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Day Trip To China Ranch Date Farm

Bonnie Springs, Red Rock

sunny 40 °F

A friend of mine from Thailand is back in Las Vegas and we had lunch together last week. Bill has changed his diet because of some health issues and has gone vegan. While we were talking he mentioned dates. I asked him if he had ever been to China Ranch Date Farm out by Pahrump. He had not but would like to see it. The weather in Feb. 2019 Las Vegas has been unusual for us. The 'Pineapple Express' has been bashing Calif. for the last few weeks. Almost daily rain in SoCal, snow in the Sierras. Vegas also received more rain than normal and we even got snow on several days. We decided to go Feb. 22nd as it was clear skies and right after snow on our mountains. We met at the Silverton Hotel parking lot and we took my Odyssey. West on Blue Diamond Rd or NV 160. First stop was Bonnie Springs Ranch on State Route 159. Bonnie Springs has just been sold and approved for redevelopment. The plan is for around 20 luxury homes and an event center. The motel, Old West show, petting zoo, train rides, will be history so many locals are coming up to see it before it closes. Bill cannot walk very far due to illness but we got some nice photos of the ranch with snow on it.
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Over to Red Rock Conservation Area for some additional photos. More traffic, people and less snow so we did not stay at Red Rock Canyon very long. I drove back to NV 160 and headed for Pahrump.
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The turn off for China Ranch is Tecopa Springs (Old Spanish Trail) before you get to Pahrump. There is now a stop light as the road is under construction. An OK road until the turn off to Furnace Creek Rd. It turns to dirt and is quite steep the last mile before dropping into the ranch area. The China Ranch Creek keeps the palm tress alive in the Mojave Desert. First stop was the bathroom, then the gift shop. Bill bought plenty of dates and I got some date bread for my neighbor Jean. We walked among date palms but not many very showing dates this early. I think most of the dates ripen in the spring, summer. I took all the photos I wanted and then it was time to head home. China Ranch is an easy day trip even with stopping at Bonnie Springs. Bill voted not to eat at any restaurant on the way home as he is really trying to control his diet. Hopefully the vegan diet will help him feel better and back to optimum health. Our day trip was over by 4 pm.
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Posted by vegasmike6 18:23 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta 2017

White Sands NM, VLA, Petrified Forest NP.

