Texoma Travelers Rally

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We have been grounded in Austin for the last few months. Doctors’ appointments and the passing of Barbara’s brother Rick have kept us close to home. Fortunately, we were able to make one short trip to Oklahoma for a rally of Texoma Travelers LTV RV’s (a travel club that we joined). The rally was at WinStar Casino just across the Red River from Texas. We like these rallies and are looking forward to the next one in Louisiana.

EMMA LONG METROPLIAN PARK, Lake Austin, AUSTIN, TX

July 2018

Some people may call us crazy to go camping in 100 plus degree weather, but here at Emma Long Park we are camped at the water’s edge with large shade trees surrounding us.  So, even though it is definitely hot the breeze off the lake and the shade of trees makes it most pleasurable for most of the day.  Lonnie and Vegas have enjoyed tubing in the lake and we have all found this time most relaxing.  The evenings are spent sitting lake side sipping on a refreshing gin and fresca watching the boats cruise by.

Each morning we have taken Vegas to Turkey Creek for a 3 mile hike.  The trails are located about one mile from the park.  Turkey Creek is a dog friendly off-leash area which Vegas has thoroughly enjoyed running free and splashing in and out of the creek.  Her enthusiastic joy is something to behold – one has to be a boxer owner to know what this looks like.

Since it’s so hot we want to keep the outside cooking to minimum amount of time so I brought along my Sous Vide.  Sous Vide is a cooking tool that heats water to a specified temperature then holds it at that temperature to cook food that is sealed in a food saver bag.  The food will fully cook with little to no effort to the exact desired doneness.  Once cooked then I quickly sear the meat, about one to two minutes per side and then dinner is done with the least amount of heat or mess.  Great, you should try one.

Dinner is ready, time to go.

ESTES PARK, COLORADO

Wow, what a fabulous little town.  All the National and public campgrounds were packed so we stayed at Spruce Lake RV park.  We were disappointed at first not staying in one of the campgrounds but this RV Park is nice and very convenient to everything.  There are a several restaurants, a grocery store, and the free public shuttle all within a very short walking distance.  If you are traveling in an RV you can find parking downtown at the visitor center and also at the Library.  They do allow overnight camping but the parking spots are very limited.

We enjoyed sightseeing and walking around this beautiful town.  The Scandinavian Midsummer Festival was going on celebrating the summer solstice with music, dancing, Scandinavian culture education, food, and various vendors.  We also rented a jeep from Backbone Adventures to drive the very rough off-road trails on the edge of the Roosevelt Forest.  Lonnie very much enjoyed driving this challenging road.  The jeep literally went over boulders, sideways along the road wash-out areas and straight up and straight down — very bumpy ride — yet worth the trip.  The scenery was also divine.

We have been enjoying the temperatures, highs in the 70’s and lows in the 50’s with very low humidity.  This climate just makes one feel energized and want to spend as much time outside as possible.  Considering our hometown, Austin, Texas temperatures in the 100’s.  No wonder so many Texan’s travel to Colorado.

