My husband and I ended up the trip that Dad and I had started.  After coming home to clean out the RV, he and I drove it to Mesa, AZ to turn it in and then stayed on a few days in the Phoenix Metro area to reconnect after having been apart for 6 weeks.  We took historic Route 66 and stopped in Seligman at the SnowCap where we had stopped 30 years ago.  We were sad to hear that the father had passed away, but glad to see that his son was keeping the legacy of this iconic home of the practical joke and community pride that serves its ice cream with laughs and one-liners where every inch is covered with jokes, photos, business cards and memorabilia – it is not to be missed. Then we traveled down Route 17 through Oak Creek and Sedona for classic vistas.  Once in Phoenix, we stayed in a nice hotel, had some nice dinners out, visited with his uncle and aunt and saw some of the sights:  a zoo/aquarium, olive oil plant, classic cars, WigWam Ranch resort, flower farm and candy factory.  He got randomly selected for an intensive and invasive search at the airport which caused some delays, embarrassment and stress at the end, but he went along with the flow and handled it better than I would have.  But, we barely made it on time for our flight and now we are home and planning for Thanksgiving.












As promised, here are some of our trip stats:

Total miles driven in RV or rental vehicles: 8039 (7162 of those were in the RV and except for the last 400, were driven by my Dad – is he awesome, or what?)

Total gallons of gas:  826.377 gallons (averaging $3.55/gallon and 10.28 MPG)

Total number of days in travel: October 4-November 12  – 39 days, and then another 5 days for the return trip to AZ: totalling 44 days (6 weeks and 2 days)

Number of photos taken – Dad took 10 Instamatic cameras worth (270) and I took 1850 which can be viewed on two INTERNET albums (Road Trip 2011 and Ringling Museum 11-4-11) on Snapfish. Total: 2120

Total Cost of spending all this quality time with each other and seeing some friends and relatives along the way while checking off bucket-list items: PRICELESS!

Thanks to those of you who read the blog and shared our trip – we hope that you enjoyed it with your morning coffee or late-night snack.  Now that it is over, I will probably give you some holiday recipes and share some of our family traditions.  If any of you have something special that you do with family and friends, or any good recipes that you want to share, send them to me and I will post them for you.


We are back at home, safe and sound.  We were very fortunate throughout the trip to have no major issues and arrived safely.  There is still a ton of unloading and cleaning to do and I also will be providing some stats on our trip after I have calculated the summaries in our diaries. I am really only home for 2 days and then my husband and I will drive the RV back to Mesa, AZ to turn it in and pay out the contract (OUCH).  We will stay in AZ a few days to visit his uncle and aunt and to have a little personal time together after having been so far apart for so long.

We want to thank the friends and relatives that were on our route that took the time to fit us into their busy lives on pretty short notice.  It was nice to connect with all of you and we appreciate your hospitality to give us a little reprieve of a home cooked meal, a real bed and the pleasure of your company.  If you come our way – we will return the favor. Also, to those of you who have been reading this blog on a semi-regular basis  – thanks for coming along with us on our journey. We hope that you enjoyed it as much as we did.

Our last day of driving took us past Saguaro cacti and Joshua Tree forests.  We saw some fall color again near Wikieup – where we also saw a life-size T-Rex and a man “carrying” a cross (that had wheels on the bottom) to re-enact Jesus’ stations of the cross.


Then, we moved into a more rocky area with boulders precariously balanced like a game of Jenga by the gods.  A purple ground plant colored the sides and median of the road and occasionally a bush or yellow or white desert flowers provided a splash of pizazz to the otherwise drab landscape. The mountains surrounded us until we reached Lake Mead Recreational area and then we were enveloped within the giants and looked down upon amazing vistas that stretched horizon to horizon.  We crossed the new Tillman Bridge that we had seen being built in 2009 when we last took our cross country tour.  This new flyover allows traffic to be diverted away from the Dam, which became a concern following 9/11.

As the skyline of Las Vegas began to emerge, we realized that most of the cities that we had passed through were different, but the same.  As we reached the local city streets, we saw people going to and from work, getting on and off buses, waiting at traffic lights, going to the millions of fast-food establishments and going about the routine activities of the day.

The words of the day (found on an advertising sign in Sun City, AZ for a housing development) are a lesson to all of us: Life at a New Pace.  We all need to take charge of how we spend our time and to re-prioritize to do the things that are important to us.  Don’t waste even one day.  We are so glad that we took the time to do this trip together and we hope that we have inspired some of you to pursue one of your dreams.  As promised, I will give you some stats about our trip soon and then we will be into the Thanksgiving and overall holiday period so look for some recipies and family stories, so keep on stopping back.


