Posts Tagged ‘travel’

It’s not always bad news…

Mullinville, Kansas

Reason #38- Roadside Attractions

One sunny afternoon in the flat plains of Central Kansas, we came across a field with hundreds of kinetic and other metal sculptures.  I had heard that there were unusual roadside attractions in the Midwest, but this was the first time I was taken aback by one.  Mullinville, Kansas, is a small town on U.S. Highway 400 and its claim to fame are these “totems,” as their creator, a reportedly ill-tempered M.T. Liggett, calls them.  They are made from junked farm machinery, car parts, road signs or railroad equipment.

From the giant dinosaurs in Cabazon, Calif., to “Carhenge” in Alliance, Neb., to the massive “Geese in Flight” metal sculptures in North Dakota, surprises around the bend will usually delight, if not impress.  There’s a giant elephant in New Jersey, the world’s largest thermometer in the California desert, and mammoth statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe, the Blue Ox, throughout North America.  Bring your own spray paint and help decorate the upended relics at Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas.

There are literally hundreds of these attractions scattered all over America, many on out-of-the-way back roads, and are the hope of each county or town near their location.  What makes them special is the quirky or humorous nature of the creations, the more unexpected the better.  For example, the World’s Largest Ball of Yarn doesn’t really cut it any longer, but New York State’s “World’s Largest Garden Gnome” will definitely have you cracking a smile.   Beneath an overpass in Seattle, there is a cement statue, the Fremont Troll, so large that a full-size VW bug fits in its clutched hand. 

There also seem to me popular themes to these attractions.  Treat yourself to a visit to the UFO Welcome Center in Bowman, S.C., or to the Little A‘le‘inn, a roadside café and motel on the Extraterrestrial Highway in Nevada.  Huge dinosaurs can be found in nearly every state, as can the “World’s Largest” almost anything. 

There’s a Foamhenge in Virginia, a replica of Stonehenge in  Washington State, the aforementioned Cadillac Ranch and Carhenge, and other “Henges” of various types across the country.  There are also umpteen metal horse, elk and buffalo statues on the plains and rolling hills of the Midwest and the deserts of Texas, Oklahoma and Arizona, some with Native Americans in chase.

We’ve seen bowling ball gardens, hot-dog-shaped cafes, coffeepot or teapot gas stations, giant rocks in a myriad of shapes, and a “city” of round rocks.  Ghost towns seem to be everywhere, as are an abundance of outdoor museums of farm and ranch equipment, and strange man-made structures like Bishop’s Castle in Colorado.  Many have expressed fascination with the over-painted Salvation Mountain in Slab City, Calif., or the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Alabama.

All told, we wouldn’t enjoy life on the road as much without at least some of these respites from dreary highway travel, helping make the road less traveled much more fun.


Interestingly, my closing quote typifies why interesting roadside attractions are so often missed by tourists.  It was attributed to Gilbert K. Chesterton, an English writer who lived during the turn of the 20th century.  He wrote, appropriately, “The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.

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It’s not always bad news…

Reason #36-Ingenuity

Ingenuity is defined by Dictionary.com as “the quality of being cleverly inventive or resourceful.”  My own take is that proof of ingenuity can be seen in a solution to a problem or inconvenience that is not obvious to very many people.  Think MacGyver, but scaled back.

As many an RVer will convey, problem solving without ready-to-use, off-the-shelf solutions is an integral part of the lifestyle.  Those that can’t do it need to have lots of time and cash. 

Here is an example:  When we decided to upgrade our portable generator, the new unit wouldn’t fit in the old storage spot.  There was no room in the back of the pickup, since I had two large toolboxes installed in its bed, nor would it fit in any basement compartment in the fifth wheel.  It was going to take a unique solution, one not readily apparent at first look.

I realized that there would be room on the rear bumper if I could find a way to attach a cabinet or shelf back there.  Also, I had had the fifth wheel’s original flimsy rear bumper replaced with a sturdy steel square pipe welded to the frame after experiencing problems with it, so weight on the bumper shouldn’t have been an issue.  We had previously had a dual bicycle rack clamped to the bumper when we had heavy electric bikes, and, when we sold the bikes, I kept the racks.  When clamped tightly on the bumper, several people could stand on it without it sagging, so I guessed a wooden shelf would be stable.

