Sunday, June 29, 2014

Nebraska Weather, or Not...

On Saturday evening we settled down to a game of Mexican Train on the dinette table.  The mini blinds were half closed because the sun had been shining in during dinner.  As we started to play, I noticed there were some neat clouds coming up and opened the blinds all the way.

One look and we were outside taking pictures of some really wild  cloud formations.

Southwestern Sky

Northwestern Sky

Within minutes, the wind came up and large drops of rain started to splash around us. We took shelter in the Alfa, got out the weather radio and made a few quick evacuation preparations. Things like making sure I had my purse and keys, and Craig had his wallet and keys.  When we arrived on Friday, we were given a flyer showing where to go in case of a weather emergency and a list of radio stations to tune into to.  

Craig found the radar scan on the internet that showed some red areas coming our way, and there was one severe thunderstorm warning on the radio that included the county we were in. We did not like the sound of "ping pong ball sized hail possible". 

Craig lamented: "we've just gotten the Alfa into the shape we want, and now she might be blown away!"

The actual heavy rain didn't last very long, and it seemed like the lightning and thunder were farther off. 

The sun came out again and we were treated to a rainbow. 

As the evening progressed we saw more really neat clouds. 

Although we both grew up in the Midwest, we agreed neither of us remembered this type of cloud formation.  It was a bit eerie.

The whole storm lasted less than an hour. I had put a glass out as a rain gauge and it  collected less than 1/4 inch of rain.

We went back to our game and checked the weather forecast before going to bed. Nothing severe expected.

I thought a lot about the storms in the Midwest as we headed this way. But having lived here I was not afraid. Storms happen just like earthquakes, forest fires, and floods. We will never be 100% safe anywhere.  With that in mind, I found this storm exciting.

A stitched-together panorama image of the initial "wall cloud" including our neighbors' fifth wheel:

Friday, June 27, 2014


Friday, written as we're driving along a two lane highway in Kansas, heading toward Nebraska:

So very green!

We left the terrible humidity several days ago. Although it has been warm, I can breathe again. Of course we haven't taken any hard hikes.

So very green!

The corn looks much taller than called for by the old saying "knee high by the Fourth of July", but it has not tasseled yet.  We saw one small plot of corn that had tassels.

So very green!

It is good to see the vast expanses of farmland. The farm homes look in pretty good shape. Only a few look abandoned.  

It is good to be reminded there is more to this country than the golden hills, central valley, vineyards, and big cities of California.  

Both Craig and I were born and raised in Wisconsin. We've been back to the midwest a few times, but have lived in California for thirty years.  

In large quantities, green is a fantastic color!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Kansas City

[From Craig]  Winners in yesterday's "guess where?" question are meowmamma and Laurel Owen.  Today (after the soccer game) we went to the Harry Truman Library and Museum.  We spent long enough there that we decided to skip the Truman home.

Truman is the first president I remember, probably because FDR died before I was born.  To me, he and Reagan were the two most likable presidents.  He and his wife Bess did a lot of letter-writing to each other, and he had pretty good handwriting so it was fun to read what a man thinks while he's president of the United States, as well as before that.  There are too many such letters to read in an afternoon visit, but one that will stay with me was HT writing in 1950: "the members of this Congress are mentally stuck in the 1890's".

His years as President, 1944-52, were amazingly busy times, with WWII, the atomic bomb, getting back to a peacetime economy, the Cold War, and fear of Communists.  Not to mention advances like indoor plumbing, TV, and actually having a chicken in most pots.  

The museum is very well done, especially for people our age.  A thought occurred to me while going through it: while most of the points made in the exhibits were fairly well known to us, to 80% of current Americans not having a TV set is close to inconceivable!  Makes me feel older than when we went in...

The other striking thing was how much Truman's battles with the Republicans in Congress are like the situation in Washington today.  A good lesson for anyone who thinks that modern political times are a lot different from the past!

After we got back, Merikay continued a search for documents we'll need when we get to South Dakota.  Finally she found most of what she was looking for, and we went off in search of KC barbeque.

I had done some research, and we went off to a place called Oklahoma Joe's on the Kansas side of the KC area.  I was scared that it couldn't live up to a quote from the lead restaurant reviewer of the NY Times, that it is "the Best Restaurant In The World".

