Monuments, Museums and History, oh my!

Be forewarned – this is a long post 🤪

We have read a few books and also recently watched a series on PBS about the Civil War, so as we crossed over the Potomac River from Virginia into Maryland, we totally sensed the historical significance of where we were.

Cherry Hill Park RV Resort is located near the University of Maryland and rivals the size of the RV park we stayed at in Vegas, but the sites here are larger and there is much more greenery and foliage. There is a shuttle that takes you around the park to the various water parks, mini golf, restaurant and office. Plus, there is a bus depot at the entrance, which makes it very easy to transport to the train station. This will be our home base for the next 10 days or so.

Look who took the red-eye from California to Washington, DC 🥰 to join us for the weekend! Crazy kids, but we’re so happy they did!!

We took the train in to the city, it was easy and we didn’t have to worry about parking. The first Smithsonian we tackled was The Museum of American History. The size and content is mind boggling, so suffice to say, we saw a lot. Our personal favourites included the Ruby Slippers from The Wizard of Oz, George Washington’s original uniform ( he was rather tall and muscular), several of the First Ladies Inaugural Gowns, the Transportation Exhibit and Julia Child’s actual kitchen.

Anyone can be president! Even a Canadian?
Closed down one museum! Waiting for the train back to Monty, and bed!

Our second Smithsonian was The National Museum of Natural History, which was even larger than the last one 😳, and is the size of 8 football fields! We thoroughly enjoyed this museum and each of us had a favourite exhibit. Henry – the Mammal Section (especially the Jaguar), Joanne – the precious gems (especially the diamonds), Joseph – a tossup between the gem exhibit and the Human Evolution exhibit, and Hannah – the Bones (especially the trachea of the swan).

The Hope Diamond
A very happy Archaeologist/X-ray Tech
Catch Me If You Can

After closing another museum, we wandered over to the Lincoln Memorial, which overlooks the Reflecting Pool and The Washington Monument. It was awe inspiring to be that close to the President Lincoln Memorial and is something we’ve wanted to see for many years. We got a tingly feeling reading his most historical speeches that are etched in stone on the walls of the monument – The Gettysburg Address and his 2nd Inaugural Speech, which he addressed to the nation just a few months before his assassination.

We’re reading the Inaugural Speech written on the wall
The Washington Monument
Hannah embracing her State of Birth

And of course, no trip to Washington, DC, would be complete without a visit to the White House!

The kids had to fly back to California 😢 but there was just enough time for a quick visit to one more museum, on the way to the airport! We really needed a few more hours, but they had a flight to catch so we saw as much as we could.

A very happy Rocket Scientist

We were pretty proud Canadians walking around the Space Shuttle Discovery and seeing the Canada Arm 🇨🇦 and how important it was to the space program!

The tours are free and last several hours. Our docent was engaging and extremely knowledgeable, but we did run out of time so had to leave the tour early. The building is as huge as you would expect, considering it houses a Space Shuttle, the Concord, a Boeing 707, the SR-71 Blackbird (fastest plane ever!) and approximately another 180 planes and displays.

Thank you so much Joseph and Hannah for flying across the country to spend the weekend with us! We had so much fun and sure enjoyed our short, but intense, journey through history with you 🤪. Love you lots 💕

On our own again as we continued exploring. Arlington Cemetery was a somber, yet powerful, experience. To see the grave markers of so many Americans that gave their lives for their country, was very moving. The location of the cemetery was chosen during the Civil War because Arlington was the vacated family home of Robert E Lee and the Union wanted to make sure he would never return to it.

President John F. Kennedy had been standing on the porch of Robert E. Lee’s house and taking in the extraordinary view of the National Mall and made a comment stating ‘I could stay here forever’! When he was assassinated 9 months later, Jackie remembered that and insisted he be buried near the porch and that a flame burn eternally in his honor.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is here, and has been guarded 24/7 since 1946. We watched the changing of the guard and were amazed to see how the stone is worn from the marching of the guards.

The dark patches are the worn path of the guards.

Whenever we can, we love to take the Hop On Hop Off bus around a new city to get an overlook, and to save our feet! Back in Washington and once around the city, we hopped off at the Washington Capital. Such a beautiful building with amazing history. The dome of the building was not completed at the time the Civil War broke out, but President Lincoln pressed on, trusting the Union would stand. He was still alive when the exterior of the dome was completed, but unfortunately assassinated before the interior was fully finished.

Front of the Capitol Building
Back of the Capital Building

We did a tour of the Capital Building. Nancy Pelosi was very busy and we didn’t get a chance to meet her, but we did see Bernie Sanders! He acknowledged the Canadian Contingency 😁

As expected, the interior of the building was spectacular. Regrettably, we did not get a photo of the best thing we saw . . . . a group of men in suits wearing front facing carriers containing dogs!! 😳 At first we though they were Dad’s carrying their babies, but no, they were definitely dogs! We figured these dogs belonged to important senators, as they were whisked away through some back hallways with their own security detail. More than likely heading to one of the many bullet-proof black Suburbans awaiting out front!

To put it in perspective, the fresco at the top of the Dome is 180 feet above the floor and 4600 square feet in size! It’s a painting of George Washington seated next to Liberty and Victory, surrounded by 13 Maidens representing the original 13 States. The painting is called The Apotheosis of Washington.

