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Austin Bound!

Hi All, when last we visited, Daniel, Xan and I were frantically trying to get out of Kansas and away from the storms. We made it successfully into Texas and had stopped in exhaustion at a rest stop off the side of the road. We woke-up refreshed only to find out that we had stopped at what is most probably the most disgusting rest stop in the entire state of Texas. There was more garbage than earth visible and looked like we had parked next to a landfill. ACK! We also discovered that we had a low front tire in the rig. The Adventures-Never-Stop when you live in a moving house!

I have become very ‘Zen’ about life when such things happen. Turns out we are always OK; help is just around the corner. Sure enough, we discovered we were only 4 miles away from Canadian, Texas. It was Memorial Day Weekend and I was concerned that everything would be closed, but kept the faith that the Universe always provides. It might challenge you as it does so, but it always provides.

We rapidly discovered that the town of Canadian cut their air pressure lines for some reason a couple years ago. There is not an air hose in the entire town unless it is in a tire or an automotive shop. Weird! Every little town has its idiosyncrasies though and you just have to roll with them. Since it was Sunday of Memorial Weekend, everything was of course – closed. Having exhausted our ability to find a place where we could put air in our tire, we decided to get some breakfast and call roadside assistance when we were done. We were starving and quickly found a place to eat. Close to the entrance of town, Canadian Restaurant was selected. A nice place, right on 2nd, locally owned and operated. They were kind enough to serve us a nice home-cooked breakfast even though they were switching over to lunch. After a delicious breakfast, I was talking to the owner while we were cashing out. I explained what happened and what we were looking for. She said, “Well, let me call my brother-in-law. He has a shop here, he should be able to help you.” Sure enough, he met us at his shop which was only a block away (visible from Canadian Restaurant). Canadian Auto Repair is the name of his business. I could have sworn I got a business card but for the life of me, I can’t find it and can’t remember this wonderful gentleman’s name. Suffice it to say, he was our hero for interrupting his holiday, opening up his shop and filling our tire so we could get on the road. See?! The universe always provides.  🙂 And if you are ever in Canadian, Texas, swing by and have a meal at Canadian Restaurant. Need your vehicle worked on? Call Canadian Auto Repair and let them know we said “Hi!”.

The rest of our drive down to Austin was thankfully event free.

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Beautiful weather and smooth driving.

We ended up getting to Austin pretty late. That just seems to be the way we roll. We discovered the RV park where we had reservations only had 2 toilets/showers for 164 slots and we were about as far away from the restrooms as you could possibly be. Obviously that was not going to work so we spent our first night in the Austin area camped out at the closest rest stop with all the semi’s. There was a nice breeze blowing, so even though we didn’t have power, we had a nice night of sleep.

The next day we explored our options for staying a week. We ended up staying at the KOA Leander campground. It was just the treat we needed. They put us close to the restrooms, there was a sea-water pool and hot-tub, nice laundry rooms, restrooms, playground, outdoor meeting area, fire pit and a great dog run! We drove up, parked and relaxed. We got to visit with our adult kids, visit our niece and her family, and best of all – got to steal our granddaughter for several days!

Abby COllage

I didn’t get a picture of Meg (our daughter) but did of Sean.

 

96bdfdd4-2064-49e2-927c-96d7dd3be5e4  My boys both have wild curly hair. LOL!

Turns out that tire that was low back in Canadian, needed to be replaced after all. Two new tires later (thank you Meghan!) we were on the road, this time headed to Tulsa, OK so I could attend the Usborne Books & More convention. Did I mention I am a rep? I LOVE BOOKS!  More about that on our Tulsa, OK post.


Route Information: Ogallala, NE to Austin, TX

I need to be better about posting our route information for those RVers following us.

From Ogallala, NE we took the following route through Nebraska to Austin, TX

  • NE State Hwy 61 South out of Ogallala, NE to the Kansas border
  • NE State Hwy 61 becomes KS State Hwy 161 and terminates on US 36. We took US-36 East to KS State Hwy 25 South.
  • KS State Hwy 25 hits US-40 which we took East to Oakley which of course is where we had our RV break and then camped for the night and the tornado, etc., etc., etc.
  • After our brief stint down I-70 East to get the RV repaired at Grainfield, KS we started heading South again on US-83.
  • US-83 joins with US-160 and both continue South until US-160 deviates East. We continued on US-83 through Liberal to the OK boarder.
  • In OK, US-83 joins with US-270 for a short time until US-270 heads due East. We continued on US-83 all the way through OK to TX.
  • Texas is a bit more tricky. There are many FM roads that I don’t think I recorded. I can tell you we followed US-83/US-62 until we hit US-277. There were some FM roads here that got us over to US-183 which took us all the way to Georgetown and Leander which is the area where we camped.

There ya go! I will post details about our Texas trip tomorrow. For now, night and safe travel!


There’s no place like Kansas…

Sometimes I think my life is a book that is being written by some balding guy in a dark smokey room somewhere. Events happen and I look back and see how perhaps if I looked at things just a bit more distantly, I would see the foreshadowing. Every good book has foreshadowing.

A few days before we left Ogallala, NE we introduced the movie, ‘The Wizard of Oz’ to Xander. It took us two days to watch it – I always forget how long it is. Anyway, Xander loved it! FORESHADOWING! We decided to head South first before heading North. I am an Usborne Books & More representative and am attending the convention this year in Tulsa, OK. I had planned on flying in but we were already halfway there. Why not just drive down, camp out and then head North? I called my friend who will be hosting us while we do this crazy remodel and she was cool with the delay so we made the decision. South we go! It saved the cost of a last minute airline ticket and my hotel costs. Plus, since we had time to kill before the convention, we could visit our adult kids in Austin! SCORE!

Our day of departure was a bit soggy. The rain had come back. Nothing serious, but annoying when you are trying to pack things up. I think it is part of that rule book.

