Crazysister at the Big Heads

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Travel Day !

Today was a travel day! We left Sioux Falls, South Dakota at 6:45 am. We made our way down interstate 29 ( construction 100% of the way) through Sioux City into Iowa. We were close enough to Nebraska to throw a rock and hit, but we know that we can’t count that as a visit. Several wrecks in Kansas City, Missouri slowed us down… but finally we arrived in Springfield, Missouri around 6:30 pm.

We were all glad to finally get some temperatures that are out of the 50s, and the first bit of sunshine in a couple of days. The KOA in Sioux Falls was very friendly and clean. We love to rate the showers… and Sioux Falls right now is in the lead for … best water pressure and hottest water ! In fact, Miss Wendy says that it was a bit stronger that your typical pressure washer back home. The entire place seemed kind of new, and I could tell when we pulled in that this was not your Pap –Paws KOA. The majority of the visitors were sleeping in “motor homes” not “campers”.

The Springfield KOA is right off of Route 66. Thank goodness we got here in time for Katie to swim some with Nathan and Grayson. We are less than 100 yards from a major train track. It has already roared past twice since we got here… should make for an exciting night of sleep.

Tomorrow, we will try to be at the holy mecca of Bass Pro Shops at 7:00 am. Some in our group will stay a little longer while at least Katie, Miss Wendy, and I will head southeast towards Mansfield and the Rocky Ridge Farm of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Be prepared for at least 5 pictures of Pa’s (Charles’) fiddle.

I guess our goal is to leave here tomorrow morning and make it all the way to Memphis by dark thirty….

Our internet seems to working fairly consistently …. so, be sure to check out the additional pictures that have not been able to be loaded since Cody, Wyoming.

PS. We’re still getting our kicks on …. Route 66 !

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Big Heads ... Finally !

The internet was not working at the Custer, South Dakota KOA ... so I am sorry that this post is coming in a little late.

During our last episode we were at the Devil's Tower KOA - admiring the scenery and being hypnotized by the flickering fire right beside the camp site. I knew that I was going to jinx us... when the sun rose the next morning, we made our daily 5:00am stroll to the bath house in noticibly chillier temperature, and we discovered a unique shower arrangement from all of the previous KOAs. The showers were around back; each with a separate little room. Now, this would have been very nice except for the fact that they were not exactly clean, and they appeared to be oversized bug zappers. Spiders and other insects don't usually bother me... but cold water does. So, the hallowed ranking of #1 KOA was not going to fall on the Devil's Tower. To make matters worse, the restaurant had the worst service of any place. Miss Wendy's biscuit was passed around the table so everyone could get an opportunity to try to cut it... We all failed!
Oh well, at least the scenery was nice.

We traveled to Custer KOA in South Dakota. Uncle Bud, Jeanie, Crazysister, and Nathan took an alternate route and landed in Deadwood. Let’s just say that with all of the excitement that happens there… they got delayed a couple of hours. Deadwood is the place that Wild Bill Hickock was killed. In case you are unfamiliar with the story… a young man trying to make a name for himself – shot Wild Bill in the back while he was playing poker. Hickock happened to have a hand of aces and eights… today this type of combination in poker is known as “dead man’s hand.”

Anyway, while they were exploring Deadwood, Katie, Miss Wendy, Grayson and I were looking around Custer. Nice town… but reminded me of ocean blvd. in Myrtle Beach in 1980… lots of musty, damp stores selling trinkets advertised as Native American but made in China.

After we set up camp, we all piled into the excursion and headed for the Big Heads, also known as Mt. Rushmore! Remember folks, originally, this was the entire reason for this trip (Crazysister wanted to see the Big Heads). We made our way up the mountain… paid our $10 parking fee (but hey, park entrance is free). The nice lady said that Uncle Bud could not use his gold pass to park free… but that our $10 would allow us to visit again anytime the rest of this year ! I don’t think that she was amused that we all burst out laughing! She had no clue what it took to get us there!!! Once we made our way through the entrance… this became a kind of sentimental experience for our group. Tears were shed as we stood there in front of this massive mountain. Crazysister called the only sister that had the good sense not to come along, Glenda, so she could share in the moment, and I believe that Miss Wendy called Scooter. We stood and marveled at the monument for a while. Everyone except for Uncle Bud, Jeanie, and me went on the hike around the base. Grayson did manage to kick his hacky sak over the walkway and needed assistance from a park ranger to retrieve it! … we were hoping for a minute that it was lost forever…but to no avail…

We left Mt. Rushmore and headed over to the Crazy Horse memorial. This memorial is still under construction, and no government money is accepted to help complete it … so admission here was slightly different. The sign said $10 a person … but we lucked out because car loads were only $27… What a bargain. . they could have made $80. Once we arrived to the visitor’s center, we learned that if we wanted to actually go to the base of the monument you had to pay $4 more each for a 1 mile bus ride, and they would NOT allow anyone to walk. We decided our current view would be sufficient. We watched an insightful movie about the memorial and Crazy Horse and toured the museum. Did you know that the monument is modeled after a ‘generic’ Native American? There were never any known pictures taken of Crazy Horse. Some pictures have been published, but Native American elders have all denied those pictures as being accurate. So, the Crazy Horse Memorial is not really even of Crazy Horse … crazy – I know !

