Plans Change Again!

Well, last week I PROMISED that I’d have lots of good pictures up from our South American trip.  Then we made a last minute decision to make a trip from Houston to Denver and catch the Rocky Mountain Dental Convention… So a lot of the time I thought I’d spend sorting pictures was spent relocating!  But Dear Wife Cherryl did a lot of the driving so I did get to spend some time sifting through pictures, but I’ve had the last two days in meetings so I’m no where near done.  But if you’d like to see the partially done work, it will be in a special page for the whole South American Adventure.  Click HERE to jump to it.  Maybe next week I’ll have it done!

This blog is just for the trip up from Houston.  We broke it into a few relatively reasonable drives-  Monday we drove to see our Son-in-Law’s parents in Keene, Texas and had a good evening with them.  Then a couple more hours down the road and spent the night in a rest stop.  When we opened the refrigerator first thing in the morning, a large glass casserole dish (Full of yummy enchiladas), fell from the top shelf to the bottom glass shelf and the glass exploded!  Not the dish, but the glass cover over the bottom drawer.  What a mess!  It is obviously safety glass, and shattered without leaving huge jagged glass shards, but little pieces went everywhere!  Took quite a while vacuuming and sweeping repeatedly.  Have you every vacuumed out the inside of your refrigerator?

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We spent another night in a little almost abandoned campground in New Mexico.  The sunrise was pretty in spite of the spartan landscape.

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Every once in a while we have to put fuel in our moving house, and it’s easiest at the truck stops.  Here we are playing with the big guys:

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As we drive, we can keep an eye on our “Toad” vehicle through the rear video camera.  With the son coming up directly behind us, I thought the view was nice, so I’m sharing it here:

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Here is a view of our present campsite.  Cherryl took this after a short hike up to the top of a little hill in the park.

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Here is the famous “Peeping Tom Bear” looking into the Colorado Convention Center.  Some of the meetings were fun and others barely tolerable.  That’s the way it goes!

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Then we got to have dinner with longtime friends (and former hygiene team member) Debbie and Mike.  It’s been a good, but busy week!

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“Home” Again

Well, we’re home again.

Sometimes things don’t go exactly as planned… (So you’ve noticed that too!?)

After our South American Cruise ended last week, we spent a few days in Santiago, Chile.  We got up Monday morning at 2:40am, to meet our 3am scheduled ride from the wonderful hotel to the airport.  That all went well, our flights went well – Santiago to Panama City, and then on to Houston.  We even got bumped to first class for that second leg!  But it was over 10 hours of flying, and many more waiting around, so we arrived in Houston Monday evening rather tired.

My original plan was that I would have most all of the week to go through all the pictures we’d taken, and get at least the first half of the trip a little better represented than I have so far.  Here’s where it started going a bit differently.

We have never left Fudge Ripple, our “home with wheels” for this length of time before.  I’m not usually too worried about things going wrong while we’re gone, but I try to take the usual precautions (Water shut off, nothing loose outside, windows closed except for a couple rainproof windows cracked open, etc.).  I will admit to a bit of worry when I got an email from the park where we left the motorhome saying there was a huge storm forecast, and to take needed precautions.  What could I do while away?

Turns out the storm was a wimp and nothing happened.  But while we were so glad to see our home, we found out the water heater was not working.  We have a really cool water heater (Too cool if it’s not working!) that heats the water on demand; technically giving an endless supply of hot water, if you are hooked up to the water in the park.  Tuesday the first priority was hot water.  The weird thing was the heater was actually hot, but we couldn’t get hot water in the house.  I looked all over for blown fuses or thrown breakers, to no avail.  So I called the manufacturer.  They were very helpful, had me do a bit of diagnostic work and told me quickly that I needed a new “Summer loop pump”.  There are three pumps that send water through the hot portion of the heater – two for the furnaces; front and rear, and one for the hot water.  We ordered the pump, second day air, with the hope that I could install it myself.  He asked if the main hoses from the burner go up over the frame rail, and when I affirmed that, he said “Too bad – you’ll have to empty your storage area, take out a wall, and then get to the distribution box with the pump.”  The good news is that all our junk stored stuff is on slide out trays, so I can slide them out, climb into the “basement” storage area and reach the partition wall which had to be removed to access the box with the pumps.

