Heading Home, April 2019

It is still snowing in Minnesota. It does not last long but still, snow. We left Fredericksburg and headed for Baytown, TX where Rudy and Carolyn live, stalling the inevitable. Their wedding anniversary was coming up so we wanted to take them out to dinner to celebrate.

We were hoping for a nice dinner at the Monument Inn on the Houston Ship Channel. We were disappointed to discover that it had been closed for some time because of a massive tank farm fire in Deer Park earlier in the year.

The ship in the background is in the Ship Channel. The Monument Inn is not far away and is at the end of a road which is now closed because of the fire. We went to Four Corners Barbecue instead. Very good. And leftovers too.

We stayed at the Houston East RV Park just a couple miles from Rudy’s. We have stayed at their place in the past but this worked better for this trip. Glenn and Amy in their Foretravel were there as well. They were on their way home to Maine after five months in Mexico. Glenn had Rudy help him fix something on his Aqua Hot heater. Rudy likes to help people learn how to fix things themselves so Glenn did most of the work. Rudy had replaced the bearings in the blower side on my Aqua Hot in January but it was still making more noise than it should so he decided it needed a new blower motor. I supervised, Rudy instructed, Glenn did most of the work, Rudy did the Quality Control. It is now perfect, we are very pleased with how much quieter it is now. Thanks Rudy and Glenn.

Kieth and Jo are another Foretravel couple who live “nearby”. They invited us all over for supper that evening. Rudy’s “nearby” was almost 45 minutes away. We had a nice dinner and a nice visit.

Kieth and Joe stopped by at the RV Park the next day, they wanted to see our windshield MCD shade.

We had to go have a bite to eat.

I ordered a grilled cheese sandwich from the Kids Menu.

We left the next morning for an overnight at the campground at the Foretravel factory. There were several folks there that we know. Mike and Jackie live in Nacogdoches and invited us over for dinner.

It was especially fun to see Don Hay (in the dapper hat). Susan and I met Don and Trudy on the upper peninsula of Michigan in Munising about a year after we bought our coach. It was a chance meeting, we drove in and both said, “There’s another Foretravel!” And next to Don, Ted and closer to me Chappell Jordan. Both Don and Chappell are woodworkers.

It was a pleasant evening on the patio.

Our plan was to take four more days to get home. The next day we headed for Maumelle COE park near Little Rock. The weather reports were for snow in Minnesota about the time we would have arrived home so we pressed on another hundred miles to a Walmart in northern Arkansas. The next day we drove past Kansas City to Eagleville, MO just before the Iowa border. We stayed at a small RV park that was on a small farm. They don’t farm any more but have plenty of work to do anyway.

A nice park.

And a lovely sunset.

The next day we pressed on toward home. Straight up I 35 towards Lakeville and east towards Hastings. We arrived about 3 in the afternoon. All was well at home. We turned up the heat, turned on the water heater and unloaded enough from the coach to move back into the house. The rest in the next day or so.

The overnight temps were supposed to get to 27° with rain and snow overnight and most of Saturday. Guess what, it didn’t happen. Forecasting the weather has to be the worst job in the world, rarely right and rarely praised.

Getting home opens the doors to a whole new pile of things to do, many put off while we were elsewhere, many scheduled for after we get home, piles of mail, yard work and lots more which all seem to speed up our lives. A couple days dealing with the immediate stuff and we are sort of back to something that seems normal.

We went from green grass and leaves on the trees in TX through fewer and fewer leaves and browner fields to brown fields and very few buds on the trees. Our Magnolia tree is blooming, always a sure sign of spring on the way. Some warm weather and some rain and there will be leaves. Our woods will fill in with green and our summer wrap closes in. Apple trees blossom and apples start to grow. We are waiting.

We are probably going to stay close to home this summer and enjoy it here.

More later, Much Love.

Roger and Susan

Fredericksburg, TX April 2019

We were in Fredericksburg last year about this time when it was still snowing in MN. This year is the same thing. Still snowing so we are heading to TX.

