Nixon, Revisited

Move over LBJ. We may have just replaced your Museum with a new favorite, and an unlikely one, at that. We visited the Nixon Museum two days ago, and were absolutely blown away. It starts with the gigantic portrait by Norman Rockwell inside the door.20170317_094411.jpg As always, we began our investigation of the Museum by watching the introductory film. No pussy-footing around here – the opening scene is Nixon’s emotional exit speech, and we see him and Pat getting into the helicopter. President Ford wipes a tear from his eye. Bang! What a beginning. This scene is echoed in another exhibit as well, showing Nixon from inside the chopper looking out.wp-1489722399890.jpgClosed for six months last year while the Museum’s exhibits were re-tooled, I can only say that the results are stunning. There are all sorts of interactive displays, and huge sections both on Watergate and Vietnam. Timelines on both are really helpful in sorting things out.wp-1489772426258.jpgIt was disquieting to see the weekly Vietnam stats that were kept in a safe. Take a close-up look at the document on the right.

Actual conversations can be listened in on using old-style big push-button phones. We found things to like about Nixon – things that we forgot, or that had been overshadowed by Watergate. He signed Title IX into being – ending gender-based discrimination in education and sports programs. Anyone who went to school in the 60’s knows how huge that was. When I was in high school, there were ZERO sports for girls. None. Nixon also abolished the draft, and ushered the all-volunteer army into existence. Loved the photo showing mail and telegram response he got after referring to support of his Vietnam policy by the Silent Majority.wp-1489722399830.jpgThe War on Cancer. The opening of diplomatic relations with China. The introduction of the Space Shuttle program. Signing of the SALT (Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty) with Russia.wp-1489772405859.jpgThe creation of the EPA. And, surprisingly, Nixon championed a health insurance program, with subsidies to help everyone afford coverage, which was shot down by the Democratic congress. It’s interesting to remember all the things we’ve forgotten. Here are a few other photos from the Museum. I think these are the same drapes Trump is currently using.wp-1489722399676.jpgwp-1489722399529.jpgwp-1489772488550.jpgwp-1489722399372.jpgNixon was a voracious note-taker, and went through thousands of yellow legal pads during his career. His college roommates nicknamed him Iron Butt, for his ability to sit in one chair for hours, making and reviewing notes. Maybe that’s how I’ll remember him. Make it a point to visit this spectacular site if you’re near Yorba Linda, CA.

Our home for the last three nights has been Crystal Cove State Park, perhaps the most beautiful campground we ever stay in. wp-1489722399742.jpgwp-1489722399716.jpgwp-1489722399395.jpgThis is our third time here, and each time we make plans for another visit. Our campsite is perched right over the Pacific Coast Highway, and the pounding surf lulls us to sleep every night. One oddity this trip has been the dense fog, which rolls in after dusk every night, and doesn’t clear off until after noon. Makes for a short day to whale watch. While wandering down the beach, we did see this sand castle, which pales in comparison to the professionally crafted one at Coronado Island that we saw a few days ago. But beautiful, nonetheless.wp-1489722399306.jpgwp-1489722400001.jpgWe are heading off today to a new camp at San Clemente State Beach, just a few miles to the south of here. San Clemente was the site of the Western White House in Nixon’s time. wp-1489722399527.jpgThe Nixons spent many weekends there while he was in office, and returned to San Clemente after he left. We’re looking forward to exploring a new Park – camping on the CA coast is astonishingly expensive. Our basic site – no water or electric is $50/night. Showers are coin-op. It certainly is the most we have paid for any state park camping, but it is oh so worth it for a week.wp-1489722399181.jpg

