Kansas State Sticker and Finally after Five Years… the Giant Ball of Twine

We have actually driven through some of Kansas before this trip, but because we didn’t stop and do anything Kansas specific we still needed to earn our sticker.  I knew we weren’t going to spend a ton of time in Kansas, but we decided to take a route that was off the interstate to allow for a few interesting stops.  The first thing Lee and I did was check our Roadside America app and see what was available along any of the numerous routes we could take.  Once we planned our stops we let the GPS lead us.  Since Kansas’ highway system is laid out in a grid, there really are numerous ways we could have gone.

The first stop was the small cabin where the creator of Home on the Range “the Kansas State song” lived.  He actually wrote the song when he was living in a hole in the ground, but built the cabin the next year. To get there we had to drive down a long gravel road and I’ll be honest I was pretty nervous.  You couldn’t see the site from the road before committing to the turn. (This picture is what you see as you approach the site. Not much info to go on. The turn is just after that small frame sign on the right, and the little gravel area you see just before the sign doesn’t go anywhere, and isn’t big enough to turn around. – Lee) 

Thankfully the road was fine and the turnaround was pretty great.  It was a well-maintained site in the middle of nowhere that has a pretty interesting story.  And best of all the driveway was a loop and we got in and out just fine. (In the picture below you can see the entire area, with the highway and entrance on the right, and the cabin and house area on the left in the upper left corner. . – Lee)

 

(In the second picture you can see the area with the loop. We could only see the modern buildings from the road, and I thought they might be someone’s house, and I figure worst case scenario I could turn around at their driveway. As it turned out, there was ample space to drive around that loop. The modern buildings were the home and garage/barn of the couple who lived there.  – Lee)

The only signpost at the road

 

The reason the site was in such a remote location was the couple turned down several offers to relocate the cabin and instead donated the proceeds from renting the farmland upon their death to the maintenance of the location.  They believed strongly that historical locations should be free and instead of cashing in, lived frugally their entire lives and had the location made into an historical site upon their deaths. I’m not sure I would have made the same choice (mainly because the cabin is in such a remote location) but I certainly admire it.

The cabin itself was very small and there was nothing particularly special about it.  It was a nice opportunity for Jack to get outside a bit though and we also enjoy getting off the beaten path.  I definitely would not recommend going out of your way, but if you are passing by (which is highly unlikely), its worth a quick stop.

 

After the Home on the Range stop we were headed towards our main goal, but along the way, just a few miles farther down the road, was yet another cool thing to stop and see! Back in 1950, for their 50th anniversary the Boy Scouts of America decided to put miniature statues of liberty all over the country. There are over 200, and of those 25 are in Kansas alone. Since it’s incredibly easy to stop at, we decided to grab a few pictures. As you can see, the spur road is plenty wide and long enough for LOTS of big rigs.

 

Jack with his best majestic face

And finally, on to the big event! More than five years ago our love of the quirky roadside attraction started with Fork in the Road.  We stumbled across it on one of our early camping trips and I absolutely loved it.

 

Since then when we talked about seeing the quirky and unusual we always short hand our description by saying giant Fork in the Road or Worlds Largest Ball of String.  Unfortunately the largest balls of string aren’t that easy to find.  Yes, there are several of them, and it never really mattered to me which one we saw, but they all seem to be in out of the way places.  So when I saw that there was The Worlds Largest Ball of Sisal Twine in Cawker City, Kansas I was willing to go out of my way to see it!  Thankfully Lee agreed.  Luckily the attraction was right downtown and we were able to park right on the street.  Look I know it’s totally goofy, but it felt like a victory to us and was more than worth the side trip. (As you can see in the picture, plenty of on street parking, just take up as many of those spaces as you need. – Lee)

Jack wasn’t that impressed but what does he know 🙂

 

It’s a really nice story

 

While I was checking it out Lee left and went back to the rig where he pulled out a bundle of sisal twine!! Who has this in their rig…well us of course..and since it was the approved kind I was able to add it to the bundle.

 

Any other kind of string they remove, but I had the right stuff!!

A little older and a little wiser but we made it!

 

 

The best part of getting off the beaten track was when we discovered this great state campground near the ball of twine.  Glen Elder State Park was really special.  We had a fantastic site that backed up to a beautiful view of the lake and I was completely surprised in the morning when a flight of five pelicans went by.  Pelicans in Kansas who knew! Jack absolutely loved it and even though it was humid and we only had 30 amp (so could only use one AC) it was lovely.

Great site!!!

