Tuesday, October 30, 2012

"Superstorm" Sandy

Yesterday we had rain all day.  From about noon time we saw the wind increasing and then about 8pm we had very strong gusty winds that continued as we went to bed.  Upon rising this morning the winds were much calmer and rain continues but not as heavy.  Government offices and schools are closed again today.  Fortunately, we have not had any power outage but other areas throughout the state have had problems.  The threat of trees falling continues as the ground is so saturated that a gust of wind could topple trees.  The news programs are showing destruction along the coast where the storm was the strongest.  It has become quite chilly with temperatures in the low 40's.  In the western part of Maryland and West Virginia there has been blizzard conditions with snow fall about 2 feet deep. This is a good soup day so a pot of vegetable soup is cooking on the stove.  We are still undecided if we will go to Whaleyville this weekend.  We have gotten word that the campground, Fort Whaley, is open but we are thinking that we will make that decision tomorrow.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Samboree and Sandy

This past Thursday (10/25) we went to Frederick, Md. for the Maryland Good Sam Samboree.  Sandy, a tropical storm/hurricane was moving slowly toward the east coast.  We had a nice time at the Samboree enjoying time with camping friends.  Our Traveling Americans group had 6 units represented.  Saturday evening we were hearing that Sandy was getting closer to the east coast.  Todd had called us on Friday that he was in search of a generator and we searched in the Frederick area without any luck- in fact we were told that we would need to go west of Ohio to find one.  The closing Samboree ceremony was held on Saturday night so we were able to get under way earler than usual on Sunday morning.  We had anticipated rain on Sunday morning but luckily it was only cloudy as we tore down and got home.  Tom had stopped on the way home to fill the motorhome with fuel as this would be our home if the electric in the house was disrupted since we have a generator in the motorhome.  We decided to go down to Virginia to see Todd and the grandchildren (Beth had gone to Salem, Mass. for a weekend girls outing with her mom, aunt and cousin) since this week our youngest grandchild, Gabi, would be celebrating her first birthday.  We hads a nice visit even took Parker (3) and Gabi for a walk around the neighborhood without any rain.  Just as we were leaving there it started to sprinkle rain and then just a little before Potomac Mills we were into rain showers that continued all the way home. At home it was raining lightly but there was no winds.
Today, Monday, we awoke to steady rain but as yet no winds.  Government offices and schools are closed.  The television morning news had reports of grocery stores being bare due to people stocking up on food.  In Baltimore the news showed a line at a liquor store.  The news reports along the coastal areas are showing high tides and winds but at 8am the storm was reported as being 300 miles off the coast.  Coastal areas are bein evacuated- Ocean City has a mandatory evacuation in effect.  We needed milk so we went out to our local grocery store and found it to be well stocked with food- living in a smaller community does have its benefits.  We have filled our bathtub with water to flush toilets if need be and purchased a case of 6 gallons of water for drinking.  At this point we are as prepared as we will be for when the storm actually hits late tonight or early tomorrow morning.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Back Home- October 15, 2012

Today, Monday, was a much better day of traveling than yesterday.  The winds were calmer.  It was overcast most of the way from Ohio to Western Maryland.  We traveled on I-70 to Washington, Pa., then I-79 south to Morgantown, W. V.,then I-68 to Hancock, Md where we picked up I-70 again to Hagerstown, Md. and at that point we meandered on down to Taneytown.  The mountains were in full fall colors and would have been so much prettier if the sun had been shining but we enjoyed the views nevertheless.  It was a long trip of 343 miles through mountains that slowed our speed down but we got home safely by 4pm.  And all is well in Taneytown so it seems.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Rough Traveling Day- October 14, 2012

When we left Cloverdale, Indiana we knew that weather was going to be a factor today.  A storm system was moving west to east and as we were preparing to leave the rain started.  But the rain was the least of our problems- it was the wind blowing from the south so we were driving through a crosswind with heavy gusts.  Tom was fighting the steering wheel most of the way across Indiana into Ohio.  The rain was with us for just the first leg of today's travel as we had gotten ahead of it. We got lunch on the east side of Columbus at a Mexican restaurant.  As we got within several miles of Zanesville, Ohio, tonight's destination, we were caught up in traffic due to an overturn semi on a bridge.  We finally got to the campground, Wolfies Campground, about 2:30pm in Zanesville, Ohio and it was warm and sunny- but clouds have now moved in with some rain and more is predicted for tonight.  Hopefully, the winds will die down for tomorrow's trek home.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

