• Redding, CA - Unexpected stop for days 20 & 22

    While our friends continued to Redwood National Park, we took a side trip to Redding, CA to get a repair done on the motorhome. Redding,CA was not on our original agenda for this trip, but we enjoyed our visit here.


    Redding has mountains all around, miles of hiking and biking trails, a river running through it, and national parks nearby—what is there not to like???  The weather cooperated and we enjoyed temperatures in the 70’s.

    Sundial Bridge

    After parking the motorhome at the Sacramento River RV Park, we drove the car to the Sundial Bridge. The bicycle and pedestrian bridge spams the Sacramento River and forms a large sundial.  It was completed in 2004 and has become iconic for Redding.  The support tower of the bridge forms a mast that points due north at 42 degrees and serves as a gnomon (the part of the sundial that casts a shadow).  The shadow is cast on the north bank of the river and is exactly accurate only on June 20 or June 21 (the summer solstice). The tip of the shadow moves approximately one foot per minute.

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    Sacramento River Trail

    This trail runs along the banks of the Sacramento River and has stunning views of the river and nearby mountains. We rode 5.96 miles along the river near the Sundial bridge on Sunday.  On Monday we rode another 5.22 miles on the Shasta Dam portion of the trail.  The trail by the Shasta Dam is part of the Rails to Trails network.  The railroad track had to be moved when the dam was built.

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    Shasta Dam

    When completed in 1945 it was the second tallest dam in the United States (Hoover Dam in Nevada was the tallest) and was also the tallest man-made structure in California.  Now there are seven taller dams in the US.  The Dam created Shasta Lake for long-term water storage and helps with flood control and hydroelecticity.

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    The beautiful view of the valley along the Sacramento River looking downriver from the dam

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    Shasta Lake, the largest reservoir in California

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    Taking care of business and more….

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    Big Hat getting his new exhaust pipe

    Tom and Ben went to Water Works Park while I went to the eye doctor to get my eyes checked.  The doctor wrote me a prescription for some steroid drops and I had to go to SIX pharmacies before I could find one that had the medicine ind stock.

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    Meanwhile Big Hat was fixed and I had my eye medicine.  We headed out of town for our next top—Crater Lake National Park.

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    Trip Statistics

    • Miles driven in the motorhome -  2,938; miles driven in the car 775; total miles driven 3,713 miles
    • We camped at the Sacramento RV Campground for $49.50 night. Total trip campground cost of $703.16
    • We purchased gas today fo4 $3.24 a gallon in Oregon which was was $1.25 cheaper than in Redding.  Trip total = $1,554

  • Lassen Volcanic National Park - Our 45th National Park

    Lassen Volcanic National Park 

    Our 45th National Park on days 17 & 18 of our summer road trip.  Lassen was such an unexpected hidden gem to us even though it has been a National Park since 1916.  We arrived late in the afternoon the first day and rode bicycles, cooked dinner, and enjoyed an evening around the campfire.  Drew, Ben and I played Navy Bridge and Phase 10 before bedtime.

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    Lassen NP

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    Kings Creek Falls Trail

    We left the campground at 9:30 on Saturday morning and drove to the parking lot for Kings Creek Falls. There we hiked down through the Kings Creek Meadows and forest before dropping steeply down to the cascades and falls.  The hike was a beautiful 3 mile trek.

     

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    Kings Creek Falls - our destination!  

    After hiking back UP to the parking area, we took Drew and headed deeper into the park to check out some other sights while the Findleys and Lukes returned to the campground.  

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    Look at those strong boys rolling that rock!

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    “The park contains eight hydrothermal areas.  The roaring fumaroles, thumping mud pots, boiling pools, and steaming ground in these areas are produced when water is heated by magna three miles underground.  These features are related to active volcanism and are indications of the ongoing potential for further eruptions.”  (From the park guide)

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    Boiling Mud Pots located at the Sulphur Works, the park’s most accessible hydrothermal area

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    Steam escaping from the earth

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    High above the snow is the Lassen Volcano

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    On the way back to the campground two bear cubs crossed the road right in front of us!

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    Manzinita Lake

    In the evening Tom and I hiked around the Manzinita Lake next to our campground. This trail was mostly flat and only two miles.  I was able to take this picture of Lassen Peak reflecting in the lake.

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    Trip Statistics

    • Miles driven in the motorhome -  2,698; miles driven in the car 645; total miles driven 3,423 miles
    • We camped at the Manzinita Lake Campground for only $13 a night. Total trip campground cost of $604.16
    • We purchased gas at $3.939 a gallon for $106.87.  For a trip total of $1307.01

  • Lake Tahoe, CA - Days 15-17

    We drove 281 miles from Pinnacle National Park northeast across the state to arrive in Lake Tahoe.  The scenery was truly magnificent on the way to the park and all around the Lake Tahoe area.

    We drove  nine miles on Rt. 89 from the campground to Emerald Bay State Park.  The Park features include Eagle Falls and Vikingsholm, as well as the beautiful Emerald BeachAt the parking lot there was a sign that read, “Vikingsholm can be reached by parking in the Vikingshom parking lot by Highway 89 at Emerald Bay.  Access to lower Vikingsholm is via a steep one mile trail that drops 500 feet in elevation to the house.   WARNING:  Visitors with medical conditions or mobility issues should not attempt this hike.  THERE ARE NO RIDES OUT.” 

