5/31/07 As has become usual for us, we left our campsite later in the morning than we planned and then took a long and winding MO-76 through the Missouri Ozarks to the town of Afton, OK on historic Route 66 at a distance of 629 miles from its origin in Chicago. Near Vinita at mile 644 we missed seeing "The World's Largest McDonalds" spanning the nearby I-44 and stayed on Route 66 into Claremore where we had an awed visit to the Will Rogers Museum on a hilltop just west of the town.
6/1/07 Ever since we arrived in Oklahoma I have been having some humor at Linda's expense by pretending to see potential tornado clouds in the distance. Early this morning we were wakened by a tremendous wind buffeting that seemed about to tear off our awning or use it as a sail to deposit us in some other corner of the state. While I rolled up the awning Linda followed other frantically running campers as they made their way to a place that had been designated in the campground literature as a tornado shelter. Within seconds after my rollup was completed, we were hit with a downpour of major proportions. Deciding quickly that it was better to die dry than to survive wet, I went back to bed until Linda returned a few hours later and woke me. She reported a hoot in the tornado shelter that I am now very sorry to have missed. It seems that the two shrieking runners who had induced her to bolt for the shelter were tent campers from Michigan named Alice and Bridget. As near as I can deduce, the two had flown to California to pick up a truck that they were on the last leg of driving home to Michigan. They had already weathered some Thelma and Louise driving adventures in Sequoia National Park during which Alice had attempted to avoid looking at the terror outside her window by focusing on drawing lines on a sheet of paper that she then described as a "picture of fear."
When dawn finally came, I watched as Alice and Bridget packed up their wet belongings and made ready to leave the campsite. But fate had more laughter in store for them as their tires began to spin in the quagmire of mud that had once been a pretty campsite. Then, when Linda invited Alice to come over for some warmth and coffee in our digs, Diesel flew at Alice in a most menacing fashion apparently because he did not like the bright orange poncho that she was wearing. Several men then came to the rescue of the women and they were able to pull free of the mud and continue their adventure toward home.
I had read in the Route 66 Guidebook that there was a famous Blue Whale in the town of Catoosa where we had camped so I thought I could get Diesel to cooperate in being photographed in the belly of the great beast. You can easily detect his distaste for such posturing. Continuing on Route 66 past some interesting art deco buildings and Oral Roberts University in Tulsa and some old fashioned storefronts in Sapulpa and Bristow, we decided on making better time to our KOA campsite in Foss by joining the big trucks on I-40 past Oklahoma City and Yukon, the boyhood home of Garth Brooks.6/2/07 After an uneventful night in Foss, we returned to Clinton to visit the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum with its vast collection of memorabilia from films of the highway's construction through the use of the highway before and after the war and on up through its decline in the 50s and 60s as the interstate highway system was constructed.
We then left the museum and barreled our way west through the remainder of Oklahoma and halfway across the Texas Panhandle to Palo Duro State Park about 20 miles southeast of Amarillo. We had hopes of staying in the park itself but it was already filled with weekend visitors so we had to settle for a semi-safe harbor with badly aging infrastructure on the west rim of the canyon. Diesel and I went on a little photographic walk-around so that we could scout out a safe walkway for Linda to join us on a later walk. Palo Duro Canyon is said to be approximately 120 miles long and 600 to 800 ft. deep.and is the second largest canyon in the US. After a steak dinner that was the envy of our neighbors, I sought in the dark for a shower and found only a mud hole to step deeply into.
6/4/07 Next morning after a morning walk back to the rim of the canyon so that Diesel could see it in the morning light, we made a hasty departure from the West Rim RV Park and drove along the 19 mile loop into and around the canyon. In between bouts of unadulterated terror on the narrow switchbacks down into the canyon, I believe that Linda is beginning to experience the wonderfulness of the canyon lands. These are really the most three dimensional places on earth and the movement of background behind foreground as you go through these huge sandstone and limestone chess pieces is pretty close to the original use of the now overused term 'awesome'. Diesel has also really taken to this land of little rain because apparently the aroma landscape is also quite multi-dimensional.
Before leaving Amarillo we visited the Barnes and Noble bookstore to get a copy of Woodall's 2007 North American Campground Directory. We then continued west on I-40 past the Cadillac Ranch with an array of ten Cadillacs sticking their tailfins out of the ground to a lunch in in Tucumcari, NM. We then left I-40 to travel north on NM-84 following the original Route 66 to Santa Fe where we arrived in the middle of a dramatic thunder storm and found our campsite at a place called Santa Fe Skies RV Park where we wakened to a beautiful morning. While I was waiting for our laundry to finish, I spotted some old machinery in a field nearby and hoped that I could use the machines as a foreground to show the beauty of a morning in this place. Diesel was happy to find a piece of tumbleweed that he could chase down and wrestle.
