The Colorado RV Chronicles, concludes

Saying good bye to the Graceland RV camp this morning wasn’t hard. Even though it was directly adjoining the estate property and there were some beautiful motor homes staying there, the place was kind of gross. They even have some trailers there that look like they’ve been there for decades. And the owners aren’t there for recreation, unless you call driving a beat up old tow truck recreation.

We spent the morning getting our “stuff” all packed up, so when we got back to Atlanta, we could drop the motor home off, hop in the truck and go.  As we were working we saw on the TV that this morning on the anniversary of Elvis’s death, Aretha Franklin passed away. She was born in Memphis, near Graceland. The King of Rock and the Queen of Soul.

It was a quite ride from from Memphis to Atlanta. Yogi was sleeping and Lori and I were both reflecting on our trip. We both were impressed with the performance of our motor home, “Thor”. Our friend Chris had posted “Drive it like you stole it!” Well… I took her advice, but despite that, we brought the little motor home back without a scratch and it did the same for us!

So, as I write this, Lori’s at the wheel of my pickup, driving us towards Florida from Atlanta on I-75, and it feels like a limousine. We’re going to stop at a nice hotel in Valdosta where we can take a private shower without our anti fungal slippers on and sleep in an adult sized bed with a really nice mattress and crisp, clean sheets.

Lori and I had always talked about getting a motor home and driving around the country for 6 months or so when we retire. I’m thinking we can probably mark that off the list now. We missed our family, our friends, our co-workers and our cozy home in Bonita.

Not that it wasn’t a great experience… it was a lot of fun, we saw some amazing things and we both learned a lot. For example:

*America is friggin’ BIG! There’s a lot of everything out there and there’s a lot damned NOTHING out there!”

*Everything comes to everybody in a truck and everything comes from somewhere else, therefore there are a MILLION trucks on the road. All. The. Time.

*America is still beautiful in some places, but we’ve ruined a lot of it and we’re still not done. It seems as though we’re collectively kind of stupid or we wouldn’t allow it to happen.

*With very few exceptions, Americas infrastructure is in horrible shape. Yeah, we’ve all heard it and politicians love to talk about it, but… well again, we’re collectively kind of stupid or we would invest in ourselves and this great country.

*I have great people working for me at Nelson Marine Construction. They’ve all done a great job and worked really hard while we’ve been away. They are awesome!

*Bonita Springs is a great place to live. People complain a lot about things there, but you know… they can just shut it! They need to go for a little drive around the country… It’s awesome in Bonita!

*Egg McMuffins are delicious and way under rated. And those biscuits!!!

*My wife is awesome, smart and a great partner. She’s a looker too! And even after 2 weeks in a small box together… I think she still likes me!! Whoop!

Traveling ends up making me appreciate where I live and the people who are in my life and they also say that it expands your mind.

Tomorrow we go home. To family, friends and work, But who knows where the road may take us.

Lori just asked me where we’re going next summer.

Don’t be cruel to Graceland

Day 13

Even though last night the tornados and flash flooding missed our RV park, this morning we still left for Memphis during a steady rain. A steady rain that would follow along with us for the next 6 hours. In fact, we actually caught up to and passed through the really nasty part that beat up our motorhome last night while we were sitting still. This time, it had a shot at us while we were going 70 miles an hour.

It was a long, tense drive for everyone and by the time we got to “Graceland” eight hours later (six of it in heavy rain and winds), Lori needed a shot of tequila, I needed whiskey and Yogi needed to poop and to see a dog therapist.

After we took care of the above needs (The dog therapist will have to wait) Lori and I went for the short walk down Lonely Street to the “Graceland Welcome Center”, where we ate some country cooking, looked at all the Elvis memorabilia, including his jet airplanes. Tonight, by coincidence, is the 41st anniversary of his death… otherwise known as “Elvis Week”. Tonight the main highway will be closed so Elvis fans from all over the world can hold a candlelight vigil, walking down the road to the mansion.

Admittedly, I’ve never had strong feelings one way or the other for “The King”, but it is really interesting observing people that are so passionate about him that they are willing to travel on an actual pilgrimage. They still scream and cheer at the videos and his songs and a few actually take great pains to dress and look like him… all the time! You can, however, tell that Graceland peaked quite a long time ago, as did most of the people that come to see him. But, the faithful still come here and in turn, the people that manage the place keep Graceland open, well maintained and respectful of his memory. How would Elvis put it? “Don’t be cruel, to a heart that’s true.”

