Wednesday, March 28, 2007

*END* of Southwest trip, Feb/Mar 2007

Again an early start, helped by a noisy thunderstorm right over us at 6am. We left in the dark about 6:30, trying to beat the morning traffic to Indianapolis. We did fall into a lot of traffic, but also got on the west side of the ring road. I think the east side would be better, even though the distance is about the same. The west side contains a major exit to Chicago, which added to the traffic. The rain and darkness didn’t help either. 

Once we got clear of Indianapolis though, it was clear sailing. Again we stayed right on I69 through Fort Wayne, rather than taking the eastern ring road, and again no problem. It likely saves 20 minutes or more going direct, as the ring road goes out east a long ways.

We just kept on driving steadily, with regular stops. Final fill-up was at Imlay City MI again. The border crossing was really easy. Very little lineup, no problems. She didn’t even check our passports, although we had them ready to hand over. 

Once past the border we stayed on 402/401 to Woodstock, then turned north there through Innerkip etc, the usual route home. A high-mileage day (1,010 km, about 625 miles), but pretty easy once we were through Indianapolis in the morning. We got home about 6:30, to virtually no snow!

We drove about 10,365 km (6,440 miles) altogether. US gas averaged 80 cents Cdn per liter, much cheaper than Ontario where it would have averaged over $1. We got out of Texas and Oklahoma just in time, as they had many tornadoes in the days after we left, making the news here in Ontario.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

AR to Indianapolis IN

We kicked into go-home mode today, covering 810 km (about 500 miles). No real rush to get home, but we both feel ready. So an early 7:15 start today.

Nice drive across Arkansas, still on 412 (and 62/67/60 later on). Then on to I57N up to I70. A nice route, it bypasses St Louis altogether. A mild day, up to 28C in the afternoon, some overcast, a good driving day.

We took I70 towards Indianapolis and camped about 40 miles west of Indianapolis at Cloverdale RV park.

Open all year, just ½ mile off I70.  You can still hear traffic, but it’s well-muffled by trees and just became white noise. Good washrooms. $19.08 for w/e site right on their little pond (with a mud bottom, as our half-black Lab found out!). 

The hosts are smokers, but pleasant. Free Ethernet wire connection in the lounge.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Day trip to Mountain View AR

We didn’t rush this morning but headed out on an area tour about 10am, after a bacon & egg breakfast at the trailer. We must remember how nice it is to have our own pre-cooked bacon in the cooler. No problem heating it up in the trailer, and much better than the commercial pre-cooked stuff. 

We headed up to the Bull Shoals, White River dam Visitors Center. Nice place for views and a browse of their gift shop. 
View of the nearby dam from the Visitors Center. 

Then on through Mountain Home and on down to Mountain View where we had camped last year. We had a really good lunch at a restaurant on the town square (steakburger for me, bbq beef on a bun for Cath), then checked out a music store next door.
Mountain View town square. Open-air music here sometimes.

I asked the clerk what he’d recommend for a no-talent type to learn to play a little. He recommended the Autoharp – a multi-string laptop affair where you just press a button for the different chords. The mandolin appealed more to me. Very compact and a short narrow neck, should be easier on the joints than the guitar was for Cath. Just $99 for a basic mandolin, plus some “learn to play” stuff. Didn't get one though.

It was a longer drive than we had expected, and we were happy to get back to the cg about 4pm.  28C and sunny. A nice spot to sit out and enjoy the river view.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Oklahoma City to Denton Ferry AR

We set off at 8am today heading east, after a nice quiet night at this somewhat rustic park.

Curt was up and about, JAS called out a croaky goodbye from the trailer dinette as we pulled out. We stopped at a nearby McD’s for breakfast (just get ONE burrito combo for the two of us next time!), then followed Rte 66 all the way in to Tulsa. Really a nice drive, parallel to I44, it also avoids tolls on the I44 turnpike. We did have to get on I44 to get through Tulsa and across the Arkansas River, but no tolls there. 

From there we went on 412 east, another scenic road. Periodically 412 turns into sections of turnpike, but there was always a designated scenic 412 for us to carry on and bypass the turnpike sections.

We were set up at Denton Ferry RV Park about 2:30, a pretty spot right on the White River. 

