June 28th through July 11th 2017 Fresno, Lodi, Chico California

Off before sun up for repairs, our destination plans altered once again.  I am smiling as we forge ahead, entering the brilliant sunlit mountainous terrain. Heat and disappearing radiator fluid brought about the inability for LilyPad to pull Ribitts to our next stop. John and KatieBug accompanied LilyPad, Ribitts and I traveled alone. My silver lining of a solo journey was having complete control over all music selections for the entire trip.

Along the way, a shaking clunking noise came from the motorhome undercarriage. Pausing for lunch, we searched through the Tiffin Forum, found a recommended suspension shop, called and added them to our list of fix-it stops.

The weather remains set on dark toast with no signs of cooling down to anything resembling bearable in the foreseeable future. Our hope was to find a 50 amp site with lots of space enabling us to move freely in and out of the site with ease.  Adding another “be careful what you wish for” to our list of “hindsight being 20/20”, the Big Fresno Fair Grounds appeared to fit our needs. Our broken down condition did not allow us the luxury of being overly choosy. We pulled in, paid and set up camp.  The temperature on arrival remained triple digits.

triple digits again

Within a few minutes of turning off the engine, a thick steamy brown smoke seeped into the bedroom from LilyPad’s engine and drifted towards me while I was working on the blog. The stench startled me and I bolted from the motorhome, grabbing KatieBug, my purse and the car keys before dashing out the door screaming at the top of my lungs for John who was removing the car from the tow dolly. I stood away from LilyPad while John poked around the engine and then entered inside.

Investigating, John confirmed it was another leak in the radiator system, probably another blown hose, the smell and smoke coming from the burning hot radiator fluid spraying all over the equally sizzling rear engine and entering LilyPad through our bedroom closet. The odor saturated our clothes and the entire motorhome interior.

Because one of our air conditioners needs a new capacitor and is shut down, the airing out process took an enormous amount of time due to extreme outdoor temperatures.  The wait was stressful and exhausting. Six hours later, circulating 100 degree air and pushing it through the motorhome, the smell finally dissipated enough for us to go inside and fall sleep. It was substantially past bewitching hour when our heads hit the pillows.

In all the commotion, I failed to notice we were the only people spending the night.  Also unsettling, the surrounding neighborhood appears precarious with thick ominous looking security bars on windows and doors.

Next morning, while driving up the street to find a grocer, the reason for window and door bars in the neighborhood became apparent. Piles of trash scattered amid a three block long area of make-shift cardboard and tent housing, the homeless and their shopping baskets full of personal belongings were stretched out under a dozen shade trees lining the streets. Each night, some leave, some stay but it appeared the area was a designated sanctuary for 40 or 50 homeless people, most spending the night.

Our site, at first glance, looked appealing.  Taking a step back, you see “the rest of the story”.  It did have all our requirements and the price was right so we would stay put.

The Big Fresno Fairgrounds  The rest of the story

Across from us are the goat, pig and sheep pens when the fair is up and running.  The air smells of farm animals and blacktop tar from nearby patch repairs.

Our neighbor the livestock pens

Returning to our rolling home each night, the entire fairground stays completely void of people, the exception being a friendly night guard who patrols the grounds every hour in his souped-up golf cart. Unnerved, sleep does not come easy while we are planted at the fairgrounds.

The Big Fresno Fair is the largest annual event in the Central Valley. Attracting more than 600,000 people during its two-week run in October, they feature a large livestock show, exhibits, musical entertainment, live horse racing, educational programs and serves as a link between urban and rural California, educating residents on the importance of the rich agricultural industry. It spans acres of the outlying Salinas downtown area. During our stay, the Junior Exhibits Building hosted a quinceanera and we gratefully welcomed the company.

Up at the crack of dawn, LilyPad’s slides tucked in, we are headed to the Cummins Dealership for diagnostics. For our day of being hot and homeless, KatieBug was sent to PetSmart for a bath, John and I to breakfast and to search for ways to keep out of the stifling heat. Even with an appointment, diagnosis turned into an all-day affair and we drove our car around with no place to stop but the air conditioning of a local Walmart, Marshall’s, Whole Foods and Trader Joes.

At the end of the day, we picked up our clean and fresh smelling fur baby, retrieved LilyPad and drove back through the highly populated homeless section of Fresno to our deserted fair grounds. Evening temperatures remaining above 100, LilyPad still in breakdown mode with half a week gone and every day being dedicated to the sole purpose of repair shop visits.

 

Next day, up before the heat arrived for diagnostics at Betts for LilyPad’s suspension. Luck on our side, after 4 hours, Betts charged us a sawbuck and told us our hydraulic leveling system and shocks had a little give but were secure enough to travel until we found a dealership for any needed repairs.

Knowing the fixing of several “it’s always somethings” would reach deep into our pockets , we stingily kept our wallets closed and drove around searching for interesting but gratis activities.  One repetitious sight, multiple tall forest green spires, natures church steeples, shooting up into the sky, rivaling the pointed heights of church turrets, both rising above the skyline, piercing the baby blue heavens.

Natures church steeples

I had not planned for repair “down time” this trip, quite sure we had fixed everything before we departed. A Facebook post read, “You know great things are coming when everything seems to be going wrong. Old energy is clearing out for new energy to enter. Be patient.” – Idil Ahmed.

Patience is not in my DNA. When I am desperately hot, lungs struggling for air from breathing dust and burning smoky damp chemical radiator fluid, stuck in an uncomfortable and questionable location at night, unable to pause anywhere during the day because KatieBug isn’t allowed in stores, all of us restricted from our home multiple days in a row, this gray haired old lady’s single patience gene disappears.

This weekend is The Fresno Flea Market, a dozen football fields of hot blacktop covered in square metal framed structures topped with a variety of multicolored tarp roofs and selling everything we would never want or need.

Flea Market

The walk across the street was our one and only outdoor exploration during the seven days we spent stalled in Fresno. 9:00 am, already sweltering, sluggishly dragging ourselves the short distance, paid the entrance fee, bought a tacky umbrella to keep the sun from scorching our heads, crept from one shade spot to another, found nothing and walked back home.  At least we made an attempt to venture outside to confirm it was one horribly bad idea.

Nighttime approaching, we were grateful to Red Box for allowing us something with which to entertain ourselves while we wait for our next repair appointment.

 

The weekend passed, this morning we are off to Cummins at the first peek of the sun.  Assured LilyPad would remain plugged in, we left for the day, returning at 3pm to find our motorhome sitting out in full sun, no plug connected and not repaired.  Unhappy campers, we asked the manager why our full time home remained out in the heat all day without allowing the a/c to be connected. Excuses, but no logical reply. When the motorhome was finished, six hours after promised, the inside of LilyPad was a blistering 120 degrees.

Paying, leaving and settling back into our fairgrounds site, I opened the freezer and saw water dripping off everything. John quickly moved whatever possible to our downstairs electric ice chest, stacked refrigerator food in our rolling Coleman ice chest and reset the refrigerator. Next morning, believing all to be in working order, we trustingly put everything away.

On our final night before leaving the fairgrounds, we were joined by two small campers.  Their arrival did nothing to decrease my feeling of unease.

Neighbors at Fresno  Fair Grounds

 

Next morning we left the fairgrounds, any possible AquaHot water heating system attention could wait until Lodi, our next destination. The broken a/c capacitor would be fixed in Harbor Oregon where we had shipped the new part and our failing Road King shocks would be diagnosed at the dealership in Colorado. That was our plan but the universe had its own ideas and wasn’t paying any attention to our itinerary.

Lodi was to be our “in-between repairs” breather. A vital downtime to savor a few moments of retirement, taste wine, visit the farmers market and plant ourselves among friendly people, a safe environment and calm surroundings.

We drove in on Hwy 99 passing row after row of Oleander bushes and patches of Eucalyptus trees.

Hwy 99 to Lodi

As soon as wine vines came into view, we knew wineries were not far from our reach.

Vineyards

Arriving at Flag City RV Resort early afternoon, our site was paved, spacious, with excellent power and water pressure.  Nothing makes me smile wider than a new-to-us RV park with no bad surprises.

Lodi is where Robert Mondavi, who put California wine on the map, grew up. I checked out the deep red wine choices and noted four wineries to visit for tastings.  Back in relax mode, we turned in for the night.

 

Morning arrived and we thought the winds of change might begin to blow in our direction, at least for the next few days. Our Aqua Hot repairman was mobile, no need to uproot to find the shop. The appointment was quick, easy and he found no damage to our system from the blown out coolant hose. Now we could focus on the important task of wine tasting.

First up was Michael David Winery for their Earthquake Cabernet Sauvignon. Gracious winery but only an OK tasting. Their wine stayed at the winery and we moved on.

Next was Abundance Vineyards for a 2013 Petite Sirah. Beautiful Southwestern style winery tasting room with an impressive Manzaneta wood wine caddy standing by the bar. What we came to taste was not available. We chatted and left empty handed.

Abundance Vineyards           Wine rack at Abundance Vineyards

Lange Twins Winery was chosen for a 2014 Cabernet Reserve.

Langetwins Winery

The tasting room, winery and storage tank area was massive but the wine fell short of our expectations and had an excessive price tag.

Langtwins tasting room     Wine vats

Fields Family Wines was a small, unimpressive, warehouse building with a barely pleasant wine steward behind the bar. He controlled his distaste for us using a Groupon long enough to make it through the tasting but only because he was catering to another couple already imbibing. We guessed his attitude was due to a disappointing day, or by the expression on his face, sour grapes . His social skills during the presentation were egregious. Our Groupon included a bottle of wine and we left with the only winery where a bottle came home with us.  We broke open a bottle of our private stock of Joel Gott and watched the sun set.

 

Next morning we woke to another near flawless day of tranquility. Lodi Farmers Market was a short drive into town, located on the main street section and enough shopping, dining and general merchandise to fit my idea of small town perfection.

Lodi, CA

Parking up the street, we strolled along the blocks, hand in hand, warm sun, cool breeze,

Downtown Lodi Farmers Market     Farmers Market Lodi was blocks long

soft rock band music echoing in the distance.

The Band at Farmers Market Lodi CA

The sign posted near the market entrance gave us both a chuckle.

Farmers Market Lodi, CA

John decided a snack might hold him over until dinner. Rosewood, claiming to have the best bar-b-q oysters, sounded ideal. I love bar-b-q oysters and we make several stops at Gilhooley’s, purveyor of premium oysters in San Leon Texas whenever we are in the area.  Two beers later, I ordered half a dozen oysters. I know my jaw didn’t drop when I saw the plate but surprise is too mild a word for my reaction.  I asked if these oysters were the normal size they served. “Why yes” was the reply. Finishing, I ordered one single oyster, placed a dime next to the oyster and my Nikon preserved the setting.  That photo ended my “perfect little town” perception.  For $3.50 you get one single oyster, containing double the oyster’s weight in cheese, a reality shock and nowhere near my idea of perfection.

Rosewood B-b-q oyster

Returning to LilyPad, we passed a vintage Mickey D’s with golden arches, closely resembling the first McDonald’s restaurant in Chico.  The sight brought back memories of John and my young adult lives together in California.  Back then, we had considered dinner at McDonalds and a few beers at Some Other Place bar, to be a night out on the town.  Retirement has brought us closer to those days than when John and I both were employed.  But no real serious complaints about our rolling around the US.  It is an adventurous lifestyle, good for some, not so much for others but sure beats staying home, doing nothing.

Lodi McDonalds

Back at LilyPad, John remarked our bed was harder than normal. Sleep Number beds fluctuate with the altitude but our bed wouldn’t adjust. Crawling under, he unplugged, wiggled wires, untangled hoses, replaced batteries and generally rattled every connection possible. One final push on the controls and a soft “shhhhh” sound let us know John had solved the problem. Oh how I love quick, easy, no cost solutions.  And now, to all a good night.

 

As is our usual practice, an early start for a day of rolling down the road.  Rice fields surround us.  Crop dusters swoop past, spreading chemicals over the rice fields, some spilling over onto cars speeding along the roadways.

Crop dusting rice fields

Giant storage bins sit in wait for their load of harvested rice.

Rice Silos

We passed over the peacefully still Sacramento River with the calm reflections of trees lined along its banks.

Sacramento River

Throughout our travels across California, we have noticed the love of Oleander plants. Oleanders line freeway mediums, serve as neighborhood fence lines and grow in backyards freely. I fail to understand why a state, so clearly concerned with human life, would let a poisonous plant grow freely when every part of the plant is a danger to living beings.  The roots, stems, leaves, flowers, seeds, fruit, sap and nectar contains naturally-occurring cardiac glycosides, toxins directly affecting the electrolyte balance within the heart muscle. Oleander leaves or flowers floating in water will leach poison. I am at a loss to understand the attraction.

Oleander

Prior to arriving in Chico, we followed behind several convoys of Emergency Fire and Rescue trucks from Williamson Rescue, engines spattered with pink foam retardant and grey muck, returning home after fighting the Wall fire.

Rescue fire fighters

Chico greeted us as we crossed over the town’s boarder.

Welcome to Chico

Chico Elks Lodge has a gorgeous RV park. Only water and electric with gravel roads but had it availed full hook-ups, it would not have empty spaces. No trains, no planes, no traffic, quiet and safe, snugly tucked under giant old Oak Trees at the back of the Lodge.  The Elks host a baseball diamond on the property, they built a substantial covered pavilion with bar-b-q pits, tables, horseshoe pits, a large children’s playground full of swings and other play equipment and a half acre of giant shade treed grassy space for activities

Elks RV Park   Elks RV Park and grounds

Another plus, when staying at this Elks Lodge, your second drink is free. At our age, two is our maximum and driving the block back to our RV spot is a short, traffic free, no-pressing-of-the-gas-pedal roll.

LilyPad comfortably set up and planted in the same site where we had previously stayed, John drove past a few old haunts in town.  The corner liquor store where I bought my Boones Farm and Pagan Pink Ripple wine, the motel for which I worked while attempting to squeeze a living out of Chico State University’s job scarce college town and gigantic Bidwell Park with Big Chico Creek flowing gracefully through the forested 2,400 acres.

My corner liquor store

Sadly grandpa and grandma’s home and Verzi Hall, the women’s dorm, are gone, cleared from the earth’s surface and soon to be an apartment complex. Grandpa’s men’s dorm house, where I lived in the downstairs 2 bedroom apartment, is still standing.  Tangibles of my youth may be gone but memories will forever remain. Each evening, returning to LilyPad, the nights are silent and sleep comes quickly.

 

The sun comes up and temperatures slowly rise to a steady 107, increasing only slightly higher as we come into peak heat levels for the afternoon.  With 2,700 acres of the Butte County Wall Fire blazing through the hills nearby and only 20% contained, I was momentarily concerned but the winds were blowing away from the town and the firefighters working out of town had returned home.

Groceries, errands and a walk through main street rounded out our day and TV entertained us for the evening.  In tonight’s sky, the moon’s lower half was hidden behind a thick cloud of smoke from the fires. Had I know what was to be in our future West Coast travels, I would have turned tail and sped back to Texas.

Chico was the home of my grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, my parents and myself, off and on, for several decades.  John attended and graduated from Chico State University.  Neither of us had visited Bidwell Mansion, the home of Chico’s patriarch.  We both thought today would be an  excellent day to do so.  The Mansion’s Italian Villa style, with its soaring tower, remains the town’s focal point.

The picture below, 1870 depiction, was borrowed from the Bidwell Mansion Association’s website: http//www.bidwellmansionassociation.comstory-of-bidwell-mansion.html.  The site contains additional information on the Bidwell’s and their lives.

httpwww.bidwellmansionassociation.com

Known for their gracious hospitality, John and Annie used the mansion extensively for entertaining friends, family and a host of special invitees.  Their list of guests included, President and Mrs. Rutherford B. Hayes, General William T. Sherman, Susan B. Anthony, Francis Willard, Governor Leland Stanford, John Muir, Asa Gray, and Sir Joseph Hooker.

Bidwell Mansion

John Bidwell was born in 1819 to a poor East Coast farming family.  As an ambitious 22 year old, he crossed the Sierra Nevada and arrived in California.  Finding gold on the Feather River, he purchased more than 26,000 acres of land including a parcel known as Rancho Del Arroyo Chico in 1851.  His plans to build a 26 room mansion began in 1865 and the home was completed in 1868.

Despite his modest roots, he became a key figure in California’s history, participating in the Bear Flag Revolt, lobbied in Washington for California’s statehood, achieved valuable advances in agriculture, founded the town of Chico, served a term in the House of Representatives and was nominated for US president.  While serving in the House of Representatives, he met the much younger Annie Ellicott Kennedy, a  Presbyterian activist who would become his wife.

Annie came to live in Bidwell Mansion after it was nearly completed.  John bought an extravagantly priced piano, shipping it to the mansion at great expense, for her as a wedding gift.  He hoped it would lessen any disappointment she felt for not having more involvement with her new home’s construction.

Wedding gift piano

The house contained many modern conveniences including running water, flush toilets, acetylene gas lighting system, eight fireplaces and wall to wall carpeting.  John and Annie had their own large private bathroom.

master bathroom

The hall was built with huge closets to store trunks for the influential people who came and stayed for long periods, extra bathrooms for guests, even a child’s bedroom for the children of guests.

bathroom  Visiting childrens room

The President’s bedroom was beautifully furnished and near as large as John and Annie’s room.

Presidents room

A painted slate fireplace was featured in the dining room and the dining table expanded to seat a dozen dignitaries.

Painted Slate fireplace      Dining room

In the corner of the sitting room was an Edison original, one of his first record players and in the bookcase, a set of originals, History of Women Suffrage.

First record player    Original history of Women Suffrage

There was an indoor laundry room and the kitchen contained one of the first refrigerators.

Indoor laundry room   Kitchen

Up on the third floor, bedrooms for the presidents staff and extra rooms for storage.

Outside was the carriage house displaying several styles of  carriages typical of those used in the 1800’s.

Carriage house

General John Bidwell passed away in 1900 and Annie, honoring her husbands wishes, donated 2,400 acres of creek side property to the city of Chico in fulfillment of her husbands wishes.  The park, established July 10, 1905, was given the official name of Bidwell Park.

In 1918, Annie died and bequeathed the mansion and grounds to the Presbyterian church to establish a coeducational Christian school where the Bidwell values would be taught.  The church realized establishing and continuing such a school was not possible and in 1923 the property was acquired by the Chico State Teachers College.  In 1964, the California State Park System gained possession, naming it the Bidwell Mansion State Historical Monument but later changing to Bidwell Mansion State Historic Park.

After walking the mansion grounds, John thought we should drive through the park to reawaken memories long past, reflecting on the years we appreciated Bidwell Park for all it had offered, long walks, swims in the cool waters, peace and quiet, gatherings with friends.  We stopped several times to breath in the forest bouquet and reflect, not in any hurry to interrupt our thoughts.

Back to LilyPad at sunset, pack up inside and out, early to bed for next mornings drive.

 

Leaving slowly from our site at Chico Elks Lodge, sunshine rising above the distant mountain, we watch several young men practice in the cool mist of the morning on the baseball field. John dumps our tanks and I watch dragonflies zip around the outfield. KatieBug has had her morning constitutional and we are on our way. The drive is not long and we should arrive at our next destination, Willits California, before noon.

June 24th through 28th 2017 Oakhurst (Yosemite) California

If Santa Clara was a heatwave, Oakhurst was the fires of Hades. On the way, the weather was hot and dry.

To Oakhurst  Dry hills and windmills

When we arrived it was a combustible 117 degrees.

Oakhurst triple digits

Our 30 amp site sits in the dust and gravel of the lower campground at the foot of the steep set of steps descending from the Oakhurst Elks Lodge.  Extremely reasonable, but you get what you pay for.

Elks Lodge Oakhurst, CA

We kept our generator running to keep us cool and finally retired with our 30amp plug supplying our electricity at 11pm. 30 amps will only run one air conditioner, nothing else, and no ability to keep 350 square feet below 90 degrees when temperatures exceed double digits. Nighttime brings the cooler and more bearable temperatures.

These past weeks of “it’s always something” have snuck up and pounced, substantially squeezing enjoyment from our West Coast trip. Being stalled where temperatures reach those of an inferno is unpleasant but without alternatives.  Our car won’t hold a charge and must be jumped to start, our air bed won’t release air and is stuck on hard-as-a-rock, the left side of LilyPad is without power and, although no leaks show up on the ground, LilyPad is not holding coolant in the radiator. I am certain the intolerable heat showed up to show us, no matter how bad things are, they can always get worse.

Because steep grades up and down hills would put considerable stress on our car’s 12 year old engine and cooling system, paired with this hellfire heat, we had planned to rent a car to traverse the mountains around Yosemite National Park. Expecting the rental but not a repair bill for our trusty elderly Lexus, we reserved a standard size car and searched for an auto repair shop nearby.

After picking up the rental, we toured around town and stopped at the Visitor Center for information on local dining, shopping and tourist destinations. The two biggest old growth Giant Sequoia groves were closed for reforestation and we inquired about any others to visit. Shadow of the Giants National Recreational Trail, Nelder Grove, was open but a distance away and several miles down a dirt road. Determined to hike among the Sequoias and inhale those marvelous scents, we drove the distance.  On the way we passed an old forest fire,

Wildfire damage

drove down narrow roads used occasionally as range cattle crossings and finally came to the sign designating our arrival at the Grove.

Make way for range cattle   Nelder Grove

Turning off on a lumpy bumpy dirt road, we slowed to 10 mph and opened the windows to take in the cool forest scents.

The not too bad road

Rutted, most of it passible by only one car at a time, we ended at the trail parking lot, took the only open spot, near the vault (pit) toilets. Disgustingly dirty, I gave them a wide berth. Obviously, those here do not take pride in their job of cleaning the vaults as John and I did over the past five years.

We climbed up the trail, stepping over densely packed decaying woody limbs and fresh dropped needles, the forest floor sinking beneath our every step.  A stream ran parallel to the trail.

Stream in the Nelder Grove Historic area

Within a few minutes, the woodland gnats found us, dive bombing our ears and noses.  Minutes later, the scourge of the flying in insects, mosquitos, swarmed our arms and faces, franticly searching for veins. Not prepared for the attack, we hurried back to the car, stopped for a Kodak Moment beside the largest Sequoia we spotted in the area and followed the dreadful road back to civilization.

John and the Giant Sequoia

Close up of John standing by the Giant Sequoia.

John and a Sequoia in Nelder Grove

Smoldering hot days spent with blinds closed and never venturing outside wears on my nerves especially when there are no TV stations and internet is sketchy. On our second day of rental car use, too late to return it for another car, we learn the a/c cools only when we are traveling at speeds in access of 35 mph. Unbelievably inconsiderate of a rental car company located in blazing hot summer destination. Taking the car back for an exchange now would result in a loss of our one and only day of exploration in Yosemite National Park. Our solution was 440 A/C. Four windows down, 40 mph , doable on main roads but not something possible on the multiple hairpin turns that lead to the park.

Warned by the Visitor Center that Yosemite Nation Park is extremely crowded after 11 am, we rose at 6 am and were on the road by 7:30. The drive is long and curvy, steep grades in both to and from directions.  We arrived at Glacier Point, our first stop, at 9 am. Dogs are allowed in the park and KatieBug was happy to be out of the warm car.  She was not a happy camper traveling so far without a/c. The three of us would remain somewhat glistening the entire day.  Our respite, the short periods we stood near the waterfalls.

Today’s plan of attack, after Glacier Point, we would retrace our steps back to Yosemite Valley, stop and park for the hike to Bridalvale Falls and hike to the base of Yosemite Falls.  This said, no plans are ever set in stone. After five years, I have come to realize planning and arrangements are fruitless. Alterations will be made, some daily, a few hourly and in desperate situations, minute by minute. I have never been good at flying by the seat of my pants but I am now less a mess of frustration when traumatic and/or dangerous situations arise.   I am learning to eat what’s served, even when I spy a bug swimming in my soup.

Along our journey to the Park, we stopped to stretch our legs and watch the snow melt waters flowing onto the valley floor.

Snow melt waters

Climbing upward, we stopped for our first view of Yosemite, an overview of the areas we would see up close.

Yosemite rangeYosemite range (2)

In the distance, snow on Yosemite mountain tops.

Snow on Yosemite mountain tops

The Glacier Point Overlook had a decent paved walkway leading to several outlooks and falls. KatieBug was allowed on all paved paths but not the dirt trails.  With the suffocating heat, we nixed taking lengthy hikes but the more obvious reason, narrow earthen trails and the valley floor were a long steep downward drop.

