Friday, May 31, 2013

Onward and Northward to Papillion, Nebraska

Papillion, NE

Thursday was our last day at the Prairie Band Casino campground.  We had escaped the rains throughout most of our days here but, of course, on the day we are set to leave it begins raining early in the morning.  We wanted to leave around 9:00 am, but by 10:00 am it was still raining.  Finally, I'd had enough and put on the raincoat and flip flops and trudged outside to hook up the toad and make ready the rig for leaving.  We left about 10:30 am (after I totally changed every bit of clothing I had on).

Our next intended stop is the Walnut Creek Recreation Area just on the south side of Papillion, Nebraska.  The drive was about 2 1/2 hours and uneventful after we got out of the rain. 

So where in the heck is Papillion, NE you might ask?  It's somewhat of a suburban area of Omaha, NE.  We saw these pennants placed around the lake, so I decided to look up the CNN Money Magazine source cited at the bottom of the pennant. Sure enough, Papillion, NE was voted #5 on the list in 2011. We have never been in any part of Nebraska before, but I found this campground when I was searching for some minor league baseball teams to watch along our travel routes.  I love minor league baseball because it's usually exciting to watch and inexpensively priced.  You can get a good, up close ticket to watch future major league players early in their careers. We will be attending several games for the Omaha Storm Chasers. They are a AAA team (next step up is the Major Leagues) and are a farm team of the Kansas City Royals.

Our campground is small, but very nice.  There are 45 sites here which all have concrete pads and paved roads throughout.  There are either 30 or 50 amp electric at every site, but no sewer or water.  There is a dump station within the cg and three potable water faucets scattered throughout the park for filling up the tank. 

We decided to come in on Thursday after speaking to the camphosts who advised that the cg is very popular on the weekends. (No reservations are accepted.)  We're glad we came in early because by Friday evening almost all of the sites were taken.

The campground is situated beside a man-made lake used for various forms of recreation.  There is a wide concrete path which circles the entire lake for a distance of 3.2 miles.  The path is great for biking, walking, jogging, or walking dogs.

 Although swimming is not allowed, many folks fish in the lake by boat and from the shore.

Here's a panoramic view of the campground showing our rig from the hill above......

......and a photo of the lake.

Unfortunately, we saw more of this on Friday evening, but it passed through quickly without too much rain and wind.

Thanks for dropping by to take a look!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Touring Between the Storms

Mayetta, KS

We've had storms which have included rain, heavy rain, wind, strong winds, tornado watches, tornado warnings, and now flood watches and warnings throughout most of the week.  Luckily, our immediate area (about 20 miles north of Topeka) has been spared from most of the severe weather.

West Wing Entrance
Yesterday we decided it was time to get out and do some exploring.  Since Topeka is the capitol city of Kansas (tell the truth, how many of you actuallly knew that) we decided to take a short drive to the Capitol Building and take a tour of the building itself. Unfortunately, the building has been undergoing a major renovation since 2010 and the exterior will not be completed for about another year.  The interior is almost totally complete, so we took a personal guided tour. (We were literally the only two in the group.) 

(Courtesy of Kansas Historical Society)
The first cornerstone of the east wing was laid in 1866 and the the entire building was completed 37 years later in 1903.  The total cost of the construction was $3.2 million. In 2002 a final artwork piece ad astra was fitted to the very top of the exterior dome of the capitol building. The work depicts a Kaw warrior pulling a bow toward the North Star.  The entire height of the building from ground to the very top of the artwork now stretches to 306 feet, or 17 feet higher than the Capitol in Washington, DC.

The interior of the building is beautiful.  There's heavy use of marble from many countries on the walls and floors throughout. 
The center glass dome is the focal point, however.  The dome is really a glass dome within a copper dome.  The inner glass portion contains 256 panes (mostly original) surrounded by copper.  The inner glass dome and outer copper dome are separated to allow natural light to fill the interior.

The Senate portion of the Capitol (the East Wing) was preserved to reflect a more original look of the early years. The chandeliers were originally all gas lit and lowered and raised by pulleys for cleaning and repairs.

The House of Representatives side is located in the West Wing and is larger (more delegates) and a bit more modern looking.

