Our summer travels began in April with a trip to Rusk, Texas for a Lone Star Chapter Rally that included a train ride on the Texas State Railroad. The trip from Rusk to Palestine takes about an hour at 20 miles per hour. They turn the steam engine around on a triangle track then return to Rusk. It's a good time getting together with friends and making new friends. As chapter participants, Louise and I are fickle. Like our trips to FMCA National Conventions, we'll get there if it is on our way for our summer travels. We have never been weekend RV'ers. When we go, we're on the road for months and our journeys are usually guided by family commitments or vast travel plans like our 2006 trip to Alaska. So this summer we're out West while FMCA rallies in Massachusetts. Last year we were in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine on our way to Newfoundland and Labrador. Maybe next year we'll synchronize our travels with FMCA.
Leaving Rusk, we were headed for eastern Missouri to visit family. Louise suggested that we make a stop in Hot Springs, Arkansas. She was thinking horse races but the horses weren't running, the season hadn't started. So we did the hot baths. The real old fashioned ones at the Buckstaff Bath House, a hot soak in spring water so hot they have to add cold water, loofa sponge scrub, a Sitz bath, 360o needle shower, massage and hot wax for the hands. Follow that with breakfast at The Pancake House and you have a great day ahead of you! We strolled the shops and stores collecting fun stuff along the way, custom soaps for the ladies in the family, wine souvenirs for our wine lovers. We drove the scenic drives and enjoyed an overview of the area from the tower atop Hot Springs Mountain.
Arriving in Missouri we took care of doctors appointments then turned our attention to our children and grandchildren. Our oldest grandson turned16 last month. His sister just turned 13. Mom and dad have their hands full and grandpa and grandma are just grinning! We have another grandson who will be 16 in November. He and his dad just took a trip to northern Illinois to get a 1979 Trans Am for his car. He has a sister who will be 12 and a young brother who is on his way to being 3. He also has a girlfriend. Grandpa and grandma are laughing! Actually, we are quite impressed with the parenting that our children are doing. They are active parents, involved in their children's lives and doing their best to encourage their children and keeping them involved in school and community. While we were there we monitored my youngest sister who has gone through a radical masectomy and chemotherapy. We just received a message from her husband, the reconstructive surgery is complete and she is healing. We are hoping that this will now be behind her so she get on with her life.
From Missouri we headed west for a short visit with our friends in Yankton, South Dakota. Bill and Laura sold their motor home last year but we still like them. Louise was nursing a sore toe so she wasn't exactly running about. I played golf several times with Bill and a neighbor and even lent a hand with "The First Tee" instruction one day. We visited the National Music Museum in Vermillion one day and I highly recommend this as a destination for those interested in music. One of the unique features of this museum is the iPod guided tour that describes a small percentage of the instruments on display. That narration is also accompanied by, what else, music. In fact they have the various instruments that are highlighted playing in the background. You can see the instrument and also hear it. What a spectacular experience. We followed that with lunch and then a visit to Valiant Vineyards in Vermillion. We also enjoyed an evening concert in the park next to the Missouri River in Yankton. Evenings were spent in competition as we faced off, playing a variety of games. The highlight of the visit had to be Czech Days in Tabor, SD. We had lunch, toured some of the town, enjoyed a celebratory Mass and choir performance, Bill and Laura sang in the choir. Then there was the beer garden with imported Czech beer. The evening featured Czech dancers performing traditional dances.
In late June we headed for Deadwood, SD. We have been through the Black Hills on many occasions but never been to Deadwood so it was our objective on this visit. Our campground was humble, narrow sites on gravel. The town was filled with visitors on the weekend and so did the campground. From the campground we were able to walk through town and when the day wore on we could take a shuttle back to the park. With casinos, bars and gunfights in the streets, it doesn't sound like a family kind of place, but it is and there were many families. The museum in town is a first class museum highlighting the history of Deadwood. They have an extensive collection of wagons, buggies, stagecoaches, horse drawn hearses and more in the basement of the museum. We enjoyed all of Deadwood including Saloon Number 10 featuring the murder of Wild Bill Hitchcock and the trial of the killer. In every case, the professional actors involved children in the skit and took time to detail the actual history as the dramatization took place. Sunday we did the cemetery tour and then hiked to the Friendship Tower on Mount Roosevelt which overlooks the northern end of the Black Hills. It was a thoroughly enjoyable visit.
To the south of the Black Hills in Nebraska is Scottsbluff. We had passed through the area several years ago and it looked worth a stop so we made a three day stop there. This is a prime area for learning about the Oregon Trail and the Great Plains in the mid 1800's. We drove to the top of Scott's Bluff National Monument and hiked trails to various overlooks on the prairie, played golf at Monument Shadows golf course just below the bluff, and toured the Museum of the Prairie. The various stories and exhibits transported us to a time of incredible hardship as the pioneers struggled to make their way west through what was at the time a very hostile area. One hundred and seventy years later, it is hard to imagine that times could be so hard and now the plains so much different now. In 2004 we followed Lewis and Clark across the country and I had the same impression, from wilderness with life and death struggles to modern times, the world has been radically changed in just the last few hundred years. That statement comes from the perspective of someone who has lived a significant portion of one hundred years.
Next we continue to push west...