Mingo RV Park: Campground Review

Address: 801 N. Mingo Rd. Tulsa, OK 74116

Phone: 918-832-8824

Online Reservations? No. You have to book your stay over the phone

Rate Per Night: $45

Discount: $40 per night with the Good Sam discount

Nights Stayed: 7

Mingo RV Park is east of downtown Tulsa — near the intersection of interstate 244 and State Highway 169 — and just north of the “Route 66 Rising’ sculpture which sits in the center of the roundabout at the intersection of Admiral Place and North Mingo Road. Tulsa is laid out in a grid that makes it very easy to navigate.

Route 66 Rising sculpture near the RV Park.

The entrance to the park is actually a block off of N. Mingo Road on E. Independence Street. Fortunately, the large neon gate is easy to see and our GPS took us right to it. Once you pull through the gate, keep driving straight ahead to the spot marked by the “Register Here” sign. The office is a log cabin that occupies a hill in the center of the campground. It also houses the laundry room and showers. There is a large bank of mail boxes across from the registration parking, letting you know that this park is mostly occupied by permanent residents.

The campground offers a few amenities in addition to a big laundry room and very clean showers. There is propane and a playground behind the office. There are picnic tables and outdoor seating placed in the grass around the office, and a dog walking area on top of the levy along Mingo Creek at the back of the campground. There are also several tree sculptures throughout the grounds which are very well maintained. The grass is trimmed, the laundry and showers were very clean, and sites are kept clean. You can tell they truly care. I saw maintenance staff at work every day. The RV park is also very quiet. Even on weekends there was no loud music, or loud talking late into the night.

This tree sculpture is there to remind you in case you didn’t know Route 66 is nearby.

The RV Park does have some negatives. First, it’s near the airport so there is occasional noise from jets flying over. Second, the gravel sites all have a low curb on streets that are crowned in the middle. The raised center of the street and the curb caused Belvedere to bottom out every time we entered or exited our spot and is probably the reason we lost one of our Snap Pads on our trip. The sites are also very tight so putting out chairs or the awning was impossible. Considering we were inside the city limits I guess that was to be expected, however, it made staying here feel more like staying in an open air apartment building than a campground.

Sites are gravel and some are partially concrete. Usually at the front where residents park their cars. All have a curb to drive over to get into the site.

One odd detail about all the sites is that the water hose connection is under a small cover about a foot below ground. A night of hard rain completely flooded the hole so I had to wait until a maintenance person came to pump it out before I could hook up my hose.

This brings me to the biggest positive of our stay. The staff. From my first phone call to reserve a spot until the day we checked out, every staff member we met was friendly and helpful. When I needed my water connection pumped out, the maintenance staff member was at my site ready to help within minutes of me letting the office know. The office staff was always ready to help and, of course there were two cats who would greet us outside the office.

This big boy was my favorite part of the friendly staff.

We have family in Tulsa, so we will be visiting the area again. Would we stay here when we come back? We now know to be very careful maneuvering into our site, but the positives of the campground— a clean, quiet, well kept place to stay with basic, but decent, amenities close to the city with a friendly helpful staff— outweigh the negatives. So, yes, we would stay here again.

Learning To Use My Convection/ Microwave Oven by Making Lasagna

For a long time the convection/ microwave oven had been mocking me from its perch above the refrigerator. Yes, we had used the microwave settings to reheat coffee and make popcorn, but that was pretty much it. I read the manual again and again, and I searched YouTube for a video on how to make sense of the thing. Then, I had an epiphany. JUST MAKE SOMETHING! It might be a failure, but it might not. Either way, it was time to stop being afraid of the oven.

I had a teacher in college who always used to say, “you go from what you know to what you don’t know.” Meaning you build on skills you already have to do something new and I finally decided to follow that advice. If I can cook in an oven at home, then I can cook in the RV. Every home cook knows is that every oven is different, and the same oven may act different from day to day. The manual and YouTube will only get you so far. You have to jump in and start cooking. So, I jumped in with both feet and decided to make a lasagna for the holidays in our RV’s convection/ microwave oven.

Lasagna recipes can be very long and they seemingly have a lot of steps. Add to that the fact that multiple cooking methods are required, and lasagna can seem very intimidating. However, I learned that it really wasn’t scary at all. I started by reading as many recipes as I could find and I quickly learned that there is an almost infinite variety of ingredients and everyone has a different oven temperature and cooking time. Also, all the recipes are for a 9×13 baking dish. Bigger than the 8×8 dish that I can fit in my oven. So, there was no single recipe I could follow. However, after reading through so many different recipes I realized that every lasagna breaks down into four big steps. Five, if you have to boil the pasta. So, this is how I structured my recipe. I broke it down into four major steps. Once you have made it you realize that these steps leave lots of room for experimentation. If you don’t like meat, use spinach and/or mushrooms instead. If you want a more flavorful cheese filling add goat cheese. The choices are endless!

So, how did my first attempt come out? It was great! It wasn’t perfect, but it was way better than the time I made a very effective tear gas with Cayenne Pepper and a pork chop in my home kitchen. I learned a lot and I have ideas for how to make it better next time. So, I encourage you to give it a try and stop being afraid of your convection/ microwave.

And, with that, here is the recipe I created.

