Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Now Texas trails entice us
to travel in their vastness,
to drink of their deep wells of history,
to feast on their varied landscapes.
Land of cactus and cowboys,
of high rises and high rollers,
of tall trees and tall tales,
of historic heroes and Hispanic hospitality,
of palm trees and sagebrush,
of open spaces and a closed border,
of summer heat and winter immigrants,
of oil wells and ghost towns,
of Tex-Mex and Spanglish,
of road runners and wild hogs,
of beef fajitas and beef barbequed,
of fierce independence and unmeasurable pride.
Our Lone Star home is calling our names;
Texas trails, help us answer.
9/24/2011 - mshr

Friday, September 23, 2011

Putting the RV on the Scales

We spent the last several days at Rainbow's End, the Escapees RV park in Livingston, Texas. Rainbow's End is home to the national headquarters of Escapees -- a large organization of people enjoying living and traveling in their RV.

The Escapee RV Club offers many services for RVers, including their mail forwarding service that we find so helpful.
But this time we were wanting to take advantage of another of their services, SmartWeigh, which weights each individual wheel position of the RV and tow vehicle to ensure that no one wheel position is overloaded and that all wheels and axles are within their safe limits.
Unlike automobiles, by design, most RVs run close to their maximum load limits. Many RV owners add more stuff until they are dangerously overloaded. Tires, brakes, and suspension systems can fail under such circumstances. We have been faithful to check our weights on truck scales at least once a year. But truck scales can give weights only by axle and this time we wanted our individual wheel positions to be weighed.
We had been at Rainbow's End in May as we were traveling northward and we had our fifth-wheel weighed at that time. Since then we added the Bigfoot automatic leveling system which added some significant pounds to our trailer. To compensate we got rid of a heavy hide-a-bed which we replaced with two very comfortable and lightweight glider chairs.
We had hoped that getting rid of the heavy hide-a-bed would offset the additional weight of the Bigfoot system and not change the weight distribution side-to-side. So today we went for our re-weigh and discovered -- very pleasantly -- that there was no significant change to our weights.
Now we can travel on with confidence that we are doing everything possible to be safe.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Hugo Lake, Oklahoma

Before leaving Oklahoma, we spent two nights at Kiamichi Park, a Corps of Engineers campground on the shores of Hugo Lake in southern Oklahoma.
We have discovered that Corps of Engineers campgrounds are always reasonably priced (also 50% discount for seniors with Golden Age Passport cards).

Most camping sites at Corps campgrounds are waterfront sites with great views.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


This is Native American territory!  We know because the license plates say so.  Most of them, that is. 
The Muscogee tribe of the Creek nation has unique bright red plates, however.
The Cherokee Nation also has special identifying plates for their vehicles.  Their license plates include some printed words in the Cherokee language.
Indeed, Oklahoma is distinctive among the states in the lasting influence that Native American peoples have had on that state.  There are currently residents of Oklahoma representing 67 native American tribes or nations.  Twenty-five different native languages continue to be taught and used.

Those who inhabited this land centuries before the white man arrived are remembered daily in place names in the state.  The state name itself comes from the Choctaw language, "okla" and "homa," meaning "red people."  Counties bear names such as Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek,. Delaware, Logan, Muskogee, Osage, Ottawa, Pawnee, Pottawatomie, Seminole, and Sequoyah.
There are cities and towns called Atoka, Copan, Chikasha, Kiowa, Menco, Nashoba, Okmulgee, Ponca City, Shawnee, Tahlequah, Tulsa, Tecumseh, Quabaw, Wapanuka, Weleetka, and Yanush.

Oklahoma's native American history goes back to 850 A.D. when groups of mound-builders began settling in the area.  In 1541, the Spaniard Francisco de Vasquez de Coronado explored the area and claimed it for Spain.  Two centuries later, the French claimed it for France, and in 1803, it was sold to the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase.  These political changes meant little to the Osage and Quapaw peoples who were native to the area.  Their daily life of hunting and gathering continued mostly unchanged.
Then, in the 1830s, Andrew Jackson, in his presidential wisdom, decided to establish a human shield on the extreme western border of the United States.  This, he reasoned, would protect the U.S. from foreign influences to the west and south.  The native peoples of the eastern woodlands would be relocated to the west and become that shield.

