An Eclipsed Trip

Scott and I were able to go on a four-day road trip to see the total eclipse recently.  We traveled into Kansas and found it to be more than fields of corn.  I had no clue there were so many rolling hills and beautiful places here; we have been to the Witchita area and found it to be prairies and F-L-A-T.  However, as we drove up I-69, this was not the Kansas we experienced before.

While we drove our way up to the Kansas City, Kansas, area to visit our friend Amy and view the eclipse, Scott and I visited two new Kansas State Parks, Elk City State Park and Eisenhower State Park.  These would be the first two parks for this state for us and we were not disappointed at all.

Elk City State Park was beautiful.  As we drove through the park we found amazing oak and hickory trees surrounding the campsites with full hook-ups.  I could actually see the Beast parked in the spots and us hiking along the many trails and enjoying the lake.

If you drive out of the park, you will find a road that will take you to an overlook of the lake.  It goes up, up, up to a stone building and a fantastic view.

The plaque on the building says, “This overlook and its vistas of America are dedicated to the memory of Tulsa District employees and those citizens who have made significant contributions to the mission of the U.S. Army Corps of  Engineers.  Those who are honored, while from many walks of life, were united in their dedication to help build a stronger and better nation.  Today their efforts live on in the memories of their families and co-workers who look to their examples as guideposts for the future.”

I just fell in love with the view and the fact that it had a connection with Tulsa, a place that has deep roots in our lives.  It has made this place special for us and I look forward to spending more time.  It always amazes me how we seem to find some type of connection with the parks we visit. Here it was an outlook.

Yes, you see that right, we went to Kansas and visited Eisenhower State Park.  But wait, didn’t we just leave Eisenhower State Park where I park hosted?  Yes, but that was in Texas on Lake Texoma. These two parks are totally different, but both are fantastic to visit.  We were able to stop and chat with some of this park’s Park Hosts and they had some very funny stories, like most hosts do.  In my experience at the Texas Eisenhower, we would have many calls for the Kansas park; turns out they had many calls for the Texas park too.  The host we spoke with at the Park Store said she had a man come in for his reservation, but there was nothing there for him because he had made it for the Texas park.  I know it has happened at the park in Texas because I came across it happening.  It can be frustrating, but it has taught me to be a bit more careful when making our reservations.

Photo from Eisenhower State Park website.

The Kansas’ Eisenhower is a good example of the rolling plains you will find in the state.  There are not as many trees as Elk City State Park, where we visited earlier that morning, but you will find plenty of trees within each of the campsites and the normal full hook-ups.  Both of us liked the feel of the park and how they provided plenty of opportunities for shade and beating the summer heat.  The shade covers were unique and fun.  We eventually drove the full park and found ourselves ready to head towards Kansas City to spend time with our friend Amy.

Sunday morning the three of us were up and ready to hit a Missouri State Park named Weston Bend State Park just across the Missouri River from Leavenworth, Kansas.  It was our first park in the state of Missouri and it was perfect.  The park system, as you can see from the above photo, is celebrating their 100 year anniversary, which thrills us because we get to celebrate along with them.  The day was perfect for this visit and we were able to take a nice hike along one of the more difficult trails Scott and I have taken.

We took a mixture of the Harpst, Northridge, and Paved Bike Trails. I found myself wondering if we were crazy to take this mixture, but I really had an amazing time.  Our friend Amy is an avid hiker and is in excellent shape so knowing that I was able to keep up with her on her slower pace made me feel as if I was a bit accomplished.  I have not been able to do much hiking since we moved back up to Tulsa from Eisenhower (the Texas one) so I was needing to grab my outdoorphines.

One of the things Scott and I are trying to do is get out of the house and do new things.  Doing this we have found ourselves meeting new, interesting people; tasting unique, cultural foods; and visiting fun, out-of-our-way places.  We have, in this process, discovered so many things about ourselves as individuals and a couple.  Myself, I never thought I would be doing the things we do because I was never one to enjoy the outdoors, but I am riding a bike, hiking trails, and going to new places.  The one thing I have learned from all this is that we can’t lock ourselves away and expect experiences to come to us, we have to step out of our comfort zone and just try.

On Monday we were on a mission, we had a full eclipse to observe.  In order to see the full eclipse though w had to find the right place.  Scott and Amy had decided to look at White Cloud, Kansas, for the viewing.  To get there we opted to take the Glacial Hills Scenic Drive and it did not disappoint.

 

It was almost surreal to think about the glacier that traveled across these hills leaving the large stone deposits to create the rolling hills we drove past filled with green fields of corn and soybeans.  As we came closer and closer to our destination, you could see people lining up along edges of fields preparing for the eclipse. This was a once in a lifetime chance and it seemed as if everyone was showing up to experience it.

An hour and a half after leaving Amy’s house, we arrived in White Cloud and the end (or beginning) of the Glacier Hills Scenic Drive.  Here we found a marker for the for the Lewis & Clark Trail and information about the drive.  Unfortunetly, the sky was overcast and Scott and Amy decided to go further north into Nebraska.

