Welcome to WordPress.com. This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!
Congratulations, Mr. President-Elect Barack Obama! Congratulations, United States of America! Congratulations to all of you who voted in this awe-inspiring, most historic of elections, whichever candidate you voted for!
We were able to vote by mail in Oregon (everyone in Oregon votes by mail); the ballots came just in time for us to complete our choices and mail them back. We worried about that because our primary ballots didn’t get to us until the day we they were due to be returned, and we were halfway across the country.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
We’re not doing any sightseeing right now; in fact we passed up a hot air balloon festival in Sierra Vista this past weekend.
This first period back in Benson is very much like the semi-annual visits we made to the Portland area for four years: catching up with all our medical visits, lab tests, X-rays, anything needed to try to pull us back into shape. In fact, we’re both waiting to hear back from our doctor on X-rays taken last week. Suzy has a shoulder that’s giving her fits, and I’ve had a stiff neck recurring for too many weeks. That’s just our bodies getting older, while our spirits refuse to. Maintenance time.
We’re also spending some time on maintenance of the facility. We have a technician repairing our toilet; he has to get replacement parts from the manufacturer. One of our ceiling lights is acting up and may need replacement, and our porch light (on the motorhome) is also on the fritz. The casita is going to get some fresh paint here and there, and we’re doing a little yard work.
At the same time, we are working to get involved in the community, not just in the SKP RV Park but also in the town of Benson. After Sunday Mass we went to a pancake breakfast at the Lions Club. Sunday night was Knights of Columbus meeting. We have volunteered our services as Lectors in our parish church.
Next weekend the Benedictine Monastery down the road from here is having its annual Arts and Crafts Festival. As our pastor said at Mass, “I’m not a crafts person but I am a food person, so I plan to be there.” In addition, the Knights of Columbus are helping with parking and traffic control, and I’ve pulled a four-hour stint.
The park will be having its annual Thanksgiving dinner this month. The park provides the room and the tables, plus coffee and tea. We sign up to be at a table of 18; each table group gets together ahead of time to set their own menu and what each couple or individual will provide for food and table decorations. A collection is taken to cover the cost of the turkey, ham or whatever, which the table’s chair couple will buy and prepare. We’ve chaired a Christmas dinner one time.
There are lots of little jobs around the park, and we’ll see what we can do to help out. Several key volunteers are “retiring” this year, and replacements are being sought. We’re keeping a low profile in those areas, as we still want to be able to spend considerable time away from the park in the near future. I had briefly considered taking over the job of editing the park’s newsletter (after years of doing the same thing for the Knights of Columbus in San Lorenzo), but I’ll pass on that for now. Maybe in the future.
We’ll come back at you from time to time to let you know about further progress in … Our Life in Wheels.
So, what did we find and what did we do in our first week back?
All the way across south- eastern Arizona we marveled at the green we saw in the desert. Summer’s monsoon season really hit the area hard, lots of water lots of times. So the desert got a new lease on life.
We arrived back “home” in Benson safe and sound yesterday afternoon, after a little trouble with road construction. For ten miles between Red Rock and Marana, I-10 was virtually stopped, merging from two lanes down to one. The first six miles of that took us a full hour.
We’ve had a grand seven months: we stayed overnight in two states (Arkansas and North Dakota) we hadn’t visited by RV before, we participated in grandson Jason’s and Crystal’s wedding, we took a boat trip into Hell’s Canyon, slept in Devils Den State Park, walked around Devil’s Tower, and saw aliens at Roswell, NM. We’ve been in big old churches and small modern chapels. We paid too much for some RV parks and absolutely nothing in some others. We walked white sand dunes in New Mexico and pink sand dunes in Utah.
We had originally intended to travel just to Arkansas and Oklahoma this year, spending a good deal of time in both states. When we got the word that the wedding was on for sure, we changed directions and ended up traveling at least three times as far as we had planned. However, It was a wonderful change of directions and plans, and led to some great adventures. Besides Jason and Crystal’s wedding, we were able to participate in our friends Jim and Ronnie Floding’s 60th wedding anniversary.
Here’s a map of where this year’s adventure carried us, from Benson and back to Benson. You’ll want to click on “View Larger Map” below the map to see the whole thing. Then, if you have the time, you can play with the map, make it bigger and smaller, look at a satellite image or terrain. You can click on the blue markers to see the names of the towns, or the blue lines to see what day we drove between stops, and how far we drove. To get back here, click the Back arrow at top left of your screen.
