Denver, Branson, Ike, Unity Village, Bentonville, Albuquerque,Meteor Crater, Oceanside, and More!

On The Road Again…

September 14 – October 3, 2010

Day 1, Tuesday,  –  Home to Winnemucca, NV via SR88, US50, I-80: 333 miles

Our trip to Allen’s in Colorado, and on to Branson, Missouri, then to Dean’s in Oceanside began at last! Our annual trip to Colorado was in June, but on a lark I mentioned to Wifey a trip this fall – maybe to Branson to take in Andy Williams, a gospel show, and maybe a river cruise. We’ve never been to Branson and… well, we should give it a try! And so this trip came about.

Silver Lake along SR88 over the Sierras

For the first time we took SR88 east bound over the Sierras instead of I-80, thereby missing Sacramento, the lousy road over Donner Summit and all the miserable traffic. We came home on SR88 a few years ago, but never eastbound. While SR88 was a lot of driving and climbing, the traffic was much lighter and it was certainly more scenic. It also took a bit longer, but was a few miles shorter – and was a steeper climb to about 8600 feet while Donner is a bit over 7000 feet. We liked SR88 better and will probably choose it over I-80 in the future.

Another view of beautiful SR88 over the Sierras.

One of the funniest sites we’ve seen in our travels was a small Class C motorhome that blew by us doing about 75 MPH while dragging a holding tank on the pavement! I don’t know if it was the black or gray tank, but it was held by only a few wires. We were sure that we’d see the tank along the road very soon, or see them pulled over to fix it, but it was more than a half hour later that we passed them as they were on the shoulder of the road, having been flagged over by another motorist. How I wish I’d have gotten a photo of that strange site!

RVs at rest overnight at Winnemucca’s Walmart lot, safe and secure. Thanks, Mr. Sam!

The first day of our Branson adventure went smoothly, just as we like. We had wonderful weather the whole day, then joined several other RVers at Walmart’s Winnemucca parking lot for the night. We shopped for a few needed items, including chicken nuggets and Chinese white rice with veggies. And I pigged out. I can’t have another relapse of my Chinese food addiction for awhile, but it was good while it lasted. mmmmm.

Day 2, Wednesday, Sept 15 – Winnemucca, NV to Tooele, UT via I-80: 322 miles

We awoke from a restful night on Day 2, and began with our usual coffee time. We tended to the morning chores and were on the road by 0730. It was a real pleasure to spend the whole day in the light traffic and wide open country of Nevada and Utah.

The stark desert view from Walmart’s gas station in Winnemucca.

During the drive across the seemingly desolate landscape of Nevada, I gave my son a call on my cell phone just to see if I could reach him in, of all places, Bangalor, India! He’s a sales engineer for a cell phone software company, and due to his job sometimes has to visit foreign countries. I’d heard of floods in India in the news recently and wanted to be sure he was alright. To my surprise he answered as usual, even though the ring of his phone sounded different on my end. There was a slight delay in transmission, it seemed, but we had a good talk. He was 12 1/2 hours (India has half-hour time zones) ahead of our time and was having a late-night dinner with some of his business cohorts. He had a 25 hour trip home awaiting him; 12 hours or so to London, then another 12 or 13 hour flight to LA. Immediately upon arriving in LA on Friday night, he had to fight SoCal traffic nearly to San Diego, then had to prepare the T-ball diamond at 0700 the next morning – and coach his son, Aidan’s, team. I could not imagine living such a life!

We actually passed someone! A rare occurrence when cruising the country at 58 MPH – our usual speed.

When we reached Wendover, NV, we pulled into the Peppermill casino parking lot and took a break. First thing, we took a walk along the main drag of Wendover, then headed into the casino for an hour of feeding the slot machines. We managed to leave $5 ahead – and that’s always a good time to quit.

The salt flats of Utah’s I-80.

We still had the 120 mile drive across the salt flats of Utah to the Flying J Plaza near Tooele, Ut. We arrived at our day’s destination at 1645 Mountain Time, an hour later than home time. I took another walk when we got there, and we then settled in for the night. We decided that we won’t be planning to spend nights at Flying J Plazas any more due to the endless noise. Walmarts are much quieter and we can almost always find one that welcomes us for the night.

Possibly our last overnight stay at a Flying J – except, of course, my trips to Oceanside when I always stay at Frazier Park’s Flying J Plaza the first night en route.

We had dinner aboard the coach, as we usually do, because we eat much healthier by doing so – and we do like to travel on the cheap. It had been a long time since I have been tempted by the buffets that Flying J offers because, in my opinion, they have become slop buckets over the past few years. During that time, the food has been displayed poorly and the quality has been pretty lousy. The service in the stores is usually terrible; whenever I buy anything in their travel stores, I have to wait in line as they apparently had decided that it was better not to hire enough people to properly serve their customers. I was not surprised upon learning of their recent bankruptcy.

The Flying J chain was recently acquired by the Pilot chain of travel stops. It is a good thing that they have contracted with Denny’s to provide their restaurants and as of this writing are in the process of converting them. This is a very good move, in my opinion, as I have always been impressed by Denny’s uniformity and generally good quality. While food snobs will scoff at any positive comments about Denny’s, the fact is they generally run their restaurants very well and one can find uniformity in food and service across the country – exactly the improvements that Flying J restaurants badly needed.

Day 3, Thursday, Sept 16 – Tooele, UT to Laramie, WY via I-80: 395 miles

We slept Ok at the Flying J on the second night of the trip, but it was pretty noisy. While in the bedroom, we have a “white sound” machine that covers most noise very well. Even so, we will be staying at the nearby Tooele Walmart on future trips. We were ready to hit the road by 0800 and pulled back onto I-80 eastbound toward Colorado. We would be on I-80 all day again, heading for Laramie, Wyoming.