We still had time to get ourselves up to our eclipse viewing destination Indian Cave State Park, we just had to get moving because the bridge to take us directly there was being worked on and we had to take a detour.

Within forty-five minutes we arrived at Indian Cave State Park in the pouring rain.  It was raining so hard we were not able to stop for an entry photo.  It was not looking good for the eclipse, but we were at our first Nebraska State Park and it was beautiful even in the rain.  Fortunately for us, the rain stopped within the first twenty minutes of our arrival.  Driving through the park to visit the cave where you could view prehistoric Native American petroglyphs.  It was a little difficult to view them because of the many decades of people scratching their names in the same rocks, but you can find the petroglyphs if you look.  It caused us to question what the tribe’s elders thought of the petroglyphs and how much trouble the “artists” got in to from their graffiti.

Finishing our viewing of the cave, we looked for a good spot to view the full eclipse.  The sky was overcast and it was too late for us to find another location to do the viewing, so we were now committed to this location.  From the shore of the Missouri River, Scott and I set ourselves ready for the on-coming eclipse with our special NASA approved glasses while our friend Amy decided to climb the trail at Trailhead 11 and enjoy a run during the eclipse.

As the moon began it’s path across the sun, Scott took photos and I pouted because the viewing was awful.  We were able to see the beginning stages on the sun, but because of the overcast sky we were not able to view the full eclipse.  However, we did experience the darkness and the 360 degree twilight.  I actually saw some fireflies in the middle of the day and that was pretty cool.  There will be another total eclipse traveling across the United States in 2024 and that gives us another opportunity.

Just as suddenly as the excitement began, people started packing up and leaving.  Having been lucky enough to not come across lots of traffic while we were enroute, we were going to pay our dues on the way out.  What should have been a twenty-minute drive took us an hour and a half!

Even though we were not able to view the eclipse, we were able to come closer to our State Park Goal by four new State Parks, visit a new state, and, most importantly, spent some amazing time with our good friend Amy.  It was such a fantastic trip and I can’t wait to go back to the Kansas City area and see what else we can find.

 

 

 

 

What A Crazy Transition!

What A Crazy Transition!

My last post here was in February when we came back from the Enchanted Rock trip.  I was a bit shocked at how long it had been because it has been an extremely busy and fast moving month or so.  See, we purchased our RV on February 24, 2017, and did a test run at Eisenhower State Park for Spring Break, but never returned to reality!  I know, shocking!

We met with a man in Krum, Texas, who had a 1982 El Dorado Firenza for cheap and the bones were good and so was the engine.  It was originally from Alaska and the man he purchased it from had done some basic work to it but eventually decided he just didn’t want to continue the work.  We looked at it and thought this might be a great opportunity and bought it.

 There were so many things we didn’t like about the RV and they were just cosmetic so we decided to do some major changes on the inside.  We took out the bathroom for future plans later, the wall between the kitchen cabinet, the kitchen cabinet, the stove area, and the ugly 80’s couch looking thing.  We decided it all had to come out to fit what we needed it to be so we took a sledge hammer and began knocking out walls, counters, stoves, and couches.  Like I said, good bones, scary interior.

The floorplan was pretty much for a double bed-marine shower set up and we needed a space for two twin beds, kitchen area, and a sitting area.  So we decided to take out everything except the closet area and bed space.  This left a very big area to do what we wanted.  We were actually able to get the two twin beds in and get it somewhat ready for basic living.  This doesn’t mean we were able to get cabinets, counter, bathroom, or pantry in yet, but it is a work in progress.  At this point in time, we are paying off some bills and getting money situated so we can take a full two weeks to finish the rig, but that is more towards October at this point.  We are just living day to day.

During the demolition, we have found some pretty interesting things about this rig.  It was paneled with some 1980’s wood looking paneling, the ceiling was covered with wine-colored velour that was tufted with giant velvet buttons, had a rather odd sepia colored wallpaper and orange-red carpet.  It definitely brought back the 80’s and caused me to question my thoughts about taking it back to its original interior.  The answer would be “no, not a chance.

Because we were set up to spend a one-week spring break tour with Eisenhower State Park in March, we decided to just take the full week to live as we would full time.  This was where the “sudden” happened and we found ourselves in a whirlwind of change.  I packed everything we thought we would need from food to clothing, seating to entertainment, and It was one big mess, but we were packed and we headed off on, what I thought would be a two-hour drive.

It took me almost five hours to get to Eisenhower State Park from our apartment in Bedford, Texas because the side mirrors were not working.  I would get them into place only to have the wind from driving push them back to where all I could see myself.  This was not going work for my safety or anyone else’s.  I stopped to have Scott help me get the mirrors right and was off again. The driver side mirror acted correctly from that point, but the passenger mirror would not stay in place.  This meant I was either having to stop every time it did this, meaning I was stopping every five to ten minutes.  I ended up driving in the right lane at 55 mph extremely stressed because I could not see anything but my own reflection in the right side mirror. I know, stupid decision, but the girls and I made it safely to the parking lot of Eisenhower State Park.  I stopped, got out, shut the door when the driver’s side mirror crashed to the ground.  I was relieved to be there in one piece.