A valuable lesson was learned today . . . . never trust a local when asking about the Trail markings for bike paths! 😬 They know the back roads and where to avoid traffic and probably just assume the signs are posted everywhere. Well, they’re not! What started out as an easy 15 mile trail from our campsite to downtown Washington, turned in to 25 miles of dipsy-doodling around. 50 miles round trip, 7 hours on the bikes and walking around, was well worth it. It was so cool to be cycling around the monuments and especially fun to be in the bike lane cruising down the center of Pennsylvania Avenue. 😎 At least our bottoms weren’t as sore this time since everywhere we rode was paved and relatively smooth!

Riding down the center of Pennsylvania Avenue!

Being in the US Capitol for the Memorial Day weekend was pretty special. Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering and honoring people who have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces The patriotism of the Americans was overwhelming, yet humbling. Our thanks and utmost respect go out to those who have served and are presently serving to protect our freedoms, in all our countries. At the Korean Memorial, we witnessed a gathering of veterans honoring those that have fallen. It was very touching.

The Memorial to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was lovely but is usually spectacular and highly recommended to see, especially at night. Unfortunately, the water falls and features were not working due to a major flood in the tidal basin that damaged all the electrical for the water pumps. But, it was still really nice.

More history as we took a day trip to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It’s staggering to imagine how many men died at this one battle – the bloodiest battle ever fought on American soil that lasted 3 days from July 1-3, 1863. An estimated 51,000 soldiers were killed, injured or taken prisoner.

President Lincoln delivered the 272 word Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863 on the battlefield near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. 

“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives, that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

We did the Auto Tour and downloaded an App that gave us commentary at each spot. It was so interesting and surreal to drive and walk along the battlegrounds and the cemetery. There is so much to see and experience.

The next two photos are of Robert E Lee looking towards the Union Army who were situated at Little Round Top, and General Warren, looking back out at the Confederate Soldiers, across what became known as ‘The Valley of Death’.

It was quite sad walking through the cemetery, reading the names of the soldiers and seeing so many that were ‘unknown’. It was a very moving experience.

On our way back to Maryland we thought it was about time that we enjoy some Maryland Crab! So after touring around Baltimore, we stopped at a fun restaurant – Mama’s on the Half Shell- for a crab feast, and oyster shots!

Our last day in the Washington, DC area and it was 93 degrees and humid – perfect for another cycling adventure 😎 We put the bikes in the truck and headed to the C & O Canal. It’s an old towing canal that was used to transport coal and other goods from the Appalachian Mountain Range to DC. Horses would pull the barges filled with coal along the canal, thus resulting in the tow path. There were locks along the way to deal with the elevation, dating back to 1831. They eventually closed in 1924. The path led to a nice waterfall called Great Falls. It was a relaxing day and much cooler riding in the shade paralleling the Potomac River.

Hawaii is well represented in DC 😎 Our friends from Molokai, Speedo and Lulu (Bob and Linda) are traveling in their 5th Wheel also, and just arrived to the same RV Park as us! They started in Montana and are a few weeks behind us on their journey. It was so fun to catch up with them and talk story. We had some great adventures to share and laughs about the RV Lifestyle! What a fabulous way to end our time in Washington, DC.

We left Canada 2 months ago today and have driven 7,650 miles / 12,311 kms. We’ve added a few more states to our list in the past month, including Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Washington, DC is not a state, so it doesn’t count 😉 It is the Capital of the USA, a city inside the District of Columbia (DC) and a federal district, but not a state.

It was a sad day as we laid to rest our Canadian Flag that has so proudly flown from the antenna of our truck. It helped us out more times than you can imagine, as we quickly stood out as tourists and other drivers actually became slightly more courteous, most of the time! It was also a great conversation starter with our neighbours at the campsites. In its tattered condition, we felt it was not doing our country proud, so goodbye diplomatic friend. 🇨🇦.

Our journey on the east coast has just begun and we look forward to exploring and enjoying everything it has to offer.

Blue Ridge Mountains

🎶 Almost heaven, West Virginia
Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River
Life is old there, older than the trees
Younger than the mountains, blowing like a breeze

Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong
West Virginia, mountain mama
Take me home, country roads 🎶

Ok, we’re not in West Virginia, yet, but North Carolina, so we’re in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Here’s your first history lesson today – the Blue Ridge Mountains were named because of the visible blue haze of the chemical Isoprene that is released from the many oaks and poplars that cover the mountains.

The scenery as we drove from Tennessee through New Found Gap into North Carolina, was stunning. We can only imagine how beautiful it must be in the fall as the leaves are changing colour.

Well, the storm that has been teasing us for the past few days, finally caught us! We selected a campsite in Cherokee, North Carolina, due to its proximity to a fabulous bike path on a historic Rail to Trail, and also the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is supposedly a gorgeous scenic drive. But, with the torrential downpours, thunder and lightening, we had to forgo our plans and do a museum instead.

Since we had toured President Andrew Jackson’s plantation and found out about the Indian Removal Act, the least we could do was pay our respects to the Cherokee Indian Tribe! They have a very interesting museum in town and we spent a few hours reading the information and learning the history.

Happy Mother’s Day! A shoutout to my amazing son, Joseph (and wonderful daughter-in-law, Hannah) – I’m so proud to be your Mom 😘 Thanks for your love and support, and the phone call 💖 We’re sure looking forward to you joining us soon!

We drove about an hour to the Asheville area to spend most of the day at the teeny, tiny summer house of the Vanderbilt’s, The Biltmore Estate! It just happens to be the largest privately owned house in the United States, approximately 180,000 square feet, which is close to 4 acres of living space!

