4 SQUARES IN MEMPHIS (not what you think)

Since the last posts from Texarkana we’ve traveled on our last “single night” leg, a stretch of driving followed by just an overnight stay at an RV camp followed by another driving day. We only have 4 more RV camps left in our trip, and 3 of them are for 3 nights each. Much more camping, much less driving. Yay! We did make it to Duke’s truck stop for some barbeque just before departing Texas.

Do these cattle make me look thinner?

We are currently in West Memphis Arkansas staying right on the shores of The Mighty Mississippi River at Tom Sawyer’s RV Resort. This is perhaps the nicest place we’ve camped yet because of the spectacular views, the fabulous sunrises and sunsets, the absolute quiet at night (and even during the day), and the close proximity to downtown Memphis.

The sunrises were great. The sunsets were equally satisfying

There is always something pleasant about camping on the water. The river flowing by incessantly is mesmerizing, and we are constantly entertained by the traffic of river tugs pushing barges up or down the river. I had no clue as to the workings of the “barge rafts” that the tugs push and found online that they are allowed to push up to 42 at a time. Mind you, these are large steel floats, up to 200 feet long and 50 feet wide each, loaded with liquid (frequently petroleum) or solid (frequently coal, gravel or grain) products making their way to another distribution point in the supply chain. Wikipedia tells me that about 5 million tons of these products are pushed up or down the Mississippi River in a year. The campground provides a bid of a grandstand for this parade, with campers lining up along the shore to gawk at the largest of the rafts. One guy claims to have seen a 56-barge raft (seemingly illegal) that was “7 wide and 8 deep”, spotted at dusk making its way downstream. There isn’t a lot of drinking going on here in the campground, but there’s always that one guy.

More commonly, we have seen 35 and 40 barge rafts. It’s a fun section of the river with a sharp 90 degree turn at each end of our campground “straightaway”, and watching the tugs maneuver their gigantic loads into and out of the curves is entertaining. Yesterday we saw 2 rafts, one very large and one medium sized pass each other in a bend, and I speculated through my binoculars as to whether the large one would go aground trying to swing wide around the short one, who took the inside track. The river is medium-wide here, but is very shallow on the east side, so only half the channel is available for navigation, bringing the barges close to the shore. I would think they would attempt to pass each other in the straights, but I’m not a river barge captain.

Headed downstream, this is a 5 Wide 5 Deep raft of smaller barges, and one of the larger tugs.

Truthfully, we stopped for 3 nights in Memphis only for 2 reasons. First, I figured we would be ready for a recharge stop with plenty of downtime to smell the roses. Second, it’s Memphis, a town we know very little about except that it is Elvis-centric. We aren’t Elvis fans, but it seemed like a good idea to check it out anyway. We decided the best way to start was one of our favorite methods, the Walking Tour. Sometimes these can be found for free online by downloading a guide map to your phone and self-directing your walk. We opted for an in-person guided tour, at about $25 a pop, so we could get a curated history lesson. It was well worth it as we learned a ton about Memphis! Our guide, Shannon, is a native local and theatrical, so her stories were colorful.

For instance, Memphis (named after the ancient capital of Egypt because the Mississippi is the fourth largest river in the world behind the Nile) was founded by 3 men who acquired the property in what has been called “the largest real estate rape of the Indians”, a tribal and US Government settlement that ceded 6 million acres of land from the Chickasaws to the Feds at $.04 an acre. In this giant chunk of land, 3 investors, John Overton, James Winchester and Andrew Jackson found the only spot on the river between Natchez Mississippi and St. Louis and known as “Fourth Bluff” that would resist annual flooding and founded Memphis on May 22, 1819. Only one of these investors, Overton, would be pivotal in the development of the city, the other two either never or rarely visited. Jackson only visited twice in his life but made one demand as an investor. The river front must have a “grand promenade” (which barely exists anymore), and 4 town squares. When the city was mapped out, 4 squares were included: Court Square, Exchange Square, Auction Square and Market Square, but these names didn’t necessarily designate the primary usage of the space:  the Court is in Exchange Square; the Exchange is in Market Square; Market Square never had a market; and there were no auctions in Auction Square. Today, only one square survives, Court Square. Here’s Shannon giving us the lowdown.

Court Square, partially funded by the town Madam, is the only surviving square of the originally plan.

Beale Street is the entertainment center of Memphis. The birth of the blues (BB “Blues Boy” King included) is here. It’s like Bourbon Street, loaded with clubs and bars. “Go Cups” are allowed, with one walk up bar proclaiming “Last cocktails for 30 feet”. We took the brief tour of Beale Street, which is only 4 blocks long, at 8:30AM waiting for our walking tour. There was only one other couple, also waiting for the same walking tour, doing the same thing. It was a little eerie, no cars, quiet, nobody but “us chickens” strolling around reading all the historical signs.