Once I was signed in at the office, I was given my spot and what a beautiful sight it was.  I was given a pull through which meant no backing in with the two useless mirrors.

This was the second weekend in March and spring break was in full gear, come to find out it was the first of three weeks called Spring Break and I was only supposed to do one week.  I contacted the Park Host Coordinator, Kate, and she was shocked to find I was scheduled for the full month of March!  Wait, we weren’t supposed to be full time Park Hosts until June 1!  Something was not right. Scott and I discussed what we were going to do and we decided we would give a 60-day notice to our apartment and move out.  Obviously, the park needed us and we thought we were ready for the move.

We took the last week in March and packed up the apartment.  Fortunately, I was able to go through all of my personal stuff over the previous six months and was down to what was going into the RV and two totes which sent into storage.  Scott had been busy working and was not as fortunate so most of his things went into storage along with the items we both were not ready to let go of.  It had been a rough time, but we were done and out of the apartment.  We had lived in a 2,000 square foot house, moved to a 547 square foot apartment, then lived in only the 14′ x 12′ bedroom plus the bathroom and kitchen, now we though we were ready to move into a 25 foot RV.  Our world was not only going to change, but it was going to change in a way we were not really prepared for.  They say March comes in like a lion and exits as a lamb, this would not be so for us and we had no clue what was getting ready to happen.

To be continued.

 

 

 

 

 

Following in Someone Else’s Footsteps

Following in Someone Else’s Footsteps

I recently read a book called Dear Bob and Sue: A Couple’s Journey Through the National Park written by Matt and Karen Smith.  It is a wonderful book about a couple’s travel to all the parks in the United States with the word “National” in it.  They traveled to the 59 parks and wrote letters/emails to their friends who inspired them to visit these amazing places.  I fell in love with this idea so I decided for my husband and I that we were going to visit all the state parks in Texas.51oKdlAPd6L._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_

Recently the husband and I had a full weekend off from work; this is extremely rare lately for me.  You know this meant a road trip for us.  By road trip I am meaning a Texas State Park visit to help us mark off another one from the official list.  It was a pretty spontaneous thing, but it turned out extremely well.  We decided we were going to visit Eisenhower State Park just south of the Oklahoma-Texas border.  Taking a few hours, we gathered the tent, bed, bedding and food for the trip.  I made the reservations for our overnight stay online and then off to bed.  The next morning we packed up the Tank and headed out.  We stopped by Ray Roberts Lake State Park to get photos and mark it off our Texas State Park list.  However, we decided it didn’t count because we didn’t pass through the gate, didn’t enjoy the scenery,  and didn’t purchase a state park patch.  I guess we have to go back.  That is really a bummer, huh?  Not.

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Our first sign selfie!

When we arrived at Eisenhower State Park we found the rangers inside the office to be wonderful.  They were happy, laughing and downright adorable!  We were able to purchase a state park patch and one for Eisenhower.  These patches will be proof that we have been to each park.

This brings me to our rules for it being a “mark off” from the SP list.

  • Entry Fee/check in must be done for each of us.
  • A photo of each of us, together or separate, must be taken in front of the SP sign.
  • A patch for that SP must be purchased .
  • We have to have spent time exploring the SP.

That’s how we determine if the park can be crossed off the list.

Once we were signed in and all the “office” chores were finished, we drove in and found our new home for the night.  We stayed in spot #29.  It was a very pretty spot and just across the road was a huge open spot so we could star gaze that night.  The tent was set up and we changed into our swimming suits and headed out to explore.

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Our home for the night!

What a beautiful place this is.  It is filled with trees and sits on top of a stone mixture of sandstone and limestone bluffs.  The hiking trails are well defined and clearly marked going through this amazing landscape.  If you want an adventure, this is a good place to have one.

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Such a lovely area.

The swimming area is between the day use area and the primitive camping spots.  Because the park is set up in the bluffs you will find yourself going down a rather long, awkward set of stairs.  These stairs are not for the faint of heart and you should allow yourself plenty of time to take care going down them.  Once you get to the beach, you will find a wonderful, sandy beach.  You will want to have some type of foot protection due to the stickers all over the surrounding area.

One of the best parts about the swimming area are the “caves”.  They aren’t actually caves they are more places where the water has carved out spaces in the bluff.  However, you will want to take a little time and investigate them.  It was a lot of fun reading the scratching left in the rock.

Once we finished swimming and took plenty of care climbing back up to our vehicle, we drove out to the Lake Texoma Dam to do a quick crossing over to the Oklahoma side of the lake.  I was honestly very surprised how close we were to Oklahoma!  The dam is pretty impressive really and the spillway is even more so.  I was surprised at the size of it all.

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Information about the Lake and both sides of the border.

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The run-off area. I was stunned there wasn’t any graffiti.

We then went back to camp and started getting dinner together.  We had a campfire to cook our meal, I stitched some and we had plenty of time to chat.  Afterwards we sat in a clearing and watched the stars come out.  Scott had his guitar out and just played with it, no songs really, just sound.  It was wonderful.

The next morning we packed up and headed back to the busy world of  home.  It was so worth the time and the drive.  I can’t wait to go back again.

Ren & Scott