Sunday, August 30, 2015

Crystal Bridges Art Museum, Bentonville, Arkansas

Gotta hand it to Mr. Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart. I don't know for sure how much he contributed to the construction of this museum or the collection inside it, but the permanent collection is free to all, courtesy of Wal-Mart. To see traveling shows, such as the Jamie Wyeth/Andy Warhol nature exhibit was extra, $8. We were here on Wednesday, August 26.

The building and grounds were as impressive as the collection on view. It was a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. Enjoy the pictures.

Abstraction, Georgia O'Keefe

Day Shift, Francis Criss

Hiroshima, Janet Sobel, 1948

Rosie the Riveter, Norman Rockwell, 1943

Saturday, August 29, 2015

August 28, Oklahoma, from the northeast corner to Kingfisher, east of OK City

Things happen for a reason. Even when it’s not what you want or expect, as in an unexpected detour on the road you are traveling. This is what happened to us and this is how we met Steve in Kingfisher, Oklahoma.
gotta get out of Kansas first
We decided to drive Route 66 through Oklahoma, seems like a fun thing to do, right? We left Baxter Springs, Kansas heading towards Tulsa and right away we get on a little section of 66 that goes behind an old WalMart, it’s only a quarter of a mile detour and the road is terrible. We decide that we won’t do little short side roads like that, we’ll stick to longer sections, we don’t need to do every 1/4 mile. So we are merrily rolling along fine and we get to Quapaw, Oklahoma and the road goes from a narrow two lane highway to a narrower gravel over old concrete patched with cold mix and washboard for about 8 miles.

 It’s so bad we can only go about 20 mph. Remember, we’re pulling 37’ of trailer behind us. 

this is the good section of Route 66

We finally get to a piece in this section where we can actually see the old road, about 9’ wide with a 4” white stripe on each side, just wide enough for us. Somewhere along the way a delivery truck got behind us and he was in more of a hurry than us so we didn’t stop to take pictures, just what I could get while we were driving. After getting beat up on that we realize that we aren’t going to be able to drive the old road and maintain our sanity. We’ll never get anywhere, and if we do the entire contents of the trailer is liable to be all over the place. 
We make our way further west to Vinita
single stop light along Route 66
 and the road is a good county road and we get to Tulsa and Sapulpa around 2:00. After that we abandon Route 66 and opt for State Road 33 heading west and I take over driving. I figure if the road is straight and not too narrow I’ll do okay. It’s all smooth sailing for about 75 miles until we get to Guthrie, where there is a detour. The bridge ahead is apparently out and we can’t continue through, have to go around. We turn north as the detour signs indicate and pass by several county roads that go in a westerly direction looking for the detour route. After about 5 miles we realize the detour is going to go to the next state road, towards Hennessey, they aren’t going to use a county road. Well, Jay is navigating and after some deliberation we decide to find the next county road west and take that instead of going all the way north to the next state road.
one of the 4-way stops in Guthrie
 Good for us, hah! The paved road lasted about 2 miles then it turned to a red dirt road. I think this dirt road was in better condition than some of the paved roads we have been on. But, there is nowhere to pull over, no wide spots, no little community with a small park where we could land for the night and it’s about 6:00, later than we like to be on the road. We keep going, no choice anyway, and after about what seemed like 20 miles to me but was probably only about 3, we came to another paved road, State 61, and headed south towards Kingfisher.
Oklahoma red dirt

Again, narrow road, no shoulders and people coming from seemingly nowhere to be right behind us but they always manage to get around. 
The highway eventually widens to four lanes but it’s like riding a bucking bronco, concrete panels, and that really shakes things up in back. I always wonder what the cats are thinking when we hit roads like that. We spy an RV park ahead and I slow down to see about turning in and Jay says don’t even bother, its full up, likely with oil workers. We are just pulling in to the edge of town so I pull over so we can figure out where to go to find a place to park for the night.
We are sitting there and a white pickup pulls over in front of us and a guy gets out and walks back to check on us. He asks how we’re doing and I say, “fine, thanks. Just trying to find a place to park for the night” He says he owns the RV park we passed, he saw us slow down, but we kept going. I explained to him that we just need a place to park safely for the night, he offers us to park in the field next to the RV park, no charge. He directs me to go around the block and he waits for us on the highway so I can see where to turn to get to the field. He helps us get parked on high ground and gravel, out of the grass. He says it may rain and it will be better for us and for his field if we are on the gravel. 
Once we get parked, he asks us where we’re headed and where we’ve been. We learn from him that Hennessey would have been a really bad place to be, the Mexican Cartel has taken over that area and there is a lot of meth there. Said it wouldn’t be safe and if we didn’t want to stay at his place he would never send us that direction. We stood in his field and talked for nearly an hour. It was one of the rare occasions where we got around to talking politics, which can be iffy, especially with someone you just met. We talked about the presidential hopefuls, the recent shooting of the reporter and cameraman, climate change, technology, all kinds of things. It was a good conversation, lively and interesting from both sides, I think. We could have stood there half the night talking, but he got called away to tend to something and we finally had our dinner at about 9:00.