Anyway, tonight will be our last night in our faithful stead and protector from tornados and lightning… the “Mighty Thor”. So, when Lori and I went to observe the vigil tonight, it was a special moment in more than one way. This journey is almost over, but we’re hoping for many more.

Thank you… thank you very much!

Stormy weather

Day 12

This morning, just after we left the “Keep your dog off off of the grass RV camp”, our I phones computer guidance system tried to send us on a bizarre multi u -turn journey to get to I – 25. But fortunately, this trip has taught me that you can put your underpants on at the same time as your jeans and to stop depending so much on the iPhone for directions.  So, before you leave on a trip, look at the route in detail that your “Smart Ass phone” has planned for you. Zoom in on that blue line and decide if there’s really a bridge over that river before you take the plunge. Also, look around and use your brain. This morning, for example, we stopped at an intersection and the very polite and persuasive computer voice said “Turn right and proceed 5 miles to route 80.” I looked to the left, and 100’ away was the on ramp to south I-25. I cranked the wheel to the left and hit the gas. “Nice try knuckle head!” It didn’t hear me.

You would think that a true “smart” phone in this situation would say “Oh! I did not think of that. Please proceed on I-25 south smart human.” But instead it stubbornly kept trying to get me to do u turns for about two miles down the interstate before it was like (“Fine… you have the steering wheel”) “Proceed on route.” And so:we did.

Our route is now I-40 which is the same route as the old Route 66. Old people like me will remember it from the tv show of the same name. Everyone else will remember it from the animated movie “Cars”. And just like in that movie the old signs, businesses and attractions are either abandoned or really struggling. Especially across Texas.The upper part of Texas isn’t pretty. It’s old tired, used and abused.

However, Oklahoma actually is O.K.!   In fact it’s better than that… it’s .really nice. You can tell there’s been a great deal of investment in the corridor. Even the industrial and farm properties are well kept and well cared for. So much so that we decided to stop at (yet another) KOA just outside of Oklahoma City.

After we set up camp, we were going to walk over to the near by “Cherokee restaurant” when we noticed some ominous clouds gathering. This is tornado country (Remember the movie Twister?) so we thought we might wait for a bit. Plus, the camp host had casually said “Oh yeah, and if a bad storm comes, the shelter is the bathrooms.” Not a pretty thought. 50 retirees, parents and babies and a group of oil field workers huddling in a garage sized bathroom.

And then it actually got pretty bad. The RV got rocked with 70 m.p.h. winds, torrential rain and hellacious lightning for a good hour. As a Floridian, I can tell you that it was a hurricane like experience. But we stayed snug inside of “Thor”, which, now seems an even more fitting name for our motor home. The rain has stopped for now… but there are more storms on the way.

Hopefully, we will only have to use the bathroom for it’s intended purpose tonight and then tomorrow we head to Memphis!

Sometimes it’s just a Hot Dog

Day 11

This chilly mountain morning Lori and I were talking about important stuff, over coffee. Like… I never knew until last night that Lori can and sometimes does put her pants and her underwear on at the exact same time! It’s like a really good magic trick and just one more thing that I can’t do without falling down. Also, we discussed our itinerary, in that since we now have an idea of how many hours we care to drive a day and how much time it’s going to take to do our one remaining “must do” sight seeing trip; we recalculated and…changed our plans. Today, we’re going to pack up the motorhome and drive to Mesa Verde National Park. We’ll spend half a day there and since we’ll already be over be an hour in that direction anyway, we will just head towards Albuquerque, New Mexico instead of spending another night back in Delores, Colorado.

We arrived at the Mesa Verde Park station at about 8:30 and after we got a professional opinion from a ranger we headed out. The drive into the park is a full hour of narrow, super winding mountain roads at steep grades, all the way to the top of the Mesa. The geology is “mars like” and the views are stunning. It took a lot of will power for me not to sightsee while driving, but it seemed really important for me to keep the motorhome in between the lines. By the way, “Thor” did really well going up mountain roads again and it was perfect for sightseeing. The big front window gave you great visibility, you could pullover anywhere and have lunch and the dog had somewhere comfy and air conditioned to wait while went outside for a stroll.

