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Friday, December 9, 2011

Movin' on to Arizona

We loved our time in Texas, but needed to be in California by mid-December for doctor’s appointments and Christmas with family.  Unfortunately that only gave us a couple of weeks to make the twelve hundred and fifty mile trip.  This is definitely not the way we like to travel (200 miles is a good trip).  We took a big gulp the first day and rolled into Fort Stockton, Texas. 

The park in Fort Stockton was great for one night.  We were in a pull through and we didn’t need to unhook for the night.  We caught a couple of winks and then started out at dawn.

The next day found us at the Escapees Park in Deming, New Mexico.  We planned to stay at this park for a couple of days and rest for the next leg, but a storm threatened to roll in (snow was mentioned) and make travel more difficult.  This was too bad because the Escapee’s park was delightful.  Everyone was very friendly and our site was nice and level.  We stopped in Deming to fill up our propane (only the second time since June) and were on our way.

We drove from Deming to the Escapees Co-op in Casa Grande, Arizona.  Another very long day! We stayed at the co-op for one night and then moved 10 miles to another park in Casa Grande (where we had made reservations for a week).  The Escapees co-op was very friendly!  The common room was full of residents and visitors having a good time when we arrived.  They invited us to stay and share in the festivities, but we were beat from the trip and headed to bed.  We would stay here again if we are in the area and they have room … a really nice bunch of people.

There was a lot to do in Casa Grande.  We ate out at Mimi’s, Chipotle’s, and In & Out, but we ate in most of the time because we discovered a great grocery store:  Fry’s.  The store has it all:  A Starbucks, an olive bar, sushi bar, great bakery, deli, meat counter, etc., etc.  We spent a few hours on each visit wandering the aisles and sipping Starbucks.  Yum!

We also had a chance to go over to the casino in Maracopa, AZ.  It was a great deal.  When you sign up for their players card you get a free buffet and 15 free dollars in slot play.  We had one of the best buffets since we left ... absolutely delicious! ....  and walked away with $50 in our pocket.  We played the new Star Wars machine (very cool!) and video craps.
Outside the Ak-Chin Harrahs Casino
One of the startling things for us was the presence of cotton crops in southern Arizona.  There were miles and miles of cotton everywhere ... very interesting!

Cotton crop in Arizona

Cotton plant up close

 While in Casa Grande we visited the Saguaro National Park (pronounced Sah-WAH-row).  The park is located near Tucson in the Sonora Desert and features several Saguaro forests that are breathtaking.  Here are a few pictures of our trip to the park.

Some of these are 5 stories high and weigh 7 tons

Blooming Barrel Cactus

This cactus is around 4 stories high (40')

The small part in front, that I am touching with my hand, is a diseased saguaro.  The one in back is around 30 feet tall.

This one wants to give Kim a hug.

Four Wheeling through the National Park

Until next time – Keep doing what you love.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Lake Medina & San Antonio

We decided it was time to move toward the south and ended up at Lake Medina just outside of San Antonio, TX.  The park is lovely, with cedar trees and deer.  There is a lake, but with the drought in Texas it is down around thirty feet … very sad.  We have met up again with several people from other parks we visited that are also moving south for the winter, and have had a lot of fun visiting.  We enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving feast put on at the park’s activity center.  They supplied 14 turkeys, mountains of mashed potatoes and gravy, and buckets of stuffing.  All the guests then brought a side dish and a dessert.  There were approximately 200 guests in attendance and was really a lot of fun.  It was very interesting to see the various dishes brought by people from different parts of the country.  Unfortunately, we were so busy sampling all the food, that we neglected to get any pictures.

The highlight of the park is the deer.  With the drought they have had a hard time this past summer, but are beginning to recover and are regularly fed by the park’s residents.  They tend to wait outside the RV watching for us to come out with our buckets of feed corn and carrots for them.  It's a great sight to greet us each morning!

Lynda with the Deer

The buck chased all the other deer away

Of course one cannot visit San Antonio without a visit to the Alamo.  We took the audio walking tour.  It was excellent: very informative and interesting.  The Alamo is right in the middle of downtown San Antonio, so the traffic, poor parking, and hassle getting in and out of the sight are not shown in the pictures.  All that is left of the Alamo is the chapel (2nd picture shown below) and part of the long barracks.  The original covered around five times the area that is allotted to the current monument.  The first picture below shows the entire layout.  The chapel is the small building in the upper right hand corner.  At the time of the battle it did not have a roof and a ramp was built inside to push a cannon up to the back wall.

