Sunday, April 20, 2008


As the sun sets on our "little adventure", we remember the desert sun-sets

We even visited Brenda, Arizona - not necessarily on everyone's trip plan but, we of course LOVED it!!!!

After crossing the US border, the RV’s odometer turned 26,000 kilometers as we approached highway 401. The car’s odometer measured another 35,000 kilometers or so. The better part of 2 years and around 60,000 kilometers (not counting that little 4,500 km. drive home at Christmas). Apart from raising a great kid, this trip is best thing we have ever done!!!

We’ve learned a great deal about the US and Canada, our mutual history, people we met, and…………ourselves. We’ve had fun, seen much, and now appreciate how much more there is to see. Every village, town, city, state or region has something that is the oldest, the newest, the smallest, the largest, the best, or the most unusual. We even visited one community that boasted that it was the 7’th best place to live in the US!! We also learned that the authors of tourist brochures are masters of hyperbole. We did, however, manage to develop talents for “reading between the lines”. We have tried to be “good tourists” by trying almost anything that came along however, we met people along the way traveling to “play it safe”. Their loss.

There remain a couple of small snow piles at home where the plough pushed the snow throughout the winter, meaning we timed our return ALMOST right. Another couple of days would have been perfect. Now…………… anybody know someone who wants to buy a gently used RV? ;-)

Friday, April 18, 2008

History R' Us

A replica of the Susan Constant, the largest of the 3 ships which brought settlers to Jamestown

The Royal Governors' Palace in Williamsburg. Patrick Henry was the first resident not to be appointed by the king

Two ladies discuss the political affairs of the day outside the Millinery on a Williamsburg street

An early RV

One of George Washington's militias marches to the town green to be addressed by the great general himself.

In addition to being a beautiful state, Virginia just oozes history. From Jefferson’s Monticello and Madison’s Montpelier estates, the Harrisons’ Sherwood Forest Plantation, to the historic triangle of Williamsburg, Yorktown and Jamestown, the birth of a nation does truly come alive here. Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in the US (the Pilgrims come 13 years later) is wonderfully re-created, complete with reproductions of the 3 ships that brought the settlers to the new land. But, it is colonial Williamsburg which brings the “birth of a nation” to life. The complete history of the Virginia colony is presented completely and effectively, from the landing at Jamestown to the final major battle of the revolutionary war at Yorktown. One could spend a month poking around the shores of the Chesapeake and the Shenandoah Valley discovering the history of the area.

True story – we were touring colonial Williamsburg and a couple of kids were discussing the history of the place and the struggles between the Americans and the British during the revolutionary war. One kid said that his teacher asked him what the patriots possessed to help them win and his reply was Randy Moss!!!! (for the non-NFL informed, Randy Moss is a much celebrated wide receiver for the New England Patriots – possibly not what the teacher had in mind)

We are parked just off route 81 in Virginia. 81 runs right to the 1000 Islands Bridge near Brockville so from here we can turn off the GPS and turn on the cruise control. Home soon.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Horse Country

There are Redbud trees everywhere!! They are beautiful!!

There are barns and, there are BARNS. The owner of this farm is a "white fence" guy!!!

In the barns at Keenland

The "twin spires" at Churchill Downs.

The path to "Man-of-War's" grave. He had a stride of 28 feet, 2-3 feet longer than most thoroughbreds. Secretariat had a 21 pound heart versus 8 pounds for your average race horse. The "winner's edge".

The drive from Oklahoma to mid-Kentucky passed miles of blooming Redbud trees, in some areas forming an almost continuous scarlet edge to the roadways. There are many other blooming trees lining the highways but none more prolific than the Redbuds.

Touring the region around Lexington and Louisville, Kentucky is to tour the middle of Bluegrass Country as well as the centre of the Kentucky horse business. The horse farms are magnificent, surrounded by miles of either black or white wooden fences. The black fences are creosoted and, require little maintenance. The white fences are latex painted and very labour intensive. One facility we visited has 28 miles of white wooden fences. The fences require $40,000 of paint each year. Are you a “black fence” person” or a “white fence” person? I am firmly in the black fence camp!!!!

