Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The Big Dam Bridge and Maumelle Campground

Location: Maumelle Corps of Engineers Campground; Little Rock, Arkansas (elev 260 ft)

all pictures taken with Nokia Lumia Icon 929 cell phone

19th and final stop
This is the last stop before getting back home and today is day four at this campground. It's a great Corps of Engineers campground right on the Arkansas River but still close to all of the big city things you may want or need. I chose to spend these days and the ones at Russellville as sort of a decompression chamber from the trip. When I travel quickly, as I have done in the last several weeks, my sense of time and events get distorted. I've experienced this ever since I began RV traveling a little more than five years ago. A lot of it has to do with the speed at which I travel. When I'm changing campgrounds every two to three days and traveling over landscapes I haven't seen, it sort of overloads my senses. It's as if I'm on high alert all the time. For X-Navy folks, it's as if I'm constantly at General Quarters. I have thought about this over the years and figure it has to due with my brain/mind/memory receiving a constant flood of new things without a chance to rest. When I'm stationary for longer periods of time new things are rarer and rarer so my mind has a chance to back to normal. It has time to process and file away memories. For me, I call it "letting time catch up".
This picture was taken as I was hitched up and pulling out of the Old Post Road Campground in Russellville. An older lady, probably late 60's to early 70's, is staying in that campsite/tent. She is dressed in really nice clothes, has make-up on and jewelry. She was dressed as if she was going somewhere fancy. She set up camp the day before I pulled out. After hitching up I noticed she was sitting in her chair, reading a book. I walked over to ask if she needed anything since I noticed she was alone. She said she was going through a divorce and this was now her home until things got worked out. At least she has a nice truck. She said she didn't need anything so I left her as she began a walk in the campground with another woman who came from a large motorhome. It's a reminder that things can always get worse. 

Campsite B-01 at Maumelle. It is steep and short but the only one available for the four days I was here. It has good shade. 

I had to back up far enough to get to the level part of the campsite. 

I got lucky and was able to straddle the concrete bumper block to get Liberty's wheels back far enough. Once off the pavement, everything was nice and level. It turned out to be a great campsite after all.

A view from the campground at the Arkansas River. The white dot in the lower right is a guy fishing near the boat ramp.

They have a couple of benches, but this picnic table made the best picture.
Ok, now that I've admitted to being a little crazy, let's see one of the reasons stopped here other than to let time catch up. The Big Dam Bridge is a bridge that was added to a Lock and Dam on the Arkansas River near Little Rock. It is a pedestrian/bicycle bridge and supposedly, the longest in the world at 4,226 feet. At least that is what the plague reads as you enter the bridge. It was not part of the original construction of the lock and dam so it had to be retro-fitted onto the dam structure. I can imagine the amount of discussing and cussing that happened when it was first proposed. It took eight years from conception to completion. I wanted to walk it for the fantastic view of the lock and dam. It is a view that is rare except for maintenance workers on the dam. I walked about out to about the middle of the river and turned around. The total distance was less than one mile. It was a nice walk and I went before the temperature got too hot.
See the sign at the left. They call it the big dam bridge. I bet some thought I made the name up on the title to the post.

It's a little steep at the beginning, but not really too bad.

First glimpse of the dam and river. 

Looks like all the gates are opened maybe half way. They are creating lots of turbulence just downstream.

They have a screen on the top of the walkway when it is directly over the lock. I figure this is to prevent people from throwing things on the tow boats.

Looking down into the lock chamber. A lot of barges pass through here but not much since the recent floods from last month.

Looking upstream. The structure on the left is the approach to the locks.

They have a nice "bump-out" on the walkway so you can look directly down on the gates. 

A bench with a view looking upstream.

A nice American flag flying proudly.

A house with a view of the river and dam.

A better house but not as good a view. 
Other than the Dam Bridge, I've been taking it easy with walks around the campground and going out to eat. I had a great Reuben Sandwich the other day at a place called Gandolfo's Delicatessen. It ranks in the top 10 that I've had from places around the country. The best in recent memory is still the one from a little cafe in Hinckley, Minnesota, population less than 2,000.

