Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

200206 England USA-Tex Ark Ten Miss

Saturday 1 June 2002  Steve’s up early and in the club house by 7.00am to watch the first world cup match. A lovely day just perfect for getting our gear off and seriously relaxing.  The club puts on a BBQ at dinner time.  For £2 and you can have chicken or pork plus sausage, jacket potato and salad.  In the evening a country and western band play in the bar.  Retire before the end but after a drink and chat with Stuart & Sally in their caravan.
YSS 2
Sunday 2 June  6.30am start for Steve to watch the first match.  The big event of the day is the England match against Sweden at 10.30am.  Bacon & tomato sandwiches are snapped up at 60p and many people including Steve have their face painted for 50p.  I remain by the van sunbathing but arrive at the club house to see a dejected crowd emerge from watching England only draw 1-1. While away the day with a dip in the pool, lounging around and chatting.  Early evening news reports a fire in the west wing of Buckingham Palace but it sounds to be under control.  Quiz night at 8.30pm and we make a team with Stuart & Sally.  After the clubs 70th birthday cake has been cut and served we are handed the quiz papers with a question relating to each of the last 70 years.  With a big input from Stuart we manage to tie for 1st place and win a voucher for a free pint each at the bar. 
YSS 3
Monday 3 June  Another nice start to the day. Late morning we take a stroll and join Kate & Gordon and John & Maureen for coffee.  Lunch is again being served in the club house and we can’t resist the meat sandwiches and chips for 80p with free fresh fruit salad and cream.  Someone totted up that you could eat at the club on all the 4 days for only £15 and at those prices we can imagine many will.  The weather changes and by early afternoon it’s raining.  Pack up and leave around 4.00pm. Comment on just how many houses are flying either the Union Jack for the Jubilee or St George’s flag for the football, even lots of cars are flying flags.  Back over the Humber Bridge then to Barton Upon Humber viewing area car park.  The rain has stopped and our stroll around confirms that they are lighting a beacon here at 10.00pm as part of the chain to celebrate the Queens Golden Jubilee.  Break off from watching the excellent pop concert at Buckingham Palace on TV in order to see the beacon being lit.  A very small crowd has gathered and after the Mayor has made his speech we all murmur "God Save The Queen" and then the beacon is lit. 
BARTON UPON HUMBER
Tuesday 4 June  Back to Cleethorpes and onto the Caravan Club CL at Peaks Covert Farm £6 night including electric.  Set up stall in time for Claire, Daz and the kids arriving for lunch.  Pile into the car for an afternoon at Cleethorpes.  Daniel says the sea is not as warm as Italy but this doesn’t stop him having a good paddle.  In true British style the beach is packed with families making the most of the almost warm weather.  At the south end of the beach we park near the giant sand pit which keeps Daniel and Natasha amused for over 2 hours.  We keep hearing snippets of music and find out that from 4.00pm onwards there is a free concert in the park.  Return to the van for an early tea so that Claire & Daz can go back and enjoy the concert and a look at Cleethorpes by night!  Daniel gets a lot of fun from watching Steve & I attempting to fly a kite we have bought him.  Eventually we get to grips with it and he is most impressed and even manages to fly it himself.  Natasha takes great delight in getting the string tangled between her feet. 
CLEETHORPES
Wednesday 5 June  Rainy morning so we leave Steve & Daz watching the football.  Call in at the shopping centre where Daniel is amused to see a dummy tree.  Is it dummies that people have found or a tree where children hang their old dummies?   Despite the weather Daniel and Natasha both want new sunglasses and Grandma of course obliges.  Head to the Play Tower (£3.50 under 5’s £1 adults).  It’s a huge undercover activity centre with ball pools, 6 floors of climbing frames, tubes, cargo nets and much more.   Adults are allowed into the play area and I am soon tired out from clambering up platforms and checking out every slide at least once. Return for a quiet afternoon in the van.  It’s still drizzly so we head out to "The Haven" pub which is a Brewers pub/restaurant with an activity centre for kids.  Surprisingly after 2 hours in the Play Tower Daniel and Natasha are ready for more and keep themselves amused whilst we have a meal.  Jools & Oz join us for a drink before we leave.
CLEETHORPES 2
Thursday 6 June  A lovely morning so after breakfast outside we head for Pleasure Island theme park.  Daniel is 3 today as under 4’s are free.  With some vouchers we get 2 adults for the price of one instead of the normal £10.50 each so it’s only £21 for all of us.  We’re straight into a childrens play area from which we have to drag Daniel and Natasha away to see the first show.  Daniel is unsure of the faster rides but once he sees fearless Natasha having a go he joins in and loves it. For the adults there are plenty of white knuckle rides.  Alakazam is a new one where you are fastened into a horizontal tray laying on your stomach.  Once the ride starts spinning round the turntable rises to a vertical position at which point you dive to the ground then swoop back up over the top – not for the faint hearted.  It all works out very well with us taking it in turns to take the kids on the childrens rides whilst others go off on the adults ones. Natasha makes us laugh on the childrens roller coaster.  She copies the adults and begins screaming as it goes round!  Fit in all the shows and have a great time. We’re all shattered by the time it closes at 6.00pm and return for a curry in the van.