    We choose to take the hike down and are so glad we did.

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    View from the overlook of Emerald Beach

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    Drew and Ben couldn’t resist the temptation of walking into the 60 degree lake.

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    Tom was feeling the temperature of the water, but had no intention of taking a dip.

    Vikingsholm

    Vikingsholm is a 38-room mansion on the shore of Emerald Bay and on the National Register of Historic Places. It was built in 1929. One of the interesting architectural designs is the sod roof which covers both the north and south wings of the complex.

    Two hundred workers were brought to Emerald Bay and started hand hewing the timbers, carving the intricate designs, hand planing the wood for the interior walls, and forging the hinges and latches. Most of the materials to construct the home came from the Tahoe Basin.

    Trees were cut for their size and lack of knots, and the granite for the foundation and walls was quarried from behind the house. The ideas for the construction came from buildings dating as far back as the 11th century. Some sections of the home contain no nails, pegs, or spikes.

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    Eagle Falls

       We hiked to the base of Eagle Falls and part of the way up the path beside the falls.  The picture below was an aerial view of the falls.  We were never able to get close enough to see this much of the falls at one time. 

    Aerial view of Eagle Falls

    Aerial view of Eagle Falls

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    The hike down and back was very pretty and a total of 2.65 miles

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    A cute little sighting along the way

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    A beautiful drive on the way home

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    Chair made of ski located in downtown Lake Tahoe

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    Tom and Ben at the Nevada state line which was right before the Harrah’s casino 

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    Billboard hanging near the ski lift downtown .  Too much cuteness not to share.

    Pinnacles to Lake Tahoe

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    The campground is filled with very tall trees and the campers are parked in between the trees. Our motorhomes were easy enough to get into our spot, but Ed did a magnificent job or parking his fifth wheeler in the space they had.

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    This is not one of our campers, but check out the tree located right between the two slide outs!

    Trip Statistics

    • Total trip distance driven in motorhome:  2,279. Miles driven in car 562. Total miles driven 3,119
    • We’ve spent $1,200 on Gas and the latest cost was $3.799 per gallon
    • Tahoe Valley Campground was 67.25 per night.  Campground total so far:  $578
    • Groceries and eating out:  $436 or an average of $25.65 per day

  • Pinnacles National Park - Our 44th National Park

    After driving miles and miles through central California’s agricultural and ranching country, we arrived at our 44th National Park-Pinnacles.  We were traveling in a caravan with the Lukes and the Findleys as we drove from our last campground in Porterville, CA which was a 158-mile drive. 

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    Our motorhome convoy

    Pinnacles has a unique landscape of spires, huge boulders and towering peaks and after riding through the rolling hills of the surrounding areas, it was a refreshing view.  The temperature was in the mid 70’s during the day and in the 50’s at night.  We entered the park on the eastern side and stayed at the campground right inside the park.

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    Pinnacles Group

     

    Condors Gulch Trail

    This trail ranks as one of the most popular hikes in the park.  We stopped at the first overlook after hiking about a mile.  Ken, Linda, and Tracey decided to wait there while the rest of us continue to the High Peaks Trail.  The hike was 3.4 miles roundtrip that was mostly uphill getting there and  downhill returning.  We were hoping to see the endangered and protected California condors flying around at the top but our luck did not prevail.  

    The California condor has a wing span of 9 feet or more.  By the 1980s the population of this magnificent bird had dropped to fewer than two dozen, making it one of the world’s most endangered birds. Breeding and conservation efforts have increased the number of captive and wild birds to more than 460, with nearly 100 condors reintroduced in southern California.  The first nest of a condor was found at Pinnacles in 2010.

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    Dillion and Tom took an adventurous side hike on higher ground met us further up the trail.

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    The midway overlook

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    A view from the top

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    Woodpecker holes filled with chestnuts

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    We didn’t see any condors during that hike, but we saw 5 or 6 n the evening from the campground flying high above the ridge above the mountains across from us.

     

    Moses Spring-Rim Trail Loop

    Our favorite hike of the day, this trail was only 1.4 roundtrip and offered the most diverse scenery and obstacles that we’ve encountered on a trail. The trail winds beneath massive boulders that have fallen into gorges and wedged above the valley floor, forming narrow passageways and through natural tunnels and up 50 man-made to the reservoir at the top..  We hiked up to the reservoir, a scenic pool surrounded by tall rock formations.

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    Ben doing a few chin ups on the rock.

    We spent two nights at the Pinnacle Campground where we had a 30 amp  electric hookup, but no water or sewer hookup.  Luckily, we have large gray and black tanks, so that wasn’t; a problem.  There was a pool at the campground also, but it was too cold for swimming.  Tom was the only one to take a quick dip which he was using as his shower for the night.

    The first evening we met in the Findley’s motorhome where all nine of us played Catch Phrase.  The second night the adults came to our motorhome where we played Cadilac and 99.  The boys were in the Findlley’s motorhome for games and TV.

    This is the only campground where we have ever stayed where the sewage dumped was locked.  Finleys needed to dump before we left the campground so we had to wait until the dump was unlocked at 9:30 in the morning.  Plus, each person using it had to go get the key, report how much they needed to dump, dump and then return the key.  What a needless hassle.  

