Category Archives: Travel Posts

Cedar Key, Florida: Feb 17-24, 2018

We stopped in Tallahassee on our way to Cedar Key to have dinner with some fellow RVers from Mountain Falls Motorcoach Resort. They took us to a local restaurant, ‘A La Provence’. The chateaubriand, crab cakes, fried tomatoes and dessert was fabulous. We boondocked in a church parking lot just down the street from our friend’s house. It was very convenient. In the morning we continued our journey to Cedar Key.

Cedar Key is a destination location, an island 50 miles southwest of Gainsville, Florida. It sits three miles out into the Gulf of Mexico. There is one road into the small village where just 800 people reside full time. As you come into town you cross over salt marshes. The area is a haven for outdoor people with tons of fishing, bird watching, nature trails, and kayaking. The Cedar Keys form a chain of barrier islands which migratory and shore birds love. Some of the surrounding barrier islands are federally protected sanctuaries for birds.

We spent a week in Cedar Key, at ‘Low Key Hideaway.’ This is a motel with a handful of parking spaces for RVs. We loved the location, as we had a beautiful view of a salt marsh and the sunsets were spectacular. The motel has a pretty hip tiki bar that was popular with the locals, as well as the renters.

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During low tide we would have a lot of birds feeding along the salt marsh, in front of the RV:

Our spot was within walking distance to the village of Cedar Key so each morning we would walk a few miles and tour the area.

‘the view along our morning walk’

Down by the shore we would find the clammers and fishermen at work.

We spotted many Osprey. Often times we’d see them up in the tree with a fish in claw. We spotted one male feeding and then when he was about half way through the fish he picked it up and flew over to the nest where the female was waiting for her share.

We even spotted an eagle.

There is a nice park in the village; Cemetery Point Park. I liked that their work-out equipment was situated so that you could exercise with a view.

Next door to the motel / RV park is Southern Cross Sea Farms. Charlie and I took a tour of the facility and learned a lot about the history of Cedar Key and the process of clamming. In short, the state of Florida banned the use of gill nets in state waters back in 1995. That put a lot of commercial fisherman out of work, but also opened up new opportunities, such as clamming. Due to Cedar Key’s rural location and exceptional water quality it quickly became one of the largest producers of farm raised clams in the country. At Southern Cross Sea Farms they spawn clams in their hatchery and then harvest, process and ship them all over the country. The process takes about 2 years. It was a very informative tour.

We tried various clam dishes while in town. Our favorite was clam chowder from Tony’s. We liked it so much that we bought a few containers to freeze and eat later.

It was a very restful week and we enjoyed it very much. We would return to this area again.

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Working our way to and through Florida’s Panhandle: Feb 5-17, 2018

We began our 2018 winter road trip Feb. 5th. We departed early in the morning from Atlanta and headed towards Red Bay, AL for annual service work on the RV.  We were in and out of Red Bay within 2 days.

Our first vacation destination was Mobile, Alabama. Neither of us had ever visited the area. We were lucky to find an available spot at an RV park, as it was Mardi Gras time in the area and all parks were full. We stayed at the “all about relaxing” RV park on the west side of the city, in a rural area. The park is small, but very quiet and clean with a friendly staff. When we checked in we were given a small jar of local specialty jam. From the park it was only a 20 minute drive to downtown Mobile. We would highly recommend this park if you are in the area.

We had only one day to spend in Mobile so we made the most of it. We started with a tour of the USS Alabama Memorial Park. The park offers self-guided tours of a submarine, a battleship and an airplane museum. We spent a few hours there and enjoyed it very much. It was a little chilly in the morning, low 40s, but warmed up nicely to the low 60s by early afternoon.

Pics from the Aviation Pavilion:

Pics from the Battleship:

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Pics from the Drum Submarine:

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In the afternoon we grabbed lunch at a boutique restaurant called ‘Spot of Tea’. Charlie enjoyed crab cake eggs Benedict, while I enjoyed a salad.

Following lunch we took a scenic drive through Daphne and Fairhope, before returning to the RV. All in all, we enjoyed our visit in the Mobile area.

A Pelican hanging out in Fairhope:

Our next stop was at the Bella Terra Motorcoach Resort in Gulf Shores, AL for one night. We found Bella Terra located a little farther from the coast then we would have liked, but the resort was nice. After getting settled in we headed out for lunch. I was thrilled to find that there is an Acme restaurant in Gulf Shores. I have fond memories of falling in love with their baked oysters in New Orleans.