 

View from our back window

 

The grass was great and Jack had a wonderful time playing in it.

 

One interesting thing was the lake levels were super high. As you can see this site was under water and the grill was actually in the water.

 

It looked like the levels had been high all season. Must have been from that flooding early in the spring.

 

If you look right in the middle of the picture you can just see the pelicans. What a wonderful early morning site.

Really a great park and we took our time in the morning heading out.  I only had one thing left that I wanted to do along our route in Texas and that was to see the original Pizza Hut. I have a real sentimental attachment to Pizza Hut from my childhood so when I learned they had started in Wichita and there was a small museum I wanted to stop.  Thankfully Lee was game and we headed to the Wichita State University campus.  As usual I looked at the satellite image and was pleased to see there was a huge stadium and parking lot across the street.

Unfortunately using satellite images isn’t perfect because it turned out that the parking lot was near full with student parking.  That was not something I counted on, but Lee found a way to make it work, although unfortunately I couldn’t recommend the stop for bigger rigs.  We just got really lucky finding several spots together we could use. In the picture below you can see us parked in a lot that just happened to have an outside row that was mostly empty.

Getting in was easy, getting out was a little trickier.

In the below image you can see the lot we were in and the route we took to get out. It was a little close with cars in all those rows, but we managed.

We had some trouble finding it at first. The signage wasn’t that great

 

This is the original brick building which the university relocated. The original founders were students and the university thought it would send a good message to students

 

The original Pepsi sign!

 

The story is that two brothers borrowed some money and opened a small Pizza place.  They ran the shop and went to school at the same time which was an amazing feat.  Ultimately they sold the concept for $300M …wow.  Lee was disappointed because it no longer looked like a pizza shop on the inside, but I really liked it. In all fairness you have to be a huge fan of Pizza Hut to make it worth it, but because I am it was.

This rolling pin that was actually used gave me chills. Weird right lol

 

I loved all the memorabilia. The shoes were from a commercial where you could push the button and order a pizza

 

I remembered these

 

The brothers didn’t know much about making pizza they just figured it out

 

An original setup

 

Remember these lamps

 

And Pizza Pete !!!!!

 

This was fun, push a button and you could see a commercial

 

I remember these too

 

Again I only recommend it if you are a huge fan and be prepared to not find parking if you do go. So that was it for us in Kansas and we pushed through to Oklahoma City.  We were meeting friends and were excited to get there, plus there was a huge list of things we wanted to see in OKC.

Oh and one last note.  Jack has turned into a bit of a truck stop Lothario.  We always go into the truck lanes and many truck drivers have small dogs.  Jack is constantly “chatting up” these little pups which is pretty cute to watch.

He was particularly interested in this Maltese 🙂

 


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First Time in Amarillo

We left New Mexico around 9am on Good Friday and headed toward Texas.  The drive on I-40 was easy, with lots of rest areas and truck stops along the way. For the first time we are traveling with plenty of time to get where we are going.  We have to be back in Rock Hill, SC (where my sister lives) no later than April 21st, so we have over three weeks to make the drive.  The idea is we will stay extra days in areas that are interesting and keep moving east on the other days.  We also have stops scheduled to see some friends, which I am excited about, and Lee wants to show me some things along the route.  So we planned a light day ending in Amarillo, TX with a visit to Cadillac Ranch and The Big Texan steakhouse, but when I talked to my friend Kelly and she mentioned we should see Palo Duro we decided to extend another day.  It’s weird traveling with no reservations and no specific dates to be at the next place, and for me at least it takes some getting used to.  I have to actively fight the urge to put a schedule in place.  Some people can just get in their RV’s and wander aimlessly, but apparently this is tough for my project manager soul. Still, baby steps, right? This trip back East is an important test on whether we can choose to “meander travel” as so many other people do.  It seems like fun, go where you want, when you want, and this kind of travel really appeals to Lee, so I am giving it a shot.

When we were about an hour outside of Amarillo, I called the Amarillo Ranch RV Park (which is owned by the Big Texan restaurant) and grabbed a spot for two days. Normally we don’t stay at places like this, but it’s actually pretty nice.  The people are great and our particular site (103) is extremely large.  It’s a weird layout though, with some spots having tons of room and others being close, and at $33 a night (with Good Sam’s discount) it’s not cheap.  Still, we’ve been doing great on campgrounds this month and decided to splurge a little on full hook-ups.  My one complaint is the indoor pool and “adult only” sauna was not adult only.  The lady at the front desk told us they will be building a whole new park next year, along with a new restaurant and several hotels.  Apparently business is good at The Big Texan!  The campground also offers a free limousine shuttle to the Big Texan steakhouse, so once we checked in we told them what time we wanted to be picked up.  Our driver was right on time, and did a nice job telling us about the history of The Big Texan on the way to the restaurant.