Turkey Lasagna

Tools Needed

A knife to dice the onion

A 10″ skillet

A spatula

A large spoon for the tomato sauce

A bowl for the ricotta mixture

An 8″x 8″ baking dish

Ingredients

Tomato Sauce:

1 onion – diced

2 cloves of garlic – minced. OR, 1 heaping tablespoon if you use minced garlic from a jar

1 pound of 98% fat free ground turkey – Or whatever meat you would like to use. You can kinda go wild here.

2 Tablespoons Italian Seasoning

1 jar of Marinara Sauce

Salt and pepper to taste

Ricotta Filling:

1 15 oz container of ricotta cheese

1/2 cup grated parmesan

1 egg white (I used the egg white because I have a limit on how many yolks I can eat. You can use one whole egg if you prefer. It works either way.)

1 tablespoon of Italian Seasoning

Salt and pepper to taste

1 Box of No Boil or Oven Ready Lasagna Noodles

1 16 oz bag of grated Mozzarella cheese

1 to 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil – To coat the inside of the baking dish

Step 1: Preheat Your Oven to 350°

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to set your convection microwave to convection and preheat the oven. Leave the rack in the oven to elevate the baking dish and allow air to move around all sides of the dish.

Step 2: Make the Meat Sauce

Preheat the skillet over medium heat. If your stove is like mine, the knob has a big flame for high and a tiny flame for low. Turn the burner turned on then set the dial in somewhere the middle.

Add the diced onions and cook until translucent (about 2 to 3 minutes) If the onions start to cook too fast or start to brown turn the heat down.

Add the minced garlic and cook for 1 minute. Be careful not to burn the garlic!

Add the turkey and brown it while stirring and breaking it up into little pieces. Cook it until there is no pink left.

Add the Italian Seasoning, salt and pepper (if desired) and stir it into the turkey and onions.

Add the jar of sauce, stir it in then let it simmer until the excess liquid disappears and it just starts to thicken.

Turn off the stove.

While it’s simmering, move on to step two.

Step 3: Make the Ricotta Filling

Empty the container of ricotta cheese into a bowl.

Add the parmesan, egg white and Italian Seasoning.

Stir it all together until it’s well mixed.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Your tomato sauce should be ready now, so turn off the stove and make some room on your counter for the baking dish.

Step 4: Assembly

Open the box of noodles, take one and compare it to the size of the baking dish, if it’s longer that the dish then break off enough to make it fit. You will then use this noodle as a guide for breaking the others as you go. For an 8×8 dish you will need three noodles for each layer. I used larger broken pieces for the center noodle of each layer. Use the best looking noodles on top.

Coat the inside of the baking dish with a thin layer of olive oil.

Add a thin layer meat sauce to the bottom of the baking dish.

Add the first layer of noodles.

Coat the noodles with 1/3 of the ricotta mixture.

Add 1/4 of the tomato sauce to cover the ricotta mixture.

Sprinkle with the grated mozzarella.

Then add the next layer of noodles and repeat the ricotta filling, sauce, and mozzarella steps.

When you reach the top of the dish add the last layer tomato sauce and mozzarella.

Cover the dish with a sheet of aluminum foil.

Step 5: Bake The Lasagna

When the oven if up to temperature, open the door, transfer the filled baking dish to the oven and place it on the rack in the center of the oven.

Close the door and set the cooking time to 1 hour.

Use the time to start cleaning up the kitchen counter to make room for when the lasagna comes out of the oven.

After 30 minutes, hit stop, open the door and remove the aluminum foil. Pierce the center of the lasagna with a toothpick or a paring knife to see if the noodles are cooked through. If the knife hits solid resistance it’s not cooked and will need more time. Close the door and resume cooking.

From this point on, keep an eye on it and see if the sauce starts to bubble. When you see it bubble, open the door and pierce it again to see if your knife or toothpick go in without resistance. If it does, then hit stop to turn off the oven and remove the lasagna AND the rack.

Optional Step: Broil the Top

Turn on the grill function of the oven. Return the baking dish to the oven, close to the grill element at the top of the oven so that the lasagna sits directly underneath the it and set the time for 10 minutes. It may not take that long to brown, so keep a close watch on it and remove it as soon as the cheese just starts to brown.

You can totally skip this step if you wish, or you can do what some restaurants do and put the slices you are about to serve on a baking sheet under the broiler just before you serve them.

Important Safety Tip:

Plan ahead where you are going to put the hot pan before it comes out of the oven. If you are making this in your RV, don’t ever set the hot pan directly on the corian countertop. Also, don’t set it on the tempered glass cover of your propane stove or it could shatter the glass. If these are the only places you have available then use the rack from the oven and a thick towel or cutting board to minimize contact with the surface when you set the rack on it. I used my silicone drying mat on the counter then set the oven rack with the baking dish on it so the dish stayed elevated above the counter while it was hot and only the plastic covered feet of the rack actually touched the the silicone mat. In a small kitchen, a little planning is essential to prevent a horrible mess.

Ouray and Telluride

With winter weather out of the way, we travelled thirty-five miles south from Montrose to the very picturesque town of Ouray, named for the Ute Chief. The town, which calls itself the ‘Switzerland of America” sits in a bowl surrounded by rugged mountains. The main street through town is lined with nineteenth century buildings and at the opposite end of town the Main Street becomes a dramatic switchback road that climbs up the steep mountainside and marks the beginning of the Million Dollar Road to Silverton.

