Our Best Campgrounds From September 2016-May 2017

It is that time of year again when we select the best campgrounds we used over the past year. In the past we have limited it to the top 10. This year we travelled more miles and used more campgrounds so we have over 25 to recommend. We also are color coding them. GREEN means new location we recommend, YELLOW means a previous selection we used again and still recommend (Our Hall of Fame) and RED means not recommended for big rigs like ours (40′ 5th wheel). For easier reading, bring the picture zoom in 3-4 times.

Over the past 5 years we have stayed in over 150 campgrounds and approximately half of these have made it to the annual list. For past recommendations refer to posts in July of each year.

Happy Camping Everyone!

Our Top Campgrounds For Sept. 2016- May 2017

 

On Our Way To Salmon, Idaho

No wonder it took so long to get this post written! We did a lot of sightseeing along the way. We had six weeks to reach Salmon, Idaho by May 12, 2017. So why did we head east instead of west?

 Stop #1: Nashville, TN. We are both self taught when it comes to Photoshop and have been wandering around the land of Youtube tutorials. Now it was time to take a course. We had given each other Jim Zuckerman’s Photoshop Workshop for Christmas. It would be a two day course held in his home in Nashville. We located a place to stay at Henry Horton State Park. A definite return to park for us. The course was excellent and we hope you will see improvement in our technique on the blog. Below is my first attempt at a composite photo where the eagle was taken from one photo, changed to B+W, resized and moved onto the winter treescape. We also learned how to take a previously edited photo and improve on it with blending modes.  Jim’s wife, Dina, dazzled us with 2 gourmet lunches and a dinner fit for royalty.

Chari Learning Photoshop

During our free time in the area we visited the Civil War site for the Battle of Stones River. Like at Gettysburg, this battle saw 1/3 of all troops killed during fighting (18,000 men). They have just added a RV site for volunteers too! We drove into Nashville to visit the Tennessee state capitol building. That makes number 5 so we have a ways to go to see all 50. The tour is free and very informative with a docent from the Tennessee State Museum. This is the only capitol building with human remains inside the walls as the architect died just before completion and is entombed there. It is the only capitol with the remains of a former president on the grounds, James K. Polk. In the picture of famous Tennesseans below how many can you name? Later we took in the Tennessee State Museum with three floors of exhibits. My favorite was the Les Paul “Old Hickory” guitar made from wood from a state record tulip poplar tree at the Hermitage which was brought down by a tornado in 1997. The finishing touch was dinner at a Nashville icon restaurant called the Loveless Cafe.

Steve has several relatives in the area and it was great to see all of them doing so well.

Andy Jackson Rides Again At The Tennessee Capitol

 

Famous Tennesseans

 

Main Floor Of The Capitol

 

Gibson “Old Hickory” Guitar

Eating At A Nashville Icon

Stop #2: Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area

Big South Fork Panorama

This large National Park Service site sprawls across the Cumberland Plateau in southeastern Kentucky and northeastern Tennessee. We stayed at the Blue Heron CG on the Kentucky side. As we drove in, the GPS wasn’t clear where we needed to turn and given a 50/50 chance we chose the wrong way. When you are towing a 40′ trailer you can’t just hang a U-turn. We had to go a ways down the road before finding a gravel parking lot to turn around. Steve did his usual great job. No problem. There was plenty of room. (Read that as he had 6″ before hitting anything.) I tried to sit there looking composed while my toes were curling in my shoes.

Appalachian Miners

Life In Appalachia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The area is named for the South Fork of the Cumberland River and begins just below Lake Cumberland. The views of the valley are stunning.There are 500 miles of hiking trails as well as scenic drives and both whitewater and calm water river paddling. Add to that two Visitor Centers, a mining museum and a scenic railroad and you have everything you need for a great nature based vacation. Did I mention the wildflowers were starting to bloom. We hiked to a waterfall and walked behind it. A few more weeks and it will be peak for them. We’d love to come back sometime for in the autumn for some spectacular foliage.

Spring Wildflowers

Butterfly Colony

A Strange Rock Formation

 

Many Steps Down To See The Waterfall

Trillium

Waterfall at Big South Fork

Stop #3: Vincennes, Indiana

Located an hour south of Terre Haute on Indiana’s western border along the Ouabache (aka Wabash) River lies the historic town of Vincennes. Founded by the French this was a hub of the fur trading era. Following the French and Indian War it became a British fort. During the American Revolution George Rogers Clark with a much smaller force overtook Fort Sackville thus making the Northwest Territory American land. Their story is one of daring and sacrifice. Had they not claimed this victory, England might still have claimed this area and the USA may not have expanded beyond the original thirteen colonies. George Rogers Clark has been eclipsed in history by his younger brother William of Lewis and Clark fame. He never received in life the money owed to him for mounting this campaign or the recognition he deserved. Today the George Rogers Clark National Historic site honors him and keeps his story alive. Be sure to read From Sea To Shining Sea that covers the lives of both Clark brothers.

George Rogers Clark, Vincennes, American Revolution

George Rogers Clark Statue at NHS

Right next door was Grouseland.  This was the home of William Henry Harrison when he was governor of Indiana Territory from 1800-1812. Vincennes was the territorial capitol. Harrison ran for President in 1840 on the slogan of “Tippecanoe and Tyler too”. The home is now owned by the DAR and our guide was very knowledgeable. Unfortunately no photos are allowed inside. We learned that his presidential campaign was the first “modern” campaign with music, slogans and gifts for donors. Too bad he died after only a short time in office. This made his vice president, Tyler the first VP to become President by succession. Later, his grandson, Benjamin Harrison would also sit in the Oval Office.

