Hangin’ in Houston

We didn’t arrive in Houston after dark, but the first pictures I took here were at night. I really get a kick out of night photography… the iPhone 11 does amazing things with time exposures. These night shots were all about 3 second exposures. Handheld. Amazing. They sometimes look just like daytime.

This is the same park we stayed in last winter, and where we left the motorhome when we flew to Antarctica. It is a gated park, the sites are all paved, and it just seems safe. There are lots of people who live here, so lots of big 5th wheel trailers, plenty of bumper-pull trailers, and some motorhomes. And this little camping trailer someone is storing here (not living in it.) I looked up its “Floor plan” and found it is all a double bed inside, with small cabinets over the head and foot of the bed. The rear door opens to expose a sink (6 gal water tank) and a stove and microwave. There are doors on both sides, and even an air conditioner. It even carries a spare tire… but I figured if a tire goes flat, you just throw the whole trailer in the back of your pickup and take it somewhere…

I guess I’m getting a reputation for checking out weird museums, but this one may take the cake. The National Museum of Funeral History. Really. How could you pass up something as unique as that??

You may think I timed this so it would release on Halloween, but that is purely coincidental. In fact, I pay so little attention to Halloween, that I thought this piece would show up a week before it.

The museum houses a collection of old hearses… A hearse is always and interesting vehicle, because they invariably are built out of very nice cars, maybe the best luxury cars available at the time. I suppose that is to show respect for the deceased, and make sure their last ride is a comfortable one.

This one is a sad one… a child’s hearse, designed to be pulled by two men, not horses. It is smaller than it looks here. Childrens’ hearses have often been white.

The museum has a whole section on funeral notices, programs and memorials. Somehow in that section was this model of a TV dinner. Anybody else remember those? Hopefully it is memorializing the death of the TV dinner.

This is one of the most unique vehicles I’ve ever seen. It is mounted on a Packard chassis, and its mission was to eliminate the cumbersome funeral procession. It has sections for the driver, a coffin, a shelf above the coffin for flowers, a section for the pallbearers, and a room for mourning family. All in one huge vehicle. It is far wider than a normal car – almost like a railroad car. The distance from the rear axle to the end of this beast seems very long too.

So the story is that this thing was fully loaded, going uphill to a cemetery, when the whole thing tipped backwards, front wheels in the air, mourners, coffin and contents all in a jumble. It was retired shortly after that.

The coachwork on some of these hearses is amazing. This one has wooden side panels, carved to look like drapes.

Here is a hearse on runners for icy climes, and a Japanese hearse, designed to place a coffin on the roof for display.

In the early days of automobiles, it was common for a hearse to double as an ambulance, so this car has markings of both. I think it would be a little disconcerting, if you were in an accident, to find them loading you in a hearse for the trip to the hospital! I guess if you didn’t respond well on the way, they could always change destinations…

Are there car nuts out there who remember George Barris? He designed lots of crazy cars, including the Batmobile (of the 60’s,) cars for the Munsters, the Green Hornet, Hollywood Celebrities and tons of other wacky cars. He asked his buddy Ed “Big Daddy” Roth to design his coffin, and this is what it looked like. Roth also created crazy cars, and was famous for the “Rat Fink” drawings and cars in the 60’s.

In the 1800’s, before there were embalming techniques widely used, there were coffins made to hold ice as well as the deceased, to enable a viewing service. You can see the metal liner to keep ice water inside in the picture below. Also a sad little coffin for a child, with removable viewing lid.

Many extremely weird coffins are on exhibit here… yes, these are all designed as final resting places!

Here is another hearse with very ornate woodwork.

A couple more horse drawn hearses…

Here is another Packard – this time called a flower car. The coffin could slide in the back, and the deck above it was to hold flowers.

Abraham Lincoln’s funeral procession lasted for days, and travelled through many states, to let a grieving country pay its final respects. This is a model of the train car, and a horse drawn hearse, used in this long procession.

This is a replica of the coffin.

Here is a 2003 Cadillac hearse, used for two U.S. Presidents, Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford.

And finally, two even more strange boxes… The “Money Coffin” – I’m not sure the point of it. Maybe so he could “take it with him?”

