A Chicken Run to Minnesota and (hopefully) Cooler Weather…
2018-7-9, Monday, Home to Winnemucca, NV via CA99, I-80: 348 miles
As I wrote in the epilogue of my last post, I had an itch to scratch. Only a long, long trip would do it. So I loaded up the coach and headed for Dilworth, Minnesota as a round-about way of getting to Bozeman, MT and the famous Roost chicken restaurant there. I anxiously counted down the days – too many of which were spent waiting on the repair that would fix once and for all Big Blue’s overheating problem.
I picked her up from the shop just three days prior to this trip, and I was anxious to climb the Sierras into Nevada on a hot, July day and find that she would stay cool. I wasn’t convinced ’til I climbed to 2000 feet en route to Donner Summit at over 7000 feet.
Loading the coach for at least two weeks on the road – and finally starting to scratch my itch!
I began loading a bit after 0700 and thoroughly enjoyed the process of finally getting on the road. At 0915 I pulled out of our little retirement community’s gate and headed north on CA99. I actually hooted and hollered as I joined the northbound traffic – I was finally back on the road and – hopefully – for days!
My main concern was that the big Cat engine cooling issue was, indeed, fixed! The shop had removed and cleaned the radiator, including rodding it out, and also cleaned the big radiator-like air cooler that cools air going into the engine from the turbo. Both were plugged with grease on the outer fins. The shop also replaced many of the hoses – and for over $2700 she had better run cool!
Click to enlarge and read:
The Good News:
Note the temperature gauge (lower right) staying normal during the long, hot climb! The ScanGauge (lower left) shows the water temperature at 193° – just five degrees over normal as Big Blue worked her way up the Sierras. Big Blue stayed cool and I was relieved! The ScanGauge also shows my average and instant MPG and that we were, at that moment, generating 226 HP as she powered up the hill. At the same time she was generating over 800 Ft. Lbs. of torque – that’s the pulling power! (Click to enlarge, click again for huge photo.)
Parked at the Donner Summit Rest Area at over 7200 feet for lunch. I was very, very pleased with Big Blue’s performance during the climb. I would soon be east of Reno and Fernley, NV – and on the relatively lonely I-80 with a fraction of the traffic we must deal with in Kalifornistan.
Streaking nonstop through Reno with my wallet unscathed!
The drive through Reno included the usual heavy traffic, but before long I was beyond the traffic and enjoying the wide open spaces of the Nevada desert. It was nearly 100° as I continued east, but the dash air kept me comfy. I enjoyed a tail wind much of the afternoon as I drove toward Winnemucca and the benefits of a such a wind improved the mileage and the ride was quieter. It was a wonderful afternoon of scratching my itch to be on the road!
Here’s how I stay cool while driving on the hot summer days with only the dash air conditioner on. I installed that curtain, as I have in all my coaches, to keep the cockpit cool while the rest of the coach is ventilated with only the Fantastic Fan on the roof. For our stops and overnights, we have the house air conditioning to keep us comfy.
As the afternoon wore on, I got a bit sleepy, and the remedy for me while on the road is usually a Mickey D’s snack size McFlurry and a large coffee chaser. I pulled into McDonald’s in the small town of Lovelock, NV and ordered my remedy. It was delicious and I was wide awake the rest of the drive.
I pulled into the Winnemucca, NV Walmart lot a bit before 1700, and settled in at a remote, very quiet part of the lot. I dropped the jacks, turned on the house air conditioners, and was home for the evening. I ran the air ’til about dark, then opened the windows and enjoyed the tolerably warm evening.
My cozy apartment at the Winnemucca Walmart lot. I was “home” for the night!
After parking for the night, I headed into the store for a few grocery items. The store was the usual huge, clean and well stocked Walmart that I find at nearly every overnight stop. As I hunted and gathered around the store, I overcame the temptation to claim one of their delicious rotisserie chickens. I chose some salad fixins, including lettuce, tomatoes and some low fat dressing. For dinner I had a very small roll, salad and a mandarin orange. Later in the evening I headed back to the store for a pint of non-dairy “ice cream” that claimed to be very low calorie. It was just Ok, and I’d have to resist such temptations the rest of the trip.
I whiled away the evening editing photos and writing this blog. The local ‘net connection through the “hot spot” on my phone was awfully slow, but I managed to get some photos posted. I dug out the movie Oh, Brother, Where art Thou? and watched it for about an hour or so as I enjoyed my evening cool ones. I called it a day around 2300 and headed to bed. It had been a grand day back on the road…
Day 2, Tuesday, Winnemucca, NV to Park City, UT via I-80: 375 miles
I was up sometime after 0500 and began another day on the road! After morning chores I wrote more of this blog, but couldn’t post photos on the lousy cell service. But I sure did look forward to another day on the road!
I took my morning walk around 0715 when it was cool enough to walk around outdoors, and also a lap inside the store. After visiting with a very friendly RV neighbor for awhile, I converted my lovely home into a highway cruiser and continued my drive east.
What a great way to start the day – nuthin’ but elbow room and no traffic!
I discovered that the phone cell service deteriorated as I drove, to the point I couldn’t even make a call to AT&T to complain. I restarted the phone about three times, then after the third try, I was back on the AT&T network and all was well. Go figure! My son, Dean, who sells test software to the cell phone industry, tells me no mobile phone company is perfect, but to just pick one of the big ones to hate, and stick with them. I guess they all have their issues, and I must say that overall I have been mostly satisfied with AT&T for several years now.
Just after getting the phone service back, I pulled into the Valmy Rest Area, above, with the big boys. I was able to post photos and continue this blog. I also zapped an egg and chicken sausage sandwich and peeled a mandarin orange for breakfast.
Dropping into Utah and the great salt flats. It is a 100 mile drive across the flats with nuthin’ to break the monotony.