In the afternoon we unhooked our umbilical cords and headed down the old Santa Fe Trail into the city where we soon found a parking space big enough for the great white whale. We stopped to look at some details on a statue, then walked past the cathedral and down San Francisco Street past many great little boutiques and shops to La Plaza. There we joined many others plying their crafts or sunning themselves on the benches before we went on to the little arched Tia Sophia restaurant for a most memorable lunch. Photographs don't do much justice to this exquisite town which has somehow legislated a preservation of its Spanish/Indian architectural purity. Macdonald's, Borders, suburban housing, shopping malls, and even the detention center maintain the sandstone colored adobe motive. Santa Fe is the state capital and all the administrative buildings are low lying arched adobe interspersed with trees and flowers. Even the municipal parking lot looks like it was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
6/5/07 Just another day in paradise so we made a quick exit from the campsite and headed north over the Rio Grande toward the famous town of Los Alamos where the 'gadget' was born. After spending some time in the Los Alamos Historical Museum we continued west on the Jemez Mountain Trail (NM-4) to the Bandelier National Monument which turned out to be the most beautiful place that I had never heard of. According to the park literature, about a million years ago an explosive volcano blew its plug and sent its gaseous flow hurdling down the valley where it cooled and hardened into a pumice-like material called tufa. About 700 years ago, a tribe of American Indians migrated into the area and carved their pueblo homes out of the soft tufa and cut it into building blocks for long houses and kivas. During the thirties, the Civilian Conservation Corps created this national park in the Frijole Canyon with a lodge, 70 miles of hiking trails, and a 3 mile loop trail through the canyon and past the remains of the abandoned pueblos. In the words of many young people "this is like oh my god."
We could have stayed for every hour of every day of every season but we chose instead to travel on in the company of our largely unappreciative dog. And for those of you who are bored by all these lovely vistas and want to know tedious technical details like how many miles per gallon are they getting on the rig as it toils its way up and down the steep mountain switchbacks of these Jemez Mountains. Well the answer to that question is about 12 mpg and the cost of gasoline is above $3.00 everywhere we go so about every other day we pump $150 into the 55 gallon maw of Rocinante II. Now that I have made you all glad that you are staying home and conserving your gasoline until the price goes down, I can continue with the positive aspects of a wandering life.
These Jemez Mountains and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains are the southernmost extensions of the Rocky Mountain range. One switchback nearly required an accordion section in the middle of Rocinante II but we continued undaunted past a wonderland of gentle grasslands that is all that remains of the collapsed caldera of the extinct volcano that gave initial form to these canyons. From the caldera we began our experience of the going down part of the switch-back experience, locked in low gear but still going much too fast for some of the inhabitants of our vehicle. About halfway down the mountain we stopped at Battleship Rock to cool our engine and our heels. From Battleship Rock we continued on NM-4 through Jemez Springs and San Ysidro to the KOA in Bernalillo.
6/6/07 We had a major fast breaking at a Cracker Barrel between Bernalillo and Albuquerque then drove some very difficult miles in a 35 mph side wind with 55 mph gusts that produced a major negative effect on our high profile steed. We almost gave it up at a gas station in Thoreau about 22 miles out of Gallup. We huddled with a great herd of cowering trailers and motor homes until a very large one pulled out to brave the storm and I was able to tail gate in the vacuum of his wake all the way to the Petrified Forest near Holbrook, AZ where we had our next KOA reservation. The winds were still blasting us from side to side and some of us wanted to retire to the safety of the campsite after such a harrowing day but the Y chromosomes carried the day and we drove a great 17 mile trip through the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest. Linda has informed me that my little tables of thumbnail pictures are too small for you guys out there in reader land to get much of an idea as to what these places look like and I defended my decision to make them small by telling her that you all know how to right-click on the pictures and save them to you own folder where you can view them as a slide show or whatever.The first stop for a windy photo-op is an overview of the less than normally clear Painted Desert vista from Tiponi Point. Then we drove couple more miles to the Painted Desert Inn renovated by the CCC in the 30s and such a photographic mecca that it was hard finding the right image to include on the website. The next stop is a sort of homage to Route 66 with the corpse of an old car from the 30s and only a line of telephone poles stretching off into the distance to mark the location of the former roadbed. Diesel reluctantly struck a hitch hiking pose at one of my photo stops before we drove on to what some people might regard as an annoying number of stops in the Petrified Forest, but how often do you get to stick a camera lens into the Triassic. Finally we made our landing at the Holbrook KOA where I took a snap of an old Route 66 era sign to mark the memory of what I hope will be a low point in Diesel's life.
Images of Greece 1989