Monday, August 1, 2016
July 24, 2016
Today we went to Arkansas Post National Memorial. This fort’s history was quite long in comparison to several others we have seen (180 years). It was first established by the French in 1686 and remained under their jurisdiction for over 70 years. In 1763, France turned over the fort and most of what is central United States, to the Spanish, after the French and Indian War).
The actual fort was moved up and down the river several times during its history. It was purchased from Spain in 1800. Then it became part of the Confederate states for two years, until captured by Union forces in 1863. The town never recovered from the Civil War damage, plus, once railroads came to the area, river traffic declined.
We found a great campground right on the Arkansas River and could not believe there was one waterfront site available. We had such a great view. One of my most enjoyable sites was the abundance of pale yellow lotus blossoms emerging from the lily pads in the quiet waters adjacent to the river.
July 25, 2016
After Roger transmitted again this morning, we drove south to Louisiana. Along the way I noticed yet another form of irrigation. Instead of PVC pipes, the farmers use flexible plastic tubing along the edges of the fields. Wholes in the plastic allow water to exit into the ridges plowed between the rows of crops in the fields. This must be effective, as the crops are all green and healthy. I just wonder how long the soft plastic will survive before it cracks and has to be replaced,
Next we drove to Poverty Point, a state historic site that also has a Federal designation. It is the oldest city in North America, meaning that it was occupied continuously for 700 years. The park brochure states that a “rich culture flourished 12 centuries before Christ”. It was a major trade center where people came to buy and sell their goods.
The city, itself, was designed in a “C” shape with six rows of concentric raised ridges. It is believed that the ditches in between the ridges were filled with water to form a protection from “bad spirits”. Artifacts found at the site, dates the people to 1700 BC. The site was named in the 1700s by a man who owned the property at that time. He had two plantations, one near the river, which was very productive and this site, which was not. As a result, he dubbed it “Poverty Point”.
We drove on to Vicksburg, Mississippi, where Roger had found an RV park run by the casino a block away. The office was closed, but a sign on the door said to pick a site and pay in the morning.
July 26, 2016
When Roger went to the rv office this morning, the attendant did not charge us. He told Roger not to worry about it. Roger figures they make there money from the casino, so the rv park is not a major concern.
Roger found a parking area at the National Military Park that was on a hill and transmitted from there. I was looking out the window at the lovely grounds and saw another first for me. One of the small shrubs looked “alive” with movement. When I got out my binoculars, I saw a “flock” of small orange butterflies moving back and forth among the branches. It was a strangely beautiful site and made me feel as though the butterflies were “dancing with joy”.
They have a wonderful Tour Road that allows people to drive around and see the actual location where specific infantry divisions took part in the famous Civil War battle. There are monument to the many battalions, acknowledging their participation in the conflict, both Union and Confederate. Each one is individual, with different designs and types of stone. There are also busts of important leaders in the battle. The cemetery contains over 17,000 Union Soldiers (with the Confederate soldiers, being interned in another cemetery called Cedar Hill.)
After leaving the battlefield site, we stopped at the visitor’s center in Clinton, Mississippi to get brochures for Natchez Trace Parkway and the Natchez Trace Trail, so Roger could see where they intersect. I was very happy to have an unexpected surprise at the visitor’s center. They had a tiny “library” outside the building. I have started to notice them in many towns along our route. They are usually wooden boxes built on a stand with a windowed door that lets you see two rows of books. You can take as many as you want, so long as you replace them with books you are finished reading. Since I had read all of the 20 books I took with me, I was very happy to exchange the old ones for some of these.
We found a great spot for Roger to transmit. It overlooked the Ross R. Barnett Reservoir, just north of Jackson, Mississippi. The lake is 10 miles long, north to south and almost 5 miles wide. It was such a peaceful place, with a great view. People were coming and going the whole time we were there.
July 27, 2016
This morning we spent several hours at the Camping World, where we purchased our Thor Axis RV. Roger had to wait for the service manager to finish with a meeting. Once they spoke and Roger explained the problem we had with a leak in the propane valve, he was very helpful. He personally tried to fill the tank and saw the obvious leak. Then he referred Roger to one of his employees, (named Drew) who handled the warranty paperwork.
Roger wanted to wait and see what the Thor company would reply, before leaving town. So we found the local Moose Lodge and met one of the members who was inside. He told us there would be a cook available about 5 pm. We ate a steak dinner and met several more Moose members, all of whom were very courteous to us. We ended up staying to play bingo, which we haven’t done for years. They had a good crowd of over 40 people. Though we didn’t win, we enjoyed watching those that did. I was surprised that they gave away $40 to each of the ten winners.
July 28, 2016
Roger was able to confirm that Thor approved replacement of our propane tank. But it would need to be ordered and still take a week or more to arrive. I did not want to wait that long to get home, so Roger headed to Natchez Mississippi, driving down the Natchez Trace Highway.
This is a two-lane road that is 444 miles long and travels through Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee from Natchez Mississippi to a point just south of Nashville, Tennessee. It has been used by American travelers since the late 1700s and was actually designated as the official postal route in 1801 by President Thomas Jefferson.
The route is a very pretty “greenway” where there are no businesses or advertisements. Commercial vehicles are not allowed to use this road and Roger noted that the road is in such good condition because those big rigs can’t use it. The route has such peacefulness about its atmosphere, with its creeks, hiking trails and picnic areas. We even saw 5 large wild turkeys beside the highway that scurried away into the trees as we drove by. The National Park Service brochure has a map with mile marker numbers that explains each location all along the route.
