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Post #105 - November, 2018 - Arizona Here We Come (again)!

In November we traveled from Elgin, Illinois to Mesa, Arizona.  We drove through seven states and visited three Presidential Museums and Libraries.  We kept our campground fees down to $550.00 (for the whole month) but paid a little over $800.0 in fuel and drove 3217 miles.  We stayed north of I-40 too long and had our pipes freeze twice (in Missouri).  And we FINALLY visited the state of Kansas.

Our rig needed a few items fixed before we headed west so when our campground closed for the season on Wednesday, 10/31 we drove over to General RV in Huntley, IL to have everything taken care of.  The bar under our grey tank needed to be bolted on and our grey tank handle needed fixing.  We were there when the service department opened at 9:00 and we were on the road by noon,

Our first stop was at the Amana Colonies RV Park in Amana, Iowa.  This park was laid out like a fairground and since it was the end of their season we pretty much had our pick of sites.  We settled in and I walked over to the nearby laundry and got three loads done.  Usually I would have done all our laundry before we hit the road but our local laundry had a problem with their dryer.  Happy to hear that a new dryer has been installed - thanks Judy and Don!

The Amana Colonies are seven villages in east-central Iowa (near I-80).  They were built and settled by German "Pietists".  They left Germany due to religious persecution by the state government and Lutheran Church and headed to the land of religious freedom.  From the time they settled in Iowa in the mid 1850's until about 1932 they lived communally.  They were almost completely self-sufficient using their crafting and farming skills learned in Europe.  Here's a link to a Wikipedia article about them:

31st President - Herbert Hoover
On Thursday morning we drove over to Cedar Rapids for an oil change on the truck.  While doing that the mechanic discovered a problem with our differential (I think that's what they said)? They could fix it but it was going to take a couple of hours.  They were kind enough to lend us a car and we headed over to the Herbert Hoover Museum and Birthplace in West Branch, Iowa.  I knew very little about President Hoover and came away with a great appreciation of his life and presidency.  He was orphaned at the age of nine and was sent west to Oregon to live with an aunt and uncle.  He graduated from Stanford College with a degree in Engineering and traveled the world plying his trade.  He made his fortune and then spent the rest of his life in public service.  He was a very interesting man with a very interesting life. 

After leaving the museum we picked up the truck and headed back to Amana.  We were too late to see the Amana Museum but the General Store/Christmas Store was still open and we picked up a few goodies.
An appropriate sign for the "Merkes Circus"
Did not buy but sure was tempted

The Amana campground closed on Friday, 11/2 for the season so we headed southwest to the tiny town of Osceola, IA where we found a Casino/RV Park with full hook-ups and CABLE!  We stayed three nights and left with a little more cash than we started out with.  Cha-Ching!  It rained all weekend but there wasn't much to do in that area anyway.  Having cable was a nice perk.

From Osceola, IA we continued our drive southwest and spent 8 nights in Crow's Creek campground in Smithville, Missouri near Kansas City.  We hadn't really planned on 8 nights there but the weather wasn't very good and it was better to stay put rather than drive in freezing rain or snow.

The campground was almost completely empty.  During our time there I think the most campers we saw were about 10.  The view out our back window was of Lake Smithville and there was a 7-mile walking path right behind us.  It would be a nice place to visit earlier in the fall, the colors must  be spectacular.
Crow's Creek Campground on Smithville Lake in Missouri

Truman House in Independence, Missouri
We visited four museums while we were in this area.  On Tuesday, 11/6, we drove to Independence, MO and toured the Truman Home and Museum.  According to the National Park Docent, the house was painted white because it was the summer white house.  Bess Truman grew up in this house and Harry moved in once they were married.  His mother-in-law lived with them until here death (even went with them to the White House - lucky Harry).  They've kept the house exactly as it was when the Truman's lived here.  Bess died in 1982 so some of the house had more "modern" touches (including wall paper in the kitchen that went up the walls and covered the ceiling - tres chic).  We were only allowed to tour the first floor (keeping to the carpeted path).  There were 6 bedrooms - 5 upstairs and 1 downstairs off the parlor.  They had a large screened-in porch and spent many of their summer evenings outside (pre and post presidency).
Marty with # 33
From the desk of President Truman

The weather got really cold (it snowed!)  so on Thursday, 11/8, so we drove into Kansas City and visited the Negro Baseball Museum and the Jazz Museum.  They are in the same building which is very convenient.  These were two very well done museums (I liked the baseball one better, go figure).

