BUTTERBEAN – IN MEMORIUM

By Barry Zander, Edited by Monique Zander, the Never-Bored RVers

Jame "Butterbean" Carpenter

Jame “Butterbean” Carpenter

A letter from Joyce Carpenter, wife of the RVers’ friend, James “Butterbean” Carpenter: 

THANK YOU FOR THE CARDS … ALL OUR RV TRAVELLING-BLOGGER FRIENDS MEAN SO MUCH TO BUTTERBEAN AND ME.  A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL OF YOU.

NOW NEWS OF A HISTORIC EVENT: BUTTERBEAN IS HAVING CHRISTMAS WITH JESUS IN HEAVEN AND WITH US HERE ON EARTH IN HIS GREAT WONDERFUL LOVING SPIRIT.  I HAVE BEEN TRYING TO LET EVERYONE “OUT THERE” KNOW, BECAUSE YOU ALL MEANT SO MUCH TO HIM AND YOUR FRIENDSHIP WAS HIS MOST IMPORTANT CIRCLE OF FRIENDS.  YOU ALL TOOK HIM PLACES HE COULD NEVER GO AND SHARED ALL THE BIG AND SMALL EVENTS OF YOUR LIVES WITH HIM — FAMILY OF CHOICE — HE REALLY LOVED YOU ALL SO MUCH, AND I THANK YOU FOR MAKING THESE LAST FEW YEARS OF HIS LIFE WHEN HE WAS SO CONFINED TO THIS RANCH HE LOVED SO MUCH THE BEST YEARS OF HIS LIFE,

LOVE AND BLESSINGS, BE SAFE AND MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM BUTTERBEAN AND ME – JOYCE

With Joyce and Butterbean

With Joyce and Butterbean

Monique and I crossed the uninviting northern tier of Texas in 2012, enduring miles of Lone Star nothingness to visit his ranch.  We veered onto the byway that led us to their place, turning left to cross a cattle guard.   There was Butterbean, wife Joyce and their menagerie of horses coming out to greet us.  Their home, mostly hidden by their Georgie Boy motorhome parked in the front yard, is a traditional rustic one-story, featuring walls lined and countertops speckled with items they collected over the years before and since their move from the Dallas area.

Both had retired to the work of taking care of the half-dozen or so American miniature horses plus Rosie, the mare who was the first to beg Monique for attention.  When not outside with the herd, Butterbean spent his time on the computer, monitoring RV.net and other websites and blog sites.

From time-to-time we are able to accept invitations to visit our readers.  And while all of American Miniature - 0409our experiences have been enjoyable, without a doubt, our visit to the ranch will stand out as most memorable.  I don’t want to sound maudlin, but we gained an extra bit of fulfillment by being there on the edge of Nowhere, saying Howdy to Butterbean and Joyce … and Rosie, and their tail-waggin’ dog, and the American miniatures.

Joyce & Monique - 0412

From the “Never-Bored RVers,” We’ll see you on down the road.

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

BUSY PLACES: NATURAL SPACES – PART I

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the seriesFavorite Places

By Barry Zander, Edited by Monique Zander, the Never-Bored RVers

To keep my often too-long RV.net blogs a bit shorter, I posted an excerpt of this article on that site:  this is the full article, subdivided into two parts.  Part I is about favorite cities; Part II is a list of all National Parks from the most visited to Lake Clark in Alaska at the bottom of the ratings – a shame since it is absolutely stunning in the Alaskan sunshine.  I wrote an article a year ago about the destinations chosen by RV.net readers.  Since it vanished somewhere between Point A and Point B, I’ve republished it.  I assure you, I’m not trying to sell anything (unless you’re interested in one or more of my photos of North America).

BUSY PLACES:  Enough pregame chatter, time to get to the good stuff.  I recently came across two “favorite lists” that I found interesting.  The first lists the “Travelers’ Choice 2013” of favorite cities to visit published by Tripadvisor.  I’m not sure how the “travelers” made their selections, but the number of attractions in the selected areas probably influences it.  For instance, New York, the #1 choice, has dozens of museums, historic sites, entertainment, etc.

So now, the Top 10 American cities, from the Big Apple to the Big Easy:  After New York in first place comes San Francisco, then Chicago, Las Vegas and Orlando finish out the first five.

The sights and sounds of Chinatown in San Francisco make visiting a unique experience.

The sights and sounds of Chinatown in San Francisco make visiting a unique experience.