George Washington Vanderbilt II started construction in 1889 and it was completed in 1895. He named his estate Biltmore, from “De Bilt”, Vanderbilt’s ancestors’ place of origin in the Netherlands, and “More”, for open, rolling land. At the time it was built, it included 125,000 acres of land, but over the years the family sold off parcels to pay for upkeep, so it’s a mere 8,000 acres now!

There are 250 rooms in the house, including 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, 65 fireplaces, 3 kitchens, and comfort advancements that were uncommon for the time, like forced-air heating and electric elevators!

It is hundreds of years newer than the castles and estates of Europe, but impressive nonetheless! The furnishings and decor are original and it’s mind blowing to fathom the cost of such opulence. There were also models in each room of exact replicas of the clothing that would have been worn, copied from old photographs. The designers took several years to copy fabric and techniques that were used in the late 1800’s.

The grounds and gardens were what you would expect and reminded us of Butchart Gardens in Victoria. There were trails for walking, cycling and horseback riding all around the estate. It would have been incredible to be a guest of the Vanderbilt’s!

It was such a special day, but not over yet!! The weather had improved enough that we were able to finally drive the Blue Ridge Parkway from Asheville back to our campsite in Cherokee. It’s a good thing we left Monty at the campsite, as he wouldn’t have been able to enter 3 of the tunnels 😳Would the drive had been slightly more fun in a sports car or on a motorcycle? You bet! 🤪 But the truck did just fine.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a 469 mile roadway that literally rides the ridge of the Blue Ridge Mountains and was designed to give everyone easy access to the beautiful views. It also provides access to 360 miles of hiking trails. Such a fabulous way to end a wonderful day!

We headed north out of North Carolina up to the great southern state of Virginia 🤪 We settled in to an adorable little RV park in Fries (pronounced ‘freeze’) which runs along an abandoned railway that was converted in to 57 miles of walking and cycle paths, called New River Trail State Park.

We have met some of the nicest people in Galax (pronounced Gay-lax), which is close by to Fries. The girls at Hair Classics were so much fun and a big thank you to Callie for making Joanne look even younger than she feels 😘 Lunch at Creek Bottom Brewery was excellent!

If you’re a fan of guitars, you may have heard of Wayne Henderson of Henderson Guitars. He’s from this area and often plays at the local music festivals. The waiting list for one of his masterpieces is 10 years, and even Eric Clapton had to wait 7 years for his guitar. Brad Paisley is still waiting for his.

Galax is also famous for the longest running International Old Time Fiddlers Convention, that has been going strong since 1935, and brings in close to 80,000 people each year.

A quick pop over back in to North Carolina for a stop in Mayberry 😀 It’s not actually Mayberry, but Mount Airy, which happens to be the hometown of Andy Griffith, so it’s referred to as Mayberry! It felt like we were on the set of a tv show. Super cute! They even have tours with his police car going up and down the streets. We needed a new bike tire and that was the closest town with a bike shop.

Mount Airy was quite famous before Andy Griffith came along. The world’s largest open faced granite quarry, The North Carolina Granite Corporation, is located here, and it was built in 1889. It is 266 acres and there is enough granite there for another 300 years of supply. Some of the famous buildings that this granite can be found in are Fort Knox, Arlington Memorial Bridge, The Washington Monument and even The Louvre. Apparently, astronauts use the quarry as a reference point from space.

Ahhhhhhh, biking paradise 🚴‍♂️ The New River Trail State Park is a compacted gravel surface of the old rail bed, and had such beautiful views along the river, with trestles, a steel beam bridge and a tunnel. It was one of the nicest rail trails we’ve ever ridden. We’ll do just about anything for beer, pizza and ice cream, so 40 miles round trip was well worth it 😎 And again, we met some of the nicest people on the Trail.

We are totally destination cyclists, so if the reward is not a pub for beer and pizza, it has to be to see something of interest. Today we did a crazy ride, since we were still feeling yesterday’s mileage but decided to ride out to The Shot Tower. It was completed in 1807 and was the first factory to produce ‘shot’ or ammunition for shotguns, on American soil.

The tower stands 75 feet above the ground and extends in a shaft 75 feet below the ground, for a total of 150 feet. Workers would drop molten lead through a sizing screen from the top of the shaft and it would reach terminal velocity, form a round ball, and drop into the cooling water that was at the bottom of the shaft. The result was perfectly round lead shot. Incredible!

It was a beautiful ride through another tunnel and over lots of trestles. No pub stop this time, but we did have leftover pizza from yesterday, and a lovely bottle of wine and picnic pack! Thanks to Paula and the gang at our bank, Prospera Credit Union, for our fun gift. 😎

It was a long, long day and 43 miles was a bit more than we should have done. Sore butts, a dead battery, plus, we over shot the Shot Tower 😜 which added an extra 3 miles to our ride! At least the scenery was spectacular!

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to North Carolina and Virginia and are especially sad to be leaving Galax.

The Smoky Mountains

Arrived to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee – home of Dolly Parton 🦋

May 8th – we got engaged 35 years ago today 💕💍, so what better way to celebrate than at Dollywood?!

Dollywood is an amusement park and the country version of Disneyland. If you like Dolly Parton, it’s great, if you like roller coasters, it’s awesome 👍 We had so much fun and it wasn’t too crowded, so we were able to ride almost all of the coasters. Unfortunately, we were saving the last 2 rides (that involved water and getting totally soaked) for the very end, but a huge storm rolled in and they closed all the rides due to lightening ⚡️. Our most favourite roller coaster was the Wild Eagle, and we enjoyed it several times!

