Home again

We are home again. Safe and sound.

When we got up to leave Williams, AZ the temp was about 21 degrees…pretty cold. DSC_0001  Even the birds were waiting for the sun to warm them up.DSC_0003 Note the frost on the window.  Bruce had started getting things ready outside when he had a problem with the stabilizer jacks at the rear of the trailer. The motor didn’t seem to be working. Not good.  The jacks are electric so his first thought was that a fuse had blown. We’d been having problems with the landing jacks in front and had blown fuses a couple of times there already. But he couldn’t find a fuse that went to the stabilizers. When he tried to use the manual crank on the jacks, the post broke off making it useless.  So there he was, no gloves, laying on the ground, under the trailer trying to figure out what was wrong. When the office opened up I went in to see if they had a pair of gloves I could buy that would fit Bruce, but when I told the camp host what was going on she lent us a pair. I asked about RV repair places and told her what was wrong and she said she would call someone locally who might be able to help out.

After trying to work with the gloves and getting nowhere, Bruce decided that he would disconnect the motor and try and manually raise the jacks. Of course working in the cold makes things twice as hard and the bolts and nuts are very tiny. The camp host came out a little while later with a nice cup of hot chocolate and told Bruce that she had contacted a repairman but he was not available until that evening, but he was available to talk to over the phone. So Bruce told him the problem and the repairman guessed that the motor had frozen up for some reason. He continued to work  and when he had gotten it disconnected we tried the switch again and it started to work again. It probably was the cold that was keeping it from turning. He remounted the motor and got the jacks up. Problem solved.

Then there was the huge black widow spider I encountered in the compartment with the gas bottles when I went to turn them off. I didn’t take her picture…spiders creep me out!

We decided to drive as far as Bakersfield, CA and finish the trip on Saturday. DSC_0004 This is entering CA at the Colorado River and border with Arizona. It was a pretty uneventful day of driving and just about 400 miles. We passed by an airport in the desert near Edwards AFB that is sort of a mothball fleet of commercial airliners. DSC_0007  DSC_0008  Then the windmills on Tehachapi Pass. DSC_0011  DSC_0013

We didn’t make any reservations but looked up some parks on the internet. None of the parks so far had been even close to being full so we thought we’d take a chance on finding a space. As it turned out the park we had chosen was just closing the office when we arrived, but they did have room for us and we got set up for the night.  A lot of people came in after us, people who had made reservations, so the park was pretty full after all.DSC_0015  DSC_0016

Coming into the valley at Bakersfield we could see a smog line so thick the visibility was probably only a couple of miles. DSC_0014I haven’t seen smog that bad in years. When the air is clear you can usually see the mountains on either side of the valley, but we could not even see the city from the top of the pass. It was just a brown cloud. If I were visiting California for the first time, I would not have been impressed!  In the morning the smog was still there, seeming to be a little less but we could still not see any mountains. As we drove up the valley towards Sacramento it cleared and by the time we reached the north valley we could start to see blue sky again. We need some rain to clear the air.

Before we left home Bruce put up some gutter guards to keep the woodpeckers from loading the gutters with acorns. So they found another place to stash their treasures…inside my windows! DSC_0019 Evidently I hadn’t shut the windows tight and locked them and the birds figured it was a good place to put acorns. I was amazed when I saw this and upon opening the window all the way, DSC_0023a shower of acorns came down. They were even on the top of the window and in all the nooks and crannies. Very resourceful birds. Sorry, tho, I do not want my windows full of acorns. Where will they choose next?

We’re having a ‘Goldilocks and the 3 Bears’ feeling since getting home…someone has been in the house, moving things,  lights on or off, ceiling fan on when I know I turned it off before we left,  etc.  Nothing is missing, just rearranged. It’s obvious that the person doesn’t know where the light switches are or how they are suppose to work and my timers are all off.  Makes us wonder what went on while we were gone.  Oh well, confession is good for the soul so maybe our mystery guest will come forth.

Until next time.

