Thursday, August 13, 2009

Summer Trip 2009 – It's a Wrap!

We are home. Actually we arrived home on August 7. And thanks to those of you who have written and inquired – I have finally finished up the remaining blogs.

It is great to be home, the dogs are very happy, most of the yard work has been caught up, got my Dad a new computer up and running, and have in general just settled back in to the old home life.

This was a kind of different trip for us because we spent way more time with family and friends than we normally do – and it was great. We were away from home for 63 days but of those 63 days we were only in campgrounds for half that time, the rest was spent in the driveways and yards of friends and family – which is way more fun than campgrounds. We drove 5.489 miles in the motorhome and a bunch more in the car. We averaged $2.42 per gallon of gas. Compared with our average of last year of $3.91 – this trip was a total bargain.

I want to thank those of you have been faithful blog readers. However, many of you were slackers this year in the reading the blog category. Last year when we traveled for 3 months you visited the blog site 1,198 times. This year in 2 months – 331 visits. So yes, some of you (and you know who you are) have disappointed me but – I'll take the blame and try to be more entertaining in the future.

Seriously, we hope that each of you had as great a summer as we did.

See you down the road.

Monte's Childhood Home

After Oklahoma we made a beeline for Pennsylvania and a visit with Monte's family.

As always we parked in Monte's Mom's driveway. Monte's mom has lived in the same house for 67 of her 94 years - moved here when Monte was 2 years old - not that I'm trying to tell his age. Just how many 94 year olds do any of us know that live in their own home by themselves? Sara is pretty darn amazing. Several years ago she had a 30 amp RV electric hookup installed to ensure that we would always use her driveway as our campground. We would camp here anyway but the hookup is nice to have.

We spent from Thursday, July 23 until Wednesday August 5 here. Monte's sister Nancy was visiting from South Carolina at the same time so that was an added bonus. We spent time just hanging out and going to the casino with brother Gary and his wife Linda, and with brother Jim to the horse track to watch the ponies run. Uncle Norm brought us some delicious grilled chicken one day and Gary and Linda hosted a cookout for all of us and the food was, as always, outstanding. Thank you!! And Sara – your peanut butter pie is totally scrumptious – thanks for sending one home with us (although it did not make it that far).

It was a relaxing, non-stressful visit and hopefully was enjoyed by the rest of the family as much as we enjoyed it.

Unbelievably, we took NO pictures. I have no idea how that happened but it did.

Tahlequah, Oklahoma - A Visit With The Jolliffs

We had a wonderful week in Oklahoma City, a week in which the United States Women's Softball Team easily won the World Cup by beating Canada, Australia, Netherlands, Italy and top rival Japan.
Before I get off of the subject of Oklahoma City I must mention the weather. When it was not hotter than Hades it was storming. And I do mean STORMING. Horizontal rain, lots of lightening and lets not forget the hail. During one storm lots of tree limbs came down in the campground, thankfully none on top of RVs, and the hail got to golf ball size. We had a leak around the skylight above the shower and while Monte was in trying to stop the leak a quarter sized hail stone broke through the skylight and hit him in the head. No damage was done - at least not to Monte - but he did have to do a voyage repair with duct tape and we will have to order a new skylight.

We headed east from Oklahoma City all the way to Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Tahlequah is the capital of the Cherokee Nation and although that is interesting, the primary reason for our visit was to reunite with old friends and shipmates Jimmy and Connie Jolliff. Shelley and Jimmy were stationed together in Panama when he was the Naval Station Security Officer and Shelley was his assistant.

We had not seen the Jolliffs since 1994. I just do not understand where the years go.
Anyway, Jimmy and Connie have not changed and we had a wonderful visit.

Jimmy met us at the campground and off we went. Our first stop was at a local cafe for Indian Taco Salads served on Indian Fry Bread – YUMMY!! One salad was just about enough for a family of 4 and none of us could finish ours but it was great.

Then it was off to The Cherokee Heritage Center. This center includes the Cherokee National Museum and The Ancient Village. The museum although small is very well done. The highlight of the museum is the Trail of Tears Exhibit - unfortunately absolutely no photography is allowed in the museum so we cannot share that exhibit with you. The Ancient Village guides give visitors a glimpse of what life was like in a Cherokee village before European contact. We were given a guided tour of the village and told about history and practices including demonstrations of flint knapping, basketry, pottery and bow making. There was not too much going on in the village while we were there but I ascribe that to the fact that it was during the week rather than a weekend.
Now it was time to go find Connie and locating her was pretty easy – just look for the local liquor store. J&J Liquors to be exact which is owned and operated by the Jolliffs. Well – owned by both and operated solely by Connie. As liquor stores go – this one is top shelf. If Connie spends her days minding the store, you must wonder what Jimmy is doing with his time... Jimmy has turned into a part-time professional poker player and apparently does quite well at it – just don't tell the IRS or he might have to work for the Obama Administration.

The rest of the evening was spent at the Jolliff's home where Jimmy grilled some outstanding steaks and Connie conjured up all the sides and we stuffed our faces (I don't know how after that lunch) and spent time just catching up with each other.