  • 1 – If you wash your car, it will rain.
  • 2 – If you go camping, you will put your tent up in the rain.
  • 3 – When you break down your tent, it will rain.

etc, etc, etc…

I was trying to do laundry before our check-out time so had gotten up at what I consider the crack of dawn (around 8) and run out to get started. We only had two loads so I wasn’t worried about it, the park has two machines. Well, the machines were much smaller than I was anticipating so my two loads became four. Of course the last load I washed were the sheets, so I was chomping at the bit for the dryer to complete so we could leave. Daniel ended up getting distracted be the extra time he had and started fidgeting. Never a good thing. Here I was, pushing for us to get on the road and Daniel hadn’t made the cab ready to move and was, in my eyes at least – fidgeting. My brain was exploding. “Let’s Go!” I kept saying. Then he got frustrated because of course what he was doing was important and necessary, it just wasn’t what I wanted him to be doing. Xander had been told to go get in his seat so many times, he was just tuning us out and playing so that drove me crazy. Needless to say, it was not a smooth departure. Finally, we waived good-bye to our new friends and got on the road. I think it was something like 1.

All was well. I had our route planned out, our reservations made and new exactly where we were going. Between puppy potty stops and kid movement stops we were making no time. I was just hoping to get to our RV park before dark at that point. We were leaving Oakley, KS when I noticed Daniel had pulled over in the rig. “I felt something ‘POP'” he said, “We need to find someplace to stop so I can check it out. Is there an open autoparts store around here?”

AAAAHHHHH!!!!!!!

Here we were, driving in rural Kansas on Memorial Weekend and it’s after 6. My response was something like, “Uuuuhhh, no.” DUH! There was a campground sign I had noticed a mile or so back and after verifying that at least there were a few auto shops in town, we limped to the RV Park I had found and paid for the night. Our friend the Internet said that some of the shops would be open the next day so we crossed our fingers and got settled.

The woman who took my call when I asked if they had space for us was a very matter-of-fact people. Didn’t sound like she took any nonsense. I was as specific as I could be in answering her questions. “Do you have RV spaces?” I asked?

“We are a campground aren’t we?” was her reply.

“Not all campgrounds accept, RV’s but I am happy to hear that you do! Do you have space for a 28′ Minnie Winnie for tonight?” I asked?

“How many toads?” she asked, RV lingo for are you towing anything.

“None.” was my reply. We don’t, we aren’t towing anything. RV’s with a tow need a longer slip or sometimes a pull-through spot. We get into more places because we are small and don’t need a pull-through. We can back in if needed.

When we got to the park, she saw the van and said dryly, “I thought you said ‘No Toads!’.”

“We don’t. I drive the van.”

“So that’s 2 vehicles then!”

“Uhhh, ya.”

She went on to explain the particulars of the park, of which there were many. This looks like a lot of fun to stay a while – no really! I am being serious! The store has over 700 DVD’s you can borrow for free and was well stocked. There is a big dog park, a great view of green grassy fields and pretty impressive sky, a hot tub, horse-shoes, a pizza place, a pub, and more features I am forgetting. One of the important things she informed me about was the following, “If at any time, we are experiencing a storm and you don’t feel safe, go to the Men’s Room. If you have dogs that you are bringing with you, you go into the Women’s Room.”

FORESHADOWING!

We went over to the pub for dinner. Jack’s Pub serves just about everything and it’s all made on-site from scratch. The prices are super reasonable and the food was great! Nice staff and Jack himself stopped by to see how things were. They import blue crap and fresh caught fish from the Atlantic. Jack prepares the fish and ships it to Denver to specific restaurants. There is escargot from a specialty farm in France, and you can have a burger that is angus, Kobe beef, elk or buffalo! Of course they also have basic stuff as well – all handmade onsite. Pretty cool! The waitress was telling us about how they had a tornado warning the night before. “It was pretty exciting!” she said. “We all had to go to the shelter.”

We had a wonderful dinner and left for the rig in high spirits. We felt like if nothing else, we had an awesome place to spend some time if the repairs to Winnie were intensive. The town looked large enough that we would be able to find the parts we needed and a service place. We got Xanman ready for bed as the storm started and went through our regular routine. The wind started really picking up and were prepped to enjoy a nice storm.

By the time the wind really started, I was in my nightgown and in bed with Xander. The RV was rocking so violently I looked at Daniel and asked him if our rig was heavy enough to stay upright. Right after I asked that, we noticed that the people in the RV next to us were heading for the bathrooms. Then the hail started. Daniel had pulled up the radar on his phone and stated flatly, “We need to get out of here.” Then the hail started.

I have NEVER heard such hail, and I’m from Colorado where hail damage is a normal part of living there. It sounded like we were being shot at. A barrage of unrelenting shots hitting the RV from all angles. Xander’s hands were covering his ears and he looked at me wondering if he should be really scared. I was getting out of bed and pulling him down to me. Daniel was getting the dogs hooked up. We were yelling at each other because there was no other way to be heard in the noise. We grabbed whatever jackets were close and opened the door. The dogs did not want to leave the rig and had to be pushed out the door. I pulled Xan as close to my body as I could and lifted a hand to protect my face, shielding his with my body and coat, pushing the dogs in front of me. Instantly we were drenched with the rain pouring down, hail battering at every exposed part of the body. We ran. We made it safely to the women’s room, the rest of the park’s patrons safely ensconced in the men’s room. We went to the deepest part of the bathroom and huddled taking a moment to gather our thoughts and wonder what was next. We were soaking wet, dripping onto the tile floor. Turns out I did a pretty good job of protecting Xander, only his pants and shoes were wet. His head and body were dry – ‘Mommy Shield to the Rescue!’ We found chairs and pulled them close. It wasn’t until we had been sitting a while that the shivers started and the processing began. Daniel was glued to his phone watching as the storm intensified. “It’s tornadic.” he said quietly. We stayed gathered together, the pups at our feet and listened to the storm. After a while, the sound seemed to calm. Daniel announced he would go ‘next-door’ to the men’s room and see what was up with the other campers. He came back shortly saying we needed to stay put. The tornado warning was still in effect. He made a quick and reckless run to the RV to fetch a blanket. The rain was not as heavy he reported. More like a normal storm would be. We stripped the little guy and turned him into boy burrito. I snuggled into my coat and tried to squeeze as much as the water out of my nightgown. Xander and I had long since taken off our shoes. They were so full of water, they squished with every movement. I got paper towels and wiped off the pups and dried them as well as I was able. Then went to work on drying the floor some. We had puddles everywhere from when we ran in. Then we waited. Daniel giving periodic updates from his phone, Xander and I telling stories and talking. Anything to keep him feeling as safe and secure as possible under the circumstances. I joked with him that he would have some major street cred with is friends after this storm, and a pretty awesome story to tell. But mostly, we snuggled. We were ready to head back to the rig when we were informed another two storm cells were headed our way so we should sit tight. OK.

