Monday, March 30, 2009

Catching Up to Date...

After we left the Clinton Library in Little Rock we drove to Dickson, Tennessee and stayed the night. Next day we continued east to Crossville, Tennessee. This area of Tennessee is known as the plateau area. That night the wind came up and blew like crazy. It rained also so we kept indoors. We did go to the Waffle House nearby. We love the Waffle House! We got waffles for dinner and enjoyed every bite of the syrupy goodness. Can't do this often, though, as we'll grow too big around the middle!

We arrived in Knoxville, Tennessee on Wednesday, March 25th and just stayed, once again, at their local WalMart. We had planned to meet some friends for dinner that night. While we waited for the appointed hour, I got busy with some work on my cousin's photo album I'm preparing for her. It rained most of the day so it was good to just stay indoors.

At 6:00 our friends, John and Linda, arrived to drive us over to the restaurant they had selected for our dinner. We met John and Linda in 2006 while we were all touring Alaska that summer. They are a great couple and we really hit it off with them. We found ourselves camping at the same RV parks in different towns in Alaska by sheer coincidence. The live in a really big Airstream trailer while they are traveling. We have kept in contact via e-mail since that summer of 2006. When they learned we were coming thru Tennessee this year they asked us to stop off in their hometown of Knoxville.

John and Linda went back up to Alaska last summer and we were interested to learn about their trip. We went to a restaurant, by the Tennessee River in the heart of Knoxville, called Calhoun's. We all enjoyed a 1/2 rack of BBQ ribs, creamed spinach and corn pudding. You can't get much more southern than that! You get really good BBQ in the south. We spent about 3 hours with them and had a wonderful visit.

In Knoxville we saw the stadium where University of Tennessee football team play their games. It is one of the largest college stadiums in the country. John told us that during football season many, many houseboats pull up to dock there on the river. He said that they are all crammed in and go out across at least 5 deep. Folks just walk from one to the other to get to their own boat. That is a new way of doing your tailgate parties.

The next morning we left Knoxville and headed to the state of Virginia. We enjoyed scenery of green rolling hills along the way. We connected with I-81 from I-40 and drove toward our destination of Salem, Virginia.

We will be staying here in Salem, for a month. My cousins live here and we haven't seen them in 4 years. We've never had the opportunity to stay for a lengthy visit and so we are doing that now. My cousin, Gail, has recovered from recent breast cancer surgery and is now undergoing 6 weeks of radiation treatments. I'm glad we are here at this time in case she needs any help during this period of treatments.

We won't be doing a ton of sight-seeing while here in Salem since this is mainly for a family visiting time. But we will be doing some things, so I'll keep blogging about our experiences here in the Roanoke Valley.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Clinton Presidential Library and Museum

Monday morning we drove from our camping site at the WalMart in Little Rock, Arkansas to the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library and Museum. It has been opened for about 4 years. The building is a very modern structure that cantilevers out over part of the Arkansas River. This dramatic glass building represents a "bridge to the 21st century."

There are 3 floors comprising the public spaces. The ground level is basically your security checkpoint, a ticket desk, and the presidential limousine President Clinton used during his 8 years in office.

The second floor has an orientation theater with a 12 minute film, narrated by President Clinton. It features details on his childhood years, education, and career in public service which culminates with his presidency. It was a very well done film and the theater was very comfortable. Also on this level, is a full-scale replica of the White House Cabinet Room that utilizes interactives to introduce visitors to the critical decisions made under this administration.

At this level there is also a detailed timeline with key events listed and videos are presented that introduce each of the 8 years. There are also alcove exhibits on either side of this level with copious documents, photographs, and memorabilia displayed. Of course, everything supports a positive opinion on everything during the Clinton administration....but that is the main purpose of all the presidential libraries and museums, so one cannot be critical of that fact.

