2016-06-03 Mesa Verde, Taos

We stayed over night at the Navajo Dam Campground (which is huge, and was near full, some 300 campsites, mostly fisherman)
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And Headed to Mesa Verde in the Morning.

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This is another one of those places that is hard to describe in words and pictures. It is an area of near desert the Pueblo Indians had settled in for some 600 years back at the time of Christ.

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Supposedly, they were successful farmers in this dry and arid climate.  As the water dried up, and other resources became thinner, they moved down the sides of the cliffs for shelter from the sun and winter.

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The access to these cliff dwellings was rather treacherous (and though improved, still seemed pretty dangerous to me by todays tourist standards)

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Both Jennifer and I were very nervous watching tourists (and ourselves) standing just inches from sheer cliffs while the guide gave her narration.

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But it is definitely another -not to miss- attraction. There is a great museum, with plenty of information and artifacts, and cheap tours of several of the dwellings (of which there is something like 600 in total).  There is also, a “drive along tour” on the topside where you drive to a dozen different closely dispersed destinations, and stop and view different archeological sites and ruins; the tour chronicles their 600 years of occupying the area and gives much insight on there different dwellings an lifestyles over the course of time. Amazing place. Amazing society. Lots of open mouths walking around in wonder..

Steering towards home, we stopped briefly in Taos to walk some of the art galleries and shops; though still very touristy, this town had a much better energy for me than Santa Fe. The oldest occupied American Indian Pueblo is also nearby, which we did not have time to check out.

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We also viewed some Green homes made of mostly recycled and repurposed materials. There was an entire subdivision of these “Earthships“.. All solar and self sufficient; Pretty cool in a past life, but currently I am happily into my “Roadship”.

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The area east of Taos was interesting and would warrant another camping visit.

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Heading East , the scenery once again became barren and boring..

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It’s always a thrill to come home to the green green grass of home.

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2016-06-02 Telluride Co.: Americas Most Beautiful Drive

Thursday Morning we made the loop from Ouray to the North, through Ridgeway, and around to Telluride.

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A stroll around town, and a bike ride up another great city walking/biking trail along the San Miguel River..13344642_1197545300270046_7176320411746781126_n

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This one had some history, with Kiosks along the highway. Those zig zags up the mountain is a switched back road to the mine (still covered with Snow in June). They are used as Jeep touring roads now, and no doubt lead to the trails which connect to Ouray… The two towns are less than 10 miles apart as the crow flies, but divided by 10000 ft plus peaks.IMG_5969

There is a (free) Gondola that takes you up and around in to Mountain Village (a mini-Aspen).IMG_5951We skipped the typical crowded commercial campgrounds in town, and found the Sunshine Campground State Park just South of town a couple miles. 
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The view from our “sliding doors” was awe inspiring. So much so, I whipped out a quick little painting.13325494_1197544506936792_7129407875650486571_n

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I’ll finish this up when I get home..

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Sunshine Mountain

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2016-06-01 Million Dollar Highway, Ouray, Perimeter trail

This trip just getting better. The Million Dollar Highway or San Juan Skyway takes you from Durango to Ouray with ridiculous switchbacks, drop offs and cliff side “hanging” roads..

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While Jennifer was driving through the beautiful Mountains, we spotted this waterfall and pulled over to snap a picture.  Jennifer was just going to stay in the Van. I walked over and was trying to get a picture and then she meandered over.  We were parked on a downhill grade, and I asked her if she put the emergency brake on (Aly was still in the car). She got a very concerned look on her face… 🙂

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I just had to include this picture of her running back to the Travato before it started to roll down the highway… 😀

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We rolled into Ouray about evening and thought we’d check for the off chance there might be an open space at the amphitheater campground.. There were several; but only for “small vehicles”.

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Good thing we got our “little Travato”!

We tucked her in and got this view for the evening…  IMG_5864IMG_5876
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Woke up to a view of Ouray below us.

Had a Cinnamon Bear come visit us in the morning too, but didn’t manage to get a picture..

Jennifer made pancakes and sausage in the morning and we were off to explore Ouray..   on foot.IMG_5882

Somehow, we got off trail, which mama wasn’t real comfortable with 😉 , (that hill is a lot steeper than it looks in this picture).