CLEETHORPES 3
Friday 7 June  The day is planned around the England match at lunch time so we make an early start to visit the old prison under the Town Hall in Grimsby.  Daniel is really into prisons at the moment and looking forward to the visit but unfortunately it is closed for renovation.  Claire and family head back to Haworth whilst Steve and I return to Broughton where Steve settles into the Dog and Rat to watch the match.  He’s delighted when England beat Argentina 1-0.  Just settling down to a curry at Dave & Mo’s when Steve is struck with a severe migraine and has to return to the van.  Theresa and Terry come round for a planned card session which Steve would have loved.  With 5 players left I suggest Bush Rummy which turns out to be the longest game on record taking over 3 hours.  Probably half of that taken up with chatting but a lovely evening anyway.
BROUGHTON
Saturday 8 June  Steve’s much better so we call round to give him chance of a final chat with Dave whilst I make good use of Dave’s computer.  This time I have a response from Friends Reunited from a lad in Bradford on Avon who remembers me as a "cute babe" – must have got me confused with someone else as I thought I was a blonde bombshell!  Arrive back in Keighley early afternoon to meet up with Claire and buy the food for the christening.  Evening at Claire’s where we finally get to watch Paul Evans on Family Fortunes.  Obviously the rest of the Evans family are not as renowned as Paul for winning games as they fail miserably but Paul does manage to win a prize camera for himself.  Can’t wait until the next time we see them so we can hear Scott the dog singing the "Family Fortunes" tune or maybe he will go one better and sing at Vikki’s wedding next year?! 
HAWORTH
Sunday 9 June A miserable rainy morning.  Help Claire preparing the food whilst Daz takes Daniel for their hair cuts.  David arrives from Prestwich and again it is lovely to have all our family together.  The christening is held in Haworth parish church which is where the Bronte family are buried.  The lady vicar is brilliant and although Daniel at first didn’t want to be christened he ends up thoroughly enjoying himself especially when he nearly lunges head first into the font.  Natasha is also very well behaved all the way through.  Steve, David and Daz’s sister Dawn are godparents for Daniel with Daz’s brother Dave, sister Dawn and me for Natasha.  Return for a buffet at Claire’s with a wonderful cake provided by Daz’s Mum Sheila.  Mid afternoon there is football on TV so we leave and take David to pick up his mate Mick (who visited us in Italy) in Keighley.  I sit on the car park whilst Steve, Dave and Mick watch football in the Vic.  I drive back to Sandra’s
KEIGHLEY
Monday 10 June  More rain which although it occasionally stops it’s difficult for Steve who is trying to clean the outside of the van.  I spend the morning sorting (or attempting to) things out in Keighley.  Sandra has been sickly all week so instead of me cooking a meal in the van I take things into her house so she can lie on the sofa.  Keith enjoys his food and Sandra manages to eat a little.  Sally phones up and tells us that after chatting to us about our lifestyle they have brought forward their planned retirement from 5 – 10 years hence and are putting their house on the market tomorrow with a view to packing in as soon as possible.  Better be careful just who we extol the virtues of this life to else everyone will be at it! 
KEIGHLEY 2
Tuesday 11 June  We are looking after Daniel for the next 3 days whilst Daz is at college, his must be the only school which has 2 weeks holiday.  Daz drops him off at 9.30am for our planned train trip to Leeds for us to collect our travel tickets.  Unfortunately Daniel now has the sickness bug and just wants to rest in the camper.  I head off alone to Leeds making good use of the K-Card at £2.20 which offers all day use of Keighley and District buses.  I end up doing Leeds, Shipley and Keighley but still can’t get everything I set out for.  By the time I get back around 3.30pm Daniel has left, Steve has had Bob Watson visiting for an hour and Mavis & Trevor have just arrived for tea.  Spend a lot of time talking of past friends as Dave Boxx filled us in on his Mum & Dad who Mavis & Trevor knew. 