We did have to move over a site when the manager came back, as the site we set up on was reserved for that night. The cg was the second-most expensive of the trip at $33 with Good Sam, but very nice. Our site was right across the road from the very good washrooms, and the park had free wi-fi, with a wired option in the lounge.

White River is a good trout river. It’s controlled by a dam about 14 miles upstream. When they release water through the dam for hydro generation, river levels change dramatically. It's a popular fishing spot.

It’s mid-spring in this area. The trees are leafing our, and lots of blossoms.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Flooding at Palo Duro, to Oklahoma City OK

Lots of rain and wind overnight. Cath & I took an early drive on the park road, to see if there was any flooding. There sure was, lots of water over the road at the river crossings. 

We stopped at the second crossing, were going to turn around and go back. Then a ranger came through and drove across easily, so we did too. 

We did turn around at the 3rd crossing though. The ranger caught up to us then and asked us to go back past the first river crossing, as they were closing the road. So it was a short adventure for us, and we got a number of pictures of the water, deer and wild turkeys.

There was an 80% chance of more heavy rain today, the park roads were closed, the hiking trails unusable. So we decided to leave today too, and travel with C&J for another day. We filled in a form for a refund at the office, they’re supposed to mail us a check again, as a different Texas park did last year (and they did it again - great service).

We just went out to I27 and north to I40 eastbound. Nobody had had breakfast, so we stopped at a very busy Cracker Barrel. This was a mistake, as we had quite a wait, then breakfast was slow too. We’re all being too nice, as it turned out later that nobody really wanted to spend the time for breakfast there. Quite expensive too. We should have gone to McDonalds like we all actually wanted to.

Then we just trundled across I40. Strong crosswinds from the south made driving interesting at times. Otherwise it was just overcast, a pretty good day for driving. We really enjoyed a stop at a Cherokee Village (exit 71). There’s another different-looking Cherokee stop at exit 108 (east of exit 71) that we didn’t stop at, but would another time.

Cath found a cg off the highway, right on Rte 66 east of Oklahoma City (OKC). Oak Glen RV Park. Passport America again, so just $9 for a w/e site. Nice quiet spot. Washrooms not great again, but only a few transient sites, so it worked ok. It’s nice to have the cheap US phone, as we called ahead to check availability before leaving I40.

We all said our goodbyes tonight, and will set off separately tomorrow, with us likely leaving earlier than C&J. Still 22C at 9:30.

Not our finest travel day today, but days like this do happen.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Rainstorms and a day trip to Amarillo

It was cloudy and foggy this am, quite dark until after 7am. Thunderstorms were threatening again, so we decided it would be a good day to tour Amarillo.

First we drove on west of Amarillo on I40, to the Cadillac Ranch, where 10 fancy-painted old Cadillac cars are buried in a field visible from I40.

Then back in to town we drove part of the old route 66. Pouring rain and hail. The gals visited a quilt shop. The guys got soaked coming back from a visit to a custom motorcycle shop.
Awash in Amarillo

There were a number of stylized quarterhorse statues around town

When we got back to the cg, Gord & Curt were able to have a hike in the hills above the cg. Then we got together for our last margaritas of the trip. C&J are leaving tomorrow, heading to the Airstream factory in Ohio for some trailer work and a tour. We’re booked for another night here. 18C at 8:30 pm.
Palo Duro entrance and campground

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Lubbock TX to Palo Duro State Park TX

Noisy thunderstorms overnight, rainy and quite windy too. We left about 9:30, stopping in to an RV dealer on the way out of town. This place had a Hi-Lo trailer we might have been interested in, but it had been sold the previous week. More money than we wanted to pay anyway. $20k for a 2006 22T.
So we just carried on north through light rain, on I27, stopping at a crossroads café for a late breakfast/early lunch, and a Walmart visit.

Dark clouds ahead before we reached the turnoff for the Palo Duro state park, where we plan to spend a few days. Then it rained, then poured for a while. However we went ahead and checked in for a night, and the rain stopped while we set up. Thanks to some ½ price camping coupons, our fee was just $18. It would have been $28, as camping is $20 and we also have to pay the daily use fee of $4 per person. Quite expensive compared to NM. We signed up for 2 more nights later, as we had found the other 3 discount coupons we had. We gave Curt one of the coupons, and he signed up for one other night.

