And it sure felt satisfying (but only with the comforts of Big Blue)!
Day 1, Wednesday, August 12, 2020, home to Gridley, CA via CA99, I-5: 122 miles
Again, I counted the minutes for about the past two weeks as this day approached. I would finally – finally! – get back to bummin’ around the country after this awful virus delay. Sure, I drove to my sis’ place in Gridley a few times, and to Oregon once since the dawn of the Covid Catastrophe that has caused so much change and trouble for all of us. But finally, I’d be hittin’ the road to just bum around for a while.
I scheduled a couple of stops for the first few days – not something most bums do, I’m pretty sure. I planned a visit to my sis and John in Gridley the first afternoon, then on Day 2, I’d drive up US97 to La Pine, Oregon to visit their daughter, Jill, and hubby, Craig. I planned to spend the second night in Klamath Falls, OR en route to La Pine. After spending the weekend with them, I would likely head east into Idaho, then north to Montana where I’d be looking for some cooler weather. In August, of course, it’s hot most everywhere, but I hoped that Montana would be cooler than most of the country. As for Day 1 after I arrived near Gridley, it was about 100° outside the coach on Gale and John’s driveway as both roof air conditioners ran full-tilt boogie to keep Big Blue comfy. But I’m ahead of myself already.
I prepped the coach over two or three days before leaving, making sure she looked her best to accommodate my vanity. And she did look mighty fine as I pulled her up to the house to load that morning of Day 1.
I began loading the coach early, right after breakfast, to beat the heat. I loaded enough stuff for about a two week adventure – perhaps longer if I should choose to extend my bummin’ around. I loaded more groceries than usual as I wanted to avoid shopping any more than necessary at the busy Walmarts.
It was 1040 hours as I pulled out of our little gated community and headed for the nearby CA99. I headed north, then west across Stockton on the Crosstown Freeway to I-5. The traffic was fairly busy, as usual, but there were no slowdowns or delays during the entire trip.
Click for larger photos and captions. (After clicking, scroll down and click on “View full size” for even larger photos. Click again for a huge photo.):
Rice grows under the gaze of the Sutter Buttes, the planet’s smallest mountain range.
A herd of Black Angus along I-5.
Refreshing! Not nagging about Covid 19 for a change.
Crossing the Feather River.
Lovely farmland on a back road near Gridley.
Cat tractors deep ripping what was an orchard not long ago.
I pulled into the Delta Shores shopping center a bit before noon for a lunch pig out at their Panda Express. I have stopped in the past for a great hamburger at In-N-Out, but lately I’ve been addicted to Panda’s Orange Chicken and grilled chicken with teriyaki sauce. I ask for more sauce each time, and pour it over the white rice to fully satisfy my addiction. In my humble opinion, teriyaki sauce should be declared a controlled substance and kept from me – but I don’t think I could live without the stuff!
The Panda junkie about to get his fix!
I arrived at Gale and John’s home in the country about 1400 hours. It was blazing hot in the valley – about 100°. I set up the coach at once, powered out the jacks and slides and awnings, then turned on both air conditioners which ran all day and into the night.
Big Blue parked at Gale and John’s lovely home in the country.
I visited with Gale and John during the afternoon. Gale, my twin sister who is dealing with Parkinson’s Disease, was again more her old self. As I wrote during our last visit, she is now under the care of hospice, and they have taken her off some of the powerful medications, and just that reduction in meds made for a very positive change. It was wonderful to see her still so much her old self.
For dinner, John drove into town for an order of Taco Bell. We enjoyed “Double Tacos” for dinner, and I chased mine with vanilla ice cream. And I had to get back on my diet after this awful, pig-out day!
A lovely country sunset.
Around 1900 hours I headed back to the coach for the night. It was so good to be living on the coach again – and to look forward to the coming days of just being a bum!
I spent the evening on the computer, as usual. I dug out the DVD movie Driving Miss Daisy and began watching it yet again. What a classic movie it is – it’s certainly one of my favorites of all time.
I called it a day around 2330 and headed for bed. It had been a lovely day aboard Big Blue and I looked forward to many more.
Day 2, Thursday, Aug 13, Gridley to Klamath Falls, OR via CA99, CA162, I-5, US97: 252 miles
I was up and around a bit before 0630, eager for the day’s drive into Oregon, which is to say – out of Kalifornistan! The day would include a drive up one of my favorite highways, US97 from the little town of Weed and on into Oregon.
I worked through the usual morning chores and updated this blog a bit. Around 0800 or so, I went into the house and greeted John. Gale was still asleep, but after a bit I made myself a quick breakfast of cereal and milk. And a mandarin orange, as usual.
Gale wasn’t up yet, so I headed back to the coach and set her up for the day’s drive. When I finished and returned to the house, Gale was up and John was helping her get ready for her day. I thanked them both for the stay, then bid them goodbye ’til my next visit. Perhaps it would be on my return from Montana, perhaps not; bums don’t plan that far ahead.
At 0930 hours I pulled out of their driveway and headed to the little town of Biggs on a back road. I drove through Biggs and on to CA99 and headed north. At CA162 I turned west and drove through miles of rice country. It’s a few miles longer than taking CA99 to Red Bluff and joining I-5, but I preferred the back roads to driving through the busy college town of Chico on CA99.
Along CA162 heading to Willows and I-5, I think I saw enough rice growing to feed China! Here a stately snowy egret is looking for breakfast.
I reached Willows, which is on I-5, and turned north. The drive on I-5 through the flat valley and into the rolling hills of Redding was just plain ugly. Anything not irrigated was brown and dead. And it was hot – I ran the dash air nearly all day long.
Where the land was irrigated, it was growing crops of all kinds. Here sunflowers were bustin’ out all over.
Here’s a good example of land left dry and parched and brown. Back in the 70s, my 50 year old son who was about five, his mom and I, lived in Red Bluff where one summer day it hit 117° – and we had no air conditioning! We spent that afternoon in the backyard playing in the sprinklers. I don’t like Red Bluff!
The scenery changed for the better once I was beyond Red Bluff and Redding where I-5 climbs into the Cascade Mountains and Mt. Shasta dominates the whole region.
Lake Shasta was very low, but for August it was probably about normal.
Castle Crags hide among the mountains and it takes good timing to shoot ’em. I’m pleased with this shot.
The Indian name for Mt. Shasta translates to “White Mountain”, but she sure wasn’t white that day – I don’t recall ever seeing her so barren. Pray for a wet winter this year!
Mt. Shasta stood as proud and tall as ever, but she was about as naked as I can recall ever seeing her! Sad. She certainly needs at least her usual 40″ of precipitation this coming year.
When I reached the small town of Weed, I took the turnoff to US97 (above), one of my favorite drives. The area is beautiful and certainly cooler than the hot valley – and best of all, it takes me to Oregon!
I pulled off the road for lunch along US97 while still in Kalifornistan. It was a wonderful stop, scenic and cool. No wonder I love bummin’ around the country!
Oregon welcomed me! It just felt good to leave Kalifornistan!
I continued my drive, after a restful lunch stop, through the small town of Doris, and finally across the state line into Oregon! It’s a very nice drive through the Oregon countryside to the town of Klamath Falls.
I pulled into the Klamath Falls Walmart store at 1520 hours. It was warm enough in the mid 80s to fire up the generator and run the air conditioners. After setting up the coach for the night, I began editing photos and writing this story of the day’s drive.
Big Blue set up for the night at Klamath Falls, Oregon.
During the afternoon and evening, F-15 Eagles from nearby Kingsley Field Air National Guard Base roared mightily overhead from time to time as they took off from the base. The noise of those twin engine fighters was unreal! They seemed to shake the very earth as they took off with what must have been full power. They continued on and off throughout the afternoon and evening. It was quite a show, but the gosh-awful noise became pretty tiring after a while. I just hoped they wouldn’t keep it up all night long!
A screaming F-15 Eagle taking off from the nearby Kingsley Field and flying relatively low overhead with unbelievable noise.
The following photo and caption from https://klamathalerts.com/2020/07/29/173rd-at-kingsley-completes-week-of-night-flight-training/
A U.S. Air Force F-15D Eagle takes off with full afterburner at dusk at Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls, Oregon, on June 16, 2020. Student pilots are required to complete a certain number of flights at night as part of their training syllabus. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Adam Smith)
As afternoon became evening, I enjoyed the time aboard the coach writing and editing. At one point, the AA battery in my computer mouse died, and I had no spare. I always have spare batteries aboard, but somehow used the last ones and didn’t replace them. I had to head into Walmart for some new ones, and what a goofy experience that turned out to be.
