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/

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