The Governor of Kansas was unavailable for our "drop in" visit, but we were able to have a picture of us taken by our tour guide at the Governor's "public" desk.  The Bison skin on the desk was a gift from one of the local American Indian tribes to the Governor.

After the Capitol Building tour we traveled a few blocks south to a National Historical Site administered by the National Park Service named "Brown vs. Board of Education."
 According to "In 1951, a class action suit was filed against the Board of Education of the City of Topeka, Kansas in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas. The plaintiffs were thirteen Topeka parents on behalf of their twenty children.
The suit called for the school district to reverse its policy of racial segregation. Separate elementary schools were operated by the Topeka Board of Education under an 1879 Kansas law, which permitted (but did not require) districts to maintain separate elementary school facilities for black and white students in twelve communities with populations over 15,000."
The larger impact of this occurred in 1954 when the US Supreme Court voted 9-0 in which the Court declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students unconstitutional.

Monroe Elementary School today
This historic site does an excellent job of detailing the struggles of those who were unjustly
discriminated against throughout the years via the use of film, displays, photographs, and other physical displays.

Thanks for stopping by to take a look!

Monday, May 27, 2013

What's Important Today

Mayetta, KS

Thank you to all the men and women who have served both past and present to preserve the freedoms and ideals of the greatest country in the world.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Onward to Kansas

Mayetta, KS

Now before you hit the delete key, hear us out on this one.  We had been "through" Kansas a few years ago when we made a trip "out west" during one of those hurried vacation trips.  Driving across Kansas on our return trip was none too impressive.  Lots of flat land, many, many, many fields of crops, and hot weather (it was July at that time). So you are probably wondering, why go back to Kansas. Well, we are still slowly working our way to Gillette, WY for the national Escapees Rally at the end of June and we want to get back to South Dakota to do some exploring in our "new" home state.  Since we needed to get to South Dakota from southern Missouri we started looking for a few spots to overnight or stop for a bit along the way.

Entrance to Hotel
We stayed at an RV Park attached to a casino up in Manistee, MI a few years back and really liked it, so we started looking for a similar casino-type park along our intended route through Kansas (also because eastern Kansas didn't seem to have too many highly rated CGs in this area).  We use RV Park Reviews a lot of times to select potential CGs and one called Praire Band Casino and RV Resort near Mayetta, KS seemed to fit the bill.  We drove 300 miles yesterday and arrived in the early afternoon.  The CG was not crowded at all and the best part was that they accepted Passport America for an unlimited stay.  With the Memorial Day Holiday coming up this next weekend we wanted to be positioned "in" a CG and not looking for a place to stay.

Top(L):CG Registration  Top(R): Overview of Sites
Lower(L):"Good Signs"  Lower(R): Our Rig on Site
The CG is situated to the rear of the casino and hotel.  We were very pleasantly surprised when we arrived. The roads are all paved and the sites are all pull thrus with FHU at all sites.  The sites all have concrete pads and maneuvering through the CG is very easy because of the excellent signage with both vertical signs and arrows on the ground.  (Yes, the lack of proper signage is a pet peeve of mine!)

An important location to learn

Top(L):1 of 2 Bathhouses  Top(R):Clean Laundry
Lower(L):Clean Bathrooms  Lower(R): Nice showers
We are in "tornado alley" here in this part of Kansas, so it's important to locate the tornado shelters before it might become necessary to use one.  If not already in the casino, the CG users are able to take refuge in the two bathhouses located in the CG.

The casino and resort is owned and run by the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation.

Lobby of Hotel

The property contains several nice restaurants and a hotel is attached to the casino.

Landscaping in Hotel's Courtyard

Spa area in Courtyard

Over the next few days we intend to take a few trips in to Topeka (approximately 15 miles south) to visit the Capitol city.

Hey, Kansas looks pretty good now!

As always, thanks for dropping by to take a look!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Another Branson Show, Then Some Natural Scenery (Part 2)

Hollister, MO (near Branson, MO)

This blog completes some adventuring we did yesterday.  After walking around the College of the Ozarks we decided to go over to Table Rock State Park. This is a Missouri State Park and one of the things I like about them (aside from the natural beauty) is the fact that there are no entrance fees.

