TREKing Once Again!
June 10th - July 25th 2000
We started TREKing from home in Maryland early Saturday morning June 10th and headed west toward Cincinnati, our first stop. Little traffic and a beautiful day made for easy driving across scenic I-68 in Western Maryland and West Virginia, I-70 in Pennsylvania and Ohio and I-71 in central Ohio. We are using Interstates this time to make our deadlines at Boulder, Colorado and San Diego, California. We neglected to stop at the Columbus zoo, but headed instead to Cincinnati where we arrived at the Cincinnati Zoo at 2:30 pm. After "doing" the zoo and to our surprise, the Cincinnati area county campground we had picked was full, we drove across the border to Indiana and camped at Thousand Lakes in Batesville. On Sunday morning, "The Room with a View" traveled for 45 minutes to the Indianapolis zoo where we arrived an hour before the zoo opened! Indiana doesn't change to daylight savings time. Thank goodness we decided to wait around until the zoo opened for this is a fabulous zoo. By noontime, we left Indianapolis and drove across Illinois to the Quad Cities of Moline, Rock Island, Davenport and Bettendorf all sitting on the banks of the Mississippi. We camped at a Corps of Engineers (COE) campground, Fisherman's Corner, located on the bank of the Mississippi across from Lock 14 for two nights. The campground had full amenities, which is unusual for a COE camp ground. Monday started off as a rainy day and, by the end of the day, the temperature had dropped to the low 70's. We went to the Niabi Zoo, a very small zoo with small primates, birds, couple zebras, and a single elephant. Unfortunately, this zoo is home to only a single elephant, so like the Scranton elephant that came to DC's zoo, this elephant must think she is the biggest thing in the world, but she is obviously bored in the small environment. Moline is the home of the John Deere Corporation and has a large pavilion displaying the huge tractors, columbines, and other agriculture implements. Rock Island sits on the Moline (east) side of the Mississippi River, the home of the Rock Island Arsenal and Lock 15. We toured the Arsenal's museum, located in a post Civil War building, and stopped at the COE's Lock 15 to see a Tow barge lock through. Did you know: Rock Island was the location of Fort Armstrong built in 1816-17. The fort was named after the Secretary of War who was Carolyn's ancestor on the Gibson side. The island was a major prisoner of war camp during the Civil War because the site was remote from the fighting. The island has a National Cemetery, a Confederate Cemetery and an active Army/Marine Corps supply base.
The last several days we have observed the fields of the breadbasket of the USA sproutings corn, soybeans, and other crops. All of the land is flat-flat-flat.
What an exciting Tuesday this was. We left Moline on our way to Omaha with a stop at Council Bluffs to see the Lewis and Clark Memorial that overlooks the Missouri River. The signs to the Memorial are not good. Once again the GPS was a great asset in navigating through the town and finding the right road to the Memorial. We had patches of rain and wind all the way across Iowa. We arrived at Omaha at 1:30 with the intention of going to the zoo just off I-80. As we exited the Interstate, there was traffic and pedestrians galore. The stadium, the IMAX theater, and the zoo share the same parking lots and the stadium had people pouring in to see the College Baseball World Series. Needless to say, there was no room in the inn for an RV to park, so we decided to go right to the campground (Famcamp) at Offutt AFB. We got our slip and parked when the sky darkened and the storm began. This is tornado territory and we had the radio on reporting the tornados in the area. Cass County, where Offutt AFB is located, had a tornado warning until 5 pm. People came around the campground telling us to go to the shower house where there are no windows. The base then sounded the siren warning everyone to take cover. We stayed in the shower, meeting and talking with the other campers for an hour until it was safe to return to the RV. Fortunately, no tornado touched down, and there was a tiny bit of non-damaging hail. However, we had a leak over the front dash in the RV where water drained into the ceiling of the cabinets. We moped up the water and traced the source of the leak. As the storm was over, the next event was dinner. We telephoned to see if the Officers Club was open and they said service would be slow since they had just spent several hours in the basement because of the tornado warning. Great dinner - chateaubriand for two - at the "O" Club to finish the evening. The evening sky was beautiful as the front moved through the area… blue sky and the reflecting setting sunlight on the clouds turning them rich shades of pink.
The next day, we have to check the roof out to see where the water was pooling. We stopped at a hardware store to pick up caulking to fix the roof. The seal along the roof between the cab and the roofline needed to be recaulked. John, the repairman, accomplished the task in swift order.As it turned out, the baseball games from Tuesday were postponed till Wednesday because of the weather. The zoo had also closed around 3 pm the day before because of the tornado alert. We arrived at the zoo about 8:45 and had trouble talking our way into the parking lot for they didn't want to park an RV there because of the ball game beginning at noon. We finally spoke to the right person and they let us park near the end of the lot. The Henry Doorly Zoo was unimpressive and to boot, they had no lapel pins, which I collect. Wednesday was a much nicer day with blue sky until about 10:30 am, when it clouded over as we left Omaha.