The place is in a partially-converted gas station.  We happened to walk into a door that leads to a fairly typical gas station convenience store, looking for the BRITW!  The we saw the long line of people coming in from the other door and out into the parking lot.  Mostly locals too!

The wait in line was long enough to hash through the various possibilities.  We settled in a full rack of ribs and a couple of sides, plus a pound of cold pulled pork for lunch tomorrow.

The first four ribs were probably the best food I've ever had in a restaurant.  (Merikay on a good day can beat any restaurant.)  The last 2 or 3 huge ribs went slower, but were still terrific.  Great fries and cole slaw too.  

That NYT reviewer is a smart guy!

From Merikay:  Friday will be a driving day.  We are heading north to Nebraska and plan on stopping at the Blue Ox hitch headquarters. They have overnight RV spots and a plant tour. Normally I make sandwiches to eat while we travel, but I am looking forward to pulling into a rest stop and heating up some pulled pork on buns for lunch!  Yumm. 

Pictures will be taken.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


Tick... tick... tick...

Being from the forested mountain area of California, I was familiar with checking for ticks after a walk in the woods.  I had dogs that ranged freely, and an indoor/outdoor cat, so I knew just one look would not be enough.  As we were leaving the woods Tuesday morning I picked at least a half dozen ticks off our legs.  Before we got into the car I checked Craig and had him check me.  When we got back to the Alfa we removed our clothes, left them in the door well and each showered.  I shook and inspected our clothes before putting them in the wash bin.

You would think that would have been enough, but as we were driving I noticed several very very tiny black "things" on my bare legs.

image from Web
I removed one with a tweezers and upon inspection with a magnifying glass I could see it had wiggling  legs and was the smallest tick I had ever seen.  I removed four more.

When we arrived at our new location, I had Craig strip and checked him over.  Found and removed one.  He rechecked me and didn't find any.  

We know the signs of Lyme's infection, and have no reservation about seeking treatment for it. Personally I think I had it as a child, but because I was also treated for a massive strep infection, all the antibiotics I got also treated the Lyme's.

image from web
The other natural hazard I was on the look out for was poison ivy. 

As a child in Wisconsin I was very sensitive to it, and in fact broke out in a terrible rash after sledding on snow covered plants! There is no poison ivy in the West. Instead we had poison oak which I was also quite allergic too.

Throughout our walk I kept repeating the old Girl Scout rhyme: "Three shiny leaves upon a slender stalk..." and carefully looking at the ground cover we were walking through.  I didn't see anything I could definitely say was poison ivy, but when we got home I was diligent with the soap and water on my legs and arms. It is now 30 hours later and no rash had come up.  Finger crossed!  Sometimes a good shower can remove the oils that cause the rash.

I have looked on Google at pictures of it to remind myself what to watch out for.

We had an easy drive today of 180 miles northwest.  We are settled  in a a small mobile home park in Independence, Missouri. There is a busy highway next to us, but I suspect it will be quiet at night.  Besides, our new air-infiltration package also dampens the noise from outside and it is still a bit warm to sleep with the windows open.

Tomorrow we will go somewhere that Craig picked out.  Can you guess what it is?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

White River, Lake of the Ozarks and Beyond

As we wallowed in our wonderfully relaxed state that resulted from our time in the Hot Springs Baths, we choose our next destination. Craig admits he isn't quite sure why, but Lake of the Ozarks was on his bucket list. It was a little over 400 miles north. I gave him the chore of picking out a campground and making a reservation. He found a treeless spot at the state park for Sunday and Monday. There was a park on the Buffalo National River that was about half way. They didn't take reservations for less than two days in advance, so we thought we'd take a chance on getting one of the "walk-in" spots.

By the time we got there, the campground was full. Not the end of the world.  It was still quite early in the day, so I checked the Woodall's and found a nearby RV park on the White River that had open spaces. It worked out wonderfully at the end of the day. The park was quite open and Craig was able to get the World Cup game.

The big river was the draw for most of the parks occupants. Most were fly fishermen and we watched them wading in the river in their long rubber pants. 

On one side of the park there was a small pond that had water lilies galore. They were not blooming yet, but I bet they are gorgeous when they do.