I emptied my waste tanks when I got here at a nice dump station. I'll add some Borateem and Dawn to my tanks today and allow tomorrow's 260 mile trip agitate the contents. The Borateem and Dawn will coat the insides of the waste tanks and help keep them cleaner. Calgon works better than Borateem but it is super hard to find liquid Calgon in Walmarts. I also have to strain the Borateem so grains of sandy material doesn't end up in my tanks. They will harm the seal on the valves. Awwww,, the joys of RV'ing.

Tomorrow is moving day and I plan to reach New Rockdale RV Park, in Mansfield, Louisiana sometime in the early afternoon. There are thunderstorms predicted for the area about the time I plan to arrive so I'll be watching my Accuweather Radar to keep track of them. I may have to slow down or speed up.

I'll post a Trip Re-cap in a few days. 

Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road.   

Friday, August 23, 2019

The Legend of Petit Jean and Lake Dardanelle

These multiple stops are beginning to be a bad habit. This post will cover two stops with moving day being tomorrow. Oh well, sometimes laziness is an art form, maybe not in this case, but I've heard it said before. 

1st location: Lake El Reno Campground; El Reno, Oklahoma (elev 1,375 feet)
Current location: Old Post Road Campground (COE); Russellville, Arkansas (elev 325 feet)

Thru Stops 18 and 19
After leaving Hunters Cove Campground, I towed a little over 400 miles to the city owned campground at El Reno, Oklahoma. It is located about 30 miles west of Oklahoma City and I've stayed there before. It is a conveniently located campground that is first come, first served. When I arrived around 5:00 p.m. there were about 6 or 8 available sites. I picked one with 50 amp service, set up, turned the A/C on high and went to town to get something to eat. By the time I returned to the campground, Liberty had cooled down so I could watch a little TV before turning in. I hadn't seen much TV in a while. Obviously, there was none at the two Walmarts and only PBS channels at Hunters Cove. I didn't find anything interesting to watch so I just turned in early. I thought I would get some TV reception here at Russellville, but didn't pick up any TV stations.

Campsite at El Reno.
Nice layover campground.
The next day was a much shorter tow to Russellville, Arkansas about 90 miles west of Little Rock. Just like El Reno, I've stayed here before. It was a few years ago when I came here to see the dam that created the very nice Lake Dardanelle. I wanted to see the dam since my father worked for the contractor that built it. I won't go into that in this post but if a reader is interested, they can find the post by using the archive listing by date (6-14-17) on the right side of the blog or use the search function. It's a great little Corps of Engineer's campground but it took a beating from the river flooding a month of so ago. The campsites closest to the river and the one I stayed in last time are closed because the river bank was undermined during to the flooding. When the water went down it left several feet of sand covering their boat ramp. The gates on the lock was also blocked due to sediment. It must have been really bad around here at that time.
My current campsite, at least until tomorrow. Old Post Road COE Campground. Nice shade with electric/water. I would have stayed here longer but these four days were the longest I could reserve at the same campsite.

You can see how much sand was covering the boat ramp. They cut a path so the Corps could launch their boats. 

A view of the Lock and Dam. My father was the Project Superintendent during most of its construction. The lock gate that was blocked must have been quickly dredged to get navigation back in operation. It is also a Hydro-electric dam and has been producing electricity for almost 50 years. 

There has been a strange sheen on the water downstream of the dam ever since I've been here. I'm not sure what it is and I won't speculate.

This fireplace and bench is located on the back porch of the Lake Dardenelle State Park Visitor's Center. It's a good view of the lake.

Passing rain storms have been coming around here every day. This still is a pretty good view of the lake.

