Texas and a quick Trip Home

Leaving Slidell, we headed toward Navasota, Texas. We had scheduled a stop at Grizzly Pines, a gay Campground north of Houston. Grizzly Pines is a fairly large facility with lots of permanent sites and a few short-term places. After a little drama around trying to fit our rig, with its slideout and awning tent room into our assigned space, and eventually moving to the adjacent site. That site had the space, but would be problematic should it rain. The area where the carpet for the tent room would go appeared to be a natural channel for water runoff. In the west, we would call that a wash. Well, we had little choice and certainly didn’t want to move again.

Pool and Hottub Area

The central common area has a large pool, hot tub, a Cafe that is open on the weekends and a large area with tables and chairs adjecent to the pool. Bill and I enjoyed the pool area, had a couple of meals at the Cafe. Our hope for a rain free stay were dashed early in the evening of our second night, It rained hard for a long time. Our newly installed front window was not up the task and leaked in several places. The next morning, one of the staff told me it rained five inches overnight. As you can imagine, our little wash in the tent room was a rushing river. Although rains diminished for the remainder of the stay we did have several periods of rain. Even with the rains, we enjoyed our stop at Grizzly Pines.

Our next stop as a quick two and a half hour drive up to Crawford, Texas. We have stayed at The Homestead at 3218 before and knew what to expect, well should have known. We arrived and noticed several things immediately. First, we appeared to be the only guests. Secondly, the place was looking a little rundown. Things that should have been repaired had not been, other places needed a little paint and, although our actual space for the trailer was above water, we had to walk through water to go anywhere. All that, coupled with the fact that my Aunt and Uncle, who livwe nearby and who we had hope to see, were a couple hours away, in Weatherford, house sitting for their son. Bill and I decided to make this a 1 night stay.

So, the next morning, we informed our host we were leaving and headed to Weatherford. I booked us for 2 nights and we arranged to have lunch with Uncle Leland and Aunt Barbara. A nice added bonus, was Aunt Maxine, who we had seen, earlier in the trip in Edmond, Oklahoma, was also visiting, so we saw her again. We had a nice lunch at El Fenix, a regional Mexican chain, that Leland and Barbara love. Afterwards, we went to my cousin’s house to spend some family time. After losing, my Uncle Loren Vance last year, I am appreciative of opportunities to see my Mother’s remaining brother and his wife. Seeing Aunt Maxine again was a nice bonus.

Uncle Leland, Aunts Barbara and Maxine, sitting With Keagan

After Weatherford, we headed north to Sanger, where we would see my first cousin Tim and his wife Sherrie. We had a couple of route choices and we elected to use state and US Highways, avoiding the interstates and driving through either Dallas or Ft Worth.

Our chosen route took us through the Texas Lake Trail. I know most of us, when we hear the word “trail”, we think of a bike, horse or walking path. Well, in this case, is an organization in 31 counties in North Central Texas promoting tourism, economic growth and historic preservation. Our route allowed us to see several of the Lakes, that give the area its name, as well as several historic courthouses. Texas has 254 counties, far more than any other. And many of these counties have historic county courthouses located on a town square. Many of these, dating from the mid-late 19th century, have been recently restored by an effort begun during the George W. Bush governorship

Driving on less busy highways, doted with small towns and their beautiful courthouses, with the added benefit of frequent lake vistas made this a quite enjoyable drive.

Once we got settled in Sanger we arranged to meet Tim and Sherrie at The Oak Street Drafthouse in Denton. After a couple of drafts, we headed to Giuseppe’s Italian Restaurant. Situated in an historic Victorian house, the food, although good, took a backseat to the building.

The next day, Bill and I loaded our bikes on the truck and headed into Denton. We planned to ride the Denton KATY Trail, which runs along the old MKT rail bed, next to the current day Denton County Transit A-Train Line. We elected to ride the19 miles to Lewisville and then take the A-Train back.

The trail was paved and in very good condition. The only issues I had, were the lack of any informational or route signage and lack of restroom facilities. On the Lewisville end, it was not clear how to get to, our planned destination, Hebron Station, so we diverted to Old Town Station, which worked just fine.

That evening we offered to stop at a local BBQ place and pickup dinner and meet Tim and Sherrie at their place. The little town of Sanger has 3 BBQ joints to choose from. But the one with the best reviews was Bolivar Street BBQ. By the way, this is Texas, so I’m pretty sure it is Bolivar not Bolívar. We ordered brisket, Ribs and 2 cheese and jalapeño sausages, along with cowboy beans, green chile, green beans, green chile and chopped brisket Mac ‘n’ cheese and fried okra. It sounds like a lot of food, but we actually had very little left over. All of it good, but the standouts were the brisket and the Mac ‘n’ cheese. Both outstanding. Imagine eating brisket and not needing a knife: delicious tender slices you could cut with a fork. And, I could have made a meal of the Mac ‘n’ cheese. We had a nice dinner, sitting on the patio. With their four dogs, I was grateful to be outside and their shaded patio was quite comfortable. Bill even got in some trampoline fun with McKenzie, Tim and Sherrie’s granddaughter. But with the long drive the next day, we did not linger and headed back to Sanger.

The next day’s drive was to Midland for a quick overnight, then on the Hatch, NM. But before Hatch, we had an extra little stop. Instead of talking US 380 west from Denton until it met I-20, we headed a little north to Gainesville and then west on US-82. That route would take us through Muenster, a small town of 1400 residents, 90 percent are decended from the German Catholic founders. Keith and Joanette suggested we make time to visit Muenster. The town still celebrates its German heritage with an annual German Festival. You can still see buildings in German architectural styles and the very large market, given the population, reflects its German heritage and offers a variety of German sausages and cheeses. Bill and bought some of both, along with some German sauerkraut and potato salad.

Now on to Hatch. Hatch is famous for its chile. Red or green is the New Mexico State Question. Both red and green hatch chiles are the same pepper, just at a different ripeness. I had two goals for Hatch, first a green chile cheeseburger from Sparky’s.

And then the next morning, before heading to Tucson, we had Green Chile and bacon burritos. I had my green chile fix. Although, truth be told, I have several pounds of green chiles in my freezer at home, complements of Keith and Joanette.

Our final stop was near Tucson, Oro Valley to be precise, at Catalina State Park. Originally we had planned a two night stop here, with a long bike ride with our friend Andrew. But with the temps in excess of 110°, we cut it short and had a shorter, early morning ride with Andrew and a nosh at Brueggers Bagels before hitting the hot road home. We were back at the trailer before 9:30, with the temperature already at 95°. We were ready to be home.

The drive Tucson to Palm Springs is around six hours. With gas and food stops, we arrived home just before 5PM. We are home for about a month. On July 17th we head toward Montana and the Pacific Nothwest, for quality time with Keith and Joanette and far cooler temperatures than Palm Springs. Stay tuned for when we are On The Road Again!

Slidell, Mandeville and the Tammany Trace

After leaving New Orleans, we drove the short trip on east I-10 to the Lake Pontchartrain shoreline community of Slidell. Our destination was Indian Hills Nudist Camp. As you may remember, Bill and I are naturists and enjoy spending time “au naturelle”. For the most part, we go to facilities targeted to gays and lesbians. But, occasionally, we choose one that is for the all, regardless of sexual identity.

Indian Hills is just that. Clearly a long established facility, that is clean and well maintained. Indian Hills was a convenient stop for us, because amazingly, I had a bike ride planned

The pool and hot tub area was very large, with lots of chairs, umbrellas and shade to control sun exposure. Although, surprisingly, they kept the pool temperature a little warm for our tastes. 95° is just warm enough to not be refreshing. I did enjoy the 24 hour access, so I could have my first coffee in the hot tub.

Slidell is known for its seafood restaurants and Bill and I decided to try one of the local favorites, Vera’s, which was just down the street from Indian Hills. Even though it has good reviews online, both of us were a bit unimpressed and although we did take leftovers with us, we didn’t actually eat them.

After having several dry days, while in New Orleans, the rains returned. Luckily, these were not full day affairs, but passing storms with breaks. So, we planned a nice little ride on the Tammany Trace.

The Tammany Trace is 31 mile trail, along the path of the, now defunct, Illinois Central Railroad. The Trace goes from Slidell through Lacombe, Mandeville, Abita Springs and terminates in Covington. Our plan was to ride from Slidell to Mandeville for lunch.

Thursday Morning weather looked promising, so we were at the Trace Trailhrad, ready to ride by 9 AM. With cool temperatures and partly cloudy conditions, combined with a good amount of canopy, we had perfect riding conditions.

We enjoyed the well managed trail. The trail is fully paved and the staff regularly patrols for safety/security. Once we arrived into Mandeville, we left the trail and rode down to the Lakefront.

Apparently Mandeville has historic significance. It was here that the remaining British forces surrendered to the Colonial Navy, ending Louisiana’s participation in the War of Independence. I do note the plaque refers to the Revolutionary War. But, that is a distinction I am not inclined to discuss here.

After leaving The Battle of Lake Pontchartrain plaque, we rode along the lakeshore for a few blocks and stopped at Kona Coffee, a shop located in The Beach House. Called Kona, because they actually offer a locally roasted Kona Coffee blend. It was quite good.

The stop at Kona bought us some time, it was now after 11 and our lunch destination was now open. Old Rail Brew Pub’s name is a tribute Old Rail Spur of the Illinois Central, which served the Northshore timber industry. Located right on the Tammany Trace, it was a perfect stop for lunch. Bill and I both had a Hobo Helles, brewed in the German styled “light” beer. It was very tasty and refreshing after the ride to Mandeville. We both had one and shared a second. We did have to ride back. For lunch I ordered Sonora style hotdog with all the trimmings and Bill a traditional wedge salad. Unfortunately, although the menu did not reflect this, they no longer had the Sonoran dog and instead offered a bratwurst with sauerkraut. Now, there is nothing wrong with a brat with kraut, but my tastebuds were really anticipating the Sonoran dog. The good news is, we will be in Tucson soon, and I will have many opportunities for Sonoran dogs there.

After lunch we made quick work of the return to Slidell, stopping briefly for a photo op at the Trace Bridge over Bayou Lacombe.

Once returning to Indian Hills, we spent the afternoon chilling by the pool, until the heavens opened again. We’ll, at least we got in the bike ride before the rains. Speaking of rains, you might be wondering what we do when it rains. Well, we play Rummikub, lots of it. I have, historically, not played games. But, our friends, Brian and Dave, from Mission Viejo, were visiting and introduced us to Rummikub. It really helps to pass the time on rainy days.

Not far from our campground was a streetside fruit and vegetable vendor. So, we stopped to buy boiled peanuts. Many of you may not heard of boiled peanuts. Well, they are boiled in a brine until the are just soft and the nuts tender. I remember these from my childhood, when we still lived in Loranger. Dad would take me to the livestock auction in Amite. There was a boiled peanut vendor there. Dad would buy us a little bag to share. I sure loved those little treats. So today, when I have the opportunity to have boiled peanuts, it puts a smile on my face as I remember those special moments with my Dad. In addition to the peanuts, we also bought some local peaches and a little watermelon. We haven’t tried the watermelon yet, but the peaches were so tasty, perfectly ripe and juicy. On our last day in Slidel, we tried to buy more, but the vendor was not there. On, well!