Vincennes other favorite son, comedian Red Skelton, has a museum adjacent to the Red Skelton Performing Arts Center on the campus of Vincennes University. I know I am dating myself when I say I remember sitting with my parents in our living room watching the one TV we had and laughing together over the characters Red Skelton played. Clem Kadiddlehopper was my favorite.I know some of you out there remember this too. Who was your favorite character?

Red Skelton’s Characters

We stayed at a beautifully maintained county park called Ouabache Trails. It is tucked away and we weren’t sure if our GPS (nicknamed Josie Fiend) was leading us into small roads where we couldn’t turn around. Then we saw signs for the park. Whew!

We made a quick run up to Terre Haute to see Chari’s cousin and her husband. Unfortunately he is suffering from Parkinson’s and recovering from a mild stroke. They are handling the challenges of “in sickness and in health” together. Hopefully as we write this he is back home.

Red Skelton Was Also An Artist

Stop #4: North Central Missouri

A six hour drive from Indiana brought us to the USACE Ray Behrens CG at Mark Twain Lake. We are about two hours west of St. Louis near the small town of Florida, Missouri where Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) was born in 1835. On arrival we learned the site we’d reserved was an electric only site. We’d need to be on tank water. This seems to be a common set up in Missouri at both federal and state parks. As luck would have it there was a cancellation for a full hookup site. With our senior pass it cost us only $12/night. Hooray!

Twain Birthplace State Park

A state park preserving Mark Twain’s birthplace home offers a very well done museum of his first years as well as some artifacts from his adult life. It was interesting to find out that U. S. Grant’s first army post was in Florida. Later in life both of these men would use their literary skills to earn money to overcome financial ruin, both would write their memoirs and Twain would publish Grant’s autobiography. Steve had a book signed by Mark Twain that he donated to the Birthplace Museum before we left. About twenty miles away is the town of Hannibal where Samuel Clemens grew up and where people he knew would become characters we love such as Huck Finn, Becky Thatcher and Jim. We toured his boyhood home and a museum about his life. In town is another museum dedicated to his literary works and the original Norman Rockwell illustrations for an edition of Tom Sawyer. We bought a CD called Mark Twain in Words and Music that was created to raise funds for establishing this museum. It features celebrities like Clint Eastwood, Emmylou Harris, Jimmy Buffet and many others. We’ll be listening to it right after this entry is written. We say this is a do not miss museum.

Inside Twin’s Birthplace

Twain’s Boyhood Home In Hannibal, MO

 

She Was The Inspiration For Becky Thacther

The Mississippi River and Hannibal Are One

One place we had planned to visit was Warm Springs Ranch near Boonville, MO and home to the Budweiser Clydesdales. The ranch opened in 2008 as a breeding, recovery and retirement ranch for the horses. They started giving tours in 2009. The tours are very popular so if you have specific dates for a visit get your tickets online at least two months in advance. There is no access to the ranch other than via tour. The gates are locked until a half hour before the tour. When the horses see the cars driving in they know it is showtime and come running over to the fence to be petted. April is a great time to come as it is in the middle of foaling season. We were lucky enough to see several young Clydesdales, from one month to four months. Gestation is slightly over eleven months. At birth the foal is three and a half feet tall and weighs 125 pounds. There’s a lot of growing to do before they reach the average adult size of 2000 pounds. The tour begins at the breeding area, then on to the foaling stalls, the exercise area, the transportation trucks and finally more photo ops. All that touring can make you thirsty so yes there is free beer at the end. The horses are selected for temperment, white blaze on the face, black mane and tail, four white feet and standing six feet at the withers (shoulder). Horses that don’t meet this criteria are sold to other breeders. There are three hitches (teams) to handle all of the appearances. They are in Colorado, Missouri and New Hampshire. Each team on the road consists of ten horses, eight primary and two alternates. There are four positions a horse can be trained for; wheel (strongest), body (constant pulling), steering (holds position in turns) and lead (first to receive driver’s commands). Horses train for two years before joining a hitch. The driver’s train for six months and have to be able to handle a sustained pull of 75 pounds on their hands. The video below runs about two minutes and shows you our tour which while cool and cloudy was very enjoyable.

On the way home from Warm Springs Ranch we spotted a sign for the National Churchill Museum. Neither of us had ever heard of it. We had no plans for the next day so back south we went to Westminster, Missouri. The town is home to Westminster College and from the looks of the campus, not an inexpensive one. We were there on a Sunday and found street parking easily. That may not be the case when school is in session. The museum is housed on the ground floor of the college chapel. It was here in 1946 that Winston Churchill gave a speech and coined the phase “Iron Curtain” to describe Soviet domination of eastern Europe. For those of us who grew up in the 1950s and 60s, this phrase became a household word. The museum details Churchill’s life and well worth a visit. That’s not all! The real hidden gem was the chapel itself. Originally built in the mid 15th century it was severely damaged by the Great London fire of 1646. Architect Christopher Wren designed and rebuilt much of London following the fire including this church. Design elements such as using clear glass vs stained glass were his trademark. The church stood until destroyed by the Blitz in 1942. It lay in ruins for 20 years and was almost hauled to the scrap pile. Westminster College needed a chapel and bought the ruins. Block by block it was shipped to the USA. Skilled stone masons reassembled the ruins and restored missing sections. The only structural change was steel reinforcement for tornados. Not only do you get to visit a wonderful museum but visit a Christopher Wren church without flying to England. Put this on your “must see” list as well.