Now, I’m used to Walmart’s liquor cabinets being locked in some stores where “shrinkage” (a euphemism for shoplifting) is a problem. To buy hard liquor at such stores, one must round up an associate who has the key – and few of them seem to have one. After waiting for the key holder, the liquor is hand carried by him to the cashier and the buyer doesn’t even touch the stuff ’til it’s paid for. Because of that necessary nonsense, I buy mine only for pickup and avoid the hassle. I never heard of batteries being sold the same way! But the batteries were in a locked cabinet for the same reason as the liquor, and I had to wait 10 minutes for the key holder to finally appear. Then she hand carried the $2.75 package of four AA batteries to the cashier who had custody of the valuable commodity ’til I paid for it. Necessary, yes, due to the light-fingered public that Walmart – and most retailers, I’m sure – must deal with, but pure, unadulterated nonsense to me! I headed back to the coach with my hard won prize, and continued my writing.
The evening cooled off nicely and I turned off the air conditioners at 1900 hours. The noisy F-15s still flew nearby, but no longer directly overhead after about 2100. I hoped they’d be quiet the rest of the night!
I finished updating this blog, then continued watching the rest of Driving Miss Daisy while enjoying a couple of cool ones. ahhh. It was good to be back on the road again and to be bummin’ around the country.
Day 3, Friday, Aug 14, Klamath Falls, OR to La Pine, OR via US97: 114 miles
It seemed that the F16 Screaming Eagles (as they are actually named) were parked overnight, or at least flew their training missions elsewhere. I slept undisturbed the entire night. It was a cool one for August, down to the mid 50s. After I was up about 0630, I fired up the heater for a while to be comfy.
I enjoyed a leisurely morning as I wasn’t due to arrive at Jill and Craig’s, just over 100 miles away, ’til afternoon. I poked along getting the morning chores done, then updating this blog. Twice. Yes, I wrote this morning’s report twice as somehow the first update, which I didn’t copy first, simply vanished when I clicked on the “Update” button. I was careful to copy my work the next time!
I also enjoyed taking my daily walk around the area in the cool of the morning. It was nice to enjoy the coolness, especially knowing that at home the high for the day was predicted to be 107°. Kalifornistan – indeed, much of the west – was in for a heat wave. I was happy to be at 4000′ with a breeze blowing.
After my walk, I whipped up a breakfast sandwich and peeled a mandarin orange for dessert. Then it was time to set up the coach for the day’s travel. I pulled out of the Walmart lot at 1000 hours and continued north on US97.
I had just over a hundred miles to drive that day, and knew as I started the drive that it would be very pleasant and scenic. US97 is, and I repeat myself, one of my favorites. Traffic is light, millions of conifer trees adorn the landscape, and I would land at the cabin in the woods of my niece, Jill and hubby, Craig. They are a very fun and loving couple, and best of all, Craig loves to cook. I love to eat! What a wonderful relationship!
As I left Klamath Falls, I drove this bypass around most of the city. Klamath Lake, to the north, flows as the Klamath River through the town and becomes Lake Ewauna before continuing to flow southwest. I think this body of water is Lake Ewauna.
I shoot too many photos as I drive when the landscape isn’t all that beautiful. When I’m in beautiful Oregon I shoot waaaay to many photos, and I sure did during the day’s drive. I deleted many, and cut down to, I think, a sensible few to portray the drive to La Pine.
Driving along Klamath Lake on US97.
Pardon the bug collection, but this view represents many, many miles of US97 through Oregon.
More of the lovely drive through Oregon.
As I entered the little town of La Pine, I looked for some cheap fuel. I was heading through town to Gordy’s Truck Stop on the north side, a landmark of sorts in those parts. I spotted the Towne Pump station first, and it was a very modern place, however the lanes were so narrow there was barely room to walk next to the coach when I pulled in. But Diesel 2 was selling for $2.40 per, and I wanted some – it was even cheaper than Gordy’s. The generosity of pumps varies widely. Some allow me to fill up, others are pretty stingy, as was the Towne Pump; they cut me off at just $74. So I had the (required) attendant pump through two cycles. I had nearly a full tank, but could have pumped on another 10 gallons or so. I settled for what the $148 would buy, and would find it even cheaper in Idaho in a couple of days or so. I was very pleased to be traveling during a period of relatively cheap fuel prices.
I arrived at Jill and Craig’s A-frame cabin in the woods at 1245 hours. Parking in the space for my coach was a bit tricky as their cabin is in a forest. But I managed to thread my way, backwards, under the lovely, shaded canopy provided by all the ponderosa pine trees. I don’t recall a prettier setting for Big Blue – I love their place.
Big Blue at rest in La Pine, Oregon for a couple of days. Beautiful!
Once parked and set up for my stay, it was party time! Jill and Craig treated ol’ Uncle Dale so well, I told them at one point I was planning to stay for three weeks or so. Sure, they pretended to think that was a fine idea, but I knew better. I’d be leaving Sunday or Monday. I’d hate to wear out my welcome with them!
Jill whipped up some delicious margaritas in their tiny kitchen. She mixed sugar with a pinch of salt for the rims of the glasses – a first for me and it was a very nice touch.
Craig doin’ his thing. Here he barbecues the biggest hunk of rib eye I’d ever seen!
First things first – Cheers!
When dinner time rolled around, we sat down to a real feast on their shaded front deck. And no, the delicious beef was not the highlight of my meal – it was the teriyaki chicken that Craig made just for me! He knew of my addiction and made some anyway – and if it wasn’t for this virus fear, I’d have hugged him!
Dinner time! One I won’t forget any time soon.
Teriyaki Chicken! Rib eye! Salad and balsamic! Baked bread! I may stay three weeks after all…
The thought has occurred to me that certain family members may be trying to kill me. They all know of my heart history, yet they serve me so much splendid food. If, and I know it’s unlikely, but if they have bad intentions, I couldn’t think of a better way to go!
My evening with Jill and Craig was absolutely a gas! After dinner, I was served what they called Lemoncello (lemon-chello), a lemon based liqueur. Served in a small cordial glass, it was quite a treat. It was very rich, and a little went a long way. I’m beginning to suspect that Jill and Craig are very sophisticated connoisseurs disguised as humble country folk.
After a nice visit in their little cabin as the weather cooled rather quickly, and being stuffed and tiring, I thanked them for a truly wonderful evening, bid them goodnight, and headed to the coach.
I tried to watch a WWII video, but kept falling asleep. I finally gave up, prepared for bed, and dug out an extra blanket as they suggested. I went to bed at my usual 2330 hours. It had been a very excellent day!
Day 4, jacks down at La Pine, OR
The grand time I had the prior night might have been a bit too grand for this old man. I cannot remember sleeping ’til 0730 hours; it’s just not something I ever do. But the morning of Day 4 found me sleeping in. I awoke as usual, about 0615, and turned up the heater and turned on the water heater. I went back to bed for a few minutes – and the next thing I knew it was 0730 hours! I must have needed the rest.
I set about the morning chores at once and had most done by 0800. Afterward, I continued my usual morning routine. I wrote more blog, posted photos, and enjoyed my coffee as I perused my usual morning websites.
It was a cool night in La Pine. I had to wear a sweatshirt that morning to stay comfy.
A bit later, I walked over to the house and visited with Jill over coffee and a chocolate croissant. That turned out to be breakfast as I didn’t eat another thing ’til lunch. Craig was busy with projects around the place, including an errand somewhere with his pickup.
As lunchtime approached, I was made an offer I couldn’t refuse! Jill zapped more teriyaki rice along with two skin on chicken thighs, just as I love ’em. I couldn’t have wished for a more perfect lunch. Jill had some of the same while Craig opted for the beef. Jill served peanut butter on celery and grapes, as well. Peanut butter ranks right up near teriyaki in my book of favorites.
I returned to the coach for a few hours, ostensibly to take a nap, but spent time perusing options for my continued bummin’ around the country. A very severe heat wave covered the inland of the western states. My next planned night was to be in Ontario, OR where predictions were for 100°+ days for the coming week. It was the same most everywhere I checked except for the coast…
…where it was to be mid 70s in Coos Bay, OR for the coming week! Predictions were for downright cool nights. I couldn’t find a better offer, and with a Walmart in town, it was more than I could resist – that would likely be my new destination. (Photo courtesy Pinterest.)