Our good friends Mike and Jackie and Ted and Karen were going to be in Fredericksburg so we decided to join them. Bill Blackmon was there too with his brand new Airstream trailer. Then Don and Tys (Foretravelers from California) managed to sneak in for a day. Bob and Sue (Foretravelers from Oregon) were nearby in another park. Norm and Shirl (from Colorado) were there in their fifth wheel which they got after their Foretravel. And Ralph was in still another park in his Foretravel. These things just seem to happen, not much coordination, the word gets out, everyone makes their own way.

We walked every day while we were there. Three laps around the park and back and forth on the lanes got me very close to 10,000 steps. I was over that on 4 of the days we were there.

We went to Luckenbach, TX (population 3) for a visit. It is just 13 miles from Fredericksburg. Luckenbach is probably best known as an outlaw country western music venue made famous by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson in 1976. It is on Grape Creek (most likely a misspelling of Gap Creek) which is what Luckenbach means in German. The town of Luckenbach has been around since the mid 1800s.

There are several old buildings like the Post Office. Most are stores and eateries. Lots of parking areas and several stages for music events. They were setting up for a big music festival, many bands, all weekend. It was pretty busy.

A bunch of old cars drove through.

I think it was an old car club out for an afternoon drive.

The tickets for the weekend music were about $90 a day. My guess is that when Waylon and Willie played here it was maybe $5.

We went to Alamo Springs for lunch. Fabulous burgers and the half you bring home is great for dinner.

Two tables full.

This is us.

And Ted and Karen.

One afternoon we went to a car shop that restores and sells old cars.

Mike and Jackie liked this one but had a hard time getting any info from the sales guy on the right.

This 1949 Willys caught my eye.

Susan and I went to a Yard Art place. We liked the sunflowers.

And the cactus.

And a few other things. Bought none.

We gathered a couple late afternoons to visit.

Several evenings we gathered in the park’s rec room to play cards. Uno and Quiddler. With more people Quiddler seemed to be a better choice. These were always fun. Sometimes there was desert. Jackie made strawberries and cake with home made whipped cream. And then we discovered lots of ice cream in the big freezer.

Jackie got a new puppy, a chocolate toy poodle. Charlie. He was cute and we got along pretty well. He even let me take him for a walk.

He looked back several times as we walked down the road but as soon as we were around the corner off we went. Of course he checked out every grassy spot. Good thing I was prepared.

The day before we left we went to the Airport Diner. It is a retro look with great food.

It was very good.

We were all ready for a nap after lunch.

That is about it from Fredericksburg. It is a very nice place to visit, lots to do, great places to eat, shopping of course and the best part is our friends.

We are wandering toward home. A short stop in Baytown to see Rudy and Carolyn and a few others.

More later, Much Love.

Roger and Susan

Santa Fe, April 2019

Ya, I know I am a bit behind again.

We left Winslow and the big hole heading east on I 40 for Cochiti Lake Corp of Engineers (COE) park near Peña Blanca, NM. It was snowing up that way so we stopped at a giant casino (Route 66 Casino/Hotel) just before we got to Albuquerque for the night.

The casino and hotel are just a few years old and the campground is only a year or so old. It was quite upscale and unlike many casino campgrounds right up there in price. We went into the casino and had a pretty good supper.

The next morning we navigated through Albuquerque and headed north on I 25. We got off at the Santo Domingo Pueblo exit, headed west and a few miles later came to the Pueblo. Its ancestral name is the Kewa Pueblo and that is also the name of the RailRunner train station there. The train runs from ABQ to Santa Fe. A bit further on up the Rio Grande River valley we came to the small town of Peña Blanca and then across the river and the face of the Cochiti Dam and up to the Cochiti Lake COE campground. A bit further on is the town of Cochiti Lake and the Cochiti Pueblo.

We had a really nice site up the hill side overlooking the lake. water and 50 amp hookups for $10/night. It is good to be a geezer.

There is a boat launch and docks. Lots of sail boats, kayaks, fishing boats and canoes. It is a “no wake lake” so not too many big power boats.

Each site has a ramada (sun shelter) over the picnic table.

And a great view. There was snow on the mountains in the distance up towards Los Alamos and Bandelier National Monument. The ancestral people from Bandelier moved down toward the Rio Grande Valley around 1400 AD. The people in the Cochiti Pueblo today are their closest descendants.