And the last is a really creepy story… a married couple lost their daughter, only a few months old. They felt they could not go on without her, so they decided to have a murder-suicide, and then have the three of them buried together. So they ordered this Coffin-For-Three… They finally thought better of their crazy plan, and never went through with it. The story goes that the wife, 20 some years later, wrote the coffin maker requesting her money back, as she had never used it. She might not have expired, but the contract on the coffin was long expired, so she didn’t get anything back.

Ok, enough of that stuff.

In the “basement” of our motorhome, we have a couple of bays with trays… the biggest one has a tray that slides out either side of the motorhome, making it easy to find stuff and get it out. But while the storage bay is a couple of feet high, anything in the tray has to fit under a frame rail if you slide it to the other side of the coach, and means you can’t leave anything in the tray taller than the bottom of the frame rail. All that wasted space above that height restriction was making me crazy… so I built some shelves. They are flush with the bottom of the frame rails, so anything in the trays will slide nicely in either direction. Now I have storage for bulky things above the trays, and while we haven’t driven it since the installation, it looks like it will work well! You may notice I store flat things under the sliding tray. We have 4 extra floor tiles stored upside down on the starboard side, and some scrap building materials on the port side.

We took our bikes to Lake Houston Wilderness Park – Gateway to Nature.

It was a nice enough park to ride through, but the frequent signs warning of Venomous Snakes in the area made it slightly less inviting.

There is a pond/lake in our campground, and we occasionally see turtles swimming, and often lots of beautiful birds.

I will close with this warning posted on a rig here, but could apply to many… Maybe mine?

Stuck Up Cadillacs and More

Cadillac Ranch

Approaching Amarillo there is a stop you are pretty much obligated to make… at Cadillac Ranch. Created in 1974 by a group called the “Ant Farm,” it consists of 10 old Cadillacs, buried nose first, at supposedly the same angle as the pyramids in Egypt. Or something like that. The cars have now been planted in the earth longer than they ever drove across its roads.

The cars have huge blistering wounds all over. At first I guessed it was uncontrolled rust, but then figured it is literally hundreds of layers of paint. The blistering is more pronounced in easy-to-reach areas.

Since graffiti is encouraged, and I have never done such a thing before, I thought I’d give it a try. There were dozens of spray paint cans left on the ground – surely a few had paint left in them! Yep, the second one I tried was loaded. So now, what to write? My Grandfather taught me “Fool’s names and Fool’s faces, always appear in public places.” I think that comes from a time when spray paint hadn’t been invented, so knives were used to deface trees, etc. So what could I write? Not my initials… So I scribbled ONT for Our Next Horizon. Got my pictures, and in less than 15 seconds, a little girl came, painted blue over most of my artwork, and then “SAM” on top of that. Not anywhere near 15 minutes of fame!

On the way back to the motorhome, (Second from left), I tried a Pano shot – and captured the world’s longest semi trailer!

Check out this little video of Caddies from the air. And look for the guy taking a picture of my drone!

Cherryl at the Wheel

I really like driving our cool home around. It drives well, provides a wonderful view of the surroundings, and it’s just fun. But sometimes I share… Cherryl drives it well and sometimes gives me a break, so I can take a nap or work on my blog. Here she is moving our home from Texas to Oklahoma.

Ardmore, Oklahoma

Lake Murray hosted us a while back, and since we wanted to be in Ardmore for a while, we headed back there. This time we got a site at Buzzards Roost – doesn’t that sound picturesque? We reserved a site online, and when we arrived we noticed the sign said it was a “Handicapped Accessible” site. It was the only site open on the website, but when we were actually in the campground it looked like there were plenty of spots open. And then we noticed that the post with the electrical hookup wouldn’t work. We survived with only battery power that night (Can you imagine??) and in the morning I called the parks office. They had a team there in 15 minutes to fix the electric problem, and let me move to the site across from us. Later we saw a camper van with a handicap sticker in that site, so we were glad we were able to move.

We actually did see lots of buzzards circling far above the campground. Wondered if there was a high mortality rate among campers here.