I returned to the house to continue our visit. Dinner was next on the agenda. Craig drove to town and bought a sweet onion and pineapple pizza – it was delicious! Of course, dinner was preceded with margaritas all ’round, and a new-to-me tortilla chip called light lime, or some such thing, and was quite a nice change.
The evening entertainment was provided by a viewing of Driving Miss Daisy which, for me, was the second viewing this week. Craig and Jill hadn’t seen it before and seemed to enjoy it quite a lot.
A bit after 2000 hours I thanked them for another lovely day and for all their good food, then excused myself as they watched the rest of the movie. I headed to the coach for the night as I hadn’t yet taken my shower or done any other evening chores.
My evening unfolded as usual aboard the coach. I continued watching a new movie, The Story of Us for awhile. It was not going to be a favorite, but was along on the DVD with Intolerable Cruelty which definitely is a favorite. As I enjoyed a couple cool ones, the day caught up with me and I headed for bed at my usual time. I slept very well, as usual.
Day 5, Sunday, Aug 16, La Pine, OR to Coos Bay, OR via back roads to Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway, OR58, I-5, OR38, US101: 225 miles
Day 5 dawned cool, as usual, or perhaps more accurately, as always, in La Pine. Although they were dealing with the heat wave as much of the west was doing at that time, nights were still cool in La Pine. I climbed out of bed to turn on the heater a few minutes after 0600, then went back to bed while things warmed a bit.
I got right after the morning chores as I had plenty to do that morning. Around 0800 or so, I think, I headed to the house to say good morning and to chat about my plans with Jill and Craig. I would set the coach up for my continued trip, then head to town and their friend’s gas station/RV park to dump my tanks and fill the fresh water tank – for just $5. Craig and Jill suggested a more scenic drive to Coos Bay than I had planned. Instead of taking US97 south to OR58, they suggested I take some back roads to the Cascade Lakes National Scenic Bypass, and follow it to OR58. I would see some beautiful country that I have so far missed for the entirety of my 76 years. I had plenty of time, so I set my Garmin navigator to do just that.
I thanked Jill and Craig again for a lovely visit. We had such fun and I looked forward to the next one. After virtual hugs and farewells, I pulled out of their lovely forest setting and headed into town to dump and load fresh water. All went well there, and when I was done I pulled into an empty parking lot across the street and whipped up Sunday brunch. It consisted of teriyaki chicken and rice, naturally, and a couple mandarin oranges. I loved it. Again. And I continued my drive.
If only old houses could talk, I’d bet this old cabin near Jill & Craig’s would have some great stories.
A few sprinkles along the back roads fell on the windshield. I loved it!
Volcanic activity is a part of Oregon history. I see lava fields regularly.
An ugly reminder of the devastation forest fires leave behind.
The back roads and the Cascades Lake Scenic Byway were, indeed, beautiful drives. Most drives in Oregon are scenic, but this one was also uncrowded – even by Oregon standards – and that much more appreciated. I drove by lakes and millions of acres of evergreen trees in a truly beautiful part of the country.
When I finally reached OR58, a main east-west state highway that I drove the last time we visited them, it became even more beautiful. I wrote back then, and I repeat, that OR58 is a splendid, smooth, and beautiful drive. I really enjoyed the easy ride and the scenic beauty.
More click fun!
A tunnel along beautiful OR58.
The beautiful drive along OR58.
…and even more:
A small portion of Lookout Lake along OR58.
With lots of steep grades, there were two of these runaway truck ramps.
Oregon looked good even with brown fields.
Remember, I had this thing for old barns. I still have it.
I dealt with a half hour delay for an accident along OR58. I had plenty of time to step out of the coach and include it in the photo of stopped traffic. When we passed the accident site, the vehicles were already removed and only a fire engine and a few personnel were along the roadside.
The half-hour delay due to an accident wasn’t much fun, but I could afford the time. After the delay, when I finally reached the interstate, it was a relatively short drive down I-5. I turned onto OR38 from the interstate, and it, too, was a very pleasant drive.
Next was a drive down US101 which is a (perhaps the) major north-south route along much of the west’s pacific coast. It took me to Coos Bay where I drove into the Walmart parking lot.
Pardon the bug collection, but here’s the old McCullough bridge along US101 that I crossed en route to Coos Bay. It really seemed to be an old relic, and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
As predicted, the weather was grand in Coos Bay, cool with a nice breeze. I was kinda sorry for having to inform my dear Wifey that it was just 64° in Coos Bay when I arrived, when at the same time it was 106° at home. It had been a high of 112° at home according to NOAA. After setting up the coach for the night, I took my daily walk around the huge parking lot. I had missed the prior day’s walk, and I was not going to miss two days.
Jacks down at the Coos Bay Walmart. I found lots of lonely parking space, perfect weather, and five bars on my iPhone. Life is good at the Coos Bay Walmart lot!
Back in the coach, my evening was relaxed and, mainly, cool. I surely didn’t need to run the generator and air conditioners in the very mild 70° weather. I set about getting this blog updated, edited some of the over 100 photos I took during the drive, and enjoyed myself in Coos Bay, Oregon. It was certainly a better place to be than at home where a local Weather Underground station recorded the day’s high at nearly 110°. That was a bit lower than NOAA stated, but if it’s over 100°, any number is too hot!
When dinnertime rolled around, I zapped the remaining teriyaki chicken and rice – and loved the stuff as much as ever. If Craig lived nearby, I’m afraid I’d weigh 220 pounds!
Here’s to cool weather and cooler drinks! I am so blessed to be doin’ what I love! And, yes, it really was robe weather for me.
While enjoying a couple of cool ones as my day wound down, I finished watching Intolerable Cruelty and enjoyed it as much as the prior 20 times I’ve watched it.
It had been a very nice day, and I was on the Oregon coast for, by my questionable memory, the first time ever. I climbed into my cozy bed about the usual time of 2330 hours, and slept very well.
Day 6, Monday, Aug 17, Coos Bay, OR to… undecided.
I was up to greet the overcast dawn a bit before 0630. While the low overnight at home was about 80°, the high in Lincoln City, OR was predicted to be just 67°! The coastal weather had been a godsend to my notion to go bummin’ around the country. My planned destination the prior day was Ontario, OR on the Idaho state line. The high for Day 6 there was to be 103° and I would not have been a happy camper. Instead, I was updating this travelogue on the Oregon coast, and was a very happy camper!
Once up and about with the morning chores done, I wanted to get some shopping done in the Walmart store. I walked over there some time after 0800 with mask on, as required.
The masked shopper returns! That mask is the highly sought after and preferred N95, which I hate. From time to time I have to remove it a moment just to breathe some fresh air. And no, I don’t have the top strap over my ears as is proper, but it’s still mighty tight. I won’t miss it when we’re back to whatever normal will be.
Back at the coach, I put the groceries away, then whipped up a quick breakfast. The morning would include updating this blog and posting too many photos from the prior day’s drive. Then it would be time for some house cleaning.
Click to meet a couple of my Walmart lot neighbors:
Seagulls were seemingly happy to rest right on the pavement. I suspect the warmth felt pretty good in the cool climate.
This lazy seagull got up only to scratch a few itches, then laid back down and continued to rest.
As the morning became afternoon I was just too content in my little home in Coos Bay to be motivated to move on. As a bum, I could stay put for the day and go nowhere, so that’s just what I did. I don’t recall spending two nights at the same Walmart since waiting out a wind storm in Texas some years back during an annual winter Search for Sunshine trip.
A bum shouldn’t have to scrub a kitchen sink. I vacuumed the place, mopped the floors, and then cleaned the sinks and the bathroom. I do know how to have a good time! (For a bum, I keep things around me pretty neat and clean.)
The planned housework was done. I could have headed to Lincoln City, OR and stayed at a casino lot overnight. However, after checking the place online, overnight RVers must spend time in the casino with a certain card, and “earn” so many points. The card is then to be presented to a cashier to be cashed in for an overnight voucher. Ha! That’ll be the day! I scratched Lincoln City. There is a Walmart in Newport, OR but overnight RV parking is verboten there, probably due to the attraction the city has for tourists. The same applies to other Walmarts in such touristy towns.