After enjoying some oysters we took a drive through the Gulf Shores State Park. We were amazed to find that they have 450 camping sites. It is located right across the street from the Gulf of Mexico, and includes a boardwalk over the main road to get to it. We would have loved to stay there, but every site was booked through March. If you ever think about staying at this park you need to consider booking a year in advance.

The Pensacola Naval Museum was on the way to our next destination so we decided to stop there, with the RV towing the Jeep. We had confirmed that there was a parking lot large enough to accommodate our rig. However, we missed the appropriate turn for the gate entrance to the museum and ended up going to the Naval Base main entrance. There was no way we could turn the RV around before going through the security gates. Security made us pull over and wait 10 minutes for a police car to lead us back to the exit. After that excitement we decided to park the RV at a nearby Target parking lot and simply take the Jeep to the museum, as you have to go through yet another security entrance. We finally made it to the museum and spent a couple hours there meandering around the planes.

After the museum we continued on our way to Navarre’s Emerald RV Park in Navarre, FL. It was pretty much the only RV park along the panhandle we were able to find a spot at last minute. When we arrived it was pouring down rain. We had been dealing with a ton of rain and cold weather since leaving Atlanta the week prior.

During our time in the panhandle we visited the Air Force Armament Museum. It was very interesting. They have a large variation of armament from the early days of WWI through today. The write-ups and displays throughout the museum were well done and informative.

We also visited ‘The Gulf Islands National Seashore’. It is a short 10-minute drive from the Emerald RV Park. We found the national seashore park to be extremely quiet at this time of the year. We rarely saw a car go by as we drove and walked along the park’s main road. I regretted not having brought our bikes on the trip, as a ride through the park would have been enjoyable.

We discovered, through their blog (https://liferebooted.net/), that fellow RVers, Kat and Mike were staying just east of Destin, at Topsail State Park. We were able to meet up with them for lunch at the Back Porch Restaurant in Destin. Last year, by pure coincidence, we discovered through their blog that they were staying at the Lost Dutchman State Park in Phoenix, AZ while we were there. Turns out, they were our nextdoor neighbors.

The week spent in Florida’s panhandle was very enjoyable. The Emerald RV Park was centrally located in between Destin and Pensacola Beach. The sunsets from the park’s dock were very pretty.

If we returned though we might pick the Santa Rosa RV park, just down the street from Emerald. It has a nicer pool to sit around and larger patios. Another good option is the Pensacola Beach RV Resort. It is on the island, next to Gulf Islands National Seashore. There are a number of waterfront lots facing the inner waterway. It is close to Pensacola and within walking distance to a number of shops and restaurants.

We spotted this unique ‘Martian’ house not too far from the Pensacola Beach RV Park. Pretty crazy:

Our final stop in Florida’s panhandle was in St. Joe, and that was just for lunch. We were working our way to Tallahassee for an overnight stay and visit with friends. The drive along the coast to St. Joe was picture perfect. We drove through numerous quaint beachfront towns. For lunch we ate at Sunset Coastal Grill, along the water in St. Joe. It was fabulous.

We look forward to returning to the area in the future.

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Catching Up after being home for a few months

We ended our last road trip, in early October, at Mountain Falls Luxury RV Resort in Lake Toxaway, NC (http://www.mtn-falls.com/). We consider this to be our RV home base. In 2016 we purchased an RV lot up on the ridge.

This past October we sold that lot and purchased another lot, with a Coach House. Closing on the new property was scheduled for the week after our return. We were very excited to close the deal and have a beautiful home on the ridge.

After moving up to our new lot we spent a couple weeks at Mountain Falls, enjoying Fall colors in the Blue Ridge mountains. We then headed to our stick and bricks home in Atlanta, GA for a few months. We enjoyed catching up and visiting with family and friends.

During our time off from RVing, we participated in the Carolina Balloon Festival, in Statesville NC (http://www.carolinaballoonfest.com/). Charlie has competed in this event, off and on, since 1980. It is always a lot of fun. This year’s weather pattern was perfect for flying.

In December, we spent a few days at the Lake House, enjoying some scenic snowfall.

In January, we flew the plane down to Florida for a short vacation.

