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Historic US Route 66

We left home in Massachusetts the day after Labor day, with a primary goal of getting to Albuquerque, NM, in time for the Balloon Fiesta in early October. A secondary goal was to explore what we could of the old Historic US Route 66. We first connected with it in Chenoa, IL, and then slowly meandered our way southwestward.

 10 Sep 13: We pulled off the Old Route 66 a little south of Bloomington, IL into the little community of Funks Grove. There we found a classic old, small railroad station. It appears to have been moved a short distance from the tracks. route66-004 
route66-005  About a mile south of the station we passed the famous Funks Grove Sirup business, with its funky spelling of sirup. Isaac Funk first started making sirup here in 1824!

We passed through the town of Lincoln, considerably larger than Funks Grove, where we found in the center of town the Logan County Courthouse, built in 1905. We first spotted its massive dome from quite a distance. Then as we were heading back out of town, Liz snapped this mural of a huge penny. After a hot day (96 degrees) we were glad to reach tonight's destination, Riverside Park CG on the north side of Springfield.

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11 Sep 13: On our way through Springfield we of course had to make a stop at Lincoln's home. The National Park Service has acquired all the property in the vicinity of the house and maintains the area as it might have looked in Lincoln's time. Moving on southward, near Auburn we discovered an old section of Route 66 paved with bricks. This brick stretch of road was about a mile and half long, and amazingly smooth considering that it's almost 90 years old. Another hot day - 96!

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12 Sep 13: A day off - sitting quietly at the Scott AFB FAMCAMP east of St Louis.

13 Sep 13: Off we go again, across the Mighty Mississippi into Missouri via the intersate highway system. Ugh, but they do get around cities easily, in this case St Louis. Once clear of the city, we got back to our goal of meandering old Rt 66.

One of our first stops of the day turned out to be a very unpleasant experience. Indian Harvest is a post-Route 66 business consisting of several indian teepees in which Bob Atkinson and his wife sell "stuff", for lack of a better word. We pulled off the highway and parked near the entrance to his driveway. Before I could even get a picture of the place, Mr. Atkinson started down the driveway, yelling and gesturing at me. At first I couldn't hear him, but as he got closer, I could hear quite well as he swore at me, told me I was blocking visibility of his business from the nearby interstate, and that he was tired of cheap folks like me who only wanted a free photo. By now he's right up in my face and I seriously was afraid that he was going to take a swing at me or try to get my camera. I just tried to back away from him and told him I'd move on down the road. I never did get a picture of his place, so I'm resorting to using one I found on the web.

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Photo Courtesy of Legends of America

Of course, this little episode left us a little leery of stopping at other Route 66 attractions. But, as is often the case, there is more to this story. The next morning, while visiting another attraction, I learned that Mr. Atkinson is renowned the length of Old Route 66 for his outrageous behavior. The Route 66 Association has supposedly tried to do something about him, but with no success. While we were talking about this, a couple from Australia came in; I asked them if by any chance they had stopped at Indian Harvest. They had, and received the same treatment I did. Later I did a Google search on this guy and his business and found many tales of similar experiences. We never got to the point where he charges people $2 for parking to shop his store. And it appears that he sells nothing that relates to Route 66 and his merchandise is all cheap imported stuff. He started the business 11 years ago and one sure has to wonder how he has lasted that long with his approach to tourists. All in all, I would heartily recommend that you drive on by this place.

Rolling along, we passed through Bourbon, MO, which has two large water towers emblazoned with its name. Hmmm, too bad they weren't filled with the stuff - wouldn't it be great to draw it right from your kitchen sink? A little bit further along we passed the Wagon Wheel Motel, which was originally a cabin court and gas station. Rooms do not have telephones, but there's a payphone in the courtyard with a long cord so you can sit in your car to talk.

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Murals are quite common in many of the towns through which we passed; this one is of banker A. J. Barnett of Cuba, MO, who owned the town's first Model T. On the right: in many places, Route 66 is the service road along I-44, and one crosses back and forth in trying to stick to 66.

The Mighty Campground Guru failed for tonight's planned stop at Roubidoux Springs City Park in Waynesville. I had checked its web site a day or two ago and all appeared as it should. But we arrived to find a yellow tape across the road with a "Road Closed" sign. Looking into the park, we could see the remains of what was once the bathhouse. Evidently the park had suffered some serious flooding. So on down the road we went to Wally-World in Lebanon, MO. At least the price couldn't be beat. Between our good time at Indian Harvest and the campground issue, I guess it really was Friday the 13th.

