Wednesday, December 11, 2013


Luke during tree
New Nativity Quilt
JOY to the WORLD!  

      It is December 6 (well, it was when Rick started the letter!) and it is COLD!!!  After a low of -6°F, we grabbed Luke and headed for the mountains to cut our trees yesterday.  It’s beginning to look like Christmas with snow on the ground and a chill in the air!
Luke 'on the job' during a summer
work retreat at Westminster Woods
        As you may have noted above, Luke is back in Baker City!  He returned in May to take the Youth Director position at our church.  He is considering seminary with an emphasis in youth work and decided to gain a little experience first.  All parties seem to be pleased with the first six months.  His girlfriend, Kady, moved here in September and is working at DHS until March when she leaves for Indonesia with the Peace Corps.  Sure is fun having them in town. 
A quick Jed visit always
results in table tennis!
        Jed is working on finishing his doctoral thesis with a spring graduation date.  New Mexico Tech had an opening and asked him to teach an Intro to Mechanics class this fall.  So he added three lectures plus lab and recitation supervision of 70 students to his schedule.  He has incorporated his wit into the recitation problems he prepares and is enjoying himself.  He still is looking ahead to a professor position at a small college.  We await his Christmas visit as well as a visit from our exchange son, Jack, who is still studying in Denver, CO.
        We will travel to Portland to bring Grandma Mac to Baker City for the holidays.  She just turned 94 and still loves and beach and her church in Bandon, Oregon.  Grandma R was here for two months this summer, plus we saw her during our spring and fall trips.  Albuquerque continues to treat her well. 
Rick will tell you that 'mud' is
NOT his favorite job!
Tucson wasn't ALL work - this
was taken from our campsite!
   Our spring trip started with two weeks working in Tucson at the CHRPA organization Luke worked for during his YAV year.  It does community home repairs, so we put on metal roofs, installed air conditioners, and did a ton of plumbing repairs.  It tended to be dirty but humbling work as most jobs were to help very low income and/or disabled folks.  We then traveled to Hobbs, NM, for a two week Habitat for Humanity build.  There we installed fencing, insulation, sheetrock, and mud.  
     After Hobbs and since we were only four miles from the Texas border, it was time to visit San Antonio!  We had a fabulous time with our hosts Jim and Denise Schneider, Pastor Katy’s parents.  We also visited Port Aransas on the Gulf (near Corpus Christi) and Big Bend National Park. 
Habitat work with Team Bovais
in Coatsville, PA!
In the White Mts. of NH
 Our fall trip took on a different character.  Ginger had been promised a New England fall foliage trip, so off we went!  We traveled 9000 miles in the smaller tent trailer (better mileage!)  We fit in a week of Care-a-Vanner Habitat work in Mankato, MN, and a couple days in Coatsville, PA, with our good friend Don Bovais. But the rest of the trip was exploring, hiking, biking, and visiting friends and family and reveling in fall colors ALL THE WAY!  You can check out Ginger’s blog at for all the details.  We had a terrific time and so enjoyed all of you who hosted us!  THANK YOU!  We arrived home in mid-November just in time to get leaves raked, chimney cleaned, and cars ready for winter.  Rick even fit in a quick trip to Fairbanks, Alaska, to help Ginger’s brother with his preparations to move to Washington state, but was back in time for turkey! 
Elkhorn Mt. mural 
On top of an Elkhorn peak
        We stayed home for the summer!  Time to hit the trails hiking, climb some peaks, and enjoy time with friends and family.  Ginger also took some time to paint a mural on the back deck so we have mountain views 24/7 now!!  
        We are thoroughly enjoying this thing called RETIREMENT and look forward to continuing on the same path for the immediate future.  We already have three Habitat builds on the schedule for 2014!  We know we are blessed and we both try to make a habit of thanking God often while paying it forward whenever or wherever we can! 
        We pray that all of you have a blessed Christmas and new year to come.  Stay in touch and come visit Baker City (we might stay home to welcome you!) 

1704 Broadway Street                                                                              
Baker City, OR 97814
Rick 503-560-3269
Ginger  541-656-9622
(Please note: we discontinued our land line last January so these are our ONLY current phone numbers!)
And one last picture....we had a friend (Chuck Staten) take a 'family portrait' last December:
Yes, my hand is resting on the snow!  Brrr!
Luke, Jed, Ginger, Jack, Rick
December 27, 2013