Our next two favorites were Tennessee Tornado and Mystery Mine 🤪

We took a drive through the Smoky Mountains and went to Cades Cove. We couldn’t figure out why it was called a ‘cove’ when there was no water, but then we found out that in Smoky Mountain language, a ‘cove’ is a relatively flat valley between mountains or ridges. So basically, it was a drive in the park! We did see some bears, a deer, turkeys and some good ol’ Canadian Geese!

Pigeon Forge – what an amazing little city! It’s like one big amusement park with fun for the whole family. There are roller coasters, mini-golf courses, go-carting galore (with multi level tracks!), zip-lines, water parks, oddity museums, escape rooms, dinner shows, lumber jack shows, comedy shows, lots of goats on roofs, river tubing, crazy restaurants and more!

We wandered around The Island in Pigeon Forge and it has its own little amusement park with great restaurants, stores, Ferris wheel and even a fountain show – a tad smaller than the Bellagio, but it has hundreds of rocking chairs set up all around it!

We went to one of the dinner shows – Dolly Parton’s Stampede – which is similar to Medieval Times, but a rodeo show and lots of fun! The show included sets with bison, Texas Longhorns, pigs, chickens and of course, horse events. The dinner was what you expect from one of these shows, but the roasted chicken was actually quite tasty.

We absolutely loved Tennessee and are already looking forward to coming back! We will definitely return to Nashville and plan to spend even more days in Pigeon Forge! 🤠

. . . and Country

Driving in to Nashville, our first stop just had to be at Loretta Lynn’s Kitchen for a full country buffet, at lunch! It was actually quite good. Loretta’s Ranch is about 6 miles down the road, but we didn’t go.

We got set up at a nice RV park near the Nashville Airport, called Nashville Shores and our site backed on to the lake 👍 Then we had to hurry to make it to The Grand Ole Opry as we had tickets for the Friday Night show.

When we purchased the tickets, we knew that Charlie Daniels was one of the performers, so we were thrilled to see that Vince Gill was added to the roster! We really liked the format of each group performing 2 songs – it gives such a great variety of artists in a short time. A Canadian group from Alberta – High Valley – were great. Of course, for us the highlight was Vince Gill and 82 year old Charlie Daniels!! And yes, he did end with The Devil Went Down to Georgia 🎉 It was awesome! Our seats were up really, really high, but they had huge screens so we could see well. It was amazing so much fun!

Saturday, we toured the plantation home of the seventh president of the United States, Andrew Jackson. Completed in 1819, the main house is a two-story Greek Revival, brick mansion. The interior was beautiful, and the wallpaper, hardwood flooring, carpet and most of the furniture was original. The property itself was stunning and in Andrew Jackson’s time had been a cotton plantation. We also were able to witness a duel – defend your honor!

President Jackson’s legacy is quite controversial. On one hand, he challenged the political establishment and tried to transfer power to the common man, and encouraged exploration and American expansion. Jackson is considered so influential that his face is on the front of the $20 bill. On the other hand, his harsh treatment of enslaved workers and his forced removal of Native Americans from their ancestral lands, the Indian Removal Act (also known as the Trail of Tears), gave him the nickname ‘Jack the Devil’.

Off to the Parthenon, in Nashville, of course! It was built for the Tennessee Centennial Exposition in 1897 and is a full scale replica of the original Parthenon. In 1990 they unveiled the Athena statue. She’s almost 42 feet tall and again, a replica of the original. The lower level serves as an art gallery.

We sure enjoyed the Honky-tonk Hop! – gotta love Broadway 🤠 It’s so cool to go from one bar to the next, and each floor in every bar has live music! You work your way up, floor by floor, to the rooftop deck and just listen and dance and have fun! 🍺 Fabulous and talented musicians everywhere! We started off in Alan Jackson’s Good Time Bar and stopped in on each of the 4 floors! We ended up Honky-tonk hopping into several bars and really enjoyed the atmosphere and music!

Sunday, we toured the Ryman Auditorium, which was once the home of the Grand Ole Opry. It was originally the Union Gospel Tabernacle and opened in 1892. Its construction was spearheaded by a wealthy riverboat captain, Thomas Ryman, who also owned several saloons. He had gone to a tent revival to heckle the preacher, Samuel Porter Jones, and ended up being ‘saved’, so made it his mission to build a large auditorium for church service. When Thomas passed away, Samuel Jones felt the auditorium should be named after him.

Even though the building was designed for worship, in order to pay off debts, it started to be leased out for non-religious events. Eventually the local country radio program, known as the Grand Ole Opry, was needing a new place to host its programs so they had their first broadcast from the Ryman on June 5, 1943, and originated there every week for nearly 31 years thereafter. Every show sold out, and hundreds of fans were often turned away. That’s how the building became known as the Grand Ole Opry. In 1974 it moved to its new location, but they did cut a circle out of the old stage and placed it in the new building on the new stage, so the circle wouldn’t be broken.

The old building fell in disrepair and was almost demolished, but several groups and individuals banded together and funded the project to have the old Ryman restored to its former glory.

We also toured the Country Music Hall of Fame, which was pretty interesting. Lots of history about the country music industry and memorabilia to look at. We spent several hours wandering around and taking it all in.

Easy bike ride, he said. 20 miles round trip, he said. Oops, he said!

We cycled from our campsite to the Music City BikeWay, or so we thought, which goes along the Stones River and joins on to the Cumberland River.

Arrived at Stones River 👍

It was at this point we realized the bike path was on the other side of the river 😮

Oops


Yes, Henry did leave his bike at the top of the hill and run down to get Joanne’s, and climb back up the hill again 😉 It was pretty funny!

