Thursday, October 30, 2008

Harvest season, Halloween and Bittersweet Farewell

This week the girls and I have been busy with Halloween prep, harvest season fun, getting back into our kitchen, tending goats for friends, and spending as much time as possible with friends who are leaving for a year.

Last weekend, we were honored to be asked to goat-sit for our friends at Rose and Thistle Farm east of Santa Maria. They have milk goats that need daily tending, and, thanks to our Nebraska hosts, we have the basics. Plus, we're excited about farm life, so E and I jumped at the opportunity. (V balked, 'til we were there; then she was all over the chores, and the animals!) Our pay - fresh goat milk!

You say that's not a good deal? Well, I might have, too, had these friends not introduced us to FRESH goat milk. See, like too many people, the only goat milk I'd ever had was from the cartons at the grocery store. That milk is pretty, er, gamey? Goaty? STRONG! But fresh goat milk is superb, and not entirely unlike cow milk in taste. It's white, creamy goodness that, for me, causes a lot less gut distress. (I didn't realize lactose had any effect on me 'til we spent our Nebraska week drinking solely goat milk. It was an amazingly comfortable week!) And with organic DAIRY at $7/gallon at our neighborhood store, the goat milk trade for service was a nice perk.

We were also given license to enjoy the farm, play with the dog, pet the cat, feed the horses, eat the grapes growing along the house, pick lemons, play in the pool. Well, we didn't have enough time to hit the pool (can you believe it?), but we enjoyed the rest. Plus, with Mr. B's help, we picked a grocery bag full of lemons which I then processed into lemon juice (a whole gallon of it!) at home. I'm working on freezing the lemon juice by way of the ice cube trays so we can store the juice, but still access it easily as needed for a variety of baking projects. (And, no, it's not all about money - but lemons in our grocery store are running 99 cents EACH...not per pound...EACH! Even at our local farmers' market they want 50 cents per lemon. So, we've been steering clear. The Rose & Thistle lemons have enabled us once again to create lemony treats in our kitchen.)

In an effort to make room in the freezer for the lemon juice, I freed the frozen bananas. (We stick them in there when they get overripe on the counter before we can eat them.) Freeing them means making something with them. This time - banana nut bread that turned out wonderfully. (Mr. B actually noted the improvement in my baking!) We shared slices with friends who stopped by, but otherwise hogged the scrumptious, marginally healthy treat.

We also discovered Trader Joe's Gluten-free Pancake/Waffle Mix which we tested as a waffle mix this week. MMmmmm...scrumptious!

While I baked and cleaned my way to oblivion, E seized the opportunity to sew her own creation. She WAS going to make a skirt, she said, but once she had the fabric in her hands, I think it spoke to her. In the end, she made matching hats (Quaker style) for herself and her sister. Not bad for an 8 year old with no pattern!

My friend Karen (who the girls refer to as the chicken farmer), has offered to have us over to teach us how to make apple butter, AND how to can (something I really want to learn from a real live person rather than a book). She has the know-how, the supplies and all the makin's except the apples. So, I'm on the prowl for apples. Do you have an extra bushel you'd like to share? We'll do the work and share butter if you'd part with your bounty! Just drop me a note! :)

Meanwhile, the girls and I continued our Halloween prep. Today our friends Eliana and Noah joined us for pumpkin carving, and the last play date before they head back to Papua New Guinea for another year. We're sorry to see them go because they're so fun to play with and their parents are wonderful people who we really enjoy. But we know they're doing great work as Christian doctors in the rainforest and look forward to their return. (I also discovered, today, that a jigsaw works WONDERS for pumpkin carving!)

Later the girls and I finished their costumes (E=angel; V=WallE) in time to head to San Luis Obispo for Thursday Night Farmers' Market complete with Mr. B, Grandpa Randy and Grandma Margaret. This year-round event offers special activities for kids the Thursday before Halloween. For a quarter per game, they can toss rings or bean bags or skull-shaped ping pong balls in trade for treats. These games, put on by the city rec department, are run by various student organizations from Cal Poly University. I always enjoy the energy of these young people who sacrifice their party night in order to create special memories for little kids.

Farmers' Market
has always been a great thing. Started in the mid-1980s, the market includes not just farmers selling their fantastic stuff, but entertainment and food prepared at barbecues and kitchens along the street. The event really invites a long stay; you can grab dinner for the family, pull up a curb and watch Irish dancers or a rock n' roll band, a juggler or church choir. The place is always packed, but still worth it. Tonight, we particularly enjoyed the "Drumschool 101 Student Spotlight." The local drum school, run by the former owner of a local drum shop and an impressive percussionist in his own right, buys the space downtown to give its students of all ages a chance to perform. We saw an incredible 9 year old, and some pretty good older kids as well as an 8 year old who was really working to keep in the groove (he did great) and a guy who looked like he was living a second childhood as he entered the drumming scene.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Best Baby Action Pillow

This is it. After four years online, this website I created to feature my invention, the Best Baby Action Pillow, is going to be taken offline by AOL, its longtime host. Apparently AOL is dumping it's Hometown feature.

You can see the site (and the invention with cute aged photos of kids) until late on Halloween. Then all bets are off.

I could put the site up under the Best Family Adventures site, but I'm not sure I will. I sold several of these (one person bought several in a single blow...gifts?) but I'm not really into mass production.

Then again, if people want 'em, it's no skin off my nose to make a few more. I just can't guarantee the print. I use whatever cute fat quarters I can find at the local fabric shop.

Heck, before it's lost, perhaps I should just do a little copy/paste/edit job here. :)

Tired of Baby's head flopping to the side
or resting uncomfortably during hikes and rides?
I was...


So I created the Best Baby Action Pillow

Long - to fill the long gap to meet every baby's leaning tendencies.
Slender - to fit in tight spots like baby carriers (backpacks)
Washable - take it hiking, camping, biking or for a picnic, then throw it in the wash
Cozy - soft flannel pillow feels good on Baby's tender skin
Secure - a short strap and hook attach to most packs to ensure the pillow stays with its crew. No deep-knee bends to pick up this accessory.

Available in pink, blue, yellow or green
Or send your own special fabric for customized pillow.

$14.99 each plus $4.50 shipping anywhere in the continental U.S.
For shipping rates elsewhere, contact me.

To order or for more information, contact me.

