Playing Catch Up

Well a week has passed since I last wrote in the journal. That week has been mostly Pesach here in Covesville in Hungrytown Hollow. We got in mid day on Friday in time for Carol to pitch in with Malena to prepare a lovely Sedar meal. Dan ran the Sedar, as he described it, at 78 RPM. This was to keep the boys interested and from falling asleep. After the meal there was the inevitable meltdown and we delayed the completion of the Sedar until they had gone to sleep. The next day they demanded that we finish the Sedar as they felt they had missed something. This resulted in a rather unusual meal as we did not do a complete Sedar, however after the repeat meal we did “finish” the Sedar for the boys still running at 78 RPM.

While here I have received the replacement part for the Tow Defender which had broken a second time and I have installed that part. I sure hope it holds together for a while now. I also pulled out the drawer I repaired earlier in the trip and redid the track so it is more level and square. It should be smoother than it has been now. Other than an expiring NYS Inspection I have no other service issues for the moment.

This weekend the 26th and 27th we are taking off with the boys to a nearby Federal Campground for a Saturday night overnight in the coach. We have not told them the plan yet, but will probably set it up tonight over dinner. It should be fun for all of us and it will give Malena and Dan a 24 hour break that I am sure they can use. The weather has gone from hot and sunny on our arrival to chilly and gray and rainy and back to hot and sunny, so far. Carol and have taken several hikes, mostly in the neighborhood. Yesterday we went off to Ragged Mountain Natural Area right in Charlottesville and had an incredible 2 hour hike with a lot of elevation change (read that as several stiff long climbs) and lots of beautiful views. Dan tells us that most f the territory we hiked will be submerged by a new dam being built to increase the areas water reserves. A really significant loss to the area, but necessary nonetheless.

This will be either the last post or the next to last post of this trip. We will be in Rochester not later than May 2 as we have company coming to town and we need to catch up with Rochester before we head off to Alaska in June.

Moving East and a Surprise Visit with Friends

The last posting elicited a response from the Topfs who we last saw in January at Deer Creek in Florida, where they were wintering. At the time of their response they were in Jackson, MS headed for Memphis, TN. A quick look at the map showed that with a minor adjustment Memphis could be on our route. It took us a few minutes to decide that Land Between the Lakes, KY would be there another year, but the Topfs were heading our way now. We set out from Springfield, MO headed toward a campground in West Memphis, AR on the banks of the Mississippi. The rain and stms we had experienced and that had preceded us were playing havoc with the rivers and streams. As we drove we saw that everywhere we turned the water was over the banks, in some places seeming to threaten the highway itself. Many side roads were inundated and we saw parks and campgrounds ad lakeside houses all underwater. Soon we had a call from Shelley, the Tom Sawyer RV Park in West Memphis was underwater and did not expect to reopen for three weeks. Shelley located a campground in T O Fuller State Park on the Tennessee side of the river that was above the floods. They went in there on Friday and we joned them eaerly Saturday having spent the previous night in a Wal Mart Parking lot in Jonesboro, AR. (actually, as I write, we are in a Wal Mart parking lot in Smithville, TN).

On our way into Memphis we realized, with my sister Sandy’s help, that my cousin Bob Levey teaches in Memphis during the week. A phone call and an email yielded contact and a date to have dinner together on Monday night. After some confusion, the restaurant Bob suggested is located on a back alley and is hard to locate for the uninitiated and it also is closed on Monday, we met in the lobby of the Peabody Hotel, the home of the trained lobby ducks. We had a drink there and then moved on to Club 61 for dinner and much more talking. We certainly have gotten together with many people in many different ways on this extended trip.

Tueday we waited for the FedEx package with the tax returns that needed to be signed and posted with the appropriate checks enclosed. Having dealt with that, we went back to Memphis to go to the Cotton Museum. This museum is located on the old Cotton Exchange trading floor which has been preserved as it was when the business faded away from a live exchange to traders sitting at computer terminals with even faster access to pricing and news. In the process we learned just how important cotton was and is to Memphis. This was the center of the cotton trade not just for the US but for the world in its time. That time was as recent as the 1960’s The coming of electronic communications moved the trading away from the street and government grading eliminated the jobs of many people who had graded and blended cotton before the standardization. Still much of the cotton trade is based in Memphis. Carol and I were both fascinated with the videos of the many characters giving their oral histories and the history of cotton, the blues and Memphis that is housed in that museum. Earlier we had taken a tour of the Sun Recording Studio which was the place that first recorded Elvis and Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins and Howlin’ Wolf and . . . well this list seems almost endless. The actual studio is as it was 40 years ago and the microphone that they all used for vocals is prominent in the studio.

