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Archive for the ‘road trip!’ Category

Grand Canyon (nee Dinosaur) Caverns

I listed 27 dinosaur and fossil attractions in the “Dig This!” article featured in the Winter 14 issue of Airstream Life, but I’m sad to say that Dinosaur Caverns—renamed “Grand Canyon” Caverns in 1962—didn’t make the cut.

While I loved every minute of my visit there, the dinosaurs were just too…plastic.

The veneer of fifties kitsch still clings to the historic site on Route 66, where gigantic, green, cheesy cartoon dinos greet visitors.

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harvest hosts

Ask any RVing oenophile and they’ll concur: Harvest Hosts a fun and fabulous way to camp for “free”.

My southwest journey was a trip of firsts. My first look at the Grand Canyon. The first time my tires touched Route 66 (and what better place to emerge onto the historic highway than Kingman, Arizona). And, near Kingman, my first experience with the Harvest Hosts program.

The uncomplicated concept is thus: forty dollars a year buys you access to a super-secret map of wineries and vineyards where, for one night, you may camp at no cost.

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the gift of gabbs, nevada

My quest to research the lesser-known fossil sites of the far west led me to Berlin Ichthyosaur State Park, in The Middle of Nowhere, Nevada.

“So this is where it ends,” I said to myself when I pulled up to the entrance. When, after fifty minutes I passed no one on godforsaken, rural highway 361—and then observed that I was the only visitor at the desolate campground—I fully expected to be ax murdered shortly after nightfall.

Imagine my relief to be greeted by jocular Ranger Robin.

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armstrong air and space museum

If your coach is in hock at the Airstream factory for repair (as described in the prior post), you’re aware that there’s nothing—I mean, nothing—to do in the village of Jackson Center, population 1450 (unless you’re there during Alumapalooza week).

Panic not. You’re near an area known as “The Greater Grand Lake St. Marys Region of Auglaize and Mercer Counties”. And a pretty neat space museum, only twenty miles from Airstream, Inc.

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bicycle museum of america

Pee Wee Herman’s bike isn’t in the basement of the Alamo.

Equally unlikely: it’s in New Bremen, Ohio.

I obtained this knowledge in a roundabout way. On my highway journey to Alumapalooza, a speeding semi-trailer in an adjacent lane kicked up a rock which shot under my Airstream and took out various appararti in the undercarriage and shredded the banana wrap.

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of steinbeck and salinas

You know you’re in for an underwhelming museum experience when the docent at the entrance greets you with “We don’t have a lot of exhibits right now.”

There’s a lot to read and very little to see at the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California, where Nobel Prize-winning novelist John Steinbeck…I dunno. Was born? Grew up? Went to school? I was unable to differentiate, assimilate and process what I wanted from the barrage of words and pictures and plastic dioramas that make up the permanent collection, all competing for attention.

Since the exhibit hall is essentially set up for children to enjoy, this should be easier.

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the thing

I had a choice to make upon leaving the Alumafiesta Airstream event in Tucson. Drive north an hour to the Biosphere research facility and educate myself about Earth systems planning and policy? Or slog east toward El Paso on the I-10 to Dragoon, Arizona?

No contest. I went to see The Thing.

Every driver passing through the Southwest has seen the garish yellow billboards that command you to go to The Thing. As you near fabled Exit 322, they come fast and furious, dominating the scenery. “Mystery of the Desert” the signs proclaim. “Have You Seen It?” they tantalize.

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alumafiesta 2014 — airstream event, tucson, arizona

My diagnosis came during Alumafiesta.

I was sitting in a computer repair shop in the bad part of Tucson, waiting for my iPhone to be resurrected after it fell headfirst into the toilet at LazyDays RV Park. Leafing through a GQ, I came upon an article about an interesting new disorder that I now know I have: FOMO.

Fear of Missing Out. The tongue-in-cheek article detailed the anxiety and self loathing you experience from overconsuming social media and discovering with every click (or swipe or flick) that your friends and acquaintances are having more fun than you are.

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nevada state museum

“On the road again…” Without fail I sing that out loud when I put the 4-Runner in drive with the Airstream in tow. This trip, Ralph was spared (left behind to continue shaping young minds at COCC), but I had Raven by my side as I embarked on a long-ish journey through the Southwest.

Among other activities, I was researching the lesser-known fossil dig sites of the West for a magazine article. My first order of business was to study up on the geology of Nevada. First stop, Reno…and the nearby Nevada State Museum in Carson City.

Despite the terrible online reviews, I overnighted at the Silver Sage RV Park in Reno.

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world’s largest

Spend any time at all on the American highway and you’ll see one: the world’s largest [fill in the blank].

The Frazee, Minnesota turkey. The Vergas, Minnesota loon. (Giant fowl are popular in MInnesota). The Medicine Hat Teepee in Alberta, Canada. The list is endless; their aficionados, legion.

If you have a very long Airstream you’ll have trouble turning it around—especially if other gawkers pull in behind you—at the site of Salem Sue, the World’s Largest Holstein Cow, who makes her home at the top of a steep hill in North Dakota.

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