Sunday, June 21, 2015

Back to Fall Creek Falls

Before we left Nashville on Friday morning, mama met us at the Waffle House on Pennington Bend Road.  We enjoyed a delicious breakfast together and then Chuck and I headed out toward Fall Creek Falls.

Our reservations for Fall Creek Falls did not begin until Sunday, but we had decided to go on up and stay at Mountain Glen RV Park which is about 20 miles outside the park until Sunday.   Mountain Glen is actually a pretty nice park with full hookups and lots of peace and quiet way out in the country.  The main negative is that most of the sites require some maneuvering because they are not level and the utilities might not be where you need them.

We got site #16 and were able to get level without any blocks so we were happy with that.

There were RVs on about 8 or 9 of the sites but most looked like they were just stored there and visited on weekends or whatever.  Except for one other couple who left on Saturday, we pretty much had the place to ourselves.

On Friday night, we watched Vanderbilt win their bracket in the College World Series and we watched Virginia win their bracket on Saturday night so they will be playing each other in the finals again this year starting Monday night.

It rained a little bit and it was kind of windy but the temperatures were so nice we were able to sit outside both Friday and Saturday evenings and enjoy the sights and sounds of the countryside which included a donkey hee-hawing and a dog that howled like it was in deep distress.  Since the dog howled like that Friday night, Saturday night and early Sunday morning, I think he was just a yelping, howling old dog.  :)

On Saturday, we decided to take a drive to Wal-mart.  Google Maps was showing me that the Wal-Mart in Dunlap was as close to us as the one in Sparta so we decided to take a drive to Dunlap, Tennessee.  Of course, I missed our first turn but we quickly found another road to get us back on track.  Here, we were so far out in the backwoods of Tennessee, I thought I might hear some banjos playing if I rolled down my window.  :)

After traveling through the backwoods for a while, we began a curvy descent down Hwy 110.

We decided to go on a little further than Dunlap and traveled back up and then down on Hwy 111 towards Chattanooga.

We stopped at a Wal-Mart in Hixson, Tennessee, picked up the few items we needed, and then headed back to Mountain Glen.  This time we stayed on Hwy 111 all the way up and down and then back up the mountain towards Fall Creek Falls.  After all our driving around, we determined that Hwy 111 is the best road to take if you are traveling in an RV to Fall Creek Falls,  The road is good and has manageable ascents and descents for RVs both traveling north from Chattanooga or traveling south from I-40 and Cookeville.  The main thing to be careful of is your speed, particularly around Spencer, Tennessee.  Chuck got his last ticket on Hwy 111 in Spencer 4 years ago.  The speed signs were not clearly marked but that didn't matter.  He got a ticket anyways.  Some birthday present!

On Sunday, we headed over to Fall Creek Falls right around noon which was check-out time hoping that our site would be available.  Of course, it wasn't yet so we parked and waited about 30 minutes.  It worked out well, though, because both of our daughters had called to wish him a Happy Father's Day!  :)

We got on our site and checked in around one and then Chuck did a quick water-only wash of the motorhome to wash off the western travel dust.

Donald and Anna and Steve and Darlene arrived a little after 4 pm and we visited with them for a little while they were getting set up.  We got back together after they got back from dinner and sat around and talked until almost midnight.

We're looking forward to two weeks of more visiting, card-playing, corn-holing, bicycle-riding, golf, hiking, and a whole lot of laughing!  :)

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Back to Tennessee

When we left Gouldings Campground in Monument Valley, Utah, it was around 11 am, and we were a little under 1,600 miles from home (Nashville, Tennessee).  As I mentioned in the last post, we had made the decision we would not be stopping to do any more exploring or sightseeing and would just drive as far as Chuck felt like driving every day.

Because we prefer to travel where we have cell service when we are traveling in between overnight stops, we decided to drive further east on Hwy 160 to Hwy 64 and then head south on Hwy 491 in New Mexico down to I-40.  We had traveled on Hwy 491 two years ago when we drove from Cortez, CO, to Williams, Arizona.

We traveled through the wide open spaces of the Navajo reservation.

