Scott and I drive a lot when we do our travels. There are 3,144 counties in the United States and we intend to pass through each of them; driving tends to be the way we are best able to do this. It enables us to stop and visit a town, getting to experience the people, their foods, and their culture. This is a bit slower than flight, but we both feel the hours getting to a destination is well worth it when we see the colored in space on the maps.
When we decide to go on what we call “Collecting Grab” trips, we sit down with Google maps or even a paper road map to plan the best route there and back going through as many different counties as possible. This often means never taking the same road twice. It is extremely rare for us to take the major highways or toll roads unless we need to get through previously collected counties.
If we are on trips that are more than a day trip, we will fill our vehicle up with delicious food, changes of clothing, and hammock/sleeping gear. While Scott is at work, I am able to get everything together and packed away; this enables me to pick him up as soon as his workday is finished and we can be on the road towards our destination.
Since we started doing these three to four-day trips to cover as much ground as possible we find National Forests and State Parks that are along our route to rest when we can no longer drive. We will pull into a camping area and set up our hammocks and cover. This is a quick setup and easy takedown so we are able to pull off the road as late as we need and leave as soon as we can minutes after we have woken up.
One of the things we find ourselves saying when we travel is that it is never a true adventure until we have left the pavement. Surprisingly, this happens to us a lot. We have been driving along a perfectly good paved road when “BLAM!” we have crossed onto a gravel road. These roads, however, have been some of the most beautiful places and there is almost always a surprise waiting for us.
Yes, we drive a lot. This means gas is our largest expense when we are on the road. Because of the style of travel we do and not need to use a hotel room, we are able to afford it. There have been times we needed to stay at a roadside hotel or motel, but we will stay in the most inexpensive place we can. We have been able to find some really awesome deals at Priceline Express Deals (https://www.priceline.com/elmo/pl/hotel/express-deals/list). However, a room with a view is a very rare occurrence for us.
Scott and I enjoy driving along the county roads within our country. This has enabled us to see what each state has to offer its people and how the people live and celebrate their lives. We love the miles we put behind us on the roads we drive upon no matter if they are paved, gravel, or dirt. We enjoy the adventure of having our expectations changed because the trip shows us so much more about a place. Yes, we drive, a lot; but, it is what we love to do.
When the Chickasaw Nation was forced to relocate to Indian Territory, within their new borders they found a wooded area filled with fresh water and strong-smelling mineral water springs. They believed these springs had healing powers. Fearing that they would not be able to protect this area from commercial development and becoming another Hot Springs, Arkansas, they sold it to the Federal Government, with the condition that it be protected, and kept open to the public. In 1902 Senator Orville Platt introduced legislation designating this area the Sulphur Springs Reservation, and in 1906 Congress passed legislation creating Platt National Park, named for Senator Platt, who had recently died.
At 640 acres, Platt National Park was the seventh and the smallest unit in the National Park System. Though small it was no less popular, in 1914 it received more visitors than Yellowstone or Yosemite. In the 1930s the Civilian Conservation Corps was assigned to make improvements, to make the area deserving of being a National Park. They added many buildings, and landscape features, that significantly altered the character of the park. By 1949 it was receiving more than a million visitors a year. However, many people within Congress felt that Platt National Park lacked the grandeur and scope expected of a National Park. On March 17, 1976, Congress changed the status from Platt National Park to the Chickasaw National Recreation Area because it was not the same natural beauty as Yellowstone and Yosemite. This former national park was added to the Arbuckle Recreation Area to create a lush playground for all to enjoy.
The older portion of the park, the Platt District, remains popular, still receiving more than a million visitors a year. It features the springs, a swimming hole, fishing, boating, hiking, and camping. The swimming hole has a small man-made waterfall called the Little Niagara. Here the spring water is cold and a host to people of all cultures.
There are three basic camping areas. The Lake of the Arbuckles areas: Buckhorn, Guy Sandy, and The Point. One, Guy Sandy, is first-come-first-serve and does not require a reservation. You simply show up, decide on your spot and visit the kiosk, then pay for your stay. Buckhorn and The Point are reservation camping loop is very nice with full hook-ups and full almost all year round. The third camping area is within the historic Platt District, the original area of the park has three camping loops, in which the only one is open year-round and only first-come-first-serve. This area is surrounded by the rushing creek and active in the springtime.
Ren and I first visited in the Fall of 2013, we were on the way back from visiting family in Oklahoma. This was before we really caught the travel bug, but we fell in love with the park and made plans to return. We have revisited the park several times since then, it is a reasonable drive from both Fort Worth and from Tulsa. When I started photography it was one of the first places I wanted to go.
We decided one day to visit the visitor center and hike trails behind it. Here the shade from the canopy of trees kept us cool in the Oklahoma August heat. It was quiet for the most part, except the various little waterfalls and birds chattering in the treetops. Here we found a peaceful place just minutes away from the main county road. It was an amazing hike.
We then took the time to swim in the swimming hole just below Little Niagara Falls. We even followed many of the young people and jumped off the top! It was exhilarating. I remember my heart pumping and watching the people ahead of us pop up from down below. My knee was aching, it was only recently healed from being broken and the cold, spring water felt good, taking away the swelling.
It may not be a National Park anymore, but it is still worth a visit if you are in the area.
Thank you so much for joining us on this park adventure. We appreciate you stopping by and taking the time to enjoy the time with us. Please remember to help us get out to many others and share this post.
It was time to head back to our camp in Black Mesa and Google wanted to take us back to Clayton, but we hate taking the same road back as the road we came on, so we, trying to be flexible, took the road less traveled; literally. What a difference. We went north through Folsom then took a small road east. It alternated between paved and gravel, and, usually, the gravel was smoother, but it was so worth it. The road led through a canyon we didn’t find on the maps, and where there is a canyon, there is a stream. The canyon, river, and road were all named the Dry Cimarron. Yes, another branch of the Cimarron River. The canyon went on for hours, almost entirely empty. Huge, rugged, and beautiful in a very different way than the other Cimarron Canyon, but no less impressive. It was one of my favorite parts of the trip.
If you want to do astrophotography, one of the things you have to deal with is light pollution. You have to get where it is dark, far away from the city lights. Living in Fort Worth, was not terribly difficult. I was about an hour and a half from reasonably dark skies, and three hours from very dark skies. The other thing you have to deal with is that you need to shoot when the moon is not in the sky, so the New Moon is ideal. Once we moved back to Tulsa, really dark skies were further away. Looking at the Light Pollution map on http://darksitefinder.com I saw that the darkest skies in Oklahoma were found at the far western end of the panhandle. In fact, these were as dark as any place in the continental U.S., and right there in the middle of these wonderfully dark skies was Black Mesa State Park. I wanted to go. The problem was that it was over seven and a half hours away; this would be a major trip. I had suggested it a few times, but Ren had not been enthusiastic because she was worried about the heat and the distance.
When I saw the August New Moon was going to fall on a weekend, and that it was going to fall during the middle of the Perseid Meteor Shower, I told Ren that I was going to want to be somewhere DARK that weekend. I was surprised when she suggested that we go to Black Mesa. It took me about half a second to agree. We started our planning. More accurately, Ren started planning. She presented me with three plans with a breakdown of costs, driving times, and the number of new counties we could get.
We figured out what we wanted to see while we were there, which counties we would visit, how much gas it was going to take, and even where we would buy our gas, as we were headed into areas where you could not count on gas stations being nearby when you ran low. We knew we were headed to the park. There were three tri-state markers we wanted to visit, (A tri-state marker is where three states meet. If it’s not in the middle of a river, there will usually be a marker of some kind.), and, since Ren loves geology as much as I love astronomy, we were going to visit the Capulin Volcano National Monument in New Mexico.
Taking a half-day Thursday off from work we hit the road as soon as I got off work. We drove straight to the park along Highway 412, with only a minor detour to visit Gloss Mountain State Park, which was right on the way. We arrived at camp just after dark and got our first surprise. For a park that brags about their dark skies, they had the place lit up like downtown. Street lights everywhere. We would have to get away from the park to get our stars. We set up our hammock stand camp for the first time in the dark, but they are very straightforward and it went quickly. It was cloudy that evening, with a small chance of rain Thursday and Friday, but we got lucky, while there were storms around us, they passed us by.
We spent Friday, as planned, exploring the park, visiting two of the three tri-state markers, and a couple of canyons in Colorado. Friday evening I found a location and set up to take pictures, but it was pretty cloudy and I didn’t get the dark skies I had anticipated.
Saturday the plan was to get the third tri-state marker and visit the Capulin Volcano National Monument in New Mexico. We left camp and headed toward the Oklahoma-Texas-New Mexico border. When we got close enough to civilization to get a cell phone signal, I checked the weather forecast. The clear skies that had been predicted, were looking more and more unlikely. I wasn’t going to get my stars, again. I wasn’t too upset about it because we were having a great trip, and if you do astronomy long, you know that this is just part of the hobby. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t.
As we headed into Clayton New Mexico, on the way to the Volcano, I looked at the map and told Ren, “If I can’t have stars, I want mountains. Let’s go to Taos.” She asked how far it was, and I told her it was just over two hours. I expected a little resistance to scrapping the plan she had worked so hard on, however, to my surprise, she agreed right away. At this point, we knew nothing about Taos except that there were mountains. While Ren drove, I tried to figure out what we wanted to do when we got there. We aimed to stop at a place called Eagles Nest Lake State Park, and figure out where to go from there. While I looked over Google Maps, I saw a marker for Cimarron Canyon State Park, but it wasn’t clear what it was. We drove on toward the mountains, which were becoming more and more impressive the closer we got to them.