Afer a couple of hours of sleep, we were all back in the excursion for our 6:30 am trek through Custer State Park to see the wildlife. We saw many deer of different types, a prairie dog town, and a moving herd of literally hundreds of buffalo (maybe close to 300 in all).

It has been very dreary in South Dakota today. We crossed the entire state in the rain. The temperature never got higher than 60, and road construction was a pain… do you know the stretch of I-40 in Catawba County from Fairgrove Church Road to Claremont ? This was it exactly … only 1 lane for like 100 miles. Tonight we are staying in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. This KOA is a lot newer and very nice. The bathrooms even smell all flowery… a big change. Tomorrow our goal is to be on the road by 7:00 am and try to get as close to Springfield, Missouri as possible. Springfield is home to the biggest Bass Pro Shop in the country (like 17 acres worth – I have heard). Springfield also happens to be near Mansfield, Missouri. Mansfield is home to the Rocky Ridge Farm of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Almanzo Wilder. It is the place she wrote the books, and it has a museum that we will tour. We will also visit the graves of Laura and Almanzo… this is Katie’s version of a visit to Graceland for Elvis lovers.

Cue the Jerry Reed song…. East Bound and Down … loaded up and truckin’ … we gonna do what they say can’t be done… we got a long way to go and a short time to get there… we’re east bound just watch old big heads bunch !

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Buffalo Bill and the Devil's Tower

Imagine this ... the perfect location for a KOA in the shadows of the nation's first National Monument, Devil's Tower in the Black Hills of Wyoming. For those of you old enough to remember, Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind was filmed at this site. As I write this blog, we are seated by the fire pit that happens to be right beside our campsite. Miss Wendy, Katie, and Nathan are making smores! (Katie's first) This KOA will probably be everyone's number 1. It has the view, the space, the food, the internet, and the fire pit ( we haven't seen the showers yet... but hey... we have smores).

Crazysister, Jeanie, and Grayson are enjoying the nightly outdoor showing of the movie, Close Encounters... how cool is that... with the tower in the background. The Devil's Tower is a rock monolith 1,257 feet high. Originally, our plan was to drive to Custer, South Dakota... , but of course, we moved a little more slowly than we had planned. I think Uncle Bud is getting used to that after a week. We started the day with the 'all you can eat' pancake breakfast at the KOA in Cody(for $2 !). Katie had to visit Dudley, her trail horse, one last time. Then, we headed over to the Buffalo Bill Historical Center and Museum. This museum is super nice... like Smithsonian quality! It housed one of the nicest Natural History Museums that I have ever been in (including DC). There was the Buffalo Bill museum itself. We saw an art exhibit that chronicled the expedition of Lewis and Clark. The building also housed a museum on the Plains Indians and in another wing was a collection firearms of the western days. In the garden courtyard were statues and live performances by "Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley. " Basically, it is the museum for all things western. They even have a research library downstairs. Everyone was very impressed. I had a very hard time getting Katie and Miss Wendy out of the science classroom with all of the specimens. The Big Heads bunch in the truck and camper actually headed out before I could drag Katie out of the museum, and the plan was to catch up with them down the road. Well, as things turned out, the camper blew another tire. This time on the passenger's side. 2 blown tires in a week... but at least Grayson and Nathan sure can change a tire now.

We traveled through Big Horn National Park where we saw more beautiful scenery. We reached an elevation of over 10,ooo feet. We went through a town called Emblem that had a population of 10 (yes ten). Other small towns we drove through included... Basin, Manderson, Worland, and Buffalo. We turned off of interstate 90 in Moorcroft. The interstate highway was red... I guess that they used the red rock native to the area. It looked wild. From Moorcroft it was a 30 mile drive up to the Devil's Tower. I saw more deer in that 30 miles than I have seen in my entire life in Caldwell County. Uncle Bud says that they are not whitetail deer like we have at home... I can't remember what he called them, ... and he is already asleep. I think that he likes to get a few hours of sleep before we all start making the camper rock.

People keep asking how we are getting along... 8 people in such close quarters... but you know, we have had enough things to laugh about that it has gone rather smoothly. I do have a 9 year old girl that is very homesick for her Daddy. This morning she said that she didn't need to see Mt. Rushmore... she just wanted to see her Daddy. By the afternoon, this had changed to... "If I could see my Daddy ... or ... visit Laura Ingalls Wilder's grave and other Little House on the Prairie things... I would choose my Daddy." This folks has reached an epic level. I needed to gage the seriousness of this situation so I asked her, "Katie... what if you had to choose between being able to take Dudley the trail horse (which she talked about all day) home - or - being able to see your Daddy - Which would it be? She still said ... Daddy! I might be putting her on an airplane in Sioux Falls.

Tonight at dinner, we were discussing what we think is most important in a KOA. The things ranged from scenery (Uncle Bud) to the heated indoor pool in Dubois (Katie). We will make a list of things that we liked the best and rate all of the KOAs that we have stayed in. If I were to start this trip over again, I do know a couple of things that I would change/add...
1. don't count on your water shoes (that you wear at the beach)... you need cheap plastic flip flops for the shower.
2. have a little "tackle box" with your bath/shower necessities - you won't have enough room in there to put on your underwear much less have an oversize suitcase.
3. bring beach towels... they are easier to identify as yours... because everyone has beige and yellow bath towels complete with bleach spots.
4. the little car adapters that take a regular outlet plug ... are the greatest- bring more than one.
5. I highly recommend a GPS . Those things are amazing!
6. A book called The Next Exit (Barnes and Noble) $14.95. This little book tells you what is on every single exit on every interstate in all 50 states. It takes the guess work out of ... when is the next Cracker Barrel...

