Sent on Oct 1, 2015
Hi again, everyone!
I believe the last time I wrote we were about to depart from Branson, Missouri. It’s getting tough to remember who got which update, so if you already know everything, please feel free to step away and read a book. 🙂
From Branson, we drove to Natural Falls State Park, in West Siloam Springs, Oklahoma. Natural Falls State Park used to be called, “Dripping Springs,” but was renamed some years back. It was the location used for the first movie based on the Wilson Rawls book, “Where the Red Fern Grows.” So I was excited to see it not only for the location, but to reconcile the memories of the book with an actual location. Is that weird? Maybe. I read my copy of Where the Red Fern Grows so many times, growing up, that it fell apart. If you’re not familiar, its the story of a boy who saved and scrimped, pennies at a time, to buy himself two hunting dogs, and how those dogs changed his life. It sounds silly and sappy, and yes, it made me cry every time I read it, but oh, how I loved it. It takes place in the Ozarks, it was written in 1961, and the boy hikes miles through the mountains to fetch the pups, and then spends every day (and many nights) in the woods hunting raccoons with the dogs. I was thrilled to see the Ozarks in Missouri, and knowing the film was shot in this little spot in Oklahoma, I wanted to see that too. So thank you, DH, for finding it!
The park was quiet, and beautiful, and it was a short walk from the RV site to the waterfall. In typical “Let’s capitalize on the connection” style, the trails were named after hunts in the book. The restrooms…were named after the dogs. Women’s side was “Little Anns” and the men’s side was, “Old Dans.” It was a little surreal – the landscape so well suited the book that I told DH, “It’s weird, I keep thinking how I could totally see Billy and his dogs here, and then I have to remember: THEY’RE NOT REAL.” Hahaha.
Anyway, the waterfall itself is 77ft tall (23m), and just lovely. It’s in the middle of a dense forest of maples, chinquapin and white oaks. There is flowering dogwood, redbud, and pawpaw all over the place, with the moisture from the falls helping ferns and mosses thrive. Yes. It’s beautiful. I could have stayed, honestly.
It was around this time that Youngest started really working on getting his grandma to fly him out for a visit. He was cranky, and irritable, and sick of being cooped up with us. I suspect he was suffering from a severe case of cabin fever, complicated by his teenager-itis and exacerbated by a very logical british stepdad and a silly flapping californian mom. They don’t make creams for that, you know. But the tension was palpable, and I spent a lot of time sitting on the bench down by the falls, just trying to find my inner calm.
A butterfly kept me company, and I have entirely too many photos of him/her, madly stabbing its proboscis into the railing…collecting moisture maybe?
After Natural Falls we moved on towards Texas. We made a quick stop in Hugo, Oklahoma, which is also known as “Circus City,” due to the numerous Circuses based there. We had brunch at “Angie’s Circus City Diner,” which I found online, as it sounded like a fun spot to see. The walls are papered in old Circus posters, fliers, and tickets. It was not quite as quirky as we expected, but the food was good. The frustrating thing is that it wasn’t until we’d driven on to Austin that I discovered there is an elephant sanctuary in Hugo called the Endangered Ark Foundation. You can tour it, and get close to the elephants, for $20 dollars a person. The elephants comprise the second largest Asian elephant herd in the US, and are elephants who have managed to escape the brutal life of the circus as well as other elephants needing sanctuary for whatever reason. Gah! We missed it!
After Hugo we drove off to Paris, Texas, where we saw the tiniest recreation of the Eiffel Tower…with a red cowboy hat on the top.
We stayed at Berry Springs RV park again (home of the giant spiders, if you all remember those!), spent a night at Harris Hill Raceway, and then went on to Austin, Texas, where we practically homesteaded at the Austin Lodestar RV Resort – we stayed there a month! Youngest flew out to San Diego to see my mom and brother on Sept 4th, and DH and I puttered around, passing time between DH’s various events with dog walks and nice dinners, and stretching out and wondering how just one person leaving could make the RV feel so grand?