14 Sep 13: After the bad adventures of Friday the Thirteenth yesterday, better luck had to come our way.  And it did - today we came across one of the true icons of Route 66. A couple of years ago some friends who had traveled Route 66 told us about Gary Turner at the Gay Parita gas station near Halltown, about 25 miles west of Springfield. It was purely by chance that we happened to make the turn to take us along that old stretch of 66. We were a little gunshy after yesterday's experience, but we stopped anyway and I hopped out for a few pictures. There was an old fellow sitting in the warm morning sun beside this beautiful little gas station. We said our hellos and he invited me to get a soft drink out of the fridge on the porch and come sit and chat. So I did. We ended up spending the entire morning there talking with Gary and with some other tourists that stopped by. Gary is the one who told us how typical our experience at Indian Harvest was and that he always cautions east-bound travelers to not stop there.

 

Gary came home to Halltown about 14 years ago and bought the remains of a gas station and garage. The original gas station burned in 1955 or thereabouts, and Gary set about rebuilding and equipping a replica. He and his wife have done an amazing job and he also qualifies as a master of Route 66. The young couple is from Sweden and they were exploring the entire length of Route 66 from Chicago to LA.

Gary sells a wonderful photo book of Route 66 attractions and relics, and hands it to you only after he has done a little artwork and affixed his signature; he also has you sign it as well.

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 Johnson Creek Bridge is a steel truss bridge built in 1926. Also in Spencer is this re-creation of a Phillips 66 gas station. The row of buildings originally contained the Post Office, a grocery store, dry-goods store and a barbershop.

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 Everywhere one looks, there are old buildings.

Our next interesting find was this old manure spreader that someone whimsically converted into a flying crap duster. Just a couple of miles from this piece of art is the one-man village of Red Oak II, re-created by artist Lowell Davis. Davis grew up in a Missouri village called Red Oak. He moved on and after a 60-year career in Texas, he came, only to find Red Oak had become a ghost town. He began buying the buildings and moving them 23 miles to land he owned near Carthage. Among the many buildings he has restored is this gas station.

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The Jasper County Courthouse in Carthage, MO, dating from 1895, is the second-most photographed structure in Missouri; the St Louis Arch is number one.

One also sees lots of not-so-ornate structures all along Route 66, such as this former gas station. Some have been restored, while others are left to the ravages of time. One also finds lots of classic cars along the Mother Road; most are not in such great condition as is this Plymouth. Moving on into Kansas, we pass through Galena, with this large welcoming mural.

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The Galena Mining and Historical Museum is housed in a former Missouri-Kansas-Texas (Katy) railroad station. On the far side is a Whitcomb Diesel locomotive and a caboose that once worked the Katy. Leaving Galena one finds the sole remaining example of a Marsh Rainbow Arch Bridge; it's on a short stretch of the old road and traffic is restrcited to one-way southbound. The bridge was built in 1923 and was in use until the 1960's when this section of the road was bypassed.

15 Sep 13: Kansas is one of three lower-48 states that we have not visited, so we planned to spend the night at Riverside West Park in Baxter Springs. Kansas has the shortest bit of Route 66, 13 miles, cutting across the far southeast corner of the state from Missouri to Oklahoma. A typical plains town, we noted that about half the stores were vacant. But despite that, the town did not appear run-down, preferring to hold its head high despite bad times. Just south of Baxter Springs we cross the Kansas-Oklahoma state line.  It's not often that we can get the signs of two states in one picture.

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Miami, OK, is home to the last remaining Ku Ku Drive-In of a chain that once numbered about 200. The restaurants were based on a cuckoo-clock theme. Yet another mural; this one particulary interested me with its railroad theme. Out here in Oklahoma, once one leaves the towns, the old road becomes very rural, rolling through farmland. In Afton we came across the Afton Grey Rock Station and Garage.

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Just across the street are the roofless shells of three cabins that were once part of the Avon Motel. On down the road in Chelsea is the US 66 Drive-In Diner.

We made a slight diversion from Route 66 to get to tonight's destination, Hawthorn Bluff COE Park on Oologah Lake, northeast of Tulsa.

18 Sep 13: Thanks to rainy weather and laziness on our part, we decided to spend three days at Hawthorn Bluff. We had a nice site with a view of the lake. Two days ago an RV pulled in beside us with a temporary tag on it dated that day. I went over to tell our new neighbors that their rig had to be the newest RV I had ever seen in a campground. It turns out they had just picked it up that day and this was to be their first night in it. What we found interesting was that they were brand-new to camping and Rv'ing and they had made the leap into a snazzy 36' DP Class A.