Table Rock State Park is located on Highway 165 slightly southwest of Branson on Table Rock Lake. Table Rock Lake was created when the White River was captured by the building of a dam in 1954-1958. The Lake's surface area is approximately 43,100 acres.

From the Missouri state park website:

Nestled in the oak and hickory trees that surround Table Rock Lake, Table Rock Lake State Park offers something for everyone. Camping areas that allow easy access to the lake. A marina that rents all manner of boats. SCUBA diving excursions. A mountain bike trail. Easy access to the Branson area and all its entertainment. Shelters and picnic areas and a full range of campsites help make Table Rock State Park the ideal place for playing in and around the lake’s clear waters.

There are two RV campgrounds within the State Park. Both had many sites which could accommodate large rigs.  Missouri uses a color-coded system on each site to designate FHUs (red), water and electric (yellow), and no hook-ups (green) for tenting.  There were quite a few open FHU sites available when we drove thru yesterday.  The FHU sites tend to be more in the open and allow for easier maneuvering of large rigs.

It was pretty windy yesterday on the water, but there were still a fair number of boaters taking advantage of the nice weather.

There are ample marinas at the Park for those with boats.

A nice spot to sit and watch the water and boats go by.

After the Park, we drove a short distance over to the Corp of Engineers' Dewey Short Visitor Center at Table Rock Dam.  The center is open until 5:00 PM, but of course we got there after closing.

Water side of the Visitor Center

West side looking toward the dam

Table Rock Dam
As already stated, the dam captures the White River to create Table Rock Lake.

The COE maintains a nice boat dock just above the dam for those in boats to stop in and visitor the Dewey Short Center.

As I finish writing this blog today, the area is still under a tornado watch and there are chances for heavy thunderstorms throughout the night.  Wish us luck!

Thanks for stopping by to take a look!

Another Branson Show, Then Some Natural Scenery (Part 1)

Branson, MO

One of the best things about Branson, MO is the variety of things you can do here.  You could fill your days going to the various shows, go to visit natural places of beauty, or simple do nothing if you so choose.

On Saturday we chose to go to another Branson show.  With the name of the show "3 Redneck Tenors" we had a few reservations about what we might see.  The show was a matinee at 2:00 PM, but more importantly, because we saw The Haygoods on Friday night, a special ticket promotion was offered and we saw the "3 Redneck Tenors" for just $5 per ticket.  I thought to myself, how bad could
(Courtesy of 3 Redneck Tenors website)
it be for $5.  We were very pleasantly surprised. The storyline of the show involves 3 "rednecks" who can sing and are from Paris, TX. An unscrupulous manager named "The Colonel" discovers the trio and promotes them thru their rise to stardom.  The first half of the show has our trio dressed in "hillbilly" costume and many, many corny jokes are presented in the act.

(Courtesy of 3 Redneck Tenors website)
After intermission, however, the trio have made it all the way to Broadway and ultimately to Carnegie Hall where they lose their "hokey" costumes (and mullets) and don tuxedos. For pure music enthusiasts the second half of the show is best.  All three of the tenors are actually classically trained and their singing is excellent.  We had a very nice time.

On Sunday we decided it was time to get back to the outdoors again.  Not too far away from the Escapees CG in Hollister, MO is the College of the Ozarks.  This is a bit of a unique school which began as the School of the Ozarks in 1906. The unusual part is that
Williams Memorial Chapel
students can attend virtually tuition-free by committing to work so many hours during the school year and to also agree to work hours during school breaks.  The school prides itself with the slogan of "Hard Work U." The campus was very pretty and it seemed like a very nice area to attend school.  We toured on Sunday and unfortunately most of the buildings were closed, also the student's school year had just ended.

Inside of Williams Memorial Chapel

There was a really pretty lake in the middle of the campus with a bunch of ducks, geese, and a white
Lake at the center of campus
swan which the kids must feed quite frequently.  When it saw us come near the fence, it made a beeline to us.

Karen keeping a safe distance!
Unfortunately, we had nothing to give it and I think it was none too happy. We learned very quickly to keep our distance from that large extending beak.

