Denver and Beyond!

May 24, 2016, Day 1, Home to Winnemucca, NV via I-5, I-80: 366 miles

I was chomping at the bit to see some country aboard Cecil the Diesel again. We had made plans to visit the kids near Denver over Memorial Day weekend, and the time had finally arrived to hit the road!2016-5-24a loadin' groceriesI loaded on the stores for the long trip…

2016-5-24b stowing the goods…and my ‘lil Travel Buddy put ’em away.

We didn’t know just what we’d do after the visit with the kids, but planned to continue on somewhere – perhaps to the far side of Kansas for some of that great Mary’s or Annie’s chicken that I’ve written about on past trips.

I spent a couple of hours the prior day washing the coach extra well. Vanity can be a waste of time, and with all the rain we drove through the first day, it surely was that time.

The morning of our departure we spent a couple of hours loading the coach for our adventure. That job gets harder each trip for these old folks! But we managed, and a bit before 1100 we began our drive. The plan for Day 1 was to reach Winnemucca, Nevada’s Walmart store.

The drive went well except that the weather turned pretty hostile once we got into the Sierras. The wind blew, the rain fell, and it was just a nasty drive. My wash job lasted one day!

2016-5-24c lunch at Gold RunWe stopped at the rest area near Gold Run, well before Donner Summit. Lavonne whipped up a tasty lunch of meatloaf sandwiches and we enjoyed them at the cozy dinette.

It was a long, often wet drive through Nevada to Winnemucca, but nevertheless I enjoyed the day’s drive – especially once we had Reno and Kalifornistan’s crazy traffic behind us. I had three days ahead of driving mostly wide open and rural Interstate 80 to Cheyenne, Wyoming. I would be loving it!

2016-5-24d rainy driveIt was a sometimes rainy drive toward Nevada along I-80.

2016-5-24e Donner LakeBeautiful Donner Lake near the summit of the Sierras.

2016-5-24f WelcomeWelcome to Nevada!

2016-5-24G rainy RenoReno on a rainy day. We drove through and didn’t lose a dime to those hungry slot machines.

2016-5-24i rainbowWe were treated to a brilliant rainbow along I-80.

2016-5-24j Winnemucca WalmartJacks down at the Winnemucca Walmart for the night.

Our evening in Winnemucca was a “stay at home” one except that we stopped at the Taco Time restaurant when we pulled into town. After a so-so Mexican dinner aboard the coach, we drove on over to Walmart and set up for the night. I got busy on this blog, we visited our favorite online sites, and I watched the DVD movie Driving Miss Daisy before bedtime. It rained a bit during the evening, but it was a mild night and we slept comfortably in our cozy home-on-wheels.

Wednesday, Day 2, Winnemucca, NV to Park City, UT via I-80: 379 miles

We woke up to a sunny morning, but a bit cool. After turning on the heater I crawled back into bed a while as the coach warmed up. By 0600 we were both up and around. I was looking forward to a great day of driving through the very rural Nevada desert and on into the white salt flats of Utah. Lavonne was looking forward to dinner with Erica, our granddaughter who lives in Salt Lake City.

2016-5-25a morning 'puter timeMorning ‘puter time aboard Cecil the Diesel.

The morning seemed to get away from us as we dawdled around Walmart a bit. I went into the store and shopped for some items we needed. Lavonne visited her online favorites. I also perused my comic and news sites. We were nearing 0900 and decided we’d have breakfast before hitting the road. I bought some frozen waffles and had a couple for breakfast along with an orange. Lavonne had a bit of yogurt. We pulled out of Winnemucca at 0915 and continued east on I-80 in the sunshine. For a while.

2016-5-25b wide open spacesThe day’s drive began with a wide open, smooth, sunny and rural I-80. I loved it!

2016-5-25c beautiful NevadaBeautiful Nevada!

For most of the morning the weather was partly sunny, as the weather man would say, but gradually became cloudy and threatening.2016-5-25d thunderstorm aheadSomewhere around Elko we saw that we were driving into what appeared to be a very ominous thunderstorm…2016-5-25e entering thunderstorm …it began to rain, then some hail, then a lot of hail. The noise was unreal as it slammed against the coach.2016-5-25f thunderstorm hail I slowed as I saw it accumulating on the highway, and soon there was so much hail it looked like snow on the ground. We simply slowed down and drove through it, and soon we were clear of hail. I’d never seen so much hail accumulated and don’t care to see such a sight again anytime soon. Rain continued on and off for some time, but by the time we neared Salt Lake City the rain was behind us. (The next day’s drive we noticed the windshield had a small crack. I attributed it to the hail storm!)

