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Mount Rushmore

“A monument’s dimensions should be determined by the importance to civilization of the events commemorated.” – Gutzon Borglum

Most people, whether or not they have personally visited the Mount Rushmore National Monument in South Dakota, have seen pictures of it and have some understanding  of what it represents.  Through our August 17, 2017 visit to this monument we learned so much more about it that we want to share some of that with you through this post.

Gutzon Borglum was the sculptor chosen to lead the effort with carving beginning in 1927 and completing in 1941.  Likenesses of four United States presidents are sculpted into Mount Rushmore; George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.  Borglum chose each of these men for specific reasons relating to the founding and growth of our great nation.  Washington, being the leader of the American Revolution and the first president, was chosen to have the most prominent place on the mountain representing the birth of the nation.  Jefferson, our third president, was the primary author of the Declaration of Independence and spearheaded the purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France in 1803 which doubled the size of the country.  To Borglum, he represented the growth of the nation.  Theodore Roosevelt, our 26th president, worked tirelessly to link trade between the East and West by negotiating the construction of the Panama Canal and was known as the “trust-buster” for his work to end monopolies and ensure the rights of the common man.  Borglum saw him as representing our nations economic development.  Lincoln, our 16th president, was chosen for his greatest accomplishment of holding our nation together through its most trying time, the Civil War.  To Borglum, Lincoln represented the preservation of the United States.


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This was a moving experience that we highly recommend to any who have yet to experience it in person.  Hoping to paint a picture in your mind about the scale of these sculptures and connecting the story back to the opening quote of this post, here are a few brief stats: noses are about 20′ long; eyes are about 11′ wide; mouths are about 18′ wide;  nearly 3 million people from around the world visit annually; about 400 laborers, mostly from the ranks of the unemployed, worked on this project; about 450,000 tons of rock was blasted from the mountain; cracks are patched as needed with silicone sealant.

We will close this post with a quote from each of the men memorialized in this monument.  Each of us can benefit from reflecting on these pithy statements, especially in light of the extreme divisiveness prevalent throughout our country these days.

“The preservation of the sacred fire of Liberty, and the destiny of the Republican model of Government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.”  George Washington

“We act not for ourselves but for the whole human race. The event of our experiment is to show whether man can be trusted with self – government.”  Thomas Jefferson

“The first requisite of a good citizen in this Republic of ours is that he shall be able and willing to pull his weight – that he shall not be a mere passenger.”  Theodore Roosevelt

“I leave you hoping that the lamp of liberty will burn in your bosoms until there shall no longer be a doubt that all men are created free and equal.”  Abraham Lincoln





Sudden Impact

Jeep 1, Deer 0.

Siobhan and I had just finished a stellar bike ride in Lassen Volcanic National Park see previous post for more on that) and were driving back to our campsite at Manzanita Campground when it happened.

Sudden impact!

Bam 💥, right out of nowhere, a buck 🦌 was bouncing off the grill of the Jeep!  It happened so fast I never even saw it coming.

One minute we are driving along, chatting about the great day we had.  The next minute, I’m standing in the road surveying the damage to the Jeep and the deer while Siobhan is sitting inside the Jeep watching me freak out.

The deer lost, for sure.  It’s no longer with us.  We are fine, although, the Jeep sustained some front end damage in the altercation.

Ok, take a deep breath, this isn’t so bad, I kept telling myself.   The Jeep is still drivable so we can continue our trip.  It’s just an inconvenience…oh, no it’s not, that’s my Jeep and I love that thing and that deer just crunched the front end…wait, it’s no big deal, it will all work out…back and forth…trying to settle down…ok, take another deep breath!

I flipped back and forth like that for a while as Siobhan was worrying about the deer that was still alive but clearly suffering on the side of the road.

After a few minutes passed and I regained my composure, we drove the forty-five minutes to the Manzanita Visitors Center to inform the Park Ranger of what had just happened.  He asked for the specific location and headed out immediately to put the deer out of its misery.  (We learned later that the deer had expired by the time the Ranger arrived.)

Back at our campsite, we checked the Jeep damage more closely to find that a critical (yet simple) component of the towing system was missing.  Prior to the altercation with the deer, there was a small plastic pin inserted into a black box just below the tow bar under the front bumper of the Jeep.  It had a small wire loop hanging out of it that gets connected to the RV and serves the purpose of a back-up braking system.  If the Jeep, while being towed by the RV, should somehow break away from the RV, this pin would be pulled from the black box and its absence would cause the Jeep brakes to lock, stopping it from rolling away.

