Yosemite: Two Pieces of Advice

We got two very good pieces of advice before heading to Yosemite, both from friends who we had visited in the Bay Area the previous weekend. One piece of advice was more practical, the other more, shall we say, spiritual. The were both key to to a great, great visit to this gorgeous National Park.


Spoiler alert: Yosemite is A-MAZING!

The first piece of advice was about winter access. Yosemite is in the Sierras. It snows there. If it snows, the park will be open, but you might not be able to get there with your Airstream trailer unless you have chains for your tires. They are very strict, gentle but firm about this. It is in fact the law. You can buy chains (which we didn’t want to do) or you can hope the warming trend coinciding with your itinerary will yield an upgrade of road conditions, allowing you to enter the park without chains. How will you know if the road conditions change? Call this number: 209-372-0200.FullSizeRender (3)

Some talented park ranger has to do a new recording every time road conditions change  – on the first night of our campground reservations (a Tuesday), the conditions were still “R3” closed to neophytes like us, people driving cars without chains.

So, like the pioneers when they faced similar challenges, we bided our time at a lovely winery. This Harvest Host, Vista Ranch & Cellars in Merced was perfectly situated just a few hours west of the park. In fact Merced was a jumping off point for tourist trips to Yosemite back in the day, and even today, those without a car (or chains) can take a bus from there, or even as far away as the Bay area.

The next day, Wednesday, temperatures were up, that snow was surely melting, and in fact when we called the road conditions line, all had been upgraded to “R2”!  You would only need chains IF you didn’t have four wheel drive (we did) and M + S tires (we did). Even still, when we arrived at the west entrance from 140, the so very helpful and sympathetic NPS staff at the gate (clearly reading off a checklist or some sort of matrix) told us that b/c our trailer had its own set of brakes, we would still need chains. Harrumph.

However, a ranger was quick to help us come up with a plan B: book a night at Indian Flat RV Park, about 8 miles down the road, unhitch and head IMG_3657into the park for the afternoon with just the truck. And, assuming all continued to improve, we’d surely be able to get in with the trailer the next day (Thursday). As with the 99% of other times when Plan A has failed, Plan B turns out to be as good or better. Because look who we got to meet at the Indian Cove RV Park? Tigger, the RV park cat.

We quickly unhitched and headed back to the park – we felt like we had been sprung from prison, FREE, as we rolled by the entrance gate, approved to enter with only our 4 wheel drive and M + S tires. We were free to explore for the few hours of daylight left.

Though I grew up in So Cal, I had never been to Yosemite. I had some sense of what to expect, but was not prepared for the scale of the mountains, their pure granite beauty, and of course the stunning minute by minute changes the rising and setting sun casts on them. Plus there was snow! Melting and slushy mostly, but quite icy in spots too. Happy tourist below – first time in Yosemite.


Yosemite Valley is more or less a loop road – with free park buses that run a continuous loop to all the major sights and trailheads, so once you are in, you are encouraged to park your car and walk, bike or hop on the bus. Most trailheads, and even the Visitors Center don’t have parking lots. It took us this afternoon to figure this out.

But first, we made our way to the Pines Campgrounds, where our reservations, you may recall, had begun the night before. Despite the prominent signage saying “no refunds”, the ranger there was more than helpful in refunding the night we missed, and moving our reservations forward another day. It never hurts to ask.IMG_3630We stopped in the Visitors Center to do a quick perusal – watched one of the movies and came out to a completely altered night sky. Is this what it’s like every night? Wow.


Back at Indian Flat RV Park, we rested up and hoped for the best on road conditions the next day. In the morning (Thursday), as we prepared to drop our quarters in the pay phone to find out, Ben ran into one of the rangers who helped us the day before – he came by on his way into work to tell us that indeed, they had changed the conditions yesterday. We were “R1” and good to go. How is that for customer service? Off season camping rocks.


And we are in!

After pulling in to spot 151 in a nearly empty Upper Pines campground, we immediately set out on the Mirror Lake trail. Recommended by more than one ranger as a good “warm up” hike and one that would not be too icy. Nothing like snow to help you track the wildlife!


Very suspicious. Seen near the dumpster in our campsite.

Note, there appears to be a Mirror Lake photo op, where you can hop off the bus, walk a few hundred yards to the Lake and move on. However the trail is longer, more meandering, a true suspense builder as you go.