Wednesday we left for the east and found ourselves, after heated debate, headed for Malena and Dan’s for Pesach. We had set out to drive a piece of the Natchez Trace Parkway again and so we did. Eventually we got off looking for a road to I 40 that did not go through Nashville. After many twists and a couple of wrong turns we found ourselves in Murfreesboro and on the road toward Smithville, not too much of an improvement, but at least in the right direction. Thus we find ourselves in the aforementioned Wal Mart which was in no database or book we had with us. But Carol’s sharp eyes spotted the sign hidden behind a tree and here we are. Now this Wal Mart store will soon be in the “Overnight RV Parking” database for other back road wanderers to locate and know they are welcome to spend the night.

Time Flies

I wrote last seven days and 1260 miles ago. We have added two more states to our map, Colorado and Kansas, and some wonderful time with friends. After leaving Moab, with a promise to ourselves to return, we drove to Simonne and Steve Shuey’s new house in Glade Park, CO. The nearest real town is Grand Junction. For those who do not trace our family, Simonne is Dan’s sister-in-law, or more pointedly, Malena’s sister. Dan described the house as being “on top of the Colorado National Monument.” I did not quite grasp the meaning until I got the directions to the house. From Grand Junction one takes the Monument Road eight miles and at least 2,000 feet up through the park to a turn out for Glade Park about a third of the way up. We had been warned that there was a low clearance tunnel that we ought to be able to negotiate, but we had our doubts. For the complete story on that read Carol’s piece “What a sight we must have been” at I cannot improve on her telling. We had a wonderful visit and finally got to know Steve and Simonne as individuals and not as part of a family mob. Don’t get me wrong, I love family mob time, but we had nice time with them and plenty of time to talk, ride and hike.

We kept asking ourselves, out loud even, what route will we take from here and where will we go next. I have been getting a bit itchy to get east, as we have only three weeks left in our planned outing and Carol wants to get further south to get warmer. I 70 did not seem to be a compromise so we set out on US 50. Thank you NPR! They have done two pieces on the election process interviewing people who live along this most central US highway that predates the Interstates by many years. We asked about the weather and whether the road was in good shape. We never got around to asking how it crosses the Rockies. The short answer is it climbs from 7000 feet to 11,000 feet in 7 miles and them come right back down. We crested the summit in a very low gear going about 28 mph, I had time to read the speedometer and check all my gages as the engine, for the first time I can remember, was starting to miss and it clearly was laboring from the climb and the altitude. The trip down was in the same low gear and not much faster. I did not want to lose control on the descent. We motored on into Canon, CO and found the Fort Gorge RV Park, not open, but willing to take our cash and provide electric and sewer, water not turned on yet. Having plenty of fresh water and a surplus of gray water the combination was perfect for us. We used our on board water supply and left with empty holding tanks in the morning.

While we were brooding over the route we kept staring at the maps as if they had the answer to what route we should take. We noted that Kansas City was “only” a couple of hundred miles out of the way and we had friends, Dianne and Marty Lustig, who we had not seen in many years and when last heard from were in Prairie Village, KS a suburb of Kansas City. A quick internet search revealed that a couple of that name still lived at the address and with the phone number Carol had in her paper address book. We waited until a seeming appropriate hour the next morning to call to see if they remembered us and wanted to see us. They did and they did. A review of the maps showed that continuing on US 50 no longer made sense so while Carol continued to drive east I reset the mapping software and found a route up to I 70. We crossed the rest of Colorado, the high plains, and half of Kansas that day. Enough said. We alternated drivers every two hours through four shifts and called it quits at a roadside RV park in Russell, KS, birthplace of Robert Dole and Arlen Spector.

The next day, found us stopped at an auto parts store looking for a replacement for the windshield wiper that had had enough sun, sand, salt and whatever and started to shred as we drove through the rain. Thirty minutes of fussing and finally cutting down an oversize replacement and we were underway, having noticed that our Tow Defender, which is supposed to protect the car, has broken in a new and different way. This is not a show stopper, but it is very annoying and I will be having words with the manufacturer soon. A $400 safety item should stand up to the normal abuse we dish out. If not, it is worth nothing.

We had a wonderful visit visit with the Lustigs and the five grandchildren they are helping take care of. As we know about grandchildren under our care there are two wonderful moments. Hello and Goodbye. Of course by the time they are 16 they are much easier to spend a lot of time with.

