Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Boiling Spring Campground near Dixon, Missouri

Next stop: Boiling Spring Campground on the Gasconade River just south of Dixon, Missouri. The campground was pretty and the campsites big. It's end of the camping season for Boiling Spring, so we were just one of five campers there over the weekend. We liked the solitude.

Right next to the camping area was a hay field that was baled while we were there. A few hundred feet away was the Gasconade River, a 280-mile-long stream that dumps into the Missouri River at a town of the same name.     

Our first full day Jim kayaked while I walked Maddie through hay fields. Then we explored the small towns of Dixon, St. Robert, and Waynesville. We drove by the Uranus Fudge Shop. We'd seen their billboards all along Route 44, advertising the fact that they sell fudge, rent and apparently sell guns, have a tattoo parlor, and more. You could get a pound of chocolate walnut, a semi-automatic weapon, and a tramp stamp in a single afternoon. I love fudge, but this place was above even my high bar for tacky, so we didn't stop. They did get me to mention it, however, so I guess they win.

The next day was supposed to have "some" rain.  "Some" turned out to be a lot. All day long. Jim watched TV, I read, and every time the rain slowed we walked the dogs.

Jim and Arlo hooking up the electricity and water at Boiling Spring Campground. The Gasconade River was on the other side of the trees behind the rig.
This hay field was actually part of the Boiling Spring facility.  The owners, who bought the place in the 1980s, were great and have relatives in Salt Lake City. Owner Larry told us a story about the huge snow storm he experienced while visiting SLC.  He was there for a meeting and the snow was so bad the organizers moved their presentation to the hotel, because attendees couldn't leave. And that's why we've spent the last few winters in Yuma and Tucson. But it's a dry snow.
Boiling Spring rents canoes and kayaks.  Then they take people up stream in old school buses and let them float back.  Jim, however, just took off on his own.
Jim paddling off from the campground on the Gasconade River.  He used Bev's kayak since Bev didn't feel like kayaking and Jim's boat has a funky patch covering a hatch we lost somewhere in St. Louis.
Jim's view from the kayak. 
A river view from the campground.  There actually is a "boiling spring" along the bank; you can see it bubbling on the other side of the river from the campground. Per the campground's web site, it's the 14th largest natural spring in Missouri, and pumps 42 million gallons of water into the Gasconade every year.
Arlo posing near our campsite with the Gasconade River behind him.  The Gasconade runs through Mark Twain National Forest.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Cahokia, Illinois and St. Louis

We spent three nights near St. Louis. Right off the bat we toured the city when we missed the exit to our campground. Our travel app kept telling us to turn around and go back the way we came.  But a campground staffer had advised us not to cross the Mississippi on the Poplar Street Bridge if we could help it because of major construction. With our wrong turn we'd already done that once. So we took a southern loop without rattling too many of our nerves.

We stayed at the Cahokia RV Parque (that's how they spell it) in Cahokia, Illinois.  The campground is a little worn around the edges but worked for us.  

We'd visited the Gateway Arch and surrounding grounds a couple years ago, so this time we went to the Cahokia Mounds, the Missouri History Museum, drove around the city (intentionally), and of course went to a brew pub.  We also got groceries, did laundry, and walked the dogs.  We did not go to a dog park because all of the ones close by required membership. A good idea for locals, actually, but not so hot for the rest of us.

Jim also spent some time creating a temporary hatch cover for his kayak, as the rear hatch blew off somewhere nearby. And we gave ten dollars to a homeless woman who told us she'd "be back soon."

Cahokia Mounds were worth seeing. It's the largest prehistoric Indian site north of Mexico and around 1200 AD was home to as many as 20,000 people. The population started to decline after that, and it is believed that by the mid 1300's it was abandoned.  The original site had 120 mounds over six square miles. Eighty mounds remain. 