I accept PayPal and money orders. No personal checks.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Poison Oak & the Central Coast

When homeschoolers from all over the state came to the Central Coast last week for a campout, a few headed home withe gift that keeps on giving. No, I'm not talking about Limes Disease. It's the Central Coast favorite - POISON OAK! (EW!) I thought I'd share here the information I posted on the group's e-mail group (in response to parents' requests for help).

Any time you camp on our beautiful Central Coast you have to plan on poison oak. (That's why my husband no longer camps and seldom hikes with us here.)

So, we've learned a lot about it.

For most of us, the oil from the leaves gets on our hands or legs or shorts or shoe laces, then we unwittingly spread it on other parts of our body as we shoo away flies, push our hair out of our eyes, scratch an everyday itch, wrestle, whathaveyou. (I've had it on my hip, below my pantyline, after contacting my poison-oak-oiled forearm while...er...in the restroom. Bummer!)

After you've been exposed to it, using a GREASE cutting soap and COLD water can help cut a lot of the oil off your skin. I've had great luck with this. They also sell a product (Tecnu
) that cuts it, but it's very strong and too harsh for me. I go with the dish soap. If it'll cut grease, it'll cut poison oak oil.

Hydrocortisone works for the itch for some, calamine Spray
or Lotion does a fine (if not messy) job drying it up. I'm sure there are more homeopathic cures
, but I have had poison oak so rarely I haven't had a chance to try them out. Mr. B gets it so often, and so badly, he takes the shortcut to the strong stuff...unwilling to take the time to risk anything that MIGHT now (or might) work.

I also found the HOT water thing to be VERY soothing when I had my last bad bout (wrist to pit after spending a day rubbing a dog...I'd done it for YEARS and never got the itch, so I didn't take any precautions...oops!). BUT THE HOT WATER THING ONLY WORKS AFTER YOU"VE
REMOVED THE OIL! If you use hot water to wash off the oil, your pores open and the oil spreads right into them.

Once I'm clean, dried and the itch sets in, I just put that body part under RUNNING water (so if there's any risidual oil it will run OFF and not soak the remaining good skin) as HOT as I can stand it. Does this waste water? You bet. Do I care at this point. Nope! (Sorry)

There are several sites on the web that might prove helpful. I thought this one was particularly entertaining (and informative for those who've never had it).

Monday, October 27, 2008

Techology's grand (aka Address Book Nuked)

I can't blame anyone, not even AOL, for losing my e-mail address book today. Nope, I nuked it myself! I was cleaning out some auto-added addresses, but somehow managed to lose my entire address book!

Now I've had this same e-mail address since the mid-1990s, and many of the addresses in there were old, probably didn't even connect to anyone anymore. But that's a heckuva way to clean out the book!

Now it's up to family and friends to drop me a note so I can add them again. Otherwise, well, so much for modern tools for quick contacts!

If you have me in your address book (or just know my e-mail address), please do drop me a note so I can begin rebuilding again. (Mom & Dad, I have yours memorized. All other bets are off!)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Life of a freelance journalist - 1 down, 100 to go

I had hoped to sell some travel stories from our trip to help cover the costs and keep my freelance career going. Today the local paper, for which I've written since the mid-'90s, ran the first of several travel stories they're planning to use from our recent trip. The assignment: write about the entire 9,611-mile journey in 250-300 words.

Do the math and you'll see it's no easy task! We saw so much along the way, and with only 300 words max, I was hard pressed to provide ANY details. It took me about an hour to write the lead, but then I was off and running.

The editor was happy with what I provided. You can find it online here.

In case they can the online storage of it, here's the text:

Orcutt family offers tips on following Lewis and Clark road trip
By Jennifer Best/Contributing Writer

At the turn of the 19th century, Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and 30 members of their Corps of Discovery embarked on an American adventure. Their quest: to map a waterway that would connect the United States of America with the Pacific Ocean while taking note of the peoples, flora and fauna of this vast, uncharted region.

They had no motorized transportation, no maps, sketchy medical knowledge and had been ordered by President Thomas Jefferson to return with new species, even large mythological beasts.

Two hundred years later, my daughters and I set out on our own quest: to keep American history alive, intriguing and tangible for budding historians by following the footsteps of these intrepid explorers. But we had a leg up — the shelter of a trailer, the power of a minivan, the knowledge of countless mapmakers held in our hands and a network of roads and highways beyond Clark’s imagination.

Our journey began where Lewis and Clark enjoyed their westernmost exposure, on what is now the Long Beach Peninsula of southwestern Washington State. In November 1805, 11 members of the Corps, led by Clark, walked this sandy shore in search of a winter haven. They found, instead, an unprotected, windblown, ocean-battered spit of land. They returned to the great Columbia River and crossed its treacherous waters in favor of the sheltered shore to the south.

Today, that once-lonely stretch of land is home to pocket communities of residents who enjoy the solitude of a 29-mile stretch which, at its widest point, reaches only 5 miles. Though isolated from the rest of the state by Willapa Bay to the east, and the first landfall for Pacific storms from the west, wildlife still flourishes there. Bears, deer and coyotes are not unusual sights in neighborhood yards. Locals continue to harvest wild salal berries, coastal strawberries, wintercress and wild mushrooms among other native flora, hunt bear, deer, elk, grouse and waterfowl, and enjoy the Pacific bounty just as humans have from time immemorial. Cranberry bogs and oyster pots bring forth their products each autumn and winter.

Winter months provide the most peaceful experience on the peninsula, with favorite local shops and restaurants remaining open throughout the cold, wet season. It’s an ideal time to live like the locals and take in small-town events from high school sports and arts to the Long Beach Christmas Tree lighting ala Dr. Seuss’s Whoville. Or hop across the historic Astoria-Megler Bridge, a 4-mile engineering marvel that stretches across the Columbia River, to visit Astoria and other coastal Oregon communities.

In summer, the peninsula comes alive as the carousel cogs are greased and set into motion, the miniature golf course is vacuumed and go-carts start their engines for the season. Visitors drive on the 26.3-miles of uninterrupted sandy beach, retrace the Corps’ “last mile” on a paved path through the dunes, build sandcastles, witness hundreds of kites in flight at the International Kite Festival, ride horseback, camp, shop and dine at venues ranging from sandy picnic blankets to cozy breakfast spots and a world-class restaurant.

Today the 3,630-mile stretch of the Lewis & Clark Trail stretching from the Pacific Oceano to St. Louis, Missouri, boasts a plethora of educational visitor attractions all boosted by the recent bicentennial of the trek. There are 81 museums, state parks and national parks along the trail dedicated to the Corps of Discovery and the tribes they encountered, and countless wayside markers.