We also visited Table Rock State Park and the Table Rock Dam after the College, but I've decided to save pictures and descriptions of those areas for tomorrow's blog.

Thank you for taking a look at our blog!

Friday, May 17, 2013

First Show in Branson

Hollister, MO (near Branson, MO)

Not a whole lot happening the first part of today.  Was pretty cloudy most of the morning, but finally the sun came out shortly after noon.  Got a chance to wash the bugs off the front end of the MH after our latest trip between AR and MO. I apply Rejex every few months over the windshield and the Diamond Shield protective film on the front of our MH.  It really seems to help when it comes time to get bugs and "stuff" off of the front end.

Picture courtesy of website
This evening we decided to take in a show on the Branson "strip".  We went to see the family group "The Haygoods" at the RFDTV theater at 7:30 PM.  The group consists of five male and one female Haygood family members.  The show is a blend of country, a small bit of pop, and original music.  All of the Haygoods play multiple instruments, and all sing.  The show was 2 hours with a 15-minute intermission between the first and second sets.  We enjoyed the show and it would be entertaining for the entire family. (Of course, I don't believe there are any shows on the Branson strip which aren't geared toward families.)

That was about it for today. We might go to a matinee comedy show tomorrow, to a local natural attraction, to a state park, who knows.

Thanks for stopping by to take a look!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Onward to Escapee Park at Hollister, MO

Hollister, MO (near Branson, MO)

Wednesday morning around 9:00 AM when reluctantly left Lake Dardanelle State Park for our next destination of Branson, MO. We greatly enjoyed the camping and additional things to see and do in the Russellville, AR area this past week.

It took us about 4 hours to travel 194 miles up US65 from Conway, AR to the Escapee Park at Hollister, MO.  We won't have any pictures for this blog yet as it rained yesterday evening and most of today.  The temperatures have dropped today into the 60s, but are supposed to hit 90 again by the weekend.

Although we are Lifetime Escapees members I'll have to concede that their park here in Hollister is certainly nowhere as nice as the state parks we've been staying in recently.  The park is older and in need of some maintenance.  The site is just long enough to fit our MH, but the car has to be parked nearby.  The sites and roads are all gravel, but could definitely use more.  We haven't gotten a chance to speak to many of the current occupants (because of the rain), but most seem to be FTers or at least extended timers.

We dropped by All Access Branson, a ticket broker here in Branson, to purchase  a pair of tickets to see The Haygoods perform on Friday night.  The description of their show sounds pretty good.

Thanks for stopping by to take a look at this abbreviated blog!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Finally Got the Sea Eagle on the Water

Russellville, AR

Two things today.  First, I'm actually writing a blog on the day events occurred, and two we finally got the Sea Eagle on the water for the first time this year.  Also, no state parks report today.

Today's temperature was supposed to be around 80 degrees, so now that the lake is much less busy than over the weekend, we decided to unpack the Sea Eagle and take a cruise around the shoreline for a bit. 

Packed in the carrying bag
We have the Sea Eagle Paddleski 435ps model which we purchased prior to starting our fulltiming adventures back in 2008.  The boat is 14' long when inflated, but only 38" x 19" x 10" when packed up.  It still amazes me that something which adds so much fun and versatility to our adventures can be so small when traveling.

Fully inflated and seats in place
Once the boat is fully inflated (which takes only a few minutes even with our foot pump) it looks like this and is ready to be carried down to the water's edge.

Ready for a day on the water!
We carried the boat down to the water which was only a short distance from the back of our campsite and Karen was ready for action!

Visitor's Center
Because it was a bit windy during the early afternoon hours, we decided to "hug the shoreline" and just stay near the nearby marina and boat launching area.  Here's a picture from the water of the park's visitors center.

Karen in front! (How about that hat)
We took a few minutes break and pulled alongside the boat launch area as there were very few users out on the water today to enjoy a drink and a  snack.

Our campground's "point"

We spent several hours out on the water and may take the boat out again this evening before it gets dark when the winds die down a bit.  Had a great time for our first time out of the season.

Thanks for dropping by to take a look!