Wednesday, November 10, 2010

SEGMENT 23--Final Destination Reno, NV

So folks, this adventure comes to an end. I'm flying back to Kona today. Grandpa and I have driven 7,036 miles in the SunSeeker and have seen some amazing places. 
We have seen small towns and big cities. We have seen churches, lots of churches, and a few rock formations.
We have seen memorials for people who have passed at Hoover Dam, Oklahoma City Bombing, Martin Luther King, and Elvis.
We have viewed museums like the Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, the Civil Rights Museum, the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Bourbon Heritage Museum, the Alien Museum, Tinkertown, the Kentucky Derby Museum, and the Louisville Slugger Museum.
We have seen roadside oddities like the Wigwam Motel on Route 66, World’s Largest Fire Hydrant, and Cadillac Ranch.
We have seen abundant road kill. Did you know the most popular road kill across the country by far is the raccoon? 
We have eaten at some incredible restaurants. The most memorable were the Big Texan for the 72oz steak, Goodson's for Chicken Fried Steak, and ribs at Charlie Vergo’s Rendezvous. 
We have survived on Wal-Mart's across the country, buying groceries, cooking supplies and halloween decorations, and using their parking lot as a safe place to sleep.
We have been blessed with absolutely gorgeous weather every single day, and have seen the wonderful changing colors of fall leaves.
We experienced Talladega.
And of course music, music, music.
I told Grandpa I realized this may be the last time I see him. And he told me, “No, no. I plan on being around well into my 90’s. Except for this damn back thing, I’m in pretty good shape. I’ve got all my mental faculties. My hearing and eyesight are great. I don’t have heart problems, or wear diapers. The only thing wrong with me is that I’m an old fart. I will be around for awhile.”  So we planned another road trip for his 90th birthday, probably to Alaska. 
I am grateful I had this opportunity to spend with my grandfather and I got to know him much better. It’s fun to see how similar we are to one another. Grandpa Paul is truly an amazing person. For an old guy to still be able to drive and remember jokes, what a memory.
I will leave you with one last Grandpa’s Joke Corner:

Charlie and Maria are an old married couple sitting on the porch having a cocktail and preparing to start dinner on the Bar-B-Que.
Charlie feels a little flippant, and tells his wife, “Maria, your butt is getting so wide. Why it’s nearly as big as that there BBQ.”
Maria turns around stunned, and says, “Charlie, I’m not going to fire up this BBQ for one tiny weenie.”

Monday, November 8, 2010

SEGMENT 22--Carlsbad Caverns and Roswell, NM


We got to the park first thing in the morning and Grandpa wasn't feeling up to seeing another cave, so it gave me an opportunity to explore the long hike of the natural entrance of the caverns by myself. It's about 2 1/2 mile hike down 750 feet below ground, and I had the whole cave virtually to myself. Dark, cool, peaceful and quiet. Beautiful. Other worldly. Natural art pieces composed in total darkness.  Until one day they were unveiled for the world to see.

As I hiked the caverns I imagined what it might be like if this place was filled with water and I were SCUBA diving around in here like a mermaid gazing on all the fish and creatures of the sea in this great underwater cave.

I also imagined this cave being in the ocean somewhere and the aliens live here and are hiding out observing us from under the sea.

I also imagined a huge earth quake rocking the place and I would be impaled by a falling stalactites.

This is such a remote part of the country that I couldn't pass up seeing Roswell, New Mexico on this trip. I'm all down for checking out the aliens. I'm convinced after seeing the Alien Museum that they did crash land in Roswell in 1947 and that the government did a lot to cover up that fact.

One weird thing....I think the aliens abducted my cell phone from just outside Luckenbach to about an hour outside of Roswell. It shut off with no service for about 30 hours. I looked at a Sprint coverage map on the Internet later and it showed I should have received coverage all the way on Highway 10, in Carlsbad and in Roswell. That was weird.

I have a picture of my own that I took just outside Carlsbad of a UFO. What do you think...?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

SEGMENT 21--Luckenbach, TX The Cowboy Way of Life

Leaving San Antonio heading North we drive through Texas Hill country. We are headed to Luckenbach, Texas made famous by Waylon Jennings song. This part of Texas differs from where we have been, it’s not flat and we see walnut, and live oak trees everywhere. We are out on Farm Road 1376 just outside of Fredericksburg. Luckenbach is so small, Rosie Beth, my GPS gal cant even find it. The sign says population 3. 
We head down the tree covered dirt road of Luckenbach Lane, and arrive upon an old little Post Office/ General Store/Bar. I investigate and tell Grandpa it is well worth him taking a look. Grandpa and I belly up to the bar (it’s only 11AM) order two beers and enjoy the warmth of the wood burning stove. We sit back and admire all the graffiti, pictures, stickers, hats, signs, plaques, and tourists that blanket this place. The mood is calm and easy. Miles away from city folk, and Grandpa and I find ourselves very much at home here. 