sunny 80 °F

The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta has been on my bucket list for years and this was the year to see it. I called my friend Gregg in Santa Fe and made sure he was going to be there on Wed. the 11th. I got on booking.com and looked for rooms for the 10th. I found one at Rodeway Inn for $45. I thought because of the Balloon Fiesta everything would be booked or expensive. Not true. Tuesday Oct. 10th I got up early and hit the road. I stopped in Kingman AZ for fuel. AZ has lower taxes than Vegas is about .20 a gallon cheaper. I had apples, bananas, granola bars, pop tarts with me and did not plan on stopping for a meal until I got to Albuquerque. I got into town around 5 pm and followed my GPS to the Rodeway Inn. The first room was not acceptable due to the smoke detector chirping plus the phone did not work. I walked back to the office and they put me in 205. Much better. Less noise from the I-40 freeway and everything worked. I drove to a nearby Wendy's for dinner, back to the room, exercise, TV, read and lights out about 10 pm. I was up at 5:30 am and down to the BF room. They have a waffle maker, hot & cold cereal, yogurt, fruit. I had a waffle but made a mistake. I did not use the Pam and the waffle was difficult to extract in one piece. Back to the room, pack and off about 6 am. I followed directions to the balloon park, paid the $15 to park, $10 to enter the balloon grounds. I spent a few hours taking photos of the balloons being inflated and taking off. It was a perfect day: sunny, light wind and would warm up nicely later on. I got plenty of shots I was happy with and by 9:30 am I was ready to leave. Gassed up by the Sandia Casino and headed for Santa Fe. The gas station off exit 234, Tramway Blvd. is a good place to see the balloons once there are airborne. You have an unobstructed view of the entire balloon park and it is free!
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I followed my GPS to Gregg's house, called and told him I was outside. He was at the door and I came in to say hello to his wife Christine, daughter Hope, and granddaughter Lilly. We all chatted a bit and then we decided to drive up to the nearby ski resort for some fall foliage shots. Perfect day. Warm, blue skies and not many other leaf peepers out. We got some good photos, took a hike to loosen up the legs and back down the hill to the main plaza area.
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Parking is always a challenge in Santa Fe, but Gregg knew the best spot to look and we got lucky. I used my credit card as we did not have enough quarters for 2 hours. We walked the Cathedral, oldest church, shopping area then drove over to the Capitol. There is plenty of art displayed inside and worth walking around IMO. Of course, NM artists are displayed throughout. Gregg does not have any of his photos in the Capital but a few of his are displayed at the Governor's Mansion.
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We stopped so Gregg could pick up a pizza plus Walmart so I could buy a few things. Christine overdid the gardening and was not up to fixing dinner. She did make a salad for everyone and they had pizza while I had pasta. We chatted until about 10 pm and time for bed. I thought I was going to sleep in my van as all the bedrooms are being used. But, Gregg offered the couch and I accepted. I was up at 7 am, got dressed and waited until everyone else got up. They had eggs but I had my oatmeal in the van and fixed that. I said goodbye around 9 am and headed for Albuquerque. I had planned and leaving at 7 am and taking some photos from the Sandia Casino area. It is on a hill and overlooks the balloon park. But the balloons were all on the ground by the time I was at the casino. Gregg had told me that the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History was worth a visit so I decided to see that. $10 for seniors and I spent the next few hours walking the museum. There are replicas of 'the gadget', Little Boy' 'Fat Man, and other early weapons developed at the White Sands Missile Range. After enough walking and photos, I left and drove to a Wendy's for lunch.
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I took my time and then headed over to the Rodeway Inn. I had booked another night when I was there on the 10th. The room they had for me was not cleaned so I walked back to the office and told them. They gave me a suite with 2 beds, kitchen, a much nicer room. Cleaned up, exercise, then I drove to the balloon park again. I saw a lady waving a sign for $5 parking as I approached the balloon park and pulled in. Paid and started walking. A couple with their kids were walking with their chairs so I asked them if they were going for the 'night glow'. They were and had been there many times. I just followed them until we got to the entrance, paid my $10 and started taking photos. I found out the balloons were not going to launch, just turn on the burners to inflate their balloons. After about 2 hours of walking, I decided I had enough decent shots of the 'special shapes glowdeo' and walked to my van. I fought the heavy traffic getting out of the area and back to my room. Shower, TV, read, bed.
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I was up at 7 am and down to the BF room. I had learned my lesson and used the Pam this time on the waffle maker. Clean up, pack and on the road. My goal was Alamogordo where I had booked a room at the Classic Inn. Gregg had told me about the National Radio Astronomy Observatory or the Very Large Array (VLA) West of Socorro. It was out of the way but I had the time and decided to drive over. There is a small charge but you don't really have to pay. Park, walk through the entrance and outside. There is a self-guided tour that explains the VLA as you walk to the nearest radio telescope. After getting all the photos I wanted, I headed back to Socorro.
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Gassed up and headed for Alamogordo via Carrizozo. I stopped at the Valley of Fires to pick up some lava rocks. My neighbor Jean likes different rocks for her backyard and knew she would appreciate some black lava.
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My GPS took me right to the Classic Inn where I had booked a room. It was very basic but acceptable. As long as it has a bed, bathroom, TV I am OK with that. I moved my stuff in, did my exercises and headed for the nearest Wendy's for dinner. Back to my room, some TV, shower, lights out. I was up at 7 am and decided to have my oatmeal in my room. The room has a microwave and I fixed my BF. Cleaned up and headed for White Sands National Monument (WSNM). I was there before the VC opened but did not have to wait very long. Into the VC I saw that the movie would start in 5 minutes. It is a nice introduction to WSNM and worth your time IMO. My Senior Pass got me into Monument for free and I started driving the loop. First stop was Dunes and decided to change into shorts. It was going to be in the high 80s (30c) and was not going to need long pants. I took the Dunes hike and got some nice photos. Drove to the end of the loop and saw some kids sliding down the dunes. WSNM is the largest gypsum dunes in the world and a very special place. After enough photos, I headed for the exit. I decided to stop at the boardwalk and walk that before leaving. I heard two guys chatting in Japanese and said I said 'konnichiwa' to them. That got them to stop and we had a very nice conversation. Both were studying at UCLA and spoke very good English. I told them about my trip to Japan last April as we walked the boardwalk. It was a good encounter for me and I think them as well. Of course we discussed the tragic shooting in Las Vegas, Trump and living in the US vs Japan. We said goodbye and I headed back to the VC. I bought a WSNM water bottle, hit the bathroom and headed for my room.
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I had a PB&J sandwich, some fruit and headed to the NM Museum of Space History. It is the second most popular sightseeing in Alamogordo after WSNM. $6 for seniors and I walked the museum both inside and out. I did not take many photos as it was not that interesting. I think families with small children will enjoy it but not sure I would recommend it to anyone else. I filled my tank and then stopped at a neighborhood Walmart for some fruit on the way to my room. I did my exercises, shower then watched some college football. At 7 pm I drove back to Wendy's for dinner, room. TV, read, bed.
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I was up at 6 am, packed and started the long drive back. I decided to go back via Socorro to Springerville to Holbrooke. I had my apples, banana pop tarts on my back. I stopped at the Petrified Forest NP to walk a bit and take a few photos. I had been there with Chris a few years ago but thought it was worth stopping again. Back on 180 to Holbrook then onto I-40.
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I have seen the signs for the Geronimo Gift Shop on the way to NM and decided to stop. They claim they have the largest petrified log in the world. I got a photo of it just in case it is true! Took a look at their gift shop and was on my way in 10 minutes. I stopped in Williams for fuel and made it to Vegas about 7 pm. A long day behind the wheel but manageable. My trip to NM was over.
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Posted by vegasmike6 16:35 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Visiting the Route 91 Harvest Festival Memorials

