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Category Archives: Travels
Nights on the road:
1 Tues 5/23
Lebannon, TN Cedars of Lebanon SP
2 Wed 5/24
Mussel Shoals, AL
Belden, MS Deer Run Eagle Ridge Trace State Park
3 Thu 5/25
Clarksdale, MS Natchez, MS NATCHEZ State Park
L’Acadie Inn &RV Park Eunice, LA
5 Sat 5/27
Eunice, LA L’Acadie Inn
6 Sun 5/28
Denton, Texas Fairmont Suites Hotel
Outside Dallas; Parks way too hot for camping
7 Mon 5/29
Goodlett, Texas Old Cotton Gin RV Park
8 Tu 5/30
Amarillo, TX La Quinta Hotel
Instead of Capulet and Paulo Duro State Parks-
too hot, crowded, and attacking ants!
9 Wed 5/31
Raton, NM Sugarite Canyon SP
10 Thur 6/1
Trinidad, CO Trinidad Lake SP
11 Fri 6/2 Louisville, CO
12 Sa 6/3 Louisville, CO
13 Su 6/4
AM – grocery supplies – Alfalfa’s
PM – drive to Glenwood Springs, CO
Drove today from the Black Hills of South Dakota to the Pine Ridge Lakota Sioux Reservation, via the Bandlands Nat. Park. My van parked for the evening in a field behind a Lakota-owned restaurant and motel in the middle of the reservation.
Prairie thunderstorm raging outside. I’m on high ground, but a ranger today said yesterday, several trucks were blown over in the Interstate. Not much wind. The photo below is of a ruined building is in the ghost town (real) of Scenic, SD., a few miles from the reservation border.
Alcohol is forbidden on the reservation, so little places like this can still be found in a few places near the reservation border– luring natives over for just one little drinkie. White Clay Nebraska, just over the SD line is a thorn in the side of the reservation, but the tribal government can do nothing. Nebraska enjoys substantial tax revenue from alcohol sales to native-Americans. When implored to close that store. the Nebraska legislature says, no… ‘it’s a free country- don’t tell us what to do!’
US history is filled with hatred of the native populations. Many immigrants thought the native peoples were savages and vermin that needed total extermination to allow Christian European theft, exploitation, and ultimately destruction of the pristine lands where natives had lived and prospered 6,000 years. There are still numerous signs of friction, bitterness, and exploitation between white immigrants and natives today. But all the natives I met were friendly, helpful, open, and easy-going.
I’d like to go back. And they asked me to.
Spent a few hours chatting with these guys at a campground outside Trinidad, CO, a small hurting city with the odd reputation in the 1960s as the Sex Change Capital of the world– yep, Google it. Trinidad hangs on as an old mining town, but not sure if a new coffee shop can make it the tourist draw many small towns hope they will save them in the 21st Century people drain into suburbia.
These were single guys on long motorcycle trips– not stopping for Trinidad’s medical clinics. They weren’t travelling together, just happened to land, like me, in the same place at the same time.
You see many of them on the road. They are very friendly, curious, humble, and good at conversation– willing to tell you their whole stories, if you have the time.
They have interesting stories about why they’re on the road, and their love of unplanned travel. Most bikers don’t seem to have a travel plan, stopping where it’s interesting, then moving to an accidental spot on the map. They ride bikes because ‘they’re crazy’ –their answer to why? One was a John Waters fan. I had some copies of LOW BUDGET HELL with me, and gave him one for helping solve a camper van problem.
Before hitting the road, he was a massage therapist at a ritzy spa in Taos. He was a hobby a car mechanic who loved weird vehicles like the Roadtrek. The other guy was a ship captain in the Caribbean, but also a licensed mechanical engineer. Both had recently made a split-second decision to buy a big bike, sleeping bag and go figure out Amerika.
Both had college degrees, but were not content to live the conformist lifestyle of suburbia or marriage. They were both helping their widowed mothers navigate old age, because they were the only ones who had the time. This trip was a 2-3 break from that– to see how they liked bike/camping in the national parks.
They’re definitely not the average guy behind the counter or selling you something on the phone. They’re chasing a red dragon. Cool dudes.
I’d traveled 2,400 miles of back-roads through the South in the past 12 days, and passed through dozens of small towns. They were in bad shape– most business closed, bushes growing through the sidewalks, homes with collapsed roofs, “gas stations” with no structure but a single rusted pump in an weedy lot.
Many once-thriving rural ‘towns’ are sad monuments to the dashed dreams of earnest entrepreneurs Looks like most people have moved to suburbs of Denver, Dallas, New Orleans, Atlanta, Charlotte…
The devastation is a sad portrait of America, and the bitterness of those left behind is understandable in a way that isn’t covered much in the news. This cute/clever sign for THE COWGIRL CAFE looked pretty new, and seeing it from a distance, I was hoping to get a nice down-home lunch there, after driving 3 hours on desolate Texas Highway 87 out of Amarillo. It had been a voyage of dry ranches and as string of abandoned small towns. To my disappointment, it had been closed/abandoned for many months– joining Channing’s dozen other small businesses in oblivion.
