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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Garvan Woodland Gardens

Today's our last day in Hot Springs, so we did a bit of sightseeing. September 30th is probably one of the worst choices of dates to visit a botanical garden. All the spring and summer flowers are gone, and the beds of 'mums have barely gotten a start. In addition they are still cleaning up blow down from Gustave. As a matter of fact, they are using mule teams for some of the cleanup so as to minimize damage to the gardens. Nonetheless, it was still a pleasant visit. We walked the better part of two miles and took a bunch of pictures, five of which are included. There's one of a waterfall, one of Durelle on a stone bridge, a butterfly close-up, some colorful koi, and a serpentine bridge. Notice that the lumber for the bridge decking was bent to follow the curvature of the bridge.
On the way back to the campground we spotted a tiny, four business, strip mall with a barbershop and a small cafe comprising two of the four. My lunch was a chicken-fried steak, fried okra and biscuits and gravy for $5.99. Durelle had a club sandwich. While she finished I got a haircut (for $9) in a three chair establishment with a half dozen trophy deer heads mounted. It was probably not a good place to discuss politics, so I didn't try.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Hot Springs, day 3

Finally...I have some pictures from Hot Springs. The scenic one was taken from a mountain overlook that we achieved via a mountain road. The sign said, "No vehicles over 30 feet". We took the Jeep. The campground is on a hilltop with a nice view. I think our adrenilin level is running down. Tomorrow we will check out some famous gardens, but endless touring is finally beginning to take its toll. We met an interesting couple with an identical Allegro Bus who are full timers. They also post a blog and we almost share a wedding anniversary. They were married on 17 June and we were married on the 18th.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Hot Springs, day 2

I promised some local pictures, but didn't take any. We had a leisurely breakfast...sausage, pepper 'n onions, hash browns, eggs and some grated cheddar...followed by the Sunday paper. I guess that was all calculated to stall the inevitable. At noon I started washing the bus...all of it! Durelle did several loads of wash. Other than finding a Sunday paper, we didn't go anywhere. After the chores, I crashed in a chair outside with a beer and a book. I haven't done that in many weeks. I was tired and thoroughly enjoyed relaxing. I'm about to feed the pup, make a martini and start the fire for a couple of steaks that are sitting in the fridge absorbing some barbecue rub.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Hot Springs, AR

Well, I haven't posted in four days! After the photo op day with the dinner cruise, I didn't take another picture in Branson. There was a seminar day. There were a couple of game days. Yesterday there were four teams for bean-bag baseball. Durelle's team won the event. It seemed that every time I looked up she was rounding the bases with another home run toss. She won the tourney with a walk-off home run. You'ld think she was Big Papi. The day before was horseshoes except that, instead of horseshoes, we used toilet seats; and the stakes were covered with three rolls of toilet paper so you couldn't slide a ringer on. My team was down 9-1. I got two ringers, and we lost 11-10. Oh, well!
Route 65 south from Branson was not my favorite drive of the trip...minimal scenery, minimal mileage, and minimal cruise control. We averaged 40mph. I bought $400 worth of fuel at a place that wouldn't take my check or my credit card. The good news was that they had an ATM, and the diesel was $3.939. The last previous fill-up was in Monument, CO, 917 miles ago. I broke 9 mpg.
Tomorrow I'll get some local pictures and get back on the ball. I hope to do some bus washing tomorrow. The weather couldn't be better.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Branson, MO, day 2

Well, here we are in Branson, MO at a Tiffin Rally. By the way, next year's is already sold out. Tomorrow is a bunch or seminars, but today was a couple of good Branson shows. First, the is a shot of a row of Allegros. Ours is the one with the window awnings deployed. There are 111 Allegros here. Another shows the Branson Belle, a 1500 ton stern wheeler that is purported to be the largest ship ever assembled on a landlocked lake. It carries 720 passengers on dinner show cruises. As you might expect, an outfit that has been doing it twice a day for 13 years has it down pat. They put on an excellent combination of music, dance, and vaudeville that seemed to satisfy all tastes. The only discordant note for me was a rendition of "Old Man River" by a white baritone/tenor in a tuxedo. Somewhere Paul Robeson was turning over in his grave! There are a couple of boat of Durelle contemplating the scenery and the homes along and above the shoreline and a picture of the flag while looking over the fantail. Believe it or not, the sunset picture was taken through the tour bus window! As I have said before, "I love this camera."