IMG_3729-2But wait, here is where the 2nd piece of advice we received kicks in: from my friend Joan’s book shelf, she kindly let me borrow “Yosemite Valley: Secret Places & Magic Moments” by Phil Arnot. In his Introduction, he lays out some general tips for experiencing the park as more than just a tourist. One that we took to heart was to agree not to talk to one another for certain time periods. “Conversation is distracting,” Arnot explains. In order to have an in-depth experience of the Valley, silence and solitude are key. Now, Ben and I have had some really great conversations on some of our longer hikes on the trip so far, and I realized those conversations were in part borne of the time alone, the quiet, the serenity of the natural environment, the meditative quality of one foot in front of the other on the trail. It really did make me realize how much that same environment can encourage similar results, but within yourself. We were both game to try it and the Mirror Lake trail was perfect for it because there was tons to look at, the landscape was slowly but continuously changing.


This is Ben, practicing non-verbal communication as a part of our pact to hike in silence. He is saying, “Don’t take my picture!”

Most of the first part of the trail was densely wooded alongside a river. Then it opened up into more of an open field (many trees had been toppled) and clear views of those granite mountains. Incredible! Because we had been quiet, I really noticed more. The mix of fall (leaves turning, browns and golds) and winter (icy snow, bare tree) struck me as well. We crossed the river and came back on the other side.


It was about a five mile hike and we were wiped, and it was getting late, toward sunset, and we wanted to squeeze in one more activity. We hopped on the bIMG_3779us and got off at the Yosemite Lodge (for hot chocolate) and walked to the Yosemite Falls foot bridge. It was nearly deserted, and though the iPhone pics don’t do it justice, a lovely way to see the falls.

On the bus again, we got off at our campground stop and the driver called out to make sure we had a flashlight. We did, thanks to Ben thinking ahead but still bumped around a bit among the loops to find our site.

The next day we set out to do a more challenging hike – Vernal Falls. We could walk to the trail head from our site and checked out the Mist Trail on the way- which I understand is packed during high season and was now completely empty. IMG_3696The trail to the Falls was quite icy in spots. We hiked alongside a group of 8th graders and figured if they could do it, so could we! The elevation gains were gradual enough so it wasn’t just a slog, and the views changed incrementally providing something new to look at at every switch back. Again, pictures don’t do it justice. Once we got to the falls, we were up for going a bit further so continued on toward Nevada Falls. IMG_3816We got just to Clark Point and the road closed signs were enough for us to call it quits there. Many other hikers, mostly fellows on their own, hopped the fence and kept going (they had better equipment) but so did a group of three women in their 50s from Korea – one of whom lives near Yosemite now and comes every few weeks to hike.

After hiking down, we explored Curry Village a bit. We saw dozens of people arriving to check in for the weekend. I bought some new sunglasses (I lost mine on the Mirror Lake trail but never noticed it – all that introspection can have its downside) and we found out we could NOT make a last minute dinner reservation at the Ahwahnee for dinner – the super fancy lodge dining option. Probably best as I am not sure what kind of outfit I could have scraped together.


The dining room was closed for a private event but I snuck in and snapped this picture. I have yet to have a fancy dinner at a park lodge. 😦

We ate at their bar instead – it was nice to get out for the evening, but I would not recommend it – sort of like eating at a chain hotel restaurant, but worse. Sorry to end on this negative note, but gotta keep it real.

The next morning we gifted our new neighbors the Schmidts (tent


We don’t know what to do with this.

campers who arrived from the Bay Area sometime around 130) the firewood that had been gifted anonymously to us when we arrived (we have yet to have a single campfire) and headed out to make our way to LA for Thanksgiving.

We took with us a fair amount of Yosemite mud on our hiking boots, and smiles for all the arriving weekend visitors who’d enjoy unrestricted access to the park roads and perhaps a few less road closed signs on the trails as the temps remained moderate for another off season weekend.


Our (2nd) 10 day itinerary for Oregon

We have gone up, down, around, and through Oregon on this trip. 10 days on our swing north in September (read about some of that here,  here, and here, another 10 days on our swing back south in November. Though, embarrassingly, I included the first night of this second leg in Oregon in a post about Washington state. Sorry The Dalles!