If you are pressed for time, you may want to skip over some of this. It’s statistics on distance, mileage, fuel prices, etc.
Suzy drove the motorhome a total of 5718 miles in just under seven months. I drove the car 3129 miles in the same time. We moved the motorhome from one place to another 53 times, driving an average of 106 miles each time, once only 7 miles and once as far as 167 miles.
Gasoline? Motorhome, 799.6 gallons, total cost $3,015.06, average price per gallon $3.77; highest per gallon price, $4.13 at Costco in Helena, MT; lowest per gallon price, $2.969 in Arizona City, AZ at a Petro Stopping Place truck stop. Average miles per gallon, 7.02; average gasoline cost per mile, $0.54.
Car, 184.7 gallons, total cost $710.54, average price per gallon $3.85; highest per gallon price, $4.21 at an Exxon station in White Sulphur Springs, MT; lowest per gallon price, $3.31 at a Valero station in Alamagordo, NM. Average miles per gallon, 16.9; average gasoline cost per mile, $0.23.
That’s all for this epic journey along … Our Life on Wheels!
After Antelope Canyon and Page, Arizona, we headed south, doing a one-nighter at Tuba City. It was a surprisingly nice RV Park associated with a Quality Inn. Then we moved further south to our Thousand Trails Verde Valley Preserve near Cottonwood. For the past seven months, we have been sightseeing around a large part of the country, and we weren’t in any great hurry to do more now, so most of the time we sat and did other things, like play with computer software, sort photographs, read. Suzy is working on crocheting some “watch caps” to be given away to needy youngsters.
We did have some good family time. Brother Chuck and his wife Karma paid us a visit (they live in nearby Prescott) and we returned their visit a week later. We caught up on what each other has been doing, and we enjoyed some nice lunches in local restaurants.
Karma is a very creative ceramicist (is that a word?), currently attending classes to learn a variety of new techniques and styles. She showed us her latest works, some very practical, some quite fanciful.
We met a lady (she moved in next to us) who was widowed last December. She is carrying on the RV lifestyle on her own, with two small dogs, miniature Dobermans. She downsized from a 40-foot diesel rig to a much smaller gasoline Class C motorhome, and is trying to learn some of the “guy things” as she goes along. She is either a full-timer or an extensive part-timer on the road. She’ll winter in Florida, and is planning a trip to Michigan next year. We congratulated her on getting this far, and wished her well along her own life on wheels.
On our last morning at Thousand Trails, I was taking our garbage to the dumpster, and happened to be wearing the shirt we bought at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. A gentleman came rushing out, his hand extended in greeting. As he was speaking to me in a language I could not understand, I thought, “Surely he has mistaken me for someone else.” However, he then translated his greeting” “Hello, my friend.” He was speaking the Cherokee tongue!
I asked Les if he and his wife would stand with us for a photograph for our blog, and we exchanged travelers cards. Les told us about some major powwows coming up later this year in Tucson. He will be dancing in the powwows, and expressed hope that we would be there. Sounds good to us!
Now we are stopped in Black Canyon City for two nights, only 50 miles south of Cottonwood. Next we’ll move to Arizona City, where we hope to stay a couple of nights at a site at the Moose Lodge. Suzy joined the Women of the Moose this year through that Lodge, so we’ll be visiting her “home” for the first time.
We’re scooting back to Benson, to take a rest along … Our Life on Wheels.
As promised, Suzy delivered me to the desk of the tour guide for Antelope Canyon and bade me “good times.”
Antelope Canyon is what is called a “slot canyon,” of which there are several in this area. From the top, a slot canyon looks like a narrow crack in the earth, and that is pretty much what it is. From inside, Antelope Canyon is a narrow, twisting pathway in the earth, maybe 40 to 45 feet deep, wide enough in some places for a person to walk, and in other places for two persons to pass each other. That doesn’t sound very exciting. However, sunlight reaches down into Antelope Canyon, striking the swirling colors and shapes of this sandstone wonderland. Photographers love it, and I was no exception.