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IMG_5880 IMG_5900 IMG_5896We walked to downtown, did some poking around, and then hiked the “perimeter trail”, which is a 5 or 6 mile trail that completely circles the entire town on the mountainside.IMG_5938IMG_5901 IMG_5902

IMG_5908 Encountered just a bit of rain..IMG_5917

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IMG_5926…and even got to do a little gold pannin’ to remind me of my prospectin’ days, before returning to camp 🙂
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13332930_1193545103991540_4664232408359238898_nAs if that wasn’t enough for one day, we jumped in the Van and headed to town, had some delicious HUGE burgers at Maggies Kitchen, and soaked our bones in the Hot Springs.

This was a good day!

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2016-05-31 Durango and Silverton Railway: Americas Most Beautiful Drive

I’ll let the pictures tell this story.

You jump on a train in Durango, take a 2 hour ride up to Silverton, spend a couple hours shopping in town, and take a big tour bus back down the highway. Unbelievable scenery all the way. Scenic overload.  It’s baffling how they ever managed to get this narrow gauge 45 miles thru the steep canyons along the Animus River, much less that it was built in 1881!  in less than a year! ..Mind blowing.

Most definitely a “bucket list” item…  Words, and my feeble attempts at photography with an iphone from a moving train, can not describe how awesome this ride was.IMG_5654

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Coming in to Silverton:IMG_5732

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IMG_5737Silverton was cool; as far as “at the treeline, old mining towns, turned tourist towns” go…  I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be so welcoming in the winter months.

And the ride back in the Bus was “just” more beautiful snowcapped mountains.. You just put the camera away after awhile.. Many on the bus just fell asleep from “scenic overload”.. 🙂

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2016-05-28 Santa Fe NM. to Durango Co. The most Scenic Road Trip in America.

Go West Old Man!

Colorado here we come.. Just days before leaving for a trip out west, I found this web page describing “The most beautiful drive in America”. It was exactly the drive we had been planning, but in reverse order. As it turns out, it IS definitely one of America’s most scenic drives!

To get there we had to cross through one of the “most boring” drives in America; across Oklahoma and Texas. I won’t bore you with any of those pictures (because I didn’t take any) 🙂

First Stop was Santa Fe New Mexico, where I figured out we was gonna have to get out of this town real fast if I wanted any money for the rest of the week ….

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I DID find these handmade ladders though… How cool would THAT look on the back of my space age Travato?  🙂

 

 

 

..and there was plenty of awesome architecture to look at.  There was a mass going on at this catholic church, and the doorman politely decided we were tourists and were not really interested in confessing our sins..

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We headed on to Lake Abiquiu which Jennifer remembered from an earlier trip. The landscape is dry, sandy, but none the less, impressively large..

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We arrived after dark and the campground was full but the sweet camp host lady let us pay for a couple showers, and then sent us to the “corral”, which is an overflow lot. No bathrooms, no showers, no charge, and no… people!  My favorite kind of campsite!

This was our view in the morning. Substantially better than the rows of campers in the campground..

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And just a short morning walk away was the lake.IMG_5567

The Lake seemed a bit out of place to me in this desert country,

IMG_5556and Jennifer thought the same of the sIMG_5555ome of the local plant life.

Next on the Agenda, was an increasingly pretty and mountainous drive to Durango Colorado,IMG_5579

IMG_5581where there just happened to be a festival and big bike race going on. (and some drumming)

In reality,IMG_5583  there was                 more than one bike 🙂 ,             … but that’s all I got on camera..

We met some Facebook Friends (and Fit RV Travato RV blogging legends 😉 ) at the United Campground on the outskirts of Durango; Your typical commercial campground I guess. The place was clean and well kept, and in a great location, just about a mile from downtown with the Animus River in sight. The Durango/Silverton Railroad literally runs right through it.  The sites are close together, and there wasn’t much privacy, but there were shade trees, and it was not near as crowded as many of the gravel parking lots they call “RV Parks”.  The hosts were wonderfully friendly and helpful, and they had a laundry room and other amenities we didn’t make use of.  They didn’t have fire pits or grills; which I found odd, being used to State and National Parks, but they did offer portable grills you could take to your campsite and return later. Aly found the pool.. (surprise, surprise).