Driving I-80 was a constant struggle because of wind gusts, particularly the cross winds. No more rain. Our weather alert radio is very useful to have. The radio receives the broadcasts, alerts, and warnings put out by NOAA. We arrived at North Platte late in the afternoon of the 14th. Did you know this is the home of Wild Bill Cody, ergo Buffalo Bill Cody? This is where Cody suggested that a big "Blowout" be held on the 4th of July and thus was the birth of the Rodeo. Held every year in June here in North Platte is the NEBRASKAland Days. June 9-20 offers rodeos, dancing, quilt contests, shoot-outs, and other "wild west" activities. We thought we would have problems getting a campground, but there were three spots left in this one campground. No, we didn't go to the rodeo, but we did tour Buffalo Bill's Scouts Rest Ranch to see his home and barn full of his "stuff". When not at Scouts Ranch, he was touring the US and Europe with his Wild West Show. He holds the record of killing over 4,000 buffalo within eight months. North Platte is also the home of the largest railroad classification yard in the world, Bailey Yard. Every 24 hours the Yard handles over 10,000 railroad cars and over 3,000 are sorted daily. The Yard handles 130 trains daily bound for cities in the east, west, and gulf coast. 70% of the train traffic through the Yard is composed of "unit" trains or trains of coal, auto, refrigerated, grain, etc. 114 tracks are in the classification bowls for east and westbound traffic. They are gathering the money to build a large "Golden Spike Tower" and Visitor Center so visitors can overlook the Yard.
East of North Platte is the first arch built over an Interstate highway. The grand opening of the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument is scheduled for July 19, but the arch was open to visitors starting on June 9. This Monument commemorates the pioneers who traveled the Oregon and Mormon Trails. We didn't visit the arch, but the monument, at eight stories high, does dominate the vista for miles out in the middle of nowhere - actually east and near the town of Kearny.
Cheyenne Wyoming is our destination for Thursday. By the time we finish this trip the only states not filled in our USA map on the RV door, since we got the TREK in 1998, will be the New England states and little ol' Kansas! Yup, we missed going through Kansas. Our choice was either miss Kansas or miss Nebraska and Wyoming and Kansas did not have enough zoos to merit a deviation. This is the 4th and 5th TREK trip across the country - John counts each leg, i.e. Atlantic to the Pacific or Pacific to Atlantic as a trip.
Man did it get cold! The temperature dropped, the skies clouded over, and we had to turn on the furnace and get out the jeans and heavy shirts! Warren AFB in Cheyenne is an historic base named first for someone named Russell, then changed to honor the first Governor and then Senator Warren. The base is the home of the Strategic Air Command and housed the ICBM and Minuteman missiles. Cheyenne is a pretty state capitol with wide streets, a gold leafed Capitol dome, and a restored train depot. Our next hop was only 150 miles to Estes Park, Colorado where Carolyn had vacationed several times in her early youth. We took a scenic circle drive from Estes Park south to Lyons and back and while in Lyons stopped to visit the little museum and to get an ice cream cone. The lady at the museum said that the temperature was 90 degrees last week, today the temperature is 48!
Saturday, June 17, we woke up to a very quiet morning…it was SNOWING!!!! Yup, snow was coming down and two inches of the stuff was on the ground. We couldn't see the mountains! The view was beautiful with a layer of snow on the pine trees. We are staying at the Blue Arrow Campground, which has quite a historic background. Buildings were removed from Bear Lake and reconstructed on this ground. The town was named Rimrock and was used as a movie set for such westerns as Bonanza. We drove up to the Rocky Mountain National Park and stopped at the visitor center and then drove to the parking lot for the Bear Lake shuttle. The shuttle runs every fifteen minutes to take you to three drop off points for hiking and to Bear Lake. We walked around the lake; clothed in what winter clothes we had with us, admiring the beautiful scenery, which by this time was enhanced by blue sky and fluffy white clouds. Trail Ridge Drive was closed due to the snow, but we were able to drive around the Moraine Park area, visit the Moraine Park Museum then over to the Falls River Visitor Center. We saw a number of elk with their furry antlers, but didn't see any big horn sheep. We saw where the sheep crossed the road to get water and people were wainting to see them. In the afternoon, we went to the fairgrounds to see the Wool Market, which is reputed to be the largest in the world. Alpaca, llama, sheep, and vicuna animals are all being shown and the wool is being judged for its quality. Spinning is coming back in a big way for there were lots of spinning wheels being sold, demos of how to spin the wool, and lots of bundles of raw wool were being sold. We also walked through the town, which has lots of upscale stores selling paintings, stained glass, stuffed animals, etc. We even got some Christmas shopping done. The afternoon turned out to be beautiful with not a cloud in the sky, however we were still dressed in our jeans and sweatshirts.
