Thursday, November 29, 2012

Home Again

Our trip south from Tenkiller Lake to Texas was (thank goodness) uneventful. The roads were a bit rough, but we made it with no problems. By late afternoon we were camped in Sherman, and the next morning we moved our rig to McKinney to the home of MCD Shades. We needed a little work done on the power shades in the rig, and were happy to hang out with the other RVers who were either getting new shades or having repairs done.

MCD is a local company that supplies power shades for a number of RV manufacturers. We enjoyed our tour of the factory, and getting to know the the nice folks who worked on our rig. We also had the opportunity to meet the "mascots" for MCD shades. It seems that, when the company leased the facility they now occupy, it came with a resident Canada goose and mallard drake. We were told that part of the lease agreement would be MCD's agreement to continue to care for the goose and duck, as they were hatched on the premises and had chosen to live there rather than migrate with their fellow waterfowl. 

The goose was particularly protective of his smaller friend.  When anyone approached their home, the goose first gave them the "evil eye"

He then rushed the fence ready to attack if necessary. Needless to say we didn't go into their pen!

The dogs enjoyed MCD's large, fenced facility as well as the first-class dog park in nearby Plano. And John and I enjoyed getting together with good friends Cindy and Sonny Sandell and John and Patty Howarth for some great Greek food while we were there.

We stopped by Hamilton on our way home to check on the farm, cows, etc. Then, tired by full of great memories, we made the short run back to Volente where we'll be until late December when we depart for our second visit to Cambodia. Stay tuned......we'll be having more adventures soon.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Tenkiller State Park and Tahlequah

We left Poteau on Sunday. Initially we had planned to go to East Texas to check on timber operations at John's family property in Rusk, Texas. Timber work hasn't started, though, so we made another plan.

On the advice of a fellow RVer, we decided to drive north to Tenkiller Ferry Lake near Tahlequah and Muskogee in the eastern part of the state. Why? Well, besides being a beautiful lake in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains, it supposedly has the clearest water in Oklahoma, and there are also trout! According to our friend, an active, year-round stocking program in the Illinois River just below the dam provides lots of nice fish. So, we decided to make the 60 mile trip and check it out.  Here is a view of the shoreline with some of those magnificent autumn leaves.

We camped at Tenkiller State Park in a lovely, grassy site with nice shade trees and full hookups!  Until the following weekend, we practically had the place to ourselves, with at most two other rigs in addition to the camp host. 

But that's not the best part. Tenkiller Ferry Lake is administered by the Corps of Engineers, and there are also a number of COE parks in the area. We considered relocating, as their fees are quite a bit less, but for the short time we're staying it didn't seem worth the effort. Besides, there is a lovely 1.25-mile nature trail just five minutes from camp. The dogs can have all the off-leash time they want there, and John and I can get our exercise as well. Here are some photos of the trail (which is barely visible under all those autumn leaves).  


Also blending in well with the fallen leaves was this beautiful Eastern Hognose Snake. 

The dogs are having a good time, and Kota has learned a new trick. Earlier this week she spent a good five minutes circling on her tie-out until she found just the right spot. Then she carefully buried her bone and mounded up a nice pile of leaves so no one could see it. The next day her tummy must have been a little upset because she didn't eat her breakfast. Instead, she "buried" it as well.

Tenkiller Lake S.P. is less than 30 miles from one of Oklahoma's most interesting small cities, Tahlequah. Located only a few miles from the Arkansas border, it is the capital of the Cherokee Nation. Here can also be seen the historici Cherokee capital, the old tribal prison, the Cherokee Supreme Court Building and Tsa-La-Gi, a replica of a Cherokee village from the 1700s.

After passage of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, when the US Government essentially stole their lands, the Cherokees were rounded up and forced to come west, along with members of the other Five Civilized Tribes, the Muscogee (Creek), Seminole, Chickasaw and Choctaw. Many died, including over 4,000 of the 15,000 Cherokee. Their arduous journey has become known as the Trail of Tears.

After their removal from Georgia in 1838, the Cherokee settled at Tahlequah where they established a sophisticated tribal government and schools for both boys and girls. They also invented a syllabary for their language and produced Oklahoma's first newspaper in both Cherokee and English.  They are a remarkable people, and are said to be the country's largest Native American tribe. 