 

We visited the Kennedy Space Center, which we both enjoyed very much. We had the opportunity to see the SpaceX Falcon Heavy from a distance. Unfortunately, we were just a couple weeks too early for the launch.

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Our hotel was right on Cocoa Beach. Sunrises were beautiful, as seen through our hotel window.

After a few days in Cocoa Beach we flew down to Stuart, FL to visit some friends and then flew up to Hilton Head, SC. We had some beautiful sights of the coastline, as well as the Kennedy Space Center from the air.

After a busy few months at home, it is time to hit the road again. We’ve decided to do Florida this winter, with the goal of relaxing a little bit. We’ll see how that goes….

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Badlands & Minuteman Missile Nat’l Site; Oct. 4, 2017

Since we were traveling along Interstate 90 through South Dakota, on our way back to North Carolina, we decided to make a stop at the Badlands National Park. Neither of us had ever been there. We were anxious to get home, so we allotted only a few hours for the visit.

We parked the RV at the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site. The Museum is just north of the Badlands, at Exit 131. Between 1963 and the early 1990s there were 15 launch control facilities in South Dakota. They commanded and controlled 150 launch facilities holding Minuteman Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. This museum preserves two of these facilities in their historic site.

After our tour we unhooked the Jeep and drove down the road to the Badlands. The land surrounding the Badlands is primarily flat. As you approach the park you are awed by the massively large and colorful geologic deposits which make up the Badlands. It is certainly a unique site.

We enjoyed our drive through the park. If we ever visit again I would love to spend a couple nights. Capturing a full moon, or the Milky Way, over the geologic deposits would be fantastic.

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On our way back to the Minuteman Missile, to pick up the RV, we stopped by Wall, SD. We saw a lot of signs about the Wall Drug Store and figured we should check it out. It is quite the tourist spot. We buzzed in and out of the gift shops in record time and got back on the road quickly. There wasn’t much for us in Wall.

After picking up the RV we worked our way to Mitchell, SD where we spent the night in a Cabella’s parking lot. It was our first time overnighting at a Cabella’s. It was great. This particular store has one large lot dedicated to RVs and Trucks. The parking spaces are long and wide. They even have a dump station and water. Additionally, there are a few restaurants within walking distance. In the future, we will be looking for a Cabela’s, over Walmart, for on-the-road overnight parking.

The following day we drove 645 miles to O’Fallon, IL. We spent the night at a Walmart. Like a horse to its barn, we were ready to get home so we got an early start the next day too and drove 670 miles to our home base; Mountain Falls Luxury Motorcoach Resort in Lake Toxaway, NC. We made it there right as the sun was setting.

We had been gone for only a month and had visited with friends in St. Louis, enjoyed Aspen, Ouray, Silverton, Durango, and Telluride in Colorado. We spent a great week with friends in Moab, UT. We visited Yellowstone, the Tetons, the area around Cody WY and the Badlands. Whew, that’s a lot of adventure in one month! We loved it all!!

Until next time……

 

 

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South Dakota – Spearfish and Mt Rushmore area: Oct. 1 – 4, 2017

If you ever travel to South Dakota to see Mt. Rushmore you might want to allocate some time to drive along the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway. It is a 22-mile route, along Alt-14, which begins at Exit 10 off of Interstate 90 in Spearfish. The scenery is breathtaking. You are surrounded by thousand-foot-high limestone palisades. Spearfish Creek flows along the road and there are numerous canyon waterfalls to see.

Weather during our drive was less than optimal. It was rainy and cold. While it wasn’t nice being out in the elements, it did lead to some good pictures. Generally, nature pictures in the middle of the day do not turn out well. A cloud ridden day can be helpful for color saturation, which was nice to have since the leaves were showing off their Fall colors.

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Along the route we stumbled upon the Spearfish Canyon Lodge and Latchstring Restaurant. Although we weren’t very hungry, we decided to stop in for a bite to eat. Mostly, we stopped in for some warmth. We were cold to the bone and it was raining pretty hard at the time. We were glad we stopped, as lunch was very good.

Following lunch we headed over to Lead, SD. Lead was founded back in 1876, after the discovery of gold in the surrounding mountains. It is the site of the Homestake Mine; the largest, deepest (8,240 feet) and most productive gold mine in the Western Hemisphere before closing in early 2002. In the early 1900’s Lead was the second largest town in South Dakota. The town is fairly quite today. While in Lead we took a tour of the Black Hills Mining Museum. It was an informative and interesting tour, which we enjoyed.