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Amarillo by morning…

DSC_0006 (2)Greetings from Williams, AZ outside the Grand Canyon. We didn’t have internet access in Albuquerque yesterday but are at a KOA in Arizona that has it, so I’ll tell you what has been happening up to now. DSC_0010 (2)This is a very nice KOA, by the way. It seems to be pretty new, and altho it’s going to be down to 25 degrees tonite and they are turning off the water to the sites, the showers and laundry room will stay open so we can still get hot showers and dry our towels. DSC_0009 (2)If you are ever out this way, it’s worth the drive, almost to the canyon, and away from the noise of Flagstaff and the freeway.

AR – TX

The weather forecast was for thunderstorms, heavy rains, and possible tornadoes in East and Central Texas so we thought we should try to hurry through and get as far west as we could. We got up at O-dark-thirty and were on our way by 6:15.  We had a lot of fog but it wasn’t down low and visibility was pretty good most of the way. We had it all the way across Oklahoma off and on. We stopped along the highway at a little picnic area to have lunch and finished off the salad and chicken that Dave and Annie had packed for us along with some other leftovers.DSC_0004

We got to Amarillo, TX fairly early and decided to try something other than a commercial RV park for a change. We stopped at the Welcome Center and found that the Palo Duro Canyon State Park was not too far south. The kind gentleman at the center called ahead and found that there would be plenty of sites for our rig and the gate would be open until 8 PM. Plenty of time to stop at WalMart for some milk and other necessities.

We drove down Hwy 27 out of Amarillo to Hwy 217 that leads to the canyon. Upon arrival we were accosted by swarms of flies, even in the registration office. DSC_0095  This didn’t look like it was going to be fun. The ranger explained the layout of the park and showed us where we would be likely to find spaces to fit the rig, with and without trees. We picked one and continued on into the park.DSC_0096

This park has the second largest canyon in the U.S. and it’s the second largest park in Texas. It reminded us of the Grand Canyon in AZ, though not as big. DSC_0008The colors of the soil layers are impressive DSC_0047and the trees are arrayed in their fall yellows and tans.  DSC_0013  DSC_0011I hope the pictures do it justice. DSC_0025 DSC_0028 This is the road leading into the canyon.

Bruce found another place he’d love to play.  The park has a beautiful fully-equipped amphitheater where the play “Texas” is performed during the summer season.DSC_0037 DSC_0039 DSC_0040 DSC_0043

The history of this park has a lot to do with Native American tribes; Kiowa, Comanche, and Cheyenne.  Since all these tribes were forced to move west from the southeastern part of our country, many managed to end up in Texas.  The Indians here were forced off the land by Cavalry who killed 1100 of the Indians’ horses.  After the buffalo were pretty much eliminated, they turned to cattle for sustenance and the JA RanchDSC_0030  happened to have about 100,000. The ranch at its peak in 1885 had a total land area of over 1,324,000 acres encompassing this beautiful canyon. A group of Indians escaped the Oklahoma reservation in search of buffalo.  When they got back here to Texas, they found out there were none left.  Col. Charles Goodnight, who owned the ranch, agreed to provide two beeves a day until buffalo were found in a treaty with Comanche Chief Quanah Parker.  Another history lesson 🙂

At the entrance to the park are a couple of Texas Longhorns, Brisket and Gravy. I managed to get a photo of Brisket but Gravy was not in the mood to model for me.DSC_0097

Here’s the view out our window. Not too shabby. DSC_0020  Oh yeah, here’s what Bruce found outside the shower building in the morning. DSC_0002I, as you might imagine, opted to take my shower in the trailer! Along the road leading to the park is a ranch with a bucking bullDSC_0091 and a train that used to be part of the park interpretations.DSC_0093

We hiked one of the trails, the Paseo Del Rio Trail, which is just 2 miles round trip and pretty level. I wasn’t looking to injure my knee further. DSC_0058Along the trail was a ‘cowboy dugout’ DSC_0059which was supposed to be a cabin originally used by cowboys when the JA Ranch was in play.DSC_0056  DSC_0061 .  We found these cute little cabins that can be rented in the park for those who don’t want to ‘rough it’. DSC_0048

We made friends with a couple we met while setting up camp. Cameron and Debby are from Australia and have rented a little motor home to tour our country. They arrived first in LA so their first experience driving on the right side of the road was the ‘wonderful’ freeways of LA. Can you imagine?  They made it through to Las Vegas and then here and were probably glad to get out of that mess! We really enjoyed talking to them and learning a little about their country and experiences with RVs. They have an Aussie-made 26-ft  5th wheel and there is a lot of free camping ‘down under’. We exchanged email addresses and I gave them the link to the blog just for fun. I hope they enjoy the rest of their visit…they were heading east on Route 66.