On Sunday, we left for Boulder via the south bound scenic highway through the mountains. Today featured blue sky- all the way and the scenery was spectacular. Rugged mountains, bubbling streams, and brilliant blue sky made our day. John's meeting in Boulder was at the Colorado University on Monday and we parked out back and moved into the Best Western Motel for the night. Boulder sits at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and has a spectacular backdrop for a city. Picture postcard quality! We went to the CU Natural History Museum and found the displays to be excellent. The explanations of why they were exhibiting, what they were exhibiting, and relationship to other exhibits was fully explained. We especially liked the archeology exhibit with the dinosaurs and the way they presented the time period, size of the animal, type of diet, type of birth (egg or live), and speed of travel. Thus, each could be compared to the other very easily. Boulder is the home of the Celestial Seasonings Plant where all their tea is made and packaged. They have a tasting room and a tour of the facility. On Sunday, of course, the plant is not working, but there is a tour. Many of the herbal teas are made from the leaves of the plants, not tea plants, but the herbal plants. Tea is made from the top leaves or the pekoe leaves of the tea plant. The peppermint herbs are kept in a special room for the aroma is very strong. Everyone on the tour had tears in their eyes and cleared sinuses!!
Monday after John's meeting, we drove on to Denver so we would be close to visit the zoo on Tuesday morning. We arrived at the zoo just as they opened at 9 am. The Denver Zoo is in the middle of the City Park and is an excellent zoo. The environment for the animals is excellent, signage is outstanding, and there are lots of docents and keepers around to talk with and ask questions. We spent three hours at the zoo and could have spent more. Heading west out of town toward the Rocky Mountains, we experienced spectacular scenery as we climbed to an elevation of 11,190 feet. We passed Vail and Copper Mountain, which are right on I-70, and Breckenridge which is south of the interstate.
The rushing Colorado River, gurgling past our campsite, traveling at about 12-15 mph, small rapids, steeply rising banks and mountains surround us. We traveled I-70 today amidst gorgeous scenery…brilliant blue sky, sharp snow covered mountain peaks, then into Glenwood Canyon, where the roadway was stacked on one side of the Colorado River and the railroad track ran down the other bank. We wondered how a campground could fit between the Interstate and the river. The canyon widened out and a scant area about two football fields in area allowed for a campground to be nestled on the banks of the Colorado. We are just a mile east of the town of Glenwood Springs, which harbors hot springs for bathing. The pool appears to be a city block or more in length. Raft rides are a favorite activity along this stretch of the Colorado. The railroad runs freight, Amtrak and the American Orient Express. The 9:10 pm freight train was very noisy with squeaky wheels.
Wednesday morning was another beautiful blue sky day and time to head further west through more spectacular canyon land scenery. Grand Junction, 27 miles from the Utah border, was named for the junction of the Colorado and the Gunnison Rivers. To the east of Grand Junction is Grand Mesa reported to be the largest flat-topped mountain in the world. The view doesn't fit into the panoramic viewfinder! Just west of the town is the Colorado National Monument. There is a 26 mile drive up the valleys and on top of the canyon. Many times you could say "watch out for the clifffff" as the RV went around the curves. Independence Monument, Coke Ovens, and Balanced Rock are just some of the fantabulous views of the formations in the park. We decided to call it a day and pulled into a nice KOA in Richfield, UT. The RV had not had a bath since we washed it in Nebraska, so out with the bucket and some soap. The KOA furnished the water. The area was so dry, John had to do the washing in sections or the soapy water would dry on the RV.
More of the same gorgeous weather and scenery as we continued on Thursday and pulled into the Oasis Campground in Las Vegas by one o'clock. We had stayed at the Oasis last year and had called ahead to get a choice location near the pool. The campground has full hookups, including telephone connections, at each site. By three o'clock, we were all settled and on our way by campground shuttle into the strip area of Vegas. Our first stop was at the Rivera to get our tickets for the seven o'clock show of "Splash". The Rivera is on the north end of the strip, so we spent our time wandering through some of the casinos around that area before having the buffet across the street at the Stardust. "Splash" is a musical revue of sorts with special effects, dancing girls and guys, jugglers and four motorcyclists the ride around inside a fourteen foot diameter sphere at an unbelievable speed!! Great evening. We caught the 10:30 shuttle back to the RV.
Our plans for Friday (June 23) included a dip in the pool and a ten am shuttle ride to the south end of the strip, where we picked up our tickets for the evening's entertainment at the Monte Carlo Casino. This casino was near "Paris" which had opened the day after we left town last year. We started our tour of Paris, but got interrupted with a delightful lunch at the Café St. Louis. The French onion soup was in our top five in the world and served at a proper temperature not to burn your mouth. Paris is connected by fancy shops and restaurants to Ballys next door. After we saw the "Sights of Paris", we came out the front of Ballys and went across the street to Caesar's Palace. We saw the "Atlantis" show once again and marveled at the architecture as we toured through Caesar's and walked over to the Mirage to see Siegfried and Roy's cats. Lance Burton, master magician, as always, had a great show that evening. Afterwards, we went across the "Strip" to Allen Albert's for a delicious steak dinner. Las Vegas has helped the visitors by having trams or monorails between the newer casinos. Trams operate between Bally's and MGM on one side of the strip and the Bellagio to Monte Carlo to Luxor on the other side. Caesar's has a tram to Treasure Island. Our friendly shuttle driver met us at 10:30 for the ride to our grand "residence".