To paraphrase one of our great military leaders “We shall return!”

Monday, July 20, 2009

Oklahoma City #2 - Lunch With The Cousins

Friday afternoon Deann and I went to lunch with “The Cousins.”

These cousins are the children of the brothers and sisters of Shelley and Deann's Grandmother. So they are our 2nd cousins or grand cousins or something like that.

Whatever they are – it was great fun. I had not met them before – at least not that I can remember. Deann sees them a few times each year as they have a luncheon each month that is one of their birthdays. Except for this lunch. This lunch was a get together because I was in town and we all wanted to meet each other. It just happened that the day of the lunch happened to fall on the birthday of Aunt Lilac (my great aunt and not to be confused with my Aunt Anna Lilac in Colorado) the mother of Norma (I think).

The cousins are Norma, Echo, Imogene, and Elnora.
I hope to get to do this again next year!

A Week In Oklahoma City - Post #1

This has been a busy week in Oklahoma City.

We first visited with family friend Jerry Williams. If you remember Barbie from one of the Colorado Blogs, then you need to know that Jerry is Barbie's Mom. Jerry has recently moved from her home of 43 years into a condo. And a great move it was. You can see from the picture of Chief in front of the fireplace just how comfortable the new digs are. While visiting I helped Jerry move about 10 years worth of Food and Wine and Gourmet magazines out of the old house and into a magazine recycling dumpster and Monte hooked up Jerry's DVD players to her TVs so now she is all settled in. We went out to dinner with Jerry at our favorite Mexican restaurant “Abuelos” and as always came away over-stuffed.

The next night cousin Deann and friend Becky took us for a tour of Oklahoma City's Bricktown.
Bricktown Entertainment District, is a unique entertainment destination and neighborhood. It is the home to many restaurants, nightclubs, sporting facilities, shops, attractions, condos, and a canal complete with tour boats. Located in the heart of downtown Oklahoma City, Bricktown, as it now stands, was once a warehouse neighborhood that has been restored and revitalized.

The first highlight of our Bricktown tour was dinner at Toby Keith's restaurant. Toby is known for his staunch support of our military and he carries that over into his restaurant as Monte and I were able to eat free as retired military members.

The next highlight was getting to do something that no other tourist gets to do. Right across the canal from Toby Keith's is the world headquarters of Sonic Drive-ins. Becky has been employed with Sonic for the past 15 years and among the many hats that she wears she one as the company historian. She gave us a great tour of the offices. No free samples but after just having dinner it was just as well.

Then we were off to the boat tour on the canal. This is Oklahoma City's take on the River Walk popularized in San Antonio. The tour was primo. OKC has done an excellent job and we thoroughly enjoyed the ride.

Our last stop was for dessert at Nonna's. Decadent does not fully describe the double chocolate brownie a la mode that I devoured. Deann and Becky being of sounder mind split one of those. Monte had the house sundae that was totally scrumptious.

We then waddled back to the cars and called it a night.

If you get to Oklahoma City don't miss Bricktown.
More OKC to come...

Leadville, Colorado

Leadville, situated at an altitude of 10,152 feet, is the highest incorporated city in the United States. A former silver mining camp that lies near the headwaters of the Arkansas river it is in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. In the late 1880s, Leadville was the second most populous city in Colorado after Denver. In 2005 the population had shrunk to about 2,700.

In 1876 miners discovered several lode silver-lead deposits in the area, Leadville was founded in 1877 and the Colorado Silver Boom was set off. By 1880 the population of Leadville was over 40,000.

In 1882 the Tabor Opera House hosted Oscar Wilde on his lecture tour of the West. Wilde toured the Matchless Silver Mine and opened their new lode: “The Oscar.”
In 1883 Doc Holliday moved to Leadville shortly after the gun fight at the O.K. Corral. On August 19, 1884, Holliday shot ex-Leadville policeman Billy Allen after Allen threatened Holliday for failing to pay a $5 debt. Despite overwhelming evidence against him, a jury found Holliday not-guilty of the shooting.

Today, Leadville survives on tourism. The residential streets are crammed with Victorian style houses and the historic district contains many of the original buildings including the Tabor Grant Hotel, The Tabor Opera House, and the Tabor House (are we seeing a pattern here?)
We, Uncle Ray, Deann, Monte and I toured the Mining Museum and Hall of Fame which was mildly interesting. I had been through it before a few years ago and it did not quite live up to my memories.

We then met up with Omar and Anne and boarded the Leadville, Colorado, and Southern Railroad for a 2.5 hour train ride along the old Denver, South Park & Pacific and Colorado and Southern lines to the Continental Divide.

As the train traveled north along the Arkansas River Valley, it rose up 1,000 feet off of the valley floor. We had some spectacular views of Freemont Pass and the two tallest peaks in Colorado, Mt. Massive and Mt. Elbert. We even saw a damsel in distress on the train tracks (Deann only slightly over-acted in this role).

It was a great way to spend the afternoon with family.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Ghost Town Tours and Majestic Views

On Wednesday, July 8, Omar took some time off from work and played tour guide for Shelley, Monte, Uncle Ray, Deann, Cheryl, and Kiersten.

Our first stop was the Golden Wonder Mine. This was a working mine in the early 1900's and today is for sale. The mine is full of water but the buildings are still 'useable' and the cabin comes fully furnished. Interested in buying? Make sure you have a 4WD vehicle...and for the winter – snowshoes.

Next stop was Turret. What was once a mining town and then a ghost town, Turret has been reawakened by Omar who, through his skills as a Real Estate broker, has enticed people to build and live in this area that is totally off the grid. Living off the grid in Colorado is actually pretty common and if you went into any of these homes/cabins you would never know that there are no utilities to the houses. Solar power, propane and water wells provide all the modern comforts we have come to expect. For more information on Turret check this link:

After Turret we went to S Mountain. S Mountain overlooks the town of Salida and has a big white S on the side of it (hence S Mountain) and provides a great view point to see the layout of the town and the Arkansas River that runs through it.

Thanks for a great day Omar. You are one heck of a tour guide!! (and we did not even have to tip you)

Aunt Anna Lilac's 86th Birthday (twice)

From July 5 – July 12 our camp site was located at Colorado Crossroads Bed and Breakfast.

We have camped here each summer for the past 5 years. For those of you who don't remember or are new to my writings and ramblings, the B&B is owned by Shelley's Aunt Ann (Shelley's Dad's sister) and 3 of her children (obviously Shelley's cousins). Over the years I have taken and posted dozens of pix of the B&B, written about the B&B etc. If you want to know more, look back at last year's blog entries for July and you will find what you seek.

Anna Lilac, known to Shelley as Aunt Ann, celebrated her 86th birthday 2 times during the week. The first time was 2 days before her actual birthday at a family dinner on Wednesday July 8 when we had a gathering of 16 for dinner at the B&B. Those in attendance were Anna Lilac, Omar (son), Anne (d-i-l) Ray (b-i-l), Deann (niece), Deanna (daughter), Bill (s-i-l), Shelley (niece), Monte (nephew in law), Arthur (son), Honey (d-i-l), Cheryl (daughter), Cierra, Savannah, and Katie (grand daughters), and Kiersten (family friend) Hopefully I did not leave anyone out. Monte and I were not the only out of towners. Uncle Ray and his daughter Deann live in Oklahoma City, Cheryl and Kiersten live in the Seattle area, Arthur and Honey and their daughters Cierra and Savanna live in Canon City, CO. (the first n in Canon needs a ~ over it but I don't know how to do that - pronounced Canyon).

The second dinner was on July 10. When Aunt Ann was born, it was at midnight between July 10 and July 11 and the doctor told her mom that she could pick either date for the birth certificate and she picked July 10. Off we went to the Boathouse Cantina in Salida. The restaurant sits right on the Arkansas River and the kayakers that were practicing flipping upside down and getting back right side up kept us entertained. Many moons ago Omar was going to go kayaking until a pretty girl that he knew went and had all of her front teeth broken out and told him that it was like being in a washing machine full of rocks. Omar gave up any thoughts of running the river in a kayak and stuck to mountain climbing (he has climbed all 54 of the Rockies in Colorado that are over 14,000', many of them multiple times). Anyway, we had 10 in attendance for the dinner and had a very good time.

So to you Aunt Ann – Happy Birthday and many many more!!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Rocky Mountain National Park

This will be a short blog as I think that the pictures speak for themselves – but even pictures cannot do this place justice (at least not the pictures that I take). All of the attached pictures, except for the panorama of Mary's Lake, were taken in Rocky Mountain National Park.

This place is awesome. I know that awesome is way over used these days but, RMNP is Awesome - Awe Inspiring - and Awfully Beautiful. It is way way better than the Grand Canyon in our opinion and ranks right up with Yellowstone for national park beauty.

Besides mountains and snow, we saw several herds of elk, a family of yellow-bellied marmots, numerous waterfalls, and vistas that just take your breath away and make you say "WOW."
The pictures cannot do this place justice. If you ever get a chance to explore this area - do not pass up that chance.

The one sad note in the park is the amount of trees that are dead or dying due to a terrible infestation of pine bark beetles. They are attacking the lodge pole pines and there are places that you look into a valley and the valley will have a red tinge due to this. We saw this last year at Mesa Verde where there were literally no trees left to die – the forests were just lifeless tree trunks. Hopefully it will not get to that point in RMNP.
The highest point on the road through the park is about over 10,000 feet just at 2 miles above sea level. I thought that I would have a bout of altitude sickness problems as we have both had this in the past, but so far other than a slight headache and a little shortness of breath we are fine. Actually, if someone would send me a bottle of Oxygen I would be forever grateful.

The ground squirrels in the campground are driving the dogs nuts.
As always, if you really need a way to kill some time, there is a link on the right side of the blog that will take you to all of our photo albums on Picassa and you can browse through many many photos.