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All along Route 66 are some beautiful old signs. Some are even still in use, such as these.

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Another common find on the Mother Road are old gas stations. Some are begging to be put to a new use, while others, more fortunate, have been restored and are in use.

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 And of course there are always a few odds and ends of interest.

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The remains of a 1920's Conoco gas station. It was closed in the 30's when counterfeit $10 plates and ink were found in the back room.

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This round barn in Arcadia was built in 1898. It's 60 feet in diameter. The first floor now contains a gift shop and the second floor is rented out for special occasions.

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Along the route we encountered several groups of foreign motorcyclists traveling Route 66. Each group had a support wagon or two. This group was from Czechoslovakia.

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I'm sure this neat huge sculpture of a soft drink bottle does not date from the old Route 66 days, but it was pretty neat, complete with a bent straw.

We made it to the outskirts of Oklahoma City today, for an overnight stop at Edmond OK's Arcadia Lake Scissortail Campground, a nice city park. A typical day of travel for us - 139 miles.

19 Sep 13: On we roll across Oklahoma - not too quickly, I hope you understand. Lots more old gas stations, motels, cars, signs.

Wheat is a major crop out here and virtually every town at one time had its own coop grain elevator, serviced by a railroad. This large elevator, restored in 1989, is in Yukon, OK.

Below are two murals we saw today. I was particularly impressed with the one under the RR overpass.

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Many miles of the old Route 66 are still in service in Oklahoma, and we followed it whenever we could. Much of the rural mileage is across the flat plains with an occasional dip down into a hollow to cross a stream; you could tell such a dip was coming up well before you got there because of the trees that grew in the moisture there. This was one of the longest bridges we encountered; it crosses the South Canadian River near Bridgeport.

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Lucille and Carl Hamons bought this live-over gas station west of Hydro in 1941. There was an associated cabin court. The Hamons raised three children here and Lucille stayed after Carl's passing in 1970, running the station for 59 years. Lucille was known as the Mother of the Mother Road.

A few more motels or remnants thereof that we spotted.

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An abandoned motel

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The Clancy Motel in Clinton, OK

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The Cotton Boll Motel in Canute is now a private residence.

The Washita Motel in Canute is long-closed, but its sign lingers on (rt).

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More gas stations. At left is a former Champlin station in Clinton, OK. At least its deterioration has been halted.

The Bessie Wye Service Station and Cafe, dating from 1934, just outside Clinton has been maintained and is now an auto parts business.

Below is the Canute Service Station, partially restored in the 1980's.

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This wasn't exactly a planned scenic stop on Route 66, but we ended here beside a Ford dealer in Elk City, OK. Ever since leaving home, we had been plagued with a recurring Check Engine light. I had hoped the problem was solved before we left home, but obviously not, and we decided it would be wiser to get if fixed once and for all now before we found ourselves in the boonies some morning with a vehicle that wouldn't start. The folks at Barber-Dyson Ford took super care of us. within ten minutes of our pulling in off the highway, the had the rig in the shop for diagnosis. Yes, it was the dreaded fuel pump problem. They said they could take care of it first thing in the morning and offered a place to park for the night, complete with electricity. They started work at 0730 the next morning, and we were on our way by 1030! route66-214

 20 Sep 13: Well, that was certainly an expensive free night at the Ford dealer, but at least our problems appear to be solved. So back to our trek westward.

Let's start off with a few signs and Myrtle, the 15-foot tall Kachina doll. Myrtle lives outside the Route 66 Museum in Elk City.

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route66-221 Now the Route 66 Bar, this small building with a mural was once Lewis's 66 Cantina in Sayre, OK.

In Sayre we also found another Champlin gas station dating from 1934. Right beside it was a classic Desoto dating from 1957.

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West of Sayre portions of the 1929 road alignment are now left for Mother Nature to reclaim.

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I don't know anything about the history of this place, but it must have one.

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The West Wind Motel is in Erick, OK. An interesting feature of some of the motels of that era carports between the units. In some cases the carports were created when cabins were joined together under a common roof.

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There's not much left in Texola, OK, but a place to whet one's whistle still remains.