We visited Churchill Downs in Louisville, Keenland Track and the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, and drove through the rolling countryside. There are horses everywhere and horse trailers parked in every parking lot. It is said that historically Kentucky horses were revered due to calcium rich Kentucky spring water, filtered through the native limestone, contributing to strong-boned animals. That same water apparently makes great bourbon!!!! Kentucky-bred horses have won the majority of Kentucky Derbies. There must be something in that water!!!!!!

We were advised to have lunch at Sam’s Truck Stop outside Lexington and, what a find it was!! The clientele included truck drivers, stable-hands, business-men, farm owners and, the “ladies who lunch” resplendent in their riding gear. The food was great home cooking. We enjoyed a wonderful lunch complete with a “to-go box” full of another BIG meal for the two of us.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Wear the "high-water" pants

Same Big Ass Beer on Beale Street

Same bands in the park

Same Rum Boogie Cafe. They hung a "Billy Preston" guitar on the wall when Billy played the club. Billy protested. (He plays the organ). Club owners refused to hang an organ on the wall!!!

Driving through Oklahoma and Arkansas on I-40 (the second worst highway we have been on in 2 years ……. I-10 across southern Louisiana still has the crown) we passed every river, swollen past its banks. Flooding everywhere! We have seen stranded farm equipment in the middle of what appears to be lakes and roads which run right into the water. The recent violent weather in “America’s heartland” has truly stressed everything. One local dam, near our Friday night stop in Russellville, Arkansas, is now spilling more water that it has ever released since it was built 66 years ago. All sluices are wide open yet there is still fear that the rising water may top the dam. It has rained a lot!!!!!!!!!!!! (BTW – Russellville is in a “dry” county and ………..we’re outta gin!!!!!!! Can you dial 911 for that?)

We have slowed our eastern progress in order to stay behind “the weather”. We are experiencing bright, sunny days however, the wind is a b*#ch. But………… guess what………….we’re back in Memphis. How did that happen???? ;-) Saturday night on Beale Street……. Damn!! We are trying not to retrace our steps but……………it’s Memphis!!!! Nothing changes on Beale Street. Same bands, same food, same fun!

From here we’ll head up across Kentucky and Virginia. That’s all new.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

“Okey” Dokey or “Gone With the Wind” - Oklahoma style

The reflecting pool at the Oklahoma City National Memorial

An empty chair - one for each of the 168 victims. The small one is named for Baylee Almon, the one year old girl pictured in a fireman's arms on front pages around the world

The largest Chihuly sculpture in the world: 10 tons, 55 feet tall, 2,100 separate blown glass components

I captured this Chilhuly hallway ceiling by laying on the floor

Part of the Oklahoma Land Run Memorial. From noon to midnight on April 22, 1889, the population of Oklahoma City went from 0 to 10,000.

The drive from Dallas, where Spring is fully engaged, to Oklahoma City, where Spring is emerging, was “interesting” in the “May you always live in interesting times”, Chinese curse kind of way!!! Brochures proclaim that “Oklahoma spring weather can be severe at times”. No kidding!!! After driving for 1 ½ hours with the wipers at full speed, we pulled into the RV Park, where rivers were flowing anywhere there was a sloped, paved surface. Lightning flashed everywhere. Around the area 3 – 6 inches of rain fell in 12 hours.

We were advised that the RV Park has a storm shelter, hooked up, and turned on the TV to watch reports of tornados touching down to our south and east. The technology employed here to deal with severe weather is impressive. Forecasters continuously up-date the location of “high level circulating winds” and predict to the minute at what time the winds will reach each small community. If they “descend” and form a tornado, people have ample warning. Everyone living in this area must have a “storm-safe place”. Local fire departments can map every lightning strike to the nearest foot. We watched news reports of an expensive home burning to a complete loss in a fire last night. The fire department could prove that the house was hit with 2 separate lightning strikes within one second of each other.

