Posted by: edandracheltravel | January 14, 2011

Update 37 — A New Chapter

A New Chapter

For some time we have been contemplating the future. We know that someday we will have to stop traveling fulltime, though, thank God, that time is not yet. So, we have thought about a place where we could spend time year-around in our RV, more or less independent. As we continue to travel, we have also considered a place we could call home base for our RV, traveling when we got the urge or when the weather was better elsewhere. We wanted a place we could afford where the weather was bearable all year in our RV. Although we loved San Diego, it was too expensive for our budget. And, while we love parking on Rachel’s sister’s family’s property in the beautiful Bitterroot Valley of Montana, it is too cold in the winter to live there in our RV.

 

As we passed through the Hill Country of Texas in spring 2009, we remarked in our update that we loved the area and hoped to spend more time in the future. Long before that, as we prepared to become full-time RVers, we considered becoming Texans because of the license and tax structure, the mail-forwarding services available, and so forth. We saw that Texas is still a wholesome, respectful, common-sense place to live.

As of  July, 2009, though, the thought was only in the back of our minds. Then as we changed our plan to go to Florida that winter and to Colorado the next summer, so we could be close to Rachel’s family while her mother had heart surgery, and then spent a cold, damp, gray three weeks on the Washington Coast last fall, it came back to mind.

As we sat in RV resorts on the Sacramento River Delta last fall, we considered our options and began looking for property in Texas Hill Country. We discovered that most land for sale has restrictions regarding RVs, so we changed our search to RV lots for sale. We found the Web site for El Viaje, studied the photos and video and contacted the owners. We also used Google Earth to see what it looked like from the air.

After much communication and sending plans back and forth for approval, we decided to buy a lot. The lots at El Viaje are typically 50 X 100 feet (5,000 square feet), about the size of a city lot. They are about 1/7 acre. Few of the lots are absolutely rectangular, however. Ours is a pie-shaped lot measuring 30 feet across the street end and 75 feet wide at the back of the lot, 120 feet from the street.

El Viaje is billed as an RV “Retreat.” It is not an RV park or resort inasmuch as it does not have overnight accommodations. The RV portion of the property covers about 14 acres and has 50 lots. The rest of the retreat is agricultural with a herd of 31 Nubian goats, nine horses, a large flock of chickens and turkeys, and Honkey Donkey. Ownership in the RV retreat allows access to the 58 agricultural acres as well as a clubhouse, pool, and shop. They tell me there is an exercise room, though I have not seen it personally.

A few feet from the back of our lot is a fence separating the RV retreat area from the agricultural retreat area. Behind us is a meadow sloping upward into a small valley that is forested with two varieties of oaks, pecans and junipers (Texas cedars). The hillsides have several limestone layers separated by caliche soil. In the dry watercourse there are several places where water has run over these layers and has undercut them, forming grottoes. There are hiking trails on the various hillside “layers” or benches.

Our plans included two out buildings, one larger to contain a utility room for storage and laundry and an auxiliary refrigerator and freezer, a room to house the model railroad begun in San Diego, and a large (12 X 16) room for crafts, a library, and additional living space. It is 12 X 36 feet with a six-foot covered porch running the length. We are nearing completion of that building at this time, with texturing, painting, flooring and trim yet to do.

The larger building we call "The Bunkhouse" for its appearance, not its function

The second building is smaller at 10 X 12 with a six-foot porch across the front. This building will serve as a workshop for woodworking as well as our “German Corner,” with our German echtbank (corner table and bench), stein collection, cuckoo clock and our carved stammtisch sign. We have done all the construction on both buildings ourselves, though we have had numerous offers of help.

The smaller building we call "The Miner's Shack," also for its appearance

We also had an RV port built, like a carport, but bigger and higher, to protect the RV and our GMC Envoy from the Texas summer sun and the occasional monsoon thunderstorms that sometimes include quarter-size hail. We also had a smaller carport built to cover the truck for the same reasons.

The RV port nears completion

Our latest projects are a deck running beside the RV under the RV port and behind the RV with a 12 X 12 foot cover over about half the back deck, boardwalks connecting the two outbuildings with the RV port, a half-scale replica of a mine headframe, an ore dump trestle and our ore car and a bridge railing over a dry creek bed we are creating through our back yard.

The Deck and cover over the conversation fire pit

 

The m ine headframe is a half-size replica of the Keystone Shaft headframe near Virginia City, Nevada

 

Our Locale            

Medina, three and a half miles away from El Viaje, is a small, unincorporated community of probably no more than 150 souls. Businesses remaining are the Ace Hardware, post office, library, Old Timer gas station/general store, Keese’s Barbecue (rhymes with Reese’s), car wash and laundromat, The Core Coffee House (a mission of the Medina Methodist Church), four churches, and an elementary school.

 

Medina was once a larger town rivaling Bandera in size. It is on scenic Highway 16, once the only way to get from San Antonio westward. Then another route (173) was constructed and later, Interstate 10, isolating Medina. Highway 16 is still known as one of the most scenic stretches of road in Texas—and we live along it and get to drive it every time we leave El Viaje!

 

Bandera, 17 miles away from El Viaje, is the nearest town with most common services. It has a population of 991. It is known as the Cowboy Capital of the World, and was once the starting place for cattle drives north to the railroad in Kansas. Bandera is the county seat and a beautiful courthouse sits in the center of town. Unlike much of the country today, the courthouse lawn is the location of the annual Easter sunrise service and a Christmas Nativity scene complete with longhorns and horses. Rodeos here are opened with prayer. Bandera also has an excellent lumber yard, Hevenor’s, where we have bought most of the lumber for our buildings.

 

Bandera is also the location of our church, Christ Chapel. As we settled in at El Viaje, intending to attend Calvary Chapel in Kerrville, we had lots of invitations to attend peoples’ churches. We discovered that the drive to Calvary Chapel Kerrville would be prohibitive for us to be active in our church, so we accepted an invitation to Christ Chapel. We attended and knew immediately that we were where God intended us to be.

 

Christ Chapel is a Bible centered church of about 150 people of all ages. Currently we are both on the worship music team (Rachel on piano and keyboard; Ed on trumpet, baritone, cajon or percussion box and vocals), and we participate in DiscipleFest on Thursday evenings (an in-depth Bible study in a small-group setting with the pastor, Bruce Offield). We also attend on Wednesday evenings for a fellowship meal and then separate Bible studies for the men and women and kids. Ed attends the men’s group (and has taught four lessons while the regular teacher was away), and Rachel teaches King’s Kids, a group of K-6 children.

 

Bandera is an interesting town. In the same block we see parked horses, Harleys and Hondas, though there are more dually one-ton pickups in Bandera County per capita than anywhere we have been. Hitched outside the Bandera Saloon on weekends is a longhorn steer with a saddle.

             

The next larger town near us is Kerrville. It has a population of nearly 23,000, and has most of the major stores including a Super Wal-Mart. The popular grocery store in this area is H.E.B., and it was started in Kerrville at the turn of the century. It is called H.E.B., because who would buy groceries from a store named Herbert E. Butt? It is also where the nearest Lowe’s and Home Depot are located. We reach Kerrville one of two ways. If we drive Highway 16, the most scenic, but also the slowest and curviest, the trip is 21 miles one way. If we travel Ranch Road 2828 and Highway 173, it is 28 miles, but a few minutes faster—and safer at night. It is wider with shoulders and passing lanes and has fewer deer crossing. We usually take 16 during the day and 173 and 2828 at night.

 

Our major city is San Antonio, 65 miles away. It has a population of over a million. It is

where our nearest Costco is located (and three or four other Costco stores as well). It is also home to Sea World San Antonio and the famous and magical Riverwalk. The San Antonio Airport is where we fly from when we are not on RVing trips.

 

Another feature we love about this area is several nearby German towns. We were first drawn by Fredericksburg, 40 miles north of us when we passed through earlier. We had spent a week each in Fredericksburg, San Antonio and New Braunfels. In addition to those, there is Boerne, also about 40 miles from us. New Braunfels is about 80 miles away, and its small nearby neighbor, Gruene, is another fun place to visit. Each of these towns has its German festivals—Wurstfest, Oktoberfests, Christmas markets.

           

Hunting in Texas is a misnomer. “Harvest” would be a better description of what goes on here to those of us raised where hunters actually had to hunt for their game. Here ranchers put out deer feeders and, a short distance away, blinds. During hunting season, they climb into the blind and shoot the same deer they have been feeding, selecting the particular one they want. Some ranches are even classified as hunting ranches and raise no crops or other animals but wild game, and charge people to hunt.

 

The Hill Country is known for its wild flowers—when the area is not in drought. Last winter and spring, there was ample rainfall, and the wildflowers were everywhere! And, when one variety, such as the bluebonnets, stopped blooming, another variety took its place.

 

Another distinction of this area is the Hill Country Wave. Locals in the Bandera area wave at other locals, determined by the cowboy hat on the driver or on the dashboard and the presence of a grill/deer guard on the vehicle. The wave is very subtle, and easy to miss if you are not paying attention. With the one hand casually grasping the steering wheel, the driver waves by slightly lifting the index finger from the wheel. One is expected to return the wave in the same manner.

 

We are not through traveling, God willing. Though we have both been in all the contiguous United States except Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas and Vermont, the RV has not been in those as well as Florida, Utah, and Colorado. Before we hang up the keys, we hope to RV to those states. We also would like to spend extended time in Colorado and Northwestern New Mexico exploring ghost railroads and mining areas. Depending on the national economy, diesel prices, and our health, we plan to visit those places in the next few years. In the immediate future, we will be making shorter out-and-back trips, such as taking the RV to Port Aransas for the rest of January and part of February.

 

We are happy with the decision we made to create a home base and that we were able to do it in such a place as beautiful Texas Hill Country. We are surrounded by nice people and we have a wonderful church family.

 

  

 

 
Posted by: edandracheltravel | December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas 2009 from Indio, California

We have had a wonderful 2009! As much as we loved San Diego and the nearly two years we spent there, we got “Hitch Itch” and resumed our nomadic RV life last December.

We spent last winter crossing Southern California, Arizona and New Mexico and in the Hill Country of Texas. There we visited the German towns of Fredericksburg, Boerne and New Braunfels, as well as the “Cowboy Capital,” Bandera, and San Antonio, too.

In the spring we started north and enjoyed a German festival in Muenster, Texas, and saw the former Ardmore, Oklahoma, home of a dear San Diego friend, Elynn Davidson, who went home to be with the Lord in September. We dodged weather in Tornado Alley as we traveled north through Oklahoma and Kansas. We met and enjoyed the company of a Mennonite couple near Hutchinson, Kansas, who introduced us to their family and showed us their homeland. We found several farms owned by Ed’s ancestors in the late 1800’s in Franklin County, Kansas, and photographed the gravesites of those who didn’t migrate with the rest to North Dakota and then to Washington State.

We met friends in Kansas City on their home turf and reunited with a friend from Quincy, Washington, now living in St. Joseph, Missouri. We spent several days in Hannibal, enjoying the town where Samuel Clemens grew up. We found Ed’s mother’s birthplace and the family home in Billings, Missouri, where they lived before migrating to Washington. We found and photographed the graves of her sister and grandparents and later memorialized them at http://www.findagrave.com. We enjoyed shows in Branson, a wholesome counterpart of Las Vegas, Nevada.

Then our plan changed, and instead of traveling eastward and southward for Oktoberfests in North and South Carolina and in Georgia and wintering in Florida, we turned northward and westward to be with Rachel’s family as her mother went through heart surgery.

We had a wonderful two months there, the RV parked literally in the front yard of Rachel’s sister, Kathryn. They live on ten rural acres 15 miles south of Missoula in the beautiful Bitterroot Valley of Montana next door to her parents’ ten acres and 20 miles from Rachel’s brother, Rob. The surgery went well, her mother is fully recovered, and we are grateful for the amount of time we were able to spend with family there visiting and playing with them and attending their churches and helping where needed.

However, Montana in winter is not the place to be if you do not enjoy shoveling weather, so we went westward through Idaho and Washington to the Pacific Coast, intending to travel down the Washington, Oregon and California coasts throughout the winter. On the way through we were able to catch a visit with friends in Spokane and parts of Leavenworth Washington’s Autumn Leaf Festival and Oktoberfest.

We enjoyed a week of sunshine before the weather turned colder, wetter, grayer and darker. After four weeks of that we realized that we preferred warmer, drier and brighter, so before it got any later in the season and before snow on Siskiyou Summit in Oregon, we headed inland and southward to inland California. We spent five weeks near Lodi, California, on the Sacramento River Delta and are now in Indio, where we will celebrate Christmas.

It has been a good year, but we are disheartened by what is going on in our country and in the world. We have a president leading the nation away from our biblical foundations. Our government’s economy is on the verge of collapse, the family is being redefined, and the penalty for disturbing a spotted owl egg in the nest will get you prison time, while killing an unborn baby will perhaps be subsidized by the government in the name of health care. And, as our president said, “We are no longer a Christian nation.”

On the other side of the world, the Muslim nations’ radicals are attempting to remove “Little Satan,” Israel, from the face of the earth and to destroy “Big Satan,” the United States as well. Iran is lead by just such a radical whose sworn purpose in life is to bring about nuclear holocaust which will usher in the 12th Imam, the Muslim savior, signaling the end of the world.

Disheartening, yes, but we have hope if we remember that it is God who is in control and not Barak Obama or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Bible, which is how we know about God and His plans for us, says in 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and will heal their land.” (NIV)

Time is short. Have you made your last will and testament? God has.

His will for you is that none should perish and that all should repent and be saved and spend eternity with Him in heaven and not separated in eternal darkness. (John 3:16, John 6:40)

And, He has given us two testaments. In the Old Testament, in which He created the heavens and the earth, He gave us His universal, unchangeable laws and He explained his nature. He showed us the need for the sacrificial shedding of blood to cover sin, the first time when an animal had to die to provide covering for Adam and Eve.

Through His prophets he gave us over 300 prophesies which were fulfilled in His New Testament when He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to earth, fully God and fully man. Jesus became the sacrificial lamb, ending the need for the old sacrificial system, covering our sin forever by shedding His blood on the cross that we might be saved.

He also explained how we can be saved. It is a free gift, but God is a gentleman and will not force us to accept it. You must ask for it, inviting Him to come into your heart, and if you “confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9) It is so simple most people miss it.

We urge you to remember the reason we celebrate Christmas and to make your last will and testament and ask Jesus Christ to take control of your life.* Heaven is going to be a glorious place. We hope to see you there.

Merry Christmas, 2009.

And, if you have any inclination to be careless while driving this Christmas season, please watch the video at the link below. In just the few years it has been showing in Australia, the death rate during the holidays has been cut in half.

http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=Z2mf8DtWWd8

*If this is your desire, you can begin with a prayer like this and know that you are eternally saved: “Dear God, I know that I am a sinner and need Your forgiveness. I believe that Jesus Christ died to pay the penalty for my rebellion against You. I want to turn from my sin to follow You instead. I invite You to come into my heart and life and change me from the inside out. I ask this in the name of Your Son, Jesus. Amen.”  

Posted by: edandracheltravel | October 1, 2009

Update 35: Branson, Missouri to Florence, Montana

By now we planned to be in Salisbury, North Carolina, having passed through Arkansas and Tennessee, on our way to Oktoberfests in Mocksville, North Carolina, Walhalla, South Carolina and Helen, Georgia. A radical change of plans occurred, and we are currently in Florence, Montana. Rachel’s mother had open heart surgery on August 24, and we have been tending to family business since arriving. Margaret Aplin, Rachel’s mother, is doing well. She has a new heart valve and a steady, solid heartbeat. Rachel’s father, Bob Aplin, is also doing well. Your prayers for continued healing for Margaret and peace and strength for Bob would be appreciated.
 
Travel Progress 8.2009 Change of Plans

 

 When we planned to leave Springfield, Missouri, on July 7 after a great week of family history research in and around Billings, Missouri, it was the end of the official July 4 holiday, and as a result our next park was not available on Monday when we usually move. Many of our membership parks reserve holiday weekends for their owners. We are owners in Western Horizon parks. We are not owners in the park we chose at Branson, but do belong to Resorts of Distinction, a group of RV resorts that allows owners of other RV parks to use their parks. So, we extended our stay in Springfield a day, and moved to Branson and set up on Tuesday.

 

After we were set up, we jumped in the Sebring and drove the main street, State Route 76, through Branson amid heavy traffic—which never seems to cease. This is the street on which most of the theaters are situated, and there are many, many of them! Each performer or show has its own theater, and the two- or three-mile strip of them has restaurants, churches and general businesses interspersed.

 

Downtown Branson by the river

Downtown Branson by the river

At the end of the strip is the historic downtown, situated on the shore of a river. We ended up there, parked and walked through downtown. Afterwards, we drove south toward Arkansas a few miles away, then doubled back along the shores of Table Rock Lake, on which the local showboat/sternwheeler is located. The sternwheeler and park where it is based, along with several other Branson attractions, are owned by Dolly Parton, but since we planned to go to Dollywood when we got to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, we skipped those in Branson

Steamboat Branson Belle

Steamboat Branson Belle

On Wednesday, July 8, we worked around the house. I worked on my family history project and finished Update 34 and posted it. On Thursday we went to Silver Dollar City. (See Link) This was one of two attractions recommended by nearly everyone who had been to Branson and knew we planned to be there. Thanks to those of you who suggested we go. We really enjoyed it. In addition to the typical theme park businesses and thrill rides, there are shops in which artisans continue to practice old trades. The major attraction, and the feature around which the park was developed, is Marvel Cave. It is a natural cavern thought originally to contain huge amounts of quarry-able marble. A mining town was established above it and plans were made to mine it out. Turns out what looked like marble was actually bat guano—that’s bat poop for those of you who are unscientific. The mine fizzled after the guano was removed and used for fertilizer and gun powder, but the cavern became an attraction—re-named Marvel Cave, and the town developed into a theme park with crafts persons as well as rides.

Eleven stories beneath the entrance in Marvel Cave

Eleven stories beneath the entrance in Marvel Cave

  

Live belt system in the woodshop

Live belt system in the woodshop

 For instance, there is a wood shop, completely operated by a live-belt system—where a system of wheels and belts power all the machines in the shop instead of each one having its own source of power. In this shop, they make fine furniture with intricate designs in the detail. Other artisans demonstrating were a glass blower, a basket maker, two wood carvers—one doing relief work and the other chip carving, a blacksmith, and a knife maker. It was while watching the knife maker and conversing with another tourist we first heard the apparently Southern expression, “Golly Bill!” as in, “Golly Bill, I didn’t know anyone could do that.” It has replaced “Holy cow!” in our vocabulary.

 

Silver City's glassblower

Silver City's glassblower

 

Knife maker. Golly Bill!

Knife maker. Golly Bill!

 

I belong to several genealogical online “lists,” and almost daily I receive mail to each family group asking members for information seeking ancestors. That night I “discovered” Find a Grave. (See Link) It consists of a data base compiled by a group of dedicated people who photograph cemetery headstones and then create online memorials for each person buried containing their name and as much other information as they have. Others look up family names, and when they find a family member posted, they can add photographs, biographies, newspaper articles, obituaries and other details of that person’s life. I never knew it existed until I happened to read one post from the Church of the Brethren list and a contributor suggested someone look at Find a Grave for information.

 

That night I went to bed very late, having discovered a wonderful site full of information on several of my family lines and even some photographs of great grandparents on my mother’s side I had never before seen! Since then, I have been supplying information and photographs to existing memorials, creating new ones of people not already posted, and updating my genealogy records with information carved in stone. If you are interested in genealogy and are not aware of Find a Grave, I suggest you check it out, but only if you have quite a lot of time. I spent the entire next day online posting and gathering family information.

 

On Saturday afternoon we went to the show, “Noah the Musical.”  In addition to a great story line (Genesis 6-9), the show had an awesome stage set. The ark appears to be built as the show progresses. The most spectacular scene has the interior of the ark surrounding the audience on three sides, at least 200 feet in length and 45 feet high! Many live animals were used in the show—oxen, cows, chickens, llamas, camels, sheep, goats, pigs, rabbits, dogs, horses, ostriches, burros, cats, donkeys, doves, pigeons, peacocks, ducks and others—two of each, of course. The show was very touching and emotion-provoking, as well as well-acted and staged. We thoroughly enjoyed and felt blessed to have had the opportunity to see it.

Center part of Noah's Ark interior stage set

Center part of Noah's Ark interior stage set

Another thing several people recommended was a particular genre of restaurant experience. There are at least two of them in existence, one in Branson, and another north between there and Springfield. Since we were already in Branson, we chose Falls Restaurant, Home of Tossed Rolls. The food was food, but the thing that makes the place a destination is that Rudy the Bun Thrower comes out of the kitchen with a tray of fresh-baked rolls, and when you catch his eye, he throws you one across the room! Yes, some hit the floor, but not many.

 

Branson is like a smaller, wholesome version of Las Vegas–without the debauchery. There are perhaps a hundred shows. We had lots of recommendations and had to choose between them. We selected Silver Dollar City and Noah the Musical. Unlike people who visit Branson once on their annual vacation (and probably spend the rest of the year paying for it), we actually lived in Branson—for a week, and then our practice is to move on to the next place with its attractions and live there for a week, and on and on, seeing what there is to see, but also engaging in hobbies, doing housework, visiting the dentist, shopping for groceries, and yes, even washing windows.

 

Just like most of our friends, we don’t have the time or money to take in everything a place has to offer in a week—and everything the next place has to offer the next week. When we arrive in a place, sometimes with foreknowledge and events planned, we scope out what the locals think are not-to-be-missed attractions. If time and funds permit, we take those recommendations. Often, we get just a taste of the area, a sample, leaving us with the excitement of the possibility of a return one day.

 

All that having been said, we soon had a drastic change of plans! That evening, after we had prepared the RV to move to Shirley, Arkansas, the next day, we received a phone call letting us know that Rachel’s mother had been in the hospital for a second time with a heart problem. The first time, we merely “kept our ear to the ground,” sensing whether we should go to Montana to be near family, but at the second issue, we knew clearly that we needed to change our plans. The next almost two weeks did resemble a typical family vacation as we traveled each day, cramming in the attractions along the way, doing as much as we could, not knowing when or if we would “pass this way again.”

 

We developed an itinerary from Branson to Florence, Montana, in the shortest possible time, but within our traveling limits of not much more than 200 miles a day, and added in a couple extra days where needed. We canceled our reservations in Shirley, Arkansas, and made a reservation in Kansas City at the park at which we had previously stayed when we met Mike and Kay there. That park was Walnut Grove RV Park in Merriam, KS, a suburb of Kansas City. We called owners Greg and David and asked if they had a spot for us. They arranged for us to have a pull-through spot, meaning we could drive right into the spot without backing and leave the truck hooked to the RV, saving us the need to spend the time setting up and then hooking up again the next day before leaving. We enjoyed visiting with David and Greg, who gave us vegetables from their garden, home made potato salad, and green tomatoes for fried green tomatoes. We also enjoyed a tour of Greg’s shop and seeing jewelry he makes and sells. Early (for us) the next day, we continued our journey, first north and then westward at an average distance of 200-225 miles a day (unless we had a special reason to stay longer).

 

Council Bluffs, Iowa

 

Our next two nights were spent at Council Bluffs, Iowa. We parked the RV at a casino there that had 50 amps and water, but no septic, so we used the RV area showers. We were just 100 yards from what appeared to be a great casino, but we never did set foot inside. We stayed two nights in order to get the truck serviced on the day between. It was a little overdue and we really like to take care of her, so we made the appointment before we left Kansas City.

 

We were impressed by McMullen Ford. They did everything right—which some other dealers have not, and they even checked the air pressure in the spare tire under the truck, noticed and replaced two failed clearance light bulbs on the dual fender flares, and they washed the truck!

 

We had a little time left in the day at Council Bluffs, with Omaha just across the Missouri River, so we selected one of several museums—the Union Pacific Railroad Museum to go to for two hours until closing. We took the address from a booklet on Omaha, and plugged the address into the GPS and followed it across the Missouri River into Omaha, Nebraska on I-80, past the largest steam locomotive and the largest diesel locomotive ever made, displayed on the hillside with a “Welcome to Omaha” sign. Rachel was able to snap a photo from the freeway, but we thought it would really be nice if we could get closer.

 

We got to the museum address on the GPS, and it was a one-block street, and nothing like where the UP Museum was supposed to be. We typed the address in again, this time in Council Bluffs, across the river in Iowa, and sure enough, that is where the museum was. We got to the museum just in time to go completely through and finish at exactly closing time. After the museum, we loaded into the GPS several other landmarks in Council Bluffs, such as the Grenville Dodge House and the Golden Spike Memorial, and we drove to them. Then we agreed to go back across the river to Omaha. We drove through the old market district, now upscale restaurants and loft apartments. Then we tried to find the locomotives on the hill—from the back side. We homed in on it, but were stopped by a closed and locked gate. The park where the locomotives are displayed (and from which they are seen as part of the Omaha welcome from the freeway) is open from 9 until 4 each day. We had about 200 miles to travel the next day, so we resolved to prepare the RV for travel and pull it out into the casino parking lot, and drive the Sebring back to the park the next day. Rain was predicted for thatday, but not until noon, and by then we planned to be part of the way north toward Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

 

We did as we planned, and by 9:30, we were standing beside two of the largest locomotives ever made, both steam and diesel. The Union Pacific 4023, nicknamed “Big Boy,” and one of only two remaining of the 25 built, had four lead wheels and eight drive wheels under the front half of the locomotive, and eight more drive wheels and four trailing wheels under the firebox at the back of the locomotive. The giant tender is supported by seven sets of wheels. This is the most powerful, heaviest and longest steam locomotive ever built.