I love clouds!  I put my love of the sky aside for many years while living in California. In summer we had clear sunny weather from May to October. When we did have storms in the winter, the sky would just get overcast and gray. Every once in a while we would have some good thunder-clouds, but I rarely could see them from our house. Not much of a sky view.

As we have traveled thru Arkansas and Missouri, we have had thunderstorms almost every night. The mornings have started clear, and the big white clouds have built up thru the afternoon.  Love it!

On Sunday, we had a nice, uneventful drive to The Lake of the Ozark State Park. Craig had picked out the spot after considering the park campground map and Google Earth close up.  There are 181 sites. 177 of them are in the trees. He managed to find one of the four that had a clear view of the sky!

Site 149

Here we have a very happy Craig, enjoying World Cup soccer.

We also went for a short evening walk around the campground and down to the lakeshore, which was just beyond the trees. 

Monday morning I finally did it.  I got up at 5:30am and took a walk. It was damp, but quite cool. When I started out, everyone was asleep, but as the sun rose a few of the tent campers emerged and got their breakfasts started. It had rained quite hard overnight, and I spoke with one guy who had had his tent cave in.  His story made me very happy we lived in the Alfa!

I didn't walk far, maybe a mile, and was back home in an hour. Craig didn't know I'd been gone.

We weren't quite sure what to do with ourselves. We don't have a boat or the desire to swim in the lake. The day was quite overcast and we thought it might rain. I think we are still in the "vacation" mode, and want to make the most of our days. We decided to go to one of the four "show" caves in the area. I chose the one that has guided tours, as opposed to one that is only accessible to spelunkers with special equipment. The Cave of the Ozarks is state owned and the electric lighting has been removed. The ranger-led tours are by lantern light.  It was cool and interesting.  Every cave we have been to has been different.

I wanted to get up early again on Tuesday, but when I woke, I felt so relaxed and comfy I just didn't want to. 
Freedom!  Freedom to get up or not!

But ... just before 7:00 I heard, "Come on wife, get up, let's go for a hike...".  Craig was up and getting dressed.

We drove to a place where we saw a trail-head sign. It was for a 3 mile walk into a "wild" area. The sign informed us the trail was unmaintained, rough, with rocks, unbridged streams, and fallen trees over the path. Sounded like a challenge we would enjoy.

And we did. This downed tree was almost to big for me to get over, but I did.

3+ miles was just right. By the time we returned to the car it was starting to get pretty warm. After showers and yummy orange cinnamon rolls for breakfast, we spent the rest of the day staying cool in the coach watching soccer and reading. With all the blinds up on the shade side, I watched the deer grazing in the next site.

I also got started on downloading filling out the forms we need to complete for our change of residence to South Dakota.  Not fun, but necessary.

How are you spending these hot days of summer?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Hot Springs

If it hadn't been so humid, and if the park campground didn't have so many trees blocking satellite reception, we would have stayed longer at the Gulpha Gulch campground in Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas. I hope we can stop there again in the future.

We arrived in the early afternoon on Wednesday. We claimed one of the spacious, nicely level, 50 amp full-hookup RV sites and paid our fee of $12 (cash only, senior pass discount) per night.  Gotta love that Senior Pass!

When Craig discovered he could not get satellite reception because of the trees, we took off for the Buffalo Wings Bar and Grill in town so we could watch the England vs. Uruguay World Cup soccer game. We also pigged out on hot wings and nachos!

After the game, we went downtown to the Visitors Center which is one of the old bathhouses that has been converted to a new use. The elegance of the stained glass skylight, grand piano and mosaic tiled floors speaks to the luxury the rich enjoyed in the 20's and 30's. 

After our tour of the building, we checked out the prices and offerings of several of the bath houses that are still in business. They ranged from $18 per person to go into a series of four hot pools for as long as desired along with other patrons, to $295 for a couple getting "the works", which is a private bath, scrub, massages, etc. We planned on returning the next day after a hike.

We were still totally full when dinner time came around, so we skipped eating dinner. I discovered that the peaches I bought a few days earlier were super-ripe, so we just had to eat them.  Scooped some great Blue Bell Ice Cream on them too.  Ah! The sacrifices we have to make.

After dinner we took a short walk around the campground area.

I feel I am starting to get a little accustomed to the humidity. The air still feels thick, but at least I don't feel like I'm breathing soup. It is usually quite dry in California, and of course there is never any humidity in Arizona or New Mexico.  One plus is I've notice my skin feel quite soft. No moisturizer is needed.