In the morning we will be heading to the "Big Heads" and Crazyhorse Memorial. We plan to stay at the KOA in Custer, South Dakota.

Monday, July 27, 2009

We awakened this morning to a refreshing mid-40s temperature in Dubois, Wyoming. We made our way back downtown and decided on breakfast at the Cowboy Cafe. Of all of the places that we have visited so far... Dubois would be my pick as the best. The people were very friendly. The KOA was above par, and the town was so quaint and charming. There were lots of little hometown shops with not one chain store around.

Our journey this Sunday morning would take us through the Grand Teton National Park and into Yellowstone through the southeastern entrance. The highway was under construction so it kind of had that "ride in the Richlands" feel to it. One time I think Uncle Bud was doing his best Evil Knievel imitation with the camper. It went airborn! Although the road wasn't in great shape, the views were incredible. I could never have enough superlatives to describe the scenery. Just saying that it was breaktaking... seems too underscored. There we were ... riding along with the windows down ... listening to Michael Smith singing contemporary christian music... and experiencing the most amazing views that any of us had ever seen. We were literally moved to tears several times, and if it didn't make you want to cry, sometimes you might feel like you could just wet all over yourself because of the beauty. If you have never been to this part of the United States, put this place at the top of your "bucket" list. We managed to see some wildlife. After a while you learn that everyone slams on the brakes for any type of animal. We were fortunate today to see a bear, some bison, several deer, and 2 moose. I just thought that Crazysister was running to the woods to go to the bathroom, but Miss Wendy was able to make out as she ran past the vehicle that, " they's 2 mooses over 'ere". We didn't get a good picture of them. I would have run too if I saw Crazysister barreling towards me. We visited Old Faithful. The water lasted about 1 minute and wasn't as high as I had expected... but it was worth the drive none the less.
On the way out of Yellowstone a storm rolled in... complete with wind and hail. It was a little funny seeing all of the bikers picking up the pace to get away from the hail storm. The road from Yellowstone to Cody, Wyoming reminded me of the Blue Ridge Parkway (times 100). We did see the destruction that had been caused by the forest fires (devastating miles and miles of forest)
We arrived in Cody, Wyoming around 5:00 pm and had our "daily constitutional - a Walmart visit". The Cody KOA has trail rides on sight so Katie decided that she wanted to give it a try. Just so you know... the last trail ride she went on while we were in a different state ended up with the ambulance being called and EMTs rushing in... I was a little worried, but Katie suckered .. I mean asked Miss Wendy to go with her. A one hour sunset trail ride in Cody, Wyoming with your own personal guide... sounds pretty cool ... until the 'Dust Bowl' set in... I have no idea where that storm came from - but the wind was flippin the picnic tables and the Mennonite guests on the fringe of the campsite all over the place. I felt sorry for the lady whose 'bonnet' ( I am sure that it has an "official " name... but I don't know what it is, and it is too late for me to google it) got blown about 25 feet up the tree. I looked away from her quickly... because I felt like I was seeing her naked or something. I was starting to get pelted with rain when I saw the trail riders coming in from out on the horizon. Miss Wendy was riding "Flash", and Katie was riding "Dudley". They both said that they had a great time. Katie was even trying to purchase Dudley from the trail guide.
Dinner tonight was at the Wyoming Rib and Chop House in downtown Cody. Miss Wendy decided to try the moose tips... here's my tip... don't eat moose! Well, she did and said that it wasn't too bad... just a little chewy. How many times do people say that about a type of meat that they have never tried? It is always chewy... it is MEAT. Our food was excellent, but the waitress was very hateful at first. Someone must have given her a smoke break... because about 1/2 way through she came back smiling.
After dinner, Nathan, Grayson, Katie and Miss Wendy tried out the jumping pillow. Basically it is an in ground trampoline ( more like an inground inflatable). I just knew someone was going to get hurt ... I (for one) ate too much pot roast to be flopping around on that thing.

Tomorrow we plan to go through the Buffalo Bill Cody museum and check out a few sites in town.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

"The Daddy of Them All"

Hello from Dubois, Wyoming ! (pronounced DEW - boys) We are near the southeastern entrance to Yellowstone National Park.

In my last post we were getting ready to head back into Cheyenne for the rodeo at Frontier Days. The rodeo was the most fascinating live entertainment that I have ever witnessed. I mean... I love me some - Tough Enough Rodeo in Dudley Shoals, but folks, these people in Wyoming don't mess around! The rodeo in Cheyenne during Frontier Days is called the "Daddy of them All". It has been held every year for the last 113 years. It is the largest outdoor rodeo in the world! We saw REAL cowboys... ,and they were educated... and spoke intelligently..., and I didn't see a single one one of them spit or hock anything. At Frontier Days - I would say that we saw the 'Navy Seals' of the rodeo. We had to concentrate to keep our mouth shut ( we were in awe) - cause them flys that we told you about - would fly straight in it. I have watched rodeos on tv, but I have never ever seen things like these cowboys were doing. You have to check out the pictures... they will only do it partial justice though.

