We left our music friends in Adona and headed NW to meet some Camino friends in Bella Vista. There was lots to see and do in Arkansas. Dave is a long time member of the Ottawa Civil War Roundtable and likes to visit U.S. Civil War battle sites. As we made plans for the day we noticed that the Pea Ridge National Military Park was directly en-route. After an extremely hilly, steep and winding drive into the Ozark Mountains, we arrived at the site where the pivotal battle of Pea Ridge was fought in March 1862.
The battle was won by Brig Gen (later Major General) Sam Curtis, Commander of the Union Army of the Southwest. It was lost by Major General Earl Van Dorn, Commander of the Confederate Army of the West. A good part of the action took place in and around the Elkhorn Tavern which is still there. We explored the well preserved site hiking from one end to the other. Dave bought a book and subsequently gave a presentation to our roundtable group back home. If you are curious and have a Powerpoint viewer app, click the link below to download a copy of this presentation.
We continued on to Bentonville and toured the Walmart Welcome Centre. It was here in 1950 that Sam Walton opened Walton’s 5&10. His wife liked small town living and Sam wanted to take advantage of the different hunting seasons that living at the corner of four states had to offer. Well the rest is history and today Walmart – love it or hate it – is among the biggest retailers on the planet.
Finally we made our way to Bella Vista – a lovely residential town just south of the Missouri border. We had met Rev. Richard on the very first day of our 2010 Camino de Santiago back packing pilgrimage in Spain. “Call me Dick”, he said. We kept running into each other and really enjoyed chatting with him. He confided in us that he was a minister in a protestant community church back in the U.S. on sabatical. He loved to hear people’s stories- why they were hiking the Camino, who they were, why, etc. Afterwards we lost touch since we had not exchanged contact info. However, one day back home I googled his name and found him through his church in NW Arkansas. We made contact and he and his wife Carol invited us to drop by while on our Inner Journey pilgrimage.
We arrived at their beautiful lakefront property. They gave us a tour and we had some great conversation over dinner and breakfast. He gave us a copy of the humorous Camino presentation he made to his congregation in Bella Vista. We parted ways promising to keep in touch. Wow, what a great visit we had! Subsequently we did keep in touch, having visited each other many times and hoping to visit them again this Fall in FL where they now live. Thank you Dick and Carol for your hospitality and friendship for the past 11 years!
On our way out of town we stopped and toured the stunning Mildred B. Cooper Memorial Chapel and then drove by their pretty Bella Vista Community Church. Then… it was on to the next adventure in our Trekker.
We were no where near Kentucky or Virginia but we were about to discover some Bluegrass. We headed north out of Louisiana for Arkansas. We noticed how close we were to the Oklahoma border – so we diverted west again just a bit. The first day we drove on a winding road to a state park called Broken Bow. Wow – a huge park on a river and lake with superb facilities, store, restaurant etc. We hiked for an hour or so and enjoyed a nice étouffée dinner followed by a warm crackling campfire. It was to be a cool night and we were up by 7h30 raring to go a little farther into OK the next day.
As we were about to leave we noticed an Ontario plate at the campsite across the road. We had a nice chat with a friendly couple, Charlie and Cathy from Perth, Ontario. They were on their way home hauling their 5th wheel travel trailer from Harlingen, TX which is near the Rio Grande border with MX. Many Canadians spend the winter there in the dozens of RV parks that abound. Well it turns out they like music – specifically Bluegrass and were on their way to an informal festival with friends in Arkansas at which they would be playing. They invited us to join them there the day after next.
We googled things and realized that we were smack in the heart of ‘tornado alley’ in tornado season. Keeping a wary eye to the sky and listening to weather forecasts, we headed farther north in OK. It was a scenic drive through beautiful trees and we stopped for lunch at Windy Stop National Park. Continuing we stopped for the night at Talemena S. P. and found a nice grassy site. We went for a 90 min hike along the historic Ouachita military trail. The shrimp and dirty rice dinner tasted so good that night that we danced for joy.
The next day we headed east for our rendezvous in Adona, AK not too far from Little Rock. We found the Cypress Creek Music Park and checked in for a very unique night. That evening the fiddles, guitars, mandolins, base and banjo came out and we enjoyed an impromptu concert. Charlie and Cathy were great hosts and made us feel welcome. They were also very visible Christians. We enjoyed their presence. We promised to meet up in Canada again someday – and we did by chance at the Bluegrass Music Festival in Renfrew, ON a couple of years later.