 

Due to the extreme length of the locomotive, the front half pivots separately from the back half, and the lead trucks pivot independent of the drive wheels, as do the trailing trucks. This articulation allows the long, long locomotive to negotiate curves that are designed for shorter locomotives. It is the same principle used for logging Mallets (pronounced MAL ees) so that they could negotiate sharp mountain curves.

 

Rachel admires Big Boy 4023  Rachel admires Big Boy 4023

 

Ed stands beside UP Diesel 6900 Ed stands beside UP Diesel 6900

   

Ed prefers steam locomotives!

Ed prefers steam locomotives!

We were thankful for the error we made entering the address of the museum which caused us to drive past the locomotives, and eventually to stand beside them. I mentioned earlier that rain was predicted for noon. Just about 10:30, lightening started and within just a few minutes, large raindrops were falling until by the time we got back to the car, we were drenched! The weather guessers missed the time of the rain, but we had already finished our photos when it started. We returned to the casino parking lot, got the RV, and drove north on Interstate 29, and within about 50 miles, the sun was shining again.

 

Sioux Falls, South Dakota 

 

We reached Tower RV Park just west off I-29 from downtown Sioux Falls in mid-afternoon. Have you ever wondered why it is called Sioux Falls? I hadn’t considered it. While we were waiting for an RV park employee to cut a hanging branch so we could back into our assigned space, we read a brochure that talked about the Falls of the Big Sioux River. Aha! Sure enough, after the RV was set up, we got in the Sebring and drove downtown to Falls Park and spent the next hour or so enjoying the beautiful falls.

Sioux Falls Park with old penstock and powerhouse buildings across the cataracts

Sioux Falls Park with old penstock and powerhouse buildings across the cataracts

They have created a wonderful park all along the river, which drops in a series of cataracts over half a mile or more, and there are several viewpoints from which one can enjoy the sights and sound of the river. The downtown is also very nice, with vintage brick and local pink quartzite stone buildings. It is South Dakota’s largest city at nearly 125,000 population, but it has the feel of a much smaller city.

 

The next morning, we drove another 200 miles west from Sioux Falls, now on I-90. By dividing the trip into relatively equal segments, no day’s travel was much more than any other. On the way was something we had read about long ago and never thought we’d see. But, since we were on the route and it was in our path, we visited the world famous

Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD. (See Link) It is really “amaizing” and hard to “cornceptualize”—their jokes, not mine. It draws over half a million visitors a year, and sports large murals over the front and one side made entirely of multicolored corn cobs, grasses, straw, milo and sourdock. These murals are changed every year and it takes hundreds of volunteer hours to design and construct them. Inside is a presentation on corn,  several more permanent corn murals and “corncession” stands vending all manner of corn products—popcorn, popcorn balls, corn on the cob, etc. The palace also houses a gymnasium/auditorium where the local high school basketball team plays, called, to be expected, the Kernals.

 

Mitchell Corn Palace

Mitchell Corn Palace


Corn Palace Murals

Corn Palace Murals

 

Two hundred miles put us in the little town of Presho and the New Frontier RV Park, about halfway across the State of South Dakota. Presho is a small farming town, proud of its pioneer heritage, with a nice rural museum complex just across from the RV park, and the ubiquitous grain elevator and railroad loading facility present in every grain-growing town. We wandered the museum grounds and drove the streets of the little town that evening, getting a sense of what life might be like there. We ate at Hutch’s Café, the one thriving local business, and enjoyed a conversation with our server, a high school student there. After a final, brisk evening walk around the circumference of the park we retired and rested for the next day’s run.

 

Presho Grain Growers Tanks

Presho Grain Growers Tanks

Good thing we did, too, because the next day was full of adventure. Soon after leaving Presho we began to see billboards advertising South Dakota’s 1880 Town. (See Link) When Richard Hulliger bought 14 acres at Exit No. 170 on I-90 in 1969, he had no plans for an attraction.  In 1972 a gas station was built and the idea of creating a frontier town was hatched. A movie company went to a nearby town to make an 1880’s film, a main street set was constructed and it was furnished with many antiques borrowed from Richard’s father, Clarence. When winter set in, filming was abandoned, and the set was given to Clarence for the use of his antiques.

 

Rachel "window shops" at 1880 Town

Rachel "window shops" at 1880 Town

The movie set was moved to Richard’s property just off I-90, and 1880 Town was born. Since Rachel and I love this sort of thing, we absolutely had to stop and spend a couple hours walking the streets. All the buildings are authentic and historic, and have been moved to 1880 Town from elsewhere in South Dakota and nearby. Many of the props, animals and set features from Dances With Wolves are displayed here.

1880 Town in South Dakota

1880 Town in South Dakota

 

 

 

 About 40 miles farther west on I-90 was the turnoff for the Badlands National Park. (See Link) We had planned on driving straight through from Presho to Rapid City, South Dakota, but we realized that we might not pass through here again soon, if ever. So, on the spur of the moment, we turned off the freeway onto State Route 240, a windy, sometimes steep, narrow secondary road, with 65 feet of truck and fifth wheel trailer, followed by the convertible. We spent the next 38 miles and two hours driving past and hiking among fantastic formations. The grades in the park were very steep, both descending and ascending, but the Ford F-350 is a “tractor,” and had no trouble.

 
The South Dakota Badlands
The South Dakota Badlands

 

Ed hikes the Badlands

Ed hikes the Badlands

 

The Badlands

The Badlands

 

State Route 240 re-enters Interstate 90 at Exit 131, the same exit one would take to go into Wall, South Dakota, home of the famous Wall Drug. Now Wall Drug is not just a pharmacy, but rivals many other attractions. It covers 76,000 square feet, covers most of a city block in downtown Wall, South Dakota, and houses several restaurants, a multitude of shops of all sorts, gold panning, and a life-sized dinosaur that comes to life, roaring and breathing fire every 20 minutes. I distinctly remember the bumper stickers from former times that have been revised to say, “Where in Heck is Wall Drug?”

 

Yes, that's ALL Wall Drug!

Yes, that's ALL Wall Drug!


Inside Wall Drug

Inside Wall Drug


Ed visits with a Floosie

Ed visits with a Floosie


Rachel visits with the floozie!

Rachel visits with the floozie!

 

 

 

What started out to be a 200-mile, four-hour drive turned into a 220-mile, eight-hour day of travel, full of interesting things to see and do. By the time we arrived at our next destination, Rapid City, South Dakota, it was early evening, and we drove straight to our park, set up for a three-night stay, and went to bed.

 

The next day was Sunday, and Rapid City has a Calvary Chapel, so we attended services there. The pastor, Greg Blanc, trained and interned with Mike MacIntosh at Horizon Christian Fellowship, our home church, so it was fun visiting with him after services. He invited us to participate in a community outreach in the city park that evening, and we told him of our plans for the rest of the day and said we would stop by the park if we returned in time. We had planned a full day after church, but were hopeful we could help out.

 

We changed clothes at the RV park and set out south on Highway 16 to Mount Rushmore. Rachel and I had both always wanted to see it, but the plans we had made did not include being anywhere near for several years—until our change of plans. While we were trying to get to Florence without wasting any time in case we were needed, we felt we had time to enjoy sights and sites we might not pass again anytime soon. Mount Rushmore was one of them, and there were four others nearby.

 

Five great faces!

Five great faces!

 

The Sculpture

The Sculpture

 

We thoroughly enjoyed our time at Mount Rushmore. (See Link) We did the whole thing: audio tour headsets, the film presentations, the hike to the base of the mountain sculpture and to the sculptor’s studio, the book store, the museum and the gift shop. Oh, and the ice cream shop, too. The sculpture is spectacular and amazing. The story of its creation is fascinating as well. http://www.nps.gov/moru/historyculture/mount-rushmore-national-memorial.htm

 

We left Mount Rushmore and drove the additional few miles to the Crazy Horse Memorial. (See Link) This memorial to a great Chief is completely private, funded by donations and admissions charged for parking at the site ($10 per car load). The massive memorial carving is plainly visible from the huge museum complex, but there is also a bus tour to the base of the mountain ($4 additional each) that is well worth the cost. The museum, finished on the interior completely with knotty pine, has two theaters, an education and conference center, the Indian Museum of North America, Native American Cultural Center with native craftsmen working on their crafts, the sculptor’s log studio and home, a 1/34 model of the monument, a snack shop and a full restaurant.

The Crazy Horse Memorial from a distance

The Crazy Horse Memorial from a distance


Closer view

Closer view


Model to memorial comparison

Model to memorial comparison


Interpretive Center--all pine!

Interpretive Center--all pine!

 

Though it was late in the day, we decided to take the long way home through Custer State Park, just south of Crazy Horse. It covers 71,000 acres and is home to a herd of buffalo numbering over 1,400. On our drive through the park we drove through most of them—I mean they were on both sides of the car and in front and in back. Do you know that a full-grown buffalo is larger than a Chrysler Sebring? In this case, the buffalo were 1,400 times larger! What an exciting drive. Before dark we also saw herds of deer (both mule deer and whitetail deer) and elk. We got home well after dark, and completely missed serving with Calvary Chapel Rapid City at the park.

 

The best we could do under the circumstances

The best we could do under the circumstances

 

 General George A. Custer is most remembered for his defeat at the Battle of Little Bighorn, but before that he led an expedition into the Black Hills where they discovered gold. The publicity brought a throng of fortune hunters which eventually took a toll on wildlife. In 1913 the Dakota legislature created a game preserve in what has become the Custer State Park.

 

Mining and Western history have long been an interest, and both of us enjoy mining towns. I had read about Deadwood City and Lead (pronounced LEED, after the mining term, not the metal). Now we were a mere 44 miles from them, so how could we not go? Also, the now-closed Homestake Mine is the new home to the deep research facility rejected by Leavenworth, Washington. I wanted to see the town of Deadwood, where gold was discobvered in 1876 and where Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane lived and died and are buried. We had seen the markers in the street of the town square in Springfield, Missouri where Wild Bill and Dave Tuit shot it out and where each stood 75 yards apart during the shootout. Deadwood is where he ended up and we wanted to see it.

MO 135

Marker in Springfield, Missouri, street where Wild Bill killed his opponent in the first recorded gunfight

 

Hickcock Grave 1876

Hickcock Grave, 1876

So, on Monday we drove to Deadwood, South Dakota. As we drove into town, the cemetery sign was one of the first things we saw, so we drove up the steep street, parked and walked into the burial ground. The graves of Wild Bill and Martha “Calamity Jane” Canary/Burke were not hard to find, since they were well marked by signs and by the crowds gathered around. They soon mostly cleared and we were able to get a photo.

 

 

 

 

 

Hickcock Grave, 2009 Hickcock Grave, 2009

 Hickcock, a guide for the Custer Expedition, was killed during a card game at Deadwood’s Saloon No. 10, holding what became known as the Deadman’s Hand—black aces and eights, with a black jack to spare. Later, when she died in Terry, South Dakota, in 1903, Calamity Jane’s dying request was, “Bury me beside Wild Bill.” Whether he would have wished it is disputable. She claimed to have been his “girlfriend,” and that is the legend, but there is little evidence that was the case.

 

We wandered town for a bit, enjoying the atmosphere of the old West feel, including the opportunity to see a room on the third floor of the Lincoln Hotel. We also spent some time admiring a very nice model railroad in the basement level of one of the main street casinos. Many of the main street building fronts have been carefully restored as a result of profits from the casinos located behind those fronts. Several large ones occupy many of the downtown buildings, but the Old West atmosphere is preserved by the authentic building fronts.

Downtown Deadwood from Mt. Moriah Cemetery

Downtown Deadwood from Mt. Moriah Cemetery

 

Part of downtown Deadwood SD, Lincoln Hotel, center

Part of downtown Deadwood SD, Lincoln Hotel, center

 

We wound our way to Lead by way of Central City, another late-1800’s mining town, but we could find no remaining trace of it. We arrived in Lead and pulled into the Chamber parking lot in time to reserve a spot in the last Homestake Mine tour of the day. The tour took us through the main part of Lead and up to the hoist house of the mine. We saw the giant hoist engines and, in fact, while we were inside, one of the hoists was in operation, though mining ceased when the mine was closed in 2002. Many of the mine structures have been removed in a clean-up effort. 

 

The only buildings left from the once massive Homestake Mine operation are those needed for the Sanford Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory located deep underground in the old mine workings. The lab located here after Leavenworth, Washington rejected overtures by the company to locate near there in the Icicle River drainage. Local residents were concerned that the construction of the tunnel needed to get far enough underground would spoil the pristine nature of the canyon, and environmentalists opposed it there because it would have been located deep beneath a wilderness area. Lead, on the other hand, welcomes the research facility and counts on it to bolster the economy for many years to come. 

Remaining Homestake Mine Buildings

Remaining Homestake Mine Buildings

Our return trip to Rapid City was by way of I-90, and to reach it, we traveled northward to the town of Sturgis. If you don’t recognize the name, you are not too aware of Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Every year thousands of Harley riders (and others) travel to Sturgis for a rally. We missed the rally by one week, but we did not miss a multitude of riders everywhere we went in the area.

 

The next day we hitched up and started for our next overnight destination, Buffalo, Wyoming. When we reached the little town of Sundance we realized we were only a short distance from Devils Tower National Monument. If you have not been there, you may still remember it if you saw the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Devils Tower figured prominently in the film. We left the RV in Sundance and took the Sebring to the park. We were fortunate to find a parking place close to the trailhead, and we walked the nearly mile-long trail completely around the tower. We were fortunate to observe climbing parties, one ascending and another descending. We also visited with a climber who had made it back down—which, he said, was the most difficult part of the process. We will take his word for it.

Approaching Devil's Tower

Approaching Devil's Tower

On the way back to Sundance to get our RV and truck we passed a roadside restaurant we had seen on the way there, and what stuck in our minds was the sign outside that said “Eat here so we both won’t starve.” We did. The Indian tacos they serve were both large and tasty. When we left, we were definitely not starving. We trust they won’t either. We returned to Sundance and resumed our travel to Buffalo and Indian Campground there. It was right off the Interstate, and we left the truck hooked up and retired early, ready for our next several days’ travel.

Devil's Tower from the trail around the monolith

Devil's Tower from the trail around the monolith

The next day took us past the Little Bighorn Battlefield on our way to Columbus, Montana. We optimistically drove the truck and RV right up the hill to the park area, only to find that parking was non-existent due to the large number of people visiting. We returned to near the highway and parked the RV in a grassy field between an Indian casino and an Indian hospital and drove the Sebring back up to the park. We were fortunate to arrive just in time to hear a talk by a volunteer explaining the battle. He had been called in to replace the regular rangers who were all in a meeting. He had done the lecture for several years during the summers on vacation from his history teaching job. He was a very interesting, entertaining and informative lecturer.

 

Following the talk, we hiked first to the Indian memorial and then to the Cavalry memorial. Custer’s remains are buried at West Point, but the remains of many of the U.S. Soldiers lost that day are buried in a mass grave at the top of Last Stand Hill where the last of the battle took place. Markers inside a fenced area show where soldiers fell that day behind inside the circle of horses which they had shot to use as breastworks as they made their final stand. In 1999, the National Park Service began erecting markers at known Cheyenne and Lakota casualty sites. We got in the car then and drove the 6-mile road to other important sites that figured in the battle. It was a sobering experience, but one we felt we needed to take in as long as we had the opportunity.

 

Battle site at Little Bighorn

Battle site at Little Bighorn


Markers of US soldiers killed in battle

Markers of US soldiers killed in battle

 

Markers of Indians lost in battle

Markers of Indians lost in battle


Entrance to the Indian Memorial

Entrance to the Indian Memorial

 

Columbus, Montana undoubtedly has many fine features and attractions, but you couldn’t prove it by us. We finished our day by driving off the Interstate into the RV park, hooking up to utilities, eating a bite of dinner, and going to bed. There aren’t too many towns we have stayed in that we haven’t driven the streets, visited the museums, and seen what there is to see. This was one. The next day we crossed the Continental Divide, and this time, heading westward there was no doubt. Homestake Pass tops off at 6,368 feet, and the RV and I were both glad when we had crossed and were safely on the relatively flat valley where the City of Butte is located. 

Butte, as far as I am concerned, is one of the most interesting and enjoyable cities in the world, next to Virginia City, Nevada. The many mine headframes in the city make it interesting, and the Bernekey Pit and the relatively new Continental Pit make it doubly so. We arrived in time to find our spot and cross a fence line to the office of the Chamber of Commerce just as the last City Tour of the day was loading. We have been to Butte many times and every time we learn something new. Neither of us had ever taken the city tour, and this one was driven and narrated by a junior high school history teacher. Nobody teaches junior high history unless they are interesting and entertaining—for long. This fellow was both, and we really enjoyed the tour and learned quite a lot of new information.

Typical mine headframe in Butte

Typical mine headframe in Butte, one of many

 

Copper King Mansion in Butte

Copper King Mansion in Butte Butte Boardinghouse

The next morning before we left on the last leg of our journey we were fixing breakfast before calling Rachel’s Aunt Royette to see if we could stop by for a short visit before leaving Butte. Rachel opened the door under the sink, and there was quite a lot of water standing where no water should be. Our visit time was spent bypassing a water filter that supplies a drinking water faucet and the refrigerator ice maker. The RV water lines are all polyvinyl except for a 14” section of flared copper supplying the water filter. Guess what was leaking!

 

Missoula and the Bitterroot Valley of Montana

 

After the shortest drive of the nearly two-week trek we arrived at Florence at the rural home of Tom and Kathryn McCleerey. Kathryn is Rachel’s next older sister. Her parents, Bob and Margaret Aplin, and the McCleereys live on adjacent 10-acre plots about four miles east of Florence, which is located 16 miles south of Missoula in the beautiful Bitterroot Valley. Rachel’s brother Rob and wife Cyndie live in Missoula, so ¾ of her immediate family live within 20 miles and ½ live very close. The other ¼ of the family, sister Judith and her husband Ron live at Jefferson City, about 50 miles toward Helena from Butte, which is 147 miles from Florence. Judith visits her parents frequently, so the entire family is close by quite often.

 

We arrived to find Margaret carrying on normally after receiving a stent. Aside from tiring easily, she was able to lead a normal life. So, instead of the emergency we had feared, we were pleased to have the opportunity to visit socially and in a more leisurely manner than usual, when we drop in for a week and everyone’s schedules are interrupted while we try to get together.

 

In the time between when we arrived and when we took a week’s “vacation” we had the opportunity for Rachel to join her father in his morning walks, and for us to help Tom and Kathryn paint their house and garage, float the Bitterroot River from Florence Bridge to Chief Looking Glass Campground, harvest vegetables and berries from Bob’s garden, go into the mountains and help Bob fall, buck, load and haul firewood (then later split and sta

Posted by: edandracheltravel | July 7, 2009

Ed and Rachel’s Update 34, Kansas and Missouri

We left off in the last update in Halstead, Kansas. From there we went to Kansas City, and that’s where this one picks up.
 

KANSAS CITY, KANSAS and KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI

In early 2005 when we were in Kino Bay, Mexico, we met Mike and Kay Stokes, also full-time Rvers. We have connected up with them at various times in the intervening period, in Wenatchee, Las Vegas, San Diego, and Yuma, as well as San Felipe, Mexico. Both had lived a time in Kansas City, Kansas, so when we found out they would be visiting there near the time we would, we changed our schedule slightly and arranged to be there at the same time. We all parked our RVs at Walnut Grove RV Park, the closest park to downtown Kansas City, which was in Merriam, Kansas. The night we arrived, Mike and Kay fixed dinner for us at their RV, and we got caught up. For the next six days and nights, we enjoyed the sights and tastes of Kansas City with the help of local guides, Mike and Kay.

 On Tuesday we saw parts of the city as we did a little shopping. Kansas City is known for its barbecue, and we had happened to time our visit with the Kansas City Barbecue Cookoff the following weekend. This was only Tuesday, but the smell of barbecue is in the air in Kansas City like the smell of salt water is in Seattle. We couldn’t wait, so we had dinner at Gate’s Barbecue. Mmmmmmm. Good. Their signature motto is “Hi. May I help you?” though it sounded more like “hep” to me.

On Wednesday we went to downtown Kansas City to a relatively new museum, the World War One Memorial. From the time you walk over a field of 9,000 poppies into the display area, each poppy representing 1,000 combat deaths during the war, to the last display, the “War to End All Wars” is explained and illustrated in a sobering, factual and effective way.

 We spent hours reading explanations, viewing displays, artifacts and dioramas. Also part of the museum grounds are two additional display buildings and a tower erected to honor the warriors. We ascended part of the 217-foot tower in an elevator, then climbed to the top observation platform and enjoyed a view of the beautifully restored Union Station and a 360-degree view of Kansas City—both of them, in fact. Kansas City, Kansas, and Kansas City, Missouri are separated by a street called Stateline Street. Returning to the ground, we spent more time in the two additional buildings viewing art from the war and additional displays. 

 

The Tower

The Tower

Downtown St. Louis from the tower

Downtown Kansas City from the tower

 Following the museum we had the opportunity to meet Kay’s mother, Wilma, and her husband, Bill. We enjoyed meeting them very much. They are delightful people, and we had heard lots about them. We also enjoyed the food at McCormick’s and Schmick.

The next day we took care of business—washing clothes, etc., and then went to Old Chicago Pizza and enjoyed the best vegetarian pizza we have ever had—except perhaps for the ones Rachel makes and bakes on the grill. It still doesn’t beat Seattle’s Pegasus Pizza’s Greek pizza along with a Greek salad. That one is still tops! We enjoyed Mike and Kay’s company as well as Norma’s and Tom’s, Kay’s best girlfriend and her fiancé.

On Friday we went to the Great White Arabia Steamship Museum. This museum displays the story and cargo recovered from a sunken side-wheeler Missouri River steamship. It left Kansas City north on the Missouri in 1856, fully loaded with merchandise destined for stores in towns along the river. Ten miles north on its route, and before its first stop, it hit a snag and sank in 15 feet of water. The passengers and crew safely escaped the sinking, but the stacks and superstructure which were above the surface, were soon washed away downstream—along with several barrels of whiskey. Though several attempts were made at salvage at that time, none was successful.

Missouri River steamboat Great White Arabia

Missouri River steamboat Great White Arabia

In the ensuing 132 years, the submerged deck and cargo hold sank deeper and deeper in the river-bottom mud, the river changed course leaving the section with the Arabia landlocked, and eventually the resulting oxbow lake dried up and was covered over with soil, leaving the wreck and its full cargo forgotten deep below the surface of a cornfield. It was located by a team of enthusiasts who pooled their resources and excavated the ruins.

Excavation of the Arabia

Excavation of the Arabia

The boat itself was not salvageable, but they discovered in the hold the entire cargo (less the whiskey), and proceeded to salvage it and restore it to displayable condition. Some wooden and steel parts of the ship were raised—a section of the stern, the boilers and running gear, for instance, and they are on display in this museum along with thousands of manufactured goods, canned and bottled foodstuffs, clothing and footwear, tools and equipment, and even French perfume—just as it had been in 1856. After the museum we had some of the best Mexican food we have eaten at Ponak’s, went home early, and rested up for the Barbecue Cook-off.  

On Saturday we attended the Great American Barbecue Cook-off Kansas City. This is an event! It was held at an amphitheater outside Kansas City and used one of two massive parking lots for the competitors’ set-ups. These included their RV’s and their barbecues—and sometimes the barbecues were larger than the RV’s. They started on Friday evening, and smoked and barbecued all night, and the judging took place on Saturday afternoon. There is serious prize money for the winners in each category. Unfortunately, the competitors are not allowed to sell their product, probably due to health regulations. Fortunately, as you walk around between the vendors’ set-ups, they frequently visit with you and give you a sample of their product. There were several commercial barbecue vendors there and we were able to satiate our longings.  

Pig Bus at the barbecue competition

Pig Bus at the barbecue competition

Competition Set-up

Competition Set-up

One of the most entertaining aspects of the competition is the names the teams select. Here is a sample: Slabba Dabba Doo, HOGZILLA, Choke-N-Poke Meat Smokers, Squeal or No Squeal, Two Men and a Barbie, Holla-N-Swalla, Brewing and Queing, We Kill’em & Grill’em, Mad Hogs and an Englishman, We B Smokin’, Hog Tide Bar-B-Que, Pig Newton, Motley Que, Up ‘n Smoke, Four Men and a Pig, Slabs of Approval, Pork Pullin’ Plowboys, and Chef Use-ta-was—and those are just the ones that are fit to print!