RV Park OFfice

RV Park Office

The campground

The campground

REally cool lobby

Really cool lobby

Oh yeah we are in Texas!!

Oh yeah we are in Texas!!

We found out later free shuttle rides are offered to all the surrounding campgrounds and even the local Walmart

We found out later free shuttle rides are offered to all the surrounding campgrounds, and even the local Walmart

Our site which was deep but we did have neighbors close on each side

Our site which was deep but we did have neighbors close on each side

The limo!!

The limo!!

Did I ever mention Lee wanted to mount bull horns on the truck? I exercised veot power on that one and glad I did because looking at the horns made me kind of car sick

Did I ever mention Lee wanted to mount bull horns on the truck? I exercised veto power on that one and glad I did because looking through the window at the horns made me kind of car sick.  Plus would the other states even let you in???

The restaurant itself is part restaurant and part experience.  It was located on route 66 and then eventually moved to I-40 once the freeway opened.  It has a western themed motel, a swimming pool shaped like Texas, bars, party rooms, and a balconied restaurant.  It’s claim to fame is that anyone who can eat a 72oz steak with all the fixins in less than an hour gets the meal for free.  Two people made the attempt while we were there and they sit up on a platform near the open kitchen with a timer so everyone can see…no pressure.  One 12 year old boy didn’t make it while we were there but everyone in the crowd cheered anyways.  The meal costs $72 if you don’t manage it in under and hour, and since only 1 in 7 manage the feat it’s pretty genius marketing that pays for itself.  The current record is held by a 124 pound woman who ate the whole meal in under 5 minutes, then went on to eat 2 more steaks.  It’s all out on You Tube and good for her, but I never really got speed eating.  I like to enjoy my food, plus love leftovers.

I loved the whole vibe of the place and it all felt very Texas.   It’s not cheap (we spent $79 on appetizer, dinner, and drinks before tip), but the couple next to us ended up splitting a meal which would have been plenty of food and much more affordable. One piece of advice though is to request a well-marbled steak.  The key to great ribeye is lots of fat, and mine was just too lean for my taste.  I ended up switching with Lee though and his was fabulous, I think it is the best restaurant steak I have ever had, certainly since eating at the Red River Cattle Company restaurant in Cincinnati in the 1980’s (which is now unfortunately closed).  I also recommend trying their homemade craft beer sampler.  I picked one before I realized they offered four 4oz samples for $6.  Should have gone that route and tried several.   It’s the most by far we have spent on a single meal since going on the road, but I didn’t regret it.  Gotta do everything bigger in Texas!!

The Big Texan

The Big Texan

Loved the dog park

Loved the dog park with it’s own fire hydrant

The Texas shaped swimming pool was closed but you get the point from the cover

The Texas shaped swimming pool was closed but you get the point from the cover

They even had a horse hotel with a horse in it..

They even had a horse hotel with a horse in it..

Checked out the huge rattlesnake in a terrarium while we were waiting. Yikes it was big

Checked out the huge rattlesnake in a terrarium while we were waiting. Yikes it was big

This is how much you have to eat for the challenge. Huge steak, shrimp cocktail, salad, baked potato

This is how much you have to eat for the challenge. Huge steak, shrimp cocktail, salad, baked potato, and roll.

Our view from very cool balcony seats

Our view from very cool balcony seats

Look at all this food

Look at all this food

The giant friend mushrooms were the best I have ever had, but didn't heat up well the next day so definitely go for the half order

The giant fried mushrooms were the best I have ever had, but didn’t heat up well the next day so definitely go for the half order

My steak was so-so "Duke cut", bone in ribeye

My steak was so-so “Duke cut”, bone in ribeye

But Lee's was to die for

But Lee’s was to die for

I loved the table side music. They took requests

I loved the table side music. They took requests

Lee's scared bear face. I made him do it lol

Lee’s scared bear face. I made him do it lol.  Look at all the leftovers he is holding.

When we waddled to the limo for our ride back (with three boxes of leftovers) I was so full!!  I rarely eat that much in one sitting, but again, it’s Texas, and it’s OK to splurge once in awhile.  We ended up getting three individual lunches (with some supplement) out of the leftovers alone so I don’t feel too bad about the excess, but really, if you decide to split a meal you will have plenty of food.  You just can’t go with Lee who is not so much about sharing his food.

