered no we just got here. The other said we just spotted a snake swimming over by the bridge. I answered back, “I wasn’t planning on going swimming”! Just then a female jogger came by and I asked if this trail went around the lake. She answered, Yes, about two miles around. Helen and I looked at each other and decided for a two-mile walk in the park. Tall pine trees filled the forest and with the sunlight beaming between the Giants, it was the morning “golden hour”. I had no camera other than the I phone. It was a very pleasant walk. Oh, we did extend for another day.

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Our Site at Sesquicentennial State Park

Fort Jackson was our exploration next. We checked the Base Exchange, the commissary and the actual layout of the Fort, which was very large. Ironically, there are no WiFi hotspots that I know of on the base. Not at even at Burger King. I can only imagine that they don’t want the “Basic Trainees” online.

The one place that we enjoyed visiting was the indoor Olympic swimming pool. This is an official Olympic size pool. The reason we were excited about the pool was that Helen’s 92-year-old Aunt Simone swims here twice weekly as I have mentioned in a previous blog. She does five full laps. Three breaststrokes, and two backstrokes, unbelievable! This is even more remarkable that she only started swimming at around 62 years of age!

Later in the afternoon we really needed a fix of WiFi! I knew of a Burger King restaurant close to the campground. I drove into the parking lot and was able to park very near to the center of the building. Excellent WiFi and we didn’t even have to get out of our comfortable seats in the truck. This worked fine for a while. The heat of the day got to us. We moved inside. Helen grabbed a booth way in the corner. I got a drink and headed in her direction. A couple, who setting close to the fountain drink machine, made eye contact with me as I walk by. A few minutes later, he was at our table and said he admired my front hitch bike rack. We started talking about 5th wheel RV living. I offered him a seat, he said, “just a minute, I’ll get my wife, she had walked out before our conversation started. We talked for 1-1/2 hours! They owned a 5th wheel RV, but have had little time to use it, at least until now when both of them retired. They are planning on downsizing, selling their home and traveling full time. It isn’t like they have never traveled. He was an engineer working on nuclear power plants all over the world. She was a pharmacist and what an interesting conversation about their personal history. She came from Cuba, he from Columbia, their daughter teaches English in China. A great couple to meet and chat with. I’m sure our paths will cross again.

We never did get our WiFi fix on this day, but our chance encounter with Jamie and Bee was well worth the afternoon time spent with them!

That is what we saw and did

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Sessquicentennial SP walking path

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Early morning walk around the lake!

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North Bound ~ Day 9

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“B Model Huey” ~ “The Vikings”

Friday, April 21st, 2017

Fort Jackson

The first visit was to the “Basic Training Museum”. It is not the largest I’ve visited, but well presented and with a hundred years of history and artifacts. It brought back many memories of my early days in the Army.

On the outside many static displays were present. From Sherman WWII vintage tank to M1A1 Abrams, Desert Storm vintage tank and many other vehicles were to be seen. What really caught my eye was a “B Model” Huey helicopter mounted in the forward air flight position. The Huey was very well restored, but what made me look twice was the “nose art” It was the Vikings logo from a sister Assault Helicopter Company based in Soc Trang, Vietnam. This was the same airfield that I was stationed at. Looking a little further at the tail I noticed the tail numbers. 13,972. I remember distinctly working on a 336th Assault Helicopter Company “Thunderbird” B Model gunship with the serial number 13,977. That signifies that this aircraft was built just five aircraft before the one I worked on. What a small world we live in, for me to come across this aircraft 12,000 miles from Vietnam to Fort Jackson, SC some 51 years ago, halfway around the world!

The Riverbanks Zoo & Garden

Later in the day, we headed across town for our next adventure. The Riverbanks Zoo & Garden, I intended to visit the botanical gardens more than the zoo. Upon approaching the Zoo, we both read the sign that this was the biggest attraction in South Carolina. Just getting there was impressive. They built this bridge spanning a large parking lot and an active railroad line. Once inside the first eye-catching exhibit was the Grizzly Bears. Real big bears feeding in a pond. Did I say big? Ok, now we were hooked on at least looking around at other animals. It was a world-class zoo.