I love the old stonework on some camp structures. This gazebo with a huge fireplace, the cool tower on the other side of the lake (That I talked about last time so won’t mention further here), and what might have been ranger cabins at one time.

Behind a stone cabin were what turned out to be old bridge abutments. The span was missing, but the abutments looked very strong. The picture below shows both abutments, with a tree growing where the span used to be. (Or is this two abutments with a Pontic that is missing?)

Again, in an attempt to show life on the road isn’t all peaches and cream, I will tell you about the passenger seat footrest. We had the seats replaced a few months ago (The fake leather was falling apart and Newmar replaced all the furniture for us! Thank You Newmar!) and one day the footrest went up, but didn’t want to retract down again. This is a problem, because it severely blocks the way to the door. With some effort, we got it down, but have been afraid to use it. (Cherryl finds it far more comfortable to have it extended. Something about her feet don’t quite reach the floor otherwise) So I called Newmar, and they told me to call Flexsteel, who made the seat. A problem here – Flexsteel just announced a few months ago that they are getting out of the RV furniture business. So they gave me a number of a lady who used to work for them, and now is going to try doing warranty followup. She told me to try a few things, which really didn’t help much… it would now retract to only a few inches from completely down, but it was still annoying and a bit in the way. So last week I started taking it apart. Lots of funny pieces, so at one point I took this picture so I could remember what it used to look like…

With the pads off, and some of the linkage off, it would close just fine. So I started reassembling it, until it failed again. I could find no place the parts were jammed or interfering with each other. I got it all back together, and still no improvement. The only thing I hadn’t done was try to lube the parts – after all, they were new, and looked all shiny and clean. A little lubrication, and the stupid thing works very well. Why didn’t I start there?!

A little more serious problem popped up later. We have a “hood”, the panel under the windshield, that gives access to the generator, my pressure washer and de-ionizer tanks, compressed air outlet, and 4 or 5 thousand miles of wires. The hood is opened by pulling a handle in a lockable compartment on the port side of the coach, just under the driver’s seat. Except when you pull the handle, and nothing happens. Sigh. I knew the cable ran from that compartment, up and around to the bottom center of the hood where the latch is. How on earth could I get up there?? I couldn’t get my hand up on the port side, and could just barely reach the latch from under the starboard side. I sure couldn’t see it, so I stuck the phone up there to “see” what the latch looked like. With that info, I was able finally to push the latch with a screwdriver hard enough to pop the hood open. Then found the cable had come off the latch mechanism (big surprise) and was able to reattach it, and adjust the cable supports so this won’t happen again. In this picture you can see one of the tanks, in blue, the latch at the lower right, the pressure washer hose past the tank, the generator housing on the left, and the generator fuel filter that looks overdue for replacement. Sigh. Soon.

Denver to Dalhart

Doing Denver

A short stop in Denver let us see lots of old friends. I keep swearing to myself that I will take pictures of all our friends when we get together, but usually forget. Sigh. What’s even worse, is that I thought I had taken some pictures here, but can’t find them. They can’t go under the couch cushions… how can they get lost on a phone?? So I just have to tell you about our wonderful morning with Darrell and his lovely daughter Brooke, a super fun afternoon with Dick & Eleanor, and great evenings with Lonnie & Laura, Bill S, and Oneida & Kerry.

With Lonnie & Laura
With Dick and Eleanor

In addition to seeing fun friends, we had the privilege of getting our teeth cleaned and checked by the awesome McArthur Dentistry team. Dr. Mike Lueck and his team are great! Thank you to all of the team, and a big Hello to all my former patients. Love you all!

I’ve been accused of only putting up the beautiful stuff on this blog. Well, who wants to see ugly stuff?? But just to show you we also do regular life chores, I’ll tell you about the Suburban’s brakes. We drove up to Boulder one evening, and the brakes felt funny in the car. It almost felt like they were overheating… I checked the parking brake, and it wasn’t set. So the next morning I took it to a brake place to have them checked. They felt fine the few miles to the shop, but they put it up on the lift and had a look. They and I agreed, everything looked fine! so they put it all back together and I was free to go. They didn’t even charge for the diagnosis! Thanks, Brake Plus!

