Thursday, November 23, 2017

Some time in Tucson and Happy Holidays

We spent six days at the Agave Gulch Fam Camp at Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson. We really like the base and have spent part of the last six winters there. The base has a large commissary and exchange. They have two great gyms. The Fam Camp is clean and well run and right next to the base's bone yard -- the largest airplane storage lot in the world. It's interesting to be right next to all those planes lines up with military precision, waiting to have their parts reused. We're also close to a mall, lots of restaurants, brew pubs, movie theaters, two national parks, a great art museum -- there is a lot to do in Tucson.

And of course, it's warm in the winter. Which means we don't have to shovel our ski run of a driveway back in Salt Lake City.

We enjoyed the 80 degree weather in Tucson, but most of our hours this trip were spent cleaning the rig and packing, as we stored the rig on the base and drove back to Salt Lake City for the holidays.

So as I write, I am siting in the kitchen of my sticks and bricks home in Salt Lake City.  (Actually the city of Holladay, Utah, but close enough.) With the exception of five days in July, I haven't been in SLC since last May, and I want to spend time with the kids and grand kids. When it turns cold (today is sunny and in the 60s) Jim wants to get the heck out and go back to Tucson.  

While we are figuring out logistics, I'm not sure how much I'll be posting. But on any given day, just figure I'm picking up the grand kids up from school, which is one of the things I want to do for a while.

I'll be back to writing at some point.  So check back every now and then. Happy Thanksgiving and have a wonderful rest of the holiday season!
The Salt Lake City grand kids. 
A buck that greeted us on our second day home.  I took this photo through our kitchen window as he stood in our front yard. When he wasn't staring at me and the dogs, he was eating crab apples. With him were a younger buck and a couple of does. 



Monday, November 20, 2017

Las Cruces, New Mexico

We spent three days in Las Cruces. Lots of relaxing in 70 degree, calm weather. 

Stayed at Sunny Acres, a 55 and over RV Park that was neat and clean but didn't have any record of our reservation when we arrived -- luckily we still got a spot. Met a lot of people and dogs at the RV park's own dog park. Visited a big public dog park nearby, again with nice dogs and nice people. 

We walked up and down Main Street where a huge farmers' market is held twice a week. This particular market included a parade that would start with a cannon blast. We had the dogs with us. I'm not sure how they would have reacted, but we didn't stay to find out. But the shopping was fun and again I got a scarf. For $3.99.

We also stopped at Ristramnn's, a store that grows and sells what appeared to be anything and everything chili pepper related.  Bev was having trouble breathing by the time she left -- not big trouble, but apparently concentrated chili particles  are not my friends. 

We had a decent dinner at Ranchway, a low key, order-at the counter, and highly rated little Mexican restaurant. We were served by a very perky employee at High Desert Brewery. We visited nearby Mesilla, a historic little village with shops and outdoor venders; we parked the car in the shade in the exact spot we parked several years ago when we drove up in the tow car from El Paso. We grabbed an IPA and a stout at Mesilla's Spotted Dog Brewery.

In other big news we did the laundry, and bought groceries at the funky but interesting Toucan Market, which advertises itself as having "15,000 square feet of exotic, healthy, affordable and 'Just for the taste of it' foods." 

Nothing exciting but a good New Mexico visit.
Street views of the Las Cruces Farmers' and Craft Market, which the local Chamber of Commerce calls "one of the top farmers' markets in the country." It's held in downtown Las Cruces on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

New Mexico: Portales and Ruidoso Downs

As I write we're in Las Cruces, New Mexico. To get here we drove diagonally through southeastern New Mexico with stops in Portales and Ruidoso Downs.

We picked Portales because we think that's where our dog, Maddie, came from. Maybe Arlo, too, as he's also from a New Mexico shelter. So we thought we'd take a look.

