Bonnie and Bill Neely


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The Hills of Buda

When we arrived in Budapest Ferihegy Airport a very helpful teen signaled a taxi for us and gave a certificate saying our price is fixed at 3,500 ft (about $14 US or EU), and a young girl handed us a most helpful Budapest Pocket Guide in English, which proved to be excellent. It all happened so fast we didn’t know what had hit us, and we were suddenly in the taxi and on our way. We were lucky that the price was very fair because we had not researched it ahead of time. To save any problem get an official airport taxi, or from anywhere in Budapest you can call a taxi from a public phone without any coins. They will send a taxi to whatever place you say immediately. This is a reliable association of the three secure and best companies. The way to ascertain where you are so they can locate you is to look on the cornerstone of the buildings at any corner to learn the street names of the intersections. It’s OK to tell your driver, “slow and careful.”
The distinguished city of Budapest was once three towns, Old Buda, Buda, and Peste, on two sides of the Danube River. The hills of the Budas were claimed by the original Magyars, the seven horsemen tribes who dominated central Europe in the ninth century. These hills have natural cave systems and underground mineral springs, which delighted the Romans who later settled here. In 1,000 AD when Stephen was crowned King and head of the church, this was not the capital city as it is today. In the first millennium Esztergom, about 60 km north, was the center of government.
In the twelfth century the present fortress was built overlooking the Danube waterway, which in those days served as a major “road” for commerce through Europe. It was in that period that the St. Stephen Cathedral was built, but not over the bones of the kings. In fact, Hungary’s royal cemetery was desecrated during the wars, and the country has only one royal grave, that of Buda III, which is seen in the cathedral today. Take the funicular scenic ride to the top of the hill. In the Buda hill part of the city, the Royal Cathedral has high mass every Sunday to which many visitors come for the service and the wondrous music in the majestic surroundings. You’ll definitely want to see this, one of the finest cathedrals in Europe with exquisite holy interior. It is the site of royal coronations and ceremonies.
Be sure to note the statue of the Holy Virgin in an alcove to the left as you enter. To preserve her from being desecrated by the Turks who took over the Cathedral in the fifteenth century, the Hungarians made a solid wall to hide her. The Turks turned the cathedral into a mosque, with virtually no decoration inside. The Hungarians had prayed fervently to be freed from the Turk invaders, and during one of the battles a small earthquake occurred which knocked down the wall that hid the Virgin. The Turks fled in terror of the miraculous appearance of the Virgin.
The Cathedral area has suffered much through many wars. During the most recent restorations in the late 1800’s the marvelous stained glass and the amazing porcelain roofs of the Cathedral and other buildings were added. These roof porcelains were made in the famous Zsolnay factories.
Just behind the Cathedral you’ll find the sign “wine cellar” in English. If you wish to purchase wine, this is the place to do so. You can sample in their fine cellar, which has over 600 varieties of wines from 22 vintners. This is a great rest stop at the end of your long day.
While you’re in the hills of Buda you’ll want to see the Palace, which was bombed during World War II and is today used as offices. The building also houses a great library and the Hungarian National Art Museum. Ask a guide in your language to explain the marvelous paintings, which depict the turbulent and painful history of this brave nation. From the Palace turrets you’ll find some of the best places to photograph or view of the flatter
area of Peste. The turrets were constructed by the fishermen who, in times past, were required to patrol this area of the city.
An evening meal in Buda is a MUST at the Marvany-Menyasszony Restaurant in Krisztina Town with a history back to the turn of the 17th century. There you’ll feast on delicious, typical Hungarian food while being entertained by Gypsies performing traditional dances in Hungarian folklore costumes. The musicians are excellent. After you return home, you’ll re-live the spirit of joy, and the color and fun of the evening many times in your memory.




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This year marks the 225 anniversary of the Independence of our nation, and we have seen flags flying as never before. It is the perfect year to engage fully as a participant in the making of our great nation. There is no better place to do that than to take part in all the reenactments that are being staged in and around Trenton and Princeton, NJ, where Christmas night of 1776 marked the turning point of the Revolutionary War, which the British felt they had won prior to that.