The Campshaws and The Giants

Let’s go for a walk and a bike ride. I’ll show you what we’ve learned about the Redwoods in the past week. We decided to see this area from three different campsites over a range of 120 miles or so, and that was the best decision, as each has its own character. Humboldt Redwoods State Park was our first stop for five days, and we could not have had a better experience. The Fireball was nestled in a deep floor of redwood needles – when you’re camped in an ancient forest, you’ve got lots of time to built up a soft floor.20160401_171449 The area where the campground sits had been logged about 100 years ago, so many of the biggest, oldest trees were only stumps. No ordinary stumps, mind you.image20160402_10345720160402_104605 Everyday was full of new treasures – the forest explodes with every shade of green you can imagine, streaked with bits of sunlight that can make it through the dense canopy 200-300 feet above our heads. All of the biggest trees are not named or tagged, but we think we saw the best of them all. 20160402_14152420160402_11383620160402_11380220160402_110011 Redwoods have the ability to regenerate new shoots from old roots, creating ‘fairy rings’ of trees. Some are fused at the base, separating into separate trees many feet above the surface. They survive fires, floods and droughts. It’s the wind that generally bring them down, unless the timber companies have gotten to them first. Redwoods are still logged, but regulations say that only trees between 40-60 years old can be cut, and five new trees must be planted for each one cut. Big trees also grow from the tiniest pinecones – this photo shows (clockwise from top right) the eucalyptus seed pods, a pinecone from a large non-native cedar that was everywhere in the campground, a sequoia cone, and three redwood cones. Amazing, isn’t it? In the center is a quarter, for size comparison.20160402_130648The forest floor is full of white, pink, purple, and variegated trillium. The high rainfall (60-80 inches per year) also means that there are rhododendron everywhere, although we’re a few weeks early to see them in bloom.

It’s an absolutely mind-boggling experience to wander among these giants, and each grove had its own character. 20160402_120228We saw the Dyersville Giant, which had been the third-largest Coastal Redwood in the world until a wind brought it down in March 1991. Unbelievably, it fell in one piece, so you can walk along the full length of this tree.20160402_141730 One resident recalls the night it fell, saying that it sounded like a freight train – and she lived 15 miles from the site. It’s estimated that this tree weighed a million pounds. One favorite tree was an enormous specimen which had been girdled in 1901. About ten feeet of bark had been removed from the bottom, and shipped to San Francisco for an exhibition.  Remarkably, more than a hundred years later, the tree still lives.20160404_130144I’ll leave you with a few other photos of our exploration of this magnificent Park and the area nearby. Their Visitor Center was wonderful – full of photos and newspaper articles of the Great Flood of 1964, which destroyed entire towns. In several spots, there are high water mark signs.20160402_13461220160403_12374220160402_13485520160404_122801 If a State Park can be this incredible, then the Redwood National Park must be even better, right? In our minds, unfortunately not. The National Park is actually a combo State/National Park effort.. We get to use our Geezer Card for half-price camping, but the facilities are actually run by the State. Complicated, but I guess it works for everyone. So, our second stop (first within the National Park) was Elk Prairie Redwoods State Park, which is kind of a godforsaken campground cut out of a swamp. A musty creek winds through this low area, and skunk cabbage is the prevailing plant, resulting in a very strong, skunk odor every day, all day. Our site was carved out of a thicket, and didn’t have many memorable qualities (of the good type). Elk Prairie is also home to a large wild elk herd, which resulted in an interesting experience for John and Jezzy. While strolling one morning, Jezzy caught the attention of a large bull elk, who happened to be snoozing in the field nearby. He decided to investigate, and began following John as he walked back toward camp. John stopped, and the elk continued his advance.  At that point, the Camp Host noticed John’s predicament. He jumped in his jeep and came roaring down the road, passing between John and the elk, who was now only about 50 feet from him. The elk retreated and John and Jezzy scurried back to the Fireball. Whew!