I bought and cut 2-inch by 8-inch lumber and several lag bolts, washers and nuts, and, after applying several coats of waterproofing, attached the boards on the bike racks.  I countersunk the tops of the bolts so they would not impede anything I placed on it.  Once satisfied of weight-bearing success, I removed the back of a painted steel office cabinet and screwed it down on the shelf so as to not block the license plate. 

I had purchased a generator that would fit side-to-side through the locking cabinet doors, and secured it onto the cabinet floor and some boards I placed inside it just for that purpose. The doors close and lock, and though it wouldn’t totally prevent someone from stealing it, it makes it difficult enough.  With the rear of the cabinet completely removed, there is plenty of air circulation for the generator as well.  The starting cord is easily available on the side and behind the cabinet, and the gas tank can be reached with a funnel just behind the top of the cabinet.

For good measure, I secured my 50-amp cord spooler down on the shelf, and now I have my pet fence sections strapped back there as well for easy access (instead of in my basement compartment).

I feel pretty good about my solution, which is just one example of a setup that took ingenuity and a bit of carpentry skill.  Like I said, difficulties and clever answers are just a part of life on the road.

Nadyne was equally ingenious on the inside of the rig.  One problem we were having was with setup and tear-down between stays — in other words, before and after travel days.  As all frequent travelers know, anything on a counter top in the rig tends to shift, vibrate and move while on the highway.  It is very time consuming to secure all of these items for travel, strapping some down, placing some on the sofa or bed, and just all-around stuffing wherever they would fit snugly.  It is even more time-consuming to set everything back up for use.

Museum gel works fine on smaller items like wine bottles and knick-knacks, but not so much on small appliances like our ice maker, coffee maker, air fryer, or other kitchen necessities such as silverware and plate caddies.  She searched high and low for a solution with the common marketplaces apparently no help.

She remembered how sticky some rubber mats were and wondered if they would hold larger items.  She bought a roll of rubber matting and cut some pieces just big enough for the aforementioned appliances and caddies to sit on.  We left them in place on the counters on our next travel day, stopping occasionally to check for movement (or damage), and were pleasantly surprised how well things had stayed put on the mats.  She found some rubberized cooking sheets that were less expensive but had the same gripping power.  We stocked up, then started snipping and using them for other pieces of equipment around the rig, such as our laptops, adding machine, printer, alarm clock and even some electronics for the TV in the bedroom.  Since doing that, we never lost a single item off of any cabinet, desk or counter due to the road vibration and sway, even on the Pennsylvania Turnpike that was rough enough to break our rig’s springs.

I would imagine if you ask any full-time RVer, they can regale you with wonderful stories of their own ingenuity.  Aw, shucks…


I’ll finish this discussion with a thought from American author Shelby Steele, who said, “We are a nation with a powerful investment in the idea of our own fundamental innocence. Our can-do optimism and ingenuity are based on the faith that we are a decent, open and generous people. This is our identity.

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It’s not always bad news…

Note- just a reminder that this was written and published before my wife, Nadyne, passed away. I will be continuing to hit the road and visit family around the country, as I described.

Reason #31- Hiking Trails

My first hike occurred when I was in the Boy Scouts at age 14 in the Los Angeles area.  My troop’s leaders drove us up into the San Gabriel Mountains to a trail head and we proceeded to hike 6 miles up into the forest.  I hated every minute of it.

We set up camp for the weekend and, on Sunday, we broke camp and hiked back down the trail — a bit easier walk, but I was still not a fan.  I had overpacked, which wasn’t ever going to happen again.  A few months later, we hiked one of the Seven Peaks trails in the San Bernardino Mountains.  That was the first time I had climbed to a mountain peak.  Looking down over the valley below was exhilarating, despite poor visibility through the smog.

Health-wise, hiking is one of the best all-round activities you can do.  Here are the Top 10 from Health Fitness Revolution and author of the book, “ReSYNC Your Life,” Samir Becic:  hiking increases fitness, allows you to take control of your workouts, tones the whole body, helps prevent and control diabetes, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, and may improve the antioxidative capacity in the blood of oncological patients, helping to fight off the disease.  It’s a social activity that increases creativity, increases happiness levels, curbs depression and allows you to commune with nature.

My own preference for hiking really stems from my vagabond spirit — there is only so much of nature to see from the highway.  On one of my hikes in the mountains when I was in my 20s, about 5 miles from the road, we came across a car, probably circa 1920s, terribly rusted and nearly completely imbedded into the mound of dirt in which it was sitting. 

