February 2009
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View entire year's route With Google Earth 546K
View year's Camps With Google Earth 90K
View this month's route With Google Earth 88K
Special educational pages from this month
Adapt or Die, animal adaption in Death Valley
Borax, the White Gold, What is borax?
Sunday, February 1 Todays route using Google Earth
Pine Acres Campground   Aiken, SC Locate this campground with Google Earth $15.00 per night
Tom's back is improving, but very sore. Frank spent most of the evening installing speakers for the new Blue Ray player and rebuilding the truck navigation notebook computer with Windows XP. Vista kept crashing and losing our GPS mapping place. I forgot to add that we have noticed that Aiken seems to be an affluent horse community. We have seen loads of expensive horse trailers, and all the street signs have a horse's head on them. Lots of horse crossing signs too. However, except for one trailer, we didn't see any horses.
Monday, February 2 Todays route using Google Earth
Cane 9 Creek RV park   Heflin, AL Locate this campground with Google Earth $25.00 per night
A long drive of 245 miles today. We are trying to make some time in getting across the south. This is a nice campground that appears to be under new ownership. Lots of recent upgrades. It rained heavily today so things are a bit muddy. We went through Atlanta in the middle of the afternoon along with a rain storm. Even with early rush hour traffic and rain, the highway was nothing like the highways around Washington DC.
Tuesday, February 3 Todays route using Google Earth
Benchmark Coach & RV Park   Meridian, MS Locate this campground with Google Earth $19.57 per night See Camp Club discount info on help page W
Nice campground, but at $30.10, a bit on the pricey side for a non-franchise park. We got a CampClub discount which brought the price way down. After setting up, we drove to a local emergency clinic where Tom had x-rays taken of his chest. Turns out he has 2 broken ribs from falling on the ice Thursday. The doctor gave him a prescription for pain meds, wrapped his chest with a chest band (a stretch wrap which goes around the chest) and told us to keep traveling. The doctor said ribs need six weeks to heal. Tom needs to get another x-ray in about 3 weeks.
Wednesday, February 4 Todays route using Google Earth
Pavilion RV Park   West Monroe, LA Locate this campground with Google Earth $30.43 per night
Tom is feeling better today, but still in pain. The chest band is working very well. Frank is beginning to get tired of driving 200+ miles a day. We will begin to slow down some in the next few days. While trying to extend the office slideout, a piece of wooden trim broke. The entire trim was replaced last summer. We need to schedule a visit to the trailer factory again this spring. I realize these day to day entry's aren't very interesting at the moment. We are just trying to get west as quickly as possible. Once we finish with IGRA University in Las Vegas, things should get more interesting.
Thursday, February 5 Todays route using Google Earth
Tyler State Park (Big Pine)   Tyler, TX Locate this campground with Google Earth $18.52 per night
Our first time in a Texas State park in many years. They are still very good places to camp. We stayed in this park January 18, 1990, a little over 19 years ago. This morning, while still in Louisiana,we hooked up the trailer, then remembered we needed to get diesel fuel. We also needed propane. So we drove the camper to the office to fill up the propane tank and were told it would be 20 minutes before someone could help us. So we dropped the trailer (un-hooked) in front of the store and drove across the street to get diesel fuel. Worked out fine. Not as long a drive today, but tiring. Some of the roads in Louisiana were terrible with humps that gave the trailer quiet a ride. Not a thing moved inside the trailer. Last night Frank mounted a cowboy statue above a window so it wouldn't fall. We bought this little statue at the Signal Mountain shop in Grand Teton National Park on May 27, 1990. He (Mr. Cowboy) has traveled with us in our 3 trailers for many thousands of miles since then.
Friday, February 6 Todays route using Google Earth
Oak Creek RV Park   Weatherford, TX Locate this campground with Google Earth $29.95 per night
We skirted around the south end of Dallas and Fort Worth today. Heavy traffic, but not anywhere near as busy as Washington DC. This is a beautiful campground with fantastic tiled bathrooms. The only drawback is it is right on the Interstate and traffic is noisy. Tom is having some trouble with coughing which hurts his ribs. Frank twisted his foot last night so he is hobbling around today. Guess we are just a couple of crippled old farts. The scenery has changed dramatically. There are still trees around, but things have gotten much drier and open. There are several horses in the field next to the campground. The campground has very good high speed Internet, but they are using the same IP configuration as our trailer server which caused lots of trouble. After a long search, Frank found some proxy server software on the Internet which seems to solve the problem. We will test it a few days and decide if we want to buy it.
Saturday, February 7 Todays route using Google Earth
Abilene State Park   Tuscola, TX Locate this campground with Google Earth $15.00 per night
We're in another Texas state park tonight. Abilene State Park near the tiny town of Tuscola, Texas (population 725) Last night was rather noisy because it was on the Interstate, here we are about 20 miles from the nearest major highway so it should be very quiet. We are seeing more and more horses along the way. The temperature today is in the upper 70s, quite a change from earlier in the week when we had to disconnect our water each night to keep the water hose from freezing.
Sunday, February 8 Todays route using Google Earth
Monahans Sandhills State Park   Monahans, TX Locate this campground with Google Earth $10.00 per night
A very windy day, difficult driving. Tom drove about 50 miles for the first time today since we started the trip. This is a pretty campground in the middle of a bunch of sand dunes. We stayed here back in 1990. The wind was stiff with gusts up to 30 or 40 miles per hour. Sand was blowing across the parking lots. Later in the day the clouds came in and we had some rain, but not a lot. It was just windy and the trailer shook. It is now about 10PM in the evening and most of the rain has passed and the wind has died down. I think this will be another peaceful night. We drove into Monahans, about 8 miles away to get fuel. The only station open had some problems with the pump and the diesel fuel was filling at the rate of about 2 gallons a minute. Took almost 20 minutes to fill the tank. This region is called the Permian Basin, W one of the most productive oil fields in the US, and is full of active oil wells and refineries. There's even a functioning oil rig right inside the park next to one of the picnic areas.  
Monday, February 9 Todays route using Google Earth
Bottomless Lakes State Park W  Roswell, NM Locate this campground with Google Earth $14.00 per night W
We are in our first New Mexico State Park tonight, which is fitting since this was New Mexico's first state park. There are a series of pits running along the bottom of a mountain ridge which form small lakes. It is said the cowboys tried to find how deep they were by tying their lariats end to end and didn't find a bottom. The deepest lake is actually only 90 feet deep. This park is just a few miles from Roswell and Frank actually got beamed up by some aliens.   but luckily they put him back a bit later. But seriously, Frank had some fun taking special effects photos. The campsite picture as well as the one of Frank and following gallery which look like they were taken in broad daylight were actually taken at night under a full moon using 30 second time exposures. Notice the stars in the sky.   This photo shows the speed limits on some west Texas Interstates.  
We stopped along our route to view an historical marker locating the site of the first deep water well drilled in the west.  

