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Petroglyph Pursuit

Petroglyph Pursuit

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The elusive trail marker #1.

“If we find a petroglyph matching one of these trail markers, we’ll know where we are,”  I said, pulling a crumpled map out of my pocket. “Good luck!”, Greg laughed staring at a tumble of basalt boulders filled with carved handprints, symbols, and animals. “What are we looking for?” I showed him the map. “Hah! I just took a picture of this one. It’s over here!”

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Trail Marker #6. The last marker but first for us. As usual, we took the back way in.

What a fun way to explore the Piedras Marcadas Canyon (“canyon of marked rocks”) in Petroglyph National Monument. Co-managed by the National Park Service and the City of Albuquerque, New Mexico, the Monument contains over 20,000 documented images along its 17-mile escarpment. Experts believe about 90% of the images were chiseled into the black rock surfaces by ancestral Puebloans 400 to 700 years ago.

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Trail Marker #4 is the petroglyph with the double triangle.

Like treasure hunters, we followed the sandy path searching for each trail marker’s insignia and celebrating our finds. Sections of untouched boulders, “desert varnish” (patina) gleaming black in the sunshine added to the anticipation of our next discovery. The petroglyphs appeared in the distance looking like collages with images grouped together.

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Native Americans today explain that each symbol was placed intentionally, not randomly, and needs to be viewed in context with surrounding images.  Still, mystery surrounds the meaning of these valued cultural symbols. Some designate tribal or clan affiliations. Others are rooted in spiritual beliefs. Many are unknown. The National Park Service describes it best: “Petroglyphs still have contemporary meaning, while the meaning of others is no longer known, but are respected for belonging to those who came before.”

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Point but don’t touch the petroglyphs. Preservation is vital.

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After readily identifying five of the six petroglyphs, I donned my “explorer extraordinaire” hat and got stumped. The last, marker #1, seemed to be missing. Time passed and Greg and I regretfully headed towards the trailhead. As we stepped away from the boulder wall, it appeared!

It seemed a stark contrast to walk the path of the ancients surrounded by suburbia. A young man heading out on the path asked for directions. I showed him my crumpled map and explained the petroglyph trail markers. He pulled out his I-phone and asked if he could take a photo of the map. A stark contrast indeed!

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From Petroglyphs to Photos

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A Fork in Our Road

“Big Brown Betty to Raptor One.” Silence.

“Big Brown Betty to Raptor One.” No answer.

I didn’t really expect a response. After traveling 65 days, 4,500 RV miles and countless car miles together, Greg and I sadly bid farewell to my sister, Sharon, and brother-in-law, Mike. Clicking the radio once more for nostalgia’s sake, I stowed it away and smiled. It’s been a wonderful, fun-filled journey and an absolute joy traveling with them.

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Our cross country trips are not over yet. Mike and Sharon’s route now leads home, 2,000-plus miles to the northwest. Ours ushers us southwest about 1,500 miles. As planned, Raptor One rolled out from Memphis yesterday, three days prior to Betty’s scheduled departure. We said our goodbyes the night before. Thankfully, I didn’t hear their diesel truck start up for a final goodbye the next morning. The flood of tears at the sight of them driving away would’ve put the Tennessee thunderstorms to shame.

The Mississippi River flows peacefully past our campsite and the vacant one next to us.  I’ll have plenty of time to relay travel stories from this expedition in the months to come. For now, reflections of our times together, from the hilarious to touching, crowd my mind.

Greg and Mike displayed enormous patience when Sharon and I, armed with maps, gave conflicting directions. And, when we engaged our Rand-McNally GPS divas, Natalie and Rosie, along with Siri, they tuned out the choir and simply asked, “Which way do we go?”

Introducing ourselves as Wallace & Wagstaff when checking in to RV Parks brought a common response: “Sounds like a law firm.”

We mastered the subway systems in Washington D.C. and Boston, MA after some practice and discussion.

“Green line to yellow to blue.”

“No, green to red to blue.”

“Blue line’s down, pick another color.”

We often reminded ourselves, “this is a once in a lifetime trip”. Thank you Sharon and Mike for enriching our travels! This has, indeed, been the trip of a lifetime. Godspeed.