We drove the park road, checking out hiking trails etc. Everything is dripping wet though. Some water over the road in places. About 4:30 it started raining even harder. Little did we know this was a sign of things to come!
The rain really brought out the Palo Duro reds

Imagine spending the winter in this dugout

Palo Duro visitors center

Water over the interior Palo Duro road

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Brantley Park NM to Lubbock TX via Roswell NM

Cool and foggy, 10C at 7am. We decided to head along to Roswell today, and decide then where to head for tonight’s stay. We had a good browse through the UFO museum in Roswell, It's at least fun to speculate about what if anything really happened back in 1947 (the year I was born, hmmm...).

Model of possible saucer landing

On the way out of town we came across the Cowboy Café and decided to have a bite to eat. A genuine café, pervasive cow smells in the parking lot, pie special $1/piece, lots of cowboys present. Then we headed east to Lubbock, losing an hour at the Texas border going back to Central time.

Lubbock is a surprise. It looks like PEI with its red soil and green crops. The green comes from irrigation, with water from huge underground lakes where the water is “fossil water”, ie not quickly replaced once used. The whole panhandle area is drawing this water, and it will run out one day, just like the oil, and the panhandle area will become a full desert. Almost 30C again.

We were heading for a particular park in Lubbock (Loop 289 cg). We didn’t find it but came across Camelot instead. It looked good, claimed to have wi-fi connections, so we checked in. Then we found – no wi-fi, one toilet room for men and one for women, for the whole cg. Big holes in the parking spots. We won't be staying at Camelot in Lubbock again!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Day trip to Living Desert State Park and Carlsbad Caverns

Another blue sky and sunshine day, up to 80F again. Cath’s getting tired of all the hot temps! We decided to visit both the Living Desert State Park, and Carlsbad Caverns today, as both are nearby. It seemed like a very full day, but it worked out well. 

We toured Living Desert State Park in the morning when it was cooler, getting there a little after 9am. It’s a marvelous place, well worth a visit. They do a lot of animal (and bird and reptile) rehabilitation, and the permanent residents of the Zoo part are the animals that cannot be returned to the wild, for one reason or another. Lots of local birds, animals, grasses, cactus etc, and lots of signs to tell us what we were seeing.

1-legged Road Runner got around amazingly well

A peaceful place

After a burger lunch in Carlsbad, we headed south to the caverns. You can hike down right from the top, but we took the elevator option down 750 feet, walked the mile loop around the Big Cave, and took the elevator back up at the end. They provide kennels for the dogs ($4 each) and actively enforce a rule to not leave pets in hot cars outside. Interesting tour, but Cath and I did feel that Mammoth Cave in Kentucky was better.

On the way back we stopped at the Carlsbad Walmart for groceries etc. Curt and I took one car home with the dogs and supplies, while the gals stayed in Carlsbad to do laundry and a bit more shopping. We were all back to the cg by 6:20 for evening margaritas.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Alamogordo NM to Brantley Lake NM via Cloudcroft

We left Oliver Lee park about 9:30, after some minor work on one of the Aliner wheels. The wheel bearing was running hot, so I backed off the brake slightly and greased the bearing, removing excess grease (which might have been the real problem). 17C at 9am. 

As we went back up to Alamogordo and across #82, it dropped down to 13C as we climbed up to Cloudcroft. From Alamogordo to Cloudcroft is only about 16 miles and the road climbs about 4,300 ft in that stretch, reaching about 8,200 ft at Cloudcroft. We stopped there at the Chamber of Commerce and used their wireless Internet connection.

We had decided to stay at Brantley Lake state park near Carlsbad, and were set up there by 3pm. 29.5C as we went downhill, another warm sunny day. There’s a nice breeze where we camped near the lake (a reservoir lake, fed by the Pecos River), and the sites had some shade. Another nice NM State Park.

The fellow that checked us in was from Collingwood, so he even knew where Flesherton is. He and his wife live fulltime in an older 29 ft Airstream they got from Can Am in London Ont, winters here and summers in BC. They volunteer in return for free campsites. Here, 24 hours per week (in total, between the two of them) gets them a free site with hookups. We were able to get Internet access via his own satellite connection.