Day 1, Wednesday, September 11, 2019, Home to my Sis’ near Gridley, CA via CA99, I-5: 124 miles
We hadn’t been on a trip out of Kalifornistan since June’s adventure to Colorado and Arkansas. I was counting down the minutes to this trip, and finally the day arrived to load up the coach and head north!
Of course I spent days getting the coach ready, but that’s how we old geezers get any work done. I put in an hour or two a day for a week to get done what might have been an afternoon’s effort some years ago. But I still get it done, and for that I’m grateful.
I pulled the coach up to the house on the morning of Day 1, and she was looking good! Big Blue was clean inside and out, her tires and batteries were checked and Ok’d by the driver, and I was proud of how good she looked that first morning.
The handsome driver with the first load of stuff that was stowed in the coach for our Oregon, Colorado, and Beyond Adventure!
The loading took over two hours of nearly constant toting stuff from the house and putting it away in the coach. We pretty much cleaned out the home fridge plus all the clothes we’d need for two or three weeks. It was too much lifting, but we finally got it all loaded and stowed. We pulled out of the little gated senior community that we call home at 1100 hours and headed north.
It was a perfect day for driving – if one must drive in the awful traffic of Kalifornistan. We took SR99 to a sort of country road that would take us west to I-5 and on through Sacramento. Along that road we were pretty sure there was a strawberry stand, and we found it. The one near our home was closed for a couple days as they worked on their fields. We bought a nice batch of strawberries for the evening’s dessert, and continued on.
On I-5 we pulled off at a new, large shopping center south of Sacramento called Delta Shores. There is an In-N-Out burger store there, and I was in the mood for a rare and tasty treat – and what I consider to be the best hamburger anywhere! I ordered a Double-Double with double grilled onions, a vanilla shake, and fries. For my dear Lavonne I ordered a single cheese burger. And what a great lunch it was!
Dale is happy.
After the wonderful lunch, we cruised on through the busy-ness of Sacramento and re-connected with SR99 a bit north of the city. It was all rural driving once back on SR99, and those endless orchards and countless rice paddies are the best part of the whole drive.
Click to enlarge and read the captions. (After clicking, scroll down and click on “View full size” icon for even bigger photos. Click again for a huge photo.)
We arrived at Gale and John’s lovely home at 1415 hours. It was pretty warm by then, and still warming to a high in the mid 90s. Lavonne headed into the house, then I backed the coach into its spot and set up for our visit. We ran the air conditioners all afternoon to keep the coach comfortable.
We visited in the house during the afternoon, and enjoyed our time with Gale and John. We hadn’t seen them since our visit back in July when we last drove up. My dear sis is dealing with Parkinson’s, and in spite of its toll on her, and taking her ability to walk, she is as sweet and gentle as ever. It’s heartbreaking to see her struggle with that awful disease. We are so thankful for John’s attentive care, and his good health to care for her as he does. There must be a special reward for those who care for disabled loved ones, as it is a very difficult job.
We continued our visit as we enjoyed dinner – we especially enjoyed dessert. That’s (L-R) Lavonne, John, Dale and Gale – (The Twins!)
We brought with us a Papa Murphy’s pizza to bake for dinner, and the makins’ for strawberry shortcake for dessert. We had the fresh strawberries we picked up earlier, and a strawberry cake Lavonne baked which makes for a splendid shortcake. We had whipped cream, too. The pizza was a bit of a disappointment for some reason, as it is usually pretty good. The strawberry shortcake was splendid, and we thoroughly enjoyed our dessert. We continued our visit ’til about 1930 hours, then headed back the coach for the night.
Big Blue is a wonderful home away from home, and when visiting loved ones and friends, we have our own home in the driveway, and are out of the way of one another’s evening routines. It works well all ’round.
Back in the coach we were on our computers. I began editing the day’s photos and began the travelogue for our new adventure. But I was pretty well shot after the long day. The work of loading the coach really tired me out and I especially felt it in the evening. I took a refreshing shower and that helped.
Lavonne headed to bed around 2200 hours and I followed about an hour later. Although the day was pretty warm, the evening cooled down nicely, and by bedtime we closed up the coach and were very comfortable out there in the rice and orchard country near Gridley.
Day 2, Thursday, Gridley, CA to Grants Pass, Oregon via SR99, I-5: 274 miles
It was a cool morning out in the country near Gridley, and we enjoyed it. We were up about 0630 and turned on the heater for a change. But we would likely be back in hot weather in Redding, CA where we planned to meet an old friend and employer of Lavonne’s for lunch.
Meanwhile, we worked through the morning chores preparing for Day 2 on the road – and I was lovin’ it! We made our first cups of coffee for the day and perused the internet on our laptops, checking our favorite sites. I guess my laptop has replaced the morning paper for me as I get my news and daily comic strips there – even at home. For Lavonne, she still reads the morning newspaper, but on our trips her laptop suffices.
We headed to the house around 0800 to see John. Gale was still sleeping – and these days, she’d likely sleep half the day due to that awful Parkinson’s Disease she deals with. But some time later she was up and John helped her get ready to meet her company over breakfast.
We simply hunted and gathered for breakfast. We had some fruit, some blueberry bread made by one our neighbors back home, something very much like banana bread. It was a very heavy bread and it was delicious. And we took a pretty good share of John and Gale’s box of Cheerios.
When I was done eating, I excused myself and prepared the coach for the day’s drive to Grants Pass, OR. En route we’d meet Rich, Lavonne’s old friend, at the Marie Callender’s restaurant in Redding at 1230 hours.
Parched Kalifornistan along CA99 near Oroville. Now, that’s just flat ugly!
The drive to Redding took us up CA99 to Red Bluff, my old home town in the 1970s, where we turned onto I-5 North. Redding was about 25 miles or so up I-5. Rich arrived at the agreed time and the three of us headed into the restaurant. Rich was the director of the YMCA in Stockton back in the day when Lavonne was his secretary – that was the late 60s and early 70s. Lavonne was friends with Rich and his wife, Donna, then – and still is.
Lunch at Redding’s Marie Callender’s with Rich, Lavonne’s long time friend.
It took forever to place our orders with the waitress at Marie Callender’s, then another forever before our lunches arrived – yet they really weren’t that busy. But when we were finally served, it was good food and we enjoyed it. Our visit with Rich, who is 87 years young, was very pleasant. Sometime before 1400 hours, we bid our farewells, and continued our drive north.
It was a warm day. We ran the dash air conditioning during most of the drive. But it was a lovely day to be on the road. It was very pleasant and the beautiful views through the Shasta area were a real pleasure.
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We arrived at Grants Pass, Oregon’s Walmart at 1730 hours. As soon as we arrived, I set up the coach for the night, then took my daily walk in the store where it was cool. It was in the mid 80s and we ran the generator and air conditioners ’til after sundown to stay comfortable.
Home for the night at the Grants Pass Walmart.
We ate dinner, such as it was, in the coach. I whipped up an egg salad sandwich and Lavonne settled for just yogurt. After evening chores, shower, etc., we continued visiting sites on our laptops and I posted photos and continued writing the travelogue.
I took 60 photos during the day, and as I edited them, many were deleted – how could I possibly use all of them?! But it was good to have many to choose from.
After updating this blog, I pulled out the movie Driving Miss Daisy yet again, and enjoyed it as much as usual – up to the point I had to turn it off and head for bed.
We slept well there in the Grants Pass Walmart lot. Yep. We really did – as funny as some folks think such camping is. Many RVers find Wally-Docking to be a great way to travel!
Day 3, Friday the 13th, Grants Pass, OR to Keizer, OR via I-5: 210 miles
We were up and around at 0630 hours, as usual. It was another welcome, cool morning and I ran the heater for awhile. We had a big day ahead of us, and we wanted to continue north by 0900 hours. We almost made it.
I made time to take my walk in the store, knowing we’d be visiting with Al and Betty that evening. I bought the forbidden food, peanut butter, while in the store. It’s not allowed at home as I can’t leave the stuff alone, but on our trips together we often buy a jar just for the trip. For breakfast I had two slices of toast – one with PBJ and one with PB and honey. What a treat for a PB junkie! I love the stuff too much.
We also lost time as I tried to figure out the “issue” we had during the night. I had the bright idea to run the fridge on battery power, and had recently done some wiring to make that possible. I had watched and read online “experts” and was convinced the fridge would run on the inverter. Not so! It completely drained the batteries to the point the fridge shut down and we had little battery power left in the morning.
I was able to start the big generator, and it saved the day! I ran it for well over two hours to recharge the batteries and to run the fridge. I thought using the inverter would work alright as we drove down the road with the alternator recharging the batteries. That didn’t work, either. We got error codes flashing on the fridge readout window and it didn’t cool down.
We drove all the way to Keizer with the fridge not working. I hoped that when we plugged into Al’s 30 amp plug, things would work. They did! The fridge just wanted real AC power, not sine-wave nonsense from the inverter. The fridge cooled down nicely as the coach sat parked at Al’s.
Having read a little deeper on the subject which is available online, the fridge demands way too much power from the 2000W inverter, and even the big alternator at the engine is overworked supplying the power as we drive. I learned my lesson. And here, once again, I have gotten way ahead of the day.
