Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Spring Lake RV Resort - nature at its best

This place is amazing

Birds galore – also water snakes, bull frogs, squirrels – share this lovely, lush park with RVers. Spring Lake RV Resort near Halstead, Kansas, has large mature trees, acres of grass for parking, nine lakes (some stocked for fishing), swimming pool, organized activities, and very importantly – Kansas is notorious for tornadoes and it is tornado season – two storm shelters.

After a 140-mile drive from Great Salt Plains State Park, including maneuvering through detours neared Wichita, I was pleased to pull in for a couple of days. Everyone here is friendly and helpful and efficient in a most friendly way. Checking in is made special by the gals in the office and the maintenance guys work hard to keep improving the park and keep it running smoothly.

I had a somewhat difficult time parking and getting Jeremiah level. After a bit of trial and error with my boards, ramps and a shovel, I ended up lowering my left rear dual wheels by digging and raising the other three points. Just one more RVing challenge to keep my brain working.

The park’s ponds and trees attract quite a variety of wildlife. Birds I’ve enjoyed include American Barn Swallow, Purple Martin, Starling, Robin, Baltimore Oriole, two kinds of dove, Canada Geese, House Wren, House Sparrow, Red-headed Woodpecker, Redwing Blackbird, Great-Tailed Grackle, Northern Cardinal, and some LBB (unidentifiable ‘little brown birds’). I got several good photos of the stunning Baltimore Oriole.

Following the advice of fellow RVer and bird watcher Pat Bean, when I arrive at a new campsite I toss birdseed out on the ground to see what birds come to eat. Well, after my first day, nary a bird showed up. Then yesterday a squirrel showed up, probably thinking he/she had hit the jackpot!

It has rained both nights – no wonder things are so lush. Fortunately for me, the days have been pleasant and conducive to lots of walking. I spent time at one of the ponds, hoping to take a photo of a bullfrog. Those little buggers are too quick. Before I could spot them in the tall grasses, they dove into the water. I also tried to photograph a fairly long snake – about 4-foot – that was swimming.

I finished reading ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’ and enjoyed it immensely. My current read is ‘The Girls from Ames’. It is a story of women who grew up in Ames, Iowa, and their 40-year friendship. (Author is Jeffrey Zaslow.) Ames, home of Iowa State University, is my favorite Iowa town.

Yesterday evening I joined several camp workers and campers for dinner at an Amish restaurant in nearby Yoder, Kansas. Dinner was delicious.

As I write this, three Canada Geese families are right outside. Two families with what appears to be last year's young and one with this year's babies. The interaction of the groupings fascinate me. One adult in each grouping is always 'on alert' while the rest are foraging for whatever goodies they can find in the grass. And speaking of goodies in the grass, the rains have obviously brought lots of worms to the surface which the birds are enjoying.

As I gather memories, I recall this quote from Author John Grogan:

There are moments in life that fade from memory so quickly they are gone almost before they are over. Then there are those that stick, the ones we carry with us through the years like precious parcels of clarity stitched close to our hearts, becoming part of who we are.

Today is Wednesday, May 26; my day to move to an RV park in Lyndon, Kansas, closer to Kansas City. I'll stay two days, giving me time to do laundry, dump tanks, fill the fresh-water tank, and explore another area.

Monday, May 24, 2010

“Captive” at Fort Supply Lake

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Captive? Well, that’s how it feels at times. I arrived on Friday after a 270-mile drive from Tucumcari, NM, and this is my second day at the Corps of Engineers Fort Supply Lake Campground in north/mid Oklahoma.

I’m about 100 feet from the lake’s edge. Lush grass, tall trees, temps about 70 at night and pushing 80s during the afternoon. So what’s the problem? Wind! Strong most of the time and not letting up during the night. Jeremiah is rocking and rolling. And I had no Internet.

Am I wishing that the day would hurry up and be over? Not at all. I’m focusing on all the good stuff.

Somewhere I read these wise words:

When you hurry through your day, it is like an unopened gift thrown away.
Life may not be the party we hoped for; but while we are here we might as well dance.

Actually, it is not a problem; it is an opportunity to get some inside stuff done. These two very windy days have been spent reading, writing, cleaning, and just loafing. Cat sleeps most of the day – I think she is awake most of the night, going from window to window to “guard the house.”

Besides Oklahoma wind, there is Midwest humidity. Thanks to the wind, the mugginess was lessened.