Saturday morning we drove towards San Diego, but stopped at Camp Pendleton Marine Base. The lovely campground at San Onofre right smack on the beach was to nice to pass by. We were in overflow, (not a fixed site) but we had a great spot on the hillside looking at the water. We strolled along the beach watching the surfers who weren't really catching any waves. The water was a little too chilly to swim. The campground was between the beach and the railroad track, but fortunately, no trains came during the night. From Vegas to the beach, we went from 100 degree heat and air conditioning to needing a blanket at night!
Sunday morning we proceeded down the freeway to Campground on the Bay at San Diego right on the north east side of Mission Bay. The campground has 600+ sites, small, but "location, location, location" is everything! We took the scooter off the back and John headed to the Catamaran Hotel just two miles away for the afternoon meeting of the Council of the Institute of Navigation (ION). By six o'clock, John returned to pick Carolyn up and we went back to the hotel to have dinner with long time ION friends. From Monday through Friday, John "commuted" to the ION meeting and his two days of IDA meetings via the scooter. The scooter ride straight down Pacific Beach Road was easy with very little traffic. On Monday, Carolyn took the local bus and visited the San Diego Zoo once again. The zoo has three pandas, one born last year. Unfortunately, Carolyn didn't get to see the pandas. They are not on exhibit during the hottest part of the day, i.e., 12 to 4. When was Carolyn at the zoo??? Yup, that was the time!
The ION meeting went from Monday through Wednesday. This was a combined meeting of the US ION and the International ION. The IION meets every three years in the country of the current President, so this was our turn to be the host country. Three years from now, the meeting will be in Berlin. On Tuesday, Carolyn and Patty, whose husband, Jim, who works with John at IDA, was also at the meeting, went to Sea World and enjoyed the shows - Shamu, dolphins, sea lions, Pirates 4-D, and the bird show. Tuesday evening the ION had a lovely buffet dinner on the beach followed by Hawaiian entertainment. One of the young girls who were doing the hula and other Hawaiian dances had Down's Syndrome and, of course, she had no problem doing all the dances. Wednesday was the awards banquet preceded by a boat ride around Mission Bay.
On Thursday, while John and Jim had IDA related meetings, Carolyn and Patti drove out to the Wild Animal Park, a wonderful place for the animals to roam essentially free and intermingled. Of course, predators and prey are not in the same areas! The day was very hot as we walked around the park, we were glad to return to the bay area where there are cool breezes. Dinner that night for the four of us was steak on the grill at the campsite. John finished his meetings on Friday afternoon, so dinner for the four of us that night was at "Su Casa" on La Jolla Blvd for their King Crab Special.
Saturday was relaxation day for John. We stayed put at Campland on the Bay and put the kayak together and paddled around Mission Bay against the wind and the waves. Many jet skis were out on the bay kicking up the water and making lots of waves. In addition, the wind never stopped blowing. The campground was full since this was the weekend before the 4th of July. Music and all kinds of activities were sponsored by the campground. On Sunday, we left and drove to Point Loma and Cabrilio National Park, where in addition to enjoying the view, John checked the men's room (remember the $1,240 that he found there several years ago and returned to a Japanese couple who had inadvertently placed the traveler check wallet on the toilet tissue holder!) While at the overlook at Cabrilio National Park, we met a San Diego couple who told us of the plans for the 4th at Coronado. The US Navy Seals do a mock invasion on a beach with helicopters and special forces attack boats. We picked up a delicious fish sandwich at another of our "must do" places, the Point Loma Seafood House, and headed out to Coronado and the Naval Amphibious base and the Fiddler's Cove Campground.
The campground is right on San Diego Bay South of Coronado. We opted to be in the overflow area (no electricity or water), which meant that the RV was parked thirty yards away from and facing the water! This is called "Dry Camping" or roughing it, although we really don't rough it with the self contained amenities of the TREK. What a beautiful place.