Churchill Museum Exterior

Churchill Statue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Church of St. Mary The Virgin, Aldermanbury Looking Toward The Pulpit

Wren Church Looking Toward The Organ

Our last stop was to drive to St. Charles, MO and have lunch with Lois and Steve, fellow volunteers at Hot Springs NP, who live nearby. Since we were so close to St. Louis we stopped at the Ulysses S. Grant Farm NHS. We’ve all read about Grant the Civil War general and Grant the President but here we learned of his later life and civil rights activism. We’d hoped to see the Jefferson Expansion Memorial too but the renovation and reopening of the arch was not complete. Perhaps it will be by this Fall.

Grant’s Farm

Stop #5: Iowa City, Iowa

We are still working on the long term goal of seeing every national park site. This brings us to Iowa City, the home of President Herbert Hoover and the Hoover Birthplace NHS. Before we tell you about our travels we want to warn anyone traveling in a big RV (over 30′) not to use Lake McBride State Park. The fact that they offer full hookup sites and the pad sizes are adequate would make you think it is suitable. There is nothing on Reserve America warning you of problems. We arrived and as we entered our camping loop we see a sign stating Limited Turn Around Ahead. We are able to get into the site as it is angled the right direction. Getting out, that’s another story! We couldn’t make the tight turn around and so had to go back and forth a dozen or more times to get headed the right way. We used the vacant site across from us. Had it been occupied we would have had to back down the road to where we could turn. Our experience with this and one other Iowa State Park says no more. They have not been upgraded for big rigs. OK, rant over.

Right next to the Hoover Birthplace is the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum. This is not part of the NHS but well worth the time to visit. We didn’t know that much about Hoover or his accomplishments. He is forever linked to being in office in October 1929 when the stock market crashed signaling the beginning of the Great Depression. He was a very bright and capable mining engineer and diplomat. We learned a lot and felt we had much better insight into the man and his time. By the time we left the museum to visit the Birthplace it was raining hard. Our visit was short.

Hoover As mining Engineer In China

Hoover Was The First President To Give A Speech On Radio

Hoover Served As Secretary of Commerce

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Known For His Fight Against Hunger In Europe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just north of Iowa City are the Amana Colonies, several small communities founded by German immigrants as communal neighborhoods in the 1880s. There’s Amana, Middle Amana, North Amana etc. Now days they are regular towns with strong German ties and great food. Tourism is their main business and homes have been converted to shops. We certainly did our share of eating and buying wurst and pickled vegetables! The highlight for me was climbing up on the largest walnut rocker in Iowa for a photo op. Oh honey, I shrank myself!

This One’s Too Big

The other highlight in the area was eating at the Hamburg Inn #2 and trying their famous pie shake. Yup, a whole piece of pie, ice cream and milk whipped together. Steve had raspberry while I tried the chocolate bourbon pecan variety. They even have pie shake happy hour in the afternoons where you can get them at half off! Just found a website that lists the best dessert in every state. Sounds like a new goal for us is to eat one in every state!

Pie Shake At Hamburg Inn 2

Stop #6: Omaha, Nebraska

We moved on to Two Rivers State Recreation Area about 20 miles west of Omaha where we had a lovely pull through site. We came here to visit friends and fellow volunteers from Laguna Atascosa NWR, Janis and Lee. We had a great visit and got to talking so much we forgot to take a picture!

We had heard of a great museum about the Lewis and Clark Expedition during their time on the Missouri in Nebraska City. It was a bit more than an hour south but well worth the time. If you are a following the Lewis and Clark Trail or just passing through be sure to stop. It emphasizes the scientific aspects of the journey. My favorite exhibit was the keelboat with an interactive screen giving you an idea of how hard they had to work to head upstream on the river. I crashed on some rocks! So did I! My favorite exhibit was the one talking about how the native Americans caught fish. Originally this museum was built in partnership with the National Park Service but now is privately owned.

Fullsize Keelboat Replica

Chari Pacing Distance On The L&C Trail Map

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking Notes For Our Summer Job

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We took a day to visit the Henry Dorey Zoo. Lots of photo ops and great areas for the animals. We also watched two Imax movies and took the aerial skyway above the zoo. Lee drives the tram at the zoo but he was off today.

Aerial Ride

Rhino From Above

Henry Doorly Aquarium

Butterfly House

Dwarf Mongoose

Giant Plated Lizard

Jellyfish Glow

Kookabura

Penguin Curtain Call

Tarantula

Leopard

Winking Owl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stop #7: Grand Island and North Loup, Nebraska

We didn’t move too far only about 3 hours down I 80.  We came here for two reasons: first we have friends  Gayle and Bob, from North Carolina who are visiting family in the area. Nothing like a reunion with good friends when you are on the road. Secondly my cousins from Milwaukee, WI and another from NYC are coming out. None of us have ever been to the Manchester family home town of North Loup. Our first choice of places stay, Sherman Reservoir SRA, did not work out. The back in to the site dropped almost 3′ off the road. I could envision us cracking a storage tank or ripping off something. We moved on to Windmill State Recreation Area on the Platte River. The park has lovely pull -through sites. Parks along this area are in great demand during the sandhill crane migration. If I can get myself in the mood to handle the cold, I’d love to see it.