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Stars and Stripes

A Capitol Fourth

A Capitol Fourth

Are we as different as the stars and stripes on our country’s flag? As divided as the oceans that define our land? I surveyed my fellow concert attendees donned in red and blue rain ponchos. “Are they wearing their party’s colors?”, I whispered to Greg. “Well, if they are, one of us is wearing the wrong color!”  A sea of happy faces filled the West Lawn of our nation’s capitol for the 2016 Capitol Fourth concert rehearsal. And then it hit me. There is something we Americans can celebrate with reckless abandon to party lines, Independence Day!

I don’t know what political affiliations the young father sitting next to us embraced but we stood shoulder-to-shoulder, hands on hearts as Alisan Porter sang our National Anthem.  People of all ages and color swayed together to Smokey Robinson’s live performance of “My Girl” and rocked it as Kenny Loggins belted out “Footloose”.  

Handheld American flags waved as the audience sang along with Jackie Evancho to “God Bless America”. Applause thundered when members of our armed forces filed past carrying the flags of our states and territories.  And at the finale, when canons blasted to Tchaikovsky’s 1812 overture performed by the National Symphony Orchestra, I realized that on that day, we stood united, celebrating the birth of our great country and it gave me hope.

Photos courtesy of Mike Wallace. Due to security regulations, Greg’s camera didn’t make the invitee list!

A special thank you to cousin John, for traveling hours to meet up with us at the “Wallace-Wagstaff Camp”, for arranging a private, ranger guided tour of the Washington D.C. monuments and memorials and reserved concert seating! We so enjoyed spending time with you and catching up. I must confess, your award-winning, home-brewed craft beer may just turn me into a brew-snob!

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Going Home

Going Home

Cool air breezed across my pillow as I stared into the forested darkness. A light flickered. Then another. “Eyes in the trees,” my young cousin called them. Fireflies sparkled like twinkling lights on a Christmas tree, a storybook ending to an unanticipated experience on our cross country trip.

A simple phone call changed our destiny in upper state New York, land of our many cousins. “Hey, this is cousin Mike. Heard you’re coming to town in a couple days.”  It’s not that we intended a stealth entry, we were just planning on the fly. “You can come stay at my place”, he offered. My sister Sharon expressed concern about the space required for our RV’s while the rest of us nodded knowingly. A diesel truck pulling a 38-foot fifth-wheel plus a 41-foot motorhome towing a car may be a squeeze. “I have 120-plus acres. You think you can fit on that?”, he laughed.

Not only did cousin Mike and his wife Dolores have space for us, it was lush!

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Green, grassy meadows framed by forests, a pond (which I thought was a lake!) on our doorsteps and deer, heron and other wildlife made for a perfect retreat. But the company was the best! Mornings found us sipping coffee and visiting on their deck. Most evenings the guys morphed into grill masters as we toasted the day’s adventure.

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We laughed, played and toured the local sites. Like a rolling family reunion, each day brought visits from family, mostly cousins. The word was out. Alice’s (my mother) kids were in town. I feel blessed and humbled to be part of this family. We share a history and heritage, bonds that will always hold us together in heart. Who would’ve thought I would travel cross country and find myself at home?

Thank you to our hosts Mike and Dolores, Larry and Jane, Lynn and Charlie and to all our family for the cherished times we spent together. The week of June 6 through June 12 will be treasured as a highlight of our trip.

Columbus, Cleveland, and Cousins

It feels like chapters since we embarked on our cross country trip 31 days and 3,173 miles ago. I must confess my biggest challenge is choosing what to see and do (and keeping this blog current!). Like a bug-eyed kid in an amusement park, I want to do it all! That’s when I dust off my “go-back-to-list”,  a tally of places to visit next time, and keep a loose hold on this journey’s bucket list. Here are a few of our top picks from our journey from Indiana to Ohio.

Columbus, Ohio

“Hey, the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force is just a short detour off our route to Columbus!”  I’m not sure what I enjoyed more, walking through the evolution of military flight from the Wright Brothers’ 1909 Military Flyer…

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…to the B-2 Stealth Bomber, or my brother-in-law Mike’s stories about his tenure as a U.S. Air Force jet engine mechanic.

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The museum pays tribute to those who served and their valiant airships.

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B-29 Bockscar: The original aircraft that dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan, on August 9, 1945, ending World War II.

A bridge separates high rises in Columbus, Ohio’s city center from the red brick houses of historic German Village.

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Tucked in a corner of Columbus, German Village offers a delightful walk back in time.

Cobbled sidewalks ribbon past multi-story residences and corner shops. With a double dark chocolate treat from Winan’s Chocolates and Coffees, Greg and I wandered the creaky, wooden floors of The Loft, a 32-room bookstore. I wondered what stories were buried in those old walls.