The Coronado Bridge and the skyline of San Diego and the lower Bay are the view from the "Room with the View", the TREK's front window!! We were intending on staying just one night, but decided that since we didn't want to drive on the 4th of July, we may as well stay here for three nights! Our neighbors have a Safari RV made by the same company that makes the TREK. Fred is a retired Navy civilian, who used to work at North Island, but spent many years in the Philippines. His wife was born and raised in the Philippines. We joined them and their extended family and Navy friends for dinner. John loves the scooter and takes every opportunity to hop on and drive north and south along the beach. The wide tires provide great traction in the sand. While awaiting the local festivities on the 4th, we just hung out, read, did some trip planning for the trip back east and some hiking. The water is a little chilly for swimming. Every day was blue sky and on the 4th we scootered the two miles north to where the Seals celebrated the 4th with over 10,000 San Diego citizens. The opening ceremony was a Seal paratrooper bailing out of a helicopter trailing the American Flag. He synchronized his decent to land on the beach just as the crowd sang the last word of the National Anthem. The demonstration of military skill continued with an attack on the beach with helicopters and fast attack boats. Seals jumped and repelled out of helicopters and a C-130, while others stormed the beaches with all kinds of boom-booms and simulated machine gun bang-bangs. One helicopter landed eight Seals on a barge and then retrieved them by lifting them from the barge on a long rope. The eight Seals, hanging at least 100 feet below the helicopter, were then flown down the beach over the crowd. Everyone was waving and clapping their hands. The day concluded that evening in front of the TREK with at least twelve different fireworks displays around San Diego Bay. We kept swiveling our heads to "look at that", "look over there"! Lots of ohing and ahing. We partied the night away with our RVing neighbors. Some of the stories we told each other were even true!!
On Wednesday, we packed up, watered the camel, dumped the sewage and headed East across California to Yuma, AZ. Our goal is the Yuma Proving Grounds and the Fam Camp. We followed the Mexican/US border on I-8 as we went from sea level in San Diego to a midpoint of about 4,500 feet altitude and then back down to below sea level in the Imperial Valley. As we drove parallel to the Mexican border the scenery changed from desert to rock to lush irrigated land back to desert. The Imperial Valley is the breadbasket of the country, so they say, but all we saw being grown was hay, potatoes (we think), and corn. As we approached Yuma, AZ, we realized that the Army base was 30 miles north of the city and we opted to stay closer to I-8. We chose a campground that was on the Colorado River, but you wouldn't know it. You had to walk a little distance and you could peer down into the river. Yuma is known as the snowbird capital for the winter. The campground, where we are stayed, has 800 sites and everyone, but about 10, are empty this time of year. Fortunately, the pool is open and delightful. We just sat in the comfortable water! The temperature on our thermometer is 112!! Hamburgers on the grill tonight along with catching up on correspondence and reading as the temperature cooled to 86 degrees. Who cares as long as the TREK AC keeps us cool. Carolyn did a laundry despite my efforts to stop her. We both have more than enough h clean clothes to last through 1 August.
Early up the next morning to drive the 195 miles to Tucson. As we approached the area, we deviated to the west to tour through the Arizona-Sonora Desert. At the Saguaro National Park's Visitors Center we saw the introductory film and was amazed at the life history of the Saguaro Cactus. Saguaro only grows in Arizona, in California around the Colorado River, and in Sonora district of Mexico. This plant grows to be over 40 feet tall, lives for over 200 years, and produces a flowering fruit after 40 years. These are the cacti under which Snoopy's friend, Spike, would sit! Next, we found the Sonora Desert Museum and spent several hours walking through an amazing exhibit. Museum is a misnomer for this zoo, aviary, earth science exhibition and hiking area. The place is a must do for anyone visiting in the Tucson area. We did not bring water with us, but fortunately there was cold water coolers along the paths and midway through the place, there was a soft ice cream shop!! Plan a minimum of three hours.
By five that evening, we got our campsite at the lovely Davis-Montham AFB FamCamp. We missed the lady manager by a few minutes, thus we selected a site and registered the next morning to register and got a map of the base. Davis-Montham is much more than a very active Air Force base. The facility houses the largest collection of aircraft in the world and has been operational since the end of WW II. The climate and soil composition in the Tucson area are ideal for storing aircraft. A large site north of the city is for the world's commercial aircraft. To the east of the city is the AFB with rows and rows of aircraft and parts of aircraft. We arrived at the Pima Air & Space Museum in time for the nine o'clock bus tour of the Aircraft Maintenance and Reclamation Center (AMARC). John saw a lot of "old friends" this day. There are rows of navy A-4's, A-6's, F-14's, S3A's, P-3C's, AV-8B's, F-4's, and F-14's. There are extensive rows and fields of more rows of Air Force and Army fighter, cargo, and bomber aircraft and every kind of helicopter built over the past 50 years.
