Hanging Out the Window

Time was getting short and we still had almost 3000 miles to go. We were due to arrive at our job in Moose Pass as close to May 1st as possible. Here it was the last week of April and we were only half way there. Of course, we had taken the really long way. From here on out, it would be one night stops, often not even unhooking the Jeep. Our planned travel route would take us through about 13 miles of Idaho. What could possibly happen in 13 miles? Just before we crossed the state line, I saw a sign stating all boats MUST stop and be checked for invasive species. My first (and only) thought was “Gee, glad they are taking it so seriously.” What I never gave a thought to was our 2 kayaks strapped to the roof of the Jeep. I mean they hadn’t been in the water since we left Florida. We were half way though our 13 miles when Steve pulled over to give the car with the red flashing lights pass by. Much to our surprise, they pulled right in behind us. What had he done? He wasn’t speeding or driving erratically. Nope – kayaks are boats and we hadn’t stopped. The sheriff was very pleasant about it, but we had to turn around and go back to the state line. The kayaks were inspected and we got a little sheet of paper stating so. I threw it on the dash as we began our 13 mile drive though Idaho again. We breezed through Oregon and Washington state before I ever thought about that little scrap of paper again. Several times I remarked to Steve that the landscape wasn’t what I had pictured. There were no tree covered mountains or lush forests. Only more of what we’d been seeing all along, giant rocky mountains with little or no vegetation. We finally got to the border crossing, produced our passports and were welcomed into British Columbia, Canada. For the first hour or so of the drive, we passed grove after grove of fruit trees. Every kind you could imagine. Apples, peaches, plums, pears. All in bloom, waiting for pollinators to do their jobs. I didn’t get any pictures because there just never seemed to be a good spot to pull over. We knew our biggest problem would be finding campgrounds that were open in April, most of them don’t open until May. I had picked out a few possibilities and figured we’d just stop in rest areas or truck stops if they didn’t work out.

We got to see our first wildlife in BC. Large herds of wood bison hanging our on the side of the road…

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As the scenery began to resemble more what I had expected, I spent a lot of time trying to capture it…

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Our best stop in BC was at Liard River Hotsprings. The provincial park wasn’t open yet for camping, but they had a large parking lot we were told we could dry camp in. In the morning, we headed over to check out the springs…

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The boardwalk to the springs

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Taking a nice soak

In a word – it was awesome! We were so tempted to spend another night, but we really did have to move on. We got to see a little more wildlife…

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We didn’t see near as much wildlife as I thought we would. Maybe it was too early in the season.

We crossed into the Yukon and stopped for the obligatory picture…

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I spent much of the next few days hanging out Waldo’s window. Every time I thought the scenery couldn’t get any better, it did!

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Yes, that’s me with my camera out the window

When we got to Watson Lake, we stopped at the Sign Post Forest. It’s hard to describe and the pictures don’t really do it justice…

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I don’t know how many signs there are, but I can tell you, it is A LOT! It took my quite a while to go through all of the pictures and here are some of my favorites from the Yukon…

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And finally, we were heading back into the USA – Welcome to Alaska…

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Well, we made it to Alaska! Up next…Oh Waldo, you’re so……..

Our Hinkey Summit Adventure

Page had told us about another drive we would enjoy. “If you follow the road through Paradise Valley, you will come to the base of Hinkey Mountain. There is a road to the summit, your Jeep wouldn’t have any trouble,” he said. Frankly, the prospect of getting to do a little 4-wheeling really appealed to me.