Having visited Portland, Willamette Valley, and some of the coast about 10 years ago, we were pumped to revisit some of our favorites and find some new places to explore as well.

We’d been to Astoria before – a neat, real (not just a tourist) town on the coast, at the mouth of the Columbia River. Astoria welcomed us back with a beautiful rainbow!


We stayed in Ft. Stevens State Park – and got lost looking for the campground, but as usually happens once you get past your annoyance at the GPS, our wrong turn led us to some beautiful sites and we took a walk around the jetty.


The main thing we wanted to do this go round in Astoria was visit the Ft. Clatsop National Historic Park, where Lewis & Clark wintered over after completing their westward journey. The Corps of Discovery did not enjoy their time there — it rained a bunch — but we did especially because the park had been closed due to a fire when we here 10 years ago. We don’t have any pictures (!) but we do have this video we made there because our visit coincided with our nephew Carter’s birthday. It also just goes to show if you didn’t get that card in the mail on time, with a little creativity and the wonders of technology, you can do something cool to make up for it.

We rode our bikes to Ft. Clatsop – it was a little further than I thought it would be, on some busy roads too, but I would still recommend it. I don’t know if this is novel to anyone, but when I am low on batteries or data or coverage, I take a screen grab of my route and refer to that as I am able.


The museum and site were very good. The replica fort (seen behind us in the video) was smaller than I thought it would be – you get a real sense of the Corps just hoping to – I dunno – maybe stay warmer by being so close together? Having less of an area to defend in case of an attack? I appreciated the attention to the long term fate of each Discovery Member in the exhibits, especially York. In the evening we treated ourselves to dinner at the the Bridgewater Bistro in Astoria. The food was only pretty good, but because the service and the setting were so spectacular, we’d recommend it. They let us combine two desserts into one – a chocolate brownie with coconut ice cream.  And the crab cheesecake appetizer was excellent.

On the way out of town, I stopped in the small but lovely Astoria Co-op, while Ben waited in a very long line to get his haircut at the Eleventh Street Barber. He passed the time by chatting it up with some local Coast Guard fellows, and I was amused by the proprietor who kept offering everyone cold beer from the mini fridge.

After a quick trip back to Seattle for some “admin” and a chance to visit dear friends in Auburn, we spent one more night in Washington – at an Airstream park, the aptly named Washington Land Yacht Harbor. The Park was pretty basic and they’ve opened it up to non Airstreamers (but if you are WBCCI members, there is a discount). There is also a fairly large brick and mortar home community surrounding the park – only requirement is that you must own an Airstream to buy a home there. We chatted a bit with one of the residents about the history of the park — folks with a common interest coming together to build a community — and the ways they are working to keep it going today. We made a quick stop at the Olympia Farmers Market (get the cinnamon bread from Wagner’s and any jam from Johnson’s Berry Farm) and the state capitol (pics below) before we recrossed the border.

On to Portland! My friend Tom and his wife Julia about 10 years ago got to pick anywhere in the US to live after many years in NYC – and they picked Portland. How hip they are! Tom may not have known what he was in for when he said “You can park in front of our house!” on one of my Facebook posts tracking our travels, but regardless, we were “all in” as guests (though they were lucky we had just done our laundry in Seattle!)


Tom indeed had a lovely place for us to park in front of his house

After an afternoon of chatting and catching up we had a great dinner out – we wanted to go somewhere “Portland” and we knew Julia picked a good restaurant when the waiter assured us their pork come from pigs that are “pumpkin fed”. I couldn’t remember the name of the restaurant but just found it by googling all the things from their eclectic menu that I especially liked: “short rib sushi bread pudding” – and it was the first hit! Pono Farm Soul Kitchen in Northeast Portland. Yum.

We had a fortuitous meeting in Tom’s kitchen the next morning over coffee and cinnamon bread – his friend Stuart came by and once we realized he was a guru on Oregon travel, we asked and he gave us all kinds of tips on where to go, in what order, via what road, down to which Dairy Queen was the best in the state and how to work in a side trip to the town where some of Animal House was filmed. Not only that – he told us his mother grew up on a farm near Eugene, his sister lived there now, and would we like to park the Airstream there? Yes!

