Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Wake up and drive is our mantra today and we breeze through Atlanta and south through Macon to Interstate 95 heading north from Savannah to Bluffton. We finally reached Exit 8 and turned east to Sun City. It feels so good to be back at our house.

Everything looks so green and beautiful here with flowers blooming and the very hot sun shining. Our street was paved while we were gone and it looks great. We pulled up and were greeted by a few neighbors and began to unpack. Getting everything out of HaRVey took all afternoon, but it was finally done and we collapsed. Later we ate, started the laundry and got back to the normal routine. It felt so good to take a real shower and sleep in our king size bed.

What a wonderful adventure we had. I need some time to reflect on all the incredible things we saw and experienced. We are so lucky to have had this opportunity to drive to some of the most beautiful places on earth and to meet so many interesting people.

Thanks for reading this blog and I hope to continue when we plan our next trip.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Two of Us

We're Going Home. Left Branson and drove a two lane road through the hills of Missouri and finally reached Arkansas. Breezed through that state and crossed the Mississippi River to Memphis, Tennessee. Headed south through the tips of Missippi and Alabama and spent the night in a rest area just west of Atlanta, Georgia.

No photos and no real traffic and we are anxious to get to our house.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Bumper Sticker of the Week

I like God.

It's his fan club I'm not so crazy about.

Little Boxes

Branson is "Little Boxes Made of Ticky Tack" and lots of traffic. Everything is so spread out that you are dependent on your car or a shuttle service to get most places. In the morning we drove in bumper to bumper traffic to the shopping area called Branson Landing and took the Duck Tour. If you've never done one of these - you should. Most cities with water (lake or river) offer these and it is not your regular city tour. They use WWII amphibious vehicles and each guest gets a duck quacker to hang around their neck. The guide is always funny and encourages the tourists to dance in their seats with loud music and to quack at people you pass.

Jeff and I love the Ducks and quacked along with the kids and driver. The highlight is floating the vehicle in the water and we had a 30 minute ride after we saw the old town of Branson. We had lunch near the water and then headed back to the RV to do a final load of laundry. It wasn't so bad since the swimming pool was right next to the laundry room and we swam and sunbathed while waiting for the washers and dryers to get our clothes clean.

We had dinner a a rib joint and then went to see a show called "SIX" which featured six real brothers singing a cappella. We were skeptical since we had been warned that some of the shows weren't great. Imagine Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede, a cowboy version of Medieval Times. Anyway this show rocked us and we even bought a CD to enjoy at home.

Tack, Tack, Tacky at Heaven's Door

Branson, Missouri - a town that grew geometrically because of a minister's love of the area - is like a cross (no pun intended) between Las Vegas without the charm and a carnival midway with a soupcon of red necks and national chain stores thrown in. We were warned by Cousin Arnie, but you sort of have to see it to believe it. There must be more than 50 shows in town. All feature either has-beens (The Comets [sans Bill Haley], The Coasters, The Drifters, Andy Williams, and Paul Revere and the Raiders [in full pirate costumes!!!]) or never-weres of whom we have never-heard.

Other than that Branson is pretty nice. We are in a lovely campground 100 yards off the main strip. It's easy to find the campground. We are right behind the half-size replica of The Titanic. Branson is in the Ozark Mountains surrounded by some beautiful lakes. To take advantage of all the area has to offer we are taking the Duck Tour this afternoon. (If you know what the Duck Tour is, you understand. If not, you should try one some time. They are available in most tourist areas where there is water.)

The best thing Branson has to offer is that we are less than 1000 miles from home. Yes, it's that time. All good things must come to an end. We should be home by the end of the week.

It's been a terrific summer. Lots of ups and downs, but many, many more ups. Don't ask us what we did all summer. Until we go back and read the blog and edit the pictures (5000+!!!) I am not sure we could tell you.

RVing is a wonderful lifestyle. Like any other choice it has its pros and cons, but we wouldn't hesitate to spend another summer in HaRVey the RV. Having said that, there's no place like home.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

I Like Bread and Butter

We left Kansas and drove south along the Missouri border to Branson. Along the way we stopped to eat lunch at Lambert's - Home of the Throwed Roll. We waited in line for two hours to get a table and found the food to be just okay.