Before Cameron and Debby came over to visit, 5 mule deer decided to take their evening walk through our camp site. DSC_0014They didn’t seem too afraid of us and if the dogs hadn’t barked, I’m sure Bruce would have been petting one of them. Other wildlife in the park includes turkeys, bobcats, road runners, and Barbary sheep. Wish we had seen some sheep and bobcats. That would have been cool.

There’s a cute little RV museum in Amarillo that we checked out. It’s free, so why not? Some of these are familiar and some just look like more work! DSC_0088  DSC_0079  DSC_0084 DSC_0078 This is inside the bus featured in the Robin Williams movie “RV”.  Very cool!

We headed to Albuquerque the next day DSC_0003 (2)and decided to stay at the base (Kirtland AFB) and do some laundry and celebrate my birthday, again. We ate at Gardunos New Mexican restaurant which we had remembered from the days when we lived here. I forgot that their mild sauce is usually too hot for me, so I asked the waiter what would be the mildest. I had the fish tacos sans the sauce and they were good. Bruce had the hottest Posole he had ever had. He says he doesn’t remember it being so hot. Well, that WAS 17 years ago! The memory isn’t what it used to be 🙂

We will be in California tomorrow, but don’t know how long we will take to get home. Hopefully we will have wi-fi to report on it.

Heading West

We got up Saturday morning to freezing weather in Newport, TN. DSC_0149  DSC_0150These pictures don’t reflect the cold at all, but there was frost on the ground and we needed to really layer on the jackets. I kept the dogs in the trailer until the last moment so they could stay warm before loading them into the truck. We were afraid the hose would freeze overnite, but it didn’t.  Didn’t expect these temps so soon. We decided to find a Cracker Barrel for breakfast and get warmed up. Yum!

One thing we are still enjoying on the road is the German Chocolate and vanilla birthday cake balls Jen made for Phil and me.  We try to pack the ice chest with snacks to munch on while we drive. Saves on the food bills.

This was an interesting sight at one of the rest areas.DSCF1031 It appears that the front car was towing 3 cars. We looked closely at the license plate DSCF1030and saw that it was Mexican and we remembered seeing cars in tow in New Mexico quite often. Turns out it was two cars towing two others. DSCF1033

We were determined to make it a shorter day…300 miles or 3:00 pm whichever came first. We got held up with some construction in Nashville, and ended up driving until about 4, which is not too bad. It was still light out 🙂 We stopped at Parkers Crossroads in Yuma, Tennessee which has Civil War history, as does most of the South. We were early enough to grill burgers for dinner which was a nice change of pace.DSCF1036  DSCF1037

The Parkers Crossroads Civil War Battle took place in early December 1862. This battle was fought between Confederate General John C. Pemberton and Union General Jeremiah C. Sullivan based out of Jackson, TN. General Pemberton came up from Vicksburg, MS to sever the Union railroad and communications links in West Tennessee in order to prevent the Union’s attempt to surround Vicksburg. The battle was fought over several days and was fought between both cavalry and southern artillery. The battles included several well-known generals of the day including General Forrest of the South. The final battles in the Parker Crossroads area were led by Forrest who had to fight his way out of two Union forces that were threatening to surround him. Forrest had been on the verge of defeating the Union forces when Colonel Fuller’s Ohio Brigade arrived. Forrest finally was able to withdraw his forces to MS by crossing the Tennessee River at Clifton, TN. There, now you have had your history lesson for the day 🙂

This campground has a lot of people living permanently in their RVs which seems to be a trend these days.DSCF1040 I guess it’s cheaper than a real house and it could be that these people have lost their ‘real’ houses to foreclosures. One family looked to be moving into a FEMA trailer in the park. There was a really old bus that had someone living in it too. DSCF1041All these parks carve out space for us transient travelers and so they always look like they are popular and well used.  Once you get in, then you notice how permanent the other RVs really are.

