Wednesday, October 30, 2013

City of Rocks

We spent last night in a truly unique place.
City of Rocks State Park is located about 30 miles north of
Deming, NM at about 5,200'.

I've wanted to stop here the last couple of times that we passed by but we always
stayed at Rockhound State Park just outside of Deming and
collected rocks.   This time we made the extra drive north.

It is a quiet lonely place this time of year which adds to its charm.
The main attraction are these otherworldly rock formations that rise from the
high sage brush desert.

There is an astronomical observatory in the park and the clear dark skies
make for excellent night time star gazing.

In keeping with the astronomical theme each campsite is named after a
astronomical formation.

Our site was named Cassiopeia.

Last night I gazed over head and there was Cassiopeia looking down on us.

This morning we headed out on the final push west towards Phoenix.
As we left the park the rising sun was casting a warm orange glow on the
rock formations.

The campsites are well spread out and tucked into the formations.

This rock looks like a geode that has been sawed open.

It was a quick visit here.   We'll be back for sure.

6 hrs after departure we finally arrived at our initial destination,
Lake Pleasant Regional Park in the Northwest Phoenix area.
It is another great park - part of the Maricopa County Park System.

We'll spend the next 4 nights here while I take care of some business, arrange
for storage of the Monty etc.  It's going to be a busy couple of days.

The view from our campsite is wonderful and the warm dry weather
is delightful.

We also have a major league 4G Verizon Signal here so with the
great speed it's going to be an excellent location to get caught up.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Midland Tx

Just a quick post tonight to catch you up.
We've been in Trucker Mode - dashing cross country for the last couple of days
and now are in the West Texas City of Midland.

Midland is famous as the home of George W. Bush.

Its a gritty dusty place - not much to excite us here but we've merely stopped
here as an overnighter on our dash west.

Before Getting here however we first had to leave Asheville NC.
While in Asheville I roasted some coffee beans as our supply was running low.
The tailgate of the truck works just fine in a pinch.

Leaving Ashville we drove 400 miles west to Natchez Trace State Park
in Western Tennessee.
It was a beautiful wooded state park and our full hookup campsite on the lakeshore
was a real bonus.   It would have been nice to spend more time here but we are on a roll.

The view from our site.

Our site.

Another 400 miles yesterday put us in Texarkana, Tx.
We stayed at a very nice RV Park.
The Shady Pines RV park.   Nice, clean park and only $23 a night.
It was a very rainy night but we had the fireplace going and we were warm and snug.

Finally today we did another 500 miles and landed here in Midland.

Our site (parking spot) here in Midland.

Tomorrow we have a 450 mile run to a very cool place...
City of Rocks State Park in NM.
We will only be there for a night but it is my first time there and I've wanted to check
it out so this will give me a taste for future reference.

Then Tuesday we have our final push - 400 miles
 to Lake Pleasant Regional Park in the Northwest Phoenix Metro.
We will stay there for 4 nights and allow us to get ready for Wednesday which
is going to be a busy day...

Meanwhile - tonight I have the Broncos on TV and its the 4th quarter
and its going well.

Stay tuned...

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Biltmore Estate - Asheville, NC

Our final stop on the Blue Ridge Tour with our buds Jim & Kristi was
Asheville NC.

While in Asheville one must see attraction is the Biltmore.

Built by George Vanderbilt II between 1889 and 1895 it is the largest private home in the US.
Encompassing about 180,000 square feet and 250 rooms, it's also one of the finest
 remaining examples of a home from the Gilded age.

It was originally located on abot 125,000 acres - almost 200 square miles,
the estate now encompasses a "modest" 8,000 acres

Inside the main entry is the atrium.
The attention to detail in this room - like the rest of the home - was nothing
short of amazing.

The main dining room just off the atrium.
Dinner for you and 100 of your closest friends...
The atrium is just outside the archways on the left.

View from the dining room.

Outside on one of the expansive Verandahs we posed for photos, with the
Great Smoky Mountains providing a beautiful background.

Besides the massive Chateau Styled Home, George Vanderbilt hired the most
prominent Landscape Architects of the time to create gardens, farms, and natural
self sustaining forests.   The Biltmore was one of the first of its kind in that regard.

After touring the house, the gardens, and winery we left with many stones still
unturned.  There is much more to see, but there was smoked pork calling us.

We went for an early dinner at the 12 Bones Smokehouse.
All of us have had some good barbecue in the past but this place....
Well it was special.

So special as a matter of fact that we went again yesterday for an encore.