After the rodeo ended, 5 of the Big Heads bunch stayed at the park to wait for the Kenny Chesney/Jake Owen concert to begin. Miss Wendy and Katie rode a few rides, and Katie even felt inspired to ride the mechanical bull - cue the George Strait song... How 'bout them cowgirls... boy ain't they something...

We climbed to our seats as soon as the stadium opened. Jake Owen was really entertaining. He didn't seem to be trying to be something he's not (like some country stars do). He was wearing girl pants, but I won't hold that against him. As for Kenny, this was my 4th time seeing Kenny in concert! He sings with so much energy! He sounded fabulous. Miss Wendy says better than on the radio even. Our seats were up in the nosebleed section, but the worst part was the people around us. They were more interested in having a good time... than they were listening/watching the concert. Katie fell asleep during the concert but woke up in enough time to enjoy "Out Last Night".

We slept in a little bit this morning. We didn't get up until 6:00 am and weren't on the road again until 8:00. We ate breakfast at McDonald's in Cheyenne ... the last restaurant for about 75 exits. Katie, Wendy, and I played a game to see who could get the most flys out of the vehicle. Miss Wendy was cheating because she kept trying to 'lure' them to her side of the car with her left over cina-melt. You know back home how annoying it is when you get 1 (single) fly in the car... Up here, you can hop in as fast as you can... but 20 - 30 of those suckers are gonna beat you inside. We just kept telling ourselves that it could be worse and that they could be mosquitos. Today was a traveling day so we occupied ourselves with scenery and bad lip syncing to Taylor Swift songs. We had our daily round of "Dodge something flying out of the back of Uncle Bud's truck". Today is was a 12 pack of Sprite. (yesterday- a tire.... the day before - my coleman chair) Surprisingly, they have yet to notice anything missing until I have called them. It might be Crazysister tomorrow - who knows ! She is still a little upset that grocery stores (not even Walmart) sells her beverages of choice in Wyoming. She says it's no wonder the state is not heavily populated.

We traveled through Casper, and Crazysister wanted to stop at "Hell's Half Acre" a little spot on the way to Riverton... but it was no longer operational. In case you didn't know... this is where they filmed the alien scene in Starship Troopers. The landscape in this part of Wyoming is breathtaking. Rolling hills - verdant valleys - snow covered mountains - and farms, horses, cows, and more ... farms. Dubois reminds me of Blowing Rock only with a western flair. The KOA has an indoor heated pool; therefore, it quickly became Katie's favorite of all of them. A local shared some history with us. Dubois has long been a "hideaway" for famous people who don't want the fast pace lifestyle of Jackson Hole or other resort areas in Wyoming. Walt Disney (and now his family) owns 3 ranches in the area. Schwinn bikes ... the Schwinns own ranches in Dubois. The main road through town wasn't paved until 1958. Currently, the people mainly work in the tourist industry or in oil, logging, or mining. We were told that high school graduates have the opportunity to complete a 3 week apprenticeship with the oil industry and upon successful completion of the 3 week training... they immediately start out with a job making $50,000. Our friend told us that the starting salary for teachers is around $40,000, and that presently in Dubois there are 163 students in their K-8 school. Last year the graduating class was 19. He said that the large oil/energy companies have recruited workers from the Scandinavian countries... so this small town is a melting pot of many cultures. The population of Dubois was 1,300 people in 1989 before the sawmill closed. The closure of this main industry left 700 people unemployed so the population was drastically reduced. The snow covered mountains behind this KOA are only 2 miles away and they receive an average of 160 inches of snow a year. Dubois is in a little valley, and the continental divide works like a shelter ring from severe weather. The guy said that it never snows enough to have to shovel the snow. Right outside of town is the nation's premier snowmobiling trails. I can't wait to come back !

Tomorrow, we head through the Tetons and to see Old Faithful in Yellowstone before we spend the night in Cody, Wyoming. (as in Buffalo Bill Cody)

PS. If you are trying to contact Crazysister or myself, we are Alltel people, and unfortunately, we have no service. However, Grayson and Miss Wendy are Verizon, and they have their phones set on the loudest rings possible ... just to rub it in !

Happy Trails ...

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Last Few Days

Howdy! Since we left WaKeeny, Kansas, internet service has been like the stimulus plan.... everybody is supposed to have it, but nobody can seem to take advantage of it. We hadn't been on the road long when Wendy and I encountered something flying right towards the windshield. It kinda reminded me of the cow in that Twister movie. What we thought was a part of a big rig tire... ended up being my Coleman chair. That is how close the chair same to us flying in the air. Apparently, it didn't want to leave WaKeeny either. We got stopped on the side of the interstate and drove in reverse several hundred yards back to the chair so that Miss Wendy could play frogger to retrieve it. Does that give you an indication of the lack of people in western Kansas. Little did we know that that would be our first sign of issues ahead...So, we left Kansas and that constant breeze for the steady climb up towards Colorado Springs, Colorado. Our choice of KOA was either going to be #1 KOA- Colorado Springs or #2 KOA Cripple Creek... well, we debated and read the descriptions and something about the "alpine meadow and bustling gold mine town" suckered me right in to Cripple Creek. Now, it did say that it was the highest KOA in altitude in the US. (my internal sirens did not start going off) Well, we arrived in beautiful Colorado Springs and followed our real GPS (not Crazysister) heading towards Cripple Creek. We traveled up a windy roady about 40 miles. This was like going up Grandfather Mountain only with a better road but twice as high altitude wise. All we could do was laugh... the temperature started dropping 80 ... down to 70... approaching 60, and by the time we arrived at Cripple Creek is was an overcast misty 59 degrees. They ain't got no pool up on Cripple Creek, but we did find it in an 'alpine meadow'. The lady said that it was in the 40s that morning and the deck was slick. They proceeded to give us all of the information about the bears and how to avoid being eaten by one. After you cook, change your clothes... do not turn your back... remain calm because the bear may be trying to intimidate you (haha) The lady mentioned that the fog didn't lift until mid morning. After getting all of this information, we decided that it would be in our best interest to head back down off of 'Cripple Creek' We drove back to Colorado Springs and set up camp there. If you have ever wondered where all of these KOAs are located, just find the closest working railroad tracks, and I promise you that you will find a KOA right there.