Following Stuart’s tips, we headed south to Willamette Valley, via Oregon City, the final stop on the Oregon Trail. The VC there is a bit pricey, and at this point we maybe felt a bit overloaded from other related sites we had visited but it provided nice closure to that theme of our travels and a good photo op or two.

We headed south into Willamette Valley, to our Harvest Hosts Kramer Vineyards near Gaston. Though they were having an event that night – they couldn’t have been nicer and more accommodating to make room for us. We arrived just in time to jump in for the heritage vertical pinot noir tasting – basically tasting the same vintage, but from six different harvest years. Their thoughtful placemats (below) explained some of the differences in the rainfall, temperature, harvest date, yield, etc of each year. The owners encouraged us to sip, take notes, let the wine breath some more, repeat. It was awesome – I appreciate good teaching and this was it! We were seated with this really nice couple who are wine club members there and were so generous as to cover our tasting bill as part of their guest allowance. I know this is not exactly like the kind of generosity Cheryl Strayed writes about receiving on the PCT when her 20 dollars didn’t arrive and she wanted a Snapple, but we were very appreciative nonetheless! We even bought some Pinot Gris to go – in a growler! – so though the wine is gone, we have a very nice souvenir of this visit.


Next we headed west to the coast, and an overnight at Nehalem Bay State Park, complete with another rainbow and the best walk on the beach yet. We made some excellent lentil soup here which we ate while watching “Waiting for Guffman”. (Not wanting to use our data to stream, we pick up old DVDs wherever we can!)

On the way south, we stopped to do the Cape Trail at Cape Lookout State Park. This trail is truly fantastic – gets you out, as the name suggests, on a cape, with gorgeous views of the Oregon Coast. The hike was fairly flat but with some difficult passages due to mud, rain, general dampness that was the weather for much of this leg of the trip. But fantastic hike – highly recommended for coast lovers. Before the trip, I had surgery to repair an ankle ligament tear and I take pictures like that in the lower right to send to my surgeon some day as a thank you.

On to Newport, where an excellent Wheelingit blog post about free or cheap(er) camping on the Oregon Coast led us to the Port of Newport Marina. We always enjoy a marina, though the dry site parking area was adjacent to the Rogue Brewery warehouse and a few semis kept their engines running while resting there at all hours. But the view (below) couldn’t be beat.


Yaquina Bay Bridge just south of Newport, OR, in our dry camping spot at Port of Newport Marina.

We walked a hundred yards to have dinner at the Rogue Brewery Pub that night – the food was excellent! Try the crab kimchi sliders appetizer for sure. The next morning we walked a few hundred yards and forked over the big bucks to explore the Oregon Coast Aquarium – click on the link to see the best URL ever. We don’t begrudge museums entry fees, but it always feels a bit of a risk. In this case, it was well worth it. The Aquarium has more than a little bit of everything including live animal feeding demos, a walk through a shark aquarium tunnel, and thoughtful exhibits with volunteers and staff who were very good at their jobs answering questions, sharing what they knew and passing on a respect for the natural world.

We headed east to Stuart’s sister’s house – the Hurd family farm. The barn – 100 years old–was an awesome setting and we enjoyed our neighbors, sheep, chickens and rooster.


The next day, I headed into Eugene. It’s always fun to check out a big college campus and University of Oregon was lovely. I checked out Hayward Field – home to track and field legends – and their art museum, which had a cool exhibit on post war Japanese prints. As I walked across the same type of criss-cross quads I traversed as an undergrad, I caught snippets of conversations among the students – worries about how to bring up a grade (this from someone on a cell phone), wishes to check out new restaurants (or food trucks), a mission to return some rain boots. Though so much has changed, so much is the same.

We finished off the state with a visit to Ashland, home of the Shakespeare Festival for most of the year, but not this month. I did a quick hit of their downtown to do a little shopping of my own, of course visit their very large and very goodIMG_3408 Ashland Co-op and scout out restaurants for before a concert we were heading to that night. As we winded down this first leg of our trip, it seemed we still had some work to do to check out the night life / cultural events in the places we visited. This (left) folks/bluegrass/orchestral mix of groups was right up our alley. They even had a hammer dulcimer! One of the leads, Emy Phelps, is from Ashland, so it was a homecoming event for her. A highlight was when they brought all the local (about 20 kids) young violin students up on stage with them to join in for one of Emy’s songs. The parents especially loved that because all those hardworking novices sounded so good in harmony with the professionals. The whole vibe was about collaboration and education, a mix of young and older, lots of smiles and great music! Culture and nightlife – check!