DH also did quite a lot of work on the RV. Electrical fixes to some lamps that had mysteriously stopped working after the tire blowout (which we discovered was because the wiring had been run through the wheel well and had torn out entirely during the blow out). The leveling jacks were also repaired…somewhat…though they are still a bit flaky. He also replaced two broken bedside lamps in our room with two cute little LED reading lamps. We also booked a tour into the elephant sanctuary in Hugo for October 10th, which I am very very VERY excited about. DH predicts I will cry like a baby when we get there, and hey, it’s possible. I do love elephants dearly, and the chance to see them in a place providing sanctuary is the next best thing to a proper safari in Africa. We’ll have to win the lottery before a safari becomes possible, I suspect.
On September 22, we moved out of Lonestar and started heading towards Georgia. Youngest’s return date had arrived, and in typical last minute fashion, his grandma asked if he could stay longer, so she changed his return flight to send him to Atlanta in early October. We camped our first night in Laguna Vista RV Park, which was a steal at 17 dollars a night. We pulled in and saw it was another boring gravel lot with RV spots laid out, but we thought, “eh, it’s only a night, and it’s cheap!” Well, it was run by an Argentenian man, who had lived in New Zealand before Texas, and he had a lovely big property right next door, which he let us wander around. There was a large pond (I assumed this was the “Laguna”), huge oaks, and….several cows. Milo was NOT impressed by the cows, and barked a lot, but when they weren’t looking I saw him flop down and roll all over in a patch of cow pee, and later, in a cow patty. His joy was evident – clearly there is nothing better than a good roll in some fragrant cow excrement! That was his good times – the bad time was when we brought him back to the RV and bathed him. I tried to explain this was the standard price of enjoying an excrement roll, but I don’t think he listened. Or if he did, he didn’t care.
I haven’t been around cows since I was a kid, and in talking with the guy running the place, I said, “I’d love to touch them! Are they friendly?” He fetched a bucket full of mysterious cow food pellets, and whistled to bring the cows over, and there we all were (minus Milo, who had been imprisoned in the RV for liking poop too much), handing cows pellets over the top of a wire fence, while they rolled their eyes, and snuffled, and wrapped their bristly tongues around our hands looking for more. What a strange and delightful experience it was. Maybe it makes me childish, to find joy in silly things like this, but honestly, life is too short! I’m too old to care if I look childish. In spite of the velvety look to their hides – no, of course, they weren’t soft. We had quite an entertaining conversation with the Argententian, as well – he was explaining that in Mexican Spanish, the word for “dishes” sounds just like the Argentenian Spanish word for “Bottoms.” So when he went to dinner at his brother’s girlfriend’s house for the first time (she was Mexican), after dinner, when she stood up, she announced to everyone she was off to wash everyone’s…bottoms. Or so he heard. Here is Milo, plotting his poop roll.
Poverty Point Reservoir State Park, in Louisiana was next. Where we wandered on trails, and met a whole gang of feral cats, hanging hopefully around a fish cleaning station near the water.
After that was a night in Meridian, Mississippi, at Benchmark RV Park, which wasn’t memorable, but nice enough. All along this trip, I look up strange roadside sites, for little side trips, or quick cures for boredom. Meridian, Mississippi was where we found the graves of the “King and Queen of Gypsies.” Considering our nomadic lifestyle, it made sense to stop, although Meridian was not a very nice town, and we worried about the RV being out of sight long enough for us to duck into the cemetery. The Queen of the Gypsies (long before they decided they preferred the term Romani) died in 1915 while giving birth to her 15th child. She was 47. Her husband went on to remarry and died years later, in his 70’s, but was buried next to his original queen. More than 20,000 Romani folk traveled to Meridian, and camped everywhere, so they could attend the funeral, although the church was so small most of them had to stand outside. There is a belief that if you bring a trinket or token to the Gypsy Queen’s grave, she will come to you in your dreams to help you solve a problem. The grave is covered – Mardi Gras beads, a license plate, small toys, coins, and what have you, with a framed photo of the queen leaning on the tombstone.
