A Fall Cross-Country Adventure Ends Tragically…

The Adventure that Ended in Tragedy…

During the days leading up to our Fall adventure…

Our adventure was planned for almost a month, and honestly, I was like a kid waiting for Christmas – I counted down the weeks, the days, and finally the hours. We’re getting wiser as we grow older, at least in some ways; we took two days to load the coach instead of one. And I’ve been taking two days to wash the coach for some time now. We may be older and slower, but we still get it done!

I prepped the coach during the week leading up to our road trip, including a full service of the engine and chassis. And as I learned a year ago when I had it serviced, a diesel service is not cheap! At least it’s required only every 15,000 miles instead of every 5,000 miles as a gas coach requires, but instead of something around $100, the cost is several times that. Nevertheless, owning our “short” 32′ diesel still pencils out for folks who put on a lot of miles – as we do. And along with the service, a wheel bearing seal that began leaking the last trip also had to be repaired. We parted with nearly $1100 to get Cecil the Diesel out of the shop! We take her to Mello Truck Repair in Modesto, a firm that also works on RVs, and they are very qualified to service the diesels, unlike many other garages. I’ve taken Cecil the Diesel there several times and have always been pleased with their expertise and service.

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Day 1, Monday, Sept. 25, 2017, Home to Gridley, CA via I-5, CA99: 122 miles

We enjoyed a usual morning around the house ’til about 0830 when we began gathering the final “stuff” we needed to load. It included mostly groceries and a few more clothing items. We also shut down the house – the water heater, room fans, AC, triple check that all lights were off, etc. Craig, our very busy son, dropped in before heading to his business in Stockton. He wanted to bid us goodbye, and even helped load a few items. What a guy!

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We pulled out of our little gated community about 1030 and headed north to Gridley where my twin sis, Gale, and hubby, John live. It is a drive of something over a hundred miles and includes the heavy traffic of Sacramento along the way. Once past the big city we turned off I-5 and onto the less traveled CA99 which took us to Gridley.

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North of Sacramento it is mostly agriculture and we saw a lot of it along our drive. The rice was being harvested and that is interesting to this ol’ trucker who used to haul the stuff back in the 70s. A lot of the rice was shipped to Japan back then and probably still is. Rice is big business in the north of the great Central Valley.

We arrived at my sis’s country place near Gridley at 1340, after having lunch at the Safeway parking lot in town. We try to arrive after lunch so as to not burden John with feeding us lunch and dinner.

We visited around the living room for an hour or two, enjoying the company and catching up on family happenings. I headed to the coach for my grandpa nap around 1530, and caught a few winks.

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We brought a Papa Murphy’s pizza to bake for dinner. It made for a tasty meal along with the salad John whipped up. We visited over dinner and after the cleanup I headed to the coach to edit photos and begin this travelogue.

About an hour later, Lavonne joined me in the coach. It seemed that I spent the whole evening editing photos and writing the travelogue – which I enjoy doing. Lavonne went to bed around 2200 and I joined her about a half hour later. I slept well, as usual, and it was a quiet night out there in the country.

Day 2, Tuesday, Gridley, CA to Winnemucca, NV via CA20, CA70, I-80: 305 miles

We were up and around at 0530 and it was a cool morning – I even fired up the furnace for a few minutes. After the usual morning chores, we sat at the computers awhile catching up on the news, etc. I dumped the gray (shower) water in the adjacent field and topped off the fresh water so we’d be full for the next few days.

At 0730 John called to let us know they were up and around, so we joined them in the house to begin the morning visit. Lavonne and John whipped up breakfast of some quiche we brought from home, and hash brown potatoes. We had cantaloupe too, and I figured I could have eaten a more heart healthy breakfast, but it was probably better than the usual Mickey D’s we have there.

Gale and I sat at the piano and sang gospel awhile, too. We enjoy the singing as we grew up singing those old gospel songs.

1000 hours rolled around and we had to bid our goodbyes and head up the mountains to Winnemucca, NV – a 300 mile drive. We shared hugs all ’round, agreed we’d had another lovely visit, and then we pulled out of their driveway just a bit after 1000.