FROM MOUNT SAN JACINTO, CALIFORNIA TO OASIS STATE PARK NEW MEXICO

We departed Mount San Jacinto early morning with light rain, spotting a beautiful rainbow on our way down the mountain toward Yuma, Arizona.  Spent the night in Yuma where the wind was strong and dusty, creating a thin layer of dust throughout the RV.  I wanted to drive through the Superstition Mountains of Arizona, outside of Phoenix, so off we went stopping at the Wild Horses Casino in Chandler to spend the night were we enjoyed an exceptional steak dinner at Shula’s steakhouse.  The Apache Trail through the Superstition Mountains is 40 miles long beginning at Apache Junction and ending at Roosevelt Dam.  The Apache Trail was a stagecoach trial and named after the Apache Indians who originally used this trail to move through the mountains.  The road, no, the trail winds steeply through rugged desert mountains with two lakes, Canyon Lake and Apache Lake.  The pavement ended after 18 miles leaving the rest of the trail mostly one lane dirt road, rough as an old wash board, and with hair pin turns.  It took us 4 hours from start to finish.  The scenery was remarkable but not sure it was worth the long and tedious drive.  We found a lovely park about two hours away called Fool Hollow Lake Recreation Area near Show Low, AZ.  The drive on HYW. 60 to reach the lake was even more scenic than the Apache Trail and it was paved, the highway passed through a beautiful mountain range with deep gorges.  We spent a wonderful day at Fool Hollow, located in the mountains with tall pines, cool temperatures, fresh air and good hiking trails.  We are now beginning our return route homebound and took off for Albuquerque where we spent the night at the Route 66 Casino RV park, which was one of the nicest private RV parks we have stayed and would recommend it to anyone passing through this area.  Today, New Mexico has issued high West winds alert, 25 to 35 winds with gust as high as 70 miles an hour.  The drive west from Albuquerque heading to Texas has been windy and after about 250 miles we stopped at the Oasis State Park where the wind is alarmingly high.  The RV is rocking, the wind whistling around the windows, the air vents rattling, with a dust storm blowing outside and is forecasted to last until around 1 am tomorrow morning.  It should be an interesting night.

PALM SPRINGS AND MOUNT SAN JACINTO STATE PARK CALIFORNIA

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We made it into Palm Springs late afternoon after a long drive through the Mojave Desert.  Palm Springs is a pretty city with business and home entrances filled with an abundant display of colorful flowers.  It seemed like there was a lush golf course every few blocks and streets are named after movie stars and presidents.  Unfortunately there must be smog or some other air pollution because we both had sinus problems so bad that we were ready to depart after one day.

Up to Mount San Jacinto State Park to experience the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.  The Tram departs about every 10 minutes up the mountain from zone 1 of 3,500 feet to zone 5 of 10,834 feet, straight up the mountain with absolutely gorgeous views.  Once on top the mountain there are several trails to hike, we took the desert view trail.  The temperature was cold enough for a coat but not too cold, the air was fresh with the scent of pine.  Immediately we both felt better and our sinus problems were no longer.  We enjoyed the mountain so much we decided to find someplace in the mountains to spend the next couple to days.  Off we went to find one of the Mount San Jacinto State Parks that allowed RVs.  The only ones we found were located on the other side of mountain from Palm Springs.  We drove from Palm Springs up the steepest, narrowest mountain road toward Idyllwild I believe I have ever experienced and we have been on some thrilling mountain roads in Colorado, but this one beat them all in terms of scary – I was too scared to close my eyes and too scared to keep them open.  We finally made it to Thousand Trails RV Park about 8,000 feet elevation.  The park is very large with numerous trails, giant pines, the freshest air and perfectly cool temperatures.  We hiked 5 miles today and feel pleasantly exhausted.   It is so quiet here, only the whispering of the wind blowing through the trees and so scenic one cannot help but feel peacefully one with nature.

Petrified Forest National Park and Dead Horse Ranch State Park

We drove highway 40 West from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Sedona, Arizona stopping at the Petrified Forest National Park that is located just off HWY 40 about a 2 hours from Flagstaff, Arizona.  We drove the 28 mile road that runs through the entire park.  The main sights are the painted desert, the blue mesa, the jasper forest and the giant logs.  The painted desert is characterized by colorful bands of sedimentary rock called the Chinle Formation.  This formation was deposited between 227 and 205 million years ago by northwest flowing river system.  The petrified wood are colorful specimens of massive tree trunks strewn across the landscape.  The trees were knocked down by wind or water and carried downstream being buried by layers of sediment over 218 million years ago.  The logs soaked up groundwater and silica from volcanic ash and over time crystallized into quartz.   Truly breathtaking sights of beauty and wonder.

We settled in the Sedona area for a couple of days in a state park called Dead Horse, don’t like the name but the park is large with numerous hiking trails, horseback riding, three lakes and surrounded by mountains.  The park received its name because the original owners of the ranch asked their children which ranch they liked best when they were searching for property and they replied the one with the dead horse and so it was

named.  When the owners gifted the land to the state for a park they requested the name remain  — so there you have it — dead horse ranch state park.  Yesterday we hiked in Sedona at Red Rock Crossing along a clear river gently flowing along the trial to view the impressive red Cathedral Rock.

Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

Off to see the “Big Tree” in Goose Island State Park, and hopefully see some whooping cranes that are in the area from late October to mid-April.  The big tree is the second largest tree in the U.S., 11 feet across the trunk, 35 feet around, and 44 feet tall, 89 feet across the crown, and the most amazing fact is the tree is 1,000 years old.   We did not see any whooping cranes around Goose Island so we headed for Aransas Wildlife Refuge

 

as National Wildlife Refuge.   Aransas hosts the largest flock of wintering whooping cranes in North America with over 250 birds. By mid-April they depart for a hazardous journey of 2,500 miles to nesting grounds at Wood Buffalo National Park, Canada.

Even with 250 birds in the area one is still lucky to see cranes feeding in the marshy salt flats in the refuge, and we were indeed fortunate.  We took off on the Heron Flats trail and spotted a pair feeding.  Whooping cranes being 60 inches tall and with white feathers were easy to spot against the green/brown marshes.  The birds were elegant and gorgeous, a thrilling experience.  Luckily Lonnie had his camera because I forgot mine and when I walked back (a very short distance) to get my camera the birds had flown away by the time I returned.  And added plus on the walk down the trail we spotted a few alligators sunning themselves on the shore line.  The park rangers told us to keep Vegas on a short leash because the alligators like puppy dogs for snacks.  So glad the gators kept their distance.

Corpus Christi Trip

Lonnie’s brother and sister-in-law (Dan and Barbara) who live in Arkansas would be visiting their son and daughter-in-law (Greg and Cathy) in Corpus.  Great reason for a road trip, so off we went.  We had dinner at Snoopy’s, a popular restaurant on intercostal canal, luckily they had a large roaring fire pit inside to warm everyone from the misty cold weather outside.  The next day we were able to visit with Greg and Cathy whom we haven’t seen a several years and it was wonderful to spend time with family.

After the family visits we took off to Padre Island National Seashore, Malaquite beach.  We were very fortunate to find a great camp site with an ocean view and a very short walk to the beach.  Vegas truly enjoyed running in the sand and chasing the birds.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

KENTUCKY HORSE FARM

The Kentucky Horse Farm is located in Lexington, Kentucky and was open to the public in 1978. This farm is dedicated to the history of the horse and man’s relationship with the horse through out the ages. They have two museums; my favorite was the International Museum of the Horse.  The farm houses up to 2,000 horses at times of special events and they offer various attractions through out the year.  The day we were there, we saw three attractions, the Hall of Champions, The Parade of Breeds, and the Draft Horses.  The Hall of Champions provides stalls and care for retired champion thoroughbreds. A couple of the horses brought out for viewing were Da Hoss, the pretty chestnut horse (harness racer) and Funny Cide (Kentucky Derby winner), the one with his tongue hanging out. The Parade of Breeds showcased various breeds of horses from around the world and explained the history and purpose of each particular horse, all gorgeous.  The Draft Horse exhibition displays the largest and strongest of the horses.  The size of these animals is beyond belief, true giants.   The largest one was over 2,000 pounds and 18 ½ hands high.

 

The Kentucky Horse Farm has a convenient and very nice RV park adjacent to the farm, so we stayed there for a couple of nights.

 

We enjoyed our visit to the state of Kentucky very much.  There are many things to do there, the state parks are very lovely, and the state overall is very attractive.  I highly recommend a trip to Kentucky

CHURCHILL DOWNS

After so many years of watching the Kentucky derby on TV we were excited to visit this beautiful historic site.  The walking tour of the race track and grounds was very impressive.  They said 165,000 people come on Derby day with the general admission open gallery area costing $80 per person.  We of course had to have the official drink of Churchill Downs, a Mint Julep.  It was very, very tasty.  They told me it was made with Old Forester bourbon infused with mint, it is the Old Forester Mint Julep label.  It has made me wanting another one.