The third level highlights more of Bill Clinton's biographical materials and mementos during his childhood years. There are also several exhibits showing "Life at the White House" through the splendor of state events and gifts. A complete table setting is displayed on this floor showing how things had been set up for a particular state dinner. Very beautiful and I have included a photo of that below.

The third level has a full-scale replica of Bill Clinton's Oval Office and I have included a photo of that as well. The Oval Office sure had a lot of knick-knacks and I'd hate to be the one having to dust all of that stuff everyday!

Our opinion: We felt it was well worth our time to visit this library and museum. We enjoy all of the presidential libraries very much, and I think we've now seen them all. For a president that had served 2 terms, however, it seemed like there should have been more to see. Even President Ford's museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan seemed to house more memorabilia....and he had a very short administration, although a long term of public service.
That being said, we still think that you can benefit from checking this library out if you are ever in the Little Rock area.

Full-scale replica of the Clinton Oval Office. Example of tabe setting for a state dinner.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Miscellaneous reports from the road....

Note: I try my best to get my text a certain way and use paragraph indention and so forth. I also try to get any photos placed where I want them to be. Well, it all looks great while I'm typing and then sometimes when I click "Publish Post" the thing morphs into something different. Sorry for any inconvenience or lack of continuity....I'll keep trying!

Thursday, March 19:

We left Amarillo, Texas this morning and headed east toward Oklahoma. There was a stiff breeze blowing (anybody say tornado?) as we left the area. Typical for Amarillo and the wide open spaces of Texas. We drove out I-40 and before we got to the OK state line we saw a big billboard for the "Jesus Is Lord Truckstop, where never a swear word is spoken". That is nice but we didn't see it and we didn't need fuel yet anyway. We got into Oklahoma City in the mid-afternoon and got fuel at the Flying J. It was only $1.73 a gallon...yeehaw! We found a spot off to the far side of their parking lot and stayed for the night. There were about 3 other RV's doing the same.

Friday and Saturday, March 20 & 21:

We didn't travel too far on Friday and we got to the town of Checotah in Oklahoma. We arranged for a campsite for 2 nights at the Terra Starr RV Park. It was a great place right on Lake Eufaula. It is early in the season yet so the place was almost empty. After we checked in, a nice lady came and invited us to the clubhouse for some couple's anniversary party. That was nice of her. We did not take her up on the offer but it was so friendly of her anyway.

On Saturday it rained off and on all day so we just stayed indoors. I got a chance to catch up on all the laundry and do some work in my photo album project. There was a group tornado shelter situated directly behind our motorhome. That was either a comforting thought or an eerie one....depending on your point of view. There were lots of birds in the trees here just singing their little hearts out. I don't know my flora from my fauna so I was at a loss as to what type of birds they were. It was a pretty sound and it seemed they were announcing the arrival of spring.

Sunday, March 22:

Left Terra Starr park this morning and got back onto I-40 heading for Little Rock, Arkansas. Arkansas....Home of Tyson Chicken, WalMart and the Arkansas Razorbacks. As we drove along the highway the scenery was getting a lot greener than it had been in Texas and Oklahoma. The trees here are leafing out and really looking pretty.

Just before we got to Little Rock we passed a turn off to Toad Suck Park. Huh? I looked that up on the internet and it said that the local legend reports that Toad Suck was a popular spot for bargemen on the river to pull over and drink rum and moonshine. They are said to have sucked on bottles of rum until they swelled up like toads. There you go...Toad Suck!

Just outside Little Rock we located a WalMart for tonight. We got parked and went into the store and bought some groceries. Tomorrow morning we are driving over to the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library. We love historical places, especially all thing presidential. So, no matter our opinion of Clinton as a president or a man, we will not pass up an opportunity to see this library. The architecture is supposed to be wonderful. I'll take a couple of photos for a future posting.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Big Texan Steak Ranch -- Amarillo, Texas

Would you like to eat a 72 oz. steak and get it for free? Well, pardner come on over to the Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, Texas.