Monday, November 4, 2013


Friday, November 1, 2013
Lewisville, NC to Cherokee, NC
River Valley Campground
217 miles
Our route for 11.1.13
         We are heading west!!  Really west now!!  Arise and pack up early, and ready to roll at 7:30 from Rob and Karen’s.  We want to be out of their way, as they are packing up and heading eastward around 9am!!  The day is still darkish, still on Daylight time, and the clouds have come in, but no
         Pick up a coffee in Lewisville, down to I-40 and the quick 40 miles down to Statesville where I found a Sheetz gas station….cheap and 3 cents more off.  Plus we should be close to earning our FREE drink!  Refill the coffee cups and I take over the wheel for the 100 miles down to Asheville. 
I couldn't take pictures INSIDE the Folk Art Center! 
         I drive into the storm!  (It was forecast!!)  At first just a drizzle, but then pretty constant rain for the next hour.  I remember commenting around 9am that it didn’t look that much different outside.  The sun wasn’t breaking through AT ALL and it was so gloomy!!  But…the further west I went, I could gradually see a lightening in the sky and then….a patch of blue.  I told Rick I was going to keep driving toward the blue patch!! 
         By the time we turned off onto the Blueridge Parkway just before Asheville to visit the Appalachian Folk Art Center, the sun was shining and it was a gloriously beautiful morning!!!  My biggest disappointment of the day was that no photographs were allowed inside the center.  There was a special exhibit of weavings and I so wanted to take a few pictures.  Not even any postcards available to purchase!  One was a 3D image of a maiden surrounded by flowers, all crafted from woolen yarns and woven together.  My favorite, however, was called Tumbling Waters, and it was also 3D, but still a landscape.  The boulders protruded outward, the water had texture, it was AMAZING!!! 
         So much fun art to see, especially the kind that has existed in these hills for generations.  I got ideas….for seed flowers, woven snowflakes, and pine cone angels.  Glass and jewelry artists were demonstrating out front.  Pottery, corn husk dolls and nativities (only $200 for the set!).  I decided our Support Group did a pretty good job 25 years ago with the one we made for the church. 
         Nearly noon as we prepare to leave and must DECIDE:  A stop to
From the Blue Ridge Parkway
explore Asheville?  The Cherokee Indian museum?  Ninety miles of Blueridge Parkway or just 25??  We finally say, “God has already decided!”  The day was supposed to be rainy until evening.  It is gorgeous outside.  We can not consider anything that will mean INSIDE!  However….we aren’t quite ready for 90 miles of the windy and hilly parkway, but definitely 25!  So….sorry to Asheville, sorry to Cherokee Museum….the outdoors is calling us!
Typical Smoky Mt. picture??
  We drive down I-40, exit at Waynesville, and off to meet the Parkway just south of that town.  Quickly the parkway travels UP…to the visitor center at the top of Waterrock Knob.  From here we have views to the north and south – long range views!!!  The hills are drapped with golds and reds.  A few trees have shed all their leaves but many are still covered.  The hillsides are indescribable!  At the Visitor Center we find a short half mile trail UP (I emphasize that part!) to the top of the knob.  We are able to add a good view back down toward Waynesville to the northeast from here.  Lots of rhoddies still, plus Mountain Ash trees, barren of leaves, but loaded with bright red berries.  The trail is wet since it did rain this morning!! 
The road is a kaleidescope of color!
         On down the parkway, through five tunnels and a couple more ‘gaps’ to the end of the road at the entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  The Parkway is an amazing road construction feat – with only about 80 feet of easement on either side of the road, it has a constant worry about encroaching development.  It was begun in the early 1930’s and not finished until 50 years later.  It is riddled with turnouts, viewpoints, and opportunities to hike, explore, and learn.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the segments that we have driven. 
Outside Ocanoluftee Visitor
  And now…into the Visitor Center for Smoky Mountains!  A quick tour of the information available, hiking opportunities, and some of the history of the area, including a brief overview of the Cherokee Indian situation and the Trail of Tears.  It is now close to 4pm and we need to decide about our campsite for the evening.  No phone service, so I can’t call the campgrounds I have on my list. 
         We drive back into Cherokee, hoping we might SEE one of the campgrounds, but finally call.  Only one responds, and the price is within budget, so we shall have electricity and heat this evening….and coffee in the morning!!  (Our other option was Smokemount in GSMNP, which would NOT have provided ANY amenities.  We must be getting old!) While cruising Cherokee we see painted bears – lots of them.  The town has bear statues everywhere with a variety of paint styles.  Fun.  I love it when a community finds their ‘art niche’!  As we drive out Big Cove Road, we pass the Cherokee Reservation High School.  Wow.  What a campus!  Beautiful fields and buildings, but also locked gates and fences.  Interesting.
Our spot along the Raven
         We pick out a campsite along the Raven Fork of the Ocanaluftee River.  The Ocanaluftee is the main river the road over the Smoky Mountains follows into Tennessee.  The trees of the campground are beautiful.  We are camped near a family tenting….would have gone further away, but we didn’t want to walk that far to the restrooms! 
         I sit down by the river to eat my dinner of pretzels, turkey sandwich, and dried fruit.  Oh, and a glass of wine!  Then a walk around the park to take pictures of leaves.  Such pretty leaves. 
         The temperatures are dropping, and Rick has returned to report on ‘the BEST campground shower of the trip’!!  Hot scalding water and plenty of pressure!  (Please note, dear friends, that says CAMPGROUND – we enjoyed all the showers you provided!)  So….I shall close off for the evening and make a trip to verify his proclamation!!  (Good, but best?  Hmmmm…. Definitely well above Mankato!)