At 3:00am, we finally went back out to the RV. We discovered a nice waterfall in the center dripping on our brand new floor. Daniels ceiling patch held but water was coming in from somewhere on the roof. Honestly I was not surprised. That hail was so incredible, I was expecting the entire roof to be Swiss cheese. We found buckets to put under the leaks for the rest of the morning (Well, at least where the leaks were dripping), wiped up the water off the floor, got dry clothes on and went to sleep. Check out time was at 11 after all.

The next dawned with a dramatic overcast sky. Just enough sun peeking through to give drama to the clouds. The wind was still blowing but nothing like the night before. We walked around Winnie and Princess to inspect any damage. Princess appeared to be OK but now has these weird spots where somehow the paint was lifted off. You can see the paint kinda sagging below these spots and then nothing (no paint) in the center. Winnie’s damage assessment would have to wait until we could find a ladder and get to the roof. One of the owners told Daniel that all the paint had been stripped from the back exterior wall of Jack’s Pub. Said it looked like it had been sand blasted….

We took off and got the parts we thought we needed for the engine and were directed to a mechanic that everyone raved about. We drove to his shop only to discover that the shop was closed for the weekend because of the holiday. We were told there was a shop that is always open, holiday or not but it was about 10 miles away. We had no choice – we went.

Turns out the shop was in Grainfield, KS. A nice little town that likes to keep things simple. There is one bank, appropriately named ‘Bank’, a small market, a post office, a VFW hall, a few shops (all closed of course) and Jack’s Auto Repair and Tow/NAPA Auto. Jack told us he could fit us in later that day so honestly, I napped in the van. Daniel and Xan were probably doing the same in the rig. We were exhausted. When it was time for the repair, I went into the shop to ask if they had a restroom I could use. “Nope, out here in the country, we go outside.” said the woman behind the counter dryly. Sleep exhaustion had me looking at her stupidly trying to make sense of her words.

Her co-worker seeing my face busted out laughing, “She’s only kidding, it’s back here.” He went off still chuckling and shaking his head while I stared after him not sure if I should move or not.

“Do I follow?” I asked?

She was not done teasing me, as she responded, “No.” Then seeing my face try to process this answer, started laughing herself. “Yes! Yes! Come-on back here. You go through that door and it’s on the right.” She all but pushed me towards the room, which at that point I wasn’t sure I wanted to use. I was too tired for humor and would probably burst out into tears if there was another practical joke in store for me. Turns out all was good. It was just a restroom.

We never sit around when we have time to spend in a place. You won’t see us hanging out in waiting rooms, or twiddling our thumbs on a bench. We took off to explore. We found a wonderful festival going on. The annual BBQ & Pulled Pork contest. There was music, food vendors you could vote for, a kiddie train to ride, photo ops, bag toss games set up and even horseshoes. This park also boasted one of the best equipt playgrounds I have seen. This was awesome! The train was free so once Xander found out, he happily hopped on and settled himself to ride as long as the driver would let him. This train was hysterical! The driver simply kept driving following the instructions of the kids or any parent who walked by. Kids were draped everywhere. Sitting on the edges, in-between the cars, hopping on and off as whim dictated. Dirty smiling faces from melting snow cones looked happily at one another and the world around them. It was awesome! “SPIN! SPIN!” the kids were cry – the driver would head over to the basketball court where they players would just move aside, no questions asked while the train gently spun to the squeals of delighted children. Through the park, in-between the trees, around the playground went the train stopping and starting at the direction of the kids. “Stop! I dropped my shoe!” was one cry and the driver obligingly stopped so the little girl could hop off to get her flip-flop and then hop back on. Xander was in heaven.

Daniel walking around in his kilt made quite the impression. You can imagine not many residents in this small town have seen a man wearing a Utilikilt. Of course I had to get him a t-shirt boasting this years theme for the event. “I like Pig Butts!” with of course a pig bottom filling the body of the shirt. And of course, we had to take a picture with the most intimidating looking hotdog I have ever seen.IMG_6566

Jack was able to get the rig fixed-up by the end of the day. He also checked our tire inflation and installed a new tire stem for one of the duallys that was slowly loosing air. His prices were beyond reasonable and the town and people were great! He even let Daniel borrow a ladder so he could check out the hail damage on the roof. Some history: when we first bought the rig, there was a rack up there. We took it off when we remodeled the first time which left screw holes in the sections of the roof that we didn’t replace. We put flashing tape over those holes to keep the roof water safe. That tape has lasted through 6 Tucson summers and monsoons, and 2 years of storms in Colorado Springs. The hail chewed through it like cotton candy. Just shredded it. Hence the waterfall inside. Daniel went up there with more tape. Not much else we can do at this point. We are headed North to replace the roof so anything more extensive is just a waste. Hopefully we won’t run into any more tornadoes.