11-11-11 A Lucky Day

First, we want to start with wishing all the Veterans a Happy Veteran’s Day – thank you for your service to our country that allow us the freedom to travel this great land as we have. The words of the day are dedicated to all of you:

How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!
~Maya Angelou

We are sitting in our LAST campground before home.  We are in Casa Grande, AZ, south of Phoenix.  At first presentation, the campground looks sparse and harsh – but now that we are in it, we see that we are surrounded by nature and art. Quails are running about – their little families look like they are late for an appointment and have lost their way as they hustle at a frantic pace, to and fro through the part of the park called Quail Lane.  At Bunny Hop Trail (another one of the many cute road names within the park), I saw the biggest live jack-rabbit ever – it had to be 3ft tall and a foot of that was ears!  Beside him, was a smaller cotton-tailed bunny (Thumper-like) who dodged off as soon as it heard my footsteps on the gravel.  We are staying in a cul de sac called Owl’s Nest and through I have not yet found the nest, I hear the owl – how cool is that?  Now, what troubles me is that the main road that goes around the park is called Rattlesnake Curve and since I saw a warning sign at the desk, I believe that there are some rattlers out there…also, there is Coyote Run and Lizard Pass – not my choice of destinations!






Even though none of the trees is higher than the tallest RV in the park, there is still alot of local plants of interest.  At the entrance, several barrel-cactus and ocatilla plants are featured.

Within the various sections of the park, we found arrangements of folk art, natural desert-themed displays, western art and objects and fall displays.



Also, prominently displayed is the American Flag in all its glory, flapping in the wind – saluting the sky. I know it is Veteran’s Day, but I suspect those flags fly year round. This date of 11-11-11 is supposed to be lucky because all of the numbers are repetitive.  I guess that is true – it has been our lucky day to have a peaceful and interesting end to our journey.



Unfortunately, my camera is not cooperating today so no photos to share.  Hoping that a re-charge will help and I will be more successful tomorrow. The temps got quite low last night and I awoke to find Dad in full sweats and his ski hat on as well.  We had come full circle – just last week we had the AC on and were wearing shorts! WOTD as quoted by Dad:  This is an amazing country with so much diversity, I am really glad we made this trip! I love you.

Our ride to El Paso took us past alot of flat barren land with mountains, bluffs and mesas in the distance.  However, the sun was out and the sky was blue so the brisk air was only a minor distraction.  The nearer we got to El Paso the more mountains we saw.  Looking towards the Rio Grande, we could see fields and orchards and green pastures.  Of course, we could also see Mexico.  The Border Fence stretched along the river like a snake, but really didn’t lok too ominous, though we were at a pretty far distance. At all of the crossing point exits we saw a reminder that guns were not allowed (a handgun with a red circle/slash) which made us feel better that we had decided to stay north of EP.  We were amazed about the sheer size of the city though as it sprawled to fill its valley, not too many high-rises, but LOTS of highway interchanges and spaghetti bowls criss-crossed our own Route 10.

Moving on to Las Cruces, NM we encountered miles and miles of cattle feeding in trough facilities, some goats and sheep as well. These appeared to be stockyards, not dairy farms.  When we crossed the NM border, we began to see pueblo style houses in unique colors and evidence of a concerted effort to maximize solar energy resources at a local level.  We pulled in early and were pleased to see the scenery surrounding us to be majestic mountains and pleasant views that should make for great sunrise/sunset photos (IF I get some, I will add to this post). Unfortunately, we have arrived just before a major Mariachi Music Festival so we will miss that, but we have to forge on. We are very close to home now and will be near Phoenix tomorrow – that is probably a good thing because I am feeling a little puny today, like an illness coming on.

It should get pretty cold again tonight, so we will get out the long johns (if we can find them).  Pray for my camera.



Our trip through the Hill Country of Texas is best told by the thoughts and photos of the day – enjoy! A Haiku that I wrote on the road:

We’ve travelled so far

Along white line zipper teeth

Closing miles to home


                                          Hill Against Blue Sky

Limestone "Layer Cake"

Mayan Temple??








  Prickly Pear and Barbed                                         Nature’s Softer Side
   Wire – Nature and Man

Century Plant - One Life Only

Windmills – Past and     Present.


Ride On Don Quioxte!