I stopped at the Bonneville Rest Area overlooking the flats for lunch. It was there I discovered the generator wouldn’t start! I also found the fridge had turned off. And the house batteries were discharged badly! What the…?! Ok… I tried the generator and it wouldn’t start because they use the house batteries. hmmmm. So I hit the momentary switch that joins the house batteries and the chassis batteries. Still nothing. Next I started the big diesel and as it idled I tried again. That was enough jump to start the generator. After driving all day and having discharged batteries – four six volts that create 12 volts – it had to mean one of the batteries was dead. I bought all four in January and they were all still under warranty. A visit to an Interstate battery dealer was in my immediate future. As I’ve often said, with a Class A motorhome, it’s always something!
In the meantime, after lunch I continued on to Park City, figuring that I could get through the evening by running the generator. I doubted that there was enough voltage in the batteries to even run the house lights. The generator did the job just fine.
Climbing up the long pull to Parsley Summit and Park City at 7000 feet. The coach didn’t overheat in spite of the 90°+ heat.
Once I got up the long pull to Park City, I fired up the generator and ran it ’til bedtime – it was so hot I had to run it ’til after sundown anyway to run the air conditioners. I hoped the weak batteries would at least run my sound machine overnight. I faced this exact same issue with Cecil the Diesel a couple years ago, and it worked then.
Parked for the night at Park City, Utah’s Walmart lot. It was much warmer than I expected up there at 7000 feet, and the generator ran the entire evening.
A view from Park City’s Walmart of the nearby ski jump that was built for the 2002 Olympics. It was quite a sight!
The evening passed as usual – I edited photos, blogged, had a frozen Chinese bowl from Walmart, and watched more of the movie Oh, Brother Where Art Thou? while enjoying a couple cool ones. Or so. I woke up with the movie still playing on my laptop, my chin on my chest, and finally headed to bed. I turned off everything but the fridge and my sound machine and hoped for the best.
Day 3, Wednesday, Park City UT to Cheyenne, WY via I-80: 420 miles
I woke up about 0500 to the sounds of a jack hammer and a gas powered saw somewhere nearby. The Walmart lot was being repaired and/or replaced not far from where I parked. It was 0600 their time, and apparently the construction workers wanted to start early. So… I had to start early, too!
I tumbled out of bed, pleased to hear my sound machine still running. So was the fridge! The batteries got me through the night, and when I arrived in Cheyenne that afternoon, I planned to get them checked out.
It was 0500 home time, 0600 in Park City, when I pulled out of the Walmart lot and continued east on I-80. It was an absolutely gorgeous morning to be driving and in spite of the rude start to my day, I was one happy camper to be driving across Wyoming on a perfect day.
The following two photos are of the beautiful Coalville area just beyond Park City on I-80. It is one of the loveliest areas of the entire I-80:
Welcome to Wyoming!
The handsome traveler deals severely with the growing bug collection during a stop at a rest area for breakfast. Those huge, panoramic windshields offer a great view of America as I travel – but the bugs must be dealt with regularly.
As perfect as the day was, I fought sleepiness often due to the morning’s early wake up call. I brewed two large travel mugs of coffee – the real stuff, not my usual decaf – and that helped. Added to that was the large Mickey D’s coffee I ordered along with a McFlurry during the afternoon which makes for a great caffeine and sugar jolt.
Click any of these views of the day’s drive for larger photos and captions – then scroll down a bit and click on “full size”, then click again for a huge view.
I stopped for breakfast and lunch aboard the coach and both were more like snacks, and not full meals. By the time I reached the Interstate battery store in Cheyenne at 1700, I was ready for a big meal.
The very modern Interstate Battery store in Cheyenne. Big Blue is in the background about to get four new batteries. Again. That wrapped car is a very cool advertisement for the company – it looks as though it’s ready for a NASCAR race.
At the battery store, I was treated wonderfully by the manager, Lane, who got right after my battery problem. His diagnosis was a surprise – he replaced all four six volt batteries! He was sure one battery was faulty, and three others were questionable. He would like to have taken all four for a day or two to test them properly, but I couldn’t wait that long.
He dived into the job of replacing them, and that was a big job – one that took him well over an hour – and that included help from his wife, also employed there, who jumped right into the dirty job with him. I told them both that the owner was mighty blessed to have such dedicated workers. I know from my own days as an employer that dedication is something one cannot buy with wages; either an employee has it or he hasn’t. This young, newlywed couple were both dedicated to doing the job right.
The store manager, Lane, hard at work installing those four new batteries. I was very pleased with their warranty service. Again.
As they labored on the battery switch, I headed next door to a Mongolian barbecue. I haven’t visited such a place in a very long time, and they had to show me the ropes. I loaded up a large bowl with vegetables, noodles, chicken and two or three seasonings. At the big metal table the cooks swirled my choices ’round and ’round the grill ’til they were cooked. And it was a very good dinner – my craving for a big meal was well satisfied.
I headed back to the battery shop after dinner, and after waiting another half hour or so, the job was finally done – about 40 minutes after their closing time at 1800. The hard working couple wrote up my order, and the job totaled $00. I was pleasantly surprised, and told them that I wanted to at least buy them dinner, and laid two $20 bills on the counter. They were pleased. I was pleased. I was full of Mongolian barbecue and they soon would be! And once again I was rewarded for being an Interstate battery customer.
Finally settled in at one of Cheyenne’s two big Walmart stores. It had been a big day, and a productive one, and it was good to be “home” for the night!
I headed directly to the Livingstone Avenue Walmart in Cheyenne, the second of two stores and near I-80. I pulled in at 1920, and settled in for the night. It was another very warm July evening. I ran the air conditioners for probably a couple hours during the evening to stay comfy.
My evening was as most evenings on the road; I edited photos, I blogged, I worked through the evening chores and, eventually, I fell asleep watching the movie, Oh Brother… I woke up and finally headed to bed about 2330. It had been a long but very good and productive day.
Thursday, Day 4, Cheyenne, WY to Chadron, NE via I-80, WY71, US26, US385: 208 miles
I rolled out of bed around 0600, and was not awakened by the noise of a nearby jack hammer. That was a good start to my day! I had quite a bit of blogging to catch up on, and after morning chores I got right after it.