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Our next stop was Deadwood. This is a quaint old Western town with cobbled streets. We were surprised to find that every gift shop, hotel and restaurant in this small town had some type of casino gaming equipment. If you like to gamble, you shouldn’t miss this place. It is gambling mecca with an old Western spin to it.

After thoroughly enjoying our day trip we returned back to our RV, located at the Spearfish Walmart. Because it was late in the afternoon we decided to spend a second night there.

The following day we were ready to head down to Mt. Rushmore. However, after we turned on the Tire Pressure Monitoring System we found that one of the front Jeep Cherokee tires had low pressure. A nail was embedded in it. Fortunately, there was a GoodYear Tire store just down the road. We ended up replacing both front tires.

We made it down to Keystone (Mt. Rushmore area) by mid-day. Many of the campgrounds were closed for the season. Fortunately, we found a Travelodge Hotel that also had a few RV spots for rent. We parked the RV, unhooked the Jeep, and headed off to see the area.

Our first stop was at the Crazy Horse Memorial. This monument is one of the world’s largest sculptural undertakings. Once completed, it will depict the Oglala Lakota warrior, Crazy Horse, riding a horse and pointing into the distance. The head of Crazy Horse will be 87 feet high; by comparison, the heads of the four U.S. Presidents at Mount Rushmore are each 60 feet high. The monument has been in progress since 1948 and is far from completion.

Next, we took a drive through Custer State Park. The park encompasses 71,000 acres of spectacular terrain and is noted as having an abundance of wildlife. However, we did not see any wildlife, aside from deer. We did enjoy driving amongst the tall granite spires and squeezing through the small tunnels.

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We ended our short road trip at Mt Rushmore, just before sunset. I’ve seen so many pictures of the monument growing up that seeing it in real life was a little anti-climatic. Regardless, I’m glad we had the opportunity to visit. It is such a unique tribute to these four presidents.

For dinner, we decided to try out the only restaurant in Keystone that was still open at this late time of the season. It was a cute old Western style restaurant, called Ruby House.

The next morning we packed up and headed off for the Badlands. More on that later…..

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Cody, WY: Sep. 29 – Oct. 1

We loved our short visit to Cody, WY. There is so much to see in and around this Western town, named after its founder, “Buffalo Bill” Cody.

We stayed at the Ponderosa RV Park. It is a small family owned campground right on the edge of town, and within walking distance to the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, which houses five separate museums, including the Buffalo Bill Museum, the Cody Firearms Museum, the Draper Natural History Museum, the Plains Indian Museum and the Whitney Western Art Museum.

If you are ever in Cody, the Center is a ‘must-see’. Charlie and I are not big gun people, but we spent hours perusing the Cody Firearms Museum. It is fascinating. The museum houses the most comprehensive collection of American firearms in the world. They have over 7,000 guns in their collection.

The Buffalo Bill Museum is full of interesting historical information about Buffalo Bill’s life. It is said that in his heyday he was the most recognized and celebrated person in the world – the first truly international “superstar.”

The Whitney Western Art Museum has all different types of Western art work, while the Plains Indian Museum does a great job of telling a story from the Indian’s perspective with full scale mock-ups of Indian villages and day to day objects. We enjoyed our visit to all 5 museums. It took a full day to get through them, and we felt we went through them fairly quickly.

We spent one afternoon at The Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area. It is just about an hour Northeast of Cody. This area is known for its diverse landscape and for the wild Mustangs that are allowed to roam freely. Bighorn is about an hour’s drive Northeast of Cody.

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We were lucky enough to spot a few of the Mustangs hanging out in their environment.

On our way back to Cody, from Bighorn, we stopped by the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center. Heart Mountain was a ‘relocation’ center, opened in August 1942. More than 14,000 Japanese and American Japanese were imprisoned at this site during its three-year existence. The new center, which opened in 2011, uses photographs, artifacts, oral histories and interactive exhibits to give people a feel for what it was like for those that were confined there during WWII. Charlie and I both found it very informative, and heart wrenching to see how these American citizens were treated. It was also scary to see how quickly and easily it was for neighbors to turn on neighbors simply because of somebody’s heritage and/or race.

We stopped for lunch at the WY Old Brewing Company in Powell. It looked like a relatively new brewery. The food was good, but it took forever to get our meal served. Hopefully they resolve that problem, as we liked the food and environment.

