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My wife and I have always enjoyed a road trip and while I was Arkansas Tourism Director, I became even more aware of their significance … personally and to the huge Tourism Industry. Virtually every state now lays out suggested routes for one, two or three day trips within their respective state borders.

Clearly, we enjoy new routes in our home state of Arkansas but this year Arkansas was the starting point and ending spot. As I recap nearly three weeks … 4500 miles, 10 states, 10 different motels, 7 nights in a VRBO and one night with friends, it seems a bit overwhelming … sure travel can be tiring … but it was awesome!

I’ll save you some of the early details and focus on the target destinations. However, I must mention one of our favorite restaurants along the route … Napoli’s Italian Restaurant … in downtown Amarillo, Texas. It’s worth a night in Amarillo just for a meal at Napoli’s.

Now for some photos

For this blog, I’m trying something new and different … a slideshow. As a reference, it follows our route … Chaco Canyon, Monument Valley, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon North Rim, Jackson Hole, Grand Teton, Casper/Cheyenne, Wy and Lawrence, Ks. So, click on the arrow and take the road trip with two Arkansas travelers …

I must comment on Chaco Canyon … not the easiest place to get to but well worth it. It is located in New Mexico between Albuquerque and Farmington … washboard dirt road for roughly 20 miles. On the road in, i spotted the horses … i think they are wild horses … that’s what I am saying regardless. I really lucked out on this photo because they were close together and when I hollered at them the perked up, separated a little, looked straight at me and I took the shot.

Chaco is a UNESCO designated World Heritage Site dating back 800 – 1200 years.

After a day at Chaco Canyon, we spent the night in Farmington, New Mexico and then on to Monument Valley. This was a special treat. Not only is it one of the most beautiful spots in the West, it has a hotel and small cabins … very small but adequate. Plus, the cabins overlook the valley of natural monuments and we were able to experience sunset and sunrise … truly amazing!

From Monument Valley we drove thru Page, Az. … FYI, Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Canyons were closed due to Covid ,,, and on to Kanab, Ut. where we set up base camp for a week and took day trips to Zion, Bryce and the Canyon Rim. each of which has a photo in the above slide show.

From Kanab, we went to Ogden, Ut., Idaho Falls and then to Jackson Hole … a place of which I never tire. When we left Jackson we had a magical early morning drive along the Grand Teton Mountains. If you have not seen the Tetons … put it on your bucket list now. Always looking for animals, we spotted a moose … with my 400mm lens I captured a pretty decent shot (shown in the above slides).

Destination Casper, Wyoming was next … we spent two nights there enjoying a unique and beautiful Western City and dinner with the Director of Visit Casper discussing the 2017 Eclipse of the Sun. Casper has literally written the book on how to prepare for this once in a lifetime natural phenomena. Thanks to Brook Kaufman for helping Arkansas prepare for the April 8, 2024 total solar eclipse. I am helping Morrilton prepare. More about this at another posting.

Casper is definitely a city to which Patti and I will return … beautiful setting, great restaurants, active downtown, awesome museums such as the National Trails Interpretive Center featuring the history of settlement and transportation Westward.

I will wrap up by again stating how we enjoy road trips and how this was one of the best. So, pick a destination, plan a route or JUST LET IT HAPPEN.

https://vimeo.com/user8759039/download/565329335/20de8e5119

As a little something extra, I have included the link to a musical slideshow I did on Vimeo. Take a look if you have an extra 3minutes and 22 seconds. Jimd

Total Solar Eclipse
2024-04-08T13:30:00

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Total Solar Eclipse… Morrilton, Arkansas

In August 2017, my wife and I drove to Tennessee to witness and photograph our first ever total solar eclipse. Across the nation, millions of people did the same. The above photo is one I took with a 200 mm lens. Solar filters and glasses are needed all but during the total eclipse. Below are a couple of other shots I took before the total.

partial eclipse August 21, 2017 note sunspots middle left.

This is one of the most amazing natural events of my life. I have always enjoyed astronomy and plan to be front and center in Morrilton for the longest duration total eclipse in Arkansas … four minutes and 18 seconds.

As far as I am concerned, Morrilton is “THE PLACE TO BE !!” It will be fun, lots to do, lots to eat, places to stay, camp or RV and witness the most sensational solar event of your life. See you in Morrilton.

As I click through photos from this, our 42nd year guys trip, I find my thoughts reverting to past trips together. It all started with three business associate friends electing to take a ski trip to Colorado. Upon return, a lunch meeting was held, several more friends invited and a lifelong tradition began … ski trip once a year and lunch once a week. SST has been our moniker … Stanley Ski Team

The above photo of this year’s six SST attendees was taken in Scottsdale, Az.

A few years ago we updated our venue from the Colorado mountains to sunny Arizona. Consequently SST should possibly stand for “Stanley Sunshine Team”… certainly beats “Stanley Seniors Team.”

We filled our days with Golf, Top Golf …. most of all, lots of fellowship resolving political, social, world and life issues. Conclusion, we have lived thru the “BEST OF TIMES IN AMERICA”

TOP GOLF CHAMP, JC
Loyd and Bill

JC and I made this a road trip with stops at small historic sites, amazing natural attractions and the indescribable Carlsbad Caverns.