THE Yellow Rose of Texas


Light and Dark:  Last night after I posted, I walked out on the fishing pier and saw people catching fish as fast as they could throw in their lines.  They told me that mostly these were sea or ocean trout.  They were a metallic silver color with some nasty little teeth that were hitting on just lures.  They sparkled as they neared the surface of the dark water, as if they were covered in tin-foil. Also out in the bay, just beyond the lights that shone on the green water, were pure white pelicans with long orange beaks, just floating and bobbing on the waves. I am used to seeing the brown pelicans, but these white birds were almost fluorescent when the light shone on their feathers.  The photos do not do them justice, but I used every possible setting and could not get a clear picture of what I was seeing because they were right on the cusp of light and shadow and were also moving and I have a modest camera for all that challenge. We had rain during the night and the clouds were low and gray when we left for our trip to San Antonio, but as has been par for the course of our trip, as we got 10 miles out of our final destination, the sun broke through and we never saw a cloud again this evening and we watched the moon rise over the Alamo.







Conservation and Exploitation:  We had to go through Galveston and Houston and we were amazed at the shear scope of the oil industry in this region.  Of course we all know about Texas oil and refineries, but as far as the eye could see there was a testament to our nation’s gluttony and dependence on fossil fuel.  We did have one advantage of paying about 15 cents less for a gallon of gas and it WAS a technological marvel of engineering – but it was also sad in a way to see how much of the land was gobbled up by industrial and toxic manufacture and storage.  But, I guess that is a hypocritical view since we WERE travelling in an RV across the country, so we have no right to judge.  Gas guzzlers unite!

Dry and Moist:  This area has been suffering from a severe drought, as was evidenced by the many dry creeks and riverbeds that we crossed.  But at a road-side rest area, I tok the nature walk to stretch my legs and found evidence of succulents and berries and trees that had managed to eek out what little moisture there was and gave us a display of color and life.  Their fortitude was admirable.

The Haves and the Have-Nots: We got into San Antonio rather early and as we did, the ominous clouds disappeared and the sun came out in full glory, so we showered and took the city bus into town.  We were obviously the only two “tourists” on the bus.  Most of the others appeared to be coming home from work and looked tired and bored.  The bus went through the poorer part of town and at each stop, people of color trudged off so they could get some dinner and sleep and then start all over again.  I overheard some say they were going to their 2nd job and some were going to church services and others had to retreive their kids from friends and relatives who had watched them for the workday. By the time the bus got to Alamo Square in downtown, we were the only ones on the bus that had started out full.  Downtown San Antonio and the RiverWalk area were a far cry different than the neighborhoods that we had gone through to get here. There were great and beautiful buildings, monuments and artwork. Police patrolled the areas to keep out the riff-raff and people dressed in fine clothes scurried to make their dinner reservation time-slots.  Recreation was on their minds, not the decision about bologna or PB&J for lunch tomorrow…

Tourists that we were, we eventually found our way to the RiverWalk and went down to stroll with the others.  Dinner was Tex-Mex and Dad had a mondo Margarita, so I think he will sleep well tonight.  We are fortunate to be able to spend the time and money to make this trip and it was days like these that make us appreciate that even more.


Today, we traveled to Baytown, near Galveston Texas.  We are staying on the Gulf about 500 feet from the water with an unobstructed view.  I will miss the shore alot. The clouds are hung low and the winds are howling, yet it is still enjoyable and provided an unusual sunset.  People are fishing off the dock and the pelicans are diving head-first into the water – no hook, line and sinker for them! A viewing gazebo sits a few feet away from us and a fishing pier meanders out into the water that laps at the shore with a sound like a cat sipping water from her bowl – dainty, yet persistant.

Today was a travel day, as we quickly left New Orleans behind us, the landscape changed to swamps and marshes as far as the eye could see.  There were no buildings in contrast to the city and urban areas that we had just left behind.  Waterways criss-crossed beneath the causeways and water fowl sat motionless on stumps or in tall grasses.  Smaller birds lined the telephone wires for contiguous lengths that formed a few birds at a time until they looked like a long necklace of black pearls.  At our rest stop I FINALLY got to see and photograph my alligator in the wild at Blue Elbow Swamp.


Tomorrow, we head towards San Antonio to start a long trek across the state of Texas – we intend to do the RiverWalk, so at least I will get a small dose of H2O tomorrow, as well. Tonight, we will enjoy the sunset and be thankful for our time together.

I came across this poem while “surfing the web” and it reflects my feelings as well as the author:


I sit on “my” rock, peacefully, quietly, soaking in the serenity…

I walk, breathing deep, absorbing the surroundings.