Glacier Point and valley

One of the big rock mountains at the overlook is Half Dome, a split rock of gargantuan proportions. Several of the domes in Yosemite are favorites of rock climbers but we didn’t spot climbers on the rocks today.

and Half Dome 2

The overlook rim spanned nearly a mile and we stood admiring the view while dozens of tourists took selfies from the edge. I had to wait for the crowds to part to catch my Kodak Moments.

The view in another direction a few yards down the walk, North Dome and Basket Dome.

North Dome and Basket Dome 1

In the distance you can see the 594 foot drop of Nevada Falls, 317 foot drop of the lower Vernal Falls and Grizzly Peak next to Vernal Falls.

Nevada and Vernal Falls From Glacier Point

We had success finding a parking spot and as we walked back to the car, we spied a strange auto antenna décor two spaces down.  Odd folks in these here parts.

Weird

After more than an hour of exploring the Point, we drove to Bridalvale Falls and walked up the path to the welcome spray of tumbling waters.

Bridalveil Falls

Relaxing hike, cooling spray, comfy benches at the base for watching the rushing waters down below the falls.  Well worth the effort it took to find parking.

Creek flow of Bridalveil Falls

Easy walking to Lower Yosemite Falls with more bursts of cool mist when we drew near.  The crowds were thickening but had not become overwhelming.

Yosemite Falls

Lower Yosemite Falls up close.

Lower Yosemite Falls

Meeting an abundance of fur babies on the trail, we imagined this trail had the most canine visitors. KatieBug was relaxed and happily perched next to us on the bench, watching two legged and four legged souls walk by. Near the falls I spotted a metal plaque, dog paws imprinted in brass. No sign of the significance but with all the padded prints in the sands, it seemed likely a paid tribute to the four legged who had gone on before.

Yosemite paw prints

Passing by a dainty little chapel in the woods, Yosemite Valley Chapel was closed but was posed in a fairytale like setting.  Built in 1879, the chapel is kept in peak condition for a variety of celebrations.

Yosemite Chapel

Driving along the floor of the park are huge mountain walls and open fields studded with clusters of tall trees.

Driving through the park

The Big Trees Golf Course was established in 1918 and is one of the few organic golf courses in the US. No pesticides are used on the course and recycled gray water is used to water the greens. Not a surprise to me, the lawn is green, lush and healthy.

Yosemite Golf

One more stop on the way out, Tunnel View. The Tunnel was Yosemite’s last stop when exiting the park. KatieBug was joined by several other fur babies just coming off the trail with their humans, all sitting enjoying the view. Our troupe being hot and tired, we stretched out our legs, took a photo and went on our way.

Tunnel View Outlook

Returning our rental, picking up our car now sporting a new battery and a few minor additions to keep the oldie but goodie in top auto health, we arrive back at LilyPad.  After a check up under LilyPad’s hood, John relays disappointing news.  All previously tried fix-it-yourself procedures have not been successful.  Something continues to be amiss.  The closed radiator system seems to have a breach hiding somewhere inside the dark cavity of diesel pushing mechanical workings. John has filled the gauge twice, two full gallons, but the glass level reader remains empty, fluid disappearing into the unknown.

A call to the nearest Cummins, in Fresno California, secures our appointment for diagnostics.  This was not a planned stop so now we must find a site for an undisclosed time period.  Our three necessities; being near Cummins, 50 amp hook ups, ample space to pull in and out multiple times.  After another quick series of calls, John finds us a spot at the Fresno Fair Grounds.

Knowing we will be limping to Fresno but believing all will be kosher in time, I began my standard stash and secure duties for our unplanned trek, beginning before sun rises next morning.

Eager to be free of roasting temperatures, we turn in early, our two remaining air conditioners struggling along in unison.

June 15th through 24th 2017 Santa Clara California

Hot, Hot, Hot. When I left Texas to cool off, I was not expecting Santa Clara to get swept up in a heatwave. We paused for nearly two weeks and parked close by my childhood hometown of Campbell at the Santa Clara Elks Lodge. Having stayed here in past years, we loved its central location, welcoming lodge members, close proximity to family, a few blocks from the freeway system and quiet nights.  A day of laziness to recoup from travel, we mapped out upcoming explorations and family visits before catching some Z’s.

 

California’s massively supplemented growing fields of fruit and vegetable crops keep the farm to market circuit in full swing most of the producing season. There are multiple cities hosting markets within a 20 mile reach of LilyPad’s location. Needing veggies and fruit, we set up camp and stopped at the closest, Campbell Farmers Market. A variety of interesting choices, we walked the rows inspecting the offerings. Entertainment was provided by a local singer and his guitar. With our bag of fruits and veggies, and munching on a macaroon, we returned to LilyPad to watch a Red Box movie, spend some time with the pug and sleep.

Campbell Farmers Market

 

A leisurely rise with a cup-a-joe bolted us awake while planning our day. San Jose is the heart of Silicone Valley, arguably the most inventive place on earth. First on our list, The Tech Museum of Innovation and IMAX. One of my favorite sayings is carved into the slab of stone at the entrance. “Optimism is an essential ingredient for innovation. How else can the individual welcome change over security, adventure over staying in safe places.” Bob Noyce’s truest of words. It is impossible to live on the roll, traveling far from the safety of normalcy and conventional living, without mega amounts of optimism to solve the unending supply of complications created by this lifestyle.

Tech Museum

Museums with hands-on activities top my list of “to-do’s” and The Tech Museum is overflowing with techie tactile tangibles. Reasonable pricing for seniors, we had several hours of playtime. John was my guinea pig only because he is less than accurate when I’ve requested he capture our Kodak Moments.

Inside, we checked out the gift shop while the crowds were small.  Quick stop at the restrooms brought another high tech discovery.  The water faucets at the sinks were ones I had never seen anywhere else, quite inventive.

Tech womens sink

I found it amusing; one of the tasks in the multiple activities section designed for 4th through 6th graders was a lock picking exercise. A locksmith docent demonstrated two different techniques to pick locks and John practiced until he succeeded. I thought it curious, a museum teaching pre-teens how to pick locks. Then again, anyone having access to a computer would have far more intriguing and dangerous blueprints available, should they wish to conceive more sinister plans.

Picking a lock

Inserting your entrance ticket into slots at each station unlock a multitude of tasks, games and learning opportunities. In one room, John reprogramed a robotic assembly line computer to remove the hack. I was the cheering section.

computer games

Typing into another computer programed an electronic arm to spell out your name in wooden blocks. The computer misspelled my name causing me to be thankful it wasn’t a program used for human surgery.

Oops, wrong letter

Another area demonstrated the 3D printer.  Although not a new concept, it was fascinating to see one in action.

3 D printing

Outer Space had representation with physical activities and exhibits. Early Space Rover samples of rock and soils from the moon, Mars and Earth were encased in thick see-through display cabinets with informative descriptions.  These were the smallest of samples we’ve seen across the US.  It is puzzling how anyone would believe we haven’t gone to the moon. There are tangibles in many museums, in various states across America.  “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page”  St. Augustine.  Truth.

Planetary Soils

John and I watched several teens maneuver a landing for a space flight simulator and I captured a Kodak Moment of virtual John in a space suite. I must admit, while taking the picture, I thought of the many days I would have welcomed sending John to the moon.

Space suit John

A variety of science labs and hands on explorations were in the next section.

Tech Lab

In an enclosed science classroom setting, Stanford University sponsors mini genetic classes, demonstrating how current research is uncovering the microscopic mechanisms at the heart of Bates’ speciation discovery of 150 years ago. We listened in on the animated teacher and watched the fascinated students for a short time before leaving to watch the IMAX movie presentation.

Stanford Genetics

The museums IMAX theater presentation of Amazon Adventure, for me, was the most fascinating segment of our museum experience. As an environmentalist, I listened for decades to my peers claim humans were destroying species at an alarming rate, their only proof, bones and remnants but finding none living.  150 years ago, biologist Henry Bates spent 11 years on a journey through the Amazon rainforest identifying 8,000 new species leading to crucial contributions in biology. “Batesian”, his discovery of the mimicry phenomenon of edible animals deceiving predators by adopting the look of poisonous animals, resulted from collecting the first evidence of speciation, the birth of new species. It is known as the “beautiful proof”, natural selection, survival of the fittest.

After the IMAX, we drove back to LilyPad, gave KatieBug time outside and spent the balance of the afternoon and evening visiting family. Dinner out and we hit the hay.

 

Our plans for this bright sunshiny morning included rising early to check out the Santa Clara Farmers Market and breakfast at a local café.  Not the biggest market we’ve attended but certainly the most colorful with more than a dozen stands offered blooming plants and cut flowers.

Santa Clara Farmers Market    Santa Clara Singer

Picking up KatieBug, we visited another old childhood haunt, the Municipal Rose Gardens.  The Gardens were a favorite picnic spot for me and my mother.  Whenever the weather was pleasant, my grandmother would come with, toting a picnic basket loaded with all the trimmings for a delicious ladies only luncheon in the garden.

Roses everywhere, in every color, many with multiple colors and all bushes trimmed to produce flowers near nose level. The scent, when the roses begin their bloom, is otherworldly, sweet, perfume like with bees and butterflies joining the in-your-face experience of blossoms and buds.

Yellow Rose

In the center of the park is a refreshing pond and fountain surrounded by benches.

San Jose Municipal Rose Garden Fountain

I did not recall the overpopulation of geese resulted in dung stains, the pool clouding, messes on the sidewalks and pollution of the water from high levels of unsafe bacteria.

I am no longer a goose fan since cleaning up after wild geese at the BLM day use park in Massachusetts. They are nasty noisy massive poop producing machines and regularly pollute beaches near ponds and lake waters, using them as toilets. The bacteria surge forces government ponds and lake areas to close until the high levels of bacteria decrease.  Exactly why you see signs instructing visitors to never feed wildlife.  It encourages them to seek humans for food.

Many of the roses were past their prime but the scent remained a bouquet of marvelous fragrances. We walked through the rows, breathing deeply, before sitting on a bench to appreciate their beauty and watch volunteers trim and dead-head the bushes. The Gardens are a fitting place of remembering grandma telling me to “stop and smell the roses”, something John and I do often in our travels.

Off to visit family, afterward returning for another Red Box movie, pug time and lights out for the night.

 

Santa Cruz Beach, Boardwalk and wharf were our primary destinations for today.  The rising temperatures and sandy beach would not be a pleasant experience for KatieBug so we dropped her off at the local day care, one where she had happily stayed in previous years.

Santa Cruz Boardwalk

The wharf and boardwalk are where I spent my childhood and young adult summers and weekends for as far back as I can recall. After my parents gave me a car, I became the chauffeur, friends and I spent our weekends in Santa Cruz until I moved to Chico, met John and we were married.

Older and worn around the edges, the boardwalk arcade still makes me giddy when I walk inside and hear the clanging bells and upbeat music blasting from the games.

Front of Boardwalk   Santa Cruz Boardwalk Arcade

The sounds of the new skill games are slightly more instrumentally varied but the thrill of the challenge remains the same. Walking through the arcade and down along the boardwalk, we stopped to watch pop-up jugglers, slight-of-hand magicians and listened to carnival game barkers calling out for tourists to come win a prize.

Mid way down the boardwalk is the 1911 carousel, a boardwalk prized original and the boardwalk’s oldest ride.  We stood watching the children, hearing their squeals, seeing little ones hanging on for dear life.  Everyone in our family has ridden on the merry go round to the sound of the 342 pipe Ruth and Sohn band organ.  Built in 1894, it still chimes out a merry tune.  Details of each carved wooden horse are incredibly unique down to the real horse hair tails.  Listening to the music and watching the horses go around still paints my face with an ear to ear grin.

Santa Cruz Carousel

When my daughter was a teen, for a half dozen years of family visits to California, Laffing Sal would welcome us at the entrance of the San Francisco wharf’s vintage game building. We would play pin ball machines and other vintage games of chance, then sit to rest on the bench in front of Sal and listen to her laugh each time a coin was deposited. To see this strange larger-than-life lady, grinning widely with her gaping missing tooth, standing in a Santa Cruz boardwalk window was a surprise until I read the poster. She was purchased and moved to this location after years of storage and would now be an historic reminder of the world of amusement parks of the past. I was pleased to find her safe from destruction, even though her odd fashion statement, toothy mouth and loud cackle were slightly frightful.

Laughing Sal

A day at the beach would not be complete without walking along the Santa Cruz wharf.

Santa Cruz Wharf

Entering the sturdy wooden roadway of boards as thick as tree trunks, sits a vintage fishing boat, original to these waters back when my grandfather was young and fished along this stretch of ocean.  Wisps of sea breeze, fried fish, fresh cut bait, candied apples, taffy and boiled crab sneak into each breath you take and drifts along with you all the way to the end of the pier and back again.

Vintage wooden fishing boat

Resting with my tummy arched over the whitewashed railings, my eyes followed the foamy white line of ocean rolling up onto the sand. Looking out over the beach I saw small groups of children building sand castles, teens showing off their daredevil boogie board stunts, mid-life sun worshipers slowly basting themselves while they turn into the future leathery brown elderly couples who walk along the surfs edge. The scenes bring a peaceful full circle acceptance to my now senior self.

On the far side of the wharf is where I learned to skin dive. The dark and cloudy waters hiding whatever wiggly slithery ocean creature I might have been afraid to confront.

Santa Cruz where I learned to skin dive

When I visit Santa Cruz, I am transported into my past, to my childhood, young adult “happy place” and back to reality, where I must acknowledge everything eventually comes to an end.

Slightly wind burned, sparkling sandy specks still clinging to our feet, we toweled off and drove the familiar serpentine highway back to Santa Clara, picking up KatieBug from day care, dining at home and a slipping into a peaceful nights rest.

 

Spending most of our day with family, John found an evening Summer Music Concert program in Santa Clara and the three of us visited the circular outdoor event center to listen to classic rock tunes. Deciding to walk around the circle for exercise, the music could be heard from all sections of the amphitheater.

Santa Clara outdoor concert

A beautiful night, the venue sat in the middle of a city park and provided us with a flat pathway with which to stroll and intermittent bits of lawn for KatieBug to meet and greet other fur babies in attendance.

Santa Clara Park pond

Dinner tonight was with lodge members at the hall.  We sat at a group table of contract employees from Tesla, the luxury electric car company. Surprised at the claims of low pay and unacceptable working conditions, we listened to them tell of workers moving to contract work to earn a livable salary. I had heard only positive observations from stockholders I knew,  yet from different perspectives comes an alternative truth.  Intriguing conversation, it was a surprise to find how late the hour had become.  We said our good-bys and walked the short block to LilyPad, ended our evening.

 

Morning arrived and I was excited about today’s day trip. John, myself and my aunt would be spending the entire day in San Francisco. KatieBug was comfortably settled in with her buddies at day care.  Over an hour away, only a few stops planned, this trip would be a whirlwind jaunt but one which would include Chinatown, something we passed by on our last visit.

On observation, along with the words and signs of California’s political street corner barkers flashing in my head, one prior personal opinion immediately changed upon arrival on the streets of Chinatown. All Americans most certainly do not integrate into our society. If ever one needs proof, Chinatown offers a discernible example.

Arriving near Chinatown, we parked on a side street and walked down Grant, the main thoroughfare. Chinatown’s streets are alive with the color red in every hue, lanterns hang from windows, are strung across streets and dangle from poles.  Pungent exotic scents fill the air, tiny Asian markets with dozens of foreign vegetables and fruits sit on display in boxes along the sidewalks and customers scurry up and down the streets popping in and out of stores.

Chinatown SF

The smells emitted from open doors of hole-in-the-wall shops are foreign to many, barrels overflowing with leggy ginseng, crystalized ginger and dozens of mysterious pods, leaves and earth colored powders, overpowering aromas to most Western noses.  I fully appreciate the medicinal properties of plants.  My kids call me a witch doctor but most of my healing knowledge comes from Asian, rather than African herbs. Healing teas and salves, roots and powders are staples in my medicine cabinets, any surplus shared with my adult children whenever needed.

Strolling the streets to absorb the atmosphere, we stop in front of a famous Chinatown landmark, Tin How Temple, one of the oldest operating Chinese temples in America. The temple is dedicated to the Chinese sea goddess Mazu, known as Tin How in Cantonese. A Kodak Moment to appreciate the intricate details before continuing.

Tin How Temple

At the end of the street, we made a U-turn and wandered back down on the opposite side, stopping inside several shops for candied ginger slices and herbal teas. Our destination, a small side street called Row Alley where we hoped to take a tour of the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory. A few steps off the main street we found Row Alley.

Ross Alley, SF

Expecting to take a tour after having read a TripAdvisor review, we entered the small working shop, barely having room enough for 10 people to squeeze in at the same time. Completely open to the entire cookie making process, workers were sitting at their machines, everything out in the open, no tour necessary. If there had been a tour, no English was spoken by the shopkeeper or workers so none of us would have understood.

Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory

The fortune cookie was introduced to the United States from Japan around the 1890’s. Initially the cookies were made by hand using a special iron mold called a Kata. When demand grew, a San Francisco confectioner was hired to produce the cookies in larger quantities. Original fortune cookies make in Japan were savory rather than sweet and it is believed a vanilla recipe was developed to appeal to Westerners palates. It is traditional to serve fortune cookies to Tea Garden visitors and for some reason, the custom grew to include Chinese restaurants.

Our original plans were to visit St. Mary’s but we parked opposite St. Francis of Assisi Church, the first parish church in San Francisco, so we wandered inside to explore.

St Francis of Assisi  Church 1849

One of my favorite St. Francis prayers is posted just inside the door.

DSC_4089

Begun in 1850 it was the first parochial school in California and in 1852, held the first ordination to the priesthood.

Peaceful and quiet, walking through the church and resting in a pew offered us a cool and relaxing break in our day.

National Shrine of St Francis of Assisi

Onward and upward to drive the downward zig zag drive on Lombard street, another San Francisco landmark on my list. Habitually crowded with driving and walking tourists, Lombard Street must be a distressing street on which to live. The steep plunging grade, sharp curves along the entire street, an entrance only at the top and exit only at the bottom is a must-do for visitors, regardless of its intimidating appearance.  Breaks in the traffic allowing an owner to pull into or out of their garage were scarce.

Lombard Street   Lombard Street (2)

Lombard is located on the upper most top of the hilly streets of San Francisco. Many of the streets are known for their heart stopping plunges and breathtaking views.

Exiting Lombard, we hooked a left and looking outward, Alcatraz Island took center stage. Located in the middle of the San Francisco Bay, its 22 acres were originally the first lighthouse and fort in the US.  Known primarily for it being the infamous Federal Penitentiary and therefore off limits to the public, major crime patronage included Al Capone, George “Machine gun” Kelly, and Arthur “Doc” Barker.

Steep San Francisco Streets

Another not-to-be-missed sight is the Golden Gate Bridge, a suspension bridge connecting the one mile wide strait across San Francisco Bay over the Pacific Ocean. It carries travelers from U.S. Route 101 and California State Route 1 across the waters but is not RV friendly.

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Park is near the entrance to the Golden Gate Bridge and was our next destination.  Parking and walking the pathway around the rocky mountain protruding from Stow Lake, we passed Huntington Falls, now dried up, and stopped at the Chinese Pavilion for a rest.

Chinese Pavilion at Stow Lake, Golden Gate Park

Circling back, I took a photo of the 1893 Golden Gate walking bridge.

1893 Golden Gate walking bridge

Crossing the bridge led to hiking paths circling up to the top of the mountain. Returning to the car, we all settled in for the hour drive back to Santa Clara.

At my request, John made a slight detour on the way home so we could all sample a few noshes at what was touted as the best Jewish Deli in San Francisco, Wise Son’s Deli.  When my aunt lived in the Las Angeles area, we dined regularly at a local Jewish deli and I was eager to find an equal near her current home.

Wise Sons Deli

The founding location, in the Mission District, is located on a quiet tree lined street in a iffy neighborhood that once must have been magnificent. Old unadorned deteriorating row homes on the same block as gigantic elegant Victorian mansions, all needing some form of repair. Had I unlimited funds, nothing would keep me from purchasing one as our home.  The building was my favorite style of vintage, intricate bay windows overlooking the sidewalk below. Both the building and the owner of the Deli oozed character. What the Jewish Deli lacked in extent of variety, the joyous owner more than made up for in character and delightful banter. The meal was tasty and the social interaction with the owner was purely delightful.

Wise Sons

Time passed quickly and we arrived back at LilyPad early evening.  My aunt left for her home and after picking up KatieBug, we all  turned in to get our forty winks.

 

Early to bed, early to rise, our first stop this morning will be our last farmers market produce stock up until we reach our next pause.  Sunnyvale Farmers Market is medium sized, shade trees offering no shade to shoppers and items for sale were divided between fresh produce, general market items, specialty foods and a few non-profit organization tents spaced intermittently throughout the market.

Sunnyvale Farmers Market

The only booth which piqued my curiosity was Rebecca’s bakery goods. Remembering back to the days our family was following the Rotation Diet, I wondered if she used the same items to make bakery goods with no gluten, dairy, sugar or eggs as I used. Stopping to chat, the goodies indeed looked familiar. I baked with almond milk, almond flour, coconut milk, coconut flour, pure vanilla, honey and nut butters as did she.

Purchasing a particularly tempting looking Rebecca’s macaroon, we strolled through the balance of the booths and returned to LilyPad. Tonight we bid farewell to family and my hometown, prepare LilyPad for the next leg of our journey and rise early in the morning for our next destination, Yosemite National Park, California

Sometime in May 2017, Roswell New Mexico

John and I both thought long and hard, neither knowing why we had a complete lapse of memory regarding our trip to Roswell New Mexico.  Our pug KatieBug, if she had any idea, was keeping quiet.  If you saw Men in Black, you know those alien pugs can be picky about with whom they converse and often clam up without a reason.

Those few days back in May, we arrived in Roswell New Mexico, took pictures, filed them away and without out a backward glance, moving on to the next destination. Until we were forced to pause for weeks between the border of Oregon and California, sandwiched between devastating fires and over the top levels of hazardous smoke, needing a myriad of tweak’s and repairs to LilyPad, we blocked the experience from our minds.  Having indoor only time on our hands for days on end, giving our future planning mode a long continuous break, the Roswell encounter reappeared squawking for attention.

Why had our minds gone blank to the events our pictures were claiming had taken place in Roswell?  How did a small fraction of time disappear, taking our bodies along but blocking our minds, leaving memories blank?  KatieBug, our pug, mumbled something in her sleep about green aliens landing  behind our motorhome while we were parked at the Roswell Elks Lodge RV Park.  Of course, being a pug, she naturally had inside information but was refusing to talk.

Roswell Elks Lodge RV Park

Our site was minimally landscaped but with all the essentials necessary for a few days “let up” in our travel.  No more interesting than the drive to this stop, it was flat, empty of prominent mountainous protrusions of any sort and planted with a few scraggly trees.   Like the freeway drive here, you could see mile upon mile across the horizon.

The road to Roswell

Offering us a preview of our upcoming October Balloon festival trip, the RV park airspace displayed views of the local hot air balloons similar to those we will see in Albuquerque New Mexico.  I took pictures of a few, the outside silence temporarily interrupted by the swoosh sound given off by fuel forced flames and hot air flowing into the center of each balloon, lifting basket, body and balloon high into the sky. I have always been fascinated by multicolored orbs floating overhead.

multi color balloon   hot air balloon

A few passed within shouting distance of their occupants.  I waved.

Over our R

I don’t think for one moment the reason for our memory lapse was being of vintage age and forgetful.  Everyone knows green aliens can wipe out your recollection, leaving you in query of events.  Alien intervention, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

We passed so many fun and fanciful interpretations of aliens along with a few grey metal flying saucer dotting the downtown streets.

Alien Display     Welcome Aliens

Wandering around town, we strolled into a few of the eclectic tourist-trap shops promoting alien casual ware,

Alien Gift Shop

passing hotels prominently displaying those rarely seen in person little green men,

Alien Neon   Motel Aliens

gas stations sporting flying saucers, roadside signs claiming “official” UFO stops

Gas Station Spaceship   UFO business

and the space ship designed Mickey D’s with a Jetson style galaxy mural painted on the building next door.

McDonalds space ship   McDonalds mural

As the sun began to warm up the town, we headed for air conditioning and used our Groupon for entrance into the number one tourist destination, located on Main Street downtown, the International UFO Museum and Research Center.  Entering, we watched a video and strolled through the compact but well stockpiled museum of things UFO.