Good-bye, Grants Pass. And thanks, Mr. Sam, for your welcome to RVers.
We pulled out of Grants Pass about 0915. The drive north in Oregon is always a pleasure. The evergreens are wonderful to see even after a long, hot summer. While many fields were brown from the summer, the mountains and valleys were green with evergreens, tall and majestic. I loved the drive.
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We stopped at the famous Seven Feathers Casino travel plaza in Canyonville to fill up with diesel. Having checked online, their price of $3.04 per was about as good as I’d find for diesel 2, not the cheaper biodiesel that ruins mileage. I pumped on about 64 gallons to fill up the 90 gallon tank, and continued north.
An accident along I-5 in the south lanes. Note the hay in the roadway and the pickup and small trailer hooked to the tow truck. The pickup was doubtless overloaded, and likely lost control – and his load! The back up of traffic was well over five miles! (Click to enlarge; double click for huge.)
We arrived at Al and Betty’s in Keizer, OR at nearly 1330 hours. Al and I go waaaay back to high school in 1957 when I was an insignificant freshman and he was a mighty senior. We were not in touch for 20 years or so after high school, but we got back in touch many years ago and have stayed in touch. We have spent many days on fishing expeditions. Click on the link to read the many stories of our fishing adventures.
After greetings and hugs all ’round, I tended to the coach, setting her up for the night in the driveway. After plugging into Al’s 30A plug, I was delighted to see the fridge work properly again and cool down.
Big Blue at Al and Betty’s for the night. She’s well secured there behind the fence.
We visited in the house for about an hour, and agreed to head to town at 1500 hours for an early dinner. It was Friday afternoon in the very busy Salem/Keizer metro area and we wanted to beat the crowds.
We went to what is about my favorite restaurant, McGrath’s Fish House in Salem. I have had the best margaritas, clam chowder, and coconut prawns there that I have ever had. They really do make great food, and the place is generally quiet, too, which is a prerequisite for me. We dawdled over the wonderful dinner as we enjoyed their company. Al added a nice touch that made it an even better dinner out by springing for the check!
Back in their lovely home, we visited another hour or so, and enjoyed delicious home baked apple pie with ice cream for dessert. That made the perfect dessert to our wonderful dinner out.
Al, Betty, Lavonne, and Dale after a fine dinner out.
After our visit, we excused ourselves and returned to the coach for the night. I had to update this travelogue and edit too many photos. Again. It’s hard to drive through beautiful Oregon and not shoot too many photos.
We worked through the evening chores such as showers, etc. and then hit the laptops. The evening was quiet and mild in Keizer, and we were very comfortable. When I finally finished updating this travelogue, I began watching Driving Miss Daisy again. I watched that wonderful, heartwarming movie to the end, once again, and loved it as much as ever. It’s too bad there wasn’t a sequel.
Lavonne headed to bed around 2230 hours or so, and I joined her about an hour later. It had been a lovely day, and we slept well.
Day 4, Saturday, Keizer, OR to La Pine, OR via I-5, OR58, US97: 181 miles
I rolled out of our cozy bed around 0600 hours to greet the new day. I was up half an hour earlier than usual, but it just seemed the right time. I turned on the heater first thing to warm the coach up; it was a cool morning in Keizer, and it was welcome! We would be heading into Fall very soon – and in our Central Valley we hadn’t seen rain or cool weather in many months.
I worked through the usual morning chores, getting ready for the day. When Lavonne was up and around it was coffee time, and time to peruse the ‘net for the day’s news and comics.
We had a date with Al and Betty at 0800 for breakfast. We wanted to keep it simple, and they agreed. So we gathered around their dining table and enjoyed our choice of about six different cereals that Betty had set out – along with our choice of fruit. We enjoyed a good time at breakfast with them, and we all agreed that such a time together sure beat the rush of heading to a restaurant with the usual morning crowds.
After a good breakfast visit, I headed out to prepare the coach for our continued adventure. I also had to tend to the bug collection on the huge windshields if I was to see where we were going – and I dealt with those bugs severely. With the coach all ready to hit the road, we bid Al and Betty farewell with hugs all ’round, and pulled out of their driveway about 0915 hours.
Day 4 would find us traveling east across Oregon’s Cascade Mountains to US97, then north to the little town of La Pine, Oregon – a town known for its frigid winters and eight feet of annual snowfall. But it is lovely the rest of the year, surrounded by large forests of conifers. My niece, Jill, and her husband, Craig, live there and invited us for a visit while we were in Oregon. I had visited them the prior summer, but stayed in the coach at a truck stop in town. This trip we parked at their cabin in the woods.
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The drive took us south over 70 miles on I-5 to OR58 where we headed east over the Cascades. It would be my first acquaintance with OR58, and I found it to be about the finest two lane mountain highway I’ve ever driven – and I’ve driven a lot of ’em. It was smooth as a baby’s bottom the entire drive, and nearly every bend in the road was broad enough to drive at nearly 60 MPH. There were a few that were advised at 45 MPH, but very few. And the entire route was as scenic as one could imagine. The trees were countless as we whizzed by millions of them under clear blue skies on a near windless day. It really was a lovely and memorable drive.
We stopped at a scenic view area overlooking beautiful Lookout Point Lake, created by a dam across the Willamette River. We whipped up a couple of sandwiches for lunch, and enjoyed the surroundings. And we continued across the Cascades.
More click fun – remember, after clicking on the group to see individual photos, you may scroll down on each individual photo and click on “View full size” to enlarge, then click again on the photo to enlarge to full size:
We arrived at Jill and Craig’s cabin in the woods in La Pine a few minutes after 1500 hours. We drove through a dense conifer forest on a gravel road for about a quarter mile. Their cabin is well hidden among the trees in a very rustic setting. It is a very peaceful and quiet place, one we enjoyed very much.
Big Blue parked in the woods at Jill and Craig’s cabin in La Pine, Oregon.
We brought along our Margaritaville machine that makes superb margaritas, and we didn’t waste much time ’til we were enjoying the first round! We missed Craig during the afternoon because he was coaching his high school soccer team at a game in Prineville. I carried the pitcher of slushy margaritas from the coach into their cabin, and after pouring our drinks, we took our margaritas to the front porch where we sat back and enjoyed the lovely surroundings.
Margarita time with Jill on the porch of their cozy cabin in the woods.
As the afternoon became evening, thoughts turned to dinner, and Jill had lasagna ready to bake for us. Along with salad and toast, it was a delightful dinner. She also had baked some delicious brownies that we had sampled earlier, and they were a tasty dessert.
Craig would be home around 1900 hours, after the drive home from Prineville, about an hour away – and it would be time for the second round of margaritas! They joined us in the coach after his return, and along with the cold margaritas we enjoyed a warm visit with them for a couple of hours. It was a very nice evening spent together with family – and I forgot to take a photo!
But I did notice the big harvest moon high above through the trees, and I shot a few photos – they turned out pretty fair, and I’ll include them here.
Click to enlarge, and that full moon photo begs to be enlarged so the craters at the top of the photo are visible:
I updated this blog after our visit as Lavonne perused her favored sites on the ‘net. It was nearly 2300 hours when she called it a day and headed to bed. I joined her about an hour later. It had been a very nice day of travel and visiting family.
Day 5, Sunday, a tour of Bend and a day of rest in cool La Pine, OR.
According to a local weather station, the low overnight was 44°, which I interpreted as cold! But it was actually 6° warmer than the average low recorded for this date. brrrrr. I had thrown an extra blanket on the bed just in case, and we did need it.
I got up and turned up the heater about 0615; it had been set to 64° overnight. When things warmed I got up for keeps at 0630 to begin the day. Lavonne joined me a while later.
After morning chores I sat down at the laptop and finished the prior day’s blog by posting the photos. This day would be a day off from traveling as we visited local sites with Jill and Craig, and we planned to have a lovely brunch at the same river side restaurant that we so enjoyed last summer when I visited.
We headed to the nearby city of Bend a bit after 1000 hours. We had an 1130 reservation at Currents at the Riverhouse, the restaurant at the Riverhouse Hotel. It was a pretty classy place, with classy prices to match, and I was a bit surprised they let the likes of me in the place. But I would pay dearly for my visit!
Riverhouse on the Deschutes where we enjoyed breakfast and I nearly went broke!
We tried to sit outside just above the Deschutes River as we did during my visit last summer, but it was just too cool and breezy. We went back inside and took the table we had reserved. For starters, we each ordered a drink, including an Irish Coffee for Craig, a mimosa for Lavonne, and a similar drink for Jill. I was still a bit cool from the outdoors, and ordered hot chocolate. We enjoyed our visit as we waited for breakfast which appeared in due time.
We tried to eat outside overlooking the Deschutes River, but it was just too cool and breezy.
Breakfast was very, very good. Our choices were hot and tasty and timely. We continued our visit as we enjoyed the feast. When the check came, I grabbed it before anyone else could, and nearly fell out of my seat when I saw the total! For four good breakfasts, but definitely not steak and eggs or any such thing, the bill came to $94 plus tip. I gulped a bit and took a moment to let it sink in. All of us were flabbergasted at the high prices; two drinks were $12 each, the cheap one “only” $7. The hot chocolate was $4.