We parked on a side street and spent the afternoon walking around town and exploring the shops. After a while we got hungry and we decided to get lunch at Colorado Boy Pizza. We were greeted with a “Hi Darlin’” from the bartender as we walked in.

After lunch we found a hiking trail on the edge of town that led to Cascade Falls. Belvedere was too big to park at the trailhead so we parked on the street two blocks away. Carolyn turned off the engine and, as we were about to open the door, a small herd of deer passed by on both sides of the RV, leapt over the fence in front of us and proceeded to snack on the bushes in the yard. We enjoyed the scene for a while, then quietly got out and headed up the street to the trail where we saw more deer snacking in people’s yards. It ace for a wonderfully magical afternoon!

The trail to the waterfall is not long, but it is all up hill, a bit rugged and the high altitude definitely made it feel harder, as well. But it was totally worth the walk. The narrow waterfall plunges down the mountainside in several cascades, the trail ends at the foot of the bottom cascade.

Because of Covid, we skipped the hot springs but we were sorely tempted! They are on the main road into town and the pools looked wonderful. Maybe on our next trip. Even so, we enjoyed a day of wandering around town and I’m looking forward to coming back via the Million Dollar Highway.

After a full day in Ouray we didn’t want to make a long drive so we were glad we found a spot at the Ouray KOA just a couple miles outside of town. This turned out to be the biggest and busiest KOA’s we’ve ever seen! There was a constant line of vehicles checking in late into the evening. We know because our spot was on the entrance road just a few spots away from the office. We walked around after we got settled into our site. In addition to the the camp store they had a restaurant, hot tub and sauna. The staff was incredibly friendly and helpful but I wouldn’t call it a quiet relaxing night. All of the campground announcements were made via text, so my phone was busy all night with messages about someone’s headlights left on, last call for firewood, etc.

Telluride

The next morning we packed up and made the drive to Telluride. It’s only nine miles away, as the crow flies, but it’s a fifty mile drive around the mountains to get there. I have wanted to visit Telluride since I first learned about their bluegrass festival. It’s like Ouray’s bigger, more famous brother. There were more shops, more restaurants, more houses, much better connectivity and a lot more people.

We were lucky to find a parking spot for Belvedere on a side street. From there we walked over to East Colorado Avenue, the main road into town and spent the rest of the morning exploring the shops and trying to decide where we wanted to eat. There are a lot of great choices in town and making a selection was difficult. After lunch we found the free gondola ride that takes you from Telluride up and over the mountain to Mountain Village. We stopped at San Sophia on top of the mountain to enjoy the views and take pictures. We didn’t go all the way to Mountain Village because it was getting late and our parking was about to expire in town. We rode back down to town and made our way back to Belvedere. But first, we had to stop at The Butcher and the Baker for some fresh baked cookies to eat on the way.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

It was getting late in the afternoon and we had a long drive ahead of us, so we reluctantly headed back through Montrose planning to drive east to Colorado Springs when we decided to give in to temptation one last time. We turned off and headed to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

The drive into the park gives you no clue about what you are going to see. It’s an uphill drive through open range that becomes more curvy as you get closer to the park. It doesn’t reveal itself until you get to the first overlook at Tomichi Point, then, BLAMMO! You get your first look at the canyon that got it’s name because it’s so deep and narrow that some spots on the river below only get sunlight for thirty minutes a day. We were simply not prepared for how massive and beautiful the canyon would be!

Tomichi Point.

After spending time taking in our first views of the canyon we continued driving along the South Rim to the Visitor Center which was closed due to Covid. There was a small table outside the entrance where we got a map and learned that we could drive the Rim Road as far as Sunset Point in our RV. After enjoying the views from the back of the Visitor Center, we drove toward Sunset Point, stopping at almost every view point. Once we got to the end, the sun was beginning to set and we needed to find a place to stay for the night.

The South Rim Campground has three loops and after Labor Day most of the sites are first come first serve, so we decided to try our luck because I was excited at the opportunity to stay in a dark sky park. Each of the loops are small and hard to maneuver through in an RV. I couldn’t imagine trying to navigate the campground in anything larger than our 25 footer. The roads were narrow and trees made them feel even narrower. It became so tight in one loop we scratched the entire side of Belvedere on the tree branches. Fortunately, I was able to buff them most of them out. In the last loop we finally found an open site and parked. Then we walked back to the kiosk to check in and pay our camping fee.

The campground was full and the sites are close together. We could hear our neighbors late into the night. I got out to try to take some pictures of the night sky, but people with flashlights and a near constant stream of cars made it nearly impossible. Instead we spent the night inside and decided to head out early after one last stop for pictures. I highly recommend visiting Black Canyon, it’s an incredible place. However, I would not recommend camping there. If we were to do it again I think we would stay in Montrose then visit Ouray, Telluride and Black Canyon.

Where We Ate

Colorado Boy Pizza: This is a chain with locations in Montrose, Ouray and Telluride. The pizza was great! Our server was delightful and the chips and salsa, were amazing.

Caravan: This Mediterranean food truck was one of our favorite discoveries on the whole trip! It’s tucked in beside La Cocina and it’s probably the least expensive place to eat in Telluride. However, the ingredients are mostly organic and the food is fresh and flavorful! We had a Mezze Sampler which allowed us to try a number of side dishes, creamy hummus, smoky Baba Gannouj, Incredibly crunchy and flavorful Falafel and a spinach pie that was crispy outside but soft in the middle. We sat in the courtyard near a bubbling fountain and felt like we were miles away from the bustling street.

