Friday, May 29, 2009

Oklahoma Sights

Driving across western Oklahoma has been a joy. I don't know if it always looks this good, but the rolling green fields are just lovely. And the flashes of red dirt just add the highlights. I have a feeling we're going to lose the red dirt in eastern Oklahoma, but we'll gain lots of lakes. This is our second night at Lake Stanley Draper right in the city limits of Oklahoma City (or OKC as the locals refer to it.) Although we're tucked into a wooded campground and not parked on the shore line, we can't complain. It's conveniently located and only $8 a night. I was expecting it to crowd up for the weekend, but there are still only about five spaces taken.

On our way here, we stopped in Elk City at the 'National' Route 66 Museum. It's cute, but not very substantial. However at only $3, I guess you get what you pay for. On the other hand, it you are ever driving I80 across Nebraska, be sure to stop at the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument. It's an overpass over the road at about mile marker 272 - rather pricey, but really something. But I digress.

I did like this metal sculpture of a Texas (Oklahoma) Longhorn.

And I always wanted to slide down a firemen's pole. Here's Ron performing a nice controlled slide - mine was more of a free-fall.

They had this cute mock-up of an old gas station. . .

And this antique RV (although I think it was supposed to be a scene from The Grapes of Wrath.)

Today we visited a place my father has been telling me about for years. Probably 30 years ago, he and my mother came through Oklahoma City and stopped at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame. Well, now it's about three times as big and is the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. It was pretty amazing.

This 19-ton, 30-foot metal sculpture of Buffalo Bill Cody overlooks the highway, waving people in to the museum (with his rifle.)

There are exhibits on American Rodeo, Native Americans, Military in the West, firearms, Western performers, and, of course, the American Cowboy. But by far the largest exhibit was on Western artists and that was my favorite. Photography was not allowed in those rooms so you'll just have to take my word that the paintings and sculptures were fantastic. My absolute favorites were the Remmington sculptures, but I guess that's pretty predictable.

I took this in the Western performers exhibit where photography was allowed, but not flash. This was part of the John Wayne tribute, just to give you an idea.

In the main lobby was this 18-foot plaster version of The End of the Trail - the widely reproduced image by James Earle Fraser.

This plaster statue has quite a history. It seems Mr. Fraser created it for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. At the end of the exposition, the plaster work was cut up and discarded! Then in 1920, the citizens of Tulare County, California, salvaged the pieces and had the statue reassembled. It stood for 48 years in Mooney Grove Park, outside of Visalia. In 1968, the National Cowboy Hall of Fame acquired the statue. Following extensive restoration, molds were made and a full-scale bronze sculpture was cast in Italy and unveiled in Visalia in 1971. Now I have to go to Visalia. I hope it's still there.

Ron really enjoyed the circa 1900 Western cattle town with full-sized structures, including this jail. How about my 'deer in the headlights' look?

And every once in awhile, I have to throw in a flower.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Heading East

After leaving our friends at Sumner Lake, we continued east on US 60 into the Texas Panhandle to Canyon, TX, about 20 miles south of Amarillo. We tried everything to find a place to stay - public land (none in Texas,) free camping lists, Moose and Elks, even half price Passport America - everything! Well, everything except a full price RV park, of course. We ended up at Walmart for the night where we spent about $60 inside and filled the RV with gas for another $140.

Our reason to stop in Canyon was to visit Palo Duro Canyon nearby. Although the weather was looking rather iffy, we unhitched the car and took off. The visitors center closes at 5 and because we lost an hour crossing into Texas and we missed the building on our way down the canyon, we only had about 15 minutes there. But I always think they build visitor centers at the most picturesque spots.

Sometimes Ron insists that I be in a picture. He managed to snap one between cloud banks.

On our way down into the canyon, we saw quite a few of these 'wild' turkeys. Last time I was here, I saw dung beetles! Now THAT was exciting!

There are six of these dips along the drive. We can only imagine the red tide that must flood them when it rains. You can see how they plow the mud off to the side.

At the end of the canyon drive is a campground where we did see some sun. I liked the look of the red, red rock with the green trees.

After that, the clouds moved back in and Ron quickly returned through those six dips just before a downpour with hail. That was pretty exciting, but my favorite part was the thunder. It just echoed across the canyon and seemed to go on forever. After the storm passed, I wanted to go check out the dips, but Ron wouldn't go for that.

After a decent night's sleep, we made 'Amarillo by Morning', switched to I40 and headed for 'OK-la-ho-ma where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain.' Since it was sweepin' so hard, we only went another 20 miles and stopped at the city park in Sayre. It's quite a place - water and electric for $12, swimming pool, and golf course for $10 a day ($12 on weekends.) We didn't take advantage of any of those, not even the hookups since our batteries were full, but it's a nice quiet spot.

The wildflowers are amazing along the highway. At first I thought they might have thrown out seeds, but we also saw them on our drive on back roads around town. This is just a poor sample.