I also took a walk, then shopped, then tinkered around the coach ’til it was too late to head any farther than Chadron, Nebraska, a town miles out on the prairie and only a couple hundred miles away. Besides, I was pretty worn from the big Day 3. I also was reminded during my walk there in Cheyenne at 6100′ that I needed to take it easy at those higher elevations. This old heart patient’s memory needs prompting and I sure got my prompt when I tired so easily by walking just 20 minutes.
It was 1230 when I finally pulled out of the Cheyenne Walmart and continued east on I-80. I discovered that they had replaced I-80 for me, and I drove for several miles on asphalt so new it didn’t yet have the lines painted. I felt very special. Note to Kalifornistan: There is a technology available beyond your endless patch, patch, patch! It’s a matter of replacing the old, worn highway with new highway – a technology that’s seemingly unheard of in Kalifornistan!
A brand new I-80 just for me!
Strange strips of farmland in eastern Wyoming that I couldn’t figure out.
More of beautiful Wyoming.
Click and enlarge the following photos of beautiful Nebraska:
I crossed the state line into Nebraska after driving maybe 50 miles along I-80. I took Nebraska’s NE71 north from I-80 and was finally off the interstates and back on more remote highways. The drive through Nebraska farmland was almost breathtaking – I know I was meant to be a farmer!
On the drive north I simply skirted the city of Scottsbluff then continued east to US385 which took me through miles and miles of lovely prairie. It rained a bit during the drive, and I was hoping for a good storm during the night.
I arrived at the Walmart in Chadron a few minutes after 1700. It was a rather quiet Walmart, a bit smaller than most, but well stocked. I shopped for a few minutes upon arrival, then settled in for the night aboard the coach.
The drive along US385 was rainy at times and I loved it!
Somehow, this Nebraska hay field seemed to me to be one of the best photos of the day. I don’t know why; it must be due to my missed calling to be a farmer!
Big Blue II at rest at Chadron, Nebraska. It was a lovely, cool and breezy evening there on the prairie, and I loved it!
Once settled in for the night after chores and a bit of shopping, I began the photo editing, then the blogging. It seems my nights never changed, and why should they?! I was having a wonderful time out on the highways and byways and was very thankful that I could do what I love! After watching part of the movie Along Came Polly, I fell asleep, naturally, and headed to bed at 2330 and slept well.
Friday, July 13, 2018, Day 5, Chadron, NE to Mitchell, SD via US20, NE61, SD73, US18, I-90: 331 miles
My Friday the 13th began with a cool overcast in Chadron, NE – a very refreshing change in July and certainly not bad luck! The morning temperature was in the mid 60s and very comfortable.
Day 5 dawned overcast and cool and was a wonderfully refreshing start to my Friday the 13th.
My day began about 0630 with the usual chores and morning routine when on the road to nowhere in particular. I took time to update this blog a bit, took my walk in the store, and planned the day’s route to Mitchell, SD. The route would be about half beautiful and remote back roads and half interstate.
The ol’ trucker records the particulars of the day’s drive at the start – and again at the end of the day. This record keeping no doubt is a habit formed way back in the 70s when I drove big rigs and had to fill out log books, etc. While I can account for every mile and every gallon of fuel, etc. over the fifteen years or so of RVing, I have rarely had to look back on my record keeping.
What a wonderful drive through miles and miles of beautiful and nearly empty roads and a cool, cloudy morning. Add to that the fact that no one was expecting anything of me for two weeks – or longer if I so chose. Life is good!
I began the drive on US20 from Chadron and it was a wonderful drive – the sort of drive I dream about at home when I’m due for another travelin’ adventure. And for good measure, the morning was overcast and cool, and in some places almost foggy. For the middle of July that was a real treat!
I followed the various US Highways and state roads generally north and east toward I-90 which would take me to Mitchell, SD. Of the back roads which I usually enjoy greatly, that miserable US18 in SD was one wretched chunk of highway – much of it was old concrete with those gosh-awful joints that continually jolt the vehicle. Although it was a gorgeous drive, I hated that highway!
There it was! Out on Nebraska farmland on the side of the road – another Dale’s Diner. I had breakfast there and it wasn’t bad – and I reckon that’s about all I can say about the place.
I found a Dale’s Diner out in the middle of nowhere for breakfast. There it was on the side of the road with no traffic and only one customer – I don’t know how they can have so little business and yet have so many locations!
Here’s an insider’s look at the Dale’s Diner business model – there is no reason why there are so many successful locations…
The insider’s story:
This is the only regular customer of the Dale’s Diner model. It is widely known that this fella is very easy to please because he’s used to mediocre cooking. Yet he stays plump and pretty happy. It’s all very strange.
Yet another of the many Dale’s Diners pictured above. This diner was spotted at a rest area on I-90 in South Dakota and it was doing almost no business. This business model seems to be sustainable, but there is no good reason why.
Here’s the usual cook at Dale’s Diner; he’s not highly regarded for his cooking, nor is he paid a living wage for his labor. It has been said he just doesn’t care!
Click for a lovely photo montage of the day’s beautiful drive through Nebraska and South Dakota – click again for larger photos:
I reached I-90 and with mixed emotions joined the traffic heading east. By Kalifornistan standards the interstate seemed nearly deserted, but by comparison to the back roads I just drove, it was a mad house. But it was not the infernal US18 and it was smooth. And I still had about 180 miles to drive.
I bucked a headwind during some of the drive on I-90, and although it was not constant, it certainly did not help my fuel mileage. Although it wasn’t a two lane back road, it did streak through a lot of pretty, green country. Speaking of which, I am surprised at all the green still in these northern parts. They must get pretty regular rain through the summer, and I did see a lot of farm irrigation during my drive. It sure beats the ugly brown of the states farther south. It seems to me that these northern states would be a lovely place to spend summers.
I pulled into the Walmart lot at Mitchell, SD at about 1815 and discovered that I had lost another hour somewhere along I-90, but I did not see any sign about it. I try to live by home time for my meals, bedtime and such, but I’ve been getting confused trying to keep up with all the changes – especially timing my phone calls home. I just have to pay more attention, I suppose.