You can see almost all of Beale Street from right here.

And we found an employment opportunity and some colorful sidewalk “notes” commemorating musical starts that have graced the stages locally.

Here’s a good tip for walkers in Memphis: the Memphis Main Street Trolley. $2 gets you an all day pass, and it travels the entire riverfront length of the town with trains about every 12 minutes. We rode it north to The Pyramid, which has been taken over by Bass Pro Shops (the largest in the world), then back south to the Lorraine Motel, site of Martin Luther King’s assassination in 1968. The Lorraine has been converted into the National Civil Rights Museum.

Adjacent to the Lorraine, we found Central BBQ, touted to us by Shannon (a local, remember?), and we stepped in for lunch. Deeeeelishous!

Dry rubbed ribs and 4 sides, more than a lunch!

We were advised by many fellow travelers and a few travel blogs “not to miss the Peabody ducks!”. The old historical hotel in Memphis, the Peabody, has a tradition on display twice a day of The Duck Parade”. There are ducks kept in a pen on the rooftop that are paraded at 11AM and 5PM everyday through the lobby of the hotel and into the central fountain, where they happily swim until they are herded back to their pen for the next show. As a tradition, it’s quaint. As a show it’s a dud. Lots and lots (and lots) of front-end hype and pageantry, followed by 4 ducks waddling up some steps and jumping into a fountain. Tourists jammed shoulder-to-shoulder craning their necks to see. The lobby bar doing a land office business selling Bloody Mary’s and Mimosas before lunch. Phooey.

All this for four ducks? The little girl was cute as the Guest DuckMaster.

Here’s a quick update on the painted rock project, with some entries from Texarkana and Memphis. If you are a traveler, and you find a rock, send us an email at warrenmudd@gmail.com and tell us where you found it!

And finally, Memphis being a huge Cotton Town, we discovered, and will share with you, the origin of the word “middling”, as in “How was it?”, “Oh, just middling”. As far as we can tell, middling was one of the terms used to describe the quality and value of a crop of cotton. You’re welcome.

The Cotton Museum on Main Street takes all the mystery out of it

Tippy has a tip for farmers (and the rest of us).

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BIG OL’ TEXAS

You’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it again. Texas is big. Really big. I don’t think you can appreciate how big it is until you have driven across it. 14 hours it took us. Mind you, we aren’t driving straight through, we do have to rest. And we had some urgent business in Odessa that needed tending to, but we didn’t dawdle except to sleep and eat, and took a pretty straight path as our goal was to get to Memphis via Texarkana. We went the “short way” across the north through Dallas on Interstates 20 and 30. 14 hours for the short way says it all. The last time I drove across the Lone Star state was decades ago, on Interstate 10, the Long Way. That was 24 hours of driving.

At least the landscape is more interesting on The Short Way. The Long Way is what feels like a never-ending belt of brown flat terrain, like driving on a big treadmill with the same picture outside your window. We had a little bit of that at the start, diving into Texas from New Mexico across the Permian Basin, studded with oil rigs as far as the eye can see. The rigs were still for the most part, with only an occasional lone “grasshopper” pump jack pecking the desert floor amongst dormant neighbors. I would think with gas at $5 a gallon, those puppies would be jumping like teenagers at a rave. That’s how much I know about the oil business.

Image courtesy of sciencing.com

It seemed strange to see the idle oil rigs when the wind, which had been plaguing us for days, was blowing up to 25 mph straight out of the south. Where were the windmills? We got our answer a couple of hours later when we rose out of the Permian and into Texas Hill Country. Suddenly there were wind turbines as far as you could see, hundreds and hundreds, perhaps thousands, we couldn’t see to the horizon. For 50 miles or more. The turbines were spinning busily, churning out green energy, and white knuckles (mine) on the steering wheel. Driving a billboard on wheels with a cross wind is tiring work.

Imagine this looking in any direction, for dozens of miles along the road. Some politician’s brother-in-law must own a wind turbine company!

Even the temperature is big in Texas, well over 90 degrees each of the 2 days. When you are towing an RV in that kind of heat, your mind dwells on the myriad of things that happen in the heat, mostly regarding tires and cooling systems. So, if you are smart like us, you are up and gone at sunrise to get as many miles under your wheels as you can before the dragon breathes on you.