So a chance encounter in tornado alley lead to some really good Bluegrass times. Check out Bill Monroe:
Heading east out of Texas we spent one lovely last night at Lake Tawakoni S. P. It was then on to our favorite State – Louisiana. We have been partial to LA ever since we visited New Orleans in 2005 just before Katrina. We love the food, the music, the gaiety and the people who are either really really happy or really really down and out. There is no middle ground in LA.
It was an easy 3 hour drive to Shreveport, a city of 200,000. The third largest city of LA, it has a history of oil and gas development and production. Today it is the educational, cultural and commercial centre of the Ark – LA – TX tri-state area. It is on the navigable Red River where it meets the historic Texas Trail. The Mississippi River is still another 3 hours east at Vicksburg.
We drove straight through town to camp at Lake Bistineau S. P. And what an experience it was. About 200 years ago a huge log jam on the Red River flooded the land here. Later a dam was built that created the 27 sq. mi. permanent reservoir. the S.P. is dotted with cypress and tupelo trees whose bases are under water. Annual flooding can be a problem for the alligators who thrive here! We had a good chat with the park attendant who was most friendly as southeners are. She told us all about the area. It was early in the season an we basically had the park to ourselves. Take a look.
The next day we drove into Shreveport looking for some crawfish. Crawfish have a distinctive flavour – you either love them or you don’t. We looked around town a bit a found what we were looking for at the local casino.
After a great feast we spent another night at Lake Bistineau before nipping off into the SE corner of Oklahoma. Fond memories of our visit to the Shreveport area persist.
So there we were in West Texas. Every second vehicle was a white pickup truck – all oil well service vehicles. It felt good to be on the road fitting in between them. We left Monohome SP – the one with the sand dunes – and made our way to Odessa. We stopped for some tomales at a roadside Mexican stand and also picked up some dinner to go.
We drove to Abilene. It is a very pretty little town with trees which we had not seen for a few days. Checked into Abilene S. P. and enjoyed the sights, our Mexican dinner and a very peaceful evening as you can see.
After a great 9 hour sleep, we stopped at a Walmart in Abilene and then drove to Cedar Hill S.P. just south of Dallas. It is a huge park with a lake and beach. That evening there was a huge electrical storm. Sheet lighting lit up the sky for an hour. It was magical camping at its best.
The next day we zoomed past Dallas and made our way to Southfork Ranch. If you are of our age you will surely remember the soap opera show called Dallas that was filmed there. It ran from 1978 to 1991 and featured the greedy scheming oil tycoon character of J. R. Ewing played by that fabulous actor Larry Hagman (I Dream of Jeannie). Who Shot J.R. was the cliffhanging last episode of the 1979-80 season. J. R. hears a noise outside his office, steps into the hallway and is shot twice. All during the summer of 1980 we asked our friends, neighbours and family – who do you think shot J.R? Everyone had their theory. That episode remains the second highest rated prime-time telecast ever!
It was a fabulous tour and well worth the stop. It turns out that most of the episodes were actually filmed in a studio in Hollywood, CA and they only shot certain scenes at the ranch. That was OK with us as we wondered through the mansion – and what a mansion it was.
I read this fictional book sometimes with difficulty over the past 3 months. It is exceedingly long at 742 pages in small print. The Cardinal Giant paperback edition shown at left, was published in 1957. It was coming apart at the seams and I had to shore it up with scotch tape multiple times. I discovered this book in the Oblate Reading Room in Martha’s Cottage basement at the Galilee Centre in Arnprior. I am the sometimes volunteer librarian of this hoard of books which came from the personal collections of several Oblate priests. I was not disappointed.
You see I grew up going to St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church on Woodroffe Ave in Ottawa. I never knew much about St. Paul other than he was the apostle of the gentiles and wrote many letters in the New Testament. I am now much more knowledgeable and partial to St. Paul as a result of reading this book.
First a word about the author. Sholem Asch (1880-1957) was a prolific Polish born Jewish author, play write and essayist. He wrote in Yiddish, a high German derived language with elements of Hebrew and Aramaic that is still spoken today by 2 million Hasidic and Haredi Jews. He remained a Jew in faith all his life but was smitten by a desire to bridge the gap between Jews and Christians. For writing this and similar books he was attacked by his supporters for promoting Christianity. (1941 Photo courtesy Wikipedia.)