For dinner we ate at Proud Cut Saloon ‘n Steak House in Cody. The food and service was excellent. The restaurant was packed with locals. In speaking with our bartender we discovered that we timed our visit to Cody perfectly, as we were there for the last weekend of business for most of the restaurants and shops in town, before they all shut down for the winter.

After a great couple of days in Cody we packed up and moved on towards Spearfish, SD. In order to get there you have to cross a mountain range. Snow was in the forecast so we opted for the most Southern route over the range. This route, along WY-16, took us through the small towns of Ten sleep and Meadowlark Lake. It is a very scenic area, one that I would love to return to in the future.

If you ever drive along this route, be sure to keep an eye out for deer. We had near collisions with them at least half a dozen times. We had even more near misses when we got to South Dakota. It was pretty nerve racking.

Until our next blog, about Mt. Rushmore and Spearfish Canyon……..

 

 

 

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West Yellowstone, MT and Tetons: Sep. 25 – 29, 2017

We had an adventurous drive from Moab to West Yellowstone, in particular, through the Price Canyon Recreation Area in Utah. It was the first time that we had driven the coach through snow showers. The showers only lasted 30 minutes, but it seemed like a long time, as the snow was coming down pretty heavy at times.

We spent the night in the Walmart parking lot in Idaho Falls, SD. It had been a long day and we didn’t want to drive the last part of the trip in the dark.

The following morning we completed our drive to the Grizzly RV Park in West Yellowstone, MT. The park was at about 30% capacity. Even so, we were required to wait until the official check-in time. The staff was very friendly and suggested that we leave the RV out front and stroll into town until check-in time. Grizzly is only a couple of blocks from downtown so we took a walk and explored a few of the local tourist shops and the Yellowstone National Park visitor center.

After checking in we parked in our spot, unhooked the Jeep, and headed into the park. It was my first visit to Yellowstone. Charlie had been there once before, but only for a day trip on a tour bus. Therefore, we were excited to explore the park together.

The week prior to our arrival the area in and around Yellowstone had been hit with a big snowstorm. Many of the roads in Yellowstone were closed during the storm. They had just reopened. During our stay the weather was great. Temps got up in the 50s and 60s and the sun was out, for the most part.

We spent 3 full days in Yellowstone and saw a majority of the park. The only part we missed was Beartooth Highway, in the Northeast region. The park was not very crowded. Even so, we often found ourselves sitting in long lines of cars, waiting for Bison to cross the road or for people to simply stop and observe the wildlife in the fields. I couldn’t imagine visiting the park at the height of the tourist season.

We had originally planned on spending 5 nights in West Yellowstone and then 4 nights in the Tetons. However, as the week progressed the weather predictions for the following week became a little concerning. Freezing rain and snow were headed our way so we decided to shorten our visit in Yellowstone and to take only a day trip to the Tetons. We were disappointed that we did not have time to get out and do some hiking, especially in the beautiful Teton mountain range. However, this gives us a good reason to return.

Since we were no longer staying in the Tetons we decided to head over to Cody, WY. We drove the RV through the park, from West Yellowstone to Cody. I thoroughly enjoyed this part of the trip, sitting high in the RV and having a fantastic view of the landscape and animals. I especially loved it as we travelled through the mountain range on the east side of the park. The views were spectacular. I was very surprised by how much of the park has been subjected to forest fires. New trees are starting to grow, but the number of trees burnt by various fires is staggering.

The Grizzly RV Park is very nice and we highly recommend it. The location to town and the west Yellowstone Park entrance is great. Speaking of town, we had dinner one evening at Bullwinkles Saloon & Eatery. I went out on a limb and ordered their Elk Ravioli. It was fantastic!

I hope you enjoy the pictures:

Grand Prismatic Spring:

Gibbon Falls:

Monument Geyser Basin area:

Continental Divide:

Bison

East Entrance area and Sylvan Lake

Elk

Fountain Paint Pot area

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Hayden Valley

Lamar Valley

Mammoth Hot Springs

Northern tip of West Thumb – fire stricken area

Old Faithful

Tower Junction Area

Upper Geyser Basin

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West Thumb Geyser Basin

Tetons

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Moab, UT: Sep. 17 – 24, 2017

I’m a little behind on my blog. We kept very busy on our month long trip to Aspen and Ouray CO, Moab UT, Yellowstone, Tetons, Cody WY, Mt. Rushmore and Badlands. I hope you enjoy this blog on Moab. I hope to publish the remaining trip blogs within the next few days.