Reaching the town of Cimarron, we stopped at a tourist information booth to pick up some brochures and spoke with the attendant. I noticed a National Park Passport stamp and asked her what it was for. It turns out that Cimarron Canyon was a National Scenic, and Historic drive and we were driving right through it to get to Eagles Nest. We always try to take any Scenic Byway we pass. This was as beautiful as any with its huge cliffs and thick forest while the Cimarron River flowed the length of the canyon. I love Rivers, and the Cimarron is not just any river, it flows into Keystone lake just a few miles from where we live in Oklahoma where I have camped many times. It had an entirely different character here near its beginning. The middle section of the canyon was the state park, with lots of campsites along the road. We were in love with the place.
Reaching the town of Eagles Nest we had decided that we could see lots of interesting places by taking the Enchanted Circle Scenic Loop, which includes Taos and goes through large areas of the Carson National Forest. The only issue was that it was nearly 3:00 pm and we were about three hours from camp if we skipped the volcano. I wasn’t willing to skip the volcano because I knew how much it meant to Ren.
I called my boss, asking if I could take an extra day of vacation, while Ren tried to find a reasonably priced hotel; turns out that reasonably priced and Taos, don’t really go together. After a bit of searching, we found a room right in Eagles Nest so we booked the room. While we chatted with the manager, he told us that if we were driving the Loop, we should be sure and drive over to the Gorge Bridge, and told us how to get there. We were set with a basic plan for the afternoon so we headed out on the Enchanted Circle Scenic Loop and it was well worth taking the extra day. There is something about the mountains that call to me, something that feels like home. Whether it’s the Davis Mountains in Texas, the Ozarks in Arkansas, or the Sierra Nevadas in California. I love the mountains. These were no exception. It was a gorgeous drive through mountains, forests, and quaint little towns. The highest pass we drove through was just over 9,800 feet.
There were several roadside parks that were part of the Carson National Forest when we stopped at one to stretch our legs a bit, we crossed a small stream flowing gently over the rocks. To my surprise, it was the Red River. We had lived on the Red River for five months when we were park hosting on Lake Texoma for Eisenhower State Park. We had even made a point of crossing every Red River bridge from Texas to Oklahoma, and here we were crossing it again in New Mexico; it was so small.
As we made our way around the loop we reached the intersection where we turned left to go to Taos, or right to go to the gorge bridge. We turned right. Wow! Just Wow!. On this trip, we had seen mesas, huge mountains, beautiful lakes, canyons, cliffs, forests, and scenic rivers, but this was by far the most majestic and impressive thing that we saw. It was the Río Grande del Norte National Monument. The Rio Grande. We have traveled extensively in Texas, spent the better part of three years trying to see as much of Texas as possible, yet this was our first time to see the Rio Grande. It was amazing. This is the seventh highest bridge in the US, 565 feet above the river. There is a parking area on either side, with a scenic overlook, and you can walk out on the bridge. It was truly awesome, in the best sense of the overused word.
Reluctantly, we left the gorge and headed into Taos. I won’t spend much time on Taos, as this is getting rather long enough already. We drove around for a few hours, loved the place. Ren wants to move there; of course, she says that about every place we visit. I guess it’s a good thing we plan to buy an RV someday so we can live wherever we visit.
I suggested that we visit the Taos Ski Valley before heading back to the hotel. This was the first place I got any real pushback from her. Not that she didn’t want to go, but she is frightened about driving down twisty, turny roads, especially since it was getting late in the day; however, me driving scares her even more because, in her words, she is a bad passenger. One of the things I admire most about Ren is that she does not let her fears get the better of her. It took her a few moments to work up her nerve, but she agreed.
The Hondo Canyon Road is the road that leads up the valley to the ski lodge. I know I’ve said this several times already, but it was a beautiful drive through the valley with huge cliffs, tall trees, and a valley, there was, naturally, a stream named the Hondo, Rio. As is usual in this area, we were in the Carson National Forest and there were lots of scenic roadside campgrounds. We drove up to the lodge, but it was getting late, so we didn’t get out of the car, then headed through the valley again, stopping at a few of the parks.
It was time to be heading back to the hotel. The last leg of the drive was the twistiest and turniest road of the entire trip, and it was full dark, so we didn’t see most of it. When we got back to the hotel, Ren went to bed; she was exhausted from the last leg of the drive. The hotel manager told me earlier I could get a good view of the milky way from the deck on top of the hotel overlooking the lake. I went to take some pictures, but between the hotel and city lights, they were not the skies I had come seeking, but they weren’t bad.
The next morning we found the entire town socked in with fog. We were not eager to drive through the canyon again until the fog lifted, so we walked through town to find breakfast. What we found instead was there wasn’t anywhere in Eagles Nest to get breakfast at 8:00 on a Sunday Morning. Did I mention that Eagles Nest is tiny? Did I mention that Eagles Nest is at an altitude of more than 8,200 feet? We hadn’t really paid much attention to that before taking our walk, but as we were walking back the thinness of the air became apparent. We were huffing and puffing by the time we got back.
When the fog burned off we headed back through the valley to Cimarron then north to Raton, where we found breakfast. Then we took the Raton pass into Colorado where we visited Trinidad State Park, before heading to the Capulin Volcano National Monument. This is an extinct, cinder cone volcano, with the cone remarkably preserved. There are a visitors center and a road that wraps around the cone to a parking lot near the top. From there you can hike down into the vent, or around the rim. We intended to hike around the rim, but between the altitude, our exhaustion, and general lack of fitness we turned back well before we reached the top. It was still worth the trip, and even from the parking area near the top, it is an impressive view.
It was time to head back to our camp in Black Mesa and Google wanted to take us back to Clayton, but we hate taking the same road back as the road we came on, so we took the road less traveled; literally. What a difference. We went north through Folsom then took a small road east. It alternated between paved and gravel, and, usually, the gravel was smoother, but it was so worth it. The road led through a canyon we didn’t find on the maps, and where there is a canyon, there is a stream. The canyon, river, and road were all named the Dry Cimarron. Yes, another branch of the Cimarron River. The canyon went on for hours, almost entirely empty. Huge, rugged, and beautiful in a very different way than the other Cimarron Canyon, but no less impressive. It was one of my favorite parts of the trip.
We got back to camp at a reasonable time, and as we were settling in, it became apparent we were going to have clouds again that night. Realizing I was not going to get the perfect night sky photo, I suggested we pack up camp and head south into Texas. In visiting the Texas Panhandle a few weeks earlier, we now had visited all but two counties in Oklahoma. The last two were down south and we decided to go get them.
We got back to camp at a reasonable time, and as we were settling in, it became apparent we were going to have clouds again that night. Realizing I was not going to get the perfect night sky photo, I suggested we pack up camp and head south into Texas. In visiting the Texas Panhandle a few weeks earlier, we now had visited all but two counties in Oklahoma. The last two were down south and we decided to go get them. In no time we were on the road. An hour and a half drive, and a minor crisis involving so many bugs hitting the windshield we could barely see out took us to Lake Meredith National Recreation Area. Being Sunday night the place was empty and we found a nice site overlooking the lake, and slept under the stars, with a cool breeze to keep the bugs away.
The next morning we visited the Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument. Walked through the visitors center, watched the informative movie and took a short hike, then got back on the road. We headed into Oklahoma to get those last two counties. On the way to Kiowa County, we were passing right by Quartz Mountain State Park. We couldn’t be this close without stopping. It is a very pretty park, though the lake was very low at the time. We spent about an hour here before heading to our next destination.
The Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge is a place I had to hear about for a while but had not yet managed to visit. It was getting late and I was thinking we should just head home, but Ren knew how much I have wanted to go here and insisted that we take the time. I’m so glad I listen to her. I had been afraid that after seeing New Mexico, that Oklahoma would seem dull and unimpressive by comparison. I needn’t have worried. The mountains of Oklahoma may not be as tall as those of New Mexico, but they are no less beautiful. We ended up staying much longer than we intended and it was getting dark by the time we headed home.
Arriving home late, we were tired and sore, however, the trip had been more than we ever expected because we abandoned our plans and took a chance. Sometimes having a plan is important because it tells you the when, the where, and the how; but it often causes you to miss the unexpected treasures of traveling along the backroads. Our motto is “Get out, live life outside your box,” which sometimes means getting outside of your plans. Take a chance, do something unexpected, live your life to the fullest. I still want to go back to Black Mesa. I still want those dark skies. But I wouldn’t trade this trip for the one we planned.
Psychoanalyst Werner Muensterberger states in his book Collecting: An Unruly Passion that collecting was “selecting, gathering and keeping of objects of subjective value.” While Carl Jung believed collecting stemmed from a collective unconscious of “nuts and berry” behavior inherited from our ancestors. This activity of our prehistoric ancestors literally saved their lives and it is now found to be a comfortable behavior to each and every one of us today.
Scott and I are definitely collectors. Over the past few years, we have mentioned things like “collecting counties” and “county grab” in our blog posts and videos. Recently we received a message asking exactly what this is and why we are doing it. Please allow us to take a few minutes and define these terms and explain exactly what our County Project is.
How This Thing Sort of Began
Scott and I had started to do a little exploring of towns around us, but there really wasn’t much exploring outside of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex until August 17, 2013. We had decided to head to Austin because Scott is a music nut; his favorite female artist is Nancy Griffith and he had a goal in mind. The plan was to attend Austin City Limits, but it wasn’t supposed to happen because the shows are announced and are a first come type of situation. However, we were able to change our plans and help him come a little closer to his music world.
This trip to Austin seemed to spark the travel bug in us and we began to go as often and as far as possible. From 2013 to 2015 we started visiting Texas State Parks and something occurred to us, we have over 100 counties crossed in the State of Texas so we started paying attention to those 254 Texas counties. The County Project was born without us really understanding what the heck we were doing.
So What Exactly Is The County Project?
When Scott and I were first married and moving between Oklahoma and Texas over and over, we were moving hundreds of boxes of things I collected and all of his books and music. It was heavy and exhausting. In 2016 we decided it was time to ditch all of the extra boxes and go from a house to an apartment. This meant getting rid of the collection of books, nicknacks, and other junk we accumulate over time and adopt a more minimalistic outlook. But we still had the desire to collect. That is when the travel and counties began to make total sense to us.