The meals were equally overpriced. Now, I realize these are likely the going rates in such hi-end places as Currents, and that may explain why I’m a Denny’s kind of guy! Still, we thoroughly enjoyed the visit, and it’s not like we can’t afford such extravagance once in a great, great while.
We enjoyed our breakfast indoors where it was more to our liking. Breakfast was delicious and the visit very warm.
Click to learn about the old Sterns Cabin:
After breakfast, we continued our visit to Bend by heading up to the top of Pilot Butte, a prehistoric volcanic cone in the middle of Bend that stands some 500 feet above the city. It is one of the main city attractions because of its view of the city below, and the many surrounding mountains. We enjoyed the view as we dealt with a pretty strong wind.
After enjoying the views from atop Pilot Butte, we drove to the nearby cemetery where Jill and Craig’s son, Preston, is buried. We lost him at just age 17 five years ago. The family misses him terribly, and we will always mourn the great loss. As a bit of solace, he is buried in the shade of an evergreen tree in one of the most beautiful cemeteries I’ve ever seen.
After our visit to Preston’s grave, we headed back to La Pine for the rest of the day. We returned to the coach for some rest, as did Jill and Craig to their cabin. We agreed to bring another pitcher of margaritas over at 1600 hours and we’d enjoy the third round and visit ’til dinner time. But then we voted in a fourth round before dinner, and continued our pleasant visit with them. For dinner we enjoyed more of the lasagna, fresh salad and toasted french bread.
We enjoyed another round of margaritas by the fire in their cozy, warm cabin. It was a cool afternoon out in the Oregon woods with rain in the forecast. It was a refreshing change from our Central Valley with the endless hot summer days!
We continued visiting ’til about 1800 when we bid our good-byes. Jill and Craig would be gone to their jobs at the local school district by the time we were up and around. Jill is a school secretary and Craig has a class of difficult students. After warm hugs all ’round, and our thanks for their hospitality, we returned to the coach for the evening.
We worked through the usual evening chores, then sat at the laptops once again. I updated this travelogue and Lavonne played her online games and we visited our usual news sites.
I had plenty of time for a movie, and I dug out – again – Intolerable Cruelty, and watched the whole thing. It is still entertaining after all the times I’ve watched it. And… we had a lovely rainy evening and it seemed to continue throughout most of the night. It had been a long time since we have seen rain, and we loved it!
Lavonne headed to bed around 2230 hours, and I followed about an hour later. I was looking forward to the next day and our drive to Ontario, OR. Why Ontario? Simply because they have a Walmart and it would be about a 300 mile drive! That’s about all I needed to know as we would begin our drive east toward Denver where we’ll visit Allen and Nancy on Friday and through the weekend. We always have a grand time with them!
Day 6, Monday, La Pine, OR to Ontario, OR via US97, US20: 293 miles
I was up and at ’em at 0630, having turned up the heat a few minutes earlier. I was excited about hitting the road again for a full day of driving through Oregon, one of my favorite states. And we’d be on two lane rural highways all day long, seeing the sights.
But first things first. After the morning chores of getting ready for the day, I went outside to see just how wet things were. It had been a good rain overnight, about a third of an inch, and I was pleased to see it. Then I set the coach up for the day’s drive by powering in the slides, raising the jacks and airing up the suspension. I unplugged the cord from the grid, rolled it up, and was about ready for the day’s drive. We pulled out of Jill and Craig’s little cabin in the woods at 0800 and were headed to Allen and Nancy’s near Denver!
Our day began with a drive through La Pine, northbound on US97 toward Bend.
It was a fresh, clean morning after the overnight rain and it just felt good. Back home we have had nothing but hot summer days and not a drop of rain for months. We really savored the cool, wet morning. Hopefully, we’d soon have such mornings back home again.
We turned off US97 just as we were entering Bend, and followed some surface streets to US20 which we’d drive most of the day. We were soon out in the rural hi-desert of Oregon, east bound toward Idaho. Our day’s destination of Ontario lies on the west bank of the Snake River which is the Idaho state line.
There were pines along with junipers in the high desert, but they soon disappeared as we continued east.
Somewhere along US20 we pulled into a large roadside area and whipped up breakfast. I enjoyed a Jimmy Dean’s Delight breakfast sandwich and a mandarin orange. Lavonne had Cheerios and a banana. It was time we began eating a bit less after all the recent goodies we’ve been having.
A Dale’s Diner along US20 in the Oregon high desert. We enjoyed a decent breakfast aboard, then continued east.
The high desert drive reminded me of Arizona without all the cactus. There seemed to be thousands of square miles of scrub and little else, and I enjoyed driving through it all.
We drove through a lot of desert with nothing but scrub to see. Still, it was beautiful in its own way.
After many miles of mostly scrub, we arrived in the small town of Hines, OR which had a Mickey D’s right on the highway as we drove through. I ran in and bought a Filet of Fish for Lavonne and a large coffee and a small Reese’s McFlurry for me. I put the McFlurry in the freezer as I whipped up an egg salad sandwich for lunch. When we left, I enjoyed the McFlurry and great Mickey D’s coffee for the next, what… maybe the next hundred miles!
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As we neared our destination of Ontario, OR, the desert seemed to give way to farmland and ranches. By the time we arrived, there was quite a lot of farmland, and onions grew in many of the fields.
Did I mention onions?! For several miles, we even smelled onions as we drove through this area. The sign on the barn pretty much tells the onion story.
Very near our destination I found a Love’s station and pulled in hoping to find a water faucet. I had dumped the grey water earlier, and wanted to fill the fresh water tank.
Topping off the fresh tank at Love’s just before arriving at Walmart in Ontario, Oregon for the night.
We pulled into the Walmart lot at 1600 hours Mountain Time, having lost an hour along the day’s drive. Outside it was pretty windy, and it was in our favor most of the drive, blowing from the west as we drove east. We love a good tail wind, and got a bit better fuel mileage during the day’s drive.
Parked for the night at the Ontario, Oregon Walmart.
We were “at home” on the road once again when we chose our spot to park for the night. I took my daily walk in the store as soon as we arrived, then set up the coach for the night.
For dinner, I walked over to the Taco Time fast food Mexican restaurant and ordered a burrito and refried beans for Lavonne. I then walked to the nearby Chinese buffet and collected my choices for dinner to go. Back at the coach Lavonne enjoyed her Mexican dinner. I ate most of mine, but it wasn’t much as Chinese food goes. I think I’d better stick with Panda Express – which was also nearby. They don’t have the variety that most buffets offer, but at least I’d have a pretty good idea of what I’d be getting at Panda!
Back at the coach I edited photos and wrote the day’s travelogue. It was a lovely evening aboard, accompanied by rain again, and we were lovin’ it!
After updating this travelogue, I watched some YouTube videos ’til it was time to get ready for bed. According to Mountain Time, I hit the sack at my usual 2330, but that was really an hour earlier than I’m used to. I figured that I might as well get acclimated to Mountain Time as I’d probably be living in it for a week or so.
Some time before I headed to bed, a couple of *%#@!! refer big rigs pulled into the Walmart lot, right next to us. I hate those noisy things! I had to move across the lot to find some peace and quiet again. It was worth the move and we had a nice, quiet night there in Ontario, Oregon.
Day 7, Tuesday, September 17, Ontario, Oregon to Perry, Utah via I-84: 338 miles
I was up about 0610 to turn up the heat, then went back to bed while the place warmed a bit. The rain had stopped, but it rained all evening and well into the night and we loved it! It is always so cozy to hear the rain fall on the roof of our little home on wheels.
Morning in Ontario and we had new RV neighbors that weren’t there when we retired. Big Blue is on the right.
We leisurely went about the business of getting ready for the new day. We would drive some 38 miles to Nampa, Idaho to fuel up with much cheaper fuel than is available in Oregon.
And we’d stop at a Target store to get my phone checked by their cell phone department. We recently changed to Consumer Cellular, and I had to get my sim card changed. With Consumer Cellular we have our choice of being on the AT&T or the T-Mobile systems. I had Lavonne’s iPhone on AT&T and my very old Samsung on T-Mobile. I wanted both back on AT&T because with T-Mobile my phone was stone dead in the La Pine, Oregon area and a few other places during the prior day’s drive.
We pulled out of Ontario, OR at 0800, headed to Perry, Utah – about 330 miles away. We crossed the Snake River into Idaho very soon after leaving.
We then drove about 30 miles to Nampa, ID where I pulled into a nearly new gas station that was more of a serious fuel company. Perhaps they were distributors of oil and such products. I found Conrad & Bischoff online selling diesel 2 for just $2.65 per – and I had to have some! I pumped on 76 gallons to fill up, and was pleased that I had that much room for the bargain price. Nearby, Love’s was selling theirs at over $3 per. It’s well worth it to shop online!
Click for larger photos and captions:
From there we drove to the nearby Target store where I spent about $10 for a new AT&T sim card. They didn’t have a techie to set the hot spot up or to activate the sim card, but I could do that myself over the phone later. While in the Target parking lot, we whipped up breakfast in the coach. And then we were on our way to Perry, Utah.
In Jerome County, Idaho, and perhaps neighboring areas, I was amazed at the seemingly frantic pace of harvesting the hay and the green chop corn for cattle. Trucks ran to and fro along frontage roads and up and down the interstate hauling the stuff.