Portales has about 12,000 people and is the home of Eastern New Mexico University.  And, it's the nation's largest producer of organic peanut butter. I had no idea. There are lots of dairy farms nearby plus I read there is a "dairy solids plant."  I thought maybe that was a fancy name for a manure handling process other than a tractor-pulled manure spreader.  But a company called Dairy Farmers of America produces milk, dried milk, whey, and liquid milk products like condensed milk and cream. The dogs like peanut butter and they like milk. But I'm guessing Salt Lake City is more to their liking than Portales.  

Ruidoso Downs and nearby Ruidoso are resort-like, with lots of hiking, a ski resort, big pine trees, shops and restaurants.  And, just like the name sounds, Ruidoso Downs has a horse racing track -- we read that the purse of their Labor Day race is a million more dollars than the Kentucky Derby. The area is also the home of the original Smokey the Bear -- an actual bear cub found in 1950 clinging to a charred tree. He was rescued, appropriately named, and lived for 26 years. Which is better than the average bear. 
Portales, New Mexico is the Roosevelt County seat.  The above building is the county courthouse. It's an art-deco-type structure with southwestern  accents and several military memorials on the grounds.  This building is in the center of a town square.  The statue is of a man named Washington Lindsey, who was the first mayor of Portales  and later became governor of the state. He was originally from Bev's home state of Ohio.
Our camping spot at the Circle B Campground in Ruidoso Downs.  So pretty.  Since it's off season, we almost had the place to ourselves.  Much better than the place we stayed in Portales -- if I included a photo of that place it might scare you.  But the Portales RV park did have horses nearby (a fellow camper had a sign on her RV stating that she is a "mounted shooting" champion) and another neighbor had a puppy.  

The Cadillac Ranch and More in Amarillo, Texas

Next stop:  Amarillo, Texas, where we explored the tacky, the scientific, the high brow, and the natural.

First the tacky, which is often our favorite. Amarillo is on old Route 66, and stops near 66 can be funny.  So we went to the Cadillac Ranch, where ten Caddies from the 1940's through the 60's are buried headlights first in a pasture with their fins a flying. Legend has it that an eccentric rich guy buried his caddy whenever he bought a new one. The truth is that old Cadillacs were installed as an art project by what some web sites refer to as “hippies.” 

Then we did the scientific: a visit to the eight-and-a-half-ton, six-story-high stainless steel Helium Monument.  Amarillo was once known as the Helium Capital. In the 1970s Amarillo manufactured 95 percent of the worlds “tube trailers” that transport helium. In addition, large stores of natural gas with a high percentage of helium are found near Amarillo.

The monument looks like a big tripod and was erected in 1968 as a time capsule with four different compartments.  The four sections are to be opened in 25 years, 50 years, 100 years and 1000 years. The "open me in 1000 years" capsule has a bank passbook with a $10 deposit in it. Your interest may vary.

The more high brow:  We like art museums the Amarillo Museum of Art was great.  The exhibit was about Vietnam and featured sculpture, photography, painting, and ceramic and wire art. Poignant and interesting.  

And we went to Palo Duro Canyon State Park, about 25 miles southeast of town, at the suggestion of my brother, Don.  At about 120 miles long, 20 miles wide and up to 800 feet deep it’s the second largest canyon in the country after the Grand Canyon. We spent one day there and did some hiking -- obviously not enough to get the full feel for the place, but it was beautiful.  Dogs are allowed on the trails which was even better for us.
Cadillac Ranch in a pasture along old route 66. People are encouraged to spray paint the cars.  The skinny photo on the left shows the thickness of the paint. You can see spray paint cans on the ground in the other two photos. And we could smell fresh paint fumes.