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“Cool time Grizzles”

Crossing another bridge across a large brown colored water flowing river, we hoped on the wheeled train to take us up the mountain to the gardens. A note here, usually we would have hiked up the 3/4 mile hill, but today was very hot around 88 degrees with no wind. We didn’t feel guilty one bit!

The gardens were in full bloom! All the plants had names, but for the life of me, I can’t remember any of them except to say all were colorful and pleasing to the eye. In days gone by I use to love gardening, playing in the flowers, and rock garden. Today, being retired you would think that I have all the time in the world to play in the flowers. No, it seems that my schedule is so pact with things to do that time for that never materializes.

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“Are you mocking me?

 

Driving back to the campground, we were tired but happy with the day. Tomorrow would be our departure day or would it be, was the question?

That is what we saw and did!

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The Tail Numbers 13,972

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Stone from “The bridge at Remagen, Germany” WWII

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The Plaque tells the story!

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Kayaking down Saluda River

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Tong fed turtles!

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Elephant Posing ~ Riverbanks Zoo & Gardens

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North Bound ~ Day 8

April 20, April 21, April 22, 2017

From the charming “Southern Bell” town of Savannah, Ga our journey took us to the north and west into South Carolina. Our destination was Columbia. This would be our stay for the next three days.

The Visit

Columbia is home to Helen’s aunt Simone, cousin Chris, his wife Sandy and their friendly dog Higgins. The thing that we really enjoy is being able to camp just four miles from cousin Chris home and only two miles from Aunt Simone’s assisted living home. We stayed at Sesquicentennial State Park right in a secluded area in the middle of Columbia. I’ll write more about the park later in the blog. Aunt Simone, who is in her nineties is losing a little ground but is still very active for her age. She swims over at Fort Jackson twice a week. Chris, her son, a retired Army veteran, brings her to the full-size Olympic swimming pool for, we are told, five incredible laps! (Three breast strokes and two backstrokes) That pool is very, very long!

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Helen, Sandy, Aunt Simone and Harmony

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The Olympic Pool at Ft Jackson

Clemson University Forest

In the late afternoon, over at Chris’s and Sandy’s home, they have a routine of going for a lovely walk on the Clemson’s University Forest (experiment grounds). This area is wooded, fields and a pond with many walking trails. It is something that we always look forward to on our visits to Columbia. On this particular walk, Chris brought his kite along. He is an avid kite flyer and this kite is no paper bag and newspaper type. He explained the aerodynamics and how to easily change them according to the wind conditions. He had it up flying in no time using, what he calls his fishing method of pulling and releasing as the kite climbed higher and higher into the blue sky. He has an Eagle feather attached by a swivel which tells him the amount of the wind at altitude. (The faster it spins the more wind). He had me flying in no time and with very little wind according to the feather.

Our visit with the aunt and cousins ended that evening. Chris had a commitment out of town in Asheville, Sandy was working at the school, Simone at the assisted living home.

Friday the 21st would be time to explore Fort Jackson. It is the largest basic training facility in the United States! With four museums on base and miles and miles of land to explore, off we went.

That is what we saw and did!

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Chris getting “Airborn”

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A few minutes later he had me takeover and flying

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North Bound ~ Day 7

 

April 19, 2017, ~ Ft. McAllister State Park, Savannah, GA

“A little late in publishing”

Fort McAllister

Another short travel day from Kings Bay to Savannah! We had stayed Ft Stewart, next to Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, but I was never impressed with the small campground, the registration office 3 miles down the road. I was thinking of Skidaway Island State Park a few miles from Hunter, but in the end, we stayed at old Ft McAllister.