At the Missouri History Museum we saw an exhibition about the 1904 World's Fair, a display called "#1 in Civil Rights" about African-American Freedom struggles in St. Louis, a kid's section called "History Clubhouse," and an exhibit of panorama photos of St. Louis.  And, Bev bought a scarf at the museum gift shop, as scarves are my new "light enough for a motor home" souvenir. We highly recommend the museum.
Jim and Arlo about to start up Cahokia's Monk's Mound, the largest earthen construction in the Americas.  It contains an estimated 22 million cubic feet of earth.  At the top of these steps are a second set of steps up to to the top, where it is believed a principal chief once lived and worked.
Bev's beer samples at Square One Brewery in St. Louis.  Jim got his usual IPA. The brewery got its name because in 2004 the building (built in 1883) was gutted by a fire but then restored from "square one." I liked the maple stout the best.
Thomas Jefferson manspreading at the Missouri History Museum.  The museum is in what's called the Jefferson  Memorial Building, built in 1913 from funds raised at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, also known as the 1904 St Louis World's Fair.  That fair was held at St. Louis' Forest Park; the museum sits at the northern edge of the park.
Jim's duct tape, trash bag, bungie cord, and rubber rug kayak-hatch-repair job.  He ordered a new hatch cover from Delta Kayaks in Canada and spoke with someone named Robin who was unbelievably helpful and not only put up with Jim's corny sense of humor but gave it right back to him.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Summer in Ohio, but now on the road: Dayton and Cloverdale

We’re actually on the road as I write. After spending the summer and early fall in Ohio with my Mom, we left on a cool then colder Sunday. Along the way were a couple of downpours and heavy wind. 

Our first destination was the Fam Camp at Wright Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton.  We’d never stayed there before, but didn’t stick around long enough to explore the base or the city. After packing all morning, driving in bad weather, and getting to Wright-Pat about 5 p.m., we just hunkered down. Jim watched TV, I read, we walked the dogs, and that was it.

The next day we drove to Leiber State Recreation Area in Cloverdale, Indiana, for another one-night stay. We've been there in the off season before, and the place was empty. So I didn’t worry about reservations. This time we got a spot, but the campground was hopping with children, dogs, and teenagers dangling off the beds of pick-up trucks. Turns out 1) local kids are in year-round school, and this was their break; 2) two nearby towns were hosting covered bridge festivals and 3) the campground was getting ready for a Halloween celebration. They were busy.
Daughter Ashley and granddaughter Mia visited us in Ohio during the big solar eclipse. That's Mom in the middle and me on the right.
Arlo in a 50 foot by 50 foot dog run built by Jim, Bob (my brother) and me in Mom's back yard in Ohio.
Maddie at Mom's front window. She's standing guard for field mice, crickets, killdeer, the occasional stray cat, and anything else that ventured into Mom's lawn.

The women's restroom at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, where the hand dryer on the right was a little high for me.

Entering Indiana. Per the sign, Ohio says "Come back soon." We will.
Campers gearing up for Halloween at Leiber State Recreation Area in Cloverdale, Indiana.  This is not a park display -- these are decorations brought along by campers.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Quick trip from Utah to Ohio

July 2017

I mentioned in an earlier post that my Mom broke her hip in May. I flew out to help. Jim stayed home in Salt Lake with the dogs and the cat. In early July I flew back to Salt Lake  so Jim and I could drive the RV to my Mom's home in Ohio.

It was a quick trip by our standards: 1732 miles straight east along I-80 with 6 one night stops and a two-night stay in Lincoln, Nebraska, where my brother and sister-in-law live. 

There was not a lot of time to explore, but we made the following stops:

Little America, Wyoming. This is often our first stop going east. Since we’ve never figured how to get out of dodge early in the morning, we just drive the 140 miles to Little America, which is a huge truck stop/gas station/motel/restaurant, and at least we are on the road and moving in the right direction. RV’s can park overnight for free.

Laramie, Wyoming KOA:  We’re not KOA fans. They have amenities we're not interested in (like pools and playgrounds), are expensive, and usually feature lots of gravel. But there’s not a big selection of RV parks in Laramie. This turned out to be one of the nicer KOAs we’ve stayed in, with grass between the sites and a big dog run. And when we drove in to Laramie to get a quick look at the town, a celebration called Jubilee Days was in progress complete with carnival, art festival, and brew fest.

Lake Ogallala, Nebraska. I’ve always wanted to visit Lake Ogallala State Recreation Area in western Nebraska. Two lakes are side by side: the huge (22 miles by 4 miles) Lake McConaughy and, on the other side of a dam, the tiny by comparison Lake Ogallala (1.6 miles by .6 miles). I read a review that said Lake McConaughy was a "sweat and gatorade" type of lake while Ogallala was a "rag sweater and cup of coffee" lake.  Guess that's why we stayed at the latter. Lovely older campground with water and electric.

Camp A Way, Lincoln, NE.  This is a pricier but well run and maintained RV Park with huge trees. For being tucked between major freeways (I-80 and I-180) it’s amazingly quiet. Best of all, it’s close to my brother and sister-in-law’s home. We went out to dinner at a great pub one night; Trudy and Don made dinner the other. It’s always wonderful to see them.