We enjoyed our visit to the Cherokee History Museum and Cherokee village. Our guide, James, demonstrated the game of stick-ball, a version of which is still played. (The original game was sometimes used to settle disputes and could involve hundreds of "players" and the loss of a number of lives.) He also showed us how blow guns and darts were made and used and explained the intricacies of the Cherokee matriarchal society.

James also introduced us to Tim, who demonstrated the intricacies of flint knapping and explained how the traditional bows and arrows were made. His skill with the flint, bone and antler tools was astonishing, as was the quality of the flint points he was fabricating.

Even though we didn't catch any trout, we still enjoyed our stay at Tenkiller Lake.  For those of you who would like to fish....please realize that the water level in the river directly below the dam may change dramatically several times a day as water is released to generate electricity.  Farther downstream, the fishing may be more predictable, but we decided to wait for another opportunity.    We enjoyed our visit, though, and plan to come back to explore this area more fully.
We did make one more delightful discovery before leaving, though.  We went into the small town of Gore, Oklahoma (population some 900) to do laundry and found Emily's Tea Room. 
We had great egg salad BLT sandwiches, and browsed around the attached antique shop.

In fact, we enjoyed it so much that we went back on Saturday for their Pot Roast Special.  I wouldn't have believed it, but Emily's pot roast was second only to my mother's!  We stuffed ourselves and even made room for a piece of coconut cream pie.  At the table next to ours was a group of Red Hat Society ladies from the area.  I asked permission to take their picture because they are exactly what a Red Hat Society should be!

BalloonFest #2

After lunch, the Poteau Balloonfest was in full swing. John was a little under the weather, so unfortunately he missed out on the fun. There was plenty to see and do, though, and I tried to take it all in. There was a lot going on. It was my first time to watch the Mud Races.  (And in case you're wondering, this truck had a woman at the wheel!)

 Souped-up vehicles of all shapes and sizes plunge into truck-wide pits filled with...MUD...and lots of it. It flies in all directions, and spectators get splattered in the process. The kids, especially, seemed to consider that a badge of honor!  This poor fellow got stuck halfway through the "hill and hole" course and had to be rescued.

And then, there were the dog-and-pony shows. I saw the comedy show, Mutts Gone Nuts, whose stars are all rescue dogs.  They do everything from catching frisbees to jumping rope to high-wire walking and delighted their audience.


I also saw Joe & Jr., but never could figure out who was Joe and who was Jr. The pretty palomino gelding was very talented.  (Just how many horses do you know that can cross their legs while standing on an upturned bucket?)  And certainly knew how to reach for a treat.   

His little pal spent much of the show in his box, but came out from time to time to do a trick of his own.

America's Best Frisbee Dogs had a great time.  They are also mostly rescue dogs.  Unfortunately, the act took place so late in the afternoon that it was hard to get a good picture of them.

My favorite event was the BMX "Rockstars" Freestyle Team doing tricks on bicycles and skates. Out of Dallas, these three talented extreme sports performers were oustanding and kept all of us cheering. Here are some shots of their high-flying antics. I'll admit, I'm glad my son and grandsons haven't taken up this sport. My heart was in my mouth the entire time, and I can't imagine how anxious their mothers and grandmothers must be when they watch.

The "Rockstars" were great, though, and had a positive message about the importance of being drug-free to go along with their performance. Their claims of a enjoying a "drug-free high" certainly resonated.

Of course, there was the midway, and kids enjoying the rides.

There was one particular attraction that the kids were most interested in, but their parents were giving a wide berth. it was the Rabbit Toss. don't actually toss rabbits.  All you have to do is get a ball in one of the small, floating cups and you can take home a bunny! I heard more than one parent say "not on your life!" or something similar as they steered their youngsters around the temptation.

Just at dusk, a couple of the hot air ballones ignited their propane burners and gave us a "balloon glow" to complete a fun-fillled day.

In this shot, you can see not only the balloon, but one of the several helicopters that were offering rides during the festival. It was a great day!



We had a great time in Hutchinson. One reason we stayed for a few extra days, other than to spend more time with our friends, was to see one of Hutchinson's most well-known attractions. the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center.  Here is John during a break in the action with our friends Steve and Gail Dixon and Rocky and Sheri Rhodes.

An affiliate of the Smithsonian, Cosmosphere has state-of-the-art Carey Digital Dome Theater, a planetarium with a multi-media tour of the night sky, Dr. Goddard's Lab Live Science Show, and space education camps and programs.  