From 1929 to 1943, Amarillo furnished nearly all of the world's helium from nearby underground supplies. The time capsule and monument to helium was erected in 1968, the 100th anniversary of the discovery of helium. 
Vietnam vet, combat photographer and painter Larry Collins took these photographs during his time in Vietnam.  They were so vibrant they looked like paintings.  Much later he did paintings based on his photography.
Palo Duro Canyon State Park, where we did a little hiking. The area has a connection to Cynthia Ann Parker who, in 1836 as a child in Texas, was captured by the Comanche Indians. She remained with them and later married a chief; they had three children including a son, Quanah, who also used the name Parker.  Quanah Parker became a chief of the Comanches and fought in a battle at Palo Duro Canyon. The entire history of the American Indians -- once the Europeans got to what is now the US -- is very sad, and Cynthia Ann's life is especially so. Here's a link to the Wikipedia entry about her. We also met a man at the park visitor's center who told us his great grandfather was Cynthia Ann's first cousin.
We ate a very good dinner at this restaurant near our RV Park. See the sign at the bottom for a "free 72 ounce steak?"  It's free if you eat the entire steak plus fixins in under an hour.  I overheard a waitress talking about a woman who was rewarded with the free meal -- per the waitress she weighed 118 before dinner  and 145 after. I wouldn't be eating any steak if I had to get weighed first.  Or especially after. But she must have washed her meal down with a lot of beer.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

RV Electrical Fire: We are very lucky

Our first morning in Oklahoma City we woke up to a crackling sound. Like paper burning.  Or twigs on a campfire.  Or maybe even one of our dogs chewing on plastic, which was Jim's first thought.
We looked around. The microwave clock was working but two appliances plugged into outlets were off. Then we smelled burning plastic. 

Jim immediately disconnected our rig from the electricity. The smell seemed to be coming from a cabinet next to our microwave. We couldn't find anything -- but something was obviously very wrong.

We got names/numbers of two mobile RV repair services from the campground and two other mobile services from the internet.  Jim called all four and left messages. John Wood of Big John's Mobile RV Service called back first and came out that afternoon. (Two of the companies never bothered to call back.)

John immediately saw a melted outlet -- one that we never use and hadn't even checked -- on the underside of the microwave cabinet. He said the best case scenerio would be localized damage.  If not, the walls of the RV might have to be torn apart to get at the damaged wiring. That would be a big job that would require moving out of the rig. 
John took the screws out of the the microwave, pulled it out of the wall, and found the burned wires. The damage had not traveled far up the line. John clipped off the burnt part, replaced the wires, rewired it back together, and replaced the outlet.  It took close to three hours and he only charged us $150.  We thought that was a deal, especially after the $500 refrigerator repair job in Independence, Missouri, last week.

So how did it happen? John said a melted outlet and burned wires like we had are usually caused by water damage.  But that wasn't the case with us. Maybe steam from the nearby cooktop?  More likely with all the bouncing around RVs do on the road, the wires had rubbed together until the coating came off. 

We are so lucky. The fire could have started while we were plugged into electric but away from the rig.  Worse yet, it could have started while Jim and I were away and had left the dogs behind. Or we could have all been asleep -- hopefully our fire alarm would have gone off, but by then there might have been a big blaze. 

If you are ever in the Oklahoma City area and need an RV repair, we'd recommend John Wood.  His phone number is 405-921-0024.
John Wood of Big John's Mobile RV Service.  The burned wires were in the empty microwave cabinet above his head.  
Our seriously charred outlet. None of our circuit breakers flipped, which is very odd.


Friday, November 10, 2017

Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum

Oklahoma City. Capital of the state. Cowboy culture. One of the world's largest livestock markets. Active oil derricks on the capitol grounds. Home of the Amateur Softball Association of America. But we didn't see any of that.

Instead we visited the Oklahoma National Memorial and Museum, site of the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

On April 19, 1995 a home-grown terrorist parked a Ryder truck full of explosives in front of the downtown Oklahoma City building and drove away in a Mercury Marquis. The 9:02 a.m. blast killed 168 people, injured another 850, decimated half of the Murrah building and damaged 300 other buildings nearby. 