We got on the road late – after 5 and our sole goal was to get the heck out of Kansas and into Texas. Of course we ran into more storms. In Liberal, KS we had to stop and wait for the storms ahead of us to clear. The wind was getting strong enough that it wasn’t really safe to drive the rig. Nothing like the night before but better safe than sorry! We got some dinner and hung out until Daniel gave that all clear according to radar. We headed out of town and after a few miles noticed an emergency vehicle ahead with it’s lights flashing. Wondering what was up we approached slowly. Mind you, it’s pitch black outside. Late at night and overcast with thick storm clouds. We didn’t really have that far to go but keep having to pull over because of wind and storm activity ahead of us. This short drive was taking forever! Lightening was flashing all around us in the distance and we just wanted to be out of Kansas already and to our stop. The camp was already paid for – we just needed to get to it. Turns out the emergency vehicle was there empty. Our side of the highway was covered in water with no way to see how deep. We had to wait for clear spots in on-coming traffic to go around. Finally, about an hour from our destination for the night, we had to stop. We were so tired. Fortunately Texas has 9 million ‘rest’ stops. They don’t have any amenities but they are spaces for you to pull over and at least get some rest.

Pull over we did. We walked the dogs, and went to bed.

Needless to say Kansas was exciting. They say peak tornado season is from May to July. Of course we had to cross during peak season! Note to self, stay away from tornado alley! I am including some of the pictures from Daniel’s iphone with the storm alerts. Pretty intense! Headed to bed for now but will continue our journey later! Take care!


Central NE! Lake McCanoughy & More!

We spent a wonderful week in Ogallala, NE. After we left my dad’s house, we decided that we needed to take some time to vet our new/old home. Thus far we had been primarily living in peoples houses, or at least having the homes close-by as fail safe. We hadn’t actually ‘lived’ in the RV since we left Colorado Springs. It was time we bit-the-bullet and really moved in. We decided we would go check out Lake McCanoughy in central NE for a while.

The RV Camp we found to stay at was Country View RV Park. It wasn’t right on the lake (Ogallala is where the amazing Lake McCanoughy is) but, it does have Internet which since Daniel works from home is very necessary. It’s a fairly small park with amazing reviews on the web. At first, I wasn’t terribly excited about the place. The views aren’t great. A power substation on one side, and then fields everywhere else with a highway about a block away. However, this park was awesome. Right away it felt like home. The owner is out and about and truly loves and cares for his park. Everyone is looked out for. There is a playground for the kids, a nice restroom/shower facility that is clean and stocked and checked frequently! There is a pool on-site and some barbecue grills you can use if you don’t have your own. The employees are friendly and the feeling of safety just permeates the property. Xanman felt comfortable running to the playground on his own and I felt comfortable letting him do it. Other kids were there, as well as some solo old-timers hanging out. There is a simple store selling camping supplies as well as interesting knickknacks. We were able to refresh our water bottles from a reverse osmosis filtered water spigot in the laundry room. Like I said, this park was amazing and a perfect safe place for us to test out our full-timer status. Plus it is perfectly situated to get into town, head to the lake or get back on the Interstate.

When you haven’t really lived someplace, you don’t know how things are going to work. How would we cook? Is it going to be a major pain because we don’t have a kitchen or a bathroom or will we be able to work around these things fairly simply? How will we live? The basics. In this week we organized and then organized some more. We added a table, sorted through boxes we still had about, I reorganized the bookshelves so that we could better access the books we needed for homeschooling and got more room by organizing the other bookcases left over from the original RV remodel. Finally it felt like everything had a place and the amount of things we needed to reorganize for moving the rig was minimized. We had living space. A sort-of routine started and Daniel was able to get some actual work done for his real paying job. Feeling more confident with our living situation, we decided to venture out to see this Lake we had heard so much about but hadn’t yet seen.

Lake McCanoughy is really cool. For the first four days we were at Ogallala, it was pretty much non-stop rain. It was cold and pretty damp. That didn’t daunt us though. Xander is well prepared with two sets of galoshes and a nice rain coat. Daniel and I, while not as well equipt, are prepared to handle a bit of rain easily. Off we went! We decided to navigate the old fashioned way and just explore. Follow our noses so to speak. We headed generally west following the signs directing us to the lake. We hit a highway and decided to go straight across instead of turning towards one campground or another. We ended up in a small community, very hoity-toity sounding. We ventured in thinking we might find a neat private lake access point. The gravel roads were so bad in this community, we turned around. LOL – guess all the community money went to their private driveways and houses and not the main access road. Just before the community, we found a dirt road directing us to public access to the lake. Ironically this one was well packed and fairly easy to get down. I mentioned earlier that it had been raining a lot so everything was pretty wet. I had a bit of anxiety in getting stuck in some thick mud in our van but Daniel assured me we have good tires and it wouldn’t be a problem….’Okaaaayyyy…’ – LOL! Sure enough, the road was packed enough that wet or not, we got down and up fine and were able to park. No-one else was crazy enough to venture out in the cold, cold weather so we had the beach to ourselves. The doggies were let out to run and they were in heaven. AnnaBelle has a nice thick coat. She is a total water dog and immediately jumped into the lake to frolic. Gelert is 14 and has no such protection. He steered clear of the water after an initial test. Xander had fun rock-hopping, and chasing the dogs. We all got to enjoy this seemingly endless lake. We couldn’t see the other side, the clouds were so low so we had no idea how big or small this lake was. For all we knew, this was the amazing beach written about online. I got some amazing photos that day though – rain or not!

We made regular visits to the Lake going to the main state park entrance as well as our new ‘private’ beach. We checked out different routes until we found our favorite spot – No Name Bay; and one morning we were there, it was actually sleeting! We were freezing and yes, we were the only ones out there. Later that afternoon, the sun finally came out so we rushed back to the lake! These pictures were taken the same day – morning and late afternoon. Quite the change and we could finally see the other side of the lake. Unfortunately as you can see, there is a bit of plastic floating about. Each time we went, whether it was to our small private beach or to No Name Bay, we hauled out plastic garbage bags, cans, glass bottles, and whatever else we found. Please, if you go to a lake, or river or ANYWHERE – don’t just throw your garbage out. The people behind you don’t want to see it, and the items you toss casually are seriously impacting wildlife. DON’T DO IT!