We left Ouray, CO and headed to Moab, UT on September 17th, where we met up with friends from our RV homebase; Mountain Falls Luxury Motorcoach Resort in Lake Toxaway, NC. It was our first time meeting up with another couple for an RV vacation. We could not have had a better time. We thoroughly enjoyed exploring Moab with Van and Jane.

The weather was very nice during our stay. Temps got up to the 70s and 80s in the afternoon, and cooled down to the 30s at night. The week prior to our visit, temps were up near 105 degrees! We would not have enjoyed that.

We stayed at the Portal RV Resort, renting an owner lot. All owner lots are very large with cement slabs and patios. Our patio included a pergola with a nice outdoor dining set. The resort is set off the main road about a ¼ mile so you don’t hear much traffic. We loved the resort.

For our first evening in Moab we tried out Jeffrey’s Steakhouse. I think it is the most upscale restaurant in town, although it is casual enough for jeans. The restaurant is in a restored historic sandstone building. We sat at a table on the patio and enjoyed the cool evening. It was a great setting for catching up with our friends, while enjoying excellent filets and wine.

During the week we toured Dead Horse Point State Park, Canyonlands National Park and Arches. Unfortunately, Arches National Park is closed from 7pm to 7am Sunday night through Friday morning for the entire year due to road construction. This left us only Friday and Saturday nights for sunset and Milky Way shots, and as luck would have it, the weather was not cooperative.

Dead Horse Point State Park reminded me of Gooseneck’s Sate Park, also in Utah. From the viewing point, 2,000 feet above a gooseneck in the Colorado River, vertical cliffs and canyons surround you. It is very scenic.

One afternoon we drove along Potash road from Moab to Canyonlands. It is a scenic byway, which ends at the gooseneck, seen from the Dead Horse Point State Park viewing point. We stopped at the river, broke out the wine and sandwiches and enjoyed sunset.

This is a good overview of the Potash Road landscape, where it meets up with Shafer Trail, from an overlook in the state park.

 

Pictures taken along Potash Road

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We really wanted to get some good Milky Way shots while in Moab. We were there during the ‘new moon’ phase, so star gazing was expected to be optimal. One evening, we found a nice BLM (Bureau of Land Management) spot off of Rt 128 near Castle Valley for shooting the Milk Way, and for having a cook-out. We grilled burgers off the back of the pickup while waiting for the skies to darken. It was a lot of fun.

 

The Fisher Towers were nearby where we photographed the Milky Way:

On another day we visited Canyonlands. While there, we took a short hike to see the Mesa Arch. The views through the arch are spectacular.

We then took sunset pictures at the Green River Overlook in Canyonlands. Following sunset we found a picnic spot in the park and grilled up some dinner. We cooked and ate under our headlamps, as it was pitch black outside. After dinner we headed back over to the Green River Overlook where we found the winds to be exceptionally strong and it was so dark you could barely see your hand in front of your face. The winds made shooting the Milky Way difficult and the darkness made it impossible to get any definition of the landscape, so I decided to simply play around with lightpainting.

We returned to Canyonlands for sunrise. It was still very windy, but sunrise turned out to be pretty good. We would have liked for a little more light on the clouds, but photographers are rarely fully happy with their shooting environment

The only time we really had for touring Arches National Park, considering the weather and road closures, was during the day. This made for lack luster photo opportunities. Regardless, we enjoyed seeing the park and now have a good reason to return to Moab.

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For our last day in Moab we rented ATVs and took a tour to a point called Hell’s Landing. The weather was perfect for the ride. The winds had finally died down and the temperature had cooled to the 70s. For those who like Mountain Biking, this is the place to be. There are miles and miles of land to explore.

After a fun-filled week of sightseeing, cook-outs in unique settings, star-gazing, and off-roading, we spent our last evening at the RV park and played a game of Euchre. I was thrilled to learn that Jane and Van knew how to play. Not many people do, unless you are from Michigan.

We had a great week in Moab and look forward to returning at a future time.

Our next destination is Yellowstone, while Van and Jane travel towards Zion.

