Camping in New York City

Just back from NYC and ready to start a new round of book signings-check out the schedule on this website.

Welcome back. For the past ten days I have been on location in Manhattan and I can now tell you from experience that my favorite time of day there is the early morning when car traffic is practically zero. At 6 a.m. there are lots of trash trucks, delivery vans and even some semis but few tourists roam the streets at this hour.  At Rockefeller Center the staff of NBC’s Today Show is already hanging out and even Matt Lauer, Al Roker and Savannah Guthrie have been known to mingle with the early crowd outside before the show begins. The scene is the same on the set of Good Morning America which is on Times Square. Things change by 8 a.m. when millions of people sem to come out of nowhere and are on the streets. At the same time, downtown traffic quickly came to crawl around Rockefeller Center and 6th Avenue where there was a three hour parade on November 11th celebrating Veteran’s Day which was unbeatable

Travel by taxi is handy and there are plenty of them available but during this trip I am driving my 21 foot long Rialta Winnebago Motorhome. As hotels are so expensive in the city, I am also sleeping in the motorhome parked in places I have found to be fairly safe at night. It is often said that Manhattan is the city that never sleeps and folks I have learned that it is true.

A couple of nights spent in Harlem was first on this visit. During the day my location at the far end of Central Park where Harlem begins offered endless opportunities for people watching and seeing landmarks such as the famous Apollo Theater. Parking is free at night on many blocks although some areas can be scary after dark so you have to choose your spot carefully. I also found several city parks in Manhattan where it is possible to park for free after7 p.m. if you are lucky enough to find a space. I found another great spot in Central Park just half a block from Trump Tower, the home of Presidential candidate Donald Trump. While I was in this area I learned several interesting facts. Did you know that Central Park was the first public park built in the United States? The park has fifty fountains as well as numerous sculptures and monuments. There are also 36 bridges in Central Park and I believe I drove over many of them mostly while lost. The park was established 150 years ago and officials say that 25 million people visit this fantastic place every year all right in the middle of one of the busiest cities in the world.

I also laid up at Bryant Park for a day which is situated between  5th and 6th Avenues just two blocks from Times Square. An ice skating rink was setup for the winter season but when I was here last summer they were showing free movies on a huge outdoor screen in the same part of the park. This is an oasis for New Yorkers with hundreds of tables spread across the tree filled park for hanging out. The city library is here as well as playgrounds and sports fields. With thirty-one public parks in Manhattan I didn’t have time to visit them all but the ones I did see where all well-kept and I felt safe in them.

After several nights in free parking checking this area out I think I found what has to be my scoop of the week if you are ever visiting New York by motorhome or even with a small camper.

The road is called the West Side Highway and it runs along the Hudson River down to the tip of Manhattan where Battery Park is located. This is also the part of the city where you will find the financial district, Chinatown, Little Italy, SOHO and Tribeca which is where I stayed.  Looking out across the water I could see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island with Brooklyn right across the harbor. During the day this is quite the sight to see but at night with all the lights it is just spectacular! It seems unbelievable that you can park here for free after 7 p.m. just a mile from the Navy aircraft carrier Intrepid which is another must visit attraction. The only thing is you have to be gone by 7:30 when the street sweepers arrive but that was no problem for me. All in all quite a trip.

Till next time I’ll see ya down the road………………………


December Book Signing Schedule for Footprints in the Dew

Saturday December 5th………………………………..Jude’s, Bartlesville, OK                                     1-3 PM

Monday December 7th………………………………….Chautauqua Historical Society, Sedan, KS        5-7 PM

Wednesday, December 9th……………………………Pawhuska Library, Pawhuska, OK                    4-6 PM

Thursday December 10th………………………………Fairfax Library, Fairfax, OK                               5-6:30 PM

Friday December 11th…………………………………..Cleveland Library, Cleveland, OK                      5-7 PM

Saturday December 12th………………………………Tulsa Historical Society, Tulsa, OK                     1-3 PM

Sunday December 13th……………………………….. Brace Books, Ponca City, OK                            1:30-3 PM

Saturday December 19th……………………………….Half Price Books, Edmond, OK                          1-3 PM

Monday December 21st………………………………..Tru Value, Pawnee, OK                                      11AM-1PM



The Lufthansa Robbery-Mafia Stories

Another true crime story that caught my attention while I was traveling……

Welcome back. This week while I was in New York to promote my new book Footprints in the Dew I had the opportunity to catch a little information about a story that first broke in 1978 when one of the biggest cash robberies in American history took place at Kennedy International Airport. It was called the Lufthansa heist and if you don’t remember it or weren’t even born at the time, this is the story.

According to the New York Times, government prosecutors claimed that it was Vincent Asaro who pulled off the 6 million dollar heist. In court statements a string of Mafia informants testified that Asaro, who was a captain in the Bonanno crime family did the job and stashed millions of dollars in cash along with gold, emeralds and diamonds in burlap sacks and hid them in the basement of his cousin’s Brooklyn home. That cousin, Gaspare Valenti, was also a Bonanno soldier who turned informant. Valenti testified that he and Asaro had also hijacked truckloads of clothing and committed many other crimes including murder, all on orders of James Burke. Burke was a high ranking member of the Luchese crime family who was portrayed by actor Robert DeNiro in the hit movie Goodfellas.

