Niles Canyon Railway

The Golden Spike Chapter of the Family Motor Coach Association is a group of RV enthusiasts who also love trains We were fortunate enough to join in their rally in Pleasonton California. We had 16 RVs and 32 people attending. Huge thank you to Dan St. John for organizing the event. We stayed at the Alameda County Fairgrounds RV Park and rode the Niles Canyon Railway which was operating a steam locomotive.

The railway operates on a historic route that was originally the westernmost segment of the first transcontinental railroad. The line through Niles Canyon connected Sacramento to Oakland and then by ferry to San Francisco. The National Park Service has designated the line as The Niles Canyon Transcontinental Railroad Historic District. It was completed in 1870 by mostly Chinese workers and is one the best preserved segments in the western US. The Central Pacific and Western Pacific railroads built the line which later became part of the Southern Pacific Railroad. Today the train runs from Sunol to Niles which is actually in the city of Fremont CA.

Link to the railway…
Skookum #7 built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1909
Golden Spike ladies on the train
#7 is an articulated 2-4-4-2 loco designed for tight turns
Our crew during COVID
Golden Spike friends
Pot luck on a chilly evening
End of train view
Posted in California, RV Travel, trains | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

A Big Western Trip

Just as we said we would be taking short trips in our new cozy RV we embarked on a 3 month odyssey across the country to the Pacific Northwest. We instantly feel in love with the maneuverability of the smaller motorhome as we stayed in Corps of Engineers campgrounds in Alabama, Mississippi and Missouri.

As it was right on our way, we visited Branson MO. We’ve heard of Branson forever and thought this was a good chance to check it out. The town itself is pretty ugly gaudy out-of-control “entertainment” development but we did thoroughly enjoy the Titanic Museum. The museum contained many artifacts and thoughtful exhibits. We specially liked the assignment of a passenger name to every visitor who then could be followed to the disaster in the end. It was very engaging.

Moving on to Nebraska we stopped in Kearney where we visited Ft. Kearny State Historical Park. The park was established by local citizens to preserve one of the most important resupply stops along the emigrant trails of the mid 19th century. It was abandoned in 1871 after the railroad made it no longer necessary.

Ft Kearny
Blacksmith shop
Restored stockade

Next along our route we visited Chimney Rock. Lakota Sioux had a name for this place which basically meant elk penis while emigrants called it chimney rock. One can clearly see it could be seen for many miles and guide travelers along their way.

From Nebraska we headed into Wyoming where we visited Ft. Laramie. Ft Laramie National Historic Site was established in 1938 to preserve and interpret one of the most important sites of the western plains. Ft Laramie was first settled as an outpost for the fur trade between 1815 and 1820 by Jacque La Ramee who disappeared while hunting alone. The subsequent forts and city are named for him. The fur trade fort was bought by the US Army in 1849 to protect emigrants and gold seekers along the Oregon, California and Mormon trails. The fort was decommissioned in 1890.

Cavalry barracks
Plains Indian teepee
Officers quarters
The brig
A total of 36 buildings and ruins at the fort
Iron bridge built in the 1870s

After Ft Laramie we stopped in the northeast WY town of Buffalo. For fans of the “Longmire” series on Netflix. Buffalo claims to be the model for the fictional town of Durant Wyoming where the show is based. The author of the Longmire books visits often and Longmire Days is a popular festival. We even picked up a Red Pony T-shirt. Buffalo is also just a nice friendly western town.

We love the West. We’re on our way.

Posted in History, national parks, Nebraska, RV Travel, Wyoming | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Juniper Springs Run Kayak Trip

One of the real joys of our new motorhome is being able to stay in the many state park and national forest campgrounds in Florida. Recently our local kayak group set its sights on the Juniper Springs Run in the Ocala National Forest. Checking mid-week in May we found lots of campsites available. Our 25 foot RV is perfect for this campground. The sites are well spaced with a large variety of palms, trees and scrubs. Sites are no hook up with nice restrooms and water nearby. And being mid-week there were not too many kayakers on the run.

RV Honda kayak combo
Juniper Springs pool
Water powered mill
CCC bridge
Crystal clear spring run
Many other springs in the area
Wild turkey
Turtles love it here

The spring pool was developed by the CCC in the 1930s and features a working water powered mill. The water is crystal clear and there are many many springs in the area. The run is 7 miles long and takes 4.5 to 5 hours to paddle. No disposable containers or wrappers are allowed. The current is swift and the course is narrow with countless bends and turns and fallen trees to navigate. There is not much need to paddle other than to avoid the next tree or bush and that is a factor constantly. After the 5 mile mark there is actually a rapids! We all made it through it OK but a few paddlers were pitched into the river elsewhere.

Promo image of the spring run
D at the launch point

Our friend Mike created this you-tube video of our trip. Thanks Mike.

All in all it was an exhilarating trip down the Juniper Springs run. Not for beginners. Like an “E” ticket ride, we wanted to do it all over again. What a beautiful experience.

Reflection in a spring pool
Posted in Florida, National Forest campgrounds, RV Travel, wildlife | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Panama City and back

Our big western trip got off to a great start with a stay at Ochlockonee State Park near Sopchoppy Florida. Our new 25 foot rig fit in just perfectly in campsite #5. We love the state park experience.

Our beautiful RV named “Little Wing”
camp view

One of our favorite things about staying in a state park is the wildlife. Just taking easy walks on trails in the park and campground we saw lots of birds, several deer unafraid of humans and the amazing white squirrels. It is thought that these squirrels are descended from those brought to America by gypsies banished from Spain by King Charles in 1499. The European mammals bred with native American squirrels. Eventually they were brought to a fishing camp on the Ochlockonee River in the 1950s. From there they spread throughout the area.

Naturalized white squirrel
white tail deer

Near the park is the small town of Sopchoppy. While pretty sleepy today it still has a restored train depot with historic displays. The depot dates from the 1890s when the CT&G Railroad platted the town. The Myron Hodge river park nearby has a nice rv park and boat ramp.

Sopchoppy Depot
historic rail gang of the area
Ochlockonee River
Spider lily

Just a short drive from the park is the Gulf Coast and Alligator Harbor Aquatic Preserve. This is a very successful aquaculture farm supplying delicious oysters.

oyster farm
oyster farming
Florida’s Gulf Coast

Our stay at the park did not go as scheduled when our motorhome slide-out failed to retract the morning of our departure. Our Good Sam Roadside Assistance was unable to help us so we found a mobile RV mechanic ourselves and he got us on the road. Then we found a factory authorized repair center for our slide-out in Panama City. While driving there a giant black bear burst out of the forest and loped across the road right in front of us. Sorry no pics, we just enjoyed the surprise. We took advantage of the time while getting an estimate to have an incredible lunch at a local landmark, Hunt’s Oyster Bar.

It will take 2 weeks to get parts so we just headed back home to start our trip again when the repair can be completed. Such is life bounding down the road in a “motor” home. Our “Little Wing” RV should then be good to go for the next big adventure.

Hunt’s Oyster Bar – Panama City

Posted in Florida, RV, RV Travel, State Parks, wildlife | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Ft Pierce and Stuart Florida

Our recent RV tip to visit friends Mark and Lyn is typical of the kinds of quick little trips we’ll make in our new smaller RV. Mark and Lyn are long time full time friends currently living on their sailboat.

Our trip began with a quick drive south on Florida’s Turnpike to the KOA in Ft. Pierce. Our friends met us to see our new rig, catch up and have dinner.

The next day we explored the tropical coast between Ft. Pierce and Stuart. After living most of our lives in tropical Florida we were amazed at how much we enjoyed the flora and fauna of the area. We found ourselves spouting names like Tabebuia, Silver Buttonwood, Adonidia, Scaevola and seagrape. It seems like the iguana population has exploded since we left tropical Florida 6 years ago.

Mark and Lyn gave us a tour and a fine dinner on board their sailboat. We were amazed how much room there was on their catamaran. They were moored at a marina on the St. Lucie River. Then we strolled downtown Stuart. We were very impressed by this small city with a lively waterfront and the Florida East Coast Railroad rolling right thru the center of town.

Our last day the weather turned rainy so we explored the Elliot Museum which had a fine collection of cars, fishing history and local lore. As the weather cleared we went to the House of Refuge museum on the rocky shore.

Exotic and historic cars in the Elliot Museum
Lookout tower at House of Refuge Museum
Rocky coast of Stuart Beach
Little Blue Heron

A great quick trip.

Posted in Florida, RV Travel | 4 Comments

RVing Again

Little did we know when we decided in January 2020 to get off the road and buy a home that the world would be afflicted by a global pandemic. We were happy to be off the road at that time.

Now after a year off the road we are ready to explore again at a different pace. We purchased a 2016 Forest River Forester motorhome. She’s (we already know she’s a female) 25 feet 9 inches long with a full body slide on the drivers side. Built on a Ford chassis it has a Triton V-10 gas engine, automatic leveling, a gas/electric fridge, queen bed and nice entertainment system. Very easy to drive so we can share those duties.

Our intention is to use the RV for shorter trips while maintaining the home base. We already know Florida has the best weather for us during the winter months and this will enable us to escape some of the hot humid Florida summer.

We picked up the RV in Wilmington NC so thats where our first trip started. After one night at the Wilmington KOA we stayed at the Buck Hall National Forest campground in SC. It is right on the Intracoastal Waterway and afforded nice views and hiking trails. We loved how easy it was to park our little beauty. The sites were all paved, level and well spaced but lacked much privacy due to few trees between sites. Its a small campground so we were glad we reserved.

Our little beauty at Buck Hall NFS CG
View across Intracoastal Waterway
Hiking in coastal SC

On our way to our next stop we found one of those little gem stories that travelers love. Crossing into GA from SC we stopped at a visitors center. After we showed some interest the young man there informed us that this was the first travelers welcome center in the country. Built in 1962 before the Interstate Highway System, Its on a highway route known as the Woodpecker Trail. This was touted as the fastest most direct route to the Florida west coast. It runs along GA 121 and other roads from Augusta GA to St. Petersburg FL. Today much of it is 2 lane highway with old forgotten motels and sleepy towns. The young man also gave us samples Georgia peanuts, pecans and Coca-Cola.

1962 Georgia Visitor Center

Magnolia Springs State Park near Millen GA was our next stop. Its history and spring are the attractions of this place. In August 1864 the Confederacy built its largest prisoner of war camp here because of the spring providing abundant water. The camp was over 40 acres and intended to relieve overcrowding at Andersonville. While it was designed to hold 40,000 prisoners only 10,000 were transferred before Sherman’s approach led to the camps abandonment. Today some breastworks remain and the park does a nice job interpreting the history. The spring remains an attraction and we hiked some trails.

Looking good
Azalea and Dogwood season
Magnolia Spring

Whenever we’re close we usually stop in Folkston GA to visit the train watching platform. It was right along the Woodpecker Trail so we stayed at Jenny Ridge RV Park. As luck would have it The next day was Folkston’s Annual RailWatch Festival. There was a T-Trak model train display, food trucks. a DJ and a car show. Railfans from far and wide came to mingle and watch up to 70 trains per day transit the Folkston Funnel where multiple CSX rail routes merge to enter Florida.

Dianne among other railfans
CSX passing viewing platform
Ringside seat
“Kiddie” train
Car show
CSX train bearing down

Our shakedown trip was a good one. The RV drives small compared to our 3 previous motorhomes, but lives large due to the deep full body slide. We traveled with no towed car and surprisingly found that to be a pleasant experience. Back up, no problem. Turn around, no problem. Grocery store, gas station, no problem. Easy setup and departure makes life a breeze.

Its also nice to have a home to come back to. We look forward to many adventures in the new motorhome practicing photography, chasing trains and tracing history.

Posted in Georgia, National Forest campgrounds, RV Travel, South Carolina, State Parks | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Big News – We Bought A House

Our new home in Inverness Florida

After 5 full years full time RVing and 6 previous years most time RVing, we have bought a new home in the central Florida community of Inverness.  Its a huge change but we both knew when the time was right.  We have loved traveling and exploring all over North America but now its time for something different.  A new chapter is exciting.

Inverness is a nice small city near the Nature Coast of Florida along the Gulf of Mexico.  We are 20 minutes from the coast and at 82 feet above sea level we’re high enough to be out of the flood zone and out of the hurricane insurance zone.  Our home is near the Withlacoochee State Trail, a 60+ mile long hike bike trail.  We are surrounded by some of the best  kayaking in the US.

Of course its with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to Goldie, our beautiful home for the last 2 years of this adventure.  We have it listed on RV Trader, ebay motors, Facebook and many other websites.  We look forward to passing her on to the next explorers.  Here’s a link to our one of our ads…

Beautiful Goldie

Our blog will continue although perhaps we will post less frequently.  We will continue to travel.  We will also enjoy hobbies, a new community and long time friends Sam and Debi who live nearby.  It will be great cooking in a big kitchen and gardening on a third acre lot.


Posted in Florida, RV | Tagged | 8 Comments

Year end, Decade end 2019 Summary

The years and now decades seem to just fly by.  Here we are at the end of another year and another decade.

This year we traveled to 15 states in the US  and 1 Province in Canada.  We put 10811 miles on the Holiday Rambler Ambassador motorhome and 14236 miles on the Honda CRV.  That’s a lot of driving.

Goldie boondocking
near Moab

Goldie on the Columbia River

2019 was a year to explore the West again.  We started in central Florida and headed West through the Florida Panhandle.  We stopped briefly in Mexico Beach but it was still so devastated by Hurricane Michael we couldn’t stay.  Next stop was Cajun country and Abbeville LA.  On our way to South Texas, David and Kathryn hosted our RV in their driveway and we had a nice visit.  Many RVers spend their Winters in southern Texas near Harlingen and Brownsville.  We stayed for 2 weeks and discovered a lot.

Ponce Inlet Lighthouse – Florida

David and Kathryn

Texas sunset

Next stop Big Bend National Park , one of the most remote parks in the NPS system.  Then it was on to southern Arizona and the Escapees Rally in Tucson.  The Rally was great to share with friends Paul and Kay and Martie and Phil.  After the rally we toured Northern Arizona with so many natural and archeological sites.

The Rio Grande at Santa Elena Canyon

Kay and Paul

Martie and Phil

Di at the Grand Canyon

Tuzigoot NM

Desert Southwest
rock art

A major goal of the year was to attend the 150th anniversary of the Golden Spike completion of the first transcontinental railroad across North America.  The celebration began in Ogden Utah and then the actual site at Promontory Utah.  At least 25,00 people joined together to commemorate the event.  Union Pacific Railroad brought the 844 and recently rebuilt Big Boy 4014 steam locomotives to the great delight of railfans of all ages.  Our steam train adventures continued with the Durango and Silverton and Cumbres and Toltec railroads.  Friends Grant and Arrabelle gave us a tour of Santa Fe.

Historic pose at the Golden Spike

Us in front of the Big Boy

Us on the Durango and Silverton

Grant and Randy on the Cumbres and Toltec

Then we were on to the Pacific Northwest to visit our son Jason  and his family.  Granddaughter Awen was about to start school and needed a month of grand parent care to transition from daycare.   We had so much fun.  The PNW tour continued on to the Olympic Peninsula, Port Townsend, Sequim, Port Angeles and Olympic National Park.  Mark and Lyn joined us for some of our tour.  We enjoyed a ferry trip to Victoria BC and a Victorian Teahouse.