On another walk at Lake Mead, outside of Las Vegas, I found a dilapidated pleasure boat from the ‘50s or ‘60s sitting on the desert floor, in an area exposed from the lake’s recent retreat due to drought. You just never know what you’re going to see.  Also, the farther you are from civilization, the more apt you are to witness wildlife — in the wild.

In America, we are so fortunate to have city, county, state and federal departments that create and maintain hiking trails in all 50 states.  You can hike in so many terrains, too, including sandy desert, rocky mountains, thick forests, alpine elevations, spongy tundra, dripping wetlands, lake or ocean beaches, and so much more.  Although public abuse of those trails has begun to force some trail closures or additional fees, there still seems to be a commitment by the appropriate agencies to keep lands available to use.  Also, there are many volunteer groups that periodically tend to trails and trail heads.


I’ll end with a quote from American journalist Nicholas Kristof, who said, “Wilderness trails constitute a rare space in America marked by economic diversity. Lawyers and construction workers get bitten by the same mosquitoes and sip from the same streams; there are none of the usual signals about socioeconomic status, for most hikers are in shorts and a T-shirt and enveloped by an aroma that would make a skunk queasy.

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It’s not always bad news…

Note- just a reminder that this was written and published before my wife, Nadyne, passed away. I will be continuing to hit the road and visit family around the country, as I described.

Reason #30- Holidays

When I was a kid, especially growing up the eldest of seven siblings, holidays were the stepping stones of happiness through each year.  As soon as one was celebrated, we immediately looked forward to the next one.  My grandparents held huge family 4th of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas parties and dinners every year, and I attended all of them until I was 17.

When I had my own kids, two of whom were born on Halloween (three years apart), I continued the tradition of celebrating as often as holidays came upon us.  It was especially nice when they were a national holiday, meaning I could get an extra day off to stay with my family.  Yes, Halloweens were extra-special in our house, with us usually having a double-birthday party with lots of their friends.

My kids grew up and I remarried, and with great distance between me and my kids and relatives, holidays became more of a meaningless chore than a reason to celebrate.  It stopped making sense for Nadyne and me to give each other presents for birthdays or Christmas, since we usually bought whatever we wanted without waiting for a holiday or other excuse to do it.  Besides, she was spending our money on me and I was spending our money on her.  Holidays, other than getting time off work, stopped having the importance they had when there were children around.

Now that we are retired and not working, holidays are back to being happy stepping stones through the years, though without the excitement they once evoked.  Being on the road, we love to visit all of our family members, wherever they are, but don’t necessarily wait for holidays to do so.  It’s more about the geographical timing of our schedule.  Independence Day fireworks at a son’s house or birthday dinner with a daughter are always something to look forward to. As a young adult, I enjoyed watching classic movies.  Holiday Inn (1942, with Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire and Marjorie Reynolds with music by Irving Berlin) became one of my favorites.  This is about a quaint Connecticut inn that some popular show business stars buy and hold holiday performances in.  This is the first venue in which Bing Crosby sang White Christmas, and it was so popular that it spawned his movie of the same name.  I never miss Holiday Inn when this movie is on at Christmas time.

One thing about not getting caught up in the commercialism of each holiday is that we can enjoy the holiday itself.  Also, we are happy to take advantage of seasonal sales for our own purposes.  Why buy electronics in August when the Christmas season is around the corner?

One great thing about being in campgrounds during holidays is that campers are in a festive mood and are wanting to share good times with strangers.  Many strangers become friends and we love to catch up with them as our itineraries cross.  Thanksgiving in an RV resort can be wonderful!

Just as a sunrise can fill someone with hope and determination for the coming day, so can New Year’s Day be a day of resolution to be better, with wishes for dreams and ambitions, and hope for humanity.  After all, it’s called “New Year’s Day,” not “Old Year’s Passing Day.”


I’ll finish this topic with a quote from Canadian actress Rachel McAdams, who said, “I had a lovely childhood. For family holidays, we went as far as the car could take us – we would drive to Florida, even though it would take three days. I didn’t know we didn’t have a lot of money because there was always food on the table. I didn’t have a lot of stuff, but I did figure skating for a long time, and I always had my skates.