The DreamChaser 2 At Windmill SRA

We visited the Hastings Museum in Hastings, NE. This town’s claim to fame is being the home of Kool-Aid. Once again we find things from our past in a museum! Kool-Aid was first made here and marketed as Kool-Ade in 1927. By 1929 it was being sold nationwide. Then came the Great Depression. Realizing the country would be in recovery for years the price was lowered to 5 cents and remained so for 20 years. In 1934 the FDA ruled that only drinks containing fruit juice could use Ade in their name and others had to use Aid.. So Kool-Ade became Kool-Aid. We also attended a planetarium show here and viewed other exhibits. Dinner that night was at a great Italian restaurant in Grand Island.

Birthplace of Kool-Aid

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kool-Aid Ad

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walkway To Hastings Museum

We met up with Chari’s cousins and drove out to North Loup. It is a small farming community with about 300 people. Popcorn is the local cash crop and the Popcorn Days Festival in August is still a major event. My grandfather was one of the founders of the festival. The family farm house no longer stands but we found where it used to be. We also located family graves in the cemetery and saw the church where my grandparents were married. Naturally, I had to buy some North Loup popocorn to take with us. For the last day in the area we visited the Stuhr Museum in Grand Island which has an extensive collection of pioneer and early settler housing from the area. On weekends they have living history volunteers in the homes to tell you about the occupants or demonstrate skills. We’d worked up a thirst and headed off to a microbrewery. They even gave us a behind the scenes tour. My cousin Kathy and her daughter Emily have done a lot of genealogical research. It is good to have a sense of where you came from and fun to see resemblances from generation to generation.

Welcome To North Loup

Church Where My Grandparents Were Married

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chari’s Grandparents

Chari’s Great Grandparents

 

 

 

 

 

Chari’s Great Grandfather

The Stuhr Museum

The Manchester Cousins In Nebraska

Stops 8 and 9: Quick Overnights in Nebraska and Wyoming

Our time was getting short so we put the pedal down and covered a lot of miles on Interstate 80 with overnights at the original Cabela’s store in Sidney, NE. They have a very moderately priced campground with full services and laundry. We needed both. We also bought a new tent and managed to spend all of our Cabela’s points. We look forward to using the tent at USFS and BLM campgrounds this summer.

Our overnight in Green River, WY brought us close to where we worked last summer at Flaming Gorge, UT. We had an uneventful night at the Walmart.

Stop #10: Massacre Rocks SP, Idaho

Our last two nights were spent at this state park in southeastern Idaho overlooking the Snake River. In preparation for our job at the Sacajawea Center we visited the Sho-Ban Museum of the Shoshone-Bannock nation. We were the only visitors there and the docent on duty spent a lot of time with us and was most knowledgeable. Then we did shopping, got haircuts and other get ready errands.

Massacre Rocks SP

So now we have only a four to five hour drive up to Salmon, Idaho and our home for the next four months. See you again when we are out and about in central Idaho.

 

 

 

 

What Goes Up Must Come Down

High Time In The Rockies

High Time In The Rockies

We’ll apologize up front for the length of this entry but it does cover  5 weeks and almost 2,000 miles!

After our week in Durango we began our travels eastward. We began in the Rockies from a high point of 12,126′ at Cottonwood Pass on the Continental Divide while taking a day hike. For comparison that’s 42% up Mount Everest. From there it was all downhill to Charlotte, NC at approximately 750′. We spent 3 relaxing days at Elk Creek CG in Blue Mesa NRA before moving on to Boyd’s Lake SP in Loveland, Colorado

Our stop in Loveland was primarily for RV warranty work on our slides and stabilizing the refrigerator. We also wanted to see why our batteries were not charging while we are driving. That turned out to be a problem with the truck so off to the Chevy dealer. We are finding getting anything but emergency items addressed under the manufacture’s warranty while on the road difficult. Everyone is “too busy”. Maybe I’m getting cynical in my old age but I think it’s really because they don’t get paid for it. More work needs to be done but we’ll wait until this winter in Arkansas. Next was Opal’s overdue visit to Banfield for her yearly checkup. She’s doing great for a 12 year old dog. The visit was a pleasure for both Opal and the vet… NOT! Then there was laundry, groceries and Walmart. All work and no play? Not us! We took in The Bensen Sculpture Garden, enjoyed a 10 mile bike ride on the bike trail at the park and ate at 2 Triple D spots. The restaurants were 451 in Fort Collins and Foolish Craig’s in Boulder. 451 was an upscale spot with good food but more pricey than the usual Triple D places. Foolish Craig’s was an eclectic spot with delicious crepes and other main dishes.

We drove to Rocky Mountain NP twice hoping the pass was open but had to settle for short hikes around Bear Lake and enjoy the elk bugling. On our second trip we stopped at the Colorado Cherry Company and fell in love with their tart cherry juice. We found spots in the RV to carry four gallons with us. We also took a long drive around to the south entrance to RMNP through the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest. We stopped at the Forest Office and as luck would have it talked with the lead ranger who is also the volunteer coordinator. Turns out that his wife is the volunteer coordinator for RMNP too. We exchanged cards for a possible future work camp position.

Traveling East Fall 2016

Traveling East Fall 2016

Bear Lake At RMNP

Bear Lake At RMNP

Girls Day Out

Girls Day Out

Can you Hear Me Now?

Can you Hear Me Now?

Wanna Play?

Wanna Play?