     

     

     $

  • Pinnacles National Park - Our 44th National Park

    After driving miles and miles through central California’s agricultural and ranching country, we arrived at our 44th National Park-Pinnacles.  We were traveling in a convoy with the Lukes and the Findleys as we drove from our last campground in Porterville, CA which was a 158-mile drive. 

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    Our motorhome convoy

    Pinnacles has a unique landscape of spires, huge boulders and towering peaks and after riding through the rolling hills of the surrounding areas, it was a refreshing view.  The temperature was in the mid 70’s during the day and in the 50’s at night.  We entered the park on the eastern side and stayed at the campground right inside the park.

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    Pinnacles Group

     

    Condors Gulch Trail

    This trail ranks as one of the most popular hikes in the park.  We stopped at the first overlook after hiking about a mile.  Ken, Linda, and Tracey decided to wait there while the rest of us continue to the High Peaks Trail.  The hike was 3.4 miles roundtrip that was mostly uphill getting there and  downhill returning.  We were hoping to see the endangered and protected California condors flying around at the top but our luck did not prevail.  

    The California condor has a wing span of 9 feet or more.  By the 1980s the population of this magnificent bird had dropped to fewer than two dozen, making it one of the world’s most endangered birds. Breeding and conservation efforts have increased the number of captive and wild birds to more than 460, with nearly 100 condors reintroduced in southern California.  The first nest of a condor was found at Pinnacles in 2010.

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    Dillion and Tom took an adventurous side hike on higher ground met us further up the trail.

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    The midway overlook

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    A view from the top

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    Woodpecker holes filled with chestnuts

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    We didn’t see any condors during that hike, but we saw 5 or 6 n the evening from the campground flying high above the ridge above the mountains across from us.

     

    Moses Spring-Rim Trail Loop

    Our favorite hike of the day, this trail was only 1.4 roundtrip and offered the most diverse scenery and obstacles that we’ve encountered on a trail. The trail winds beneath massive boulders that have fallen into gorges and wedged above the valley floor, forming narrow passageways and through natural tunnels and up 50 man-made to the reservoir at the top..  We hiked up to the reservoir, a scenic pool surrounded by tall rock formations.

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    Ben doing a few chin ups on the rock.

    We spent two nights at the Pinnacle Campground where we had a 30 amp  electric hookup, but no water or sewer hookup.  Luckily, we have large gray and black tanks, so that wasn’t; a problem.  There was a pool at the campground also, but it was too cold for swimming.  Tom was the only one to take a quick dip which he was using as his shower for the night.

    The first evening we met in the Findley’s motorhome where all nine of us played Catch Phrase.  The second night the adults came to our motorhome where we played Cadilac and 99.  The boys were in the Findlley’s motorhome for games and TV.

    This is the only campground where we have ever stayed where the sewage dumped was locked.  Finleys needed to dump before we left the campground so we had to wait until the dump was unlocked at 9:30 in the morning.  Plus, each person using it had to go get the key, report how much they needed to dump, dump and then return the key.  What a needless hassle.  

     

     

     $

  • Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks--our 42nd and 43rd National Park

    Yesterday we met up with the Findleys and the Lukes at Success Lake Campground in Porterville, CA.  This morning we drove to Sequoia National Park and spent the day exploring the park.  Our first stop was our obligatory photo opportunity at the National Park sign. It was 92 degrees when we entered the park and the temperature dropped to 72 as we drove deeper into the park.

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    The road through the park is very curvy with a speed limit around 25 mph most of the way (except for the 10mph and 15mph for many of the curves).  

    Moro Rock

    Our first destination after the sign was Moro Rock, an immense dome-shaped rock of granite.  We climbed 350 steps to get to the top and were rewarded with  breathtaking views of the High Sierras as well as being able to see the curvy road we drove to get there.

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    We drove through Tunnel Log  on our way to Crescent Madows where we ate our picnic lunch.  Tunnel log fell on December 4, 1937.  Its base was 21 feet in diameter and its length was 275 feet.  The tunnel is 8’ high and 17 feet wide.

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    After lunch we hiked  to Tharp’s Log.  In 1869 Hale Tharp and his sons used a fallen hollow log as a cabin. The log was hollowed by fire through 55 feet of it’s 70; length. A fireplace, door and window exist in the wider end, with a small shake covered cabin extension.

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    Interior table and bed

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    Tom, Ben, Dillion and Drew hiked to the General Shearman while the rest of us walked back to the car and drove to meet them.  On our way back to the parking lot we saw a bear in the meadow.

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    The General Sherman has a circumference of 109’ at its base.  Even though the top of the tree is dead, its volume keeps increasing. Each year the trunk grows wider adding enough wood to equal another good-sized tree.

    King’s Canyon National Park

    Tom and I kept driving through the park to get to King’s Canyon National Park where we saw the General Grant Sequoia and more giant sequoias and magnificent views.

    MT Kings Canyon

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    The General Grant tree’s massive trunk makes it the third largest tree in the world by volume. At 40 feet in diameter at ground level, it is the world’s widest known sequoia.

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    This sequoia was cut in 1875, and a 16 foot sent to Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition of 1876.  Only the outer shell was exhibited, the parts being reassembled after shipment.  Eastern people refused to accept the exhibit as part of a single tree exhibit and called it a “California Hoax.”  It gook 2 men nine days to cute down the tree.  