Well, without that pin, guess what’s going to happen to the Jeep’s brakes as soon as we connect it to the RV.  Yup, you guessed it, they are gonna lock up tight and that Jeep isn’t going anywhere!

At this point, panic set in.  How long are we going to be stuck in this place before we can get a replacement pin?  We didn’t even have cell service way the heck out here in the middle of nowhere.  Internet connection to order one from Amazon, you’ve got to be kidding, right!  Ahhh…

Well, if you’ve been following our adventure blog, you may recall that I believe certain people show up in your life at just the right times, when you need them most.  They could be anyone.  Maybe someone close to you that you don’t see too often or maybe even a stranger.  (Think back to John at the USA RV Park in New Mexico when we lost the RV’s exterior refrigerator access panel, for example.).  In this case, the campground host, Dave, was the guy that just happened to stop by our site to chat, having heard about what happened.  He and I had spent some time talking about our motorcycle adventures when we checked in because his BMW was parked outside his RV when we arrived.  We got to know each other a little through that common interest and I think that made him feel comfortable stopping by to see what happened.  As I explained my dilemma about the brake safety pin, he urged me to drive back up to the scene of the deer altercation and see if I could find the pin.  I thought, that is like searching for a needle in a haystack, not gonna happen, why even bother driving all that way.  He kept pushing, questioning what did we have to lose.

So, back we went, against my better judgement.  Siobhan and I both searched the road from a point prior to impact to a point well beyond where the deer landed.  Then we searched both sides of that area too.  No luck.  Then, in a last ditch effort, I decided to walk the space near the impact one final time.  Off to the side, under the brush along the roadside, there it was!  We found it!

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What a relief.  Now we would be able to not only drive the Jeep but tow it too.  That makes a huge difference to the rest of our journey because our only other alternative (until we could have found a replacement pin somewhere) would have been to have one of us drive the RV while the other drove the Jeep.  Doesn’t sound so bad until you consider that also means neither of us ever get a break from driving.

With the pin placed back where it belonged, this sudden impact resulted in only one limitation for us as we moved on to our next destination.  No more driving at night.  That’s because the deer knocked both headlights loose.  We were able to duct tape (that stuff is so helpful) them in place so they don’t fall out completely and they both still light up so we are technically legal (I guess).  The drivers side headlight points up into the sky toward the passenger side and the passenger side headlight points straight down toward the road about two feet in front of the drivers side.  Neither is very helpful in illuminating the road at this point.  Good news is the duct tape matches the Jeep pretty well so it’s not that noticeable!

So, even after this sudden impact, we are back on the road again, rolling along, continuing our adventure!  We will get the Jeep repaired when we arrive in New Hampshire.



Please, Don’t!

We want to enlist the support of each of the nearly one hundred followers of this blog…

Please talk to all your family and friends about this, too.

Please don’t text and drive.

Please, right here, right now, commit to devoting 100% of your attention to driving while you are driving.  Refuse to be a distracted driver.

This one was just way to close – that’s all I can say!

As we were driving back to our campground after a great day at Pinnacles National Park, another driver was too busy looking into his phone to notice that he had crossed into our lane and was heading straight toward us at about 35 mph.  Fortunately for us and him, he finally heard our horn and swerved back into his lane, just barely averting a head-on collision with our Jeep.

The road we were on is one motorcyclists excitedly refer to as a twisty, curve after curve after curve of two-lane asphalt through beautiful wine country with vineyards as far as you can see on both sides of the road.  Here, however, the un-guardrailed, tree-lined country road was elevated 8’ – 10’ above the river winding along the east side and the ditch between the vineyards and the road on the west side.  I had an adrenaline-enhanced perfect view of this idiot while Siobhan had nowhere to go to avoid him and all she could do was lay into the horn, hit the brakes and hope for the best.

It was a shocking reminder of how fast and how drastically everything in life can change.  This wasn’t our day to go, thankfully.  One second after he swerved back into his own lane nobody but the three of us would even have any clue that this potentially life-ending incident even occurred.

This is no joke, it’s not a game.  We are so very grateful that our RV Adventure didn’t end there on that backroad in California that afternoon.  So much more to see, so many places to go and most importantly, so many wonderful family and friends we want to spend more time with…

We got lucky that day.

We would truly appreciate you taking this message to heart and spreading it to all the people you care about.

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Be safe.


Hottest Place on Earth – Ever!

Anybody know where the highest temperature ever recorded on the face of our planet happens to be located?

