Canada 3, 10th June 2006

First I must say how nice it that some people drop me an email from time to time, it's good to hear from you, especially as most people add a word or two of praise. Always nice to hear from friends. But please when you write don't send all my writings and pictures back to me with your reply! I've already seen them.............

Second I'll explain that I am not at all consistent with my a's and b's. My last emails from France were 32a and 32b. This was one email split into 2 parts. Both parts were different. You "need" (!!) both. But Canada 1a and 1b are identical as are 2a and 2b. This is just so that can tell the difference between 2 mailings since hotmail limit the maximum number of recipients to 50. I think I've got my normal system working again but that's to be confirmed...................

While on about minor inconsistencies, for the last few years I have been using my French phone card to make calls in the US. I dial a toll free number, and a nice French lady asks me to input my reference number, then my pin number, then the number I want, as dialled from France and hey presto, I have the connection. Very inexpensively too. But all of a sudden the toll free number has gone unobtainable. I'm checking on it. I mention this later.

But back to my travels. I've been visiting rather more. At first I felt I had to move, albeit slowly. But I'm now back to my old habits, stopping to look at everything that might be interesting. Talking to everyone I meet, swapping stories. In Sulphur I discovered the lady in the tourist
information was the granddaughter of one of the Dalton gang. She sent me to the Chickasaw national recreation area

and the nature centre. Nice. Then I went on to Turner Falls, drove all around, looked at the falls.

It was hot, way over 100F (38C) so I joined the kids in one of the river pools. Very pleasant. I talked with Kathy, from near Dallas, she'd brought her grandchildren, her daughter, and a friend from teachings days. She, and her friend, had been to Paris just a couple of months ago and loved it, she told me.

I seem to be meeting lots of people who've been to Europe, more than before. I don't know why. I can't mention them all. Maybe it's this area, people travel more. Maybe I'm talking to more people, but I don't think so.

After leaving Turner Falls I took another photo from the overlook,

then headed to a rest area on a smallish road over to the south west. It wasn't there. I retraced my steps, it still wasn't there. I pulled in to check my map and a police car drove past, then swung around to return. He said there has never been a rest area there, he checked my map, it was the right place. I was hoping to stop there for the night I said. Go down the road to the next junction he said, there's some space there. There were a couple of houses, I asked a man who was outside, sure he says, park over there, you'll be OK. He told me he was working in the oil business, but was hoping to set upon his own, as a lawn mower repairman.

In the morning I found the oilfield museum in Healdton. It was sort of OK, just a touch better than the railroad museum in Denison a couple of days back. Of course, if you don't visit the crummy museums from time to time, the good ones don't seem so good. But hey! I even like the crummy museums. I carried on to visit the Chisholm Trail Museum in Wareka. It's only open weekends and today is not a weekend. So I went to the train depot, now the town library. There was a bit of a museum, not much better, but a nice chatty lady. (She's been to Europe too) She sent me to the Chisholm Trail Heritage centre in Duncan. We're back to the good stuff again. The Chisholm Trail was the main trail used for the cattle drives from Texas. There would be about 2500 cattle and a dozen cowboys for each herd. The trail was 1600 miles to Abilene where the railway had reached. The trail took about 4 months but the economics for the cattle owner were impressive. He could buy cattle in Texas for $5 and sell them in Abilene for $35. There was no other way for that cattle to get from Texas to the markets in the east. In the 15 years after the Civil War about 6 million cattle took this trail. That's a lot of money, and fortunes were made. The Centre was well thought out and there was a film, nicely done, with effects. When there was wind on the screen, there was wind in the auditorium. There was thunder and lightning causing a cattle stampede, there was thunder and lightning in the auditorium, not to mention rain! It sounds corny but it was effective.

I told the girls there that I liked it, they were fascinated by my travels and even looked up my website while I was there. I got lots more info about good places to visit. After leaving I was in my van ready to go when the museum director came up, he said the girls had told him what I said about the museum, and he had come along to thank me. That was nice of him.

I'd bought another watch at Walmart a few days ago but the strap had broken. I took it back to change it. Turns out the assistant was older than me. She'd been retired once but got bored she said. I've been retired 10 years now, and haven't been bored for a minute. She'd only been to 5 states she said. I don't know how many I've been to. All those west of the Mississippi I guess, plus a few. And I don't live here.