Monday, September 22, 2008

Branson, MO

Again, no new pictures. We arrived at a comfortable hour and set up at what they call "America's Best Campground". Indeed, the members of the Good Sam Club have voted them such for the last six years...and there is a lot of competition out there. We were greeted with a substantive goody bag and numerous brochures. We set up amongst 120 other Tiffin rigs and went to a roast beef dinner in the pavillion. To give you an idea of the popularity of the event, the 2009 version is already sold out. The Tiffin techs will be coming around to make minor repairs, and, of course, there are several new Allegros for sale. No, we are not interested. There is a full slate of Branson shows, riverboat cruises, seminars, silly contests and food. We spent tonight with other retired Air Force folks we met at Ellsworth AFB in early August.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Iola, KS

No pictures tonight. Kansas is not all that photogenic. Today was different. Durelle watched the Ryder cup all day. Even though it has always been available, she has never really watched the TV as we drove before. But, Kansas is a different story. First of all there are few obstructions between us and the satellite as we drive, and, secondly, one doesn't miss a lot of scenic spots while watching the TV. We are in a rural, no-frills, $20 campground which works just fine. Tomorrow we arrive at Branson, MO for a Tiffin Rally...another new experience.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

WaKeeney, KS Sat night

Today was a quiet day for me. Durelle, however, had a busy day. She did at least four loads of wash while paying diligent attention to the Ryder Cup. As I said in the previous post, there aren't a lot of photo opportunities here. I did capture a couple of interesting cloud pictures. The campground has a good dog walk area. Unfortunately, it left Belle in a dilemma.

Tomorrow we travel to Iola, KS to put us in easy range of Branson, MO for the Tiffin rally starting on Monday.

Friday, September 19, 2008

WaKeeny, KS

We are now in WaKeeney, KS, but I took a few pictures this morning before we left. There isn't much that is photogenic in WaKeeney (the K is correct) unless you like 360 degree horizons at least 50 miles away. If I had only lived here, I would have joined the "Flat Earth Society". Two of the pictures show the bus at the north overlook #2 at USAFA. One shows the cadet area, and the other shows the "Eagle's Nest" west of the cadet area. Cindy and Mark and I have rolled out sleeping bags on the top of that peak (9,300 ft) and watched the sun come up over Kansas. The third picture is looking east from the same vantage point. I took it to show the amount of development east of I-25. Everything in the picture has been built since we left. Colorado Springs is still enjoying (?) explosive growth.

Last night we had a delightful dinner at the Craftwood Inn in Manitou Springs just west of Colorado Springs. We took the Catalfamos. We had been eating at their place for three days. This was an elegant place that we remembered from 1999. We have traveled over 8,000 miles so far and Durelle chose Manitou Springs, CO to order lobster bisque and grilled scallops. I had a medium rare elk steak which was outstanding with a rich gravy. Phil had roast wild boar, and Laura had Spanish, vegetarian tapas. Karin enjoyed her ribs. It was a very pleasant experience.
It took us a while to get out of the Rockies. We went a little north to get some diesel and headed east through rural roads until we got to route 24 in Peyton. Durelle had to forego the Ryder cup to navigate us until we got to route 24. From there we took 24 to I-70 in Limon, CO and took I-70 to WaKeeney.
I was surprised, as we moved east of the Rockies, how far the area of fine homes, facing west, extended. I will admit that many were for sale. Once we got east of Peyton the terrain changed again to the high plains. It was greener than I had expected. We had ideal driving conditions: cruise control at 1500 rpm, downhill (we lost about 4,000 ft today), but there was still a headwind! We got 8.6 mpg. We'll stay here two's the Ryder Cup after all. Then one more stop before we arrive at Branson, MO for the Tiffin rally. We have a reservation for Sunday night in Iola, KS.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Colorado Springs

