Sunday, November 16, 2014

STONE TREES, A HUGE HOLE AND A PALM OASIS…


petrified logs
Scooting across Arizona we stop to check out the Petrified Forest National Park.  The scattered and fractured logs look like a wood lot with rounds ready to split.

Petroglyphs - Newspaper Rock
The OK RV Park in Holbrook, AZ is close to the Petrified Forest and is a good spot to hang for a couple of nights.


The GRAND!
Next stop the Grand Canyon.  We get a spot at the Trailer Village. It’s crowded and noisy but we luck out with a space on the end where we can watch the elk strolling through the campground.  The weather is mild and we get in some hiking along the canyon rim.
Oasis in the desert

An overnight in Needles at Fender's River Road Resort  gets us back in California. It's a nice spot and someplace we may revisit. The final stop before we give our itchy feet a rest is Indio.  Our favorite park in the area is Indian Waters and we are fortunate to get a spot since the Canadian Snowbird migration is in full swing. 

One of our favorite hiking spot (well worth the price of admission) in the area is Palm Canyon.  This land is owned and maintained by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians.  The trails are in excellent shape and wind through Palm filled canyons, rocky gorges, past streambeds and up and over desert mesas.  Before we start our hike, we catch a ranger tour and learn about the daily lives of the Cahuilla Indians before the European invasion of Palm Springs.

With the Holidays coming up it’s now time to head for the coast and hunker down for our long winter’s nap… maybe catch a surfing Santa… and definitely spend some time with the family…  catch you on the flip side…



Friday, October 31, 2014

OK… WE CAN STAY A LITTLE WHILE LONGER…

Days are warm and sunny!


After Taos, we head down to Santa Fe and stay at the Trailer Ranch RV Park.  We stayed here two years ago and liked everything about this place, from location, to services.  This time the WIFI disappoints… as in low bandwidth and constant drop offs… arrgh… We just want to read the news dammit!




We do some shopping here, get new tires for Dave, try to visit some of our favorite restaurants and ultimately cope with disappointment.  El Parasol no longer serves their corned beef burrito.  San-Q Sushi is closed. The Blue Corn Café is still a decent spot for lunch or dinner.

Fajata at Sunset




Since the weather is good we decide to head up to Chaco Canyon for a week of dry camping and hiking.  Still the same crappy unpaved road going in from the north.  We get a great campsite with views of Fajata Butte. 

Kin Klitzen







It’s hiking everyday and visits to sites we missed last time we were here.  We take in a couple of Ranger hikes and attend a lecture by Astro-archeologist Andrew Munro describing his work with the the alignments of the great houses. We drive the 7 miles of 4WD road to visit the outlier Kin Klitzen.








On our way out we take the southern exit…







The sign says beware, but the road is passable… 







but sometimes we have to share...



Monday, October 20, 2014

BACK TO THE LAND OF ENCHANTMENT…


Last view of Kansas
Is it the people or the scenery?
It’s as if we haven’t had enough of the bovine aromas in Dodge City, we stop in La Junta, Colorado for a quick overnight… ahh the ever present scent of cattle by-products…  TheKOA Park is right off the highway it’s ok for the only park in the area.  The manager was a bit spacey: “Can we get some propane tomorrow morning before before we leave?” “Sure I’ll be here.”  We show up at 10:05AM to get propane and there’s a sign on the door: Sunday hours 8:00AM to 5:00PM Closed from 10:00AM to 1:00PM.  You think she could have mentioned this?

La Veta, Colorado is located in Southern Colorado and sits at an elevation of 7,000 ft at the base of the
Fresh snow on the mountains
Spanish Peaks and Sangre De Cristo Mountain range. Here we stay at the I Love Lucy RV Park.  (Just love that name.) This is a cute intimate park in town with the usual basic amenities and a vintage Airstream that they rent out. They will be closing for the season in a few days so we stay till they close.

Legendary!
In town we restock supplies at Charlie’s Market, La Veta's full service grocery store. Family owned and operated since 1937 they have a nice produce department great butcher shop a deli and an old-fashioned ice cream fountain! 