There are five companies that tour Upper Antelope Canyon, and they will bring upwards of 20 visitors at a time to pass through and back out, taking whatever pictures they can, usually for a period of 60 to 90 minutes. For “professional and experienced amateur photographers,” the company I went with offers a 2½-hour tour. The tour guides, native Navajos, will offer a few suggestions, such as places where shafts of light are to be found, they will toss sand onto a sloping wall so that a time exposure will see a smooth “waterfall” of sand in the sunlight. But that’s all they will do. After that, you’re on your own.
With five groups of visitors at a time, passing each way through the canyon, it is frustrating to try to take certain pictures. You’ll get your tripod set up and the camera not quite focused, and a parade will go by your vantage point, which is almost wide enough. When that parade is through, another parade will come the other direction, each member pausing in front of you long enough to snap their camera at the picture you want. Once they are gone, the sunlight has moved, and your trophy picture has vanished. I frequently resorted to holding the camera by hand, trying to keep it steady for up to three seconds.
Nevertheless, I got some pictures! And I want you to see them. I came back to wife and home with 143 pictures, and the first edit removed 31 of them. Here are a few I think are the best.
There are several more pictures available for you to see at our Web Album. Click on the underlined words. Once into the album, click the text under the single picture. The album will open. Click “Slide Show” and sit back and enjoy. Some of the pictures may take a moment to fully resolve, but resolve they will, even better than New Year’s Eve resolutions.
To get back to this blog, remember to use the BACK arrow at the top of your screen. You may have to step back a couple of times to get here.
We’re glad you have visited us on … Our Life on Wheels.
Remember, good friends: if you’d like to see a larger version of any of these pictures, just left click the picture. To get back to the blog, use your “Back” arrow at the top left of your screen.
Here we are in Circleville, Utah, less than 800 miles from our winter home in Benson. We’re kind of anxious to get back to Benson, so we aren’t chasing down scenery or fancy points of interest. We won’t be stopping at the nearby Bryce, Zion, Canyonlands, Arches, Cedar Breaks, or Grand Canyon, although they are all within easy reach of US 89.
However, when you are driving on US 89, you can’t help finding both scenery and points of interest.
For example, the little town of Manti is perhaps the smallest community the Mormon Church has ever chosen for one of its international temples. In 1877, the local church members began quarrying oolite stone locally to build a temple. When the site was dedicated, Brigham Young, who had planned the structure, decreed that no money was to be spent for labor. Labor was donated, and construction was completed in 1888 at a cost of a million dollars for materials and furnishings. One outstanding feature of the interior is a spiral staircase, which extends to the top floor.
The temple, which we spotted when we were about five miles from town, is the tallest structure around, dominating the landscape. It is majestic close up, and visitors are invited to tour the grounds, but only church members are allowed inside the temple.
HOWEVER! All is not peaches and cream. The peaches are delicious, but the cream soured in Circleville! When we arrived, we found that our phone service is not available in Circleville. So we checked the Internet, and no, no service through Verizon.
In the late afternoon, our toilet flush mechanism decided to quit working with the foot pedal (we have found a work-around for the time being). As we watched “Hello Dolly” on the DVD player, the player stopped and we can’t get it started.
And the phone cradle fell off the wall.
With the phone in it.
And I just got a mouthful of coffee grounds as I drained my morning cup. Bleccchhh!
The good news? The microwave oven worked for breakfast this morning. There’s a nice clean laundry facility in the park, and the park offers WIFI at no extra cost.
TUESDAY, 9/23 Our older daughter’s birthday) – We moved on south to Kanab, Utah, and once again found scenery along the way.
WEDNESDAY. 9/24 – A serendipity! We were in the mood for a hamburger, and the first place we stopped at was closed, so we moved on to Big Al’s Burgers. As it happened, Big Al was celebrating twenty years in business, and on this day was selling his regular hamburgers for 20 cents each! (The day before, he had offered a 20 oz, soda for 20 cents. We got the better deal!) We each ordered two burgers, then dumped one bun each and had double burgers, 40 cents each. Who says it doesn’t pay to travel!!!
THURSDAY, 9/25 – Time to move again, this time along Highway 89 to Page, AZ, near the seriously depleted Lake Powell. But we aren’t here for the lake. We added a third day to our stay here because Suzy persuaded me to take a photographer’s tour of Antelope Canyon. This in on Navajo land, and licensed and approved guides are needed. My tour will be Saturday, and it will last two and half hours.
If I get some good pictures, you’ll see them in our next posting along … Our Life on Wheels.