Steve, owner of Sleepy Hollow RV park in Kingfisher, OK.
Super nice guy.

And that is how we met Steve from Kingfisher, Oklahoma and again experienced the kindness of strangers in this crazy world. Everything happens for a reason, even unexpected detours on the journey we call life.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

August 25, Happy 60th Birthday Jay!

Today is Jay’s 60th birthday!! Happy Birthday Jay! We celebrated last night with a couple of cupcakes I picked up at Fat Bottom Girls cupcake shop in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Jay had coconut and I had chocolate with salted caramel. Yummy.

It’s been about a week since I posted anything here. I thought about what I had already written to put up here, but it’s a week old. I’ll give a recap.

In a nutshell, we stayed at Rocky Springs in Mississippi for 4 nights. It was a decent enough spot, but no power so only AC at night before bed. I wasn’t sleeping well, and then there were the bugs. Mosquitoes yes, but also some other little bugs that were biting up my legs. I looked like I had a pox or something. 

So after that we decided to move to Jackson for 2 nights while we waited for Saturday and the book festival. They have a beautiful state park pretty much right in town, LeFleur’s Bluff State Park. They also have a 9 hole golf course and I got to play a round. There weren’t too many people there so I played by myself. The tee boxes were so hard I couldn’t use my plastic tees, had to use the wooden ones and that was an effort to get those in the ground. And I broke every one.

Saturday the 22nd, we went to the Book Festival in Jackson. I had never been to one before and it sounded interesting. It was at the State Capitol building, built in 1903, it has some amazing stained glass in it and was worth the visit. More so than the book festival. It was interesting, they had moderators leading discussions by Mississippi authors, book signings, and other authors peddling their books. I don’t know that I would necessarily seek out a book festival again but I’m glad I went to have the experience.
capitol building getting it's leaky roof fixed

We needed to get out of Jackson, the roads are so bad, worse than Seattle by a long shot. Worse than just about anywhere we have ever driven, even Costa Rica. I guess it keeps people from speeding. We were also ready to be done with Mississippi. I understand now why there are only about 3 million people in the state, it’s mostly swamp. 

bridge over Mississippi River at Greenville, MS

Onward! We left the state park and headed west to Arkansas, we stayed the night near the state line at Percy Leroy State Park, not quite as nice, but a level place to park with power and water. We got an early start out of there on Sunday morning and headed to Hot Springs. 

Hot Springs is interesting in that the park was established first and the town developed around the park. The old bath houses are in the park boundary and then across the street is the old part of town. 

Yes, we took a soak in the healing spring waters at Quapaw Bath House, then had a nice lunch.
Quapaw Bath House
Fordyce Bath House, now National Park office and Museum

 After lunch we went to the National Park office which is in the Fordyce Bath House. This has all been refurbished and is open as a museum so you can take a tour to see how the bath houses operated when they were in full swing.
view from the Mountain Tower, Alexandria Hotel in the foreground
 Only two of the other bath houses are operating as such, several of the buildings are in the process of being brought to code to be used for other businesses. One of the others is home to a brewery and pub. Town in general was charming and not too touristy. I also found a yoga studio and had a wonderful relaxing early evening class. It was in an old church building that had wonderful stained glass and old wood floors. The teacher, Karen, was so warm and welcoming. It was a beautiful place with such warm and welcoming people. I needed that. 

