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Posts Tagged ‘history’

happy traveler rv, palm springs

I polled everyone with the question, “where should I camp in Palm Springs?” Okay, I asked three people. But all three, without hesitation, immediately said “Happy Traveler”.

All then followed that recommendation with “you’ll need reservations, and it’s probably full.” Ralph, responsible for the destinations and tactics of our southwest road trip, called Happy Traveler RV Park well in advance…and conscientiously booked a reservation for the wrong nights.

We discovered the error on our way there when Ralph called to confirm our arrival, days later than he reserved. “Don’t worry, we’ll figure something out,” said Mike, the manager.

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manzanar

The Manzanar War Relocation Center, where we briefly stopped during our southwest road trip. At the base of a starkly beautiful range of hills stand two of the grim barracks, out of the former hundreds, reconstructed for historical reflection.

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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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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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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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pendleton round-up

I towed into Pendleton, Oregon minutes before the Westward Ho! parade and faced nowhere to park; every empty slot and lot teemed with RVs and horse trailers and teepees. Somehow I squeezed into a miracle spot in the WalMart parking lot, stuffed to the curbs with motorhomes, tents, and rednecks camped in the beds of their pickups…like spring break for hillbillies. I followed the crowd and piles of manure on Court Street to the all non-motorized parade which showcased wild west wagons and buggies, all manner of cowboy, Indians, Mexicans, sheriffs, preachers, outlaws, firemen, Oregon Trail pioneers, weird timber equipment, every rodeo princess in the Northwest, longhorns, mules, donkeys, horses, miniature ponies, and State Treasurer Ted Wheeler.

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