We take our time with our beers and look around the general store and buy some souvenirs and get a bite to eat. They are having a live band and a dance tonight and I do not want to leave. I think Luckenbach will be etched in my mind and Grandpas mind forever.

Grandpa tells me he once saw Waylon Jennings in concert at Sharkey's Casino in Gardnerville, Nevada before he was famous.

Did you know it's something like 850 miles across the state of Texas? That's like three days! People told me it takes forever to cross Texas, and now I know why. I thought I would go the whole 850 miles through Texas without seeing an oil "pumpjack". Finally, I was rewarded just outside of Fort Stockton where all the green has gone and the desert flats have begun.

Tomorrow is Carlsbad Caverns and Aliens at Roswell.

Grandpa's Joke Corner:

WARNING: Grandpa says this one is dirty......

Two cowboys were sitting in a bar getting drunk.

One cowboy said,"We have a lot of riding to do tomorrow, I think I'll call it a night and head for camp"

The other cowboy said, "Well I'm having a good time, think I'll stay here. I'll catch up to you later."

'Round 8AM the drunk cowboy finally rode into camp with his with his saddle on backwards, and facing the wrong way on his horse. 

The first cowboy said to the drunk cowboy, "Quite a night huh? What the hell happened to you?"

The drunk cowboy slurred, "I had a hellava night. Someone cut the head off my horse, and I had to hold my hand over his juggler vein the whole way home."

SEGMENT 20--Natchez, MS-- San Antonio, TX

Natchez, Mississippi (sounds like matches) is a small cotton town nestled on the banks of the Mississippi River. This town was first settled by the French in 1716 and became a commercial cotton and cultural capital of the Old South. The homes and buildings around here have been preserved for almost 300 years. It rained all day, so Grandpa and I did the driving tour of the town instead of walking, but we got to see some beautiful old Antebellum mansions.

After Natchez, we headed South toward Baton Rouge on our way across Louisiana and the Bayou. We stayed the night in a truck stop just outside of Beaumont, Texas, and in the morning I was able to get a picture of the world's largest fire hydrant. We are on our way to San Antonio, Texas one of Grandpa's picks.

We stayed two nights in San Antonio at a RV Park close to Downtown. As we we packed and headed to town on the city bus, Grandpa in his motorized scooter and me in comfortable walking shoes, we were set to load the handicapped capable city bus. The ramp was a little steep and listening to the "well experience" bus driver, Grandpa accelerated up the ramp at full speed, and as the scooter hit the ramp it proceeded to tip over backwards, popping a wheelie and taking Grandpa with it over backwards. I was there along with the other passengers to catch him before he hit the ground, so thankfully he wasn't hurt. We got him upright and eventually on the bus, this time we backed up the ramp. Every time I think about the thought of Grandpa popping a wheelie and going over backwards I bust out laughing imagining what the people on the bus must have thought. Holy Cow. Funny stuff.

Anyhow, San Antonio Downtown River Walk is a beautiful example of what a city has done to improve a downtown area and bring in tourists. The San Antonio River runs through the middle of downtown and they have lowered it below the city streets to create a placid waterway with Venice type gondolas, cobblestone walkways, arched footbridges, specialty shops and restaurants.

Grandpa and I went "street-side" to get a beer and visit the Buckhorn Saloon and Museum where they sport all sorts of horned animals  and oddities from around the world, including a 78 point whitetail buck. After our fill of dead animals hanging on the wall, we rounded the corner and stumbled across the Alamo. Wow, what a let down. I thought it would be bigger. Not really much to see here except history. Grandpa and I aren't particularly interested in history. OK so off to lunch in a rotating restaurant high above the Texas skyline in a tower similar to the Space Needle in Seattle. Grandpa has been to San Antonio four times before and has eaten at this restaurant every time.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

SEGMENT 19--This is Talladega

Through our travels around the mid west and south east we have been seeing the occasional old barn with words painted on the roof "See Rock City".  I asked Grandpa, "What the hell is Rock City?" and he had never heard of it. Just so happens, we stayed at a campsite only two miles away from Rock City, so I HAD to check it out. I am really glad I did. Rock City is the personal garden of Garnet Carter set high up on a rock in the North West border of Georgia. The gardens are set along the Enchanted Trail, which weave you through incredible and strange rock formations on your way to the top where you can see seven states at the overlook as you stand above a waterfall. Rock City is enchanting and endearing. It is really well done and the marketing is very creative and works to get people like me to visit this out of the way place.

This rock place is well worth the time to see over the "rocks" of the petrified forest.

After Rock City we headed to Birmingham, Alabama to pick up my boyfriend Arron and his friend Dan and we were off to the NASCAR race at Talladega Motor Speedway. We spent four days camping right at the racetrack.
Talladega is the biggest race track in NASCAR at 2.25 miles around it is huge and it is a huge party. There must have been at least 10,000 RV's camping at this track this weekend.  It was Halloween this weekend so of course we decorated our motor home with scary lights and lots of folks were in costume, and Saturday night we even had Trick Or Treater's.
This was Grandpas first NASCAR event and he enjoyed it very much. If you've never been to a NASCAR race, this is something you should witness for yourself.

