Sunday, December 30, 2007

Tourist traps

We pay $5 to see a giant redwood that cars can drive through. I feel
sorry for the tree. The wood near its roots is punched out. People
gawk. So do we. Ouch. The manmade oddity suffers next to God's

Sun sun sun

We awake from a week of rain in sunny Eureka, CA. :)

We've retraced some of our tracks and are camped at the fairground,
the same place Allen had a great walk with the dogs a week or
so ago accompanied by a tall red rooster. I volunteer for the job to
meet this rooster. Alas, Jacob, Josh and I get just within crowing
distance of the barns when we are asked to leave. Doggies,
apparently, aren't allowed in the area, where about 150 horses are
stabled for the night, along with Mr. Rooster. So sorry. We didn't
know. We walk back to Otto.

Friday, December 28, 2007

A Wonderful Christmas

After spending days and days enjoying Christmas with family in
Seattle, we are back on the road and missing the kids and grandkids
already. It's hard to leave them behind. We mourn what might be if we
lived closer.

We stop for a light lunch in Eugene, OR, and while Allen prepares the
PB&Js, I walk the dogs. Then, Gordon waves at us through the
windshield. Instant friends.

Gordon and Wanda are the kind of people you'd love to live next door
to. They are considerate, kind and lively, and they love the Lord. We
exchange e-mail addresses, talk about life plans and look forward to
seeing each other again. We live on opposite coasts. But perhaps ....

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Who Turned the Lights out?

Allen is feeding the dogs and spills their food on the counter and, of
course, it rolls onto the floor and gets trapped in the rug. I'm
standing in front of an open freezer deciding what to do for dinner.
Suddenly, the lights, everything, go out. We are in darkness,
boondocking at Mill Casino in Coos Bay, OR. And it's getting cold
without the furnace on.

Allen grabs the emergency flood light and cranks up Otto's heater. We
crawl around on the floor, checking fuses, circuits, batteries. We
drag out manuals. We find nothing wrong. We crawl around on the floor
again, just to double check. It begins to rain. And it's getting colder.

We sit at the dining table and are perplexed. I stare at the door. I
remember a switch. The master switch. Down near the floor where the
doggies scrambled to dig their kibble out of the carpet. Could they
have thrown the master switch?


Heeding Local Advice

I find a natural food co-op in Eureka and am stunned at how expensive
stuff is (about $6 for a small bottle of salad dressing). A fellow
stocking the shelves explains that those beautiful, cruvey mountainous
roads we just enjoyed driving through are tortuous for truck drivers.
So they charge more to bring food in. We, therefore, pay more to buy
the food.

He encourages me to continue driving north on Highway 101 in order to see the Roosevelt Elk herd in front of the little red schoolhouse in Orick. OK. Curious.
How do I find the schoolhouse? "You can't miss it," he says.

He's right.

As we cruise past ocean waters on the left and mountains on the
right, we swoop down into a valley, where we see about 60 elk in front
of, by golly, a little red school house. What a joy!

Watch the slide show and you will see the elk, (look at the rack on
the big daddy of the herd!) and scenes from
Redwood National and State Parks just up the coast
north of the little red schoolhouse.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Northern California Drive

We spend most of the day at a hilly, wooded Badger Dog Park in Healdsburg, CA, because Allen is
still sick and needs the peace and the doggies need to stretch and lay
down in mud and leaves.

Once we get driving, we continually gasp at the landscape. This part
of Northern California (north of Santa Rose) resembles Death Valley,
only lush. We see contours familiar to Death Valley blanketed in
grass, trees, shrubs and countless vineyards.

The sun lowers and leaves a crimson sky. Then dark. And suddenly, we
see passing glances of mammoths standing next to the ever narrowing
road. We've passed under the arches of Willits, CA, Redwood Country.

These Goliath sentries shorten us, minimize us. We look forward to
daybreak to grasp their full potential.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Lots of Fishies

We stroll through Monterey down Cannery Row and the edge of the bay,
heading to the world-famous Monterey Aquarium. Do we smell sardines?
Couldn't be. The fishing industry is long gone here, replaced by hopes
of packing in the tourists. It's off season. A few people window shop.

The aquarium deserves the acclaim. While there are more open spaces
than I imagined, the displays (when we find them) betray reality. How
can I be standing inches (at least four) from a great white shark, a
Pacific barracuda and is THAT what an ocean sunfish looks like? Didn't
someone chomp off the rest of his body?