UFO Museum

Food for thought, the video brought to mind questions from 1947 newspaper exploited claims of people involved being crazies.  Answers were provided by people interviewed, most were professionals, well educated and creepily well informed about government secrecy including having read paperwork and memo’s by government officials.  I exited the video unsure how I stood on the subject.

Technical machines from 1947 lined a wall, set up to look like a government office.  Aging myself again, they had the typewriter and rolling stand my high school supplied to students taking typing class.

1947 office equipment

There were several walls dedicated to photo’s of UFO sites, spaceships, newspaper articles and “proof” of extraterrestrials.

Facts from the dig

As one would expect, the museum offered a presentation of life size aliens and a spaceship complete with eerie otherworld sounds and coordinating flashing lights.

UFO display

Interest drawing to an end, we exited after purchasing a tiny plastic green alien to hang from LilyPad’s front fan, hooked near the copper sun and plastic Chinese “luck” symbol.  Our length of time rolling in a motorhome has encouraged our acceptance of the tacky side of interior decorating.

Leaving the downtown area, we passed an alien driving a vintage western wagon, a fitting Texan ending to our Alien experience.

Western Alien

Back to the Lodge and our site, a long walk for KatieBug under a setting sun, dinner and sleep.

Sunset in Roswell

 

One last day, our only plans were to walk through Cahoon Park for a leisurely stroll with KatieBug.

Cahoon Park

Long stretches of walkways, continuing down several blocks, shaded by dense tree branches and, at the end, a peaceful miniature Japanese Water Garden.

Water garden    The Water Garden

Preparations for the next day included stocking up on groceries, programing both navigators for our morning exit and sleep.

This post is out of date succession because those darn little green aliens messed with our brains.  Next post will be from Santa Clara California.

June 8th through June 23rd 2017 Boron, Oceano, and Salinas California

Our journey to Boron California was a long tedious hot as hades haul from Las Vegas. Still in desert, Boron is a small sun bleached, wind worn town in the Mojave Desert.

The highest summit in the Mojave Desert is Cave Mountain, a refreshing change of scenery from the flat lands.  After passing through, the picture returned to flat and barren.

Cave Mountain

Nearing the Nevada border line crossing, we passed Zzyzx Road leading to the fabricated town and oasis of the same name, formerly known as Soda Springs.  What you would imagine an oasis to be, is what you will find.  Palm trees surrounding water in the middle of a desert.  Not willing to take our 65 feet off road or through small towns, I Googled the name.  It has a history as strange as the name and worth the time spent reading.  Traveling onward, our desert view, that of sameness.

Zzyzx Road

Tall wooden poles stacked with brightly colored pillow shapes came into view with dozens of cars lined up nearby.  No signs of their significance and never found out what they represented.  Drop me a line if you know.

Poles of color in the field

A late start from Texas resulted in our traveling through The Mojave Desert at the height of hellfire temperatures.  Scrub brush being the only plant brave enough to rise to the surface and face the sun, the desolate view was consistent through to Boron.

Mojave Desert

A distant blip in the scenery was our overnight.  Just off the highway, we rolled into the entrance of Arabian RV Oasis.  Much appreciative of the 50 amp service, it was enough to run our two remaining a/c’s and help us survive the smoldering temperatures still surrounding us.  The site was sparse but level with plenty of elbow room.

Arabian RV Oasis, Boron

After setting up camp and having a good night’s sleep, we drove into Boron next morning to visit the Colonel Vernon P. Saxon Aerospace Museum and the Twenty Mule Team Museum. The Aerospace Museum was closed, actively being remodeled but there were a few museum quality examples of flying machines out front.

Saxon Aerospace Museum  Scooby Doo

Directly next door to the Aerospace museum sits the Twenty Mule Team Museum.

Borax Museum

Named for the borate mineral that was discovered in Kern County in 1913, the town of Boron grew up around the mining operations.  The mule teams for which the Borax brand was named, operated from Death Valley to Mojave from 1883 through 1889. Business men gave the name “20 Mule Team Borax” from the number of mules it took to pull the wagon full of product through the desert.

20 Mule Teams

Now owned by The Rio Tinto Boron Mine, the open pit borate mine is California’s largest and the largest borate mine in the world, producing almost half the world’s supply.  On our way out of town, we passed the giant mine off in the distance.  Neither of us had any interest in traveling over dirt roads to take a tour.

Boron Mine

Borate is an interesting mineral. In chunk form, it can be polished to a beautiful opaque pearl hue and it will retain its perfection if kept in a dry climate. Such a delicate and pretty mineral, I wanted to take a piece home until the curator told me, in Houston’s humidity, it would decompose and turn into a fine baby power.

We entered the museum to a display of kitchen and family articles used by town founders. Some of these articles looked familiar, like those in my grandmother’s house when I was a child. And I’m aging myself once again.

1932 Kitchen   Curlers and curling irons

The next room had a complete vintage fire fighting machine once used at the mine.

VFD

Lining the walls were displays, Borax products and articles from Boron’s pioneer beginnings.  The museum curator chatted easily with John and I, no one else was in the building, telling us about the history of the town.

Borax Products  Displays

When I questioned if she had lived here all her life, she replied she was from Hinkley, a town 30 miles away and of course, it piqued my interest.

Now a ghost town, Hinkley’s claim to fame was the poisoning of the town water supply after Pacific Gas and Electric(PG & E) allowed groundwater contamination from a compressor station to leach Hexavalent chromium. The curator pointed to the albums of newspaper articles and photos from the movie, Erin Brockovich, and stated the crew and cast were guests of Boron while the movie, shot in 2000, was being filmed.

Erin Brockovich

The movie, Erin Brockovich, was the true account of a legal clerk and environmentalist who worked for lawyer Edward Masry and began investigating the elevated cluster of illnesses in the community in 1993. She doggedly stalked and successfully brought PG&E to its knees. Because of her efforts, the plight of the people of Hinkley became widely known. In 1996, the families settled for $333 Million, the largest settlement every paid in a direct-action lawsuit in U.S. history.

When the film was released, Julia Roberts brought Erin’s story to light. While the movie was being filmed, the crew and cast took pictures together with locals and residents of Hinkley and Boron. The Boron museum has pictures of the filming from start to finish.

We thumbed through the photos and read some of the newspaper articles. Being involved in environmental issues all my adult life, I was fascinated hearing about the event from someone who watched, from a front row seat, the events unfold.

Browsing through the balance of the museum and stopping to continue my chat with the curator, John chose to sit patiently outside.  Considering items in the gift shop, depositing our donation in the box, thanking the curator and finally exiting the museum, we took a quick peek outside in the yard.

A remarkably complete vintage mining car and wench sat near the side yard.  Working conditions in the desert must have been unimaginably horrid for employees in the 1800’s.

Mining car

We took a few steps, not finding shade from the blistering heat, snapped a few pictures of vintage boring tools and mining tools, got back in the car and turned the air conditioning on full blast.

Machinery  Bore drills

Wicked hot outside, we drove around the small town area, the entire tour taking less than 10 minutes.  Returning to LilyPad for cool down time, a Red Box movie, sleep.

Our RV site was the fly over zone for Edwards Air Force Base, home of the Air Force Test Center. Daytime silence occasionally interrupted by the swoosh of jet engines zooming overhead, so close they shook LilyPad. At night it was peaceful and quiet.

 

A 7:00 a.m. Willie’s wakeup song eased open our eyes and we were “On The Road Again” in under an hour.   We will pause somewhere down the road, continuing on until we reach Oceano California and the Five City Elks Lodge.

Still in desert we traveled on, checking all road signs for open rest stops, zero found so far.  There were none open back in 2013 or 2014 our last pass-throughs.  Remodeling signs were still up at each but activity looked suspiciously idle.

Rest stops closed

California is persnickety about what they allow into their State, specifically no citrus this time through.  My doctor nixed all citrus for me so none is on board.  That was easy.

Crossing the border

Passing oil pump jacks, we didn’t stop to count but there looked to be hundreds of them crowded together along miles of deserted barren land.  Close together, the property becomes completely useless, total destruction of land.  John, having worked in the Texas oil field business for 30 plus years, told me close quarter spacing is no longer allowed in Texas for that exact reason.

CA drilling

Along most of the freeway runs the old El Camino Real, Spanish for Royal Road and also known as the Kings Highway.   600 miles long connecting the 21 Spanish missions in California.  Mission San Miguel was the first we passed.  These commemorative bells roughly trace the original route.   My Bucket List has visiting all the California and Texas Missions on it, somewhere near the middle.  I’m  considerably behind schedule.

El Camino Real Bell   Mission San Miguel

The ocean boarders the freeway in stretches, receding then replaced by earth covered in the green of growing produce.  The next few days we will travel alongside the countries thriving farm belt.

Oceano coastline   Field workers

Early afternoon arrival, long back up into our wide gravel site, set up camp and relax.  Tepid weather outside floated through our screen door.  Slightly briny seaweed smells from the ocean, a short block from our site, was a welcome scent. My lungs celebrated the cool saline sea air. We wouldn’t need an air conditioner tonight.

Five Cities Elks Lodge

Waking early to the sound of joyous songs and dancing feet on our roof, compliments of the local bird population. Reminiscent of mini tap dancers, they moved from one end of our motorhome to the other, striking the roof haphazardly with their nails, prancing and dancing, all the while in loud proclamation of it being morning. Natures noisy little tap dancing alarm clocks.

Today, grocery shopping first, beaches afterwards. In the afternoon we drove to Dinosaur Caves Park and enjoyed the cool but sun shiny walk along the cliffs. The walkways were accented by brilliant billowy purple blooms.

Seacoast purple flowers

Easy flat walking paths, corralled by sea sturdy plants and flowers with an amazing view of the ocean in the background, all added to our pleasurable stroll.

Dinosaur Caves Park

Margo Dodd Park was a short ways from Dinosaur Caves Park and an excellent place to sit on wooden benches and watch the pelicans take off and land from their semi private roost.  Gulls noisily fought for space on the overcrowded rock.

For the birds   Brown Pelicans

Beaches were pet friendly and KatieBug had many friendly greetings by several giant size fur babies, everyone sniffing all the pee-mail along the trails.

Each morning John walked with KatieBug to Pismo State Beach. Most mornings were shrouded in fog all along the coast but refreshing as long as your walking was brisk. Some mornings I slept in, enjoying the coolness from under warm blankets and a soft pillow.

One night we decided to participate in the Bingo games at the Lodge. Completely unaware of members extreme dedication, everyone seemed to be gung-ho about Bingo, we bought a dot marker, two game sheets and sat across from a die-hard Bingo player who nearly covered half a cafeteria table with sheets. Neither he nor we won but it did pass the time and when conversation was allowed, we found him to be an interesting table companion.

Walking back to our site for bedtime, the night was cooled by fog and light breezes had the scent of seaweed and the feel of warm summers by the ocean.  Childhood seaside memories floated along with me while we walked.

One more day of coastal living before we would be on our way. The usual housekeeping and stocking up on supplies completed before noon, the afternoon was spent ocean-side, watching the waves and seagulls.

Evening was heavenly, breezy, cool with patches of fog, a decent sunset then back to our motorhome to sleep.

 

Morning arrived and we began the next leg of our journey by driving into the mountains, through dry hills, the came the rains and we spotted warnings of deer and black bear crossing,

Into the Mountains  bear crossings

across more flat dry land and past fruit orchards,

Dry hills, dry fields   Second flat lands

and finally rolling us out onto one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world.

Crop workers

Watching farm hands in the fields, passing way stations with harvests waiting to be loaded into trucks, trucks full and pulling out on their way to distributors.  The odor, when we passed by, told us they were carrying onions.

Onions

Sometime this afternoon we would reach Salinas and stay four nights at the Salinas Elks Lodge. As a child, the many times our family passed through Salinas was en route to the ocean with the Pokey Penguins, my father’s skin diving buddies. Mostly farm land, old warehouses, farm houses and trailer parks, I never imagined it had any cultural appeal.

Farming

“The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.” Samuel Johnson, 1709 to 1784

Our visit to the farm lands of California brought into focus the impasse between the food consuming public and the farm owners who employ poverty level field workers.  The rising operating costs, ever increasing water expenses and difficulties of using migrant workers makes farming sound unappealing and not near worth the effort and cost that must be expended.

Traveling by land forces you to see people.  Crossing miles of California’s large agriculture industry exposes the abject poverty working and living conditions for full time and migrant workers.

Migrant workers  Field workers (3)

Seeing the multitudes of field workers all across the farm belt confirms the importance they play in crop production, yet they are financially unappreciated.

Migrant workers (4)  Field workers (2)

As we drive, the land is banded together by endless rows of green, separated by thin brown lines of earth and dotted by humans and machines.

Migrant workers (2)  Migrant workers (3)

Gatherings of colorfully clothed farm hands and field workers were checking crops, picking, pulling, bent over tending the crops alongside gigantic John Deere Tractor type rolling machinery.

Migrant Workers

Dozens of small businesses catering to local farmers passed us, offering necessity services for migrant workers and field hands.

work crews

Nearing our destination, we saw the humongous eucalyptus tree before spotting the Elks Lodge hidden behind. I rolled down the window and breathed in deeply. The tree’s scent was intoxicating. John took the car off the dolly, I backed us into our spot, set down stabilizers and took KatieBug for a stroll alongside the neighboring golf course.

Eucalyptus

Our site was a gravel covered rectangle with 50 amp, water, local TV and access to a black tank dump. Across the street, the local airport planes flew sporadically and we were told, only during the day. The far end of the Elks Lodge parking lot was being set up for a weekend Flea Market. Near the golf course, a patch of brilliantly golden California Poppy’s swayed in the gentle breeze.

California Poppies

Night crept over the parking lot after showing off a colorful sunset peaking out between the treetops. Bed, sleep, quiet.

Sunset in Salinas CA

Concerned we would not have enough to occupy our time, I consulted TripAdvisor and our days immediately became overflowing with outings. The basin was the hometown of Nobel Prize in Literature laureate John Steinbeck. Several of his novels were based on the fertile basin area’s downtrodden. I was a fan of Steinbeck so a visit to the Center took first place on our list.

Being an avid reader, Steinbeck’s novels were a part of my reserve, introduced by my mother and enjoyed throughout my bookworm teen years and subsequent adulthood. Being a skin diver, my father knew several farmers in the valley whose property abutted the ocean. The divers were welcome and payment for diving privileges was fresh catch of the day, often times, in large quantities.

The farmers plight and those of their field hands and migrant workers were a part of my adolescence but mainly from a distance. Because entertainment for the field workers often included cock fights (roosters with blades on their feet encouraged to fight to the death), I could play with the children when they were on the beach but was never allowed near their barns.

 

Up early, we were on the road and looking forward to our first stop.  Along the route many of the billboards and signs were cut-outs of people.  Interesting and eye catching.

Billboards

Our first day long outing was the Steinbeck House Gift Shop and National Steinbeck Center. The gift shop occupied the basement of Steinbeck’s birthplace and childhood home, a Queen Ann style Victorian, built in 1897.

Steinbeck home

Stately and beautifully renovated, a lunch restaurant occupies the living quarters of the house. After browsing through the gifts, we drove the short distance to the National Steinbeck Center near the main thoroughfare of downtown Salinas.

Steinbeck Center Museum   Steinbeck museum

Welcomed by friendly staff, we walked slowly through the museum skimming through the wordy exhibits. Most impressionable was the struggle of farmers and field workers in the valley during the 1930 and 40’s, of much concern to Steinbeck, his writing bringing light to the difficult way of life.  One quote from the Center read: “It’s one of the ironies of farming. Ultimately farmers are financially penalized because of their ability to produce”.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness” Mark Twain

Housing options remain dismal for farm workers.  We passed many single wide trailer park housing compounds where the units were within inches of each other, no room for cars, no front or back yards.  Knowing California rental prices are continually skyrocketing, I had read most all migrant workers live in trailer camps, three and four families living together, with rents as high as $600.00 a trailer.  Paying for basic living expenses and bus transportation to the fields is said to have pushed combined incomes for these families below poverty level.

The museum is expansive for readers but still of interest for those seeking an overview in pictures, video’s and props. My favorite exhibit was the truck camper from Travels With Charley: In Search of America.

Steinbecks RV

Not spacious inside but room enough.

Inside Steinbecks RV

Steinbeck wrote a travelogue while on his extended road trip with his poodle in 1960. Naming his specially designed camper Rocinante, after Don Quixote’s horse, he traveled nearly 10,000 miles, following roads that touched as many states as possible while following a reasonably direct route around the outer of our United States. He claimed the purpose was to see the country of which he wrote and visit personally the America on which he based his novels. The result was him having concerns for the “new America” he was witnessing.

In later notations made by the author’s eldest son Thom, the real reason for his father’s journey was to see his country one last time. John Steinbeck knew he was dying from a heart condition.

Another of Steinbeck’s novels, The Winter of Our Discontent, is based on a family in an imaginary town in New England, directly based on the town of Sag Harbor.  The father, born to wealth but fallen on hard times, is unhappy that his spendthrift wife is never satisfied and his children want everything.  Set in 1960, it might have been his reason for traveling around America in what Generation Y, The Millennial’s, call a “tiny house”.   Steinbeck wrote, “Having too many THINGS, they spend their hours and money on the couch searching for a soul.”

In 1966 Steinbeck wrote: “We shout that we are a nation of laws, not men – and then proceed to break every law we can if we can get away with it. We proudly base our political positions on the issues – and we will vote against a man because of his religion, his name, or the shape of his nose.”

His statement didn’t take much research to pull up the political campaign to which “the shape of his nose” remark referred. Nixon and his prominent nose clearly won the radio campaign, however, Kennedy won the personal appearance and television campaign.

With his finger on the pulse of America’s turbulence in the 50’s and 60’s, his commentaries were bluntly eloquent . About school integration in New Orleans in 1960 he wrote: “It would be difficult to explain to a dog the good and moral purpose of a thousand humans gathered to curse one tiny human.”

In 1933 to 1940, approximately 3,500 Dust Bowl migrants settled east of Salinas. Two local farmers subdivided their property and offered plots for sale but many of the “Okies” were cash poor, instead accepting work in the lettuce and vegetable industry.  The work helped protect Salinas from the worst of the Depression years. With unemployment rising, one response was to expeditiously deport large numbers of Mexican workers, seen as competing with U.S. Citizens for jobs.   It seems the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Walking back to the car, we passed through the downtown area and perused the produce being offered at the Salinas Farmers Market.

Monterey downtown  Salinas Farmers Market

Learning about a barn out standing in a Salinas field called The Farm, I was still searching for fresh apricots and figs so we added the stop to our itinerary.

 

Our next extended day long trip was to Monterey while KatieBug was treated to a day of pampering, enjoying a full spa with mani-pedi experience at PetSmart.

It had been years since we traveled along Monterey’s 17 Mile Drive, a pay-for-view experience winding past California’s wealthy homes overlooking the ocean and bordering the famous Pebble Beach Golf Course.

Pebble Beach Golf Course

These are premier spots for climbing among the rocks and poking into cracks and crevices to spot the stranded-in-low-tide sea life.

Monterey Cypress Trees

Stopping several times for the view, Bird Rock seemed to be the pause of choice for tour buses and tourists.

The granit outcropping of Bird Rock

Out to stretch our legs, we took deep breaths of the refreshing salty sea air and watched continuous strands of feathered friends land and take off from what the locals had named “The Rock”.

Pelicans in flight

Making the spa-like area between The Rock and shore their rest stop, we saw gulls, Cormorants, roosting pelicans and sea lions. The sea otters were difficult to spot without binoculars.

Signs saying “do not feed wildlife”  apparently were ignored. Rocks near the water were well populated with chunky, noisy, aggressive squirrels.

Do Not Feed

The drive, taking close to an hour, emptied us onto the freeway and near Monterey’s newer wharf area. I had read that Monterey opened a privately owned Salvador Dali Museum in Monterey. We parked and walked part of the wharf before spotting the huge dripping clocks advertisement sign for the Museum.

S Dali

John being a fan, we paid the overpriced entry and viewed the Adult graphic sketches and signed prints.  There were few prints without lewd images but I found two acceptable if you don’t look to close.

S Dali Museum     Dali Museum

After viewing, I mentioned to the young man at the desk, my expectations were of seeing at least an oil painting, considering the advertisement showed one of his paintings, not his prints. His snippy remark was “Dali was a printer, what did you expect to find?” Very unprofessional, very rude, very college age I-know-everything attitude. I showed my appreciation for his inappropriate response by leaving a blunt comment on TripAdvisor.

Although interesting, the signed prints were primarily of extreme adult content with a miniscule amount of first run prints. What we enjoyed most were the short films shown in the screening room of the museum. Also extreme in adult content, the films followed his life and relationships as narrated by an acquaintance. It was intensely apparent Dali struggled with sexuality and reality. The films gave insight into his demons, his odd marriage relationship, his greedy wife, his obsessive and destructive lifestyle and lingering death.

Leaving the museum area, next visiting the waterfront streets of the abandoned sardine canning factories.

Monterey revived factory docks

In 1941 through 1945, the sardine canneries were where many immigrants found work. Conditions were wet, cold and smelly with the roar of machines and clanking of cans drowning out a multi-cultural chorus of languages in Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, Sicilian, Japanese, Mexican and English. Within five years, the industry had died after decimating the supply of sardines.

Revived as shopping, dining and wine tasting, anchored by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the upscale shops and dining establishments still make for an enjoyable stroll through the area.

Cannery Row

The last factory closed in 1973 and my earliest memories of the factories are sealed by photo reminders from dad’s old skin diving photo albums. While the Pokey Penguins went ocean spear fishing, I wandered under the boardwalk during low tide. The towering black wooden piers securely attached to a cave-filled rocky coastline, outcroppings of giant boulders, dank and cool underneath the factories, premium for investigating sea creatures clinging to the wood and rocks.  Never tiring of the experience, it occupied hours of my time.

On the way back to LilyPad, I notice the freeways continue to be lined with blossoming Oleander, the most popular ornamental plants in the arid region, also one of the five most poisonous.

Favorite part of freeways

 

Next morning we reviewed TripAdvisor to double check locations and decided on a doubleheader. First stop, the Monterey Zoological Society Wild Things Program. Located on the 51 acres of Vision Quest Ranch, the zoo and facility is the vision of Charlie Sammut .

Monterey Zoo

Beginning as a home for working film and TV animals, Charlie with his lion Josef at his side, worked to improve comfort and living standards in a safe environment for the industry’s animal stars.

In 2008, at the age of 22, Charlie’s special partner Josef the lion, passed over the rainbow bridge. Charlie continued his work, providing trained animals a better quality of life not dependent on a given industry.

In recent years, California’s high cost of production and filming drove business out of state leaving the facility searching for a new purpose. With the help of volunteer workers and donations from generous companies, the Ranch evolved from a home for working movie and TV animals to a Safari Bed and Breakfast, Special Event Site, private/custom educational programs and zoo tours open to the public. Now home to working and retired TV, circus and undomesticated animals donated by person’s previously keeping them as pets, the zoo houses a wide selection of wild things.

An elderly retired kangaroo.

Senior Kangaroo

Several pet alligators.

Pet Gaters

A retired baboon.

Retired moviestar Baboon

Our tour guide next to the black panther enclosure.

Panther and our guide

Another former pet, released to the sanctuary.   There are dozens of rescued wild things at the Ranch.

Mountain Lion

A funding source, known to Charlie but referred to only as, the “donation angel”, brought new life to the Ranch, eventually opening several showcase homes for lions and tigers and bears, Oh My!

Lions    Tigers

I learned about White Bengal Tigers from sanctuaries we visited in the past.  They are not endangered because they are not able to pass on the missing pigment naturally, without human imposed interbreeding.   When the color gene is found missing, humans breed father to daughter, sister to brother, etc., destroying any tigers born of normal color.  So sad that people are led to believe the missing gene is a natural process but it is no more natural than crossed eyes, it is a defect.  The incesstual breeding forced upon tigers often result in severe deformities.

White Tiger

The new super-size enclosures have giant clear display windows on the ground level allowing a close up encounter for the cats and humans.  The lion is watching a little boy from our group rush past the window.  I didn’t see her licking her chops but the pray instinct was very apparent by the lions reaction.