The story of Paul is simply amazing. Born a Jew in Tarsus on the south coast of Turkey, he was originally known as Saul of Tarsus, Greek speaking, he was sent to Jerusalem to study Jewish law. He became a prominent Pharisee charged with persecuting so called Christians who believed that the Jewish Messiah had already come, been crucified by the Romans and had come back to life. In exceeding detail Asch describes how early Christians were pulled from their homes and tortured to death in an effort to exterminate them.
On the way to Damascus to persecute the Christians living there, Saul has his famous encounter with Jesus and is blinded for days. He then spends the next 40 years in the desert (e,g, in Petra) contemplating what he is to do with the rest of his life. We all know the story – Saul becomes Paul and takes it on himself to spread the Christian faith to gentiles i.e. non Jews. But nobody believes him. They remember him as a Christian persecutor. What is going on?
The novel describes in vivid detail how Paul continued to run into roadblocks wherever he went. The Jerusalem apostles accuse Paul of breaking with the Law of Moses and reject him as a authoritative member of their community. The pagan communities in Greece, Turkey and eventually Rome run him out of town. He is ruining business for the idol makers. Actually he is scourged 5 times, stoned twice, shipwrecked 3 times and locked up in prison for years. And still he lives and persists!
I like the book because it conveys the details of paganism that existed in those times. Imagine believing in an invisible God!! Pagans were having none of it as they had Isis, Diana and a host of other “visible” Gods including Roman Emperors Claudius and Nero whom they could see and make sacrifices to for protection. The sweep of history covered is incredible and Asch is a great researcher in carrying us along. If it wasn’t for St. Paul it is most likely that the Christian faith would have been snuffed out as just another one of many Jewish sects.
Some of the language makes it difficult to read e.g, Peter is called Simon bar Joseph throughout. In a touching ending, Peter and Paul embrace in Rome. Peter goes one way to be crucified up side down. Paul goes the other way to be beheaded, since he is a Roman citizen. Magnificent.
9.5 out of 10 stars. I definitely want to read more Sholem Asch!
We continued south through Truth or Consequences and Las Cruces, New Mexico and then crossed into west Texas. The things we remembered most about El Paso is that you can see Ciudad Juarez across the border and the Walmart parking lot we stopped in. When I opened the back door of the Trekker, the strong wind caught the door and almost tore it off the hinges. Walmart food marts were our go to place for groceries and wine throughout this trip. They are numerous, have a standardized lay out and of course, are known for their cheaper prices if not for the quality. Sadly, the Walmart we stopped in here was to be the scene of a major mass shooting of Latinos in 2019. And they said Ciudad Juarez is the more dangerous place.
So we quickly headed out of town and made our way to the Guadalupe Mountains National Park and went for an amazing hike.
Somewhere during this week, we had run into an friendly Englishman at a camp ground and chatted about places to see. He mentioned Carlsbad Caverns in SE New Mexico. “Absolutely gobsmack!” he said in referring to these huge underground caverns. Never having heard this term before we wondered what it meant. Was it good or was it bad? After googling it we decided we had to go and see for ourselves.
Pictures fail to capture the beauty and scale of these underground caverns that a river gorged out millions of years ago. Stalagmites and stalagtites and pools of aquamarine coloured water with crystals everywhere. It goes on for miles.
We then headed for the sandiest campground we had ever stayed in. Wow what a different experience this was. In fact it was gobsmack!
Well we have been on this journey for over a month now. Just to recap. We set out from Ottawa about March 1, 2011 on a two month tour to the SW US in our Roadtrek 190. We had now visited 10 States and driven about 6000 km or so. We are not quite half way through. You may recall we sold our home by cell phone when in Oceanside, CA. What we did not explain then is that we had given an early exit date – May 24. So we had about 7 weeks left to complete our trip and move out of our house in Ottawa to somewhere. Time to pick up the pace a bit…
But the beautiful desert scenery in eastern Arizona and then western New Mexico kept holding us back. We drove thorugh small towns called Hotevilla, Shongopovi and Second Mesa in the painted desert Navajo Nation lands.
Then we drove through Winslow with the Eagles song playing loudly. We did not know it at the time but Madonna House Apostolate located in the Ottawa Valley in Combermere, ON operates an outreach house in Winslow.
Next stop was the Petrified Forest National Park. Wow what a neat experience to wander though the stone age trees that had literally turned to stone. Just a note on National Parks. We like parks but the US National Parks we visited out west are absolutely the most amazing parks we had ever seen. Banff National Park and Jasper in Canada are definitely in this category too.
