Leaving Van Horn, 2nd visit to Carlsbad Caverns…

Left Van Horn around 9AM and headed up to Carlsbad Caverns for a second visit. This time I planned to walk down into the cavern from the ‘Natural Entrance’. This starts at the surface and winds down 750 vertical feet by the bat cave. Nice improved trail, but a bit steep. I don’t have joint problems as a rule so I didn’t think there would be too much trouble for me to hike down.

As you can see from the pics, weather was beautiful. Temp was in the high 60’s so it was a comfortable ride.

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Van Horn & 1st visit to Carlsbad…

Note to my readers: I thought my last post was a little too long so I’ve split it off and moved the Van Horn & Carlsbad Cavern visits here. I did modify the text and add a couple new pictures though so it’s not all the same as it was.

Enjoyed my visit to Van Horn.  Super fast WiFi, fast enough that I could watch a complete HBO or Amazon movie without a glitch. Nice flat countryside for bike riding. A store right next to the RV park. And several highly recommended resturants that the owners of the RV park had personally visited in the 5 months since they’d bought the RV park. Decided to try what I was told was a very good steak house just a block away. With a bar. Cool. So my first night here I bike over to the Cattle Company and find that they do indeed have an incredible steak. The Flat Iron. Tender like a filet mignon, but with the flavor of prime rib. Yum. Bad part was here I’m getting an expensive steak, and they only have those damned sweet rolls. Like Hawaiian type bread. Comes with honey butter cups. Gah! So I ask for just toast. I mean, really, who doesn’t eat their steak with garlic bread? Nope, they don’t have regular bread. So I ask for a couple pads of butter. They charge $0.50 for them even though I don’t even remove the lids from the honey butter cups. Order the salad, and typically, it’s not a salad. Two kinds of lettuce and 3 cherry tomatoes. That’s not a salad. OK, I try again for some veggies and order corn on the cob. I find out that they cook the cobs in hot salted water, then keep them warm in melted honey butter! Damnit! What the fuck is wrong with restaurants these days that they won’t even attempt to provide a decent, healthy, dinner??? No vegetables in the salads, mass quantities of sugar on everything. Well, the steak was good.

Three days later, I check the weather up at Carlsbad Caverns (CC) and it’s a little dicey but not too bad, so next morning off I go. Forty minutes later, and I’m heading into this. Looks pretty. But ominous.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA You climb from Van Horn at 4,000 feet, to CC at 6,000 feet. So you’re bound to run into some bad weather. Or have to drive through some interesting clouds.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

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Time to leave New Orleans…

After another day of wandering the streets of New Orleans, it was time to move on. Monitoring the national weather, I could see there was a front heading right for New Orleans bringing high winds, rain, tornados up north of here, and generally uncomfortable weather. This did curtail my loose plans of taking a couple more tours, riding the paddlewheel, and visiting some of the historical areas of NO. However, the predictions were dire enough that I decided to leave now then come back some day and enjoy the area during a calm weather period. But for right now, hightailing it out of this bullseye was the plan.

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And above is a picture to contrast with the beautiful weather I had here the day I arrived 5 days ago and showed in my last post. We were pretty much stuck with the overcast and threatening storm fronts all around.

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More from New Orleans…

Next day, head back downtown New Orleans…to meet the tour bus I’m scheduled for. It’s a Grey Line tour featuring a bus ride out of town to a sugarcane plantation named the Oak Alley. Timing was a little awkward as the shuttle picked us up at 4 PM or 8 PM and the plantation tour returned at 4:45. So I’d have to find something to do for 3 plus hours after returning. I had two hours to kill after being dropped off by the shuttle too.

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A few months in Orlando…

The first 2 months in Orlando passed quickly and I was enjoying the wonderful sunny and mild weather. And the Seahawks were heading for the Superbowl. I entertained myself by watching previous games of the season, and last years Superbowl over and over. I also attempted to find a Sports bar…no luck nearby. I did finally find one that would be a 20 minute drive that looked like it would be lots of fun to watch the SB at but could not find a ride. Lost Lake is so far out in the boondocks that it takes 15 minutes to get practically anywhere. So a taxi ride was way too expensive. The town of Apopka, which I’m only 4 miles from, has a population of 45,000 so it’s weird that there’s no taxi there. Every taxi I called, even Uber, would tell me it was too expensive for them to leave Orlando and come clear out to Apopka. Orlando was where the money was for taxi drivers.

I asked around the RV park and people did have plans for the SB, but none were heading to a sports bar. And buses out here took so long to get anywhere, and nowhere near where I wanted to go so they were out of the question. Sure, I could drive my RV, I’ve done that before when I wanted to see a game, but eventually I said screw it, I’ll just stay home and watch by myself. So I had my own little SB party. The RV park was like a ghost town, so many people were gone somewhere else for SB parties.

