We Made It!

As we passed from the Yukon back into the USA, not much changed scenery wise.

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One thing was certain, the road conditions turned to crap. The Yukon has done a great job of road repair and Alaska – not so much! But that’s okay – we were in ALASKA!!! After two months and over 6000 miles we were within a day or two of being at our summer home. Or so I thought. We woke up on May 1st, our first full day in Alaska, to some seriously ominous skies. Then it began…

Snow so thick we could hardly see the road. This wasn’t what I had planned! But, you know what, it was the 1st of May and had to be expected. We were trying to reach Anchorage, where we would resupply before heading to Moose Pass. Once you get on the Kenai Peninsula, shopping become more expensive in two ways: 1 you have to pay the tax and 2 you have to drive at least 45 minutes to get to the nearest store. We were just about to crest a big hill we’d been climbing when Steve got very serious looking. He pulled over as best he could and I asked what was wrong. Waldo had lost it’s power steering – completely. We got out to see what had happened and found a giant puddle of oil under Waldo. Oh man, this isn’t good! We were in the middle of nowhere! Glenallen was an hour behind us and Anchorage was 2 1/2 hours in front of us. We called for roadside assistance from Good Sam’s and waited. And waited. And argued with them on the phone about exactly where we were. I gave them our GPS coordinates and told them we were at mile marker 37. Yes, 37 – I can see it from here! Finally, the tow truck arrived and Waldo got carted off…

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We were towed back to Glenallen, the closest “qualified repair center”. I was not a happy camper! Despite the bad luck of being broken down, we had the good luck of being towed to Glenallen Fuel and Service. First thing in the morning, the lead mechanic, Dawson, came out to talk to Steve. While the 2 of them conversed, I sat in Waldo and stewed about our situation. It could have been a lot worse. GF&S let us stay in Waldo in their parking lot, so we weren’t “homeless” When Steve came back inside, he explained what had happened. A bolt had come backed of the power steering pump and broke the other bolt holding drive on the pump. I just nodded my head as if it meant something to me. How long to fix it – that was my question! The part we needed was in Anchorage, naturally. But again, luck was with us. Scott, the tow truck driver, had to go to Anchorage anyhow, he’d pick it up for us. Dawson was quite happy to let Steve do all of the work he was capable of and loaned him any tools he didn’t have.

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All in all, we ended up being there 3 days and with Steve doing most of the work, it wasn’t as expensive as it could have been. We were back on the road and I was just blown away by the scenery. Every time I thought the view couldn’t get any better, it did!

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We finally made it to Anchorage and got all the shopping out of the way. Only an hour and a half until we are home for the summer! Yea! I wasn’t prepared for the amazing scenery yet to come…

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The Seward Highway leaving Anchorage
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Driving along Turnagain Arm

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Well, here we are in Moose Pass. We parked at the bottom of the driveway and walked up to meet our new bosses, Gary and Treva. They pointed out our spot and Steve brought Waldo up the hill. I wasn’t sure Waldo could make the turn and get enough traction in the dirt drive, but he made it…

Whew, that was a climb. But what a view…

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Our backyward
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Our front yard

Wow. Now that we made it, it’s time to go to work. Up next – settling in.

Thanks for coming along. I’m getting caught up on posts, I’m only 4 or 5 behind now. If you want the latest, follow us on Facebook or Instagram!

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!)

It’s OK – It’s a Dry Heat – Part 1

It was kinda of sad leaving Sunny Valley. We had such a great time with Mike and Dawn (read Dawn’s take on our meeting here), it was hard to say “until we meet again”.

We spent the night in Kingman, AZ so we could have dinner with family…

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Our plan was to spend the next week exploring Death Valley. Death Valley is the 5th largest National Park in the United States and the largest in the lower 48. It covers 5262 square miles (roughly 3.4 million acres). It is 140 miles long and about 75 miles across at its widest.

