Organ Pipe National Park

Organ Pipe National Park

About Me

I purchased "Sadie''s House On Wheels "in late 2007 and loved traveling in a motor home so much that I went on the road full time in late 2008. I started writing this blog to help me remember all the wonder places I have been and it allows me to share those places with my family and friends. Summer of 2013 I decided to hang up the keys for a while and moved back into my stick house. After nearly two years, I am on the road again.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Born Free Factory and heading West

I'm not sure what I was thinking when I left the wonderful weather in Pennsylvania...high 70's to low 80's with minimum humidity and headed west towards Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and of mugginess in the summer.  The trip to the small Midwest town of Humboldt, Iowa was uneventful although bumpy.  I'm a little disappointed in the turnpikes from Ohio to Illinois  that charge mega bucks and offer a bumper car ride.  I thought I-80 between Truckee, California and Sacramento was bad..well I've learned different and dropped nearly $40 for the experience.  The turnpikes get ya coming and going.  

So you're wondering why on earth would anyone go to Humboldt, Iowa.  Well, if you are a Born Free Motor Coach owner such as myself, it is the place to go in June to celebrate the owner's birthday, John Dodgen.  Every year John Dodgen invites any owner of a Born Free to join him and celebrate his birthday.  This year it was his 83rd. His staff provided heavy oeuvres on Sunday evening after our arrival, and breakfast, lunch, and a great birthday bar-b-que on Monday and a send off breakfast on Tuesday.  In addition, factory tours are provided along with a running commentary from John Dodgen trying to sell you a new Born Free.  I'd love to buy one of the new better insulated, wide body, redisigned ones, but I need to win the lottery first.  

Mr. John Dodgen himself.  

There were over 200 people attending the festivities.  In addition to the tours and meals, the staff offers courtesy adjustments such as adjusting doors, hinges, etc.  Fortunately I didn't have anything minor I need to have done, but will need to return the factory some day to have a part on my couch replaced due to some mysterious water damage.  However, you can believe that I will not go there during the summer.  Did I mention that the temperature was 95 with a humidity of 87%?  This translates to a heat index of about 110.  Steamy!!!

This was the inside temperature.

After going through the factory, I believe that my coach is probably one of the safest ones on the market.  After all its got four roll bars in it and Dodgen claims that in all the years that he has been building Born Free Motor Coaches there has never been a single serious injury or fatality due to an accident in one.

Note the roll bars.  All the fiberglass and cabinetry is made on site and everything is installed on site.  

Machinery for making the cabinets. 

Spraying fiber glass on the mold (below)

Finished fiberglass panel

There is also a commercial division that manufactures mobile clinics for veterinarians and other businesses

Nice little camping space in the shade for dry camping across from the factory.

I did discover that there are several wonderful bicycle/walking/snowmobile paths, the three rivers trail, that were very close to the factory.  Thank goodness they were in the shade.  The appeared to be abandonded rail road beds, but were not labled so.  If I ever go back, I will surely explore then a little more.  

I meant up with my hiking friend Nancy (she introduced me to the Born Free) and she had fortunately saved me a place to  park in the  shade for the gathering. I must mention that due to the heat I kept forgetting may camera.  Most of the pictures above were taken by Nancy, so thanks are in order. Nancy and I  left Tuesday morning after breakfast and caravanned heading west. The trip across Iowa and Nebraska was miserable. Hot. Hot. Hot. It was 102 degrees in Omaha with a heat index of probably 120.  

We stop just east of North Platte, Nebraska at a rest stop for the evening and were getting settled in when one of the truckers informed us there was a tornado about 25 miles away. We spent the next two hours listening to the CB weather channel  and on the Internet trying to figure out if we should move or stay put. We checked out the bathrooms at the rest stop as the only safe structure in case a tornado did come our way.  I was sure that if we were in peril the state troopers would come and warn the folks at the rest stop.  Nancy wasn't so sure.  Apparently the tornado was north east of us and was to continue on an easterly path and pass east of us.  We hoped it didn't change course. Also we were very  concerned about hail and wind that generally is generated by the tornadoes.   In the end, we didn't get any rain or hail and woke up to sunny skies the next morning with little humidity.  That is twice I have dodge the tornadoes so I don't think I will return to the mid-west for a while. 