There was a kids park next to the heritage centre, I managed to find some shelter from the sun, and wrote a dozen emails. I sent the emails, and went back to the park. Eventually I got so lethargic I just stayed there for the night. I woke early, around 6.30, I was amused to look out of the rear window. About 30 yards away, next to the play area, there was a soft drink vending machine, with a young man, his bike alongside, pressing the side of the machine here and there, putting his hand underneath, from time to time looking around furtively. It can't possibly have been worth it, all that, with the risk, just to steal a can of Coke.

I drove to Lawton to see the plains museum. Now that was a real disaster. A big museum, in a purpose built building, the exhibits were a bit of this and a bit of that. For example there was a beautiful steam engine. A passing staff member told me it had taken a week to pull it there from the railway line. But there was no story, there was nothing about this engine, there was nothing else remotely connected with trains. There was no continuity anywhere, nothing of depth, no organisation. Even though there were lots of staff the museum had obviously been badly created designwise. Even though it looked to have been expensively made, it can't have been good even when it was new, and it is now showing signs of neglect. My score? Total failure. Lawton needs a new director of museums. And don't kid me about funding limits. It doesn't take funding to make a good selection for the gift shop.

I went and looked at the Fort Sills military museum. Could have been designed by the same guy who did the plains museum. Mind you, there were lots of quite recent guns and tanks on outside display, that could interest a military buff. When I say lots I mean lots. They say the biggest display of artillery in the world and I wouldn't even think to dispute that.

I took a scenic drive and found another gem. The visitors centre at Wichita Wildlife Refuge. On the way I drove up a mountain.

which had a pretty good view.

Then I saw some bison, part of a herd of 500.

I'd read it before but there used to be 60,000,000 buffalo out here on the Prairies. By 1890 there were only 1000.

At the visitors centre I was asked, what do you want to know. Everything I said. And I got it! The displays themselves were fascinating.

Lots of active stuff, like press this button to hear the sound of a moose. Great for kids even oldies like me. The bookshop had a limited but interesting and carefully chosen choice of books and souvenirs.

I've decided that with the increased price of petrol (gas), now around double the price last time I was here, I need to figure in the cost of reaching a free parking spot compared to the cost of paying. Having decided that, figuring it for the Refuge campsite was pretty simple. Ordinary parking, without hook-ups, was $6 a night, reduced by 50% for golden age passport holders. I can only travel 12 miles for $3. As a bonus, there were hot showers.

Here are some Texas Longhorns.

Next day I revisited the visitors centre but first I needed to phone. I needed to shout at a mobile phone company, Debitel, in France. I had written to them mid march to give two month's notice to cancel the phone. They hadn't read my letter properly, I phoned them before I left and made them read it, now they are going to cancel it 2 months after they read my letter, not 2 months after they received it. Grrr!

Anyway, I couldn't get my credit card to work with the phone. I think I am being conspired against! I enjoyed another hour looking round the exhibits at the Visitors Centre, booked in again at the camp site, and managed to give my 5 gallon water container to a couple of students researching an endangered bird. I find it hard to chuck something away that is perfectly good, so I am glad I found a new owner. They found the research interesting they told me, except the bird lived on the top of a mountain and they had to spend too much time hiking. I then took a couple of walks on trails.

Really it was too hot. I returned to the site, and had another shower. I passed a pleasant hour or so chatting to some campsite neighbours who had driven for all of 20 minutes from Lawton to spend the weekend camping and fishing.

They had lost things to racoons and certainly there were 4 racoons hanging around. It's a problem, the racoons know they can find stuff round a campsite, people feed squirrels so they hang around too, although racoons are a bigger problem. With an RV neither worry me, all my stuff is out of their reach. Inside my van.

Saturday I drove, had a look at Great Plains State Park, you could swim there, it was OK. Then I drove to Quartz Mountain resort. Now that place was packed, there was a beach, dozens and dozens of RV's and tents. But in recent visits of this type I preferred Turner Falls.

I reached Caprock Canyons State Park. It's another place to go camp. I picnicked there for dinner, then drove up the road a few miles. to stop in a rest area for the night. Rest areas are free.................

I realise I haven't mentioned my plans for my journey. It's all a bit vague but my first call is Albuquerque, I want to visit the new Balloon museum. Then north probably through Salt Lake City, Oregon, Vancouver and BC, Montana, then east and south. I am not yet sure how far east I will go, it depends how I feel later on!

Best regards

David Barker
On the road in the USA

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