Heading West Part 1

Denver, CO to Springer, NM… November 8th

Interstate 25





It really feels good to be back on the road again. Even with a dirty windshield, the view from a motorhome never disappoints. I have no trouble switching into my photo-journalist role.

We spend the first night just off the Interstate at the Old Santa Fe Trail RV Park in Springer, NM.





Springer, NM to Magdalena, NM… November 9th

Back on I-25 we pass through the outskirts of Santa Fe.



In Socorro, we take Route 60 West to Magdalena…


…where we spend the night at the Western Motel and RV Park.





According to en.m.wikipedia.org, Magdalena is a small ranching community that grew up in 1884. The mining boom of 1913 changed the status of Magdalena from Village into Incorporated Town. In 2012 the U.S. Census Bureau recorded 926 people living here.




It is also known as “Trails End” for the 1885 railroad spur line that ran 26 miles from Socorro to Magdalena. Cowboys drove herds of cattle and sheep into town via the Old Magdalena Trail. The original stockyards are still intact.

The Public Library and Boxcar Museum are housed in the old railroad depot.




As I snoop around taking pictures, I meet 3 local gentlemen and a dog who jumped out of the backseat of the white truck above. The owner of the dog verifies the Wikipedia information about the stockyard driveway. Between 1885 through 1916, cowboys from the west drove thousands of cattle and sheep to Magdalena to board the train. Besides these grazers, timber, wool, and ore were also transported. In 1971 the trains stopped running. 

The Santa Fe boxcar above is being gutted for remodeling as an addition to the Boxcar Museum. I walk up to the man working on this project. As we talk we became instant friends. First he shows me the gutted boxcar. It reminds me of a blank canvas for an RV or Tiny House. And being next to the library, I recall the children’s book series, The Boxcar Children. He proceeds to tell me how he settled in Magdalena from Southern California and now lives off the grid on land purchased in the surrounding hills.

A younger man, overhearing our conversation, joins us to share how he also lives off the grid. He and his wife purchased some land up in the hills. Solar panels, a well, and I don’t know what their toilet situation is… Property tax is $1 a year! The only drawback is the wear and tear on the truck going to and fro from their homestead. 

60 West into Arizona… November 10th


The desert dominates the landscape as we continue due West on 60. Within 24 miles we see large objects spread across the desert.



These objects are the immense dishes of the Very Large Array (VLA) spread across more than a hundred square miles of desert. They gather invisible light— radio waves— naturally emitted in space. The VLA is the most famous and powerful telescope of its kind. Precious information from space travels for billions of years to reach the Array. We learn about the birth of stars, the growth of galaxies, the power of black holes, and clouds of molecules that may be the building blocks of life. (Travel Brochure)



Next time we’ll stop and visit…

After another 10 minutes, we approach the Cibola National Forest.






By 9:50 AM we enter Pie Town, NM.





Unfortunately, we arrive too early to buy a pie!


Pie Town, NM is named for a bakery making dried-apple pies. Clyde Norman established the town in the early 1920s. On the 2nd Saturday of each September, the annual “Pie Festival” takes place. (newmexico.org)

According to en.m.wikipedia.org, as of the 2010 census, Pie Town had a population of 186.


So we continue on 60 West toward Globe, AZ, crossing the border some 30 minutes later.



Where Have I Been For 3 Months?

So, Where Did I Wander?

The last time I posted, Jeff and I were in Delaware, OH visiting my grandson in Ollie Land. We left August 28th and returned to the Denver, CO area where Jeff parked the RV in his son David’s driveway. On September 2nd I flew back to Columbus, OH

IMG_3090to help my son, Brian and daughter-in-law, Jen get ready for the birth of Oliver’s new baby brother or sister. Jeff stayed in Colorado with his sons, Andy and David and Andy and Daisy’s 4 children (Jernigan Land).

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When I arrive in Ollie Land, Oliver is potty-training…


My son, John, spends a weekend and he and Brian paint a mountain mural on Oliver’s new bedroom walls.


Meanwhile the new baby’s due date comes and goes…


Until October 12th… At 4:04 PM the new baby arrives… It’s a girl!!!

IMG_3117 Reagan Rose


Oliver immediately steps up to the plate and assumes his role as big bro…

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I am invited to stay for Halloween…


But on November 4th I say goodbye…

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… and tearfully fly back to Denver where Jeff eagerly awaits with his own fun times in Jernigan Land.


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On November 7th… Another bittersweet goodbye…


…as Jeff and I head west to California for a warm winter.

Columbus, Ohio

We spend an evening with Jeff’s sister, Jan, in Indianapolis. Bob and Jan bought a small camper that they park at Heartland RV Resort  in Greenfield, Indiana for the summer season.


We were able to find space here as well, so Jan joined us after work on Friday, August 18th. She is a manager and sommelier (wine steward) at a restaurant in Indianapolis.

Saturday we arrive in Delaware, Ohio, north of Columbus and about 30 minutes from Ollie Land, where we spend the next 9 nights at Alum Creek State Park. (I should say Jeff spends the nights here. I stay at Ollie’s for 4 of those nights.)