We did a short hike on Friday, and then went up into the observation tower on the hill. 

 The views were great and there was a lot of interesting reading about the history of the hot springs as a commercial destination and as a National Park.  One historical bit we enjoyed was the fact that one of the reasons weeks of hydrotherapy declined in popularity was the discovery and effectiveness of antibiotics. The depression may have had something to do with it too. But many people still go to the baths, just not for weeks of treatment. More just for the pleasure. 

After lunch, we went to the baths, and opted for the less expensive group pools so we could enjoy them together. The treatment did wonders for my back. I am writing this post two days later and I am still relatively pain-free and somewhat flexible.

This is one place I would love to come back for and spend a week or two just going for a soak every few days! It was better than any hot tub I have been in. Perhaps it was all the mineral water I was urged to drink.

This is getting long as usual, I guess I will catch up on the next leg of the journey in my next post.

But first, answers to a couple of questions!  Nan, sensible people would go to Louisiana in the spring  fall or winter   I have never claimed we are sensible.  If the house had sold in fall as it should have, or at least closed in January or February as it was supposed to, we would have gone to Albritton's for our desired work at a better time. But as it was, if we didn't stop there now, we wouldn't have gotten back that way until next Spring. Not acceptable.

So, despite the rather hot and humid weather we are now making our way north to South Dakota, to get our residency and such taken care of. I want to make it a habit to drive no more than 300 miles, and stay for no less than three days in any one place. Longer if possible and if there is lots to see and do. 

Second, Karen, Albritton's is pretty much a special place for Alfas. I don't think they work on any other brands at this time.

[From Craig]  We need someone to check out a restaurant we went by Saturday.  A sign announced the "Toad Suck Bugs restaurant" in Toad Suck, Arkansas.  It's southwest of Conway, AR, north of Little Rock. Shame we weren't hungry at the time, or we would have stopped and eaten and written a review for you.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Shreveport to Albritton's to Hot Springs

I may have been a bit harsh saying that Downtown Shreveport was dead and abandoned. It is true that many of the really old buildings are empty, and like many downtowns of mid-sized cities, businesses and shopping have moved elsewhere. When people went to the malls and outlets, the downtowns slowly shut down. It is a common cycle.

In addition to the informative river cruise, and visits to a couple of museums, we went on a two hour evening walking tour of the area around the parish court house and were entertained and educated by our guide. It was called the ghost walk, and he linked the history and architecture with anecdotal haunting stories. We really like these guided walks because it helps us get a feel for the past. It would be a true loss to see the old building fronts replaced by new glass towers. Once you realize they are 150 years old, you want to see them kept up for future generations to see as well.

On Sunday, we packed up and made the long drive (68 miles) to Choudrant so we would be there and ready for our 7 AM appointment at Albritton's.

I could see Choudrant in my big trucker's atlas, and we knew the address, but as usual I was a tiny bit nervous about getting there. I guess it's just the unknown. There were two contributing factors to this. First, the ladies at the State Visitor's Center did not know where Choudrant was, and second, our Rand McNally Navigator system did not recognize the address as valid. This is not unusual in itself. The Rand McNally will end up giving you a range of addresses on a road that do not include the one you want, and you have to use other means to get the last bit of directions.

So, as we came within 30 miles of the place I looked for it on Google Earth. I remembered Paul and Mary writing about how they had used Google Earth to look at gas stations to figure out the best approach. It turned out to have been a very good idea, because we might never have found it otherwise.

This is the image I got from Google Earth:

Albritton's is the gray building on the left side of the road. The long white buildings on the right side are a chicken farm. There is no sign of any kind.

The red dot is on the wrong side of the road at the entrance of the chicken farm. Albritton's driveway is actually above the dot marker.

This is all we could see as we drove up the road. A basic rural mailbox with the 5048 on it. However, because I had looked on Google Earth, I knew there was plenty of room to turn around if we were wrong, or to park if we were right.

I took this picture of the rather long driveway after we had parked up by the building. When we arrived there were no RVs visible, and being Sunday afternoon we didn't know if anyone was there.

As we drove up I was relieved to see this sign at the top of the driveway.

