31 May 2012

Postcard from Indiana- 2

29-31 May 2012

Uh-oh... the vet

We asked a local- Steve is a waiter at Bob Evans- where we might take Annie to have her treated for the hot spots she's developed. Turns out he's from Michigan (they call this area "Michiana" for good reason: locals don't see the state line that divides the area) and directed us to a Dr. Bergman in Cassopolis, MI. He's the vet his grandfather has been using on the family farm for 50 or 60 years.

The Admiral called Tuesday morning and was able to get an appointment the same day. The 1/2 hour drive was more of the same style farmland splashed with ultra green colors that make me think of the pastoral scenes depicted by the classic English painters. Umm... but without the misty background. And definitely no farm workers in tights! We loved the drive and will probably take another before we're out of here.

Dr. Bergman is 81 or 82 now and doesn't see patients any longer though he does still come into the office. But it's a large practice and we instead saw Dr. Mike Lampen. Mike said he thought Annie was over the worst of it (no more green oozy stuff) thanks to what the Admiral had been doing. But he did suggest she might be helped by 3 days of Prednisone plus 10 days of an antibiotic (Cephalexin). Annie told me she was happy she wasn't going to look like a shaved patchwork quilt she'd feared. She also said she liked this new vet that didn't scare her or poke and prod in private places. She even rolled on her back to get a belly rub before dragging me out the office door at a trot before he changed his mind!

I waited for the bill and the meds: everything came to about $85 which is on the order of 1/2 what we've had to pay in New Mexico. We were very pleased! And with falling temps and a good prognosis for Annie, we were feeling much better.

An accident

No, I didn't crunch another Porsche. Nor any other car or truck!

The vet warned us Annie was going to be super thirsty and hungry. Well, she's always hungry, so that wasn't new. But I missed the inference that if she's more thirsty, she'll drink more and ultimately would have to pee more. And that she did. She barked a couple times in the middle of the night like she sometimes does for strange noises, and for a response she got the usual "Hush!!" Bad move. When I got up at 7 AM it looked like the washing machine had overflowed. Yikes!

So I've saved away yet another lesson: Prednisone means more urine. Got that dummy?! "Umm, (gulp), yes ma'am." Actually urine has never been a problem as we carry an enzyme-based product from PetSmart called Nature's Miracle that cleans it up, prevents staining, and removes the smell completely.

Middlebury, IN

We wanted to do some looking around, and we were hungry (nothing new there!). We had a brochure for a bakery in Middlebury called Rise 'n Roll which offers lunch (the site takes awhile to load). So off we went. Once there we learned that lunch was from their deli and that there were several benches and tables where you could sit in air conditioned comfort and pack away a large lunch off a paper plate. I had a ham and cheese that was other-worldly... must have been illegal or bad for me as it tasted way too good! Honey ham slices plus local white cheese on a cinnamon-raisin roll with all the fixings including a little bit of raspberry jam. Made me grin all over!

Interesting place with special parking for locals. Many (most?) use traditional transport: a 1 horse power wagon that leaves a calling card wherever it stops!
I'm not sure what to call these passenger vehicles as many are completely enclosed, looking for all the world like a black Brinks armored car. And they're too big to be a buggy. Maybe a carriage? I suspected they're fully enclosed to keep nosy tourists like myself from getting a photo of the occupants (a no-no), but a closer look later showed the covering snaps on/off. So apparently it's a winter covering for passenger comfort.
And if you happen to be an RVer who owns a Dutchmen trailer, that manufacturing facility is just across the street in this huge building. I was surprised to see that it's owned by the Thor company which is the parent company of Keystone RV. Keystone RV includes many familiar brands of trailer-RVs like Montana (our maker), Cougar, Alpine, et al and at last reckoning was the largest trailer-RV maker in the world (not surprising since they own most of the brands!).

Hopefully we'll get to Shipshewanna tomorrow and visit the Menno-hof Mennonite-Amish center and maybe come away with a little better understanding of what the Amish & Mennonites are all about. Plus we want to see the RV/MH Hall of Fame which is just down the road.

28 May 2012

Postcard from Indiana- 1

26-28 May 2012

Pendleton, IN

Yep, Indiana, not Oregon. Yes, I'm sure. And Mr. Google and Ms. Garmin agree.

We left Effingham, IL a day early cuz we had gotten a call there was room for us on Saturday nite in Pendleton. That conveniently broke the 310 mile Effingham-to-Elkhart trip into a 180 mile leg plus a 130 mile leg. Mrs. Bowman's little boy is much happier with these smaller, bite size pieces.

The shorter legs were definitely the way to go, but these 2 campgrounds are hardly a comparison. GloWood is a little rough around the edges with ruts that have been filled with gravel only slightly smaller than sharp boulders. The rig was rocking from side to side like a round bottom boat lying beam to the waves. With access roads like that you might expect the sites were just as bad but that wasn't the case. Our camp site was nice and level and we got a good nights sleep. All the camouflaged ruts, however, suggest this may not be a good place if it's raining or going to rain while you're there. I could see us plowing furrows with wheels buried axle-deep.

The owners have done a great job with the grounds of the park. There's a large playground and picnic area under tall shade trees that greets you as you enter. The 'office' is built into a side of the picturesque red & white barn that looks strong enough to handle a California earthquake. All very appealing if you were to spend a few days. And Indianapolis isn't far away if you're a confirmed Urbanite.

The only thing uncomfortable was the heat and humidity. Yikes! Temps are setting records around here. The average is supposed to be 74 deg F but instead we saw 95 F on Saturday and 97 on Sunday. It was the hottest Indy 500 ever. A camper in the Airstream next to us at GloWood was going to the race and would be in the infield: no shade the whole time there and a mass of people blocking any hope of seeing. Tough people to deal with that!

Fuel prices are up again, now that we're in Indiana... back over $4/gal.

Elkhart, IN

The drive to Elkhart was one of the nicest we've had this year. We were on state or county highways all the way from Pendleton (never did see a town by that name!) due north to Elkhart for about 125 miles. Almost straight as a tight string. Well... excluding the detour to avoid the bridge that was out on IN-15. It's all farm land- green, no fences except for where they were keeping animals, friendly people. No one seemed too angry about having an RV in front of them.

And stop signs everywhere. With all the stop & go our mileage was down to 9.4 mpg. That's one of the drawbacks of farm country. As you pass thru all the open land, not all the roads line up because of property lines. So there's a stop sign where you need to jog 50 yards to the left or right, then accelerate back to 55 mph. 55 mph is our most economical speed, but stop & go throws away that bonus.

And it was hot! That seems to be the signature for this year's travels. Way above average and apparently a repeat of last year.

Aside from what it does to fuel mileage, there's a draw back to driving thru farmland: no rest stops and no place to pull over to the side of the road. Especially after we got to Goshen where even the tiny 3' shoulder disappeared and was replaced by a curb.

Elkhart Campground

I'd heard of this place a few years ago, so I was looking forward to seeing it for myself. About 250 spaces on grass, mostly pull-thrus with 50-Amps & full hook-up. The sites are wide and are level, at least where we are. There are only a few trees, but they're tall and cast a decent shadow before or after mid-day.

There are folks here from all over the country and they have a single purpose: this is Amish country and they all want to steal an unwelcome photo of an Amish farmer driving his family to the store in their horse drawn wagon. The Admiral knows all about that: she and her brother stopped at an Amish farmer's field where he was working. The Admiral snap a photo and the next thing she knew a very grumpy farmer came stomping across his field as he rolled up his sleeves. Her bro shoved her in the car and drove off saying "You trying to get us killed?!" So I've been warned about taking photos of the Amish. Not really a problem for me as I'm uncomfortable sticking my camera in a stranger's face anyway.

At any rate, we loaded up on brochures and will make the rounds with the others. We understand the Visitor Center here has free audio CDs available for a self-guided tour of the Amish country here.


Best way to learn about an area is thru the food, right? Well, it works for us!

Essenhaus had been recommended to us as a place to good German cooling. It turned out not to be German: the correct name is Das Dutchmen Essenhaus. But it's close enough for us tourists I guess. We had a huge meal of comfort food that had us grinning from ear to ear: Beef or chicken over noodles over a big dollop of mashed potatoes. May not sound great, but it is. Especially when you finish it off with a big piece of fresh strawberry pie with whipped cream!

Essenhaus is a huge complex which contains restaurants (2 in one building: 1 for menu-dining; 1 family style, the latter covers 2 floors), bakery, shops including a very complete quilt shop, performing arts theater, conference center and probably much more. There were literally hundreds of people in the dining rooms when we were there for lunch, and hundreds more outside looking around. It's so big in terms of area I didn't even feel the press of people (I hate crowds!)

We tried to walk off the huge load of carbs after we ate and roamed around thru the shops and the grounds. Not many takers for the buggy ride, but in hind sight it would have been a good way to see what was there and to have some info from an employee.

Traveling with dogs

Our dogs are Bernese Mountain Dogs. In Switzerland where the breed originated they're called berner sennenhunds. As I understand it, that translates roughly to 'farm dog from the Bern area'. They're great big happy campers - one RVer aptly called them mush balls - and they want to be where we are (sadly, that's not always possible). The breed does well in a cold climate, so all the heat we're having can be a problem. Since we're pretty wimpy about the heat too, we have the AC on nearly all the time both in the truck and in the coach. Kelly has been OK with the chilled bandana the Admiral bought each of them, but Annie struggles sometimes. Right now Annie has several hot spots, perhaps the result of not getting enough rinsing after a bath, and we will have to find a vet tomorrow (Tuesday). We've been treating the spots ourselves, cutting away the hair then washing and applying an ointment. But it's become clear our efforts are inadequate (sorry Dr. Breer, we tried!).

25 May 2012

Postcard from Illinois- 1

23-25 May 2012

Stanton, Mo

Tombstone bills itself as the "town too tough to die". Even more impressive is Stanton, MO- the town that doesn't exist! At least that's what Ms. Garmin would have you believe. They have a postal zip code, but apparently that's not good enough.

Anyway, the KOA campground in Stanton was just what we needed for our overnite stop. Dan & Barb are the owners and they keep the place neat and clean. And, since there's no restaurant in town, they offer on-site BBQ meals at the small cafe. I had a half-rack of spare ribs and the Admiral had the pulled pork. When we compared notes later we decided I had the better choice.

Our neighbor for the night was a friendly guy named Les Josephson who turned out to be a former NFL player. Les spent 11 years playing for the LA Rams (1964-1974) as a running back and even made it to the Pro Bowl one time. He accumulated enough injuries that he has needed 11 surgeries, plus he's looking forward to having both shoulders replaced as well as one knee.What a way to earn a living. Yikes!!

OK... time to talk (whine?) about navigation a little. We do our navigation first with planning using a combination of  either Google or Yahoo! Maps. Then we add in Woodall's (either on-line or the paper directories we buy each year) or, if we need to, the KOA site or directory. After I work out all these details I save the map which now has the directions embedded. Then I make sure each location can be found on the Garmin where I save the destinations to Favorites so I can recall each one when needed.

Generally that's gotten me pretty much everywhere so far... until I looked for KOA Stanton. Which lives in Google maps but doesn't exist in Garmin. No problem: Woodall's has latitude/longitude, right? Close, but no cigar! Apparently Woodall's only has complete info for those campgrounds that pay for a listing. Since the KOA in Stanton doesn't pay for a listing, there's no lat/lon data. Woodall's apparently is not as complete a guide as they would have you believe.

So, what to do. Well, there's a site called GetLatLon.com which gives you a Google map which you can slide around under the cross-hairs and simultaneously display latitude & longitude. Cool. Armed with lat/lon you can go into the Garmin and choose Coordinates and plug in the info; Save the location; and Edit the listing to add a Name, Phone # etc. I found the GetLatLon.com site from hams who use it for computing great circle paths to another station when they use a directional antenna.

Effingham, IL

So... where the hell is Effingham?! It's actually a fair sized town with a high school, a Cracker Barrel (yes!), a WalMart (double-yes!), it is probably the seat of Effingham County, and it has an RV park called Camp Lakewood. The campground is a rustic park which is located in a grove of mature trees (ash?) adjacent to a small fishing-only lake (no swimming). A really nice place run by owners Brian & Vanessa Caton. The access is via a narrow county road that was built for automobiles and not the likes of big Class motorhomes or heavy 5th wheels. I was a little unnerved but the Admiral kept urging me on and sure enough, completely hidden from view and free of all Interstate noise, now found this little bit of Illinois heaven. Well, OK... a little over the top. But when I arrived I was whipped and it seemed like heaven to be off the road!

I had asked for a pull-thru site, but by the time we arrived I decided I wanted to stay 2 nites which wasn't possible. They were, however, able to fit us into a back-in site. I thought "oh crap!" Brian said he'd guide me in and I'm happy say he knows what he's doing. Got us parked in short order in a site that has good shade. The only odd thing is that the water hose is led under the RV from the curb-side, but that's no big deal.

I had tried a couple times to get our next stop reserved but struck out at the first one (3-day minimum) and the 2nd park (GloWood Campground north of Indianapolis) never called back. So I asked for a 3rd nite which unfortunately meant an over-300 mile day on Sunday to get to Elkhart Campground in Elkhart, IN. This morning I found a missed call from the GloWood park saying they had space and had my name on one of the pull-thru sites. Happy day! That will break the trip to Elkhart into two 160 mile days and maybe the Captain won't be such a grump when we finally get there.

Dinner out

If there's a Cracker Barrel anywhere close, we usually opt to eat out. We've always had good meals and look forward to wherever we next find one. Last nite, however, was not much to write home about. Maybe it was an off night, or maybe it was us... we'll see what the next CB brings.

Getting the mail

We use Alternative Resources in Sioux Falls for our mail forwarding. We had them send mail to Branson, MO and now we'll get the next batch sent to Elkhart, IN. In 2-1/2 years they've done fine in getting mail to where we are. While it's FedEx that does the transport and delivery, Alternative Resources has always done a good job collecting the mail, dumping the advertising, repackaging large orders (to minimize the number of boxes) and generally keeping order. Plus they have a dedicated person that does nothing but vehicle registration. Karen was a big help to us when establishing residency in South Dakota.

Hey Becky...

Tony & Peggy are indeed work-kamping here at the Camp Lakewood RV park. We said Hi! for y'all.

22 May 2012

Postcard from Missouri- 3

21 May 2012

Branson, MO

Looking around

Back side of flood gates at Table Roc
We made it to Dewey Short Visitor Center on Sunday, took a few photos and took the tour of the dam. To my huge disappointment I learned we aren't allowed to take cameras, cell phones or pocket knives into the dam. Homeland Security controls all this sort of thing on Corps of Engineers sites and I was about to break 3 federal laws. Mrs. Bowman's little boy decided it was getting to late in life to start a criminal career, so he dutifully handed over all the contraband as the trolly entered the dam parking lot.

So I have no photos of the dam interior (yep... we walked into 2 different galleries inside the dam!) nor of the 4 generators in the generating room. We'll have to make do with this shot of the back of the flood gates of Table Rock L Dam taken from the observation area on the lake side of the center.

When we were there none of the generators were operating, so we had a quiet tour, but we were assured that when they get a call to spin up 1 or more generators it gets really loud in the generator room. Unlike some hydroelectric sites, this one operates only as demand on the grid requires it.

Btw, when the generators are operating, they have to sound a siren, wait 15 minutes, then open the "wickets" (rotating blades which block the water flow to the turbine). The reason is that the outflow dumps into Taneycomo Lake where it raises the depth of the water by 3 feet for each generator that's turned on. That in itself isn't an issue... unless you happen to be one of the trout fishermen in waders out in the middle of the flood plane! Lake Taneycomo looks essentially like a river in the area below Table Rock Lake Dam., so they have to hustle their butts out of there when the siren sounds.

The reason they're fishing there is because the water  coming out of Table Rock L is very cold... on the order of 47 deg F this time of year. Trout like cold water (it contains more oxygen) and the fishermen go where the trout are. As do the Blue Heron.

Becky, Dave, Celia & Bruce posing beneath the
requisite dead Missouri animal.
Sunday was a good day to go to the visitor center as Dave & Becky were working that day and we got to chat a little before the tour... in their uniforms no less!

Then later we got together for dinner. Dave drove so no one in the truck had to worry about The Captain having a repeat of his parking lot fiasco a few days ago!

We ate at MacFarlain's which is inside the building which also houses the IMAX theater. MacFarlian's had chicken and dumplings on the menu which I'd been talking about not having seen on a menu in years, so it was time to order it. I don't know about the rest of y'all, but I had an excellent dinner.

And if you don't know what dumplings are, they're kind of like a boiled biscuit instead of the usual baked. Done right they're like a light, fluffy biscuit without the baked crust; done like my mother did them... well, they were less than great. My grandmother, however, was a master at making dumplings so I got hooked at a very young age.

Scenic Outlook

Look for these 2 smiling faces at Dewey Short Visitor Center!
On the way home we stopped at the scenic outlook on MO-165. I think Becky figured we were never going to stop on our own, so she took the initiative.

Looking across the valley from the
scenic outlook.
It had rained while we were eating and a cold front had moved in, so there was some mist rising from the river and wet areas. Looks almost like smoke from cabins hidden in the woods. OK... I admit it. Shoulda' stopped sooner at the Scenic Outlook. The location offers an amazing uninterrupted view of the Branson area, Table Rock L & Dam, and Lake Taneycomo.. But it wouldn't have been near as pretty as it was Sunday evening!

Lookin' around

Monday morning I talked to our GMAC claims adjuster and learned we don't have to have the truck inspected. Cool! The claim is in process and they should have contacted the owners of the Porsche by now. So we should be on the road again on Wednesday morning, heading for Elkhart, IN.

In the mean time we'd spotted the old town area of (I think!) Hollister which looked interesting and I thought there might be a chance for a few photos. Plus I'd seen a station in the area that had diesel cheaper than I've seen in awhile. We headed over to have lunch at the Branson Cafe. The sign in the window says 1910, but the food is much fresher than that. We had cheeseburgers and blackberry cobbler.

Then we did the 2 or 3 block tour of the old downtown area which included Dick's 5 & Dime.  Straight out of my childhood if it had still had the Woolworth sign out front.instead of Dick's.

Tornado damage

When you visit the old town area you can't help but see the Hilton Hotel there. It was hit pretty hard by the 29 Feb 2012 tornado and as far as I can tell is still closed for repairs. You might think that it's just a case of replacing some missing windows, but as I understand it the damage goes much deeper inside the hotel.

We used this public parking garage which obscures the cenvention center just to the right of the Hilton. Looked like it had its share of damage as well.

The Hilton isn't the only one that was hit, though it was the tallest and easiest to see. There's a lot of damage which, as I mentioned before, is uneven as the tornado touched down then lifted only to touch down again. Nasty stuff.

Just fuelin' around

Oops! I was momentarily possessed by the pun-genie. It frequently jumps into my head and I can't seem to control these temporary urges to utter corny puns. Just keep in mind that you, dear reader, would have thought of this as literary genius had it come from George Bernard Shaw or Will Rogers!

Just down the road from old town is Casey's General which looks to me to be an industrial strength convenience store. We stopped there for fuel cuz I saw a tour bus fueling up. At $3.699/gal it was the cheapest diesel we've seen in a long time.

Getting ready to move again

This is Memorial Day weekend coming up and I'm not sure what to expect for crowds. Probably sizable since the further east you go, the earlier folks plan their vacations & holidays. Unlike the west where planning a trip consists of making sure the gas tank is full, these more-easterly folks actually make reservations. Way ahead! So I'll have to do some calling on Tuesday to see how much trouble we'll have when we head out on Wednesday morning.

19 May 2012

Postcard from Missouri- 2

19 May 2012

Branson, MO

The Admiral & Kelly and Becky & Rocky
At last we were able to connect with RVing friends Dave & Becky. This is the first time we've been able to connect since Sioux Falls in July 2010. They're here in Branson courtesy of the Army Corps of Engineers... they found jobs work-kamping at the Dewey Short Visitor Center at Table Rock Lake Dam.

And they must have the coolest campsite I've ever seen! Nearly impossible to park in the site, but once you've threaded the needle's eye you have a completely paved site with shade, a concrete picnic table, and a storage shed.

Hangin' out at Campsite #2
We stopped over for a visit on Friday afternoon and took a walk along Table Rock Lake. They have asphalt paving along the shore and it's all beautifully maintained. On the way back to their site we stopped and let the dogs sniff the water. Annie did her imitation of a giraffe since there was no way she was going to put her feet in the funny stuff that smells like water but makes noise! She finally stumbled on a slippery rock and got her tush wet, then bolted out of the water. "How unlady-like!"

A very overexposed photo of Table Rock L (mea culpa!)
Table Rock Lake Dam feeds into Taneycomo Lake. If you just said "Taneycomo? Doesn't sound very Indian to me!!", you'd be right: TANEY-CO(ounty)-MO = Taneycomo. Sounds like a CoE engineer picked that name!

The great news was that D&B's traveling buddy, Rocky, is feeling way better than when we last saw him almost 2 years ago. He'd been taking a lot of meds in order to get around with his hip problems and arthritis. A very smart vet somewhere along the way convinced them to take him off all the meds and Presto! He's getting around much, much better! He still has trouble with the steps on the RV, but he walked a couple miles along the shore with no problem at all. Way tuh go, Rocky!


D&B mentioned a place to eat that had good food at less than outrageous prices (unusual in Branson!). So we went to Danna's BBQ & Burger Shop on SR-165. Little tiny parking lot in front of the cafe with an empty parking spot at the end of the entry... I thought. Turned out to be a handicapped space, so I had to move the truck. There were extenuating circumstances, but the bottom line is I hit a car trying to get out of the parking lot. The sidewall of our outside rear wheel (recall that we have dual rear wheels) on the passenger side rubbed against the car's bumper. Even though it was the rubber sidewall of the tire, the plastic bumpers can't take it and I crushed/crinkled/mashed the corner of the bumper.

I went in and talked to a waiter who said he'd see what he could do to find the owner. That happened to be Sherry Grisham, a local realtor who was the model of composure. A brief look of horror flashed across her face, then she managed to stay pleasant and kind to the 2 old farts that were devastated at having damaged her 2002 Porsche Boxster (why, why, why did it have to be a Porsche?!).

I finally found the insurance info (I'd carefully put the ID 'cards' in the file drawer and didn't have the claims number with me... Aaarrggh!), so it was the next day before I called GMAC. Hopefully the ball is moving now. Unfortunately we will apparently have to have the truck checked by a GMAC adjuster, so we'll be here thru Tuesday. Which is unfortunate as it's starting to get busy on the road with touristas.

Gratuitous shot of Annie- holding the
earth in place with her butt

Another visit tonight

In the mean time we'll get in another visit with D&B tonight and I'll have another opportunity to retell the harrowing tale! They work on Sunday and I'll be sure to stop in and do my best to embarrass one or the other of them. Or not, since payback is hell!

17 May 2012

Postcard from Missouri- 1

17 May 2012

 Oklahoma City, OK

Rockwell RV Park in OKC
We made a 1-nite stop here at Rockwell RV Park on the W side of OKC. Big, wide gravel pull-thrus with excellent shade from mature trees for $30/nite. Gotta love it. They parked us with the big dogs, which is to say we were lost from view between a couple Class-A motorhomes. We also had an 18" wide pothole that scared the hell out of me. Fortunately the diesel pusher to our right pulled out ahead of us and I was able to avoid dropping into the black hole.

Not exactly what you expect to see in an RV park!
We were late getting out of OKC and had an over-300 mile day to get to Branson. As frequently happens when the Captain is rushing, he, well... blew it! I glanced down at the brake controller about 5 or more miles out of the park and thought "Hmmm... the display looks pretty dark." Yikes! The trailer cable wasn't hooked up! That's not exactly what I said, but you get the picture. It was another 10-15 miles of white knuckles before I was able to find an off ramp I was sure lead straight back to the Interstate and I was able to connect the trailer cable. And what could have been worse, I found the tail gate still down. In hindsight, it was a good thing we were late leaving as the traffic was light. No panic stops with no brakes on the trailer.

And yes- the Admiral had reminded me at least 2 times to connect the cable and flip up the tail gate (to the extent you can flip anything that weighs 80#).

In general, roads in Oklahoma have fallen into disrepair, much as I found in California early last year. It's been a few years since the last time we drove through OK and it's pretty shocking how much the roads have deteriorated.

So, after way too much drama, we were on our way to Missouri...

Branson, MO

Nice shade on Sunny mornings (#21)
What you see as you pull in to register.
We're settled into a big wide pull-thru which has a cement pad here at Branson Stagecoach RV Park.

But getting here wasn't as easy as I'd hoped. Generally I let the GPS pick the shortest (not fastest) route and this time was no exception. This system-setting allows the GPS to route us thru the back roads which gives us a chance to actually see something. Remember this?

“Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel across the country from coast to coast without seeing anything.” - Charles Kuralt

We agree with the late Mr. Kuralt and believe that, if you have the time, staying off the Interstates is much more interesting.

And that's what we did... we got onto US-412 and followed that thru the eastern OK countryside into Arkansas and up to Missouri where we moved over to US-65. It was an incredibly beautiful drive and we were, to the immense relief of local commuters, the only RV on the road. And that was for good reason. It was as difficult to drive as it was scenic. Never had to drive below 35 mph, but we were at about the limit of what was safe. Everything ran fine and the trailer was never on the edge of control. But the Captain was definitely pooped when we finally arrived. And not a single photo to prove we were there since there's no pull-offs. Anywhere. God help you if you have a flat tire!

Plus we got lost in Springdale, AR. Now Springdale is a busy, growing town, but it's not that big. So how did I manage to lose my way? I'm going to lame it on Ms. Garmin. I turned onto S Thomson St as instructed and saw the next leg was 60 miles. A moment latter I heard Ms. Garmin utter the dreaded phrase "Recalculating..." 30 minutes later we were back at the same place - de javu all over again. And to my complete satisfaction, I got the same 60 mile estimate. This time, however, I noticed that there was a jog in the marked route about 200 yards along the road: turn 120 deg left, go 3/4 mi. and turn 90 deg right. I lucked out and happened to be behind an 18-wheeler and guessed correctly he was headed to the same highway. A few miles later we were back on US-412N. And Ms. Garmin did this remarkable piece of navigation with the latest maps from Garmin.

We kept calling the park to reassure them we really were going to arrive. Celia called one last time (we were arranging to have mail forwarded to Branson while we were driving) to get the Zip code and Linda told here she lives just across the road from the office and would see us pull in so don't worry about the time. And a good thing it was that they were so close as we were about 2 hours late and didn't arrive till just after 5 pm.

I'd guessed that Linda and her husband Jimmie were park managers but later I learned they're the owners. And they are still active RVers limiting their travels to the slow season. So they understand the problems and have done a good job anticipating traveler's needs. With our Passport America membership (this is the first time I've ever used it!) it is only $21.nite for a concrete pull-thru with great shade from trees. Plus Linda operates the on-site Grill from Wednesday thru Sunday, 7am - 2pm. Gotta love this place! We're here till the 21st when we leave for Elkhart, IN.
Outpost Grill... Sun-Wed, 7am-2pm

Btw, if you think running an RV park is easy, think again: these guys work from dawn till the office closes at 5 pm every day. Plus they operate the on-site restaurant (the Outpost Grill) themselves.

On GPSs and maps

While the Garmin maps have countless errors and omissions, of necessity these maps can be no better than the data given them by the various highway departments. And with the economy the way it is, the information appears to be significantly out of date. We've find the Interstates are pretty good, but US-, or local-highways & streets are suspect. In Benson we have every street inside the SKP Saguaro Co-op park accurately placed, but the north side of downtown Benson shows you traveling by dirt bike across uncharted desert. Same thing in Amarillo. So, if you're looking for a GPS, caveat emptor!

First a family visit...

Celia has a brother who lives in Springfield, MO. He and his family are traveling to Salt Lake City for their son's graduation and only had Tuesday available to visit. He teaches at Missouri State University in Springfield and had just finished finals and probably needed the day for other school chores. But he dropped everything and drove down to see us, took us to lunch in Lead Hill, AR, then we visited their log cabin which lies (lays? never get that right!) vaguely between Lead Hill and Yellville (yup: Yellville!). His wife and son joined us later for dinner and a short visit before they had to get back to Springfield and get ready to travel. Really cool that they could take to time to do that!
Somewhere in the Arkansas woods.
Steve & Celia






Steve went all-out on the washing machine.
Does this guy know how to keep his wife
happy or what?!





I wonder if MO state law requires property owners to have
a dead animal on the wall... ??








... then a day off!

Wednesday I finally had a chance to nap a bit to get caught up on sleep. Sort of. I can only guess this is what happens when you don't move the rig much in 18 months!

More from Branson, MO later.

11 May 2012

Postcard from Texas- 2

11 May 2012

Amarillo, TX

I changed our booking here at Ft. Amarillo RV Resort and now we won't move till Sunday, 13 May. We did a little too much frenetic preparation before bailing out of Santa Fe and decided that, if we're going to have a good time, we better get some rest!

Calico County Kitchen

If you're going to get some rest, better start with a good breakfast. We chose Calico County Kitchen where we had a great breakfast served by a great waiter. And yeah, it was raining... the first we've seen since December in AZ.