Pope's Crossing
This route was used by emigrants and the Butterfield overland mail which linked St. Louis and San Francisco with a semi-weekly mail between 1858 and 1861. This site was headquarters in 1855 for Captain John Pope, supervisor of the drilling of the first deep well west of the 98th meridian. They struck water at 244 feet, but continued to sink the hole to 1,140 feet hoping to strike an artesian flow. The well caved in before its value could be determined. This $100,000 experiment pointed the way to deep well drilling in the great plains.

In downtown Roswell we passed an oversized statue of a cowboy of the old west attempting to control a bunch of stampeding longhorns.   Then in the evening we enjoyed a magnificant sunset as we settled down to a quiet night in the park.
Tuesday, February 10 Todays route using Google Earth
Kirtland Air Force Base Fam Camp   Albuquerque, NM Locate this campground with Google Earth $15.00 per night   W
Today started out sunny, cool and windy. As we headed north toward Albuquerque, it got colder, cloudier and the wind picked up. The elevation increased as we traveled which added to the cold front which was coming through. We passed through several snow squalls and it was even snowing in Albuquerque. Tonight the temperature is supposed to reach 19 degrees. We are in our first military campground for this trip. We got the truck washed and went grocery shopping.   We will stay here at least two days while we rest and get the oil changed in our truck.