From the Capital of the Confederacy in Philadelphia, just 12 miles away, George Washington made a daring move. Instead of feasting in front of a Yule log, twenty-four hundred cold and hungry troops, demoralized by their many defeats, deserters, low provisions, and lack of warm clothes, were inspired by their general to take the offensive and make a surprise attack on the Hessians at Trenton. In cover of darkness, braving sleet and rain and a raging river filled with ice floats, General Washington succeeded in moving his troops and horses, 18 canons, and wagons of artillery, by Durham boats across the Delaware River. Through the snowy night they silently crept to take the town while the opposition slept.
Bring your children and grandchildren to watch this living history for a whole weekend celebration of our 225th year as an independent nation. You can watch this event and reenactments of the many battles in this area. Authentic replicas of soldier uniforms, muskets, and way of life will make you feel you have stepped back in time and are viewing the making of our great nation. There will be lots of smoke and loud artillery fire, but it is all safe, performed by over 1,000 members of National Reenactment Organizations who have practiced as Revolutionary soldiers for many years. Some are dedicated history buffs, some love the outdoor way of life of the eighteenth century, some are actually descendants of the original Revolutionary heroes. All are dedicated to making history live for themselves and for you.

Reenactments have been performed in Trenton on Christmas for 49 years, but this year, to mark the 225th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence and the War, the celebration will be huge and will continue on the weekend following Christmas. On December 25 crowds will begin gathering on each side of the Delaware River about 10 A.M. at Washington Crossing Historic Park, PA and at Washington Crossing State Park, NJ, where official activities begin at 1:00 p.m. On the Pennsylvania side there is a lot of parking available at the Historic Park and at many designated sites along Routes 32 and 532. In New Jersey along Route 29 near Lambertville, there is also designated parking, and thousands will gather along the Delaware River to watch.

On December 29 at 6 a.m. visitors can take part in the historic march from designated places in Trenton to the Delaware River, where the reenactment of Washington’s Crossing will be repeated about 7 a.m. Shuttles will be available to return visitors who marched to the location.

In the streets of Trenton at 11 a.m. the battle reenactments will take place in front of The Barracks. Many other events are planned for the entire historic weekend.


At Trenton this summer I visited the restored Revolutionary Barracks, the only ones still in existence, and found the tour to be the most fun and informative of any historical tour I have ever participated in. You will actually be inducted into the continental Army here and learn to shoot a musket and to march. In the infirmary the 1776 nurse will demonstrate the original medical tools, check your teeth, and give you the gruesome details of the two weeks new inductees had to spend in this infirmary to prepare for army life in the field.
As we have heard a lot about smallpox in the news recently, it is very interesting to learn that in this Infirmary George Washington figured out how to keep his army from being devastated by the disease. In this Infirmary all soldiers were inoculated with human smallpox (before vaccinations had been discovered) and were nursed back to health again during their two weeks of terrible illness. The General strictly enforced health conditions and good sanitation at camp and in the Barracks because disease and infestation had taken a greater toll the previous year than had the battles. The Old Barracks Museum is a great place for everyone to really absorb the enormity of the soldier’s life and sacrifices that were made. Here at Trenton is truly the source of our freedom, the battles that turned the tides of the War for Independence. Do not miss this exciting weekend in this special year of the 225th anniversary of the Revolution.

To continue the activities, there will be a Memorial Service for the Slain at 2:30 p.m. in First Presbyterian Church. At 3 p.m. witness the Second Battle of Trenton and then the 5 p.m. Grand Illumination of the Old Barracks, complete with fife and drum and full costume. This commemorates the ten days that turned the tide of the War and gave the Continental Soldiers the heart to continue at a period when they were ready to quit. Washington’s genius was in tactics, health standards, and heartening of his soldiers.

