All posts by Bonny McConnell

April 17 – a Great Book for Driving ! Beneath a Scarlet Sky

We are listening to an audible book called Beneath a Scarlet Sky.  Listening to this crafted story makes the miles fly – we actually look forward to the drive just to listen.  It would be considered a historical novel based on direct interviews with the actual man, Pino Lella. The saga starts in Italy in 1943  as the German Nazis rush to occupy Italy to counter  the Allies invasion. 

Doug found the Audible Books summary: “Pino Lella wants nothing to do with the war or the Nazis. He’s a normal Italian teenager—obsessed with music, food, and girls—but his days of innocence are numbered. When his family home in Milan is destroyed by Allied bombs, Pino joins an underground railroad helping Jews escape over the Alps, and falls for Anna, … ” and the saga goes on.

We learned a lot about northern Italy and the challenges the Italians faced in their own divided country. The actual record of the Italian nation protecting and hiding their Jewish families was quite admirable. Its a well crafted story based on the true life adventures of a young man swept up in WW II.

April 17…Tour of Graceland, Gus’s Fried Chicken, Beale Street and Peabody Hotel

Graceland is one of “1,000 Places you Need to Visit Before You Die.”  We found it to be a reminiscent and delightful place to visit.  Elvis was a big part of the music scene while we were coming of age. We were reminded of all the things we had forgotten about Elvis.

Gus’s Fried Chicken came highly recommend on Yelp and the price was right $.  My other choice was the French Restaurant in the Peabody Hotel.  I am kind of a “hole in the wall” kind of girl…so Gus’s it was.   Do you think that an armed security guard outside the front door should give us a clue not to leave our bikes on the back of the Jeep?  Memphis is a city in transition and some areas are definitely “Do Not Enter”.  I think Gus’s changed Doug’s opinion of chicken…wonderful.  However, they would not serve me a beer because I didn’t have my ID! The night was balmy and beautiful…we walked on Beale Street which is the similar to  NOLA’s (New Orleans) Bourbon Street, only cleaner.  Our last stop was the Peabody Hotel in downtown Memphis…unfortunately we missed seeing the resident flock of ducks.  It is an old and stately beautiful place with rooms starting at about $400/night.


April 16…on to Memphis and a search for Elvis!

Long day today covering over 500 miles.  Factoid…We drove through Benton AK home of the first Walmart.  We arrived late at the Graceland RV Park in Memphis to find that the Heart Break Hotel has just been demolished – what a heart braking moment (couldn’t resist).

The Heart Break Hotel was just across the street from Graceland and was built in response to Elvis’s hit song and was not the inspiration for it.  That made us feel a lot better.

View From My Window This Morning

April 13-16th Dallas

We spent the weekend just hanging out, visited the Arboretum and Dallas Zoo so Charlotte (Melanie) could feed the giraffe, and we  experienced an Escape Room – interesting.

Mariana is a volunteer at the Arboretum.  It is quite beautiful and visited often by Dallas residents.  It sits on a lake with a 7 miles bike and walking trail.

We next visited Deep Ellum.  It is similar to Belmont Shore on steroids seemingly inhabited by millions of millennials.  There we experienced our first Escape Room with a Shakespeare theme.  We would have “escaped” if Mike and Doug where not so hell bent on “solving” a puzzle instead of using simple mathematics.


After that it was off the Pecan Lodge for BBQ takeout.  According to Matt, it is the 2nd best BBQ in Texas.  If you buy more than 5 lbs. of meat, you don’t have to wait in the line that went out the door! We bought more than the 5 lbs for our gang.

Somewhere in there was Saturday night at a place called the Meddlesome Moth.  Known for its craft beers, but what we enjoyed were all the small plates that we shared including bone marrow, lamb on a stick, steak on a stick, potato, chips with blue cheese, moth balls (fried ricotta cheese) and a variety of salads.  Sunday was brunch at the Mudhen and a walk around the Farmer’s Market.

Navigating in and out of Dallas everyday was more than challenging even after Doug realized that he had set ‘no tolls” into his GPS.  I could never drive the freeways here.  Even Doug says it takes 2 people, one to drive and one to navigate.  5 major interstates cross in Dallas along with all the on and off ramps for the city not to mention all the construction.  Even Mariana excludes the freeways on her Google maps and only uses surface streets.

April 12…Fort Worth Stockyards & Cattle Exchange

Longhorn cattle were originally brought by the Spainards during their trips from Mexico up into the Texas territory. Herds were left behind after the Mexican Revolution from Spain. These hardy cattle proliferated in southern Texas until after the Civil War. They became a new source of meat for the U.S. during and after the Civil War.  A few other factoids.  After the Civil war, there were 6 Longhorns per person in Texas and in the north there were 6 people in the north for each head of cattle.  The Northerners loved their meat (much like I do).  That was the beginning of the great cattle drives and the cowboy.  Cowboys were just that, boys between the ages of 15-21  – much younger than most people realize. There were very few “Cattlemen” – except for the big bosses.