Displays in the museum depicted the fact that April 19 started like an ordinary day. We saw a room set up like a small board room where the Oklahoma Water Resources Board met in neighboring building. We heard an official recording of a meeting which started at 9 a.m.  A woman introduces herself and begins to discuss an application for a ground water permit. Then boom. A huge explosion. We hear what sounds like walls and debris falling. We hear chaos and a woman is yelling at people to go out a back entrance. That woman was Cynthia Klaver, an attorney who survived (two in her building died; another 28 were injured.) She was the first witness to testify in the bomber's trial. 

Another display detailed a credit union meeting. Nine people attended. Eight disappeared in the explosion. The one person who survived had only a small tear on her dress. The remaining clothing of one of the deceased fit into a small baggie. 

It was powerful memorial about what happened April 19, 1995, and how the families and the city mourned, coped, and hopefully recovered.
Aftermath of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing. 
168 glass, metal and granite chairs -- one for each person who lost his/her life -- sit on the exact land where the Murrah Building once stood.  Each chair has the name of the person it represents etched in the glass. The chairs are placed in nine rows; one for each floor of the Murrah building. Individual chairs are on the row that corresponds with the floor number that person was on at the time of the blast. Smaller chairs represent the 19 children under the age of six who died from the blast.
Jim and Bev in shadow looking at the Field of Empty Chairs from the Memorial Overlook. The truck containing the explosives was parked near the tree you see to the right.
This American Elm tree was just yards from the blast.  It was almost chopped down to help in the recovery of evidence that hung from its branches and was embedded in its trunk. Instead it was saved and is called the Survivor Tree.
We didn't mean to turn this into the Oklahoma tragedy tour,  but Bev wanted to visit the Edmond, Oklahoma post office ... site of a 1986 shooting at the Edmond OK post Office.  I worked for the PO for 30 years, and remember the shooting so well. Fourteen people were killed, including the wife of someone I had worked with, and another six were injured. This is a memorial erected at the Edmond Post Office.



Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Wichita, Kansas

Wichita was our next stop. The largest city in Kansas, it has a population of about 400,000.  It's bigger than our home base of Salt Lake City, but feels like a small town -- maybe because it doesn't have many tall buildings.  Wichita is home to many aircraft manufacturing companies and we drove by a lot of them -- Spirit, Learjet and Airbus for example. It's also home to the Koch brothers, owners of the countries second largest privately-held company and financial supporters of conservative and libertarian causes and organizations.

The confluence of the Arkansas River and the Little Arkansas Rivers is in Wichita. The area where the rivers meet have lovely parks near the water. We walked along the banks and over two foot bridges where we saw the "Keeper of the Prairie," a beautiful sculpture at the confluence. Also along the river is a the Veterans Memorial Park, which we explored.  

We went to two brew pubs:  Riverside and Wichita Brewing: both were great but we liked Riverside best -- just a nicer venue.  We took the dogs to one of the biggest fenced dog parks we've ever seen (outside of Bend, Oregon) -- it was at Chapin Park which is also on the Arkansas River.  And we drove around the city -- it's well kept and there is a lovely neighborhood of historic-looking homes on the north side.  

We camped at the McConnell Air Force Base Fam Camp on the east side of Wichita.  The base is home of the 22nd Air Mobility Command. Its mission, said the Fam Camp Guide we were given, is to "provide Global Reach by conducting air refueling and airlift when and wherever needed."
Three views of Wichita's "Keeper of the Plains," a 44-feet-tall steel sculpture created by a Native  American artist Blackbear Bosin.  It stands at the confluence of the Big and Little Arkansas Rivers in downtown Wichita and was erected ahead of the USA bicentennial celebration. The land between the two rivers is sacred to Native Americans and home to the Mid American All-Indian Center.  
Downtown Wichita as seen from the confluence of the Arkansas and Little Arkansas River.  The round building on the right is the Exploration Place, a science museum.  Arkansas has a lot of great museum  including an art museum with an entire floor of Chihuly glass I would have liked to have seen. But our big sightseeing day was a Monday, and like in many smaller cities Mondays means the museums are closed.
Our campground at McConnell Air Force Base had just ten sites with a pond one one side and a big field on the other. (There are another 10 spots without as many hook ups elsewhere on the base.) We hardly ever see another RV made by the same manufacturer as ours (Lazy Daze) except on the west coast.  At this small campground two other Lazy Dazes came and went while we were there, plus our next door neighbors told us they used to own one.
Maddie on guard (as usual) in shadow while Arlo in the foreground takes a nap.  She worries enough for both of them. Kind of like me and Jim.
One of two tornado shelters near our campground.  Each one can hold 34 people.  That would be one tight and scary fit, but much better than riding out high winds in a motor home.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Independence and Kansas City, Missouri