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Aspen’s Maroon Bells, and Ouray, CO: Sep. 9 – 17, 2017

We left St. Charles, Missouri on Sep. 7th. After driving 11-12 hours we stopped at a Walmart in Colby, KS. While Walmart is not our favorite spot to spend a night, we found this one to be very convenient. We needed to get some grocery shopping done and there was a decent restaurant down the street.

The following morning we were back on I-70 by 7:15am. The trip was uneventful, even through Denver. It was a nice drive from Denver to Glenwood Springs. The RV did great on the steep mountain roads. We arrived at the Glenwood Canyon Resort early in the afternoon. We had a great back-in site. It was roomy and set against a mountain backdrop. After parking we headed into the town of Glenwood Springs. Unfortunately, the bridge into the town was closed due to major reconstruction. This led to a traffic nightmare. We found ourselves taking an hour to go about a mile. We got what we needed at the hardware store and returned to the RV without exploring Glenwood Springs.

The campground we stayed at offered cabins for rent and unfortunately, it appeared that a large group of young locals decided to spend the weekend in them. About half a dozen of them were stone drunk, loud and obnoxious throughout most of the night, walking up and down the campground street in front of our RV. It was the first time we had ever had an issue like this.

Early the next morning we left the RV and took the Jeep to Aspen with the goal of photographing Maroon Bells. These mountains, Maroon Peak and North Maroon Peak, are touted as the most photographed in Colorado.

We had breakfast in Aspen and then headed to the Bells, on a reconnaissance mission. I didn’t want to have the next morning be our first visit to the park, as it would be pitch black and we wouldn’t know where the best spot would be for taking the picture. We took in the spectacular scenery and then took a hike up to Crater Lake. It was a challenging 3.5 mile round-trip hike. We started at an altitude of around 9,400 ft and walked up another 750 ft. Since it was our first full day at the high altitude I often struggled to catch my breath on the hike.

The water level in Crater Lake was low and the scenery was anticlimactic after seeing the Bells. It was good to get some exercise in though after so many days of driving.

After hiking we strolled through downtown Aspen. We found ourselves in the middle of a Mac & Cheese festival. We enjoyed sampling each and every kind!

In the evening, we checked into the Snowmass Village Westin for the night. As we drove into Snowmass we came upon a very large buck strolling along in the middle of the road. The next morning we came across another buck in the road, and a fox. It was very nice to see the wildlife, and glad we were able to avoid a collision with them.

The weather was cold and rainy when we turned in for the night. I was afraid that sunrise would not be as I had hoped at Maroon Bells. However, when I looked out the window at 4:45 am the next day I was pleasantly surprised to see a clear sky. We quickly packed up and headed to the Bells where I captured the picture below.

 

After photographing Maroon Bells we hiked the short 1.5 mile Scenic Loop. It was an enjoyable and pretty walk.

We then headed back to Glenwood Springs to pick up the RV and continue our journey. Our next destination was Ouray, CO (prounced you-ray), where we spent a week.

We arrived at the Ouray RV Campground on Sep. 10th. The park is very nice, located right on the river and within walking distance to the quaint downtown district. They also have a small restaurant offering breakfast and dinner most days. We would definitely stay there again.

During our stay in Ouray we rented a Jeep Wrangler, from Colorado West Jeeps, for a couple of days. We began our off-road adventure on Corkscrew Gulch, and then merged onto California Gulch, over Hurricane pass, onto California Pass and then California Gulch. We also did part of the Alpine Loop, Ophir Pass and the Alta Lakes Trail. We had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed exploring the area this way. The next day we took the Last Dollar Trail from CO-62 to Telluride and the Imogene Trail from Telluride to Ouray. The Imogene trail was the most aggressive, and a lot of fun.

The scenery in the backcountry is spectacular. You are able to explore old mining towns and get a feel for how life might have been for the early Westerners, back in the late 1800s.

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We enjoyed an afternoon walk around Silverton with lunch at Handlebars, a well-known Western Saloon. We then took a scenic drive on some of the back roads around the town. I’d highly recommend a visit to Silverton for acquiring a feel of the old West, although Ouray does a very good job of that as well.

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Our drive along the Million Dollar Highway, from Ouray to Durango, was very enjoyable. It is a fun, and scenic drive. In Durango we strolled around the old town area and visited the Train Museum. The Train Museum was very interesting and a highlight of our visit to Durango. On our return to Ouray we stopped by Honeyville, a honey specialty store that has been around since 1918. We sampled, and purchased, some good honey! Right down the street from Honeyville we found a ranch selling produce, meats and cheeses. We stopped in and purchased Filet Mignons, Hamburgers and Cheese. Since then we have eaten all of them and all were excellent!!