Yesterday morning, we dined at IHOP and headed over to the Air Force Academy. Wow... what a view! The Air Force really is the 'country club' of the armed forces. We toured the Chapel (stunning) and the visitor's center. Then... we were supposed to be headed for Golden, Colorado and the Coors Beer Company (guess whose idea that was). Well, we got a little into Denver and had some tire issues. I am not going to go into details now... but it was disturbing and not good, and that's all I have to say about that.

We didn't make it to Golden with the tire setback. We needed to be in Cheyenne, Wyoming for the Kellie Pickler/ Taylor Swift concert last night. We drove to the Cheyenne KOA just to check to see if they had an opening (in person) ... they didn't . A nice man advised us to go back to Fort Collins, Colorado to try to find a spot there. We called, and they did have a spot in 'overflow'. Let me translate the word 'overflow'... the cow field. We didn't mind though... we were desperate. We pulled in and then Grayson, Katie, Wendy and I set out for Frontier Days in Cheyenne (about a 45 minute drive away). We made our way to the party zone just in time for the concert to start. Kellie Pickler did North Carolina proud. She mentioned her home town of Albemarle. She talked about how much she like Dolly Parton and even sang 9 to 5. She was a charmer and sounded just as good in person as she does on the radio. Next up was Milli Vanilli ... oh I am sorry, I meant uhhh, Taylor Swift. The 15,000 five - fifteen year olds let out blood curdling screams. Miss Wendy and I noticed that sometimes the music sounded different and surprisingly ... her mouth didn't exactly move in sync with the words.... hmmmm... now this didn't happen with every song (it didn't happen at all with Kellie Pickler) but it did happen with 50 - 75 % of her songs. At one point Katie (who is not a Taylor Swift fan anyway) said, " I want to go back to the KOA - right NOWWWWW !!!!!" We did leave before her cd had finished playing.
I absolutely love this area. I love the land in Wyoming; it is the prettiest place that I have been so far... but ... it is hot as the fiery pit .... and there are 20 million flys as opposed to the 60,000 that live in the state capitol of Cheyenne. Did I say there were flys?
4 of the Big Heads bunch got up to go to the free pancake breakfast in downtown Cheyenne. They serve 30,000 people in 2 hours, and it runs like clock work. Uncle Bud, Jeanie, Miss Wendy and myself dined on pancakes at the Cheyenne Depot Plaza.
Right now we are all getting ready to head into town again for the Rodeo. It starts at 12:45. I am not sure who in the world would have a rodeo at this time of day ... in this heat... but... oh well. Tonight is the Kenny Chesney concert. I love his music. Y'all can just imagine us at the rodeo stadium here at Frontier Days waving the UT vols flag that I brought along. (Compliments of Steve and Elaine Kirby). Thanks to everyone for their well wishes. If we have service later tonight, I will post again, and Miss Wendy will update the pictures.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Mississippi Monday and Twine Tuesday !

Greetings again everybody! I was unable to post last night because of our late arrival into Kansas City. We did not arrive in time to get an internet access code. These KOA places sure are nice... but these people hit the hay early. (I guess it's because they are used to Florida time haha. Sorry Mitch)