Today we’re writing about Interesting Interstate 15, but before we do —
Now about Interesting Interstate 15. I-15 is a so-called modern highway extending from the Canadian border north of Shelby, Montana, all the way to San Diego, California, a distance of 1,435 miles. There are portions of I-15 that are even pleasant to drive, most of the way through Montana, for example.
But let that highway get anywhere near a major metropolis (which it seems to delight in finding), and you’ll curse the day you learned to drive. We just came down through the Salt Lake City area on I-15 (and it’s “quieter” loop I-215) and we were cursing. There’s a lot of highway construction going on in that area, which means losing lanes every once in a while, narrow lanes, switched lanes, and, as often as not, irregular paving The locals all know this, and they are accustomed to it, so they drive like bats out of hell, while the truckers don’t care, they just have to get to their destinations.
Suzy does all the driving of the motorhome while I’m the navigator. Part of my job is to watch for merging situations and advise Suzy if the oncoming traffic will drive like idiots and try to dash in ahead of us, or be reasonable and match their speed to the traffic and merge gently, preferably behind us. At one point, where we had narrowed to two lanes with orange barrels crowding in on our side, I checked the merging lane. To my wonderment and panic, I saw a freight train that appeared to be barreling down the on-ramp! It was actually a few yards the other side of the on-ramp, but my brain didn’t register that immediately and I let out a yelp. Suzy did a masterful job of retaining control of herself and the motorhome while I was yelping.
About a quarter mile further on, Suzy was having to fight an uneven pavement which kept pushing us into the next lanes where the trucks were barreling at breakneck speed. At that moment, my friend the train engineer decided to blast his horn! Suzy’s only comment, once she caught her breath, was to say, “I think I’ve just wet my pants.” (A later inspection proved she hadn’t!)
It was only when we passed Provo, Utah, that things eased up enough that we felt comfortable again. The devil take I-15!
The very best thing about I-15, at least in this northern area, is US Highway 89. US 89 sort of meanders around the countryside roughly along the same path as I-15. It is one lane or two lanes each way most of the time, and it visits the little towns and takes us where we really would rather go anyway. US 89 starts at the Canadian border, wanders down past Glacier National Park, through White Sulfur Springs, to Livingston, then marrvels its way through Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks before cutting through a corner of Idaho on its way to Utah.
We grabbed onto US 89 near Spanish Fork, Utah, and are currently cruising south to Arizona. Just a little beyond our present location, I-15 and US 89 go their separate ways, I-15 to Las Vegas and California, US 89 down through the red rock areas of southern Utah, between Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks, over to Lake Powell, then brushing by the Grand Canyon.
In Arizona, US 89 continues south to Flagstaff where it meets I-40 (the modern version of the old Route 66) and finally gives way to I-17, after 1,310 miles of meandering. Some day we’d love to drive that full 1,310 miles in one journey, revisiting so many places we’ve been before.
While we’re on US 89, we’re able to pull over and take some pictures of Utah’s version of fall color. In a month of so, those red leaves will start to get their first kiss of snow. These few nights we are at Mt. Pleasant, UT, at an elevation of 6800 feet. We’re actually a few miles out of town, a hundred years or so away from railroad trains, trucks on the Interstate, or jets screaming overhead.
Will we miss this place? Yes, but next we’re going to Circleville, UT, then to Kanab before getting back to Arizona at Page / Lake Powell.
This is the life we lead, the life we love … Our Life on Wheels
Roseberry, Idaho, is a town that used to be a town but isn’t any more because the railroad went a different direction. Roseberry used to be the biggest town in the Long Valley region of Idaho. Now it’s mostly a memory … and a major project of Frank and Kathy Eld. Frank has been working for 39 years to rebuild, restore, and revitalize Roseberry, ever since he graduated from college. Kathy operates the Roseberry General Store and Museum while Frank rebuilds.
Across the street from the store is the actual museum building, displaying an excellent history, old photos, old records, old everything. Next door to that is the Methodist Church where Frank (honorary Mayor of Roseberry and an Internet-ordained minister) officiates at the occasional marriage ceremony.
We were invited to the Johnson cabin for port and chocolate, as well as to park our motorhome in the lot between the store and the barn. County ordinances (Frank is a county commissioner) prohibit overnight RV stays in parking lots, but the Elds’ grant from the Idaho Travel Commission requires they offer it. So they did, and we accepted the offer, actually staying two nights.
