Bryce is Best

The first Canyon views bring a gasp of amazement. Can this be real? Is is some kind of lighting trick?20160424_102544.jpg20160423_140750.jpg20160422_113539 Reality set in, and my head swiveled from side to side to take in the extraordinaryness that is Bryce Canyon. My second thought? I don’t have the camera or skills to capture this. I wish I had a stereo, or 3D camera.

imageOur three-night stay in the North Campground turned into four, as we swiftly figured out that we couldn’t possibly drink in all the sights in such a short time. I don’t know how much time would be enough, but we didn’t reach that limit. At Bryce, the attraction is the hoodos, those tall skinny spires of rock that reach up from the Canyon bottom and are wind and weather eroded into spectacular formations. 20160423_124638.jpg20160422_10350720160424_124336.jpg20160424_124716.jpg20160422_11290320160422_102850Some have names, such as Tower Bridge.20160424_120753Others set your imagination reeling with images from your own knowledge. Some days, we shuttled to trailheads on the amazing bus system, and bicycled back and forth other days when it suited us. It was always cold in the morning, warming up into the mid 60’s – 70’s during the day. Spectacular winds blow through the Canyon, swirling dust devils through the air. Parents clutched their kids, and everyone hung on to their hats. John convinced me to step out to precipice for a photo op. I had to brace myself from being blown off the edge, and hang on to my favorite hat at the same time.imageWe hiked the northernmost trail (Fairyland Canyon) and the southernmost trail (Bristlecone), and several inbetween those two. The details of each day have already blurred, so I’ll just share a few of my favorite photos.20160423_124959.jpg20160423_130219.jpg20160424_110209.jpg20160424_102731.jpg20160423_131258.jpg20160423_130219.jpg20160424_110209.jpg20160424_115055.jpg20160424_124336.jpg20160424_124716.jpgEven if you never hike, amazing views can be had from the Rim Trail which travels along the 18 mile length of the Canyon. Take the shuttle, jump off and on and you please.image20160423_132918.jpg20160423_140750.jpg20160423_141607.jpg20160423_141757.jpgEven the jet contrails above Bryce resemble hoodoos. I was sorely tempted to turn this photo upside down to make my point, but you’ll get it anyway.20160422_120634My quest for the Bristlecone Pine, the oldest living trees on earth was answered, but not in the manner that I had hoped. This is what I had hoped to see, but the Bristlecones we saw were far less spectacular.20160423_134804.jpg20160422_103817But we did observe many in varying stages of life, and felt privileged to do so. We saw some variety of spruce that was forming cones, and the branch tips were bright pink. Perhaps it was new branch growth, but it appeared to me to be cone formation with the striking color. A visit like this will remind you of all you do not know, and probably will never really understand.20160424_104123.jpgNow we have seen the oldest (Bristlecone), tallest (Coastal Redwood), and largest (Giant Sequoia) trees in the world. My heart still belongs to the Sequoias, but it quiets me to be in the presence of any of these giant trees.

I have so many more photos that I perhaps will share on a separate photo-only post, if I find a place with some good WiFi. A post like this gobbles up an amazing amount of our monthly data plan. ;-)

Our post-Bryce plan was to camp on BLM land in nearby Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. But, we awoke to snow and freezing rain. We packed up our stiff and frozen awning,  and rolled as quickly as possible to a lower elevation. As we dropped down (over 3000′ for the day), the snow turned to sleet, then to sunny breezy 50 degree temps, then back to rainstorms as we reached Kanab, UT. The knowledgeable Ranger at the Visitor Center there advised us not to venture onto any of the backcountry roads, as the storm threat and past rainy weather had made the roads unpassable for two-wheelers such as us. She showed us where we could find a great camping site just off a paved road, which we checked out. It was raining by the time we got there, and the deep ruts in the clay site were enough to scare us off camping there for the night. There are signs everywhere warning of impassable roads under rainy conditions. We headed back to an RV park in Kanab. It’s probably a good thing, since it’s been raining steadily for six hours since. One bad experience with a tow truck has made us wary of volunteering for another

Tomorrow, we plan to venture back up into Grand Staircase to see if it’s possible to actually stay and explore for a night or two. But, having had one bad towing experience, we’re not about to expose ourselves (willingly) to another. We may roll eastward. Destination unknown.