We finally got on the Music City BikeWay, which turned out to be really, really hilly, but no problem for an e-bike, or Henry 😜 It was a beautiful paved path that meandered along the rivers and worked its way into downtown Nashville, however, the path was closed near downtown for bridge repair, so we didn’t make it all the way, but it was a fabulous day, riding 29, not 20, miles round trip!

This is a view from our campsite at Nashville Shores 👍

We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Nashville – loved the music, atmosphere and people 🤠 Seriously, some of the nicest and friendliest folk we’ve met so far.

For ‘The King’ . . .

Drove to Hot Springs, Arkansas, and surprise! now we’re at the Hometown of President Bill Clinton. Guess we’re on a new trail 😉 He grew up in this town from grade 2 to graduation of high school.

Hot Springs gets its name from the natural spring water that flows out of the ground at 147 degrees F. During the early 1900s, thousands of people flocked the area to experience the waters’ curative powers. Elaborate bathhouses were built to house the large number of tourists visiting the place for springs and spa treatments. Historic Bathhouse Row is a group of eight architecturally significant bathhouses, of which most were constructed between 1912 and 1923.

We toured The Fordyce Bathhouse, which opened on March 1, 1915. The men definitely enjoyed the better amenities. It was amazing how many athletes at the time, would come here for treatment and hopefully extend their professional sports careers, We didn’t have a chance to take the waters, but we did manage to sample the house specialties at the Superior Microbrewery 🍺🍺

We crossed the Mighty Mississippi once again, and arrived in Memphis, Tennessee! President Andrew Jackson named the city ‘Memphis’ because of his love of Egypt and because it’s position on the Mississippi is similar to Memphis, Egypt’s position on the Nile. We checked in to the Graceland RV Park, which is located conveniently right next door to Graceland and our site is on Teddybear Lane 🥰

The beautiful Peabody Hotel in downtown Memphis has a fun tradition that happens everyday at 11:00am and 5:00pm. It all started back in the 1930s when the General Manager of The Peabody returned from a weekend hunting trip to Arkansas. He had spent a bit too much time with his good friend, Jack Daniels, and thought it would be funny to place some of his live ducks in the beautiful Peabody fountain. Thus began a Peabody tradition! In 1940, a bellman that was a former circus animal trainer, offered to help with delivering the ducks to the fountain each day and taught them the now-famous Peabody Duck March.

The ducks take an elevator ride down from their Penthouse, and run the red carpet into the fountain, and at 5:00pm, they march back to the elevator and head home for the night. It was really cute to watch. Our photos didn’t turn out well and it’s hard to see, but those are ducks running along the red carpet, up the stairs and into the fountain.

This is where the ducks live when they are not in the fountain – it’s on the rooftop deck of the hotel. By the way, the ducks work for 3 months and then are retired to a farm in the country, and new trained ducks are brought in!

Beale Street was fun, with lots of restaurants and live music. The road was all closed off and they’re getting ready for the Beale Street Music Festival, which is the kickoff of a month of festivities citywide, known as Memphis in May. Of course, it starts this upcoming weekend, when we won’t be here! We had a great lunch of smoked pulled pork and ribs – yum 😋 So much music history, the birthplace of Rock and Roll 🎵

We walked down to the Mississippi River to board our Riverboat Paddle-wheeler. Even though it started raining, it was fun to hear the stories from our guide, and see Memphis from the river. The bridges cross over between Arkansas and Tennessee.

We were running short on time and had to make a decision – Sun Studio (where BB King, Johnny Cash, Elvis and many more recorded songs and is known as the birthplace of Rock and Roll), OR, the giant Bass Pro Shop 😎

When the Vancouver Grizzlies became the Memphis Grizzlies, this giant pyramid was their basketball venue. It turned out to be unsuitable, so the Fedex Arena was built for them and this monstrosity sat empty for years. Along came John Morris, thinking it would be a great spot for a really big Bass Pro Shop, Hotel and restaurants! It was amazing! It is the biggest Bass Pro Shop in America. The view of Memphis and Arkansas was beautiful from the skywalk at the top of the pyramid. We even had a good look at the children’s hospital that Danny Thomas started – St. Jude’s. We ended up spending hours in the pyramid and had dinner at the rooftop restaurant.

🎶🎵 I’m going to Graceland, Graceland
Memphis, Tennessee
I’m going to Graceland 🎶🎵

Love Elvis, Hate Elvis, or don’t even know who Elvis is – we highly recommend a trip to Memphis to tour Graceland! If you toured here more than 2 years ago, come again! There is 200,000 square feet of everything Elvis, not including the mansion and airplanes! We happen to love Elvis, so this was an absolute highlight of our trip 😎 The first dance at our wedding was ‘I Cant Help Falling In Love With You’ (performed by a Ukrainian band!).

We splurged and purchased the Ultimate VIP package, which included our own private guide, front of the line access, viewing (and touching) items the public don’t get to see, and a darn good lunch!

Since we’re big Elvis fans, we’ve seen many documentaries and read several books on him, his family and Graceland, so there weren’t any huge surprises, but it sure was amazing to see everything in person! The house isn’t anything compared to today’s expectations of a mansion, but for the time, it was considered large and it does have an almost cozy feel.

It was great walking through his private plane, The Lisa Marie!

The room of his many cars was fantastic, but of course, seeing the pink Cadillac he purchased for his Mom, Gladys, was really special. That boy sure loved his Mama 🥰

Elvis passed away way too soon, at the age of 42. So many of us remember exactly where we were and what we were doing when we heard the news on August 16th, 1977.