Cleveland, Ohio

“They say the heart of rock and roll is still beating, and from what I’ve seen I believe ‘em…” 

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If there’s a way to sum up the Rock ’n Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, these lyrics from Huey Lewis & the News’ hit song fits the bill. Dancing through the doors as rock tunes beat through the air, people flock to the Hall to experience the music genre that changed the world.

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Seeing the guitars strummed, lyrics written and stage costumes worn by favorite rock stars touches the fan within.

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My Favorite: John Lennon’s Rickenbacker guitar with his handwritten playlist still taped to the neck (photo of playlist posted above the guitar).

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Greg’s Favorite: John Lennon’s handwritten lyrics for “In My Life”

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A bit of nostalgia…Greg took a photo of Carl Wilson wearing this at a Day on the Green concert in the 70’s.


Meeting up with friends and family has and always will be the best part of our full time RV adventure. To our delight, we discovered our cousin and his wife lived in a nearby town just 15 minutes from our Streetsboro, Ohio RV Park. With limited time in their schedules and ours, we managed to squeeze in a visit. Thank you Tom and Allie for opening your home to us on short notice and for a wonderful, memorable time.


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100th-Running of the Indianapolis 500

“Lady and Gentlemen Start Your Engines!”  The announcement echoed through the stadium sending a shiver down my spine despite the sun’s heat. Sitting shoulder-to-shoulder in the stands at the 2016 Indy 500 was definitely worth our five-day, 2,000+ mile RV trip (See our travelogue below).

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Turn 4 view from our seats.

The 100th-running of the Indianapolis 500 felt like an epic celebration of time-honored traditions. The speedway bulged with an estimated 350,000 people, a sellout event. Teams readied cars in Gasoline Alley. Spectators stood with hats in hand as our “National Anthem” rang through the stadium. Red, white, and blue balloons soared skyward with the final notes of “Back Home in Indiana”.

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A prayer for drivers’ and spectators’ safety called to mind the risks of the sport. We paused and remembered our military. A Memorial Day tribute honored those who gave their lives serving our country. WWII Veterans who survived the Pearl Harbor bombing were applauded. Military personnel representing all service branches circled the track to chants of “USA! USA!” 

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Borg-Warner Trophy March to the Bricks

To commemorate decades of racing, former Indy 500 champions took a lap down memory lane driving winning cars from the first running to the present. Although the 1911 Indy 500 winning car, the Marmon Wasp, struggled to keep pace and left an oil trail near Turn 4, it showed how far racing technology has evolved!

In keeping with this historical theme, the military featured a flyover with two World War II airships before F-18E Superhornets thundered over the speedway in a four-plane formation piloted by the U.S. Navy.

Each pre-race event kicked up the adrenaline in the stadium. Gates opened at 6AM and when we arrived at 7AM the pre-race festivities were in full swing.

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Greg and I standing ON the track by Turn 1. The slope is surprisingly steep.

Pit Row seemed eerily quiet.

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As race fans flocked to Gasoline Alley, stormy skies threatened a rain delay.

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Our travel companions enjoyed all the pre-race gala with us before walking a mile to our seats.

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On command, engines turned over and roared. The green flag waved and the race was on. There’s nothing like the sound of these mighty machines and the sensation of speed as they blur past you! Huge screens provided race coverage.

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“Hey, how’s it going in the Snake Pit?”, the announcer asked the throng of people at the infield party-fest. “They don’t even know the race is going on!” he answered himself.

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Standing room only in the Snake Pit party-fest!

The checkered flag waved as the race winner rolled slowly across the finish line, conserving every drop of fuel. A finish that will go down in history as a marvel in fuel consumption strategy. It seemed fitting that a rookie in a field of experienced drivers and former Indy 500 champions won the 100th-running of this historic race. It speaks to another American tradition: the freedom and opportunity to succeed. Yes, it took mountains of work, skill and strategy, but American-born, Alexander Rossi, demonstrated that it can be done!

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Caravanning with my sister, Sharon, and brother-in-law, Mike, makes for great company. We departed Sparks, NV  on a 5-day RV journey to Indianapolis, IN for the 2016 Indy 500, a great kickoff to our cross country trip.

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Raptor One and Big Brown Betty dry camp on our Day 1 stopover in West Wendover, NV.