I study the ballet of giant kelp, stare at the symmetry of a rolling
mass of anchovies, watch a diver feed hungry rock fish and alpha
sheepheads. On my. There's even a display of shore birds, all kept
happy by a tide machine that keeps the water rolling up onto the sand
in time with the real word.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Safari in Sand

I am awed by hundreds (soon to be thousands) of elephant seals
bubbling up out of an angry Pacific Ocean in a not-so-secluded Point
Piedras Blancas Beach in the Big Sur area of California.

The two--ton males raise their massive heads and bellow (a deep,
resonate sound like that made by a huge rubber mallet striking a huge
hollow log), defending their rights to their harems. Pups, scattered
along the beach, imitate their dads, only their bellows resemble
honks. Then, the newborn (just one today, right), squeaks, defending nothing,
demanding dinner.

The pelting rain whisks us inside Otto, where we still hear the
bellows and honks. This is just the beginning of the elephant seal
season here.

Exploring the coast of California

We leave Long Beach and our good friends the Cuevas today (after a
delightful three-day visit that included praising Jesus, doggie walks,
yummy YUMMY Italian popcorn and three hours of "Survivor") and head
north up the Pacific Coast Highway.

We pass familiar place names -- Redondo Beach, Marina Del Ray, Santa
Monica -- and then Malibu, where hillside fires have blackened the
scenery. The charred remains line Highway 1. Right up to the pavement.
Up close and personal.

We smell the ocean, turn westward and find the beach. I nap. As does
the Pacific, which calmly breathes in and out. Allen walks the dogs

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Cuevas are Beautiful People

Our day in Long Beach, CA, is sunny, warm and wonderful.

Our dear friends the Cuevas make this place their home and meld well
with the community. We (and hundreds of others) attend a festival at
their church, where adults and children enjoy games, a climbing wall,
bouncey houses, food and fun. The outreach touches us and many in the
community. Tonight, we attend "Stable," a new play written by one of
the pastors. The production shows an intense love for Jesus and a
talented cast and crew.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

A Question of Need

We are parked for less than five minutes in the Long Beach Wal-Mart
when two women drive up and ask for money for food. One, the
passenger, is in her 60s. The other, her daughter, is driving the car.
The daughter, Jessica, says she and her mom just escaped from their
home, where a drunken, enraged dad/husband is endangering their lives
and those of two other children/grandchildren.

Jessica says a domestic violence center has put them up in a local
hotel for the night, but will help them no further until Monday. This
is Friday. They want money for food.

I give them three bags of food.

Now they want money for gas, so they can go to San Diego to stay with

I give them no money for gas and tell them, instead, to wait until
Monday when the "system" will take care of them. The enraged man, I
tell them, will know to look for them with family. Jessica changes her
story and says they now plan to go to Mexico to her grandmothers. Her
father, she says, does not know her grandmother.

I am troubled.

Will the system work? Did I do the right thing? What would Jesus do?

Friday, December 14, 2007

First wrinkle in boondocking

We overnight at or oddest "campsite" yet: alongside a service road to
an industrial park in Palm Springs, CA. On one side, we have a busy,
BUSY highway and on the other, a wind farm dotted with outcroppings of
low-slung buildings. It looks lovelier in the picture above than it is.

Our night's stay follows two rather odd days accented by missteps.

It starts in Baker, CA, a little desert town, where we stay in the parking lot of the Mad Greek 's Diner across the street from the world's tallest thermometer (left, taken from the Web site highlighted).

The dirty, trashy ground framed a concrete village of tattered and torn mobile homes. We ask around for a grocery store. We are laughed at. "This is the country," one man honks. "What did you expect?"

We travel on to Barstow, CA, where our fun really begins. We overnight in a sandy, rocky, glass-strewn side lot of a Wal-Mart, where security checks our receipts against our purchases. At the Post Office, a clerk complains loudly that she won't assist me because I failed to prepared my package according to regulation. A kindly customer sends me across town to a Mailboxes, which we can't find.

We decide to move on out of Barstow (not a pleasant town) and end up in Yucca Valley, CA, (on the Top 10 list of places to retire) and find the city recently banned free camping at the Wal-Mar. So, we return to the road (after a Pizza Hut dinner), and head to a Palm Springs truck stop, which is FULL when we get there.