Friday, 11/9, was another cold, blustery day so we were off to visit another museum.  It was the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day (Veteran's Day) so we visited the amazing World War I museum in Kansas City.  Because it was the 100th anniversary the museum was 1/2 price.  It was so well done that I wouldn't have minded paying full price.  You could easily spend a whole day there, so much information and lots of interactive exhibits to entertain/inform you.  They even had a research area with computers available to look up veterans from any era.  I looked up my grandfather and confirmed that he was a cook during WWI and learned that he sailed from New Jersey to France in 1917 and came back thru Brest, France in April of 1919.  I Love History!

Marty's Lunch at WWI Museum- Yum? 

It was a very cold weekend and on Saturday, 11/10, we woke up to frozen water pipes.  They "un-froze" around 1:00, this is ridiculous.  On Monday, 11/12, we got 1 - 2" of snow so we did something we haven't done in a long time - we went to the movies.  We saw Bohemian Rhapsody and loved it!  Once is usually enough for me but I'd definitely see this one again.  The only problem with the movie is that I can't get the song out of head - Scaramooch, Scaramooch can you do the fandango, thunderbolt and lightning very very frightening..........

On Tuesday, 11/13, our pipes froze again (overnight temp was 16).  We really needed to get out of misery (oops, I mean Missouri) so we packed up the rig and headed west to Abilene, KS.  We were there at 12:45 PM which may be the earliest we've ever checked in.  This was our first time in Kansas - we've now stayed in every state WEST of the Mississippi River - YAY!

Abilene turned out to be a pretty nice place to spend a few days.  We drove downtown and ate at "Tossed and Sauced Pizza" a hole-in-the-wall pizza place with surprisingly good pizza. After dinner we always need a little something sweet and discovered that Abilene, Kansas is home to one of the Russell Stover Candy Factories and they have an outlet store!  Wow, did we have fun picking out candy - we thought we bought a lot but it only cost 10.63 so obviously we didn't buy enough.  Sadly, it was all gone within a week.

We visited our third and final presidential museum/library on Wednesday, 11/14.  Abilene, Kansas was the home of Dwight D. Eisenhower.  The museum was undergoing renovations so they've moved some of the exhibits over to the Library.   Wednesdays are "white-glove" Wednesday where you go in to the auditorium and they have a few artifacts out and give you some of the specific history of those items.  We really enjoyed talking to the curator - what nerds we are!

I like Ike because he's my birthday buddy

Due to the renovations and so many items not being on display  our tickets are good for all of 2019 so now we have three good reasons to come back to Abilene, Kansas - Pizza, Chocolate and DDE.

We left Abilene, KS on Thursday, 11/15 and continued our drive south down I-35.  We spent one night in Guthrie, Oklahoma and by Friday afternoon we were in Thackerville, Oklahoma.  Why - Thackerville?  Because they have the largest casino in the United States and we wanted to check it out. Their RV park was very nice with full hook-ups.  They have a shuttle bus to take you to the casino but it was a short walk (2 blocks maybe?) so we walked and then we walked some more inside.  This place was huge!  We didn't do very well on any of the machines until it was time to leave, that's when Marty found the lobster machine and we (he) broke even for the night.  We went back on Saturday to try our luck again on the lobster machine but after walking back and forth for about an hour we couldn't find it.  We did find the DQ inside the casino and after a blizzard break we headed back to the rig and wouldn't you know it, right outside the DQ was the lucky lobster machine.  Unfortunately it was out of order so we'll never know how lucky it truly was.

We left Oklahome and planned to drive west to Childress, Texas.  Unfortunately while we were driving Marty noticed that the rig was leaning.  Oh, no - our leaf spring broke!  The same leaf spring that was replaced in Alabama back in April.  We ended up spending the night in a truck stop parking lot in Wichita Falls, Texas and taking it to "Big Tex Trailer" early Monday morning. They replaced it and we were on the road by early afternoon.

We were only about 100 miles from Childress, Texas and we pulled in to their city campground by 3:00.  For $15.00 a night it was a pretty nice place.  I wanted to stay in Childress because I have good memories of going on a road trip there back in 2008 with my parents and Sue to visit mom's brother, Uncle Frank and his wife, Aunt Jody.   It is a tiny town with not much in it but we did drive by where they lived and had a blizzard at the local DQ.