So now, we are off to Texas for a series of stops there. Here’s hoping for better weather. The rain is beginning to wear us down.

New Orleans

After leaving Loranger, we had a quick 1 hour drive to Bayou Segnette State Park Campground. Located across the river from New Orleans, it is a short 20 minute drive to our friends’, Edmond and Philip’s house, near Bayou St. John. Our plan for the Memorial Day weekend, was to have some nice dinners, get in a couple of bike rides and generally have a low key weekend. Bill and I were neither one ready for the craziness that can be the Quarter on a holiday weekend.

After getting set-up at camp, I drove into Metairie for a lab test and, after that, into New Orleans to pick up Philip. Edmond drove, after work, directly to Bayou Segnette. After a quick stop at the store, Philip and I headed to camp, and the four of us spent a quiet evening enjoying a nice pasta dinner accompanied by good wine and conversation. It was nice to catch up. We have been friends with Philip and Edmond since the early nineties, having met at a Gay Naturist gathering in the Poconos.

The following morning, we drove into New Orleans, met Philip and Edmond at their house. Bill and Edmond planned to visit some estate sales, while Philip and I would get in a nice bike ride. I let Philip choose the route. We head out Bayou St. John into New Orleans City Park, then along the lake front to New Orleans Lakefront Airport.

New Orleans Lakefront Airport Terminal is an Art Deco building constructed in the early 1930s. Originally named Shushan Airport, after Huey Long ally, Abraham Shushan, the airport served as New Orleans’ commercial airport until Moisant International opened in 1946. The airport retains its original code NEW and that is why when you travel to New Orleans today, you see MSY on your boarding passes and luggage tags.

In front of the airport is the Fountain of the Four Winds by New Orleans artist, Enrique Alférez. The design was controversial. All four statues are nudes, but the anatomically correct male, North Wind, caused the most concern with some of the local politicians. The Director of the local WPA ordered Alferéz to chisel it off, saying, “I am not going to let my men go out there and stand in front of that indecent thing, the man with is ding dong hanging out.” Apparently the appeal to save the statue’s penis went all the way to President Roosevelt. Ironically, in 1991, at 90 years old, Alférez was asked to restore the statue. Some prudish vandal had taken a hammer to North Wind’s privates.

Unfortunately, the Fountain fell into disrepair and was badly damaged by Katrina. However, a grant from FEMA and a fundraising effort by the Friends of the Airport, the Fountain is being restored and should be, soon, functional again.

After leaving Lakefront Airport, we rode along the Lake Pontchartrain lakeshore, to the New Canal Lighthouse. Built in 1855 as a replacement to the original lighthouse, the New Canal Lighthouse was built where a, now long gone, canal used to meet the lake. The lighthouse has recently been restored after damage done by Katrina and is now open to the public

The photos show the Katrina damaged lighthouse, actually resting on the beach and the fully restored one, back up on the seawall where it had been, and Philip and me in a selfie.

After the lighthouse, Philip and I made our way back through City Park, down Esplanade to the Quarter and out St. Charles Avenue, to meet Bill and Edmond for lunch at New Orleans Hamburger and Seafood. After lunch, Philip and I rode on to Audubon Park, took a couple laps around the park oval, then retraced our ride back through the Quarter and then back to Philip and Edmond’s house. It was a very nice, almost 45 mile, ride, all within the City of New Orleans.

The Strava Link for this ride is

https://www.strava.com/activities/5379359595/embed/640348816b258bd11fc3d8fe20bba430b18beb26

That evening, we dined at Santa Fe Fe Cafe, a neighborhood restaurant. They had a nice menu and the food was good, but if you were expecting some Northern New Mexico cuisine, you would be disappointed.

On Sunday, the four of us took a trip up river to the Ormond Plantation Manor House. Certainly less grand than its up river neighbors Oak Alley and San Francisco, Ormond was a typical working plantation, a French Colonial-style, Creole-inspired plantation house that was built in the late 18th century using bricks between cypress studs. This type of construction, called briquettes entre poteaux or brick between posts, was used on the front and rear walls with a type of adobe filling on the sides. Rounded cement and brick columns supported the front veranda or gallery with wood columns on the second floor supporting the roof. Ormond was built in 1789 by sugar baron Pierre Trepagnier, who disappeared under mysterious circumstances in 1798. 

On Monday, Memorial Day, all four of us planned a bike ride, some of it would be a repeat of what Philip and I rode on Saturday. We started early enough to ride to breakfast. We chose Two Chick’s Cafe, located in the CBD (Central Business District), just a few blocks across Canal Street and the Quarter. Two Chick’s is a popuar place, and, as expected, we had to wait 15 or so minutes to be seated. We were lucky, when we left the wait appeared to be 4 or5 times that. I cannot tell you what the others had for breakfast, because mine was so good I didn’t pay attention to anyone else. I had creamed grits topped with two poached eggs, sautéed vegetables and andouille sausage.Yummy! After breakfast we headed out St. Charles to Audubon Park. We rode the oval and stopped by the band stand for a water and photo op break..

After our time in Audubon Park we head back toward the Quarter. Trying to see something different, we rode mostly on Prytania Street, which parallels St. Charles one block riverside, all the way in. As we crossed Melpomene, I asked that we turn left. On the left in the first block is the duplex we lived in, in 1959-1960, when I was in first grade.

The bedrooms were upstairs. Mom and Dad had the corner room with two windows. Keith and I had the rear room, with one window. And, at that time, what is now a parking lot, was another similar duplex and my view out the window, was that house, only a couple of feet away. My memories from this house are the first that I can recall consistently. Prior to that, my memories are sporadic and may also be influenced by the many reels of 8 mm home movies my Dad had.

After the Melpomeme house we headed down to the riverfront, rode along the walk, at the edge of the Quarter, passing Jax Brewery, Jackson Square and the Fench Marketplace, all places we have visited previously and not inclined to do so again on a holiday weekend.

We rode on into the Bywater and up onto the ramp into Crescent Park. From there we had great view toward Downtown.

We then headed back to Philip and Edmond’s, drove back to camp for a little nap and quality time with Mouse. Later that evening we would go back into New Orleans and out to dinner, so I could have New Orleans Monday special, Red Beans and Rice.

Here is the Strava Link to this ride

https://www.strava.com/activities/5390989449/embed/b5c061f1e1c914933dc3c3349cfb0ff3c40084e1

So, that wraps up New Orleans for this trip. Arguably a low key affair, but that was by design. The great news was the weather: no rain, cool temperatures and partly cloudy, perfect for riding and other outdoor activities.

Next up: Slidell and The Tammany Trace.

Memphis and John’s Birthplace, Loranger, Louisiana

After leaving Cactus Canyon, we headed toward Louisiana. To break up the trip we decided on staying near Memphis, Tennessee. After some research, we found Tom Sawyer’s RV Park, located right on the banks of the Mississippi River in West Memphis, Arkansas. The park, a well managed, clean park, with nice size spaces. Our space was right on the river in a newly opened section of the park. It is interesting to note that the office, guest laundry and restrooms are all on wheels so they can be pulled away to safety during the frequent flood events.

Aerial view of new section. Our site was riverfront, 2nd from the right.

We really enjoyed being right on the river. This section of the river is very busy, with barges, some times five wide and six or seven long, being pushed along by massive tug boats. This is a 24 hour operation. At night, the tugs use high powered, long range spot lights to illuminate the water just ahead of the first row of barges. For some reason, watching a barge laden tug is far more interesting than watching a train carrying freight or an 18 wheeler rolling down the highway.

River Tug with payload

We did have a nice view of May’s Super Flower Blood Moon. Do you think that is enough adjectives describing the moon.Whatever! It was still beautiful. Bill took this with his phone.

I like the moon reflecting off the river.

One very nice advantage of the location of Tom Sawyer’s RV Park is its close proximity to the Mississippi River Levee Trail. This trail connects to the Big River Trail, connecting West Memphis, AR with Memphis, TN via the Big River Crossing Trail. Our plan had been to take these tails into Memphis and explore downtown, as well as the series of park trails along the river. However, once we rode up onto the levee, we realized the size of the gravel along the trail was not appropriate our hybrid bike tires, so we elected to use the South Loop Road, which parallels the trail until the point we could pick up the paved Big River Trail.

Bill and John at Big River Trailhead
Memphis from Big River Crossing

On the bridge, we crossed the Arkansas – Tennessee state line. I am a sucker for such landmarks, so we had to get off the bikes for a photo op.

This is the next best thing to having a line painted in the middle of the river
Bill at the line!

Once we reached the Tennessee riverfront, we made our way through a series of city parks using the Riverwalk Trail.

Looking back at the I-55 bridge. Just at its base you can see the Big River Crossing Trail.

When we reached Beale Street, we went went up the embankment to the Main Street pedestrian mall and street car tracks. We rode north along Main then headed back toward the river to reach the Greenbelt Park Trail.

Main Street Pedestrian Mall and Streetcar Line
Another angle – I was very careful crossing those diagonal streetcar tracks.
Our route across the river and up riverbank in Memphis

We did this ride early and many things weren’t open, but we wanted to beat traffic and enjoy seeing many beautiful homes along our ride. The loop at the north end of our ride was on the Wolf River Greenway Park Trail. We made that our turn around and retraced our path back to West Memphis. I noticed just as we approached camp the Bill was rapidly loosing pressure on his rear tire. If there is anywhere to get a flat, the final quarter of a mile, is the best.

Here is the link to our ride on Strava:

https://www.strava.com/activities/5356383201/embed/2ec9ddfd2e6acca87b05ce6ed7dc0c5b08647302

After two nights in West Memphis, we headed straight down I-55 to Louisiana. Our destination was Sweetwater Ranch and Riding Stables, near Loranger, Louisiana. The reason for this stop was to take care of a cracked photo on my Father’s gravestone. Some of you may know, I was born in a small farmhouse near Loranger.

While we were there, we had dinner with my Dad’s first cousin, Arlette Elston and her son DaRyan and his wife Amanda. It is a fun fact, that DaRyan, my Second Cousin, is married to Amanda, who is my First Cousin, once removed. Amanda’s Maternal Grandparents are Loren and Maxine Busbee, my Mother’s Brother and his wife. This may seem odd, but is a continuing tradition of couples from the Guthrie, Oklahoma area marrying someone from the Loranger area. This is due to a Church of God connection, as both towns have a regional meeting of the church. In fact, my parents were from this regional connection, as well as my paternal Grandmother, who was from Loranger, married O.C. Porter, from Guthrie.

After leaving DaRyan and Amanda’s, I realized that we were really close to River Road and the Hoffman Cemetery, where one of my 3rd great grandparents were buried. In 2017, when Keith, Dad and I rented an RV and took a trip to Loranger, we visited all the Joiner and James family cemeteries in the area. This trip I had not planned on doing that, but we were so close to Hoffman and there was still light, I thought we would make a quick stop.

At the graves of John and Sophia Arbuthnot Joiner, my 3rd Great Grandparents

It is through Sophia that Keith and I are related, although distantly, to Scottish aristocracy. John Keith Oxley Arbuthnott is the 17th Viscount Arbuthnott, Laird and Chief of the Clan Arbuthnott. He is our 15th Cousin, twice removed. Although my parents did not know it at the time, there is a long Arbuthnott tradition to give males Keith, as a middle name. So, my Brother, Howell Keith Joiner is in keeping with this tradition. By the way, Keith is our ancestry expert, so I credit him with knowing our exact relationship to Viscount Arbuthnott.