I certainly didn’t consider going inland yet. My old high school buddy, Al, lives in Keizer, OR. I have written of many visits there, but my bummin’ plans included going east from La Pine, not west to Keizer. Now, of course, I went waaay west, clear to the coast. The prior night I called him about including a visit with him and his lovely wife, Betty. I told him my plans changed due to the heat wave, and surprised him by being in Coos Bay. Sure, of course I could come visit. However, I wasn’t planning to arrive the next day, Monday. It was to be in the mid 90s in Keizer on Monday, but mid 80s by Tuesday. We agreed that I’d drive there on Tuesday. I certainly looked forward to the visit, and that was the new plan. After that? Well… I’d just keep an eye on the weather.
Meanwhile, I thought I’d better do some battery charging since I wouldn’t be running the coach at all that day. So I dug out the little Honda eu2000i generator to charge the big bank of batteries for a few hours. The Honda hadn’t been run for an awful long time, but she fired up pretty easily after I filled her with some old gas that had also been sitting around waiting for the call to duty.
The little Honda charging the batteries just to keep ’em in good shape. I’m sure I could have gone two nights without charging, but it gave me something to do, as well.
As it turned out, I charged the bank of batteries for just two and a half hours. When I began, the electricity load meter showed them drawing about 13 amps. When they were drawing just three amps, I turned off the little generator and stored it. They were charged.Here’s the bank of four deep cycle 6V batteries wired in series to produce 12V for the house circuits. There are two more 12V chassis batteries for starting and running the chassis circuits. Yes, yes, I know… I had too much time on my hands that day!
During the evening, I called my friend, Al, in Keizer. We confirmed my visit the next day. During our chat, he told me about Astoria, OR near the Washington state line. It would be a beautiful drive, and it would be coastal. In other words, a cool and beautiful drive. After our conversation, I dug a little deeper on the ‘net.
I could drive the next day back to the coast, then head up US101 to Chehalis, WA. There is a welcoming Walmart there, according to the ‘net. I would make a point of crossing the four mile long Astoria-Megler Bridge over the Columbia River into Washington. The Chehalis weather forecast was for high 70s when I’d be there. I figured that I’d found my next alternate destination!
The famous Astoria-Megler Bridge that spans the Columbia River into Washington. (Photo credit: Wikipedia.org)
My evening continued as usual aboard Big Blue. For dinner I zapped a frozen meal of chicken fried rice. It wasn’t the teriyaki chicken I’d been enjoying so often lately, but it was satisfying. I dug out a relatively new to me WWII documentary series on DVDs and began watching them. For a change, I didn’t have to catch up on my blogging – I’d been doing it on and off all day and was about out of ideas.
While watching the documentary, I enjoyed a couple cool ones. I called it a day around my usual 2330 and climbed into bed. It surely had been a laid back day – and I wasn’t complaining.
Day 7, Tuesday, Aug 18, Coos Bay, OR to Keizer, OR via US101, OR18, OR22: 195 miles
I was up and about a bit before 0700, having again slept in a bit. The day was bright and sunny and cool. I was surprised by the number of RVs that joined me on the lot overnight. There was quite a crowd of ’em.
After morning chores and the day’s first cup of coffee as I perused the ‘net, I set off on my morning walk of about 25 minutes. It was the first walk I’ve taken with a coat on in months! Meanwhile, I thought of home and how hot it was predicted to be there – a sweltering 108°! I would always prefer wearing a coat on my morning walk over 100°+ weather.
Back at the coach, I whipped up some oatmeal for breakfast. And then it was time to convert my comfy little home into a comfortable highway cruiser. At 1030 hours I pulled out of Coos Bay and continued north on US101.
The day’s adventure was to be a scenic, lovely drive along the coast, and it surely was. However there were entirely too many other folks who had the same idea. There were stretches where everyone cruised along at about the speed limit of 55 MPH, but there were long stretches where the sightseers and tourists poked along at about 45 MPH. When I must deal with inconsiderate boobs such as that, with a big motorhome that can rarely pass anything, I get a little excited. So I spent some of my drive cussing them and getting myself stressed out. It wasn’t worth it. I should have remembered that I wasn’t in any hurry! But I digress…
Click to enlarge and read the captions:
US101 was, indeed, a mostly beautiful drive…
…but not always – the towns were awfully busy.! (Note the very welcome fog.)
Tourist shops and tourist traps were absolutely everywhere along the drive.
I saw several bridges similar to this old timer, but why the spires or steeples?
There were dozens of these signs along the drive, some less than a mile apart, announcing entering or leaving a tsunami area. It seemed an awful waste of money – why not one every ten miles or so advising of the “danger”?
There were quite a few very brave cyclists along US101 – I think they’re nuts to ride such a narrow strip just inches from speeding cars and trucks.
Other then the inconsiderates, I enjoyed much of the drive. The weather was perfect, including even wisps of coastal fog in some areas. When much of the west was under a powerful heat wave, it was good to be driving through a bit of fog.
The good life, cruisin’ the Pacific coast!
I stopped along the coast drive for lunch. Here are a couple photos of Big Blue from that stop on the Oregon coast. Click to enlarge:
That leaning tree (wind-trained, I supposed) gave a feeling of speed to this photo. I liked it.
Big Blue on the coast of Oregon.
Ocean views were plentiful – click to enlarge.
The drive up US101 from Coos Bay to my turn off on OR18 was 125 miles. I was very pleased to turn off the coastal highway and find less traffic. Perhaps I wouldn’t have been so pleased had I known what my navigator had in store for me…
The drive continued to be scenic and I certainly was alone most all the time on OR18. It was a generally smooth and good road all the way ’til Miss Garmin directed me to turn off on some gnarly, narrow country back road. It was smooth enough most of the time, but so narrow it reminded me of my log hauling days.
Click to enlarge and read the captions. A reminder… after clicking, scroll down and click on “View full size” for even larger photos. Click again for a huge photo:
The very rural drive along OR18 was a respite from US101.
It’s just farmland, but I find it to be very scenic.
The very narrow road that took me to the ferry. If only I had known I would not have turned!
More rural landscape along the back road.
I enjoyed the lonely, somewhat curvy ride clear up to the time Miss Garmin directed me to board the ferry – the ferry?! And soon there it was, tied to my side of a small river loading cars for the very short trip across. As soon as I pulled up, an employee walked up to the coach and advised that I couldn’t board. The river was too low and the angle of the ramp onto the ferry was very sharp. No, I could easily see that I couldn’t board.
Ferry?! Not one sign along the narrow drive or anywhere else warned of this 19th century river crossing! I turned around and had to find another way.
There was no choice; I turned around and headed back to… I didn’t know. As I drove away, Miss Garmin directed over and over to make a U-turn and go back. I rebooted the dumb thing several times, and each time it told me to go back. I came upon a state highway, OR22, and a sign pointed left to Salem.
Salem is cheek-by-jowl to Keizer, so I turned left with Miss Garmin continuing to tell me to turn around. Finally, after ten miles or so, she decided to re-calculate a new route. She then guided me directly to my destination, as she almost always does, but this time she had to guide me through the busy town of Salem at commute hour – it was a very crowded drive!
I had to back the coach the last, short block to Al and Betty’s place because the little street is so narrow there is no turning around in the cul-de-sac where they live. Once backed into their driveway, Al greeted me at the driver’s window. It was good to land for the night after all the traffic I’d encountered during the drive.
Big Blue appears to be locked up for the night. She likes it at Al and Betty’s where she has plenty of room, peace and quiet, and a 30 amp plug!
Once the coach was set up for my stay, I headed into the house and joined Al and Betty in their living room to begin my visit. I hadn’t been up to visit since back in June which was our first trip out of state since the pandemic began.
I arrived a bit after 1600 hours, so talk soon turned to dinner. We all agreed that leftovers would suffice since it was a bit late to head to town. I enjoyed pizza! During our talks that evening, it was decided that I’d stay two nights. I think I needed the rest.
For us old folks, dominoes is a pretty spirited game. They got us started on their Mexican Trains game with their fancy Double 12 dominoes during our last visit. We enjoyed it, so we ordered the same online, and play several times a week back home. That night, after my long and sometimes frustrating drive, they pretty much shellacked me at the game. So, beaten down as I was during the adventures of the day, and then again at dominoes, I bid them a pleasant goodnight, and thanked them for their hospitality. It was some time around 2000 hours that I headed back to the coach for the night.
Double 12 Mexican Trains is a fine pastime for us older folks. I’m sure the young’uns would like it, too, if it could be played on a screen!