The Bonanno family originated in Sicily and became one of the five organized crime families in New York City under the leadership of Joseph Bonanno. For thirty years his family was one of the most powerful criminal groups in the country.

During the trial Valenti explained that he and Asaro got the jump on Lufthansa security guard Rolf Rebmann, took his keys and got into the airline cargo shipment. He said it was an inside job, all arranged by Burke and Asaro. Several other Mafia associates who were involved were either killed shortly after the heist or vanished. Valenti’s cut was $750,000 in cash. The jewels were distributed to the four other crime families in New York to keep the peace.

Another former Bonanno underboss, Salvatore Vitale along with Anthony Ruggiano from the Gambino crime family also testified against Asaro.

When asked about the Mafia code of behavior Valenti stated bluntly:

“It was simple. You don’t cooperate with the law, sleep with another man’s wife or daughter and you can sell marijuana but no other drugs. But the rules are always broken.”

The trial started in October 2014 when FBI agents arrested Asaro, his son and four others after years of secretly following and taping recording them. Following the arrests everyone except  Asaro took plea deals. At 80 years old he stuck to the Mafia code. On November 13th while all of New York City and myself watched, despite years of work by the FBI and dozens of witnesses for the prosecution, Vincent Asaro was acquitted of all charges.

As he left the courthouse a free man, Asaro addressed a waiting crowd saying that not even mob boss John Gotti had received as much attention. Then he laughingly added “Don’t let them (the FBI) see the body in the trunk.”

Next week more from New York City. Till then I’ll see ya down the road…..



Heading East

A few notes from the road…..I’m on the east coast now and security has beefed considerably….

Welcome back. In the United States we are fortunate to have a set of interconnecting highways that make it possible to travel from coast to coast. Keeping these roads in good shape is a dangerous job and as I drove to the east coast over the past four days watching out for these highway workers was my first priority.

When I got on I- 44 in Vinita, Oklahoma I hit my first of many toll. From there I headed to Joplin, Missouri and then on through Springfield to St. Louis. The roads were all good and motels and hotels were plentiful. In St. Louis I passed by the famous Gateway Arch. Completed in 1965 the 630 foot stainless steel arch is the tallest monument in the western hemisphere. The arch was designed as a permanent public memorial to those who made the western expansion of the United States possible including President Jefferson and the explorers Lewis & Clark. The arch is also the largest accessible structure in Missouri and visitors can take an elevator to the top for an incredible view of the city.

Outside St. Louis I picked up I-70 toward Terre Haute, Indiana which is home to a federal penitentiary which has a special confinement unit where male federal prisoners who have been condemned to death are housed.  This is where Timothy McVeigh and many other notorious federal prisoners took their last breath. From there it was on to Indianapolis and then Richmond before crossing the state line into Ohio. I-70 passes the outskirts of Dayton and Columbus before taking you into Wheeling, West Virginia. All along the way into Pennsylvania I noticed lots of opportunities for camping.

Outside of Pittsburgh my route took me north on I-79 to I-80 and this part of the drive starts many miles of rolling hills and forests. This part of the country is sparsely populated and most hotel rooms fill up quickly so it’s best to plan ahead for overnight accommodations.

Once you get to the Pennsylvania/ New Jersey border it’s not long before you can see the New York City skyline. If you’re traveling at night the sky will be filled with the glow from Manhattan when the 8.46 million residents of this metropolis turn on their lights.

However in this case I took a highway around the city, heading for the north shore of Long Island Sound where I’ve been invited to speak about my book Footprints in the Dew. The shoreline towns here were settled in the1600s and many of them played a role in the revolutionary war so there are numerous historical sites and monuments in the area that are always of interest to a history buff like me.


This is where I am sitting today but tomorrow I hope to renew my acquaintances from the summer of 2014. Matt Lauer, yes I talked to him and Al Roker several times about Oklahoma. Rikki Klieman, wife of NYC Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, is another person I have been lucky enough to visit with on several occasions about our state and my project. Not to forget my friend Robert Wyatt, a transplanted Okie himself and now a retired publishing executive and author. There are lots of people to see and over the next three weeks I’ll keep you up to date on what I get into so till next time I’ll see ya down the road………………………..



Celebrating the Holidays!

I’m headed east to promote Footprints in the Dew and will be sending a report back soon!

Welcome back. The many museums I come across in my travels, like the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, give me plenty to write about but I’ve also found that the small town museums are just as full of inspiring stories. This past week the Osage County History Museum in Pawhuska turned out to be a great example. The museum has just reopened after a fire and it is filled with photos from the past.  The collection also including many artifacts, paintings and even a library of historical books and documents.  The museum is housed in a former train station and the building and grounds are beautifully maintained by a group of dedicated volunteers working together to preserve the history of Osage County. This is a true gem and a must visit when you are in Pawhuska.

