Tuesday, October 4, we were both up early. While getting Petunia ready to go, I heated up some delicious cinnamon rolls from Safeway to take over to the Firstie farewell breakfast. (Best I think I’ve ever had…not a lot of sugary icing, but plenty of cinnamon!) We visited for a little bit, then hit the road heading east about 8:30 AM. It was going to be another long driving day, so we took I-25 south all the way into New Mexico. Just over the state line at Raton, we turned east on US-64 heading over into the Oklahoma panhandle. At Des Moines, New Mexico, we stopped in at the Sierra Grande Restaurant in the Sinclair gas station. I know, I know…yuck! Except that this one wasn’t. There aren’t a lot of options when you aren’t on the interstate. This place got pretty good reviews, and everything on my burger was fresh and terrific. MW’s patty melt was good, too. They had convenience store items and a little jewelry and gifts section that had some beautiful, western-style silver pieces. There was also a lot of western-themed artwork on the walls. It was done in pencil and pretty amazing. I asked the waitress if it was all one artist. It was, and he, Dino Cornay, happened to be sitting right behind me having lunch. We complimented his work and chatted a bit before leaving. Honestly, if I didn’t live in an RV, I would have bought something! Check out his website. This is beautiful country. The rolling mountains go down into the panhandle, and crops begin appearing not too far southeast of Colorado Springs. Anywhere there are open fields, we see a lot of hawks. On this day we saw what we thought was a large hawk, but it turned out to be a great horned owl. You can rarely get a good pic of a raptor along the road, though, because they fly as soon as you slow down! The skies were grey, and we hit rain in New Mexico that continued until we made it to the park. Along the way, we saw dozens of pronghorns enjoying the drizzle. Then, not too far over the state line, we turned north at Felt and finished the last few miles up to Black Mesa State Park.

Crossing into the western part of the Central time zone meant that Wednesday’s sunrise wasn’t until around 7:30 AM. Bonus! The extra dark time let me sleep late! When I finally hauled my butt out of bed, it was drizzly. Most of the morning was dedicated to writing, then, when it finally quit raining, I headed out for a good, 3-mile walk. This park is down in a gulley that just drops off of the higher plains. The park road takes you back up to the plain level, and let me tell you, that hill is tough! I was near the top, huffing and puffing my tail off, when I noticed something in the road up ahead. It was a flippin’ tarantula!! I’ve seen lots of them in Texas and further west before, but just didn’t realize they were in Oklahoma, too. There was also a sign warning of black bears and mountain lions…two more Oklahoma surprises. After taking in the views, I headed back to Petunia, stopping to look at the small petrified forest in the park. I also found a second tarantula that was even bigger than the first! After getting cleaned up, I enjoyed the weather outside while getting some work done. Later we watched The Cokeville Miracle, which was pretty interesting.

Black Mesa State Park is really remote, although the park road is a shortcut between two small towns, so it does get a little pass-through traffic. On the approach, you descend into a low area around Lake Carl Etling, but you cannot see water unless you drive or take a walk to the overlook or day use areas. Located where the Rocky Mountains meet the prairie, you may see wildlife from either habitat. Activities include fishing, boating, canoeing, kayaking, and hiking. This park is also located in one of the darkest areas of the country, so star gazers will love it. There are a couple of trails in the state park, and Black Mesa Nature Preserve, about 15 miles away, offers additional hiking opportunities. Amenities include a camp store in the office, pavilion, picnic areas, playground, and two boat ramps. The campground offers 25 RV sites, including a couple of pull-throughs that would accommodate larger rigs. All have 30-amp electric, water, fire rings, grills and picnic tables. There are also 25 primitive tent sites with fire rings, grills and picnic tables and a group camping area. There is only one bathhouse divided into separate rooms (4 showers, 4 toilets), and all were very clean. There was no cell signal for Verizon, but AT&T was fine, and couldn’t pick up any over-the-air tv stations. Aside from running around outside, there is not a lot for kids to do. Boise City, about 30 miles away, had a few restaurants. For a pretty peaceful place to stay, though, we would visit again. For this stay in October 2022, we paid $50.00 for two nights.