Moving into eastern Colorado we left the beautiful mountains for the open plains. A dramatic contrast to be sure. Here we stayed at John Martin State Park on the Arkansas River. This park has the longest pull through sites we’d ever seen. There is electricity at the site but common water. Steve devised an easy way of refilling our water tank by immersing a marine bilge pump in a 10 gallon container then plugging it into the truck cigarette lighter port. BAM! Only 50 seconds to transfer water. We took time to select photos for our annual gift calendar and relaxed. We did visit 2 National Park sites: Sand Creek Massacre and Bent’s Old Fort. Both were very interesting. Sand Creek Massacre is a relatively new park and in the early stages of development. They have just received funding for a Visitor Center. We were fortunate to arrive just in time for a ranger talk about the event. He was one of the best interpreters we have heard. I wish more people would visit these smaller parks. They are hidden gems. Having been raised on the east coast we never studied or read about these formative events in our country’s history. Bent’s Old Fort was the first permanent settlement in the area and served as trading post and social gathering place in the first half of the 19th century. The building today is a recreation of the fort from plans sketched by a visitor. The rangers are not in the trademark uniform but wear period costumes and give informal talks. The two sites contrast each other: one a site of Manifest Destiny and military might overpowering native people and the other a thriving settlement where traders, mountain men and Native Americans coexisted peacefully.

Sand Creek Massacre Location

Sand Creek Massacre Location

Native American Monument At Sand Creek

Native American Monument At Sand Creek

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

View Of Bent's Old Fort NHS

View Of Bent’s Old Fort NHS

A Demonstration Of Knife Making

A Demonstration Of Knife Making

Trading Post At Bent's Old Fort

Trading Post At Bent’s Old Fort

Now we move on to Kansas. We found a fabulous place to stay at Cedar Bluff SP. Some sites offer full hookups for $19/night. It is a busy park in the summer however in late October only lightly used. For most of our stay we were the only RV in our loop. Opal enjoyed her off leash walks. Now, being the only dog in the park is the way I like it! (Opal) Many folks simply rush across Kansas. This is our third visit to the state and we have found interesting things to do each time. The closest town of any size is Hays, KS. On our way there for errands we noticed a sign for the Walter P. Chrysler Home Museum. We stopped in Ellis on our way back to see it. Turned out to be a great small town museum to their most famous son. We didn’t know much about him but after touring his boyhood home and learning about him we’d like to read a biography. Two of the most interesting displays were his own car (#6 off the line) complete with wooden wheels and his desk.  Another “self made man” story. 

Museum In Ellis, Kansas

Museum In Ellis, Kansas

Chrysler's Car

Chrysler’s Car

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Desk Used By Chrysler

Desk Used By Chrysler

One More For The Reading List

One More For The Reading List

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While in the central western area of Kansas we also visited the Santa Fe Trail Museum, Fort Larned NHS and Nicodemus NHS. The SFT Museum detailed travels of pioneer families during the westward migration of the mid to late 1800s plus those who used the trail before them. Well worth stop. Fort Larned is another of the NPS sites dedicated to the series of forts built as protection and evidence of ownership as what was thought of as “The West” moved onward. At first you look at all the names carved into the buildings as graffiti but later realize this is an archive of those who passed through here. Before the NPS took over and restored the site locals came here often to picnic so many names are post fort and early to mid 1900s. The site is large and beautifully equipped with all the items one would find at an active post of its day. Nicodemus is a relatively new NPS site about former slaves who formed settlements in the midwest and west post Civil War. There are 5 remaining buildings of which 2 are open to the public.

Fort Larned Architecture

Fort Larned Architecture

Graffiti Or History

Graffiti Or History

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Larned Harness Shop

Larned Harness Shop

Fort Larned Hospital

Fort Larned Hospital

Quarter Master's Office

Quarter Master’s Office

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post Commissary

Post Commissary

nicodemus-vc

Nicodemus NHS

Our final stop was for dinner in Hays. The area was originally settled by German immigrants and still has strong ties to its heritage. We decided to try a local micro-brewery/restaurant called Gella’s Diner. Steve had sauerkraut soup and a bratwurst platter while I enjoyed a potato soup and local specialty called a bierock. What’s a bierock, you ask? It is a meat, cabbage and onion mixture in a pastry. It is served with a sharp cheddar/ale sauce. MMMmmm good! We certainly do a good job of traveling on our stomachs!

Gella's Diner In Hays, KS

Gella’s Diner In Hays, KS

Next stop: Oologah, Oklahoma. This is our first trip to the state of Oklahoma. Now we only have 4 states left in the lower 48 to have the RV. Our reason for coming here was to visit two of Steve’s cousins. Unfortunately one of them was in the process of moving and not able to come. We had planned to stay closer to Tulsa at a USACE park but at the last minute noted on the website a comment about low branches. Oh no! Been there, done that. So we chose Hawthorn Bluff USACE CG on Lake Oologah. We’d hoped to stay a week but the campground was closing down for the year on 10/31. So we quickly booked three nights at another USACE park on Lake Dardanelle in Arkansas. Besides seeing relatives we visited two sites about Oologah’s most famous son, Will Rogers. The first was his birthplace and the other was the Will Rogers Museum. I know who Will Rogers was but didn’t know much about him other than his witty sayings.  He began as a trick roper and later added his trademark humor and wit at the suggestion of his wife. He was always very proud of his Cherokee heritage. He progressed on to lectures and newspaper columns until perishing in an airplane crash in Alaska with Wily Post. The museum is huge and has some fantastic videos of his roping tricks. You can easily see why he “never met a man he didn’t like”.