We first found the Big Texan in 1989 on an RV trip through Amarillo. The steaks were fantastic and we thoroughly enjoyed our meal. We've come back 3 other times over the years and have never been disappointed. So when planning this journey we decided to stop once again and have some fun.

Last night we ate here and got the smallest Sirloin steaks on the menu, which were 8 oz. servings. We got 2 side dishes, rolls and a Strawberry Shortcake dessert we split. We did not plan to have the FREE 72 oz. steak because there is a little catch with that one. You have to eat the whole 72 oz. steak, a salad, a baked potato, 3 fried shrimp, and a dinner roll in under 1 hour in order to get it for free. If you cannot complete the pay $72.00 for that meal.

The Big Texan was established in 1960 by the Lee family and is still owned by them today. There is also a Western style motel with a Texas shaped pool, a huge gift shop, arcade, saloon, and a dining room to seat 500 hungry cowpokes. New to the menu since we'd been here last is grilled salmon for you non-beef eaters.

While we were eating, 5 young men made their attempt to eat the FREE meal. The staff brings them up to the front of the dining hall and they sit at an elevated table where all patrons can see them. There is a big countdown clock on the wall to let them know how much time is left. Only one of the guy's time was up while we were there and he did not make it. That is a heck of a lot of food, even for a very hungry person!

Here is a photo of Big Texan.

This is the amount of food that you must

consume within the hour.

These are the 4 remaining guys who

tried to eat the big meal. We do not know

if they made it or not. Our waitress told us

that very, very few people have ever been

able to get the job done.

We saw The Big Texan Steak Ranch

featured on the Travel Channel program

Man vs. Food recently.

Give the Big Texan a try the next time

you go to Amarillo. It is right off of Interstate 40 and you can't miss seeing the big cowboy sign or the giant cow by the building.

Enjoy !!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Arizona and New Mexico

Early on the 14th we left Bakersfield and drove toward Barstow, California. Believe me when I say that Barstow is no place you really want to be, but it is the connector town where we leave CA Hwy 58 and join Interstate 40 to Arizona. They have a very large outlet mall in Barstow if you are a shopaholic or just a bargain hunter. We did not even slow down. After we got onto eastbound I-40 Bruce decided that it was my turn to drive our diesel motorhome. I've driven all of our other motorhomes before this one but since we got the new 40 footer I've enjoyed being the navigator and co-pilot much more. We pulled off at a truck stop and switched places. I got back onto the interstate and drove the motorhome towing the car (about 60 feet long) for about 5 miles until we came to a Rest Area pull off. OK that was enough for me. In case of emergency I wanted to know how to drive the darn thing. Bruce is a very good driver with this big rig and he can steer it through city streets, parking lots jammed with cars and into the truck stops with all the 18-wheelers. Here is a photo of our motorhome with the car attached by the tow bar.