The Dragon awakes

We originally planned a route as direct as possible, from Carlsbad through Abilene and Texarkana to Memphis. 2 overnights across the great stretch would be rewarded with a 3 night stay in the Midwest BBQ capital. But, as we are in the throes of getting our house plans and financing completed so we can move into our new digs by the end of the year, we had to plan a detour off that straight route through Odessa Texas because we needed a notary, a Chase bank, and a Fedex office all precisely on one specific date, May 31. Our title company had delayed the close of our construction and mortgage loan past our departure date, much to our disappointment, and now they had called to tell us we needed to be in Florida on May 31 to sign all the docs, wire transfer the fees and costs, and close the loan. That obviously wouldn’t work for us, so we negotiated a compromise. They don’t use Docusign, which would make this a simple transaction that we could literally do on the road with a smartphone (we currently have both a road and 2 smartphones). They needed “wet” signatures on the docs, about 40 of them, with notary stamps on 6 of them. From our vantage point in Cheyenne Wyoming, the only path forward we could see was for them to overnight the doc package to us in Santa Fe, where we would be for a full Saturday, then for us to side-track to Odessa on Tuesday the 31st since it would be the only city within 50 miles of our path with all three necessary institutions. And the docs were all dated May 31, so that had to be the day. We arose on the 31st at 3:30AM, put in some writer’s hours, got some breakfast, and hit the road before sunup. We got to Odessa at 9AM, hit the UPS Store to make our notary appointment, walked to the Walgreen’s Fedex Center (5 minutes), and then drove down the street to Chase to send money on its way. What a relief!

Alex, if you are seeing this, we don’t pay any royalties. Thanks for the photo op!

At the same time, our great relatives in Florida, Donna & Glen, were supervising a crew that was unloading our moving van into our storage unit. With all these details taken care of we could now focus on the shorter side of our journey, once we get through Big Ol’ Texas that is.

You never realize how much stuff you have until you have to move it

As we were already in Odessa, and as we also have previously established a Stonehenge vibe (see the previous post Carhenge), Wendy discovered that the University of Texas at Permian Basin had created a duplicate of Stonehenge on their campus, so we had to see it.

I’ve seen the original in Britain, and this re-creation just doesn’t do anything for me. Not that the original did either, but we are splitting hairs here. We did take the opportunity to place on of our own stones, a painted rock, on the display in the hopes that some soul will find it and share it.

Finally, back on the road, we set our sights on the eastern border of Texas and let the horses run. The Short Way landscape beyond the Permian gave way to some beautiful countryside with trees and rolling hills. Even though it was still 90+ degrees outside the windshield, the scenery helped to take my mind off impending mechanical failures enough to let me just fight the wind and enjoy the ride. I will say one thing for the wind, the mental concentration required to deal with it sure helped me sleep well at night!

The winds finally eased up, our drive got smoother (and faster), and the miles peeled off like a bunch of old hippie’s clothes at a hot spring. (You won’t get that picture out of your mind for a while). We soon found ourselves seemingly on the doorstep of Memphis.

Tippy has some exercise advice.

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FROM HIPPIE TO CAVE MAN

The main event, Carlsbad Caverns, is why we took this detour, about 800 miles out of our “as the bird flies” route. After hearing all our lives about the famous Caverns, we took the plunge figuring we had no way to guarantee we’d ever do it again. We also have friends, Joe and Barbara, who have a second home in Santa Fe, and they had advised us “if you are ever in Santa Fe come by and visit”. When we got our schedule all finalized, and all our reservations made, we called them to set a date, and they weren’t scheduled to be in Santa Fe that weekend. At least we tried.

The Visitor Center is about 30 miles outside of town (no BUMP signs though!)

Partly as a result of the pandemic, the Caverns now requires a reservation in advance that specifies a time window (one hour long) during which you can purchase your ticket and enter the caves. That can only be done 30 days or less in advance but must be done before you arrive. We decided on the earliest start time we could get, 8:30AM, to both beat the crowds and the heat, not remembering that the year-round temperature inside the caves is 62F. Period. Anyway, writer’s hours get us up early. Our planning paid off, we got there early, flashed our Senior Pass, and rode the elevator 800 feet down to the start point of the self-guided tour.

It was surprising to see how inviting the underground Big Room Tour station was.

You get 2 options to enter the caves. The “hike” which enters through the Natural Entrance and continues 80 stories down steep ramps and stairs to the bottom of the same cave chambers that the bats live in, although they live much farther back into the cave complex than the public is allowed. You can tour a few of these chambers until your path joins up with the Big Room tour path, which is reached easily by your second entrance option, the Elevators. The photo above is where the elevators let out. It is also where the restrooms are, a very important factor for a couple of septuagenarians.

Our first impression was how dark and how quiet it was. The darkness was partly a result of riding in the very well-lit elevator, and our eyes gradually got accustomed to the dim lighting as we strode off onto the tour path. The quiet was because we had the cavern nearly all to ourselves; there were maybe a dozen people in there at the time we arrived. It was like a church inside, and we highly recommend an early start if you ever make the trip.