Fern Canyon is one unique hike that visitors to this park usually want to do. We decided to bike to the trailhead, through a series of extremely muddy singletrack trails and dirt roads. I have NEVER ridden on such steep dirt roads in my life – twisting and turning through the dark forest. Unfortunately, we shared the road with cars, so there were a few uncomfortable moments as we flew through some of the downhill portions only to find a car coming up the middle of the road toward us. Fern Canyon is just a few hundred yards off the ocean, and is a steep slot cut into the coastal barrier. The soft, rocky-pebbly walls are dripping with ferns of all sizes. At this time of year, the creek is high, and there’s lots of water in the bottom. We decided to sacrifice our hiking boots, so we just sloshed in, and let the water in. After riding all that way, we weren’t going to go away without seeing what we wanted. The dappled sunlight into the canyon makes for lousy conditions for photography (at least what I can manage), so I have no photos. (The scenes are beautiful to my eye, but just don’t translate to the camera. I find the same is true for so many of the beautiful wooded scenes I shot.) The barrier dunes (I guess that’s what you call them) leading up to the Fern Canyon area have been eroded away. You can see from this photo that they don’t appear to be much more than big mounds of gravel, stuck together with a bit of vegetation.. 20160406_115102Recent slides are everywhere. From a distance, the shifting terrain is even more obvious. At the top of the dune are the cedars and pine trees that have been there forever. Below that, the lighter colors are all deciduous trees that have sprouted in the areas uncovered by the landslides.  At the bottom, some of the cedars still hang on, with beach grasses leading to the ocean’s edge.20160406_131328We were happy to leave Skunk City and move to Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, our northernmost stop in the quest to see the big trees. This is very near the area where the 1936 film The Last of the Mohicans was filmed. Our campsite on the bright green Smith River is perfect. Here’s a photo from camp, and another from directly across the River.20160408_142827We’ve hiked to the grove where the biggest trees are, encountering an interesting stream crossing get there. John successfully navigated his way across the fallen logs, using a large branch as a walking stick.20160408_140414.jpg I wasn’t so successful – looking down at my feet on the log with all the swirling water caused a motion sickness sensation. So, to hell with it, I waded across. It wasn’t bad except for a section about five feet across where the rushing water was just up over my knees.imageOnce again, my boots filled from the top – and we had just gotten them dried out from Fern Canyon. The Stout Grove was interesting in that it’s an ancient grove, having never been logged.20160408_13575620160408_13174920160408_12594420160408_125715 But….our hearts still belong to the Humboldt Redwoods.  They just seemed to be the biggest and most beautiful. I was disappointed to review my photos to date from J. Smith are all a bit fuzzy – probably due to my greasy fingers grabbing my camera out of my pocket all the time. Lesson learned. It’s been an amazing camping trip – real camping in a huge, quiet forest. Being among these ancient giants seems to make (most) campers behave respectfully. In the woods, there’s a hush. People talk in soft voices, with the occasional exuberant yell from an excited kid. It’s an awe-inspiring place to experience.

But, I have to say….my heart still belongs to the sequoia groves. If I can only visit one place again, it would be there.20130401_132743.jpg

We are leaving here in two days, and pointing the Fireball toward the east. We’ve seen the biggest and best, and are satisfied.

Brighton, Birds, Bats, and Bikes

Ka-WAAUK!  KA-WAAUK!!!!  WAAUK!

That’s the sound I’ll associate most with our most recent camping expedition to Brighton Recreation Area (MI).

Was it the sound of the Detroit Tigers bats pounding the LA Angels? Hardly.

Perhaps the sound of squeeky doors opening in the chilly, overcast air? Nope.

It’s the sound of all the Sandhill Cranes who make their home around Bishop Lake. Many were bold enough to stroll right through the campground in the morning hours. Others flew far overhead, where we never could see them through the ever-present dark clouds. But, there were few times during our three days there where we didn’t hear them. No, I never did get any photos. My best chance was one early morning as I strolled across the campground to the restrooms. Three Sandhills were prancing around an empty campsite. There was lots of wing flapping and hopping going on, as they stretched their early morning bodies. Naturally, my camera was back in the Fireball – who takes their camera to the bathroom, anyway? Besides, you can find superb photos of cranes at some of my birder blogger buddies Quietsolopursuits and LiveLaughRV. (Thanks to Ingrid at Live Laugh, a trip to the International Crane Foundation in WI is on the travel wish list for 2016.)

