Thursday, May 31, 2012

45th Infantry Division Museum is a wonderful surprise

 Just down the road from the Fire Fighter Museum is the 45th Infantry Division Museum, which we saw as we drove by. Orinda and Rick were amazed at the number of great exhibits on display -- and the fact that there is no admission charge.

 Outside the museum building is a large display area showing the many different vehicles used by the 45th over the years as well as many items of Oklahoma history. Here, Rick takes a look at at WWII 6x6 truck.

Orinda was impressed with this large battle tank. We were glad that this critter was not after us!

Rick liked this WWII amphibious "DUCK" vehicle that could run on land or water. Pretty versatile. 

Inside the museum building were many unique artifacts. The building was originally built by the CCC in the early 1930's and served a number of purposes including as the 45th Division's armory. 

The division was originally activated in 1923, although earlier components could be traced through Oklahoma's history. 
An interesting historical tidbit is the 45th's insignia seen above. Yes, the swastika, originally a native american symbol, was the division's symbol before WWII. After Hitler's rise to power, the swastika insignia was replaced by the Thunderbird seen in the bottom of the picture.

 The museum also had some very interesting items that actually belonged to Adolf Hitler. Captured by the division when they took over part of Berlin, these very rare items brought back a very dark time in history. This flag was Hitler's personal standard.

 The museum also has a large indoor exhibit of vehicles, all of which are in running condition. Rick was impressed with this collection of Jeeps.

Speaking of Jeeps, Orinda and Rick are looking at the original "jeep" which was a command vehicle seen here. Developed in the 1930's this was the forerunner of the modern jeep.

We were very impressed with the 45th Infantry Museum and heartily recommend it!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Oklahoma Fire Fighter's Museum - Great visit

 We were surprised at the number of excellent museums in the Oklahoma City area. One that we learned about is Oklahoma Fire Fighters museum, located in Oklahoma City.
Needless to say, our four year old grandson, Caleb, was thrilled to visit fire trucks! He wasn't sure what to see first and zipped around these old, hand pumped  and asked what they were. I think he did not believe me when I told him these were really old fire engines!
This exhibit, showing the horse drawn engine cleared everything up for him. He wondered why they used horses instead of trucks? Rick had the opportunity to explain that there were no trucks back in the day!

Now this is more like it says Caleb! Two year old Abigail was happy to pal around with Grandma Orinda and really was not too interested in all these fire engines!

 Rick was really interested in the old gear and thought this 1913 White fire engine was very impressive. The fire engines in the museum were beautifully restored and wonderful to look at. In fact, look closely at the White above and you can see the engine crank in the front. Glad I do not have to crank our motorhome that way!

 This 1920 ladder truck was built by the Stutz firm (of luxury car fame) and is in pristine condition. This rig looked like it had just arrived from the factory.

Newer rigs were also exhibited with this engine from the 60's. It was fun to see the differences that 40 years made in the design of the engines.

Here a great comparison between a 1920's and a 1930's engine can be made. The technology was rapidly advancing in fire fighting equipment. 

Perhaps the highlight of the museum for the kids was the excellent playground the museum offers (obviously, they have had kids visit before!). We took a rest after our museum visit to play here and to let the kids enjoy their new souvenirs they got from the museum store.

The Fire Fighter's Museum is well worth a visit and very interesting if you are in Oklahoma City.

Monday, May 28, 2012

A visit to the Oklahoma City Zoo!

We met our son and the grandkids at the Oklahoma Zoo for an exciting morning of animal observation. The grandkids love going to the zoo as you can see here. 

 Caleb is really excited about elephants and really got excited about the chance to ride this brass one! The Zoo is really kid friendly and offers many exhibits like this to keep them involved.

 We saw all kinds of animals, including this rhinoceros which is one big critter! We noticed that each animal has a large habitat to live in which must resemble their native area (we assume, since we have never seen a rhino in their native area).

Here we are on the way to the elephant area! The Oklahoma Zoo has recently totally re-built the elephant holding area and is noted as one of the best such areas in the country. 

Sure enough, the walk was worth it. There is now a complete elephant family here at the zoo. The baby shown above was born here a couple years ago. 
We had a great day at the zoo as Abigail and George attest. We were impressed with the zoo and would certainly recommend it to anyone. 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Texarkana, - a town with a split personality!

Texarkana is a town that straddles the Arkansas/Texas border. The town was established over 100 years ago and celebrates its interesting issue with regard to the state line. 

One example of this is the Federal Building and post office seen above which is located directly on the state line. Indeed, the flag pole you see above is on the line itself. 

Here Rick is in Texas while Orinda is in Arkansas. We learned that this is the only government building located in two states!

Orinda straddles the two states after she bought some stamps in the Post Office. We learned that the street the building is on is called State Line Avenue with the state line running right down the middle.

 This beautiful monument is the Confederate soldiers monument from the Texas side. The unusual part of this monument is that it also includes the Confederate soldiers mothers as well.