sunny 80 °F

I woke up Monday morning, Oct. 2nd to find out there had been a mass shooting on the Strip while I slept. The news went around the world that day and I started getting some e-mails from friends in foreign countries to see if I was OK. I decided to go out the memorial that grieving family, friends and sympathetic strangers had started on the Strip. I went Thursday morning and quickly found out it was going to be difficult to find free parking anywhere near the memorial set up on the median on LVBS and Reno Ave. I finally decided to park at the Harley Davidson Store across from the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign. It was a beautiful day, clear skies, temps in the mid 80s, (27c) no wind. It was about a mile hike to the Reno Ave. memorial. I took some of Mandalay Bay Hotel where the shooter broke out two windows and fired on the crowd enjoying the Route 91 Harvest Festival Sunday night.
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Once at the memorial, I saw several TV crews interviewing people about the mass shooting and their reactions, etc. I was approached by a Billy Graham volunteer and we started talking about what had happened Oct. 1. Ray had flown out from North Carolina on Monday afternoon to help and pray with anyone that needed consolation. Billy Graham Ministries has a crisis response team that goes to anywhere in the world that has experienced a crisis. Natural or man made. He told me that teams were in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico right now helping those affected by the recent hurricanes. Ray has been in Spain and the UK this year for the mass casualty events there.
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After spending about 30 minutes at the memorial at Reno Ave, I walked back to the Welcome to Las Vegas sign. There is another memorial there and hundreds of people were gathered there pray, mourn and express their sympathy for the 58 shooting victims and their families. There were a group of boxers there signing the Vegas Strong banner and a large boxing glove. Ex heavyweight champ Leon Spinks was there signing autographs and posing for photos.
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After paying my respects to the memorial and the fallen, I walked back to the Harley Store and drove home.

I saw on the news that night that a man in Chicago had created an individual memorial for each of the 58 victims and brought it to Vegas, I went back out to the Welcome sign Sat. morning and took some additional photos of the individual markers. The area was just packed and again parking was difficult. I pulled into the Metro Police substation close to the Welcome sign. I did not see any signs stating the public could not park there so I grabbed my camera and walked to the memorial. It was a emotional experience for many. I saw some family members sitting by the memorial for their loved just sobbing. This senseless tragedy has shattered hundreds of peoples lives. After about 30 minutes I had enough and walked back to my van.
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Las Vegas has really come together to donate blood, money, their time and energy to help the families of the fallen and the over 500 wounded. All those visiting Vegas in the next 30 days will still be able to see the various memorials set up to honor the victims of this senseless tragedy. #Vegas Strong.

Posted by vegasmike6 22:55 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Off To See The Eclipse!

sunny 85 °F

Anyone living in the US heard plenty of news on the eclipse this summer. As the date got closer, more and more information hit the newspapers, magazines, TV, the Internet, etc. Las Vegas was only going to have 70% on the Sun blocked so I decided to drive to Wyoming where they would have totality. My first choice was Jackson or Grand Teton National Park. But I kept hearing the week before the eclipse that both locations were packed with eclipse watchers. When I read that ranchers were charging and getting $1000 to let RVs park on their pasture, I looked for another location. Several articles were suggesting that the Wind River Reservation would have far fewer visitors and plenty of free parking. I called them and confirmed that the Wind River Casino would have free parking and Native American ceremonies leading up to the eclipse. My friend Chris was back from Thailand and I checked to see if he wanted to go as well. He did but was suffering from prostate issues and had a Dr. appointment on the 22th. I had booked a room in Evanston WY a few weeks before the eclipse just in case Chris decided to go. I can sleep in the back of my van but not both of us. When he declined I decided to keep the room.