However, the Hall of Space Museum is the crown jewel of the facility. It includes "the world's most significant collection of U.S. and Russian space artifacts, including the actual Apollo 13 command module Odyssey, the Liberty Bell 7 Mercury capsule, and a flown Russian Vostok spacecraft" not to mention a Gemini-Titan Rocket and much more. 

Interestingly, Cosmosphere was instrumental in the recovery of the Liberty Bell. This is the space capsule that sank upon splash-down in the ocean, and rested on the sea bottom for 38 years. After recovery, it was meticulously restored by the Cosmosphere staff.

The story of the Apollo 13 command module is more complicated...and more interesting. Though most of America considered the safe return of the crew after such a terrible accident an heroic event, apparently NASA considered the mission a failure and an embarrassment. After its return, the command module was dismantled and the various systems sent away for analysis to determine the cause of the accident and how it could have been prevented or the damage minimized. Then, after being in storage for a number of years, the Odyssey was sent out of the country to a small museum in France for display.

In the early 1990s, the folks at Cosmosphere began to work with The Smithsonian to recover and reconstruct the command module. This was a difficult task because all the systems installed in the module had been removed and had to be tracked down, recovered, restored and reinstalled. In all, some 80,000 pieces from the spacecraft were eventually recovered.  In 1995, the command module was finally returned to the US and restoration began.  In 1997, the project was completed and the Apollo 13 command module Odyssey is now on display at Cosmosphere, along with the makeshift carbon dioxide scrubber that saved the lives of the crew.

Here is a photo of the Apollo Lunar Module on display at Cosmosphere.  Built by the Grumman Corporation as an engineering test structure, it is one of only a few lunar modules still in existence.  Most are still on the surface of the moon where they were left when astronauts returned to Earth.

There are also models of Sputnik I and II, launched by the Soviet Union in 1957.  This is a model of the Sputnik II craft that carried the first living being, a little dog named Laika, into Earth orbit.

If you are in Hutchinson, do not miss this attraction. We spent the better part of 2 days there and could have stayed longer. The displays are well-laid-out and presented in an interesting manner. Everything from the earliest rockets to the "Blackbird" spy plane to information about the space shuttle and civilian space craft is covered, and you won't be disappointed.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

BalloonFest #1

And go south we Poteau, Oklahoma. In searching for places to stay, we learned that the Poteau (pronounced po' toe as in "I stubbed my po' toe!") Balloon Festival was scheduled for Friday and Saturday. We found a space at Long Lake RV Resort just south of town on Highway 59. I can say that there were grass, and trees, and a nice field for the dogs to run, as well as an asphalt pad for the RV. The only problem was...instead of a 50' space as we had been told, we found only a 35' one! Since our coach is approximately 38' without the truck, it was a little snug. We managed, though.

We were up early on Saturday morning. The winds were apparently too strong on Friday for the balloons to fly, so we hurried to the festival grounds to see if conditions were right for a lift-off. We weren't disappointed. One balloon was already aloft,


and these four weren't far behind. It was a lovely sight.

After breakfast we went exploring. We wanted to look at Lake Wister State Park, located a few miles from the town of Wister in Southeastern Oklahoma. On the way, though, we went through the town of Heavener (prounuonced Heevner). It was shown as the location of Heavener Runestone State Park. As we wound our way through the back streets of the small town, I remarked to John that this park would either be "nothing" or "a real jewel." Fortunately, it was the latter.

Created in 1970 and decommissioned as a state park in 2011, the location was turned over to the City of Heavener. A group of local citizens formed the Friends of Heavener Runestone to raise funds and assist the City in managing and maintaining the park. They are dedicated to protecting the visitor center and grounds, as well as the irreplaceable Heavener Runestone carvings.

During our visit, we learned that runes are characters used by Teutonic tribes of northwestern Europe. The Heavener Runestone is believed to be of Scandinavian origin, and several experts in such things think the carvings were made prior to 1000 A.D. That would support the claim that Vikings explored areas of southeastern Oklahoma at about that time.

The stone, thought to have broken off from the cliffs above and now resting in a beautiful little ravine, is protected by a shelter and a glass wall. In this photo, you can see most of the inscription.


And here is an exact duplicate of the carving, which is easier to read.


There is some controversy as to its meaning. It has been translated to mean "Valley owned by GLOME," and also "Valley of the boundary marker." It is similar to several other runestones which have been found in the area, and they continue to be a subject of study by experts in these things.

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Heavener Runestone Park, and hope that you'll stop by if you're in the area. If you're interested in learning more about this site, please visit