The next day we started out pretty early with our list of things to see.  I have been using the Roadside America app since we have been traveling and this close to Historic Route 66 it did not disappoint.  There was a VW ranch (don’t go out of your way to see it, a Combine Ranch (cool but closed off by barbed-wire fence, and lots of giant Texan statues.  The big winner for the day though was the Jack Sizemore Traveland RV Museum Our interest was piqued when we saw they had one of the RV’s from the Robin Williams movie “RV” so we decided what the heck, let’s check it out. And wow, what a find it was!  The museum is in the back of a large RV dealership in Amarillo and Jack’s collection of old RV’s and old motorcycles was amazing.  Each RV had a sign stating where Jack found it and if and how it was restored and Lee and I really loved it.  Plus, it was totally free.  The RV place also had a really cool store with lots of high end RV items and we even took a tour of some Super C’s while we were on the property, because I have been very curious about how roomy they are on the inside.  Lee liked the Aspect, but I was a fan of the Minnie Winnie’s.  

Nice RV store

Nice RV store

The RV Museum

The RV Museum

Very cool old Harley only one of two made that year with a left hand side car

Very cool old Harley only one of two made that year with a left hand side car

 

1936 Alma

1936 Alma

Part of the nice motorcycle collection

Part of the nice motorcycle collection

The first known tent camper

The first known tent camper

A Chris Craft Boat

A Chris Craft Boat with a BEER license plate for my friend Bill 🙂

The Gornicke Bus was really exciting to see

The Gornicke Bus that Jeff Daniels drove in “RV”  was really exciting to see

The inside of the bus. Ceilings were nice and high

The inside of the bus. Ceilings were nice and high

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Where Jeff Daniels sat

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1976 Argosy

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An old truck camper

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This trailer was owned by an 84 year old woman who finally decided to stop camping and turned it in

My favorite was this FMC which was owned by the president of Max Factor

My favorite was this FMC which was owned by the president of Max Factor

y077-1976 FMC

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It came with a built in blender

It came with a built a counter top blender

One of several restored air atreams

One of several restored air streams

The inside of the aristream with a really nice fridge

The inside of the aristream with a really nice fridge

This trailer has been all over the world

This trailer has been all over the world

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1953 Fleetwood

With matching dog house :)

Dog house designed to look like the Fleetwood

The weirdest thing is what I saw as I was walking by the owners office. That is the best stuffed lion I have ever seen. Would have loved to ask about it, but they were all pretty busy

The weirdest thing is what I saw as I was walking by the owners office. That is the best stuffed lion I have ever seen. Would have loved to ask about it, but they were all pretty busy

 

And if all that wasn’t enough we also visited Palo Duro Canyon State Park  (The Grand Canyon of Texas) and wow, am I glad Kelly recommended it. At first I was unimpressed.  Long line to get in and a $5 per person entrance fee, plus the initial view was cool but not that impressive.  But when we drove down to the bottom of the canyon it was really cool.  We found a spot to picnic (it was packed, so I definitely don’t recommend going on the weekend) and then we toured the campgrounds.  The Mesquite campground in the way back was fantastic and we have added it on our list of places to stay in the future.  The sites are big enough and very close to the rocks, and the views from the bottom are spectacular.  There were numerous hiking/equestrian/mountain biking trails designed by local runners and there were several easy, shorter trails interspersed with some more challenging ones.  I was very impressed, and like I said, we are going back for sure, despite there being absolutely no cell coverage of any kind down there. They even have horseback riding in the canyon for $35 an hour which I will absolutely do when we come back.  We didn’t want to fight the crowds though on the trails, but did stop and hike up to the big cave.  The walk up looks worse than it is and we were so lucky that we had the cave all to ourselves for the time we were in there.  It was really neat and a great romantic spot for kisses and that alone definitely made the $5 entrance fee worth it.

The crowds for coming in.  Definitely recommend coming during the week

The crowds for coming in. Definitely recommend coming during the week

The Grand Canyon of Texas

The Grand Canyon of Texas

The spot where we ate lunch

The spot where we ate lunch

We walked down the path a bit

We walked down the path a bit

An saw the cowboy dugout

And saw the cowboy dugout

You could see in the inside.  Nice for kids

You could see in the inside. Nice for kids

Terrific campsites back in the mequite loop and despite absolutely no cell coverage we are definitely coming back here to stay

Terrific campsites back in the mesquite loop and despite absolutely no cell coverage we are definitely coming back here to stay

Lots of great views

Lots of great views.  Can you spot the hikers at the very top?