So what, you ask, is a throwed roll? Here's the answer...
When Brian was attending Wash U. in St. Louis he and a friend took a road trip to Memphis and visited Graceland. Roadside billboards kept advertising Lambert's - Home of the Throwed Roll and it was only two hours off their route. On the way home they gave in to curiosity and stopped at Lambert's. Brian told us he was in "East Bumblefuck" and the first thing he saw was a Starr Bus. We laughed hysterically because Starr is a local tour operator out of Trenton, NJ.

Anyway Brian went on and on about the amount of food and how they bring the hot rolls out of the kitchen on a trolley and throw them to you - sometimes across the room. We were intrigued and could not pass up our chance to experience all of this fun. We went to a different location than Brian, but the same deal. A young man wheeled the stainless trolley out of the kitchen and proceeded to throw the muffin shape rolls to anyone who wanted one. They were burning hot and pretty good. Another server followed and offered sorghum to sweeten the roll and give you many more calories as well. It is sort of like a thick molasses for you Yankees. Young children walked up to the cart and the server gently tossed their roll into their outstretched hands. Lots of laughs.

Now in addition to all kinds of fried foods and greasy meats they have "pass arounds." First they give you fried okra and later potatoes with onions, stewed macaroni and tomatoes and one more that I can't remember. This is in addition to your entree and two vegetables. The drinks are served in 32 oz. plastic mugs with free refills. Needless to say I took my fried catfish home in a doggie bag.

Around 5:00 pm we arrived in Branson a little road weary and our tummies still full. As we pulled into town we were amazed at how hilly it is and realized that we were in the Ozark Mountains. Branson looks like it grew up haphazardly with large theatres dropped in among strip malls and lots of motels and restaurants. It goes on for miles and is nowhere as organized as the Las Vegas strip.

We went directly to our campground and it was the nicest one we stayed at the entire trip. It was a hilly park with tiered sites that were spacious and shady. They gave you a card to get through the security gate and another to open the bathrooms and laundry. The location seemed central to everything and we drove to the downtown area and walked around a shopping plaza. Later we settled in and watched some cable TV.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Caissons Go Rolling Along

It's Saturday and we are continuing east on the Interstate. It's a pleasant day and we pass a huge windmill farm which covers many acres along the highway. Our only planned stop is in Abilene where we visit the Eisenhower Library. This is the sixth presidential library we have seen and each is interesting and informative.

Abilene is a small city that was a wild west town back in the day. Wild Bill Hickok, Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson all served as sheriff here although it seems quite tame today. It is a hot (90's) dry day and we are happy to find a shady spot to park the RV and leave Ziggy to take a nap while we tour.

The Dwight David Eisenhower Center is a beautiful tribute. There is a library, chapel, visitor center, museum and the boyhood home all situated on broad, grassy lawns and adorned with statues and fountains. We spent a few hours touring the modest house and in the museum. The exhibits are well planned and take you through DDE's childhood, military, academic and government service careers. He was a very interesting and motivated man and served well in many capacities.
After the educational afternoon we continued on to a campground between Lawrence and Kansas City. Just after we got in and settled a horrendous thunderstorm began. It rained for two hours and finally cleared. Most of the Kansas campgrounds advertise storm shelters and we do remember Dorothy and Toto so we were happy when the storm ended.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Stairway to Heaven

More driving across the eastern part of Colorado and the terrain is mere hills and sand and rocks like a desert. There are cattle grazing and farms with crops growing. We are headed to Colorado Springs where we'll see the Garden of the Gods and take the cog railway up Pike's Peak.
Colorado Springs is south of Denver and the home of the Air Force Academy. It's a big city, but we didn't get to see much of it. We headed directly to Garden of the Gods which is a city park with the most incredible red rock formations. It is many acres that were left to the city and best of all it is FREE! We drove around and saw some of the formations and also took a short hike where we got close to the rocks and saw a few rock climbers.
We drove about a half hour towards Pike's Peak and had lunch in the little town of Manitou which is cute and full of arty stores and galleries. We got to the Cog Railway Depot and spent some time in the gift shops before our boarding time. At 2:40pm we boarded the train and headed uphill. The ride is an hour and a half each way and chock full of scenery and incredible views. The summit is over 14,000' and it got really cold as we made the ascent.
At the top we looked out, but it was cloudy and drizzly so not too much to see. Most of the time was spent in the Summit House eating and shopping. They have "famous" donuts and we sampled them. Drank some hot chocolate and Gatorade too as we were pretty light headed from the altitude.
Got down to ground level and took off to the east. Spent the night in a rest area just across the state border in Kansas. Jeff, Ziggy and I snuggled in bed without putting the out since we were in a parking lot. Pretty close quarters and it was hot, but we are happy.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Roadside Scenery & Royal Gorge

Spinning Wheel

What goes up must come down... Spinning wheel ...