On we rolled, stopping at the Coleman Lake campground in the Talladega National Forest near Fruithurst, Alabama. What a place! We had some trouble getting there – I will tell you it was DH’s fault, and he will tell you it was mine, but really..well. OK. Maybe it was mine. I dunno. We took a lot of small one lane country roads before getting to an even smaller one, with a warning that a vehicle with our weight couldn’t cross the bridge the GPS wanted us to cross. So we had to reroute, and it took another 30 minutes to get to the camp itself. The forest is gorgeous – we were near a lake with a trail around it, and there was access to the trail right from our campsite. We spent two lovely nights there in the woods, with no cell service and no Internet. In spite of the withdrawal, we managed to relax and enjoy our time – reading, sitting outside, walking the dog endlessly. I didn’t get many photos due to my stupid idea of waiting for the cloudy skies to go away first – they only cleared up at the end of our stay. But here was our view from the campsite.
We re-entered Georgia next, and drove to Stone Mountain, where we’ve been since Sept 27th. DH took off the day after we arrived, to go stay in Atlanta for an event. Stone Mountain Park is a historical site – the mountain is actually a quartz monzonite dome 1,686 feet (514 m) at its summit. It has the “Largest bas-relief in the world,” apparently (I say apparently because we see a lot of “largest” and “tallest” and honestly, when three different states claim the largest ball of twine, you start getting suspicious). The carving depicts three Confederate leaders of the Civil War – President Jefferson Davis and generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. It’s kind of a weird place, because the history around it really isn’t something I think we should celebrate. The Ku Klux Klan had a huge revival after a new iteration of the Klan was started in a meeting at Stone Mountain in 1915. The Confederate leaders on the carving were fighting for the cause supported slavery. The Stone Mountain park has a whole slew of things – historic plantation houses, slaves quarters, etc. – that just make me uncomfortable. I don’t like seeing hatred memorialized, I suppose. So, yes, it makes me think of how horrible we, as a nation, have been. But at the same time, I really want to see the carving and photograph it. When we passed through Vicksburg, MS, we talked about stopping at an Old Courthouse museum, briefly, but the things it contains are all related to the Confederacy, slavery, and such. I said I had no interest in it, I said, “Why would anyone want to memorialize those things?” DH posited that we should remember the wrongs as well – he said, “What about things like Auschwitz?” I said, “Well, people go there to remember those who died. That’s different. They’re not setting up a Hitler museum, eh?” Anyway. That was our deep discussion of the day. We skipped that museum. I don’t know if we’ll get to see the mountain properly here, either. It’s a good 5 mile walk (and quite humid/hot outside), and we’ll have to drive the RV over before we leave, should we decide to. I dunno. Maybe we will.
With DH gone, I have been puttering around…um…being SUPER PRODUCTIVE. Today I thought about doing the laundry. I took Milo on two long walks around the lake. I finished an excellent book. And I wrote a very long email.
And now I leave you, all up to date and with a long boring email to read. For those of you who went off to read a book – you missed ALL THE FUN. Coming up next – Elephant Sanctuary! Back across Texas! Hopefully a return to Pie Town!
Oh, and I will tell you one more thing – today I visited Stone Mountain RV park’s “library” (a bookshelf with random books people have left behind). Two books stood out to me. The first, “The Pop-up Book of Nightmares,” amused me due to its very existence. What a strange idea for a book!
The other book I found was more amusing. It was Art Linkletter’s “Kids Sure Rite [sic] Funny.” Someone had copied the title onto the front of the cover (maybe a missing book sleeve), and in very childish handwriting had referenced page numbers. I was curious. So I checked out the pages. Clearly this is a note. A note from one small giggling child to the next. A note that says, “Forget everything else, because I am helping you find the GOOD STUFF.”
Spoiler! All the pages mentioned had cartoons of half naked ladies. Mhm. Kids may get the internet now, and video games, and all that business, but they never really change, do they? They still just want to know where the naughty pictures are.
Sending all my love to all of you – hope you are all well and happy.