Our short time in Loranger was over, the next morning, we made our way to Bayou Segnette State Park, for our Memorial Day Weekend stay in the New Orleans area. And that is a good place to end. Next time, New Orleans, stay tuned!

Table Rock Lake, Branson and Ava, Missouri

Leaving Eureka Springs, we had a short, 42 mile drive to our next stop, Aunt’s Creek Campground on Table Rock Lake. This US Corps of Engineers Campground was to be our base for exploring the Branson area. Our friends, Brian and Gary, were joining us from Wisconsin. We planned to check out what put Branson on the map, get in some bike riding and rent a boat for a day to explore, at least part of, the lake.

Well, the weather did not cooperate. It rained every day! Although we did get into Branson for lunch one day, and drove to Springfield for a bike ride, most of the 6 days were spent inside Brian and Gary’s larger trailer, eating, drinking wine and playing Rummikub and Uno.

One morning, when the weather forecast indicated a break in the rain, we decided to drive to Springfield and get a bike ride in before the forecasted rain returned. Gary decided not to ride, so he planned a trip to the Springfield Botanical Gardens, and then to meet us later at the end of our ride.

The ride was on the Frisco Highline Trail, a 35 mile converted rail that previously was the Frisco Railroad. The St Louis-San Francisco Railroad, known as the Frisco, was headquartered in Springfield, MO., operated for over a century, 1876-1980, in the Midwest and south-central US. Amazingly, even through it had San Francisco in its name, it never came close to the city. The Frisco Highline Trail runs from Springfield to Bolivar. I am told by the locals that it is pronounced like Oliver. So, I guess Simón Bolívar would just be Simon Bolivar. It just doesn’t sound as nice. Well, anyway, because of the coming rains, we decided that riding the full distance to Boliver, was not prudent. So we chose to ride only as far as Walnut Grove. The Frisco Highline Trail has a historic side note. In 1948, when President Harry Truman was running to keep his job. He used this 35 mile rail line as a test of the railcar, that he would use in the countrywide Whistlestop tour, which historians credit for saving his Presidency.

Bill and Brian at the Walnut Grove Trailhead
Bill and Brian on the trail
John on the trail

After the ride, Gary met us in Walnut Grove, we had lunch at a local diner, called Chuck’s Dinesty. I guess that is a little word play with dynasty. I also like having the opportunity to visit local restaurants rather than the large national chains. Just as we rode up to the diner, it began to sprinkle and by the time we were done eating, it was raining in earnest, so we timed our ride perfectly.

You can check out the ride on Strava

https://www.strava.com/activities/5379359595/embed/640348816b258bd11fc3d8fe20bba430b18beb26

A couple days later, we had another forecasted break in the rain, so we headed into Branson. We walked around the old downtown and then down into the newer touristy Branson Landing. We lunch at Waxy’s Irish Pub. I’m not sure how Irish at actually was, but the food was passable and beer good. As we headed back to camp, not surprisingly, the rains returned.

John at Table Rock Lake
Bill at one of the piers on the lake
View of Table Rock Lake from our campsites

Our time on Table Rock Lake, was not what we had planned, but we made the best of it. We ate well, played lots of games and enjoyed spending time with Brian and Gary. On Friday morning we broke camp, in the rain, and Brian and Gary headed home to Appleton and we set out for or next stop, Cactus Canyon Campground, near Ava, Missouri. Our ride was another short one, only 85 miles.

Bill and I had been to Cactus Canyon before. Out first trip was in 2002 for the inaugural trip with our pop-up camper. Cactus Canyon was only a couple of years old back then and was quite rustic. My favorite memory of that trip was the wood fired redwood plank hot tub. Today the camp has grown quite a bit. Long gone is the wood fired hot tub replaced by a large custom built 16 – 20 person hot tub, a large out door pool and a new area for seasonal residents high up on the ridge.

Still it feels much like it did back then. Still run by two original owners, its isolation gives privacy and the 750 acres provide lots of opportunities for hiking and the pool and hot tub a place to relax. It is a gem and Bill and I enjoyed meeting seasonal residents and those who just dropped in for a couple of days. We took advantage of the clothing optional policy to do a couple hikes au naturel.

All set up, creekside, at Cactus Canyon
Bill and John on our hike.
Bill, just before crossing the creek and heading up to the ridge

Because of the clothing optional policies, photography is discouraged, so I don’t have others to share. We had an enjoyable 3 nights at Cactus Canyon, particularly since, after 6 days of rain in Branson, it was warm and sunny. 🌞 We now turned our eyes south toward Memphis and Louisiana. And, with that, I will leave it for now

Eureka Springs

Mouse and Bill, all packed up and ready to go!

After 3 quick over nights, we arrived in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. On the way we had two overnight stops, where we were at near freeway RV parks, and didn’t even unhook the trailer from the truck. The last stop, in Oklahoma City, we did unhook and drove to Guthrie’s Summit View Cemetary, where several generations of my relatives, including my Mother, are buried. Later we had the opportunity to have dinner with my Aunt Maxine and her daughter Sarah. Then the next day, we arranged to meet our friends Patty and Phil for lunch in Tulsa. I have known Patty since high school we try meet Phil and Patty whenever we pass through Tulsa.

So traveling with a travel trailer requires some foreplanning to stop for lunch. First, convenience to the freeway is helpful, and space to park the pickup and trailer is essential. And, of course, we have to consider temperature, since we leave Mouse in the truck. Luckily, with temperatures in the mid-sixties, that was not an issue. I chose Casa Tequila, a well-known Mexican restaurant right at the 51st and Harvard exit off I-44. With adequate parking we were set. As always, our time with Patty and Phil was enjoyable. We all share an interest in travel and enjoy sharing past travel experiences and future plans.

With Patty and Phil at Casa Tequila

After lunch, we had another 3 hours before we reached Eurkea Springs. The first hour and half was along US-412, an easy, 4 lane controlled access route, that was a quick drive. But after Springdale, Arkansas, we traveled the last hundred miIes on narrow, winding and hilly highways. By the way, I could have used windy here, but the heteoryms windy and windy are confusing even to native English speakers. I know my husband is rolling his eyes as he reads this.

US Highway 412 stretches the entire width of Oklahoma and Arkansas, through the boot heel of Missouri, as well as parts of New Mexico and Tennessee. It is one of three anomalous numbered US Highways, along with US 400 and 425, that do not conform to the US Highway numbering system. All three are 3 digits and not spurs or loops off of one of the two digit US Highways. I know US 101 is three digits, but in the highway numbering system, 101 is actually only two digits and the 10 is considered a single digit. BTW, when proofing this, Bill said, “enough with the highway numbers!”

Back to Springdale. Did you know that Springdale is home of Tyson’s Foods? Tyson produces over 20 percent of America’s poultry, pork and beef production, although poultry is what they are most known for. No we did not tour a chicken production facility. I am fairly certain that would turn me off chicken forever.

After our windy (long i) road, we arrived into Eureka Springs. Eureka Springs has an interesting history. The area was known for its mineral springs by Native Americans and over the years those waters have been the basis for spas, hotels, the Ozark Spring Water Company. Today, due to over-extractions, most of the more than 120 springs no longer produce usable water. It is interesting that all of the springs were cold water, so no soaking in steaming hot mineral springs. During its heyday, in the late 19th century, Eurkea Springs was the second largest city in Arkansas and during this time, the extant Victorian homes, hotels and commerical buildings were built. Today, the entire city is on the National Register of Historic Places, as the Eureka Springs Historic District. During the 60s and into the 70s Eureka Springs attracted artists, hippies, gays and lesbians, all intent of taking advantage of the city’s remoteness to live their lives without the normal cultural restrictions of the time. Today, evidence of all are still visibile and the city is known as the most gay friendly city in an otherwise conservative Arkansas.

Spring Street

Bill and stayed 3 nights at the Magnetic Valley Retreat, a gay men’s resort just a mile out of town. It was quiet and secluded, but was close enough to town for us to spend time enjoying the uniquness that Eureka Springs displays.

The view from the pool deck at Magnetic Springs
View of the pool area.

Even though we were in our travel trailer and could cook dinner there, we elected to dine out while in Eureka Springs. Our first night we ate at a local Thai restaurant, called simply Thai House. Bill and I have tried Thai restaurants in many cities and this one rates right up with the best.

The next night we wanted to try some local flavor and we did just that at the restaurant called Local Flavor Café. Recommended by our hosts at Magnetic Valley, the food was great. I had pork ribs and Bill a steak. Service was good and the food excellent. The only issue, was during the entrée we realized the baked brie appetizer had been missed. This resulted in a free dessert, which neither of us needed, but we graciously accepted.

For our final night we tried, arguably, one of Eureka Springs’ best, Rougue’s Manor. Anthony, the new partner at Magnetic Springs, suggested this. He said it was the best restaurant in town,a little expensive, but worth it. He also offered to text his friend that manages the restaurant to get us a table. Apparently he has some pull, because this was our table.

We felt like royalty with our own private alcove.

The food was very good and as Anthony mentioned, pricey. In fact California pricey. But we enjoyed the whole experience. Afterwards, Bill went back to camp and I checked in on the Drag Show at the local gay bar, Eureka Live. Not usually my thing, but Anthony had offered us VIP passes and seats at his table, so I thought we should make an appearance.

Our time in Eureka Spring was fun. It was someplace I had always wanted visit, but due to its remoteness, a place we are unlikely to revisit. But, I am glad we did.

Next up, Missouri, but I will leave that for the next post. Stay tuned!

We’re At It Again

This morning we departed home on a 6 week travel trailer trip that will take us to some familiar territory, but to some unfamiliar locations. We are meeting our Wisconsin friends, Brian and Gary, at Aunt’s Creek Campground on Table Rock Lake for six nights. On the way, we will make 3 quick overnight stops in Flagstaff, where we are now, Santa Rosa, NM and Oklahoma City. Then we will spend 3 nights in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. I have always wanted to visit Eureka Springs. When I was a teenager, Eureka Springs was an arts community in NW, Arkansas. I guess it is not surprising that today it has a very well developed gay social culture.

After leaving Eureka Springs and Aunt’s Creek, we are going to head south to Louisiana for 3 stops and then several stops in Texas, including Big Bend National Park, which has been on my bucket list for years. After Big Bend, we head west for a quick 2 night stop in Hatch, NM, famous for their chiles and 3 nights near Tucson at Catalina State Park, before heading home.

I won’t post after the every stop, but will try to give interesting takes on some of the more memorable activities. Stay tuned.

Bill and Mouse waiting for me to take the picture, so we could get on the road.

Heading West

While I was on Day 2 of the KATY Trail ride, Keith, Joanette and Bill moved from Babler State Park to Bucksaw Campground on Harry S. Truman Lake, near Clinton. Our campsites were right on the lake, with great views. After completing my KATY ride, I was looking forward to couple of recovery days.

View from our site toward Harry S Truman Lake

We spent the next two days resting, doing a little sightseeing and having dinner in Clinton.

We took a ride into Warsaw for supplies and stopped by the dam at Harry S Truman Lake. I learned a new word, tainter, as in tainter gates, which are radial arm flood gates used in dams and locks to control water flow. Named after Wisconsin structural engineer Jeremiah Burnham Tainter.

