Saturday, April 24, 2010

Home, Sweet Home!

I know - I've used this title before, but it's always true.

We covered 4,774 miles in 27 days and it was a great trip, but the house is bigger than the 17-foot Casita, the view is great and my pre-dawn walk with Scooby Doo was cool (35 degrees with a cool north wind), but the sky was cloudless and, though there was no moon, there were millions of stars above ... that grand, clear, high-altitude sky we see in the Southwest.

The trip really went well. We learned a few things about traveling with the Casita, learned to drive differently, etc. Found a few details we need to fix on the trailer (shower stall doesn't drain, and it's too shallow to be a good bathtub), but all-in-all it served us well.

Time turned out to be more of a constraint than we would have liked; Sandy was saying yesterday that it would be nice to be able to stop for a few days in one place, unhook, explore, photograph, etc. I think we'll probably use it more in that way, setting up the Casita as a base camp that we can work out from.

Anyway, it's great to be home. Going to the Bakery for breakfast and more pleasant re-entry. Got duty at Artisans this afternoon and then looking forward to a play in Cortez tonight. It's good to be home! tv

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Rainy morn in Kansas

Woke up to thunder, lightning and rain in Russell, Kansas, once the home of both Bob Dole and Arlen Specter. Nice to be sitting dry inside our little trailer, drinking fresh coffee and reading on Facebook about inches of snow back in Mancos! Maybe we should go south for another week or two.

Sandy is 29 today, so I'm taking her out for breakfast next door (instead of the Special K we bought yesterday) and, hopefully, to an Outback in Colorado Springs tonight. Otherwise, it will be a day of driving westward through the rain.

First, we have to pack up, and unhooking the connections in the rain won't be as much fun as usual. Still, I've gotten it down to where it doesn't take very long. The lower picture is where we are right now; the upper one is the night before in Columbia, MO, probably the NICEST Good Sam park we have ever been in.

By the time we get home, this is going to be about a 5,000-mile trip, the third such we've taken (the first with the Casita). I'm no longer able to add up the miles we've covered together in a tin can on wheels; must be 50,000 or more. We're not full-time RV-ers and won't be - we like community too much - but we understand a little more about the attractions of that life.

The miles and hours we've spent together have been SO enjoyable, at home and in the car. When traveling, Sandy (now aided by the TomTom GPS unit) is the navigator, keeping me from taking exits I don't want to take, checking out distances and routes and potential lodging sites for the night. She spells me in driving, too, letting me take a nap (something us old guys need).

We enjoy so much that we see along the way ... flowering redbud trees, lilacs, dogs, people, old houses, great natural views. This trip has been less sightseeing, but we did figure out for ourselves what's meant by "post rock" country here in western Kansas ... the fence posts are actually columns of rock!

Here's to 40 or so more birthdays for Sandy, and I hope to be with her to celebrate every one of them! tv

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Wending our way west

We're in Columbia, MO, tonight, streaking back across the midlands. Well, not really streaking, but putting in more miles per day than I had originally planned. After our slow day winding through the West Virginia hills Sunday (averaging about 20 miles per hour and working hard to stay in the narrow lane, not run off the road, not overheat the transmission on the upgrades, not ruin the brakes on the serpentine downhill curves and not back up more than four or five angry drivers behind me), we regrouped and decided going slow to do photography on the back roads was incompatible with dragging the Casita. So, we're hitting the freeways again, just different ones.

Sunday was really good for me. We went to meeting for worship at Hopewell Friends Meeting, north of Winchester, VA. The meeting is 275 years old, the meeting house is 250 years old (bottom picture). I first went there a little over 30 years ago, joined in 1980 and hadn't been back in 25 years.

'Twas a joy to return and to share my love of the place and its people with Sandy. Though too many of my friends from that era have died (most recently Bob Sekinger, whose memorial was a week before we got there), it was great to see a few old friends. One was Bob Pidgeon, whose comments I often recall and who I had told Sandy about many times; we got to have our picture taken together.

Hopewell used to be a larger congregation than it is now, as evidenced by the galleries in the balcony. It also hosted quarterly meetings sometimes, which would require the extra space.

We were hosted by my best friend from those years, Jim Riley and his wife Mary, at their beautifully designed, constructed and furnished home in Winchester. We arrived on Saturday, which happened to be Jim's birthday, so we were graciously invited to share birthday dinner with them.

On the road again ... Sunday night was spent in a muddy fishing camp somewhere in West Virginia. There aren't a lot of choices for a camper trailer in that part of the country, unless you want to dry camp, and we didn't. The next night we were in a Good Sam park in Frankfort, KY, once again a midget among the behemoths.