 Nancy is heading to Colorado Springs, Colorado and I am heading to Verdi, Nevada. Hope to be there by Friday 6/26.  We will be meeting again in Lone Pine, California on July 4th to begin our next adventure of climbing Mt. Whitney.  I hope to camp out in Truckee, California for a few days at 6200 ft on order to somewhat acclimate myself to the higher altitude since I have been at the lower altitudes for the past two months.  This ought to be interesting. I have less than a week to acclimate and prepare for hiking and  back packing.  Mt Whitney is 14,000. I must be crazy.  


Sunday, June 21, 2009

More on Pennsylvania

I've really grown fond of Central Pennsylvania.  It is a mecca of places to see and explore.  John had previously sent me some pictures of a place called Bilger's Rock and I thought it would be fun to go explore it since neither one of us had seen it.  Also, the fact that John's grandfather had carved his initials in some obscure rock added purpose to the visit, that and the fact that Sadie needed to get out and run.  The pictures I had seen reminded me of the slot canyons in Utah, even though Bilger's Rock is all granite. So we jumped in the car for a quick excursion before the day got away from us.  The rocks were mossy and wet indicating that they rarely dry out.  It's very interesting geological formation and the pictures don't do the area justice.  We wandered around exploring the various crevices and slots/openings between rocks commenting what a great place this was  for kids to explore. The deserted bottles and trash indicated that many a party had been held in some of the common areas.  We actually found the rock that John's grandfather had carved, although part had split off.  With a little pushing and shoving we were able to put the broken piece back. 

Note how green and mossy the rocks are.

Huge boulders dwarf me.

Sadie finally got a chance to get out and run. 
Through and through slot.

Huge slot. This would be pretty tricky in the winter.

If you look closely you can see John's grandfather's carving: Chas C. Logan.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Clearfield has lots of places to eat.  Many small cafes provide lunch and dinners and there are some fancy restaurants.  I had the pleasure of joining John and his parents at their favorite Italian restaurant, Molinare (sp).  I had a delicious shrimp and scallop linguine which I highly recommend.  We also went to Dennys.  No this is not the chain of Denny's restaurants, its real hamburger joint and serves local beer.  You can order a 6# hamburger and if you eat the whole thing in one hour or less you get all kinds of accolades.. pictures and a certificate, but I think you still have to pay for the meal.   I didn't attempt that but did order one of their specialities.  Yummmmm. John's nephew owns a small cafe on a side street just off the main drag  that caters to lunch and early dinner clientele.  Its a great place for a quick, home made, meal.  Their raspberry tea is wonderful as are the sandwiches and salads.  Its a very popular place and you can get take out too.  I ate there several times and really enjoyed the food. 

The sponsor (Dave McCracken) of the local kayaking/canoe club called earlier in the week asking if we would volunteer to help supervise special athletes (as in Special Olympics) as they were going to be introduced to kayaking.  Dave was going to bring kayaks and gear down to the Susquehanna River (just a few blocks from John's parking pad) and introduce about nine special kids to the sport.  He needed folks to be in the river paddling to corral the kids so they wouldn't go down river in the current or go too far in the deep part of the river.  So we formed a barrier of sorts with kayaks and paddlers  and then a few of us kayaked with those kids that could paddle on their own. One child was in a wheel chair so she kayaked in a tandem with one of the volunteers and was thrilled.  One of my charges insisted on paddling up to the bridge and back(maybe 1/2 mile one way) and became so good at paddling I had a hard time keeping up with her.  Another didn't want to stop and let someone else have a turn.  The expressions  and smiles on the kids faces made our volunteer time very worth while. Dave was extremely pleased and hopes to continue with the project. 