Durelle played golf again today...this time at Peterson Field. That precluded her getting to visit the Garden of the Gods west of Colorado Springs. So I drove through and took a few pictures for her. Then I went by a favorite old restaurant from nearly 40 years ago. There are two pictures in the post which will have meaning to only two people, Cindy and Mark. Mark's perennial order was, "Two beef tacos, a Coke and sopapillas for desert". When we first started going there, it was often the terminus for a Sunday morning trail ride. There was a watering trough and a hitching rail out back of the resaurant. Now it's surrounded by a Best Buy and many others of that ilk. Colorado Springs is still growing at a rapid rate. Then I got ready to leave tomorrow...checked air, fluids, etc. Tomorrow is Wakeeny, Kansas, and I expect Durelle will be watching the Ryder cup en route.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

USAFA update

Over the weekend the main event was the 50th wedding anniversary party for Phil and Laura Catalfamo. Not all of you know the Catalfamos, but I think the weekend is an important part of our trip. Phil and I shared an office in Alaska and many other adventures. The many weekends of family camping in the mid-'60s in our Apache pop-up were the start of our RVing escapades. Saturday evening was an extremely well done affair at the Catalfamo's house in the Gleneagle area of Colorado Springs. One of the pictures of Phil is taken on the deck with a view of USAFA and Pike's Peak. You can see that it is a special location. Attendees came from locations literally world-wide. The close-knit, extended families and ex-neighbors from Brooklyn to Anchorage were present as, of course, were their five kids and the grand-kids. The food, as those of you who know Laura would expect, was outstanding. The picture of Phil and Laura was taken while Phil was recounting the story of how he brought his new bride to the Philippines before he had secured any housing for them. It was a hilarious story of musical chairs (quarters) for several weeks before housing was found. It must have been a wild, eye-opening set of experiences for the new young bride from Brooklyn. There is a picture of their daughter, Susan, with Durelle. The picture of Durelle and Laura was taken on Sunday as we had sort of an instant replay of the Saturday evening affair. As you can imagine, many memories were exchanged and updated, and a good time was had by all.

USAFA, day 7

Tuesday I got a guided tour of the electrical engineering and computer department. When I taught there, we had just transitioned out vacuum tubes, so a lot of things have changed. I was escorted by LTC Brian Peterson (class of' 91), shown in the picture making some caustic comments about a cadet's engineering notebook. There are still the small classes and plenty of hands-on and interactive teaching styles. I felt right at home with the format.
Security is a lot tighter than when I was here. Now, in addition to the gates that control access to the academy, there are additional gates controlling access to the cadet area. I required an escort to get to the main academic building, Fairchild Hall. While I was in the cadet area, I took a picture of the portal over the ramp up to the quadrangle. For 30 years or so it said, "Bring Me Men". You can see from the picture that the wording has been changed to more gender neutral sentiments.

Monday, September 15, 2008

USAFA, day 5

No pictures today...just a quick update. We had forgotten that the temperature here typically varies 35 to 40 degrees every 24 hours. Today was 41 when we got up and 76 in the afternoon. The little quartz heater takes the chill off nicely in the mornings. We have a 50 amp site so we don't have to remember to turn it off when we toast our English muffin.
Today, while Durelle was catching up with the laundry basket, I went to the elementary school in Douglass (the double s is correct) Valley elementary school. Both of our kids and most of our grandkids attended. Son, Mark, recalls that when they went to a parent teacher conference for granddaughter, Melissa, in the first grade, the teacher, a Mrs. Olson predicted that Melissa was going to be president of her senior class. I wanted to tell her that her prediction was accurate and thank her for giving Melissa a good start. Mrs. Olson retired last year, but a best friend and fellow teacher took my card, made some notes, and promised to get in touch with Mrs. Olson and get back to me with the results.
Tomorrow I'm scheduled to get a tour of the electrical engineering department. I'm looking forward to it. Durelle is scheduled for a round of golf on the USAFA course where she was once the club champion. This is a very pleasant stop.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