First we had to find the road to Paradise Valley. Page had said it was easy. “Head out Hwy 95 for 25 miles or so, when you see a gas station in the middle of nowhere, take that left. That’s the road to Paradise Valley.”  Seems simple enough. Steve and I were enjoying the drive, just chatting about our adventures the previous day (you can read about that here) when I noticed these tiny heads popping up along the side of the highway. “Did you see that? What are those? Look, there’s another one. Slow down, I want to see what it is.” Well, there were cars coming up behind us so slowing down wasn’t an option. Lucky for me, our “middle of nowhere” gas station was just up ahead. Hopefully when we made the left, there would be more heads popping up. Sure enough, as we made our way down Paradise Valley Road, there they were. Steve pulled to the side of the road and I waited anxiously for the critter to makes its appearance. I didn’t have to wait too long…

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They reminded me of the pocket gophers we had seen in Texas but these were prairie dogs. It was comical to watch them pop up and scurry around, only to disappear into another burrow. We watched for a bit then resumed our drive. All the sudden, without a word, Steve banged a u-turn. Huh? What had he seen that I missed? He pulled over again and pointed to one of the prairie dog holes and said “Isn’t that an owl?” We got out the binoculars and sure enough, it was a burrowing owl. The problem was, it wasn’t feeling like being social. Every time we tried to get a picture it either dropped back down into the hole or it would fly off to a fence post just out of camera range. With a little patience we were finally able to  get a few shots…

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Leaving the owls to their activities, we drove on. I was thinking “Wow, Hon, get catch with the owls!” when a pheasant flew into the road. Naturally, it didn’t stay long enough for either of us to get a shot. Now it was my turn…”Pull over!” I wasn’t sure what I had seen, but I wanted a closer look. When I walked over to the fence line, this is what I had seen…

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Hey, it’s still wildlife, it’s just long dead wildlife. As I was getting ready to get back into the Jeep, I looked down the fence line and saw something a little more photogenic…

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Wow, I was loving all this wildlife! Once again, we started back towards Paradise Valley. Finally, we made it and had to get a few pics while we were there. It is another ‘has been’ town with more abandon houses/businesses then occupied, but it has a saloon too…

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We finally found Hinkey Summit Road. It wasn’t going to be 4-wheeling unless the road got a heck of a lot worse further on. With no other vehicle in sight, we crawled along, ever ready for our next wildlife encounter. Steve stopped by a pond and I got out to check it out. Lots of ducks and geese and a couple birds I couldn’t identify at the time…

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American Avocets – Thanks Google!

We came to the entrance to Homboldt National Forest where the road to the summit truly began. I oohed and aahed at the scenery…

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I took pictures of the winding road…

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As we neared the summit, I noticed a natural bridge…

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At the summit, we almost got to go 4-wheeling. There was still snow to play in…

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OK, not really enough snow to 4-wheel in. Perhaps it was the elevation getting to me but I had an idea – I would take a video on the way back down the mountain. Maybe not my best idea ever, but what do you think…

Thanks for coming along.

I am almost caught up. I have one more post about our trip then I will start on arriving in Alaska and our adventures so far (there have been some cool ones!)

Searching For A Cold Beer

We left Beatty (and hopefully all of Waldo’s troubles) and headed north. So far, most of our getting to Alaska trip had been west. Now it was time to go north. The drive from Beatty was hundreds of miles of absolutely nothing but breathtaking scenery. Once again we were on the side of the road, but this time for a good reason. I wanted pictures of the amazing landscape around us…

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We were traveling on Hwy 376 when the GPS said to take the next exit onto The Loneliest Road in America. I looked at Steve and asked “What did the GPS just say?” Sure enough, the stretch of Route 50 through Nevada is called The Loneliest Road in America! Some day, I’d like to travel the entire 3000 mile of Route 50. It goes from Ocean City, Maryland to West Sacramento, California.

When I was researching our stops, I found a New Frontier RV Park in Winnemucca. Originally, we were just going to spend the night and move on, but it looked like there were lots of things to do and see there. I had picked up a bunch of brochures at the office and we spent our first evening there trying to decide what adventure would be first on the list. In the morning, we decided to visit some of the ghost towns in the area. While I was pouring over the brochures, Steve was searching AtlasObscura.com. What he found sounded way cooler than what I had found. A ghost town that wasn’t a ghost town! And, it had a saloon! Before we headed out to find the saloon, we had to pick up some supplies. We were looking for a hardware store and someone said there was an ACE Hardware nearby. Now, that doesn’t sound all that exciting I know. You are probably wondering why I’m mentioning it at all. But…the ACE Hardware was inside of Riddley’s Family Market. Yep, a hardware/grocery store. The only place where you can get pipe fittings and pickles all in one stop. (Thank you Josie) I loved it! With our shopping done, we went in search of a cold beer.

