(Photos of this adventure were lost during prior site migration.)
Summertime… And the living is easy!
To Colorado and Arkansas
May 23, to June 9, 2006
We visited family in Colorado, Oklahoma, Arkansas and New Mexico during the trip. It’s generally sunny and warm everywhere in May and, usually, we beat the muggiest days of summer this time of year. This trip was not so mild; we ran into more heat than we’d have liked. Even so, the trip was enjoyable as we streaked along the backwaters of the US Highway system.
Tuesday, May 23, 2006 Day 1, home to Bob Scott Summit, near Austin, NV via SR99, I-80: 358 miles
Day 1 is inherently busier and more demanding due to getting the last minute things done, the final stuff loaded on the coach and getting underway. But we managed it all, including dropping off our Poodle, who has ADD, to our neighbor, Cub. He wanted to keep Wiggles while we were away because he simply doesn’t know better. Poor Cub.
We were underway at 0945. We stopped along I-80 at a rest area for lunch, then continued on ’til we reached our overnight camping destination, Bob Scott Summit near Austin, Nevada. US50 through Nevada is truly the “Loneliest Highway in America” as it is known. And we would enjoy the lonely drive – unless we had trouble.
We arrived at Bob Scott Summit about 1730. I backed into our camp site, lowered the jacks and… TWANG! Bang! oops. I ran back to see what happened and discovered that I had dropped the rear jack onto a log that was meant to be our wheel stop. I know to check the area before dropping the jacks. I had yet another senior moment. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.
The foot of the jack and both springs, meant to retract the jack, popped off. Now what?! I raised the other three jacks, but that one wouldn’t budge. I tried leveraging it back up – and it still wouldn’t budge. Finally, we decided the best we could do would be to call our Good Sam Road Service. I had my doubts that they’d find anyone in that remote area, and I was right. They advised me to call them back the following morning when they might have better luck finding service. With the jack down, the coach could not be moved. We were as stuck as the jack.
All other options having failed, I dug out the owners manual for the jacks. I read that there were two release valves in the system that when opened would allow manual return of the fluid to the pump reservoir. I found the valves, opened them, and sure enough I slowly leveraged that jack back up. I still had to reinstall the foot and springs, and I would do that when the conditions were better. The ground where we were was populated by a zillion crickets and even more ants.
We had a nice evening after that first day’s drive there on the summit, and celebrated the fact that we got ourselves out of our own crisis. We didn’t wind up stuck in the middle of nowhere waiting on a mechanic that may not have even existed!
Wednesday Day 2. From Bob Scott Summit, NV to Green River, UT via US50, I-70: 458 Miles.
We hit the road early on Day 2 and drove just thirty miles to a rest area along US50 for our first stop of the day. As Lavonne prepared breakfast, I reattached the foot and springs to the jack with little effort. There was no damage and we were just fine after all. But I didn’t lower the jack and actually test it. That could wait ’til we were nearer civilization.
We drove across the remainder of Nevada on US50 and into Utah. We finally reached I-70 and were back in what we considered civilization. Even so, I-70 is long and nearly as lonely as the remote, two lane US50 through Nevada. We passed through a few small towns as we drove through Utah on US50, but along I-70 we found services few and far between.
The beauty of Utah is awesome. Rock formations rise from the desert that could easily be mistaken for the handiwork of an ancient, desert artist.
During the drive on Day 2 we discussed the option of taking, for the third time in our coach, I-70 into the Denver area, through the 11,000 foot high Eisenhower Tunnel that cuts through the rim of the Rockies at the Continental Divide. It is a long, hard pull over the Rockies, but either route we discussed, US40 or I-70, was a long, hard pull. We would make better time if we took I-70, so we did.
We stopped for the night at Shady Acres RV Park in Green River, Utah, a small town on the banks of, yes, Green River. It is very rare that we camp in a RV park. But by doing so we’d be able to dump the tanks and be ready to park the coach the next day for a few days as we visited the kids’ near Denver.