By far the most interesting docents we found along the route were at Fort Clatsop, Ore., the 1805 winter quarters of the Corps. The seasoned guides speak conversationally as they recount that bitterly cold, wet winter and demonstrate the use of tools varying from log skinners to firearms compelling fashion.

The museum at Sgt. Floyd River Museum in Sioux City, Iowa, was the most child-friendly with hands-on activities throughout the museum designed to rope in visitors of all ages. What skills do you share that may come in useful on such a journey? Could you have been among the elite few selected for this journey? How would you have treated the variety of injuries and illnesses the adventurers encountered along the way?

Highways and byways sometimes parallel and often crisscross the route, tamed by dams, but trail and river guides offer the more rugged and wealthy traveler opportunities to walk the mountain passes and ride the river the corps explored. At Gates of the Mountains, river tours offer the general public the river view. In St. Louis, paddlewheel boats offer priceless days on the wide Mississippi River. Packers provide supplies, animals and guides over Lolo Pass, the rugged crossing through Idaho’s Bitterroot Mountains. Other companies provide barge cruises and fishing treks along the waterways mapped by the Corps.

Like Lewis and Clark, who veered from their route on their return trip in an effort to find shortcuts and further map the area, the girls and I also tended to wander off our intended route, venturing into Glacier National Park, then Canada before returning again to the historic route and continuing east. And like the Corps, we were welcomed by the hospitality of locals along the way, invitations that led to a ranch stay, riverside hot springs, a canoe float, abundant huckleberry patches and some of the best views of American waterways.

And when our 9,611-mile journey was through, I asked the girls, ages 8 and 5, if they were ready to return home. “Yes,” the 8-year-old said, “but there’s still so much I want to see.”

Jennifer Best is an Orcutt-based freelance journalist. She can be reached at JBest@BestFamilyAdventures.com.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Camping and Pumpkins

This week's camping trip with HomeSchool Association of California (HSC) was a hit with the girls, the weather cooperated, the trailer worked out wonderfully and Grandma Kathy's Peach Cobbler was a complete success! We were so busy exploring with some new friends that I didn't even taken very many pictures! (Lara will never believe it!) ;)



As I feared, the girls found great friend here. Why did I fear it? Merely because the HSC campers come from all over California, so our newfound friends are scattered throughout the state. Makes playdates tough!

Today the entire Best contingent set out to select some pumpkins for this week's festivities. V envisions pies, E has jack-o-lantern plans. I REALLY need to learn how to can so we can have "fresh" from scratch pumpkin pie all year!



We hope to meet up with them again at future campouts, or as we travel through each other's areas on our other journeys.

Google me this...

I continue to be baffled by the amazing array of information available on the internet! Schooling today certainly is NOTHING like that my generation experienced with its card catalogs, cracking encyclopedia bindings, reference librarians, slide shows and the flick-flick-flicking of films that sometimes managed to stay on the guides.

Today's unintended schooling at Best Family Academy is a perfect example of how it all works. (It's Saturday, and we're on a break after our long history-on-the-road lesson.)

We have a lot of unintended education going on around here, and we take advantage of as much as possible. (Sometimes we're simply overwhelmed by all the possibilities for exploration.) Some confluence of events brings great curriculum to our doorstep and we build upon that.

One morning, for example, the girls and I were talking about how transportation has changed over time. We used the encyclopedias to look up various modes of transportation, used the internet to view pictures, videos and read further information, and explored our own bookshelves for stories, both fiction and non-fiction, to continue in this vein. As the girls were drawing pictures of what they thought vehicles might look like in the future, a rocket was launched from the Air Force base nearby. I HAD NO IDEA a launch was scheduled that day! (We weren't taking the paper at the time, and it's the only local source of reliable launch info.) What a fantastic day! And it all started with some simple question over breakfast.

This happens with loads of subjects, but today it was space travel that again got us in the modes of research, explore and enjoy. At 7:28 p.m a Delta II rocket was schedule to launch from the base. These things are so touchy that it seems they are often delayed by weather and other unpredictable variables. Today, however, it appeared to go off without a hitch!

As we watched the rocket soar south and disappear into space, one of the girls asked how the rocket worked. Hello, computer! Greetings, internet! Bonjour our best friend, Google. After a couple of clicks around we came upon THIS site which, while dated, was a FANTASTIC intro to the girls to a brief, memorable history of rocketry and space travel ala Walt Disney. I DID explain to the girls that the things the scientists explained as technology of the future is what we JUST watched fly into space!



This film was produced before I was even born. Where would I ever have come across it? According to the Internet Movie Database, the film was never put on VHS, let alone DVD. The internet has provided this extra educational bit for our family, and anyone else out there with an interest.

I also found "From the Earth to the Moon" by Jules Verne (referred to in Disney's film) in its entirety online for those who have lost their library cards (or whose libraries don't have a copy available). Or you can listen to it online, download the mp3 or even get it for your iPod through one of our favorite online sites.

If you have some time, enjoy the flicks. We watched four portions tonight, including the history of rocketry, some science history, physics (Newton), theoretical science (now reality) and various employment fields related to the space industry. Sure, we blew bedtime, but how can you stop when everyone's having so much fun learning?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Re-entry is a *&#@%

Yep, Mom was right. It's been tough getting back into town, readjusting to just about every aspect of life here. The best part was celebrating V's birthday on the beach with some family and friends.



We had anotherwise somewhat tumultuous week upon return, but things are settling in again. The girls and I have really enjoyed spending time with our friends the Parsas who will be heading pack to Papua New Guinea in a matter of days. (SNIFF!)

Tonight we enjoyed some local entertainment at The Great American Melodrama just up the road. We took the girls for their first melodrama experience last spring, and they really enjoyed it. Since then, we've enjoyed the Astor Street Opry Company (Astoria, OR )melodrama, the Medora Musical (Medora, ND), and now full circle back at our own colorful theater. This evening's performance was basically a reworking of The Mummy, but in comedic form absolutely kid friendly. E didn't miss a beat, even when the jokes were up to speed in song.

This week we'll join homeschoolers from throughout the state for a little camping trip that just HAPPENS to be near our home. So, tomorrow afternoon we'll pack up the trailer, and head out for the midweek.

OH! As for the trailer, I have done some of the work I lined up for myself.