Jacks down for the night at the Mitchell, SD Walmart. As I drove during the day I called the store to be sure they allowed the likes of me to spend the night in their lot. Of course they did!
I was due for a better meal than they serve at Dale’s Diner, so I phoned an order in to the Whiskey Creek Wood Fire Grill which was near the Walmart store. I was very pleased to call in an order for their half-chicken with sides of mashed potatoes and gravy and coleslaw. I simply walked over and picked it up, then returned to the coach to enjoy my special meal. It was only Ok – certainly better than anything in the coach, but not the $20 I paid for it. Yet they did toss in a handful of peanuts – and that was enough to please me!
It was a warm night and I ran the air conditioners for most of the evening. Eventually it cooled off and became comfortable just opening the windows and sitting by the table fan.
I enjoyed my evening – especially with the couple Bud Lights I bought to wash down those peanuts. I spent most of my time on this blog, and the evening was very comfortable. I called it a day around 2330, as usual, and headed to bed.
Saturday, Day 6, Mitchell, SD to Dilworth, MN via I-90, US81: 275 miles
I was up and at ’em a little after 0600 home time, which I try to live by, but Mr. Sun is two hours later in Mitchell, SD and by 0800 local time a hot sun was beating down on one entire side of the coach making it too warm for my liking. I moved the coach almost first thing to face away from the sun. Things were better after the move and I got busy with the morning chores and such.
My drive began as I continued east on I-90.
At 0920 I pulled out of the lot and headed east. I had to get fuel that morning but didn’t see any stations before I got on I-90 so I continued east ’til I found a big FuelMart station selling diesel for just $3.06. The place was pretty generous with their charge limit. Most places cut me off at $100 or so, and some cut me off at even less, but FuelMart let me pump on $150 worth before I had to begin another charge to fill up. I was glad to have that chore behind me as I pulled onto I-90 again.
I fueled up at a FuelMart station for the best price of the trip at $3.06 per!
I continued east to US81 where I turned north, then drove through the lovely little town of Salem, ND – and I was back on the small, backwater roads that I so enjoy.
Just passing through the pretty, tidy, small town of Salem, SD. This really is how I like to see America. I’ll take the back roads every time I can!
…so this seems the appropriate place to embed a Youtube clip by Moe Bandy about America’s wonderful backroads, Americana. And thanks to my old high school buddy, Al, for turning me on to it!
The portion of the day’s drive off the interstate took me through what seemed like millions of acres of corn, the state’s #1 crop, and soybeans, the #2 crop. The crops seemed to stretch to the horizon! I imagined that harvest time is super busy and couldn’t imagine where they’d store all those harvested crops!
Soybeans reaching to the horizon – and this seemed to be throughout most of the state of South Dakota!
I drove through the town of Watertown, SD – where my mom’s family all lived ’til they moved out to Kalifornistan – what were they thinking?! Yes, it was a different time – way back then war was brewing in Europe again and there were golden opportunities in California. My mom was one of 9 children and my grandmother was divorced – a most uncommon thing back in those days. Several of the kids wound up in California as did my beloved grandmother. One of her son’s, my Uncle Harris, was a pilot in WWII and died after contracting “sleeping sickness” while flying the “hump” (the Himalayas) moving supplies from India to China. But I digress…
South Dakota in July – just beautiful!
I made a point of eating all three meals in the coach to somewhat make up for the pig-out of the prior night’s chicken dinner. And didn’t I say it’s always something with a motorhome? It’s true; and with the battery issue fixed, the refrigerator started acting up. The freezer portion worked fine; the fridge part was not cooling enough. I tried a couple things to fix it, but neither worked. So the prior night I bought a 20 pound bag of ice and it seemed to have helped quite a lot. I didn’t want to have it fixed while on the road if at all avoidable because if they failed to do it right, there’d be no real recourse for me. I hoped that I’d get by ’til I was back home.
One of the day’s stops was at this closed rest area. So I simply backed in and made myself at home. Where there’s a will…
South Dakota has many lakes as does it’s “Land of 10,000 Lakes” neighbor, Minnesota. These guys know how to have a great time. I spent many hours trolling during my fishing years.
Click for larger photos and captions:
I reached the farthest point of my trip on Day 6, and would begin heading west on Day 7. My destination, however, remained to be reached – which was the Roost restaurant in Bozeman, Montana. I expected to be there on Tuesday or Wednesday. I’d have preferred to eat there and then spend the night, but it looked as though I would arrive there about noon on Tuesday. Time would tell. It didn’t matter a hoot to anyone when I got there, and that was a good thing!
I changed my trip title to read A Chicken Run to Minnesota… because I simply drove across the Red River to the first Walmart, and spent the night in Minnesota. So my trip extended to the state of Minnesota and that sounded like a longer trip!
During my drive through South Dakota I saw that it has more freedoms than Kalifornistan (Most places do!). Bikers on motorcycles still had the choice to not wear a helmet! I was able to purchase beer at the self check out counter – that’s not allowed in Kalifornistan. And the plastic bags were free and plentiful – which is a no-no at home.
People still have the right to be stupid in South Dakota; I like that freedom of choice!
I arrived at the Dilworth, MN Walmart store at 1610 – and it was hot! I ran the air conditioner ’til sundown to stay comfy. I took my walk in the store for about 25 minutes, but most of the time I blogged. If I didn’t have my travelogues to write, I don’t know what I’d do each evening.
My sixth evening on the road unfolded about the same as the prior five – blog, eat, enjoy a couple cool ones, fall asleep watching a movie, go to bed. And that wasn’t a complaint!
Day 7, Sunday, Dilworth, MN to Dickinson, ND via I-94: 294 miles
I slept well just across the state line in Minnesota at the east end of my adventure. Day 7 would begin the homeward leg of my “Minnesota Loop” adventure, and I planned to stop and visit friends and family in Oregon for a couple nights. I had another week to enjoy living on the road – maybe a bit longer. And I was having a grand time.