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The recalcitrant pump is in the spotlight on the left.

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Thursday we got the pump, and I was able to install it pretty easily, considering.  Great to have hot water again!

 

A major distraction this week was my dulcimer.  Around Thanksgiving I got myself a Christmas present – a kit to build a Mountain Dulcimer.  They are easy to play, and I thought it would be fun to create my own.  So I spent a fair bit of time on it instead of pictures.

Here I have glued the front and back onto the sides, and using a few spare books in lieu of clamps.

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This is after the glue set – waiting for the edges to be further trimmed and sanded.

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Now all sanded, ready for applying the finish.

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First coat of finish oil applied, it will get to dry enjoying the view out the window.

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Another fun thing this week was Cherryl getting invited to join some of the ladies in this park for a daily exercise session.  While there, they invited us to a regular Thursday evening get-together at a crazy local hangout called the “Train Wreck”.  It was fun to meet lots of the folks who are staying in this park pretty much full time.  We had fun meeting lots of them, but I will admit it was so loud that shouted conversations were needed, and a guy with my poor hearing didn’t have much of a chance!  Fun anyway!

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There were other paperwork distractions during the week, (Naps!) so guess what – my week devoted to sorting through pictures didn’t work out that way.  I have gotten them culled from all the photo gadgets… it works out to slightly under 4,000 pictures!  So NEXT WEEK, I PROMISE, I will get started showing you a few of my favorites!

 

 

 

 

Ushuaia

Ushuaia is the southernmost city in South America.  So everything is the southernmost… the pizza place, a pub, whatever, is billed as the southernmost.

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This city is so close to the south pole that the curvature of the earth makes the horizon veer down to the left.  Ha!

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You might notice these were taken from our balcony on the ship… a nice view, inspiring a bit of sailboat envy.  But some of the waters we’ve traversed lately erase small boat envy, at least in this part of the world!

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Airport with a nice backdrop.

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This is Lago Acigami, way south in Argentina.

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So here is the southernmost post office in South America.  If you didn’t get a postcard from us, don’t feel bad.  Nobody else did either.  It was closed.

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Absolutely Amazing Antarctica

We’ve  been blessed with an amazing adventure in Antarctica!  In the Antarctic Peninsula the sun comes up at about 2:15am and goes down at 11:55pm. (At the South Pole, they have one sunrise and one sunset per year!)  The whole time the sun is up is stuffed with awesome vistas!  (As are the other 3 hours… it never gets dark in this summer; only a bright twilight)

The snow is so perfect it looks almost edible… like it may be marshmallow cream (Is that edible?) or frosting.  Icebergs go slowly past our view, sometimes with penguins perched on top.  One berg had a dozen on its flat top – a hundred feet off the water level!  I’m told they climb up using their toenails (Webnails?) and beak like crampons and ice axe.  They like it up there because they have no predators while resting up there.  I think they must have an elevator up the center of the iceberg.

Speaking of Penguin Predators, we’ve seen tons of whales.  Yes, tons.  Mostly Humpback Whales, but I saw a couple of Orcas without a camera to prove it.  And there are birds closer to land who enjoy a Penguin lunch… I met a guy who saw one snatch a Penguin and play tug-of-war with another bird over the meal.  And he showed me the pictures to prove it!

The hardships we have had to endure are plenty…

  1. How can you sleep when it is so beautiful outside?
  2. It’s really cold outside!
  3. How can you take time out to eat when it’s so beautiful outside?
  4. Sometimes it’s really windy outside!
  5. How do you sort through 3,500 some pictures (And counting…)
  6. The Internet is either nonexistent or extremely slow. (You’d think we were at the end of the earth or something!)

Ok, so all of these “hardships” are meaningless… as to the cold and wind – no problem.  I just wore long johns, jeans, a T-shirt, a sweater, two sweatshirts, a jacket, hat and gloves. Simultaneously.  I felt like the Michelin Man.  And while many times we’ve had 60mph winds, many times it has been extremely calm, and the captain and others have repeatedly said they haven’t seen such great weather in the last 3 years.