There also appeared to be a resident cat here that follows people around the campground. He looks a little like our Rusty. We heard a noise outside after dark and found him trying to climb the ladder on the rear of the trailer. I wonder what he thought he was going to find up there.

The weather was quite a bit warmer this morning so we had cold cereal for breakfast and hit the road again. The goal first was to go through Little Rock, AR and on down to SW Arkansas and stay at DeGray State Park and then through the Dallas area and visit some friends. But as we traveled we changed that plan to go more northwest out of Little Rock and stay on I-40. We think we’ll be beyond Oklahoma City and the predicted bad weather we heard about. Seems they are forecasting lots of rain and maybe tornadoes on Monday through Thursday. I thought that was all behind us being Fall. I guess we’ll find out as we try to get past Oklahoma City tomorrow. That’s about 300 miles. We’ll be leaving here early in the morning.

DSC_0155We stopped at a Welcome Center Rest Area on the west side of Memphis and across the Mississippi River to pick up some information about RV parks on our route thru Arkansas. A very nice gentleman advised a nice catfish and BBQ restaurant (Nick’s) and gave us detour instructions for the upcoming road construction. The detour took us through a really small town, but we have found that you see the real state when you get off the interstate.  Very eye opening and sometimes we see cool things (like the turkeys in South Carolina!) By the way, check out these gas prices! DSCF1045Not going to see that again when we get home 😦

Driving through Little Rock we spotted the St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital which we have supported a few times with donations. I thought Alexa and Livie Anne would like to see a picture of it. DSC_0152We also saw the biggest Pentecostal Church ever! DSCF1046As we travel throughout the south we have noticed there is at least one church per mile and most times more; sometimes two of the same denomination across the street from each other, even in the small towns. This is definitely the Bible Belt!

The park we are staying at tonite is not that great. It does overlook Dardanelle Lake, which is beautiful, but there is no access to it from here without unhooking the truck which we don’t want to do when we are just staying one night. It also has a historical connection being along the Trail of Tears where the native Americans were forced to vacate to Oklahoma.DSCF1049  DSCF1047We at first planned on staying at a state park but didn’t see that they had wi-fi so opted for this park. I think we should have gone to the state park. It probably would have been prettier. We need to be a little more picky when it comes to places to stay. It’s still a learning curve for us. You can’t always trust the advertisements for parks in magazines etc. I think they take the photos in the best possible time of year and don’t show the seamier side of the park…i.e. permanent residents.DSCF1052

Goldsboro Kids and Aiken Friends

DSC_0149We left Hampton and Ryan’s family and headed to Goldsboro, NC for a couple of days and to celebrate Phil’s 43rd birthday DSC_0179   DSC_0175and my birthday which is not until the 30th.  We had lunch at The Brown Bag Cafe with folks from Phil’s office in a cute little indoor mall of local stores.  DSC_0154The girls came over to the campground after school where we played games and walked the dogs. DSC_0157I tried to teach them Backgammon but it wasn’t going to happen. DSC_0160   DSC_0161They were so wound up we ended up playing Slap Jack DSC_0164and then I taught Alexa to play poker. What a good Gramma I am 😉

I got a couple of loads of wash done in preparation for the long haul west.  Alexa had ordered an Eskimo costume for Halloween which was waiting for us on the porch and she modeled it for us.DSC_0171   DSC_0172  Is this girl really only 10 years old? Looks like a model!

The campground at Seymour Johnson AFB doesn’t have wifi and I couldn’t connect the computer to Phil’s wifi either.  I think I’m due for a new computer pretty soon. We were sharing the campground with one other family who had recently moved to the base from Guam. The school bus came in the morning to pick up their kids and dropped them off in the afternoon. One of the boys told me they would be moving into a house pretty soon and that his mom is on active duty at the base.

We left Goldsboro on the 24th and drove to Aiken State Park in South Carolina. DSC_0199It’s about 20 miles east of the town of Aiken where our good friends, Dave and Annie Johnson live. We’ve known them since our first AF assignment at Luke AFB in Arizona back in 1970.  We were again living near them in Salt Lake City, UT when Bruce attended the University of Utah and Dave had gotten out of the service and was also attending the U.   Annie gave Phil his first birthday party in Phoenix in 1971. Is there more cakeA lot of good times. Since those days, we’ve crossed each others’ paths a couple of times and since we were in the area and had the time we were more than happy to get together again.