East of The Mississippi- October 13, 2012

At 8:15am we were on the road going east on I-44 toward St. Louis, Missouri.  In the vicinity of St. Louis we took I-255 around the city and then onto I-70 east across the Mississippi River into Illinois. 

From 2012-10-13
From 2012-10-13
In Illinois we stopped at a Flying J for fuel a little after noon so we parked the motorhome and had lunch at the Denny’s restaurant on Flying J’s premises.  We had planned to stop for the night at a KOA campground in Terra Haute, Indiana which was a little more than 300 miles, which we did.  Tom registered us and came back saying we would only have water and sewer hook-up and the cost was $56.95 for the night- this was the most expensive camping fee we have paid this entire trip and in Terra Haute, Indiana.  Go figure!!  Oh, there was going to be a ham and bean dinner at no cost- big deal. The Trailer Life Campground directory for 2010 had quoted the cost of this campground as $36-45.00 and one would assume a full hook-up would be no more than $45.00.  Here 2 years later than the date of the directory we were going to have to pay almost $12.00 more for a water/electric only site than the most expensive site in 2010- talk about inflation!!   We got into our site and were beginning to hook-up.  Tom came into the motorhome saying that the water was but a trickle and at that point we decided we were not going to stay here.  Tom went to the office and got a refund and we were on our way.  Thirty miles up the road was another campground, Cloverdale RV Park, that we stopped.  For half the cost of KOA  ($28.89) we have full hook-ups (water, sewer and 30-amp electric) and the campground is neatly maintained in a quiet setting.  For the life of me I do not know what the draw to KOAs are.  These campgrounds are most always more expensive and offer nothing more than other campgrounds.  I have heard some folks say that they only stay at KOA’s and I think that these folks are missing some very nice campgrounds and are paying so much more.  Another point- is it any wonder why RVers are finding WalMart parking lots, Flying J lots and other such parking places as suitable overnight camping sites?  We went a little further(362 miles) than we had planned but we both feel better about the campground that we are staying in.

Richland,Missouri- October 12, 2012

The weather forecast for last night was that there could be storms during the night in Oklahoma.  Knowing the potential for severe weather in the area we were in Tom set up the weather radio to alert us if there was any such weather during the night.  Thankfully,  we did not get alerted to any thing.  But we awoke this morning to the sound of  thunder but it wasn’t until we were preparing to leave that it started to rain.  As we continued our travels over Route 66 through Oklahoma the rain fell  fairly steady.  We stopped to eat lunch in Wyandote, Ok. before leaving Route 66 and then getting on I-44/Route 66 in Missouri.  After lunch the rain tapered off.  We stopped at a rest area along I-44 where the picnic table shelters resembled diners, garages and other businesses along Route 66. 

From Drop Box
Even the floor of the Information Center was tiled in map showing Route 66 from Chicago, Il. to Santa Monica, California.  Finally 328 miles to the east we stopped in Richland, Missouri at the Gasconade Hills Resort-( resort ???).  This evening the clouds have cleared out and the sun was shining but it feels chillier.  

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Amarillo to Chandler, Oklahoma- October 11, 2012