He Never Met A Man He Didn't Like

He Never Met A Man He Didn’t Like

Will Rogers Birthplace

Will Rogers Birthplace

Will Rogers Statue

Will Rogers Statue

Will Rogers Museum

Will Rogers Museum

 

 

Extensive Exhibits Can Be Found Inside

Extensive Exhibits Can Be Found Inside

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course we had to go when we found there was a Diners, Drive-ins and Dives spot nearby called Clanton’s. The owners are the fourth generation to run this Route 66 cafe since 1947. Known for their fried chicken and chicken fried steak, you best go early or plan on waiting in line. On our way home I spotted a sign for a Folk Art site. Steve asked “Do you REALLY want to go? He was hoping Chari would say no (meanwhile thinking of Lucas, KS). Yes she said. So off we went. The “artwork” by Ed Galloway was several concrete sculptures including the world’s biggest totem pole. The totem pole is 90′ tall, 18′ in diameter and displays 200 carved images. It took eleven years to build. We were there only a few minutes when the caretaker had to leave on a family emergency. Steve was VERY relieved!

Clanton"s Cafe On Route 66

Clanton”s Cafe On Route 66

This Is Triple D All The Way!

This Is Triple D All The Way!

He Liked It!

He Liked It!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The World's Largest Totem Pole

The World’s Largest Totem Pole

More Ed Galloway Art

More Ed Galloway Art

In The Eye Of The Beholder

In The Eye Of The Beholder

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At Corinth, MS we finally caught up with our reservations made before leaving Utah. We were there visiting Chari’s relatives. Previously we had stayed at J. P. Coleman SP. However, knowing the park we felt our new trailer would have difficulty maneuvering into the sites even though they were technically long enough. So we chose Piney Grove CG, a USACE park on Bay Springs Lake. The lake is part of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Canal project built during the late 70s for barge traffic. While it has never seen the volume of traffic hoped for it does provide a wonderful recreation area. 700 acres of my first husband’s family farm was purchased for what is now called Crow’s Neck. There is an environmental Education facility there.  The RV sites at Piney Grove are large. The only downside is the thick tree cover making TV reception minimal.

We were lucky enough to have arrived for the Grand Illumination Celebration. This used to be an annual event in Corinth but with budget cutbacks it had not been held for three years. The Grand Illumination acknowledges casualties from the Battle of Shiloh and both Battles of Corinth for control of the railroad by placing 6,000 luminaries around town and at the NPS Civil War Interpretation Center. Each luminary is a casualty of the conflict. This year the Interpretation Center had a speaker on the topic of “The Role of Camels in the Civil War”. That’s right… camels. So here is the tale of Old Douglas. Old Douglas arrived by ship from the middle east in the 1850s. He was purchased to work on a plantation. When his master joined the Confederacy so did Old Douglas. Don’t get the idea he swept into battle Lawrence of Arabia style. His job was to carry the regimental band instruments. Old Douglas was in Vicksburg when he was shot and killed. Vicksburg had been under siege and soldiers were reduced to eating their boots. Let it be known Old Douglas did not die in vain. One thousand pounds of meat was a blessing to soldiers and civilians alike. We also visited two of the five Civil War era homes that remain in Corinth.

luminaries

Then we had the last two long driving days to get to the Charlotte, NC area. Our overnight stop just north of Atlanta was a very nice USACE park named McKinney CG on Allatoona Lake. We’ll remember this one for a future visit to the Peachtree state. Likewise our stay at Ebenezer County Park near Rock Hill, SC was great. We cleared out our storage unit. All of our worldly possessions now fit either in the RV, truck or a 3’x3′ storage cube.

Lastly we headed to Chambersburg, PA for Thanksgiving with Steve’s family. Our only non family activity was a visit to Gettysburg Military Park and the Eisenhower Farm. We didn’t know that this was a special weekend celebrating the anniversary of the declaration of Emancipation. The park had several authors of historical fiction on hand. Steve met one of his favorite authors, Jeff Shara. The town of Gettysburg had a parade with over 500 re-enactors dressed in a variety of uniforms and period dress.

Gettysburg Diorama Scene

Gettysburg Diorama Scene

Abe, Mary and Winfield Scott

Abe, Mary and Winfield Scott

Drummer Boy

Drummer Boy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Long Parade

A Long Parade

Union Troops

Union Troops

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Confederates

The Confederates

women-in-parade

Women Marchers

Zouave Unit

Zouave Unit

 

We packed a lot into our trip east and hope you have enjoyed this leg of our travels as we visit the icons and hidden gems across the USA.

Where Next? #10

It’s hard to believe that our wonderful summer in northern Utah is coming to a close. So where will the four winds blow us next?

First we are headed over to Laramie, Wyoming to visit friends who are volunteering at the Wyoming Territorial Prison State Historical Site. Then south to the Silverton/Durango area in Colorado. A brief stop at Petrified Forest NP to say hi to staff where we volunteered in 2014-2015. Lastly we turn south to try our hand at being camp hosts for the Coronado National Forest at Parker Canyon Lake about an hour south of Tucson, AZ. After 6 weeks there we make an almost straight through drive to Charlotte, NC. We know now that full timing is what we want so no use paying to store things for 15+ years. We’ll pare down to just a few memory pieces.

