Our First 2 Years RV Adventures…..
While we’re aware that driving 500 miles a week isn’t really setting a land speed record…. but, if you do it for a while, it all adds up. We set out to learn the craft of RV’ing in May of 1999. Over the next 2 years, we covered about 50,000 miles and enjoyed dozens of National and State Parks and attractions. Our first adventure was more fun than a barrel of monkeys. During our first outing , we spent a short stay in Austin, TX with a wonderful group of people from a company called “Bike.Com” where we all collaborated in launching a website dedicated to the sale of bikes and parts. On our time off, we spent each weekend exploring the sights of middle Texas, and enjoying the many wonderful attractions and historical locations….. from the Alamo to this- the spot where the Bush girls got in trouble…. it was only 2 blocks from the RV park, so we ate there most every Sunday afternoon…. doesn’t look like much- but the Chimmy Chongas were the best!!!. While in the great state of Texas, we visited the LBJ library, the LBJ ranch and tons of other spots…. from the Rio Grande River to old San Antonio and the famous river walk.
Your Move, Dude!
The well armed guy in the photo at the right was standing in the middle of a field…. really couldn’t let him slide by without taking a picture. There was little comment passed between us as to who had the rights to this part of the pasture…. he won, hands down. The Texas hill country is a most beautiful part of the United States. There is much more to see than meets the eye. As well, Austin is a most gentile city. The music capitol of the world as it were. The RV park where we stayed was about 2 1/2 miles from town, so we could easily walk downtown to the music festivals and bands on 6th street. The city was always ripe with fun things to do…. from the Austin Symphony Orchestra to the sounds of country music….. to the bats emerging nightly from the bridge. One of those places on the planet you can’t forget.
We left Austin and headed for the desert South West… where we explored over 25 national parks and monuments during the next couple of months. The picture at right is us in the base of Bryce Canyon. Bryce is one of the most spectacular displays of space and rocks that we’ve ever seen. Exploring the canyon bottom was truly a trip to remember. Over all, we agree that this National Park is one of the most incredible in the western United States.
As we move along through these pictures….. it is difficult to select the places, events and photographs that represented the true wonder of it all. We drove thousands of miles…. took tons of pictures, only a few of which can be represented here on these pages. It must be a lot like the editor of a newspaper goes through every day…… what do we show on page one? – I don’t really know…. in this instance, it is to demonstrate diversity….. to represent in any depth what we really did and enjoyed, would take a lot more space than is allotted.
Our steel horse gave us the freedom we needed to explore the on and off road locations that made the trip worth while. Adventures out west are a lot different than what we see in sunny Florida. Palmetto doesn’t even grow there…. if you can imagine. After decades of 6 foot deep green water and maybe a few catfish – adventuring in the Rockies was just the ticket.
Arches National Park:
During most of the trip, we hiked between 5 and 10 miles every day, drinking in the scenery and enjoying the National Park system. The photo at left is one of those “once in a lifetime” pictures. It was full moon at Arches National Park….. we hiked out through the cactus and grasses for miles. When we arrived at the arches- the moon had risen and had left us with this spectacular photo of the arch with the stars behind it. Using a flashlight, I had “painted” the edges of the arch with a time exposure frame, so that it was highlighted against the night sky. If that doesn’t take your breath away- there is no hope.
Canyon Lands National Park:
We spent several days 4-wheeling in Canyon Lands and Arches National Parks…. taking advantage of the photo opportunities and richness of the lands. It is difficult, if not impossible, to describe the enlightenment we attained from this adventure. We are hoping to return to the Rockies soon to embrace other incredible wonders of the lands….. This is all food for the soul.
Please note the interesting photo at left…. These are some early programming languages- not fundamentally different that our 4GL languages of today… But a bit more efficient to say the least. My personal favorite- over the dozens and dozens of “digs” we visited….. was a consistency and theme of drawings of men equipped- with what appeared to be some type of back pack or breathing gear. You’ve got to wonder about the history of man. Were there really little Green Men at some point in the past? Will we ever really know?
Well onto the next stop…. Here we are in two different states at the same time…. It really isn’t difficult to communicate state to state- considering the options available today. In this instance, no cell phones, no satellite communication required…. just hugs and smiles are all it takes- given your location….. Remember: location, location, location…. ???? – it counts more than you know.
In our efforts to put this “history” section in place, it was really difficult to choose from the literally hundreds of photos and places we visited. We were very fortunate to have made many new friends and acquaintances over the two years we traveled….. more fun to come in our next adventure- when it begins very soon….