Our first night in Independence, Missouri, we hit a HyVee to buy groceries plus lots of ice to keep the fridge cold, since it had gone on the blink the day before. We hadn't been near a town with a big grocery store in a week, so we stocked up on everything that didn't have to go in the freezer.

Then we took off to get some barbecue.

Our Ohio State friend (hope you read this, Carl) had recommended two KCMO barbecue places. We picked Jack Stacks in downtown Kansas City.  There was an hour wait, but the hostess said if we could find a place at the bar we could eat there.  Into the bar we went. A table for four was clearing. We moved toward it about two seconds after another couple; they suggested we share. So we had dinner with Bill and Sherrie -- “Okies” as they told us, who now live just across the river in Kansas City, Kansas.  They had great information about what to do in KC and some future planned stops. Very nice couple and a lot of fun.

Jim and I split a sampler plate of barbecued chicken, ribs and burnt ends. KC is famous for burnt ends and they were good. I’m sure a real aficionado could give a better explanation, but burnt ends are essentially brisket that gets more cooking/smoking than regular barbecue and has a bit of char.

The next day was all refrigerator, all day long, as explained in the last post.  

On day three we visited the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum. Very interesting and for the most part very somber. 

Truman had a lot on his hands; his decisions impacted not just our country but the world.  Among many other things, he reorganized the executive branch and created the Department of Defense, CIA, and the National Security Council. He waged war against Korea without Congressional approval. He was instrumental in creating NATO. And he approved dropping atomic bombs on Japan. 

Bess Truman, Margaret Truman, President Truman, and Jim in a display about  the "whistle stop" train tour the Trumans took for the the 1948 presidential election. That's the year Truman had his photo taken with the famous "Dewey Defeats Truman" headline. The train traveled over 30,000 miles and Truman gave 350 speeches. 
Bev and Harry. Lyndon Johnson signed the Medicare bill at the Truman Library and gave the former president and Mrs. Truman the first Medicare cards.
Harry and Bess Wallace Truman's graves in the library's courtyard.  Their daughter Margaret Truman Daniel and Margaret's husband, Clifton Daniel,  are buried nearby.   

After we left the museum we got a second dose of barbecue.  This time is was burnt ends and cole slaw from a nearby restaurant called "A Little Barbecue Joint."  Then we settled in to watch Ohio State play Penn State. Or rather, Jim watched at the back of the rig while I did trip planning at the front.  Jim provided play-by-play, as I have trouble watching close games. Ohio State won 39-38. I'm still not quite sure how that happened. Nor do I understand how they got creamed the next weekend by Iowa.  Poor kids.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

A little religion and a lot of refrigerator

We're at Campus RV Park in Independence, Missouri, and got here by happenstance. I called for a reservation at a nearby state park with a lake; they didn't have any spots that were close to level. So I called a private RV park. They were full but recommended Campus RV, which wasn't on any of the apps I was using. Turned out to be a great location. Level spot.  Big grassy areas to walk the dogs. Just a mile from the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum.  And with a view of the intergalactic-looking temple spire of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, an offshoot of the "regular" Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints whose headquarters is in our home city of Salt Lake.  