We checked out the visitor center which has some cool displays on how the dam was built. Some random facts about Lake McCanoughy: Did you know that it is the largest reservoir in Nebraska? At full storage, McConaughy is 20 miles long, four miles wide and 142 feet deep at the dam. The dam is among the largest of its type in the world, and the fish grow to trophy proportions, accounting for several state records. They list the records in the visitors center. The construction of the dam was unique in how they chose to build it. Instead of using trucks to move the earth, they created a slurry. Using the earth they were removing, they mixed it with water and pumped it along the length of the dam literally ‘creating’ the dam. Pretty cool stuff! The soil enough was not enough to hold the dam so they had to import rocks from Wyoming and stabilize the earth. Voila! Now you have an incredible earth dam! At the time of construction (between 1936 and 1941) it was the second largest earthen dam in the world. If you go there, definitely check out the visitors center.

There is more to do around Ogallala than just the lake if fishing, boating, swimming, hiking, camping and such don’t appeal to you. Did you know that Ogallala was the meeting point of three amazing trails?

  • The Great Western Cattle Trail
  • The Oregon Trail
  • and for a brief time, the Pony Express Route

How cool is that!? There are brochures talking about Tri-Trails Park. Interestingly enough, there isn’t very much on the flyer. I was hoping for an elaborate display. A large trail system allowing you to walk a quarter mile or so of each trail with interesting displays, anecdotes from the cowboys driving the cattle by day and chatting over the campfire by night, and stories about the terrific exploits of those brave young pony express riders. We went to the park hoping for a nice afternoon activity and all I can say is, at least the trails are marked. Instead of a large trail system, what you have is a small rectangular park with a post for each trail. That’s it. Xander was able to run it’s length in 13 seconds and it’s width in 8 seconds just to give you an idea. They could do so much more with this!

Ogallala was known as a bit of a rough and tumble place with shoot-outs and bad guys. Apparently they had some trouble getting any reputable law enforcement to work out there for some time. Ogallala has made ‘Boot Hill’ a nice area to visit. This is where they buried people with no local family who wanted them in the cemetery, or people who were unclaimed or unknown. They have a really nice write-up at the bottom of Boot Hill by the stairs so make sure to stop and grab a brochure. I was up on the hill taking pictures and when I looked at the brochure I discovered all the info I needed from the plaques up top were there. Please stay on the trail and keep your pets managed if you visit. Remember, you are stepping on someone’s remains. Many of them have no marking so you never know who you might disturb!

They also have a re-enactment of one of their more famous shootouts. They say this is a family event so you should be pretty safe to take your kids. They have a saloon, a jail, a blacksmith shop and some other stuff. We were driving around and saw the building mock-ups. We pulled over just in time to see the cast come out and rehearse being shot. It was interesting and macabre at the same time AND we didn’t have to pay to see it. LOL – check it out. Looks like a bunch of fun!


I think “Don’t Sqaut with Spurs On!” might become my new catch phrase!

If you don’t mind a drive, check out Ash Hollow. This was one of the last stops for a while for those headed West on the Oregon Trail. If you want to see actual wagon ruts, and get a glimpse of history – go see it. One of the locals at the RV camp told me about this place when I voiced my frustration over the Tri-Trails Park. It was well worth the 30 minute drive AND we discovered a wonderful farm/shop we never would have found if we hadn’t gone.

There are two sections of Ash Hollow. The main state park where there is a nature center, a schoolhouse, a cave tour and a lovely area for a picnic. There are hiking trails throughout as well, so a nice place to easily spend the day. Then there is an off the road area where the majority of the Oregon Trail info is. BE PREPARED TO HIKE! No worries, its not like you will be going miles, but it IS a fairly steep trail. I was trying to get Xander to imaging trying to push a full wagon with straining oxen up the hill. He is 7, so old enough that he would have been working with his dad and the other menfolk. I tried to describe the cracking of the whip as the oxen were urged up the hill. The fear that would have been palpable if that wagon got loose. The heat and the sweat and the driving determination that pushed these people west in search of a better life. The idea that ALL your worldly belongings plus food and water for at least a month if not more would be in that wagon. No luxury items would have been brought. There was no room. He could sort-of get that, I mean we do live in an RV, but I don’t think he understood the overall picture. After all, in a time of space ships and tablets, it it a bit hard to imagine oxen and wagons. At the top of Windlass Hill, you can see the ruts the wagon wheels left in the earth both approaching the hills and as they left, slowly climbing them. At one point, the wagon wheels eroded the hillside to such a degree that they literally changed the landscape creating a ravine where rolling hillside used to exist. Looking at the landscape, knowing what was ahead of them as they journeyed ever Westward, I was in awe at the level of determination these people had. To leave everything they knew with nothing but hope to drive them on. What grit. What strength! What incredible conviction! Was it their only hope, life being too hard in the civilized East to make a living? Did their spirit simply strive for something more? Something wild? Adventure? Was it the need to create something; a legacy perhaps for their family that drove them forward? What about the people already there, did they think about that or were they just assured the redskins were savages? Animals that should be shot on sight? Whatever their thoughts, we can be assured of one thing. Our ancestors were seriously tough! Ash Hollow was one of the last places the emigrants could fill up on fresh spring water for a while. By the time they reached here, they had been travelling for about two months. They had to cross some major rivers to get here and more were still ahead. The river crossings were so dangerous, most of the deaths occurring on the trail were from the river crossings themselves. Not from the Indians, starvation, dehydration or other maladies that occurred on the trip.