If you are in the area December 15th you can enjoy the twelfth annual Capital Ball in grand colonial style with drinks, dinner, dancing, and viewing of the new Hessian Exhibit at the Old Barracks Museum.
On Sunday, December 30, the weekend enactment continues with the March to Princeton Battlefield at noon from Nassau Hall and Quakerbridge Road in Princeton, NJ. Be sure to note the marvelous statue at the entrance to the town, commemorating the Revolutionary War. The reenactment battle at Princeton Battlefield State Park relives the fiercest fight of its size during the War. Today this 85-acre site has lovely trails for hiking, walking, and cross-country skiing.

You may want to take a tour of the University while you are here, and it also includes Nassau Hall, which was the only building for The College of New Jersey in 1776. Students were sent home in November that year, and on December 2 Nassau Hall was occupied by the British. It was retaken on January 3 by the Continental Soldiers and became the barracks and hospital for soldiers on both sides for the remainder of the War. In 1783 the Continental Congress met here and learned of the signing of the Peace Treaty.

While at Princeton, you must have a drink or a meal at the Yankee Doodle Tap Room in the Nassau Inn on Nassau Street. Here Einstein doodled on the table and drank many a tankard. You’ll see other famous faces of grads on the wall: from movie stars to astronauts. Over the bar is the original Norman Rockwell painting of the Yankee Doodle Soldier. The meals are hearty here and the portions huge. I tried to eat all of the delicious philly cheese steak sandwich, but I don’t think two men could have finished it! The signature warm chocolate bread pudding is as yummy as it sounds.
How to Get There and Where to Stay
Although the historical enactment of the Crossing of the Delaware takes place each year on Christmas Day, this year’s celebration of the 225th anniversary is far greater and lasts throughout the week. Although this is a very popular event for area people, space is still available for those who need accommodations.

In the town of Basking Ridge on Route 202, not far from the above historical events, you can enjoy a very special Christmas Eve, or New Year’s Eve, or New Year’s Day meal in an authentic Revolutionary War setting. The location is on the Passaic River where the miller Samuel Lewis in 1768 built a water-powered grist mill and barn on land in Franklin Corners, originally acquired from William Penn. The Grain House Restaurant is in the barn which was the storehouse for the desperately needed flour, meal, and feed for the Continental Army encampment at Jockey Hollow in the winter of 1777. The Grain House Restaurant features special events many times during the year, some of which benefit local charities.

There is still time to make your reservations for Chef John Tomaszek’s memorable Christmas Eve buffet, with seatings every half hour from 2 – 8 p.m. Prices for adults are $32.95, children 3 – 10 are $15.95, and under 3 years are free. Or you may prefer to celebrate New Year’s Eve at the elegant seated dinner. Seatings at 6:30 p.m. are $99 per couple; at 9 p.m. the seatings are $129 per couple and include a midnight celebration. Also this year for the first time the restaurant will prepare a delicious New Year’s Day buffet. You can call 908-221-1150 for details and reservations.

I recently enjoyed a delectable meal there and found the food superb. Prepared with freshly herbs and specialties from Chef John’s own on-site garden, his innovative recipes and presentation are exquisite! The Grain House is open daily for lunch and dinner. Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings there is also live music in the Coppertop Pub, which is located in the 1777 horse stable of the old grist mill. The Restaurant is on site at the Olde Mill Inn, which is a “perfectly inn-timate place” for any special and romantic stays. For more information you can go to

Feature Written 2001

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Ostersund, Sweden’s airport is in the suburb Froson, a large island, named for Forja, a German fertility goddess. This island was an important assembly site and place of sacrifice during the Pre-Bronze Age, over 2,000 years ago. This island was Christianized about one thousand years ago. You can follow a trail that leads to an Iron Age Viking burial ground and another to a fourteenth century farmhouse, which the same family has occupied for all those centuries!
Your first stop should be at the Frostornet Tower. On a clear day you can see all the way to Norway. Enjoy some delicious Swedish coffee or lunch in the lovely snack bar there. If you ascend by elevator and rue the fact that the glass enclosure keeps you warm but interfere with your photos, use the stairs to descend, and you’ll get some marvelous photo shots.