This will not be the last time on this trip that we will see tainter gates.

After our two days of rest, we headed toward Bartlett, KS to spend a couple nights with our first cousin Jeanne Eck and her family. Jeanne’s husband, Herschal, and some of her boys play guitars and this stop gave Keith the opportunity to play some music. I don’t play or sing.

On the way to Bartlett, we routed through Joplin to stop at a Petsmart to pick up some cat food for Mouse. On the road, again, our route took us about 250 feet from the Tri State Marker, the point Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri all meet. Now, as a kid and teenager, I probably passed within a few hundred feet of this point, while traveling on I-44 back and forth to Neosho from both Tulsa and Oklahoma City. We had family in the area and Neosho is the home of the National Camp Meeting of the Church of God, my family’s church while we were growing up.

Anyway, I, and apparently Keith, had never stopped to see the marker. So, since we were so close and had the time, we stopped to check it out.

Our stop at the Eck Family farm was filled with music, food, lots of it. In fact, Joanette and I made 84 tamales and, from scratch, refried beans. Jeanne contributed mexican rice and a fresh corn dish made with corn, cream cheese, peppers and I don’t know what else. We did make it a group effort to assemble the various filings into the masa dough. With all the help, getting the 84 tamales ready to steam went very fast. Now, I do not regularly use lard, but traditional tamales and refried beans call for it, so this was not a particularly heart healthy meal, but it was delicious. Sorry no pictures, I was busy making tamales.

After dinner, around the campfire, it was music time.

Keith is in the foreground and Herschal center back.

The next morning, Bill was walking Mouse and he had a couple of very curious friends.

On Sunday morning, Jeanne, Herschal and the family, including my Aunts Silvia and Maxine all headed to church and Keith, Joanette, Bill and I packed up to head to Keystone Lake, near Tulsa. This was to have been the opportunity see my stepmother’s family, but recent exposures to COVID19 by two different family members made that unwise. So we were on our own.

Our choice for the Tulsa area campsite was Brush Creek Campground, at the base of the Keystone Dam. This is a small Corps of Engineers run Campground, right on the Arkansas River and just a short drive into Tulsa. Since we were not doing family things, we had time for a couple of bike rides on Tulsa’s impressive trail system.

Our first ride was on the River Parks Trail along Arkansas River. The trails along the river are on both sides of the river, but we elected to stay on the Eastside. It has been really nice to ride with Keith and Joanette, as they have gradually increased their ride distances. For the River Parks ride, we drove to near the southern end of the trail and rode back north. At the Gathering Place, we switched to the Mid Valley Trail and headed up that for a short distance before it was time to return to the truck. When I went to Horace Mann Junior High in 7th and 8th grades, my walking route crossed and paralleled this path. But of course, it was Mid Valley Railroad back then, a line that went from Hope, Arkansas to Wichita, Kansas

This ride ended up being 19.18 miles. StravaLink: https://strava.app.link/5iwL2LUxrab

The next day, we had a mission oriented ride. We would drive to San Springs, Chase Community Park, and ride along the KATY Trail. Remember, even though Oklahoma was not in the railroad name, the MKT (KATY) did run through Oklahoma. Our destination was in Tulsa’s Brady Arts District, Coney Island.

When I was a kid in the early 1960s, Dad would take us to Coney Island, a hot dog shop in the Tulsa World building in downtown Tulsa. This was a special treat for me. First, it was quality time with Dad, who as a long distance truck driver was away a lot, second the little coneys were great, a little hot dog and bun, topped with chili, cheese and onions, if you wanted. The store moved from its downtown location to the Brady Arts District in 2015. But, they have lots of pictures of the old place on the walls. It was a stroll down memory lane for me. Keith was probably too young and does not remember these stops with Dad. And anyway, he has memories of another coney chain in Tulsa. The round-trip ride back to the truck was 20.57. The Oklahoma KATY Trail is much shorter and far less interesting than its Missouri cousin.

Strava Link: https://strava.app.link/jlqGzZbzrab

We did get in one social event in in Tulsa. The four of us had dinner with my teenage years girlfriend, Patty and her husband, Phil. Bill and I try to see Patty and Phil each time we are in Tulsa. I have fond memories of Patty and her family. We dated for most of my high-school years. I had asked Patty to choose a restaurant with outside seating, so we met at the Waterfront Grill, right on the river in Jenks. It was a perfect evening for sitting outside on the patio. I think the highlight of the evening was this little dessert.

After our 4 nights in the Tulsa area, we headed to Guthrie. We would see Aunt Maxine again, visit Summit View Cemetery, where Keith and John have many relatives buried, including, Mother, maternal grandparents and great grandparents, as well as scores of aunts, uncles and cousins.

On the way, we stopped for gas, and while I filled our tank, the others found a photo op.

Kids!

Our visit to the cemetery was short, but we did stop at the graves of my Grandmother Busbee’s parents. I must have seen it before, but I don’t remember it and I am quite certain that is not a 1930s vintage headstone, so it may have been replaced at some point.

I looked for an opportunity for a nice bike ride and found something very special for me. The others weren’t interested in a ride, so I rode solo. We stopped in Edmond for breakfast with Aunt Maxine, Sarah and Charisa. Aunt Maxine’s idea of breakfast is a two course variety. First, eggs, potatoes and biscuits and sausage gravy. Then, when you think you are done, out come the pancakes. Since I knew the routine, I was very sparing on the first course, so that I had room for a couple of the pancakes on the second.

At Aunt Maxine’s

After breakfast, we drove to Stars and Stripes Park, on the shores of Lake Hefner in NW Oklahoma City. When we lived at NW 65th and Portland in the late 60s and early 70s, they were building this park just up the street from us. So, on the way to the park, we drove by our old house.

We were living here when I graduated from high school in 1971

Once I was dropped off at Stars and Stripes Park, I had mapped out a ride that would circle the Eastern and Northern shores of Lake Hefner on the Bert Cooper Trail and then use the Hefner-Overholser trail to Lake Overholser, along the east shore and then onto the Oklahoma City River West Trail. I spent a lot of time on, in and around Lake Hefner in my high school years, so there were lots of memories.

When I was in Oklahoma City, I spent far more time at Hefner than Overholser, but I do remember a field trip to the Lake. Both Hefner and Overholser are reservoirs for the Oklahoma City Municipal Water District. There is a canal connecting the two and today, there is also a bike path, mostly Class 1 (Separated) and a little of Class 2 (striped bike lane). After afew miles I was on the bike path along the Eastern shore of Overholser.

Both Lakes Hefner and Overholser are fed by the North Canadian River and when I lived there, that river ran through Oklahoma City, just south of downtown. Today, a 7 mile stretch has been dammed to create a multi-use recreation area. This area is called the Oklahoma River and Boathouse District, although still a part of the North Canadian. I have always been amused by the name. Something called the North Canadian is actually a couple of thousand miles south of Canada.

Ferris Wheel along Oklahoma River

At the Eastern edge of downtown, the river turns to a north-south orientation and runs through the Bricktown. When I was young, this area was mostly light industry, manufacturing and low income housing. Today it is an entertainment district, with a sports stadium, various restaurants and night clubs and at its edge, the Centennial Land Run Monument, which celebrates Oklahoma Territory being opened to settlement in 1889. Which, is where I met Keith, Joanette and Bill, after my ride.

Strava Link: https://strava.app.link/NLEG0pI0rab

We drove back to Guthrie and planned our departure. The next day Keith and Joanette were heading southeast to Broken Bow and Bill and I were headed west toward home. We were ready to be home, so I booked one night stops at RV parks along the interstate in Amarillo, Albuquerque, Holbrook, AZ and one final stop at White Tank Mountain Regional Park, west of Phoenix. Of the four, only White Tank is memorable. High desert vegetation, saguaro cacti, palo verde, Ocotillo, teddy bear and barrel cacti, countless trails and a beautiful night view of the Valley of the Sun make this worth coming back for sometime.

From White Tank it was only a four-hour drive home. We arrived home midday on Wednesday and are settling into home life, until the urge to hit the road hits us again.

KATY Trail Days 5 and 6

KATY Trail Day 5 Pilot Grove to Sedalia (Georgetown)

I mentioned in the last post, Bill joined me in Pilot Grove to ride the last two days on the KATY Trail. The first 4 days had been along the Missouri River, full of historic towns and sites, as well as beautiful cliffs, the river and countless small tributaries necessitating a variety of bridges along the way. It was much like saying goodbye to an old friend as I crossed the river and headed southwest toward Clinton.

Bill and I did not have a long day out of Pilot Grove, so we had a leisurely breakfast and hit the trail around 9:30.

I posted this in the last post, thinking it was as I arrived into Pilot Grove, but it is actually a selfie on the morning departing.

Our ride was only 27 miles long and there wasn’t a lot of noteworthy things, but I did find the only remnant of the railroad lighting, that I had seen, so I had Bill take a picture. I always enjoy things from a rail trail’s past.

I don’t think it still works!

I mentioned the bridges on the first four days. Although less frequent, there are still bridges.

Bill and I reached our destination for our last night on the trail, Sedalia. I chose a guesthouse a little off the trail, Georgetown Countryview Estate. Originally built in 1869, the home was eventually owned by the county and served as the county poor farm, and later, the county nursing home. The current owners bought it at auction in 1988 and ran an assisted living facility, until 2005. After renovations they opened the current bed and breakfast. We had a king suite, with a large two person soaking tub, wonderful after a day on the trail.

Georgetown Countryview Estate

The owners, Joe and Tammy Kimbrough, offered to take us into Sedalia to have dinner. They met friends in the bar and waited for us to eat and watch some Monday Night Football, and then we all headed back to Georgetown. Bill and I appreciated the gesture.

My Strava link for Day 5: https://strava.app.link/z0hIuSWRpab

KATY Trail Day 6 – Sedalia (Georgetown) to Clinton

Clinton’s Old MKT Depot

For our final day on the trail, we had over 42 miles planned. I thought I had seen on the map, the town Highpoint, but there didn’t seem to be much there. I guess I did pay attention, because Highpoint is not a town at all, it is High Point, not the town, but the highest point of elevation on the KATY Trail, all 955 feet!

I don’t think we should get too excited. The elevation at the beginning of the trail is 452 and the high point is 955, a difference of 503, over 241 miles, that is a sweet spot for railroads, .0395 percent average grade. If you are hauling millions of tons of freight, grade was a significant consideration when calculating fuel requirements.

Here is a chart illustrating the gradient.

Of course when biking, only the uphill counts. And for my 6 day ride, it was a total of 3,333 feet of elevation gain.

So there is not a lot to note between Sedalia amd Clinton. This section of the trail opened in 1999, a few years after most of the remainder of the trail. Mostly corn, silos and cows dot the landscape. The only town of note is Windsor, where Bill and I stopped for Chinese.

Just before Windsor, is the KATY Trail junction with the Rock Island Spur, currently a 47.5 mile trail to the Kansas City suburb, Pleasant Hill. Eventually, it will be a 250 mile Kansas City to St. Louis Trail, along the former Rock Island Railroad, creating a 450 mile trail loop. I think that will have to be on my bucket list for a revisit.

Looking down at the Rock Island Spur from the KATY Trail bridge. I think I will be back.