Both Saturday night in Winchester and Sunday night in central WV the temperatures got down into the upper 30s! It was brrry upon rising, but we were snug in our bunk. Jim and Mary have a beautiful guest suite they welcomed us to use, but we figured things would work better with Scooby Doo if we stayed in the trailer. It's also true that our sleep in the Casita is next best to being at home in our own bed! Far better than any motel.

And Scooby Doo makes herself at home, too! tv

Monday, April 19, 2010

Good Sams are Good!

We are enjoying a stay in a lovely Good Sam RV park in Frankfort Kentucky after a cold night last night in an" all we can find" kind of RV park in West Virginia last night. Tonight's stay is a nice place, we stopped early and are enjoying the good wifi to catch up on that also. Just posting a couple of pictures from the previous days. One is a beautiful historic Quaker meeting house that Tom had attended many years ago. The trees were blooming and the old rock building was just an experience to see and visit. The other is what I call "two tough guys". Tom is the cute one!sf

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Movin' on

Our dallying around Thursday put us in a little bit of a bind for time, so we found our way out of the western North Carolina hills to Boone, reconsidered, and decided to take the high road to Staunton, VA, there to spend the night so we could do Shenandoah NP today (Saturday) and get to our friends' place in Winchester at a reasonable time.

Funny thing happened along the way. We were on a narrow, two-laned, blacktop road that reminded me a lot of 107 back in Lincoln County, WI, except that this one was going from ridgetop to ridgetop across the countryside. Pretty country, but no road signs. All of a sudden the TomTom GPS device tells us to turn right. "Right" is a road that looks less good than the one we're on and there are no signs to tell us what route we're on, so Tom overrules the TomTom and we continue. After another couple of miles of pretty fields and cows and some big farm houses, the road ends. Not only does the blacktop end, the ROAD ends! We're suddenly at the entrance to somebody's yard. We managed to pull the Casita around their garage and, as we're getting back onto the highway again, there's a little sign that welcomes us to North Carolina. The blacktop highway goes to the Virginia line and that's it! (No warning signs, either)

Oh, well, we made it to Staunton without problems ... the Jeep did well pulling the trailer on the Interstate, now that I've learned not to have it in overdrive, on cruise control and with the air conditioner on.

Cloudy this morning, so far, but we're off to Shenandoah NP. tv

Friday, April 16, 2010

Morning in the holler

Well, we're on a new segment of the trip, slower and into new country. The rush of getting out here was a little stressful, both on me and on the car.

We got into downtown Asheville for a while on Wednesday, poking around on our way to pick up the trailer in Hendersonville, where we had some minor repairs made. We stopped for a while in Pack Square, which has some beautiful old buildings around it. We were both amazed at the griffins extending way out from the corners of the Jackson Building ... made us wonder about earthquakes and to stay away from those corners!

There and in Battery Park, where Noi is office manager for several companies, we got to see the street singers, vendors, coffee-drinkers, etc., that are the street life she has written so glowingly about. Very pleasant ambience!

Thursday we started up the Blue Ridge Parkway, stopping first at the Folk Art Center, pictured above the view of Lucas, Aiden, Noi, Nola Jane and Sandy around the trampoline. It is a beautiful center, wonderful venue for the works of 200 artists and I can see why my boss in Harpers Ferry, Art Allen, became so involved with it after he retired in Asheville.

The trip up the parkway was ... interesting. The views are not those of the west, where I regularly bitch about the encroaching haze, but the trees and vistas are interesting. At one point, around 5,000 feet above sea level near the Mount Mitchell State Park turnoff, there were still a few patches of dirty snow on shaded, north-facing roadsides.

In several places, there were contract tree crews cutting up and chipping recently downed trees and we had to get off the parkway on Route 80 because the road was blocked by fallen trees further on up. We learned later that there had been an ice storm recently that damaged the forest severely, something Sandy had already figured out from her central OK experience.

I was disappointed that the NPS hadn't given us earlier notification that the parkway was closed, but it worked out for the best. The surface of the parkway is in poor condition (LOTS of roadwork going on!) and the views were getting a bit repetitive, so we got down off the mountain and traveled through Micaville, Spruce Pine, etc. Stopped for lunch at a Forest Service campground on the Toe River, where there's fresh greenery coming out and an ol' swimmin' hole in the river.

We had no particular schedule (have to be in Winchester, VA, Saturday), so we thought we'd head for Boone, NC. Sandy put "Boone, NC" into the TomTom GPS device and we moseyed on. All went well until, in the little crossroads of Plumtree, NC, just after we had commented on the interesting cafe and rooming house, TomTom said "Turn right." Well, we pretty soon decided TomTom had led us onto a road that maybe folks with a camper trailer shouldn't be on!