Last Saturday I also had the opportunity to be in Independence, Kansas and I wasn’t alone as officials estimated that 30,000 to 35,000 people attended this party. It’s called Neewollah which is Halloween spelled backwards. This event is held ever Halloween weekend and it’s a street party like a street party is supposed to be with giant Ferris wheels, lots of food and craft vendors, and a 2 hour parade that included at least 15 marching bands. There were also representatives from the armed forces and animals of every kind. Thousands of people sat in rows eight deep to watch the parade and everyone was having a great time, all on the streets of Independence.

The Oak Ridge Boys were the main musical attraction that night but there were plenty of other groups playing on the outdoor stage throughout the day and into the evening. Parking was at a premium but there were plenty of police and volunteers to help you out and I found a spot fairly easily even with the motorhome. Neewollah, I think I’ll go again next year and you should check it out too.

As I’m currently traveling across the country to a location that I will tell you more about next week, I thought I’d bring you up to date on northern New Mexico as the ski areas in Angel Fire and Red River get ready to open up. These are the closest ski areas to Oklahoma and I’ve written a lot about both of these family friendly resorts in the past. Even if you don’t ski there’s plenty to do and the mountains are breathtaking in the winter. Wildlife is also plentiful and you can expect to see elk, deer and even bears in the area.

Taos is close by and it is the site of one of America’s earliest human settlements, the Taos pueblo which is still inhabited. There are many other attractions here as well, too numerous to mention. Of course Philmont Scout Ranch is in this region too and if you are a regular reader you know it is one of my favorite places. Although there are no scouts at the ranch this time of year, it is still open to visitors and you can tour Waite Phillips’ mansion there every day except Christmas. It’s a great time of year to visit and room rates at the famous St. James Hotel in Cimarron are about half price. It’s quite a deal, you can enjoy all the area has to offer and sleep in a museum of western history at night. The hotel also has a top shelf restaurant with great food and service. I’m planning to head that way for New Year’s and I hope to see you there. Watch my website for more details and pricing.

I’ll end this week with a “job well done” to my daughter Loretta who held a creative and successful fundraiser offering people a professional photo of their child in their Halloween costume in exchange for 3 items of canned food. Over 200 cans were donated to the Lighthouse Mission for their meal program. As the holidays draw closer, please remember those who are less fortunate.

Till next time I’ll see ya down the road………………………..




End of The Trail….

Another thanks to all who have supported Footprints in the Dew! I am excited to announce that the book is going into a second printing and I will be starting a new round of book signings in December!

Welcome back. “End of the Trail” is a phrase that is widely used by many people, including myself. The sculpture entitled “End of the Trail” is also very well known, depicting an Indian with a spear under his arm, head down and apparently about to give out sitting on an equally exhausted horse. I have seen many reproductions of this image in photographs and on printed materials and I have wondered where this very symbolic piece of American art came from. I discovered that the answer is sitting right here in Oklahoma at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. This exhibit will be ending soon and it is well worth a trip to Oklahoma City so let me give you a preview.

The original sculpture was created by artist James Earl Fraser (1876-1953) to depict the suffering of American Indians as they were pushed off their homelands and moved westward. The sculpture was first exhibited at the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco and today it is dramatically displayed in the entryway of the Western Heritage Museum. James Earl Fraser won several prizes for his creation including first prize at an art show in Paris, France in 1898 and “End of the Trail” was prominently displayed outside the main entrance to the “Hall of Flowers” where thousands of people came to see the famous Indian astride his horse.

In its 100 year history, “End of the Trail” has not always been so well cared for. After the 1915 exposition, the sculpture was purchased by the city of Visalia, California and moved to a public park there where it was mostly forgotten for 50 years. The sculpture suffered from exposure to the weather and was painted over several times before finally being sold for scrap to a graveyard for old statues.

By1968 the sculpture had been cut into three pieces and it looked like the end of the trail for the “End of the Trail.” Beat up by the weather, with holes throughout and broken legs, the sculpture was saved at the 11th hour by a group of visionaries from the Cowboy Hall of Fame (now The Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum) who purchased and restored it.

The story of this restoration is told in detail with photos and films in the exhibit. Then you have a chance to sit in the entryway and gaze at the sculpture itself. It’s an Oklahoma story for sure. If you happen to look through the enormous floor to ceiling glass windows in the room, you may notice a courtyard with several bronze statues outside. This my friends is the gateway to a graveyard like none other where the deceased have names like Steamboat, Baby Doll, Poker Chip and Midnight. One of the most famous is Tornado and you may have heard his story. At 1500 pounds, half Brahma, half Hereford with a red and white face, Tornado was a super star in the rodeo world. This bull threw off 220 professional riders before Freckles Brown finally rode him at the 1967 National Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City. It has been written that no one who was there will ever forget it.

Tornado died of natural causes in 1972 at owner Jim Shoulders’ ranch. Shoulders, who was a rodeo legend in his own right, brought the bull to the museum where it was buried with the other legends in one of the most unusual cemeteries you will ever visit.

This past week I also got the chance to visit Pryor, Oklahoma where just like in the old days there is still a mom and pop bookstore called the Bible Book Store and Book Exchange. Pryor is another town that is rich in Oklahoma history and I am sure a return trip is in my future.

Till next time, I’ll see ya down the road…..