Starting out as Stitchntravel.com we decided to not only start a website but a YouTube channel as well. We had no idea what we were doing, but we thought it would be a great way to show off our travels. This eventually led us to a website where one could keep track of the counties visited. Mob-rule has enabled us to see exactly where we have been and others as well.
This tool has helped us find what we really love to collect, counties. The collecting of counties is nothing more than us driving across county lines to find out interesting things about each county we visit. This may mean just driving through to get to another county but we find roadside attractions that are unique to the county, landscape that is different from other places, and backroads that lead us to amazing adventures.
Actively Collecting Counties
We have a term we made up to explain exactly what a trip was going to be used for when we collect counties; this word is “county grab”. This is where we get in the car and head to counties we have never been to and try to drive through as many as possible. This is often a two-day trip and we will use the special Google imposed map on the Mob-rule site to help us find what roads pass through what counties. Because it keeps track of the counties we have visited, we are able to see just where we need to go.
Once we have made the decision as to where the destination is, we will use the map to find another route to head home. We try very hard to never take the same road home that we came on because it will get us twice the counties. Often times we will do what we can to get a photo of the county courthouses if possible.
We have set up specific colors that have specific meanings to help us know what counties we have just driven through, taken a photo of the county courthouse, what will be the one-way drive to a destination, and what will be the route home. This helps us to know what other things we need to do in counties we have already visited, such as if we need to try to and get a photo of a courthouse or not.
We are even able to break this down to a state-level which enables us to do a little more digging as to what we want to see and do.
As we plan our county grabs, we will go to the Google imposed maps for further detail to help us see where the county seat is located. This is important to us so we can know what route to take to get a photo of the courthouses.
And then we are able to scroll in closer so we can see how to collect a county in one direction and back in another direction. Let us look at this area a little closer so we can explain it in a bit more detail.
Here you have three counties and we would like to get all three without driving the same road home as when we came. This blown-up view enables us to find alternate roads that are on a backroad level if we would like. It has enabled us to really up our county collecting game.
How Do We Keep Track of Our Stats?
Keeping track is very easy to do. The user page on Mob-rule shows a spreadsheet with each state, the numbers of counties, the numbers of counties we have visited, the numbers of counties left to visit, and the percentages. It helps us to find the information quickly and be able to apply it to our website.
This really helps to encourage us and it gives us the oxytocin boost a regular collection would give. With this, the US map, and the courthouse photos we are able to get excited about where we have been and where we are heading to. Isn’t that what life is all about?
What Are The Benefits to Collecting Counties?
Many people travel, but everyone does not travel alike. For some it is flying to places, renting a car, and hitting popular sites. While others enjoy driving long distances to visit the vacation hot spots. However, for us, driving and seeing is the adventure. This style of travel we are doing enables us to take the roads less traveled and see some of the less touristy places. I honestly believe this has caused us to find some of the most amazing places and pieces of art.
Another benefit to the way we travel, we are able to avoid major crowds. With our national park system being more overcrowded than ever before, it is nice to get off the regular beaten path and find interesting places that are not as crowded. This enables us to bring attention to the places that are overlooked. We have met some of the most amazing people in these places and heard some wonderful stories about the location.
Because of us trying to obtain specific counties we have found some pretty fantastic things. If we would not have been trying to get specific counties in Wyoming’s southwestern corner, we would never have found Fossil Butte National Monument and then spontaneously grabbing a Utah county. We try to play it loose when we do county grabs because there are plenty of these spontaneous moments. It enables us to respond to new discoveries.
Cross County Travelers is about encouraging people to get out of their routine and try something different, to find the amazing lesser-known places all around them but do not get the attention they deserve. This is why we say “Get Out! Live life outside your box.” The box can be your home, your city, or even your county. What we want to encourage is people to get out of their comfort zone and experience something new through travel. Travel does not have to be a big expensive trip, there are adventures to be found right in your “backyard” that will open your mind and heart.
Thank you so much for joining us. We do appreciate each of you who take the time to read our posts. It means so much to us. Please remember to Get Out, Live Life Outside Your Box; you know we are.
In April 2021, Scott had a stroke less than a year after his quintuple bypass. This was because three of the five bypasses failed and the remaining two bypasses becoming 80% blocked. He went from 55% heart function to 25% in less than six months. Because his heart and arteries are so diseased from diabetes he is unable to apply for a heart transplant or have further bypass surgeries.
The doctors painted a very grim outlook for Scott over the next two to five years. They explained the elevation we were living at probably caused this to happen at a much faster rate than it would have at a lower elevation so we needed to move back to Oklahoma. If we stayed in Colorado, they said he would only have one to two years; however, if he was able to move to a lower elevation such as Oklahoma, he could have up to five. We chose to give him more time, so it was time to pack the boxes.
We packed everything, moved it all into storage, and are now back in Oklahoma staying with family. Having searched for weeks and some help from friends who donated to our original fundraiser, we now have a motorhome to live in. However, it was gutted and there is much to do.
This is not our photo, this is the former owner’s photo of the motorhome set up. Used with permission.
The former owners gutted the motorhome and made it to fit them. They took out the propane system and the 12-volt electric system. They have it completely on the normal power grid and it was done poorly. Unfortunately, we need to replace the 12-volt and normal electric system, add a propane system, replace the 1940s refrigerator with a three-way fridge, add a heater, add a shower, and a seat to be able to drive it home. There are a few other “minor” things we would love to do such as a better, insulated floor, painting, and just making it ours; but those are cosmetic. As you can see from the above photo, the outside looks really good.
Family and friends have set up an art auction for us to help us finish the motorhome. There have been many pieces of artwork (painting, embroidery, photography, and more) donated by artist friends who are extremely talented. Please join us July 2-16 (central time) and help us by bidding on some art for yourself.
*** please remember shipping will be extra unless otherwise noted by the artist or it is outside the United States. ***
If you would prefer to donate to help us get the motorhome in liveable condition, please visit the original fundraiser at https://www.facebook.com/donate/163996742323297/. We were able to purchase the motorhome by the donations already provided, but we are still short of our goal.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read our blog posts. We appreciate it so very, very much!
The very first trip Scott and I made after arriving in Colorado Springs was a Pass, Kenosha Pass 10,000 ft (3,000 m) to be exact. We had only experienced a real, Colorado Pass the previous July when we visited. Cucharas Pass is 9,995 feet (approximately 3046 m) and looking back now, it doesn’t seem impressive at all, or was it and we just did not know what we were experiencing? Since we have moved to this state we have found amazing passes that we just love going over!
In the state of Colorado, you will find 166 mountain passes over 7,783 feet (2,372 m). Of those passes, 107 are actually drivable; however, there are only 61 of those are paved while the rest are either gravel or unimproved. Of the 61 roads that are drivable with an ordinary car (meaning low clearance and not a 4×4), 30 of them are over 10,000 ft (3048 m). Stat-wise, this is a very collectible project.
What Exactly Is A Pass?
Vocabulary.com defines a mountain pass as: “the location in a range of mountains of a geological formation that is lower than the surrounding peaks.” Simply put they are just places where two mountains come together. I have heard the terms gap, notch, saddle, and pass used to describe the easiest area to get over the mountains. We experienced some in Oklahoma, Arkansas, and even Texas, but they were nowhere near as impressive as the passes we have crossed over in Colorado.
I have watched video after video of people driving over passes like Loveland Pass, Imogene Pass, and Black Bear Pass. What I remember most was that these things were massive and could be rather intimidating. What I am learning though, as we travel more and experience the many different passes here in Colorado, is that passes can be intense, but they can also be nothing more than a slight “hill”; at least they may only feel that way. This has helped me to actually look forward to going over the many passes we have left to collect.
Often the pass has a “plateau” of sorts and buildings and rest areas are sometimes placed there. These are also places where boundaries or borders are found such as the county line between Huerfano and Las Animas. Here you find the Cucharas Pass and just six miles from Cordova Pass that is also a dividing line between the two counties. This is not just a county border thing either, there are countries that have their borders meeting along mountain passes much like Chile and Argentina. The border between them runs along the Andes Mountain range and has many border crossings; over 42 passes.
Are Passes Really THAT Scary?
When we first started talking about collecting counties, we knew there were going to be roads that would intimidate us. For me the roads that were steep and winding caused me to freak out. I remember our first time driving the Talimena Drive between Oklahoma and Arkansas. We had watched many videos to help us figure out how to descend a mountain and it really made me nervous; I wasn’t even pulling a trailer! I was so worried about burning out my breaks that my nerves were shot by the time we arrived on flat roads. The highest elevation we reached that trip was 2,681 feet; this was nothing compared to the many passes here we have driven that are over 10,000 feet since moving to Colorado.
There are many reasons people are worried about passes. Passes can have steep grades, sharp turns, and dangerous drop-offs. Many people who drive on the Colorado roads have never driven on anything but straight flat roads; their inexperience can be dangerous and frustrating. There is something shocking about the yellow signs with a semi-truck pointing downwards or tipping over when you reach the top of a pass. It can be intimidating and worrisome; however, keeping one’s mind on the road and driving over the passes a few times, they are no more scary than any other highway.
Why Are Mountain Roads So Steep and Twisty?
While looking up information on mountain passes, a specific question kept showing up, “Why are mountain roads so steep and twisty? Why can’t they just be made to go straight up and over?” I found answers to this question in a couple of places. Let’s look at the first part of the question. “Why are the roads so steep?”
Roads follow the lay of the land. If you are driving in parts of East Colorado, you will basically be driving on flat, straight roads because that is how the land lays. Highway 70 from the Kansas border to Denver is a great example of this. You may have a few rolling hills because it is a prairie, but the land is fairly flat and the road follows this. However, Highway 70 from Denver to Grand Junction goes over mountains and into valleys. The road placement is determined by the slope of the mountains and, therefore, determines the “grade” or rate of climb/descent of the road causing this section of the highway to have steep climbs and many curves.