Thursday I was up at 6 AM to continue the catch-up game on this blog. It’s getting a little tough, because the October 15 final tax deadline is rapidly approaching, which brings a lot of procrastinators. As we hit the road, the sunrise was just gorgeous and looked almost like the sky was on fire! Our route was basically east on US-412 over to Mooreland. At Slapout, (the name of a town…not sure what they are slap out of) we stopped at a roadside picnic table to enjoy sandwiches and the weather. Back in the truck, we continued east and turned south on OK-50, then southeast on US-270. At Seiling, we zig-zagged over to Canton Lake and Big Bend Park. Along the way we saw some pronghorns in the grassland, but they disappeared as we continued east. We also saw a fox on the side of the road tearing into some trash someone threw out. Although check-in time wasn’t until 6 PM, our spot was vacant when we arrived around 4 PM, so that was a bonus. (Why in the world would a campground have check-in time so late??!!) We set up and spent a little time enjoying the weather.

Friday I switched things up a bit. On Wednesday we were an hour or so away from the nearest laundromat, so I backed the chore up. Now it was time to pay the piper. First, though, we took a nice, 2.8-mile walk around the park. It was breezy, with temps in the 50s…perfect for getting out. Plus, there was another INCREDIBLE sunrise! About half-way through, though, my hip/back was killing me! I just can’t figure this thing out. We’ve been walking/hiking regularly for more than 7 months, so there is nothing new about it. Some mornings my hips and knees are achy, but most of the time they are great. Some days my lower back and/or hip(s) hurt, but most days they are fine. When I do hurt, it is occasionally towards the right side, but mostly towards the left, and sometimes both sides, sometimes one. To top it off, when it hurts most, sometimes walking cures it and other times it makes it much worse! Ugh! I’ve got to go to my ortho dude when we get back in a couple of weeks, so we’ll start figuring it out. Until then, ibuprofen! On this day, though, it was bad by the time we made it back to Petunia. Despite that, I headed out to get the laundry and a couple of other chores taken care of in Seiling, Oklahoma. Driving on the country roads there, I saw the weirdest thing: a bunch of something odd hanging on a gate. It definitely looked organic, but I couldn’t figure out what it was until I looked at the pics later…HUGE FISH HEADS!! Why would someone hang them there? Why didn’t the coyotes and other animals pull them down? So many questions. I finished the laundry, then went down to Delizioso Bistro & Coffee Bar, which is located in a huge travel stop just west of town that also has fuel and a Sonic. It was a very pleasant surprise with burgers, pizza, salads, sandwiches, wings, and much more. I parked myself in the corner, had a sandwich for lunch, and got some tax work taken care of. They are typically open until 9 PM, but about 3 PM, the waitress was locking up the doors. She said that most of the employees are in some way associated with high school football or band, and there was a game in town later that night, so they were short staffed. They only kept the drive-thru open, but said I could stay in the dining room as long as I liked and let me order wings to take home to MW, too. Sweet! Before heading back to the campground, I picked up some groceries. The store was a small, local-owned place, and the sign over one of the aisles made me smile. Apparently, soap is a one-at-a-time item. *wink* *wink*