KEIGHLEY 3
Wednesday 12 June  Steve’s up at 7.00am and out shortly after to watch the England V Nigeria match at the Three Horses pub.  I make the most of the empty van to clear out cupboards and spread things around.  Daz drops Daniel off in time for us all to walk down to the Doctors.  Nurse soon sorts us out with our Typhoid injections then Steve & Daniel return to the van whilst I spend my usual morning doing business in Keighley before getting my hair cut and coloured.  After Daniel leaves we drive to nearby Newsholme Manor CL (£3 night) where soon after Judy & Stan from Birmingham arrive in their motorhome.  They have back packed around Vietnam and have plenty to tell us and a good album full of photographs.
NEWSHOLME MANOR
Thursday 13 June  Daniel arrives but we do manage another couple of hours chatting to Judy & Stan in between keeping him occupied.  Return to Sandra’s where Daniel alternates between helping and hindering us whilst we are trying to sort the van out.  He needs a lot of stimulation but is great when one of us is sat down doing things with him.  Once Daz has collected him at 4.00pm we really get stuck in with me continuing after Steve has gone out to bowling.
KEIGHLEY
Friday 14 June  Run Keith & Sandra down to the station for their weekend in London.  Return to collect our last minute washing out of her tumble dryer as it is raining.  The papers report that we have already had 80% of the normal June rainfall total – would never have guessed!  Spend a couple of hours at Claires before leaving Daz with Daniel and Natasha whilst Claire follows us to Preston.  The rain is terrible and there are lots of floods.  Frustration at Taylors van storage when he says it will cost us £300 for 12 months instead of the £240 we were quoted and also we have to pay for 1 year even though we only want 11 months.  Get our last fix of English fish and chips before Claire drops us off at the new Terminal 3 Manchester airport just after 9.00pm.  Find a quiet spot to grab a few hours sleep.
MANCHESTER AIRPORT
Saturday 15 June  Wake up to find massive queues at the British Airways check in desks.  We’re on the 6.45am British Airways shuttle to Gatwick but they check our bags through to Dallas.  Following September 11th security has been heightened to the extent that we even have our photographs taken.  At Gatwick we are sent from the North terminal on the train to the South only to find the information wrong and have to go back.  England are playing in the World Cup this morning and we think that explains the staff shortages which cause the delays through security and our flight by 1 hour.  Instead of 10.30am we take off around 11.30am with the Captain promissing to announce the football scores.  The first movie we watch is appropriately "Bend it like Beckham".  A big cheer goes up when we get the news that England have won 3 – 0 against Denmark.  Note that the water we are served is Pell Wall spring water from Market Drayton.   The captain makes up most of the delay and 10 hours, 2 meals plus 2 more films ("Monsters Inc." and "Ocean’s Eleven") later we land at Dallas/Fort Worth airport in TEXAS, USA.  6 hours behind England it’s 3pm and the temperature is just below 90F.  Around US $1.35 = £1.  Pat is waiting for us and we are soon on our way to the Army Corps of Engineers campsite by Silver Lake, Grapevine.  There are many of these sites in the States where the Army have built a dam and then made the Army camp into a campsite.  This one is lovely with each pitch having it’s own BBQ area, undercover picnic table, water tap and electricity.  We have a fine view of the lake and the marina opposite.  Pat’s over 60 so got a 50% discount making it just $7.50 ( £5.55) night. She’s still clearing her things out of the van so we take a walk around the site and can’t believe the size of some of the American vehicles.  Pat has a "small" 24′ fifth wheel.  This is like a caravan but hitches into the back of her big Dodge truck.  Once she is finished she drives us in the truck to her daughter Susan’s about half an hour away and then hands the keys to us.  Call in at Tom Thumb supermarket to get a few essentials.  It’s frustrating to find all the special offers are on bulk items.  We only want 4 toilet rolls but for just $1 more could buy 12 with 12 free but what would we do with 24 toilet rolls when we are only here for 3 months and where would we store them?  Most food products seem to be quite expensive, fattening, processed or bulky and there is a distinct lack of "real" food!  Reckon we may just be eating out more often than not.  Find our way back to the site quite easily and then begin the task of settling in.  Pat has left quite a lot of clutter behind and things are not terribly clean.  The only answer is to systematically empty each cupboard, clean it out and then put back the things we will use and store the rest in a spare locker.  Hard work and time consuming having just spent a week cleaning our van out in England.  By 9.00pm I’m whacked and settle down for the night.  Pat’s van has a single bedroom at the front and I take this. Behind the single bedroom is a bathroom with wardrobe opposite.  Next is the kitchen on one side and the dinette on the other and then the sofa across the back. This converts to a bed where Steve will sleep and conveniently has the TV opposite.   Woken by a loud clap of thunder which signals the start of a terrific storm.