This week I figured out how to mount the new license plate which replaced the one we lost at the beginning of our trip way back in July. I fixed the drawers so they'll slide better (on rails now) and might not want to dump out (little brackets keep the drawer on its rail). I also cut and installed a carpet today. We can pull it out to shake the dirt out now and again, but it fits nice and snuggly and feels SO much better on the feet (not to mention improving the trailer's appearance tremendously).

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Mass Ascension and related events cancelled

It seems the girls and I, though disappointed to have missed the evening glow, really lucked out at the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque last week! The weather turned bad midday on opening day (our ONLY day) at Fiesta, so the afternoon balloon race launch and evening glow were both canceled, but the fireworks still went off without a hitch before we took off for home.

It appears those of us who rose early for the first morning were the most fortunate of the lot this year. The closing weekend's events were canceled entirely (except for the vending booths - they, of course, remained open for business). The fun shapes glow went on, but it doesn't look like many other flights went off.

So glad we stuck around New Mexico for it, and lucked out with the weather!

Something's always new

Well, we're settling in at home. Most everything's unpacked and put away. Now we're down to the serious business of getting our photos and scraps in order and getting the scrapbooks together! :)

I'm trying not to revert to old habits, but it's tough when we return to the place where nothing has changed except perhaps us (and our world perspective). So some of you may have noticed I haven't been online checking e-mail, etc. as much this week as I have been in recent years. Still, it doesn't take but a few extra minutes online to find new functionality for the blog, or other tech changes related to the sites I typically use.

This morning I figured out how to add music to the blog, and my cousin introduced me to the Blogger's new "follower" gadget. So if you hang out on the blog page long enough (a few seconds at most) you should hear the addition of music, a random sampling of stuff I like, or the girls and I like. And if you're a fellow member of Blogger, then you can simply click on the new gadget on the left to "follow" my blog (and create a link to your blog from mine).

On returning home -
After two months (plus a bit) on the road, adjusting to life on the Central Coast isn't as easy as you might think. We've had so much space almost everywhere we've been that the neighborhoods seem more crowded than ever. Since we avoided large towns for the most part, this expansive bedroom community with its chain stores, chain restaurants and traffic is kind of depressing. And people don't look nearly as healthy or happy as most of the travelers we came across on our journey.

My Big Plan was to return to more exercise once we were home - morning bike rides in the living room, maybe more weekend rides, an occasional swim and certainly more hiking. I've already blown the plan; spent the first several days dedicated to unpacking and cleaning, then was so tired (finally) that I just didn't feel like it. Today's the day! Time to get going...the bike awaits.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Singing California's praises - and heading home!

Oct. 6, 2008
Hualapai Mountain – what a great place to wake up! Just before sunrise I woke to the sound of something large digging around in the 100-gallon trash barrel at our campsite. I figured I’d see a bear out there, but instead was greeted by a small herd of elk dumpster diving. Several approached the barrel while one reached her head as far in as she could before the barrel started to tip and startle her into pulling her head out which brought the barrel crashing back down, thereby causing the others to jump back, then they started the process over again, time and again, for a good 10 minutes.

After the elk moved on (they’re pretty darn big), I crawled out of the trailer, took a little walk around the campground, then started sorting out the van a bit. It’s been a hectic couple of days, and with a hotel thrown in the mix, plus the knowledge that we’re heading toward home we’ve not done the best job of keeping our stuff sorted. A little cleanup/sorting was in order to make the final leg home simpler. While I sorted, eight white-tail deer wandered through camp, first jumping through the bushes and chasing each other in circles, then upon hearing the sound of rustling plastic bags, directly toward me to inspect our goodies. They were very curious sorts, almost like a family dog. I learned later that the camp host feeds them apple cores. Aha!

We were only an hour from California, and the girls couldn’t have been more excited to get to their home state and finally home. We had plans to have dinner with our friends Kirk and Jim who live in Havasu and Needles respectively, but they were flexible so met us for lunch instead.

While Kirk wrapped up her morning work obligations, the girls and I opted to take Route 66 rather than in the interstate from Kingman, AZ to Needles. The route took us through Oatman, a mining town turned entirely tourist driven. The town is best known for its herd of wild burros that wander the streets begging for carrots (and occasionally biting the hands that feed them). Founded as a mining town, the last mine was shut down in 1942 as “non-essential to the war effort.” Today there is mining in the area, but the emphasis has turned to drawing and keeping tourists in town for meals, ice cream, and nicknacks in shops reminiscent of Tijuana, Mexico. There are also daily gunfight reenactments, though the first was too late for us to meet our lunch date, so we carried on southwest.

Shortly before lunchtime we found our way to Moabi Park just off I-40 on the California side of the Colorado River/lake. We soaked our toes here and enjoyed the relatively warm water on a moderately warm desert morning.

I had planned to camp here, but with our early arrival, the girls wanted to press on toward home, another 6 hours or so away. Yep, they knew how much time it would take, but they didn’t care.

"How do you feel about being back in California?"
After a relaxing lunch with friends, we headed northwest. The girls made up happy California songs for much of that time, and we stopped at a fantastic coffee house, “Mama Hillybean’s,” in downtown Tehachapi for dinner and a nice break. After some scrumptious soup, bagels and other healthy, organic, California fare, we were on the road.

At about 10:45 p.m., Mr. B greeted us at the door, and so ended our journey.

9,611.7 miles, 18 states, 70 days, and though we were excited to get home, E’s already planning her next road trip.

Communication's the thing

Oct. 5, 2008

If I could live forever, I’d learn to speak every language on the planet, then work to bring understanding between peoples which, who knows, might even lead to world peace. Hey, a girl can dream. So I guess it should be no surprise that even the smallest act of communication really warms the cockles of my heart. That’s why I like to travel at night when truckers are on the road.

Truckers have a language of their own. It’s simple to learn and you can become a part of the conversation at 70 mph (or 75 mph in some states). Drivers of these long rigs can use a hand now and again, particularly in heavy traffic, and giving them some space often results in a thank you which you may have seen but never even recognized. Try this next time there’s a big truck looking for a lane change in heavy traffic (or even no traffic): as soon as the truck is safely past the nose of your vehicle, flash your headlights two or three times in quick succession and stay out of the way. Since the trucker really can’t see EXACTLY where his rear bumper is, you’re telling the driver she’s clear to move into your lane. They’ll swing in there, then often respond by giving their taillights a few quick flashes in thanks to you.