Our route out of Prairie Village has taken us south to Springfield, MO where we are camped in the yard of a large truck service company. They are authorized Allison service people and we are here to have the 50,000 mile service on the transmission done tomorrow. It is really hard to believe that we have pushed this wonderful coach over 50,000 miles already and we still have a couple thousand before we get home. On the way we passed through Butler, MO the birthplace of Robert Heinlein, one of the all time great science fiction authors. We skipped Lamar, the birthplace of Harry S Truman.

Boulder City, Nevada to Moab, Utah

The drive to Boulder City, Nevada from Needles was uneventful, hardly memorable. We covered the 89 miles in under two hours and soon we were settled into Canyon Trails RV Park. A fairly nondescript RV park on the northern edge of Boulder City, not more than 11 miles from Hoover Dam and the entrance to the Lake Meade Recreation Area. Also about 20 miles from the Strip in Las Vegas. We are no fans of the Las Vegas night life on the strip, but the airport is close and there is at least one direct flight to Rochester a day at an almost reasonable fare.

After our arrival, we got in the car and headed for the historic part of Boulder City. It is a very nice shopping area and the buildings that were put up in the 30’s when the city was built to house the army of workers imported to build the dam have been preserved and cared for. Having exhausted the immediate shopping and gallery looking we drove on to the Lake Meade Recreational Area, thanking the government for the Golden Age Passport which grants free or 50% off access to the park land we own as citizens. $20 saved here and there does mount up. We found little to do in the time we had that day as I had to get back and prepare for my departure for Rochester. We did stop in the Boulder RV park for a look see. It says in the campground guides that the park cannot take coaches with slideout rooms. Indeed many of the older sites are too tight for our coach, but in the high priced area near the lake there are lovely new sites with plenty of room and there seemed to be many that were unoccupied. During our exploration we found the entrance to the old railroad tunnel trail that passes along the right of way that was built to service the construction of the dam. Carol got to hike that while I was in the frozen north.

I was in Rochester from Wednesday evening until late Friday afternoon. I spent most of my time with my mother as planned. I stopped in the office, just to see f they knew who I was, and I went o the Jewish Community Federation to hear Megillah read on Friday. Thursday night I took grandson Josh to see Mom and then to dinner with the Perlmans, Morgans and Rita Narang before the RPO Concert. This is getting to be a regular happening. Well two years in a row anyhow.

Back in Boulder City we have gone to see Blue Man Group at the Venetian and had dinner there. The show is fantastic. I had assumed that having seats in the balcony would exempt us from direct audience participation. I assumed wrong. One of the blue Men climbed to the balcony and handed me three pieces of candy (not real candy) to throw into his mouth from a distance. I did succeed with two which, after he raised my arm in victory, he promptly deposited back in my hand. This was all captured on camera for the entire audience to see on a big screen on stage. Before I could try to figure out what to do with the wet candy, an usher appeared to take them away and give me an alcohol swab to clean my hand.

The next day, Easter Sunday, we set out for Hoover Dam for the tour of everything that the public can see. Some areas had only been reopened to public tours last fall after the post September 11 panic and security shut down of everything the government could think of. I will include pictures of and from the interior in my next photo update. The total tour took over two hours including many items that you can just walk into with no ticket at all. We left the dam at about noon and the traffic was backed up all the way into Boulder City, some five miles. This included tourists wanting to see the dam and many people just wanting to get to the other side in Arizona. This is a direct route to Grand Canyon and used to also be a trucker route. Trucks are now banned on the dam and will be until the new bypass bridge is completed sometime in the next decade. The bypass is taking longer and costing more than the dam itself and I mean in adjusted dollars.

We stopped at a dam overlook and ate the lunch we had brought along and then drove out the Lake Meade access road to Las Vegas Bay Campground where we found a promised trail on the bluffs above the lake. It was a glorious 4 mile round trip hike with enough elevation change to let us know we had hiked. Monday we sort of sat around and caught up on mail and bills and other “stuff.” Late in the day we drove back to Lake Meade and hiked the Railroad Tunnels, me for the first time and Carol for the second. We did not go through to the dam as that was much steeper and we might not have made it back before sundown when the trail closes.

