Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Happy Halloween!

No, just kidding.  I'm way too dull to gave much of a rap about Halloween.  I'm not religious enough to recall the religious end of it and I never got all hot and bothered about costumes so no.  Also I was brought up living out in the country with older parents who weren't going to drive me all over to collect candy so I don't even have childhood memories of the day.  However, it does seem to be an appropriate time to talk about this wonderful land, the U. S. of A. 

Ghosts and Gobblins Unite!  Doesn't it kind of feel like that these days?  We have the Twitter in Chief in this country; the nuclear holocost guy over in N. K.  We have the whole football player thing:  you need a scorecard to keep track of all the sides of that one.  Things are so crappy that there was hardly any news from people who want to ban guns after the Las Vegas shooting.  The Brits are exiting the EU even though some of the voters seem to have thought the whole thing was a joke.  The Catalonian's seem to be trying to break up Spain.  I haven't heard anything about Quebec wanting to leave Canada but that could be just because our US centric media can't find the electrons to spare.  (I typically check the BBC if I want to know about things going on outside the US and for some reason the CBC doesn't work well on my computer.) 

I'd like to think that as I'm growing older, maybe I just worry more but I don't really buy that.  For one thing my age still begins with a '6' and besides I've never really been a worrier.  Of course we used to have Presidents who acted, well, like leaders rather than acting like bad tempered children.  As I've recounted, we have been visiting Presidential museums.  My wife doesn't want to go see Tricky Dick's.  (I mean the original; not that guy who couldn't keep it in his pants.  We did go there.)  I'm thinking I want to see it; at least he opened up relations with China.  Even should he not be impeached, I'm looking forward to Trump's.  Of course it will be in some Trump Tower and you'll have to pay a Trump-sized fee to get in but still.  Imagine all the 'fake news' he will have to ignore.

And speaking of impeachment, having Mr. Pence be next in line does not fill me with glee either.  I remember reading about how the people of Indiana were thrilled to be rid of him.  Maybe I like Trump better after all?  Well, jeez, it's a tough question.  I guess I'll have to see how this whole investigation of Manafort et al turns out.  Listening to either or both of these idiots for another 3 years will be enough punishment; God forbid 7 years. 

Sorry about the rant.  This world just gets too much sometimes.  Thanks for stopping by.

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.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Home again and it's not quite so hot!

Arrived home yesterday just after lunch.  We started the trip thinking we would go "see the Upper Peninsula of Michigan" and we managed that but it was somewhat different than we had expected.  We thought we would go one way and ended up doing something quite different.  It just adds a bit to the stress making changes on-the-fly but I guess we can manage it.  The original plan was to go from Las Vegas up to Colorado Springs then take I-70 east until we passed Chicago.  We would then go north up to the Upper Peninsula area of Michigan coming back south through Wisconsin until we reached Little Rock, AR.  In Little Rock we would pick up I-40 and come on back to Vegas.  In the end we went up through Wisconsin then down through Michigan.  It doesn't sound like much of a change but it felt like it!  In the end we drove 6,182.2 miles; of those miles 4,938.2 were towing the trailer.  And we did it in 30 days.  That means not a lot of sitting around! 

We started out from Las Vegas on September 10.  Stopped in Utah for a night then went on to Colorado Springs where we visited friends.  Colorado Springs was lovely except for some little showers that seemed to know when we wanted to be out on the deck.  Two days, two afternoons on the deck and two showers; it was uncanny. 

After our stay in Colorado we headed off for Kansas; specifically Abilene.  It was quite a drive but we managed it.  We wanted to stay in Abilene because it is the home of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Museum and Library.  They have the house where Ike grew up and a museum that had a lot of information about the 20 years that were Ike's heyday:  1940-1960.  When you think about it he was pretty influential in those years from commanding the invasion of Europe and ending with eight years as President.  We really enjoyed seeing it.

Leaving Abilene we headed for Columbia, MO.  It wasn't a lovely day:  rain, rain and more rain.  Happily we showed up on a weekday.  Columbia is a college town and it's football season!  Anyway, we'd heard that the Budweiser Clydesdales are born and bred at Warm Springs Ranch and  we wanted to see them.  They have an hour tour showing you basically the barn and a few of the horses in residence.  They are very careful about the coloring of the horses they breed wanting the colts to all look the same.  They have about 30 colts born every year.  They are certainly beautiful  animals and BIG! 

Next stop was West Branch, Iowa at the Herbert Hoover Museum.  Again we liked the museum and learned some things we hadn't known.  Unfortunately I didn't take a single photo!  Hoover became a mining engineer and worked all around the world earning himself quite a nice fortune.  After the devastation of WWI he became interested in trying to help feed the starving people in Europe.  He demanded that it be done voluntarily by people; not by the government.  This got him a great reputation and he was urged to run for President.  He won but almost immediately the Great Depression came along and he got all the blame so he turned out to be a one term President.  WWII comes along and again he is urging relief missions for the starving in Europe.  He ended up being quite the statesman. 

It took us two days to get from the middle of Iowa to upper Wisconsin but we did finally make it.  We wanted to see the Apostle Islands but the weather, which had been much warmer than average, became rain and you couldn't see a thing.  We drove around the Pictured Rocks area in Michigan as well but the weather was just awful.  The visitor centers are fine but don't make up  for the real thing!  They do make some nice beer in this part of the world but it's not the reason for our visit.

Following the Upper Peninsula we were headed for Mackinac Island.  More precisely we stayed in St. Ignace on the north side of the bridge.  This time we got the weather right!  We took one of the ferries out to the island that took a little side trip under the bridge so you could get a sense of it's size.  Pretty cool even if they are working on it!

Then we spent the remainder of the day on the island.  There are no cars allowed (except emergency vehicles) so you get to walk, bicycle or deal with horses.  There are lots of bikes to rent if you would like.  Horses are used to pull the taxis as well as the delivery wagons.  It was fun.  We walked about a fourth of the way around the island.  It is all very pretty and there are some great views.  There were mansions built on the island it the early days and these have been converted to B&Bs; some with huge extensions.  It was a beautiful and and a lot of fun.

I'll get us back home next time.  Thanks for stopping by!