After leaving Windsor, we kept watching for Keith and Joanette, who were cycling from Clinton to meet us and then ride with us back to Clinton. Once we met up, we rode together our final 14 miles to Clinton.

The four of us st Clinton Trailhead

The thing about the Clinton Trailhead is that it is not quite at the end the trail, another 1/2 mile exists! So I rode to the bitter end and then returned to the trailhead and parking lot.

Now, I am at the end!
Now, I am arriving into Clinton, after completing the entire trail!
Job Complete!

So, the KATY Trail is off my bucket list. I thoroughly enjoyed the ride and particularly enjoyed sharing parts of it with Bill, Keith and Joanette. For me, 268.83 miles, 3,333 ft of elevation gain, and well worth it.

My Strava post link: https://strava.app.link/tVRx4KEUpab

KATY Trail – Day 4 – Last Day Riding Solo

Before going to bed the evening before, I checked with the front desk about breakfast options. The hotel restaurant was closed due to COVID19, the area restaurants were mostly closed, due to it being Sunday morning in the government district. Apparently, I had one option, The Towne Grill, about 4 blocks from my hotel. The Grill did not open until 7, but I wanted to be first in, so that I could get on the bike by 7:30 or so.

To be sure, I left the hotel on foot, and walked to the restaurant. At that point it was only 6:40 and I had a little time to kill, so I decided to walk over to the state capitol and to the adjacent Lewis and Clark monument .

East Face of Missouri State Capitol,just as sun begins to reflect off the building

Across from the capitol is the Lewis and Clark Historic Plaza. The centerpiece of the plaza is The Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery Monument, with five bronze super life size statues, on top of a cliff face of limestone bluffs and numerous waterfalls, representing the 21 major rivers the expedition encountered on their trip west.

After a quick visit to the monument and and an even briefer stroll in downtown,

Early morning Downtown Jefferson City

I arrived back at the Towne Grill just at opening. As I waited for the doors to open, I noticed their sign. There is a grammatical error. I just chuckled and went in. But as I read a little about the history, the error was made in the 1940s on the original sign at the Grill’s original location. Apparently, an English teacher, who lived across the street complained regularly and the, then owner, was determined to keep it. When the restaurant moved to its current location in 1980, they brought the old sign, grammatical error and all, to the new location. And, the current owners have no plans to correct it.

The food was typical diner fare, quick and filling. So, by 7:51, I was on the bike, with Strava running and ready to go. I crossed back over the Missouri. The is a small park at the junction of the main KATY Trail and the Spur that goes into Jefferson City. The first thing I saw is a historic marker detailing information of the 1993 Great Flood. In 1993, Bill and I were still in Wisconsin and I remember all of the news stories about flooding on both the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.

Expand to read more about the 1993 flood

Also, in this little park was a marker commemorating the joining of the western and eastern sections of the KATY Trail. Since this marker was placed, the trail has been extended on both ends. First. in 1999, the Sedalia to Clinton, western expansion was completed and then in 2011, the Machens to St Charles 11 mile extension in the east opened.

Heading west, I encountered several more Lewis and Clark signs, Again, I will let you expand and read them, if you like.

As I headed west, I had a couple of photo opportunities of the river. Often, even though the river was right next to the trail, the trees were so thick I really couldn’t see it well enough to photograph. The picture of the yellow sunflowers was surprising, because, up to that point, all sunflower fields that I had seen, were well past their prime, all wrinkled and brown. So this one stood out.

This was my longest ride on the KATY Trail, 65 miles, so I decided to break it into two nearly equal sections and stop for a long lunch at the very popular fish and burger joint, The Station House at Katfish Katy’s. Katy’s has a large outdoor seating, both on the patio and picnic tables out on the lawn. Since I am not a fresh water fish fan, I opted for a fully loaded bacon cheeseburger with fries. Great choice. Since I had some 30 miles left to ride, I passed on the ice cold beer on tap.

After I left The Station House, I passed a couple of interesting points. First, for most of the ride there have been cliffs on my right-side, but the trees made it difficult to get a good shot. Finally,, I could take a couple of pictures of the cliffs.

That is Interstate 70 in the background. And then I passed this door in the side of the cliff. I couldn’t find any info on why it was there. It looked like it had been a dwelling of some sort.

And finally, you might think with all these cliffs nearby, that the MKT Railroad might have needed some tunnels, but, in fact, the only railroad built tunnel for the entire KATY Trail, is this one, known as the Rocheport Tunnel, near New Franklin.

At lunch, I had a conversation with a couple I had seen earlier on the trail and they gave some advice on avoiding a well publicized, but very biker unfriendly detour. They said rather than following the detour sign, stay on the trail until barrier and then look to the left of the barrier and notice a small dirt path. They told me to take that, cross the makeshift bridge over the creek and up a steep, but manageable, slope to pick up the trail on the other side. So that is what I did. It worked and I avoided several miles on busy US 40. But, this is what caused the detour.

This damage was done last year, but they put off this repair pending a reworking of the highway bridge, you see in the background. After getting back on the trail, I still had 24 miles to ride for the day. I had only 10 miles until I crossed the Missouri for the last time. At Boonville, the KATY changes directions, instead of a generally east-west orientation along the river, the trail crosses the river and heads generally southwest toward Clinton, where the KATY Trail ends, while old MKT continued onto Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

Boonville Old Train depot

To cross the Missouri, I had to use bike path on the US 40 bridge. There is the old MKT lift bridge on the actual trail, but they need some $2 million to complete that project and make it part of the trail. Once leaving Boonville, I had about 11 miles left, but they were 11 miles with a slight upgrade and a stiff headwind.

Along the way, I passed this trailside art. I am not sure what the message is, if there is a message at all. It did remind me of a skeleton I saw last year on the High Trestle Trail, near Ankeny, Iowa. The bottom photo below is from that earlier ride.

From Last Year’s stop in Iowa

Knowing I was nearing the end of a long day on the trail, I just kept pedaling and before I knew it, I was coming into Pilot Grove and a nice surprise. Keith and Joanette were to have dropped Bill off in Pilot Grove the next morning, so he could ride the last two days with me. But they surprised me and all three were peeking around a sign, waiting for me to arrive. They all had hoped to have dinner with me. But Pilot Grove is small and its only two restaurants are not open on Sunday evening. My host at the Katy Junction B&B could handle one more for dinner, but not three. So Keith and Joanette headed back to camp in Clinton and Bill and I enjoyed a flank steak dinner prepared by our host. And that is a nice stopping point. The next post will cover the last two riding days.

Strava Post for this ride: https://strava.app.link/HJkefee2jab

KATY Trail – Riding Solo Along the Missouri

Day 2 – Chesterfield to Hermann

On Friday morning, I got up early to finish packing the bike, have a little breakfast and hit the trail. Bill drove me to the Chesterfield Outlet Mall, which has direct access to the Monarch Chesterfield Levee Trail. After just a few minutes, I crossed over the I-64/US 61/40 bridge bike path and was down onto the KATY, heading west. My planned route would take me to McKittrick, where I would take a KATY spur trail, across the river into Hermann, a ride of 55 miles.

It was a cool, but dry morning, perfect riding conditions. Although the trees showed little of the fall colors, that were to come, there were plenty of fallen leaves on the trail. The first part of the ride would take me to Defiance, a village I have visited twice previously, most recently with Keith, Joanette and Bill a couple of days earlier. I did stop briefly in Defiance to pick up a couple of things at the bike shop and then back on the trail.

As I mentioned in my Day 1 post, I would be following, loosely, the path taken by Lewis and Clark and there would be posted historical markers along the way.

Signs like this, were post regularly as I headed west. Generally they had a map, showing where the Lewis and Clark expedition camped, who they encountered and any challenges they faced. One important note, Lewis and Clark, apparently traded with Daniel Boone’s family. As the marker below details.

In 1799, Daniel Boone, and his family moved to Missouri, to what was then Spanish Louisiana (La Luisiana). The family settled an area near Femme Osage Creek, not far from present day Defiance. The Spanish Governor appointed Boone Syndic (Judge and Jury) and Military Commandant in the Femme Osage District. My ride took me through that District and across Femme Osage Creek.

In his position as Syndic, Daniel Boone held court outside, under a tree for shade. Called the Judgement tree, Boone continued, as he had done in Kentucky, the practice of having an outdoor courtroom. I am not sure who coined the phrase, Judgement Tree. Although the actual tree Boone used is now long gone. Sometime after 1926, the tree was killed by lightning, but remained standing until it was blown over in a storm in 1951 and cut up for firewood. In the place where the tree stood, a new tree was planted and signs memorializing the spot have been erected.

Along the trail there were many bridges, too numerous to count. Below is the bridge over Lost Creek, It looks like many of the others, however it has a plaque detailing the construction date of 1897.

After 55 miles I arrived in Hermann. Hermann was settled, beginning in 1837, by the German Settlement Society of Philadelphia. Named for a German military leader, Hermann Der Cheruska, who defeated the Roman’s in the Battle of Teutoburg Forest in 9 AD. Within months of acquiring lands along the Missouri River, the society had many German immigrants interested in settling in that wilderness outpost. The population grew rapidly and by 1842 the county seat had been moved to Hermann. Evidence of Hermann’s German heritage is still visible today in the buildings and businesses.

Given my academic interest in Germany and German Culture, I thoroughly enjoyed my stopover in Hermann. I planned to have bratwurst at The Hermann Wurst Haus, but a private event there forced me to look elsewhere. I found the Tin Mill Brewery and had a bratwurst with sauerkraut and german potato salad and washed it down with a couple of Oktoberfest drafts, all while sitting outside in a Bavarian style Biergarten. Perfect! And, Hermann is in the Missouri wine growing region, with at least 7 wineries nearby. Many of the wineries in the Missouri wine growing region originally were started with root stock from European varieties. And, I don’t think it was an accident that the German Settlement Society chose the Missouri River Valley, because there are remarkable similarities with the Rhine Valley. Bill and I may have to come back in a car sometime, to enjoy those wineries.

Here is my Strava Post for Day 2: https://strava.app.link/8yk6X9Uliab

Day 3 – Hermann to Jefferson City

After breakfast at the Harbor Haus, I was on the trail heading west. My destination – Jefferson City, Missouri’s capitol city. Another cool dry day greeted me, my favorite riding conditions. Today’s ride would be 49.5 miles, all along the northside of the Missouri River, with the exception of the two trail spurs into both cities. The ride would not pass through any sizable cities or towns. But the German influence in town names and architecture could still be seen. Towns like Rhineland and Starkenburg trace their origins back to those early German immigrants. Here, the Church of The Risen Savior in Rhineland, could be anywhere in the German countryside.

One interesting sign I saw regularly in the area was:

Apparently I was close enough, 12 miles, to Ameren’s Calloway Nuclear Power Plant to warrant this notice on the trail. Luckily there were no nuclear events because remembering my grade school training, I was woefully short on desks to get under, and even back then, I wasn’t exactly sure what the desk would protect me from.

The ride took me by a couple more Lewis and Clark markers. To keep this blog from getting totally out of hand, I will post the markers’ pictures. If you want to read more, just expand the picture.