Dave gave us a mini tour of the town of Aiken and then took us to Hopelands Gardens and Rye Patch which was originally the home of Oliver and Hope Iselin around the turn of the century. They developed the gardens and left the property to the City of Aiken in 1970 upon her death at age 102 .  DSC_0212There are several beautiful areas of camellias, a rose garden, live oaks and Deodar cedars, pools and fountains, and a labyrinth that was patterned after a 13th century labyrinth in France. Within the Gardens is also the  Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame and Museum.  It is located in the Iselin’s carriage house and stables. DSC_0211There have been 39 champion Thoroughbreds that trained at the famed Aiken Training Track. Who knew?

Also in the park is a stageDSC_0203 surrounded by a mote and terraced areas for seating where concerts are held.  Yet another venue for NCCB to consider.  Bruce wanted to play here!

Around the downtown area of Aiken you can see several ‘painted’ horses which were part of the 2003 Horseplay Public Art Project. Aiken is a very pretty town with several large estates and mansions in the style of the old south.  Horses are a big part of Aiken, including polo, steeple chases and “fox” hunts.  In the older part of Aiken there are unpaved streets made for horses.

Dave and Annie treated us to a great home cooked meal at their home and we reminisced about our other visits together. Then she packed up a ‘goodie bag’ of the leftovers for us to take on our way. Good food, good friends. A Good Time!

The campground at Aiken State Park was heavily wooded and secluded. DSC_0202There were only a few others camped there when we arrived, but the camp host told me that they were expecting to fill up over the weekend. The grounds were covered with pine straw so thick you almost couldn’t see where the road went. And it was very dark at night!  No wifi or cable, just water and electricity but we were fine with that. They required a two night reservation but the fee was low enough that we decided to pay it and only stay one night. It would be a good place to stay again as Aiken doesn’t have any of the usual RV parks closer to town.

We decided to take a smaller highway out of Aiken towards Asheville, NC with the goal of making Knoxville that day. We headed up US 25 through many small towns and in Edgefield we found another art project displayed with ‘painted’ turkeys. Funny!DSCF1020  DSCF1021  DSCF1023  These weren’t all of the turkeys; only the ones Bruce would slow down for me to take pictures of!  There was one in red, white, and blue that I couldn’t get close enough to.  Cute idea, tho.

We made it to Greenville only to discover unusual wear on the back tires of the trailer. After getting fuel and asking where a tire place nearby was, we drove farther up into the town to a recommended dealer. They had tires but suggested we find out what was causing the wear. Fortunately, just across the highway from that store was a trailer repair place and we were able to get them to take a look. After unhooking the trailer we went off for some lunch and waited for their diagnosis. Seems that a previous repair person, who shall remain nameless, failed to tighten some bearings when they checked our brakes after the last trip. Needless to say we had to replace the two tires, but the fix to the bearings was relatively inexpensive. We lost about 3 hours and ended up driving later than we have planned to Newport, Tennessee and a KOA.  Hopefully our next days travel will be fewer miles and more enjoyable.

The lunch we had while we were waiting was awesome!  Someone at the trailer repair place suggested the Coach House in Simpsonville.  Bruce had shrimp and grits, which he said was the best he’d had, and he’s had it several times.  Peg had fried catfish which is always good in the South. IMG_20131025_132010The grits were amazing, made with cheese and sausage.   Along with fried okra, you gotta love southern cooking!

Once the tires were replaced, we headed off to find a non-existent campground listed on the GPS, and ended up in search of another place to spend the night.  We ended up at a KOA in Newport, TN after driving through Asheville and some spectacular scenery. A longer than planned day and it was really getting cold by the time we stopped.