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We decided to hike up to the Big Cave which was in the back of the park and not that crowded

The path up looks worse than it is.

The path up looks worse than it is.

The cave was really pretty with great rock formations and colors

The cave was really pretty with great rock formations and colors

Also the ceiling had some holes you could look up through

Also the ceiling had some holes you could look up through

I even saw my first golden-fronted woodpecker

I even saw my first golden-fronted woodpecker

And got my first shot of a road runner in the wild

And got my first shot of a road runner in the wild

So Amarillo, which was supposed to be a quick stop in the road, turned out to be a fantastic place to visit in its own right.  I can now see the benefit of no reservations and being able to extend for extra days on a whim.  That being said, we have been lucky enough to make arrangements with numerous people on our way back east due to travel serendipity and have locked ourselves in to make meeting folks work for the next couple of weeks.  No spoilers, but I am super excited about the people we get to see on the road.  So from Texas…Y’all come back soon!

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First Time in Eureka!

I was very excited to go to Eureka.  First, the name is super cool, we would be out of the forest and in the sun,  and would get to see the Pacific Ocean!!  Sometimes though, the little towns aren’t what you would expect, and this is a great example of how to salvage a day.  Because it rained on Tuesday we delayed our Eureka trip to Wednesday and the weather did not disappoint.  Once we were outside of the redwood groves it was a beautiful cloudless day and I was soaking up the sun. Not only are the groves dark because of tree cover they are often very misty, it can be a bit like living in a cloud.  Great for the skin after the dry air of Susanville, but it can be a bit gloomy.  It usually burns off by noon and then we get a bit of sun through the trees until about 4pm when it starts to get dark. What’s funny though is as soon as you leave the groves it’s totally different weather.  It turns out that the trees themselves cause the mist, with a large Redwood putting over 500 gallons of water into the air each day.  Very cool fact, and certainly allows the lower plant life to thrive, but as you can see from the picture it can be a bit intense.

Taken from the road right outside our grove

Taken from the road right outside our grove around 10am

So we enjoyed the drive (about 50 miles) to Eureka, but when we hit the town itself were a bit shocked by the traffic.  I had forgotten the day before Thanksgiving is a school holiday and a big shopping day, and the town was packed.  The fact that there are one way streets everywhere did not help, and we had a bit of trouble navigating in the big truck.  Lee was a good sport about it though and eventually we found our way through town and to the Pacific Ocean.  I used the Roadside America app to see what was cool and unusual in town and found a memorial for a sunken submarine right on the ocean.  At low tide you can see remains of the USS Milwaukee, but since it was high tide we just saw the small memorial rock.  Great place to access the beach though, and we walked out and onto the sand.  It’s very different than the Atlantic Ocean.  Deeper sand, foamier water, and bigger waves.  Plus, unlike Florida, the prime beach real estate was completely undeveloped and there was actually a lumber yard and waste facility plants across the street…weird.  Still the waves were beautiful and despite the cold wind it was a lovely, sunny day.

Memorial Stone

Memorial Stone

The dunes were great

The dunes were great

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I put my foot on this sand and it sunk up to my ankle. Walked carefully from there on 🙂

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After the beach we were excited to explore the town and drove back to see old town.  The old town area is reminiscent of a little San Francisco and is along the harbor water. There are tons of cute and unique local shops and in season I am sure it is great with carriage rides, a trolley, and walking along the waterfront.  This particular day though it was crowded and since I am staying away from window shopping if there is nothing else to look at, we gave it a pass.  I like going in little shops if we can also walk and see historical attractions, houses etc, but for my sanity (and the budget’s sake) avoid shops if there is nothing else.  I think in season we would have walked around, but on this particular day we gave it a pass.  By the way, Lee is absolutely the perfect husband when it comes to shopping.  He is perfectly willing to spend hours walking in and out of small shops, I am generally the one who loses patience with it if the circumstances aren’t just right.  His step-dad Denny is absolutely the same and one of my favorite people to go shopping with.  And I went shopping once in Vegas with one of his best friends Mark and we had a great time.  So ladies, there are men out there who shop and do it well!! They can add a lot to the experience.  Anyway, we gave it a pass but did stop and see another Roadside attraction in old town.  The Carson Mansion is the quintessential haunted house.  Disney actually used it to model his haunted house attraction after and for that reason alone it is worth seeing.  It is a private Club now but you can take pictures from the street and there is a little public path on the side that shows a great view of the marina and the bridge.  We loved it, and I think it is my new second favorite old house (after Stephen’s King’s home in Banger, ME) that I have ever seen just from the outside.  (For inside tours nothing beat any of the Vanderbilt mansions.  I have seen several in numerous states and none ever disappoint.  But this was a great find and I would recommend driving through Eureka just to stop and see this alone.