When we reached Natchez, it took awhile to locate the actual National Park location. It was not advertised very well so Roger had to compare the different maps on various internet website to find it. But once we located it we were very pleased. Roger described it as “a beautiful spot”, (which made quite an impression on me, as Roger hardly ever makes such an expression). It had a large parking lot overlooking the Mississippi River, near downtown Natchez. There was a decorative fence and nice landscaping, adding to the serenity created by the flowing river and the slow barge traffic that casually drifts by.
July 29, 2016
Roger activated the Natchez Trace Parkway again this morning, then we drove down to New Orleans. We made good time until a few miles outside the city, where an accident on the interstate stopped the traffic completely. We were fortunate to be able to get off at an exit and went down to the road that travels along the levy next to the Mississippi River. But it took a couple of hours,since we could only drive about 35 mph through all the little towns along the way.
Tricia and her cousin had arrived in New Orleans earlier in the day. We had planned to meet them, but they were on a bike tour when we got in. So we walked up the French market area and sampled pralines along the way. We had hoped to eat at the General Grocery, but it closed 10 minutes before we arrived. Since we had been dreaming about eating a muffalatta sandwich for miles and miles, we found a small restaurant named Frank’s and ate them there. But they were not nearly as good as those at the General store.
We decided to drive over to Chalmette Battlefield so Roger could transmit there tonight. Afterwards, we found an rv park in one of the suburbs and set the alarm for 7am tomorrow. Roger had one more site to activate and we needed to get in town early to get a parking spot.
July 30, 2016
Yesterday we had walked by the National Historic Jazz Park and found out they had been relocated in the Old Mint building, while renovations were being done on the other site. So we drove straight to the Mint and got a parking space right next to the building. While Roger was transmitting, Tricia found us and we walked to Café Du Monde and ordered benets for breakfast. They surely are “mm mm good”! So light and fluffy and sweet!
Tricia’s cousin, Lauren and her husband, Scott and Tricia’s friend, AJ arrived after we finished eating. We stayed awhile to visit with them, but declined joining them on their mansion tour. We had done mansion tours in Natchez with Lauren’s parents several years ago and I really wanted to get home. So we said good bye and wished them a fun time for the remainder of the weekend.
Roger called a John Guthans on the phone. He and his wife, Judy are both ham radio operators who have been contacting Roger on the radio all along our trip route. He was glad that they were available to meet and suggested the Cracker Barrel in Slidell. Judy said it was so good to “put a face to name” when we met. We talked for almost an hour.
It is interesting and rare to find a couple who are both ham radio operators. They both have separate radio setups, which is probably why they enjoy it so much. Another interesting thing we discovered about the couple is that they are both musicians. John was an assistant band director and can play most any instrument. Judy plays the piano and clarinet and has taught for years. They are both retired now and Judy is trying to get John to travel more, which was another reason she was so happy to meet and talk to us.
From Slidell, we drove to Long Beach Mississippi, taking the beach route, which is so pretty. It is so good to see that area is recovering and there is some new construction. Our favorite restaurant, Harbourview Café, was surprisingly busy even at mid-afternoon. We ordered our typical shrimp po boy sandwiches, but decided to get to go boxes right away. Then we cut our sandwiches in half, to eat the other side for dinner after we get home, later.
After getting back on the road again, I remembered that Mississippi had a section of Gulf Island National Seashore (just like our Pensacola Beach). So I asked Roger if he wanted to stop there and transmit one more time. He was glad I had suggested it. I don’t remember ever going there before. But Roger thinks we have been once a long time ago. I was surprised they had a campground. We drove through just to see what the sites were like. The park is very well maintained. But they are none on the water, so we may not use it, unless Roger happens to get back into fishing sometime.
After transmitting for awhile in one of there parking lots, we got back on the highway and finished our long but very enjoyable journey. It was almost 7 pm when we arrived home. It is good to be back. Unlike full timers, I love having a home base to return to. Even with all the work that is ahead, cleaning the RV and repairs to the house from a termite infestation in May, it is great to be home!
Posted by Roger at 12:49 PM
Sunday, July 24, 2016
July 19, 2016
We stayed in the campground updating our blog. Roger fixed a leak we discovered in the water connection on the outside shower compartment. Then we cleaned up our campsite, as there had been a big storm last Thursday evening and there were small pine cones and sticks everywhere. There were trees downed all over the park.
July 20, 2016
We had a lovely morning, as the sky was overcast and there was a pleasant breeze. That kept the air quite comfortable. So we sat outside and absorbed the peacefulness of the water flowing in the lake.
Roger really needed this break from driving. I can’t believe we have covered over 7,000 miles. The number of places we have seen and the things we have done even amazes me. But we still have a few sites on our “to do” list before we get home.
We took a long walk around the campground, checking out the other sites and decided
Roger picked the best one. It gets better breezes, being on the end of the peninsula and at a higher elevation.
Roger picked the best one. It gets better breezes, being on the end of the peninsula and at a higher elevation.
July 21, 2016
We have developed a habit of sleeping late in the morning, so it was 1 pm before we left Lake Ouachita. (Hope we can break this habit when we get home.)
The 25 mile drive through the Caddo Mountains was very pretty. When we arrived in Hot Springs, Roger bought a hand mitt from the official National Park Store. He still remembers how much he enjoyed the one we got several years ago when we were fortunate to have our original visit to Hot Springs. The National Park tour of the Fordyce Bath House was so very interesting. What I remember most are the beautiful stain glass windows in several parts of the building. I still enjoy seeing them rotate on our computer screen at home.
We drove up the mountain road above the city, which we did not do on our previous visit. It is a one way loop which has such sharp curves that vehicles over 30 feet long are restricted from using it. We pulled into a parking lot just shy of the top of the mountain, where Roger transmitted. A substantial portion of the city is National Park property. This area had the highest elevation, hence a better chance for favorable reception by other ham radio operators.