One great thing offered there was the “People’s Choice Sampling Tent.” You enter this large tent and are handed a plate with about a half pound of barbecued pork and beef chunks and a score card. You walk through the tent sampling over 100 commercially available barbecue sauces and vote for the three you like best. All of the sauces are for sale. The meat and sauces are donated, and the proceeds from sales of sauce go to charity.

The amphitheater itself featured different bands performing every hour. We sat in an almost empty arena listening to one young band as long as we could stand the afternoon heat and the music and made our way home.

We attended church on Sunday morning at Calvary Chapel Kansas City and then met Mike and Kay at one of four Costco stores in the area. We loaded up on the things we buy there, because we were not sure when we would be near the next one. We spent the evening together recounting this get-together as well as ones in the past and prepared to leave the next day. Greg and David, two of the owners of the RV park there were super! In addition to above average hospitality, they even brought us homemade soup one day, and another day, Greg brought Rachel a pair of Sterling silver earrings he makes and sells as a gift. The park is small and rather tight, but those minor limitations are more than made up for by the owners’ hospitality.

OTTAWA, KANSAS 

We moved to Richmond, 12 miles south of the Franklin County seat at Ottawa, Kansas, where we intended to do some Barnhart family research. We have been using membership parks whenever we can to economize. None was advertised any closer than 52 miles from Ottawa over back farm roads, so we were resigned to do that. However, when we looked through an Ottawa booklet we picked up earlier at the Kansas State Welcome Center, there was an RV park 12 miles south of Ottawa with a nightly rate of $10—the same amount we were prepared to pay per night at our membership park. I just knew that was a mistake, so I called the V&P RV Park in Richmond and asked if their rate was really $10 per night. Pat (the P of V & P—Virgil is the V), asked how long we planned to stay. I told her we planned on a week, and she said that the rate was not $10 per night, but $60 for the week! Unbelievable! We are used to paying between $25 and $45 a night in private parks when no membership parks are available where we want to be. We cancelled our previous reservation and stayed at V & P RV Park instead.

More Main Street, Ottawa, Kansas

Main Street, Ottawa, Kansas

On Tuesday we drove the 12 miles north to Ottawa and the Franklin County Courthouse where land records for the county are kept. By using an index of names we were able to locate all the references and documents relating to land owned between 1867, when my Barnhart clan moved from Indiana to Kansas, and 1898, when most of them moved on to North Dakota. I spent four and a half solid hours delving through records and placing legal descriptions on the map with the assistance of the three women working in the office—one of them a cousin of Virgil from the V & P RV Park. We left the courthouse and went to the Ottawa Library Research room and spent until about 7:00 studying old newspaper accounts and local history. We ended the day by driving out to Pleasant Hill Cemetery just northwest of Centropolis, the area where several Barnhart farms were located. We walked the rows and rows of grave markers photographing those of Barnharts and other German Baptist Brethren, or Dunkers, as they were locally called.

Franklin County, Kansas Courthouse

Franklin County, Kansas Courthouse

 
Pleasant Hill Cemetery

Pleasant Hill Cemetery

One interesting sidelight is that land for the cemetery was donated by my great grandfather, Isaac, and after he sold the land to his brother, Jacob also donated some of the land to expand the cemetery. My great- great- grandfather, Elder Daniel Barnhart and his wife Anna are buried there as well as their grandson Daniel Madison Barnhart, who died at 23, and the children who died as infants and toddlers of others of the family. We photographed headstones as long as we had light, and then drove on. As we were preparing to turn back toward our RV park, some 25 miles away by now, Rachel spotted a sign for the Appanoose Baptist Church, two miles further on, so we went there. What is there is a large church building, abandoned, at the end of a ¼-mile lane. We drove in avoiding puddles in the road, and got a couple photos. We were to learn that the church was probably significant in Barnhart family history, but we didn’t know it at the time.

As it turned too dark to see much, we started our return home along gravel farm roads spaced ½ mile or one mile apart in a neat grid, and as it got darker and darker, Rachel began to notice a glittering phenomenon. She asked me what the glittering was, and we stopped the car—there was virtually no traffic on these roads–, and we discovered that we were looking at fireflies! Rachel had never seen them before, and I had seen them only once before, in Virginia, when I was at a meeting of the National Middle Level Education Committee in Reston. We were thrilled and captivated. We parked, motor off, for probably 15 minutes watching the fireflies. We reluctantly went on home and discovered that we had some fireflies just outside our RV as well.

The next day was rainy, so we drove back into Ottawa and spent the entire day at the library reading local history about Centropolis, about the Dunkers, and a few old newspaper articles mentioning the Barnharts. I realized that I had taken so many notes and accumulated so much information that if I didn’t organize it, it would be meaningless when we went back to the field to locate the actual land. Sometimes you have to stop chopping wood and take the time to sharpen your axe. So, on Thursday I spent the entire day from early morning until past bedtime, organizing material, placing land descriptions on the area road map, and preparing for Friday’s field trip.

Friday dawned sunny and calm, so Rachel fixed a picnic lunch, and we set out following the exact route I had mapped out to best find and photograph former Barnhart farms and other landmarks such as vintage churches and schools. By about 2:00 we were getting hungry, and we had reached the first of two Daniel Barnhart farms, so we pulled in on an access lane, parked the car, spread our blanket, and ate a picnic lunch on ground my great- great-grandfather had owned and farmed in 1866!  

We continued on the route, photographing each Barnhart property, eventually returning to the Appanoose Baptist Church. It turned out that the adjacent 80 acres was owned by Elder Daniel Barnhart, his second farm, acquired in 1871, and it is almost certain that he preached in that very church next door to his farm! We had to park at the road and walk in on the lane because the rainfall over the last two days had muddied the lane considerably, but when we got to the church, we saw that the door was unsecured and unlocked. We cautiously entered, taking photos of every detail, from the beautiful arched wooden ceiling to the vintage seats now stored along the sides, the old piano abandoned in what must have been a choir room, and the low-ceilinged basement where tables and benches were still lined up as if waiting for the next love feast. It was an awesome experience—in the former, meaningful sense of the word—for me, believing that this building had once been the place of worship of Barnharts almost 140 years ago.

Appanoose Baptist Church

Appanoose Baptist Church

What is today the Church of the Brethren, the church in which I was raised, is the more modern version of the Old German Baptist Brethren, the form of worship that migrated with believers from the Palatinate to Northern Germany, to Holland or England, and then to either Pennsylvania in the US or to Canada in the mid-1700’s. The Barnhart clan of Brethren migrated within the US from Pennsylvania to Virginia to Indiana to Kansas to North Dakota to Washington. As beliefs came to be considered outmoded, some would break away and others would remain until today there are many sects of the Brethren, from Old Order Brethren to Church of the Brethren and others. The German Baptists in this area are somewhere between the Old Order and the Church of the Brethren.

It was a very meaningful week, exploring and discovering and documenting land owned long ago by Barnhart ancestors. This experience was akin to our earlier experience in Towner County North Dakota and Franklin County, Virginia both in 2004, as we located farms of my great grandfather in North Dakota and my great- great- great- grandfather in Virginia. Slowly we are filling in the gaps in the information.

On Sunday that week we surprised the folks at Calvary Chapel Kansas City as we drove the 80 miles back there for church. Afterward we drove north to Leavenworth, Kansas. Being from near and participating in the community activities of Leavenworth, Washington, “Washington’s Bavarian Village,” and so often misunderstood as from Leavenworth, Kansas, we wanted to see where it was. And, not small interest, we wanted to see the Federal Penitentiary there. Before we realized it was forbidden, we had taken several photos for our files. We continued on a 185-mile loop through very rural areas of northeastern Kansas, returning home by way of Lawrence, Kansas, entering from the north. Lawrence was burned to the ground by Quantrill’s Raiders during the Civil War period, among whom were Frank and Jesse James and the Youngers, all later members of the Jesse James gang. We got home in time to get the RV ready to move the next morning to our next destination and to meet up with another friend, Adrea Rosario, in Saint Joseph, Missouri.

 

 SAINT JOSEPH, MISSOURI

Saint Joseph, Missouri was founded and laid out in 1826 by French voyageur and trapper Joseph Robidoux. Many of the streets are named for his children and one for a slave girl. It had been a stopping-off place for the Lewis and Clark Expedition 22 years earlier as they set out to map the Louisiana Purchase. They camped on the banks of the Missouri River at what was to become St. Joseph on July 6, 1804.

Robidoux opened a trading post and thrived as a businessman at the jumping-off place for westward travel, before, during and after the California Gold Rush of 1848-1849 and after. He soon realized that people moving to his new town, or those moving on but waiting for the proper season to get across the western mountains, needed temporary housing. He built a series of row houses of brick from native materials and rented them. One of those row houses remains today, restored for tours.

Robidoux Row Houses

Robidoux Row Houses

 Another of St. Joseph’s landmarks, now gone, was the Robidoux Hotel, a luxury block-square, nine-storey hotel that was recently razed in order to build a bank building on the lot. Another hotel, similar in size and appointments, but only four storeys high was and is the Patee House (pronounced PAY tee). This hotel was built in 1858. In its life it was three times a hotel, twice a girl’s college, and finally a shirt factory. In 1860, it served as the office and headquarters for the Pony Express. Founders Russell, Majors and Waddell had their office there, and is was the starting place for the Pony Express riders as they left for Sacramento. Today it is a wonderful museum.

Patee House Museum and Pony Express Headquarters

Patee House Museum and Pony Express Headquarters

Patee House interior

Patee House interior

Before the 1848 gold discovery in California, mail was delivered periodically by steamships that traveled from the East Coast around the Horn of South America. The Russell, Majors and Waddell company won the contract for the Pony Express, and time for mail to reach the West Coast was reduced to 10 days. That lasted for a mere 18 months until the telegraph delivered messages in far less time for far less cost. Neither the Pony Express nor the telegraph could ship goods west, though, so next, John Butterfield established the Butterfield Stage Line and hauled the Overland Mail from Tipton, Missouri to San Francisco, California, and that eventually was replaced by the Transcontinental Railroad(s).

For eighteen glorious months St. Joseph enjoyed the excitement of seeing the Pony Express riders gallop out of town as far as the ferry landing, where they boarded a ferry and took a leisurely ride across the river, there to resume their frantic ride west. The restored Pony Express stables are now a very nice museum dedicated solely to the history of the Pony Express. By the way, the reason the Pony Express started from St. Joseph is because it was the most westerly railroad terminus at that time, the west end of the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad. Several railroads went into Hannibal, and from there the mail was railroaded by the H & St. J RR to St. Joseph to be carried on westward by the ponies. 

Pony Express Stables and Museum

Pony Express Stables and Museum

 One more thing for which St. Joseph is known is that it was the place where outlaw Jesse James was murdered by one of his gang members on April 3, 1882. The house where it took place remains, and has been moved twice, first from its original location a block and a half from the Patee House hotel to a location alongside a highway as a tourist attraction (1939-1987) and then beside the Patee House—by then a museum. The house is open for self-guided tours. When James was murdered, no one in St. Joseph knew it was not respectable Mr. Thomas Howard who had been killed, but the notorious outlaw responsible for holding up 11 banks, seven trains, three stage coaches, one county fair and one payroll messenger, and personally killing at least 16 people.
Jesse James House

Jesse James House

  Jesse James had served with Quantrill when Lawrence, Kansas, was sacked and burned in August of 1863 and 182 residents were murdered in cold blood. He was also with “Bloody Bill” Anderson at the Centralia (MO) Massacre when 210 Union soldiers, many of them wounded, were gunned down. James was 17 years old at the time. Far from being a “Robin Hood” character, he was a dismal example of a human being. Still, many, many people pay to see where he was killed—including Rachel and me.

The tallest, biggest landmark in St. Joseph is a grain mill, formerly that of Quaker Oats Co. It is a very large edifice that dominates the industrial riverfront. It was also the place famous for Aunt Jemima pancake ready-mix (Aunt Jemima was an actual black woman named Nancy Green. As she’d tour the country promoting and demonstrating Aunt Jemima products, she’d announce, “I’se in town!”) It all started with an innovation: pancake mix, including all the powdered ingredients—later even powdered milk, so that all that had to be added was water.

Another St. Joseph business you may remember if you are as old as I or older was the maker of Chief tablets. These newsprint-colored tablets were what I used in grade school in the 1940’s. Chief later became Mead, and they still make office paper products.

The reason we had pulled as far north in Missouri as we did is because that is where our friend, Adrea Rosario now lives and works. She became a member of Musikkapelle Leavenworth, the town band, which Rachel and I directed for several years. She formerly lived in Quincy, Washington and now works in St. Joe in Human Resources at Triumph Foods, a pork processing plant.

The day we arrived Rachel prepared dinner for Adrea and her boyfriend, Scott Dougherty, whom we enjoyed meeting. We visited, caught up with Adrea, got to know Scott a bit, and reminisced. Another day, Scott, who is a native of St. Joseph, drove us all over town showing us all the landmarks, which enabled us to make considered decisions when we went to attractions on our own. We enjoyed dinner together that day at Boudreaus, an authentic Cajun restaurant—the only restaurant in the old part of downtown St. Joe. Later in our visit we were able to meet Scott’s parents and a brother at the parents’ home, which they built on a vacant lot a block from Patee House and a block and a half from Jesse James’s house. The neighbor across the street said that when his grandfather built the home he was living in, he told him that he remembered Mr. Taylor (Jesse James) playing baseball with the neighbor kids on the lot where Scott’s parents’ home is built. We spent most of an afternoon at Adrea’s downtown loft apartment visiting and getting to know her animals—Maggie, her golden Lab mix, Max, her Schnauzer, and her cats, Choco and Kirby (named after Rachel’s middle name from her mother’s maiden name—not the vacuum cleaner as some have suggested). It was great catching up with Adrea, meeting Scott, and seeing many places we knew about historically. We’re glad Adrea chose to move to St. Joseph.

Adrea, Max, Rachel and Maggie

Adrea, Max, Rachel and Maggie HANNIBAL, MISSOURI

 

Louisiana and Mexico, Missouri--confusing!

Louisiana and Mexico, Missouri--confusing!

 Our next destination was near Hannibal, Missouri, and if you’re familiar with Samuel Clemens, a.k.a. Mark Twain, you’ll know why we wanted to be there. Actually, we drove east from St. Joe 185 miles to Hannibal, past the birthplace or childhood homes of several people whose names you will recognize, including James Cash (J.C.) Penney (Hamilton, MO), Walt Disney (Marceline, MO), and General Blackjack Pershing (Brookfield, MO). Then we turned south for another 50 miles to Tievoli Hills Resort near Clarksville. It is a membership resort that has RV spaces, condos, vacation rentals, and a winery and brewery. (It was formerly an exclusive club for members of “The Pipeline,” including James Hoffa, and there is a rumor—unsubstantiated, of course—that his missing body is at the bottom of the large lake on the property.) The former helicopter landing pad is now a sun deck for the pool. Pretty swank! And by the way, Tievoli spelled backward is “I love it.”Tievoli Hills Resort

 We made the 50-mile trip back north to Hannibal twice in the next week to see the Mark Twain landmarks. The first time, we drove north to Louisiana, Missouri (confusing, isn’t it?), crossed the Mississippi and drove north through Illinois, and crossed the river again opposite Hannibal and crossed back into Missouri. The Twain landmarks we saw included his childhood home and that of those playmates who were the basis for some of the characters in his most famous books, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of  Huckleberry Finn. We also saw the office where Sam’s father served as Justice of the Peace for a period as well as the drug store above which the Clemens family lived for a short time.

 

Clemens home with rebuilt fence for Tom to whitewash

Clemens home with rebuilt fence for Tom to whitewash

Huckleberry Finn home, restored

Huckleberry Finn home, restored

Becky Thatcher House, under renovation

Becky Thatcher House, under renovation

Grant's Drug Store over which the Clemons family lived for a time

Grant's Drug Store over which the Clemons family lived for a time

Tom Blankenship, son of the Hannibal town drunk served as the model for Huckleberry Finn, and Laura Hawkins, who lived across the street from the Clemens family was the inspiration for Becky Thatcher. I love Twain’s writing, and I also love the fact that he got his start writing as a cub reporter for the Territorial Enterprise newspaper in Virginia City, Nevada, first using the nom de plume “Josh,” and later, “Mark Twain.” His book Roughing It chronicles his adventures in the West, including his time as a silver miner and writer in Nevada.
From the age of 12, when my parents took my brother, Neil, and me to Virginia City as a diversion from their days spent in Reno, until the present, I have been captivated by the history of Virginia City, Nevada. I have compiled an extensive collection of information about the area and era. Ten years after the California Gold Rush, silver was discovered in what became Gold Hill and Virginia City, Nevada. This started a reverse rush. The towns grew, and Virginia City eventually became a city of perhaps 20,000, sitting precariously on the side of Mt. Davidson a few miles south and several thousand feet higher than Reno. The Comstock Lode, as the area was known, produced millions in wealth for a few. There are many mansions remaining in Virginia City from those days. In fact, when Rachel and I were married on December 28, 1994, it was in the parlor of a former mine owner’s mansion then owned by local businessman, Don McBride, on Stewart Street in Virginia City!

The Hannibal Museum Gallery, formerly a clothing store, houses much Hannibal and Twain history and artifacts as well as a series of Norman Rockwell paintings done as illustrations for an edition of Tom Sawyer.

The second day we drove to Hannibal, we took the route along the west bank of the Mississippi and got tickets for a riverboat cruise on the Mississippi and then while we waited for our departure time, we toured the home of Margaret Tobin Brown—lately known as Unsinkable Molly Brown of Titanic sinking fame. Her 1860’s home is restored to as-was condition and is filled with memorabilia from her life and information about her before, during and after the sinking of the Titanic. 

 We went to the levee and caught our riverboat next. We toured upriver for a ways and then turned and rode downstream quite a distance below Hannibal. One of the landmarks best seen from the river is Lover’s Leap. The story goes that the Indians on the Missouri side of the Mississippi were warring with those on the Illinois side. The Missouri chief had a beautiful daughter. An Illinois Indian fell in love with her and made trips across the river in his canoe to meet her. The chief found out and ambushed the couple as they held each other and admired the scenery from atop a cliff. Rather than be separated, they both jumped to their death on the rocks below. Sounds a little like several other stories we have heard where such promontories exist elsewhere. Hmmmmmm.  

Mississippi Riverboat Mark Twain

Mississippi Riverboat Mark Twain

Lovers' Leap from the river (upper left) and BNSF train heading south along the Mississippi

Lovers' Leap from the river (upper left) and BNSF train heading south along the Mississippi

 
View of Hannibal and the Mississippi River from Lovers' Leap

View of Hannibal and the Mississippi River from Lovers' Leap

 

Following the riverboat ride we went to the Big River Train Town, a model railroad store and toy train museum. If you are a model railroader you can’t take the chance of skipping a hobby shop when one presents itself. Turn out that this was more toy train museum than model railroad, but it was enjoyable nonetheless. The owner had collected toy trains all his life and his wife finally told him that instead of spending more money on trains, they needed to start MAKING money on trains, so they created this museum.

Our route back to Tievoli Hills passed the cave Mark Twain wrote about when Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher got lost in the cave. They saw a light nearing them in a passage and assumed it was a rescue party. Wrong! It was Injun Joe, who had vowed to kill Tom for testifying against him in court just before he escaped! A rescue party did eventually find Tom and Becky, and Judge Thatcher, Becky’s dad boarded up the entrance of the cave so little boys couldn’t get lost there again. Poor Injun Joe. He couldn’t get out, so he died of dehydration and starvation in the cave. Great story. This cave is different from the typical caverns with their stalactites and stalagmites. This limestone cavern has straight passageways and intersections, mostly level, caused by an underground stream dissolving the stone over time. All the cavern has been mapped, but only a small portion is used for guided tours. Still, the part they take you through takes over an hour to navigate.

Mark Twain Cave

Mark Twain Cave

 

ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI 

After a week north of St. Louis about 85 miles, we drove south through the city and turned right on I-44 and headed west another 85 miles to just north of Owensville off Missouri Highway 50. On our way to the resort, we were passed by several emergency vehicles and as we neared our destination, we came upon a horrific wreck. A car was pinned under a large delivery truck and the firemen were using the Jaws of Life to tear the car apart. We assumed the driver of the car to be a fatality judging by the mangled mess the car was in, but it turns out that he had a cut on his forehead, another on his cheek, and his hands and forearms were injured! 

Accident on Highway 50

Accident on Highway 50

As Rachel and I stood beside our RV waiting for the highway to be cleared, we were able to apply, once again, some of the training we received from Mickey Stonier at Horizon Christian Fellowship in San Diego in post-traumatic stress management. We talked with a local man who was afraid to walk nearer to the wreck, because he had lost a brother in a similar wreck a few years earlier on the same stretch of road, and this wreck brought it all back to him. In addition, he had several relatives living along the route and he feared one of them might be involved. We visited while the ambulance transported the injury victim and the officers marked the road in their investigation. As we parted company, he thanked us for taking the time to talk with him. It bears out our motto from the Book of Esther 4:14: “. . . for such a time as this.”  We seem often to be placed just where we need to be for a reason, and this was such a time.

Once the RV was set up at Lost Valley Lake RV Resort we holed up for several days as the weather alternated between severe thunder storms with heavy rain and hail, and extreme heat with high humidity. Now, we left Central Washington to escape extreme summer heat and below freezing winter cold. We don’t mind heat, but what we were used to in Washington was a dry heat. In Missouri the heat is accompanied by humidity. They report the weather using a heat index that combines temps and humidity to create a heat factor—or what temperature it feels like. For several days in a row the heat index was between 105 and 110! We stayed inside most of the time and read and enjoyed each other’s company and listened to the welcome hum of our RV’s residential-type air conditioner. 

High water as we pulled into Lost Valley Lakes, Owensville

High water as we pulled into Lost Valley Lakes, Owensville

We did make two trips back to St. Louis. The first was for pleasure. We went to the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, spent time in the excellent museum there, and went up 630 feet in the Gateway Arch. When we arrived, it was lunchtime, so we sat on the grassy park area surrounding the memorial overlooking a stretch of the St. Louis Mississippi riverfront and ate the picnic lunch Rachel had fixed for us. The museum has two films. One is about the Lewis and Clark Expedition, which we had seen previously elsewhere and another about the construction of the arch. That one we saw before going up into it. The arch is built of many hollow triangular sections sandwiched together. The outside surface is stainless steel, and the inside is regular steel. As each section was mounted atop another, it was filled between the outer and inner surface with concrete which was then stressed by very large tension rods.

Cranes mounted to the outside of each inward-sloping arm of the arch moved upward as the height of the arch increased. At a certain point, in order to overcome the tendency for the arms to tip toward each other, a separating structure was temporarily lifted and fastened in place between the two arms. When the last arch section was placed, the spreader was removed. The day we went up it was moderately windy and we could feel the arch swaying, but it is built to withstand winds of over 100 miles per hour and then, sway no more than 18 inches.

No one with claustrophobia would want to attempt the trip up the arch in the tram. The conveyance is much like an enclosed Ferris wheel. Each small capsule in the train of eight holds five people and has two small windows that allow you to see the stairway inside the arm of the arch. As the tram moves upward, the capsules rotate so that down is always down. The view from the top of the arch is spectacular, and it is inspiring to realize that this was at the edge of the wilderness at the time of Westward Expansion. It was also interesting to note that a few weeks ago we were 600 feet underground in Hutchinson, Kansas, and here we were, 630 feet above ground in the arch. 

Gateway Arch on the St. Louis skyline

Gateway Arch on the St. Louis skyline

Gateway Arch seen from below

Gateway Arch seen from below

Actual Gateway Arch tram car on display--1 of 8 in the tram--holds 5 people!

Actual Gateway Arch tram car on display--1 of 8 in the tram--holds 5 people!

Gateway Arch base from the top

Gateway Arch base from the top

Mississippi River traffic from the top

Mississippi River traffic from the top

Though it was getting toward evening, we drove south from St. Louis about 25 miles to Barnhart, Missouri, to see what it looked like and if we could determine why it was so-named. Turns out it is simply a rural area with no downtown to speak of, a small shopping area, and lots of trees and brush. No one we spoke with knew why it was named Barnhart, but it is on the route of a railroad, and if it is like Barnhart, Texas, it was probably named for a person employed by the railroad.

 The second trip we made to St. Louis was medical. In December I was due for a colonoscopy on a five-year recall. We were in Yuma, Arizona at the time and we elected to wait until we were in a more populated location—in terms of gastroenterologists, and because we had dental issues to deal with. We got up VERY early one morning, took the second of two doses of medication designed to make interior viewing clearer. We left for St. Louis at 6:30 a.m. (we had almost forgotten there even was a 6:30 a.m. too) and arrived on time. Before long I was awakened and informed that it was all over and that everything was all right. They wheeled me out to the car and we moved to a shady area in the parking lot and we ate—both of us—for the first time in 36 hours. Yes, Rachel fasted with me. Some dedication!

Our other trip out of the Lost Valley Lake park was to Hermann, Missouri, about 25 miles north along the Missouri River. The town was founded by Germans, and the influence is still apparent today. There are several wineries in Hermann, and they are also famous for sausages. We had lunch at one of the wineries in a former stable converted into Vintage Restaurant—fine dining at fast-food prices. We did tour the old winery and the limestone cellars dug out of solid rock and faced with brick for aging wines. During Prohibition the cellars were used to grow mushrooms. A family bought the property several years ago and it again produces award-winning wines.