Volunteers and participates..Special Athletes getting ready to put in on the Susquehanna

  Special Athlete Tommy and volunteer

Special Athlete Airiana and volunteer. Airiana is wheel chair bound and this was very special for her. 

Volunteer and Brown Dog, Brownie. Brownie runs the rapids and is constant kayak companion. 

Happy Kayaker volunteer. 

Alas, my time in Clearfield has come to an end.  The past 12 days have flown by and there is still so much to see and do in the area, so I know I'll be back. Goodbyes are hard, so they were brief. John will be staying with family for a little longer to complete his cancer treatments and will be enjoying all that Clearfield has to offer, I'm sure. 

One of many beautiful old churches in the town.  

Type street corner with business on the lower level and apartments above.  

The parking place.  Do you think we could get another RV in.  NOT!

My next stop will be in Humboldt, Iowa to attend a Bornfree Homecoming at the factory. Apparently  Bornfree owners from all over the country gather and exchange ideas and celebrate the owner's birthday.  It ought to be interesting and I've never been to Iowa. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Clearfield, Pennsylvania and the Susquehanna River

Early morning on the West Branch of the Susquehanna River near camp

                              Sadie enjoying the river

I arrived at "John's Place" on June 7 and the time has been flying by.  John is parked behind his brother-in-laws office and apartment building and they have graciously made a spot for me to park. Immediately upon arrival I was hustled to John's nephew's birthday party.  I'd been driving since early morning and hadn't even combed my hair! Oh well, I figured his family would chalk me up to another crazy "westerner".  Actually, they were very nice and I sat down and ate a delicious piece of homemade chocolate cake that was made by John's sister, Peggy. 

Clearfield is a small old town with numerous old buildings and establishments. Many of the residents have resided here for generations and their business have been passed down from generation to generation.  It seems to be a typical small town where every one knows every one. The country side is beautiful this time of year.  Everything is lush and green due to the numerous showers that occur almost daily. 

Sadie has decided she really like John's rig, probably due to the air conditioning being on all of the time.(see picture below)

I also discovered there is a really nice rails to trails path that starts in Clearfield and continues along the river for miles.  Sadie, John and I walked part of it and I hope to bike part of it time permitting.    Sadie enjoyed swimming and frolicking in the river along side of the trail.  

John met some of the folks from the local kayaking club and had arranged to meet up with them on the Western Branch of Susquehanna River for an overnight camping trip.  I'm always up for meeting  the local folks and exploring some of the secrets of the local area.  Wow, was I in for a treat1  The WINs ought to explore Central Pennsylvania.  There are lots of rivers, camping, hiking, and the weather isn't as hot and muggy as it was down in Missouri and Arkansas.  I discovered that the kayaking and canoeing folks are fun loving, friendly, and polite on the river. 

What started out as an overnight camping trip ended up being a two night trip.  John was very excited to get away from the business of being sick and we headed out on Friday instead of Saturday.  We loaded up the kayaks on Thursday to make sure everything fit before we headed out to the put-in on Friday. We were able to get all our food, sleeping bags, tent, clothes,  and even a box of wine in the two kayaks with no problem.  I was amazed! We had planned for simple meals with minimal preparation due to storage constraints in our kayaks.  I was very fortunate to find a great kennel to board Sadie so we headed over to the kennel on Friday morning and then headed to the put-in at Deer Creek for a leisurely float down the river to the campsite. Sadie didn't even baulk at the new kennel.  

Our trip down the river to the camping spot was a little dicey at first.  The river was very low and the first mile or so challenged our paddling skills and will.  Neither one of us wanted to get out and walk!  Once we got past the tricky spots it was smooth sailing although the river was lower than anything I've paddled in the past.  There were lots of little riffles and boulders to slalom through  to make the trip interesting.  Actually, I used more of my paddling skills that I had on the Buffalo or Jacks Fork rivers. 