Monday in Saint Louis -
Well, let's just say that we didn't get a full nights rest in good ole Granite City, Illinois. The trains started rolling by at about 3:30 am (about the same time that my meal from Ravenelli's started kicking in) ... this KOA was the noisiest that we have stayed in so far.
We started our day in typical Caldwell County fashion - a trip to Walmart. After picking up a few 'nonessentials' , we made our way downtown to the Gateway Arch. The Arch was amazing! I mean ... I had seen plenty of pictures etc. , but wow, up close and all personal, I was totally blown away. Note- the Gateway Arch is right on the Mississippi riverfront. I was not impressed with the riverfront. It was dirty and nasty and smelled like poop and dead fish. We held our noses and ran up the steps from the waterfront to the beautiful area that surrounds the Arch. We went through arch security ... which was kind of like National Archives security in Washington DC. Crazysister forgot her watch in the little rubbermaid container... she did get it back though; she says that she ain't got a lot of nice stuff but that watch would qualify as one of the nicer things. Before our trip up to the top, we watched a movie about Lewis and Clark and their expedition that started in Saint Louis. I tell you one thing... to be educational ... that was a darned good movie.(and y'all know that I do not like movies) I came a hair of buying the dvd in the gift shop for $27... then I figured that I might could get it cheaper on line. This movie was shown on an IMAX type screen in one of the theaters under the Arch... a whole freaking city under there I tell you. Honestly, it made me want to read more about those guys... and Sacagawea (not sure about the spelling), and the movie pronounced her name a different way. I guess they should know.... did you know that she gave birth and carried her son all the way across their travels... now that's a woman for you! I highly recommend the movie ... it was National Geographic, and the guy that played Clark was very good -looking according to Katie.
After the movie, we got in line to head up to the top via the South tram. Uncle Bud, Jeanie, Grayson, Nathan, and Crazysister were all crammed into one pod... (purposeful design by yours truly) and Wendy, Katie, and I shared a pod with 2 not very friendly strangers. Be sure to check out the picture of their "bottoms" under our photos. Now, those of you who know Crazysister, know that she is claustrophobic... and these little pods looked like a 4 foot wide by 3 foot high hyperbaric chamber. The ride was a little jerky and slightly uncomfortable for the 4 minutes to the top. Crazysister of course asked when the last time the tram had broken down... not sure if she ever got the exact answer or not. Once we finally got to the top, the first thing that I thought was ... that there was way too many people up here! Isn't there a weight limit? There were people like jumping around... It was about this time that I wished I had one of my 'getting on an airplane' pills. After our decent, we toured the Lewis and Clark Museum for Westward Expansion (also under the Arch... I told you it was big !) and then returned to the camper for some homemade pimento cheese sandwiches.
Next stop... Anheuser Busch Brewery for a tour. Now, if you are a fan of beer, this here would be your -'Willy Wonka Factory' These people know how to build a company and do a tour. Even if you don't drink beer... they make you wish you did before you leave. This compound is all fancy like the Biltmore Estate. We toured the stables for the Clydesdale horses... it was like a church with stained glass windows etc. Then basically saw what they do to produce beer from the start until the finish. The culminating event for one member of the Big Heads Bunch... was the hospitality tasting at the end of the tour. For those with a "born on date" under 21 years of age, free pepsi products were offered. Each older guest was allowed 2 free beverages from the Anheuser Busch collection. Crazysister (not surprisingly) got her 2, my 2, Jeanie's 2, and then entered a contest in which she got 2 more. Let me add that all of this transpired in a total time of about 20-30 minutes. She had a bittle lit of spurred sleech when she left...
We headed out of St. Louis for the KOA in Kansas City about 3:30 pm. This ride seemed to take forever! It got dark... we couldn't find diesel fuel... it started to rain... we were tired... and last but definitely not least ... we couldn't get internet access!!! The good news was that Katie and I switched places in the camper with Jeanie and Grayson ... (suckerssss). I think that I slept for like 5 whole hours !
This morning we were up at 5:00 am (again) ... picked up a quick bite to eat at Denny's and then started the long drive across Kansas. Now, I like Kansas... but I do hereby swear - that they ain't even got a Walmart nor nothin... if you like farms... you'll like Kansas. It's flat and real pretty, and you can drive all the way across the state, and the road will never have a turn. Keep your car aligned properly, and you can drive hands free! Our goal was to get to WaKeeny, which is halfway between Kansas City and Denver. Once we passed Topeka, Crazysister started chanting something about seeing some big ball of twine that was in the movie, Michael (you know... John Travolta's an angel...) She said that she has always dreamed of seeing the worldest larget ball of twine. You know... when I dream... I dream a little bigger than that. Anywho- this ball of twine was going to involve a 70 mile or so venture in a direction we weren't heading. I got to admit... I would have still rested without seeing the ball, but everyone else sure seemed excited. In case you are not familiar with your twine ball history. It is located in Cawker City, Kansas - population appeared to be 30 or 40. We got out ... they oohed and ahhed. We took some group photos and visited the gift shop. Katie and Grayson were able to add some twine to the twine ball. Not surprisingly, Spawn of Crazysister climbed on top of the ball of twine for a photo... which made his Moma very proud.
We headed west on highway 24. About an hour before we made it to the WaKeeny KOA, Katie said she needed to go potty (of course). There was nothing... not a gas station (pumps that you pay with a credit card on the side of the road ... but no store... no attendants... nothing) We made to a town called Nicodemus, and someone in the truck saw a sign that indicated their might be a public facility ... so the truck and camper slowed to turn left, but Crazysister and I were taking photos and such -since you can drive without hands... and "locked her down" just in time to come to a screeching halt. I wasn't so sure that we even needed the bathroom after that one...
Anyway, Nicodemus is a fascinating historical place - we soon found out. It was the first African American settlement in the west. Most of these former slaves came from Tennessee and Kentucky in 1877. Grayson even got to help the park ranger fold the flag at closing time.
We arrived at our "home on the range" around 6:00 pm. We got here in time to wash clothes and fix a camper cooked meal of corn on the cob, barbecue, and baked beans (yes... we ate baked beans... someones gonna pay...)
I kinda hate to leave this KOA... it is my favorite one so far... but, tomorrow - we head into Colorado. I am not sure which one we will stay at - maybe the Cripple Creek KOA -

PS... we almost lost Grayson. He was resting in the back of the camper (no, it is not illegal) and decided to see what was taking so long at the rest stop... but the split second that he hopped out onto the ground, Uncle Bud took off in the truck. Crazysister and I were watching it all happen... We yelled that the camper was leaving him, and he had to run along side it until they noticed he was beside the truck ... funny stuff !

