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.

 

 

 

 

Make A Plan But Don’t Plan The Results

We left Flaming Gorge NRA after a fabulous summer in early September 2016. We made a straight shot with only two quick overnight stops at Cortez, CO and Winslow, AZ for our first camp host job at Parker Canyon Lake near Patagonia, AZ. We were supposed to be there for six weeks. To make a long story short, it was nothing like the job that had been described. We decided to leave after three days.

Now what? We had lots of unplanned free time. So we headed for Roper Lake SP in Safford, Arizona (southeast part of the state) to recoup and put together a revised plan. Our only constraint was that we needed to be in Corinth, Mississippi by the first weekend of November to connect with reservations already made. Here is our revised trip plan.

Google Earth, RV, travel

2016 Fall Trip Plan Revised

Safford, Arizona is in the San Luis Valley with the Pinaleno Mountains to the west and the Dos Cabezas Mountains to the south. It is mostly a ranching and farming area. The towns of Safford, Thatcher, Benson and Wilcox form the Arizona Salsa Trail. So the first thing we did was to eat at one of the restaurants on the trail. We chose Casa Mañana as many locals were eating there. The restaurant has been on the same site for sixty years. It began when a family started serving from their own kitchen. The original home was expanded as the restaurant grew and is still the center of the restaurant. The food was so good we went back for dinner another day. When they say a huge chimichanga, believe them! We had enough left over for another meal.

Arizona Salsa Trail, Mexican food

On The Arizona Salsa Trail

Casa Mañana In Salford, Arizona

Casa Mañana In Salford, Arizona

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After catching up on errands we headed to Chirichacua National Monument. Once again we were saying “What else can they do with rock?” The scenic drive was wonderful. Of course we took many pictures.

Chirichaua NM, Arizona, geology

Balanced Rocks On Pinnacles

The Sea Captain Monolith

The Sea Captain Monolith

Scenic Drive At Chirichacua NM

Scenic Drive At Chirichacua NM

Steve At The Overlook

Steve At The Overlook

 

Another day we joined the tourist ranks and headed over to Tombstone for the Second Annual Territory Days Celebration. Yes we saw the OK Corral but declined to pay $8 for their daily gunfight. We enjoyed the parade through town and the Folklorico dancers. We did spend time in an oil and vinegar store where we purchased some tangerine balsamic and a tasty BBQ sauce.

Territorial Days Parade

Territorial Days Parade

Hickcock We Presume?

Hickcock We Presume?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buffalo Soldiers

Buffalo Soldiers

Hanging Out In Tombstone

Hanging Out In Tombstone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Horsepower

Horsepower

Local No Kill Shelter "Cowboy"

Local No Kill Shelter “Cowboy”

And You Think You Had A Crappy Job?

And You Think You Had A Crappy Job?

Folklorico Dancers Performing

Folklorico Dancers Performing

Dancer In Motion

Dancer In Motion

Portrait Of A Dancer

Portrait Of A Dancer

The real surprise in the area was a drive into the Pinaleno Mountains along the Swift Trail. In only 35 miles you climb over 5,000 feet. The temperature when we started was ninety-two but at the top only a breezy fifty-one. Great tent camping here but only space for truck campers and popups around a lake. We stopped at a family run orchard and bought some apples which became apple pie and applesauce. They told us to feel free to pick some for eating then. We did! It’s been a long time since I’ve had an apple this juicy. For such a short distance we were surprised when it took us two and a half hours to get to the top. A nice change from the heat of the valley. There’s quite a bit more to do in this area and so we say “when we come back…”

A View From Swift Trail

A View From Swift Trail

apple-of-my-eye-72

He’s The Apple Of My Eye

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lake At The Top Of Swift Trail

Lake At The Top Of Swift Trail

 

 

 

 

 

 

For When We Come Back

For When We Come Back

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.

London Bridge Isn’t Falling Down

Lake Havasu City

View Of Lake Havasu City From The London Bridge

So far our Spring travels through Arizona had been full of mishaps. So as we headed to Lake Havasu City on the AZ/CA border would it be third time is the charm or three strikes and you’re out? We are glad to report that all was well and we had a fabulous week. Our campsite at Lake Havasu State Park was one of the best we’ve ever had. The weather was glorious and you can see why this is another snowbird Mecca. You are immediately identified as a visitor if you say Lake Havasu as the residents simply slip over the the second A and say Hav-su.

London Bridge, Arizona, history

1831 London Bridge At Lake Havasu City

The icon of the area is the London Bridge which was moved here from London during the early days of development at Lake Havasu and opened in 1971. The developer needed a bridge from shore to an island resort. Hearing the London Bridge was for sale he purchased it, built an inner structure of steel then moved the exterior blocks to Arizona and rebuilt it. Each solid granite stone was numbered, transported and reinstalled. Some numbers are still visible. I had the bridge tour on my list of things to do. I thought it would be very touristy and trivial but being a “good hubby” I agreed to go. The tours are given only a few times each week and last about 90 minutes. It starts with a bit of history. Here we learned that there have been several London Bridges over the centuries. The children’s song “London Bridge Is Falling Down” refers to when the Vikings came up the Thames and rammed the bridge causing it to fall into the river. Then we walked around and over the bridge while our British tour guide gave a very good talk. We learned that the lamps on the bridge were fabricated from Napoleon’s cannon after his defeat by the British. There is even a spot where two American G. I.’s carved their initials during WWII. Much to my surprise the tour was excellent and well worth taking. Told you so!

