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COLUMBUS DAY WEEKEND OCTOBER 6 - 9, 2001
IVV walks in Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma
By Mary Beth Celmer
A fun-filled four-day whirlwind trip led by Matt Pernick brought a group of 25 Bad Pennies, primarily from MD and VA to OK, AK, MO. And KS from 10/6 - 10/9/01.
The effects of the 9/11 tragedy had us at BWI and waiting on long lines for our flight out of Baltimore. We departed a little late but arrived safely in MO.
As dutiful volksmarchers, we arrived at the airport and headed straight for our first walk through the Tall Grass National Preserve in Kansas. For many of us, it was our first real experience walking through the plains of the Midwest, where our forbears plunged ahead, opening up and settling new lands in America.
We were struck by the timelessness of the prairie- it's been the same way for over one hundred years.
There were times during the walk that all one could see were the rolling plains of the prairie and at other times there was not even a tree in sight- just prairie grasses, with their varied colors and sprinkling of delicate wild flowers. My imagination went wild thinking what it must have been like for the pioneers with their covered wagons- no shade, no water, no bathrooms, no food along the way, not to mention the threat of Indian's possibly hiding behind the rises off in the distance.
The weather was ideal, which made this a glorious walk. We agreed we would not have wanted to do this in the heat of summer or the wind and cold of winter with no protection from the elements.
As we continued our walk, we never even saw an airplane overhead- or any sign of civilization - just acres and acres of prairie as far as the eye could see. If you want to "get away from it all," this is the place to go! This land belonged to a cattle farmer back in the 1800's, and his home and barn are still standing. The family home now houses a gift shop, and since the farmer was wealthy, the house was magnificent in its day.
Sunday found us walking in Tulsa OK. We were fortunate to have a group of volksmarchers from the local club meet us, stamp our books, and accompany us on the walk, offering a bit of local history as we toured the city. We found ourselves unexpectedly delighted with this city. We discovered a jewel as we walked around Swan Lake, where magnificent homes, many displaying swan sculptures, adorned the edge of the lake. We walked through a community of charming homes in the center of town. The center of town had a street of six magnificent churches, each unique in design with marvelous architecture.
By Sunday night we were in Branson, MO, home to country music. We enjoyed a performance at the Country Tonite show, where we heard singing, foot stompin' guitar playing and a very funny ventriloquist.
We started our Sunday morning brunch of a high carbohydrate, sugar and high fat meal with morning entertainment from Kitty Kelly at the hotel. She surprised us all with her lovely voice, and ability to get us all involved and laughing.
We were now ready to walk off some calories from our junk food breakfast with a walk at the Pea Ridge Military Park in AK. It was another bright sunny day, which started out cool, but the sun warmed us as the day wore on. We walked on a paved path through a civil war battlefield, passed a smattering of old canyons, plaques with descriptions of the battles, and neatly piled haystacks in the fields along the way.
Tuesday morning was our last day in Branson and our fourth and final walk in the town itself. The weather was a bit overcast. We found the roads to be full of hills, dangerous, and downright unfriendly to walkers.
There were no traffic lights or crosswalks. The town itself was full of glitter and glits- restaurants, theaters and shops. The people we met in Branson, mostly employees of the various businesses were very friendly. This walk was in stark contrast to the flat plains, and pristine beauty of the Kansas prairie.
We left Branson, and our faithful drivers drove the four hours back to the Arkansas airport, arriving three hours before flight time.
As you've probably surmised, we had a wonderful weekend, full of unique walks, and lots of fun activities. We met and made many new walking friends. We arrived home, tired but full of good experiences. We have to thank Matt Pernick, who put it all together, and provided us with a unique opportunity, that we would not have had if we had to do it all ourselves.
After running the gauntlet of security checks at BWI Airport, the Bad Pennies were off on another exciting adventure. Our first walk of the adventure was at the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. Once called Spring Hill Ranch because of its proximity to a nearby spring, this beautiful preserve covers 10,894 acres and is a feast for the soul. It was beautiful and I found myself trying to soak up the peace and quiet. As a librarian and fan of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, it was easy to look around and to imagine what life was like in the days before the horseless carriage, the telephone, cell or otherwise and electric lights. It was also easy to understand why it was so difficult for some of the settlers. The silence was truly deafening. The group holding the walk was kind enough to extend the starting time and their kindness was truly appreciated. They made us feel most welcome.
Then it was on to Tulsa. This was a Route 66 walk and the route included 1 and ¼ miles of Old Route 66. It was fun to look down and see the route commemorated with markers in the sidewalk. The directions for the walk also took the group past Swan Lake and rather than take time to smell the roses, we took time to watch the swans. They seemed to know they had an audience and preened accordingly. Some of the Bad Pennies were lucky enough to be accompanied by the people sponsoring the walk and were treated to some local history. That always makes the walk more interesting in my opinion.