Watching a mini kid

Continuing to capitalizing on Monterey’s tourism industry, the Ranch continues to expand and has become an exceptional educational experience for the public. Now called “Monterey Zoological Society”, the tour has knowledgeable, well trained and interesting guides, close up views of the animals and is definitely worth the price of admission.

Paying a slight upcharge so we could feed the elephants, it was a fun experience.  The highlight was watching one participating family’s young preschool boy stretch out his arm to give a carrot to the gigantic bull elephant.  Not terrified but certainly hesitant with only a thin wire between them, his father took over after his son became frozen and motionless.

Elephants

After visiting the Zoo, we rode out to The Farm.

The Farm fields

Offering organic fruits-of-their-labors for sale, we found fresh flowers, produce, eggs, baked goods and gifts along with a clean, well-kept petting zoo.

The Farm

Still searching for ripe apricots and fresh figs, none were available at The Farm but we came away with ruby red sweet cherries and a photo of farm animals from the petting zoo experience.

The Farm residence

Returning home to the Elks Lodge, the flea market was up and running so we strolled through in search of a good deal. If something was found, something else must go, so I considered my purchase carefully. A terracotta pot for a future planting of California succulents was an item on my “want” list. We found a space in the car and I traded a basket for the pot.  I hope to find unusual plants along the coast to bring home to Texas.

Salinas Elks Flea Market

Tonight the Elks Lodge was having a Karaoke night.  Known for their extremely reasonable drink prices, we walked down to enjoy a nightcap, music and the possibility of entertaining songsters.  For the first two people, we needed more to drink.  The third person drank too much himself, his performance loud and boisterous, causing John to quash an explosive laugh-out-loud.  Either we were suffering from a serious liquor buzz or the balance of the singers were enjoyable.  After our third round, the sun was setting and it was time for sleep.  I snapped a photo of the waning sunset after reaching LilyPad, walked KatieBug and we all turned in for the night.

Sunset Salinas

In the morning we will pack up and drive the short distance to Santa Clara, visit family and explore Silicone Valley Techie experiences.

May 21st through June 8th, 2017, Bryce Canyon UT, St. George (Yosemite) Utah, Las Vegas Nevada

Early up and off we rolled to our next destination, Bryce Canyon in Dixie National Forest Utah. I could hardly wait to reach our next extended stay campground. Excitement kept my spirits joyful in spite of the nasty roads.

Cold, but as predicted, sunny morning, our travel across Native American Indian country roads were reminiscent of those we traveled across on our trip to Alaska. They appeared to be in a state of constant repair. Bouncing over areas of haphazardly patched asphalt shook housewares from our countertops and skid them across our floors. In some portions of the road, the asphalt had disintegrated and the partially dirt packed gravel caused us to slow to a snail’s pace. I took my accustomed position leaning over the kitchen sink area to alleviate the pounding on my spine and attempted to keep loose items in place. In hindsight, as enjoyable as our stay in the Grand Canyon had been, I wished this had been “The Road Not Taken”. Unluckily, this road was our only choice from our current position to our next.

As horrid were the roads, the beauty of the scenery passed was amazing.  Glen Canyon with a high level of sparkling sky blue waters.

Glen Canyon

Black Hills of Arizona and beautiful stone formations as we neared Utah.

Black Hills AZ  Nearing Best Friends

The Stair Steps mountain formations in Utah

Stair Steps (2)   Stair Steps

A shout-out to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary where we volunteer,

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

and onward into the Red Hills.

Red Stone   Red Hills

A few more hours of travel before we snugly slipped through The Twin Tunnels

The Tunnels

and into the Red Canyon,

Kanab, UT  Red Canyon

rolling out onto the flatlands of the Red Canyon Forest with snow in the distant mountain tops

Red Canyon Forest    Snow on the mountain

and passing more charcoal colored Black Hills.

More Black Hills

Finally, we were approaching Dixie National Forest and approaching our campground in Bryce Canyon City.

Entering Dixie Nat'l Forest   Bryce Canyon City

Early afternoon we arrived at Ruby’s Inn and RV Park. For the next five days and nights we would experience the front-runner of my favorite destinations, the breathtakingly beautiful and mysterious, Bryce Canyon. This visit, I was determined to make the climb down among the Hoodoo’s. Nowhere else in the world do Hoodoo formations exist and I was not going to miss the chance to experience them up close and personal.

As we entered our requested Big Rig pull-through site, I noticed our RV was in close quarters with several trees.

Ruby's RV Park

My excitement over nearing the Canyon stopped momentarily. Commenting to John, we wouldn’t easily be pulling through this site with all the large tree branches hanging down.  I received the typical John response, no worries. Too excited to argue, we set up camp and drove into the park for an afternoon stroll through the Visitors Center.

Bryce Canyon Entrance

After inquiring which trails were less than moderately difficult and being told The Rim Trail, I disregarded common sense choosing to tackle something slightly above my ability. Back at LilyPad, clothes laid out for an early rise, I slept with dreams of hide-and-seeking around Hoodoos.

Next morning my eyes popped open early, we dressed for hiking and were off to the trailhead. Caution thrown to the wind, I set my goal on trekking the Navajo Trail. The hike was approximately a mile of switchbacks descending nearly 590 feet down to the relatively flat lands among the Hoodoos.  The first set of switchbacks appeared less strenuous as seen from the trailhead.

Start and first set of switchbacks

I kept my eyes glued to the dirt and gravel path knowing a wobble or stumble might send me over the edge, reaching the canyon floor quicker albeit less comfortably than planned.  The second set of switchbacks were steeper but shorter in length.

Second set of switchbacks (2)

Periodically stopping on switchbacks to take in the view, concentrating on the steep climb downward, I had to remind myself, there were no elevators at the bottom for returning to the Rim. We forged downward, John slightly ahead.

Reaching the bottom, we rested under shade of tall pines and strolled along the flat path.  Neck craned skyward, I marveled at the gigantic hoodoo’s and their compressed through the ages sandstone stripes of fascinating multi earthen colors.

Down among the Hoodoos

Documenting our accomplishment with a Hoodoo Kodak Moment and gathering up as much determination as I had left, we began the long steep upward climb.

Bottom looking up

If I had possessed the ability to balance, we would have continued through Queens Garden but the sheer drop offs on either side of the trail, no guard rails with which to grasp, had scared any chance of continuing completely out of my mind.  Next visit, with two walking sticks, Queens Garden shall be conquered.

The switchbacks rising back up to the Rim Trail were as steep as expected but the view was extraordinary.

Half way up Navajo Trail

Slow and steady, resting at several bends with other elderly folks, the top came into view.

Switchbacks were steep

Nearing the lengthy set of second tier switchbacks, Thor’s Hammer appeared before us.  I snapped a close up picture to show details.

Thors Hammer    Close up of Thors Hammer

Coming within one final stretch of the Rim Trail, I glanced back down to measure my progress.

Switch backs

At the trail head, perched on the Rim Trail wooden bench seats, John admitted he had worried I wouldn’t make the climb back out.  Dusty, hot and thirsty yet joyfully exhilarated that a major Bucket List item of mine had been conquered, I was happy I made it out unscathed.

Resting and catching our breath, we looked across the canyon and spotted Inspiration Point, the highest elevation in the park.

Insp Pt from Navajo trail

In the morning, John and I would make the hike up and John would join me in looking out from the Point for his first time. Our previous visit, John stayed with KatieBug when I hiked up alone as dogs were not allowed on the dirt trails.   This visit, KatieBug would be snug as a bug in a/c while DH (the initials we use for dear husband on RV forums)  climbed with me to the top.

Back at LilyPad, after a hot shower and a lite dinner, we drove back into the park and walked out to Sunset Point for the view.

Sunset Point at sunset

Dozens of visitors from around the world joined the stroll along the Rim Trail.  When we arrived at the overlook, a couple from India sat next to me. A group of Germans were chatting and laughing while snapping selfies and group shots of the Canyon view. A large Asian family was having dinner at the rangers presentation area while waiting for the sun to set. The extensive assortment of foreign chatter brought back memories of walking along the Woodlands Waterway in our home town.

Sunset views were not exactly what I had expected but the night was mild, the air was clear and clean so John and I sat near the rim and watched until the sun disappeared. A memorable day followed by a peaceful night.

 

Refreshed and ready for another adventure, this morning John and I would hike to Upper Inspiration Point together. Breakfast first, then getting KatieBug settled before leaving, the ride to the parking lot was brief.  The elevation rise is less than walking among the hoodoo’s but the grade is steeper in the 200 foot climb.  I inched slowly upward, passing several ladies perched on the fence beside the trail, several refusing to go further. Knowing how amazing the view, I rested then continued on, John slightly up ahead waiting for me.  The view from the top is stunning, multi hued Hoodoo’s jutting out of the canyon floor.  The Point looks down into Bryce Amphitheater, the largest grandest and most colorful natural amphitheater.

Inspiration Point 1 8100Inspiration Point 2Inspiration Point 3

Crowds preceded us so we waited our turn then gazed out over the extensive view.  One can truly appreciated the depth of the canyon after having walked on the canyon floor.  Pictures do not portray its magnificence, stretching outward into forever.

Slowly making our decent down the mountain side by side, we sat in the car resting before the drive back to LilyPad.

Bryce Canyon has visitors from around the world but parked in front of our car was a tour bus from Campbell California, the town in which I grew up.  With each year that passes while we roll on, the world becomes smaller.

Campbell CA

Before reaching home, we paused to watch the endangered Prairie Dogs popping in and out of their burrows.

Endangered Prairie Dogs

Another open field had Mule Deer grazing.

Mule Deer

My frame of mind was not in a cooking mood so we dined at Ruby’s Buffet and Steak Room Restaurant. Plenty of healthy choices and reasonably priced.  Afterwards, a short walk with KatieBug and to all a good night.

 

This morning I slept late while John enjoyed an early bike ride along the trails.  When he returned, we finished our everyday chores, escaping in the afternoon for a visit to a few must-see overlooks, areas all reachable via walking The Rim Trail.

Fairyland Canyon

Fairyland Canyon 1Fairyland Canyon 2Fairyland Canyon 3

Natural Bridge

Natural Bridge 8627

We passed a large section of burnt trees from a forest fire on the edge of the park.

Forest Fire

Farview Point is located near the end of the park canyon road.

Farview Point 8819

Mule Deer out for an evening veggie bite.

Mule Deer with horns

I have mentioned this before but it bears repeating. The Senior America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass is one of the best deals the government offers. Both John and I bought one as it is only good for the person who purchases the pass. Considering the daily entrance fee for Bryce alone, we saved $120.000 over our near weeklong stay.

Canyon Fees

Out of the park, into LilyPad and asleep by 9:00 pm.

 

Another day of cool mornings and restful afternoon visits to Bryce Canyon. Stopping to visit The Bryce Canyon Lodge, we marveled at the beautiful vintage structure.  Our visits to national parks require a look-see at the interior details.

A short walk to the entrance.

The Lodge

Inside, the omnipresent focal point stone fireplace facing ample cozy cushy couches, a gift shop with a full range of items for sale and a restaurant.

Grand Lodge Fireplace

Driving back to LilyPad we spotted more local mule deer out grazing.  Note to self, check KatieBug thoroughly for deer ticks.

Mule Deer in pm

Tonight we pack up for our early morning roll out.

 

Becoming our tradition, the exit was delayed over an hour. When we slowly began to sneak out from under the trees, LilyPad got caught up in the overhanging tree branches. Armed with a ladder and hack saw, John attempted to free us of the small branches but waited while I summoned the Park maintenance men to chain saw us out of the big tree limbs.

Stuck again

I called and spoke with the manager to express my dissatisfaction of putting us in a site too narrow and branches too low for an exit without tree damage. I reminded them I had called on several occasions before arriving to confirm they were aware of our height and width.  When we arrived, I mentioned my concerns but was told “no problem, you will fit fine”. After getting caught up in the overhead Pine limbs, I gave the manager my opinion of their casual disregard of damage we would suffer to our full time home. Suggesting they may want to designate appropriate sites for larger rigs, I asked that she please not include the site she had given us. After the chain saws set us free from the branches, we hooked up and left.

Traveling via the Old Spanish Trail, the scenic views closely resembled those we had seen over the past few weeks.

Old Spanish Trail

Over more flatlands, twisting through mountains and rolling back out onto flatlands.  Hot as the weather we were experiencing had been, snow on the distant white capped mountain tops still teased us into the belief we would eventually reach cooler weather.

Twisting through the mountains   Snow on the mountains

Our next stop would be St. George for nearly a week. We were staying at the St. George Elks Lodge, electricity only, not a problem for our fully self- contained LilyPad.

The St George Elks lodge

Temperatures pushing 100 plus, the weak 50 amps struggled to cool us off so during the hottest part of the day, we used our generator to keep KatieBug a cool pug-bug.

The first day we rested. I searched TripAdvisor to plan a few outings, the first being to satisfy my craving for anything “religion or church”. We were in The Church of the Latter Day Saints territory. Tomorrow we would visit the church and other local sites.

Relaxing under the shadow of the red rocks of Utah, we watched as the Elks Lodge RV Park filled to capacity under a setting sun. John walked to the Lodge bar for an evening nip, took KatieBug out to potty and we fell asleep to local TV.

St. George Elks Lodge site

After breakfast next morning, we drove to town. Our first stop was St. George Tabernacle, closed for remodeling.

St. George Tabernacle

Parking across the street under cover of shade trees, we momentarily entertained ourselves watching mom’s, dad’s and children playing in the adjacent water park.

Town water park

The LDS Temple complex can be seen from almost any point in town, brilliantly white and gleaming. The Temple, with its tall slender steeple, radiated in the sun and complimented the deep red and brown hues of the mountains.

LDS From the hills

Although they didn’t allow us to enter the church, their Visitors Center had pictures of the temple interior, a senior volunteer gentleman showed us the history in pictures and a young recent high school graduate volunteer guided us through, answering questions along the way.

LDS Temple

We listened to a video speech of the Second Counselor and peeked at a play town with videos showing subjects dedicated to children.

Childrens video's

Sitting for a short religious talk in front of a giant statue of Jesus before our departure, we had been warned by other TripAdvisor reviewers not to give out our address at any time during the tour. Not a problem for us, we live on the roll so not even the LDS can track us down!

Jesus Statue

Their hierarchy listed First President and Profit, First and Second Counselor and a Quorum of 12 apostles, somewhat familiar for John and I, both of us being Catholics.

Speaking with the young lady, we learned she volunteered for 18 months, the place being chosen by elders.  For her, St. George Utah was their choice. She was friendly, informative, genuinely happy to be of service to visitors wandering into the center.

One unusual piece of trivia told to us about how nearby Flood Street got its name.  The Temple was built on top of underground springs.  When rains filled the springs, they had to pump the water down the street.  It kept the name Flood Street although water is no longer pumped out into the street.

Flood Street

Thanking, then leaving the company of our young tour guide, we departed for our next destination, St. George Dinosaurs Discovery Site.

St. George Dinosaur Discovery

In the parking lot, a two story Century Plant, appropriate landscaping.

Agave plant

The museum gift shop is well stocked.  Introduction to the museum comes in the form of a short video.  Inside are hundreds of dinosaur footprints preserved on the original site of discovery.  After paying our nominal senior price and sitting through the short video, we walked up the ramp.

Inside the museum

Up the incline, we found ourselves walking alongside Jurassic muds with dinosaur foot prints forever imprinted in sandstone.  Some dinosaurs were running,

Tracks of running

some were walking,

Largest single specimen of dino tracks

a Eubrontes was in a sitting position,

Eubrontes  Sitting Eubrontes

one showing swimming prints,

Dino swim tracks

and all were incredible.  The docents were extremely knowledgeable, full of fascinating facts, willing and able to go into detail when answering questions.

A total Do-Not-Touch area, there were up close and personal footprints at the entrance.

Dino Foot  DSC_3347

We found the plant for which our LilyPad was named but no toad.

A LilyPad

Scanning through the hundreds of dinosaur footprints, John found a small print of a baby dinosaur.

Baby dino prints

One of the cases displayed 100 million year old teeth.

100 Million year old teeth

The idea for the museum began when Dr. Sheldon Johnson was leveling an area of his property.  After removing large blocks of sedimentary rock, he began tearing up the sandstone in large blocks.  While doing so, he discovered three-dimensionally preserved dinosaur tracks. They were significant enough for the excavation to continue and the findings would be used to start the museum.

The sandstone and mudstone formed almost 200 million years ago on the shores of an ancient lake in the vicinity of St. George.

Layers of the tracks

The discovery was the first of thousands of well-preserved indentions of dinosaur tracks, plants, fossil fish, shells of small aquatic animals, seeds of plants and rare dinosaur remains.  Below is a Semionotid fish fossil, nearly complete.  Its body covered with heavy enamel-coated diamond shaped scales.

Semionotid fish fossil with scales

In the rear of the museum, behind a glass wall, lab volunteers prepare finds for research and display.  Below is a Phytosaur skull found at another site and brought here for preparation.

Phytosaur scull

Also containing invertebrates traces and important sedimentary structures, the site has been described as “one of the best dinosaur track sites in the world”, one of the most important discoveries in Early Jurassic paleontological history.

Back wall 1   Back wall 2

Near the gift shop were touchable dinosaur related items, some real but some obviously plastic.  A fun area for the kid in all of us to encounter a tactile experience.

Bone pieces to touch

There were several enclosed cases.  One contained fragments of fossils, allowable to collect for personal use.

Fragments

Another case held Jurassic backbones and ribs from an aquatic dinosaur.

Backbone and ribs

Having had a dose of the Heavens and walking where dinosaurs roamed the Earth, we drove back home to cool down, unwind and keep the sweltering desert sun from boiling our brains.  Tomorrow morning we will stroll through the Red Hills Desert Gardens.

 

The desert is best tolerated in the morning before heat turns walkways into bar-b-q grills.  The Red Hills Desert Gardens are a slice of land banked by the sandstone hills and skirting the highway. The forecast was for another scorcher, not good for fur baby paws.  KatieBug took her position as guard dog of our LilyPad while we drove off to explore the Gardens.  No crowds, the gardens were ours exclusively.

Red Hills Desert Garden

Climbing downstairs for a look at the fish, we realized the tanks must be difficult to keep clean with the heat and sun shining through the glass.  There was so much green algae, nothing fishlike appeared to be in the tanks.

Virgin River Fish tank

The paths were cement, clean, level and  easy to walk along.  In tepid weather the Gardens would be enjoyable to visit any time of the day.

Flowering path   Overlooking the water

Stopping to smell the bright yellow flowers, we watched several types of bees fly in for pollen.  I backed slowly away but they showed no interest in us.

Several types of bees

Several shaded swings provided rest stops along the pathways.

John on one of the swings

One of the gravel paths crossed a stream with tiny fish squirming through the shallow mucky bottom waters.

Path over water

A few sections had names posted of several prominent desert families of plants.  They grew more types of aloe than I knew existed.

Agave Hesperaloe

Flowering

The sun was merciless but blooms were brilliantly colored and thriving.

Lots of color   Cactus flower

My favorite plant in the garden was the chocolate plant.  The aroma was heavenly.

Chocolate Flower

Back home to cool down and begin the process of preparing for departure in the morning.  After five years, the time assigned for the task hasn’t declined.

 

Leaving the desert sands, we navigated our 65 feet long home and car between mammoth peaks and valleys holding a thousand years of prehistoric fossils between their layers. Remembering the mud prints of Jurassic dinosaurs, I could imagine herds of Scelidosaurus, Dilophosaurus and Megapnosaurus wandering through the area leaving behind tracks and traces of their lives pressed between layers of earth for humans to one day uncover and display to future generations.

Mountains    through the mountains

The river trickled along the roadside until we left the mountains and flat sandy desert lands spread out before us.  One turn before pointing LilyPad’s direction towards Las Vegas.

River alongside

Sandy loam, as far as sight could see, with Joshua Trees dotting the landscape until we neared the voracious electricity consuming town of bright lights, gambling and “whatever happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”.

Joshua Trees

The long thin black line that appears to separate tan desert sands from layered rock mountains, banded unceasingly across the desert, are masses of solar panels for the ravenous appetite of neon nightlights required by “sin city”. I couldn’t begin to imagine the price tag for the utilities each casino complex consumes daily.

Solar fields   Vegas Skyline

Our next two weeks will be spent in 105 to 112 degrees of dry heat during the day and cooling to a mild 80 to 90 degrees at night. We jumped from Houston’s frying pan temperatures into Nevada’s and California’s burning desert fires.

I thought I was over being surprised by the differences one experiences when living in a motorhome compared to a sticks-n-bricks home but I was wrong. Taking a shower one afternoon, I waited a seemingly endless amount of time for the water, which I had entirely twisted in the cold position, to become less scorching but refreshingly cool was not arriving.  I soon realized if it is 112 outside, your entire water tank will be hot so cold is not an option.

We set up house at Las Vegas RV Park, away from any road noise and tucked securely behind solid stone walls topped with barbed wire and a full time 24 hour gate keeper. The high crime rate of the area and the dismal poverty level becomes intimidating if you look closely. The city ignores derelicts, not bothering to remove drunks who pass out in front of neighborhood grocery store entrance doors. In the heat, the stench is overpowering.

Our first venture out will be an afternoon trip to the Downtown Container Park and a daytime visit to Fremont Street.

Container Park

The concept of a container park is a brilliant idea. Sturdy, easy care, recycled containers put to use as shops, eateries and outdoor bars. In the middle, a giant play area for children and in the rear, a stage for outdoor entertainment.

Containers

At the entrance sits a giant praying mantis and at night, we were told it shoots fire.

Praying Mantis

Near the mantis, a huge red heart iron sculpture art piece with hundreds of love locks attached within its metal boundaries.

Metal heart and locks

We wandered through the enclosed area realizing daytime was not prime time to see the rock and roll activity of Vegas bar scenes. Most stores were open, my favorite being San Miguel Collection. A houseful of this décor would entirely fit my personality.

San Miguel Collection

Fremont Street was a short two block walk down from the Container Park. Prominently displayed mid-street were vintage refurbished signs, those I remembered from my early adult years when John and I frequented Vegas.

Vintage Vegas Sign  Vintage Vegas Signs  Vintage Vegas

Wacky, wild, slightly obscene but the perfect place for people watching, we strolled down the no auto pedestrian friendly “Strip” at a relaxed pace.

One of the stranger sights, the Heart Attack Grill restaurant offering people over 350 pounds to eat for free.

Heart Attack Grill

Thrill seekers were zip lining high above Fremont Street,

Zip Lines over Fremont Street

Partially dressed entertainers vying for attention.

Dressing up less is more   Fremont Street Entertainers

Magicians floating in air, all were part of the bewitchery of old Las Vegas

Magician floating

This year, because of the heat, we didn’t venture onto the strip.  Walking long distances for hours, even in the cooler 90 degree night heat, for me was flirting with heat stroke.

 

Back to LilyPad with groceries, the temperatures kept me inside the balance of the day. As the sun began to set, we dressed for our nighttime dinner date.  Hugo’s at the Four Queens on Freemont Street is my favorite Italian splurge whenever we visit Las Vegas. It remains one of my fondest memories of our visits to Las Vegas during the conferences John attended for 10 plus years while employed by GeoSouthern Energy.

Candle lit tables in cozy bricked alcoves, sharing a bottle of Argentine Malbec, exceptional service,  knowledgeable and entertaining career sommelier, salad prepared tableside with a dozen choices of add-ins, raspberry sorbet to cleanse the pallet, fresh sweet perfectly grilled seafood and gratis chocolate dipped fresh and dried fruit to end another unforgettable dining experience.

 

This morning we were off to tour the home and horse stables of Mr. Las Vegas. I had purchased Groupon tickets for the Diamond Tour of Wayne Newton’s Casa de Shenandoah.  The style of the front gates set the tone of the tour.  Casa de Shenandoah, meaning house of beauty, has welcomed presidents, kings and countless celebrities.The 52 landscaped acre grounds are a manicured perfection in tranquility.

Entrance gates

Opened to the public in 2015, the tour reveals acres of beautifully landscaped grounds, several artesian wells bubbling up in the lake as the water supply, a mansion, guest homes, barns, arenas and a collection of exotic animals, all originally completed in 1976. Modest for Vegas, the mansion and some areas are open for tours.

The draw for me was seeing his Aramus Arabian stables and horses.

Aramus Arabians stables   The stalls

We toured the immaculate stables, then watched an exercise session with an informative explanation by the tour guide.

Arabian exercizing   the exercize pond

One of his younger horses was brought out into the arena and his spirited prancing and alert pose provided excellent Kodak Moments.