Speaking of dogs, this park doesn’t let dogs on any of the trails. I love to argue about stupid rules, so I decide to argue this one with a junior ranger who had no ability to change it. “Dogs aren’t allowed on the trails?” The poor junior ranger nodded. “That’s right, because it’s an archeological site.” I looked down at the drawings of the ancient Inhabitants that was in front of us. “Is that a dog with them?” The ranger squirmed. “So why can’t a dog be on the trail? it’s historically consistent!”

Yeah, Yogi had to stay in the motor home. But we saw the amazing cliff dwellings and learned a lot about the people that built them and why. I only had one problem with all that. How motivated would you have to be to build something like that. Crawling up and down a cliff with bricks, mortar, wood, food… everything? And all at 8,000 foot elevation! I mean, I got tired walking across the parking lot. Amazing.

After driving two of the loop roads and stopping at countless sites, we drove the hour back down and then headed towards New Mexico. Before you know it we were heading across terrain that made Kansas look like a forest. It was beautiful but it was like a scene from an old Clint Eastwood movie. Hour by hour it changed though, from sage brush, to red rock formations, to tall pine and then to an area with some really bizarre geological formations. Fun stuff! But there was a lot of really disturbing industrial stuff mixed in too. Oil wells, that were burning off methane. Strange smelling fenced in areas with drums of who knows what and then around the next curve… wild horses, running next to the highway.

We stopped on the outskirts of Albuquerque, at a KOA that was, Ok, but there was only one patch of grass and it had a “no dogs allowed” sign on it! And the “dog walk” was just nasty dirt. But instead of trying to make up for it with “free lead pancakes” this KOA, had a gate in the fence that surrounded the campground that had “beer” in big letters written on it. Behind it was a great little brewery/restaurant owned by a young couple. So, Lori and I had a beer and a organic hot dog there before turning in for the night.

I don’t know how or why the hot dog was organic… it was a just hot dog and it was delicious and at the time, that was enough information for me.

Tomorrow we head across New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma on what used to be Route 66!

Rocky Mountain Pie

Day 10

Good bye Cheyenne Mountain! We’re off this morning to “Priest Gulch” in S.W Colorado. The “All mighty and often confused” Goggle maps said it would take 6 1/2 hours, so at 7:30 we are on our way.

Being from Florida I am fascinated by the elevation change here. Our last camp site was 500’ above the 6,000 foot elevation of the surrounding “High planes” and our next camp ground is going to be at 8,300 feet. And on the way we reached elevations of 10,000 feet, going over the San Juan mountain chain. I wonder if it’s possible to get “reverse altitude sickness” when we go back down to zero elevation in Florida?

Our plan was to travel around the western part of the famous “San Juan Loop Scenic Skyway, but to get there we first had to travel through the Royal Gorge. Now I’ve been to a lot of places in the Western U.S., but this was unique. The the terrain went from a bare, almost treeless desert look on the eastern side near Colorado Springs, to a combination of the lush forest of Mount Rainier, the amazing red rock formations of the South western desert areas, the steep gorges and vistas of Glacier and even some alpine meadows like Yosemite! It was stunning! A remarkably beautiful drive. And “Thor”, our bad ass motorhome, drove up and down the dozens of 6 mile long 6% grades like a damned boss; maintianing 65 miles and hour with no overheating of the motor or the brakes. I know what you’re thinking… it was sucking down the gas! And although it’s true that we weren’t getting Prius mileage, we were at least getting 1970’s pick up truck mileage, so not so shabby. (At least I wasn’t towing a car.)

When we pulled into our rv camp (which is well forested, well maintained and beautiful!) we soon discovered a couple of potential problems with our advance vacation planning.

1. The camps address was “Delores, Colorado ”, which has a great old downtown with actual stores, but when we checked in, it turns out that the camp itself was a solid, mountain road 25 miles away from the town or anything else. Because we thought we were going to be “peddling distance” from town, we didn’t stop at a grocery store on the way, and so our 6 1/2 hour drive ended up an even 8 hours because we had to drive to the town and back for supplies.