Across the Lake is a Nuclear Power Plant. It is one of two located in Arkansas. Between the two, they produce about 77 percent of the electrical needs of the state. For information: there are about 60 nuclear plants in the lower 48 states. The last nuclear plant came online in 1996 in Tennessee. More needs to be built.
One of the things I didn't do last time I was here was visit Petit Jean Mountain. It's an interesting story and I'll try to make it as short as I can but still keep to the legend/story. I like to think it is true, every bit of it. 

She was a French girl named Adrienne DuMont and was due to marry an important Frenchman named Chavet. But before they could marry, Chavet was sent on a mission by the King to explore the New World. In this case, his exploration include crossing the Atlantic, going up the Mississippi River to the Arkansas River and then explore the Arkansas area as far upriver as they could go. It sounded like a great adventure to Adrienne so she asked to go along. Chavet flatly refused and said it would not only be too dangerous for her but also unlucky to have a female on the trip. Well, Adrienne, being a hardheaded determined person and small in stature, decided to disguise herself as a boy and get hired by the ship's captain. Her plan worked and she was hired as the ships cabin boy. The captain and crew called her/him "John" and since she/he was so small, they called her/him "Little John". In the French language "Little John" is "Petit Jean". Notice, the masculine form "petit" instead of the feminine form "petite". Doing away with the French accent by "Arkansas'ing" the name, it sounds like "pettijean". Similar to "petticoat" but with "jean" (like levis) instead of "coat". Dang that was a lot of " "'s. 

Anyway, she kept her real identity a secret even though Chavet, her fiancee, was on the boat with her. Everything was going good until they reached the part of the Arkansas River near here. They met local Indians and were invited to spend the summer here and continue the exploration in the fall of the year. All went well and they explored the local mountains. As fall approached, Petit Jean fell sick. Real sick. It was during this sickness that the crew discovered her real gender. Knowing she was not going to make it, she asked to be buried on top of the mountain overlooking the river and their campsite. After she passed away, they did as she asked and buried her with a "forever view" of the river and land she had grown to love. Instead of naming the mountain using her real name, they named it "Petit Jean Mountain". Her gravesite is still there and "wow", what a view.

Petit Jean's grave with her view of the valley.
(I ain't saying she's there and I ain't saying she isn't)

Her view of the bend in the Arkansas River looking upstream.

Looking downstream

They have built a nice walkway around her site and they allow you to scrabble on the rocks.

This is a great view from the bench. The bench needs a back though.

Another back-less bench.

Showing the quality walk-way they've built.

The stairs lead down the rocks where you can be as crazy adventurous as you feel.
I've been here for four days and tomorrow is moving day. It will be a short tow of 90 miles to another Corps of Engineers park located in Maumelle, Arkansas (outlying town near Little Rock). I'll be there for four days as well. I'm pretty sure I'll get some TV reception with being so close to a big city. I don't have a lot planned for my stay there, but we'll see what I can find.

Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road.   

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Walmart RV Resort and a Nice Restful Lake

This post will be for three locations:
1st: Walmart Parking Lot; Laurel, Montana (elev. 3,300 feet)

2nd: Walmart Parking Lot; Sidney, Nebraska (elev. 4,250 feet)

3rd and current: Hunters Cove COE Campground on Harlan County Lake; Republican City, Nebraska (elev. 2,000 feet)

all pictures taken with Nokia Lumia Icon 929 cell phone

Thru Stops 14, 15 and 16
Well, I've fallen behind on posting to the blog. One reason is a good reason in that I was camped in Walmart parking lots for two nights in a row. I could have gotten online and made a post but I didn't. The second reason is that once I got to a real campground, I was just too danged tired to cull through the 100 or so pictures. But, since moving day is tomorrow, I need to make a post to get caught up.

This post will have more pictures than usual (3 days worth). Most are travel pictures used to show the different landscape from Idaho thru Montana and Wyoming to Nebraska.

As I mentioned in my last post, I was looking forward to over-nighting in a Walmart parking lot. It was something I've never done in all of my RV travels. It's not something I consciously avoided doing, it just never came up. But, on this trip, it all came together. First, I didn't have any campgrounds for a thousand mile or so that I wanted to stop and explore the area. Second, the weather was great with the temperature dropping into the low 60's at night. Third, I was in the mood for some "long-haul thinking driving" (two-500 mile driving days, back to back).