Well, here is your first hint.  We visited this place on May 14th and 15th.  It was hot then, however, no where near the record 134 degrees Fahrenheit that was recorded there on 7/10/1913 at a place called Furnace Creek.

Honestly, this is one of those parks that we were going to just because its “on the list”.  We didn’t have any real desire to go there, however, its not too far out of the way from the route to Las Vegas, our next stop.  So, what the heck.  Lets go check it out.

Big surprise, we had a blast there.  In fact, we ended up spending two days exploring this place.  Easy to do as it is such a large park, covering 3.4 million acres,  ranking as the largest park in the lower 48.

Know the answer now?

For those who don’t yet know, the next clue is that this place receives less than two inches of rain per year.

Still wondering?

Ok, next clue is that in 2001 this place went 154 consecutive days with a high temperature of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Alright, last (big) clue, the give-away, is that the lowest spot in North America is found here at 282 feet below sea level!  Now you’ve got it, right?

Interestingly, that lowest point sits in the shadow of Telescopic Peak at 11,049 feet above sea level.  Quite a contrast.  One of many found throughout this amazing park.

IMG_0021The vast majority of Death Valley National Park is located along the southeastern border of California.  A small section of the park is actually in Nevada’s Amargosa Desert region where we chose Longstreet Inn Casino & RV Park in Aramgosa Valley, NV as our home for three nights during our visit here.  Its only about 35 miles from the Furnace Creek Visitors Center within the park and was adequate, basically a large parking lot that could probably hold a hundred RVs.  We were one of no more than five in the place so it worked out just fine.  (And, in case you are wondering, we did not gamble at all cause we are too cheap!)


We found this beauty standing in the parking lot at the RV Park…interesting, huh?  Area must be big into diary ranching?


The initial ride into the park and to the Furnace Creek Visitors Center was so beautiful.

A pleasant surprise for us.  Much more beautiful than we expected.  Huge mountains of various colors, sand dunes, salt flats, just incredible scenery.

Our discussion with a Park Ranger at the visitors center got us oriented. We chose to go as far into the park as needed to see those things that peaked our interest this first day, hoping to minimize the drive time on the second day’s visit.

The first stop (and it was not easy to drive right past some of these places) was 45 miles away.  I told you this was a big place.  It actually brought us out of the park and back into Nevada just a few miles past the small section of the park located there.

There was a small sign on the left side of NV RT 374 hinting at the entrance to Titus Canyon Road.  Not very noticeable and simply dirt, washboard dirt at that.  You see, the Ranger suggested that we might have some fun with our Jeep if we went off-road for this 27 mile one-way drive through the canyon.  High-clearence vehicles only and one-way because the canyon is so narrow at points that the Jeep barely fit through.  What a blast!

Of course, some yahoo in a (likely, a rental) car thought they could do this too.  We had a good laugh as they went flying by us (we had stopped so Siobhan could get pictures of some flowers) on their way into the canyon.  Only a short distance further, we saw them making mini-K-turns, trying to turn around as it must have finally dawned on them that they were not going to make this trip in a car!

This was our first true off-road experience in the Jeep and it was so much fun!  We got to see places that must others that come to the park just can not get to.  And we got to experience that rush of adrenaline that only occurs on epic adventures. You know, the ones that you commit to at the beginning, wonder why you did that during the adventure as you contemplate your chances of survival and then cant wait to tell all your friends about once you make it back in one piece.  Most of this ride was just a fun experience being out in the backcountry.  A portion of it, however, certainly got our hearts pumping.  The best way to describe this to you is this.  Siobhan was in the passenger seat and we were climbing one of the peaks on the route.  The edge of the road, only a foot or two from Siobhan’s side of the Jeep, had a sheer drop of hundreds of feet to the canyon floor.  I could tell Siobhan was a bit uneasy as she got really quiet and her breathing seemed to stop.  No problem for me as I was feeling very secure in the drivers seat on the inside of the turn with a nice solid rock wall climbing hundreds of feet above me.  When Siobhan let out a loud “ahhhhhhh…..”, I knew she was scared.  When she stomped her feet on the floor and literally stood up inside the Jeep, leaning completely over me trying to get to the drivers side of the Jeep, it was obvious that she was truly afraid.  Her head and shoulders were on my side of the vehicle, she wanted out of that passenger seat.  Can’t say I blame her.  There was a very long drop and from her seat, she could not even see a road.  Lots of decent size rocks to climb around or over, exciting to say the least!  Once we completed the climb and started the decent into the canyon, I got my taste of what Siobhan experienced now that I was on the exposed side of the road most of the time.  Exhilarating. (Limited pics though, both my hands were on the wheel!)

