Blog 1 of 2 (1st 8 days of trip; May 23-30
Blog Co-Author: Parker Bockoven
This trip was planned for Parker, our 13-year old grandson, who very much wanted to take this trip after seeing pictures in our Shutterfly Book from a trip we took visiting the Utah canyons. His summers are filled with select baseball tournaments making it a challenge to plan a 3-week trip around his games.
Parker’s last day of school was May 21, baseball tournaments were scheduled for May 22 and 23 and we scheduled our departure for Monday, May 24. Heavy rainfall over the weekend caused a cancelation of his tournaments for Sunday. Papa was ready to get on the road, so we headed out at 6 pm, Sunday, May 23 with WinStar World Casino’s RV Park in Thackerville, Oklahoma as our first night’s stay (https://www.winstar.com/stay/accomodations/fun-town-rv-park-at-winstar/).
Thackerville, Oklahoma (1-night, May 23): WinStar’s RV Park has nice concrete pull-through sites and the nightly cost is only $30.00 per night, relatively inexpensive for this type of resort style campground. There is a free shuttle ride to the casino or it’s a short drive from the park to the casino. Since we had decided to unhook the 5th wheel for the night, we drove over for dinner. We walked through the casino looking for a restaurant that did not have a long waiting line and settled on Chips N’ Ales in the London section of the casion where we enjoyed Philly cheese-steak and fish sandwiches. Remarkably, Bill was able to walk through the casino without putting even a nickel in the slot machines, although he was tempted. Parker reminded Papa of what he had said to him earlier saying “there is no one here who looks happy, save your money for Vegas.”
Our next day’s drive to Amarillo brought us to a stop in Wichita Falls to pick up a hearing aid charger at an Audiologist’s office because Bill realized he had left his charger at home. Our next stop was one that we make every time we are traveling this route, Valley Pecans (https://www.valleypecans.com/) in Chillicothe. It is a nice gift shop that has a small café where they sell homemade fudge. Its a nice place to make a stop, browse around the shop, and as we did, grab some lunch while at it. Later on into our trip, Parker said he wished we could go to Valley Pecans to have lunch again.
Amarillo, Texas, Big Texas RV Ranch (1-night, May 24): Big Texas RV Ranch (https://www.bigtexan.com/big-texan-rv-ranch/) was our destination for Monday night’s stay. Big Texas RV Ranch offers a “free” limousine ride to the world famous Big Texas Steak Ranch (https://www.bigtexan.com/). Though we’ve passed through Amarillo many times, this was our first experience to visit the steak house and it was Parker’s first experience riding in a limousine. The steak house was a highlight for our overnight stay. Parker was surprised to see a live rattlesnake that was on display in a large aquarium with a cow head skull that the snake was weaving in and out of. We were all quite amazed by the displayed storyboard that documented the all time champion winner of the “72 oz steak, eat-it-all, get it free” contest. She was one small lady, weighing about 125 pounds and she won the contest by eating three full 72 ounce steak meals in 20 minutes total. First meal was 4-minutes, second meal was 7-minutes, and her third meal was in 8- minutes, she won $5,000. We stopped by the shooting gallery where Parker ended up with the highest score shooting at various targets. Karen being a pescatarian found the restaurant’s grilled salmon as an excellent choice among all the menu choices. Back at our campsite, several campers including us, were in awe of the beautiful display of mushroom clouds in the sky . . . cell phones and cameras were out to capture the moment, Parker got a good photo.
Gallup, New Mexico, USA RV Park (1-night, May 25): Today was one of our longer driving days, we stay at many Good Sam parks where as members we get a 10 percent discount and USA RV Park (USA RV Park – Home) is a Good Sam park. Located approximately a 66 mile drive before the Petrified Forest National Park and that was our destination the next day as we stopped for a brief sideline tour on our way to the Grand Canyons. We moved into Mountain Time, using our mobile phones to keep track of the time since our RV clock and wrist watches were on Central Standard Time.