This morning we dropped Arron and Dan off at the airport and we headed to Natchez, Mississippi for the mad dash home. I have ten days to get back across the country.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

SEGMENT 18--Lexington, KY to Chattanooga, TN

A few days of rest and cleaning and laundry. Grandpa and I spent some time in "nature" over the last few days. I did a little catfish fishing while grandpa relaxed.

We visited small sites over the past few days like the birthplace of Kentucky Fried Chicken in Corbin Kentucky and we drove through Pigeon Forge, Tennessee where DollyWood is located. I had to drag Grandpa screaming and kicking into the Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum in Gatlinburg which houses over 20,000 shaker sets. We drove through Gatlinburg on our way through the Great Smokey Mountains. Cute town. Nice place to visit.

We couldn't have asked for a better time of year to be visiting the Smokey Mountains. The fall colors are legendary and the allure is unmatched. I cant say this enough about the beauty of our great country.

We passed in to the northern part of North Carolina when we passed through the Smokey Mountains. I believe this is the farthest East of our trip. We headed back toward Chattanooga through Highway 19 and 74.

Grandpas Joke Corner:

I visited the Doctor the other day complaining of an ear ache.

The Doctor looked in my ear with his light and said, "Here's the problem right here. You have a suppository in your ear."

I said, "Oh, well that explains it. Now I know what I did with my hearing aid."

Ba Doom Boom...

My wife was standing in front of the mirror completely naked and complained, "I'm old, and fat and flabby, and I could really use a compliment from you right now."

I hesitated a minute, and said."My Dear, you have perfect eyesight."

Ba Doom Boom...

Monday, October 25, 2010

SEGMENT 17--Race Day with the Ponies

Today is race day at Keeneland Race Track in Lexington, KY!

We drove down Old Frankfurt Pike Road this morning along miles of black fenced acreage of horse farms and grand mansion style homes. They have been having a bit of a drought this year, so things are a bit brown, but still very,very stately and beautiful.

Grandpa and I showed up at the track and parked in the free tailgating section. Soon we were surrounded by University of Kentucky college students chugging beer and getting crazy. We had breakfast in the motor home, and then I unloaded the scooter, and we jumped on the shuttle bus to the track. We asked the security guard where we should go to see the race in our handicapped scooter and he led us right to the best seats in the house, top row, center with no one to block our view. (Again, great seats for the handicapped).

We got the programs, and made our selections. Then I called my friends to make their selections. It took me about two races to figure out how to make a bet, but after that it was a breeze. The first race Grandpa and I picked the horse that came in dead last.

There were 10 races. Arron won one race for $3.40. Kristy had the most wins with two for $10.40. Matt only one once, but he won the most at an 8-1 long shot for $89.00, and grandpa had the most picks at 7 dead last place and 3 second to last. Grandpa says, "I told you I know all about horse racing." We had a great day, lots of fun.

Grandpa's Joke Corner

There was a blonde who got on an airplane in Los Angeles. She seated herself in the First Class section. And soon enough the flight attendant came by and said, "You can't sit here. Your seat is in coach in the back of the plane."

The blonde said, "I am a beautiful blonde from Hollywood and I am going to New York City and I am sitting here. And that's all there is to it."

The flight attendant got her supervisor who told the blonde, "You cannot sit here. Your seats are in the back of the plane in coach. These seats are taken by someone else."

The blonde said, "I am a beautiful blonde from Hollywood and I am going to New York City and I am sitting right here, and that's all there is to it."

Then the flight attendants went to get the pilot. The pilot bent down and whispered in the blondes' ear, and she got right up and moved to the back of the plane in the coach seats.

The attendants asked the pilot what he said to the blonde, and he said, "I told her that this part of the plane wasn't going to New York City."

SEGMENT 16--Louisville, KY to Lexington, KY

We made our way into Louisville and headed straight for Churchill Downs, the famous horse race track where the Kentucky Derby is ran every May. We were surprised to find Churchill Downs in the middle of town in a lower to middle class neighborhood. We were expecting it to be out in the country with the infamous horse ranches and white fences of Kentucky surrounding it.  But this is a sporting event for every-day people as well as the rich and famous, with ticket prices starting at $40 for infield seating, and run up to $38,000 for tickets in the Millionaire's Row climate controlled box seats high above the track. Queen Elizabeth once watched the race from Millionaire's Row.

Churchill Downs is a grand stadium too big to fit in my wide angle lens. We went to the Derby Museum and were escorted on a tour of the paddocks, the stables, and the track. Did you know the jockey and all his equipment must weigh exactly 126 pounds on every horse for this race? Additionally, jockeys need to be at least 16 years old to ride in the Kentucky Derby.