After making 60 contacts fairly rapidly, the band “went dead”, meaning Roger stopped receiving calls. So we drove back down the mountain and found one of the many “filling stations” where people can fill up containers of fresh spring water. We filled all of our bottles, then proceeded on our route to the capital of Little Rock, Arkansas.
Arkansas is a really well rounded state. They have lakes, rivers, mountains, forests and national parks. There is just about anything you might want. We have enjoyed our previous trips to the state and are glad to see something new in Little Rock.
We found a city RV park right on the Arkansas River. It was basically just a parking spot with electricity. There was very little shade but it was adjacent to the bicycle/pedestrian walking loop that goes along both sides of the river.
Our first site was only visible after dark. We sat on a bench right along the river bank and watched as one of the bridges lights came on. The entire length of the bridge first showed blue, then red, then white. Next all three colors came on together. Then the red and white had stripes. When you looked at the reflection on the water, it looks just like our American Flag. It was so exciting to see this great symbol of our country. What a grand display!
July 22, 2016
We left on our bikes and rode across the pedestrian bridge. It was so hot that we had to stop occasionally to rest. After searching for the visitor’s center for about a half an hour, we finally found it. We cooled off in their air conditioning and gratefully accepted a cold bottle of water from their refrigerator. After getting a map, we rode to the Capitol Building and waited for the tour.
There is a great deal of marble in the central section of the building. Walls, floors, stairs and columns are various types of white marble. Some came from Colorado and some from Alabama. The House and Senate Chambers are relatively simple, except for the ceiling, which is stained glass. The most impressive parts of the building are the six bronze doors at the front. They were made by Tiffany Jewelers and cost a total of $10,000.
The state seal is on display on the first floor, made in colored glass in a large frame in one corner. It has “16 elements” (which seemed way too many to me.) The goddess of Liberty, an angel of mercy, a sword of justice, and an eagle “holding emblems of both peace and war in its talons” are a few. There is also a shield with “emblems of the state’s 19th century economy such as steamboat transportation, agriculture and industry.”
We drove back along the riverfront on our bike ride back toward the RV. At the beginning of the route there is a small public water park. There were several adults and children playing in the fountains of spray shooting up from the circular concrete floor. Roger and I were so hot, we let some of the water spray on us, as well. It felt great and definitely helped cool us off. After getting back on our bikes, we drove past several different sculptures spread through out the waterfront park.
Little Rock is doing such a wonderful job of making their waterfront a place for, not only there citizens to enjoy, but visitors as well. The pedestrian/bicycle route reminds me of the Louisville waterfront park. Having it extend to both sides of the river makes it even more enjoyable. With the sculpture garden, it adds a social beauty to the natural beauty of the living gardens along the river. People are encouraged to exercise, thus gaining a more healthy body, as they also receive the benefits of a healthier mind and spirit.
When we got back to the RV park, we each took a shower. Then Roger tried to rest while I did laundry. After eating dinner, I was shocked when Roger suggested we walk back into town. Since the sun was down by them, it was not as hot and there was a little breeze. There really was not that much going on downtown. But Roger found a fried chicken restaurant and ordered one piece of chicken. Then on the way back, we went in an ice cream shop that also had baked sweets. Boy, did we ever mess up our calorie count tonight.
July 23, 2016
This morning we returned to the Central High National Historic Site and followed the self guided tour. It was painful to see this frightening part of our country’s history. Integration began when Roger and I we 10 and 9 years old, with the worse part passing us with little understanding, due to our youth. Change has been very long in coming and still has so far to go. So many died and so much sorrow accompanied those losses of life. We must continue to pray for love to prevail over all our prejudices.
One totally unexpected site was across the street from the visitor’s center. It was a restored Mobil Oil gas station. When we asked the Park Ranger about its significance, he said that was where all the radio and TV reporters had to go to send in their stories, as it had the closest phone. But they could not use it without paying the owner first. That was a great side story. At least someone in the local community benefited during this historic crisis.
After Roger transmitted for about an hour, we left Little Rock and drove to Pine Bluff, Arkansas. There was a lovely lake there with a big pavilion and picnic table. We waited there and started our dinner preparation. Then we went to Mass at 5 pm at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. Right as we pulled into the parking lot, there was a big storm and lots of rain. We were soaked by the time we got inside.
Right before church, Roger had checked the temperature in Pine Bluff. It was 95 with a heat index of 109 degrees. So we have definitely reached the southern humidity we know and hate, but can’t do anything about it. The rain did help cool it off a lot. We continued south east to a corp of engineer campground right on the Arkansas River. We could not believe there was one site left. Roger angled the RV so we had almost 270 degree view of the water. Before we went to bed, saw two different barges pass right in front of us.
Posted by Roger at 6:06 PM
Tuesday, July 19, 2016
July 14, 2016
Bill Westmorland called Roger first thing this morning. But he can’t get away until 2 pm tomorrow. He will call us then to give us directions. So we spent the day in the parking lot of the Moose Lodge, updating our blog and adding pictures. Then I balanced our checking account and paid bills.
At 5:30 pm we drove back into Oklahoma City so Roger could transmit from the Memorial again. He was able to make more contacts because the noise level was much less than before. Then we returned to Moose Lodge and went inside for a little while, visiting with a couple of people who were friendly and courteous.
July 15, 2016
We received a text from our classmate, Bill Westmoreland. He said he could meet us about 3:20 at the Panera’s restaurant, just a few miles from the Moose Lodge. While we waited, Roger found a local barber shop, where he got a very nice haircut.
Bill was very glad to see us. We bought sandwiches and visited for a couple of hours,sharing some old and new stories about a few of our life experiences. He plans on retiring from the FAA in about 3 years. Then he hopes to convince his wife to tour summers in the states, and return to Hawaii in the winters.