Driving through the canyon was a totally different feeling with the canyon walls stretching high above us as we could practically touch both walls right outside the Jeep windows.  ar above us as we drove through spaces just barely wide enough for us to fit through.  Really cool place.  And that was just the first stop.

The next stop was another 24 miles further down the road to Ubehebe Crater.  This hole in the ground is 600 feet deep and more than half a mile wide.  It resulted from a Maar Volcano created by steam and gas explosions when hot magma rising up from the depths reached ground water causing an explosion.

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The belief is that this crater was created within the last three hundred years.  Awe-insiring view from the edge looking into this crater.  It displays a wide range of colors that hopefully you will be able to see in the pics. And check out the info on the last slide regarding dehydration.  Interesting that we found it in the bathroom at the closed Grapevine Ranger Station, the one located nearest Scotty’s Castle which is closed due to a mud slide that occurred last year.

After 48 miles back toward our starting point of Furnace Creek, we arrived at our third stop for the day, Stovepipe Wells.  This is a very small village within the park that consists of a general store, hotel, cabins, a gas station and a saloon!

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We walked around a bit, shopped in the store for souvenirs and filled up the gas tank before continuing on our way back toward Furnace Creek and the park exit.

Then a quick stop at Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes to observe them before making our final stop of the day at Harmony Borax Works interpretative trail.  I’ll bet many of you remember the 20-mule-team covered wagons that became the symbol of borax soap many years ago.  Well, that advertising slogan was all part of the borax mining efforts here in Death Valley where, at its peak, the Harmony Borax Works employed 40 men who produced three tons of borax daily.  Additionally, back in the day, Death Valley was mined for all kinds of ores including gold, silver, antimony, copper, lead, zinc, and tungsten.  This all started in 1883 and essentially ended around 1915 although some limited mining operations continued through 1994 when Death Valley was established as a national park.

Day two in the park started with a trip back to the Furnace Creek area where you turn onto Badwater Road for the 17 mile drive to the lowest spot in North America, Badwater Basin, at 282 feet below sea level.  Yeah, this is the spot where that 134 degree temp was recorded.  The sun beats down on the white/silvery salt basin all day and the mountains surrounding the basin hold in the heat so it gets steamy quickly.  We walked out quite a ways before reaching our limit and heading back to the Jeep.  On the way, we could see a sign painted on a rock overlooking the parking area indicating where sea level is…pretty interesting perspective.  Maybe you can spot this in one of the following pics.

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On the drive back toward Furnace Creek, we stopped for a short and easy hike to the Natural Bridge.  Only one mile round trip and relatively flat but hot!  Fun to get out into the canyon and stretch our legs after lots of sitting while driving around.

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Next was a drive through a one-way loop named Artists Palette, named for the amazing colors in the various layers of rock formations.  And another hike into another canyon but we are just going to show you pics rather than trying to describe it….

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Our final stop was at Zabriskie Point.  This spot may present the most spectacular view in the entire park and its only a short walk up a paved path.  The view includes Badwater Basin and its surrounding mountains.  Incredible colors that change as the sun slowly moves across the sky.  What a show!

This park was such a pleasant surprise.  So glad we went and had the time to return for a second day.  We are guessing that they won’t all turn out this way but we are more likely to make the effort to see the next park that is “just on the list” after such a wonderful experience here.




Family Visit

Our eldest niece (22 years old), Jennifer, lives in Scottsdale, AZ.  We had made plans with her a couple of weeks earlier and tonight was the night we were scheduled to meet for dinner.  Jenn is working on her Masters degree while interning so she is really busy. And we had not seen her since summer of 2016 so we were really looking forward to it.

We rolled into Tempe mid-afternoon, set up camp in the Apache RV Resort in downtown and got ready for dinner out (yeah!) with Jenn and one of her friends, Cheyenne.  We met at Claim Jumpers in Tempe, a new place for all of us.  It has an interesting and welcoming ambience with friendly people and good food.  We got a chance to catch up with Jenn, enjoyed meeting her friend Cheyenne and shared a few good laughs!