There is a large parking area with four full hook up spots, and a nice bunk house for customers to spend the day in while their rigs are worked on. Craig appreciated the TV and watched several World Cup games, and I was able to catch up on the wash using the washer and dryer.

I'm not sure this is 100% accurate, but it is what I have come to understand is the Albritton story. Dick Albritton had a successful heating and air conditioning business for many years. After buying his first Alfa Motorhome he developed an Air Exclusion process / rework that improved the insulation of the coach. When other Alfa owners heard about it, they asked him to do the same for them. He also began doing air conditioning and other work on them. He was very good. His son took over the air conditioning business. Dick bought the present property which had been a truck company. It was quite run down, but had some nice acreage, and a large building with service bay spaces.

He did a lot of cleanup, repaving, and renovation of the building to include a living area.

Although he was "retired" he continued to work on Alfas and when he needed some help called on Ronnie, a young man who had been working at a local RV shop. He and Ronnie really hit it off, having "the same work ethic". Eventually Ronnie took on more and more of the work. Now Ronnie's wife, Jodie, is his co-worker. 

We were the only customers here at first, but just about the time they were almost finished with our Alfa, another rolled in. I have read the guest book in their bunk house, and it looks like they have very few days off!  

Although our air conditioner was not having major problems, it had not had service in seven years. One of the bearings was starting to go, and last night it purred instead of growled as it cooled the coach.

We had had a big air noise in the front cab area, and Ronnie said there were a couple of very large air gaps. As we drove to our next stop the coach was delightfully quiet. Of course there are a few squeaks and rattles we didn't notice before, but the irritating wind noise is gone.

We are staying at the Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas for a couple of days. 

I hope this post wasn't too long, but I just kept having more to add!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Cruise on the Red River

One of the things I want on this adventure is to find the unique character of the places at which we stop. I think this was why I was a bit disappointed with our Wednesday morning wander around the downtown area of Shreveport. It just wasn't where we were. 

There are many outlet stores and several large casinos on the opposite side of the river from where we walked, but shopping and gambling are not alluring to me. 

We have driven around a bit, and I am pleased to report there are some nice parts of the city.

I was concerned that if we were at a state park this week we would not have a clear sky for satellite reception. The World Cup started on Thursday, and watching soccer games will be Craig's main interest for a while. 

With that in mind, we caught the 10 AM departure of the Red River Cruise Boat. The weather was very pleasant, in the high 70's, and there was a nice little breeze.  We were the only passengers.

The cruise itself is an hour long. We went up into a bayou which was quite pretty.

We saw Blue Heron,

and Egrets.

This was pointed out to us as "his and hers" houseboats. Apparently they are occupied by a couple who are together, but need their own space!

I wonder if the tent on the top deck is a summer house or a sleeping loft.

We were back to the Alfa by noon and watched the Spain vs. the Netherlands game. Spain was supposed to be the best in the world, but lost badly.

We took an evening walk last night and enjoyed seeing fireflies in the trees.  The KOA keeps the mosquitos under control by fogging. I heard the truck the other night.  I'm not sure what I think about that. I don't like the though of the poison in the air and on the grass, but I also hate mosquitos. 

Spray or not? 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Shreveport Day 1

As the dawn light filtered between the slats of the closed mini blinds next to our bed, we were serenaded by a most exuberant mocking bird. 

The windows were open and I think he was in the tree just a few feet away from the Alfa. 

How many songs can one mockingbird copy? 

Do older mocking birds remember more songs than younger ones? 

Do mockingbirds have a song of their own? 

As I drifted slowly up from sleep I started to guess what the origin of each call might be. I think I heard a tree frog among them.

On Wednesday, we went to the Shreveport Visitors Center and, following their instructions, found a couple of interesting places to see. In general, the parts of downtown Shreveport that we saw today felt very much like they died some years ago. 

A very pretty overflow fountain in the river walk area
Although there are several large hotels and casinos along the river, and a very nice pathway along the river itself, the old streets one block off the river were lined with vacant stores and business. There was little traffic, few pedestrians, and almost every parking lot we passed was close to empty. On the other hand, the streets were clean with no graffiti or homeless beggars that are often found in urban areas.

