The Expected and the Unexpected

As I roam the country, I’m always encountering both the expected and the unexpected.

TL;DRthere are surprises everywhere you turn.

Omaha
Dodge City
Oklahoma City
Sayre
Tucumcari

Omaha

Big Red. Sure you expect everything to revolve around Cornhusker football. I watched a local 4pm newscast on a Tuesday and they managed to work “big red” into every story – traffic accident (won’t impact Saturday’s big game), robbery, back to school backpack drive, art fair, utility rate hike, and on and on.

The Old Market. But I was surprised to find The Old Market District, a hip downtown area of restored and preserved buildings from the late 1800s and early 1900s. Many of the buildings have been converted into chic lofts with restaurants, bars and retail on the ground level. Hipsters, cowboys and tourists mingle in the easily walkable downtown.

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The Missouri River runs by Haworth Park in Bellevue, NE. On the other side, Council Bluffs, Iowa.
The Missouri River runs by Haworth Park in Bellevue, NE. On the other side, Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Dodge City

Boot Hill. Dodge City fully embraces its old west heritage. The Boot Hill Museum preserves a street that looks like it came right out of Gunsmoke. Throughout the city center preserved or period appropriate designs dominate.

Unexpected Service. While I was in Dodge City I placed an Amazon order. Amazon screwed up the shipping label (removed all spaces and line separators, WTF?) and UPS couldn’t deliver the package. After a few calls I was told I could pick up the package at the UPS depot. It was only about 12 miles away so I rode over there. The agent saw the size of the box (typical Amazon, the 3 ft x 18 in x 24 in was holding 90% air), and my bike, and offered to follow me back to camp in her personal vehicle and deliver the box. Now I was prepared to unpack the box and discard all the packing on site, riding home with just my purchases, but I accepted her gracious offer. Who does that? Extraordinary.

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Long Branch Saloon
Long Branch Saloon
General Store
Boot Hill Museum

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Grave marker at Boot Hill
Grave marker at Boot Hill
Boot Hill
Boot Hill

Oklahoma City

Tornados and Oil. Sure you expect three tornado warnings in ten days and to see oil wells everywhere.

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The National Memorial. Of course if you’re in Oklahoma City you go to the National Memorial honoring the victims of the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building. I wasn’t prepared, however, for just how big an emotional impact it would have. The site stuns with its beauty and tragedy. The museum walks you through the timeline from before the bombing to the execution of Timothy McVeigh. Near the beginning of the tour you sit in a recreation of a hearing room that was across the street from the Murrah building, where a water resources board was conducting a routine hearing. You listen to the actual audio tape of the hearing that started at 9am and ended with the sound of the blast.

169 empty chairs representing the men, women and children killed in the Oklahoma City bombing.
169 empty chairs representing the men, women and children killed in the Oklahoma City bombing.
One of the 169 chairs at the memorial. Each is engraved with the name of a victim.
One of the 169 chairs at the memorial. Each is engraved with the name of a victim.
Oklahoma City National Memorial - the reflecting pool with the mammoth field of empty chairs behind.
Oklahoma City National Memorial – the reflecting pool with the mammoth field of empty chairs behind.

The 9:01 Gate at the far end of the reflecting pool symbolizes the last moments of peace before the destruction.
The 9:01 Gate at the far end of the reflecting pool symbolizes the last moments of peace before the destruction.

Maybe the most disgusting thing at the museum. McVeigh was wearing this shirt when he was arrested. It translates to "thus always to tyrants".  In 1995 there were maybe 200 people in the country sick enough to do what McVeigh did.  Now there are probably that many at a typical Trump rally.
Maybe the most disgusting thing at the museum. McVeigh was wearing this shirt when he was arrested. It translates to “thus always to tyrants”. In 1995 there were maybe 200 people in the country sick enough to do what McVeigh did. Now there are probably that many at a typical Trump rally.

Sayre

Sleepy Town. Naturally, a small town of 4000 has very little going on.