I would be on I-94 the entire day, but up there in God’s country the interstate traffic was very light compared to more populated areas and the beauty of the country was stunning. I had been driving over green carpeted open country for days, and was not looking forward to ugly, brown, burned Kalifornistan and its miserable traffic. Ugh.
Moments after driving back onto I-92 westbound, I again entered North Dakota. I would drive across it over two days and it would be a real pleasure.
Click on any photo to see larger photos and to read the captions:
I bucked a crosswind or a headwind much of the day, and while it wasn’t a real blowy day – it held pretty steady. Big Blue handles cross winds very well as she’s pretty heavy for a 34′ motorhome.
I continued being righteous about my eating and had all three meals in Dale’s Diner. But I felt a pig out coming on, and my much longed for chicken dinner at the Roost in Bozeman wasn’t ’til Wednesday. I hoped I could hang tough.
And the fridge was still giving me trouble; the freezer continued to work fine while the fridge didn’t get cold. My last check found it in the high 40s, so I bought a couple small bags of ice and loaded them in and hoped it would reach at least the low 40s overnight.
More fun, more photos, and more clicking!
I pulled into the Dickinson, ND Walmart at 1615. It was a Sunday and the place was packed with shoppers. As always, I took up four spaces at the far end of the lot. I parked so that the sun was full on the back of the coach and off the sides and windows. That helps keep the coach cooler. Even so, I ran the air conditioners for a while.
Dinner at Dale’s Diner! I salute here with my diet cranberry juice as I enjoyed a frozen dinner and Ciabatta bread. The place ain’t so fancy, but I control the music and obnoxious kids and stupid parents aren’t allowed!
The evening was as perfect as one could hope for; it cooled off nicely at sundown, a nice breeze carried through the windows and I was very comfortable without the roaring roof air conditioners. Before bedtime it cooled off so nicely I had to close the windows. I spent the evening mostly updating this blog, did the usual evening chores, and was in bed at 2330 and slept like a baby.Jacks down at the Dickinson, ND Walmart for the night.
Day 8, Monday, July 16, 2018, Dickinson, ND to Billings, MT via I-92, (I-90 after the merge): 320 miles
I was up and at ’em a few minutes after 0600. It was another day on the road in God’s country and I was, literally, thrilled to be doing what I was doing. I may have a screw loose (there are rumors to that effect) but I was certainly having a grand time!
I wanted to hit the road early but had some chores to do first. After the usual morning things I took the ice chest I had just purchased a couple days ago and returned it as I had learned that ice in the fridge was as good as ice in the ice chest. I also grabbed the four one gallon jugs I keep aboard for drinking water and filled them in the store. I’ve never filled them at a Walmart water dispenser, but it worked out well. They cost only 37¢ each to fill with good, filtered water, and I counted it as a bargain.
After the Walmart visit was complete, I took my morning walk. Eventually I got around to setting up the coach for the day’s drive and pulled out of Dickinson, ND at 0900.
Click on any photo to enlarge ’em all and to read the captions:
The drive was pleasant, as usual. I really enjoyed the beauty of the northern states. I ate breakfast and lunch at Dale’s Diner to save room for the planned chicken dinner the next day. The trouble was that my big dinner at the Roost in Bozeman would be my lunch, and I knew it would tire me out for the afternoon drive. Maybe I’d make a change…
More click fun:
And when I landed for the night in Billings, I looked around for another place to have my pig-out. I discovered there was a Golden Corral just around the corner from my spot in the Walmart lot. I hadn’t been to a buffet in ages, nor a Golden Corral in years. I took a walk over to the restaurant. The place wasn’t too crowded, and I found a corner table away from most of the noise.
Click and drool!
I enjoyed mashed taters and gravy, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, a couple teriyaki wings and two pieces of fried chicken. For dessert I had tiny slices of pumpkin and lemon meringue pie, mmmmmm. It was a good meal, but not one I’d drive across the country for as I would for the chicken in Pittsburg, Kansas. But I was stuffed and happy and waddled back to the coach.
After editing photos and blogging, I turned to YouTube and watched some entertaining clips. It was my usual evening aboard the coach. I finally headed to bed at 2330 and slept well.
Day 9, Tuesday, Billings, MT to Butte, MT via I-90: 218 miles
I was dozing around 0540, hoping to sleep ’til 0630 when some dang crow outside began making a racket. I gave up the sleep, put on some clothes and went outside and shooed him away. And then I stayed up. But in spite of another rude awakening, I moved on with my day.
I worked through my morning routine and hit the road at 0730. I was just anxious to get underway even though the day’s drive was to be only a couple hundred miles. About 30 miles down the interstate I pulled into a nice rest area to tackle a few jobs that needed my attention.
The first thing was to clean the buggy windshields. Then I put out the slides and dug out the vacuum to give the place a good floor cleaning. That also included scrubbing the little linoleum that is in the coach. I worked hard for a guy who’s supposed to be a bum, and the place looked better when I was done. Next I tackled the fridge that won’t run properly. Somehow, with plenty of ice over the rest of the trip I would use that fridge as a big icebox and keep the food tolerably cold and safe. It wasn’t a lot of fun messing with the ice and water, etc. but I really did not want to deal with some repair outfit on the road if I could avoid it.
After a couple hours of playing housekeeper I whipped up a quick breakfast of a zapped breakfast sandwich, a nectarine and a mandarin orange. Then I tended to this blog for another half hour or so before finally getting back on the road.
I spent about three hours at that rest area as I had only about 200 miles to Butte. I was in no rush. So I continued my drive westbound on I-90, one of the prettiest drives I know of. I’ll attach photos I took during that short drive to Bozeman, and they’ll need no further commentary than Montana is one beautiful, beautiful state – at least in the summertime!
I stopped at the Walmart in Bozeman to buy more ice. I checked the fridge and my efforts seemed to be failing. The ice was melting too fast. I went in and bought some small containers to put ice into that would fit in the small freezer compartments. And I bought more ice to put in the larger fridge. Dang. Here in the comparatively cooler Montana my efforts seemed to be in vain. I feared that in the hotter climes I would enter the next day and likely all the way home, I’d have to give up any idea of a “fridge” and just eat at restaurants. I didn’t relish that idea.
