Amarillo By Morning

Our next stop on the trip was Amarillo, but not up from San Antone like the George Strait song croons. We took I-40 and headed to the Oasis RV Park just west of the town. Joe and Jan were just there for the night, while Jerry, Wendy and I were to stay 2 nights. The park was nearly all pull thrus, full hookups and pretty nice. I would stay here again for sure.

Night one after arriving was simply getting set up. Jerry and Wendy invited me to join them for dinner, so I cooked a package of brats I’d bought at Yoder’s Meat and Cheese in Shipshewana and Jerry grilled up some burgers. It was a nice dinner, sitting outside and chatting about the trip to come.

The next morning I spent doing a few errands. Most notably was finding a Great Clips and getting about 8 inches of hair chopped off. The tangles were driving me insane, and I just put it up in a bun anyway. Feeling much improved, I rejoined the Hammers and we set off to do some sight seeing. First stop was the Cadillac Ranch.

Cadillac Ranch is a piece of Route 66 history. Ten Cadillacs were buried in the ground belonging to a Texas billionaire named Stanley Marsh. It was completed in 1974, and there is no charge to see it. Visitors are encouraged to do whatever they like to the installation. Through the years, the majority of the spare parts of the cars have been stripped, but the basic outline of the classic caddy remains buried under layer after layer of spray paint.

I didn’t come unprepared. I brought a can of yellow paint to make my own impact on the famous landmark. I kind of wished I’d brought 2 cans, one to make a background and one for the words. But, it turned out ok in the end.

“I was here” is an homage to a Nightwish song, The Greatest Show on Earth. Riley, is for anyone who knows me at all, fairly obvious. Hope you’re all doing well back there!

After I finished spraying my messages, I gave the can to Jerry and then Wendy, who added their own touch to the Cadillacs. I have to say that Wendy was probably the best of the three of us in making her message readable. That woman has hidden talents!

Once we were done, I donated my spray paint to another visitor and we headed about an hour south and east, to Palo Duro Canyon. Palo Duro is the second largest canyon in the U.S. It’s a state park and offers camping, mountain biking, hiking, etc. I’d been looking forward to visiting for months after reading a little about it. My enthusiasm took a decided nosedive when one article from the spring discussed how wonderful it was to visit….save for the hundreds of TARANTULAS crawling about. Gulp.

However, I figured spring was different (mating season, good heavens…can you imagine?) and I decided I wouldn’t be caught off the road on foot or bike. I’m thankful I kept to this advice, as Jerry and Wendy decided to hike a trail and Wendy spotted one of the T words. No idea if she took a picture…she probably did, but is kind enough not to show it to me.

My time in Palo Duro was rather nice. There is a visitor center at the top of the canyon, then a steep drop into the canyon itself. It was hot and the sun/lighting wasn’t optimal, but it was quite impressive. The Hammers and I stopped at a picnic site for lunch and were inundated with flies. It was in the shade, and sitting there in the quiet of the canyon was a nice experience. After finishing, we parted ways and I found some spots for photos.

There were a lot of yucca and prickly pears. I loved seeing the prickly pear flowers, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen before.

There were a lot of mesquite and junipers as well, both well adapted to desert conditions. The photo above on the right is of a rock formation called the Capitol Peak.

Rory taking in the sun.
Another view with Capitol Peak in the distance

I think our time in Amarillo was quite nice, albeit brief. I added a new state to the camping map, and if you’re ever in the area there’s quite a lot more to do; we just didn’t have time.

Oh Klahoma

The drive across Arkansas on I-40 was pretty non-eventful. I will say that I think Arkansas takes pretty good care of their interstates. Certainly Rory and I noticed immediately when we crossed into Oklahoma and the road conditions were….not so great.

I spent the night at a KOA in Sallisaw, Ok. I didn’t even unhitch. It was very, very dusty. But no issues for a night on the road. Randy, Mary, Orin, and Linda also were spending the night there. We ended up sitting outside Orin and Linda’s class A watching a college football game and chatting. Willa and I bonded even more with lots more scratches and treats.