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    Trip Statistics: 

    • We drove 200 miles yesterday from the park through the two campgrounds and back.  Total miles driven:  2004 in motorhome and 494 miles in the car.
    • Gas was $76.08 in the motorhome for a total of $836.85
    • We are staying at the Succes Lake Campground in Porterville, CA for $15

  • Ronald Reagan Presidential Library - Day 8

    Today we drove to Simi Valley to tour the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

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    Tom giving his Presidential acceptance speech.  In the background on the left are George H. W. And Barbara Bush and the Reagan’s son.  On the right side behind him are the Mondales, The Carters, two of the Bush brothers.

    Air Force One 

    Known as 27000, this Boeing 707 was accepted into the Air Force on August 4, 1972 after 200 hours of testing.  It was used by seven U.S. presidents - Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, H.W. Bush, Clinton, and W. Bush.  The Reagan Library received 27000 in a decommissioning ceremony on Sept 8, 2000 at the San Bernardino International Airport. It was disassembled over a nine-week period by a nine member Boeing crew.  It was transported to the Reagan Library on a specially designed truck crossing four freeways, traveling 194 miles.

    The roof and 2 1/2 sides of the library walls were in place.  The remaining walls were added after pieces of the 27000  Air Force One was inside.  It took two weeks to reassemble it.  

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    Holds 52 passengers, Cruising speed 540 nautical miles. Service ceiling - 42,000 feet

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    An interesting tidbit.  Air Forces One carried 11 members of the press.  There was a lottery to see which members of the press were able to go.  Each press member had to pay the full cost of a first class ticket plus $1.  

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    Marine One 

    150611, a Sikosky VH-34, was delivered to the Army in 1962.  It wore Army markings early in its service since both the Army and Marine Corps flew executive transportation helicopters. It was assigned Presidential/executive duty from 1967-1968, and again from 1974 to 1976.  It also served in Naby helicopter support squadrons HC-6 and Hc-2 from 1975 to 2002.  Retired from the Navy, it arrived at the Reagan Library in March 04 2004.

    Fuel capacity - 5,000 lb; Range 625 miles; 2 pilots; 15 passengers

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    Ronald Reagan artwork

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    Painted in Oil then covered in a mosaic of approximately 10,000 Jelly Belly beans to create depth and dimension.  The beans are permanently protected with polyurethane.

     

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    This presidential seal is made from 6,500 finishing nails on redwood

    After driving back to Ventura Tom offered to do the laundry while Ben and I washed the car at a car wash.  ‘after dinner we payed a game of canasta.

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    The view from our campground this morning as we left.

    Trip Statistics:

    • Miles driven to get to Ventura:  212;  Total on trip: 1795
    • Emma Woods Beach Campground $43.33

     

     

     

     

  • Channel Islands National Park-National Park #41

    Today was the most incredible day!  We boarded an Island Packers boat in Ventura Harbor to cruise the 21 miles to the Santa Cruz Island, the largest of the Channel Islands. Channel Island National Park is comprised of six different islands that are each unique for the animal life, vegetation, scenery, etc.

    Right after leaving the harbor we saw all these California sea lions vying for a place on this buoy. About 30 minutes later we started seeing hundreds of dolphins.  We were told that for each one we see, there are seven others in the water.  What a magnificent gift it was to be able to watch them while we sailed.  On the way back we not only saw hundreds more dolphins, but also hundreds of California pelicans and two hump back whales.

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    California Sea Lions

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    Ordinary Dolphins

    We arrived on the island around 11:30 and had five hours to explore the island before catching our 4:30 boat back to Ventura Harbor.  We first ate the sandwiches we brought and then spent several hours hiking around the island. Here there are rugged mountains, grass-covered hills, and some animals and plants that you have never seen before. Island features historic ranches (where sheep were once raised); island fox; island scrub jay; and Painted Cave, on of the world’s largest sea caves.

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    BMT Channel Islands

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    We first hiked the Cavern Point Loop Trail with it’s magnificent coastal vistas.  It was only a two mile hike, but it was steep going up and coming back down. 

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    After the hike we walked in the campground where we were told hundreds of foxes live.  It didn’t take long for us to several.

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    We are staying at the Emma Wood Beach Campground.  Our camper is directly facing the Pacific Ocean and parked right above the beach.

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    Trip Statistics 


    Miles driven in motorhome May 31 212; Total on trip: 1,795
    Gasoline Cost: $3.689 per gallon or $130.90 ; Total on trip:  $660.90
    Emma Wood Beach Campground, Ventura $43.33  

     

     

     

     

     

  • California! Joshua Tree National Park -our 40th National Park (Day 6 of 101)

    California

    We crossed the California border at 9:15 this morning.  All vehicles had to stop at the inspection station, but most of the cars and RVs were waved right through.  The speed limit on I-10 for all RVs and trucks is 55mph while cars can still drive 75mph. This is an absolute desolate stretch of highway reminiscent of west Texas.BMT CA

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    We drove into Joshua Tree National Park from the south entrance of the park near the Cottonwood Visitor Center on the Pinto Basin Road.  We were  driving the motorhome and towing the car through the park to get to the north end near our campground at Twentynine Palms.  We weren’t able to stop at too many places because there was no where to park.

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    We are wearing our matching National Parks shirts that have box beside each park to mark off after we visit.

     One quick stop was Cholla Cactus Garden.  There was a warning to take care around theses cacti.  They are commonly referred to as “jumping” cholla as segments can beak off and attach to people and animals as a way to reproduce.