We are now heading in a westerly direction. We will head north to Bentonville, there is an art museum there, Crystal Bridges, that house American art. The building is apparently a work of art too, and admission is free! Love that. From there we’ll head up to Joplin, Missouri to pick up on Route 66 and follow that for a ways through Oklahoma. So I guess that puts me a little ahead instead of being a little behind. That in itself is a little weird because we mostly haven’t been having any plans so I haven’t been able to be a little ahead. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

August 16-19 or so, on the Natchez Trace Parkway

 It’s cooler, temperature wise, but the humidity is the same. We were on the Natchez Trace Parkway, just south of Vicksburg.  There are the remnants of an old village here, Rocky Springs. It was based around cotton and the spring, in 1860 there were 2,616 people living in this area, 2,000 of them were slaves. Between the civil war, yellow fever and the boll weevil, the town was not able to survive. I walked a short portion of the Old Trace this morning, I can’t imagine what it must have been like 150 years ago, being the main road from Natchez to Nashville.
 Probably the least swampy way to get there but surrounded by swamps. I never realized how flat most of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana are and how much water is everywhere. Lakes, rivers, bayous, the gulf, creating beautiful lush green forests and swamps. I can understand why it would take days to get from one place to another, you just wouldn’t move very quickly, nor would you make your mule or ox move quickly. Slow and steady would get you there. 

 On Friday, the 14th, we stopped at Oak Alley Plantation west of New Orleans, for a tour of the house and grounds. The oak trees are estimated to be about 300 years old. They were planted well before the house was built at this site. Another thing that is hard to fathom is that the Mississippi river from New Orleans to Natchez was lined on both sides with plantations similar to this one. The big house, the kitchen house, carriage house, garcionerres houses(where young men lived after they turned 13), and the slave quarters. Plus all the other outbuildings and barns necessary to run a plantation.

There would have been people moving about all day long, working in the house, carrying messages to neighboring plantations, the overseers, and all sorts of activities. The levee back then was only 5-10 feet high and now, in this area, it’s 40 feet and you can’t see the river, for miles. North of here at Greenville, after the great flood of 1927 that destroyed the town, a new levee was built that is taller than the Great Wall of China. Fixed that problem now, didn’t it? Messing with Mother Nature, but it’s held this long so they must have figured out how to hold her at bay.

Heading north on Highway 61 after fueling up in Baton Rouge, cheap diesel here, $2.29 a gallon. We are going to drive a portion of the 344 mile long Natchez Trace Parkway, one of the many designated National Scenic Highways. After stopping at the Mississippi visitor’s center to get more info, we decide not to follow the Great River Road, most of it you can’t see the river because of the levees and there aren’t really any roads that follow the river here like they do up in Minnesota and Iowa. Our destination for at least a few days is Rocky Springs Campground at milepost 54.5 on the Parkway. 

We are wondering where are all the people? There is hardly any traffic out here, we are about midway between Natchez and Jackson and it’s Saturday. There is only one other family camping here. Kids are back to school but we did expect to see a few people camping on the weekend. The weather is fine, ok, it’s a little warm, but cooler than it has been. It’s just strange that this decent campground is empty and doesn’t look like it gets much use. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

August 13, New Orleans

 We had a fun day walking around the French Quarter, seeing Jackson Square, the river front, eating beignets and cafe au lait at Cafe du Monde,

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

August 12, New Orleans

The heat index is supposed to be around 112 degrees here today. How it is we picked to be in the hottest part of the country is beyond me, we just are here. Checking the weather at home, it's not any cooler there, so we might as well be here.

I thought I would take this opportunity to share some more photos. I have taken some fun shots, playing with the camera and taking in all the interesting things there are to see.

On our way out of Open Pond there was this beautiful orchid like flower near the trailer dump. I had not seen this one anywhere on my walks.
Here's the bridge on I-10 over Lake Pontchartrain. High clouds over the area all day, makes me think it should be cool outside like it gets in Bellingham when it's overcast.

This is a warning sign we saw at the Pensacola lighthouse as we walked back from the beach. Run, don't walk, in case of attack? Doesn't look like a typical tsunami or hurricane warning sign.

And then there's my girl, as close as she can be to me. She can see what's going on outside from the safety of my chair.
Whitey, one of Elaine's chickens. She was the most curious about me and the least shy. I think if I had stuck around there longer we might have become friends.
Innovation at work. Using a 5 gallon bucket for a yard light at the campground. Unfortunately they left it on all night.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

August 9 and 10 Florida and Alabama coast

 We left Open Pond early Sunday morning figuring to get to Gulf State Park in Alabama by about lunch time. We stopped in Crestview, Florida for some coffee and a snack, then picked up some groceries before continuing on. That made it about lunch time and we weren’t close to the state park. We were only to Pensacola, not very far. We saw a brown sign for Pensacola Lighthouse and thought they would for sure have RV parking and we could have lunch there.