SATURDAY, November 2, 2013
Cherokee, NC to Crossville, TN:  175 miles
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
American Museum of Science and Energy
View todays pictures
Route for 11.2.13

Farm House Museum
         Wow!  What a day!  First off we slept in because it is soooo dark in the mornings right now!  I didn’t wake up until 7:30 (left the phone in the truck so I couldn’t check time), and Rick got up around 8.  By the time we left at 9, the sun was just beginning to turn the hilltops golden.  We grab a cup of coffee and then back up to the Visitor Center to check out the Mountain Farm Museum.  When the area was dedicated for the park in the early 30’s, many were displaced and lost their homes.  A representation of the rural mountain homesteads were gathered and brought together to form this museum.  We saw the farmhouse, wood shed, meat shed, chicken coop, hog pen, barn, tool shed, spring house, corn crib, etc.  A herd of elk was grazing nearby and many visitors were excited to see them.  A couple of the bulls were quite big!
Near Visitor Center,
 fall reflections
Mingus Mill
     A couple miles up the road we find Mingus Mill, an old grist mill established at the end of a creek flowing down into the Oconaluftee River.  This was a fun stop as the mill was operating and grinding cornmeal.  The volunteer operator said their biggest problem at the time is leaves which keep clogging up the intake!  It slows the mill way down.  We watched one of the guys climb up the ladder (after putting the lower rungs in) to clean out at least 3 separate screens.  End up purchasing a small bag of cornmeal and a recipe booklet. 
Mill volunteer cleans the
screens of leaves
         As we head on up the highway, we find the colors everchanging, as well as the skies!  Clouds are gathering, especially on the higher peaks!  By the time we get up to the top of the pass (the Tennessee-North Carolina border) the wind is COLD and the views are closing in.  We turn off and drive the 7 miles to Clingman’s Dome. 
Observation Tower at
Clingman's Dome
        It is a paved ‘trail’ up to the top, but steep.  It climbs about 350 feet in the half mile.  At the top of the treed dome is a radio tower and the observation tower, which appears somewhat like a space ship with a landing platform!  It is totally wheel chair/stroller accessible, so a curved ramp circles around to the raised circular tower.  BRRRR!!!  A chilly wind was blowing and the clouds were moving rapidly!!  The sun was shining through in scattered patches on the orange tinted hillsides.  Ridge upon ridge of mountains was vvisible faintly on the horizon.  It truly looked like the mountains were ‘smoking’ with the clouds circling around.  As we left the tower, visibility was down to about 15 feet!!  
One Smoky Mt. vista from Clingman's Dome....the mountains are smokin'!

         The parking lot has filled during our hike.  In fact, we are utterly AMAZED by the massive numbers of cars and people as we drive down the western side of the park. Every parking lot and roadside is crammed with cars.  We had thought we might take another hike, but parking the truck and trailer was out of the question!  It is a weekend and the leaves are still pretty, especially at the lower elevation, so I guess the crowds are still present.  The weather has deteriorated abit, so we aren’t too disappointed.  
Another vista from top of dome
        I remembered later that I wanted to tell about the pixie dust!!  On our hike to the top of Waterrock Knob yesterday, I told Rick the trail looked like it had been sprinkle with pixie dust – it was all sparkly!  (I have been commenting on the diamond roads throughout the east – there is SOMETHING in the asphalt that makes the highway sparkle!)  As we drove down the west side of the Smokies, we passed through a thick grove of yellow trees as the wind suddenly caused thousands to let loose and flutter to the ground.  It felt like we were driving through ‘leafy dust’!!  Rick thinks I’m nuts!  
Autumn leaves along SMNP road

        We decide to go on into Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge for a bite to eat.  We find a bypass of Gatlinburg so straight to Dolly Parton’s hometown.  The map may list it as a town of 5900, but HOLY MOLEY!!!  It is like a massive Las Vegas strip!  King Kong, Christmas decorations, Hatfields and McCoys, Ripley’s, you name it!  Traffic, chaos, and tourism galore.  We did find a nice little pancake house right at the beginning of town and had a great meal.  After that?  Wow! 
Welcome King Kong in Pigeon Forge
It took us a little longer to get through the Pigeon Forge – Sieverville mess, but eventually we hit I-40 and west through Knoxville.  Rick had seen the information about Oakridge National Labs and a Museum of Science and Energy.  Oakridge was about 12 miles off the freeway, a town that was established at the beginning of WW2 to test nuclear possibilities.  It worked in conjunction with Los Alamos and Hanford.  Top Secret stuff.  Rick was interested in seeing this third arm of that effort.   A few wrong turns, but we finally found it.  Rick only had 1 ½ hours to explore and could have used more time, but at least we found it! 
My favorite painting from
Museum of Science and Energy
Finally stop at a MacDonalds in Harriman, TN to check for possible campgrounds (the one I found in Oliver Springs was going to be over $41 for the night.  Ridiculous, so we just kept driving!)  Another half hour and we come to the outskirts of Crossville, TN – Deer Run Resort, about 5 miles off the freeway.  And it truly is a ‘resort’ – a locked entry gate!  A bit more reasonable rate, but on a little lake.  We will get a better look in the morning as it is nearly dark as we arrive. 
Sunset reflection on eastern
clouds behind truck
         Just after Harriman, we cross over into Central Time Zone.  We pick up another hour.  And then tonight is the time change from Daylight time to Standard Time.  Goodness….we will pick up two hours tonight!  Oh well, the clock may say early, but my body says it is bed time!  G’night!!!