We enjoyed ourselves so much that we actually spent more time here than we did digging for diamonds! 🤪

Gangsters and Diamonds

After Louisiana, we really wanted to spend at least one night in Mississippi, so we stopped near Jackson in a town called Byram. A short cycle ride from our campsite was the beautiful Byram Swinging Bridge. It even had love locks on it 💖

And then back in to Louisiana we go, to find us some outlaws! Bonnie and Clyde, to be exact! Gibsland is the town where Bonnie and Clyde stopped to pick up sandwiches – fried bologna for Clyde and a BLT for Bonnie, or so we were told, 😉 15 minutes later, they were dead.

Here is a copy of the poem Bonnie wrote for her Mother a few weeks before her death. The last few lines seem to reflect that she knew the law was closing in on them and their time was short. The second photo is a copy of Clyde’s rap sheet.

We toured the very tiny museums, one of which was the Cafe they had stopped at, then drove to the place where the ambush happened. We have recently watched the movie ‘The Highwaymen’ with Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson, and this area is where the law finally catches up with the gangsters!

Here’s two interesting tidbits of information that explains why both Bonnie and Clyde walked with a limp.

Clyde – ‘While serving a 14-year sentence in Texas for robbery and automobile theft in January 1932, Clyde decided he could no longer endure the unforgiving work and brutal conditions at the notoriously tough Eastham Prison Farm. In the hopes of forcing a transfer to a less harsh facility, Clyde severed his left big toe and a portion of a second toe with an axe, although it is not known whether he or another prisoner wielded the sharp instrument. The self-mutilation, which permanently crippled his walking stride and prevented him from wearing shoes while driving, ultimately proved unnecessary as he was released on parole six days later.’

Bonnie – ‘On the night of June 10, 1933, Clyde, with Bonnie in the passenger seat, was speeding along the rural roads of north Texas so quickly that he missed a detour sign warning of a bridge under construction. The duo’s Ford V-8 smashed through a barricade at 70 miles per hour and sailed through the air before landing in a dry riverbed. Scalding acid poured out of the smashed car battery and severely burned Bonnie’s right leg, eating away at her flesh down to the bone in some places. As a result of the third-degree burns, Bonnie, like Clyde, walked with a pronounced limp for the rest of her life, and she had such difficulty walking that at times she hopped or needed Clyde to carry her.’

We thought this was kind of funny, considering!

At the time, Bonnie and Clyde were like celebrities and many people admired them and wanted a piece of them so badly, that right after the ambush, they were climbing into the bullet laden car and tearing fabric from the deceased’s clothing, grabbing locks of hair, and someone even tried to cut off Clyde’s trigger finger and his ear! The original historic marker that was placed at the site of the shooting had been damaged so much by people chipping away from the stone, just to have a souvenir, that the county had to put up another marker next to it. The original had even been shot at it – you can see bullet holes in the granite! It was kind of eerie being at the museum and especially at the site of the ambush.

On a happier note 😁 we left Kelowna 4 weeks ago today and have now traveled 5230 miles (8417 kms), and have been in 10 States – Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. Good thing our son is trying to save the world with his work at Tesla, as we have already burned 475.45 gallons of diesel 🤪.

We carried on into our 11th State, Arkansas, and stopped at the town of Hope, which is the birthplace home of William Jefferson Clinton, aka President Bill Clinton. His father was killed in a car accident 3 months before he was born, so his Mom moved back in with her parents. Billy lived in this house from the time he was born until he was 4 years old.

Crater of Diamonds! What more could a girl ask for?? It’s not often you get the chance to dig for diamonds 💎 so we were really looking forward to this! Crater of Diamonds State Park, Arkansas, is situated over an eroded volcanic pipe and is famous for the 37 acre plowed field on which visitors can hunt for diamonds and other semi-precious gems.

We started out our day all gung-ho, equipped with shovels, buckets, and 2 sizes of screening boxes! After 5 hours, we totally lost our oomph, with nothing to show for it but a sunburn, sore backs and a pocket full of ‘Jasper’ – which are really nice rocks but certainly not diamonds!

The methods of finding diamonds in 37 acres of land are surface searching (which is how most of the diamonds are found), screening and wet screening. Sadly, none of these methods worked for us 😢. Guess we have to find our diamonds the old fashioned way . . . . at a store!

All was not lost – the State Park campsite was beautiful and we had a fabulous spot amongst the trees 👍. It’s our most favourite site so far!

NOLA

We got off the Tourist Trail and as we entered South Western Louisiana, we joined the Boudin Trail 😜 Since this involved food, and not people, we were definitely on board! Boudin (pronounced BOO-DAN) is made with ground pork, rice, onion, green peppers, and Cajun spices and seasonings. The flavor-intense ingredients are then stuffed into casings and steamed, or rolled into round balls (almost like croquettes) to be deep fried, grilled, or slow-smoked to perfection. The balls we had, were stuffed with pepper jack cheese, and were ooey-gooey good!!!

Our first night in New Orleans, we were immediately immersed into the music scene and had an entertaining evening of Ethiopian Jazz! Our friend Max (who happens to be an awesome drummer) is in a band called Afrodeziac, and they had a gig at a hole in the wall bar off Frenchmen Street. Frank and Liz are joining us here in NOLA 🤪 Ok, they’re actually here to visit their son, Max, but the fun and laughs have already begun!

