(Ann) Carol Gets Up a Head of Steam

All of a sudden Carol is posting daily.  I cannot write my long posts and do it daily.  I won’t!  Well I do try to write daily, but it takes a day or three to assemble the posts usually.

You may be wondering about the () around Ann.  We have known each other since before first grade as many of you know.  Her given name is Ann Carol a single name although it looks like two with no “-“.  I have known her by that name, by a familiar name “Anky” and mostly as Carol.  There are other names that are best kept just between ourselves.  The Ann Carol was not used much until she started actively producing art and she chose to resume that name as her artist’s name.  When a call comes in for Ann Carol I know it is from the Arts community.  When they ask for Ann I know they haven’t a clue and Anky is only used by aunts, uncles and older cousins of whom there are too few remaining.  Anyhow, I haven’t a clue why I wrote this.

For our visit to Berea, Kentucky you can read her post at Message in a Minute Entry #3.   

When we left the west coast we had a tentative plan that included the COE stops we have made and a couple of Escapee Rainbow Parks that we had never seen.  It turned out that the Missouri SKP (alternative spelling) was a bit too far south for us to reach, but we did divert a bit south to come to Raccoon Valley Escapee RV Park, just north of Knoxville, TN.  We laughed as we drove up, because we drove right by Volunteer RV Park that we stayed at in January of 2006 for our visit to Oakridge, TN.  The park is under reconstruction with the building having its space almost doubled and a new section of the park being developed and leveled as we sit in the older section of the park which is quite nice.  We back up to a stream and there is a wonderful nature trail, quite steep, just across the creek.

We drove to Great Smokey Mountain NP to swing through Cades Cove before the summer traffic  clogs it up and learned as we arrived that it is closed for major road reconstruction until five days from now.  We drove through the park from Townsend to Gatlinburg very slowly and then though Gatlinburg as fast as we could.  I cannot even begin to describe the lineup of chain everything mixed with amusement park rides, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, and ice cream and pancake joints all lined up along the highway like a gauntlet of beggars looking to take my money in exchange for items of dubious value.  We continued on to Pigeon Forge which is only slightly more charming, but does offer three huge outlet malls in a row where almost any clothing item can be bought at a discount for almost anyone.  I qualify that because Carol finds the selection of clothes in her size to be limited to nonexistent.  She did find something to buy however.  

Back in Raccoon Valley RV we gathered with our neighbors, Jim and Dee and Earl and Barb to exchange tales from the road and other assorted common experiences.  When we all agreed it was time to eat, we went our separate ways.  Carol and I decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather and the picnic table next to the creek outside our door.  We dined out there and were sitting and relaxing when the sun set taking away the last of the nice warmth.  Nice end to a great day.

And today – Tuesday, April 20 – it is raining which is why I have time to write.

From COE to Shining COE

For those who don’t know, COE stands for US Army Corp of Engineers.  They are much maligned and maybe deservedly so in New Orleans and other places, but as RVers we love them.  Wherever they have created massive works on water in the US they have wrapped up by creating campgrounds in some of the most beautiful places and these campgrounds are generally spacious, well maintained and really inexpensive, especially for seniors with National Golden Age Pass or America the Beautiful Pass.  These entitle us to 50% off of already inexpensive camping. 

Having called the Lustigs in Prairie Village KS (Kansas City KS area) and agreed to get together, we  found a COE facility just south of Lawrence KS (home of Kansas University) on the south shore of Clinton Lake, a lake created by the Corp.  Our plan was to take the coach into Prairie Village and park on the street as we did two years ago.  Saturday dawned clear and warm.  It seemed a shame to give up a wonderful campsite in a great park on the water so we called and the Lustigs agreed to a change of plans.  They drove out to us and we had lunch together, Carol put together a wonderful omelet plate for each of us and we sat around the campsite and enjoyed reconnecting and just relaxing in the gorgeous weather.  Eventually we drove into Lawrence to wander the Main Street shops (actually Massachusetts Ave) and eventually we ended up at Pachamama which Dianne had chosen.  The meals were very good and the company even better.  I hope we get to see Diane and Marty again before another two years pass.

We started east in earnest on Sunday and came to a screeching halt in less than 60 miles to tour the Harry S Truman Library and Museum in Independence MO.  Leaving there we had a goal of spending a night in Illinois.  In all of our crisscrossing the country we had never stopped in IL overnight which meant our door map had a blank in the IL space. 