Sunday, Aug. 20 was my departure date. I figured most of the eclipse watchers would already be in place and the traffic would not be too heavy. I got up early and headed North on I-15. I stopped in Beaver UT for gas and then saw the sign for Fillmore. I knew Fillmore had been the historic capital of Utah but had never stopped. Brigham Young picked the location as it was in the center of the Utah territory. Fillmore was named for the President at the time, Millard Fillmore. It was the territorial capital between 1851-56 when the capital was moved to Salt Lake City. I pulled into Fillmore and followed the signs to the old capital. Being Sunday nothing was open so I just walked around a popped a few photos. Click on any of my photos for a larger image and additional information about the photo and what I experienced.
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I decided to take 189 at Provo instead of driving into SLC. 189 is very scenic and plenty of people were rafting the Provo River. I got on I-80 and headed for Evanston. I used my GPS to find the Knight's Inn where I had made my reservation. Found my room and took in my stuff. I drove over to the closest Wendy's and had a salad, frosty. Stopped for gas, back to my room. I did my stretching, sit-ups, shower, TV, read, bed. I set my alarm for 6 am and headed for the lobby area for BF. I saw the room when I checked in and was happy to see that they had hot, cold cereal, bagels, and a waffle maker. Several guys were already using the waffle maker so I had a bowl of oatmeal until they were finished. I got some OJ and then made my waffle. By 6:30 am I had packed my van and was on the road. To Rock Springs, then took 191 North to Lander. Traffic was light all the way. I turned onto 138 to made it to Riverton about 10 am. The Wind River Casino was off to my left and had hundreds of people on their grass setting up their lawn chairs and tripods. I joined the crowd and set up close to family that had a solar filter on the lens. I asked Steven if he could help me get my Canon G 12 set-up for the eclipse. He was very helpful and fiddled with my Canon until he thought it was ready to go. I then took my Nikon and started taking some photos of the Arapahoe dancers entertaining the crowd before the eclipse started. The guy on the microphone announced that they had free eclipse glasses for anyone that needed them. I got a pair and Steven help me tape them in front of my lens. The eclipse had started by then and I started firing away. The beauty of digital is that you can check your results in seconds. He got my camera on max zoom and then reset the shutter speed for better results. I fired away until the clouds rolled in. We had perfectly clear skies until about 20 minutes before totality. My shots before totality were OK for my camera and lack of a real solar filter. The ones of totality were not worth anything because of the clouds. We were all disappointed but what can you do? Weather is always a crap shoot and you take the good with the bad. Most of the time we had good visibility but not at totality. The crowd cheered when it went dark at totality. For 2 minutes we had dark skies at noon. I quit fiddling with my camera and just enjoyed seeing a total solar eclipse. The crowd was buzzing with excitement as we were all witnessing something special. We all knew this may be the only total solar eclipse we will ever see. I talked to people from Texas, Colorado, Michigan and all of us were glad we made the effort to get to Wyoming. As soon as the sun came back, many people started packing up and leaving. I stayed and took some photos after totality and then decided to go inside the Wind River Casino to use the bathroom and take a look around. Since I live in Vegas I was not temped to gamble any of my hard earned money while in the casino! After 15 minutes I headed back to my van to decide what to see next. I really should of joined the folks that left immediately after totality because I would get caught in horrible traffic shortly.
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I saw on my atlas that just outside Lander was Sacajawea's grave. I had watched Ken Burn's 'Lewis & Clark's Expedition on PBS and knew Sacajawea was a vital member of the Corps of Discovery. Since her grave was not far off my route, I decided to take the time and visit her grave. The traffic was pretty heavy heading to Lander but never came to a complete stop. I turned right onto 287 and headed for Fort Washakie. There is a marker telling you when to turn and I followed several RVs that were also turning. We all stopped at a graveyard within a mile after turning, guessing her grave would be close to Chief Washakie's memorial. Wrong. I asked them if their smart phone would guide them to her grave but never got a good answer. I decided to go back a half mile and ask at the Wind River Center. They had a map printed up and gave me directions. The Native Americans have decided not to have clear direction signs on the highway. Not sure why but it does make it a bit more difficult to find. I drove to the Sacajawea Cemetery and grabbed my camera. There were dozens of people wandering around the grave site and I joined them. After a few photos, I headed back to Lander.
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Plan A was to drive towards Dinosaur National Monument and find a room in Vernal. What I did not count on was a massive traffic jam in Lander. I stopped for some gas and tried to get out of Lander. Unfortunately, there is only one road that will get you out of town and thousands of eclipse watchers were all heading South on 287. I spent 3 hours going 2 miles trying to catch 28 to Rock Springs. By the time I got to Rock Springs it was 8 pm. I stopped at Wendy's for dinner and got on my laptop to see what motels were available. Most were either full or were still overcharging because of the eclipse. My GPS told me that a Wal-Mart was not far and I headed there. Inside to clean-up, toilet and then parked alongside over a dozen RVs, vans, big rigs. Plenty of others were going to sleep in Wal-Mart's parking lot as well. I made up my bed and by 10 pm I called it a night. I was up with the sun and started driving for Vernal. I stopped at the Flaming Gorge Dam and took a few photos. A FLDS couple was there as well. Not an uncommon sight in UT. As I was leaving the dam, a herd of deer crossed the road. If I had been 30 seconds faster or slower leaving the dam I would not have seen them. I took a quick photo through the windshield and continued on to Vernal UT.
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I got to Vernal around 9 am and stopped at a public park. Bathroom break and then a few photos of some cement Dinosaurs that they have erected in the park. Vernal's claim to fame is being the gateway to Dinosaur National Monument. You go with what you have and Vernal plays up its dinosaur relationship.
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There is a nice Visitor's Center when you turn off highway 40 to enter the NM. A quick stop to chat, fill up my water bottles and get a map of the Monument. I got out my Senior Pass and entered Dinosaur NM. I got my day bag, hat, camera and walked to the VC. I got my stamp for my NP passport and waited for the shuttle van. They run every 10 minutes or so from the VC to the building housing all the bones. I walked into the building and started taking photos. I chatted with the Ranger and got some good information on the history of building, the bones displayed. After 30 minutes I took the shuttle back to the VC and decided to drive over to see some of the petroglyphs and go down to the Green River. After seeing both I decided to start the long drive back to Vegas.
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I could either drive to Nephi and catch I-15 South or head for Richfield and take I-70 West until it joins I-15. The lady at VC googled both routes and suggested going home via Richfield. It is a more scenic drive and I have never been thru that part of Utah. Back to Vernal, 40 to Duchesne, then head Sout on 191 to Price. It rained off and on as I got closer to Price. I had one of my apples and a few granola bars on the way to Price. I stopped for $20 worth of gas and just to walk around a bit to loosen up. On to I-70 West to Richfield. I stopped at Wendy's for lunch, then on to Cedar City. I loaded up on fuel and 3 hours later I was back in Vegas. My eclipse adventire was over.