SUNDAY, November 3, 2013
Crossville, TN to Little Rock, AR
482 miles
Route for a LONG day of driving! 
Fog on the Deer Run lake
         I keep wondering how many more mornings we can waken to blue skies?  The day dawns earlier!  I hear birds singing in the trees before 6am today!  Finally, it is light early!  We head over to the bathhouse (a long walk!) for showers.  Rick is successful, but I am not.  I can’t get any warm water, my sink only stays on for 2 seconds at a time, and the auto towel dispenser gives you 3” towels.  Grrr.  I sponge off, refusing to take a cold shower when it is barely above freezing outside.  Rick offers later to walk back with me to take a shower in the men’s side, but by then I am dressed and ready to roll.  I decide not to let it bother me!  (However….I will send an email to let them know if was not satisfactory for $33 a night!)
Kudzu figures
Memphis pyramid
         We are on the road by 8am with a quick stop just before the freeway for gas and coffee.  Rick drives about 60 miles to an information center/rest stop and I take over for the 75 mile bypass of Nashville (to the south).  We are on Interstate 40 for the next four days, so our travels are mostly wide ribbons of highway with trees.  What do we see today that is different?  Cotton fields (more in Arkansas), lots of rivers and lakes (Tennessee), Kudzo plants covering EVERYTHING in places along the freeway.  The kudzu ends up looking like giant fantasy creatures, engulfing trees, telephone poles, you name it.  We cross the Tennessee River, the Mississippi River.  We see the huge Pyramid in Memphis, later to learn that it is a boondoggle for the city.  It was built as a sports arena, convention center, etc. but has been abandoned for years.  In Arkansas the highway is lined with unknown green vegetation, with highlights of sumac in a variety of golds, oranges, and deep reds. Really pretty. 
         We stopped in Jackson, TN to gas up the truck and fuel our bodies as well!  A Denny’s was located at the Pilot.  Great meals for inexpensive prices!  I ordered off the senior menu which means plenty of food for cheap. 
         As we sailed past our original goal of West Memphis, I went to call the KOA in Little Rock for details of a reservation.  I realized I had left a number off my ‘smart camera’ screen shot.  Rick suggests I use the ‘smart son’ phone.  So I call Jed, who gives me the correct number!  When I called, the KOA gal quoted me a price of $39!!!  Way over the internet quote and over budget!  So I call my smart phone son back and he checks the internet for some other options.  I get through to Riverside RV….reservation made by phone. 
Looking west from RV park to I30 bridge over Arkansas River
         The setting sun in the west was making driving a challenge as we pulled into Little Rock.  Good time to stop for the day!!  We follow the directions to the park and find it sitting right on the banks of the Arkansas River.  Bridges span the horizons, the sun is setting on the river, and our site costs $16.90 for the night!  Wow! 

         Showers, dinner, phone calls, and Rick is able to get some TV via his antennae!  I even have wifi for the evening!  The lights of the city are gorgeous.  We could walk across a pedestrian bridge to the Clinton Library if we wanted.  A long day, but a good one!!  

November 4, 2013
Little Rock, AR to Clinton, OK
320 miles
Super 8 Motel
Route for today
         I awaken and peek at my phone at 6am.  Curious to see if any light is showing in the East, I unzip part of the back window.  The sunrise is coloring the sky behind the pedestrian bridge over the Arkansas River.  I put on my shoes, grab the camera, and quietly sneak out of the trailer!  The colors just grow deeper over the next 20 minutes and I take SEVERAL pictures!  What a beautiful start to the day! 
Sunrise on the Arkansas River in Little Rock
         We pack up, return the borrowed 30amp adapter, and easily find our way back to Westbound I-40, glad we are heading in that direction as the other side of the freeway is bumper to bumper!  Rick drives for the next 60 miles as we head northward to Conway, and then westward again toward Fort Smith.  The countryside is spotted with fall colors among the low growing trees and shrubs.  Many of the lakes we pass seem to be very shallow, with trees growing in the middle of them. 
         A hundred miles from Fort Smith, I take over the wheel with fresh coffee in hand!  I drive for the next 3 and a half hours and 200 miles, through Fort Smith and into Oklahoma, past many of the camping locales we considered for overnight stays.  The weather is supposed to deteriorate today with possible rain today, more tonight and thunderstorms by tomorrow morning with up to a half inch possible.  We are hoping to drive through and be done!  I encounter a few light showers, but nothing major. 
Oklahoma City buildings
We finally stop to find a bite to eat at a Subway about 80 miles from Oklahoma City.  Rick takes over the wheel.  We plan to stop in OC only long enough to purchase some cheap gas (under $2.80 according to Gas Buddy!)
For the record!!!
and then head toward Weatherford or Clinton and get a motel for the night.  With the weather forecast, we really don’t want to be folding up IN THE RAIN in the morning.  Gassed up as planned at exit 145 at a Circle K.  We stopped in Weatherford (the town where Susan Barnes was pastor before coming to Baker City) and checked out some motels at the MacDonalds on line.  We had driven past one and didn’t like the looks of it, and the reviews weren’t any better.  Finally decided to continue another 15 miles to Clinton and take our luck with a Super 8 that had decent reviews.  We even ended up with the price about $10 less than posted (still double budget for a campsite, but this is a luxury night!) 
         It had better rain!!!  But I can’t complain, I have good internet.  I have downloaded my pictures, and am in the process of uploading them to the internet.  It is catch up  and relax time!!!  Come on storm, let loose and be done!!!  G’night!!!