Today we drove up and down through the Rockies. At Monarch Pass we were over 11000' and it was beautiful up there. So much to look at as we travelled along the Arkansas River and lots of rock formations. For a while it was very green and then it turned desertlike with few trees and huge boulders. Lots of hairpin turns made the drive interesting. We also saw many whitewater rafts navigating the river.

Late morning we got to an area called Royal Gorge. We found a nice, clean campground and got set up. Then we drove over to the Royal Gorge Bridge which is touted as Colorado's Natural Wonder. It is set up as an amusement park with one admission covering almost everything. The wood planked bridge is 1,053 feet above the gorge. You can walk or drive across and we opted to cross the gorge on the aerial tram. We walked around on the other side where they have elk, mountian goats and bison. We walked back across the suspension bridge (built by Roebling of Trenton, NJ) and it began to rain. After a brief shower we decided to go to the bottom of the gorge on the world's steepest incline railway. The ride down and back up was interesting and well worth the visit.

That was enough sightseeing for one day and we returned to the campground. Yesterday we had done grocery shopping in the morning and stopped at a produce stand for fresh corn. We cooked dinner in and watched NBC all night as it is the only station we could receive.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Long and Winding Road

We left Grand Junction and headed east along Route 50 which is a scenic route and there are few towns along the way. The day started out great with sunshine and great scenery. We went through a town called Montrose and stopped for an early lunch at a place with a cow on the roof. We have a book that says to always eat at any restaurant that has a cow, chicken or big fish on the roof and the food was good.

We continued on to visit a national Park called Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Never heard of it before, but since we have an annual pass to the parks - why not? We drove up a long winding road way up and saw deep gorges and rock formations. The Gunnison River cuts through the canyon providing lots of trails, rafting and climbing opportunities. We looked around a little and took a short walk down lots of steps to view a gorge.

Back in the car we drove back down the winding road and continued east. About 45 minutes later we heard a noise and lost the power steering and the engine began to quickly overheat. Jeff was able to pull into a large gravel turnout where he announced that our fan belt had broken. It had actually shredded into tiny strips.

We called our emergency road service and they promised to have someone out in 90 minutes. Sitting in the afternoon sun we waited patiently and just before 6:00pm a repair guy showed up and agreed with Jeff that the fan belt needed to be replaced. He was able to get all the old belt out as it had wrapped itself around the fan. He left and said that his helpers would be back with the belt. Now remember we are about 45 minutes from the town so they came back after 7:00pm and the belt didn't fit. They headed back to get another belt and said they'd call us. Luckily we had phone service.

By this time it was getting dark and raining on and off. We were stranded on a lonely road with no street lights except passing traffic. A few folks stopped in our turnout and I got nervous as they saw we were stuck there. I told Jeff I was going to town and stay in a motel. I called and found a few places with rooms who allowed pets and we packed up and headed back. Along the way the phone rang and the servicemen said they had found the correct belt and were coming back out.

We turned around and met the service guys who arrived with 10 belts to make sure they had one that would fit. The first one they tried went on easily and our problems were over. It was after 10:00pm and I did not want to stay on the side of the road all night. So we drove almost an hour to the next town and stayed in a WalMart parking lot.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star

Another day of driving as we head out of Salt Lake City and into the mountains of Colorado. Lots of beautiful scenery everywhere you look and more windmill farms generating electricity. The eastern areas of Utah have no cities and just a few small towns. What is there are mountains, mesas and weird rock formations. We drove and enjoyed looking out the windows and ate lunch while pulled over on the side of the road.

The weather was warm and varied during the day. We started at in the 80's and 90's and then it rained when we got up around 7000' and the temperature dropped into the 50's. We could see lightning strikes and they were amazing. Luckily the rain stopped and the temp went back up to the 90's. Arrived in Grand Junction, CO around 5:00 pm and cooked dinner and watched TV all night. It is so good to have darkness at night and be able to see the stars. I missed the beatiful night skies.