Posted by vegasmike6 17:51 Archived in USA Comments (1)

7,000 Mile Road Trip Plus Iceland, Part 1

Bryce NP, Colo. Monument, Rocky Mt. NP, Poney Express, Hoover Library, Wright-Patterson Museum, Gettysburg, Philadelphia, New York City.

sunny 80 °F

I added Iceland to my bucket list after watching a few shows on Discovery channel. Dramatic scenery, glaciers, volcanoes, Iceland is the land of fire and ice. I told my nephew I was thinking of visiting Iceland and he suggested I looked at WOW Airlines for a low fare. I had never heard of WOW but he plays games on the computer and several of the guys he plays with live in Iceland. I pulled up the WOW website and started comparing airfares with Icelandic Air. No comparison. WOW was much cheaper. Like most discount airlines, they charge you for extra for everything. If WOW is flying where you want to go, compare and see it makes sense for you.

I mentally divided the trip into 3 phases: drive to Boston, Iceland for 8 days, drive back to Las Vegas. I got a great airfare with WOW Air by departing from BOS. The other option was to fly out of LAX, but I wanted to see the Buffalo Roundup in Custer State Park on Sept. 30th. A friend of mine is a professional photographer and Gregg urged me to visit CSP during the Roundup if possible. They only do the Roundup one day a year, so that date was fixed in stone. I would drive it and hit several of our National Parks going there and coming home. I looked at WOWs prices departing in Sept. and found Sept. 11th was the cheapest date to fly. I booked it with a return flight on Sept. 20th. I paid $300 r/t trip with WOW. Icelandic was over $600 for the same dates. Even paying for seat selection, baggage, food, you will be saving serious money by flying WOW Air to Iceland.

I left Las Vegas August 25th and headed for Bryce Canyon NP. It was still very hot out West and I wanted to sleep where it was still cool at night. Very hard to sleep in your van when it is too hot. Bryce is about 5 hours from Vegas, got there around 3pm. Plenty of camping spots still open. This week all vehicles get into all National Parks for free as it is the 100 yr anniversary for the Park Service. Bryce NP now charges $30 per car for 7 days. I have my Golden Age Pass so all NPs are free for Seniors. One perk for getting older! Entered Bryce, got the newsletter, map and headed for Sunset Campground. I have stayed in Sunset campground before and knew the ropes. Found a spot, left some water on the table and back to the entrance. Camping is now $18/night here, I pay half so I put my $18 in the envelope for my 2 nights. I had enough time to walk to Sunset Point and take an hour walk/hike. I wanted to eat and then listen to the Ranger program at the Bryce Lodge, 8 pm. Got some decent photos, soup for dinner, then drove to the Lodge. It is not that far, but walking back in the dark is not a smart idea IMO. The Ranger's topic was Bryce at night. Bryce has less light pollution than most of the US. Very good spot for watching the stars. Informative talk then we all headed outside to view the night sky. Most of us that live in cities, esp. Las Vegas never see many stars. Several had binoculars plus the Ranger had a telescope we could use. With no clouds and very little light pollution, the stars were on full display, very impressive. Back to Sunset, bed. My first day on the road was over.

