Thursday, May 30, 2013

2013-15 From Tulsa Oklahoma to Farmington Missouri


Campground: Hwy 160 Rv Park, 8180 Hwy 160 S, Highlandville MO.  $9 a night full hookup free wifi.  Passport America rate.  Simple little park behind a large Antique Mall with about 50 vendors.  About 25 miles north of Branson MO.  

Campground:  St Joe State Park, $21.  Near Park Hills Mo., 573-431-1069  State park with two campgrounds.  One for ATV users.  One for Horseback riding.  I’ll be staying in the one for the Horseback riding campsites. $8 reservation fee, which I did since there was a chance I wouldn’t get a site otherwise.

Last thoughts on Tulsa Ok area.

Here at Bush Creek campground, by Friday afternoon the small campground has filled up for the Memorial Day Weekend.  I had to grin as I saw an SUV back into the site next to mine.  A trailer attached carrying 3 ATV’s.  After parking, the back door to the SUV opened up and one after another, 5 little urchins came tumbling out.  with a few more coming out of the other side of the vehicle.  Three or four tents eventually got set up and then doors to the SUV were opened up and out came pouring, you guessed it, loud country/rock music.


By Sunday afternoon, they were packed up and gone.  

I toured downtown Tulsa and was pleasantly surprised at how compact and clean the city is.  All their high rises are centered on a few main streets in the downtown center.  A mix of Art Deco buildings from the 30’s and 40’s to much newer and grander corporate buildings.  Driving out from the center of town I even noticed that the buildings that were further out, some closed, were still in pretty good shape.  Also there were some handsome large churches around the center of town, with the Boston Avenue Methodist Church being the grandest of all.  With it’s tall main spire, all done in an Art Deco style and most impressive I might add.  The residential areas all have lush green lawns and treed.  Most looking like arts and crafts bungalows made of sturdy bricks in shades of tans and traditional red brick as well.  Although the city is cut up by quite a few expressways crisscrossing the city making for easy access through and around town, it also has a tendency to cut neighborhoods apart from each other.  The Boc Center is right downtown as well.  A most impressive center for large concerts, basketball and hockey games, etc.

The Golden Driller  

Of course I’m staying about 13 miles west of the city in a wonderful rural area, but would have no problem driving into town, especially with a good GPS program to guide me around.  I use my Verizon Cell phones Google maps program and it’s works fairly well for most of my needs. Driving back from town one day, I saw a bald eagle gliding along on an air current parallel to the freeway along the Arkansas river.  What a stunning site.

Tulsa is oil country so I’m sure that’s one of the reasons the area looks and feels so prosperous.  I’ve even seen a few of the one armed oil rigs bobbing up and down, some in the most unusual places.  I could easily see this as an area to spend more time in.  Unfortunately, I’m concerned about the region being in Tornado alley.  So I’ll be heading on out on Wednesday.  

I’ve decide to head out on Tuesday instead as the weather is going to deteriorate considerably on Wed. in the Tulsa area.  The new camper is a breeze to break down and prepare for heading on down the road.  The drive through Tulsa was very blustery but the new camper and my diesel truck handled the winds pretty well.  I maintained a speed of only 65 mph which for towing in wind gusts of 25-35 mph worked out just fine.  

Sorry to have to leave the Tulsa area as there were a number of other places and local attractions I would have like to visit, including a section of route 66 which is supposed to be pretty good.  But it’ll have to wait for another time.  A day or so later and it looks like I made the right decision to head out ahead of those storms.  

Distance Traveled:  218 miles

I’m staying south of Springfield Missouri.  I’m also about 30 minutes from Branson MO but I don’t have any plans on visiting that mega entertainment town this time around.  Springfield is considered the birthplace of Route 66 as it is where Woodruff worked on plans for building the Mother Road and a telegram was sent to Washington requesting highway number 66 be designated for the new road.  One of the many museums dedicated to this wonderful road is right in the center of town along the original Route 66.  It has some great vintage pictures of the heyday of this beloved route.