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We decided Beatty RV Park in Nevada would be the perfect jumping off point for our explorations.  On our way to Beatty, we passed the Hoover Dam…

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And drove through Las Vegas. It was noon when we pulled into the park. We got set up in our site and headed into town, actually, to be completely honest, we were looking for a liquor store. The camp host told us we could probably buy liquor at the casino. My first thought was, yeah, what would THAT cost. After we drove around town a bit, we headed to the Stagecoach Hotel and Casino. Just for fun, we put $6.00 (big spenders, right?) into the one-armed-bandit and hit on the 3rd pull. Woohoo. Let’s cash out of this machine! And so it went. A few bucks here, a few bucks there and at the end of the afternoon, we were up enough to cover the cost of the bottle, which wasn’t as expensive as I imagined. When we got back to Waldo, there were wild burros across the street, which I thought was really neat…

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I can just hear the burro, “What, haven’t you ever seen an ass before?”

The next day, we headed into Death Valley…

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Once we passed through Hell’s Gate, the temperature started to climb. It was 58 degrees in Beatty and 75 degrees on the valley floor. The wind had been kicking up for days and it was really noticeable in the valley. I knew it would be hard to get great pictures of the overall landscape because of the haze…

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Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

So, I tried to focus on the smaller scenes…

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Our next stop was Mosaic Canyon, a 4 mile round trip through narrow slot canyons and polished rock walls…

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Looking back toward the parking area
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The canyon walls, smoothed by rushing waters
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Steve getting a picture of the landscape

From there, we walked the Salt Creek Interpretative Trail.

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Since it was only April, there was still plenty of water flowing. The water is 4x saltier than the ocean. In spite of that, it is home to the Salt Creek pupfish…

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Not a great picture, but you can see several pupfish

April is the beginning of mating season and the males were a beautiful shade of blue. As we were walking along, I could have sworn I saw a gorilla face in the mountains…

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Do you see a gorilla or was I imagining it?

I was in sensory overload, it’s hard to take in all the naked beauty at once.

It was several days before we got back to exploring. Before you get into Death Valley, there are 2 must see places. The first is the Goldwater Open Air Museum. It seems a strange place for an art museum, in the middle of nowhere, but it is definitely worth the stop…

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Fred Bervoets’s  Ode to Shorty
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Charles Albert Szukalski‘s Ghost Rider
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Charles Albert Szukalski‘s The Last Supper
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A very large metal origami crane
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Dr. Hugo Heyrman‘s Lady Desert The Venus of Nevada
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Onny Huisink’s The Beauty of Decay
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Sofie Siegmann‘s Sit Here

Just passed the museum we discovered several abandon homes and vehicles…

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This was a prelude to the ghost town of Rhyolite. The town boomed into existence in 1904 and had burnt itself out by 1916. Remains of several of the buildings give us an idea what town was like in its heyday…

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I thought one of the neatest buildings was Tom Kelly’s bottle house

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Despite the fact electricity to the town had been shut off in 1916, the last tenets of the house lived there until 1969. Tommy Thompson and his family added miniature houses to the property…

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From Rhyolite, we headed back into Death Valley. We drove along Mustard Canyon Road…

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Then visited Harmony Borax Works

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The iconic 20 Mule Team wagon used to transport the borax

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Even in this harsh environment, flowers still find a place to bloom…

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Our final hike of the day was to the natural bridge…

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I’m going to wrap up Part 1. There is still so much to tell you about! So here is my closing shot until I get to Part 2…

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Have you visited Death Valley?

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!

 

 

 

Palo Duro Canyon State Park

After New Orleans, we were ready for a little quiet time. We thought stopping at Wind Point Park for a few days would provide us with that. Boy were we wrong! 4 non-stop days of catching up with friends. 3 non-stop nights of bonfires and brews. It was awesome to visit the place we worked for 5 1/2 months and to see the people we’d become friends with, but damn, was I tired when we left! Our next stop was guaranteed to give us the down time we needed.