I am not a good sleeper in my own bed, let alone in the back of my Odyssey. I took my prescribed sleeping pill, but still had difficulty sleeping. I got up with the sun and fired up my stove for my BF. I have oatmeal at home, I will on the road as well. Over to the bathroom to clean the dishes and myself. I drove over to Sunset Point for a morning hike. I chose the Navajo Trail hike. Not that difficult but it gets you down among the hoodoos. The perfect weather brought out plenty of hikers but it was not too bad. I got plenty of decent photos and some good exercise. There was a lady that was using an off-road type of scooter. I talked to her and her husband about using it on the trail even with limited mobility. After getting back to the rim, I drove to the Lodge and left my van there. I was going to use the free shuttle rather than drive to each location and have to find a parking spot. I got off at Ruby's Inn, just outside the park. Bought a sandwich for lunch and just relaxed for awhile. Shuttle back to the Visitors Center for the movie and exhibits. Shuttle to the Lodge, then killed time until the Ranger talk. I had my laptop, so e-mailed, cruised the web and read my book until 8 pm. I had some fruit and then sat in on tonight's talk on historic Bryce. It was OK but not nearly as fun as the night sky lecture yesterday. Drove back to Sunset campground, bed at 10 pm.
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I got up at first light and headed out. I had my camera ready as there are plenty of deer in Bryce. I saw a few as I exited the park, got a couple photos and headed for I-70 East. I stopped when I hit Red Canyon in the Dixie National Forest. Some of their landscape is almost as pretty as Bryce. Certainly worth a stop if you have time.
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I took a few photos and moved on. I wanted to make it to Colorado National Monument (CNM), just outside Fruita. There is a Visitor Center right next to the Veteran's Memorial Park. I used their restroom, then had lunch at Wendy's next door to the Vet's Park. I then headed uphill to CNM. It is quite a steep climb but you are rewarded with great views once you get to the top. I got in around noon, hit the VC, got maps, info and found a camping spot in Saddlehorn Campground. $10/night for seniors. Just down the road from Saddlehorn is the Window Rock Trail. It is not a difficult hike, but has some nice views of the canyon. Back to the VC for some advice and then decide to drive to the Coke Ovens Trail. This was about an hour hike with plenty of elevation changes. Got some photos and then back to the campground to clean up and fix dinner. I only have eggs or soup, so went with eggs & bread. Not much to do when you are camping in your van, so went to bed when it got dark.
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Up with the sun and I headed for Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). I used to ski in Winter Park and knew there was a shorter way to RMNP. I took I-70 East to Wolcott, then 131 North. You can take a dirt road to Kremmling off 131. I used to take this route instead of going over Vail Pass, Eisenhower Tunnel, and Berthoud Pass to get to Winter Park. Several raft companies use this road to access the Colorado River. Rancho Del Rio has camping and river access to rafters. I followed one of their trucks until their turnoff and keep heading for Kremmling. At Granby, I filled up with gas and bought a Subway to eat while driving to RMNP. Great weather in Granby, but got increasingly cloudy as I approached RMNP on Hiway 34. I bought a National Park Passport when I was in Bryce. I should have bought one many years ago when I was hitting the National Parks in the 80s & 90s. I stopped at the Kawuneeche Visitors Center, close to the Grand Lake entrance. I got my stamp, map, headed up Trail Ridge Road. It started to rain as I climbed towards the Continental Divide. I stopped a few times for photos, but did not get much as the rain started to get serious the higher I went. It was a mixture of rain, snow at the top. This is late August! No wonder Trail Ridge Rd. is closed for most of the year. Plan A was to camp close to the Estes Park entrance. Even in the rain, all campgrounds were full. I went into the town of Estes Park to find The Wheel Bar. A friend of mine from Las Vegas moved to Estes Park back in the late 70s to help run the bar. His father owned it and needed help as he got older. I talked to one of the bartenders, but Steve was not there that day. He called his cellphone, but only got voice mail. I left a note telling him I was passing thru, but would be heading East since he was not there.
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I stayed on 34 thru the Big Thompson Canyon, on to Greeley, met up I-76 East. I decided to just drive until I got tired. I priced a few motels as I drove thru small towns in Nebraska, but could not find one under $50. I made it to Ogallala, found a Subway shop for dinner, and followed my GPS to the closest Walmart. Almost all Walmart's let RVs, big rigs, vans park overnight without hassling them. I went inside to use their restroom, bought some fruit, then crawled in the back of my van and went to bed around 10 pm. I was up with the sun the next day and headed East. I stopped at Gothenburg to walk thru the Pony Express Station. Chatted with the docent at the station and found out I was not the first person from Vegas to visit that day. That was a surprise. A couple of photos and back on the road.