That’s how our drive went last night. And as we passed trucks on the uphills, then they swept by on the downhills gaining speed for their next climb, the trucks got used to seeing our little outfit. Then they’d flash me into my lane change as I passed again. (There’s not much slowdown on the uphill with only 1,700 pounds rolling behind our van.)

We found our way to Red Rock State Park without incident, though this was one time the GPSr
actually helped us out. I saw not a single sign indicating the park was hear, and I depended upon my electronic map to provide the details that led me right into camp. The girls were completely knocked out, so I carried them into the trailer (didn’t even bother to pop up the top), climbed in and quickly joined them in peaceful slumber.

Red Rock was a beautiful place to wake up. The red slickrock is, I suspect, quite similar to if not the same formation as that found in southern Utah. At sunrise it was particularly beautiful. There’s a large horse boarding area, related rodeo grounds and conference center, showers and flush toilets. Oddly, while horses can be housed here, there is no horseback riding allowed in the park
The girls (and I) are particularly interested in getting home. V’s birthday is coming up, and now that we know we’re headed home we’re sort of chomping at the bit. So today they asked just to drive west. “Don’t stop, Mom,” they agreed. But I had to make at least ONE interesting stop. A full day driving just isn’t a lot of fun, and since I knew at least one more FULL day drive would follow, I really didn’t want to abuse them (or myself) in that way.

Petrified Forest National Park was our last Big Stop in the parks system. The girls really enjoyed the colorful rocks along a couple of easy trails they had selected for the day’s exploration. I was afraid the petrified forest wouldn’t really look at all like wood, just old rounded rocks, but there are entire fallen trees which have remained in tact despite years of vandalism, gathering and outright theft. Some are broken into segments in such a way it appears a logger cut them into rounds but simply forgot to cart them away.

We also stopped at Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, AZ. I had heard it was no longer in operation, but it turns out that although it had been closed for a short period toward the end of the original owners’ life, his sons revamped and reopened the place after his death in the late 1980s.

The owner was in the front office lounging on the couch and enjoying a bit of classical music when we arrived and informed us the place is booked solid from April well into October every year. “This is not a money-making venture,” he kept saying, unsolicited. I find that hard to believe. Even at only 15 rooms booked solid for only 6 months and a little more each year, the girls and I did the math and figured a tidy sum. In fact, the owner told us so may unsolicited half-truths in such a “couldn’t care less” fashion, I can safely say he was the first person this entire trip who made me want to turn and run. “I wish it wasn’t so popular,” he said. “We’re not a PR firm.” Uh…clearly! “There’s no way you could build another one of these because this is on the National Registry of Historic Places.” Hmmm, that’s odd logic, isn’t it?

Finally he showed us his dad’s collection of desert treasures – mid-19th century firearms, U.S. Calvary issued items, giant cut slabs of petrified wood, photos and items that might be found in homesteaders cabins. (Yes, people homesteaded the desert, too.) With wide eyes and a compliment about the private museum display I asked if his dad had found all these things out in the desert. “Well, he wasn’t going to tell us about that, but I can tell you he wasn’t a grave robber. My sister just got her Cherokee papers. And we never cared to look into it because we don’t want to suck off the teat of government.” I guess it was his air, and fuzzy logic, that really turned me off. Or maybe it was that hand motion he made to illustrating suckling that really got me out the door.

Ew!

We headed toward a little campground at a lake on a county road outside Williams, AZ. Unfortunately, the road our directions pointed us to was either not clearly marked or doesn’t have an exit, so we pressed on west to Hualapai Mountain where we’ve found a quite, very dark camp spot for the night.

Fiesta Fireworks

October 4, 2008
When we last wrote, the girls and I were lounging at our hotel, taking full advantage of the pool, the WiFi, the freshly baked cookies and the giant checkerboard in the lobby as we watched what appeared to be a storm blow in. Would the Balloon Fiesta carry on with its evening hot air ballooning event? Would we finish our stay in Albuquerque with the bright lights of fireworks or would we be simply soaked out of town?

Late in the afternoon, the Fiesta folks finally announced that the gusty winds eliminated any chance of the evening Twinkle Twilight glow event, but fireworks were still on the docket. So while I’d considered simply moving on west toward our camp some 100 miles to the west, I didn’t want to go out like that. The girls were still interested in seeing the fireworks, and, to be fair, so was I. So we walked back down the hill to the field, enjoyed the junk food Fiesta offered, checked out the booths and stood around in the intermittent light drizzles as Fiesta information staff closed down, then booth after booth. Would fireworks REALLY happen?

Then at 8 p.m., just as promised, the show began, first with a few wind-direction test works, then a growing cacophony that didn’t disappoint. Perhaps the best part was that so many people stayed away presumably because of the foul weather. So we were able to get closer to the works than the girls have ever been before. And the light rain let up during the event so my glasses didn’t get screwy in the attempt to take in the sights.

After the show, we spotted the chainsaw artists madly working away at their blocks of wood, making the most of their time before their 9 p.m. shutdown deadline. More than half a dozen artists from throughout the U.S. and Japan had made good time in their efforts which will be judged tomorrow at 4 p.m., then auctioned off at the end of the week with proceeds benefiting Make-A-Wish Foundation. V voted for the dolphin sculpture, E for the princess throne complete with peacocks, and I vote for the king-size bedstead featuring wolves and a dreamcatcher on the headboard and owls resting in carved wooden snags above the bed.

By 9:10 p.m. we were headed back up the hill, walking, in the dark and another heavier drizzle. One of the golf cart drivers who was supposed to be transporting challenged folks to their cars lacked business, so picked us up for a ride about a block. Then we headed toward the Big Road when one of the 156 shuttle busses pulled up next to us and asked if we needed a lift. While the shuttle wasn’t going by our hotel, it was headed generally in that direction, so he gave us a ride. Little did we know THIS was the driver who leads his passengers in singing, “The Wheels on the Bus go Round and Round.” What a fun way to cap off a completely family-friendly day!

Though it was a little late, drizzly and certainly dark, it had always been my plan to put in a few miles before turning in for the night. I figured (correctly, as it turned out) that there would be no place to lay our weary heads anywhere near Albuquerque anyhow, so Red Rock State Park is our goal. I’m charged up, the girls have their PJs and we’re headed out.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Up, up and AWAY!