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The drive took us the back way out of Gridley to CA70 and on to CA20 which eventually took us to I-80. The drive was windblown and, of course, very mountainous as we ascended Donner Summit at 7227 feet. The wind continued the entire drive, some areas worse than others, but always a headwind or a crosswind. Between the mountains and the wind we got awful fuel mileage.

More photos to click and enjoy!

I planned to stop at a Chevron station in Fernley, NV to fuel up as it was the cheapest diesel I could find online for miles around. It turned out to be on an Indian reservation, so they didn’t have to collect certain road taxes – or so I was told. Whatever the situation, they beat the local Love’s station by 34¢ per gallon. By checking online and shopping price, I saved over $19 on just that one fill up – and I like to travel cheap!

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We pulled to the side of the gas station’s large lot and Lavonne whipped up delicious sandwiches made with her homemade meatloaf. After almost an hour spent there we continued eastbound on I-80 toward Winnemucca.

We arrived at Winnemucca, NV at 1645 and pulled into the Walmart lot where we have stayed many nights. First thing after setting up the coach for the night was to head into the store for some shopping. We count on Walmart for our groceries on these long trips, just as we do at home. Sam Walton opened his lots to RVers very early on as he knew we were good customers. We spent almost $100 for the things we needed! Mr. Sam was no dummy!

2017-9-26q Winnemucca, NV Walmart

Jacks down at the Winnemucca, NV Walmart for the night.

Back at the coach I zapped a frozen dinner and settled in for the evening to edit photos and update this travelogue. I spent most of the evening doing so, and afterward watched a bit of YouTube online a while for entertainment. It’s amazing the old TV shows, the old MMA tapes and most anything else imaginable that is available on YouTube. With our smartphone hotspot and online viewing, who needs TV anymore?!

It was around 2230 that I called it a day and climbed into bed. Lavonne had done so a half hour earlier, and we slept well. Life is good aboard Cecil the Diesel!

Day 3, Wednesday, Winnemucca, NV to Park City, UT via I-80: 381 miles

We were up and around by 0600 after I turned on the furnace and water heater for a while and returned to bed while things warmed up. It was a cool night in Winnemucca in the mid 40s, but not nearly as cold as the predicted low 30s.

We worked through the morning chores, then settled in at the ‘puters to catch up on the world outside while enjoying the day’s first cups of coffee. These computers are our morning newspapers, complete with news, comics and so much more.

I had to tend to the bug collection before Mr. Sun arose. As I washed the windshields I nearly froze to death and my hands were like ice and downright painful – I am a sissy when it’s cold, and the breeze was blowing again, or still, as I dealt severely with the bugs.

After I finished my careful job of cleaning those massive windshields, the sun shined upon them brightly, showing what a lousy job I had done! It was a bit of a spiritual experience because it humbled me.

We pulled out of the Walmart lot at 0800 and continued our trek east.

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The wind never was severe and sometimes was calm – in fact we had a tailwind for awhile. Our mileage improved to over 10 MPG and I was pleased. We could have made the 875 miles from Fernley to Laramie easily without refueling, however, the lousy mileage of the day before gave me pause and I wanted another pit stop to top off the tank.

Battle Mountain, NV had cheap diesel in past trips, so we called the station and their price was only $2.68 per; we definitely would stop! I added 21 gallons to fill ‘er up and we could make Colorado before we’d need more.

After asking permission, we pulled over to the side of the station’s lot and made breakfast. I enjoyed PBJ again – this time on toast with some fruit for dessert. mmmmm. I am easily delighted!

We continued our drive through Nevada and dropped into Utah. By the time we reached the famous Bonneville Salt Flats, it was time for lunch. We pulled into the rest area overlooking the flats for a quick lunch. I don’t recall what I had but it likely included peanut butter! While there I climbed up to the viewing platform and got a pretty good photo of Cecil the Diesel and the vast salt flats. And we continued on.

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We timed our drive through Salt Lake City perfectly so that we could take part in their evening rush hour. But I’ve never found SLC traffic to be too frustrating and we had no real delays.

More to click!

