Friday, June 14, 2013

Home Again!

Hugs and kisses all around from my patient family.

5,000-plus miles in 5 weeks through 11 states.  Visited 18 National Park Sites and got 25 new passport stamps.  I wonder how this journey could have been so relaxing.  But it was. 

I'm thrilled that there were only a few hiccups.  The biggest being the transmission work required that kept me in Rapid City for an extra 2 days.  But even that was fun.  I haven't spent a day at the mall since the 1970s!

In the next few days, I'll get together the financial stats and share them with you. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Greenville, MS (Almost)

I'm camped for the night at Harlow's Casino just over the Mississippi River Bridge that connects Mississippi and Arkansas. 

The local levee sits about 20 paces away from my parking spot.  The security people could not have been nicer when I asked permission to stay for the night. 

I didn't plan to drive this far today but there was no point in stopping with the temperatures being what they are.  Rotten timing to have planned my return to the South during the first heat wave.  As it is, I've just cooled down with the generator and A/C running. 

I left Lake Dardanelle this morning.  It was a nice camping experience and, were I the stay-in-one-place type, this would be a nice place to stay in one place.  Especially with a rod and reel.

This campsite costs $31/night. 

Same campsite from across the marina.

This shot reminds me of the Mediterranean.

And this one Hawaii.

I traveled Highway 7 through the Ouachitas.  A drive that promised more than it delivered.  

C'mon Arkansas!!!  Stop messing with us!!!

Web Photo

Maybe it's all the kudzu, but you really can't see a thing but the road signs.  I caught a glimpse of the mountain range exactly once during the 50 + mile drive.

I released my right-hand grip on the wheel long enough to take this jittery shot.

The good news: even though I was on rolling hills, A/C running full-blast, with full water tanks, my mileage continues to improve.  Here's the milestone average I was looking for.

I've been stuck on 14.8 and 14.9 for a while.  Significantly better than the 13.5 the onboard computer showed last August when I got the GDB.

Spent part of the day in lovely Hot Springs, Arkansas. 

And it was.  Hot, that is.  Too hot to make strolling the pretty streets a pleasure I'm sure it otherwise is.  And the hot water, while tasty, was not appealing on a day like this, but it is on offer everywhere.

At the Visitors Center

On the street.

If you are interested in Gilded Age architecture, come to Hot Springs - they have blocks of it.

This sign at a city park had me puzzled until I recognized this band member.   William Jefferson Clinton .... ladies and gentleman ..... on the saxophone. 

Looks like I'll be home on Thursday pending a long day's drive tomorrow.  But the flat, smooth, 4-lane US highway is a good one.  Plus, there is just no point in stopping in this heat.  At least in the driver's seat I have A/C blowing in my face all day. 

Can't wait to get home! 

Tonight, John and I have discussed several menu options and I am sooooo looking forward to the delicious food along with the fine company.  And holding sweet Doris tight.  She will probably ignore me for 20 minutes and then, surely, decide to forgive me for leaving her motherless for so long.


Monday, June 10, 2013

Lake Dardanelle State Park, AR

I'm tucked into the pines for the night at Lake Dardanelle State Park surrounded by the Ouachitas to the south and the Ozarks to the north. 

It’s pretty here.  I’m in a quiet, shady spot and can see the marina.  This is a massive lake and a prime fishing area (they even have a big pavilion for tournaments). 

For $21 a night I have all the water and electric I can consume.  Both appreciated as the highs reached the nasty nineties today.  The A/C is going full-blast and, as soon as I recover from the sweaty ordeal of dumping, filling the water tanks, and hooking-up, I will take one very long shower.  This evening, when it cools down, I’ll go see what the waterfowl are up to.
I only drove 125 miles today but it took about 4 hours.  State Highway 16, then 21, then 7 are roller-coaster roads.  The road only differed from a roller-coaster because a) it wasn’t as wide and b) I was the only one screaming.  Tight hair-pin curve after curve, no shoulders, up then down, hands at 10-and-2. 
Web Photo
The mountains are lovely.  The area reminds me of Northeast Alabama where my family is from.  It even smells like summer at Grandma’s.   