Sunday, July 19, 2009

How-dy! We're Just So Proud To Be Here!

This will be a rather long post since we have a lot of catching up to do. So, let me start by giving you a quote from Crazysister. "This is better than any alcohol that I could have had!" You will need to stay tuned all of the way to the end of post to find out what in the name of all things holy she could have possibly been talking about...
On Saturday we toured Nashville. We visited the Country Music Hall of Fame; we walked on Broadway (the main drag), and we took that good ole trolley ride 'cept that the trolley had broken down... so it was just a bus ride. Grayson and Katie got the horse drawn carriage ride in Nashville with a 90 year old man leading an even older horse. Honestly, I thought that it was Fred Mertz off of I Love Lucy... but I guess that he would be dead by now. (Be sure to check out the pictures of Downtown Nashville.) We headed back to the KOA and then hustled over to the Grand Ole Opry for what turned out to be what I like to refer to as "Nursing Home Nite" at the Opry. Now, don't get me wrong- we thoroughly enjoyed the Grand Ole Opry, but we didn't see anyone (except for Hal Ketchum) all night that was under 75 years old! Little Jimmy Dickens was sick so our first host was Jim Ed Brown ( I think that was his name... you know ... Pop the Top Again- that beer song with the sound effects). We heard a cajun cowboy, Riders in the Sky, Jean Shepherd (she's a yodeler ... I think she had a hit like in the 40's), Roy Clark, 'Whispering' Bill Anderson, and Connie Smith. Oh Lord, I almost forgot the Opry Land Square Dancers... one of them 'bout flipped plum off of the stage. After we hiked the 5 miles back to the Excursion, we returned to our humble "residence" for a few shorts hours of rest. Jeanie and I apparently were the only ones to hear the wild banshee or 'cat in heat' multiple times throughout the night. Not even Spawn of Crazysister who was sleeping outside in his hammock claimed to hear the screeching sounds. We were the first 'settlers' to awaken at the KOA, and we rolled out of Nashville about 7:30am heading for St. Louis. After we discovered that somehow we had missed I-24, (off course this was 15 miles from Bowling Green, Kentucky) we began the master plan to try to get "reacquainted" with it. Eventually we did, but in our unplanned detour ... low and behold ... what did we see in the horizon - but the Washington Monument (not really ) . We had found ourselves in Fairview, Kentucky. Do you know who was born in Fairview? The man (who my father-in-law claims) was -and still is- our "only" president, Mr. Jefferson Davis. It seems that his hometown built an 351 foot obelisk in his memory. We promptly paid the $4 fee for the museum tour and the elevator ride to the top. Crazysister is rather claustrophobic so she decided to ask the guide if the elevator had ever broken down... Our guide got this kinda funny look on her face and said, "As a matter of fact - it broke down last Thursday ... and Friday." Crazysister made a sound like the late Jerry Clower ( you know - hawwwww) . However, we did safely arrive at the bottom. Crazysister did have the map during this cat and mouse game with I-24 ... so, she decided that she should be called our "doppler" radar. Yeah ... right!
We left Kentucky by way of Paducah ( which Sister Wendy pronounces as Pa-dooky) and headed into Illinois and to the land of crappy roads (at least from what we have traveled on so far). Our KOA for tonight is actually in Granite City, Illinois (11 miles east of St. Louis). We were a little worried as we began to approach the area ... it appeared to be a subdivision of Piney (yes, the one near Gamewell). However, our little KOA is a nice little oasis. We arrived in time for Katie, Grayson, and Nate to take a dip in the pool. We ordered them pizza, and it was delivered right to our little patch of grass and gravel. While they were eating their pizzas, the older adults headed off to a restaurant that was recommended... Ravanelli's. The menu consisted of fried chicken, meatloaf, mashed taters, and homemade desserts. Ravanelli's made up for the fact that I missed my trip to the Loveless Cafe. The food was amazing! Uncle Bud tried to make us feel bad because he ordered "grilled chicken salad." We ate until we were about to puke... and like all good southerners... then, ordered dessert. The waitress recommended the cheesecake. Jeanie, Wendy, and I all got cheesecake. Crazysister, who happens to be trying to low-carb, opted for the sugar-free butterscotch pie. Her excitement upon tasting her pie was unlike anything we had ever seen before... it was like a combination of limitless beer and beef jerky with free lottery tickets thrown in! She oooed and ahh'ed and closed her eyes and laughed until the whipped cream about shot out of her nostrils. She did let us try a bite of her pie, and it was outstanding (more so to her because she has been living off of peanut butter for several weeks!) I knew that she was serious when she said that the pie was better than alcohol.

Tomorrow we head into St. Louis to ride up into the Gateway Arch and tour Anheuser-Busch. I hope that we leave with our entire group, but that might be a challenge.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Sleep... What Sleep ?

Good Morning Sweetwater KOA !