We pulled the long grade up to Parley’s Summit at 7,120 feet and then dropped a bit into Park City, at 7,000 feet, arriving at the local Walmart at 1700. Whew. After the long drive it was good to drop the jacks and be home for the night!

There would be no walking that evening around Park City’s Walmart. As my regular readers may recall, I had a “mild” heart attack back in May before we took our June trip to the kids near Denver – where  I wound up in the hospital again. I accumulated more stents as part of the experience and had a tough time at higher elevations during that trip – and Rocky Mountain trips are mostly higher elevation!

Well… the prior night of this trip, after taking my walk and shopping at the Winnemucca Walmart, I had a bit of angina – something I haven’t had in almost two months. One nitro took the pain away and I was fine. But I was reminded the hard way that my cardiologist advised me to take it very easy at these higher elevations as my system adjusts. Park City is just too darn elevated for this old man to be taking a walk.

We spent the entire evening in the coach where we had dinner – I zapped a frozen meal and Lavonne made a tuna sandwich. I spent most of the evening editing photos and writing this much too wordy travelogue. I also watched an episode of All In the Family on YouTube and had some great laughs. That was one of my all time favorite TV sitcoms and the first time I’d watched it on YouTube. I might be on to something! We called it a day and were in bed by 2230 – with an extra blanket!

Day 4, Thursday, Park City, UT to Cheyenne, WY via I-80: 421 miles

It was a very cool night up there at 7000′ in Park City! I set the furnace to keep us reasonably warm and it did well; while it was 40° outside we were comfortable at 65°. Around 0545 I rolled out of bed and turned the furnace up and the water heater on and climbed back into bed while the coach warmed up. And once again the weather guesser was way off – he predicted the overnight low at 33°!

2017-9-28a chilly morning at 7000' Park City
Morning in chilly Park City, Utah as we began Day 4 of our adventure. There were several other RVs that spent the night on the Walmart lot with us, which was not at all unusual. 

We worked through the morning chores and then spent time staring at our computers as we enjoyed the morning’s coffee. We had a long drive planned, something over 400 miles, so we pulled out of Park City on that cool morning at 0815.

We continued east on I-80 all day. Our first sight to behold of note was the beautiful Coalville, UT area. Its ranches, cattle and rolling hills among the mountains is one of my favorite places – but never in winter!

Soon after we crossed into Wyoming and we should have known the weather would deteriorate badly – I believe Wyoming in the native tongue means “heap big windy place that’s always cold”, and if that’s not the meaning it should be! So we were not surprised to run into rain and wind and fog as we traversed its seemingly endless emptiness.

Interesting photos for you to click and read!

We stopped twice along the way for breakfast and for lunch, righteously eating in the coach in preparation for the likely feasts that awaited when we would be with Allen and Nancy over the weekend. The stops must not have been all that special as I cannot remember the details of either. I do remember that I stopped somewhere for a footlong Sweet Onion Teriyaki Chicken Subway sandwich which was both lunch and dinner.  And I do remember the food – my favorite Subway is always a memorable meal.

We planned since before leaving home to fuel up at a truck stop in Laramie, WY because they sold cheap diesel which is my favorite kind. We had no idea what a dive the place was, or that they didn’t have pay- at-the-pump. But for $2.56 per I was willing to put up with it all.

Now this is a bit complicated, but my “fuel” credit card gives me 5% cash back only on all gas/diesel that I buy – but I must pay at the pump, not at the cashier. And there is no cash back for anything else. Ok, fine, I’d use my new 2% cash back “everything” card instead because the price was a bargain. I left my card as a deposit and went out to the nasty pump and loaded on 70 gallons. When I returned and they swiped my card, it was declined. What!? After a couple more tries I gave them the “gas” card for zero cash back and that went fine – but I lost my 5% and my 2% discounts. And I was furious at the folks at the “everything” card for declining my perfectly good card.

To make a short story long, the “everything” card folks declined me because the purchase was not “my usual sort of purchase” and of course, it was for $178 and I was 1200 miles from home. Just one phone call as we continued east cleared it all up, but we were out the cash back from everyone. Still, I was happy for the great price.