Aspens & snow
The Highway of Legends  (as in Legends of gold) is considered to traverse some of the finest mountain countryside in the country so we set out armed with our trusty Canons to see what we can shoot.  A side road beckons, it snowed last night up here and the dirt road is muddy and slushy with snow still piled along the shaded parts. We drive for a few miles and then decide that Dave’s tires are on their last legs and it would be prudent to turn around. We drive the entire loop stopping often and realize that there is so much more to explore in the area… we’ll be back!

Next it’s on to Taos and the Taos Valley RV Park. A nice mid sized park with full hook-ups and good WIFI in a location in near town. After setting up we head out looking for some local flavor.  

On the recommendation of the RV Park clerk we stop at El Taoseno. The décor leaves a lot to be desired.  The place looks like a dining hall in a retirement home complete with: cheesy Halloween decorations, chipped Formica topped tables, funky carpet and a geriatric clientele.  The food is reasonably priced. The Chicken stuffed Sopapilla is super-packed-stuffed with flavorful chicken and smothered in a green chili sauce and lots of cheese – quite tasty.  The Taoseno Beef Taco with Green Chile is also quite good.  Service is attentive and friendly.  So if you ignore the ambiance this is an OK place for a decent meal that won’t break the bank.
El Taoseño on Urbanspoon


In town we visit the Governor Bent House and Museum.  This is a strange collection of the old and the odd in the former residence of the first territorial governor of New Mexico.  Other than the setting being the Governor’s house the only items really pertaining to Governor Bent is a two page typed essay describing his violent demise and a few artifacts relating to the incident.

There are lots of shops vying for our dollars and some succeed.  The Chiripada Winery Tasting Room convinces us to purchase a bottle of their 2011 Shiraz Reserve and a 2011 New Mexico Port.  Prices are a tad on the high side for the quality but not insanely high.

Rio Grande Gorge
NM Sunrise 
An early morning trek to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge grants a glorious sunrise and frozen noses.

On our way back we stop at Michael’s Kitchen (based on the full parking lot) for breakfast.  The Breakfast Enchilada filled with eggs and cheese and smothered in green sauce is excellent and the Huevos Rancheros better than most. Portions are generous and service is relaxed.  On the way out we succumb to the bakery temptations and take home an assortment of fresh baked pastries.
Michael's Kitchen Taos on Urbanspoon

There’s lots of road construction around the Taos Pueblo so we opt to visit next time we get to this area, but we did stop in the Casino for an hour to play with their one armed bandits – we broke even.

San Francisco De Asis
The San Francisco De Asis Church is one of the most famous photographed landmarks in the area.  We time our visit to catch the late afternoon light.

Across the street is Old Martina’s Hall. It’s a little before five when dinner service begins but happy hour is on… only when we enter, no one is around. We wander about and check out the huge stage and dance hall in the rear, the beautiful southwest architecture and a wonderful exhibit of weavings displayed on the restaurant walls.  We finally locate an employee and she heads off to find the bartender.  OK it’s a little slow tonight… Our waitress shows up and goes ahead and seats us in the dining room.  We order a couple of cocktails (happy hour half price YEA!) and peruse the menu.
 
Old Martinas, Enchiladas,
Chile Rellenos, Beet Salad
and empty plate.
We share the roasted beet salad. This dish is artistry on a plate.  Dollops of beet foam surround thin slices of roasted beets, topped with baby greens, granny smith apples, candied nuts and topped with a molten cheese ball. The vinaigrette dressing is crisp and perfectly balanced with the sweet beets and tart apples.  We mop the plate clean. For entrees we choose the Pecan Encrusted Chile Rellenos, filled with melted Brie with a habanero mango coulis.  It’s a great modern take on a classic. The Rolled Green Chili Chicken Enchilada is accompanied with posole, black beans, salsa Fresca, guacamole, and a spicy tempura jalapeno.  The dishes are fresh, flavorful and stunning to behold.  Only a few other diners come in and a few folks gather around the bar.  According to our server, this restaurant is a popular spot when favorite bands come to town, but tonight: no music, no crowds, just great food and service.
Old Martina's Hall on Urbanspoon

Taos, we’d like to stay longer… the days are sunny and warm… BUT… pipes are starting to freeze at night… we WILL be back but for now… so it’s on to Santa Fe…


k

Sunday, October 12, 2014

THROUGH MIDWEST TO WILDWEST...