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Driving along the north Texas plain, the scenery can be a bit – well – boring. Sorry Texas! But miles and miles (and miles) of this…

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can give you the feeling the scenery will never change. I was sitting in my customary position, foot rest up-seat tilted back just so, just comfortable enough to doze occasionally. I was jolted awake from my snooze when Steve hit the brakes on Waldo a little harder than normal. I was STUNNED. The scenery had gone from miles of flat nothing to a mesmerizing view of the canyon…

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I had taken advantage of our Texas State Park pass when I made our reservation. All we had to do was check in at the ranger station and get our site number. Sites are assigned on a first come first served basis. In 2019, you will be able to reserve a specific site but for now it is pot luck. I think we did OK!

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Looking back, I wrote in my journal, “It is not a hard thing to wake up to.” Peace and quiet! Only a few friendly neighbors. Our first full day in the canyon had us scouting out possible hikes, nothing too strenuous, but trying to take in everything we could. I got a bit frustrated because they give you 2 maps. One of the campgrounds and one of the hiking trails. It’s really hard to match the maps up and the signage wasn’t as good as it could be. We drove through the park first, getting the lay of the land, so to speak. It was hard to get anywhere, because I kept saying “Stop, I want to take a picture.” With sights like this, how could I not?

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The setting moon

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Our first hike was to “The Big Cave”. We parked on the side of the road and started up the trail…

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I climbed to the mouth of the cave first and looked back to make sure Steve was coming…

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Steve trying to decide the best route
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Looking back towards the Jeep. Can you see it?
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I couldn’t get far enough back into the cave to get the entire opening

From a distance, the rock looks smooth. When you get close up, it looks like this…

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From here, we walked along the Juniper Riverside trail…

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While the scenery was spectacular, I was getting tired so returned to the Jeep. I’ve been fighting a sore throat and a sinus infection, so this was enough walking for one day.

Once back at Waldo, we set our chairs in the shade and relaxed! As we were sitting there chatting, I spied something out of the corner of my eye. I wasn’t sure what it was and I nudged Steve to look in that direction. A few moments later, a little head popped out of the ground, looked around then dropped back into the hole. I sat with the camera trained on the hole, waiting for the critter to reemerge. He did, but from another hole. It took me a while, but here is our visitor…

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It is called a pocket gopher. Come to find out, there must have been dozens them. As we sat there quietly, they popped up and down like the game of whack-a-mole. Right after Steve put my camera away, we had another visitor, so this is a cellphone pic…

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Roadrunners crack me up. I love watching them. The next morning, I looked out the window towards the tent across the way. If the folks sleeping inside had been awake, they could have reached out and petted the mule deer who was grazing at their front door. I was loving all the wildlife. This what exactly the relaxation we had been needing.

We spent most of the day driving through the park. We stopped at the visitor center and learned a lot about the fascinating history of the park. I had heard of the Civilian Conservation Corps, but never realized what an impact they had on our park system. They spent 5 years working on Palo Duro Canyon State Park. Many of the building are still in use today. Below is a picture of what is left of the mess hall. 85 years later, this chimney is still standing…

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As we were driving along, I had Steve pull over and give me the binoculars.

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Yes, the arrow is pointing to a person! I’ll bet the view was amazing, but, not my kind of hike!

Our final morning found us wishing for more time to explore. More time to just relax and spend quality time together, but we still have a long way to go. (4,698 mile to be exact) We had one last visitor before we left…

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Another cellphone pic, but you get the idea

The road in and out of the canyon is steep and full of switchbacks. We decided not to hook up the jeep and force Waldo to tow it out. So, with me driving the Trouble, I followed Steve out of the canyon. Just to give you an idea, here is a short video I shot out the window as I was following…

Steve almost gave me a heart attack when the rear wheel slipped into the culvert! Once we were at the top, we hooked up and headed towards Amarillo. Not surprisingly, I had him pull over once again for a picture. What gave me pause was thinking about how much is the same and how much has changed. Two windmills, both harnessing power, the old and the new…

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Up next…a really cool RV museum in Amarillo.

I know I am really behind in keeping up with our travels. We were at Palo Duro Canyon April 4-6th. We’ve seen so much since then! Right now we are in Winnemucca, Nevada, but I don’t want to get too ahead of the story! If you want more up-to-date information on our adventures, Like TheWanderingRVer on Facebook