And then… to add grief to injury, when we arrived at the Walmart in Cheyenne, they were selling diesel for $2.70. I could have used my 5% card with no problem and the price would have been net $2.58 per – with no hassle whatsoever and I’d have traded with my favorite store at a clean station. Arrrrggghhhhhhh!

More photos and clicking and happiness:

After fueling up, when we pulled out of Laramie we ascended to the highest point on all of I-80 which is Sherman Summit at 8,640 feet. Electronic highway signs warned us along the way to slow down for poor visibility, and sure enough we ran into fog near the summit and drove through it for miles.

Eventually we outran the fog and arrived at the Cheyenne Walmart – a new one for us as we’d been staying at another Walmart in Cheyenne on prior trips. We arrived at 1700 and settled in for the night. We were whipped from the hassle of the credit card and the adverse weather. But we were home for the night!

2017-9-28n jacks down at Cheyenne, WY Walmart
Finally! Jacks down at one of Cheyenne’s Walmart stores after a long and sometimes trying day.

Our evening unfolded as usual. We made our dinner in the coach and spent the evening on the computers, Lavonne played word games as I updated this travelogue. While it was cool and breezy outside, we were warm and cozy in our happy little home on wheels.

Day 5, Friday, Cheyenne, WY to Greenwood Village, CO via I-25: 119 miles

We were up and around at 0530, having had a very restful night. Day 5 meant we would arrive at the kids’ place near Denver! We were really looking forward to the weekend visit.

We would have to stop at the Cheyenne Love’s station to dump the holding tanks, and we also planned to stop at the Walmart store in Ft. Collins, CO for a bit of shopping. We would likely arrive at the kids place around noon, and Allen had already said he’d meet us with some Chik-fil-A, something that has almost become a tradition.

We pulled out of the Walmart lot at 0730 and headed to the Love’s station which was along our drive down I-25 right there in Cheyenne. I paid my $10 and proceeded to dump the holding tanks. We pulled out of Love’s station a bit after 0800 and continued south on I-25 to Denver and on to Greenwood Village, a lovely town just south of the big city.

We stopped at Ft. Collins, CO and visited the kind folks at Walker Mfg. Co. for whom we were distributors of their very unique mowers back in our productive years. It was good to visit a few moments with Bob Walker, the president, and MaryBeth, the receptionist there for almost as long as Walker has been producing those mowers. Yep; we made good friends there those many years ago and we still like to stop by when we can, just to say hello.

After the visit we pulled into the nearby Walmart and shopped for a number of items we needed. Then we whipped up breakfast in the coach before heading to the kids’ place.

More photos to click and read:

Our drive in the Denver area was through heavy traffic, as usual, but unremarkable, as we like, except for taking a wrong turn down the wrong interstate. As it turned out, our very dependable Garmin navigator recalculated at once and directed us correctly along different freeways in such as way that it added only two miles to the trip. What an amazing little black box it is!

Once we arrived at the kids’ place, we were greeted by Nancy who was working inside when we arrived. Allen soon showed up with a bag full of Chik-fil-A for all. We headed to the patio and enjoyed the good chicken sandwiches and began catching up with each other’s news.

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Allen and Nancy both returned to their businesses for a couple hours. I took a long nap – I think the elevation of the prior days had tired me out because I slept for an hour and a half. I don’t recall ever napping so long but I must have needed it.

We ordered Boston Market for dinner and Allen and Lavonne headed to their local store to pick it up. We enjoyed excellent chicken dinners. Soon Nancy broke out the cards and we whiled away the evening playing “Golf” – a game of trying to get the lowest score. I tired before the gaming was over and headed to a shower in the house for a wonderfully long, wasteful shower as we’d been taking those quicky “RV showers” all week. ahhhhhhh.

2017-9-29L arrivedParked at the kids’ place in Greenwood Village, Colorado after five days of RV travel. We made it – and Cecil the Diesel made it all very comfortable!

It was nearly 2100 when I bid everyone goodnight and headed to the coach. I like sleeping in the coach during these visits while Lavonne prefers to sleep in the house. Choice is a good thing.