It’s raining when we leave the Mothership and continues all day.

Adios Ohio…

Hello Indiana…

More rain in Indianapolis…


What’s Up Illinois?


Stop for the night at the Cedarbrook RV Park in Mulberry Grove, IL.  Seems like a nice park with lots of trees and a pond. Overnighters have their own lot with pull-throughs and full hook-ups, WIFI functional.

Hey there Missouri!

Kansas already?



Homewood RV Park: Small park close to the highway with a pull through full hook-up and ok WIFI.

Pass the Mid-point of the USA on Highway 50.




We get to Dodge City and it’s time to take a break from all this towing/traveling.  We park at the Gunsmoke Trav-L-Park with a pull through in the back with good WIFI and full-hookup. It’s practically around the corner from the Boot Hill Casino andResort the first of three State-owned gaming centers in Kansas and the lowest performer.  It’s a clean low-key casino where a good number of folks seemed to be winning. (We somehow just didn’t fall into that category… sigh…)


Dodge City was a wild frontier town of the Old West. From 1876 to 1885 Texas Longhorns were driven to the Dodge City stockyards where they were collected and rail- shipped back east.  During these years the city became famous for gunfighters, saloons, gambling halls and brothels. Today it still relies on the bovine for the major source of income: feed lots and processing plants. The largest plant is near the airport, which explains phrase most uttered by first time visitors as they disembark: “My gawd, what’s that horrid smell?” It’s not really that bad, as long as you stay upwind.

Classic Steakhouse
Ambience
Since we’re keeping upwind, steak seems like an appropriate dinner in the Queen of the Cow Towns, so we head over to Casey’s Cowtown Club to savor some of their Prime Kansas Beef.   Dinner’s come with a salad, choice of potato, vegetables and rolls.  Salad is a Midwest special: Crisp Iceberg lettuce, a few slivers of red cabbage and one small piece of tomato. (Yawn.) Our potato choice is twice baked, with good flavor and consistency. (Yea!) Green beans are the chef’s vegetable choice.  Too bad they weren’t fresh. (Ban the Can!)  The rolls were light and warm, fresh from the oven. (Smile.)  With the exception of the vegetable of yuck, all of the side dishes rate on the high side of OK.  One bite of the Rib Eye and The Dodge City Strip and all is forgiven.  Generous portions, perfectly prepared per our requests and deftly seasoned are melt-in-your-mouth red meat perfection.  Forget the sides… It’s all about the meat!
Casey's Cowtown Club on Urbanspoon


The Doctor
will see you now.
We get rain in Dodge…so off we go to the Boot Hill Museum.  Here we get the picture of what the city looked like during the cattle shipping heydays.  (Too bad all the streets around the area are the land of franchised fast food.) At the museum, we start with a short film about the real history of the town and then walk up to the Boot Hill cemetery and the native gallery.  We are reminded once again that our nation was occupied prior to our ancestors’ colonization, and of the sometimes not so pretty history.  Then it’s back down through working replicas of the original town.  The general store has a collection of Colorado vintage sundries displayed and an assortment of Wild West themed items for purchase.  The saloon is open for business. No Spirits, but they do serve on tap the Beer that rhymes-with-sewers.   We opt for their house made Sarsaparilla, a tasty soft drink much like a root beer.  The rest of the storefronts are stocked depicting the 19th century lifestyle. 

Combo Plate

One last dining experience here… since we’re definitely west of the Mississippi, Mexican food is back in rotation.  We pick the El Charro restaurant based on the number of cars in their parking lot during lunchtime.  While we await our orders we check our Urbanspoon app… Yikes, a 66% rating and really confusing reviews… big portions… small portions… expensive… reasonable…  does disappointment taste like chicken?