RV Life Highs and Lows…and Highs

Full time RV life is a great adventure, but, adventure isn’t always fun. The highs are amazing but, unfortunately, so are the lows. You have to be ready to adapt and make the best of bad situations. We’ve had to learn this lesson, mostly the hard way.

Labor Day began bright and early at Great Sand Dunes Oasis, a store just outside the gates of Great Sand Dunes National Park, where we rented sand sleds for the day. A sand sled is made of plywood with an upturned front and a small cushion near the rear to sit on. Along with the sled you get a block of wax that you rub on the bottom of the sled then polish by rubbing the sled on sand before you make your run. After we got our sleds, we drove a couple miles to the parking area, gathered our sleds, sunscreen, and hats and headed for the dunes.

Walking on sand dunes is not easy, for every step forward you fall back at least a half step. Walking on sand dunes at 8000 feet of elevation quickly becomes a slog because there is less oxygen to breath. It felt like it took forever to walk the mile from the parking area up the first, and smallest, dune because we had to stop more than once to catch our breath.

But, everything changed once we were on our sand sleds. We had an absolute blast sledding down the dune! We both wiped out spectacularly and repeatedly but, once we got the hang of it, we wiped out even more spectacularly in between a few good runs. The downside, of course, is that each good run down was followed by a long slow walk back up the dune. After a few hours we were covered in sand and close to exhaustion. We each made one last run down a steeper slope. Carolyn wiped out, rolled a few feet then stood up, laughing, and got back on her sled to finish the run. My final run went through a patch of soft sand and I ate a lot of it. Completely exhausted now, we slowly made our way back to Belvedere and dumped the sand out of our shoes (and shorts). Then our luck began to change.

The weather forecast for the next day was a surprise early winter storm that would bring lots of snow and freezing temperatures across a large portion of Colorado. We made a decision to cancel our reservations at the campground inside the park and head somewhere that wasn’t expected to freeze. That led to some quick research to find a place that wouldn’t have sub freezing temperatures. We decided our best bet was to head to lower elevation about three hours away in Montrose, Colorado. Decision made, we headed out to fill up on diesel and start the 4 hour drive.

Thank Goodness For Our TPMS

There is absolutely nothing but open land for about fifteen miles between Great Sand Dunes and the town of Mosca. On a desolate county road about five miles from the gas station , the alarm on our tire pressure monitoring system went off. It showed us losing pressure in one of our rear tires at an alarming rate! With no room to pull off on the side of the road, we had no choice but to limp to the gas station in Mosca. Once there, I asked if there was anyone who could help us with our tire. The very nice lady pointed me to a truck and tire company just six miles down the road. I filled up our tire and we limped to the little town of Hooper and pulled into the tire place.

Did I mention it was Labor Day? The tire place was closed and our tire was now down to 14psi, so we called roadside assistance and they dispatched help. When they arrived and got the tire off we could see that the valve stem had cracked and broken off on the way to Hooper, taking the TPMS cap sensor with it. While I was unhappy about losing the sensor, I also realized we were VERY lucky that the tire did not blow out.

Belvedere waiting for her tire to come back.
The remains of the valve stem after it had been removed and replaced.

It had taken about an hour for help to arrive, and once they arrived and got the tire off, they decided to take the tire back to their shop, repair it there then bring it back. A process that ended up taking another three hours. That’s when we learned that being broken down is a very different experience in an RV. We were parked in an empty parking lot, not on the side of the road. So, while we waited, we made lunch and settled down to watch tv while eating ice cream. Carolyn even took a nap. Except for the road noise it was kinda nice to have a quiet afternoon after such an active morning.

Finally, we were able to get back on the road. But, it was now five o’clock and we still had a three and a half hour drive ahead of us on winding roads and the smoky sky meant darkness would fall earlier than normal. We decided not to stop for anything else and get as far as we could before dark. In fact, we were so intent on getting over the mountains that we barely noticed the sign when we drove over the Continental Divide for the first time ever. There was simply no time to stop for pictures.

After all the twists and turns on dark roads we finally pulled into Centennial RV Park outside of Montrose. I’m very grateful to the campground owners for meeting us at the office when we rolled in. We were also both thankful for the long hot showers to wash all the sand off before we climbed into bed. It’s not a large park, but it’s very nice. In different circumstances we would definitely stay there again.

The next morning, Tuesday, was the day the storm would be rolling in and, while no snow was predicted for Montrose, there would be plenty of rain. Since we had booked at the last minute, we only got to stay at Centennial for one night. We unhooked and moved to a another campground that had a spot for the next three nights. The rain was just beginning to fall as we got hooked up. I opted to not hook up the water hose in case it got down below freezing. Fortunately, it never did.

Exploring Montrose

Until the storm forced us to change our plans we had not intended to come to the western side of Colorado on this trip. But, I’m so glad we did! Our new campground, Riverbend RV Park and Cabins became one of our favorite places we stayed on our trip. It sits on the banks of the Uncompahgre River in Montrose, Colorado. The sites are gravel, but they are very level and the office is a brand new building with a new laundry room and nice showers. The staff was incredibly friendly and helpful. We could not have asked for a warmer welcome and even though we had to move sites after our first two nights we couldn’t complain because our new site was right beside the river. We truly were lucky to have found them.