As I fell asleep the first night, I was reminded of time spent at Southern California beaches as the lake waves crashed on the shoreline rocks. Sunrise, 6:26 a.m., was beautiful. Sunset at 8:42 p.m. was mostly be blocked by trees.

I’ve also braved the wind to wander outside. There are a few campers here, mostly with trailers and tents. The wind has “blown out” (surfer’s term) the lake, creating a jumble of waves. A flock of Canada Geese kept me entertained this morning. A lone pair escorted four babies along the shoreline.

The lake is created by a dam on Wolf Creek, a tributary of the North Canadian River. It was built in the late 1930s for flood control. Many birds seem to have taken refuge from the wind. I have seen robins, blue jays, mockingbirds, dove, great-tailed grackles and I think a Brewer’s blackbird. A beautiful blue jay has landed on the top of my window feeder several times, but it can’t figure out how to get inside for the seeds. A few hearty fishermen were trying their luck yesterday; fish species at the lake include largemouth bass, crappie, white bass, walleye and catfish.

Sunday, May 23

Moving on to Great Salt Plains State Park

With no promise of the wind letting up – and after calling Ms. Weather (a.k.a. Carol Rayburn) because she always knows, or can find out, weather forecasts – I left Ft. Supply Lake fairly early this morning. My destination was northeast and I was counting on a tailwind.

Along the way I saw an apparent life-sized bronze statue of a bull, but there was no good place to pull over for a photo. Below the statue was the sign “In Memory of Morris and Heston”. I was in cattle country and the statue was placed near the entrance to a huge ranch. Perhaps those were names of two prize bulls?

I also drove by the entrance to “Little Sahara State Park” and quickly discovered that the main feature of this park is off-road vehicles. Because it was Sunday, much of the traffic consisted of pickup trucks pulling trailers with ATVs.

The drive was delightful and relaxing. Plenty of colorful wildflowers decorated the roadside.

Oklahoma signs along the way admonished “Keep Our Land Grand.”

I saw lots of Cattle Egrets – an insect eater, according my bird book. This bird hangs out with cattle for the insects that are stirred up.

The distance between Ft. Supply and Great Salt Plains was only 118 miles; a short driving day in the wind. I passed signs promoting the Selenite Crystal Digging Area. The strong winds discouraged me from stopping. Later at the state park I learned more. Selenite is a crystallized form of gypsum. On the Salt Plains, “hourglass-shaped” crystals are formed less than two feet below the salt encrusted surface. This is the only place in the world to find the “hourglass selenite crystals.”

I backed Jeremiah into a site along the Salt Fork of the Arkansas River – and even though it was still windy, I set out to explore the park. My wanderings took me down a lovely trail, up and down 110 steps along the dam’s spillway and adjacent field of flowers near the chocolate-looking lake. Along the trail, someone had built a bird blind with bird feeders to watch and photograph birds without them knowing. Unfortunately, it was in disrepair and without bird seed.

I had already decided to re-route my travels and skip the northeast portion of Oklahoma. And to only stay one day at Great Salt Plains.

After a 140-mile drive today (Monday) I’m at Spring Valley RV Resort outside Halstead, Kansas. I’ll be here two days. The wind seems to have followed me, but appears to be lessening in velocity. Maybe I’ll be able to put my slide outs and enjoy the extra space.

Right now, a Baltimore Oriole is "inviting" me to come out and explore this place.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Tucumcari Tonight – that’s what the billboard said

May 20, 2010

“Get your Kicks in Tucumcari” (pronounced TOO-kum-kair-ee) said another sign. And still another advertised this town as The Heart of the Mother Road and the Gateway City of Murals. For me it was Tucumcari for two nights because I needed to do laundry. After a short drive from Santa Rosa State Park, I arrived at KIVA AoK RV Park. Tom directed me to a spacious site near large shade trees.

Look closely and you can see Jeremiah on the other side of the pond.

I was barely hooked up when my RV neighbor Nancy invited me to go with her to Mesalands Community College Dinosaur Museum. We oohed and aahed through the 10,000 square feet that holds the world’s largest collection of bronze skeletons, fossils and replica of prehistoric creatures. Rats! I had forgotten my camera.

Experience all you can in Tucumcari!

Just the facts:

Elevation – 4,085 ft.

Economy – farming (55,040 acres irrigated cropland; 186,400 acres of non-irrigated cropland), ranching (15.9 million acres of ranch land) and tourist community.