Check out all the different Indian tribes in Oklahoma!
         Addendum:  we were surprised by a couple things in Oklahoma… was greener than we expected.  The east side was rolling hills, covered with shrub trees, many which appeared to be shrub oak in various colors of foliage.  The west side more open flat agriculture land.  And every few miles you have a sign marking a different Native American tribal land.  I think the state truly was parceled out to the Indians!!  I found a Google map that shows the original reservations.  

Tuesday, November 05, 2013
Clinton, OK to Palo Duro State Park, TX
203 miles

View today's pictures 
Our route for today

         Up this morning to find a dreary, drizzly day outside!!  The rain is light, the predicted storm passed to the east of us somewhat.  But we have no regrets about the luxury stay as we enjoy a good continental breakfast, chatting with a couple from Chicago heading down to Mesa, AZ for the winter! 
         On our way toward the Texas border.  A study on Gas Buddy last night revealed that prices will jump in East Texas, so we fill the tank in Erick, OK, 7 miles from the border at a Love’s for $2.89.  Our love affair with sub $3 gas is about to end I fear!  I take over the wheel and drive until the eastern limits of Amarillo.  Rain off and on the whole way.  Low clouds and in general, A VERY GRAY DAY!!  We seriously wondered about our chances for an sightseeing in Palo Duro Canyon. 
Entrance view to Palo Duro Canyon
         By the time we head south out of Amarillo, the sky seems to be lightening and there are even occasional glimpses of blue.  Hope??  I called the State Park to confirm the availability of electric camping spots.  Yes!  So we decide to drive on out and camp within the park.  What a GREAT decision!  We set up camp at Sagebrush Campground, nearest to the entrance station.  There are only 3 other sites in use besides ours.  No rush on the showers here….and that was a surprise as well – showers!  Each campsite has a shade shelter over the picnic table.  The park is well set up for the brutal heat of the summer season, in spite of a lack of large shade trees.  Junipers and mesquite just don’t grow that tall! 
         Palo Duro Canyon is 80 miles long and ranges from 600 to 800 feet deep.  It is a cleft in the Texas panhandle plains cut by the Praire Dog Town fork of the Red River.  It has a long history of Indian occupation, battles, and cattle ranching.  The name means ‘hard wood’ in Spanish, and refers to the juniper trees common in the park. 
Views along the trail
Rick and Ging in front of Castle
         Once  Rick and I grab a quick bite to eat, we leave the trailer and head out on the park road that winds about 5 more miles into the canyon.  We find an amphitheater, playhouse, 4 more campgrounds, cabins, and picnic areas along the way.  We ford the Red River fork six times (the river is low at the moment so no water flowing over the road.)  As we drive the skies just keep getting clearer and clearer, the sun now shining through.  The colors of the canyon walls and formations seem to emerge from the gray shadows and come to life.  Never this morning would I have imagined that I would be putting on shorts and t-shirt in the afternoon and been hot as well!  THANK YOU, GOD!!!  What a gift!  Thank you, Rusty, for telling us about this park.
Cycling picture in Palo Duro!!
         The Lighthouse rock formation is the canyon’s biggest attraction and accessible via a 6 mile round trip trail.  The map is marked bicycle for most of the way, so we decide it is a good time to pull out the bikes again.  Well, let me just say, this wasn’t any ‘Rails to Trails’.  The trail was so rough the first mile that I wondered about our sanity.  I was walking up many of the steeper sections (I couldn’t get my bike into 1st gear, just #2) and my brakes were squeaking so badly going downhill…..But, after that first mile, it seemed to smooth out a bit.  We still had to watch out for rocks or soft sand in places, but overall we just kept going.  Just before we came to a bike rack (which is a GREAT indicator that it is the end of the bike accessible part) we ditched the bikes up a side creek wash since we forgot to bring the lock with us. 
Sunshine behind Lighthouse formations
         We took the wrong trail from the bike rack and ended up with a little used and very steep access to the top of the mesa at the base of the Lighthouse formation.  Not the recommended route, and I was very grateful when we found the other trail at the top because it meant we didn’t have to go down what we had come up!  We took pictures of the formations, ourselves, the valley panorama, cactus, mesquite, the clouds, you name it.  Rick finally located the visitor center on the canyon rim (he had been looking since we started out).  All in all….a GREAT ride in some beautiful country!
         Back to the trailer and we decide to make a fire and enjoy just sitting and watching the sun set on the east wall of the canyon.  We have been carrying these 2x4’s from Mankato the whole way, waiting to build a fire.  Tonight is probably our last opportunity.  Naturally, a soon as we got a good fire going, the wind picked up, but we were still able to enjoy just sitting, chatting, and reveling in the beauty around us.  The rocks turned golden orange as the shadows moved upwards.  At one point I turned around and realized the clouds were pinking up in the west.  Nice. 
Sunset skies at Palo Duro Canyon
         Showers and then a ‘whatever can we find for dinner’ type of meal.  The pickings are getting slim, but there is always cereal and oatmeal.  I eat an apple, carrots, pretzels, and peanut butter.  Rick adds a little cheese to the menu, as he ate his apple at lunch.  Rest of evening is quiet as we read, write, and listen to the wind buffer the walls of the tent trailer!  It is DARK outside (no lights around here!), the stars are out, the sliver of a moon has gone to bed.  G’night!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Palo Duro Canyon to Edgewood, NM
Today's drive to Edgewood

         This will be a short day for the journal!  We awoke to clear skies and a brisk morning in the canyon!  It was beautiful, but chilly.  Not a hard frost, but probably right around freezing.  The biggest ‘hassle’ of the canyon has been the flies!  They have flocked to the interior of the truck and the trailer.  They come alive as the sun hits the trailer and gradually warms things up! 
Typical panhandle scene
         We pull out of the steep canyon road, head back up to Amarillo, gas and coffee up at a Love’s, and then take a bypass to link us back up with I-40 west of town.  Clear sailing west for the morning, although with a gradual uphill to Edgewood and a headwind, our mileage visibly goes down!! 
         Eastern Texas panhandle is flat, filled with grasslands, a few cows, some cotton fields, and windmills.  Lots of wind turbines line the northern side of the freeway.  Rick drives us into New Mexico and the rest
Entering New Mexico
area/welcome station at the Mile 1 exit!  We are back in Mountain Time zone!
         I drive the next near 100 miles to Santa Rosa, home of the Blue Hole 80’ artesian well (we don’t stop at it).  McDonalds provides a quick bite of lunch and a driver switch.  Eastern NM at least has some mesas to provide visual interest, and from a distance we could see the snowcapped peaks of the Taos and Santa Fe mountain ranges.  Not just patches, but solid bands of white.  Pretty.  The freeway is up and down through this section. 
Snow on New Mexico mountains
         Santa Rosa to Cline’s Corners is the LAST stretch of new road we will drive on this trip.  Last spring we entered Edgewood from the east, but we drove north from Roswell and entered I-40 at Cline’s Corners.  The head wind persists!  However, just past the corners you hit the ‘pass’ (so to speak) and at least it stops climbing in elevation! 
         We pull into Randy’s finding Ryan home on lunch break to let the dog out.  He goes back to work, we shower and clean up, and shortly later are on our way into Albquerque to visit Mom for the remainder of the day.  The cottonwood trees of the area are turning gold.  Pretty. 
Sandia Mt. sunset from Mom's apartment
         We visit with Mom and go out to dinner at Papa Felipe’s Mexican restaurant.  Always a favorite and Mom can use her discount card!  I tried something new – Caldo de Albondigas – which is basically a meatball soup.  It was very good and quite filling.  Unfortunately the tortilla chips tasted way too good as we waited and I was very hungry! 
         Back to Edgewood around 9 to find Rachael still up, but Patty had just gone to bed.  Will connect in the morning.  Rachael gives me another blanket to stay warm and we head out to our trailer for a COLD night….forecast is for 24 degrees. 

         As I write the next morning in the warmth of the basement, I was almost HOT last night!  That blanket Rachael loaned me was HEAVY! We turned the little heater up and it cranked away all night.  Quickly brought the trailer up to mid 40’s from the 30 it was when we got back.  Kept it there all night.  Wow.  

Thursday, November 7, 2013
Visiting Mom;  Errands
         Well, this will definitely be short and to the point!!  We spend the day with Mom!  She and I went shopping at K-Mart, Macy’s and Penney’s for clothing, time in JoAnn’s for craft supplies, and we end up at WalMart for a few groceries for dinner.  Rick took a walk, washed and waxed Grandma’s car, and put the plastic up in the bedroom window for winter!  We also got out the boxes of Christmas decorations for her.  Dinner was lasagna, salad, and a pumpkin pie I picked up for Rick at the store (“It is already into November and I haven’t had anything with pumpkin yet.”  I had to take care of that!)  By the time we drove back to Edgewood, Patty had again just gone to bed!  I had visited with her for about 15 minutes this morning before she left for work. 

Friday, November 8, 2013
Bosque del Apache Wildlife Reserve,
Socorro, New Mexico

Our route for today!
         A relaxing morning doing laundry in Edgewood before we take off around 11:30 to pick up Mom for a drive down to Socorro and the wildlife preserve about 20 miles south.  November is the beginning of the sandhill crane migration and we are hoping to catch a few bird sightings!  Mom hasn’t been out ‘for a drive’ in awhile, so we take her car to give it a chance to blow out the gaskets a little on the open road! 
         It is an gorgeous fall day in the Southwest!  Clear and sunny.  The highs should peak at about 70’s this afternoon.  Driving south, Mom and Rick will attest to the warmth of the sun through the car windows! 
Snow Geese
         We exit the freeway at San Antonio (home of a famous green chili cheeseburger) and south on another road 9 miles to the Bosque del Apache Visitor Center.  Lots of volunteers work the center, which includes an excellent wildlife gift shop!  The actual Festival of Cranes itself for another couple of weeks, and we see from the ‘bird count’ chart that there are only 2500 sandhill cranes present so far from an anticipated 20 to 30 thousand.  The center has good information on the maintenance of the preserve, in terms of grain planting (mostly corn), harvesting, flood irrigation and flood maintenance of ponds for the birds.  We are along the edge of the Rio Grande River as it flows south. 
Sandhill cranes
         We decide not to follow the 12 mile auto tour (we don’t have the audio CD to guide us anyway) and opt instead to visit the viewing area where the heavy concentrations of Snow Geese are present as well as the Sandhill cranes.  The geese are LOUD!!  The sounds of the sandhills a very different vibration amidst the thunderous honking of the geese.  Grandma catches one crane doing a little dance which is what she wanted to see!  Mostly they were foraging in the fields for grains, while the geese were thick in the pools.  As we headed north, we caught a few more cranes in pools with the sun behind them – silhouette pictures! 
Dinner at El Sombrero
         Up to Socorro for a planned rendezvous with Jed for dinner at El Sombrero, the Mexican restaurant Jed introduced us to last spring.  We like its little patio courtyard in back with the fountains and color.  A good visit with Jed, catching up on many friends’ doings.  Teaching appears to agree with him!  He’ll be so glad when the thesis is finished, but pleased with how things are going. 
         The drive home is by the light of the crescent moon setting and the bright stars of a clear sky.  At least that’s what I saw before I kept nodding off in the backseat!  We dropped Grandma off and headed back out to Edgewood, arriving in time to watch the last half of the first Thor movie.  Good because we are going on Saturday to watch Thor 2.  Now I have an idea of what is going on!! 

         In bed shortly after 10.  A good day. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013
Family Time: Movie and Games!

         Today was a day to spend with Patty, Rachael, Ryan, Mom R, and Jed!!  Rick and I took a walk in the bright crisp morning sunshine, and I took much of the rest of the morning to catch up on writing and posting  At noon, Rick, Ryan and I drove into town to pick up Mom and head over to the Regal Theaters near Tramway.  We met Patty and Rachael and Jed! 
         Thor 2 was excellent!!!  A good blend of light-hearted banter, action, unexpected twists, and tearful moments.  We really enjoyed it! 
         Everyone headed out to Edgewood while Rick and I took Grandma grocery shopping, as well as picking up a few items for the trip home.  Then a stop at Dominos in Edgewood to pick up our pizza dinner. 
Patty, Rachael, Jed with Trivial Pursuit
         Patty, Rachael, Jed and I played a round of Trivial Pursuit – Patty the eventual victor!!  Then Ryan took Patty’s place in a game of Bezzerwizzer which is another trivia game, only faster and the questions are easier!  Ryan won!  Good time visiting with Jed as well and catching up on his thesis plans, etc.  Jed is spending the night on the downstairs couch and will head back to Socorro in the morning.
         Rick and I say goodbye to all the family, as no one will be up before we leave in the morning!  We told Jed we would wake him up to say goodbye!

SUNDAY, November 10, 2013
Edgewood, NM to Moab, UT
423 miles
Route for Sunday

         Another beautiful sunny day in the southwest!  How long will this last??  We won’t find out as we are leaving today! 
         We get the trailer all packed up, food out of fridge, ice from freezer, and walk Jed up shortly before 9 to say goodbye.  Rick drives us into Albuquerque where we are meeting Mom at Covenant Presby Church for the 10am service.  We arrive early, so listen in on part of a presentation on Guatemala by a mission worker and nibble on a few do-nuts and coffee. 
After church picture
  Grandma introduces us to all the “little old ladies” who sit together in two pews at the church.  I had gone to lunch with many of them last spring.  There are about 10 of them!  We met a couple new faces, one of which was a Wooster College graduate!  Class of ’72, so just a year ahead of Rick.  They enjoyed talking before and after church.  We get a quick picture of the three of us, say our goodbyes, and pull out around 11:25am.  Destination?  Gallup, NM and then north! 
         Our hope was to make Moab today, which we knew would be a push with such a late start, but we made great time!  I drove from ABQ to Gallup, arriving at 1:30pm for the 145 miles.  Gas up, quick bite, and on our way north to Cortez, through the Navajo Reservation.  The rock formations in this area are always interesting, but the living situation is so meager that it is always depressing to drive through the reservation. 
Rock formations south of Cortez

Church Rock

         Into Cortez by 4, gas up, and then I drive to Monticello as the sun begins to set behind the mountain.  We always enjoy this region of Colorado and Utah.  It is high plains country, covered with agriculture and farms.  Beautiful scenery as you can see the snowcapped mountains of the San Juans in the distance.  We saw snow along the road under the bushes on the shady side of the highway.  Snow on the mountains.  So pretty. 
         Rick takes us into Moab as the skies darken.  The highway is busy and the lights always bother me on two lane roads.  I wish we could have been traveling this section about an hour earlier with the golden colors of sunset on the cliffs and red rocks.  (Can’t complain – I was the one who wanted to stay for church and leave afterwards!)  But we could see FEEL the rock presence and see the darkened colors and shapes for most of the way into Moab.

         Once in Moab….uh oh!!  The two campgrounds I had planned on were both closed for the season.  I should have called because their web sites didn’t say anything about that!  We went to MacDonalds to use the wifi, and I finally found a campground list that indicated who was open year round.  We found Slick Rock Campground just north of town.  Hurray!  And the site was only $25 for the night!  By the time we found the campground it was 6:30, but we HAD arrived in Moab at 6!!  All set up in the dark and finally get a bite to eat and relax!!!  Tomorrow?  Idaho!!!  

MONDAY, November 11, 2013
Moab, UT to Jerome, ID
495 miles

Today's route
         Wow!  What a GREAT day!  We managed to stay warm enough last night, although the trailer registered 38 degrees when I got up this morning!  I borrowed Rick’s heavy socks during the night and that kept my feet warm!  We watched the sun hit the red rocks of Moab as we showered and packed up this morning, hitting the road shortly after 8am.  Our goal is to hit Salt Lake City right around noon.  I told Rick I would drive the Salt Lake Hundred miles today, if he would drive the first part so I could take some pictures!      
Red rock formations near Moab
Enroute to Price
   With the every changing vistas of red rock, white rock, strata rocks, pinnacles, and canyons, we head north from Moab, through Green River, and up Highway 6 toward Price.  I snapped away with the camera in the crystal clear skies and bright sunlight.  Shortly before we arrived in Price, Rick made a comment about a road that took off to the north, remembering a route he wanted to take ‘sometime’ to the town Duchesne.  I checked the map, did some quick figuring, and announced it would only add 50 miles to our drive, and circle us around the backside of SLC, coming back to I-15 at Ogden.  My heart started beating faster in anticipation of ‘ADVENTURE’, not to mention avoiding most of SLC!   We filled up with gas in Wellington and said, “Let’s do it today!” 
Coal plant
     As we drove through the MIDDLE of a coal power plant north of Helper, we took Hwy 191 north toward Duchesne, UT.  The route is marked scenic on the map and we were NOT disappointed!  First narrow rock cliffs and canyons, then more open valleys and forest.  Many of the trees were dead – pine beetle?  We went over a high pass at 9114’!!  The view on the far side was expansive!  And we found snow!!  Near the pass on both sides of the road, but mostly on the north side of the cliffs and mountains.  Nothing we needed to worry about driving.  Red willows lined the stream beds, but mostly everything was shades of brown with patches of green trees.  As we wound down a never-ending valley toward Duchesne, we passed oil well after oil well, in one place marked with multiple trucks of water.  Were they fracking?  Nearing Duchesne we could see the snowcapped peaks of the Uinta Wilderness to the north, with the 13,500’  highest point in Utah. 
Canyon walls of US 191
near Helper

Vistas from summit

         We gas up in Duchesne and turn west on Hwy 40 toward Heber City.  Another pass (Daniels Pass at 7995’) between here and there, as well as several reservoirs, including massive Strawberry Reservoir near the pass.  Mostly we pass aspen groves, lining the tops of the ridges, tucked in narrow canyons.  It is a shorter variety of aspen, but the hills are covered with the white branches of the now-barren trees.  How glorious this must have been a month ago in the fall color season! 
Strawberry Reservoir
Backside of Wasatch Mts
Lunch spot in Heber City
         We stop at a roadside parking area outside Heber City to grab a bite to eat.  The snowcapped peaks of the Wasatch Mountains surround us.  I comment they look barren to me – brown hills with snow on top.  With the binocs we realize the dark shadows are copses of firs or pines, and the whitish patches, which are extensive, are now barren aspen groves.  Wow. 
         I begin driving in Heber City and wind up the steep pass out of the valley north toward Park City and eventually I-80 eastbound.  This connects us with the start of I-84 west and about 35 miles to Ogden.  It is not the straightest stretch of interstate in the world!  There are sections of multiple 45 mph curves.  We pass several more reservoirs, some fairly empty, and witness the wealth of Park City and the ski culture of the Wasatch Mountains. 
         I am driving through Brigham City around 2:30p, only 1 hour later than we anticipated if we had held to our original course….just about the 50 miles extra (and two more high passes!)  I set the cruise control to about 70mph (the speed limit is 80 here!) and we rolled up the road toward the Idaho border.  Quick stop in Tremonton for gas and restroom.  I drive us into Idaho.  Rick has called ahead to the Jerome KOA to be sure we can get a spot there and we stop in Declo only long enough to switch drivers again. 
         Arrival at 5pm at Jerome KOA to the glory of the setting sun!  We have a 10% coupon to use at a KOA, so that makes it a cheaper night!  Just 245 miles tomorrow into Baker City – all freeway.  We considered driving it in tonight, but 750 miles is a LONG DAY for us old folks!! (Although Rick did just comment that the 500 miles didn’t seem so far since we had adventure along the way!)

Sunset in Jerome, Idaho
         So….tucked into our cozy trailer tonight for one final sleep.  This has been an awesome trip.  So many glorious sights and natural wonders.  The fall colors were beyond my expectations.  We have renewed relationships with family and friends all along the way.  And while not as much as we would have hoped, we have spent a few days in honest labor to benefit others.  We both realize that it important to us.  We feel a little guilty as we travel and it is all self-centered.   Back to daily life of multiple demands and responsibilities.  Back to immerse ourselves in the everyday happenings of the Baker City community and First Presby church.  Back to time spent with Luke and Kady and family!  Hopefully we will again bring something to share from our travels for others.  G’night! 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Jerome to Baker City, OR
248 miles

     On our way shortly by 8:30 after gas and coffee at the Flying J.  I take the wheel for the final push into Oregon!  Smooth morning driving, past Mountain Home, and into Boise.  We are puzzled by the thick smoke/smog/fog/dust? in the air in the Boise basin.  You can't really see the mountains very well.  Clouds started building the more we headed west, but this seemed lower than that.  
Truly a welcome sign!
     I pulled over in Nampa for a quick driver change and drink.  Rick drove us home, arriving at 11:25 Pacific Time.  (You gotta love the hours you gain driving west!)  Truck and trailer all unpacked by 2!!!  

Snake River

It was hazy cloudy, but still the Elkhorns welcomed us home to our valley 'neath the snow.

Total nights: 65
Nights in trailer: 42

Total average cost per day of trip:  $75.66