My comments:  San Francisco is a beautiful, fun town, and if you visit Chicago, we strongly recommend taking the American Institute of Architects boat tour along the Chicago River.  I

"The Bean" at left is the most interesting feature of Millennium Park in Chicago

“The Bean” at left is the most interesting feature of Millennium Park in Chicago

got a whole new favorable impression of the city.  Some people avoid Las Vegas thinking it’s SinCity, but it’s so much more than gambling and risqué shows.  There’s entertainment galore and lots of interesting desert.  Need I comment on Orlando – home of numerous family-oriented attractions?

The only thing I can say about Washington, D.C., No 6 on the list, is that you can’t stay long enough to see it all – a week minimum – and we started out with the Gray Line tour “D.C. After Dark.”  The history in Boston is obviously legendary (maybe “legendary” is the wrong word since the courage of our founding fathers is factual).  It’s mostly what Boston is all about … plus the Boston Pops Orchestra.  Los Angeles is a metropolis that never ends, with museums, entertainment, 20th Century history, family amusement parks … whatever you’re looking for, it’s probably there.  No. 9 is Honolulu.  I’m not sure why, except that the airport is the jumping off point for much of the South Pacific islands.

And No. 10 – New Orleans.  I’m a bit prejudiced about this one – it’s my hometown.  Mardi Gras, the French Quarter, Creole food and nearby Cajun Country are the traditional main attractions, but I strong recommend the incredible World War II Museum.  Just watching the Tom Hanks-narrated video is worth the price of admission.

And now for the final 15 cities to visit in the U.S.:

11. Seattle, Washington

12. Miami, Florida

13. Sedona, Arizona

14. Savannah, Georgia

15. Charleston, South Carolina

16. Napa (Wine Country), California

17. San Antonio, Texas

18. Lahaina, Hawaii

19. Portland, Oregon

20. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

21. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

22. Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

23. Palm Springs, California

24. Naples, Florida

25. Houston, Texas

We rarely assign major cities as destinations, but we do have favorites.  Monique puts

The quaintness of Savannah, Georgia, lies in its preservation of its glorious history.

The quaintness of Savannah, Georgia, lies in its preservation of its glorious history.

Charleston or Savannah at the top of her list.  I still have to say I really appreciate the unique culture of New Orleans … and both of us like Washington, D.C., not only for the attractions, but for the cleanliness and grandeur.  My favorite town is Mountain View, Arkansas (population:  less than 3,800 and not on the list), where the folk music never stops.

I doubt if you’ll get bored in any of them … so you can join us as being “Never-Bored RVers,” We’ll see you on down the road.

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

BUSY PLACES: NATURAL SPACES – PART II

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the seriesFavorite Places

By Barry Zander, Edited by Monique Zander, the Never-Bored RVers

NATURAL SPACES:  This is a list of all 58 U.S. National Parks, arranged by number of visitors in a year.  It doesn’t include monuments, scenic rivers, historic locations and other designated Park Service sites.  Three eastern parks made the cut; the rest are out West.  Most convenient to a good portion of the U.S. population is Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which hosted 9 million visitors last year.  It’s also on the “flyway” for snowbirds.

The next three are Grand Canyon, Yosemite and Yellowstone, each with its spectacular scenery.  I am surprised that Rocky Mountain National Park is in fifth place, but we also put it very high on our list of the 46 that we’ve visited.

What could be more peaceful than parking your rig at Aspenglen Campground in Rocky Mountain National Park. This was on the last day the campground was open before autumn closure, which sent us to Moraine Campground, another spectacular site.

What could be more peaceful than parking your rig at Aspenglen Campground in Rocky Mountain National Park. This was on the last day the campground was open before autumn closure, which sent us to Moraine Campground, another spectacular site.

No. 6 is Olympic National Park between the Pacific Ocean and Puget Sound in Washington State.  Then Zion in Utah and Grand Teton in Wyoming (not far from Yellowstone) and 11th on the list, Glacier, both in Montana.  Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley National Park is No. 10.  And now for the full list of National Parks, sorted by number of visitors in 2012.  The * indicates that you can’t drive there in your RV.

Truly one of the greatest vistas in the United State are those in Glacier National Park in Montana. We hiked to Avalanche Lake, where we were stunned by the majestic beauty.

Truly one of the greatest vistas in the United State are those in Glacier National Park in Montana. We hiked to Avalanche Lake, where we were stunned by the majestic beauty.