Last year we camped here and liked the atmosphere. The big change, this year, was hurricane Mathew that blew down some 1,000 big trees in the park. Although not barren by any means the hurricane did open up a lot of acreages.

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Just a short walk in the park!

I located a good site, #10 and setup. Our goal was to go into Savannah and walk the 22 garden squares in the old downtown. We accomplished 20 of them. It was hot, but resting in the squares and taking the big beautiful live oak trees was something else. Some of these trees had a canopy of over a 100 feet across. I had planned on taking many pictures, which I did, but the camera can’t do the garden squares justice. It is a very old historic city with a multitude of old brick buildings that have been kept up through the years!

Down on the lower level waterfront is the Savannah River, this reminds me a lot of the old port Quebec City, Canada. I am referring to the cobbled street, the really old stone buildings which now are shops and restaurants. A huge paddle boat sits on the dock waiting for passengers for a tour of the delta. The afternoon was winding down and a dinner downtown was in store before heading back to the campground.

That is what we saw and did!

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The Georgia Queen ~ Paddle Boat on the Savannah River

 

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Family strolling down one of the 22 town square parks

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Savannah Square Flowers

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“The Segway Tour!”

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“Live Oak Walkway Honor Guards!”

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Fountain in the Square!

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Fetch! Every Square had people enjoying the downtown!

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North Bound ~ Day 6

North Bound  ~ Day 6

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

“A little late in publishing”

The Move!

On this bright sunny morning, we departed Cocoa Beach and Patrick AFB for a fairly short journey into Georgia at our next military campground. Kings Bay, Naval Submarine Base. No advance reservations. I pulled into the sub base around 3 pm and the camp host was just coming on duty. We got a site and setup, as I extended my 5th wheel front jacks I lost power to the hydraulic pump. I couldn’t find a fuse inside or out. I took my tester and discovered that I had power at the battery side but none at the double pole double through operating switch. Wow, I was a little confused? The short wire was only two feet long but encased in one of those plastic wire looms. I started to trace back to the switch only to discover an inline fuse, very narrowly designed in the loam. It was one of those “glass tube 30amp fuses”. My next door neighbor directed me to the town of St Mary’s and two auto parts stores. Mission accomplished!

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Relaxing at Kings Bay, GA ~ Notice the book “13 Hours in Benghazi” A good read!

The town of St Mary, GA

We previously scouted this southern, charming, coastal town. It was sunny with no mosquitoes present. We weren’t even out of the truck when we spotted something very unusual in the river or should I say above the river. It was one of those jet skis with the exhaust piped to two 80 foot long rubber tubes. The guy was flying around doing summersaults and every other kind of gyrations. We curiously walked towards the pier to watch and talk to his buddies. We had seen this on TV before, but never live! His buddies said that he was practicing for a National Competition some place in Florida. They said this equipment cost in the vicinity of $17,000.00. I took several pictures as this young adult from Albert, Canada did his stuff.

The town Park and Flowers

This beautiful park on the Cumberland River was just a perfect place to rest, enjoy the late afternoon, the river, flowers and people in the park looking for a handpainted rock about 10″ in diameter. This reminded us of our KW friend Paula who hides similarly painted rock. This is a little like Geocaching that we do except no grid coordinates are given. They hadn’t found it as we walked across the street to Bessie’s Restaurant for dinner. It was an enjoyable evening in St Mary!

Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base

The ride back to the base was uneventful. I knew that the gate we came on would be closed for the night. We would have drive 3/4 mile to the main gate. No problems here, except I, had a difficult time getting back to the campground. I drove down this road on base to another gate on base. The guard said you are not authorized to enter while “An ammo transfer is being made” She directed me to the campground and in no time I got my bearings. Do you know that my GPS doesn’t work on this base! Another odd thing that happens on this base periodically is a recorded message that comes over a distant loudspeaker that this is a restricted area “No trespassing”! The campground doesn’t have WiFi but does have cable TV. The clubhouse and shower rooms are first class!