There is a lot of lighting inside the complex, all of it muted and very focused on features. Professional photographers have published many long-exposure shots online that lead you to believe the interior is very colorful. But that just isn’t so. These long-exposure photos came off the web:

Our photos are very different, and much closer to what we actually saw with naked eyes, because your naked eye doesn’t have a long-exposure mode.

And this selfie gives you a much better impression of what it’s really like with all the muted and directed lighting.

The over-riding impression we’re left with is the VASTNESS of it all. The birth of the caverns stretches 150 million years back when the area was a shallow sea, and the Capitan Reef was formed in it by trillions of small animals (not corals) that died and fused to form a long calcium rich ridge/reef that got buried over time by hundreds of feet of sediment. When the sea receded, geologic forces broke the reef in half underground, and the large fissure resulted in the cave structure. Millions of years of water seeping through all the calcium derivatives, enhanced by all the acidic chemical reactions, leaves us standing and staring at the result. It makes a body feel small and leaves a very strong feeling that there are forces at work much, much larger than us.

We made the loop, about 1 ½ miles, and ended back at the tour start and elevators. We had asked about the bats. Where are the bats? We were told that we could walk over to the hike start point, about 5 minutes, and see the Natural Entrance, where the bats exit and enter the complex. The Mexican bats migrate up in the early spring to use the cave as a daytime shelter so they can fly out to feed over the Pecos River at night. In the late spring and summer, there is seating at dusk to wait for the giant cloud to emerge, but there isn’t any guarantee it will happen on any given night. We opted for a YouTube video.

The Bat Show takes place at dusk from late Spring to Summer’s end
The hiking trail that leads down into the cavern complex through the Natural (sans dynamite) Entrance. It goes 80 stories down.
Cool air came out of the caves like natural air conditioning

We left after 3 hours with an overall sense of the vastness and age of the caverns, and the smallness of our lives in comparison. It’s a trip worth making at least once in your life!

Next up: Wagon’s Ho to Abilene, and Banking on the Run

Tippy keeps it all in perspective regardless of size. And that’s coming from an elephant.

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ALIEN BURGERS TASTE LIKE ALIEN CHICKEN

My newfound path to Hippiedom has been blessed with many outposts, rest stops, roadside attractions, and Kodak Photo Points. Remember the Kodak Photo Points at Disneyland? When I was a kid, these were where your parents would drag or push you to get “the perfect shot”. Of course, it was all manufactured, even the backdrop, out of a retired agricultural field using wire, concrete and plaster. And it was a way for Walt and his brother to make a few bucks off a Kodak sponsorship or by selling a few rolls of film. I’m gushing cynical here but contrasting our trip to date with that benchmark I find that a loosely structured jump into America produces something that much more closely resembles perfect.

As we motor down the highway, all 17,000 pounds of us and always in the middle of a stretch of road that goes 40 miles in either direction without seeing hide nor hair (well, sometimes a hare), I always marvel at the appearance out of nowhere of a giant yellow sign that warns “BUMP”, followed almost immediately by a bump that rattles us and everything in every cabinet of the rig.

The time, cost, and trouble it took to acquire and erect the sign could have been better spent just fixing the damn bump, no?

The most common question I get asked is “How do you manage to write so much almost every day?”. First, it really isn’t so much. Second, we are seeing a lot every day, and that gives lots of fuel to the writer’s engine. Third, I keep pretty regular writer’s hours, usually 4AM-6AM, and I fill that time emptying the bucket of observations into the laptop. What isn’t specifically germane to the days’ sightseeing theme, our random thoughts and philosophical moments, usually gets transcribed into a prose bank, a document I keep on the side to cut and paste from. We both keep one; it serves a purpose all on its own to just unclutter the mind and make more room for the important stuff. This paragraph came from it. I’m sure that’s way more than you all wanted to know.

Our trip to Carlsbad took us through Roswell, apparently the center of the Universe for UFO activity. Everything in the Southwest seems “out in the middle of nowhere” because of the huge expanses (full of BUMP signs) of unpopulated land, and Roswell is no exception. Most of the wide-spread dots on the map pop up in your windshield and just as fast are gone in your rear-view mirror. But Roswell gradually rises up out of the desert like one of those pop-up greeting cards that go all 3D when you open them. We were expecting far less, surprised to see Walmart, Sam’s Club, Target, Albertson’s, even a JC Penney (the only one I’ve seen in YEARS). And Roswell spends a lot of its landscape advertising itself.

This image doesn’t do the saucer justice. I would take the truck over it anyway.
We’re led to believe this green guy is actually FBI.

It was lunchtime and we were thinking we could stop somewhere and order Alien burgers, but didn’t even though they have a McDonalds fashioned out of an old alien spaceship. They probably just taste like chicken anyway.