See Froson Kyrke

In the middle and highest point of the island was a historic tree, which was at one time the place of sacrifice for ancient religious rites. Historians deduce that nine of many kinds of animals, including humans, were sacrificed here every nine years in the pre-Christian era. In the twelfth century, when Sweden had become a Christian kingdom, Froson Kyrke was built to sanctify the effects of pagan fertility rites. The church is still there, reconstructed several times after fires. An intricate, wooden bell tower is from the 1700’s. Of note is a thirteenth century burial stone carved with a Viking man and ancient inscription.


Sommarhagen, Home of Composer

Visit the lovely Sommarhagen, home of composer and music critic, WilhelmPeterson-Bergen. A bachelor, he found it necessary to be married to his music. His harsh critiques made him unpopular at first in Stockholm, but with his beautiful compositions he gained fame and popularity through the first quarter of the twentieth century and was highly acclaimed before his death. His mother was his first music teacher and funded his education and early career. She left the money for this summer home, which he built in her memory. A beautiful diamond-shaped red window in the living room captures the setting sunlight in a way that creates a warm glow on the hearth, which Wilhelm said is “Mother’s eye.” The house was designed and decorated under Wilhelm’s careful instructions and poetic, artistic insights. The windows frame the natural landscapes, which he considered his paintings and his inspiration. His most famous compositions are his collection of lyrical piano pieces and his five operas, one of which is performed by local people every summer at Froson Church where he is buried.

Northern Sweden’s only rune stone is next to the bridge to Ostersund at Hornsberg Church. As you cross the lake search for Storjo, the monster of the lake, famed from many sitings since 1635. In winter you can cross the frozen lake to Ostersund by skis, skates, or driving on the ice, more than three meters (yards) thick! Of course there is the bridges for cars and also a separate bicycle/walking bridge.


Near Sweden’s Largest Ski Area

From Froson/Ostersund you are an easy drive to the town of Are, named for its “wonderful, healthy air,” when it was discovered by enthusiastic, health-conscious tourists in the early twentieth century. With Sweden’s largest ski area, it is a popular site for winter sports, and of course, lighted slopes since it is dark here for three months. However, between seasons you will hardly even be able to buy a cup of coffee because everyone leaves for a warmer holiday.

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BISMARK, North Dakota, the capital city which so few Americans know, is a really pretty town with lots of trees planted around neat houses, and a state capitol like no other! We spent a long time looking for a domed building and finally discovered it is not on Capitol Street, BISMARK, ND as the first capitol burned in 1930, but instead it is the only skyscraper in town and is on State Street! There are interesting tours every hour and you can go to the eighteenth floor for a view of all the plains for miles around. The North Dakota Hall of Fame we thought was very interesting…seeing all the paintings of most notable natives who have achieved highly in their given professions, from politicians to scientists, writers, actors…all now Theodore Roosevelt Rough Riders! Teddy Roosevelt, who owned two ranches in this Northern Territory, loved this place and returned as often as possible.
Just across the street from the Capitol we enjoyed the Heritage
Museum where we were engrossed for hours learning the
history of the Dakotas.

Soon after the Civil War the Northern Territory began the process of its application for statehood. The Sioux Indians, or horsemen of the Great Northern Plains, had hunted the 40-50 million buffalo and thousands of elk and antelope who roamed the flat, grassy lands and provided for the Native Americans’ every need for the -50 degree (F) winter months. Lakota, Nakota, and Dakota, all SiouxTribes, lived peacefully, sharing the grassy plains, the Bad Lands of rain and wind-carved dry spires, and their sacred Black Hills, where they worshipped and honored the Great Spirit and nature.


Heritage Museum
Bismark, ND

When Lewis and Clark made their way slowly up the Missouri River against the current and arrived here in October of 1803, they were forced by the approaching bitter cold to make camp in the Mandan area, just outside of today’s Bismark. They remained in the area until April, during which time they found Sakakowea (which we often mis-name Sacajawea), who had learned English from fur traders, the only whites to frequent the area. She and her French husband and baby agreed to accompany the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and she acted as their guide and interpreter through the rest of their journey.