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    We drove to Twentynine Palms and parked the motorhome at the 29 Palms RV Campground.  Ben unhitched the car and after we ate lunch, we headed back into the park with our car.

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    Joshua Tree

    Keys View

    Our first stop was at Keys View where we saw a panoramic view of the southern side of the park. On a clear day, it is possible to see Signal Mountain in Mexico 90 miles to the south.  We were also able to see the Andreas Fault which runs roughly 800 miles through California where the Pacific Plate and North American Plate meet.

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    I can’t believe I am now the short one at 5’7”

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    We walked the 1.7 mile trail to see Skull Rock

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    We drove back into the park in the evening and hiked to Arch Rock and then stayed there for sunset.

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    Sunset in the park with a Joshua tree in the foreground

    Twentynine Palms

    The City of Twentynine Palms is where the US Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center is located.  It’s the world’s largest Marine Corps training base.  According to the city’s website, “The city is known for its world class murals and artists, supportive business climate, pristine air, beautiful natural surroundings, desert and mountain vistas, and friendly family lifestyle.”

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    When we walked up to this mural, we thought the guy was actually asleep on the scaffolding, but it’s just part of the painting.

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    The roadsigns are hot pink

    Trip Statistics 

    • Miles driven in motorhome today 146; Total on trip: 1583
    • Gasoline Cost: $2.729 per gallon or $121.38 ; Total on trip:  $651
    • 29 Palms RV - 39.75; Total for campgrounds $173.18

  • Benzon, AZ to Quartzsite, AZ-Electrical Panel Lights-Oh no! Day 5

    This was our second day to drive across Arizona . We are now only 24 miles from California.

    When I was diving the motorhome through PHOENIX today on I-10, the electrical panel on the dashboard started flashing, the acceleration vanished and the speedometer went to zero and, the brakes didn’t work. SCARY!!! After two minutes or so everything started working and seemed fine. We stopped in a parking lot and called every RV and Ford dealership in Phoenix, but it’s Saturday afternoon on Memorial Day weekend and could not get any assistance.  Since everything seemed fine and none of the lights remained on, Tom thought we should go ahead and drive to Quartzite.

    We arrived safely in Quartzite where the temperature is 99 degrees, but it’s a dry heat, right ???  We walked about .5 miles to dinner at Silly Al’s Pizza.

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    In front of Silly Al’s Pizza

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    Check out the size of these cactus needles!

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    We talked to the man who built this from three different buses.  He said there are two bedrooms on the top level.

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    Space #40 in Koa Mountain RV Park

    Trip Statistics 

    • Miles driven in motorhome today 286; Total on trip: 1,437
    • Gasoline Cost: $2.729 per gallon or $102 ; Total on trip:  $530
    • Kofa Mountain RV - $22 (Passport America Member price). Total for campgrounds $133.43

  • El Paso to Benzon, AZ

    Benson, Arizona

    Another day of driving on our way to reach California. This morning we left El Paso and drove through New Mexico and into Arizona.

    Ben managed to get two flat tires on his bike before we left El Paso. so he and I went to Walmart as soon as we arrived in Benson to get two new tubes.  Tom changed both tires shortly after we got back to the RV Park.

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    The RV Park is very nice with a pool, jacuzzi, game room, exercise room, observatory and pickle ball court.  The temperature was 93 when we arrived, but the humidity was only 7% (unheard of in Louisiana!!). We swam and used the hot tub for about two hours.  We were amazed at how chilly it felt when we got out of the pool in the hot temperature.  It was a beautiful day.

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    Trip Statistics 

    • Miles driven in motorhome today 286; Total: 1150
    • Gasoline Cost: $121.66 today; Total $426
    • Butterfield RV Resort $23.23 (Passport America Member price)

     

     

  • Driving Across Texas - Days 2 and 3

    El Paso

    Every time we cross the border from Louisiana into TX we see the sign that says El Paso 857 miles.  Driving across I-10 in Texas has to be one of the most monotonous drives to get across a state, but we have arrived!  This is only a one night stop over on our way to California.  We took a slight detour off I-10 when we went up to Austin to visit with Michael.  Last night we stopped in Fort Stockton, TX for the night.

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    The Border Wall at El Paso

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    We told Ben we could try to drop him over the fence into Mexico, but he didn’t even think that was funny (like we could even begin to lift him)!

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    El Paso is mostly sandy dirt and this RV Park is no exception.  The Cordova bridge into Mexico is in the background.

    Trip Statistics 

    • Miles driven in motorhome today 230; Total: 876
    • Gasoline Cost: $180 today; Total $305
    • Ft Stockton RV Park - $36 (Passport America Member price)
    • Mission RV Park El Paso - $22 (Passport America Member price)

  • On the Road Again! Day 1 of 101-Lake Charles to Austin

    We left Lake Charles at 11:00 AM to begin Day 1 of our projected 101 day summer vacation —also known as “Getting the Hell out of Dodge” to avoid the summer heat and humidity in Lake Charles. This was supposed to be the year we drove to Alaska once again, but since the Canadian Border is still closed because of COVID, that is not a possibility.  We were always planning to drive up through CA, OR and WA to visit the National Parks in those states so all those reservations were made months ago.  Once we realized that the Canadian border was not going to open for summer travel, Tom had to scramble to make reservations for the alternate routes in the Northwest.  

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    Our summer vacation shirts

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    This is the route for our trip.  