The roads in New Mexico were a little rougher than in Arizona but we made it fine without any problems.  Chuck could have probably driven further but we decided to stop somewhere near Albuquerque, New Mexico, for the night, since we had gotten up so early for our tour and to see the sunrise at Monument Valley.

After driving, about 350 miles, we stopped at High Desert RV Park which was about 8 miles west of Albuquerque.  We were given a pull-through site but were barely able to fit both the motorhome and the car on the site.  Since we had plenty of water on board, we decided to only hook up the electricity. We were both pretty tired and were in bed a little after 9.

We left Albuquerque around 7:30 Saturday morning, and continued heading east on I-40.  As we drove through Albuquerque, we could see a couple of hot air balloons in the sky and a few more lifting off from the ground.  Albuquerque, of course, is known for its annual hot air balloon festival in October.  That would be a cool thing to see!  :)

Scattered thunderstorms were predicted for just about everywhere between New Mexico and Tennessee but, based on the weather forecasts, we felt like the further east we could get, the more likely we could avoid severe weather.  I kept my eye on the radar and would see storms along our way but thankfully, we only traveled through just a few sprinkles.

After we passed Amarillo, Texas, we could see the results of some recent rains by all the water lying in temporary lakes along both sides of the I-40.

We wondered if this water tower had begun to tilt because of all the rains.

Many of the rivers and streams that we could see from I-40 were full and sometimes overflowing their banks all the way from Texas to Arkansas.

We continued on into Oklahoma and on through Oklahoma City.  Since it was a Saturday, the traffic was not bad at all.

We passed under the Skydance Pedestrian Bridge that serves as a pedestrian connection between downtown Oklahoma City and the growing Oklahoma River area.

The design is said to be inspired by the "sky dance" of the scissor-tailed flycatcher, Oklahoma's state bird.  Below is a picture of the scissor-tailed flycatcher I found on the internet.  Hmmm.  I guess I see a similarity.  :)

We also passed by Tinker Air Force Base that has a museum of old airplanes including an old Air Force One on display.

Chuck is a real road warrior and he probably could have kept driving further but we wanted to stop before it began to get dark plus the skies were looking pretty nasty.

After driving a over 650 miles, we stopped at Checotah/Lake Eufaula KOA.

We pulled into a very wet grassy site but were able to hook up everything (water, electric and sewer) without disconnecting the car.

On Sunday morning, we again left around 7:30 or so and drove through the rest of Oklahoma, all the way through Arkansas, and on into Tennessee.  We began hearing the squealing noise from the motor off and on like what we had heard last year when we came back from North Carolina.  We could really hear it going through Memphis and we don't know if it was because of all the concrete or what but all I know is that we didn't like what we were hearing!

We considered driving all the way to Nashville but with the Country Music Festival finishing up on Sunday, all the campgrounds were full.  Jellystone, where we normally stay, had one site left at $80 per night!  I called Loretta Lynn's Ranch Campground in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, which is about 90 miles west of Nashville, and they said that all of the "weekend crowds" were gone and they had plenty of sites available.

Loretta Lynn's is located about 8 miles off the interstate which is further than we typically like to go when we are just looking for an overnight stop; but we have not been able to find any good campgrounds between Memphis and Nashville when traveling through here in the past.  When I went into the office to check in, it was kind of nice hearing the girl's Tennessee Twang.  :)

We left the car hooked up and drove to the sites recommended and barely were able to get into Site #18.  The setting is very nice with lots of shade but if we had needed to pull the coach any further on to the site, we would have had some leveling issues.  After driving a little over 500 miles today, we were all set up on our site a little after 5 and we even got to sit outside for a little while.