The next morning we ate a crazy breakfast at Lynn's Paradise Cafe. I saw her place on Food Networks' Throw Down with Bobby Flay where he challenged her to a "French Toast Cook Off". I sampled her winning Bourbon Ball French toast and it is pretty easy to see why she beat Bobby in this challenge. Grandpa had eggs and sausage and homemade buttermilk biscuit. Lynn's is a fun, crazy place with wild decor which reminds me of my mom and I think she would really enjoy this place.

We also went to the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory and had a ball watching how baseball bats are made.

Well you guys, 3 weeks down...we went the farthest North on our trip in Louisville, and we accidentally crossed the bridge of the Ohio River and ended up in Indiana before turning back. We are going to be the farthest East in Knoxville/Smokey Mountain area, and then we are going to start heading South and West to make our way home.

Friday, October 22, 2010

SEGMENT 15--Nashville, TN to Bardstown, KY

Driving North on Highway 65 we pass through Bowling Green, KY where they make the Corvette. I heard about Bardstown, Kentucky in the book 1000 Things to See Before You Die which is the Whiskey capital of the world and the area surrounding Bardstown is known as the Bourbon Trail. There are numerous Distiliearies here such as Jim Beam and Makers Mark. It's kind of like going to the wine country in California. We arrive in Bardstown at the perfect time of year when all the oak trees are turning their fall colors and all the tourists have left for the winter. Bardsown and this entire region is absolutely beautiful with little farm houses made of red brick set on huge sheets of grassy land with weathered and worn barns propped up next to rusty grain silos. The autumn leaves are starting to fall, which enhances the halloween decorations installed on the wrap around front porches.

Grandpa and I toured the Heaven Hill Distlierry upon arriving in Bardstown which we thought was quite informative and of course we looked forward to some after tour bourbon tasting.

The difference between whisky and bourbon is similar to the difference between coffee and Kona coffee. There are certain stipulations that make it a bourbon as oppesed to a whiskey. It needs to have at least 51% corn in the mash, it needs to be 190% proof after distilling, and it needs to be aged in single use white oak charred barrels. It does NOT, however, need to be produced in Kentucky. Now each distilary has their own special recipe and their own process for making each batch of whiskey. The longer it is aged in the barrels the more mellow the taste and the pricier the bottle. We sampled bourbon that had been aged 18 years. Bourbon does not continue to age once it has been bottled, and adding a splash of water or an ice cube to the shot helps to bring out more of its flavor. Whiskey from this part of the country gets it's distinctive taste from the water that is purified natuarally through the limestone.

The Makers Mark Brand Whiskey is still hand dipped in red wax by factory workers. I got to see this first hand.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

SEGMENT 14--Nashville and The Grand Ole Opry

Nashville is a city built right on the Cumberland River. As you walk around downtown, there are western wear stores, souvenir gift stores called "Cotton Eyed Joe's" and bars called "Wild Horse" and "Doc Holliday's". This city is Country and Western all the way. CMT studios are here and LP field where the Titans play is right across the river. I just had to buy a pair of cowboy boots from Nashville.

Grandpa and I woke up early where we stayed in the parking lot right downtown and went to the Country Music Hall of Fame Museum. We both found it interesting. Grandpa would point out his favorite singers and I would have no idea who they were, and I would point out my favorite singers to him and he wouldn't have a clue and I laughed and said, "We have 47 years between us."

We had a shopping and work day after the museum. I needed to buy some groceries and a BBQ, do some laundry, and make a few repairs on the RV. We camped at the Nashville Country RV Park and at $34 a night it was a "rip off" Grandpa says.

The next morning Grandpa and I had breakfast at the Waffle House. I had a waffle and some grits and Grandpa had biscuits and gravy. Mmmm Mmmm. Yummy. Then we headed to the Opry area and I went to Cooter's Dukes of Hazzard museum and had my picture taken with the General Lee. Later we had early dinner at Caney Fork where Grandpa and I both feasted on Catfish and Deep Fried Pickles and washed it down with Sweet Iced Tea. Southern Food.

Well, tonight we were in for treat. We had fifth row tickets...(sometimes it's good to be handicapped) to The Grand Ole Opry. What an event! Beautiful Showroom that just a few months ago was buried under 10 feet of water during the Nashville floods and just opened back up less than a month ago. The history of this place is incredible going back 85 years. It is still a live broadcast radio show and the variety of the entertainment spans almost as long. They had old country artists like 90 year old Little Jimmy Dickens, and George Jones to mid country stars like Diamond Rio, and new Country artist Josh Thompson. Even the Harlem Globetrotters were there celebrating their 85th anniversary as well.