The Carson Mansion

The Carson Mansion

Road across the streey has a San Francisco feel

Road across the street has a San Francisco feel

 

The marina

The marina

The bride crossing the bay

The bridge crossing the bay

So far the day was going great but that’s when plans went a little awry.  I saw a Vietnamese restaurant when coming into town and was very excited.  Pure Vietnamese restaurants are rare and they have my favorite kind of Asian food plus they are usually very reasonably priced.  Unfortunately, the restaurant was closed for the holiday week and when we saw there was a second and navigated our way to it (with difficulty) it was closed as well.  So we made our way back up to the Wendy’s which was so packed we ended up driving through and eating it on the road.  So it was still quite early and I was running through my list pretty quickly.  Some days you find cool stuff and don’t even get through your list of things to see, but others you see them quickly and are like “now what?”.  I decided to swing by the zoo in town (smallest accredited zoo in the country) because Wednesdays are half price, but due to the holiday it was packed.  Next door is a 57 acre park with groves which we might have explored if there were less people but in both cases I asked Lee to keep driving.  I did get a quick pic of the kids playground though.  Loved the way the slide was built between two trees.

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So now what?  The town was too crowded and all I knew was we needed to get out of town.  On the way up we had seen a sign for a federal wildlife refuge so despite not knowing anything about it we decided to stop on the way back.  We took a long about way out of town through some neighborhoods which was kind of cool and saw a fruit stand on the side of the road.  I asked Lee to stop and we talked to a really nice guy and got a sample of his Central Valley oranges.  AWESOME!!  So for $4 we got 2 oranges, a giant cucumber, and a red onion.  That cheered me up!

Fruit Stand

Fruit Stand

Then we decided to try the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge Complex

What a wonderful find.  The people at the small visitors center were very nice and they have several paths through the marshes where you can look for birds.  Even off season we saw many and the walk itself was very pretty.  The wind was cold though so we only went halfway before turning back, but we were the only people there and it was just what I needed.

Visitors Center

Visitors Center

A few little along the way to watch birds from

A few little huts along the way to watch birds from

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We saw numerous hawks but didn’t get any close enough pics to identify

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The vistas were amazing

 

Caught this bird in flight

Caught this bird in flight

I loved the huge groups of cattails

I loved the huge groups of cattails

Different landscapes throughout the walk

Different landscapes throughout the walk

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Another hawk

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This big pond had groups of ducks in it

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Great Egret hanging out by the visitors center

Great Egret hanging out by the visitors center

This bufflehead was a first for me

This bufflehead duck was a first for me.  Wish I could have gotten a better picture

After out very brisk walk we drove to the the other side of the park and checked out the Hookum Slough entrance.  Kayakers can launch from here (Deb you would have loved it) and there is a little island to paddle around.  Plus the entire refuge is bordered by Wiyot Reservation and their wishes have been incorporated in the management of the land which was pretty cool. As the literature states, they have been stewards of this land long before we arrived and I was glad that they were part of the process currently.  The refuge allows controlled duck hunting in part of the preserve and fishing in the waters.  I liked the combination of hunting/fishing and wildlife viewing.  It seemed like a very well run organization and since it was 100% free definitely worth a look.

The dock

The dock

 

Beginning of the kayaking trail

Beginning of the kayaking trail

Afterwards it was still somewhat early so on the way back we took one more quick stop to check out the Bear River Casino and Hotel.  Despite an unassuming appearance on the outside, the inside was very nice with many table games which you don’t always see in smaller casinos.  Plus as we were walking through I noticed a white slip hanging out of a slot machine.  You see these on occasion and usually they are for 3 cents or something, but Lee said check it out.  The slip was for $14.86!  We waited a moment, but no one came to claim it so I played it down to $10 on a penny machine and then cashed it in.  That paid for our lunch! Then we went across the street and checked out a coffee shop and the views were really amazing.  They are up on a hill and all the houses are very neat and clean.  Plus there is a huge community center and construction on the school.  That’s how it should be in my opinion.  Indian casinos are great, but some of the money should be going back into the communities and this was a great example of that.

The casino

The casino

School under construction

School under construction

 

Really pretty views

Really pretty views

So what started as a planned day turned into something completely different, but we still had a lot of fun.  Plus lots and lots of sunshine which we both needed.  Next up is the big Thanksgiving volunteer day.  We expect the park to be full and since we are the only ones working should be interesting.  Stay tuned!