Down the boat ramp, across the lake and over the dam you can see Sandia Peak which is more than 40 miles away. You can see the spillway water tower next to the dam where the water flows out of the lake and continues on as the Rio Grande as well as into several irrigation canals that feed water down the valley to agricultural areas. The spillway is about three miles from the near end of the five mile long dam.

We were in Santa Fe a couple times. One day we stopped at the Cowgirl BBQ for an early dinner. Susan had her favorite, seared scallops. I had a great beef and brisket chili on Fritos, a classic Frito Pie.

We have been looking for a SW style rug for the coach so we checked out several places in Santa Fe. Nice choices but the right size and price were not among them. So we went to Chimayo on the old high road to Taos where there are several local weaving shops. We made ready by having lunch at Ranch de Chimayo, always a treat. We have been coming back here since 1980.

But it wasn’t quite enough for the sticker shock. A hand woven 4×6 ft rug started in the low thousands of dollars. So much for that, maybe Target will have a nice one.

We went to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday. It is quite a spectacle. Fresh veggies, salad makings, eggs, meat, bakery goods, breakfast, coffee, art stuff and much more. Outside there were more artists in booths, many we have seen before.

We found a small Kiva style ladder decorated with dried flowers. It is about a foot tall and fits perfectly in the coach.

We also went to some of the great museums. One of our favorites is the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian. This time the primary exhibit featured the mixed media work of Rose B Simpson from the Santa Clara Pueblo.

https://wheelwright.org/exhibitions/lit/

She makes a significant statement in her work. It is stunning to look at and think about what it means.

Here are some of the amazing sculptures in the exhibit. They were arranged in N-E-W-S orientation if the gallery.

In the descriptions of the work Rose Simpson says they are all self portraits as she explored her own feelings about the world around her, her culture and childhood. She needs the modern world to do the work to express herself while longing for and trying to reestablish the basic self sufficiency she grew up with.

The Wheelwright also has a stunning jewelry collection in their Center for the Study of Southwest Jewelry. It is more than just a display, it follows the evolution of style and materials from where it came through current masters and indicates where it is heading.

https://wheelwright.org/exhibitions/jewelry-center/

They also had a smaller exhibit of the works of Bob Haozous, “Old Man Looking Backwards.” Most of this was prints with volumes of handwritten text where he explores some of the conflicts between art, cultural survival and contemporary life. Some of this was difficult to read.

https://wheelwright.org/exhibitions/bob-haozous/

The Wheelwright should be on your destinations to visit.

We were only in the Santa Fe area for 8 days, a short visit. We have been coming back every couple years since 1980. Another small bite but it leaves so much more for our next visit.

It is still snowing in MN. No hurry to get home so we are heading for the Texas Hill Country to meet friends in Fredericksburg.

More later, Much Love.

Roger and Susan

Winslow, AZ March 2019

We drove right by Winslow more than once over the years. And Meteor Crater as well. Both have been on our list of places to stop for a long time. Our camping spot was Homol’ovi State Park near Winslow. This state park preserves over 300 Ancestral Puebloan archeological sites from about 1260 to 1499 AD. Homol’ovi is a Hopi word meaning “place of the little hills”. This fertile area in the flood plain of the Little Colorado river let the inhabitants grow cotton, corn and squash and harvest many native plants as well. It was interesting to visit.

Winslow of course is famous for its Corner. (A Jackson Browne song done by the Eagles)

With a flatbed Ford.

They have made quite a thing about it including an entire wall, that is all it is, a wall.

On the other side of the wall is the Standing on the Corner Park. It has a small stage and hosts music events from time to time.

The railroad goes through Winslow with a couple of busy mainline tracks. And the Amtrak train stops twice a day at one of the few remaining Fred Harvey Hotels, La Posada.

It has a long history leading up to its restoration back to a fine hotel and the Amtrak station.

The trains stop right here and passengers can get on or get off and walk right into the hotel.

The hotel was a Mary Colter design right down to the furniture. It is just beautiful.

Art work everywhere and very welcoming.

And fine dining in The Turquoise Room.

We had a black bean and corn soup with our lunch, actually two soups in one bowl.

Wonderful.