Continuing east on I-40 we traveled through the panhandle of Texas.  The World's Largest (supposedly) Cross is along I-40 in Groom, Texas.  We had passed this cross on previous trips through this area but had never stopped.  Today we stopped and were impressed with this area.  Around the base of the Cross are sculptures depicting the stages of the cross and the tomb that Jesus was buried.  After that stop we continued eastward into Oklahoma.  We made a stop at a rest area for lunch and parked beside another Phaeton.  There were a mother and daughter traveling together and they came over to inquire about our motorhome- how long? what year? and on and on.  They were in no hurry to move on but we had a nice visit.
We had been waiting for a call back from Tiffin today about replacing our windshield and after not getting that call we decided that we would not go toward Red Bay, Alabama but would go straight home.   We left I-40 in Oklahoma City and continued our eastward trek on the famous Route 66.   In Chandler, Oklahoma, we stopped for the night after 313 miles at Glen Oak Mobil and  RV Park, a Passport American park, a nicely maintained park.  We did get the call this evening from Tiffin saying that if we were there on Monday they could work us in Monday or Tuesday- so we made the right decision to go home as we need to be home by no later than Wednesday.  We will get the crack repaired and deal with replacing the windshield at a later date.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

On to Amarillo, Texas- October 10, 2010

This was our last morning of getting up and going to the Balloon Fiesta launch field.  Today there was a mass ascension with the 19 nations outside of the U.S. being honored.  The wind did seem to be stronger today than the last 2 days but most balloons got up in the air.  There were a few of the bigger balloons that had to be packed away after trying to get them inflated was difficult with the wind.  Balloonists are assigned launch sites and then section by section of these sites the balloons are inflated and then launched.  The sky becomes filled with balloons in a  short time.  We were on the grounds a little before 7am and by 9am the balloons had been launched and we were returning back to the motorhome.

We quickly got the motorhome and Jeep ready for traveling and by 9:15am we were on the road heading east.  It is time to head toward home.  Shortly after getting on I-40 east, another motorhome came up a ramp to merge into traffic as Tom moved into the left hand lane.  We heard a sharp crack and sure enough that motorhome unknowingly had thrown a stone that hit our windshield and left a sizable star.  What a sick feeling.  We know that in time the cracks will run and the only place to get the windshield replaced according to Tiffin is at Tiffin in Red Bay, Alabama.  We are in the process of trying to find out if the windshield could be replaced on Monday.  If we can be assured of that we will go to Red Bay.  If no assurance can be given that it will be done on Monday then we will need to find another time to do it.

We have continued on I-40 through New Mexico and into Texas where we lost an hour as we changed from Mountain to Central time.  Tonight we are in Amarillo at the Amarillo Ranch RV Park- a very nice, conveniently located campground, 300 miles to the east of Albuquerque.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

More Balloons, Santa Fe and Hard Rock- October 9, 2012

This morning the news on the TV was that it was a great day for flying hot air balloons so we got to the Fiesta grounds without delay.  When we arrived a lttle past 7am balloons were being inflated and starting to ascend.  It is quite a sight to see hundreds of balloons in the sky.  Another challenge was underway but all balloons in the air do not participate in these challenge races.  The challenge was to drop the marker from the balloon into a boat on the field.  I believe there were several balloons that were giving balloon rides at this time.  Balloon rides were advertised at $399.00/person which seems awfully expensive.  Tom and I have taken 2 rides (one in Pa. and another here in Albuquerque during an RV rally) that were not that much for the two of us.  It was a beautiful morning - clear skies and a little warmer than the previous mornings.

By 9am the activities for the morning were coming to an end so we hopped on the bus to return to the Fiesta campground.  Since it was warming up we shed some of our outer clothing and then took off in the Jeep for Santa Fe about 40 miles north.  In the Plaza area we visited the St. Francis Cathedral Basilica and then the Loretto Chapel.  The Loretto Chapel is known for its miraculous stairway.  This spiral stairway has two 360 degree turns with no visible means of support.  It was built in the 1800's but not known by whom.  Originally there was no railing but the railing was added later at the insistence of the nuns.  We then walked about area stopping in the shops and outside vending areas.  I found a torquoise necklace that I didn't think I could live without.  We had lunch at the Burrito Factory before returning to the Albuquerque area.

This morning at the Balloon Fiesta there was a Hard Rock Cafe and Casino booth that we stopped by.  A coupon for commemorative pins was given to us.  So before returning to the motorhome we went to the Hard Rock Casino to get these pins in honor of the Balloon Fiesta.  We also were given $25.00 promotional dollars for signing up for a Player's Card.  Tom and I sought out the cheap slots and played on our promotional dollars for a couple hours and then we started cashing out our winnings.  We ended up with $17.00 plus in winnings which we spent before getting back to the motorhome when we stopped at Fuddrucker's for supper.  What a busy but fun day!