Then a much overdue trip to see Steve’s family in Chambersburg, PA for Thanksgiving. From there we meander for a month via Alabama, Florida and Louisiana to our next volunteer job at Hot Springs National Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas. We’ll be there from January-March 2017.

Our path this time looks a lot like a ricocheting bullet, doesn’t it? Thanks for traveling with us!

RV Travels From Flaming Gorge NRA, UT to Hot Springs NP, AR

RV Travels From Flaming Gorge NRA, UT to Hot Springs NP, AR

Where Next #9

Laguna Atascosa NWR, Flaming Gorge NRA, Texas, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado

From LANWR To Flaming Gorge NRA

It’s been a long time since we’ve posted on the blog. Guess we needed a vacation from having so much fun! Before we get too much further behind here are our travel plans when we leave Laguna Atascosa NWR and head for our summer volunteer position at Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area.

When we head out we will go north to the piney woods of northeastern Texas to see Big Thicket National Preserve, Cane River Creole National Historic Park in Louisiana and the area should be in bloom with azaleas and dogwoods. Now add local BBQ joints and fried catfish to the mix. We’ll be staying at Alley Creek Camp, a USACE campground on a lake with water and electric hookups. We bought fishing licenses but haven’t been able to use them. Maybe we will here.

Then we drop back south a bit where we’ll be 75 miles NW of Houston. Lots of small towns, Spring blossoms, the Texas Painted Church tour and hopefully getting to Galveston and sightseeing in Houston too. We’ll stay at Cagle Recreation Area, a USFS campground with full hookups.

On to the Hill Country where there is so much to do I know we won’t scatch the surface. We’ll be staying at Cranes Mill CG on Canyon Lake, a  USACE campground with electric and water hookups. We plan to visit Fredricksburg,  New Braunfels and San Antonio. There will be many drives through the famous blue bonnets and we’ll meet up with friends volunteering at the LBJ NHP.

On to west Texas via Amistead NRA (a reservoir on the Rio Grande), Guadalupe Mountains NP and El Paso. From there we turn north to New Mexico and hope to stay at Elephant Butte Lake SP. Using this as a base we will visit White Sands NP, Gila Cliff Dwellings, Salinas Pueblo Missions and Pecos NHP. If there is time we will stop to see fellow volunteers at Sevilleta NWR.

Hoping to make up for our missed visit last Fall, we will drive north to see friends in Los Alamos, NM. Other points of interest will be Santa Fe and possibly 5 more NPS sites. We haven’t camped that much in Colorado so we look forward to staying at Cheyenne Mountain SP near Colorado Springs. Our last leg will turn west toward Dinosaur NM and Fossil Butte NM. If we see all 17 planned NPS sites we will have seen 42% of all the parks.

We’ll put down roots (or as close as we come to it these days) for 3.5 months in NE Utah. Home is where you park it.

This Place Rocks!

Alabama Hills, panorama, California, photography, Lone Pine

Alabama Hills Panorama

The DreamChaser At Lone Pine

The DreamChaser At Lone Pine

Have you ever heard of Lone Pine, California? Neither had we until looking where we might camp while visiting Manzanar National Historic Site. Right outside of town we found Diaz Lake County Park. At this time of year there were only six other campers however during the summer months it is very popular with folks hiking Mount Whitney. We arrived to find that the water supply was still turned off for the winter. No problem as we have had enough unexpected situations so we always travel with a full fresh water tank. Later on we checked out a BLM campground, Tuttle Creek, for future use. Both spots are dry camping.

Movie Road

Movie Road

You say you’ve never been here and yet at least via your TV or the movies you have. If you ever watched Hopalong Cassidy, The Lone Ranger, Bonanza or John Wayne movies or How the West Was Won you saw the Alabama Hills. The hills are named after a Civil War battleship but we don’t know why. Ever watch Gunga Din? Thought you were in India? Nope, Lone Pine, California and the Alabama Hills. Located within easy commute of Hollywood this area was used for numerous westerns and films reaching a peak in the 1950s. We spent most of our first day just driving and walking through the area. The road leading to Mount Whitney, Whitney Portal Road, was still closed but we found a road called Movie Road. Now who could resist exploring that spot? As we drove along it was easy to imagine gunmen behind every rock. At one point I said to Steve, this is where the stagecoach driver gets shot and the passenger has to crawl out of the coach and scramble up to the seat then jump down on the horses and grab the reins, saving everyone from the canyon edge. Home to over 300 movies the Alabama Hills can be seen in recent movies such as Star Trek V and VII, Tremors and Gladiator. Each year the BLM issues 30-40 permits a year for movies, commercials and still photography shoots. You can download a PDF brochure from the BLM to help guide you to some of the movie locations.

We came to an especially pretty area with subtle colors running from rose, lilac and light green to rust and tan. As I was taking this picture I just knew it would become one of my favorites. When I had time later I worked with some of the post processing software to change the photo to watercolor and oil paint adaptations. Which version do you like best?

Original Subtle Colors Photo

Original Subtle Colors Photo

Watercolor Version Of Above Photo

Watercolor Version Of Above Photo

Second subtle Colors Photo

Second subtle Colors Photo

Oil Paint Version Of # 2

Oil Paint Version Of # 2

Here are a few more photos from the area. Our second day in the area was cold and windy letting you know that Winter hadn’t released it’s grasp just yet. After warm desert temps we had to scramble to find jeans, sweatshirts and hats.

AH scenery 5

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Winter Lingers On

Winter Lingers On

Brrrrrr!!

Brrrrrr!!

