Archive for the ‘Ranger Doug Roadtrips’ Category

Graceland & Garbage

Saturday, March 26th, 2016

Graceland Banner

Next stop on my tour is………Graceland!  I’m so close driving through Memphis that this is one place I can’t resist.  Since I just spent $33 on a hot bath in Hot Springs Arkansas, I’m ready to get fleeced again!  But, let’s camp first; I find this campground right across the street….!


Everything in Memphis is about Elvis.  In August, they have an Elvis look-alike show and I’m told it’s well worth the trip.  I’m going to start growing my hair out now…..


The Elvis Campground is the second worst that I’ve camped in in my 7 months on the road. The first is Royal Crest in Los Alamos NM.  Elvis Campground escaped the worst simply because it’s level.   As a parking lot, I would rate this poor; and it cost me more than getting into Graceland!    The ravine behind my trailer is full of garbage and if that’s not enough, a big noisy Caterpillar fills it with more garbage early each morning, burying the creek in the process.  The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is still at it!


There are five ways to enjoy your stay at Graceland–and I pick the cheapest and still get slickered–$34.75 with my ‘senior citizen with two broken leg’ discount…..and I have to wait an hour for the tour!  650,000 people visit Graceland each year–$26 million….every year!  Elvis was no fool, and I’m sure lives on somewhere and collects this without raising a finger, or his voice for that matter.  Me?  I hold the record for the fastest Graceland Tour at 23 minutes flat…..and I couldn’t wait to get out of there…..


This is the waiting room……totally tacky!


And just when you can’t take any more….there is MORE!  Yes, those are indeed Pink Elvis Thimbles.  On the shelf in little plastic wrappers below the pink stemware.  Who collects this stuff?


Finally, I get inside Graceland–which by today’s standards is a pretty ordinary house–it does sit on about 13.8 acres and has some horses still.  And Elvis owned four pianos, including this Steinway.  A little class in a sea of tackiness.


This yellow & black room with a porcelain monkey is where he relaxed with three TVs.  Bring on the TV dinners!


Pass me the aspirin–I’m getting a headache!


But, we’re not done yet… is a red waterfall in the Jungle Room complete with green pile carpet and dragon chairs.  It’s beyond words;  truly a toss-up between this and my campsite…..  Read more critiques here.


But you’ve got to give the guy credit–his wardrobe was spectacular!  And he did win a few awards–like the most ever of any musician over all time……  This guy could sell the sizzle!  Move over Mozart!


I want to give credit to Mom and Pop Presley–Elvis was born here in this house in Tupelo, Mississippi in 1935.  Seriously, after visiting Graceland, I just had to see this house so I drove 78 miles out of my way to Tupelo.    This house is 14′ X 28′ and built by Mr. Presley Sr. himself.  Like his mentor, Liberace, Elvis followed a stillborn twin–called a twinless twin.  My salute to the parents!


Well, I’m now an Elvis fan–and am convinced he’s still alive…..


….so don’t let this fool you!


Big Bend, the Rio Grande, and Chinese Trinkets

Saturday, March 5th, 2016


After Balmorhea Springs State park (where I get a great soak, albeit in 40F weather), I head south again through Fort Davis where there is this Snake Museum.  I don’t want to pay to see a rattlesnake–I stepped on one once and that was enough.

Alpine Mural

Alpine, Texas is the gateway community to Big Bend National Park and it is a very nice town–full of art galleries and many fine murals, like this one.  Lawrence Sullivan Ross, a Confederate General founded a Sul Ross university which adds a nice dimension to this town.  This is my base-camp.

Lost Alaskan RV

And how could I pass up this place.  I check in to site B-12 and later move to B-11.  These campgrounds have rules!  Full hookups, too!

WPA Post Office

What really attracts me to this town are the murals, and here is one done by the WPA that still resides in the old post office building in the center of town.

Mexican Maiden

Here’s a contemporary building mural by Stylle Read known as”Big Brewster” which is one of at least six in Alpine.  Here is a link to the rest.

Holland Hotel

The major street through town is West Holland Avenue which boasts a beautiful old hotel, not surprisingly called the Holland Hotel.  Even more coincidentally, it was built by a John R. Holland.  He had a son and a daughter, Crystal, who was murdered there in 1916 along with another person, one of three deaths in the hotel’s history.  It’s claimed to be haunted.  It’s a beauty with a great steak restaurant, but no grand piano….

Mr. Holland

Here’s John and a couple other cowboys in front of the hotel about 1915.

Alpine House

I notice this backyard as I walk around town–great place where many people take pride in their community!  Well, it’s off to Big Bend National Park where I’ve two talks to give…..