 Texarkana was established in 1873 as a railroad town. During the heyday of the downtown, some 9 railroads crossed the city. Rick was therefore pleased when we ran across a new rail museum called the Lindsay Rail Museum in downtown.

 The museum had just opened and offered a number of interesting pictures of the area, including this one from the early 1900s that shows what a bustling town it was in those days.

 Orinda enjoyed the museum displays that showed the town in days gone by. The owner of the museum was there working hard to set up new materials, so I am sure it will be even better in the future.

 Texarkana had quite a streetcar system in the early 1900's as shown by this car. There were a couple of firms that provided the service, although all evidence of the lines are now gone.

Today, the main street where the street cars used to run is quite calm by comparison as most development has moved out of town after the railroads left the area.

Texarkana was an interesting stop and we enjoyed learning about the area.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Where to go this summer?? Here are the current plans.

We left Umatilla, FL about a month ago and visited friends and family as we made our way to Oklahoma City, OK where we visited our son and family (and the new grandchild!). Now, we are starting to wonder where we should go for the rest of the summer (ah, the flexibility of fulltimer RV travel!). We do not make concrete plans very often, but rather just mosey around as we want.

Since fuel prices seem to be dropping, we have expanded our travel plan to this  current general plan:

We are thinking that we will head towards Death Valley after leaving Oklahoma and probably touch the Grand Canyon which we love. Next, our stops would generally include:

  • Yosemite National Park
  • Eureka, CA and the Giant Redwoods
  • Coos Bay, Or and the Pacific coast road
  • Port Townsend, WA with a side trip to Victoria, CA
  • Banff, Alberta
  • The International Peace Gardens in Canada/North Dakota
  • Head back to Umatilla, FL for the winter. 
We expect the run to take about 5 months total since we do not travel very far on any given day and like to explore each area, so this will require about 1,500 miles a month or about 50 miles a day on average. Usually, we will run 100 to 150 miles and stay a couple days. Of course, we will seek out out of the way spots as we go. 

Naturally, this is all subject to change, but we will try to keep the general travels posted as we go.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Trip to the Fordyce Bath house - old time luxury!

 The National Park Service has restored one of the original bath houses called the Fordyce House in the middle of Bath House Row in Hot Springs. Set in the period of the mid 1930's, this bath house, now visitor center, is a real trip back into time.

 There are several sections to the bath house reserved for both men and women. First stop is the changing room, seen here. Most visitors would come for several hours during the day and spend the nights in the local hotels. The changing room offered lockers for your personal items while you enjoyed the bath and spa.

The next stop was the deep bath tub featuring Hot Springs natural mineral water which was piped from the spring in the basement throughout the building. The water could be up to 140 degrees, which should be hot enough!

An option for women was the special shower cage which Orinda is thinking about. Water was sprayed in all directions and looked like it would work pretty well!

 Rick found the special shower set up for the men and was very impressed with the valving and plumbing that is set up for this.

For an extra special treat, you could try the hydro-therapy hoses which play high pressure hot water on you in sort of a massage. These looked like small fire hoses and must have really pumped out the water.

After a very busy bath time, which might last a couple hours, it is time to come to the cool-down room seen here. Here, you would rest for about 20 minutes on these lounges as your body slowly cooled down from the hot water bath. 

 After cool down, it is time to change back into our street clothes and experience the social aspect of the bath house. The top floor was dedicated to a beautiful sitting area complete with pool table, card tables, piano and much more. We could just imaging the relaxed discussions going on after a day at the baths. 

The ceiling of the sitting room featured these stained glass windows that area amazing. It was a wonderful example of a gracious period.

Finally, the women might opt for one more stop at the nail and make-up salon. Orinda thought this was a great feature and would be the end of a great day. Anyway, she can dream about the baths while she uses the great  shower in our motorhome in the morning!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Tour of Hot Springs National Park

We made the easy drive from Tunica to Hot Springs, AR to visit the National Park there. The Hot Springs National Park differs dramatically from any other National Park we have visited. To start with, the park focuses on the springs and buildings rather that large, natural features. Indeed, the park itself is quite small. Still it is very interesting. 

The main feature of the park area is Bath House Row which consists of several buildings which used to be active bath houses using the hot springs of the area. The area was increasingly busy during the early 1900's with the peak visitation coming in the late 1940's. 

 Many thousands of visitors came to the springs for the supposed healing power of the hot springs. This advertising poster from the period gives the idea -- it sure seems clear from this that a bath in the hot springs will heal what ails you!

Back in the Hot Springs heyday, many famous folks paid a visit, from Al Capone to Babe Ruth. We wondered what sort of place today would attract people of such a wide background as the springs seem to have. 

Our walk along the bath house row started with this spring that featured real Hot Springs water! The spring and walk way to the bath houses is right on main street of Hot Springs, which provides an interesting contrast to the tranquil fountain.

The Park Service has restored one bath house called the Fordyce, seen here, to its original grandeur. We were able to tour this bath house and see how folks took a "bath" back in the day. That is a subject for part two of this post.