Kellogg RV Park in Kellogg, Iowa. Reviews said the on-site restaurant serves “the best burgers in Iowa.”  We had them; I’m not so sure.  But it was a convenient, grassy, and clean location bordering a big soybean field. Worked for us.

Starved Rock State Park in Oglesby, Illinois:   A beautiful park on the Illinois River near the small town of Utica. According to legend, an Indian tribe being pursued by another tribe fled to a sandstone butte in what is now the park.  The pursuers kept the butte surrounded until the Indians on the big rock died. Hence the name. History is brutal.  Like a lot of state parks, its facilities were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930's. Thank you, CCC.

Manago Park, Orland, Indiana. The area is great:  Lots of lakes and farm fields, a great brew pub nearby and interesting history: Orland was founded by settlers from Vermont and was once a stop on the underground railway. The RV park, however, was a disappointment. It’s a run down “resort,” and I use that term loosely, where people park RVs year round. There’s a swimming beach and a fishing lake, and I’m sure kids and people with friends in nearby rigs have a great time.  But as short timers our spot was in a bumpy field near the boat storage. Not on our favorites list.  On the upside, our next stop was home with my Mom in Ohio.
Nebraska's Lake Ogallala and Lake McConaughy are known for bird habitats, but we saw these guys/gals instead when we took a long walk. 
We were greeted by a crop duster at the Kellogg RV Park in Kellogg, Iowa, a town right along I-80 with a population of about 600 people.
Jim taking a photo of the Illinois River at Starved Rock State Park  in Oglesby, Illinois.  Jim is standing on a large deck built on the sandstone rock where legend says one Indian tribe held another until the second tribe starved to death. And no, the deck was not there at the time.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Las Vegas to Valley of Fire, NV, to Fillmore, UT, to home

April 2017

We spent two nights at the Oasis Campground at the south end of Las Vegas.  It was the largest campground we've ever stayed at -- nearly 1,000 spaces with an 18-hole "putting green" golf course in the middle and a check-in office that looked like a casino.  A freaking big place with plenty of space to walk the dogs. 

I asked Jim wha he remembered about Vegas. First he said "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas."  Then he said "I don't like Vegas."  So much for asking him.  But it was a good stop.

Instead of gambling or going to shows, we drove up and down the strip and old town Vegas, took the dogs to a couple of dog parks -- Vegas has some nice ones -- and then did maintenance chores: cleaned the rig, got groceries, did the laundry. 

Then we drove 50 miles to one of our favorite places:  Valley of Fire State Park near Overton, Nevada. It's breathtakingly beautiful. We camped there once before and wanted to go back, and in fact had tried to return several times. But camping spots are first come, first served and often full.  So we left as early in the morning and got a great spot nestled up against red rocks. 

We hiked, and hiked, and hiked some more, and then we drove all over the park. One night Jim took off walking with Arlo near sunset. I don't think Jim could ever get fully lost out of doors, but he was gone a long time. There's no cell phone service in the park and I'd kill myself wandering around the cliffs by the light of my iPhone, so instead of looking for him I sat tight. Turns out he took a wrong turn, but all crises were averted.

Then it was one more night at the Wagon's West RV Park in Fillmore, Utah, the original state capital of Utah.  We leveled the rig, walked the dogs, ate, watched some TV (Jim) and read (Bev), and went to bed. And then the next day we drove home to Salt Lake City.  And were glad to be there.
Our clean cement spot at Oasis RV Park in south Las Vegas.  They have a concierge service that helps you get show tickets, swimming pool, fitness center, "sanctioned" horse shoe pits, and a lot of other stuff we didn't use.  It's not cheap (we paid about $50 a night) but we were almost home and just wanted a nice, safe place to stay.
Bev and Maddie at Valley of Fire State Park. The rocks are so red that it does sometimes glow like the place is on fire.
Just one of many rock formations at Valley of Fire.
Jim and Arlo hiking.   The Civilian Conservation Corps built the first facilities at Valley of Fire in 1933, and in 1934 it became Nevada's first state park.  Well worth a visit.
The Anasazi farmed the nearby Moapa Valley from about 300 BC to 1150 AD and left petroglyphs like the ones seen here.
Our rig and camping spot at Valley of Fire State Park near Overton, Nevada. The red rocks were created by shifting sand dunes 150 million years ago.
Another view of our rig and the campground.  We had neighbors, but they were a lot more dispersed than most campground.  And the sites are roomy.
Obviously my bangs have finally grown out.  Also obviously, it was very windy when we visited Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Bakersfield to Daggett

April 2017

After San Luis Obispo we spent two nights at the River Run RV Park in Bakersfield, California.  Bakersfield, whose outskirts are oil wells and farm fields, has kind of a bad rep.  But other than traffic congestion -- the city is just not set up to handle lots of cars, plus there was road construction everywhere -- it was a pleasant stop. The RV park had a nice walking path on the shore of the Kern River. And a great brew pub was nearby. So no complaints from us. 