Open Oregon Educational Resources explained this rather well in their article “Assessing Slope of the Land“. They defined the slope to be the “incline of the land”. The land surveying has a math formula to help them know what the incline will be and then are able to give the appropriate warnings for drivers to use when traveling these areas. It is all extremely technical and if you would like to review the article, please feel free to do so by clicking the article title previously mentioned.
The slope and lay of the land also determine why roads have so many curves to them; however, not all curves are created because of this. Often steep roads will have what is called “hairpin” or “switchback” turns to help a driver climb a mountain in a short amount of space. These types of turns are usually steep and have sharp turns. One of the most famous roads in the United States that shows this extreme elevation change in less than half a quarter of a mile is Lombard Street in San Francisco, California. True the elevation change is not as extreme as in the mountains, however, the fact that the distance is so short from top to bottom, the grade is 27%, making this a very interesting drive.
Most roads in Colorado are not close to this extreme. On the passes here, you will mostly find grades of 6-9%, rarely anything more. However, you will occasionally find a few roads with more of an incline, but rarely on the main highways. These switchbacks help vehicles climb to the top of the mountains using less energy and providing safety as well. Between snow, ice, rain, and wind, the weather conditions can cause roads to be dangerous so everything that can be done to help drivers be safe is well worth it.
Safety On The Passes
Mountain passes can be dangerous, but with the help of the Colorado Department of Transportation (CoDoT) and a few safety precautions, the experience can be rewarding and successful. Before we get into our car, we make sure we have the correct safety equipment for the road depending upon the weather we will experience. This means we have good tires, our snow cables for the tires, and we know what the weather conditions are for the area we are traveling. We will pull up the traffic information for the highways we are planning to drive and make sure we have clear alternative routes if needed. CoDoT has a variety of tools on their website that can assist us on our travel and we use those tools often.
One of the things we love about Colorado is that CoDoT is very good about getting roads cleared as soon as possible. This goes for the normal everyday roads and the passes alike. If winter weather storms have been predicted, they are out as soon as possible to start the de-icing and then they begin to plow as soon as possible. We have found the passes easy and safe to traverse, but we are still careful.
There are a few things that have to happen when driving the passes that are important to do to keep yourself and others safe. One is to know how to drive up and down these roads.
Driving Up The Mountain
Always have your vehicle in good working order. Be sure the brakes, windshield wipers, and tires are in good condition. Watch the fluids in your car to make sure the engine does not overheat. Make sure you have the proper equipment you need with you, such as snow chains, extra wipers, air gauge, and extra fluids like oil, washer, and water/coolant.
What may seem like a strange thing to do, but during the summer months, you will want to turn off your air conditioner. This will help keep the engine from overheating, plus the temperature on many mountain passes will be much cooler than you expect.
If there are two lanes or passing lanes as you are driving up the mountain, make sure to stay in the right lane unless passing; this is law in most states now. It will keep traffic from backing up and prevent road rage in other drivers who will insist on passing you on the right. However, if there are only two lanes of traffic, keep an eye on the number of cars behind you. If you are impeding traffic, find a turn-out and allow the other drivers to pass. This will help keep people from taking unnecessary chances passing you at the wrong times because they are frustrated.
Watch out for warning signs like specific wildlife, Avalanche Area, and Fallen Rock. There has been a history of these things happening in these specific areas. If you keep a watchful eye out in these places, you will probably be able to avoid many of these dangers. However, this is not always the case. If you end up hitting an animal or rocks, remember to not panic, pull over as safely as you can, and make yourself as visible as possible. This will enable people to avoid hitting you. Also, remember to call 9-1-1 so an officer can help you by blocking traffic and assist you with any towing needs you may have.
If an avalanche is blocking the road, stop, turn around, and proceed to a safe area because there may be more avalanches occurring; DO NOT attempt to drive through one. There is a movement happening you may not see and it could take you down the mountain with it. If you are caught up in an avalanche, DO NOT PANIC. Make sure you have your seatbelt on, turn off the engine so the inside does not fill with carbon monoxide, call 9-1-1, and stay in your car.
SLOW DOWN! Do not try to race to the top of the mountain, it will still be there no matter how slow you take it. Too often people are in a hurry to get where they are going and they make mistakes. This in itself could cause an accident or worse if you take a turn too quickly.
Arriving on the Pass
Once you have reached the top of the pass, there are often places to park, trailheads, or scenic overlooks. Take advantage of those areas to get out of your vehicle. You probably need to walk around or stretch. If there are not any of these, prepare to drive down the pass.
Driving Down The Mountain
If you are in a vehicle with a diesel engine, then you will use the engine brakes to slow you down. You will only need to “tap” your breaks if you accelerate faster than you need to be traveling.
If you have an automatic engine, there is a “manual” setting or an L1, L2, L3. You will need to use these if the grade is large. Then you will only need to “tap” your breaks occasionally to slow you down.
Do NOT “ride” your breaks. The goal is to proceed down the pass without burning your breaks. Once the breaks get hot, they will not stop. As you accelerate, gently apply your breaks for short periods, being in the lower gears will help the engine slow your vehicle down giving you better control and less need for the breaks.
It is suggested a driver not go any faster down the pass than what they were doing up the pass. If you are going slower than other people, stay to the right. Not only is it curtious, it is law in many states.
Why Are There Ski Jumps Next To The Highway?
As we drove down Monarch Pass, we saw what looked like a ski jump at the side of the road. These are special safety ramps to help trucks, and other vehicles, who have lost their brakes due to them getting too hot. These runaway truck ramps have saved lives, but what exactly are they?
This specific truck ramp we saw on highway 50 on the west side of the Monarch Pass is designed to slow the truck by going up the ramp. If it does not slow it down by gravity, there are many lines of barrels filled with gravel and sand to bring it to a halt. This is just one of many types of runaway ramps. Some are a lot longer and some have the “road” filled with gravel to help the wheels of the truck come to a stop. They all do the same thing, stop a runaway truck that has lost its brakes.
In this video, we see a report from Channel 9 News out of Denver about a truck that used the ramp. The driver’s brakes failed and the ramp was there just in time to help save lives. You are able to see the smoke coming from the truck and then he masterfully entered the ramp and was able to stop. These are great safety opportunities for truckers. You can read more on Runaway Truck Ramps by clicking HERE.
Please remember, if you are not experiencing failed breaks, do not use these places as an opportunity to stop. These are extremely important for truckers to use; if a truck becomes runaway and the ramp is not available, lives can and probably will be lost.
How Many Passes In Colorado Have We Collected?
Out of the 79 Colorado mountain passes and highway summits that can be driven because of improved roads we have crossed 30 of them. We go over Ute Pass (9,165 feet – 2,793 m) in Divide many times because we tend to drive Colorado highway 24 often to get to Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. While the highest pass we have crossed is through the Eisenhower Tunnel (11,158 feet – 3,401 m) on Colorado Highway 70.
One of the most special passes for me in this state is Wolf Creek Pass. One of my favorite uncles was my dad’s brother Uncle Bruce. He was a wall of a man who stayed with us when I was little and my three children loved him as well, especially when he would ask them if they wanted donuts and then thump them on the arm saying, “Hurts Donut!” Sure wish he could have experienced the Hurts Donuts shops around the country. This man was a Vietnam Veteran who received two Purple Hearts, the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, and the Cross of Gallantry. My uncle worked for the Colorado Department of Transportation as one of the snowplow drivers for Wolf Creek Pass, and he was a hero there as well. He saved a woman and her family from a snowbank and was given a commendation from the state of Colorado.
And Like All Passes, We Must Move On To The Next One
Passes are amazing structures of engineering. They take planning, math, and a lot of work hours. There are many people who work hard to provide safe passage over these elevated passes and we thank them for their hard work. I know I enjoy experiencing each of these passes and I can’t wait to cross over as many as possible while we explore the state of Colorado.
Thank you so much for joining us. We do appreciate each of you who take the time to read our posts. It means so much to us. Please remember to Get Out, Live Life Outside Your Box; you know we are.
Waterfalls are magical places for Scott and me. There is something about the sound of the rushing water leading to it crashing down below. In the spray, we find rainbows which always bring a smile to our faces. We decided in 2020 we would “collect” twenty water features that fit into the “waterfall” category. We took the year and found eleven waterfalls, one Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) dams, one Work Projects Administration (WPA) dam, six spillways, and one cascade. We did not have any criteria as to what to look for, we just tailored our travel plans to finding water features. It may not sound surprising or magical, but where we found the waterfalls blew us away.
Being a new year and cold in Oklahoma, we headed to Bluestem Falls west of Pawhuska, Oklahoma, in Osage County. These falls are a local swimming hole in the summer and, when no water is running, you can see it is the local teen hang out due to graffiti. However, when Lake Bluestem is full, it creates an amazing waterfall.
Technically this location is a spillway for Lake Bluestem, a water source for Pawhuska, which was completed in 1958. Because of “downcutting” the layers of sandstone, shale, and limestone were taken away downstream and the layers can be seen clearly. The outcome has caused a 75 foot (22 meters) drop which has created a rather impressive waterfall into Middle Bird Creek.
The day we visited the falls there was still snow on the ground from the day before and ice was appearing in the shallower places. The spray from the water was cold and thrilling. What blew my mind about this waterfall is that I was able to see the physical act of downcutting in action. It proved to me, once again, that water is definitely one of the most powerful tools on earth.
It is a bit of a hike to get to Twin Falls, but well worth it. Like many of the waterfalls in Arkansas, Twin Falls can be seasonal and is best seen in the Spring. We were lucky to catch it running when we were there in January 2020. The park rangers can tell you if the waterfall is running, but even without the waterfall, this is a beautiful hike.