That night we met Doug’s son, Matt, and his wife, Mariana, for dinner at a place called Ida Clair (pronounced “I Declare”) and of course it was all Southern fare.  The city of Addison is known to have more restaurants per capita than any other city in the US.  Shrimp & Grits yummmmm.

After dinner Matt and Mariana were going to go pick Melanie, Mike, and Charlotte at the airport.  Doug and I were speculating how they were going to get 3 extra people, a car seat, stroller and luggage into a MiniCooper. They never told us that they drove TWO cars to the restaurant! Mystery solved!

April 11-15…Dallas & Grapevine & Fort Worth Texas

The Grapevine RV Park in Grapevine, TX (24 miles from Dallas) is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen.  Our spot is out of the edge of a lake. 

If we had our kayaks, we could launch from our site.  It is also so windy that being outside is not tolerable.  No bike riding or basking in the sun here.  Doug had this wonderful vision when he booked this site, that we could have morning coffee out on the deck overlooking the water…sadly, not to be.

View from my window today

Our “unused” deck – due to wind and temperature – sadly!

The night we arrived we went to Red Hot & Blue for Texas BBQ with my Goddaughter, Andrea, and her mom, Irene.

Heading from the Panhandle to Dallas, the landscape turns from brown and sparse sagebrush to green trees and purple and pink wildflowers.  Along the Dallas freeways there is construction going on everywhere….a bustling economy for sure.  One of the businesses leaving California was Toyota and we passed their headquarters  This weekend was the grand opening of the Toyota Music Factory which is a huge music venue just outside Dallas. Hmmm I wonder if that investment might have been good for California???

April 10-11…On the road to Dallas another 430 mile day

Stopped at the Old Gin Mill RV Park somewhere out in the middle of nowhere and actually charming.  As we were walking around the park we met the local high school principal and his wife (a kindergarten teacher)…  Johnny Johnson.  They live in a 5th wheel here and told us stories about going hog hunting (with pictures) and fishing after church on Sunday.  They have 3 boys, one a traveling RN working in LA.  This is probably the #1 reason we enjoy RV travel…you meet the most interesting people.  Johnny said he was once a principal at a high school with only 2 seniors…imagine…Madi’s graduating class at Millikan was over 1000.

Up until today the “View from my Window” has been another RV…tomorrow morning it will be looking unobstructed across the a Texas lake and seeing the sun rise. We keep changing time zones and find ourselves eating dinner at 9 pm.

April 8-9…Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico  350 miles

We spent a day exploring Santa Fe, New Mexico which is about 50 miles from Albuquerque.  All the buildings are of the pueblo style.  The downtown square is pretty much a tourist place with a cathedral at it’s center.  The best place, however, was a little square that was not visible from the street.  Doug and I spent a nice part of the afternoon having coffee in that square waiting for a shop keeper to comeback so I could see her artisan scarves and woven wares. She came back about 5 pm…closing time…apparently not uncommon in New Mexico! 

Click on these images to see larger versions!

April 7…Long day (450 miles) to Williams, Az

In all the years that I have been going to Palm Desert, I have never seen the desert in bloom…and not this year either.  Crossing “the Great Basin”, I wanted to see different scenery from our last trip 2 years ago, so Doug chose I-40…I think it was the same cactus as on I-10 two years ago. The Great Basin is just that – large and empty.

As a college student, Doug remembers all the Route 66 towns he drove through heading for the East Coast each summer…they were honky tonk towns and fun.  Seems we have lost a lot of our culture and  replaced it with the Interstate Highway system.  Too bad both couldn’t survive. Williams, Arizona has adapted and is a successful and entertaining travel oasis just along I-40 and ON route 66!                                                                      

We ate at a “wine & beer garage” in Williams called South Rim Garage.  Interesting beers.  We tried a sour, wheat, coffee, and pale ale flight.  The RV Park we stayed in was the Grand Canyon RV Park.  It was very new and clean but basically a parking lot.

“View from my window” a Bounder Coach.

April 2-6…Visiting family in Long Beach

We thought we would say Hello & Goodbye to our kids and grandkids in Southern California.  Our timing was not so great…half of them were gone and out of town for their Easter Break!  We did attend our granddaughter, Madi’s College for Grandparent’s Day.  Previously, I had only visited her BIOLA campus to watch her play soccer.  I learned that BIOLA stands for Bible Institute of Los Angeles and that the environment she has immersed herself in is a good fit.  We even got to see her beautifully decorated dorm room.  Would you believe Madi keeps it at 60 degrees?  I know she is part Canadian, but this was weird.

BIOLA is a highly successful college with a beautiful campus in La Mirada – it is now over 100 years old.

Lunch with Madi and Grandma Penny.

 BIOLA’s famous mural