Tour Of The USA

Discussion in 'Continental Touring' started by johnsandywhite, Sep 1, 2007.

  1. johnsandywhite

    johnsandywhite Read Only Funster

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    :Cool: No apologies for the length of this Tour of the USA. :BigGrin:

    Part one starts here:-

    The USA Tour

    Wednesday 26th October 2005
    The day started early. Breakfast over and ready to leave by 8.00am. Our daughter Mandy was running us to Manchester Airport. Arrived there in good time at 10.30am. We said our goodbyes and told Mandy to text us to let us know she got home safely.

    We proceeded to the check-in and John was picked out by the Asian Inspector to go through his case with a fine tooth comb. Pulled all his nice and neat folded clothes apart searching for who know what. Finding nothing he said he would take the case and check it through. John jokingly said for him not to forget to put it on the plane. John not trusting him to do this. Escorted the Inspector and the case until it was safely put through the check-in. We walked around the Airport Lounge for a while to kill time and John had to walk to the far end of the Lounge for a smoke. I stopped smoking so I didn’t need to. We watched planes and people coming and going until finally it was our turn.

    When our flight was called. I was grinning like a Cheshire cat. We walked down the passage to the plane and guess where we were sitting? The last row at the back of the plane in the middle. Soon everyone was settled down and we were taxiing along the runway borders. It was shaking so much you could almost feel every blade of grass. Then we turned onto the runway and the engines started roaring like a Lion with a 6” nail in it’s paw and off we went gathering speed faster and faster down the runway. A couple sat to our left by the window were holding hands and screwing up their faces with a look of dread. John and I were giggling and I felt loike lifting my feet up to help the plane into the air. But it turned out not to be necessary. I really wished we had got the window seat. But it wasn’t to be. The lady sat next to the window finished up sleeping most the way to Newark, New York.

    We left at 1.30pm. We had hardly got into the air when they were coming round with drinks followed by Lunch. There was Chicken Breast in sauce, mashed potatoes, carrots, a small tub of salad, a roll and butter and for desert a fruit slice. Very nice indeed. We were really surprised with the quality. We have often heard that the meals on Aeroplanes were terrible. But honestly. If the Chef had been there? I would have hugged him (easily pleased – editor’s note). I settled down to read my Wilbur Smith book ‘Blue Horizon’. John and I love his books. But they quite often get me into trouble. Once I start reading one I can’t put it down again until it’s finished. Which causes problems when I have work to be done. Drinks came round again and we settled for fresh Orange juice and settled down once more to read our books. The lady by the window had slept through Lunch and was still sleeping. Snacks were then brought round and I asked how much was the Tonic water please. They replied that they are all free. So that’s what I had. We arrived at Newark, New York at 3.30pm USA East Coast time (5 hours behind the UK). So that was around 7 hours in the air. Didn’t feel like it. The landing was a bit like the take off in reverse. The couple by the window were once again holding hands tightly and screwing up their faces. Whereas the lower, steeper and more banked over we were the more John and I both giggled. There was by the way a 25mph side wind. The landing was a good one. Just one bump, and we were rolling again on Terra Firma. We finally came to a stop and were told we were waiting for docking bay. Thirty minutes later we were exiting the plane but a little worried that at 4.15pm we were starting to think about missing our connecting flight at 6.15pm to Orlando, Florida. which we would have to check-in for after clearing Immigration. That is the easy part. We had to get off the plane. Find our luggage. Race to the other end of the airport to Immigration and queue for what seemed like far too long. I’m just glad we had the sense to fill out all the forms beforehand . We were finger printed. Had our photos taken and finally we got our 3 month waiver visa and off we dashed to the next plane.
    We put our luggage on and then went straight onto the plane. Guess where our seats were? Yep. Right at the back. But at least we had the window seats this time so I let John have the one next to the window. It was coming up to night time after all. I’m having the window seat next time mate. Flew from Newark at 6.15pm and the flight was just like the first. Lot’s of giggles on take off and feet up. The flight landed at 910pm so it took around 3 hours for a total flying time of 10 hours. Being as we are 5 hours behind the UK I don’t know what day it is never mind what time it is. I feel like I’m meeting myself coming back. We landed at Orlando, Florida airport but this time the landing wasn’t as good as the first. This one made 3 bumps and I was beginning to think it was running on Kangaroo juice but we finally arrived safely at the docking ramp.

    Our friend Tommy was picking us up. So we picked up our luggage and waited. No Tommy. We had no US money and not a lot of P-A-Y-G on our UK Mobiles. We stood around in the airport waiting and to make matters worse. There were 4 or 5 floors to the entrance and exit. John was wanting a smoke and you were not allowed to carry a lighter on the Aeroplanes. Luckily John got a light from a passerby. We managed to phone Tommy with the little credit we had on my Mobile and hes said he was on the third floor. We were on the second. Well. For the next 30 minutes we were lugging the luggage up stairs and downstairs all over the airport. In the end. I waited with the luggage while John dashed around like a headless chicken looking for Tommy. Then a miracle happened. Just as John got back, Tommy arrived at the same time. ‘HELLO AMERICA’ we are finally here.

    It took around 45 minutes to get to Tommy’s house where we were staying for a while and it was like ‘WOW’ when he opened the front door. The lounge was like a football pitch all done in cream and white. I quietly took off my shoes. The kitchen was open plan and a dream. We had the guest room next to Tommy’s daughters room. Her name is Megan and she is away at College. We had our own Bathroom, shower and toilet. There is also an office/computer room. A washroom with a washing machine and tumble dryer and another toilet or should I say restroom? ‘They don’t call them toilets here’ John said, ‘it’s not nice’. So restroom it is. At the opposite side of the Lounge is Tommy’s bedroom with walk-in closet. A huge bathroom with a corner bath, separate shower, toilet and 2 wash basins. It’s lovely. In the Loungs are Patio doors that lead out onto the Patio and the swimming pool which are both the full width of the house. The pool is surrounded with a framework over which is a netting cover to keep the leaves from the water.Beyond the pool is a short spread of grass followed by the Lake. On the Patio is a large glass topped table surrounded with rocking/lounge chairs and a very large barbeque range. The whole of the Patio is carpeted. The whole house is a beautiful home. We put our luggage into into our bedroom, then went and sat in the rocking chairs with a glass of red wine to catch up with Tommy while viewing the beautiful view over the Lake. During daylight you can sit for hours watching the Heron’s and the Eagles gliding across the tree-tops along with the Ducks and the Moor Hens paddling around. But this is our first night. It is very peaceful and we have had a long and exciting day. Off to bed to wake next morning with the Sun shining through the windows. We didn’t realise there were blinds behind the heavy net curtains. Good job there is an hedge outside the window or the neighbour would have seen a sight to behold. Tommy had bought English Muffins for us for breakfast. So breakfast consisted of Coffee and Toasted Muffins. Later, Tommy took us to the local Frozen Fish shop. It was fantastic. We tried different home-made dishes like Jambalia and New England Clam Chowder. John had always talked about Clam Chowder from his visit in 1969 when he was on tour of the USA with the White Helmets. So he was so pleased for me to be able to try it. It was very morish. In fact we bought a quart for our very first Lunch here.

    We have had many and varied meals while we stayed with Tommy for 2 weeks. We had steamed Oyster’s, South Carolina Bar-B-Que with Pork cooked on the spit in the afternoon. Along with Pig’s feet boiled, stripped of meat and then cooked with Spinach in the juices with some Ham bits. Some of the Ham juices were then used to cook some black-eyed beas. When the Pork has finished cooking on the spit. It is chopped up into small pieces and Tommy’s special sauces added. I made some of our Roast potatoes and Tommy is quite taken with them. There was also a side salad for starters. Another time we had Bar-B-Que chicken, whole roast breast of Turkey, dressed whiting. We really enjoyed trying all these new and delicious foods and lazing around. If we had Jet lag? We soon got over it.

    John enjoyed himself on the Computer learning how to use our new Wifi card, which would work now and then. We didn’t know if the card was good or faulty as John had bought it off the internet before we left the UK. So while we were out shopping at Wal-mart we bought another new one which cost us $56 after taxes. Never mind. You can’t take your money with you when you’re gone. The new Wifi card worked much better and it was more fun for John. He can expand his knowledge and have fun at the same time while I finish my Wilbur Smith books.
    Another time we went to Wal-mart. We bought a headphone/microphone and John learned how to use it with the Laptop as a telephone and we rang my Mum. We chatted for quite some time and she was really excited and I was so thrilled to put my mind at ease that she was OK. I need to know she is happy, okay health wise and is managing. While I know she needs to know we are happy and healthy. So even though that first phone call (via the laptop) was breaking up we managed to let each other know we were fine. Daft we may be. But she means the world to me. We even managed to phone Valerie (my sister). She was over the moon and kept saying have a good time and enjoy yourselves.

    On Halloween night. While I cooked the vening meal. John and Tommy got all of the Halloween things out of the garage attic and set them all up. After Dinner and all the washing was done, we took chairs out to the end of the drive and joined all the folk in the street. We each had a bucket of treats for all the trick or treat kid’s when they came calling round. Someon passed Jello-Tots around. Which was Jelly made with Vodka and left to set. Boy!!! They felt good going down and it didn’t feel so cold anymore. Mind you. If you had 2 or more. You didn’t feel the mosquitos biting anymore. Needless to say. I felt every mosquito bite (editor’s note – Oh yeah?). Tommy put on a Gorilla mask and scared the S*** out of me, never mind all the kid’s that came calling. I wore a tall black hat which I didn’t mind wearing as it kept my ears warm and the mosquitos out. While the days are hot and sunny. The nights can and often do get quite cold. But not as cold as England. The children came round with their Mum’s and Dad’s . Some so small they were carried but were dressed up just the same. There were Bumble Bee’s, Pumpkin’s, Fairies, Elves, Witches, Spidermen, Supermen, even a banana. So many of all ages and such good fun. Some really little cuties and all full of the fun of the night. Some carried little Pumpkin buckets to put their treats in while other’s had Halloween goody bags. Some had Halloween sacks or a pillowcase. But there was no greed. They all said ‘Happy Halloween Sir’ or ‘Happy Halloween Maam’. There was no nastiness and no banging on door’s like some do in England. It was all so nicely done with fun for the children but even more fun for the adults. By 9.30pm everyone was safe in their own homes. I have found a lot of the American people are warm, helpful and friendly. I am sure there are baddies out there. But I am sure the goodies outweigh them. So far, anyway. That was the first ever Halloween and if I am ever there again when it’s Halloween. I’m off out with the kid’s and a me with a wheelie bin. I’ll tell you this. Those treats are flipping lovely. Peanut butter and chocolate. MMMMmmmm Morish.

    Wednesday 2nd November 2005
    We finally got to go to the Lakeland Auctions. We have been in America for 1 week today. Enjoyed ourselves so much already and fingers crossed we may find the Motorhome of our dreams at a price we can afford. So we were up early. Dressed and breakfasted by 7am. Tommy’s friend Steve picked the 3 of us up and we were off to Lakeland. Ít’s over 100 miles away but there was plenty of wonderful views to see so it didn’t seem that long before we arrived. There ws signs for Disnyland and Film studios and all sorts of attractions to visit. There are just so many to see and visit. Some have family vist prices but some are over priced. To be honest. I would love to go and visit everyone of them. But time is ticking by and I will be grateful for anything we do get to visit and see. We got to the auction around 8.30am and Tommy went off to register along with Steve. John and I went to have a look around the Motorhomes.
    There were over 50 to look at. So we started at one end and went through every one. Being what the American’s call Full-Timer’s (that’s what they call people who live mostly in their Motorhomes) we know better what we need. We wanted Basement storage, space inside, well finished, not closed in, light and warm, plus a nice lay-out. Shades over outside windows with covers to protect them. Indoor day/night shades. Plus the usual Fridge Freezer, Microwave all preferably in good working order. So many things to look for and the age factor too. So we made notes on the likely ones and then start all over again going through the likely ones and cross out those with faults, ie, holes in the roof, cracked windscreens, soft floors, broken showers, or anything that is difficult to repair or replace. Then once again, make another short list and we keep going through them until we are down to 2 or 3. We can’t bid on them. But Tommy can. Once we have our short list and the amount we are prepared to pay, we go away and leave it to Tommy.

    The first one sold for more than we were prepared to pay for it. We changed our minds on the second one as John found quite a lot of rot inside which left the last one. The 1996 Newmar Mountain Aire 38ft with one large slide-out. Estimated between $xxxxxx and $xxxxxx. Tommy Asked us what to bid to and John said ‘$xxxxxx’. I said to John ‘It’s our’s, it’s got Mum’s ‘6’ and your ‘843’ on it’s number above the windscreen ‘6843’. When we were in Singapore. A Chinese man had told Mum here lucky number was ‘6’ and ‘843’ ‘was John’s Pit check number. We all make silly things come together when we’re hoping. We walked away looking at other Motorhomes trying not to look, but deep down wanting to know, hoping, wishing. Telling myself there’s other’s, but not listening. Knowing we are scraping the barrel if it is for $xxxxxx.
    Then the auctioneer arrives at your Motorhome-to-be and Tommy’s there bidding and other’s bid too. The auctioneer talks so fast, my brain can’t keep up with my ear’s. There’s a 10 second delay from hearing to understanding. I really must get an hearing aid, or a new brain, or something. Then I realise that Tommy’s (our’s ) is the last bid. Once? Going Twice? Done. Yes! Yes! Yes! We got it. Our dream home. The nearest Motorhome, that has most of the things we’d like. We can’t help grinning at each other. Oh! Boy! We did it. How much did we get it for? $xxxxxx plus taxes and commission it came to just over $xxxxxx. Tommy can’t believe the price. Nor can we!
    So now, finger’s crossed there is nothing wrong with the Engine, Cooker, Fridge/Freezer, Hot water, Heating or Air cool. Tommy went and paid for it and Tommy, John and I rode back to Tommy’s compound with it. All seems well. Tommy tells John it handles very nice. We got to Tommy’s lock-up around lunch time. Tommy gives John the keys to lock up if needs be and he goes off with Steve.

    It’s strange being left alone in your new Motorhome. It’s beautiful, perfect. The slide-out makes the lounge and dining area and around the kitchen so much bigger. The bathroom is a walk through type, not a little box room, but open and nice. I love it. The bedroom is just perfect. We find a toaster and coffee maker in the corner slide-up.The freezer has an Ice-maker which will automatically fill the ice-bowl up and auto shut off when full up. Cupboards everywhere. A clean frosted glass corner shower. Load’s of storage. We can’t find any faults yet? We don’t want to! But we’d rather find them now, not on the road. John starts checking outside and I start cleaing inside. But it’s not dirty. There’s a few things to wipe or polish. But otherwise it’s beautiful. The carpet is cream and needs a good clean, but it’s not really bad.

    We decide to take it to Wal-mart and get some things we needed. We have a throw-over, so we only need sheets, pillowcases, 2 pillow saver cover’s, 4 pillows, 2 bath towels, 3 tea towels. There is already 2 mugs, some foam plates, plastic beakers, plastic knives, forks, spoons. Also 3 sharp cutting knives. So we got a non-stick pan as well. We don’t want to get to many things as we have it all back in England. So really we simply want to get only what we need.. We got 6 knives for $1, 6 forks for $1 and 6 spoons for $1. We bought tomatoes, cheese, ham, potatoes, bread roll’s, sugar, milk (dried), coffee, teabags, coffee filter’s. ‘Old Bay’ seasoning. I really love that one. 1 gallon of Orange Juice, Beef and Chicken noodles and some cracker biscuits. Washing up liquid and greased lightening cleaner. We loaded it all into the Motorhome and drove back to Tommy’s lock-up. I put the shopping away and made noodles for lunch and with a good, good shake of ‘Old Bays’ in it. WOW. It’s so good. I love noddles to doodles. I put the new sheets on the bed and then the throw-over plus the pillows and wow. It looks almost perfect. I put all the other things away, then change my mind and move them until I am happy where they are. We also bought 2 100ah batteries because the ones that are in are on their last legs. Bit like me and John.
    Tommy came back for us around 5.30pm and had another friend with him called Barrie who is from Liverpool. He’s bought a storm damaged 24ft diesel motorhome from New Orleans. But he’s one of the lucky ones. His has very little damage. We stayed at Tommy’s for another week. We were waiting for our Tags and Titles (Registration plates and Log book). Once they arrive we can start our tour.

    Wednesday 9th November
    Tommy loaned us his dealer tags and insurance so we could tour around Florida. So we set off to travel down the East Coast of Florida. We set off around 3.30pm and arrived at Titusville and parked in Wal-marts which is a supermarket. They own Asda in England. Wal-marts allow RV’s to park overnight or for several nights at most stores and as most of the stores have security in the car parks, it’s a highly recommended place.
    Next morning we were up and on the road again and in next to no time we could see the sea. As usual. John and I sanf out ‘I see the sea, the sea sees me’. We follow the coast road for nearly a hundred miles before we found a praking area. We parked up and went for a closer look. It was beautiful. We watched the little birds chase the tide and getting any tidbits and when the tide came in they ran away from it. Their little legs were going so fast, they looked all knock knees and knickers. You could well imagine what the birds were thinking, ‘you can’t catch me’. We went back to the Motorhome and had lunch then put our ‘cossies’ on. Bath towels, sun-glasses, reading glasses, reading books, drinks and ground sheet. It would be quicker to pack a case. We struggled over the beach, got sorted and flopped out on our towels. It was heaven. We don’t know what we’ve done to deserve this. But we aint complaining. We had around 2 hours playing dead on the beach (probably looking like it too). But dead people don’t snore and we do. We decide not to have too much sun until we have got used to it. Otherwise all you do is burn and peel. So we got sorted and back on the road again and drove to Flying ‘J’s at Fort Pierce.