History – Town got its start in 1901 as a tent city known as Ragtown, later as Six Shooter Siding. The birth of Route 66 in 1926 brought travelers by the carload. According to a resident, the town’s heyday was in the 1960s and 1970s.

Today – Route 66 looks mighty tired. I walked Rt. 66 and the old downtown for about three hours, talking to locals, exploring a grocery store (eggs sell in 5-dozen boxes), walking by many closed up businesses, and chuckling about the name of the “pain management” doctor – Dr. Lazurus! And taking pictures of several of the 25+ murals. (double-click to enlarge photos)

So far on this trip I’ve read two books – “A Girl Named Zippy – Growing Up Small in Mooreland, Indiana by Haven Kimmel and “The Art of Racing in the Rain” by Garth Stein. Currently reading “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” by Shaffer and Barrows.

I’ve enjoyed watching the aerial acrobats of the Kingbirds as they snag flying insects.

Tomorrow I’ll drive through a corner of west Texas and on into Oklahoma. I have three options for tomorrow night – and in keeping with my intent of staying flexible, I will make my choice as I drive along.

Here’s a thought for today attributed to Emile Zola, French novelist:

"If you ask me what I came into this life to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud."

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Thank goodness for motorized travel!

As I drove east from Albuquerque – and as faithful Jeremiah hummed right along – I was reminded of an item that was in Garrison Keillor’s Jan. 3, 2010, Writer’s Almanac: (The Writer's Almanac is produced by Prairie Home Productions and presented by American Public Media.)

It was on this day in 1899 that The New York Times used the word "automobile" in an editorial, the first known use of that word in English.

What would eventually come to be known as automobiles were still very new items, and the first mass production of them in America was two years away. The New York Times seemed equally disturbed by the machines themselves and the fact that there was no good word for them. It concluded: "There is something uncanny about these new-fangled vehicles. They are all unutterably ugly and never a one of them has been provided with a good, or even an endurable, name. The French, who are usually orthodox in their etymology if in nothing else, have evolved 'automobile,' which, being half Greek and half Latin, is so near to indecent that we print it with hesitation."

Well, there is nothing ugly about Jeremiah, my comfortable home on wheels so much of the year. I’m blessed to have the gumption and desire to travel and explore.

Whew! A pleasantly busy week in Rio Rancho/Albuquerque

Yes, I had winds between Flagstaff (AZ) and Grants (NM) – tailwinds! That’s the kind I like because as the wind pushes me to my destination. After my Walmart night, I got an early start for the last 70 miles to friend Jesse’s “RV Park” – a.k.a. his nice, level concrete driveway.

Friend Hilda had Cat as her house guest for the week, leaving me free to take care of appointments and visits. Jeremiah spent a morning in service for maintenance, followed by another few hours getting tires rotated and checked. Hilda’s friend, Jim, graciously took care of a couple other motorhome projects and helped me pick out a NOAA weather alert radio (which I have yet to figure out how to get all the functions set).

Happily I got to spend lots of time with my daughter Sue. She and Dave – the sailboat cruisers – are currently landlubbers while they work on some business stuff in Rio Rancho. She and I went to our favorite eating places – Cazuela’s New Mexican restaurant and Relish Deli. I do miss New Mexican food – particularly the use of green chiles. And time with my precious friends was cherished.

Each and every event and visit was memorable and special. One that stands out was attending a Catholic mass in Santa Fe with my friend Sylvia. Afterwards was a procession to the Chapel for San Ysidro, patron saint of farmers and rural communities. He is taken in procession to bless spring plantings, and to intercede for rain in time of drought.

This chapel was built in 1928 by Sylvia’s grandfather Don Lorenzo Lopez Sr. He carried buckets of water from the nearby Santa Fe River to make the adobe.

It was time to leave for a few weeks of wandering

It’s Monday morning. I lingered over a cup of tea out in Jesse’s awesome patio – no need to rush away; I was only driving a bit more than 100 miles – destination Santa Rosa State Park. I also took time to check the NOAA weather situation, and here’s what I read:

From NOAA weather for Santa Rosa:

AREA. It went on to specify which counties would be affected.

I wonder, just what are “brief tornadoes”?

One of the first things I’ll do when I reach Santa Rosa State Park is to get my backpack “ditch bag” ready and available. It will have things such as water, cat food, peanut butter crackers, flashlight, money, credit card, ID, and a portable radio. If I have to abandon Jeremiah in event of a tornado, I’ll just have to get Cat into her carrier, pick up the bag and head to a shelter.