Tuesday, we took the trolley to the French Quarter and just wandered around. A lot of options centered around food, of course! We started with Beignets – an amazing icing sugar donut – then had a fill of Gumbo and Jambalaya 😜 A quote from Max’s friend, Elliot, ‘there are 300 restaurants in New Orleans, and 1 menu’ – meaning you’ll always find Gumbo and Jambalaya!

Max joined us and became our local tour guide 😎 It was pretty special to have him drive us around and show us his favourite spots. He took us to a really beautiful cemetery, that was free to walk through since they charge for many of the touristy ones now! Because of the high water table, there can’t be any burials in the ground, so the mausoleums are made of granite and stone and are quite lovely.

We also went to ‘the other side of the end of the world’ where the Industrial Canal meets the Mississippi River. It had a great view of downtown New Orleans.

We came back to Monty to show them around our RV Park, as we’re located on the south side of lake Pontchartrain and they hadn’t been here.

April 24th – Happy 54th Birthday Henry 🎉 Started with brunch at the Trolley Car Cafe then headed to the town of Westwego to board our AirBoat for a Swamp Tour!

It was a lot of fun and we saw several alligators, turtles, blue heron and a snake! The Cypress trees with the Spanish moss hanging from them were really beautiful and the roots sticking out of the water are called Cypress Knees. Because the trees are termite resistant, they were the main wood used for building New Orleans. But unfortunately, the sap is highly flammable and caused some major fires in the city.

One of the alligators we saw is named ‘Winky’, who only has one good eye. They estimate he’s about 70 years old, 14 feet long and about 900 pounds!

Winky jumping for chicken!

We stopped by Loyola University, where Max is working on his Master’s Degree in Music Therapy, to have a tour around. It’s a beautiful campus, and of course, we had to have fun photos in front of the statue known as ‘Touchdown Jesus’ 😁

Cocktails at the Carousel Bar in Hotel Monteleone, where you sit at the bar and it rotates slowly around. Lots of fun and really hard to snag a seat – all those tourists 😉 Dinner was at the restaurant in the hotel – Criolla – really good. We finished the evening at Harrah’s Casino! Henry had an amazing birthday!

Our last day in New Orleans we experienced a good ol’ Louisiana Storm – thunder, lightening, pouring rain! It was so dark out, hard to believe it was daytime! The sun came out in the afternoon, so we ventured out and wandered along Bourbon, Magazine, Royal and Canal Streets in the French Quarter.

We celebrated Frank’s Birthday at a fabulous restaurant in the French Quarter, called The Pelican Club, then said our goodbyes 😢 We had an awesome time in New Orleans and really appreciate Max playing tour guide with us, and Frank and Liz showing us around! What an amazing and wild city 😜

The Tourist Trail

Remember the gazillions of people we met in Zion National Park? We appear to be on the same route as all of them 😳.

We were super disappointed to arrive at Horseshoe Bend and be turned away, along with a hundred or so other vehicles, RV’s and buses! There was plenty of parking so we didn’t quite understand the reasoning, but were told at the gate they weren’t letting any more people in and to come back another day!

We found out later, that we might have been able to take a shuttle from Page, had we of known. Oh well, next time!

This is one of the best places we’ve never been!

This photo of Horseshoe Bend was taken by our friend, Shawn Talbot

Our plan was to stay in Flagstaff, Arizona and day trip it to Sedona, hoping to get some fun cycling in. We awoke to quite cool temperatures and a bit of drizzle, so decided a nice hike would be better. Turns out, so did everyone else on the Tourist Trail 😬.

We must have been very naive thinking at this time of year we’d be able to just travel along and stop where we want. Every trailhead parking lot from Flagstaff to Sedona was full, with a line of cars waiting to enter, on a Tuesday! We didn’t need to hike that badly, so just went for lunch in Sedona then back to Monty for a quiet afternoon and evening.

It was a bit cold sitting outside. Everyone must have come in from hiking because the restaurant filled up within 20 minutes!

We did get to stop at a lookout on the way back. Here’s a photo of the road we took – very thankful we left Monty at the RV site!

The Long and Windy Road!

We left Flagstaff very early Wednesday morning as we knew we had a lot of miles to cover – 563 miles (906km) to be exact 😳 We wanted to avoid the big storm that was happening around us, and we did 👍 It was a beautiful day as we passed through Arizona, New Mexico and the Continental Divide, into El Paso, Texas. A very, very long day – 11 hours on the road – but stunning scenery the entire drive.

The setting sunlight hitting the mountains
We arrived!

Apparently driving all day was worth it . . . . we lost everybody on the Tourist Trail 😎 Driving from El Paso, Texas to Carlsbad, New Mexico was short and easy. No one in front of us, no one behind us and no cell service.😳

The Carlsbad Caverns were absolutely amazing! There were tourists, but nothing like we’ve seen so far. Again, our photos can not do it justice! The Cavern has a labyrinth of underground chambers, including one of the largest ever discovered. The total length of the rooms and passages is still unknown, but the explored part of the main cavern is more than 30 miles long, of which 3 miles are open to visitors. The main chamber is called ‘The Big Room’ and is over a mile to walk around!

Ok, here’s a history lesson for you about New Mexico – in 1563, it was named Nuevo México after the Aztec Valley of Mexico by Spanish settlers, more than 250 years before the establishment and naming of the present-day country of Mexico; thus, the present-day state of New Mexico was not named after the country today known as Mexico. We did not know this, but do now! 😜

Had a wonderful drive from Carlsbad, NM to Fort Stockton, Texas, then on to San Antonio, Texas.