Alum Creek State Park

Behind the RV, a path leads to a trail.

The summer wildflowers are beautiful but the humidity and biting bugs are unbearable.


Ollie and his dad (my son, Brian) drive me back to the RV on Sunday and stay for a quick cookout.

…the fire and the outside temperature!

We stay inside the RV where the air conditioning provides comfort.

Oliver is not sure what to make of our home on wheels. And he hasn’t napped all weekend, so he is not a happy camper…

His po’d look…

But then he starts coming around…


And I manage to get the start of a smile…

Now he’s a happy camper!

His surprised face…
Pinching his nose…
Counting his fingers…
Tickling his knees…
Making a happy face!

Picking Our Way Through Iowa

Antique Archaeology

Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz travel the back roads of America looking for amazing things buried in people’s garages and barns. What most people see as junk, they see as dollar signs. Each item they pick has a history all its own. And the people they meet are a breed all their own. They are the American Pickers and the stars of the reality TV series with the same name. (en.m.wikipedia.org)


Jeff and I enjoy watching their series so we decided to include a stop at Antique Archaeology (Mike’s business and American Pickers home base in Le Claire, Iowa) on our way east to visit family in Indiana and Ohio.

Le Claire is a quaint Mississippi River town and the birthplace of Buffalo Bill.

The store is tucked away on a side street across from the Mississippi River.

We recognize many items from episodes of their shows. Most of the “picked” objects are for display purposes and not for sale.

Antique Archaeology is like a museum that sells souvenirs. You can purchase mugs, t-shirts, key rings, and other pricey paraphernalia.

We enjoyed just looking around…

Jeff was a happy camper!

Nebraska Scenic Byway

Sandhills Journey… State Route 2

From Alliance, NE we travel across the north-central part of the state through the Sandhills, a region of mixed-grass prairie on grass-stabilized sand dunes. (en.m.wikipedia.org)

This means the large sand masses were formed by blowing sand and are now held in place by vegetation consisting mainly of grasses. (extension.unl.edu)

The Sandhills sit on the Ogallala Aquifer which creates temporary and permanent shallow lakes and wetlands.

The Ogallala Aquifer is also referred to as the High Plains Aquifer because it sits under some 174,000 square miles of the High Plains, stretching from South Dakota to Texas.


It is a porous body of complex sediments and sedimentary rocks that holds groundwater, producing wells and springs. (plainshumanities.enl.edu)

Nebraska National Forest… Bessey Recreation Area

Sixteen miles east of Thedford, NE and a mile west of Halsey on State Route 2, we spend 3 relaxing nights here. For $5.50 per night, we have a space with electricity.

Dr. Charles E. Bessey, a professor of botany and horticulture, was convinced from his surveys that this region of Nebraska was once forested and could be forested again.

So, in the late 1880s he proposed planting a Sandhills forest.

Recognizing that much of the of the country’s eastern forests had been harvested or burned, he wrote to President Theodore Roosevelt on January 25, 1902 stating, “… it is merely a question of a few years before the General Government must take steps to provide for the production of timber for our future needs… ”

On April 16, 1902 two Forest Reserves were established by Presidential Proclamation. In 1908 the 90,000 acre Dismal River Forest Reserve became the Nebraska National Forest and now contains over 22,000 acres of hand-planted trees.

Ironically, the National Forest provides many values, but supplying timber is not one of these. Instead, this public land supports wildlife habitats, livestock grazing, and recreation. (plaque in Nebraska National Forest)

The campground sits near the Bessey Nursery, the oldest seedling nursery managed by the USDA Forest Service. A walking trail meanders sporadically through the Bessey Arboretum. There are 52 tree species on this self-guided walking tour, the first trees most probably planted in the early 1900s. Jeff and I identified them all!

My favorites:

The Golden Elderberry…

And the Catalpa, with its green bean-like pods…

As we meander through the arboretum and picnic grounds we cross the Middle Loup River.

The Loup is the most extensive prairie river system in the Sandhills.  A prairie river, also referred to as a braided river, is a wide shallow river with a network of narrow channels meandering through a broad riverbed.

Prairie rivers carry a lot of sediment that forms sand bars, or braids, which separate the channels. Sandhill rivers have few tributaries and flow at a steady rate. (plaque on bridge)

Watch your step here! The stairs lead directly into the river… a great place to start tubing or kayaking.

A fishing pond lies next to the river.

Scott Lookout Tower

Built in 1944, this is the only functioning fire lookout tower in the state of Nebraska. It is still used to scan for fires when the danger of forest fires is high.

From the observation tower the views of the Sandhills, grasslands, and forests are pretty cool.

What’s not so cool…

 me… afraid of heights…

Nearest Town

Halsey is 1 mile east of the Nebraska National Forest.

