On The Lookout For Blake Shelton

I think I can. I think I can…

If anyone is still wondering: Yes, we made it up the hill at the Palo Duro canyon in Texas. Betty videotaped the potentially fateful feat, but we’re still not sure about posting video on this blog. So we’ll see if we can add a couple of pics taken from the Smart car as it followed the Boy up. The plan was, if I started to roll backwards, Betty would catch me with the Smart, putting on the parking brake to prevent us both from cascading over the sheer cliff face. Fortunately, we didn’t have to implement that perfect plan, and are alive to tell the tale! LOL

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas

Before we left Amarillo, we made the slight jog westward to Cadillac Ranch, an art installation showing big finned cars that presumably got caught by the wind going up or down Palo Duro canyon, went over the cliff, and all landed face down in a nearby farmer’s field.  Not sure if

Examples of poor parking

that’s true, but hey, you gotta tell your kids something about the risks of riding in big finned cars!

Anyway, on to the main focus of this post. We are now in Blake Shelton land, otherwise known as Oklahoma. We haven’t seen him or Gwen Stefani, his main squeeze these days, but have been on the lookout from our campsite at Lake Thunderbird, at the south end of Oklahoma City, to Camping World at the extreme north end. It seems like a very long drive, even with most of it on the Interstate, but many miles are past white fenced ranches on beautifully undulating land.

Lake Thunderbird State Park, Oklahoma

We had tried to make reservations for Lake Thunderbird State Park, but were unable to as our arrival date would have been less than 5 days away. The reason we couldn’t book more than 5 days in advance was the same reason you may be seeing back-to-back posts now. Being at the bottom of a deep canyon, I had NO cell phone or Wifi reception, so was more or less disconnected from the outside world until we got back above ground level. I had no idea I was such an addict! (Bet wrote this last line during her review prior to posting)

As it turned out, we were able to find a 50 amp full-service site on a level

Blake & Gwen????

cement pad, immediately adjacent to the lake, for the “senior citizen” rate of $28./night. Having spent so much time in the desert, it’s been great to sit out by the lake and watch a variety of boats go by. Surprisingly, some of those boats are quite large for what appears to be a relatively small body of water.  As they pass our campsite, we train our binoculars on them to catch a glimpse of Blake and Gwen, but nothing yet…

We’ll keep you posted!

Cheers!

Blake Shelton!!??

Wildlife – Or Lack Thereof…

Watch For Wildlife!

Somehow, on most of our trips we fail to see a lot of wildlife. This particular journey is no exception. Despite big yellow signs on the roadside, advising us to watch for deer crossing, moose, bear, elk, pelicans, whatever… they generally see us before we see them, and go the other way.

There have been a few exceptions, and this post pays tribute to the wild side.

Jack the rabbit
(look closely…)

 

Ok, to begin, here’s the little jackrabbit that ran past our site in Lake Pleasant, north of Phoenix. Another exception is all the wildlife we saw in the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Otherwise, the desert in New Mexico and Arizona seemed empty of wildlife during the day. Despite lots of holes, we have seen no snakes, squirrels, chipmunks, or prairie dogs on this trip.

Apparently Betty saw a roadrunner, but didn’t have her camera with her at the time. They must be out there somewhere, because there are hotels, bars, cafés, and even a famous cartoon featuring the elusive scrawny animal. She also saw a skunk at the campsite next to ours last night, and I saw a raccoon having dessert in the dumpster when I was dropping off a deposit the other day. In both cases, no camera…

As might be expected, the most wildlife we saw was at the Grand Canyon, where deer, moose, and elk actually did cross our path in small and large numbers. Only one picture, though…

 

 

Jackass

Just in case you’ve never seen a jackass, these donkeys run wild in Lake Pleasant Park. Oh yes, we saw a craven at the Petrified Forest National Park, and a cardinal at our campsite in Palo Duro Canyon. While on the subject of birds, this gaggle? (gobble?) of wild turkeys kept coming by our site at Palo Duro, to ask if it’s thanksgiving yet. One of these days I might just have

craven

to borrow a gun from one of our local Texas cowboys, and make like a pilgrim. LOL.

