Sunday, November 4, 2018

Camping with Dale in the Tonto Forest, Fall 2018

My Minnie has been sitting in my side yard since I got home from my spring trip. Although I had intended to spend some of my summer in the New Mexico state parks with Dale, the heat wave across the southwest took all the appeal out of that, and I stayed in town where I had air conditioning and the comforts of home. My granddaughter had scoliosis surgery at the end of August, and I committed to be in town until mid October to help out during her recovery. After that, I was itching to travel once more.

By then, Dale had made his way back to Arizona, and he and I planned a camp out in the White Mountains. He drove up past Payson and Star Valley on Thursday, October 18 and secured a nice forest spot near Little Green Valley. I joined him on Saturday.

For 12 days, we enjoyed the cool weather, pine trees, walking up and down the forest road, campfires with S'mores, chasing cows out of our campsite, and lots of running around and sight seeing in my Fit. (Have I mentioned how much I love my toad?)
Dale captured just a couple hours of sunshine on his solar panels each day.
They were indignant we were invading their grazing area.

On Sunday, we made a sobering trip to Water Wheel Falls, the location of a flash flood tragedy in July 2017. A family of ten were swept away and killed while enjoying an outing in the well known swimming hole a few miles north of Payson. It's a beautiful area and you can tell why it's inviting to so many, but the photos and flowers in the makeshift memorial put quite a damper on the place now. Dale, Hanna and I carefully picked our way up the rocky trail to get a glimpse of the waterfall, but didn't linger long.

On Thursday, we drove up to Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, taking a picnic lunch along. It's been about 20 years since I've been there, but not much has changed. It's as beautiful as ever. It was a gorgeous day with sunshine and blue skies, and we enjoyed our sandwiches under a tree near the canyon's edge. Dogs are allowed in the park and on the trails around the picnic area and to the overlooks, but not on any of the trails down into the canyon. Dale and I were both nursing sore joints, so neither of us attempted the steep hike down to the creek.

This photo quality does not do the blue sky justice.
A couple days we drove east to check out Camp Sunrise (a free camp for children with cancer that was started when I worked at the American Cancer Society in the late 80s), and look for camping areas for future trips. Other days, we explored west toward Payson and beyond. One morning we stopped at the Rim Country Museum and Zane Grey cabin. The replica cabin was more interesting than the museum, but the docents were a bit too long winded and we left part way through the museum spiel, claiming hunger and fatigue. We went to the local Walmart several times, made a stop at BoSa Donuts, and took in a movie one day at Sawmill Theater.
We checked out progress on this future Tesla Supercharger in Payson.

The trees around our campsite blocked much of the sunshine and Dale's solar energy took a beating. He would not have stayed there had it not been for me enjoying the woodsy spot so much. After the long, hot summer, I had been longing for this cool getaway. But by Wednesday, the overnight temps were getting downright cold, and it was time to head south. We said goodbye before climbing into our respective Minnies and headed down the road, me home and Dale to sunny Bulldog Canyon, then Quartzsite.

Thanks so much Dale, for hanging out with me in the Tonto National Forest!
Our final campfire

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Summary of Spring 2018 Trip

Here's my final wrap up on Spring 2018.

I traveled for exactly 5 weeks, leaving on a Sunday and returning on a Sunday. I was on the road for both my birthday and Easter Sunday this year.

I traveled through seven states - Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. I drove my Minnie 3870 miles, and spent $1270 on gas. The price of gasoline went up considerably this spring, especially the last couple of weeks of my trip. If this keeps up through the summer, I'll be doing a lot less driving and a lot more sitting.

I got quite a few more stamps in my National Park Passport, including Chiracahua, National Seashores and the Natchez Trace Parkway, to name a few. I have decided my new favorite place to visit in my Minnie is the NTP. I plan to go back and drive the entire length of it someday soon.

I had a little bit of trouble with my generator while I was gone where it would not put power to my rig nor charge my batteries. I got around it when camping without hookups by running the engine for a few hours to keep charged, but it was annoying not to be able to use my AC, microwave or toaster if I was not plugged into shore power. I texted with my brothers and also called Cummins to ask for suggestions, but without seeing it directly, no one was able to diagnose it. The day after I got home, right before I took it to the shop, one brother suggested again the breaker on the generator (which I thought I had tried, but in actuality I was flipping the wrong switch), but suddenly that fixed it! Oh, if only I had gotten that right 4 weeks earlier, I would have saved some frustration. At least, it was solved before I paid for a unnecessary service call.