And Ron made a friend in front of the courthouse. . .

Which was featured in the movie The Grapes of Wrath.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Fort Sumner, NM

The other day, our group here at Sumner Lake made the 30 mile trip into the town of Fort Sumner. I'm ashamed to say we didn't visit the site of the old fort or the grave of Billy the Kid, but instead we went bowling!

First we walked around town and admired the murals. This whole wild west set was at the Chamber of Commerce.

And Ron discovered this larger than life six shooter was actually a grill. It must look really cute with the smoke coming out of the barrel.

My favorite was this mural of a blacksmith and a little boy fishing in the water trough.

In we went to the six-lane bowling alley. We had a great time trying to remember how to bowl. Out of the group of six on our two lanes, I had the highest score for the first game. Before you get too impressed, though, I got a whopping 120. It was a short-lived victory since everyone but me improved the second game when I only got a 97. The funniest part was that we had to keep score. When was the last time anybody had to do that? Nowadays the machine not only keeps score, but tells you when it's your turn and how to pick up a spare. Luckily Janet and I still remembered how and even more luckily, Brad had some reading glasses for us to use!

After all that activity, we were ready for some good Mexican food. Yum!

Last night several of us went to see the bats fly out of this old bunker at sunset. The structure was used to hold dynamite while the dam was being built in the 1930s. This picture is from where I sat during the show. If I had known the bats were going to fly directly at me, I would have picked a different spot. And I hope those drips I felt were rain and not bat guano.

There are actually bats in this picture, but I guess they move so fast that you can't see them.

Today we had a taco potluck and did what we all do best - sit around and talk.

We've had lots of fun visiting with old friends and making new ones.

Tomorrow we say goodbye to them and this lovely state park. Not only does New Mexico have reasonable rates at their state parks, but they also have a heck of a deal on an annual pass which our friends are utilizing.

But as for Ron and me, we're still heading east.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Across New Mexico

We stopped for a few days in Belen, NM, about 30 miles south of Albuquerque and parked at the Moose Lodge. They were lovely and made us feel very welcome, but I don't recommend their location. The lodge is right next door to a meat processing company. We saw calves and pigs and even goats in the back pens, and pretty soon they were gone. For a city girl like myself, it was traumatic. I have always believed that meat was born in packages. It was almost enough to make a vegetarian out of me. (I said almost.)

While we were there, we checked on some lots that Ron owns in the area. About 40 years ago, he and his wife Sharon bought three lots with the expectation that the area would be developed and dramatically increase in value. The lots were supposed to pay for their kids' college educations. This seemed like a reasonable assumption since Albuquerque has limited expansion options, being surrounded by mountains and Indian reservations. Inexplicably, the development never happened. After stopping in the Homeowners Association office (yes, they do have one) and obtaining directions and plot maps, we headed out to inspect the lots.

We drove for miles down dirt and gravel roads, found the turn off, and took the low-clearance Saturn (with the kayaks on top) on a barely-graded road and through a wash. After driving as close as we could, Ron paced off to what we calculate would be his lot line. Here he is proudly standing on his own lot.

It does have that nice wash right behind it and some of the prettiest rocks I've ever seen. He even let me take one.

Here's the view the other direction. Nice, huh?

Unfortunately, even after driving through several other washes and scraping bottom on some rocks, we never found the other two lots. I was nervous enough with the faux four-wheeling, but what really did me in was this military type plane that kept buzzing overhead. Any minute I expected paratroopers to jump out and arrest us. I don't know what I thought they could arrest us for, but I'm not always completely reasonable.

Yesterday, we left Belen and continued east on US 60. We made a stop at Abo ruins, one of the three sites that make up the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument. It is the remains of a huge church built in the 1600s. Still standing three stories tall, it's an impressive sight.

I was surprised to see a kiva (generally assumed to be used by the native people for their religious ceremonies) right in the church. The ranger explained it might have been built to ease the transition between the native and Christian religions.

After a stop in Mountainair at the Monument's visitors center, we continued on our way east. Unfortunately, soon after Mountainair, the interesting scenery quit and the rest of the day's drive was boring. Yes, I even fell asleep. But eventually we reached Sumner Lake State Park, where we will be staying with a group of WINs/Boondockers until after the holiday. There are also a whole lot of other (non-retired) people here, but there's plenty of room for all.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Traveling the Back Roads

After saying goodbye to our friends near Show Low, we headed east on US 60. It's a really nice road with no big trucks, but there were several wide loads. Go figure. Anyway here are some of the high points along the way.

Literally a high point, Pie Town, New Mexico, is located at the Continental Divide. It's obviously named for its main source of income. And yes, I begged Ron to stop. Besides being a restaurant, this was the library and the Chamber of Commerce!

The owners were very nice and volunteered to take our picture enjoying the blueberry pie. Sadly they were out of ice cream - don't go on a Monday.