The aircraft are stored in three different ways, depending on the requirements of the military program managers of the army, navy, air force and marines. Some can be airborne in two to five days. Others are retrievable for use in about two weeks and then there is the true bone yard of aircraft that are used for parts to keep the current aircraft operational when they are out of production. The forth category of aircraft are those subject to the chopping block, mostly bombers, as part of the reduction in force agreements with the Russians. Others are sold for scrap as so much per ton. They have a huge guillotine for cutting the bombers and really obsolete aircraft apart after cannibalizing engines and avionics . Grown men have been known to break down and cry while witnessing the guillotine in operation. There are over 500 F-4's that belong to the navy, marines and the air force, since all three services flew this aircraft. The "flyable" aircraft are stored in different types of cocoons to preserve them. For quick retrieval, planes were stored in reusable bags. Otherwise, all seams and openings were sealed with a material like substance removal by chemicals and water. The more valuable aircraft parts are salvaged and stored for fleet use. Many other nations also use the AMARC to store their aircraft and obtain spare parts for inventory aircraft. AMARC is a profitable operation. Our tour guide claimed that every dollar spent in salaries in reclamation is worth twenty dollars in cost avoidance. If you have the money, you can even buy a demilitarized aircraft, ranging from cargo to fighters, from AMARC. Many police and other parts of the government use the aircraft for their special purposes. This place was like a huge "sandbox" for John. He had many dealings with the base in his former life, but never got to see the place before. All he had seen was pictures of the stored planes taken by people that he had sent here to get everything from altimeters to inertial systems.
After the tour of AMARC, we spent the rest of the time till closing (three o'clock) touring the Pima Air & Space Museum. This privately funded museum is the third largest museum of its type in the world only being exceeded by the Smithsonian and Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, OH. Currently, there are five hangers, but as the collection of aircraft continues, more are being built. Since 1976, when the place opened, over two million visitors have toured the site. We first got on an introduction walking tour through several hangers and then took an hour tram ride to get an overview of the collection. Later, we hiked around for our own tour to visit up close with more of John's "friends". Carolyn had to endure an afternoon of memories and sea stories!! What a place to be a docent. A day is not sufficient to really see the museum and AMARC. At any time you can also look up and see military aircraft being flown in and out of the base. Sadly, in some cases, this is the last flight for some aircraft. An amazing fact, however, is that over 21% of the aircraft stored here are restored and fly another day, sometimes for an other country, but mostly to rejoin the fleet. We got some great pictures to bore our friends with when we get home. On example of aircraft storage that John knew about was the S-3 aircraft. The navy initially bought 40 aircraft extra with a fixed price contract and stored the brand new S-3's in the desert for about five years until they were needed by the fleet. The cost savings by making the aircraft "ahead of scheduled use" was enormous rather than keeping a costly production line open. The evenings entertainment consisted of dinner at the very nice "O" Club on base and afterwards in "The Room With The View" some Crème De Menthe as we watched a rerun of "Patton" on our satellite TV.
The next day, Saturday, was Carolyn's turn to be the tour leader, as we visited the Reid Park Zoo here in Tucson. The place is not large, but the zoo directors get their use out of the property. All of the exhibits are open except the aviaries. The highlight of this zoo day was watching a three day old giraffe get her sea legs as she pranced around to her watchful mother's concern. In the afternoon, we hiked up several miles of Sabino Canyon from the Coronado National Forest Visitor's Center and bathed our feet in the mountain stream. We did some food shopping and headed back to the FamCamp where Carolyn spent several hours on the internet at the well equipped office. Later, when we found out that the "O" Club was having a prime rib special, we opted to again partake of the ambience of the base.
Tombstone, the "town too tough to die" is the place where the Earp brothers had a shootout with the Clanton gang at the OK Corral. Tombstone burned down twice and suffered through an earthquake whose center was in Mexico, and each time rebuilt. Sunday, July 9, we drove the 113 miles from Tucson to Tombstone on a back scenic road. The vistas of the mountains were spectacular. Tombstone was founded by Ed Schieffelin, who came for Camp Huachuca to prospect and found gold and silver in "them thar hills". Lawlessness, saloons, "ladies of the night" and the Boothill Graveyard are what history remembers of this town, but a lot of gold and silver was mined here before the earthquake flooded the mines. The O.K. Corral shootout is performed everyday at 2 pm. In addition, there are several other shootouts on the town streets. The Tombstone Epitaph building is the location where the oldest continuously published paper in Arizona is still being printed. The Bird Cage Theatre was built in 1881 and remains unchanged with original fixtures, furnishings and interior intact and is now a museum. Lily Langtree, Eddie Foy, Ethel Barrymore just to name a few appeared at the Bird Cage Theatre. The name came from the compartments or bird cage cribs, that are self suspended from the ceiling overhanging the gambling and dance hall. Here in the compartments the prostitutes plied their trade. The refrain for the song "she's only a bird in a gilded cage" became a popular song in the 1880's. Directly below the stage is a poker room where the longest poker game in western history occurred. A house game where players had to buy in for $1,000 for a seat in the game. The game ran continually for 8 years, 5 months and 3 days!!! Camillus W. Fly is a famous pioneer and wild west photographer and displays of his photos include Geronimo, Apache Indians, Tombstone burning, earthquake damage in Mexico, and the surrender of Geronimo.