               The Happy Kayaker looks a little worried about the shallow conditions. 

                                                   Put-in at Deer Creek 

The Alder Creek camp site was beautiful .   There were lots of established fire rings, log benches, and even a makeshift table. Along side the camp site was a babbling stream running into the river.  There was a perfect canopy of trees to make shade and add some protection in the event of a light shower. The site was very clean for such a popular camp. Much to our surprise two members (Matt and Paul) of the kayaking club showed up late Friday afternoon. We hadn't expected them until Saturday, so their appearance made for a pleasant surprise.

 With Matt and Paul's arrival I learned the difference between kayaking camping and canoe camping. In my mind it's the difference between backpacking and car camping.  When you have a canoe you have STORAGE, ie probably 1000 lb weight limit. Kayaks have about 250 lb weight limit.  These guys brought grills, chairs, steaks,potatoes, cast iron skillets, tarps, wood, and beer and more'd thought they were going to stay for a week. These guys know how to relax and enjoy themselves.  John is now convinced he should get a canoe. Hmm.. cushy lounge chairs, tables to cook on, and thick sleeping mats..could be interesting. 

                                             Matt, John, & Paul sitting around the campfire. 
                                        Look at all of the stuff that came out of two kayaks!

We had a great time telling stories and learning about the area.  Matt and Paul cooked all of their meals over an open campfire, something I haven't done since my childhood mainly because open camp fires are not allowed virtually everywhere in the California back country. They cooked home fried potatoes, sausage and eggs, steaks...all the things I used to associate camp eating with years ago.  The best part was they graciously shared some of their food with us.  They were probably snickering quietly at our one pot pasta meal for dinner and bagels and cream cheese for breakfast...thinking "those city folks".

Sleeping out under the stars was another treat.  No bugs here.  Matt had put up a tarp in case of rain and it made the perfect shelter for sleeping, at least for the first night.  The second night is started to rain around bed time so the tent promised a dryer nights sleep. The air was cool and the stream lulled us to sleep.

                                                       Beautiful sunset

The trip continued down the river to Karthaus on Sunday.  Matt and Paul were concerned about the Moshannon  Falls.  Apparently it can be pretty challenging. The water in the river had risen about 5 inches which was a relief for me because my poor kayaks got some good scratches from the put-in area.  Matt and Paul insisted that we get an early start as the take-out at Karthaus was about 12 miles down river and would take about 5 hours.  We took their advise and headed out early as we needed to pick up Sadie by 6:00 that evening. I guess Matt and Paul were thinking canoe hours because we were at the take out spot in time to have lunch at the local hangout.  Moshannon Falls was really not a falls but some very mild rapids or very large riffles. It was great fun going down the falls and we actually thought about turning around and paddling back up so we could go back down.  

                                     M0shannon Falls..should I paddle back up?

                                                                                 New companions: Matt and Paul

Well, I picked up Sadie by 6:00 and she fared well.  It turns out the kennel owner is a very good friend of Matt's.  It also turns out that Matt is an old acquaintance of John's sister and brother-in-law.  We later went to the beer store to buy some local beer and it turns out Matt's wife owns the store.  Yep, this is a small town with wonderful people.  A great place to visit.  Stayed tuned for Clearfield, part II...more to come. 


Friday, June 5, 2009

Sedalia, MO Part II, Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival

Missouri countryside as seen from the Katy trail.

Nancy and Will on the Katy Trail

Old Building(above)

Combo With Saw (above)
Katy Depot Sculpture

Well, I arrived in Sedalia  on June 2, and camped out at the Missouri State Fairgrounds... again.  I was a little apprehensive as the forecast called for rain and thunderstorms so I only paid for one night anticipating that I would be needing to move to higher ground.  I really didn't want to contribute to the tow truck fund again.  Anyway, we had a few showers and then it cleared up beautifully.  When the security guard came around to collect fees I paid for several days in advance based on the weather forecast, mind you. Also, the $18.00 per night is the most I have paid for camping, except for the occasional KOA campground in route.  