The geology in this area is amazing to see. Here you will find Boyd shale between Brentwood and Pitkin Limestone. The three types of stone can be seen quite well on the canyon sides. The Brentwood Limestone is darker in color while the Pitkin Limestone is a lighter color of grey and blue with the shale in between. These mountains are just over 1,800 feet high and they are the remnants of the Boston Mountain Plateau. The Journal of the Arkansas Academy of Science has a very interesting article from 1955. It is titled “Geology of Devil’s Den State Park” that gives greater detail about the geology of this area.
Devil’s Den State Park was built by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The young men from North Dakota were placed here in October 1933 and they built roads, trails, and a dam here, It was one of these trails that led up to the waterfall area. Often we had to cross the stream from the falls, and eventually, we found ourselves along the edge of the canyon wall standing on the bridge admiring the twin falls.
During the Great Depression, President Roosevelt created the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) to put young men to work on projects for the public good, and so they could care for their families. This was the origin of many State and National Parks, including Devils Den. Here they created a lake, sculpted the spillway into this lovely waterfall, and built many hiking trails.
Near the dam, stands a four-foot bronze statue of a young man. The title of this artwork is “The CCC Worker.” I have looked to see who the original artist was, but was not able to locate that information. However, this statue is in many of the parks built by the thousands of young men who left home to work, saving their families. The Devil’s Den statue was dedicated on June 30, 2002 with a plaque saying, “This statue is a tribute to the dedication, attention to detail and ability of the enrollees, leaders and commander of the CCC. October 20, 1933-March 25, 1942. We can take it.”
Just a few miles from Devils Den State Park, in the Ozark National Forest, is the small town of Natural Dam, named for a natural dam near the edge of town. This is perhaps the easiest waterfalls to see in this area of Arkansas. You can drive right up to it or drive across the Mountain Fork Creek it if you like. A natural slab of rock (sandstone of the Atoka formation) acts as a dam and creates a waterfall as the water flows over the dam, causing undercutting. The area behind the dam is used as a local swimming hole, so bring your swimsuit when you come to visit.
William Larrimore set up a grist mill here a short time after he discovered the dam on a hunting trip in 1818. By 1838 there was a post office and settlement. We have heard there was a foundation left from the mill, but we have not actually seen it.
If you do decide to stop by Natural Dam, Arkansas, along highway 59, remember to stop at the reason for the town’s name. It is worth your time and you will enjoy exploring the location. Just remember that the place is extremely popular in the summer time and you will do well to arrive early.
Located in Osage County near Shidler, Oklahoma, Lake Charlotte Falls is something of a hidden gem. We lived near it for years and never know it was there. The waterfall is the spillway for the lake and only flows when the lake is full. We were fortunate to be there during a particularly wet winter when it was flowing well. Being the off-season we had the place to ourselves. It would have been much busier in the spring and summer.
This is another spillway that has been turned into a thing of beauty by downcutting. The layers of limestone have some of the best fossils we have found in the Osage area. There are many crinoids to be found here, but we actually found a fossil of a large “stalk” or “sea lilly” (see the top right photo below, I have highlighted it in pink). Needless to say, I was extremely excited by this find.
When you visit this gem, be sure to take the stairs up to the top, there is more to see than is apparent from the bottom. Here you will see the upper falls and some rather interesting erosion the water has applied to the rock layers. The stairs, when we were there in 2020, were very secure; however, please use caution and do not do anything you feel unsafe doing.
Butcher Falls at Red Buffalo Ranch was a major surprise for us. Who knew Kansas had waterfalls? This one is on Pool Creek on the Red Buffalo Ranch. The falls are 14 feet high and are surrounded by Plattsmouth Limestone boulders that slope downward. As the water moves downstream, it empties into the Middle Caney Creek and helps to bring water to prairies around Sedan.
The structure you see in the photo is called Butcher Falls Bunk House and can be rented in the spring and summer. Because this was within day-trip range for us, we never took the time to stay. Public access is limited to 100 feet above the falls. For access to the rest of Red Buffalo Ranch call (620) 725-4022, or stop by the Red Buffalo Gift shop 107 E. Main, Sedan, KS 67361 and talk to Mary Kurtis. Open Monday – Saturday 9 AM – 5 PM.
We have visited this site about three times and each time we find something wonderful about this place. Unfortunately, we did not realize there were farmer’s markets there or that Prairiehenge was there!
The Grand Falls near Joplin is the only waterfalls we visited in 2020. It is known as the largest continuously flowing natural waterfall in the state and is a 163-foot wide ledge of solid chert that crosses Shoal Creek. When standing below the falls, you can see the water plunge 25-feet causing there to be a loud roaring sound that caused Native Americans in the area to have called this place “the place of the singing waters.”
The first week of February it was cold and we were hoping the snow would still be around to help make this location magical and we were not disappointed. We were able to locate a small horseshoe-type waterfall off to the right of the falls where cold water cascaded down.
It was a pleasant time for this cold wintery day as Scott took photos with his camera and I was busy searching the river rolled stones for unique stones to add to my collection and fossils. Missouri did not let us down with this beautiful natural waterfall for sure.
Many people have a vacation spot they visit over and over like skiing at Monarch every winter, camping and fishing at Beaver Dam State Park every summer, or fall foliage watching along the Blue Ridge Drive. For us it was stopping in Bella Vista, Arkansas, to visit Tanyard Creek Nature Trails. Here we would wade in the creek in the summer, view the turning of the leaves in the fall, and sit peacefully listening to nature.
Tanyard Creek Nature Trails is a series of nature trails built by volunteers and financed by private donor money so people can enjoy the outdoors. There are many trails that loop around the area with a suspension bridge and many boardwalk-style bridges. You will also find a waterfall near the Winsor Lake Dam. This is yet another spillway with a beautiful example of downcutting.
We have been able to take one of the GrandGeorges to this waterfall and she was thrilled when she and I walked behind the waterfall. I am sure if we were still close by, we would be taking the others to enjoy the same experience.
There are many famous waterfalls in the United States; Yosemite Falls, Niagara Falls, and Horseshoe Falls to name a few. Have you ever heard of Dripping Springs? This waterfall is located near West Silom Springs, Oklahoma, in Delaware County. It is where the mountain lion scene of Where The Redfern Grows was filmed and it is a beautiful location.
Scott loves waterfalls and he wanted to see the tallest waterfall in Oklahoma; he had a choice between Turner Falls and Dripping Springs. This waterfall at Natural Falls State Park, like Turner Falls near Davis, is 77 feet tall. This however is all that the two locations have in common. There is an observation deck overlooking Natural falls with many stairs leading down to a viewing boardwalk. The spray from the water often drops the temperature ten degrees lower than up at the observation deck. The rock throughout the park is chert and limestone from the Mississippian Boone Formation. Here you will find crystal clear water and plenty of beauty to be enjoyed as you hike around the park just as we did.
The spring of 2019 we took some time to enjoy the waterfall and camping the park provided. We were able to head down to the falls toward sundown and get some wonderful photos. The park has yurts available above the falls; they can be reached by walking up the boardwalk that is high above the valley or with special carts provided by the park. This was one of our favorite places to visit.
One of the things we like to do is find parks that are no longer state parks, much like Cowley State Fishing Lake near Arkansas City, Kansas, in Cowley County. We had been looking for waterfalls in Kansas because we had recently found Butcher Falls in Chautauqua County and wondered if there were more; there was and this former Kansas State Park has a Niagara Falls type surprise.
Granted these falls are nothing more than a spillway that has washed away tons of fossil-embossed limestone and red shale giving it a semi-horseshoe appearance. This is where the similarities end. This 25-35 foot tall waterfall is impressive during the rainy seasons. There are only four ways to reach the fall. One is to drive to the end of the lake road and view the waterfall from above. This is a good vantage point and you can actually feel the vibration of the water and hear the roar well. The second way is to go to the end of the lake road and climb down the rocky “trail”. I called this bouldering because that was what it would have been; between my knee issues before surgery (fall of 2017) and the wet, icy conditions of 2020, we decided that would not be a smart move. The third way would be a dirt road that went further than the “official” end of the lake road. This was, however, blocked off. The final way would be to access it by way of the spillway itself. Unfortunately, this would need to be when the falls were not running, but imagine the fossils you would probably find.
The first time we visited the falls, we found a large marker showing that this was once a Kansas State Park. I have not been able to located when it ended it’s run as a state park or why it was no longer. It will forever be a state park for us, former or not.
One of the waterfalls that really surprised us both was Bixhoma Falls just outside of Leonard, Oklahoma. We had heard rumors there was a waterfall, but neither of us realized there was even a lake there. This 110 acre lake is about 50 feet deep and sits on top of Leonard Mountain at 899 feet which is approximately 300 feet above Bixby, Oklahoma. Bixby, about seven miles north, is the city that cares for it and it was the sole reason it was built in 1965. At this time it does not really provide much water to Bixby, but it still helps to provide water for the surrounding areas.
Once again we find ourselves exploring another spillway type waterfall that has been having downcutting creating the beauty. The geology here is quite normal to this area in Oklahoma being mainly shale. Above where the waterfall currently is you will see a yellowish “mud” with various sized pebbles and rocks. Unfortunately, we did not find any fossils at this location.
We did our normal drive around the the park only to find this park used goats as their vegetation management. Neither of us were shocked by this, we have seen other parks using this method; however, it was the donkeys that shocked us. Bixby was having issues with coyotes and wild dogs killing their goats so they had invested in two donkeys to help protect their goats. They were all extremely friendly and it helped to amuse us.
Oklahoma really stepped up when it came to the waterfalls, granted most of them were spillways but nature did its thing and turned them into beautiful pieces of art. We were driving along Highway 10 where it parallels the Illinois River area in the Cherokee County area one day. Scott was looking over the map and noticed the J. T. Nickel Family Nature and Wildlife Preserve. It would enable us to drive along the east side of the Illinois River and experience the less “popular” side.
