Saturday, May 23, 2015

Chocolate Banana Peanut Butter Bites - 05/23/15

Saturday – May 23, 2015
Chocolate Banana Peanut Butter Bites
Chicago, Illinois

One of our favorite homemade sweets is chocolate banana peanut butter bites. Now that we are home again, we have the counter space and freezer space available to prepare this delicious treat.

The ingredients are quite simple:

  • Bananas
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Peanut Butter (smooth or chunky)

Sometimes we will sprinkle crushed nuts over the chocolate covered bananas before freezing them.

Here’s an excellent video we found on YouTube that shows how to make this delicious treat. Enjoy!

Tomorrow another adventure begins.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

McKee Marsh - 05/21/15 - DuPage County, IL

Thursday – May 21, 2015
McKee Marsh
DuPage County, Illinois

One of our greatest pleasures while we are home, are our daily walks through the Blackwell Forest Preserve in DuPage County, located about 30 miles west of the city of Chicago.

The land on which the forest preserve resides, was shaped by the retreating Wisconsin Glacier 12,000 to 15,000 years ago. The glaciers meltwaters left behind much of the soil that covers DuPage County today. After the glacier’s retreat, savannas with widely spaced oak trees formed on the higher ground while the lower-lying ground became home to marsh and prairie plants.

Hikers, bicyclers, horseback riders and cross-country skiers can enjoy more than 6 miles of turf and limestone trails, including a convenient route to the Illinois Prairie Path.

One of our favorite trails is a circular trail around the McKee Marsh. This area features two observation decks, a bird blind, and signs that describe the history and ecological significance of the marsh. Our daily 4-mile walks take us through open fields of native prairie grasses, flowers and stands of towering oak forests. The sounds from birds singing and the wind gently weaving its way through the trees and prairie grass are soothing to the soul.

Tomorrow another adventure begins.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Chicago, IL - 05/14/15

Thursday – May 14, 2015
Chicago, Illinois

We departed the Giant City State Park, near Carbondale, Illinois, at 8:55 a.m. We spent a restful night within the serenity of the Shawnee National Forest. We stopped for a quick breakfast at the Cracker Barrel Restaurant in Marion, Illinois and arrived home at 4:35 p.m.

Since departing our home in Illinois on October 10, 2014, we traveled through 14 states, including a visit to Los Algodones, Mexico, logging 15,353 miles during our snowbird adventure.

We are so glad to have a home base to return to. We enjoy spending six to eight months in a warmer climate to escape the bitterly cold winter weather in the Chicago area, but it is always a nice change of pace to return to the comfort of our home environment.

Total miles traveled today: 357

Tomorrow another adventure begins.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Giant City SP - 05/13/15 - Makanda, IL

Wednesday – May 13, 2015
Giant City State Park
Makanda, Illinois

We had a wonderful BBQ lunch at the Memphis BBQ Co. in Horn Lake, Mississippi and departed the restaurant at 1:40 p.m. We arrived at the Giant City State Park in Makanda, Illinois at 5:35 p.m.

Nestled in the Shawnee National Forest, just minutes south of Carbondale, Illinois, Giant City State Park was named for the unique impressions made by massive sandstone structures. Eons of geological faulting and folding have molded a landscape like none other, which is now clothed in lush garments of fern, moss, large flowering mints, hundreds of species of wild flowers and 75-plus varieties of towering trees. The natural splendor of Giant City has made it a renowned retreat that attracts more than 1.2 million visitors annually.

Shelter bluffs, or rock shelters, worn into the sides of the cliffs have revealed evidence of human habitation in this region from as early as 10,000 years ago, and the blackened ceilings caused by their fires remain visible today. On an 80-foot sandstone cliff near the main entrance, one can see the remains of a Native American stone wall erected between A.D. 600-800.

The first European settlers moved into the area from Kentucky and Tennessee in the early 1800s, and by 1850, settlers were using the land to cultivate fruit trees. During the Civil War, many of the cliffs and canyons were used as havens by soldiers of both the Union and Confederate armies.

In 1927, the state of Illinois acquired more than 1,100 acres of land in Union and Jackson counties and dedicated the area as Giant City State Park. In 1936, the Civilian Conservation Corps completed construction of a lodge and 12 overnight cabins on the highest point in the park. Today, the park has grown to encompass 4,000 acres of spectacular countryside plus the 110-acre Fern Rocks Nature Preserve.