Wednesday, February 11
Today was spent doing shopping and chores. Got the oil and fuel filter changed in truck at $215, ouch. Frank finally got around to building a cooling fan setup for the computers which had been overheating. Will add a photo of the computer setup here tomorrow night. We also found the problem with our driving track available on the truck webcam page. Now it shows the last half hour or so of travel instead of just the last 5 minutes.

Thursday, February 12 Todays route using Google Earth
USA RV Park   Gallup, NM Locate this campground with Google Earth $20.70 per night
A pleasant drive today, but later on the wind picked up again. This campground has full hookups, cable TV and free Internet, but it is basically a parking lot. We went to the El Rancho restaurant for dinner, our first restaurant this trip. Food was good, but not anything special. This hotel and restaurant was built by the brother of D.W. Griffith, W one of the early silent movie directors and one of the most famous.
Friday, February 13 Todays route using Google Earth
Seligman KOA   Seligman, AZ Locate this campground with Google Earth $37.70 per night   W
Today's drive was lovely with lots of high desert. Most of the trip was through arid lands before entering snow around Flagstaff. We began to see the mountains around Flagstaff more than 100 miles before reaching the town. Here are a few webcam images of today's trip.  We were planning on staying in Flagstaff, but the only campgrounds that were open were several feet deep in snow, and they were expecting another foot or two tonight. So we just stopped long enough to pick up some meds for Frank who had called them into a pharmacy a few days ago, then continued on another 60 miles to this very tiny town. Campground is nice, but they have had just enough snow in the last few days to make things muddy. We have decided to move on to Las Vegas tomorrow and stay in Sam's Town casino RV park.
Saturday, February 14 Todays route using Google Earth
Laughlin AVI Casino   Laughlin, NV Locate this campground with Google Earth $21.60 per night
We started out today with about an inch of snow everywhere. Rather than getting back on Interstate 40, we decided to drive a section of historic US 66 which we were camped beside last night. At about 85 miles, this is the longest portion of old US 66 that is still intact with no breaks. As we headed west, the snow got deeper as can be seen on these webcam captures Locate with Google Earth  . After crossing a set of mountains we moved out of the snow and on toward Laughlin, NV where the temperature was quite a bit warmer. Today being Valentines Day, it was appropriate that we found ourselves going through the two building hamlet of Valentine, Arizona.   locate with Google Earth After setting up camp, we drove into town and had the truck washed again, to get rid of the road salt accumulated from the snow areas we passed through.

Sunday, February 15
Today we left the trailer and drove south to see the towns of Needles and Lake Havasu City W the place where the old London Bridge was moved to Locate with Google Earth in the 1960s. While I suspect the residents love their towns, both were a disappointment for us. Needles was named for a nearby series of mountain peaks. Lake Havasu City was started in 1964 as a planned community by Robert Mccullough of Mccullough Chain saws. He bought the old London Bridge Panoramio Photo and had it reassembled here as an attraction for his town. We found the town crowded, poorly laid out and showed no appearence of having been planned. Of course I am comparing this town to Reston, Virginia where we lived for many years. The traffic was so heavy I didn't want to stop so we just drove around a bit and left. The drive back through the desert was pleasant with very little traffic.