And I also tried to find a reason to go to Epcot center. You guys know that a day ticket is $108??!! Wow. The last time I went to a Disney style park like that it was only $50 odd bucks. That’s how long it’s been. Food would be hugely expensive there. Also parking would cost me $50 because of the size of my rig…I checked. So we’re talking about a $150 to $200 day. A bus from nearby goes right there, but takes 8 hours of travel time. One way. Yikes. But I really, really considered going. Also, I planned a visit to Key West. But each time I got it arranged, something came up, one time it even got all cold, windy, and wet there on the week I planned a visit. Damnit! So basically, I didn’t go anywhere in Orlando, or Florida expect this one RV park. Hurump.

And soon it was February, and the Superbowl, featuring the Seahawks. My team!! And they really looked like they had it in the bag, didn’t they? WTF??!! Passing on the goal line with plenty of time and 3 huge running backs on the roster?? What the hell where you thinking!? Damn. OK, done with football until next August.

Before I knew it, it was March. I’m sitting at my picnic table after taking some pictures of my windows I’d just worked on, and this wasp lands next to my left elbow. It’s carrying a green worm it’s size…that’s still wiggling. I’m watching it while it just sits there…resting I think. After about a minute, it flies over to my right side and plugs the worm into this hole. Then it acts like it’s stinging the worm…and depositing an egg. Damn. Then I realize this whole time, I’ve been sitting there like a dummy watching this drama unfold with my camera in my hands! Got this one shot.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Still had pretty good weather. But I was still here after almost 5 months because the poor bastards up north had one of the severest winters on record. It was the topic on the nightly news for months. I wanted to visit the gulf states for sure, but not when the roads were all icy, and it snowed 2-3 times a week up there. The rest of the time, it’s sleet, or heavy rain. But always cold. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA   Continue reading

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Hanging around in Georgia…

Since I don’t have a schedule, I’m staying at the Harvest Moon RV park in Adairsville, Georgia for a few days instead of just overnight because…why not. Weather was beautiful, park was very nice, I needed to get my laundry done, the usual. WiFi sucked but…meh, I’ll survive I suppose. Adairsville has a humid subtropical climate most of the year. But not while I visited. Very nice. During the days, 70’s, at night in the 50’s. Adairsville used to be a small Cherokee village until they were forced out in 1838 by land thieves based on the Indian relocation act. An illegal bill that was struck down by the Supreme Court after the Cherokee people sued for redress. The Cherokee were known as one of the Civilized Tribes as they had early on in the 1780’s adopted and tried to integrate into ‘white’ society. President Andrew Jackson ignored the SCOTUS ruling in favor of the Indians and forced marched them on the ‘Trail of Tears’ on which nearly 5,000 died. Asshole.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA There’s hardly any Indian history left around here, after it was brutally destroyed by the land grabbers that flooded this area after the Indians were forced out. There is, however, a pioneer graveyard right behind this RV park.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Unplanned visit to St. Louis…

As I was preparing to just head south, I decided, hell, maybe it would be fun to stop by Fairfield, Iowa, where Shelly had gone to college, gotten married, was the star of the local production of “Once upon a Mattress”, and lived for many years.

Perhaps visit her and my current internet friend Cat. Cat still lives there in a big ol’ house, it was on my way, and Fairfield was near where I’d have to stop for the night anyway. A quick phone call, and yes, I could stay out in front of her house for the night. So, I visited with them after arriving, we went out for dinner, I crashed in my RV out front of their house, and next morning, was back on the highway. And the storm had slipped south again. As I was leaving town, it wasn’t all that bad. Most of the rain had been earlier in the morning.

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But here you can see the clouds are going to be with me for a while. Getting close to St. Louis and it’s not let up that much. It’s only been ‘sprinkles’ though.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy plan was to find a low cost RV park on the outskirts of St. Louis, and take public transportation into town to visit the Arch. I’d seen it from the freeway, but never gone up the arch. Sounded like a fun thing to do though. I’d spent some time online at Cat’s place to find this RV park near St. Louis. I should have taken longer.

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On to Golden Valley, Minnesota…

My daughter, Michelle, had moved…from Walla Walla, where she’d been living for several years since her divorce, to Golden Valley, Minnesota. She’d met a guy online and ended up moving to Minnesota to be with him. Ain’t that sweet?

Anyway, I leave Walla Walla early morning after the nice visit with family, and head north. I only visited with family for one day though, because by now it’s September 26th and I wanted to get to Minnesota before the weather turned wintry anywhere along the route. According to the long term weather predictions, I had the best chance of an uneventful trip if I traveled at this time. I headed northeast actually, since my mapping program said that’s the best route. I’d get to go through Prescott, Dayton, Spokane, Coeur d’Alene, and beyond. And I’d get to travel through country I’d not seen in 40 years. And just one days drive would get me clear to Great Falls, Montana or there abouts.

Wheat field just outside Walla Walla.