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With plenty of daylight left, we unhooked the Bikes and took a ride down the Animus Trail, which is a Beautiful, Multi use, paved bike and walking trail that runs along the river, right through town and on South of Town about 6 miles.

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Its a great trail, with lots of entertainment along the way..

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James and Stefany turned out to be great campsite mates, and we shared dinner, and some wine in the evening and listened to James’ (until now), unknown talent of “Dog calling”… IMG_5628

Had a good peaceful nights sleep, and went back to town and had an excellent hearty breakfast at the old time, family run, and extremely busy Oscars Cafe. Obviously, THE place to go for a big breakfast in Durango. IMG_5631

Picked up our tickets for tomorrows train ride,IMG_5646

and then headed up into the mountains on a gravel road to a campsite more our style..IMG_5639

Took an excellent bike ride up the Hermosa trail which was just about the limit of our proficiency level at Mountain Biking .. (that translates to: “we spent some of the time pushing our bikes”)  🙂 But it was a good work out, the scenery was awesome, and we all gained a little more skill after 5 or 6 miles on this trail. We never did make it all the way to Hermosa creek, as after a long constant downhill, it was becoming evident that coming BACK UP that hill wasn’t going to be as much fun!  Turns out this trail network goes clear across the mountains to Telluride… File_000 (2)File_004

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Happy Bikers..

Be sure to click the links below to move forward or back in time…

2016-05-07 Hog Slaughter Mountain Bike trail, Crystal Bridges, & Horseshoe Bend on Beaver Lake

13131063_1177002675645783_3987619653223452271_oWe wanted to get back early Sunday in order to make Mothers Day Dinner, so we had to cram a lot into a little time this weekend…

We loaded up the bikes and took off after work toward Bentonville Arkansas. Had dinner at a chinese buffet and drove around to a couple campgrounds only to find that they were “full up”. No problem though, with our handy little van, we pulled into the back of a dimly lit cracker barrell, pulled the shades, and jumped into bed. As I was setting up the dinette bed, Aly said “no need to set it all up Scott, I can just sleep like this:” and she jumped into half the bed. Don’t know why I hadnt thought of this earlier; she slept longwise on the bed using the swiveled around driver seat for her feet. This kept the whole passenger side of the van clear. Easy to open the sliding door, passenger seat available for lounging, “Kitchen” open for morning coffee…

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Anyway, I thought that was too cool.

So we woke, had breakfast and headed over to the Hog Slaughter Dirt Bike Trail on the Bentonville Greenways Bike Trail system. Their systems connect with Springdale, Rogers, and Fayetteville to make miles and miles of great trails. I can’t say enough about this place, beautiful! All levels of trails, from flat and paved to stunt bridges and ramps and great single track trails. I’m told it’s one of the best trail systems in the country, and I believe it! Awesome.

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After conquering some pretty wicked downhills, I went over the handlebars and crashed while stopping to looking at the map. Jennifer managed to ride off the side of that S shaped bridge above and put a pretty good gouge in her leg, and Aly managed to keep both tires on the ground without injury..

I damaged my bike shifter and broke my seat, so we headed to Phat tire in Bentonville on the square and got er fixed up. Good people.

Unbeknownst to us, they just happen to be having the Bentonville Film Festival, AND the farmers market, and there were thousands of people in town..

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One of the spurs off the trail leads to Crystal Bridges Art Museum (which is also awesome and a must see free attraction if you are ever in NW Arkansas)… 
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These are silicone sculptures, and are NOT real people…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is…IMG_5370

More awesome trails and the Arkansas Traveler we met along the way..

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And we headed over to Horseshoe Bend COE campground on Beaver Lake, which was nearly full (and huge). Nice campground, $20.00 with hook ups, plenty of space, some “penninsula beach” sites, and some in the woods. Some were right on the water…IMG_5411IMG_5412

 

 

 

 

Our “picture window” view of the lake..

 

 

 

We peddled over to the beach:

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And had another gourmet campfire meal,
and slept like babies..

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2016-03-23 St. Augustine, Grayton Beach, Suwanee River

3/23 We started off from Jacksonville heading West early towards the emerald coast. We find ourselves so anxious to “get moving” we often jump in and start driving only to realize we have no “destination” in mind… 🙂

The weather looked to be cold and cloudy, so right after getting out of Jacksonville, we did a U Turn and headed south to St. Augustine. 2016-03-23 lions bridge

St. Augustine, though very touristy, is one of my favorite towns in Florida.  The oldest city in the USA, St. Augustine dates back to the 1500’s.