Billboards which I thought at one point were banned along highways seem to have proliferated in this part of the country.  One of them advertising The Fantastic Caverns with the only jeep driven ride through a cave in North America.  Well you know I had to go on that ride.  Starting out early in the morning, contending with heavy local work time traffic, I got to the cave for their first tour of the day.  Along with three Vietnamese (living in San Diego) we enjoyed a leisurely tour through the caves.  It’s not the most spectacular set of caves I’ve been through, but the ride through it was fun and the stories were interesting.  The cave was discovered by the landowner just before the Civil War broke out.  He kept it a secret so that it wouldn’t be taken over by either the north or the south as it contained bats which create guano (bat poop) used to make gunpowder.  Later the caves would be used during prohibition as an underground speakeasy and later as a stage for country and western concerts and a weekly radio station show.  Showing even a cave can have many stories to tell.

Speaking of those billboards if you head south on hwy 65 towards Branson Missouri, you’ll be inundated with mile after mile of billboards advertising all those Theatres in Branson.  Kind of a reminder of what the entire country looked like 40 years ago. Hint, it’s not pretty.

Springfield is a very prosperous area and I understand from the locals a relatively cheap place to live.  One of the reasons for the very large homes in the area that would cost 2 to 3 times as much anywhere else. A number of commercial manufacturing companies call Springfield home as well.  

I dropped into the Pythian Castle, which I was told by the receptionist, that there were over 1,000 of them built throughout the world. Most have been demolished over time as the land becomes more valuable and real estate what it is finds it more profitable to tear down the classy old building and build bigger profit making buildings in their place.  This castle like the others was built to house orphans and the elderly.  Designed to give the residents a feeling of being in someplace special rather than just a place to keep them.  It’s also certified to have ghosts and they even have ghost tours and special murder mystery nights and other special events.


there’s so much to explore in this area including the original Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World.  This being the hometown of the stores.  But I’m scheduled to head out tomorrow to visit with my niece Kim and her family and my sister Dorothy.  Along with continuing an easterly trek to keep ahead of the heavy storms building west of here.  One of the reasons I’ve ended up near them for a visit in the first place.   

Distance Traveled:  218

Once again I’ve headed out ahead of some bad weather west of me and before it hits Springfield, I’ll get an early start this morning.  I won’t discuss the pancake I almost became as two semi trucks had me sandwiched in between them.  Let’s just say I survived and hope it never happens again.  Double Ekk.  Note to fellow campers and self:  watch truckers coming back onto highways from rest areas.... they expect “you” to move out of their way as they enter the highway.

Continuing NE along Interstate 44 which parallels much of the original route 66, I eventually turned off I-44 and dropped down on country road 8.  If you’ve ever heard the phase, “over hill and dale”, this is the road.  it started out pretty narrow with no shoulders, going over hill and dale which included many turns and dips.  heavy forests opening to green farms with happy cows grazing the thick grass and homes appearing out of nowhere.  As I crossed into each new county, the road continued to improve.  Adding small shoulders, then eventually wide paved shoulders as the scene opened up to more farmland and small towns like Steelville, Huzzah Valley, Shirley, Potosi and Springtown.  

Driving into St Joes State park, it seemed to go on for miles, passing the first campgrounds and activity areas, finally arriving at the 2nd campground designated for campers with horses.  Two well paved loops with good back-in campsites on the outside of each loop making for easy back in sites.  With threatening skies ready to dump rain, I finally had the camper set up and headed out to lunch.  Come to find out the State Park is a long affair with an entrance off of a rural road at both ends.  My campsite, at the far end from where I came in, actually is only about a 10 minute drive into the small town of Farmington Missouri.  How convenient.  So close to shops, restaurants and the always needed laundromat.  

Well, I’ll be visiting with my Niece Kim and her family as well as my sister Dorothy starting tomorrow and since this blog has gone on for over 3 pages, I’d better end it and tell the rest of the story next week.  

more pics on PICASA

Friday, May 24, 2013

2013-14 Tulsa Oklahoma, outfitting the new camper


From Poteau Oklahoma to Tulsa Oklahoma

Campground:  Brush Creek Recreation Area.  Army Corp campsite.  Reg. $15-20.  Senior discount, $7.  Water/Elect.  Large spacious campsites on the lower part of the dam.  Couple other Army Corp sites on lake including Salt Creek Cove, with good views of the lake.