As we took the “gravel” roads, we came across an area where an interesting waterfall appeared. This was the Cherokee Bathtub Rocks waterfall. The rock is Burgen Sandstone and the deep impressions in the rock looked almost like bathtubs; hence the name. These geologic tub formations were created by fast rushing water running over the rock for thousands of years.
This area is more known than Scott and I thought. In the summer months, hundreds of people come here to cool down in the extremely clear, refreshing water to escape the summer heat. Because of this, the area has begun to see the impact of litter and graffiti. The Nature Conservancy and J. T. Nickel Family Nature and Wildlife Preserve are doing what they can to educate the visitors and do weekly clean-ups.
The one Work Projects Administration (WPA) dam on our list is located just outside the county seat of Okmulgee County. It is a hand-cut, local stone dam that resembles a staircase when it is not running. The Okmulgee and Dripping Springs Lake and Recreation Area was once an Oklahoma State Park (1963). In 2015 it was given back to the city of Okmulgee.
Like the Devil’s Den State Park’s CCC dam, this was a project designed to help men out of work feed and care for their families. Originally this was a an earthen dam built in 1927 when Okmulgee needed a water source for the county’s citizens. Unfortunately, the dam was washed out in a flood giving the WPA an opportunity to create this county their lake back.
The stone used in the building of the dam dates back to the Pennsylvanian Period and this area is one of the few places the rare Gymnophyllum wardi fossil can be found. It is also known as the button coral.
Near Mountain View, Arkansas, in Stone County, we found Blanchard Springs Cavern and Recreation Area maintained and managed by the Ozark-St. Francis National Forestry Service. Just below the cavern entrance, there are two springs gushing from the limestone mountain filling the Mirror Lake below. It is one of our favorite areas of Arkansas; we have actually talked about settling down in this area when we are done traveling.
At one time this was all under an ancient sea about 350-500 million years ago, but because of land mass shifts it was uplifted. This created the Ozark Plateau. Because water is amazing, it seeped into the cracks and crevasses in the rock and eventually created caverns in the limestone. The springs here still travel through the cavern causing dissolved limestone and various minerals to color the Mirror Lake water a green turquoise color. Here the water stays at a 58-degree temperature making it a trout haven.
The trail leading to the falls was built by the CCC using the local, hand-cut stone. It went along the rushing water and we really enjoyed shade of the trees. Because it was raining, the springs and water way really put on a show for us.
Just down stream from Blanchard Springs Falls was Mirror Lake. It was created by the CCC in the 1930s when they built the stone and concrete dam. It is not quite the same stair type build as the Okmulgee Dam the WPA built, but it does have a couple of levels, giving it a very nice flow. Occasionally, you would see a fish go with the flow and end up adventuring in the North Sylamore Creek that would eventually end up in the White River.
It was raining the day we decided to adventure in this area, but that never seems to stop us. The trees were in full bloom and the rain just enhanced our walk down the boardwalk above the river. From there we were able to view the Old Mitchell Mill ruins that were used to ground corn and work ginned cotton. The mill was built in the 1880s using oak, walnut, and local stone. The family eventually sold the land to the forest service, giving us all the opportunity to enjoy the area.
The only issue with rain is that the roads and trails get really soggy which makes for mudding trudging. We wanted to go down and view the ruins closer, but we were concerned about the condition of the lower trails and the creek possibly rising quickly. Arkansas creeks have a tendency to surprise you when you least want them to; we decided it would be in our best interest to enjoy the view from the above boardwalk.
On Memorial Day weekend we decided a longer trip than our normal day trips was needed so we packed up our little car and head to Wyoming. There were no thoughts of waterfalls this trip, it was all about the Devil’s Tower and Chimney Rock along the way. As we headed home through South Dakota’s Black Hills, we kept seeing a stream getting stronger and wider. It was at that very moment I told Scott I bet there was a waterfall nearby. I was on! The bet called for one of us to buy the other breakfast.
As we followed the stream, we could hear the sound of crashing water and suddenly we saw a stone-carved sign telling us there was indeed a waterfall nearby. The forestry department had a nice little area with parking, signs, and a boardwalk to take us to Roughlock Falls. It was so pretty with green spring plants growing on the Spearfish Creek’s limestone.
We tend to get excited when we come across waterfalls we have no clue are there. There is something about finding little gems like this that cause us to be giddy with excitement. Of course, the fact that Scott had to buy me breakfast didn’t hurt my excitement either.
While we ate breakfast at the Latchstrong Restaurant in the Spearfish Canyon, we were told about our next surprise waterfall for the Memorial Day trip. Just a few minute hike away from the Restaurant was the Spearfish Waterfall that cut the Spearfish Canyon. The path gently went down into the valley where the Spearfish Creek resided and trees provided plenty of shade. Once again, it was a magical trip to see this 47-foot waterfall.
Scott seemed to like the walk along the trail and was taking many photos of the area. There was something about the limestone canyon and sounds of the waterfall that seemed to have his photography bug itching. It seemed as if we were constantly stopping for him to take a photo of the falls, mountains, and birds. I might seem a bit annoyed when he does this, but really it thrills me to know he is seeing nature as art and is allowing his creative side shine through.
We loved that Spring was starting to show up in this place and to see the green buds upon the trees was encouraging to see. Even though it was just starting to show up here in South Dakota, we knew it would be quickly be summer weather in Oklahoma by the time got back.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a cascade as “a steep usually small fall of water”. This may be reaching, but we located water rushing down the mountain and it reminded us of Cossatot Falls in Arkansas, only on a much smaller scale. The photos do not do this location justice really because you cannot see the layers of cascading water.
Yes, this might be a stretch, but the potential is there. I have been told by a young man I work with that if we had taken the trail from the area we stopped for this photo we would have come to a rather impressive “waterfall” for the area. I guess we will need to go back in the spring this year and check that out.
At one point a couple of years ago, we purchased the book Arkansas Waterfalls by Tim Ernst. He has visited over 200 waterfalls in Arkansas and wrote a book about each one and how to get to them. He states that Carwash Falls is one of the most unique falls in the country, so we had to check it out. Who knew we would have such an adventure getting to it.
Driving Arkansas Highway 123, also known as the Arkansas Dragon, we found ourselves going right past the Carwash Falls. To get to the falls, you must turn off the main road and take a gravel road (which we call “going on an adventure”). It is approximately three miles and you must cross Hurricane Creek. Normally this is not a big deal because it is not always running with high water, but this day there was more than enough to concern us a bit. The car we have now is a Chevy Sonic and the body is very low to the ground. To ensure we could cross it safely, I got out and walked one side to the other. It was not over knee-deep and no muddy spots; we would risk it all!
Once we crossed the creek successfully we had a pleasant drive along the Big Piney Creek. As we topped a hill, we saw the wall of limestone bluffs on the right side. It was beautiful, however, we could not see the falls. With sunroof open, we continued to drive forward when suddenly we had water pouring onto the hood of the car. Scott was filming and insanity ensued.
Having closed the sunroof just in time, we were still dry and able to visit another waterfall just down the road. It was a nice little swimming hole called Haw Creek Falls Recreation Area. As the name suggests, there was a waterfall on the Haw Creek and it was a nice one to end up on. It was just a few feet from the state forest camping area.
We spent a couple of hours here exploring the area to find a few fossils in the limestone slabs which made up the falls. The water, yet again, showed off its power of under and down cutting. It was amazing to see just how efficient erosion could be. As we navigated the area keeping our feet dry, we could see deep down into the water because the water was so clear. It, like Mirror Lake, had a green turquoise color from the dissolved limestone and minerals from area springs which made the deeper parts very mystical looking.
The time we spent here was very calming and we wished we could spend more time there, but there is always so much more to see and do. It is because of this blog, videos, and photos that we are able to enjoy these places again when we are visiting other locations. We hope you are able to get some inspiration from our travels and find those places that bring you peacefulness.
Thank you so much for joining us on all of our adventures, we appreciate you so very much.
Life has a way of twisting itself so you never really know what is going to happen. Take this past year 2020 as an example. It was been full of stress, shock, and surprise because of the pandemic, politics, and potential. When Scott and I started 2020 we had no clue what was going to happen at the end of the year. We were making plans to stay in the borrowed RV at the brother-in-law’s place giving us time to pay off bills and then purchase land somewhere close by. However, life had other plans for us.
In April of 2004, we left Oklahoma quickly. We did not feel we were achieving anything; jobs were dead-end, bills piling up, and life was frustrating. After a short trip to Fort Worth, Scott and I found ourselves moving to Texas where life took a bit of a different turn than we expected. During 2013 we found ourselves visiting Texas State Parks, getting involved with a state park non-profit organization, and beginning to park host in those parks. Then we discovered YouTube and blogging. It was not the life we thought we were going to have.
Take Me Back To Tulsa
It was August of 2017 when we moved back to Tulsa. Surprisingly, it was good for us to go back. Here we were able to explore the hometown. We both found this was not the same place we had left; something had changed. We were seeing the city and state with different eyes; travelers’ eyes. This enabled us to appreciate the historical sites and tourist destinations more and it helped us find a new love for the state we both grew up in.
Both Scott and I have a love for history and travel, Oklahoma opened up a lot of opportunities for us. The state parks in this state offered plenty of camping. There are some locations that offered hiking, but not as much as other states. Fortunately for us, we had not really found hiking yet. We were more into the historical sites such as the Route 66 locations, museums such as the Woody Guthrie Center, and tourist destinations like The Gathering Place. It opened our eyes to see how much history and fun Oklahoma had to offer.
Because we were in a centrally located area we were able to branch out to other states. We collected all of the counties in Arkansas, 87% of Kansas, and ventured into New Mexico, Nebraska, South Dakota, and even Wyoming. Unfortunately, it was taking us longer to visit places because the drive time was five to six hours just to get to places we had never been. This was one of the issues we had found frustrating about our Texas travels. However, we were happy being in Osage County, Oklahoma; it was beautiful, historic, and home.