We stayed at the same campground as previous trips, in Golden, what I think of north western edge of the metro area. Extra credit if you can find our rig in either of these pictures!

Dalhart, Texas

We’ve decided to head farther south for a while to get out of the cold weather. So after a few days in Denver, we headed south. A day’s drive took us to Dalhart, Texas. I pick out our campgrounds or RV parks with internet apps, and chose one that looked fine, and called for reservations. When we drove up to the entrance, we both simultaneously said “We’ve been here before!” On an earlier trip, headed north, we had stayed in the same park and I didn’t remember when I booked it.

Maybe that’s because there isn’t a terrific amount of excitement in Dalhart. But there are some interesting points…

Dalhart was part of the XIT ranch, once a 3,000,000 acre cattle ranch, the largest in the world. (Go Texas!) Turns out those acres were given to a consortium in payment for creating a new state capital building. It was originally planned that the acreage would be resold as many parcels, but they decided they’d fence it first. Only 6,000 some odd miles of fence! Then they might as well try running cattle, so for many years the XIT ranch tried to make a profit on a HUGE spread. It was finally decided to sell it off in chunks, over the years, till all that’s left is the XIT name and a lot of historical artifacts. There is some discussion on how the name was chosen – I think it was from an incomplete EXIT strategy from the beginning.

Here is the Dallam County courthouse. The first courthouse was in Texline in 1876, but the county seat was moved to the new city of Dalhart in 1903. The courthouse there was quickly outgrown, and this nice building was erected in 1922. The monument out front has the outline of Texas, with the shape of the XIT ranch solid in the upper left. It may not look big compared to the whole state, (Texas is big, right?) but the north – south dimension was over 200 miles.

The Empty Saddle Monument is to “Pay homage to the range riders of the past.”

We rode our bikes to the Lake Rita Blanca. The pictures will portray the incredible beauty of the lake… well, it was a decent ride anyway.

The La Rita Theater, was built in the 1920’s and remodeled in art deco style in 1942. After WWII, Dalhart began to decline, and the theater with it. The last movie was shown in 1957. It was then used first for office spaces, and eventually just used as a warehouse. In the 1990’s, The Dalhart Theater Company bought it and began restoring it to its former glory. Unfortunately, it is now closed for COVID reasons, so all I could do is look through the windows. Maybe next time through Dalhart we’ll catch a movie here!

The campground in Dalhart isn’t fancy, but it’s clean and has a train close enough that you know you’re camping.

You know you’re out of the big city when you see billboards like this one:

And here was a sign not far from our campground… Do people in Dalhart like swimming in dirt and weeds?

Grand Time in the Tetons

We’ve always loved the Tetons, but I was thinking nothing could match the beauty of our recent days in Yellowstone. Shows how little I know! It was breathtaking!

In a decade long ago, we did several annual canoe float trips from the dam at Jackson Lake through Oxbow Bend to the Pacific Grove take out point. Now Pacific Grove is closed for upgrades, so we just put our kayak in at Cattleman’s Bridge, just upstream from Oxbow, and explored the Bend.

Our time there was so wonderful, we decided to try the whole float as in years past. From Cattleman’s Bridge (Where there was a bridge many years ago; now no trace of it is left) to the launching point at Jackson Lake Dam was only 3 miles by road, so we put the kayak together at the dam, and I drove the Suburban to Cattleman’s. Then got out the folding bike, and rode back to Cherryl and the kayak. We had an awesome float, past our takeout like the previous day, played around Oxbow Bend some more, and then back up to the Suburban. Then a short trip back up to the dam where I’d locked the bike up, and we were all done too quickly!

Getting on the water early was really cool. I mean, really. Just above freezing: we were wondering if we’d be frozen after a while on the water. The mist over the water was beautiful. The sun quickly burned that off, and kept us suitably warm.

Watching the geese take off from and land on the water is great fun. Either they don’t have a very good rate of climb, or they enjoy skipping along the surface. Maybe they are simulating barefoot skiing.

The water is so clear you can see quite a ways down. It’s amusing to see literally hundreds of fish, probably a foot and a half long, swimming in the middle of the river. And see fishermen along the side of the river, catching nothing.