When there was a break in the rain, we walked to the Ute Indian Museum and spent some time exploring their exhibits. It’s a small, but very well done, museum with a great story to tell and some beautiful artifacts. Ute are the only Native American Tribe that doesn’t have a relocation story. Though they lost most of their land, the Ute reservations are on a very small portion of their ancestral land. The museum sits on land that had once belonged to Chief Ouray a chief who was chosen by the US government to be the spokes person for the tribe and for whom the town of Ouray, Colorado is named.

Just outside the museum, we discovered the city trail that went right past our campground and continued all the way to the city center. A short walk down the trail brought us to a bridge that led to a shopping area with a Target, a Natural Grocer, and other stores.

Since we were settled at Riverbend for a few days I contacted Borg, the valve stem manufacturer, to see about getting a replacement. They were incredibly nice about it! I sent them a photo of the valve stem stump and they FedExed me two replacements, one for the missing stem and one just in case it happened again (spoiler alert; it did!). The replacement stems arrived Thursday afternoon and Friday morning we had the new stem installed and with the return of warm sunny weather it was time to hit the road again. This time toward the San Juan Mountains newly covered in snow.

Neither of us can believe how fast things changed from a fun day of sand sledding to being broken down and fleeing a winter storm to discovering wonderful new people and places. But, we’re learning that this is what full time RV life is. It will test you and reward you and test you again. The only thing you can do is keep your sense of humor and in the darkest moments and celebrate the good times. Like the first sight of beautiful snow covered mountains.


Where We Ate:

Since we were on vacation the week after Labor Day and the weather was fairly bleak we decided to find a different restaurant for lunch each day. These are the places we tried.

Camp Robber: This very nice casual restaurant has been in business since 1994. It’s unusual name is the name given to the Canadian Gray Jay because the birds have a habit of swooping in and stealing food from campsites. The staff was friendly and the food was very good. We started with Green Chile Chicken Potato soup, then I had Green Chile Pistachio Crusted Pork Medallions. A favorite dish that has stayed on their menu since they opened. It was a nice treat on a cold rainy day.

Himalayan Pun Hill Kitchen: This unassuming restaurant occupies a small building tucked between a liquor store and an auto parts store north of downtown. But, inside you are a world away. There is an extensive menu of Nepali and Indian dishes so we took time to study it before making our choices. Portions were generous so we ended up taking home half of what we ordered.

Passing Up A Million Dollars in Durango, Colorado

You can see the San Juan mountains in southern Colorado from Aztec, New Mexico and they are breathtaking even as a mere shadow on the horizon. As we got closer and could see them clearly they only became more imposing as they surround the little town of Durango.

The town sits in the southwest corner of the state not far from Mesa Verde National Park. It was founded as a railroad town in the 19th century, a place to carry supplies to mines deeper into the mountains. The main road through town, U.S. 550 roughly parallels the train tracks to Silverton then over high mountain passes to Ouray. The stretch of 550 from Silverton to Ouray is called the Million Dollar Highway and it’s one of the most beautiful roads in the U.S., also one of the scariest to drive because of the tight turns and the sheer drop offs. We passed up this route to Ouray and instead took a longer route. Maybe we’ll do it when we have more practice driving our house.

The downtown area is compact and easily walkable, and there are so many great little shops and restaurants you can stay busy for a couple days checking them out. But, if you are just arriving, you might want to give yourself a day or two to get used to the 6500 foot elevation before you try to go exploring. In our case, we had already spent a week in Santa Fe at 7000 feet, so we were pretty well acclimated. But, we still made sure to use sunscreen, wear a hat outside and drink plenty of water.

Our first day of exploring began with lunch at a brew pub. After a flight of beers and an excellent meal we walked the length of downtown, ducking into shops that caught our eye. Not surprisingly, many of the shops sell outdoor clothing and gear, but, there are many shops to appeal to almost any interest. If you like chocolate, then don’t miss Animas Chocolate and Coffee on Main Avenue. Their truffles are incredible!

After walking through the main shopping area we found our way onto the Animas River Trail. This seven mile paved path connects to many of the city’s parks and serves as an important part of the city’s transit system. It follows alongside the Animas River and connects neighborhoods to the downtown area and shopping areas further out. It’s a great place to walk, but watch out for the many bicycles that use the path to commute to and from work!

Our last full day in Durango was Carolyn’s birthday so we booked a ride on the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. Because of Covid 19 the train isn’t doing its usual run to Silverton, instead passengers embark at Rockwood Station about 18 miles north of Durango for a two hour scenic ride to Cascade Canyon and back.

To insure social distancing the train cars were only half filled, and the day we rode, our car only had five other groups so we had lots of space to move around during the two hour ride. Even though we were getting a shorter ride, it was still well worth going. And, if you go, I highly encourage you to book your seat in one of the gondolas which are open air train cars. The cars are open from about waist high and you seat faces the open sides so there is nothing to obstruct the scenery as you travel. Believe me you will want to see everything!

The two hour ride took us through breath taking scenery, past rivers and mountains with the train seemingly clinging to the mountainside past steep drops into the river valley below. Since the car had so few people in it we were able to get up and change sides in the car to get the best view as the train made its way to Cascade Canyon.