We stopped for a night at Datil Well National Recreation Area and, ignoring the threatening weather, took the lovely 3 mile loop hike.

I was thrilled to see and get a shot of this guy. I think he's a horned toad, but correct me if you know better. Doesn't he look angry?

Continuing east the next morning, we stopped at the Very Large Array. They have a nice visitor center and a walking tour. It was much more interesting then I thought it would be. Contrary to the story line of the movie Contact, they are not listening to space, but seeing it with radio waves. The VLA consists of 27 dish-shaped antennas that are connected together to form a single large radio telescope. They are in a Y pattern and can be moved into different configurations using transporters on railroad tracks. In the smallest configuration the antenna are all crowded within .6 kilometers (2000 feet) of the array center. In the largest, they are spread out to 21 kilometers (13 miles) from the center. I would have loved to see the tightest configuration, but we weren't that lucky. Here's the best picture I took.

And here's the one in the visitors center that I would have liked to have taken. (Ignore that reflection of my flash.)

Each dish is 25 meters (82 feet) across. Ron was kind enough to pose for size.

After the VLA, we passed through the town of Magdalena. Although we didn't stop, they do have a great hook. According to the visitor guide, the "Lady on the Mountain" is a natural rock formation that resembles the profile of Mary Magdalene. I just have to wonder, "Why not any woman?" and "How do they know what Mary Magdalene looked like?" Next time we'll have to stop.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Fun in Show Low

We have several friends who have purchased lots in the high desert outside of Show Low. Most of them are very happy to just park their RVs on their own 1 1/4 acres, but some are more ambitious. Mary Ellen and Ted recently bought a gorgeous double wide and, despite many obstacles, are making it work. Here's Mary Ellen welcoming us for a visit. Watch out for that first step!

Ted and Mary Ellen have a blog at where you can read about all their adventures. To see their account of this house being brought in, click here.

Another friend Jon went a different route. He bought precut logs and started from the ground up. Here he's sitting on the porch of his very ingenious cabin.

On Sunday we attended a party to celebrate Norwegian Independence Day. Before you ask, the day commemorates their independence from Sweden. There was a big turnout.

Marlene was the prime instigator and spent three hours working on the sweet almond treat. It's baked in rings, then stacked and iced. Yummy.

Jo Ann, who is Norwegian AND from Minnesota, jumped right in with additional ideas. Here she is serving some authentic Scandinavian sandwiches - start with salmon and add assorted goodies.

Ron and Carol look pretty happy.

Taylor, Patricia, and Judy enjoyed Jo Ann's Ollie and Lena jokes.

Our friend John recently bought a Harley and is planning to leave his perfectly lovely motor home and take the bike across the country. I have to admit he looks pretty spiffy on that bike.

John is also putting a blog together to keep his friends updated during his trip east. You can read about him by clicking here.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Up, Up, and Away

We did it!! We packed up the RV and left Mesa and the heat. I have to admit it wasn't nearly as hard to pack as I thought it would be. I just went through each room and dumped stuff in a container to take out. So far I've only noticed one thing that I forgot - my robe. Oh well, it was about time to get a new one anyway. I did have a near heart attack when 100 miles down the road I couldn't find the power cord for my computer. I finally found it in Ron's power cord box where he had put it thinking it was his. Jeez. Ten years off my life.

We took a scenic route out of town - state road 87 or the Beeline Hwy. It was particularly lovely with the Palo Verde trees with their bright yellow blooms. This isn't the best example, but was where we could pull over for a picture.

We decided 76 miles was enough for our first day and stopped at a national forest campground about 14 miles east of Payson and at a blessedly cool 5600 feet. I know this campsite doesn't look like much - it's just a wide spot really - but it had two very good benefits. First, we could get satellite TV (not easy with all those trees) and, after we parked, we found something even better. On the dirt path to our picnic table was a natural water seep which attracted countless birds.

Although we are by no means expert birders, we do enjoy watching and identifying them when we can. Among the ones we saw that day were the pigmy nuthatch, western tanager, black-headed grosbeak, western bluebird, acorn woodpecker, and hermit thrush. (At least I know it was a thrush. They all look alike in the book, so I picked the hermit because it's supposed to be in the area.) We also saw several we couldn't identify and lots of more common birds. It was really exciting for us. If anybody would like to check it out, it's the Ponderosa Campground, site A23.

We also took a walk around the campground and saw other interesting things like this unusual plant. Is it a mushroom or what?

And this strange tree that produces dental products.

The next day we continued east up the Mogollon Rim. State Road 260 between Payson and Heber is just beautiful although it's not marked as a scenic road on the map. What are these map people thinking? In places, the road hugs the side of the rim with breathtaking views.

Finally we arrived at our destination which was outside of Show Low, AZ, where we'll be visiting friends. This is a very rural area with seven miles of dirt road at the end of the trip. Perhaps we should have disconnected the car.