SILVER LAKE CAMPGROUND, GRAPEVINE
Sunday 16 June  We’re both awake by 6.00am.  Steve’s found a Mexican channel showing football in Spanish so he’s a happy bunny.  I continue with the cleaning up and am not a happy bunny.  However the truck is nicely laid out and having broken the back of the cleaning job and stored all our things away we’re ready to explore.  Set off to Dallas and get an immediate reminder that it is crucial in America to know which direction of the freeway you want to head in – I don’t and we set off in the wrong direction.  The centre of Dallas is very quiet and we soon find a metered parking spot (no charge on Sundays).  We’re very interested in all the things relating to the Kennedy assassination and first visit the new John F Kennedy Memorial then the spot where he was killed.  Dealey Plaza is unchanged since that day and standing on the "grassy knoll" we listen to a man who witnessed the shooting and believes it was a conspiracy.  This is backed up when we visit The Sixth Floor Museum $10 (£7.40) in the Texas Schoolbook Depository.  We look from the window where Lee Harvey Oswald stood and learn a lot from videos and displays. In the West End Historic District we wander round the old warehouses then settle for lunch at Sonny Bryan’s Smokehouse with Steve choosing the $9.99 (£7.40) all you can eat ribs.  We remember to add 15% for service when the bill comes which is in addition to the state tax.  Head towards the main business district with magnificent mirrored skyscrapers.  Catch the old trolley bus (free) which does a loop up through the historical area.  Walk back via Pioneer Plaza where we are very impressed by the worlds largest bronze sculpture.  Three cowboys on horseback can be seen herding 40 longhorn steers down a hill and through a river.  Having seen all the main points of interest we return to Grapevine and are both asleep by 9.30pm
SILVER LAKE 2
Monday 17 June   Pick Pat up from Susan’s and also meet Pat’s son Scott.  Pat comes back to the site and shows us how to hook up and drive with the 5th wheel on the back.  Drop Pat off  then set out to do more shopping.  Suspect Pat rarely cooks as she has no pans, only paper plates, no kettle, only plastic cups and just 1 tea towel.  Call at a charity shop and get fixed up with a 4 piece dinner service for $2 (£1.50) and some tea towels.  Back on site we note that the temperature is now over 90F and forecast to increase each day. Meet Wayne on the site next to us and we have a long chat.  He’s American along with partner Deborah but has just come back from visiting friends in Newcastle England and lived in France for 5 years.
SILVER LAKE 3
Tuesday 18 June   Explore Grapevine which is in between Fort Worth and Dallas and a little to the North.  There’s an interesting historical district where a traditional "Torian" wooden cabin has been re-sited.  The enormous New Baptist Church is almost finished and had a large ready made white spire attached last week.  Surrounding the historic district in typical American style are lots of housing cul de sacs then along the main highways are shopping centres and fast food outlets. In "Second Chance" we pick up a kettle for $1 (77p) and mugs at 25c (20p).  Next door the "Dollar Store" has a new picnic chair £5 (££3.75) and a sun lounger for $10 (£7.50) both of which we shall probably take on to Australia.  When we get back to the trailer we see a saucepan, plates, tea towels and some cooking utensils and figure Pat must have been round.  Now we have everything we need.  Mid afternoon we go over to Susan’s as we have been invited for a swim in their pool followed by a meal.  The swim is most welcome as the temperature hovers in the low 90’s.  Pat has not left the pan etc. so the donation is a bit of a mystery.  Meet Susan’s children Preston 9 and Rachel 7.  School finished here at the end of May and they are on holiday until mid August.  Preston goes to a Scout camp daily and Rachel to Bible School. Susan offers me use of the Internet and we realise how wide of circle of friends now is. We get a message from my sister in England and friends in Romania, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, America, Dutch friends in Hungary and English friends in Spain and France.  Once Susan’s husband Jim arrives we sit down to a curry followed by a game of Bush Rummy.
SILVER LAKES 4
Wednesday 19 June  Wayne calls round with a farewell gift. His partner Deborah is an artist and has had some of her pictures made up into notelets.  It turns out they were the ones who gave us the stuff yesterday – how kind.  Call round to meet and thank Deborah and admire their 38′ 5th wheel with a slide out.  Business morning with us first seeking out the Drivers Licensing centre.  Steve wants to get an American driving licence to make things easier should we want to buy a motorhome here in the future.  No need to book in advance you just show up and wait your turn.  At the information desk we learn that we need a social security number for the application.  Explain we are not entitled to one and the clerk says we can still apply if we obtain a "Social Security number denial" form from a Social Security office.    She gives us a complementary copy of the Texas highway code to study.  We’re near the centre of Fort Worth so continue in and visit the Stockyards.  Ten blocks of wooden sidewalks and old storefronts re create the days of the old cattle markets when Fort Worth was one of the richest little cities in the world.  Check out the Cattleman’s Club where we think $25 (almost £20) for a steak rather expensive – don’t suppose that would have bothered JR.   Look around Billy Bob’s the largest honky-tonk in the world, buzzing at night but quiet by day. Spot a Mexican all you can eat buffet including soft drinks at Risky Ritas $6.95 (£4.90).  Inside are a number of extremely fat Americans which we take as a good recommendation – it is. Fort Worth centre is very compact and we easily park by a meter (with 50 minutes left) and walk over to the Water Gardens.  Covering a small area they are fascinating.  The main pool is like a 4 sided dam which cascades over platforms into a central pool.  Another section we like is a serene pool completely  surrounded by high walls with water running down.  Despite the "do not wade or swim" signs we are tempted like a few other people and take a cooling paddle. In Arlington we visit the Social Security office but must return tomorrow as we don’t have our passports.  I’m used to always having the motorhome with us and can’t get into thinking ahead for what we may need.  I keep forgetting to pack drinks and today also forgot the camera. 