Virginia and the Beach

DSC_0148We started the family part of our trip in Hampton, VA camping at The Colonies RV Travel Park. This park was once part of an old Army Fort established in 1609 at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. During the Civil War it was called Fort Monroe and one of my ancestors, a great uncle, Eugene Banks, was stationed here and wrote a diary about his experiences during that war. (I have a copy of the original diary written in 1863 ,just before the end of the war and his return home to New York state.) The Colonies Travel Park has 19 sites, a country store, showers, laundry and playgrounds. It is located right on the Chesapeake Bay with beach access and historic Casemate Museum within the stone moated part of the Fort. It is owned by the state of Virginia now and they are leasing out the old buildings and homes. What a fantastic location to rent a home!

We visited with our son Ryan’s family in a new housing area on Langley AFB, also in Hampton, VA. Kaleb is taking guitar lessons and treated us to a mini concert.DSCF0927 We stayed a couple of nights before heading farther south to Virginia Beach and a beautiful home almost right on the beach. Only dunes separated the house from the beach. DSC_0103This house, called Sandswept, is owned by Gayle Johnson and I found it on VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner) on the web. DSC_0106It was built in 1955 by her parents and she lives in another home next door which was built by her aunt in 1960. DSC_0074The house was inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright and has a lot of features of a FLW home. It has 4 levels, 4 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, and sleeps 14.  Gayle’s house is being remodeled so she stayed in the master bedroom and we had the rest of the house. She joined us a few times and entertained the kids with her birds and little Australian terriers, who also entertained our two dogs. You can find out more about Gayle’s house at the VRBO website with the title Architectural Ocean Front Gem on Best Beach in Virginia Beach.

We thoroughly enjoyed the visit with all the kids on the beach and off. DSC_0097We all went to Busch Gardens Europe in Williamsburg and rode as many rides as we could squeeze into the day. DSCF0944They had a Halloween theme going so we didn’t want to stay past dusk as the scary people would be coming out and we did have some little ones with us. DSCF0962We enjoyed a musical show in ‘Germany’ while we ate lunch and it too had a halloween theme to it, but it was kinda cute.  Roller coasters seemed to be the ride of the day, altho not everyone was thrilled by them. Afterwards we had lunch at Pierce’s BBQDSCF0965.

The beach was fabulous and we could let the dogs run free most of the time.DSC_0091 It’s a private beach so only the locals were there and all the dogs were friends. DSC_0127   DSC_0093The kids had a blast collecting shells and watching dolphins frolic not far off the beach. The first night we watched a Carnival cruise ship leaving Norfolk for parts unknown, but probably the carribean.

Down the street from ‘our’ beach house is the entrance to Ft Story, another historic army, navy, marine combination facility that is still active.   This is home to the Army School of Music the NCCB folks heard about when we visited the Army Band in DC.  There are two historic lighthouses, one dating back to the war of 1812 and Cape Henry.

We left Virginia Beach on Moday and headed back to Hampton and our trailer which we left at the Colonies RV Park, stopping at 5 Guys for lunch. DSC_0109We picked up the kites we had brought all the way from CA (but that we had bought back in the 90s when we actually lived in VA!) and gave them a try on the great open field near the campground. They were 3 Trilby kites DSC_0112with long tails and all connected to fly together. But they were too old and brittle and we managed to get only one of them to fly solo. DSC_0113Kaleb and Kelsa DSC_0121were both great at keeping it DSC_0117aloft and are excited that we are leaving the kite with them. DSC_0123I suggested to Ryan that he use the pattern from the other two kites to make new ones. The design is quite simple and he already has the  frames and string.DSC_0066

Oct 8-12

DSCF0900Roxie and Freddie have the whole backseat to themselves.

Here are some photos of campgrounds we just blew through. We got in, set up camp, ate dinner, went to bed, and left early the next morning. Not a fun way to travel but we are on a schedule going East. The drive to Salina was extra long since I miscalculated the mileage (oops). Going through Illinois we spotted this 19-story cross 053 in Effingham. You can see it for miles.DSC_0003This is in Salina, KS KOA which we barely saw since it was after 10 pm when we arrived and then left at sunup. DSC_0023Then Babler Memorial State Park in Missouri where we spent a couple of days and visited with Bruce’s cousin, Carol. She asked us not to post her photo but we took plenty. DSC_0018     DSC_0026  DSC_0020         DSC_0027In Ohio we stayed at Buckeye Lake KOA east of Columbus.DSC_0029  DSC_0028Then through West Virginia, DSC_0034  and Pennsylvania DSC_0038  DSC_0036 where we passed the town of Washington where my gggrandmother, Permelia Blazer was born in 1810. Would have loved to stop and do some genealogy research here…next time, I guess. Permelia and her husband William Rouse were pioneers to California in 1854 and settled not far from where I live now, on Spenceville Rd. near Indian Springs. They are buried in the Indian Springs cemetery on Indian Springs Road, Nevada County, CA.