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It’s not always bad news…

Just a reminder that this was published a few years ago, long before a severe storm stranded us in Texas and Nadyne succumbed to cancer… I’ll be hitting the road again this summer. FYI- The couple in the photo isn’t us.

Reason #13- Enjoying Retirement

For most, retirement is a phase of life, a chapter near the end of the book, a distinct change in lifestyle.  Social Security age requirements may influence the target (retire at 62, wait until full benefits kick in or decide on something in between), or perhaps the status of one’s 401K or retirement savings plan, or more importantly, one’s health condition.  Any way you get there, hopefully you can enjoy it. 

My father passed away from a stroke at age 55, and he had huge retirement plans that he never had a chance to fulfill.  My wife’s mother became ill just about when her father retired, and he put aside their retirement travel plans.  When he tragically passed away before her, she was still too weak to travel.  That inspired both of us to retire and hit the road running as soon as possible.  I did postpone my exit as a manager a few months until I could help train my replacement, but was still 62 and Nadyne 63 when we pulled the trigger, selling our house and moving into our fifth wheel.

We had planned our escape for five years and could hardly believe when it finally arrived.  Downsizing was far more difficult than we expected, and leaving friends behind was equally disheartening. 

Social Security only pays so much and we have resisted using savings, so Nadyne is still working about 40 hours per month and I am writing books and articles so that we can be more comfortable in our travel.

Since retiring and moving to the highways and byways of America, we have had good times and bad, the latter mostly having to do with our RV repairs, losing Lucy, our beloved dog of 12 years, and COVID restrictions.  However, the sights we’ve seen, the experiences we’ve shared, the awe of nature, the splendor of the night sky, and the interesting differences in landscape and community among the different sections of the country — all of these have made our lifestyle much more than satisfying.  As an added bonus, we’ve been able to visit, in person, our six kids, five grandchildren, four great-grandchildren, and 10 siblings and their families, scattered across the country.  This would not have been possible if we weren’t able to retire and travel freely like we do.

I did not experience a culture shock when I stopped getting up at 4:45 a.m. on weekdays.  Instead, I began to “sleep in” until 7 a.m. and stay up as long as I like.  Sometimes I even stay in bed until 8:30!  Before the pandemic, we were able to experience the local night life and regional restaurant favorites wherever we happened to be and I have now sung karaoke in about 20 states.  I now have photo galleries posted from 35 states and our two cruises (Alaska and the Caribbean), much of which has been taken since we hit the road.  We return to Colorado every summer to catch up with friends and do the doctor and dentist routines, as well as touring one of our favorite states. 

And then there are the myriad of friendships we’ve made, some due to our membership and activities in RVillage (now approaching 400,000 RV members), and some are people we meet along our journeys.  The RV community is an unusual bunch in that members have much more in common than not.  Almost everyone has stories about a black tank experience or a particularly bizarre campground, and they can’t wait to share experiences with people who haven’t heard them yet and want to share their own stories.  We see a few of our RV friends in multiple locations, which is always fun.  One couple has crossed our path in Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas and Ohio, and another in California, Florida and Oregon.

None of this would have been possible without our retiring while we still had our health.  Sadly, like both of our fathers, some never get the chance.  I highly recommend it!


Most quotes I find about retirement are either political or financial in nature.  However, British actor Richard C. Armitage had this to say: “My instruction to my parents is that I would rather they enjoy their retirement than leave me anything when they go. I am much happier watching them enjoying life.”  Mr. Armitage, I salute you.

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This posting has been removed as the article has been purchased by an outstanding RV’er periodical. More info to come!

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Lunch Time
Lunch Time

“Lunch Time”
Photo of the Week #18, selected in September, 2019

This photo included a pleasant surprise indeed. In Alaska a few years ago, I took several dozen shots of bald eagles, but only a couple of them were striking. One was my “Alaskan Eagle Taking Flight” and the other was this pic, taken during a remote cruise stop.

I had spotted a nest with a bald eagle sitting patiently in a tree a couple of blocks from us as Nadyne and I walked along Harbor Drive in the small, rustic town of Hoonah. As we approached we found that the nest was about 60 feet up, far too high to see it very well. I switched cameras to use a large telephoto lens and snapped several photos from various angles. We had asked the locals if there were any eaglets in the nest and they all said that nobody had seen any, and we hadn’t either. Lo and behold, when I got back home and began going through my 1,300 or so Alaska pics, I found that a couple of shots of this nest showed a little eaglet’s head, the chick evidently waiting for lunch. I never saw it with my bare eyes.