The return trip to Oklahoma City was sparked when we passed through before Christmas and learned that the Oklahoma City Museum of Art has the world’s largest collection of Dale Chihuly glass sculpture. They also possess the single largest Chihuly piece ever created. We have seen Chihuly glass all over the world and wanted to see such a concentrated collection of 1,500 unique pieces. If you like his work, the collection is amazing!!

OK City has much to recommend it. The old Brickyard and Stockyard neighbourhoods feature numerous bars, restaurants and clubs; all very tourist friendly. The Oklahoma City National Memorial and its associated museum poignantly detail the tragic explosion of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995 but, also portray the lunacy of terrorism. The Oklahoma Land Run Memorial depicts the race by 50,000 people, competing for free land in the U.S. “Unassigned Lands” beginning at high noon on April 22, 1889. There is much to see and do here!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Two Cities

A large bronze statue by Joan Miro, long one of our favourite artists, is installed at the entrance to the Kimbell Museum

The Amon Carter Museum is a huge facility, loaded with fine art

Looking back at the Texas School Book Depository from almost the exact spot where the 3'rd shot killed JFK. The infamous grassy knoll is immediately across the street.

A happy Cindy and Ray. Note the strategically placed left hand!!!!!

The last couple of days have been spent exploring the cultural side of both Dallas and Fort Worth. Fort Worth has a very vibrant downtown focused on Sundance Square with yet more restaurants and nightlife. Oil money has played a major role, supporting the arts in a big way. The Sid Richardson Museum on the square has a remarkable collection of Remington and Russell western paintings and bronzes, all collected by Mr. Richardson, a wealthy oil-man (how odd in Texas!!) The gallery is very large yet, only 30% of the collection can be displayed at one time! The Amon Carter Museum (more oil wealth) is even larger with a much more diversified collection but, still contains an impressive number of Russells and Remingtons. The Kimbell Museum contains a small but extremely diverse collection, accumulated from numerous historical periods.

We spent hours at the Sixth Floor Museum at the Dallas School Book Depository, the scene of the assassination of J.F. Kennedy. The museum details at great length the days leading up to the assassination as well as the events of that dark day and its aftermath. Leaving the museum, the three of us could not decide, from all the facts presented, whether Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone or not. A recent addition to the museum is a seventh floor display featuring all of the amateur video footage of the assassination, including the famous Zapruder tape.

One of the big surprises of the trip occurred when we met a young woman from Brockville, and her boyfriend, for dinner. We have known Cindy (sorry kiddo - the Cynthia thing isn’t coming easily!!) since she was a young kid. She used to baby-sit for us. We arrived at the restaurant at the same time and, she popped out of the car flashing her new diamond ring!! Her fiancĂ©, Ray, popped the question in Las Vegas over the weekend. It was great to see Cindy and, to meet Ray. They are very excited!!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Big "D"

You meet the nicest people in an RV. The damn sirens never blew!!!!

Brenda and Lindsay exploring the Stockyards neighbourhood

Twice a day, a herd of cowboys drives a herd of Longhorns through the stockyards

Billy Bob's has a real bull riding ring inside the bar!!! NOTE - this ain't it!!!

The chefs at the Lonesome Dove dress Texas style

9:15 A.M. the racetrack is packed for a 1:00 P.M. start. A cold blustery morning yielded a hot, sunny, sweaty, sticky day. Fun though!!!

Great seats at the exit to "pit row". Bubba's car (Dale Earnhart Jr. to the uninitiated) was right up front!!!

Headin' inta turn 1

Question – If your ‘ol RV is parked in Abilene Texas with the entire region under a tornado watch, who do you want to be parked beside? Answer – The traveling motorhome for “Wine Enthusiast” magazine!! Jim, the driver, advised us that he had a great deal of “excellent” wine on board. If the tornado warning sirens blew, we were heading to the shelter with all the good wine and, not coming out till it was gone, no matter what. Now THAT is neighbourliness!!!

We’ve landed in Dallas and spent a couple of days with Lindsay, Brenda’s brother. He is showing us ALL the sights. The Dallas / Fort Worth area has a lot going on and, this weekend everywhere we go, there are “Welcome Race Fans” banners. I guess if we are only going to one NASCAR race in our life, doing it in Texas is a smart move. NASCAR is a religion in Texas!!!