If you find yourself in Asheville, NC with a hankering for some good barbecue...
The 12 Bones Smokehouse is the place.

This morning we finally said good by to our traveling companions of the last month
and headed the rig westbound.  It's been a great month with good friends but
new adventures beckon.

Plus - we'll see them again in a couple of months out in Quartzsite.

Tonight I write this blog from Western Tennessee in Natchez Trace State Park.
Tuesday we will be in Phoenix Az and on Weds we have a special
surprise to share...

Stay Tuned.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Blue Ridge'in

For the last 3 days we've traveled about 270 miles down the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Starting in Virginia we climbed into the 2000' range.
The colors were a mix interspersed with the last of summers green

We spent Sunday night at the Meadows of Dan Campground
and monday morning we saw our first frost of the season.

Yesterday we climbed a bit as we entered North Carolina and our average
altitude was in the 3,000' range.

The colors picked in intensity.
We started to see more reds and oranges.
With the glare, its been tough getting good pictures thru the windshield 
and we are limited as to where we can park two 55' long rigs.

A bit of yesterdays color.

We spent our night in Boone NC camped in a quiet spot with a stream and
Rhododendrons surrounding us.

Last night we did some nice steaks on the barbie
and ate outside.

This morning we continued our journey south and stair-stepped our way up
to the 4,000 and eventual 5,000' sections of the Blue Ridge.

I climbed up an embankment to get this shot of our little caravan stopped at
one of the overlooks that we were able to fit into.

There are hundreds of spots to stop and take in the view or picnic.
Its engineered to take maximum advantage of the views along the way.
When the government built this road they got it right.

Around the 3,500 - 4,000' level we really got to see some of the beautiful
reds and oranges.

We are now in Asheville, NC and have finished our tour of the BRP.
We'll spend three nights here and then on Friday we'll say good-bye to
Jim & Kristi and point our rig west headed to Tucson where we will park it
and return home.

Next:   We visit the Biltmore Estate.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Southbound on the Blue Ridge

Ah the colors of fall.
Today they arrived with a vengence.

We left Appomattox around 1030 with only a 3 hr drive ahead of us.
So we proceeded at a leisurely Sunday Morning pace as we climbed out 
of the coastal plain and slowly onto the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Our first stop was one of the many pull-offs for some sun and a quick bite
of lunch.

The BRP runs along the ridges of the mountains and was located as to take
maximum advantage of the views.

Another stop further down the road.

With a 45 mile speed limit it lends itself for a leisurely ride.
Along the way the colors provided a visual feast.

Along the way we stopped at the Mabry Mill, a popular stopping
place along the parkway.

Jim & Kristi check out the blacksmith shop.

After we settled into our camp for the night we explored the nearby "town"
Being Sunday and in prime leaf season the place was hopping.
A bunch of antique cars were out for the day.

As I write this blog, the sun has set and we are sitting by the fire.
Another fine day has come to a close...
The crisp air promises frost on the pumpkin tonight.
Cocktail hour and a warm fire.
The simple delights of life on the road.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Appomattox, Virginia

Today we toured the National Historical Park at Appomattox.
It is a fitting place to visit after Gettysburg as it was here at Appomattox
that US Grant defeated the Confederate Army under Robert E. Lee
and the final surrender took place.

Since April 1st, after losing Richmond, the capital of the C.S.A.,  the Confederate Army 
had been on a westward retreat.  Hoping to pick up supplies for
his starving Army and then head south into NC to join up with other forces.

At each point where supplies awaited however, the Union Army outflanked and
captured or destroyed the supplies before the rebels could be resupplied.

US Grant sent several letters to Lee requesting that he surrender to avoid further
death and destruction.   Lee refused but requested to know what the terms might be if he did.

Continuing his westbound retreat along the Richmond Lynchburg Stage road
Lee turned his sights on the railroad station at Appomattox Station where
3 trains filled with supplies awaited his starving army.

The Richmond Lynchburg Stage Road.

However, prior to arriving, the trains were
captured and burned by General George Armstrong Custer.

The situation was dire for the Confederates.  Lee tried one last time
to break thru the union lines but was pushed back and surrounded.  He finally sent a
letter to Grant that he would like to meet to discuss the surrender terms.

That meeting, and the singing of the surrender took place in this room
on April 9, 1865.

Lee sat at the marble desk on the left and Grant  at the wooden table on the right.

Here is a painting of the surrender.
Custer is on the back left.

This is a view of the outside of the house.