While we continued on our way to Arizona the desert was really pretty at this time of year. There was a green hue to all the desert plants and the desert grasses. All too soon this will turn to various shades of dull brown.
We turned off I-40 at Needles, CA and went to the small Arizona town of Fort Mohave. This is just south of Bullhead City and Bullhead City is just across the river from Laughlin, Nevada. We got a site at a membership park for 2 nights. It was a glorious 80 degrees here! I had Bruce get my summer clothing out of the basement in the RV and put on some shorts. Fantastic. We did lots of laundry and grocery shopping in this town. Dennis called us Sunday morning to report that Tumwater (our home town) got an inch or more of fresh snow the night before. Ahhh, too bad but we're enjoying the sunshine.
Monday, March 16th:
We left Fort Mohave and took a small highway around to the north and then south unil we connected with Kingman, Arizona and Interstate 40 again. We enjoyed the scenery on the smaller highway with it's jagged mountains. We refueled the RV in Kingman...diesel $2.00 a gallon....and then ate our cereal for breakfast. We continued on our eastbound path and drove past the town of Flagstaff. The elevation there is 7,335 feet and there was still plenty of snow to be seen off the highway in many places. We continued on to the town of Winslow where we parked for the night at the Flying J Truck and Auto Plaza. We got a nice spot way at the side where we could extend one of our slide out sections.
Tuesday, March 17th:
Left Winslow, Arizona early and it was only about 23 degrees. Brrrrrr. I had to put my sweats on this morning until it warmed up to the 70's again. We drove along that northern Arizona Interstate and saw lots of brown landscape here. There were also homesites with lots of rusted junk in huge piles strewn about. It probably cost too much money to have the stuff hauled away and so folks just let it pile up. Talk about living out in the middle of nowhere!
Across the border into New Mexico we stopped for breakfast in our motorhome. I took the photo you see at that location. It shows some of the beautiful, colorful rock formations that are in this area of New Mexico.
Once we'd eaten, we continued along on I-40. This takes the driver through some Native American reservation areas and the landscape is dotted with large billboards. They invite the traveler to stop and buy a Navajo rug or a pair of hand sewn moccasins. Sorry....can't use a rug and we already have slippers. Time to keep moving.
Later we drove through Albuquerque. We hadn't been here in 12 years and the town has really grown. We were quite impressed and I made a mental note that we need to come back and explore the area at another time.
We ended our travels for this day in the town of Tijeras, New Mexico. It is about 15 miles east of Albuquerque. We got a full hook-up spot for FREE! It is one of our membership parks and we can stay free after paying our annual dues. We could stay for 7 nights free, but we must press on tomorrow morning.
We've had 2 days of interesting scenery and leisure driving. The desert areas are not our favorite spots to visit but we do appreciate what they have to offer and there is beauty to them also. Tomorrow we head for the big 'ol state of Texas.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Repairs Complete...and now onward we go.

Tues. March 10th:

We found out that our Explorer had 2 electronic sensors go out at the same time. The dealership had 1 in stock but had to get the second sent from Sacramento. That meant that they couldn't finish the entire job until Thursday morning. Oh well.

After leaving our car at Harper Motors, we drove the motorhome to the Samoa Cookhouse in the small town of Samoa, just west of Eureka and almost into the Pacific Ocean. The Samoa Cookhouse is pictured above and they serve wonderful meals. The management allows RV's to park, free of charge, in their large lot and stay overnight. We did that after eating a great dinner at the Cookhouse.

Wed., March 11th:

We drove back into Eureka and went to McDonald's to get a cup of coffee and read the newspaper. We had the whole day to kill. We went back again to the dealership and parked there. While we waited we had our "home" with us so we fixed our lunch, read our books, and played Gin Rummy. For tonight we decided to go to a genuine RV park about 2 miles from the auto dealership. It was a nice place with full hook-ups.

Thurs. March 12th:

The needed part arrived late this morning. They got the job done as quickly as possible for us and we were finally on our way. We wanted to get as far south as we could without driving into the dead of night. We headed toward the town of Ukiah. It was a long drive since part of it takes you through the Redwood forests along Highway 101. When you get to Richardson Grove State Park area you drive right through the forest of those giant trees. I'd be hard pressed to find a more beautiful place in all of California. The trees are awe inspiring.

We pressed on even though those trees begged us to stop and take a closer look. Been there, done we kept on driving. We got down close to Ukiah and discovered an Indian Casino north of town. It was in the Redwood Valley and it was the Coyote Valley Casino. They offered free overnight parking for RVer's. Another bargain! It was 7:40 pm by the time we got down there so we decided to go into the casino for a sandwich for dinner. We stopped at the Player's desk and registered for a Player's Club card hoping to get a discount on the food. No discount for that, but with our registration we each got $10.00 free play at the slot machines. OK....I'm up for "free play" anytime. I don't risk any of my own money at casino's. I have bad luck with that. We ordered a hamburger first and after eating we sat down at 2 slot machines. We played the 5 cent machines and it only took about 20 minutes and we were out of the $10.00 free play. I only got a pay out of $2.25 but that was still free money back to me. Bruce, who has much better luck than I, kept his winnings a secret until we got back to the RV. That turkey got $40.00 in pay out from his machine. Yippee! I took that from him and put it into our reserve fund. So for no investment of our own we walked away with $42.25. Plus a free night's parking! Love those casinos!!