Well, as you can tell, this is a pretty lame, short post. We still have another week before we get home, so maybe the wildlife is all waiting to say hi at the big yellow signs that

cardinal

still lie ahead. Or maybe they just can’t read!  LOL

Cheers!

talking turkey
unidentified non-human objects…
more rare wildlife…

A Texas Take On The Grand Canyon

Betty & I are just south of Amarillo, Texas, at the Palo Duro Canyon State Park. Unlike Arizona’s better known canyon — where you can look but not easily touch — Palo Duro is much more accessible, while still being extremely dramatic. It brings to mind the old family favourite hymn we sang on Sunday: “Oh Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder, consider all the worlds Thy hands hath made…” It may not be bigger in Texas, but it’s still pretty big! More on that later.

After we left our free site at Levelland, Texas, we drove the short distance to Lubbock, where we paid due homage to the shrine for Buddy Holly at the appropriately named Buddy Holly Center.  The center chronicles his short life (22 years) and even shorter career (18 months), showing memorabilia from his childhood, and teenage friends & influences.  It obviously highlights his 25 hit records, with music that lives on and resonates with new generations.

The Center describes other musicians who influenced Holly, as well as the influence he had on his contemporaries: “As the band’s (Buddy Holly and The Crickets) popularity gained momentum, they toured the United States and then traveled to Australia and the United Kingdom in 1958. This was their biggest, most successful tour. Buddy Holly and the Crickets influenced some of the greatest British bands and artists, including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Elton John. In fact, The Rolling Stones first hit was “Not Fade Away,” a Buddy Holly song. Elton John wore unnecessary glasses to be more like Buddy.”

Of course all of that ended the day the music died. On Feb. 2, 1959, Holly was on a short flight between Winter Dance Party tour stops near Clear Lake, Iowa, when his chartered plane crashed, killing Holly, “The Big Bopper” Richardson, and Ritchie Valens.  Waylon Jennings was supposed to be on the flight, but gave up his seat to The Big Bopper, who was sick with the flu.  Tommy Allsup was also slated to be on the flight, but lost his seat to Valens in a coin toss.

If you’re interested in music and the guitars Buddy Holly played in his short career, it’s worth the trip to Lubbock.

Ok, to the main focus of this post – the Palo Duro Canyon State Park, just south of Amarillo, Texas.  BTW, before I get too far, someone said “If you’re ever in Amarillo, you need to go to Edes Custom Meats.”  Well, being steak lovers, Betty & I stopped in for a butcher shop tour, a sampling of their local jerky, and of course, an opportunity to pick up some premium steak.  Being a custom shop, staff will cut your steak to your specifications, with a board showing cuts from ½ inch to 2 inches thick. I really wanted to go for the 2 inch steak, but Betty insisted that would be more of a roast. In any event, this post includes a picture of the 1-½ inch steak that Betty and I shared last night with prosciutto-wrapped asparagus and a nice bottle of Valpolicella. (For those who have read this blog before – yes, we have had this paring in the past, and we will have it again, as there is more steak in the fridge and freezer. LOL)

After traveling across a stretch of Manitoba-like bald, flat, prairie, we approached a Texas State Park entrance, where we again took advantage of our annual pass, purchased in Galveston at the beginning of January. Almost immediately we began to drop into the bowels of the earth, with the thought in both of our minds “Oh sh-t, what have we gotten ourselves into now!” LOL.

The grade is extremely steep, and appears to go down forever, with switch-backs all the way down the side of the canyon wall. Of course we are now at the bottom thinking, what goes down must come back up. But will our old Boy really make it all the way to the top again? Stay tuned, because we don’t know the answer to that question yet. LOL

As with the Grand Canyon, we’re not sure it’s possible to overdo it with pictures. We have taken dozens already, but will try to cull them to a manageable number for this post. The difference, as earlier noted, is that we are actually IN the canyon, rather than just looking at it from the rim. Our campsite has amazing views in all directions, some of which are posted here.

There are also many hiking, biking, and horseback riding paths throughout the Park, rated from easy, to moderate, to difficult. Today’s hike was an easy one, with Charlie, past a cowboy dugout built into the side of a hill. Check out the cowgirl looking out. LOL.