Running the Arabian       eye makeup

We toured Wayne Newton’s modest 1950’s original home where he, his older brother and parents lived.  Wayne began his singing career as a child.  He sang with his older brother until the 1960’s when he sang a solo song written originally for Bobby Darin.  After hearing Newton sing, Darin insisted that Newton sing the song, “Danke Schoen” and at the age of 21, his solo career began.

The entrance to the home is elaborate, the house well furnished but comfortably down to earth.  His father began with five acres and the original home, purchasing land as it became available.  Our tour guide told us the family loved to entertain.  There was a pool in the yard and an extensive workout room in the rear of the house.

50's entrance   50's den

The living room was formal and contained many personal items belonging to the family.

50's livingroom

His collection of exotic animals was our next stop.  Although there were dozens, I took photo’s of my favorite.  The enclosures were clean, roomy and designed for the protection and comfort of each animal.

One of the Wallaby’s was bouncing happily around his area but stopped to stare while I took his picture.

Wallaby

I love the looks of the African Crane.  There were two, but only one wanted to pose.

African Crane

The Capuchin monkey Boo and his dog were my favorite.  Boo walks the dog around on a leash and they live together in a huge enclosure with everything a monkey and his dog could ever want or need.  Neither were interested in us or the tour guide.

Boo and his dog

The grounds had several peacocks, brought in by a past guest and are allowed to stay or go, whichever they chose.  The white peacock is rare and not an albino.

grounds peacock  white peacock

A short cart ride away, we arrived at the mansion.  Although Wayne no longer lives here full time, he visits daily.  This mansion has glitz and glamor, rare wood ceilings, crystal, secret rooms, what you would expect of Mr. Vegas but not enormous in size.  A grand entrance and exquisite Baccarat and Waterford crystal chandeliers welcomes you into the living room.  For safety, the gorgeous crystal banisters to upstairs had to be replaced with metal before opening the mansion to the public.

Casa de Shenandoah    The mansion livingroom

Warm and expansive, the dining room is set with Waterford crystal and 14-karat gold leaf chinaware personally designed and signed by Mr. Newton.

Wayne's gold dinnerware    Wayne's custom dinnerware

The custom chefs kitchen is small but packed with every necessity for entertaining.

Catering kitchen

An impressive heart shaped pool can be seen through the living room windows.

Big House heart shape pool

The house contains many rare original artworks including Renoir, Van Gogh and Keane.

Rare art  Keane drawings

Newton purchased several of Keane’s paintings after learning the wife was the actual painter.  She was grateful for his support and painted a picture of his animals as a gift.

Keane of Waynes animals

A rare antique billiard table from India, complete with Baccarat crystal legs, sat in the room nearest the living room.

Crystal pool table

Red Skelton’s famous clown paintings, with beloved Lucile Ball painted as a clown, decorated one wall in the billiard room.

Red Skelton's paintings

The “Red Room”, his office, contains memento’s ranging from a flag flown over the Alamo in his honor, his portrait on a Wheaties box and robes for knighthood, two showing in the background. His collection includes pictures taken with presidents, kings, statesmen and movie stars.

Wayne's Red Room   Flag over TX for Wayne

The museum was our last stop. Wayne’s life is entwined with the history of Las Vegas, his family first, then his home for so many decades.  The people he has helped, those who he befriended, all the kindness he has shown throughout his career have filled his warehouses with incredible memories but only so many will fit in the museum at one time.

His car collection is extensive and includes a station wagon from a friend who he teased about using it to drive around on shopping trips.

The car collection

Lucile Ball left the station wagon to him in her will and it is displayed with love, next to the others in his collection.

Lucy's shopping car

Stage props, the boat from On Golden Pond and Vivian Leigh’s couch in Gone With The Wind are a few of his collection pieces.

Film props

Not having much knowledge of Wayne Newton outside my mother being a fan and having seen him several times, our guide provided enough information for us to realize what a generous, giving person he is, still performing to this day several times a week and continuing his tradition of honoring our American service men.

We toured his former plane, his museum and viewed some of his memento’s of the performances he gives to service men overseas, spanning several decades.  Below are some of his USO jackets and a few award cabinets.

Wayne's USO jackets   Awards and recognitions

Wayne Newton is still admired by thousands of loyal fans, continues to entertain crowds and is truly Mr. Las Vegas.  As we left the grounds, we decided our next visit to Las Vegas would include one of his performances, now enjoyed with a greater understanding of the person behind the performer.

Our nighttime entertainment is Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson One. Thoroughly enjoyable for me, a longtime Michael Jackson fan, acceptable as entertainment for John. A walk around the casino to stretch out after sitting down for an extended length of time and back home for the night.

 

Today will be dedicated to cleaning and preparing for the next leg of our journey. Shopping, laundry, checking fluid levels and air pressures, securing anything that may become airborne and plotting our route, all to be completed before bedtime.

 

Bye, Bye Sin City, hello California.  Rising early to beat the 100 plus degree heat destined to torch its way across Nevada, we turned onto Interstate 15, the highway that stretches across hundreds of miles of arid rain-shadow desert and set the navigation for Boron, Southern California, the home of 20 Mule Team Borax.

Interstate 15, a.k.a. Mojave Freeway, crosses the torrid valleys of the Mojave Desert, the driest desert in North America. Little more than sand, rock and scrub brush with wind distressed landscapes and mountains off in the distance, stepping outside will cause a sweltering heat flush stronger than a major menopausal hot flash.

Said to parallel the approximate route taken by Mormon pioneers traveling from Salt Lake City to San Bernardino, it is unimaginable how anything alive would survive this heat using a cart, equine drawn, as their mode of transportation.

Swales, ditches cleared to direct water flow, appear every mile or so, running under the road and out into the Mojave National Preserve. Whoever in San Bernardino County named these ditches must have had a humorously jolly outlook on life to dream up so many playfully creative names. Prominently displayed signs with entertaining twisted names were given to the gentle crevices that slightly indented the desert. Names such as Moby Ditch, Bangla Ditch, Sonofa Ditch all provoked a chuckle while rolling across hundreds of miles of parched bare uninhabitable land.

Tonight we will arrive in the town of Boron, near the Mojave Desert, the closest town to the freeway with an easy pull through RV stop for our next set of overnights.  If weather reports of predicted temperatures for the next few weeks are to be trusted, the coming heatwave will make a Texan summer feel practically artic.

On The Road Again April 28th through May 20th 2017 Texas, New Mexico, Arizona

No luck finding a sticks-n-bricks home this year so our search will go back on hold. We still have places to go and people to see. LilyPad has been struggling to get back on the road, temporarily stalled at Conroe KOA in Montgomery TX, while we store unnecessary items, fix whatever needs fixin’ and pack up for travel.

Problems have been plaguing us weekly. No toilet for the past two days. Our “John” sits on the cement pad near our front door. The new toilet sits in what would normally be called the hall, if you can imagine a 350 square foot space having a hall. With everything that has fallen off, snapped off, cracked, split, leaked, torn, smashed, oozed or threw up its hands and said “I give up”, I am at a loss understanding exactly what insanity keeps us willing to roll along for this our fifth year. I’ve been told when something breaks, “Don’t act so surprised…it’s all going to break eventually” but it is still disheartening when motorhome parts fail and darn frustrating when it occurs in inopportune isolated places.  Our LilyPad is beginning to show its age.

We are readying ourselves for our first non workamping cross country trip via Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and returning to Texas for our son’s wedding in October.

Originally scheduled to leave the first of April, our departure was delayed by little inconveniences, the power step bolts falling off, the power step motor failing, the middle a/c screeching and growling, the toilet refusing to flush and the fresh water tank leaking at the water intake. Now at the end of April, our go-to repair shop in Texas, Action RV Repair, has given us the green light to leave their shop without promising a good shake in the road won’t break something else.

On doctor and physical therapist orders, long hours on the road are a travel deal breaker for me so John adjusted our roll time for every other day and less than 5 hours each travel day. I enjoy the “being there”, John enjoys the “getting there”. John is absolutely going to love our trip this year.

Our first stop was Texas Station RV Park in Gatesville, TX. Two overnights to wait out the storm pounding its way through Dallas with a possibility of passing close to us if we continued our pace. The weather reports cautioned strong winds, baseball size hail, tornados, all swirling around the area and landing northeast of where we parked for the night. Staying put will hopefully keep us out of trouble.

TX Station RV Park

 

Travels to our next every-other-day-pause landed us at Ms. G’s In Loraine, TX.

Passing miles of familiar sites, oil fields in the middle of rice fields, tractors churning up endless amounts of dust hanging in the air and seen for miles.  All flat land, considerable amounts of flat land.

Oil Fields  Oil Fields and rice fields

We spotted wind power and ghost towns with curious, seemingly unnecessary warning signs.

Wind power   Hmmm

John had selected our overnights by the driving hours, stopping as close to five hours of driving per day as possible. Tucked into the West Texas oil, rice and cotton              fields, the town of Loraine was a long ago memory of the high cotton and oil boom days, if this area had ever been booming.

Loraine, TX

Our host, a cotton farmer by trade but a self-proclaimed Jack-of-all-trades, built the RV Park by himself. Crushed cement roads, level pads and enough resident feathered friends to delight a mediocre bird watcher like myself, we settled in and watched out our windows for wildlife.

Our site at Ms. G's   Our wild things

We had no plans for our travel-free day but to relax and delight in the quiet. Shortly before sunset I heard a tap-tap-tap somewhere near the bedroom and thought, I hope this isn’t woodpecker country. Asking John to take a look for signs of what it may be, he and KatieBug inspected the grounds but found no signs anywhere near the back window. The possibility of critters invading LilyPad reminded John to order more Fresh Cab, an herbal mouse deterrent we keep in our basement, to be delivered to our next stop, a week-long stay in Santa Fe New Mexico.

Binge watching NetFlix and reveling in the evening silence, we all turned in to bed early. Next morning I heard the tap-tap-tapping even louder. Carefully nearing the window, I opened the night shade in time to see a flurry of wings. Waiting patiently, a little birdy flew at the window, grasping the ledge by its claws and began knocking on the window.

Little birdy in the tree

I opened the day shades and the little birdy jumped to a branch nearby but within a few seconds, he grasped the ledge again.

Little Birdy Tapping

Staring at me face to face, little birdy began tap-tap-tapping away, stopping only to rotate its head from one side to the other to inspect my face before continuing to tap.

Little birdy waiting

Odd little birdy. After about 20 minutes he gave up and joined his buddies in the nearby trees. I noticed the abnormal amount of bird feeders in the trees were all empty. Might have been this little birdy was asking “please mam, I want some more”.

 

Dawn broke and our slightly bumpy, but otherwise without incident, ride to Santa Fe was underway.  Texan flat lands have given way to Spanish styles and influences of New Mexico.

funny signs   We have arrived

The wild deer grazing in open ranges disappeared and rolling hills appeared.

Wild deer    On the way to Santa Fe

Pulling into the campground, we were directed to a site where someone else was parked so John slipped into the next site and set up camp. Not one to move once settled, John phoned and pointedly told them he was staying put.

Santa Fe Skies RV Park

We discovered the decision to stay put in a site with a short and narrow drive-out area would have negative consequences once we were ready to leave but of course, hind sight is always 20/20.

 

The atmosphere of the Santa Fe Skies RV Park was pure Santa Fe. The park was perched on high grounds, neatly trimmed native trees and brush near each site, red brick pavers keeping sandy dirt in place and all surrounded by a walking trail with artistically fashioned metal art pieces placed intermittently from one end of the park to the other.  Everyone had the pleasure of viewing the sculptures.

The cube title:  Twenty Seven China, the trash can:  Recycle Bin.

Walking path   Twenty Seven China   Recycle Bin

At the end of our row: Eat Your Veggies

Eat Your Veggies

 

First morning after arrival we drove into the city for the farmers market and to stop by areas we had visited in previous years. The downtown area market was filled with organic grown produce, raw milk yogurt from goats and cows, spices, beans, ground corn and baked goods.  I bought a glass jar of raw honey goat yogurt and some organic sprouts. Both were incredibly delicious.

Farmers Market  Farmers Market Mircogreens

An Art Festival ran concurrent with the Farmers Market.  A walk across the street brought music to our ears and the creativity of local artists for us to appreciate.  Overly warm, we walked through but didn’t linger.  Shade alluded every corner of the festival with one exception, a few concrete dividing walls near the musician.

The art area   Peaceful music

We met an interesting character during our second Farmers Market visit later in the week.  He travels the Southwest with his musical instruments, conversing more than  performing, eager to engage in political, musical or regional topics.  His transport bike is draped with an intentionally thought provoking flag in US design but corporation symbols instead of stars.

Mode of transportation   Farmers Market musician

Home for the heat of the day and lots of cool water to hydrate.  The heat keeps tagging along where ever we go and won’t understand it is completely uninvited.

My reason for traveling away from Texas has always been the weather, to leave before the heat and humidity rose.  This year we missed the mark by several months. It is hot and dry in Santa Fe and in the direction we were rolling, the heat will easily climb into three digits.  After a few days our sinuses were so dry and irritated we had to bring in humidity.   My gimmick for adding it was a hand towel soaked in water and hung by our Austin Air Filter in our bedroom.  It is tacky and looks trashy but worked perfectly.  Ah, necessity, the mother of invention.

Hydration

Nightfall approaching brought us an amazing sunset.

Our first Santa Fe Sunset

 

Our third night brought treacherous storms.  We had gone to town for a routine shopping trip and were blindsided by hail seconds after stepping outside Walmart.  Outrunning the storm, we quickly returned to LilyPad and watched local TV for weather reports.  Watching out the front window, winds had begun twisting the skies into strange formations.

Here comes the hail   Storm clouds

The rains had not begun so we stepped outside for a peek.  The skies had become an intimidating undulation of dark ominous clouds.  With the TV on to drown out the winds, we settled inside for a night of TV binge watching, fingers crossed that the storm would pass us by.

Waves of the storm

Within an hour, news flashes interrupted the TV, warning everyone to take shelter inside a doorway or underground. Yea, right. Coming in waves, sheets of rain beat across LilyPad’s roof, lengthy electric thunder bolts sliced through the skies finalizing with a pounding that shook our windows. The quarter size hail and five twisters landed in an area west of us. With the ability to see for miles and miles, we watched until darkness fell.  By 11:00 pm it was over.  I breathed a sigh of relief that we had survived it all without damage to anything but KatieBug and my nerves.

 

Up early to finish shopping, we drank in the coolness left behind by the storm and completed the mundane chores necessary to keep two humans and a dog in existence.  Many joyless tasks must be performed to keep life moving forward, no matter where, or in what you live. Hours later, going in and out of grocery, hardware, pet stores and Walmart, we were dragging and ready for nourishment and down time. It is peaceful in the desert at night. Nothing but quiet surrounded by glowing sunsets and an occasional distant call of the wild.

Sunset May 8th

 

Today I rose early to accompany John and KatieBug on their morning walk, camera in hand, Kodak Moments in the making while dozens of art pieces throughout the campground vied for my cameras attention. Someone talented is having way to much fun decorating the desert.

Skyline   A Santa Fe Serpent

Later I learned that many of the pieces were designed by the RV park owner, John Brown. The first piece below is The Heart (2015) with a base made of cement salvage from the Santa Fe Opera House when the elevator was replaced. Much of this talented artists work is constructed from cast-offs.

The Heart   campfire   Cross art

Tucked in a corner of the property are vintage equipment pieces, one of particular interest to John as his brother was Chairman of the Board at Ingersoll Rand before retiring.  The Ingersoll Rand air compressor below was built in 1922. The machine on the right is a 1918 Fairbanks Morris, now used as the communities 4th of July beer can shooter.

Sullivan Co, Ingersol Rand compressor     Fairbanks Morris 1918 4th of july beer can shooter

Lunch at home and KatieBug settled in with the coolness of three air conditioners, a stroll around the town was next on our list.  Streets in town are lined with adobe buildings and bulging with artistic pieces by a variety of skilled artisans.  We ducked in and out of buildings to keep our internal temperature from boiling over.

Town area

A few side streets held a jumble of trinkets from Mexico clustered together on shelves along their walls.

Side street vendors

As night approached, we drove home watching the last rays of the sun disappear behind a cloud.

DSC_2801

 

Suspended at home until the hottest part of the day was behind us, we were ready to explore mission Santuario De Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe.  Built in the last quarter of the 18th century, it is the oldest shrine to our lady of Guadalupe in the US. The mission, statues, grounds and paintings all glorify The Virgin Mary.

The Mission

Hispanic heritage has a strong devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe and was the rationale for building the giant 12 foot statue standing in front of the mission. It is the newest addition to the Santuario de Guadalupe.

The statue stands at the end of the famous Camino Real, the colonial royal road from Mexico City through Chihuahua to the new world, ending in this vicinity. The royal road brought Santa Fe’s Hispanic ancestors here and with them, the holy Catholic faith which includes the love and devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe

The walkway surrounding the statue has a rosary embedded in the cement and surrounds the Virgin Mary’s feet, the cross of the rosary is within a few feet of where she stands.

The Rosary

On the left side of the mission, an alcove and prayer to our Lady Lourdes.

Our Lady of Lourdes

Minimalistic and reverent the mission suffered severe architectural modifications in the 1880’s, 1920’s and then was vacant for 14 years.  Revived in 1976 through grants from the Guadeloupe Historic Foundation, the building and grounds were renovated as close to the original as possible.

Mission Alter      back of the mission

Inside the mission, a print of Juan Diego’s tilma (cloak), depicting the miracle of 1531.  Pope John Paul II declared Blessed Juan Diego the greatest evangelist of all times.

Print of the cloak

A wood carving of Our Lady of Guadeloupe and of Juan Diego.

Our Lady of Guadalupe wood carving   DSC_2836

While the mission remained in disrepair and unused, a new church was built on the rear grounds to serve the expanding needs of the parish.  The alter is simple and the surrounding paintings, done by local artists, are in commemoration of the apparitions of Mary to the Aztec peasant Juan Diego.  In the narthex, a beautiful carved indoor rose garden.

Church alter   Juan Diego     Indoor rose garden

The outside wall of the church has a tile rendition of Our Lady of Guadeloupe.

Our Lady of Guadalupe in Tile

After the mission we drove back into town and walked through the village. Rainbow Man Shop was touted on TripAdvisor as the premier stop for shopping in town so we browsed the wares, all excellent pieces of art, jewelry and fine souvenirs but passed up adding anything to LilyPad that would have to be saved for our stored collection back home.

Main Street ended at St. Francis of Assisi Cathedral. The church was filled with second graders in full church dress from their ceremony.  This morning, all had completed the third of seven sacraments received by Catholic young men and women, First Holy Communion. Inside was cool but crowded and we were told the doors would lock in five minutes. Two quick clicks of the camera to catch some of its splendor and we exited.

Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi 1961  rear stained glass 

With the dry heat and hills, walking along sidewalks was unappealing so I suggested John drive us through Canyon Road Art Road. Nothing brilliant turned our heads as we drove so we didn’t stop, instead wandering the area appreciating the Spanish architecture of the well kept vintage homes.

Back to LilyPad to relax and prepare for our next journey. We will pause overnight in Gallup New Mexico, amid Native American Indian country.  A final toast, with glasses of Cabernet, to Santa Fe’s  stunning sunsets and then bedtime.

Our last Santa Fe Sunset

 

As expected, our morning exit came and bite John in the tush for his determination to stay put in this site upon arrival.  Our length swung out further than possible to to make the turn and we hit the proverbial brick wall with the trailer tires.  Backing up, another pause while John took the car off, took the trailer off LilyPad, I pulled LilyPad out on the road and repeated a procedure that was happening, in my mind, too often.  Without Kodak Moment documentation, John conveniently forgets the repetition of these predicaments.  Retired yes, but expending unnecessary energy when a quick phone call would have put us in an appropriate site at the get-go is a better use of energy.

Unfortunate exit   stuck

Hooked up and rolling, we noticed snow white topped mountains in the distance.

Snow on the mountain

Mile after mile of dry, scrub brush covered landscape, not a single sighting of wildlife along the way.

to gallup (4)  to gallup (2)

Nearing Gallup, the terrain has remained parched with rolls of volcanic rock worming through the land like giant gopher tunnels.

giant gopher mounds   volcanic rock

We passed dozens of cluster homes, each having a Navajo traditional Hogan, a five sided structure often used as a spiritual meeting place.

Hogans    Lots of Hogans

Roads were intermittently disheveled so John slowed to 30 mph over several areas to keep from snapping or breaking off any necessary parts of the motorhome and car.

Arriving in Gallup New Mexico at USA RV Park, we set down LilyPad’s stabilizers and left to explore.

USA RV Park, Gallop NM

If you are old enough to have traveled across Route 66 as a youth and remember “Get Your Kicks on Route 66”, the town of Gallup New Mexico will quickly retrieve the memories of those road trips and the fun of reading catchy Burma Shave signs along the way.

Route 66

If you are too young to remember Burma Shave, it was an American brand of shaving cream, famous for its gimmicky advertising, posting rhyming sequential highway roadside signs along American roadways.

A quick scout around town, then back before the evening sunset.

Gallup Sunset

Learning of the Gallup Flea Market from TripAdvisor, next morning we set our course for the Market knowing there would be a few side steps before our arrival. Local sights that are of interest to either of us are rarely passed by.

John stopped on the side of the road for me to do my Kodak Moment thing at the “Bend in the Road”. Aptly named.

Bend in the Road

The flea market was a long wide particle of bare hard packed and dusty land running along side the rail road tracks, metal frames topped with white v-shaped tarps stretched over each stand. Seconds after we exited the car it was clear this was where the locals shopped.  If there were Gringo’s in the market, I didn’t spot any.

Flea Market

So much to see! Pony rides for the kids, stands with handmade jewelry, clothing, fruit and veggie stands, lunch food stands, tools, furniture and junk.  Lots and lots of junk.

Pony rides at the Market   Gallup Flea Market

We walked up and down the aisles, eyed a few jewelry pieces, purchased cherries and munched them all the way back to the car. Shutting the door just in time, a gust of wind whipped up several dirt devils and the market blurred in a cloud of dust.  One grocery stop for supplies and back to LilyPad for the night.

 

Sleeping in but up in time to dine out for our morning meal, our destination was a short drive down Route 66 to the famous El Rancho Hotel.

El Rancho on Route 66

Built in 1937 as interim housing for many Hollywood movie stars, the El Rancho Hotel still stands, a tribute to the days of wild west movies and bigger than life movie stars. Its location on Route 66 caused it to fall into decline with the opening of Interstate 40. Armand Ortega purchased and restored the property and today it remains an interesting wayside stop for visitors to the Gallup area.

Hotel El Rancho

We had breakfast at the café, poked around downstairs in the Lodge style lobby of Navajo décor before climbing upstairs to check out the glossies of famous movie stars from the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s.

Lower floor   Up stairs

There was an impressive list of stars who made the hotel their temporary home including Ronald Regan, Jane Wyman, Spencer Tracy, Kirk Douglas, Katharine Hepburn and John Wayne.

The current owner kept the rooms of the stars frozen in time and displayed a variety of vintage items spread throughout the hotel.

Cigarette machine

After our glimpse of times past, we drove home and readied the household for travel in the morning.

 

Grand Canyon Arizona is the next long break in our journey. May is the windiest time of the year for the Canyon area and its velocity is ferocious. John struggled to keep us on the road and 18 wheelers swerved and swayed across the two northbound lanes. Signs warned of high wind areas for the next 60 miles, then again for another 40, then again for another 80 and we slowed each time to keep our 8 wheels from drifting over the lines. We were passing a lot of nothingness with only a few changes in scenery.  Stressful driving, John took a break in a huge parking lot of a roadside store.  They offered a stunning selection of Native American Indian jewelry, all too rich for my blood.

Indian city Gift Shop

A pause in the scenery, Diablo Canyon, more a jagged crevice or deep ditch than a canyon but it did break up the sameness of the horizontal and dried up earth.

Canyon Diablo

The only positive thought for the extended pancake flat highway travel is our memory of the wondrous beauty displayed when gazing out over the canyon.  Anticipation grew until the Williams sign came into view.  We had arrived.

Entering Williams

The RV Park was included in the Grand Canyon Railway and Hotel and we arrived late afternoon.  Williams is a small comfortable town with an generous array of touristy shops and restaurants.  The major grocer is Safeway and it carries any necessities we might need.