Monday July 10 we drove east on I-10 and stopped in Mesilla to have a good Mexican lunch at the La Posta in the old town square. As we parked the RV, we discovered that the restaurant is closed on Mondays! Bummer. Well, just down the block is the El Patio restaurant, so we had a marguerita and a delightful Mexican lunch. The town also had a Nambe Foundry store. We bought two pieces - a small serving platter and a small bowl. Nambe is silver like, however, the material is a new metal in which you can cook and serve. Food stays warm or cold - how do it know?? Onward to El Paso where we stopped at the zoo first before going to the Fort Bliss FamCamp. The El Paso zoo is a small but quality little zoo and surprisingly has three orang utans! The habitats are natural with lots of shade, water, and places to hide.
Wow is this area hot! The evenings cool down, but the days are very hot, like 104+. Fort Bliss has an outstanding campground, but one thing they recommend is not to leave your awnings out because of the winds. The mountains toward Mexico are red and brown in the evening sun. A storm passed through the area and once again our weather alert machine worked for we were warned of severe thunderstorms. El Paso sits on the border and the Mexican city of Juarez is just across the bridge.
On Tuesday, we TREKed eastward through very desolate country. One must make sure to have gas, for there are very few gas stations along the way! The hop between El Paso and San Antonio is very big, and today was a long day, and we got a very late start - 10:30!! We arrived in Junction and camped after driving 448 miles and what was to become our forth longest daily drive. Most days on the road we drive from 200 to 300 miles. On Wednesday, we drove the last 130 miles to San Antonio. Stopping at the zoo we found that the San Antonio zoo is a small old zoo with many old habitats. Their newer Rift Valley and Wetlands exhibits are much better.
We camped at the FamCamp at Fort Sam Houston, but first visited the Medical Museum on the base. The Museum documented the changes in the delivery of care to the injured soldiers of all of the wars since 1776. The museum had a WW II medical evacuation train car showing the environment in which the injured were transported to their destination. An interesting plaque was on Dr. John Billings, a surgeon during the Civil War. After the war, his contributions to medicine included; designing part of Johns Hopkins Hospital; working as the deputy librarian at the Army Medical Library, which subsequently became the National Library of Medicine; and being a consultant to Holerith to design punch cards to keep medical records. Holerith punch cards played a part in the knitting industry and became the basis of IBM. The Billings auditorium at the National Library of Medicine is named for Dr. John Billings.
That evening, we called our friends Robert and Sharon at the Kingdom Ranch and discovered that they were already back at the ranch from Houston. Thus, rather than seeing more sights in San Antonio, we headed east for a hundred miles on Thursday morning with a stop to pick up ice cream ingredients. We arrived about 11 am and stayed until Monday morning. We did as much as we could to clean up the "job jar" with great supervision from Robert! John dug a ditch down to the gray water drains to see why the drain wasn't draining and unclogged the pipe; he and Robert were up at 6:30 the next morning to take advantage of the cool mornings for oiling huisache (a very thorny bush that really propagates) in the pastures. We did more of this on Sunday morning with Sharon driving the tractor. John got a kick out of the riding lawn mower and attempted to mow everything in sight around the cabin until Robert urged him to leave grass outside the fenced yard for the cows to eat. We picked mustang grapes that grow wild on the trees and made gallons and gallons of grape jelly and syrup. Robert and John fixed part of the pasture fence (never ending job), while Carolyn, who is a computer expert, tried to help figure why they could not get on the Internet from the Kingdom in the last couple of months. John finished the job of oiling the tracks on the boxcar so the doors would close easier. Other highlights of our visit were experimenting with homemade ice cream, starting the celebration of Robert's 60th birthday a week early, moving an old fire hydrant to the garden, and seeing Carolyn, the cow!! Robert's herd has about 75 producing cows. As the babies are born, they either are sent to market or kept for production. If a cow stops producing little ones or doesn't produce them in a timely and money producing fashion, off to market they go! All cows retained receive a name and are "very spoiled". Each evening Robert and Sharon go out on the tractor to feed the cows a treat. Thus, they gather round when they hear the tractor coming. While we were at the Kingdom, we had to see "Carolyn" a couple times. She was still skittish to approach people, so she never took any nuggets out of our hand. She is beauuuuutifuuul tiger striped cow!
John had a fun time on the scooter at the Kingdom. With the wide tires, riding over the cow pasture "bumps' was no problem. He rode all of the Kingdom's fence lines and reported back to the foreman, Robert, on the status of the fence. The cows were amazed and curious of the scooter, but did not like the high pitched horn. Herding cattle with the scooter was a lot of fun. Over all, with the scooter commuting and joy riding around Mission Bay in San Diego and riding along the beach of the San Diego Bay south of Coronado, we put over 100 miles on the scooter. Our TREK has gone where most RV's would fear to go. So hasn't the Wee TREK, our scooter. The next time we get license plates for the scooter we intend to get personalized "Wee TREK" plates to go along with the "WE TREK" license plates on the TREK.