With such a sound rationale for maintaining national security, Jackson did not publicize the other reason for relocating the native peoples from the east to the west.  Gold had been discovered on Cherokee tribal lands about 1830 and white people wanted it for themselves.  So the forced relocation of thousands of Native Americans began.

Great Smokey Mountains
The Cherokee were uprooted from the mountains of the Carolinas and marched to Oklahoma.
The Chocktaw, Chippewa, and Creek peoples were forced at gunpoint from their homes in the forests of Alabama and Mississippi to the open plains of Oklahoma. .
The Seminoles were dragged from their tribal lands in the cypress swamps of Florida to Oklahoma's prairies to become part of President Jackson's western defense of the nation.  Besides these "Five Civilized Tribes," as they were called, many other smaller tribes were forced to re-settle on the western prairie frontier
By 1890, thirty tribal groups had been relocated to what was appropriately referred to as
"Indian Territory."

Around the turn of the century, there began to be talk of statehood for the "Indian Territory."  There were many who advocated for the creation of an all Indian state to be named Sequoyah in honor of the great Cherokee statesman and linguist.

Others encouraged the development of a "majority black state" designed to ease the post-slavery tensions in the nation.  Finally, in 1907, Oklahoma became the 46th state in the nation.  It was named for its native American heritage but created without racial restrictions.
The descendants of those relocated native American peoples continue to thrive in Oklahoma, Native America.
They are active in the economy of the state and on their own tribal lands.
On tribal lands, they have discovered a rich source of income for the tribe: casinos!
Although gambling is not legal on U.S. land, native peoples are considered "sovereign nations," not subject to U.S.law.
Creek Nation Casino
Bristow, Oklahoma
'The building and operation of large gambling casinos on their tribal lands has become a lucrative business for them.
Chactaw Casino
Hugo, Oklahoma
Perhaps, in this second-handed way, they are finally reclaiming the gold that was stolen from them by the U.S. government in 1830!

Oklahoma's OK!
Unchosen home of red folks and black;
Heart's desire of "sooners"
who tried to stake their claims
before the starting shot;
"Indian Territory"
long after most sister states
had names and places in the Union.
Land of hills and prairies,
native peoples and immigrants,
many ranches and a few cities,
cattle, horses and wildlife.
Rogers and Hammerstein celebrated your statehood
in a musical tale that never mentionbed
the tragedies you've known:
*Trails of Tears from eastern woodlands to your plains
*black African bondage, Jim Crow and the KKK
*despair of 'The Dust Bowl'
*bombing of a Federal building.
But you've survived
-- and thrived -- 
because "Okies" are tough!
Oklahoma's OK!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


One Sunday we watched as people went to the church of their choice.
Some pulled into the parking lot of the First Baptist Church.
Others gathered at Main Street Methodist
as some of their neighbors attended mass at St. Stephen's on the Square.
Jewish friends had worshiped yesterday and
the Muslim faithful would offer their prayers daily at home
and on Friday in the mosque.
However, on that first day of the week, we couldn't help but notice
some headed for other destinations.
Some packed their gear for worship at Our Lady of the Golf Course.
Others hitched up trailers for their trip to Born Again Boat Dock.
We knew many who offered praise and prayers at the
Church of the Crowded Campground.
There are, of course, those who fish for fish rather than people at the
Leave-Me-Alone Silent Meeting.
There seemed to be lots of folks who joined
St. Hironymous of the Highway.
We personally know a number of people who belong to the
Sanctified Sunday Sleepers Tabernacle.
How differently we get our souls fed!
As we slowly made our way through the liturgy of the Holy Hiking Trail,
we had no self-righteous fingers to point at anyone else's Sunday morning worship habits.
God lives in many surprising places!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Tallgrass Prairie Preserve

Have you ever wondered "where the buffalo roam"?  Today we found out!  We spent several hours on a delightful driving tour of the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve just north of Pawhuska, Oklahoma.  In 1989 The Nature Conservancy purchased the 29,000 acre Barnard Ranch not many miles south of the Kansas state line. The Conservancy is dedicated to the preservation of unique natural habitats and has expanded the Preserve area during its 22 years of management.