The Kid’s PlayPlace is out of this world!

Of course, we had to stop and buy a magnet, so we also took the opportunity to pose with a few of the locals.

Looking fashionable in her Palm Coast t-shirt!

Onward we went after our lunch and a gas fill-up (just barely north of $4/gallon!), southward back into the vast desert. As RVers, we are bucking the natural order of things by going South in the Summer (the dashboard temp shows 99F, probably headed to 103). We did this before when we last lived in a rig and went North in the Winter. The obvious disadvantages are the tribulations that adverse weather can bring to those who live in a box on wheels, whether it be cold or heat. The advantage is being able to see and tour without the crowds of other RVers. Off-season locals can be very chatty about their towns when the crowds are gone, but you’ll never know until you try it yourself.

Carlsbad was another “ship in the desert” that amazed us. We read in the “Quick Facts” that “Carlsbad is a city in the southeast of New Mexico, founded in the southeast of New Mexico so that the citizens of southeast New Mexico could have a city”. We figure Kamala Harris has a side gig writing these things.

It’s a l o n g city, 10 miles north to south, and contains many of the large city amenities we have become accustomed to. I previously studied cell phone coverage maps of all of our destinations, trying to determine what kind of connection we could maintain to the internet at our stops. It is now clear to me that the pace of growth in cell phone coverage and speed has outpaced the ability of the web to keep up with it. My research showed that Carlsbad had “nearly zero” coverage of any type, and the reviews were there to back that opinion up, even if they were a couple of years old. Most warned T-Mobile customers to steer clear, or immediately transition to Verizon, “the only partial coverage in town”. We had a very good 5G signal all the way through, only dipping to moderately good LTE coverage as we drifted out of town south toward our campground. After our visit to The Caverns on Memorial Day, we are going to stock up on some necessities in town, especially some needed RV supplies. Our campground is next door to an RV supply shop, and there is a Tractor Supply and a Walmart just down the road!

Next up: Carlsbad Caverns, a post worthy of all-on-its-own status.

Tippy has stopped dwelling on the past. He and one of my all-time favorite sports coaches.

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DUTY, HONOR, COUNTRY

For Memorial Day, 2022, I will surrender my pen to one of America’s great heroes.

From remarks by Gen. Douglas MacArthur to West Point cadets at the United States Military Academy on May 12, 1962:

[The American soldier] needs no eulogy from me or from any other man. He has written his own history and written it in red on his enemy’s breast. But when I think of his patience under adversity, of his courage under fire, and of his modesty in victory, I am filled with an emotion of admiration I cannot put into words. He belongs to history as furnishing one of the greatest examples of successful patriotism. He belongs to posterity as the instructor of future generations in the principles of liberty and freedom. He belongs to the present, to us, by his virtues and by his achievements. In 20 campaigns, on a hundred battlefields, around a thousand campfires, I have witnessed that enduring fortitude, that patriotic self-abnegation, and that invincible determination which have carved his statue in the hearts of his people. From one end of the world to the other he has drained deep the chalice of courage…

Others will debate the controversial issues, national and international, which divide men’s minds; but serene, calm, aloof, you stand as the Nation’s war-guardian, as its lifeguard from the raging tides of international conflict, as its gladiator in the arena of battle. For a century and a half you have defended, guarded, and protected its hallowed traditions of liberty and freedom, of right and justice…

You are the leaven which binds together the entire fabric of our national system of defense. From your ranks come the great captains who hold the nation’s destiny in their hands the moment the war tocsin sounds. The Long Gray Line has never failed us. Were you to do so, a million ghosts in olive drab, in brown khaki, in blue and gray, would rise from their white crosses thundering those magic words: Duty, Honor, Country.

This does not mean that you are war mongers.

On the contrary, the soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.

But always in our ears ring the ominous words of Plato, that wisest of all philosophers: “Only the dead have seen the end of war.”

Tippy salutes our troops and our nation.

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SANTA FE DEUX

Do you know the way to Santa Fe? Dion Warwick would say! Well, not exactly, but now you can’t get that nasty ear worm out! I’ll make up for it by gifting one of our sunrises (yes, we’re up that early).

It’s 5:45AM, writer’s hours are over for the day.

We found a smart place to put one of the twin rocks we featured yesterday. Someone’s gonna be surprised!

Not really having a plan for touring, we started out at the Farmer’s Market, which is just on the outskirts of the old downtown. It runs year-round on Saturdays (yay!) and Tuesdays. We weren’t pleased to see every single street blanketed with parking meters (greedy capitalists!), but at least relieved that they were smart, internet-accessible ones, and not just the old school quarter-gobbling clunkers. We need those quarters for the old school laundromats. On our whole trip, this is the first place we have found a laundry that takes credit cards. Astonishing that America’s RV parks haven’t caught up with the 20th Century. Of course, we don’t need to do laundry while we’re here because we did that in Cheyenne, thus lowering the weight of the rig by a few dozen quarters. Smart, right?