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Meara and I took a quick look around at Flagler College.  She has now changed her college plans from Paris, to NYU, to Flagler..2016-03-23 i flaglerToured a dug out Canoe display at the museum, had pineapple ice cream, the second best pizza in America, and picked up a few trinkets from the tourist shops..
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Then headed over to Vilano Beach and realized just about 10′ off the hard pack that the Travato didn’t feel to stable in the sand.  The front wheel drive dug right in, and surely would have kept digging till the belly was laying on the sand..2016-03-23 vilano beach 1So, before getting stuck, I backed out, turned around, and backed into the soft stuff..
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Making for a pretty nice view out the back bed..

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Heading in the general direction of home, Mr. Google recomended this Fuking Chinese place as one of the best restaurants in Lake City Fl. They even sold Fuking T-shirts.. 🙂

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Arriving late to the campground (as we are making a bad habit of), it was dark, and the combination gate was closed and locked… Just as we were leaving, another Van pulled up to the electronic gate, so we pulled beside him and asked if he would be kind enough to let us follow him in, and see if we could find an empty spot to camp in. All the places were taken, and he let us share his spot as there was room for both of us as we were both in Vans. He was very excited to see another “vanner dude”, and of course he was very impressed by Tony. He had a Dodge Van, the same Vintage as our other old Van, he had done some great modifications, and was living out of it, and working as an traveling electrician.

In the morning we walked a bit and looked around the Suwanee River.

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Then headed South (on the Vanner Dudes recommendation), to Perdido Bay, which he called the “Best state Park in Florida”.  Now Florida has allot of REALLY nice state parks, and I agree this is one of them (all pan handle beaches are beautiful), but I sure wouldn’t give it “Best” status.

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Ended up camping at Grayton Beach

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and stayed at the Flint Creek Campground in the Desoto National Forest of Mississippi on the way home.

Stopped for Lunch in South eastern Arkansas at a Riceland Rice Farm… Most of Americas rice is grown in Arkansas. Followed the Mississippi up for awhile, and then across Arkansas home.  South East Arkansas Delta country is NOT real exciting..

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2016-03-19 Testing the limits of a Travato

We’ve had some great weekends, and a a fantastic week long trip with just me and Jennifer in the Travato. Now It’s Spring Break, and time to test the limits of our mini-RV.  4 people, 9 days… 🙂

On Saturday, 3/19 We took off early, drove most of the day, and made it to Talladega National Park: Cheaha State Park Campground… Apparently, the tallest Mountains in Alabama..2016-03-19 alabama

I was sick most of the trip, and Jennifer did nearly all the driving. We got to Jacksonville late Sunday, and went to dinner with the crew at the “Cantina” down on Jacksonville Beach.

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Tony had some odd looking company in the parking lot..

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Chaz & Jericha seems to trade it out vehicles every time we visit.. This one looked like a comfy ride.

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You’d never guess who was first in the water..

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Mini Chaz..

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Two odd birds..                                          and two Love Birds’

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The Jax Beach skyline from the Pier

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The kids slept in the house at Jerichas.  Though the Travato does sleep 4, You have to climb over one of the sleepers if you want to get in or out the sliding door, it sure was nice to get our little “bedroom” back to ourselves for a couple nights.

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Granny sunning in the front yard.

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3/21 Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

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Was great.  Even though we heard several people say it was the most crowded they had ever seen it, it didn’t feel overcrowded. The animals seem to have adequate room, everything was clean, the trails were nice, and the entire place was a beautifully kept “wild” garden.

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And look at all these pretty creatures I found wandering around..

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These guys were not very entertaining. I think they needed a few more spoons of sugar in their cornflakes…

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Late night Ribs:
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Early Mornin Feedin:

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Whos got your nose?
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3/22 Hannah Park

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Too cold for this Old Man, but of course all the kids swam..

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With Eight people in and out of the Van at the beach we found good use for the rear shower.  Had us sum foot washins’…

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Hannah Park was fun; Beach, Park, Large Campgrounds, picnic areas, playgrounds, and all just a few minutes from Jacksonville.