I’ll end with a scary story (with a happy ending) and a cautionary tale. On our drive to Astoria on I-84, we encountered what was without a doubt the scariest moment driving and the closest we’ve come to an (what would have been awful) accident. We are cruising along in the slow lane, and the first we saw anything, the semi in front of us came to a screeching halt and Ben reacted, braking hard, slowing us down, with one hand protectively on me (I think he was trying to keep me from screaming as much as from slamming into the dash) as he very very calmly and slowly said, “OK, I am not sure we are going to stop in time.” Yikes. Hold on, hold your breath and watch the road between you and the 18 wheeler in front of you slowly disappear.

We did stop in time though, with a few feet to spare, but then of course the worst was still to come as we waited with stiffened backs to see if any cars behind us would slam into us (and the Airstream!)


This was NOT the truck/appliance that nearly caused us to crash

As Ben looked left, trying urgently – without success for a long minute or two- to look for a spot to merge into the fast moving traffic and get moving, I leaned right and saw what was up: someone had been carrying a range stove in the back of a pick up and I guess it wasn’t fastened down well, because they were now moving the oven from the road, back to their truck. Oh my gosh. And still we were at a dead halt on a four lane highway.

Once it was out of the road, the truck ahead of us quickly got going, and so did we, still worried about getting rear ended until we got some speed going. We thanked our lucky stars and made an appointment to get our brakes checked (though they got us out of this jam, just for peace of mind.) When I told my dad this story he asked if I got a picture of the oven in the road and I said – no, darn! – so I snapped this one  (above, right) on the road a few weeks later…pretty well battened down, but not something we’d choose to drive behind. So – watch the road for flying appliances (you probably are already, though).



Airstream Restoration Actually Begins

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Working to achieve the necessary angles on the gray water drains.


Measuring, cutting, and trimming pretty lauan plywood for bulkheads.

The last couple of days have seen a lot of trailer progress, but days must have better eyes than we humans, because we have had a hard time seeing it.. Huh? In other words, Ben has been doing lots of time consuming bulkhead fitting, tweaking of cabinetry, gluing of plastic drain pipes … zzzzzz … this stuff is entirely necessary, but rates at the rock bottom of the crowd-pleaser scale. Just not a whole lot of visual payoff. I have helped a little bit but always end up having to take breaks to rub the sawdust off my nose and eyelashes. This afternoon we did a dry fit of our cool kitchen sink faucet just to liven things up (it looked pretty cool).IMG_7937

We have covered a lot of ground in the valley gathering materials – North Hollywood and Burbank seem to be home to the majority of the hardware/metalwork/plumbing experts and FullSizeRender (2)supply places so far. The sheet metal guy we visited had a picture of Brad Pitt hanging in his office! Metal worker for the stars! But all the stories we pulled out of him were about Mickey Rourke. Everyone is very nice out here in LA. We knew that going in, but are constantly amazed by the pleasant customer service interactions. We’ve also been searching online for materials related to tip out trays, 12 volt LED bulbs of various shapes and sizes, and table spiders. Hm.

Dinners have included Moroccan chicken thighs with yogurt sauce, and salmon coconut curry. Dad has become more interested in eliminating sugar from his diet, so he and I cooked eggs side by side this morning. All my time growing up, Dad never cooked, and hasn’t ever really. But he knew a lot, learned a little, and

Food photography tips courtesy of Pam!

Food photography tips courtesy of Pam!

we’ll cook some more for sure in the weeks ahead. I’ve been swimming at the Y, and taken our bikes in for some tweaks. Since our last post, Washington’s hockey and basketball teams have been thumped out of the playoffs, but the Nats continue to do well and we are listening to this west coast swing on west coast time. Not bad.

Oh, and it rained! A ton – an inch or two. Lightning, thunder, the whole nine yards. Drought restrictions imposed aren’t as tough as I expected – or as I remember when we were kids. Basically, you are restricted to watering your lawn on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Other than that, there are suggestions, eg a 3 minute shower at the gym and general sounds of alarm emitted by my mother when we let the water run while washing dishes. Good training for the 30 gallon tank in our future.

