Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Here Comes the Rain Again

Thursday morning we head out on our trip to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. If you follow this blog, you know that just about every trip we take has posts about rain. It's become a tradition! I looked at the long range forecast for this trip and it looks like a rain/snow mix every day. Hopefully it won't be like the recent Arkansas trip where the rain was constant.

I've always been a person that enjoys spur of the moment travel. Some of the best trips of my life were taken on a whim. I do not enjoy trip planning. I prefer the flexibility and surprises of heading out with a general goal in mind, but nothing concrete. You can't do that when you make reservations months in advance Whenever I plan a trip that includes 2 days in one place and 4 in another, it ends up that I should have chose 4 days in the first place and 2 in the other. How do you know until you get there?

These SkyAuction certificates have been an outstanding value, but what happens when the place you chose has bad weather (like Arkansas) or just isn't as nice as expected? You're either stuck with 7 nights in that place or you leave early.

Norine will read this post and say "Oh no, there he goes. He's trying to justify a motor home again...." Well, maybe I am!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Viral Email

Everyone seems to hate all the email messages they get that say things like "Forward this to 10 people and something will pop up on your screen" or "Forward this to all your friends or something bad will happen to you". It's kind of like daylight savings time. Everyone hates it, but it is still around. Now we're being bombarded with viral political email. People continue to forward these emails without checking the facts. Some of them are so preposterous that I don't understand how anyone can think they're true. Almost all of them are either totally false or contain misleading information. This isn't limited to email. It's all over Facebook, and I'm sure all other social networking sites.

When I get these, I always check the facts and sometimes respond to the sender. Unfortunately, this is ineffective because the emails continue. Some of the people are good friends so I don't want to alienate them, but I wish they would get the hint and stop sending the trash.

I don't care what your political views are and I don't publicly flaunt mine. I just do not understand why so many people are so quick to believe outlandish stories without taking a few seconds to find out if they're really true. All they do is stir up hate, and there is way too much of that going around.

Ok, I'm done venting. I'm off to delete some email.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Tortilla Pizza

A couple of weeks ago, I was looking around for something to eat. I found a can of pizza sauce in the pantry and thought "what can I do with this?". I looked in the refrigerator and found some tortillas and a package of shredded mozzarella cheese. Hmmm...this has possibilities. In the freezer, I found some ground beef that I made for lasagna some time ago. Already cooked and seasoned, perfect!

After some experimenting, I perfected the little tortilla pizzas. Lisa and Bob stopped by while we were making them and it didn't take long to use up the tortillas. Here's the 'secret' recipe. I'm sure a zillion people have already done this, but I have not been able to find a recipe like this for a convection oven:

1 - 8 in flour tortilla

1 - tablespoon of pizza sauce (I like Cascone's Chicago Style)

Favorite toppings

Cover with shredded italian cheese mix

Put a sheet of parchment paper on your cooking sheet for a crispy crust. You can see how often we cook these pizzas by the color of the parchment paper. Parchment paper can be purchased in most grocery stores.

Bake in convection oven for 5 minutes at 425 degrees

How easy is that? The result is a tasty little treat. Be careful though, they're addicting!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Can I Use My Nuvi on My Spaceship?

Our usually reliable Nuvi stopped working on our Arkansas trip. Before we even left Kansas City, it was trying to drive us around in some ridiculous circles. We knew how to get out of town so we ignored it's constant "recalculating". In Arkansas, it went totally bonkers. It started looping with "Drive the highlighted route...recalculating" and it didn't have a clue where it was. Fortunately, our resort was the only one in the area so we were able to find it.

We had to navigate the rest of our trip with a map. How archaic is that? We did manage to find our way around, but we really missed the GPS. We tried the GPS on our phone but it just wasn't the same. It's been years since we've used a map. We've relied on the Nuvi for all of our trips. It's taken us faithfully to Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado by car and many other places in rental cars.