Hermannhof Winery

Hermannhof Winery

Hermann Festhalle

Hermann Festhalle

 

SPRINGFIELD AND BILLINGS, MISSOURI

We pulled the RV to Springfield on Monday, June 29 and set up at Ozark Highlands RV Park just southeast of the downtown. I was surprised about the name, because I always thought the Ozarks were in Arkansas. Not so. The Ozark “Mountains” also extend into the lower portion of Missouri. Our primary purpose in being in this part of Missouri was to locate many of the landmarks my mother had talked about during her lifetime. She was born in Billings, Missouri in September, 1915. In 1921 the family moved to Washington State. For her first six years she lived in Billings and remembered quite a lot about the town. My parents traveled to Billings in October, 1981 to revisit her home, and they took several photographs which, though now quite faded, I still have.

Her father, my grandfather, Will Johnson, was Town Constable of Billings around 1910. At the time, they lived one street off the main street and across the alley from the city jail and the powerhouse. His duties included caring for jailed prisoners and taking dinner to them each evening, probably prepared by my grandmother, Della (Shaeffer) Johnson, and turning off the town power plant each night at 10:00 that supplied electricity to the little town of Billings (this was before Rural Electrification).

We drove to Billings on Tuesday and began driving the streets of town, armed with photos my parents had taken in October, 1981, when they visited Billings. We started on the north side of the Frisco tracks (St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad), but found none of the homes pictured. Since we were on the right side of town, we drove a mile north to Rose Hill Cemetery. My mother’s older sister was born in September, 1901. She moved to Washington State with the rest of the family in 1921. A second sister, Elizabeth, was born in 1906. She became ill and died in early 1913 at six and a half years old. My mother was born three years later and so never knew her other sister. We found her grave marker at the Rose Hill Cemetery.

We returned to town and began driving the streets on the south side of the tracks—the main part of town. Before long, we found the old jail and the power house in an alley behind the main street. Knowing the location of the house relative to the jail, we also were able to locate it as well. We photographed the jail, the power house building and Mom’s birth home and then walked a couple blocks around trying to find the home (mansion) of Dr. Fred Brown, the physician who delivered Mom, and the first home my grandparents, Will and Della Johnson, had lived in, as well as the home of longtime family friend, Toby Martin. Having no luck, we went to the Billings Bank on the advice of a business owner next to the old jail building to look for a Centennial book on display there.

Mom's caption in 1981--Jail behind my home--Dad was Marshall

Mom's caption in 1981--Jail behind my home--Dad was Marshall

Jail in 2009

Jail in 2009

Mom's caption in 1981--Powerhouse behind my home which my Dad ran

Mom's caption in 1981--Powerhouse behind my home which my Dad ran

Powerhouse in 2009

Powerhouse in 2009

Mom's caption in 1981--Home where I was born--remodeled

Mom's caption in 1981--Home where I was born--remodeled

 
Mom's birthplace 2009

Mom's birthplace 2009

The Bank of Billings was formed in 1889 with capital of $10,500. It never closed its doors, even during the depression or forced “bank holidays” designed to protect small banks from “runs” on the banks. They remained solvent and were declared at one time one of the most secure 100 banks in America. On its centennial—and that of the incorporation of the town, the bank commissioned a book to be done about Billings in general and specifically about the bank. Also, a large hardbound book about the history of Christian County was compiled and one of these was available at the bank. We sat in the bank lobby looking through the large book on the county, re-photographing some of the photos in it that had personal significance. I had known that my great grandfather, Milton Young Johnson, was the first school teacher in Billings. What I learned in looking through this book was that he was also the Billings postmaster for a period. Learning of our interest in Billings history, the head teller at the bank gave us a copy of the book about the history of the bank—which also includes volumes of information about Billings and Christian County.

After about an hour at the bank we drove south of Billings a couple miles guided by a 1911 land ownership map, and found the 120-acre farm my great grandfather had owned. We went further south and found the Smart Cemetery where Milton Young Johnson and wife, Kaeturah, were buried, along with two of their young children. We found and photographed the grave markers. (When I say “we” found them, it would be more accurate to say that Rachel found them. She has an uncanny ability to home in on an object that I seem to lack.) We drove back to town, still hoping to find the last three objectives, the doctor’s home and that first home of my grandparents and their family friends, the Martins, supposedly across the street.

We found several white three-storey Victorian homes, but none of them looked like the 1981 photograph my parents had taken. Finally, and in complete opposition to my male inclinations, we asked a local man if he knew where the mansion was. He didn’t, but told us of a man who was very familiar with residences of the town. We went to his home, but no one was there. We backed out of the driveway and pulled to the side of the street in front of the house so Rachel could make an important phone call to family. While she was on the phone, the man drove up. We nearly missed him!

I visited with him about Missouri, politics and economics, and finally he told me where the house was located. We drove according to his directions and found the home just where he said it would be. I took several photos, one similar to the one my parents had taken in 1981, and then sat and waited while Rachel completed another family phone call. As we sat there in the early evening in the driveway of the doctor’s home, I became reluctantly aware that we would probably not be able to locate the grandparent’s first home nor the home of the family friend. I studied the photos from 1981 and as I did I glanced at the house next door to the doctor’s home. It was my grandparents’ first home! I turned around and looked directly across the street and there was the Martin home!

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mom's caption in 1981--Dr. Brown, Fred and Louise, neighbors

Mom's caption in 1981--Dr. Brown, Fred and Louise, neighbors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Brown House, 2009

Dr. Brown House, 2009

Mom's caption in 1981--My parents' first home in Billings--remodeled

Mom's caption in 1981--My parents' first home in Billings--remodeled Her parents' first home in 2009 Mom's caption in 1981--Toby Martin's home across the street from original house

 

Her parents' first home in 2009

Her parents' first home in 2009

Mom's caption in 1981--Toby Martin's home across the st from original house

Mom's caption in 1981--Toby Martin's home across the st from original house

Toby Martin's home in 2009

Toby Martin's home in 2009

Some other extraordinary things happened that day. First of all, as we were photographing the interior of one of the two jail cells—this is a solid sandstone building with concrete floor and heavy timber ceiling, materials stored inside the cell shifted! They had obviously been in the cell for a long time, but at the moment we were photographing, they shifted! Spooky! The second thing was at the Smart Cemetery. As we drove up to the cemetery, Rachel remarked that the vehicle entry gate to this cemetery, unlike that at Rose Hill, was closed, which meant we would need to enter on foot through a smaller gate nearby. We drove up to the gate anyway, got out and spread a blanket on the grass outside the cemetery and had a picnic lunch Rachel had packed. As we finished eating and prepared to enter the cemetery we were astounded to see the gate open! We had not seen it move and no one else was around, but it was closed when we drove up to it, and when we were ready to enter, the gate was open. Also spooky!

It was a very meaningful and gratifying day for me, with my sentimentality and interest in family history. Finding and seeing for the first time, the farmland of my great grandparents, Milton and Kaeturah Johnson, and the two Billings homes of my grandparents, Will and Della Johnson, one of which was my mother’s birthplace, and seeing the home of the doctor who brought her into the world, as well as that of longtime family friend, Toby Martin, had a great deal of meaning for me. And, I thank God for a loving, supporting wife who not only abides my interest, but actively participates, encourages and facilitates.

Springfield, Missouri, where our RV was parked for the week, has lots of history, being on the Pony Express Route, along the “Wire Road,” that is, the route of the Western Union Telegraph line, and that of the Butterfield Stage. It is also the beginning of Route 66, the home of Grizzly Industries (importer of woodworking tools) and has the largest Bass Pro Shop showroom in the world, at 300,000 square feet! It is also the National Headquarters of the Assemblies of God churches.

On the Sunday after July 4, we drove 75 miles from Springfield to the Calvary Chapel in Joplin, Missouri. It was a great service. Afterward we drove Route 66 into Galena, Kansas, just across the state line, and then returned to Missouri and through downtown Joplin and drove north to Carthage, Missouri. I was interested in trying to find the grave of my great- great- great uncle George, who died there while living with his daughter, Hannah Barnhart and her husband, Benjamin Franklin Wampler. We drove to Oak Hill Cemetery, the first of three on my list and discovered that it is a massive place covering probably 50 acres and holding thousands of people—well, bodies. It is covered by a virtual spider web of roadways and lanes. Knowing the futility of randomly searching for a single plot, but reluctant to not give it a try, we started driving the lanes. Within five minutes Rachel spotted a Wampler headstone. We looked closer, but it was not my direct relative. We continued on, weaving through other lanes, and just a few minutes later, she spotted a Barnhart headstone—not the right one, but just across the drive were the graves of George’s daughter, Hannah, and her husband! George was not buried with them, but what are the chances of finding these graves among thousands by randomly searching?

On Tuesday, July 7, we move to Branson, Missouri for six days and then into Arkansas for three stays of one week each. After that, Tennessee. We’ll be back later with our next update, and again, thanks for traveling with us.

Posted by: edandracheltravel | June 23, 2009

Update No. 33, Texas Prairies and Lakes, Oklahoma, and Kansas

It is hard for us to believe that we have been on the road again for six and a half months. We have reached the northernmost point in our intended route for this journey and have started southward again. Our original plan was to go from San Diego as far east as San Antonio, then turn northward through central Oklahoma and Kansas, then cross into Missouri and start southward. So far, thanks be to God, that has worked out. We are now just west of St. Louis, Missouri, and continuing our southward trek. 

December 1, 2008 - June 22, 2009

December 1, 2008 - June 22, 2009

I was aware that we had not updated our Weblog for two months, but we have been SO busy. No matter where we go it turns out there are interesting things to do and beautiful things to see. Lately, we have also had the pleasure of reconnecting with friends familiar with their areas, and they have shown us their favorite places. I am going to break the past two months into two updates. This one will cover our travels from Texas as far as Halstead, Kansas, about 35 miles northwest of Wichita.  No. 34 will cover Kansas City and Ottawa, Kansas, and Saint Joseph, Hannibal and St. Louis, Missouri. We’ll wait a week or two before posting that one.

TEXAS LAKES AND PRAIRIES COUNTRY

We left New Braunfels, Texas, on April 1 heading north on I-35 to Lake Whitney. We left Hill COUNTRY Texas for Hill COUNTY Texas. After spending three days driving across West Texas and then a week each in Fredericksburg, San Antonio and New Braunfels, and being quite busy in all three, we were looking forward to three stays of two weeks each in areas with relatively little activity. We were reserved at Lake Whitney Golf and RV Resort, 15 miles west of Hillsboro off I-35 for two weeks, and at Bay Landing on Bridgeport Lake for another two, about equidistant south and north of Dallas/Fort Worth respectively, and another two weeks at Red River Ranch, just seven miles north of the Texas border in Oklahoma alongside I-35.

As we passed through Hillsboro, the Hill County Seat, on our way to Lake Whitney, we saw one of the most beautiful courthouses we have seen. If I remember right, it is Third Empire architecture—at least the tower is. After getting the RV parked and hooked up at the resort, we returned and walked through the courthouse. We were surprised how pristine it appeared inside and out. We learned that though the building was built originally in 1890, it is, in effect, only about 10 years old. That is, it was nearly destroyed by fire in 1993 and, after the shell was deemed safe to rebuild, it was completely restored. It was rededicated in 1999, and the keynote speaker was Texas Governor, George W. Bush.

Beautiful Hill County Courthouse, Hillsboro, Texas

Beautiful Hill County Courthouse, Hillsboro, Texas

To the credit of the citizens of Hill County, they elected to run fund drives to supplement insurance money so they could rebuild the classic building rather than demolish it. We walked slowly through the several floors, taking lots of photographs of myriad details of the building. As we looked through the vacant jury room we had a shock. Through an open door we saw the security office and our pictures taken at various places throughout the building frozen on display on a bank of several monitor screens! We had been under surveillance the entire time we had been snooping through the building.

As I said, we looked forward to some time of relaxation and catching up on the normal tasks of living that go on whether you live in a 3,000 square foot site-built house or a 375 square foot RV. For about half of the days in the six weeks, we were kept inside by severe weather. We knew we were subjecting ourselves to the possibility of extreme weather when we chose to travel through Tornado Alley. While so far we have had no tornadoes close to us, thank God (though several tornado warnings as close as 12 miles—urging residents to go to their shelters until the danger passed), we have had record amounts of rainfall and severe electrical storms. The term “severe thunderstorm” in the Midwest has a specific meaning. Severe weather has the potential of producing dime-size hail and larger (occasionally up to golf ball size and larger) and sustained winds over 58 miles per hour with higher gusts. It is a little ominous pulling into an RV park through neighborhoods where nearly every home has an underground storm shelter.  

 

Typical residential underground storm shelter

The high winds we have encountered are intimidating as the RV rocks and rolls, even though it weighs at least 16,000 pounds. To put it in perspective, though, every time we move our RV it encounters 60 or 65-mile-an-hour winds, because that’s how fast we drive on freeways between RV resorts, and the same estimated stresses to the RV as a 7.5 earthquake. So the storms, while a little unsettling, pose no more threat than moving from place to place—unless they develop into tornadoes, and then all bets are off.

We have experienced severe storms at all of our recent stays. Lightening and thunderstorms usually accompany the rain. Sometimes the rain has lasted for several days in a row. The most extreme was in Thackerville, Oklahoma, where they received 11.1 inches of rainfall in 36 hours! The level of Lake Texoma nearby was raised  over 10 FEET by the runoff, and the large lake covers an estimated 89,000 acres! That’s a lot of water. Our door mat outside the RV was under several inches of water.

Record rain--11.1 inches in 35 hours--at Thackerville, OK

Record rain--11.1 inches in 35 hours--at Thackerville, OK

The Red River, which loops south around the area we were in, was a muddy stream with sandbars with a stuck pickup truck on one of them when we got there on April 22. A week later the river was flooded, over its banks and threatening to close I-35, the major north-south freeway in this part of the States. Texas has been dry and in drought conditions for quite some time. They’ve been hoping for what they refer to as “pond-fillers.” Nearly every town has “Pray for rain” signs displayed. Man, do these Texans know how to pray! 

Water, water everywhere--inside and around the pool!

Water, water everywhere--inside and around the pool!

Of course, when it is raining buckets and the wind blows it sideways, it forces us to spend time together. ——- That’s meant to be humorous, folks. We spend 24-7 together already. As Rachel says, “We love it, don’t we, Ed?” and I reply, “Yes, Dear.” I always get the last word. Thing is, our RV has so many large windows it seems as though we are outdoors all the time, so we never get cabin fever, even after several days of hardly going outside. We chose this RV partly for that reason. We spend our inside time reading and studying, writing, assembling jigsaw puzzles, playing cards, building models (Ed), sewing (Rachel), learning to play the piano (Rachel), cooking (Ed breakfast and Rachel lunch and dinner), and doing the many chores that go along with living—vacuuming, dusting, washing windows, and etc. Difference is that our chores take about 30 minutes instead of several hours as they did before we started RVing fulltime.

I have always been fascinated by the story of the Bounty mutiny, and at the Lake Whitney resort activity center I found a copy of “The Bounty Trilogy, Comprising the Three Volumes, Mutiny on the Bounty, Men Against the Sea & Pitcairn’s Island” by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall, published in 1932, which I enjoyed reading during spare time for three weeks.

Severe weather was predicted for Easter Sunday, and the threat turned out to be a blessing. We had intended to drive east 45 miles from Bridgeport to Denton to the Calvary Chapel there. Because of the threatened severe weather, we elected to stay close to the RV and attend a little non-denominational church located right at the entrance to Bay Landing RV Resort. We worshipped with the small congregation (and a few other RVers from the park) and were taught by Mark Stanczyk assisted by “Rusty” Tanner. Mark teaches at Southwest Baptist Seminary in Fort Worth and is in the doctoral program there, and he and wife and young son travel to Lake Bridgeport every Sunday to lead worship there. Rusty is a PA-C in Bridgeport (I think that means that he is a doctor, except for his intern experience). Following the worship they invited us to stay and enjoy their monthly fellowship dinner with them. We met some very nice folks there and enjoyed the teaching and worshipping. In fact, the second Sunday there, we went back early for Bible study before church and then went back for the evening Bible study too.

Not such blessings were several range fires near us. They burned thousands of acres of prairie and grassland, many homes and outbuildings and took three lives—reminiscent of the San Diego Firestorm 2007. Between rains, the humidity dropped to single digits and the wind blew a gale. As I noticed the dark sky one very windy morning, I thought we were experiencing a dust storm. Soon we learned the darkness was a result of the smoke from the large fire just north of us. The origin of most of the fires is still unknown, except for one which was deliberately set. The rain a week later finally extinguished the last of the fires. We were never in danger as we were situated on the banks of Lake Bridgeport nearly surrounded by water. 

Texas wildfire not far from the RV resort

Texas wildfire not far from the RV resort

 THACKERVILLE, OKLAHOMA

From Bridgeport Lake we drove northeast back to I-35 at Gainesville and then north across the Texas border into Oklahoma. Red River Ranch RV Resort is located between the freeway and the mainline of the BNSF Railroad. You can’t hear the traffic noise, but the trains are clearly passing close by whistling at two crossings within earshot, and you don’t have to pay extra for that (from a dyed-in-the-wool railfan). We were thinking that we would have absolutely nothing to do for two weeks as we stayed at Thackerville—and were not disappointed with the idea. Thackerville is a small community with a school, post office (the Postmistress owns four candle shops in Texas), FIVE churches, a car wash and Shorty’s Corner Store, where you can get “Frozen Foods, Full Deli, Bait & tackle, Groceries, Beer & Ice, Hunt Brothers Pizza, Nuts and Bolts and Western Union.” Oh, and no-lead gasoline and diesel. We love it here! 

You can get it at Shorty's!

You can get it at Shorty's!

Again, Rachel’s research paid off. Turns out that while we were idling in Thackerville, she saw an ad headed “Willkommen, Y’All.” Folks in Muenster, Texas, about 20 miles southwest, were preparing for their Germanfest—“Where Texas Hospitality and German Customs Meet!”. Now, we are well prepared for the Walhalla, North Carolina and Helen, Georgia Oktoberfests with five (count ’em) storage tubs of German clothing. The ad for the Germanfest in Muenster offered free admission for those in full German outfits. Rachel and I saved $40 that weekend! We attended the festival all three days—Friday evening, all day and evening Saturday, and Sunday afternoon. There were two venues, a Western stage and a Festhalle for German music—three, if you include a stage just for children’s entertainment. The featured groups for the Festhalle were Alpenfest (see link) and The Polka Kings.

Alpenfest from Houston, Texas

Alpenfest, from Houston, Texas

Polka Kings, from Lawton, Oklahoma

Polka Kings, from Lawton, Oklahoma

Alpenfest is a group from Houston that plays regularly at Rudi Lechner’s Restaurant there. They have played festivals in Minnesota, Texas and Wisconsin. The Polka Kings come from Lawton, Oklahoma. Another group that performed on all three stages was Side Street Magic (see link) who played music while performing magic tricks in the audience.

Magicians and Musicians

Magicians and Musicians

 We danced nearly every polka, schottische, and waltz on Friday afternoon and early evening. There were lots of small children at this family-friendly festival. As the evening went on, they attached themselves more and more to Rachel, so we danced more and more with the children. As we were on our way out we were approached by a couple who asked if we were German. We explained that we were not, and they let us know that they were. That happens a lot when we are in our German trachten (clothing).We returned on Saturday, danced some more, and enjoyed the bratwurst. That afternoon, as we enjoyed lunch, three more people came up to us and asked if we were German. They were all from the area of Cologne (Koln, in Germany). Rachel and I moved back to the fest tent and soon they joined us for the rest of the evening. Martin and Andreas are working in the Dallas area at a German company there, and Kristina was here visiting Andreas. We had a great time talking with them.

On Sunday afternoon we drove west through a heavy rainstorm that was moving east and arrived back at Muenster in sunshine. As we listened and danced a few polkas and waltzes, we noticed a couple trying to teach their young daughter to waltz—without much success. I boldly seized the opportunity and broke in and by the time the music was over, she was waltzing like a Salzburger!

Waltz Lesson

Waltz Lesson

While enjoying the last of the music and German food we were approached by two sweet little girls who wanted to talk with Rachel. She obliged, we took a couple of photos, and I talked with the family, gave them our card and told them that if they would e-mail me, we would send them the photos. Later the father came back over and said that he read the card and saw we were from Wenatchee, Washington. He said that they had moved to Texas from the Yakima Valley of Washington (which is about 140 miles from Wenatchee!). The photos have been exchanged, and we are now corresponding with Angelina (1st grade) and Emma (3rd grade)

Angelina, Rachel and Emma

Angelina, Rachel and Emma

It was a very nice festival—their 34th, and they have outgrown the grounds. Even the parking lot is crowded—with oil wells. We later saw an oil well in the parking lot of an Oklahoma City Mall! They are purchasing a large plot of land on the outskirts of Muenster and hope to hold Germanfest 35 there. And, by the way, the Texans pronounce it MUNN ster.

Working well in a mall parking lot in Oklahoma City

Working well in a mall parking lot in Oklahoma City

Speaking of oil, we have seen many, many wells throughout Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. In fact, there is an oil well on the grounds of the Oklahoma State Capitol and the capital building is built right on top of another—Petunia No. 1, because it was drilled through a former petunia patch! 

Oklahoma Capitol built on an oil well and another in the parking lot

Oklahoma Capitol built on an oil well with another in the parking lot

 The odd thing is that very few of them are pumping. While we are importing oil from Middle-Eastern countries hostile to us, our own wells are idle. There must be an explanation. They are aware of the impact of oil on the economy, however. Restaurants and even rest areas use the oil derrick as a recognizable symbol.

Rest Area Oil Derrick Shelters

Rest Area Oil Derrick Shelters

A San Diego friend who has been hospitalized for over a year with a chronic condition formerly lived just outside Ardmore, Oklahoma, about 30 miles north of us. One day we drove there and took a photo of her former home to send to her, we shopped at the Super Wal-mart, and drove around Ardmore a bit to see what it is like. It is a moderate-size town with an old section with turn-of-the-century brick and limestone buildings and a classic railroad station. We found out that in 1915 a railroad worker was working near a tank car of gasoline, caused some sparks which ignited the gasoline fumes, and the explosion leveled many buildings in a six-block area, including the train station, and killed 42 people. Ardmore is an interesting place. Unfortunately we won’t be in the area long enough to participate in Ardmore’s Red River Road-kill Rally Bicycle Ride and Festival, or the Beaver, OK, Frisbees of the Prairie Competition (that’s the World Champion Cow Chip Throw, for you non-Okies).

Everywhere we were in Texas and Oklahoma, we have had a veritable concert of bird songs. Though they are considered a pest, we love the songs of the grackles. Also, we had quite a conversation with a brilliant red cardinal while on a walk at Bridgeport Lake. At Thackerville we were awakened each day by the resort’s resident rooster!

They take their barbecue seriously here. At the Muenster Germanfest they held a barbecue cook-off. They started at 5:00 on Friday evening and judging was the next day in the afternoon. The competition involved pork, chicken, brisket, sausage and spare ribs, as well as Jackpot Beans. They smoke and barbecue their meat and beans as contrasted with grilling with which many of us from the Northwest are more familiar.

Serious Barbecue!

Serious Barbecue!

OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA  

We moved to Oklahoma City on May 6. We were in a park convenient to I-35 and close to downtown. As we checked in we asked about a storm shelter. The manager took us outside and showed us the location of the entrance to the underground bunker, but explained that it had not been used in 18 years.

We had been advised not to miss the Cowboy Museum and Hall of Fame, so we made that a high priority. The museum contains lots of artwork, including many original Charlie Russell paintings and sculptures (which we were not allowed to photograph, naturally), a famous massive statue called “End of the Trail,” Western movie memorabilia and a life-size rodeo exhibit. 

End of the Trail statue at the Cowboy National Museum

End of the Trail statue at the Cowboy National Museum

Bucking Bronc Statue in the Cowboy Museum

Bucking Bronc Statue in the Cowboy Museum

 On Rachel’s birthday we went to dinner north of downtown and then at dusk, drove to the Oklahoma City National Memorial—the tribute to the 168 adults and children killed and over 500 injured when Timothy McVeigh bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Building on April 19, 1995 as a protest against the government. (See links.) It is especially touching at night. The memorial has a section of chain link fence where family and friends leave personal items in remembrance. One especially touching item was a letter with a photograph of a woman and two small boys. The letter was written to their Grandma, killed in the blast, by the two boys, now both graduated from college, married and with children of their own.