    We arrived in Austin at our campground at 5:15 and Michael drove out to eat dinner with us.  After dinner I walked along while Michael and Ben played a round of Disc Golf.  After the game we returned to the campground and played a few games of Flip Uno.

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    Trip Statistics

    • Miles driven in motorhome:  303
    • Gasoline Cost: $125, averaged 6.4 miles to the gallon
    • Austin Lone Star RV Park - $24 (Passport America Member price)

  • Gatlinburg - Laurel Falls, Mirror Maze and Putt Putt

     

    We drove into the Great Smokey Mountains National Park today and hiked to Laurel Falls, a 2.6 mile (round trip) hike on a paved trail up the mountain to a beautiful tiered waterfall.  Along the way we were able to see some magnificent vistas of the mountains.Once we got there Tom, Vicki and Dan climbed down to a lower level of the falls where Dan slipped and fell (luckily, he wasn’t hurt).

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    Ripley’s Indoor Putt Putt and Marvelous Mirror Maze

    After the hike we drove back to Gatlinburg and played a round of Black Light Putt Putt and found our way through Ripley’s Marvelous Mirror Maze.($10 for both). These were both indoor attractions and it was supposed to rain, so we decided to give it a try.  I was very disappointed with the Putt Putt.  The lighting was so bad (which I should have expected since it’s black light illuminated , that we had to search for the hole each time we went to putt.  I can’t complain too loudly though because I won—Ha!

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  • Cades Cove, TN

    We drove back into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but this time we were headed for Cades Cove, one of the most popular tourists’  destinations in the park.  It was a 30 mile drive to get there and then we drove an 11 mile loop through the cove.  "The first Europeans settled in the cove sometime between 1818 and 1821. By 1830 the population of the area had already swelled to 271. Cades Cove offers the widest variety of historic buildings of any area in the national park.”  The National Park Service recommends allowing two to four hours to drive the 11 mile loop.

    It is supposed to be a great place to view wildlife, but we only saw a turkey and some deer.  The drive was very pretty though.

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    Going back to our cabin we spotted this bear STANDING on the side of the road eating holly berries off of a tree.  While I was trying to back up and get a better picture, he decided to eat them sitting down.

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  • Gatlinburg-Skybridge and more

    We rode the open-air Skylift, which has been operating since 1954, up to the 1800’ overlook at the Skybridge. The Skybridge is billed as the longest suspension bridge in North America and has a few glass panels in the middle to look straight down. It’s really not as thrilling as we thought it would be—definitely a big tourist attraction though.  The Capilano Suspension Bridge in Vancouver, BC was much more thrilling to us. The cost for seniors was $20.95 and in my opinion, highly overrated.   It’s a pretty view on the way up, but nothing spectacular.

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    Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies

    Our next stop after the Skybridge was Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies.  We saw many amazing fish, but my favorite fish was the Sawfish (also known as carpenter sharks) that has a long nose extension with sharp transverse teeth that resemble a saw.

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    Have you ever seen a shark that looks like it’s a saw?

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    We found Nemo

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    There was a nice penguin exhibit,

    A tribute to Conway Twitty 

    In the evening we went to the tribute to Conway Twitty Show featuring Travis James in the Main Event Theatre.

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    Lots of activities packed into one day and it was a good one.

  • Gatlinburg, TN and The Great Smokey Mountains National Park

    Gatlinburg is a LONG drive from Lake Charles (860 miles), but we broke up the trip in three days.  The first stop was in Carriere, MS where we spent the night with Glen and Donna and the second stop was a night in Brent, AL where we visited with Brent, Spring, Kennedy, Ben, Tommy and Crystal.  Day 3 we arrived in Gatlinburg.

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    The cabin we rented with Dan, Vicki, Glen and Donna was SO nice and spacious, but the drive getting up to it was a little more thrilling than I would have liked.  The road was very steep and curvy with no guardrails and a dead drop off over the side of the mountain on one side and into a 4’ ditch on the other.  The driveway could not even be seen from the road when we turned in (It was marked with a reflector on a pole).  We had four bedrooms, four bathrooms, a wrap around porch, and three living areas—1860 Luzern Road.

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    Our bedroom

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    We rented it for one week and spent the days doing activities and hiking in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg and spent the evenings playing Phase Ten, Navy Bridge, and Uno Flip.  I must admit that was inordinately lucky this week and won almost every game we played!

     

     

     

  • Las Vegas!

    After spending two days in Death Valley National Park and hiking Valley of Fire State Park, we drove back to Las Vegas and spent two nights at the Bellagio Hotel.

    We were shocked with the mask compliance while we were in Las Vegas. Most people were wearing a mask while walking down the sidewalk, which iwas something we haven’t seen in any other city except when we were in Austin during last summer.  Wearing masks was mandatory in the hotel lobbies and casinos.. 

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    We walked from the hotel up to the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign which was 5.5 miles.  Both days we walked over ten miles.  When we got to the sign, we were surprised at how many people were standing in line waiting to do the same thing.  In fact, a tour bus stopped to let the passengers do the same thing.

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    The Bellagio

    On the way walking to the sign and back we stopped at many places to take photos and check out the sites.  No casinos though.

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    Bellagio flower show was amazing!

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    In the evening we drove to the original part of Las Vegas and enjoyed walking down Fremont and seeing all the venues.