Crazy big City Park. This little town has a beautiful, well maintained city park cover half a square mile. There’s a nine hole golf course, basketball, tennis, volleyball, a pool, rodeo grounds with seating for the entire population and even RV parking.

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Tucumcari

Route 66. Like every town along Rt 66, you have kitschy souvenir shops, themed diners, and murals of the glory days.

World Class Dinosaur Museum. Mesalands Community College has a well regarded paleontology program and operates a world class museum where you see the fossils they’ve recovered and see the scientists working on fossils.

Dinosaur Leg

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T-Rex Egg

Mesalands Dinosaur Museum

I’ve Seen Fire and I’ve Seen Rain

Fire and Rain, the $3000 brain fart, back to Arizona, 400 days

Fire and Rain

I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain, mostly rain.

After Gettysburg, I got in some beach time in the outer banks of North Carolina and then Myrtle Beach South Carolina. Emerald Isle in the outer banks is a beautiful, sleepy beach town with warm water and nice surf.

First look at the ocean after arriving at Emerald Isle. This is about  25 yards from the  RV.
First look at the ocean after arriving at Emerald Isle. This is about 25 yards from the RV.

Unfortunately, I found out that at dawn and dusk there are tons on noseeums on the beach. The first night, unprotected by insect repellent, I got maybe 100 bites. Most of them stopped itching after 2-3 weeks.

In Myrtle Beach, I attended the iRV2 National Rally and enjoyed another warm water beach.

Sunrise at Myrtle Beach
Sunrise at Myrtle Beach

The second half of the week it started raining – 2-4 inches a day. At the end of the rally I moved on to historic Charleston for nine days of thunderstorms and 2-6 inches of rain every day. Talladega? Rain every day.

Magnolia Plantation, near Charleston, South Carolina
Magnolia Plantation, near Charleston, South Carolina

Fire? Well a lightning strike just outside the campground in Charleston set a big live oak ablaze. Pouring rain pretty much put out the fire before the fire department arrived.

The $3000 Brain Fart

Heading back to Arizona I noticed I’ve got a small oil leak and started checking the oil every time I stopped. At a rest area between Santa Rosa and Albuquerque in in New Mexico I saw the oil and engine coolant were both a little low. I got out a gallon of coolant and a gallon of oil and a couple of funnels. Then I poured almost a gallon of coolant into the oil spout. It wasn’t until I put down the jug that I noticed the orange liquid in the funnel and looked back at the jug.

Can’t drive like that, so I got towed 100+ miles to Albuquerque ($1250) where I spent three days at Freightliner having the oil flushed and the leak fixed ($1500). The truckers assured me this kind of thing happens, but I know stupid when I do it. Add in a few nights in a motel with a dog surcharge and I’m into this brain fart for over $3k.

Back to Arizona

I’m in Flagstaff now to visit Kylee at NAU. It wasn’t a good trip into town. The engine overheated during the climb from Holbrook. I’m hoping the oil leak just fouled the radiator vents and a good steam cleaning will set it right, but I don’t know yet. I also took a rock to the windshield which left the traditional divot plus two foot long cracks. I hope insurance will cover that one.

After Flagstaff I’m going to Phoenix for a bit to finish the motorcycle repairs from last April’s Flagstaff stop and have some dental surgery. Relatively speaking it could be fun.

400 Days

It’s been over 400 days and more than 80 stops (I know a missed logging a few) since I started traveling full time. Yes, I’m still having a great time.

The dog is still crazy, but controllable. There’s been a lot more expense than I’d planned – new bike, new trailer, dog related repairs, motorhome repairs, Kylee’s car repairs, and more. But just about every spot had it’s charm and I wouldn’t have wanted to miss any of them. Onward bound.