Next, it was on to Pea Ridge National Military Park. Located near Pea Ridge, Arkansas, Pea Ridge National Military Park is a 4,300-acre Civil War Battlefield. It was the site of the March 1862 battle that saved Missouri for the Union. The park also includes a two and ½ mile segment of the Trail of Tears. Scattered about the fields were some shooting wagons, the Indian name for cannons.
I’m glad that this day they were silent. It was hard to look at the beautiful countryside dotted with bales of hay and to comprehend the atrocities that happened in those same peaceful fields.
Finally we concluded Adventure 24 with a trip to Branson, Missouri. That is quite the place. When we arrived at the Settle Inn, Branson’s “theme” hotel, we were impressed to see that we were mentioned prominently on the sign. I wonder what passersby thought when they saw a prominent welcome to the Bad Pennies. I wondered if they were at all curious as to what on earth a Bad Penny was.
Our stay at the hotel included a breakfast show by the performer Kitty Kelley. The Bad Pennies pretty much comprised the whole breakfast audience so we were easy pickings when she wanted audience participation in her act. It was very entertaining to see Marshall Hansen being serenaded by Kitty. He played hard to get. Tom Mosely had his head polished. Evidently the head, rather than the stomach, is the way to a man’s heart. The Bad Pennies’ Australian member, David Parker, demonstrated his horse riding abilities on a very fine wooden steed and Ruth Watkins, Jan Hite, …………. and I got to show off our kazoo playing talents to the room. It was nice of Kitty to assure us they were BRAND NEW kazoos that had never been played before. Kitty’s husband, The Judge, might have been her soundman but he was a man of FEW words. We also saw two other shows while we were in Branson; “Country Tonite” on dry land and a second on the Showboat Branson Belle as it toured Table Rock Lake. The highlight of the Branson Belle show, at least for me, was Irving the talking dog and his owner, ventriloquist Todd Oliver. Irving is a very smart dog with his own website (http://www.funnydog.com). As you did the walk in Branson you couldn’t miss the signs.
Of course no Adventure would be complete without a drawing to determine the Bad Penny from each van. The winners for this trip were Jan Hite, Jack Degan, Darlene Bell and Marshall Hansen. Since David had his own vehicle there wasn’t much of a contest in his case. The Baddest Penny of them all was Irv Hite.
When I tell people how much the group accomplishes in just a few days they are amazed and actually, sometimes I am too. I do know I really enjoy these trips. I meet new people, I see more of our great country and I get my books stamped. What more can you ask?
The preserve protects a nationally significant example of the once vast tallgrass ecosystem. Of the 400,000 square miles of tallgrass prairie that once covered the North American Continent, less than 1 percent remains, primarily in the Flint Hills.
Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve will be a new kind of national park. It is approximately 11,000 acres in size, but most of that land will remain under the ownership of the National Park Trust, which purchased the land in 1994. The National Park Service will own up to 180 acres, yet the legislation calls for the entire acreage to be managed cooperatively by the National Park Service and the National Park Trus
Tallgrass prairie once covered more than 140 million acres of the United States, from Indiana to Kansas and from Canada to Texas. Nearly all of it is gone, plowed under in the Cornbelt. The distant past of Kansas accounts for the survival of the Flint Hills tallgrass.
In prehistory, when it was covered by a shallow sea, the region accumulated more limestone than soil. The result was shallow, rocky land considered unsuitable for plowing but excellent for pasture. The natural prairie cycle of weather, wildfires, and animal grazing -- once bison, then cattle -- has sustained the tallgrass and its diverse plant and animal species ever since. Now you can find nearly 200 kinds of birds, 29 types of reptiles and amphibians, and 31 species of mammals. The National Park Trust invites you to experience a rare relic of the prairie. The Southwind Nature Trail, open daily from sunrise to sunset, starts in front of the ranch house. The trail winds its way through the lower prairie, across a tree studded creek bed, and up gently rolling hills to expansive vistas of this unsurpassed wilderness beauty. The loop trail measures 1 3/4 miles
by Joann Phillips
I’m all ready for my very first Bad Pennies Adventure and what do you know, I re-injure my ankle that had surgery 3 years ago. I really don’t want to miss this trip to the Southwest so I decide to take what I came to call the “Smell the Roses” approach to volksmarching. Since there was no way I would be able to keep up with the group, I planned to do 5km walks at each stop and just take my time and really enjoy the surroundings on each walk. I started my slower pace by spending the night at a motel near BWI airport so there wouldn’t be so much of a rush the day of the flight. Carolyn Wolfe went with Norman and me the night before. She also agreed to do the 5km walks with me when we reached our destinations. I’m sure there was some advantage to taking a 6:20 AM flight from BWI and maybe I’ll understand it some day.