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The Internet problem is real, however.  So I am trying to put up a couple of pictures, chosen almost at random, and when we get back to the U.S. of A. I will try to pick out my favorite 3,000 or so 😉 and either post them here or print out a book.

 

 

The End of the World – Antarctica!

6B506A13-F0B2-4410-98E0-E5D8C996398AWe have made it to “the end of the earth” and it is fabulous!   We have very intermittent and weak internet here, so my blog will be late and brief.  Next week will most likely be postponed altogether.
We have seen thousands of penguins, whales,  birds and a few other animals as well. The landscapes are breathtaking! And so is the cold!

We are loving our adventure in the White Continent and I will put up pictures in a couple of weeks.

Argentina!

Buenos Aires

We flew to Buenos Aires… a ten hour red-eye flight.  We’ve been spoiled by getting almost automatic upgrades to economy-plus seating, with its extra legroom, on most all flights with United.  But not this one! The flight was really overbooked.  They kept asking for two people booked in first class to give up their seats, in exchange for a first class the next day or economy ON THE SAME FLIGHT, and a $5,000 credit on future flights and 250,000 miles on their account!! And NOBODY wanted to step down. After trying to sleep all night in that cramped seat maybe I understand. If you could afford first in the first place 😎

Getting through immigration took forever, customs was no problem, changing money was even longer (1.5 hours?) and then to get official taxi was a wait too… from touchdown to leaving the airport was over 4 hours. Some kind of record for us!

We had a very nice little hotel in Buenos Aires, and the desk folks were very nice and helpful. We checked in and immediately checked out (as in a nap for 2-3 hours).  When we woke from our nap we walked around the neighborhood and ended up having a fabulous dinner at an Indian restaurant.

Iguazu Falls

The next morning we were back in a different airport, to fly to the Iguazu Falls.  This felt short, being only a 2 hour flight instead of the 10 the night before.

Here is the new airport in Iguazu- it looks like they haven’t bothered to remove the old tower yet.

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There are multiple walking trails leading over, under and around the falls.  I was prepared for amazing, but was not ready for HOW AMAZING these falls are!  “Best in the World” does not do them justice!  There are something like 275 separate falls, but all combine to make an effect that is stunning!  They extend so widely there is no way to see them all at the same time, let alone photograph them.  So you just take 350 or so photos and sort them all out later.

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Some vantage points get you VERY close to the falls – with the result of getting pretty wet.

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We hiked over 7 miles of trails to see these magnificent falls from as many angles as possible.  Below is a very wide angle shot from a distance, but it still only gets 73.4% of the falls. (I measured)

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We were blessed by seeing lots of interesting birds and animals, too.

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There were many beautiful butterflies too…

 

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This one loved Cherryl’s backpack.

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There were coati all over – they apparently get very aggressive and can do a lot of damage to a person trying to feed them.

 

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Wednesday we boarded the Zaandam – one of the “Dam Ships” in the Holland American line.  Just in case we hadn’t seen enough animals, we were greeted with a lobster on our bed!

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Our balcony overlooks the busy commercial harbor – interesting to see the huge cranes shuffling containers around.

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More of Buenos Aires and beyond coming in the next blog…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plethora of Plantations

We spent a couple of days with good friends Jeff and Marilyn in Gulfport, Mississippi.  They have lived out of their RV for about 3 years now!  We had a great time with them – camped side by side: (OK, I was really taking a picture of our rig.  But theirs is next door!)

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I was really hoping we could dine in this elegant establishment, but the timing never worked out…

 

Jefferson Davis Home

We enjoyed a nice long walk 😉 to the last home of Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederacy.

 

This carriage is the last he rode in… posthumously.  It is decorated with rifles and cannon.

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Inside the house is restored to as close as they could to the period.

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A ways behind the house is the cemetery, complete with the tomb of the Unknown Confederate Soldier.

 

A sign announcing “Snake Crossing” got my attention!