So, we drive around and find truckers parked alongside the road with the wind farm mentioned above. We join them.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Returning to the Mojave Desert

Forty-four years ago I spent a few hours hunting cactus in the Mojave
Desert while my mom and dad fixed a flat on our blue station wagon. I
remember the sand, the heat and the cactus.

Today, the Mojave I am visiting bears no resemblance to the one in my
memory.There are lava formations, jagged, craggy towers of stone, and
even a restored train depot (inset) housing a museum explaining what
the Mojave National Preserve encompasses.

The preserve came into being in 1994 and differs from a national park
in one respect only: you can hunt in a preserve, but not in a park.

We see no hunters. We do see towering dunes that boom when disturbed
(find out why here) and the largest Joshua Tree forest (above) in this
country (more so than Joshua Tree National Park).

We are in and out in a day; perhaps I'll wander back one day because
there's so much more to see.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Welcome to a ghost town

We plan to spend the day at Rhyolite, NV, a ghost town just outside
the east border of Death Valley, CA. But we pass right on by because,
on first glance, little remains to entertain us. We return, however,
out of curiosity and find history in a state of decay, deliciously languishing
between government control (think Disneyland) and abandonment (which is reality). We see a place the U.S.
government wants to fence off to keep us out, but hasn't completed the
task yet. Two of the buildings are fenced. None of the others are out
of reach (there are signs warning us not to trespass ... no one is
there to stop us.)

Gold grew the town to 8,000 people around 1907. But soon there were
none, no gold, no people. Left behind are bits and pieces of that life
100 years ago. Stone remnants of two banks, a jail, a dry goods store, a
railway station and a few other buildings await government
restoration. No original wooden structures remain because when the
people left, they took the wood with them (there is precious little
wood in the desert.)

We walk around and imagine living here so long ago. The sun begins to
set. We need to leave, too.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Death Valley -- What a Place to Be!

This is our second day in Death Valley and we've fallen in love. Ever
walk on great salt flats? Or touch a mountain turned up on end by
seismic activity? It's all here.

Check out the views.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Japanese Internment in Death Valley

We spend the morning, the day after Peal Harbor Day, visiting the remains (above) of a Japanese internment camp inside Death Valley. Laurie, our forest ranger, puts a positive twist to a very negative part of American history. Even though what America did to the Japanese Americans during World War II was unfortunate, "We like to think they had a positive experience here in Death Valley." Hmmmm. See what Dorothea Lange saw. She was a photographer the government hired to document the process of forcing people out of their homes and into concentration camps.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

London Bridge Out in the Desert

We're at the edge of Arizona in a desert city called Lake Havasu. There is no grass. Just sand, stone, gravel, traces of dirt and a glorious stretch of the Colorado River. We're here for Otto repairs (a faulty connection in one of his rear airbags) and the job takes less than two hours.

What we find are delightful people, crisp, 56-degree air and what's this? Oh Yes! It's the London Bridge. Click here for pictures.

Remember the giggles in 1968 when the sale of this 130,000-ton historic bridge became public? The snickers didn't deter industrialist Robert McCulloch, who paid $2.4 million to bring the bridge to a city he built a few years earlier as a retirement and recreation community. He even created a little English Village (closed when we were there), which unfortunately blocks our view of the full span of the bridge. We can't see a full view. It's all so built up now.

For the story on all of the bridges known as the Lopndon Bridge, click here.

A land full of people

We spend two days at the Grand Canyon. Before leaving, we stay the
night at our first pay-to-park campground, a little stony and
grassless RV park in Cameron, AZ. It costs $14.72, and includes

In the morning, we play with a puppy from the nearby trailer park and
ruin our shoes in red mud. We meet Drifter and Moses, an old fellow
and his dog (Moses is the dog ... half Lasa and half Shitsu).
Drifter's wife did seven years ago and he's been on the road ever
since. He says his wife would have loved this way of life; they bought
the little trailer together in 1982. He smells just like the
cigarettes he chain smokes.

Today in Lake Havasu City, AZ, I meet a woman in the bathroom of an
Ihop, who, at the sink, proceeds to tell me her life story. She was
married for 34 years to a man with a temper so bad, she'd wonder each
morning how mean he'd be to her that day. She finally divorced him. A
week later, he dropped dead from a massive heart attack. (Her kids
blame her to this day.) Five years later, she married a retired
airline pilot. He's in service to her completely. Brings her socks to
warm her feet. Holds her hand. Heats up her tea. Each day, she thanks
God for renewing her passion for love.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A Grand Time

I can't stop staring at the Grand Canyon. Let's pick a few words to describe it: magnificent, awesome, sweeping, stunning, inspiring, grandiose, powerful, legendary, staggering, beautiful. See some pictures by clicking here.

At one of the turnouts, I see a collection of young adults (above) chatting about their travels. One balls up some snow and tosses it over the rail into the canyon. I joke, "Careful! You might hit someone." He jokes back: "Sounds like something a mom would say." Hmmm. He put me in my age-appropriate place, didn't he!

Two of the gang just got engaged in Las Vegas after a four-year friendship. She's a teacher-to-be from Wales and he's a chemical engineer from Ireland. They were pen pals for years and 18 month ago took their life savings and hit the road, backpacking throughout New Zealand and now America. During that time they fell in love; last week he popped the question. They hope to be home by Christmas and then to start looking for jobs. Al and I could pocket our savings and travel for 18 months. But we don't want to come home and look for jobs.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Beautiful Day for a Drive

We travel into the night, pushing northward from Roswell, NM, hurried by our need to be in Lake Havasu City on Thursday for needed repairs to our airbag system.

After climbing winding mountain passages to arrive at our campground (Wal-Mart in Cottonwood, Az), we sleep easily and awake to tremendous vistas from every window in Otto. What a view (see above)! The sun is bright and the air is crisp.

Route 89-A from Sedona to Flagstaff unfolds vistas of tremendous beauty through the densely wooded Oak Creek Canyon and along breathtaking uphill switchbacks.

White spires race skyward. Red rock buttes push through below, mounding and rounding everywhere. In the Coconino National Forest, Navaho artisans sell traditional wares (horsehair pottery and jewelry made of beads, feathers, sand and silver) through a Native American Vendor Project sponsored by Native Americans for Community Action in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service.

I meet artisan Lorraine Nincto, a Navaho jeweler, shown below holding the turquoise necklace she fashioned and I bought. Lorraine's granddaughters are Navaho dancers and are hoping to perform at the Seneca Nation PowWow in Binghamton.

The day is filled with beautiful images. See some of them by clicking here.

We end the day in a Flagstaff dog park, where we connect via Skype to the PC Users Group meeting in Liverpool, NY, as part of a "Point 'N Click" TV show reunion. They are under a foot of snow; we have a bright day, with temps in the 50s. Our Internet connection is bad. We talk briefly. The night here gets below freezing. But we stay warm in Otto.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Look, up in the sky!

We land in Roswell, NM, unprepared for the numerous "sightings" we'd encounter BEFORE we enter the International UFO Museum and Research Center. Evidence of those little green guys is everywhere. Check out these pictures to see what I mean.

All I can say is good for Roswell. The city is accepting of its claim to national fame as the place aliens may (or may not) have crash landed during a thunderstorm in July 1947. Many say they did, and the government concocted a bogus explanation out front while scooping up the evidence and hiding it out back.

In all, the museum (above) is pretty lame. Lots of newspaper accounts, lots of affidavits, lots of ramblings on and on without points being made. I avoid making eye contact with other patrons for fear they might think I am one of them. :)

We enjoy listening to a period radio (pic at left) playing the original 1947 news broadcast of the UFO crash.
You can listen to the broadcast by clicking here.

Texas surprises

What a beautiful and versatile state Texas is. Once we escape the cacophony of the Fort Worth/Dallas metroplex, we tumble like weeds through a western landscape (above) that's vast, sprawling, flat, parched.

What is this? Has a light snow kissed the fields? But no! It's cotton! Thousands and thousands of acres of cotton. And the season of harvest is here. Bales the size and shape of trailer-tractor beds sit everywhere (above), waiting to be hitched for the ride to market. Texas harvests 4.5 million bales each year, making it the highest yielding cotton state in the union.

Not too far from Abilene (which looks like it'll be a ghost town in 10 years), hundreds of modern windmills rise from the cotton fields. We've discovered the Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center, the largest wind farm in the world, where 421 turbines harvest the wind off 47,000 acres in west-central Texas. The other-worldly vision complicates my sense of Texas as a patchwork of outdoor life: cattle ranches, oil fields and cotton fields. The turbines are today's overlay on yesterday's landscape.

So much of Texas is both old and new.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Are there odd lights in the sky?

This is odd. We've just crossed the border from Texas into New Mexico
on our way to Roswell to check out the infamous alien landing sites
and we lose our GPS location and our Internet connection goes down.
LOL! If this posts to my blog, then you know we are OK!

Where Kennedy Died

I walk through the past and my eyes well with tears as I hear and see CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite deliver the unbelievable to the American people: “From Dallas, Texas, the flash - apparently official - President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. Central standard time, 2 p.m. Eastern standard time, some 38 minutes ago.” ... His words interrupt a ''soap opera, "As The World turns," on Nov. 22, 1963. And they resonate through Nov. 29, 2007.

I hear his words as we explore the Sixth Floor Museum at the Dallas Book Depository (bought in 1977 by Dallas County), where an extensive interactive display carries us through John F. Kennedy's life, his death in Dallas and his legacy. It is here, on the sixth floor, alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald crouched behind a sixth-floor window and fired on the Kennedy motorcade, bringing an end to Camelot and to the life of our 35th president.

That window is preserved in accurate detail. Because of security glass, I stand about 20 feet away from the original sniper's nest and feel the coolness of the brick with my hand. (See a Web cam from that window ... odd, though, that the camera angle is wrong. Kennedy was shot AFTER the motorcade turned the corner at the right ... see these pics Allen and I took from the spot Kennedy was shot ... no pics were allowed inside the museum.)

As I stand on the infamous grassy knoll in Dealey Plaza, I pause and consider the few hours I am spending in Dallas before I leave. Imagine blowing into one of the biggest metroplexes in the country (population 6 million) and leaving after a mere few hours. Now imagine a resident of Dallas on a cross-country tour sweeping through Syracuse for lunch at the Dinosaur. Not a bad memory, eh?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Texas: Not at all what I thought

Texas is beautiful, with her gently rolling landscape lush with
vegetation betraying my image of Texas being sandy, barren and flat,
wide open enough to see from Mexico to Oklahoma.

Marhsall introduces us to East Texas culture and kindness at The Pet Place (picture above), a no-kill humane shelter tucked into a woodsy
area behind a Wal-Mart. Sally Socia, a retired attorney, is lead
visionary. Under her guidance, the shelter operates a dog park, free
spay and neutering clinics and partners with the Boy Scouts to provide
free dog shelters to the needy.

Get this: The shelter also partners with Meals on Wheels to feed 300
homebound people AND THEIR ANIMALS on a daily basis. Sally has plans
to start a reading tutoring program, where children with reading
problems can read to the animals.

Sally makes her visions come true. She's an amazing woman.

Also amazing is the Dallas cityscape at night (see pic). Wow. Such beauty. We arrive during 5 o'clock traffic. Not beautiful. But we survive.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Storied Land

Our need for supplies spills us into the northwestern Lousiana town of Natchitoches. It's a clean, middle class place with Northwestern State University and Fort St. John the Baptiste on the west bank of the Cane River. Cane River?

Without intending to, I've stumbled upon the location of one of my favorite books, "Cane River," written by Lalita Tademy. Tademy traces her African-American family tree through her mother line of slaves and free women from the Cane River area. (I read the sequel, too, "Red River." Not as noteworthy.)

While it's a modern-day town, I get quiet and reminisce about the way it was, the women in Tademy's family and the joys and sorrows they endured. It's one thing to learn the history of a town. It's another to experience it.

With God, All Things Are Possible

New Orleans opens her wounds to us today as we explore Katrina's victory and defeat. Three years later, her wounds still fester. Home after home lay in ruin, their roofs punctured where residents escaped to safety, windows blown out, foundations crumbled. Street after street deserted. St. Bernard Parish, one of the hardest hit, remains wiped out. A few residents and stores (Home Depot!) have crawled back in, but not many. Still, God is there (see the pic, taken from inside our tour bus while moving through St. Bernard Parish), which means hope survives. After a three-hour tour of the storm's devastation and the city's efforts to rebuild, we climb back into Otto (after spending $12 on pralines and listening for a few minutes to a steam calliope on top of the Natchez riverboat ... you can, too, below) and head toward Dallas, Texas, through Louisiana's secondary roads. Lovely. So much nicer than New Orleans.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

New Orleans, Fasoldt style

We're not drinkers, gamblers or partiers, and still New Orleans
welcomes us. The day is stormy, with lots of wind, rain and big X's on
homes reminding us Katrina was no lady.

Until we get to the French Quarter (shown in the pic with modern New
Orleans looming overhead). Nothing looks damaged. Just wet. And
beautiful. (Except for urine-soaked Bourbon Street, where honky tonks
and peep shows outnumber souvenir shops 8 to 1.) Lovely balconies lush
with potted vegetation provide shelter from the rain. Colorful doors
decorate entire blocks. The rain scares away tourists. It's nearly
empty. Perfect.

The rain eases as we make our way to the New Orleans School of
Cooking, where we spend a few hours immersed in talk about Cajuns,
Creoles, gumbo, jambalaya, bread pudding and pralines with a Detroit-
born history teacher turned chef. We learn much (gumbo is brown,
jambalaya is red) and are encouraged (often) to shop in the adjacent

Once fed, we migrate to a dog park on Royal Street, where Josh and
Jake romp in the rain (as do Allen and I with them). For a glimpse of our New Orleans, see these pictures.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Doggone ... almost

In our push to New Orleans, we spend hours watching the scenery flash
by. My 4-year-old poodle, Jacob, is restless. We stop for dinner and
insistently he drops his toy in my lap, begging for play. I toss it a
few times, then wave him off. I should recognize the signal.

When we stop for sleep next to a cotton field (see picture) in the
panhandle of Florida, Jacob calculates his chances and once the leash
is unsnapped, he bounds past us through the camper door and heads into
the dark of the cotton field's night. He's a 90-pound black dog with
the feet and spirit of a gazelle. In my heart, I know he's gone.

Allen follows in full dash. I slam into my slippers, grab the leash
and head out in pursuit of them both. I see and hear nothing. Both are
so far away. I squint. Nothing. I listen. Nothing. All around, tuffs
of cotton dot the landscape like marshmallows in a vat of hot
chocolate. I call. "Jacob." "Allen." "Jacob." "Allen." It is surreal.
"Jacob." "Jacob." "Jacob." Stillness. Then I see him. Jacob. Trotting
toward me. I sit down (a trick I've learned to entice him over). He
skirts the edge of my zone and continues away. "Jacob?" I whine. He
turns, trots back and is ready to snuggle. SUCCESS!

I find Allen way at the other end of the field and he's relieved. Then
worry descends. Joshua! Our other poodle. Is that him barking? Allen
runs full tilt the half a mile back. Joshua is safe.

Time for bed.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Heading up and out

With the holiday festivities behind us., we wave farewell to the
family and head up and out of Florida, turning our noses toward New

I've no clue where we are stopped at the moment, except it's somewhere
near the border of Florida and Alabama. I've had to tug on my shoes
and socks for our nightly stroll instead of just slipping into sandals.

Not bad, though. I'm still in shirt sleeves and it's snowing back home
in Baldwinsville, NY.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

No vacancy? No problem!

We finally cross the border from winter back into summer, discard our
coats and long sleeves and relocate our sandals. Our accommodations
all along the way are superb. We stay at (Hotel) Wal-Mart, every chance we get.

Wal-Mart is a fine place to stay for the night. The fee is accommodating (free) and the security is perfect. The scenery? Usually swell. The first picture shown here from our (Hotel) Wal-Mart in Columbia, SC. The wooded scene is what we saw outside our dining room
window. The next scene (with the bank) is our view in De Land, FL.

Most (Hotel) Wal-Marts encourage RV'ers to stay the night. Just be courteous, park in the outskirts and shop in the store. However, after arriving in Port Orange, FL, for the evening, we learn the county forbids overnight parking, Wal-Mart apologizes over and over, gets on the phone and tracks down another Wal-Mart to welcome us 35 minutes away. We are comfy.

Check out the Wal-Marts where you can and can't park overnight:

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

How I Love Those West Virginia Hills

We ask our GPS (a Tom-Tom we named, ahem, Thomas) to carry us through
West Virginia without using toll roads. We wind along routes 60 and 19
through narrow little coal towns, towns with lovely names such as
Gauley Bridge, Hawks Nest and Chimney Corner. The autumnal colors are
ablaze. West Virginia's winding roads confuse Thomas, who keeps
telling us to turn left and right when, in fact, the road is merely
folding back on itself in yet another hairpin curve.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Unconditional love: Boy, what a gift

Betty Peters White means the world to me. She's my longest-time friend (about 50 years), my dearest friend, my special friend. Her wisdom and unconditional love soften my hard times and chocolate-top my good times.

We were to reach her house in Charleston, WV, by 3 pm, never made it until 7:30 pm and all was OK by her. No stress, no uglies. What a grand woman. She feeds us well (a holiday spread of watercress soup, chicken and rice, broccoli, special stuffed onions, cinnamon applesauce, and, as a treat, homemade peanut-butter fudge) We talk until 1:30 a.m.

I wish everyone had a Betty. I thank God I do. (I'm at left; she's at right.)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Asleep in the snow

We are woefully behind schedule, but smiling just the same. Our push
south to Florida for Thanksgiving lands us at a sprawling Wal-Mart for the night in Madison, Ohio. As we drift into dreams, snow dusts the landscape. So beautiful. Otto stays toasty. The dogs love the brisk air outside. The fields that frame the superstore glisten as the dusting melts, unlocking a bounty of new scents for our boys to absorb. Everyone smiles.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Countdown to go

It's below freezing tonight and we are just days away from our two-
month journey. As Otto sits in our driveway, we're praying the heat
pump stays engaged so the pipes won't freeze.

We still have to pack our food, clothing and the doggie supplies. We
also have to outline many legs of the trip! What fun this will be.

We are headed from Syracuse to Largo, FL, for Thanksgiving for
family, then across the bottom of the U.S. and on up the coast of
California to Seattle to spend Christmas with family.

Talk later.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Holiday at a Monument

PHOTO: Security at Mount Rushmore on July 4, 2007.

Visiting Mount Rushmore on Independence Day was a bit surreal. It wasn't just the heightened security; it was the festivities that cloaked history in frivolity. Exhibits about the hundreds of people who worked on the massive stone memorial to Lincoln, Washington, Roosevelt and Jefferson shared attentions with Native American bands, CD sales and a misting tent, a favorite of the younger visitors.

Our trek across Nebraska on Route 20 proved to be hot and predictable. Cattle pastures separated hayfields accented by small towns with names like Emmet, Cody, Kilgore, Wood Lake and Answorth. A sustained rain would be a blessing.

PHOTO: St. Louis welcomes highway travelers with its famous arch.

After boon-docking in Kansas City at a Wal-Mart, we zipped across Missouri on major highways, setting our sights for home. Our journey at this time has changed from that of a tourist, to that of a road warrior, aiming for home. So, with just a few off-road forays to water the doggies, we've almost ended this nearly 8,000 mile adventure.

PHOTO: In Otto (our motor home), Josh (left) and Jake (our Royal Standard Poodles) ride on our bed during much of the trip. They've been with us for the whole 4.5 week journey.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Absorbed in the West

Routes 14 and 16 (read about all U.S. routes here) in northern Wyoming and South Dakota offer casual travelers an intense, up-close experience of western life. Mile after mile (70 miles with no services), antelope mingle with freshly baled hay and brilliant reds, yellows and greens explode into plains, prairie and plateaus.

PHOTO: Seney's Rexall drugstore in Buffalo, WY, hawks holiday fare. Inside, you'll find an old-fashioned soda fountain and candy store, greeting cards and medications.

PHOTO: Patriotism is more than a July 4 thing at this Buffalo, WY, home.

Along the way, medium and small towns welcome visitors with rodeo signs, horse murals, gas stations and cowboy clothing shops. The towns have names like Buffalo, Spotted Horse and Recluse.

PHOTO: Fireworks dance over Mount Rushmore. This photo is courtesy of the South Dakota Department of Tourism.

We spilled back into a more congested America when we picked up I-90 toward Rapid City, SD, where we spent the evening doing laundry. A TV at the laundromat carried the entire fireworks spectacular at Mount Rushmore, where about 30,000 people had congregated.

We boondocked at a Wal-Mart.

Monday, July 2, 2007


PHOTO: When Baby bellows, Mamma listens, even if it means holding up tourists in Yellowstone National Park.

Yellowstone National Park is all it promises to be -- wild, wonderful, stunning and loaded with camera-toting tourist content with capturing the park's beauty in drive-bys more than hike-bys. And why not? The most sought-after sightings are of bison, and these giants tend to hang out by the roads anyway.

If you are interested, you can watch Old Faithful spurt.

My husband, Al, and I have a ton of pictures like this -- self-shot images of the two of us in vacation spots. Here we are in Yellowstone, with a beautiful back-county falls behind us.