The main section of Ash Hollow State Park goes into more of the geological particulars of the area, as well as some important archaeological discoveries made here. The visitors center was closed when we got there – it was scheduled to open three days later, so we just walked around outside. There are period re-enactments at the Visitor Center and out at the Windlass Hill site so if you are planning to be at the lake this summer, make sure to check out their calendar!
Ash Hollow State Park Calendar

On our way back from Ash Hollow, we discovered an alpaca farm. Yup. In the middle of no-where Nebraska. We drove into the wide drive and were welcomed by one of the farmers. His wife is the one who owns the alpaca’s and she was supervising the sheering. Did we want to see? YAH! We tumbled out the car and he walked us over to where they had the alpaca’s of all colors being carefully tied down so they could be shorn. Many videos of sheep sheering shows bleeding sheep. These guys were amazing, careful and smooth! Not one nick, or crying alpaca. We learned that the alpaca’s are shorn bottom of the belly up as that is the best fiber (we also learned it’s not hair or fur but fiber. Good to know!). Once they have shorn the highest quality fiber off the alpaca, the remaining fiber is shorn. The face is never touched. Alpaca’s are normally shorn mid-Spring but this year the cold has been persistent so the sheering was taking place a bit later than normal. Farmers from several hours away had brought their alpacas to be shorn are well. This is fairly normal. One farmer generally doesn’t have enough animals to bring in the sheering people themselves. So they will put out the info they are bringing a team in. Generally several farmers will chip in and bring their animals. There is only so long you can watch alpaca sheering if you are not personally involved. Laurie (the alpaca owner) suggested we go and look at the baby alpacas that had been born two days previous. Of course we said yes, and Darryl took us down to the pasture.

BABIES! Oh my gosh, pretty much anything as a baby is cute and alpacas are no exception. Xander loved looking at them but they weren’t really open to being petted that day. Fortunately there was a giant mound of dirt which of course he had to play on. While Xander happily ran up and down the dirt pile, Darryl and I got to chat about all kinds of things. He is super proud of his wife and shared that all the animals are hers. He takes care of the fields and the farm in general. Like most farmers these days, he rents his land. He doesn’t own it. We talked about so many things and I found him to be a wonderful conversationalist. Interesting, intelligent, honest, engaging and deeply in love with his land, his family and his farm. I felt so blessed to have found this farm and be given this time to just make a connection. Who knows if he will remember Xander and I years to come, but I think I will certainly remember him. We got to see goats (who did let Xander pet them), the alpacas, chickens and the sheep. Laurie has a nice alpaca shop on-site. I loved it! You walk in from this dusty well loved working farm to a lovely boutique. It smells wonderful (she makes her own goats milk soaps and creams) and there is pretty stuff everywhere. It was such a nice surprise to walk into. I couldn’t contain my squeal of delight and just walked around for a few seconds taking everything in. Everything there is alpaca. Not all of it from their farm. Laurie explained that she sends the fiber into the Alpca Exchange (Laurie please post of I have the name wrong). The Alpaca Exchange gathers the fiber from alpaca farmers all over the country. They fiber is cleaned and processed and things made. Yarns, sweaters, scarves, socks, hats, etc. They also import fair trade garments made of alpaca fiber from Peru. She has some scarves there that I am lusting over. At the time we had like two dollars to our name so I couldn’t really get anything but some lip balm but oh what lip balm! If you have a chance, stop by the Alpaca Shack. 2450 RD 207, Big Springs, NE 69122. (308) 778-6300 Tell her Paula and Xander say, “Hi!” She doesn’t have a website, you’ll just have to go on an adventure to find the farm! It is clearly posted as the Alpaca Shack. If you are lucky, she or Darryl will take you back to see the animals!

A nice little nature park in Ogallala looks like the nature park time forgot. The grass was overgrown and the trail was a bit wild looking. It made it a lot of fun to explore! Right off the highway, maybe a mile from the Country View RV Park lies the Ogallala Nature Park. This little gem of a park features a nice arboretum, an outdoor classroom, river access (walking only), bat houses, wild flowers and, well, nature! The grass was almost as tall as Xander! There were benches placed periodically throughout the trails so you could sit and ponder for a bit. We followed a trail that took us through the woods to the river and found two downed trees with beaver teeth markings in them. We saw the beaver burrow behind us. We saw deer tracks and coyote tracks (they could have been dog but we are going with coyote). Xander even saw a red worm snake! A small park that definitely needs some love but it sure is cool. I hope the plans to get it back in shape take shape. Check it out!

After Xander and I left the Nature Park, we still had the exploring hiking itch so we took off down a dirt road. We found this really cool old barn in tall grass. It had a windmill, was in fairly decent shape and just begged to be explored! Not to mention it was a photographers dream! The clouds, the wind, the grass and a cute boy. PERFECT! We didn’t go into the building, that would not have been safe but we did walk around a bit. Gorgeous space! Nebraska is quite lovely actually.

Needless to say, there is a lot to do in Ogallala and the surrounding countryside. Adventure is definitely out there if you look for it. If you have made it this long in this post – YAY! I meant to break this up into multiple posts but I am already a week or so behind so have bundled everything here. I will be better about posting more often.

We decided while in Ogallala that we would head South instead of heading North. I am an Usborne Books & More representative and will be attending the convention in June. Daniel and I started talking and decided that it wouldn’t make sense for us to drive to WA and then have me immediately fly south to OK. Instead, we would drive south, visit the adult kids and granddaughter in Austin, TX and then head to Tulsa, OK. Lots happened on that trip but that’s another post. For now, I will leave you with another couple gorgeous lake shots.


Who are We?

This has been a couple of incredibly hard weeks for us. With engine troubles, extreme weather, and exhaustion it brings to light the question, “Who ARE We?” They say that the truest sense of the person comes out at times of extreme stress and challenge.

I hope not.

I would love to say that we rose to each challenge with a hardy spirit, and loving support of each other – but that really wouldn’t be the case. In many things Daniel and I are united at a molecular lever. Pretty much any that affects Xanman and his immediate safety, we are bonded. But lately pretty much everything else has shown we are two very different people who think in very different ways and who respond to stress completely differently. I tend to get more precise, thinking that if I simply make sure there can be no misunderstanding, it will somehow make everything OK. Daniel starts becoming over-literal and starts reading between the lines to answer what he thinks I am really asking instead of what I asked. As you can see, this could cause some problems.