    Flying ‘J’s is a travel plaza. Trucks stop and stay overnight. RV’s too park for the night. The have a dump, which is a special drain to empty out all the waste and yes, it’s where you say bye-bye to your pee-pee etc too. There is fresh water to fill up your fresh water tanks and a bin for rubbish. They have 5 restuaraunts, a convenience store, petrol and diesel, They have a Wifi high speed internet access which we joined for a month then the end of the month you can renew it for another month. The nicest thing is you can pay for a day, a week, or a month. It also means you can email your loved one’s to put their minds at ease and they can email back putting our minds at ease. Flying ‘J’s have places all over America, 405 altogether. So we park overnight, it costs nothing and it’s safe. These people cater for Truck’s, RV’s and well everyone really. We like them and everything is done in one place. So after a good nights sleep and a quick check in the mirror to see if you’ve caught the sun (in other words, have I got any white bits). Can’t tell. So, we get dressed, had our breakfast and we are on the road again.

    The sun is shining and life is looking good. We’re travelling south on the east coast I1A road beside the sea. We passed Port St Lucie, Palm city, Port Salero, Hebe sound, Jupiter, West Palm Beach, Lake Worth, Boynton beach, Boca Baton, Pompona beach, Oakland park and Fort Lauderdale. Again, around a 100 miles and there was nowhere to park near the sea. Most of the coast is bought by Hotels and the rest is private homes. So by the time the Hotels and private buyer’s have built onto the beach. There is no room for car parks. So at Fort Lauderdale we headed west. If we had gone south for another 25 miles, we’d have been in Miami. But we’d still have to drive back to Fort Lauderdale to cross to the west. Plus, we’d seen quite a lot of damage to quite a lot of propery caused by the recent Hurricanes. Some had fences gone. Quite a few had roof tiles missing. Small wooden buildings had no chance. They were smashed to splinter’s. Power cables were still down and trees uprooted and moved. It makes you realise the force and the power of the Hurricanes. You see what’s left behind it and think, poor bugger’s, and do you know what? These people pull together. Help each other. Getting things back to normal.
    There are piles and piles of debris along the road edge, waiting for the state truck to remove it. I helped. One road we went down had 3 coconuts blown down. I said to John ‘Stop the Bus’. Which he did and I got a green one. The other 2 were smashed. So we were now proud parents of a green coconut. When you shake it, you can hear the milk inside. I was really pleased with myself. John had a grin on his face.

    We headed west on Alligator alley. It’s a toll road. It cost $3 and it’s over 100 miles long. The first 25 miles is the everglades. Beautiful, peaceful and lush green glades. There are many kinds of birds. Heron, Pelican, Eagles. So many kinds. There is a 3 foot fence to keep folk out, but it’s all in the water. One wonders why anyone in their right mind would want to go in there? Then the fence is put up to 6 to 8 feet and it’s electric fencing. Then you see them. Big one’s, small one’s. They ain’t Cocomuts. Alligator’s. Little surprse it’s called Alligator Alley. Water everywhere. By now, even the birds were up the trees. Needless to say. To take photos. One has to open the window. Yelling to John each time I saw one. We stopped at a rest area about half way over. Sometimes one has to do what one has to do. I was hungry starving dead. So I had to feed us, but door’s and windows stay shut as I was not feeding them as well.
    After our lunch (not theirs) we travelled on. John driving, me with my nose stuck to the window giving my report each time one was spotted. Then the electric fence was down to 3-4 foot and I didn’t see anymore after that. The end of the Alley is called ‘Golden Gates’. I wonder why?

    We travelled north on the west side for around 50 miles and parked in Flying ‘J’s for the night. We’ve travelled 250 miles today. Helped clean up the east side ie: one coconut, defended John from Alligators for a good 60 miles and mad it safely through the Golden Gates. Then navigated through another 50/60 miles (by now my fingers are crossed) and cooked dinner. I should be crawling to bed. But I’m happy we made it across with all our bits intact.

    Rise and shine. It’s another beautiful day. Tummies happy as we have had breakfast and the sun is shining. So, back on the road again. We left Fort Myers about 9.15am and travelled north on the west side. There is still a lot of damage from the Hurricanes and cables are still needing putting up . We passed Fort Charlotte, Laurel, Osprey and finally finally found somewhere near the beach at Seista Keys. A Hugh parking area and beautiful white beaches with Baywatch towers and patorls on the beaches. I told John to be careful, he may be mistaken for a lifeguard and have hundreds of females chasing him. The exercise would do him good. We got our towels etc and off we went. Played dead on the beach for an hour then went back to the motorhome for Lunch. Noodles!!! Yippee!!! Then back to the beach to play dead again. After our evening meal we played Rummy and off to bed. It’s very tiring work, playing dead on the beach.

    Another beautiful day. Happy tummy and lovely sunshine, we decided walk along the beach. There were quite a few doing the same. So we walked in the sea. It was more fun too. Splashing like two teenager’s.
    We’d walked about half a mile when about 500 yards up the beach from us. Something was happening. Sea birds were going crazy and the sea looked like it was bubbling. Then suddenly. There were thousands of very tiny fish crashing into our ankles. They were being chased by hundreds of 2 to 3 lb Jack Tuna, who too were banging into our ankles. John even kicked one out of the water and onto the beach. It must have been 2 to 3 lbs. A lovely meal!! Until some do-gooder yelled ‘You’re drowning it – how would you like to be drowned?’ and as there were lot’s of people watching. We put it back in the sea. John had a small nip on his finger and I got a bite on my foot. The do-gooder was with his girlfriend. Both in their 40’s, both wearing thongs and holding hand in hand walking up the beach. I felt like yelling ‘Hey, where’s the rest of your cossies?’. Oh, well! We nearly had fresh Tuna for tea. Well! John got a ***** on his finger, I got a bite on my foot and the Tuna got to live another day.
    We’d hardly gone another 500 yards when we could see things or shapes moving further out to sea. Hundreds of them. I know. Because John can count. We moved deeper into the sea and into the middle of them. There was a huge shoal of Ray’s swimming up the coast and we were walking through them. They seemed to sense you are there and swam around you. Unless you stumble, like I did. Then they belt you one on the leg and I flew up John’s back. They are very solid fish and a swipe by one of them is like being kicked. Also as we were walking through them we were getting deeper and deeper. Which is fine if one is wearing a cossie. But not if one is wearing shorts and a Tee shirt. Guess what we were wearing? Yep. Wet knickers and wet shorts. So we gently made our up to the beach looking out to sea.
    There were other shoals of fish moving up the coast. But to me it just looked like the sea was bubbling in patches and the birds and Pelicans were going crazy catching as many of them as they can and moving along with the shoal. The Pelicans are really big birds, but they are so graceful when they fly. They look to be just hovering or gliding above the sea. Not like the seagulls. Who are flap flap and grab but don’t wet me hair. What an experience. All this happened in about 20 minutes, but it will stay with me for the rest of my life. By the time we had got to the end of the beach and back our shorts and knickers were dry. You could tell, because we didn’t walk funny anymore and there were salt marks on our shorts. So we went to the beach showers and washed the salt off our feet and Yes! The salt off our knickers and shorts which left us wet again but we only had to walk across the car park. I must admit. We got some funny looks. But we didn’t care. We’d just been run over by Jack Tuna and walked through big Ray’s. An experience that may happen only once in our lifetime. We’ll always remember Jack and Ray.

    We got in the motorhome, got dried and changed and John went to put the Generator on. We do that by starting the main motor (Editor’s note – sometimes when the batteries are low) and then the generator. But the main motor wouldn’t even turn over. Oh! Dear! Stuck! Luckily there was another motorhome parked next to us and John went and asked if he would be running his generator and if so? Could we plug into his and put some charge into our batteries? Isn’t it marvelous? We buy 2 new Leisure batteries and it’s the motor battery that let us down. Anyway. Kurt, the motorhome man fom next door came round to have a look. John gave him $3 for fuel that would run his generator. Then John had an idea. Why not run jumper leads from the Leisure batteries to the Motor battery? So Kurt went to see if he had any jump leads and yes he did. So we tried it and it worked.

    We set off straight away to find a Wal-mart. The nearest one was 25 miles away. We went in and got a new motor battery a good set of jumper leads and John got to work on it there and then in the car park. There is one thing I do not like about shopping nor buying anything in America. You pay anything from 6% to 9% tax on top. So when my shopping comes to $30, it’s not, as I have to pay taxes and at 6%\I end up paying $31.80. I had the girl behind the counter in stitches laughing. I said ‘the shopping I want, but the 6% I don’t want, so do I still hve to pay for it?’. Why can’t they just put the taxes on and then price things. That way the taxes still get paid and you don’t think you are paying for nothing? Or something like that? Anyway. Back to John fixing the motorhome.
    After changing the battery the engine starts great. Only thing is. We are 22 miles further up the coast and we are using 1 gallon of petrol to go 6 miles. We had learned from Kurt that we are not to park in that car park overnight. Ooops! Sorry! There was no sign saying no over-night parking and there normally is? Oh! Well! Never mind!

    We got back on the road again. Past Sarasota along Longboat Key to Bradenton beach. A lovely forest setting with the beach and sea. What more could one want? We parked up, changed into our cossies and off we went to the beach. Got our towels down and in for a lovely swim. Our third swim if you count walking with the Ray’s. Who would believe it? It’s the middle of November and we are swimming in the sea. Lovely. Jaw’s, eat your heart out. This is great and the water’s warm and clear. Back to the beach and got half an hour practice of playing dead on the beach. Then it’s feed me time again. Must be all that swimming? There is no overnight parking allowed here. So once more, it’s back on the road again.

    We pass Palmetto, Petersburg, Tampa and stop at Bradenton at the Flying ‘J’s. Play a few games of Rummy and off to the blanket show. The suns hines through the shades and you know you won’t get anymore sleep. So, It’s up, breakfast and on the road again.
    We arrive back at Tommy’s lock-up around 3pm. John says we have a problem with the batteries not charging up. So he gets on with sorting the problem out, while I give our home a wash, polish and cook a meal. Barrie calls in. He’s staying here at the lock-up too. He has a fifth wheeler (which is a pick-up truck and a trailer). A big one. He’s seen his new storm damaged motorhome, paid for it and now sorting the shipping. Tommy comes down later in his ‘E’ type and one of his many girlfriends. Barrie has dinner with us and all being well we should get our Tag’s (number plates) tomorrow. Another day over and night-night time.

    17th of November 2005
    We’ve just got our Tag’s, it’s 2pm and we’re off up north.
    But before I start. I forgot to mention. When we went to the east coast. We passed Kennedy Space centre. We saw a Space Shuttle and a Rocket. The Space Shuttle was a nit smaller than I thought. Very interesting though.
    Right. We’re off to ‘Nashville’ in Tennessee and to get there we go north on the I95 (Interstate 95). We stopped over-night at Flying ‘J’s in Valdosta in Georgia. The next night in Rosaca in Georgia.
    The views are priceless. Very much like Spain with it’s vast areas. But there is so much I want to see. The animals are different. The homes are mostly bungalows. Not a lot of 2 storey houses here but there is so much land there’s little need to have an upstairs. When they can, they do build huge lovely Bungalows. Most buildings here are made from wood. We haven’t seen a lot of brick built buildings.

    We crossed the border into Tennessee at Chattanooga. I quite like that name once I’d mastered the art of pronouncing it. Which is Chat-ta-noo-ga. Got it? Great.
    I’ve seen quite a lot of Herons, Horses and Racoons. In fact quite a lot of Racoons get killed as we see lot’s by the road-side, and Deer’s too. It’s bad enough seeing Cats and Rabbits and awful to see dead Racoons and Deer.
    The further north we go? The colder it seems to get. Another thing I forgot to mention. John found the problem with the batteries not charging was a Solenoid from the Alternator. When the engine is running, it sends a signal to the Solenoid which then closes to make a circuit to the Leisure batteries. So, when we are travelling the Alternator is not only charging the Motor battery but the Leisure batteries too. When the Solenoid doesn’t work. The Leisure batteries do not get charged up. So we got another Solenoid and fitted it. I held the torch. I’m the chief Gofer. I’ll soon be a mechanic at this rate.
    Right. Back to Tennessee.

    We arrived at the Gaylord Hotel. Our German Friends Ed and Edie said for us to call and see it. There was plenty of parking for everyone and one could stay as long as one wanted (editors note - unofficialy). We were in ‘E’ parking which was for RV’s (that’s us) and Buses. We parked up. Got changed. Put more clothes on because it’s flipping cold (I wish I’d got my hat and gloves, scarf as well). It’s getting so cold and we’ve only one suitcase of clothes each so we couldn’t fetch everything. Never mind. Stop moaning. Off we walked over to Gaylord’s Hotel.
    There were canopies over the footpaths with heat reflecting lights. John said it would be warmer to sleep inside these canopies tonight and it would be. Our heatings not working. But we’ve bought a good RV maintenance book and also we’re on the Flying ‘J’ internet which is so handy, We’ll get it sorted. We walked into the entrance. There was Valet parking, though I can’t see them parking our’s. A car could be 12 feet long our motorhome is 38 feet long.
    We walked into the ‘Cascades Lobby’ and it was like ‘WOW’. It was out of this world and huge. Log fires here and there. Three piece suites with coffee tables all around. It was beautiful. Made one stand tall. You know? Tummy in. Shoulders back.TOT table (private joke with friend) Maureen.
    Then we walk through into ‘Cascades’. It was magic. There were fountains everywhere with all kinds of Palm trees, overheaed walkway’s, a Seafood restauraunt, Cyber café, Wasibi’s, Cascades terrace, Lounge, Jack Daniels saloon, a Video games arcade plus Java Coast coffee café. All these in a Tropical setting with fountains and waterfalls. It was magic.
    We walked through into the ‘Garden Conservatory’. Again, it was wonder-land, all beautifully done. With a river running all the way around and river boats to take you round. They had put all the Christmas decorations in here. Christmas scenery and emails to Santa. I hope he gets mine. It will be a first if he does. There are huge Carp in the river, plus Ducks. It’s like a wonderland. Also in here is Ristorante Volare, Consevatory café and Sweet Surrender that is very much like our Thornton’s but more expensive and to a chocolate well worth it.
    We then went into the ‘Delta’ which had an overhead which had an overhead walkway. The river was in here not the Garden Conservatory. They have the Lakes and more Waterfalls. There is an island with shops and a court yard on it. Also ‘Old Hickory Steakhouse’, ‘Delta Food Court’, ‘Delta Party Lounge’, ‘The Green Leaf Florist’ and the ‘Delta Boat House’.
    From there we walked through into the ‘Magnolia’. It was breathtaking. There were white statues all around a lovely pool and garden and of course the statues were Angels and Christmas things. Jesus in a Manger. Joseph, Mary, the Donkey, Camels, the 3 wise men and lot’s more plus a swimming pool. Retache Boutique, Retache indoor pool, Retache Spa and Salon, fitness center and pools and shops like Rachael’s Gifts, Findlay’s Irish Pad, Sports Bar & Grill and many other sundry shops.
    There are gardens outside and swimming pools outside. There must be four or five swimming pools here. It has around 400 rooms for guests plus it has five Ballrooms which are all huge. Five Boardrooms, 35 Meeting rooms, four Exhibit Halls and so much more. ATM machines (hole in the wall cash machines). Bus pick up points, car rental, restrooms (not toilets here), taxi pick up point and a shuttle bus service.
    All night the outside gardens are lit up with thousands of fairy lights. It’s fantastic. The Garden Conservatory which has all the Christmas decorations is fantastic. You look through the eyes of a child again. You float from one to the next not wanting to leave that one but wanting to see the next and the next until you come to the Christmas Village. You can see every light in every window in every house. The children playing in the snow and throwing snow balls. Santa’s there with his Sledge and Rheindeer. Carol singers on the corner of the street while couples linking arms and going round the shops and buying presents. Laughing and happy and yes, you think and feel ‘What a Wonderful World’, and you float off back to the motorhome.
    You stop floating as soon as you leave the heated Canopy. The wind and icy cold hit’s you. You’ve gone half a mile,or that’s what it feels like to get home. You’re frozen. It’s around or not far off freezing point. Not like Florida where you’re too hot in shorts and Tee shirts/ You’re please to get in out of the icy winds. John puts all 3 Gas rings on to get some heat in the motorhome while cursing himself for not for not knowing what’s wrong with Heating. We have a Hot drink and want to go to bed. It’s been a long day and you want to go to bed. But don’t want to take your warm clothes off to put cold Jim Jams on and get in the cold bed. John says ‘Race you’. Well. That’s it. Isn’t it? Colds forgotten and he’s not beating me take over. Both in bed in 2 ½ minutes. Not bad for two Old Un’s.