(Photo credit: ourpastimes. com)
Back in the coach, I worked a bit on this travelogue. Tired as I was, I gave it up for the evening and decided to watch more of the WWII DVD. I fought sleep through the evening, losing on occasion and nodding off. I didn’t want to go to bed too early because I didn’t want to be up at 0400. After a couple cool ones while watching more WWII documentary, I headed for bed at 2330. It had been quite a day.
Day 8, Wednesday, Aug 19, jacks down at Keizer, OR.
I slept very well after the prior big day. I was up and at ’em at my usual time on that first day of my second week bummin’ around the country. After morning chores, the news and comics online came next. Al came out to see what I was up to some time after 0800. I joined him in their home, and brought some frozen waffles, fruit and juice for my breakfast. I also fried a couple of their eggs after I saw Al fry a couple for himself. I never fry in the coach, and was overdue for an egg breakfast.
Later, Al and I took a walk around their neighborhood for 25 minutes or so. Back home, I excused myself to spend some time in the coach planning what I might do the next day. I spent hours perusing Google Maps, weather sites, and Walmart locations figuring out just what I’d do.
A Pacific storm was heading inland with rain and winds to 20+ MPH along the coast where I thought I’d head. So I figured perhaps I’d head inland since it had cooled off somewhat there. So much for the drive into Washington and seeing the Astoria – Megler bridge that I had been looking forward to crossing.
It was not ’til evening, after our to-go Chinese dinner, getting shellacked at dominoes again, and back in the coach for the night, that I finally had a plan. I would head to Redmond, Oregon’s Walmart. Several Walmarts I checked did not permit overnight parking, but Redmond’s did.
We had a nice day together in spite of my hours spent in the coach. The Chinese dinner was a disappointment as the restaurant didn’t get our order right. But we enjoyed most of it. After dinner I played Dominoes enough to have any last remnant of pride beaten out of me. Al and Betty play a lot of Dominoes nearly every day and are very good at it.
I retired to the coach pretty early to settle on a plan for the next day, as mentioned above. After I had a plan mapped out, I updated this travelogue. This day’s post was photo free as it never occurred to me to shoot any. I’d have to get one the next day before leaving.
I tried to watch more WWII documentary, and did so on and off as I kept dozing. I managed to stay up ’til my normal bedtime of 2330 hours, then finally crawled into bed for a good night’s sleep.
Day 9, Thursday, Aug 20, Keizer OR to La Pine OR via serendipity, OR22, US20, US97: 167 miles
I was up and about at the usual (nearly) 0630. I had a few extra chores that morning to prepare to hit the road, and all went well. I dumped the grey water tank, filled the fresh water, then prepared Big Blue for the drive to – or so the plan was – Redmond, OR. I had it all mapped on the navigator, and all I had to do was follow it.
I joined Al and Betty for a quick breakfast of cold cereal, something I seldom allow myself, but when I do I sure like the stuff. We visited a bit that morning, but soon it was time to head for the nearest low price gas station to load on more diesel. We said our goodbyes and I thanked them for the lovely two night stay. And again I forgot to get a photo of our visit. Memory is a terrible thing to lose!
At the station I pumped on 64 gallons at $2.50 per. That was the best I could find locally. Then I drove to the I-5 freeway and joined the mob heading south. I drove only a few miles to OR22, known also as the Santiam Highway, and turned east to drive over the Cascade Mountains.
The drive was more miles of those very pleasing and beautiful Oregon roads. I enjoyed the drive with a mostly wide open road and relatively little traffic most of the time. I took photo after photo, and had around 60 by the end of the driving day. Naturally, I had to delete a lot of them as there is only so much room to post them.
Click to enlarge and read the captions:
A lovely Oregon home – I shouldn’t envy, but I think I do.
Logging trucks in Oregon – imagine that!
Parked for a spell along OR22 for lunch. I had to clean those huge windshields, and within 40 miles they were worse than before.
A beautiful drive along OR22.
And… more photos of the day’s drive to click and read:
An old burn – such a sad waste of trees.
Times like this make me miss those old boating and fishing days. Time on the water is a splendid way to relax and pass the time.
I believe I spotted a forest fire. I hoped I was wrong, but where there’s smoke…
Driving through the small town of Sisters. It was about here I lost my way.
The Good Book tells us not to envy, but how can a feller help it with a sight like this?!
It was in the little, overrun tourist town of Sisters that somehow I got myself lost. I should have turned left there toward my destination of Redmond, but Miss Garmin, the navigator, had me continue, and I don’t know why. I checked later on recent destinations recorded in the navigator itself, and it was, indeed, Redmond’s Walmart that I had programmed as my destination.
Whatever it was that got me lost, I continued south on US97 ‘til I read a sign “La Pine 24 Miles”. Well, if I was near La Pine, I was surprised that it was on the way to Redmond. I didn’t think it through at the time, in fact it was at Jill and Craig’s that I learned that I was simply lost and not heading to Redmond at all. Once I drove through Sisters without turning off, I was heading to La Pine. No matter the cause, I was delighted that I was near La Pine and I called Jill at once and asked about stopping by for another night. Of course I was welcome!
I was a bit concerned that my dear niece would feel obligated to welcome her wandering bum of an uncle because… well, just because. But that was foolish on my part – we enjoyed a wonderful evening in their cabin in the woods and they seemed to enjoy themselves as much as I did. I was well fed with rice and teriyaki and a couple of new-to-me shrimp tacos. Shrimp tacos?! They were small shrimp with sour cream and lettuce – a gourmet type of lettuce for which I don’t know the proper name. All that goodness was wrapped in small “street” flour tortillas and was a real treat. And of course, margaritas were served – delicious margaritas.
After dinner, we visited together on their lovely front porch looking out on the forest, accompanied by many birds. A chipmunk, who greatly enjoyed raiding the bird seed that is always plentiful on the porch rails, provided great entertainment. I shot a few photos of the critters that, I thought, turned out quite well.
A nuthatch at lunch.
And a woodpecker paid a visit.
A delightful little chipmunk raided the bird seed.
I nominate these little things as the forest’s cutest critters.
It was around 2000 hours that I bid them a good night, and thanked them for the wonderful eats and drinks. We all needed our rest as the next day was a work day for them and a driving day for me.
Back at the coach I worked through the evening chores, then sat down to update this travelogue. Afterwards, I called it a day at the usual time of 2330 hours, and climbed into bed. It had been a day of getting lost and then somehow, by serendipity, finding the way to Jill and Craig’s cozy and quiet cabin in the woods. It sure beat the hot, asphalt lot at the Redmond Walmart – and no Walmart was as entertaining as Craig and Jill, or ever offered a lovely forest of ponderosa pines in which to park!
Parked once again, by serendipity, in the forest with Jill and Craig. What a great way to be lost and found!
Day 10, Friday, Aug 21, La Pine, OR to Ontario, OR via US97, US20: 290 miles
I was up and about at my usual 0615 to begin the new day. I had big plans for the day: I’d drive into town to the station where I dumped the tanks this past Sunday, and dump again. I would also have the propane tank filled, which was getting very low. The fridge runs on propane the entire time I’m not on AC electric.
The fridge had been giving me problems again – this time by icing up. Fins at the top of the interior were heavily iced up and the fridge was warming a bit. I read online to turn it off a while to thaw ‘em out, and I also turned the temperature setting up a couple notches. I also adjusted the position of the thermistor, as mentioned online, to adjust the temp a bit higher. That morning it seemed to be cooled down just fine, into the 30s. I crossed my fingers, hoping for no more fridge issues.
After morning chores, I worked on this blog. My web host, WordPress, had just changed the editing program that we bloggers use to construct the content of our sites. I was struggling to learn the &%$#!! new procedure, and in my book, an unnecessary one. But I would have to learn it.
About that time, Jill and Craig were leaving for work, so I stepped out to thank them again and bid them goodbye. I told them that if they see me again within a week, it would mean I got lost again. After this lost episode, maybe getting lost isn’t all bad!
I drove into town to the little Shell station where I dumped the holding tanks and loaded fresh water and propane as planned. It was time to continue on US97 back to Bend, then head east on US20 to Ontario, Oregon en route to Montana. But I was bummin’, and things could change at any time.
I should have stopped near the station to whip up breakfast, but didn’t and planned to pull over when I could. I didn’t pull over ’til over an hour later, and I had a very late breakfast – out in the vast emptiness of US20.