The beautiful Coalville area along Utah’s I-80 above Park City heading toward the Wyoming line.

As usual, we especially enjoyed the drive through the Coalville area of Utah, from Park City to the Wyoming line. The beautiful creeks and rural setting of the area make it the most picturesque portion of the trip.

We stopped at Little America along I-80 for brunch. It is essentially a town of its own with lots of housing hidden out back for the employees. They offer motel, restaurant, fuel, and repairs for truckers and tourists. It is a very lovely place with a long history. We made our own brunch in the coach, however, and enjoyed a walk around the grounds. They advertised 50 cent ice cream cones for miles along the highway, and we did buy a couple for dessert.

A huge wind turbine tower section westbound. An awesome rig!

I am a “fan” of wind turbines, if one can be a fan of such things, because of their immense size. We saw three of the turbine units in transit west bound, but I failed to get a photo of any of them. However, sections of the huge towers were also being trucked westward, and I got several photos of the monsters. As an old trucker, I have begun a new section of my RV website just for unusual rigs I see during my travels, and they are posted there. Those huge rigs are a site to behold!

Parked at Little America in Wyoming for lunch in the coach and a beautiful walk around their lovely grounds.

We arrived at Laramie Wyoming’s KOA at 1730 and checked in for the night. We make a point of staying at an RV park the third night out so we could continue the trip with empty tanks after our visit. And having an evening and morning of using plenty of water, not having to be extra vigilant about wasting it, is a nice change. The park lies right up along I-80 and the noise of passing traffic was incessant. Even so, it was a restful stop.

Wifey watching me shoot photos at the KOA.

Jacks down at Laramie, Wyoming’s KOA RV Park for the night.

Near the park lies and old, abandoned truck stop that has pretty much become an eyesore. Old trucks, long abandoned, still occupy the place. One abandoned cattle rig looks like the wreckage from a fatal accident; I cannot imagine the driver survived. Nor can I understand why the locals put up with such an eyesore, but no one seems to care. In spite of its appearance, I took photos of the place, including the old rigs, and posted them in the truck section. I guess my intrigue is due to my love of old trucks and, apparently, old, long abandoned truck stops.

Day 4, Friday, September 17 – Laramie, WY to the kids’ place in Greenwood Village, CO via I-80, I-25: 156 miles

We rested well in spite of the endless traffic noise, mostly suppressed by our “white sound” machine. We will likely find another RV park for future trips through Wyoming – one not right on the Interstate. We were on the road heading for the kids’ home in Greenwood Village, CO by 0800.

Happy Jack Rd near the highest section of all of I-80, well over 8000 ft. elevation. We don’t know why Jack was so happy, but he got a road named after himself.

We stopped at the new Walmart in Tinmath, Colorado which is just a mile or two from the Walker factory we dealt with for so many years. Since we stopped in for a visit with Bob Walker and others in June, we chose not to bother them again so soon. We got our shopping done at Walmart’s grand, new store, then had brunch in the coach before resuming our trip south through Denver.

This giant buffalo welcomes all to Colorado along I-25.

The drive through Denver is always a bit hectic due to the heavy traffic. But other than a couple of minor slow downs, all went well.

I never can resist shooting the Denver skyline as we near the kids’ place.

We arrived at the kids’ place in Greenwood Village, Colorado at 1300. Allen and Nancy were still at work, but our grandson, Jason, home for a surprise visit with his folks from his job and home in merry ol’ London, was there when we arrived. It was great to see him after many months since our last visit with him. And it was great fun to watch the surprise and joy when his Dad, and later his Mom, Sis and Grandma Norma were surprised by Jason’s unexpected visit!

Jason surprises dad…

And Mom just falls apart…

Sis Erika summons the tears, as well…

And Grandma Norma can’t believe her eyes!

Allen barbecued a wonderful chicken dinner with corn on the cob. We had a joyful visit all evening, until this old man called it a day a bit before 2100 and climbed aboard the coach for the night. The others slept comfortably in the house, but I prefer my cozy coach. Life is good.

Day 4 – Day 7, September 17 – 20 – Jacks down at the kids’ place in Greenwood Village, CO

By 0630 Saturday morning, we were all gathered in the living room for coffee and chit-chat. This family really enjoys each others company and we spent much of the morning doing just that.

The day unfolded as it usually does with this family; everyone seemed to go separate ways. Some went shopping, some were with friends, I stayed home and took a couple of walks.

Jacks down at the kids’ place in Greenwood Village. We spent the better part of four days visiting family and having a grand time – as usual.

Evening meant another big cookout, and Grandma Norma and her friend, Bobby, joined us – and were also shocked to see Jason there. Seven of us gathered around the patio table at dinner time. Jason prepared pork ribs that were to die for – and I may yet the way I put them away – it was a superb meal.

Erica dropped by briefly before dinner, and was also surprised by her brother’s visit, then had to head for work. After dinner we chose to go into the warmer living room and visit, and Bobby and I played trumpet for the gang. It seemed he and I had a lot in common with that and, better yet, fishing. He actually enjoyed watching one of my fishing videos and checked out my fishing website. We agreed that one day he’d go fishing with me during one of his regular California visits to his daughter’s home.

The family, stuffed and happy, visiting after another barbecued meal.

Around 2100 everyone headed to Yaya’s Bistro for dessert where Erica works as a waitress. Except me. As usual, I chose to stay home and away from the noise, and was in bed about 2130. It had been a big day and I was more than ready to hit the sack.