Top Five Places

  1. Osakis, MN
  2. Trinidad, CA
  3. Black Hills, SD
  4. Salaberry-de-Valleyville, QC
  5. Panama City Beach, FL

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[ Map of states visited is not shown on this browser ]

[ Map of states visited is not shown on this browser ]

[ Map of places visited is not shown on this browser ]

Into the Plains

After the Meteor Crater stop, I’ve been in travel mode, sucking down the diesel and heading north.

Raton

I stopped in Raton, New Mexico, before crossing the Raton Pass into Colorado. Raton means “little rat” and I couldn’t find out why they named the town that. Both days there had thunderstorms with lots of hail and tornado warnings. Raton was mentioned briefly in Jack Kerouac’s On The Road.

OTRCover

We passed Walsenburg; suddenly we passed Trinidad, where Chad King was somewhere off the road in front of a campfire with perhaps a handful of anthropologists and as of yore he too was telling his life story and never dreamed we were passing at that exact moment on the highway, headed for Mexico, telling our own stories. O sad American night! Then we were in New Mexico and passed the rounded rocks of Raton and stopped at a diner, ravingly hungry for hamburgers, some of which we wrapped in a napkin to eat over the border below. “The whole vertical state of Texas lies before us, Sal,” said Dean. “Before we made it horizontal. Every bit as long. We’ll be in Texas in a few minutes and won’t be out till tomorrow this time and won’t stop driving. Think of it.”
–Jack Kerouac – On the Road

No, I’m not really a fan of On the Road, tried to read it a couple of times but couldn’t get into it. Of course, I do love an epic road trip.

Roamward Bound struggled over the Raton pass (8,000 ft) and I was down to 25 mph several times. Piles of hail lined the roads looking like snow in the shadows.

Fountain

Just south of Colorado Springs, in Fountain, my campsite was along the Fountain Creek, a beautiful setting.

Fountain Creek. Ten yards from campsite in Fountain, Colorado.
Fountain Creek. Ten yards from campsite in Fountain, Colorado.

Fountain Creek flowing over a rock dam
Fountain Creek flowing over a rock dam

I love the sound of the water falling and the little rock dam could be heard throughout the park. Later this summer I want to see the Fallingwater, the Frank Lloyd Wright home in Pennsylvania, and Niagara Falls.

Many of the campers here seemed to be pot tourists and unaware that most of the counties, including this one, ban recreational sales – it’s pretty much limited to Denver, Pueblo and Boulder.

Death Drive

Taking I-25 north from Fountain traffic was slow and it seemed like every other exit recalled a mass murder. Colorado Springs (New Life Church), Bailey (Platte Canyon High School), Centennial (Arapahoe High School), Littleton (Columbine High School and Deer Creek Jr. High – twice), Aurora (Dark Knight Rises and Chuck E. Cheese), Denver US 40 (Morey Jr. High School 1961), and Stapleton (UAL 626). Maybe I missed a few, these were the ones I noticed. Grim enough for such a beautiful area.

Cheyenne

Cheyenne reminds me of Flagstaff with it’s preserved historical downtown and the rails. The area is surrounded by rolling hills covered with grass 3-6 feet high, and ranches the size of a small county.

Lusk

Lusk, a high plains town in eastern Wyoming, is known for being the county seat of the least populated county in the least populated state in the US. It’s the gateway from the west into the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Las Cruses

Las Cruses (“The Crosses”) was named for the crossing of the north/south and east/west trails here. Today its the cross roads of I-25 and I-10. An area of the city, Mesilla, was once the capital of Arizona and New Mexico.

Mesilla plaza a national historic landmark.
Mesilla plaza a national historic landmark.
Basilica of San Albino
Basilica of San Albino
Famous La Posta restaurant. Very nice inside and the New Mexico cuisine was excellent.
Famous La Posta restaurant. Very nice inside and the New Mexico cuisine was excellent.
Former capital of Arizona and New Mexico now sells Billy the Kid trinkets made in China.
Former capital of Arizona and New Mexico now sells Billy the Kid trinkets made in China.

I’ll be continuing east in the morning.