US Grant was wise and magnanimous in his surrender terms.
He allowed the Confederates to keep their supplies, the officers their sidearms,
and the men any of the horses that they owned so that they could return home
and plow their fields.  The only requirement was that they lay down their arms
and not wage war against the US any longer.

In what today might be called "Political Correctness" Grant issued another
wise order to his troops:  He instructed the US Army to not taunt the Rebels
or hold boisterous celebrations.
He said this was a time for kindness, compassion, and reunification.

As a result US troops shared their food with the starving rebels and participated
in many other acts of compassion rather than rubbing their noses in their defeat.
News of this good treatment spread south and helped with the healing of the
wounds caused by 4 long years of Civil War.

All of the defeated soldiers were given "Paroles" or passes that said they were 
surrendered soldiers and should be allowed free and safe passage home.

The tavern below was set up as a temporary print shop that ran day and night
and printed almost 40,000 passes in two days.

There were several other Confederate Armies scattered about the south and
as soon as the news of Lees' surrender and the generous terms that were 
offered in doing for doing so, each of them followed Lees lead.

And just like that the war was over.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Jeffersons Monticello

Thursday we took a drive to visit Monticello, the home of
our third President, Thomas Jefferson.

It is also the current home of Gracies' Breeder so we combined our visit with a
fast stop to see him and Gracies' littermate and sister - Lilly.

We felt like VIP's...
Entering the private gate - getting cleared by security to go to
the Monticello Presidents house, and driving into the private sections of the
massive estate.

Thomas Jefferson was a complex individual.
A big proponent of freedom and liberty he wrote the
Declaration of Independence and was also quite an inventor.

This spherical sundial was one of his inventions and was an international
sensation of the era.

No photographs were allowed inside the main living areas of the home.

The plantation was home to Jefferson and his wife as well as approximately
400 slaves.   They were freed by his daughter after his death.

Some of the still operating vegetable gardens

The wine cellar

His grave (the obelisk) and those of his direct decendants.
Jefferson wanted not to be remembered as our Third President, but rather
as the Author of the Declaration of Independence and the 
founder of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, just
a short distance from Monticello.

The visitor center was quite impressive both in content and construction.
Among the offerings were heirloom plants and flowers.

If you find yourself in the area...  a stop is a worthwhile endeavor.
You just might learn something...
and gain a Doodle.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Luray Virginia

We left Gettysburg on a rainy Sunday.
Jim led the way and we chased him down the highway as we
drove deeper into the Appalachian Mountains.

We crossed the Potomac River at Harpers Ferry - made famous for the raid  on
the federal arsenal by John Brown.

The fall colors were still muted and the cloudy skies cast a pall over the day
but our spirits remained high in anticipation of our new port of call and
the beautiful fall colors yet to come.

Chasing Jim & Kristi

We arrived at our next stop - Shenandoah River State Park
just north of Luray,Va.

The weather was raining but the next morning held the promise of
better weather yet to come.

Our site in the State Park.

There are numerous hikes in the park.  
Today we took a several mile hike along the river, then back
up the side of the mountain back to the campround.

One of the vistas along the way.

Yesterday we visited Luray Caverns.
Luray Caverns is the 4th largest in the US and quite
beautiful even in spite of the fact that they are a commercial cavern and
the emphasis is more on the almighty dollar vs preservation.

Green Algae on the roof of the caverns is an indicator of that emphasis.

Here Kate & Kristi strike a subterranean pose.

Is it live or is it Memorex?
A reflecting pool in the cavern.

A great shot...
Such a beautiful cavern.

This type of formation is called Bacon.
Can you guess why?
We've seen it in other caverns thousands of miles away.

This room is called The Cathedral and has an organ that uses the
Stalactites as the organ pipes.

We pose for a group photo over 100' below ground.

Part of the Luray Caverns Complex contains an Auto Museum.
It was one of the most impressive collections of old automobiles that I've
had the pleasure to view.

There were vehicles ranging from the late 1800's thru the 1940's

Back at the shack, the leaves have been slowly changing.   The color of the
season creeping towards its peak.

Our morning hike today.

Tomorrow Kate & I are going to Monticello - the home of
Thomas Jefferson outside of Charlottesville, Va.
Gracies Breeder is the director there - the person in charge -  and we are going to get to 
see them plus Gracies littermate sister Lilly.
The Doodles are coming so it should be a fun doggy day.

The day after that we continue our trip south.
We will drive about 400 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway and are hoping for
a real colorful time.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is beautiful during any season but really shines
during the Fall so stay tuned.   We should have some real special treats in store.

For a taste - here is a picture we took a few years ago along the Blue Ridge.