SILVER LAKES 5
Thursday 20 June   As insurance in America is for the vehicle not the person it is only necessary for one of us to obtain a license and I nominate Steve.  After 1 1/2 hours queuing at Arlington Social Security Office (corner Ascension/Brown) our number comes up.  The clerk studies our 6 months Visa and checks the entry code on a chart.  Satisfied with this she completes a security number declined form.  Still in Arlington but about 1/2 hour away on W Arkansas street we visit the driver licensing centre.  There’s no queue and Steve has soon handed in his application form, passport and denial letter.  All are approved and having handed over $24 (£18) he has his thumb prints taken, takes a sight test and signs on what looks like a sheet of glass.  Steve then goes on to take the computer multiple choice highway code tests.  I wait nervously and am relieved when he emerges with the thumbs up sign.  Having got off to a bad start with the first 2 questions wrong he went on to get 79% with the pass rate only 70%. One he got wrong was relating to the pavement which here means road but to us means footpath which they call sidewalk – confusing.   It’s almost lunch time and he is booked to take the driving test at 2.15pm.  While away the time on the edge of Lake Arlington.  There’s an enormous mansion by the lakeside which we learn is the holiday home of a Saudi Prince.  2.15 prompt and the tester checks the car insurance documents then the vehicle itself.  They set off and I am immediately concerned when he keeps stopping whilst doing a parking manoeuvre.  Once completed they head off down the road and return about 10 minutes later. He’s passed but had a bad start.  The instructor asked him to park perpendicular which Steve thought to mean reversing into the parking space.  In fact it meant you should park parallel to the kerb!   This explain the initial hic-cup but once through the language barrier things went well.  In the office his photograph is taken and he’s issued with a temporary license and told the proper one (valid for 6 years) will arrive in the post within 60 day.  We are using Pat’s daughters address so no problem there.  Now it will be easier for us to do further exchanges and cheaper for insurance if we want to buy a motorhome here.  Call in to Grapevine library where it is free to use the Internet.  Have our first wood fire BBQ at Silver Lake with Steve cooking up some juicy T-bone steaks.
SILVER LAKE 6
Friday 21 June  Steve’s up at 1.30am to watch England disappointingly loose 2-1 to Brazil.  Spend the day on the campsite doing laundry $1 (70p) to was and $1 dry.  Sunbathing, route planning and lazing around.  Early evening attempt to hitch the trailer ready to make an early start tomorrow.  What looked very simple when Pat showed us now becomes tricky despite my writing down step by step instructions.  Eventually with help from neighbour Bob we get it sorted just before a short burst of rain.
SILVER LAKES 7
Saturday 22 June  The early start doesn’t quite happen as when I do a final check to make sure all the lights are working we find they aren’t. It seems that Pat basically ignores everything until she is forced to clean, check or repair it.  Manage to get the rear indicators working but have to set off without the side ones on the trailer.  First stop South Fork where for $7.95 (£5.60) you visit the museum, go on a noddy train tour of the ranch and then look around the house.  Only the outside shots were filmed here and a wide angled lense and camera tricks were used to make the small house look huge, the tiny pool look Olympic sized and the drive long.  To make the drive look like a dirt road they sprinkled baking powder on it.  The kitchen of the house was duplicated and upscaled 3 times for the set but everything else is as the owners built it.  All very plush with the upstairs dedicated to just one enormous bedroom with it’s own balcony overlooking the pool, dressing room, sauna, sunken Jacuzzi, his and hers toilets and walk in twin shower room. It’s mid day so after a quick lunch we hit the road proper picking up the Interstate (motorway) 30 heading East.  In America the odd numbered routes normally go North to South and the evens from East to West which "should" make navigating easy.  Spot a dear armadillo on the hard shoulder, pass a sign saying 95 degrees and fill up with diesel at $1.21 (84p) gallon before arriving at Hooks late afternoon.  The main truck stop is closed so we drive into the small village and park opposite the library.  A man begins mowing the nearby grass and introduces himself as Billy Wright.  He asks if we are staying the night then insists we move onto his driveway and take electricity.  He explains that one of his sons is a racing car driver and then shows us his cars.  They are a like a cross between drag and stock racing cars.    