    We woke up early but didn’t want to get out of bed. Too cold. I’m a coward remember? But then again. I’m an hungry one. So up and out of bed, dressed and tucking into Branflakes with Sultanas. Thank goodness for Hot milk or the Sultanas would have been like bullets. We walked over to the Gaylord Opryland and from there to the Opry Mills and the Grand Ole Opry. It was a little disapointing as the original Grand Ole Opry has been moved into the Ryman Auditiorium in Nashville. So, we had a good look round the New Grand Ole Opry and then walked over to Opry Mills which is a big shopping centre. We popped into the big music shop and one of the shop assistants asked if we’d come to see John Carter Cash, Johnny Cash’s son? So we decided to stay and see him and suddently ‘Channel 5 TV’ were asking us if we were there to see John Carter Cash and had we seen the film ‘Walk the Line’ which is all about Johnny Cash and June Carter. Where are we from? How long are we staying? It was very exciting. I will be on Channel 5 tonight. We didn’t have Channel 5 to watch and I’m pleased as I’d have walked around with a brown paper bag over my head.
    Then John Carter Cash arrived. Talked about his dad and this new film that’s just out. He sang a few songs and then we all queued up for an autograph . I was third in line. The first two had boxed editions of Johnn Cash CD’s. Me? I had a sheet of paper advertising John Carter Cash here at 4pm. Well. I told him I already had all his dads songs back home (Liar) so he signed it and off I went.
    We went back to the Gaylord Opryland and found out we could get a bus at the pick-up point to go into Nashville. So the next morning we paid $40. It’s $16 return trip or $20 each for 3 days and we can go as many times as we want in those 3 days. We’d seen everything there was to see here.
    The Grand Ole Opry Musuem was really good. Lot’s of singers we know and their history and some singers we didn’t know but do now. You learn quite a lot in your journies in life and always learn more. We got the bus to Nashville which was great as it’s been a long time since John’s been on a bus. I showed him where the seats were.
    The reason we didn’t go to Nashville in the motorhome was parking it. Being 38ft long, it takes up quite a bit of room. So, the bus it was.

    The first thing we notice about Nashville was a six to seven foot high Guitar on every corner of every street off ‘Broadway’. Every colour and every shade.
    First we went to the ‘Ryman Auditorium’ to see the original ‘Grand Ole Opry’. Which is actually inside the ‘Ryman Auditorium’, and it was so dark in there, that we couldn’t see much. But, we’ve been and seen it. So we’re pleased about that.
    John took my photo with most of the Guitars on most of the corners. We walked down one side of ‘Broadway’ and up the other side. Every Pub had Country singers on and every other shop on ‘Broadway’ was a Pub. All the other’s were Gift shops, Guitar shops, Music shops, Museums and Café’s. We listened to singers in ‘Cotton Eyes Joe’s’, ‘Tootsie’s Bar’, ‘Wildhorse Saloon’, ‘The Trap Saloon’, ‘Station Inn’, ‘B.B. King’s Blues Club’ and many more.
    I learned in Nashville that it’s not Country ‘n’ Western. Nah! It’s Country and Bluegrass and I don’t mean Waccy Baccy.. Bluegrass is very much like Country but more beat to it like the song ‘Cotton Eyed Joe’. Really feet tapping stuff and in Nashville, no matter what the time of day or night you go. There are always singers singing in every bar, club or saloon.
    I had to buy us two plastic mugs with Nashville on as it’s not a good idea having breakables in a motorhome and I wanted something to make our Noodles in.
    We used our 3 day bus pass well. We went in to Nashville 3 times in 3 days. We even called in the ‘Country Hall of Fame’ and the ‘Hard Rock Café’. But only to have a look. We walked down to ‘Cumberland River’, and on the other side was the ‘General Jackson Showboat’, an old Mississippi river boat. It’s magic. All fancy and lit up lovely. I said to John. ‘If we ever get to the Mississippi river? I’d soak my feet in it, ice and all’.
    At the ‘Coliseum’ which was on the other side of the river. People were flooding in. It was unbelieveable. I said to John ‘there are thousands over there’. It was amazing! I’ve never seen so many people going to one place and the commentators were really getting the people going.
    We walked back to North on 2nd street (what a name?) and went into another Blues Museum. Again, it’s amazing how things were 60 to 90 years ago and how wonderful to hear them again today.
    Since John and I were helping ourselves to the free samples Chocolate Pecans, we bought 12 dollars worth of Walnut Chocolate and Pecan Chocolate .Oh! So n i c e! By the way. $12 is about £8. I thought, ‘Well! I’ve got a cupboard full of Chocolate in England plus 2 big tins all from friends and family, and what do we do in America? Buy Chocolate. Oh! Well! It is morish.

    We loved Nashville. Even though it was so cold. But tomorrow, we’re on the road again. We will always remember what we have seen. What we have heard, and what we have learned. Oops! I almost forgot the ‘Aquarium Café’ which is breathtaking. You are literally in the middle of the high Aquarium. The fish are all around the café and the ceiling too. To be honest. You’re too busy looking at the fish and Coral to eat your meal or drink your drink. But it’s amazing how they’ve built this Aquarium with a huge Café in the center. The Aquarium holds 200,000 gallons of water. With over 100 species of Tropical fish and the kids and me love it.
    At the Tennessee Aquarium at Chattanooga. They have Sharks. But after watching ‘Jaws’. I like to keep my distance. I’m a live coward remember?
    We did see Nashville ‘Jellystone Park’ with Yogi Bear and BooBoo. Honestly. It’s now an RV camping site. Took a photo to show you. But Rock City is fantastic. You can walk the ‘Enchanted Trail’ through the Grand corridors and follow the stone path that winds through massive Rock Boulders. There are so many beautiful flowers as you crawl through the ‘Needles Eye’ and walk shoulder to shoulder with Boulders bigger than you, and while you tgry to cross the swing-a-long bridge you dare not look down. Listen to the Cardinals and the Finches. They may be recordings, but it’s better than looking down there. But don’t worry. You don’t have to cross the swing bridge if you don’t want to? There’s a a rock solid stone bridge, followed by a lovely 190 foot waterfall, which a lot of people think, that by throwing their money in it? Their wish will come true. If you look at the rock face long enough you will see a face. Or so they say. Mind you. If I look at a rock face long enough? I’ll see anything you say is there. But at the end of the trip, you hold more memories, and more smiles.

    Part Two Follows:-
     
  2. johnsandywhite

    johnsandywhite Read Only Funster

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    :RollEyes: Part Two USA Tour:-


    There are so many places to go and see. It’s impossible to see them all. The ‘Franklin on Foot’ looked interesting. So did the ‘Jack Daniels Visitor Centre’. But by the time I got to the end of that tour, I’d be carried out. The ‘Nashville Ghost Tours’? Well! I can scare myself. I really don’t need any help in that department. But I’m game if you are? It was wonderful seeing all the wonders of Nashville. But now. I really have to go back on the road again. This time to Memphis.

    It’s getting colder. The further north we go. The colder it gets. It’s around 12C in the daytime, but drops to 2C at night. We stop at Wal-mart for shopping and also two blankets. Oh! Boy!. I can’t wait to put them on our bed. Also bought two small blow heaters. Must be Christmas. They are only very low voltage (Editors not - not true – it’s a BIG motorhome) but for £6 what do you expect? Motorhomes can also use low voltage things and it takes the chill off the air. Better than putting one’s feet in a pan of hot water. Hmm!

    Well! First stop in Memphis would have been Graceland. But we arrived late afternoon and parked at the Wal-mart there. Had our dinner. Played Rummy. We are getting very good at this Rummy. Mind you,we don’t need 30 to start and we don’t have Frank (private joke) taking half an hour to play his turn. We love you Frank just the way you are. So. Bright and early next morning. We got our bikes out and pedalled down ‘Elvis Presley Boulevard’ to Graceland.

    Elvis’s house is 3691 Elvis Presley Boulevard. There is an RV Park and Campground. All the roads in the RV Park and Campgrounds are called after Elvis songs ie: ‘Jailhouse Rock Road’, ‘Love Me Tender Boulevard’, ‘Teddy Bear Lane’, ‘Hound Dog Way’, ‘Shook Up Lane’, ‘Don’t Be Cruel Lane’, ‘Blue Suede Shoes Lane’, ‘Heartbreak Lane’ and right in front of the RV Park and Campground is a huge Hotel. ‘The Heartbreak Hotel’. Next to ‘The Heartbreak Hotel’ is ‘Graceland Attractions’ which has Elvis’s two Jets which are called ‘Lisa Marie’ and ‘Hound Dog II’. To see inside the jets you queue for a day or two if you’re lucky. Then there is ‘Sincerely Elvis Museum’. Again, queueing needed. Also his ‘Automobile Museum’ and yes! Queueing again. There is even an Elvis radio station. The restuaraunts were called ‘Rockabilly’s Diner’, ‘Shake, Split & Dip’ and ‘Chrome Grill’. All nice and clean and very neat, but a little pricey too. There is also a shopping center with six shops and a petrol station. They were called ‘Good Rockin’, ‘Gallery Elvis’, ‘Welcome to my World’, ‘Walk a Mile’, ‘Elvis Kids’ and ‘Elvis Threads’. The petrol station was called ‘Highway 51 Gas’. The Americans call Petrol Gas. In fact we’re even calling it Gas ourselves. In front of these attractions, shops and cinemas. There is a Shuttle (bus) that takes you to Elvis’s house. Which is in fact. Across the road. The gates are like heavy mesh with lovely patterns, Guitars and muscial notesw. It’s really beautiful. There is a drive up to the front of the house. The garden and resting place of Elvis, his mother and father. No flash lights or any kind of flash is allowed in the attractions or the Mansion and no Audio-Visual equipment ie: Video cameras, Movie cameras or tape recorders are allowed in the attractions or Mansion. No bags, backpacks, shopping bags, briefcases or luggage items are allowed inside the attractions or on the Graceland tour. Any items that you do carry. Will be subject to search.

    To get onto the Graceland tour you have to queue up across the road at the ticket stand and to top it all, the next day was ‘Thanksgiving Day’ and everywhere is closed. But we got to see a lot about Elvis. We even saw a huge Christmas scene in front of the Mansion. But it was the songs and voice we know well. The man himself was something else. There is still a huge Fan Club which is now called ‘Elvis Insiders’. You get a limited edition collectable pin, a personalised membership card, certificate of membership, window decal and your first quarterly newsletter plus quite a lot more. It’s great for the Elvis fans at heart and only costs £29.99. But I’m more of a fan of his music. So I bought his driving licence instead.
    He was a great singer and the world lost a lot when he died. But memories last forever. I’ve seen what I wanted to see and it’s back on the road again to Downtown Memphis. But before we go. We must take a look at ‘Heartbreak Hotel’. It caters for the Elvis fan with themed suites. The ‘Graceland Suite’, ‘Holywood Suite’, ‘Burning Love Suite’, and ‘Gold’ and ‘Platinum’ suites. Plus it does a Graceland package so there’s no queueing or waiting. It has a beautiful heart-shaped pool. So it would be a great place to stay if one wanted to just come and visit Graceland and the Elvis experience. Nah! Experience the magic of Elvis. That’s what I mean. You have to come and walk through it to know what I mean. But you’ll feel it when you do.

    Again. There are so many things one can do in and around Memphis. You can take a guided tour through the birth place of Rock ‘n’ Roll and learn the history of the most famous recording studio in the world – ‘Sun Studio’. You can touch Elvis’s first microphone. This is where Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, B.B. King and many more recorded their songs. Mind you. Like everything else these days, you have to pay $9.50 to go in each and the tour does take 45 minutes. But it’s very interesting and you learn quite a lot about the music world.

    Okay. We’re off to Dowtown Memphis and heading for Beale street. The heart of the Blues, Rhythm & Blues, Jazz and Rock ‘n’ Roll. Very much like Nashville except there were no huge Guitars on every street corner. But Beale street is much bigger. Three blocks of more than 30 Nightclubs, restuaruants and retail shops. All pubs, clubs and saloons are called Nighclubs and most are open 24/7 with round the clock singers. It’s magic and there’s a B.B. Kings here too. He’s actually had his 80th birthday last Sepetember (2005). He’s a great Blues singer and sings like he did years ago. As we all know well. The spirit does not go past 21 years, but sadly the body does. Mentally we can move mountains, but physically it’s not going to happen. No harm trying.
    Anyway. One must take a tour of the ‘Peabody Hotel Lobby’ and observe the ‘March of the Ducks’. It’s quite remarkable. Red carpet and all. Twice a day, they march these little Ducks and it’s really fun to see.

    Further up Beale street is the ‘Memphis Palace Museum’ and guess what? It was closed. Say’s a lot doesn’t it? We walked through W.C. Hardy park and saw his statue. He was the ‘Father of the Blues’. We saw the spot that Dr. Martin Luther King was assasinated at the Historic Lorraine Hotel. Watched the street Trolleys (Antique Trolley buses).
    Then we went up Main street and the river loop and guess where we ended up? On the Bluffs (cobble stone walk) next to the Great Mississippi River Wow! What a sight. There were eight large Paddle-wheel and Showboats. What a fantastic sight. Well! I was off! Gone! Shoes and socks off and feet in the Mighty Mississippi. It was freezing, but I didn’t care. It was great. Then I found an Ashtray in the mud and it was of the ‘Memphis Queen’ paddlewheel showboat and it’s all mine. I washed it, but I had to let John use it as we didn’t have one in the motorhome. Only attached one’s. But I let him use it with a warning. ‘Don’t break it, or else’ and my dead eye look.

    We saw the 20 foot high statue of Elvis in bronze at the Harbour Museum alonf with one of B.B. King . I must say, they were really good.
    Across from the Harbour was Mud Island River Park and that is what it was. An island of solid mud. They built a Museum on it called the Mississippi River Museum and it had a 5 block long Riverwalk model and an 18 gallery Mississippi Museuem all about the Mighty Mississippi River.
    What a day. We’d liked to see the ‘Lost Sea’ too but the clock was ticking and it was too far from where we were heading. But it’s home to some of the largest Rainbow Trout in the United States. There are caves to explore too. But not for me this time. Time to get back on the road again.

    For the next few days we travelled across Arkansas and into Oklahoma. Lot’s of deserts and mountains. Long-horned Cattle, horses of every size and colour and homesteads. Being on the Interstate road you get across the states quicker. But you miss a lot too. First thing you lose is one hour. Don’t ask me where it’s gone because I’ve already lost 5 hours just coming to America. Now it’s six hours.
    The first! Or one of the first things we noticed were Route 66 signs. I’m sure most of us remember the song ‘Get your kicks on Route 66’ by Bobby Troup?
    Route 66 was first commissioned in 1926 and de-commissioned in 1984. Today 80 percent of the road is still driveable. It spans 2,448 miles. Crossing eight states. Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. John and I sang our heads off ‘On Route 66’. It’s hard to believe that Route 66 changed so many lives. In the 1930’s, families in the drought stricken Midwest left their homes and fled west on Route 66 in search of jobs and better lives in California. Today there are many Route 66 Museums.It would take a lifetime just to get round them all.

    We journeyed onto Elk City and stopped there for a few days. We visited the National Route 66 Museum Complex. Inside the Museum a road Motif takes visitors to all eight states along the ‘Mother Road’ (Route 66). From Illinois to California. Vintage cars and recorded personal accounts re-create the hey-day of this Historic route.
    The Transportation Museum takes an interactive trip through the history of transportation. I was sitting in the front seat of a 1959 Pink Cadillac and climbing into the driving seat of a 1917 Rio Fire Truck. John took photos to prove it.

    We went onto the ‘Old Town Museum’ which showed early Oklahoma pioneer life. We wandered through a grand two storey Victorian house . Downstairs was a family home showing a living room, kitchen, bathroom and a childrens playroom. When I saw how the first Hair dryer worked? I think I’d have stayed with wet straight hair. All those cables attached to bits of hair. It’s not human. Is it? Upstairs was devoted to early Cowboys and the Rodeo way of life. Now that, I would have had a go at.

    Then we were at the Farm and Ranch Museum. There was a vast collection of tools that were used in early farming and ranch life. Our guide was an 87 year old man who’d used most of these tools himself. He let me take some Cotton on the stalk. Just as it is in the Cotton fields and we’d passed quite a few of them. I was hanging out the window, but John wouldn’t stop so I could borrow some. So I was so pleased to get some Cotton plant. We spent the whole day going round this Museum and we really enjoyed seeing and learning about how things were done then. We realise just how easy we have it, compared to then. But at the same time. They were hardier and stronger than we are today.

    In the evening we walked over to the park. It’s all lit up for Christmas and I feel like I’m walking through a wonderland. There is a real sledge with pretend Rheindeer, but I don’t mind. I got in the sledge while John took my photo. There was a Merry-go-round, but lot’s of children waiting to get on and there was also a Santa. I was going to queue up but he was a young Santa and I thought! Better not!

    It’s so cold here. It must be at freezing point. I have been cold many times and I hate being so cold. We rush back to the motorhome and even though it’s cold in there. It’s warmer than outside. We put the generator on and our two little heaters and thank God it will soon get warm, cuddle up and talk about this wonderful tour we’re having. It’s great so far and the colds not nice but it’s not forever either.

    Next day, we’re back on the road again. We saw where the ‘Battle of Washita’ had been. That was ‘Custer’s First Stand’. Was it a battle? Or a Massacre? That was in 1868.
    Then there is the ‘Black Kettle Museum’ in Cheyenne which displays features about the Cheyenne tribe and Washita site. We didn’t see any Buffalo, only a huge bronze one. But there are still some around. The Flying ‘W’ Ranch has quite a few Kill sites on their property and the public are invited to help clear them.