But the highlight of the eventing for me was to witness Charlie Daniels work his famous fiddle to The Devil Went Down to Georgia on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry while standing in "the circle". He is such a high energy entertainer and is so happy to be there playing that same song for the bazillionth time.
Charlie Daniel's DOES play a mean fiddle.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

SEGMENT 13--Memphis to Nashville, TN

In the morning I visited the Civil Rights Museum on the site where Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968. He was 39 years old. He was in Memphis to raise support for the local garbage men who were working in terrible conditions for low pay. He was staying at the Lorraine Motel because it was one of the few places in town where they allowed black people. I saw Orlando Bloom visit this museum in a movie called Elizabethtown. The tour takes you right up to the balcony and you can view the room where he stayed. A large wreath hangs on the balcony of room 306. Again I am overcome with emotion of the sadness of the events that day. He died before I was even born, but this is also a part of American History as dying is a part of life.

We stayed the night in a rest stop just outside of town, and in the late morning we made our way downtown, found a parking space in a lot somewhere, and headed down to Riverfront Park for a country concert with Dierks Bentley, Miranda Lambert, Jerrod Niemann, and Luke Bryan. It was such a beautiful day and the location was delightful. Grandpa had his scooter and we had great seats.

After the concert Grandpa went to bed and I hit the town. Broadway is a street just like Beale in Memphis with bars and night clubs, but here they all play country music. I went to a little place called Tootsies Orchid Lounge. Great music and the place was packed! I think I love it here.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

SEGMENT 12--Memphis, TN

Memphis Tennessee home of the Blues and BBQ. The first night I left Grandpa behind, packed my camera and a sweatshirt and had the park manager take me down to Beale Street. There are Blues clubs down both sides of Beale Street and the police close it down to traffic so you can take your drink with you out on the street.

The music was phenomenal. BB Kings Blues Club had a 9 piece band with two trumpet players, a saxophonist, a bass player, and the lead singer. WOW. I had so much fun drinking and dancing and listening to real Blues music in Memphis.

The next morning Grandpa and I took a tour on one of those tourist buses around the city. We saw all the big sites of the city including the Peabody Ducks, Sun Studios, the Lorraine Motel,  St. Jude's Children's Hospital, the Pyramid on the Mississippi River, Mud Island, and then we had lunch on Beale St.

In the afternoon, the tour bus took us to Graceland, home of the King Elvis Presley. I pushed Grandpa around in a wheelchair through the mansion and we got to see the whole thing. The dining room, kitchen, TV room, Billiard room and the Jungle Room. What a fantastic place. We got to see all his Grammy's and Gold and Platinum records. There were countless outfits and movie memorabilia. Also Elvis's grave site and car collection and his two airplanes the Lisa Marie and the Hound Dog.

Elvis died when I was just a baby, but the stories of his life have been told to me countless times. This is a part of American history and should be experienced at least once. I imagine if they make a similar memorial for Michael Jackson I will be more connected to him than I was to Elvis.

Grandpa said he got to see Elvis in concert twice at Lake Tahoe. The second concert was toward the end of his life and Grandpa remembers him looking like sh**.

Grandpa had a full day of walking and good exercise, so when we got back to the motor home he was exhausted and went to bed. I took another tip into town. This time to Charlie Vergos Rendezvous Ribs. This restaurant is the most famous, and busy, in town on a Friday night. I got right in and set at the bar. I sampled their dry rubbed pork ribs with hot sauce on the side. I have eaten at so many good restaurants on this trip, it's hard to tell which one has the best food.

Off to more Blues on Beale. What a great time I had in Memphis.

SEGMENT 11--Branson, MO to Memphis, TN

Branson is a veritable senior citizen paradise. This time of year they come out in droves. If you were to come to Branson in the summer it would be packed with family's and kids. (I prefer the senior citizens). Branson is like a smaller, lower end Disneyland. There are water parks and amusement parks and mini golf and Ripley Believe it or not museum. The whole town is attraction after attraction.

I asked Grandpa to pick a show he would like to see and he picked Mo Bandy country music star. The theatre was grand, and grandpa got around in his scooter and we had 5th row tickets. Mo sand favorites such as Bandy the Rodeo Clown and Too Old to Die Young. All in all it was a nice show and we had a good time.

On our way to Memphis, TN, we drove Route 62, 412 through Mountain Home and Jonesboro, AR. Did you know...Interstate marker signs going North-South are odd numbers while Interstates going East-West are even numbered. (Interstate 80 and 40)? If the first digit of a three digit sign is even, it goes around the city, while the odd digit routes go into the city (Interstate 395).

Arriving in Memphis early afternoon, we headed straight for Neely's Interstate BBQ where he is famous for his BBQ pork sandwich and the BBQ spaghetti is really awesome.

Grandpas (Southern) Joke Corner:

There were three churches in Boone County Arkansas. The Presbyterian Church, The First Christian Church, and the Southern Baptist Church. Now each church had a small congregation, so the heads of the churches got together and decided they should consolidate the churches into one church.

The head of the Presbyterian Church said, "I think we should all be Presbyterian. We are one of the biggest and well know churches so I think we should call it Boone County Presbyterian Church."