Sunday we all stayed around the house and just enjoyed each others company. We had breakfast of bacon, eggs, and the Walters family’s traditional biscuits and chocolate gravy. Of course there was plenty of fruit to go around, too. We whiled away much of the afternoon playing poker – and no one lost more than a couple of bucks.

For dinner, the gals went to a Chinese restaurant and brought home about twice what we could possibly eat. Of course I pigged out something awful, and have to get back on my diet beginning immediately! We chatted around the patio table ’til well after dark, eating the Chinese food with ice cream for dessert.

About 2020, I headed for the coach to bring this travelogue up to date and hit the sack by 2100. It is a real blessing to have a large, happy family that enjoys getting together so much. Life is good!

Day 7, Monday, September 20 – Greenwood Village, CO to Goodland, KS via I-25, SR470, US36, SR71, I-70: 222 miles

The day began with packing and preparing to continue our trip to Branson, MO. We said our good-byes and were on the road at 0900. I chose to try US36 which I took off from I-70 and which parallel one another across Kansas. But after 40 or 50 miles of seeing no commercial establishment of any kind, we decided that US 36 was entirely too remote. So I took SR71 south to I-70 and continued east. The failed attempt to take a US highway instead of the Interstate cost us about 25 miles. The drive down SR71 was, in spots, not much more than a glorified cow trail. But we did get back onto I-70.

Kansas welcomed us along I-70. I loved Kansas – but not the wind!

We dealt with wind the entire drive and it seemed to worsen as we proceeded east. Once we got into Kansas, it became a lot of work keeping the coach on the road. And such driving is very tiring. Lavonne did not enjoy the ride a bit, either. Upon entering Kansas, we stopped at a rest area and welcoming center. A gal at the center advised me that the Hays area, our intended destination, was under a wind warning and the wind was blowing 44 MPH. She also advised that a Walmart was just 12 miles ahead in the small town of Goodland. Whew! We chose to seek refuge there, and pulled in about 1500 Central time.

Jacks down at the Goodland, Kansas Walmart. It was good to get off the highway and point into the wind for some relief. What a drive!

After pointing the coach into the wind and dropping the jacks, I fired up the generator and we ran the air conditioner for hours – up ’til we went to bed. It was a long afternoon as we waited out the wind, and we spent the time in the coach, mostly watching our satellite TV and hoping for a break in the wind. While there, we went shopping for a few items we needed at the store. The wind continued through most of the night, but by morning it had calmed.

Day 8, Tuesday, September 21, Goodland KS to Topeka, KS via I-70: 339 miles

To make up for lost time, we were on the road by 0500. We were very pleased that the wind died down. As we drove east, the sky was dark with clouds and lightning flashed regularly. Sometimes it was close enough that we heard thunder even while driving along in the coach. By the time we stopped for breakfast in the coach, around 1100, we had nearly 300 miles behind us!

Kansas grassland and farmland seemed to stretch on forever. Here the sun bursts through the clouds.

We stopped in Abilene, KS to visit the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum. Ike grew up in Abilene, and the grounds were built up around his childhood home. The home stands on its original location, still furnished with the original furnishings, including even the doily on the kitchen table made by his mother. Ike grew up there with four brothers and his parents. The home was simple, and had no indoor plumbing ’til Ike was 18.

Ike, Mamie and baby Eisenhower are buried in this chapel on the Presidential Library grounds.

The grounds, including the chapel where Ike, Mamie and their baby boy are buried, are truly impressive. The visitor center, mostly a gift shop and theater, the museum, the library and the home cover several acres of immaculately maintained grounds. The lawns and many trees create a park-like setting that is a pleasure to visit. Ike was a true national hero.  I wondered where they’ll create my library and museum…

Ike’s childhood home stands where it was originally built, and the Presidential Library and grounds were built around it.

The Eisenhower Presidential Library, Abilene, KS.

The Eisenhower Presidential Museum.

Directory of the Eisenhower grounds; it was in incredible place to visit.

After the tour of the grounds we ate lunch aboard the coach, then continued east to Topeka. We landed at a Walmart store on I-435, just a short drive from I-70. The wind kicked up again and the last couple hours of driving was nearly as difficult as the day before.

Parked at the Topeka, KS Walmart for the night – another windy drive!

I’d been planning to upgrade my cell phone to a smartphone to be able to access information on the ‘net, such as weather and such. Our kids and grandkids have those handy devices, and it was time for me to have one. We got a “Droid” smartphone with AT&T. My initial use of the darn thing was very frustrating as I’m not used to a tiny keyboard. But I did access much of the information I wanted even though it took me a long time to figure out the details of using a so-called “smartphone”. Now, when we need information about a town – or most anything else – I can press a couple of buttons and the phone will know where we are via GPS, and locate any type of business we may want to visit, such as restaurants, Walmarts, gas stations and such.

We spent the evening aboard the coach, cooled by air conditioning, watched satellite TV, took hot showers, connected to the Internet and generally lived with all the comforts of home while parked in the parking lot of a Walmart store in Kansas. What a world we live in!

Day 9, Wednesday, September 22, Topeka, KS to Unity Village, MO via I-70, I-435: 76 miles

A beautiful park in Topeka, KS that we drove through before leaving.

We planned to visit the Unity School of Christianity in Unity Village, Missouri, a small municipality known as Unity Village. We attend a Unity church, and Lavonne visited “The Village” several times years ago, but this would be my first. We were on the road by 0830 from Topeka, and drove through a part of town to see a home Lavonne lived in years ago. We could not find the street, but visited a nearby park that included a lake and gorgeous gardens, known as Shawnee Lake Park. We simply drove by, and it was a memorable drive.