Great visit.  But, Siobhan really wanted to see Jenn’s apartment so we made arrangements to meet her there in the morning before we moved on to our next destination.  Beautiful place.  Since we were close, we checked out the arts district in “Old Scottsdale” too.  Here’s some pics…



Nature’s Health Check

We went for a hike one day while at Hot Springs National Park, one of the summit trails that leads from the Gulpha Gorge campground to the Observation Tower atop Hot Springs Mountain.  We’d spent too many days in Red Bay by this time so we decided to make our hike a bit more challenging by connecting a couple of trails together to add some distance and a little more climbing.  Of course, this also got us to be in a somewhat more remote location on the mountain.

It was a beautiful day, about 80 degrees and not too humid.  The wind was blowing just enough to keep the bugs at bay and the sun was able to shine through the trees in enough spots to keep us just warm enough.  The trail started with a quick climb from the creek bed to the first trail junction.  From here, we took the “path least followed” to extend the hike.  Sounded like a good idea at the time.

After about thirty minutes of hiking, we began to feel comfortable with our surroundings and I started to let my guard down just a bit.  We had been warned to alert for wildlife and from the jump I was on high alert.  However, thirty minutes into the two hour hike, I was feeling pretty comfortable.  The sun was keeping us warm and the breeze was doing its job too.  The path was two to three feet wide in most places and generally stoney too.  The trees were marked with various colors of paint spots to indicate which trail you were on.  This specific trail meandered along just below a ridge line, maybe 50 feet below the ridge with a steep drop off through the woods down to the river below on our right.

The trail alternated between open spaces and more densely wooded sections.  Just as we came out of one of those wooded sections into a clearing, the sun shining brightly on the trail, I heard leaves rustle on my left, the uphill side of the trail and then almost simultaneously noticed a sudden quick movement of a three to four foot long snake coming right at me!

I instinctively jumped back away from the high-side of the trail, not thinking about the drop-off just a foot or two away but of the snake coming toward me.

This is where Nature’s Health Check comes in.  In that moment, probably about 3 to 5 seconds, I learned that my adrenaline production is fine and my reaction time under extreme stress is still super fast.  I was outta there in a heart beat.  Oh yeah, my heart was working just fine too!

Now remember I said the trail was two to three feet wide.  Well, I was walking in the middle of the trail when this occurred so there could not have been more than a couple of feet from where I was standing to the edge of that steep drop off the other side of the trail.  When I got startled (read that as scared), I jumped back and started falling off the trail down ledge.  Good thing for me that Siohan’s reflexes are really quick too.  She was only a step or two behind me and saw what was going on.  She grabbed the shoulder strap on my Camelbak and pulled me back onto the trail and away from the snake.

I told her it was a good thing I went first so I could protect her from whatever we may encounter out there.  She smiled and said, yeah, I got you.  (Good thing for me!)

So, nature has a way of testing us and I’ve gotten all the natural physical exams I’ll need for the rest of this trip.  We’ll see.

We all have our fears.  For some, its heights.  For others, its speaking in front of large groups of people.  For me, its snakes…





We’re off…

Our RV Adventure has begun!


On April 1st we departed Fort Myers (a few hours later than planned, more on that in a minute) and made it to our first stop in Eustis, FL.

We recently joined a club called Boondockers Welcome which is a group of RVers that allow other RVers to park on their property free of charge for a night or two while traveling through town.  Last night was our first experience actually using the club and we are hoping that each club member IMG_7843is as gracious a host Jack.  He greeted us with a smile when we arrived, showed us to a beautiful shaded area to park the rig and allowed us to connect to his electricity so we could run our A/C.  This spot sure beats the Walmart parking lot we thought of staying in!

Also, for those of you living in the Mount Dora area, you might want to stop by Santa’s Farm to get your Christmas tree this year.  IMG_7846You see, Jack owns Santa’s Farm and sells Christmas trees during the holiday season.  If you do, please say hi to Jack for us and let him know we sent you!

Our reason for stopping here was to visit Dad who lives in Mount Dora, just one town away.  We planned to join him for dinner at the restaurant in his community at 6PM but we got a late start and didn’t get to Dad’s until 7:30.  Of course, by then we needed a different place for dinner and decided on Jeremiah’s on Highland St.  The food was great and service was good too.  Since we know a few of you plan to visit Mount Dora soon, we wanted to share this recommendation with you.  Can’t go wrong here.

About that late departure…we got out of the house and over to the RV to hook up the Jeep right on schedule.  We got the Jeep connected with no troubles but could not plug the electrical wires from the Jeep into the RV.  Oh sh**!  After nearly two hours trying to repair it, three zip ties had to suffice to hold the plug into the RV receiver.  Not ideal but it works.  We’ll get it repaired when we stop at the Tiffin factory next week but thats another story.

Thats it for now.