The street where McVeigh’s rental truck had been parked is now a reflecting pool. The site of the building is now a grassy field containing rows of chairs, resembling glass bricks and lighted at night, some large, representing adults, and others small for the children, each with the name of the victim. They are arranged in nine rows, each row representing the floor on which each victim was killed in the explosion plus one for the five who were killed outside the building. It was a very sobering end to a day otherwise joyous in celebration of Rachel’s special day.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oklahoma City National Memorial at night

Oklahoma City National Memorial at night

 

 

 

Note the small chairs in the second row representing the children killed in the second floor daycare

Note the small chairs in the second row representing the children killed in the second floor daycare

OKC Memorial Remembrance Fence

OKC Memorial Remembrance Fence

 Another day we went to Bricktown, the old section of town. We had lunch at “Stumpy’s—“Finer ‘n Frog’s Hair” and walked along the Riverwalk, modeled, we’re pretty sure, for the one in San Antonio.

Oklahoma City Riverwalk

Oklahoma City Riverwalk

 Then we drove a couple blocks to the Bass Pro Shop, a massive store for sportsmen (sportspersons) of all sorts. It is gigantic, and contains many displays as well as merchandise and boats.

Just a short distance behind the Bass Pro Shop is the new monument to the Oklahoma Land Rush. In 1889, the Indian tribes, which had been removed from the East to Indian Territory, as Oklahoma was then known, were again moved farther west so whites could settle the fertile rangeland. At noon on Monday, April 22, 1889, a gun was fired marking the start of a rush to claim land. Thousands of people who had prepared in advance including some who had scouted the land, rushed into the open land, staking claims on the range and in laid-out “cities.” Some who were ahead of the others arrived at their chosen spot only to discover that they had been “beaten” there by others. These were the “Sooners” who started illegally squatting on the land before the official start of the rush. An interesting detail is that the town of Guthrie, previously a water stop on the railroad, was, by dark that first day, a city of 10,000! The Land Rush Memorial depicts in larger-than-life-sized bronze statues of men, wagons and horses, the rush from the line.  

Land Rush Memorial

Land Rush Memorial

Our time in Oklahoma City was bittersweet in a way. On the day we arrived, we noticed a small dog running loose through the park. That almost never happens, because RV parks require dogs to be leashed and picked up after. This dog appeared to be a Manchester terrier mix, and was quite disfigured by many cuts and punctures and a large hairless area about two inches wide down the length of his back. We watched as he frantically and purposefully ran the four streets of the park, ears up, apparently looking for something. We assumed he was a neighborhood dog who regularly scouted the RV park for treats.

The second day we were there we began to notice bowls of water and food in front of several of the RVs. One was across the street from us. Rachel visited with the women there who are permanent residents, and learned that the little dog had suddenly appeared on the Sunday before we arrived on Wednesday, and had been spending full-time since “patrolling” the park. She said that dogs were often dropped off and abandoned there. She surmised that it was left by someone in an SUV, because every time an SUV entered the park, the little dog ran after it, wagging its tail, with a look of expectation that his “family” had come back for him.

No one had been able to approach him or touch him. That evening, as we sat outside the RV, he came running by, “put on the brakes,” and came over. Rachel was able to pet him a bit before he ran away, and a few minutes later he came up behind us and licked my hand. Soon, we were able to pet him for longer periods. That evening, after Rachel went inside, I got a towel out of a hatch and was preparing a bed for him under our picnic table when Rachel came back outside with another towel in a cardboard box for the same purpose! He spent the night in the box and in the morning, allowed Rachel to pick him up and warm him. She carried him to the women’s RV across the street and encouraged him to eat and drink.

The women were committed to try to find him a home to avoid him being picked up by the “Humane Society” and destroyed, but the fact that he had not been social made that impossible. When the dog became friendly with Rachel and me it allowed us to socialize him so that by the end of our stay he was friendly to all the people in the park, was eating regularly, he was no longer frantically searching for his “people,” his coat was shiny again, and his cuts were almost totally healed.

Rachel has a tender heart when it comes to animals, so we spent quite a lot of tearful time that week. When our Schnauzer, Hansel, died in May 2006, we vowed not to get another dog as long as we were full-time RVing. That said, we did have some long talks as we vacillated between leaving the dog and taking the dog. We really didn’t want a dog again, but had determined to take him if it looked like he would not get adopted. The weather was stormy, so he spent the last three nights inside our RV with us. The first night, he came in, sniffed around for a few minutes, climbed into his cardboard box bed and literally collapsed.   

Pepper is pooped out!

Pepper is pooped out!

We wanted to make it as easy as possible for the dog (“Pepper,” we called him, though he would have been “Okie” if we’d taken him) adoptable with the fewest reasons for not being. So, we trekked to PetSmart and got a collar, leash, dog dish, dog carrier, dog bed, and a portable 16 square foot fence. The night before we were to leave Oklahoma City, one of the women came over and posted an ad on Craig’s List for that area using the photos and information I had used for a flier. Late that evening we hitched up the RV so it would be ready to pull out early in the morning.

Pepper, a couple days later

Pepper, a couple days later

On our departure day, Rachel fired up the car and drove out of the park to wait for me. I took Pepper to the women’s RV across the street and set him up in his fenced area in his dog carrier and bed, etc. and we covered the fence with a tarp they had gotten to protect him from rain and sun. With a heavy heart, while Regina and Toni kept Pepper distracted, I pulled the RV out of the park. We had a 255 mile drive that day to our next park, and it was a melancholy several hours indeed.

NEAR WICHITA, KANSAS

We arrived at Spring Lake Resort, northeast of Wichita, and set up the RV. That evening the phone rang. Rachel took the call, which was from Regina, telling us that they had had three calls that day from people interested in taking the dog and that “Pepper” had just gone home with a family of five, including three youngsters, to a large home with a big fenced back yard. Pepper’s scars and missing hair only seemed to endear them more, and they told Regina that they intended Pepper to be an inside dog. Needless to say, we thanked God for His kindness and faithfulness and got our first good night’s sleep in a week!

Incidentally, the day we left Oklahoma City, they used the RV park tornado shelter for the first time in 18 years as a tornado formed and hovered above the neighborhood of the RV park for seven minutes at 10:30 at night. Fortunately, it never did touch down before moving on, and after a while the RVers were able to return home. 

As we pulled into the park near Halstead we introduced ourselves to the couple in the next space, Bob and Frances Thiesen, and it turns out that they formerly lived and farmed a few miles away, and both their families still do. Also, they are Mennonite Brethren. I was raised in the Church of the Brethren, a very similar Christian faith. Turns out that there are also many Amish in the area, and in fact, the town of Yoder, which we visited twice is made up almost entirely of Amish (See the header photo). All three faiths are Anabaptists, meaning that they believe that a person must be of the age of reason to become baptized. The major difference between the Amish and the Brethren (Mennonite and Church of the) is that the Amish disdain anything modern and the others use modern conveniences while maintaining their strict beliefs.

As we talked, Bob reached in the back of his pickup canopy and pulled out several wooden cattails he had made and asked us what we thought they were. Naturally, we replied that they were wooden cattails. He told us then about Strawberry LONG cakes. You get some Pillsbury Grands biscuit dough, pop it open, and take one biscuit worth and work it down over the cattail end, keeping it an even thickness without any holes—this is important, as you will see. Then, hold it over an open fire and bake the dough until it is golden brown. When finished (if the cattail stick has been properly seasoned with vegetable oil) the baked dough will slip off the stick. Then you fill it alternately with Reddi-Whip and strawberry pieces, top off with Reddi-Whip, and eat! Yum! Only thing better would be to put a bratwurst in there instead of strawberries. 

Strawberry Long Cakes

Strawberry Long Cakes

They later took us on a drive of the surrounding countryside to meet her two brothers, to see and tour the farmhouse of one, and to see the church where Bob and Frances were married in 1957. We finished off the trip with dinner at The Breadbasket, a Mennonite-German buffet with German food with which we were not familiar. Good, though!

Newton is a relatively small town on I-35 about 24 miles north of Wichita. Halstead is a small town off Kansas Highway 50 ten miles west, and Spring Valley RV Park is just west of Halstead. Another 23 miles west of the RV park is Hutchinson, Kansas, home of the longest grain elevator in the US (at one time, at least), at ½ mile in length. It is also the home of an incongruous museum, a space center connected with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. There is also a salt mine there.

We attended church at Hutchinson at the Calvary Chapel there and afterward went to the Cosmosphere, thinking it could only take a short time, after which we would go to the nearby salt mine. Turns out that the Cosmosphere is a world-class museum and we could have spent several more hours there. 

Actual retired spy plane in the Cosmosphere entry

Actual retired spy plane in the Cosmosphere entry

Life sized replica of a space shuttle

Life sized replica of a space shuttle

Since we had bought a combination ticket for it and the salt mine, and because the last salt mine tour was at 4:00 p.m., and because we were heading for Kansas City the next day, we reluctantly cut our Cosmosphere tour short and went on to the salt mine—which was a great experience as well. Besides being a working salt mine underlying several miles of the area, it is also a storage vault because of its constant temperature and humidity for millions of medical records, historic documents, and original Hollywood films and costumes, some of which were on display. The whole experience taught us what we should already have known—that is to scope out the area attractions on the first day, not the last. 

Salt Museum Tour Tram

Salt Museum Tour Tram 600 feet underground

Underground document storage

Underground document storage

Underground Hollywood film storage

Underground Hollywood film storage

Twice we visited the Amish community of Yoder, not far from Hutchinson, Kansas, and about 25 miles from our RV park. The first was planned as we took a trip to nearby Hutchinson to get a fused switch for the motor-operated RV steps (which shorted out as we were leaving Thackerville and I had to mechanically disassemble the step mechanism even to move the RV). We drove to Hutchinson on a beautiful sunny day with the convertible top down on the Sebring. As we neared Hutchinson, we noticed we were driving into a black wall of clouds illuminated occasionally by a flash of lightening.

We got there in time to put the top up and get into the RV parts store before the cup-size raindrops started to fall. Soon there were horrendous crashes of thunder following brilliant lightening flashes, and then dime-size hail started to fall. The RV shop owner came out and said for us to move our car into an empty bay in the repair shop so it wouldn’t be damaged by the hail. We waited inside in a protected area watching the weather channel reporting the progression of the storm. Soon the storm passed heading southeast, and we went on to Yoder—convertible top up, and had dinner at The Carriage Crossing restaurant. The cooking there was purely old fashioned farm fare. I had fried chicken and mashed potatoes with whole kernel corn and Rachel had country fried steak, mashed potatoes and green beans—food we almost NEVER eat. Farm fare includes dessert, of course, so we each had a slice of pie! We got back to the RV park wondering if a tornado reported southeast of us had had any effect on the RV park and found out that it hadn’t even rained there.

Since crossing West Texas in three days, we had been changing parks on Wednesdays instead of Mondays as we prefer to do, for several reasons. So, we cut our stay in Halstead short and moved on to Kansas City on Monday, May 18. That’s where we will resume in Update 34.

Five years ago from this writing, Rachel and I were just beginning our RV travels. We left Wenatchee, Washington, on April 2, 2004, and spent a month at the Washington Coast. In May we traveled through Wenatchee on our way to Maine on our first loop through the perimeter states. We had lived in the RV for a year before leaving Wenatchee, so at this time, we have lived in our RV just over six years. It hardly seems possible. We can’t imagine any other life.

If you are interested in the 2003 beginning of our story and the first 27 updates you can request those accounts by e-mailing us (See “About” at the header of our site). If you’d also like to start traveling vicariously with another couple just starting out on their dream, I invite you to go to the Web site of Glenn and NanCarrol Holmes. They are friends from Leavenworth, Washington. Their site is http://glennandnancarrol.wordpress.com/.

We’ll start the next update in Kansas City and go from there. Until then, thanks for coming along.

Links for Update 33:
Alpenfest: http://www.alpenfest.com/history.htmlSide

Street Circus: http://www.sidestreetcircus.com/

Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889: http://www.library.cornell.edu/Reps/DOCS/landrush.htm

National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum http://www.nationalcowboymuseum.org/

 Oklahoma City Bombing http://www.oklahomacitynationalmemorial.org/ and http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/serial_killers/notorious/mcveigh/dawning_1.html

Cosmosphere http://www.cosmo.org/

Kansas Underground Salt Museum http://www.undergroundmuseum.org/index.php

Yoder (Amish Community) http://www.yoderkansas.com/

Posted by: edandracheltravel | April 15, 2009

Update No. 32 Hill Country, Texas

Juarez, Mexico, just across the river from El Paso, Texas

Juarez, Mexico, just across the river from El Paso, Texas

As you know from our April Fool joke, we have departed the Hill Country of Texas, starting northward toward Oklahoma and Kansas. We left St. David, Arizona on March 9 on three long one-day drives eastward on Interstate 10 through the lower part of New Mexico and the Big Bend Country of West Texas. That first day’s drive 233 miles to Las Cruces, New Mexico took us through the El Paso/Juarez, Mexico area. We passed through without looking right or left. Juarez is a hotbed of violence attributable to the cartel drug wars in Mexico, second only to Tijuana, Mexico, near where we spent almost two years in San Diego. So, we hardly slowed down going through El Paso where the city is on one side of the freeway and the border fence and river are on the other, with Juarez right alongside. And, by the way, it’s Tee-WANNA, not Tee-uh-WANNA, contrary to what we thought all along before spending time close by.
 
Steins Railroad Ghost Town beside I-10 in western New Mexico

Steins Railroad Ghost Town beside I-10 in western New Mexico

 Just after entering New Mexico we remembered a little town we had seen alongside the freeway and the Union Pacific tracks when we zoomed past westbound in 2005, too late to stop. This time we pulled off at the exit near there and left the truck and RV at the side of the road and drove the Sebring the short distance to what turned out to be Stine’s Railroad Ghost Town (pronounced STEENS). There had  been an actual town there along the tracks early in Western history. Whether, as a restored attraction, it had been open and operating in 2005, we don’t know, but it is all closed and fenced now. We did get some photos of old buildings and adobe ruins through the fence of what remained of the old town. We would have loved to spend time inside the fence exploring the ruins, but it was not to be.
Further along, we were amused as we crossed the Continental Divide. What was amusing was that we were in a wide, level valley, absolutely flat, and we wondered how anyone knew exactly where the divide is located. Granted, this plateau is quite high, but usually when you cross a divide, you can tell. This was absolutely flat!
Old Town Mesilla buainess south of downtown Las Cruces

Old Town Mesilla buainess south of downtown Las Cruces

Las Cruces was a pleasant surprise. We got to our RV park just before 5:00 p.m., and immediately jumped in the car and drove the short distance to Old Town Mesilla, just south, on the advice of my brother, Neil. This is an old village built in the pueblo style from adobe, and many of the old structures are used currently as stores and shops. By the time we got there most were closed, so we photographed what we could and went back to the RV. I found out later that Las Cruces was one of the places Neil and JoLynne considered moving when they left Palm Desert California before eventually deciding on Prescott Valley, Arizona. Las Cruces is a place we’d definitely like to explore more in the future.

 This part of the US has its own pronunciation key, just as the Northeast has. When we were in Maine in August, 2004, we were amused by the Burger King signboard advertising Cheese Burgas. Also in the northeast, an idea is an eye-DEE-ur and if you’re not from there you must be from “down the road a piece.” In Las Cruces, Mesilla is pronounced Muh-SEE-yuh. That’s the way with all double letter L’s, like tortilla (tor-TEE-uh) and ocotillo (awk-uh-TEE-oh). But, tequila is still pronounced tuh-KILL-yuh!

 The next morning we left fairly early (for us) and drove 281 miles to Fort Stockton, location of a wonderful museum and restored fort where Buffalo Soldiers were stationed in the early US West history—and the largest Roadrunner statue in the world! We stayed east of town at a former KOA park where we had stopped five years earlier. This is the location of McKissack Tire, a Goodyear dealer run by Dudley McKissack who was very nice to us after we had experienced a blowout in 2005 between San Antonio and Junction, Texas. We recently needed new RV tires due to their age and the fact that they had sat for so long in Wenatchee and then in San Diego, so had tried to arrange for him to get them for us. He was unable to, so we arranged in advance to have them waiting for us in San Antonio.

 Usually when we move from place to place, we avoid stopping to eat out because of the expense and the fat content of what is normally available. On this segment, however, we needed diesel and gas at mid-day, so we stopped at a combination station/gift shop/Dairy Queen in the middle of very little else. Looking forward to having something we don’t usually eat, we went into the Dairy Queen and looked at the menu board. The hot menu was limited to a DQ Flamethrower Chicken Sandwich or hot dog—with chips, not fries. Since we were entitled to a hot dog free with our gas fill-up, I ordered an additional Flamethrower. Rachel was deciding and told Roberto, the counterman/cook/server that she didn’t know exactly what she wanted, but wanted “a small something.” He replied that he didn’t have a “Small Something” on the menu, but that it was not a bad idea and that he would consider adding it. He had a sense of humor, if not a complete menu. Rachel decided on the Flamethrower, too. With chips.

 The two-day trip from St. David, Arizona, to Fort Stockton, Texas, cost us two additional hours. The first day we crossed from Arizona, which does not observe Daylight Savings Time, to New Mexico, which does, so we lost one hour. The next day as we crossed Big Bend Country (West Texas), we crossed from the Mountain Time Zone to Central Time and lost another. Net loss, two hours in two days, and we won’t gain them back until sometime in 2010 when we travel westward again. At least we will now be in Central Time until sometime in August, when we cross through Tennessee and enter the Eastern Time Zone, God willing.

 The next morning, March 11, as we left Fort Stockton eastward, it was pouring down rain with high north winds. For the next 260 miles we traveled in driving rain and side winds. In fact, when we arrived at our destination, blowing rain had penetrated the seal at the bottom of the driver-side slide-out and had soaked the living room carpet! Even at that, as we arrived in Fredericksburg, we immediately felt at home.

 Fredericksburg, Texas, in the Hill Country section of the state, was settled in the mid-1800’s by Germans who had trekked up from New Braunfels just northeast of San Antonio. Most of the German influence has turned to pure cowboy by now, except at Oktoberfest time, when they have a large celebration. We did see a headline welcoming guests to a German festival coming up that said, “Willkommen, Y’all!” They have been in severe drought conditions for several years, and it was only natural, given our reputation for weather, that as we arrived, they received over four inches of rain, raising the aquifer level significantly and breaking rainfall records!

 The State of Texas is divided into geographical sections including the Big Bend Country (West Texas), the Panhandle (north Texas), the Hill Country in Central Texas, South Texas Plains from San Antonio south, the Gulf Coast, the Piney Woods bordering Louisiana, and the Prairies and Lakes region, between the Piney Woods and Hill Country.

 Fredericksburg and most of Hill Country sit atop a limestone formation, so naturally many of the buildings are made of stone. The downtown structures date mostly from the mid- to late 1800’s. There are a couple of German restaurants and beer gardens, but mostly the town caters to cowboys and tourists. Being lovers of German and Western culture, and “tourist traps,” we loved Fredericksburg!

Fredericksburg limestone house

Fredericksburg limestone house

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Typical stone construction

Typical stone construction

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Der Lindenbaum German Restaurant

Der Lindenbaum German Restaurant

Fredericks Biergarten

Fredericksburg Biergarten

 
Typical Texas Sunday House

Typical Texas Sunday House

One thing we saw there we had not seen anywhere else was “Sunday Houses.” If you thought about what that name might mean, you would probably come pretty close. Farmers in the outlying areas wanting to trade at market in town on Saturday and then attend Sunday services would drive their teams the distance into town on Saturday morning early, do their business and spend the night in their Sunday houses, attend services the next morning and then drive their teams back to their remote, outlying farms. When Fredericksburg was settled, land purchasers bought a package consisting of their farm acreage and a small, additional town lot on which they could build their Sunday houses.

Rachel and I have both been members of the American Volkssport Association for many years, but had not walked for quite some time. Volkssporting consists of following a marked route 10 or 11 kilometers long (6.2 or 6.82 miles) on an untimed, leisurely walk through scenic, historic, or otherwise significant areas. Most towns and cities in the US now have volkssport associations that have seasonal walks. Many also have year-round walks they have marked out. We have previously participated together in walks at Cashmere, Fort Lewis, and Lake Chelan, Washington, and I had done several others before I met Rachel. When we got to Fredericksburg, since it was a town founded by Germans, and since Volkssporting is a German invention, we looked to see if there was a year-round volksmarsch there.

Rachel resting over Baron Creek during the Volksmarsch

Rachel resting over Baron Creek during the Volksmarsch

Turns out the Fredericksburg Volkssport Assn. was the first one in the United States, and they have three year-round walks, one of them also the first in the US. The last day we were there we walked the downtown volksmarsch and, though tired at the end, enjoyed it very much. Because we stopped many times along the way to enjoy the sights, what usually takes no more than three hours took us almost seven! 

 

Bandera, Cowboy Capital of Texas!

Bandera, Cowboy Capital of Texas!

While staying at Fredericksburg we attended Calvary Chapel of Kerrville, located 24 miles south. As I mentioned before, when we leave for church early on Sunday morning, we always turn the porch light on, because we never know when we will get home. This day was no exception. After church and fellowship, we continued south to Bandera. This is a small cowboy town we only knew of because Jim Willems, a friend from Cashmere and Leavenworth, Washington, let us know his brother lives there, so we wanted to see it.

 We continued on in a giant loop, next to the town of Boerne, another town founded by Germans. Like many German names, they have been Americanized. In the English language when a vowel is followed by a letter E, it usually indicates that in German it had an umlaut over the vowel and that it was pronounced in a particular way. In Texas, Boerne is pronounced BURN-ee. Similarly, Gruene, near New Braunfels, is pronounced GREEN—accommodating several clever business owners who have used that to name their businesses, such as the “Gruene Onion,” “Gruene Haus” and “Gruene With Envy.”

 Our loop drive that Sunday afternoon took us north again from Boerne to Bergheim (Mountain Home, in German) to Kendalia, Blanco, Johnson City, Stonewall—near the LBJ Ranch, home of 36th President Lyndon B. and Lady Bird Johnson, and home again to Fredericksburg, a distance of 167 miles.

 We had a little excitement between Kendalia and Blanco. As I mentioned, it had been very dry in this part of Texas for several years and, as we arrived, they received over four inches of rain (!). Well, those ranchers who had been building burn piles during that drought thought it a perfect time to burn them while everything seemed so wet. Turns out it had dried out quite a little since the rain, because as we traveled along one of the secondary roads, we came upon a hired hand frantically trying to put out a large grass fire  that had started when his burn pile fire had escaped. 

Ed helps fight a Texas size grass fire

Ed helps fight a Texas size grass fire

 I previously had served several years as a volunteer firefighter for Douglas County Fire District No. 2 in East Wenatchee, Washington and, like an old fire horse, the smell of smoke still gets my heart pumping! Needless to say, we pulled over, I got an extra shovel out of the hired hand’s pickup, climbed over the barbed wire fence, and proceeded to help put out the fire (while Rachel watched and discretely took a couple photos). Too soon—before I had gotten my fill at least, the Kendalia Rural Fire Department arrived, along with several sheriff’s deputies hoping for a little excitement, and they took over, so my service was no longer needed. Smelling of grass fire smoke and with a giant smile on my face I got back in the car, and we proceeded along our way.

 As we passed through Johnson City, we stopped at the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park and spent time in the Visitor Center learning of his history and his accomplishments. I have a new appreciation for this president who governed during one of the most difficult times in our nation’s history. After his terms of office, he retired to the LBJ Ranch and died there, an old man, at 62 years of age. That shocked me when I realized that he was younger than I am by six years when he died. The presidency certainly took a toll on him—as it does on most presidents.

"I'm goin' to Luckenbach, Texas, with Waylan an' Willie and the Boys."

"I'm goin' to Luckenbach, Texas, with Waylan an' Willie and the Boys."

Another day we backtracked toward Stonewall to see two attractions. The first was Luckenbach, Texas. Who hasn’t heard of Luckenbach, Texas? Well, Luckenbach consists of a former post office/store, a barn of a dance hall, an open-air stage and seating area, and a giant parking lot. The morning we got there, there was already a man playing guitar informally outside the store. As we entered the store, we were greeted by a cowboy-looking guy who asked how we were. Rachel answered and asked him how he was. His reply: “If I was a dog, my tail would be waggin’!” We have learned that in parts of Texas you can carry on whole conversations with “Hey,” “Howdy,” and “How’re y’all?” And, after you know a person a bit, you can ask, “How’s yer Mama?” Combine the German heritage and the hospitality of the Southwest, and this is a friendly place to be. Oh, and in Luckenbach, they play both kinds of music: Country AND Western.

 Our second destination that day was the LBJ Ranch. Lyndon Baines Johnson was born on the north bank of the Pedernales River near Stonewall and lived there until he was five years old and his father moved the family to a comfortable house in Johnson City,

The Sam Johnson family home in Johnson City, Texas, where LBJ grew to manhood

The Sam Johnson family home in Johnson City, Texas, where LBJ grew to manhood

14 miles east—a town founded by his grandfather, Samuel Ealy Johnson, Sr. and Sam’s brother Tom. LBJ Lived in Johnson City until his marriage to Lady Bird when he was 26. His father, Sam Johnson, was a state legislator, and his influence undoubtedly affected LBJ’s future direction. A quote from the park literature: “Lyndon Baines Johnson was doubtless the last President whose roots and early experience bridged the gap between the old America of local frontiers, crossroads and close neighbors, and the new America of world power, big cities and unknown neighbors. His deepest motive as a public man was to make people neighbors again. His greatest monument is his 40-year record of achievement in serving this goal—as teacher, public official, and elder statesman.”

