Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Cross Country Trek - part 2

Tuesday we left Durango and headed east, crossing the Rockies through Wolf's Pass towards the Great Sand Dunes National Park. It was a beautiful drive and not as stressful with the truck and the big rig as I had been worried about. This park is very unique, basically the tallest sand dunes in North America. They were formed by sand left behind from a prehistoric lake that has been blown into dunes by the predominant southwest winds funneling through the Sange de Cristo Mountains.  The winds blow from the valley toward the mountains, but during storms the winds blow back toward the valley. These opposing wind directions cause the dunes to grow vertically.  But upon our arrival at the RV campground next to the park there were sustained winds of 40 mph with gusts up to 60 or 70. We made the decision to do a quick tour of the park and continue heading east to somewhere calmer.

Great Sand Dunes National Park
We passed over the mountains and found an RV park near Colorado City that was nice and the wind was calm. But the next morning there was ice forming on the Pinnacle from freezing mist, there was snow in the forecast, so we kept on heading east. Next stop was Dodge City, Kansas, but it was too cold to do much looking around and we wanted to get ahead of this spring/winter storm.

So the next day we continued on to Joplin, Missouri. While driving through the middle of "nowhere" Kansas there was a loud pop and the Pinnacle started lurching and I immediately realized that we had a blowout. I have to commend GEICO roadside service and the local tire service guy ("Sean" but I didn't get the name of his company) has they were there in 20 minutes and helped me jack up the Pinnacle and put on the spare. The next day in Joplin I went to the Goodyear store to get a new spare, turned out it was located right at ground zero where that terrible tornado went through a couple of years ago and caused so much death and destruction.

After spending the night in Joplin, we motored on to Sikeston, MO where we had dinner in a crazy restaurant called Lambert's Cafe. They are the "only home of throwed rolls". A server periodically emerges from the kitchen with a tray of big rolls just out of the oven and shouts "Rolls!". If you want one you just raise your hand and he wings it across the room to you. There were rolls flying in every direction. The Bird ordered their special fried catfish and it was enough to fill her that night and make a meal for the two of us the next night.

From Sikeston we drove on to a campground next to Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky. We spent a day touring the longest known cave system. We obviously didn't tour all 400 miles of the cave, but we had a nice park ranger tour guide who took us down a few hundred feet and through a couple of miles of the cave. He did a great job explaining the history of the cave,  how it was explored over the centuries and why it's a national treasure.

Entrance to Mammoth Cave

Graffiti from 1839 in Mammoth Cave
From Mammoth Cave we went on to a nice state park in West Virginia called Stonewall Resort and had a nice spot right on the lake. But we didn't linger as we were ready to get home to Maryland. It was just a half day drive from there to home.

This was a great cross country trip, we met a lot of interesting people and we enjoyed touring several of the National Parks. Over the next few years we hope to see many more National Parks. We've now stayed in 24 different states in our Pinnacle 5th wheel and we look forward to the next 26!

Here's a map of our trip to Tucson in the fall and our return trip in the spring. For a more interactive view of the map you can click here.

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