Missouri welcomed us – we weren’t in Kansas anymore!

We knew we were getting close according to this sign on the highway.

We arrived at Unity a bit after 1000, and while it took awhile to get our bearings and find our way around, we had a wonderful time visiting. The fine old buildings, grounds, and just the pleasant and historic feeling of the place were a great pleasure. I took many photos, and these few posted here cannot tell the story of Unity Village – one would have to visit to really appreciate the place. It was started way back in the 19th century as a farm and spiritual retreat, and has developed over the years.

Unity Village’s newly restored courtyard and fountains, photographed from the rose garden.

The Administration building, courtyard and fountains. Unity Village is actually the Unity School of Christianity; Unity ministerial students attend there in preparation for the ministry.

The beautiful interior of the chapel.

The side entrance to the chapel building.

The chapel viewed from the rose garden.

The courtyard of the chapel.

Detail from the chapel courtyard.

Unity Village cannot be fairly depicted here. It was an awesome collection of old and new, most appeared well maintained while some areas were in disrepair awaiting restoration as the courtyard fountains were restored. I wondered about the huge amount of money it takes to maintain such a palatial facility, but it has grown for over 100 years and stands as a wonderful monument to the teachings of those who established Unity.

Jacks down at Lee’s Summit, Missouri Walmart for the night.

After the visit to Unity Village, we drove about five miles to the Walmart in Lee’s Summit, MO and spent the night. It had been a long, adventurous day and we were looking forward to spending a few days at Branson, MO to take in the sights and entertainment.

Day 10, Thursday, Sept 23, Lee’s Summit, MO to Branson, MO via US71, I-44, US65, US60: 231 miles

We began the day knowing that there was no hurry to drive the 230 or so miles to Branson. We planned to sign in at the local KOA and rent a car for our four night stay. But… no cars were available! We felt fortunate, after that discovery, that KOA had room for us – and for just $35 per night. That was a pleasant discovery – and we did manage to secure a car beginning the afternoon of the second day – we should have reserved one!

We were astounded by the many huge, green lawns along US71 as we drove across Missouri. It is a beautiful state and the folks take a lot of pride in the appearance of their homes and lawns.

The drive through the Ozarks and dropping down into Branson was an unexpected pleasure. The Ozarks are green and US60 just rolls on through the beautiful mountains. We were surprised to see all the commercialism of the place, though. There were signs by the dozens, if not hundreds, along the highway advertising various shows and other attractions. Branson is simply Las Vegas East for glitz, I’d guess.

Even the median and roadsides of much of US71 were lawn.

We again dealt with a lot of wind, especially until we got into the Ozarks. The weather forecasts, now readily available with our new “smartphone”, warned of winds to 25 MPH – and we drove through gusts much higher than that. Even so, we made the trip safely, but it was a tiring drive.

I washed the coach at a coin-op truck wash along US71.

The drive through the Ozarks on US60 nearing Branson was beautiful.

Settled in at Branson’s KOA RV park. I prefer asphalt or concrete under the coach when at rest, but… oh well! These were dirt/gravel spaces.

After settling in at the very nice KOA, we called a taxi to drive us into town and the Lone Star Steakhouse. I think that was the first taxi ride we’ve had since we married 20 years ago, and after walking into the loud and boorish Lone Star Steak House, we knew we had made a mistake. Although the food was average, the miserable, modern, so-called “country” music blared and thumped the entire time we were there. We made our angst clear, but to no avail. Although the clientele was mostly our age, and the place was half full at most, they played that rot for the benefit of the help and damn the customers! My total review of that dive could be put into two words: “Never again!”

After the taxi ride home ($20 round trip with tips) we enjoyed ice cream treats purchased from the KOA office/gift shop. We then took a walk around the park as darkness fell on the Ozarks. It had been a somewhat disappointing day. Still, we were in Branson, and we looked forward to seeing some entertaining shows such as Andy Williams and some gospel music. We had high hopes of getting a car on day 2 of our visit, and would be free to see the sights of Branson on our schedule.

Day 11, Friday, Sept 24, Jacks down in Branson Mo.

We awoke on that first full day at Branson with false hope to enjoy the place. We walked over to KOA’s “convention center” where they offer a limited  breakfast for about $6 – and we enjoyed splitting an order of biscuits and gravy.

We rode the “Duck”… it was loud and crowded, naturally, as all of Branson seemed to be. We prefer peace and quiet. This was one of many Ducks; they seemed to be everywhere.

This was to be our first day of the Branson experience, so we chose our first attraction, the Duck Ride. They were a big fleet of old WWII “DUK” boat/truck units that had been completely rebuilt and stretched. After a taxi ride to the duck barn, we endured the ride up a local mountain aboard the duck where the company had a lot of old military vehicles on display. En route we were bombarded with outrageously loud music and much commentary from the driver. Duck calls were handed out to everyone and, of course, one fool on board seemed to never quit blowing his. Eventually we rode the duck into the nearby Table Rock Lake, one of three lakes dammed up along the White River. It was quite an experience to be on the lake in a vehicle that also traveled on the roadways.

After we returned to town and left the duck, we had lunch at McDonald’s next door. Shortly after, the folks from Enterprise Rent-a-Car met us and drove us to their office where we rented a beautiful Chevy pick-up truck for the price of a small economy car. And finally, we were on our own! We drove home, and made plans for the night.

The gorgeous Enterprise Chevy pickup we used for only one afternoon. It was a free upgrade from their little econo-car we rented as there were no more econo-cars. This was much like my own Chevy pickup.