We passed the continental divide and headed east for Albuquerque. We would have liked to go to Santa Fe but we turned south instead.
We stopped in for a visit at Fr. Richard Rohr’s Centre for Action and Contemplation. Richard Rohr, a Franciscan friar and author is one of the world’s most popular spiritual writers and speakers. A lot of Catholic’s we know follow him daily and read his books. Non Catholics and disaffected ones too. We dropped in unannounced. It was funny. The receptionist greets us warmly and we casually ask if Richard is in today. No he is not here today and besides, you can’t just drop in and expect to see Richard….Then she smiled and gave us a nice cook’s tour. It was really fun.
It had been a long couple of days so we headed south for a peaceful evening in Elephant Butte Lake State Park.
We drove north through Flagstaff and it got cooler due the high elevation of 7000 ft above sea level. We descended again and arrived at Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim. No matter how much you prepare yourself it is hard to fathom the monstrous size of this canyon – one of the largest in the world – 400 km long by 15 km wide x 1.7 km deep! To say it took our breath away is an absolute understatement. We gazed and we gazed an were stunned by the beauty and scale of what we saw there.
We settled into the campground for a couple of nights and enjoyed the wildlife. That evening we went to a camp fire chat by the ranger. He said they lose several young people every year who get too close to the edge and fall over!!!
If we had more time, we could have hiked all the way down to the Colorado River (5000 vertical feet), stayed overnight in a lodge and rode a donkey back up the next day. Instead, we settled on hiking down about a 1000 feet into the canyon and then backup again. What a refreshing and tiring experience. We learned that some really athletic people hike all the way down and run back up in half a day just for the exercise.
Dave bought a new Tilley hat to replace the one he forgot on the train in Pamplona. Next day we headed east for some more sightseeing toward Navajo and Hopi country.
We headed east into Arizona and stopped in Phoenix for a night. We revisited Yahweh Yoga where Marie had gone in 2009 for her yoga instructor certification training. She reminisced about the great people she met there and still keeps in touch with.
The next day we headed north to Sedona for some of the most beautiful scenery possible. We managed to find a campsite in a small RV park in this very popular tourist destination.
We went hiking. The air was so clear and the red rock so spectacular we lost total sense of distance. It looked like you could reach out and literally touch the mountains which were actually miles away. Surreal, took our breath away, painted canvas, joyous earth, rich greenery and utter silence – the pictures speak.
Then we continued our Inner Journey north towards Flagstaff.
La Quinta (la keenta) has several meanings in Spanish. It means “the fifth”. It means a hacienda – a second vacation home. It also is a chain of upscale motels in the US. Finally, it is a resort city in Riverside County, CA in the Coachella Valley. It was to this latter destination that we now set our Trekker sights on.
We departed Anza-Borrego for the east and then north. It was pure dehydrated desert. Vast landscapes of dry dusty rock and hills. Inhabitable for sure but no doubt there was some life abounding there. We drove by the Salton Sea a landlocked body of water laden with salts that straddles the San Andreus Fault. Not very inviting and an environmental disaster in the making according to the LA Times. Such is California in all its variations.
We then drove to La Quinta to meet up with our friends Greg and Brenda who live there during the winter. Dave had met Greg many years previously at Ioco Refinery when they used to go camping together. Since then they stayed in touch exchanging Christmas cards and notes over the years. Retired too, Greg and Brenda also have a summer home in Idaho as it is too hot to stay in La Quinta (regularly reaching over 40 deg in summer!). It was good to meet up after so many years apart and reminisce.
They live in a gated community backing onto a spectacular golf course. When we pulled up to the gate the guard looked at us askance, not too keen to let in an RV to the exquisite grounds. Greg had sent down word so he opened the gate and in we went. A note on gated communities. These are very common in the US and rare in Canada. Considered enclaves by some, they are often home to high-valued properties, beautifully landscaped streets with common amenity facilities. We certainly enjoyed visiting one. Greg and Brenda offered us their private “cassita” suite separate from the house. We were bathed in luxury after our tiny Trekker living space – and much appreciative for it!
We spent a wonderful couple of days together, they taking us to Trader Joe’s, a huge wine store and a couple of great restaurants. Our days were spent walking, hiking and then recovering in the backyard pool. To say we were pampered is an understatement. Did I also mention this is a world famous golf resort? Wow.
Well you know what is next. It was time to move on again having had a wonderful time. Thank you so much Greg and Brenda for having welcomed us into your world. We hope you are staying healthy and probably getting ready to head north right now to stay cool.