Saturday, March 26, 2011

Saturday, March 26, 2011 Branson and onto Illinois

Early Friday morning, about 4:30am, we were awakened with the sound of thunder and the presence of sharp lightning and then the pounding rain.  After we had gotten up and had breakfast the rain ended but the clouds remained.  We went to the Corps of Army Engineers Visitor Center.  The Corps built the Table Rock Dam for flood control and a source of electrical power. 

There are numerous campgrounds around the lake that were built and are managed by the Corps, unfortunately, they were not open until April or later or we probably would have stayed there.  We had lunch at “Shorty Small’s”, a barbeque restaurant, that we thought had good food- brisket, catfish, pulled pork and sausages with sides- and plentiful.  We took in a show in the evening, SIX, which featured 6 brothers performing without musical instruments but sounded like musical accompaniment.

This show was named the “Best Entertainment for 2010”.  The theater looked to be full- the other shows we had been to had not been full but maybe it was because of being on Friday evening.

About 6:30am this morning we had a repeat of yesterday morning’s thunder and lightning- and we were leaving Branson.  What fun to tear down in the rain and it was really pouring.  Even with raincoats on Tom and I both ended up getting wet.  Nervously and with dry clothing, we left Branson.  Our  motorhome does not run well in rain as it ingests water and we had some real hills to go up and down from Branson to Springfield.  Fortunately, it ran pretty good only missing a couple times. At one point we had pea-size or a little larger hail coming down covering the ground with the pellets.   Unlike yesterday, the rain continued with no let up and as we got about 90 miles from St. Louis the rain turned to snow.  The snowflakes were so large they looked like snowballs falling and the ground was soon covered.

The roadways had accumulations and drivers not slowing down were ending up in the ditches or flipped over.  We believe we saw 2 dozen or more such accidents through our travels today.  As we neared the St. Louis area the snow flakes were smaller and snow was not falling as fast.  Our plans were to stay at a campground at the Casino Queen in East St. Louis, Illinois and we were more than ready to call it a day when we arrived there but the campground was closed and would not be open until Memorial Day weekend.  Our directory had stated the campground was opened March through November.  A security guard directed us to an area that we could have dry camped with truckers but we opted to move on.  About 10 miles east we found a campground that we were able to stay the night with full hook-ups which should be more comfortable in this wintry environment.  It is 7:40pm as I write this it continues to snow.  According to the weather forecast it is to stop tonight, we hope so as we need to continue on toward Elkhart, Indiana where we have an appointment on Tuesday for some repair on the motorhome.

Thursday, March 24, 2011 Branson, Missouri

Branson, Missouri is a town of shows- music, comedy, Chinese acrobats, karate, animal, and variety.  It was overwhelming trying to decide what to see and do.  The campground made our first selection easier by giving us vouchers for $15.00 off each ticket at the Rankin Brothers show at the Mickey Gilley Theater.  So Wednesday evening we went to see the 2 Rankin Brothers, Matt and Mark.  Both brothers are wonderful musicians, Matt plays the guitar really well and Mark has a voice with a wide range. 


The music they played was from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.  They were backed up with 5 instrumental musicians and 3 female singers, one of the females is Peggy Lennon’s (Lennon Sisters) daughter.  It was a really nice show.  Today, Thursday, we went to the Jim Stafford show at the Jim Stafford Theater, another fine show.

Jim Stafford plays a mean guitar including classical, good story teller and comedian.  He includes in his show his daughter, G.G., who plays the piano, harp and keyboard, and his son, Shea, who also plays the piano and then later the violin.  Stafford sang his song “Cow Patti” and tossed cow patti’s out into the audience and we were the receiver of one- it was Styrofoam.   We have been lucky getting tickets to the shows and having great seats, both times we have been in the middle of a row, Rankin we were in row 7 and Stafford we were in row 4.  Obviously, this not the busiest season.  It is possible to go to a show in the morning, the afternoon and then in the evening but we feel a show a day is enough for us.

