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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Monday, April 15, 2013

Cross Country Trek - Spring 2013

Here's a sporadic update from the road on our trip back to Maryland from our winter base in Arizona. (You can click on the photos for a better view.)
For the second consecutive winter, we stayed at the lovely Lazy Days RV campground in Tucson. We really like Tucson and all of the interesting things that it has to offer. This year we found three brewpubs that offer tasty local brews and good food, every Monday evening we competed in trivia night at the Sky Bar, and we frequently enjoyed the natural beauty of Saguaro National Park, Sabino Canyon, and the Sonoran Desert Museum.

In terms of live music, we saw Bob Weir (solo acoustic) twice, once with Jackie Greene and once with Jonathan Wilson. We went to Alice Coopers Christmas Pudding, which is an annual fundraiser that he hosts in Phoenix. There were all kinds of musical talent performing for this event and Johnny Depp played guitar in Alice's band. Other concerts attended in AZ this winter were Keller Williams (Club Congress), Leftover Salmon (Rialto), Mickey Hart (Rialto), and a really special performance by Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Booker T. Jones at the Fox Theater. There was plenty of local live music too, including some good Dead cover bands and a Pink Floyd cover band (Atom Heart Mother) who did an excellent rendition of the complete "Dark Side of the Moon" on the 40th anniversary of its release.

We also loved it that so many of our friends came to visit us and escape the winter weather on the East Coast and keep us company in the Old Pueblo. Davis McPherson and I biked to the top of Mount Lemmon, which was a lot of fun and an accomplishment that I am proud of. But as winter winds down and there are some scattered reports of warming weather back in Maryland, it's time to back up and take the Pinnacle back home.

So on Thursday, April 4 we started the journey by intentionally heading the wrong way, i.e. West, to California to visit the Boy at school and see our friend Erin in LA. We stopped halfway and spent the night near Quartzite Arizona. Quartzite is sort of a Mecca for RV'ers, I'm not exactly sure why, there's not much there except open desert spaces and warm weather. We had a nice dinner at the Yacht Club, which is a running joke since there are obviously no yachts within hundreds of miles.


Upon reaching Southern California we set up in a lovely RV park on the shores of a reservoir in San Dimas. The park has great views in a very nice setting and it served as a perfect base camp for our weekend visit.

East Shore RV Park

After the weekend in LA we headed east and spent the night in Las Vegas in a RV resort on the southern end of the strip. It was a little different staying in Sin City in an RV, but we enjoyed it, I watched the Nats game in a bar while the Bird hit the casino floor.

Tuesday, we traveled to a campground on the eastern edge of Zion National Park where we spent three nights while we toured both Zion and Bryce Canyon during the days. These are two national treasures full of beautiful, breath taking vistas. We hiked in both parks and I took tons of pictures.

Zion National Park

Bryce Canyon

On Saturday we packed up and headed to the Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. We set up in a KOA campground near the park and spent Sunday touring the ancient Pueblo cliff dwellings. Our guide was a park ranger named Sean Duffy, who educated and entertained us while showing the cities embedded in the cliffs some 1,000 years ago.

Monday ( tax day) we took a short ride to Durango, spent the day doing laundry and hitting the grocery store. This was the second consecutive RV campground with a big free run dog park so Cosmic Charlie is getting in his workouts. We finished the day with some excellent steaks at the Ore House in downtown Durango. Tomorrow we'll head east and hopefully get to see the Great Sand Dunes National Park. More updates to follow.

Here we are at four corners, I'm standing in Utah, the Bird is in Colorado with one foot in New Mexico and Charlie is in Arizona but for some reason refusing to face the camera.

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