Cafe 66  Downtown Williams

In the town of Williams, vintage is respected and refurbished instead of demolished and rebuilt.

Along Route 66   Grand Canyon Hotel

After settling, we checked the weather reports. During our stay there will be high’s in the mid 50’s, low’s in the 30’s, winds 25 mph with gusts up to 45 mph. We have been warned by the RV office to keep our awnings closed and after the 10:30 train rolled past, John pulled in one of our bedroom slides as a precaution to keep the topper from ripping off. We were very appreciative of their warning.

Grand Canyon Railway RV Park

We read TripAdvisor reviews to decide which Grand Canyon train car option to purchase and decided on Dome Class.

Rising early next morning, we dropped KatieBug off at the Railroad Kennel. Visiting the kennel the previous day, we found it to be the cleanest kennel with the friendliest staff we’ve ever seen, Disney World Pet Resort included. Staff was attentive, happy and knew each dog by name. The price included a roomy indoor/outdoor area for each guest and a comfy bed. Picky as I am about where our fur baby stays, I was completely at ease leaving KatieBug here for the day.

When we picked up our train tickets, I questioned the sales person about entering and exiting the train and the type of seats we purchased. Having difficulty with high steps, I was told the train had stools for entering and exiting.

Arriving a few minutes early at the train station, we waited with the crowds, skipping the pre-ride western gun fight show and entered our train car.   Up the short flight of stairs to the Dome Car, the platform rise to sit down was so high, John had to pull me up. After sitting in the uncomfortable bucket seat with marginal leg room, the hot sun beating down on our heads, the glare from the tint on the windows making it impossible to take pictures, I returned to the lower level.

Below was the lesser expensive First Class seats.  I found an unoccupied quad seat area to sit and later John joined me in the big wide comfortable seats.  When our Dome Seat entertainer began his set of music, I quickly took a picture and returned to the lower level.

Guitar entertainment

For a lower class, the clear views out the wide windows with ample leg room, the comfort of these seats was far superior. Having a friendly family as our neighbor was an added bonus. This was going to be an OK two and one half hour ride after all.

In conversation with our neighbors, the hubby had originally wanted the Dome Class so we told him he was more than welcome to go on up. He spent time with each of his youngsters in the Dome but admitted it was not as comfortable and the sun was hot. We spent the rest of the ride chatting and being entertained by their active happy six year old twin boys.

The train ride served lite breakfast snacks and we were serenaded by the Dome Class cowboy and his guitar for a portion of our ride.  Looking out our window, I caught a photo of our engine tugging all the cars down the track.

Our train

The round trip ride was five hours total and we were allowed three hours in-between to hike, lunch and view the canyon before returning to our train car for the ride back. Having contacted the depot about our inability to use the Dome car seats, we were assured another area would be available to us on the return trip.

Arriving at the canyon, we had planned to wander along the Rim Trail from the rail station to Bright Angel Trailhead, have lunch at the Arizona Room, drop into a few of the shops and head back down to the rail station. The weather was overcast and windy but walking kept us warm and the view was oh so magnificent.

Grand Canyon

Squirrels on nearby tree branches hung over the canyon and Chipmunks sitting on the canyon’s stone walls competed for attention and begged for food. Signs along the paths warned not to feed any of the animals but from their reactions to visitors, I would guess they get lots of treats.

Brave Squirrels   Chipmunk

We walked the Rim Trail to the Kolb Studio Art and History Exhibits. Stepping inside, passing up the gift shop items, we walked downstairs to explore the museum and learn about the history of the Kolb Brothers family.

The Kolb brothers 1905 Victorian home sits on the rim of the canyon. Operated by Emery Kolb until his death in 1976, the home is now operated as a book store and information center by the Grand Canyon Association, a non-profit organization.

Kolb Studio

Out the back door of the second level is an outlook with an amazing view of the canyon, still as much wilderness as when the Kolb’s lived here in the early 1900’s.  I noticed after arranging Grand Canyon photo’s, unless you hike down to the canyon floor or drive to another area, most of the views out the South Rim look identical.

The Grand Canyon

The Kolb brothers created a photographic legacy of their adventures and explorations.  In a small corner of the gift shop, a movie shows continual films of the early exploration days.

Downstairs the museum contains pictures, paintings and a collection of items from their early river expeditions.

Inside Kolb Studio

Their portable boat, 125 pounds and considered light for that era, is displayed along with several other items they used for water travel.

125 pound portable canoe

Blanch Kolb’s silver set was part of her household even though she lived in a frontier village. I understand her determination to keep some luxuries in her possession.  Sometimes you need pretty shiny things to keep your sanity.

Blanch Kolbs silver

Across the path was Buckey’s Cabin, the only remaining building from the early pioneer settlement of the Grand Canyon Village of 1895. Built by William Owen “Buckey” O’Neil with v-notch logs, rough mortar and a native stone chimney, he and his wife lived in this rustic home while they operated a small hotel on the South Rim.

Buckys Cabin

At the outbreak of the Spanish-American war, Buckey signed up and served as one of Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders.

A short walk along the rim brought us to our dining choice for lunch, the Arizona Room.  The grill was open to the dining room and we watched as they fixed our naked burgers and set them on top of our dinner salads.  A premium view of the canyon through giant picture windows provided our table with a peaceful spot for tranquil downtime and our tired feet had a chance to stretch before we began the hike back to the train depot.

Continuing along the rim, we stopped to admire what the Hopi House gift shop offered. Built in 1905, designed as living quarters for Hopi Artisans and as a place to sell Hopi crafts, it was modeled after the Hopi Village at Third Mesa. It contained a premium selection of Native American Indian arts, crafts, jewelry, stones and pottery.

Hopi House

Back out on the Rim Trail, we made our way to the station but were immediately reminded of the diesel train having kept its engine running the entire day. The smell became suffocating as we drew nearer. We fled up the stone steps and into the gigantic rustic vintage log lodge hotel and rested on the big overstuffed couches until it was time to board.

For our train ride home, we were given an upgrade to Luxury Class for the inconvenience of having to move to a lower price seat on our ride up. I thought the Luxury Class seating would be comfortable but found them old and stiff although quite spacious.  Far fewer people occupied the space so we had the whole section to ourselves. Our train host, Ms. Linda Lou, was so funny, charming and gracious, it more than made up for the less than Luxury seating.

Cindy Lou and our lunch buffett

The big advantage of our upgraded to Luxury VIP tickets was having access to the entire train. John walked with me to the back of the train to capture the tracks linear perspective on film as we slowly plodded down the tracks.  I don’t ever remember riding a train with less speed.

Flatlands to and from the Canyon

When we returned to our seats, our singin’ an a pickin’ banjo playing entertainer had arrived.  First request, Deliverance.  Excellent rendition.

Banjo Man

The gratis lunch buffet provided many healthy choices so we grazed on crunchy veggies and cheddar cheese. Afterwards, Ms. Linda Lou gave us champagne to toast to our “Grand” adventure. Nice touch.

Settled and watching out our window, I spotted bandits on horseback with guns raised, galloping along beside us.

Train Robbers

I smiled and waved.  Within a few minutes they had boarded the train.

The Cataract Boys

Marching in, pointing guns and shouting to everyone “hands up”, one sat down beside me and asked if I wanted to join “The Cataract Gang”, and be their “Maw”. The only stipulation, I had to be a good cook. John complimented my cooking ability but paid my ransom to stay put while the gang continued their robbing spree through each train car.  Shortly behind the gang, the sheriff came in hot pursuit.

Our Sheriff

We saw them again after the sheriff caught up with the gang and arrested all, parading the gang through the train cars headed for jail. Being true entertainers, one character posed for a Kodak moment.

Train robbers headed to jail

Sitting back to enjoy the ride, I gazed out the window and spotted a herd of Elk stampeding away from the train.

A herd of Elk

Returning to the depot we collected our fur baby from the nearby kennel and she happily greeted us with her pug bug conversation. After giving her a short potty stroll, we decided to visit the local pub down the street, Grand Canyon Brewery.

Grand Canyon Brewery

The brewery had an impressive choice of craft beers. We were offered free samples of any we wanted to taste. After four, we chose a mild chocolate-coffee draft to split. Beautiful vintage and rustic lodge décor, an indoor stream with a bridge crossing to enter the bar from the gift shop, everything was heavy with thick wooden beams and trunk stump chairs. An excellent nightly hangout had we been staying longer.  Back at LilyPad, we wound down with a Red Box movie before bed.

 

One final day to ready the rig before we pack up and leave. Today was our mandatory housework day for cleaning, grocery shopping and miscellaneous tasks. John spent time getting LilyPad secured and ready for travel.

After exiting our last shopping stop, we walked through the parking lot and I turned to John and said, “it smells like snow”. My nose usually knows but he wasn’t convinced and jokingly asked if I was going to twitch my nose to make it happen.

Turns out I didn’t need to twitch anything.  Long after nightfall, the skies dropped beautiful big fluffy snowflakes that covered the ground and blanketed LilyPad.  John was the first to notice snow out the front window.

Out our front window

I heard him yell, “come here! now!”. Rushing to the window I gasped, flew out the door in my PJ’s and flip flops, squealing as I stepped outside into the cold, soft flakes.  The feeling of snow falling on my face and into my open mouth was exhilarating.

SNOW

Capturing the momentous event on film, I stayed outside until my bare toes began to tingle and turn blue from the cold but kept grinning like a Cheshire cat. I do so adore the snow.  Our little tree was white with Christmas frosting.

Our little tree

 

 

Next day the sun rose and the snow melted, nearly gone by 9 am. We were neatly packed away and rolling soon after. Our overnights would be in Page Arizona, a town younger than my senior self. Named in 1957, emerging from a housing community for the workers and their families during the construction of Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River.

The miles of road traveled to reach Page was of greater interest than the actual town.  Flatlands with snow capped mountains in the distance as we left Grand Canyon.

to Page

The terrain was forever changing from one hour to the next.  One area of the Native American Indian lands was so void of human presence, save for a few metal poles with single wire fencing, bare of any living thing, it gave the appearance of us driving on a moonscape.

To Page (3)

We passed through tiny villages with their Hogan’s located near-by.

To Page (4)    To Page (8)

In many areas, the only recognizable structure was their Hogan.

To Page (9)

The Grand Staircase can be seen from the far side of Bryce Canyon but the drive from the dam to Bryce shows more clearly, the distinct characteristics of the levels.

To Page (6)

Page Elks Lodge was near town, the typical friendly people and the usual parking lot style space for RV sites. Our spot was at the end near the busiest used car dealership I have ever experienced. While we set up, a constant flow of cars pulled in and out, every 10 minutes or so and it continued throughout the day.

By nightfall the town shut down and all was relatively quiet until the morning.

Our explorations of the dam began early the following morning. Built on the Colorado River, Glen Canyon Dam is one of the largest man-made reservoirs in the US. The visitors Center provided an ideal view of the dam and was a wealth of information.  Several hands-on activities kept me occupied while John read the history of the dam.

The dam at Glen Canyon    Colorado River

The official first blast for the construction of the dam went off on October 15, 1956. Prior to that date, construction crews drove 200 miles to cross from one side of Glen Canyon to the other.

Glen Canyon Dam

Completed in 1959, the dam was dedicated by Ladybird Johnson September 1966. It took 17 years for Lake Powell to completely fill for the first time.

Our last trip to California was in 2014. The extended drought caused the water in Lake Powell to recede to such a low level, docks had to be moved repeatedly towards the center to keep boats afloat.  It was comforting to see water levels returning to pre-drought levels.

After the dam, a quick grocery stop for necessities and back to LilyPad for a Red Box movie. Later we secured anything that might internally slide inside LilyPad and made ready for our morning roll out.

From our driver’s side window , another gorgeous sunset appeared. If you look carefully, you will see a miniature paraglider floating just under an ominous cloud surrounded by a spectacular glow of twilight. What a rush!  Another thing to my bucket list!

DSC_3137   Paraglider in the Arizona sunset

October 18th through November 30, 2016 Minnesota, South Dakota, Iowa, Missouri, Alabama, Texas

As we roll towards the Canadian exit, cold rain and wind nipping at our heels, weather contributing to the demise of the leaves also brought on the termination of my pleasant persona. Rain, cold and nasty roads habitually cause my disposition to resemble Oscar The Grouch. The inclement weather and overcast skies have stalked us for several days but will soon dissipate, if one believes the local weatherman.

Crossing the border into the United States, winter wains as we skirt the US side of Lake Superior and the Superior National Forest.

US Fall colors

Fall is still in full colors, to my delight, on the United States side of the lake. Appreciative of the scenic beauty and the vivid swirls of blue rotating on Lake Superior the combination brightening my mood.

US side of Lake Superior

Looming ahead is route 17, across Minnesota, horrid, rough and pitted roads.  The highways ribbon of rollercoaster pavement, accented with potholes, bumps and jarring drops in levels, kept me rotating between standing mid kitchen, leaning over the counter giving my back some relief and bent over the dash taking pictures.

After our shake, rattle and roll travel from Ney’s Lunch and Campground in Marathon Ontario Canada to Grand Casino RV Park in Hinckley Minnesota, I was ready for a long respite from the jostled travel but it was not to be. There are no guarantees for fair road conditions anywhere in the US. Luckily we are blessed with folks on the RV Forums who report long stretches of habitually bad road conditions but if you must travel a road to get where you want to go, you are stuck with the rugged ride.

Entering Amish country slows our pace, partially from the rough roads, partially to steer clear of horse and buggies.

Signs of Amish

Signs warning of consideration for Amish road travel are numerous along the highways.

Amish buggy  More Amish buggys

Arriving at the Grand Casino RV Park, we set up camp for the night.

Grand Casino RV park Hinkley MN

Here to rest, not gamble, we drove to the casino for an evening meal but smoke floating out the front door brought an about face. Back to LilyPad, we whipped up a light meal and turned in early.

This morning’s rise was to ice cold temperatures with brilliant sun trying unsuccessfully to reach the earth’s surface. Portable heaters have become a necessity and remained in standby mode for warming our evenings since our departure from Sault Ste. Marie Canada, staying with us all the way to Madison, South Dakota.

Driving through Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes, also the land of vast farmlands sandwiching small towns between the golden fields of soldier straight crops and the flattened landscape of those plowed.

Perfect rows  miles of fields

Driving headlong into the monotone colors of the “fly over” states, we have outrun depressing weather and met up with sunshiny.  Fields, in various stages of growth and harvest, fly by us mile after mile.

Working the fields  Harvesting

As with every grain field, there are raptors making their livelihood from dining on rodents living down under. Every few miles one can be seen perched, watching and waiting until something catches their extremely focused vision.

Rapters on signs  Rapters on fence posts

We rolled cross the Missouri River and through naked hills.

Missouri River between Madison and Wall  Rolling Hills

Several rest stops were American Indian themed.

Rest Stops

Wind turbines whirled, contributing to local city power and safety signs lined fields along our pathway.

Wind turbines  Safety First

Farm equipment, in various stages of disrepair, lay in wait along the edges of fields. A few whimsical creations were settled near a highway and side street corner.

Fun art  More fun art

John and I are domiciled in Madison South Dakota and have visited once before to obtain our licenses, secure an attorney and set up our mail forwarding service. Once again headed for our mail box home, this time to exchange my Texas license for a South Dakota license. I will once again become a South Dakodite, although in my heart, I will forever be a Texan.

Madison is a quiet little town located a few miles from Lake Herman State Park. Small in comparison to most state parks where we overnight, the sunsets are beautiful, trees shade the area, the sites are spacious and the lake is peaceful.

Fields surrounding the park  Lake Herman State Park, SD, oct 2016

I love this tiny forested oasis in a land of flat uninteresting farm lands. Located a stone’s throw from Madison, it is my spark of happiness when we must return to our domicile for business. Friendly park staff and quiet nights, we decided to extend our stay to pause and refresh for a few days before continuing on with our journey home.

Lake Herman State Park   Lake Herman

After two overnights it was time to depart.  We woke to On The Road Again, Willie’s soft Southern harmony of his famous traveling song, our alarm clock music when we roll. This portion of our trip would be an extremely long haul.

Our sanity stop was Wall South Dakota. John had read about Mr. Bill Hustead, the man who became a beloved South Dakota legend by transforming a small town pharmacy into a sprawling tourist attraction of international fame.

This block-long mini town entertainment and shopping venue is a strung together conglomerate of specialty stores. For more than an hour, we explored the interconnecting buildings of hallways connecting a drug store to a gift shop,

Grocery  Gifts

a hallway connecting a dining area to old west Shoppe’s,

Cowboy Alley  The cafe  Drug store

and a hallway joining several western themed mechanical singers and speakers.

The main hallway Cowboys on the range The judge

Wall Drug Backyard offered visitors a fun entertainment area and I took full advantage of humorous props for amusing Kodak moments with John as my subject.

John and the Jackalope    John and the 6 foot rabbit

A giant dinosaur, a mini Mount Rushmore and a cowboy Pappy Zoltar rounded out the eclectic collection.

T Rex    Mini Monument

Western Zoltar

Unwound and refreshed, we climbed back into LilyPad and continued on our way to Rapid City and Mount Rushmore.

If you haven’t guessed by now, we rarely take a direct route to anywhere. Retired and homeless, we have few reasons to be in a hurry. John wanted to see Mount Rushmore so we turned LilyPad in the direction of the big mountain with the giant carved heads and away we drove. As this was an election year, the political references throughout the Monument site were appropriate although most were ignored by us both.

Driving headlong into the Black Hills, our arrival in Rapid City South Dakota was uneventful. The next few overnights would be spent at Rapid City Elks Lodge RV park. The central location allowed us to tour the Black Hills area easily.

Rapid City Elks Lodge

Friendly being the norm of Elks Lodges around the country, this Lodge was no exception. It had the added draw of being large and well appointed, with a full bar and huge dining room serving meals daily. Neither of us being in a cooking mood, we opted to have dinner at the Lodge.

Next morning, the drive up into the hills was rolling but with smooth surfaces.  From a distance you could see the famous faces looking out over the Black Hills.

From a distance

The entrance to the memorial is long and lined with state flags and plaques.

Entrance to Mt Rushmore

I searched out the Texas flag for a photo and continued walking towards the giant heads.

Texas      28th state 1845

Along the sidewalk, on the sidelines but prominently displayed, several political groups waited to capture the attention of passer byers and fill them with their ideals. I walked quickly, not of their beliefs and no longer tolerant of the Dump Trump society.

political groups

We came upon the sculptures and stood still to admire the artists genius and skill.DSC_2432

Impressive presence but even more so when you step inside the museum and read about the rest of the story.

The Mount Rushmore project was met with skepticism and criticism largely due to its only function being to bring tourism to the Black Hills.  The story is full of high expectations, bitter frustrations, struggles between egos, fascinating characters, hard dangerous work and finally, triumphant celebrations.  The project took longer to build and ran over budget.  The unveiling of the 1,278.45 acre memorial park now brings over two million visitors a year.

Sculpted by Gutzon Borglum and his son Lincoln, the carved granite sculptures were begun in 1927 and completed in 1939, a year after Gutzon died. Gutzon’s son completed the carvings and lovingly sculpted a bust of his father that stands in tribute near the Museum.

Gutzon

The original plan, credited to South Dakota historian Doane Robinson, was to have famous people carved into the Needles of the Black Hills region but the location was rejected due to poor quality of granite and the spires being too thin to support sculptures.  Additionally, the Native American groups strongly opposed sculpting the Needles.

The Needles

Working in treacherous conditions, the story boards in the museum depicted the life of the stone carvers and the challenges they faced daily.

The How   Tools

The four United States presidents were each chosen for specific reasons, all playing important rolls in American History.

George Washington was chosen for his role in the Revolutionary War and his fight for American independence. Often called the father of our country, he was the first US president.

George Washington

Thomas Jefferson was chosen because he believed people should be allowed to govern themselves, the basis for democracy.

Thomas Jefferson

Theodore Roosevelt was chosen for being such an influential president and world leader.  Roosevelt is my favorite.  His statement “The first requisite of a good citizen in this Republic of ours is that he shall be able and willing to pull his weight – that he shall not be a mere passenger…”  A statement with which I heartily agree.

Theodore Roosevelt

Abraham Lincoln was chosen because he believed all people are equal and he helped to end slavery in the US.

Abraham Lincoln

Having watched the Mount Rushmore Visitors Center movie and finished our exploration of the monument area, we drove back into the Black Hills.

Another prominent head depicted on a mountain side in the Black Hills National Forest area is the face of Crazy Horse carved on the side of Thunderhead Mountain.

Crazy Horse

The monument has been in progress since 1948 and is yet to be completed. Currently, only the face, from chin up, is complete. The land is privately held and at conception, it was to depict the Lakota warrior Crazy Horse riding a horse and pointing into the distance. The project is surrounded by controversy as the land is considered sacred by some Oglala Lakota. Commissioned by Henry Standing Bear, a Lakota elder, operated by the nonprofit Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation, it was to be sculpted by Polish-American Korczak Ziolkowski. The memorial master plan included the carving, an Indian University of North America, Indian Museum of North America and a Native American Cultural Center.

If completed, the stone carving may become the world’s largest sculpture, the head alone being 87 feet high with the final dimensions 641 feet wide by 563 feet high. In comparison, the heads of the four presidents each measure 60 feet high.

Taking a photo from the road and continuing on, the fee for a partially carved face and a gift shop was more than we considered reasonable.

On our journey back to LilyPad, we spotted a winery with a come hither name. Prairie Berry Winery and its “best seller” wine, Red Ass Rhubarb Wine. Exploration of a winery was a no-brainer so we stopped.

Red Ass Wine

Imbibing in a tasting, we decided on one bottle and continued back to our patiently waiting KatieBug pug. A long walk, dinner and early to bed.

 

John picked our next day long adventure, Sturgis South Dakota. An easy drive from our current Elks Lodge site, we ate breakfast with KatieBug and all three of us hit the road.  It was a scenic drive through the Black Hills.

More Black Hills   Black Hills

The Sturgis claim to fame is its motorcycle gathering, one of the largest annual motorcycle events in the world.

Sturgis SD

This year will be the 77th. Held annually on the second full week of August, thousands of motorcycles head towards the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. If you are traveling the freeways near South Dakota during Rally week, thousands of fantastical bikes pass by.

Known for their supreme week long parties, bars in Sturgis are plentiful and gigantic.

The Knuckle saloon  Iron Horse Saloon

Off season you could hear your own heartbeat and it was as deserted as a ghost town when we arrived. Preparing for the event is a yearlong task. During our visit, Main Street was blocked off for repaving.

The history of Sturgis Motorcycle Rally began in 1938 when Pappy Hoel and his wife gathered with friends who were motorcycle enthusiasts to have fun, picnic and race. Dedicated to nurturing and expanding the motorcycle events to ensure their success, they had no idea the gatherings would grow to the enormous size they are today. His passion for the sport created many opportunities for the community and his dedication to the motorcycle industry through donations, charities and scholarships helped to expand the rally to the world largest.

To get a feel for the event, we paid the small senior priced fee to enter the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum.

Sturgis Museum

It was a wonderful peek into the world of motorcycles.  Bikes were everywhere.  There was a section of women in the motorcycle world.

Bikes everywhere  Women Riders

A history of Senator Dave’s world record of the Million Mile Ride and the 50th Sturgis Anniversary Bike..

Senator Daves Million Miles   Sturges 50th anniversary bike

1938 Harley with a Luchenback Texas sticker and the 1967 Dream Honda, famous for introducing motorcycles to a wider population.

Luchenback TX sticker on 1938 Harley   67 Dream Honda

A 1938 Indian Chief.

1938 Indian Chief

And several vintage bikes, a 1904 Strap Tank Single and a 1910 Indian Tri Car.

1904 Strap Tank Single  1910 Indian Tri Car

But my favorite was the 1969 Triumph T100C, the exact year and style of Triumph I had when I was 17.  A heart tugging reminder of my wild teen years.

My ride at 17

After scoring a few previous year Rally sale items, we drove to the nearby city of Deadwood South Dakota, named after the dead trees found in its gulch and famous for its lawlessness and murders. Proud of their tiny historic town, there were signs everywhere.

1876 Deadwood   Deadwood

Illegally begun in 1870’s on land granted to the Lakota Native American Indians in the treaty of 1868, the land was disputed after gold was found on French Creek near Custer South Dakota. The Black Hill Gold Rush drew gamblers, prostitutes and the opium trade, increasing the population to nearly 5,000.