Large Burrito
The house salsa is really flavorful, but lacking heat.  Our server brings us their other two salsas – the “California” similar to the house with the addition of fresh cilantro and the green salsa – a jalapeno heavy and super spicy sauce.  We find that equal portions of each combined makes for one really fine salsa.  The Chips are served warm, but some of the chips are pushing the stale scale.  The combo plate with beef taco, enchilada and a flauta with rice and beans is a good value, lots of tasty beef fillings encased in light crisp tortillas enhanced with a generous addition of the hot sauces. The large pork burrito with a substitution of green sauce instead of the rojo is super spicy and also a generous portion. (Half went home in a box with some of the rice and beans.)  This one was hot enough without additional sauces.  The meat was tender and full of flavor, a pretty great dish. Overall, a pleasant dining experience, with attentive wait staff and a good value meal.
El Charro Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Well it’s time to get the hell outa Dodge… keep pushing westward…

Monday, October 6, 2014

PILGRIMAGE TO THE MOTHERSHIP… OR FIVE STATES IN FIVE DAYS…

colorful highways

With the White Mountains at our backs we hook it across Vermont towards New York State.  We opt for the back roads through the Green Mountains instead of the interstate highways.  The fall colors are a variety of turning to peak and the quaint towns seem to say, “Come back when you can stay awhile.”


no time to dally…
we're on a mission!




We make it to The Arrowhead Marina and RV Park just past Schenectady.  This is a real pretty park right on the Mohawk River.  We get a full hook-up site at the far end along the river, so the advertised free WIFI does not connect.  Whoever designed this park must have liked circles, as most of the sites are back in, like spokes on a wheel.   A nonissue for all the rigs with no back windows but we get views of everyone’s ass.   It is also in close proximity to a busy rail corridor and a non-gated crossing so there is a lot of rumbling and train whistles throughout the night.   It’s an ok spot to stop for the night, but not sure that we would come back for an extended stay in the area.


View from the passenger seat
NY state @ 70mph
We choose the southern route (SR 17 & across New York State because: A) the toll on the northern route will cost almost $30.   And B) the gas mileage differential is $10.00 more for the southern route. Quick math: $20 savings.  More fall colors as we pass the New York countryside and the return of the occasional roadside billboard. (New England prides itself on limiting these advertising goliaths and Maine and Vermont actually ban them.) The route takes us along the NY/PA border and we cross into Pennsylvania for about five minutes.  We stop in the southwestern area of the Finger Lakes near the western shore of Keuka Lake at Camp Elmbois.  Another beautiful campground; with ponds, free use of paddleboats, trees and grass, water and electric hook-ups, dump service and great WIFI.  It is also just down the road from the three wineries that were recommended by Wendy & Tom (a great couple we met back in Lubec, ME.) 


Dr. Frank's
Vineyards and Keuka Lake
After setting up we head over to Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellar, New York’s most award winning winery to do a little tasting. They also claim to have the second oldest old vine pinot noir vineyard in the nation.  After excessive tasting (and re-tasting) we choose a 2012 Pinot Noir, 2012 Cab Franc and a Salmon Run Meritage The Pinot and Cab Franc would probably do well after a few years in the cellar, but since our “cellar” is the space under the fridge – we’ll compensate with the Vinotemp.  We also get a bottle of their Blanc de Noirs, a sparkling vintage from Pinot Noir grapes. It’s a fruit forward rollercoaster on the tongue and a dry finish with a pucker.

We stay one day in the Keuka Lake area. The weatherman lied. It is supposed to be sunny and warm and it’s cloudy and windy.  More wineries are on our agenda today.  Bully Hill is another recommendation. It’s $1 per pour for full menu tastings or $5 for 5 from a limited menu and a commemorative wine glass: The pours are exceptionally stingy and the cost of tasting is not applied to a purchase. Yesterday at Dr. Franks we observed an unpleasant tarry chemical finish in all of their white wines, it was not too pronounced in their reds.  Here at Bully all of their wines both white and red have the same note, but more intense.  When we discussed this with our server, his comment was, “Welcome to New York, did you get lost on your way to California?”  We laughed, “We are from California.” He gave us two complimentary tastings of some of their signature wines, but they still had the same note.  Oh well, we tried…