The plan was to meet Erica that evening, but as she and Lavonne talked by phone during the day, it was decided that we’d forego the visit. She had taken the day off work because she was not feeling well, and although she said she felt well enough to go to dinner that night with her Grandma, we weren’t sure she felt so well. The two decided they’d get together another time.

I was certain that we had enough fuel to get to Evanston, WY the next morning to fill up, but just to be sure I pumped on 10 gallons at the Flying J near Tooele, UT.

2016-5-25g dropping into salt flatsDropping down into Wendover, NV. Beyond is Utah and the salt flats. 

2016-5-25h welcomeWelcome to Utah!2016-5-25i salt flatsThe seemingly endless salt flats of Utah.2016-5-25j SLCDriving through the very lovely Salt Lake City.

Since Lavonne wouldn’t be meeting with Erica, we wouldn’t be spending the night in that very urban Walmart store we really don’t like. We called a couple of other Walmarts about their policy of RV overnight parking and continued on to Park City, a few miles up the mountains beyond Salt Lake City. We were surprised that store would welcome us overnight because Park City is a tourist town and usually such stores don’t welcome overnight parking.

We settled in at Park City’s Walmart lot at 1745 Mountain Time, having lost an hour as we crossed the Utah line.  We took a half hour walk inside the store where it was more comfortable than the cool weather outside.

2016-5-25k Park City WalmartJacks down at the Park City, UT Walmart lot. Note the ski jumps in the distance. Park City is a very popular tourist town, mostly skiers and other winter junkies, and we were surprised they had the usual welcome mat out for RVers to spend the night.

Our evening was pretty much as usual except for the loss of our generator. It was fine, no issue other than the built-in system that prevents using all the diesel fuel at the generator. The fuel feed to the generator stops at about a quarter tank or a bit lower, and I did not expect it to do so with such a large fuel tank. My last trip home from Oceanside I fueled up at an eighth of a tank according to the gauge, and discovered that I still had nearly 13 gallons in the tank. Of course, with a 90 gallon tank that’s more than an eighth and enough to drive over 150 miles.

No generator. So be it; we had three huge deep cycle batteries to get us through the night, and with our 2000 watt inverter we could even make coffee from the batteries. However I surely did not want to try that when I had to depend on them all night long to power lights, heater fan, computers, etc. So I used our little Honda generator awhile to make coffee and to run the microwave for dinner. 

We retired a bit before 2300, having watched the end of the DVD movie, Driving Miss Daisy.

Thursday, Day 3, Park City UT to Cheyenne, WY via I-80: 420 miles

We slept well ’till about 0400 when the sound machine stopped. What?! That meant only one thing: the batteries were drawn so low they wouldn’t even run the inverter. I started the main engine hoping it would charge enough to let us sleep another hour or so, but it was just too noisy back in the bedroom because our bed is over the big Cummins diesel. I could only dig out the little Honda generator and fire it up for awhile. It would allow us to make coffee and would also charge the batteries. The coach has three big, deep cycle batteries, one of which was new a couple of months ago. Upon checking the batteries after buying the coach, one had a dead cell and the new one replaced it. Another had a weak cell and I chose to live with it if I could. That weak cell may have gotten much worse, causing the batteries to draw down so badly the prior night. I would soon check them again to see what could be done.

We resigned ourselves to staying up after all the generator issues, and began our day around 0500 local time. Ugh. But we did get around six hours of sleep and we could get by on that.

We worked through our usual morning routine, but just a bit earlier than usual. The little Honda generator ran the entire time, charging the batteries and also fired up the coffee pot for a few cups of morning coffee. Having a good little back up generator is a good thing and this rescue wasn’t the first time it saved our bacon.2016-5-26a Coalville area2016-5-26b Coalville areaThe above two photos are of the beautiful Coalville, UT area a few miles before the Wyoming line. 

2016-5-26c Echo ReservoirUtah’s Echo Reservoir beyond Coalville.

We pulled out of Park City at 0815, heading for Laramie, WY – or so we thought. Friday would begin the Memorial Day weekend so far as traffic was concerned and we considered our options. If we reached Cheyenne, just 120 miles from the kids’ place in Greenwood Village, we would have just a three hour drive through Denver. We’d be through the huge, metropolitan area before noon, and miss the morning and evening commute and holiday rush. We chose to head to Cheyenne.

The day’s drive began in bright sunshine and it was a beautiful drive up through the Coalville area to Wyoming. Through Wyoming it was also pleasant for the most part, but we eventually drove into more rain. We didn’t have to deal with a pavement covered in hail as on Day 2, so it wasn’t half bad.

2016-5-26d WelcomeWelcome to Wyoming, the Windy State.

2016-5-26e WY I-80I-80 across the endless landscape of Wyoming. It seems to go on forever!

2016-5-26f monster drag lineWe passed this huge dragline somewhere along I-80 in Wyoming as it mined coal. That bucket seemed the size of a small garage!

We stopped at Evanston’s Flying J and pumped on almost 75 gallons of fuel. I didn’t need the 10 gallons of fuel that I pumped on the night before. We could have made it from Turlock, CA when I last filled up en route from my Oceanside trip all the way to Evanston, WY. That’s the kind of range I could only imagine before Cecil the Diesel! The mileage for that Turlock fill up, discounting a gallon and a half for generator time came to exactly 10 MPG. It included the drive from Turlock to home, from home through Sacramento, over the Sierras, across Nevada and Utah and up into the Rocky Mountains to Wyoming on one tank. Wow!

2016-5-26g Dale's DinerSomewhere in the middle of absolutely nowhere we found yet another Dale’s Diner. The timing was good, so we had lunch there. The food and the service is quite good when that cute cook/waitress is running things!

2016-5-26h more rain; imagine thatMore rain fell as we drove through the emptiness of Wyoming. Imagine that!

We arrived at Cheyenne’s Walmart lot at 1720. After settling in I walked around the inside of the huge Walmart store for about a half hour, then returned to the coach for the night. It was good to know we had a working generator and we used it several times since filling up with fuel, although it took a bit of coaxing to start at first since it had run out of fuel.2016-5-26i Cheyenne WalmartParked for the night at Cheyenne, Wyoming’s Walmart lot. We were at 6100 feet and it was pretty cool. It dropped into the 30s overnight.

We found a quiet spot to park for the night and we enjoyed the evening, especially knowing we’d be with the kids the next morning. We had only 120 miles to drive and would arrive well before noon to avoid any traffic problems from the coming holiday weekend. The night was quiet and Lavonne headed to bed around 2200 or so. I woke up on the couch, as usual, with the TV and DVD player on, and then went to bed around 2245.

Friday, Day 4, Cheyenne, WY to Greenwood Village, CO via I-25: 119 miles

Again, we slept well… until the batteries petered out. Again. I woke up a bit before 0300 when the sound machine shut off. Again. I guess I wasn’t too surprised since the bad battery had made itself known the night before. But this time I didn’t have to dig out the little Honda from the basement storage. I just walked up to the dashboard, fired up the big diesel generator and went back to bed. Unlike the big Cummins that powers the coach, the Onan diesel generator is in front and isn’t heard in the bedroom. We slept ’til around 0600 while the generator kept things running.

We wanted to hit the road early to avoid driving through Denver’s holiday traffic. We were on our way at 0720 and had plenty of time to arrive at Allen’s before 1100.

Having paid $2.56 per for diesel just the day before, I was a bit chagrined to see the Walmart gas station right there where we spent the night selling it for $2.11. I need to check prices along my routes more often! Had I known, I’d have added enough fuel in Evanston to get to Cheyenne, including enough to keep the main generator primed! 

We drove to the nearby Flying J where I dumped our holding tanks for the fair price of $7.50. After our visit with the kids those tanks would be near empty for our continued travel.2016-5-27a camelsLook twice – that’s not a long necked horse! Camels along I-25 in Wyoming… strange.

2016-5-27b Welcome2016-5-27c Bison welcomeWelcome to Colorado, and just above is a photo of the Bison that has stood sentry on the Colorado line for as long as I can remember.

2016-5-27d Dale's Diner bkfstBreakfast aboard Cecil the Diesel. Both ‘puters were working as Lavonne was talking to Craig after her cup of coffee. These Dale’s Diners  are much better when that cute ‘lil waitress is along.

2016-5-27e windy dayIt was a windy  day as we drove down I-25 toward Denver, but thank goodness it was blowing in our direction as a helpful tail wind.

2016-5-27f DenverWe drove through Denver with no slowdowns whatsoever. We should make a habit of staying in Cheyenne instead of Laramie just for the earlier and easier drive down I-25.

We arrived at the kids’ place in Greenwood Village at 1020. Norma, Nancy’s mom, was there. She was out front directing the gardeners to make way for us so we could park in the driveway. We parked and greeted Norma who was staying with the kids a while as she was recovering from surgery.

I set up the coach as our home for a few days as Lavonne visited Norma in the house. Soon Allen came by from work with Chik-fil-A for everyone. We enjoyed visiting over lunch ’til Allen had to head back to the office.

I did a few things around the coach, among them hooking up to the kids’ electricity for our stay. There would be no electric issues for the next few days, for sure! Sometime after 1400 I crawled into bed for a much needed nap and slept about an hour. Lavonne busied herself on the computer while I napped.2016-5-28a parked at the kids' homeParked at Allen and Nancy’s beautiful home for the Memorial Day weekend.

When Nancy and Allen returned from work, we all visited around the living room for a while, catching up on each other’s lives and activities. We decided on barbecue for dinner, and a bit before 0600 Allen and I headed to a local barbecue and picked up our order. At home I pigged out on chicken, pork, ribs, taters and gravy, coleslaw, and more. What a feast! I had been pretty righteous about my diet during the trip so I enjoyed myself with little guilt. Everyone else joined in on the feast, too. After dinner we sat around the patio fire and made S’mores. That’s always a grand time even though it was pretty cool out.2016-5-27g s'mores on the patioAfter dinner we gathered around the patio fire for S’mores. 

About 0830 I went to the coach and got my towel, soap, etc. and headed to a shower in the house. I took a glorious hot shower and didn’t worry about wasting water for a change – as one must when traveling aboard a motor home. It was grand! Afterwards I bid everyone goodnight and headed to the coach for the night. As usual at the kids’ place, Lavonne would stay in the house each night and I preferred to sleep in the coach.

Day 5, Saturday, Jacks down at the kids’ place in Greenwood Village, CO

I slept well as usual, and around 0600 I rolled out of bed to greet the new day. After brewing a cup of coffee I headed to the house to see who was up and around. Allen and Lavonne were at the kitchen table visiting and I joined them briefly. That first day with the kids I would have to get to the bottom of the battery issue.

I checked online to see about Interstate Battery dealers nearby and called one of two. They had the batteries I needed and would check my old ones right there at their store for me. Allen helped me load the heavy batteries into the car and drove me the few short miles to the store. I had them check all three, including the new one I purchased just a couple of months ago. The older two batteries which came with the coach were not so good. One was “toast” as the manager put it. The other was very weak. He took both in as cores and I bought two new ones.

Back at the house I got to work putting the batteries on the rack and getting them all connected properly. There are about eight connections to get everything working right, and the rack pulled out only far enough to make the job pretty dirty and hard to reach. But I got them all installed and had dependable 12 volt power in the coach once again. I was pretty sure that waking up in the middle of the night to find the batteries dead would be a thing of the past!

The battery work was just that, work, not something I enjoy. But I also needed to wash the very dirty coach to remove all the road grime of the rainy trip, and with my vanity I enjoy sprucing up Cecil the Diesel. But first things first: I had a chicken thigh and leg left over from the prior night’s dinner and they made for a quick lunch. And I was bushed. I took a nap for about an hour and awoke feeling much better. I would tackle the wash job next.

I pulled out the small folding ladder, brush, soap and bucket from the basement storage and began washing off a ton of road grime. I also wiped the coach down good after washing it. A motor home wash job is tiring for this old man, something like washing three or four cars. But Cecil the Diesel looked like new when I was done. I was very pleased with my work and we’d be looking good for the family outing the next day.2016-5-28b washed and looking fineCecil the Diesel washed, wiped down and looking fine!

Nancy and Allen went shopping and came home with all the fixings for barbecued hamburgers. Everyone was involved with cooking dinner and it turned out a very memorable meal. The unskilled labor helped wash the dishes and it was the least I could do. After dinner we sat around the patio table and enjoyed Klondike bars for dessert.2016-5-28c whipping up dinner
Allen and Norma at the grill preparing a wonderful dinner.

After dessert and some visiting I bid everyone a goodnight and headed to the coach.

I spent time planning the rest of our trip which would take us north into South Dakota to see the Badlands and the Black Hills. We would decide exact routes and stops on the fly, just bumming our way towards home. I mixed a couple cool ones and finished the movie Oh Brother Where Art Thou?. I also watched a bit of Merle Haggard’s Live at Billy Bob’s Texas ’til about 2300 when I headed to bed. I slept well, as usual.

Sunday, Day 6, a coach ride with the kids to Garden of The Gods via I-25: 121 miles.

We began the day as usual, sitting around the living room and visiting over coffee. That’s really a nice way to start each day of our visit with the kids. With their kids grown and gone we have much in common and we’re like a circle of old friends in some ways, as well as family. After coffee I took a walk around the nearby Tommy Davis city park. It is an unusually beautiful place to walk. There were two dozen geese and five pelicans in and about the big pond. My walk was very enjoyable and scenic. 

After all the work of installing new batteries and washing the coach the prior day, I was looking forward to a family outing. A bit after 0900 we all boarded the coach for a trip to the beautiful Garden of the Gods near Colorado Springs. It was a drive of over 50 miles and we passed some interesting sites such as the town of Castle Rock, the Air Force Academy, and during most of the drive we had a grand view of Pike’s Peak.
2016-5-29a Castle Rock
The town of Castle Rock is named for the obvious rock formation that dominates the landscape.
2016-5-29b I-25 Pike's Peak in distance
Pike’s Peak was front and center in the distance during most of the drive.

Photos of Garden of the Gods are below; just click on any photo to see a larger slide show.

The Memorial Day weekend was not a good time for me to visit a tourist attraction! There wasn’t a place to park the coach, the place was crawling with cars and people and I wasn’t having a good time. We just drove through the place and then headed for home. But the place was spectacular and I’d like to have seen it on a week day when it would have been tolerable.

On the way home we stopped at a Boston Market just a couple miles from home and got a chicken dinner to go. The chicken was very good, the potatoes and gravy and sweet potatoes were delicious. It was a good choice for a Sunday dinner. I pigged out again…

Back home we enjoyed the fine food, and before long I was back in the coach for a nap. The drive and the good food really made this old man sleepy and I slept for about an hour.

We spent the rest of the day visiting on the lovely patio and in the living room again after the weather cooled down a bit. We munched on junk food as we played word games and called that dinner. The Boston Market feast was enough to last us ’til breakfast the next day!

I headed for the coach in the evening and watched TV. I dug out the WWII documentary A Fighter Pilot’s Story – an appropriate choice for Memorial Day Weekend – and watched some of it ’til about 2300 when I headed for bed.

Monday, Day 7, Memorial Day.

We again began the day sitting around the living room sipping coffee and visiting. It was a lazy day and I wanted to keep it that way. The kids and Lavonne opted to go out for breakfast, but I didn’t want to put up with the hassle of a restaurant. They had a good time at a place called “Eggstra”. When they all left again to return some items from their shopping the day before, I spent time planning our trip home.

The day was picture perfect and in the 70s. It was a real pleasure to just take it easy. I took a second walk around the park and enjoyed it as much as the first.2016-5-30a dinner at ChangsDinner with (from left) Dale, Norma, Lavonne, Nancy, and Allen at P.F. Chang’s in Denver. Never again!! One must get smashed to put up with the awful noise.

We planned to have dinner at P.F. Chang’s that evening and although my preference was take-out, I agreed to go to the restaurant which serves the best Chinese food. I knew the place was noisy and I have not gone there the past couple of years. It was my mistake to go that time; the place was crowded and they played rock ‘n roll the whole time and they played it LOUD. I told the family I was about to head for home. But I did order a margarita so figured I’d have it. Then another. Then dinner was served. I was feeling pretty good after the two drinks and really enjoyed the great food. Still, I told the family they’d never get me there again. The noise was intolerable and I just don’t understand how anyone puts up with it.

Back home we sat on the patio and played a word game again ’til a bit after 2000 when I excused myself, told everyone goodnight, and headed to the coach where I updated this blog. I was in bed at 2100 hours for a change.

(Denver and Beyond continues on Page II here.)


About FishWisher

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.
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1 Response to Denver and Beyond!

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