While Bill was reminiscing, he talked about surfing with Mike Engle, Jimmy Morgan, Mike Maney (who was a year behind us) and Matt Bell. They were such really good memories, full of fun times. We were all grateful to have had the opportunity to share them.
It was 5:30pm when we left Oklahoma City and headed east again. The landscape in eastern Oklahoma is so nice. There are lots of green trees and grasses, with tiny yellow and white wild flowers interspersed. After the dry dusty southwest, I’m loving it here. They obviously have more regular rainfall in this part of the state.
There are occasional small herds of cattle grazing in fields and small shallow rivers and creeks, which we pass over on interstate 40. It seems to be a peaceful and clean state. There is no litter along the highway, which makes a very pleasurable journey.
July 16, 2016
We spent the day bird watching and found a new bird, the Bullocks Oriole. Roger is the one who figured it out. We had been looking at another bird that was yellow. He realized after awhile that it was the female Bullock’s oriole.
Later in the day we went swimming in the lake. But it was a challenge, because the shoreline was covered with large rocks, which we had to negotiate before getting to the water. Then we found out there were rocks all over the bottom, as well. It was quite different from our sand covered beaches at home. But the water felt great once we got deep enough that the rocks were smaller. Fortunately, we had remembered to bring our swimming booties with rubber soles. Otherwise, we might have had some cuts and bruises to contend with.
July 17, 2016
There was a lovely stiff breeze this morning. I was very excited to notice a scissortail flycatcher before we left the park. It was so obvious, due to its very long divided tail. We were enjoying ourselves so much on the lakeview camp site that we didn’t leave until 1:30pm.
We passed a lot of farm land. Most of the crops are corn, but there are others that we can’t tell what they are. But it’s great to see so much green. I sure appreciate it much more after being in the southwest, where trees are almost non-existent.
We arrived in Ft. Smith, Arkansas, our next national park site. It is located just across the Oklahoma/Arkansas state line, next to the Arkansas River. Unlike most of the forts built in the early years of our countries history, the first Fort Smith, built in 1817, was established to keep peace between two Indian tribes. The native Osage Indians were in conflict with the arriving Cherokee Indians, who were forcibly relocated from their homeland.
The forts history covers a period of 80 years. It served as the warehouse for multiple products needed by the Army and the new settlers. In the later years, Ft. Smith became the location of the Federal Court. It took over 20 years for U.S. Marshals and Judge Isaac C. Parker to bring law and order to the Western District of Arkansas.
July 18, 2016
We heard from Tricia. She and our granddaughter, Kaitlynn are part of a mission group who left for Haiti early this morning. There are 16 people on the team. They are in the Atlanta Airport right now. Anyone who is reading this, I ask for your prayers that all will go well with their group. They have worked so hard to earn the money to pay for their expenses. May our God bless their efforts and give them a rewarding experience of helping those who are so much less fortunate than we are in America.
A large part of Arkansas is rural countryside. But it is a pretty state, green even in the height of summer. (By now you know I love green.) That gives it a mellow atmosphere, pleasant and “easy on the eyes”. Most of the land we are driving through now, in the western part of the state, is undeveloped but peaceful; some might say, pastoral.
Oh! We just turned east and there were several blooming mimosa trees with fluffy pink flowers. I hadn’t seen them in so long. What a pleasant surprise. I forgot that they grow wild in some places.
As we pass over small creeks, many with out water, we realize that Arkansas is a very rocky state. That would explain why we have not seen any farms. It seems so fertile, but there are apparently many rocks under the pretty green grasses we see on the surface. We have seen a few cattle, but not nearly enough to support a family.
We found another Corp campground on a lake just west of Hot Springs. On Lake Ouachita, It is situated on a peninsula, so we got an even better site than yesterday. We have almost 360 degree view of the lake. Roger was so happy, he paid for three days.
We went swimming again. This lake has clearer water and the rocks on the shore are smaller. But the rocks are like shale. They are thin layers of muti-colored rocks. The colors range from white, brown, red, orange and dark gray. But they are soft and easily breakable.
We came here a few years ago and rented a houseboat for a week with Roger's brother and had a great time then also.
We came here a few years ago and rented a houseboat for a week with Roger's brother and had a great time then also.
In the evening, Roger built us a fire, even though it was warm, it was still delightful to watch the flickering colors in the flames.
Posted by Roger at 11:59 AM
Thursday, July 14, 2016
July 9, 2016
We have spent the entire day relaxing in the campground. We walked around the other camping loops, including the equestrian area. Since we were tired from traveling and it is nice and cool up here on the mountain we decided to stay a second night.
July 10, 2016
We went to Mass at the little church in Pecos, then returned to the Pecos National Historic Park so Roger could transmit for awhile. Out next national park is called Fort Union, about an hours drive from Pecos.
I surely do like the New Mexico sky. It has the prettiest fluffy white clouds against a beautiful blue background. It causes me to raise my eyes up to the heavens, which is such a good thing to do. It puts life in a better perspective.
Near Las Vegas, New Mexico, I was surprised to find flat level prairie land with not a tree in sight. It was about 25 miles before we saw short trees and shrubs again. Then the prairie land returned. This pattern repeated itself as we traveled throughout the day.
We arrived in Ft. Union and learned that the fort was established in 1851, after the US/Mexican War. It was designed to protect citizens traveling on the Santa Fe Trail from Indian raids. One of the things I found most interesting was a separate hospital building. In its day, it was the largest hospital west of the Mississippi River. The staff treated civilians as well as the military troops and their families.
Fort Union was the storehouse for as many as 40 other forts through out the southwest. It was also the place where the dragoons and mounted riflemen became the 1st US Calvary. Ft. Union served as an important, active location for almost 40 years. But once the railroad was constructed to Santa Fe, the fort had “outlived its usefulness” and was abandoned in 1891.
