Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Coming on home!

Once we'd visited the UP it was time to head back south and west.  On the last day of September we made the fairly long trek down to a campground near Grand Rapids, MI.  My wife almost always picks our campground from the various clubs we belong to:  Good Sam, Escapees or Passport America.  I don't know what was going on but we kept finding these places that were intended for locals rather than visitors.  This one was on a beautiful river and it was a nice enough site but there were no other visitors and most of the rigs were permanent.  Even though the park was closing on October 15; the rigs would just spend the winter there.  Interesting.

Anyway, the next day (a Sunday) we hopped up and drove down to Grand Rapids to see the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.  It turns out that we were in the middle of a Art Prize celebration and traffic downtown was AWFUL!  Of course the fact that we are driving a 4x4 extended cab pickup with an 8 foot bed doesn't make things easier.  The Art Prize thing had taken over all parking for the museum.  We found a parking garage a couple blocks away that claimed to have empty spaces and headed into it.  At the last possible moment I decided we wouldn't fit and stopped in the middle of the sidewalk.  I was afraid that there wasn't enough headroom for us.  I get out of the cab and sure enough, we were at least 4 inches too tall.  So my wife grabbed her walkie talkie and walked out into the street and stopped the two lanes of traffic so I could back out.  Now that is something!  She managed it and I backed into the street, she hopped in and we took off.  Now all we wanted to do was to get out of Grand Rapids!

In the end we found an excellent pizza place called Mitten Pizza and Brewing Co.  Had a lovely pizza for lunch (and beer!) and went back to the rig.  I found someone from the office and told them we would be staying another night.  We met a local guy and he suggested we might also like to visit the Maijer Gardens so we added that to the itinary for the next day. The next morning we hopped up and flipped on the tv to learn that the previous night a very strange man had opened fire on a bunch of concert goers in Las Vegas.  My God!  It is beyond strange.  I want to talk about all that in another post so for now I'll only say we were just shocked.

We went into the city and this time found some off street parking that was at least tall enough for our truck.  We were sticking out in front of all the cars but there was room enough.  The Ford museum was interesting as they all are.  I'm getting the distinct impression that we don't know much about the people we elect President.  For example, Ford is the name of his mother's second husband; the President's real father was named King.  Part of the Art show was inside the museum so there was no charge to visit the museum on this day.  A certain number of people were there simply for the art but the museum was more crowded than many that we have visited.

After the museum we headed off for the Maijer Gardens and were very happy that we did.  It turns out there are several conservatories full of plants and a huge outdoor area in which larger sculptures are shown.  We took a tram tour of the outside which we later decided was kind of a waste.  They wanted to tell us way more about some of the pieces that we wanted to know!  We did enjoy the experience however. 
This horse was tall enough that I could walk under his belly!

They also have a large Japanese garden which we enjoyed touring.

Having sampled Grand Rapids we were intent on heading south.  Since we were thinking of driving home on I-40 we had decided to go almost directly south and stop in Little Rock, AR to see the Clinton Museum!  We'd been finding places claiming wifi but then they either didn't have it or it wasn't working.  We are both addicts so not having internet was putting a dent in our fun!  I talked my wife into trying a KOA.  At least they had wifi!  We were happy enough with the KOA experience to go to another one in Little Rock.

The Clinton Museum is part of a complex that includes the library, museum and educational activities that are of interest to the Clintons.  They claim there are more exhibits than in any other Presidential library.  I wouldn't be surprised because there was a huge amount of detail:  like the President's plan for every day!  I mean you could look up what the President was supposed to be doing at 10:00 on July 29, 1995.  There was a reasonable discussion of his impeachment proceedings but oddly Monica Lewinski was pretty much invisible.  My wife used the word 'slick' to describe the museum and I cannot think of a better one.  About a third of the floor-space was devoted to a biography of Nelson Mandela.  Apparently he and the President became quite good friends.  The displays showed quite a lot about his younger days; his long years in jail and finally his freedom.  It was pretty good if totally unexpected. 

As an aside, the Clinton Museum was the only place we've seen since the Las Vegas tragedy that wasn't flying the flag at half staff. 

Downtown Little Rock has quite a bit of park area on both sides of the river.  They converted this old railway bridge into a pedestrian bridge.  As an aside, on the day of our visit there was an Autism Walk so all the parking was taken just as in Grand Rapids!  Happily we were able to find a place to park just a few blocks away.

After leaving Little Rock we were headed for Oklahoma City.  My wife had never set foot in Oklahoma so it was kind of fun that driving across on I-40 is actually very pretty.  Once we get well started on our way home sometimes we get in a state where all we want to do is get home.  For example, when returning from Florida in 2016 we didn't unhook the trailer from the truck for 6 days.  That's our record; I'm not proud of it but we have been known to take off home like that. 

After Oklahoma City we headed for Amarillo.  It was nice country but this was one of the windy days.  The wind came out of the north at 28 mph (45 kph) with gusts to 40 mph (65 kph).  That makes for a tough day of driving.  And in both Oklahoma and Texas there were road repairs; mostly to bridges.  Traffic was funneled into one lane and slowed to 55 mph (88 kph) which still seemed awfully fast to me.  Still, it worked.  It was going to be cold so we didn't deploy the slideout.  Keeping it in reduces our square footage by probably 40 sq ft (9 sq. m) so the rig is much easier to heat. 

After Amarillo the large city is Albuquerque however the Balloon Fiesta is on so places to park are non-existent - not just expensive but not there!  So we went on to the small town of Grants, New Mexico.  We found a park called Lavaland in Grants.  It had received some poor ratings but sounded like it might be ok.   As a matter of fact, it was just fine.  The office and common rooms are being re-modeled but is seems to be in turn-around mode.  There were people living in their rigs there but everyone was friendly and helpful.  The site wasn't quite level but we can deal with that.  As a bonus, the wifi was excellent! 

We needed one more stop and decided to check out Meteor Crater, AZ.  The crater is on privately owned land and these folks opened an RV park right next to I-40.  So you are renting from the owners of the crater; to see the crater you have to pay more.  But, what the heck, we went to check it out.  There were actually quite a few people there.  It is just one of those things.  If you want to see it, you have to pay.  If you don't care, well, it is just a big hole in the desert floor.  We liked it but it is BIG!  My 18mm lens on my DSLR doesn't open enough to get the entire crater in one photo. 
Down in the bottom there are remains from early explorations.  People thought there was a meteor down there somewhere so dug down looking for it.  Now we know the meteor just turned into tiny fragments that rained all over the place. 

So after that excitement, all that was left was to go along I-40 to Kingman and cut up US 93 to Las Vegas.  It is funny country, you see a bunch of ramshackle buildings off in the distance then come to a road with half a dozen mailboxes for those buildings.  I've no idea how those folks live.  We stopped for a night in Las Vegas to see our daughter and empty the tanks.  It was a good stop but we were sure glad to get home. 

Thanks for stopping by.  I'll be working on my rant about Charlottesville, Las Vegas, Weinstein and, of course, our Twitter-in-Chief.  Fair warning; you may want to avoid it!  Have a good one.

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