Where We Ate

Steamworks Brewing Company: Located on the corner of E 2nd Avenue and W 8th Street, this place offers great food along with some very good beers. We got a flight along with lunch and followed it up with a delicious Strawberry Rhubarb Panna Cotta for dessert. Their IPA called Sultan of Stoke was perfect for a hot day with its tropical flavor. But, our favorite was the Red Eye, the first taste made me melt and it was the first glass emptied in our flight.

Seasons of Durango: We went here to celebrate Carolyn’s birthday after we spent the morning on the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. The dining room is beautiful, but we opted to sit on their rear patio because it was a beautiful day. Carolyn had the roasted chicken and I had the Fennel Pollen Dusted Salmon Filet. Our waitress was friendly and very helpful in navigating the menu.

We packed a lot into three days in Durango and we both fell in love with the town. But, there is still so much to do and see. When we return we want to get out of town and on to one of the many hiking trails that surround the city. And, maybe, tackle the Million Dollar Highway. After a quick bite, of course, and maybe something from Animas Chocolate and Coffee!

Eating Our Way Around Tulsa, Oklahoma

We knew almost nothing about Tulsa when we arrived, but it didn’t take long to discover the wonderful food the city has to offer. We only got a small taste but it’s enough to bring us back for many more visits. Here are the places we tried.

Siegi’s Sausage Factory

Our first meal in town was carry out from Siegi’s Sausage Factory, a restaurant and sausage factory started by a fifth generation sausage maker from Austria. Unfortunately, we were so hungry that we didn’t get any pictures of dinner. My sister in law’s husband strongly suggested we try the Hungarian Goulasch and I’m so glad we took his advice! It had a luscious deep meaty flavor. We also split a sausage plate four ways so that we could each try different sausages and, of course, mustard. Each of them was so delicious I found it impossible to pick a favorite. We each got a side of red cabbage that was also incredible. By the end we were stuffed and very, very happy.

Oklahoma Joes

I don’t want to start a fight but I know recommending a place for barbecue can do that. I grew with North Carolina style barbecue, but, I’ve been to Texas enough times to fully appreciate their way with meat and Oklahoma Joe’s comes close to my experience with Texas barbecue. We split a large order of burnt ends, which despite the name, are chunks of pork so tender they literally melt in your mouth and the sauce was the stuff of my dreams! It was dark and deeply flavored making it a perfect compliment to the meat. Our sides included baked beans made with several different kinds of beans in a rich flavorful sauce; sweet potato fries that were crunchy on the outside and creamy inside; and green beans that were perfectly seasoned.

Andolini Sliced

Andolini Pizzeria is a local chain several locations and a food truck. But, Andolini Sliced is a bit different from the other locations. Pizza can be purchased by the slice and the options are phenomenal! You can choose Tulsa style, Roman style square sliced with a thick crust cooked in an electric oven, A big thin foldable New York style slice, or Napoletana which has a thin crust cooked in a very hot wood-fired oven and only available as a whole 12 inch pie.

We tried two slices of the Vegetarian Maximus Roman square slice and the Margherita Napoletana. The Vegetarian Maximus had mozzarella cheese, potato, mushroom, black olives, cherry tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil. The crust was thick but still crunchy on the bottom just like the pizza we had in Rome. We got the Margherita because it’s my favorite kind of pizza but it also let’s me see what a pizza maker can do with simple ingredients. Andolini’ s uses San Marzano tomatoes, house made mozzarella and fresh basil. When cooked in a wood fired oven at over 900 degrees the result is simply amazing. The crust is crusty and a little charred on the bottom but still pillowy inside the edges. The sauce tastes like fresh tomatoes and the gooey mozzarella creates long strings when you pick up each slice. It’s no wonder Andolini’s is considered one of the best pizzeria’s in the country.

Braum’s

I have to finish with dessert, right? And no trip to Oklahoma would be complete without a trip to Braum’s Ice Cream and Dairy Store.

Braum’s started in Oklahoma and has now grown to have stores in five states. They are an ice cream shop, hamburger restaurant and convenience store. We had to give them a try, but we steered clear of the insane looking sundaes (they looked amazing, though!). We each got chocolate frozen yogurt in a waffle cone. The frozen yogurt was creamy and very chocolatey but the waffle cone was the real star. It was lightly sweet and lightly crunchy with that perfect caramelized flavor.

We’ve learned that Tulsa has way more good food than we could try in one visit. I’m looking forward to coming back and trying more. If you know a good place in Tulsa we should try on our next visit, let us know in the comments.

Big Wheels Finally Turning: On the Road At Last!

Selling our house took more time than we thought it would, so we found ourselves living the full-time stationary life for almost two and a half months while we got the final work done, then maintained the house while it was being shown and finally cleared everything out ahead of the closing which ended up being delayed. Had we known about the delay before we rented a moving truck we would probably still be stationary, but we found out after which meant we only had four days to get our furniture to Carolyn’s sister in Tulsa, Oklahoma and turn the truck in. So we made the decision to go and finally hit the road.

Carolyn drove the RV and I drove the moving truck. The weather did its best to make us regret our decision to go by throwing thunderstorms and driving rain at us until we finally surrendered and stopped for the night at a Cracker Barrel in Russellville, Arkansas. Yes, staying overnight at Cracker Barrel is a thing for RVers. We checked with the manager when we stopped in to pick up our dinner to go. The staff was wonderful and we had a decent night’s sleep. The next morning we hit the road early, stopped briefly so Carolyn could attend a virtual meeting for work, then we drove the final 3 hours to Tulsa.