Monday, February 16 Todays route using Google Earth
Sam's Town RV Park   Las Vegas, NV Locate this campground with Google Earth $36.26 per night
We started the day by getting the trailer washed at a independent washing contractor next to the casino in Laughlin, NV. For $80 they did a great job which took about an hour. We then headed north toward Las Vegas. The sky was cloudy all day and we had some scattered light rain. Figures, we had the trailer washed this morning, and it rained. That must have caused the desert rain storm. We passed a solar array called the Nevada Solar One, the third largest concentrated solar power plant in the world. Locate with Google Earth W We stopped for lunch at the only spot that had any buildings for the last 50 miles. I love visiting the desert, but I don't think I would want to live here, especially in the summer. The temperature frequently reaches 110 degrees and has been as high as 120 degrees. This evening we ate at a buffet in the casino which was quite good, but of course we over ate. This is a nice casino campground.

Tuesday, February 17
This morning we hooked up the trailer and took it down to a nearby Camping World. A couple of weeks ago as we were going through Texas and some serious wind, our TV antenna was damaged. I estimate that with a head wind of around 40 mph and us going near 60 mph we had winds across the top of the trailer in excess of 100 mph, so we aren't surprised. After putting the trailer back in our campground space, we drove over to a large electronics store called Frys for a few hours of shopping. Frank acted like a kid in a candy store, but at least he didn't buy too much. Dinner again at the buffet, this time, we didn't consume as much food as last night.

Wednesday, February 18
A slow day today as we relaxed and prepared for the weekend at IGRA University. In the evening we went to an interesting restaurant for dinner with a friend Jody. Frank's sister, Sallie, introduced us to Jody, her friend, and both Sallie and Jody have stayed with us at Clifton. The Hash House A Go Go serves normal food presented in unusual methods. Our plates were about 2 feet across and heaped with huge servings. Everyone takes home leftovers. The food was good.

Thursday, February 19 Todays route using Google Earth
Tuscany Casino and Hotel   Las Vegas, NV Locate this campground with Google Earth $ 0.00 per night
For the next four days we will be staying at this hotel while Frank attends meetings and teaches web design classes for IGRA University. Friday Frank will be webcasting the IGRA board meeting. Tune in if you are interested. The trailer is parked in the hotel's back lot so it will be close by. Tom will be taking various classes just for fun. While in the hotel's parking lot, the hotel's Security Staff will keep an eye on the trailer. Our travel log will continue on Monday, February 23.
Sunday, February 22 Todays route using Google Earth
Sam's Town RV Park   Las Vegas, NV Locate this campground with Google Earth $36.26 per night
We moved back to Sam's Town Cassino today instead of tomorrow as originally planned. The weekend at IGRA University was a tremendous success with 120 students and 25 instructors. Frank had some of the best classes he ever had. Tom won his associate degree in rodeo arts, meaning he acquired at least 16 total points over the last 2 years. Frank also got the same degree, but it took him 4 years because since he is teaching most of the weekend, he can only take one other class in a year. Later in the evening we went to see "Mystere" a Cirque Du Soleil production at Treasure Island casino. Fantastic show with a huge cast of talented acrobats and clowns. At one point there were 14 handsome muscle-bound studs swinging on a huge bar structure 50 feet above the stage. Two brothers went through a stunning display of strength as they did a slow motion act holding each other up by their legs and arms. Check the Cirque Du Soleil website for a short video of the show.

Monday, February 23 Time was spent today doing laundry and cleaning the trailer. We went back to Fry's to get some relays and a visit to Whole Foods. In the evening we went to the Rio Hotel and Casino to see Penn and Teller and had a ball.

Tuesday, February 24 Todays route using Google Earth
We had breakfast at Sam's Town, then tried to go to Shepler's, but they were closed. So we hooked up and headed west. We are now in Pahrump, NV the middle of the desert, but around a man made lake and loads of green grass and trees, all kept alive by irrigation. Makes me think of Dave Stamey's song, Somebody needs to go back home. Just look at the arial view of the campground on Google Earth above. The area though is beautiful. As the sun set, Frank got some photos of the mountains and the fantastic colors. We filled our propane tanks also.
Wednesday February 25 Todays route using Google Earth
Stovepipe Wells Village   Death Valley, CA Locate this campground with Google Earth $30.58 per night   W
This morning we awoke to a strong wind coming from the south. Before leaving Tom and Frank took a little walk to view the campground lake in the middle of the desert.   We then packed up and headed west into Death Valley. The scenery is spectacular.  The high today was 81 and the weather was beautiful. We were lucky in getting one of the two last full hookup sites at Stovepipe Wells where they only have 14 sites with hookups. There is no cell phone service in the valley so these updates may have to wait a few days. There is limited internet in the lodge, but it is slow. Will update these pages as I can.