USAFA, day 3

Good morning. Friday was one of our extremely rare rainy days on the trip, and it came at a perfect time. After four straight driving days, it was good to relax and do some much needed cleaning. Those of you with RVs know that the rig collects dust and dirt faster than your house does. Last evening we had supper and a visit with old friends and classmate, Buzz and Brita Glenn. Supper was at Ted's Montana Grill, a small chain of Ted Turner's that features bison from his herds of thousands of them. Durelle tried the short ribs, and I had a roast beef after having a lot of chicken and fish lately.
This morning, after walking Belle, I set out to find a newspaper. The morning light was ideal for some pictures, so I brought the camera. The picture of the B-52 is at the north end of the base looking sou'west. Note the bear proof trash container a la Yellowstone. I also got a shot of Pike's Peak with a dusting of fresh snow and Blodgett Peak in the foreground. The Cloutiers have all been on top of both of them, though not recently. The third picture is looking south toward the cadet area.
Today we'll go to the commissary, beauty shop etc. The "etc." includes the Class Six (liquor) store. You know you have been on the road a long time when you have to replenish the Vermouth! It has been 111 days as of today.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Arrived at USAFA

We have arrived at USAFA just north of Colorado Springs, CO. It has been 1200 miles in four days, and we are really ready to park for awhile. We will spend a week here. Even though we spent five years here from ’69 to ’74, we had never made the drive we did today. As soon as we left Grand Junction, we started climbing; gradually for the first couple of hours, then the grade increased to 6%. The first part of the climb was up through Glenwood Canyon, to Glenwood Springs and then through Vail. I-70 must have been the most expensive of the interstates to build. As we approached Glenwood Springs, we watched helmet-clad rafters hurtling down the Colorado River. The canyon is narrow. How narrow is it? Two examples: it’s so narrow that, even with the tall windshield on the bus, you still couldn’t see the tops of the canyon walls, and second, there isn’t room to put the eastbound and west bound lanes of I-70 side by side. In some places they had to be one above the other! Vail is a westernized, enlarged Alpine village. The two pictures were taken west of Vail Pass. The first is looking east toward where we are headed. The second is looking south over the most attactive scenery. There are elegant homes clinging to every outcropping like crows on fence posts. Vail Pass is at 10,600 feet and Loveland pass is well over 11,000. Managing 18 tons up and down those grades took a bit of care. The 400 Cummins had no problems, but managing the speed, both uphill and down, took some attention. Interestingly, the driver’s perspective of the grade is not reliable. On more than one occasion both Durelle and I thought we were descending, but a glance at the river paralleling our route confirmed that it was flowing toward us! I have a two level Jacobs brake for engine compression. I used it a lot. I also used some manual downshifts on the climb.
Denver and the surrounding areas are still growing. The Air Force Academy that we left so long ago still looks familiar. We have a great, full-service site for $17 per day. The warning signs about mountain lions are a bit disconcerting, however.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Grand Junction, CO

Well, we made it to Colorado. First, the four pictures. The one of the two old farts was taken by a person or persons unnamed at Hill AFB in Ogden, UT. The one with the Jeep was at our lunch stop today at 7,800 feet on I-70 in UT (mile 88). There is one looking eastbound on I-70 through Spotted Wolf Pass. It's a 6% grade for about five miles with not one, but two, runaway truck escape ramps. The last shot shows one of MANY triple tandem trailers negotiating the grade and the turns.
We arrived at 1605 after exactly an eight hour day and 380 miles. Believe it or not, I averaged 8.0 mpg. Even without national parks, the steep canyons and red bluffs are still dramatic. We also enjoyed the Salt Lake Valley. It is amazing how much heavy industry is there without spoiling the lush, agricultural nature of the valley. Again, we had a great weather day. We are at a KOA on the Colorado River. Tomorrow we'll go to the Air Force Academy where we will spend a week. After 1200 miles in four days, I'm looking forward to it. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Hill AFB

