Saturday, August 16, 2014

On the Road Again....

With the paint barely dry and the mortar just set, we loaded up and pulled out on August 3, and have now completed our first week on the road.  Our first stop was Airport RV Park on Waco Lake.  That is only some 90 miles from home, but it gives us an opportunity to make sure all systems are working before we’re too far from Austin.

The lake is beautiful, and although it’s still a few feet below full, the water is clear and we enjoyed our short stay.

The end of Day 2 found us in Murray Lake State Park, Oklahoma, at Elephant Rock Campground.  Murray Lake is a huge park, with a lodge and several campgrounds. Elephant Rock is one of the newer campgrounds, and the only one the park staff recommended for an RV our size.  There were plenty of squirrels and bunnies, walking trails, and great beaches for dogs to swim.  

The Bagley Pack enjoyed wading out and climbing Elephant Rock.

And, on August 5, we celebrated Rue’s second birthday.  She, Kota and Colt dressed up in their bandanas to eat a special birthday supper and play with her new toy.  (Note:  this toy gets its “squeak” from an empty plastic water bottle.  No more squeakers for Rue after our January experience.)

John and I took a short drive up the road to the Turner Falls Overlook.  The falls were not flowing as strongly as usual, but there was still plenty of water cascading down the 77-foot waterfall.

Adjacent to the falls, we were surprised to see the ruins of Collings Castle.  Built in the 1930s by author Ellsworth Collings, it was a summer home for his family and a place to entertain friends.  Sadly, it has fallen into disrepair. 

The castle, as well as Turner Falls, is owned and run by the City of Davis, Kansas.  There are plans to restore the castle, but so far budget shortfalls have prevented any work being done.  We hope to see the castle restored to its former grandeur on some future trip.

Another historic building, Tucker Tower, is located inside Murray Lake SP, the first and largest state park in Oklahoma.  The tower was constructed by WPA and CCC workers beginning in 1933.  During construction, almost 17,000 men worked on the project for $1.25 per day in wages.  Standing 65 feet tall, it offers spectacular views of Murray Lake. 

Having just completed work on our outdoor fireplace in Austin, John was especially interested in this one in Tucker Tower.  It is quite imposing, with very impressive “heat-o-lator” pipes that would direct warm air into the room. 

Adjacent to the tower is the Murray Lake Nature Center, with excellent facility with a number of exhibits.  

What immediately caught our eye are the twin plexiglass tubes enclosing clumps of switch grass on the right and big bluestem on the left.  If you look at the top, you can see the 6-8 foot grasses, dwarfed by the root systems that can go as deep as 18 feet underground.

A drive north on August 6 brought us to Wellington, Kansas, where we overnighted at the KOA outside of town.  It's a small park, but good for an overnight stop.  There is an adjacent small wooded area where John and I stretched our legs and the dogs enjoyed looking for bunnies.

Then, we were off to Concordia, Kansas, a lovely small town where we have stayed before. The Airport RV Park is just off the highway and has about 15 full-hookup sites.  It's a beautiful park and we enjoy visiting there.  We had the unexpected pleasure of meeting some great people at the RV park.  After checking in, we met our neighbors who explained that they were completing a week of training with CARES, Inc.  CARES (Canine Assistance Rehabilitation Education Services) is a private organization that trains service dogs for people suffering from, among other problems, diabetes and PTSD.  It is one of the few canine assistance schools that accepts applications for children and persons with multiple disabilities.  

Many of the puppies are fostered by volunteers, then trained by inmates at Kansas correctional institutions.  They are placed with individuals needing dogs to assist them with their medical and psychological issues.  Though some dogs come from CARES' own breeding program, others are donated to the program.  

Two individuals staying in the park with their families were completing CARES certification.  Sophie, a yellow lab, will warn Henry when his blood sugar levels approach dangerous levels.  Layla, a great dane, and Mahle, a labradoodle, will provide support for veterans who have suffered PTSD.  All of the handlers and their dogs graduated from the CARES service dog training program.  They look forward to beginning a new life assisted by their canine companions. 
Henry and Sophie
Derrick and Layla
Franck and Maley
We were honored to meet them and they will be in our thoughts and prayers.

From Concordia, we headed to North Platte, Nebraska, for one night at Holiday RV Park.  A few miles outside of North Platte, we came upon this big rig towing two trailers that had overturned on the side of the road.  The rig was a mess, but hopefully the driver wasn't badly injured.

Not ten minutes later, just as we were thanking our lucky stars that had not happened to us, there was a muffled explosion and our Pressure Pro tire monitoring system lit up like a Christmas tree, complete with loud alarm squeals.  John immediately pulled over and we got out to inspect the damage from a delaminated tire on the fifth wheel.  Fortunately the monitoring system and John's quick action kept the damage to a minimum, but we will still need some fiberglass repair the fender.  It could have been much worse, so we're very grateful the damage was minor.

From North Platte, we were off to Alliance, Nebraska, for two nights at J&C RV Park.  It's a lovely small amenities like laundry or clubhouse, but beautiful grassy sites with a great area for throwing balls.  Not to mention it's only a mile or so from the Alliance rail yard.  If you're interested, you can listen to the coal trains as they make their way north or south.  On the way the highway paralleled the tracks for many miles.  There was a constant procession of loaded trains going south and empties headed north to pick up more coal.

While in Alliance, we met a very nice couple who are interested in a heavy duty truck to pull their fifth wheel.  Dave and Marlene live in Alliance with their red border collie, Jake.  They stopped by the RV park to look at our truck and fifth wheel.  We met them again on Monday morning at Alliance's very spacious dog park.  As usual, the dogs had a good time and John and I had a good time visiting with Dave and Marlene. 

Alliance has a number of interesting attractions and museums.  Here are a couple of photos of Carhenge, located just north of Alliance.  

A replication of Stonehenge, Carhenge was constructed in 1987 as a memorial to the father of Jim Reinders, who owned the property.  It was named as one of the top three "Quirky Landmarks" by USA Today.  Google it for more information on this unique attraction, and plan a stop if you're in the area.

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