As we continued out travels Roger pointed out that it was nice to see buttes that are green. So many we have seen before are dirt without any vegetation. We reached a canyon with a river at the bottom called the Canadian River. We sure wish we knew how it got its name. It was very late when we arrived in Logan. Gratefully, they had plenty of campsites at the campground. As it turned out, this is the nicest one we have stayed in on this trip, as far as facilities go. All of the sites have very long pull throughs at least 50feet long. Each has a covered picnic area with brick walls on two sides, as well as electric and water for only $10 per night. What a deal! There is a really nice boat dock at the launching area and numerous picnic areas.
July 11, 2016
We decided to take the interstate route to our next location, thinking we were more likely to find a Laundromat, as well as cell phone service and internet.
Looking out the big front window of the RV, where the prairie land meets the sky, it looks like we could fall off the face of the earth. So many places seem lonely, hot and dry, with only scattered greenery in the far more prevalent beige grasses. There are very few people living in these remote areas and those that do, we can’t imagine what their source of income might be.
I suppose, if you are born and raised here, you would have gotten used to the openness of the landscape and a tree-filled land may feel claustrophobic. Being able to see for miles and miles might be comforting. But it makes me nervous and sometimes bored and longing for the eastern part of our country.
We crossed over into Texas at 11:30, but the only way we could tell is by the signs. Out view remained the same for a few more miles. Then we noticed a few small hills. The only variation in the landscape was a large windmill “farm” with hundreds of windmills. They went on for over 25 miles across the prairie land. I wondered what it cost versus the electricity they produce. At least they are in an area where hardly anyone lives, so there probably haven’t been any complaints about destroying the view. Other than a few cattle herds grazing near the interstate and I doubt they care one way or the other.
We finally started seeing farm land just west of Amarillo. How great to be back to civilization again. It gave me a feeling of hopefulness. We got a great deal on gas at Sam’s, only $1.78 per gallon. Unbelievable! Next we located a laundry and spent the next couple of hours cleaning our clothes. To celebrate, we went to a local steak restaurant named Hoffbrau and had an early dinner. Roger had seen it from the interstate and could tell it was local, rather than a chain restaurant. We had rib eye steak, which was delicious! What a treat!
After a Walmart stop for groceries, we downloaded our blog, then headed toward Lake Meredith, where there is another national park. On the way, Roger checked the temperature. I was shocked to hear it was 110 degrees. I knew it was hot, but had no idea it was that bad. I wonder what the heat index was.
We passed another windmill “farm” with about 80 windmills. The nearer we came to the park, the more rugged the surroundings. The prairies gave way to shrubs and some small hills and valleys. It was 7 pm when we reach Alibates Flint Quarries, about 30 miles north of Amarillo, Texas. Here the mountains were higher and the valleys were lower. Of course the visitor’s center was closed at that time of day, so we located an RV park that accepted Passport America and had electricity so we could run the air conditioner.
July 12, 2016
We returned to Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument, very curious to learn more about his unusual site. It is so hard to believe that Paleo-Indians quarried flint here over 13,000 years ago. But they also traded the flint, which was noted for its hardness, to other Indians. Turquoise, from Arizona, shell jewelry, pipes and obsidian found at Alibates quarries verifies the large range trade with peoples of the west and north. The park ranger told us that this may have been the very first form of commerce in what is now the continental Unity States. The name Alibates came from a man who worked in support of preservation of the quarries. This was the very first National Monument in the state of Texas. We learned that National Monuments are selected by the President, where as National Parks must be approved by Congress.
Before we left the park, Roger spoke with a man outside who was tanning a buffalo hide. He recommended a small restaurant in Amarillo called the Golden Light Café. He sells buffalo meat to them. Then he donates the hides to the National Parks, who pay to process them and use them for presentations and displays.
We located the café easily and ordered the buffalo burger with fries. It was quite good. The basket of french-fries was huge, and it was only ½ an order. We ate our fill and still took french fries “home”. The menu told the history of the café, which opened in 1946. It has changed hands five times, but still does a good business. It is the oldest continuously serving restaurant on old Route 66.
On our drive through northeastern Texas, we see a combination of fertile green fields of corn and periodic tall white windmill “farms” on a flat, open range. Most of the undeveloped land is still a golden brown in places where irrigation is not present. Just west of Allenweed, Texas, we started seeing rolling hills again, which was very pleasant. It broke the monotony of the flat land and gave a little feeling of anticipation: what is over the next hill? It just happened to be a rest area that was built into the side of a hill, quite unique and practical; helping keep utilities costs down, I’m sure.
When we reached McLean, Texas, I noticed the grasses were taller and had a greenish tent, mixed with the golden brown. There were a few more, taller green trees, kind of like a very slow “awakening”. Then, believe it or not, just as we crossed the Texas Oklahoma state line, vegetation became greener and the number of trees increased.
We left I-40 at Sayre and headed north to Washita Battlefield National Historic Site. Again, it was closed when we arrived. We found a really pretty city park, where we spent the might. Though the town of Cheyenne is small, it is a very clean, well kept community. It is so peaceful, that it seems completely opposite of the heritage from which it was derived.
July 13, 2016
We returned to the visitor’s center this morning and learned about the “Battle”. It sure seemed more like a massacre. It was one of Custer’s very frightening decisions. Chief Black Kettle was a peaceful chief. He had signed treaties to protect his people. But Custer attacked the village before dawn. What a horrible choice he made. Though there was a small band of warriors who were camped down river that was a raiding party, Black Kettle loved his people and wanted them to survive. Instead, he lost his own life that fateful day, November 27, 1868.
At 10:00 we headed to Oklahoma City. Gosh! It is great to see greener grasses again. I have surely missed them. But I had not realized that we have Southern Plains. When ever I heard or read about the plains, I visualized the Northern Plains of Montana. It shows how lacking I am in my own country’s geology. But it also shows I can still learn new things, which I find very encouraging and hopeful.
It appears that eastern Oklahoma is devoted to farming and/or cattle ranching. But there are still areas of undeveloped plains. The soil is a very deep red color, which creates a wonderful warm contrast to the surrounding light green vegetation.
We have passed another large windmill “farm”, just west of Weatherford, Oklahoma. I have to admit that they spoil the scenery for me. They seem so out of place with the natural environment around them.
As soon as we reached Oklahoma City, we went to the Oklahoma City Memorial of the April 1995 bombing of the Federal Building. It is modern in design, but has a wonderful symbolism. There is a black granite “pool” only ¾ of an inch deep, with constantly flowing water from underground pumps. This color granite allows it to reflect light in both the daytime and at night.
Bronze backed “chair” symbols are situated on the lawn next to the pool. There is one for each of the people who died. The individual monuments are in 9 rows, representing the floor of the Federal building where they lost their lives. The second floor has small chair memorials representing the children who were in the nursery on that floor. There were a total of 168 victims, 19 of whom were children.
Roger located the person who was in charge of the memorial, as well as the security supervisor. He explained his desire to activate this park on the National Parks On the Air program. They were very helpful and readily agreed. Then he contacted the ARRL representative who is coordinating the program. He also readily approved of the activation and was very excited. Roger told him it would be a little over an hour before he would be ready, as we were going to do a tour of the Capitol Building first. (It still amazes me when Roger is able to accomplish something like this. I just don’t have his degree of faith. But it is very inspiring! I had anticipated at least a long delay in getting approval from three different agencies. But, no. He just assumes success and then achieves it. )
The Capitol Building, itself is very impressive and designed similar to many such buildings, with columns and a tall staircase out front and a dome on top. But I was surprised to see a tall oil rig right in front of the building. On the tour, I found out that this structure was the first, original oil rig in the State of Oklahoma and the oil industry has had a great influence in the state since the early 1900s.
The state seal has a star within a circle, which actually made me think about the Texas “lone star” state. But it really is not alone, because there are stars between each point representing all of the states that were already part of the United States when Oklahoma was approved for statehood. The five points stand for the five major Indian tribes living in Oklahoma. The center of the star shows an indian, a farmer and a cowboy together.
We toured the House and Senate chambers and saw many great paintings throughout the building. There is a grand portrait of Will Rogers and one of Jim Thorpe, a Native American winner of two gold metals in the Olympics in 1912 (the pentathlon, consisting of the five events of fencing, shooting, swimming, riding and cross country running and the decathlon, which is 10 track and field competitions including the long jump, discus throw, javelin throw, sprint and wrestling.) No one has ever won both events since that date.
Roger and I were surprised to learn that San Walton was another famous Oklahoma native. He was the founder of the Walmart and Sams stores. His portrait is also hanging in the Capitol Building.
We returned to the Memorial parking lot and Roger transmitted for about an hour. He wanted to continue as many people were trying to contact him for this location. But the noise level was so high that it was very difficult for him to hear them well enough to count as an official contact.
We found the Moose Lodge in one of the suburbs of Oklahoma City. (Roger had join just before our trip, for this particular purpose.) As Roger’s good luck would have it, the “governor” of the lodge was one of the first people we met. He was very gracious. After talking for awhile, he heartily agreed for us to use their electric hookup for the night. We had planned to eat dinner there, but the kitchen is undergoing repair, so it will be some time before meals will be served again.
This evening Roger tried to reach Bill Westmoreland, a classmate who could not make it to our 50 year high school reunion. Though he couldn’t get a phone number, he was able to get a work e-mail. He sent him a message that we were in town and would like to see him.
Posted by Roger at 11:39 AM
Monday, July 11, 2016
July 2, 2016
After breakfast we started our hike through the “Little River Canyon” at Hovenweep National Monument. It is a relatively small canyon, but their “claims to fame” are the remains of puebloan dwellings made out of thick bricks, two bricks wide. They date back 700 years. One of the most interesting revelations about these structures is that they have “openings that, during solstice and equinox, admit shafts with sunlight”. The puebloan people have used this as a type of calendar to determine planting and harvesting times.
Towers may have been used as signaling stations, a way of communicating with members of the community. There are living areas, work rooms, ceremonial chambers and storage buildings. Defense may also have been a consideration with some of the brick towers. The construction certainly does show how talented the masons were.
The name Hovenweep was actually chosen by a pioneer photographer named William Henry Jackson in 1874. It is a Ute/Paiute word that means “deserted valley”.
Sunday, July 3, 2016
We left Hovenweep at 11:00 am, taking a different route back to Cortez, Colorado. Along the way we did some bird watching, but had to take photos, hoping when we enlarged them on the computer, maybe we can identify them. I have to admit that it felt good to get back to farmland again. The dry sage brush landscape frightened me a little.
We found a nice RV park that allows a Passport America discount. It isn’t fancy, but is very clean. It has full hookups, so we could fill up our water tank. We took down our bikes and rode them to the little church for evening Mass. After dinner we updated the blog with our pictures, because the RV park has Wifi. So, if you haven’t checked it in awhile, you might enjoy the pictures we have added.
Monday, July 4th, 2016
Roger spent quite a bit of time wiping the dust from the inside of the front of the RV. Then he cleaned off the outside, as well. I vacuumed and swept. We both feel so much better starting out the day with a cleaner “house”. Now we are “good to go”.
Today we are returning to Mesa Verde National Park, because Roger can get additional credit for transmitting here again, because it has been over 24 hours since he last activated this sight. We also admit we will enjoy postponing the heat one more day. As we climbed the mountain, we noted that the landscape is quite different from what we have seen. There are few trees, but the land is covered with tall green shrubs, so the contrast of the light brown rocks and dark green is very pleasant. We drove to the second lookout, Park Point, at 8572 feet, and Roger transmitted, as this is the highest point in the park.