We made it to DC on Friday the 11th.  Actually we stayed at the Famcamp on Ft. Belvoir just south of DC.

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Gunston Cove in the background

We had originally planned on an RV park in College Park, MD, then changed to Camp Meade in Laurel, MD, but changed again when we found that they didn’t have WiFi. This is a beautiful campground right beside Gunston Cove on the Potomac River.    DSCF0835 There are supposed to be eagles in this area and there are large nests on poles around the park which, I am assuming, are there to keep the eagles from nesting on the telephone poles or power line poles. DSCF0876  DSCF0906

The drive into DC was plenty interesting as it was pouring down rain and rush hour. If you’ve ever been to DC you know what I’m talking about. Coming down from Frederick, MD we were going against the flow so that was good. The crowd leaving the city was huge! Must be because if the holiday weeknd. When we got to the beltway traffic was still moving pretty well until we got to Virginia. Then the slowdown started and things really got backed up. The downpour continued and I just kept my distance from the drivers ahead of me and cruised on down to the Fairfax County Parkway exit. Yes, I was driving! Pretty exciting! Somehow we missed the turn and ended up in Springfield, but eventually got back on track.  It was a little intense.
The campground only had about 8 rigs in place and we had our choice of spots. Full hookups cost about $50 a night but it still beats hotels. The wifi here sucked and never got good enough to use. I searched several times for a library with wifi but they were either closed for the holiday or had inconvenient hours.

Saturday the rest of the band arrived in DC and got set up in their hotel. We went to one of our favorite restaurants, Mike’s American Grill, in Springfield and had our first meal outside of the trailer since we left home. What a treat!

Sunday, the band performed at a retirement home in Alexandria. DSCF0843 while I stayed at the campground and did some much needed laundry. DSCF0848

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Monday was supposed to be the day we went to Gettysburg, but because of the shutdown, all the national monuments were closed to the public. (No comment, at this time 😦 ) The tour operators were right on it and found a wonderful venue for the band in downtown DC at the Navy Memorial on Pennsylvania Ave down from the Old Post Office. DSCF0879   DSCF0883 The acoustics are so

great here even  the Navy Band plays in this location in the summer. The audience was mostly on their lunch hour but some stayed for the whole program and were very appreciative. DSCF0887  I sat with the dogs in the audience and enjoyed the show. The dogs were very patient and quiet. Freddie didn’t sing once!  063    DSCF0891  I don’t know who this is, but he looked like he was enjoying the concert too.

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Light lunch often includes DQ. We had to go to Arlington for this one, but we prevailed.

While the band was enjoying the rehearsal/performance, I ventured on my own up to the NE part of DC. I had planned on using Metro from the Ft. Meyer area but couldn’t find a decent place to park and didn’t want to spend $8 to do it plus train fare. I figured if I put the address into the GPS it should be a piece of cake. Well, it wasn’t exactly that easy, but it was interesting and the GPS was very good about ‘recalculating’ my route and got me there right on time. I saw some areas of DC I’d never seen before and everybody was courteous and gave the extra mile to me in my huge diesel truck with California plates 🙂 My reason for going up there was to visit my niece Leah (Sr Stephania) who lives in the Vatican Embassy in DC and works near the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and Catholic University. We don’t get to see each other very often and we had a nice visit over coffee in a little snack bar there. Then I drove back getting lost only a few times, and exploring Georgetown by mistake. GPS isn’t perfect, especially when roads are under construction or have changed since the last time we updated it.