A Cold Day In Black And White

A Cold Day In Black And White

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We met our friends Mary and Jeff for dinner at their home. Both are are archeologists. Mary is retired from the US Forest Service and Jeff is the museum director at Manzanar NHS. Almost twenty years ago Jeff was involved in a dig at the Puerco Pueblo site in Petrified Forest NP. We are continuously amazed at the coincidences we find while traveling.

Visitor Center

Visitor Center

Manzanar NHS was established in 1992. Unlike Minidoka NHS that we visited last year, several buildings from the Japanese Internment Camp remain. The park is still being developed and new interpretation exhibits will open soon. The museum and park film located in the Visitor Center are excellent and describe the day to day life of the camp. The camp gymnasium that once held dances is now the Visitor Center.  It is surprising to me that the internees kept such a positive attitude. While we were watching the film, a family from Japan was sitting right behind us. I wish I’d been able to ask them what was their reaction to this park. Among the internees were 400 landscape professionals who turned a bleak, dry area into a lovely Japanese garden with streams and a bridge. Future plans call for restoring the garden. This is the only camp that had an orphanage to care for displaced orphans, foster children and babies born out of wedlock. Of the 10,000 people interned here one went on to be the designer of the 1963 Corvette Stingray. He was twelve years old when his family was sent to this camp. We always learn a lot visiting our National Parks. At Manzanar we learned that the US was not alone in relocating people of Japanese ancestry. Both Cuba and Canada had relocation camps. Here are our photos from Manzanar.

Welcome To Manzanar

Welcome To Manzanar

Everyday Life At Manzanar

Everyday Life At Manzanar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Orphanage

Orphanage

Toy Center

Toy Center

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beauty In The Desert

Beauty In The Desert

Just about the time we were finishing our visit, the sky cleared and we were able to see Mount Whitney.

Mt. Whitney Appears

Mt. Whitney Appears

Then it was back to the movie theme which dominates the area with a visit to The Film History Museum. While not a large museum it is chock full of memorabilia from the days of silent film through Quentin Tarantino’s Django. Be sure to watch the film if you go. Great music and cuts from lots of shows. We even bought a copy. Younger generations might not enjoy it as much but for those of us who spent Sunday nights watching Roy, Dale and Trigger it was a walk down memory lane. We loved the old posters with headers like the one from Glenn Ford’s “The Violent Men” They Don’t Make Them Like This Any More! As a seven year old I’d get very excited as Roy would get into trouble. My Dad would say to me “Don’t worry. He has to be on next week.” We have just put several of these old movies on our Netflix queue. I’m really looking forward to Steve  McQueen in Nevada Smith. So for your own brief return to the days of Hi Ho Silver! Away!  Here are our photos. Be sure and read the autograph on the last picture. The Lone Ranger just misspelled Chari’s name.

How The West Was Won

How The West Was Won

Humphrey Bogart, High Sierra

Car Driven By Humphrey Bogart In High Sierra

Gene Autry, Film History Museum

Gene Autry’s Outfit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steve McQueen, Nevada Smith

Steve McQueen During Filming Of Nevada Smith

Gunga Din

Gunga Din Poster

Django Poster

Django Poster

Gunsmoke, Miss Kitty

Gun smoke’s Miss Kitty Wore This Dress

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stuntman's Jerk Vest (used when they are shot)

Stuntman’s Jerk Vest (used when they are shot)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lone Ranger Autigraph

Lone Ranger Autograph

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Top Ten Campgrounds For July 2014- July 2015

Now that we are spending about 50% of our time volunteering we didn’t know if we’d have enough great places to recommend for another Top Ten post. Fortunately that was no problem. So here are our choices as we moved from Montana, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California, Oregon and Washington. Again, this list in no particular rating order and is for folks like ourselves who travel via large RV. If dry camping was involved it is noted. Otherwise there was at least water and electric hookups. Some of the other campgrounds we used would be suitable for smaller units but proved challenging for us. We started with a list of 16 campgrounds we really enjoyed. After listing our 10 favorites we mention the runners up.

TOP TEN CAMPGROUNDS USED

 1) Bullards Beach State Park near Bandon-by-the-Sea, OR

 2) Le Page USCAE Park on the John Day River/ Columbia River, near Rufus, Oregon

 3) Lake Havasu State Park, Lake Havasu, AZ

 4) Dead Horse Ranch State Park, Cottonwood, AZ

 5) Farragut State Park, north of Coeur d’Alene, ID

 6) Hells Gate State Park, Lewiston, ID

 7) Riana USACE Campground, Abiquiu, New Mexico

 8) Curecanti National Recreation Area, Elk Creek CG Loop D, near Gunnison, CO

 9) McDowell Mountain Regional Park, near Fort McDowell, AZ

10) Angostura Lake State Recreation Area, Hat Creek CG,  near Hot Springs, SD

Sometimes it was very difficult to choose so here are the wonderful runners up:

Fort Worden State Park, Port Townsend, WA

Lake Cochiti USACE, Cochiti Lake, NM

East Canyon State Park, Morgan, UT

Big Creek Flathead National Forest CG, Columbia Falls, MT *** dry camping***

Langhor CG in Hyalite Canyon, Gallatin USNF, Bozeman, MT *** dry camping ***

Boulder Beach, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Boulder City, NV *** dry camping ***

Furnace Creek CG, Death Valley NP, CA *** dry camping ***

Codorniz USACE Recreation Area, east of Merced, CA

 

HAPPY CAMPING!!!!