It has a post office, motel,  and restaurant. And that’s pretty much it… A plaque on the Community Building explains the history of this village:

In 1885 surveyors designated a route through the Sandhills for a Burlington Railroad branch line. The rails reached this point in 1887 and the town was laid out. It was named Halsey after Halsey E. Yates, the son of Charles E. Yates, a Burlington railroad official.

The tracks and trains still run through here…

…on the edge of the Nebraska National Forest… parallel to State Route 2… and oh, so close to the Bessey Recreation Area campground…

Hearing trains blasting their horns in the distance is nostalgic and soothing. Having your sleep interrupted all night with the oncoming roar of locomotion followed by sets of blasts from train horns… not nostalgic or soothing… but something to laugh at, deal with, and count each night!


Alliance, Nebraska

Created from vintage automobiles from the 50s and 60s, Carhenge is a replica of England’s Stonehenge, the ancient alignment of stones that chart the phases of the sun and moon. (Carhenge online brochure)

All 38 major stones of Stonehenge are replicated by 7-foot-wide cars planted trunk down, rising 15 to 17 feet… the same dimensions as Stonehenge. (Carhenge online brochure)

Jim Reinders built Carhenge as a memorial to his father. It was dedicated on the summer solstice of June 1987. (carhenge.com)

And other car sculptures…

…like this functional bench, one of a pair, produced from car parts…

“Auto-graph Car”…

“Carsule” created by Jim Reinders for his 75th birthday…

“Car-nestoga” by David Kowalski, commemorating the pioneers crossing the plains along the Oregon Trail…

“The Fourd Seasons” by Jim Reinders… compromised only of Fords… suggests  the Nebraska’s seasonal landscape as wheat is planted, grows, matures, and renders the field barren during the windy winter…

“Car-asaurus” by an unknown artist…

I don’t get this either, but that’s what an informational plaque says…

Now, this looks like a dinosaur! But it’s untitled and anonymous…

“Spawning Salmon” by Geoff Sandhurst from Canada…

Bayard, Nebraska

Leaving Colorado

We travel the back roads of northeastern Colorado through the Pawnee National Grassland.

The grassland is located on the Colorado Eastern Plains, a part of the Great Plains. In the early 1900s the land was somewhat cultivated until the Dust Bowl of the 1930s depopulated the area. (en.m.wikipedia.org)

We enter the southwest panhandle of Nebraska via State Route 71…

and head east on State Route 92 toward the city of Bayard.

We spend the next 3 nights at Chimney Rock Pioneer Crossing RV Park, just off 92 and 3 miles southwest of Bayard.

Chimney Rock is visible from the front of our RV.

At night the rock is lit up.

Our next door neighbor has the smallest RV we have ever seen. It’s really a tent on wheels with an electrical hookup. For awhile she had a tall and narrow teepee-like tent set up. A shower and portable potty? But the wind blew it over so she disassembled it.

I did some online research. The 4×8 unit is called a Runaway and can be equipped with air conditioning and television. Of course, everything is extra. YouTube has lots of videos too.

Notice all the stakes lined up around the old windmill below?

Each stake represents a reserved spot to set up a tent. This part of Nebraska will be in direct viewing of the solar eclipse on August 21st.

Chimney Rock

Chimney Rock is a prominent geological rock formation that served as a landmark along the Oregon Trail, the California Trail, and the Mormon Trail in the mid-1800s. The peak of Chimney Rock is a little over 4,000 feet above sea level.

The first recorded mention of Chimney Rock was in 1827 by fur trader Joshua Pilcher. The Native Americans already living in this area, however, called this by a different name which meant elk penis.

Based on sketches, paintings, written accounts, and an 1897 photograph, Chimney Rock was taller when first seen by emigrating settlers. Erosion and lightning has since reduced its height. (en.m.wikipedia.org)

Courthouse and Jail Rocks

Courthouse and Jail Rocks are 2 more famous landmarks of western migration. Often called a “castle” or “solitary tower,” the name “courthouse” was first used in 1837.

Rising some 400 feet above the North Platte Valley, these 2 prominent rocks are composed of clay, sandstone, and volcanic ash. (historical marker plaque)

First impressions of Nebraska…

  • Cornfields… duh, the Cornhusker State…
  • Black-Eyed Susans
  • Cows and more cows
  • Trains blasting their horns ALL night

Jernigan Land Part One

Hanging Out…

4 Silly monkeys hanging in A tree, emjay, the oldest, strikes a pose for me.
3 silly monkeys climbing in the breeze, jasley, next in line, gives the tree a squeeze.
  2 silly monkeys sTanding in a tree, jace and Eliska are cute as can be.


 Jace doesn’t like to pose for me, so most of my pics of him are blurry. But this time I got lucky.

  Emjay is always ready for a photo op…

Hanging In…


On Display…

Jasmine created a baby dinosaur hatching from an egg in art class at her elementary school.

It was chosen and displayed at Grandview High School.

Denver Museum of Nature and Science

How tall are you next to a dinosaur?


  Jasley stands on her tippy toes…


Monkey business…


A view of downtown Denver from the mezzanine balcony…