Today I got on the Garmin site to research a replacement. I found a neat tool on the site where you choose the options you want and it tells you which models have them all. So, I asked Norine what was important to her in a Nuvi. Her answer: "Comfortable seats". Uh...OK...how do I respond to that?

Norine tends to hear some things slightly different than the way they were spoken. As a result, a very humorous, and sometimes embarrassing, answer flows out of her mouth. I know she didn't hear "Nuvi" when I asked that question, but I don't know what she did hear, and I'm afraid to ask.

One morning after a very late night, we went to the restaurant in the hotel where we were staying. We were still a little sleepy and needed some coffee. A very nice elderly hispanic lady led us to our table. She handed us our menus and in her tiny voice, asked "Have you seen our specials?". Norine's eyes got wide and she looked at the woman and said "You have a spaceship?". I suppose "specials" could sound like "spaceship" but I don't think the lady quite caught the connection. She slowly backed away and we never saw her again.

I'll be nice and end this here and not talk about strange vehicles and non-pregnant waitress. I think you get the point. There is never a dull moment when you travel with Norine!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Final Day - Heading Home Early

The constant rain got to be too much. We checked the forecast and there was not much hope for a break in the weather before Friday afternoon. Off and on rain would have been OK, but the constant downpour drove us to pack up and head home. We drove up through Hardy and then stopped at Mammoth Springs. It ended up being just a potty stop since it was still raining pretty hard. The springs looked interesting and worth a return trip. We were just about a mile south of the Missouri border here. Looking north, the sky looked like we might be heading into better weather. Just across the Missouri border is Grand Gulf State Park. It was definitely worth a stop, even in the rain.

Grand Gulf State Park is also known as Missouri's Little Grand Canyon. The park is actually a collapsed cave system. Part of the remaining roof of the cave forms one of the largest natural bridges in the state. We were standing on the bridge for the above photos, but the rain kept us from walking to a point we could see the bridge.

At the lower end of the chasm, the water empties into the remaining underground cave system. It re-emerges at Mammoth Springs, Arkansas, nine miles later.

There was a steep set of stairs heading down to the waterfall. It was still raining, but not nearly as heavy as earlier. I took an umbrella and the G10 and headed down the steps.

It was well worth the effort to see the spectacular waterfall. The walkway takes you to the edge of the falls and with the heavy flow and crashing water, created a dizzying effect.

I'm not sure if the water hitting my umbrella was from rain or the waterfall at this point.

I want to come back and take the trail through the canyon. For some reason, this area made me feel like I was in Central America. This was my first visit to this park, but hopefully not my last.

This was not a typical Missouri State Park. There were no campgrounds or roads through the park. You can overlook the canyon close to the parking lot, but to explore the park, it must be by foot.

I headed back up to the car for the trip home. Sure enough, the weather kept clearing until we reached sunlight. It was really unfortunate that the weather was so bad this week. It looks like next week will be about perfect down there. Oh well, it was still a good trip and we saw enough to know we want to return.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Day Three - Cherokee Village

Today started out just like yesterday, rainy morning and clearing after lunch. So once again, we hopped in our vehicle and headed out. This time we went to Cherokee Village. Unlike yesterday, shortly after leaving, the rain started again. It kept raining the entire trip. It started as a drizzle and ended as a heavy downpour.

Cherokee Village is a 15,000 acre resort and retirement community. It has a couple of 18 hole golf courses (beautiful), swimming pools, seven lakes, recreation centers, and lots of other amenities. I have to say, we were very impressed with the community. It is a very wooded area and a beautiful place to drive around. The lakes were big and the houses nice. Pontoon heaven! It was a very relaxing and quiet area.