Brush Creek, large grassy campsites
I’ve come up with a great name for the new camper. I think I’m going to call it “The Grand Poobah Lodge on wheels”.  Though I may still use the sign I had made for the last camper.  We’ll see.

Now you know it was a ton of work moving everything to the new camper, but with that all done, before heading out on the next adventure I had to stop at the Heavener Runestone.  I visited another Runestone last year in Arkansas.  The one in Heavener OK is quite large and has been protected under a building and is behind glass windows.  A Runestone like the one I’m visiting was believed to have been inscribed by Norwegians back around 1,000 AD.  The word rune means magician and it was a written language that usually only Priests and magicians (kind of like Merlan) would have used.  The language died out when Christianity was introduced into NW Europe and they banned any language except for the use of Latin.  

one of the smaller Runestones

the largest of the runestones, behind protective glass

Although this stone and a few smaller ones found in the area have had their share of controversy, a number of scholars with more recent and extensive research believe it to be real.  Just to consider that the Vikings could have explored so far into the interior of the United States is quite amazing.  The words on the large Savannah Sandstone have a number of interpretations but the most current theory by a noted researcher is that it says “Valley owned by GLOME”.  A boundary marker or land claim.  The site where it was first discovered by local Choctaw Indians is a deep ravine with waterfalls cascading over the cliff edges.  Sandstone blocks have broken off and have slid down the sides of the ravine.  Wild blue miniature iris grow along the side of the handsome stone walled walkways leading down to the rune.

It was for me a most exciting adventure.  Bringing me a bit closer to my newly discovered relations living in the Scandinavian countries of Sweden and Finland.  Just think, perhaps some of my ancient relatives might have been a part of the Vikings arriving in America for the first time, way before Columbus discovered America.  

The other claim to fame in the Poteau OK area is that they have the tallest hill in the world.  Cavanal Hill at 1,999 feet high.  The designation for being a mountain is 2,000 feet.  Well, what else can I say. It’s one big hill.

Distance Traveled:  143 miles.

After two days at the dealers, I’ve headed out to Tulsa OK.  The weather has improved and there appears to be little chance of tornadoes in the area, so I’ll spend a week here during the Memorial Day holiday.  I’ve chosen the much smaller of the parks in the area, to avoid the family crowds that usually fill up the larger campgrounds on holidays.  Not that I don’t enjoy seeing all the little urchins running around. But a peaceful setting just sounded better for this part of my journey.  I did stop over at The Keystone State Park on the same lake and noted that even in the middle of the week the campground was pretty full.  I’d driven over to go the the restaurant down at the marina where I had The Best catfish I’d ever eaten anywhere.  It had a light delicate flavor and the breading was perfect.  What a treat.

Marty the salesman and me (Doug)
The small campground I’m at has wonderful green grassy expanses with maple, sycamore and oak trees interspersed across the lawns.  

I’ve been doing my chores rearranging things in the camper and finding out where everything is.  Went shopping today and purchased almost a $100 worth of storage boxes and organizers for better storage management.  Did a pretty good job too. Making for much less cramped cabinets and closets.  I even shipped off a couple of larger items to family and friends since the new camper is so well equipped I had some things that were expensive but no longer needed.  They’ve been sent off to good homes where others can enjoy them.

I even stopped off at a Goodwill Store and dropped a load of stuff off with them.  It’s amazing what we collect and really don’t use or need anymore. 

Here are a few pictures of the camper:

So the Memorial Day holiday weekend is upon us and I’m really settling into my new home.  I hope everyone enjoys the long Holiday weekend as much as I am.  

Till the next report, have a super great day.

more photos on PICASA.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

2013-13, from Las Vegas New Mexico to Poteau Oklahoma


From Las Vegas New Mexico to Poteau Oklahoma

Finding a New Home

Campground:  Sayre City Park Campground.  $12 Elect/water.  Large park with baseball fields, tennis courts, horse riding stadium, picnic areas and of course the campground.  Very nice facilities.