That evening I tried the jacks. I tried the slide-out. Everything worked fine. We slept well.
Thursday Day 3. From Green River, UT to Greenwood Village, CO via I-70, SR470: 458 Miles.
We began Day 3 well rested and anxious to greet the family in Greenwood Village, Colorado that afternoon. We knew from experience that the day’s drive would be long and, at times, much like work. The coach purred along as we climbed and climbed, working our way up to the Continental Divide at over 11,000 feet elevation. The drive is absolutely beautiful along I-70 which includes millionaire’s playgrounds such as Vail.
The beauty of Colorado extends into the busy-ness that is the Denver area. The solitude of US50 was far behind us as we jostled our way along the SR470 with the harried commuters. We were nearing the end of the first leg of our journey.
We arrived at our kids’ home a day early and Wifey was a happy camper. My life is best when Wifey’s happy. The efforts to arrive early were well rewarded at my request: Dinner with the family at the greatest Chinese Restaurant on earth, P.F. Chang’s! Their restaurants are found coast to coast, but the only one we’ve ever visited is the one in Aurora, Colorado, near our kids’ home. This was only the second time we’ve dined there and it was indeed a culinary delight.
We’d be playing it safe and staying off the highways during the Memorial Day weekend with the family.
Wednesday 5-31, Day 9. From Greenwood Village, CO to Garden City, KS via: I-25, SR86, I-70, US40, US50: 299 miles.
It’s always wonderful to spend time with family, but we were ready to continue our trip after a week of cooling our heels. The coach sat in the driveway the entire week, not turning a wheel.
We drove east from the Denver area, staying on the two-lane US highways through the beautiful Colorado countryside. The mountains of Colorado became rolling hills and eventually the flat lands of Kansas.
Our plan was to drive to Dodge City, Kansas, but when the AM/FM radio went dead, which also plays our XM radio, I decided to shorten the day by about 50 miles so that I could get it fixed or install a new radio. We stopped for the night at the Wal-Mart store in Garden City, KS. I had fixed a loose hot wire that regularly shorted the radio just before the trip. The new problem was the ground wire for the radio. I got the new problem fixed in about an hour. Earlier in the day we drove a short section of US 40 that was wash board rough. We slowed down to about 30 MPH to keep the coach in one piece, and I blamed that rough road for the loose wire. Other than that one terrible section, Colorado roads seemed pretty well maintained.
After settling in for the night at Garden City, we were treated to an exciting thunder storm with winds that must have blown about 60 MPH. The rain blew sideways in sheets, the lightening flashed, the thunder roared and the coach rocked – even though the jacks were down.
The show went on for a couple of hours, shaking up Lavonne pretty badly and forcing me to move the coach so that its rear faced into the wind. We were up ’til after 11 O’clock dealing with the wild weather. Kansas was not a boring place!
Thursday 6-1, Day 10, Garden City, KS to Sand Springs (near Tulsa) OK via: US50, US183, US160, I-35, US177, US412, US64, SR97: 370 miles.
The day began slowly as we took our time getting launched. I checked for any damage from the night’s wild thunderstorm and rolling shopping carts in the Wal-Mart lot. No damage noted.
We enjoyed driving through the heartland, amazed by all the cattle trucks that streak hither and yon over the Kansas highways. They were as plentiful as logging trucks in Oregon, it seemed. Those poor cows must die by the thousands every day to meet our demand for beef. Personally, I demand at least one aged, rare, charred ribeye every month. According to my doctor, I risk my life eating ’em – but the flavor seems worth it!
The flat lands and rolling Gypsum Hills of Kansas gave way to the Green Country of Oklahoma. My God, that country is my country, I felt right at home in Oklahoma. And Arkansas and Mississippi and Georgia and all those wonderful southern states. Those folks are my folks.