Here’s my photo on Imagekind:

View all of my Photos of the Week here on Imagekind:

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Weather aside, the quick answer to this ponderance is two-fold – midweek/midday and if you have a stroller or wheelchair.  I’ll explain.

The San Antonio River Walk is a city park in San Antonio, Texas, winding along sections of the San Antonio River, below street level, in and around the downtown area of the city. The River Walk curves and loops under downtown bridges with sidewalks on both sides of the river, much of it lined with restaurants and shops, while connecting the various tourist attractions in the center of the city.  You can reach the River Walk from street level entrances along the sidewalks of dozens of city blocks, as well as from San Antonio’s five Spanish historical missions and from some of the popular museums and galleries in the area.

San Antonio’s River Walk, created as part of a floodwater control plan after a disastrous flood in 1921, is open 24/7/365 and has inspired projects like it in other cities, such as the Little Sugar Creek Greenway in Charlotte, Denver’s Cherry Creek Greenway, Oklahoma City’s Bricktown Canal, which we have visited, and Santa Lucía Riverwalk in Monterrey, Mexico.

We first descended upon the City Walk in the first months of the pandemic, but San Antonio’s downtown was mostly locked down and tourist stops weren’t open.  We were very much looking forward to returning post-pandemic to enjoy the many food and beverage venues along the Walk, especially the brewpubs that have popped up recently.  With the pandemic waning at the beginning of winter and restrictions being relaxed, plus the fact we are both fully vaccinated with boosters, we decided to visit downtown when we had a free Wednesday.  We brought our two small dogs with us, along with their doggie stroller.

So, tip number one is that midweek is not a great time for a visit, especially in the winter.  Most of the bars and restaurants don’t open until late afternoon or evening, and some aren’t open midweek at all.  It’s still a pretty stroll along the river’s sidewalks, but food and shops just aren’t an option.

So, tip number one is that midweek is not a great time for a visit, especially in the winter.  Most of the bars and restaurants don’t open until late afternoon or evening, and some aren’t open midweek at all.  It’s still a pretty stroll along the river’s sidewalks, but food and shops just aren’t an option.

Tip number two is that if you plan to use a stroller or wheelchair, you’ll need to scope out the available ramps or elevators to enter or exit from the city street, even to enjoy a just few blocks of the river.  Like I mentioned, we had the doggie stroller and had to carry it up and down stairs several times over the mile-and-a-half we walked the river’s sidewalks. 

At one point, there were so many steps up and down over a river arch that we had to take the dogs out and walk them across the bridge.  This wasn’t a big deal for us, but it begged the question, what if one of us had been confined to a wheelchair?

During our walk we found a QR code on a sign that directed our phone browsers to an ADA-supported map of the River Walk, but those maps were very difficult to follow, and it highlighted even further that the Walk doesn’t seem to be very handicapped-friendly.

Now, I don’t want you to get the impression that we dislike the River Walk.  On the contrary, the tourist walk along the river is usually beautiful, clean and an enjoyable experience for able-bodied pedestrians.  The next time, however, we’ll leave the dogs at home and make sure we time the visit for a weekend evening.

Here’s a nice guide for planning your trip there:

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I was discussing the three-day drive across Texas we’ve taken in the past and wondered how that stretch compares to other states.  I decided to let Google Maps be my guide as I looked throughout the country for similar treks for the nine longest in-state drives.

I created a few ground rules, such as any route candidate for my list being calculated as the shortest drive between two cities or towns. This means that there may be longer routes to or from unincorporated towns not showing on Google Maps.  I can’t do much about that.  I only utilized routes that stayed within the state being researched.  A few shorter routes may have existed through neighboring states.  Also, traffic, season and weather don’t affect distance, so I kept to miles instead of hours.

One last point – I didn’t research all 50 states.  Obviously, states like Hawaii, Rhode Island and Delaware won’t be on any longest drive list.  But as I calculated the most extensive drives in states like Pennsylvania, Maine, Virginia and North Carolina, it became clear that most candidates were less than 400 miles.  With the 9th largest stretching 629 miles, I could visually rule out dozens of states.