Walking to the parking lot the smell from their smoker assaults us and we immediately turn to the restaurant for lunch.  Since we’re not enamored with their wines, we order a couple of local brews.  Interesting, these also have that same tarry chemical finish… so it must be the water, or the soil or the air here.  Weird…  We order a couple of the specials: The Sauerbraten is, juicy and tender with sides of braised red cabbage and potato salad, a delightful meal. The Oktoberfest Sampler comes with smoked pork, smoked sausages, sauerkraut and Pierogies. Neither of the smoked meats have any real smoky flavor.  The sausages are pretty pedestrian, the smoked pork is two thin boneless pork chops that you need a chainsaw to cut. Ray Chainsaw Sawyer Murphy could saw the Ten Commandments on these babies.  The best part of this meal is the Pierogies they have just the right amount of crunch on the outside and a creamy potato filling.  The views of lake Keuka are great.   At this point we’re not ready to face any more disappointment so we call it a day.
Bully Hill Vineyards on Urbanspoon

Back at camp, owner Dave and Sheila invite us to come out drinking and dancing with them… we are so tempted, but we know us… we’ll go out drinking, wake up not feeling like traveling… extend another day… and…. before you know it, it’s November… as painful as it is, we have to keep to the plan.

It’s raining again.  We want to just say, “Screw this!” Extend our stay and wait out the storm.  But, we dilly-dallied way too long in New England and we have to keep pushing on.  The weather breaks mid morning and we get back on the Southern Tier Expressway and head out across New York toward Lake Erie. We’re driving into a heavy head wind, which makes us really glad we chose Airstream!  Still lots of fall colors and pretty scenery, but it fades as we approach PA.  We get to the western end of the Southern Tier Expressway and follow onto I90 across the western end of Pennsylvania along the shore of Lake Erie.  Before you know it we’re in Ohio stopping at the Indian Creek Camping Resort in Geneva.  We get a full hook-up pull through on the end by a pond.  They charge for WIFI, so we pass on it. It’s pretty for a mega resort and great for a one-nighter.

Next Stop THE MOTHERSHIP!  There is an unwritten rule that every Airstream owner needs to make at least one pilgrimage to the Airstream Factory in Jackson Center, Ohio.  It is the best place to have body work done with a full warranty, so lots of people bring their dented and ripped Airstreams to the factory to be made new again.

Rural Ohio
The village of Jackson Center sports a population of about 1,500 people and 315 of them work at Airstream.  Reading on-line reviews of Airstream one gets the impression that this is the center of nowhere. Yeah, its rural here, surrounded by fields of corn and soybeans but this is just small town America and there is plenty of “civilization” within an hours drive or less in any direction. We spend a couple of nights at the Terra Port, (Airstream’s on site RV Park.) It’s free if you’re having work done and $10 for Airstream geeks who just want to visit and take a factory tour.  We fall into the latter category. 

Vintage Parade
 The factory is surrounded by Airstreams.  It’s a sea of silver bullets, some shiny and others not so much.  A line of vintage units, including Wally Byam’s gold trailer are displayed out front.   Behind the service center, customer units wait for repairs (some with pretty big ouchies.) and more vintage trailers await renovation. We actually recognized one trailer from California with a huge tear in the right rear corner.  Two months ago we saw this unit pull in when we were in Lubec.  (We didn’t get a chance to meet them before they left the next day.) We’re really not surprised to see it here, since it takes 2 months to get an appointment for repair.

Welcome!
End Caps A Waiting
The factory tour starts with a brief history of the plant.  Since we will be entering a busy manufacturing facility, visitors must wear closed toe shoes, earplugs and safety glasses.   Airstreams are built entirely by hand.  The only automated process we see is one robotic arm drilling the rivet holes and cutting out the windows and doors in giant sheets of aluminum.  Everything from the laminates on the cabinets to the riveted bodies is constructed without the aid of robotics or conveyor systems like other manufactures. Just men and women with hand tools. Even the trailers are moved around the plant by hand or forklifts as they near completion.  It appears to be a complicated crowded maze and the tour takes us right through the middle of this organized chaos.  They currently produce approximately 150 trailers a month in their 135,000 sq. ft.  facility and have a backlog of about 600 units.  No wonder they just announced a $5.9 million expansion project to add 94,000 sq. ft. by 2015 and 125 jobs over the next three years.
Airstream Body Assembly

Well, we have now visited the birthplace of our darling Dimples. Four years ago this month we ordered her… time sure flies when you’re having fun… and we sure are!
k