In addition to the Lewis and Clark markers, there were others related to the trail itself. I rode upon this rock and as the marker description indicates, I thought this was a large fallen rock from the cliffs above, but apparently, that is not the case. It is a remnant bluff that has resisted erosion. Throughout the 20th century someone(s) used the rock to mark flood stages. Although very hard to read, the floods of 1903, 1923, 1935, 1943, 1945, 1947 and 1993 were marked.

As I made my way toward Jefferson City, I passed trail markers on the fur trading along the river and the Battle of Côte Sans Dessein, a War of 1812 battle, fought months after the treaty ending the war had been signed. Here are both. By the way, the name roughly means Coast without Design.

As I approached Jefferson City, far in the distance, I began to see the capitol building, rising high above the rest of the city.

In North Jefferson on the trail, there is a spur trail that leads to the separated bike path on the US 54 bridge over the river. I took that and made may way into the city and to my stop for the night, the Capitol Plaza Hotel, a nondescript place, whose primary function is to house legislators, lobbyist and various bureaucrats. But, it was a Saturday night, so the hotel had a great weekend rate to fill its empty rooms.

I think this is enough for this post. I had planned to do all three of the solo riding days in one post, but it is getting a little long, so I will break it here. Tomorrow, Jefferson City to Pilot Grove, my last day along the Missouri.

Here is the link to the ride on Strava: https://strava.app.link/4WhaioYfjab

In the footsteps of Lewis and Clark

When we chose our stop near St. Louis, we had 3 goals, first to see Bill’s family, then to spent some time in St. Louis with Keith and Joanette, who had never been there before and finally, for John to begin his ride of the entire KATY trail, from Machens to Clinton.

On September 17th, I planned to ride, with Bill, from Eastern Terminus of the KATY Trail back to Chesterfield. That would require Keith and Joanette to drive us there. I knew that Keith really wanted to view the confluence of the Missouri and Misissippi Rivers, north of St. Charles. A little research revealed that the Edward “Ted” and Pat Jones Confluence State Park, on the north side of the Missouri River, had been badly damaged in last year’s flood and was still closed. But, the Columbia Bottom Conservation Area, on ths south side of the River, was damaged but open, and that you get close enough by car to the confluence viewing platform to reach it by a damaged, put passable, walking trail.

So, we loaded all 4 bikes onto Bill’s truck and headed to Columbia Bottom. The plan was to park at the Visitors Center parking lot and to bike as far as we could and then set out on foot. Our first choice was the bike path, which led directly to the walking trail to the confluence platform. We had hardly started on the bike trail, before it was apparent that this was not going to work. Silt covering the trail and thick vegetation made it impassable, so we turned around and headed back to the parking lot to take the road. A nice paved road went directly to the same walking path as the bike path. But, we were soon to find out, it also suffered damage similar to the bike path and additionally had a bridge out. So we turned around, again, and this time headed back to a gravel road, that was, according to some locals we spoke with, open all the way to the previously mentioned walking path to the conflunce. Undeterred, we headed to the gravel road. Now gravel is not my favorite to ride on. It may be easier than sand, or mud, but, it is still not fun on hybrid bike tires, but we were determined to see the confluence and onward we rode.

Our ride in the Columbia Bottom Area

The two short rides (U Shape on map, leftside) were, on the left, the bike path and, on the right, the paved road. The long road along the bottom was the gravel road, including an overshoot, when we failed to turn left. But we finally made it to the point where the walking trail to the confluence began.. A quick reconnaissance revealed the trail was only passable on foot, so we parked the bikes and made our way forward. Again, we faced silt intruding onto the pathway, thick vegetation and the absence of signs, but a clear footpath forward reassured us that we were not lost.

The dirt path to the viewing platform

We passed a former parking lot that was now under a mountain of silt and dirt, a modern restroom, again, covered in silt and debris and a series of signs important to the confluence story. But, we kept going. I was in ths lead, Bill trailing behind me, and Keith and Joanette bringing up the rear. I had just reached the confluence viewing platform, when a loud sound of, probably, a tree crashing to the ground brought all three of the stragglers running to the clearing where I was. Everyone was excited by the noise and wondering exactly what it might have been. But quickly, we turned our attention to the platform. We had reached our destination and there before us was the magical point, the confluence of America’s two mightiest rivers, arguably one of our most important points in the westward expansion, the point, where in 1804, Lewis and Clark turned their eyes west and headed up the Missouri River.

The Missouri River in foreground and the Mississippi on the right. You can see the line in the waters off the point, where the two rivers meet

On our way back out, Keith decided he wanted to go through the dirt, debris and vegetation and try to read the Informational signs that were on the old path that led to the viewing platform. So, climbing over logs, through bushes and along, the now non existent pathway, we made it to the signs

Finally we made it back to the bikes, retraced our ride on the gravel road and reached the truck. Then we drove the 19 miles to Machens, the Eastern Terminus of the KATY Trail State Park. The KATY Trail uses the roadbed of, the now defunct Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway, which was a regional line in those three states, plus Oklahoma. I am not sure why Oklahoma was not included in the name.

A word about Machens: It doesn’t exist! Machens is extinct, last having a post office in 1956, no population, no buildings, just the point where the KATY Trail begins. Machens is mile 26.9 on the KATY Trail. One might wonder, why is Machens not mile zero. That is because the trail developers used the MKT Railroad mile markers and the railroad’s mile zero was in St. Louis. The MKT access to St. Louis was provided by a contract with the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, one of several predecessors to today’s Burlington Northern.

So there we were, in Machens, ready begin my 6 day trip, which would end after 269 miles in Clinton, Mo. A trip, which for the first 4 days would be along the Missouri River, following the path begun by Lewis and Clark, some 216 years ago. At Boonville, the trail would cross the river and head southwest toward Clinton and, the former railroad onto Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

Day 1 of the KATY, I rode with Bill, days 2-4, I would ride alone and then Bill would rejoin me for Days 5 and 6. But, for Day 1, Bill and I rode from Machens, through St. Charles and onto Chesterfield, where we would cross the River, onto the Monarch Chesterfield Levee Trail to Chesterfield Outlet Mall, where Keith and Joanette would meet us and drive us back to Babler Park. The next day, I would be back on trail for Day 2.

So, our stay at Edmund Babler State Park and our St. Louis activities came to an end. On the 18th, while I rode Day 2 of the KATY Trail. Keith, Joanette, Mouse and Bill headed to Harry S. Truman Lake, Bucksaw Campground, where I would join them 5 days later

Here is the Strava Link to the ride: https://strava.app.link/UzwAq83odab

St. Louis

We headed to St. Louis to see Bill’s nephew, Brad, and his wife Sarah, and their two twins, Rilee and Teddy. Keeping with our a avoidance of large urban RV parks, we chose The Dr. Edmund Babler State Park, about a half hour west of Brad and Sarah’s house in Webster Groves. Additionally, the park was a short distance to a local spur trail off of the famed KATY Trail State Park.

Camp all set up at Babler
Sunset through the trees. The smoke from the western fires made the sky particularly brilliant.

Our first night, Brad and Sarah made dinner reservations on the patio of Katies’s Pizza and Pasta. It was perfect, a table all by itself, outside and a beautiful evening. The food was great and it was nice spending time with Sarah and Brad. Keith and Joanette had not previously met Brad and Sarah and this was the last of Bill’s niece and nephews for this trip. So, Keith and Joanette have now met all but Andy and Julia, who live in Massachusetts and Kyle and Ida, who are in Norway. It was especially rewarding to share Bill’s family with Keith and Joanette.

Since Keith and Joanette had never been to St Louis, we planned couple of touristy activities. Of course, no St. Louis stop is complete without visiting the Gateway Arch and Bill and I enjoy biking Forest Park. But, before either of those, we decided to load our bikes up and drive to the trailhead of The Monarch Chesterfield Levee Trail and then ride along that trail, across the US 61/40 bridge bike path and then down onto the KATY trail. Since Keith and Joanette have less bike experience than Bill and me, we let them set the pace and distance. We rode out 12.5 miles, stopping in the trail town of Defiance for lunch. Then we headed back, making the ride over 25 miles long, Keith and Joanette’s longest ride to date, a fact that Strava noted on Joanette’s post. Keith and Joanette would later drive out to Defiance, to visit The Daniel Boone Home National Historic Site, near Defiance. Most will remember Daniel Boone in Kentucky, but he spent his last 20 years in Missouri, in what was, at first, Spanish Louisiana, and later, after the Louisiana Purchase, again, the United States.

I will have a lot more to say about the KATY trail later. But, just know it is the former rail bed of the Missouri, Kansas and Texas rail road, affectionately known as the Katy. The entire trail from Machens, near St. Charles to Clinton, a total of 237.5 miles, is a state park.

Bill and I had ridden from along the KATY from Creve Coeur Lake to Defiance on a prior trip and we were happy to share this small part of the KATY with Keith and Joanette. Joanette thought the bridge approach was a little tough, but she got it done!

The next day, we decided to drive into St. Louis and spend some time in Forest Park. Forest Park, opened in 1876, is a 1326 acres of open space, lakes, trails and is directly next to the St, Louis Zoo. There is a bike path that runs along the entire perimeter, with various connector trails that lead to a variety of venues. The park hosted the Louisiana Purchase Exhibition and the Summer Olympic Games, both in 1904. It is a great example of an urban park, and is positively compared to Central, Golden Gate and Balboa Parks. Bill and I have spent time in the park, our last two visits.

The next day, we went back into St. Louis and visited the Gateway Arch. The Arch was built as a monument to western expansion. Construction of the arch began in 1963 and was completed two years later. The construction of the surrounding grounds and visitor center took another two years. It was inaugurated June, 10, 1967. An interesting fact is that the arch is as high as it is wide, 630 feet.

Luckily, there were not a lot of people and we felt comfortable in the visitor center, learning about the construcruon, the growth of St. Louis and the westward expansion. A great deal of time was devoted The Corps of Discovery, also known as the Lewis and Clark Exhibition.

In the pictures of the arch, notice the sun is obscured, not by clouds, but rather smoke from the Western US wildfires. That night, we had a patio dinner outside at Brad and Sarah’s house. Brad had smoked pork steaks, which were so tender, they just fell off the bones. We got to see Rilee and Teddy, and of course, their dog, Stella.

And this brings me to the other big reason for our stop in St. Louis, to ride the KATY trail, from beginning to end. But, I will save that for the next post.

Grant River and Mark Twain Lake

There is enough distance between Milwaukee and St Louis to require two stop-overs. Well, in a car, it would be a long day driving, but in a Class-A Motorcoach or a pickup towing a travel trailer, a 4 hour drive, according to Google Maps, turns into 6 hours real driving time. Allowing for the extra travel time, we broke the trip into two stops; Grant River Recreation Area, on the Mississippi River, near Potosi, Wisconsin and Indian Creek Campground on Mark Twain Lake, about 45 minutes west of Hannibal, Missouri.

Both campgrounds are Corps of Engineers run facilities with large sites with plenty of separation from nearby sites. And, as with many Corps campgrounds, they are on Corps managed bodies of water.

View from our trailer, looking toward the Mississippi at Grant River

Shortly after getting setup at Grant River, it began to rain and rained hard that night and fairly regularly throughout our stay. There were occasional breaks, but not enough to plan to do much. So, there are only a couple of highlights.

In the nearby town of Dickeyville, we happened upon an interesting site, the Dickeyville Grotto.