Day 6, Saturday at the kids place

We would have a couple of days with no destination and no miles. And we always have a grand time with Allen and Nancy. We were on our own as Nancy, who is now in the real estate business, hosted an open house ’til around 1300. Allen and Lavonne went shopping and I just relaxed. I didn’t want to get active at this mile high elevation, but I did do some house cleaning in the coach and that went well.

During the afternoon we played more of the card game known as golf, and for a change I won the whole series – mostly because it’s a game that depends upon the luck of the draw.

2017-9-30a golf
Gathered around the table for game time. The day was relaxed and very enjoyable. (L-R: Tom Selleck, Lavonne, Nancy and Allen.)

The whole day was laid back and we enjoyed it. We hunted and gathered on our own for breakfast and lunch, and Allen and Nancy whipped up dinner in the evening as we all preferred to spend the evening at home. We enjoyed the easy going time together.

Day 7, Sunday, another day with Allen and Nancy…

Our last day with the kids for this trip was another very relaxing time with family. Nancy’s mom, Norma, came over for the afternoon and brought with her the makings for a traditional Mexican meal. Both of them labored in the kitchen whipping up the wonderful meal. We ate on the patio and had a real good family time together.

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We gathered around the kitchen table after the feast and the cleanup, and whiled away the afternoon playing more of the card game Golf. We had a really good time together ’til almost 1700.

The evening was informal as we all did our things. I took a grandpa nap and am not sure what the others did. We were all so stuffed from the big lunch that dinner wasn’t necessary. We just grabbed whatever we wanted to munch on.

We would be leaving around 0830 the following morning and I headed to the coach early to update this travelogue and do other evening chores. Our next stop would be Dodge City, KS where we’d spend Monday night en route to Graceland!

Day 8, Monday, Greenwood Village, CO to Dodge City, KS via E470, CO83, CO86, I-70, US287, US50, US400: 360 miles

I was up at 0500 and knew we had a big day ahead. But first things first. We gathered in the living room about 0700 after I had worked through the morning chores including doing what I could to prepare for the day’s drive. After our usual morning family visit over coffee, we prepared to head to Graceland, something that Lavonne was looking forward to with much anticipation; I’ve shared her with the ghost of Elvis Presley since the day we met!

I filled the fresh water tank of the coach, unplugged the electrical cord from the grid, and set her up for highway cruising. Allen brought down Lavonne’s things from the house and we were soon ready to leave.

After we said our goodbyes and shared hugs all ’round, we pulled out of the driveway for the first leg of our trip to Graceland – and would arrive there on Wednesday if all went according to plan.

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We chose the state and US highways as we usually do, and left I-70 to the hoards of trucks and cars that prefer it as we headed down the slower and more scenic routes.

Click for rural Colorado beauty!

Having checked the weather forecast for our drive, we knew we had a pretty blowy day ahead of us. And while we ran the heater for the first four hours or so, we had the air conditioner on during the last hour or two. The forecast for Dodge City, KS, our destination, was for 86° and lots of wind – and the closer we got the hotter and windier it became.

Click for some excellent photos and informative captions:

The day’s drive was enjoyable. We stopped twice at large supermarket parking lots to whip up our breakfast and lunch. Another big advantage of RVing over traveling by car or airplane is that a sandwich or breakfast cost the same as eating at home – instead of $12 plus tip!

As stated above, the closer we got to Dodge City, KS the hotter and windier it became. I usually count on the wind to lessen as the evening progresses, but it increased! At 2200 Central Time, the gusts were 40 MPH+ and the coach shuddered as she was assaulted and it was not pleasant! I powered in the slides to make us more aerodynamic, and that helped. By 2300 it was calmer, but the wind still blew at 30 MPH!

Click for a gorgeous sunset:

Still, the coach was a cozy and safe refuge in the wind storm.

Day 9, Tuesday, October 3, Dodge City, KS to Kinsley, KS: 36 miles

Our day and our trip were cut short at a few minutes after 1000 Tuesday morning on US50 just before the town of Kinsley, KS. A driver pulled his small utility van out in front of us at a highway junction and we could not avoid a collision. We were not at fault.