Carlsbad Caverns

While I was in college, I was a tour guide at Bull Shoals Caverns in Northern Arkansas. In fact, a couple of my classmates at the University of Arkansas and I frequently hit the back roads near Fayetteville exploring caves. Bull Shoals Caverns was and still is a tourist destination … but nothing like Carlsbad. This cavern is massive to the extent I now know the visual definition of CAVERNOUS! Definitely worth seeing … and almost amazing as it is to see, the cost of admission is a whopping $1.00. Yes, $1.00 !!

Recycled Roadrunner Sculpture in Las Cruces, NM
Littlest Skyscraper in the World … Wichita Falls, Tx
Basilica of St. Albino … Mesilla, NM
Holbrook, Az. … Prisioner Wall Art in the Historic Jail and Courthouse Museum
SST WITH OUR WIVES

As I alluded to above, I truly believe this group, self named SST, has possibly lived thru the best of times in America. Unfortunately, I am concerned with the current US and World dissension … internally and externally, politically and economically, ethically and spiritually, socially and selfishly. However, I do know one thing, our country will survive just as it has in the past. It will survive because fundamentally it is a nation of caring people that believes we must work together … in our families, in our businesses, in our cities and states and in our world.

Good individuals and good groups like our SST family will continue to provide the example, the foundation and the will to ABIDE BY THE DO RIGHT RULE. (a quote from former Arkansas Coach Lou Holtz)

Personally, so much of who I am today is because of my SST FAMILY. Thank you. Jim

In my most recent post, I failed to mention one of the essential components of a successful campout on the Buffalo River. This iconic 100 year old cafe on the square in Jasper, Arkansas is a “must experience if you are in this area of the Natural State. Sometimes we stop for lunch before heading to the river … sometimes we have breakfast on our way home from camping … sometimes we do both.

Daryl and Jim enjoying coffee before lunch at Ozark Cafe ….. a must stop for sure!!

For the past 10 or more years a group of us has blocked our calendars for a Super Bowl weekend camping trip. We hit the trail on Friday and head home Sunday morning for the big game. That’s just what we did … unfortunately, for my Chiefs friends, the best part of the weekend was the campout.

Yes … I am a huge Tom Brady fan!!

As in the past few years, we returned to Arkansas’ Buffalo River … the first federally declared National River. Friday, our first day, was a crisp beautiful picture perfect day to set up tents, build a camp fire and enjoy the beauty of the calico bluffs along the 135 miles of this free flowing undammed natural treasure. The following pictures represent DAY ONE.

Saturday morning breakfast of eggs, bacon and dutch oven biscuits

Now Day Two … with weather prediction of 20’s or below plus rain with wind it took all of about 10 seconds to accept the offer from a local friend to spend Saturday night at his mountain retreat. WISE DECISION !!

These next photos spell it out in pictures …. cold, beautiful wet snow. A Winter Wonderland for certain. Amazing how much more enjoyable from inside rather than outside in a tent.

Our new CAMPSITE on top of Mt. Sherman
Our host and his Martin Guitar … thank you Don.

In the past, I have written about traditions and their importance to the fabric of our lives. The sharing of adventures with friends, the camaraderie created telling stories and tall tales around the campfire become the memories that bind us for a lifetime. Be it family traditions, friendship traditions or a SUPER BOWL CAMPOUT TRADITION our lives are enhanced.

Several months ago, my camping buddies decided to search for a camping site in the Ouachita Mountains West of Little Rock. Unfortunately we were not the only outdoor enthusiast to have the same idea. We were about to give up when one of the guys suggested we go to his farm … less than an hour away. The rest is history and an unforgettable camping night. Just take a look at the pictures … again, ARKANSAS THE NATURAL STATE.

Nothing like a night in our beautiful Arkansas … the Natural State!

Fancy carving was done by Master CarversSpencer and JC

Hiker Admirer Crew
Then there were the Breakfast Chefs and their Epicurean Culinary Milestones …

Finally … what could be better than a perfect Fall Weekend with best friends, amazing food and the beauty of Arkansas the Natural State!

For years we have celebrated a Charlie Brown Christmas by decorating a tree in the wilderness of the Arkansas’ Ozarks

This year we embarked on a traditional fall camping trip … Kyle’s Landing near Jasper, Arkansas on the Buffalo National River (America’s first National River.)

Campsite at Kyle’s Landing
Big surprise … Charlie Brown Great Pumpkin appears

With nine friends, a beautiful weekend, too much food, a little hiking and artistic pumpkin carving, the first ever Charlie Brown Great Pumpkin annual campout serendipitously and spontaneously occured … Life is Good!

What a beautiful place to be!

In closing, please allow me to speak to traditions … most notably, traditions with family and friends. My personal friend examples include: weekly lunch and annual guys trip (for over forty years), annual hiking trip to a National Park with three other guys, annual Charlie Brown Christmas camping/backpacking trip … and, now THE CHARLIE BROWN GREAT PUMPKIN IN THE OZARKS … camping adventure.