DAY 2 – West Wendover, NV to Cheyenne, WY

“We must be tired this morning!”, I commented as we prepared for our second travel day. We managed to brew coffee into hot water by leaving the freshly ground coffee beans in the grinder. Sharon later confessed that she did the same. The drive out of Salt Lake City, UT on I-80 refreshed us with lush green hills, scenic views and towering mountains. Grumpy, gray skies chased us but we outran them. After an eleven-hour day on the road we reached our Day 2 stopover in Cheyenne, WY.

DAY 3 – Cheyenne, WY to Greenwood, NE

Road Construction plagued us for miles. I-80 squeezed down from four lanes to two lanes for tens of miles at a stretch. Orange cones marked the center line as trucks and cars raced towards each other at 65 mph. We arrived at Pine Grove RV Park in Greenwood, NE just east of Lincoln, NE. After checking in, the clerk glanced out the window and said, “It doesn’t look like it’ll storm but if you’re uncomfortable, go to the men’s restroom. It’s a brick building and it’s safe.” Blue skies belied the warning.  At 1AM a bright light flashed through the windows despite the dark-out shades. Betty rocked in the wind. Thunder rumbled, the sky cracked and lightening flashed like a strobe. Sleep came eventually.

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DAY 4 – Greenwood, NE to Knoxville, IL

We woke to bright, sunny skies as if  last night’s storm was a dream. Nightmare? Raptor One led the way through Iowa in one day. This state wins the “best rest stop award”! Like a park carpeted in green grass with covered picnic tables, shade trees, a paved walking path, and pristine restrooms, the stops offered pleasant breaks for us road warriors. The Iowa “tour”  ended when we crossed the Mississippi River into Illinois. In a quest to find a lunch spot near the river we ignored a sign reading: “No Semis Over 40 feet”.  Raptor One and Betty stretch about 65 feet when towing and need ample room to turn around. The next sign read “Last chance to Turnaround”. We pulled off the road to confer as a semi rolled past and returned successfully a short time later. Following Mike’s wisdom of “If he can do it, we can too”, we found the perfect lunch spot. Our stopover  in Galesburg East Campground, Illinois provided a relaxed evening under the trees with no satellite TV.

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DAY 5 – Knoxville IL to Greenfield, IN (just east of Indianapolis)

Where’s your pit crew when you need them? A slow leak in our tow car tire delayed our race to Indianapolis on the last lap of this long journey. Fortunately, Greg noticed it before we got on the I-74 track. A pit stop at Walmart (the nearest tire center) delayed our departure about  two hours creating a rush hour arrival in Indianapolis. Greg and Natalie (our treasured GPS) navigated the highway networks and traffic brilliantly! We arrived at Heartland RV Resort right on course ready for a “jammie” morning before race day!

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Mike & Sharon Planning Routes to the IMS (Indianapolis Motor Speedway).



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Goodbye Reno, Hello U.S.A.

Goodbye Reno, Hello U.S.A.

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“Big Brown Betty to Raptor One”, Greg called on the two-way radio. “We need a new handle!”, I insisted. Yesterday, we set out on our first cross country RV trip. The thought of hearing this chant for 3,000-plus miles made me think our diesel damsel deserved a more elegant name. The mike clicked back. “Go ahead Big Brown Betty.”  I threw up my hands in mock surrender. Watching the Reno, Nevada skyline disappear behind us, I reflected on our visit over the past few weeks.

Is this a staycation or a travel destination?”, I mused when we wheeled into the city. Returning to our former hometown after several years on the road felt warmly familiar yet oddly different. Recently constructed neighborhoods replaced open meadows. Established neighborhoods aged gracefully. Restaurants sported new marquis. But one aspect remained the same. Family and friends embraced us. The lyrics from the TV show, Cheers, played in my mind: “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came”.  With full  hearts, grateful for cherished times spent with family and friends, we headed east ready to take on the unknown.

Following I-80 for five days, we’ll cover approximately 2,074 miles before settling into a more leisurely pace. We have an appointment to keep, with a green flag to start and checkered flag to end (stay tuned).

Camping along the way will merely be convenient stopovers. Last night we staked out spots at West Wendover, Nevada’s travel center among the truckers. Luckily, the cattle cars were empty. A bit rustic without hookups but comfy with generator and battery-powered electricity, hot water, and satellite TV.

We invite you to travel across this wonderful country with us and share the adventures, discoveries and likely, a few misadventures. Your company enriches our travels.