Foreign Lands

After traveling around and camping in the US for the past four months, John and I decided to add a bit of international flavor to our trip. So, we jumped on our bikes (from our current base in Carson City, NV) and headed off to the Sovereign Republic of Molossia, a scant twenty miles away. 20160416_115956Never heard of Molossia? I’m shocked!

It all started with an article from Atlas Obscura, which I read just a day or two ago. (I urge you to read this, so you will understand why we needed to make the long trek to a foreign country). It seemed only reasonable to bike up there to see what Molassia is all about. The article linked above indicated that tours would be given on April 16, which just happens to be Obscura Day (whatever that is). We even brought our passports, in hopes of getting the coveted Molossia stamp, which was also referenced in the article.

Well, the welcome mat certainly was not rolled out as we had expected. 20160416_120155No Trespassing signs were everywhere. We were warned not to cross the clearly marked US/Molossia Border, without permission, which we didn’t have. 20160416_120105Inside the Palace or Official Residence, we could hear somebody vacuuming (presumably the President, First Lady, or one of the 31 other citizens of Molossia). We were hesitant to approach.20160416_12032020160416_120426From a distance, we could see the business center of Molossia, which seemed to consist of a Post Office, bank, some kind of t-shirt shop, and a few other sites which were too far away for us to clearly see them. 20160416_120220Fred, the guy at the Border Control station was distinctly unhelpful.20160416_12012020160416_120207After propping our bikes up for a few photos, we sadly pedaled away. 20160416_120251Perhaps if President Kevin Baugh would send the Official State Limo to pick us up, we would consider another visit. Until then – Bah!

On the bright side, we pedaled about 40 miles – checked out Dayton State Park, had a superb (and cheap!) lunch at Compadres in Dayton, and sneaked a peek at some of the treasures stowed away at the Dayton Historical Museum.20160416_130122Here are a few other shots of our day’s adventure around the Dayton/Molossia area.20160416_10365520160416_11185620160416_12564020160416_124921It was a pretty good day.


A Kansas Flop

At first light Sunday morning, we snuck out of town before all the church bells woke everyone up (although how anyone could sleep through all the trains is a mystery). Our RV park was about 50′ from the tracks.

Plan was to make the 200 mile drive to Abilene, KS and spend several hours at the Eisenhower Presidential Museum, then camp at an RV park in Abilene. Eisenhower was to be the first of the Republican Museums we’ve visited. So far, the four Museums we’ve visited have all been Dems.

What a major disappointment this museum was! 20151220_132734Probably 60% of it was devoted to Eisenhower’s military service and general WWII artifacts. If you like to read tiny print on large posters, this is the museum for you! Guns, tanks, military uniforms….you get the picture.20151220_135909Finally, we get to the point – Eisenhower was sought by both parties to run for President, but the Republicans finally won him over..20151220_140844 Truman supposedly had told him that he would run as Eisenhower’s VP, if only Eisenhower would run on the Dem ticket. But, we all know that Eisenhower/Nixon was the winning Republican combo in 1952 and 1956.20151220_141059Curiously, it seems to me that he was a President with no agenda. No New Deal, Fair Deal, Great Society or anything like that. Just kind of an I Like Ike agenda. His enormous popularity as a war hero carried the day.20151220_142649 NASA was formed during his administration, the Interstate Highway System was started as well. Eisenhower favored integration, both of schools and the military, but it seemed to be a lukewarm effort. There really wasn’t much that stood out in the Museum, except Mamie.20151220_13510620151220_135325 We got a really good impression of her – always smiling and engaging, in direct contrast to the rather dour Bess Truman who preceded her.

Oh, Eisenhower was the only President to win an Oscar – for enlightening use of television as a medium.20151220_142211 We left the Museum without much of a portrait of Eisenhower as a President. So disillusioned were we, that we abandoned our plan to stay in Abilene, and so we moved on down the road for another three hours.

Unfortunately, that put us in Dodge City, KS – a place I swore I would never step foot in again. (Here’s a link to my post about our visit here)Ugh! But, our choices were very limited. We stayed at a campground, laughingly called Water Sports Campground. Perhaps it was named that because of the huge, deep mud puddles everywhere.20151220_183441 My new red Marmoleum floor took a whipping! We couldn’t get out of there fast enough in the morning. Check out some of our neighbors! 20151220_183000So, we can check Kansas off this trip. Next up – New Mexico. Bright sunshine picked up our spirits a bit, and we had smooth sailing down two-lane Kansas State Highways for mile after mile. Crossing into New Mexico, we opted to cut our travel day short and camp at Storrie Lake State Park in Las Vegas, NM.. 20151221_173337No facilities of any sort. Pit toilets. We were the only campers there. We buried our noses in books and spent a very cold night in solitude. 20151221_174538Dark clouds and ominous skies greeted us Tuesday morning as we prepared to depart for Winslow, AZ.20151222_095656 Another long travel day, punctuated by howling winds and snow squalls. This was my first time driving/towing in the show and big wind. Tense? I had to pry my clawed fingers off the wheel when we finally stopped for gas, and switched positions. As we approached the AZ state line, we were greeted with this sight – behind the mountain was a bright white horizontal band of clouds, (just below the halfway point in the photo) outlining the mountains and mesa in the distance. It looked like a cloud tsunami! With the dark sky overhead, it was spectacular. My photo, shot thru the truck windshield really doesn’t capture the drama.  20151222_144913But, we got to Winslow in time to take Jezzy for a long walk in honor of her 10th birthday. So, we did the historic photo – you all know what this is about, right?20151222_163416Another five hours of driving tomorrow, and we’ll (finally) be in Las Vegas. Merry Christmas to all – we’ll be hanging out with family, and NOT getting in the truck for a week!


Winding It Up

Seems like we’ve been on the road forever, but it’s really only been about seven weeks. In some ways, I’m ready to be back home, yet the minute we pull into the driveway, I’ll wish we were on the road. Guess that’s why I can’t see myself being a full-time RVer anytime in the near future.

So, our last big stop is Ohiopyle State Park, in Ohiopyle, PA. Fun to say, but even more fun as a gorgeous park, with a wonderful campground.20151023_174914 Our main reason for selecting this park was its proximity to Fallingwater, the house generally acknowledged to be Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterwork. So, the first thing we did upon arrival was schedule a tour.20151022_131032Wow – what a fantastically beautiful location for a house. It sure didn’t hurt that we were there on a sparkling fall day, and the surrounding maples were in full color glory. 20151022_144054One of the things that makes this house so unique is the placement of the house on the site – instead of building across the stream so that you could see the falls from the house, Wright actually built the house directly over the falls. I’m sure a good argument can be made for either view, but there’s no doubt that Wright probably chose the less common placement. No photos are allowed inside the house on the tour, so you’ll just have to use your imagination.

BUT, I do have to say that it would be a tough spot (for me) to live. I kept looking around, wondering where I’d want to curl up with a book to enjoy the magnificent view. There isn’t one stick of comfy furniture in the entire house. (and the house includes all the original furniture, some of which was designed by FLW, as well.) Our tour didn’t include the kitchen, so I’m left to wonder what that may actually look like. Go, if you get the chance. After completing Fallingwater, Wright was besieged with over 400 more projects, only about half of which he managed to complete before his death.

We used the rest of our time at Ohiopyle to hike and explore. This little town is an adventurer’s paradise – the center being the Youghegheny River, which roars through town. Looks like a great spot to white water raft.20151022_15332620151022_12574620151022_125543There’s a larger set of falls nearby, Cucumber Falls, but try as I might, I could NOT get a decent photo. The lighting gods were conspiring against me that day. In addition, the Great Allegheny Passage bicycle trail runs through here – a tiny sliver of this 300+ mile trail from Pittsburgh to Washington DC. 20151023_143306 You can probably get a great hotdog at this little spot, but we didn’t sample one.20151022_153915

We drove forever the next day to get as far as Findley State Park, in Wellington, OH for a quick overnight. Another beautiful park, with very few inhabitants. We shared a loop with just one other camper, and hardly saw them at all – perhaps the downpour had something to do with that. But, here was the view from out the back of the Fireball.20151024_172431Pay no attention to the little blurry spot in the middle of the photo, I must have jiggled a bit when shooting this panorama. Jezzy liked it here, too.20151024_170227

Our last stop was Brighton Recreation Area in Michigan, selected because we needed to camp near Ann Arbor, as we had tickets to hear one of our favorite authors, David Sedaris. The show was fantastic – held in the Michigan Theater, a classic refurbished movie theater in downtown AA. We laughed all the way through – Sedaris is bold and has a self-deprecating manner that doubles his comic presentation.

Perhaps the star of this visit though were the three Sandhill Cranes who hung out with us for two days. From early morning to evening, they wandered through the campground, squawking and picking up various tidbits. It was huge entertainment to watch them.20151026_08093120151026_081049Obviously, as it gets later in the year, traffic in the campgrounds thins out. That’s fine with us!20151025_17455820151026_125830Last one to leave, turn out the lights.20151027_092601

Michiganders in Connecticut NewYorkdom

What a difference a week makes. After the opulence of Newport, we were ready for a dose of reality. Nope – that wasn’t going to happen in Mystic, CT. But, we thoroughly enjoyed our three days there, weather notwithstanding.

Since Connecticut doesn’t allow dogs in their State Park campgrounds (boo), we elected to stay in Seaport RV Resort. We usually avoid RV parks, but sometimes it’s all about location. Unhappy with the site we were assigned, they offered us the choice of about ten available sites. We selected the only one which was shaded  – a reasonable choice on the hot, humid afternoon when we checked in. Oops – a mistake. Very hard rains overnight nearly turned the T@DA into the SS Fireball. We should have been able to predict this calamity.20150930_07001720150930_073239It rained every day we were there, and that damn puddle never receded. Our patio mat was floating, and we made several unfortunate missteps out of the camper into the lake. In all fairness, though – the rest of the park was really pretty nice.

Mystic was a whaling town, until the demise of the industry in the 1920s. Over the next decade, town leaders decided to recreate the town into a living whaling museum. Not the cute type with costumed actors, but real people doing real work. We loved watching and chatting with the cooper (barrel maker).20151001_114829 Barrel slats are all consecutively numbered so that the barrels can be taken apart and reconstructed.

One of only five drydocks for wooden ship restorations in the US is located here. Ships are reconstructed mostly using original tools and methods. 20151001_125919Their showcase vessel is the whaling ship Charles Morgan, which survived in the brutal industry from its launch in 1841 until the 1920s.20150930_14292620150930_141149 After a multi-year, $5 million restoration, it sailed in 2014, and is permanently docked in Mystic. This is a photo of her under sail on her first voice after restoration. Wow. 20150930_135603There are films of the whaling expeditions, which are both horrifying and instructional. But, to wander the shipyards and chat with the folks who perform this amazing restoration is quite uplifting

We spent a fair amount of time (over two days) at the blacksmith shop.20151001_12065520151001_120455 Chains and all manner of forged materials are manufactured here, the hard way. 20150930_143102The head blacksmith’s hands were amazing – I asked if I could photograph them, and he obliged, although I was unable to capture his gnarly, stained and stunted fingers.20151001_121400 Remember the movie Amistad? All the leg irons and shackles in the movie were made by this Mystic blacksmith.20151001_120757 The educational reproduction ship is also docked here, although its future seems uncertain. 20151001_133205All in all, I have to admit at being captivated by the living Mystic museum (except for the Planetarium, where the program was laughable). Films, interviews, and working exhibits brought the era alive. An entire hall is devoted to mastheads from some ships that are long gone. Sadly, the lighting in this room doomed my attempts for any decent photos.20151001_11283520151001_112620We loved the history lesson, and there was none of the cloying historical reconstruction that can drive me crazy. We took full advantage of the fact that our ticket was good for two days.

Although we never saw the cantilevered drawbridge in Mystic raise up, we did see a crew team out for practice. So elegant.20150930_151902Can the rain stop yet? Apparently not.

After three days, we headed inland, scuttling our original plan to explore Long Island. The moisture pushed northward along the coast by Hurricane Joaquin was making us miserable, without any relief in sight. We wanted to make sure we weren’t caught up in an epic disaster, should Joaquin come ashore (he didn’t). After spending a few hours consulting maps and guidebooks, we decided to head to Hyde Park NY, home of the FDR Presidential Museum and Library. Our headquarters for this exploration would be the Mills-Norrie State Park, just a few miles from the Museum, and only 170 miles from Mystic.

But, wait! As we pass through New London CT, what’s that sigh about the Nautilus Submarine Museum? After speeding past, we ha to pull off the road and see if this was something we needed to explore. It turned out to be a worthwhile stop.

The Nautilus was the first US nuclear submarine. IT was named after the Nautilus in the Jules Verne novel 20 Thousand Leagues Under the Sea of which there is a first (or perhaps just an early) edition copy onboard.20151002_105508There’s a free museum onsite documenting the history of submarines in the US Navy, complete with a fascinating 50 minute film, which provided a taste of life for the current and past sailors who have served on subs. So many heroes, and such a tough life. It really was inspiring to watch. We toured the Nautilus – and the cramped passageways and tiny personal spaces are truly remarkable.20151002_110647 I really cannot imagine being confined to living like this – the training for submariners must be pretty intense to weed out any of the sailors who have the will, but not the ability to live in such confinement. Imagine bunks four beds high in an eight foot room. It was noted that these spaces are larger than all newer subs, except for the very newest, such as the Ohio, the largest sub in the US Navy. Steel rings outside the museum indicate the diameter of the Holland (the first Navy Sub), compared to the Ohio.20151002_11211020151002_112258 This was an extremely interesting (and free) museum – there’s lots to see here.

Onward to Hyde Park, in the rain. The seaside cedar shake cottages of the Massachusetts and Connecticut seashore give way to the clapboard farmhouses and meticulously-manicured farms of the Connecticut byway. We roll through one picturesque town after another, before finally crossing over into New York. Suddenly, we’re on the massive Hudson River, where the Gilded Age and the clapboard houses bump heads. Such a contrast.

Our first order of business the next day (since it’s STILL raining) is to head for the FDR Presidential Library, on the grounds of the family home of FDR and Eleanor. 20151003_11540220151003_115211This was a huge treat. I’ll just share a few of the images – we are becoming huge fans of the Presidential Libraries. Hearing the speeches, seeing the films, and seeing all the documents of the era is wonderful. An unexpected bonus was that we rolled in the same morning as the Bentley Club. There were six of these beauties in the parking lot.20151003_112142What a difference the change of a few words made…20151003_13354120151003_13165720151003_11575420151003_115947FDRs battle with the crippling effects of polio are well documented, and there’s no sugarcoating his struggles. There also is no sugarcoating of the split in his and Eleanor’s marriage due to his infidelities with Lucy Mercer. Although they stayed married, separate lives were lived. Eleanor’s achievements are well documented. I was touched by this photo of her carrying her own suitcase thru LaGuardia airport in 1960, on her way to confront the KKK in Tennessee. What a woman!20151003_134754Gifts from both citizens and foreign leaders are highlighted. One that really caught my eye was a vest made of buttons collected by a California admirer. 20151003_141730The sender included a letter instructing the President to take a photo of himself wearing the vest, so that she’d have a picture of “her boy” wearing her creation. Made me laugh. Roy Rogers sent custom spurs.20151003_141517Shirley Temple, a childhood star, made the President an honorary member of her Police Force.20151003_141641 FDR and Eleanor are both buried on the grounds.20151003_143147Practically next door to FDRs house was a mansion owned by Frederick Vanderbilt, grandson of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt.20151003_15272420151003_152506 The east coast seems to be littered with Vanderbilt mansions – this large, wealthy family was into showy displays of wealth. And they aren’t the only ones – the State Park in which we are camped also has a huge mansion of its own. We just don’t see wealth on this scale in Michigan which has been deeded over to the State or National government. Out here, it’s everywhere.

John and Jezzy owned the steps of the the Staatsburgh State Historic Site, the mansion owned by Ogden Mills, overlooking the Hudson River. 20151004_13095120151004_131409 The diversity of this trip has been amazing. Today was our first day of sunshine, (after six solid days of rain), and we were delighted to throw on our boots, hitch up Jezzy, and hit the trail along the Hudson for six miles or so, even though it did end up at another mansion. Tomorrow, we’re going to cross the Hudson into the Catskill Mountains, camp in the dirt and just hike for a few days.Pit toilets, rustic camp – back to our camping roots.

Thanks for hanging in there with me on this – part of my reason for doing this blog is simply to document (for us) where we’ve been, and what we’ve seen. Five years from now, when we’re drooling on ourselves in a nursing home somewhere, perhaps we’ll look at these old posts and remember some great trips. I hope so. It’s a long, strange journey some days….