 After touring the visitor center, we drove past the first Head Start school (a program begun during his term–after retiring from a career in education, I spent five and a half enjoyable years working for Head Start in Wenatchee). We crossed the Pedernales River to the one-room schoolhouse where LBJ began his education at age four, not because he was ready at that early age, but because his home was within sound of the schoolyard and he longed for the companionship of other children. (When he moved to the Ranch in adulthood, LBJ had a dam erected across the Pedernales river and a roadway across at the bottom of the spillway. That road was the entrance to the ranch, and he delighted in shocking visitors as he drove them to the ranch into the river yelling, “Oh, No! The brakes are gone!”) We continued on to the LBJ Ranch and site of  what the press called “the Texas White House.”

LBJ's first school near the place of his birth

LBJ's first school near the place of his birth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first Head Start School, near the LBJ Ranch, one of his reform programs

The first Head Start School, near the LBJ Ranch, one of his reform programs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 We continued past the family cemetery where LBJ and Lady Bird Johnson are buried, around the long airplane landing strip, past the ranch outbuildings where descendents of Johnson’s registered Hereford cattle are still raised, to the ranch complex itself.

LBJ Ranch House on the banks of the Pedernales River near Stonewall, Texas

LBJ Ranch House on the banks of the Pedernales River near Stonewall, Texas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 The airplane hanger in the back yard was long ago converted to a press briefing room, and a visitor center is housed there today. Nearby are small buildings that were the quarters for the Secret Service, identifiable by the surveillance hardware on the roof. Facing the river is the ranch house with its several additions, including the bedroom wing on the east end where LBJ died of a heart attack. 

LBJ desk inside the room the press referred to as "The Texas White House"

LBJ desk inside the room the press referred to as "The Texas White House"

 We had the honor of entering the Texas White House, a large added room on the west end of the house that had previously served as a den and ranch office. Many mementoes from his presidential days were displayed in this room. This room was actually the seat of government when LBJ was there, because every time he left Washington he formally transferred power to the ranch and transferred it back when he returned. Many conferences took place in the yard between the ranch house and the river. Many barbecues also took place there with foreign dignitaries and heads of government present as honored guests.

 It was thrilling to stand in the room where he served and on the lawn where he had many high-level meetings and entertained dignitaries. As I said, I have a new appreciation for the man and all he did for the country during a critical time in our history. Any animosity I had stemmed from ignorance of the bigger picture and the frustration of working as a teacher during implementation of many of the education reform programs he initiated.

 Too soon our time in Fredericksburg was over. With the promise to return, perhaps for a longer period next time, we pulled the RV south to San Antonio. Our park was located in the city, about three miles directly south of the center of town and the Alamo—which is also in the center of town. The bus line stops directly in front of the RV park, so we took the bus when we wanted to visit downtown.

The Alamo

The Alamo

To us there are two main attractions in downtown San Antonio—three, if you count the Lone Star Café. They are the Alamo and the Riverwalk . We had walked the Riverwalk and seen the Alamo on our previous pass-through in early 2005, but wanted to walk the Riverwalk again. In 2005 we arrived in San Antonio on January 1, and learned that they were about to drain the river for the annual cleanup—and the Mud Festival! So, we hustled to downtown that time and saw what we could in a short time. This time we had lots of opportunity to enjoy the Riverwalk in a leisurely fashion and took advantage of that. 

A section of San Antonio's beautiful Riverwalk in the midst of a bustling downtown
A section of San Antonio’s beautiful Riverwalk in the midst of a bustling downtown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first day we spent on the Riverwalk included a visit to the Lone Star Café.  My first visit there was several years ago when Eastmont High School Principal, Rich Boon, and I, attended a convention of secondary school principals there. I remembered the Lone Star as a “must-visit,” and in 2005, Rachel and I ate there enjoying what we believe was the best burger, fries and onion rings we had ever eaten—yes, even better than a Red Robin burger, an In-n-Out burger or a Dustyburger (you Wenatcheeites will know about Dusty’s).

Lone Star Cafe Menu

Lone Star Cafe Menu

 

Outside area of the Lone Star a level above and overlooking the Riverwalk

Outside area of the Lone Star a level above and overlooking the Riverwalk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You are undoubtedly familiar with the expression, “The older I get, the better I was.” Well, I don’t know if this is a similar case, but our anticipation exceeded the result. The burger was good, but not quite what we remembered. The fries were definitely different and came in much smaller portions. The onion rings still ranked right up there. We enjoyed our burgers nonetheless, and when we paid our bill and noticed the name at the top of the receipt, it said not “Lone Star Café,” but “Michelino’s Ole.” The Lone Star, still sporting the Lone Star sign over the door and the name on the menus, had changed hands! Oh, tell me it isn’t so!

San Antonio also has its own Volkssport association and year-round walks. The thing about these walks is that they are usually routed to show off the significant, scenic and other places locals wish visitors to see. If you are into walking, this is a good way to become familiar with a locale and a way to see what you want to return to in order to spend more time exploring. This was no exception. The San Antonio walk started out along the Riverwalk, up to street level and past the San Fernando Cathedral, where the remains of Alamo heroes Travis, Bowie and Crockett are buried, and back down along the Riverwalk to its south end through the King William District, where we discovered the Guenther house and the Pioneer Flour Mill. More about that later.

San Fernando Cathedral

San Fernando Cathedral

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remains of Alamo Heroes Travis, Crockett and Bowie

Remains of Alamo Heroes Travis, Crockett and Bowie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The walk goes through the King William District on surface streets and back onto the Riverwalk on the opposite side heading back toward the main part of the city (remember, this walk is almost seven miles long!). It leaves the Riverwalk at La Villita, an old Mexican marketplace now inhabited mostly by artists, and goes through Hemisphere Park, a very large area housing theaters, the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center, The Institute of Texan Cultures, the Tower of the Americas, the Federal Building and the Federal Courthouse. The Alamo is next on the walk, after which it continues back along the Riverwalk to near the current north end where the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Korean War Memorial are located and finally, back to the start.

The Guenther Flour Mill was originally established in Fredericksburg in 1851. A succession of floods and droughts convinced German Carl Hilmar Guenther to move the mill to a more reliable water source. He relocated in San Antonio in 1859. C.H. Guenther and Sons brand became Pioneer and White Wings in 1899. They are milling today under the same brand names and it is the longest operating flour mill in the state of Texas. The original Guenther home is now an event center, a museum and a restaurant.  

Guenther Flour Mill in the King William District of San Antonio

Guenther Flour Mill in the King William District of San Antonio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carl Guenther's home, now an event center and restaurant--toward which Rachel is eagerly walking

Carl Guenther's home, now an event center and restaurant--toward which Rachel is eagerly walking

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The entire King William District was settled by early settlers of San Antonio, many of German descent, indicated by names such as Hanschke, Altgelt, Joske, Hummel, Oppenheimer, Froebel, Biesenbach, Kalteyer, and Griesenbeck. There are other nationalities represented among the area mansions owned by Mitchell, Steves, Edmonds, Ball and McDaniel. All the mansions are very beautiful and very well maintained.

One of many fine homes in the King Williams District of San Antonio

One of many fine homes in the King Williams District of San Antonio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wherever we are on Sundays, we try to attend Calvary Chapels. On our Sunday there we attended Calvary Chapel San Antonio. We selected it from four in the area. We arrived to find that the regular pastor was not speaking that day, but Paul Smith was. He is the almost 80-year-old “little brother” of Calvary founder Chuck Smith. Paul’s wife had just finished a week-long retreat for women of the area. We attended the second service of three and after it was over, we decided to remain for the third service too.

Following the third service as we prepared to leave, we heard a voice behind us say, “You’re from Wenatchee, Washington, aren’t you?” We turned and visited with a young lady married to a serviceman stationed in San Antonio. Turns out that she had orthodontic treatment where Rachel was office manager and her aunt or grandmother had lived in one of my dad’s rental houses in East Wenatchee. The family has two small children and are soon moving to Washington, D.C. where the husband will work in military intelligence.

 I mentioned earlier the issue of tires. We are told (not just by people selling tires) that they have a life of between four and five years, after which they should be replaced, regardless of tread wear or appearance. Not to do so leaves you at risk—as we found out in 2005, when we had two blowouts, each causing significant damage to the lower bodywork of our RV. Our tires were approaching five years old and while they had only about 6,000 miles on them, they had sat immobile for long period twice, once in Wenatchee, when we stayed to be with my ailing parents, and again, in San Diego, where we stayed for 22 months, moving only twice in that time. These tires are Load Range G, where regular pickup tires are Load Range E, these capable of supporting 3,750 pounds each.

The Alfa receives new tires in the center of downtown San Antonio

The Alfa receives new tires in the center of downtown San Antonio

When we learned that Dudley McKissack in Fort Stockton could not help us this time, we called ahead to San Antonio and established that the dealer there could. We asked him to get the newest four tires of the 14 the wholesaler had and he agreed to. So, when our last day in San Antonio came and we had a short 30-mile drive to our next destination, we arranged to pull the RV to the dealer located in downtown San Antonio (six blocks from the Alamo and the center of town), and we had the tires replaced. 

I mentioned that the Guenther Flour Mill had been operating longer than any other flour mill in Texas. The people at the Guenther House Restaurant have been making biscuits longer than nearly anyone in Texas too, so on the day we left the RV at the Goodyear dealer, we drove the Sebring to the Guenther House and had the most unbelievable biscuits and gravy for “breakfast.” We usually eat oatmeal and either grapefruit or mango for breakfast, so this was a radical departure for us. Sure was good!

Tires installed and biscuits and gravy digesting, we pulled the RV through downtown San Antonio, up onto I-35 North and headed for New Braunfels. The park we had selected was located just outside of town and just off the freeway, so it was very convenient. As has happened so much this go-round, we traveled on one good weather day between two days of wind and rain.

Former MKT RR Station in New Braunfels, now a railroad museum

Former MKT RR Station in New Braunfels, now a railroad museum

The third day we were in New Braunfels, we walked the year-round Volksmarsch there. The walk wanders past the beautifully restored train station of the MKT Railroad (that continued southwest through Barnhart, Texas, toward the Texas-Mexican border), through beautiful Landa Park, through outlying residential areas, past the Schlitterbahn Water Park, Texas’s largest, and back downtown to the starting point. That place would be the Friesenhaus Restaurant, one of a couple German restaurants in this town originally settled by Germans. It is strategic, because when finishing a Volksmarsch, thirsty, tired and hungry, it is very handy to end up at a German restaurant!

The MKT Depot in New Braunfels now houses a train museum, so on our last day there, we decided to visit it. We discovered that the museum is quite nice, displaying many railroad artifacts as well as a very nice model railroad. We signed our names in the guest book and, as we always do, listed our legal domicile, Wenatchee, Washington, in the “from” column. While there, others came into the museum and after a few minutes, the woman came to us and asked us if we were Ed and Rachel from Wenatchee. Turns out that they are from Cashmere, Washington, 12 miles from Wenatchee, and that we know many of the same people. Small world! 

Riding the Hill Country Flyer between Cedar Park and Burnet, Texas

Riding the Hill Country Flyer between Cedar Park and Burnet, Texas

Rachel has spent significant time researching the areas where we plan to be by looking through travel magazines, brochures and such. She found that just northwest of Austin, Texas, there is a tourist train. While still in Arizona, we booked passage for the time we would be closest. On Sunday while we were staying in New Braunfels, we drove north to Cedar Park, about 20 miles northwest of Austin and boarded the Hill Country Flyer, a six-car passenger train pulled by a diesel locomotive. We rode the train for two hours to Burnet (pronounced BURN-it), had a layover long enough for brunch and to explore the town, and rode the train back to Cedar Park. It was a very enjoyable trip, even if the train was pulled by a diseasel—oops, that’s diesel, instead of a steam locomotive (theirs is undergoing refurbishment).

End of the line on the Hill Country Flyer

End of the line on the Hill Country Flyer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Texas State Capital in beautiful Austin

Texas State Capital in beautiful Austin

Afterward, we took the long way home through downtown Austin, past the beautiful State Capital, then through the small, rural towns of Buda (pronounced BYUD-uh), to see the Jardine Ranch where D.L. Jardine Salsas are made, and Wimberley, to Canyon Lake. There we turned south and drove the winding, narrow road that crosses and recrosses the Guadelupe River as it flows from the lake past New Braunfels through a canyon that provides summer river tubing (or toobing, as they spell it) that attracts people from all over the area. There are several campgrounds and toobing companies along the river, and the place must be like an ant hill during the summer! After dinner at The Gristmill in Gruene, in the restored main building of an old cotton gin, we reached our park after dark, and recounted what was a memorable day and several weeks in and near Hill Country.

The Gruene Grist Mill Restaurant, formerly a cotton gin

The Gruene Grist Mill Restaurant, formerly a cotton gin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rachel makes her selection for dinner at the cotton gin in Gruene

Rachel makes her selection for dinner at the cotton gin in Gruene

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We love this part of Texas, and though it sounds like a broken record (or for you youngsters, a dusty CD) we consider it a place where we could spend an extended period in the future, God willing. We love the kind people, the laid-back attitude, and the local barbecue, which is more like smoking than the grilling we are used to. We enjoy the tea, which comes already sweetened unless you ask for it plain. We particularly enjoyed the architecture of Fredericksburg, the cleanliness and friendliness of San Antonio and Austin, and the scenic beauty of the Wimberley area. As an example of the friendliness, while waiting at a stoplight in downtown Austin, with the convertible top down, a woman pulled alongside, noticing our Washington license plate, lowered her window and asked, “What brings y’all to Texas?” Friendly people.

Weather is a consideration when visiting this part of the country. It seems as though every place has its issues—except, perhaps, San Diego, which, if you believe the doomsayers, is about to slide into the Pacific along with the entire West Coast. Here the spring produces violent thunder and lightening storms—which we have experienced. Summers have them too, almost daily, and sometimes, but not in recent years, they are accompanied by heavy rainfall, turning an hour later to sunny, warm and humid. When the thunderstorms pass through, tornadoes are a concern—and we have had tornado watches and tornado warnings this trip, though no actual tornadoes. All that notwithstanding, spring is beautiful in Texas Hill Country, and we loved every minute of our time there.

We just looked over this account, and it seems that all we’re doing is eating out. Not so! We ate out six times in the 24 days this account covers, so that means that there were 66 meals we didn’t!

 So, until next time, so long, y’all.

Update 32 Links:

American Volkssport Assn. (AVA): http://www.ava.org/

Bandera, Texas, Cowboy Capital: http://www.banderacowboycapital.com/

Fort Stockton Historic Site: http://www.coax.net/people/lwf/STOCKTON.HTM

Fort Stockton’s Roadrunner: http://www.roadsideamerica.com/tip/1256

Fredericksburg, Texas: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fredericksburg,_Texas

Gruene, Texas: http://www.gruenetexas.com/

Guenther House: http://www.bluestarbrewing.com/neighborhood/guenther1.html

Hill Country Flyer: http://www.austinsteamtrain.org/

LBJ Birthplace: http://www.nps.gov/lyjo/planyourvisit/reconstructedbirthplace.htm

LBJ National Historic Park: http://lyndonbjohnson.areaparks.com/

Luckenbach, Texas: http://www.luckenbachtexas.com/

New Braunfels, Texas: http://www.newbraunfels.com/

Old Mesilla, New Mexico: http://www.mesilla.com/

San Antonio, Texas: http://www.visitsanantonio.com/index.aspx

Steins Railroad Ghost Town: http://www.rozylowicz.com/retirement/steins/steins.html

The Alamo: http://www.thealamo.org/main.html

Posted by: edandracheltravel | March 5, 2009

Update No. 31, St. David, Arizona

For a guy who grew up playing outlaws and sheriff’s posse and cowboys and Indians, and in his pre-teens, built a life-size western town that included a saloon, a bank and a blacksmith shop in the sagebrush field behind our home, the desert Southwest is a paradise. I grew up in rural East Wenatchee in Eastern Washington State on a rocky sagebrush bench overlooking the Columbia River—not unlike the area we are in presently. This is real cowboy and Indian country. From the outskirts of Phoenix and Casa Grande to Benson and Willcox, Arizona, the rural areas and small towns are still the realm of Western romance.

 Here Snowbirds and tourists in their plaid shorts, tee shirts and fanny packs mingle with cowboys in their western shirts, jeans and tennis shoes (mainly, long-haul truck drivers are the only ones who wear cowboy boots, though those cowboys here who still ride horses in their work do wear them).

 Many of the western movies I grew up with and continue to enjoy were filmed in this area. Four movie set western towns were built close by, and we have been fortunate to have visited or been as close as possible to all of them or what remains of them.

 

The most famous and familiar is Old Tucson (See Link), about 10 miles west of downtown Tucson in the Tucson Mountain County Park which borders the Saguaro National Park. Many familiar westerns were filmed here, including the first, for which the set was built, Arizona, in 1939, starring William Holden and Jean Arthur. Previous Westerns had been filmed on soundstages and were not very convincing. The Old Tucson set lay dormant until 1945, when it was revitalized for The Bells of St. Mary’s, starring Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman, followed by a succession of films including Three Who Were Thoroughbreds (1946), The Last Roundup (1947, starring Gene Autry and Jean Heather), Cavalry Charge, A.K.A. The Last Outpost (1950, starring Ronald Reagan, Rhonda Fleming, Bruce Bennet and Hugh Beaumont), and Winchester 73 (1950, starring James Stewart and Shelly Winters).

 

Twenty westerns were filmed there in the 1950s including Gunfight at the OK Corral (1956 version) with Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas, The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold (1957), and Cimarron (1959) with Glenn Ford. Soon TV series were also using the town, such as Wagon Train; Have Gun, Will Travel; Bonanza and Death Valley Days. It remained exclusively a movie set until 1959, when a Midwest entrepreneur leased the property and expanded it and opened it to the public as an attraction. In 1970, Virginia and Truckee locomotive 11, “Reno,” was purchased from MGM Studios and taken to Old Tucson. Unfortunately, it was badly damaged along with other V&T equipment in a devastating fire.

 

Mescal, Old Tucson’s sister movie set, is located 40 miles southeast of Tucson and a few miles west of Benson. In several attempts to visit, and though information said the set was open to visitors, we have never found it open. We have gotten to within a half mile before being stopped by a locked gate. Messages from Old Tucson say that repair work is being done. An aerial view in Google Earth (32 degrees 00’ 33.84” N, 110 degrees 26’ 16.06” W, elev. 4124 ft.) shows the layout of the town (See Link).

 

Apacheland, another movie set town, was located a little east of Apache Junction, which is east of Phoenix. Several westerns were filmed there, including Charro, starring Elvis Presley and several others starring Audie Murphy, Buster Crabbe, Glenn Ford and John Wayne. Built in the 1950s, the set burned twice, once in 1969 and again in 2004. The second fire destroyed all but the chapel and the livery barn, which were moved to the Superstition Mountain Museum a few miles north on Apache Trail out of Apache Junction.

 

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Apacheland Chapel and Livery Stable reconstructed at the Superstition Mountain Museum

 

 Just 12 miles directly north of the town of Benson and past the community of Pomerene is the most recent movie set, Gammons Gulch (See Link). Owner, Jay Gammon, with his wife, Joanne, realized his dream to have a movie set town by building his own. Recently we visited with several others from our Western Horizon RV park in St. David and received a personal tour from Jay himself.

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 Jay Gammons greets guests at Gammons Gulch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This movie set is about the same size as Mescal, but is completely open to visitors. Each building contains authentic antiques from historic landmarks, and Jay knows about all of them. The town consists of a saloon, a mercantile, a blacksmith shop, a fire station, and many other buildings and fronts. There is a mine and appurtenant buildings across a wash and up a hill.  It also has a boot hill where Gammons pets are buried.

 

Jay Gammon is no stranger to Westerns. His father was the bodyguard (or probably more accurately the Nuisance Guard) for John Wayne and had bit parts in several movies. Jay proudly displays a photo of himself with John Wayne when Jay was a child. 

 

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 The Morning Glory Mine at Gammons Gulch   Ed takes a breather at the mine overlooking

                                                                                  town

 

 Rachel and I enthusiastically encourage you to visit Gammons Gulch if you find yourself in this area.

 

 Just northeast out of Apache Junction is the Superstition Mountain Museum where the surviving Apacheland buildings are located (See Link). This museum sits at the base of Superstition Mountain, site of The Lost Dutchman Mine. This legend, if that is what it is, has always fascinated me. The “Dutchman,” for whom the legend was named was actually a “Deutschman,” or a German immigrant. His Anglicized name was Jacob Waltz (or Woltz, probably from Wolz, or Volz in Germany). His story is told very well elsewhere (See Link). It is a very interesting story and I encourage you to read about him if you like mysteries.

 

 

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Mercantile at Goldfield, Arizona

 

We spent part of a day at the museum, walked through the Apacheland buildings, and then drove another half mile to Goldfield, Arizona (not to be confused with Goldfield, Nevada). This Goldfield is an Old West town that has been built on the site of a former mine. It is purely tourist, but since we love that sort of thing and acknowledge it for what it is, we enjoyed it very much. The mine headframe remains from the early 20th Century and much equipment from the mine is displayed.

 

We took a short drive a little further northeast on Apache Trail to the Lost Dutchman State Park and Campground, located at the very foot of Superstition Mountain. Hiking trails start in the park and go up the face and canyons of the mountain. These days the Apaches are no longer a threat and the only things to be concerned with are the scorpions and rattlesnakes. One day in the future we hope to return, perhaps spend a few nights in the State Park and make some of the hikes onto the mountain—and maybe find that lost mine.

 

While we were still parked in Casa Grande, we spent some time visiting with cousins Larry and Linda Barnhart, from Wenatchee, Washington, who spend winters there. They recommended we go to the Arizona Opry, and since that was the second time we had had the recommendation, we decided to do it. (The first time was from Kerry Christensen who, at the time, was a partner in the Arizona Opry and performed there each winter, alternating with Leavenworth, Washington in the summer. He is perhaps the best yodeler we have ever heard, bar none.) The Arizona Opry is a dinner show featuring the Barleen Family musicians, including twin sisters Brenda Barleen and Barbara Barleen-Staerkel, the Arizona State Champion fiddler, and several other accomplished musicians. The musical director is Barbara’s husband, George Staerkel—an outstanding musician who plays 50 instruments during the show. It is a wonderful show with family entertainment and varied music performed well. (See Link)

 

Casa Grande has its own Calvary Chapel, so we were right at home attending church there. David Landry is an outstanding teacher, very well organized and an effective speaker. As we mentioned to him that we were on our way to the Sierra Vista area and would be attending there for four Sundays, he asked us to say hello to his mentor, Pat Lazovich. He had spent several years in the Sierra Vista church and had gone from there to Casa Grande to start the church there.

 

aa-3451                  Brothers Neil and Ed Barnhart

 

We had been looking forward to seeing my brother Neil and his wife, JoLynne, while we were in the area, so one day we drove from Casa Grande to Prescott Valley and spent two nights with them. We enjoyed catching up. We hadn’t seen them since Christmas, 2006. We really enjoyed our time together.

 

Another family-type thing we did was to find and visit the RV park where my parents used to stay during winters after Dad retired from the Northern Fruit Company in Wenatchee. Every fall for several years they used to load up the 1969 Plymouth Fury four-door with canned goods and clothes and head for Mesa, Arizona. I remembered them asking me to make a sign for the front of the RV they rented while they were there. When we were having the estate sale after they moved out of their home shortly before they each died in 2006, I found that sign. It said, “The Barnharts, Wenatchee Wash.” Today that routed sign adorns our RV whenever we set up in an RV park.

 

Anyway, on our way to Superstition Mountain one day we included Mesa on our route and found Aztec RV Park and drove in and located the very spot they had occupied those several winters. At that time the idea of fulltime RVing had not entered my mind, but now finding the spot where they stayed means more to me.

 

Before we had accomplished everything we intended to do while we were there, it was time to leave Casa Grande and move on farther southeast. It had rained buckets the day before we were scheduled to leave for Benson, so we were prepared with panchos and hats for getting ready to move while it was raining. We pleasantly awoke the next morning to clear sunny skies. As several of us prepared to leave for various destinations that day a man walked by laughing and said, “This makes me think of the Exodus. The waters part and everyone leaves!”

 

We arrived in Benson in the southeast corner of Arizona and got a wonderful site again backed up to the desert, which allowed us to walk out our door and into the desert on several hikes over the next two weeks. We didn’t hike on the second day there, because when we awoke that morning, everything was covered with two inches of snow! It doesn’t snow often in Benson, but we seem to be weather magnets wherever we go, so we weren’t surprised when school was canceled in Benson for the first time in 13 years while we were there. And no, we were not in Atlanta, Georgia, recently when it snowed there; that must have been someone else.

 

The Benson/St. David area is one of my favorite places. There is so much to see and do here that we scheduled two weeks in a park just south of Benson and another two weeks at a park south of St. David, just six miles away. It is also just about 30 miles from Sierra Vista where Calvary Chapel Sierra Vista is located. The pastor there is Pat Lazovich, and he is a great teacher.