I did relish the incredible views of Montana from I-90, and I shot a lot of photos as I drove. I deleted the vast majority of photos simply to save room, and those that made the cut will somewhat represent the gorgeous Montana that is so beautiful in the summer.
The following photos need no captions; just click to enlarge and hopefully be as wowed as I have been. For larger photos, scroll down on any photo in the group, then click on “view full size”. For an even larger photo, click on the photo again:
When I topped Homestake Pass on I-90 just minutes east of Butte, I was reminded of the last drive over the pass in May of 2017 and the snowy mess I dealt with then:
In July, of course, the pass was warm and dry.
When I arrived at the Walmart in Butte at 5600′, one of the first things I noticed was a statue waaaay up on the mountain. I had to use the maximum (34X) telescopic setting with my camera to capture a couple pretty poor photos that also required the tripod to steady the camera. I went online to read about Our Lady of the Rockies. It’s quite a story and a spectacular statue, the fourth tallest in the U.S. Click on the above link for Wikipedia’s information.
My photos of the stunning statue are posted below, just click to enlarge:
My day was a bit challenging as I dealt with the dead fridge issue. The ice held up Ok, and I simply went into the store and bought a frozen dinner that I zapped. The little Mandarin oranges stayed plenty cool as did the soda that I had for dinner.
My next stop would be Spokane, WA as I headed to La Pine, Oregon to visit my niece and her husband for a day or so. Then I’d back track a bit to Keizer, Oregon to visit my old high school buddy. I was still having a ball and wasn’t about to let that troublesome fridge ruin my trip.
My evening unfolded as most do. Dinner, blogging, some movie time while downing a couple cool ones, falling asleep as the movie played on… some things never change. I climbed into bed and slept very well.
Day 10, Wednesday, July 18, Butte, Montana to Post Falls, ID via I-90: 315 miles
My day began under a bit of pressure as I had to get several things done. I had to buy ice, I had to dump the holding tanks, and I had to fuel up. And I got it all done rather quickly as I began the day’s drive.
Before leaving Butte’s Walmart store, I fueled up at their pumps. I wish more Walmarts had gas stations.
The start of the drive was soon delayed by construction. An old northern states trucker once told me “There are two seasons; snow season and construction season.” I believe he was right. This was a detour that took all the interstate traffic through a portion of town. It was a mess, but in time we were all back on the interstate.
The neat and tidy Indian Creek Campground is near Deer Lodge, Montana. They permitted RVers just passing through to dump their tanks for only $5 which is half price these days. It was a lovely RV park and I’d like to spend a month each summer there. Now to convince my dear Wifey to go along…
The day’s drive was a gorgeous tour of Montana. I shot photos ’til I about exhausted the camera batteries. Then, as I often do, that evening I had to delete half of them as I simply couldn’t post them all.
Click for larger photos of Montana’s beauty:
As I tended my bug collection the morning of Day 10, I noticed a rock chip on the passenger side. These huge Class A RV windshields are very expensive to replace and I have replaced more than my share already. I had to get it “plugged” to stop it from growing. When I was driving through Missoula, Montana, I pulled into town and drove several miles through terrible traffic to the Safelite shop. Unfortunately, they were swamped. I was told they couldn’t touch it for two days. But the kind fellow did give me a couple of clear plastic stick-on discs about the size of a half dollar to place on the windshield to (hopefully) keep it from spreading. I promptly applied one of the discs and hoped it would last ’til I got home. So far – so good.
Parked at the Safelite shop in Missoula, Montana seeking help for yet another window chip.
After my tour of Missoula I drove back onto I-90 and continued my drive to what I thought would be Spokane, WA. As I was driving through Post Falls, ID, just 20 miles or so from Spokane, an alert appeared on my Garmin navigator that there was a traffic delay ahead of about 20 minutes. So I pulled off at the nearest ramp and drove to the Post Falls Walmart for the night.
The night in Post Falls was as usual. I dug out the movie Driving Miss Daisy, one of my favorites, and began watching it for the umpteenth time. After waking up two or three times while trying to watch the movie, I gave up. I went to bed around 2330 and slept well.
Day 11, Thursday, Post Falls, ID to La Pine, OR via I-90, US395, I-82, I-84, US97: 434 miles
I had a big day scheduled for Day 11. I would drive over 400 miles to visit my niece, Jill, and her husband, Craig, in La Pine, Oregon. So I charged through the morning chores to hit the road early. I was in too much of a hurry as I forgot to do the morning ice ritual that the new “ice box” required of me. Soon after I began the drive, I had to find another Walmart and buy two bags of ice. I then had to dump the melted ice water, fill up the several containers with fresh ice and place the new bags of ice in the big fridge boxes. What a hassle. But when I was done the ice box would work for another day. Whew.
The long drive was not pleasant. The wind blew like heck during much of the drive, especially through the Columbia Gorge. Such driving is very tiring and not that much fun. And the drive was mostly ugly – kinda like driving on a huge piece of toast – everything was brown and dead. The beauty of Montana was just a memory.
As I began the drive down US97 in Oregon, a flashing sign warned of a fire ahead. I did see some smoke for a few miles, but never was near a fire and I was soon past the smoke.
More to click:
It was good to be met at Gordy’s Truck Stop in La Pine by Jill and Craig. After hugs all ’round, we walked into Gordy’s restaurant and enjoyed a good meal. I had Eggs Benedict, something that I shouldn’t have but surely enjoyed it – the first in probably a year.
After dinner they drove me to their cute little A-frame cabin in the woods outside of town, but still within city limits.
After our good times at their lovely home, they drove me back to my little home on wheels. We said our good nights, and agreed they’d pick me up the next morning for a trip into Bend.
Parked at Gordy’s Truck Stop in La Pine, OR. The place serves good food and serves lots of it. I spent two nights on their large lot.