‘Remember The Alamo!’ was our fight cry as we pulled in and joined the Tourist Trail, again 😬 To be fair, we didn’t realize we were arriving at the start of Fiesta San Antonio – their version of Mardi Gras – that runs from April 18-28 🎉 It was lively and a lot of fun.

The Alamo was much smaller than we thought it would be, but great to see. Davy Crockett lost his life here while trying to defend the Alamo against the Mexicans. The Texans did win their independence a short time later, as a matter of fact, it was on April 21st, 1836!

The San Antonio River flows through San Antonio, and they’ve made a beautiful pedestrian-only River Walk, with access to fabulous restaurants and shops. We took a boat ride through the city and really enjoyed the vibrant atmosphere. The river also flows past our campsite and the path is a 5 mile bike ride to downtown.

The RV Parks we’ve been staying at have been fairly basic and mainly gravel parking lots with services! The fancier sites have a bit of grass and perhaps a tree 👍 We usually don’t unhitch Monty if we’re only staying one night and the site is level enough. It’s been quiet and we haven’t minded the lack of view or scenery, since we’re out exploring all day anyway.

In the past 3 weeks, we’ve driven 4,000 miles (6,437kms) and we’ve only just begun 😎

Happy Easter!

2 Utes in Parts Unknown

It was a relatively short drive from Las Vegas to St. George, Utah. The scenery was stunning and made for a very pleasant drive. Due to the amount of snow at the higher elevations, many RV parks were closed still for the season, which made it difficult to book into the parks we had hoped for due to overwhelming demand. Also were surprised to find there is open Camping south of St. George off the highway, if you’re willing to go without services. We were fortunate to get a spot on a cancellation and were very happy to make St. George our home base, with a great location for day trips, without Monty!

St. George was named in honor of Mormon apostle George A, Smith, also known as the ‘Potato Saint’ and is the childhood home of Brigham Young. We stayed at Temple View RV Park. We didn’t have a view 😉 but the temple was very beautiful.

St. George, Utah Temple

It was an interesting morning when we awoke to find our fridge not working! We have warranty, which would be awesome if we could get someone to look at it, or get it in to an RV dealer. After calling and leaving messages with several mobile service RV technicians, the next step was the local dealerships. No problem, if we didn’t mind waiting a bit – the first appointment available was May 15th!

Nothing we could do except hope a technician called back, put bowls of ice in the fridge and freezer, then go exploring! We drove to Snow Canyon State Park, which is named for a Utah pioneer, not due to the weather conditions. Several movies were filmed here, such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid!

It was absolutely stunning and we went for a hike to the White Rocks Amphitheater. We also saw Black Rocks and Red Rocks!

We were almost finished our hike when we received a call from one of the technicians we had left a message with – he was willing to stop by and have a look at our fridge!!! Long story short, a temperature sensor replaced and we’re good as new 👍

If you look closely enough at the last 2 photos, you’ll see a trail in the valley bottom. We loved Snow Canyon so much that we went back again another day with our bikes! The next photo is us at the bottom of the canyon looking up at the spot we’re at in the above photos.

Not a bad place to spend the afternoon on our bikes 😎

Nice View for Lunch

On Saturday, us and a gazillion other people (ok, to be fair, probably not a gazillion, but it sure felt like it 🤪) headed to Zion National Park! Unfortunately, the scenic route was closed due to a rock slide, and there was no other vehicle access except for the park shuttle buses.

And, with a gazillion people there, the shuttle lines were at least an hour long! After trying to find parking for half and hour, of course we were going to stand in the shuttle line up . . . NOT. So, we walked on a trail for a few miles until we came to a shuttle stop that only had a short line, so, standing room only, we rode it to the end where the Narrows Trail starts.

View from the Pa’rus Trail along the Virgin River

The Narrows were awesome, although walking the path with all our fellow tourists took a bit of the natural element away.

The Narrows
Squirrel 🤪
Waterfall

Our cameras can not do justice to the incredible beauty of Utah. As the sun moves, the colors on the rocks change and it is awe inspiring. We have really enjoyed our visit here.

From The Ocean To The Desert

We had a beautiful drive from Half Moon Bay to Bakersfield, with mile after mile after mile of Almond farms and even a brief section of citrus trees. The smell was amazing – it was like ‘Soarin’ Over California’ at Disneyland’s California Adventure!

After Bakersfield, strong, gusty winds made for a fun drive with Monty 🤪 The Tehachapi Pass has been harnessing wind energy for electrical power since the early 1980’s and is the largest wind farm in California.

Wind Farms

Made it to Las Vegas and were completely blown away (not just because of the 60 mph gusts of wind!) by the size and scale of the RV park we booked in to! Everything is massive in Vegas, and this is no exception.

A secured, gated entry, several ‘check in’ lanes, and a main office building that included a store (groceries, souvenirs, clothing, RV supplies, slot machines), restaurant, bar and banquet hall, took us by surprise! The pools are located behind this 😎

There are about 935 RV sites in this complex and at least half of them are occupied by the big diesel-pusher motorhomes, with tow vehicles! There are only a few vacant spots and they are completely full for this next weekend! Unbelievable!!!

Site Map, Entry, Our Spot, One of the Pools

We love Vegas! Shopped, ate fabulous meals, gave some donations 😉 and now it’s time to move on.

The Fountains of Bellagio

So far on our journey, we’ve been quite familiar with the cities and towns on our route as none of them are new to us. It’s now time to venture out to parts unknown, at least to us 😜 and see where the road leads!