A mock-up of the Alamo complex at the time of the battle

Lynda in front of the current-day Alamo chapel

Ancient live oak tree at the Alamo

Part of the memorial celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Alamo in 1935

Until next time, keep doing what you love.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Visit with Willow - Oklahoma & Texas

It has been a very busy and fun three weeks for Lynda and I.  We picked up our granddaughter, Willow, just before Halloween and have been busy, busy, busy … having fun, doing projects, and enjoying her visit.  Willow decided on a witch motif for her pumpkin-carving endeavor and it turned out great!

Her costume was “bride of darkness” and it was really scary (we know because she told us so!).  Actually, we thought it was pretty cute.

She got to go trick or treating twice: once in our RV park on the Saturday before Halloween and then again with her cousins on Halloween.  She had a great time and ended up with plenty of booty!

Having Willow with us forced us to break out the single be that is made from a conversion of the dining room banquette area.  It looks great with her quilts and she reports that it was surprisingly comfortable.

After Halloween we were on the move again … south to Texas!

We did some geocaching, visited a petting zoo, wandered around a terrific lake, ate some great catfish, did a bit of  “Gliding” on the Segways, and experienced some things that are, apparently, unique to Texas (how about the “Neck Sweat Gel”?).

All good things must come to an end.  Charity came and stayed with us for a couple of days and after a day of hiking and geocaching, she and Willow left for their new home.  We will miss them both, but are looking forward to our next visit.

Until next time … keep doing what you love!!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Branson, Missouri

From Springfield, MO and Lamberts (in the town of Ozark, MO) it was just a short hop on down to Branson, MO.  This was our first visit to the Ozarks and we expected it to live up to its rustic reputation.  We envisioned a small rustic town with a few theaters lining Main Street, where we could walk from place to place on the wooden sidewalks and enjoy a sarsaparilla at a local café or slip into a theater for some nostalgic Lawrence Welk or singing cowboy.   Instead we got a town full of glitz and tourists.  The population of Branson is around 10,500, but it serves a regional population of around 80,000 and hosts around 8 million visitors a year.  The result is a cosmopolitan small city that sprawls over sixteen square miles (16.2) and has shopping, restaurants, and of course premier entertainment!  It reminds one of Vegas sans casinos rather than Deadwood sans entertainment.  

Aerial view of Branson, MO

We stayed at the Treasure Lake RV Resort, itself a sprawling resort covering many acres.  Unfortunately, our campsite was situated at the far end of the park, and, therefore, it added 15 minutes to any drive … just to get out of the park.

Treasure Lake Park

For the first time since leaving on our trip in June, we really felt we were on vacation … you know, where you plan too many things to do and leave more exhausted than when you arrived.  Even with all that we did here, we only scratched the surface … there was a lot more to experience.

We started off with the classics.  A trip to see the “Sons of the Pioneers” followed by the play “Shepherd of the Hills”.  The “Shepherd of the Hills” play is based on the book by the same name by Harold Bell Wright.  The play has it all: romance, bad guys, good guys, and even a ghost.  The set is outdoors and features live animals, square dancing, gunfights, and even a burning cabin.  Wright’s book began bringing tourists to Branson well before the various and sundry theaters were built in the area.  It was the area’s original tourist attraction.

Sons of the Pioneers venue

Sons of the Pioneers on stage

Scene from "Shepherd of the Hills"

We took the train ride out of Branson, north into the hills of the Ozarks.  The forests’ trees were changing colors and it was a beautiful trip.

Getting ready to ride the train

Aerial view of fall colors in Ozarks - (borrowed from the net)

Fall in the Ozarks (borrowed from the Internet)

We each ended up with a favorite show.  I liked “Always Patsy,” a cute play about Patsy Cline that featured most of her best songs wrapped within a nice story about her relationship with one of her biggest fans.  Lynda like “The Oakridge Boys.”  What can you say about the “Boys”?  Their hit, Elvira, celebrated its thirtieth anniversary in 2010 and they put on one heck of a show.  Their voices are just as strong as ever and they still enjoy entertaining.