Killing Time in Canyon, TX

May 2-4, Canyon, TX

There’s no way around it – we had to kill some time on our progress west. So we could see my cousin and her family in New Mexico, and get to California the same day a truck suspension part arrived.

We looked at a map and zeroed in on Canyon, TX, about 20 minutes south of Amarillo. It worked out great to take a few days “vacation” and SEE some sites, get to know an area with at least some level of detail. We chose Canyon after learning (Yelp and Trip Advisor are our best guides so far, along with key word searches like “cool places to see between x city and y city”) it is close to a couple of recommended state parks for hiking and is home to a great history museum. We booked an Airbnb which went above and beyond to accommodate our schedule. We pulled up Friday evening, unhitched and settled in.

Canyon home

Home sweet Airbnb home in Canyon.

Canyon is pretty happening compared to some of the other west Texas towns we rolled through on the way there. That is, if the presence of three Thai restaurants is one of the measures of happening-ness. We dined at Sayokomarn Friday night, right off town square. It was packed with families and groups of teenagers. Everyone appeared to be eating the same thing – a big pile of fried rice. The waitress explained that the teens in particular always ask for it sans vegetables. If a kid requested the vegetables, he was considered a rebel. So! The food was terrific – super fresh and spicy. We walked a bit around the square, popping into Palace Coffee Company, a cool space, conveniently across from the Vape shop. The staff there gave us some tips for our hiking and recommended we talk to a bearded fellow sitting alone sipping his coffee – he worked at the museum and ended up giving good advice about what not to miss (firearms belonging to Kit Carson and Quanah Parker that were exclusive to the museum, but for some reason were located in a place many visitors miss.  We didn’t miss).

The next day we hit the museum hard, first thing. The Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum sign out front reports that “they” PPHMsay it’s like the Smithsonian with a Texas accent. It didn’t talk, so we can’t vouch for the accent, but it was a very good museum – lots of thoughtful displays, attentive to millions of years of history, geologic, cultural etc. It helped to situate the area’s significance in American history – 1870s & 1880s – rise and fall, railroads, cattle drives, buffalo decimation. Takeaways from a graphic video showing Native American reenactors gutting a bison using tools of the day: removing the bison stomach requires brute force on the part of the Kiowa hunters; work quickly; the bladder is super useful as a water container; once you dry the skull, the horns come off easily. Later, inevitably, there was talk of petroleum, but by then we were tuckered out and still had the windmill and gun rooms to go. The old windmills are very cool, by the way.
Off to Palo Duro Canyon – said to be the second biggest canyon in these here parts (but no measuring tape large enough to prove it, I guess). The Canyon’s infrastructure was built in the 1930s by the CCC – buildings, roads, trails. As you read the history, the state was clearly lucky and grateful to get to benefit from this federal New Deal program – as the land had just come into state hands and was not quite yet eligible. They also noted that it may have been the only or one of the few CCC programs at which veterans, African Americans and young people all worked.
The main hike there is the Lighthouse Trail – about 5 or 6 miles round trip, with some challenging rock scrambles at the end to make it up to the rock figures that resemble…yes, a lighthouse. Ben was a hero and carried our backpack with our mandated gallon of (tepid and eventually warm) water per person, which we drank nearly all of and it was only May (heaven help the hikers in July and August). I had to do part of the return trip on my hands and butt. Your reward at the end is a stop at the trading post for cold Gatorade and soft serve ice cream.
Meg at Lighthouse

After a light 3 mile hike to get to this point, the hard part’s to come on Lighthouse Trail in Palo Duro Canyon.

The next day we trekked south to Caprock Canyon State Park. Smaller in scale, though not in sites, Caprock was much less crowded, likely because it’s much further from the two nearest population centers, Amarillo to the north and Lubbock to the south. We did a good portion of the Upper Canyon Trail (too tired for the rock scramble to the Fern Cave at the end -next time!) We had the added bonus of ice cold water from bottles we had frozen the previous evening-lesson learned the hard way the day before.

Caprock is home to the bison descendants of the Goodnight herd, saved from extinction in the 1880s. But darned if those critters didn’t hide from us uBuffalo warningntil just as we were leaving. We turned into the park’s lake area to dip our toes and Ben spotted about two dozen about 200 yards off. We sat and ate oranges (we’d run out of chips), watching them from a picnic bench, following the park’s rules, avoiding certain death by staying back 50 yards – see warning that doubles as your park permit (to the right.)