Oct. 4, 2008

This morning the girls and I rose at 4:45 (yes, A.M.) and walked the 3/4-mile to the air field for the Dawn Patrol on opening day of Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta 2008. It was WELL worth the early morning wake up, dilly-dallying in New Mexico for a few extra days, the expense of the hotel, and the walk to and from (and to and from) the hotel.

Dawn Patrol was 11 hot air balloons lined up way before dawn (not a SIGN of morning in sight), then blowing off their torches so they released yellow flames (BRIGHT) rather than the darker blue flames. The result was wonderfully illuminated balloons, sometimes flashing, sometimes all shining, sometimes completely dark but floating away.

For two hours wave after wave of hot air ballooons lifted off from the field. Just when we thought it was over, THERE was another wave...then another!

I confess the idea of sharing a space with hundreds of thousands of people didn't appeal to me, but the field is GINORMOUS (it's in the dictionary, now!), and each time a balloon lifted off, it left a new, very large space in which we could all spread out.

We checked out the International Balloon Museum where the girls found the craft room (of course), then headed back up the hill.

We're lounging back at the hotel for the afternoon, then will return this evening for Twinkle Twilight, the evening glow, and fireworks, if all goes well. The gas balloon races scheduled to take off this afternoon have been delayed due to a storm that's blowing in. I'm not even certain the evening event will take place. It's supposed to snow 2-4" in the mountains just north of here (at 9,000 feet) and the wind's already kicked up quite a bit.

We'll share our evening pix later in the week (probably once we're back home).

Friday, October 3, 2008

Winding down, slowly.

Oct. 2, 2008

Today we had a relaxing morning in camp laying in, slowly packing, enjoying a slow breakfast, visiting with our camp neighbors, packing some more and finally taking off as they day really began to warm up around 11 a.m. We took the dirt road slower this time, but it still…stank to say the least. Even without the trailer, this isn’t a dirt road on which you can skip over the washboard and “hit the tops of ‘em” as Dad likes to put it. These were BIG washboards, INDUSTRIAL size. I felt bad for the people with the fancy fifth-wheels and giant RVs just heading in on the dirt. I wondered if they knew what they were getting themselves into.

After lunch, gas, ice and milk restock in Cuba, we headed back into the mountains in search of a forestland campsite a local had told us about last week. We found more wonderfully maintained roads, and finally this camp alongside a waning creek (it is, afterall, autumn in the mountains at more than 8,000 feet), and no lack of firewood. We cleaned up the site a bit; it seems there was quite a party here involving various cans, bottles and plenty of papertowel. But now it’s somewhere we want to relax, enjoy what’s likely to be the last campfire of our trip (doubt we’ll want one on the desert floor), and a quiet night in the mountains.

Tomorrow – on to Albuquerque, a long-overdue shower, pool, another shower, perhaps new shoes for E who’s worn through her new pair on this trip, and if we have any luck, an orthodontist to fix an irritating wire on her braces. THEN BALLOOOOONS!

Chaco Canyon hike - 5 miles? No problem, Mom!

Oct. 1, 2008

We only had one day in the park, and there’s so much to see here, so I selected on long hike that was supposed to give a really great overview of the terrain, the pueblos of the Chacoan people. I dragged the girls (ok, and myself) out of bed at sunrise (7:30…now THAT’S my kind of sunrise!), munched breakfast, packed snacks, water and lunch, then hit the trailhead by 9 a.m.

We were greeted immediately by an unlikely incline. We couldn’t even see the trail up the cliff! But we followed the arrows which guided us up a clear path through the rockfall, into a crevasse through the bluff edge and finally to the top of the bluff. What a great way to start the morning! Once on top of the bluff, the hike was essentially flat, very easy and scenic. There were lots of archeological sites that we were able to enjoy fully, to see, to touch, to contemplate while we rested along the trail. All totaled, we hiked 5.1 miles with nary a complaint, despite increasing temperatures after noontime. But at our meandering rate of just over 1 mile per hour, it was tough to call this anything but a relaxing day!

When we returned to camp, our trailer was the center of attention. It seems the other campers had been talking about it amongst themselves. Once I started talking to one couple about it, two other camps came to check it out. Junior’s been a good conversation starter. I also got a tour of a 1971 Shasta-style (aluminum-skin) trailer that the owners, Jake & Jane, had purchased for $150. It had been a complete disaster, but they renovated the inside, made the cabinetry, etc. just how they needed it, installed a skylight, and made it their own. He gave me some ideas and pointers.

Our other really fantastic neighbors were Anita and Faye, sisters with grown children of their own, who had traveled from Virginia with their mother. They’ve traveled thousands upon thousands of miles in this RV over the years. It seems this pair of school teachers made the best of countless summer vacations travelling with their children, sometimes with husbands along, but most often not. The more women I meet who’ve travelled with their children and without their husbands (and remain happily married) the better I feel about the trips the girls and I have taken without Mr. B! (He keeps telling me it’s just fine, go, enjoy! He’s always been a man of his word, so why shouldn’t I believe him now!?) ;)

Anita & Faye joined us for dinner tonight before we headed down to the camp host’s site to look through his own mega telescope. We checked out Jupiter (and four of its moons), M13, a nebula and a green dot about which I can tell you nothing more.

Highway 126 - what a find!

Sept. 30, 2008

Today we parted ways with the motorcycle crew. They’re headed west toward the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, then on home to various points in northern Utah and southeastern Idaho. We’re headed not quite so far west. They also wanted to stick with pavement, but we opted for dirt Highway 126 which cut off about 60 miles on our route through Cuba. I’d checked with a local who assured me the road was very well maintained and scenic. “You’ll love it,” he said.

Well, he was absolutely right! The road is designated a “scenic highway” though 14 miles of it are entirely unpaved (and impassable in winter, according to signage). The road seemed to have been very recently graded. The newly cleaned gutters on the sides of the road were so fresh they didn’t even look like rain had fallen on them. Then, around a corner, we came face to face with the grader working on the last bit of the multiple week project to prep this road for winter. Once he passed us heading east, we continued west on the BEST dirt road I’ve EVER driven. (How can you top being first behind the work crew?)

Highway 126 leads through a forest with a mixture of fir, pine and aspen trees. The aspens are changing colors, and some are so golden yellow the leaves look like gold falling from the sky. The road gently winds and climbs through the Santa Fe Forest then curves and dips into Cuba, NM where we filled up with gas, ice and some chalk then carried on, about an hour ahead of the motorcyclists who’d left at the same time we did.