All tucked in at Cracker Barrel.

As we got close to Tulsa, I was struck by how the land slowly flattened out from the Ozark Mountains and the sky seemed to expand like the curtains being drawn from the screen in a movie theater. It just got bigger and bigger. I was also struck by the change to an 80 mile per hour speed limit on a road where I could see miles ahead. We arrived at Carolyn’s sister’s house at lunchtime and quickly unpacked the truck because we were so close to the deadline to get it turned in. Once we had it empty, we returned it, then I took Carolyn back to her sister’s while I took Belvedere to get checked in at the RV park. I’ll have more to say about the RV park in a future post.

After a couple days of work and visiting family, we took time on Sunday to explore Tulsa. We drove downtown to explore some of the Deco District, a part of downtown where there are a number of stunning Art Deco buildings. We also explored a bit of Route 66 in Tulsa, then finished the day with a quick visit to Cain’s Ballroom where Bob Wills played then pizza for dinner at Andolini Sliced. I will also write about all of our food experiences in Tulsa in a later blog post. They were all so good!

We finally closed on the house a week later than planned. We met with a mobile notary and signed the papers in the laundry room of the RV park. The delay in our closing has frustrated our travel planning. Ideally, we would like to travel on weekends so we have time to get set up and fully connected before work on Monday morning. Signing on a Monday means moving on a weekday. So, our plan at this point is to make a shorter move than we originally planned finish the work week there then make our big move next weekend. Nothing has worked as we imagined it would. But, our plans for the future are just beginning to take shape and now that one chapter is actually complete, we are free to start the next one!

Shakedown Trip #3: An Unlikely Success

Our camping opportunities have been extremely limited since we took delivery of Belvedere, our RV. We had two days in a campground outside St. Louis provided by our dealer, then we brought our RV home and immediately had to winterize it and put in in storage. When Spring finally arrived we were in full lockdown due to Covid-19 so we had to wait until late April for shakedown trip number two, which was a short trip to a local campground where we could dewinterize and refamiliarize ourselves with how everything works. Several weeks later, as state parks opened back up, it was time for a bigger test, to see if we could work from the RV in a campground away from the city. Carolyn has worked from the RV while it’s been parked in front of our house, but this time we would have to rely on cell signal to stay connected. We also wanted to see how our oldest cat would adapt to RV life. So, last week we packed up Belvedere and drove to Standing Stone State Park in Overton County, north of Cookeville,Tennessee.

The park is beautiful! Lots of trees and mountains surrounding a man-made lake. The park offers lots of things to do, boat rentals, hiking, volleyball, large playing fields, a conference center and cabins built by the CCC in the 1930’s. The campground is a short distance down the road from the cabins. The sites are gravel with water and electric hookups. The dump station is outside the campground, further down the main road.

There are two ways to get into the park. If you have a large rig; and we did see a few large fifth wheels and class A’s in the campground; then it’s best to come in from Route 111 through Livingston, Tennessee. This is a wider and less curvy road. The other route up 136 is very curvy in places as you wind along the edge the hills above the lake. It’s a beautiful drive but it ends at a one way bridge over the dam at the park entrance. It’s a tight turn with stone walls on either side of the road across the bridge so there is a 30 foot limit for vehicles crossing the bridge. Guess which route we took? We are 25 feet long and crossing the bridge was a white knuckle experience.

The rain began pouring before we even got to the park. This has been a very wet year in Tennessee. We had very few days of sun during the winter and after a brief period of sun early in the spring before the rain returned with a vengeance. We are still new to driving our rig and driving in the rain adds an unwelcome level of excitement to the experience. Driving on curvy mountain roads in the rain even more so. Once we we made it to the campground and found our site, which was more mud than gravel, we set up in the pouring rain. It was so much FUN!

When the rain finally let up, I pulled out our new Blackstone griddle to try it out for the first time. Setting it up and getting it attached to the propane quick connect outlet on our RV was very easy. In short order I was set up and cooking fajitas for dinner. Once I have a bit more experience with the griddle I will write an entire post about it. For now, spoiler alert, it was the biggest success of the trip. I’m in love with it.

Our cat, Josie, is seventeen years old. Change is hard for her and aside from the long ride home when we found her at Pine Mountain State Park in Kentucky 17 years ago, all of her trips out of the house have been to the vet. So, she was deeply unpleased with being taken to the RV and she let us know. She spent the first part of the drive in my lap, then finally settled onto one of the couches for the rest of the drive. Once we were camped, she took every opportunity to try to get out the door. She managed to escape twice and each time she went straight under the RV! Pretty spry for a little old lady! Did I mention it was raining and muddy? Let’s just say no one came out clean. During a lull in the rain, we did pull out a cat tent that we bought hoping to give our cats a safe place space outside. Josie wasn’t having it. She acted like Charleton Heston in the cage in Planet of the Apes. She wailed (It’s a madhouse! a MADHOUSE!) and tipped her water bowl over. It was a terrible time for all of us. But, we also gave her lots of extra snuggles and she finally calmed down and started to adjust just when we were packing up to leave.

The main purpose of the trip, getting Carolyn connected was our real challenge. There was no wifi and cell signal was less than the described in some of the reviews we read. She has to have her computer connected to the company network and she has to participate in conference calls. It took a few tries but she was finally able to connect and, despite a number of issues causing her to switch back and forth between AT&T and Verizon, was finally able to work from the RV. We learned that we really need a cell booster for this kind of situation. The one we left at home would have been helpful (sigh).