Canyon weather, coming in from the west.

On the drive home, we finally got a chance to track some weather – groups of thunderstorms seemed to be headed straight toward Canyon – just enough to scare me, but captivate Ben. They mostly broke up or went around us, but we got a good pic and eventually as we were falling asleep got some thunder.

Alas, no twister.  Ben’s enthusiasm for tornadoes has waned some since we got the Airstream, i.e. tornadoes are typically accompanied by large hail, hail dents aluminum, Airstreams are made of alumininum, etc., etc.

By the side of the road exiting Canyon – Route 66 era and full of charm.


So, an extended stay in the Texas panhandle was a risk, but well worth it. On our way out of town Monday, Big Tex Randall wished us well, and we him. So long Texas!
UPDATE: A reader reminded me that Georgia O’Keeffe lived and taught art in Canyon for a bit. Great info, including her own words on the plains, the people, teaching etc, on this from West Texas A & M University

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Texas – halfway!

We spent a lovely 36 hours or so in Dallas – got to see a dozen or so Barkers, four generations, and two of Ben’s great friends, as well as engaging inour very first and only so far just-for-fun activity (like tourists do).

Once again, knock on wood, the drive into Dallas was easy as pie. Some of my old nervousness came back in the downtown traffic-y area, but no problems, and I didn’t scream once. There is a ton of construction around Ben’s neighborhood, University Park near SMU. But Ben’s mom Jane was there waiting for us,

Janearmed with the keycard to the gate of a large, not much used parking lot 1/2 block from her house (all within one block of where Ben grew up). Jane ushered us in with air traffic controller like precision, and big hugs all around. Two of his sisters, Susan and Jeanne, live in the neighborhood, and sister Leslie and brother Allan are only a few miles away.

Some of the crew gathered for dinner at an old family favorite – El Fenix downtown; Enchilada Dinner night at this old school place has been on Wednesdays for about as long as anyone can remember (Allan rarely misses a week). Ben’s dad’s office at KRLD was right around the corner back in the 60s and El Fenix was (and probably still is) a favorite with the reporters.  Ben and his siblings have vivid El Fenixmemories of, as kids, being nudged up to the homemade tortilla station, dollar in hand, to give Maria a tip.

After a wonderful night’s sleep, our day without driving dawned. Spring in Dallas is made awesomer by the fact that it is not summer in Dallas which is H-O-T hot. We spent the morning getting Jane up to speed on all the apps and bookmarks she needed to follow our journey, while not messing with her existing and beloved USA Today crossword and classical radio apps. In the afternoon, and what was really our first tourist-like activity on the journey so far, we went to the Meadows museum at SMU. The Meadows is a private museum, funded by an art lover and oilman philanthropist, who in the 50s went looking for oil in Spain (didn’t find much there), but stayed right across from the Prado museum, and fell in love with Spanish art. The museum is just the right size (not too big) and had some fabulous exhibits, including a painting on loan from the Louvre, they proudly told us at the front desk.Barker women

Post-museum, Ben’s friends James and King came over after work (what’s that?) and drank a few beers while checking out the Airstream. Dinner was a pizza and salad feast at sister Jeanne’s which included arugula and sorrel from niece Laura’s garden. It was great-niece Emmy’s 1st bday (big party was previous weekend) so that was really cool too. The Barker women don’t age, so Emmy, you got good genes, girl!

We did some more touring of the Airstream after, and nephew-in-law Eli, who is an engineer, crawled under the trailer in the dark parking lot, spouting truth about the genius design, craftsmanship and artistry that is Airstream, a la Walt Whitman. The man went on and on about the door hinge. We loved it!

TacosToday, we made our way to Canyon, TX where we’ll hike in – you guessed it, canyons. Lunch on the way was real (and real good) Mexican tacos from a gas station. Some fellas at the Tire Lube helped us get ship shape with our PSI. We made a point to listen to Nanci Griffith – west Texas songstress – along the way, while Google helped us learn about the Comanche, cattle drives, wind farms, and more railroads.

We promise we really care about history and will dig in for real when we have the time…like tomorrow!


We leave you with one final trailer beauty shot from a stop in Chillicothe.
The Airstream pairs well with Texas!