The campground has 99 campsites, some with 30/50 amp electric only sites, some with 30/50 amp electric and water hookups. There is one restroom facility with flush toilets and free showers. There is one dump station.

Since the campground is located within a dense forest, campers with satellite television service may find it difficult to locate satellites through the abundance of trees. We have Dish satellite service and our antenna could not locate the satellites.

Campground: Giant City State Park
Camping Fee: $15.00 (with Illinois senior discount)
Campsite: 27

Cellular Service: T-Mobile – E, 2-bars with signal booster.
Satellite Television Service: Trees in campground are too dense for antenna to locate satellites.

Total miles traveled today from Horn Lake, Mississippi: 222
Route Traveled:
North on Interstate 55
North on Interstate 57
North on U.S. Highway 51
East on Giant City Park Road to State Park

Tomorrow another adventure begins.



Memphis BBQ - 05/13/15 - Horn Lake, MS

Wednesday – May 13, 2015
Memphis BBQ Co.
Horn Lake, Mississippi

We departed the Walmart in Hope, Arkansas at 7:30 a.m. We wanted to get an early start this morning in order to arrive in Memphis, Tennessee around noon for a BBQ lunch at one of our favorite BBQ restaurants. The sky was overcast with the threat of rain. We did encounter a few areas of light rain, but around 70 miles east of Little Rock, Arkansas, the clouds cleared out and sunny skies prevailed.

We have been making annual visits to Memphis for the past four years to sample delicious BBQ at Corkey’s and Rendezvous in Memphis, Tennessee and the Memphis BBQ Co. in Horn Lake, Mississippi (located a few miles south of Memphis). If we are camping in the Memphis area, we will visit Corkey’s or Rendezvous. Both of these restaurants are located in high traffic areas and cannot accommodate RV parking. The Memphis BBQ Co. is located in an outlet mall area that includes a Home Depot store, so there is plenty of parking available for RV’s. Therefore, whenever we are just passing through Memphis, we stop at the Memphis BBQ Co.

We arrived at the Memphis BBQ Co. at 12:30 p.m. Their parking lot was full and the restaurant was packed. Sharon ordered a full slab of baby back ribs with sides of cole slaw and red beans with rice. I ordered the "Sampler", half a slab of baby back ribs, pulled chicken and brisket with sides of cole slaw and beans with rice. All of the meat is smoked for 16 hours and was delicious.

We finished off the meal with a wonderful bread pudding. We really enjoyed our return visit to the Memphis BBQ Co. and left with enough leftovers for another meal.

Total miles traveled today to Horn Lake, MS: 257
Route Traveled:
East on Interstate 30
East on Interstate 440
East on Interstate 40
South on Interstate 55
West on Mississippi Highway 302 (Exit 289 on I-55) to Memphis BBQ Co.

Tomorrow another adventure begins.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Walmart - 05/12/15 - Hope, AR

Tuesday – May 12, 2015
Hope, Arkansas

Thunderstorms, with lightening, arrived at the Lake City State Park in Colorado, City at 3:30 a.m. The rain had finally stopped upon our departure at 9:55 a.m. There was one section of Texas Road FM 2836 that had flooded over, however, the clearance on our Ford E150 Cargo Van and Casita Trailer were high enough to easily clear the flooded area of the road.

The rainstorm had caused a couple of accidents on Interstate 20 between Colorado City and Abilene, Texas. One of them involved a jackknifed semi-truck that had run off of the Interstate into the ditch, and another accident involved two pickup trucks.

We experienced frequent rain showers throughout our travels today. This is a new experience for us! Since we left home in October 2014, we have experienced only about three days of rain, while riding out the winter in southwestern Arizona.

As we traveled on Interstate 20 through Sweetwater, Texas we spotted a billboard promoting the towns rattlesnake roundup held each year in March. I looked at Sharon and mentioned my desire to attend this festivity. I cannot repeat her comments here, but suffice it to say, this is one event Sharon will, sadly, not attend!

We had originally planned to spend the night at the Rocky Point COE Campground near Texarkana, Texas. This is one of our favorite COE campgrounds in Texas. But, as we are known to do, we changed our plans on the fly. We decided we wanted to get closer to Memphis, Tennessee before packing it in for the night, so we opted to settle down for the night at a Walmart, somewhere in western Arkansas.

"Navigator Sharon" located a Walmart in Hope, Arkansas – the birthplace of President William Jefferson Clinton – on our Android smartphone app: Allstays Camp & RV.