Lavonne and I were Ok; we were not hurt at all, although we were terribly shaken. At first we could not get out of the coach because of damage to the door, but soon a passing truck driver stopped and forced open our jammed door and helped us out of the coach.

Soon after the ambulance arrived we were ushered onto seats in the back of it and given a quick check to be sure we were not injured. I felt a bit of angina after the crash, but I took a nitro pill at once and it subsided. 

Tragically, the other driver did not survive the accident. We were devastated by the news; it was a horrific impact as our heavy, diesel motorhome hit the small van he was driving broadside, right at the driver’s door, when he pulled out in front of us. There was nothing we could do to avoid the collision.

I don’t believe he saw us until it was too late because two semi trucks that we had been following for some time, slowed and eased into a right turn lane, then turned right onto the highway he was on as, I think, he was stopped at the stop sign.

We certainly did not see him because of the big trucks. I think he mistakenly thought that because the big trucks turned onto the highway he was on, that our road was clear; I don’t think he saw us ’til after he pulled directly in front of us. We didn’t see him, either, ’til he was right in front of us, a split second before impact. Obviously, he should have waited until he had a clear view of the highway which, I am quite sure, he did not have as he proceeded across our path.

This is a link to a map of the area of the accident near Kinsley,KS. Just to the left of the center of the map shows where US56 intersects with US50. Click on the satellite view, then zoom in a bit, to see the details of the intersection very clearly, including the right turn lane mentioned above.

We were at the accident scene for over two hours. The highway patrolmen assumed we would get a ride back to town with the tow truck, but two men were in the tow truck and there was no back seat. The officers drove us to a small motel just a quarter mile up the road where we were welcomed to wait for a taxi from Dodge City that I called. 

At the time of this writing, our wonderful kids, Allen and Nancy, were with us at a motel in Dodge City, KS to help us arrange details to get us – and all the contents of Cecil the Diesel – back home.  

Please pray for the other driver’s family and friends. The other driver was 41 year old Israel Kryston, from Wichita, Kansas. He left behind a wife and two young sons.  A Go Fund Me page has been established to help the family during the devastating time of his passing. I was so very pleased to see that they reached their goal of $5000 – and much more.

2017-10-3h front damageCecil the Diesel will likely be considered a total loss after the terrible crash.

2017-10-3ja other vehicleThe little van that had pulled in front of us at the junction of US50 and US56.

2017-10-3k hiway closed
The accident scene where US56 meets US50 near Kinsley, Kansas. The highway was completely shut down for some time as the officers and others from the Kansas Highway Department conducted their investigation into the fatal crash.

Day 10, Wednesday, Oct. 4, Dodge City, KS to Santa Rosa, NM via US283, US54, CR7, SR136, I-40: 356 miles

The time of the accident and the days following were about as tough as we’ve had in a long time.

The day after the accident the four of us had breakfast at the motel. Afterward, we drove to the local U-Haul store and rented a small, 10′ truck for my trip back home. We then headed to Walmart and bought 12 large packing boxes and assembled them to pack our belongings from the coach. When we arrived at Southwest Towing Co., on the other side of town, we were relieved to find poor Cecil the Diesel in their garage, on a concrete floor instead of out in the yard in the mud. I was impressed that Southwest Towing was thoughtful enough to do that for us. They must have been very thoughtful and very experienced in dealing with folks who have been in accidents.

2017-10-4a good bye to CecilMy last moments with one of my lifetime favorite toys, Cecil the Diesel – damn it all! I sure enjoyed the thousands of miles and many days of the traveling life with her. Here I give her a hug and a kiss as I bid her goodbye forever. While she had not yet been declared a total loss, she surely would be when the adjuster saw her – then she’d be salvaged, parted out, and I would never see her again. How sad.

We worked really hard at getting all the stuff we had in the coach – more stuff than we thought we had, for sure. And getting into and out of the coach was difficult because the steps and entry platform were badly damaged and unusable. We had to climb up four feet or so to get in and down again  to get out. We filled ten boxes besides all the big stuff that didn’t go in boxes. We thought of renting a small SUV to load up, but fortunately none were available because they would have been way too small. The little 10′ U-Haul truck that was available worked perfectly. After a couple hours of packing and moving stuff out of the coach, we finally were done. It was far more work than I had anticipated and it was such a blessing that the kids sacrificed so much to help us – we couldn’t have done it without them.