These photos will best describe the busy-ness of the place:
A few parts of Idaho struck me as a lot of empty space with little to break the monotony. But the emptyness and nothingness had a beauty of its own, and I shot waaaay too many photos.
Here are two photos of the “Stark Beauty of Nothingness”:
We stopped at a rest area close to Utah, I think, and whipped up a quick lunch in the coach. I had yet another egg salad sandwich, which I love, and Lavonne had a tuna sandwich. And we continued east to Utah.
Click and enlarge a lot of interesting photos:
We arrived at the Perry, Utah Walmart about 1630 hours, and parked at the area of the lot they advised when we called earlier in the day to be sure they’d put up with us for the night. Of course they would – and thanks again, Mr. Sam!
Soon after we were set up, we headed into the store. Lavonne shopped for a few items we needed as I took my daily walk. About the time I finished my walk, it was time to check out, and we did so together at one of the many self check stands. I choose that option every time I can and usually it’s a real time saver.
Back at the coach we worked through the evening chores. I zapped a frozen meal for dinner as Lavonne enjoyed a PBJ. We like eating in as often as possible because it’s usually healthier and it’s definitely cheaper.
At home again, parked at the Perry, Utah Walmart for the night.
After dinner I noticed the fridge was losing its cool again. It went to about 46° in the fridge, and up to about 8° in the freezer. The propane portion of the darn thing had been doing Ok for two days, and suddenly it wasn’t. I fired up the big generator for a while, but decided I’d rather run our little Honda generator for just the fridge. So I dug it out, gassed it up, and it ran fine – for the first time in ages as we just haven’t needed it. On AC electricity the fridge cooled down nicely, but had a long way to go. I’ve read that it’s best for the fridge to be in the 30s and the freezer to be sub zero.
And it was past time to get started on editing photos and writing this travelogue. Of course I took too many photos during the day’s drive – that’s just what I do! Many did not make the cut simply for lack of room to post them.
When the updating was done, I watched some YouTube documentary about European farm tractors. I am easily entertained.
Before bedtime, I had to go out and shut down the Honda generator, unchain it, and put it away. It sure worked well; the freezer was -2° and the fridge was 39°.
I headed to bed just a few minutes before midnight, and slept well. It had been a long day.
Day 8, Wednesday, September 18, Perry, UT to Rawlins, WY via I-84, I-80: 315 miles
The first day of our second week on the road dawned cool and lovely. Lavonne was up and around already when I climbed out of bed a bit before 0800. She was at the dinette enjoying her coffee in the cool coach. She didn’t turn the heat up, so I did. She’s made of sterner stuff than I.
We were very pleased that the troublesome fridge was doing fine; both fridge and freezer were about a degree or so cooler than when I went to bed. Hooray!
We didn’t waste time getting back on the road that morning. After a few minutes of ‘puter time, I began setting up the coach for highway cruising. Lavonne headed into the store for a couple more items we needed. Upon her return, I fired up the coach and we continued east.
Click for photos of the beautiful Coalville, Utah area:
The drive was beautiful as we drove through Utah on I-84, then merged onto I-80 somewhere around Coalville. The actual ramp we would use to turn onto I-80 was closed for repair, and we were sent on an eight mile detour. But soon we approached a view area we often stop at on these trips, overlooking Echo Reservoir. It’s a beautiful area, and we pulled in for breakfast.
Big Blue parked overlooking the Echo Reservoir where we stopped for breakfast, and to…
…deal with those &%$#*!! bugs. When it comes time to scrub bugs off of them, those windows are about an acre in size each!
For breakfast, I toasted three frozen waffles, Lavonne had a bowl of Cheerios and fruit. It was time that the bug collection on the massive windshields was tended to. I dug out the ladder, bucket, sponge and rags and dealt with those bugs severely. And we continued east.
More photos to click:
We discovered that our new mobile phone carrier, Consumer Cellular, was not working. We had been able to connect to the internet the entire trip ’til that day. We called and talked to “customer service” several times during the day, and they were useless. I didn’t even have phone service and neither of us could connect to the ‘net. Fortunately, we were able to use Walmart’s free wifi during the evening to get online. Our last hope would be to go to a Target store, who sells for Consumer Cellular, in Cheyenne the next day and hope they would get our phones working. If not, we would be changing carriers. Again.
The day’s drive was pretty unremarkable except for the phone issues. The fridge seemed to run fine all day. In the evening the fridge was up to 42° and the freezer minus a fraction of a degree. We had been opening and closing the doors during the day and that was the no doubt the reason. I was pretty sure all would be well the next morning. I would find out then.
We pulled into the Wyoming Welcome Center soon after entering the state, mostly to see if they had a RV dump. They had two! So we were able to dump the tanks and fill the fresh water – and it’s always nice to get it done for free! And we continued on to Rawlins.
These formations are all in Wyoming, and when passing through the wide, desolate place they offer a bit of local interest to shoot. Click:
We couldn’t find a nearby rest area, so we stopped for lunch at a nondescript travel plaza somewhere easy to forget, and whipped up sandwiches for lunch.
We enjoyed a tail wind much of the afternoon, which we always welcome. Our drive was quieter and we got better fuel mileage, too. Besides the helpful wind, the sky was blue and the sun shined upon us all day. It was a good day to travel.
More click fun!
We arrived at the Rawlins Walmart store at 1600 hours. We called earlier to be sure we’d be welcome, and as almost always, we were. We were surprised by the small store and even smaller parking lot. But we pulled in and took our space. The lot was pretty severely sloped, and I had to put some 2X6 boards under the rear jacks to level the coach. We were happy with our spot for the night.
Big Blue parked for the night at the Rawlins, Wyoming Walmart.
We went into the store for a few items we needed. We try to spread out our shopping during our travels so as to spend a few bucks at every Walmart we stay at. It’s the least we can do to show our appreciation. Without the many Walmarts and their welcome mat for RVers, this RVing might be a lot more expensive – and less safe.
As mentioned above, we were able to log on to their free wifi since our mobile phones were so useless. I brought this travelogue up to date, including uploading all of the day’s photos. I was surprised by how well the Walmart wifi handled the uploads.
For dinner we zapped a couple of frozen meals for dinner. We always have lots of fresh fruit with us, and our meals were pretty darn good. Lavonne bought a six-pack of Klondike Bars, and we enjoyed a couple of those for dessert.
After chores were done and the travelogue updated, I watched more YouTube documentary. I find that I really don’t need TV in the coach anymore with all the ‘net options and DVD movies.
We were in bed at our usual times and slept well in spite of many trucks parked at the other end of the parking lot.
Day 9, Thursday, Rawlins, WY to Greenwood Village, CO via I-80, US287, I-25, I-225: 239 miles
Once again, Lavonne was up and around before me. When she got up I turned up the heater and went back to bed while things warmed up. She began her day in the cool 65° coach. A few minutes later and a few degrees warmer I was up and at ’em, too.
We were pleased to see the the fridge increased its cool overnight. Incidentally, we don’t have to open the fridge or freezer to check a temp gauge. We have a sensor/transmitter in both freezer and fridge. A digital gauge attached to the outside tells us what the temp is in both compartments.
Here’s a photo:
This very easy to read unit, and the sensors inside the fridge and freezer, sells on Amazon for just $18. There is no guess work about the fridge with this very handy setup.
We would have to get the phones fixed one way or another that day, and Lavonne busied herself finding a Target store that had the Consumer Cellular tech support – it seemed we’d head to Ft. Collins, CO instead of Cheyenne, WY to find the right store. In doing so, we wouldn’t even see Cheyenne as we’d take US287 from I-80 to I-25, entirely missing the southeast corner of Wyoming – and Cheyenne. I haven’t taken US287 in many years, since back when I first hauled Walker mowers from their Colorado factory to our store – which we sold 17 years ago!
We spent less time on the ‘puters that morning, opting instead to get the coach ready and head for the Target store in Ft. Collins to get our phones fixed! We pulled out of Rawlins, WY at 0830 hours, after pumping on 15 gallons of diesel at $3.06 per at the Walmart gas station, enough to insure we’d get to Ft. Collins where gas and diesel were considerably cheaper. It was a real pleasure to begin the drive by heading east in wide open Wyoming.
Click to see wide open Wyoming!
We stopped at a very nice rest area along I-80 in Wyoming for breakfast. Lavonne simply poured Cheerios for both of us, and cut up a banana for me. She cut up a nectarine for herself, and we enjoyed a satisfying, if not terribly nutritious breakfast. And we continued our drive.
These photos were taken at the rest area where we stopped for breakfast. Click to enlarge and read captions. And a reminder – after clicking on the group to see individual photos, you may scroll down on each individual photo and click on “View full size” to enlarge, then click again on the photo to enlarge to full size:
We turned southeast at Laramie, WY onto US287 which took us to Ft. Collins, CO. It was nearly all two lane rural highway and we enjoyed the scenic views. We arrived in Ft. Collins a bit before noon, and I pulled into a small grocery/gas store where they sold diesel for just $2.74 per. I pumped on 67 gallons to fill up, and was pretty pleased with the relatively low price. Again, it paid to check the ‘net.