Besides the shows, there are other things to do in this area.  Yesterday we went to a couple of the shopping areas, a pedestrian mall downtown Branson and outlets malls.

We ate lunch at a Mexican restaurant and rode around the area.  This morning we went to a state fish hatchery that raises Rainbow and Brown Trout for streams throughout Missouri, quite a large operation.

We had lunch at a Culver’s, a good hamburger and custard restaurant.   The weather has been pretty nice- yesterday we were in shorts but last night the temperature dropped that today we were in long pants even though there was lots of sunshine. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Monday, March 21, 2011 Amarillo, Texas to Enid, Oklahoma

We were back on US 60 again traveling east toward Oklahoma.  As we were leaving the Amarillo area we saw 6 or more trains sitting idly on the tracks.  Then we saw maintenance equipment moving on the tracks and at one spot there was numerous pieces of equipment and men working on the tracks.  There must have been some major problem that was being worked on.  Trains were being stopped on the east side of the work area as well.   The land was very flat until we were around Miami, Texas where hills appeared and continued through western Oklahoma.  As we drove through Oklahoma we saw buttes and mesas along the way.

Roadwork was being done and the dirt that was being moved was the reddest dirt ever as well as the rocks along the way.  Ranches and farms that were using irrigation had large fields of wheat growing,  these big green fields were a standout in the otherwise area of dried brown grasses.  We stopped for lunch in Seiling, Ok. at a local café, both of us having chicken dinner.   We are camped at a Moose Lodge in Enid, Oklahoma.  There is a nice camping area here with electric hook-ups.  The weather today has been cloudy with some fog this morning and strong winds.  We were traveling west to east, the winds were blowing south to north, so we were broadsided the entire way.  Even tonight the winds are still blowing and the forecast is for winds again tomorrow.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sunday, March 20, 2011 Palo Duro Canyon, Texas

About 20 miles south of Amarillo is Palo Duro Canyon State Park where we spent the day.  Palo Duro is a beautiful canyon in this otherwise flat land.  The road goes down into the canyon.  At 6 places a creek maybe flowing over the road, today only one crossing had water flowing over the road.

There are campgrounds, picnic areas and trails for hiking, biking and running. We did not get to the Visitor’s Center as it did not open until later in the day but we did stop at snack /gift shop.  A dugout used by Col. Charles Goodnight as he was settling this area is a short walk from the roadway.

Tom and I hiked a 2 mile  Sunflower Trail that was easy walking on fairly flat land.

It was very warm hiking as the sun was real bright today and temperatures reached into the 80’s.  I thought about rattlesnakes as we were walking but thankfully we did not hear or see any snakes or other wildlife.   Bicyclists also use the trail and we encountered families and individuals bicycling as well as other hikers.  As we were leaving the park a ranger was feeding some Texas Long Horn cattle in a field by the entrance gate. The horns on those cattle are indeed long!

Returning to Amarillo we stopped for a late lunch at Dyer’s Barbeque.  I had a brisket dinner, Tom had Brisket, pork and sausage dinner and we were not disappointed.  Even the sides of potato salad, cole slaw and beans were some of the best tasting that I have ever had.  Tomorrow we are leaving this area and moving on east probably stopping in Oklahoma.  We’re planning to continue on US 60 instead of the Interstate Highways that we have traveled on before.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Saturday, March 19, 2011 Amarillo, Texas

We have decided to spend the weekend in Amarillo so we went to the downtown area to see whatever.  The American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame and Museum was our first stop. 


The building was quite impressive.  The Grand Hall  is dedicated to all the inductees of the Hall of Fame and is quite grand.

There are several galleries with exhibits.  We found the gallery that had write-ups about “remudas”, groups of working horses bred by ranches specifically to work with cattle”, to be very interesting.  Large ranches with thousands of acres and hundreds to thousands of head of cattle continue to use cowboys for rounding up cattle in the dense thick brush as they always have done.  Each cowboy is given a supply of  horses (6-8, depending on what each ranch decides on)  that he uses for his ranch work.  A theater showing a short 10 minute movie tells about the origins of the quarter horse. Other galleries showcased champion horses, hall of fame inductees and equipment and tack used with the horses.