Around 7 pm, we began hearing a man playing music on a guitar and we walked across the road to the campground's common area and enjoyed listening to some very good singing and guitar-playing.  He played country, rock and even a little blues.  He was so good that the campers listening convinced him to play another couple of hours.  What a great way to end our day and be welcomed back to Tennessee!  :)

On Monday, we slept a little later because we were going to take the motorhome straight to Cummins and see if and when they could look at the motor.  We arrived at Cummins in Nashville around 10:30 and they said they could look at it within an hour or so.  We pulled around back and waited with the generator on so we could run the air conditioners to keep us cool.  We are definitely back in Tennessee.  90 degrees with 90+ % humidity!  I think I like dry heat better.  :)

The technician hooked up their computer to run engine diagnostics and after a visual inspection of the motor, he found soot around the exhaust manifold where a nut had backed off of a bolt.  Actually, there were a couple of nuts missing.  He said he thought that if he just put the nuts back on that would probably take care of our problem.  He also told us that if that doesn't fix it, we can bring it back after we get back from Fall Creek Falls and the parts would be covered under warranty if it was a leaky gasket again.  They did all of this at no charge!  WOW!!!!!  We went inside to the office to personally thank the service manager before we left!  :)

We arrived at Nashville Jellystone around 2 pm and although they said they had plenty of sites, they had a little difficulty finding us a site that we could stay on through the week, have full hookups including 50 amp and be able to get out with satellite.  We finally ended up on site #427 and really like the site but it is normally $10 more a night because it is an extended pull-through so I don't know if we'll get to be on this site in the future.

We went over to my mom's Monday evening who was very glad to see us and we were VERY glad to see her too!  We went to dinner at Painturo's, one of our favorite pizza places, and then washed and dried three loads of laundry at her place that evening.  We spent the rest of the week running errands everywhere, getting stocked up on groceries for our two weeks at Fall Creek Falls, and spending the evenings enjoying being with my mom and watching the College World Series. And, As you can tell, I have also (finally) been able to get caught up on the blog again!  :)

Since leaving Nashville on April 8, we have driven over 6,000 miles in the motorhome and have had so much fun traveling with Ken and Bonnie and seeing and doing so many incredible things with them.  We still can't believe we hiked to the top of Angel's Landing!  :)  Thankfully, it sounds like Bonnie's dad is doing better and we hope and pray he continues to improve.  Ken and Bonnie, we miss you and can't wait to start out on our next adventure together!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Morning in Monument Valley

Since sunrise at Monument Valley was at 6 am, we got up at a little before 5, ate a quick breakfast, and drove back over to The View Hotel at Monument Valley.  The moon was high in the sky...

...and the eastern sky was just beginning to lighten with the approaching sun.

As the sun began to peak out from behind the monuments,

the rock formations behind us to the west turned a bright crimson.

Looks like a new monument popped up in Monument Valley last night!

It's called Chuck's Butte and it has legs!  :)

Since the temperature was a chilly 49 degrees and the winds were blowing too, we walked back inside and waited in the lobby for our tour guide.  Lorenzo, our Navajo tour guide, arrived about 6:50 and by 7 am, we were heading out in a Suburban down into Monument Valley.

The West and East Mittens and Merrick Butte were beginning to dazzle in the sunlight.  Lorenzo pointed out how we could see Utah, Arizona, and the mountains of Colorado and New Mexico all from this viewpoint.

Thousands of years of erosions revealed the majestic monuments or buttes of Monument Valley.

Merrick Butte
The sun was bringing to light the reddish color that is caused by the iron in the sandstone.

Three Sisters
The butte below is called Elephant Butte...

...and this one is called Camel Butte.  Lorenzo said his grandson calls it Snoopy Butte.  Chuck and I both thought we could see Snoopy easier than we could see a camel.  :)

The ledge in the right foreground of this picture is called John Ford Point (named after the movie director who brought the movie industry to Monument Valley).  This is where many photographs and movies have been taken with cowboys and Indians sitting on their horses looking out over the valley.

My enhanced photography John Ford Point
Disney's The Lone Ranger Poster

As we went past Rain God Mesa,

Lorenzo pointed out the hawk silhouette rock formation at the end of the mesa.

At this point, we could see the silhouettes of Totem Pole and the surrounding rock formations.

To the far left of Totem Pole and far left of the picture below, is a formation that looks like a chicken.  Can you see it below?

As we were driving around, Lorenzo explained how here in Monument Valley, different clans of the Navajos would live together in communities of sometimes 8 or 10 homes and none of them have electricity or running water.  The limited electricity they have is supplied by solar power and they have to haul in their water from local springs.