This Walmart has several parking spaces set aside in their large parking lot for semi-trucks and RV’s. They have height barriers to prevent the semi-trucks and large RV’s from entering the general parking area.

All of the parking spaces designated for the semi-trucks and large RV’s were occupied. Fortunately, our trailer and tow vehicle have a low profile and can easily fit under the height barriers. We found a remote area of the parking lot, behind another low profile camper, and settled in to spend a restful night.

Campground: Walmart Parking Lot – Hope, Arkansas
Camping Fee: Free
Campsite: Just pick a parking space! (in a remote area of the parking lot of course)

Total miles traveled today: 481
Route Traveled:
North on Texas FM 2836
East on Interstate 20
North on Interstate 635
East on Interstate 30 to the Walmart in Hope, Arkansas (Exit 30)

Tomorrow another adventure begins.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Colorado City, TX - 05/11/15

Monday – May 11, 2015
Lake Colorado City State Park
Colorado City, Texas

We departed the Rio Grande Village Campground in the Big Bend National Park at 11:10 a.m. We welcomed the cooler temperatures that greeted us as we drove into the higher elevations. What a pleasure to leave the 100-degree weather that has persisted the past few days in the desert region of the Rio Grande Village.

As we approached our goal of covering 300 to 400 miles today, we consulted the ALLSTAYS CAMP & RV App on our Android smartphone to find a campsite for the night. Success once again! This app never fails to locate campsites, Walmarts, truck stops, rest stops, and much more, while we are traveling.

We arrived at the Lake Colorado City State Park in Colorado City, Texas at 6:05 p.m.

This is a beautiful state park campground with 100 campsites. Some campsites have electric and water hookups, some have water only hookups, some have no hookups. There are two restrooms with flush toilets and free showers. There are two dump stations. We were surprised to find there is free WiFi throughout the campground.

There is a lake adjacent to the campground, unfortunately it appears the extended drought in regions of Texas have taken a toll on the water level. Some of the floating docks have been closed due to the low water level.

Colorful wild flowers are in full bloom throughout the state park.

Hard times have played a significant role in the decline of business establishments in the area.

We are following the weather forecast for the northern region of Texas with great interest. An F3 tornado touched down in an area east of Dallas on Sunday, leaving two people dead and ten people missing. Another tornado watch is in effect for the Dallas area on Tuesday. A decision will have to be made tomorrow morning whether we stay put here in Colorado City or go north or south around the expected storm’s path.

Campground: Lake Colorado City State Park
Camping Fee: $28.00 ($22.00 for electric & water campsite, plus $4.00 per person daily fee)
Campsite: 8

Total miles traveled today: 345
Route Traveled:
North on U.S. Highway 385
East on Interstate 10 / U.S. Highway 385
North on U.S. Highway 385
East on Interstate 20
South Texas FM 2836 to Lake Colorado City State Park

Tomorrow another adventure begins.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Boquillas Canyon - 05/10/25 - Big Bend NP, TX

Sunday – May 10, 2015
Boquillas Canyon
Big Bend National Park, Texas

The hot weather continues at Big Bend National Park, another day with the temperature in the low 100’s. We got off to an early start this morning to hike the 1.4 mile Boquillas Canyon Trail.

The trail begins with a short climb, then descends via a sandy path to the Rio Grande River. We were amazed to see how narrow the river is as it winds its way through the park, separating the United States from Mexico.

Boquillas U. S. Border Patrol Checkpoint

Along the trail we encountered small "souvenir stands" put their by Mexican Nationals. They leave beautiful, hand-made walking sticks and other hand-made trinkets, with a suggested donation amount. The visitor will generally not see the Mexican Nationals, they tend to keep out of sight. If they are caught they are arrested for illegal entry and commerce. The park warns visitors not to purchase any items. These items are considered contraband and will be seized by park officers when encountered.

Some Mexican Nationals risk arrest, by openly crossing the Rio Grande River, on a horse or in a boat. We encountered two such individuals, one sang songs for money and another had just left his "souvenirs" and was returning to Mexico on his horse.

The Rio Grande River serves as the international border Between the United States and Mexico. Throughout much of its history, the border along the Rio Grande has been fluid, allowing people of both countries to come and go as needed. However, the border is an artificial boundary imposed on the natural environment, and as such is subject to political and social pressures that continue to evolve. Increased border restrictions have led to a number of important changes that affect the international boundary in Big Bend.

Tomorrow another adventure begins.