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Grand Island, Lincoln, Omaha, cross the Missouri River and into Iowa. Now I just needed to get in some long days driving to get to Gettysburg. My plan was to camp close to Gettysburg until my Airbnb room in Philadelphia was ready. I stayed at Pine Lake SP outside of Des Moines. $10/night for seniors. Had a hot shower, teeth, bed at 10:30 pm. Up at first light, I got back on I-80 and headed East. Stopped at West Branch for the Herbert Hoover Library and Museum. Paid the fee, got some photos and an hour of walking. One of the problems of driving cross country is getting some exercise. I try to get some walking & stretching in each day, but some days seemed to be mostly getting some serious miles in each day. After the museum, I headed for Indiana. I tried to get an Airbnb room in Indianapolis but could not find anyone online while I was. Got to Indianapolis in the rain and settled for another night at a Walmart parking lot. Up early, on to Dayton Ohio and decided to visit the National Museum of the US Air force. The Air Museum is at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and has its own entrance. I missed the entrance the first time, found it and went in. I spent 3 hours walking the exhibits and taking photos. The museum tells the history of flight from the Wright Brothers to the Space Shuttle. Anyone who likes aviation should try to visit this museum.
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Back on I-70, I headed for Wheeling West Virginia. Same routine. Wendy's for dinner and e-mail, then find a Walmart for a quiet night's sleep. The next day I drove into Pennsylvania and got on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. If you are headed for Gettysburg or Philadelphia, the turnpike is really your only choice. I got off on highway 30 and headed for Chambersburg. I stopped for gas, food before driving to Caledonia State Park (CSP). I was going to be camping for 2 nights and needed bananas, eggs, bread. I had checked online and priced camping in the Gettysburg National Military Park area. Private campgrounds were around $40/night so I decided to stay in CSP. $15/nite, no break for seniors. I paid for 2 nights and picked #8. I wanted another night but they were full because of Labor Day. I drove to Gettysburg, Visitor Center (VC) for my stamp, maps, advice. There was a Ranger talk in 10 minutes on medical care during the Civil War. Informative, then another Ranger talk on the overall strategy of both the Union and Confederate armies. After the talks, I walked to the cemetery where President Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address. Saw there was another Ranger talk on the battle for Cemetery Ridge, got some photos and several hours of walking in. I hit Wendy's for dinner and wifi before driving back to CSP and bed. They have hot showers and hit those before turning in.
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Up with the sun, fix my oatmeal, dishes, clean up and head back to Gettysburg. I went with the Ranger for the Cemetery Ridge walk. Photos, then back to VC. I signed up for the President Eisenhower Farm Tour, $15. Tour of his house and farm. Shuttle bus back to VC, then I drove to the Confederate Ave. The vast majority of the monuments at Gettysburg are Union. Well, after all the Union did win the battle and the war. The winners get to put up monuments and memorials. But there is a road dedicated to the Confederate side of the battle.
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Photos and then I found a picnic area to stretch, read kill time before going to Wendy's for dinner and wifi. I tried to get online most days to e-mail friends, my nephew. Drove back to CSP, shower, bed. Up with the sun, fix my oatmeal, back to Gettysburg. I went on the Lincoln's Gettysburg Address tour. I did not want another day of walking the monuments so I decided to drive to Antietam Battlefield. I got off the road when I saw a Visitors Welcome Center to Maryland. The guy recommended I stop at Monocacy National Battlesite. It was worth maybe 30 minutes, then on to Antietam. Into the VC, got my stamp, short film on the battle and a Ranger talk on what happened and what to see. After Gettysburg, Antietam is a very poor second place. Got a few photos, drove back to CSP. I did not have a camp spot, but knew I could use their showers easy enough. Drive in like you belong, stop in the parking lot by the showers. Nobody checks and I was on my way in 20 minutes. Back to Wendy's for dinner and then hit the Walmart next to it for bed.
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I could not check-in to my Airbnb room in Philly until noon. I saw that the Harrisburg, Capitol of Pennsylvania was on the way to Philly and decided to go that way. I stopped at the Capitol but it was early Sunday morning. Nothing open, but took some photos as I walked around the building. Got on I-76, the Penn. Turnpike and headed for Philly. I saw that Valley Forge Historical Park was close. Got off and followed the signs. It was the Sunday before Labor day and the place was packed. With the crowds, I had to use the overflow parking lot. Hike over to the VC. got my stamp, map and headed out to see what I could of Valley Forge. There was a Ranger giving a talk about the winter the Continental Army spent at Valley Forge but lost interest and walked away. I walked over to the replica huts that are on display. Each hut housed 12 soldiers and were constructed by the men that would live in them. I wanted to spend more time at Valley Forge, but it was hot, crowded and I wanted to check into my room as close to noon as possible.
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I headed for Philly and my Airbnb room for the next 2 days. I used my GPS to find his address. Thank goodness. Without GPS it would have been much more difficult because of all the one-way streets. I got lucky and parked my van almost right in front of Pat's Airbnb place. Checked in and unpacked. I talked to Pat about getting down to the historic section of Philly. It was very easy. Take the blue line train to the historic section and walk to the huge VC. Plenty of maps, advice on what to see. I walked to several of the major sightseeing attractions, photos then train back to my room. I was pretty tired and just fixed my eggs. toast, shower, read and hit the bed. I was up at 6am, did my stretching, sit-ups, fixed my oatmeal, toast and got ready for a full day of sightseeing. I bought a ticket for National Constitution Center, film, exhibits and the statues of all the signers of the Constitution. The US Mint, Ben Franklin's Grave, Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Betsy Ross's house, and historic Elfret's Alley. Just had snacks all day so was pretty hungry when I got back to Pat's place. Eggs, toast, shower, some TV downstairs with Pat, bed. I did my stretching, sit-ups, clean-up, my oatmeal, toast, got ready to leave. I hung around for 30 minutes waiting for Pat to appear. He did not so I headed for NYC.