Santa Rosa State Park

No problem finding the town of Santa Rosa, but just like I did when I visited there in 2005, I could not find the turn to the park. A quick phone call got me on the right track and in 7 miles I arrived. All but three of the electric campsites are on a reservation system (which I don’t like because I prefer a flexible schedule). I settled into reservation site A-13, and then moved to A-7 the next morning. This stop is my “lazy, catch-my-breath time. Cat looks longingly out the window; I might let her out for a while.

I had a nice visit with 89-year-old Camp Host Bob. I remembered him from my last time here a few years ago. He’s put together a nice birdwatching area at his campsite and also a DVD of the birds who are in the park.

It was an overcast and breezy day on Tuesday. Cat enjoyed some outside time - mostly looking for a tree she could climb. And it was a good day to take a long walk along Santa Rosa Lake, enjoying the variety of wildflowers that decorated the way. The lake was formed by a dam on the Pecos River.

Tomorrow I’ll continue east – spending a couple of days in Tucumcari, New Mexico.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Welcome to Lumberjack Country

That’s what the Interstate billboard said – and with the snow-topped San Francisco Peaks up ahead, I found a place to pull over and take a photo. And I rolled the windows down to enjoy the fragrant pines; bringing back memories of my three years in this northern Arizona city, attending what was then named Arizona State College (ASC).

I parked at Black Bart’s RV Park that is just about 3 miles from campus. In space 27 with tall pines around me, this will be a super place to spend the next few days.

Speaking of memories, they continue to flood back into my mind:

n I attended ASC because I was given a scholarship - $44 a semester! And I was able to work part time in the Public Information Office to earn money for my meals and miscellaneous expenses.

n Mom and Dad (and I think some younger siblings) brought me to college, and when they left I sat on my bunk and cried. This was a huge step for me – also I was the first Anderson – siblings, parents and aunts and uncles and grandparents – to attend college. As soon as my roommate, Sue Ballard from Snowflake, Arizona, arrived I felt much better and soon we were laughing and heading out to explore the campus.

n Feeling more confident I jumped right into college life, dating a few guys and even trying out for the cheer team (didn’t make it, but met lots of people and had fun in my attempt).

n I met my first husband at college. He was a handsome upper classman, and I only knew his first name: Rick. I found out from my roommate (who worked in the cafeteria) that he went to breakfast every morning, so that’s where I went, too, trying to be noticed. Then I learned that he studied daily in the library, so that’s what I did, too. As I walked by his study table one day, I noticed that he had the words “PRAY” written in bold printing on his paper. Hmmm! Eventually he invited me out for coffee and I found out that his last name was Pray: Richard Huse Pray, and he was from southern California.

Northern Arizona University (NAU) has an interesting history. Founded in 1899, it was originally named Northern Arizona Normal School until 1928 when the name was changed to Arizona State Teacher’s College of Flagstaff, in 1945 the name was changed to Arizona State College (ASC) and that was its name when I enrolled in 1956. It became NAU after the 1964-65 academic year.)

ASC was a small college – we celebrated having 1,000 students my freshman year. Student population grew to about 2,000 by 1960, and there were just over 300 students in my class. Classmates had some heart-warming incidents to share as reminder of how special and personal our small classes were.

Here’s what a campus plaque from 1961 says:


To become educated is to become more human.

Recognizing this principle, we of the Arizona State College Faculty dedicate ourselves to maintain the highest standard of professional efficiency in a campus atmosphere of scholarship and friendliness. Furthermore, we feel that, within and without the classroom, the line of communication between the student and the faculty must be kept open and the individuality of the student must be preserved. (From a plaque placed on campus in 1961.

Finally – “my” college commencement ceremony

Well, not actually mine – it was for Northern Arizona University’s 2010 graduates. So why was I there leading the procession and sitting on the front row? And why was it “mine”?

By attending the regular semesters and attending summer school, I finished college May 1959 - in three years instead of four. By the time my commencement ceremony rolled around, May 1960, husband Rick, our 1 ½ year-old son Ricky, and I – very pregnant with child #2 – were living in St. Johns, Arizona. So, no commencement ceremony for me; they mailed my diploma.