Since this was our first trip to Brighton, we weren’t familiar with the park. Knowing what we now do, we would opt to camp in the rustic section of the park (pit toilet/no electric) instead of the improved campground, where all sites have electric service. Although we had a pretty good site, overall it’s pretty cramped. The rustic sites were huge.wpid-20150826_124806.jpgWe loved the mountain bike trails, but did stress ourselves out a bit by riding pretty much beyond our technical capabilities. But, we’ll probably never get any better at this if we don’t stretch our comfort zone(s). John’s not so eager to do this – I am really wanting to be a more proficient mountain bike rider. Protruding tree roots and dropoffs caused several anxious moments along the ride for all of us – sister Lynn and brother-in-law Jerry were along for the trip, and for the ride.20150826_12280020150826_122852In additional to mountain bike trails, there are hiking and equestrian trails throughout the Park, which is spread out over several small lakes. 20150825_16104420150828_09160320150828_090926wpid-20150828_093426.jpg20150828_093704On one hike around the lake, we discovered these enormous weeping willow stumps. I had no idea that willows could be so massive. Wow. This stump was easily 4-5 feet across.20150825_155130My love affair with Detroit Tiger baseball is going through a rough spot – it’s hard to love a team that just can’t seem to put together two wins in a row.  We got beat 2-0 on the day we went to the game. But, the loss was tempered by the fact that we had the best seats I’ve ever had for a ballgame. Being close to the field is amazing.20150827_120705 There were 30K+ people at the game, but we just couldn’t cheer/stomp any runs across the plate. Last place sucks! Dont want to be a fair weather fan, but….

Naturally, now that we’re home, the sun has decided to peek out.  First sunshine we’ve seen in a week – honestly.  Lots of cleaning, organizing and planning to do.  The East Coast is beckoning. We’ll be some of the lucky folks for whom camping season really begins in September, vs those for whom the season is ending.

Rollin’ Again!

Long time, no read, eh?  It’s been a long homespell for us this summer, as we tackled projects long neglected.  Since returning from our last trip in early April, here’s the short list of what we’ve been up to.

John’s folks moved into an independent-living apartment in December.  All the stuff they didn’t take with them was part of a massive estate sale in April.wpid-20150417_075936.jpg Then, we got everything cleaned and shined, and the house is now on the market.  There’s an offer pending, and we’re hopeful that this time it will result in a sale.  Frank and Verna Crankshaw (John’s folks) also celebrated 70 years of marriage this summer.  Can you imagine?

There’s always lots of bike-related stuff for us in the early summer months.  I’m a volunteer for the Rapid Wheelmen 100 Grand Bicycle Tour, and the MSU Grand Fondo.  The New Belgium Clips Beer & Film Tour also comes to town in early summer.wpid-20150611_095228.jpg Love volunteering for these events, as I know what a PITA it can be to wrangle volunteers.  These events all give a big boost to our local cycling community, so it’s fun to give a bit.  Cycling is a big part of our lives (John and I met in the Rapid Wheelmen Bicycle Club).

John’s involved with the National 24 Hour Challenge, both on a Director level, and as crew chief for a variety of riders.  This year, he crewed for the top female rider (423 miles) and also for the woman who set a new record in the 70-74 year age catetory (298 miles).  Three or four of the other riders on his team set personal records.  It was a huge year for him and his team.

We finally got our back yard in shape by adding a new patio. Old back yard…..wpid-20150705_073124.jpg Wow – what an improvement. New back yard….wpid-20150711_191312.jpg Of course, the completion also meant that he could finally get a Big Green Egg grill.  Wish we would have done this years ago – our backyard dinners have been fantastic!  We loved our Weber charcoal grill, but John’s really at the top of his game with the Egg.