 

Almost to the west side of Oklahoma we're ka-thunk, ka-thunk, ka-thunking along some of the 1930's road. The Portland cement has held up amazing well after 80 years. To the right is the reason for the death knell of the Mother Road.

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Art Deco was a favorite design theme of many buildngs along Route 66, including these former gas stations.

Left: A Whiting Bros station from 1938

Below left: Another station right across the street from the Whiting Bros garage above

Below right: The P.B. Wooldrige station, also dating from 1938. It was a Greyhound bus terminal up until the 1990's.

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Moving into Texas we begin to see a more varied landscape, with washes, draws, arroyos and more.      

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The Leaning Tower of Groom was built with an intentional lean as an advertising gimmick for the Britten Truck Stop. For what it's worth, all four legs are the same length.

Our night's destination was the Amarillo, a few miles west of Groom, where we spent the night at the Texas Visitor's Welcome Center.

21 Sep 13: On we go, across Amarillo to our first stop of the day, the Cadillac Ranch.

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What - you haven't heard of the Cadillac Ranch? Picture 10 vintage 1950's-1060's big-finned Cadillacs buried nose-first at the same angle as the pyramids. Too bad the taggers wouldn't take their paint cans home.

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Ever really wondered about where your McDonald's burger comes from? Well here ya go: this huge 28,000 head feedlot in Wildorado is under contract to provide beef to Ronald.

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This Vega, TX, building started out as Jerry's Cafe in 1930.

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Entering Adrian, TX, we find Dale's Texaco (1938).

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At left is the Bent Door Cafe; the owner used a surplus WWII control tower from the former Delhart Army Base for part of the building in 1948.

Adrian is a pretty famous spot along Routre 66, despite its rather meager population of about 150 people. It's claim to fame is that it is supposedly the dead-center mark of the Mother Road, exactly halfway between Chicago and Santa Monica. It is also home to the famous Midpoint Cafe, known for its burgers and "ugly crust pie". The cafe began life in 1928 as Zella's Cafe; since then it has had several owners and facelifts. Fran Hauser, the owner from 1992 to 2012, was the inspiration for the character of Flo at the V8 Diner in the animated movie "Cars". She now owns a little antique shop next door to the cafe. We ended up chatting with her for some time and learning her story. She grew up in New England, but after divorcing, she moved to Texas to help her daughter's asthma. Met a cowboy and married him. You'd never guess she's 70 years old!

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See - we were really here! Not a whole lot of traffic these days, so it's safe to stand in the middle of the road.

 

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A former Texaco station in Glenrio, right on the TX/NM state line. Texaco built 10,000 stations like this, using porcelain enameled steel panels. This "Ice Box" styling dates from 1937.

 On the New Mexico side of the line is the virtual ghost-town of Glenrio. I say virtual, for we did see signs of life at one house. Back in the 1930's, however, Glenrio boasted a motel, cafe and garage.

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The First-Last Motel in Texas (1934)

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An old Texaco station (1940)

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The Little Juarez Cafe (1946)

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At left is the State Line Tavern, which catered to customers from the Texas dry county next door. In the distance is the Post Office - long closed.

Heading westward from the state line, much of Route 66 is a dirt road that can be rather challenging - not exactly a good place to take the RV. So we had to get back on the dreaded I-40 to head west to San Jon. There we turned north to go up to Ute Lake State Park in Logan. We bought our NM Annual Camping Pass there, one of the best camping deals in the country, beside the Golden Age Pass.

23 Sep 13: We have a week and half before we're due to meet up with the Lazy Daze gang at the Balloon Fiesta, so we're able to enjoy two-night stays now. Down days are relaxing and give me a chance to post all these boring pictures of Route 66.

It's been interesting to watch the altimeter ever since leaving eastern Oklahoma. There the elevation was about 300 feet; since then we've slowly but steadily been going up, but it's so gradual that we don't even notice it except for an occasional need to swallow to clear our ears. Today in eastern New Mexico, we hit about 4800' above sea level.

This morning we came down from Ute Lake State Park to Tucumcari.This gave us a different perspective on Tucumcari Mountain, which we first espied two ago from San Jon as we exited I-40 to go north to Ute Lake.

With its commanding view of the surrounding area, the mountain was a popular lookout for the Comanche. It's also rumored that there were once some very large toads on the mountain.

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Tucumcari - every few yards we were stopping to investigate all sorts of remnants of once-thriving businesses along Route 66.

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A Hudson Hornet, gas for 26 cents/gallon

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Out west of Tucumcari are two old pump houses. For some reason they were called Squat Towers.