That is what we did and saw!

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Unbelievable what stunts can be done!

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Up, up and away!

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I asked how he prevnted crashing into his Jet Ski? He said he flys in a circle around the craft!

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The first view as we arrived at the water front!

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St Marys Water Front Park

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A real birdbath!

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One last interesting project in the park!

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I had to include a photo of the “Live Oaks”  on many side streets of St Marys, GA

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North Bound ~ Day 5

North Bound ~ Day 5

Patrick Air Force Base ~ April 17, 2017

A short jaunt from Stuart, Florida to Patrick AFB

Patrick has changed considerably since our last visit a few years ago. I’m not taking about the campground its self. I’am talking about the base entry gates. Coming in from US 404 my first mistake was exiting at the sign that says, “Exit for Patrick AFB”. That’s ok if you’re driving a car but not an RV. The serpentine barriers going in are very close together. Fortunately the gate guard gave me a stop hand signal before I got so close that I’d have to backup in traffic. He told me to make a you turn, go to the second light, take a left, go to the end, take another left and enter the base at the commercial truck entrance gate!

What I should have done was continue on US 404, over the bridge, to the tee and taken a left! A quarter mile or so down the road watched for the commercial truck gate! Got that you RVers! If someone is driving your car following you, they can’t enter at that gate! They must use the gate below the bridge or continue to the East gate which was originally the main gate. Wow, this is getting confusing! Security has changed, tighter than ever!

The Campground

Big improvement since our last visit. The camp host said they have about 150 sites. We were able to get in easily as 50% of the sites were available, snowbirds have migrated north! WiFi is available in the clubhouse, but my site nearby had no problem getting Dlink at full strength. The clubhouse is super, the laundry room, restrooms and showers are top of the line.

If I had to complain about anything it would be the distance to travel to get to anywhere. We were only there one day and I put on 46 miles. I guest, I am just a  spoiled RV’er from walking distance in

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Fam Camp Sunset at Patrick AFB

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Site 93 at Patrick AFB

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Cocoa Beach ~ Not bad for a weekday!

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Mighty Atlantic at Cocoa Beach, FL

Key West. I would give Patrick Fam Camp a 4.5 rating. It would be a 5 if Wifi would be available campsite wide!

That is what we did and saw

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North Bound ~ Day 4

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St Lucie Locks nearly full

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St Andrews Church ~ Easter Sunday

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St Lucie Locks ready for a step down

Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017

Phipps County Park, Stuart, Florida

This being Easter Sunday, we attended mass at St. Andrew Catholic Church here in Stuart. I was amazed at the traffic going into the church parking lot. No less than five Sheriff patrol cars and officers were directing vehicles in and out! The photo above was taken a half hour before mass. Standing room only by mass time!

After mass we had an excellent meal at Cracker Barrel just down the road from the campground. This was followed by getting on the net at a local hotspot. As I said in a previous blog this campground has no WiFi available.

Back at the campground we met our next door neighbors, they just bought a new Airstream tag along trailer. It’s pretty neat with a lot of cool features. They are new to camping and really psych. We talked camping for most of the afternoon. Now Sunday evening I am contemplating tomorrow’s move north! Maybe Patrick AFB, maybe further, north to the Mims, Fl area?

That is what we did and saw!

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North Bound ~ Day 3

North Bound ~Day 3

Last night, at the Phipps County Park gate, I had a senior moment! The gate is locked at 7:30pm. The office gave me the proper code, but in my senior mind, I transposed the last two numbers. No other traffic coming or going, I couldn’t walk around the gate because of a water filled drainage ditch. I blew the horn a couple of times to no avail. Finally, in a distance, headlights came to the gate. It seems, I input 60 instead of 06! All this made me think, that turning 72 years old a couple of days ago was a sure sign of dementia! 