Around 1300 the kids headed back home, which is near Denver, and my dear Lavonne went with them. She would fly out of Denver the next day and be home that afternoon. I would drive the U-Haul home the rest of the day, all of the next day, and much of Friday. Home was 1500 miles away. I hoped all would go well. It did.

Many thanks to those readers who helped fund the expenses that the family of Israel will face as a result of his passing. I cannot imagine their grief and I feel especially sad for his wife and the two sons he left. I pray that the good Lord will comfort them.

Day 11, Thursday, Santa Rosa, NM to Needles, CA via I-40: 654 miles

What a day! Travel aboard a small U-Haul truck, although brand new, didn’t compare to the pleasure of driving a Class A motorhome for miles and miles. I had to stop for everything; potty breaks, food, coffee, and everything else imaginable. In the coach, everything was right there for my convenience. But I had to get our belongings home, so I had to put up with it.

I planned to drive to Barstow, CA, 145 miles farther, but as soon as I crossed the Colorado River into Kalifornistan, there was a huge traffic jam due to construction. And it continued to the fruit inspection station where some wannabe cop fruit inspector chewed on me for being on the cell phone as I pulled up to talk to him. With all that is on my plate, I felt like telling him to stick to his role as fruit inspector, but I answered his stupid questions and was on my way. Gosh – I hate Kalifornistan!

When I reached Needles, I pulled into the Motel 6 and rented a room for the night. I asked for directions to the Denny’s that my navigator said was in Needles. The clerk advised that it had closed, so I headed to the Mickey D’s and bought a chicken salad and a Fish Filet. And then I headed to the nearby liquor store and bought a bottle of Bud Light. I rarely drink beer, but that night I needed it!

Back at the motel, after hauling my stuff from the cab to the room, I discovered there was no mini fridge. That meant I had to drink the beer first! And I felt much more relaxed after that Bud Light 40. Then I enjoyed the cold Fish Filet and the warm salad. I do know how to have a good time!

I checked the GoFundMe page for Israel Kryston’s family, the fine young man, husband, and father who died in the crash, and was so pleased to see that the goal was more than reached! My gosh, it was good to see something encouraging after the very sad days since the accident.

Day 12, Friday, October 6, 2016, Needles, CA to home via I-40, CA58, CA99: 496 miles

I was anxious to head home, so at 0440 I pulled out of Needles and continued the trek home with the little U-Haul truck. I stopped at a gas station in Needles before pulling onto I-40 and discovered gas was $3.50 per! I pumped on 10 gallons, then filled up in Barstow for $2.76 per. I already missed those much lower midwestern states’ gas prices!

I drove hard all day, stopping only for a Denny’s breakfast in Tehachapi, CA. And the traffic…! Gosh, I saw more traffic during that one day’s drive than I’d seen since we left Kalifornistan.

2017-10-6d U-Haul truck rental
Finally! The little U-Haul truck parked at home as I unloaded. It was good to be home, but it was not good to have our trip – and Cecil the Diesel – so tragically ended. This trip was not much fun.

As soon as I arrived home I was greeted warmly by my dear Lavonne who flew home the day before. After our hugs and hellos, I had to unload some items we had to put away at once such as the few food items we salvaged from the coach, clothing, etc. When I was finally done, it was sooo good to crash into my recliner and have a long talk with my dear Wifey.

And then, with the trip behind us and the insurance wrangling ahead of us, we had time to rest a bit, and when at rest that awful accident and the death of a very good man haunted us more than we might have expected. And we’d probably never get over those two young boys and wife left without a daddy and husband.

We discovered over the following days that there was so much to be done in the aftermath of the accident. Getting home with all our belongings was a three day process; then we would spend a portion of several more days sorting and storing all those belongings. We also had to document every expense of our efforts to get settled, a job much more complex and time consuming than it sounded. And when all the dust settled from that very trying time, we were without my beloved Cecil the Diesel. Finding a replacement would be a long and frustrating endeavor. And added to all this effort the fact that we had done absolutely nothing to bring all this upon ourselves.