Tuesday morning we were up and about early and set off for Nevada Ste Park Valley of Fire. We had planned on camping at Overton Beach CG, but when we mentioned it to the ranger taking tolls (swiping National Parks Pass in our case) she said that although the maps were not updated there is no longer a campground at Overton Beach. We decided to stay at Echo Bay as it was the closest NP campground and we had no need of hookups for a one or two night stop. The first campground we came to seemed to be deserted so we went down the road a couple of hundred feet through a one lane construction zone to a much busier RV Park (note the change in terminology). There was a phone to call to register and a rather uppity young lady informed me I had to present myself at the hotel to register and besides there were no reservations available. We went back through the very narrow construction zone to the NP Campground which was very lovely and had plenty of room for our 36 foot motorhome, contrary to the listing that said 35 feet was the maximum. For $5 a night it was delightful, thank you all you underage taxpayers, we really do appreciate the benefits you are paying for us seniors. The fee for the young family across the road was $10, still a bargain. From there we drove the car up to Valley of Fire. The fire is apparent as you approach the park, the red sandstone walls stand up from the desert floor and their jagged tops look like flame. After 4 hours and two substantial hikes much of which were on deep sand, we were ready to have dinner, read a book and crawl into bed. We decided to head for Zion National Park the next day with a stop at the Overton Lost City Museum.

Resumed a week later:

WE got to our campground in Kannaraville, UT with no trouble other than the fact that Kannaraville is right next door to No Place. 45 miles from the entrance to Zion and 100 miles to Bryce. But for cheap is cheap. We paid in gasoline almost what we saved in campground fees, but we didn;t have to change campgrounds to see both parks. We spent a long day in Zion covering 12 miles of hiking in three different hikes and seeing the entire shuttle circuit. We also drove though the Zion Carmel Tunnel and took the hike up the far side of the canyon wall to look down in from yet another viewpoint. The next day I was quite ill with a cold, but we elected to press on to Bryce with Carol driving. We did the entire loop but no hikes. At 9,000 feet it was quite cold and icy and I did not have much energy. The next day, after doing laundry and some other chores we got a latish start and returned to Zion to undertake the Hidden Canyon hike. The hike to the mouth of the canyon is about 2 miles with a 900 foot altitude gain. I was recovered enough from my cold to enjoy the hike and the additional mile or so in and out of the canyon on an unimproved trail.

In case you notice that I am not raving about the views, please understand that too much eye candy leaves one unable to continue to express awe at the beauty of this part of the country. Our pictures, which will poste soon, are wonderful, but they are not much different from what you can see by going on the web and searching on the parks. We did not go off to places where no one goes, there is no such place. We saw what the active involved tourist sees and we have exclaimed WOW and similar words many times over. After four days, we moved on to Arches and Canyonland where I sit writing tonight. It is not tht I have not had what to write, but it feels like we have been on vacation and have been so busy sight seeing that I have had little time to compose my thought.
The trip to Moab, the center for all things Arches, Canyonlands, Deadhorse Point SP and any outdoor activity you might consider was uneventful, if you ignore the repeated WOWs as we entered this magnificent section of the Grand Staircase. The short story is that we have hiked in Arches and will take a ranger guided hike in the morning. We have been in touching range of Delicate Arch which is the iconic arch of this area. We took the car on a jeep trail that was rated easy and found out that easy was beyond the vehicles capability, fortunately before incurring any damage. I will not comment on the driver’s capability. We continued on Jeep Roads (note the difference between Roads and Trails) for many miles and saw a lot of out back countryside. I never knew there were two features called Monitor and Merrimac and they are next to each other and we both thought that was what they should be called before looking at the map to see what they were.

After that taste of 4x4ing or as they say around here Jeeping, we asked for the name of a reputable jeep guide and we were lead to Dan Mick by the Visitor Center person we spoke with. Dan is a wonderful character. We spent four hours in his bright red Rubicon Unlimited (the last one off the assembly line he assured us). His web site is and a view of Dan driving the Rubicon up Hell’s Gate which we did with him can be found on youtube He regaled us with stories of rescues and road closures by BLM and people doing stupid things getting themselves in trouble in the backcountry and he told jokes and filled us in on the geology and plant and animal life of the region all while guiding the car effortlessly through some of the most amazing obstacles I can imagine. One experience, the Belly Button. It is a hole in the rock with the bottom just a bit bigger than the car. I cannot begin to describe the walls, suffice it to say that I would not attempt to climb down them without a rope and they are bare slickrock. He descended one side of the hole and we sat and talked at the bottom for a while. I could not have climbed out by standing on the roof the car did not have. After tellilng a story about a previous trip to the bottom, Dan restarted the engine and engaged four wheel lockup in low range low and walked the car up the far wall and out onto the surface. I was leaning so far back in may seat that I could not reach the dashboard. This was only one of the many obstacles Dan handled without stopping the flow of chatter. We did have a blast and I learned a lot about extreme car handling.

To cap off the day we took the RAV4 and found a couple of way back roads some paved and some not to explore on our own with Dan’s guidance as to what we ought to be able to handle safely.

I will post this now and try to get caught up and get my picture posting to work too.