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    I wished I had waited in line to zip line down Fremont Street, but the line was too long.  

  • Valley of Fire State Park, Overton, NV in the Mojave Desset

    We left the Mesquite Sand Dunes in Death Valley National Park, CA and drove 200 miles to Valley of Fire State Park, near Overton, in the Mojave Desert.  40,000 acres of bright red Aztec sandstone outcrops nestled in gray and tan limestone, Valley of Fire State Park contains ancient, petrified trees and petroglyphs dating back more than 2,000 years.

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    We were greeted by the dessert bighorn sheep that were walking along the road as we entered the park. 

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    This is one of a group of rocks called the Beehives

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    The entrance to the White Domes hiking trail.

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    Tom is standing on top of the Fire Waves trail rock.

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    We hiked the 1.5 mile Fire Wave Trail to see these incredible rock coloring and vistas.

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    This a picture of the Seven Sisters, but I guess of few of them must have been running errands when we drove past.

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    Our last short hike was to see Elephant Rock.  After we climbed up to see it, we realized we could have also seen it from the road—but didn’t realize it at the time.

    Afterwards , we drove 65 miles to Las Vegas.

  • Death Valley National Park

    This morning we visited our 39th National Park—Death Valley.  It was 69 degrees when we entered the park at 9:30 and 101 degrees by 1:00 when we were walking on the salt flats.

    Death Valley is the hottest place on the Earth, with a recorded temperature of 134 on July 10, 1913.  It is also the driest U.S. national park and features the lowest elevation in North America.  Last summer the temperature reached 128 degrees which was the hottest recorded temperature anywhere on Earth since 2013, hence why we planned NOT to go during the summer.

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    Our first stop was after the welcome sign, of course, was  Dantes View, over 5,000 above Death Valley.  We took several of our pictures with the Altitude app to record the actual elevation because it ranged from the elevation in this photo of 5,470 feet above sea level  to a low of -282 below sea level.

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    Twenty Mule Team Canyon was our next stop.  It is a 2.5 mile one way drive on unpaved roads through the eroded badlands. Several movies have been filmed here including Star Wars VI: Return on the Jedi

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    I remember the 20 mule team that was featured in the Borax commercials when I was young. Starting in 1892 Borax was mined here.  I had totally forgotten about the product, but can now remember my mom using it in the washing machine to assist in removing stains from of our clothes.  If you take the time to goggle uses for Borax, it appears to be a miracle  substance for all kinds of cleaning jobs including washing clothes, cleaning the toilet, disinfecting the garbage disposal, and many more (25 miracle cleaning jobs when I googled it).

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    Zabriskie Point featured golden colored badlands.

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    We drove down to  Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America, at 282 feet below sea level and walked two miles on the salt flats.  The temperature was 101 degrees by the time we arrived.  It was a dry heat, of course, but still very hot.

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    Artist Palette was our last stop for the day..  I was really looking forward to seeing this point, but the colors were not never as vivid in the pictures I took.  We were there in the afternoon and I drove back in the evening, so the time of day to catch them must be in the morning as the sun rises.

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    Created by volcanic activity, heat and water this rocks contain iron, aluminum, magnesium, and titanium and depending on the time of day, the colors are very vivid.

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    We stopped briefly at Golden Canyon Trail, but we were exhausted by the time we got there, so we walked a short distance and took a couple of pictures.

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    By 2:30 we were back at the Ranch and worn out.  The shower felt wonderful!  

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    We are staying at the Ranch of Death Valley at Furnace  Creek.  We ate dinner in the courtyard of the Forty Nine Cafe.  Tom had a filet magnon, asparagus, and a baked potato while I had chili and a Caesar salad.  Because of COVID, all meals were served in paper boxes.

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    Today was a day well spent enjoying God’s magnificent creations.  

     

    Day 2 in Death Valley 

    After checking out of the motel we drove 22 miles further north to see the Mesquite Sand Dunes.  According to the National Park Service "there must be a source of sand, prevailing winds to move the sand, and a place for the sand to collect. The eroded canyons and washes provide plenty of sand, the wind seems to always blow (especially in the springtime), but there are only a few areas in the park where the sand is trapped".  The Mesquite Sand Dunes is one area, but there are also four other sights within the park with sand dunes:  Eureka Dunes, Saline Valley Dunes, Panamint Dunes and the Ibex Dunes.

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  • Big Bend National Park - Day 2

    We drove back into the park today from the Big Bend Resort & Adventures campground in Terlingua, but this time our destination was the total opposite end of the park near the Rio Grande Village Visitor Center (50 miles one way).  We stopped at the Rio Grande Overlook and then stopped in Boquillas Canyon to hike the Boquillas Canyon Trail.  We wore our swimsuits today because we were hoping to enjoy the Hot Springs, but we found out the springs were closed because of COVID.  The other excursion we had hoped to do was a row boat ride across the Rio Grande to a Mexican village and had our passports on hand,  but once again we were not allowed because of Covid. It was another good day though and by the time we arrived back at the campground, we’d driven 110 miles.

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    Rio Grande Overlook

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    Boquillas Canyon Trail

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    Mexicans row across the river and place handmade items on rocks along the trail with a money jar.  We passed at least five of these spots. Apparently, they watch their items from the other side of the river and come back across to collect their money.

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    We hiked as far as we could go up the canyon before turning around to return to the car.

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    Tom waded out to the middle of the Rio Grande.