Unfortunately the heavy rain sent us home early. We may head back and take another look, weather permitting.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Day 2 - Blanchard Loop

This morning it was raining pretty heavy. We waited it out and after lunch we were able to head over to Calico Rock. Directly behind the town of Calico Rock is the ghost town of Peppersauce (shown above). There were a lot of interesting old buildings and equipment. Norine got the best photos so you'll have to visit her blog for more. After leaving Calico Rock, we headed down the the Blanchard Springs area. We stopped at Blanchard Caverns but it was just a restroom break, we didn't go in the cave. The springs were a short walk from the parking place.

We concluded our circle tour with a stop at scenic Mirror Lake.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Day One - At the Resort

Our first full day in Horseshoe Bend, as expected, was gloomy and overcast. That wasn't a problem since we were not planning any side trips today. We got up this morning and had coffee on the deck. It was a little cool, so we didn't stay out long. At noon, we turned on the Chiefs game and had some lunch. At 1:00, we went up to the clubhouse for an orientation session and ice cream social. We heard about a few interesting places to visit around here.

The condo smelled good all day with the pork roast that we have cooking in the crock pot. Norine is peeling some potatoes now to throw in with the roast. Dinner will be good!

Tomorrow we are planning on heading over to the Blanchard Springs/Mountain View area. Hopefully the weather will cooperate. Occasional thunderstorms are in the forecast for the next few days, but we will get out as much as possible between the downpours. A trip to Hardy, Mammoth Springs, and the Spring River are a definite for later in the week.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Horseshoe Bend

We left this morning around 11 am and headed to Horseshoe Bend, Arkansas. It was about a 360 mile trip. There is no doubt you are in the Ozarks down here! After we checked into the resort, we took a 13 mile ride to Ash Flats to stock up at Super Walmart. We did not realize that the 13 miles was on a mostly unmarked, very dark, country road. Deer were everywhere, so it was a very slow trip. If we have to go back, I think we'll do it in the daylight.

We're staying at Crown Point Resort. We have a beautiful 1 bedroom condo right on the lake. We'll find out more tomorrow about whats around here, but we do know that we have free use of the canoes on the lake. We were thinking of taking a lot of side trips while we were here, but this might be a good resort just to relax and enjoy the amenities...at least for most of the trip. They even had a sign up sheet for a free Texas Hold-em tournament Tuesday evening. That will be hard to pass up!

Time to go fix a drink and relax! More tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

aux Arks

On Saturday, we are off on another weeklong trip. This time to the heart of the "aux Arks", more commonly known as the Ozarks. We will be using the 3rd of our 4 SkyAuction lodging vouchers and staying in Horseshoe Bend Arkansas. For those who have not been to the Ozarks, you are really missing a beautiful part of the country. The crystal clear streams, lakes, springs, bluffs, caves, and wooded hills are well worth a visit. There are lots of opportunities to fish, boat, hike, canoe, and if you're really adventurous, explore caves.

Horseshoe Bend is located in north central Arkansas. It's in close proximity to the White River, Norfolk Lake, the Strawberry River, and Bull Shoals Lake. Although I haven't been to Horseshoe Bend, I have been in Northern Arkansas many times. I've been canoeing on the Buffalo River which is America's first national river. I love the "aux Arks" in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas and am really looking forward to this trip. Let's get packing!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

3 Day Weekends

Before retiring, 3 day weekends were the greatest things in the world. It was great leaving work with the feeling that you had all the time in the world before you went back to work. Ok, 3 day weekends were the 2nd best thing...vacations were the best. After retiring, 3 day weekends are more of a nuisance. Everything is crowded, you lose a day of Netflix, you go to the mailbox several times before realizing it's a holiday, trash collection is messed up, campgrounds are packed, banks are closed, the new lens you ordered is delayed a day (or should I say the lens I WISH I had ordered?), and on and on.

Now 3 day weekends are times to relax and stay home. The only problem is how do you relax at home? When you're home, you see all the things you should be doing but aren't. You see the dusty furniture, walls that need painting, driveway that needs sealing, house that needs caulking, weeds that need pulling, laundry that needs folding, and on and on.

Hurry up Tuesday so I can get away from the house and relax!