Though this is not the prettiest park we have seen, the smooth round surfaces of the rocks near the top gives it a softer, more peaceful presence. Also, in all fairness to the park, we learned that there have been four major fires here in the last decade. They destroyed thousands of acres within the park; many of the dead trees are still evident, sticking out from the new shorter vegetation.
After transmitting, Roger drove back down the mountain and headed back to Yucca House. He had spoken with a park ranger today and gotten a better idea about the parking situation. We felt more confident about returning, though the ranger acknowledged that the property owner does not like visitors crossing his property. You would think that he was aware of the situation when he bought the land; but perhaps not.
There were no trail markers to direct us to the ruins, but we did find several areas with rock rubble, one circular area and another place where one wall is still standing. It was such a shame that there were no plaques or explanations. We were lucky to get a brochure from the Mesa Verde visitor’s center.
It explained that a professor with the US Geological Survey reported his finding in 1878. He mapped the area, which has an estimated 600 room. So this was a large community of people who resided at Yucca Hours from AD 1150 -1300.
Roger had heard so much about the four corners area that he wanted to go there in person. There is actually a monument at the site where the four states (Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico) meet. But the landscape is very desolate, like what we saw in southern Utah, dry, no trees, just short scrub brush. There are no towns and very few people for miles. It makes me miss home. We were surprised to see a small river just before we reached four corners.
There was a single building at the location, but it was Navajo Indian property, not a national park. They were closing in less that an hour so we decided to continue our journey.
We picked up Highway 64 and turned back east into New Mexico. Shortly after crossing the state border we came over a rise and there was a huge almost vertical mountain right in the middle of the desert-like landscape. We could see it from 20 miles away. It reminds me of the Wicked Witche’s castle in the movie, Wizard of Oz. It gave me a kind of forbidden feeling when I gazed at its sharp pointed peaks.
July 5, 2016
We spent the night in Farmington. Then, this morning we headed just a few miles north to the Aztec Ruins National Monument. We watched a movie in the visitor’s center then toured the ruins. But let me clear up the misconception created by the mane. These ruins were not built by Aztec Indians of Central Mexico. They were built by Puebloan people, just as Yucca House and many other locations in the four corners region of southwestern United States. Unfortunately, when the Spanish explorers moved north from Mexico, they made the false assumption that the Aztec Indians must have lived here and the name “stuck”.
One of the most impressive areas of the site is the reconstructed “Great Kiva”, a circular sanctuary and a place for people to meet for community events”. It was excavated by Archeologist, Earl Morris in 1921 and rebuilt in 1934. Something that is different about these structures is a band of green sandstones, at about waist high, all along the outside walls of the pueblo. “Their purpose remains a mystery.” Another unanswered question is why the puebloan people only lived here for 200 years, from the late 1000s to the late 1200s. One of the theories is that a great drought occurred, causing the people to search for a new home.
The Northwest corner of New Mexico is another area where oil pumping stations are a frequent site, some pumping, others capped. There is little else of civilization for 40 miles or more just scrub desert conditions. But the sky –Oh! It is such a beautiful shade of blue, with puffy clouds scatter through out.
We traveled to Chaco Culture Naional Historical Park. The native ruins date back to 800. This tribe of puebloans built multilevel dwellings and lived in the area for 300 years. We drove around the canyon, viewing the ruins from a distance, then continued on our way.
The open range land we passed reminded me of the term, “dry gulch”, because so many of the stream beds were dry. We saw two different groups of cows eating next to the road. Other large groups were in the sagebrush. We saw lots of rabbits. One variety had a big round white tail and the others were larger and had a long black tail.
There was an absolutely beautiful sunset with the edge of some of the clouds looking like they were on fire. Its beauty reflected throughout the entire sky, as there were no buildings or trees blocking the view. It was a very positive note to a very long day. Roger assured me we would not have any more dirt roads on our journey home. Halleluiah! We spent the night in the parking lot of the Apache Nugget Travel Center and Casino.
Wednesday July 6, 2016
Oh! To see green trees again is so lovely. We are actually going through a forest this morning, Santa Fe National Forest. We are climbing in elevation, passing cliffs of dark red dirt. We reached 8,700 feet on the mountain before we began to descend the other side. This is a pretty forest with very little under brush, just short green grasses, allowing you to see through the trees for a considerable distance. The air is so nice and cool and the sky is a clear pretty light blue. Most of the trees seem to be a type of pine, different from our southern variety. They are tall and narrow in shape. The bark is rough and has a slight reddish tent in the older trees with wider trunks.
Remember how we weren’t going to do any more dirt roads? Well we started off on a nice paved road and about half way to our destination, it turned into a dirt road. But, fortunately, it has been recently graded and was much easier to drive on than yesterdays irregular and bumpy gravel road. Also, on the places where the sun shines on the ground, the mica in the dirt creates sparkles all over the road. After about a half hour we returned to a paved road again. Yea!! There are even yellow wild flowers growing along the side of the road. (7900 ft) We also passed a real meadow, which we haven’t seen in ages. The scent of the pine is so strong in one section of the forest, a sweet clean fragrance that we really missed when it was gone.
There are many National sites in New Mexico and Roger is trying to stop at as many as he can without going too far off the route toward home. The first one today is Vallas Caldera, a National Preserve. It is the most recently designated park, less than a year ago, and does not yet have a brochure. It is at 8500 ft. and is comprised of almost 8,900 acres. We learned that the difference between a national preserve and a national park is that the preserve allows public hunting, trapping and gas exploration and extraction.