The Fort Worth Stockyards is a large historical neighbourhood centred on (you guessed it) the old stockyards! There are many bars, restaurants, and cowboy boot stores. But nothing can match “Billy Bob’s”. Billy Bobs, at 100,000 square feet, is the “largest honky-tonk in the world”. It contains an indoor bull riding ring complete with grandstand, a showroom featuring major music acts (we saw B.B. King AGAIN – just for some thing different!!!), and more damn bar-rooms and other rooms than we could see in one visit.

Tim Love is an “Iron Chef” winner and James Beard Award winning chef who owns numerous eateries in DFW. His signature restaurant is Lonesome Dove which we frequented with Lindsay. To say that it is unpretentious is pure understatement. The blue jeans, cowboy boots and Stetsons were everywhere BUT, the food was extremely innovative and very memorable. Highly recommended.

And then there is …………….. NASCAR. With Lindsay, we attended the Samsung 500 at the Texas Motor Speedway and, left home at 8:00 A.M. for a 1:00 P.M. race. Veeeeeeeeeery smart!!! The traffic on the throughway stopped dead 4 miles from the race track. The “tailgating” and other NASCAR high jinks were already well under way. The track seats approximately 216,000 fans and, I think the seats were full! The race was relatively uneventful but full of good ‘ol boy “bumpin’ and rubbin’”. The last 3 laps were particularly exciting since a race re-start 3 laps from the finish tightened the field of leaders. Hot, long, and sticky but, good fun!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Permian Basin

The Presidential Museum on the grounds of the University of Texas - Permian Basin is a great history lesson. Our first cloudy day in months!!!!!!

A newly renovated house in which George H.W. and Barbara Bush raised 2 sons from 1950 to 1956

These "horsehead pumps" are all over the plains.........$10, $20, $30................

Some historical oil equipment outside the Petroleum Museum

A modern oil rig ready to go drilling for dollars. A 10,000 foot well costs about $1 million. Any deeper and the wells get exponentially more expensive

Driving from New Mexico through Pecos, Texas (the home of the world’s very first rodeo) and on to Odessa and Midland, Texas (twin cities ………… sort of) is to pass through the heart of west Texas oil country. Drill rigs and “nodding donkey” oil pumps (also known as horsehead pumps) are everywhere. This is also the home of George H.W. Bush (the elder) and, where he made his fortune in the oil business. The locals are all very aware of the geology of the Permian Basin where all the oil was formed and, very happy to see $100 oil!!! Drill rig companies and mechanical firms serving the oil business are everywhere, as are big “dually” diesel pick-up trucks. This is the land of fridge magnets shaped in the form of a handgun emblazoned with “We don’t dial 911”.

The Commemorative Airforce Museum in Midland features many airworthy WWII combat aircraft as well as an amazing gallery of aircraft “nose art” cut from actual WWII planes. This art collection is complete with an on-site restorative laboratory and research library. The museum also features an interesting display which portrays the WWII mission flown by local hero George H.W. Bush, flying from the U.S.S. San Jacinto, when he was shot down off Chichi Jima in the Bonin Islands off Japan. Bush was rescued by a US submarine but, his two-man crew was lost in the crash.

The Presidential Museum is dedicated to the Office of the President and, does not feature one president over any of the others. It is a great location to learn the chronology and history of the US presidents. However, it is easy to view snippets from the early lives of the two native sons; George H.W. and George W. Bush, at various venues in the area. Both lived very simply, in very modest homes for most of their time in Odessa and Midland and, in fact, the first two residences of George W. and Laura Bush were small apartments in the back of humble homes.

A particularly well done museum is the Petroleum Museum which provides both historical and modern information on the entire process of oil discovery, drilling, production and, to a small extent refining. It is very helpful to identify all the “hardware” one sees out in the oil fields and, explained to us many of the questions we had about how the whole system works. For all the focus on oil, there is very little evidence of oil wealth in the region. Both Odessa and Midland are small cities with a feel that serious economic revial is required. Where'd the money go??