Back at the coach I watched a bit more of Driving Miss Daisy. But it had been a long day and I was plumb worn out. I finally went to bed at 2330 and slept very well, indeed.
Day 12, Friday, a day off in La Pine, OR as I visited with Jill and Craig.
I had been driving at least 300 miles most days for 11 days, and it felt good to wake up and just take my time around the coach for the morning ’til a bit after 1000 hours. The kids were to pick me up then for a trip to Bend.
Almost four years ago, tragedy struck our family when Preston, Jill and Craig’s son, passed away. He was just 17 and was soon to begin his first year of college in the fall of that year. I had not been to his grave yet, and asked to visit it while I was there. It was a very sad moment as I stood there in the cemetery with his parents.
After the visit to the cemetery we headed up to Pilot Butte, a dormant 500 foot volcano in the middle of the town. The view from that high hilltop was incredible. The surrounding mountains make a breathtaking view for a full 360°.
After taking in the views from Pilot Butte, we headed to Currents at Riverhouse, a wonderful restaurant with outside seating just above the Deschutes River.
Click for photos of our visit to Bend:
After our fun time together, we headed back to La Pine and they dropped me off at the coach. After hugs and good-byes, they drove away and I climbed aboard the coach with one thing on my mind – to catch up on my photo editing and this blog. I would spend the night again at Gordy’s and head for Al and Betty’s in Keizer, near Salem, Oregon in the morning.
I spent quite a bit of time catching up on this blog, worked through the usual evening chores, and watched the rest of Driving Miss Daisy. I dug out Fargo and began watching it yet again.
I whipped up a turkey sandwich on a ciabatta roll for dinner. I also zapped an ear of corn which was a nice change of pace. I climbed into my cozy bed at 2330 and slept well, as always.
Day 13, Saturday, La Pine, OR to Al’s in Keizer, OR via US97, OR58, I-5: 184 miles
I woke up again to about 40° outside in La Pine as I did the prior morning, and I’m not complaining! It sure was a wonderful change in July! I ran the heater both mornings and even left it on low overnight – and it would turn on occasionally to maintain 62°. I especially enjoyed the cool mornings because I knew what heat was awaiting me when I returned to Kalifornistan. Ugh.
I was a happy camper as I began day 13 and looked forward to getting back on the road. I worked through the morning chores, including the ice box routine which I had down pat, and the ice box was working well.
Cruising south on US97 as I began my day’s drive to Al and Betty’s in Keizer, near Salem, OR. It was a lovely day to be traveling.
I planned to have the coach washed that morning as a truck wash is right next to Gordy’s, but they were closed on Saturdays! That seemed strange, but I would look for one during my drive.
Before continuing my adventure, I fueled up at Gordy’s gas station – it seemed the least I could do for having stayed two nights on their lot for free. They were selling diesel for $3.48 per, about the going price in the La Pine area. I pulled out of La Pine around 0830 or so.
Somewhere along OR58, a stunningly beautiful drive through the rugged mountains of Oregon, I found another Dale’s Diner. I zapped the usual breakfast sandwich and peeled two little mandarin oranges for breakfast. And I drove on.
Click to see the stunning beauty of Oregon as I drove OR58 through the mountains:
Oregon’s Highway 58 is a twisty affair that drops from over 5000′ to less than 1000′ and has miles of 6% downgrade to deal with. Big Blue handled the drive with ease, the engine brake handling almost all the braking. The drive is one of incredible beauty, and I am glad I chose that route to Keizer. Once out of the mountains and into the valley, I merged onto I-5 North toward Keizer.
Along I-5 the warm summer was drying the grasses and even this part of Oregon was beginning to dry out and turn brown. All the conifers, however, kept it looking green.
Click to enlarge the photos from along I-5:
I didn’t find a truck wash along the drive, so I had to bear the shame of a dirty coach when I backed into Al and Betty’s driveway about 1330. While the back of the coach was the dirtiest, it was backed in and it didn’t show.
I joined Al and Betty in their lovely home for a visit of an hour or so, and we caught up with each other’s goings on. Around 1500 I went back to the coach for my afternoon grandpa nap and they did the same.
We agreed to Chinese for dinner, so after our nappies, Al and I headed to their favorite Chinese restaurant for an order to go. Back home, we dug in and enjoyed the big dinner. We brought back much more than we could eat, and we had plenty of leftovers for the next day.
We settled back to watch a movie together, but around 0700 I bid them good-night and excused myself and returned to the coach for the evening. I usually do so early when I have blogging and evening chores to get done. I brought this travelogue up to date, edited photos, watched a bit of a documentary on the laptop, and fell asleep half a dozen times. I finally headed off to bed around 2300 and slept well.
Day 14, Sunday, Keizer, OR to Anderson, CA via I-5: 392 miles
Morning dawned cool enough to fire up the heater a bit when I rolled out of bed for my last full day of this adventure – I’d be home the next day – and I was ready to be home!
I worked through the morning chores, then went inside to visit with Al and Betty, albeit very briefly, because I wanted to hit the road and chew up those miles between me and home. I bid a warm farewell to Al, Betty and Tommy the pooch, then pulled out of their driveway at 0800.
That Selleck look-alike (L), Betty, Tommy and Al as I was about to head south for home.
I needed a new batch of ice for the ice box, and found a Walmart along my route to do the ice box thing as soon as I could. I also found some cheap diesel while still in Oregon so I could fill up before I found myself in Kalifornistan again with its high fuel prices.
Click for the details of my %$#&*!! ice box:
The ice box worked pretty well, but I grew sick and tired of the daily chore of tossing water and buying two fresh bags of ice. I positively will have that %$#&*!! fridge fixed before I hit the road again!
I ate breakfast and lunch in the coach, trying to behave myself after the big Chinese pig out the prior night. And lunch was more Chinese thanks to Betty, who put some leftovers in a covered container for me to take along on my drive.
Lunch at Dale’s Dinner parked somewhere south of Yreka. It was a delicious meal! My thanks to Betty for packing it up so nicely and including a couple of her famous hard boiled eggs and delicious cupcakes. What a wonderful travelin’ meal it was!