We discovered there is a regional passenger train running north-south through town, called the Rail Runner, that has a depot at the Farmer’s Market. It runs as a “commuter” line all the way to Albuquerque and beyond, including the airport. I wonder if it takes quarters.

I think the Engineer is changing the oil on the purple dragon engine.

Wendy dressed all in clothes that our daughter-in-law Dana gave her, and insisted I get this picture as evidence. I have no idea what the sculpture represents, but doesn’t Wendy look great?

The farmer’s market was very crowded as soon as it opened. There were obviously lots of tourists wearing t-shirts from all their stops. There was also almost every type of leafy green you could think of, and many you can’t think of. Lots of other produce too, and turquoise jewelry everywhere. You would never guess we’re having an inflation crisis with everything being disgustingly over-priced. I know that lettuce is getting expensive, but tiny bags of lettuce leaves at $9? Really? Who needs this stuff to survive? The only thing we found of interest at the farmer’s market, which is something we always seek out wherever we go, is the Ice Cream Store. In this case it was the Taos Ice Cream Store, and as luck would have it, they also make donuts! For me, it’s a true Two-Fer, as these 2 things are the keys to my nutritional philosophy. The donuts were expensive, but you can’t really put a price on philosophy.

My biggest problem: two hands and one mouth.

We’re not much for art galleries, farmer’s markets full of super over-priced stuff, or museums. This seemed to be a lot of what Old Town Santa Fe is, so we opted for a nice walk through all of it, and really appreciated the grand church that abuts Cathedral Plaza. We went inside to sit and ponder for several minutes. It was fantastic. No interior photography, so we’ll treat you to the exterior.

What Santa Fe does have is some very good food. We stumbled across La Fogata (translation: the campfire) who had very authentic street tacos (shrimp, barbacoa, al pastor) and chili rellenos, and a very tasty and spicy bean menudo that we absolutely loved. And the restaurant was, in the southwestern style, very colorful inside.

Color and more color, to contrast with the very brown and gray countryside.

They delivered our silverware wrapped up in a napkin, with one of those paper rings around it that have one sticky end like a PostIt note. You’ve all seen them. From experience, I know to carefully remove mine and pass it over to Wendy so she can render one of her “idle hands” creations by tearing the papers into strips and looping a chain out of them. She usually gifts them to a server.

Tippy thinks Leonardo was a really smart guy.

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MOTHRA STRIKES

The post today is in 2 parts. First, I’m going to provide some updates and kudos.

Kudos: Thanks to Linda & Dan for the coffee cups you gifted us at Orcas last summer. We use them every morning and think of you as we sip.

Just the right size, one cup for Wendy and 3 cups for me!

Thanks to Wendy’s BFF Robin, who gifted us two tubs of road trip snacks, which we snarfed our way through already and have resorted to buying bulk and refilling.

How could she have known they would fit the dashboard so neatly?

Debbie & Tommy, thanks for gifting us the kitchen towels with the Camper theme. They alternate with our other mundane ones. I’d put a picture but they’re in the laundry!

Updates: We decided on a collection theme for the trip, Magnets. At each major stop we visit the gift store and get one just the right size to fit on our stove hood. We have tried to keep a “Car Theme” going, and have been reasonably successful.

If it has a car on it, sold!

We have been faithfully painting and inscribing twin rocks with quotes every day, and leaving one in a prominent spot along our path, usually at our RV campsite. May 27 was our arrival in Santa Fe, and we will find an appropriate spot for one of these.

Co-Pilot Wendy will provide the basic blog content today. I’ll give my fingers a rest from this tiny, cramped laptop keyboard!

MOTHRA STRIKES

Picture taking is my domain for our blog, Warren is the witty writer. I’m deviating this time because I have a story to tell. After We stayed at the worse stop (so far) of our trip at a Pueblo Colorado KOA (never our favorites rv parks). We were parked on dirt, next to busy Interstate 25 and very close to the train tracks. Luckily it was a short overnight and we were up early, and we did get a little sleep despite the racket.

The 5-hour drive to Santa Fe was wrought with bumpy roads, dust storms, smoke from nearby fires and howling winds that rocked and pushed our high-profile rig. We arrived at Santa Fe Skies RV Park, which is filled with large, high-end rigs that tower above us. It’s a beautiful resort, overlooking Santa Fe and we have the best view in the park. We walked the ¾ mile path that surrounds the park and marveled at the numerous scrap metal sculptures created by the owner. As the cloud cover cooled the air, we sat outside on our shaded patio and sipped our mocktails of Cran-Raspberry Juice and diet tonic. A lovely cool breeze suggested a storm approaching but the rain evaporated before falling on us. We watched the colorful sunset, watched a couple of our favorite shows and hit the sack.