Clanship is determined through the mother's clan and descent is traced through one's mother.  Lorenzo was taught Navajo from birth and only learned English at the age of 7.  His children learned both English and Navajo but speak English predominantly.  He said the young adults tend to go off to get better jobs but after a few years, many return.  Lorenzo said he gets to spend a lot of time with his grandchildren because his grown children work and he is teaching his grandchildren the Navajo language, culture, and traditions.

Whenever he would meet his friends, family members or other tour guides as we were riding around, they always greeted one another in Navajo.

The Navajo are farmers and ranchers.  Lorenzo was continually pointing out grasses and plants that were edible and he said the soil is very good for farming.  We asked him how they keep up with their cows and horses because there were very few fences.  He said you can always find the horses around water because they come back to drink 2 or 3 times a day.  The cows are a little more difficult because they can go for 2 or 3 days without water but they will turn up near water eventually.

Lorenzo also pointed out areas where family events had occurred -- like the mesa where his mother was born.  We drove back to two arches that were within walking distance of each other.  Big Hogan Arch is more like a big hole in the top of a dome-like rock formation.  From a distance, the water marks from the rain that flowed through the hole at the top makes the back wall look like the profile of a woman with long black hair.

We laid down on the slanted sandstone at the bottom of the cave and Lorenzo showed us how when you look at the top of the dome where the hole is, it looks like an eagle with the hole being the eye of the eagle.

While we were lying there on the sandstone looking up at the eagle, Lorenzo goes over to the side...

... and began playing a song he composed on his flute.  (If you have difficulty opening the video, click here.)

We were amazed and mesmerized!  It was so beautiful!  A friend of his had made the flute and he showed us how it was made and another flute he carries around for his grandson to learn how to play.  :)

To the left of Big Hogan Arch was Moccasin Arch.

Lorenzo told us that the Navajo reservation is the biggest in the country.  It stretches from I-40 between Flagstaff and Albuquerque and extends north through Arizona and New Mexico a little ways into Utah and borders the New Mexico/Colorado state line.  We asked him about that big green tower we saw yesterday that looked like a big grain elevator and he said that was for coal.  There are two big coal pits on the other side of the mountain (that we could not see from the motorhome) and the coal is loaded into cars, goes down the track that goes through the bridge that goes over the road and then up to the top of the tower.  Then the coal is loaded on rail cars and taken to the Salt River Navajo Generating Station we saw near Antelope Canyon in Page, Arizona.

We drove to a third arch called Ear-of-the-Wind.

The roads were flooded out in places and we would have to take alternative routes.  We were really glad we were with Lorenzo in a 4-wheel drive high-clearance Suburban.  :)  We started heading back and passed back by Moccasin and Big Hogan Arch.

We also passed by this young boy that appeared to be having a lot of fun riding his horse.

We stopped by his cousin's house and they showed us their hogan.  A hogan is a Navajo house that is built with sturdy walls and ceilings of juniper pines and then covered with thick mud.  In the middle of the ceiling, is a 3 foot diameter hole through which the pipe from a wood stove goes through.  The hole remains open all the time so when it rains, a little rain comes down in the middle.  However, the thick mud is a great insulator keeping the hogan warm in the winter and cool in the summer.  And if you have do any repairs, you just throw on a little more mud.

When we were inside the hogan, his cousin showed us how they spin wool into yarn.  She had some jewelry for sale and I bought a cute pair of earrings.  :)

We continued our journey back out of Monument Valley enjoying the views and Lorenzo's stories all along the way.

This rock formation is called The Big Thumb.  :)

Wow!  What an awesome morning!  Lorenzo's tour was great and we would highly recommend him to anyone doing a tour of Monument Valley.  It was great!  :)

After the tour, we drove back to the camper and decided that since it was just 10:00 am and we had seen and done everything we had planned in Monument Valley, we would go ahead and start our long drive back to Nashville.  As we headed out of Goulding's campground,

we got one last look at Monument Valley,

and started our long journey back to Tennessee.

By the way, I put together a little sunrise slideshow for you to enjoy if you have time!  Enjoy!!  :)
(If you have difficulty opening the video, try clicking here).