Monday, July 21, 2008

We Are Family

Here we are in Salt Lake City and excited to spend the day visiting family. Our young newlywed cousins Faith and Jay moved here after their wedding in April. We had flown to Dallas for that happy event and looked forward to seeing them. Even better, Faith's parents Arnie and Celeste are visiting this week. So it was a mini reunion and lots of laughs and food.
I did laundry in the morning and then Jeff drove me to meet Arnie and Celeste while he took the day off from me and also did grocery shopping. The three of us spent the day visiting an aviary in Liberty Park and saw some interesting birds including a condor, sandhill cranes and eagles. The little white blob in the photo is a baby flamingo resting near his mom.
Jeff joined us later along with Faith and Jay and we all had dinner at a local brew pub.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

And It Stoned Me

Finally reached the end of Oregon and travelled through the southwest corner of Idaho, passing Boise. The top three pictures are Twin Falls, Idaho, a small city along the Snake River. This bridge is 635' above the river and famous for people jumping off, parachuting or bungee jumping. We were happy just to look at the deep gorge and also a golf course set in a picturesque valley.
Next we drove to Shoshone Falls, called the Niagara of the West. We couldn't take the RV down to the park near the bottom of the falls, but got a nice view from the top.
Continue driving all day and arrived in Salt Lake City about 9:00pm.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

I Hate it When That Happens!

OK. We've had our share of problems. I've even done my share of "Stupid RV Driver Tricks." But this one takes the cake.

The Two of Us

Today we're going home. We drove out of our campground, turned east and headed home. As we travelled across Oregon we were amazed at how beautiful the state is and how many different types of terrain we saw. The coast is sandy beaches and rocky cliffs with fir trees. Inland we went through lush forests and streams. Lots of areas have been logged and there are thin strips of trees along the road and behind them bare ground with ugly stumps. We passed lots of trucks hauling logs. Then we were in a desert and then rocky cliffs along the Columbia River and then we found ourselves climbing up and up on Mt. Meachem, over 4000'.
The first photo shows Mt. Hood from the highway, then the Columbia River with wind mills creating electricity. We also saw two large dams on the Columbia.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Silly Season is Back

When an election is imminent you know JibJab can't be far behind.

Send a JibJab Sendables® eCard Today!

Yellow Submarine

Today we are staying in Newport Beach and this morning we visited the Oregon Coast Aquarium. It is a nice facility showcasing aquatic animals and sea birds that live along the Oregon coast. We saw sea otters, seals, sea lions and lots of fish. There was a huge tank with sharks and rays and a giant red octopus. They also have an aviary with tufted puffins, murres, guillemots, oyster catchers and penguins. The first two photos are a sea otter and a tufted puffin.
Later we drove to the historic Bay Front and had lunch at a waterfront restaurant. The third picture is a baby sea gull in his nest just outside the window. Finally found some good clam chowder and great views too. Afterwards we walked to a dock noted for harbor seals, but there were none to see. We drove around and saw Nye Beach and then spent the rest of the day resting. The last photo is a beautiful sunset taken from our campground.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Of Haystacks and Road Trips

Driving down the Oregon coast has been one of the pleasant surprises of our trip. US-101 runs down the coast in Washington and Oregon (and on down into California). We've been on the 101 in California. Ho hum. It's yet another 4 lane expressway. Here in Oregon its a (mostly) 2 lane road that runs right down the coast.

This is NOT the Jersey shore. Much of the road is 50-80 feet above the water. There are beautiful homes on top of the cliffs with VERY long staircases going down to the water. And -- unlike the Jersey shore (or Hilton Head for that matter) -- there is stuff in the water. Not seaweed or syringes or that kind of stuff, but rocks -- BIG rocks. Judy will fill you in on the details, but these are called haystacks, and that's what they look like.

Some of the beaches are beautiful, but swimming is not done -- in some cases not allowed. The water is COLD. The air isn't warm either with a typical July high of 70. (We haven't seen it much above 62.) But that doesn't stop people -- lots of people -- from enjoying the beach. The tide here tends to leave a wide, hard-packed surface at low tide. This allows lots of hard-packed sand for people to play on. Sand castles, names in the sand, and crazy 3-wheel beach bikes are some of the favored activities. And don't forget kite flying. The constant breeze is a kite flier's delight.