Today, we are off for a tour of the “National Navy SEAL Museum” (SEa, Air, Land) at Ft Pierce. My GPS said about a 51 min drive from our camp site. Arrived a half hour after opening time. I had checked the ground area from Google Earth and drove right in like I had been there several times.

The museum is very well equipped with genuine equipment used by the SEAL Teams. I got loads of pictures! I set my ISO up and down to shoot without using a flash. It worked perfectly! I reassigned my auto focus to a back button style that I activate with my thumb. I learned this trick on line. I just point and shoot for a perfectly focused photo in a dark, poorly lit scene. This tactic works wonders when you wear progressive glasses, no guessing if you’re in focus or not! I was happy with our visit to the Navy SEAL Museum.

Returning to the ranch, I decided to drive A1A highway along the Inter-coastal waterway. Hardly no traffic with views of the beaches and sunbathers. A quick lunch at Wendy’s and home by mid-afternoon.

We had one more thing on our stay in the Stuart area. I have a cousin who lives here. My, back-home, cousin Lucille had given us her sister’s address and phone number. A quick call and a check on the location on our GPS found cousin Mary Jane just 4 miles from the campground! She was up for company and 10 minutes later we were at her “mansion”! Her husband Bob had passed a few years ago, but his legacy certainly lives on in the house he and Mary Jane designed and built. Bob was also a scale model ship builder. His models are four to five feet long and are of museum quality. A local museum wants his models and Mary Jane is in the process of donating them. Bob was a banker by trade, but his German engineering mind was evident throughout the home.

We sat with Mary Jane, in the lanai, and talked about our hometown of Berlin, NH and the many relatives. Her mother had 17 kids, but only 13 lived. She was extremely happy that we made contact with her. My favorite line is: “We are in a canoe going down the river without paddles, lets see where it brings us”! We were very happy to meet Mary Jane.

That is what we saw and did!  

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“Medal of Honor”

 

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North Bound ~ Day 2

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Helen & Mary at Jonathan Dickinson State Park

North Bound ~ Day 2

A very short drive from South Bay, about 53 miles, to our next stop for the next three days. A campground called Phipps County Park. This park is located at the locks on the Port St Lucie River. Boats can travel from the Atlantic to the Gulf of Mexico, cutting across Okeechobee Waterway, bisecting the State. 

As a side note: When plugging in the campground address into my RV ~ GPS, I noticed two different addresses. Well, there are two campgrounds nearly side by side, County Park “Phipps” and the Federal Army Corp of Engineers “St Lucie South Campground”! St. Lucie is the better park, but also full. Hence, we are at the County Park! 

We set up camp and took a nap before calling Mary, a Key West neighbor, who is working as a camp host at Jonathan Dickinson State Park. She was off this afternoon and we were able to link up with her for a tour of the State Park. 11,000 plus acres is a big, big park. Some of the campground sites are five miles apart! Some of the amenities include: horseback riding, many trails, a mountain bike trail that is 30 miles long, boat rentals and pontoon boat tours. Very impressive State Park! We finished the afternoon by going out to eat for dinner. Thank You Mary for the guided tour!

Phipps County Park is ok, but would be much better if WiFi was available. The fiber optic cable has been installed and it’s just a matter of days before this becomes operational. Until then, I’m forced to blog in a draft mode.

That is what we saw and did!

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Wintering in Key West, Florida!

Wintering in the Keys is not a hardship by any means. Ninety percent of the time the weather, especially, the temperature is in the mid to upper seventies with an ocean breeze of 8 to 10 knots. Sun shining, beautiful sunrises and sunsets…OK, I’m rubbing it in a little too much! On the downside, living in Key West is exceptionally costly. Housing is out of site, hotel rooms can run $300 a night, some rentals go for $10,000 dollars a week.