Here’s the list, ranked shortest to longest:

9.  Oklahoma-  Kenton to Tom- 629 miles

Many of the states on this list are of medium size compared to the rest of the country but have irregular shapes that provide longer routes.  This is true of Oklahoma, where we start at the edge of the panhandle and drive cattycorner to the bottom of the pan, covering over 600 miles.  The route only utilizes a few dozen miles on an interstate (I-40) and flows through Oklahoma City smack dab in the middle of the Sooner State.

8.  Michigan-  Copper Harbor to Erie Township- 631 miles

Situated at the northern tip of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, or U.P., is Copper Harbor on Lake Superior, and it’s now on my bucket list to visit.  On the other end of the drive is a small town near Ohio on Lake Erie.  In between, the Mitten State will provide a variety of sights and views of three of the Great Lakes.

7.  Nevada-  Laughlin to Denio- 698 miles

It was surprising to see Nevada on this list.  Laughlin is found near the state junction points of Nevada, California and Arizona in the far south of the Silver State. Almost 700 miles north is Denio, a small town at the Oregon border.  Along the way, you’ll see some of the state’s desert and scablands, Las Vegas and other gambling meccas, and many miles of secluded highway. 

6.  Montana-  Troy to Ridge- 721 miles

I did expect to see the Big Sky Country in the Top 9, but the surprise was that it wasn’t longer than a few others on the list.  Troy is in the northeast corner near the Idaho border, sitting in the middle of the Kootenai National Forest.  Over 700 miles southeast is Ridge in the opposite corner.  The two towns show a stark contrast in environments, with Troy in the midst of fabulous forested mountains and Ridge reminding more of the barren hills of the Dakotas. 

5.  Idaho-  Good Grief to Fish Haven- 827 miles

Another panhandle, another long drive.  At the far northern edge of the Gem State is the best city name on this list, Good Grief.  Because the most direct route takes you through Montana, we had to calculate traveling through Boise to stay in Idaho to reach the southeast corner of the state at Fish Haven.  This takes you along several mountain ranges and forests until you reach the capital city, then the scenery becomes more scrub-like. 

4.  Florida-  Muscogee to Key West- 840 miles

Let’s face it, panhandles give states an edge to get on this list, and the Sunshine State is no exception.  Like Oklahoma, we begin on the far eastern edge of the panhandle in the town of Muscogee, then head west to the body of Florida before driving south, all the way to the Keys.  The distance between the two is so far that Google shows the direct flying time to be almost four hours.  The inland drive will repeat the same scenery for much of the trip, except for the time you are near the ocean.  On this jaunt, south is best, as it includes West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, the Everglades and Key West, many of which are on most people’s bucket lists.

3.  Texas-  El Paso to Orange- 858 miles

Now we see the state that started it all, Texas, and its 3-day straight shot east from El Paso, all on I-10.  The Lone Star State is vast and mostly barren, though green by comparison to much of the southwest.  Hundreds of miles after leaving El Paso, you’ll finally reach San Antonio, the 7th largest city in the country, and about 3 hours later, Houston, the 4th largest.  Orange is just across the state line from Lake Charles, LA, and is hurricane susceptible.

2.  California.- Smith River to Winterhaven- 1008 miles

Not far from the Oregon coast is Smith River, California, a continuation of the fabulous northwest coastline.  This path takes you south along the coast until you reach San Francisco, then it heads inland through wine country and the Big Valley, before hitting the Los Angeles metropolitan area.  From there you travel east, then south towards Mexico, ending up in Winterhaven, next to Yuma, AZ.  You’ll see a wide range of panoramic views of ocean, coastline, vineyards, agriculture, historic cities, theme parks, and southwestern deserts.  It’s never a bad time to take in a thousand miles of the Golden State.

1.  Alaska-  Homer to Prudhoe Bay- 1074 miles

As we all expected, the Last Frontier takes the top spot for providing the longest in-state drive.  Interestingly, the longest route I could locate included just the main body of the state, since so much of Alaska is inaccessible by car, even in the summer.  Speaking of summer, that’s the only season most of this route is safe.  But, the views!  Prudhoe Bay is on the Arctic Ocean and was built atop the tundra.  This route is almost 1,100 miles in length and just about every mile has dramatic views.  Like many awe-inspiring landscapes, photographs along this byway simply can’t do them justice. 