We had planned on stopping for a nice lunch. But, other than going into the casinos, it didn’t seem there was much hope of finding anything on foot, so we returned to the car and Craig used his phone for recommendations and directions. The first one we tried to find seemed to be at a run down airport. Even the Air National Guard buildings had for lease signs on them. Our next try was for a place that came up four stars on the phone and was on the list provided by the visitors center. We drove on some well-maintained streets that had what seemed like abandoned warehouses on both sides. Some of the streets had sidewalks and stairs that went to empty overgrown residential lots. We saw lots of boarded up houses as well. The churches, on the other hand, seemed new or renovated and very well maintained.

Herby K's did not live up to my expectations as a lunch stop. Although it had "character" in that it hasn't changed much since it opened in 1936, the food was not that good and seemed overpriced. 

I wold not recommend it. I may be too picky, but there are so many good eats out there I hate to waste a meal at a so-so place. 

Speaking of eats, we had an interesting supper back at the Alfa.

On our way home we stopped at a Walmart for a few things and were surprised by this big tub of live crawfish in the meat department. 

The butcher was on hand to bag them up and tell people what spice mix to buy and how to cook them. 

I was a bit leery at first, but after seeing that they were fresh enough to be still moving, I let Craig talk me into getting a couple of pounds.

Trying Crawdads was on my "Louisiana List", but I didn't expect to be cooking them myself!

Craig and I both recall catching similar critters, which we called crabs, in the creeks near our homes in Wisconsin as children. Neither of us could remember our mothers cooking them for us. Perhaps it was because we would only bring home a few at a time. Not enough to bother cooking.

I followed the butcher's instructions to soak them in salt water for an hour and then boiling them with Zatarain's spices. 

We ate them out on the patio table.

We ate them dipped in  some melted butter. 

Interesting, much like very tiny lobsters, but it
sure seem like a lot of work for each little tail. 

I'm really looking forward to eating fresh Maine lobsters someday.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Quick Update and some Blogging Thoughts

After a very nice meal and visit with the couple who had bought much of our audio equipment, we spent one more day in Dallas and then drove to Shreveport Louisiana. A short 220 miles on a sunny day. We are settled in at the Tall Pines KOA for the next five days. It is an average KOA, clean, level pads, pool etc. for almost rice the price of the older park we were at in Texas. But it was easy to find and had good recommendations.

We will be doing tourists things for the next few days. The weather has gotten just a tiny bit cooler.

Thoughts about blogging:
One of the blogs we read every day is The Bayfield Bunch, as much for Al's down-to-earth words as for his wonderful images. He has written about what he considers interesting or not about other blogs. He often makes me think about what I write.

I ask myself why I write a blog.  He encourages other bloggers to write about what they think, and not just what they are doing. Sometimes I do, but most of the time if I write a post about what I think, I keep it as a draft, ask myself if it will offend or influence anyone in any way, and then delete it. Unfortunately I'm not as good at deleting my comments on other people's blogs for the same reasons. Oh well, I think comments are more like conversation.  I offend people all of the time with my big mouth.  :)  When I write a blog post I have time to think before I push the publish button. Most of the time I realize I cannot change what other people think if I disagree with them, so it is only an aggravation to try.

For me keeping a blog has several functions. 
  • It's a personal log which I can look back on in the future. Where we go and where we stay are keystones to my memories. 
  • It's a letter to my friends and family. Instead of sending dozens of postcards, I post the pictures and tell the story of where we are and where we are going.
  • It's a way I can share what we are learning about living in an RV full-time. I know I learned a great deal from reading the blog posts of other RVers. They helped me make up my mind about doing this, and prepared me for both better and worse days.
  • When I write a post and keep it in draft form, the blog becomes a place to vent or just to mull over things that bother me.
I cannot control who reads or follows my blog. I wouldn't know how to if I wanted to. I know there are some who I will never meet, and probably some who I will never know read it at all. But there are a few that I write for.
  • My son and daughter. I want them to know where we are and what we're doing. I read my son's blog to keep up on what he is doing. I have to rely on weekly phone calls from my daughter, but that works too.
  • My sister-in-law and her 90+ year old mother-in-law that lives with her. She reads the blog aloud to Grandma Flora, which helps her to remember her own travels and adventures from long ago.
  • My brothers and their wives. We don't talk on the phone very often, but the blog is a way of reaching out to them.
  • My daughter's in-laws in New Zealand. I hear they enjoy hearing about what we are doing.
  • Friends from the Los Gatos Mountains. 
  • And many members of the RV community.
Why do you blog?  Why do you read mine?