Parked for breakfast at another Dale’s Diner. This one was along the scenic desert desolation that is US20, well beyond Bend, Oregon.
The drive was going to be longer than I’d been driving lately – 290 miles. I used to do 400 miles a day regularly just a very few years ago, but as I slow down in my old age, so does the distance I try to cover in a day.
At about 1300 hours I drove into the predicted smoke, and it was smoky and hazy clear to and including Ontario, my destination. When I checked the next day’s destination of Rexburg, Idaho, it was also predicted to be smoky. The smoke doesn’t seem to bother me, but it sure makes for strange weather. There seems to be a yellow pall over the entire landscape, and photos look awful. But so it was.
Wide open, lonely US20 – I loved it!
I reached areas that were near the Snake River, and some farming was possible.
It was a breezy day in the high desert.
I stopped at rest areas and parking areas I found along the way and wrote this travelogue and edited photos to kill time. I wanted to arrive later because the forecast predicted a high of something in the 90s. If I arrived at 1600 hours I would be setting on hot asphalt in the blazing sun for a few hours. If I arrived a few hours later, I would find it cooler sooner, and run the air conditioners and generator less. It worked out just that way. I arrived at the Ontario Walmart a few minutes before 1900, much later than normal. And, of course, it cooled off much sooner after I arrived than usual. I’d see how it would work the next day when I planned to drive about 360 miles.
More photos – just click:
First stop to kill time. I made lunch there, and worked on this travelogue.
A nice spread along US20 – it looked like a good life.
More farming – here is a center pivot irrigation system with hay cut and drying.
My second stop to kill time. I’m actually pretty good at loafing.
A cropped section of the prior photo, Big Blue is a good looking ride – and yes, I’m prejudiced as can be.
I love a tail wind, and had one much of the day.
Nice warning, but I never saw so much as a fire truck. However, smoke was everywhere.
At one point I passed a sign warning of fire in the area, and thought maybe I’d find a reason for all the smoke. But I never saw even a fire truck, much less a fire. It must have been well off the highway.
Upon arrival at Ontario’s Walmart, I set the coach up for the night, feeling very confident that neither the city nor Walmart would deny me. After all, we had stayed overnight there less than a year earlier.
As soon as I had the coach set up, I headed off for a walk around the area for about 25 minutes. Back at the coach, I began evening chores, including my shower, dinner, etc.
When I could, I tackled the seemingly hopeless new editor that WordPress had inflicted upon me. I did, finally, after many tries, discover a way to make it work – somewhat. The new editor was called “blocks” and I didn’t know, nor did I care to learn, how it worked. I simply wanted to keep my old editor that I knew well. Too bad; things change and I had to learn the new one.
Jacks down at the Ontario, Oregon Walmart.
In spite of my frustrations, I enjoyed the evening once I gave up editing my site. I poured a couple cool ones which seemed to drown those frustrations as I watched more WWII documentary for awhile. I finally headed to bed at 2330 hours home time. I would be in the Mountain Time Zone for only two or three days, so I’d live by home time. It had been a frustrating day, but I can’t complain too loudly while I’m doing what I love which is bummin’ around the country aboard Big Blue!
Day 11, Saturday, Aug 22, Ontario, OR to Rexburg, ID via I-84, I-86, I-15, US20: 369 Miles
The night at Ontario was quiet and safe and I slept well. I was up and about a few minutes after 0600, delighted to work through the morning chores and make ready for another day on the road.
After my first coffee of the day and the usual time at the laptop checking news and comics, I headed into the store for some groceries. After putting them away I took off for my morning walk in the smoky, cool of the morning. Back at the coach I checked a few maintenance items on Big Blue, then set her up for the day’s drive. I hit the road at 1000 hours.
I crossed the Snake River into Idaho almost at once. My first stop was in Nampa, Idaho, about a 35 mile drive. I found the cheapest diesel of the trip so far at $2.22 per on the GasBuddy site. It was the same station we stopped at about a year earlier. I believe Conrad & Bischoff is a petroleum wholesaler and their retail station is very large and modern.
Crossing the Snake River into Idaho.
Welcome to Idaho!
A pretty, hilltop Idaho spread.
The cheap diesel I found in Nampa, Idaho. Again.
…just a feel good moment as I passed by.
After fueling up with about 60 gallons of the stuff, I continued on I-84 toward Rexburg, Idaho. I planned to take my time again so that I would arrive later in the evening and not park on the asphalt when it was in the 90s.
To that end, I stopped at a rest area about 130 miles into my trip and spent two hours there. I whipped up lunch. I sorted out my many medications and supplements for the coming two weeks, which is a time consuming job. That rest area had more parking spaces for trucks than I recalled ever seeing. I figured that in the winter, a lot of trucks park there waiting out storms.
Parked at an Idaho rest area to kill some time.
My bi-weekly task of sorting pills and supplements into two, one week pill boxes. I take too many, but I’m like other old folks – just doing my part to stay healthy and active!
I continued my drive through the smoky haze that was everywhere that day – the entire 369 mile trip. It was the same at home, except air quality was improving there. According to the NOAA weather site, my destination of the next day, Helena, Montana, would be clear. I hoped so – I was getting tired of breathing the awful stuff.
I enjoyed a good tail wind all day, it seemed. The coach is much quieter when not blasting through the wind with its big, broad front. And I got better fuel economy as well. I shouldn’t say anything to jinx myself; I’ll likely drive home against a head wind, which is not uncommon.
Idaho agriculture – and I saw a lot of it. Click!
It seemed that the nearer I drove to Snake River, the more agriculture I saw. They can’t grow crops without water!
Preparing to dump a load from the harvester into the semi for a trip to the mill, I suppose. I guessed that this was wheat.
Harvesting for breads and donuts for the coming year. I’d love to have run a modern harvester. With air conditioned, filtered cabs, and GPS guidance, it looked like fun.
I stopped at another rest area nearly 300 miles into the drive, and simply brewed a large coffee. As it was, I was going to arrive around 1830 hours home time. I was needing a good jolt about that time, and it did the trick.
Then, after 360+ miles, as I thought I arrived at my destination, there was no Walmart – there were only apartments! I checked with Siri on my iPhone, and found the right address which was over three miles away. Apparently the store was closed and a larger one built – not at all unusual for Walmart.
Finally settled at the Rexburg Walmart. It was strange that Miss Garmin didn’t have the right address. This Walmart opened in 2016.
When I arrived at 0645 home time, I found a good spot and settled in for the night. It was a bit warm, but open windows kept me comfy. I worked my way through the usual evening chores, taking a shower, preparing dinner, etc. I was tempted by the Panda Express just a short walk from the coach, but I resisted. I’d had more than my share of rice and teriyaki the prior few days.
After the chores and dinner, I began updating this travelogue. I also edited the day’s photos – which I would have to post later as I hadn’t quite figured out the new editor!
After the editing I could manage, I watched more WWII documentary, which I greatly enjoyed. I called it a day and headed to bed at 2330, as usual.
Day 12, Sunday, Aug 23, Rexburg, ID to Butte, MT via US20, ID87, US287, MT359, I-90: 236 miles
I thought the prior day’s plan to kill time during my drive so as to arrive at my destination later in the day went pretty well. So I planned to do the same on Day 12. I dawdled at Rexburg’s Walmart for several hours. During that time I shopped a bit in the store, then took my daily walk around the lot. I liked Rexburg – it’s a Mormon town with a BYU campus, having been founded by Mormon pioneers back in 1883. It had the neat, clean appeal of other Mormon populated places. Walmart was situated in farmland with crops just across the streets around the store, and naturally, I liked that.
I spent much of my time there in the coach trying to learn the new WordPress editor. Finally, I learned to post photos in the mosaic format I like. Once I learned how, I caught up posting a number of photos. WordPress support was very patient with me, and while I was pretty upset with the change, I certainly appreciated their help.
I pulled out of Rexburg at 1300 hours and headed, I thought, to Helena, MT. I was on back roads of Idaho and Montana nearly the entire drive. The scenery was beautiful and mostly very, very rural. I shot a lot of photos to capture the remote places I drove.
Just click to enlarge the photos and to read the captions:
The traffic along my drive was generally very light, and the highways wide open and empty. And very rural.
In the mountains of Idaho and Montana, what I presumed were summer homes were plentiful.
Welcome to Montana!
It was another very smoky day everywhere I drove.
Someone’s Montana mansion.
The Madison River in Montana.