But it was the railroad which created the towns of the Dakotas. When the Northern Pacific and its many laborers reached Yankton first, it became the capital of the Dakota Territory. In 1880, the Northern Territories wanted statehood. The railroad, which brought new settlers, passed through the middle of the Dakota Territory and made a logical division, and the push became for two states, but the powerful railroad owners were Democrats and opposed it. After years of discussion, the vote finally passed and President Harrison signed the bill, creating the new states of North and South Dakota in 1889. They took their name “Dakota” from the Sioux word meaning “allied tribes.”

The Sioux Indian tribes tried to live peacefully with the white man and his iron snake, until the desire for buffalo hides and the the gold rush into the Native American’s sacred Black Hills forced the famous battle which was Custer’s Last Stand, and the Sioux were forcefully contained by the Military onto reservations. The familiar and sad history is one of the most despicable of American history, in which the takers ruined a civilization, a way of sustaining life on the Great Plains, and the natural herds which had roamed peacefully for eons.


1875: Custer’s Last Home

North Dakota has many historical places commemorating the ways of life of the Native Americans, Lewis and Clark, and early Military forts which you will want to visit. Mandan, a suburb of Bismark, has a wonderful state park and campground with the reconstruction. We strolled into the year 1875 under the direction of the excellent living history guide Ed of the cavalry fort, Fort Abraham Lincoln, and Custer’s last home. You will also find the reconstruction of the Mandan Indians earth lodge village by the Heart River, where they grew crops and built amazing houses and were sustained by buffalo, of which they used every part. You can see recreated their way of life from dried food to games for children, and you will be amazed to see this civilization from the 1500’s until the late 1800’s, when smallpox from European traders reduced their population from 15,000 to about 150.


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Just across the street from the Corn Palace you’ll find a change of pace at the Enchanted World Doll Museum, which celebrates its twentieth year this year and is one of the largest and best doll museums in the world. According tro Valerie LaBreche, Director, the museum grew from a collection which Sheldon F. Reese started, bringing back dolls from all of his business trips to other countries. When he and his wife Eunice Thomas Reese had 3,500 dolls in their home, they decided it was time to build a place for everyone to enjoy the collection.


Every little girl and grown-up girl will delight in spending minutes or hours in the castle-like building which now houses them. But don’t limit the wonderful experience to just females. Even the men and boys will find much to be fascinated with! We expected only a small room of display and found case after case of beautifully displayed 4,800 dolls in scenes depicting fairy tales, nursery rhymes, First Ladies and dolls representing almost every manufacturer and type you have ever heard of through the last century. The collection includes over 2,000 dolls from 125 countries in festival and native costumes.


The nominal fee and all proceeds from the wonderful gift shop go to charities through a foundation set up before the Reese’s death.

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In the late 1800’s the town was competing to become the state capital and also trying to entice settlers and convince them that good grain crops could be grown here. (Lewis and Clark’s report labeled this a desert only suitable for buffalo.) The Corn Belt Real Estate Association decided in 1892 to have a festival to attract people and to show the crops that are grown here. They created a wooden castle structure on the Main Street and artists attached locally grown grains and ears of corn in three colors to the building, creating an ornate system of designs and murals. Although Mitchell did not win out for the designation of capital, it did grow in fame as travelers talked about the amazing work of art, which over 500,000 people come to see each year.

Annually for the past 110 years the Corn Palace is the center of a citywide festival in late August, displaying the works in progress. Artists’ work begins in June with the first harvest of sour-dock, which is used as borders and frames and accents. The next harvests are rye, milo, and oats, totaling 3,000 bushels of grain, are added to create geometric designs all over the outside of the building.

A retired city fireman, Dean Strand, is contracted to grow the corn for the murals each year. He has hand selected and bred strains of corn to develop eleven different colors for the art: browns, white, black, blue, calico, and yellow. After the September harvest 275,000 ears are split in half and the halves are nailed into place on the color-by-number sketches, using a ton of nails each year. From October till June the completed works remain on the building, making it the “world’s largest bird feeder.” (The birds actually only eat the seed from the milo.) At other times of year you’ll enjoy seeing some from the previous year and the new works in progress.