Me and Mama
Ironically, you can’t really see much of the mountains because you are so far in them.  There are no scenic pull-offs along this route which is why I can’t recommend it.  I’m sure there are established scenic routes through this beautiful land. 
Web Photo

I apologize for the lack of original photos today, but there was nowhere at all to pull over safely.   Too bad, because there were some picturesque moments. 
Tomorrow I head for Hot Springs National Park and then it’s all about turning east, staying east, and getting home. 
Web Photo

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Fayetteville, AR

Back in the Southeast and in good position to tour (or at least drive through) the Ozark and Ouachita mountain ranges.  Not sure what my plan is but I'll figure it out.

Woke up and got on the road earlier than usual and departed Bartlesville where someone in the city government has a sense of humor.

My next stop, after skirting through Missouri briefly, was

Arkansas, don't 'cha know.

World headquarters for the Wal-Mart Corporation.

I know Wal-Mart has many detractors.  I even know people who refuse to shop there and I respect that.  Really I do.  I’m just not one of them.  No doubt because I remain willfully unaware of the company’s business practices.  If that means I have an undeveloped social conscience then …. there it is.

But I like Wal-Mart.  I like the broccoli salad, I like the garden center, and I really like the prices.   I also like the fact that the company allows me to stay overnight in a clean (usually), quiet (mostly), well-lighted (always) place. 

I’ve been on the road for 32 days and, thus far, all but 7 of those nights have been spent in Wal-Mart parking lots. 
So I thought it fitting that, on my way to Fayetteville, I should stop and check out the store that started it all. 

Right on Main Street. 

Does it get any more Main Street than this?

The original store is now a free museum where one can soak up the company spirit and learn about founder Sam Walton, one of the most successful capitalists who ever lived.

Sam's office

The museum displays were entertaining.

Enlarge to read.
Sam loved the outdoors and had a soft spot for his camping customers. 

What the richest man in the world drove

1979 Ford F-150

Sam used to say "what am I going to haul my dogs around in - a Rolls Royce?"

Of course, I had a blast browsing through the Five-and-Dime merchandise.

I used to play this for hours on family road trips.

Everyone's favorite bald man.

I would still play this if I had someone to compete against.

Well, that was today.  I'm parked at Lowe's here in Fayetteville.  I'm ready to dive into the mountains tomorrow.  Can you think of any must-see things along my route? 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Bartlesville, OK

Ooooooh ........ Oklahoma!

Where the wind comes sweeping down the plains .... 


I decided to get some miles behind me over the past couple of days as I head homeward.

It's been all Blue Highways with views like this ......

And this


Like Willie Nelson, seeing things I may never see again

I don't know.

Really, I don't.

Wind-powered parking-lot lighting.

My working plan is to glide through both the Ouachita and Ozark Mountain ranges as I make my way south. 

So ......... stay tuned for some Arkansas byways!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Lamar, CO

Blue Highway US-50

Also known as The Loneliest Road.  Formerly known as the Santa Fe Trail.
I miss the eye-candy mountains but there is an upside to the flatland: cruise control.  This enables me to sit back, listen to some good music, and let the mind wander - activities prohibited in the mountains.   

Web Photo

Usually 2-lanes, sometimes 4-lanes, the well-maintained Highway 50 meanders through one small town after another.  Towns too small to support the usual chain stores.  Towns with sadly vacant store-fronts.  Towns with names like Wild Horse, Devine, Hasty and - my personal favorite - Swink. 

John Cougar Mellencamp anyone?

So the high mountains gave way to the rolling hills which gave way to the high Plains.  I expect I’ll stay on US-50 until Dodge City, Kansas. 

At which point, I will swoop south and pick up US-400.  Why?  Because, according to my atlas, US-400 is a scenic route.  In Kansas???  This I gotta see. 
No offense – I like traveling through Kansas.  Its endless offering of farmhouses is comforting somehow.  

I took a detour to visit Bent’s Fort National Historic Site. 

This important trading post has been meticulously restored.  I spent a long time there because the self-guided tour was fascinating.  I plan to dedicate a post to Bent’s Fort when I get back home. 

Flora and fauna from Bent's Fort.

The unpopular House Sparrow. 

Looking forward to seeing more of the Santa Fe Trail tomorrow.