I also met the Chief of Police of Childress and had a very nice conversation with him about baseball.  He's a huge fan and he and his wife like to visit baseball stadiums so I gave him my email and told him to let me know when he comes to Chicago. 

We love photo ops along Route 66

Outside the Tucumcari, NM Museum
We left Childress (and Texas) and headed west on I-40 to Tucumcari, New Mexico.  Our campground (Blaze-In-Saddle RV Park) was right on Route 66.  It was a tiny campground in the desert in the middle of nowhere but the price was right so we stayed here two nights.  There was a museum in Tucumcari, it was a large building with lots of stuff but not much information to go with that stuff.  The outside exhibits were better, they had a caboose which you were able to walk thru - that was pretty cool (so cool that I forgot to take any pictures - sorry).

By the way, the weather has been pretty nice since we left Kansas.  Mostly sunny days with temperatures in the 50's and 60's.  The nights get down in to the 20's.  I just thought you might like to know that.

On Thursday, (11/22 - Happy Thanksgiving) we continued our drive on I-40 and ended up at the Elks Lodge in Albuquerque, NM.  We got there in time to get set up and watch the 2nd half of the Bears game - Go Bears!

We drove up to Los Alamos on Friday to visit the Bradbury Science Museum. The museum explained the history of the lab, and how the nuclear bombs were developed.  The history part was interesting but the technical stuff was over my head (Marty liked it all).

Here's some information from the internet about the lab:

The Laboratory was established in 1943 as site Y of the Manhattan Project for a single purpose: to design and build an atomic bomb.
It took just 27 months. On July 16, 1945, the world's first atomic bomb was detonated 200 miles south of Los Alamos at Trinity Site on the Alamogordo Bombing Range. Under the project leadership of General Leslie R. Groves and staff direction of J. Robert Oppenheimer, scientists at the Laboratory had successfully weaponized the atom.
Hitler was defeated in Europe, but the Japanese Empire continued to wage an aggressive Pacific war. So President Harry S. Truman chose to employ atomic bombs in an effort to end WWII. Little Boy, a uranium gun-type weapon, was used against Hiroshima; Fat Man, an implosion plutonium bomb, was dropped on Nagasaki. On August 14, armistice was declared; on September 2, the war officially ended.

Since we were already in the area we decided to continue our drive and visit Bandolier National Monument to see the cliff dwelling and do a little hiking.

Hiking at Bandolier
Cliff Dwellings accessed by ladders

We left Albuquerque on Saturday, 11/24 and headed south (YAY!) on I-25 to Deming, New Mexico.  We've driven through Deming before but had never stayed.  It's a small town but there seemed to be plenty of things to do.  We checked out reviews on Trip Advisor for a restaurant and the best one seemed to be Irma's Mexican Restaurant.  Unfortunately when we got there around 4:30 it was already full with locals (I guess the reviews were right).  There were two other restaurants on the same block so we decided to try "Si, Senor".  It was good but I bet Irma's was better.

Everyone we talked to in Deming told us we needed to check out the local museum; Deming Luna Mimbres Museum.  According to their website they were open on Sunday from 1:30 to 4:00 but that is no longer true as we discovered that they are now closed on Sundays.  We went back on Monday and are so glad we did, this may be the best small town museum we've seen in our travels. It is housed in an old armory building so they have lots of room for their displays.  And boy do they have displays!  The first room we went into was the Doll/Toy Room and there were cases and cases to look at.  Everything was labeled and it was all very well organized.  Every room was like that, I love museums that explain what you're seeing.  I had major museum envy and can't wait to get back to Forks, WA to work in our favorite museum.

One whole room of dolls (yes, it's a little freaky)

New Mexico Sunset
Deming, NM is only about 320 miles from our winter destination in Mesa, Arizona.  Our reservations in Mesa start on Saturday, 12/1 so we left Deming and spent a few days in Benson, AZ which is about 30-40 miles east of Tucson.  We stayed at an Escapee Park and it was very nice.  Our site was huge and the weather has been pretty perfect - sunny and low 70's (sorry Midwest friends/family).

We took a drive on Wednesday (11/29) to Coronado National Forest and up into the mountains.  It was pretty neat to start out in the desert and take the winding road up to an elevation of about 8500' to the pine trees.

That's it folks!  We arrived in Mesa, Arizona at the Good Life RV Resort on Saturday, 12/1 and will spend the next few months here.   November was a very busy travel month and it will be nice to be back at our "winter" home for a few months.