We endured a cloud burst as we cruised down US412. We saw the huge, black cloud for miles before we actually drove into it. The rain fell as hard as the prior night’s thunder storm. I enjoyed it. Lavonne prayed herself through it. She’s not happy with wild weather.
We landed for the night at the Wal-Mart in Sand Springs, Oklahoma, just 10 miles or so before Tulsa. Having been conditioned to eat out by our kids the past week, we found Charlie’s Chicken, a KFC type place of about 30 locations in Oklahoma, and continued our bad eating habits. It was delicious!
Friday 6-2, Day 11. From Sand Springs (near Tulsa), OK to Mt. Ida, AR via US64, Muskogee Turnpike, I-40, US59, US271, US71, US270: 228 miles.
We spent a quiet, peaceful night in the Wal-Mart parking lot. We left just in time to catch the commute traffic through Tulsa – or so we thought. The traffic was not as bad as expected as we drove through Tulsa with no delays. But the freeway through Tulsa – the Keystone Expressway – was an abomination! It was a cement highway with asphalt squished between the broken cement seams. The asphalt was missing in many places and the ride was awful. That was the worst southern highway I’ve ever driven. As we drove out of Tulsa and onto the several US Highways we drove that day, the roads were as usual in the south, smooth and well maintained. I don’t know what Tulsa’s problem was, but they ought to get some of the fellows that maintain rural roads to teach ’em how it’s done!
The Green Country of Oklahoma and Arkansas was absolutely breath-taking in its beauty. The land is overgrown with greenery. The vast majority of land isn’t taken up with towns or highways or farmland; it’s covered with lush, green trees and bushes and grasses. It really is God’s country. I’d live there in a heartbeat if Wifey would concur. But that will never happen.
Mt. Ida, the far end of our trip, is tucked into the rolling hills of Arkansas, less than a hundred miles west of Little Rock. A small town, its residents number 900 or so. It is an unpretentious little place with friendly folk whose lifestyle I envy. I hadn’t seen any California freaks in quite a while. The folks I saw didn’t have pierced tongues, the guys around didn’t seem to wear earrings and I hadn’t heard blaring rap “music” in days. Yep. I liked it there.
Nearby Lake Ouachita (Osh-itaw) must be a fisherman’s heaven on earth. After we settled in Mt. Ida we ate dinner with Lavonne’s Uncle Paul and Aunt Maxine at the Shangri-La Restaurant on the shore of the lake. (Fried chicken again!) A trophy striper from the lake decorated the wall – and weighed in at 43 pounds when it was caught! A recent edition of the local paper posted a photo of a fellow with his freshly caught 65 pound catfish taken from the lake! Lake Ouachita is a very large and well established fishery that is also well known for black bass fishing. Yep, this is where I want to live. Honey, are you listening to me? Honey…?
We parked the coach at the Yeaman’s, cousins of Lavonne, who have a nice home down a dirt road off US 271. Their home is hidden deep in the woods of Arkansas and was as peaceful a place as one could find anywhere. Hank kept a few hunting dogs tethered to trees just off the clearing around the house. They were hound dogs used for coon and deer hunting in his Arkansas woods. He owns a couple hundred acres of woods and keeps it seeded with clover and maintains a few salt licks so that deer will choose to live on his land. He leveled the home site himself, had lumber milled from nearby trees and built his home with the help of his wife. These are hardy folks from the same stock that chiseled a civilization from the wilderness and built this country.
The second night we parked the coach at the home of other cousins on Lavonne’s side that also live near Mt. Ida, Bill and Wanda Scrimshire. They have a small home on several acres on which they keep a couple of mules and a few horses. The place is groomed and as lovely a little ranchette as one could wish for. The day there was a bit more like Arkansas summer weather; it was a little muggy and hot, but not nearly as muggy as it can be, we’re told. The third day of our visit we bid our kin farewell and again headed down the road. This time we headed westward with plans to visit more kin in Albuquerque and Tucson during the next few days.