Living in Salt Lake City for 40 plus years, I'd heard of the RLDS Church but didn't know much about it, other that its members had a difference of opinion with the LDS Church and went their separate way. I won't go into theological history here (nor could I, most likely) but Independence is the RLDS world headquarters. And being in the RLDS neighborhood lead me to some interesting reading. First thing I discovered was that in 2001 the church changed its name to Community of Christ. Apparently someone in charge (a mortal person, not the guy upstairs) thought "Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints" was a tad unwieldy. It is a mouthful.


As for what we did besides getting on-line religious instruction, here's the back story:  While we were in Ohio, our 14-year-old RV fridge died.  We had it replaced in Medina at Avalon RV. They said the average lifespan of a Dometic -- the company that makes most RV fridges -- is ten years. Our rig is pushing 14, so we had a good run. New fridge looks great (black glass front panels instead of a fakey gold oak). But on our way to Independence the refrigerators display panel started blinking an error message that per the user's manual means "The cooling unit has malfunctioned." Not good for a fridge.

Trouble shooting told us to push a reset button. Didn't budge. Unplug then replug was another suggestion. Too easy.  D
idn't work. Jim got an appointment with a mobile RV company called Athena Coachworks. Then he called Avalon, the installer; they thought it might be that the reset button was bad. Jim called around to find the part, and drove to get one. He also had several discussions during the day with the mobile RV repair service (they promised to fit us in) and with Dometic.  

Late in the afternoon, two guys from Athena Coachworks came to our RV park. After a lot of wrangling in the very small outside access to the fridge, they determined the problem was a circuit board failure. $500 later ($496.97 to be exact) our fridge is working. That was more than we were expecting to pay, but we're glad it's working.  And that we had an extra 500 bucks available. Here's to hoping the fridge keeps working. And that Dometic honors the warranty. 
Coming from a main stream Protestant religion, to me the spire of the Community of Christ temple looks like a sea shell or a space ship.  You could see the spire from our campground.  The campground manager told me that the campground property is owned by the Community of Christ.
Jim and Arlo with the Community of Christ temple spire to the right of the photo. The church auditorium at the photo's left. Independence is the world headquarters of the Community of Christ Church.
Maddie and the $500 failed refrigerator part.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Lake of the Ozarks Recreation Area: Linn Creek, MO

It was another three-day stay, this time at the Lake of the Ozarks Recreation Area (LORA), a military recreation facility associated with the Army's nearby Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Fort Leonard Wood was named for a former chief of staff of the US Army who also commanded the Rough Riders with Teddy Roosevelt as his second in command.

The Lake of he Ozarks is a huge reservoir created when a dam on the Osage River and its tributaries was completed in April 1931. The lake has over 1100 miles of shoreline with what's got to be hundreds of inlets. On a map it looks like a dragon.

It would be a wonderful place to kayak, but unfortunately for us, the days we were there were cold, windy, and just not good for paddling the boats. But we did get in some hiking and a lot of dog walking.
LORA has a lot of different rental cabins like the ones above, plus campsites with and without hookups.  They honored our national parks senior passes, so we only paid $12.50 a night for a site with water, electric, and sewer.
Jim and Arlo on the Honey Run Trail of the Lake of the Ozarks State Park, where we saw lots of oak trees. The state park nearly surrounds the military recreation area, and is the largest state park in Missouri.
Maddie sleeping on our bed and looking bored when the wind kept us from exploring.
Built during the Great Depression, the dam that created the Lake of the Ozarks was built by  20,000 people in just 22 months.  When the dam was finished, the lake filled at the rate of 1 1/2 feet of water a day.
Another Lake of the Ozarks shot.  I always wonder what is under these reservoirs, because people lost homes, farms and other properties.  I read where the village of Linn Creek was the only major town submerged. Others that flooded were smaller towns of Gladstone and Irontown. Old Linn Creek (there's a new one where people were relocated; in fact, LORA's mailing address is Linn Creek) was founded in 1841 and was a major navigation hub on the Osage River. It had  three churches, two banks, five grocery stores, a bakery, millinery shop,  plus homes and other businesses. All that was torn down or burned and is now underwater.