Monday, October 08, 2012

Balloon Fiesta, Monday, October 8, 2012

Today, started out being another “iffy'’ day of balloon flying with the wind being the problem.  Before we committed to going into the Fiesta we waited to hear through TV reports that the balloons were preparing for flying.  A little past 7am we did make our way to the field.  There were some balloons in the air and more on the ground getting ready to go up.  A flying competition was happening.  There is a so-called Albuquerque box that the balloons can fly that takes them one direction at one altitude and the opposite direction at another altitude.  It was interesting to see balloons flying in opposing directions.  Then at some point the balloons cross the take-off field flying as close to the ground as possible without touching the ground and try to toss out a marker to hit the center of  an “x” that is laid out on the field in a given time period.  The mornings have been cold here with temperatures in the low 40’s but it does warm up to the upper 60’s/ lower 70’s by late afternoon.

By 11am we were back to the motorhome and the Balloon Fiesta activities were over for today as nothing is scheduled for this evening.  Tom then made arrangements to have our waste tanks pumped out. 

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Balloon Fiesta- October 7, 2012

This morning we were hesitant in getting to the Fiesta launch sites.  The weathermen last night were thinking the wind could again be a factor.  We listened to the TV this morning and when we heard that there was movement on the launch sites we made our way over there.  A little past 6am we were on the grounds and the Dawn Patrol show was just beginning with about 10 balloons inflated.   When these balloons took off for the skies more balloons were inflated and this continued until after 9am.  The skies were filled with balloons.  Those balloons of unusual shapes were the longest balloons inflating.  It was just a wonderful morning.

And this evening was something, also.  We went to the Fiesta about 6pm and saw 5 gas balloons inflated.  Gas balloons were suppose to have been launched yesterday for a race but the wind prevented that from occurring at that time so they were going tonight.  Gas balloons are filled with hydrogen and sand is used as a ballast.  Three of the balloons were flown by USA pilots, one by Russian and one by Great Britain.  Two of the USA balloons had female co-pilots.  The race is to which balloon travels the furthest not the fastest.  They will be flying for hours, possibly days.  As these balloons were leaving the hot air balloons were getting prepared for Balloon Glow- inflating the balloons but not flying and then lighting with the burners the balloons that they seem to be glowing.  Balloons were everywhere.  Tom read that there are 584 total balloons.   Never have we seen so many balloons at one time and most were one of a kind.   We returned to the motorhome to watch fireworks from there.

Balloon Fiesta Disappointment- October 6, 2012

Today, Saturday, was the opening of the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.  We were up at 4:45am and shortly after 5am we were on a bus to the Fiesta.  Ballooning activities were to begin at 5:45am.  We got onto the grounds and made our way into the souvenir tent to buy a few things and then were in line for about 30 minutes waiting to purchase breakfast burritos.  The line really wasn’t terribly long but the service was extremely slow.  There was a gentle wind and about the time for the activities were to begin it was announced that the wind was more than 10mph so the activities were cancelled for this morning.  So we paid admission into this fiesta in order to spend money and nothing else- bummer!   When we left the motorhome it was 61 degrees but the temperature dropped several degrees and felt much colder.  We caught a bus back to the Fiesta campgrounds and snuggled down for a nap.  Before noon we got into the Jeep and went down to “Old Town Albuquerque” where we had lunch at “Little Anita’s” and then walked about the shops and by the street vendors.  The stores were ready for the Balloon Fiesta crowd and the crowd was there.  The Fiesta has sessions in the morning and then on certain days in the evening with each session requiring a new admission of $8.00.  We did learn that packets of 5 tickets could be purchased for $35.00 but were unable until this morning to find where to purchase these tickets- the ticket booths did not sell them and said they didn’t know where they were being sold.  We did stop to purchase these tickets before going for lunch.