Campground:  Fire Lake Grand Casino, Shawnee OK.  Water/Elect.  dump station available. Campsite is Free.  You get a camping pass from the gift shop for 3 days at a time.  Sites back up to a tree and grass lined canal with walkway down along the canal.

Campground:  Jammat RV sales.  Free while purchasing new camper

Distance Traveled:  from Las Vegas NM to Sayre Oklahoma:  364 miles

Distance Traveled: Sayre to Shawnee Oklahoma:  165 miles

Distance traveled:  Shawnee to Poteau Oklahoma:  160 miles

Before I get into the why of this trip, let me describe my first day on the road, heading toward Oklahoma.  I’m driving 364 miles today which is quite a bit of traveling for me, as I usually drive only around 150 miles before getting to my next destination.  Knowing I’d be on the road for a good 7 hours or more, I decided to leave as early as I could in the morning.  By 6:30 am, I was on the road heading south from Las Vegas to Interstate 40 where I’d be heading east through the rest of New Mexico, the panhandle of Texas and the stopping overnight on the very western edge of Oklahoma. This also helped me travel the hours before the afternoon winds would pick up and make driving a bit of a challenge.   As I got onto the interstate, I was pleased to find the traffic wasn’t heavy though there were the usual truckers out in droves.  We have an awful lot of commerce that’s transported via semi-trucks.  The dry prairie desert of New Mexico gradually was replaced by vast stretches of rich prairie farm lands as I crossed into the panhandle of Texas.  You know most of us Rv-er travelers often mention that it seems to take days to get across Texas and it usually does.  After all Texas is a huge state.  but crossing the northern panhandle I covered about 175 miles  to get through the state.  Amarillo being the only big city in northern Texas and it was a breeze driving through it.  As I got closer to the eastern end of the state, those flat prairie lands that stretch from horizon to horizon  were replaced by more and more trees and a landscape that has been carved up by the effects of water and wind erosion.  Huge ravines and gorges cut into the once gentle sloping landscape.   Quite a change from the expanses of green prairies divided by the patchwork of farms and cattle ranches and the miles of wind farms on the north side of the highway making all that free electricity.  

The second days drive started out a bit of a miss.  One of my tires developed a slow leak and with it being Sunday, I couldn’t take in to have it check out.  So instead I replaced it with the spare tire and headed on out. Just didn’t feel comfortable driving with a tire that might go flat again if I just filled it with air.  Oklahoma this time of year is stunning.  Coming across the prairie lands that are lush and green as far as the eye can see. Unlike New Mexico and Texas that are all shades of browns, the reds of sandstone and clay, tans and sand, Oklahoma has gotten rain and those farms that seem to stretch on forever have the greenest crops growing imaginable.  With deep dark evergreens and leafy trees covered in medium and lighter shades of green the landscape is magical to the eye.  It almost reminds of those cartoons where they show an idyllic landscape with roads winding over gentle hills covered in crayon colors of primary green and blue blue skies. Yellow and orange wild flowers cascade across the landscape.  

So as I head east across hwy 40 the storms have continued to follow me.  The first night went by with just tornado warnings and not much else.  The second evening found me east of Oklahoma City near Shawnee.  Strong tornado warnings and finally we were all asked to go into the casinos safe area and wait out the tornados.  They came within less than half a mile from where we were all hunkered down.  People continued to play the slot machines as a hushed stillness descended on the crowd.  Everyone on their cellphones checking the progress of the storm, watching minute by minute on radar screens.  A couple sitting next to me had a small dog with them and he was content with all the attention being sent his way.  The TV news has continuous coverage of the tornadoes.  Even with tv helicopters in the air almost the entire time shooting footage of the forming rotating clouds forming into those wicked tornadoes.  Whole communities including mobile homes were flattened within seconds.  The MH community not being far from where I stayed the second evening.  As I left the next morning, I saw some of the destruction along the southern end of hwy 40.  trees down, whole.