Thursday, February 26
This morning we drove to Furnace Creek, about 30 miles south of Stovepipe Wells. Near there we toured the ruins of Harmony Borax Works.   We then looked around a small museum on Borax and had lunch at a restaurant. A bit expensive, but the food was excellent. In the afternoon we went on a ranger tour at Badwater, the lowest spot in the western hemisphere at -282 feet below sea level. The tour talked about the salts found in great abundance in the area.   Later in the evening our sliding pantry got stuck and we had to take the entire thing apart to get it working again.

Friday, February 27
We began today with a ranger talk on animal adaption to to the harsh environment of Death Valley called Adapt or Die. Tom and I were the only attendees so we got a lot of personal attention. Later we went back to Furnace Creek for two more ranger talks. One called  Borax, the White Gold and one on photography, both were very good. We headed up to Zabriskie Point Locate with Google Earth and shot some photos,   then continued to Dante's View Locate with Google Earth to watch the sunset.   Dante's Point is just 3 miles from Bad Water, but 6,000 feet higher. Back at the trailer we discovered a slow leak in the plumbing which took a bit to fix.

Saturday, February 28
Beginning with today's photos I have added a new feature. If the popup image has a Google Earth icon in the lower right corner. Clicking on the icon will open Google Earth and take you to the place the image was shot. You must have Google Earth installed on your computer for this to work.

This morning we struck out on an all day journey. First stop was the actual location of Stovepipe Wells.

  This water hole, the only one in the sand dune area of Death Valley, was at the junction of two Indian trails. During the bonanza days of Rhyolite and Skidoo (two nearby boom towns) it was the only known water source on the cross-valley road. When sand obscured the spot, a length of stovepipe was inserted as a marker, hence its unique name. Nearby is the grave of Val Noland, who succumbed to the heat sometime in August 1931 while trying to cross Death Valley. His body was found and buried November 6, 1931, a victim of the elements. This grave marker has been maintained by the National Park Service as a warning to those who venture into the desert unprepared.

Next we traveled north to Ubehebe Crater which was created by a volcanic steam eruption about 2,000 years ago. Molten magma had welled up into the water table, which fills the valley as far down as 8,000 feet, at which point the super heated steam exploded spraying rock and debris as far as 6 miles away and as deep as several hundred feet.  

Next we visited Scottie's Castle, W a grand home built by a wealthy Chicagoan in the late 1920s. Locate with Google Earth   We took two tours, the first of the cellars and walkways of the lower mansion, where we were guided by a Ranger dressed in period costume.  We saw plumbing and electrical equipment that ran the castle. We even got a demonstration of the original electrical generator which is still in working order. Next we got a tour of the home, a grand weekend getaway for the owners. The Park Service has done a tremendous job of restoring the home and the pipe organ where we were treated to a short concert.  If you ever get to Death Valley, both these tours are "must see adventures".

Finally we drove to Beatty for fuel and reentering the Park, took the Titus Canyon dirt road Locate with Google Earth which had just been reopened after flooding earlier this month.   This is a true back road and not passable without 4 wheel drive.   Fantastic scenery and a 4x4 owners fun road. Redneck Frank had a ball, but Tom was constantly on edge fearing damage to our truck. The trip was 30 miles of bumpy, rock strewn, dirt, with hair pin turns and sometimes hundreds of feet of drop off, all without guard rails. Plus at times, even our 4x4 truck was fishtailing in the soft sand. Getting stuck here, after dark, 45 miles from civilization would not be fun. We should have gotten an earlier start because it was dark before we exited the canyon.