Always Patsy -- Did I mention that I became part of the performance?

The Oak Ridge Boys doing "Elvira"

We attended a great dinner theater called the “Dixie Stampede.”  Owned by Dolly Parton, this theater has a huge inside arena and features horseback riders, wagon races, buffalo (bison), and longhorn cattle.  It is a really great show with a huge meal… each person gets a whole chicken.  Everything is eaten with the hands, which puts everyone at ease.  The audience is encouraged to cheer and jeer loudly and to stomp their feet …  this one was just plain fun (would make a great Thunderbirds visitation!).

Here's the meal at the Dixie Stampede (From their web site)

Carriage races at the Dixie Stampede - from their web site

We ended our visit with a trip to Silver Dollar City.  Finally we found our quaint rustic town with all sorts of crafts being made live including blacksmithing, broom making, basket weaving, knife making, candle making, and a whole lot more.  We were worn out completely by the time we left and slept very soundly for most of the following day.

Entrance to Silver Dollar City

Sand Sculpture at Silver Dollar City

Fall Festival at Silver Dollar City

All in all, our Branson experience was just great.  We had a great time and would certainly return for another few shows.

Until next time … Keep doing what you love.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Central Missouri

Well here we are at Lone Jack, MO in central Missouri.  We picked this place as a likely stopping place on our way south and really didn’t expect much from it.  One of the lessons you learn when you are on the road is that some of the most unlikely places are sometimes the best.  Our park is wonderful.  There are geese in for a stop on their migratory route to and from their breeding grounds and summer domain.  They are noisy and rambunctious and have no fear of humans here … apparently they have memorized the safe places they can stop on their long trip.

The park here is surrounded by lakes and rivers and inundated with trees … wonderful!  Lynda and I took our Segways and toured the park a couple of times.   It has putt, putt golf, a ball field, and an archery range.   Too bad we forgot our bows and arrows!  One of the trees that caught our attention was the brain fruit tree (also known as "hedge apples") ...  see pictures one and two below.

Although the park was beautiful and our rig overlooked a river, we did get out to Independence, MO for a couple of attractions.  We debated whether or not to visit the Truman Presidential Library… after all, what is there to do in a library … we have our kindles if we want to read.  We finally decided to go … nothing else much to do that day.  It was magnificent!  What were we thinking?  We learned more about the seven years he was president then we had ever imagined.  It was a wonderful experience.  We have now put all the other presidential libraries on our MUST DO list.  If you have a chance you absolutely have to see this.  Excellent!!

After four hours at the library … and we could have spent more, we were really hungry.  One of the things Lynda wanted to do most in the Kansas City area was eat KC ribs.  We found a place in a questionable neighborhood in Independence called “Gates Bar B Que”.  They had been in business around 70 years so we figured they must be good …  good?   Good?  What were we thinking?  They were great!  We split something called “4 bones” it came with 4 ribs, two sides of sliced meat (we had ham and brisket) and two sides (we had fries and baked beans) and three slices of white bread.  Total cost 25 dollars. … Total result …Yummmmmmmm!

This stop seemed too short.  It wasn’t long before we were on our way to the Missouri Ozarks.  We usually don’t stop along the way from place to place because it is too hard to find a place to park.  However, on our way south we found two places to stop.  The first was a funky cheese shop with a zillion types of cheeses to sample called Osceola Cheese.  We bought a Swiss (Kim) and a sharp cheddar (Lynda).

Another stop was at Lambert’s Café … home of the “Throwed Rolls” (I take no responsibility for the poor grammar).  We heard of this place on Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives and again from some campers at Forest City.  They throw hot rolls at you here … but that is not all.   Most of what you order is “all you can eat” and even if it’s not … there are dishes called “pass arounds” (fried potatoes, tomatoes and macaroni, black eyed peas, and fried okra) that are available all of the time … eat all you want!  No one goes hungry here!  If you  are in Ozark, Missouri, this is a place not to miss!  Wow, great meal!!

Looking forward to the Ozarks!  Until next time, keep doing what you love!