We bussed to a Detroit Tiger game. wpid-20150719_122556.jpg (the stands were full – this was early pre-game)  I’m a huge baseball fan, and the Tigers are breaking my heart (and spirit) this year.  They just suck!  Going to a game is still special, though.  Got tickets again later this month, and we’re hoping for better results, although it’s not too promising.  They are hard to love right now

Our clutter reduction program continues.  Spent the worst two days of my life having a garage sale.  Made a measly $200, but took about two truckloads of leftover stuff to Goodwill.  Good riddance!  The struggle to simplify took a big leap forward.

While John was camping/cycling with his guy friends, I had a girls’ weekend at a friend’s cottage.wpid-20150619_151000.jpg Visited an elk ranch!wpid-20150620_120431.jpgThese enormous antlers grow within a period of just a few months.  Impressive antlers like these begin to grow in late March, and this photo was taken in late June. These enormous bulls were docile enough to eat oats from our hands – but when the fuzzy coating begins to drop off the antlers and rutting season begins, it’s another story. The bulls become very aggressive, and playtime is over!

But, finally…..the Fireball is ready to roll again tomorrow.  We’re heading out for two weeks – first to driveway camp at a friend’s cottage for a few days, then on to our favorite campground at Nordhouse Dunes for 10 days..  The first weekend of the Nordhouse trip is tied in with the Night Shift – a wacky 100 mile nighttime road ride.  We’re the support/chuckwagon for this motley group, and it’s a blast.  After that, we’ll be home for a few days, then off to Brighton Recreation Area (on the east side of the state), camping, taking in another Tigers game, and visiting some long-lost relatives.  Both John and I have a bad Camping Jones right now – time to roll!

Hopefully, at the end of the month, roofers will finally come to put a new lid on Chez Crankshaw.  Ice buildup/backup for the last couple of years has damaged some of our interior walls, and we’re hoping that new roof + insulation will fix this.

All this is prep for a two-month trip to the mid-Atlantic states in September/October.  Can’t wait to visit Boston and Providence.  We’re trying to decide if we’re brave enough to camp near NYC to take in the sights for a week.  Our camp style is to hang outdoors and bike/hike.  Not sure if we’ve got the grit to brave the big city, but there’s so much I want to see.  We are still debating……stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

Fun and Not-So-Fun Times

It’s been a week of crazy ups and downs, primarily caused by weather, which restricted our camping choices in very unfavorable ways.

Our RV park site in Vicksburg was not fun.  Located ten feet off US 61, it was loud!  The soggy conditions created by the previous week’s 5″ of rain sure didn’t help matters.  We could feel the Fireball sinking into the mud, although it had been level when we set up.  We wandered around town for one day on our bikes, touring the Coca Cola Museum (Coke was first bottled there).  It was pretty lame.  No ice cream.  No floats.20150324_130934 There are many pleasant sights in town, but it sure didn’t have a prosperous feel.20150324_124845At night, we were kept awake all night long by roaring traffic.  We were grouchy and unsettled, so we decided to cut our visit short by a day.  (Part of our unhappiness was the premature announcement that we have trailer brakes.  Turns out we have trailer BRAKE.  The brakes on the side where the new bearing and shoes were installed don’t work.)  Don’t even get me started on this topic….Vicksburg National Military Park was a must to see before leaving the area, so we decided to pack up, tour the Park, then leave from there. 20150325_110152I had really mixed feelings about my Vicksburg experience.  First of all, the Visitor Center was wonderful.  The video presentation at any National Park or Monument is always our first stop – we love the big overview that we get from watching the film. The personal element of the Civil War battlefield films is exceptionally good.  Excerpts from actual letters are read while re-enactments are shown on the screen.  The eloquence of the letters is always moving.  Vicksburg was very different than other Civil War Parks we have visited.  This was more than a battle between soldiers – the siege lasted more than six weeks, causing townfolk to retreat to caves for safety.  Confederate troops were near starving as supply lines on the Mississippi were cut off.    20150325_120053Armed with a brochure and our 20 minutes worth of video input, John and I set off on our bicycles to tour the 20 mile scenic drive through the Battlefield.  Cycling along any National Park scenic drive is an excellent way to see the area, and absorb the site. 20150325_120537 Perhaps it’s not for everybody, but we sure can appreciate the physical nuances of the geography better on a bike than we could in a car.  While we are wandering around, examining artifacts and looking for the trenches dug by the Union Army, we are passed by many cars.  Most people don’t get out to read the plaques or look around.  Vicksburg, check!  What’s next on the Bucket List?20150325_112156No blow by blow description here, but I do have to describe the sad feelings that overcame us here.  The grandiose monuments are from the Union states, Illinois and Wisconsin in particular.20150325_11302320150325_11351820150325_115139 Michigan’s monument features a woman with a large gear in her hand to symbolize industrial strength.  There is signage to the effect that some of the Confederate states took longer to return to prosperity than their Union counterparts, thus, their battlefield monuments are smaller, and less grand.  No kidding.  General Grant’s headquarters area features a huge statue of Grant on a horse.  The Sherman Circle is devoid of statuary.  It seems very lopsided.  Fair?  Correct?  To the victors go the spoils of war?