Don’t miss enlarging these beautiful photos taken along US287:
During the morning drive, I received three texts from Consumer Cellular on my broken phone. All three had “install” at the bottom of the texts which I didn’t understand. But I clicked on all three install buttons of the three texts. Suddenly I had a hot spot that worked for accessing the ‘net with my laptop. I could place calls! And I could use Google which had quit, and I had 4G LTE working! All was well with my phone. I was very pleased.
Lavonne’s iPhone hadn’t worked right since we entered Wyoming, and we were heading to a Ft. Collins Target store to have a tech fix it if possible. As it turned out, he simply put in another new sim card and all was well. We were two for two in phone repairs, and were very pleased. These days, we just gotta have our phones!
Back at the coach Lavonne called Allen to let him know we were already in Ft. Collins. He insisted we head on down a day early, and we were ready to drive the remaining 75 miles that afternoon. We headed to I-25 there in Ft. Collins and headed south for Allen and Nancy’s.
More click fun!
The drive would take us through the busy Denver traffic, and we expected it to be heavy with delays. As it turned out, we dealt with one slow down due to construction, and during most of the drive we cruised along without delays.
We had arrived! Our cozy little home on wheels was set up in the driveway of the kids’ lovely home, and a weekend of fun with family was about to unfold.
We were delighted to arrive at the kids’ place about 1430 hours. We were a day early and did not want to get in the way of their busy schedules. Nancy was home when we arrived, having just returned from a retreat. She greeted us with open arms and warm hugs. Allen was at his office, and would be home a bit later. I busied myself setting up the coach for our weekend stay as Lavonne visited with Nancy.
When I had the coach set up, I began editing the day’s photos. While doing so, I liberated a beer or three from the fridge in the kids’ garage. Allen had quite a stash of what I consider pretty fancy beer that I could not bring myself to buy even if I wanted to – I am, or was, a cheap beer connoisseur. But I liberated a bottle of a Belgian import called Stella Artois. The stuff was so fancy that I couldn’t pronounce its last name, but it sure tasted good. As I worked on the photos and writing, I liberated a couple more!
I must be moving up in the world! To an ol’ beer cheap skate like me, this stuff is pretty high class.
When Allen arrived home, we visited with him, catching up on one another’s news. And soon talk turned to dinner. We decided we’d like Boston Market to go. Nancy’s mom, Norma, lives nearby and would join us for dinner on the patio. It was good to see her again.
When Nancy had all our orders placed online, Allen and I headed to the nearby store and picked up our dinners. Back home we gathered around the table on their lovely patio and enjoyed great Boston Market dinners. I had chicken and two side orders of their incredible sweet potatoes which are very nearly sweet as candy.
A cozy family dinner on Allen and Nancy’s very nice patio. That’s (L-R) Norma, Nancy, Allen, Lavonne, and Dale. (Click to enlarge; click again for even larger.)
We visited on the patio ’til well after dark. At some time after 2000 hours, I bid everyone goodnight and headed to the coach for the night, while Lavonne chose to sleep in the house, as usual during our visits. Choice is good. It had a been a very pleasant evening with family.
Day 10, Friday, at rest at Allen and Nancy’s in Greenwood Village, CO
It was good to have a day of rest and we enjoyed ourselves doing not much of anything. As usual, after we were all up and about, we gathered in the living room for coffee. Nancy had an early appointment and had to leave, but we chatted with Allen as we began our day. He would go to work, too, as it was still a weekday.
Lavonne and I stayed around the house and Allen and Nancy were gone most of the day on their jobs. Allen brought Chik-fil-A home a bit before noon for lunch. Chik-fil-A has become a tradition on our usual Friday arrival, and was that day even though we’d been there a whole day already.
I had a job, too. I absolutely had to wash the coach. It was pretty dirty from the rain driving we did even though there wasn’t a lot of rain. I am much too vain to have a dirty coach sitting in their driveway. From the basement storage of the coach, I dug out my long wash brush, bucket, soap, and step ladder and got to work.
I really have no business doing such work at over 5000 feet with my heart history, but I couldn’t help myself. With a couple of good rests, I did manage to wash one side and both end caps. I dried what I could and paid special attention to the shiny aluminum rims and the bling on the rear end cap. The bright mud flap, exhaust tip, and newly powder coated grill had to look just right, and when I was done, it looked great.
I still had the driver side of the coach to wash the next day. That side is close to the trees and would be a bit more difficult, but I planned to get it washed, too.
After the kids were home from work, talk turned to dinner. It was decided that Allen and Lavonne would drive to the local Brothers Barbecue to pick up dinner. We enjoyed pulled brisket, sausage, and ribs. We also had cole slaw, salad, and corn bread from the barbecue run. Norma, Nancy’s mom, joined us for the evening and it was nice to spend more time with her again. After dinner we played the game, Celebrity.
I spared the family the hassle of having my camera in their faces all day, and took only one photo all day long. I took what I thought was a pretty good night shot of the family around the patio fireplace.
Smile, everyone! After all, it was the only photo I shot all day! That’s Nancy (L-R), Allen, Lavonne, Dale and Norma. (Click to enlarge, again for even larger.)
After the photo and a few more minutes of playing Celebrity, I excused myself for the night and returned to the coach. I was tired. I was stuffed. I tried to update this travelogue but kept falling asleep at the table. Eventually I woke up for the umpteenth time and headed to bed at my usual time. It had been a pleasant day.
Day 11, Saturday, taking life slow and easy in Colorado.
We began our day as usual in Colorado with Allen and Nancy. After I was up and ready to face the day with my first cup of coffee in hand, I headed to the house and joined the family in the living room. We chatted for some time, planning the day, telling stories, and enjoying the company of family.
I would finish washing the coach. Allen, Nancy and Lavonne would go shopping and that would include lunch out, visiting an open house, and perhaps any number of things.
I had the coach done fairly early, and began planning the beyond portion of this RV adventure. It was decided before we left home that Lavonne would spend more time with Allen and Nancy, then fly home later in the week. She does not find the RV bum lifestyle all that attractive. I live for the opportunity to just knock around the country seeing rural America and her small towns, large farms, and good folks who keep us all fed. So I would tour a goodly portion of the heartland before I headed home.
It was about noon when the shoppers headed to the stores. A bit later, I headed to the kitchen and hunted and gathered leftovers from the Brothers Barbecue dinner of the prior night. I enjoyed a tasty lunch that an old heart patient should avoid, including barbecued ribs, brisket, and very sweet cornbread. mmmm.
After lunch I began planning the next few days of my travel. I would head east across Colorado and Kansas, then turn north and head northwest across Nebraska. That would take up the first four days of my drive. While in the northwest of Nebraska, I would decide the route home. That route would depend on the weather. It looked like mild weather the first three or four days, with chances of thunderstorms – and I love those flashing, booming storms.
Click for the RV show:
While everyone was gone, my itchy trigger finger just had to shoot something, and Big Blue was it! Dang, she was lookin’ good!
I whiled the afternoon away, content as I could possibly be while in the very comfy Big Blue, planning my coming bum’s life on the road. A real bum doesn’t plan too much, I don’t think, but I do like to have at least some idea of where I’d be heading.
Meanwhile, the shoppers had been gone for most of the afternoon. Now, that there is one of many reasons why I’m not one to join in on a family shopping safari. One never knows just what such trips may develop into. I was definitely happier to be at home resting the afternoon away.
The shoppers returned home at 1730 hours, laden with groceries and stories of their adventure. It seems they spent a goodly portion of their time returning stuff they’d purchased before. I guess the women folk consider that part of the sport of shopping. I couldn’t imagine owning a department store where I’d work so hard selling stuff to folks who’s purchase was returned as often as not. How can that be profitable?
I was glad to see them back home, and, as usual, the subject of dinner soon came up. We decided on pizza, and Allen ordered two mediums; one was “Meat Lovers” and the other all vegetable. Allen and Nancy then headed to the pizza shop to get our pizzas. They were home in no time, and we all enjoyed pizza. It was simple, fast, and we all ate our fill. And there would be plenty of cold pizza for breakfast if anyone would be so inclined.
We chatted around the table for perhaps an hour. It was clear that everyone was pretty tired from the nearly six hour shopping binge, and they all wanted to get to bed early. I was back in the coach before 2000 hours, and I believe the others headed to bed early. It had been a busy and tiring day for everyone.
Day 12, Sunday, another slow and easy Colorado day
Morning dawned clear and bright and mostly dry, but during the night we had a bit of rain that I heard, barely, on the coach roof. So I was a bit surprised at the bright morning when I rolled out of bed about 0630.
I worked through the morning chores, then headed to the house to see what the folks were up to. Nancy was not feeling well that morning and was not her usual chipper self. We talked for a bit, but soon we went our different ways as the day began.
Breakfast was pancakes and bacon, and I enjoyed them a bit too much, as usual lately. Afterwards, Allen headed to the hot tub for a warm dunk, and I headed to the coach to do some housekeeping. I vacuumed and washed hard floors. I had planned to dust as well, but chose to do a bit of carpet spotting in the bedroom and living room where a few drops of something had been spilled. I would dust the next time I was inspired to clean house.
Keeping the coach tidy! Those 75 year old knees complained bitterly about this work, but I got it done. I will be buying a small mop for the coach before the next cleaning.