This area was a large volcano millions of years ago. It collapsed, creating a round “caldron”. Then in later years a few small eruptions occurred raising several small mountains of lava. Today, the center of the bowl shaped area is a huge meadow of grasses with no trees.
When we pulled into the parking lot we saw numerous Gunnison Prairie Dogs. They are about a foot in length and have short little legs and a short tail that turns down. They dig tunnels in the ground and have a large pile of dirt surrounding the opening of their burrows. We were also happy to see the hummingbird feeders on the porch at the visitor’s center. It allowed us to add another new bird to our list, the broad-tailed hummingbird.
After making contacts in this park, we drove into Los Almos and found a lovely city park next to a pretty pond. There were flowers and native grasses decorating the landscape along the sidewalks. A small wooden walkway was constructed over the pond, to give a close-up view of the water lilies floating in the water. Ducks were swimming around the little lake, adding another level of serenity to the park. On one end of the pond there were a set of stairs leading to a higher level of the park, with a waterfall flowing down between. Families were having individual picnics on the green lawn. It was such a great sight, seeing families relaxing together and using their park.
July 7, 2016
This morning Roger met a filming crew here in Los Almos. They were working on a segment on the 100th anniversary of the national parks. After talking with them, they asked if he would let them tape him about the National Parks on the Air program that ham radio operators are participating in. Of course he was excited to agree. The TV series should air in a couple of weeks. The man Roger spoke to will contact him with the details, once he finds out which Florida stations will air the program. We hope they will include Roger’s interview when it is finished the editing process.
We left Los Almos at 10 am and drove to Bandelier National Monument, another ancestral Puebloan community. It includes numerous cliff dwellings, as well as a large circular village. This National Park brochure had a much better explanation of the Ancestral Puebloan people. It noted that archeologists believe that these people were “hunters and gatherers”…who “came into the region over 10,000 years ago.” They moved with the seasons and food sources. But once they discovered agriculture, from the Spanish explorers and were able to raise corn and squash, they began to make permanent homes.
The park was named after archeologist Adolph Bandelier, who began studying the ruins in the New Mexico Territory in 1880. He remained in the region for 12 years and wrote a novel depicting the Puebloan life in Pre-Spanish times” called The Delight Makers. Roger and I walked to the circular village, then to the cliff dwellings. The weather was so hot that we didn’t have the energy to climb the cliffs and explore. It would have required using several ladders made of tree branches.
One question we had about the villages on the ground level was why there were no openings between the walls, going from room to room. The ranger told us than the entrances were all from holes in the roofs. Ladders lead down to the inside. There is a great artist’s sketch of what the city would have looked like, on the brochure for the Park. There were no windows in the structures. This allowed the dwellings to be cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.
The “city” had only one opening, serving as entrance and exit. It is believed this was a way of protecting the children from wondering off and getting lost. The elderly members of the tribe would have watched over the children while their parents were cultivating the crops on the cliff tops above their homes.
It was 1:30 we started down the mountain to Santa Fe. We went straight to the Capitol Building and did a short tour. The exterior of the building is very different from those we have seen in other states. It is very conservation, in appearance, blending in with the architecture of the entire city. It was interesting to learn that New Mexico’s legislature is not paid a salary. They receive per diem for the time that the legislature is in session, 60 days in odd numbered years and only 30 days in even numbered years.
All of the art work inside the Capitol building is either donated by the artist or paid for by the Capitol Art Foundation, which has various fund raisers throughout the year. All of the works on display were created by New Mexico artists. They vary greatly in media and style. One of the most impressive works, inouropinion was a painting by Gary Morton on display on the 4th floor. It is so detailed that you would think it was a photograph. It depicts a man on horseback overlooking a canyon with a river down at the bottom.
Another very interesting discovery we made regards a New Mexico state symbol. It is a red circle with four lines running through the top and sides. This is the Zia (an Indian tribe) sun symbol and represents “the four directions of the earth, the four seasons of the year, the four times of the day (sunrise, noon, evening and night) and life’s four divisions of childhood, youth, adulthood and old age”.
After leaving the Capitol, Roger found the Old Santa Fe Trail and transmitted from there for awhile. Then we found a city park right on the El Camino Real National Trail and decided to stay the night. It was a little uncomfortable for awhile, as it was quite warm with little breeze. But after sunset, it cooled down. Roger was able to transmit from there, another national park site.
Friday July 8, 2016
Santa Fe has some kind of city ordinance where construction has to be adobe style and colors are restricted to different shades of beige and brown or reddish brown. Roger and I don’t particularly care for the “sameness” of the architecture. Plus, it is another government restriction which we don’t agree with. Many of the walkways through out the city are not maintained, but grow wild with weeds. Even the park we stayed in last night was overgrown with weeds. When we went to the Walmart for groceries we learned that another ordinance does not permit plastic bags. It cost 10 cents each for paper bags, “to encourage people to bring their own,” yet another local government restriction
After our Walmart stop, we left Santa Fe and drove to Pecos National Historical Park. It
is another Puebloan ruin. The film in the visitor’s center gave a much more thorough
explanation of the total history of the area. I had not realized there had been a point in
time when the Puebloan Indians had revolted against the Spanish conquistadors and won
their freedom for a short time. Neither of us had known that there was a major Civil War
battle in this same area. It was also very interesting to know that the actress Greer
Garson and her husband lived in Pecos and donated land to this National Park. They
believed it was very important to continue to maintain the history of the Pecos area. Ms.
Garson actually narrated the film in the visitor's center.
We spent the first part of the afternoon locating a campsite. Because this is the weekend,
the first couple of parks were full. So we had to drive several miles from Pecos, up in the
mountains to find a place where there was space available. But that was good, because it
was cooler there, with a nice steady breeze.
Posted by Roger at 3:45 PM