We also discovered an electrical issue with our RV that meant we didn’t have power to all of our outlets unless the inverter was turned on. The inverter acted like no AC power was coming in to the coach so it pulled from the batteries. This means that we accidentally tested our boondocking power capabilities. The rain held off during the morning hours, but the clouds persisted all day long. That, along with the canopy of trees overhead meant we got nothing from solar at all. We had to rely on our generator and engine to charge our batteries.

It would be easy to focus on all the problems we experienced. This trip was short on fun. There was no hiking and, thanks to the pandemic, very little exploring the area. We didn’t get to do most of the things we bought an RV to do. Tensions ran high at times, the electrical issues caused a lot of stress, the long periods of rain meant we were all confined inside and the RV quickly became a VERY small space. The cherry on the sh*t sundae was when we went to dump our tanks at the end of our stay and the sewer backed up.

But, we made it! And, we learned some hard lessons about full-time life in an RV. Some problems can be dealt with by investing in some additional equipment, but others require us to step up to the challenge. They will require patience and an incontrovertible sense of humor. Stuff happens and you have to be ready to roll with the punches and realize that, sometimes, the sound of rain on the roof, wind in the trees and a purring cat in your lap can be so beautiful and, indeed, be all you need.

Baby’s First Bath – Taking the RV to Blue Beacon Truck Wash

Getting our RV on the first of November was a little like being let into a nightclub at last call, we had a short shakedown before we had to drive home, winterize and store the coach. Our poor RV was in an outside storage area from mid-November to the first of March.

Winters in Nashville tend to be rainy, but this year took it to a new level. It felt like the rain would NEVER stop. By the time we got it back to the house in late February it was covered in black streaks that ran down from the roof and she was filthy, but the rain wouldn’t let up and then the pandemic came along. So, we started May by getting her cleaned up.

Even though it’s a small RV, our rig is still too big for most regular car washes, instead we followed the recommendations of folks on the Leisure Travel Enthusiasts group on Facebook and took it to the nearest Blue Beacon Truck Wash which just happened to be one exit down on the interstate.

Blue Beacon is a nationwide chain of truck washes with a good reputation for doing a quality job. They have over 110 locations across the US and Canada and you can download their app which will help you find the one closest to you. They are set up to wash big rigs so accommodating a large class A is no issue and our little B+ looked almost lost in the giant wash bay. Their driveway can accommodate a lot of trucks so keep in mind that you could be in for a long wait on a busy day. However, many of their locations are open 24/7 so you could plan to visit at a less busy time.

While you are waiting in line, someone will come out to talk to you about your choice of services and any special instructions. The Classic Wash is not a mechanical car wash, it’s done by a team of people with power sprayers, warm soapy water and brushes, though you can request that they not use the brushes if you are concerned about the finish on your coach. They also offer a brightener for aluminum wheels. We skipped the brightener because it’s an acid solution can damage the Durabrite coating on our aluminum wheels. We also asked that they not use the brushes. You can also direct them to be careful not to spray directly into any of the vents for the water heater, furnace, or refrigerator. While you are waiting, there is also a vacuum available to clean out your interior before the wash.

Once the truck ahead of you clears the bay, someone will direct you to pull forward into the bay and show you where to stop. Then, a team of people descend on your RV and get to work. When they are close to done, one of the guys will signal you it’s time to pay and he will direct you to the office across the bay. As you get out of your RV they will stop spraying to allow you to pass, then resume work while you are in the office paying the bill. Once you’ve paid you walk back to your rig and pull out into the sunshine.

All clean!!!

After a half hour wait in line, the wash took about ten minutes and our RV looked fabulous for the next three whole hours until major storm blew through Nashville packing 75 mil per hour winds. When the winds died down and we could survey the damage left behind we found our RV covered in leaf debris. Thanks, Nashville!

Life In Lockdown

I hope everyone is in their safe place to ride out the pandemic. It feels like the world just stopped this past week and everything seems weirdly quiet. Fortunately, we were still in our house when everything closed down. We’ve put our plans on hold until the situation improves, but that does not mean we’ve stopped moving forward. We continue to work on our house so that we can be in a position to move quickly again when all the restrictions are lifted.

I had a pair of gigs scheduled for the beginning of April that are all cancelled and my office closed down leaving those that have the ability working from home. Carolyn was already working remotely so she is now having to adjust to having another office mate, one that does more than meow. This experience is a good test for a future of living together in a small space and, so far, it’s been an easy adjustment which bodes well for the future. It’s not really a surprise to us, but it’s nice to have confirmation.

We are also using the time at home to complete the projects around the house and in the RV. Who knows whether we’ll even be able to sell our house after this is over, but we consulted our real estate agent and she cited the very low interest rate as a reason to be hopeful. So, I want to be ready. It keeps hope alive in the face of cancelled plans and scary headlines. Plus, having the time pressure removed means I can be more methodical in getting things done.

So, does this fundamentally change our plans? No, but, we’ve closely followed the news of state parks and other camping facilities closing and potentially leaving full-timers with nowhere to go and it’s brought awareness that we need to plan for a safe haven in the event of an emergency. What form that will take remains to be seen. For, now we hunker down, wash our hands until our skin begins to scream and keeping working toward our goal.

Stay safe and stay well.