Historic Mainstreet

The local theater also contained a dance hall and brothel.  The town is an easy walk up and down the street and many of the buildings have been renovated and turned into nice boutique shops and eateries.

1879 hotel   Mainstreet

The town further gained notoriety for the murder of gunman Wild Bill Hickok in Saloon Number 10, August of 1876.

Saloon where Bill was shot       Wild Bill

Wild Bills final resting place is in nearby Mount Moriah Cemetery.

Mt Moriah 1878  plaques

Calamity Jane’s final request was to be buried next to Wild Bill and their graves lie side by side at Mount Moriah.

grave sites

Several days had past and it was time to pack up LilyPad, pull up stakes from the Elks Lodge and continue on down the road. We left mid-morning passing more Sunflower fields,

dried sunflowers

over train bridges with miles of cars carrying tons of coal,

Coal train

past a local welding company with welded metal art prominently displayed out front,

Local welding Co and art

and through adjacent fields where welders torches created interesting art pieces out of left over metal.

Art in fields  flower art in fields

We overnighted in Plankinton South Dakota at Hills RV Park. Just off the highway, in the middle of nowhere, dirt roads, deserted and ghostly quiet, we slept lightly, got up early and got back on the road.

Hills RV Park, Blankinton SD

Next driving day was overcast with fog swirling just outside our travel path.  War like art pieces posted like sentries on either side of a bridge we passed.

Bridge Art

At the end of a long travel day, we would spend the night surrounded by a golf course.  Wilds RV and Golf Resort in Bartlett Iowa had cement pads making it an easy set up for the evening.

Foggy in Bartlett Iowa

Pleased with the gentle coolness of the evening, we walked KatieBug and binged watched a favorite TV series before falling asleep.

Next morning we rose to a town blanketed in fog. On temporary hold until the fog lifted, after waiting two hours with the roads still partially covered, disrupting our schedule was not appreciated so we crept along slowly until the sun broke through.

Still waiting for the sun

Another full day of rolling, pulling into Walmart in Festus Missouri shortly before the sun dropped behind the horizon.  We boon docked (no hook-ups) near the garden center,  alongside the town’s local “youth designated meet-up and make-out area”, each mode of transportation revving its engine in turn to show their macho rides and impress whomever might be watching. If the revving had kept up, we might have had to rev up our 425 hp diesel engine and blast a few times on our air horns to quiet them all down.

Being fully self-contained has its advantages so we fired up the generator and dined on home cooked chicken pot pies followed by local TV and bedtime. Tonight, I considered myself lucky as sleep was interrupted only twice by train whistles.

 

Morning arrived and another long drive was in our immediate future. Needing a diesel fill up, John pulled a little too close to the steel guard posts at the gas station.

stuck against a big metal pole

Not planning his exit well, he was forced to take the car off the dolly, move the car and dolly away from the poles while I backed out LilyPad so he could hook everything back up. Not being an issue that it set us back an hour, another plus side of being retired.

The journey to Caruthersville Missouri Lucky Lady Casino was comfortable and relatively short. We crossed over the Mighty Mississippi several times on our way to the RV casino park.

The Mighty Mississippi River    The Mississippi

We will have full hook-ups tonight. Upon entering, I realized sleep time will be spent on the “flood” side of the flood gates but our site was flat and had an ample cement pad.

Lucky Lady Casino, MO

Flooding was not terribly concerning as the weather here was sunny and cloudless. Local forecast predicted a beautiful tomorrow. Neither of us wanted to donate money to the casino so having full hook-ups meant we could catch up on laundry, washing dishes and making dog food, all to be completed before dinner and sleep. KatieBug happily marked every blade of grass during her walk on what she considered to be her territory. Barring any sudden flood waters washing over the RV park, we would have a peacefully quiet evening, all three of us going to sleep early.

One more all day long drive to reach my least favorite semi-annual necessity, Red Bay Alabama, home of LilyPad’s manufacturer. We have been way down yonder in the land of cotton for days. Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama, nearly uninterrupted travel, landing us in the land of the Tiffin manufacturer.

This year we will be serviced by Bunk House, formerly known as McKinney’s, and should not need the long wait required at Tiffin unless something they repaired the last time turns out to be incorrectly done. It will be a first, so fingers crossed as we pull into our site and await a service bay in the morning.

Bunkhouse for repairs, Red Bay AL

I’ve been told how lucky I am to have such wonderful scenic places to explore and my yard is the great outdoors. I have to shake my head in wonder as many of the places we spend the night are Walmart parking lots, local Elks Lodge parking lots, older struggling Passport America RV Parks and Red Bay parking lots.  Below was our “great outdoors” view for the next few nights.

Our view at Bunkhouse

The last dozen places we spent overnights are not exactly the fabulous wilderness settings others have pictured in their minds eye.

Several days have gone by and our repairs are complete.  While John makes the final adjustments to the car and LilyPad, I pause to look out the side window. Water is dripping down on the inside. Another roof leak. Turning to a new page on the repair book I add another item for repair to our “it’s always something” list. Fixing the leak will have to wait until we get back to Texas.

An early rise and a marathon driving day, sleeping in a closed-due-to-remodeling-from-the-floodwaters-in-a-Louisiana-Walmart with a few 18 wheelers as neighbors and police officers patrolling the area throughout the night.

Flooded Out Walmart

Across the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge and breakfast of two fluffy tender and warm Cracker Barrel biscuits.  They nearly made the memory of the lumpy bumpy ride through Louisiana melt like the butter on the biscuit.

Atchafalaya basin bridge LA

Finally arriving at Grand Texas RV Resort in Texas for an overnight, we were met with unpleasant surprises, the impossibly narrow cement pad and our steps extending  over soft red mud instead of the expected grass.  Quickly setting up camp, we fell asleep exhausted.

site at Grand TX RV

Next morning we frantically booked an appointment for a pressure leak test in the Galveston area and pulled the slides in readying LilyPad for travel.  When the bedroom slide retracted I heard a loud “clank”.  Searching the floor I found the metal slide roller had broken off its metal brackets and clanked to the ground. Oh explicit, explicit, explicit!

One overnight to fix the leak, the slide roller would wait until we were closer to our go-to repair shop in Montgomery Texas.  For the next month we will live at Galveston Bay RV Park, visit our son, future daughter-in-law, grand dogs and grand chickens in Seabrook, relax and enjoy the sea breezes and watch the wild parrots that visit our back yard.

wild parrots in our campground

John will be patching up what he can on LilyPad.  Plans are to move next month to Conroe KOA in Montgomery Texas while we search again for a sticks-n-bricks home and have Action RV Repair shop complete the rest of the motorhome repairs.

Hard to believe this is the beginning of our fifth year. However did we last this long? Probably a mix of insanity, senility, John’s love of traveling and my love of being in new places.  Besides, we both agree, you only go around once.

October 7th though October 17th 2016 Montreal/Quebec/Ottawa Canada, North Bay/Marathon Canada

One last night in New England, one last chance to experience something Vermont.  We had packed up and were ready to leave in the morning but I had read about a local bygone era variety store and talked John into coming with.  Stuffed full of an interesting mixture of everything imaginable, we arrived shortly before closing time.  Still able to take a quick peek inside, I took pictures after doors closed.

Shelburne Country Store    Inside the Country Store

Montreal Canada is our next destination and I am one ecstatic camper! With its overpowering scenic beauty, abundance of wildlife, magnificent historic buildings and statues, delightful food and a seemingly endless amount of spectacular basilica’s, shrines and temples, there is never enough time to explore it all no matter how often we visit. It is also a premium exercise opportunity.

On this entrance, our Canadian arrival was without incident. John thought it best to ship all our liquor to our daughter in Texas, allowing us to cross the border with the allotted four bottles of wine. The one bottle of liquor I use for cooking was forgotten until we had crossed and settled in Montreal. Not even the slightest hint of guilt did I feel about not paying duty on the forgotten bottle. The Canadian border crossing got every penny it was going to get from us on our last entrance.

The roadsides were still awash with fall colors as we stopped for a KatieBug potty break.

Rest Stop   Montreal farm fall colors

For the next few nights, we would stay at Amerique Montreal Camping. Tucked behind the main road, it was homey and housed mostly seasonal full-timers. When I opened the door for John to register and stepped outside in the tepid sunshine, hundreds of miniscule orange with black polka-dot lady bugs attached themselves to the warmth of our windshield and flew about my head.

lady bugs

I watched as they buzzed about in the sunshine. A dainty little lady bug landed on my arm AND BIT ME! If I had known those little winged devil insects bit, I never would have held them so tenderly as a child. The war was on! Keeping them out of the motor home became top priority. We parked, set up camp and I hunted down every one of those dreadful little bitters and tossed them out the front door. Had they not been a beneficial crop insect, they would have been smashed flat instead of being tossed out. Sun setting, it was time to relax for the night.

Sunset in Montreal

Online, I booked us a tour and organ concert, the last of the season, for the Basilique Notre-Dame De Montreal’s Organ Music Tour. After settling in at the RV park, it was our first outing for the next afternoon.

A short drive to, and walk from a downtown city parking spot, we set our direction for Place d’Armes, the square (and statue) in front of the Basilique.

downtown    Buildings near Place Jacques Cartier

The square is is small and overflowing with parental units deep in conversation, small children expending great deals of energy, elders seated and joyfully watching the children and tour guides revealing bits of random knowledge mixed with humor to the eager tourists. Our tour would begin from the steps across the square.

Basilique Notre-Dame De Montreal

We wandered around the square before crossing over and peering inside the church just before our tour time had arrived.

Statue inside   Prayer candles

The back lot concert tour was full, consisting of a mass of foreigners speaking dozens of languages, all trying to converse at the same time.  All ages, all eagerly awaiting the experience. The attendees climbed a few flights of stairs and sat in front of an expansion of organ pipes stretching from one side of the church to the other. Seating was on risers with the organ perched closely within our line of site. The organ pipes framed a huge stunning stained glass window.

Up close organ pipes  Under the organ pipes Organ Pipes

After a short introduction, the booming chords to classical, vintage musical and religious selections were heard and felt by all. Loud but enjoyable, we were allowed to walk up and view the massive organ and peer out across the church.

Our Concert Player   View from the tour

After the concert, we descended the stairs and sat quietly in pews, relaxing and taking in the unforgettably splendid detail that surrounded us.

Pulpit  details

The closer you walked towards the alter, the more magnificent the details.

From downstairs    Alter close up

Exiting the church we began our exploration of the area.  Strolling along the cobblestones, we stopped for a lite snack at Pizzeria Jacques Cartier in Place Jacques Cartier.  The food was honest as was the price.  Street performers kept us entertained and people watching was most excellent.   From our table, City Hall was the backdrop for the performers.

Musicians on Place Jacques Cartier

The street is closed to traffic, stretches from city hall at one end, to the waterfront at the other. Cobbled and slanted downhill towards the waterfront, it is a beautiful stroll beside well preserved historic buildings.

Place d'Armes square Place Jacques Cartier

The square also assumes the responsibility of an historic ambassador, demonstrating to tourists, the finer points of how to lovingly keep a public square vibrant, spotlessly clean, safe and fun.

Adjacent is the Rue St-Paul shopping area. An array of beautiful wares, clothing, jewelry, a few hokey items intermixed with Canadian oddities and delicacies.  Artistic expression rose from numerous points along the street.

Shopping near Place Jacques Cartier       Art

Statues abound in Canada and my favorite is the three women, Les Chuchoteuses, “The Gossipers”, on rue Saint-Paul.

The Gossipers

The sun was gentle as were the breezes and we savored the scent of salty sea air while walking through the district.  Home, dinner, pug time and bedtime.

 

Remembering how much fun we had visiting Canada’s open air markets in years past, we woke early the next morning and revisited our favorite. Jean-Talon Market is on flat ground, mostly protected from rain by overhead tarps and offers premium strolling through fresh produce, meats, fish, plants, baked goods, art and a few five-and-dime store offerings.

Rainy day at the market  Fresh greens

Jean-Talon Market   Garlic and shallots

I passed up all the tempting fried foods and cream filled desserts but the sweets from one of the multi-national stands, a coconut and date ball of natural goodness, looked too enticing to pass up so I took a chance.

Sweets from multi nationalities’

It was indeed yummy. The tarps repelled the rain that followed us throughout our two hour stroll and calm breezes kept us comfortable. An excellent morning venture.

Each time we enter a new city, it is important to pay attention to the laws.  In Canada, not only are laws different but you must also decipher the language and its meaning.  While I stood under cover, John tried several times to find a person who could explain the parking meter operation in English.  Later that day, when we returned, I noticed the directions were in French and English.  Paying attention to details is a must.  Oh well, off to find lunch.

Canadian Signs   Stop signs    Pay stations in Montreal

In each Canadian city visited, we search TripAdvisor for the best restaurant to enjoy Poutine, a dish of crispy potato fries, creamy cheese curds and flavorful hot gravy covering all. Addictively delicious! In Le Plateau Mont-Royal Montreal, MaammBolduc Café was one of the top picks so we left the Market and drove to this little hole in the wall diner.

MaammBolduc   MaammBolduc Café

Eclectic décor, quirky but comfy, we were invited in and ordered via pointing to our choice from a large and varied binder style menu. John in broken French, our waiter in broken English, our order came out exact, hot and delicious.

Meat Poutine and Chicken and peas Poutine

With our tummies gently stuffed, we wandered through the neighborhoods admiring street after street of fascinating condo’s before driving back to LilyPad and packing up for travel.

Condo's near the market   miles of condo's

Bright and early next morning, we would depart for Camping Transit near Quebec City.

 

A crisp and clear morning, the fall colors were still gorgeous and holding their radiance adjacent the rivers and continuing along our route.  I enjoyed the view while traveling over the Saint Laurence Seaway but John’s eyes were glued to the road.

Good by Montreal  St Laurance Seaway

The weather was pleasant for our entire trip.

Bright Fall Colors  Fall colors

Even the weeds were colorful.

Colorful weeds too

Arriving early afternoon, we set up camp, stretched our legs with KatieBug and relaxed for the remainder of the day. It was the end of the season so campers were scarce but fall colors were plentiful and extraordinarily vivid.

Our site at Campground Transit

First thing in the morning we would take the ferry from Levis to Old Quebec. Nothing could spoil my excitement about visiting Old Quebec, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, not even power spike issues with our RV’s power pole. Experience, over the past five years, has taught us we can do without 50 amp for the short term. Should anything short out, our generator would automatically kick on.

 

Next morning the ferry ride across the St. Laurence River was brilliant with color, smooth sailing and unhurried.

traveling across the St Laurance

When we reached shore, I fell in love all over again.  How could you not?

View From Levis

We stepped off the boat and into Quartier Petit Champlain, wandering through the cobblestoned streets, past century old stone buildings, enticing our imaginations to drift back though time.

Not an ancient treat but Canadian, Queues de Castor or Beaver Tail, was our breakfast.  Consisting of a stretched piece of fried dough covered with a Baskin Robbins array of flavor choices, the treat originated in Canada in 1978.  We washed it all down with coffee and began our self guided walking tour of the city.

Beaver Tails

Strolling at an easy balancing pace for me, through Basse-Ville, a.k.a. Lower Town, weaving our way down narrow streets, poking our heads into cozy shops as the day began.  Each boutique was packed with unique wares, neatly stacked from the floors to the ceilings against 17th century stone walls.

quartier petit champlain

The cluster of art galleries are accented by one of the eye deceiving murals painted by talented artists on building exteriors in Old Quebec. Life like scenes from Quebec’s past decorate the blank space where buildings have been removed, the scenes paying homage to the history of Quebec City. Pausing to view La Fresque des Québécois with a guided group of tourists, we learned it was completed in 1999, was painted on the wall of Soumande House on Notre-Dame Street and the gigantic mural encompasses 420 square meters. Fresque des Quebecois recounts the city’s story, with its unique architecture and larger-than-life personalities.  Windows in the buildings show 15 historic figures along with Quebec’s writers and artists.

Fresque des Québécois

Throughout the town, musicians settled in shaded spaces vying for the attention of locals and tourists.  We heard a variety of tunes, Bach, rock, polka etc., played on an assortment of foreign and domestic instruments.

Music along Rue Notre Dame

Notre-Dame-des-Victories (1823) is a small Roman Catholic Church and the oldest stone church in North America. It was disappointing that the church was unavailable as we had only heard snippets of the tour speech in previous years.

Notre Dame Des Victories

Place Royale is a step back in time to the early days of New France. The square is a picturesque pedestrian street filled with shops and eateries.

Place Royale square

We stopped at a small café tucked into one corner of the square with its tables edging onto the busy flow. Relaxing with a cup of coffee and a sweet treat, we watched tourists meander in and out of the shops.

Gem Shop in Place Royale     Place Royale shops

Streets of the city are somewhat difficult to walk over for the balance challenged, so when we finished our coffee, I held tight to John, not letting my tipsiness stop our explorations. We continued downward to the waterfront where dozens of antique shops faced the St. Lawrence River.

In one window I spotted an adorable antique glass tea set my mother, an avid antique collector, would have loved. The box even bore her name, “Jeanette”.

Jeanettes tea set

The street corners in the art gallery section of Old Quebec City reminded me of The Woodlands, art pieces on nearly every corner, although some selections were a little quirky.

Street art

Taking a sharp left at the last corner before the underground tunnel, we hiked up several streets to Haute-Ville, a.k.a. Upper Town, choosing to walk the rise and save riding the Funiculaire du Vieux Québec for the trip back to Lower Town.

Climbing to Upper Town  Streets of Old Quebec

From the top, the view was refreshing and expansive.

Lower Town view from Upper Town   View from the first cannon

Fort-Lewis cannons, dating back to 1813, faced the river’s mouth and lined the walkways. Benches, spaced over the next few blocks, provided tourists with scenic resting places.

Cannon More cannons  1813 Cannons

Pausing just short of the statue of St. Francis-Xavier de Montmorency-Laval (1623-1708) we sat to read about the first Roman Catholic bishop of Quebec, appointed when he was 36 years old by Pope Alexander VII.  A member of the Montmorency family, he was one of the most influential men of his day.  He was a candidate for canonization by the Catholic Church after his death and was beatified in 1980 by Pope John Paul II in 2014, Pope Francis made him a saint by “equipollent canonization”.

François de Laval

It was obvious, looking skyward in Montmorency Park, Fall was alive and well in Old Quebec.

Fall

Resting under the trees is a statue of Guillaume Couillard (1591-1663) who migrated from France to New France and was one of the first to settle permanently in the colony. He married and had 10 children. Because of the numerous descendants of these children, Couillard appears in the genealogy of almost all the old French-Canadian families. Philippe Couillard, the 31st and current Premier of Quebec, shares the same surname.

Guillaume Couillard

Continuing our walk, we came upon Cathedral of Holy Trinity in Upper Town. A charming, simple yet elegant church, the first Anglican church built outside England.

Holey Trinity Cathedral  Inside Holy Trinity  Holy Trinity Cathedral

We paused to rest and savor the tranquility. Inside, interesting wood work details, stained glass and charming old world touches. An impressive group of organ pipes decorated the back of the church.

Holy Trinity organ pipes

Historic information was detailed on plaques inside the church along with showcases of silver artifacts presented to the church by King George III. A nice plus was the docent at the door who was helpful, friendly and spoke excellent English.

Permanently tucked between two centuries old stone walls is Rue de Tresor, an open air art market.  Each time here, we encounter the works of a variety of talented artists. One particularly interesting artist paints various scenes on a copper sheet. She paints summer, fall and winter side by side. Her works are lovely and remarkably unique.

Street Art Market

Nearing the front of the magnificent Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac Hotel and after the sidewalk ends, we strolled onto Terrasse Dufferin, the expansive wooden walkway that faces the Saint Laurence River.

Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac

Having done the hotel tour a few years past, we chose to sit on a bench and gaze out at the sweeping views of the river and enjoy the refreshing breezes on this lovely mild day.

View from Terrasse Dufferin

Beginning to tire from a full day on our feet, we took the funicular down to lower town. The electric funicular cableway opened in 1879 & rises 195 ft. between the upper & lower towns. It is a fun ride up or down and surely beats using the Escalier Casse-Cou, a.k.a. Breakneck Steps, an alternative way to traverse between the two towns.

Electric Funicular

The funicular empties onto one of the oldest streets in North America, Quartier Petit Champlain. Continued walking led us to the site of the second mural we viewed, Fresque du Petit Champlain. The mural depicts milestones in the history of Cap-Blanc, Quebec City’s working class water front neighborhood. The scene begins at the start of New France until the present day.

Fresque du Petit-Champlain

Nearby is my favorite restaurant for rabbit. It resides snuggly pressed between a centuries old neighbor’s stone wall on one side and a gardened gathering and resting area abutting its open air seating on the other. If you love rabbit, dining at La Lapin Sauté is a must.

La Lapin Sauté

This visit, John had rabbit poutine and I had the rabbit sample platter. The rabbit is tender and moist, perfectly flavored and has delighted our taste buds enough times to bring repeat dining over the years.

Rabbit

Hubby’s choice had plenty of meat and cheese and the fries were crisp and hot. My plate had an assortment of rabbit hash, maple fried egg, fruit compote, warm brie, maple bacon, maple sausage, maple ham, fruit and a portion of grilled ciabatta. Each visit we try another menu item and we have yet to eat something that isn’t exceptional.

Inside it is warm, cozy and inviting. Disney’s style of authentic décor depicts a 17th century café.  The staff and servers are friendly, speak English and provide excellent service. Although the line was long, we were seated quickly, our order placed with a minimal wait time even with seating inside and out completely filled. We left full, happy and warmed to the core. The entire café area was decorated for fall, inside and out.  We sat letting our food digest without the waiter hovering for our check.

The streets were filled with sightseers and a group stopped in front of one shop to gawk.  Surprised it was still here, the name stopped me in my tracks nearly 7 years ago and yes, you read the name correctly.

Rue du Petit Chaplain    I kid you not

Pausing momentarily at the garden area next door to listen to tranquil tunes, we made our way back towards the docks.

Music in the park

A must-stop for me, the chocolate shop to savor a whiff of fragrant cocoa offerings.

Candy shop

Another pause to watch Maple Jack-Whack taffy being made on an open-air ice trough. Sampling a few maple goodies and purchasing several for Christmas, our backpack was becoming weighted down with stocking stuffers. Continuing, the streets were beginning to empty of tourists.

Maple Taffy        Shopping in Lower Town

Slowly heading towards the dock and boarding the boat at the Quebec City Ferry Terminal, we turned to bid Adieu, until we meet again Old Quebec.

Evening was quickly approaching. Tomorrow would be a grocery shopping, laundry and rest-up day. Normal everyday life was pulling us back to reality.  Our next destination, Ottawa, Canada

 

Up early, John drove an easy pace for the next four hours, pulling into Recreationland in Cumberland, Ontario early afternoon. Nothing fancy, our first site was short and small so we moved out from under the trees to an open area. I am continually puzzled as to the reason why RV park employees misunderstand our size. We tell them “the size of a Greyhound Bus, forty-five feet long, the same size as a tour bus” but no matter, they try to squeeze us into that which we do not fit, forcing us to move. Thankfully, at the end of the season, sites are plentiful. A few friendly stragglers from the full-time seasonal group still remained and John chatted with them as we settled in for the night.   Pug time, dinner and bedtime.

Recreationland, Cumberland ONT

Extended morning walk for KatieBug, breakfast in town at The SconeWitch then onward to Parliament Hill for a tour of the Parliament Building and an elevator ride to the top of Peace Tower.

Centre Block

Obtaining tickets across the street, we took the free vouchers and walked towards the Parliament Building. Standing in front of the Parliament steps, I spotted a diminutive Asian gentleman beaming widely as he held two hand painted signs. He nodded to us as we approached and gestured for us to stop and chat. Friendly and eager to speak with an American, well-informed and knowledgeable about our elections, he and I struck up a conversation while John perused the area.

Legal Chinese immigrant in Ottowa

A 30 year legal Chinese immigrant, he questioned Americans who claimed they would leave the USA for Canada if that “certain someone” won.  He thought they should first speak with Canada’s legal Chinese immigrants whom are, to this day, being persecuted. Illegal immigrants are not tolerated in Canada, period. I normally do not talk politics on my blog but I must agree with his logic for the protest. If you are a legal immigrant, your government should not treat you unjustly. His cause, the unfair treatment of legal Chinese immigrants, had merit.

Joining back up with John, we entered the line for the Parliament building tour.  Waiting in line, we had time to chat and read the corner stone dedication.