  1. Great Smoky Mountain (North Carolina/Tennessee)
  2. Grand Canyon (Arizona)
  3. Yosemite (California)
  4. Yellowstone (Wyoming)
  5. Rocky Mountain (Colorado)
  6. Olympic (Washington)
  7. Zion (Utah)
  8. Grand Teton (Wyoming)
  9. Acadia (Maine)
  10. Cuyahoga Valley (Ohio)
  11. Glacier (Montana)
  12. Hot Springs (Arkansas)
  13. Joshua Tree (California)
  14. Hawaii Volcanoes (Hawaii)
  15. Bryce Canyon (Utah)
  16. Shenandoah (Virginia)
  17. Arches (Utah)
  18. Mount Rainer (Washington)
  19. Sequoia (California)
  20. Haleakala (Hawaii)
  21. Death Valley (California)
  22. Everglades (Florida)
  23. Badlands (South Dakota)
  24. Capitol Reef (Utah)
  25. Petrified Forest  (Arizona)
  26. Saguaro Forest (Arizona)
  27. Mesa Verde (Colorado)
  28. Kings Canyon (California)
  29. Theodore Roosevelt (North Dakota)
  30. Wind Cave (South Dakota)
  31. Mammoth Cave Kentucky
  32. Biscayne* (Florida)
  33. Canyonlands (Colorado)
  34. Virgin Islands* (Virgin Islands)
  35. Glacier Bay* (Alaska)
  36. Crater Lake (Oregon)
  37. Denali (Alaska)
  38. Redwood (California)
  39. Carlsbad Caverns (New Mexico)
  40. Big Bend (Texas)
  41. Lassen Volcanic (California)
  42. Kenai Fjords (Alaska)
  43. Great San Dunes (Colorado)
  44. Channel Islands* (California)
  45. Voyageurs (Minnesota)
  46. Black Canyon of the Gunnison (Colorado)
  47. Guadalupe Mountains (Texas)
  48. Congaree (South Carolina)
  49. Great Basin (Great Basin (Nevada)
  50. Dry Tortugas* (Florida)
  51. Wrangell-St. Elias (Alaska)
  52. Katmai (Alaska)
  53. North Cascades (Washington)
  54. Isle Royale* (Michigan)
  55. Gates of the Artic* (Alaska)
  56. Kobuk Valley* (Alaska)
  57. American Samoa (American Samoa)
  58. Lake Clark (Alaska)

*Inaccessible by roads

What a view!  Last on the list of visited National Parks is Lake Clark on the way to Homer, Alaska.  Oh, how I long to  take another "trip of a lifetime" to the Land of the Midnight Sun.

What a view! Last on the list of visited National Parks is Lake Clark on the way to Homer, Alaska. Oh, how I long to take another “trip of a lifetime” to the Land of the Midnight Sun.

I can’t end this without mentioning my own personal favorite, Bryce Canyon in Utah, No. 15 on the visited list.  Just preparing the list above (including determining which ones we’ll never visit in our travel trailer) gave me the will to go on to explore the few that we can

A scene in Theodore National Park, North Dakota, where cowboys roam among the herds of feral horses.

A scene in Theodore National Park, North Dakota, where cowboys roam among the herds of feral horses.

reach via land.  We haven’t been to Hawaii yet, but we plan to rent a small RV while there, possibly in 2015 [I find that when we plan these trips ahead a long way off, we’re eager and ready when the time comes to cover lots of distance].

We’re the “Never-Bored RVers,” and very appreciative of being able to visit so many of the world’s most scenic lands in our home on wheels.  We’ll see you on down the road.

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

DESTINATIONS PART 3 — SURPRISES

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the seriesRVers Choices
A quartet of tourists performs for the camera.  That’s Monique and me on the right, and Monique’s brother and sister-in-law visiting from France on the left.

A quartet of tourists performs for the camera. That’s Monique and me on the right, and Monique’s brother and sister-in-law visiting from France on the left.

 By Barry Zander, Edited by Monique Zander, the Never-Bored RVers

 

Via the Internet I asked the RVers to let me know their favorite spots to visit and where they planned to go in the years ahead.  Hundreds of responses poured in, and names like Yellowstone, Alaska, the Utah national parks, and Florida were the most often mentioned.

Signs of abundant life are still visible at the Salton Sea, but it’s not a place we plan to visit again until drastic measures are taken to remove the stench of dead fish.   -- Photo courtesy California Dept. of Parks & Recreation

Signs of abundant life are still visible at the Salton Sea, but it’s not a place we plan to visit again until drastic measures are taken to remove the stench of dead fish.
— Photo courtesy California Dept. of Parks & Recreation

But then there were some surprises – either because I would never have expected these to be preferred destinations or I had never heard of them.  For instance, there was one vote for the Salton Sea in California, as a favorite place.  Monique and I set down our stabilizers there in 2006, expecting to stay for a week.  We left the next day.