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Took the scenic route “home”, and Tony got his first boat ride.

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There were Dolphins jumping in and out of the water in front of this ship.  You can’t see them in this picture, so you’ll just have to use your imagination….  ooo   ahhh   … look at the beautiful dolphins…

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Last Dinner at Kickbacks and Chaz started welding on a swing away trailer hitch for the bike rack for Tony..

 

 













 

 



 

2016-03-04 Springfield Art Walk, McIlroy Madison WMA, Wagonshed Painting, Steel Creek

As usual, we took off with plans of Jello

(the best part about owning a small Class B Van).

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Our first destination was the First Friday Art Walk in Springfield Mo. Springfield is a funky little city (3rd largest in MO) with an energetic art community. They seem to have been working on rehabilitating “Downtown” for a decade or two. We packed up some groceries and headed up the highway a couple hours North. Though we arrived a little late, we quickly slid into a normal city street parking spot and began wandering the streets somewhat aimlessly trying to find galleries and participants of the Art Walk.  Street Musicians were on nearly every block, and “people watching” was the highlight of the evening.  The local residents, rednecks, punk, goth, Rock N Rollers, clean cut college kids, 50 something tourists, farmers, business owners, art and wine connoisseurs, and many “blends” of the above, seemed to have turned out on this pleasant March Evening. I was having too much fun to think about snapping any photos. Jennifer and I shared some Soup & Veal/Portobello Mushroom Raviolli at Brunnos, a great little Italian restaurant recommended by our friend, Joe Golden. 🙂

Enough of the City. We headed South and found a great free (out of season) COE Campground called Cape Fair Marina.  As Jennifer slept off her Zuppa, late into the night, I was having a ball listening to the stereo, following Siris instructions on the GPS, and driving through the darkness over the twisty hilly roads in the Ozarks down to the lake. …and we camped in Style; Lakeside, Free, Again 😀

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In the morning, we started out early looking for something to paint from a list of “attractions” another friend had recommended… The first “must see” item was a shabby place called the Golden Museum… It was closed…  2016-0305 17

 

Next, was the “Little Golden Gate” Beaver Bridge.. ehh…

 

 

 

Then we stopped by “Roaring River State 2016-0305 15Park” and Fishery, only to discover it was the first week of trout season, and the place was packed with THOUSANDS of fisherman (literally -Thousands- spaced every 10 or 20′ along the river for 2 miles fishing) It was a ridiculous sight, and so disappointing we didn’t think to photograph that either… They did have a cool spring there though, and we got in a quick steep hike; up, over and around this canyon.

So, that was enough of planning. We just decided to “drive” after that… Got out the good old fashioned DeLorme Arkansas paper atlas, and went to check out Withrow Springs State Park in Arkansas, which was nice. A modern state Park with new, well maintained facilities (and a $32.00 Big Rig RV camping price to match).  I really don’t like paying that sort of money just to park and “camp” alongside a bunch of others in big R.V.s. so, another look at the atlas showed a much larger Wildlife management area, just a few miles up the road, where there was Free “Primitive” Camping. 🙂

A few miles down a lovely rough gravel road and BINGO! A perfect little spot, right beside a creek, and a cave just across the field!

heh heh heh… Life IS Good.
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And This was in our backyard… About 20′ away from the Van 🙂

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Finally, something inspiring…

 

So, I went to work; slaving away in the hot sun…

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while the “Queen” did what she does best….

 

😉

 

She did warm up some of her Homemade Chicken Soup (which she made for me last week when I was feeling a little ill), and we hiked around a bit to check out our new place..

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That is NOT the road we drove in on… But it wasn’t much different.

It dropped down below freezing Saturday Night but we didn’t know it, because we were cuddled up sleeping with our silent furnace in our toasty little Travato. In the morning, I got up early and turned the cab in to my own little personal painting Studio..

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Jennifer made us Eggs on the “fire” and we painted and read some more, and went to check out a Spring and Cave nearby..

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We hung around awhile, and then headed towards home.  On the way, we rolled down to Steel Creek, and took a stroll down the River..

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Tried to get these folks to flip there Canoe for a more interesting picture, but they just wouldn’t bite..

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There’s just no place like Newton County..

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Got a start on a new painting,

and shared another great weekend with the one I love.

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