Hacienda Cabins

Big Bend is quite a beautiful place with the Chisos Basin hidden just below Casa Grande Peak.  These cabins were built by the CCC, of course and were the basis of our Big Bend WPA style poster.

The Window

If one turns around 180 degrees, this is “the window” looking down several thousand feet to the Chihuahua Desert.  The CCC cabins and this “window” are the basis for this design and Brian Maebius, my computer guru, pretty much nailed this one the first time around.  Here is our competition…..

Impact Poster

This is put out by Impact Photographics who bought out the “Retro Ranger” brand several years ago.  The Retro Ranger was photoshopping all my designs so I politely asked him to cease & desist, which he did, then sold this “brand” to Impact.  Now, I’m not afraid of competition, in fact I welcome it because the more they publish, the better we look.   And it makes a better marketplace for the visitor to our National Parks.  However, what I do object to is…..


….when the competition lifts the Department of the Interior seal off my Department of the Interior poster, commissioned by the DOI itself, and sanctioned by the Secretary of the Interior, herself.  We worked closely with the DOI and DOI Museum to craft this silkscreened print of the 75th anniversary of the DOI Building, and then Big Bend park approves this Chinese lithograph at a roaring $30.  Sorry, but the NPS cannot approve the use of a DOI seal without permission, and neither could I.  I think the NPS has an obligation to educate their visitors and I’m going public with this.  Grrrrr…


This is another one of my pet peeves, off-shore printing of what I call “trinkets” which usually are magnet, patches and stickers.  The bookstores are filling up with this stuff, every store is beginning to look the same and most of it comes from only one source…..

Made in China 1

Here’s another one…..only $3.95!  Everything I do is Made in America–period.  When I came out with a red, white and blue banner “Made in America” Impact put up this page on their website within a week.  I’m not going to comment on the content of this page, but I will anyway:   with a careful read, one could possible realize that there is a huge mark-up on these cheap products.  I challenge Impact to dump offshore trinkets and get down to quality products.

Made in China 2

This is blatent.  The NPS and their cooperating associations can do better for the visitors.  BTW, I gave two talks, one at Chisos Basin Campground and one at Rio Grande Village–and packed the amphitheaters!  For those of you who are new to my site, I talk about the early park history of their poster series, made by WPA-CCC.  You can preview it here.

Rio Grande

Well, back to the Park with this reflection of Mexico in the Rio Grande.


I return to my base camp in Alpine but visit Terlingua enroute.  It’s an old Cinnabar mining area which became a ghost town and is now inhabited by a hippie colony and other artists.  It’s a hoot!  For the next month I’m Amtraking from Austin to Spokane to attend our annual NPS Bookstore Tradeshow–and guess what I’ll be talking about?   Stand by!!!

West of the Pecos

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

Cowboy Church

Lots of Cowboy Churches here in the North Panhandle of Texas….and lots of wind, which I guess, go hand in hand.  I can’t say I’m warming up to the Texas Panhandle–it’s windy, cold and….


…..kind of desolate.  Where are all the trees?  I’m camped here at Monahans Sand Hills State Parks, on the flight path of the sandhill cranes that also fly over my Alaskan homestead.   Texas has a very good state parks system and I aim to take advantage of it.

Camping in Sandhill

Believe it or not, this is my camping spot–I’m all hooked up and hunkered down as storm clouds roar through along with lightening and thunder, which are one and the same.  And it rains like hell.


I step out for a look-see when the thunder gets going and am greeted by an Andrew Wyeth landscape.   Sand is everywhere–holy silica.

Palo Duro Entrance Sign

The next morning, after shaking the sand out of everything including my ears, it’s south to the Palo Duro Canyon State Park.  The Texans boast that this is the second largest canyon in the US–and it turns out to be.  The Texans do a lot of boasting so we Alaskans have threatened to cut Alaska in half just to make Texas the third largest state.

P D Entrance Station

The entrance station was built by the CCC–the right half actually, and the left half is a pretty good imitation.


Just look at this curved doorway entrance in the CCC-half.  Vintage CCC architecture.  Love it!

Coronado Inn

The Coronado Inn was designed as a multi story building but only one story was completed, also by the CCC.  Today it’s the Visitors Center and boasts a small CCC museum as well.

Palo Duro Canyon

This is the view out the windows on the rim–and it is indeed a huge canyon.  I spend two days on the canyon floor and take some short hikes.  My next stops are south to Balmorhea Springs State Park and Fort Davis and beyond!  Stay tuned!