A little about Sedalia.  It's a very old rail road town.. really old.  It dates back to the early 1800s.  Several major railroads went through the town which allowed the town to prosper.  There are lots of old interesting buildings still standing. There is also the KATY trail which is an old rail road bed which has been converted to a wonderful flat, fairly straight, compact gravel bicycle path. Its one of the longest rails to trails in the US. The trail totals over 250 miles  and wonders through towns, scenic farm lands and along rivers.  I rode approximately 10 miles out of town on it and it was a piece of cake.  I'd love to come back and ride the whole thing.  Each community has a kiosk before entering the community outlining hotels, restaurants, and camping spots available for the bicycler or hiker who is riding the trail.  

One other point of interest was the KATY depot.  It's a heritage museum and has lots of pictures and exhibits.  What peaked my interest was the exhibit on the Ozark Music Festival which took place in 1974.  Apparently this small town of 20,000 folks were not ready for an invasion of over 40,000 concert goers and druggies and flower children.  It was similar to Woodstock but smaller but with the same traumatic effects....drugs, overdose, filth, etc.  It all took place on the very Fairgrounds where I am staying. Sedalia, being in the middle of the bible belt, persevered and helped the stranded, drug overdosed, human population, and order was restored eventually. 

The Bothell mansion sits on a high bluff just north of Sedalia.  It contains 31 rooms and took over 30 years to complete.  The owner, Mr. Bothell was a prominent banker and loved to entertain.  The mansion was sort of club with repeat guests and after Mr. Bothell's death the guests continued to use the mansions.  His will provided that they could use the mansions until the clubs members declined to a certain number and then the property was offered to the state. Missouri accepted the offer and turned the property into a state park.  Tours are given daily and participants pay...are you ready for this..a woping $2.50.   A great tour for a great price. 
The reason the WINs are here is for the Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival. I wasn't real familiar with the music genre.  I assumed is similar to Honky Tonk and the original Jazz. I was wrong.  The "rags" were originally based on John Philip Souza's marching band music.  The pianist left hand performs the base and the right hand the melodies.  The rags have a beginning and ending and there is a common theme through out the rag.  Sometimes there might be other instruments performing the rhythm sections such as a wash board or saw. I have yet to learn why the pieces are called rags even with much research on the internet.  In any event, I found the music fun to listen to and even more fun to watch the young performers play.  

The two most interesting groups were the Roaring 20's and Morgan and the Boys.  The festival is set up so that each participant performs a set lasting about 20-30 minutes.  The Roaring 20's were all performers aging around 20.  Morgan and the Boys were all under 18 with Morgan being the only girl and the rest boys.  In my book the young performers out performed the older ones by a long shot except for Jeff Bernhardt and his wife Ann.  

Today (June 6) I'm off to Iowa via a slight detour to Pennsylvania for a few days to see my friend John, the Happy Kayaker.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Alley Springs

Alley Springs is a very neat place.  It's an old grist mill and most of the original machinery remains in tact.  The NPS has taken over the old mill as part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. The Alley Springs mill was very high tech in its day.  It used the spring water to power a turbine wheel vs water wheel to make the mill work.  Also the mill changed the whole economy of the region.  White flour or "fancy" flour was milled here.  The bran and shaft of the wheat which retain moisture were separated from the wheat creating the white flour. Because the bran was removed the white flour did not retain moisture and thus lasted much longer.  This allowed  the farmers to grow less wheat and eventually it became cheaper to buy "fancy flour".  The farmers turned to logging instead of crop growing and eventually the area was completely logged out.  At one time Alley Springs had a population of over 3000.  Once the area was logged out the population dwindled.   Forest restoration was implemented in the area so today there are stands of new growth trees.   Originally Alley Springs was a state park but now is part of the NPS encompassing the Ozark National Scenic Riverways

Old original machinery.