The Grotto was built in 1925-30 by Father Matthias Wernerus, Priest of Holy Ghost Parish. As I mentioned, we were dealing with intermittent rains, so our stop there was short. I was amazed by the media used on the shrine. All sorts of rock, glass,bits of ceramic and who knows what else. Father Wernerus must have been quite a scavenger.

Since I didn’t get many pictures due to the rain, you can check out more information at:

dickeyvillegrotto.com

Our camp was just about 10 miles upriver from Dubuque, Iowa and one morning at Breakfast, Joanette said, “you know, the Field of Dreams Baseball Diamond (in a corn field) is just a few miles west of Dubuque. So, I kicked into planning mode, and found a nice bike trail that ran from Dubuque to Dyersville, near the Field of Dreams movie site. It would have been a great ride along Iowa’s Heritage Trail, but it will have to stay on the bucket list, because the rain made a ride difficult. Instead, we drove out, and luckily for us, there was a break in the weather and we were able to take pictures of the house, walk around the diamond and even takes pictures of us coming out of the famous cornfield.

Cornfield at edge of Field of Dreams

Our timing was perfect. While we were inside, having their, on special, half priced Bloody Marys, the heavens opened and it rained hard, and continued to rain as we drove back to camp.

Unfortunately, the next day, I had to drive back to Milwaukee, to pick up a delayed package, so Keith, Joanette and I left Bill and Mouse at camp and we headed back to MKE. To make it more interesting, we drove, via Lake Geneva, outbound and through Madison on the return. Our stop in Lake Geneva was quick, though we did enjoy the drive through Wisconsin farmlands. I thought I had a couple of pictures from Lake Geneva, but, apparently, I didn’t.

On our way back, through Madison, the weather was not cooperating, so we didn’t stop, but we did get a photo of the Wisconsin State Capitol. I have always liked Madison. The capitol building sits on a narrow isthmus between Lakes Mendota and Monona.With better weather, we could have had nice pictures of the Capitol with the lakes in the background.

As you can see, the weather was not pretty! We made it back to camp, had dinner and watched a little TV and listened to it rain all night. The next day, we were packing up to head to Mark Twain Lake. Taking down the tent room is no fun in the rain. But, luckily for us, the weather picture improved rapidly. By the time we arrived at Indian Creek, the weather had cleared. So even though the tent room and carpet were still wet, we didn’t have to put them up in the rain.

Mark Twain Lake, view from camp

Bill, Keith, Joanette and I rode together to check out the campground and walk down to the lake. After they returned to the campsite, I added another 8 miles, or so, making a total of 15.67.

Here is my Strava map for the ride.

Since, we were so close to Hannibal, of Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn fame, we decided to drive in and check it out.

Mark Twain Statue on Riverfront

When Samuel Clemens was choosing a nom de plume, he choose the riverboat term for measure (mark) two (twain) fathoms. Even though, he was long gone from Missouri when he wrote of Tom and Huck’s adventures, he still had a connection to his river upbringing.

We had a fun, and dry, day in Hannibal. It was an interesting combination of Samuel Clemens’ real childhood and the fictional childhood of Tom and Huck created from, in part, Mark Twain’s childhood memories.

After our three days in the Hannibal and Mark Twain Lake area, we headed to St Louis and that is a nice breaking point. Until next time!

Milwaukee and onward!

We arrived in the Milwaukee area on August 31 for a 7 night stay. On our last visit, we stayed at the Wisconsin State Fair RV Park, a large park in central Milwaukee and the only RV park in Milwaukee County. We knew that this park would not be suitable for us in the COVID19 universe. So, I began looking for alternatives. Luckily, I found Waubedonia County Park, a small 10 campsite park about 25 minutes north of Bill’s brother and sister’s houses. Situated right on the Milwaukee River in the village of Fredonia, it perfectly suited our needs.

As you can see from the pictures, we were not crowded, our place had large sites with abundant separation from other sites, and we were right on the river. Our first night, we were invited for burgers by Bill’s sister, Kathy and her husband John. We were joined by Bill’s brother, Kip and his wife Jill. With Keith and Joanette, that made 4 couples, outside on the patio exercising appropriate social distancing. We had a great evening catching up. Keith and Joanette had met the others previously at our wedding in 2008. One of our concerns had been to keep everyone comfortable that we were using appropriate social distancing. Kathy and John had set this up perfectly.

Our camp location in Ozaukee County, was very near our first house. When Bill and I met in 1989, he was just beginning building a new home, right on Lake Michigan, about 40 miles north of Milwaukee.

This was our house from 1989 to 1998. The original house did not the front part, there has been a large addition.

The house, located right on Lake Michigan, with 100 feet of sandy beach front, is Timberpeg Post and Beam construction with the east facing wall of windows offering great views of Lake Michigan from all three floors. Bill and his Mother, Mary Lee, designed the house and then worked with Timberpeg to draw the plans and construct the frame. Bill then used a local contractor to complete construction. Bill moved in in October ’89 and I joined him just before the new year.

To see the house, I rode to Cedar Grove on the Ozaukee Interurban Trail and then the four of us rode the Sheboygan Interurban Trail to the nearby village of Oostburg. Then Keith, Joanette and Bill rode back to the car in Cedar Grove, while I rode to Amsterdam Park, which is on the lake at the beginning of Marine Drive, our road when we lived there. The three of them had already driven to the end of the road to see the house, while they waited for me, so when we met back at Amsterdam Park, only Bill and I drove down to see our former home. We loved that house and only winters in Wisconsin prompted us to sell.

Here are pictures from our my ride.

The area around Cedar Grove and Oostburg was settled, primarily, by Dutch immigrants in the early to mid 19th Century.. In this Historical Marker, you can read a little bit about that settlement.

Many Dutch traditions and street names still exist. In July of each year, Cedar Grove celebrates Holland Fest, honoring the area’s Dutch roots.

Here is the strava link for this ride: https://strava.app.link/Cegg17ftF9

Wednesday evening, we all went to see Charlie and Erin and their two children, CJ and Eliza. We were again outside, on the patio. We were invited for after dinner desserts, so we brought an assortment of individual pies for everyone to choose from. We enjoyed dessert and drinks, while the kids played in the yard. We had a great time and are just grateful we could plan a socially distanced time together.

On Thursday, we toured SE Wisconsin, stopping in Cedarburg, Grafton and Milwaukee. Keith and Joanette have enjoyed Wisconsin dairy farms and rural vistas, so going a little urban was a nice change. We even spent time on Milwaukee’s world famous Bradford Beach. We even made a stop ar Kopp’s Custard and enjoyed their, really messy, but delicious burgers, and finished with a small cup of frozen custard.

After the beach, we still had time before we were to meet Julie, Bill niece and her family, so stopped at the Biergarten in Estabrook Park and enjoyed real Oktoberfest Bier from Munich. The park is located along the Milwaukee River and there is a nice overlook above the falls.

After leaving the park, we headed to the River Tennis Club in River Hills. Julie and Jeremy are members there and thought meeting outside, poolside, would be a good way to keep the kids occupied, while the adults had time to catch up. It was perfect, that late in the day, there was no one there, other than us. Jeremy picked up Pizza and we had a great time chatting while the kids, Lucy and James tried to share a movie. Bill and I feel especially fortunate to have had time with all of our Milwaukee family.

On Friday, Keith and Joanette drove to Somer in Kenosha County, looking for graves of some of her ancestors, while I rode one of my planned rides for the trip. The large network of Class I bike paths in Milwaukee gave me the opportunity to do an,almost traffic free, 100 mile ride. Occasionally riding a Century, as it is known, is important for me to affirm I can still do it.

To see more detail on the ride, check out my Strava link:

https://strava.app.link/GpW8pYPwF9

On Saturday and Sunday, we continued our touring, showing Keith our Joanette our former stomping grounds. We visited Kohler and the Kohler Design Center, Sheboygan Falls, Sheboygan, the Sheboygan Marina and Stony Hill School, the Birthplace of Flag Day. This was a perfect way to end our in Southeast Wisconsin stay.

On then on Monday morning,we headed to Grant River Recreation Area,on the Mississippi River near Potosi, in far southwestern Wisconsin. And that is where I will leave it for the next post.

Remember, to read Keith and Joanette’s take on the same events visit:

https://joinersjourney.travel.blog

Wisconsin Adventures

We have arrived at Grant River Recreation campgrounds, right on the Mississippi River, near Potosi, Wisconsin, our last stop in Wisconsin. It has been a busy 3 weeks, so I will try to catch up. If this gets too long, I will it break into two posts.

After a fun time at Two Rivers, we headed east to East Arbutus County Park, near Black Rived Falls. Apparently, I had been mis- pronouncing Arbutus. It is ar-butte-us, not Are-ba-tus. Joanette found this little county park, near the Black River after I complained I was having difficulty finding a COVID19 comfortable location in this dense touristy area of Wisconsin. The small county park, with large sites made social distancing easy. And our sites were right on the lake.

We arrived at Arbutus on August 21st, my 67th birthday. Bill, Brian and Gary had tried to surprise me with Brian and Gary showing up in their new travel trailer, but I had seen little clues that something was up. Particularly when I had just left camp in Minnesota to run some errands and Bill tried to call Brian, but I was close enough that his phone was still connected to the truck’s Bluetooth. Anyway, even if the surprise was spoiled, I was thrilled to have Brian and Gary join us in Arbutus and celebrate 67 years.

This is all of us for my BD Dinner. And that is my selfie taking face.

67! It is hard to imagine. When I was young, 67 was ancient and today, yes I have some aches and pains associated with age, but I really don’t think I’m old. And the fact that I can ride 40 , 50 and yes, sometimes, 100 miles in a day, proves something. And, I plan to keep on moving. That is my formula to staying young and fit.

Bill, Brian and I decided to bike around Arbutus Lake. Here is the Strava Link to the ride:

https://strava.app.link/qye7kBG0B9

We had a rather, low key stay at Arbutus Lake. We swam a little, made dinner for the six of us and spent time checking out Brian and Gary’s trailer.

After our quick 3 nights at Lake Arbutus, Keith, Joanette, Bill and I headed to High Cliff Park on Lake Winnebago, near Appleton, while Brian and Gary went home for one night before joining us at High Cliff. That first night, we all drove in to have dinner with Brian and Gary, at their home on the Fox River in Appleton. Bill and I had stayed at High Cliff last year. It is high on a bluff, overlooking Lake Winnebago, about a 15 minute drive from Appleton. It is a beautiful park, with lots of hiking trails, which we took advantage of.

Not far from High Cliff is the southern terminus of the Fox River Trail, So I planned to ride from camp to the trailhead, and then, to ride to Green Bay, where the others would meet me for lunch. This ended up being a 33 mile ride along this beautiful trail, formally a track of the Fox River Valley Railroad. Although the trail has river in its name, you actually aren’t along the river except for the short section between De Pere and Green Bay.

It was a very enjoyable ride, capped of with lunch at Hagemeister Park, a riverfront restaurant with a large patio for outdoor seating. Amazingly, this is the only picture taken by any of us at that lunch.

My strava link for this ride: https://strava.app.link/07Yvy0Y3B9

After 3 nights af High Cliff, we made the short, 39 mile, drive to Fremont. Keith, Joanette, Bill and I had campsites at Hahn-A-Lula Resort, which was just about a mile, from Anchor Point Marina, where Brian and Gary keep their boat. Anchor Point is on the Wolf River, a Fox River tributary, with boat access to Lakes Partridge, Poygan,Winneconne and Butte des Morts. We made this stop with Brian and Gary last year, but since then, they have seriously upgraded their boat. So we enjoyed a weekend of boating activities. And, of course, I found a bike trail to ride.