HOOKS
Sunday 23 June   Texarkana is so called as half the city is in Texas and the other half in ARKANSAS which we cross into.  There’s a good visitor centre just over the border and we get a good supply of  maps and guide books. We ask why we have seen so many stalls selling fireworks and learn that it is for the 4th July celebrations.  We were heading to Millwood Lake but change our plans when we hear there are alligators in the water.  There are many lakes but Lake Greeson is almost en route, has a range of camp sites and safe water for swimming.  The first camping area is "Star of the West" where for $3 (£2.10) you get a primitive pitch with fire pit, BBQ and picnic table.  The site is full but someone tells us to wait as many people are leaving.  It’s run on an honesty system with envelopes which you complete with pitch number, vehicle details, number of days you want to stay and enclose money.  This then goes into a collection box and you keep a receipt section.  Just after lunch we pull onto a prime spot right next to the Little Missouri River.  It’s wonderful to take a swim and the water is warm but still cools us down.  Jacket potatoes and onions cook well in the fire with pork roasted on the grill above. Just after 10.00pm we sneak out for a refreshing skinny dip.
LAKE GREESON, STAR OF THE WEST CAMP SITE.
Monday 24 June  Few people stayed last night and by dinner time we are alone.  Make the most of the privacy to sunbathe and swim in the nude.  Enjoy floating on the air bed and just generally lazing around.  There are a few biting flies and Pat has left a special spray to repel them and also mosquitoes, ticks, no-see-ums, gnats and chiggers!  Just finishing cooking tea on the BBQ when the heavens open up and we get a torrential downpour with thunder and lightening.  It doesn’t last long and once it stops the river is steaming.
LAKE GREESON 2  
Tuesday 25 June  Hot Springs is where ex President Bill Clinton grew up.  It’s also a very interesting historical town which sprung up when 8 magnificent bath houses were built to make use of the thermal waters.  Popularity waned when they found the waters were hot but not therapeutic and today only the Buckstaff baths are open.  Fordyce Bathhouse is owned by the National Park and set up as a museum (free).  It’s a strange mixture of elegant and obsolete with lots of marble, mosaic-tile floors and a lovely stained-glass ceiling in the Sun Room.  From outside we catch the free trolley tour which takes us first to the scenic look out on Hot Springs Mountain.  The driver explains the quirk that the springs on this mountain are hot but on the mountain at the other side of the town they are cold.  Stay on for the whole loop tour then visit the enormous building which everyone asks "What is it?".  It’s a rehabilitation centre and we take the free guided tour and learn about the building and their methods for re training the "students" to return to a normal life.  Walk back to the car via the Grand Promenade which runs behind the bath houses and has lots of hot springs culminating in the hot waterfall at the far end.  Rejoin the main freeway heading East and chuckle when on the outskirts of Little Rock we see a sign to a place called "England".  Pull up at Wattensaw rest area and meet our neighbours Everett and Rose Marie who have a wonderful 34′ Monaco motorhome – $180,000 (£125,000) worth.  He’s Irish and an ex L.A.P.D. cop.  They offer us lots of help, books and an invite to visit them on Los Angeles in the future.
WATTENSAW REST AREA
Wednesday 26 June  On the road at 7.30am passing a sign to "Palestine" – not sure I’d want to go there at the moment!  Next interesting town is called "Earle" which is Mum’s friend John’s surname.  Call at Flying J fuel stop which Everett put us on to as the diesel is cheaper there.  Crossing the Mississippi River we enter TENNESSEE and Memphis.  Our first site is a 2/3 scale model of the pyramid coated in mirrored glass.  Call into the Tennessee Welcome Centre complete with 9ft bronze statues of Elvis and B B King.  Graceland which has been on Steve’s wish list for a long time.  We take the $25 (£17.50) platinum tour which starts with a look around Elvis’s jets.  "Lisa Marie" is very plush with lavish furnishing throughout including a gold sink in the bathroom. Our tour departure is announced and equipped with an audio guide we are bussed across the road to the Graceland Mansion and left to move around at our own speed.  The rooms are all fabulous but especially the Jungle Room complete with waterfall, TV room with mirrored ceiling and a huge Trophy Room.  The racquet ball court (which he played on the day he died) is full of his jewel encrusted jump-suits.  The Meditation Garden is very serene and it’s very moving to file past Elvis’s grave. Back at Graceland Plaza we visit his Automobile Museum, watch "Walk a Mile In My Shoes" film, a memorabilia museum and a couple of 60’s style diners with more Elvis stuff.  An excellent 4 hours worth of attractions.  The adjoining campsite charges $35 (£24.50) night so we drive out to the T.O.Fuller State Park and pay $17 (£11.90) for full electric and water hook up, showers, toilets and swimming pool.  The camping area is a long way from the swimming pool so we drive over then find you should pay extra for it (the attendant understands we thought it included and lets us free). We are the only white people in a pool full of blacks and the only other white person around is one of the lifeguards.  Just settling into some serious swimming when it starts to rain and we are all told to leave the pool.  Get back to the van and the fridge door catch falls off due to rust.