    Further on you have the ‘Thomas P. Stafford Air & Space Museum’. Which has a full-size replica of the ‘Wright Flyer’ which made the first powered aircraft flight in 1903. Also a replica of Charles Lindberghs ‘Spirit of St Louis’ which flew the first non-stop Trans-Atlantic flight. A full size replica of the ‘Gimini’ spacecraft, a full-size replica of the ‘Apollo’ spacecraft and the actual rocket engines from the 1st and 2nd stage of the Gimini and Apollo boosters. An half scale replica of the Lunar Landing Module, an half scale replica of the space shuttle ‘Columbia’ and so much more. There was also a MIG-21, F16, T-38, and F-86. Outside the Museum are T-33 and F-104 aircraft. The Museum was founded in 1983 by the city of Weatherford to honour Lt.Gen. Thomas P. Stafford who is a native son of Weatherford. He flew four missions and six rendezvous in space during the Gimini and Apollo programs. After learning all that. I think I’ll be better off with a bow and arrow. It’s a lot easier to understand and Yes! We still got our kicks on Route 66. Back on the road again.

    Crossing the northern part of Texas it’s desert and mountains most of the way. We’re travelling on the Interstate 40 and as we are going we stay at the Flying ‘J’s at Amarillo. Well! You know what song we are murdering don’t you? Is this the the way to Amarillo? We got smiles from passerbys and an odd cheer ot two. But I bet under their breath they’re saying ‘Mad English’. I agree with them.

    It’s cold! So very cold! John’s getting the computer running and looking on the internet for information on our heater. I got dinner on and around 8.30pm John’s poking and pushing button’s on the heating control and YES! Yippee! The Central heatings working. Big, huge thanks to him up-stairs (editors note – he had nothing to do with it – a simple matter of not knowing how to re-set the control panel – no instructions). John had the wrong number pushed so it was cold air (editors note - not as simple as that). But now, thankfully it’s Hot air. ‘Glory, glory halleluleah, Teacher, hit me with a ruler’.

    Next day. Back on the road again. We left Amarillo heading west on the I40. Ten minutes into the journey it started to rain and then snow. Then it turned into a blizzard. Snow was sticking to th e windscreen and freezing. The wipers were useless in these conditions. So we pulled off the Interstate to find parking. Not long after. Lorries, Cars and Motorhomes were joining us.

    I always like to think I’m prepared for such things as this. That’s one reason I keep a good stock of food in. I made a big pan of Corned beef and potato soup.That will keep us warm. After about 20 minutes or so. The snow slowed down to a light fall. So we waited while the windscreen had cleared and got back on the road again.
    The roads were quite good really (editors note – she wasn’t driving) because the 18 wheelers (Trucks/Lorries) kept going which really kept the road clear (editors note – Oh! Yeah?). We crossed more mountains and saw deer and even saw a skunk or two. They are a lot bigger than I imagined. I thought they were about a squirells size? But they weren’t.

    We stayed at the Flying ‘J’s in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It’s still very cold at night. Around –5 or even –7. But with our heating working nicely. I’m sure we’ll cope. When we first crossed the state line into New Mexico. The first thing we saw were Route 66 signs. Loads of Route 66 gift shops. In fact when Route 66 was de-commissioned in 1937 it later became part of the Santa Rosa Airport runway and there is the usual Route 66 Diner and another ‘Route 66 Auto Museum’. You won’t believe this one? ‘Billy the Kid Museum and Gift shop’.

    New Mexico is very beautiful and colourful. Lot’s of Spanish speaking Mexicans and quite a few Indian Tribes.
    At Conches, there is the Conches Dam & Lake. While 55 miles north east of Albuquerque is the ‘Kasha – Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument’. Kasha – Katuwe means White Cliffs in the traditional Koresan Language. The Cone shaped tent rock formations are the product of Volcanic eruptions that occurred 6 to 7 million years ago and left Pumice ash and Tuff deposits over 1000 feet thick. Tremendous explosions from the Volcano fields spewed pyrolasts (rock fragments), while searing hot gases blasted down slopes in an incandescent avalanche called a pyrolastic flow.
    In close inspections of the Arroyos. You will see small rounded, translucent obsidian (volcanic glass) fragments created by rapid cooling. It really opens your eyes to the beauty of Nature. They call these tank rocks ‘Hoodoos’ and precariously perched on many of the tapering hoodoos are boulder caps that protect the softer pumice and tuff below. Some hoodoos (tents) have lost their hard, resistant cap rocks and are now disintergrating. While they are fairly uniform in shape. Their height varies from a few feet to 50 feet. Instead.
    One can visit the ‘Hot Springs’. Knowing me? I’d come out as red as a Lobster. They say you can limp in and leap out. Now is that because it does you good, or too flipping hot? We got back on the road again.

    We drove to ‘El Malpais’. Spanish for ‘Badlands’. El Malpais is between Gallup and Albuquerque and is now a National Monument.
    Southwestern American Indians have deep ties to El Malpais. The lands have figured in Acoma, Laguna, Zuni and Ramah Navaho for thousands of years. Their ancestral uses – gathering herbs and medicines. Paying respect and renewing ties continue today.

    We drove to the Sandstone Bluffs overlook. It was amazing. You can see for miles and you can see and follow the Lava flows.
    We drove to the next point called ‘La Ventana National Arch’. We parked up and had to walk a good ¼ of a mile. But it was worth it. The name means ‘The Window Arch’. It’s fantastic what time and conditions leave us to see. It’s really cold up here. Teeth chattering. Knees knocking. Nose running. The usual. You know? But the views are magic.
    We drove to the next point called ‘The Narrows’ where you have to look twice. It’s incredible. It looks like a Huge Black Monster. In fact, it’s where Lava flowed near the base of a 500 feet high Sandstone Cliffs. It threads a narrow corridor of intriguing Lava formations of the McCarty’s Lava Flow. In some places, it’s been pushed up with such force, it’s unbelieveable. You think to yourself. Where or what can do this? And the more you learn? Like a big jig-saw, it all starts to fall into place and we see it with a different understanding.
    We drove onto the last point called ‘Lava Falls’. You can explore Lava features and plant adaptions unique to McCarty’s Flow, the youngest Lava flow in this region. It looks young. We walked along the lava flow. Actually on it. It’s huge and it goes for miles. It’s nice black and it has blow-outs where it’s burst at a weak point and these blow-outs are big. I stood in one or two for photos. Yes! I’m brave!
    Then theres the Big Tubes area. Lava tubes can be huge. Including it’s collapsed sections, this tube system is 17 miles long. It’s another wonder of the world. It may be called ‘El Malpais’ (Badland) and to some it’s barren and bare. But to others? It’s amazing and beautiful. Then, it’s back on the road again and we cross another state line.

    We are now in ‘Arizona’.at a small place called Lupton. We’ve lost another hour. I really have to watch that. It’s now 7 hours behind English time and all we did was cross a State line. But it’s going to be fun going back. As I’ll just finish Breakfast and it will be Lunchtime.
    As we trundle on there are signs along the road advertising Indian Blankets or Indian Pottery, Indian Silverware. These are the ‘Navajo’ Indians. They are great. They put signs up saying ‘Nice Indians’, ‘Friendly Indians’ and if you miss their turn off? They put a sign out saying ‘Too Late.You missed us’. Further up the road, they have signs saying ‘Look behind You, Friendly Indians’ or ‘No friendly Indians ahead’.

    The Navajo people believe they passed through three different worlds before emerging into this world. The fourth world or the Glittering world. They believe there are two classes of beings. The Earth people and the Holy people.
    The Holy people are believed to have the power to aid or harm the Earth people. Since Earth people of the Navajo are an integral part of the Universe. They must do everything they can to maintain harmony or balance on Mother Earth.
    It is believed that centuries ago, the Holy people taught the Navajo how to live the right way and to conduct their many acts of everyday life. They were taught to live in harmony with Mother Earth, Father Sky and the many other elements such as Man, Animals, Plants and Insects.
    The number four permeates traditional Navajo philosophy. In the Navajo culture there are four directions, four seasons, the first four clans and four colours that are associated with the four sacred mountains. In most Navajo rituals are four songs and multiples thereof as well as many other symbolic uses of four. The Holy people put four sacred mountains in four different directions. Mount Blanca to the East. Mount Taylor to the South. San Francisco Peak to the West and Mount Hesperus to the North near Durango, Colorado. Thus creating Navajoland. The four directions are represented by four colours. White shell represents the East. Turquoise the South. Yellow Abalano the West and Jet Black the North.
    When disorder evolves in a Navaho’s life. Such as an illness. Medicinemen use herbs, prayers, songs and ceromonies to help cure the patients. Some tribal members choose to be cured at the many Hospitals on the Navajo nation. Some will seek the assistance of a traditional Navajo medicineman. A qualified medicineman is a unique individual bestowed with supernatural powers to diagnose a persons problem and to heal or cure an illness and restore harmony to the patient.
    There are more than 50 different kinds of ceromonies that my be used in the Navajo culture. All performed at various times for a specific reason. Some ceromonies last several hours. While others may last as long as nine days. Dine BiKeyah or Navajoland is larger than 10 of the 50 states in America.
    This vast land is unique because the people have achieved something quite rare. The ability of the indigenous people to blend both traditional and the modern way of life. They know where they are going but they also know where they come from. I love to learn the other’s cultures and beliefs. It’s a wonderful thing and it means so much to them. Then. It’s time to get back on the road again and learn more.

    We arrive at the ‘Petrified Forest’. It’s one of the many National Parks. They usually charge about $10 each. But for $50 we can have a yearly pass and visit as many as we want. So we are no piroud owners of a ‘National Park’ yearly pass. At first the thought of a Petrified Forest. Gave me the impression of a lot of frightened trees. But I learned different.
    This high, dry, tableland. Was once a Floodplain crossed by many streams. Tall stately pin-like trees grew along the head waters. Crocidile-like reptiles, great Amphibians and small Dinasours lived among a variety of Ferns, Cycads and other plants and animals that are known as Fossils today.
    The tall trees fell and were washed by swollen streams into the Floodplain. Where silt, mud and volcanic ash then covered the logs. Silica laden ground water seeped through the logs and replaced the original wood tissues with silica deposits and as the process continued. The silica crystalised into quartz and the logs were preserved as petrified wood.
    This all happened about 225 million years ago (a bit before my time) in the late Triassic period. After that time. The areas sank, flooded and were covered with freshwater sediments. Many years later, the area was lifted far above sea level and this uplift created stresses that cracked the giant logs. Over time, wind and water have worn away the layers of hardened sediment. Exposing the fossilised remains of ancient plants and animals. The hills still continue to yield fossil treasures as ceaseless weather patters sculpt the soft clay soils of the ‘Painted Desert’.
    The colours of the Petrified wood are unbelieveable. All the colours of the rainbow. Each one as different as the others. But all, so very beautiful.

    The ‘Painted Desert’ is something else. It was like going to a different space. You just stood there and looked. No words. No ah’s. Just beauty. One minute you are looking at petrified wood and you walk around a corner and there it is. Another world. All pinks, reds and white. All blended and smoothed. Photos don’t do it justice as you can’t capture the moment of it. It is a beauty untold.
    We covered the whole trail. Seeing petrified wood in various states and some half-in and half-out of the ground. Theres a huge log forming a bridge. It’s amazing. Then there’s the Crystal forest trail through a landscape of exquisitely colourful petrified logs that once held glassy anethyst and quartz crystals and the Tepees which are layered blues, purples and greys created by iron, carbon, manganese and other minerals. They stand in cone-shaped formations. It’s really incredible. It makes you realise. You just don’t know as much as you thought you did. But I’m willing to learn more! Needless to say. It’s against the law to remove any petrified wood or I’d bring you all a piece. But then there’d be none left for others to see.

    So. It’s back on the road again and off to Winslow for the night. It’s so cold. Around –4. I’ve got two layers of clothes on and that’s just for bed. I got my Jim-Jams on and then my jogging suit on top of that and if I had a tea cosy? I’d be wearing that too. John’s as well dressed too.

    Up and on the road again as early as possible because the motorhome warms up when the motor is running and the heater going full blast.
    We arrive at ‘Walnut Canyon’. Another National Park. We use our pass so it costs us nothing more. Walnut Canyon was home to the ‘Sinagua’ people. ‘Sinagua’ is Spanish for ‘without water’. Dwellings sheltered by overhanging Cliffs were their homes and they made their living by farming, hunting deer and small game, gathering an assortment of useful plants and trading. Their name ‘Sinagua’ is a tribute to their ability to turn a relatively dry region into an homeland. The Sinagua built one-room pithouses near their fields where they used dry framing to grow corn and other crops. Then ‘Sunset Volcano’ erupted and the Sinagua’s began to build cliff dwellings in Walnut Canyon by using the natural recesses in the limestone walls. The Walnut Canyon homes were generally situated on the cliff side facing South and East to take advantage of the warmth and sunlight. A few sites faced North and West. These may have been occupied during the Winter months. Although the Cliff dwellings are the most visible ruins in this park. Other sites such as pithouses and free standing houses dot the canyon rim. Archeologists believe that it was the Sinagua women who built the homes.
    The dwellings were made from shallow caves eroded out of the limestone cliffs by water and wind. To form walls, builders gathered limestone rocks. Shaped them roughly. Then cemented them together with a gold coloured clay found in deposits everywhere in the canyon. Wooden beams re-inforced the doorways. Finally. The walls were plastered with clay inside and out..
    The canyon rims are relatively flat with pockets of deep soil. Their major crops were a drought resistant variety of corn, several kinds of beans and squash. Plus the other kinds which grow wild. Wild grapes, sorviceberry, elderberry, yucca and Arizona black walnut. In order to get down to the cliff dwellings we had to go down 246 steps into the canyon itself. It’s amazing how they managed to build these homes as all they had to work on was the ledge. They must have been fit to get around the canyon the way they did. I know it’s the way they lived. But what would they make of us today? Moving our home from state to state. It’s so amazing when you think what they had and what they made. It makes me feel very lazy but very lucky too.
    This area of Arizona has a lot of beauty. There are many canyon’s and many volcano’s along our route and we intend to stop at one or two. To see and feel the experience of what it is now and by going through it’s history, try to learn what we can? But it’s feed me time! Then!

    Back on the road again to ‘Sunset Crater Volcano’ which is another National Park with quite an history to it. I erupted in the winter of 1064-5. Sunset Crater is the most recent in a 6 million year history of volanic activity in the Flagstaff area. This cinder cone reminds us of the powerful forces that shape the Earth. Forces that have created more than 600 hills and mountains in the San Francisco volcanic field.
    These mountains have in turn affected the climate and habitat for all things living in the region. The processes that created ‘Sunset Crater’ also created a scupture garden of extraordinary forms at it’s base. As new gas vents opened. Spatter cones sprouted from the ground like minatures of the volcano itself. Partially cooled Lava lushing through cracks in the crust like toothpaste from a tube. Solidified into wedge-shaped squeeze-ups, grooved from scraping against harder rock. In the final burst of activity around 1250. Red and yellow oxidised cinders shot out of the vent and fell on the rim. The colourful glow from these cinders reminded people of a sunset and led to the volcanos name.
    It’s not just the area around the volcano that’s covered at with the last eruption of Sunset volcano. The lightest, smallest particles were carried 800 square miles to the Northern Arizona area. Volcanos are exciting to watch on TV. But very frightening close up. But they don’t just erupt. The earth may shake on and off for a while. Magna moving towards the surface creates many small earthquakes. Sometimes beginning months before an eruption. An harmonic tremor, or a continuous earthquake lasting a few minutes to many days is a good sign that an eruption is about to begin. Even if you didn’t know this? You might think about packing up and moving to another area. Not like us. Jump in the motorhome and drive.
    The Wupatki people moved from ‘Sunset Volcano’ to ‘Waltnut Canyon’. Their homes ranged from one-storey single family structures to a Wupatki Pueblo (village). A multi-level, high-rise dwelling with 100 rooms. The only entry and exit from the room was through a hole in the roof.
    We travelled on through the Sunset Crater volcano area. Because it’s covered in plants, grass and bushes, it didn’t look like a volcano to me. Then I really looked at it and like a veil being lifted. I could see the volcano and now the crater.
    We drove to the ruins that was once a village. Then onto the ‘Kana-a Lava Flow’ and finally to the ‘Bonita Lava Flow’ and saw the lava bubbles. Lava bubbles are like small fumaroles that never broke the surface. Some of the bubbles are intact. While others have collapsed. They come in all shapes and sizes. A bit like people really. To show how big some were I stood in one for a photo. Which is a very brave thing to do. Because if there had been an earthquake? All you’d see in the photo was dust. I’d be long gone. I’m a coward remember?
    Along this lava flow are many bubbles and big blowholes. Also where the pressure had literally pushed the earth up so it is vertical. It’s amazing just how much power there is amd to be honest? It’s frightening as well.
    We walked the lava trail. It was windy and very cold. My eyes were watering, nose running. But I wanted to complete this trail. Apart from my eyes and nose. It was very eye opening, interesting and utterly amazing.
    We parked in the desert. It was –2. One of our water pipes was leaking. So John got to work and managed to make a temporary repair. It had been caused by the ice-cold nights freezing the plastic water pipes and cracking them. We had dinner and we were in bed reading by 7.30pm. Got a good book to read!