After all of that we got up the next morning to go see the Meteor Crater about 20 miles west of Winslow. It is not a National Park or monument or a State place it is privately owned and operated as a tourist site. It is designated as a Natural Landmark site. It is said to be one of the best preserved meteor impact sites on the planet and the first one recognized as an impact site. The characteristics of the site are the basis for characterizing impact sites today. There are now just over 200 known impact sites. There are surely many more, just not yet identified.

Daniel Barringer was a mining engineer who was sure that there was a massive blob of meteor buried beneath the crater. 25 years of digging lead to nothing except holes in the ground. In the meantime Barringer secured mineral rights and ownership of the crater and almost 100,000 acres of surrounding area. In the early days people would drive in on dirt roads from Highway 66 to take a look. Mrs Barringer did the time honored American thing and started charging admission. 25¢. Today it is $18.

The Barringer family still owns all of the land and the crater. They lease all but the crater to a ranch company (that they own) to raise cattle and the crater to a company (that they own) that operates the Crater Visitor Center and Tours.

The meteor hit the earth about 50,000 years ago. It was a small iron meteor only 160 ft across but it was traveling at about 45,000 miles per hour and the impact was equivalent to 10 to 20 million tons of dynamite. The meteor vaporized on impact and created a crater about a mile across and 700 ft deep. It was like a deep underground explosion and much of the surface was lifted up, folded over and outward. Rocks and meteorite bits were blown as far as seven miles away. It is a huge hole in the ground but in the meteor impact scheme of things it is small.

Still a big hole. Down at the bottom are several mine shafts, a big boiler, a steam operated hoist. From the rim all of this equipment looks tiny.

And the white bit is part of a wing from a plane that crashed in the crater. The pilot and passenger survived. The rest of the airplane was cut up into chunks and dumped down the mine shafts.

We followed our leader along the crater rim and got lots of interesting details. It was a nice day for a mile or so walk. He said later in the summer winds can get very strong (as much as 100 mph) and afternoon storms generate lots of lightning.

We were glad we finally got to Winslow, to the famous corner and to what Billy Connolly described as what every American male wants to see, a big hole in the ground.

We are heading for Cochiti Lake COE park near Santa Fe.

More later, Much Love.

Roger and Susan.

Dead Horse Ranch State Park, Cottonwood, AZ March 2019

You might be asking, “Were there dead horses?”. Not that we saw now but the owner of this ranch named it that after finding one when he bought it in the 1940s. There are live horses there today. For a small fortune you can go for a horseback ride.

The Dead Horse Ranch is along the Verde River and was one of the few that had water rights, a pretty important feature if the ranch was going to prosper and it did. They raised cattle and a family. In the 1970s the family donated the ranch to the state to become a state park. This is the same Verde River that flows through the valley at the base of McDowell Mountain Regional Park.

The park is on the outskirts of Cottonwood, AZ, a town of 12,000 between Prescott and Sedona. The plan was to stop here on our way to Winslow AZ and then over to Santa Fe. It turned out our friends Scott and Carol are campground hosts here for March, April and May. So we had a chance to see them as well.

Don’t they look official? We had dinner with them at their coach one night, Scott did a Boston Butt on his smoker grill. Their son and his family were there too. Lots of fun and energy with grandkids about. Another evening we went into Old Cottonwood for a supper and a stroll around the old town. It is always nice to see Scott and Carol.

The park has three lagoons (ponds) that were fun to ride our bikes around. One evening the late day light was good

Cottonwood exists because of the mining operations a couple thousand feet higher on the side of Cleopatra Hill in Jerome overlooking the Verde River Valley. Early explorations looked promising for copper. In the mid 1800s the first of the major mines began operation. The dangerous work and smelting operations didn’t keep more than 10,000 people from calling Jerome home by the 1920s. The first mines failed when the price of copper plummeted in the late 1800’s. New owners added a narrow gauge railroad from Prescott and better mining techniques. Another owner exploited a second copper deposit said to be one of the biggest ever found anywhere.

Over its 77-year life (1876 to 1953), this mine produced nearly 33 million tons of copper, gold, silver, lead and zinc ore. The metals produced by United Verde and UVX, the other big mine in Jerome, were said to be worth more than $1 billion.