Speaking of cowboys, we didn’t intend to attend the Cowboy Church, which we passed on the way back from Amarillo the other day, but went to the Crossroads Country Church instead for Sunday service. One of the things that struck us was the rows of cowboy hats on the walls leading to the sanctuary. We wondered if they were maybe decorations – until after the service when the men started grabbing them and putting them on as they left!  I just had to sneak a picture as we were leaving. Unfortunately, at that point most of the hats had been picked up, but here are some that were left. Not sure if it’s only in Texas. LOL.   BTW, the service was on Matthew 25, focusing on visiting those in prison, so the message was a very nice coincidence, if you believe in coincidences…

As mentioned at the beginning of this post, we sang “How Great Thou Art”, and continued to hum it as we wandered through the woods and forest glades, hearing the birds singing in the trees; looking down from the grandeur of lofty mountains; and seeing the brooks, and feeling the gentle breeze. It was another great day as our souls sang!

Cheers!

Choosing The Perfect Campsite

When my parents planned our month-long camping trips each year, in January or February they would write to the tourism departments of each of the states we hoped to visit. Then in April or May they would receive large packages of material, including maps, tour guides, and campground information.  They would pore over this happy haul to determine our route for July or August.  It was a most enjoyable exercise!

With the advent of the Internet, there is a much greater volume of information available only seconds away. I guess that’s a good thing, but for someone with perfectionist tendencies, one can agonize for days over whether the ideal campsite has been chosen from the myriad available. Complicating the process are sites like Rvillage.com and Campendium.com, where people describe their favourite sites. Of course, everyone has personal needs &  preferences, and what is great for one may be not-so-much for someone else.

As previously mentioned, in addition to national, state, and provincial parks, there are also thousands of private parks. Thanks to the Internet, we can often zoom in on individual campsites, with detailed descriptions of length, width, level, shade, grass, proximity to local attractions, etc.  We can also read reviews written by other campers who have stayed there: The good, bad, and ugly.

If we are needing a quick in and out, then free Interstate rest areas, Walmart parking lots, and Flying J Truck Stops are our overnight of choice, although none of them are technically “campsites”. Courtesy for owners and other users says you don’t put down your levellers, extend your slides and awning, and set out chairs and your bbq, unless you intend to feed everyone in the vicinity…

Boondockerswelcome.com provides detailed descriptions of private properties whose owners are willing to have RVers stay for free. The owners also receive your profile, so they can decide whether or not they would like you to stay, and can accommodate you on the proposed dates. We expected to stay at more boondockerswelcome.com sites, but in one case the host’s mother had just passed away, and in another the host was also travelling out of state.  The website is extremely easy to navigate, and we certainly hope to use this resource more in future.

Harvest Hosts also has an easy web site, and details free parking in vineyards and farms with large swaths of land. It is expected that you shop at their wine store, or market, but for us, that isn’t a problem. LOL.

Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the U.S. equivalent to crown land, allows free or cheap camping on many properties across the U.S. They have an app that helps in selecting an appropriate spot, whether you are tent camping, or driving a 40’ motorhome. We stayed 2 weeks on BLM land in Quartzsite, Arizona, and would definitely choose this option again, now that we have added solar power.

Another campsite choice is https://freecampsites.net, which provides a list of free or extremely cheap campsites on your route. We are currently staying in a municipal campground in Levelland, Texas, just outside Buddy Holly’s former home in Lubbock. Surprisingly, our campsite comes with free 50 amp service, free water hook-up, and free dumpstation! As the sign says, there are only a few (maybe 7) large pull-through sites available on a first come, first served basis, but we had no difficulty finding a spot around 2 pm, after our drive from Roswell yesterday.

Free campsite in Levelland

There have certainly been times when we have enjoyed the full-service parks or resorts at up to $98. for 2 nights, allowing us to visit friends, access laundries, swimming pools and other attractions. But when free is available, then Scottish roots take hold. LOL.

Other options for consideration at private parks include special rates for Passport America members (we received 50% off at the Grand Canyon), Good Sam, FMCA, Escapees, and AAA members (usually 10 % off), but sometimes you have to read the fine print, indicating that rate is not available for the time period you are considering.

I’m not sure if choosing a campsite is more or less fun than in my parent’s day. We still like to pick up local maps and attraction booklets at tourism offices, usually found when crossing into a new state. But one thing is for sure, there are a lot worse activities our there. Enjoy the great outdoors!

Cheers!

Sweetness and Light?