It was a pretty short hop for me the next day into Oklahoma City. I had arranged to spend Saturday and Sunday here as I visited OKC briefly years ago on a roadtrip with my youngest sister and we both loved visiting the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. The artwork there was just spectacular. We had also toured the monument built to honor the victims of the OKC bombing, which was incredibly moving. So, I was eager to spend time in OKC again.

The RV park I chose was within the city. There were some pretty mixed reviews online: some glowing, some scathing. The convenience seemed great, so I booked there as well as Jerry and Wendy from Wisconsin, and Joe and Jan (and Penny!). I got there first, and I have to say I loathed my site. It was extremely challenging to get into and I almost couldn’t put out all my slides. It was up against a busy road and the only exit gate for the park was on one side. I will say the people at the park were very nice and what I saw of the main office was done well.

Saturday night we sat around at my site talking for a long time. On Sunday, I got up early and ran to a local grocery for some supplies. The museum didn’t open until noon. I was there before 1pm and spent several hours taking it all in again. It’s really quite an interesting place, and I really loved the art, once again.

Giant photo dump:

One of my favorite artists is Charles Russell, who used light in unique ways in his oil paintings of the West. However, the last time I was at the museum they were featuring contemporary artists who were competing for the Prix de West that year. I fell in love with the art of Dan Mieduch. The museum didn’t have any of his work on display this time (or at least I never found it) but there was a book in the gift shop featuring him with others who’d competed for the past years Prix de West. Here is one of his paintings off of his Facebook page:

After I finished up at the museum, I went back to the rig and got ready for dinner. We were all going to meet Randy, Mary, Orin, and Linda at a restaurant situated on Lake Hefner. It’s a really cool atmosphere. There was live music and it was a beautiful night. There were some issues with the service prior to our getting our table, but we all still enjoyed it. I had shrimp sautéed with asparagus and peppers on top of pesto noodles. It was pretty good, though not very spicy. Still, the view was great:

Lighthouse on Lake Hefner

After dinner it was clean up and ready to get the rig rolling the next morning to Amarillo. I also needed to add Oklahoma to the map.

The Mighty Mississippi

Day 2 on the road to the Balloon Fiesta found me driving down I-57 to I-55 to Memphis. Well, not technically Memphis. Instead, I hopped off exit 4 and drove south through West Memphis, Arkansas a few miles to an RV park I’ve always wanted to visit, Tom Sawyer.

I’ve heard a lot about this park. It sits over a levee and right on the banks of the great river. In the spring, floods are common. They have their bathrooms and laundry facilities built on wheels so they can move them. But, this was September. The flood gauge reading at the Memphis gate was -1. No flood concerns for my one night stay.

One totally awesome thing about this park is that it’s situated on I-40 as well. Which is the common interstate for many people heading out to the Southwest. As it happened, I was able to meet up with several from our group here: Randy and Mary F. from Kentucky and Joe and Jan S. from Alabama. Mary’s brother Orin and his wife Linda were also coming on the trip, so I met them as well. I was in doggo heaven, as Joe and Jan have Penny, the amazing Golden Retriever who went to Alaska with me. Randy and Mary have Remi, who I’ve met before, and a new German Shepherd they rescued from a shelter named Ty. And Orin and Linda have a Rhodesian Ridgeback named Willa May who loves being scratched. I had treats for them all, of course.

I was in a site next to the river and wished I could have spent more time watching barges moving up and down. I didn’t sleep well, however. At 2 in the morning I bolted up wide awake: I smelled smoke. I was absolutely convinced I was on fire, a life threatening emergency in the wooden box of an RV. I went running down to the main living area, but no flames or heat. Then, as I went upstairs again to the bedroom I smelled smoke quite strongly. It had to be the storage area beneath, which are called basements in fifth wheels. I turned on the lights outside and went boiling down the stairs, ready to grab a fire extinguisher and put out a blaze, hopefully. Throwing open the door—nothing. No flames, no smoke. I ran to the other side and same thing: nothing. It was then, standing outside in the middle of the night looking like a crazy woman, that I realized the ENTIRE air of the park smelled like smoke. Joe later told me he thought there was a nearby factory or pulp mill that made the air smell bad. Le sigh…..