Why? The inland Salton Sea, south of Palm Springs, is, by all accounts, a depressing place. It’s California’s largest lake and — thanks to its toxic water and resultant abundance of dead fish — gives off a smell that’s so powerfully rancid it’s been known to waft all the way to Simi Valley. Its glory days are many decades in the past, the lake is shrinking, and many of its residents have left (or, in some cases, fled). There are a few traditional tourist attractions left (the International Banana Museum!) and a state park, but if this … article is anything to go by, its stock-in-trade these days is disaster tourism.”  That quote is from an article in the September 2013 online newsletter “Curbed.”   

That about sums it up in my experience, so I still don’t know why it’s a favorite destination.  P.S.  There’s a vey aggressive effort being made now to have the State of California solve the problems and restore it to the resort-level beauty of 40 or more years ago.

Another vote was for Nauvoo, an Illinois town in a bend of the Mississippi River.  I don’t remember going through there, so I looked it up and found that it’s known for the establishment of a Church of the Latter Day Saints (LDS, the Mormons) and it is acclaimed for its beauty and history.

Standing nobly in Paris, Idaho, is the Church of Latter Day Saints Tabernacle.  Despite being built on the Idaho side of the state line with Utah, it remains a center for followers of the Mormon religion.

Standing nobly in Paris, Idaho, is the Church of Latter Day Saints Tabernacle. Despite being built on the Idaho side of the state line with Utah, it remains a center for followers of the Mormon religion.

A personal remembrance here:  In 2008, we stopped in Paris, Idaho, where we were invited into the imposing Mormon Tabernacle to listen to the local organist “practicing” on the grand organ … a WOW that we reveled in for about 30 minutes.  In reading the sign in front of the magnificent structure, we learned that the LDS pioneers established the community in 1863, but it wasn’t until nine years later that they found out they were in Idaho instead of their destination – Utah!

I had no reason to question the responder who said he likes “the Bourbon Trail” of Kentucky, nor Ennis, Montana, famed for fly-fishing.  I never thought of Pahrump, Nevada, as a place to stop for very long, but two people casts ballots for it as a destination.   It has a speedway, access to many desert places worth visiting, and extreme summer heat.  Apparently lots of RVers spend more than a day there.

We’ve never heard of Door County, Wisconsin, but after reading about this peninsula in eastern Wisconsin, we will put it on our places to go next time we’re in the Great Lakes area.  To quote the local visitors bureau, With more than 300 miles of spectacular shoreline and five majestic state parks, Door County is a four-season, outdoor recreation and pleasure lover’s dream come true. If you enjoy history, discovery and fun, Door County is home to 11 lighthouses, unique communities, performing arts, entertainment, music, boutiques, galleries and mouth-watering cuisine …” yadda, yadda, yadda.

Boy, what an exploration in fascinating places!  And here are a few other places that got mentioned, many of which you’ll probably agree with:  the Mississippi River Road (very educational with RV caravan companies); riding along rural roads in the Northeast when the leaves are changing; Route 66; the Four Corners (UT, CO, NM & AZ); and the Great Lakes, national parks (several are on islands inaccessible by RV), stadiums and presidential libraries.

Hundreds of RVs travel down to Mexico and Central America every year, and we have talked with several who went into South America, including one adventurer who journeyed down to Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip.

One respondent listed New Zealand — I would put that on my “bucket list,” but it will probably never happen.  What is on our list is the Hawaiian Islands, which we will do next year or in 2015, renting an RV and traveling in our rental rig through one or more of the islands.  While we’ve been to the Islands before our days in a home-on-wheels, that will be our 50th state to visit as the Never-Bored RVers … which we remain.  We’ll see you on down the road.

© All photos by Barry Zander, unless otherwise identified.   All rights reserved

 

DESTINATIONS PART 2 — Where do you want to go?

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the seriesRVers Choices

By Barry Zander, Edited by Monique Zander, the Never-Bored RVers

WHERE ARE YOU HEADING?   I know you’ve waited with bated breath for the second episode in the saga of where the hippest RVers are.  My second question posed via the Internet was “Where are you going?”  By far, the No. 1 answer was Alaska, hands-down.  My recommendation is that everyone should put the “Land of the Midnight Sun” as the mustest of the must-see places in North America.  I mentioned the beauty of the trip up and the friendliness of the people.  What you can’t grasp without being there is the immenseness (is that a word?), the variety of terrain, the diversity of animals, and the feeling of accomplishment from making the long drive.  If there were ever one place to call a trip of a lifetime, Alaska is it!