That didn't go over too well, so the head of the First Christian Church said, "Well, I think we should all be First Christian Church of Boone County.  We are all Christians anyway, so I think it's a good idea."

Then the head of the Baptist church stood up and said, "I'm a Baptist. I was born Baptist, I was raised Baptist, and ain't nobody going to make a Christian out of me."

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

SEGMENT 10--Branson Bound

After reviewing my itinerary, Grandpa made a few suggestions of places I hadn't included. One of his suggestions was Branson, Missouri. He said it was a neat place with lots of things to see.

Being the redneck city girl that I am, much of my pre-conceived notions of this part of the country conjure up images of that crazy family on an airplane with bright yellow t-shirts that say Branson Bound from the movie "She's Out of My League".  Words like Ozarks and Arkansas bring to mind the movie "Deliverance" (Da Da Ding Ding Ding Ding Ding Ding Dinnnng), I'm a bit worried about heading to Branson, Missori.  But come to find out, "Deliverance" was set in Georgia, a long ways aways from here. No, no, no the "Beverly Hillbillies" were from the Ozarks. Oh Good Lord.

We use my Garmin GPS constantly for navigation for everything from Wal-Mart locations to the nearest RV Park. The voice guiding the way is female with an English accent so Grandpa said we should name "her". He said she sounded rather cheery and I wanted her to have an English sounding name, so we combined the two to create Rosie Beth. Navigating through the backwoods of Highway 125 she seemed to get a little confused, and Grandpa asked if I thought she had been drinking. I said, "Oh for sure. She has to be on something to be so calm when we take a wrong turn, and she says, ""recalculating"".

Letting Grandpa drive is just a liiitle bit scary. He is hell bent on using his cruise control even as we are bearing down on the back of a semi truck, and his new motor home has so much power he is not afraid to use it. He never puts on his seat belt until after we are already on the road, while he one-hands it and wrestles to get it clicked. He spends about 25% of his time driving on the rumble strip. Today, driving through a small town,  I gripped the grab bar tightly as I calmly said, "Grandpa the speed limit is 35." (He was going 65.) He responded "Oh, I was going at least 35."

All kidding aside, the drive to Branson on Highway 125 through the backwoods of the Ozark mountains was stunning. The foliage is just starting to turn fall colors of yellow,orange, red and green. The Ozarks aren't really mountains as much as they are rolling hills of trees, and farmlands with a church on every corner. There are so many churches, in fact, that I am not sure the population of these small towns is enough to fill the pews on Sunday morning. Farms throughout this area are well maintained with fresh paint and mowed lawns. The hills are speckled with huge rolls of hay randomly placed in open fields, like game pieces on a checker board. This is surprisingly a really lovely area of the country, and I am glad Rosie Beth took us on this route.

Tomorrow we get to see what Branson Missouri has to offer, and with great headliner shows as The Osmands, Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede, Mickey Gilley, Mo Bandy, and Ray Stevens how can we go wrong? Yipee!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

SEGMENT 9--Oklahoma City, OK

Grandpa and I spent the day in Oklahoma City. First we visited the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial. What can you really say about a memorial where a lot of people have died? Its sad. It compels you to reflect on life and how we should take every opportunity to experience it for all it has to offer. This trip with Grandpa is just such a trip, and I am grateful God has given me this opportunity.

The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum was wonderful. The building was big and modern, filled with collections of hats, spurs, saddles, guns, ropes, western wear, and memorabilia. They also included a section on the American Indian (Grandpa favorite) and the role they played in Western heritage. My favorite was the branding iron and barbed wire collection. Did you know there are over 1300 different types of barbed wire on display at this museum? It was fascinating to read and see the history and evolution of barbed wire and the role it plays in cowboy life.

They had a cowboy art display where artists and craftsmen made beautiful tooled leather saddles and silver bridles and bits, as well as intricately braided rawhide whips.

The rodeo section was impressive with explanations on each event, why rodeo is a great American pastime, and how it became such big business. They displayed many trophies of past winners and the all-around cowboy events.  The Cowboy Hall of Fame include such names as Roy Rodgers, Ross Perot, John Wayne, Chris Ledeux, Ronald Reagan, Trevor Brazile, Ty Murray and Cody Ohl.

This evening we went to dinner at the award winning Cattleman's Steakhouse, an Oklahoma tradition since 1910. I had the 12oz Ribeye with baked potatoe and Grandpa had the Catfish. Both were excellent and this restaraunt is a must-see if you visit Oklahoma City.

Monday, October 11, 2010

SEGMENT 8--Amarillo, TX to Oklahoma City, OK

Well, week one down. Sort of a take it easy day and football day. Small roadside attractions, but nothing to write home about. Tonight we sleep in Wal-Mart parking lot.

So the in's and out's of motorhome life. Grandpa recently had back surgery and is still recovering. He has limited mobility and uses a wheeled-walker to go short distances and a motorized scooter for longer distances. As long as i can keep him exercising every day he will be able to recover more quickly.