 

This is high desert, and while the temperatures are in the high 60s and low 70s in the typical winter day, it can get to freezing at night—which it did for several nights our first two weeks. That has never been a problem in the past, because our RV is well insulated. However, this time it presented a small problem in the form of two citrus trees and a hibiscus plant we have with us that we had to keep inside the RV with us for several days and nights.

 

When we got to San Diego, intending to stay for the foreseeable future, one of the first things we did was to get a dwarf lemon and a dwarf orange tree. We repotted them and nurtured them. As we prepared to leave San Diego on December 1 last year, the lemon tree was “with child,” sporting eleven lemons. The orange tree was also coming into full bloom. So, we simply did not have the heart to leave the trees. Also, we received a beautiful hibiscus plant from Wes and Bonnie Oosterman. A rare San Diego hail storm riddled the plant and we had been nursing it back to health, so that also came with us and is now quite beautiful. So, even though foremost in the minds of RVers is weight, we carry probably 100 pounds of dirt with us when we move the RV!

 

This is Apache Country. Within 50 miles in all directions are attractions, memorials and monuments having to do with the Chiricahua Apaches, including Geronimo and Cochise. It is also cowboy country. One of our first trips here was to Willcox, birthplace of Rex Allen, one of the early singing cowboy movie stars (See Link).

 

 

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 Rex Allen bronze in the city park at Willcox, Arizona. His horse Koko is buried under the statue

 Everything having to do with Rex Allen is in the museum in the old section of Willcox. Across Railroad Avenue in the park there is a monument to him and his horse, Koko. The remains of the horse are buried in the park under the bronze statue of Allen. As we left we bought a DVD of his first movie, Arizona, and watched it when we got home.

 

Our next trip took us through Willcox again on our way to the Chiricahua National Monument—Land of Standing Up Rocks (see our photo on the heading). We didn’t know exactly what to expect, but had heard that it was one sight we should not miss. We drove to the end of the road at Massai Point (elevation 6870 feet), parked and ate the lunch Rachel had packed. Then we hiked the half-mile trail around the point. This trail and all the others in the park were constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1934. The rock formations in this park are incredible, composed mostly of rhyolite.

 

chiricahua-apache-nat-monument-1891        Rachel climbs the rocks at the Chiricahua Grotto

 

We drove a short distance downhill to a parking area for several trailheads and hiked a circuit of three trails totaling about three and a half miles with an elevation change of about 450 feet. The sign at the trailhead suggests taking the route in a counter-clockwise direction, and because it would be shady and very cool by the time we reached the third segment, we almost took it the other direction. I’m glad we didn’t.

 

 The first trail took us through beautiful rock formations, including the Grotto. From there, the trail descended steeply 1.6 miles into Echo Canyon to Echo Park. The next segment of the trail was fairly flat ascending gradually over 8/10 mile, and the 9/10 mile last segment took us back to our point of beginning on a more or less gradual upslope. We left the car while it was warm and sunny, and when we returned two hours later, it was quite cool and getting towards dusk.  If we had taken the trail in the opposite direction, we would have descended gradually, then had the last steep climb back to our point of origin.

 

By the time we left the trailhead, other attractions in the park were closed. One we would have liked to see was the ranch house where the family lived that pioneered the area and was instrumental in getting the area designated as a national monument. If time permits before we leave, we will return for that (See Link).

 

Is there anyone who hasn’t heard of Tombstone, Arizona and the famous “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral?” Tombstone (See Link) is a short distance south of both our area RV resorts, and we pass through there to get most places south and southwest. We enjoy the buildings and the history of the place. The original Cochise County Courthouse is beautifully maintained and is open to the public as a National Monument. The one day we dedicated to Tombstone consisted of a narrated, informative and restful “trolley” ride through town, a walk down Allen Street (the main street of the maintained and restored old town), a little browsing through the tourist shops, and a sit-down at Big Nose Kate’s Saloon. Shortly after sitting down in the saloon, we realized that our attitudes have changed over time, and we no longer appreciate the ribald humor and the “bar scene.” The historical restorations are our favorite part of towns like these, and when we shop the old stores, frequently it is to get a glimpse of the interior of the old buildings.

 

Another of our favorite area towns is Bisbee (See Link), another 26 miles south of Tombstone, and the current Cochise County Seat. It is the location of a gigantic open-pit copper mine (no longer in operation). The town dates from the early mining days, and the ascending main street snakes a mile and a half along the bottom of Tombstone Canyon from the mine area to high up the hill, with vintage buildings lining both sides. The buildings are now nearly all filled with art galleries, eateries, bookstores (J.A. Jance uses Bisbee as the setting for many of her books featuring fictional Cochise County Sheriff, Joanna Brady, and she visits often), souvenir shops, and bars. Though we seldom eat out, we did sample the food at Santiago’s (Mexican) and at the Copper Grill (American) on two different occasions there.

 

We also stopped off for dessert one evening at “Chocola’te,” where a man and wife from Alaska, artisan chocolatiers, custom make chocolate starting by roasting and grinding imported beans—unlike all but three others in the US, who import their base chocolate and custom form their candy from that point. They were closing as we entered, and behind the locked entry door, we visited for half an hour about the process, sampled their wares, and left with a treasure of the finest chocolate we have had since we were in Germany and Austria in 1995.

 

One Sunday after church as we left southward out of Sierra Vista toward the Mexican border we found ourselves approaching the entrance to Coronado National Memorial (See Link), so we turned south on Coronado Road and drove the four miles to the visitor center. There we learned that Francisco Vasquez de Coronado passed from Mexico into what would become the United States near here on his quest for the Seven Cities of Gold (which were actually yellow-colored pueblos) and to claim all he saw and explored for Spain. His trip was a failure in several ways—his supplies were sent up the coast while his land expedition traveled farther and farther from the coast; the seven cities had no gold to speak of and he was deceived by a Turk who was trying to lure them to their death of starvation, and he eventually died in obscurity at age 42.

 

After our educational visit to the center, we continued on up to the Montezuma Pass Overlook on a steep, switchback gravel road. There we met Alan Creamer, Patrol Agent in Charge of the United States Border Patrol Station at Sonoita, a town to the west of the pass and north of Nogales. We visited a while until a large group arrived at the parking lot and he explained that he had been waiting for a United States Congressman and his entourage to arrive to look over the area.

 

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 Agent in Charge Alan Creamer and Rachel at Coronado Nat’l memorial

While he met with the officials, we hiked up the Coronado Peak Trail to Coronado Peak—altitude gain 300 feet in 4/10 of a mile. From the top we were able to see far south into Mexico from Nogales and the San Rafael Valley in the west to Naco in the east, and far north up the San Pedro River Valley up which Coronado and his contingency traveled in 1540, over 450 years ago. As we returned to the parking lot, we visited again with Agent Creamer, about his impending retirement in 22 months and about his duties. He also told us that the Congressman was Norm Dicks from Washington State, the counterpart in the 6th Congressional District of Washington to our 4th District Congressman, Doc Hastings!

 

One thing remains that we particularly want to do before we leave here and that is to visit The Cochise Stronghold (See Link). This is the place where Cochise held out, hiding from the U.S. Government troops trying to capture him. It is located in the Dragoon Mountains east of where we are parked, south of I-10, but between us and the Chiricahua Monument. Several washes and miles of dusty, rough dirt road are between pavement end and the stronghold, so we will take the F-350 four-wheel-drive pickup on that one if we make it. From the parking lot there is a 1.5 mile hike to the area where he holed up. He is purportedly buried there somewhere, but when he was laid to rest, his friends rode their horses over the grave repeatedly, removing all trace of the location. No one to this day knows exactly where Cochise is buried there.

 

Our Sundays always seem to turn into marathon days. We leave the time open after we attend church wherever we are and just see how the day unwinds. We usually turn the porch light on as we leave for church early in the morning, because often as not, we get home after dark.

 

Last Sunday is an example. We knew we wanted to see the Buffalo Soldier Museum (See Link) on Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista, so we started the day later than usual by leaving home at 10:30 to get to church by 11:30 for the third and last service (because the museum didn’t open until 1:00). We drove south from St. David about 16 miles to Tombstone and turned right and traveled to Sierra Vista, a distance of about 23 miles. One of the associate pastors at Calvary Chapel Sierra Vista, Clint Chappell, spoke in place of Pat Lazovich, the senior pastor. His outstanding message on the difference between stepping out in faith and taking steps of faith had special meaning for us as we look for opportunities to minister to those we find in our path as we travel.

 

After church we got through the security checkpoint and onto the military base at Fort Huachuca. We parked in the museum parking lot and ate the lunch Rachel had prepared for us. Then we spent almost two hours learning about the formation of the early western fort, about the Buffalo Soldiers, about General Blackjack Pershing, how he got his nickname because he valued the black soldiers, and how he pursued Pancho Villa into Mexico. We also learned that the son of the post band director became mayor of New York City and had an airport named for him.

 

We left the museum, retraced our way to Tombstone and passed straight through and drove 13 miles on a washboard road to Rattlesnake Crafts & Rocks located on a ranch near the former mining town of Gleeson. There they have displayed thousands of antiques and artifacts they have gathered from the desert as well as all things made from rattlesnakes (of which there is no scarcity in this area). We continued on east past Gleeson and on to the small town of Elfrida and then turned south and drove 27 miles to the border town of Douglas where the Gadsden Hotel, built in the early 20th Century and has been restored, is located. From there we drove 26 miles to Bisbee, site of the Lavender Pit, a huge open pit mine, and one of the most interesting small towns in the Southwest. We had dinner at the Copper Grill and then drove back to St. David, passing through Tombstone on the way for the third time that day. We arrived home at 8:45 p.m.

 

We have had a couple of trials as everyone does. Being on the road with no permanent medical contacts presents challenges, but they are easily overcome. One of those had to do with a dental problem which was taken care of by a technologically up-to-date dentist in Yuma, Dr. Dennis Wong. Another issue was my eyeglasses. We decided it was time to get new lenses for my glasses, so we found a Lenscrafters in Palm Desert. Two weeks later, the lenses they made were already scratched, so we visited another Lenscrafters in Yuma. They determined that the lenses were not polycarbonate as they were supposed to be, but plastic, so they replaced them free of charge. Last week in St. David, the wind caught the door of the RV and flipped off my glasses and they landed in the gravel, face down, gouging a lens. We found another Lenscrafters in Tucson and got the new lenses replaced again, this time at half off the normal price.

 

The third issue had to do with batteries. When we boondocked for a week in the desert east of Yuma, we noticed that our batteries were not charging fully, and so each day we started out with less power than the day before. We made it through the seven days we were there and when we got to Casa Grande we decided to do something about it. With deep-cycle batteries such as RVs use, it is advisable to “equalize” them periodically. We had replaced the batteries before we left Wenatchee in 2007, and had not equalized them since.

 

The six batteries are located in two pull-out trays on the side of the RV. To get to them you simply release a catch and pull out the tray—which is normally quite free-moving. However, after nearly two years in the saltwater climate of San Diego, they had become not so free-moving, unbeknownst to me. I grabbed on to the outermost battery terminal cable and tugged on the tray and what moved was not the tray, but the cable and half the battery post! A little Yankee ingenuity and some jury-rigging, and I had drilled and tapped the remaining metal of the post and remounted the cable to the battery. After carefully pulling out the second tray, I discovered that when the batteries were installed, the installer had done exactly the same thing to the back battery and repaired it exactly the same way—and, of course, didn’t tell me. So much for our trials.

 

We have loved our time in the desert in spite of the absence of salt water and surf. We haven’t seen all the things we wanted to see or all the people we wanted to visit. God willing, they will still be available to us when we pass this way again. In a few days we will make a three-day road trip with me in the truck pulling the RV and Rachel following in the convertible running interference for me. We will travel from St. David AZ to Las Cruces NM the first day (233 miles), to Fort Stockton TX the second day (281 miles) and to Fredericksburg TX the third day (258 miles). These distances are about a hundred miles a day farther than we enjoy driving between stops, and we really like to spend at least a week or two in each location, but we are really interested in getting from where we are to Fredericksburg and the San Antonio area, so we will spend just a night in each place and drive straight through.

 

For three weeks we will be surrounded by German culture again, particularly the first and third weeks. Fredericksburg and New Braunfels are two German communities. We should be able to find a little polka music in one or both of those places. In between, we will be in San Antonio, location of the Riverwalk and the best hamburger we have ever eaten—and the best French fries and onion rings! It is also where we will have four new tires installed—the only place we could find Load Range G tires between San Diego and there. While our tires have only about 6,000 miles on them, they are approaching “old age” of five years, and they sat stationary for most of two years in San Diego. Both those things contribute to tire failure, and we don’t want a repeat of 2005, when we had two blowouts on the RV, causing body damage.

 

We have booked two special events in the future along our path. On March 29, the day after our 171st (month) wedding anniversary and the six-year anniversary of moving out of our East Wenatchee home and into the RV, we will ride the Bertram Flyer, a tourist train north of Austin, Texas. It departs Cedar Park and travels two and a half hours to Burnet through Texas Hill Country. After a lunch and shopping layover there the train returns to Cedar Park.

 

The other event is in Kansas City. We modified our original schedule a bit so we could be there when friends Mike and Kay Stokes and there visiting her mother. That happens to coincide with the Annual Kansas City Barbecue Cook-off! 

 

We would enjoy hearing from you. Write us in care of our e-mail address or our mailing address, both of which you will find by clicking the “About” button in the header of this Weblog.

 

We invite you to check out the topics we have covered in this and previous updates by clicking on the links on the right side of the text. Much more detail than I am able to include here can be found on each of those sites.

 

 

Posted by: edandracheltravel | February 3, 2009

Update No. 30, Yuma, Arizona

We just spent six weeks in the Southwest Desert, three of it in a park in Indio, California and the other three in three separate locations in the Yuma, Arizona, area. Before we got to Indio, though, we did two things I didn’t tell about in the last update.

 

Not far north of Menifee and Temecula is Perris, California, and the Orange Empire Railway Museum. I had long wanted to go there, because they have the railroad equipment collected by Ward Kimball, a former illustrator for Walt Disney Studios. He was a model railroader or toy train collector, and his wife bought a full-size narrow gauge coach for him so he could display his collection. Fortunately he did not modify the interior of the coach, but he became enthused about full-size railroading and bought a locomotive and had it trucked to his small ranch north of Los Angeles.

 

When Walt Disney Studios had finished filming a movie that had a Victorian station flat in it they no longer needed, Ward had it disassembled and trucked to his place and reassembled and had a superstructure built to make it a complete building. He named his railroad and station “Grizzly Flats.”

 

When we were still in San Diego, thinking we were there for the long term, I started another model railroad, this one in our 10’ X 10’ storage shed next to the RV. I had the opportunity to acquire not one, but two, out-of-production model kits of the Grizzly Flat station. I was also familiar with Ward Kimball, because he was sometimes published in model railroad magazines and was featured in a promotional film. So, before we left Menifee, we drove to Perris and to the railroad museum.

 

It was early when we arrived, so we arranged to ride their working tourist train, and since it was nearing Christmas, we got to ride the train with Santa! We also rode two of the many trolleys in their large collection. Afterward, we sought out the Ward Kimball collection and found volunteer docent Paul Harr and asked him about the Grizzly Flat Station. He knew not only about that, but nearly every detail about Ward Kimball’s later life and the equipment. Turns out he was a friend of Ward’s and ran his locomotive at the Kimball place and then, after Ward’s death, helped move the equipment to the museum. He was a wealth of information.

 

I mentioned to him that I was a fan of the Virginia and Truckee Railroad. He said that they had V&T Coach 20 in their collection, but it was not on display to the public, but was in their gigantic, 600-foot long storage building on the back lot awaiting restoration. Rachel wheedled a bit and he volunteered to walk over and accompany us inside so we could see it. It was indeed a thrill to see a coach manufactured in the 1800’s that ran on my favorite railroad which ceased operations over 60 years ago. If the economy doesn’t improve, the coach may never see the light of day again.

 

The other thing we did was to visit the Museum of Paleontology and Archaeology near Hemet, California. Because water is such an important issue to Southern California, an emergency supply was needed. What they did was to pick a valley, dam up both ends, and flood it. The result was Diamond Lake. In the process of preparing it to hold water, paleontological and archaeological surveys were done, and what they found is displayed in this very nice museum. There were farmers in the valley that had to be displaced, and their story is told. But the main attraction is the display of the large number of mastodon and other bones found there. The museum is quite worth a visit.

 

So, as we reported last update, we traveled from Menifee to Indio, California, in the only “window” of favorable weather for several days. We moved into Indian Waters RV Resort, one of our Western Horizon resorts, and because it was a few days before prime season started, we were able to stay for three weeks. Indio is one of several cities in “The Desert,” including Palm Springs, Cathedral City, Palm Desert, La Quinta, and Coachella.

 

I told you earlier that we located a church affiliated with Horizon in San Diego, The Bridge Calvary Chapel, in Cathedral City, about 18 miles from our park in Indio. We were there three Sundays and went to a New Year’s Eve party there. It was at the party that I was eating a bite of taco salad and felt the front of a dental bridge give way. Appropriate, right? Lost my bridge at The Bridge? Anyway, the bridge story continues later.

 

Terry Clark is a well-known Christian musician and songwriter. The second Sunday we were at The Bridge, he and his wife provided the worship music. We never did get to see Tim Lahaye.

 

We were faithful about donating blood every eight weeks while we were in San Diego. We were concerned about continuing to donate when we got back on the road, but we need not have worried. On the third Sunday at The Bridge the Bloodmobile was there, two days after we had become eligible to donate again. As an incentive, one lucky donor won a week-long pass for two to the 50th Bob Hope Desert Classic golf tournament in Palm Springs. As I was signing up for the drawing I asked, “What time should I expect your call?” They said they would draw at about 2:00 that afternoon. We were taking the long way home when, at about 2:00 the cell phone rang, and they were calling to tell us that we won the passes!

 

Before we left San Diego, two of our friends from Horizon, Lee and Char, recommended we go see Salvation Mountain about halfway between Indio and Brawley on the east side of the Salton Sea, so while we were at Indio, we did. It was amazing! There are lots of details on his Web site (see the sidebar), but essentially, Leonard Knight has spent the last 25 years shaping the adobe clay and painting it with spiritual messages. The location is near “Slab City,” about three miles east of Niland, California.

 

Slab City is the site of Marine Barracks Camp Dunlap where George Patton trained his soldiers for World War II. All that remains of the base is the concrete slabs on which the original buildings sat. Now, many of the slabs are the parking pads of all manner of RVs, some of seasonal “Snowbirds,” and others of obvious long-time squatters. The “town” is roughly divided between the snowbirds and those who are permanent and whose abodes show it. On one side of the main “street” are the older, added-onto, tarped RV’s surrounded by things one might need someday, and the other side contains more of the part-timers looking for a no-cost, snow-free place to park their RVs for the winter.

 

The permanent residents enjoy relative freedom from intrusion. The flier posted on the bulletin board near the center of the community lists the weekend’s entertainment of resident musicians gathering to perform at a makeshift bar. The ad tells you to bring your own beer or joint. Many of the permanent residents strive to be free of United States government control—except that they get into Niland every month to pick up their government SSI or Social Security checks. We did a leisurely drive-through and then looped around the lower end of the Salton Sea through Brawley and returned to Indio.

 

We learned quite a lot about the Salton Sea. The theory is that when the single mass of land separated to form the continents, Baja California separated from what is now mainland Mexico. At that time, the Gulf of California extended clear up to beyond Palm Springs. Over time the sea level lowered, water levels receded or the land mass rose until the Colorado River formed a delta bar blocking the lower end of what was then known as Lake Cahuilla, which eventually evaporated forming a salt flat. It remained dry, and salt was mined until a flood occurred from 1905-1907, when the Colorado River broke through the banks and flowed into the salt flat unabated for two years and formed what is now the Salton Sea. Initially the water was relatively fresh and water recreation was a thriving industry. Over time the water became so salty that boat motors were ruined and water recreation ended. Now the area is a retreat for people seeking warmth during the winter months.

 

One other thing we did while we were in the Coachella Valley was to visit Shield’s Date Gardens. Dates were introduced into this desert area around the 1900’s. The land is so like the Middle East that date trees thrive here too and one of the local communities is even named Mecca. The Shields bought an existing date garden (they call them date gardens, while we are more used to apple orchards or orange groves) in 1924 and it has been in the family until recently.

 

Dates have existed for thousands of years, but until they were hand-pollinated, the crops were small. The gardens today consist of rows and rows of tall, stately palms which sit inside of diked areas resembling rice paddies or cranberry bogs. Periodically they are irrigated by flooding—they require ten feet of water a season! Bearing trees are so tall that ladders are permanently attached to the trunks for the top 20 or so feet and are moved up every few years. The pollinators and pickers move their ground ladders to the foot of the tree, climb up them to the permanent, mounted ladders and continue to climb until they reach the crop of dates at the tops. A nice feature of Shield’s Date Garden is that they have samples of most of their 119 varieties of dates so you know which ones you will love before you buy them.

 

Because we had extended our Menifee stay due to weather, we also extended our Indio stay by one day, planning to leave there on Tuesday, January 6 instead of Monday, January 5 as originally planned. On Sunday evening, January 4, we got a call from Wes and Bonnie, friends from San Diego who had flown home to Vermont for the holidays and were driving a car back to San Diego. We had made plans to meet up with them someplace in the Southwest on their way back. Wes wanted to know what we were doing on Monday night in Yuma. Fact is, we were planning to still be in Indio on Monday night and leave for Yuma the next morning! They were in El Paso and planned to be in Yuma on Monday night and San Diego the night after. We hastily rearranged reservations, packed the interior of the RV, and left Indio on Monday. We drove down Highway 86 on the west side of Salton Sea to Interstate 8 and then into Yuma. Because our preferred membership park was not available for the first three days of our intended stay, we had made reservations at Yuma Lakes RV Resort, about eight miles east of town for those days. This is a park we had stayed in previously under Resort Parks International for $10 a night.

 

We met Wes and Bonnie at Mimi’s Restaurant in the Palm Plaza Mall for dinner and then went to their hotel to visit and see their cocker spaniel, Taffy (Wes calls her “Yappy”). The next morning we met them at IHOP for breakfast and saw them off on their last leg of travel home to San Diego. Afterward we took a ride around town reminding ourselves about the location of the grocery stores and Wal-mart.

 

My friend and former college roommate, Gary Thomas, who lives in Spokane, let me know that my college trumpet teacher was spending winters somewhere in Arizona. I looked him up on the Internet and found out that he was in Yuma! We drove to his RV park, intending to simply locate him and arrange for a visit later. In inquiring about his spot, we ended up next door, and we thought if we left without visiting then, the neighbor would tell him we had been there, so we knocked on his door.

 

Pete Exline was a music professor at Eastern Washington University and taught private lessons to brass players. He is a French horn virtuoso. I had not seen him in 46 years but would have recognized him if I’d seen him on the street. He is doing well, still drives from medical Lake, Washington, to Yuma Arizona, every year and back, and is right now in Sarasota, Florida, playing in a circus band, as he does every January, where the circus winters and they have an annual festival. We enjoyed getting reacquainted during a two-hour visit that seemed like mere minutes!

 

While in Yuma we attended the Calvary Chapel there. Chuck Stewart is the pastor, his wife and one daughter are in the music worship team, and another daughter was home from Africa where she is a missionary. At Calvary Chapel Yuma we also met Bruce and Daisy Osborn. Bruce is an uncle of our Horizon San Diego pastor, Mike MacIntosh.

 

After three days at Yuma Lakes, our membership resort opened up so we moved there. Pilot Knob, for which the resort is named, is a small mountain that was used as a landmark, not by wagon trains, as I would have thought, but by steamboat captains navigating the waters of the Colorado River. It is about eight miles west of Yuma—about the same distance west as Yuma Lakes was east. It is actually in California, since everything west of Yuma is across the California border. The resort observes Arizona time, however, so we were not constantly changing watches as we went into Yuma.

 

One of the things to do in Yuma is the Arizona Market. Friends Mike and Kay, now from Las Vegas, but also full-time RVers we met a few years ago when we were in Kino Bay, Mexico, made the trip to Yuma in their coach and we spent some time together. The Arizona Market was one of the things we did. The market is a giant, permanent swap meet. It consists of many long tent structures housing individual booths holding everything from tools to RV supplies to health remedies to hairpieces to food items. The experience is more important than anything you might buy there.

 

Also, we have found that the best fish tacos in the world are at Jose y Maria’s in Algodones, Mexico. Algodones is a short walk across the border from a parking lot in Andrade, California, just a couple miles from Pilot Knob. We made the trip to Algodones and Jose’ y Maria’s three times, twice with Mike and Kay. Once upon a time, tacos made with anything but beef was not even to be considered—and certainly not with fish! In Algodones we discovered these, and watched Maria dip the fresh fish strips in batter and then deep fry them in oil, put three large pieces in a warm, home-made yellow corn tortilla, add shredded cabbage, onion, home made salsa, habanera sauce, and a creamy white sauce, and tried not to drool while carrying them to our table. They are absolutely delicious! And, for $1.50 each!