Papa is teaching Parker all of the setup and tear down of the 5th wheel at every camp site we visit. Parker is doing very well, he has a positive attitude and is anxious to learn. He has told us for a couple of years now that he wants us to leave him our RV and truck when we go onto Heaven, expressing he does not want it to happen anytime soon, he just wants us to have his request down in our Wills. We chuckle and explain that he will want a newer model by the time he is old enough to take his own trips. He adds that he wants a job where he can work from his RV at any remote location. Parker reads stories and watches You-tubes about camping and young professionals working from their RV.
Parker’s Dad Karl allowed Parker to bring his nice Nikon D3200 camera with extra lens, and a tripod for Papa to teach him how to use the settings in capturing nice pictures of the awesome views we are experiencing. Parker, like Nana, enjoys taking pictures of the little things in the landscape . . . flowers, insects, and wildlife as well as the massive undeniable beauty of the canyons.
National Petrified Forest (4-Hour Visit): On our drive from USA RV in Gallup to Williams,AZ we stopped to visit the Petrified Forest. We bought Parker a National Park Passport (Passport To Your National Parks – America’s National Parks (americasnationalparks.org) book so he can start getting his stamps and stickers of all the national parks we visit on this trip, hopefully, he will hang onto the passport book and continue to fill it with stamps and stickers from parks he visits in the future. We are hoping to get Blake started on the National Park Junior Ranger program and get him a National Park Passport book next year.
Parker’s favorite overlook site was the Agate Bridge, which features views and a 110-foot long petrified log. Newspaper Rock has more than 650 petroglyphs viewable through the telescopes available at the lookout site or fortunately we have binoculars. There are so many beautiful views and things to see. Near the Rainbow Forest Museum and Visitor Center there were displays of large petrified logs, including “old faithful” – almost 10 feet across its base. We took a photo of Parker standing beside a 1932 Studebaker located where a section of the original Route 66 crossed the park. Bill and Karen purchased large petrified wood bookends several years ago when visiting this park. We promised to give the bookends to Parker when we return home.
Williams, Arizona, The Canyon Motel & RV Park (1-night, May 26): (https://thecanyonmotel.com/) This campsite was only selected because we could not get a 2-night reservation at Trailer Village RV Park located inside the Grand Canyon’s National Park. The motel rooms were setup in remodeled train cars. Arrival was early afternoon, and we planned on an early departure the next morning to the Grand Canyons, so we just hung out at the campsite. Cooked our first dinner since leaving on this trip . . . spaghetti and green beans.
Grand Canyon National Park, Trailer Village RV Park (1-night, May 27): https://www.visitgrandcanyon.com/trailer-village-rv-park With a short drive from Williams to Trailer Village, we arrived before we could check into our campsite. Parker was hungry for an egg omelet, he challenged Nana on his egg omelet being better than hers since “he was a professional chef.” He decided to let Nana cook her recipe before his attempt . . . we purchased cooked bacon slices from the Canyon’s Market and breakfast was cooked in the parking lot of the Village Market/Visitor Center https://www.visitgrandcanyon.com/dining-and-shopping/canyon-village-market- while waiting for our 10 am check-in in at our campsite. Parker teased on until finally eating his bacon-filled omelet, then admitted “okay Nana, I think that’s the best omelet I have ever eaten.” Of course, it was probably only because he was so hungry! We set-up camp by 10:30 am and visited “Mather’s Point” where you follow the vista point rim trail, there’s a nice Visitor’s Center with a book store where we got Parker’s National Park Passport stamp and it is in walking distance to some of the prettiest sites of the Grand Canyon https://www.nps.gov/grca/learn/management/cvip09.htm
Someone at the market recommended Hopi Point look-out site at Verkamp’s Visitor Center as the best place to see sunset. You can only drive to Bright Angel Trailhead and from there you must take a free shuttle bus on up to Hopi Point. While waiting for the Shuttle, Parker very much wanted to hike Bright Angel before our going to the Hopi look-out site to view sunset. Papa was resistant because the trails looked narrow with no fencing, but he reluctantly agreed that Nana and Parker could hike the trail while he went to the gift shop to purchase masks that we did not bring and that we belatedly learned were required for the shuttle ride to Hopi Point. Bright Angel was an awesome descending trail and we took photos of the scenery as well as a natural stone arch we stood under. Parker raved about the experience, and he received a compliment from a couple on his photographic poses as he took photo-shoots in various positions. We rode the short bus ride to Hopi Point watched the sunset along with lots of other tourists. Parker continued to receive comments from observers on his photography angles, ane was even asked by others to have him take their photo.