Architectural Drawing Showing Numbered Blocks For Demolition And Reconstruction

Architectural Drawing Showing Numbered Blocks For Demolition And Reconstruction

Old Drawing Of London Bridge Opening In 1851

Old Drawing Of London Bridge Opening In 1831

Walking Across London Bridge

Walking Across London Bridge

From Guns To Lamposts

From Guns To Lamposts

Picture From The London Bridge Visitor Center...What Fool Would Be Out Here?

Picture From The London Bridge Visitor Center…What Fool Would Be Out Here?

We did also enjoyed the local community theatre production of Sweeney Todd, local ice cream and did some shopping as we’d be heading into sparsely populated areas in the near future.

We visited the Bill Williams NWR and planned to return for a kayak trip but then got busy with other things and never returned. A good reason to return if we need to have an excuse. The refuge is located with the Visitor Center on the lake side and wonderful wilderness trails across the road in a desert area. What a contrast!

Bill Williams NWR

Bill Williams NWR

Six months ago Chari had reconnected with her second cousin, Kathy, who lives near Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Although they have been e-mailing they have not seen each other in forty years. Kathy and her daughter, Emily, were spending a long weekend in Las Vegas which was about three hours away. We decided to meet halfway in Laughlin, NV. Kathy has become the Manchester family genealogist and has discovered lots of interesting history. I never knew I had an ancestor from Switzerland or that there was a family farm in New York only 100 miles from where I grew up! We met for brunch and had a great time.

Desertscape Walk

Desertscape Walk

Kelso, Mohave Desert Preserve

Kelso Depot At Mohave Desert Preserve

Another day Steve and I went for one of our “day trips” of 150 miles or so to visit the Mohave Desert Preserve NPS site. We were enchanted by the desert landscape and spoke with the ranger in charge of volunteers about the possibility of working here during the winter of 2017. We’ll stay in touch. We only had time for a quick visit but did watch the park movie which shows the varied areas of the park. Kelso Depot is an old train station (1924) from the days when the town of Kelso was a thriving community. Kelso was where trains headed west stopped to pick up their “helper” engines to climb the steep terrain of the Providence Mountains and reload with water for the steam engines. The depot was also used by Union Pacific RR workers as a dormitory and recreation facility. Kelso faded away after WWII when the more powerful diesel engines became commonplace and was closed in 1985. The depot was saved from demolition and became the NPS Visitor Center in 2005. During WWII Kelso was also the home of workers from the nearby Vulcan Mine (iron ore). Between the RR workers and the miners Kelso had many drunken residents who wound up spending a day or two in the town’s jail. The jail had been moved to the backyard garden of some Barstow residents after the depot closed but was returned and donated when NPS took over.

jail

The Kelso Jail

Kelso Post

Kelso PostOffice

Rt. 66

Opal And Steve On Rt. 66

Another day of exploring took us to one of the best preserved sections along former Route 66 between Kingman and Seligman in Arizona. As we approached the town of Oatman, which had been touted as a picturesque town on 66, we found several creosote bushes with decorations left from Christmas. A local custom we presumed. We arrived in Oatman and parked in the city lot. You need to pick your way carefully through town as one of the “attractions” are the “wild” burros. The burros are used to being fed hay cubes you can buy and are not shy nor are they reluctant to leave the remains. Step carefully! When we arrived a show for all the tourist buses had the one and only street blocked so we checked out some shops. Only one description is needed for this place: Tourist Trap!!! When the road finally opened we continued along Rt. 66 and did find some real wild burros, great scenery, Yucca plants in bloom and an interesting remnant of days past called Rock Spring. It was a former gas station along Rt. 66 now a convenience store and museum. There was a lot of interesting memorabilia here. It has retained a lot of its character because, much to the owners dismay, the tour buses can’t negotiate the tight turns between Oatman and Rock Springs.

Rt. 66, Arizona

Leftover From Christmas

Tourist Feeding Burro In Oatman

Tourist Feeding Burro In Oatman

 

 

 

 

 

Yucca In Bloom

Yucca In Bloom

 

 

humor

Roadside Humor On 66

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wild Burros On Rt. 66

Wild Burros On Rt. 66

Rock Springs Drawing

Rock Springs Drawing

Cars From The Past On A Road From The Past

Cars From The Past On A Road From The Past

A Pegasus On 66

A Pegasus On 66

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rock Springs Gas Pumps

Rock Springs Gas Pumps

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rt. 66 Memories

Rt. 66 Memories

Time to leave Arizona for this trip. Next stop is Lake Mead National Recreation Area which is only three hours away.

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!!!!