My bike ride, for this stop, was from camp, along county roads, to the Friendship Trail and then onto the Wiouwash trail to Oshkosh, ending with a lunch of Lox and Bagels at Big Apple, near UW-Oshkosh. After lunch I rode to UW-Oshkosh to wait to be picked. I could have riden back to camp, but I was trying to balance time on the bike with time with friends. You might think Wiouwash is an Indiian name. Actually it refers to the counties along its route, Winnebago, Outagamie, Waupaca and Shawano. As you know, I love rail to trail conversations and the Wiouwash is a gem. Crushed Granite for a smooth ride, lush green belts and farm lands and lakeside riding all contribute to making this a stellar ride, and near the end a special opportunity to cross Lake Butte des Morts on the Trival Heritage Crossing Trail, which has several Informational stops celebrating the native American tribes that predated Wisconsin.

And, as always, Check out my activity on Strava: https://strava.app.link/xCzy2hz6B9

On our last day at Hahn-A-Lula, Keith, Joanette, Bill and I rode on county roads from the resort to Lake Pogan, and the little lakeshore village of Tustin. It was a quick ride, but a fun end to our time in Fremont. On Sunday evening, after dinner, Brian and Gary headed home and the rest of us spent one last night at Hahn-A-Lula, took the ride to Lake Poygan and then packed up to make our way to the Milwaukee area. We elected to retrace our steps, driving right past High Cliff and then on to Highway 57. I chose 57 because it goes through a series of small, charming towns and is packed with family owned dairies, most producing for Wisconsin’s famous cheese producers.

Here is the Strava Link for the Lake Poygan ride. https://strava.app.link/cXjLSvOoC9

That is enough for now. I will cover the Milwaukee stay in the next post. I will get that done while we are here in Potosi, since we have the best internet we have had in a while.

Two Rivers, the Mississippi Headwaters and Lake Arbutus

We arrived at Two Rivers Campground Thursday afternoon and waited as Keith and Joanette made their way from Lake Ashtabula, North Dakota.. We will spend 45 nights at various campgrounds in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma with Keith and Joanette.

Our first stop together was Two Rivers Campground and Tubing. Apparently, the tubing part had been shutdown due to low river levels on the Platte River, one of the camp’s two rivers, the other being the Mississippi. After getting settled on Thursday night, we spent a quiet evening with dinner, a campfire and pleasant conversation. On Friday, we spent the day getting to know our campground. We took a nice walk through the park, ending up at the confluence of the Mississippi and Platte Rivers. A word about the Platte River. It is not the same, or related to the Platte Rivers in Nebraska, although their waters do comingle when the Missouri and Misissippi rivers join.

We needed to do some shopping, se we decided to drive up to Little Falls, see the town, including the “falls,” take care of our shopping and hopefully find somewhere for lunch

We stopped at a little park just below the falls and took a couple of pictures.

As you can see, the falls are now just a spillway

Our lunch stop was a local place, Donna’s Big John Drive in, nothing special and a running commentary from an apparent permanent resident of the center table. She ease dropped on our conversation and commented on several of our topics. After lunch, we decided to stop at the Charles A. Lindbergh State Park. We walked on a trail along the River, which took us by Lindbergh’s boyhood summer home, built by his Father in 1906.

The Lindbergh home has been completely restored

Our stop in Minnesota was primarily for us the see Bill’s nephew, Rob, and his wife, Terry, and their children, Tyler and Morgan. So after returning from Little Falls, we drove the other direction, to Sartell and had after dinner cocktails and sat around the campfire chatting, all while social distancing and using masks. Rob is an Orthopedic Surgeon and must exercise extreme care to not expose himself to the virus. It was nice spending some time with them and to see their new house in Sartell. And, it was the first time Keith and Joanette have met any of Bill’s nephews or neice.

Not far from our Campground is the beginning of the Soo Recreational Trail, which connects to the Lake Wobegon Trail. I had planned a loop ride, but altered the plan a little bit to accommodate Keith and Joanette to join us for part of the ride. We took all four bikes to the trail head on US Highway 10, then all 4 of us rode to the little town of Bowlus, where we had coffee and enjoyed the adjacent private gardens. After coffee, Keith, Joanette and Bill headed back to the truck, giving them a nice 12 mile ride, which is Keith and Joanett’s longest ride, to date. Congratulations to them, keep it up. After leaving them, I headed South on the Soo Trail, to the Lake Wobegon Trail and on to St. Joseph, for a total ride of 38 miles. You can check out my Strava post here:

https://strava.app.link/vwZRMzBed9

Now, a word about these trail names: The Soo Trail is named after the Soo Railroad. The full name of the railroad is the Minneapolis, St. Paul and Sault Ste. Marie and Soo is the phonetic spelling of Sault. SOO was used as a short name for the railroad and its stock ticker. Lake Wobegon is a fictional place in Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion, a Minnesota Public Radio show, which ran from 1974 to 2016.

Here are some photos from that ride.

For our final day in Minnesota, Keith suggested and I agreed, that we drive to the headwaters of the Mississippi River, a 120 mile drive to Lake Itasca. We got up early and drove through Minnesota farm lands and forests, finally to arrive at the lake. There is a visitor center with information on the river, its path, its history and importance. The Mississippi flows north out of the lake before making a big U turn and starting its long journey south to the Gulf of Mexico.

On our way into the park, we drove over the first bridge over the Mississippi.

This bridge is far different than the massive structures farther South

After spending time in the Visitor Center, we walked the short distance to the River. We were able to walk across the Mississippi, take a photo at the famous tree sign and enjoy watching kids (and adults) swimming in the first few yards of the Mississippi.

After an enjoyable stop at the headwaters, we headed back to camp for our last night in Royalton. We would head to Wisconsin the following morning.

Iowa on Black Hawk Lake

As I mentioned at the end of the last post, we had made our way to Camp Crescent on Black Hawk Lake in Lake View, Iowa. Our first night was fine. Although the camp site was small, there were no other campers in the sites behind us and on either side, so we didn’t notice the smallness of our space. We set up the Mouse House, known to humans as the canopy tent room.

We had an oil change earlier in the trip and they had recommended we buy a couple of tires. Our stop in Iowa was the first opportunity we had to do that. So, on the way to our camp, we stopped at a Goodyear dealer in Carroll, Iowa to set up an appointment for the following day. Carroll was not an accidental choice. As it is 23 miles south of Camp Crescent on Central Iowa’s Sauk Rail Trail, a ride I had already planned for the trip.

So, the following morning, I started out on the trail by bike and planned to meet Bill for lunch, drop the truck off at Goodyear and for both of us to bike the remaining Sauk Trail and the loop around Swan Lake, south of Carroll.

The first part of the ride, riding solo from Lake View to Carroll, was through a combination of Iowa corn and soybean fields, small towns and a large wetland area.

I did have one particularly poignant moment. In addition to being the rail trail, most of the way was also signed “Sauk Bluebird Trail,” and they have bluebird house placed every hundred feet or so for miles along the trail. This made me think fondly of Kenny Jacobs, Bill’s Father, who meticulously cared for and recorded bluebird house activities at numerous places in Southeastern Wisconsin. This and the ride through the wetland area had me remembering Bill’s parents, Mary Lee and Kenny, for most of the ride. Mary Lee and Kenny were dedicated to the protection of wetlands and both would have enjoyed walking this trail for the natural beauty and for the bluebird houses, along the way. Although, I am fairly certain Kenny, would have felt the need to tend to the houses, as some of them needed that attention.

After meeting up with Bill in Carroll, we finished the ride, adding another 12 miles to my ride. You may see the Strava post on the ride by clicking here:

https://strava.app.link/9qsJvl9P98

Returning to Carroll, we had time remaining before heading back to Goodyear, so I thought an Iced Latte was a good idea. But, luckily, we arrived at the coffee shop just after closing. I said luckily because, a couple blocks before, I had noticed an open craft brewery and I suggested we return there and check it out.

The Carroll Brewing Company, took and old early 20th century power house and turned it into a state of the art modern brwery with accompanying taproom.

After reviewing the tap offerings with the barman Nick, who I later learned is actually the Brewmaster, I selected the Kölsch, intrigued at finding this Cologne (Köln), Germany styled beer here in America’s heartland. It was perfect, light and refreshing, a perfect beer after a long sweaty ride in the Midwest humidity. When I told Nick how much we were enjoying the Kölsch, he said “that’s great, we just released it today!” I felt particularly lucky to have been one of the first to try their new offering. Bill and I returned the next day and I tried a flight of the offered brews and we bought 4 six packs to share with our friends and family later in the trip in Wisconsin.

After returning to Camp Crescent, the scene had changed entirely. Campers packed in like sardines in a can, kids running amok, dogs off of leashes. I was very uncomfortable. The slideout of the trailer next to us almost touched out tentroom, and space between us was a walkway for kids coming and going. Social distancing seemed to be a foreign concept, so we thought it better to cut our stay there short, but found finding alternative on a summer Saturday challenging. We decided to stay Saturday night, but leave early Sunday. We kept to ourselves, enjoyed tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches and went to bed early.

But we did get out on bikes for a nice ride around Black Hawk Lake and out on the Sauk Trail again.

Strava Link Here: https://strava.app.link/24c0PprT98

Well, I think that is enough for now. I will cover Royalton, MN and our arrival in Wisconsin in the next post, which I will do tomorrow, since we have great internet here.

Making Our Way Across I-80

Leaving Lake Tahoe, we chose the west shore highway, CA-89, which winds its way along the shore, up to Truckee, and Donner Pass.

Here are a few pictures of that drive

We had a specific reason for choosing the west shore drive, even though it is much slower. We needed to make a quick stop at Donner Pass. Our friend, Tom Harvey, who died on Halloween last year, had requested his ashes be spread at Donner Pass. So Bill and I found a nice pine tree overlooking Donner Pond and fulfilled Tom’s request.

After leaving Donner, we headed to Reno for a couple of errands. First we needed a new vent cover for our bedroom vent on the trailer, and then, before leaving the west, I needed to go to a Mexican market for tamale corn husks, ancho peppers and green chiles. When we meet up with Keith and Joanette on the 17th. We were going to make tamales and refritos. I am not sure that corn husks are available in the local markets in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

By the way, Keith and Joanette are full time RVers and have a travel blog. Check them out at:

https://joinersjourney.travel.blog

We spent 4 nights at Merrill Campground on Eagle Lake, near Susanville. There is a nice 5 mile bike trail along the shore, which we rode a couple of times.

But, the real reason for this stop was so we could ride the Biz Johnson Trail, from Westwood to Susanville, a nice 29.4, call it 30, mile trail through the Lassen National Forrest. As I was making final preparations for the ride, I saw this on the Lassen Land and Trails Trust website:

Well, this meant my planned 30 mile ride could not happen. So we quickly put together an out and back ride from Susanville to Devil’s Corral, using both the Susan River Trail in town and the first 7 miles of the Biz Johnson Trail. We enjoyed the ride and even took the opportunity do a little skinny dipping in the Susan River.