Just as we were pondering our course at a fork where we could turn around, two women hiking along the road caught up with us and asked if we were headed for "their" campground. We, of course, had no idea there was even a campground up that road, but we heard more about it and then decided to check it out. A little further, we were again pondering directions at a fork in the road and two guys in a pickup truck pulled up and told us to just keep on going, we were almost at the turnoff to the campground.

We reached the turnoff ... a fairly steep gravel drive ... and gave it a try. We were greeted by a fellow who said he was the sous chef at the restaurant but he would call someone to give us information about the campground.

All in all, it was one of those "way will open," "let go and let God" experiences. We just spent the night at The Vance Toe River Lodge campground, part of a complex that includes a B&B lodge, the cafe, a brewery, a winery, a zip-line canopy tours experience, a trout hatchery, blooming forsythia and azaleas, a youth camp and the friendliest work-campers we could imagine. One of the ladies we first contacted walking along the road came by as we were setting up and gave us four fresh brown eggs she had just pulled out from under the chickens! We ate supper in the evening on our little private deck above a bank of azaleas and walked up the stream past the yurts and the climbing wall and the zip lines and the disc golf course.

We covered less than 100 miles yesterday; we'll have to do a little better today, but what a wonderful interlude and break in our travels! tv

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tom and Grands

Our visit to North Carolina was going good today as Tom visits with grandchildren Aiden and Nola Jane. Aren't they a cute threesome! sf

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Tunnel of Pink and Green

That seems to be what the Interstate 40 roadway is between Memphis and N. Carolina. Although pink does not really describe the color of the red bud trees decorating the roadways! Gorgeous! More fuchsia than pink against that beautiful first burst of spring green on the trees. It was a delightful drive. The Sunday night stay at Tom Sawyers RV park on the banks of the Mississippi River was very special. I took pictures of barges on the river moving huge loads, early morning light and last rays of the day! Even shot a few shots of a strange looking bird(Tom says it's a killdeer) scooting along the bank and even doing a stranger yet mating "dance"(the bird,not Tom :) ). . This is such a great country and I continue to be amazed at all I haven't yet seen. sf

Morning on the Mississippi

Well, after a fun day of Easter egg-hunting and meeting for business with Durango Friends, we tended to getting ready and got on the road southward and eastward Wednesday morning.

We made it to Santa Rosa, NM, that night, where we found our little Casita dwarfed by the big rigs all over the Santa Rosa RV Campground. We did enjoy their facilities and they have a scrumptious BBQ in the evening.

I seem to be managing to do everything wrong that can possibly be done with the Casita. I carelessly backed into the Subaru as we were leaving home, so we got the lens replaced in Albuquerque, discovering that the backup lights weren't working, after jus having had the lights worked on.

Thursday I found myself having to straddle a piece of truck tire in our lane, traffice not allowing me to swing around it. That broke a piece of plumbing under the trailer, so part of our time in Chandler was spent getting that replaced.

Fortunately, we still had plenty of time with Sandy's daughter's family to go with them to the property they just purchased and to go to the Wizard of Oz performance Sandy's grandson was in. What a show! It was a huge production, with lots of student performers and costumes and sets.

Can't help noting that the cast and audience didn't look like the population I see around Chandler; no African-Americans in the show and the only one I saw in the audience left before the intermission. De facto segregation?

We left Chandler Sunday morning and got to West Memphis, where we're in the Tom Sawyer RV Campground. It's down on the Mississippi River and we sat on the levee at sunset and watched killdeer mating displays and barges going up and down the river. Again, we feel like a mouse in an elephant herd!

Oh, and the spigot broke off the water tank, the right turn light on the Casita doesn't work (probably because of the wire hanging down from the Jeep) and, while I did get the hot heater lit and working, it was overflowing.

So, I guess we'll try to get everything put right when we get to Asheville tomorrow. TV

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Am I Smarter Than a 5th Grader??

I am beginning to think not! I really could use one right now to show me how to operate my new laptop computer. Having had an HP desktop for quite a few years and learned the nature of the beast( the beast is showing signs of end of life) I was sure that if I purchase an HP laptop it would be a breeze to get going on it. Wrong. . Windows 7 sounded great. .and I am sure it will be when I figure it out. There is a lot of new terminology in the limited information that came with it. . and the little thingys on the screen aren't where they are on my old one. . . It is late and my mind is frazzled. . I am sure that it will be all clear tomorrow. .But in the meantime, if anybody has a 5th grade computer geek. . send him over. . . sf