Goodlett, Texas (pop. 138) is about 3 1/2 hrs. Northwest of Dallas on Hwy 287, 175 miles from the nearest Interstate and five hours from Amarillo, the closest town of more than200 people. The capitol of the middle of nowhere. I liked it.
Had a small shade tree, and little store, laundromat, and shower. It also had a very cool swimming pool! Only 3 other campers the night I was there, and I had the pool to myself.
Noticed a big bird (roadrunner?) hopping toward my glasses, that I left on the side. I swam over to grab them, which made the bird hop faster. I snatched them a fraction of a second before the bird, and it flew away.
Feeling ‘safe’ I put them down and continued swimming. But birdie returned and started moving in. I raced and once again won. Lesson learned. I put them on and doggie paddled so I could keep an eye on the thieving varmint. Shifty, outlaw Texans!
This RV park is for sale, if you’re looking to get away from it all. The lady who owned it grew up in the town. She married a local fella and had 5 daughters. When they went off, she went to college and earned a PhD in cotton genetics. So, living in and setting a business in an old cotton gin in Goodlett.
This is a display at an ‘antique’ store just outside Goodlett. I would have bought one, if someone had been around, but in the 30 minutes I strolled around, not a soul to be seen. Being Texas, I didn’t want to tempt fate by slipping one in the van, and sneaking out of town. They are popular lawn ornament in some places in the West.
Met these vagabonds today at the Love’s in Twins Falls, Idaho just off I-84. They were on their way to Vermont for a cool summer and people. They made Christmas Wreaths for a few months in the fall, and made enough money to get through the year.
They hitchiked, or frequently strangers offered them rides. One person even took them to the airport and bought them tickets. They felt sorry for people who yelled ‘get a job’ to them, since they thought they were miserable people looking to vent their anger and sorrows. They were happy to receive it, and just smiled back.
The couple were very calm, happy to talk and answer questions. A gypsy lifestyle worked for them, at least for a while. They were curious, and wanted to learn about American the Beautiful, and they felt the vagabond lifestyle was an important part of America. Pretty brave, considering how people today have closed their minds, hoping above all to keep safe, by disappearing into the crowd.
I love the natural landscapes of the West. This eroded hill in Nevada is just outside Winnemucca. The lighting and sculpting of nature is so astonishing– especially when you turn a corner, and see things like this. Which happens every 5 minutes. The next shot shows the variations in one glance, in Craters of the Moon National Park-, Idaho. The closest rocks are from a recent, 65,000 old volcanic eruption in. The lakes in the desert, are just there, instead of elsewhere. This spot is on the Emigrant Trail from the 1850s– because there WAS water, and an easier pass through the mountains. But note the snow capped peaks in the very distant– still around on June 23, and a warning of what was to come.
The final 2 shots show mankind’s mark on the beautiful West a little further down the road on the outskirts of Winnemuca. Just as mind-boggling, about human progress.
Turkey, TX pop. 436 is on the same mostly forgotten back road through the Texas panhandle as Goodlett and Childress. This string of Texas towns and many others are sadly being abandoned to the desert.
Turkey is notable though, because it’s struggling to be great again. As the birthplace of early country music star Bob Wills, it grasps onto the idea that with its annual Bob Wills music festival, it will grow into a tourist destination. Someone (probably the federal government under Obama) funded a repaving of the streets with brick and sidewalk bumpouts. Its new/vintage, iron curly-cue light posts are evenly spaced, but are more right in Disney World. Of course, welcome flags hang from every one—and murals adorn several walls.
The couple above owns an ‘antique store’ at one end of town. I spent about an hour chatting with them. Not another soul stopped. A half-century ago, before the Intersates, it was the gas station. We talked about travel, and their hopes for Turkey to become an “in” spot. That is, “a town renowned for its eclectic offering of all the finest things in life… food, wine, friends and fun,” with cafes, a bakery, a crafty burger shop, tapas bars, gastro pubs, a vegan restaurant, art gallery, museums, B&Bs, a posh inn/spa, a licensed massage therapist, designer clothing stores, an indie bookstore, a vinyl record store, a winery, at least 4 craft brew-pubs, and maybe even a cidery.
I tried to tell them the competition is fierce; that hundreds of similar towns across the U.S. have the same hopes (see Healdsburg, California).
This couple had travelled; nine years in Hawaii (but they missed Turkey), managed a 6,000 tree peach orchard in California, and trucked to every corner the country in a 40 ft. motorhome.
He was a Vietnam Vet, working on stuff fifty years ago that he couldn’t reveal, even today… for security reasons. It was a pleasant break, but I didn’t find anything for me in the shop—mostly porcelain figurines, glassware, candy dishes, a few country 8-track tapes, and twisted barbed-wire sculptures.
They told me they trusted that things would turn around with Donald Trump. Maybe Ivanka will open a store—lots of availability. Would definitely get a deal.