But this is one of the great things about road trips. You never know what is around the next corner. It can be a mechanical problem (Oh, yes. We've had our share!), or a view that will take your breath away. You have to REALLY like to spend time driving, but there's nothing else like it.


Continued south on the coast and saw more incredible scenery. This is different from the east coast shoreline as the road is up on cliffs and the beaches are below. We stopped at every view point and saw lots of rocks and beaches. The road moved inland for a while and we were in dairy farm country. The town of Tillamook is famous for its dairy cooperative and they have a large factory where you can see cheese being made and buy delicious ice cream. We hadn't had lunch yet so we chose to have vanilla shakes as brunch. Very delicious!
More beautiful scenery and we stopped for lunch in Lincoln City and finally had some good chowder. Continued to Newport where we plan to spend two nights. We're staying at the City of Newport Marina and RV Park and it is nice. We opted to stay in and relax all night and did take a walk along the marina where we saw a large seal.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Grass Not So Green in Canada

We all know the American health care system is a mess. Too many underinsured. Insurance premiums too high. (I speak with some authority here. Judy and I are paying almost $20,000 per year for medical insurance.) Lots of other problems as well.

As do many other people I have looked at Canada as a model for what our health care system should be. Taxes (albeit high ones) cover everyone in Canada. There may be a wait for some surgeons and other specialists, but everything gets taken care of in a timely fashion.

Not so fast!!!!!!

On our way through Vancouver we met up with Bobby & Susan, two of the guests from our trek who happened to be staying in the same campground. We had enjoyed their company and looked forward to spending some time with them, but that wasn't to be.

A couple of years ago Bobby had had both knees replaced. As a result of the surgery he acquired a staph infection that took several more surgeries to get rid of. The complications could have been fatal.

In Vancouver Bobby started not to feel well, and his calf started swelling. After a couple of days Susan took him to a walk-in clinic who in turn sent him to an emergency room. The ER did a couple of blood tests and gave him some Tylenol 3. Susan, who has worked through these problems with Bobby before, asked for an antibiotic. She was told that their policy was not to use antibiotics because their overuse can lead to resistant strains of bacteria.

The next day his knee started to swell and became very hot. She went back to the clinic who told him to stay off his feet. Meanwhile Bobby had a blinding headache and his leg was swelling, hot, and painful. Susan, being sure that this was related to the knee surgery, asked to see an orthopedist. She was told there would be a ONE YEAR WAIT!!!!!!

Susan insisted that they drive across the border and have a US doctor take a look. They drove to Bellingham, Washington which is only an hour (plus border crossing time) away from Vancouver. The ER took one look at his leg and admitted him to the hospital.

He has a staph infection in his leg that is antibiotic resistant and it has spread to his bloodstream. Had they let it go it could have proved fatal. As it is Bobby may have to spend up to a month in the hospital.

We met a man up in the Yukon last year who made his living carving items from burled wood. His work was beautiful. He had to stop because he developed Carpal Tunnel Syndrome from the work. He was able to get the surgery done but he had to wait over six months. During that time he was unable to work.

So these stories makes you stop and think. Our health care system has its problems, but Canada's sucks! If these stories are representative of their system they have major problems.

What's the solution? Beats the hell out of me. It's way above my pay grade. But the next time I complain about our system I will certainly remember Bobby.

You Light Up My Life

Woke up to gloomy weather and drove south to the bottom of Washington state where we visited the area where Lewis and Clark finally found the Pacific Ocean in 1805. First stop in the state park was the North Head Lighthouse where we climbed to the top and admired the view. This is one of two lighthouses that protects ships from the wild currents where the Pacific meets the mouth of the Columbia River. Next I visited the Interpretive Center which had an excellent display of the Lewis and Clark journey and lots of information about the members of the Corps of Discovery including Sacagawea and her husband and baby.
We crossed the Columbia on a very long series of bridges into Oregon and that let us add one more state to our map. Immediately the scenery became awesome. I had no idea this is such a gorgeous state and the coast continues to suprise me with broad sandy beaches and rock formtions. Highway 101 goes along the coast passing through beach towns and passing state parks and cliffs and millions of trees. Everywhere you look is a treat for the senses.
We stopped at Fort Clatsop to see where the Lewis and Clark group spent the winter of 1805/1806. They built this small fort for protection and spent the rainy winter gathering meat and boiling water for salt for their return trip. Took a hike and saw some neat ferns and lichen.