If you want to take a close look into the pioneer history of this country, you’d not find a better place and better hosts than Roseberry and Frank and Kathy Eld. Come north from Boise on Idaho 55, the Payette River Scenic Byway, which is a treat in itself. When you get to the town of Donnelly, take a right at the Stinker gas station, and drive a mile and a half to Roseberry. Be careful, the intersection is all country road, no stop signs either way. When you get there, tell the Elds that Jerry and Suzy sent you.
What a wonderful stop along … Our Life on Wheels.
There is beauty everywhere you look, if you actually look for it. For sightseers like us, beauty does not exist only in redwood forests, rock-bound coastlines, and cascading waterfalls. Beauty isn’t only in waving fields of grain, Frank Lloyd Wright architecture or soaring cathedrals.
Come along with us through the North Dakota Badlands, specifically in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Roosevelt himself wrote in 1885 that “This broken country … has been called always by Indians, French Voyageurs, and American trappers alike, the ‘Bad Lands.’ ” Yet he came here several times, first to hunt, then returned to establish a cattle ranch, and grew to love the “grim beauty” of the place.
We first visited the Painted Canyon area, essentially a highway rest stop on Interstate 94, with a scenic overlook and a National Park Visitor Center. This was only an appetizer.
After waiting out two days of terrible winds, gusting up to 70 miles per hour, we had a perfect sightseeing day on Sunday, and immediately headed out to the South Unit of the National Park. They were celebrating Mr. Roosevelt’s 150th birthday (this year) and the centenniel of his presidency (1901 – 1909).
The Visitor Center had a boring 13-minute movie, but some fascinating displays of Roosevelt’s time in the area, including some of his personal clothing and belongings. The reins on this wooden horse and the clothing on the mannequin were actually used by TR while he worked his ranch.
Not from this time of his life, but on display also, was an undershirt Roosevelt was wearing when he was shot during a campaign speech! To his doctors’ dismay, TR insisted on finishing his speech before receiving medical care.
Behind the Visitor Center stands the Maltese Cross Cabin, his first home in the area.
Ranger-Historian Joseph Caviso explained that, while it appears today as a simple log cabin, in its day it seemed nearly a mansion: a second story, three rooms, and a wooden floor made it stand out in severe contrast to the typical settler’s cabin. The Maltese Cross was TR’s first ranch, with two other more experienced, if less wealthy, partners.
The cabin is furnished with period pieces, some of which were actually used by Roosevelt either in this cabin or his second ranch, the Elkhorn, 35 miles north, but now marked only by foundation blocks.
This writing desk and a nearby rocking chair were among Roosevelt’s belongings.
The main event was the 36-mile scenic road through the park.
We also saw wild horses and one mule deer, but the largest population of wildlife we saw lived in towns of their own, prairie dog towns.
And scenery, always scenery.
The Little Missouri River has shaped the land, along with other water and wind erosion factors.
Some features call for closer examination.
From the Internet:
Lightning strikes and prairie fires can ignite coal beds, which then burn for many years. When a coal bed burns, it bakes the overlaying sediments into a hard natural brick that geologists call porcelenite but is locally called scoria. The red color of the rock comes from the oxidation of iron released from the coal as it burns. The burning both lends color to the badlands and helps to shape them. These hardened rocks are more resistant to erosion than the unbaked rocks nearby. Over time, erosion has worn down the less resistant rocks, leaving behind a jumble of knobs, ridges and buttes topped with durable red scoria caps.
From 1951 until late 1977, a fire burned near here in a coal seam. The intense heat baked the adjacent clay and sand, greatly altering the appearance of the terrain and disturbing the vegetation. A wayfaring trav’ler offered to take our picture to show that we were here together.
Back in the town of Medora, we did a quick tour. The local folks have done a fine job of converting a tired old town into an inviting place for travelers to spend a dew days.
To complete our day we drove about eight miles west to the Buffalo Gap Guest Ranch and Steakhouse, where we enjoyed a tender “petite” 12-ounce ribeye steak, marinated and broiled to perfection.
We have visited the Badlands before, both in Montana and South Dakota. Folks, if you want to see the true beauty of the Badlands, come to North Dakota as we did in this phase of … Our Life on Wheels.