We might have the shortest rig in the park, but all the others have to look over us for this view!

All was well as I got comfy and started reading until a large moth landed on my book.

This picture doesn’t properly show the large fangs.

Warren, my hero, jumped up and captured it with his hands and opened the door and let it out. He walked back into the bedroom and another large moth was flying erratically but it turned out to be TWO large moths. He promptly caught one and came back for the other.  But wait, there’s more! One more moth in his hands and finally they were gone. It was quite a show for me as he jumped from one moth to another in the buff (how he sleeps) saving the day…again!

Warren’s hair is grayer (and shaggier) than this depiction.

And here’s a link to a panorama from our RV site, also provided by Wendy. Perhaps the best campground we’ve stayed in so far, on the heels of Pueblo KOA, which was hands-down the worst. https://rumble.com/v16fjo2-santa-fe-skies-view.html

Tippy is recovering from all the hoopla.

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GOD FIXED MY NORCOLD

You are probably wondering about the title. Maybe you are asking yourself “What the heck is a Norcold?” If you have ever owned an RV, even a boat with a refrigerator in it, you have very likely owned a Norcold. And if you have been in the RV-owning business for longer than 4 or 5 years, you have likely had to have it fixed. We went to the extreme a couple of times, in both our boat and our previous 5th wheel trailer and replaced one outright. They are expensive because they have the “Norcold” logo on them, the outright major manufacturer of these devices for RV’s and boats. You can buy a similar device for your dorm room from 10 different manufacturers for about 1/10th the price, but they won’t work in your 12V machine.

So, imagine our disappointment Thursday night on arrival in Pueblo, after a very long travel day. The light on the front of the Norcold was off. “Strange” I thought, “who turned off the fridge?” The answer: nobody. Very shortly the light started blinking red, an indication that it was trying to restart itself. It has an “automatic” mode where it can select one of 3 energy sources to run on, propane, 12V electric, or 110V electric (if you are plugged into shore power).

This is what a Norcold looks like when it’s working. The green light is the good light.

I had just plugged us into shore power, so I immediately thought it was just having a little bit of trouble transitioning from the 12V power it uses while we are on the road to the shore power at the RV park. But it didn’t make the transition. So, I started checking around, pulling off the exterior panel to see if wires had fallen loose, or was something leaking, or WTF? Nothing. Wendy, being slightly more creative than I, began praying, which, while I felt “it couldn’t hurt”, didn’t really think it was helping. I ran out of ideas, and instead decided to sit on the portable massage chair (Wendy named “him” Raul, which I have always thought disloyal of her) to iron out the stiff back muscles. While I was sitting there getting pummeled by shiatsu mode, Wendy asked for a tutorial on how to “kick the fridge back into gear”, redneck trailer trash (which we now temporarily are) talk for restarting it. I simply said, “you just touch the button next to the little light”. She touched it, and it came back on. Just like that. I take back the part about thinking prayer wasn’t helping. Clearly (and you can try to prove me wrong if you want), God fixed my Norcold.

This was the third problem to present itself at this campsite. You read previously about the shattered plates. Every stop more shards creep out from under the sofa slide. This stop, one got caught under the slide and carved a little cut into the top of the laminate floor. A little dab of super-strong clear glue fixed that right up.

Problem #2 happened as I was hooking up the flexi-hose between the holding tanks and the sewer dump outlet at the site.

The connector between the hose and the outlet came apart. It’s a snap together thing, but wouldn’t snap back together, and there was no way I was gonna pull the Geronimo Handle (the thing that opens the valve between the holding tank and the hose) if the hose wasn’t going to stay sealed into the outlet. I’ve had that happen more than once, and it ain’t pretty or sweet-smelling. Wendy, ever creative, again saved the day by microwaving a bowl of very hot water, and when I heated the 2 plastic parts in it they went right back together.

So, we got away clean on 3 problems. It won’t last. Trust me.

That was the end of the day. Early in the day we departed the last super-cold morning location we will likely see on this trip, Cheyenne Wyoming, which was a nippy 36F at dawn. We were overjoyed to be driving straight south toward much warmer weather and celebrated a bit by making 2 stops as we neared Denver. The first was in Loveland, a northern suburb, that has a Lovelocks feature at its municipal community center. Thank you again Wendy for the research on “things near our path”.