Let's get the questions answered first. Crazysister was not the last to arrive... "Spawn" of Crazysister, Nathan, arrived at Uncle Bud's at 6:00 pm. He was the last, and we promptly left at 6:15. Our first stop was the Cracker Barrel in West Asheville. We pulled into Sweetwater KOA at midnight... and were bedded down by about 1:00 am. Let me say that you don't know family until you have camped with family... but Good News... we were all still talking this morning. I ain't never camped before... but this here campground is "purty nice". Miss Don't Touch Me in My Sleeping Bag, Wendy, slept in Uncle Bud's truck. Crazysister landed in the back seat of the Excursion. Spawn slept on a pop-up hammock in the "yard." Evidently, he heard a few howling noices in the night and got out the industrial strength razor blade. Jeanie, Grayson, Katie, Uncle Bud and myself reclined in the camper. As I type this, we have all showered in the 'bath' house ... and are sitting at our picnic table. The sun is rising on a new day... and you know, I think that we are doing pretty well for 2 - 3 hours sleep. We have a few pictures that I will try to download soon. Next stop is the Nashville KOA where we will drop the camper and head into Music City USA.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Westward Ho !

Well... today's the day! All of this excitement made me think of a few words that "loosely" go along with the old "Brady Bunch" theme song. Feel free to sing along... we might be singing for the first couple miles ourselves.

Here's the story
of 8 crazy travelers
who have loaded up our Uncle Bud's RV

They are family -- travelin' together
Hey don't forget - WEN -dy !

Well, where we'll sleep tonight
We have no idea (pronounced idee)
But the plan's to hit Nashville tomorrow by ten or two

If WE - all make it to Montana
Well, it's the Good Lord's help that got us through...

The Big Heads Bunch ... The Big Heads Bunch ... That's the way we became the Big Heads Bunch !

Stay tuned for the next episode to find out...

what time we really left
what time "crazysister" really arrived
how in the world we got all the crap in the vehicle
what or (who) we might have left behind

and last but not least ... where in the world (or tennessee) we end up sleeping tonight !

Monday, July 13, 2009

The "Bucket List" of food ... part 1

I have had the joy of dining at the Loveless Cafe once already in my life. It made me think of the fountain in Rome, Italy ... legend (or someone) says that you will return some day if you toss a coin into it. Well, if I had to choose between Loveless Cafe and Rome, Italy - I would follow my nose to the best biscuits in the world.

The following information comes straight from the website

Welcome to the Loveless Motel and Cafe.

Located on Highway 100 in Nashville Tennessee at the Northern Terminus of the Natchez Trace Parkway, the Loveless Cafe remains unchanged in the quaint country charm and good cooking that has made it a landmark in the South since its doors opened over half a century ago.
Nationally acclaimed and frequented by celebrities, world travelers and local appetites alike, the Loveless Cafe serves up award-winning country ham and red eye gravy, real Southern-fried chicken, and Nashville's favorite scratch biscuits with homemade preserves cooked right in the kitchen. The Loveless story has been told the world over, from Gourmet Magazine and Bon Appetit to U.S. News and World Report, CBS Television, and People Magazine. Come discover Loveless for yourself, and experience Southern dining and hospitality at their best.

I can tell you right now that I plan to eat so much that I will be sick when I leave, and yes, I know that gluttony is a sin. It happens to be my sin of "choice."

Friday, July 10, 2009

What Plan ???

Did I say in the last post that we had a plan? What was I thinking? Perhaps I should have said... we have a plan of where we might go. The entire group met last Monday, July 6th to make a few decisions, and the only decision that most could agree on was that I had fixed too much corn on the cob for our dinner. We did explore some options like the Nash Trash tour which seemed like it was made for the "Crazy Sister" including bringing your coolers with beer and/or wine, but alas, it was already booked. This may lead us to be on the Nashville Trolley tour that meets in front of the Hard Rock Cafe. I give you this information so to be fair warning to any other travelers who might also be considering this same tour next weekend. You will want to pick another tour. The Big Heads and Beyond group will be loud (except for yours truly) and very "friendly." This tour will suddenly become "interactive." I plan to have a couple of 'calming' pills for the driver. He is going to need them!
Basically, here is a list of what we know right now. I promise you that this is the complete list!
1. We will leave on Friday, July 17th from Uncle Bud's house. Sister Jeanie wanted to know the exact time...has she not been in the family enough to know that never in the history of family activities has there been an EXACT time.
2. We will stay somewhere between Morganton, NC and Nashville, TN - the first night.
3. We have no (yes I repeat - NO ) reservations anywhere for anytime throughout the 2 weeks.
4. Newly indoctrinated sister, Wendy, requests that no one touches her in her sleeping bag. What a noble idea Miss Wendy! Good luck to you!
5. We plan to stop in St. Louis. Crazy Sister still thinks that we are visiting the "Golden Arches." There is one arch; it is not golden. I hope that it is still standing when we leave.
6. The youngest member of the Big Heads and Beyond group has requested stops at historical sites and graves of Laura Ingalls Wilder and family. I can't help but feeling a little like what Charles Ingalls must have felt when he loaded up the family and headed into the big unknown. My disclaimer is that when I think of Charles Ingalls... I will be referring to the 'Michael Landon' looking Charles Ingalls not the real life one. Have you ever seen a picture of the real one?

Well folks, there you have it! Our plan to Montana and back! I will give updates as we confirm things. (I can't type that without laughing)

I would like to give a special "hi-five" to Chaz and Chya, the youngest of our followers. Your dear Mama "promised" that she would take you to Mystery Hill while we are gone. Just so she does not try to trick you, Mystery Hill is open 7 days a week from 9:00 in the morning to 8:00 at night! Have fun and take pictures for me!