A Legen—dary Trip!
A friend had recently taken a job at Pikes Peak and she invited us to visit the area. Taking a four-day trip we drove to John Martin Reservoir State Park and camped in our “improved” hammock set-up. The park is located in the southwest corner of Colorado in Bent County near Las Animas and it is perfect for star gazing and fishing. When Scott woke up he felt a little strange and his eyes were not focusing properly. We didn’t think much about it because we were climbing in elevation and we had a lot more to do over the next three days.
Heading towards our next camping site, Lathrop State Park in Huerfano County, we were able to get a good view of the desert landscape. We continued to focus on the Spanish Mountain Range ahead of us but enjoyed the view around us. There were storms all around and we were a bit nervous because our hammock stands were made from fencing top rails and with lightning all around us, it could become potentially deadly.
Finally arriving at Lathrop State Park, we found our campsite to be on the top of a rather large hill and the forecasted weather was rain with lightning. We abandoned our campsite and decided to look at a hotel in Cañon City (pronounced Canyon City) later that evening. We were going to be following the Highway of Legends first.
The Highway of Legends, now a National Scenic Byway, runs along CO 12/U.S. 160 through the Spanish Peaks. This road took us through small towns like Le Veta and Cuchara. Spending time in the San Isabel National Forest in the Cuchara River Recreation Area was exactly what we needed. We were surrounded by pines and aspen trees while we explored the Blue Lake and Cucharas Creek enabling us to relax and breathe in the fresh mountain air. It was one of the moments of this trip that caused me to seriously think about moving to the area someday.
Hours later we found ourselves at an American Inn in Cañon City. It is a basic motel, but the owners have taken care of the property and their prices are not high. We were able to get some rest safely as there were major storms all around us. The next morning, Scott was still having issues focusing and he was not feeling great. I was beginning to feel the elevation a little so neither of us thought twice about the issue. I was able to drive and we still had a big day ahead of us. We would be heading to El Paso County to visit Pikes Peak.
Pikes Peak rises above Colorado Springs to 14,115 feet. It is one of two “fourteeners” you can drive up; the other is Mount Evens near Denver. I was fine driving this until we got out of the tree zone. I had never driven that high and the twists and turns were a bit unnerving at that height. Upon reaching the peak, I found myself in tears of relief gripping the steering wheel. Scott, on the other hand, was calm, but he was having terrible issues. We got out of the car, took the obligatory sign photo, went into the gift shop to pick up postcards and the famous donuts. At one point Scott told me he was going out to the car while I completed my purchases.
Arriving at the car, Scott said he did not feel well, he wanted to get down the mountain to a lower elevation. Unfortunately, fear took over me and I was not able to drive down so he had to do this. If only I had known what was going to happen days later, I might have done things differently. We made it safely down to Colorado Springs and fell in love with the area. I am known to cry out, “I want to live here!” when we travel, but this time I was sure I wanted to live there.
The next day we headed home to Oklahoma. The drive was long, but we came across many interesting places in Kansas and crossed off many counties and courthouses. Arriving home late, we headed to bed so Scott could rest; explaining that he felt fine and was ready to head back to work the next day.
When the Heart Attacks
Scott works for a company that does maintenance and building management for other businesses. He deals with HVAC (air conditioning) issues mainly, but there have been days he deals with normal issues. The location he has been working for since August 2017 has been at one of the local Tulsa hospitals. All throughout the day, he felt extra fatigued even though he slept well the night before. Because we had been in the car for ten hours the day before, he thought this was nothing more than the post-travel blahs the two of us deal with after many long trips.
About the time for him to leave for the day, he began to see flashing lights in his vision, soon after he had a panic attack. Because of my stroke in 2018, he was concerned he was having the same type of issue so he went to the emergency room. I showed up soon after and found a man who was scared. They assigned him a room soon after and there were so many tests done. Fortunately, we found he had not had a stroke, but he did have a small heart attack.
Heart attacks are caused by the build-up of plaque in the coronary arteries. The process of this plaque build-up is called atherosclerosis (pronounced: a·thr·ow·sklr·ow·suhs). Because the arteries are getting a build-up of plaque, there is less oxygen that can get to the heart which causes the damage. Many things cause this smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol, sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy diet, and the like. Men and women are both at risk and they need to be looking at the warning signs. Often warning signs differ quite a bit between men and women, but there can be some overlap.
Scott had been having issues for a while, but we never really thought about it as being heart issues; with him being diabetic, we assumed it was because his numbers were too high. He was always so exhausted, his legs and arms always felt “weak and sick”, he was having issues with momentarily blurred sight, he seemed dizzy and balance was off, and it seemed heartburn was a daily issue. While we were on the trip to Colorado, he had these issues more than normal; we assumed it was nothing more than elevation sickness. We now know it was because he had severe atherosclerosis. It was causing his heart and the rest of his body to not get the needed oxygen.
They did a series of tests to verify what exactly needed to be done. They did blood tests to check his cholesterol and triglycerides. An echocardiogram and EKG were done to check his heartbeat, heart size, and test the blood flow. He had a Coronary Angiography performed as well. This was to see if they would be able to use a “balloon” to open the arteries then place the mesh to open up the blockage, increasing the blood flow. Unfortunately, every one of his coronary arteries was blocked 80% or more. They established at that time he would be receiving five bypasses or Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting (CABG).
Between the emergency room, three days on the neurological floor to make sure he wasn’t having a stroke, and the next six days at the Oklahoma Heart Institute for his surgery and recovery, he was exhausted. He was ready to be home, but would I be able to take care of him as I should? What was going to be needed done to ensure he lived a healthier life; one that would help him be with me for a long time. I was promised that between physical therapy, dietary education, and exercising daily he would live a long and happy life.
The question it left us with was what was a healthy lifestyle. If you go to the American Heart Association’s “Lifestyle Changes for Heart Attack Prevention” page you will find a thorough list of what should be considered a healthy lifestyle:
STOP SMOKING CHOOSE GOOD NUTRITION WATCH YOUR CHOLESTEROL LOWER HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE BE PHYSICALLY ACTIVE AIM FOR A HEALTHY WEIGHT MANAGE DIABETES REDUCE STRESS LIMIT ALCOHOL
These nine things can help you keep a heart attack or stroke at bay. We found a few of the items easy to do. Neither of us smokes and Scott will have a couple of fingers of whiskey a couple of times a week. Both of us are on medication to help lower our cholesterol and we have found our numbers are good for the HDL, LDL, and Triglycerides, plus neither of us has high blood pressure. The issues we seem to have are maintaining a healthy weight, choosing a good diet, and being physically active. We are working on this issue and there is a lot of learning to be done. While he was home and going to physical therapy, he was walking up to 30 minutes a day three times a day.
On The Move Again!
The company Scott works for, as I stated before, manages and maintains maintenance for other businesses. He started working in Texas and was able to transfer to the hospital in Tulsa. Unfortunately during the time Scott was off work due to his heart attack, the hospital decided not to renew their contract. He had a choice to make, stay in Tulsa as a new employee of the hospital or stay with the company transferring to another business. Because our family lives in Oklahoma and he was up to five weeks of vacation and other benefits, we had a tough choice to make.
When we decided to collect all the counties in the United States, the thought process was to collect as much as we could as close to where we lived. That cut off for us was about six to ten hours away; we had reached that time frame for any new counties to be obtained. After speaking with our families, Scott decided he would not sign on with the hospital, but stay with the company he already had a nine year history with. So it was time to start the job search for a transfer.
Looking in Arkansas, Utah, Colorado, and a few other states Scott put in applications for three locations: Jonesboro, AR, Salt Lake City, UT, and Grand Junction, CO. He had an interview with the location in Salt Lake City and it looked very favorable. The job would be something he had never done before and he would be helping to create the new policies. The positions in Jonesboro and Grand Junction had been filled so, after talking with my mother, Scott filled out an application for a Colorado Springs position. My mother was thrilled when Scott was offered the position in Colorado Springs because she had always wanted to live there and she had decided to move there once we were settled and her lease was up.
Once the decision was made, we had thirty days to sell, purge, and pack everything we owned. We would get a 10-foot moving truck and leave on November 23. There was plenty to sell such as the outdoor table and chairs, grill, lawnmower, and such, and we gave a lot away to a charity such as dishes, furniture, and items not needed. Cordie, the Chihuahua, was happy to help put things in boxes and was not going to allow us to leave her behind. We knew there was going to be a need for a small storage building until we were able to sort through a few things we just could not part with at that point in time.
On the morning of November 23, we got in the moving truck and car, then headed west to Colorado Springs. We had made a basic plan on where we would stop for the night and then would play it by ear the rest of the time. Cordie was safely attached to her new car seat while Scott and I had our audiobooks ready to be played. The day was going to be cold and snow was expected at one point during the trip so anxiety was up for that, but none had happened as we arrived in Hays, Kansas, where we would stop for the night to rest.
The next day we were up early and headed to our final destination. We would arrive in Colorado Springs, Colorado, within five hours of leaving Hays, then we would find our hotel. Once settled we would be able to find a good meal and explore our new home town. As we drove on Highway 70, we began to see snow and snowplows. I was definitely nervous about it, but this was one of the reasons we wanted to move to Colorado; we wanted to experience real winters! Fortunately, there was no real accumulation and by the time we arrived in Colorado Springs, the day had turned sunny and warm. We were able to see Pikes Peak ahead of us, welcoming us home.
Knowing where we were moving and the date, we needed to find a place to live quickly. As I started my search I knew there specific things we wanted in an apartment: small square footage, close to Scott’s work, not expensive, and safe. There were a couple of complexes very close to his work, but they were so expensive. I then came across a small complex of one bedroom apartments. The location and size were perfect and it was exactly where it needed to be budget wise. All we needed to do was connect with the manager and get everything set up.