I had my planned biscuits & gravy which were very good, but not to die for. As I said, I'm a hard sell when it comes to biscuits & gravy. Celia prefers the more middle of the road eggs, potatoes and bacon. So she went for a veggie scramble and home fries. Bottom line, hers looked better than mine! Next time I'll go for the pancakes which are supposed to be excellent.

Golden Light Cafe

And then there was lunch. I met Jim working the desk when I extended our stay and he asked if we liked hamburgers. Not the usual fast food variety, but the kind that are greasy and dribbled down your chin. "Yeah! Our kind of hamburger!" I wasn't so sure I really meant that, but off we went to Golden Light Cafe on SW 6th. It's been there on Historic Rte 66 since it opened in 1946. I think it's possibly the first real hamburger I've had in decades: toasted bun, cheese, the lettuce was green and it wasn't iceberg, it had tomatoe and relish and chopped onion and was delicious beyond belief. I had bacon and cheese, Celia had green chile. The only thing missing was a milk shake!

Postcard from Texas- 1

10 May 2012

Amarillo, TX

The cobwebs put up a valiant effort as we tried to pull out, clinging desperately to the rig and the adjacent juniper trees. But the F350 has plenty of torque and we finally broke free to get on the road, screaming spiders tumbling along in the dust.

We've made it to our first stop, Fort Amarillo RV Resort in Amarillo, TX without incident. Now we have a nice 50A pull-thru for $31/nite. The site's almost level which means we sometimes stumble a bit when moving around. At $31 it's a veritable bargain made possible with our Good Sam member discount (or AAA or any number of other affiliations) and competition from a lot of other local parks.

The park is pretty nice in a rustic sort of way. It's not new by any stretch, but it has an indoor pool & sauna, dog runs, volley ball court, basket ball nets. Looks like they expect folks to actually get some exercise! They didn't really need to go to all that trouble just for us. We already know just the thing for exercise: breakfast at Calico County Kitchen on Paramount Blvd. Highly recommended by Alaska Linda & hubby Doug. They're supposed to have biscuits & gravy to die for (or from!). We'll see... I'm a hard sell. I haven't had really good biscuits & gravy since they sold the old Forty Niner Cafe in Angels Camp, CA and the new owner wasn't interested in paying $100 for the recipe.

Diesel fuel is no bargain. Anywhere. We paid $4.16/gal in Santa Fe and it's $3.96/gal here in Amarillo. So  at these prices we felt lucky to have fairly still air on the drive from Santa Fe. With the gradual drop in elevation from 6,500' in Santa Fe down to 3,700' in Amarillo, we were averaging close to 11 mpg. Then, about 60 miles out, the wind picked up and mileage decayed to a little over 10 mpg by the time we got to the park.

I updated the GPS firmware before we left Santa Fe and had hoped we'd not have a problem with out-of-place RV parks. But when I called this AM and asked for a reservation I was told the GPS would never find the park and that I should use the instruction in the Woodall's guide. Sure 'nuff... Mr. Garmin would have had me drive another 13 miles east on I-40.

After all the rushing around to get out of town we're both pretty pooped. Probably stay an extra couple nites so we can rest a bit, do some laundry, and commit death-by-hamburger at Golden Light Cafe (on SW 6th) before sending our unhealthy bodies on to Oklahoma City, OK on Sunday.

07 May 2012

Postcard from New Mexico- 6

7 May 2012

Santa Fe

Bought fuel for the truck today. Yikes! Over 55 gal at $4.16/gal. We usually need 25-30 gal for a single day, so this was a shocker.

And I carefully added the Racor Diesel Conditioner +. Even managed to get most of it in the tanks. I had previously used a Power Service diesel conditioner from WallyWorld and wasn't too sure if I was really doing the right thing.

Local restaurant

Crumbpacker's in South Santa Fe
When we first stopped here at Santa Fe Skies RV Park in 2009, there was a great pizza place just up the road (NM-14). Sadly the south Santa Fe location of Back Roads Pizza is closed (the original on 2nd St is still operating).

First a sandwich shop opened which was a disappointment (Bisbee Deli?) and didn't last long. That was replaced by the current food, pastry & coffee place called Crumbpacker's. It's an excellent restaurant and I expect it to become even more popular. They're open for breakfast & lunch, serve coffee drinks (espresso, etc) while they're open, and they have some great pastries. Open at 7:00 and closed by 3:00 PM. Admiral recommended and it's just a couple miles North of the park.
Fruit cheesecake... wow!