I had chosen to rent our space only through Saturday night, figuring we might decide to leave early. To relieve my mind, I walked over to the office to extend our stay ’til Monday and found out that it had already been rented to someone else on Sunday night. I would have to move to another space on Sunday before noon. It was my own fault, but I was not pleased. The folks at KOA were very nice about it all, and I arranged for a slightly more expensive space for Sunday night.

We decided to drive into town for dinner, and one of two places I found on my new “smartphone” that featured fried chicken was the Plantation Restaurant. We tried following the GPS to the place, and either we didn’t read the GPS properly, or we had the wrong restaurant dialed in. Whatever the case, we wound up in traffic so bad that it would have done LA proud. It was just stop and go for almost the entire short trip. Lavonne hates traffic and I hate crowds, so we were not having a good time. I had known for some time that I wasn’t finding Branson to be much enjoyment because of the noise and crowds, and Lavonne announced, while we were stuck in traffic, that she would rather be on the road heading home. That sounded like a fine idea to me! We headed back to the coach and bought pizza at the KOA where they baked each order fresh – and delivered it to boot! The pizza was pretty good, and we enjoyed dinner aboard the coach where WE had control of the volume knob – and there was no crowd.

Saturday morning traffic as we left Branson – for good! Some folks like the noise and mayhem of loud music and crowds. I would have much preferred a long drive down some US highway; Lavonne was ready to be home.

Day 12, Saturday, September 25, Branson, MO to to Chandler, OK via US65, US62, US71, US412, I-44: 284 miles

It was good to wake up knowing that I’d be driving through the southern states I find so beautiful, and sure enough, I drove through Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma on Day 12. And it was especially good knowing that I’d be leaving Branson. Honestly, I did not find much of anything about the place I liked. Besides traffic, crowds and noise it also is full of dips and hills to climb and very narrow roads. Branson in my rear view mirror was a good thing! But I took one last taxi ride before leaving, to get back to the coach from the rental company to whom I returned the rental pickup.

A couple of picturesque, rustic old houses I found to be quite pleasing as we drove through Arkansas. The second was obviously abandoned; the first appeared to be lived in.

A small, rural town in Arkansas. I’d live there in a heartbeat!

The following three photos were taken as I drove the twisty, scenic highway US62 through the Arkansas Ozarks. I found this rural, mountainous area to be very peaceful and inviting.

The drive through Arkansas included winding through the Ozarks, and we found US62 to be a twisty, steep adventure! That area was truly like the cartoons of Ozark ridge runners with its very narrow roads and endless curves. I enjoy such driving for awhile, but not for miles on end – and it was good to have the twisty part of the beautiful Ozarks behind us.

Bentonville, Arkansas: Home of Walmart and, for a Mr. Sam and Walmart fan like me, it was my kind of tourist trap!

I have wanted to visit Bentonville, Arkansas for a long time, and discovered that we were just 105 miles away when in Branson. Bentonville is the home of Walmart – and I am a real fan of Sam, his life story, and the company he founded. They have welcomed us most nights we’ve been on the road and I’ve stayed at Walmart stores from sea to shining sea and border to border. Naturally, I shop there every time I need something. So we made the pilgrimage to Bentonville and visited the museum about Sam and the family and the company. I saw several videos about their history and many interesting items on display – including the Medal of Freedom President George H.W. Bush presented to Mr. Sam less than a month before Sam’s death. That presentation was a very moving moment, nearly bringing the president to tears.

On the Bentonville town square, this original site of Walton’s dime store was being remodeled, and would soon be the Walmart museum. At the time of our visit, a temporary museum was just around the corner to the left.

I posed in front of the temporary museum. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the museum and learned a lot more about Walmart and one of my heros, the founder of Walmart, Sam Walton.

I bought a T-shirt, a sweatshirt, a hat and a sticker of the Walmart logo – things I never buy at tourist traps, but to me the museum was a visit to a historical museum and I couldn’t resist.

The entrance to Walmart’s museum – and Sam said it pretty well, I think.

The drive that day was very pleasant and the scenery just stunning. The states we drove through were indeed beautiful; everything was lush and green and the people very friendly. We stopped at a family restaurant – Bud’s – in Bentonville where they actually fried chicken, something one cannot find very easily nowadays. We enjoyed a southern dinner of fried chicken, biscuits and gravy, etc.

US412 through Oklahoma was another beautiful drive. I doubt that the lucky folks who live in such a lovely place appreciate what they have. Then again… that’s probably why they’re there!

Our drive along US412 was a real taste of back country Oklahoma, and we enjoyed the ride. We paralleled the tollway I-44 for miles, choosing instead the drive along the narrow, very scenic US highway. Eventually we got onto I-44 and took it ’til we reached our encampment for the night, the very small town of Chandler, OK which, of course, had a Walmart Supercenter and was the reason we chose Chandler.

I had a hunch that Oklahoma was going to be making some changes in November of 2010.

The night was not too hot, but it was pretty muggy and uncomfortable for us Californians, so we ran the air conditioner ’til bedtime. And we slept well, as we looked forward to the rest of the trip and, at that point of the trip, we looked forward to home, too!

Wind turbines along I-40 in Oklahoma. It was usually pretty windy here, I presumed.

Day 13, Sunday, September 26, Chandler, OK to Amarillo, TX via I-40: 295 miles

I guess it was because it was Sunday morning, but whatever the reason we just poked along that morning, not getting on the road ’til almost 1000. The fact was that I had a lot of photos to edit and, of course, the daily posting to this travelogue. When we did hit the road, it was a breezy day and also very cool – the feel of autumn was in the air.