You may have noticed that I have attempted to set a particular tone for these blog posts. But lest one has the mistaken impression that all is sweetness and light on the road, permit me to describe a FEW of our mishaps to date. This is the truth about the bumps in the road:

  1. After leaving Manitoba, the pungent odor emanating from our bathroom was enough to make the urinals in a seedy biker bar at closing time smell good! Turns out our china toilet was cracked all the way around the bottom of the bowl – likely from the extreme cold and bumpy roads leaving Winnipeg. Thanks to Joseph at Sierra Mobile RV in Port Isabel, Texas, we now have a sweet new throne. LOL.
  2. When we arrived in Dallas, the connection to our new power hose reel was leaking, forming a 4” icicle from our motorhome to the ground. Also turned out not to be a bad thing, as everyone was encouraged to leave their taps dripping a little, to prevent them from freezing in the unseasonable temperatures.
  3. Then there were the electrical problems with our refrigerator cutting out and our livingroom slide not moving. As previously mentioned, thanks to fellow FMCA member Rick for successfully addressing those issues.
  4. One day on South Padre Island we drove to the laundromat. Unfortunately, we were unable to drive back to our campsite, as the brakes on our Smart car were totally seized up! (I think it had to do with the damp salty sea air that deposits rust on anything metal within minutes.) A call to AAA brought a flatbed truck from Brownsville, taking our little seizer (LOL) to a “garage” in Port Isabel. I use the term garage advisedly, because it looked nothing like Canadian Tire. Of course it didn’t have the overhead either, and Dan did an excellent job of getting us mobile again. Working outside, which was his usual practice, he replaced the rear brakes, but couldn’t look at the front brakes because it was too cold! He promised to look at them for free when it warmed up, and I said I’d bring it back then. I did and he did.  If you ever need mechanical assistance in Port Isabel, Dan’s Auto Specialists is the place to go.
  5. Last week in Albuquerque, we made an appointment at Camping World to have a tire pressure monitoring system (tpms) installed. Unfortunately, the new young “technician” (and I use the term advisedly) had no idea what he was doing. It took him 5 ½ hours to do a 1 ½ hour job, and he still didn’t get it right. After complaining to the manager, the head of the service department hooked it up, admitting that the young guy had never installed a tpms before. One of our transmitters is still not working, but I hope to have it fixed in Oklahoma City, at the latest.
  6. Also in Albuquerque we experienced our worst wind storm ever. The sand and dust blew at speeds between 40 & 60 mph for 3 days straight, so it was almost impossible to leave our motorhome. Even though we kept all the windows shut, a layer of dusty sand is now covering everything inside and outside of our motorhome. Each of our slide-outs is covered by a fabric topper, which flapped and ripped in the wind. When the wind died down, I climbed up and taped the tears, but we now have an appointment to have them replaced in Oklahoma.
  7. When we unplugged from shore power this morning, everything in our motorhome shut down: The fridge didn’t work; the generator didn’t work; neither did the levelers, slideouts, lights and radio, water pump, to name a few things in our coach. I plugged back in right away and got the slideouts in and the levelers up and started the engine. We drove to the nearest rv service centre, but being Sunday, it turned out the service area was closed, requiring me to disconnect the car so that we could turn around and go somewhere else. We called a 24/7 emergency rv repair place, and got a recorded message. We left a message that we were on our way to their shop in Albuquerque, but when we arrived, no one was there, and there was still no one answering the phone. We decided to drive to Roswell, today’s destination, and are staying at a full-service rv park until we can go to a garage in the morning.
  8. Ok, now it’s the next morning and we drove the motorhome to Main Trailer Sales in Roswell, NM. Within 5 minutes the tech was able to diagnose and fix the problem – the Camping World “tech” had shut off the power switch used when you put the rig into storage for the season, and hadn’t turned it back on again when he finished. It was a quick, easy fix that didn’t cost us anything. Yeah Johnny at Main Trailer Sales!
  9. Someone described the experience of taking your home on the road at 60 mph (100 km/hr), as like subjecting your home to a constant hurricane or tornado. There will always be things that work themselves loose and limit your forward progress.

This blog post is not intended as a downer, and I promise to return to the practice of posting more sweetness and light. But having just returned from the International UFO Museum & Research Center in Roswell, New Mexico this afternoon, all readers need to know: “The truth is out there!” LOL

Cheers!

Do You Know The Way To Santa Fe?

Ok, with supreme apologies to Dionne Warwick and the city of San Jose, I kept humming this 1968 song all the way from our campsite just north of Albuquerque, New Mexico, to Santa Fe this week.  Unbeknownst to me, Betty was humming the same song all the way there also. LOL!