Corner Stone

Our persons and belongings searched, we were gathered together in the hall for the tour. Each hall was impressive but the massive stone structure and stained glass windows kept the building in pale light, even with the many giant ornate lighting fixtures.

Stained glass ceiling stained glass ceilings stained windows

Walking quietly from one area to the next, my genuine love of grey, white and black décor was fulfilled by the hallways gothic architecture, so incredibly awe-inspiring.

Hall from above  Arched halls hall ceiling

Our guide gave us a brief history of the commons chamber, the Senate, based on the British House of Lords, with an overview of Canadian government history.

Senate based on British House of Lords   carved stone

The entrance and door to the Library of Parliament was intricately carved and a precursor for the incredible wood carved details inside.

Library entrance  Library door carvings

A towering domed ceiling, walls loaded with ornately carved bookshelves and a magnificent timepiece enveloped in wood carvings kept everyone pivoting for Kodak moments.

Library Dome    Library inside   Library

Ending the tour on the second floor, we were steps away from the elevator that would whisk us up to the top of The Tower of Victory and Peace, or Peace Tower. The glass fronted elevator would pass and reveal the interworking’s of the clock through a window in the elevator shaft. The focal bell and clock tower is a Canadian icon and has been pictured on the Canadian twenty dollar bill.

Peace Tower

At the top, the outlook in all directions was magnificent.

View 1      View 2

View 3      View 4

The small chapel near the elevator is a memorial chamber and dedicated to those who fought in Europe in the First World War (1914 through 1918).

Peace Tower exit

Back down to the ground floor, we walked the Parliament grounds, stopping at the statues dedicated to women’s right to vote in Canada.  Women’s right to vote banners hung proudly on light posts.

DSC_2042      Womens right to vote

To the right of Peace Tower stands Eastern Departmental Building, or East Block.  Built in Victorian high gothic style, it is one of three buildings on Parliament Hill containing offices for parliamentarians with some preserved pre-Confederation spaces. Along with the Library of Parliament, it is one of only two buildings on the hill to survive mostly intact since originally constructed. It was unavailable to visitors this day.

East Block   East Block closeup

To the left stands the gothic revival office building, the Confederation Building. There was a fire drill in progress when we walked near so we continued around the entire building taking in the structure and surrounding scenic views.

Confederation Building front   Confederation Building back

Across the street, the Wellington Building House of Commons.  Probably no relation to the family where we had recently workamped in Lee New Hampshire.

Wellington Building, House of Commons

In 2017, Canadian’s celebrate 150 years as a nation. This year they are busily cleaning, repairing, painting and power washing everything “Parliament” in preparation for next year’s celebration.

lots of cleaning         West Block

Stone was being cleaned in sections and you could see the “before and after”.

surrounding gates

Even stained glass windows were being detailed.

stained glass window repairs

I very much appreciated the Iron gates with elaborate detailing.  Strength and beauty.

detailed iron work

It was an enjoyable day for strolling but when we reached the Supreme Court of Canada,  our tummies started grumbling so we reversed our direction and pointed ourselves towards the market for lunch.

Supreme Court of Canada

Our path to the Market took us through Confederation Park and Majors Hill Park before emptying onto main pedestrian friendly streets that surround Byward Market.

Pedestrian Streets near the market     Streets near Byward Market

Love their solution for keeping skate boarders from damaging cement.  Securing metal maple leaves all over the city’s cement planter edges is completely appropriate.

maple leaves

A mixture of foreign and domestic, the merchandise, produce, bakery items, flowers and dining offerings fit every budget and cater to an assortment of nationalities.

Byward Market block     Gords for sale

I opted for a cheese croissant from the bakery, spotting a poster of the outgoing President staring blatantly back at me from the bakery wall.  I had no interest in Obama cookies.

Obama Cookies

John tried the Shawarma Poutine from the Mediterranean fast food shop.

Mediterranean fast food    Shawarma Poutine

Back to the car, driving toward LilyPad but not quite out of the city, we stopped to feed my passion, visiting places of worship.

Notre Dame front    Notre Dame side

We entered Notre Dame and quietly sat down, taking in all the details.  A gracefully beautiful rest stop.

Notre Dame Church Organ pipes Notre Dame detail

This church too was built with unbelievable attention to detail.

Alter up close

Across the street, the National Gallery of Canada with a spine tingling gigantic iron spider out front, her sack of eggs tucked under her belly.  The Gallery would have to wait until next visit, as would the Canadian Mint Building next door.

National Gallery of Canada      Big spider with egg sack sculpture

At the end of our exhilarating full day of exploring, we walked back to our parking spot, eased achingly into the car and drove back to LilyPad to put our feet up and relax for the balance of the evening.

One full day of rest and recuperation was due us before we readied ourselves for the next leg of our trip back to Texas.

 

 

The usual early rise and on the road by 8 am.  As we left Ottawa, our journey down the rolling hills of Hwy 417 was lined with perfectly structured blue spruce pines.

From Reds, Oranges to Yellows, greens     Farm land and Christmas trees

We passed miles of sun tanned fields of hay.  The further south we traveled, the more leaf colors began to change.

Rolling farm land

Only one time in over six decades of life, did I reach a point of saturation from fall colors. When John and I first married and moved to Massachusetts, we took a Fall Colors Trip that exceeded 12 hours. Excessive amounts of red, orange and yellows caused my eye-brain connection to overload and my head throbbed at our journey’s end. Too much of a good thing then, was a welcome treat for me now.

Reflections

Our overnight stop was North Bay Ontario at the North Bay Elks Lodge.

North Bay Elks Lodge

We settled and searched for a grocer and found the biggest candy store I have ever seen!

Candy     Isles of candy

That night we visited with the folks at the Elks Lodge and were given the friendliest welcome from everyone at the bar. After a few beers, we returned to our lovely shaded and quiet spot near the Lodge and slept peacefully throughout the night.

 

Bette Midler’s, From A Distance, our get-up-and-get-moving music for this early rise, was John’s “surprise me” choice. We were on our way to Sault St. Marie, Ontario for an complimentary overnight in Lowes parking lot.

snow sign

Stopping for all three of us to stretch, we checked out the Indian wares at Agawa Crafts.

Agawa Crafts rest stop

A detour along the way added a few miles to our next stop.

Detour

Sun and gentle rains followed us all the way to Lowes until we parked and set up camp. The weather clearing enabled us to give KatieBug an extended walk and us to have an enjoyable dining out experience without getting drenched, some local TV then sleep.

 

Cold and rainy, it’s going to be another Bailey’s Irish cream and coffee morning, at least for me. Rolling along narrow roads, other day of slow going. Our overnight would be at Ney’s Lunch and Campground in Marathon. They were technically closed for the season but we were told we could pick any site and plug into the electricity if we decided to stay.

rolling under cover

Usually pausing at towns with quirky names that catch our attention, Wawa sounded intriguing but storms were in the area so we continued toward our next overnight, continually cautious of wildlife crossing the roads.  We have heard stories about the damage a moose will do to a vehicle.

Passing Wawa      Moose nearby

The rain temporarily ceased when we arrived at another one of those fascinating little s#!t holes John occasionally plans for our overnights. He dubs them, “OK for an overnight”. Absolutely not the words I use.

The other campgrounds in the area have been closed for weeks, Ney’s Lunch and Campground was barren and deserted, hardly something one would consider inviting. A more accurate description would have been, “for desperate campers only”. And of course there are the “it’s always somethings” to add to the experience.  We parked and walked down the narrow rutted road leading us to small muddy sites with hairpin turns for exits. Both agreeing the spaces were treacherous for us to attempt, John set up camp in their parking lot.

Neys Lunch and Campground

The highway-hugging, no electricity parking lot, still cost us $15.00. When John turned to straighten out the car for our early morning exit, the car dolly jammed, forcing John to struggle with the jack to lift up the car, take it off the dolly and straighten out the turn plate. The task gave John something to do until darkness fell.

dolly trouble again

Somehow, John has managed to select our past several overnights in locations that are within a few yards of a rail road. Loud train whistles every few hours makes sleep near impossible even with a generous helping of Bailey’s Irish Cream in my nighttime cocoa.

 

Next morning our journey started in a torrential downpour, drenching LilyPad and cautioning us to slow to a creep.  Facing the possibility of 20 tons of recreational vehicle and towed accidently hydroplaning off the narrow curvy road was terrifying. After several miles we spotted a turn-out to stop and let the rains subside.

Rainy start

Falls multi-colors were fading, partially from age, partially from the constant downpours, the wind snapping leaves off their branches and twirling them to the ground. Simon and Garfunkel’s song plays in an unending loop through my mind…”And the leaves that are green turn to brown; And they whither with the wind; And they crumble in your hand”.

Rainy Dayt

Traveling under cloud cover with intermittent spatters of rain, we wound our way over the road, following Lake Superior’s edge.

Following the Lake   nearing the lake

Up and down over the road, popping in and out of the mist and fog.

coming out of the fog   Nearing the Lake

We passed streams and rivers flowing to the Lake.

Falls coming into the Lake   Rivers joining up

Occasionally the weather cleared enough to make the journey less depressing and us more appreciative of the scenic beauty.

Back through the hills

Carefully watching for wildlife, none was spotted.  In fact, we had passed surprisingly few travelers our entire drive while skirting the Lake.  The extended hours of travel and unending days on the road made us both weary and produced flashbacks of road trips with our kids anxiously asking “are we there yet?”.  John drove at a reduced speed as we did have the entire day to reach our next destination, crossing back into the United States at Minnesota for the coming evening’s overnight.

September 29th through October 6th, 2016 Ashland New Hampshire, Burlington Vermont

After hugs good-by to all the two legged and four legged Wellingtons, we set off for Ashland, New Hampshire. Plans were for a six day, pre journey home, mini vacation. Having visited earlier in the year, we had reservations to return and enjoy all that was passed up during our last escape. We would also enjoy a special family meet-up for lunch on Saturday as our niece and nephew’s daughter was attending college in the area.

Pulling up into our previous site, we spent the balance of the day completing the drudgery of everyday chores.  Housecleaning, laundry, grocery shopping etc. are ongoing no matter where we land.  Nighttime, a long walk for KatieBug to the chirping of crickets and a good nights rest before our mini-vacation would begin.

Ames Brook campground

Rising early, day one started with something off my Favorites List, Heritage Farms Pancake House. The farm’s sunflowers were in full bloom.  After dining on one Chunky Monkey Pancake, because one is all you need, we cruised on over to The Lucknow Estate in New Hampshire.

Heritage  Farm Pancake  Sunflowers at Heritage

The Estate sits high atop the Ossipee Mountain Range. Since opening to the public in 1959, it has been called Castle in the Clouds.  We stopped at the entrance gate, paid the fee and snaked our way slowly up the narrow mountain road.

Castle In The Clouds Gate House Entrance

Half way up we stopped to stretch and walk to the Pebble and then on to the fifty foot high Falls of Song.

The Pebble Falls of Song from a distance  Falls of Song

Continuing on, we reached the welcome center, parked, gazed out over the Lucknow Overlook and took the trolley to the Estate.

Trolley to the Castle   Lucknow Overlook, NH

The Estate is an unusual example of Arts and Crafts architecture in New England, living in harmony with nature and my all time favorite style of home.  Woodworking “wow’s” pop out from every nook and cranny.

Lucknow Estate

The 16-room mansion not only exhibits skilled hand craftsmanship inside and out, but features a number of technological innovations of the early 20th century. Innovations including central vacuuming, ammonia brine refrigeration and an intercom system.

cold storage in pantry    Intercom system

The kitchen was state-of-the-art for its time.

Kitchen

Elegant grounds surround the home.

Overlook garden

Encompassing 5,500 acres, the view from the mountaintop garden grounds is breathtaking.

View to the leftView to the right

Tom, original owner of  Lucknow Estate, made his fortune in the shoe manufacturing industry. Samples of the brand, Queen Quality Shoes, was on display in the bedroom closet, including an original box.

Queen Quality Shoes     Olives dress closet

The Estate was built for the newly married Tom Plant and his wife Olive, was started in 1913 and finished in 1914.  Tom’s portrait is mounted on the wall at the top of the stairs.  Toms small but efficient office has a hidden safe.

Tom at the head of the stairs     Office and hidden vault

Elegant yet casual throughout, the billiard and organ room occupied the largest area of the home.

billiard and organ room   Organ pipes

The billiard sitting room has a cozy secret reading room hidden behind a wall.

Billiard sitting room   Secret reading room

Windows were decorated with hand painted and fired glass circles of nature scenes.

Painted and fired windows   The writting room   Library window

Tom and Olive each had their own bedrooms.

Toms bedroom   Olives bedroom

Olive had her own light filled and spacious dressing room.

Olives dressing room

Guest quarters were at the opposite end of the home.

Guest room  DSC_1655

The maid quarters were more spacious than most we have seen on home tours of this era.

Maids quarters

Bathrooms had ample space and we both had a good laugh over why women were not allowed to use the needle shower.  It seems men thought the water pressure would damage a women’s delicate skin!

Olives bathroom   Needle shower

Tom retired as a millionaire at age fifty-one. He accumulated land from the Ossipee Mountains all the way to Lake Winnipesaukee, eventually owning 6,300 acres.

After a series of failed investments, Tom fell on hard times in the 1920s and 1930s. He attempted to sell the estate in 1925, through the era of the Great Depression, and again in 1934, to no avail. Tom and Olive continued to live at Lucknow Estate until Tom’s death in 1941 at which time the property was sold.

Owned and operated by Castle Preservation Society since 2006, Lucknow is open to the public as a self-guided tour.

Exiting the property, you pass a small peaceful pond, Shannon Trout Pond, popular with Estate staff for enjoying lunch and picnics. The pond is occupied by hundreds of hungry trout that swim to greet you when you step onto the wooden dock.

Shannon trout Pond  Rainbow Trout

One way in and one way out, the small stone guard house still stands near the exit road.

Rear gate house

One detour before returning to LilyPad.  TripAdvisor suggested the Markus Wildlife Sanctuary and Loon Center and it was within a few miles of the Estate.  The sanctuary offered a walking path and in the excellent weather we were enjoying, it sounded appealing .  Before taking the path, we watched an educational presentation about Loons, walked around the hands-on learning center and browsed through the gift shop.

Loon Center Visitors Bldg  On Golden Pond Loon

Venturing outside we discovered the path was somewhat overgrown and more of a hiking trail for those with good balance and no fear of gnarly tree root systems.   It was time to leave the area and return home to rescue KatieBug from her crate.

Loon Center

After our relaxing peek into the past and interesting lesson regarding the life of a Loon, we returned home to give KatieBug a long and entertaining walk around the wooded RV park.  She met up with several of our neighbors and their crazy bouncy fur kids.   Dinner, more pug time and “to all a good night”.

 

Scanning through Groupon, we found a mutually interesting destination and planned an early start for exploring Lost River Gorge & Boulder Caves.  Just past the entrance, a Cairn grew alongside the trail.

Lost River Gorge and Bolder Caves Entrance    A Cairn along the boulder path

The self-guided tour consisted of hundreds of stairs and pathways

Up more steps  More stairs up

and a variety of crawl spaces through caves.  Neither John nor I chose to squeeze into the caves.

One of the boulder cave entrances

Cool breezes started off our morning as the path see-sawed over hundreds of wooden stairs, traversing rolling hills, rocky and root gnarled paths, over and around and through the treed forest. This venture was going to be an excellent work out but looked increasingly daunting the further in we advanced.  Reaching a giant waterfall an hour into the tour we rested, letting the waters spray cool us off.

The falls   Walkway over the water  Path to a Covered Bridge

There were many pausing points near unusual rock formations including one, for obvious reasons, known as the Hanging Rock.

Hanging boulders   Walkway through the boulders

Climbing crisscrossed boards to the top of the lookout, the view was a full sweep of green hues with a few pops of color but the steep climb down sent my leg muscles into screaming mode after having just tackled all the stairs.

Boulder overlook

A few more sets of ups and downs before we reached the visitors center and melted into the comfortable seats of our car.  These are the times I am grateful for the comfort and strength of our faithful 10 year old Lexus.  Being towed back and forth across the country for five years is a testament to its tenacity and the reason I was adamant about keeping Ribitts for our travels.

Sets of steps up     Stairs down

Relaxing in the car I thought, with 20/20 hindsight, the Loon hiking trail would have been effortless in comparison.

Fall was in full Kodachrome color so a drive over Kancamagus Highway, known for sightings of wildlife and beautiful leaf colors, was a must-see path back to LilyPad.

Kancamagus highway  Kancamagus highway overlook

The bright sunlight made the leaves look less colorful and no wild or tame animals chose to stroll nearby our line of sight.  Next day we relaxed and enjoyed lunch with family, the last time we would have their company this season.

Back to LilyPad to stow away all and ready our box-on-wheels for the slow trek home with several side-steps to keep the journey interesting.

Our short R and R complete, we programmed Burlington Vermont into Ways, our navigation program, and scanned Groupon and TripAdvisor for things to do during our next pause.

Arriving early afternoon, we settled in at an “electric only” space at Winooski Vermont’s Elks Lodge and set off to explore Church Street Marketplace in Burlington.

Burlington Elks Lodge site

If I haven’t emphasized sufficiently how much we love being part of the Elks Lodge family, let me take this moment to express my gratitude for their welcoming attitude towards RV’ers, their spacious sites in which to park and the friendly staff that greet us cheerfully at every Lodge where we have stayed. Thank you Elks Lodge Family!

The Marketplace is a destination of shopping, dining, evening libations and enjoyable people watching. We experienced a bit of everything it had to offer as we strolled the multiple streets up and back.

Church Street Marketplace

We loved it being a “no auto zone” as well as being completely non-smoking along the entire route! The area is clean, has lots of interesting small scale shops, there are no cars to distract your gaze away from the shops and it is lined with many historical buildings along its boarders.

No Smoking on Church Street   Keep VT weird  Beautifully restored buildings

Enjoyable and safe, we found The Marketplace a great area to stretch our legs during the day or night. Purchases might be a bit pricey but there were many locals with handmade offerings and only a few junky touristy traps. No panhandlers are allowed, nice touch, but they do have musicians playing along the route that are very appreciative of your monetary donations. We both agreed this was a must-see when in Burlington.

Church Street art

 

Next day we visited ECHO Leahy Center for Lake Champlain in Burlington Vermont. Perched on the edge of the Lake, the Centers mission, ”to educate and delight people about the Ecology, Culture, History and Opportunities for Stewardship of the Lake Champlain Basin”.

ECHO

Upon entering, an impressive gigantic slice of rock and water fall sculpture, locally sourced.

Rock and Water sculpture

This is a small but densely packed Center with interesting facts and hands on exploration experiences for all ages.  The lake’s Legend of Champ was an interesting read.

Kids water play area  The legend of Champ

The Center offered an enjoyable overview of the history of Lake Champlain and our intermission on their outside deck by the docks brought a cooling gentle breeze and an exceptional view of the marina and lake.

The Boardwalk boat dock

There was ample room for children to explore but we seniors had fun as well.  Polymer play sand is a tactile delight.

Polymer play sand

Watching the fish in the Big Tank was relaxing and turtles are surprisingly entertaining.

The Big Tank   Trio of turtles

The movie, Robots 3D, was a fascinating exploration into the progress of robotic artificial intelligence.

John and I had a chance to dip our fingers into the water tank alive with sea critters, read about the fascinating history of the Lake, explore the lives of sea creatures and chat with helpful docents who answered all our questions about the lake and its inhabitants.

ECHO water critters     pink sea anemone

The building is small but packs a big entertainment punch if you love discovering facts and fiction about the lake.  Two thumbs up and highly recommended for those with inquiring minds.

 

Cat-a-corner to the Center, Skinny Pancake was our lunch destination. It is dog friendly, shaded by large umbrellas on the stone deck with many outside tables and even has water bowls for your fur baby. We stopped for a snack and enjoyed the flavorful and fresh ingredients of the lite and delicious crepes. So many choices, sweet or savory, something for every taste bud.

Skinny Pancake

They sell a wheat free crunchy dog biscuit that KatieBug munched on happily.  We chose the outdoor seats with relaxing views of the water and excellent people watching.

Waterfront Park skirts the edge of the lake. We returned in the early evening to stroll along the wooden pathway and watch towns people intently focused on building unique talismans along the rocky driftwood shores.  I didn’t ask, but wondered if they were protection from “Champ“ the lake monster.

Along Lake Champlain

From one of the multiple wooden garden swings along the boardwalk, we watched the sunset cast an eerie somber grey shadow across the lake.

Sunset on the Boardwalk

Thoroughly relaxed, we returned to the Elks Lodge for a lite dinner and a quiet night’s sleep.

 

Today we would jam-pack in as many tourist trap stops as possible.  The leaves were still turning colors, exposing us at every curve and rolling hill to a brilliant showcase of New England Fall.

Twisting     Rolling hills

It would be unthinkable to ignore one of the most ingenious ice cream makers in New England, Vermont’s own Ben and Jerry’s creamery.

Entrance at Ben and Jerry's  Ben and Jerry's RV

The weather was cool and, lucky for us, the line was a short wait for entering the tour.  Most of the visitors were seniors so the medium length tour was taken at a snail’s pace, fine by me. Information presented was no different from other ice cream factories we have visited but Ben and Jerry has wildly original flavors and a diverse list of fancy mix-in’s.  There were several walls of ice cream scoops that spanned the history of ice cream to entertain us while we waited.

Empower Mint flavor      Ice cream scoops

John partook, I saved my calories for our next stop, Cabot Cheese outlet.

The Cabot Cheese Outlet is located in Winooski Vermont, a short drive from the creamery. The Outlet contains a vast expansion of everything cheese.  Cabot Extra Sharp Cheddar is my favorite and free samples were everywhere.

Cabot Cheese Store

The temperature was cool, partly because of the weather outside and partly due to the wall of refrigerated cases opening and shutting as visiting customers purchased tasty tidbits. A sharp cheesy aroma drifted throughout the store.  Several rows of food samples were offered along with tables of artistically displayed cheese choices. Mixed among the cheese was every kind of souvenir imaginable, all containing a cheese theme.

One building over, Smugglers’ Notch Distillery. We rarely pass up a chance to sample what local distilleries offer. The flight of 80 proof tastes were exemplary. John and I split each one, ample alcohol for us to enjoy the six flavors. The small sips allowed either of us to be sober enough for the drive home. Tiny liquor bottles for stocking stuffers purchased and tucked into our bag, we headed for Vermont’s premier chocolate, Lake Champlain Chocolates, across the parking lot.

Disappointed that entering the front doors didn’t produce a heavenly confectionery aroma, we quickly scanned the lower area that was filled with upscale jewelry before taking a step up to the next room where the chocolate was displayed. One case of chocolate, various types, not the factory I was hoping to explore. I bought a few small squares for stocking stuffers, popped one truffle sample into my mouth and we left in search of a place to dine.

On the way to dinner, instead of seeing cows grazing in the fields, wild turkeys were marching along through the green brush chowing down on bugs.

Open fields   Wild Turkeys

Trying local restaurants can be a crap shoot, with positive dining experiences floating somewhere around 60 percent. Our House Bistro in Winooski Vermont was rated well on TripAdvisor. We parked, arriving peak dinner hour and ready to enjoy pub grub with a twist.

Our House

A small narrow pub, embellished with vintage lunchbox décor, only a few tables and no room at any so we climbed up on stools at the bar. Comfort food was their specialty with variations on Mac n Cheese, Pot Pie and burgers. John had Pot Pie, I opted for Mac n Cheese, both were excellent.

While enjoying dinner, I noticed the liquor shelf at my eye level. It displayed a newly prominent Texas liquor, Tito’s Handmade Vodka. Small world.

TX vodka in VT

Back to LilyPad, relax for the night, one more partial day of exploration.

 

Today we would pack up early for our first-thing-in-the-morning Vermont exit.  A grocery run, driving tour of the town and back to LilyPad to relax. A short drive from the Elks Lodge lives the The University of Vermont and State Agricultural College, a public research university.  Since 1862, the U.S. state of Vermont’s sole land-grant university.  On a corner not far away is a 1900’s bank building and Burlington City Hall

University of Vermont    1900 Bank Building    Burlington City Hall

The homes and buildings surrounding the University are stately and well maintained.  St. Joseph’s, built in 1896, still serves the community.  Nightfall and early to bed.

Well maintained homes     St. Joseph's 1896

Rested, refueled and ready to roll, we woke early and were on the road again.  Next destination, Canada!

On the road again   Winding roads