On to Santa Rosa where I found a truck stop sign that I would have loved to have seen lit up at night. The cowboy's hat, face, fingers were all outlined in neon, as were the wheels and the word "Howdy".

And how about this Edsel station wagon?

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 Good ole Ralph (our GPS) failed us this afternoon in our attempt to get to Santa Rosa Lake State Park. Fortunately a local coming the other way stopped us before we got very far and gave us the proper directions.

We had a little mishap with our screen door today....the second in 24 hours. Yesterday as Liz was stepping out, she slipped a bit and grabbed for the door, catching the plastic stop that the door slide butts into, breaking it off. But the ever-resourceful Toad was able to repair it, drilling some new screw holes and presto, good as new.....until lunch-time today. It was my turn this time: as I opened the door, the wind grabbed the door and in an effort to keep it from slamming open, I grabbed for it and yeap, you guessed it - I snapped the same plastic stop piece off. No fixing it this time! As we neared the outskirts of ABQ, we spotted an RV dealer, so I pulled in and was able to get a new stop.

25 Sep 13: A relaxing lay-over at Santa Rosa Lake SP. We got in a nice 2.5 mile walk along the lake shore and I managed to do some cleaning of the LD's exterior - lots of bugs splattered across the front. We had originally planned to swing up through Santa Fe following an older alignment of Route 66, but then we got thinking about getting a camp site at Kirtland AFB in Albuquerque might be a problem the closer the time got to the Balloon Fiesta. We decided to head straight for Kirtland.

For the first half of the day's leg, we were forced to take I-40 westward, since Route 66 lay underneath it. Partway along the way we began to see signs for the Circle C Ranch travel stop. You East Coast travelers on I-95 are well-familiar with all those Pedro signs as you approach South of the Border. Well, the Circle C folks make Pedro look like a real cheapskate. Their signs were only a few hundred yards apart, huge billboards. You could see about 20 of them at a time. route66-350
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As we approached the town of Moriarity, we passed a highway marker sign denoting the "Edge of Plain".

"Grassy plains meet pine dotted uplands in this transition from Great Plains to Basin and Range provinces. Plains to the east are capped by caliche, sand, and gravel which are deeply eroded into the underlying bedrock in places. To the west, faulting has produced alternating highlands and intermountain basins of the Basin and Range province."

We were able to exit the interstate at Moriarity, NM, and follow the old road to within a mile of the Air Force base. Along the way were more great signs and historic buildings from a bygone eara. The current owner of the Whiting Gas Station has maintained the original look of the building and one of the signs.

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Continuing westward toward Albuquerque, we climb into and through the Manzanita Mountains, with our altimeter peaking at about 6200'. Then it's downhill a bit into the outskirts of Albuquerque. We spotted an RV dealer, so I pulled in and was able to get a new screen door slider stop.

Kirtland AFB is on the east side of the city, and we pulled into the base FAMCAMP at just about noon. We decided we were glad we had decided to arrive today - there only 3 or 4 sites left. We managed to get one with a nice shade tree outside our door. Now we can hunker down and relax for a week before it's time to head across town to the Balloon Fiesta. No, wait a minute - a few chores to take care of:

The Screen door slider saga, chapter two: Of course, the design has changed a bit over the years, so I had to do a little finagling to get it mounted, including the re-installation of Toad's handy-dandy push-button door opener that lets one open the screen door without having to slide the slide open.

The satellite radio: Before leaving home I hadn't had time to clean up the installation of the radio. I had mounted it above the windshield between the sun visors, where we both could reach it and it would be easier to operate when not traveling. That left a lot of wires that needed to be hidden, so I took care of that.

2 Oct 13: We've enjoyed a very relaxing week at the Kirtland AFB FAMCAMP in Albuquerque. The weather has been fantastic with bright blue skies, temperatures in the 70's and low humidity. We've walked 2-3 miles just about every day and have enjoyed sitting out under the shade tree beside the LD. But, as always, good things come to and end, and so it is now. Lucky us, however, we're just moving on to yet another good thing; tomorrow we move across town to the Balloon Fiesta, where we'll be parked for the next week with about 40 other Lazy Daze RV's. A few we know in person, some we know by name through the Lazy Daze forum and the rest will be new acquaintances. I've signed up to crew for a woman balloon pilot, which ought to be an adventure. All in all, it should be a fun-filled week.

Read all about our week at the Balloon Fiesta

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