Be sure to go inside for a free tour and to see the photo gallery of the century’s art, as each year is different. Although artists were varied in the early years, a Master of Fine Arts, Oscar Howe, who was a Yanktonai Sioux and the Artist laureate of South Dakota, was the artist for the Corn Palace Murals from 1948-1971. He was succeeded by Calvin Schultz, a childhood polio victim who discovered his artistic talent when the disease confined him. He loved the festival as a youngster and pushed himself with his good leg in a coaster wagon to see the festivities.
Years later, from a wheelchair, he designed and oversaw the grain paintings from 1977 until this year. He was inducted to the South Dakota Hall of Fame for Arts and Humanities in 1998.
No trip to Mitchell will be complete without eating at Bill Jamison’s “Jackpot Gamblin’ Bar and Saloon Café.” You’d swear that it is an authentic century old saloon, but in fact is was opened about a dozen years ago. For years Bill and his wife visited flea markets and antique stores in many states collecting all the fascinating objects, which decorate every inch of walls and ceiling. The cowboy grub is excellent, and if you don’t find what you like on the large TV screens in the restaurant, you’ll have plenty to look at in every nook and corner!

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We had an eight year old daughter, a six year old son, and a three-month old baby boy. My husband, then a rancher, was planning a business trip to Mexico to advertise for a large cattle sale he was having. I was not aware of how much he hated to leave his family for several weeks. I was too busy with three children’s daily needs! Early in the evening toward the end of May, with the Texas heat already pushing 100 degrees, he arrived home announcing, “I have a surprise for the family!”

In the driveway stood an old, nineteen-foot motor home. “Who’s here?” I asked. “No one. This is OURS!” was his excited reply. “What’s it for?” I asked, incredulous. “We’re all going to Mexico! ” he responded with great elation.

I was stunned beyond belief. “Are you crazy? We have a three-month old baby! I’m not getting in that thing!” “But, Honey, it’s great! I thought you’d love it! I just happened to pass it with a FOR SALE sign, and I thought it would be perfect. You and the kids can go with me.”

“But we have never mentioned camping in our whole ten years of marriage! You didn’t even ask me!” I cried.

“It was too good a deal to pass up! If I had waited it would have been gone,” he responded, still overwhelmingly pleased with himself and his good fortune.

“Well, I’d rather have a divorce than go to Mexico in that thing, in the summer, with three children, including our baby. You’ve lost your mind!” I angrily retorted, storming into the house, about to cry.

“But you haven’t even seen the inside yet. It’s great!” he said defensively, following me. “How much did you pay for that thing?” I asked. “It was only $5,000. Isn’t that amazing?” “Five thousand dollars!! I can’t believe you did that without discussing it with me! What were you thinking of?”

“I just want you and the kids to go with me when I go. It’ll be like a vacation. I’ve always dreamed of traveling through Mexico.”

“Well, I never even thought of it!” I replied, the tears of frustration and fury and fear taking over.

We fought, I threatened, he cajoled, he convinced, and we went. But there were several stipulations on my part. We had to have some protection. He didn’t believe in guns, but we had three children to think of. I would ask my single brother who had just gotten out of the army to go with us so we’d have another man along. Bill agreed. And my brother, who lived in South Carolina and hadn’t seen the tiny old box he was agreeing to risk his life in, jumped at the opportunity to “see the world and have an adventure!”

It took us several weeks to get necessary supplies, make vital repairs to the RV, and pack up. As we went in and out of the vehicle, stowing away loads of paper diapers, baby food, clothes, toys, etc., our elderly neighbor stood in her yard with a disapproving sour expression on her face. When my brother arrived and we loaded our final supplies (including two large hiking canes as our “weapons of protection”) into the RV and were about ready to take off, she had held her peace long enough. She came over and with hands on hips asked, “Why would anyone want to travel in that TRAMPER?” she asked loudly, as her bewildered good-bye.