We had difficulty finding a campground in both Santa Fe and Albuquerque, and ended up in the municipal Coronado Campground in Bernalillo, New Mexico, about half and hour north of New Mexico’s largest city (Albuquerque), and an hour south of its capital (Santa Fe). Of course again we didn’t know what to expect, but decided to book a week’s stay in order to receive a discount and have time to visit both cities.

My apologies for posting so many pictures of our campsite (six), but it was just so unique to have our own adobe structure with picnic table, carpeted patio and firepit for $21./ night, including water and electricity, in a delightful little campground on the banks of the Rio Grande River!

Every picture I took of Betty was beautiful, in my humble opinion. The sun cast a halo around her head, which was obviously appropriate for this angel!

Since we had never been to Santa Fe before, we chose to take a bus tour around the city, which turned out to be a good decision. There was only one other couple on the small bus, and the driver was very knowledgeable about all the local sites. The only downside was that the bus almost never stopped in the hour and a half tour, so all of the pictures are taken through the windows of a moving vehicle…

The large downtown section of Santa Fe is a very cohesive, regulated area: You won’t find any fast food restaurants with their gaudy neon signs there. With no highrises, nearly all buildings are smooth earthtone adobe structures, providing a very calming impression: Santa Fe style. Artwork is everywhere, and there are literally dozens, if not hundreds, of art galleries in the city. (I didn’t google the exact number, which I’m sure is available, but the volume of art is most impressive!)  Again, attached are just a few of the many galleries we passed.

Albuquerque is divided into a number of neighbourhoods, including downtown, uptown, midtown, nob hill, and old town. Yesterday (Saturday) we spent most of our time walking the streets of old town.

The church pictured here is San Felipe De Neri, the oldest in Albuquerque, serving the community since 1706. During the afternoon, there were at least 2 back to back weddings taking place in the chapel. It is still an integral part of the community.

As in Sante Fe, many local native artisans sell their crafts on the street across from the Old Town Plaza. Maybe it is good that we are currently homeless (or at least living in a tiny house), because we were tempted to buy more than what we can currently carry and exhibit — Some very attractive pieces by extremely talented artisans!

In so many ways, our time spent in Albuquerque and Santa Fe was far too short, but now that we know the way to Santa Fe, hopefully we can return on another leg of our overlandish journey!

Cheers!

They rembered me!

The colours don’t show up very well on this piece of petrified wood. It resembles a log but is as hard as stone and the colours resemble fine granite. Just beautiful!

Chicken Soup For The Solar

soup

Before Betty & I left Williams, Arizona this morning, on our way to Albuquerque, New Mexico, Betty assembled the ingredients for a hearty chicken soup. She added them to our crock pot, and through the marvels of our new solar power, the chicken soup cooked all day as I drove, and provided a tasty evening meal.  Yes, chicken soup for the soul(ar)! LOL

We have just finished that delicious offering, having hiked through the Petrified Forest National Park in northeastern Arizona, another park covered by our America The Beautiful pass. We are camped – for free – at the Chrystal Forest RV Campground, thanks to our Harvest Host membership.

 

The Petrified Forest National Park contains a large assortment of petrified wood, which looks amazingly like both wood and granite, but would surely break any chainsaw attempting to cut it. Millions of years old, it sits in a large area of arid land, which was once a tropical forest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the same park is the Painted Desert Inn National Historic Landmark. The many surrounding hills contain an amazing range of colours and shapes, as can been seen in the accompanying photos.

 

Originally, the choice for this stop was more about selecting a free campsite half way between the Grand Canyon and Albuquerque, but the spectacular sights and the delicious chicken soup both turned out to be good for the soul, as well as the solar…

Cheers!

Grand Canyon Day Two

Today we decided to go back to the Grand Canyon to capture what we were told are amazing rock colourings as the sun goes down. Unfortunately, as Betty & I approached the park toward dusk, so did a big black cloud from the west. While we didn’t receive any rain, we also didn’t get the sunset light show we were anticipating.

In hopes that the sun would still appear, I set up the camera on a tripod facing one of the thousands of amazing vistas. In this post are a number of pictures taken from that single location.

Oh well, our current itinerary calls for us to visit the Grand Canyon again on April 30, 2020, and again November 3, 2020, so we’ll just have to hope for better sunsets then! LOL

Enjoy!