We loved our stay in Ouray and look forward to returning some time in the future.

Ouray, CO from the overlook

 

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St. Louis, MO: Sep. 5-7, 2017

Well, it’s been 4 months since my last post. During those 4 months we parked the RV on our ridge lot at the Mountain Falls Luxury RV Resort in Lake Toxaway, NC. We visited as often as we could, but were pulled in many directions over the summer. We had Hot Air Ballooning events to participate in, a wedding in Poughkeepsie, New York to attend and we welcomed our newest grandchild into the world in Atlanta. We celebrated the Solar Eclipse with friends at our place in Hiawassee, GA. In between, we caught up with family and friends in and around Atlanta. In the end, we never stayed in one place for more than 7 nights. In fact, most of the time we spent only 2-3 nights at a location. While it was an exhausting summer, we enjoyed every minute of it. We recognize how truly blessed we are to be healthy and to have the means to travel.

Now we are back on the road, and looking forward to staying in one residence for the next 6 weeks, with the exception of an overnight excursion here and there.

We left Lake Toxaway, NC just before sunrise on Tuesday, September 5th. We drove just over 12 hours to St. Louis. We went through a couple of thunderstorms between Nashville and Knoxville. After that it was smooth cruising. We arrived at the Sundermeier RV Park in St. Charles early evening. We had a large pull-through site so we didn’t have to bother unhooking the car right away. Instead, we broke open a bottle of wine and heated up one of my favorite dinners; Aunt Lena’s Chicken. I cooked extra the last time I made it and froze some for our trip.

In the morning we drove into St. Louis. We found the city to be eerily quiet. Literally, we only saw a handful of cars and people out and about. It seemed like a Sunday afternoon, but it was Wednesday. Granted, it was during Labor Day week so maybe many people were on holiday.

We toured the Old Courthouse, a Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. The courthouse was the site of the first two trials of the pivotal Dred Scott case in 1847 and 1850. Dred Scott and his wife Harriet were slaves who sued for their freedom. They were granted it in 1847. However, in 1850 the Supreme Court ruled that slaves were property, and as such, had no right to sue. The decision hastened the start of the Civil War.

Virginia Minor’s case for a woman’s right to vote came to trial in this courthouse, in the 1870s, as well. The Old Courthouse is a beautiful piece of architecture. You are able to tour it on your own at no cost.

We also took a tour of the Economy Museum, located in the lobby area of the Federal Reserve Bank. The museum is interactive and quite interesting, but a little boring for us.

Following our museum tour we met up with a friend of Charlie’s, whom he had not seen for many years. We enjoyed visiting with Diana over pizza at a local restaurant and then headed back to St. Charles.

We took a walk through Historic St. Charles, a quaint neighborhood of shops and restaurants along cobble-stoned streets. With the weather in the low 70s, the walk was very pleasant.

In the evening we met up with a couple, John and Debbie, whom we had previously met on a Viking River Cruise in Europe. We had a great evening with them, exploring areas we would not have otherwise seen. We traveled across the Mississippi river on the Golden Eagle Ferry and then across the Illinois River via the Brussels Ferry. We ended up at Aerie’s Winery in Grafton, Illinois. We enjoyed a spectacular view from the balcony, while sipping wine and snacking on flatbread.

Following sunset, we continued our journey along the river’s coastline. Our friends then decided that we needed to experience Fast Eddie’s Bon-Air in Alton, IL for a late dinner. The story behind this legendary place is interesting. In short, Anheuser-Busch opened this place as a drinking establishment in 1921 and called it Bon-Air. Ten years later it sold to the Balaco family and then in 1981 it sold to Eddie Sholar (alias Fast Eddie). Fast Eddie changed the place quickly. It quadrupled in size and became one of the most popular bars around. About 20 years ago Eddie added a food menu with basics such as burgers, hot dogs, shish-kabobs, brats and fries. Today, the prices of those food items remain the same as when they were added to the menu. Half pound burgers are $1.99, for example. We had a great time and loved sharing new river and dining adventures with John and Debbie.

Today we are heading towards Colorado. More on that later…..

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