The flight to Albuquerque was long but pleasant. We even got a bag of animal crackers in addition to our peanuts on Southwest Airlines. That must have been one of their luxury flights. Shortly after we arrived at the airport, all of us managed to end up in the same place with all of our luggage. Now we were off to pick up the vans and head to Sante Fe. There was one small glitch when one of the vans had a dead battery but it didn’t take long to get that straightened out and we were on our way. Just to make us feel had home there was a real traffic jam getting out of the airport but it wasn’t long before we were on the open road headed for our first walk.
Having never been to this part of the country before, I couldn’t keep my eyes off the beautiful panorama out both sides of the van. The desert was covered with sagebrush, sometimes dotted like a polka dot dress and other times so thick it looked like a textured carpet. Far in the distance the mountains looked like they shot up out of the desert floor. No rolling hills here leading up to the mountains. It took a while for me to get used to the idea of brown mountains. Aren’t they supposed to be green?
Funny how we think that the entire world is what we know. Speaking of brown, I never knew there were so many shades of brown. How beautiful this all was!
The start point in Sante Fe had coffee and pastry samples to get us off on the right foot. The walk began by going through the city hall where there was millions of dollars worth of artwork in the building and on the grounds. Right away Carolyn and I were tempted to end our walk and just spend our time enjoying it.
We resisted temptation and began our trek. It wasn’t long before we found a small shopping mall with all sorts of “Southwestern Stuff”. Our favorite store however was a “dog store” that had everything you could think of for your dog including a Harley Davidson outfit for motorcycle riding. I expected to see adobe style buildings in this part of the country but I didn’t expect that almost all of the buildings in Sante Fe to be built in this style; houses, hospitals, schools, stores, hotels, everything. And the colors were remarkable. Carolyn and I thought up over twenty names to describe them.
We found a small Mission Museum on the trail and stopped in for a few minutes to have a look. It was lovely. When we reached the Hill of the Martyrs I was tempted to make the climb but with three more days to go I figured I’d better save my ankle. Later on Glen told me that the view from the top was worth all 78 steps. Norman said the history he learned on the way up was utterly fascinating. Maybe I should have tried it. The only down side to our walk in Sante Fe was the dust storm. The winds were high and dust was everywhere. By the time we finished everything was full of dust, my hair, my eyes, my nose, my throat, my skin. That night it took three washings just to get my face clean.
Next was the long drive to El Paso. I was glad I wasn’t driving because the winds were really high and there was dust everywhere. Sometimes you couldn’t even see the mountains for the dust. Thanks to all the drivers who endured. Friday night was spent in a small but comfortable hotel and Saturday morning we were up early to get to the planned event that the local club was having. Club members were there to greet us and some of my fellow travelers bought the really neat tee shirts they were selling.
The serious walkers got right on the trail and Carolyn and I again started at a slower pace. This walk was out in the countryside with a beautiful view that one of the locals told us was the pass, through the mountains, from Mexico to the U.S. which gave El Paso it’s name. It didn’t take long for Carolyn and I to make a wrong turn but we didn’t care. We just kept walking and watching all the beautiful birds in the area. We passed by a large flock, which looked like herons but were all black. They were really lovely and we found out later that they were indeed herons. Carolyn was able to identify several other kinds of birds but I don’t remember since birds are not my thing. We did pass one tree where there was a bird that we could not see but it made a variety of interesting sounds. Carolyn was just too curious and ventured over into the yard to find it. Soon a large black bird flew out of the tree. It looked like a small crow even though the sound was much prettier. Later one of the club members told us it was probably a starling and that they were a real nuisance.
After the walk, Matt had planned for us to go into Juarez for a little sightseeing but many of the group were not interested. Finally it was decided that two of the vans would proceed to Arizona and possibly add a walk there while our van drove to the Texas side of the border where we parked and then walked across the border into Mexico. Once in Juarez we followed a city trial to the old market. Lots of walking around and shop keepers trying to bargain with us to buy their wares. Dave did pick up some souvenirs for his daughters back in Australia and Matt picked up prizes for the “Baddest Pennies” to be awarded on our final night. After walking back to the U.S. we drove to the barbecue restaurant that we had missed the night before because we arrived too late. We all had big lunches but Norman won the prize with his five-meat platter. No one but me could believe he would eat it all but I wasn’t surprised. Now we were off on another long drive to Bisbee Arizona.