 

So the dentist story: I mentioned that while attending The Bridge in Cathedral City I had loosened one end of a dental bridge. Thinking to have it re-glued we sought out a Yuma dentist. He examined me and gave me a lesson on TMJ and proper bite and gently informed me he would not re-glue the bridge. Though it was perfect from a dental standpoint, re-gluing it was not wise in his professional opinion. We left disappointed but accepted his advice.

 

Many people use dentists in Algodones. In fact, medicines and dental and vision care are some of the reasons a lot of retired people go to Yuma. We were just not ready to visit a dentist is a foreign country (even Mexico), where there would be no recourse if the worst happened, where we were not sure of training or certification requirements, cleanliness, etc. So, we sought out a second Yuma dentist.

 

Dr. Dennis Wong examined my problem and gave us essentially the same diagnosis. It should not be re-glued, but cut out and temporarily replaced with a partial denture until bone grafts and implants could be done. We thought whether we wanted to return to our Coronado dentist and have her work on it, which would probably require several trips back—or to have something done in Yuma. We decided to bite the bullet (pun intended) and have Dr. Wong do the work.

 

A native resident of Yuma of Chinese descent, Dr. Wong has all the latest digital equipment and loves what he does. He had lightened his schedule so he could take his father to a doctor in San Diego the next two days, so his afternoon was open! He removed the bridge, saved the crown on the back anchor tooth, and as we watched, he designed a new crown for the front tooth on his computer. He hit a button and sent the design to a machine which created the crown using diamond cutting bits and water jets. Then he placed it in a small kiln and annealed the enamel to it. Thirty minutes later the new crown was mounted in my mouth!

 

We had made arrangements previously with Tom and Joan Mercer to park our RV at their winter place in Quartzsite, Arizona, the following week. They had generously invited us to park there with hookups while we explored, for the first time, what many RVers from all over do annually—add several hundred thousand people to the small population of the town during the winter by dry camping on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land nearby. Because we were receiving treatment in Yuma and needed to wait to have a temporary partial denture fitted, we let the Mercers know we would not be able to visit them this trip.

 

Just behind Pilot Knob RV Resort is another one of seven BLM areas where free camping is allowed. For an annual fee of $180, you are able to park from September 1 until the end of April. Close by there are some other BLM areas where you can dry camp for up to 14 days for free. When we ordered our new RV in 1999, we had three 75-watt solar panels and a 2,500-watt inverter installed so we could dry camp if we wanted to. We had never used them as intended in the years between. This seemed like the perfect opportunity. We intended to spend a week in one BLM area, but in visiting with Glen and Bonnie at church the day before our move, they mentioned they were boondocking on private land just west of Pilot Knob and that there was an area where people dry-camped just west of them at the end of the frontage road.

 

So, we pulled out of Pilot Knob and drove to the end of the frontage road and out into the desert. We set up near a mesquite bush, put out our small potted lemon and orange trees and hibiscus, and spent a week actually parked in the desert! We had neighbors nearby, but certainly not as close as in RV parks. Mostly, people kept to themselves, including us. We had an unobstructed view of the desert sand and gravel, ocotillo bushes, cactus, and sections of the border fence separating the United States from Mexico. We lived on the power generated by our solar panels, on 100 gallons of fresh water we are able to carry with us, and our holding tanks for used water. The funny thing is, though we were a little apprehensive about doing it, we absolutely loved the freedom of dry-camping! We think we will do more of it in the future, God willing.

 

We are currently working our way eastward, hoping to see some of the Midwest in the spring, attend Oktoberfests in South Carolina and Georgia, and spend next winter on the Southeast Coast, before working our way back west. As we said before, we make our plans, but God guides our steps, so we are willing and able to change our plans as we need to or are called to.

 

So, until next time, take care and please stay in touch.

 

Update 30 Links:

Calvary Chapel Yuma: http://www.ccyuma.com/

Salvation Mountain: http://www.salvationmountain.us/

Shield’s Date Gardens: http://www.datesaregreat.com/index-51.html

Slab City: http://vagabonders-supreme.net/SlabCity.htm

Terry and Nancy Clark: http://www.catalystpeople.com/

Posted by: edandracheltravel | December 22, 2008

Update No. 29, Indio California

We continue to be blessed with traveling mercies. We were scheduled to leave Menifee on Monday, December 15, bound for Indio. We awoke prepared to pull in the slides, secure all the moveable objects inside, and move. However, it was raining buckets and the wind was blowing hard. In addition to being unpleasant moving in the rain, it is also dangerous here. After months of dry weather, the first rainfall creates icy slick roads as the oil, rubber and grime on the roadways become wet and the water standing on roadways can result in hydroplaning—bad enough in a car and much worse in a truck pulling an RV. Also, the mountain gap between Banning and the Coachella Valley where Indio is located has hundreds of wind machines for a reason. And, with the wind blowing in Menifee, it was almost certain to be howling through the gap where tractor-trailer rigs have literally been picked up and blown over.

 

We wimped out and phoned the RV resort office and asked if we could pay for an extra night in the park. Our fourteen “free” membership days had been used up, so we paid for an extra night and spent the day reading, resting and watching the ducks swimming UNDER the picnic table at our site.

 

The next morning dawned clear, sunny and calm. We prepared the RV and pulled out of the park, traveling through the desert town of Hemet and north to I-10 just west of Banning. From there it was a straight shot on I-10 to Indio and into our park. Rachel followed in the convertible while I pulled the RV. I had a little re-learning to do about backing the 5th wheel into a spot perpendicular to the narrow park roadway, but eventually got it done. Murphy’s Law states that the number of tries it takes to back into an RV site is in direct proportion to the number of people watching. If no one is watching, the first try is perfect. The more people watching, the more tries it takes. We had several people watching.

 

On Wednesday at 2:40 a.m., we heard the patter of rain on the RV roof. Soon the patter was a roar, and heavy rain continued most all day. It figures that we were present when weather records were set here too. (Those of you who followed our accounts in 2004 and 2005 will remember our accounts of heavy rain, snow, tornadoes, hurricane aftermath, etc. This voyage promises more of the same.) Rainfall records were set in the Coachella Valley on Wednesday, December 17. Normally the area gets 5-1/2 inches of rainfall annually. We were here when they got 1-1/2 inches of that, all in one day.

 

Usually the storms get stuck on the west side of the San Jacinto mountains, but this time a storm from the north (always blame those Northwesterners) added its might to the storm heading east, and it made it over to dump record amounts of water. While the dry desert may have benefitted, the Coachella Valley’s aquifer, the Whitewater River Groundwater Basin, benefitted little. That giant aquifer encompasses about 30 million acre-feet, which is the equivalent of 30 million football fields one foot deep!

 

We are in the process of systematically replacing all the appliances, fixtures and hardware in the RV. We didn’t intend to, it just seems to be working out that way. As we set up in Menifee, a spring broke in one end of the awning on the side of the RV, so we had that replaced by a mobile RV repairman. Later, Rachel noticed water in the cupboard under the kitchen sink, and we replaced the leaking kitchen faucet. It was about that time that the handle and latch on the refrigerator stopped latching, so we ordered one of those from an RV supply store in Indio. When we set up in Indio, we noticed that the water heater, which works on gas or electricity, was not heating electrically, so we are now working on that too. Such is life in an RV on the road. It’s a good thing we are economizing by using our RV park memberships and the reduced or waived nightly fees so we can afford to pay for the repairs and replacements! Oh, excuse me for a minute. The gas furnace is making a funny noise.

 

I’m back. Years ago, we bought a membership in Western Horizon Resorts, an organization that owns 20 RV resorts, mostly on the West Coast and in the Southwest, but with several in other parts of the US, including Louisiana, North Carolina, New York, Michigan and Indiana. We have stayed in 12 of the 20 they own. Members stay in the parks free of charge, but pay a nightly energy fee, now up to $3 a night for our size rig. We are allowed to stay in the parks free for two weeks during prime time and three week at other times twice a year.

 

Owning a membership also makes you eligible to join other organizations for an annual fee of around $80-$100 each where you can also stay for nothing or for a small amount each night. Many RV campground organizations, such as Western Horizon, go together and add their RV parks to a pool where members can stay. We belong to four of those organizations. One is Resorts of Distinction (ROD) which has 97 such resorts (including the 20 owned by Western Horizon). We stay in those parks free of charge for up to two or three weeks twice a year, depending on the time of year.

 

Another organization is American Outdoor Resorts (AOR), which has 140 resorts, including some of them in ROD, where we can stay 14 nights twice a year for $8 a night, and a sub-organization, American Camping Network, with 162 other resorts where we can stay for half the regular price. A third organization is Resort Parks International (RPI). They have 265 parks where we can stay for $10 a night for up to seven nights twice a year.

 

Probably the most well-known such organization is Camp Coast to Coast (CCC). It lists 468 parks where we are able to stay seven nights twice a year, also for $10 a night. Granted, many of the parks in each organization are the same parks, but having memberships in several allow us to select which one we use to the most advantage. Staying in membership parks free or for $8 or $10 a night, instead of the going rate of $25-$40 a night makes it possible for us to live our dream on the road.

 

Fuel has dropped in price lately too, and we love that. When we set out from Washington State in 2004, prices were just beginning to rise. This time, they are dropping as we start out. We were set to save money on fuel even at higher prices, because though we are on the road again, we are actually driving less. When we were in the San Diego area, we drove to church at least three times a week, a round trip of almost 50 miles each. Add to that other local trips, and we were budgeting quite a lot for fuel. Now, we drive from one RV park to another, stay for two weeks, and then move again, with much shorter local trips. Our projections indicated that we would spend about half as much on fuel traveling from park to park, as we had been leading an active life in the large metropolitan area of San Diego County. Add to that the fact that we were paying almost $900 a month for the RV site in San Diego–inexpensive as San Diego housing costs go, but very expensive compared to RV membership parks.

 

Our church life has not suffered either. Though we miss our home church, Horizon Christian Fellowship, we do tune in every Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. on the Internet for Chapter and Verse, the mid-week in-depth Bible study. We are also able to catch the Sunday services after the fact by watching the archived videos at their Web Site. Also, there are Calvary Chapels and affiliates in or near every one of our planned destination stops.

 

The first Sunday we were gone from San Diego, we actually drove back to our own church (75 miles each way) to hear special speakers Joel Rosenberg and General Jerry Boykin. Joel has written five best-selling fiction novels about the last days and a non-fiction book telling what he based his fiction stories on. One of the reasons for his success is that his fiction stories involving the Middle East, including Israel, have had a way of coming true after he has had them published. Many governments, including ours, have invited him to speak with them to explain how he knows, seemingly in advance, what is going to happen. His simple explanation is that his stories are based on the biblical Book of Ezekiel, chapters 38 and 39.

 

His fictions, in order, are The Last Jihad, The Last Days, The Ezekiel Option, The Copper Scroll, and Dead Heat. His non-fiction best-seller is Epicenter. Rachel and I both recommend them highly, both for the interesting read, and as an awakening about what the future could conceivably hold for the world.

 

General Jerry Boykin was a founding member and later, commander, of Delta Force, a special operations unit formed to do what no other military units were designed to do. They were active in bringing down warlords and war criminals, despots and dictators. He and Delta Force were involved in the hunting down of Pablo Escobar in Colombia. In Panama, they helped capture Manuel Noriega. They were also active in Vietnam, Iran and Mogadishu. In fact, the book and movie “Blackhawk Down” was the story of their mission in Mogadishu, although General Boykin’s role was not portrayed in either.

 

General Boykin is an evangelical Christian, and that fact was used against him several times in his career. He explained during his talk, that his strong beliefs were a result of the many miracles he personally observed while a member and commander of Delta Force. His book, Never Surrender, is one you cannot put down. It reveals facts about many of the Delta Force missions from the standpoint of participants rather than from a news media viewpoint. We also recommend this book.

 

The second Sunday away from Horizon, we drove to Harvest Christian Fellowship as we mentioned in the last update. We were privileged to hear Pastor Greg Laurie teach a lesson before he and some 100 others mounted Harley-Davidson motorcycles and biked together to deliver hundreds of toys to children of military families the HOGs (Harley Owner’s Group members) had collected. Greg Laurie, like Mike MacIntosh, is an anointed teacher–in our estimation, and judging by the numbers of souls who have come to the Lord through their teaching and invitation.

 

There are several Calvary Chapel affiliates in the Coachella Valley. On Sunday, December 21, we attended The Bridge Calvary Chapel, pastored by Chuck Wooley. This church is located in Cathedral City, about 18 miles from our RV park. There are others closer, but we wanted to hear Pastor Wooley in person, because, like Mike Macintosh and Greg Laurie, as well as Calvary Chapel founder, Chuck Smith, we used to listen to him on the Calvary Satellite Network radio station when we lived in Wenatchee, Washington. The Bridge is also Tim Lahaye’s home church when he is in “The Desert.” He is the co-author of the Left Behind series.

 

Update on the water heater. Turns out it wasn’t the heater after all. I traced a lack of power from the heating element back through the temperature limiter, the wiring, and the circuit breaker to the panel and discovered that one side of the panel was not powered. I had plugged into a 50-amp receptacle instead of a 30-amp one beside it, and the 50-amp one was powered on only one side. When I moved the plug to the 30-amp side, problem solved.

 

Now the issue is that since we are in the Christmas spirit and have decorated quite a lot, with 30 amps we have only enough power to have one other thing on at a time—in addition to the outside lights. That means we can’t have an electric heater and the coffee pot on at the same time. I’ll be glad when Christmas is past and we can drink hot coffee and be warm at the same time. I know that isn’t evoking a lot of sympathy from some of you in the Northwest and Northeast, where temps are much lower than ours and snowfalls much deeper and closer. We can see actually snow on many of the mountains surrounding the Coachella Valley and it’s currently 52 degrees at 9:15 p.m.

 

Again, we wish you a very merry and meaningful Christmas and a wonderful 2009.

 

Warmest regards,

Ed and Rachel

 

 

 

Update 29 Links:

Harvest Christian Fellowship, Riverside, CA: http://www.harvest.org/church/

Joel Rosenberg: http://www.joelrosenberg.com/

The Bridge Calvary Chapel, Cathedral City, CA: http://www.thebridgecalvarychapel.com/churchinfo.html

Western Center for Archaeology & Paleontology: http://www.westerncentermuseum.org/

Posted by: edandracheltravel | December 13, 2008

Update No. 28, Menifee, California

Well, it’s true. As much as we have loved staying put in the San Diego area, we have decided to move on. We arrived near San Diego in October, 2006, never intending to set foot in the big city. Body work needed on the pickup after a tree jumped into the roadway as Ed was backing required three weeks there, a rental car and several trips into San Diego.

 

 

While we were on one of our local exploration trips Rachel spotted Bernardo Shores RV Park in Imperial Beach, about ten miles south of downtown San Diego, just at the bottom of the Silver Strand, a narrow strip of sand separating the Pacific from San Diego Bay that runs from Imperial Beach to Coronado. After looking the park over and talking about the possibility of “settling down” for a longer period–though still in the RV, we made an open-ended reservation starting on October 1 of the following year. When the repairs were finished on the truck, we hitched up and pulled north to Menifee–the same park we are in right now.

 

It was while we were here in November, 2006, that we learned that Ed’s father had died in Prescott Valley, Arizona, near Ed’s brother, Neil. He had been in very poor health and declined rapidly after Ed’s mom’s death in May that year (click on the “About” button above for details). All that is part of Update No. 27–which was never posted.  If you’ve been keeping up with our earlier travels, you may note that we stopped our updates with No. 26 posted on January 2, 2006. If you would like to receive Update 27 as an e-mail, just contact us at barnharted@aol.comwe will send it. If you are just joining us and would like the whole story of our journey from Washington State to Maine, to the South and across to Arizona and into Mexico for a month, then to California and back to Washington in 13 months, also e-mail us your mailing address, and we’ll burn the 26 previous updates onto a CD and mail it to you. 

 

For the last year and a half, our lives have centered on service to the Lord. We have attended Horizon Christian Fellowship in the Clairemont area of San Diego, pastored by Mike MacIntosh and Mickey Stonier (see link at right). We were involved in several ministries, among them greeting at both Sunday morning services, facilitating Focus on the Family’s Truth Project (also see link) and visiting patients at area hospitals. The training classes we have taken, facilitating The Truth Project and the Sunday and Wednesday services we have attended have equipped us to take the Good News on the road.

 

What prompted us to resume traveling fulltime was a trip to a cousin’s memorial service in Auburn, California. My cousin, Rick, and I had not been close, but when he took his own life, I felt compelled to attend the service to support my Uncle Floyd. We had all had dinner together in Auburn in 2006, the first time I had seen Rick in years—and, as it turns out, the last time. He had recently been treated for cancer, and I am convinced that the medications he was on during recovery contributed to his suicide.

 

Rachel and I took the convertible to Auburn with a stop-over in Old Town Sacramento to spend some time at the California State Railroad Museum and an unsuccessful attempt to see friends there. We attended the service on Saturday and visited with relatives. On Sunday we attended the Calvary Chapel near where we were staying and then visited family some more. That afternoon we left Auburn heading south on Highway 49—Gold Rush Country!

 

We spent three days driving the entire length of the highway from near Grass Valley in the north to Sonora in the south. We drove through all the old gold rush towns as we came to them and spent the night in two. We spent part of one day walking the restored streets of Columbia, California, now a state historic park. One day was spent driving through Yosemite National Park. Neither of us had ever been, and we were awestruck by the grandeur and beauty of the place (also the display of Hetch-Hetchy Railroad locomotive #5 and a West Side Lumber Co. caboose just outside the park entrance).

 

The last day of the trip was spent not shooting down I-5 to San Diego, but instead fulfilling a rail-fan’s lifelong dream of seeing a train passing over itself on the famous Tehachapi loop. That required leaving I-5 at Bakersfield and traveling up Tehachapi Pass to the loop, then across the Mojave Desert and down Cajon Pass to San Bernardino and Riverside, and then to San Diego.

 

The morning after we got home, the conversation went something like this:

Rachel: “Do you . . . ?”

Ed: “Yes, I do.”

Rachel: “When?”

Ed: “As soon as we finish facilitating the current Truth Project.”

 

Nothing more, nothing less. That day we informed the RV Park people we were vacating our site on December 1! We had decided separately at the same time that we were ready to travel again.

 

Earlier I mentioned the convertible. Soon after we got to San Diego we realized that a 21-foot truck is not the best vehicle to maneuver in a big city. We began thinking about a smaller car, and since we were in a Mediterranean climate, we got a 2006 Sebring convertible! It gets twenty-six miles to the gallon, it’s silver grey to match Ed’s hair, and as Rachel says, “What’s the use of having long blonde hair in San Diego if you don’t have a convertible?”

 

Giving up the RV site was not easy. When we got to Bernardo Shores on February 1, 2007, we were on an inside row between and across from other RVs. We were happy with the site, but the one we had reserved for that October was on the end of a row with a partial view of the lower end of San Diego Bay—an estuary and wildlife refuge actually. All the while we were in those two spots, we had coveted (I know we are warned not to covert, but . . .) a site that backed right up on the water with a view clear up to the Coronado Bridge and the City of San Diego skyline. Since those sites are practically inherited, we had no hope of getting one.

 

One night in June as we returned from our Wednesday night Bible study, we stopped to visit with the park manager as he was making his evening rounds, and we asked him about some changes we had observed in the site we coveted. He said that the elderly man who had lived there had gone to live with his daughter and the RV was being donated to charity. I casually asked if he had a long list of people waiting for the spot, and after thinking it over for a moment he said that he didn’t think so. At 8:00 the next morning, I was at the office, and they told me we could have the site!

 

Moving from one site to another required quite a lot of effort. By this time, we had a 10 X 10 foot storage shed completely full of stored items up to a 42-inch level around the outside walls with a partially completed model railroad mounted to the walls above that! We also had a 10 X 10 foot canopy with a large heavy gas fire pit and four large chairs, an outside bar, a large barbecue, and much other “stuff” one accumulates when not planning to move. A week later, we were moved, shed, canopy and all, and enjoying a wonderful view out our back window. In fact, the view was so incredible that we moved our table from the side of the RV to the back window and moved Rachel’s piano to the side. That way we could enjoy the view at every meal and, since the table is glass, we could have the view from everywhere in the RV.

 

Did I mention that Rachel has taught herself to play the piano in the last year? How many people say, “I wish I could play the piano.”? Well, wishing doesn’t do it; hard work and hours of practice do it. She is at Level 3 of the Alfred’s Basic Adult Piano Course and has a repertoire of more than 75 songs! She has carried a plastic Casio keyboard with us for the last five and a half years and started learning on that. When she advanced beyond its capabilities, we got her a Yamaha weighted electronic keyboard that plays and sounds just like a piano. In fact, as I write this, she is playing “Café’ Vienna.”

 

So, leaving San Diego was difficult emotionally as well as physically. We had grown to love the church family at Horizon, had enjoyed being close to Ed’s old friend, Bob Moore (formerly from the Tri Cities of Washington), had loved all the things to do in San Diego, had loved the mild weather and—in fact, there was not one thing we didn’t absolutely love about San Diego. But, we felt called to move on, to “hit the road,” to scratch our “hitch itch.”

 

We rented a U-Haul truck, loaded everything we wouldn’t be carrying in the RV (or the truck or the car) and on October 13, we left in the U-Haul for Florence, Montana, and the home of Rachel’s sister, Katherine and her family, where we already had some things stored. We stayed in motels along the way, the first night in Pahrump, Nevada, where we had sidetracked slightly in order to visit Uncle Bob and Aunt Edna just before they moved to Enterprise, Alabama. The second night was in Provo, Utah (temps in the 40’s, and we were not used to that!). The last night on the road was in Dillon, Montana, and by afternoon of the fourth day, we were In Florence, just south of Missoula down the beautiful Bitterroot Valley.

 

It was parent/teacher conference week in Florence, and Matt and Robby, our two school-aged nephews, and Chris, their older brother, were there to help us unload the truck and carry all the heavy things up a flight of stairs to the storage area. Before we went to bed that night in Rachel’s other sister’s small unoccupied house on her parents’ property nearby, the truck was ready to return. We spent five days visiting family there before flying back to San Diego, where we were met at the airport by Wes and Bonnie Oosterman, friends from Vermont whom we met in San Diego, who had a vegetarian pizza for us from Aladdin’s in Clairemont! What great friends!

 

The last month in San Diego was spent readying the RV for travel, disposing of shed (the model railroad had been dismantled intact and trucked to storage in Montana), canopy, barbecue, RV steps, etc., etc., etc., much of which we sold or gave away. Goodwill made out very well in those last days too! We made a list of those things we wanted to do (or do again) before we left, and between that and seeing friends for breakfast, lunch and dinner many days, we accomplished most, but not all, of the list.

 

So, here we are two weeks after leaving San Diego. Tomorrow we will drive to Riverside to hear Pastor Greg Laurie teach at Harvest Christian Fellowship who, along with Mike MacIntosh, our Horizon pastor, was a protégé of Chuck Smith who started the Calvary Chapels in Costa Mesa during the time of the Jesus People movement. We will finish the day by driving to La Verne to visit and have lunch with Ed’s Aunt Betty.

 

On Monday Ed will pull the RV to Indio, California, with Rachel following in the convertible. We’re not used to being apart, even for a short time, but that will enable us to have the car for local trips once we have arrived at our destination. We will be in Indio for three weeks before moving on into Arizona and later, Texas, where we will spend the rest of the winter. Our plan is to travel north in the spring into Oklahoma and Kansas (where Barnhart ancestors lived before migrating to North Dakota and later to Washington State).

 

After that we will go as far north as St. Joseph, Missouri to visit Adrea, who played in Musikkapelle Leavenworth when I directed it, and then back and forth across Missouri to see Mark Twain country and my mother’s birthplace, Billings, Missouri. That is near Branson, so we plan to spend some time there too. We will head south into Arkansas after that and then into Tennessee, North Carolina and finally into South Carolina where Walhalla celebrates Oktoberfest.

 

There we hope to tie up with The Little German Band and Dancers with whom I played there three years ago. After that we will go to Helen Georgia, about 80 miles northwest and attend their Oktoberfest before heading for the Atlantic Coast at North and South Carolina, Georgia and Florida for the winter of 2010. After that? Of course, these are our tentative plans, but we may change them if we find a place where we want to spend more time. Also, we know that we make plans, but God directs our steps. We will be listening for that small, still voice.

 

Incidentally, while serving at a Thanksgiving outreach at church last month, we met and served with Greg Windle, who works for Qualcomm and who is a computer whiz. He suggested we start a “blog,” gave us the information we needed, and this is the first result, soon to be refined and improved as we learn what we are doing, how to include a few photos, and so forth. Thanks, Greg.

 

And so, until next time, we wish you a very meaningful Christmas at a time when the United States and the world need the Good News of Jesus Christ more than ever, not forgetting it is his birth we celebrate.

 

Please e-mail us at barnharted@aol.com with comments or questions, and we will answer individually or on our next posting on this site. Thanks for visiting. 

 

Update 28 Links:

Horizon Christian Fellowship: http://www.horizonsd.org/

The Truth Project of Focus on the Family: http://www.thetruthproject.org/

 

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