There are miles of tunnels under Jerome. Dynamite was used to open up new ore deposits. Eventually most of the Cleopatra hill side became unstable and much of Jerome slid down the hillside. The jail slid more than 250 ft down the slope. Fires were another frequent event. Much of the town burned down and was rebuilt over and over.

By the time the Hippies moved in the town was mostly a ghost town. By 2010 the population had rebounded to just over 400 people.

Today Jerome is a quaint tourist destination at the end of a very steep, winding and narrow road. More than 5000 ft elevation, lots of craft and gift shops, a museum, restaurants and a pretty good ice cream shop. I hope it stays as it is. There isn’t much room on the hillside to fill it up with the unappealing crowds, traffic and stores full of imported useless knick knacks.

A long way down to the valley below.

Everything is precariously perched on the hill.

Even the Bordello.

And the hippie vintage VW bus.

That is a good question. Look closely, Northern Sun Merchandising, Minneapolis, MN.

And a bit of an inside joke to just a few who can face up to it.

There was a street side local vendor selling her jewelry. This caught my eye.

From the valley at night Jerome is just a bunch of blinking lights.

We decided to take a drive up to Sedona. Lots of red rocks, stores with “Mystic” in their names, traffic congestion and crowds. Mostly a big giant tourist attraction, much bigger than is appealing to us.

The hardest choice was to turn around and go back (we never found a parking spot, didn’t try very hard) or continue on up through Oak Creek Canyon. We chose to press on to the proverbial winding road.

Looking back down the canyon from the top was better than looking at Sedona.

We got a selfie in at the top of the hill. Down the other side to I 17 and south back to Cottonwood. We had lunch at a new place in Cottonwood, sort of a 50s drive in.

A real chocolate malt, great onion rings and a couple good sandwiches in plastic baskets with checked paper. It was fun and good.

We really liked Deadhorse and Cottonwood and Jerome. This would be a great place to visit again and stay longer.

We are off to Winslow and the Meteor Crater.

More later, Much Love.

Roger and Susan

McDowell Regional Park, March 2019

Here are a couple last minute additions.

The Ocotillos are starting to bloom. The red flowers come out at the end of each stalk.

And then greens leaves along each stalk.

All of this seems to be happening in just a few days.

And the poppies are blooming in the middle of the campground.

The campground has two loops each with 40 camp sites. The sites are roomy and spaced far apart. We walked around both loops in the morning and one in the later afternoon and it was enough to get 10,000 steps

There is a playground between the two loops.

it has picnic tables, benches, sun shades and a giant slide disguised as a snake. There is a big spider climbing a rock.

And some desert sculpture as well.

Much of the rock in this area is granite and quartz. It doesn’t take long to find pretty good sized chunks of white quartz. One of the campground hosts turns it into art.

A coyote, road runner, a lizard and a scorpion.

Every day here was an interesting one, even the ones working on taxes. Lots to see, places to ride, places to walk. Time to just watch the sky, the clouds, the light and color.

Wondering if a thunderstorm is coming? No just clouds.

We have been here at McDowell Mountain three weeks, near Tucson for four weeks. We have been steadily increasing the time we stay at places we like. How well that feels depends on the place. There is always plenty to do right where we are. For the most part we go to places not in cities. There are always a few attractions in nearby cities we will go to see, local history and culture for example. We are not much for random shopping but it is very interesting to see the creativity and skill in things people create.

In eight years owning our Foretravel we have been in it as our home, wherever we have been, for more than three years. It is home and we are comfortable wherever we are.

More later, Much Love

Roger and Susan

McDowell Mountain Regional Park, March 2019

We have had a few cool days and cold nights, even a couple below freezing but now it is in the 70s and once in a while in the 80s. Nights are usually in the 50s. Very comfortable.

Visits and Visitors

We went to see our friends John and Kathy Juelfs. They are full timers and have been spending the winters in an RV park in Apache Junction for the last few years. On the way over we stopped at B&B Farms and bought a couple dozen ready to eat Navel oranges and a couple grapefruits. We met them about five years ago in Nacogdoches. They were just retiring and buying a coach. No real prior RV history. They found a nice coach and were ready to set off. We (and others) thought they looked scared to death. They found their own way and are now happy campers. Somehow I forget to take any pictures.