We knew they were on our tail, so we found a spot off Highway 550/44 near the turnoff to Chaco Culture National Historic Monument and left a message on the pavement for them. Then we turned down a paved road that turned to eight miles of the WORST dirt road I’ve ever travelled with the van. The washboard was horrendous. It’s amazing this stretch hasn’t been paved, given all the traffic into this national park.

We nabbed a camp, but missed out on the only four camps that shared the two trees in the campground. Still, the camping spots are well spaced apart, and most of our neighbors seem not just considerate, but downright friendly. We’re headed to the ranger program tonight (archeo-astronomy) and to check out the view of the cosmos from the park’s telescope. Chaco is said to be the only park in the system with it’s own planetarium.

The family in the neighboring camp is another mom traveling with her kids (three kids) with dad joining in as his work schedule allows. It seems to work for a lot of families. This family (Tessa, Jazy, Charles and Leah), has “Daddy on a Stick,” a popsicle stick with a life-size photo of their Dad’s face to keep things interesting.

Give us shelter

Sept. 29, 2008

Today Jerry & Kathy joined their motorcycle friends (Thella & Steve, Marlene & Larry) for a ride to Bandelier National Monument to check out the camping situation there. It seems the morning was a bit too cool for the motorcycle folks. Something about old bones was mentioned. Of course, the girls and I laid in bed until we heard everyone moving since we had no plans to move on today, so we may have just missed that early morning BRRR!

While the road crew was off exploring, the girls and I explored the hillside above camp. I found a shelter someone had spent a lot of time building in a natural hillside runoff channel (I guess it wouldn’t work well in the rain). Logs of fallen pines had been dragged to create walls on three sides, a header for the doorway, and about a dozen logs for the roof. We refilled the gaps in the roof with smaller sticks and finally pine needles that E had raked (with a large piece of bark) out of the shelter. It was a really fun spot large enough for probably six to eight people to lay side by side and enjoy the view down the hill while sheltered from wind and sun (and maybe a LIGHT shower). It was a great spot for spying on our camp, but there was no one in camp ALL DAY for us to spy on!

Took the road crew more than four hours to return. The ride was lovely, they said, but Bandelier was hot (mid-80s), so they were opting to stay at Fenton. Fine by us!

Change of plans

Sept. 28, 2008

Had a restful start to the day with breakfast in camp before packing up. Mostly drove today, though we made a quick stop in Albuquerque to get the skinny on the upcoming Balloon Fiesta. This is, apparently, THE grand hot air ballooning event, not just in the U.S. but internationally.

Well, we’ve missed enough by just a day or a week. I decided this should be our last blast, and that it may be worth sticking around these parts for a couple days. I figured if there was a room at a hotel near the air field, then we’d stay. Sure enough! We found one within walking distance! (Parking and traffic are said to be horrendous, so if we couldn’t walk, we might not want to bother, particularly with trailer in tow.) So, we’ll hang out in the mountains and desert ’til Friday, then head in to Albuquerque for a pool, a shower, comfy beds (our trailer’s comfy, but what compares with a real bed?) and a balloon festival. We’re all really excited about it!

Found camp at Fenton Lake State Park. This are of the state, in the mountains north of Albuquerque, is spectacularly beautiful color country. The red, green and white soils, dark-green junipers and pine, meandering highways, cooler autumn weather (mid-80s) = wonderful. Camp is very quiet, wooded and peaceful except for the “ground wasps” (we call them yellow jackets).

Route 66 - still the spot for mystery and adventure

Sept. 27, 2008
Got up, packed and jetted away from Mosquito Hell. We thought that spot in eastern Montana was bad! At least THOSE mosquitoes responded to bug spray! These were just ravenous! Found a Waffle House in Amarillo for brunch before parting ways for the day. The motorcycles could enjoy several short stops while the girls and I enjoyed a longer visit to the Quarter Horse Museum next door to the headquarters of the American Quarter Horse Association. Nice museum, particularly the area about the breed, horse anatomy, care and feeding of horses and several video displays about a wide array of equestrian events in which Quarter Horses are known to compete. We could probably have stayed here all day, or at least for a couple more hours. This is a great spot to research the ancestry of your horse, or just enjoy the horsey, western surroundings.

Geocaching led us to Cadillac Ranch (do you know which cars’ tires won’t turn? We do.), the midpoint on Route 66, then to Glenrio, once the border town between Texas and New Mexico. Glenrio was once such a bustling community that there’s a concrete island in the middle of the highway for traffic control. Today, all the buildings in town appear vacant. Windows broken or entirely missing; doors sprung or missing; walls falling apart; roofs well beyond repair. There does appear to be one residence at the east end of town still in use. Otherwise, Glenrio is a ghost town.

A funny thing happened in Glenrio, though, so I’m not likely to forget it too soon. As we were restashing our cache, a little car came by, so we hung out as if we were just checkin’ out the flowers. They waved. We waved. After we’d turned around where Route 66 turns to dirt, I’d stopped in town to take one last photo when that same little car rolled up beside us. I figured it would be a local checking to see if we were lost or otherwise needed help. But the passenger said, “My husband thinks we saw you in Nebraska.”

“You probably did,” I said. Then, “You look familiar.”

“Did we take your picture?”

Then the lights came on! These people had taken the pictures of the girls and me at Scott’s Bluff National Monument! They were headed east to Chicago from which they planned to follow every bit of Route 66, spurs and all, back to Los Angeles. The chances of running into each other, here of all places, seem so slim. Perry and (I believe) Becky were very friendly, and we found we had a lot in common. I hope we run into them again as we continue roughly along Route 66 for a few more days.

Met up again with the motorcycle crew at Santa Rosa State Park, New Mexico where they’d searched out the best campground: showers, flush toilets and among the best playgrounds we’ve seen in any campground along some 8,000 miles at this point.

Got too much blood? Texas is the place for you!

Sept. 26, 2008

Last night the coyotes were really active, yipping up a storm. Very early this morning (from 4:30 or so ‘til daylight) the elk were bugling. What fantastic night time sounds! The girls slept through most of it, though E woke to stretch during the elk calls, so I pointed them out to her. She thought she’d just dreamed it!

Mostly drove today toward Cap Rock State Park, Texas, where we plan to meet up with some of Jerry’s and Kathy’s friends. I hit a vulture at about 65 mph today. It made an amazing BOOM against the windshield and tore up the driver’s side windshield wiper arm and completely removed the blade. When I looked in the rear view mirror, there was the vulture, still circling near the highway, perhaps wondering what had just happened to him.