Midas can’t truly be called a ghost town because there are still 9 full time residents. As we made our way further into Nevada’s back country, we passed all sorts of places. Some where beautiful scenery, others made me scratch my head a bit…

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I wonder how many people drive down this dirt road and think “Yeah, I want to buy that”

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We had to stop for the free range cattle a few times

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We were almost to Midas when a tumbleweed blew by us. I’ve seen lots of tumbleweeds in the movies and wanted to see one up close…

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So, the funny thing about this picture is while I was standing there holding a tumbleweed, some of the “locals” drove by. I can only imagine what they were thinking.

With only 3 miles to go, we wondered what we would find in Midas. Was there really a saloon in the middle of nowhere? Here are some of the things we saw when we got to “town”…

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And YES, the saloon…

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Notice the open sign!? Woohoo! Inside, the owner, Page, popped open a couple cold ones for us. We spent the next several hours talking with Page. He was a retired electrician. He had spent 30 years working for a gold mine operation and now owned the saloon. He told us Nevada is the worlds 4th largest gold producer. An article I found confirms this…

4th largest gold producing country 

In fact, if Nevada was a country, it would be the world’s fourth-largest gold producer, behind China, Australia and Russia, according to the US Geological Survey. Reported gold reserves (resources that are economical to mine) at the end of 2015 were about 70 million ounces, enough to sustain gold production near current levels for the next 12 to 15 years, reads a 2016 report from the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology (NBMG).

Wow! I went out to check out more of the town while Steve continued to chat with Page. And who did I see? The folks who had driven by while I was chasing down the tumbleweed. They were nice enough to let me take a picture of their truck…

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Page told us about lots of things we could find near the town, but in the end, we spent so much time chatting with him, we only had time to go to the far north end of town. Here we found the abandon part of town…

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One of the entrances into the mine

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You know I had to go inside and look around!
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An old star drill bit
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Mr. Bunny was kind enough to pose for me

I think this sign was one of my favorite things I saw in Midas..

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With the light and my energy fading, we began the drive back to Waldo. I wondered about the people who had once lived in Midas. Had they found their fortune? Or did they give up and leave everything behind? The town was such a strange mix of abandon, fixed up, new and cold beer. Our final run in with the locals came just as we were nearing the highway back to Winnemucca, riding off into the sunset…

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Up next, our visit to Paradise Valley…

Have you ever gone to a ghost town for a cold beer?

Oh Waldo – You’re SO Hot!

Unfortunately, it isn’t near as sexy as it sounds. If you’ve following our travels, you know we have had a long time problem with Waldo overheating. There were travels days we spent more time on the side of the road than motoring. This has led to some very frustrating days, tears and more than my fair share of unlady-like fits of screaming.

I’ve tried to keep my posts happy and full of America’s breathtaking scenery,  but I’ve decided that isn’t really a fair way to describe our lifestyle. Yes, for almost a year now, we’ve been exploring new areas of the country and having the time of our life. But – it isn’t all beauty and magic.

When we arrived in Beatty, it was in a fit of overheating. We are extremely fortunate Steve is a mechanic by trade. He has been working on cars, trucks and motorcycles for 40+ years. RV maintenance comes easy to him. Changing the oil and filters doesn’t require a trip to a shop. This has saved us countless dollars. But, this nagging overheat issue obviously wasn’t going away. He had already changed the thermostats, checked hoses and replaced the overflow tank, all to no avail. He came to the conclusion Waldo needed a new radiator. UGH! To make matters worse, we had taken Waldo to an oversized carwash to clean away some of the grease and grime which has accumulated around the giant CAT motor. Using the high pressure hose, he began spraying away, only to watch as parts of the fan blades fall to the ground. Great, now not only do we need a radiator, but we also need a new fan. Thanks Steve. But, to be fair to him, the blasted thing is 18 years old and has 190,000 miles on it.