Parked atop a mountain pass, killing time. I’m pretty good at killing time!
As I did the day before, I dawdled along the drive. I stopped once for I don’t know how long, just editing photos. I wanted to arrive for the night later than 1900 hours to avoid the heat. I think I am on to a good idea.
Montana must be one of the most beautiful states in the summertime. Here a green meadow, or perhaps a green swamp, along my very rural drive in Montana made a lovely sight.
I was fed up with the smoke I’d driven in for three or four days. A lot of my photos looked very subdued due to the poor sunlight. There continued to be a sort of yellow pall on everything, all the time. So, when I reached I-90 near the end of my drive, I had the choice to continue north to Helena or turn west toward Butte and on home. I had been on the road for nearly two weeks, I was sick of the smoke, and I thought often of home. I turned west.
A pastoral scene along my very rural drive through beautiful Montana.
This looks like a great life in the Montana mountains. Well… from about June 1 through September. Montana is not so inviting in the winter! Click to enlarge.
As I turned off I-90, I saw a station that was nearly empty and selling diesel for $2.22 per. I pulled in and pumped on 60 gallons, and was set to hit the road in the morning with a full tank. Afterwards, I drove the few blocks to Walmart and pulled in at 1930 hours. It was good to be “home”. I was tired and hungry and really looked forward to dinner and a shower.
Once settled in for the night, I zapped a frozen meal for dinner. And I especially enjoyed kicking back for the evening. For some reason I was more tired than usual, and it was likely due to the elevation. Butte is near the Continental Divide and sits at 5500 feet. This ol’ heart patient doesn’t do so well at such heights.
Big Blue parked for the night at Butte, Montana’s Walmart. The elevation here is 5500 feet. Note the smoky pall in the air – I hadn’t seen blue sky in days!
After evening chores, I began writing the day’s travelogue. I took too many photos as usual, and would post those that made the cut the next morning. At 1930 hours I poured a couple cool ones, then began watching more of my WWII documentary. Someday, I should watch the documentary when I can stay awake – I dozed often and finally gave up and went to bed at my usual 2330. It was a very quiet and cool night in Butte, Montana.
Day 13, Monday, Aug 24, Butte, Montana to Twin Falls, ID via I-15, I-87: 363 miles
I was up at my usual 0630 hours and rather enjoyed a cool morning. I awoke and found it to be in the mid 40°s – in August. Imagine Butte, Montana in December!
I was looking forward to a new day on the road. The plan for the day was to drive toward home, stopping for the night in Twin Falls, Idaho, some 370 miles south. I would likely be home on Thursday.
I wanted to continue killing time and arrive at my destination each day later than 1900 hours. It’s so much cooler than arriving in the heat of the afternoon. So I hung around Butte’s Walmart working on this travelogue ’til about 1000 hours local time. I also whipped up a healthy oatmeal breakfast. I tended the bug collection on the windshields, too. I finally pulled out of Butte at 1045 hours and headed south on I-15.
A windy section of I-15 that also shows the smoky air I’d dealt with for days.
Smoke, smoke, everywhere! This photo would likely have been a much better shot of a Montana valley without all the smoke.
A lovely Montana home. What a beautiful setting!
The air was as smoky as ever – and this was at least the fourth day I had to put up with it. Still, the drive was enjoyable as I cruised down the lightly used I-15 through Idaho.
About 110 miles into the drive, I parked at a rest area to delay my arrival at Twin Falls. I wrote more travelogue, then made lunch. I was there about two hours.
The day’s drive was pretty tiring due just to the number of miles. Most of the drive, however, was through lightly traveled back country. One sign along the interstate warned at one off ramp that the next turn off was 19 miles away! There were untold square miles of ranchland and it was very rural. I loved it. As I drove through more metropolitan country such as Idaho Falls and other towns, there was, of course, a lot more traffic than the rural drives between them.
Click for a truckin’ show!
The first of about six huge wind turbine towers heading north…
… and another…
…and I didn’t manage to shoot all of them. This trucking show included about a dozen or so pilot cars, as well.
Speaking of trucks that went past me, this off road tanker blew buy me at 70 MPH… BACKWARDS!!
At one point sprinkles fell on the windshield, but didn’t amount to enough to turn on the wipers. Much later, as I approached my destination of Twin Falls, there was a cloudy sky and I hoped, in vain, for some serious rain.
I arrived at Twin Falls, Idaho at 1930 hours, a perfect arrival time. It was cloudy and it seemed darkness fell rapidly. And it was past time for dinner!
Jacks down for the night at Twin Falls, Idaho where I’d have a wonderful pig out that I’d been promising myself all day.
I walked a few minutes to the nearby Panda Express and waited in line probably 15 minutes. I thought it might be faster than ordering online. It certainly wasn’t. I finally walked out of the place with my dinner and headed back to my little home on wheels.
I enjoyed Orange Chicken, fried rice (they were out of white rice – a Chinese place out of rice?!), teriyaki chicken, and chicken and mushrooms. It was a sinful, glorious pig out, to be sure, and I savored every moment. There was one redeeming excuse… I’d stuck to my diet the entire three prior days.
Starvin’ Dale… happy at last!
Yes, it’s true – this was a glutenous, sinful, glorious pig out!
After dinner, I worked through the evening chores, then sat down to write this travelogue. Afterwards, once again, I spent the rest of the evening trying to watch the WWII documentary but regularly dozed off. I finally gave it up and headed to bed at 2330. It had been another wonderful day on the road.
Day 13, Tuesday, Aug 25, Twin Falls, ID to Winnemucca, NV via I-15, I-80: 288 miles
It was a warm morning in Twin Falls. I awoke warm and checked the thermostat – it was 76° in the coach – and that’s unusual by recent history. I opened the front door and back window to let the place cool a bit. It was home-like weather to me but I’d have preferred a cooler start.
After morning chores, I took my daily walk around the Walmart lot. It is huge and took me almost 25 minutes. The Twin Falls store was very large itself, plus a large auto service section and a gas station.
Back in the coach I zapped an egg sandwich and peeled a couple of small mandarin oranges for breakfast. And then it was time to update this travelogue and to post the prior day’s photos.
I finished the updating about 1000 hours, then began setting up Big Blue for the day’s drive to Winnemucca, Nevada. I left Twin Falls at 1015 hours home time – the Pacific time zone I’d soon cross into along US93.
The drive was wonderfully rural and with very light traffic. US93 south to I-80 was chock full of Idaho farming. Such scenery is my favorite as it gives me a sense of peace and solitude.
Click for some farm photos:
A portable rain storm called sideroll irrigation.
One of many corn fields I drove by along US93.
Another portable storm. This type is called center pivot irrigation.
After about 50 miles of driving, I crossed the Nevada state line into a small casino mecca called Jackpot, NV. I’m sure it must be a real jackpot for the casino owners – there sure were a lot of casinos for what was otherwise a small town in the middle of nowhere. I supposed it attracted a lot of Idahoans to it’s tables and slot machines.
Click for a better view of a few of Jackpot’s casinos – and there were more:
…three casino… and there were more!
Once below the town and continuing down US93 toward I-80 the scenery became very much the look of Nevada. It was mostly scrubby desert, but still beautiful in its own way.
It was looking a lot like Nevada…
Brown and rocky, but still beautiful in its own way.
A lovely Nevada ranch out in the middle of nowhere.
I loved the scenery and the open road.
Farther down US93, I was provided the thunderstorm I’d been hankerin’ for! As I approached a smallish range of mountains, ominous clouds were ahead. I hoped they’d lead to a storm, and did they ever!
The ominous clouds seemed to promise the storm I wanted…
…and I sure got a good one!
The winds I dealt with through that stormy area were over 40 MPH I am sure. And the rain was fairly heavy for a short period of time and was enough to wash the bugs off the windshields. I was lovin’ the rain while it lasted, but the wind not so much. And I drove out of the storm almost as quickly as I drove into it.
This mess was once a camper van, I think – or perhaps a Class C motorhome. There really wasn’t enough left to be sure but that burnt framework suggested to me that it may have been. I’d guess the fire was some time earlier as only the tilt-back truck retrieving the wreckage was on scene. Sad. (Click to enlarge, click again for even larger.)
Beautiful Nevada scenery continued on down ’til I reached Wells, NV and I-80 which were another sixty some miles beyond Jackpot. I’d be on I-80 to Winnemucca where I’d spend the night, and much of the next day’s drive to beyond Donner Summit. I would turn west on CA20 toward Gridley where I’d spend my last night of my adventure at my sis’ place again.