This evening the wind was blowing stronger than this morning.  We listened to the local television station to hear about this evenings activities and according to the wind strength we didn’t think it was worth going over to the Fiesta grounds.  One activity had been cancelled this morning.  At 7:30pm fireworks were set off and we were able to sit outside the motorhome and watch without the loud banging.  The wind is to continue through the night and then taper off so it is up in the air what will take place in the morning.

Yesterday when we got into this campground area we noticed a strong aroma of caramel popcorn.  We just knew that someone somewhere was making batches of caramel corn.  Today we learned that there is a Cocoa Puffs cereal factory nearby that is responsible for that aroma in the air and not caramel corn being made.

Albuquerque, New Mexico- October 5, 2012

This morning Tom  filled the water tank and then had the propane and fuel tanks filled in preparation for today’s move to Albuquerque for the Balloon Fiesta.  Tom had made a reservation to stay on the Balloon Fiesta grounds but we would be dry camping.  We left Gallup a little after 9am and after 155 miles a little past 12 noon we arrived at the Fiesta grounds in Albuquerque and were soon parked with hundreds other RV’s.  The Fiesta officially starts tomorrow, Saturday.  The pads on the nose rests on my sunglasses had come off so we needed to go to a Sam’s Club to get a repair done.  But before going to Sam’s we stopped for lunch at brew pub.   We then returned to the motorhome.  And then Tom remembered that he had forgotten to empty the black tank this morning.  We are only 1/3 full and maybe we will be okay-if not, there is a service on the grounds for emptying tanks that we might need to use.

A little about the weather – today it is warm in the mid 80’s with a breeze.  The wind is expected to increase tonight and tomorrow and temperatures are to drop into the 60’s by Sunday.  The wind could be a negative factor with the balloons tomorrow.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Canyon de Chelly- October 4, 2012

This morning we drove northwest back to Arizona with the Jeep to Canyon de Chelly National Monument.  We had been to this National Monument several years ago but it was wintertime and there was not much activity.  We drove around the rim at that time but we wanted to take a tour into the Canyon.  To enter the Canyon you must have an Indian guide except in one small area, the white house, where you can hike from the rim.  Today we hoped to be able to take that tour into the Canyon.  Stopping at the Visitor’s Center we inquired about Canyon tours and were given a list of tour operators but no recommendations and we would need to call the phone numbers provided and arrange the tour.    The Thunderbird Lodge Tour, we were told, was a group tour on their vehicles at the cost of $57.22 per person for half day and we would need to go to the Lodge and purchase tickets.  So we opted to do the tour through the Lodge.  We got our tickets about 11:30am for the tour at 1pm.  We did drive up along the rim and ate our lunch we had brought along.  Then at 1pm we were back to the Lodge to board the the truck with an extended bed equipped with seats.  There were 13 people on the tour.   Our tour guide, Dave, drove us through the Canyon on very challenging terrain that consisted of 8-10 inches of sand, 4 wheel drive was needed and used most of the way.  We were so glad that we didn’t arrange a tour taking our Jeep with a guide.  Petroglyphs and pictographs and cliff ruins   were pointed out along the way and an explanation of what the origins and meaning  may have been- different Indian tribes living in this area left their markings.  This area remains in the Navajo Nation Territory and is still inhabited by these people.  In the summertime, people move down into the Canyon from up along the rim and farm the land raising vegetables.  At several stops there were vendors selling  jewelry, pottery and other Indian wares.  After 4 hours and a rather exciting ride (Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride??) we returned back to the Lodge and our personal vehicles.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Gallup, New Mexico- October 3, 2012

This morning we traveled a short distance- 88miles- to Gallup, New Mexico.  We will stay here at the USA RV Park for 2 nights before going to Albuquerque for the Balloon Festival.  After getting into our assigned campsite it was lunchtime and we were in New Mexico.  We just love the food in this state with the red, green or Christmas (mixture of red and green) chili.  El Sombrero restaurant was the restaurant that we had our lunch.  In the afternoon we visited at a local museum, Gallup Cultural Center,  which had some nice native American displays but the audio speakers were not working.  We then stopped in the downtown going into Zimmerman's, a Western wear store, and Richardson's, a store that sells expensive native American goods and also serves as a pawn shop.  We did alot of looking, not buying.   Parker, our 3 year old grandson, just loves trains so we made a stop to take pictures of the trains traveling through this area.  Parker would be in his glory in this town as there are 100 long trains with 4-6 engines that go through here everyday.