The Screech-In was an absolute highlight of our visit to the Canadian Atlantic Provinces.  Visitors toast the Province of Newfoundland/Labrador and are then subjected to the “kissing the cod” ceremony, which, along with other rituals, is what it takes to officially become a Newfie.

The Screech-In was an absolute highlight of our visit to the Canadian Atlantic Provinces. Visitors toast the Province of Newfoundland/Labrador and are then subjected to the “kissing the cod” ceremony, which, along with other rituals, is what it takes to officially become a Newfie.

Going down the list of top destinations mentioned by blog readers after Alaska, we hit 2)

It’s like walking into a postcard.  Touring Arches National Park in Southern Utah is an unforgettable experience.

It’s like walking into a postcard. Touring Arches National Park in Southern Utah is an unforgettable experience.

the Maritime Provinces of eastern Canada, 3) Yellowstone, 4) the parks of Southern Utah, tie 5) Washington State and 5) Key West, Florida.   What all these have in common is they can strain the budget. Utah being the most centrally located of the top choices, is probably the least expensive, depending on your starting point.  On an Alaskan trip and to a lesser degree Washington, it’s the cost of fuel to get there; for the Maritimes,

Key West, Florida, may be the only place in the Continental U.S. where, no matter how long you stay, you still feel like you’re on vacation.  It’s an island paradise connected to the mainland by causeways through “the Keys.”

Key West, Florida, may be the only place in the Continental U.S. where, no matter how long you stay, you still feel like you’re on vacation. It’s an island paradise connected to the mainland by causeways through “the Keys.”

the ferries and fuel; and for Key West, time, fuel and camping costs.  On the other hand, if depleting the piggybank gets you nervous, think about them as ultimate places to see.  Consider Washington and Idaho for a summer trip – beauty abounds.

This was all compiled before Monique and I went to the Atlantic Provinces of Canada in 2013.  You, the readers, had listed it as second most desired place to visit.  Now that we’ve been there, I can say New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland/Labrador and Prince Edward Island are special.  It’s not just the sights, but the people, lifestyles, history and beauty that come at you from all directions.  It’s among the top spots on my favorite places list.

5 - Final 4 Collage

As I tallied the votes, I wondered what happened to some other big-name national parks, primarily Yosemite in California.   Yosemite has, to be sure, the most spectacular variety of views of any national park we have been to (we’ve been to 46 different ones).  Our reason for avoiding one of naturalist John Muir’s favorite haunts more often is, to quote Yogi Berra, “It’s so crowded, nobody goes there anymore.”  It is the second-most popular national park (after Smoky Mountain), which accounts for lots of visitors … and that convergence of tourists also afflicts the Grand Canyon.  We’ve been told often that Yosemite is in its greatest glory in the winter when snow-covered.  We might have to park the trailer in warmer climes and four-wheel in to check it out.

If you haven’t been on “The Road to the Sun” in Glacier N.P. in Montana you’ve missed one of the best touring roads in America, but hurry.  The glaciers are melting. Acadia National Park in Maine is also considered to offer the most beautiful views of any of the parks except maybe Glacier.  It is beautiful, but we felt it is more of a park to visit because it’s symbolic of the Maine Coast.  Neither got the attention they deserve in the survey, but they are at least better known than another highly touted national park, Big Bend on the Texas-Mexico border.

The Olympic National Forest on the western peninsula of Washington State is a trip into a rainforest.  The “Evergreen State” offers some of America’s most interesting and varied scenery.

The Olympic National Forest on the western peninsula of Washington State is a trip into a rainforest. The “Evergreen State” offers some of America’s most interesting and varied scenery.

Additional recommendation:  Don’t miss the Black Hills of South Dakota.   Hugging the coastline of Lake Superior is unforgettable.  Sedona and Canyon de Chelly on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona are classics.  Cajun Country in South Louisiana and New Orleans is like visiting a different, fun country.   Another destination to consider:  we spent a week last May parked outside of Washington, D.C., taking the Metro from our campground into the city almost everyday.  We started with D.C. After Dark, enjoying a bus tour of the Capital under the lights, and then returned to visit the Smithsonian Institution, the traditional and newer monuments, memorials and sights.   I’ve been there many times before, but doing it with our home-on-wheels as our base made it even better.

There were some surprising responses to the survey, which I’ll mention in the weeks ahead.  I think for now, you’ve got enough ideas to chew on without those.  We welcome your recommendations.

From the “Never-Bored RVers,” We’ll see you on down the road.

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved