What’s new?

Road: I-25 North to Wyoming 6/5/2019

While I’m captive in my passenger’s seat, I thought I’d update y’all.

Pretty soon here our travels will change pretty radically! We’re going to rendezvous with a few other RV’s in Great Falls, MT. The rendezvous is for our Adventure Caravans, RVing Women, 58 day, 2019 Trip to Alaska! Barb and I are tail gunning the caravan.

Adventure Caravans (AVC) is a premier RV caravanning company that has been around a long time and has a fabulous track record and catalog of adventures. It reminds me of Road Scholar (used to be Elderhostel) only for RVers. You see, do and learn from experts and folks who live in the area. We’re proud to work with such a reputable and organized company. Our guests feel the same and most travel with AVC multiple times.  Adventure Caravans Website

What is tail gunning? Well, we’ll be the last people to leave each of the RV parks we stay in for one thing. The job entails making sure all the other RVs make it to the park safely, solving any problems with RVs, helping anybody who happens to fall ill or get injured – heaven forfend – and assisting our Wagon Masters in any way we can. Our objective is providing safety and fun for our guests.

What do we do on a caravan trip? Oh gosh, we visit all the most interesting sights along the way and of course, everything is arranged in advance so our guests don’t need to fuss with or worry about making reservations or missing sights, activities or any fun. B and I will be helping to ensure our guests have the BEST time, while having a grand time ourselves. Lots of social hours, potlucks and staff cooked meals don’t hurt either!

Why go on an RV caravan journey? As many of you know, B and I have been traveling together in our various RVs off and on since 1995. We’ve done so many amazing things on our own but for one trip we organized with three other rigs. We loved that first trip we took with our little group. Traveling with a group is a blast! Sharing all those fabulous sights and learning about the area, it’s history and it’s people with other like minded folks only adds to the experience immeasurably. Another reason would be the old “Safety in numbers” idea. Caravaners have wagon master and tail gunner teams to make sure any problems are addressed and everyone has a smooth, fun, safe journey.

The upshot is that due to potential internet availability issues, potential having the times of our lives, potential working like busy bees and potential being so in the moment… meeting up with you here will likely be in pretty abbreviated amount and form. I can’t say I want to apologize though. You know we’ll get back to posting and fill in the blanks as internet and time are available. We will, after all, be hip deep in glaciers, bears, salmon, museums, musk oxen, halibut, out of this world mountains (Denali) and activities (rafting, fishing, eating, hiking…)

Next time we caravan to Alaska will be in 2021. Next year, we’ll be tail gunning a trip up the Gaspé Peninsula and over to Newfoundland. These trips will be all female teams and guests – we’ll give our guy friends a catalog to sign up for the same trips or even more varied choices with co-ed tours. Want to come along or need more information? Email us at twogalsgo@gmail.com.

 

 

Quiet. Kansas. Colorado Springs.

June 2, 2019

Streaming along on KS 40 West

Pickles!

We hopped off of I-70 to camp last night at High Plains RV Campground. High Plains is a super-nice park. The electrical system was up to date, pedestals clean and freshly painted. Water was very tasty and pressure was good. And the most amazing thing about this place is the Restaurant High Plains owners run! Amazing! Cap’n Jack’s Pub is a real gem. 

I don’t usually do RV park reviews here as I prefer to do them on Trip Advisor, Allstays and RV Life. This place is such an exception! I recommend that anyone who is driving that long route from Kansas City to Denver STOP and eat. The seafood menu is extensive (flown in daily, per the owners), they have Elk, Kobe, Grass-fed Beef and Bison Burgers. Now, I have to disclose that we’ve eaten a few Bison burgers, maybe quite a few, and Cap’n Jack’s Bison Burger was absolutely THE BEST either Barb or I have ever eaten. 

We left I-70 this morning and got on I-40 West (a very nice road, clean and level, not much traffic. The part we are on is called “Western Vistas Byway.” The byway includes some of the coolest sights in Kansas – and there are many. This is where “Pickles!” comes in… we made a stop at a nice museum (closed) took some photos and continued on 40. We just stopped at Kansas Byways kiosk and found that our Western Vistas Byway ended right there! Pickles!

If you’re going to travel in Kansas, don’t make the mistake we made and think to only traverse the state! Look up Kansas Scenic Byways and find the one’s near your route. They’re wonder-filled:

http://www.legendsofkansas.com/scenicbyways.html

On Thursday and Friday we spent treated ourselves to a quiet camp spot. We parked 10’ from a small lake under the cover of giant trees – no hookups, no water nothing. The time gave us a bit of respite from the cities we’ve visited. 

Maxwell Wildlife Refuge & McPherson State Fishing Lake is outside of Canton, KS. Maxwell is an an Elk and Bison Refuge of roughly 2,500 acres. The bison herd was founded from Oklahoma stock, ancient breed line, in 1943 by Henry Irving Maxwell. Maxwell was a McPherson business man. 

When we arrived, several families were bank fishing the lake and as we sat in our chairs in the deep shade the sounds of children’s voices were so peaceful. We got to rescue an American Painted Turtle who made the mistake of taking the bait. Poor thing was hooked so badly. A young man told the kids it was a snapping turtle, I had to disabuse him though – it didn’t have the classic ridged back, thick neck and legs or hooked nose. The turtle was good sized – about 9” long. Barb got the wire cutters and a needle nose plier and had the turtle freed in no time. We all talked about the turtle and the kids held it a bit before I put it back in the lake. 

Next, we’ll drive to Colorado Springs – one of my old stomping grounds – and visit my high school friend Camie and her husband Eldon. I hope we get to visit some mountain sights since Barb hasn’t ever been there and is a mountain aficionado, having gone to high school in Switzerland for a time. 

Road: Leaving Colorado Springs – 6-5-2019

We had a great time visiting with Camie and making Eldon’s acquaintance. Camie and I easily renewed out friendship even after so many years and so many life changing experiences for both of us. Barb and Eldon were patient as Camie and I reminisced. I even got to look in our high school yearbooks! Boy, how hairstyles and fashions have changed since the 1960’s! 

Camie and Eldon took us to Garden of the Gods. The visitor center there is really special. Garden of the Gods is a city park, it’s free and it is fantastic to look up at these enduring formations of red rock. Very pretty and inspiring. I wished for a couple of hours and my water colors! Garden of the Gods

For a real off-the-tourist-track trip, we went up to the Broadmoor Hotel and took an art and history tour. Our volunteer (a Concierge), Taylor was animated, informative and answered every question from the group. The Broadmoor has an interesting. It’s founder was a major character for whom every business he touched turned to gold – one of them, literally. The Broadmoor Hotel

Click the photos for captions:

Today is a driving day. Going to Guernsey State Park in Wyoming. This part of our trip shortens every day! Yipes! 

Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Midwest Geneaology Center

Despite our scary evening, in the morning we decided to go to Independence, Mo and visit the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and to check out the Midwest Genealogy Center. The weather was still gray but no storms predicted.

https://www.trumanlibrary.org/

The Truman Library and Museum is a beautiful and imposing building made of Missouri stone. There is a modest fee – well worth the investment. 

The Museum highlights Harry’s young life, meeting Bess and his various careers, his political career and Presidency. There are good displays showing how the country changed over Truman’s Presidencies. Our President was a farmer, he was well acquainted with hard work – which made him a fine (if misunderstood) president. 

We all remember that President Truman ordered the atom bombing of Japan on the prodding of his Joint Chiefs of Staff. 

Not everyone may remember that when Truman ordered General Douglas MacArthur out of Japan, Truman may have averted World War III – a hydrogen bomb fueled wars that could have had devastating environmental and human consequences. 

You see, MacArthur wanted to go to war with China because of their incursions in Korea – then all one country. China and the Soviet Union (who possessed the H-Bomb) had signed an alliance agreement, if one were attacked the other would spring to its side with a vengeance. When the Joint Chiefs and President told him “No”, he went to the Republican leadership (in a letter) and made his case for war. Worse, MacArthur fried to feel-out whether the Republicans would support a bid for Presidency, should he run. By that time though, the General’s Army had suffered terribly at the hands of the Chinese, so many lives had been lost that his popularity was at an all time low.  General MacArthur’s letter was read aloud to Congress. That was effectively the end of his career.

I had to wonder what might have been had China and the Soviet Union been defeated – nothing to say that would or wouldn’t have happened. How would world politics have been affected? How would our lives have been different?

The information and chronology on Truman is vast because Bess saved all the letters he wrote, Truman kept a daily diary and took extensive notes at any meetings and of course, a President’s administration keeps every jot and tittle. I liked his referral to the White House as the big white jail! He couldn’t wait for his last term to end. 

This site made our “Highly Recommended” list.

We ate our picnic at tables outside the Library and made our way over to the Midwest Genealogy Center, intending to check it out. We ended up spending the next two hours there! 

Barb: My Mother’s maiden name is Clark. My grandfather, a great lover of history, used to claim a relationship to either George Rogers Clark, a Revolutionary War hero or his brother William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery. Since we’d been checking out Lewis and Clark Trail sites along the way, the question again came up: Am I related to either of these illustrious Clark’s?

This genealogy library seemed to be a great place to investigate the claim. Long story short, after spending a total of about eight hours over 2 days on computer and database searches; looking at 1850 and 1860 census reports; archived deeds, wills and probate records; birth and death records; newspaper articles and checking every book about Clark found in their extensive collection, I can (alas Grandpa) say we are not related to either George Rogers or William Clark. 

I was able to trace back to my 3x great-Grandfather John E Clark born in Virginia in 1817. (Both of the other Clarks were born in Virginia as well.) Couldn’t easily get back any further working in that direction. So, I started looking at offspring of William and George Rogers. Dear Brother, Letters of William Clark to Johnathan Clark by James J Holmberg, 2002 was an invaluable source of footnoted information I could use to fluff out all the birth and death details. George never married and there is no record of any children. William had 2 wives and a total of 8 children; the first born in 1809 and the last in 1826. None of them were named John E, so mystery solved. I descend from a normal family of Clark who have no national claim to fame!   

Liz: Since I have an extensive genealogy file on my mother’s side, I delved further into my dad’s. By choosing to stay to the Wharton name – the male side – the time flew by with discoveries. I was able to find my grandfather’s parents, his father’s family and the next generation up. That’s five generations, including me. The place I got stuck was in Spotsylvania, VA (near Fredrecksburg) in 1812. I’ll have to visit churches and cemeteries on site to find more. At that time, census records were really only tax documents – how many white indentured & un-indentured males, how many of the same for females, how many slaves, how many cattle & horses and how much land. On the last census found, it listed my third great-grandfather’s estate with a net worth of 400 pounds – under the Crown, it was 1812 after all.

A fun, engaging and very productive time was had by all. 

At home I made smokey tempeh (the marinade is amazing), quinoa and salad. With no weather interruptions, we slept the night through sweetly.

Steamboat Arabia

2/27/2019 – Watkins Woolen Mill State Park, Kearney, MO

It’s Memorial Day. We spent a lazy morning doodling around with things. Barb worked on a solution to a crushed 12v plug problem. We cleaned house and explored the park some.  This afternoon we went to the Steamboat Arabia Museum. Highly Recommended! Steamboat Arabia

Really interesting story of how five guys and their families decided to go treasure hunting for a the Arabia in a cornfield in Kansas. They found the Arabia (with no outside funding or archeological help and no money for curators), dug down to her well preserved remains and brought to us her 200+ tons of cargo – most of it undamaged.

The Museum hosts the largest collection of frontier goods anywhere in the world. Not a gigantic scale museum and laid out by the discoverers in department store style displays (remember, no curators or archeologists involved?). The Museum has a very small lab, preservation techniques and more than 3/4 of the collection yet to preserve. 4000 pairs of boots and shoes for children, women and men in a variety of sizes, for instance, will take the next 10-15 years to process and preserve. 

We sniffed perfume that we well preserved in the anaerobic environment deep beneath Missouri River mud. One of the discoverers said (in the movie) he ate a pickle and it was as sweet and crisp as it was when it was shipped! I know I wouldn’t have done that but Susan would have. Anyone else want to volunteer? 

The museum was happy to provide a transcript of the talk the guide gave and closed captioning for the film. I haven’t mentioned how important those gifts are to me. I’m severely hard of hearing. Movies and some patterns of speech flummox me! 

 

This evening as we planned our visit to Independence, Mo, cooked and ate dinner, we were serenaded by the evensong of several thrush calling the day to end. Ethereal. 

Our etherial evening was interrupted by that screeching tone on our phones “TORNADO WARNING TAKE COVER IMMEDIATELY.” Having become ‘old hands’ at this tornado stuff, I grabbed my pill case, Barb grabbed our important paper clutch we slid into our ruby slippers and drove to the bathroom.

No rain, rumbles, sky gray zip to dark, lightening, deluge.  Every 15 min, I peeped out the door (no water, 1/2″ water, 4″ water…) and within 45 min, there was only a drizzle and the sky had gone back to gray. Okaaaaaaay.

Luckily the Memorial Day crowd (over 300 people) was gone. There were 12 of us in our shelter (B & I had our own shower room, lol). Our camp hosts were troubled, 300 people crowding the two bath buildings?

At least the night was peaceful. Rainy but no more squealing phones.Tornado 2:27:19 1.JPG

Next day the camp host reported that a tornado had touched down 1.5 miles (road, not crow flies) away from where we were sitting.

If nothing else, Barb and I are intrepid.

 

Westerly to KC

2/26/19 – I-70, IL13, IL10 and devolving roads from there to Watkins Woolen Mill State Park

Yup, we’re on the way to Kansas – even though we needed Ruby Slippers back in Cahokia, IL. We still have those slippers with us – just in case.

This morning we got up early and walked the cats, a misnomer really, they walk us. Walked around the site and ate breakfast (my home made granola) and hit the road. Tonight we camp at Watkins Woolen Mill State Park for our last nights in Missouri. Watkins Woolen Mill State Park and Historic Site.

We’re members of Harvest Hosts – a group of vintners, brewers, lavender growers, cattle and horse ranchers, goat farmers… well you get the idea. It’s a membership thing we paid to try. When the water issue was happening we tried to book a stay at Arcadian Moon Winery & Brewery near the exit for State Hwy 13. It didn’t work out. We happened to be passing Arcadian and planned to go north on 13… so, we had to stop. Harvest Hosts

The property is very pretty, the wines are sweet and the ‘dry’ wines are off dry or under-sweet and not dry. But the flavors were there and they are a brewery. Barb tried the Nickel Down, an Irish red beer. I tried Ginger Beer. Both had their merits. The beer was a nice light red style. The Ginger Beer was all about ginger and not about sugar. I wished I hadn’t left the growler at home! 

We ate some of a terrible GF Margharita Pizza (uncooked bottom of pre-made crust) and sent off some Marco Polos. The owner comped the pizza, a fair thing to have done. We’re on our way again.

I often write while Barb drives and vice versa. No sense using up exploring time or staying up late when the road is fairly boring. However, I’m reminded of my SHIFT, discussed earlier. Definitely when writing, I’m transported in time, backwards and out of the moment. 

This blog writing thing is a struggle – to both experience explorations fully and to try to share those with you. Still working on it… if you have comments I’d love to hear them at TwoGalsGo@gmail.com. Perhaps another intrepid blogger has words of wisdom?

Lewis & Clark + Cahokia Mounds

2/24/2019 IL.

Camp Dubois, ILL & C 5

Yesterday afternoon, after trying to solve the no-water-problem, we made the necessary calls, stowed the power cord and drove a short distance down the road in East St. Louis to the Casino Queen RV Park. 

Interestingly, we learned about this option from the bartender, post-Arch, at Morgan Street Brewery while sampling a brew. Well, not sampling, not technically.

This park is not our favorite type (densely packed, mostly asphalt and white rocks with small trees interspersed between slots for RVs), but it’s dry and not contaminated. And it’s just a short hop over the Eads Bridge into St. Louis.