Finally, an apology. This post is not complete because I ran out of media space for all the pictures I wished to show such as night time shots around the campfire with the candle lit pumpkins in the background. I have upgraded my account so hopefully I can edit once the upgrade is in place. In addition, WordPress has a new format and I am still learning. Ouch!

Thank you for viewing and thank you for your patience!

Yours in blog world … myLastpairofboots@wordpress.com

I’ve always loved science and astronomy … from the time I was a kid saving my quarters to buy a mail order telescope.  Admittedly it wasn’t much … a couple of sliding cardboard tubes and simple glass lenses.  I remember, even then, reading about the 1911 Halley’s Comet hoping to be alive for the 1986 return.  Well, I was alive and just like the telescope, even though I saw it, it wasn’t nearly as impressive as I had envisioned.

Since then, I’ve seen partial solar eclipses, one total solar eclipse,  several total and partial lunar eclipses, many meteor showers … including one Leonid when I got the kids up at 2:00 AM and it was the wrong night for the peak.  Needless to say … I do love this stuff.

Last Saturday night was another celestial highlight … Comet NEOWISE.  My wife, my baby sister … who eats this stuff up too … and my brother in law set out to see the comet starting at one of the highest points in Little Rock.  Unfortunately, the sky was hazy and the city lights were too much.  However, I did get a couple of respectable evening sky shots of the horizon with Pinnacle Mountain in the foreground.DSC02947

Around 8:45 we made the decision to get in the car and drive out West beyond the city lights.  When we pulled over and got out of the car, I glanced to the NW and … yes, there it was … even with the naked eye.  We were all mesmerized … my sister, almost giddy.  Well, I am certainly no night sky photographer but here are a couple of shots  I took with a 200mm lens mounted on a tripod.

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NEOWISE VS. 2017 TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE.  No doubt …. NEOWISE was one of most awesome celestial  events I have ever seen but I must still give the nod to my favorite …  The August 21, 2017 Total Solar Eclipse.  To make that even more special, it was our 51st wedding anniversary.  How can anything top that?   The eclipse is featured in a 2017 blog but I simply had to include a couple of my photos from that day.

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I will wrap up by saying to everyone … get away from the city lights, look up and Be Awestruck … It’s a spiritual experience. What a magnificent Cathedral.

Here’s a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

Think me not unkind or rude … that I walk alone in grove and glen … I go to the God of the wood … to fetch his word to men.

 

After months of isolation we decided it was time to take a road trip to Santa Fe and Frisco, Co. with our dear friends.  It “was” different … fewer people, many places closed and thankfully a majority of people respecting the Covid protocols of face masks and social distancing.

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I’ll not show pictures taken in Santa Fe because I’ve posted most of the high interest spots in previous blogs.  However, I do want to show a photo of our lodging in Santa Fe. Pictured above is one of the units of a small B&B … Pueblo Bonito … just a short walk from downtown. I have no problem recommending this historic adobe option. In lieu of all guest gathering, breakfast was brought to the refrigerator in our rooms …  fresh fruit, tamales, yogurt and coffee.

On to Frisco, Colorado .., lunch stop in Antonito

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In the past we have simply blinked and driven right through this little town of 781.  This time we were hungry and an outdoor (albeit on the highway) restaurant was perfect.  Excellent service and food at Das Hermanas.  Plus, directly across the highway. was this wall mural pictured above.  It was painted by F.F. Haberlein and dedicated to the people of Antonitio.  One never knows what surprises reward a slower pace.

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Frisco is almost like a second home.   

We have been vacationing in Frisco for years and have toured the West extensively … but there’s a special feeling and atmosphere in Frisco that keeps bringing us back.  Maybe it’s the cool mountain air at 9100 feet.  Maybe it’s the little shops and restaurants.  Maybe it’s the biking and hiking trails. Maybe it’s the refreshing power of roaring rivers and snow capped peaks … it’s all these and more.  However, with Covid19, our 2020 return was a bit different!

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In addition to signs like this and most people “actually” wearing face masks, Frisco Main Street was closed.  The photo below shows how this closure transformed Main Street into a “people place” … a place for more social distancing, a place for restaurants to add additional outside seating and a place for bikers, walkers and shoppers to comfortably share the space.

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We spent more time eating in and embracing outdoor activities … having picnics, Jeeping 4WD roads and having fun creekside.IMG_2893DSC02880

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We covered a lot of territory on Jeep roads but the most fun was on Mayflower Gulch.  I have hiked it several times but this was a ball in a 4WD Jeep.

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Of course, the Photo Op on Loveland Pass at the Continental Divide.

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Picnic and fun Creekside …

I cannot express how enjoyable it was to have a picnic along the Snake River or the Ten Mile Creek.  And to make it even more enjoyable …  our wives brought bubble making tubes.  What fun, what a treat, what a way to share time with friends.

 

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The new normal ….

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New Snow on Mount Arkansas near Leadville.   Arkansas River starts here!

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I think this shot “says it all!” 

If you would like the Vimeo slide show … click here.