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St Michael church

This church in Convent, Louisiana has been there a while… we were told many slaves and their babies were buried there.

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Poche Plantation

Just down the street from St Michael’s is the Poche Plantation, which just happens to have RV sites on the back of the property.  So now we have lived on a plantation! (for a couple of days…)

The “Big House” was built in the 1870’s, after the civil war, so no slaves toiled here.  It faces the Mississippi River, but there is a huge levee between it and the river.  In 1929, the government was going to build the levee to control the river, and told all the homeowners along the river that they would have to move their homes or demolish them… at the homeowners’ expense!  The owner of this home fought it because of the beauty of the home, and the government paid to have it moved back a safe distance from the new levee!

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Again, it is furnished to the period, with many original pieces still remaining.

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I enjoyed the kid’s rocking horse in the playroom.  (Enjoyed LOOKING at it… they wouldn’t let me try it out)

 

The crystal balls on the bottom of the chandeliers were very popular… ask me sometime for a couple funny stories regarding these.

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The wallpaper in the dining room was very unique, and in bad shape.  The owner talked to manufacturers all over the states and Europe, looking for a similar pattern.  Finally a French company said they didn’t have a similar pattern; they had the original!  They had been the original supplier to the mansion!  They recreated the wallpaper, and that now adorns the walls. It is unusual in that the pattern does not repeat… and there are unique colorful birds here and there, but only one of each bird in the room.

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Poche Plantation at night:

 

Oak Alley Plantation

This is a magnificent antebellum plantation on the other side of the Mississippi.  It is justly famous for many reasons, but most obvious is the namesake walkway through the oak trees to the entrance of the “Big House.”

Ironically, the owners were told they would have to cut away many of the oaks when the levee was to be built.  Power or Prestige prevailed, however… they moved the bank of the river so the Oak Alley would remain undisturbed!

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Photography is not allowed in the house, but this is from the front balcony looking out through the Oak Alley.

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All along the levee were preparations for bonfires, a Christmas tradition along the river.  This one is just opposite the gate to Oak Alley.

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There used to be 20 slave cabins… now there are 6 that have been reconstructed and furnished.

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A tour guide said that the half-moon cutout on the outhouse door indicated it was for the women.  A complete circle, a full-moon, was for the men.  I’d never heard that before.

Lake Charles

A nice lakefront walk houses a small marina and a large park, including a kid’s playground with a climbing house that looked three stories tall!

This represents Captain Johannes Goos, who settled here in 1855 with his wife and seven children.  He was a lumber miller and shipbuilder, and used some of his ships to run the Union blockades during the Civil War.  He built a hospital, and took care of both the Confederate and Union soldiers.  A very good guy, so he gets his statue in the park.

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A walk further along the lake revealed many beautiful homes… maybe today’s version of the plantation “Big Houses.”

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Just in case you think all homes in this part of the world look like plantation “Big Houses”, here are a couple of structures near our Poche Plantation grounds, complete with “ladies room”…

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OK, here is the second picture I’ve posted from inside a Wal*Mart.  This little robot thing was slowly sliding down the isle, with a bright light shining on the rack adjacent it.  It must have been recording shelf content for restocking or inventory purposes.  So what would happen if it approached a person? (Me). It stopped, and turned around and headed elsewhere.  Funny thing; it encountered me again!  I had the poor thing moving all around trying to avoid me.  If this Wal*Mart is poorly stocked, it’s my fault.

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Houston, Texas

So here we are in Houston.  We have a nice site, with the nose pointed right at a little lake.  From inside the motorhome you can’t see any land in front of us – just water.  We can pretend we are still living on a boat.

We’ve seen a heron, many coots, and a couple of turtles enjoying the lake.

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You may notice we have sun covers over the wheels and tires, and over the windshield and front windows.  We are planning on leaving Fudge Ripple here for a bit, while we explore some places we’ve never been before.  We have a huge adventure planned, starting Sunday evening.  I’m hoping we will have sufficient internet coverage to keep posting at least a few pictures for the next few weeks.  So come back next week to see where a ten hour flight south can get us!