Being bless is another thing. Being a retired veteran has given me and my wife a privilege of staying in Key West and an affordable cost at a military base campground! NASKW (Naval Air Station Key West) is the sanctuary for many retired veterans. This year the two campgrounds were able to commodate the snowbird veterans. Last year, for the first time, some were turned away because of lack of camping sites.

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Being the second camper in the field, Oct 19, 2016… Things look different with 102 sites now filled!

Many of you would say, wow, you guys are so crowded! Yes, I would say we are, but we are crowded, but with some of the most wonderful people on earth. Their varied backgrounds, their varied home locations across the United States. Yes, for the mountain, country folks, like us, being crowded is a new experience, but a marvelous experience to listen to life stories from our campground neighbors.

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A Pano of the campground from the top of my roof!

 

Writing a blog in WordPress is relatively new for me. I’ve had an account for some time, but I’ve been writing my blogs in “Blogspot” for a long time. I am thinking that WordPress is a more comprehensive platform and I’m going to try learning their capabilities. I especially like adding photos as a drag & drop item. I’ve always had problems in Blogspot which nearly discouraged me from continuing my blog updates.

We’ve been down here since mid-October and plan on staying here until mid-April. This qualifies for being a Florida resident. We are not switching State residency, but we were able to qualify as residents to be able to get or Monroe County Library card. It is a milestone in that we now are able to take different computer classes and other activities that the Key West library offers. This isn’t your ordinary library, with evening concerts in the garden, authors, lectures and many, many more activities, we love it!

Weather Alerts!

I’ve written about the Discovery Center in previous blogs in Blogspot, but our latest evening lecture was on Hurricanes in or near Key West, Florida. The Hurricane season officially begins June 1st to November 30th, but the interesting fact is that the peaks happen around the first part of September and again in the middle of October. The lecture was presented by NOAA (National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration) which is located here in Key West. The weather station here is one of the oldest in the country, being 147 years old. They know their Hurricanes! The point that I’m getting to is that we rush down here for the opening day of Trumbo Point Campground in mid-October. We will keep an extra watch for the weather from now on. The presenter had some pretty interesting photos of KW during several Hurricanes that crisscrossed this area. The last Hurricane was about ten years ago. We might be due for a good one in years to come!

Staying Healthy

The big problem with life styling in Key West is going out with neighbors and/or friends to eating establishments! Yes, with 300 restaurants and bars its hard to stay healthy in the eating department. The way I attempt to combat this is a personal challenge! I have set a goal of biking 1,000 miles this winter. Starting on October 19th I have biked 642 miles as of this writing on February 2, 2017. That leaves me with 358 miles to go until our departure on or about mid-April. I’ve lost some weight, but the main benefit is the strengthening of my left leg. I’ve  numbness in this leg for a few years now. It all falls back to five bulging discs in my lower back. Mind you I have no pain, just pinched nerves which create numbness in my left leg. Enough of my health problems.

That is what we saw and did!

Tombstone, AZ

Nov 12, 2017

Starting this day from our so-called disperse camping in the Coronado National Forest, we slowly made our way towards the main highway. A half mile down the road, we bumped into our old friend, Phillip that we met yesterday up at Massai Point. He was just inside the National Forest boundary. He was with this German couple, in a rented Class C RV. Mike, the German guy, asked if I knew anything about his RV furnace. It wasn’t working. I checked a few things and couldn’t find the problem. We said our goodbyes to both Mike, his wife Chris and Phillip. Phillip did say that if we couldn’t stay on base, we could stay at his house in Sierra Vista, which is where Fort Huachuca is located. He said he wouldn’t be home for a couple of days, but we were welcome to use his driveway, water, and electricity.

A Second Look!

Five miles down the road, we were at the entrance to Chiricahua National Monument. We could go left and head cross-country, Phillip”s guided shortcut, or maybe we could head back to the National Park and see how the sunlight coming from the east would change the landscape. Right turn for a second look! No time clock here. It is only six miles to the summit at Massai Point. The change was dramatic. At Organ Pipes, yesterday, the sun was shining on the rocks. Today, they were in the shade. The sun was now shining on the other side of the rock formations. It was good to do a second look! By the way, we were alone atop of Massai Point except for one car. They must have gone hiking, no trace of them.