Sunday, June 4, Day 13, Mt. Ida, AR to Burkburnett, TX via US270, US70, I-44: 367 miles
It seemed that we left too early as we pulled out of Mt. Ida on Sunday morning after spending the night at the Scrimshire’s. But the weather was getting less than ideal, and maybe Arkansas isn’t the place for me after all. Well, of course it is! I’d just leave it during the summer and find better weather elsewhere. I might as well dream big while I’m dreaming.
We stayed on US Highways nearly all day long, but took I-44 for about eight miles to the exit in Burkebarnett, TX, just across the line from Oklahoma. A small Wal-Mart store greeted us at the end of the off ramp, and we almost felt at home.
The weather was not very cooperative. It was about 100 degrees most of the afternoon and it was not pleasant – but the air conditioners helped. While driving we use the chassis air, blowing cool from the dash with the curtain pulled closed behind us to keep the cockpit area as cool as possible.
When we pulled into the Wal-Mart store, we’d already had the coach air conditioner running for a few minutes and the coach was tolerable – so long as we kept the area as small as possible by closing off the bedroom and keeping the curtain closed at the cockpit. The generator and air conditioner ran ’til nearly midnight to keep us comfortable. Just. After we went to bed, we ran the bedroom air ’til it cooled off outside – and that small room is much easier to cool because it has its own air conditioner. We never run both airs, but just the one where we are. We looked forward to the cool of the morning.
The local TV predicted record breaking hot weather in that area of Texas with more to come all week. If the same was true of Albuquerque and/or Tucson, we’d likely head home instead of stopping to visit. After all, this trip was planned to be fun, not hot and miserable!
Monday 6-5, Day 14, Burkburnett, TX to Clovis, NM via I-44, US287, US70: 300 miles.
In spite of the hot weather, we slept well with the air conditioner on ’til around midnight. But the cool of the morning never came; it was about 70 degrees when I got up around 0500.
We were on the road at 0600, intending to drive to Clovis, NM and the Wal-Mart store there. We drove against a cross wind or headwind most all day, and climbed much of the time, too. We arrived at Clovis at noon – including the hour gained when we entered the Mountain Time Zone.
We discovered that the fridge wasn’t working on propane. Since we had the generator running anyway, we switched it over to electric. We called a RV repairman to visit us at the Wal-Mart lot, but he didn’t have the circuit board to fix the fridge. We couldn’t wait two days for it to arrive, so we just ran the little Honda all night to keep the fridge on house current. And we made do with the big generator occasionally to keep the coach cool. It could have been worse…
And that wasn’t enough headache for the day. The clothes rod in the main closet broke loose and fell to the floor. It was mounted pretty cheaply and we had too many clothes on it. I bought a couple of brackets at Wal-Mart and got it rigged up – and made it a lot stronger than it was. I hope.
We read that the weather in Tucson was in the 100’s. We decided not to head down there, choosing instead to head for home on I-40 from Albuquerque.
Tuesday 6-6, Day 15, Clovis, NM to Albuquerque, NM via US60, US285, I-40: 217 miles.
The morning dawned with a bit of coolness in the air, something we found pretty rare in those parts. We ran the little Honda generator all night long to keep the fridge running. We had a good night, but the little problems of the day kept me from my usual zonked out night’s sleep. As problems go, ours have been small; it’s not like we found ourselves on the side of the road with a blown engine!
We climbed to 7200 feet and onto I-40 as we neared Albuquerque to visit Seff, another member of our extended family. We started around 600 feet in Mt. Ida, and then found ourselves on the west side of the Continental Divide. I think. The winds died to flat calm by morning, so the drive was a bit less demanding than the prior day – ’til the winds kicked up again in the afternoon.
We dined mid-afternoon, again, at a Chinese buffet. This time Seff took us, and I was eager for another big meal. I’d been missing my Chinese fare, and two days of stuffing myself with it has somewhat sated my appetite. I have to get back on my heart diet – and soon!