The Golden Graduation Ceremony

A few years ago I found out that NAU has a special ceremony for alumni 50 years after graduation – for the Golden Graduates. I was determined to attend when my year came along and made NAU, in Flagstaff, Arizona, the first stop on my Great Summer Adventure.

I had volunteered to co-chair the event and arrived a couple days early to help with last-minute details and also walked around the old campus buildings to reminisce. Most of the women’s dorm and the men’s dorms are now coed – with alternating floors for the sexes – unheard of in the 50s. Room and a 5-day meal ticket was less than $40 a month! I have fond memories of the Student Union/cafeteria building and Gammage Hall that housed the library on the second floor because that’s where I regularly went hoping to catch the eye of a handsome, blond guy – I succeeded and we were married December 1957.

Golden Grads arrived on Friday afternoon and, with exception of one woman, I did not recognize a soul. What fun we had surprising each other. Twenty Golden Grads and some spouses made the most of our reunion. We received a Class of 1960 memory book – complete with photos from the yearbook and bios of Golden Grads.

After the initial get-together, we were bussed around the campus, taken to the historic Riordan Mansion for a tour and reception, and enjoyed a cloudless night sky at the campus’ Atmospheric Research Observatory and Lutz Telescope. Last stop was Mars’ Hill – a popular place to see the downtown area.

We participated in Saturday morning’s commencement for the College of Engineering, Forestry and Natural Sciences and the College of Arts and Letters. Golden Grads donned their gold robes and caps and led the procession in the Walker Sky Dome. I was given the great honor of leading them all, carrying the Golden Graduate’s banner.

After commencement and a lovely luncheon, it was time to head for home – or in my case, to Jeremiah and Cat. I intended to spend Saturday night, driving on to Albuquerque on Sunday/Monday.

However – there was a “serious wind” warning

First thing I did upon arriving at Jeremiah was to check the weather forecast – and learned that super high winds – gusts up to 50+ mph along I-40 in Arizona and New Mexico – were predicted for the next day. Oh, dear. It was already 3:30 p.m. I made a quick decision to unhook and at least get part of the way to Rio Rancho. A tailwind whisked me along as I considered options for the night. Gallup? Grants? Go all the way to Rio Rancho (about 300 miles)? By Grants I was ready to call it a day. I ended up spending the night in the Walmart! My first time. It was just fine and enabled me to get an early start to finish this leg of my trip.

I’ll close this blog entry with a poem my #1 Sister (Elaine Hardt) wrote for my 2010 adventure. She is a prolific writer and I’m blessed to have her as one of my sisters.

Where is Carol? Lord, You Know!

Father, like the sun which never stops shining

Let your love embrace my sister

With your light and warmth and security.

As she begins her morning reaching out to you

Let her day be put into perspective.

She will see new things and new people.

Keep her eyes fresh and clear.

Let your Holy Spirit fill her refreshingly

As she reads Your Word and meditates.

The world out there is so big

And she is only one person

And the road seems so long,

Yet you have a blessing and a purpose

And a new day for her.

We ask for your provision and protection,

For your wisdom and your joy.

When storm clouds advance

Let her see beyond the obvious

Into the spiritual realm of Your great plan.

Give her a confidence that continues.

Keep her on the right road, all the time.

Keep her from confusion, weakness, sickness.

No accidents nor incidents, no tickets, no trouble,

Not even see an accident, a safe trip.

Her example will be noticed by many along the way.

Let others see You by words she says

And what she writes to share.

by Elaine Hardt ©2010

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Let the Adventure Begin!

I’m ready, Jeremiah is ready. I’m doing some last minute things to close up my non-rolling home. Let the Great Summer Adventure 2010 begin!

Lord willing, the creek doesn’t rise and I don’t do something stupid or careless, this will be my most ambitious motorhome adventure. Counting two-months of volunteer time at Navajo Lake State Park (in northwest New Mexico), I’ll be gone 6 months and travel somewhere between 6,000 and 7,000 miles. And I’ll drive through 16 states – New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado and California. Here’s a map of my route; remember you can double-click photos to enlarge them.

My challenge for each of us every day is to find something to rejoice about and some good to do—and then to do both.

You can travel with me via this blog.

Today’s destination is Flagstaff, Arizona. Home of Northern Arizona University. I’ll be one of about two dozen honored guests at the University’s 2010 Commencement Ceremony. Why? It’s been 50 years since my graduation from the then-college Arizona State College – making me a Golden Graduate. I’m so excited.