Along the way to Bakersfield we passed the spot where 24-year-old James Dean was killed driving to a car racing competition. He crashed his new Porsche Spyder in 1955 at the junction of California State 46 and 41. We’d known James Dean died in a car crash but didn’t know the details, so seeing signs about the crash lead to reading up on the rebel without a cause. Dean's Porsche collided with a Ford Tudor driven by 23-year-old Cal Poly student with the interesting name of  Donald Turnupseed.  Mr. Turnupseed lived in nearby Tulare and was found not to be responsible for the accident, nor was Dean.  Mr Turnupseed went on to own a successful electrical contracting business until his death in 1995 at age 63. We read that he spoke of the accident to police and did one media interview -- then he never spoke publicly of the crash again.

After Bakersfield we spent one night at the Desert Springs RV park east of Barstow near Daggett, CA. There’s not much in the way of RV parks around Barstow, and Daggett is probably not a vacation destination for most people. But the park managers were nice and our spot was level.  That's about all we can ask in the middle of nowhere. We didn’t even unhook the tow car. We parked, ate, read/watched TV, and hit the bed.

I remember the walk along the Kern River in Bakersfield (and next to the RV park where we stayed) as being much prettier than my photography shows.  Bakersfield is the county seat of California's, Kern County, which Wikipedia says is the most productive oil producing county in the US, and the fourth most productive agricultural producing county by value in the US. 

Wind turbines as seen on the way to Daggett.
Our campground in the middle of sparsely populated Daggett, California.  Per Wikipedia, for two years the famous "20 mule teams" hauled borax from Death Valley to the railroad in Daggett.  Wiki also says that part of the 1940's movie "Grapes of Wrath" was filmed there and that part of the world's second largest solar thermal energy generating system is located nearby.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

San Luis Obispo

After another long interruption, I'm back to last spring’s trip.
Late March/early April 2017

Next stop was San Luis Obispo, where our son and his girlfriend, Kat, live. We had not seen Paul for a long time. And we’d never met Kat, so that was very special. We also met and enjoyed being with Kat’s gracious, kind parents, Joel and Arlene.

We parked our rig at Camp San Luis Obispo, the original home of the California Army National Guard and a five-mile straight shot from Kat and Paul’s home. Camp SLO was old and charming with lots of tall grass for the dogs to roam in, as the SLO area had a lot of rain this winter/spring and it was still too wet to mow. The campground only has 12 camping spaces so we felt fortunate to get one for nearly two weeks. We originally had a spot for just four days and then were going to wing it (ie, not make reservations elsewhere ahead of time.) No such luck if we wanted a place within 30 miles of SLO. But we were able to stay at the military base and liked it very much. 

We saw few guardsmen/women at the base, but did see members of the Grizzly Youth Academy marching from what seemed like sun up to sun down. Grizzlies are 16 to 18 year-old high-risk drop outs looking for a second chance and a diploma. 

San Luis Obispo is a pretty, bustling town near beaches and other pretty towns. We visited and walked around SLO with Paul and Kat, spent time with Kat’s parents who hosted us at their lovely home and took us and “the kids” to dinner, kayaked at Morro Bay, walked the beaches, explored SLO and nearby towns, got our dogs to a vet (where they were tested, put on antibiotics and finally got well), visited a great dog park practically across the street from Camp SLO at El Chorro Park, and visited ten brew pubs/taverns. I’m a little embarrassed about that brew pub number (Jim says he is proud), but when we're on the road it’s pretty much dogs, explore, and brew pubs. And SLO has a plethora of places to see and brews to sample. 

I took very few photos while in San Luis Obispo, so I stole this one of Kat and Paul from Kat's Facebook page.

Paul looking debonair at a restaurant near his and Kat's place.
An IPA and a stout at the SLO Brewery.
The actual NCO Club at Camp San Luis Obispo?  I'm thinking not, but this was typical of the "weathered farmhouse" look of a lot of the buildings on base. 
Jim and Arlo walking with Morro Rock in the background.  The huge volcanic rock is in the water at the entrance to Morro Bay harbor. We kayaked not far from here.