After the concert, Bruce and I took the dogs back to the truck and had a light lunch. DSCF0894DC was exceptionally quiet and free of all the people that would normally be milling around the streets. The shutdown did have a positive side in that regard. Also, because it was a holiday, Columbus Day, we got to park for free.  DSCF0895Later that evening we met some old friends in Fairfax for dinner at Brion’s Grill.

Tuesday was probably the most exciting day for the band and me. They had the opportunity to sit in on a rehearsal of the Army Band, Pershing’s Own, at Ft. Meyer in Arlington, then after lunch got to sit in with some of the band members while being conducted by the band’s commander.  068  He guided them through Yosemite Autumn, a piece the band played on this tour, and helped them with dynamics and musicality throughout the piece.  069  072

Ft. Meyer is right next to Arlington National Cemetery and sections of the band perform as escorts during military burials. They reportedly have up to 8 funerals a day! We were witness to two, one Army, and one Navy, where the respective military bands and troops escorted the casket into the cemetery. The casket is placed on a horse-drawn caisson which reminded me of President Kennedy’s funeral procession through DC.  One procession used gray horses and another used black horses. A  solemn occasion and very moving.

Well, if you’re not tired of reading about our trip by now, stay tuned for more adventures as we visit our kids and grandkids, spend a weekend in Virginia Beach, go to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, and final start the trip home with some interesting stops planned on the way. Thanks for being patient while I searched out wi-fi spots. I think we need to get our own hotspot SOON!

Oct 7 & 8

DSCF0797When we rechecked the mileage from Grand Junction to Salina, KS we realized that I had miscalculated somehow and we were going to have an extra 200+ miles to drive if we wanted to stay on schedule. That meant driving 677 miles in one day…that’s a long 12 hours of driving with a few short stops.  The freeway follows the Colorado River through some absolutely gorgeous country where the fall colors are just brilliant. DSCF0802 DSCF0803The elevation went from about 6,000 ft to over 11,000 ft and we actually slowed down to about 45 mph going up the incline with our hazards flashing.  IMG_20131007_113645There was a little snow on the side of the road and lots on the peaks.  We went through one canyon where the road going west was built up like a bridge above us and the canyon walls towered hundreds of feet over us.  DSCF0806  DSCF0814  DSCF0812Hwy 70 goes through the famous ski areas of Colorado; Aspen, Vail, Avon, Breckenridge. DSCF0818  DSCF0820Huge houses were high on ridges overlooking the ski runs and beautiful terrain. I don’t think I’d want to be here in ski season as I’m sure there is tons of snow, but it is lovely in the Fall. Probably pretty pricey too.DSCF0825

We dropped down 6,000 ft into Denver and the countryside just looked like high plains and not as nice. I always thought Denver was in the mountains, but it really isn’t.  It is a ‘mile high’ but the mountains are west of the city and just aren’t as spectacular from there. Since we still had a long way to go we just packed a lunch and ate while we drove. The only stops we made were for fuel and then we would let the dogs out to do their thing. They really got tired of riding this day.

We decided when we got to the ‘flat’ land to listen to an audible book to help pass the time. I had downloaded a Michael Connelly book, A Darkness More than Night a Harry Bosch novel. I love these stories.

Kansas is pretty flat on the west side. As we approached Salina and in the darkness we started seeing a long area of flashing red lights.  They all seemed to be in sync with each other but ran for miles across the horizon. It was a really strange and eerie sight and we couldn’t figure out what it might be. We could see them for many miles before we reached the first lights and straining through the darkness we could just make out that they were red lights attached to huge windmills that were turning in the wind and making the lights appear to be rotating. You could only make out the blades a few feet from the red light. We concluded that the lights were for the benefit of aircraft that might be flying in the area, like the lights on top of radio towers in the valley. But there had to be hundreds of these windmills all across a wide area and we could see them for miles blinking in unison from Wilson Lake, KS the rest of the way to Salina.

We pulled into the KOA at Salina in the dark at about 10PM, had a glass of wine and a couple of cheese sticks and hit the hay. I rechecked the mileage for the next day and found we were going to be ok with only about 400 miles to go. There’s not a lot to see across Kansas so we just drove and listened to our book. But the park here in Missouri is very nice and full of trees.  We got here about 4 PM and will stay an extra day to rest and give the dogs a break from the road. Will post pictures of this park later.