We had only planned on staying in Beatty for 6 nights, but ended up staying for 9 nights. The 3rd day there, Steve called around for parts. We could get a new fan from Freightliner in Las Vegas, a mere 2 1/2 hours away. They could get us a new radiator as well, for the low cost of $2200. When he gasped at the price, the parts guy suggested he call a radiator shop, not far from Freightliner. The woman who answered the phone was beyond helpful! She was pretty sure she could get us a replacement for about half the cost. The catch was, she needed Steve to bring her the defunct radiator so she could check some measurements.  So, with the limited tools Steve brought with him, he set out to dismantle Waldo’s cooling system. The camp host loaned us two 5 gallon buckets to drain the antifreeze. We were lucky the park let us work on Waldo there. Lots of places wouldn’t have. Once the radiator (and all the other miscellaneous crap was removed), Steve set off for Las Vegas. I was feeling more than a bit cranky and was content to let him make the trip alone. By the time he returned, a little before 10pm, I had calmed down – some. Both the fan and the radiator had to be ordered and wouldn’t be in for several days. We spent those days exploring Death Valley.

Wednesday finally rolled around and we headed back to Las Vegas. We picked up the fan and 15 gallons of antifreeze from Freightliner and called the radiator shop to check on the arrival status. It wasn’t in yet, but was on its way – another hour or so. Since we had time to kill, we went to WalMart and did some resupplying. As we were coming out of WalMart, I was nearly deafened by the sound of F-16s flying overhead. It was the Thunderbirds from nearby Nellis AFB. How cool is that?!?!? Since I hadn’t brought my camera, a crappy cellphone pic will have to do…

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With the excitement over, we headed to the radiator shop. They were just taking it off the truck when we arrived. Perfect timing. With the Jeep loaded to capacity with parts and supplies, we headed back to Beatty. We had just dropped over $1500 in Las Vegas and never set foot inside a casino.

Thursday, Steve got right to work putting Waldo back together. New fan…check…

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New radiator…check…

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It took a little longer to put things back together then it did to take it apart. It always amazes me when Steve can take a pile of bolts and know which one goes where. I mean seriously, when he took it apart, he threw all of the bolts into a bucket. When I take things apart, I label everything and take pictures so I can put it back together, maybe that’s why I’m not the mechanic! Soon enough, Steve was ready to start the motor. I have to admit, I might have been holding my breath. But when the “Wait To Start” light went off, Waldo fired right up. We let it run for a while, satisfied everything was good. The real test wouldn’t come until we drove down the road. We have since traveled to Alaska and Waldo hasn’t overheated once, thanks to my wonderful mechanic, husband and best friend. His ability to handle the mechanical problems has saved us thousands of dollars. It is a comfort knowing he can do these things, but it doesn’t help my anxiety in the moment things fail. I’m working on handling things better, but for now, if you hear a scream of panic, it still might be me!