We recently acquired a set of wheels for our kayak. They let us effortlessly take it a long ways to a launch site, without carrying it. (It gets heavy if you have to lug it far!) The wheels then collapse, and we can strap them in the back, so we don’t even have to walk back up to the car! Love our new wheels!

In the many times we’ve been to the Tetons before, we’d never driven to the top of Signal Hill. So we fixed that! From the top you can see the whole valley – it’s worth the drive up there!

We contemplated launching the kayak (We should have a name for the kayak! Any suggestions?) on Jenny Lake; a beautiful little lake right at the base of the mountains. When we got to the secluded spot where we hoped to launch, the wind was pretty strong and we weren’t. So we skipped the lake and went for a short hike instead.

So we’ve spent the best part of two weeks in National Parks, known for their wildlife, and never saw a bear. Sigh. I shouldn’t admit this, but a century ago, when I was young, we toured Yellowstone and fed bears through the car windows. They would come right up to the car, and we’d hand them slices of bread. There would be a dozen bears at a time milking the tourists in a location. We had bears in our campground trying to take food off our picnic tables (Just like Yogi. Well, somewhat like Yogi.) (No hat or tie) Now we realize that that was a lousy diet for bears, and unsafe for people as well. As long as I’m reminiscing about old days, when my folks were just married (Before my time) they did Yellowstone. We have a picture of Mom boiling eggs in a cheesecloth sling dipped in the Morning Glory pool. Now I think they’d gun you down in a heartbeat if you got that close to a water feature. They might shoot me now for even mentioning it! (If I suddenly disappear, you’ll now know why.)

I started the above paragraph to talk about our current attempts to spot a bear. Not a one in either park. But after we left, and had driven an hour or more east, we saw cars pulled over on our side of the road, so we followed suit. There just 30 feet away was a Grizzly Bear!! He was having a great time just hanging out and putting on a show for us. At one point he rolled over and put his feet up in the air, just like he wanted us to scratch his belly. (We didn’t) I did open the door and shoot pictures from the step, but that was close enough.

Pickin’ Berries, Pluckin’ Apples & Persuing Geysers

Before we left Spokane, we went Pickin’! Sherman Valley Farm is just down the road from the Kid’s place, and they have dozens of varieties of apples on hundreds of trees, and more blackberries than can be imagined. We learned a lot about apples, and took a lot of them home with us! We picked about 2 gallons of Blackberries, and the beautiful gracious proprietress would not charge us for them, because they were so late in the season! (So we left a nice donation). In a couple of weeks they press barrels of cider – wish we could come to that big party!

A surprise perk in the farm is a little zip line. It was intimidating only in that it was attached to what looked like very small branches! We were assured that the farm owner safely zipped, so we had to do it too!

What do you do with tons of apples and blackberries? Karen sent us off with a ready-to-bake homemade Apple Blackberry Pie. You wish you could have had some!!

Blackberry Apple Pie!

Coeur D’Alene

We had a nice quiet campsite near Lake Coeur D’Alene, where it was pretty obvious fall is moving in!

When exploring the forested campground, I was surprised by a very large cat hiding in the bushes…

Missoula, Montana

Next stop was Jim & Mary’s Campground in Missoula. A very pretty campground, with lots of flowers everywhere!

Amazing Yellowstone!

Then on to West Yellowstone… It’s only been a few years since we were here, but it always amazes! If you’ve never been here, Get Here! If you been before, here are just a few pictures of Yellowstone’s awesome features to jog your memory. I run out of superlatives pretty quickly, so I won’t try to comment on all these.

Except to say this sturdy Bison stopped a lot of traffic by walking down the middle of the road!

One morning we got up to see all these clouds moving rapidly in from the north, and in a few minutes we got snow! Not so much that stuck anywhere, but enough to emphasize fall is coming!

When in Yellowstone, you have to see Old Faithful erupt; it’s the law. So I included it in the following video – a compilation of some of my favorite views of our trip.

That finishes up our time in Yellowstone… and next we will head south, through the Grand Tetons. I’ll give you a teaser… It was almost more beautiful than Yellowstone! See you next week!