One area that we did enjoy exploring was the USS Cairo (Care-o) Museum.  The Cairo was one of seven ironclads built for the Union by one shipbuilder during a 100 day period, at a cost of about $100,000 each.20150324_144454 All we lost in battle.  The Cairo is the only one which has been recovered.  It was not discovered until 1960, then raised, and installed here a few years later.

At Vicksburg Battlefield Cemetery, the remains of 17,000 Union soldiers (of which 13,000 are unnamed), are buried, as well as soldiers from the Spanish-American War, and World Wars I and II. 20150324_15134120150324_151526 Most Confederate soldiers killed in the Siege of Vicksburg are buried in another Vicksburg cemetery.

Several hours after beginning our tour of Vicksburg, we hit the road, intending to camp at Warfield County Park, about 100 miles away.  Too bad for us – this park was closed.  Underwater!  We were directed by a couple of helpful gentlemen to check out nearby Lake Chicot State Park, about 20 miles away.  Sure, why not?  We plugged the info into Google Maps (our go-to source for directions), and headed out.  We shortly thereafter found ourselves driving along a rutted road on top of a levee, surrounded by cattle, who didn’t seem to understand why we were driving thru their territory.  It was awful, and yet a bit funny. We knew it was going to have a bad ending…..when we finally got to an area where the Google voice told us to ‘turn left to our destination’, it was a downhill trek into a gigantic swamp.  Perhaps there really was a State Park and a campground there, but there is NO WAY that we could have plowed our way down there, and forded all that water to find it.  John verrrrry carefully turned the Fireball around on the narrow levee “road”.  When we got back to the Highway, we pulled out all maps, phones, and camping resources to find a home for the night.  Everything is full (Spring Break), or closed (flood).  The only spot we can find is the Pecan Grove RV Park.

Another spot on a very busy major US Highway.  We are directed to pick any spot we want – “the driest ones are over there….”  As we’re setting up, there’s an old Dodge Caravan driving through the park with the horn blaring.  One of the doors has a sign on it like you’d see from a pizza delivery joint.  Here’s how this conversation went…

Me:  Are you trying to find a particular campsite for a delivery?

Cranky 90-year old African American (woman) driver:  What?  I’m just trying to sell YOU some tamales and pies!

Me:  Tamales?  I love tamales.  How much are they?

C90YOAAWD: $12 a dozen

Me:  Can’t use a dozen, but I’d take four.

C90YOAAWD:  I can sell you six or nine.

Me:  I’ll take six.

C90YOAAWD:  How about nine?

Me:  Can’t use them.  Sorry.  Forget it.

C90YOAAWD:  Why are you giving me such a hard time?

She hauls herself out of the minivan, and opens up the back, where she has a huge stockpot full of tamales (in bundles of 3!  I could have had just 3!!!).  Wraps up six in foil.  I give her $7.  We’re done.  For the record, they were awful.  We ate a couple of them, and threw the rest away.  Bummer.  We love tamales.