Di Awen and Connie

Jason and Awen

MV Coho ferry,
Victoria BC

Coho salmon caught off Ilwaco WA

Mark and Lyn on the Olympic Peninsula

Our journey back to Florida started with a successful mushroom hunting season in Oregon.  Martie and Phil gave us a nice tour of Eugene.  Then we traveled south thru California and Nevada before returning to Arizona.  Sharon and Mike entertained us in Sun City and then daughter Ginger joined in Benson for a whirlwind tour followed by more time with Mark and Lyn exploring the desert.  From there we took I-20 for a change staying at a the very nice Paul Johnson State Park in MS.  Then into central FL meeting up with Paul and Kay again and then spending time with Ginger and her family.

Newport Bridge, Oregon

Iconic Heceta Head Lighthouse

Good chanterelle harvest

King Boletes

Sharon and Mike

Mother and daughter
at Saguaro NP

All in all it was a year of family, friends, trains and western travel.  2020 looks like it will be a year of big changes.  Happy New Year to  all


Posted in Arizona, British Columbia, Canada, Colorado, Desert, Durango, Florida, History, national parks, Oregon, RV Travel, trains, Utah, Washington | 5 Comments

Southern Arizona

We have come to love Southern Arizona.  Recently our daughter met us in Tucson and we explored some of the highlights together.  It was a great visit.  Our first stop was Saguaro National Park which protects the flora and fauna of the Sonora Desert.  The Sonora Desert is a green desert with abundant wildlife and an amazing diversity of plants.

Classic saguaro

Saguaro with nurse tree

Saguaro forest

Trail with saguaro

Javalina Rocks trail

Teddy-bear cholla

One of our new favorite parks is Chiricahua National Monument.  It is known as the Wonderland of Rocks.  This mountainous area is home to plant and animal species from four distinct environments – the Rocky Mountains, the Sonoran Desert, the Chihahau Desert and the Sierra Madre mountains.  Areas of intersecting ecosystems always offer the most diverse life forms.  Later in the month we returned with friends Mark and Lyn.

Chiricahua trail

The vase?

Massai Point

Alligator Juniper




Mexican Jay

Cochise Stronghold is a Coronado National Forest trail site that tells the story of the great Apache Chief Cochise’s hideout in the Dragoon Mountains.  Defying overwhelming odds Cochise eluded US Army troops for years and was eventually buried in these mountains at a still unknown site.

Cochise Stronghold trail

Kartchner Caverns State Park near Benson Arizona is a relatively new cave system discovered by 2 amateur spelunkers in the 1970s.  It was only developed and opened to the public in the late 90s.  The state park people do an excellent job protecting and explaining the caverns.


Spectacular formations


Tombstone and Bisbee are historic towns is Southern Arizona.  Tombstone is mostly a tourist town with half a dozen or more re-enactments of the shootout at the OK corral.  While we there we witnessed a “walk down”.  In the middle of town a large group of locals dressed in period garb honored the passing of one of their actors with a slow walk through town to a memorial at a gazebo.  Beyond the shows though its still a very historic town.  The courthouse is a state park.  Bisbee is a historic copper mining town.  Its built into the side of a mountain and also has a huge open pit mine.  The local museum tells the fascinating story of mining and labor in Busbee.

Tombstone strret

Gun fight show

Bird Cage Theater

Walk down

Bisbee street

Posted in Arizona, national parks | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Exploring Oregon’s Willamette Valley

We routinely get annual maintenance done in Oregon but this time we were in for an extended stay due to a diesel engine issue.  As the western manufacturing center of the RV industry Eugene and vicinity have a lot of experienced mechanics and No Sales Tax.

Our friends Martie and Phil gave us a tour of Eugene. Eugene is home to the University of Oregon.  Martie and Phil showed us around the great indoor market and views of the city from Skinner Hill.

Thompson’s Mills is a state park preserving the last water powered mill in the state.  We had a great tour and actually saw the mill under power.

Silver Falls in the largest of all Oregon’s State Parks.  The Trail of Ten Falls wanders thru a canyon to view ten waterfalls.  We hiked to North Falls where the trail actually goes behind the water.

Posted in Oregon, RV Travel | Tagged , , | 9 Comments