Filling up at the Valero in Ashland, OR before entering the dastardly kingdom of Kalifornistan and sky-high energy prices – especially diesel!
I hoped to drive to Willows, CA that day, about 450 miles south on I-5. It would have been a long day, but I made it only to Anderson, near Redding – and had an even longer day!
As I drove down hill from the state line, a long drop into Kalifornistan (In more ways than one!), I came upon a delay that would keep me stopped or driving a maximum of five miles per hour for 90 minutes – and then another half hour well below the limit. I-5 southbound was closed, and traffic was herded over onto one lane of the northbound side, giving each direction one lane. It was a mess! Perhaps Sundays were the worst because many folks were heading home from their weekend travels, but whatever the reason, it was awful. And it was to continue into November. I wouldn’t be running I-5 from Oregon again ’til the construction was done, but it’s about the only route to Oregon that makes any sense.
Uh-oh. This couldn’t be good… and it wasn’t! I spent two hours covering maybe 15 miles!
Here southbound I-5 shares the road with northbound I-5. What a mess it was!
Finally, after covering the miles in two hours that should have taken perhaps 10 or 15 minutes, the logjam broke up and I could cruise at highway speeds. It made no difference where in the valley I parked for the night, it would be miserably hot. Having been driving for over 11 hours, I pulled into the first Walmart which was Anderson, just a bit south of Redding. At 1920 when I pulled in, it was about 100°.
Parked for the night at Anderson’s Walmart store. It was hot, hot, hot! Thanks to my diesel generator and air conditioning, my evening was comfortable.
After settling in I headed into the store for some groceries and, naturally, more ice. I would change the ice that evening due to the hot weather both day and night. (At 2215, as I wrote this, the temperature outside was 90° with a notation on the weather site that it felt like 102°.) I shouldn’t complain, though; I’m the one who chose to travel through Kalifornistan’s Central Valley in July!
Back in the coach I did the ice changing routine, and hoped it was the last one – ever! It was very comfortable in the coach with the generator and both air conditioners running. I then showered and began dinner which was a frozen dinner I just bought at Walmart, and an ear of corn I’d carried around for several days. All went well, and after dinner I spent the entire evening editing photos and updating this travelogue. It was a relief as I prepared for bed knowing that I was up to date on the photos and travelogue.
I ran the air conditioners (and the generator) all night long, but that’s what they were there for, and I stayed comfy. The infernal heat of Redding reminded me of a day back when my 47 year old son, Dean, was about four years old and we lived in Red Bluff, a town about 30 miles south of Redding. That day it was 117° and we had no air conditioning. We all three – Dean, his mom, and I – stayed cool by playing in the sprinkler in the back yard. Those were the days!
I went to bed at 2330 as usual. I slept well thanks to the air conditioners.
Day 15, Monday, July 23, 2018, Anderson, CA to home via I-5, SR99: 209 miles
I awoke to an unusually warm morning nearly 80° outside at 0600. I hurried through the morning chores so I could hit the road for home! I was ready to be home.
I continued to run the house air ’til I left when I then turned on the dash air to keep me comfy as I drove – it was crazy hot weather for someone who had to use the furnace the prior three mornings in Oregon!
Click for larger photos and captions:
The beauty of Oregon, Montana and the other lovely places I had traveled were only memories as I drove through the parched Central Valley of Kalifornistan. The rotten highways of Kalifornistan served only to remind me how well maintained the other states seemed to be by comparison, yet their fuel taxes were less.
I stopped at a Mickey D’s in the small town of Williams for breakfast. I ordered a McGriddle, a large coffee, and a snack size McFlurry for dessert. I enjoyed the McGriddle and two mandarin oranges at the dinette in the coach, then during my drive home the McFlurry and coffee helped keep me awake as I drove toward home.
Disgusting photos to click:
I traveled 4400 miles through 11 other states and all of them had lower fuel taxes and better roads. The above were taken just from Anderson, CA to home – and are just a sample of the teeth jarring roads of Kalifornistan.
I arrived home about 1130. When I greeted my loving Wifey in the house we shared a big, long hug – it was time to be back home and we were both happy that I was.
The gate to home opened wide for me and it was so good to be home after 15 days on the road and all those miles. (But I can’t wait for the next adventure!)
I had the coach unloaded in about an hour, and then parked her in her carport “barn” in the RV lot. The next day I would begin giving her a good wash – she was soooo dirty from the long trip. And I think she was glad to be back home, too!
My “Minnesota Loop” thoroughly scratched my itch to travel and took me over 4400 miles through Kalifornistan, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon.
I can now say, without fear of jinxing my trip, that Big Blue performed flawlessly. There wasn’t so much as a hint of the overheating problem we had fixed. Sure, there was the issue of the batteries being replaced, but that wasn’t her fault – and the whole job was under warranty. And that darn fridge – that’s one of those things that we deal with when we have an RV. Her big Caterpillar engine delivered 8.6 MPG as it powered us up and over all those mountains that we crossed. I didn’t need to brake on the downgrades much at all with the engine brake that worked so well. And as I drove, the dash air kept me comfy while my nights were cooled when necessary by the house air conditioning – and the big diesel Onan generator. I was very, very pleased with Big Blue.
As for the broken fridge, after I was home a week or so I researched a bit online about it. A factory manual made it very clear how to trouble shoot it, and I found that I had to “reset” the power board, or circuit board that runs the fridge. I followed the instructions and managed to fix it – no parts needed! I was very pleased with myself as I’d never fixed a fridge before and most of all – I didn’t have to deal with a shop!
The most memorable moment of the trip was probably the lunch with Jill and Craig on the lovely Deschutes River in Bend, Oregon and that little robin who built her nest in the nearby light fixture. She was so busy feeding her second brood of the year and was a sight I’ll never forget!
Our August trip will likely be a short run to Gridley to see my sis and her husband. In September we’ll be heading to Denver to see the kids, and perhaps on to Graceland in Tennessee.