Saturday, June 7, 2014

What To Do in Dallas on a Hot Humid Day

I'm beginning to recall how we managed to live in the Dallas area in the summer months 36 years ago. We went from our air conditioned house to our air conditioned car to the air conditioned stores and back again. We ventured out of doors in the early morning or to our back yard pool in the evenings.  

It has been very hot and humid here this week, but the thermometer tells us that it is still much cooler than it is going to be.

So .... What to do in such muggy weather?  Find a cool venue other than a shopping mall.

Both Craig and I enjoy visiting aquaria. When we lived here in Texas, he kept a large tank of beautiful marine fish. When we moved to California we donated the very healthy fish to the Dallas and Ft. Worth Aquaria. We never got around to having an aquarium in California. Perhaps it was because I was afraid of it breaking in an earthquake!

On Friday we were greeted by this unlikely fellow at the Dallas World Aquarium. He's called a shoebill stork. 

The layout and exhibits are some of the best I have seen.  I say "some of" because it was hard to compare this River Rainforest with the Open Ocean, Kelp Forest, or the Jellies at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California. 

The design and traffic flow is interesting. We started at the canopy level of a very large open aviary. Most of the birds are free to fly as they please within the structure. Some have netted enclosures, but we hardly noticed their confinement. There are monkeys, sloths, and marmosets living high and low with colorful jungle birds of many kinds.

As we wound down along faux stone passages we stopped and peered into glass enclosures built into the walls housing frogs, toads, tarantulas, and snakes. 

Looking down, we saw several large pond areas with water birds. As we passed over one of them, we noticed a pair of enormous prehistoric-looking white reptile tails in the water below the bridge we were crossing.

When we got lower we could see the front ends. This pair of Orinoco Crocodiles are the first breeding pair in North America.

The integration of the habitats and animals was well done.

The Jaguar had a nice sized space with a small clear pond. He is fed in part by putting fish into the pond and letting him catch them. He had just finished eating one when we arrived and was quite active going back into the water to look for another.  He ignored all the people who were just on the other side of his glass wall.  Big kitty.

About the time we were wondering whether this aquarium included any fish, we found them, both fresh water and marine. In one large tank exhibit there were very large river fish and a Manatee. We only go to see the manatee for a few minutes before he went "back stage."  There is a passage on the side of the tank, which leads to a holding tank. One of the docents explained that often when people were doing things back there he went to check them out.  Maybe he was looking for a treat.

One of our favorite tanks was the tunnel. This is a glass passage through the tank holding the sharks, rays, sawfish, and other large guys. We later were able to view them from above water as well. 

We were surprised by the fact that the penguin exhibit was outside. Who would think penguins would be happy outdoors in Dallas, but they seemed to be! 

I have seen many flamingo colonies at zoos. These were the healthiest I can remember. Flamingos get their color from their food. These were beautiful and vibrant.

No aquarium seems complete without a few tanks of Jellies. Here they had their own small corridor with black light that made a colorful glow.

Overall, I give the Dallas World Aquarium a big thumbs up as a  COOL thing to do on a hot day.  The only improvement I could make, would be to wear personal headphones that blocked out the people sounds around me as I enjoyed the exhibits. Perhaps with a soothing music soundtrack. I don't mind the bodies, but it seems the sounds of people and children chattering away is magnified by the walls and water.  But we are people too, and added our comments to the sounds around us.

After our aquarium visit, we went over to the Dallas Farmer's Market. It is currently being renovated, so only a small area was open. We bought some pretty good produce for slightly less than at the local large grocery.

We ended our day out with a stop at Trader Joe's for fresh basil. There was none at the Farmer's Market, and the tiny packages available at the local grocery were past their prime. Trader Joe's sells really healthy living basil plants for $3.99 each. I never bought them when we lived in California because we could buy large fresh bunches of basil in most grocery stores for less almost year round, but this may be the way to have this essential fresh herb on hand in the RV. 

We also needed to restock some of our favorite items for next week. We will be going to Shreveport, LA on Monday, and there is no TJ's there.  One thing that has not changed in our lifestyle is our love of good homemade food. A well stocked larder is very important to us.