Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Lost Sea

Sunday we headed for Tennessee. I was looking forward to seeing the “Mighty Mississippi” River. It wasn’t much to look at, at least crossing at Memphis, TN. (The Tennessee River, however, was very pretty.) We were most interested in sites in the eastern part of the state so we decided to take a southern route out of Memphis that took us in to Mississippi and Alabama. We did our first boondocking (dry camping) in a Walmart parking lot in Huntsville, Alabama. It was quite different from our previous night at such a nice campground, but it was the only thing available. The route we were on was nice, but not many facilities, not even rest areas.

Monday we again headed north in to Tennessee. We had our second experience sleeping in a Ford dealership lot. This time by choice. We needed to have our scheduled maintenance on the truck, and since we had gotten a VERY early start (and not much sleep at Camp Walmart), we took the opportunity to catch up on some sleep while they worked on the truck. Worked out great!

We were on our way by noon, headed for Sweetwater, TN to see the Lost Sea. The Lost Sea is a four acre underground lake in the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee. As has been throughout most of our travels so far, we were the only ones on the tour of the cavern and lake. It is amazing to think that we had this huge cavern to ourselves! Our guide, Karen, was a lot of fun. She was very patient with all of our picture taking. It was difficult to get good pictures in such low light. (I told Pamm to use her flash (duh!) but she said that it was not working properly.)

Here I am with the ladies at the Lost Sea. The one on the right is Karen, our guide.

This is the tunnel into the cavern. It sure looks dark down there. I may find a nice place for a nap down there!

There were lots of great places to explore.

Even in 1877 graffiti was popular. These names and dates were burned into the rocks.

Limestone formations in the cavern.
I found the Lost Sea! Karen took us out on a small boat that had a glass bottom. The lake is stocked with trout which are fed each time a boat goes out. The fish jump everywhere, waiting for the food. Sometimes they even jump into the boat!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

At the interpretive center.

The diamond fields.
They plow the fields every several months. It was too messy for me, but Jan and Pamm had fun digging.
This is a new friend I met at the park. She is from Washington, too! Imagine that, all this way and one of the few other people in the park is also from Washington!

Thursday, we headed for Arkansas and the Diamond Mine State Park. We arrived after dark, making finding a spot in the campground a little more challenging, but in the daylight, we found we had chosen the best possible spot.

Although it was bitterly cold we headed to the mine to try our fortunes. After much digging and sifting, we found a lot of mud and some cool rocks, but no sparkles. Only one person found a diamond that day. (They sound a big siren to signal when a diamond is found) The diamond mine was a big disappointment (mostly due to all the trash), but the campground has to be one of the best we have seen. We were one of only a dozen occupied campsites (crowded by our experiences). There was abundant wildlife viewing and several hiking trails and only a short walk to the diamond fields

Wednesday, February 7th, We pulled out of Amarillo at 9:15 am. There was a cold wind that made the 34 degrees feel much colder. Our goal for the day was to make it to Oklahoma City. We stopped in McLean, TX , a small town on old Route 66, to see a museum and find a Texas Route 66 pin. The town was a sad remnant of what once was, typical of many towns along old Route 66. The museum was not open and the only place we found open was a gas station. The people were very nice and directed us to a truck stop to the east where we could find the pin we wanted. We entered Oklahoma at about noon. The land is made up of gently rolling plains, much greener than Texas or NM. The red-orange soil is visible everywhere, making the landscape quite colorful. There are a lot of windmills scattered across the land, and an occasional oil pump. We took a detour up old Route 66 to the town of Cheyenne, to visit the Battle of Washita Battleground, the sight of a major engagement in the Plains Indian War which established the western expansion of the United States. The town of Cheyenne has a very nice city park, with displays of old time city buildings, a museum, a Civil War era canon, a Howitzer 105mm canon, and a buffalo statue. Fueled up in Sayre – $2.289/gal. One thing we noticed in this area was that everyone waves as you pass them on the road. We stayed the night at Catfish RV Park and Restaurant in eastern Oklahoma. Jan enjoyed his first taste of catfish. They served the BEST apple fritters! A girl brought hot, fresh, golfball-sized fritters dipped in powdered sugar. As my Poppie always said, “Best I ever tasted!”

Pamm's New Look

I am a little out of order here, but wanted to post pictures of Pamm's new haircut.

Pamm and her twin sister Patty. (The matching shirts were not planned at all!)