I’m where I want to be, alone with my thoughts-

But she’s there with me, and she’s always there for me.

No matter when I come or the mood I’m in on any given day,

When I need to get a lift, or ponder life’s questions or

Just shed a desperate tear, she is always there for me.

And I leave refreshed, recharged, renewed and content.

— Lee Harrington, Laconia, October 16, 2011


Today, was a 26 hour day (of sorts).  First we had Daylight Savings hour gain and then we moved from Eastern to Central Time zone to gain the second hour.  That was a good thing, because it got us into the Big Easy before the New Orleans Saints won their home game against Tampa Bay Buccaneers (who thoroughly thrashed them last time). We passed through Alabama (where we saw a re-emergence of fall foliage color) and Mississippi (which had the most lovely and friendly Tourist Welcome Center EVER – all decorated like a mansion, free coffee, Elvis and movies to watch. It made me feel bad that we were only passing through).

In New Orleans, we didn’t see too much destruction left, but there was evidence of re-building remnants and conspicuous signs indicating that the refurbishing was paid for by state dollars with 0 dollars from the Feds (meant to be a slap in the face, I am sure). We will see what downtown area looks like tonight and will likely not get to see the 9th Ward, which got the worst of it and the least support to date because it generally is not the wealthy or touristy location.

I was deterimined to visit Cafe Du Monde for their beignets and cafe au lait.  To my delight, they have franchised, so we found one on the way to our campground and I had my indulgence fulfilled ahead of schedule.  I know it was a naughty lunch, but they are SO good.

We hear that tonight will be a wild one in the French Quarter because they won.  We came all this way, so we decided to walk a little on the wild side so we are taking a shuttle to the Natchez Riverboat Jazz cruise and then go to the French Quarter to follow.  We likely will stay on Bourbon Street, as advised – the darker the street gets the seedier and more dangerous the neighborhood becomes.  We thought the bayou was scarey – but that doesn’t compare to the FQ at night.  Even the walking tours are cancelled due to the congestion – but I guess this is the closest we will get to the Mardi Gras feel (unless we go to the Rio). I will post more photos and “The Rest of the Story” tomorrow after our night on the town.

Our Night on the Town:

We enjoyed the River-Boat cruise music and the scenery – the food, not so much, your typical “buffet”.  But we had quite a good time cruising the Mississippi in the paddle-boat, hearing the history, seeing the engine room, feeling the night breeze and watching the big ships and the lights on New Orleans at night.






We were told to stick to Bourbon Street as the safest option.  Not sure that was the best advice because it wasn’t our scene.  Raunchy only goes so far if you are not a participant and only a spectator.   We did find a few nicer Jazz joints and Music Preservation Park – but there were no seats and the loud music from the bars and strip joints drowned out the real musicians. However, we did enjoy what little we did get to see and got some inspiration for the day from a Louie Armstrong standard “It’s a Wonderful World”.

 I did see more drunk and provocative situations than we see in Vegas – likely because the area is more compressed and the sexual overtones are more overt and mixed in with the regular venues.  To top off our night, we got a cab driver who got lost and did the same circuit twice (about 20 miles each time) before he would listen to our directions.  I know that you are thinking that he was trying to rip us off, but we actually had a flat rate agreement with our campground and there was no meter running, so it actually was costing him money…what is it about men stopping to ask directions??  Turns out his dispatcher knew exactly where to send him, if he had just asked.  Oh well, I guess you could say that we got an extra tour for free and saw the Mercedez-Benz Dome (aka the SuperDome) all repaired and illuminated with changing lights – it was pretty. Tomorrow, we head for Texas – Yee Haw!


When the sun rose this morning, we could finally see Lake Walenda, which we missed last night because we arrived in the dark. A mist was just rising off the water as the sun rose and gave a pink hue to the clouds.  I walked out on their dock and saw lily-pads and water grasses that hid small fish that wriggled just below the surface. After awhile, I saw objects moving in the water in the distance and was not sure if it was a water snake, alligator or schools of fish. Larger fish opened their mouths just at the water’s surface to gulp down unsuspecting bugs and then submerged, sending concentric circles of ripples radiating out across the water.  Brown squirrels chased each other up tree trunks and over adjacent limbs while chattering and dropping pine-cones and acorns to the ground.  I heard two birds calling from opposite sides of the lake – an unusual gawking, not particularly melodious – but I could not find them visually. It was a peaceful time since hardly anyone was out yet and I enjoyed the solitude and nature.

