A Monday for the Birds

Monday July 27th 2020

The weather trend continues. The day was partly cloudy and humid with a temperature around 90 before the humidity gets added in. Tomorrow is forecast to begin a change to cooler wetter days.

With the weekend crowd gone, it has become a nice quiet place. Early in the day a few fishermen launch boats into the river. By mid day they have all returned to shore and departed. Another wave of fishermen launch boats late in the day for the evening. In between even the activity on the river is quiet. All in all, it is a relaxing atmosphere.

Other than a brief drive around the local area, I spent most of the day enjoying the quiet campground. For a while I sat on the bank of the river and watched the birds and dragon flies that are almost as big as the birds. At one point I was rewarded with a visit from a Great Blue Heron. It flew overhead and landed on the shore of a little island in the river. I really like the Great Blue Heron. It is very regal and more fun to look at than the Canadian Geese.

Great Blue Heron

Sleepy Sunday

Sunday July 26th 2020

Today was a repeat of Saturday in so many ways. The day began with cloud cover and ended partly cloudy with lots of humidity. The only real weather difference was a couple more degrees on the temperature scale.

I did pretty much the same thing as Saturday. It was a relax around the campground day. Today I watched all the weekenders pack up and leave. The neighbors across the street with four barking dogs were a welcome departure. Starting around 6:30 in the morning one of the dogs would start barking at anything passing by on the road. Not to be left out the other three joined in the noisy serenade. I don’t think the humans in the pack had a clue.

I don’t think the geese were socially distancing.

This park has a very late checkout time of 3PM. Some people took advantage of every minute of it, but most of the weekenders were gone by noon. The Canadian Geese seemed to now when the park thinned out. They seem to materialize out of nowhere to wander through the empty sites foraging for food. The most I’d seen was a group of six geese before this afternoon. There must have been twenty or more visiting geese this afternoon.

The campground is far from full tonight, but the sites along the river near me filled up again before dark. I imagine there will be a lot of empty sites until Friday when the next weekend crowd arrives. This park is a very popular weekend spot for locals.

Blossom of the day.

Laidback Saturday

Saturday July 25th 2020

Today began with full cloud cover and which gradually decreased to partly cloudy. The result was a day that warmed up slowly to reach the low 90s by mid afternoon. As usual the humidity was hanging around making it feel even warmer.

Early in the day there were a lot of fishermen on the river.

Without bright sun filtering into my RV home this morning, I was very slow getting started. It was after nine before I started working on breakfast and I was still drinking my coffee shortly before noon. Overall it was a very slow morning. The remainder of the day wasn’t much more ambitious. I took a couple of walks around the campground, but spent most of the day sitting outside watching the pleasure boats racing around in the Murray Lake part of the Arkansas River.

Am I watching him or is he watching me?

Settling in along the banks of the Arkansas River

Friday July 24th 2020

It was another day with high humidity and a high temperature around 90. If I understand the TV weather talkers correctly the humidity is normal, but the temperature is a few degrees cooler than the average. It didn’t take much outside exercise before I was dripping wet.

View looking down the Arkansas River.

I had an enjoyable day getting settled in and watching the campground fill up for the weekend. The campground is located in a nice tree shaded area along the banks of the Arkansas river. Some of the campers are here for the shade, some come for the fishing in the river and some are just here to be here. I’m in the last category. I really enjoyed this campground two years ago and looked forward to returning.

After getting the remainder of my camp setup tasks complete I took a walk along the river bank in the park. Being near the water is nice after several months in the desert. I enjoy watching the activity in the water and the animal life along the bank. In this case there is a boat launch here that the fishermen use to put in their boats. Some boats are really well outfitted for fishing and others look like they will barely float. Today’s animal life observations were restricted to a few Canadian Geese and a squirrel or two.

Blossom of the day.

Travel Day to the Little Rock Area

Thursday July 23rd 2020

Today was another travel day. This time it was about 180 miles to central Arkansas just to the west of Little Rock. My destination was Maumelle Park an Army Corp of Engineers campground on the Arkansas River behind the Murray Lock and Dam. I stayed here two years ago in June of 2017.