A Strange Twist of Fate – aka Unplanned Happiness

Our original plan when we left Texas was to head to the Grand Canyon. I hadn’t been making RV park reservations because we weren’t dead set on the dates we would arrive anywhere. This turned into a problem when I started looking for a place near the canyon. Everywhere was booked solid. Apparently there is a water crisis in the park and outlying parks are picking up the slack. I had resolved we would just drive on to Las Vegas and see the Grand Canyon on some future trip. This had left me a little cranky and it didn’t help that Waldo was overheating – again. As I sat in my seat, sulking a bit, and perhaps muttering a few profane words, Steve pulled off the highway and turned into the parking lot of the Petrified Forest National Park (PFNP for short). Hmmm, maybe we should find an RV park near here and explore. I called the Sunny Valley RV Resort and made reservations for 3 nights. The park was right off the highway and only about 20 miles from the PFNP. We were unhooking the Jeep and trying to get settled in when I noticed another rig pulling in. I didn’t really give it much thought, but suggested to Steve he move the Jeep out of the way because we were about to have neighbors. A few minutes later, I came out of Waldo to see if there was anything I could help with outside. This was the moment my entire day turned around!!!! I was watching the camp host escort the incoming rig to the site next to us. She was walking with the passenger as the RV followed behind. When they got near us, in a less than ladylike fashion, I hollered, “Holy S*#T, I know you!” Technically, I didn’t really “know” them, not personally, but I have followed their blog for quite a while. It was Dawn and Mike from Random Bits of Trial and Error! Luckily, they almost always include what Dawn calls “Our obligatory selfie to prove we were there” so I knew it was her. At nearly the same instant, we ran towards each other, like some corny romantic beach scene, threw our arms around each other and hugged. We’ve been conversing via blog comments and email for close to a year and it felt like meeting a long lost friend. But, just think about this, we only stopped at THAT park on a whim – no planning. I had no idea Mike and Dawn were heading back east. They had no idea we would be there. I can’t even begin to calculate the odds of us arriving within an hour of each other. There are dozens of parks either of us could have chosen, but we both ended up at Sunny Valley.

Steve and I went back into Waldo and had dinner. I just kept saying “How flipping cool is that!” “What are the odds?” I have personally met a few of the bloggers I follow, but it was always by design, not some strange twist of fate. After dinner, the four of us sat out by the picnic table and talked and laughed over a few glasses of wine (well Steve was drinking beer).  It was the perfect ending to what had been such a crappy day. Actually, it wasn’t exactly a perfect ending because the wine went straight to my head (I’m going to blame it on the elevation about 5400 feet above sea level) and I fell off the picnic table. Doh! Thankfully, Dawn and Mike just laughed it off, but I was pretty embarrassed.

Over the next few days, we each did our own thing during the day and spent evenings around their very cool propane firepit. Mike still works full time, so Dawn does quite a bit of exploring on her own. While we were there, she visited the ghost town of Two Guns. I can’t wait to read her post about it and see all of her pictures!

We had dinner together our final night. I brought stuffed shells and she made a huge salad, garlic bread and dessert. I was truly sad we were leaving. Looking back, I’m really bummed I didn’t take more pictures of us together! It was such an awesome experience meeting them in person! Thank you Dawn & Mike for being the best neighbors we ever had at Sunny Valley!

“Our obligatory selfie to prove we were there:”

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If you enjoy reading about cool places and great people, check out Random Bits of Trial and Error

Have you ever accidentally met up with someone on the road? Did it turn out as well for you?

Up next my post about PFNP

Stepping Back in Time

The post title is about the museum, not that I am 3 weeks (or more) late in writing about it. I promise, I am trying to catch up.

When we left Palo Duro Canyon, we stopped in Amarillo at Jack Sismore’s RV Museum. It is free (one of my favorite prices). We drove by and it looked a little tight to get Waldo towing the Jeep in, so we disconnected at Walmart and drove back. I have to say, it was definitely worth the hassle of disconnecting!

We asked the lady at the front desk where the museum was and she happily pointed us to the back door – no really, the museum is in a building out back. We were instructed to stay between the red painted lines and take our time and enjoy ourselves.

Jack Sisemore owned a Chevron station…

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He started renting motorhomes, barely a year later, he had 6 rentals and started Jack Sisemore Traveland.

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The oldest “RV” is a 1921 Ford Lamsteed Kampkar…

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I can’t imagine bouncing around the roads of rural America in this beauty.