I blame the vulture collision on my aunt and uncle who ran into several birds earlier this year while traveling through Utah, Nevada and into California. I think this vulture was destined for their windshield, but I was (fortunately for them) there to block it! ;)

Cap Rock is quite the destination for Texans. We got into the last available campsite. But the mosquitoes here are terrible! Even bug spray (the good green stuff) doesn’t deter them. We can’t imagine what would bring people to stay here. Perhaps we just hit it wrong, but none of us can wait to jam out of here in the morning!

True Grits...

Sept. 25, 2008

We started our day with real grits and other goodies at a Waffle House here in Oklahoma City. I’d never been to one of these, a chain of restaurants found on interstates and in neighborhoods from Arizona to Florida and throughout the south and southeast. The grits, my first fresh grits, were amazing! I have to learn to make those. (Anyone have a recipe they’ve tried that they’d like to share?)

We stopped in to the Cowboy Hall of Fame (aka Western Heritage Museum) before heading out of town and found a museum worthy of a full-day stop. There’s an entire building dedicated to children’s exploration, rooms for cowboys, Native Americans, art of the past and living artists. There’s a room dedicated to rodeo, even a section (albeit rather small) for women’s rodeo, and a rodeo graveyard full of storied rodeo animals. While we were there, an association of western artists had filled the conference rooms with various craft classes, like rawhide braiding.

Motorcycles travel at a different pace than air conditioned cars, and I hadn’t counted on motorcycle visitors on this section of our trip when I planned it. So while I’d figured three fast interstate hours per day in the car as we passed through the desert, with stops necessary for our outdoor riding companions, our day on the road is considerably longer. The stops, however, are nice and provide us a better look at the area we would have skipped through had we just kept our eyes on the home-sweet-home prize.

One of these great finds was a BBQ on wheels that Aunt Kathy and Uncle Jerry smelled from their open air, big mama motorcycle. Our air-conditioned, sealed vehicle kept us from noticing the wonderful smell that emanated from one of the best BBQs I've ever experienced in my life.

We found our way to Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge where we’ve set up camp in a nice quiet campground. Be warned, they only allow two vehicles per site here, and even Kathy’s tiny trailer counts as a vehicle. So, they had one site, we the next. It’s quiet here, though, and we saw a deer at the lake when we first walked down to check it out. The banks are too muddy, mushy to allow for water access (unless you’re willing to lose a shoe or two), but there are lots of frogs. The herd of deer meandered right into our camps for a few minutes before pressing on for the night.

Monster tadpoles to Route 66 and finally, family!

Sept. 24, 2008
Returned to George Washington Carver National Monument this morning. Unfortunately they weren’t doing any ranger demonstrations, but there’s a fairly large working classroom laboratory where they do demonstrations and allow visitors to follow along with their own experiments. The girls finished their Junior Ranger books, then we took the 3/4 – mile loop walk through the property. WHAT a place to grow up! A little spring-fed stream runs through it, and there’s a pond that was home to hundreds of small frogs we were able to see, but not catch. I saw the largest tadpole I’ve ever seen. The body alone was at least 2 inches long by 1 ½ inches wide with a tail beyond that and not even a leg bud begun! It’s going to be a MONSTER toad when it hops out of the pond. I’d love to see it then! Saw a snake skin in the water, then the snake rangers later identified as a rat snake. Still, it was brown and in the water, so I wasn’t too keen on it.

A few minutes later down the trail we found the smallest green snake I’ve ever seen. The worm I caught on the banks of Big Piney River was larger than this snake. I caught it, then the girls and I took turns passing it around. Using the digital camera display, the rangers id’d the snake as a newly hatched Rough Green Snake which will grow to be about 3 feet long. Somehow I don’t think we’d have caught such a large specimen! We also spotted a really cool, monster bug which after much searching through their insect books, the rangers agreed was called a Spiney Soldier Beetle. They’ll eat any type of insect, beneficials or pests equally.

While we all agreed we could easily have spent an entire day exploring the pond, creek and woods here, we had to press on west as Uncle Jerry and Aunt Kathy were expecting us in Oklahoma City.

I’d hoped to hop off I-40 and onto Route 66 here and there, but upon entering Oklahoma we found ourselves on a toll road. At the first rest stop, I asked a fellow traveler who often takes this route if I’d have to pay every time we entered this section of highway if we hopped off to see the sights. Sure enough. So, we stuck the to the “turnpike” onto which we’d already been railroaded (woulda been nice if there’d been some signage with a “last chance exit”) until we’d reached the ultimate toll booth, paid our $3.50, THEN we veered off the freeway in favor of Route 66.

We stopped at the Arcadia Round Barn, which was a masterpiece. Downstairs is a funky trinket shop, gift shop and sort of ongoing garage sale of various items provided by local residents. The upstairs can be rented for special events (except square dances, the host quipped), but is left open during the day for visitors to enjoy. It’s beautiful inside, with an enormous domed ceiling in which all the structural works are exposed. The floor is a wonderfully maintained piece of woodwork.

Just a mile or so west we came across “Pop’s.” I think I may have heard about this place on NPR not long before we left. Something about the largest collection of soda pop in the world. Had to stop in and check it out. The place actually has a restaurant (burger stop), and convenience store which specializes in more than 500 pop labels! Want diet, caffeine free cherry soda? Got it. Birch beer? Yep. Root Beer? Which of the more than 30 varieties? How about chocolate soda? Even that! Now, we’re not huge soda drinkers, and I managed to steer clear of them throughout the trip ‘til Mr. B joined us in South Dakota. But Pop’s called for some exploration. I grabbed a Sioux City Root Beer (fine), Birch Beer (lots like root beer), Grape Crush (among my all time favorites, for some odd reason), and a REAL Dr. Pepper (sugar, no corn syrup) to take home to Mr. B.

Finally we found our way into Oklahoma City where our hotel welcomed us with a cool pool, hot shower and comfy beds as well as the companionship of relatives. Jerry & Kathy had traveled down to Coalgate, OK, to pick up a new camp trailer for their motorcycle so they were pretty pooped, and we’d made some tracks, too. So we agreed hanging out at the hotel, eating pizza and enjoying each other’s company would be much more enjoyable than heading out in search of a restaurant, then sitting still there.

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