We are living in our home in very trying circumstances. It’s not done. Imagine if you will that you started a kitchen and a bathroom remodel at the same time. It’s all broken apart but you have to live in it…no running water. No sink. No stove. No bathroom. No privacy. Not only do you have to live in it but you have to figure out how to thrive in it and be ready to break down whatever you have setup so that you can move again without your shit breaking.

That’s what we are living in.

Everyday.

Every moment.

I keep organizing hoping that it will somehow help and make things more manageable. Thinking that it will lessen the amount we have to shift every time we need to move the rig. Well that’s great until Daniel decides he need to move whatever item someplace else for some reason only he knows. Does it make sense in the moment – probably. Like when we were being brushed by a tornado in Kansas and the hail whipping into the rig punched holes in our ceiling. Rain pouring through meant anything directly underneath and beside was getting wet. EVERYTHING moved then, but when that crisis is over; what then? Can’t things go back to where they were? Does everything need to be a debate or conversation?

Someone asked me near the beginning of this journey how I was feeling. I answered at that time, “Excited! Hopeful!” and “Needy.” She flagged me on the ‘needy’ response and I struggled with how to answer. There is much on this rig that I do not currently have the skills to fix. I am not savvy in electronics, nor in plumbing. I can wack a hammer with the best of them but what about when hammers are too much and more finesse is required? Like an intimate understanding of exactly where the frame members are and how they are connected. Daniel knows that – I don’t. This isn’t a regular house where you can find the studs every 16″ or something. I am utterly dependent on him for the literal day-to-day integrity of our home. I need to see Daniel close-by. I need to see him addressing things I cannot. I need to see things being fixed – not patched – fixed so I can trust that they will work and that our home won’t fall apart. In this way, I am very needy right now. I am sure Daniel is stressed beyond imagining; this is a lot to place on one persons shoulders. I am doing what I can – organizing. Making some type of a home for us instead of living in a pile of stuff. Bringing order. Managing finances and route. I lead when we drive so he doesn’t have to worry about navigation. I try to make sure the rig is clean (a nearly impossible task with 2 dogs and a 7 year old and a husband who doesn’t seem to care what critters are attracted by the cooking mess he has left outside.  ***NOTE TO SELF: NEVER go camping with husband to grizzly country or we are most assuredly dinner!).

If that same friend were to ask me how I am doing right now, my answers would be very different. This could be that we haven’t really gotten any sleep since our lovely brush with the tornado so are sleep deprived. This could be that we are both just at our breaking point in trying to make an almost impossible situation work. It could be a combination of both plus whatever other baggage we have decided to bring to the front now, who knows.

We know we can live in the RV fulltime. We have done it before. We know we can work it out – our stubborn determination will not allow anything else. We know it won’t be easy but then that seems to be our way. “Take something impossible and make it work.” should be our motto…perhaps we should add, “And don’t kill each other in the process!”

We are very fortunate in that neither one of us is a mean person. When we fight, there are no rants about past faults or name-calling…usually. I think I did call him a name this last time when I was so mad pretty much every word out of my mouth was the f-bomb. I guess I should qualify that we are not trying to hurt each other. We are just super frustrated and angry.

A recent post on FB seems to be helping. I know, right?! Something on FB helping! It is a list of suggestions to help you organize and focus your thoughts/life/work – whatever. Here ya go!

MOTTO

DO ONE THING AT A TIME!

So much to share on another night. I need to finish writing about our time in NE and then our time in Kansas (which has forever earned its place in tornado alley as far as I am concerned)! We are currently in Texas hanging out with our grown-up kids. Did I mention that we have a 29 and a 26 year old and that we are grandparents in addition to having out 7 year old? LOL! Surprise!

In Peace and Hope and Love…


Eastern Nebraska

Usually, there isn’t much to say about Nebraska. At least that is always what I have thought. There is corn, it’s hot and humid and lots of smelly feed lots. It’s also home to much of my family. Reason alone to go and visit whenever we can! Last time I was there, it was 2015 and I had my grandbaby Abby and son with me. At that time, we traveled through the width of Nebraska in the Eurovan headed to California. I was surprised by the green rolling hills, picturesque windmills and general beauty of the State. This trip has been no different. This Spring has been filled with tons of rain, so the hillsides are covered in long fresh new grass. The lilacs were still blooming when we arrived as were many of the trees. I know I will shock people when I say, it has really been quite beautiful.  The heat and humidity haven’t hit yet – they will sooner than later I know – but early May this year, it has been idyllic.

Our route to Norfolk from Colorado Springs took us through many of the county roads and small state highways. As a result, I saw parts of Nebraska I hadn’t seen before. Pretty cool. Norfolk itself was in fine form. We spent quite a bit of time at Ta-Ha-Zouka Park. I have fond memories of that park as a kid and bringing Xander to it now seems fitting; as if we have come full-circle. What I didn’t know is that Ta-Ha-Zouka Park boasts a lovely dog park. There are two fully enclosed play enclosures so you can separate the dogs a bit. Both sides have some funny features. Like a bus stop in one and a fire hydrant in the other. Both sides are grassed and have tall mature trees offering some nice shade. They also each have a nice picnic table where you can sit while your dog(s) run around excitedly smelling all the other dogs that have come before. Ta-Ha-Zouka is also the start of the ‘Cowboy Trail.’ Beginning in Norfolk and spanning 321 miles west to Chadron, this is the largest Rails-to-Trails project in the United States. The beginning of the trail runs right next to the Elkhorn River. Xander and I walked about the first 2 1/2 miles of the trail and loved it! The trees were green and lush, the river was full, the dandelions were going to seed so it was like walking on a trail of wishes just waiting to be made.

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(This is not an edited photo. For some reason in the light, the edge of his hat and body were highlighted. Never seen this happen before. LOL!)

Of course we had to take advantage, and make a few wishes ourselves!

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You walk under a railroad trestle and then emerge into a new wetland project while the river runs the other direction. We found turtles and frogs and millipedes on the trail. It was awesome!

