Monday, October 31, 2016

Devil's Den State Park, Arkansas

Every time we visit Siloam Springs, we pass the 2 exits south of Fayetteville advertising Devil's Den State Park. I have always wanted to check it out, but it is only 55 miles from Bob and Dot's so it has never been a stop we have considered. This time, we made the stop! Now, there are two exits off I-49 (used to be I-540) that will take you to the park. The northern exit, #53 is the one for large vehicles. What they don't tell you is that once you get to the park it is a tight squeeze in the visitor center parking lot for check-in. Now that we have been, I would recommend that you have reservations for a specific site in Camping Area E before arriving. That way, you park your rig and drive your car or truck to the visitor center to register. The parking lot will fit one large rig and a few cars---more is a nightmare. Don't ask me how I know.....
 Once we chose our site (91) and got settled in, it was time for a hike!
 We chose the Devil's Den Trail. It was a great hike through rocky terrain.
 Bob and I both enjoyed seeing the rock formations. There are several caves at the park, but they are closed at this time to protect the bats.
This was the 'cooler' area of the trail. Cool air circulated up and out of the opening behind us making it feel about ten degrees cooler than it actually was.
 Much of this park was developed by the CCC back in the mid to late 1930s. In fact, Devil's Den was the first park selected to be an Arkansas State Park back in 1933.
 The next day we hiked Yellow Rock Trail and the spur to the CCC Overlook. Once again, there were great rock formations and spectacular views.
 The trail headed uphill for the first part. In fact we could look down and see the trail we had already walked.
 Once we got to Yellow Rock, the views really opened up before us.
 Not far from Yellow Rock was another rock outcropping...I couldn't resist, I had to go stand on it!
 From Yellow Rock we continued to the CCC Overlook built in the 1930s. We crossed several bridges to get to the overlook.
 The CCC did an excellent job building this overlook. They joked at the time, that they should win a Nobel prize for the best made overlook.
 Bob and I enjoyed our stay at Devil's Den, but we had to move on after only two nights (our site was only available for two nights).

Next stop: an old favorite----Harlow's Casino in Greenville, Mississippi. We have stopped here on several of our trips to overnight in their parking lot.
After our night at Harlow's, it was time to move farther into Mississippi. After a little research, we chose a Corps of Engineer Campground that was new to us. We would follow US 82 across Mississippi until we made the turn north toward West Point, Mississippi.

Visiting Siloam Springs

Our next stop was Siloam Springs, Arkansas to visit Bob's parents. We arrived mid-afternoon and got set up in their driveway. Since Sol is longer than the Windsport was, we can no longer park our car behind the rig. Bob and Dot's neighbors graciously let us park in their driveway as long as they got the 35 cent tour of Sol before we left.

Our big adventure while in Siloam was to take Bob and Dot to Vinita, Oklahoma, for the Second Annual Pumpkin Chunkin' and Chili Cook-off. We took them in style! We drove Sol and towed the CRV since we didn't know what parking restrictions we might run into. As it turns out, we parked Sol at the local Wally World and drove to John's Tractors where the event was being held. The field looked a little too mushy for Sol.
 We enjoyed picking our favorite chili...most of our votes went to the local firefighters. They made some good chili. My other favorite was the elk chili. Not the club, but the animal.
 It took a while for the pumpkin chunkers to get going. Since this was only the second annual event for Vinita, they did pretty good, but I bet they learned some, too!
 All of the chunkers loaded and fired at different times. We could follow most  pumpkins with our eyes, but some went so fast, we couldn't see where they landed.
 They save the best for last. Colossal Thunder took a while to get loaded, but once it fired, the pumpkin went out of sight! It must have flown over a half mile into a farmer's field. When it landed, it scared the grazing cows and they took off running for the barn!

Another adventure was our trip to a gas station southwest of Siloam, in Oklahoma. Now I can hear you saying, "why was that an adventure?" I'll tell you. That gas station had a restaurant that served one of the best steaks Bob and I have ever eaten! The Double R & P Gas and Grill only serves steaks on Friday nights, but they are well worth the trip if you are ever in the area!

We enjoyed our trip to Siloam, but it was time to move on toward home. There was an Arkansas State Park I wanted to check out this trip so that would be our next stop.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Fort Scott, Kansas---a LIttle Bit of History