Once on I-80 I drove west about 175 miles to Winnemucca. When I arrived, I drove to a Maverik station and filled up with diesel at just $2.26 per. That would likely be the end of cheap diesel as I wouldn’t fuel up again ’til Kalifornistan. I like to park Big Blue at home with a nearly full fuel tank.
After fueling, I drove over to the Walmart store and parked for the night. I have spent many nights there over the years, and it usually cools down nicely at night when it’s been hot – and I was ready for some cool.
Big Blue parked for the night at Winnemucca’s Walmart store. And yes, the generator and both air conditioners were running during that very warm evening.
As I spent the 14th night of my adventure aboard the coach in comfort, I considered the fact that the next day would be the beginning of week three. I’d been on the road for two weeks, but yet I felt a twinge of sadness that this adventure was winding down. On the other hand, it would be good to be home again!
For a change from the WWII documentary, I began watching, for the umpteenth time, the wonderful Coen Brothers movie Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? and enjoyed the first half along with a couple cool ones. Bedtime interrupted the viewing, but I’d finish it the next night in my sis’ driveway.
The warm afternoon became a cooler and breezy evening, and I turned the air conditioners and generator off fairly early. It had been a good day, and my last full day of enjoying wide open highways in the rural America I love so much. The next day, Day 15, I would re-enter the awful third world kingdom of Kalifornistan. Rats!
Day 15, Wednesday, August 26, Winnemucca, NV to Gridley, CA via I-80, CA20, CA70: 293 miles
The night in Winnemucca was quiet and restful. I was up and at ’em a few minutes after 0600, well rested and looking forward to the day’s drive. After morning chores I checked a few websites, then headed into the store to buy a few items I needed. I also ordered a Walmart pickup at a Stockton Walmart as I wanted to arrive home with groceries that would last us for a couple of weeks. And then I took my daily walk around the lot. It was a productive and pleasant morning.
The day’s drive was probably the most arduous of the adventure so far. It wasn’t the miles; it was driving CA20 from I-80 to nearly Gridley. I had cruised along I-80 with little traffic and wide open spaces while east of Reno. I knew that when I got to Fernley, Nevada which is near Reno, the traffic would get heavier and heavier as I drove I-80 through Reno and into Kalifornistan. Yep, the lonely rural roads I so enjoyed the prior days were just memories.
As I entered Kalifornistan, I missed shooting the welcome sign, but it wasn’t necessary. The sign stating 55 MPH for trucks let me know I was back in the land of fruits and nuts. Trucks would be a rolling road block, not permitted to flow with traffic as is allowed in many western states. And the most obvious sign about being back in Kalifornistan was the sudden slowdown as I joined a traffic jam. I drove in bumper to bumper traffic for several miles due to rubberneckers staring at a construction project. There were no flagmen or closed lanes. It was simply drivers slowing down to see the construction – at least that’s what it looked like to me.
It was a hazy drive along I-80 due to the continuing smoke.
…more haze, but improved a bit.
Back in heavy traffic as I cruised through Reno.
Yep! This was certainly Kalifornistan. I could tell by the foolish 55 MPH sign for trucks and the traffic jam. Home sweet home! Ugh.
The construction zone that seemed to distract all the rubberneckers..
Finally on CA20. It was a straight drive here, but a zillion curves awaited me on my downward trek to the valley below.
Once past the construction, speeds improved greatly and I made good time to my turn off to CA20. I was again on a less traveled back road, and, as I began the long descent, had it nearly all to myself. Naturally, it grew much busier near Grass Valley and I dealt with more construction delays.
I already had several hours of driving behind me as I began the long, downward drive to the valley on CA20. It was a very tiring drive with all the twists and turns that is CA20. And I put up with more serious construction along CA20. I spent about 15 minutes in a long line of cars that were stopped to share a one lane stretch due to that construction. By the time I approached Gridley, I was whipped. It was a very trying drive due mainly to the delays and the constant turning through the endless curves I negotiated.
Rice fields indicated that I was getting close to Gridley. I was delighted to be approaching the end of a very tiring drive.
Finally, at about 1700 hours, I pulled into Gale and John’s driveway, weary from the drive and glad to park for the night. After setting up the coach I went inside to visit with Gale and John. It was dinnertime, and John was ready to drive into town for some Taco Bell – that sounded good to me.
Gale and I had a nice visit as John made his taco run. Gale was so much her old self again, and we had a good visit. The good/bad news was that the next day would mark the end of her care by hospice. She had improved to the point that they withdrew, and that’s good. But hospice was a great help to John, and that help was about over. John had told me earlier that he was looking for another source of help, but in the meantime a couple of ladies from the church do help out when needed.
John soon returned from town with our dinners, and we sat around the living room enjoying the tacos. Our visit was shorter than most as I had arrived so late, and still had work to do in the coach. I bid them goodnight around 1830 hours and returned to the coach for the night.
After the usual evening chores, I updated this travelogue. Then I watched the rest of Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? as I enjoyed a couple cool ones that were especially satisfying after the long and tiring day. I headed to bed at my usual 2330 hours and slept like a log!
Day 16, Thursday, Gridley, CA to home (!) via SR99, I-5: 127 miles
The last day of my adventure was, perhaps, the busiest. I would drive only 120 miles or so, but it would entail so much more. But I’m ahead of myself already…
I began the day as usual, working through the morning chores and perusing my favorite sites on the ‘net. I checked in at the house somewhere around 0800 hours, and was surprised that my sis, Gale, was already up and done with breakfast. That was mighty unusual, and it was good to see her so improved. I would have to leave by 0900 as I had a Walmart grocery pickup to make in Stockton between 1000 hours and 1100. But I had time to eat a fair portion of their raisin bran, and a couple of my mandarin oranges for breakfast. We had a short but pleasant visit as I ate, but soon had to bid them goodbye – I had to set the coach up for the day’s drive. I thanked them for the stay, then headed back out to the coach.
It was 0900 hours as I pulled out of their driveway and headed for the back roads to begin my drive home. All went well, but I did run a bit late for my grocery pickup.
Driving in the Gridley – Yuba City area along the back roads, there was plenty of this stuff growin’ – and it’s quite a sight to see. Rice and almonds seem to be the main crops in the area. Almonds are the #1 crop in value in Kalifornistan, while rice ranks #12.
I stopped at a shell station south of Yuba City on CA99 to fill up with diesel. I had over a half tank, but wanted to park with a nearly full tank. The cheap stuff was far away and out of Kalifornistan, as always, so I had to cough up $2.98 per gallon which was pretty cheap for the area. And I continued south toward Stockton for the groceries.
Crossing the Feather River en route home.
I called ahead and advised Walmart that I’d be a few minutes late, and pulled into the pickup area just 10 minutes late. They were very busy as Walmart seems to have their “new” pickup service gaining more customers every day. Even so, I didn’t wait long. I was heading home within a half hour or so.
Parked at Walmart in Stockton for my grocery pickup. That pickup business has really grown for them, and it really is very convenient.
It was good to pull into our senior community at noon. I drove up to our house and was, after 16 days on the road, home!
Home again! To quote a plaque on the door of our fridge, No matter where you may roam, the best part is coming home!
Our son, Craig, was having lunch with his mom, which she told me earlier was planned. But soon after I arrived, he had to head back to his office for a meeting. He is a very busy fellow, too busy we think, running a business in three locations with well over a hundred employees.
Once home, my work had just begun. First of all, the frozen and refrigerated groceries had to be brought in and put away. Then I brought in the rest of the groceries. Then all the stuff I loaded for the two week – or longer – adventure.
When Big Blue was finally unloaded, I idled her down to the RV lot and put her away. Dumping the tanks and washing her end caps and rims would wait ’til morning.
I thanked her profusely for the wonderful adventure we’d just enjoyed together. She ran like a top the entire trip. She kept me warm on cool mornings, and comfortable and cool on the hot, August afternoons and evenings. I was very pleased with her.
My adventure into Oregon, Idaho and Montana was 3,042 miles according to the odometer. I’d scratched my itch to go bummin’ around the country, and was ready to settle down at home for a while.
Next, we’d be heading to Denver to visit our son, Allen and his wife, Nancy, in less than a month. I would pass some of the time ’til then getting Big Blue all cleaned up and ready to hit the road again! Stay tuned…