So another new adventure has begun.  I’m driving 690 miles to pick up my new, smaller camper.  Two and a half years ago, I had purchased the Montana Mountaineer 5th wheel camper which is 34 feet 11 inches in length.  I think it’s actually 35’11” but the original paperwork says 34’11”.  Well, it didn’t take me long (no pun intended, but a good one) to realize that a 34’11” camper is a bit too long to tow around the country like I do.  It would be alright if I was one of those RV-ers that travels basically to a summer location and a  winter place and doesn’t do much else.  

I had been able to pay off the previous camper in a relatively short time frame and after looking around for the past 6 months at shorter campers, around the 30 ft length size, I finally found one that fits the bill.  The trick is to find a camper with at least three slides and has a really good layout.  

So, after deciding on a really great camper, I made an offer, counter offered, and finally got a really great deal.  Rather than rush across country to pick it up, I’ve been spending the week organizing my stuff for the move.  taking down all the pictures and accessories and packing much of the stuff in newly purchased plastic bins of varying sizes to hopefully make the move go more smoothly.  But you know, purchasing a new camper is pretty much the same as moving into a new house.  It’s a lot of work.  Ok, I see I get no sympathy from this crowd.  

How to decide on what camper is right for you.

So you may ask, what goes into determining what is the best camper for your lifestyle.  Well, I’ve owned a few and I've also learned that for each phase in my life, the camper needed to fit that phase changes.  As an example, while living and working in Orlando Florida, I had lots of 3 day weekends and therefore I didn't need to spend a lot of money on a camper since I would only use it for short trips.  Just something that would finally get me off the ground and out of tent camping.  The most common decision in a case like that is to buy a pop-up camper.  It still has soft sides and heavy duty tenting material over the pop-out beds, but I was finally off the ground.  Sleeping on a dry foam mattress and I had to have a/c.  Those two were my main criteria.  Later, I would upgrade to a pop-up camper to include a small fridge, eliminating to a great extent the need to get ice each day to keep things cold.  

When I finally retired and had all the time in the world to go camping, I realized that for those extended periods I’d need a few more of the basic comforts of home, especially since it would be my home away from home..  My first 5th wheel camper was perfect for just one or two very friendly folks.  It was all of 24ft long had one small slide and had a bed that was more like a loft.  After a couple years on the road, I realized as a full timer, I’d like more space in the bedroom.  Adding that additional requirement meant a larger camper or so I thought at the time.  Finally deciding on the Montana because it had three slides (which always give so much more space).  The bedroom slide was heaven.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t get used to the added length of the camper.  Those extra couple feet in length really made a difference.  Seemed I was having too many close calls with tight turns, trees jumping out at me.  Yes, trees can jump out at you, especially if you're towing a camper and trying to back into a campsite.  Backing in became more perilous.  Requiring more turning space and with all those slides, it seemed they were always getting in the way of electric boxes, water spigots and those dreaded trees.  

So after doing more research that I should have done before purchasing the Montana two and a half years ago,  I discovered there was a whole new breed of smaller, more lightweight, compact campers that still had all the slides necessary to make the space inside really liveable.  Actually that has been the fun part of looking and researching online to find that perfect camper.  And as if by dumb luck, I found one that exceeded all my requirements.  

  • It has three slides.
  • slides are moved via aircraft cabling and electric motors
  • (not hydraulic which I haven’t been a fan of)
  • automatic leveling, what a great feature!
  • an island kitchen with a large microwave
  • solid surface floors with carpeting only in low traffic areas
  • LED lighting throughout, even built into the outdoor awing
  • two a/c units completely ducted throughout
  • electronic thermostat

Well, those are only a few of the added features.  It doesn’t have as much storage in the basement area so I’ll have to really decide what to keep and what to get rid of.  That’s one thing I don’t have a problem with.  Getting rid of stuff is very easy for me.  I just have a yard sale or give the items to Salvation Army.  Less is more and simplifies life.  Though it does have good storage in the kitchen, bedroom and bathroom area where it’s needed most.