We camped in Seff’s driveway for the night, and thunder storms brewed all ’round us. The coming night might also be interesting.
Wednesday 6-7, Day 16, Albuquerque, NM to Kingman, AZ via I-40: 463 miles.
We knew that almost 500 miles in one day would be too many, but we wanted to get to Kingman, AZ so that our visit with another family member in Visalia, CA would be doable the next day. And perhaps we could also be home on Friday. We were both ready to be home.
This trip had seen more hot weather than usual this time of year, it seemed. Mild weather is certainly more enjoyable to travel in than hot weather, even though the coach remained pretty comfortable all day. It never got so warm that we had to run the room air conditioner in the coach as we drove, we stayed comfy with just the dash air.
The day began with a welcome tail wind which is always a pleasure. But all too soon we fought a headwind/crosswind and it blew all day long. We climbed nearly the whole day as well. We crossed the Continental Divide at 7275 feet, over 100 miles west of Albuquerque. A bit later we topped the Arizona Divide at over 7300 feet a few miles west of Flagstaff. I don’t know what the Arizona Divide is all about and that’s something I have to learn.
With all the climbing and headwinds we got lousy mileage. The coach gives us around seven to eight MPG overall, but certainly not while climbing and fighting winds all day.
We never got off I-40 the entire trip that day, and that didn’t wear well with us, either. We like the light traffic and slower pace associated with the US Highways. Driving through small American towns is a pleasure and such driving doesn’t exist on the Interstates. On the Interstates you see America; on the US Highways you become part of rural America.
The “broken” fridge seemed to be working fine by just running the main generator from time to time to keep the contents cold. The little Honda kept the fridge working on the nights we couldn’t hook up to shore power.
The good news: We’d be in Visalia, CA the next day and home on Friday.
Thursday 6-8, Day 17, Kingman, AZ to Visalia, CA via I-40, SR58, SR99: 402 miles.
The day’s drive was pretty much a downhill plunge all day and we contended with headwinds only on occasion. I reckoned that made up for the climbing and headwinds of the prior day.
We left Kingman early, about 0600. The day was mild and even when we arrived in Visalia in the San Joaquin Valley, the temperatures were tolerable – so long as one didn’t have to work outdoors.
The sad reality of returning to California greeted us nearly at the state line: Lousy roads, the highest gas prices of the whole trip and heavy traffic. California is a rotten place to live. I was born and raised there, but the older and grumpier I get the more I hate the place. California has waaaay too many people, lousy government, high prices and insane politics. I’d put feet to my opinion if I could, but I’m not leaving my wife – and while she agrees with me about the place, she’s not about to leave family behind. So here I remain. But it gives me lots of things to grumble about. For a grumpy old man, that’s not all bad!
The next day: Home!
Friday, June 9, Day 18, Visalia, CA to Home via SR99: 150 Miles.
We were anxious to hit the road on that final day of our trip. We were on the road before 0600 and home before 0900. The worst road of the whole trip was our infernal State Highway 99. The ride is rougher, over a long highway, than any other stretch in the 46 states I’ve driven. There is no reason for it, but the excuse is that we have lousy management of our resources. It’s a crime.
But we were home! It had been a good trip. Now that we were nearly in full summer mode, we wouldn’t be doing much Rving, but I might do some fishing trips with the boat and the coach.
After a couple of hours of unloading and putting all the stuff we think we need back in the house, I dumped the tanks. I then felt guilty about parking the beautiful coach with all the grime of an 18 day trip. So I washed the front, back and wheel rims. I rinsed the sides. She looked a lot better with the tell-tale grime gone. And in a couple of weeks she would return to the dealer for her annual clean up and wax job.
Our trip was exactly 4,000 miles by the odometer. We visited five family members from Colorado to Arkansas to New Mexico and home.
I was ready to do some fishing. But I would enjoy a day or two of doing absolutely, positively nothing! Life is good.