Friday the 13th:

We planned on a long drive today so we set our alarm for "oh-dark-thirty". It was still dark when we pulled out of the casino lot but within 20 to 25 minutes dawn was arriving. In that part of California, Hwy. 101 takes you through gently rolling mountains (or large hills) and past many vinyards. All in all, a wonderful drive, especially in the early hours of the morning when there is little traffic.

We wanted to bypass the San Francisco bay area completely so we needed to cut over from Hwy. 101 to I-80 around San Pablo Bay. Then we got on I-80 eastbound until we connected with CA Hwy.12 to Interstate 5 southbound. Finally, we were back where we needed to be...I-5 southbound. A long detour just to get past the snow covered mountains on the Oregon/California border.

We eventually got to the Flying J Truck stop north of Bakersfield, CA in the late afternoon. We took eastbound Hwy. 46 from I-5 to CA-99 for this. We fueled up the motorhome and then drove to the rear of the truck area and parked it for the night. Another free spot !! We'll sleep here tonight and then drive on to Fort Mohave, Arizona where we will stay at a membership park for the next 2 nights. Diesel price: $1.95

"Praise the Lord" Alert for those interested:

The Bible teaches us to give thanks in all of our circumstances. Note that it says "in" our circumstances and not "for" our circumstances. I am very thankful at the moment. Of course I'm not thankful "for" our car breaking down and it costing us $864.00 but I am totally thankful "in" the circumstance that it broke down in Crescent City where we got an easy tow to Eureka. It could have broken down in the middle of the Arizona or New Mexico desert and that would have cost us a whole bunch of money to be towed into a large town for repairs. So...P.T.L.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Trouble With A Capital "T"

Here is our Explorer being towed away this afternoon after a stop in Crescent City, California. How wonderful! But more on that later.....

We left Tumwater Monday morning while a fairly good snowstorm was happening. We hoped it would improve and it did for a while after we passed Chehalis. Then we hit sporadic bursts of moderate to heavy snow all the way through Portland, Oregon. As we ventured further south toward the Siskiyou Mountains on the border of Oregon and California, we knew we had to make a decision.

I called the Highway Road Conditions phone number to check on the Grants Pass, Medford and Ashland, OR areas. Big rig had overturned by Ashland blocking all but one southbound lane. Waiting period of 20 minutes to 2 hours reported. Heavy snow reported and chains are required. That did not sound promising. We made the quick decision, before we passed the opportunity, to cut over to the Oregon Coast via Hwy. 38 out of Cottage Grove. That took us past the town of Drain (wonderful town) and we saw a large herd of elk along the way. We connected with Hwy. 101 at Reedsport and drove down to Coos Bay and stayed overnight at the Old Mill Casino for only $17.00. Bargain! Especially with 50 amp electric service. After we parked the RV, Bruce drove the car to the Safeway to get milk.

Then the RV refrigerator began acting up again. It did that back in Tumwater but then the problem vanished. It had problems keeping cool enough about 2 weeks ago and before we could get to our service appointment, the problem vanished and it worked again. It started doing the same thing again yesterday. We made an appointment down at an RV dealer in central California.