A huge Oklahoma rest area near the Texas state line.

We stayed on I-40 all day, heading west toward Albuquerque where we planned to stop and visit Seff, the dad of our daughter-in-law Nancy. He had been recovering from a stroke recently and we also visited last year during one of our trips. Seff is a really likable guy, and we enjoy seeing him. We planned to spend the night at Amarillo, then see Seff on Monday.

We saw a couple of unusual sights on this day’s drive. First, there was the leaning tower of Groom, Texas. There were no signs, no notice, just that huge water tower leaning over, looking much like it could topple one day soon.

The leaning tower of Groom, Texas. This was actually just a promotional  stunt of a long gone truck stop that once stood here.

Then we passed what was billed as the largest cross in the western hemisphere. It was huge, towering high above the landscape and visible for miles around. Upon researching Groom, TX on the ‘net using my new smartphone, the tower turned out to be a gimmick, moved to the site by the owner of the truck stop that is now out of business and in disrepair near the tower. The tower served as an attention-getter for the truck stop and was actually re-erected in the tilted position; the water pipe which runs down the center serves as a third leg to two of the other legs, making a tripod which supports the tank safely.

Also near Groom, Texas stands one of the world’s largest crosses.

This cross is 17 stories high and is about the 3rd or 4th largest cross in the hemisphere. Two stories I read stated that it was visible for 20 miles and 25 miles. Such things kept the day interesting.

A typical landscape along I-40 in Texas.

We arrived at Amarillo, Texas about 1700, and dropped the jacks for the night. It was a mild evening, and, for a change, we didn’t need the air conditioner. The plan was to get an early start the next day and arrive at Seff’s in Albuquerque about 1300.

Jacks down at the Amarillo, Texas Walmart for the night.

Day 14, Monday, Sept 27, Amarillo, TX to west of Albuquerque at the Route 66 Casino via I-40: 302 miles

My cute lil’ traveling buddy as we cruised west along I-40 in Texas.

We got an early start and were cruising west bound on I-40 by 0630; it was dark for about the first hour or so of driving. We wanted to be sure to leave Seff’s before the Albuquerque afternoon commute and we managed to do that with time to spare.

Welcome to New Mexico!  This was certainly one of the more elaborate highway signs we’ve seen.

We stopped at a Denny’s somewhere along I-40 about 0930 for breakfast. We make a point of eating most meals aboard the coach although this trip we have been eating entirely too much junk food we buy along the way. But Lavonne was ready for a restaurant breakfast, and Denny’s biscuits and gravy with hash browns did the trick.

The usual landscape along I-40 in eastern New Mexico.

What the heck are these things?! I see them on occasion in open fields, this one in eastern New Mexico, and I suspect they have something to do with government… maybe a NASA gizmo? Maybe I’m not supposed to know! (From a neighbor, I learned that these are “Omni” somethings, installed by the FAA for aircraft navigation. Of course, nowadays they are little used due to the advent of GPS.)

We enjoyed visiting with Seff in Albuquerque.

We arrived early at Seff’s, getting in about 1230. It was good to see Seff again, and to see his improvements since his stroke over a year ago. He had not lost his sense of humor as he laughed easily at my jokes – unlike most folks I know. We showed him photos of the family visit near Denver, and the surprise photos of the family meeting Jason who showed up unexpectedly from his home in London. Family photos seemed to be the entertainment Seff most appreciated. We headed back onto the highway about an hour after our arrival, and continued west bound on I-40.

We drove to the Flying J just west of Albuquerque where we fueled up, loaded on fresh water and dumped the holding tanks.

Albuquerque, NM in the distance as we leave Flying J with full gas tank, full water tank, and empty holding tanks.

We didn’t know just where or with whom we’d circle the wagons, but when we saw the big Route 66 Casino and Hotel on down the road, we pulled in for the night. We had put on over 300 miles and it was time for a rest.

Parked at the Route 66 Casino for the night. And a buffet feast! This seemed to be a very well run, quality casino and hotel.

The day was warm, but not uncomfortable. Still, we needed the air conditioner on in the coach. We gambled away about $10 shortly after our arrival, then headed back to the coach for some much needed rest and for me to catch up on my photos and travelogue.

We went back a bit later for dinner and decided to try their huge buffet – advertised as the largest in New Mexico, and I believe it! They had different sections for Mexican, Chinese, Italian, and American. I pigged out something awful on the Chinese – and dessert. Lordy… I have to get back on my diet!

Day 15, Tuesday, Sept 28, casino near Albuquerque to Flagstaff, AZ via I-40: 308 miles

After a morning walk around the grounds of the casino, we drove out to the highway and again headed west. We were on the road before 0800.

We decided to arrive a day early at Dean’s, so called the San Diego Parks reservations center to reserve Thursday night, as well as Friday and Saturday nights we already had reserved. Luckily, our space was available and we took it. So we had just two more nights on the road before arriving at Guajome. The first night was Flagstaff, and the last would  likely be at a very warm location as we planned to be driving through the lower, hotter desert of Arizona and California on Day 16.

Along I-40 in New Mexico, this sign gave me pause. Had we taken the wrong turn and wound up in Iraq or Iran?!

We drove the very scenic desert of New Mexico and Arizona on a windless day. We have seen lots of wind along I-40 on past trips, but lucked out this trip. And we hoped for continuing calm days.

The following are scenes along I-40 through New Mexico:

This must be an old mission  town. I didn’t note the area I took this photo.

Home sweet NM home for somebody, but it looks like a tough life to me.