This is the view that greeted the pioneers traveling west by covered wagon during the early 1800s.  One hundred forty-two million acres of tallgrass prairie stretched from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico spanning parts of 14 states in the mid-section of the nation. Today, less than 10% of that prairie area remains in its natural state, uncultivated and undeveloped.
The Conservancy has carefully researched good management practices for the tallgrass prairie area.  Three crucial elements to maintaining the health of the prairie are favorable climate, regular controlled burning, and bison grazing.  A herd of 300 bison was re-located into the Preserve in 1993.  It has now grown to a community of 2700 bison.  They do their part in maintaining the prairie.
Bison are natural grass feeders so their grazing helps control the heighth and density of the prairie grasses.
A herd of 2700 bison eats a LOT of grass.  They roam freely around their protected area of the Preserve, not in the least intimidated by the cars, people and cameras that are often focused upon them.
Their needs are simple: grass, water and space to roam and reproduce.  They are so well cared for that they think they own the Preserve.  Twice we had to stop our truck and wait while large numbers of the shaggy brown beasts lumbered slowly across the road in front of us!
The climate has not been kind to either the prairie or the bison this year.  The severe drought has stunted the growth of the grasses on which the bison feed.
The drought has also necessitated a state-wide burn ban, which even prevents the controlled burns scheduled by The Nature Conservancy four times each year.  Centuries ago the native peoples observed that when lightning strikes set the prairie on fire, the grasses flourished with new growth and the herds of bison increased.  To this day, good prairie management includes regular controlled burns to char away the old growth so that new growth below it can flourish.  Regular, prescribed burns also are an effective way to keep fast-growing trees and shrubs from taking over the grasslands.
Lack of rain and absence of prairie burnings may cause some of the resident bison, such as this cow and her calf, to go hungry this winter.
The patriarchs of the herd kept a wary eye upon us as we traveled through their prairie home.
They tried to look casual and uninterested in the humans who had invaded their territorty,
But those eyes watched every move we made.  Bison are big animals, some taller than 6 1/2 feet at the shoulders and an adult male can weigh 2000 pounds.  They can run faster than a human being and can jump 6 feet in any direction.  We did our best not to upset them while we were among them!  We stayed in our truck and behaved ourselves.
This warning stare seemed to say, "You've stayed long enough on our prairie and taken too many pictures.  It's time for you to go back where you belong, in the land of the humans.  We're glad you came, but it's time for you to go."  We didn't argue.
Leaving the tallgrass prairie behind, we marveled at the wonderful sense of space, serenity, and beauty all around us from the tallgrass to the clouds in the bright blue sky.  What an exciting and wonderful world!


(Tune: " Deck the Halls")
'Tis the time for road repairing.
Oh, my goodness, look; an orange sign.
Navigating takes some daring.
Golly, there’s another orange sign.
Orange barrels, orange cones, some
orange vests, caution signs
Slow down, though you may be lonesome.
Gosh! Another mile of orange signs!

"Right lane closed ahead. Merge left now."
Darn those pesky awful orange signs.
"Left lane closed ahead. Merge right now."
Double darn! They’re multiplying fast!
Where to go? I can’t go my way.
Can’t go left; can’t go right
What to do?
I’ll just stop here in the highway
‘Till an orange sign says where to go!

Traffic’s backing up! It’s awful!
Bleep and bleep and bleep those orange signs!
"Officer, yes, I’ve been unlawful.
I have no escape from orange signs.
Off to jail? You’ll tow my car out?
Wonderful! You’ve freed me from
The orange sign curse.
Now I can go traveling far out
From those #$%@&+ (profanity deleted)
orange signs.

8 Sept 2011

Washington Cove Campground on Copan Lake, Oklahoma

We are presently at the Washington Cove Campground operated by the US Army Corps of Engineers on the edge of Copan Lake in Oklahoma, about 10 miles south of the Kansas-Oklahoma State Line, and directly south of Topeka, Kansas.
We have come to appreciate campgrounds operated by the Corps of Engineers
because they are nearly all on lakes and waterfronts.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The State of Kansas

Considering Kansas
The Flint Hills of Kansas
Cities nearly swallowed up
by vast open spaces;
Farms and fields
framed by hills –

The Flint Hills of Kansas
rock-lined, prairie-covered hills --
adorned by cattle, rocks and solitary trees
as far as the eye can see.
Sunflowers, Kansas
Sunflowers smile from roadsides
through these great plains and grasslands
carpeting the center of the country.

30 Aug 2011