First we had to stop for the night in Missouri.  The best we could do on the way to Rend Lake in Illinois was Wal Mart in Sedalia, MO.  When we got to Rend Lake for our overnight stop, we realized it was too nice to just leave in the morning.  We booked a second night.  In case you are wondering, young wage earners would pay $24 a night for the privilege, that is what two nights cost us.  We biked and hiked and lazed around, hard to do all three in one day but we are good.  We had a small ceremony as Carol affixed the Illinois sticker:

On the second morning we packed up and headed for yet another COE, Canal View Campground at Land Between the Lakes, the Kentucky end. 

Map picture

We move on again in the AM to Berea KY.

Welcome to Oz

Liberal Kansas is situated on US 54 in the south west of Kansas, just over the border from Oklahoma.  There is little reason to be on this route unless you happen to want to get from I 40 to I 70 on the diagonal.  This is how we happened to be on this road.  Carol was reading the paper map and noticed that alongside Liberal there was a notation “Dorothy’s House”  in   Kansas there could only be one Dorothy!  A call confirmed that they would be open when we got there and that we could park the motorhome on the street in front of the house.   In 1982 the Kansas governor was convinced to declare Dorothy Gale a resident of Liberal, Kansas and to declare that this was the one and only location of her home. 

A resident donated his house, which is the exact floor plan of the house in the movie, to the County Museum and it was furnished precisely as in the movie.  Tours are usually lead by local high school girls dressed as Dorothy.  We happened to arrive when there were no girls present, but a staff person who does their training gave us the tour which, after touring the house, follows the Yellow Brick Road into a large structure in which the entire Yellow Brick Road is laid out with all of the major scenes in the movie characterized.   It was a hoot! 

It was now 5 PM and we needed a place to stay the night and there was another attraction to see, The Mid America Air Museum located on the site of the former Beech Aircraft Manufacturing facility.  We had called earlier and been told we were welcome to park in their lot overnight and tour in the morning.  We backtracked 2 miles on US 54 – here named The Yellow Brick Road and Pancake Way (a tale for another time) and followed signs for the museum into their lot.  We parked near the fence between the lot and the flight line.  There is a collection of old Jet War Birds out there and just beyond is an active runway.  Since we have stayed at Dockweiler RV park a few take offs and landings by small aircraft were hardly noticeable.  More noticeable was a rail line with several grade crossings in ear shot.

For those into aviation history this museum is a delight with planes ranging back into the ‘30’s and earlier arrayed with some more modern aircraft and just enough WW II War Birds to attract some of us.  The NASA display is minimal and disappointing, but that is not what this about.  I was enthralled with the WW II era Link Trainer and the B 24 and the equipment used to train mechanics on the repair and maintenance of those fabulous bombers.  There is also a complete Norden Bombsite on display.  Carol enjoyed the exhibit even though she is not quite as aviation crazed as I am.  It was a chilly morning and the hanger which houses the display is not heated so eventually the chill got to us and we retreated to the gift shop and found ourselves in conversation with the staff people who were very warm and welcoming.  While we were there we saw two school groups that arrived on one bus being toured through the museum.  Other than that we saw no other tourists.

We left something for another visit to Liberal.  They claim to be pancake crazed, but we chose to move one without sampling their pancakes as we had had breakfast it was not quite time for lunch.

of Mountains, Sun, Wind and Dust

Our first stop east of Los Angeles was back in the desert, this time in Quartzsite, AZ (it is spelled every way you can imagine and sometimes more than one way on the same sign).  We made a planned stop to have the coach outfitted with a solar panel and controller at RV Lifestyles, recommended to us by Dean Cross and Jane Eccelstone.  We are grateful for the recommendation and will give referral to them for anyone else in need of RV service in the Quartzsite area.  We dropped off the coach at the requested time after spending a night on BLM land a couple of miles west of the shop.  The camping area was mostly deserted,  but clearly has been host to many, many RV’s.  When we returned at the promised time, Gee 2 was waiting and ready.  The panel has worked flawlessly since, keeping our batteries in top charge when the sun is shining.

Outfitted with our new energy source we set off for Congress, AZ and an Escapee campground called North Ranch.  Nice people, beautiful place, we will go back.  During the day while we toured we left the power to the coach off and let the sun keep the batteries full.  A day trip to Wickenburg took us to The Desert Caballeros Western Museum which had an invitational show, Cowgirls Up! work by 56 women artists.  WOW! not be missed if you are anywhere near (less than an hour north of Phoenix).  Leigh, it is worth a special trip!  The rest of the museum is up to the caliber of the art.  It is an amazing collection of local history and thus the history of the West and the cowboys that lived it.  We had lunch sitting across the street from the museum next to the railroad tracks. then took a walking tour of historic Wickenburg. 

All of this was in magnificent warm sunlight.