Lord, please comfort all of those involved – and that includes us…

2017-9-29n portrait

My beautiful Cecil the Diesel; I’ll sure miss my baby…


In the aftermath of the awful accident and the days immediately following, we had to deal with the insurance companies, which is pretty time consuming, and we had to find a new-to-us coach.

We were clearly not at fault, and fault was not even a consideration. The police report placed the blame directly on the other driver. He was driving a company van, and their insurance coverage was good.

We recouped all the costs related to the accident and getting home. Against Allen and Nancy’s initial protests, we also recouped for them the costs that they incurred in coming to our rescue. That included the cost of gas, motel, and a fair hourly wage for their time. We recouped the cost of Lavonne flying home, too. We were fairly compensated and were pleased with the settlement.

It was a frustrating experience as I looked for a new coach. There was one in the whole country that was similar to ours. The seller asked an outrageous price, and we passed on it. Finally, I found our replacement clear across the country in Ohio! We bought our new Big Blue II from a very respected local judge in a small town – sight unseen! He even had a couple of retired law officer friends, a married couple, who agreed to drive the coach across the country to us for a fair price.

And so it was… our new-to-us coach was a 2005 Fleetwood Bounder diesel that was in very nice condition. It was a bit longer and heavier than our beloved Cecil the Diesel, but it was similar in comfort and conveniences. We took delivery of it about six weeks after the accident, and in time for our annual Thanksgiving get-together with family at our son’s home! My goal was to have it by then, and we made it!

And here is our Big Blue II on one of our recent trips. This photo was taken as we pulled out of Allen and Nancy’s driveway near Denver, Colorado to continue a trip to Arkansas:

2019-6-17aa backing out

Here is a link to our first trip aboard our new toy for Thanksgiving 2017 to the home of our son, Craig, in Stockton, CA. In spite of all the hassle of the accident and finding the new coach, we had it for the next planned trip on Thanksgiving!

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.
This entry was posted in Travel: Allen's, Travel: Gale & John, Travel: Interstate Adventure!. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to A Fall Cross-Country Adventure Ends Tragically…

  1. Sandy says:

    Dale and Lavonne; When I read this, I cried through it as I read it aloud to my husband, as I also keep him in the loop of your travels. We are so sorry that this happened to you both, and of course, Cecil. The picture of you giving it a final hug and kiss really got to me! We both though, are glad that neither one of you got hurt, and so sorry this happened to you both, as I feel connected to you through your comic comments and your travel log.

    May your faith get the both of you beyond this tragedy.

    When I saw the picture of Israel, it struck me how much he looks like my cousin. Same colored beard and the heavy black rimmed glasses. A doppleganger, as they say.

    Sandy and Jim Aerts (crash3289)

    • FishWisher says:

      Hi Sandy and Jim –
      Thanks for the visit. Wow. It has been a week of profound tragedy and sorrow, that’s for sure. I appreciate your comments; it sounds like you folks really have some understanding of our sorrow. The sad truth is that I’ll replace Cecil, and we’ll move on and get passed this awful time. Those young sons will never have their daddy. Their momma will never hold the father of her children again. That’s what we may never get over. But life moves on – I was back on Arcamax Comics again and I am back home. Things are getting back to normal. Thanks again for your kind words.


  2. Nancy Walters says:

    Dale – Thank you for chronicling your travels. I always enjoy reading them. Your detail about the accident is probably a good way for you and others to process what happened. I’m certain that you were in God’s hands at that moment, and a man with a beautiful family and a name like Israel, was hopefully taken by angels immediately into God’s arms.

    I’m glad you’re home safe, and I’m glad we were able to get to you so quickly.

    Love you!


    • FishWisher says:

      Hi Nancy, and thanks for the comforting words. Most of all, thanks to you and Allen for dropping everything and coming to our aid. We didn’t think at the time that you needed to drop everything for us, but as it turned out, we never would have gotten through this without your very capable help. Now… I have to get a new Cecil the Diesel to continue our visits! Thanks again for the visit.


  3. Pingback: Back on the Road! | FishWisher's Home Page

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