Last year I made a list of likes and dislikes when RVing. This spring I didn't hit many dirt washboard roads, but I would like to add "Driving in Wind" to my list of dislikes. It's tiring fighting to keep in the lane when 20-30 mph gusts are blowing you across the road. But all in all, I had a great time, and 5-6 weeks is a perfect length trip for me. I was ready to come home, but not desperate. I hope to take another trip or two this summer, but haven't decided where I will go. Maybe I'll take some grandsons up to the Grand Canyon.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Highway 380

After I left Natchez State Park, I started making my way back home. I decided to follow highways instead of interstates, and mapped out a route that would be a pretty straight shot back to Mesa. I drove about 200 miles a day, and stayed at a couple of different Army Corps of Engineering parks, which were very nice and very affordable with the senior discount. I stopped at a couple of county/state campgrounds and one private RV park. All in all, quite economical, but none were free.
Hanks Creek CG  (ACoE camp near Lufkin, TX)

Reynolds Creek CG (ACoE camp west of Waco, TX)
Lake Sweetwater at Sweetwater, TX
Bottomless Lakes State Park east of Roswell, NM

I had pretty nice weather on the way home, with the exception of gusty wind on a couple of days, and one rainy spell. I don't like driving in wind, as I have to constantly fight to keep Minnie in the middle of the lane. I don't mind a little rain as long as I don't have to set up or take down camp in it. And I actually love the sound and coziness of raindrops on the roof when I am snuggled in.

On Saturday morning, I left the small private park I was at in Springerville, AZ and headed for home by way of Payson. Just after I got outside Payson heading south on the Beeline Highway, I pulled over to catch up on text messages. Daryl and Gisele were on their way north to Blue Ridge Ranger Station to show off their new Tesla, and Dale asked me why not turn north and drive up for the day (and night). I was already on my way home, but partly because I wanted to see the new snazzy car, and partly to prove to my full-timer brothers that I can be spontaneous and flexible, I said, "What the heck," and turned around and drove up to Blue Ridge.

I went to the BR Campground and got set up in a space, had a quick lunch and drove the Fit over to the Ranger Station. I arrived just after Daryl and Gisele had pulled in, and we all ooh-ed and ahh-ed over the pretty new car, then we all got joy rides. Daryl let me drive it, and I fell in love. Why, oh why, didn't I just come on home from Payson? Teslas are expensive and now I want one!

Richard and Dianna had prepared grilled chicken lunch for everyone and we enjoyed a nice afternoon in family chatter. Daryl and Gisele left for home and I left for my camp. I packed back up the next morning, went to the Ranger Station to dump, and drove home, pulling in at about 11:30. Hanna and I are glad to be home, and will be ready for our next adventure in a few weeks.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Historical Natchez Homes

The NTP docent in Clinton had recommended touring several historical homes and mansions in the Natchez area, so I drove into town on Saturday and headed to the Natchez National Historical Park at the Melrose plantation. You can wander around the grounds and all the buildings on your own with the exception of the main house. That is only shown through guided tours. Usually costing $10, I happened to hit it on a “fee free” day, so I got a ticket for the 1:00 tour. After walking the grounds, I had time to get lunch so I went to Wendy’s for a chili baked potato and glass of water. This is the water that came out of the fountain.

Back at Melrose, the Ranger who did the tour was excellent as was the tour of the house. It is totally restored and still contains most of the original furniture. The family who built it and lived there in the 1850’s, the John McMurrans, were slave owners and the house represents that era. Following the Civil War, the McMurran’s wealth had been wiped out and they sold it to the Davis family, whose descendants lived there the next 110 years.

It was mid afternoon by then, and I made my way home to Hanna.

I woke at 3:00 am to the sound of steady hard rain on the roof, and it continued the rest of the morning, drenching everything in the campground. I drove the car over to the office to pay for another night, declaring no one wants to pack up and move out in a pouring rain.