 

(The sunsets on our little lake have been fabulous!)

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Being Thankful!

St Louis

 

The year Karen and Loren lived in St Louis, Ashlyn was 2 and Bryan was born.  They thought it would be fun to check the area out again, so we met them there.

This is a park near where they lived:

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And of course, if in St Louis, you need to check out the arch!

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The view from the top at sunset was really awesome!  Which is good, because it involves lots of long lines and  crowds to get up there!

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Monday was a quick trip to the zoo – and a bit of “King of the Turtle!”

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We did see a few animals in the zoo, including this Takin.  Funny looking guy I don’t remember seeing before.

 

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The high point of the zoo when Ashlyn was two, was the Carousel.  So we had to pose by it now.

 

 

In addition to animals, there are many beautiful buildings in the zoo.

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Here is Cherryl trying to look like Beauty, the “Gruff Grandma!”

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Branson

 

Then it was on to Branson, where we took in a concert by “Six,” an a cappella group that we really love. (I think this is the fourth time we’ve heard them!)

 

Becky, Kevin, Dayna and Peter joined us at the campground for Silver Dollar City.  Becky brought some yummy food, and we all cooked and added to it.  We had a nice Thanksgiving dinner with ten of us in our motorhome!  It was great!

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Silver Dollar City is a huge park now, themed in the 1880’s.  They have craft demonstrations, many little shops (!), lots of food, and some of the best roller coasters anywhere!

SDC actually grew up around the Marvel Caves, as a way to entertain folks waiting for a cave tour.  The caves are really fascinating, and have a bit of history.  In the early 1800’s someone thought there was marble in the caves, so he called them Marble Caves, sold shares as a mining outfit, and built a little town near the cave to facilitate extracting all that marble.  During the Grand Opening of the establishment, a geologist descended into the cave, and announced that there was no trace of marble there!  The promoter then decided all the minors could extract bat guano, as there were some deposits 40 feet deep!  It took years to “mine” all that *%#@* guano out, and then the town was deserted.  Eventually the name became Marvel Caves, and it became a tourist attraction.

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So Thanksgiving week in Silver Dollar City was lots of fun, but we definitely had some cold and rainy days!

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They claim to have over 6,500,000 lights up!

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Friday night was our own little sing-along, with ukuleles, a dulcimer, and happy voices.

 

And we must include the shot of everyone in their Christmas PJ’s!

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And maybe an “Old Time” photo just for fun:

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And one where we let the “women folk” smile a bit…

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More Missouri Cold!

Cedar Creek Resort and RV Park

We spent a week just outside Columbia, Missouri… and it was still COLD and RAINY!  The campground was down a mile dirt road, and all dirt roads in the camp, too.  So we got all muddy, inside and out.  The area around was very pretty, but the mud took a bit of the fun out of it all!  It didn’t feel much like a “Resort and RV Park!” A few days after our arrival, the rain stopped, the mud dried, and the world seemed nicer. The day before we were to move on, I washed all the mud off the motorhome and the car, and they looked so much better!  Then we saw it was forecast to rain that night… so we left early!  Spent the night in a Cracker Barrel parking lot, and it was very nice.  It rained, but no more mud.

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Plenty of nice walks around the campground:

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This was the view out our windshield:

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Rock Bridge Memorial State Park

Rock Bridge Park has a million step boardwalk (OK, so I didn’t count them, I estimated) through the forest to some interesting cave formations, and naturally a rock bridge, or arch.  Being unprepared to go spelunking, we didn’t venture more than maybe 30 feet into one cave.

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Rain drops kept falling on our heads…

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So after our overnight at the friendly Cracker Barrel, we headed for St. Louis, where we would meet up with all our kids and grandkids to spend the Thanksgiving week together.  But that’s next weeks’ story – see you next week!

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Before There Was Email…

Pony Express

These stables were built in 1858 in St Joseph, Missouri, and purchased two years later to be the eastern terminus of the Pony Express.  Wagon trains had been headed west from St Joe from the mid 1840’s, and during the “Gold Rush” from ’49 – ’51 more wagon trains started their trek here than any other Missouri River “Jumping-off” point.  The train tracks and telegraph lines from the east ended here.