We woke up this morning and it was cold, but only down to 39 degrees. No snow and no icy roads here. We got ready to leave and had gotten the motorhome all prepared and pulled it into the road to hook up our Explorer, which we tow behind the RV. The car wouldn't start. The battery wasn't dead but the engine wouldn't start. What to do??? We decided to back the RV up to the car and hook up the towing mechanism that way. We planned to tow it down to Eureka, California and find a Ford dealer. After much maneuvering we managed to get the car hooked up and engaged the Neutral Tow Device which allows us to tow with all 4 wheels on the road.

We continued along the beautiful and scenic byway on the Oregon Coast. We stopped in the town of Crescent City, California to eat our meat loaf sandwich and get a cup of coffee at McDonald's. We parked the motorhome and the towed Explorer in the large parking lot and went inside McDonald's. After we came back out we decided to see if the car would start. Big trouble now. Not only wouldn't the car engine start it wouldn't turn over and the battery was dead as a doornail. (why is a doornail said to be dead I wonder?) Now the car was in Park and the gearshift wouldn't let you move it back into Neutral so we could tow it behind the RV again. AAA to the rescue now. Thank goodness for cell phones. We called AAA and they sent out a tow truck to assist us. With our AAA-Plus service we could be towed, free of charge, up to 100 miles. Eureka, CA was only about 77 miles south of where we were stuck so we were good with that.

We got down to the Harper Motors lot in Eureka before the tow truck driver. The tow truck driver had a fuel leak in his truck and had to turn back and get another tow truck. (is this maybe Friday the 13th or something?). He finally arrived about an hour after we did. The service department did not have time to do more than begin to look it over before it was quitting time. So, here we sit and we will hope they get it fixed tomorrow and it won't cost thousands of dollars.

We decided to drive the motorhome over to the Samoa Cookhouse Restaurant here near Eureka for dinner. They will let you park free in their parking lot overnight. We've done it before and we'll do it again. The Cookhouse serves a wonderful family style dinner and we are getting ready to go in now and enjoy that meal after a stressful couple of days. Sheesh! We are only on our second day of this trip and it has been filled with trouble with a capital "T". I sure hope things improve.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Good News Amidst the Preparations for Departure Day

Bruce had his appointment yesterday with the Oncologist that had performed the bone marrow aspiration. She came into the room and said, "Bruce! You are good!" Whew, those were good words to hear. Dr. Xuan got back all of the test results and they could not find any exact cause for the low white blood cell count. The final lab report did say that they could not rule out the possibility of a future onset of this MDS disease or leukemia....but at the present time he is fine. Well, we aren't about to sit around here worrying about a "future onset" of disease. It may never happen anyway. So in the meantime, we are living our life and planning to travel the country in our motorhome.

Full speed ahead now! We've begun doing some minor cleaning around the RV in preparations for Monday's departure from Tumwater. We will wait until we get all the way back to Virginia to wash the outside of the motorhome. It will only get dirty and yucky on the drive back there since it is still winter time.

I've packed up all of my scrapbooking supplies and we can actually see the dining table once again. I've undertaken the monumental task of creating a Family Heritage photo album for my cousin, Gail, in Virginia. It turned out to be a bigger project than I had anticipated, but it is almost complete now. I will finish up the last few pages on our journey back to Virginia.

With the dining table visible again, Bruce and I have returned to our Gin Rummy tournament. We've been working on a competition to see who can win 1,000 games first. At this point, I have 297 wins and he has 296. We did this tournament once before and he beat me to 1,000 wins by a narrow margin of 5 games. I've got to beat him this time.

This Saturday will be our granddaughter, Zoey's, 4th birthday. We will be helping her to celebrate on both Saturday and Sunday. She is pretty excited.

Monday morning, bright and early, we will be heading south on I-5. At least there is no snow predicted for Monday. Our first stop will be Grants Pass, Oregon in the WalMart parking lot. We will stock up on supplies there because Oregon does not have sales tax. We'll be driving East on I-40 and connect with that Interstate down in California.

I invite you to check out this blog from time to time over the next 5 months as I will be writing about our experiences and adventures on the road again.