Our next stop was at the Amarillo Art Museum which had a nice display of international art as well as some local.  We drove around the downtown area and was surprised how died it was.  We then drove to an area along the major highway with restaurants, Wal-mart and such and found that area bustling.  We had some sprinkles of rain this morning  and now at 6pm the sun is shining and it has gotten windy with temperatures reaching upper 60’s today.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday, March 18,2011 Roswell, New Mexico and Amarillo, Texas

Thursday, we spent the day exploring Roswell, New Mexico, that proclaims itself as the dairy capital of New Mexico.  We first went to the UFO Museum, this is what we think of when we hear Roswell, New Mexico, not dairy.

In 1947 there was an event in the Roswell area that has been unexplained and many people believe a UFO landed with aliens.  The US Air Force investigated and many feel whatever occurred was covered up.  We found the museum to be interesting and thought provoking.  We had lunch at a restaurant that was recommended by the campground as being the place that locals go, Peppers Grill and Bar, but we were not overly impressed with the food.  After lunch we stopped at the visitor’s center and had pictures taken with some “aliens”.

We then went to the Roswell Museum and Art Center.  Art of local artists was on display.  An artist was in the museum working on an art project using material that would be inflated she was busy cutting and sewing.

The museum area had displays pertaining to the Native American Indians and the ranchers of the region.

The weather  was very warm close to 90 degrees with lots of sunshine.

Today, Friday, we traveled a little over 200 miles from Roswell to Amarillo, Texas.  Most of the country was flat and sparsely populated.  We passed large feed lots of cattle with the aroma to go along with it.  The town of Portales, New Mexico had a sign stated it was a town of “17,000 friendly people and 3 or 4 grouches”.   Friona, Texas had a sign declaring it the “cheeseburger capital of the world” but we didn’t see any place selling cheeseburgers.  Then Hereford, Texas declared itself as the “beef capital of the world”.  Going through Hereford we remarked that we had not seen any trains in our travels today and then we hit a detour where we were stopped at a railroad crossing as 2 trains side by side were traveling through and then a third train came through.  From this point on we were seeing trains most of the remainder of the way to Amarillo.  After getting to the Amarillo "Best” Wonderland RV Park we unhooked the car and went to a nearby restaurant that is known for catfish for a late lunch of catfish and the trimmings.  We then returned to the campground and set up the motorhome.  We lost another hour of time today as we moved into Central Time.  It is cooler in Amarillo, temps in the high 60’s and rain (something we have not seen for weeks) is predicted for tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

March 16, 2011, Wednesday, Magdalena to Roswell

Before leaving the campground at Magdalena, Tom checked to see if anyone was in the office to collect our money for the campsite but the office was still locked up.  According to our Passport America directory we would be expected to pay $20.00 which included tax for the campsite so we put $20.00 in an envelope and placed in the key drop box for the motel patrons.  And we were on our way traveling east on US60 through the towns of Socorro and then San Antonio where we picked up US 380. The terrain was soft rolling hills covered with dried grasses and occasionally a mesquite tree.

Near the town of Carrizozo we suddenly began seeing black lava rocks and saw signs referring to this area as the “Valley of Fire”.

We stopped in the town of Capitan and went to the Smokey Bear Historical Park.

During a forest fire in this area a bear cub was rescued and named Smokey.  This Smokey was the inspiration for the Smokey Bear campaign against forest fires.  Smokey lived his life at the National Zoo in Washington but when he died his body was returned to Capitan and he was buried on what is now the Historical Park.

We ate lunch at a local restaurant in Capitan and then continued on to the town of Lincoln, an area that the famous Billy the Kid was known .

  From Lincoln we moved on to Roswell where we are staying at the Trailer Village Park for the next 2 nights.  Sure hope the aliens don’t invade tonight!!  