It was a lazy morning, walking Rudy and Dash (brush, brush, brush) and doing some work on the RV. Barb got the box out for Adventure Caravans Catalogs to go on the front of the rig and I wrote and planned the coming days. 

Our explorations today are in Illinois. We’re off to visit Camp Dubois – the launching point for Lewis and Clark’s expedition.

Camp Dubois Interpretive Center is pretty unassuming from the parking lot. Later the  realization dawns that acres and acres of trees were cut down to build the Fort, smoke meat and build the flatboat. The portion of the site that we see now is minuscule compared to the camp at the time. Their website shows and tells much:

www.campdubbois.com

This site is enough of a destination we recommend building a trip around it and other Prehistoric Earthworks of the Mississippi Valley. Make this a major stop because the museum is terrific! Craftsmen built the fullsizeoutput_1303flatboat cutaway while builders put up the museum around and over it – in fact, over the full mast and sail of the flatboatL & C 2

fullsizeoutput_12ff

One of the reasons Pres. Jefferson ordered The Corps of Discovery to make the expedition.

Lewis & Clark 1

 Captain Lewis had to learn apothecary and doctoring, surveying and map making, flora and fauna and celestial navigation. He and Captain Clark had to carefully choose the men to accompany them for the skills they brought.

One of the men who worked as hard and was as respected as any other was York, Clark’s slave. After their return York asked for his freedom and Clark said no. It was another ten years before York was granted freedom and could return to his wife and children.

They built a fort replica in around 2007.

fullsizeoutput_1304

The falling down Fort Dubois Replica

Our guide said the builders forgot to strip the bark off the logs, the bark guided water and bugs into the wood and today the fort is a wreck of its former self. There is a good replica of a settler’s cabin, though. L & C 6

The family who would have lived there were said to have had 11 children (you know how fullsizeoutput_1306historians like to put stories to replicas).

 

 

With that number of bodies I bet they never needed blankets in the loft.

.

fullsizeoutput_1301

No surprise here…

For most of the expedition game and fish were plentiful but while at the Mandan Village, Fort Mandan, when wintering over food sources got thin for the explorers. Their climb through the Sierra’s also presented them with terrible hardship and they were reduced to eating their horses and trading for dogs to eat. The one food source that sustained them and kept food interesting through the whole journey was a version of today’s MRE (Meals Ready to Eat) or hiker foods. Portable Soup

There were several recipes for this gloop. Sailors and explorers had been using the stuff for a century or so. Lewis purchased 193 pounds from a Philadelphia cook named François Baillet. Check out this National Geographic Article about the history of Portable Soup, amazingly it has a mention of The Great Dismal Swamp, one of our previous destinations:

www.nationalgeographic.com/people-and-culture/food/the-plate/2014/09/25/the-luke-warm-gluey-history-of-portable-soup/ 

From Camp Dubois we journeyed a few miles to go back in time. Cahokia Mounds UNESCO World Heritage Site took us to AD 700 through AD 1200.

We thought Poverty Point UNESCO site was impressive in it’s size and generations of builders who kept the vision of the final creation alive…  Holy catz! Cahokia Mounds State Park (etc.) is mind-boggling!Cahhokia 6

The site was once so vast everywhere the eye passed there were houses and as many as 20,000 people! The height of the tallest mound (156 steps – we counted) is flat on top. The view would have allowed the Sun God or Chief to see anything coming for miles.

www.cahokiaMounds.org

Please, watch the movie and check out the picture gallery, click “Like” anywhere you can, if you do. It helps other people find this site.

L & C 7

Bronze bas relief entry doors.