 

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By 1860, there were really only a few methods of communicating between the east and west coasts.  Ships could deliver mail (and goods) from the east coast, down South America and around Cape Horn, and up the western coast all the way to California.  The fastest ships could make the trip in about three months.

Another option was to have the ship dock in Panama, have the mail sent by land across to the Pacific coast, then shipped up to San Francisco.  This could be accomplished in about four weeks.

Or you could choose a stagecoach… Running between St Louis to San Francisco via El Paso only took 21- 23 days.

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So the time was ripe for a private venture to drastically improve the communication possibilities… And the Pony Express was created.  The hope was to get governmental mail contracts and get paid very well.

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A course was laid out over 2,000 miles, with relay stations every 10 – 15 miles along the way.  The rider had two minutes at a relay station to get a drink, relieve himself, and move the Mochila, or mail bag, to a fresh horse.  The home stations were about 100 miles apart, and usually larger and somewhat more comfortable.  Here the rider would hand off the Mochila to a fresh rider, and wait for the rider coming back the other way.  He would then reverse over the same route he’d taken first, so each rider would have “his” route to repeat.

The mattresses were filled with grass, hay, straw or horsehair (bugs included), and the bed frame was made of rope.  Every night the ropes would need tightening. Legend has it this is the origin of “Sleep tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite!”

As the riders raced through towns, ladies would offer baked goods with holes in the middle so the riders could grab them (the food, not the ladies) and eat easily on the fly.  Another legend has it that this is the origin of the doughnut… but that is patently false as doughnuts with holes in the middle had been around in Europe for a long time by then.  But it’s a cool story.

 

The Mochila had four compartments, or Cantinas; three were locked shut, with the only two keys at the opposite ends of the trail.  The fourth Cantina  was open, to add mail at other stops if needed.  The total weight of the mail was limited to 20 pounds, so letters were written on onion skin paper.

The Pony Express riders were young, and the pay was pretty good, if you didn’t mind long hours, very difficult terrain, and occasionally hostile Indians. (Only one Pony Express rider was killed by Indians.)  The youngest rider was only 11!

Only young men of sterling character were accepted in the Pony Express.  One of the business creators was a very religious man.  He gave each rider a special edition Bible, and required they sign the following oath.  I’m thinking it would be hard to enforce today…

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The route went from St Joseph Missouri through what are now Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and on to Sacramento.  From there the mail went on by boat on the Sacramento River to San Francisco.

The first riders left from each end of the route on April 3, 1860, with each Mochila making the first trip in about 10 days.  The mail was usually delivered at that speed, with service once per week at first, and later going to twice weekly.

The fastest Pony Express run was to carry presidential election news:  the 1860 election results were telegraphed to Fort Kearny in Nebraska Territory (then the end of the telegraph line), then the Pony Express carried the news to Fort Churchill, Nevada Territory, where it was telegraphed on to California.  “California’s newspapers received word of Lincoln’s election only seven days and 17 hours after the East Coast papers, an unrivaled feat at the time.”

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A very long trail!

 

The Pony Express only ran for about 19 months.  During that time, only one Mochila was lost; it was headed east and ran into some Indian wars on the route.  (The mail bag finally showed up in New York 2 years later.)

When transcontinental telegraph lines were completed, the need for the Pony Express melted away.  It was an amazing accomplishment!

 

Steam Locomotive

Across the park from the Pony Express stable is this huge locomotive.  While not as big as some I’ve reported on lately, it is still immense.  Built in 1937 for about $100,000, it weighed 576,000 pounds.  It ran for 20 years before being retired…  I personally don’t weigh anywhere near that amount, and worked for way longer than that before retiring. Just saying…

 

Peculiar Park

We stayed for a few days in a Peculiar Park… Peculiar Park Place, to be exact.  In the town of Peculiar, Missouri.  It is really a nice RV park, with the only really peculiar thing being the way our GPS pronounced it… “Peck You Liar”…   Very funny.