Alley Springs Mill (on the  upper right)

Old school room.

Max, Claudia, Mark, Judy, Joanne, and Geraldine at the Alley Spring overlook.

Maniac Mike joined us.  Can't miss his rig. 

Local family enjoying the Jacks Fork

The Jacks Fork river

Peter and Caroline enjoying lunch.  Actually they were too lazy to get out of the Kayaks and join the rest of us

Funny hats and glasses.  Explanation: 
When one "dumps" while on a WIN float they get the hat.  They keep it until someone else dumps.  Mark originally had the hat and it was passed on to Corey when she dumped. Then it went to Nancy; then to Caroline: then to Maniac Mike (who it was rumored was willing to pay someone to dump) ;then to Caroline again and then to Geraldine. Geraldine will end up keeping the hat until next NARKSMO.Did you get all that!! Well yours truly NEVER dumps because I am an excellent paddler and I hate to bale out water.

We did two floats on the Jack Fork river.  The first float was pretty short with lots of beautiful scenery with high bluffs and wildlife. There were more "riffles" and challenges than on the previous floats.  The river was high so not too many rapids, but we did use more paddling skills then previously.  We put in at Bates and put out at the ramp at Alley Springs.  Some went on to Eminence but I chose to stay behind and help shuttle cars. Its quite a feat organizing 12-13 kayaks, gear and people and enough drivers and cars.  

The second float was a little longer, almost 14 miles.  We put in at Alley Springs and put out at Two Rivers.  This time we had Harvey's Canoe Rentals pick us up at the landing site ..kayaks, gear, and tired bodies for $10.00 per person.  What a deal!! No shuttles.  We had a great time on the river playing, swimming and some had water gun fights.  Some of the locals thought us a little strange..after all..what a site..a bunch of grey haired people acting like high school kids. It was a great ending to the last float of NARKSMO.  

Peter having fun with his water gun. Some beautiful river river ducks. 

 On the last day I decided to do a little exploring and took a side trip to Power Mills.  It is river  access place but also a trail head for the Ozark Trail.  The Ozark Trail is not finished yet, but I had the opportunity to hike a few miles.  It's obviously a very old trail and with the high precipitation the trail is very narrow and in places over grown.  I found it a very stark contrast to the trails in the Sierras because of it is quite primitive.  I didn't see a soul during the time I hike this short segment which overlooked the Current River.  

I'm really impressed with the Missouri people.  I have noted at the past few campgrounds there have actually been more tent or tent trailer camping than RV camping.  The majority of spaces are occupied by families and sometimes multiple families.  It brings back memories of my young family and all of the camping we used to do at Big Sur out of tents and our old Chevy Wagon.  

OK, you're probably wondering what's with the picture of Sadie and the green stuff on her head.  Well, the park is very heavily forested and brushy.  The camping spaces are mowed but the rest is left natural.  There are bunny rabbits  everywhere eating the clover and grass.  Sadie has to be tethered but her tether is long enough she can still reach the unmowed area.  The first day she sheepishly came out of the bush wearing a green hat.  I couldn't help but laugh and take her picture.  The bunny rabbits learned very quickly that Sadie couldn't chase them then and would torment her to no end.  However, I did make up for it and Sadie did get a swim in the river almost everyday...this is her very favorite thing to do. 

I've enjoyed NARKSMO (Northern Arkansas Southern Missouri)and would like to complete the curcuit again some time.  There is much to see and do.  The Ozark Scenic Riverway is truly a special place. I left early this morning to head to Sedalia again and will be enjoying the Scott Joplin Ragtime festival for a few days.  I'm staying at the Fairgrounds and am praying that what ever rain that falls will be kind to me and that I will not get stuck again.  I'm looking forward to the Katy Trail and exploring the old town of Sedalia.