Late Woodland Indians formed the first settlements at Cahokia around 700 AD. From 1000 AD forward the Mississippian culture began. These folks farmed and lived in permanent houses. Because they farmed villages were able to support more people and the communities began growing. After 1050 AD, Cahokia had become a huge regional center. The site’s growth peaked from AD 1050 to 1200. The population by that time was 20,000 people and the site sprawled over 6 square miles – the largest community north of Mexico.L & C 3

Cahokia mound model 5:24:19

The complex was sorted around Monks Mound, the “largest pre-historic earthen construction in the Americas, containing an estimated 22 million cubic feet of earth. The base covers more than 14 acres, and it rises a total height of 100 feet.” Monks mound was named after Trappist monks who appropriated a nearby mound for their home from 1809 – 1813 (Lewis & Clark’s expedition launched in 1804).Baskets of dirt Cahokia 5:24:19

 

The Interpretive Center is one of the most comprehensive, well laid out, did I say comprehensive? It seems much larger than it is (and it is big!) through the use of displays that hide others, paths that lead to dioramas, tri-cornered displays and a small village encased in glass through which you can walk. We both felt it was one of the best we’d ever encountered, right up there with the Musical Instrument Museum in Scottsdale, AZ and it’s cousin in Brussels.Cahokia 4cahokia-2.jpg

After spending a couple of hours in the Center, we walked paths and took the (156, I’m sure I mentioned this before) stairs to the top of Monks Mound. Breezy, warm day with light and shadow cast by the mounds and by the poles in Woodhenge and the Stockade (examples).

Cahokia 3

Ancient Canoe.

Again, I felt infused with calm and this time, with hope. Hope that we in the US will come together in community, just as did the folk at Monumental Mounds Poverty Point State Park (UNESCO-WHC) and those at Cahokia Mounds SP (UNESCO-WHC) who united over the years to live in peace and build greatness.

By the by… Our family and friends contribute immensely to this blog. You all provide perspective and support. Thank you, Thayer for your Ruby Slippers texts during the Tornado Warning experience, we’ll use that! Susan sent us to her elementary school, on the way to Grant’s Farm and we got to look at the area where she lived for her first 11 years. Her brother still lives in STL and Susan told us about the area around Tower Grove Park, how it declined and is still being gentrified. It’s important to acknowledge our fellow travelers. We’ll share our visits and some remarkable things you all lead us to as we go along.

Stormy Weather

2/24/2019 – Still in Cahokia and going to STL today.

Well, did we ever wake up to a surprise! The storm left our RV an island in four-plus inches of water! Luckily Barb bought some rain boots before we left! Yowzers. About half the park is under water. This means that sewer… yup, underwater.

Barb quickly unhooked our water & put away the sewer hose. Then we made arrangements with the park to move the RV to higher ground. However…

The water lines in the park have been compromised, the water’s contaminated. So. We have 1/3 tank of water. We were planning to add water before we left.

Problem is… we leave the park on Saturday. We have a spot near Kansas City for Sunday & Monday but planned to stay in Jefferson City, Mo. Saturday night. However… Jefferson City got blasted by a tornado the night we hid in the storm shelter here so that option got blown up. 

UGH. We’re both working on finding a place to get water. Operational plan right now is to call the local police & fire departments to see if we can cozy up to one of their spigots. If that doesn’t pan out, we’ll call a church or two. Errg. No go so far…

Cahokia RV Parque allowed us to move to higher ground which made it easier to get in & out of the RV at least. We decided to economize on water.

However… the day was another action packed one in STL. We did the ARCH! And the museum beneath that awesome span (okay, I know that was trite and a cliche). For Barb, the best of the experience was the sun coming out and illuminating the arch in shining stainless steel glory. For me, it was the movie showing the men who actually constructed the arch and each part of construction. 

The Gateway to the West is as wide as she is tall. The tram to the top beckoned: https://www.gatewayarch.com/experience/  

Then we saw the movie about building the arch, then toured the museum: https://www.gatewayarch.com/experience/#museum

There has been so much rain, the beautiful riverwalk is under water. The riverboats don’t have passengers because there is no access – that’s under water. It’s pretty crazy.

A crazy thing happened as we were strolling under the railroad bridge, down the cobblestone street. We discovered a van wedged under the 8′ ceiling of the bridge. We set about letting air out of the tires as a gaggle of kids on field trip from Tennessee worried and joggled around the bus. Several guys showed up and took over so we skedaddled off to Morgan’s Brewery for a beer after all that hard work.