Honorable Mention-  Missouri- Watson to Cottonwood Point- 560 miles

At nearly 600 miles long, the Show-Me State was just out of the Top 9, but the odd-shaped state still deserves a mention.   In the far northwest corner, Watson is more like Nebraska than Missouri.  The lack of a direct route to the southeastern notch forces the route to take a bit of a zig zag, traveling south along the Nebraska and Kansas state lines, hanging a left in Kansas City and a right at St. Louis, then south along the Illinois line and the mighty Mississippi River.  This would definitely be an interesting drive.

Now, then, these are the longest drives in the country that don’t cross state lines.  Many of these are now on my future to-do list, if not my bucket list.  I trust you have the same interest.

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For the past several years, I’ve been watching my calorie intake and managed, at least until my retirement, to lose several dozen pounds. One problem when dieting, even when it’s a permanent lifestyle change, is what to do when you are hungry but limited in food intake.

A decade ago, as I closed in on my target weight and the one year mark since I began limiting calories, I thought about my go-to snacks, such as frozen lemonade, low-cal pumpkin bread, slow-churned vanilla ice cream and trail mix. Trail mix, in particular, seems to be nature’s perfect concoction. Peanuts and mixed nuts, raisins and M&M’s give both the salt and sweet I crave, seemingly without adding a single pound to my weight. At least, that’s the way it feels.

When I searched the Internet for trail mix articles, I found that some strongly railed against both M&M’s and craisins in trail mixes as unreasonable sources of sugar. My own results seem to contradict these reports. Sometimes a little sugar keeps me from eating a lot of sugar. Finding go-to, low-calorie snacks is vital to a successful weight-loss program. As a thoroughly non-professional in nutrition and dietary matters, I highly recommend this perfect food.

So, I began using Mountain Trail Mix as my go-to munchie and found that my weight changed very little due to this incredible snack mix. One day I thought that the mix could use more cashews and started adding them to the pre-packaged mix, then some craisins, and finally decided I might as well make my own trail mix from scratch. I don’t think it’s any cheaper this way, but I get exactly what I want in the mix. I’ll include costs so you can judge for yourself.

Here’s what to purchase (2020 costs):

Mixed NutsGreat Value- 26 oz container $8.98
Cashews- Halves and PiecesGreat Value- 24 oz container$10.25
Craisins​Ocean Spray- 24 oz bag $5.88
RaisinsGreat Value- 20 oz container $2.94
Chocolate CandyM&M®/Mars​- 24 oz bag $4.86

These represent the brands and sizes I normally purchase for one batch of Huberville Trail Mix, and there will be leftovers from the craisins, raisins and M&M’s to use in future batches. I find that store brands work fine for the nuts and raisins but the name brands are worth springing for on the other ingredients. Feel free to use whichever brands you like.

I start by gathering my largest mixing bowl, a 2-cup measuring cup and a 1-gallon re-closable plastic storage container. I have found that the mix will last longer in a hard plastic container than in a zip-lock bag. Here is the process:

Wash your hands

Place the full contents of the mixed nuts (26 oz equals approximately 6 cups) into the mixing bowl.

Add the full contents of the cashew halves and pieces (24 oz equals approximately 6 cups) into the mixing bowl.

Measure 3 cups of craisins and add into mixing bowl

Measure 1-3/4 cups of raisins and add into mixing bowl

Measure 1-3/4 cups of M&M’s and add into mixing bowl

With clean or gloved hands, mix the contents together, repeatedly bringing the ingredients on the bottom of the bowl to the top and turning the bowl several times

Using the measuring cup, pour your trail mix into one or more storage containers

I find that this recipe makes a little over 18 cups of Huberville Trail Mix, which fills a gallon container with almost three cups left over. Go ahead, fill and store the gallon container, then pour the remaining mix into a serving bowl and enjoy the snack!

My best guess on calories would be approximately 300 per 6 tablespoons, or about a third of a cup of trail mix. That’s about how much I eat in a single sitting. Because of the sweet, salty, chocolaty and fruity aspects of the mix, I find a small handful easily tides me over until my next regular meal. I even keep a small container in my headboard for a late night snack.

The total cost of this 18-cup mixture is around $28.00, or about $1.50 per cup (again, 2020 costs), a very affordable goodie, and one that just may save you from devouring many more calories between meals.

One last thought- I will sometimes add different ingredients to change things up, such as dried bananas or fruit, semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips, chocolate-powdered or flavored almonds, and so on. I only do that on occasion… and I always come back to this recipe, unmodified. Enjoy!

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