(This is Page 2 of the adventure; Page 1 is here.)
June 15, 2015, Monday, Day 7, to Dodge City, KS via I-25, SR470,83,86, I-70, US287, US50, US 400: 344 miles
Click on any photo to enlarge it. A second click enlarges to full screen!
It wasn’t exactly the unknown, I had a plan of sorts: The first couple of days I would drive to Chicken Mary’s and Chicken Annie’s in Pittsburg, KS. They were featured on The Travel Channel cable TV show some time ago and I promised myself I’d give ’em a try someday. From there I wanted to drive into Missouri, then north to Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, the Dakotas, Montana, and Washington. I haven’t driven those states with Big Blue, and I didn’t want to miss a great opportunity.
I was up around 0500, excited to get underway. I had washed the coach in the kids’ driveway, but the side against the pine trees was unreachable. So after the morning chores, I turned the coach around and washed that side.
Day 7 began with a one-sided bath for Big Blue. I think she looked real good and I was proud to head for the unknown with her!
After washing the coach I visited with Allen and Lavonne for awhile. They walked me out to the coach and we said our good-byes. I then climbed aboard and was on my way into the unknown.
The first couple of days were planned; I’d drive to Dodge City, KS the first day, then on to Pittsburg, KS to have dinner at one of the chicken restaurants. I’d have lunch the next day at the other one, but just where I’d go after that, I didn’t know.
Here’s why I like to drive the backroads. This photo was taken along SR86 in Colorado. What a wonderful way to really see the country! (Double click to see this photo as it looked to me when I took it.)
The day’s drive was pleasant – very pleasant. I love to drive the US highways instead of the Interstates and that’s just what I did. I followed about the same route as last year when I drove from the kids’ near Denver to Georgia. The drive was like navigating a sea of green and it was green and lush most everywhere. Colorado was hilly and by Kansas I drove endless miles of flat, open country. And it was all green.
A picturesque Colorado ranch. What a place to live!
More of beautiful Colorado.
I saw several of these huge turbine blades during the day’s drive. This was taken in Lamar, CO when I was gassing up. This gives some perspective of how big those wind turbines we see really are.
I stopped in Elizabeth, CO and pulled into their Walmart lot to whip up breakfast. I was surprised how big the store was for a small town, but that’s not unusual. I stopped again in Lamar, CO at a Safeway lot to make lunch. I was having a grand time seeing the country!
I wasn’t heading for Santa Fe, but it seemed I was on the Santa Fe Trail all day long.
Another lovely Colorado spread for me to envy.
Holly was a very small town, but it was the hometown of Gov. Romer and that was a big deal!
As I drove the highways and byways of Colorado and Kansas, I considered what a lucky fellow I was to be knocking around the country wherever I chose to go. Our modern highways and motor homes are relatively recent inventions. While we take our highways for granted, and seldom consider what fantastic machines motor homes have become, the fact is such comforts and mobility could not be imagined by even my parent’s generation. Yep. I am a lucky guy and I am thankful. I’m also pretty far off topic!
This lousy photo shouldn’t have made the cut, but it was the only one I could take. I was welcomed to Kansas.
The day was warm and pleasant and I ran the dash air conditioner some of the time. When I arrived in Dodge City, I had to run the house air conditioner (and generator) for hours to stay comfortable. Apparently, the hose that drains the condensation from the AC must have plugged or broken because the condensation dripped down from the AC filter that is on the ceiling. I caught the drops in a bucket and of course the bucket was in the way all evening. I climbed up onto the roof and took off the AC cover to see if I could see something to fix, but I quickly decided that the problem was beyond my ability. So I lived with the bucket and the drips ’til almost bed time. I would have the following morning free as I waited to have lunch at the other chicken restaurant, and would try to get someone to fix it then.
Feed lots are a common sight in Kansas. These critters eat well, but none of them grow old in Kansas!
Welcome to Dodge City, pardner!
Jacks down for the night in Dodge City, Kansas.
I spent the evening as I usually do, watching TV. I dug out my Oh, Brother Where Art Thou? DVD and began watching it for the 14th time. I still find that crazy movie to be entertaining. I climbed into bed around 2300 Central Time, and slept like a baby.
Tuesday, Day 8, Dodge City, KS to Pittsburg, KS via US50, SR96, US400, US69, US160: 336 miles
I was up a bit after 0600 local time, and got right after the chores. I tended my large bug collection on the windshields, and June is surely the bug season. I considered climbing back up on the roof to give the leaky AC another look, but decided I was right earlier; the job was too complicated for me.
After a trip into the Walmart for some grocery shopping, I sat down at the computer and brought this travelogue up to date. I frittered away a lot of time that morning, and by 1000 it had become time to get outa Dodge!
This unusually cute lil’ Pom belonged to an RV family that parked overnight near me. When they walked her in the morning, I had to take her photo. What a cutie!
It was a bit after 1000 when I pulled back onto the highway and headed for Pittsburg, KS and Chicken Annie’s. As I drove I looked up info on the two chicken restaurants and discovered they both open at 1630 and neither serve lunch. So much for eating at both, so I planned to have dinner at Chicken Annie’s, the original.
As I drove the two days from Greenwood Village I thoroughly enjoyed the light traffic one encounters on the less traveled highways across the country. I think the relatively light traffic and fewer people are the main reasons I so enjoy these travels aboard the motor home.
Kansas doesn’t change much; generally it is flat, green, and open country. I really like the place and its very good roads.
Kansas has its share of wind turbines. Through the area of my morning drive, especially, they seemed to be everywhere. So I…
…stopped at a roadside info area that told a lot about wind power and how it’s harnessed. Big Blue looks like a part of the sky with that wild blue color.
Kansas corn and wheat seemed to be everywhere. The place is often called the Breadbasket of America. That seemed true.
I didn’t see any Amish wagons and I think this is the first sign to watch for them I’ve seen. One of those wagons would have been a great photo op.
As I cruised along US400 I looked for a rest area to stop for lunch. I searched on the navigator and found that I was approaching one near Beaumont. There was no indication on the road sign that it had a RV dump, but as I parked to prepare some lunch, I saw there was one. I put lunch on hold and drove right to it and dumped my holding tanks.
Big Blue, relieved at last, at the Beaumont Rest Area. I was a happy camper.
I also loaded on fresh water, then pulled to the side and set about making lunch. I had spent enough time there, I thought, so I opened a can of creamed corn and “drank” it as I continued my drive. Creamed corn out of the can was not new, but drinking it was a first. It worked just fine, but likely not a dining experience one would want to share with others. I guess I just did.
I drove through a heck of a rain storm as I neared the end of my drive. It came down in buckets and was a portend of things to come.
I mentioned wheat and it was everywhere in Kansas. There were fields so big they stretched to the horizon. And some so small they didn’t seem worthwhile. They call Kansas a breadbasket for good reason.
As I approached my destination in Pittsburg, KS I was amazed at the roads my navigator wanted me to take. I wound up on tiny country lanes so obscure and out of the way I thought I might have entered the wrong address. But no, it turned out that Chicken Annie’s and Chicken Mary’s were planted cheek by jowl out in the middle of nowhere, among farm fields and a few homes.
I figured this cow trail might lead to someone’s barn, but to a world famous chicken eatery? Even two of them?!
Yep! I took this photo while standing in front of Chicken Annie’s place, and that sign down the road was Chicken Mary’s. That seemed incredible, but sure enough – both were out in the middle of farm country and almost neighbors. There must be a story there, but I don’t know it yet.
I first drove into Chicken Mary’s thinking… well, not thinking. My navigator said I had a few feet to travel, but having seen the building, etc. I pulled in. When I realized what I’d done, I simply drove a few more feet to Chicken Annie’s.
This is a small part of the dining area inside Chicken Annie’s. There was a school bus parked outside and I imagined the place full of kids. But it was a football camp of sorts from nearby and the whole group was pigging out on Chicken Annie’s fine food. And that group of teenagers were absolute gentlemen; I hardly knew they were there.
Now, here is one happy camper. The two-day drive was well worth it! Those three chicken thighs were perfectly cooked, crispy, tasty, and juicy. I really, really enjoyed that meal!
The one shortcoming at Chicken Annie’s was their pathetic single cash register. This is the line to pay, and those fellas are the football players I mentioned. There was no way I’d stand that long, and so for a change I just handed the gal my check and a $10 bill. That’s right! That three piece chicken dinner with potatoes and gravy, German coleslaw, all the bread I could eat and a coke was just over $9. I told my waitress that they don’t charge enough; that meal would have cost twice that in Kalifornistan.
I drove by Chicken Mary’s as I left Chicken Annie’s. I had hoped to have lunch the next day at Chicken Mary’s, but since neither place opened ’til 1600, I’d have to miss out.
After the big chicken meal, I drove a few miles to the Walmart store in Pittsburg to spend the night. I was very pleased with my choice to drive two days for a chicken dinner, and looked forward to beginning a meandering trip home the next day.
I set up the coach for the night in the Walmart lot, then took a walk around the area for a little exercise. I decided to live with the leaky air conditioner ’til I returned home as it wasn’t a big deal to live with a bucket on the floor when I had to. And I had to use it that evening; it was muggy and uncomfortable even though it was only in the high 70’s.
I spent time updating some of this blog, and still had a lot to do the next morning. I watched a bit more of O Brother, Where art Thou? and poured a couple of those good Tom Collins, or something similar. I hit the sack around 2300. It had been a grand and gratifying day.
Wednesday, Day 9, June 17, 2015, Pittsburg, KS to Sioux City, Iowa via US69, I-435, I-29: 379 miles.
I was awakened around 0530, listening to pounding rain and rolling thunder. It was a marvelous, wet, flashy storm and I loved the sound of it all. I was up and doing chores after the water warmed a bit. It was amazing how much it rained, and it kept raining for a couple of hours.
The plan was to head north that morning, in a round-about way, to return home. I checked Google Maps, as usual, for the route I wanted, then programmed it into my Garmin navigator. As I sat at my table in the motor home, I was entertained by the storm outside. It rained steady for a long time, and I enjoyed every bit of it. I worked on this blog, finally bringing it up to date.
It was nearly 1000 when I pulled out of Pittsburg, KS to continue my trip home. I planned to head north, very near and paralleling the Missouri state line, following SR69 ’til I caught Interstate highways clear to Sioux City, Iowa. I spent most of my driving on Interstates that day, and sometimes I just have to for a sensible route.
I drove through some light rain as I began the day’s drive north on US69 heading for Iowa. By day’s end there was abundant sunshine.
Whatever the Historic Byway of the Frontier Military was, I was on it.
Missouri welcomed me and I earned my first state sticker for the map of where I’ve been aboard Big Blue. Missouri was the first sticker I earned in about a year.
When I was over 100 miles into my journey, as I rounded a connector from one highway to another, a terrible crash sounded behind me. I am used to having my briefcase slide off the couch with a thud, but this was much louder. I turned to look, and there lay the TV, face down on the floor. I pulled over at once, set it back on its stand, and turned it on. Whew! It came on. That was twice I’d forgotten to put the TV away before traveling, but the first time I didn’t catch it in time. Lavonne noticed it the one other time and saved the inevitable. Again I had to wonder, why do they let us oldsters out on the highways alone?! I was lucky the thing didn’t break, and I had yet to actually play it to be sure it was Ok. (It was.)
Every so often along the Interstates we are reminded who got this great system started. I remember learning about it way back in the early 50s with our school’s subscription to Weekly Reader. The jist of the story back then was that we kids would be paying for it. And we sure did – and still are. It’s been a good thing.
The day’s drive took me through the east side of Kansas, into Missouri and then to Iowa, most of which was a sea of green as mentioned earlier. The elevation continued the drop ’til I was around 1000 ft. While it rained like heck in Kansas that morning, it was sunny and warm at my destination. I continued to enjoy the less crowded drives even though I drove a lot of Interstate that day.
Who knew Council Bluffs, Iowa had a skyline?! Not me, ’til I saw this.
Someone in Council Bluffs thinks this is art. sheesh.
The sign next to the I-29 marker indicated that I was on the Lewis and Clark Trail. I had no idea that I-29 was that old! And why would they need such a huge freeway? History can sometimes be very difficult to understand.
Having called earlier, I knew that I was welcome in Sioux City’s Walmart lot. I dropped the jacks, then took a walk. There was a breeze of sorts, and while it was fairly humid, I was comfortable in the coach without running the air conditioner. I set about the business of editing photos and updating this blog. I noticed the Walmart had an auto service section with a door large enough to accommodate Big Blue. She was due for an oil change, and I would get that done the next morning.
Jacks down at the Sioux City, Iowa Walmart for the night.
I had dinner in the coach as I have all meals this trip except the wonderful chicken dinner at Chicken Annie’s. And as usual it was a frozen dinner and half an orange. I finished watching Oh Brother, and began watching another favorite, Driving Miss Daisy. A couple of Tom Collins’ went well with the movies. At 1100 I climbed into my cozy bed and I slept soundly. It had been another adventurous day on the highways.
Thursday, Day 10, Sioux City, Iowa to Fargo, ND via I-29: 336 miles.
After a restful night, I was up and about at 0500 or so, and set about the morning chores at once. The Walmart auto center would open at 0700 and Big Blue would be at the big door, anxious for some fresh oil and a filter. The fellas got busy on her and by 0800 I had done my shopping in the store and had moved the coach back to the parking lot, ready for another 5000 miles of driving. It was a productive morning.
Big Blue ready for her early morning Walmart oil change.
Back in the lot, I again did some blogging, and set the navigator to take me to Fargo, ND. The day would be almost entirely on I-29 northbound through Iowa, South Dakota and North Dakota. I’d take a short side trip from Fargo east to Minnesota just to earn that state sticker.
Before leaving I whipped up breakfast in the coach, another frozen breakfast sandwich and an orange, then headed to the Interstate.
Sioux City skyline as I drove through the main section on I-29. Or perhaps this is North Sioux City as they seemed to be the same metropolis.
It rained a bit in Sioux Falls but I never saw another drop all day. It was a beautiful day to stroll northward through Iowa, South Dakota, and North Dakota. And to earn the state stickers, I crossed a river into Nebraska and crossed a brook into Minnesota. After the crossings I turned around as soon as I could, and continued north.
I was welcomed as I began crossing the Mighty Mo to Nebraska.
The Mighty Mo as I returned to Iowa.
I nearly missed the brief visit to Nebraska because I thought I-29 would touch on it. But as I cruised along, looking across the Mighty Missouri River, which was the state line, I realized that I’d have to cross the river on another highway – and do so right away. So I turned around and backtracked south a few miles to a crossing of the Mighty Mo to Nebraska. I earned another state sticker!
As soon as I headed north, I was welcomed into South Dakota. I felt pretty popular.
Three states’ lines, Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota all come together within a couple miles, it seemed. As soon as I continued north I crossed into South Dakota.
South Dakota is a beautiful state and the drive was very scenic – if one finds miles and miles of corn and pasture land to be scenic. I never saw so much corn as I did there! It was on both sides of the highway by the thousands of acres. I’m not sure Iowa has anything on South Dakota by what I saw.
Apparently there was a very advanced tribe in the area back in the day – this concrete teepee seemed to me to be very hi-tech.
Another reason to like South Dakota. Still, I chugged along at my usual 58 MPH all day long.
Photos along I-29 as I drove through South Dakota:
I stopped for lunch at a rest area somewhere along the way, but I don’t remember just where. I stopped very few times during the drive, and mostly just watched the scenery slip by. I thought I would be driving through Watertown, SD, where my mom and and her eight brothers and sisters were born, or at least I think all of them were born there. But Watertown was a few miles off the Interstate, and I never even saw a sign for it. I had visited the town during my teen years long, long ago and I’m sure I would not have recognized any of it.
Eventually I reached North Dakota and was again welcomed.
I-29 climbed slowly to about 2000 feet from my start at about 1100 feet. Then it dropped down to 900 feet by the time I got to Fargo, ND. I had the Rocky Mountains ahead in Montana and Idaho and expected that there would be quite a change of scenery there.
As I stopped at a few rest areas that day, I believe every one of them had a RV dump available. Of course they did; I didn’t need one at the time. In the next day or two, when I would need one, I hoped to find Montana as accommodating. Also, I crossed the Continental Divide at just 1200 feet and was a bit surprised because I was driving north and I thought the divide was a north – south thing. hmmmm.
North Dakota looked a lot like South Dakota. It was green and beautiful.
I was surprised by the seemingly endless miles of grassy median and roadsides. The state must spend millions of dollars just mowing grass every year!
As I approached my destination I noted that Minnesota was just a couple of miles or so to the east. I took a small, rural road to Minnesota, turned around and drove back to I-29 and on to Fargo. I was disappointed that there was no sign on the old farm road that even said “Entering Minnesota” or some such thing, let alone the fact that I was not particularly welcomed, either. So, I did enter Minnesota that day. But I planned to drive the couple miles or so again the following morning, back into Minnesota. And I would take the Interstate that runs east from Fargo. Surely there would be a welcome sign on that big Interstate!
Crossing the Red River, more like a brook, which is the state line between North Dakota and Minnesota. But there wasn’t a single sign on that old road about it. Dang it.
I arrived at Fargo’s Walmart about 1730 and settled in for the night. It was about the nicest Walmart I’ve ever seen, and perhaps the largest. I checked the Internet and discovered that they consented to an upscale store to get the city’s approval. And it was upscale:
Fargo’s relatively new and fancy Walmart store. And it was huge!
A more detailed view; note the brick work and the added landscaping. Nice!
After setting up the coach, I took my walk around the grounds and the store. I was very impressed with the extra large and gorgeous store and wished we had one like that near home.
The afternoon and evening in Fargo was perfect with mild weather and a slight breeze. I didn’t need to run the air conditioner and generator again as the coach was comfy just sitting by the open window.
Big Blue’s jacks down at the Fargo, ND Walmart.
As I do every night on these trips, I spent much of the evening editing photos and writing this travelogue. I was tempted to buy one of Walmart’s rotisserie chickens for dinner, but opted instead to behave myself and stay on my diet. I finally finished my blogging after 2100, and that meant I spent waaay too much time on it again!
After watching Driving Miss Daisy, I called it a day and headed for bed. It was 2300 and I was ready for a good night’s sleep. And I slept well.
Friday, Day 11, Fargo, ND to Miles City, MT via I-94: 462 miles.
I was up and at ’em at 0600. I hustled through the chores because I wanted to drive to Miles City, MT that day, about 460 miles west of Fargo. I pulled out of the lot at 0700.
First things first: I headed east on I-94 just a short way ’til I crossed the Red River and entered Minnesota. I never did see a welcome sign, so this Rest Area notice would have to suffice.
Day 11 was the second day in a row of driving only Interstate Highways instead of my preferred US Highways. On some trips it just makes no sense to drive US Highways, and that was the case through the Dakotas and Montana. But up in God’s country where there are so few people and so much space, the drive seemed about the same as the US Highways in other parts of the country.
This must have been the loneliest wind turbine in the country; usually when one is seen, there are dozens if not hundreds. From what I could see, this was the only one for many miles.
I fought a crosswind much of the day. It makes for a noisier drive with all the wind noise and the drive becomes more like work. But later in the day the wind died down and it made for a more enjoyable drive.
Here are a couple of old, weather beaten farm houses that reflect the tough conditions in North Dakota. I often imagine that there are folks around who remember growing up in such places.
I crossed the Continental Divide again. This was twice in two or three days. I looked up the info on this divide, and the map of our divide just doesn’t jive with the ones I cross. Maybe some agency is confused. I sure am.
Yep. The whole day!
Sharing the road North Dakota style.
There were many lakes in North Dakota, much as Minnesota is famous for, I guess. I saw dozens of ponds and lakes and a few ducks and pelicans as well. Such sights added interest to the otherwise green sea I’d been traversing for days. And I loved the green! It sure beat the brown of Kalifornistan to which I dreaded returning.
And the bugs! I stopped for breakfast around 0900 at a rest area, and as I checked my tires I noticed small black flies all over the coach. I don’t know if the heat from the sun on the coach attracted them, but they sure took to it. As I climbed back into the coach I had to fight ’em to get in and still three or four of them came in with me. At another rest area stop later while driving through Montana the bees were just as bad. I guess the plains are just plain buggy this time of year and I was glad I was in an enclosed coach to stay away from ’em.
A picturesque North Dakota farm.
I stopped for gas at a lonely gas station about 20 miles before Bismark, ND to fill a very empty tank. I noted the price was $2.80 so I chose to drive another 20 miles or so to Bismark and beat their price. I fought traffic in that very busy town to get in and out of the gas station. I still paid $2.80. The heavy traffic was the price of trying too hard to be thrifty.
Sure enough, that’s Salem Sue, the largest Holstein cow as seen from a long way off as she’s visible for miles. The Salem Lions Club built this huge roadside attraction back in the 70s to honor the local dairy industry. She stands some 38 feet high. hmmmmm. Maybe the 70s were especially slow in Salem, ND.
Another monster roadside attraction of sorts. Note the size compared to the SUV. This was billed as the world’s largest metal sculpture, or some such thing. Such “attractions” do give the landscape a bit of variety, I suppose.
Dickensen, ND had a McDonald’s, and they are not so prolific in that part of the country. I needed a sugar and caffeine jolt, so I pulled in and got a McFlurry and coffee. The place was crawling with activity, signs were posted looking for help including a bar and casino next to McDonald’s advertising for bartenders and bouncers! It seemed to be a real boom town. I talked to a guy in the parking lot and learned that I was in the Bakken Shale area that I’ve heard so much about in recent years. I also saw a lot of oil wells west of the place and I reckoned that a lot of folks were making big bucks.
There were many oil wells west of Dickensen, ND as I drove through the Bakken Shale area. It seemed to be a boom time even with low crude oil prices at the time.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park, which I don’t think I’ve ever heard of, had a rest area, so I pulled in to take a couple photos. Above and below are photos of the Painted Canyon, a part of the park.
I was in Big Sky Country!
When I arrived in Miles City, MT the elevation was around 2300 feet. I had driven from the flatlands of North Dakota which became rolling hills as the elevation slowly increased. The Rocky Mountains were not far away and in the next day or two I figured I’d be taking Big Blue up some pretty steep climbs.
I pulled in to Miles City a bit after 1700 and, as usual, settled into the Walmart lot for the night. I had read that morning that the humidity was 96%, but checking it during the drive, I noticed that it had dropped during the day. A big thunder storm had passed through a while before I arrived. I had imagined another evening of running the air conditioner and generator, but with the windows and door opened, I was comfortable. And I was pleased.
Jacks down at Miles City, MT for the night.
I took a walk soon after arriving, then whipped up another frozen dinner. I spent the evening as always on this trip, updating the blog and editing too many photos. I dug out some of the Johnny Carson discs and watched a bit of the funny stuff that was so popular for so long. I enjoyed a couple Tom Collins cocktails, too.
Earlier that evening a smelly, noisy cattle truck pulled in right behind me. I put up with it ’til bedtime, then realized that he wasn’t going to move anytime soon. One of the advantages of Walmart lots over RV parks is that I simply moved. I found a quieter, stink free area and settled again. I slept well, and thank you, Mr. Sam.
Saturday, Day 12, Miles City, MT to Bozeman, MT via I-94 which terminated at and became I-90: 283 miles.
I was up a bit before 0600 after a restful night and hit the floor running, so to speak. I got the chores done, including the daily scrubbing of the windshields, then tackled a problem I’d been having with the XM radio. It would shut off during the drives, and wouldn’t run at all when parked. I figured it was a loose connection to the 12 volt system, so I checked the hot lead first, and that was it. I pinched the blade connector a bit and all was well. If only I could fix a leaky air conditioner so quickly!
Before I hit the road, I posted a bunch of photos to the prior day’s blog and brought the blog up to date. Sometimes I think I overdo this blog, and no doubt I do, but I thoroughly enjoy reading the travel stories long after I’m back home, and blogging does give me something to do during the hours I’m not driving. If and when the day comes when I can no longer be-bop around the country aboard Big Blue, I’ll have all the travelogues I’ve written to help me remember my adventures.
By the time I finished the radio repair, photos, blogging, etc., it was after 0900 and I finally pulled out of Walmart at 0920. On the way out of town I stopped at a Mickey D’s and bought a large decaf and… a strawberry cream pie. I just couldn’t resist and I shouldn’t have stopped, but their coffee is a treat compared to the instant I “brew” in the coach.
And then I was on my way west on I-94 (which came to be I-90) which followed the Yellowstone River Valley almost all day. It was the most beautiful section of my trip and I shot waaay too many photos. It would be a big job sorting out which ones to use.
Now, here’s how to repair a broken down old highway; the eastbound side has been removed, the road bed has been renewed and when done this will be a whole new highway! What an idea for Kalifornistan where it’s just patch, patch, patch for eternity.
This little reminder placed by folks doing Good Works was out in the middle of nowhere along I-94. God bless ’em!
I drove right into history as I cruised through beautiful Montana.
As I heard it, General Custer didn’t do so well at Little Big Horn. He did, however, get a town named after him.
At the small town of Columbus, MT I pulled into a RV park and asked about dumping. They didn’t accept such business I was told, unless I wanted to pay the cost of an overnight stay. Not hardly. But he did tell me of a station on the other side of town that had a dump that charged about $10. I headed across town.
It was a Cenex station and it did have a dump I could use for just $5. I got right after it and also filled my fresh water tank. I then pulled up to their gas pumps and filled my gas tank. I was a happy camper and good for several days on those empty tanks. There were two teen-age fellas working the station, and I gave each $5, telling them that $10 was a fair price and I was used to paying that much. I charged the gas, as usual, but the reader on the pump did not work so I wouldn’t get my usual 5% discount from the credit card company. Somehow, the credit card company can tell whether I paid at the pump or inside and they don’t discount for inside purchases. It seemed a strange policy, but I almost never have to go inside these days.
After I left the station I pulled over to the side of the road in town and whipped up lunch. It was a small town and likely a great place to live. After lunch I was on my way. Because of the time I spent at Columbus, I decided I’d stop at Bozeman for the night, which wasn’t as long a drive. I called the Walmart there and was welcome to spend the night. My drive for the day would be relatively short at just 283 miles.
The following photos need no captions; they are photos I took during the day’s drive that show the beautiful Yellowstone River Valley. The whole valley could have been designated as part of Yellowstone National Park for its beauty:
This was my favorite photo of the day with the Rockies in all their splendor and the train rushing through the Yellowstone River Valley.
My drive was generally up and up all day. About 15 miles before Bozeman I topped Bozeman Pass at about 5700 feet, then descended down to about 4700 feet in Bozeman where I pulled into the Walmart lot for the night at 1600.
The two photos above were taken in the area of Bozeman Pass. It was a beautiful area, but I’d hate to drive it during winter.
When I went into the store as part of my walk, there were six electric scooters sitting unused at the entrances, and I use a scooter when I shop due to my sore feet. I decided then and there that after my walk I’d get the little shopping done that I needed to do. I even bought a few DVD movies from the cheap bin. I also assumed that those Montana folks were healthier than most because on one of the busiest days of the week, during the afternoon, all those scooters sat unused.
When I drove into the lot I was surprised to see the campus like setting. There was a park with benches etc., around the parking lot, and the lot itself was full of islands with trees and other plants. After the surprisingly fancy Walmart I saw in ND, I presumed the City of Bozeman required all the frills. It was a nice, campus-like store, but it attracted some homeless types as should have been expected. I would be especially alert.
Bozeman’s weather couldn’t have been better at 72° and a light breeze. I sure didn’t need a leaky air conditioner and a bucket in weather like that!
I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening in the coach doing my usual things. I blogged and edited photos up to and including dinner, which was, again, a frozen Cafe Steamer zapped in the microwave, and an orange.
Jacks down at Bozeman, Montana’s Walmart store for the night.
During the evening when the blogging was all done, I opened one of my new, cheap DVD movies, Anger Management. I’d seen it a time or two before and it was entertaining. I’ll probably watch it 25 more times now that I had the DVD! I also enjoyed a couple of cool ones, then climbed into bed around 2300. As usual, I slept very well.
Sunday, Day 13, Bozeman, MT to Post Falls, ID via I-90: 362 miles.
Once again I hit the floor running, wanting to get through the morning chores and on the road toward Coeur d’ Alene, ID. There was no Walmart listed there, but a few more miles down I-90 to Post Falls, ID there was a Supercenter. I called to be sure I could park for the night, and as usual, I was welcome. I tended the bug collection as I have every morning this trip, or so it seemed, and got through my other morning chores. I then walked to Mickey D’s in the store for a large decaf coffee, and hit the road at 0800.
One of the first sights of the travel day was this balloon soaring into the sky near I-90 not far from Bozeman.
It seems Montana’s beauty just rolls on forever…
…and forever. It is the third biggest state in the contiguous 48.
If old houses could talk, I’d like to talk to this one. Imagine the stories it could tell.
Same with this old, forgotten, weather beaten home.
I just can’t resist photographing such old places. Imagine, somebody lived there, ranched there, maybe raised kids there. I’d sure like to hear some of the stories.
When I see such natural beauty as Montana and the Dakotas, etc. display, I sometimes wonder how my mom and her siblings could have left SD for Kalifornistan. It had to be for purely economic reasons back in those days of depression and war.
It wasn’t long ’til I-90 began its ascent to Homestake Pass which rises to about 6300 feet. I climbed and climbed, and sometime after 0900 as I approached the summit, I pulled into a rest area for breakfast. I had the usual microwaved breakfast sandwich and an orange. I should be tired of those things by now, but I still love ’em. After breakfast, I continued on climbing a bit more to reach the summit at, officially, 6329 feet. Then there was a long drop into Butte, MT and I just kept on truckin’.
The navigator as I topped Homestake Pass near Butte, Mt.
Much of the day’s drive beyond Butte wound through the beautiful Clark Fork River Valley, or so I called it. According to Wikipedia, Clark Fork is the largest river by volume in all of Montana and is about 310 miles long. And it was a most enjoyable drive, much like the prior day’s drive through the Yellowstone River Valley.
More natural beauty along I-90 in Montana.
Somewhere along I-90 in Montana, Big Blue turned 50,000 miles.
I came upon a small town called Deer Lodge where, many years ago, my mom’s siblings held a grand reunion – maybe twice. I don’t recall attending one there, but there was talk of Deer Lodge often back in the day. I pulled into the local Mickey D’s there and bought another cup of coffee, but the real stuff that time. And that made about three times I have visited a Mickey D’s in the past couple days without buying more than coffee. Good for me!
I followed the Clark Fork River Valley along I-90 during most of the day’s drive.
I stopped at a rest area somewhere along I-90 a bit after 1300. I zapped a bowl of soup, added some crackers, ate a handful of grapes and called it lunch.
At the Idaho line I was once again in the Pacific Time Zone, the same as home. And I figured I’d be home by Wednesday or Thursday.
Jacks down at Post Falls, Idaho’s Walmart for the night.
I pulled in to the Post Falls Walmart a bit after 1500. I took a walk around the lot and inside the store, then climbed aboard the coach and began this blog and editing photos. Around 0600 I walked back into Walmart and bought a Subway Sweet Onion Teriyaki sandwich. It wasn’t a frozen dinner! Change is good! I finished posting photos shortly after dinner, and then just checked my usual websites. These days, getting online is so easy compared to the early days when I had to find a Flying J or some other place with WiFi. Now I just turn on my smartphone’s “hotspot” and I’m online. What a world we live in!
My evening was the same as the others on the road. I finished watching the movie Anger Management, had a couple of cool ones, and was in bed around 2230.
Monday, Day 14, Post Falls, ID to Wood Village, OR via I-90, US395, I-82, I-84: 355 miles
I was up and doing the chores a bit after 0600. After chores I had to map out the day’s drive which would take me to a Walmart in Wood Village, OR, near Gresham, OR. The plan was to visit my ol’ high school buddy, Al, in Keizer, OR on Day 15.
Post Falls, ID was very near the Washington state line, and one of the first photos of the day was this Welcome to Washington sign.
Wifey reminded me on the phone that morning that the prior day was the first day of summer. Yep, and the days sure were long; the sun set as late the day before as it will all year. While driving through God’s Country the prior days the weather had been very mild, but I’d be heading into Kalifornistan and the hot Central Valley in the next couple of days – and while I was looking forward to Honey, hearth, hot tub, and home, I wasn’t so keen on those hot days I’d be dealing with.
Skyline in the Spokane, WA area.
The drive through Spokane was like my real life back in heavy traffic and entirely too many people. But I drove through without delay. Once again I was in one of those foolish west coast states that limit truck speed well below that of autos, as in Kalifornistan. The resulting rolling roadblocks were another traffic hazard to deal with.
It’s hard for me to resist shooting old churches, much like old houses. This is the First Presbyterian Church.
Beyond Spokane the landscape was arid, somewhat flat and surely a lot different than the gorgeous Rockies I had driven through. The driest area I saw just past Spokane was range land, and not irrigated. Farther down the road I saw irrigation and green farmland.
Somewhere along the drive I stopped at a Mickey D’s for coffee. And it hit the spot. I hadn’t made instant coffee for several days, preferring to buy Mickey’s. But that time I fell to temptation and also bought a strawberry creme pie. mmmmm. I loved it. But having done so, I limited myself to a handful of grapes and a couple slices of my low-cal bread for breakfast. But it was worth it!
Big Blue at Love’s in Ritzville, WA where I gassed up, dumped the holding tanks, and added fresh water.
While in the seemingly dry wasteland of the open range, I came across the little town of Ritzville. I’m sure the founders labored over that name! I pulled into the Love’s station and filled up with gas at $3 per, the trip’s most expensive price since Kalifornistan. I had plenty of room in the holding tanks and plenty of fresh water, but they had a RV dump for just $5. If I’d dump and add fresh water I wouldn’t have to worry about it again ’til home. So I did and I won’t.
Uh-oh. That didn’t look good. Cars are best when kept upright.
A few miles beyond Ritzville, a Highway Patrol SUV streaked by me with siren screaming and lights flashing, and I thought there might be an accident ahead. A bit later an ambulance headed the other way with lights flashing. It didn’t look good. And then I came upon the upside-down SUV above. It must have been an injury accident with that ambulance already headed to the hospital, I presumed. I don’t know anything about the accident, but perhaps someone dozed off.
I pulled into a rest area soon after I headed west on I-84. I zapped a can of creme corn and cut up an orange and called it lunch. I planned to eat very light in preparation for the next day when Al and I would meet for lunch.
At this junction of I-82 and I-84 I was welcomed to Oregon, then headed west and followed the Columbia River all the way to my destination for the night, a Walmart in Wood Village, near Gresham, OR.
I drove I-84 at least once before, back in 2011 when my high school friend, Al, and I went to Wallowa Lake in NE Oregon to fish. (That story is here.) That trip did not include the beauty of the Columbia Gorge west of US97, an area that I would soon see for the first time.
Upon crossing the Columbia River, I was welcomed to Oregon.
I took the following photos along the over 180 miles as I-84 followed the Columbia River clear to Portland. It was a very beautiful drive, much as the drive through Montana and the Rockies, and was a wonderful surprise for me:
While the drive was beautiful, the sun warm, and the traffic not too bad, the wind howled the entire drive. The gorge is a popular wind surfing and kite boarding area because of the predictable and incessant wind. And it was a head wind which is very tiring to fight for hours on end.
Big Blue at the Walmart lot in Wood Village, OR for the night.
I finally reached the little town of Wood Village and pulled into the Walmart parking lot for the night. I took a walk first thing, then settled in and began the photo editing and blogging. Around 1800 I walked over to the Subway which was in Walmart and ordered a roasted chicken 6″ sub. And a cookie. Those Subway sandwiches are hard to beat for good nutrition and if careful in selection, pretty low calories. I enjoyed the sandwich as much as the one I had the night before for dinner. That’s would not be a bad habit to fall into.
After the blog update and dinner, I continued watching TV. One of the cheap DVDs I bought in the Walmart bargain bin was Anger Management, which I watched and was fun, and it shared the DVD with another movie, Zohan. Now, talk about a dumb movie! I was in bed around 2230 and, as usual, slept like a baby.
Tuesday, Day 15, Wood Village to Yreka, CA via I-84, I-5: 333 miles.
It was two weeks ago that we began our trip, and I was still on the road and lovin’ it! I planned to buy a small upright vacuum cleaner for the coach as the little hand vac had just become too hard to use for this old man and his sore knees. I was in the store around 0700 and picked out one that seemed about right, small and lightweight.
I brought it back to the coach and put it together. I was amazed at the power the little 12 pound vacuum had, and it came with several attachments. I set about vacuuming the coach, and was pleased with my purchase – and I wouldn’t have to vacuum on my knees anymore.
On Day 15 I planned to drive to Salem, OR for lunch with my ol’ high school buddy, Al, who lives in Keizer, just outside Salem. We’d meet at a restaurant for lunch and then I’d continue my trip. We made arrangements to meet at a restaurant we and our wives ate at the last time we were in Oregon, called McGrath’s. We would meet at 1100, so my morning was not the usual hurry to get back on the road. And frankly, I didn’t much like having time on my hands. So I left earlier than I really had to because Salem was just 50 or so miles down I-5.
Portland was a busy metropolis, just what I usually try to avoid. But I made it through without much delay. I learned from Al later that I could have avoided it by making a couple of changes on my navigator. Live and learn.
I did not enjoy the drive through Portland although there were no delays, just heavy traffic. But I don’t like metropolitan areas even though I am held against my will, for life apparently, in such a place.
I arrived at the restaurant a bit before Al. When he arrived just before 1100 he had one of his finest carvings with him. Al is an artist and a very good one. He has a master’s degree in art and taught art in school most of his working life. He recently created a pheasant that is absolutely stunning in its detail. Here are photos I took:
The pheasant is about 3/4 size and its detail is just amazing. It is a fine piece of art by a very experienced artist. I loved it, but it wasn’t for sale.
Foot detail; please forgive the blurred photo.
Detail of the pheasant’s head. It was hard to believe that I was looking at a wood carving.
Detail of the tail feathers.
When I first saw the pheasant earlier this year I tried to buy it from ol’ buddy Al, but it wasn’t for sale. I asked him again this visit and he told me it was his wife’s, and she found the base he used. I guess that sealed it. He brought it along with him so I could photograph it.
We enjoyed first rate food at McGrath’s. I had coconut shrimp with some clam chowder, Al had fish and chips. We had a warm although brief visit for a bit over an hour. We talked about old times. And I forgot to get a photo of Al and I together.
Al was dealing with the grave illness of his sister and was to drive to Hermiston, OR the following day with his daughter for what would likely to be their last visit with her. He was struggling with that sad situation and I was gratified that he could join me for awhile anyway.
After we said our goodbyes I hit the road again and was soon back on I-5, the highway that would take me all the way home the next day.
The drive was through beautiful Oregon and although many areas were summer brown, the endless conifers were in grand array.
It seems that Oregon is always beautiful with all the trees and rivers.
I stopped in Coburg, OR at a Mickey D’s for a sugar/caffeine jolt as I was pretty sleepy after the big meal. Sure enough and as usual, the McFlurry, followed with a large cup of their excellent coffee, kept me wide awake all the way to Yreka.
The obligatory photo of majestic Mt. Shasta – I cannot resist shooting this beautiful part of Kalifornistan.
I arrived in Yreka’s Walmart lot at 1800 and took a short walk which led me to the snack aisle and a box of Crunch ‘n Munch, which is something like Cracker Jacks but better. I also bought a six-pack of Bud Lite Lime. That is a combination I have enjoyed many times in the past but have not allowed myself the indulgence yet this trip. What with the big lunch and the McFlurry – why not?! I was waaay off my diet already.
Jacks down at Yreka’s Walmart store.
Back at the coach I zapped another frozen dinner and carved up an orange for dinner. I called my dear Wifey and enjoyed our usual evening talk. I told her I was in Yreka and would be home the next day. She was happy to hear I’d made it so close to home, and we were looking forward to being together again. I set to work on the blog and the photos, as I do every morning and evening, it seems. I watched a bit more TV before climbing into bed around 2230.
Wednesday, Day 16, Yreka to home via I-5: 308 miles.
I was up a bit after 0500 and was anxious to hit the road and get home. I got through my chores and fired up the coach at 0630. As I headed out of town I stopped at a Mickey D’s for my morning cup of coffee. I had a bit over 300 miles to drive and the navigator said I’d be home by noon.
Somewhere below Red Bluff I pulled into a McDonalds for a quick breakfast. I ordered an Oreo McFlurry, two Sausage and Egg McMuffins, and a cup of coffee – to go! I ate as I continued south toward home. It would be my last unrighteous meal as I promised myself I’d climb back on the diet wagon when I got home. The drive was one I’ve driven so many times that nothing was really new.
Dry ol’ Kalifornistan. I already missed beautiful Montana, the Dakotas, etc.
The Sacramento River looked cool and inviting. It flows from Lake Shasta.
Kalifornistan was dry, but rice was growing green and hardy. The roads were lousy, for sure, and the closer I got to home the uglier the landscape became. Our home is in an agricultural area that is becoming a metropolis from Sacramento to Fresno. There are entirely too many people and too much traffic. If my whining about it all did any good, it would be improved but whining, apparently, just isn’t enough!
I pulled into our gated, senior community at 1230 and was finally home from two weeks of travel. Everything seemed about the same at home, and it was good to embrace my dear Lavonne once again.
I was back in our little community and just a block from home. No matter where you may roam, the best part is coming home!
I unloaded the coach fridge and a few other items I’d need right away. I then parked the coach and the rest would wait ’til the next day. I was tired. It was hot. But it was sure good to be home.
The sticker map before this trip:
The sticker map after this trip:
The trip was 4724 miles according to the coach odometer. I averaged 337 miles per day of driving. I burned almost $2000 of gas and averaged 7.3 MPG. I earned nine more stickers and applied them to the little sticker map on the coach refrigerator door.
Back home the following morning, I unloaded the coach ’til the next trip. In three weeks I planned to drive to Oceanside to see my son and his family for a couple of days.
The way I see it, I still have 22 stickers to earn, although I doubt I’d ever drive some of the Northeast states again; once was enough aboard the first coach. And I still have to try Chicken Mary’s Restaurant in Pittsburg, KS.
I see more road trips ahead!
Over the years I have posted many exciting fishing and boating stories here, but now in my seventies, it was time to sell the boat and find less demanding pastimes. All the fishing stories are still here! I will now post my travels aboard the motorhome and other activities. I hope y'all will still enjoy the fishing and boating adventures and perhaps peek in on my post-boating activities on occasion. Thanks for dropping in and I hope you enjoy your visit.