We wanted to make mint ice cream and the stores didn't have mint extract so we used Creme de Menthe … however, too much was used and the concoction was more like antifreeze… it wouldn't freeze…but VERY tasty!!! And all this in record high heat of 102-105 with no rain. On Saturday evening Sharon's mom treated us to a delicious homemade Lebanese meal at her home in Victoria and then to a play, Fiddler on the Roof, put on by the Victorian Players.
We left the Kingdom again in hotttt weather and headed to Dallas-Fort Worth where the temperature is hotter still. We camped at a COE campground on Benbrook lake on the southwest side of Fort Worth and a short distance from the zoo. Subsequently, we visited both the Fort Worth Zoo and the Dallas Zoo. The World of Primates at the Fort Worth Zoo is a fantastic environment for gorillas, orang utans, chimps, bonobos, mandrills, and gibbons. John's cousin, Patrick John McHale, and his family live just north of Dallas and we were able to visit with them for the evening and see their new home and their new business--A Mailboxes Etc Store that they opened in December. The following day our next stop in the Dallas area was visiting with Phillip and Nancy, friends we met over the years at the ION meetings. They will be in Washington DC next year. Phil was award a one year Congressional Fellowship by the ION. They showed us around Dallas to the arboretum, Kennedy monuments, the grassy knoll, the science museum, and the train museum. Their backyard was an excellent B&B for two nights.
Continued hot weather followed us as we drove through Arkansas, however, the evening turned a little cooler. Two sights we visited in Memphis were Graceland, Elvis Presley's home, and the Memphis Zoo where they have three orang utans and several gorillas, siamangs and colobus monkeys. Their exhibit on the Animals of the Night was fascinating. Even though the parking lot at Graceland was less than half full, there was a 90 minute wait for the tour. We wonder what the wait is during high season. The self guided tour is professional with each person carrying a tape cassette and walking through the house at their own leisure seeing the various rooms with the 1950's-60's décor. Elvis bought Graceland for $100,000 in 1958. The trophy room displays most of his gold and platinum records and other honors he received. Visitors can also tour his two airplanes and automobile museum, which we did not do. Weather is a little cooler, just in the upper 80's.
We had another long day on Sunday driving 484 miles from Memphis to Asheville North Carolina where the Biltmore Estate is located. The famous house was built in 1895 by George Vanderbilt and took six years to construct. There are more than 11 million bricks, 250 rooms, 65 fireplaces, 43 bathrooms, 34 bedrooms and three kitchens all on four acres of floor space. There is a massive stone spiral staircase that goes from the ground floor to the fourth floor with 102 steps. In the center of the spiral staircase hangs a iron chandelier with 72 light bulbs. Biltmore is the home of George Vanderbilt and was modeled after several chateaus in the Loire Valley of France. Biltmore House is the largest private home in America situated on 8,000 acres. Gardens, designed by Frederick Law Olmstead who designed the National Zoo, and winery complete the estate. We met someone along this trip who managed the dairy at Biltmore which now houses the winery, but we cannot remember who he was.
During WWII, treasures from the National Gallery of Art in DC were placed at Biltmore for safe keeping in case Washington was bombed. We toured the house for about 2 1/2 hours using an on-off audio cassette, which gave the background of the building and the description of the furnishings. In the afternoon, we took the roof top guided tour that climbs up behind the scenes to the tops of several roofs and to the highest point, the flagpole. No place is scary and you are not on any "edges". An interesting fact is how the slate roof tiles are replaced. Each tile has two holes and a loop of wire runs through the hole and is twisted around an iron bar on the inside of the roof. Thus the roof is built from the inside. We ate lunch at the Stable Café and dinner at the Bistro at the Winery. We spent two hours touring the winery and tasting, of course. As we were walking through the gardens and conservatory, our first rain in weeks began in earnest. We were prepared with our ponchos, so we continued walking while others were scurrying or standing under trees. The rain continued for three hours!
Early Tuesday morning, our 46th day, we opted to head home between the forecasted rainstorms on the east coast. We arrived safe home after driving mostly dry roads for 501 miles by mid afternoon missing the rush hour. Great trip with a lot of memories. John's business in Boulder and San Diego resulted in many good additions and changes to the Militarily Critical Technology List. During our travels of 7,075 miles, we visited twelve zoos bring our total in the last three years to 58 zoos. We camped at seven DOD FamCamps and two lovely Corps of Engineer sites this trip. We had many uses of our cell phones keeping track of each other, our family and making camping reservations a few hours before arrival. The average cost of our campground was fifteen dollars ranging from ten to thirty seven dollars. We found more campsites this year with modem connections for email than on previous trips. Email was very useful for both of us in keeping up with business while TREKing down the road. Two additions from Camping World on this trip was a reading lamp mounted on the wall by the door to provide light for the Lazy Boy chair and a ladder extension to make roof access easier. Water and sewage disposal was generally on a three or four day cycle. Besides normal house cleaning, all the TREK needed was 915 gallons of gas, a midtrip oil change and a wash now and then.