Monday, August 10, 2015

August 8 southern Alabama at Open Pond Campground in the Conecuh Natiional Forest

August 9

It amazes me how the time goes by so quickly. I last posted here on August 1 thinking I would likely get something else out in a few days. 

We were in Clanton until Tuesday morning. I did post pictures of some lovely Alabama peaches on FB, and here they are again!
They were as delicious as they looked too. Thank you, Elaine.

We have spent the last few days in Conecuh National Forest at the Open Pond Campground. Once again we found a nice place to stay, and it is nearly empty even on the weekend. Could the heat have something to do with it? Very likely. I wouldn’t want to tent camp when it’s 95 degrees with 90% humidity and a heat index of 110 and a 60% chance of rain. We have been enjoying the area, we are next to a pond, complete with alligator warnings, though we haven’t seen any, yet.

 There are some trails and I did ride the bike out on the road for a few miles. It’s not a bike cut out for any kind of distance but it did feel good to make myself work a bit anyway. It’s a Tern folding bike. My Mom gave it to us and we are so grateful. We have used it a lot, scoping out potential remote camp sites, tooling around campgrounds, taking out the trash and letting the grandson ride around and crash.

from this pile of needles

When we were camped up north at Cheaha State Park, there was a lady there making a basket with long needle pine needles. I was quite intrigued, as usual with any crafty type of thing. She showed me her collection of needles, some were 12 inches long. So I was pretty excited when we got to Open Pond and there were all kinds of long needle pines everywhere and a whole lot of needles lying on the ground. I gathered up a bunch of them and stripped off the little sticky bits and laid them out to think about what, if anything I would do with them. You know me, if it’s crafty, I’ll like to figure it out. And thanks to the internet, slow as it is here, I was able to get an introduction to creating a long needle pine coil. It’s kind of hard on the hands and my first attempt was a sorry affair. I almost pitched it all out, but thought I should give it a second attempt. The next day I started fresh and got a base coil going. The next day I spent another hour or so putting more needles into the coil and being mindful of my stitches.  Then the next day, I decided my bowl was big enough and finished it off. I went from this, to this and have a great appreciation for the people who do this type of craft. It takes patience and time, and it’s a good thing to do when it’s too hot to move anyway.

To this little bowl.

Speaking of which, I have a couple of cats who think it’s too hot to move. They have been great traveling companions. I realized I haven’t talked much about the cats, but they deserve mention. I didn’t think it possible to really train them, but they are pretty attached to me. If I’m inside, that’s where they want to be, if I go out, they will come out, sometimes. 

Toby especially likes to sit outside in the mornings even if it’s just under the trailer to watch the world go by. Sometimes he will wander a little farther than I’m comfortable with but I call him and he comes running home.
Ruby likes to be by me and she and I will sometimes go for a short walk, or she will go exploring our surrounds a little on her own. She is happiest right here though, in the recliner in the AC.

There have been times when I am grooming them outside and people take notice of them. They come over and ask about them, why don’t they run off, how did you train them, etc. 
Wishing they could bring their cats with them.  I never really thought I was doing anything special with them, but in some way I have trained them. It helps that they are older, about 9, and they lived in the trailer last year for about 4 months so it wasn’t completely new to them. What’s new is almost every time the door opens it’s a different world out there. There are some place where they don’t get to go out, like trucks stops and rest areas. They do really well in campgrounds, sticking around the trailer watching the world go by. And they keep excellent time. 5:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. feeding time with a snack at 9:00 p.m. Who has who trained?

Friday we needed to conduct a little business with phone service and internet so we took a little drive up to Andalusia, about 30 miles north. It’s interesting to see these small towns, trying to survive in whatever way they can. In some cases, there isn’t a big mall or Wal-Mart that appears to cause the die down. It seems like the town sprang up some time in the past, there was a need for it,  then people gradually moved away, leaving skeletons of store fronts to fend for themselves. Some of the radio stations have ads that promote local businesses and more than that, the importance of doing business locally. 

 The local radio stations also broadcast death notices, or obituary notices I guess. It will be, Mary Smith passed away, funeral services will be at Southern Baptist church on Friday at 4:00 p.m., arrangements are by Small Town Funeral Home and you'll hear this about 8 times through out the day.

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