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Showing posts from November, 2008

Ready to Move

written Sunday, November 30, 2008
near Texarkana, TX

If we accomplished nothing else during our stay in Texarkana it was to confirm that this "Ark-La-Tex" area (as they commonly refer to it) isn't going to be on our short-list of places to live someday. There's just nothing we saw that would cause us to delay leaving. A few years ago Mac Davis wrote a song about Lubbock TX that applies here, if I may paraphrase: "Happiness is Texarkana in my rear view mirror."

Yesterday, Saturday, the weather broke and a bad case of bus-house fever drove us out on a short exploration of the area. Just south of our RV Park is the Wright Patman Dam and Lake, another COE project. There are 4 COE campgrounds around the lake, one of which is top-notch and will be on our list of places to stay if we ever break down passing through this area in the future. We also explored the Dam, as I find these massive structures amazing in their scale and the amount of effort expended to build th…

A Rainy Spell in Texarkana

written Friday, November 28, 2008
Texarkana, TX

It's been a quiet couple of days here in Texarkana. Yesterday, Thanksgiving Day, we stayed in. Since it was cloudy and, at times, drizzly, it was a perfect day to veg, watch some football, and work on getting our big dinner ready. But the football game, Tennessee v. Detroit, was so bad I turned the sound down and used the glow from the TV only to help me see the crossword puzzle I worked on. The poor, sad Lions haven't won a game this year, and may well go win-less through this entire season. Whether it's business or sports Detroit doesn't seem able to get a break these days.  Maybe the Lions can be included in the auto industry bailout?

I wonder if the financial crisis we're going through is having an impact on professional sports? It only seems logical that it would as the support of business has to be critical to the various leagues cash-flow. It's not individuals that keep pro-sports going... it's business, a…

The Crisis with our Economy and our Way of Life

written Wednesday afternoon, November 26, 2008
Texarkana, TX.

I've been spending some time every day reading and trying to understand this economic crisis we're all in. More and more people, including the new President Elect, are saying this is an immense problem of historic, almost biblical, proportions. While there's a tendency, a human need, to believe the future will be like the past -- reliable, predictable, and, hopefully, better -- it's looking more and more like this will change our way of life for many years into the future.

For your consideration:  First, this well written article by Tom Friedman of the New York Times. It's worth the five minutes it'll take to read.

(Link to Friedman column "All Fall Down")  Click to read

Next, here's an excerpt from an important article on Bloomberg.com. Written by Mark Pittman and Bob Ivry, it provides some information that few of us know and less understand.

(Link to Bloomberg.com article by Pittman and Ivr…

Texarkana

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written Tuesday, November 25, 2008
not far from Texarkana, TX.

Well, we're another hundred miles further South and determined to keep "running this play" until we find some warm weather. The cool Midwest Fall had the "freezing line" dropping South about as fast as we were moving the last few weeks, and while I'm not complaining too much, there's a growing need to get the shorts on and soak up some sun. Yesterday my Dad sent a copy of his own "out the window" picture from Beaver Dam. Yowzer! It looks like another early winter for Wisconsin. Last year they had record snowfall of over 100 inches. I really hope the sun comes out and it warms up for the rest of the winter -- they need a break.



Meanwhile, further South, the drive down from Little Rock went well. I put 77 gallons of good old #2 diesel in bus-house today and, amazingly, paid the least per gallon since starting this endeavor in the summer of '07... just 2.56. I'm not celebrating t…

The Biggest Dam Bridge of All

written Monday, November 24, 2008
Maumelle COE Park near Little Rock, AR.

Monday, Dar and I loaded our bikes onto the Toad and drove about 10 miles to a trailhead for the famous Arkansas River Trail. The good citizens of the Little Rock area have built this extensive trail system over the last few years and we were itching to "give it a go". There's something liberating and free about riding a good trail through a natural landscape, along a river, through woods or forest, or even a good desert. We do it whenever we can.

Throughout the country local and state governments have converted old abandoned railroad rights-of-way into these marvelous trails where one can walk, run, or bike through the countryside without fear of being run down by some old vision-impaired guy driving a 45 foot motorhome. Of course, before you send me hate mail, it's also possible to be run down by young mindless texting teenagers, or middle aged depressed drunk guys. I just don't believe bike…

The Bill Clinton Museum

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written Sunday, November 23, 2008
Maumelle COE Park near Little Rock, AR.

Back in the Spring of this year, as we traveled eastward from Oregon and Washington, our exploration theme was to follow the Lewis & Clark Trail. As I wrote yesterday, themes put some organization and objectives to our travels -- they help set a path and highlight obvious places that need to be checked out.

Since leaving Wisconsin in October, we have multiple themes for our travels. Seeing as many State Capitols (as we did Friday) is one. Visiting as many Presidential Libraries and Museums is another.

So yesterday, Saturday, Dar and I trekked back downtown and spent the afternoon at the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Center and Park. The building is set in a new city park hard on the banks of the Arkansas River, which was previously a run-down warehouse district. Because a theme of Clinton's campaigns and administration was "a bridge to tomorrow", the building was designed to appear like a …

Arkansas State Capitol

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written Saturday, November 22, 2008
Maumelle COE Park near Little Rock, AR.