Next planned stop, Fort Scott, Kansas. After some research, Bob knew there were two possibilities for us to choose to camp. The first was Gunn Park, a city campground. We were able to stop and unhook the car to check out the campground. Unfortunately it had low branches throughout the park and we didn't want to try to maneuver through the narrow roads trying to avoid low branches. Our second choice, Lake Fort Scott, was just right! This campground was south of town, near the airport. It offered boondocking for $5 a night. All we had to do was park Sol any place we wanted and we were set to explore the area.
Since it had been a trying day of driving through traffic....unbelievable traffic for a Sunday...we decided to walk around the area and chill until Monday to do our sightseeing. As usual, we geocached our way to the historic fort.
 This old schoolhouse was located near a community college's walking path. There were several caches located around the path.
 Our next stop was Fort Scott National Historic Site. The fort was established in 1842 to protect the burgeoning American frontier. In 1853 the fort was abandoned and it was sold at auction in 1855.
 During the American Civil War, some of the buildings were leased by the US Army in an effort to keep law and order to keep Fort Scott safe from pillaging Confederates. One of the buildings became a children's home in the early 1900's. In 1978 many of the buildings were restored to their original appearance. The children's home/officer's quarters shows evidence of both uses.
 After leaving the fort, we came upon the local Veteran's Memorial. We have found that many small towns have beautiful memorials for their veterans.
Bob and I walked around town before choosing the local diner as the place we would eat lunch. On our return to Sol, we walked the area near the lake and got ready to move on the following day.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Leaving Forest City--Time to Start the Trek toward Home

After spending Thursday night in the WIT campsite, Bob and I got an early start south. Our next major stop would be Siloam Springs, Arkansas to visit his parents. Our first night we stopped in Osceola, Iowa at Lakeside Casino. We were going to camp in the casino campground, but it was being paved....we didn't want to take Sol through the fresh tar.  Bob talked with the valet  and he told us we could park in the northwest side of the parking lot with no problem, so we did. After we got settled, it was off to find a place to buy groceries and fill the car with gas. Of course, we made a visit to the casino and played some slots to pass some time. Once again, we came out winners (we didn't lose the money we went in with, but we didn't hit the jackpot either!).

Friday morning, I called a Harvest Host provider and found our spot for that night. So off we went in Sol, headed to Rayville, Missouri, not far from Kansas City. We chose to stay at Van Till Family Farm Winery. When you look at the map, you will see that Rayville is way out in the country. It was quite a drive getting there, but well worth it! The owner had us park near a part of the vineyard close to the tasting room. While we were there, no one drove down the road next to us.
On the other side of Sol was a small pond.

We got settled, then went to look around the shop and restaurant. The tasting room was packed and there was a special event in the room next door. The wood fired oven was blazing in the restaurant and pizza was being served. We decided to wait until later in the evening to have one of the wood fired pizzas. Once we decided we were hungry for pizza, we found out the place is a popular spot for locals on the nights pizza is served (Fridays and Saturdays).
 While we were waiting to be called, we walked around the walled garden which is complete with a fire pit in one area and a conversation pit in another. Sorry, no pictures of either as both areas were occupied.
During the summer months, the restaurant is housed beneath the white tent you see in this picture. All things considered, Van Till Family Farm Winery was an excellent place to spend the night.

Sunday morning we were on the road again. We thought that Sunday would be a good day to travel through Kansas City, but we were wrong. As we drove through the area on the interstate, we were once again reminded of why we don't like big cities----TRAFFIC AND CRAZY DRIVERS EVERYWHERE! We both breathed a huge sigh of relief once we were on US 69 and headed away from the mayhem!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Winnebago Industries, Forest City, Iowa

Bob and I arrived early on Sunday at Winnebago Industries. We were able to find a site in the customer service camping area. If we had arrived any later we would have had to park at the WIT Center. We got set up and made sure we had everything in order for our appointment the following morning--7 a.m.  Yes, we had to have Sol ready to move at 7 a.m. That meant everything stowed and the the two working slides in with jacks up. Winnebago provided electric at each site. There was a dump station and fresh water across the highway in the rally grounds.

So, bright and early Monday morning we met the tech who would be in charge of fixing Sol. Eric had a sheet with the notifications of fixes and we were able to add a few more small items once we checked in at the service desk. The first day of service, we stuck close to the service area in case we needed to answer any questions. We figured the WIT tour of the factory was close enough. First we walked through the Winnebago Museum and followed the story of how Winnebago came into existence.
Then we toured the factory and saw motorhomes being put together and painted (no pictures allowed.)  Since we couldn't eat lunch in Sol, we went into town to find a restaurant. We ate  lunch in the local Mexican restaurant. After lunch, we walked around Forest City. It is a nice small college town. Waldorf University is located in Forest City.
  We found the bicycle art listed on Roadside America. It was difficult to get good pictures of the structures made from bicycles, but here is one of the creatures.
Promptly at 3 p.m., Sol was returned to us. Eric told us what had been done and what would be done the next day.

Tuesday we ventured to Austin, Minnesota. I hear you asking, "Why Austin, Minnesota?" Well, it is the home of Hormel who manufactures SPAM. They have a museum in town that is worth the visit.
 The museum details the origin of spam and its use by the military in World War II and beyond.
SPAM is a favorite in Hawaii and in many countries around the world. There are many flavors of SPAM, but the museum gift shop only sells the top 12 flavors.