We bought a lock (the purple one of course), borrowed their engraving pencil, and immortalized our love on the wire, just on the right side of the heart-shaped O. I thought it would be romantic to throw the key in a river, thus sealing our love forever, but Wendy, for some reason unknown to me after being locked in a small box for almost 3 weeks now, wanted to keep it.

The second stop was only an hour south, at the Stanley Marketplace in North Aurora. We were diverting around Denver to avoid traffic, and this was only a couple of miles off the route. They have an ice cream store there called Sweet Cow, with legendary good ice cream.

This Thursday Throwback from Tippy has always been good advice.

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CHEYENNE

Our drive through the plains and back into the Rockies went well (except for that Kimball Grade thing). There were plenty of wide open spaces, and we had ample road snacks, an absolute MUST for road trips.

Wide open spaces

We arrived at the Cheyenne RV Resort in mid-afternoon and had some time before dinner to take a walk-through of Cheyenne proper. We imagined it, as a prominent cowboy town, to have a charming and authentic downtown section that might also present us with an opportunity to sample the local ice cream. Huh.

Cheyenne is Wyoming’s largest city (population approximately 500,000) and its capitol. One would hope that would make for a good walking city tour, a chance to stretch our legs and treat our eyes and ears to something besides a striped stretch of asphalt. We parked close to the State House, figuring that might be a good epicenter for our quest. There is pitifully little content online about how to tour Cheyenne, and now we know why. First, we arrived at about 4:30PM, and the city rolls up its sidewalks promptly at 5. Second, when we asked a local for suggestions about finding some “historic features”, she thought long and hard and replied “there really isn’t anything other than a few buildings about a mile south”. We walked that mile south and did find a few buildings, but not something we would call interesting. Still, better than Deadwood.

About the most interesting thing we saw were large boot sculptures scattered around town, each commemorating some event or person.

This one commemorates the County Library system

To spice up this short post a bit, I have an update on how well our trailer has fared so far. Well, not so much the trailer itself, but the contents. On our transit from Coeur D’Alene Idaho to West Glacier Montana, a highway work crew had diverted traffic eastbound onto an offramp and back up the onramp so they could repair an overpass. I noticed a little late that the cars and trucks in front of me were not negotiating the bottom of the offramp too well, and discovered, at about 20 mph, that there was a pretty sizeable dip in the road. We hit that baby and nearly caught air! When we arrived at West Glacier, we noticed some broken Correlle plate fragments. 2 small dessert plates had jumped out of an overhead cabinet when the door opened and smashed to smithereens on the floor. The cabinet door closed all by itself. We swept it up, initially thinking it was a single plate, but as we opened and closed the sofa slide over the next few days, more shards kept appearing out from under it, thus leading us to count the remaining plates and arriving at the correct damage assessment. If this is all we suffer from bad roads, more power to us!

Minimal damage, so far

After our overnight, we’ll head south with our sights set on Carlsbad Caverns for Memorial Day. And here’s some good advice for planning walking tours.

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The GREAT PLAINS and CARHENGE

We bugged out of Rapid City wanting some flatter land to tow through, so we drifted south and east toward the promise of the Great Plains. Our target was Alliance Nebraska, where a colorful local by the name of Jim Reinders reproduced the ancient temple of Stonehenge using cars instead of rocks. It’s a to-scale model, with precisely placed elements matching the original complete with an eastward facing portal that directs rays of the sunrise onto a specific fender of a specific rusty hulk on a specific day, which is implied but not specified. That’s not important. What is important is WHY he did it. When asked, he answered “Why not?”. So, there, in a nutshell is what’s important today. This is what counts for excitement in Nebraska.

A historical plaque informed us that the temple was completely assembled over 6 days during a large family visit in the summer of 1987. By his calculations, “we were able to reduce the time of the original Stonehenge construction by 9,999 years and 1 week”, thus imparting some sort of obtuse historical victory to the Reinders Clan. There are also a few other art exhibits constructed on the site.

The “Fourd Seasons” installation, 4 Fords as an homage to nature

Bonus Update on rocks for Rushmore and Crazy Horse: we did commemorative painted rocks in honor of our 2 main attractions. They are planted in Rapid City SD and Alliance NE, and their twins will live in our Florida garden.

The remaining ride to Cheyenne was predictably flat until we turned west at Kimball and began a long 60-mile uphill grade toward the Rockies that consumed well over ½ tank of gas (estimated mileage about 6 mpg). You could practically hear my wallet screaming. We were rewarded, however, with some very stunning landscape views, like Scott’s Bluff, which just rises out of the flat plain.

Scott’s Bluff was a navigational landmark for early pioneers and native tribes

We will next have a walking tour visit to Cheyenne, the capitol of Wyoming and its largest city with about ½ million population.

Tippy is an elephant of high character.

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