Should times get tough, I’ll try to remember this young couple we saw walking along the NM Interstate. Could it get much worse??

Beautiful landscape along I-40 in western New Mexico.

Welcome to Arizona! They do have a cool logo!

This brown sign made me think this was a government site, but not so. Still, it was a worthwhile drive about six miles off the highway to see a big hole in the ground. It was a very well managed attraction and we were not disappointed.

We saw a sign along I-40 advertising a meteor crater site, and it looked very much like a federal parks sign. So we drove the six miles off the highway on a very good, asphalt road to the site.

The brick buildings and  general appearance still seemed like a state or federal site. But no, it was a very successful private attraction.

We could see no crater, but learned at the ticket window that it was behind their very federal looking, brick building. We also learned that it was $15 per, but just $14 for seniors. We bought two tickets, having invested a six mile drive already, and headed into the building.

This photo shows just half of the huge hole. The lower observation platform is visible but is still about 2000 ft. above the bottom of the crater. The visit included lots of scientific information about craters, and more.

After an elevator ride, some inside stairs and a long stairway outside, we gazed at a truly big hole in the ground. The upper elevation is 6,000 feet, the bottom 4,000 feet. It was an awesome sight. We figured it was worth the $28 to see, and I admired the very modern facilities, the excellent road and the seemingly excellent management of the place. It was family owned and operated, we learned, and they had what seemed to be an excellent business.

A bit of information about the crater.

We continued the drive to Flagstaff and settled in at Walmart. A sign warned “NO OVERNIGHT PARKING – TOWING ENFORCED” – but we knew better; we had called earlier and were told by Walmart that parking overnight was just fine with them.

Bull feathers! This is the city’s sign, not Walmart’s. City fathers apparently were  lapdogs for local RV parks, but this nonsense is almost never enforced. I most enjoy parking where I can thumb my nose at foolish intrusion by Big Brother.

The city fathers, likely in cahoots with local RV park owners, had passed an ordinance forbidding overnight parking. Of course the local constabulary has bigger fish to fry than harmless RVers, so it is not actively enforced. I detest the thugs that pull this sort of nonsense on RVers. In a free country, one free entity, namely Walmart, would have the right to invite anyone they please to park overnight on their lot. And another free entity, namely me and all other RVers, would have the right to accept. Gee… do we still call this a free country? We do?!

We spent the night, unmolested by Big Brother, with about a dozen other RVers.

Flagstaff was warm at about 85 degrees in the coach, but we did not need to fire up the air conditioner. We spent the evening aboard the coach and ate dinner in, as usual. The forecast was for about 42 degrees overnight and it cooled quickly after the sun set. We figured we’d better enjoy the coolness as it was predicted to be 97 at our destination of day 16, Barstow.

Day 16, Wednesday, Sept 29, Flagstaff, AZ to Victorville, CA via I-40, I-15: 376 miles

We awoke at Flagstaff to about 58° in the coach. It was about the coolest morning we’d had during the trip. We even ran the heater to take the chill off. I went outside to fire up the little generator, and there were over a dozen RVs around us! It was good to see that the local RV park owners’ efforts to force RVers to their unneeded services were not working. Viva free choice!

The landscape of the high desert west of Flagstaff, AZ.

We were on the road at 0730, continuing west on I-40 toward California. I was ready to see this trip wind down, and Lavonne was ecstatic at the prospect, but I never really want to return to the Third World country of Kalifornistan.  The lousy roads, high taxes, the swarms of people and the constant heavy traffic hold no attraction for me. But we would enjoy this last day of near empty highways including the remote California desert area east of Barstow, where I-40 crosses I-15 and the real California begins. Ugh.

Lunch aboard the coach along I-40. Home is anywhere we stop!

We passed four highway rest areas in a row that were closed; two in Arizona and two in California. I couldn’t figure why the rash of closures, but it was darn inconvenient. At the second closed rest area in Arizona, we pulled over at the on ramp portion of the stop, far enough off the highway to be safe, and had lunch. It worked out just fine; nobody bothered us.

The day was downright hot, the hottest of the trip, with temps in the high 90s and probably over 100 along the desert highway. We stayed comfy in the coach, but only with the air conditioner on “Max.”

Crossing over the Colorado River into Kalifornistan.

Welcome home to the Third World country of Kalifornistan. The broken sign was very appropriate.

The plan was to spend the night at an RV park in Barstow so that we could dump the tanks, load fresh water and enjoy the convenience of plugging into electricity and water. We checked out the only promising park we found online with my new smartphone, and it was pretty much a dive. A KOA was listed in Victorville, about 30 miles down I-15, which was on our route to Oceanside. We figured that a KOA would be a nice park, not occupied by lots of permanent residents in travel trailers with accumulated junk, making the park look sleazy. So on down I-15 we went.

Jacks down at the former KOA park near Victorville. The grass was gone, having turned to just dirt. The trees were a nice touch, but that was about all that recommended this place.

When we pulled in, we noticed that it was not a KOA, but an independent that used to be a KOA. Uh-oh. Its name was now Shady Oasis, and it looked presentable at the entrance, so we plopped down our $37 and rented a space for the night. It turned out they had no cable TV, so I told them I’d prefer a space with no trees so that my satellite TV would work. And so it was. But the park was a bit of a dive.

This is the sort of thing that doesn’t belong in a good travelers RV park. While the folks were quiet and seemed nice, who can appreciate such a sight? We figured they were living there, perhaps having fallen on hard times. Sad.