2. Because of the beautiful yet treacherous driving conditions, our travel times are much longer than we expected from “Messa Verde National Park” and Telluride our planned day trip destinations, as well as the nearest town that we thought we would be getting a rental car from. (This is going to take some changes to our plans!)

But right now, we have a good buzz on, we’re sitting in the cool mountain air, under the awning with the dog next to a fire, listening to it gently rain, while a freshly made homemade chicken pot pie that we bought an hour ago, cooks in the oven.

I can hear John Denver in the background… “Rocky Mountain Pie, in Colorado”

Our version of camping

Day nine

Today, since we’re in such a nice camp ground and we’re taking our rental car back, we decided to take care of some housekeeping and laundry stuff before we headed out out on tomorrow’s trip to “Priest Gulch” in the San Juan Mountains on the “Trail of the Ancients”! Sounds cool, right? We also decided to spend the rest of our day doing some actual “camping activities”… or at least, our version. Here’s our version…

Sewer, water, electric, tv: Hell yeah! We don’t “Boondock” (camp with none of the preceding) anymore. And if I’m sleeping on the ground without AC? Something has gone terribly wrong!

Campfires: We don’t make wooden campfires, we use a gas fire pit mostly because it turns on when we want it to and we can turn it off instantly when we want to go somewhere. I agree that “there’s just something about a wooden campfire”, but most of those “somethings” are why we don’t do it.

Cooking and eating: We don’t especially care for the first all that much, but we really like the second one, so we prefer to keep our cooking gear and our menu uncomplicated. Sometimes we bring a gas grill, but an electric skillet, small convection oven and a microwave will cook just about anything we want to cook. And because cooking isn’t the goal… eating is the goal, we will go out to a restaurant or ordering delivery in a heart beat.

Alcoholic beverages: Yep. We are social drinkers, but we’re mercifully past the point of over, over indulging. But I guess it depends on your definition.

Outdoor activity: Although we do like to hike, bike, and kayak, we’re not what you would call “ate up” with any of it. We’re not going to race, worry about how quick or how far we go and we’re certainly not going to paddle, walk or peddle for more than a few hours. These are just fun things to do for a while and then you stop and go sit in a comfy chair in the shade.

Relax: You know, relaxing isn’t as easy as you might think. Some people simply have a hard time disconnecting and up until a few years ago, I was one of those people that just couldn’t sit still. But I’ve gotten pretty good at it, the last couple of years. I think it’s like the old saying: “Everything in moderation… including moderation”

Parting/staying up late: It’s the lucky couple that’s on the same page here. Neither is us like loud “party campers”. We like to sit up at night with friends and talk, play cards and then go to sleep… way sooner than I ever thought I would.

There’s more; but it’s a cool, quiet evening and Lori and Yogi have went inside to bed.

We’re on the road again tomorrow with miles to go.

Siri, give me donuts!

It’s Day 8

The sky is big here and the air cool at night, so we stayed up late last night like big kids; watching strange lights on Cheyenne Mountain and listening to the distant rumbling of our armed forces doing…something big.

This morning, just before sunrise Lori spotted 6 beautiful deer in our camp. They were about 30’ away from us when we came outside to sit in our chairs and they just ignored us. As we watched the sun come up we heard the faint sound of a bugle playing reveille at Fort Carson, so we figured it was Uncle Sam telling us that it was time for a morning hike with Yogi and then to head out for our drive up Pikes Peak.

It took us about an hour to drive up to the 14,000 foot tall summit in the all wheel drive Subaru that we rented. It was a fun car to drive on the steep winding roads… for me. It wasn’t quite a treat for Lori, who gets nervous with my driving at sea level, but I did my best to take my time. Up at the top, the view was stunning, but not as cold as I thought it would be. It was, however, 45 degrees, so the fresh hot donuts and hot chocolate hit the spot. I didn’t know what to expect so far as the altitudes affect on breathing and I didn’t notice much difference… until I started up a steep slope and then my body was like… nope! Not going to do it.