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First Time on Jekyll Island

The day after Christmas we were excited to get on the road and hopefully into some warmer weather, but it took us a little longer than expected to finish packing in the morning.  I guess we were out of practice being in one place for so long.  (For someone with a master’s degree, she’s not very good at spelling “slept in and then lay around all morning like a slacker”. – Lee) We left around 9:50am but thought it would be fine since it was only a 5 hour travel day.  Also we made Cori’s Traveling Day Shredded Pork (which is yummy and convenient as an “on the road lunch item”…see below for the recipe) so we were all set.  Unfortunately I guess it was a travel day for a lot of other people because the traffic was terrible.  I was really really surprised, because it was a Friday I thought for sure the roads would be light, but every time we got near a major city…Columbia, Charleston, and Savannah traffic really slowed down.  We also saw several accidents…not due to weather as it was a gorgeous sunny day, just folks not paying attention I suppose.  They were not minor accidents either as we saw two people put on stretchers.  Anyway it took much much longer than expected to get to our campground in Brunswick, GA so we rolled in around 5pm.  Yikes!!  Long travel day but at least we had just enough time to get into the site before it got dark.

We are staying at the Golden Isles RV Park  for a couple of nights because I wanted to see Jekyll Island.  It’s not a great park, but it’s Passport America and only cost $17 a night plus it is close to everything we wanted to see.  It’s not awful or anything, but it doesn’t have much in the way of redeeming qualities and the entire campground has this funky marsh smell.  (This entire area has a funky marsh smell. Somewhere between rotten eggs and sewage. It’s really gross. – Lee) I thought it was the entire area, but once we get a little closer to the water the smell dissipates.  (Her nose just got used to it.-Lee) Anyway, like I said, not a place I would stay for a week or anything but fine for a couple of cheap nights. (Fine for a couple of cheap nights. That’s how she ended up with me. Thank you, I’m here all weekend. Try the veal. –  Lee)

We got up in the morning and went over to Jekyll Island.  The Island is a State Park and survives mainly on self funding.  It cost $6 per car for a day pass to get into the park which took us back a little, but it was absolutely worth it.  There were minimal crowds and I really loved the island.  Beautiful marsh areas and amazing huge beaches that we spent some time walking on.  There are also some nice neighborhoods with normal houses in them (as opposed to mini-mansions) and there are beautiful bike paths absolutely everywhere.   The first stop was the beach and we found a nice little access spot down near the soccer camp on the east side of the island.  Posted signs reminded you it was a nesting area and asked to stay off the dunes which of course we did.  It was absolutely beautiful and we took a lovely walk with some great pictures.

Entrance to Jekyll Island

Entrance to Jekyll Island

Trees were growing out of the beach very cool

Trees were growing out of the beach very cool

My sweetie pie

My sweetie pie. (Day 39, the seagulls still think I’m a seagull. They suspect nothing. – Lee)

 

 

 

 

After the beach we drove around the island a bit and stopped the Georgia Sea Turtle Research Center.  I have loved sea turtles ever since getting to swim with one while scuba diving in Honduras and was thrilled to stumble across the research center.  It was $7 per person, a very reasonable price,  and had educational areas and the hospice area where the recuperating turtles live.  (This is Georgia math, mind you. The sign said $7 per person, and they charged me $13.98. – Lee) Each turtle has an information sheet that says in detail what happened to it,and the plan for either its release into the wild or its permanent placement with an aquarium.  They also have baby turtles and they watch nests and breeding areas closely in the summer months.  I was happy to pay my $7 ($6.99 – Lee) to such a worthy cause and more than felt I got my money’s worth.  The gift shop is evil though, with waaaay too many cute turtle things to buy. (If she had read all the little information plaques, she would have learned that sea turtles are rabid capitalists. – Lee) 

Me at the sign

Me at the sign

Skeleton of a prehistoric turtle very cool

Skeleton of a giant turtle very cool

The research assistants were very serious about their turtles

The research assistants were very serious about their turtles

The babies were marked and were being weighed when we were there

The babies were marked and were being weighed when we were there

 

This one was called the pumpkin king which cracked me up. He's almost ready to be released.

This one was called the Pumpkin King which cracked me up. He’s almost ready to be released.