I was pretty much pooped after the housework, and found myself pilfering another fine bottle of Allen’s Stella Artois beer. It was just what I needed as I sat on the coach steps to recuperate. Allen knew I took it as I sipped it at rest, and refused to forgive my thievery as he repeated his view on the subject – anything in the place was mine if I wanted it. That pretty much took the adventure out of my criminality, but the beer was just as refreshing anyway!
Ahhhh. Miller time – even if it is with a Stella Artois. It was soooo refreshing. And it sure felt good just resting and sipping after an hour’s hard labor at over 5000 feet.
Allen drove his mom back to town for more shopping – and also to make more returns. I admonished her for not leaving her credit cards with me, but my words fell on indifferent ears. I just hoped she hadn’t put as much money in her closet as I’d been pouring into Big Blue’s fuel tank!
After their return from shopping, Nancy was up and around again, feeling better and livening up their home with her irrepressible self.
And then the skilled hands turned to dinner. Allen fired up the barbecue and grilled wonderful chicken thighs. I say they were wonderful because the skin was left on – as God intended! To me, that makes ’em delicious instead of bland. And for more flavor, he charred ’em real good and black. mmmmmm. He also grilled skinless breasts but I wouldn’t know about them. Nancy made some very unusual Brussels sprouts which were also charred and somewhat blackened. They were the best I’ve ever eaten. And for good measure she also made some asparagus in olive oil. Lavonne whipped up a good veggie salad. When time for dinner rolled ’round, I overdid it once again. I just inhaled those chicken thighs, as they were the best! Along with the veggies, it was a memorable meal. I was miserable due to my gluttony, but very, very satisfied.
Two of Allen’s masterpiece, charred chicken thighs star front and center while Nancy’s supporting veggies and Lavonne’s salad carried the dinner production to widely acclaimed success!
It was after dinner when my unskilled hands cleared the table and rinsed and put the dishes into the dishwasher. It’s nothing to brag about, but it is good to know one’s place in the scheme of things.
And then the cards came out and we played Golf – the card version, which also is all about the lowest score. It’s a fun game, one of the few table games that keeps me interested. We played nine holes, and Lavonne took first place. I took second, and I’m suspicious about just how that happened; Allen and Nancy are certainly the better players.
Sometime after 2000 hours, I excused myself and headed to the coach for the night. I was truly miserable from overeating for three days. Ugh. After my usual evening routine, including some YouTube videos (they can be habit forming), and a couple cool ones, I headed to bed about 2300.
Day 13, Monday, Sept. 23, and on the road again! Greenwood Village, CO to McCook, NE via I-25, I-225, I-70, CO79, I-76, US34: 277 miles
I was chomping at the bit, looking forward to being an RV bum and to wander the back roads for a few days. I simply wanted to see the real America, the rural life, the farms, the small towns! I so enjoy such times because I’m pretty sure I was meant to be a small town farmer or perhaps just a hand on the farm. I find such peace and contentment out there in fly-over country – and yet I really can’t explain it. Whatever the case, I would begin a few days of bummin’ and was very anxious to hit the road.
I climbed out of bed a bit after 0500 in my excitement to get both the coach and myself ready for the day’s adventure. I headed to the house where I kept my razor, etc. to get ready for the day. Our morning coffee time was pretty much missed but I did greet everyone with a “Good Morning” and a warm hug for my dear Wifey. And I returned to the coach to get it ready.
I had the usual chores to ready the coach such as raise the jacks, fill the airbags, bring in the slides, etc. I also filled the fresh water tank. I went back in and told everyone good-bye with warm hugs all ’round. I headed down the road at 0800 hours. I wasn’t the only one that wanted to get moving that morning – Allen and Nancy were about to head for work when I left. My dear Lavonne would stay with Allen and Nancy ’til later in the week, then fly home. The bum lifestyle isn’t exactly her style!
Big Blue leaving the kids’ place in Greenwood Village, CO heading for rural America to bum around for a few days.
The Denver area traffic was moving slowly that Monday morning, naturally. I had to negotiate my way through the busy-ness, thankful that I was heading out of town – waaaay out! I was so glad to not be heading to work as most drivers were – as if anyone would hire this old man, anyway.
The zoo known as Denver as I clawed my way to the freedom of open rural highways – a long way from this mess!
The drive became more pleasant the farther I got from the metropolis. I had too many miles of interstate to drive for my liking, but eventually I turned onto CO79 from I-70 at the town of Bennett, CO. I pulled into a King’s Sooper grocery market lot, and whipped up some breakfast. I zapped a frozen egg meal that Nancy gave me to try. It was quick and easy – as are my Jimmy Dean Delights breakfast sandwiches. I believe I’ll stay with the Delights, but the egg meal wasn’t bad. And I continued north on CO79.
More click fun!
The drive for most of the day was over the back roads I so enjoy. I did have one stint along I-76 thrown into the mix, but then once on US34 I drove country roads all day. I loved it! Somewhere along the drive I entered the small town of Wray in Colorado. I pulled into a small, city park’s parking lot and whipped up lunch. I still had egg salad, made about 12 days ago. If I ever was to eat the stuff, that would be the time. And it was still good, but it wouldn’t be much longer. I chased it with a little mandarin orange, and continued east.
Click for larger photos and the captions:
The drive was pleasant except for some pretty rough roads that were mostly in Colorado. The weather was mild, but I did turn on the dash air during the afternoon as temps reached the mid 80s.
Click for larger photos:
I have a thing for trains. Click on these for larger photos. As they roll through the countryside, they somehow demand my attention – and I just have to shoot ’em!
This setting seemingly had it all for me – a corn field, baled hay in the field, and a railroad! I had to shoot this one.
I pulled in to the McCook, NE Walmart lot at 1600 hours. It was warm on the asphalt lot, in the high 80s I’d guess. I fired up the generator – but not for the air conditioners – the fridge was acting up again! At Allen’s we’d had it as low as 37° in the fridge and -4° in the freezer. Of course, that was on the grid electricity. During the drive it was on propane, naturally, and when I parked for the night it was 47° and warming! I ran it on the generator while I took my daily walk in the store, and did some shopping, as well. And I did it again; I took my daily walk for something over 20 minutes, then got on one of the store’s little blue scooters, and rode it around the store as I gathered a few groceries. If anyone had noticed me walking and then on the scooter they’d have thought that I was nuts! But after my walk, it was a whole lot more comfortable to ride as I shopped.
Back at the coach, I grabbed a couple of tools, then accessed the fridge from outside. I opened it up to the burner box, then vacuumed out the area including the burner/orifice. Then I reassembled it and hoped I helped. Time would tell.
Jacks down for the night at the McCook, Nebraska Walmart.
And it was time to shower, then fix dinner. These motor homes are such wonderful toys. There I was in the middle of a Walmart parking lot, enjoying a hot shower as the air conditioner kept the coach cool. I was at home! And a hot dinner would follow; I microwaved a couple more of those incredible charred chicken thighs (Allen sent me on my way with about a half dozen of them), toasted some bread and had a nectarine for dessert. All in the Walmart lot! What a great way to travel – comfortable, safe and cheap. No wonder I love being a RV bum. And to any folks snickering at my present lifestyle: This bum who lives at Walmart won’t have to go to work in the morning! heh-heh-heh.
I spent so much time on this travelogue that evening in McCook, Nebraska. So many photos, so many words, so much time! And what else would I rather do? I do enjoy writing these travelogues – and I enjoy them even more when reading them long after the adventure.
Speaking of time, as I neared McCook, NE I crossed into the Central Time Zone. I was then two hours later than home. However, I chose to ignore the change; I would be back to Mountain Time in just a few days.
I enjoyed a couple cool ones as I perused some of my favored web sites after the blogging was done. But it was near bedtime after the travelogue was up to date, and I called it a day at nearly midnight.
Day 14, Tuesday, McCook, NE to Hiawatha, KS via US83, US36: 295 miles
I was up and at ’em about 0630 hours, as usual. I awoke to a bit of fog, a welcome reminder that autumn was not far off. What? It was already autumn! I later realized that the day before was the first day of autumn. Perhaps the day would be cooler, but the forecast for my destination, Hiawatha, KS was for temps in the mid 80s again – with a 50% chance of thunderstorms! I could only hope – I would love to watch an evening show of flash and boom.
A wisp of fog laid low over the fields around McCook, NE that late September morning. Not much fog, to be sure, but it was a portend of cooler weather to come. I would welcome the change.
I moved around at a slower pace that morning, having only 300 miles to drive the entire day. I missed the usual coffee time with family I shared the past few mornings, but I did enjoy my morning coffee, nonetheless.
I pulled out of McCook, Nebraska at 0900 to head east to the town of Hiawatha, Kansas. Once on US36 it was almost a straight line on the map. It was a drive of just 300 miles, and it was entirely on US highways, the “back roads” I love to drive.
The scenery is what attracts me to the heartland. I suspect the photos speak more clearly and dramatically than my descriptions, and I’ll let them do most of the talking for the day’s drive:
Click to enlarge and read the captions:
I was soon in Kansas, as US83 crossed the state line within about 15 miles. And here are more photos of beautiful Kansas.