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The Portal ~ On The Second Look!

 

Cross Country

Phillip said, “Take this road, the map shows gravel, but it’s now paved” I had about a half tank of gas, no worries yet. These cross-country roads seem to go on forever. You get a little worried when the Border Patrol has checkpoints in the middle of nowhere. I’m thinking, “What is that Border Patrol dog sniffing for?” Drug or illegals? I never changed my GPS to Tombstone. It was set for Tucson and the Air Force Base and it continually wanted me to take a left or a right onto dirt roads that were 8 feet wide. Places like Elfrida, Gleeson were our only real guides towards Tombstone. The fuel was now down to less than a quarter of a tank. Tombstone must have a gas station? Soon we were done weaving up and down. Over the next ridge, I could see a town, 10 or 15 miles away. There must be gas there. Down the last hill to a tee in the road! Left or right was the question. No traffic, how dead can this town be! I go left for another 2 miles, another tee in the road, I go right and the old Front Street appears to have live people walking around.

Tombstone, Arizona “The Town Too Tough To Die”

From Wikipedia, ~ Tombstone is a historic city in Cochise County, Arizona, United States, founded in 1879 by prospectorEd Schieffelin in what was then Pima County, Arizona Territory. It became one of the last boom towns in the American frontier. The town grew significantly into the mid-1880s as the local mines produced $40 to $85 million in silver bullion, the largest productive silver district in Arizona. Its population grew from 100 to around 14,000 in less than seven years. It is best known as the site of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral and presently draws most of its revenue from tourism.

It was Veteran’s Day weekend and the town was having a Veteran’s day parade. It was 10:30am when we pulled up to that gas station for a fill-up. I could see a lot of activity on the next street over, Main Street. I took a left to see what was going on. The Main St was blocked off to traffic. One more street over and I found a nice free RV parking lot. I grab my camera and headed to Main St. The whole town seemed to be gathered here. Many dressed in period costumes. The Earps were all represented with their fancy, ornate six-shooters. The ladies also in their dance hall/saloon costumes! The main street, graveled over a paved substrate gave one the sense of yesteryear. The Concord coaches, several of them, carried tourist around the downtown. The parade consisted of the local American Legion Color Guard and about 50 flag followers. All of the hat barring cowboys removed their hats for the Color Guard. (No taking a knee here!) The Arizona “Choir Boys” motorcycle club were here in numbers. All seemed to enjoy the parade and the town. We walked up and down checking all the establishments. It was now time to fill our stomach with grub. A corner dinner was filled with locals and tourist, the food was delicious.

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The Wild West ~ The Way it Was!

 

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Looking for Trouble?

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Draw!

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What Do You Think? ~ How About That knife in the Boot!

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The Earp Brothers, Virgil, Morgan, Wyatt & Doc Holiday 

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Come on Nelly!

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Their at the OK Corral!

Sierra Vista, AZ (The original destination)

From Tombstone to Sierra Vista is a relatively short distance, 35 miles or so, and by mid-afternoon, we were watching signs for Ft Huachuca, just on the outskirts. The Military Allstay said to go to the Buffalo Soldier Gate. This wasn’t too difficult and soon, at the gate, we were asking directions to the campground. The guard wrote down the turns and directions, but on the last turn, she said turn left instead of right. Well after six miles of navigating we were back the same gate. I stopped at the Express Gas Station near the gate and finally realized where we went wrong.

The campground had plenty of open sites. It was a very nice campground with lots of exterior walkway lighting. We had WiFi, cable tv, and full hookups. The only complaint was that it was about 3-1/2 miles from anything. It would be a one night only campground.

That is what we saw and did!