In this photo….. You get to realize just what volunteer ecology work is all about. What you see is the Lake Powell “Garbage Barge”…. a flat bottomed craft, capable of carrying several volunteers on a one week cruise. You aren’t paid at all, it is truly a volunteer position…. You gather any garbage you see on land or at sea, and return it to the proper disposal spot. Folks, there is a 6 month wait to get on board to gather garbage…. The lake is incredible, and we never tired of the surrounding cliffs and scenery.
Yes, the steam powered railroad lives!!! This trip from Durango up to Silverton and back was truly a hoot. If you sat outside, you’d soon be covered with coal soot…. But, there
was absolutely no way to absorb the scenery as well unless you did. At the “top” is a little village that looks like it came right out of the 1800’s. By the time we got to the top, we were certainly convinced that we had traveled back in time by at least a 100 years.
We had arrived there toward the end of their tourist season. You could sense that they were awaiting the first snowfall…. with that would come the end of tourist season…. marking the end of their major income. We are so fortunate to have year around decent weather in Florida…. The tourists just keep a ‘comin’ south….. Silverton is at such a high altitude that, if you blink, you’ll miss summer…. I asked one of the locals how summer was that year…. he said he didn’t know- he had slept that day.
Mesa Verde National Park:
Just for the record, in the photo at right, Janice and I are the 19th and 20th people from the left….. I’m sure you can pick us out. This park was an endless vision of cliff dwellings and native architecture. It is difficult to imagine that this level of society existed here at the same time we were living in caves in Europe. It all goes to show you, it doesn’t pay to be too trusting. Be wary of strangers carrying beads. Seriously, after spending quite a bit of time on various Indian Reservations and at a series of architectural restorations, it was difficult to feel the least bit good about what the early settlers did to the native peoples.
As we traveled in the fall of 2000 about the desert South West, it became time for the annual KAIBF….. Kodak – Albuquerque – International – Balloon Festival. So of course we couldn’t miss it. Somehow, we arrived at the time that they were going for the world record for the most launched balloons in a single day…… something like 500 individual balloons within a specified time. This was a sight to behold. We were able to get so close to the balloons as they were being filled to launch that I thought we’d truly catch on fire more than once.
No we didn’t go up in one…. maybe next time. It was truly a glorious event- one which you need to make time for.
Moose Hunting: (Photographically)
We spent time during our travels in the northeast looking for Moose…. We did see some hoof-prints – they are certainly out there… maybe it was the time of day. There were no shortages of signs like this. Can you imagine running into a creature that weighs, for all practical purposes, as much as the car you are driving? Unfortunately, we saw more evidence than we did the creatures themselves. Maybe we’ll do better out west.
The Bay of Fundy:
Here’s Jan, standing on the bottom of the Bay of Fundy on the way to Nova Scotia. Since we were kids, we had read how the tide goes up and down up to 30 + feet here in this part of the world. Coming from Florida, where the tide is somewhere between 2 and 4 feet, this was a difficult pill to swallow. So, we had to do the “eyes on” thing….. we visited several towns up the Canadian Atlantic coast, seeing towns where the boats spend half the time on their sides, the other half bobbing up and down looking like it was time to go to work.
Just when you think you truly understand something, someone else re-arranges your “reality”. I can’t imagine the extra burden of interpreting a nautical chart wherein you had to factor in the gain or loss of 5 or so fathoms of water – twice a day – in order to safely navigate. I have enough trouble just keeping my keel off the bottom along the Florida west coast.
On this outing, we also visited Prince Edward Island, and the Cape Breton Highlands National Park (C
abot Trail) on Cape Breton Island. I also had the express pleasure (?) of making a wrong turn and ending up in rush hour traffic in beautiful downtown Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Thar’ She Blows:
Making our way back down the coast, we went out on whale watching adventures in Bar Harbor, Maine. (Acadia National Park) We were fortunate in that we saw many different types of whales from several different pods.
To a couple of folks who had seen only dolphins up to then, it was a series of incredible sights. The operators take great care not to approach too closely so as to keep from frightening or interfering with their antics and cavorting. Next time, it’ll be a much bigger telephoto lens. In this pic, Jan and I both are snapping frames… but to be sure, you needed something close to 300 mm to get up close and personal.
So all in all…. our 50,000 plus miles of traveling about the United States and Canada during those two years brought us much joy, and an incredible understanding of the power and scope of this great country of ours. We can only hope that our next adventure will be as much fun and enjoyment as the first. We’re planning on visiting spots we missed along the way…. as well as parks and climbing adventures we have yet to enjoy. Be safe- think of us out there…. poking along…. on a camera safari… we’ll be back before you know it- plotting yet another “Doug and Jan Thompson Chronicles” adventure.