Since we had pie last night, we decided to have grapefruit this morning – hoping in some way that the calories would balance to the negative…Then we pulled up stakes and started toward I-10. Northern Florida had its fair share of farmland and pastures.  We passed an Inmate Work Farm (reminded me of Cool Hand Luke) and stopped at a Citrus Center to buy more fruit and “stuff” and to see their 30-FT ALLIGATOR!  They forgot to mention on the billboard (replica)…but we enjoyed the stop anyhow.  Shortly after that we left I-75 and crossed to the 10 West – our official turn towards home.  We still have about 2500 miles to go (so don’t stop reading now) and many more stories to tell.  But, we are already looking forward to seeing those we left behind and getting ready for Thanksgiving.  Tonight we are in Chattahoochee, Florida (don’t you just love that name?) and having steak, mushrooms, sliced tomatoes, corn-on-the-cob and baked potatoes for dinner – maybe we won’t have to eat grapefruit tomorrow – but we have some in stock if we decide to eat dessert!

We also would like to introduce you to Midnight – we are not sure that is her name – but for tonight, that’s it.  She has adopted us and is quite affectionate – a little slice of home for her and for us (miss you Lotus).  I think she makes the campground rounds – but has found us the best of the lot (and we haven’t even fed or coaxed her).  Like all of us – she just likes a good rub-down and a friendly smile – WOTD.


We left the comforts of home back in North Port and restarted our trek.  A short distance away was the Ringling Museum and Residence, so we decided to pay it a visit.  We are SO glad that we did.  The lawns and gardens were immaculate and lush.  The physical accomodations and the staff were helpful and friendly.  The displays were awesome and the home oppulent, decadent and ostentatious.

Most enjoyable was the minature reproduction of the circus in its heyday which was done over the course of 50 years by Howard Tibbals.  He provides our quote of the day: “The tedious goes with the easy – just like all of life”.  The attraction spans a huge expanse of display and not only shows the big top and its wonders, but also gives equal attention to the background of the set-up, animal care, commisary, dressing rooms, side shows and living accomodations of the performers and crew.  It re-enacts the flurry of activity that would accompany the arrival of the circus to a town, the set up, the actual one-day performance and the tear-down and move to the next town.  The attention to detail, the colors and spectacle and the sheer amount of individual pieces that come together to create this wonder are awe-inspiring.  If you are ever in Sarasota, Fl – we would highly recommend that you stop.

In addition to the model, there are real circus memorbilia, props, photos and footage of performers.  Many of the iconic performers are profiled and there are many elaborate costumes and wagons and calliopes and train cars and instruments to see.  As you can imagine, clowns are were a focus and many of the classic characters and their props were featured.  Much attention was also given to the daredevils, acrobats, wire walkers, jugglers, trapeze artists, animal trainers and even the ringmasters.  You take photos all day in this place (and I did my fair share!) the colors are vibrant and the unusual and rare artifacts give you a chance to re-live a time when many of us were not even alive.  We looked at a timeline and saw that the pinnacle of the circus as a spectacle peaked even before Dad was born (1936) and had just about completely died out (as this great moveable city with all its pomp and community excitement and its great tents) by the time I was born. Although we have circus today, its renaisance period has long passed and it is a mere shadow of its former self. This museum brings it all back to life again.

Well, after seeing all those clowns get pies in the face, we decided to get some pie IN our face. We traveled to Yoder’s Amish restaurant with its 15 kinds of crust baked pies and and equal number of cream pies!  Decisions, decisions….Dad asked for mincemeat but they didn’t have that, so he got pumpkin which was a creamy custard about 3 inches tall with a flaky crust.  I looked at them all and pondered between rhubarb and strawberry – rhubarb won out (as I knew it would) and I had it warmed, but left out the ice cream.  It, too, had a flaky crust and lots of filling which was just tart enough, just sweet enough.  I am so glad this place is NOT in Vegas!  We did not throw our pie at each other – can’t let good pie go to waste – we shared and ate every crumb.  On the way out, it was so tempting to buy more pie to go – but we resisted and got some citrus variety (it IS Florida, after all) and some other fresh fruits and veggies.

The trip to Silver Springs on I-75 was frustrating because of two traffic jams(reason unknown) that delayed our arrival by over 2 hours.  So, we had to hook up in the dark.  But, we are settled in now and Dad is reading and I am blogging – all is back to normal.  I told you that I had a TON of circus picks – if you want to see them (and other pics of the day), please click on this link and see the file on Snapfish (it is free and you can choose to view it as a slideshow:


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