That new asphalt road was being built as I drove it, and soon I came to the construction – and what a zoo that was! I’ve never seen so much equipment involved in a new road, and don’t know why it had to be so complex. But it was very interesting:
I drove by a Subway shop not long after all the construction, and pulled in to order an egg and veggie sandwich for breakfast. Those sandwiches are always so good, I ask myself every time I buy one why I don’t buy them more often. It was delicious!
mmmmmmm. Delicious. Healthy. Cheap.
This monster load was across the street from the Subway shop. I was told this was the base section of a wind turbine. It must be awful heavy to need all those axles under it. It was so big I couldn’t get it all in my shot as I was too close – this was the widest shot my camera could make.
The photos continue…
A beautiful hay field – Ok, Ok… this’ll be the only baled hay in the field photo for the day’s travelogue. Probably. I know I overdo such scenes.
And more click fun:
The drive was very scenic and pleasant. But an old issue kept popping up as I drove; the %$#@$!! fridge continued to lose its cool. It was fine overnight and regained its cool. But as soon as the drive began it tended to lose its cool – it reached as high as 52° that day. I ran the generator for over three hours in the afternoon during the drive to give it ac power – and it didn’t help a bit. But once we were landed for the night, it began to cool down again. It was all very strange, and back home I’d have to have my RV guy see what it needs. I refuse to let a fridge that can’t keep its cool cause me to lose mine! I could always turn the dang thing off and make it an ice box to get home, but I hoped I wouldn’t have to.
Once landed at the Hiawatha, Kansas Walmart, I set the coach up, then headed to the store for my daily walk and to buy a few items. I dealt with a strong cross wind for some of the day’s drive, and in Hiawatha the wind never seemed to quit. It blew all afternoon and evening. Thunderstorms were predicted, and I hoped the forecasters were right.
When the sun set, the golden glow was awesome!
The clouds later formed this eerie pattern that I don’t recall seeing before. Beautiful, but… eerie!
After evening chores, I whipped up the same dinner I had the night before – Allen’s wonderful chicken thighs! They were as delicious as before. And then I had three left.
I spent much of the evening editing photos and writing this travelogue. By the time I was done, I was very ready for a couple cool ones! As usual, I watched a couple YouTube videos that interested me, then headed to bed a bit before midnight.
Day 15, Wednesday, Hiawatha, KS to Norfolk, NE via US36, US75, NE2, I-80, NE15, NE92, US81: 240 miles
The thunderstorm I hoped for never developed in spite of the wind and beautiful, cloudy sunset the night before. I heard a few sprinkles on the roof during the night, but that was it.
I began that first day of the third week of my trip a bit before 0630 hours. I awoke to clear skies and a fairly warm morning. I did not need the furnace at all during my stay.
I took my time getting back on the road, reviewing the day’s drive. I made changes to my navigator which wanted to take me through Omaha, NE. I’d driven that before and prefer to stay away from the big cities.
I was pleased that the fridge kept its cool overnight. It was mid 40s and while I’d prefer 30s, I was pleased it wasn’t in the 50s! I have to watch the darn thing closely.
After updating the day’s planned route, and this travelogue, I prepared Big Blue for the drive, and headed off to continue my adventure.
What a beautiful way to begin the day’s drive. This is what I often call God’s Country!
I absolutely, positively had to fill up with diesel. I had a few gallons in the tank, but it was nearly empty. Beginning at a quarter tank on the gauge, a dash light flashes a warning about low fuel. It’s really such nonsense because any fool can see when he’s low on fuel. And one quarter of a 90 gallon tank is over 20 gallons, fer cryin’ out loud! That’s 150 miles left – at least. And while I’m ranting, the fuel feed for the generator, which draws from the same tank, is set high so that the generator cannot run below a quarter tank. I have dealt with that on all four motor homes we’ve owned, but this one I had fixed! At the cost of several hundred bucks, I had the shop drop the tank and extend the fuel feed clear to the bottom. Now I have the freedom to run out of fuel in a Walmart lot if I’m that stupid. Yes, I am easily annoyed. Rant over.
I pulled into a station about 15 miles or so after beginning the drive and filled up with 78 gallons at $2.83 per. And the dash light quit nagging me!
Feeding Big Blue’s addiction to diesel fuel in the small town of Sabetha, Kansas.
The day’s drive took me generally northwest, back across the state line, into Nebraska. Norfolk, NE was my destination for the day. Except for a short drive of about 15 miles on I-80, the entire day was on US Highways and Nebraska state highways. The following day I would drive the beautiful US20 northwest across most of Nebraska to the town of Chadron which I drove last September about this time. Perhaps most folks wouldn’t particularly want to repeat a drive through nothing but farm country on a back road, but I recall the drive, and I wanted to enjoy it again. Once there, I’d decide the route to take home.
Lots of photos of the day’s drive – click to enlarge and to read the captions:
I have seen these signs (below) along the farm highways, perhaps even interstates, since driving in the heartland. It must be an organized effort by the Catholic church (my guess because of the halos) to give witness to the property owner’s faith. Good for them!
More of the day’s sights to enjoy – just click!
After the day’s lovely drive through the farmland, I arrived at the Nebraska town of Norfolk a few minutes before 1500 hours Mountain Time (I did not change to Central time since I was there for less than three days). It seemed that Big Blue had almost learned to pull into the local Walmart all by herself after all her experience of doing so.
Big Blue parked at the Norfolk, Nebraska Walmart for the night – and lookin’ good!
Once parked and set up for the night, I headed to the store to take my daily walk. The Walmart seemed to be one of the larger ones. I didn’t shop during that visit, but I’d likely need something before I left town.
It was warm weather when I arrived, the day’s high was 83°, but the night temps would fall into the mid 40s. It was cool during the evening and I put on a sweatshirt.
Oh! And another huge wind turbine base was trucked right past the Walmart as I sat at the dinette editing photos. I knew something big was coming because a pilot car drove by with its lights flashing. I grabbed my camera, dashed outside to see what was coming – and sure enough it was another of those monster loads. And here it is:
Wow! What a rig – according to what I could find on the ‘net about these monsters, the payload here is somewhere north of 100,000 lbs. That would explain the 12 axles plus the tractor’s front axle.
(To appreciate this huge rig, click on this photo to enlarge; click again for even larger.)
After updating this travelogue, I worked through the evening chores and then enjoyed a frozen meal for dinner. I walked into the store and bought a pint of “ice cream”, the artificial stuff that is lower calorie, and I enjoyed it. For entertainment, I watched more YouTube online as I enjoyed a couple cool ones. I retired at nearly midnight. It had been another pleasant evening in a Walmart lot!
Day 16, Thursday, September 26, Norfolk, NE to Chadron, NE via US275, US20: 320 miles
I was up and about at 0630, having turned the heater on – it reached the low 40s overnight in Norfolk, Nebraska. I had set the overnight bedroom temp to 65° and slept comfortably.
Morning dawned cloudy and it seemed likely to be a rainy day, however the morning stayed dry.
I checked the weather for the day along US20 in Nebraska. It was not encouraging to read of wind, wind and more wind. Gusts of up to 40 MPH were predicted in one small town along my planned route. I reminded myself that if I wanted to wander the Midwest, I’d better be willing to accept the wind – it’s seemingly always windy. As I sat typing this at 0745 hours (MT), the flag atop Walmart was barely moving with occasional breezes. And, if I had to drive through a lot of wind, Big Blue was the coach to do it in – she’s heavy and stable.
The issues with the fridge had certainly improved. When I headed to bed the prior evening it had dropped to 43.5° and the freezer was -.4°. The morning readings were 36.5° and -3°. So why can’t the darn thing stay cold during the day? I wish I knew.
I pulled out out of the Norfolk, NE Walmart and headed for the second destination of my Midwest adventure, Chadron, NE. Chadron wasn’t the attraction, the drive along US20 to Chadron was a fond memory from last September, and I wanted to enjoy that drive again.
More click fun:
The drive was as scenic as a year ago, but I didn’t have the wind to fight all day back then. The current drive along US20, in what I’d call the true middle of nowhere, was as scenic and lonesome and pleasant as before, but this time I fought the ornery wind nearly all day long.
I stopped a couple of times along the drive to eat. In the small town of O’Neill, NE was a Mickey D’s – one of only two the entire drive. I pulled in for breakfast and ordered my favorite, a Sausage, Egg & Cheese McGriddle. They infuse the bun, I think, with maple syrup flavor, and it is sooooo good! I took it back to the coach and enjoyed it with a nectarine. For dessert, I walked back into Mickey D’s and ordered a pumpkin pie, their seasonal pie for fall – and perhaps my favorite of all their pies. And with that pig-out breakfast, I continued west.
More to click and read:
Nevada’s famous US50 that Life Magazine dubbed “The Loneliest Road in America” has nothing on US20 in Nebraska. But Nebraska is a much more scenic drive in my not-so-humble opinion. And, as usual, I took waaay more photos than I could ever use.
Just click for larger photos:
I came upon a sort of driveway that went nowhere, and backed into it. Finding a place to park along most of these back roads I’ve been traveling can be a real challenge. And there it was, a Dale’s Diner in the absolute middle of nowhere. I loved the place for its solitude and quiet, but as usual, I had to prepare my own sandwich and clean up my own mess. It was a typical Dale’s Diner. And I continued west through the ceaseless wind.