Our only nearby neighbor appeared to be a young family living there in their toy-hauler trailer. They had kids, and their area was a junkyard of baby strollers, toys and assorted junk. All the spaces appeared to have had grass areas, but were reduced to just dirt. While the appearance of the park was less than desirable, there were a lot of trees and the place was quiet – probably because there were only about a half-dozen travelers camped there.

Day 17, Thursday, Sept 30, Victorville, CA to Guajome Park in Oceanside, CA via I-15, I-215, SR76: 109 miles

We spent a very restful night at Shady Oasis, nonetheless, and woke up refreshed and looking forward to our stay at Guajome Park in Oceanside to visit the kids. It would be only a two hour drive, and we could not take our space ’til after 1400, so we had a very leisurely morning just hanging around the coach.

We hit the road for Oceanside at 0930, and had only a bit over 100 miles to drive. To kill more time, we stopped at a large shopping center in Victorville. We spent an hour or so just sitting in the coach reading as we waited for the Olive Garden restaurant to open.  At 1100 we went in for a wonderful lunch.

The stark, desert SoCal landscape along I-15 headed for Dean’s.

Rain fell occasionally as we drove toward Dean’s in Oceanside. Once we arrived in Oceanside, the rain settled in for the whole afternoon.

Our drive down I-15 was under clouds and threat of rain. Eventually, rain did fall heavily, but was short-lived, and when we arrived at Guajome Park, it was sprinkling. The rain fell all afternoon, even as I set up the coach. And awhile later, when another camper couldn’t back his fifth wheel into the campsite across from us, I offered to switch sites as our site would be a lot easier for him. And… his campsite was the one I always try to get anyway, and I was happy to make the switch. The entire time I spent moving to the other site, the rain was falling. Dean told me that a week ago it was 105 degrees, and then this unusual rain. We enjoyed the rain, and spent the afternoon in the coach except for a short walk around the park.

We arrived a day early, and knew that the kids were busy as bees. I assured them that we did not expect to see them ’til Friday, and so it was. We spent the evening in the coach, and looked forward to the coming visit.

Days 18-20, Friday & Saturday, Oct 1 – Oct 2, jacks down at Guajome Park

By Friday the rain had moved on and it was a sunny day. Here we are with jacks down at Guajome Park in Oceanside to visit the kids.

Friday: We were at Guajome ’til after 1300, spending our time by walking, feeding the ducks and geese down at the pond and just hanging around. We were a day early and we knew we’d be pretty much on our own. But Dean and I headed down to our usual restaurant overlooking Oceanside Harbor while Lavonne spent the time with the kids and Melissa. But she spent a lot of time with them alone after Melissa headed for the beauty shop. We spent the rest of the day at the house with them and the kids, just visiting. Melissa brought in fast food from a local eatery for dinner as she ran so late with the hair appointment. About 1900 we asked to be driven back to the coach for the night.

Saturday: Dean was to be at the T-ballpark at 0730 and I didn’t care to be there with all the kids and all the standing, so we occupied ourselves at the coach ’til about 1100. We walked, fed the ducks and geese again, and just took it easy around Guajome Park and the coach. The kids’ school had a “blessing” of the pets around 1100 and Dean picked up Lavonne for that happy occasion. Then around 1300 he came back to pick me up as Lavonne stayed with the kids and Melissa. Dean and I headed to our other favorite restaurant, Chin’s Chinese Restaurant, for lunch. Mmmm, we ate good! They serve great Chinese and that’s my favorite.

Backyard football at Dean’s with Connor, 9, Grandpa and Dean. Grandpa Mustache limited his involvement to tossing the ball – and wouldn’t likely have make the cut had we chosen up sides! Connor won the local Punt, Pass & Kick competition and was looking forward to the next trial.

Connor and Grandpa Mustache plan the next play.

Aidan, 6, with the toy rockets that actually fly. Sally, the world’s gentlest, most lovable dog, watched the endless rocket show.

We spent the afternoon with the family watching TV, playing a bit of football, and having dinner. I walked back to the coach about 1900 so I’d have time to let the water heater warm the water and take a shower and still get to bed around 2000. Melissa drove Lavonne to the coach in time for us to both hit the sack in time for an early start home on Sunday. We were ready to be home!

Day 20, Sunday, October 3, 2010, Guajome Park in Oceanside, CA to home via I-5, I-405, SR99: 411 miles

We were on the road at 0415 so as to streak through LALA Land unhindered by the usual heavy traffic that is always lighter early on Sunday mornings.

Streaking through the “Grapevine” over the Tehachapis on the way home. Traffic is light and the driving is easy when we leave early Sunday mornings.

Dropping off the Tehachapis into The Valley, just south of Bakersfield.

Our trip home from Dean’s was uneventful, as we always want it to be, and we were home at 1315, safe and sound. It was good to be home!

The coach back home, next to the boat, awaiting her next call to play time – Sturgeon fishing would be next!


Our trip covered 20 days and we traveled about 4300 miles. It was our longest RV adventure together; only my solo “Continental Loop” (here), which covered the four corners of the country, was longer.

We looked forward to the coming fall, cooler weather and especially, for me, the sturgeon fishing which would begin as soon as I could hook the boat up to the coach and head for Rio Vista for a few days! Life is good…

About FishWisher

Over the years I have posted many exciting fishing and boating stories here, but now in my seventies, it was time to sell the boat and find less demanding pastimes. All the fishing stories are still here! I will now post my travels aboard the motorhome and other activities. I hope y'all will still enjoy the fishing and boating adventures and perhaps peek in on my post-boating activities on occasion. Thanks for dropping in and I hope you enjoy your visit.
This entry was posted in Travel: Allen's, Travel: Dean's, Travel: Interstate Adventure!. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s