On the way back to camp we visited the “Manitou Cliff dwellings”. It was ok, but it was crowded and very commercialized with a gigantic, glitzy gift shop! I wonder what the Anasazi Indians would think. Anyway, it was about noon and we were anxious to get back and check on Yogi (who was at the motor home lounging in the bed, watching soap operas) so we left and thirty minutes later we were back at the campground.

After lunch and playing with Yogi for a while, we decided to go see the “Seven Falls”, which according to the internet, is the only waterfall in Colorado mentioned in the National Geographic? About halfway there, Lori’s phone “Siri”, who was supposed to keep us from getting lost… apparently lost her mind, so we tried my phone guidance system. The mechanical Australian voice on my phone wasn’t doing much better and then some lady’s voice chimed in from the cars computer! The next thing you know we had three people barking 3 different routes at us. It was chaos! I kept saying “What? What did he say? What do I do?” Lori was struggling to shut them off and finally held her phone in the air and shook it yelling “SHUT UP!”

Somehow we finally got there, just to find out from a guy standing in front of the gate that they don’t allow people to park there anymore. He pointed down the road. “You have to drive three miles that way, park and ride back here on a shuttle.”  I sighed. “Ok, how do we get there?”   He shrugged waved another car past. “I don’t know… I can give you the address?”  Well neither one of us wanted to see anything that bad, so we decided to visit the “Old Colorado City” downtown area instead. After our three mechanical guidance systems took us to the wrong place, we pulled over and pulled the plug on them, then found the place ourselves. After all that trauma, we ended up having drinks, fried pickles and a great time at a place called “Thunder and Buttons”.

The Old Downtown is the prefect area to shop, to dine, to have some fun and to get run over! It fronts one of the most dangerous roads I’ve ever seen. There’s four lanes of heavy traffic going 40 plus miles an hour, past the on-street, parallel parking spots and sidewalks and hundreds of shoppers wandering around trying to cross the street. It’s ridiculous. We hung out there for a couple hours and then decided to head back to camp, sober and not ran over.

.

Tomorrow, we take back the rental car and prepare for the next leg of our trip. Mesa Verde and the San Juan Loop road.

Cheyenne Mountain

Day 7

Ok. This is the worst rv park ever. The camp sites are small, stinky and dirty. So when Lori came up with the idea of moving to a nicer place… I was on board. She found one 20 minutes to the south on Cheyenne Mountain. Yeah, that place. The one where NORAD plans on surviving a nuclear attack buried under ground. (See “War Games”)

So when the car is delivered this morning at 8 am we grab breakfast at a some restaurant that was painted red, white and blue EVERYWHERE and then we drove south to check it out. It’s perfect! It has large, clean sites with modern facilities, beautiful views and it’s only about three hundred yards from an impregnable nuclear bunker. I dont know about the bunker, but there were no vacancies at the campsite. The ranger at the park told Lori to just keep checking back online and one might become available and when we were about half the way home, one did! The plan then became; go hiking at “Garden of the Gods”, then load up and move camp to the new site.

Even though “Garden of the Gods” is easily the most pretentiously named park anywhere, it is genuinely beautiful and today, 5,000 other tourists agreed with us. We got out for a short walk and some pictures, but there were too many people crawling all over to really enjoy it.   We decided that we would go back early in the morning and we drove  back to the stinky rv Park, threw all of our stuff in the motor home and then drove off in it like we stole it!

Tonight the three of us are sitting in the cool, clear mountain air, relaxing on top of the Cheyenne Mountain nuclear bunker, looking out over a beautiful vista, … for the first time since I don’t know when.

Tomorrow, We drive to Pikes Peak, for the delicious donuts!

Welcome to Colorado, Here’s some flies!

Day 6

The KOA at Wakeeny is literally 5’ from the roaring truck traffic of I-70, but for $2 they will make you two pancakes for breakfast that weight 5 lbs. a piece. As we walked over to the little A frame building, I was thinking that the pancakes were an attempt to make up for the location, but if it was, they need to work out something else, because these suckers aren’t any bigger than the usual pancake, they’re just incredibly dense and putty like.

After putting more air in Thor’s tires to counteract the weight of the pancakes that would be in our stomachs for the next few days, we drove out on I-70 again, determined to get to the end of the never ending road that we had heard so much about. And as predicted, we got hit with a couple of hours of driving rain, non stop truck traffic and a vicious cross winds that threw in a 25 mph gust every few seconds. For a good three hours I worked the wheel like a nascar driver. And then at the Colorado state line; the wind just stopped.

I guess I expected instant mountains and trees, but there wasn’t really much difference between Kansas and Colorado. Well, I guess they tried. In an effort to hide the hundreds of square miles of corn, they planted a single row of 10’ tall pine trees. But just for about the first 1/4 mile.

We were ahead of time so we decided to stop at the “Colorado Welcome Center”. We picked up some brochures and then when I got back to the truck I receached up for the door handle and I felt a twinge of pain in my shoulder joint. I slowly moved it through a range of motion. And then tried to put my arms up like I was grabbing a steering wheel. “Ow!!! Great! I have… ‘motor home shoulder’”!

We also left the Colorado Welcome center with two flys. Two flies that we swatted and cursed at all the way to the next camp ground. It was like the State of Colorado took a page out of KOAs customer service policy. “Welcome to Colorado. We’ll be wrenching your shoulder out of its socket as a toll, but here’s some flies to make up for it!”

Driving the rest of the way on the two lane road with a lame shoulder wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. But it was still a dangerous road. The terrain seems pretty flat, but you’re right at 6,000 feet elevation for most of the time which turned a simple rain storm into a hail storm that left piles of ice/snow on the road for miles. It was like being on another planet!

The last couple of hours, we kept looking in the distance for the rocky mountains to appear… but because of the odd “moon like” rolling terrain, and the rainy skies, we didn’t get a good view of them until we were all the way to Colorado Springs.

Oh, I almost forgot… we saw hundreds of enormous, ultra futuristic looking wind turbines along the way. I guess some people don’t like them, but I think they’re amazing! I felt like I was in a Star Wars movie. They’re remarkable pieces of engineering; they’re beautiful and what a great place to put them! It would be absolutely dumb not to have them. It would be like the Sunshine State not taking full advantage of the ridiculous amount of sunshine we get. Yeah, sorry. It seems as though the sun is bright in Florida, but that’s about all.

Tonight we camp in an RV Park at the foot of Pikes Peak that was hit hard by a flash flood two weeks ago and by a storm with softball sized hail that also wiped out pretty much every rental car in town. Tomorrow, if the weather holds out, were doing some heavy duty touristing!

And buying a damned flyswatter.

A Place to Call Home

Day 5

After the usual routine this morning, we hit the road at about 8 am. Our destination today was Wakeeney, Kansas and I don’t mind saying that I was really pumped up about it. Not the Wakeeny part, that’s just where the campground is. The going to Kansas part! Why, you ask? Well… I will tell you. My favorite rock band is the incredible group “Kansas”. I’m a big fan of “The Wizard of Oz”. I love the movie “Twister”. (I know… it doesn’t take place in Kansas, but it looks like it does.) And… ummm… I that’s about it. Anyway, here we go!

To get there, we needed to go through Missouri. I won’t bore you with all the movie stuff about “Big Mo” (“Search for Red October”, “The Missouri Breaks”, “Outlaw Josey Whales”) but I will tell you that as soon as we crossed the state line and got on Highway 65, everything changed. It was like road trips used to be. Shiny new billboards telling you about all kinds of interesting things like a restaurant where they throw dinner rolls at you. A place that gives you free chocolate candy if you stop by. The worlds biggest cave, the worlds most beautiful cave… there were all kinds of caves! There was even a place that was voted “America’s #1 new attraction”. It didn’t say what kind of attraction… just that it was number one.

Of course, we didn’t stop at any of them. But it was good to know that we could have. And food? Holy cow… you couldn’t trip and fall without getting a hamburger right in the face. Also, when it comes to naming things, the good people of Missouri apparently have a great sense of humor. We ran across a convenience store called “Kum and Go” (at least I think it’s a convenience store) A creek called “Little Sac” and another called “Dry Sac” and a town named “Peculiar”. The Main Street there? “Peculiar Way”.

Just before we crossed into Kansas, I asked Lori, who was navigating and doing all the song selection, to please play one song in particular when we crossed the border. It was awesome! As soon as we drove passed the Kansas sign, the unmistakable thundering beginning to “Song for America” by “Kansas” started playing. The lyrics to the song match up with our journey perfectly. It was one of those moments!