I'm sure a lot of people are wondering what I thought of the Walmart RV Resorts. I thought they were great. I got to the first one after dark because I was delayed by a couple of hours when I was leaving Idaho due to a wreck on the highway. Sitting in traffic for two hours isn't fun, but since everything happens for a reason, there must have been a reason for delaying everything by those two hours. The delay meant arriving an hour after sundown, but that was nice. The temperature had already dropped below 70 degrees and there was a cool breeze blowing. About six other RV's were already parked so I found a nice open spot that looked kind of level and stopped. Although I was sure it was OK to park for the night, I still went in and asked for permission. The guy said "sure, not a problem just park out of the way of any route our delivery trucks will take". I told him I was parked on some stripped out parking spaces and he said that would be fine. I walked around the almost empty store and picked up a few things. After visiting with the cashier for a few minutes I walked back across the parking lot to Liberty, crawled into bed and went to sleep. I slept good and got up early to get a shower so I could hit the road since I was looking at another 500+ mile drive. Then I realized what I didn't like about over-nighting at Walmart,,,, no electricity means no coffee.

Idaho,, the four lane between the casino and Coeur d'Alene.

A view of the lake and mountains in the distance

Since the casino was electric-only. I needed to find a place to empty Liberty's tanks and take on some fresh water before the long hauls. Luckily, I found this excellent 4-bay dump station in Coeur d'Alene and it was only a few miles out of my way. It is a free dump station but has a box for donations. I started to drop a five dollar bill in the box but remembered the extra high parking price I paid to park in the city parking lot at the boat tour. So, I pocketed the fiver and called it even. 

More Idaho landscape. It is pretty country.

The trees were nice while they lasted.

A bare slope that stood out like a sore thumb. I assume there must have been bad soil to keep things from growing on the slope, but I'm not sure and there wasn't anyone to ask.

I sometimes take for granted what I'm doing. I'm usually reminded of it at rest areas when I'm walking back to Freedom and Liberty. I stopped and took it all in and snapped a picture. 

That's the Clark Fork River. We criss-crossed paths several times.

Another typical view of Idaho and western Montana

The trees are getting more scarce.

Another bare slope. It was strange one side of the river was bare sloped and the other fully wooded.

I crossed the Continental Divide on I-90 at Lookout Pass near Butte, Montana. Somehow it felt nice being on the eastern side. It was a strange feeling.

What goes up must go down. Going up the passes, Freedom would just drop into lower gear and climb the grades. If it was a steep up hill grade she would usually drop into 3rd gear and steadily climb at about 40 to 45 mph. Going down, she would again drop into 3rd gear. If the downgrade was long, I would have to use the brakes just to get her speed down some before letting the engine brake do its job. Freedom did great, of course, Liberty just followed.

You get a long view when you top out over some of the hills.

A nice partially rainbow came out to keep me company. I got lucky and took the picture with it coming down on the Rest Area sign.

This is one of my top five pictures for this leg of the trip. Even in real life, it looked fake. The light was playing on the clouds with the ones in the middle being lighted up big time while the adjacent ones were dark. I'm glad this picture turned out.

Later one, the other end of the rainbow poked through the dark clouds.

This picture was for two reasons. One the bright white shining through the opening in the dark clouds. Second, Freedom and Liberty's shadow. I'm usually off the road by 3:00 in the afternoon so I don't see their shadow. I was still about 2 hours away from the first Walmart.