The next day was mountains.  We took the car and drove up 89 to Prescott AZ.  We took a road that is closed to trucks over 40 feet and not recommended for RV’s.  It is very steep and very twisty and goes on for many more miles than the Banner Grade in San Diego County.  We toured the Courthouse Square area of Prescott and had our Pesadich lunch in the car.  We enjoyed the many shops that stayed open for Easter Sunday and took the slightly gentler road back to North Ranch and Gee 2.

In the morning we pressed on with departure, ignoring warnings of high winds along our route.  We retraced down to Wickenburg then over to I 17 to avoid the worst of the mountains and to enable a stop at Arcosanti an Urban Arcology.  Rather than try to explain I suggest you look it up on the web.  We have a cast metal wind chime from Cosanti that has hung at our house since 1972.  It was worth the 2.5 miles of dirt washboard we had to endure to get there, oh my fresh washed coach :{ 

Continuing north; we were being battered by the wind, but it did not feel dangerous, just required attention to the direction of the coach.  The rough road seemed more problematic than the wind, until we turned onto I 40.  Here the rough roads and the winds gusting to 60 mph made driving a challenge, but there was no reasonable place to stop so we pressed on.  Shortly before Meteor Crater, still in Arizona, Carol began to tire and she pulled over so I could take the wheel.  I did not drive more than 10 or 15 minutes before I passed between two patrol cars sitting facing traffic on both shoulders with headlights flashing.  Since visibility was fading as the dust storm blew, I began to slow and quickly found traffic stopped in both lanes.  And there we sat with very little information for five hours.  The coach rocked and everything on the outside that could move moved.  I later found that a window awning had completely unrolled and rerolled during the storm – I found the pull strap wrapped up inside the awning.  Others lost their large main awnings and other things blew away including my hat which I stupidly left on when I opened the door.  The wind caught the door and, rather than let it fly open and punch a hole in the coach, I hung on and went for a ride with it.  I was not hurt, just surprised and I did not have a hand to try to catch the hat which was last seen flying northeasterly at 60 mph.  Eventually the Highway Patrol reopened the road and sent an escort vehicle ahead to hold down the speed through the worst of the remaining storm. 

We pulled off in Winslow AZ into a Flying J where we fueled up and spent the night.  The parking area was very full and the lanes for RVs were very narrow.  Once we settled in we found ourselves truly trapped as the coach to our right was so close our door could not be opened!  Fortunately we have a driver door and that was still clear.  In short we crossed New Mexico, well 40 miles short, in a day.  Then Tuesday we crossed the rest of New Mexico then through Texas on US 54 cutting through the town of Dalhart, look in the upper left corner north and west of Amarillo.  Oklahoma was next cutting though at Guymon.  We finally came to rest in Liberal Kansas. 

To be continued. . .

On the Beach – not the novel

As in past years we are parked (this is a parking lot with utility pedestals, not a campground as you might think) with our windshield facing onto the beach just south of the LAX departure runways.  The planes overhead are a reminder of other travel modes and trips we have taken.  They no longer have the power to keep us awake as we seem to stop hearing them after 11 PM.  They are still there but are merely background at our slight remove from the departure zone.

On the walk in front of us there is a regular parade of people on all kinds of people powered vehicles, bicycles, tricycles (3-1 and 1-3) skates and on foot, walking and running.  Their dress ranges from full coverage to minimal bikinis (the guys really don’t look good in those) and every possible variation in between, regardless of the weather.  At sea there is a changing variety of ships passing on their way to the port in Long Beach or just anchored off shore waiting for we know not what, though most are high in the water with no cargo on board.

We are covered with salt mist and I will have to wash down everything thoroughly once we get away from the ocean.  Most mornings we stay on board, or near the RV Park going about our regular lives.  In the afternoon and evening we are with Yechiel and Miriam and the boys.  It is pleasant to be stopped for a while, but the wheels are starting to itch.  We have been within 200 miles for a month.  Time to roll is getting near. 

The desert beckons and beyond the desert, the Great Plains.  We keep looking at the map and thinking about the day after tomorrow.  Will we take the middle route along I 40 or is a more northerly route along I 70 in the cards this year?  What is the weather going to be?  What are the sights we want to see as cross the country in a couple of weeks?  Of course we will divert to stop in Covesville to see the rest of our family, but what else/who else beckons? 

Carol keeps talking about Four Corners and Mesa Verde and we really want to see Canyon de Chelly and other sights in the Four Corners area.  It remains to be seen whether the weather will cooperate.  In any event, it would be merely a taste as we do need to get back across the country by May so we can leave again in June.

Here comes the walker with heavy weights on her wrists and ankles.  I have seen her at this time every day.

Posted from I 40 in New Mexico, more to come.