We went over to Frank and Pattie‘s home in Rio Verde for dinner and laundry. Frank is Susan’s brother. They spend half of their time in AZ and half in MN. Soon maybe a bit more in AZ. Frank and I were busy talking about Verizon vs AT&T. Susan and Pattie were busy chatting about dinner things.

We had a nice dinner, thanks Pattie. Frank and I made plans to visit an AT&T store a couple days later.

We drove over to Surprise, AZ to see our friend Jennifer who moved down here last fall. Going from one side of Phoenix to the other is a long way. She has a very nice house in among lots of other seniors. Even with neighbors all around her back yard seemed pretty private. We brought oranges for her but she has a big productive orange tree herself so we ended up bringing home more oranges than we came with. OK with us. I am sorry, I went photo dead again here.

Another day we drove into downtown Phoenix, just a block or so from the Opera and the Heard Museum to see Richard and Susan Peck. They had just bought their Foretravel about four years ago when we met them at the Foretravel GrandVention in Columbus, Indiana. They were heading off into the undiscovered world of fulltiming in the RV and still working. Susan is still working full time now and they decided to plant their flag for a while in Phoenix, sell their coach and be landlubbers again. They were involved in a serious car crash in January which left both of them injured, Richard more seriously. After several orthopedic surgeries, a long time in the hospital and specialized care they are back at home with many months of rehab ahead.

There is a family owned Italian restaurant in their apartment building. We had a very nice lunch there and a gelato for dessert at the place next to the restaurant. Truly urban living. It was so nice to see them; see them smiling knowing what they have been through and have ahead. They are another part of our extended Foretravel community who have become good friends as well.

And Roger and Vicki Henry stopped over one day for a couple hours. They are from St Paul, down here on what seems to us a high speed multi-stop road trip. More their style than ours but nice to see them as well and for them to get a small taste of our life elsewhere.

My cousin and her husband Sandy and Claus came for a visit as well. They wanted to see where we live when we are elsewhere and what McDowell Mountain Park looks like. We had a great lunch that Susan prepared. They moved down here a year ago and managed to get through their first summer. It was really fun to see them. The Senior Cousins get together a couple times in MN for a brunch or lunch each year and through the extraordinary amount of chatting it is often hard to just get some one on one time. So this was a good time to just focus on the four of us. We appreciated the time we shared. (And no, Claus is not sleeping).

And finally Susan went over to see Jane, a long time Book Club friend who is down this way for the winter.

We laughed about all the people we have seen here. Next time we are telling no one we are coming. Except those we want to see. The list is above.

Being in the desert

Susan and I like being in the desert. It does not look like Minnesota or East Texas or West Texas (no place we have ever been looks like West Texas). It does not look like the Pacific NW. The desert in Tucson is different from the desert at McDowell Mountain and they are much different from the high desert of Santa Fe, NM.

This year at McDowell we have seen the plant life become more invigorated and green. The desert here actually looks green right now. The grasses and bushes are green. The cacti are full and plump with water. All along the road sides are blue lupine plants that remind us of the Texas Hill Country Blue Bonnets. And a week and a half ago just a few hundred feet higher elevation the gold-yellow poppies burst out.

This spot is about 4 miles from the campground heading NW toward the Pemberton Trail which is a big loop all around the park. I have been riding the trails out in the desert almost every day. It is lots of fun, lots of work going uphill in this direction. At this point in the picture I am about 400 ft higher than the campground. The good part is that it is mostly downhill on the way back. Lots of washes to ride through. The technical part of riding some of these challenges is a lot of fun to figure out.

There are now four distinct yellow flowering plants nearby. And just in the last day a magenta colored flower has popped up.

And in some areas some of the grasses are changing to much more reddish colors. Probably drying out.

The clouds come in and out, usually sunny during the day but there is always something to see if you are looking.

And another visitor, I wonder if they are just here in the winter too.

There is a pair of cardinals here that show up every day. They have a very distinct song compared to all the others here.

We would come back here anytime, next time probably a month.

Next heading – north to Dead Horse Ranch State Park near Cottonwood, AZ

More later, Much Love,

Roger and Susan