A Dale’s Diner out on the wind-swept Nebraska plains – they really are everywhere I go! (Click to enlarge this photo; click again for huge.)
I arrived at Chadron’s Walmart a few minutes before 1600 hours, and that was Mountain Time once again. I gained an hour during the drive as I drove along US20. When I arrived the wind was blowing, but not as bad as most of the day. In time it seemed to cease completely, but by 2100 hours it was howling once again. And I was plumb sick of wind!
It was good to be “at home” again. After setting up the coach, I headed to the store for my daily walk and bought a few groceries. And I had a cold fridge to store them in! Somehow, the fridge stayed in the high 30s and low 40s all day long – and I was relieved.
Jacks down for the night at Chadron, Nebraska’s Walmart for another night “at home”.
For dinner, I zapped the last two chicken thighs from Allen. Along with some bread and another nectarine, it was a delicious dinner. I have to learn how to grill ’em like Allen does, still tender and juicy, yet charred black for flavor – they really are incredible.
The evening went as usual aboard Big Blue; chores, editing photos, writing the day’s story, a couple cool ones, and a few YouTube videos. And to bed by midnight. I slept well in Chadron, as usual.
Day 17, Friday, Chadron, NE to Rawlins, WY via US20, I-25, WY220, US287: 304 miles
The overnight low was in the mid 40s in Chadron, and I set the bedroom thermostat at 65°, as usual, overnight. I added a blanket during the night, too, and I stayed comfy.
I had some coach maintenance to do in the early morning of Day 17 before getting underway. I checked coolant and oil in the diesel generator and the main Cat engine. I sprayed a bit of silicon on some moving parts that like a bit of lubrication now and then, such as the shafts of the jacks. I also tended the bug collection on the windshields which had gotten out of hand the last day or two. I completed all that before 0800. I also had to add some fuel, and would pump on 20 gallons there in Chadron to be sure I’d reach Casper, WY, about 185 miles away. It was selling there for about 30¢ cheaper per gallon. Yep, I do my best to keep the fuel cost as low as I can.
With the morning chores done, I continued west on US20 towards I-25 and Casper, WY at 0830 hours. I dealt with some kind of electrical issue with the jacks that level the coach. The jacks came up fine, but an alarm that sounds if the driver tries to go into gear or release the parking brakes when the jacks are down sounded. Moving the coach with them down would cause very expensive damage. I visually checked and they were up. I proceeded as planned with the *&%$!! alarm sounding constantly.
While I drove, the sound of the road, wind and radio pretty well drowned out the alarm, but I had to do something. So I pulled over to the side of the road where I had plenty of room, and figured out what I could do. The touch pad that operates the jacks is mounted on the left of the dash with other controls. I removed four screws to get under the pad to perhaps find a way to stop the squawking. There was only one plug attached to the pad, and I easily unplugged it. When I started the engine and engaged the transmission… the alarm stayed silent. I won! I also had no jacks ’til I had the issue fixed, but at least I’d have my sanity back as I drove alarm free. Jacks are nice, but the loss would not much affect my trip.
Click to enlarge and enjoy:
While I was pulled over to stop the incessant alarm, I had some very curious cattle come closer to see what I was all about. It was a funny situation that told me very few cars – much less big motor homes – stopped near them. My stopping there seemed to be a big deal!
What was I up to?! Curious cattle wanted to know!
When I pulled away from the cattle and their investigation, it was good to have the squawking silenced. I would worry about fixing the jacks later – and could live without them the rest of the trip if I had to.
Rain started soon after I resumed my drive. It fell constantly and pretty heavily all the way to Casper, Wyoming. The rain wasn’t half bad compared to the ceaseless wind the prior day.
Welcome to Wyoming! …and the rain continued. (Please pardon the awful photo.)
In Casper, Wyoming I planned to buy diesel at the price I saw on Gas Buddy, just the day before. That was about $2.66 per, but the current price was $2.86 – quite a jump in a day.
Big Blue got another diesel injection for her addiction. It seems she just can’t get enough.
I’d had enough rain for one day, and was pleased to be out of it from Casper ’til the day’s destination of Rawlins, WY. I had reservations about taking Wyoming’s Highway 220, as I’ve been terribly disappointed with some state highways. But it turned out to be a very scenic, well maintained road, and a pleasant drive. There were about 100 miles with no services that I could recall seeing, and no settlements of any kind. It was a very rural drive and I enjoyed it.
About half way through the drive, I found a very good rest area, which was a settlement in its own right, I suppose. I think there was an on-site resident who was likely the caretaker. And… they had a very nice, well kept RV dump! I pulled right up and dumped the tanks and loaded on fresh water.
Big Blue at the very well equipped rest area out in the middle of the very remote WY220.
I always fill a mop bucket with water to rinse the tank, etc., and the water pressure and flow was so powerful at that site that I could fill that bucket within seconds – I’d never seen anything like it. Afterwards, I continued on toward Rawlins. I would not have to worry about dumping or adding water for the rest of the trip.
Click for some stunning views along WY220:
And a few more photos to click of the long drive along WY220:
Eventually, the gorgeous drive through what might be called Wyoming’s Outback brought me to civilization – the town of Rawlins, my destination for the day. And I was back to I-80.
I pulled into the Walmart lot that busy Saturday afternoon a few minutes after 1700 hours, and the place was about full of RVs and trucks – and shoppers. I took my daily walk in the store when I arrived, and was surprised by the awful rock music that filled the place. That was a first for me! All they played was grinding, screaming, rock music. I continued my walk and left soon as I could.
Back at the coach, I set up for the night – without jacks! I took 2X6 blocks and drove up on one, two, or three blocks, as necessary, to level the coach, and it worked fine, although it was certainly more work.
My evening unfolded as the others; chores, editing photos, writing, etc. For dinner I zapped a frozen meal. I enjoyed a couple cool ones along with some YouTube videos, and finally went to bed just before midnight. It had been quite a day.
Day 18, Saturday, Rawlins, WY to Tooele, UT via I-80: 321 miles
I was up and around an hour early, about 0540. I tried to get more sleep, but I was just too anxious to hit the road. I was about three days from home, and I was ready to be home. The weather for the drive was predicted to be rainy and windy. And I wanted to complete the prior day’s travelogue, too.
I worked through the usual morning chores, then began writing. About 0730 I headed into the store for a few items I needed, and hoped the rock ‘n roll wouldn’t be playing. It wasn’t, at least not that I noticed. I remember when Walmarts didn’t play any music – and that makes sense. When you inflict music on your customers, no matter what kind, you’re going to please a few and offend others. Why is it necessary? And the same goes for restaurants.
Back at the coach, I put the few groceries that I bought away, prepared the coach for the day’s drive, and pulled out of Rawlins, Wyoming at 0900 hours. The day was predicted to be rainy and windy across Wyoming, and they got it half right – it was windy! I fought the wind most all day. When I approached Salt Lake City, it began raining, but not all that much. I drove under mostly sunny skies as I continued west.
Click for some interesting Wyoming photos:
I took a notion to have a Denny’s breakfast that morning. I passed one as I left town, figuring I’d put some miles behind me first. But the next one was in Rock Springs, Wyoming, 90 miles away. I wanted some fried eggs and pancakes bad enough to wait – and in due time, I finally pulled off the interstate for the long awaited breakfast. But! The Denny’s was an absolute zoo – cars were jammed into the parking lot, and the adjoining truck stop was overrun with trucks. The off ramp was jammed with trucks. It took me 10 minutes to get across the only intersection to the place, and when I did, I knew Denny’s wasn’t for me that morning. A Mickey D’s was at the same intersection, and I pulled into their lot – also pretty crowded with a big rig and another RV. I did get parked but it was a job.
Inside, I walked up to the kiosk and ordered a McGriddle with sausage, egg, and cheese. For dessert I ordered a pumpkin pie and an Oreo McFlurry. Oh – and a large coffee! I was soon handed my order and headed for the coach. I returned to the interstate as quickly as I could, and enjoyed my substitute Denny’s breakfast, to which I added three very small mandarin oranges, as I continued the day’s drive. I was stuffed! And perhaps the next day I’d find a Denny’s with room for me. In spite of the pig-out, I still hankered for fried eggs and pancakes. It had been a long, long time since I had enjoyed such a breakfast!
Welcome to Utah – and I was getting closer to home!
I tried to reduce the number of photos I took during the drive as so many never make the cut anyway. I believe I posted fewer this time, but still, I took a lot of ’em.
I didn’t stop for lunch after that huge, late breakfast. I simply didn’t need one after eating so much so late. But when I parked Big Blue in Tooele (To-ill-uh), I was getting pretty hungry, and made myself wait ’til my usual dinner time of around 1800 hours or so.
Click for some pretty Utah photos:
As I entered the downhill drive into SLC, rain began somewhere around Park City at the top of the long grade. It wasn’t a lot of rain, and it rained on and off around the SLC area. A wet night was predicted, and I was looking forward to it.
I made pretty good time for a guy who drives 58 MPH all day, arriving in Tooele at 1530 hours. Once I set the coach up for the night, I took my walk in the very busy store – it was, after all, Saturday afternoon. Back in the coach I busied myself with the photo editing and writing this travelogue.
My home in Tooele, Utah. You could say that I have homes all over the country!