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I programmed my GPS for the Airbnb in Queens where I would be staying 3 nights. Pay the bridge toll and GPS took me right to Rockaway Blvd. Called Amy, the lady renting her rooms. She came out and moved her van so I could park right in front of her house. Got settled in and asked her how to get to Manhattan. She drew on a map how to get to the train, when to get off. Had a PBJ sand, got my backpack ready and walked to the Green Line. I bought a $10 fare card that should be enough for my trips back/forth to Manhattan. I got off at and decided to walk the Brooklyn Bridge. Light rain, but not bad. Some photos and started chatting with the bus guys selling their hop on, hop off tours. I picked Grayline Tours as they had the best 2 day deal. $54 that included a boat tour of the harbor. One World Trade is an easy walk from the tour bus spot and decided to take a look. I took a few photos but did not get much due to the weather. I saw that my subway station was right there so I headed back to Queens. Back to my room, fixed eggs, toast, shower, chat with Amy and her husband Eddie. I tried to watch TV but they don't have cable or satellite, so came in enough to watch. Read my book, bed. I walked to Cresent station, into Manhattan, found the bus and started my day. We went by the bull outside of Wall St. then down to the harbor for the boat trip around the Statue of Liberty. I had to wait about 30 minutes but just had a snack and watched the boats. We had nice weather and got some good photos of Lady Liberty, Ellis Island and the skyline of NYC from the water. The tour boat came up the Hudson River and the pilot told us about the day 'the miracle on the Hudson' happened. He was piloting his tour boat that day and rushed to help the passengers. As did many other boats that were closeby. You get a nice view of the New Jersey skyline as well as New York's as they approach the docking area. The docks are not too far from the USS Intrepid. It was $30 to tour the ship, a bit steep but since I was there I got in line. Except there was no line. It was closed for a political event. The First lady was going to speak and so it was closed for several hours. Got back on the tour bus to Times Square. Then transferred to the one going to Central Park. The stop is next to the
Dakota Building and I walked over. A tour guide was telling his group about the building and the day John Lennon was killed. According to the guide, Yoko Lennon still lives in the Dakota as do many other famous people. Anyone that does live there has to have a substantial bank account. There is no cheap place to rent or buy next to Central Park. I got as many photos of the park and surrounding buildings as I could, but did not see hardly any of Central Park. You would literally need days of walking to cover it all. I cut thru the park as I needed to get to the East side to get back on the tour bus., Next stop was Chinatown and got off there. I walked a few blocks but did not see much worth a photo. I guess I was on the wrong street. Walking back towards the bus pick up area, I saw a subway entrance. Found the one back to Queens and headed back to Cresent Station, A short walk and I was back at Amy's place. She was upstairs with Eddie and we chatted about my day. Fixed my eggs and toast for dinner, then a quick shower before bed. There is a TV in the room but coulod not get anything to come in clear enough to watch. Up early the next, BF and get ready for another day in NYC. Subway to Manhattan then walked to One World Trade Center, It is $35 for seniors to go to the top, but paid it as it is probably a once in a lifetime event. Great views from the top and good weather. I took plenty of photos and then down to the footprint of the North & South Twin Towers. All along the edge are the names of those who died that day. I then walked the Brooklyn Bridge again. I had much better weather today than a few days ago. Hopped on the tour bus to Times Square. Then bus to the Museum of Natural History, $17. I walked as much as I could, but could not see everything in the time I had. Up to Harlem, got off the visit the St. John the Devine Cathedral. St. It is the largest gothic cathedral in the world. There is a suggested $10 donation to enter. I took some photos inside and then a few of the 11 acre 'close' outside. I got back on the bus and rode back to Times Square, There was a subway at Times Square and figured out how to get back to Queens. It had been a full day and I was tired of walking. Once back to Amy's, I had my eggs, toast, then shower and bed. I got up early, had my BF and started packing to leave. I said goodbye to Amy, programmed my navigation system and headed for Mass.

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I was heading for Gardner where my friend Steve runs Standard Chair of Gardner. I was good friends with Richard, his uncle who ran Standard Chair with Steve's father Mel for many years. Richard had died in April at age 82. We talked on the phone about my Iceland trip and Steve said I could stay with him and leave my van at his house in Leominster Mass. I had been to Gardner many times to visit Richard over the years and knew where Walmart, Dollar Stores were. I wanted to hit the office at 4pm to chat with the office ladies I knew. I got to see Linda, Donna, Joy, Wendy before they got off at 5pm. We talked about the sudden death of Richard and how the office was running w/o him. He had been a fixture for over 30 years running Standard Chair so it was a big blow to everyone when he got ill and died. More than a few tears were shed recounting his life. Steve had me follow him to Leominster and his house. His wife was away for the weekend so it worked out perfect. I spent Sat. with Steve, we got in a workout at his fitness center, movie, pizza and then Sunday was time to fly to Iceland.

Posted by vegasmike6 21:50 Archived in USA Tagged parks Comments (0)

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