This poor little girl had her flipper caught in wire and had to have it amputated. She swims pretty good with three though. She was brought from Florida

This poor little girl had her flipper caught in wire and had to have it amputated. She swims pretty good with three though. She was brought from Florida. (I had some funny stuff to say about a three-flippered sea turtle, but it seemed cruel, so I’m keeping it to myself. – Lee)

I bought this shirt because it made me think of DeDe my mother-in-law

I bought this shirt because it made me think of DeDe, my mother-in-law

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the institute we went to the campground to check it out.  Jekyll Island campground is in a terrific location, but unfortunately the sites are right on top of each other.  It’s in a terrific location with bike paths that lead to absolutely everywhere on the island.   The campsites cost $38 a night plus a $6 daily fee for parking which goes to the State Park. The monthly rates were much better at $550 a month off-season and $650 a month high season. I would definitely recommend  the larger pull throughs D5, D6, and G21, G22, G23.  I say larger but they are still very close to your neighbor.  The campground has its own fenced in bird watching area though that I absolutely loved and again the location cannot be beat. (We cannot stress enough how close together these sites are. There were several places where the awning of one RV was within a few inches of the neighbor’s RV. For that kind of money, there should be some more separation. It’s a campground, not an airline.- Lee)

The bird watching area at the Jekyll Island campground. More campgrounds should have these...VERY cool

The bird watching area at the Jekyll Island campground. More campgrounds should have these…VERY cool. Then we went over to the historic part of the island and saw the Jekyll Island Club Hotel.  From the late 1800’s to 1950 it was a private island owned by the club and you could only enter through one set of docks.  There are lots of old “cottages” and a grand hotel and it was still decorated for Christmas.  The Hotel was beautiful from the outside and we took more great pictures.

Jekyll Island Club Hotel

Jekyll Island Club Hotel

One of the many "cottages"

One of the many “cottages”

Waterfront

Waterfront

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We talked about having lunch at the pier, but were good (Another typo. She misspelled broke and over-budget. – Lee) and drove back to the camper and had lunch there.  After a quick break we went to St. Simons island which was MUCH more crowded and touristy.  I preferred Jekyll’s Island but we did find two things from my Roadside America App .  We found a bulldog covered with pennies promoting the local ASPCA and these wonderful carvings in trees which are supposed to be the spirits of dead sailors.  The carvings were tough to find, but led us into a lovely little neighborhood tucked back in a corner.

Bull Dog covered with pennies for the Humane Society

Bull Dog covered with pennies for the Humane Society

Carvings in trees are throughout St. Simons island but hard to find

Carvings in trees are throughout St. Simons island but hard to find

Sailor's spirit carving in tree

Sailor’s spirit carving in tree

Sailor's spirit ...this one was a bit creepy

Sailor’s spirit …this one was a bit creepy

One of the "cottages" tucked back in this neighborhood we found

One of the “cottages” tucked back in this neighborhood we found

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally we went and saw the St. Simon’s Lighthouse and spent a few quiet moments on a side street pier.

Saint Simon's Lighthouse

Saint Simon’s Lighthouse

Taking a few quiet moments by the ocean

Taking a few quiet moments by the ocean

 

 

 

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(I felt compelled to add this picture of the stairs that Trace is sitting at the top of. These stairs literally go down into the water. That seems odd to me. Georgia is a weird place that smells weird. I don’t like it. I’m going to Florida tomorrow. – Lee)

It was an absolutely beautiful day…sunny and 73 degrees, but I was a bit tired so we decided to come back to the camper.  I would definitely like to come back to Jekyll Isle sometime later in our travels, but am looking forward to getting to Clearwater tomorrow and seeing our friends Kelly and Bill.  Kelly is making dinner for us and she is an outstanding cook…so I can’t wait!!! (Also, we’ll be in Clearwater for like, 10 weeks, so if you are in the area, and aren’t weird, and don’t smell weird, send us a message. We’ll do a quick background check and see if we want you to take us to dinner or something in a very well lit, public place with lots of witnesses. – Lee)

P.S. Here’s Lee’s great egret pic.  He got a little pouty that it didn’t make the blog and was only on the bird page 🙂

Great Egret

Great Egret

 

Cori’s Traveling Day Shredded Pork 

  • 3-4 lbs of pork 
  • 1-2 bottles BBQ sauce
  • Water

1.  Put pork in a crock pot with some water and 1/3 bottle BBQ sauce for 4-5 hours

2.  Drain grease

3.  Shred pork and add remainder of one bottle of sauce.  Add additional to consistency desired

4.  Cook additional time as needed to soften pork

5.  Serve on buns.   Freezes well and heats very well in microwave.

y003

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.  Search Amazon.com here