Anyway, here are some awesome pics from my phone. I hadn’t dragged out my Canon at this point yet.

A view of the river sites. All of them are pull thru. Not much shade, but the weather was great.
Here’s my fifth wheel, with Rory already hitched and ready to move out.
Got to add the state of Arkansas to the Places Camped map.

It was a short one night stay, and then on to Sallisaw, Oklahoma. I would love to come back someday and spend a few nights. Highly recommended if you’re looking for an RV site in the Memphis area.

2021: It’s Time to Travel Again!

How is everyone? I know it’s been a long, long time. Things have been crazy in my life, as I’m sure each of you can appreciate. COVID has certainly made things in the world much harder, and for those of us in healthcare it’s relentlessly sapping away the spirit.

As you are likely aware, the RV industry has exploded as people feel it’s a safe form of getting away from the day to day life. And while the borders were closed to international travel, the popularity of RV travel within the U.S. has gone into the stratosphere. I’m so glad I got to go to Alaska when I did; the trip would have been canceled in 2020 and perhaps much more challenging this summer.

Having said all that, my Alaska travel family was eager to do something else together, and we landed on another bucket list item for me: the International Balloon Fiesta held annually in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It’s the most photographed event in the world, and as a photography enthusiast I’ve always dreamt of seeing it someday.

Well, thanks to a very understanding boss (hi Jim) and colleagues (wassup guys) I was able to take some time off work and head to the Fiesta. It was cancelled last year, so this meant this years festival is the 49th annual. In planning out the travel, we ended up with 14 rigs going! Not everyone was on the Alaska trip, but most were.

The Fiesta is always held the first week of October from what I’ve been told. There are RV lots surrounding the Fiesta grounds and Fantasy RV tours offers a package for the Fiesta, so we signed up. The arrival day was set to be September 30th; as a group we would be parked first come, first served, so we decided to all meet at an RV park just outside of Albuquerque on September 29th.

That left me with some travel to get from Indiana to New Mexico. I worked in our Evansville clinic for 3 days, then left from that location on the afternoon of September 22nd. It was pouring in Indiana for several days, but as I finally got on the road and neared the border of Illinois, here is what I saw:

I only traveled a bit over 100 miles to Whittington, Illinois, as it was a late start after clinic. I fueled up at a local gas station which also features gambling. A combo I don’t think I’ve seen before:

Benton, Illinois knows how to party.

The campground, Whittington Woods, was fine. Mostly seasonals. And cash only. But I had a pull thru and spent a fine night. I was just happy to be on the road again!

Day Fifty One: Revisiting the Turnagain Arm

Monday, July 15 was a free day in Anchorage. The Bulls were off doing something–don’t remember what at this point. Some of the group went to a local museum, but I was told that it wasn’t all that interesting. Instead, I decided to head down to the Turnagain Arm once more to see if I could catch a bore tide. If you remember a few posts ago, this area has the largest tides in North America after the Bay of Fundy. I was also hoping that the haze from the wildfire would have improved, as the wind had picked up and was blowing to the south, away from us.

Continue reading “Day Fifty One: Revisiting the Turnagain Arm”

Day Forty Five: Alaska Sealife Center

July 9th stands out in my mind for several reasons.  First, Jerry and Wendy had made it safely to the RV park!  They got there around 1am; Jerry told me later that if it hadn’t been light out past midnight, they would have stopped.  One of the advantages of the long days!  And our visit to the Alaska Sealife Center is one of my favorite memories.  I got what I think are some outstanding pictures.  Continue reading “Day Forty Five: Alaska Sealife Center”

Day Forty Four: Palmer to Seward

Before we get into this travel day, I want to apologize for any misunderstanding about my last post.  Today is August 12th; the Fantasy tour ended in Ferndale, WA on August 9th.  I’m currently in Spangle, but will soon have to leave to make my way back to Indiana.  I got way behind on the blog due to many factors that I’ve mentioned earlier, but in blog time we’re only at July 8th.  Each post is one day, even if I did next to nothing on that day.  There are LOTS of pictures and adventures still to be posted.  So stay tuned!

Continue reading “Day Forty Four: Palmer to Seward”