The first Walmart. Nice spot, great weather. The Walmart was super clean and it felt good just walking around inside after such a long drive. OK, ya'll can call me crazy now.
I was able to pull into a McDonald's after leaving Walmart to get some coffee and a sausage biscuit to eat on the road. The coffee was OK but still not mine. I only ate half of the sausage biscuit. I never can remember to tell them to make the sausage 'well-done'. Oh well. Another 500+miles and another Walmart. This one was smaller and filled with 18-wheelers. I found a level spot and stopped. Again, I went in and asked permission to spend the night. The lady I asked said it was OK but not to park by the Garden Center since they were doing a remodel and the workers would need the room. Of course, that is exactly where I was parked, so I moved Liberty. After parking, for the second time, I walked up the street to get something to eat. When I got back to Liberty, I didn't like the slope of the parking spot so I moved her to another location and it worked out just fine. Had that spot not worked out, I was prepared to move to the Cabelas Sporting Goods Store that a commenter, "Arrowhead Gramma", mentioned in the last post,,thanks again AG. Another good night's sleep and we were up early to get on down the road to a real campground. 

A panoramic view of the open-ness of the southern Montana/northern Wyoming

I'm not sure if Montana or Wyoming.

Looking down on the valley where the Bozeman Trail was located.

I hadn't found a bench in a while and the view was great.

The trees are all gone by this time

Pretty dark blue sky with puffy clouds.

It's called Sky Lining. Something the old west riders would avoid because it is highly noticeable. I saw this for a long way off. It is one of those metal silhouettes but it showed how easy it was dangerous to give away your position.

That strange looking circular clouds is in the general direction where the second Walmart is located. Strong storms were predicted for the area, but we didn't get any.

This was the second Walmart. I didn't like the slope of this spot so I moved to the right side in this picture. 
The real campground is a Corps of Engineers campground on Harlan County Lake in south central Nebraska near the Kansas state line. It is an excellent place to rest up from the last two long haul driving days. A nice view of the lake and 50 amps of power. The town listed for the campground is Republican City, but there isn't much there. The nearest town with a real gas station and stores is Alma, Nebraska about 10 miles away. Essentially the lake is surrounded by Nebraska corn fields. I like it. It is restful. 

This is the dark clouds that I woke up to after the second Walmart stop. Flat Nebraska.

Corn fields to the left and right. I'm not farmer but would figure harvest time is only a few weeks away. I bet these roads will be busy, busy then.

You know you're in farming country when you see this coming at you.

Campsite at Hunter's Cove COE Campground. Nice restful campsite after some long-hauling. My stay is 3 days at a senior rate of $12.00 per night. Not as cheap as Walmart, but I'm completely satisfied. 

I drove around the area on my second day. I stopped at the downstream side of the dam and was surprised to see no gates were open since the lake was very high. It was flooding parts of the campground. I was later told that Kansas, downstream, was flooded worse and didn't need any more water so it was being held here at Harlan County.

One of the few dams you can still drive across.

A nice over-look, but no benches. That is the dam on the right.

I visited with this fisherman for a while. He lives about 30 minutes away and fishes here regularly. He said the lake is up about 15 feet but down from what it was a month ago. The trees to the left of him are usually on dry ground. He caught two fish while I was there. He is walking to put one of them on his stringer. 

There is even a nice small pull-off on top of the dam. 
Tomorrow is moving day and since I'm rested, I will make another somewhat long-haul of 450 miles across Kansas to an old reliable campground I've stayed at before and said I would never stay again. It is a city-owed campground at El Reno, Oklahoma. It is a first come-first served campground but I don't think it will be filled up due to it being a weekday night and the temperature is suppose to be 100 degree that day. It is a great campground and the only reason I said I wouldn't stay again is the constant wind blowing in that area. Both times that I've stayed there, the wind blew like crazy. I'll arrive around dusk, set up, plug in to electricty, turn the A/C on high and go into town to find something to eat. I'll only be staying over-night. Some may ask why I'm not over-nighting in the Walmart again. Didn't I mention 100 degree day!!! If I'm lucky, maybe I'll stubble on a Taco Bell, although without reservations, I'll be risking getting turned away at the door by the maitre-d.

This post is longer than normal but I wanted to get my thoughts about Walmart camping down in a post for future reference. All in all, it worked out great. Will I do it again? Sure, if the temperature and location works out. 

Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road.