On Friday, yesterday, Dar and I drove down to the State Capitol in downtown Little Rock. The day was clear and brisk under a bright blue sky.

For all the traveling we've done over the years, and especially since we started fulltiming in July 2007, we've only been to a handful of State Capitols. It didn't become a theme of ours, an objective, a goal, until this leg of our journey. Most fulltimers have what I call "themes" to make their explorations more interesting and to provide some structure and organization to their travels.

Here are a few themes fellow travelers have told us about: major league ballparks, National Parks, highest point in each state, over-nighting in every State, fishing the major rivers in each State, various lists of museums, and, of course, State Capitols. There are many more of course -- lists limited only by your imagination.

Invariably, there are standards or requirem…

Solutions in Search of Problems

written Friday, November 21, 2008
Maumelle COE Park near Little Rock, AR.

The rental car I used the other day had a "feature" I hadn't come across before. There is no ignition key. There is no place to even put an ignition key. So how does one start a car without a key? Well, what you have is a fob, a "clicker"-thing similar to the ubiquitous keyless entry do-dads we've all been carrying around for years. I'm guessing that this is another example of the use of technology that finds it's way into our lives only after it becomes the low-cost alternative to the old way of doing something. In this case, all the electronics are probably less expensive than the mechanical keyed switches. I'm only guessing.

So, how does one start a car with one of these marvels installed? Apparently, the little key fob you carry around is somehow "sensed" when it's within a few feet of the car. Once it's sensed, it's possible to just push the "s…

Mountains and Sucking Toads

written Thursday, November 20, 2008
Maumelle COE near Little Rock, AR

The day started clear and cool, and we were looking forward to our first exploration since coming down with colds the past week or so. The objective was to drive a scenic route on small back-country roads in a generally northwest direction from our camp to the area referred to as Toad Suck. It's along the Arkansas River and about 24 river miles upstream from Maumelle Park. The same destination using Arkansas's finest country roads would be over 40 miles away.

The first place we stopped was Pinnacle Mountain State Park. There we learned about the geology of the area. The center-piece of the park is a 1,011 foot high conical shaped peak that dominates the surrounding landscape. The river level is about 300 feet above sea-level, so the peak rises about 700 feet above that. (I know, not much of a "mountain", but it was fun nonetheless.)  After a quick stop at the visitors center where we learned of trails…

Maumelle Park

written Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Maumelle Park near Little Rock, AR

Yesterday, Monday, we had planned to move from Burns Park, where we'd been staying for the past week, to Maumelle COE Park just 12 miles away. Because Dar was in full "capitulation phase" with her cold, we did consider delaying the move another day, but she decided all the activity with moving would help take her mind off the misery. Maumelle is a couple notches above Burns in facilities and maintenance, and it's right on the banks of the Arkansas River. Instead of just being parked in the woods, its being parked in the woods and on a river.

About mid-day, we broke camp at Burns, made the short drive to Maumelle, and found a very nice campsite near the river. There are more people here than one might expect -- the place is probably half full -- as snowbirds from the north make this an annual stop on their way south for the winter. The park is close to major highways but secluded and quiet. It's ju…

Little Rock Update

written Monday, November 17, 2008
North Little Rock, AR

Here's a quick update covering the past week.

We arrived here at Burns Park Campground in North Little Rock last Sunday afternoon. The campground is a nice enough place and is close to our ideal camping experience because it is heavily wooded, has clean asphalt roads, and well-separated campsites. However, some sites aren't very level and the park has a neglected feel to it.

Monday and Tuesday were rainy and Dar was getting ready for her trip to Wisconsin. It's become a tradition, with her Mom and Sister, to get together on a long weekend in November and turn the farmhouse into a Christmas cookie factory. I dropped her off at the Little Rock airport on Wednesday and off she went.

Unfortunately, as much as I was looking forward to the time alone and having ALL 300 square feet to myself for a few days, it turned out to be less than what I'd hoped. About the time Dar left, it became clear I was coming down with a cold -- …

Toad Suck Daze

written Monday, November 10, 2008
North Little Rock, AR

After thoroughly enjoying a couple days with Bill & Sue near West Plains, MO., we fired up the bus-house and pointed her South again. We got back on Hwy 412/62 eastbound in Northern Arkansas until reaching Ash Flat. A right turn onto Hwy 167 southbound took us through Evening Shade, Cave City, Pleasant Plains, and Velvet Ridge. At Bald Knob we picked up Hwy 67 southbound, a 4-lane divided road that goes right to Little Rock.

I really wanted to stay at a Corps of Engineer campground some 30 or so miles north of Little Rock at a place called Toad Suck Ferry. Of course, the only really good reason for wanting to stay there without seeing it first is the name. What could possibly be the origin of the name "Toad Suck"?