With a smaller camper, I’ll feel much more comfortable traveling around the country as much as I do.  Maybe even another trip to Alaska.  And of course it puts me back into some campgrounds that have limits on the size of campers they can accommodate.  A real plus.

So, Ta-Da, here’s the camper I’ve selected as my new and hopefully the last one for a long time.
It’s the Open Range “Roamer” model RF316RLS.   and here’s a 360 degree view of my new camper.  The purchase and trade-in went very smoothly.  Moving all my stuff to the new camper took all day, but at the end of the day, I had 4 workers from Jamatt RV Sales that helped me complete the final tasks.  Wish I could have had them for the earlier part of the day, but they were still a great help to me.  Not everything fit into the new camper and the back of my truck is now filled with “Stuff”.  But I’m all moved in this evening and after taking a much needed shower, I’m finally relaxing in my new home.  

Back on the road tomorrow, to where?  I haven’t a clue, but I’ll be sure to let you know.  

Saturday, May 18, 2013

2013-12 Las Vegas New Mexico


Las Vegas New Mexico

75 miles on down the road

Campground:  Storrie Lake State Park. Las Vegas NM 87701, Phone Number(505)425-7278:  $4 elect.  Regular price:  $14 w/water/elect.  Only two miles into town but far enough out to be surrounded by Mts and farms.  Ps the lake has pretty much disappeared due to drought conditions.

view from my Ramada (covered picnic shelter) at Storrie Lake

Distance traveled:  75 miles.

Not much distance traveled to get to the next destination, but here I am at Storrie Lake where the lake has disappeared.   New Mexico has had quite a drought over the last couple of years making for a very parched landscape.  I’ve noticed the cattle ranches have no new green grasses and what they did have has been nibbled on by the cattle right to the ground.  I’m sure most the cattle have since been sold at a loss.

this hotel has recently been purchase and is expected to be renovated and reopened.
It's right next to the Amtrak Station


Here in Las Vegas New Mexico (not the casino town) the town has a lot of history as it was a major stop along the Santa Fe Wagon Train Trail and was also along the original Route 66 in more recent times.  When the trains came through, it grew even more.  With a current population of around 13,600 it’s a nice size town, especially for us campers.  the town has a ton of historical buildings, everything from Victorian to Romanesque, Spanish, Tudor to traditional adobe construction, even a Carnegie Library that’s still in operation.  You know, Carnegie was one of the Railroad Robber Barons and to help redeem his greedy ways, he funded libraries across the country.  Saying that education and knowledge would lift the poor out of poverty.  It’s also a university town with the New Mexico Highlands University established in 1893.  It’s been featured in about 4 movies.

a cafe on the plaza with working looms

statues, carved from dead cottonwood trees in plaza

Artist touching up his artwork

Unfortunately it has closed down.  Originally a popular local cafe.
Interesting how some areas handle traffic.  Here in Las Vegas they love speed bumps to slow speeding autos down.  Some of them here in the park are quite large, making for camper stuff bouncing around even with a show maneuver over those bumps.  And many more are scattered throughout the town.  

I had my stitches removed today from when the cyst on my back was removed two weeks ago.. The Dr,. a black man with dreadlocks and a soft spoken personality did the job near the end of the day.  Around 5pm.  Come to find out, his office is open until 8pm, probably due to the fact that he’s right next to the hospital here.  He was quite chatty and bent my ear so to speak for quite some time after the stitches were removed.  I had the time so took the time to talk about the area and Rv traveling.  He wants to buy a Motorhome that has a built in garage for small car.  

I've had the chance to experience virga. Do you know what that is? It's when it rains but never reaches the ground, as it evaporates before touching ground. Yesterday, dark clouds formed all day long and I could see the rain coming down in sheets, but never reaching the ground. What a site. One local guy was carrying his umbrella, sure it would rain. It didn't. This happens often out west and I'm sure the locals are disappointed each time it occurs.

I’m enjoying Las Vegas NM as it’s an easy town to get around in.  Love driving around on the side roads and seeing the diverse architecture of the homes and buildings.  I haven't done hardly any exploring and my next post will explain why.

What could it be,,,,, hmmmm.  You'll find out next week.