Holbrook, Arizona- October 2, 2012

This morning we awoke to a cool motorhome but with sweatshirts on and the bright sunshine we soon warmed up.  We packed up and left Jacob Lake continuing south on US-89A  south passing the Vermilion Cliffs and then onto US-89 and finally onto I-40 east.

Our Brake Buddy alarm sounded during our travels.  Tom stopped and checked the problem and found the 12-volt accessory outlet to be the problem.  The braking system was disengaged until Tom could research the problem.  Nearing Winslow at noontime we stopped at the La Posada Hotel for lunch in the Turquoise Room.  We have had lunch here previously and enjoy this old Santa Fe  train hotel.  It has a feel of stepping back in time.  We were unsure as to how far we would travel today as we plan to be in Gallup, New Mexico on October 3rd.  We  did stop for the night in Holbrook, Arizona – 249 miles today.  Tom was able to fix the problem with the braking system after getting a new accessory outlet from a parts store in Holbrook.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Grand Canyon, North Rim- October 1, 2012

On this day we left Glendale, Utah and drove the motorhome a short distance of 64 miles to Jacob Lake, Arizona.  We had a private campground in mind but when we arrived in the area the first campground we came to was Kaibab National Forest Jacob Lake campground which was right along highway US 89A.   So we decided to stay here for the night.  There was no hook-ups but for $8.50(actually the rate was $17.00/night but our Senior Park pass gave us 1/2 rate) we weren’t complaining.
So after getting set up and eating an early lunch we were off to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon which was about 45 miles away.  Arriving at the Visitor’s Center/Lodge area we got our first views of the Canyon on this north side.  We have been to the south rim twice before.  This north rim is a higher altitude than the south rim and has harsher winters necessitating the closing of this section of the Grand Canyon about the middle of October.  We took the trail out to the Bright Angel Point.  Unfortunately, the smog was fairly heavy hanging in the Canyon.  We, then, drove a road eastward that had several areas for viewing the canyon.  Much of the drive was through pine and aspen forested regions.  The aspen trees are just beautiful at this time of the year with the leaves turning a bright shade of yellow that the sun seems to reflect off.  We saw several deer in the meadows along the way.
Returning to Jacob Lake later in the evening we stopped at the only restaurant in the vicinity at the Jacob Lake Lodge.  We were pleasantly surprised with our meals.  Tom had a breaded pork chop topped with crisp fried onions with baked potato, salad and zucchini.  I had a chicken breast topped with a portabella mushroom, walnuts and dried cranberries in a very tasty sauce along with the salad, baked potato and zucchini.  Tom and I shared a dessert of a slice of coconut custard pie in which the custard was a homemade cornstarch custard.  A really memorable meal in a very positive way.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Bryce Canyon- September 30, 2012

Today, Sunday, we went about 40 miles northeast from the campground to Bryce Canyon National Park.  Just prior to Bryce we came to Red Canyon in Dixie National Forest.  As the name implies it was the cliffs and formations are red.  We stopped at the Visitor’s Center and then continued on to Bryce Canyon.  Bryce Canyon with spires, grottos and hoodoos is quite an impressive area.  We drove to the farthest viewing area and then from that point drove toward the entry point stopping at the viewing areas.  We had been told that yesterday this park was so crowded that it was impossible to find parking spaces but today we did not have that problem.  Apparently, there were lots of folks that were there yesterday for the free entry day.  We did leave the park for lunch at Bryce Canyon City, just outside the park.  We ate at Ruby’s, an establishment that has been around for many years even before Bryce Canyon was made a National Park.  The food was pretty good – we had the lunch buffet- and the prices average.  We then returned to finish our touring of the Park.  Tomorrow we leave this beautiful state, Utah, as we again will going into Arizona.