Monday, February 19, 2007


Beautiful Texas sunset
Tumbleweed pool
There are a lot of unusual sights along Old Route 66 Texas!

There are many of these abandoned "ghost towns" along old Route 66.

We have always heard about everything being bigger in Texas, but the only "big" thing we saw was what they claimed to be the biggest cross in the US.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007 Driving Day: Left Gallup, NM 8:15 am, 26F, clear. At 3:45 pm we entered Texas, finally found warmth! 73F and sunny. Stopped at Overnight RV Park in Amarillo. The temperature dropped drastically after sunset, with a hefty wind blowing. A note on the door of the office instructed that we not connect to the water as they were expecting freezing temperatures overnight. Even with temperatures in the 70’s during the day, there was still snow and ice in shady places. The swimming pool was filled with tumbleweeds and ice! We expected to be near the RR tracks, but were not expecting that we were directly under the landing path of the local airport. Commuter jets flew directly over us at about 100 feet above us, about every 8-10 minutes until about 11:30. ( Of course we didn't discover this until we were already set up in the park!) We don’t know if they stopped, or we were just so tired we didn’t hear them anymore.

The Continental Divide

The Continental Divide is the place in the US where rainfall divides. To the west it drains into the Pacific Ocean, to the East into the Atlantic.
The rock formations on the Colorado Plateau ( Northern AZ, NM, Colorado, etc) are amazing!

Here I am at a trading post at the Continental Divide. Don't I look like a real western lawman?

Navaho Nation- Window Rock & Hubble Trading Post

Memorial to the WindTalkers of WWII

Hubble Trading Post

Monday, Feb 5th: : Drove to Window Rock on the Navajo Nation, in Northwest New Mexico and Northeast Arizona. We also went to the Hubbell Trading Post, the oldest continuously operating trading post.

New Mexico- Well, Really Colorado

Wild Turkeys

Sunday, Feb..4, We left our rig in Gallup, NM and drove to Colorado's Mesa Verde National Park to see the cliff dwellings. It was about a 3 hour drive, so we again arrived late in the day, but had plenty of time to see all of the dwellings. Some were dug into the ground on the tops of the cliffs, others were built into the cliffs, hundreds of feet up (and down). The elevation at the location was about 7000 feet.. As we made our way along the drive to see the dwellings, we were alone, except for a heard of deer. Toward the end of the drive, we met another couple (from Oregon). As we were leaving the drive, we came upon a flock of wild turkeys. They were just waddling down the middle of the road. They soon realized we were there and just moved over to the oncoming lane. They finally walked off into the woods. It was quite funny! It was a 20+ mile drive back down the mountain to the park entrance (about a 45 min. drive). The sun was setting as we left the top, and it was very dark by the time we reached the bottom. Along the drive down we saw a coyote on the side of the road.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Petrified Forest

I am pictured here with one of the Park Rangers from the Petrified Forest.
A close-up of some petrified wood. They have the most beautiful colors.

Here I am with some petrified wood.
This is why they call it the Painted Desert!

Saturday, Feb 3, Left Williams, AZ. Drove east to New Mexico. Just before the border, we entered the Petrified Forest National Park. It was 4:30. The park was closing at 5:00, but they allow you to stay in the park as long as you are “headed toward” an exit. We had time to walk one of the paths to see the petrified wood up close. We entered the park at the south end and drove the 26 miles to the north entrance at the Painted Desert, reaching the Painted Desert portion of the park just as the sun was setting. The colors were amazing. I had always thought that the Painted Desert portion and the Petrified Forest were completely separate, however, upon closer look, we found that the Painted Desert was also littered with huge logs of petrified wood. We arrived in Gallup, New Mexico and stayed overnight at an RV park on New Mexico's old Route 66.

Meteor Crater

There are still places in Arizona and New Mexico where you can travel on old Route 66. It is rather sad to see some of the neat places that have just fallen into ruin now that the road no longer goes through some of these small towns. This photo was in Williams, AZ, where the town is still thriving, probably because of the railroad.
This photo is one of the trains run by the Grand Canyon Railway. They run a Polar Express in December. I believe this is the train used for that.

After leaving Williams, AZ, we headed toward the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert National Park in Northeastern Arizona. On the way we detoured to see the Meteor Crater. (The posting for the Meteor Crater is sadly without photos as those were some that were lost to the computer wasteland.) The crater was... well, a big hole in the ground! The museum they have there is quite nice. There were displays on meteors, as well as the space program. There were also some movies filmed there. Admission was expensive and way overpriced.