There is also a camping site at Ta-Ha-Zouka where RV’s are supported. Power only in-season rate of $18 with concrete pad and off-concrete/off-season rate of $12.00. 7-day maximum, restrooms with showers, large rigs OK, picnic tables, barbecue grills and free wifi! Perfect location to visit family or friends in Norfolk or any of the surrounding towns and wonderful place to hang your hat for a day or two. Lots to do and won’t break the budget.

We headed out to Stanton to see my grandparents old place and go visit them at the cemetery. I spent many happy hours at their house on the top of the hill. It was my sanctuary. My grandparents were the most amazing people! It’s nice when visiting dad in Norfolk to head out and check out our old stomping grounds in Stanton. See what flowers are blooming at the house, how the trees are doing, etc.. I am happy to report that the house is being well cared for and is obviously loved. We went to Lake Maskenthine Recreation Park, which is located behind my grandparents old house to spend an afternoon. I remember going out there with Grammi and Po. Po would talk about the history of every tree. He knew when it was planted, how old it was, etc. My mom reports that she and Grammi would go out and swim at the lake for their daily exercise. Reflecting and sharing these memories, Daniel, Xan and I had our picnic in the arboretum. Established in 1976, the trees are now tall and blooming. There is a lovely covered picnic area with power right next to the flowering lilacs where we enjoyed our lunch. After spending some time walking around and looking at the trees, we went over to the beach area. To our great surprise we found camping and RV spots. Power only – water and restrooms with showers are available after May 1st. Daniel walked over and asked how much and was told $20 a night. It’s a beautiful recreation center with a playground for kids, mountain biking, a swimming beach, fishing and more!

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It was a great way to spend a day. It’s still a bit too cold in May to swim but we had fun getting our feet wet.

My final Eastern Nebraska review will be about the amazing Henry Doorly Zoo. Dad tells me that I have been there before when I was younger but I don’t remember. I have been reading about the ground-breaking African Grasslands project since it started back in 2014. 28 acres of land dedicated to giving the animals a safe place to move and live. The zoo is already famous because of it’s Desert Dome – the worlds largest glazed geodesic dome and the Leid Jungle exhibit; a living jungle you walk through! All set for a day of excitement, dad, Xander and I headed south to Omaha and the zoo. First let me share, there is no way you can see everything in this zoo in one visit. Maybe if you just run through and don’t look at anything you might be able to do it, but then what would be the fun in that?! Happily it turned out that wasn’t the case. We got to do most of everything we wanted to do. 🙂

If you haven’t been and are in the region – go. No, seriously. Go. Looking for a nice place to walk? The zoo. Want to check out animals OUT of cages? Go. Want to see happy penguins? Go. I think you are getting the point. If driving your RV, get there early and fight for parking. Maybe leave your RV at the RV park and drive your car in or take the metro. Honestly I wouldn’t recommend driving your rig here. Although there is bus/RV parking 15 miles away from the entrance (joking – but that’s what it feels like after a long day at the zoo) , we found it full of buses. I would hate to drive my rig there through Omaha traffic only to find there was no-place to park and little space to turn around.

In short, I found Eastern Nebraska to be beautiful and green with tons of things to do outdoors. There are trails, and lakes, and fishing and golf. Lots and lots of golf.

 


Only us …

This will be the perfect example of what happens when you are stressed and just trying to get out of town. Plus, I installed a new map application and was using that. Definitely a recipe for disaster!

Daniel and I were caravanning from Colorado Springs to Norfolk, NE. He would drive Winnie with Xander as his copilot and I would lead in Princess, our VW Eurovan. Mind you, I have done this drive from Colorado Springs to my dads house at least half a dozen times  so theoretically I should have known better. We knew it would be slow going as lots in Winnie was still not really bolted down and we hadn’t gotten the alignment and wheel balancing done yet. We wouldn’t drive fast if we could help it.

Everything started out well. The familiar drive from the Springs to Denver was comfortable and easy. Once past Centennial (quick wave to my sister and her family) we got into Denver proper. We kept getting routed onto the toll road. We didn’t want to have to pay tolls so were ignoring every instruction to turn onto it. You know how these ‘intelligent’ mapping services are – it kept rerouting us back to the toll road where it wanted us originally. Finally, I pulled over and searched until I found the option that allowed us to avoid the toll roads. What I didn’t realize at that moment, is that it also turned on the ‘Avoid All Interstates’ option. Oops!

When we started being directed towards the back highways, I didn’t question it. I just grumbled to myself about the stupid tollroads. Well, hours later as even ‘I’ realized it was taking a bit too long to get to Norfolk, we stopped for directions. I had my Rand McNally atlas open but the small highways and county roads we were on could not be found anywhere on my map. As I asked the nice lady behind the counter for directions to Norfolk, she said the words you never want to hear, “Oh  honey, you are Lost!”

 

Meanwhile my poor dad was trying to figure out where we were based on my texts and was having trouble finding us because we were 50+ miles away from where he was looking on his much more detailed map. ‘Surely they have to be somewhere close to I-80!’ I am sure he was thinking. NOPE!

Finally he suspended his disbelief long enough to find us. Now providing us with relevant directions – my iPhone freaked out. Dad would call, only to discover that I was unable to receive. My iPhone was spontaneously shutting off. I had to pull over, run back to Daniel driving the rig and have him call dad for the instructions! Throwing caution to the wind, Daniel and Xander took the lead and pushed the pedal to the medal!

“Whatever you do, do NOT under any circumstance get off of East 22 until you hit Columbus and hwy-81!” was the last direction from dad. Daniel dug out his old trusty hiking GPS – (you know, the ones that have just the roads and stuff without fhe direction?) which actually handled the county roads and NE state highways much better than our phones did. At least now, Daniel could see the whole picture so to speak.

At somewhere around 2:30am we finally rolled into Norfolk. We left Colorado Springs at 11:00am. Our 8 1/2 drive took 15hours. It was a beautiful day though and Nebraska in the Spring is beautiful. The sunset was gorgeous. Perhaps if I hadn’t been so distracted taking pictures, I would have noticed sooner that we were lost. I am thrilled to report that Winnie did great!

Enjoy the pics!