A moment that lasted 5 hours! I didn’t think Interstate 40 was ever going to end. And I’m not sure that I turned the steering wheel at all the entire time. I thought about just hooking a bungee chord to the steering wheel, because my arm was falling asleep! Instead, we killed some driving time by playing “find a tree”, discussing why the “Museum of Giant Insects” would be way the hell out here and by trying to coax our pouting dog Yogi out of the bedroom. He’s really mad at us for making him ride in a moving house. He’s so mad that I’m pretty sure he gave me the finger somehow.

But now we’re tucked in bed again… one big family in Wakeeny Kansas, whose tag line is (no joke) “Wakeeny. A place to call home”.

They’re right. We called home as soon as we got here.

We are what we know

It was quiet last night, except for the constant buzz of millions of cicadas. Lori’s cousin Lisa had visited us and her friend Tammie had generously left her pickup for us to use today for doing some exploring of the town before we were to meet her at a family potluck dinner at 2 o’clock.

So after taking Yogi for a walk and having some coffee, we drove to “the right Harris” and had a delicious breakfast at the Town House Café. It was in an old, worn downtown area that was obviously struggling. We walked around a bit after breakfast and then drove to an old grocery store that featured a giant, dump truck sized bull, high in the air above its sign. I have a lot of questions about this, but I guess I can just boil it down to, why? After grabbing a few things in the store, we went into an old pharmacy next door and looked around. When we came out we both realized that the old downtown, with its faded signs, abandoned buildings and the lack of something new was actually depressing us. Not that this town seemed much different than many others that we’d driven through on this trip, but we both decided to get the hell out of there and head back into the woods and the safe newness of the RV!

Yogi was glad to see us back at camp. So much so that he barfed a big wad of welcome grass on my bed spread! Poor guy. Riding in the motor home as it rattles and shakes around still makes him nervous. I guess all three of us are out our element. Hmmm… Our emotional state is easily affected by our surroundings and our surroundings are affected by our emotional state. Result? Puke on my bed!

As I was cleaning up our embarrassed dogs puke, our camp host stopped by on his golf cart. His arm was in a sling. “What’s up with your arm man?” I asked while rinsing out a dog puke rag. “Oh, this? This is to keep me from moving my arm. They put a pace maker in me cause I got this here A Fib thing.” He was a contractor before he retired and bought the trailer park, so we talked for a good 20 minutes about old guy medical stuff. Good times! I like that guy.

At dinner, I met some of Lori’s relatives on her moms side. They were a hoot! Really funny and great hosts. You know… I think they really like it in “the right Harris”. It’s what they know and it’s become part of them.

When we finished dinner we called Lori’s mom in Florida and tried to walk her through watching the live Facebook video we were broadcasting. That didn’t work, so we just went old school and talked on the phone with her and Lori’s brother David.

Right now Yogi is laying in bed next to Lori and I, snuggled against my leg. Safe.

Tomorrow… Kansas!

Small world in a big country

Day 3

After a meal of some great “Mississippi barbecue” last night and a good night sleep in a surprisingly comfy RV bed, we woke up this morning and were sitting outside drinking our coffee when another camper pulled up in his pickup truck and struck up a conversation. He asked about our rv, how the mirror visibility was, what kind of motor it had… you know… “rv talk”. Then he paused for a long awkward moment, looking straight ahead with his trucks motor running as we sat at our picnic table looking at him. Suddenly he turned towards us and said “Are you going to church this morning?” I’ve always been pretty quick on the draw mentally and verbally, but as I’ve gotten older, I find that I’m less prone to even filter something and more prone to just “cut to the chase”. In this case (and I kid you not) all of the following optional responses and many more “colorful” ones, ran through my mind in about three seconds: “What are you, my mom?” “That would be none of your business, pal.“ “I’m not quite drunk enough yet.” But, I could feel Lori looking at me, so I went with, “No.” He immediately drove off.  Ok, I know that we were camped squarely on the buckle of the Bible Belt, so maybe he was going to invite us to go to church with him or it was his way of seeing if we were “fellow Christians” or maybe he was doing some kind of mandatory Christian recruiting.  I certainly don’t  judge anyone for having their own religious beliefs as long as they do the same for everyone else, but this seemed like an obvious “Why aren’t you in church“,  So… I’m thinking he got off too easy.