As you can see, the apartment is a small 400 square foot living space and we needed to figure out how we would set it up. There was not a lot of storage space so we would need to be creative to find places for everything we brought. If you look at the diagram, the kitchen seems to be huge, but that is the kitchen and dining area. We had already decided to use the dining area for office space so the kitchen ends up being about the size and set up of an RV kitchen. Unfortunately, an RV kitchen is a bit better in the setup.
As you can see, the refrigerator and stove/oven is smaller, however, it enables there to be a bit more storage space. Fortunately, we were able to get creative in how we managed the lack of storage. One was the magnet shelf/paper towel holder. It has enabled us to use the side of the fridge as storage. It opened up the under cabinet area around the sink. A friend of ours gifted us the over sink draining/storage area enabling us to keep our dishes stored there. It helps us keep the kitchen counters uncluttered by not using a traditional drainer and a place to keep those things we use daily. Then there are the cabinet step organizers in the cabinets themselves. This has helped us organize the spices and canned goods. We were able to get these off of Amazon at great prices and they delivered!
I had purchased some interesting premade shelves at a garage sale once for Scott to use in his music room in Oklahoma, but I absconded them to use just under the cabinets. They fit the space perfectly and it has helped us to get things off of the counter. Just love the look of them and how they match the black drainer. It was exactly what we needed in the tiny kitchen.
Both Scott and I had decided we would be doing hammocks in the bedroom. We were so uncomfortable in the RV bed. Even when we sleep in hotels as we travel, our backs are very sore from the flat mattresses. The hammocks help keep our back muscles relaxed and in line. The only thing we really needed for the hammocks were stands. Our homemade turtle dog stands would not work in this small space. So we purchased two hammock stands from Amazon that fit perfectly in the bedroom. We will be adding two clothing racks and a shelf or dresser beside each bed so the items in storage can be put into the closet for sorting through. Our goal is to be able to have just what we need and no more.
The Work Areas & Living Room
Coming up with specific work areas was not really difficult; we just had to figure out what to do to fix it. I saw it in my head and was able to purchase one of the twelve cube Ikea shelves from the Facebook Marketplace and we then found two desks at Wal-Mart for about $30 each. We already had the chairs and that was really all we needed.
Because the living space is open from my work area, we purchased a rolling ottoman with storage for $10 at a local thrift store and it enables me to turn my chair around and enjoy an evening watching the shows we enjoy. This space works out really well for what we need and that is what it is all about.
What Are We Doing Now?
Since we have gotten settled in, we have been exploring Colorado. We went from 11 counties collected before we moved here to 35 in just a few months. The desire to see everything is great and we are taken with the snowy landscapes. We try not to allow the lack of experience of driving on the wintery roads keep us away. We have purchased the necessary tire cables just in case we need them and we try to keep an eye on the weather so we do not get caught in unexpected snow storms as we travel.
There is so much to do and see here in just this one state that we are exploring to see what is out there. For example, we have been to Rocky Mountain National Park a couple of times so we can experience the different types of weather and views. On one trip we just drove around to see what was there and on the second trip we hiked around Bear Lake and up to Nymphs’ Lake. We were able to experience lakes so frozen people were ice skating on them! It was just magical for us.
After collecting all of the counties in Arkansas and Oklahoma, we felt we were able to concentrate on the many different things and places in each of the states instead of trying to collect all the counties. Scott once said he felt a freedom to explore each state more. So, we have decided to do this with Colorado. Once we have collected all the counties, we will feel we can focus more on each little place we have fallen in love with.
We love Colorado so much and I often wonder if we will ever get tired of this place. I truly hope not, there is something about mountains that makes both of us happy. That is, however, what this journey is all about. We don’t like sitting still and being stagnant so we will continue to travel and see what is out there. Because, as travel writer Bill Bryson says, “There is something about the momentum of travel that makes you want to just keep moving, to never stop.”
Thanks so much for joining us on our journey and reading our blog and watching our video. Scott & Ren
We are Scott and Ren Fridenberg and travel is what keeps us moving.
In 2004 Scott and I visited Fort Worth, Texas, and saw a place full of beauty, history, and opportunities. Within 30 days of our visit, we moved to the area. From that move forward, we have allowed travel to have an effect on us as a couple and as individuals. These effects range from new experiences, making new friends, to finding surprises in history and activities.
Scott and I met through a medieval recreation society called The Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). This is a non-profit organization that celebrates the culture, art, and history of pre-17th-century Europe. He was involved in what is called bardic which is storytelling, and I was becoming interested in period hand embroidery styles. This organization enabled us to make friends all over the Texas and Oklahoma area causing our move to the Fort Worth area rather simple. During 2004 through to 2008 we didn’t do much travel except to attend SCA events.
In late 2006 we moved from Texas back to Oklahoma for a while. We lived in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and it was there we discovered something very interesting, the back roads in Oklahoma were wrapped in history. It was at that time we put together our very first travel blog called Backroads Oklahoma. Unfortunately, we did not keep the site and all of the information is gone, but it was the very start of us deciding to do more with the travel than just “go”. On that website, we traveled throughout Oklahoma from Tulsa to Oklahoma City finding places like Ingalls where the famous shoot-out between the Doolin and Dalton gangs happened, the Washington Irving Trail Museum where the adventurer camped while surveying the area, and many other old forgotten relics of Oklahoma.
Eventually, in 2009, the moving bug bit us again sending us back to the Fort Worth, Texas, area. It was about this time Scott and I began to explore the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex in full. We started finding places like fields full of sunflowers for miles and miles all around Waxahachie, hippos in the middle of Irving, and many different festivals. We then started to get further away from the maddening crowd of Dallas to find Texas had so much more to offer than just pavement, the Dallas Cowboys, and water features.
It was about this time Scott had started to learn to play the guitar and was wanting to play more and more Irish music. He had already been obsessed with music and the Irish folk scene, but it was starting to influence what he wanted to do. At one point in 2012, we went to Austin, Texas, for this very reason. He wanted to go to Fiddler’s Green Music Shop because it was a very active Irish Folk Music place. We explored the capitol building, the old downtown, and the famous Sixth & Congress intersection where many singers and songwriters have found themselves like Nancy Griffith and Willie Nelson. This was a huge thing for us because we had talked about going to the capital many times, but we actually found ourselves there in the middle of history for the state we had fallen in love with. We both decided to start stepping out of our comfort zone and travel farther away from home.
I, of course, have been crazy for hand embroidery for a long time and decided it was time to really focus on it. During the time Scott was learning to play the guitar, I started focusing on needlepoint canvas painting. I searched the internet for information to learn how to do the painting and there was nothing. Completely shocked, but I eventually found some experienced painters that were so extremely helpful. Between this, the commissions, and me learning new embroidery techniques I was very busy and enjoying my time. I often was able to do embroidery as we drove down the road to onto our next adventure or even did some work as we sat by the campfire in the late afternoons. It was a perfect set up for me and the embroidery.
In the fall of 2013, Scott and I decided we were eventually going to move into an RV and live in it permanently, traveling across the United States. We just were not sure how or when we would go through with this, but we were going to start moving that way; eventually. Less than a year later we discovered a whole new world, the Texas State Park world. We had visited Dinosaur Valley State Park in 2004, but we had not thought about them until 2014. It was this recent visit that we made the decision to go to every single Texas State Park. We would purchase a patch from all of them that had them and get a photo of us with the park signs. Once we were on number four learned there were 98 parks. This was going to be a task! Fortunately, we are not the only people doing this, there have been three people/couples who have succeeded in doing this and so we know it is able to do.
Spring 2014 we started sorting and purging everything in the 2,000 sq ft house. We had garage sale after garage sale and donated so much stuff, but we were finally able to get down to a small apartment amount of furnishings. In March 2014, we moved into a 547 sq ft apartment. What a bit of shock; it was so much smaller than the house! The apartment was small but we intended to spend as much of our time out adventuring so it isn’t a big deal. In 2016 we decided we really needed to focus and make the footprint of our living space much smaller so we sorted and purged, yet again, then moving our lives into the bedroom area. Granted this did not include the bathroom or the kitchen, but it did help us to see we were quite capable of living in a very small space.
Then it happened! On February 24, 2017, we purchased our home on wheels. It was a 1982 El Dorado Firenza; she was an all fiberglass frame on an Econoline van chaise. We proceeded to do the minor renovations needed so we could live in it for two weeks while we assisted Eisenhower State Park with some Spring Break help to see if it was truly something we wanted to pursue. Packing up a few things, we headed to Lake Texoma area and found we never wanted to leave the park; we were finally home.
In December 2017, we moved to our family hometown, Tulsa, OK, and tried to remodel the RV. Because there was so much water damage to the roof, we were not able to afford the renovation or able to physically handle the work needed. There was just too much mold and I was not in good health at the time so we decided to sell the Beast. We were able to sell it to a nice young couple who spent their free time with a lot of friends. They completely gutted the RV and put in bunk beds and seating for 15. It was a great new start for this 1988 RV.
For the past three years, Scott was able to continue working for his Texas employer while I worked on various projects and spent time with my family. We were able to live in a very small studio in a historical building called the Georgian Terrace, a mobile home outside of Tulsa with a lake view drive, and in a fifth wheel on Scott’s brother’s property 45 minutes from Tulsa. At each place we were able to continue our travels that took us deep into the Arkansas Ouachita’s and up into Wyoming. But the pursuit of new counties was over five hours from where we were living and Scott’s position was ending, so it was time to move.
Scott’s company was not going to be continuing in Oklahoma so we decided it was time to move forward and move westward. We had visited Colorado Springs earlier in the summer and fell in love; it was the mountains, the mountains were calling us home. He found a position with the company he worked for, we filled a ten-foot U-haul, and headed west grabbing three new counties on the trip out there.
As of November 24, 2020, we are living in a place that we are able to have so much to explore and see. Our apartment is small, but we like it that way; this enables us to get ourselves outside of our box and find new, interesting places.