The checkout time at Maumelle Park is 3PM and the official check in time is 4PM, so I didn’t have to get started very early. Unfortunately, to meet the checkout time at Wednesday nights campground I had to be on the road by 11AM. I really took my time on the road stopping at three different rest areas for half an hour or more. Packing up and later setting up were a real challenge in the humidity. It only took a few minutes of work to be dripping with sweat. The high temperature this afternoon was 91 degrees, but the humidity made it feel like 101.

Tug and barge passing by south bound on the Arkansas River.

I arrived at my destination at 2:30PM. Luckily my site was available. I booked the same site I had two years ago, because I new it had a clear view of the river and an opening in the trees for the satellite dish to lock on. What I forgot was the front to back slope of the site. To get level my leveling jacks have the front wheels just about off the ground. The view is worth it. I plan to be here for two weeks.

Site B-2 at Maumelle Recreation Area.

A Visit to the Fort Smith National Historic Site

Wednesday July 22nd 2020

A heavy rain shower during the night didn’t change the overall weather pattern much. Today was cooler. It only reached the mid 80s, but the humidity was still in the oppressive range. Any exertion outside resulted in copious amounts of sweat.

One of the reasons I chose to stop in this area was to visit the Fort Smith National Historic Site. Today was the day I made the half hour drive into Fort Smith Arkansas to visit the historic site in the middle of the city. There were actually three different government facilities at the site during the nineteenth century. The outdoor exhibits were all open. The visitors center and indoor exhibits were closed due to COVID-19. I only saw a handful of visitors while I wandered the grounds.

Confluence of the Poteau and Arkansas Rivers.

The first fort was built starting in 1817 to protect the frontier. It was located high on the bank at the confluence of the Poteau and Arkansas rivers. The garrison was under manned and supplies from the east were in short supply. The fort was abandoned in 1824. The remains of the fort were discovered in the 1950s.

The second Fort Smith existed from 1838 to 1871. It also served the purpose of protecting the frontier. In this case the Arkansas river represented the edge of Indian Territory. The fort was abandoned by the US Army at the start of the Civil war and occupied by the Confederacy. Union troops took the fort back in 1863, but needed to concentrate troops and supplies to support the refuge population drawn to the protection of the fort. Many of the Union Army units composed of freed slaves were formed and trained at Fort Smith.

The Fort Smith Barracks had a second floor added for the Western District of Arkansas Court and later a jail.
A replica of the gallows used to enforce the justice handed down by the “hangin’ judge”.

The troops manning Fort Smith were transferred to forts further west in 1871. The facilities at Fort Smith became the home of the Federal Court for the Western District of Arkansas in 1872. The court was responsible for enforcing justice for Indian country and a large area of the west. For most of the courts existence at Fort Smith it was presided over by the famous “hangin’ judge” Isaac C. Parker. The gallows are a big part of the outdoor exhibits. In 1896 the facility ceased being used for the court.

Campground Excitement

Tuesday July 21st 2020

Today began with heavy cloud cover and a short rain shower during breakfast. Eventually the clouds broke up and the temperature increased. By late in the day it was in the low nineties, but the humidity made it feel much warmer.

While I was waiting around for the weather to figure out if it was going to be an outside day or something else, more strange things started to happen. The cable TV and the internet went out. I went outside to investigate. My neighbors in the next row were checking their power connections. All of the campground was without cable and internet. Half the campground was without power. A delivery truck resupplying the campground with ice took out one power line and the cable.

The campground staff got busy blocking off the downed live wire. A few minutes later the police arrived followed by the power company a little while later. The power company killed the power to the line so the truck could get out. A bucket truck arrived a half an hour later to reattach the wire from the transformer to the office building. The power came back on to the other half of the campground. They are still waiting for the cable company.

The impact on me is minimal. I was using the cable because my satellite dish is blocked by trees. I’m down to nineteen channels of broadcast TV and I’m using my cellular data connection for internet. The campground passed out ice cream tonight to placate people for what they are missing.

Blossom of the day.

All of the activity at the campground kept me entertained during the day. I stayed home and did more travel research. After Arkansas I don’t have any reservations going further east. Based on COVID outbreaks and restrictions it looks like I’ll be continuing east through Tennessee. The alternative through Mississippi looks a little more risky. Mississippi seems slightly more likely to do something drastic like another “stay at home” order. I fear imposed restrictions more than exposure to the virus. Places where I could catch the virus are avoidable. Government imposed restrictions are more unpredictable and random.