Anyway, soon we were  packed up and on our way to our next stop…Arkansas!

A half hour into the drive I pulled into a “truck stop sized” McDonalds and Lori hopped into the drivers seat to take her turn. She insisted on driving it once around the parking lot first, to get the feel of it and then she did an awesome job driving us for the next 3 hours, all the way to “Where the hell are we” Arkansas (My wife is awesome!) even with me… navigating? The question mark is not a typo.

I don’t know about the rest of you couples, but Lori and I have a great system. One drives and the other navigates. I know that leads to a lot of arguments for some people, but it has worked really well for Lori and I for 20 years now. Never any problem.  Today, I had the simple task of putting in our destination and repeating the directions so Lori could hear them over Thor’s Mighty Roar. Simple. Except an hour past the Mississippi River I realized that I had absentmindedly clicked on the “over helpful spellchecks” suggestion of Harrisburg instead of Harrison, Arkansas. As it turns out, even in Arkansas those are different places, however, luckily for me, the directions to these cities were identical, up to the point in our trip that I figured out that I had screwed up.

Despite my apparent inability to read, we are finally at the end of our six hour journey and set up at a great campground in the “right Harris”. When we checked in, we found out that the park is owned by a really nice couple who just moved from the same place that we’re heading to…Colorado Springs, Colorado. It’s a big country, but a “small world”.

Tomorrow, we find out more about Lori’s Arkansas family tree!

The Mighty Thor and Tupelo Mississippi

After spending last night at the cabin in Hiawassee Georgia, we took the 3 hour drive to the RV rental place on the west side of Atlanta and were introduced to what would be our motorhome away from home for the next 14 days. The RV is a “Thor”.  “Awesome!” said my double dose of Scandinavia heritage.  I’m going to drive down the interstate with my head hanging out the window, yelling “Make way puny commuters! Behold! THE BALD HEADED GOD OF THUNDER!”  Yeah, Lori put the brakes on that.

After an hour of signing away our constitutional rights and showing us where the poop goes in and where the poop comes out and how to get in and out of the parking lot… we were off! Through the wrong gate. (And yes Fred! I was driving!)

Once we found the interstate and got it headed towards the west, the Mighty Thor proved to be a pretty nifty ride with great horsepower from its V-10 engine. It is the smallest Class A available, (24’) and it seems like it has plenty of room. (He said after the first 4 hours into a 2 week trip) Lori’s only critique so far is that there wasn’t an “Oh SHIT!” bar on the passengers side for her to hang onto… especially through Birmingham.

A couple of hours later we pulled into our campsite in Tupelo Mississippi. A place I would have never come to see otherwise. No offense to Tupelo, but there’s very few places that aren’t on that list for me. So, we’re plugged in, our bed is made (so that Yogi can get a good nights sleep) and dinners almost ready.  At least that’s what the “Tupelo to go” app on Lori’s Iphone says.

Ahhh! Camping!

The Rv to Colorado Chronicles: “Getting started getting started”

F84BD1BA-8E36-4AF1-8B4F-9DC9F310CABDIt sounded pretty simple a couple of months ago. “Let’s take an RV trip this summer to Colorado!” But then, my wife Lori and I started making plans. Where do we go? How do we get there? What are we driving? Where do we stay? What the hell do we do when we get there? And then the big one; what about the DOG!!! Oh yeah… and how do we manage to “sneak away” from our business and our family commitments for over two weeks.

I could write an entire book on all of those preparations, but so far as how well we prepared; the proof is in the pudding. (Is it Pudding? I’ve got to look that up later.) Anyway, the actual trip will be the best judge of that and because I like telling stories, my friends reading this blog can judge us too. Because that’s what real friends do!

It was our friends Kitty and John that gave me the idea to share the experience via a blog. They gave me a journal for my birthday! For you kids out there, it’s made of paper and you smear ink or graphite on it in “caveman font”. Anyway, with fingers crossed, my wife and I kiss, load up the dog and 1,500 lbs of stuff in the truck and we’re on our way.

“Do you have my keys?”