Believe me, I kept asking the same question all the first 750 miles, until we were well below the border. The first few days were a battle until we all learned that in a tiny space everyone has to keep his things stowed neatly, because without “ship shape” order, people lose their tempers. Lesson number two was: do not serve food on the road in the interest of saving time.

I was playing short order cook and preparing sandwiches while going around our first set of mountains and Bill had to hit the brakes. I went flying to the floor just a second after returning the sharp knife to the drawer! I got a nasty bruise on my forehead, and we all learned a lot in a moment about life on the road.

It is now twenty-six years, five motor homes (each bigger and better than the one before), and about 250,000 miles later. That little TRAMPER proved to be the best investment in family life and fun times we ever made. We became addicted to seeing the continent and living in small spaces, delighting in each sight and each stop in towns and woods. We really had some pretty wonderful and some pretty scary experiences along the way, as I’m sure most campers do.

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If you are are traveling to New Orleans in an RV, you’ll find a beautiful new campground at St. Bernard State Park. About fifteen miles Southeast of the city in St. Bernard’s Parish off LA Hwy. 39, this park and campground is located at a real swamp area and is so picturesque. The cost is $12 (discounts available), and there is a gate which secures the place after 9 p.m. (Don’t leave without the combination because you cannot get back in.) It is a real adventure to camp here because it is right on the swamp’s edge, so you could encounter an alligator in your yard! There is a very nice swimming pool (for a few dollars extra). Of course, the campground furnishes its own giant mosquitoes too! Call 1-888-677-1400

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Crossing the US on Highway 10, plan an overnight or a week’s camping in Willcox, AZ, an authentic Old West town founded in 1880 at an elevation of about 4,700 feet. The old saloon in the heart of Cocheese and Geronimo Apache Indian country, is still a center of tourist and local activities. At the original carved-up, wooden saloon bar you can still buy drinks, but today they are cappuccinos, expressos, and lattes, and the very best homemade cinnamon rolls you ever tasted, made fresh daily by Beverly. The store, known as “Claim Jumper Espresso Bar,” is also an antique shop, “Mother Lode,” (520) 384-2875, and also the place to get information or book a tour. Open daily except Christmas and Thanksgiving Days, it is located across from the old railroad station. There are several other quaint shops worth visiting on this cowboy strip from the past. It’s present claim to fame is the childhood home of Rex Allen and museum to his “Arizona Cowboy” Country Western Music fame. There are many other points of interest in Willcox. Call to find out what you can choose for the time you travel: 1-800-200-2272. You’ll find La :laya Mirage, a bird-watchers’ serendipity; Fort Bowie National Historic Site; Dos Cabezas Ghost Town; Pearce Ghost Town; Cochise Stronghold; Cowboy Hall of Fame.
While in this area you have the opportunity to visit a “Wonderland of Rocks” and what the Apaches called the “Land of Standing Up Rocks.” It is one of the most amazing formations we have ever seen and was formed by tremendous volcanic eruptions about 27 million years ago. Wind and water have been the master sculptors ever since. Head southeast on Highway 186 for a 36 mile drive through desert/ranching scenery as you approach the Chiricahua Mountains, frequently hazed over by dust or severe fronts moving in rapidly. In the Chiricajua National Monument you’ll find incredible rock formations, spires, chimneys of great heights and balanced rocks which defy gravity and all visual laws! You can drive through in several hours, or better still, enjoy some of the seventeen miles of trails for bird watching, hiking, picnicking, camping, and amazing photographs and views. Snows, rushing water, and mud slides are possible depending on the season and the weather, so you may want to call ahead. Take proper hiking equipment for weather changes as you are in the high desert, above 6,000 feet.
You’ll find an interesting Visitor Center and well-marked trails, excellent restrooms and a beautiful campground in the thick forest of evergreens which have managed successful growth from the winter snows giving moisture to the rich desert soil. The beautiful campground has no hook-ups, and RV’s over 28 feet will have difficulty. For more information call (520) 824-3560