According to Wikipedia:
The legend behind Toad Suck is that long ago, steamboats traveled the Arkansas River when the water was at the right depth. When it wasn't, the captains and their crew tied up to wai…

Panic Stop

written Monday, November 10, 2008
North Little Rock, AR

We left Branson on Friday the 7th of November. The destination was the acreage of a couple friends we met in Rockport last year -- Bill & Sue, who live near West Plains, MO. We've been emailing back and forth during the past month about our respective plans for the winter and they invited us to stop by, see their place, and check out this part of the Ozarks.

Driving in the Ozarks can be a challenge. The roads are little more than collections of curves, hills, and double-yellow lines. Not a lot of dirt was moved when these highways were built, and it seems they had no chain saws since the road seems to wind around any tree of size. There are precious few places where a motorist can safely pass a big bus-house that's poking along a few m.p.h. under the speed limit.

On the way to West Plains we did have one incident that caused me to stop breathing for a minute and utter a few carefully selected words. As we trekked eastward…

The Andy Williams Christmas Show

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written Thursday, November 06, 2008
Branson, MO

All Right! I might as well get this out there right off the bat: I actually enjoyed the Andy Williams Christmas Show that Dar talked me into attending yesterday. Yes, I enjoyed it! With all my grumbling about the lines, the crowds, the traffic, aging performers, and all the other touristy hoopla here in Branson, probably no one thought I'd say that. I certainly didn't.

But I had a great time. First of all, you've got to admire someone who's doing what they love, and enjoying it so much that they'd rather work at their craft than relax, retire, and fade away. He doesn't say how old he is, but a little research found he's 81 years old. In person, he certainly doesn't look like an octogenarian. Even if he has a cosmetic surgeon on retainer (and he probably does), so what? Performing is his passion and looking good is a part of performing. Way to go, Andy.

We were seated on an aisle about mid-way back in the front…

The Branson Phenomenon

written Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Branson, MO

50 years ago Branson was a very small, quiet, fishing village along the White River, surrounded by the gorgeous wooded hills of the Ozark Mountains. There were two small motels with a total of 16 rooms available.

Today, many of the hills have been stripped of trees and leveled for theaters, restaurants, hotels, condos, time-shares, apartment developments, and sub-divisions. They're building a new airport capable of handling large commercial jets, and had to move two mountains to do it.

Here's a short list of what you see as your driving around town. "Sensory Overload" comes to mind:

Hollywood Wax Museum
Titanic Museum -- Experience a Titanic Christmas
Dinosaur Museums
Year 'round Haunted Houses
Worlds Largest Toy Museum
Go-Karting Tracks
Ripley's Believe It or Not
Family Fun Factory
Dinosaur Canyon Miniature Golf
Water Fun Parks
Dick Clark's American Bandstand/ Bar & Grill
Showboat Cruises
Magic Shows
Ride the Ducks
Huge …

Historic Election

written Wednesday, November 05, 2008 -- Branson, MO

On every Presidential election Tuesday for many years, I've made it a tradition to watch the election returns on TV. I'll get a comfortable chair adjusted just right and positioned for minimum reflection and best viewing angle, I'll pop some popcorn, open a cool adult beverage of some kind, make sure the remote control has fresh batteries, and settle in for an evening of results and analysis. I know, it won't change a thing. I could save a lot of time by just reading about it in the paper the next day. But the tradition continues and it will for the foreseeable future.

This election was historic for at least a couple reasons. First, and perhaps most obvious and notable, it was the first campaign to result in the election of a black man as President of the United States. Regardless of your politics and your opinions about it, this will be something that will start a new chapter in the history books for many years.

Second,…

Branson Missouri

written Monday, November 3, 2008 -- Branson, MO

How does something like Branson get started? Yesterday, I talked with an old-timer who's been coming here since 1959. In those early days, the population of Branson was less than 100 people, there were two motels with a total of 16 rooms available, a few fishing cabins along the river, and a sprinkling of other sleepy businesses. That was 50 years ago.

Today, the official population of Branson is about 6,000, but that grossly understates reality. Because so many people live just outside Branson's city limits, the real population of the area is more like 30,000. And when you throw in the number of people visiting (as many as 8 million every year), the number of people around here can be upwards of 65,000 on any given day. There are more than 50 theaters in the area with over 60,000 seats available -- more seats than Broadway in New York I've been told. This week alone about 100,000 veterans will be here for the annual Veterans D…

Harry S. Truman Lake and Dam

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written Saturday, November 1, 2008 -- Thibaut Point COE Campground near Warsaw, MO.

I got off to a slow start on Friday and it was just after noon before we headed off to explore more of the big lake we're camped on. We had a surprise rain shower that lasted a couple hours in the morning but by the time we left camp the sky was mostly clear and the sun was out in earnest.

The Harry S. Truman Lake (or Reservoir) was created along the Osage River as the result of a large Army Corps of Engineers project that was authorized in the 1950's and wasn't completed until the late 1970's. It primary purpose is flood control, but electric power generation and recreation are among the other benefits. It took a long time to build as numerous roads, bridges, cemeterys, and complete towns had to be relocated above the new lake level. I wonder if a project of this scale could ever be done again in our litigous modern society. And where would the money come from?

On our loop around the lake…