 

CRAZY HORSE

Crazy Horse Memorial when completed will be 563 feet high and 641 long.  It was started decades ago by Korczak Ziolkowski and his children are working on the sculpture today.  The face was completed in 1998.  The purpose is to provide a memorial to not only the great leader of the Lakota tribe but also to be a remembrance of Native American History in the Black Hills that are dear to the Lakota.

MOUNT RUSHMORE

Next it was onto Mount Rushmore which was just a few miles down the highway.  Impressive, spectacular, and amazing does not begin to describe the feelings we had gazing upon that mount. The wonderment of how they were able to carve such a massive sculpture with such fine detail visible from such a far distance is mind boggling.  The gallery describing how this endeavor was accomplished was just as impressive as viewing the 4 presidents.  A true wonder and well worth the time and distance to get here.   A valued testament and tribute to our great leaders.

Sioux Falls

St. Joseph, Missouri was all a buzz about the eclipse.  Our campground was packed with people from all over the country, lots of people wearing eclipse tee shirts and the local news was giving continuous coverage.  The weather was cloudy and rainy but that did not dampen anyone’s enthusiasm for the event.  The clouds obstructed the viewing but experiencing day turning into night was an awesome experience.  The clouds cleared just long enough for us to wear those special glasses to see the diamond ring effect.  Very memorable and looking forward to the next one that will be on April 8, 2024 passing over Texas.  The next eclipse will require less distance but this journey has been so much fun.

Before leaving St. Joseph we stocked up on supplies and headed to Omaha, Nebraska continuing our journey to South Dakota.  There is a beautiful expansion pedestrian bridge that crosses over the Missouri river.   Half way across the bridge you will have one leg in Nebraska and the other in Iowa.  When we returned to our coach after our walk there was a gray Unity coach parked right next to us.  They also had been in St. Joseph’s for the eclipse.  We spent the night in Council Bluffs, Iowa (just across the river from Omaha) then headed the next morning to Sioux Falls, South Dakota to the falls at Falls Park.   The falls come from the Big Sioux river as it cascades down to join the Missouri river.  We took in the sights and enjoyed walking around the park but it had been a long day so we camped in Big Sioux State Park just 18 minutes from the falls.

Today we are off to the Badlands National Park and hopefully will be able to find place to camp for the night there.  It will be a long drive today.

Casino Camping

We are into day 4 of our travels.  The rain has altered our original itinerary making state parks to muddy.  The first day instead of stopping at Brazos Bend State Park outside of Houston we drove through to Kinder, Louisiana to the Coushatta casino as they have a very nice RV and dog park.  There was a free shuttle to the casino so Lonnie had fun playing craps and I enjoyed the buffets (no cooking required).  Our next stop was to see my brother John and his daughter Leslie in Baton Rouge, LA.  One year ago there was a massive flood in Baton Rouge and his home had received six feet of water and had to be totally gutted and redone.  His home has been beautifully restored thanks to the tireless effort of Leslie. John is grateful that from tragedy has come good.  We had a wonderful visit and delicious fresh seafood dinners that can only be found in Louisiana.  Thanks for the hospitality John and Leslie.

Off towards Arkansas but first a stop in Marksville to check out the Paragon Casino and RV park  — still raining – we had planned to go on to Piney point near Texarkana but heavy rain is forecast over a wide area between here and there so we will stay here today with hopes the weather clears and we can resume on travels.  Good news is we have some winnings in our pockets, good restaurants, something to do while it is raining and no muddy campsite.  So all is good.

Vietnam Memorial State Park

This memorial has a Huey known as the Viking Surprise it was one of the first smoke ships in Vietnam.  This helicopter was shot down in March of 1967 and sent to the Corpus Christi Bay (the ship I served on in Vietnam) to be repaired after receiving

 

 

135 bullet holes.  Touring this memorial was both emotional and educational for me.  One of the exhibits was scuba equipment which brought back many memories of my time diving in the Mekong Delta.

Colorado here we come

We are on our way to Colorado and our first stop is Abilene State Park. Vegas is very exited, she loves to travel and this time we will be on the road for at-least three weeks.