    1st December 2005
    It’s the first of December (White Rabbits). We arrive at US64. But before I go any further. I must tell you. No-one is allowed to walk on or up‘Sunset Crater’ because of the new plant life being damaged by people not staying on the designated trails. It’s now spoiled it for other’s to go and see.
    But we were allowed to climb ‘Lenox Crater’ which is similar to ‘Sunset Crater’ and yes! There are still people out there taking short cuts and damaging new growth and plants. But most of us stay on the trail.
    I didn’t realise how far it was to the top and guess what is on top of the crater? Three Log seats and we used them. So! I’ve walked up a volcano! Stood in a volcano! Sat on a volcano and walked the Lava flows and I enjoyed every bit of it too!

    Now we’re back on the road. We’re on the road to ‘The Grand Canyon’. It’s a long steep, winding road. I catch a glimse of ‘Coconino Rim’ where the little Colorado River runs to join the Colorado River through the ‘Grand Canyon’. The Grand Canyon is probably the most spectacular example of the power of erosion. A chasm 277 miles long (measured by the river course) and up to 18 miles wide. The Canyon bottom below ‘Yavapa Point’ is 2400 feet above sea level, 4500 feet below the South Rim amd 5400 feet below the North Rim. Making an average depth of 1 mile. The canyon is cut into a rounded mountain called the ‘Kalibab Plateau’. As the rock walls break down. The chasm gradually widens. Scientists estimate that it has taken from three to six million years to cut the Grand Canyon. The work is by no means finished. The powerful forces of the rushing river, of rain, snow, heat, frost and wind are still sculpting the fantastic shapes of the precipitious bluffs amd towering butts. It makes you wonder what it will be like in 3 million years time?
    As we got nearer. There is the Ranger station where you pay $20 or show your pass. We are at the East of the South Rim. The North Rim is closed in the winter months as is the East stores, Campground and Gas station.
    We start at ‘Navajo Point’. It’s out of this world. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry? It’s like looking at a different Planet. The colours blend perfectly and there are so many crazy, beautiful shapes and sizes. You really cannot accept what you are seeing. My eyes and my brain are not communicating. Mind you. It’s very windy and very cold here! What’s the weather like on Earth?

    In the distance is the Colorado river. The Colorado river is one of the great river systems in the United States. It’s over 1400 miles long and the area it drains totals nearly 12% of the United States. At the river gauging station near the ‘Kaibats Suspension Bridge’ in Grand Canyon. The river averages 300 feet in width, is up to 100 feet deep and flows at an average speed of 4 miles an hour. Prior to the completion of ‘Glen Canyon Dam’. The river carried an average of nearly one half million tons of suspended sand and silt through the Grand Canyon every twenty four hours. Isn’t it incredible? It’s nice to learn these things as well as looking at the beautiful views. The Colorado river flows West through the Grand Canyon, then later bends South and empties out into the Gulf of Mexico in California.

    Six of the climatic belts recognised throughout the world are represented in the Grand Canyon Region. They vary from heat of the Mexican desert on the Canyon bottom. To the Arctic/Alpine type of the San Francisco Peak.
    Many small ruins of ancient Indian peublos (villages) have been discovered in the Canyon and on the Rims. Five Indian tribes live in the region today. The Hopi, Navajo, Havasupi, Paiute and the Hualapai.

    There is hiking in the Grand Canyon. But they recommend that you do not attempt to hike from the Rim to the river and back again in one day. There are no loop trails for day hikes. They say to allow 1/3 of your time to descend and 2/3 to ascend. I’d love to hike to the canyon floor and more. But as I know very little about this area, the dangers and the pit-falls. I’ll practice my descent and ascends on Mum’s stairs to her flat. They do have ‘Rim Trails’. ‘Bright Angel Trail’ which is quite steep and you need to use crampon’s (snow-chains) for safe walking. ‘South Kaibata Trail’ and ‘Hermit Trail’. Both are steep and again snow-chains are needed and ‘’Grandview Trail’ which is very steep. So! Hiking is out of the question this time of the year. They do a Mule trip, and I qualify for it. Mind you so does the Mule. But, do we qualify together?

    So! It’s back on the road again. We go from ‘Desert View’ to Lipan to ‘Morah Point’. We saw the Tusayan Ruin and Museum. From the ruins, you can see the San Francisco Peaks, which are considered sacred by several Indian tribes.
    In the Hopi tradition. The Katsinas (the spirits) live in these peaks during winter. The Spirits bring rain and other blessings to the people. The Hopi are one of the twenty Puebloan Indian Nations that are descendants of the people who lived here.
    The ancestral puebloan people used the forest for their supermarket. Pinon was used for construction, heating and cooking. Pine needles, high in vitamin C, can be brewed as a Tea. It’s pitch was used to waterproof baskets and even as a bandage to hold cuts together. Pine nuts are high in fat, protien and carbohydrates. The Utah Juniper was also used fro firewood. It’s shreddy bark peeled readily and provided insulation, padding or the soles of a sandle. Juniper berries could be eaten raw. But were more often used as a flavouring for stews such as Venison. Ashes of the scale-like leaves were added to bread as a leavening agent and for flavour. Yucca provided fibres that could be twisted or braided into twine or rope or made into sandals. The flower and seed pods could be eaten. Some native people still use Yucca root soap for ceremonial purposes.
    It’s surprising how tasty their food was and we wonder how they managed? There’s no Asda for them. But like us. We grow up going to shops to buy food. They grow up collecting their food from the forest etc.

    We move on to ‘Grandview Point’. It’s so beautiful. The colours change as the sun moves. But they blend so amazingly. Everywhere you look has something different to see. The rapids of the Colorado river to the smaller canyons within this canyon. You can see so much with hardly taking a stop.
    We decide to have our lunch here and enjoy the beauty too. Although it’s very windy and icy cold. It does not spoil the moment with jumping in and out of the motorhome, dashing to see all the views, hanging over ledges to make sure I’ve missed nothing and yes! I feel the the cold. But there’s so much going on, it’s not that important.

    We drive on to ‘Yaki Point’ then ‘Yavapai Point’ and it’s all so breathtakingly beautiful again. Different to the last, more rapids on the Colorado river. More colour blending into each other. One part is red, rust, pinks and grey while another is yellow, green, brown and cream. There must be a great artist at work here. I’ve often heard tales about the Grand Canyon. But nothing can prepare you for it. It’s amazing. In fact, there aren’t the words able to describe it.

    We go onto ‘Hopi Point’, ‘Pima Point’ and lastly ‘Hermit’s road’ and they are fantastic, amazing, beautiful and I thank God I am able to see this remarkable beauty. Because it will be a part of my memories. Something to tell you all about and see it in my mind’s eye time and time again.

    We covered the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and I feel I’ve been to another Planet and I feel very humble too. I must be getting old?
    When you look at an area map of the Grand Canyon? What we saw was only a small part. Theres no access to the rest. Apart from an even smaller part at the North rim.

    You can go on one of the many trips or tours by plane over the Grand Canyon or by Helicopter or even by inflatable, motorised river rafts. But at the end of the tour. No matter how you saw the Grand Canyon. We will hold something special forever. It’s hard to explain or put into words. So! It’s back on the road again and we park next door to McDonalds. Have our evening meal. Talk about our day and what a day it’s been.

    Next morning. It’s back on the road again.. We pass the Grand Canyon airport. But that’s just for small aircraft and helicopters who do the Grand Canyon tours. Theres the fast food shops Gift shops, Red Feather Lodge, Grand Canyon Jeep Tours and Safaris. The Grand Hotel, Best Western Grand Canyon Squire Inn, Café houses. Then there’s Bedrock City with ‘The Flintstones RV Camp’. It’s Bedrock City’s Pre-Historic Park which has pre-historic cartoons and Flintstones and Rubbles houses. You can visit the notorious resident of Bedrock’s City Jail, and have Lunch or Dinner in ‘Fred’s Diner’. But we’re mad enough. So we keep on going.

    On checking the mileage? We’ve travelled 3,464 miles so far, and it’s been (editors note – wait for it) fantastic. I’ve been able to phone my Mum, Val (sister), Mandy (daughter), Simon (son) and Anne (Mum’s friend downstairs) (editors note – via the Laptop with Wifi connection). We’ve emailed tp England, Holland, Germany, Spain and the USA. It’s wonderful touring across America and knowing all our loved ones are safe and they know we are safe and where we are. More important. How much we love them and how much they love us.

    We get back on the road again (Editors note – At this point I must mention that we are always singing the Willie Nelson song – ‘On the Road Again’ at this point).
    Soon we’re going over the ‘Hoover Dam’. Incredible. There are small parking areas to stop and take photos but not for long stays. So we stopped and take photos and back on the road again.

    The ‘Hoover Dam’ is a very big place and there was work being done to widen the roads. There were lots of tourists who were mostly from tour buses. There were Chinese, Japanese, Dutch, English, Germans, Canadians, just about all the Nationalities you can think of. But we managed to get a good set of photos and a damn good look ourselves.
    The ‘Hoover Dam’ has a 45 foot think crest and 660 foot thick base which holds back ‘Lake Mead’. The ‘Hoover Dam’ was completed in 1935 and the ‘Hoover Dam’ turned the sometimes violent Colorado river into the still waters of ‘Lake Mead’.

    More than 5,000 men worked for five years to erect the massive structure between the steep walls of ‘Black Canyon’. When finished. The dam contained enough concrete to pave a 16 feet wide, 8 inches thick from San Francisco to New York city. Further downstream from the ‘Hoover Dam’ is the ‘Davis Dam’, which was completed in 1953. This rock and earth wall controls the flow of water from ‘Lake Mohave’. The ‘Hoover Dam’ is 726 feet high, and it remains the highest concrete dam in the Western Hemisphere.
    The ‘Hoover Dam’ changed the Nature of the country forever. It created an abundance of water and power for the Southwest. It calmed the floodwaters of the Colorado river and turned the forbidding landscape into one that attracts millions of visitors every year. Now, at ‘Lake Mead’ and ‘Lake Mohave’, there is boating, with Sailboats, Fishing boats and House boats. All sharing the ‘Lakes’ 290 square miles withou crowding one another. The boaters can explore some areas such as ‘Gorge of Iceberg Canyon’ near ‘Gregg Basin’ or the beautiful ‘Black Canyon’ in ‘Lake Mohave’. There are sandy beaches for sun-bathers or for picnics. There are Paddle-wheel vessels and Raft trips. Fishing is very popular too with Large-mouth Bass, Rainbow Trout, Striped Bass, Channel Catfish, Black Crappie and Bluegill Fish to be caught.

    Takes me back to Singapore. When Mum, Dad, John and I would go all-night fishing. We caught some beauties. Grassies and Carp of 3 to 4 lbs in weight. Then there was the Java. If they were ½ lb in weight? They were lucky. But by god they put up a damned good fight and more often than not? They got away! (editors note – back to the tour).

    Part Three Follows:-
     
  3. johnsandywhite

    johnsandywhite Read Only Funster

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    :RollEyes: Part Three of the USA Tour:-


    We were back on the road again, and we’re going to ‘Lake Mead’.
    There’s Hiking and Camping on ‘Lake Mead’ for a fee. We stayed that night. We found out that the ‘Festival of Light’ was on that night and it would start around 6pm.
    Well! More motorhomes came. Cars, trucks, buses and fifth wheelers too. People were having Bar-b-ques. Lighting fires to keep warm. By 6.30pm there was quite a lot of people. We didn’t have the faintest idea what was going to happen. But everyone was facing the lake. We got our chairs out and sat out-side like everyone else was doing. I was getting frozen so we went inside and put more socks on top of socks. Cardigan on top of my Jumper. Then a coat, another pair of trousers on top of trousers etc and wobbled out like a Michelin tyre man, wedged myself in my chair and waited.
    All that seemed to be happening was that everyone was non-stop eating and drinking beer around a warm fire. Then it got colder, and windy and I was off, back inside. John followed pretty fast on my heels. We took all the extra clothes off and sat on the bed looking out of the window at the lake and it started.
    Big boats, Paddlewheel boats, small boats, Police boats. Anything that would float. They were all decked out in party dress and hundreds of lights. There were Christmas trees, Snowmen, Christmas cakes. All sorts of Christmas scenes. It was faboulous, great, fantastic. The people cheered and clapped. Even though we were inside we cheered and clapped too. With it being so dark. The lights seemed bigger. What a sight? It was like a dreamland. The boats sailed past and on to tour rest of the lake.
    By 9.15pm there were only 5 or 6 motorhomes there. Everyone had gone. Next morning I looked out to see if there was much mess? And there was nothing. Whatever they brought, they took home with them. It was really wonderful, and to think? If there was no dam. This would just be desert. But the dam has brought new meaning here and because of that, we are able to watch the ‘Festival of Light’ too.

    Back on the road again and we arrive at the ‘Wild, Wild, West’ Car, RV and Lorry park in ‘Las Vegas’ and we’re singing our heads off ‘Viva ‘Las Vegas’, Viva ‘Las Vegas’, Viva---------, Viva--------, ‘Las--------- Vegas-------’. Well! We’re here in ‘Las Vegas’ and it’s very exciting. ‘Las Vegas’ is in Nevada and yes! We’ve lost another hour. We are now in the Pacific time zone. So we are now 8 hours behind the UK. So while I’m having my breakfast, you’re having your evening meal.

    The main road in ‘Las Vegas’ is ‘The Strip’ otherwise known as the ‘‘Las Vegas Boulevard South’ and it’s full from the Top to the Bottom with Hotels, shops, Casino’s and bars. You name it? They’ve go it. But it’s done so beautifully, it’s perfect. All the top names.
    It took us over a week just to cover ‘The Strip’. We started at the ‘NewYork – New York’ which has a minature New York City with a minature ‘Statue of Liberty’, ‘Twin Towers’, ‘Empire State building’ and two or three more. A roller-coaster rode around Manhattan Skyscrapers. In the ‘Zumanity Theatre’ is the world famous ‘Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Zumanity’ showcase. There’s the ‘Cabaret Theatre’ with Rita Rutner and the ‘Bar at Times Square’ with a pair of dueling pianists perform upbeat numbers. There’s the Casino with the Slot machines, all the Card games, Crap tables, Poker rooms and Roulette. Not forgetting the Blackjack tables. Next is ‘Monte Carlo’ followed by ‘Boardwalk Casino’, ‘Bellagio gallery of fine arts’, ‘Bellagio’, ‘Caesar’s Palace and Forum shops’, ‘The Mirage’, ‘Treasure Island’, ‘Fashion show Mall’, ‘The New Frontier’, ‘Stardust’, ‘Westward Ho’ ‘Slots-n- Fun’, ‘Adventure Dome’, ‘Circus – Circus’, ‘Stratosphere’, ‘Sahara’, ‘Riviera’, ‘Royal’, ‘Wynn Las Vegas’, ‘The Venetian’, ‘Casino Royale’, ‘Harrah’s’, ‘Imperial Palace’, ‘O’Sheas’, ‘Flamingo’, Barbary Coast’, ‘Bally’, ‘Paris Las Vegas’, ‘Aladdin’, ‘Polo Towers’, ‘MGM Grand’, ‘Tropicana’, ‘Hooter’s’, ‘Mandalay Bay’, ‘Luxor’, ‘Excalibur’, ‘Palms’, ‘Gold Coast’, ‘Rio’, ‘Las Vegas Hilton’ and so many more. All have Casinos, buffets, shops, shows, roller-coasters. So you can see how difficult it’s going to be telling you all about ‘Las Vegas’. But, I’ll try.
    We were picked on to go to a time-share meeting. One doesn’t have to go, but it was interesting and fun. We were taken to a Posh Hotel. Shown some beautiful flats and given Coffee or fruit-juice, sandwiches and Cookies (no biscuits here).
    The starting price was around $30,000 for 6 weeks a year. By the time ( 2 ½ hours later) we finished, it was down to $5,000 for one week a year for life and passed on to our children anywhere in the world where they (the company) has time-shares.
    Again. We said ‘Thank you, but no thank you, it’s not for us’. They gave us tickets for an evening show, buffet and a ride up the ‘Stratosphere’ which is the highest point in ‘Las Vegas’. All, for FREE.

    So that night we went and saw the ‘American Superstars’ tribute show to Britney, Christine Aguilara, Tim McGraw, Michael Jackson and Elvis. They were fantastic. We then went up to level 108 in the ‘Stratosphere Tower’ (indoor observation deck) and it was breathtaking. Like looking down from the top of a Christmas tree wiith millions of lights on it. It makes you realise the fairies get the best view of all. It was amazing. All these lights going for miles and miles. You could pick out ‘The Strip’ and other landmarks. It was fantastic. We went down to the buffet and had a lovely meal, or two, or three? Rolled home and to bed. What a night? It would cost $45 each. But because we had spent 2 ½ hours listening about time-shares. We got it all for FREE!

    I joined the ‘Sahara’ Casino Club. Which gives you a card you put in the slot-machines you are playing and you get points. But I’m not a gambler. I know.
    For joining the club, they gave me five dollars to play in the slot-machines, a voucher, a stretchy key ring and one free buffet meal. So I told John to play the $5 and we won $13.25. So!. We paid for one buffet as we had one free, we had another lovely meal out. So I went and joined all the Casino Clubs in ‘Las Vegas’ and we walked away with $38.75 winnings from one, $5.75 winnings from another (editors note – Sandy don’t gamble. Neither does John. But he was the one who played and beat ‘Las Vegas’). I also got a Travel bag, 5 bead necklaces, 8 pens, 5 stretchy key rings, 21 Casino club cards and membership to 46 Casinos in all. We had two lovely buffets and it all cost us nothing.

    We toured round the ‘Rain Forest Café’, the ‘Adventure Dome’ and watched the Gondoliers serenading guests down the canal of the ‘Venetian’ hotel and casino.

    At the ‘Paris Las Vegas’ there is a 50 storey half replica of the ‘Eiffel Tower’ and it’s actually constructed from the original ‘Eiffel Tower’ plans. At night it’s lit by hundreds of lights and looks wonderful.

    We walked all around ‘Excalibur’ with the fire-beathing dragon, jugglers, magicians, puppeteers and the Magic Motion Machine Ride and Merlin.

    The fountains of ‘Bellagio’ are fantastic. It’s a 10 acre lake that’s in front of the ‘Bellagio’. I features hundreds of choreographed fountains and to watch the nightly settings for a syphony of light and water is amazing. These fountains dance to the music and you can see them from the hotel and ‘The Strip’. We never tired of watching it. Nightly, it’s on every half hour. But on the weekend from 7pm until midnight it’s on every 15 minutes. He higher the musical note. The higher the fountain goes. Sometimes as high as 245 feet. It’s amazing.
    There is also a 3 storey Wild animal habitat at the ‘MGM Grand’. It has a variety of Lions and cubs. Inclduing one who is a direct descendant of the famous MGM Lion. You can walk through the Lion habitat. Don’t worry! It’s enclosed by a glass wall. I’m a coward remember? A live one!

    The ‘Mirage’ Volcano is fantastic. It’s a fire-spewing Volcano that lights up the sky in front of the ‘Mirage’ hotel and casino. The Volcano is 54 feet high and located in the centre of a Lagoon filled with waterfalls and Palm Trees. With spewing smoke and fire 100 feet above the water it erupts every 15 minutes from 8pm to midnight. It rumbles and it thunders. It’s exciting but frightening too. Once you’re used to it, you’ll stand all night watching it, or the ‘Bellagio’ fountains.

    There is also the ‘Sirens of TI’ (Treasure Island) but missed being ablt to see it due to repairs and alterations being carried out.

    In ‘Circus – Circus’ there were acts on in the casino which were excellent. The birdman from ‘Las Vegas’, Lilia a 17 year-old contortunist. It made my eyes water.
    Then there was ‘Spirit’ the dynamic acrobatic duo and some wonderful singers.

    At the ‘Rio’ we watched the ‘Masquerade Show in the Sky’ above the casino floor. It was a spectacular floating parade of dancers in exotic costumes and masks. There were four different versions of the show. We also saw the Christmas show. It was wonderful. The floating floats with Christmas dancers. There were singers too. It was (editors note - wait for it) fantastic.

    We visited four floors dedicated to M&M chocolate at M&M world. We walked through the process of being an ‘M’ and saw all the gifts you can buy.

    We also went to the World of Coca-Cola. There were two floors of Cola merchandise and outside was a giant Cola bottle which serves as a landmark to the shop. On the ground floor was a huge white bear. In one hand was a Cola bottle and in the other was me sat on his knee for a photo. John wouldn’t let me take it home. Party pooper.

    There is ‘Liberace Museum’ a few miles from ‘The Strip’, ‘Elvis - a – rama Museum’, ‘Madame Tussauds Wax Museum’, and ‘Pharoah’s Pavillion’ with the history of King Tut’s Tomb and museum at the ‘Luxor’.

    In ‘Las Vegas’ there are around 75 Wedding Chapels. ‘No Hassle’ weddings. You can hire your clothes. There’s no Blood tests (editors note - usually they have them before marriage in the USA), birth certificates or waiting periods. Marriage licences can be obtained 24 hours a day, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Holidays. The Clark County marriage licence bureau is open Monday to Thurday from 8am to midnight and the fee for a marriage licence is $55 all done for you.

    Celine Dion was singing at ‘The Colossuem’ at ‘Caesars Palace’ and Elton John was there over Christmas.

    There are Magicians all over ‘Las Vegas’. It’s the town that never sleeps. Even celebrities are joining ranks with property and real estates developers. George Clooney and Rande Gerber are building a Billion dollar hotel and condominium complex and naming it ‘Las Ramblas’. They are hoping to get Brad Pitt to join them.

    ‘Las Vegas’ is a truly amazing place. Filled with everything. Some you pay for and some are free. But it’s exciting and thrilling. December is a quiet time. So we were pleased it wasn’t busy. We thought it was busy. But if this is quiet? We’re staying away when it’s busy.

    We’ve been here a week and sadly it’s time to get back on the road again. We had a lot of fun in ‘Las Vegas’ and we’ve lot’s of memories too and a lot of keep-sakes.

    We drove up the US93 and on to the ‘Extraterrestial Highway’. We saw notices about Aliens and even some drawings. But we didn’t see anything remotely like Aliens. We must have looked on the wrong directions.

    We were in the ‘Area 51’ so there might be a chance sighting here. But I guess they had all gone home for Christmas.

    We were driving to ‘Death Valley’. Coming from Beatty there were mountains on top of mountains and we drove through nothing but desert and mountains for 2 days.
    Then we arrived at ‘Stovepipe Wells’ in ‘Death Valley’. We had ‘Grapevine’ mountains on one side and ‘Funeral’ mountains on the other. Active earthquake fault lines riddle the park like a giant see-saw. The ‘Panamint Range’ is one side of the tipping fault block that rises as the other side ‘Badwater Basin’ falls. Erosion cannot keep up with such geology. The basin continues to drop below sea level despite millions of years of water-borne salt, silt and gravel washing into it.

    At ‘Stovepipe Wells’ we saw Tawney dunes smoothly rising nearly 100 feet from ‘Mesquite Flat’. Late afternoon light accentuates the ripples and patterns. When the moonlight shines on the dunes. It’s magical. We stayed at ‘Stovepipe Wells’ for one night. A fee of $10 a night was pretty very good.

    We then moved on to ‘Furnace Creek’. We visited the ‘Harmony Borax Works’. A mining operation that dates back more than 120 years. After Borax was found there in 1881. William Tell Coleman built the Harmony plant and began to process ore in late 1883 or early 1884. When in full operation. The Harmony Borax Works employed 40 men who produced three tons of Borax a day. They used Framed 20 mule teams to haul the Borax 165 miles to the railroad town of Mohave. The teams averaged two miles an hour and took 30 days to complete the round trip. The Harmony Borax plant went out of operation in 1888 after only five years of production, when Colemans financial empire collapsed.

    ‘Furnace Creek Ranch’ is a remarkable desert oasis created by the abundant water supplied of Texas and Travertine Springs located along ‘Furness Creek Wash’. The lost gold seekers stumbled onto these life giving springs during the ardous trek in 1849. They were the first white pioneers to discover ‘Death Valley’. During a prospecting trip in 1960. Dr. Darwin Frence gave ‘Furnace Creek’ it’s name when he discovered a crude ore smelting furnace nearby.
    The Furnace Creek Ranch is now a trailer-camp site with a lot of Full-timers living there. There is a Swimming Pool, Laundry House or Laundromat, General Store, Bar, Restrooms, Tennis Court and a Borax Museum.
    This Borax Museum is the oldest structure in ‘Death Valley’. It was built around 1883 by F.H. ‘Borax’ Smith near Monte Blanco to serve as an office, bunkhouse, laboratory and checking station. In 1954, the Borax Company concerned about the preservation of this Historic building, Moved it to it’s present site to serve as a museum. It’s a wooden building. But built to last. Not like todays wooden sheds.
    In the Museum grounds there are many artifacts. A Railroad bench, Printing press, a 225 hp Diesel engine, a Stagecoach, a Concord State Stagecoach, and the Valley Stagecaoch. A Logging Truck, Logging wheels, and the Redwood Tank which was used to hold water and other liquids. Larger Wooden Tanks of 1800 gallons capacity were used to crystallise Borax from the solution during the refining process. The exterior of the Borax tanks were wrapped with cloth and kept wet to cool the contained solutions and improve the crystallisation process.

    At the entrance to ‘Furnace Creek Ranch’ stand two of the most significant historic artifacts located in ‘Death Valley’. One is the complete set of 20-Mule Team Wagons. The other is the Steam Traction Engine ‘Old Dinah’ and her wagon train. This mechanised marvel was purchased in 1894 and it was intended to replace the 20-Mule teams that hauled Borax ore from Borate to Daggett.
    ‘Old Dinah’ required constant maintenance and had major problems with sand and steep grades. After a one year trial. Mules proved to be more productive and reliable but they too were replaced later by a narrow guage railroad in 1898.
    ‘Old Dinah’ got one more chance when Borax operations resumed in ‘Death Valley’ in 1904. Trying to avoid the expense of a railroad in ‘Death Valley’ the Borax Company graded a 98 mile tractor road from the Borax mines to the railroad.
    But ‘Old Dinah’ broke down on her first trip and had to be towed home by the Mules she had tried to replace. In 1910, ‘Old Dinah’ was sold to a Freighter for use hauling supplies between Beatty and the ‘Keane Wonder Mine’. After a couple of years, ‘Old Dinah’ broke down in ‘Daylight Pass’ and the owner abandoned her in disgust.

    In 1932, Harry Gower rescued ‘Old Dinah’ and brought her here to her present location at ‘Furnace Creek Ranch’.
    I loved that tale about ‘Old Dinah’. It just shows even when you’re old, knackered and past it. Someone still loves you. I polished ‘Old Dinahs’ nose just to let her know.

    We rode our bikes to ‘Golden Canyon’. It’s about 4 miles from where we’re parked and a round trip of the Canyon was about 2 miles.
    They have flash-floods here and one literaly washed the road away. This canyon is slowly getting washed away. At the moment. There are high mountains and deep gorges. But they are disappearing.
    Riding back to the camp site was mostly up hill. 1589 pedals. I counted every one to take my mind off the hill.

    Another time we rode to ‘Mustard Canyon’ and it’s the colour of mustard. But not nearly as big as ‘Golden Canyon’.
    We stayed on ‘Sunset Campground’ for four days and the mountains never looked the same twice. Every day was different weather wise and so the colours changed too.
    At ‘Artist Drive’ the colours were amazing. Greens, Blues, Pinks, Greys and Creams.
    We saw the ‘Natural Bridge’ and ‘Dry Waterfalls’. Of course! I climbed up them! I wanted to see what was on the other side. John’s as bad! He climbed too! Going up was quite easy, but coming down was another tale (editors note – good job John was there to rescue her).

    We went to ‘Devils Golf Course’ and it was incredible. Salt flats with salt crystallisation. It looked like dirty snow but it was solid. It was very difficult to walk on and one realises why it’s called the ‘Devils Golf Course’, because only the Devil could play on it. I’ll fetch a little to show you. Photos as well.

    From there we went to ‘Badwater’ another salt lake. It looks even more like snow. ‘Badwater’ is 282 feet below Sea level. It’s the seventh lowest place in the World. The ‘Dead Sea’ is the lowest.

    We got back on the road again. Lots of desert. Lots of mountains and we cross another State line. We are now in California. No! I haven’t lost another hour. We are still on the Pacific time Zone.
    We are going to ‘Newport Coast’ where our friends Ed and Edie are. Their youngest daughter Monica is working there and every Christmas they fly over to spend 3 months with her and their eldest daughter Susan is flying over for 3 weeks. When Ed & Edie heard we were touring America. They asked us to have Christmas with them if we were near. We told them we’d travel across America to be with them. They are a wonderful family.
    I was surprised how much rubbish was on the road side. Where people throw their unwanted wrappers, bottles, cups and anything else they could lay their hands on, out of the window. The Interstate roads were badly in need of re-laying.
    As we got nearer to ‘Los Angeles’ the air pollution was so bad, you could not even see the mountains.

    We passed by ‘Pasadena’, ‘Hollywood’, ‘Beverly Hills’, ‘La Mirada’, ‘Fullerton’, ‘Aneheim’, where there is Disneyland, Disneyland Park, Disney’s California Adventure Park, Downtown Disney and Disneyland Resort. There is also three very big Disney Hotels which are Disney’s Grand California Hotel, Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel and Disneyland Hotel. But more on that later. We passed ‘Orange’, ‘Santa Ana’, ‘Costa Mesa’ and into ‘Newport Coast’.

    Monicas apartment is lovely. It’s been four years since we have seen them all. It’s so wonderful getting together again. Catching up on all the news and how well they look. Ed is 75 years and Edie 71 years. Monica is 41 and Susan 45. Both girls work hard. Susan is near the end of doing her Masters degree as well as working. Monica is high up in Marketing.

    Monica has an Humming bird feeder on the patoi. I can sit and watch them feeding for hours. They are very tiny, but brightly coloured in Blue, Green, Red and Yellow. They can stop at the feeder, then, gone! They are so fast! They are amazing! Beautiful and dainty. They can be at the feeder for five minutes or more. Yes! I was quiet! I even took some photos of them.
    We stayed with Ed & Edie for 5 days. Christmas Eve day was spent running round the shops and in the evening, John and Monica played Guitars while we all sang Christmas Carols. Then at 11pm we all opened our presents. We’d bought them all a ‘Las Vegas’ mug each and Chocolates and they bought us an un-spillable drinking beaker and a basket of Wine, Cookies, Chocolate, Coffee and it was great.

    Christmas Day we had a cooked breakfast (Brunch) of Scrambled Eggs, Bacon, Sausages, Cheese, 2 or 3 Jams, Orange Juice, Coffee, bread and Buns and the Turkey went into the cooker. Edie loves to cook, and Boy! Can she cook! Susan and Monica were helping and no-one would let me help. John and Ed were on the computers. So I read all the newspapers and books. Watched the Humming birds and then in was ‘Happy hour’. 5pm is ‘Happy hour’. We all have our favourite drink. Ed had his beer, John had Red Wine, Edie a Vodka and Orange, Monica, Susan and I had G ‘n’ T (Gin and Tonic). Then we had our Christmas dinner. It was fantastic! Roast Turkey, Stuffing, Mashed Potatoes, Broccoli, Beans and Turkey Gravy, Cranberry Sauce made with fresh Cranberries. Monica made a wonderful Cheesecake and Susan ran around all the time collecting, washing, pouring drinks and making sure everyone had everything they needed. In the days that followed. Susan made great uptown sandwiches. Boy! Can that girl make great sandwiches.

    Ed, Edie, John and I went out the next day. We called at ‘Fashion Island’ to have a look at the 115 feett high White Fir Christmas tree. I had 20,000 lights and 17,000 baubles. It was out of this world and there were two couples dressed in 1920’s Clothes singing Christmas Carols. They were really good.

    We drove along ‘Pacific Coast Highway’ but there was too much Fog to see anything. We could see things close by but not across the valleys etc. That’s the two things I noticed in California. The air pollution was bad and on the coast it was foggy.
    The next day it looked clearer, so Ed, Edie, John and I drove down in Monicas car to ‘Crystal Cove State Park’.
    We walked down to the beach and along the beach. There are so many huge Mussels. Every rock was covered with huge Mussels and because it’s a State park. No-one is allowed to take anything from the land. It’s a crime if you do and you will be arrested and fined or jailed.
    We saw Urchins, huge Star-fish, Brown with White markings and Orange with White markings. They must have been 9 inches to a foot wide. They were stuck to the rocks with the Mussels. I’ve never seen Star-fish that big. We saw Dolphins playing and feeding in the sea. Also Seals and Seal Bulls and Pelicans flying low over the sea.
    We then went to ‘Laguna Beach’ and it was beautiful. Surfers riding the waves. Seals on the rocks and my Pelicans.
    Then we drove to the Harbour at ‘Dana Point’ and ‘Salt Creek Beach’ then back to ‘Laguna Beach’ and watched the beautiful sunset. It was great.

    Ed & Edie also took us to ‘Balboa Island’. We got a Ferry from ‘Harbour Island’ and crossed over to ‘Balboa Island’. We walked all around the Island looking at all houses that were decked out in Christmas Lights and decorations. They were fantastic. Needless to say. We took lot’s of photos. Some of the displays were out of this world. A few had too many things. But all in all. It was amazing.
    It got cold and a little chilly wind. So we took the ferry back and drove home still watching all the Christmas lights on ‘Balboa Island’. They have competitions for the best lights and other ompetitiions too. All to do with Christmas and so at Christmas time, ‘Balboa Island’ is the place to see.

    The Pacific Ocean water is very, very cold. But you can see the Seals, Dolphins, and in late December, the California Gey Whales pass Newport Beach to migrate south for their breeding and calving grounds off the coast of Baja, California in Mexico.. They can usually be spotted through late March, as they return on their northern migration to Bering , Chukohi and Beaufort seas. You might even see the Pilot whales too.
    I thought being near the Pacific Ocean it would be hot and sunny. But it’s not that way at all. There are hot and sunny days. But there is a lot of Fog or Mist brought in by the sea. In Florida you don’t get that (editors note – you do, but we didn’t see any).

    Newport beach is on the coast of southern California in Orange County, 14 miles from Disneyland, 20 miles south of Long Beach, 50 miles south of Los Angeles, 64 miles west of Palm Springs and 85 miles north of San Diego. So! I’ts fairly central to me.

    You could take the ‘Catalina Flyer’ and cross to ‘Catalina Island’. The crossing time is 75 minutes and there is only one round trip daily.Departs Newport 9am and departs Catalina 4.30pm at a cost of $44 for the round trip. You can take 2 pieces of hand luggage. No pets. No tools. No carrying of Gas or propane stoves, flammable liquids or materials.
    From what I’ve been told. There is only a small part of the island with houses, shops, hotels etc. No cars or motorbikes. They ride around in Golf Caddies or bicycles. Most of the 20 mile island was bought by one man, who didn’t want it spoiled by building roads and cars etc. When he died, he left it as a State Park on condition it stays as it is. So there’s only a small Cove village and the rest of the island is as it’s always been. One Big Garden.

    The worlds largest movie studio and theme park ‘Universal Studios’ is here in California too. You can take the ‘Landmark Studio Tour’ which takes you behind the scenes of the studios 415 acre lot. Very interesting and exciting too. There are so many places to see and so many things to do. A lifetime would not be enough.

    We went to ‘Frazier Park’ to the ‘Los Padres National Park’. It was uphill all the way and the size of the Fir cones was un-believable. I was just about hanging out of the window for a better look. In fact. I couldn’t look enough. I’ve since found out they are called ‘Bear-Claws’. They are whoppers and a few found their way into our motorhome!!!. Hopefully they will find their way to England. If you know what I mean? You’ll have a ‘Bear-Claw’ to hold and see. The views from the top of the mountain are beautiful. Car’s look like Ants. Ok! Mobile Ants. There are mountain ranges after mountain ranges. Being so high up. It’s a little cool. So! Down the mountain we went. Me looking for at all the Fir cones to be sure I got the biggest ones?

    We also spent a day at ‘Joshua Tree National Park’. It’s very easy to confuse the Joshua Tree with the Yucca or rather the ‘Mohave Yucca’ until I learned which was which. I called them all Yucca’s and wondered where the Joshua Tree’s were? But once I’d learned that the ‘Mohave Yucca’ had longer, wider leaves and fibrous threads curling along leaf margins. The Joshua Tree is a close relative of the Mohave Yucca and in Joshua Tree Park you can see them growing together. That’s how I managed to see the difference.
    In this Park, two deserts come together. The ‘Mohave Desert’ and the ‘Colorado Desert’. There are plants that will live in one desert and not in the other. Which I was very surprised to learn.
    There are also Tarantulas here. I looked for one. But didn’t find one. These spiders are not poisonous to humans. But can give a nasty bite if prevoked. So it’s best just to stand and watch. It’s their size that used to have me running.
    We also saw Jack Rabbits, Kangaroo, Rats, Stinkbugs, Coyotes, Sidewinders (Rattlesnakes), Bobcats, Yucca-night lizards, Golden Eagles, Road Runners (that didn’t go Beep-Beep), and lot’s of different birds too numerous to name.

    The variety of Cactus is amazing! As is their size! They are bigger than me! The Joshua Tree got it’s name from the Biblical figure of Joshua. By the mid-19th century. Morman immigrants had made their way across the Colorado river. Legend has it, that these pioneers named the tree after Joshua, seeing the limbs of the tree outsretched in supplication, guiding the traveller westward. We enjoy this Yucca for it’s grotesque appearance. Which is a surprising sight in the evening landscape. It looks like a lot of people with their hands in the air.
    Joshua Trees don’t have growth rings like you would find in Oak or Pine. But you can divide the height of the Joshua tree by the average growth of ½ inch to get a rough estimate. The tallest Joshua Tree in this park is 40ft high. It is estimated to be about 300 years old. Spring rains may bring clusters of white-green flowers on long stalks at the branch tips. Like all desert blooms. Joshua trees depend on just the perfect conditions, well timed rains and for the Joshua Tree, a crisp winter freeze.
    Researchers believe that below freezing temperatures may damage the growing end of a branch and stimulate flowering, followed by branching. I have noticed some Joshua trees grow like straight stalks. These trees have never bloomed, which is why they are branchless. In addition to ideal weather. The pollination of flowers requires a visit from the Yucca Moth. The Moth collects pollen while laying her eggs inside the flower ovary. As seeds develop and mature, the eggs hatch into larvae which feeds on the seeds. The tree relies on the Moth for pollination and the Moth relies on the tree for a few seeds for her young. That’s a fair exchange to me.
    Joshua trees are also capable of sprouting from roots and branches.Being able to re-produce vegatativly allows a much quicker recovery after damaging flood or fires which may kill the main tree.
    What does a Joshua tree look like? To me it’s a twisted, *****ly, spikey oddity. So ugly, it’s beautiful, and to think? Before I learned about the Joshua tree, I wanted a photo to show my Mum how big the Yucca plant can grow. I’ve learned that the Yucca family is very big.

    Around the National Park were areas of rockpiles. These rockpiles had fantastic shapes and looked sculptured. Geologists believe 100 million years ago ( a bit before my time mind you), Molten liquid heated by continous movement of the Earth’s crust, oozed upwards and cooled while still below the surface.
    These Granite rocks are called Manzagranite. This Manzagranite weathered to spheres after the top soil and rock exposed them. It’s a bit like holding an ice-cube under running water. The cube rounds away at the corners first. What we are left with is some wonderful and crazy shapes. Some are one on top of another. Others look like a mountain of small rocks.
    There is so much to see and learn in these parks. But it also reminds you. It’s a big, wonderful world out there and we don’t know much at all.

    We’re back on the road again and arrive at ‘Palm Springs Desert’. Before we went to the ‘Joshua Tree national Park’, we stopped at the Flying ‘J’s for petrol. While I was inside paying, a man gave John a leaflet, stating if we went on this camp site (editors note – choice of two in the area) for RV’s. We could stay for 3 nights and 4 days plus have $50 to spend on anything we like, from anywhere we want. All we had to do was listen to a 90 minute talk about these sites. John said while we were half-way around Joshua tree park. ‘Do you fancy going to the RV Campsite?’. Ok! Why not? I said. Not for one minute believing we’d get FREE camping and spending money.

    Well! What do you think? We went to the ‘Desert Pool RV Resort’ in ‘Desert Hot Springs’ in ‘Palm Springs’ and handed our leaflet to the reception. We were given plot 132. We had electric hook-up and cable TV. We had fresh clean drinking water and waste water drainage. The next day at 1.30pm, we listened to a 90 minute talk about ‘Western Horizon Campground s’. We were asked to join for a certain amount of money and given a cheque for $50 to cash anywhere. We said we would not join the club yet. Maybe if we came again, we would think about it. That was it. We got what it said we’d get, 3 nights, 4 days and $50.
    There were Hot Mineral Spa’s, 3 altogether and a swimming pool filled with hot Mineral water. Hot showers, 2 laundry rooms, email room, small restauruant and reading room. We really enjoyed our time there and spent New Years Eve there too.

    We wished you all a Happy New Year. But as it’s only 4pm in the afternoon here, we still have 8 hours to go. But by the time I have a glass of wine for England, a glass for Eastern time, a glass for Central time, a glass for Mountain time and then a glass for our New Year? I’d be slightly pickled. We had five Happy New Years and it was fun.

    Then once more, we were back on the road again, and arrived at ‘Quartzsite’. The reason we came here was to get some Solar Panels fitted to our motorhome. ’Discount Solar’ was recommended to us by Jay White (no relation) and we found they were really good (editors note – after we had been to every Solar company there).
    We had the Solar Panels, wiring and Controller fitted by them at a very reasonable price ( editors note - less than John could have done it himself in England or Spain).
    We walked around ‘Quartzsite’ and found it to be a very friendly place. There is one main street and on both sides of this main street were Market stalls. At the end of the day. The stall holders covered their goods or closed their tents and left it until the next day. Try doing that in England and all you’ll find next day is a note saying ‘Thanks’.
    But to be fair. Most of the market traders are ‘Snow-Bears’. They come to warmer places for the winter. So they are only here for 6 months and as everybody seems to know everybody else. They all watch out for each other, so the stalls are safe. You could not do that in any town in the UK.
    We saw lot’s of Quartz and semi-precious stones. But like most places, their prices were high. We watched Indian Natives making bead-necklaces and other beadwork and working on Buffalo skulls, dream-catchers and dream-boxes. It’s all very interesting.
    We got back on the road again. Left California and drove to ‘Saguaro National Park’ in Arizona and yes! We’ve found an hour. It must be one we lost earlier.
    ‘Saguaro’ is another cactus. But not just any old cactus. In the old Western’s (movies) on TV you’d see them in the desert. They look as if their arms are up in the air in surrender. This is the only State that we’ve seen them in.
    Here in Arizona there are thousands of them. Which is very surprising as the ‘Saguaro’ begins it’s life as a shiny black seed no bigger than a pinhead. But what it lacks in size, it more than makes up in number. One ‘Saguaro’ produces tens of thousands of seeds in a year, and as many as 40 million in a lifetime of 175 to 200 years. From the start, the odd’s against survival are great. Out of all these seeds that a ‘Saguaro’ produces in it’s life. Few will survive to adulthood. Seeds and young Saguaro’s have the best chance for survival if they are cared for by nurse trees such as ‘Palo Verde’ and ‘Mesquite’, shady trees. ‘Saguaro’ seedlings that grow under these sheltering trees or plants are shaded from the desert’s intense sunlight, blanketed from winter cold and hidden from rodents, birds and other animals that eat them.
    Rocks provide similar protection for young Saguaro’s. ‘Saguaro’ do best on gentle sloping outwash plains at the foot of desert mountains. A Saguaro’s growth is extremely slow. Growth occurs in spurts, with most of it taking place in the summer rainy season eacch year. By the end of a year, the ‘Saguaro’ seedling may measure ¼ inch. After 15 years the ‘Saguaro’ may be barley a foot tall. At about 30 years, ‘Saguaro’ begin to flower and produce fruit. By 50 years, the ‘Saguaro’ can be as tall as 7 feet. After 75 years in may sprout it’s first branches or arms. The branches start out as *****ly balls. Tahen extend out and upwards. By 100 years, the ‘Saguaro’ may have reached 25 feet. Saguaro’s that live 150 years or more obtain the grandest size. Towering as high as 50 feet and weighing 8 tons, sometimes more.
    Their huge bulk is supported by a strong but flexible cyclinder-shaped framework of long woody ribs. Saguaro’s may die of old age, but they also die of other causes. Animals eat the seeds and seedlings.Lightning and winds kill large Saguaro’s. Severe droughts can weaken and kill all ages. The Saguaro is vulnerable during every stage of it’s life. So now, when I look at the Saguaro’s. I think, WOW! That’s older than me. Every one is different.

    For centuries, the people of the ‘Senaron Desert’ have used natural products of the Saguaro. In summer the Saguaro produces a nourishing bounty of juicy fig-like fruits. Native Tohono O’Odham Indians (editors note – known as the Papago) harvested them by knocking them off the tall cacti with long poles. From the fresh fruit they made Jam, Syrup and Wine. The wine was for their religious ceromonies. So important was the fruit to the Tohono O’Odham, that the seasons of the harvest marked the beginning of their New Year.

    It’s amazing to think that at one time, I saw a cactus and that was all I saw! A cactus! But now, I see a cactus and I want to know what family it is from? How it grows and where? How long is it’s life span etc, and at the moment we are in the ‘Sonoran Desert’ where there are 50 types of cacti. At the moment, I can only see the ‘Hedgehog Cactus’, ‘Barrel Cactus’, ‘Teddy Bear Cholla’ and the ‘Fish-hook Cactus’, and believe me, you don’t want to argue with that one. Oh! And there’s the ‘*****ly Pear’. I can see some of the larger ‘Saguaros’ have holes in them. That’s where the ‘Gila Woodpecker’ or the ‘Gilded Flicker Bird’ live. Some Saguaro’s are home to the ‘Cocha Mouse’ and at this time of the year the ‘Diamond-Backed Rattlesnake’ is around more looking for those mice. The ‘Desert Tortoise’ and the ‘Gila Monster’are enjoying the warm but cool days and the ‘Jack Rabbits’ are looking for food. They have awfully long ears. I’m sure if they jump around too much, they’d whip themselves to death. The Ranger told us they radiate heat from it’s over-sized ears.Birds and bees also make homes in the Saguaro, as in summer in can be 20F cooler inside the cactus and in winter 20F warmer. It makes me realise that mother nature does know best.

    We got back on the road again. I’m hanging out of the window looking at all the different shapes and sizes of the hundreds of Saguaro’s around us and as quickly as they appeared, they disappeared. Then we’d see the odd one here and there but far and few.
    We arrived at ‘El Paso’. We’d driven from Arizona through a small corner of New Mexico and into ‘El Paso’ in Texas.
    We parked up the motorhome and paid 35 cents each to walk over the bridge and into ‘Mexico’. It was cheaper walking back across the bridge. It only cost 30 cents.
    I’m sure ‘Mexico’ has some beautiful places and lovely things. But where we crossed from ‘El Paso’ it was shabby. There were begger’s on most of the streets. Elderly people begging, mother’s pushing their children to ask for money. It was dirty and run-down and I did not want to stay. You are watching where you put your feet as well as whose is around you. Needless to say. You wear a money-belt and your handbag is just for show. You learn in the desert to watch where you put your feet. But you don’t expect to do it in the street. I was not impressed with this little part of Mexico. But I suppose in another part, it could be the opposite. We didn’t stay long. When you don’t feel safe? You get out! Follow you Gut-instinct. You’ll never go far wrong.

    We travelled through Texas, covering 700 miles in two days. We saw long-horned Cows, Buffalo, Zebra and Deer all roaming free. They all looked great, but I did look twice at the Zebra. There were five of them and they looked out of place. The Buffalo was a small herd with a few baby ones, but they all looked so proud. The Deer run like hell and the long-horned cattle couldn’t give a damn. We saw Black Eagles nearly every day. They are delightful to watch and the desert goes on for miles and miles. I usually fall asleep watching for new things in the desert and wake up to? More desert.

    Unless you see for yourself the endless desert? It’s hard to believe it’s size. We’ve covered 900 miles and 98% of that was desert. No clouds and lots of sunshine and one cannot sunabathe. Well! You can! But it’s not safe. With Rattlesnakes, Spiders and hundreds of creep crawlies, who wants to sunbathe? I’d rather see ‘The Alamo’ the most famous spot in Texas. Where 189 defenders fell on 6th of March 1836 after repeated attacks by the Mexican General Santa Anna’s army. ‘Mission San Antonio de Valero’ (The Alamo) was established in 1718 as the cities first Mission. The highly photographed Chapel and the long Barracks are all that remain. But the ‘Alamo Village Movie Location’, the first movie location built in Texas is at the ‘Virginia Station RV Ranch’. The only replica of the 1836 Alamo Mission and fortress in the world. It was built for John Wayne’s epic movie ‘The Alamo’.
    The adobe Mission and town took almost two years to complete. Construction started in September 1957 and filming began in August 1959. It cost around $12 million and was the largest budget spent on making a film in the United States up to that time.
    The Alamo and town was built during the early 1800’s. Alamo village is a complete town with Jail, Saloon, General stores, Stables, Church, Bank and Blacksmiths shop. Additional construction allows the one of a kind facility to serve movie production companies as a Fort, Hacienda, Frontier town and a deserted Mexican village.
    It is stocked with Stagecoaches, Wagons, Buggies, Cannons, Surries, props and set dressings. Since the Alamo. More than a hundred major movies, TV shows, documentaries, commercials and Music Videos have been filmed there, and it’s still used today. I know! I can hear you all saying ‘that’s when they built things to last’. Yes! I agree with you.
    Did you know that George Bush Snr and Jnr are Texans? In fact, there is a Museum at the ‘George Bush Presidential Library’.
    Then there is ‘Eisenhower State Park’ on the shores of ‘Lake Tacoma’ in the heart of Cross Timbers region of the Northeast Texas.
    I also found out why the ‘Rio Grande River’ is not the raging river I expected. Honestly! When we walked over the Border bridge into Mexico. I expected to see a beautiful raging river in full flow. Something like the Mississippi river. But! No! All there was , was a little weedy stream. I was very disappointed. I always saw the ‘Rio Grande’ as a great, rolling river of life. Not some little stream. But now I have learned of the Rio Grande Valley and Texas Border water treaty of 1944 with Mexico, to build three dams along the ‘Rio Grande River’. Construciton of the $35 million ‘Falcon Dam’ began in December 1950 and was completed in April 1954.
    The ‘Falcon Dam’ and reservoir covers 87,000 acres of land. The dam also offers tourists an additional route into Mexico. The reservoir known as ‘Falcon Lake’ is a fishermans delight, and is well know for it’s excellent fishing spots for Crappie, Catfish, Stripper and Black & White Bass. You can also see the White Pelicans there too..
    I love the Pelicans (editors note – just in case you hadn’t noticed?). They are so big and clumsy looking, that are beautiful and very graceful over the sea. Until suddenly, they decide to dive in. It’s straight in, no hanging about, and not feet first either. It’s head down and spear the devils. Yes! They are first class fisher-catchers. They get in five seconds what a fishermen waits all year for? A decent size fish.