We’ve had a couple of semi-long days of driving and no touring, hence the dearth of pictures. We did 290 miles yesterday and 330 today. We are at about 4400 feet here. We started at under 3000 and had two or three summits above a mile high. Tomorrow we have nearly 400 miles to Grand Junction, then we cross the Rockies on I-70 into Denver and Colorado Springs. As I recall, that pass is above 10,000 feet.
We dropped in to Hill AFB with no reservation, counting on the fact that they had plenty of overflow parking. They do, but we got the last spot. We have 30 amps and “access to the southern sky” so everything is cool. The picture shows the Wasatch (I think) mountains surrounding the east side of Hill AFB.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Bend, OR II

Today couldn't really be called "touring". We drove around Bend, OR, population 75,000, and took a couple of pictures, did a bit of grocery shopping and made plans for refueling tomorrow. The low fuel light came on as I was backing into the camping spot. I also posted a picture of the local area of the campground. We are in site No. 478! It is definitely a high end resort. I did do a bit of maintenance, nothing major, but necessary. If you look at the campground picture, you can see asphalt roadways and brick pavers for the parking places. As I said, "high end". We parked well forward in the site in order to get within view of the DirecTV satellite.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Bend, OR

No pictures today. We had an easy day from Prospect to Bend. This is a high end park...much more than we need but very pleasant. We'll do a bit of touring tomorrow and post a more typical posting then. We are glad Hanna avoided Hanahan, SC.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Crater Lake

Today was Crater Lake day, although we did search out a few other views. The Rim Road around the lake is 33 miles and ranges up and down from 7,000 to 8,000 feet, but it takes a few miles to get there from Prospect plus we did some other sightseeing so we did about 150 miles today. I can never be sure of the order in which the pictures are displayed in the blog, so I'll describe them and you can figure out which description goes with which picture. There are two shots of Crater Lake (I took 46 and they're all winners), one includes Durelle and the other doesn't. There is a picture of the pinnacles. When the mountain erupted 8,000 years ago, the lava flowed down the mountain and was soon covered with pumice and ash. The super-hot gases forced their way upward through the pumice and ash and found their escape into the atmosphere as fumorales. The temperature in those vertical chimneys fused the surrounding materials into a solid in essence welding a vertical pipe. Over the years, the surrounding materials were eroded leaving these spires, most of which are hollow. There is a picture of a small stone building. Many of you have heard the expression, "built like a brick ****house. The folks that built this one went even one better.
Finally, there is a picture of the "Rabbit Ears". Yesterday the campground host was discussing the local vantage points in addition to Crater Lake which he called, "the tip of the iceberg" in terms of views. He noticed that we were towing a Jeep and he gave us a map to the Rabbit Ears. The Rogue River National Park is the largest ATV/OHV park in the nation. So we followed Forest Service trails ten miles from the pavement in 4WD. It was a steep climb (I had to use 4WD Low Range descending). Durelle was sure that we were going to have to remove a log across the trail before we were done, but everything went well...we got our pictures of the Rabbit Ears and returned safely. We were not overwhelmed with other tourists.
Tomorrow we proceed to Bend, OR. I have an abundance of unused pictures if we don't find anything in Bend.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Prospect, OR

Although we are in Prospect, today's pictures are from Crescent City. Before we hooked up the Jeep, we drove around some of the redwood groves and took a brief trip to the harbor of Crescent City. The picture of the Jeep at the foot of the tree didn't have enough light, but I decided to include it for the scale. It is amazing how dark it is on the floor of those forests. At 1030 I had to turn up the dash lights to read the instrument panel. The next shows the road and the unachievable speed limit. The lighthouse shot was taken from the municipal harbor, and the last one was shot through the windshield on the way out of the park.
Today was a 150 mile day with only 30 miles in the first hour through the redwoods. We got in after 2:00, and the campground management was most helpful. The bad news was that the chances of my dish acquiring DirecTV were slim. The good news was that the campground had set up a DirecTV dish and distribution system to several sites. So I hooked up as if it were my portable dish. When I turned it on, I had a good signal on the odd numbered transponders but none on the evens. I didn't want to envision two nights in a row with no satellite for Durelle. With management permission we hooked up the coax to the outlet on the adjoining site and everything worked. Saaaafe!! The wifi is strong, but cell phones don't work.
Tomorrow is Crater Lake and associated sights.