MEMPHIS – T.O. FULLER STATE PARK CAMPGROUND
Thursday 27 June   Van problem of the day is the trailer door which won’t luck until Steve makes some adjustments.  Park by the Welcome Centre in Memphis and set out on foot.  Beale Street is where many famous singers started.  B B King, Tina Turner, Jerry Lee Lewis, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Sam and Dave, Isaac Hayes and R Dean Taylor to name a few.  It’s an interesting area with many music themed restaurants.  At night the place really comes alive with most clubs still having live music.  By day it lacks atmosphere but is still interesting.  Schwab’s store looks much like it must have done when it opened in 1876. Wares seem to be just thrown onto the counters and they sell almost everything including enormous T-shirts up to size 10XXL.  Reckon we’ve seen a good few Americans who could just about squeeze into that size!  A few blocks away The Peabody Hotel is world famous for the duck parade.  At 11am prompt to the strains of "The King Cotton March" ducks leave the elevator and waddle along a red carpet before jumping into the fountain.  There they stay until making their return journey to the roof at 5.00pm.  We can’t believe just how many people have gathered to watch, or how much of a non event it is when 5 ducks charge out of the lift and into the pond in about 30 seconds flat.  Looking for somewhere to eat we are tempted by the all you can eat buffet at the Indian restaurant Amber Palace $6.75 (£4.75) and it’s very good.  Take the monorail over to Mud Island where a half-mile River Walk is a scale model of the River Mississippi itself.  Every foot we walk equates to a mile of the river and we find it quite fascinating.  Towns are marked on the banks with grid maps and it all finishes in the "Gulf of Mexico" swimming pool. Also on the Island is the original Memphis Belle World War 2 B17 bomber complete with a historian who tells us interesting stories about it.  There have been quite a few brief showers today but we have dodged most of them and when we have got a bit wet it has been quite refreshing as it is so warm.  Drive back over the Mississippi to Arkansas to pick up the 55N.  We have a Wal Mart map which marks on their stores where they welcome motorhomes to park overnight.  We choose the 24 hour branch at Blythville.  A friendly security guard drives round and asks if we would like to stay the night.  He suggests a good quiet spot to park, says he will check on us through the night and tells us of the store special offers.  Wal Mart offer a free battery testing service and as we suspect Pat’s has a problem we get them to confirm it.  Call her for instructions on what to do.  No problems with the parking security wise but we can’t believe how busy the car park is with people coming and going all through the night
BLYTHEVILLE -WAL MART CAR PARK
Friday 28 June  Get the new battery fitted and manage to buy and fix up some of the bulbs which weren’t working.  We’re soon in MISSOURI state getting information at the welcome centre.  This prompts us to detour to the small town of New Madrid famous as being the most earthquake vulnerable part of America after California.  It’s on the river and the enormous and spectacular paddle boat the Mississippi Queen is in port.  The town is busy with the passengers exploring and we have to wait to use the Internet.   Continue to Cape Girardeau where the wall of fame mural commemorates famous people from Missouri.  We know quite a few and of those the ones born in this state were Calamity Jane, Ginger Rogers, Jean Harlow, Betty Grable, Burt Bacharach and T.S. Elliot. Vincent Price is a native of St Louis and Mark Twain grew up just North of there.  Next detour Saint Genevieve to see the old traditional French homes but they are disappointing and not that unusual to us.  Pull up on the rest area of the Interstate 55 but even that goes wrong when a truck pulls up by us with his noisy engine running.  Give up and press on further after tea.  Wal Mart in Festus is where we end up but it’s not terribly quiet.