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July 2014. Time to travel North…

After resting up at my brother’s house just a couple weeks, I was surprisingly ready to travel again. At least in my comfortable RV. Pretty happy I wouldn’t have to live out of a carry on bag for a long while. I was ready to head north to avoid the heat of the desert. Off I went on June 30th. By July 1st, was enjoying the cool air of the Mt. Shasta area and later that day, I was all set up at Rolling Hills RV Park in Fairview, Oregon. Not my favorite RV park in the country, but it’s just so damned conveniently placed near my friends.

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1st-3rd Days in Dublin…and on to LA…

Well, folks, these are my last few days in Europe…

Here I was in the suburbs of Dublin, in an apartment built in the 1850’s for coal miners, with nothing touristy nearby, and I couldn’t bring myself to leave the apartment. I was mentally and physically exhausted by travel. Living out of a carry on bag had it’s advantages of course, but it’s limitations as well. While I was in Paris I thought it might be cool to go to the west coast of France, rent a house and hole up there for a month, but figured I might miss out on visiting all the other places I’d been since. Prague, Berlin, London, Bath. So I’d kept moving. And eventually, that takes some travel enthusiasm out of you. My host has a large video library and I ended up doing nothing but watch movies and surf the net.

While web surfing, I discover there’s a road in Northern Ireland named Ballymongan. That is interesting because I was just doing some random searches for my family name, Mongan, and found that it links to Ballymongan. With the suggestion in articles I’m reading that’s where my family hails from originally. Back in the states I’d spent 100’s of hours researching the families Irish roots but had never stumbled onto Ballymongan. I had traced the surname Mongan back to the year 630, but had never pinpointed an area of origin this concisely. Ballymongan is basically just an ‘area’ of Ireland now. The family is fairly scattered. Three hour drive NW of Dublin, and less than an hours drive due east of Donegal.

 

Back in the early 1960s, one of my distant cousins had traveled to Ireland and came back with pictures of what they said was the Mongan family castle. I remember looking at them, and it’s as you would expect, the pictures showed a ruin. Still, if I could get over there to Ballymongan and perhaps find a long lost relative, maybe visit the castle if it’s still there, that would be cool.

So I ask my host if he’d have the time to drive me over there. I’d pay for everything of course. Unfortunately, he’s too busy to make the trip. So close, yet so far.

I start trying to find some means of transport over there that would work and find an AirBnB apartment to stay at…but travel exhaustion was hitting me hard. Couldn’t bring myself to do it. My European trip was over. I just wanted to get back home, sleep for a week, and then rest for a month without traveling anywhere. To hell with it. I checked ticket prices for Irish Air and bought a ticket for a couple days on that gave a $1,000 break on the price over a flight tomorrow. When my host got home later, I asked if I could stay another night (I’d only booked 2 nights). Necessary for that airline ticket price discount. But turned out he had another guest showing up the day I wanted. So back online, I find a nice hotel that was having a price special and reserved a room. This would put me right downtown Dublin so I could do a walkabout whenever I wished while I stayed there.

2nd Day in Dublin…

Next morning, showered, had breakfast, cleaned up my messes, locked up and dropped my key in the mailbox slot as I trudged off into town. And as I passed a gentleman my age behind his fence, I asked where the nearest bus stop was? He stares at me for a few moments, mumbles a couple words I couldn’t make heads or tails out of,  turns and walks back into his house. What the hell? I had my Android tablet set up with GPS mapping and decided to hoof it instead of taking the bus. It wasn’t all that far. That would give me more of a personal view of Dublin and her people.

Soon I was near the river, just a couple blocks distant. My GPS mapping was working fine as I walked into a newly rebuilt area with fancy condos, a hotel, government buildings, a small park, the works. All spruced up. Without a single fukin’ street sign on any street corner, or on any building like they do in so many cities. WTF? This huge area had absolutely no help for someone trying to find an address. There weren’t even any building numbers I could find. And my GPS got confused around this time. I think it was because of being surrounded by highrises.

Now, I knew I was only a few blocks away from where I wanted to be, no biggie, but it would have helped if the city of Dublin would have required building contractors to install street signs in this large area of town. Wow. I did find a city crew working in an alley and I got to talk to the foreman a bit. I was laughingly complaining about the lack of street signs after I’d gotten directions from him and he didn’t believe me. Until we walked into that new area and I pointed it out to him. He’d never noticed. Funny.

Following his easy directions, I was soon right where I wanted to be. This is the main drag and the hotel is nearby. I haven’t been yet, I’m approaching it though. Dragging my bags.

IMG_20140612_131731 This statue is on O’Connell Street, downtown. Sort of the city center. A way on is O’Connell bridge that has some famous history. But, remember I was sick of traveling so I didn’t bother to investigate the history of Dublin. IMG_20140612_131739 Everything is nice and modern. They even have a trolley system.IMG_20140612_131745

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