HEART WARMING MOMENT: I stopped at Chapman Propane in town to take care of the last chore. Normally I can handle the propane tank on my own, but my back/hip was seriously killing me and those 30-pound tanks aren’t light. There was a young man, maybe 30ish, waiting for his tank to be filled. I asked him if I could borrow his muscles to unload my tank, explaining that I was having a back issue. “Yes, ma’am!” He was good looking, clean cut except for a few tattoos on the back of his hands, and wore farmer-type work clothes. We chatted for a minute, and I asked about the CDL school he will be starting next week in Enid, Oklahoma. (I overheard him telling the girl up front about it when we were in line.) He’d been working construction for years, and was really excited for the change so that he could haul cattle for the locals. A friend told him about the course, offering to front him the tuition and let him pay it back after he gets on the road. How nice! When his tank was done, he loaded in into the car where his girlfriend and dog were waiting. Then he walked back and stood by me, saying, “I’ll just wait a few minutes and load yours back up for you.” Amazing! While loading the tank back in the truck, he asked if I had someone to unload it when I got home. He was going to come unload it for me! Wow!!! I assured him that MW could handle it and thanked him for his strength and kindness. Just when you think the world is going to hell in a hand basket, someone pops up to remind you that there are plenty of good people out there. Bless you, young man, wherever you are.

After really hurting all day the day before, Saturday I woke up feeling fine…nothing…no twinges…no pain. Go figure! We walked the 1/2 mile or so up to Baird’s Lakeside Cafe just outside of the park for breakfast. They have a small convenience store section, and I’d stopped in on my way to town on Friday. The restaurant was packed! This morning there was only one other couple when we arrived, but it was slap full by the time we left around 9:30 AM! The food was basic diner breakfast fare with pancakes the size of a dinner plate. (Thankfully, my meal only came with one! I wasn’t even able to eat all of that, and I hate to waste food.) Everything was still okay when we got up to leave, but I felt a hip twinge while we were paying. Then, within 20 yards of the front door, full-on pain started in my left, lower back. Well, crap! Still had to get home, though, so we continued walking. Within a few minutes, it worked itself out, and I was fine by the time we got back. IT. IS. SO. WEIRD!! I spent a few hours writing, then focused on tax work.

Sunday morning found me up before dawn, then snoozing in the chair a bit. I did manage to get some writing done before we cleaned up and headed out for Ames, Oklahoma. If you are a regular reader, you know that my oldest friend is Lori Grimm from Paducah, Kentucky. I texted her before we arrived at Big Bend to see if her son, Ian, was home. We were going to be within striking distance and wanted to attend Ames Christian Church, where he is the pastor. Her response was “Yes. You can sit with us!” I knew they were taking a trip out sometime this fall, but didn’t know the dates. Turned out they were arriving on Saturday (yesterday) for a week. Bonus!! We headed over in time to meet them for the 10:30 AM service. Ian is a really laid back, personable teacher, who also takes a dive into some specifics you don’t always get. We both enjoyed the lesson. (If you are interested, you can watch it here.) Of course, we also enjoyed the company. Afterwards Lori and Jimmy followed us back to check out the campground for their next visit. Then we met the kids at The Overlook Canton Lake at the dam. It really makes you feel old when you visit with kids you don’t see often, and they are grown up with big kids of their own. Ian’s oldest is 14! When Lori and I met, she was the same age he is now. Time sure flies. After lunch we headed back to the campground and hung out for a while before saying our goodbyes. MW and I spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing and enjoying the weather.

Big Bend Park is located at Canton Lake on the North Canadian River in northwest Oklahoma. Activities mostly center around the lake. Fishing is big, and the Walleye Rodeo is held annually in mid-May when thousands will come to try their luck. It tends to be very windy, but water sports are popular in the dam area where the wind is calmer. There is also a beach on the north side of the lake. Within Big Bend there are four boat ramps, a day use picnic shelter, plenty of shoreline fishing opportunities, and the best looking disc golf course we’ve ever seen. The campground is divided into two loops with 102 electric and water sites and 12 non-electric sites. Most of the ones along the water are stacked in pretty close, but there are a few more spread out. Each loop had a bathhouse, but the toilet stalls were cramped, and although everything worked, the facilities in general were old and not great. Both AT&T and Verizon had moderate coverage, and there was ample over-the-air tv. We liked the upper outside loop spots in campground A and would stay in one of those again. For this stay in October 2022, we paid $96.00 for 4 nights.

Well, that finishes another week, and I’m almost up to date! Next up…more Oklahoma and into Arkansas. See you on the path!


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