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

March 15, 2011 Eastward into New Mexico

We woke up to much colder temperatures (33degrees) in Show Low but the sun’s warmth soon had the temperature up 10 degrees before we left the area.Continuing our travel on US 60, about an hour after leaving Show Low, Arizona we crossed into New Mexico.  Throughout the day we seemed to be climbing, not steep ascents but long, gradual rises that slowed us down before reaching the top.  As we went over the top of these rises, we felt as if we could see endless  mesquite covered rolling hills.


We passed through a few small towns that were miles apart.  Occasionally ranches with cattle were along the way.  At lunchtime we were passing through Pie Town, so we stopped at the Pie Town Café.

Picasa Content

Our Ruben sandwiches were good, the slices of Triple Berry for Tom and Sour Cream raisin for me were expensive and far from the best pie we have eaten.  The slices of pie costs $4.95 for Tom’s and mine was the pie of the day at $3.95.  And for $24.95 we could have bought a whole 8-inch pie—and I thought the large 10-inch, at least, pies we saw in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for $19.00 was expensive.

Continuing on we came to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory Very Large Array (VLA) Telescope.

We had been here several years ago but it still intrigues us.  The large antennas are 82 feet in diameter (big enough for 2 average size houses to fit in) and weighs 230 tons.  There are 27 antennas arrayed in a Y configuration, 2 arms for 13 miles and one for 11 miles.  The antennas are moved by way of railroad tracks. The arrays sensitivity is able to detect the weak transmission of a cell phone from as far away as Jupiter.   There is a Visitor’s Center with a self guided tour that is free. When we first arrived at VLA the antennas were all in a stored mode but as we were leaving the antennas were being positioned in a work mode.

We had planned to stop at a campground a few miles to the east of the VLA but when we arrived the entrance had a gate across it.  We continued on to the town of Magdalena, about 6 miles, and stopped at the Western Motel and RV Park.  We entered the campground but the office was locked.  We have set up here and hope that sometime between now and before we leave in the morning that someone will appear to collect their money.  There is a travel trailer parked here but we have not seen anyone around, no other RVs.  I seem to have picked up a virus that has made me feel miserable with a sore throat,a cough and tiredness.  I’m hoping Tom doesn’t  get it.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Monday 14, 2011 Mesa to Show Low, Arizona

This morning we left Mesa and travelled northeast on US route 60 to Show Low, Arizona, about 160 miles.  The multi lane road narrowed down to 2 lanes as we left the metropolitan area of Mesa and the surrounding towns.  The terrain soon became mountainous so our travels were slowed down.  As we approached the Miami/ Globe area, the so called copper capital of the world, we saw open pit copper and gold mining.  As we climbed the saquaro cacti were soon behind us and mesquite covered hillsides were commonly seen.   As we continued to climb we were in the Salt River Canyon, a very large canyon with water flowing through.


We descended the southern side of the canyon through a series of switchbacks, crossed the river and then ascended the northern side of the canyon.  This is indeed a beautiful area to travel through but not at a fast speed.

Salt River Canyon, Az.

When we arrived in the Show Low area we found the Fool Hollow Lake State Recreation Area and secured a campsite for tonight.  This camping area has nice spacious concrete sites with full hook-ups that overlook the Fool Hollow Lake.   Surprisingly, there are a number of RV’s  with families camping here.  Since we are now in higher altitude than in Mesa the temperature is lower.  At 8:30pm it is now 49 degrees, the low temperature in Mesa was in the upper 50’s.

Campsites at Fool Hollow Lake Campground, Show Low, Arizona

Morning at Fool Hollow Lake, Show Low, Arizona

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sunday, March 13, 2011 - Yuma and then Mesa

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday we spent at the Gypsy Gathering Rally.  It was lots to do with good seminars each day.  The seminars were interesting topics concerning maintenance issues with our RV’s, travel topics and some just fun stuff.  Often rallies have seminars that are given by vendors doing infomercials on their products which was not the case at this rally.  Tom and I went to a seminar on Thursday about kayaks and even though a vendor of a particular kayak was involved with the seminar all types of kayaks were discussed with pros and cons of each type.  Tuesday evening a couple, Easy Money, entertained with Country and Western music.  Wednesday evening we had a pizza supper followed with the Cactus Queen Beauty(?) contest in which 8 men dressed up in women’s clothing and then judged by the audience- they were sights to behold.  Thursday evening ended the rally with door prizes being distributed.

Friday morning we left the Yuma County fairgrounds and traveled east to Mesa, Arizona, a little more than 200 miles to the Aztec RV Resort.   After nearly a week of rally camping (we only had 20 amp electric, no water or sewer hook-ups) I had to catch up on the laundry.  In the evening we had dinner at the Organ Stop Pizza, a real unique experience.

Organ Stop Pizza - Mesa, AzOrgan Stop Pizza - Mesa, Az

This pizza restaurant has the world’s largest Wurlitzer theater organ.  While dining the organ is raised up from a pit and an organist plays this beautiful sounding instrument for about 30 minutes and then the organ and organist descends into the pit for about 10 minutes after which all return for another period of playing.  This continues from 4-9pm.  Tom has wanted to see this restaurant for sometime- another thing he can cross off his bucket list.

Saturday we drove down to Tucson.  We had seen a new motorhome in Florida at the Tampa Super Show that we thought we might be interested in and a dealer in Tucson had notified us that they had gotten this motorhome in.  After having time to really look over this motorhome in more detail we didn’t feel that it was something that we wanted to replace our motorhome.  It had more floor space but less closet and storage space than our motorhome.  In the evening we visited with Margaret and Don Phillips, friends of ours that live part time in Maryland and Arizona.  Margaret had prepared a nice dinner and we enjoyed being together catching up on news.

Today, Sunday, Tom and I had planned to attend church services here at the campground but we didn’t get up in time to make the 9am services.  After eating breakfast we went to the Queen Creek Olive Mill east of Mesa.

Queen Creek Olive Mill - Queen Creek, Az

This is the only olive mill in Arizona and has only been in existence for  several years.  A tour for $5.00 per person is available and we did take it but really not worth the price.  We were shown a few olive trees in an area open to everyone then we went into a tented area and the process for making olive oil was explained.  A free brochure in the gift shop explains the procedure.  In addition to a gift shop that sold flavored olive oils, balsamic vinegars, olives and other products there is a restaurant.

A selection of the various Olive OilsThe Cafe at Queen Creek Olive Mill

The breakfasts that we saw made us wish that we had not eaten breakfast before coming to this place, they were indeed mouthwatering.

Some of the Foods Available at the Cafe

After leaving the olive mill we returned to the campground as we had purchased some olive oils and didn’t want to leave them exposed to the heat in the car.  It has become quite warm in the upper 80’s in this southern Arizona area.  We did go out to the Blue Adobe Santa Fe Grill for a southwestern style meal of Shrimp Chili Rellenos which were very good.  After eating we went to Old Scottsdale and walked around the various shops making a few purchases.  It was a good day.


Leah entering the Old BAnk Building

Monday, March 07, 2011

Monday, March 7, 2011 Yuma, Arizona

Saturday was our last day at the Caravan Oasis Campground as we would be moving back to the fairground on Sunday for another rally.  In preparation for the rally I washed up the dirty clothes and bedclothes and towels.  We did drive to El Centro, California, about 60 miles from Yuma, but found nothing there of interest to us so we returned to Yuma.  We had a late lunch at La Fonda Tortilla Factory.  We really like this old restaurant.  The food is good, the waitress are attired in Mexican peasant skirts and blouses.  The décor is different from the usual Mexican restaurants- white walls have stenciled paintings in pastel colors.  Service is a little slow but it has been a busy restaurant whenever we have been there.  Afterwards we went down to the old section of Yuma.

Hotel San Carlos in old section of Yuma, Arizona

We had been told that we should go to Lutes Casino and see all the “stuff” on the walls and hanging from the ceiling.  We were surprised to find that it was not a casino at all but a restaurant.

Sunday we made our move to the fairgrounds for the “Gypsy Gathering”.  We had to be out of the campground by 11am but were able to parked at the fairgrounds until after 12 noon.  A large parking lot was available by the front gates for parking and when we arrived there were quite a few RVers already parked there.  We were told that we wouldn’t get parked until about 1pm so we ate lunch and read books as we waited.  Finally about 2pm the parking was started and by 2:30 we were situated in our campsite.  We were disappointed that we were parked in an area that did not have electric (20amp) that just makes life much nicer for us.  A little electric keeps our batteries charged and we are able to have the television, computer, and lights on without draining the batteries and then needing to use the generator.   Nothing was planned for Sunday as this was considered an early bird entry.  We went to an Appleby’s for dinner and returned to spend a quiet evening with no television and candles for lights.  We were glad when 10pm arrived so that we could go to bed- an earlier and I would be up before the crack of dawn.

Today, Monday, we woke up to the winds blowing briskly and cooler temperatures but plenty of sunshine.  The bright sunshine can heat up the motorhome in little time.  Tom found out that we could hook up to electric in the shed that we are backed up to and once that was done we felt a lot better about our situation here.  We went down to the old section of Yuma to have lunch at Lutes Casino.  Their specialty is hamburgers which we both had and must say they were good burgers.  The place is an old establishment with “stuff” everywhere, I’m sure we missed seeing some things but  what we saw was unique.

Lutes Casino, Yuma, Az.Poster on wall at Lutes Casino, Yuma, Az.Poster at Lutes Casino, Yuma, Az.

At 3pm the Gypsy Gathering officially started with opening remarks and introductions.  Nick and Terry Russell are fulltimers that have a business of publishing an RV travel newspaper,” The Gypsy Journal” and this is their rally.  Later this evening  tickets for doorprizes were drawn and we won(?) a day clock, doesn’t tell time, just the day of the week.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Friday, March 4, 2011 Yuma, Arizona

Wednesday, the 2nd, we went to  Yuma Palms Mall doing some looking and very little buying.  And then on Thursday we returned to Marketplace, the large flea market in Yuma and, like the mall, looked and bought little.  We stopped at an RV dealer that was having an open house with a chicken barbeque lunch.  We ate lunch with a couple that are now living in Yuma and had some suggestions for places to eat and things to see in the area.

Today, we followed a recommendation from the couple we met up with yesterday.  I packed a picnic lunch and we traveled north from Yuma.  We stopped at Sun Garden Growers and bought some local dates.

Grove of date palms at Sun Garden Growers, Yuma, Az.

Date palm groves were very common in this area.  Continuing on we next drove around the Imperial dam area and stopped at the dam.

Imperial Dam

This dam, in addition to producing electricity, diverts the waters from the Colorado River down to the Yuma area for irrigating the produce fields.  BLM (Bureau of Land Management) lands in this area is used by RVer’s that choose to live with no hook-ups at a very nominal or no cost for camping.

BLM camping with solarBLM camping with "toys" and solar

RV’s with solar panels, various “big boy” toys (4 wheel vehicles for traveling over the dunes) and antennas and satellite dishes are very common for this type of camping.   We were driving in the vicinity of Yuma Proving Grounds and we came to a display of tanks and war guns which we stopped and walked about.

Yuma Proving Grounds Display

Spying a sign for the Imperial National Wildlife Reserve we drove to check it out and hoped to find a place for our picnic lunch.  There was a nice pavilion with some picnic tables at the visitor center that served our needs well.   There were cactus blooming  and a gopher tortoise at the reserve had come out of hibernation.

Desert cactus in bloomGopher tortoise

As we were returning to Yuma we stopped at a little tiny church along the roadside that a farmer had built for his wife.

Tiny church north of Yuma, Az.Little pews in the Little Church

The church could seat 16 slim people at the most and is always open for anyone wanting to stop by.  Today has been a nice day with temperature in the 80’s and a very brisk wind.