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    Check out these holes!  These were used to ground corn into cornmeal.

  • Big Bend National Park - Our 37th National Park (Day 1)

     

    Day 1 - We drove into the Big Bend National Park from the western entrance near the town of Tergingua. 

    We turned right from the main road and drove down the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive.We stopped to walk around the Sam Nail Ranch  and  the Homer Wilson Ranch, both homesteads that were vacated when the land became a National Park in 1944. When we got to the place on the map called Castolon,  we expected to actually see a little town, but there were a total of about four buildings, one of which was a TINY store selling some bottled drinks and snacks.  There was a fire there in 2019 which destroyed a few other buildings whose remnants remain.

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    Remnants of the Sam Nail Ranch

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    Homer Wilson Ranch

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    From there we dove to the Santa Elena Canyon, a 45 mile drive from the entrance into the park, where we hiked the Santa Elena Canyon Trail.  The trail starts after crossing a partially dried creek, but on the other side, the trail is VERY STEEP and slippery for first few hundred feet or so and goes straight up and then there is another steep downhill before leveling out for a while before going up again this time on a paved switchback.  Once we got to the top we walked downhill and flat before reaching the end at the Rio Grander River.  The hike was scary to me at the beginning and then again at the end, but totally worth doing it!

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    The view between the two mountains is called The Window

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    A roadrunner - Beep Beep!

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    We drove 125 miles today and enjoyed Day 1 in Big Bend

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    I enjoyed a bowl of Tergingua chili at the Starlight Restaurant.  Delicious!

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    Tom had his usual--hamburger and fries, but said it was good also.

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    We stayed at the Big Bend Resort & Adventures Campground in Tergingua.  Although the park was level, the name resort is definitely a misnomer. — However, there were no parks any nicer that we saw.  Just dirt, a table and hookups.

  • El Paso to Terlingua (outside of Big Bend National Park)

    After leaving El Paso, we drove to Van Horn, TX, a sleepy little town in the middle of nowhere with a population of 2,000, where we stopped for the night at the Van Horn RV Park.   Once we arrived, we discovered our coach battery was dead.  Luckily, there was an Auto Zone store in town and we were able to buy a new one.  After installing the battery, we discovered the positive connector cable was corroded, so  we replaced that also.  This was the last semblance of civilization for 100 miles on our drive toward Bib Bend National Park.

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    View from our campground at sunset

    From Van Horn we drove to Terlingua, outside the entrance to Big Bend National Park.  The drive today was once again very rural and boring, but to our surprise there is a art display 26 miles north of Marfa called Prada Marfa.  This display is in the form of a building, specifically a Prada storefront, and was constructed in 2005. On the front of the structure there are two large windows displaying actual Prada shoes and handbags from 2005.

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    As we were driving further down the road we saw the road art below.  There was no sign or explanation beside it, so I have no idea of it’s significance besides a fun way to interrupt the boredom of the drive.

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    We arrived at the town of Terlingua around 5:00PM and are staying at the Big Bend RV Resort & Adventure Campground.

  • El Paso, TX

    We are staying at the Mission RV Park.  When we got ready to leave for the day to tour El Paso, we noticed a huge nail close to the sidewall of the front passenger tire in the CRV, so we head to the tire store to get it fixed.  As our luck (or lack thereof) would have it, the tire could not be fixed and we had to buy another one.  We chose to buy two new front tires, so add those to the two back tires that we bought last week, we’ve spent $888 ion tires on this trip.  We had an 1.5 hour to kill while we waited to get the tires changed so we decided to walk 2 miles to Sam’s Club and walk around.  After walking back to the tire dealership to pick up our car, we drove first to the Casa de Azuca.

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    For 25 years Rufino Loya Rivas built "La Casa de Asucar" around his home as a tribute to the city of El Paso. The House of Sugar’s ornate statues and features were inspired by Catholic churches Rufino recalled from his youth in Mexico.  This beautiful tribute was sculpted from cement by Rivas and is meticulously maintained.  It took him 25 years and hundreds of hours to create his masterpiece.  The home behind all these sculptures is a very simple home in a regular subdivision.  Very unique and worth the drive just to see!

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    Our next stop was a visit at the US Border Patrol Museum and finally, a drive through parts of Franklin Mountains State Park.

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    The US Border fence

  • White Sands National Park - Our 36th National Park

    We stayed in Alamagordo, New Mexico at the Edgington RV Park.  From there we drove 24 miles to White Sands National Park.

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    This is our 36th National Park!  White Sands became the 62nd National Park in December 19, 2020 after being a National Monument since 1933. The “white sand” is actually composed of gypsum crystals. The gypsum dunefield is the largest of its kind on Earth.  The depth of gypsum sand across the entire field is about 30 feet, while the tallest dunes are about 60 feet high.

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          About ten miles into the park and thirty miles from Alamogordo, we discovered we had a flat tire. We pulled over and took off the flat and put on the little mini spare tire from the trunk.  We drove on that until we got back to Alamogordo where we bought two new tires and had them mounted.

         We bought a set of snow discs from Amazon and brought them with us into the park.  Ours didn’t work, but some girls let us take a couple rides on theirs which were a softer plastic than ours.

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    After getting the new tires and shopping at Walmart, we drove to McGinn’s Pistachio Tree Ranch.

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     Here we are standing beside the World’s Largest Pistachio