If you visited the SPAM Museum before April of 2016, it was in its original location near the Hormel factory. The current museum opened at the end of April in the center of Austin, Minnesota. The museum offers a list of local restaurants that use Spam. Bob and I chose Steve's Pizza...and no, we didn't get a Spam pizza! Bob did get a pizza and I got a lunch order of  lasagna. Both were very good.

We returned to Forest City in time to get Sol and to talk with Eric. He took us back in the work area to show us what they did to fix our slide. He also told us they were going to replace the motors on the living room slide as the casings on the motors were starting to crack just like the ones did on the kitchen slide. We took Sol back to our site to get ready for one another early morning appointment.

Wednesday we went geocaching. We took some back roads in the area and found some interesting sights. Due to heavy rains to the north, the creeks were overflowing their banks.
The deck on this bridge had been replaced. As we walked over the bridge to get a cache, we wondered just how good the supporting piers were....they didn't look so good once we got across.
In the middle of nowhere, we found a monument to Norwegian immigrants. Of course, there was a cache located at the base of one of the flagpoles.
In another little town, we found a cache on the school bell of the local museum.
To complete our day we stopped in at the casino located by the Iowa Welcome Center. First we found the cache, then we ate lunch at Burger King in the casino. After our late lunch, we went back to get Sol and settle in for the night. If all went as planned we only had one more day of work on Sol.

Yes, work on Sol would be completed Thursday afternoon. We spent Thursday geocaching to Mason City, Iowa. We drove past the Frank Lloyd Wright house and the hotel he built in Mason City. Then we took the long way back to Forest City. We stopped at a Winnebago Parts Store just off the interstate. It turned out to be an Internet only operation, but the owner had a collection of Indian motorcycles on display in the office area.
 We enjoyed looking at all the motorcycles and advertisements before we made our way back to Forest City.
When Eric brought Sol around, we were excited to know that all work was completed and we would be able to leave the following morning! Bob and I were both happy with the service at Winnebago.  Now it was time to plan our trip south!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Fort Dodge, Iowa

If you have been following us on the map, you can see that we are not following our 3-2 traveling rule! We are traveling much less than 200 miles a day and we are stopping around noon. When we left Prairie Flower Campground, Bob and I both had experience with Iowa's no-see'ums. And we can tell you these little critters are much more vicious than Florida no-see'ums. The Iowan version is almost black and it has a ferocious bite. One night while we were visiting with our friends, Ed and Doreen, I looked down after swatting around my head and found my shirt was covered with little black flecks! I could see'um! And even worse than that, I could feel where they had bitten my neck and my arms! I heard on the news a few nights later that these critters are also called pirate bugs. When the nights begin to chill and the insects are gone from the corn fields, the pirate bugs attack anything they can, especially humans! Okay, I have digressed from our travels.....

Our stop after Prairie Flower was Webster County Fairgrounds at Fort Dodge, Iowa. We just happened to arrive while a college rodeo was using the fairground arena. At the fairground we had our choice of a site with electric or a boondocking site. We chose the boondocking site. After we got set up, we hopped in the car and drove around town to pick up some geocaches.
 That evening, we went to the rodeo. We were a little late arriving and all the upper bleacher seats were taken so we had to sit on the first row. When you are watching a rodeo, that is not the best place to sit. For most of the events we watched the big screen television at the opposite end of the arena so we could get an idea of what was happening. The rodeo was exciting, especially the bronco riding and the bull riding. When it was over, many of the teams and their horses left the fairgrounds, but a few stayed until morning.

Saturday, we played tourist and visited Fort Dodge Frontier Town and Fort. There were a lot of interesting items on display in the town.
Local pioneer families donated many of the items.
The carriages were impressive even though many were in disrepair.
Bob was interested in the fort since it was one of the first to use dragoons--the horseback riding infantry that predated the cavalry.
This is a view of the fort from one of the rifle slots in the guardhouse.
Now, there was one item on display that was not fort related and that was the CARDIFF GIANT! Bob found it listed on Roadside America, so we had to see it.

 This giant man was supposedly discovered in 1869. It was, of course a hoax. This is a replica of the original.
 After touring Fort Dodge, we headed back to Sol for lunch and a rest. We were hoping the weather would clear and we would be able to get out and do more geocaching. Unfortunately, the weather stayed cloudy and misty until late in the afternoon. We found a local park where we could walk---got to get those steps! The path took us next to the Des Moines River which was overflowing the dam. If you zoom in on the picture you can see trees and limbs caught on the dam.
 As we continued on the path, we found a spot where we could see the American flag we had spotted from a nearby bridge on our way to the park. The plaque on the rock reads "Stand straight and tall, Be proud to be an American...'Old Glory'  2004"
Bob and I enjoyed our stay in Fort Dodge. It was also the first time we had boondocked since we stayed at Bretz Wildlife Lodge and Winery in Illinois.  Our next stop would be Forest City, Iowa, at Winnebago Industries to get some repairs done on Sol.