We arrived in Bisbee just in time to check in to the lovely Bed and Breakfast (Inn at Castle Rock), which locks its doors at 9:00 PM. Just the Inn was fascinating enough to make the trip worthwhile. The rooms did not have numbers but rather had names. Norman and I were assigned to “The Last Chance”. The room was comfortable and cozy but not nearly as dramatic as some of the other rooms were. I understand the "The Harem" and “Geronimo” were particularly interesting.
We were too late to do the night walk that was on our schedule and we were all disappointed because Bisbee is truly a unique town. (Some of the group did get up early the next day and walked the Bisbee YRE.) Talk about hills and steps!
There is no way I could adequately describe how all the little houses sit way up on hills. It was really something to see. We walked the short distance into town to find a place to eat. Some went to a restaurant that was recommended at the Inn. Norman and I went to a small coffee shop where we had delicious homemade soup and homemade wheat bread. But the real treat of the evening was that this was Prom Night and we sat and watched the young couples as they came into the hotel all dress to the hilt. After a comfortable night we were treated to a wonderful breakfast the next morning. It was now time to leave Bisbee but I think everyone agreed that they would have enjoyed another day in that special town.
Our next stop was Naco, Arizona, which, I understand, has the only AVV sanctioned walk that is in both the United States and Mexico. It was a small rural community and here we really did get to smell the roses.
Many of the houses had beautiful rose bushes that were in full bloom. One of the interesting sights that we saw was a man on the U.S. side who appeared to be digging a tunnel. Carolyn guessed that it was probably to get illegals over the border.
I don’t know if that was true but it makes for interesting fantasy. We did cross over into Mexico but we did not go very far before returning to the U.S. side.
The comparison of the two towns was very interesting. After the walk we all had lunch at the golf club which was the start point and then we started off to Las Cruces.
The hotel in Las Cruces was in stark contrast to the Inn at Castle Rock. This was a very nice, new, all suites hotel which was comfortable but didn’t have much ambience.
It was comfortable however and we had a restful night. The next morning members of the local club met us for breakfast and then we were off on our walk. We left the start point and walked into the old town. Although it was early some local artists had already set up and begun their painting. The shops had not yet opened so we continued with our walk. On the way we passed a house where the adobe was being repaired. Dave, who has actually built a real adobe house in Australia, gave a short lesson on how to built an adobe building.
That was really fascinating. We also passed groves of pecan trees which was very interesting. One of the orchards had been flooded and the trees were growing out of several inches of water. I’d never seen anything quite like it.
When we returned to the old town we visited an old historic church and then it was time to get some serious souvenir shopping done. Jean gave us some lessons in real bargain hunting. We all found some nice things to take to the folks back home. After a nice lunch in town it was time to get on the road to Albuquerque. We didn’t want to be late because the hotel where we were staying had free drinks from 5:00 to 7:00.
We arrived at our hotel in Albuquerque in plenty of time to shower, change clothes and get to the Happy Hour. The Margaritas were worth the price and the fun and conversation were priceless. After we had used up all our drink tickets and eaten all the popcorn, we headed out to an authentic New Mexican restaurant for our final meal together. I had heard so much about New Mexican Chili that I just had to try it. It was an interesting experience but I don’t think I’ll do that again. After dinner Evalee was kind enough to bring me a bag of Tums. Need I say more? As we waited for our meal Matt presented gifts to the “Baddest Pennies.” He had someone draw names and had a prize for one person from each van. Glen won from van 1, I forgot the name of the winner from van 2 and Ken from van 3. Norman got the prize for the overall ‘Baddest Penny” in the entire group. After then it was back to the hotel where we planned to surprise Marshall with a celebration for his birthday. We had agreed to meet in the lobby but Marshall foiled our plans by saying he was really tired and thought he’d go on up to bed. Well you know the old saying. “When the mountain won’t go the Mohammed…” so we just took the party right up to Marshall’s room. He had already gotten in the bed but we didn’t let that stop us, We sang “Happy Birthday”, ate cupcakes and took some pictures that could probably be used to blackmail Marshall some day.
The next day several of us decided to forego the volksmarch in Albuquerque in favor of a visit to the local museum and art gallery. All of us who went to the gallery really enjoyed it and felt it was well worth the visit. Then it was time for some shopping in Old Town Albuquerque before we started to the airport.
The trip home was uneventful and we all managed to find our luggage when we got back. Is that a miracle or what. I had a really good time on this trip and although I’m sure there were many things I missed because I was unable to do the full walks, there were also many things I had time to look at more closely because I could take my time. My thanks to Carolyn for sticking with me even when I really slowed down and to Jean who joined us the last three days on our short walks. My ankle is getting better and I hope to be able to do full walks on the next adventure, but maybe sometimes I will choose to just do a 5K and smell the roses.