The next morning, the alarm was set for 5:30 am, thinking it would be early enough to watch sunrise at the Canyons, unfortunately, we missed it but Papa and Parker went back to Mather’s Point and took early morning photos although not exactly at the time of sunrise. Parker said the Canyons were Grand!
Monument Valley, Gouldings RV Park, Olajato-Monument Valley, Utah (1-night, May 28): https://gouldings.com/ This campground was such a pleasant surprise, the breath-taking views surrounded the well-kept, clean RV park. There was a large indoor pool and after hiking a few short trails located just behind our campsite, we took a dip in the pool. This is an RV park that we “highly” recommend if you visit Monument Valley in your RV, although they do have nice tent sites too.
Monument Valley is a favorite site for Hollywood Producers and has been the site for dozens of movies over the years. Several John Wayne movies were filmed here. It was suggested that we go to Mile Marker #9 off 163 North for the sunset overlook and Mile Marker #13 for a touristy site where n the Forest Gump movie, Tom Hanks turned around to go back in his famous coast-to-coast walk after learning Jenny was dying. The views driving to Monument Valley were amazing and we stopped at many scenic pull-over sites. Lots and lots of photo-taking. Parker already has over 400 photos on his Nikon camera chip, this does not include all of his mobile phone pictures.
Arches & Canyonlands National Parks, Slick Rock RV Park, Moab, Utah (2-nights, May 29 & 30th): https://www.sunrvresorts.com/resorts/west/utah/slickrock-campground/ The first afternoon was spent driving through Arches National Park. Parker thoroughly enjoyed all the rock formations, including small caves and narrow openings. He and Mayah would run through the hiking trails leaving Papa and Nana far behind. There was one particular trail that led into a small canyon between two behemoth walls. The base was covered with lots of thick red sand and Mayah though it was a beach playground so she just rolled in it. It was a late tiring evening by the time we got back to the RV but Mayah still had to be bathed before allowing her in the RV. Dinner was late at 9:30 pm. Parker and Mayah got plenty of exercise and everyone was exhausted . . . Papa and Nana from trying to keep up with Parker and Mayah.
Our second day we relaxed in the morning, and did not get out until later in the day. That turned out to be not such a good idea since when we arrived at Canyonlands National Park we were greeted with a very long line of cars. There were markers at two locations in the wait-line (one showing a 2-hour wait from the point of the sign, the second showing a 1-hour wait from the point of the sign). We saw many people turning around, getting out of line, but we were committed to go through Canyonlands National Park and finally got through the gate after 2 1/2 hours at approximately 1 pm.
There were only a few highlight overlooks we hit (Mesa Arch, Grand View Point Overlook, and a few others). Mesa Arch was a hike and since dogs are not allowed on the trails (we got by with taking them out the day before, but this time a Park Ranger stopped us) so Papa stayed in the truck with the dogs. Returning early afternoon to our campsite, we were able to enjoy an early evening walk around the town of Moab, had a nice dinner at Zax (https://www.zaxmoab.com/) and got in a little shopping. After returning to our campsite, Parker said he missed running the hiking trails from the day before. so he decided he needed to run-off his heavy meal and took his first official 6-mile run around the campgrounds.
It was disappointing to experience the way these two national parks located out of Moab are handling visitors that travel some thousands of miles to visit, only to arrive at the park and find signs that you can not enter because it is too crowded and suggest returning in 3-5 hours. Fortunately, we were able to visit both parks although a wait of over 2 ½ hours to get into Canyonland National Park. We learned after our visiting Arches many people were turned away, not allowed to visit or had to schedule a return hoping to get in later with an electric sign posting “return in 3-5 hours” because the “park full.”
Blog Will Continue with Blog 2 of 2 – Starting with Capitol Reef National Park