Getting used to the motor home and where everything was located took a few days. Grandpa had to teach me how to start the generator, set up his power inverter, connect to city water, and yes, how to dump the black water holding tanks.  Just the other day he taught me how to make a u-turn using a bootleg movement where you back up across the road first, and then you are clear to pull forward. Quick and easy.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

SEGMENT 7--Amarillo by Morning

YEEHAW TEXAS! So many songs, so many movies, TV shows, and oh yes COWBOYS!
This is the land of big blue sky, big food, and bigger hair. Amarillo is flat. There are no mountains around and there is tons of sky. Today there was not a cloud in the sky, blue everywhere. and the ladies dress up as if going out for the evening just to go to the grocery store. Hair, make-up, jewelry. Funny.

I almost missed this is the American Icon "Cadillac Ranch" as we were barreling along Highway 40. An ever changing viewer/participant art piece of 10 Cadillacs planted nose down in an Amarillo cow pasture.  The viewers/participants are encouraged to spray paint the cars with graffiti to create an ever-changing look the the art installation. You can find more fun facts and information about this and other roadside oddities at

Another Route 66 must-see is The Big Texan Steak Ranch. Home of the free 72oz steak. Featured on Travel Channel's Man vs. Food, you are challenged to eat this monstrous 4 1/2 pound steak and all the fixings in under an hour and it's free. Grandpa and I tried, but couldn't finish the whole thing in the allotted time, but they gave us a souvenir menu and place mat for our efforts.

Grandpas Joke Corner:

Charlie was driving down Highway 40 near Amarillo, TX when he came across a pig in the median. He felt like the pig was in harms way and needed rescue. Just as he pulled over, along came a Texas State Patrol Man and Charlie asked him what he should do with the pig.

"Well, you could take him to the zoo." the patrol man said.

The next day the patrolman saw Charlie at a Route 66 diner and asked, "So, how did it go at the zoo?"

Charlie said, "Oh, we had a great tie at the zoo. Tomorrow we are going to Disneyland."

Saturday, October 9, 2010

SEGMENT 6--Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta to Tucumcari,NM

Woke at 4:30 AM to hop on a shuttle bus to the Balloon Park from our spot at the RV parking lot across the street. This place is huge. Much more spectacular than the Balloon Races I remember seeing in Reno. There are 400 balloons at this year's event. There are balloon activities every morning including Dawn Patrol and Special Shapes Rodeo every evening for a week. And then they top it off with a fireworks show every night.

The weather was a bit uncoopoerative this morning, thunderstorms and light rain, so they canceled Dawn Patrol, but after the sun peaked the mountains, crews started to inflate balloons all over the grassy field. Grandpa had never been to anything like this before and in his scooter he was able to get right down to the action. We had a great time. With so many balloons it is hard to pick a favorite.

In the book 1000 Places to See Before You Die by Patricia Schultz, she reccommends seeing the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, and this event is well worth it. For mor information go to

On the way out of town, off Hwy 40 is a little place called TinkerTown. It's a  museum of miniature old western towns, store fronts, carnivals, and wood carvings. The owner and artist started this as a hobby and with interest from the public, he turned his home into a miniature museum. This place was well worth the stop and is a great testament to what folks can do in their spare time. He says "He built all this while we were watching TV."

SEGMENT 5--Winslow, AZ to Albuquerque, NM

There is something about driving along the Interstate, listening to the Eagles "Take it Easy",  and watching a chain of locomotives haul its endless string of assorted colored railcars down the track with the Arizona landscape of red rock plateaus rising out of the desert as the backdrop. This is profoundly America.

Heading into Holbrook, AZ on Historical Route 66 we checked out the Wigwam Motel. It reminds me of a scene straight out of the Disney movie "Cars". I think Lightning McQueen stayed the night in a place similar to this in the town of Radiator Springs. You can actually stay the night in one of these Wigwams and park your old 1954 Buick out front.

We also went to the Petrified Forest. Totally worth missing. Grandpa is a lifetime member of the National Parks Association which allows us to enter without paying the park fee. Totally worth it in my opinion. OK to skip Petrified Forest unless you're into rocks.

Arrived in Albuquerque. Looks similar to Reno. Stayed in the RV parking lot at the Balloon Fiesta. Need to get up early tomorrow for Dawn Patrol. :)

SEGMENT 4--Lake Havasu, AZ to Winslow, AZ

Leaving Lake Havasu City heading North to Kingman and then on to Flagstaff, AZ. We arrived in Flagstaff just hours after a series of freak tornado's had just passed through the area and were fortunate enough to get pictures of the aftermath. One tornado hit right along the highway. This is a picture of CamperWorld in Bellemont just outside of Flagstaff.

In preparing for my journey, I found a website which locates the restaurants on Food Networks' show "Diners, Drive-in's, and Dives".  In Flagstaff, along Route 66 we had lunch at Salsa Brava. Little Mexican Restaurant where I had Chimichanga Blanco and Grandpa had Cajun Shrimp Tacos. They also had a salsa bar.

Off to Meteor Crater near Winslow, AZ. Not really worth the $15 they charge to view the crater, but none the less it is a huge hole in the ground in an otherwise barren, flat landscape. Grandpa had never seen this crater before.

Stayed in a rest stop tonight.

Grandpas Joke Corner:

My Uncle Abner was a member of a church in Arkansas.  The church was having a meeting to decide what to do with some extra money they had collected. Abner rarely attended church 'cause he was a bit of a rebel, but he decided to go to this special meeting to see what was up.

Some one in the congregation suggested they buy a chandelier for the church with the money. The room started buzzing in agreement.  

Uncle Abner, being the rebel he was, stood up and said, " Now just wait a minute, I don't think we need a chandelier for the church. First of all half of this congregation doesn't even know what a chandelier is... and the other half can't even spell "chandelier". What we need in this church are some lights."

Thursday, October 7, 2010

SEGMENT 3--Hoover Dam to Lake Havasu City, AZ

Leaving our small casino parking lot, we were just a short drive to Hoover Dam. After inspection of the rig at security check point, we proceeded down the narrow two lane road. "WOW!" is all I kept saying as we drove down the canyon and viewed the spectacle that is Hoover Dam. You've seen it on TV, but there is nothing like seeing it in person. All the power lines criss crossing everywhere, the enormity of that wall and even a hotel casino. It is truly amazing.  As we made our way down the canyon you could see the enormous new 4-lane bridge they have built over the Colorado River that is set to open next month. We were able to drive over the Dam  to Arizona and park. Grandpa stayed behind while I walked back across admiring the views and the architecture. The MASSIVE amount of concrete. And to build this thing in the 30's without use of modern construction equipment. Incredible.

We then headed back across the Dam to Boulder City and tried to find the hotel that my dad owned when I was a kid. Grandpa said it was The Boulder Inn, so we took a picture. But mom later said it was the Boulder Hotel....Oh well.

We headed down South toward Lake Havasu City. We passed through Searchlight, NV where the famous Senator Harry Reid is from and then to Laughlin, NV where the casinos are lined up along the banks of the Colorado River.

Colorado River Adventures RV park in Lake Havasu City is one of those parks my Grandpa is a member of. After making some final repairs and adjustments to the RV we stopped by the infamous London Bridge for a photo op. Check.

Lake Havasu City is a recreationer's dream. There are boat shops, and jet ski rentals on every corner, and it seems as though street legal gas powered ATV Golf Carts are the way to get around town.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Segment 2--Death Valley, CA to Henderson, NV

We pulled in to Death Valley at the Stovepipe Sand Dunes around 9 AM.  The air was HOT. I know, I know, "Come on, it's Death Valley." Death Valley sits in between  two mountain ranges and there is an area of it called  Badwater that sits 282 feet below sea level. Traveled to the museum and checked out the golf course at Furnace Creek.  Then on to Zabriskie Point just as all the tour busses were arriving at the park.
We headed out of the park and took the short route to Pahrump, NV where we had lunch at Terrible's and hit Wal-Mart for some remaining supplies. We stayed the night in the parking lot of a small casino just outside of Henderson, NV.

Grandpa's Joke Corner:

Two old guys are sitting at the bar. The first old guy tells his friend, "I went to go see the doctor the other day and I was complaining about aches and pains. And the doctor told me to take one of these pills every day for the rest of your life, and you should start to see some improvement."

Second old guy says, "Well, Dale that doesn't sound too bad of a deal."

First old guy says, "I know Charlie, but he only gave me ten pills."

Monday, October 4, 2010

SEGMENT 1--Gardnerville, NV to Lone Pine,CA

I arrived at Grandpa's house after purchasing some essentials at Costco right on schedule. He had the 30' SunSeeker motor home loaded, fueled, gassed and ready to go. All I had to do was load my bags and groceries, but before I could take a look around and get settled in, he jumped in the drivers seat, and started her up. "I'll drive the first leg, and then you can take over from there."

My 87 year old Grandfather has been looking forward to this trip for six months. After Grandma died he replaced his old motor home with this newer, fancier version. He knows motor homes and has "traveled to every state in the union, and 36 foreign countries". It's no wonder where I get the travel bug from.

I am armed with internet, computer, wireless internet card, travel websites, blogs, I-pod, I-Tunes, GPS, cell phone, digital camera, Flip video, and you tube.

Grandpa has a road atlas.

Grandpa has a CD player though and a collection of country favorites. Our first CD he popped in was a classic little number by Loretta Lynn. I couldn't help smiling and thinking what my friends back home would think. I was surprised to see his CD collection also includes Toby Keith and John Michael Montgomery.

We both go to bed early and wake up early . We both like coffee and cocktail hour.