A Little Touring Around Eastern Oklahoma

Monday July 20th 2020

It was another humid day. The only difference from the last few days is that the high temperature wasn’t as high in this part of the country. It only topped out in the low 90s. With very little breeze it was very uncomfortable outside. The good thing about my location is that I’m parked under trees. The shade allows the air conditioner to keep the inside comfortable. At my last stop in the open parking lot type campsite, the AC couldn’t really keep up during the hot part of the day.

I took my time with breakfast and my morning coffee. It took a little bit of thinking to realize it was only Monday. I’m used to moving on Mondays rather than Sunday, but it was worth it to get through Oklahoma City without heavy traffic. Once I was finished with breakfast it was time to checkout the area.

The Arkansas River is a few miles south of the campground. The highway crosses the river just downstream from the Robert S Kerr Lock and Dam #15 which holds back the river in the Robert S Kerr reservoir. I expected to find a recreation area at the dam, but all I found was lots of green grass. I didn’t see any boat traffic in the river or the reservoir. Everything was very quiet. Checking online maps later showed that I needed to wind my way through the farm land to find the recreation areas on the side of the reservoir. Maybe another day.

I also explored the community of Sallisaw to the north of the campground while I was out. It seems to be a thriving medium size town. Most of the businesses were open and busy. I returned to camp without stopping at any of them.

Fishing pond at the campground.

Like many of the campgrounds I’ve been staying at lately there are many overnight campers at this park. They all departed by the 11AM checkout time and new residents start arriving during the afternoon and into the evening. As I’ve been writing this blog entry I’ve heard a lot of new arrivals pulling in. The large turnover is proof that there are many people traveling in RVs this summer.

Travel Across Oklahoma

Sunday July 19th 2020

Tonight I’m in eastern Oklahoma after a two hundred mile drive from the west side of Oklahoma City. It was an uneventful trip along Interstate 40 with one stop for gas about midway. The three and a half hours on the road went by quickly.

The terrain surprised me. Not to far east of Oklahoma City the open ground became filled with trees. The ranch lands west of the city were gone. Eventually the trees started to give way to farm land and I started to pass fields planted with corn. While I knew there would be a transition from ranching to farming as I moved east, the forested areas were the big surprise.

Site 22 at the Sallisaw / Fort Smith west KOA in Sallisaw OK.

I am staying in a campground a few miles from the Arkansas River and the Arkansas state boarder. I’ll be here for four nights. There are a few things in the area that should be interesting to visit. The question is will they be open, open with restrictions or closed.

OKC Area Tour

Saturday July 18th 2020

There was more wind today. It kept the heat and humidity under control a little better than Friday. If you weren’t in the direct sunlight today’s upper nineties temperature was tolerable. On the flip side, driving in the wind was more difficult.

I took my time finishing breakfast this morning. Most of my overnight neighbors were long gone by the time I set out on my tour of the Oklahoma City Area. I had no specific places that I wanted to see. Many of the bigger attractions in the area are closed or have significantly reduced access. My tour turned into a lot of driving primarily on the interstate highways. Overall it wasn’t a leisurely tour or very informative.

As you approach the OKC area from the west the land starts to flatten out. The idea of major tornadoes devastating the area became more real. I even started to see big warning sirens about the same time I was thinking about tornadoes. The rolling hills I am in here at the campground and the gradually flattening land near the city are getting used for ranching and farming. I dsaw both cattle ranches and horse ranches. Here at the campground there are even a couple of buffalo (American Bison) in a heavily fenced enclosure.

Buffalo (American Bison) in an enclosure near the campground. The pair of animals are one of the attractions associated with the Cherokee Trading Post.

When I think of Oklahoma I also think of the oil industry. On today’s tour I saw a refinery and a distribution yard with a lot of oil field equipment including a drilling rig. I didn’t see any working wells, but I have a lot of state to drive through tomorrow.

On the way back to my RV home I stopped at a Walmart for a few things. The wearing of masks is not as popular here. I would estimate less than half the customers were wearing masks. Walmart nation wide will require masks starting Monday and the OKC council voted last night to require masks in the city. Other cities in the state have already passed a similar ordinance.

I am moving on the eastern part of Oklahoma tomorrow. I plan to stay there for four nights before moving into Arkansas. I have a little over two hundred miles to travel. It should take about four hours. I planned the Sunday travel day to cross through the congested OKC area at a slow time.