Around noon, the rain stopped and the sun peeked through the clouds, so I drove the Fit into town again and went to the William T. Johnson House, a National Park Service Historical museum. Johnson was a slave born in 1809 and emancipated in1820. He trained as a barber and became an entrepreneur, establishing a barber shop, book store and other land holdings. He kept a detailed personal diary from 1835 until his death in 1851, which detailed life in Natchez, MS. Portions of the journal are on display, as well as much of the furniture and items from the house. It was kind of amazing to think a black man could live such a life in the Deep South from 1820-1851, and become as wealthy and educated as he was.

From there, I went up the street to Rosalie, a private pre-Civil War mansion. The tour cost $15, and was excellent, but they don’t allow photos inside. It has a fascinating history and I recommend you read it at the link above. In 1863, General Grant took possession of it and used it for Union headquarters. Nothing was harmed during their occupation.

After those two tours, I drove back along the Trace to the campground and began my preparations for heading toward home tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Natchez State Park

On Thursday I drove up the campground road beyond the picnic area to the historic ruins of the town of Rocky Springs. The only building still standing is the church, and it is actually still in use, with services held there once a month. The rest of the town is just small bits of rubble with signs explaining what once was there.

From there, I drove into Port Gibson and went to the library to use the WiFi and update my blog. After lunch at McDonald’s, I drove back to camp to begin preparing for departure the next day. I walked around the campground later that evening and asked the camp host if there was water anywhere. She pointed to the hose at the host’s site and said I could use it. In her Mississippi accent, she warned, “The water is yeller, but it don’t hurt you none.” I didn’t need water that bad.

The next morning I pulled out and drove down the Natchez Trace Parkway. I stopped at a couple of markers, Emerald Mound - another Indian site - and Mt.Locust. Mt. Locust was a “stand” on the old Trace where travelers could get a meal and a bed for the night. The buildings were still in good condition and there was info on the slaves who worked the property and served the family.

I left the NTP just north of Natchez and drove to Natchez State Park, where I settled into the campground for two nights. The park is on a lake with two small campgrounds. It was about 70% full when I was there.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Sightseeing Along the Trace

On Tuesday, after giving Hanna a good long walk, I locked her in Minnie and took off toward Port Gibson. On the way south, I stopped at Magnum Mound, an old Indian ceremonial mound, and Sunken Trace. The sunken trace was quite impressive, where you can walk down and onto the actual path the traders walked, which was worn down by many footprints and natural elements. I only stayed about 15 minutes, but will go back before I leave the area.

I drove on to Port Gibson, which is a small town on the Mississippi River with great historical impact. During the Civil War, the Union took it from the Confederacy, but General U.S. Grant spared the town, declaring it “too beautiful to burn”. There are dozens of old beautiful churches lining the streets, each with its own story. I continued through the town and on to the Windsor Ruins. This beautiful southern plantation survived the Civil War, but was destroyed by fire in 1890. Only the stately columns remain.

From there, I drove north to Grand Gulf Military Monument. Another key strategic location along the Mississippi, General Grant fought several battles to finally take the stronghold in his quest to finally conquer Vicksburg. They have quite an extensive museum and grounds filled with memorabilia from the war, but unfortunately, I got the impression the artifacts were not well cared for. Everything on display had a thick layer of dust, and some of it is exposed to the elements and visitors' touch. But I wandered the grounds and picked up lots of new information about the war in that area.

From there, I drove back to my camp and a pup who was happy to see me.

On Wednesday, I decided to drive up to Vicksburg National Military Park. At the last minute, I downsized my purse contents to a fanny pack, and forgot to put my Senior Pass in. When I arrived at the park, I realized I would have to pay the $15 entrance fee for my mistake. It was worth it, though. I drove the Tour Road around the park, stopping along the way to read about massive battles and view monuments. Vicksburg was the key stronghold standing in the Union's way of complete control of the Mississippi River. Fighting for this city began in October 1862, but surrender of the city would not come until July 4, 1863. Tens of thousands of soldiers died during those nine months, and the National Cemetery on the park site is evidence of those losses. Headstones as far as the eye can see.

The other significant war relic displayed at the Park is the U.S.S. Cairo. This Civil War ironclad warship was sunk during the siege of 1863, where it rested for over 100 years before being recovered and reassembled and opened to public viewing at Vicksburg National Military Park.

I returned to my camp for a couple of days of rest.