Next morning, we decide to bust for Little Rock, AR.  We hadn’t planned to arrive there until Friday, but we call an are able to get our campsite at Maumelle Campground (a Corps of Engineers Park) a day early.  Pulling in, it’s Ahhhh…….a real campground.20150327_091520 Trees.  Picnic Tables.  Fire rings.  A river.  Kids on bikes.  We’re going to be here for five days.  Already, the pressure of the last hideous week begins to dissolve.

Downside?  It’s freezing here (40s), and STILL RAINING!  Our arrival day is Thursday – it doesn’t stop raining until noonish on Saturday.  Long story short – this post is putting even me to sleep.

Clinton Presidential Library.  Beautiful, and interesting, but not as inspirational as the LBJ Library. To me, it just seemed to lack the charm of the LBJ.  20150328_11431020150328_121618 Clinton did sign the Family Leave Act into law, and also signed the law that made COBRA health benefits available to workers changing jobs.  NAFTA came into being during the Clinton Administration, as well as major strides in the Middle East peace process.  Most of everything was lost by the scandal which ensued from the Starr investigations into Whitewater and everything else Clinton.  The enormous Library is well worth a visit – it’s the largest, and most well-attended of all Presidential Libraries.20150328_12552720150328_12565020150328_122504We wandered over to the State Capitol.20150328_14330020150328_143440And the old State Capitol.20150328_134734Around downtown.20150328_13405720150328_13285220150328_135727The above quote was in a special bicycling exhibit in the old State Capitol.

The Central High School National Historic Site was a must-see.  Central High was where school desegregation came to a head in 1957.  Nine African American students were denied entrance to the school in defiance of federal law.  Federal Marshals were called in to escort the kids to school, along streets lined with opposing State National Guards troops and townspeople.20150328_160338 The photos in the museum are chilling, and the audio is shameful.  It’s chilling to think that this disgraceful episode happened so (relatively) recently.  We met a fellow camper here (with a T@B, no less!) who graduated from Central High.  Her father was actually a Senior there in 1957.  Every day is a history lesson of some kind or another.

Everything we have seen here revolves around the Arkansas River.  Perhaps it’s not as wide or dramatic as the Mississippi, but it’s certainly impressive.  Our campground is along its banks, it rolls right thru the center of downtown Little Rock, and there’s a bike trail that covers the 15 mile distance from end to end.  One of the most impressive features is the Big Dam Bridge, which spans the river.20150329_13175220150329_131822 This is the longest, largest bridge ever built solely for pedestrian/bicycle traffic.  Wow!  We pedaled into downtown on a sunny Sunday – one of the first nice days in the area.  We saw hundreds of cyclists and walkers along the way.  The biggest Community Garden I’ve ever seen was also along the path – there must have been 200 plots.  Some were as large as 30 x 30.  Lots of people out digging and planning.  I did stop several times to try to photograph this amazing area, but was unable to get a photo of anything that didn’t just look like dirt and fences. But, it was a fantastic area.

We cycled today (Monday) up to Pinnacle Mountain State Park.  What a gorgeous spot to hike and bike.  The historic focus of the Park is on the Trail of Tears, the paths taken through Arkansas by the Native Americans who were relocated under federal order in the 1830s from their homelands in the Southwest to areas in the Southeast.  All these routes passed through Arkansas, either along the river or land.  There are amazing scenic views,IMG_1321-001IMG_1318 trails, and a quarry open for swimming in the summer. IMG_1316-001 It was worth all the huffing and puffing we had to do on our bikes to get up there.

We head out Tuesday for TN.  That will be our last camp before Evansville, where we’ll hang out with John’s brother for a few days before finally going back to Grand Rapids.  Until Little Rock, we were more than ready to go home.  Now, we’ve had a couple days of great weather, a sterling campground, and a bit of cycling and sightseeing to buoy our spirits.  Home doesn’t sound quite so sweet anymore.