He started collecting and restoring unusual vintage RVs over 25 years ago and has quite the collection.  See for yourself…

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1946 Tear Drop Kit

One of the neatest RVs he has is the 1948 Flxible which was used in the Robin Williams movie RV…

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He also has the very first Itasca ever built, serial number 1…

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And the world’s oldest Airsteam, a 1935 Torpedo…

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Not his only Airstream…

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He bought this 1953 Fleetwood from an 84 year old lady who had decided it was time to quit life on the road…

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Also pretty neat is the 1976 FMC coach which was owned by Max Factor Jr (1904-1996)…

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Other cool RVs…

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1976 Argosy
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1973 Starcraft
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1970 Avion

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Not restored

To complete the throw-back feeling there is an old A&W drive up restaurant…

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And other vintage items, like this cigarette vending machine.  When’s the last time you saw one of these?

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Not only are the RVs lovingly restored, but there is a ton of period material to make the experience more real…

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Overall, I am glad we stopped in. It really was neat to see these old RVs and to think of how far we’ve come in the world of RV living.

If you are ever in Amarillo, I highly recommend stopping in!

Next post…Unplanned Happiness!

 

 

 

Rolling into “The Big Easy”

And so begins our next big adventure. We have a job in Alaska this summer but we have to get there first. I spent weeks planning our route. Where to stop, what to see, how long to stay…all while keeping in mind we have to be in Moose Pass as close to May 1st as possible. If we had chosen to drive straight there from Daddy’s house, it would have been 4773 miles. Instead we decided to go west, then north, making the trip 6110 miles.

Our first big stop was The Big Easy, The Birthplace of Jazz, Crescent City, New Orleans, NOLA, N’Awlins, whatever you chose to call it, it is a happening place with so much to see! We only had time to stay 3 nights with our somewhat rigid timeline so we wanted to make the best of it. You could stay there a week and never get to take it all in. We used  Pontchartrain Landing as our base camp, only 15 minutes from the French Quarter. With our Passport America discount, it was only $41 a night.

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The first thing we did was drive by the house my dad grew up in. I hadn’t been there since I was about 5 years old and it didn’t look anything like I remembered, but lets face it, that was many years and several hurricanes ago! We wanted to check out some of the plantation homes gracing the banks of the Mississippi River, so we headed towards Vacherie. It was a little further than I thought, but it was a nice ride. Just before we got to Oak Alley Plantation, we caught sight of the Queen of the Mississippi

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We found a place to park and walked up to the bank to admire her. The Mississippi River is a busy river! All types of ships and barges travel it’s waters…

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After watching the river traffic for a while, we got back to the original reason we were there. Plantations! We weren’t going to have time to tour any of them, but we wanted to drive by and see as many as we could. Oak Alley gets its name from the 28 evenly spaced live oak trees lining the front walkway. These massive trees are thought to be about 300 years old, man, if trees could talk!

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My picture really doesn’t do the scenery justice! A bit further, we saw a single live oak in the field, with no one standing near it, it is hard to give a sense of scale, but it was a beautiful tree…

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Not all the plantations have been restored, some are in the works and others are in pretty poor condition. Sugar cane is still grown in the area and we passed lots of freshly planted fields…

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I had to ask Steve to turn around so I could get a picture of this oak lined driveway…

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A quick stop at another plantation…

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Then back to New Orleans and the French Quarter! Parking is very pricey in the French Quarter but I found a neat app called Spot Hero . With the app, I was able to find parking right on the edge of the French Quarter ($17 for 12 hours on a Saturday!) We hit the streets and tried to take it all in…

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There were all kinds of street performers. each vying for your attention (and cash)…

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Then, there’s the people watching! A never ending stream of people from all walks of life…

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At night, Bourbon Street really comes alive with music, neon and people…

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We stopped in at Ticklers and listened to the house band for a bit. I noticed the neon board and paid my dollar to change the phrase of the night…

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This should be quite a year to visit New Orleans as it is celebrating it’s 300th birthday…

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I never gave it much thought, but apparently getting married and parading down Bourbon Street is in!

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The morning we left, I climbed up on top of Waldo to get a shot of the park…

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We will probably go back to New Orleans when we can stay a little longer. There is still so much to see!

Have you ever been to the Big Easy? What was your favorite thing to see?