FESTUS
Saturday 29 June  We soon find RV parking in St Louis at $10 and the man says we can stay overnight.  Under the motorway and with a freight train track running along the edge of it we may choose otherwise.  The famous arch is magnificent or should I now be saying awesome but we are surprised to find it is stainless steel and not concrete.  With a discount coupon we pay at total of $25 (£17.50) for us both to get a ticket for a film, tram ride and riverboat cruise.  First the film an interesting one about the North West passage.  Straight after that we head for the tram.  The 4 minute ride up the hollow curving arch is not for the claustrophobic.  You’re crammed into tiny 5 seater capsules which shift position to carry you to the top of the arch without arriving upside down.  You lean out to look through tiny windows which give a good view from both sides.  No sooner have we finished that than we are aboard the paddle steamer "Tom Sawyer" for our Mississippi River cruise.  It’s very hot and being by the water the humidity makes it feel much worse.  It’s after 2.30pm when we are through so after a quick lunch at Wendy’s we visit the Old Court House.  The centre dome is very ornate with many floors encircling it and lots of pictures.  Two old court rooms have been re created and we watch a historical movie.  Set out to walk up Market Street towards Union Station conspicuous by it’s 230 foot clock tower.  It’s a long slow walk but we do pass many nice old buildings and public squares.  Union Station closed in 1979 and is now part Hyatt Hotel and shopping mall.  The Hotels ornate lobby was once the station’s main waiting room.  The shopping mall is also very interesting and we rest awhile at the lakeside. Catch a Metro train $1.25 (86p) ride down to Laclede’s Landing Historic District.  Again the old warehouses and factories have been put to good use as theme restaurants and bars and there’s lot of music to be heard.  President Casino is on board a ship and having paid our $2 (£1.40) casino admission tax we trade in our coupon for $10 worth of chips plus a voucher for 2 for the price of 1 at the buffet.  For $14 (£9.80) it’s an excellent buffet and after 2 main courses I pack away over half a dozen desserts, Steve does the same in reverse.  When we come to use our chips we learn that for each of the $5 "free" chips we must match the bet with $5 of our own.  This is obviously their way of recouping some money but they hadn’t bargained on me who doesn’t like to gamble.  I figure that if we both bet on roulette at the same time with one of us going on red and the other on black unless 0 comes up we can’t fail.  Steve "wins" and we get $15 back for our $10 outlay.  Although we haven’t done as much as we expected today we have enjoyed it all and like St Louis.  It’s almost dark so we decide to stay overnight on the car park and snatch what sleep we can.  Arrive back to find a dreadful stench in my bedroom which smells like some dead creature.  It’s too dark to investigate properly so I will have to share the small bed with Steve tonight.
ST LOUIS
Sunday 30 June  By 6.30am we are driven crazy by the smell and noise so drive out to St Louis Basillica.  Steve investigates the smell problem and finds we have 5 dead creatures (which look like stoats or weasels) in the 5th wheel hitch.  As this is directly under the bedroom it explains everything.  It’s an awful job dragging them and the flies out and Steve rushes into the van to get a drink.  He grabs the milk and takes a swig then promptly throws up in the sink as it’s off.   Steve watches Brazil beat Germany in the World Cup final (thank goodness that’s over for another 4 years) by which time the morning service is over and we can look around the church.  It’s similar to the Italian ones but the mosaics are even better and more plentiful than any we have ever seen before.  A little further out is Forrest Park which is even bigger than Central Park in New York and is full of free attractions.  Park by the History Museum then hike through the park to the zoo.  The River walk area is very good and we cool off at the end by joining the small children under the waterfall.  The humidity is lower than yesterday so we cope better with the walk over to the Science Museum.  While away another couple of hours on the interactive games etc.  Pick up our E-mail.  We now have a problem with Pat who is lending us her vehicles.  Our original deal was for a simultaneous swap with her using "Charlie".  Despite our pointing out that she needed a licence to cover a 5 ton truck it wasn’t until the last minute that she found she didn’t have one.  Rather than call the whole deal off she accepted our offer of her borrowing the small simple camper we intended buying in Australia.  We have now sent her details of the camper we are buying from our friends Margaret and Barry only to find she can’t drive it.  It’s manual and she can only drive automatic.   If only she had told us about this at the start we would not have agreed to swap with her but stayed with our own motorhome and toured in Britain and Europe.  This now means that we will probably have to return her vehicles early as we can’t offer her anything in exchange.  Fortunately we can change the dates on our flight tickets and may have to move on to Australia early.  Send out a number of  "Houston we have a problem" messages to check out our options.   Complete most of the 6 mile walk around the park by returning for a quick visit to the History museum.  Traffic is heavy and it takes over 1 hour to clear the St Louis suburbs as we head West on the 70.  We’re well suited with the free camping at Danville Wildlife Area.  Before we have even parked up we see 2 deer, 3 rabbits and a tortoise crossing the road. We’re all along and it is blissfully quiet with the only noise coming from the birds.  Fire flies flit between the trees and without the Pat problem we would be very relaxed.
DANVILLE WILDLIFE AREA
 
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