    Right! We’re back on the road again. We’re going through Louisianna, which is very French. Just looking at the place names alone tells you that. With Lafayette, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, to name just a few.
    It’a very beautiful State. Different again from Texas. Here there are no sign of desert. It has lush green valleys, rolling hills and a very peaceful feel to it. Then comes the challenge. You have to drive your motorhome through Cypress swamps. Dodging Snakes and Alligators, washed down in the clear sandy stream and then there are more vast swamps, hill country and Bayou’s, gorgeous lakes and lunch-time! Everything stops for tea!
    Louisianna has vast prairies that melt into marsh-land and then wetlands and then swamps. The great Mississippi River road corridor between New Orleans and Baton Rouge is a delight to see.
    We drove over the ‘Atchafalya’ swamp between Baton Rouge and Lafayette and it was magic. . At sunset, it is out of this world, as the trees are black against the evening sky and the water reflects the sunset. It’s Magic!
    Gumbo is sold everywhere. It’s a pot full of shell-fish, vegatables and anything they can lay their hands on. There are many different kinds of Gumbo. From ‘Richmans Gumbo’, to ‘Poormans Gumbo’. It’s basically shell-fish cooked with the vegatables that are in season. What else can one want?
    There are miles and miles of Cotton fields, which have now been picked. All that’s left is bits of cotton at the edge of the fields. We saw the high bales of cotton just waiting to be moved to the mills. As usual? We’re singing ‘In those old Cotton fields back home’. Liousianna has five regions. Sportsmans Paradise is North Liousianna, Crossroads is Central, Cajun Country is South, Plantation Country is is South Central and greater New Orleans is Southeast.
    The Sportsmans Paradise covers Fishing, Boating, Camping, Bike riding, Canoes, Kayaking. The Crossroads is Pine forests, Moss-draped swamp-lands, the Red River and Bayous. Here there is Bike riding, Horse riding, Fishing and gentle sports, not forgetting the Gulf. Then the Cajun country. Because of religious differences, the Cajuns were driven out of France and Canada of the time before making their home here on the breathtaking Bayous. Perhaps it was the struggle that allowed them to turn soup into Gumbo, the washboard into a musical instrument and swamps into Paradise. The home of Sea-food platters, dirty rice and corn-cakes. In the swamps, you see Snowy Egrets, Blue Herons, and maybe an Alligator or two.
    The Plantation country is Plantation homes. Each in a spell-binding setting with unique stories attached.

    Then there is the ‘Festival of Bonfires’. Tell me more? I will! Since 1880, bonfires have been built along the Mississippi River Levee at Christmas time. Some say it’s to guide Papa Noel or Santa Claus, others say it’s to guide you to midnight mass.
    I say it’s to bake Potatoes and Chestnuts and to keep warm while you eat them! I still think mines best?

    There are Alligator farms where you can watch the eggs hatch and even hold an egg while it hatches. Then you can help feed the young Alligators, or toss a Kid or two to the older Alligators (only joking – honest). But you can buy Alligators feet or a Nail on a key-ring or even necklaces. I think I’ll start a new fashion. Alligator scarves. At least it will keep the cold out.

    Then there are the River-boat tours, Airboat swamp torus and the Paddle-wheel boat tour. The greater New Orleans is in the Southeast corner of Liousianna, at the toe of the Pirates Boot. The French Quarter is the sound of the lone Trumpeter serenading Old Man River in the fog. It’s the blast of the Steamboat whistle and the reason Jazz was born in New Orleans. There are tales of Vampires and Ghosts, and beyond Bourbon street and the Quarter is the artsy side, home to the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, the largest collection in the World.

    We drove over to New Orleans on the ‘Causeway Bridge’. The largest expansion bridge in the World at 24 miles and leads to Piney woods on the north shore. It only cost $9. It was amazing. We were crossing ‘Lake Pontchartrain’ by motorhome. It felt endless, and it looked more like a Sea or an Ocean. But! No! They said it was a lake. WOW! We saw some Brown Pelicans trying to beat us to the other side.

    We drove to the Interstate 10. We saw the Great Mississippi River once again and we saw hope and a land that’s been battered and beaten by nature. Large housing estates are deserted, with only the Police driving around it to stop looting. Cars were on top of cars. There were cars in the river. All jumbled together. Homes with no Roofs, no Windows, Clothing, Houshold goods were scattered all around. Childrens toys, clothing for dolls are hanging in trees, papers are scattered for miles. Shops are empty. With no glass in the windows, not even boarded up because theres nothing left inside. In big car parks there are Motorhomes, Caravans, Trailers and Portable Toilets. These are home for a few. The car park looks like a battlefield. Broken glass, Posters, Bill-boards, Furniture, Smashed cars and in the middle of all this, is a dozen families trying to pick up the pieces. One house was literally picked up and dropped back on it’s foundations and smashed to bits. Trees have snapped in half, literally snapped in two. That is some force.

    We decided to get out as quickly as we could. We don’t want to be seen as sight-seeing. There are quite a few Temporary housing places now and the people of New Orleans are busy getting on with their lives as best they can. But it makes you feel very humble. It makes you feel sad for their loss. But the strange things is? They know it could happen again, yet they stay there! Let’s hope lightening doesn’t strike twice.

    We have heard that a lot of people are not going back to live in New Orleans. But buildings are going up, factories are being re-built and people will go where the jobs are. Let’s hope the Levee’s never let them down again. Because New Orleans was an exciting and thrilling place. Hopefully? It will be again!

    We’re on the road to Mississippi and still we see roofs and roof-tiles mssing. Trees up-rooted and thrown or simply snapped in half.
    We’ve seen Beaver, Racoons, Skunks, Polecats, Muskrats that have been run over or hit by Trucks, Cars or Motohomes. It makes you wonder if they were looking for new lodgings.
    We arrive in Mississippi, which also has five regions. The Hill region, Delta region, Capitol River region, Pine region and Coastal region.

    The most significant Landmark in the Hill region is Tupelo. The birthplace of Elvis Presley in a two-room house. Born on 8th January 1935. You can visit the house, visit the Museum, Memorial Chapel, Gift shop and Elvis Presley Park where you’ll see the bronze statue of Elvis when he was 13 years old..
    Tupelo also has a Buffalo Park. To think? These beautiful animals roamed in huge herds across vast prairies and now we’re lucky if we see herds of 250. It’s a shame, because they look so bold and beautiful.

    The Delta region is famous for McArty Pottery. B.B. King was born in the tiny community of Itta Bena, Mississippi on 16th September 1925. His real anme is Riley B. King. He went from the Cotton fields of the Delta to become ‘The King of the Blues’. B.B. King has won 13 Grammy’s and numerous lifetime achievement awards.
    Also actor Morgan Freeman lived with his Grand-parents in Charleston.
    Jim Henson, the name didn’t ring any bells for me until one mentioned ‘The Muppet Show’ and ‘Sesame Street’. Jim Henson created ‘Kermit the Frog’. Now the bells are ringing.

    In the Capitol River region, Faith Hill was born and Randy Norwood. Here in America they are very famous. But in England, I’d never heard of them or the Author Greg Iles. But since being here, I’ve read his books and enjoyed them.

    Everywhere we go we see Battlefield Museums and loads of Civil War Battle sites. Many of the fiercest battles were fought on Mississippi soil.

    The Pine region, where where Emmy winning actress Sela ward was born also Oprah Winfrey who was born in Kosciusko. They say she began here broadcasting career reading aloud and performing recitations at the age of three, and in 1985 she began hosting her own show ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’.
    The father of Country music Jimmy Rodgers was born in Pine Springs. He was called the American Blues Yodeller for obvious reasons. He died of Tubercolosis at the age of 35 years old.
    Mary Stuart was born in Philadelphia. As I’ve already said, we don’t know them in England. But over here? They are Famous.

    Then there is the Coastal region where you find Ship Island excursions, Fishing trips, Sight-seeing tours, Casinos, Swimming in the Gulf of Mexico. But there is also Hurricane damage here too. Nowhere near as bad as New Orleans and time will heal the scars.

    We cross another State line and we are into Alabama. Where you can enjoy every adventure imaginable. From Hiking, Camping, Cycling, Canoeing, Kayaking to Horse-back Riding, Fishing, Hunting, Scaling Boulders and Rapelling down Canyons.
    With two thirds of Alalbama covered in forest and rivers, it’s beautiful. The beaches have white sand and there are so many different kinds of birds here. There are Bald Eagles, Humming Birds, Brown, Grey and White Pelicans. I think the Humming birds and the Pelicans are my favourite birds. John likes the Black Eagles.

    The Appalachian mountains are in the north and there are lakes all over Alabama. The US Space & Rocket centre is in Hunsville and the Cathedral Caverns are near Grant.
    In Tuscumbia there is a spectacular 40 minute show at Spring Park which features a magnificent water display, with playful streams shooting as high as 150 feet into the air from more than four dozen jets. All choreographed to entertaining lights and music. Not quite as big as the one in ‘Las Vegas’, but has me spellbound. I’ll watch them for hours. At Childersburg is the ‘Desoto Caverns Park’ with a great Cathedral room. It’s larger than a Football field and higher than a 12 storey building (editors note – that’s BIG). What a sight, and before you know it?

    We’ve crossed the State line back into Florida. The sun is shining, we’ve found another hour and we’re lucky to be here.
    We had one lorry crossed out in front of us when he was joining the Highway, causing us to take evasive action by braking hard and changing lanes. The next day, one of the front tyres blew out, literally. That was scary! Because all you can do is ride it out. No point in hiding under the bed. When you gotta go? Look for a way out.
    It was real scary because it’s happening and you have no control of it. That’s the scary part (editors note – good job John was driving then?).
    A man stopped and helped us, and your faith in mankind is renewed. We saw another motorhome broken down and stopped to help. They didn’t need any. They had already called out the breakdown services. We’ll always stop when people need help. But when someone does it for you? That’s nice!

    We’re back in Florida. What I love about Florida is the many Springs. Florida has 700 crystal clear Springs. Mystical and mysterious. Emerging from the depths of the earth. These Springs have symbolised adventure, beauty, wonder and healing. Since the earliest days of European exporation. Ponce de Leon came to these shores in search of the ‘Fountains of Youth’. While these Springs don’t give you immortality, you sure feel like you are in Heaven when you soak in them. They generally maintain a constant 70-72 F all year round.
    Manatees, Alligators, Loggerhead Turtles and great Blue Herons rub shoulders near the surface and a wide army of fish cruise the deeps.
    Many of the larger Springs are now protected as State Parks. All the uproar underground boils down to Geology. Florida rests on a bed of Limestone that, over long periods of time, has been eroded by seeping groundwater. More water collects in these lakes and eventually forces it’s way back above ground. In North Central Florida, the Limestone is closest to the surface. Therefore, more Springs.

    Many of the largest Springs feed into the Suwannee river. The mighty Suwannee twists and turns for 207 miles through Florida before emerging into the Gulf of Mexico.
    I found it fascinating to learn these things. Another thing I love to see and that’s the Wild Turkey!. I’m still tryin to grab one! I haven’t managed so far, but there’s still time yet! Usually you’ll see Otters, Turtles, Deer, Possums and Wild Turkeys along the Suwannee river. So I’ll just hang around in a rubber-ring or inner-tube for a while. Just don’t ask what’s for Tea?

    America loves festivals. Anything is considered for a festival. In Florida they have them for Swamp Cabbage, Mullet, Frogs-legs, Kumquats, Worms, Rattle-snakes, Manatees, even swamp creatures are all good excuses for Annual celebrations.
    But the Americans Family ‘Mardi Gras’ (I picked up a leaflet in Mobile Bay, Alabama that explains about it) is a celebration centuries old. It goes back to Medieval tradition of feasting just before the arrival of Lent, a period of fasting and austerity in the Christian calendar. Since Lent always starts on Ash Wednesday (40 days before Easter Sunday) any last minute fasting would have to be done the day before. This was called ‘Fat Tuesday’ or in French ‘Mardi Gras’. So this year it’s on 28th of February for Feasting. I’m not too keen on the 40 days of fasting but I wouldn’t mind the Feasting. The Mardi Gras season begins with nightly parades 12 days prior to Fat Tuesday. Well! Now we know what it is? I’ll give it a miss!

    Part Four and definitely the LAST Part follows:-
     
  4. johnsandywhite

    johnsandywhite Read Only Funster

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    :RollEyes: Part Four of the USA Tour:-


    On the East Coast of Florida (which is called the Space Coast too). During the summer months you can see Loggerhead. Green Sea and Leatherback Turtles resting on the beach, and about 60 days later, watch the fragile little newborns scurrying for survival to the Atlantic Ocean. It is the second largest sea turtle nesting site in the World. It’s a good job it isn’t summer, because I couldn’t watch those newborns struggle. I’d take them home for safety. Mind you! I wouldn’t be taking these ones home. They are far too big and only eat sea grass, and I certainly won’t be taking any Alligators home. Florida is home to 1.5 million Alligators.Never get closer than 15 feet to an Alligator. If it hisses or opens it’s mouth in defence? You should back away even further. Or be like me? Run, and don’t look back!
    Now on the Space Coast is ‘The Kennedy Space Centre and Visitor Complex’ which is huge. I mentioned we’d seen it earlier but decided to wait until we got back to explain further. So! Here it is!
    Even taking the fast track will take the greater part of a day. At the ‘Astronaut Hall of Fame’ is the flight simulator. It is possible to experience first hand the thrill and the pull of flight.
    You can also experience the lighter-than-air ease of walking on the Moon or you can try the simulation of a Rover ride over the surface of Mars. The 3-D technology makes it impossible not to feel like a visitior to the Space Station that circles 220 miles above the Earth.
    Tours of Kennedy Space Centre take you deep into NASA’s working launch facilities. At the Apollo/Saturn V Centre you’ll walk beneath the massive 363 foot Saturn V rocket built for the Apollo moon program.
    The NASA Up-Close Tour which is led by a trained Space expert gives an inside view of the Space program from Launch to Lift-off. The tour includes close up views of Space Shuttle launch pads, the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), Massive Crawler Transporters, which move the Shuttle from the VAB to it’s launch pad and Shuttle landing runway. You can even have Lunch with an Astronaut and get an autographed Souvenir if you’re there at 12.30pm. You can also touch an actual Moon rock and tour a replica of the Space Shuttle. It’s a must visit for people interested in Space Travel.
    But one of my favourites is ‘Sea-World Adventure Park’. I must admit I’m very curious about this world beneath our world. I love to watch the Dolphins, walk with the Sting Rays and see the Penguins, the Seals, Turtles, Whales and Sharks and the colours of the fish. At Sea-World they have all this and more.

    Orlando has many Theme parks. Theres ‘Jungle Adventure’, ‘Universal Resort’, we know it as Universal Studios. It’s huge! You would need a week just to get round it all, it’s so big. They even have their own ‘City Walk’ which has Restuaraunts, Concert Venues, Shops, Cinemas, Vendors and street performers, plus 3 huge Hotels, each with it’s own theme. Portofino Bay Hotel for the sweet life, Hard Rock Hotel for the Rock ‘n’ Roll superstars, or the Royal Pacific Hotel for the swaying Palm trees.

    You can lose yourself (which isn’t hard for me) in Jurassic Park, The Lost Continent or the The Terminator and many more. It’s our turn to be stars for the day. I’d probably end up in Jaws and scare myself silly and I can do that without any help, thank you!
    Then there’s Disney. There is Disney World in California and there is one here in Orlando. Oh! Boy! What a place! There are seven theme parks at this Disney World and every one of them is huge. There is the ‘Magic Kingdom’ which has ‘Main street’, ‘Adventureland’, ‘Frontierland’, ‘Liberty Square’, ‘Fantasyland’, ‘Micky’s Toontown Fair’ and ‘Tomorrowland’. Then there is Epcot which has ‘Futureworld’, ‘World Showcase’, ‘Disney-MGM Studios’, ‘Disney’s Animal Kingdom’ which has ‘Africa’, ‘Discovery Island’, ‘Camp Minnie-Micky’, ‘Oasis’, ‘Dinaland USA’, ‘Asia’, and Rafikis ‘Planet Watch’, ‘Typhoon Lagoon’, ‘Blizzard Beach’ and ‘Downtown Disney’ which has Gift shops, Diners, Cafes, Concerts. Everything you can think of. It’s incredible. Never mind the Kids will enjoy it! We young at heart want to have a go as well!
    So now we know why Amercia is so big. It has to be! To fit all these Theme Parks in and the Golf courses too. America is very big on Golf. Almost everywhere you look there is a Golf course.

    We’ve covered 7,500 miles in America. Learned a lot! Seen a lot, and there’s still a lot to learn and a lots more left to see! Maybe another time? THE END

    Author: Sandy the intrepid Nagivator and Chief Gofer.

    Editor: John the Dashing and Daring Driver, Conductor and General Dogsbody.

    :RollEyes: Hope we didn't bore you too much? :Frown:

    :Cool: I will publish the 3000 photos on the next installment. Or when I get the time? :Laughing:
     
  5. coolasluck

    coolasluck Read Only Funster

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    Hi sandy thanks for your postings have thoroughly enjoyed reading them.
    I went to America about 12 years ago with a freind initially and then spent 4 weeks on my own,i we went to a lot of the places you have been to,but i was on a mountain bike.Boy was it tough with all the panniers i had and a back pack,i was really fit on my return.Loved the u.s.a and would like to do what you have been doing,but we are not sure if just to tour in a car for 3 months or rent a motorhome.We are aiming to live our lives fulltiming in 5 years,so has been really interesting reading these full timing forums postings.many thanks
    kevin:thumb:
     
  6. lebesset

    lebesset Read Only Funster

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    lack the concentration to read your posts but sure you had a great time

    we did 27,000 miles on our voyage of exploration and enjoyed all of it except the dead mileage in the middle where we didn't feel we got enough bang for our buck , as our colonial cousins say
     
  7. Dreamchaserrv

    Dreamchaserrv Read Only Funster

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    Hi John and Sandy, will enjoy reading parts 2,3,4 tomorrow. Back at base in Cheshire waiting for new helicopter to arrive. can't quite work out what the xxxxxx currency is.
    Regards Tom.:BigGrin:
     
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