…Oregon, Maybe – If We Can Find it In the Ashes.
Day 1, Sunday, September 20, Home to Gridley via CA99: 120 miles
Hallelujah! It was finally time to hit the road again, and I had been so antsy to do just that. Back in my fishing days, over five years ago, I had my fishing to keep me entertained as well as RVing. These days, RVing is my only activity other than the occasional Honda scooter ride and daily walk that keep me out of my recliner – but not nearly enough.
We had planned to leave four days earlier and visit Jill and Craig, our niece and nephew in La Pine, Oregon before heading east to Denver. But they had so many fires and such smoky air that we chose to visit our kids in Denver first. Then, if there was an Oregon left in a couple of weeks, we’d head there en route home. Hopefully the place wouldn’t actually burn to the ground, but with all their fires, much like Kalifornistan, it seemed possible!
I had spent days getting Big Blue ready for the trip. My main project was the installation of a couple of small computer type fans to properly vent the fridge. It seemed to lose its cool pretty badly in hot weather. According to much I read on the issue, the fix was to place a fan in the vent that runs from the bottom grill on the outside of the coach up and through a vent on the roof. So that’s exactly what I did, and I believe it did the trick. The outside temps reached 90° on Day 1, and the fridge warmed up to 46° after several openings to prepare lunch. I then turned on the fans and it cooled down nicely.
Of course my days of preparation each lasted only a couple of hours or so. I simply can’t put in much physical work for longer than that in my old age. So I spread the work over several days and it all gets done. At 76 years old and living in a senior gated community, I’ve seen many old folks that can’t do the things I still can, so I am ever so thankful to still be RVing and I hope to still be hitting the road into my 80s!
When the big day finally came to load Big Blue for our adventure to Oregon and Colorado, she was spic and span inside and out. The last day before leaving each trip, my final job is to make the “bling” sparkle brightly – that includes the polished aluminum wheels and the mirror finish of the mud flap at the rear of the coach. Vanity such as mine demands a lot of work!
Packin’ the stuff away as I loaded the fridge – and so much more.
After two hours of packing all the stuff into the coach, we were ready to leave. We finally climbed aboard and pulled out of our little senior community a few minutes after 1100 hours and headed north on CA99.
We fought the traffic through Sacramento, then continued north toward the small town of Gridley. My sis, Gale, and her husband, John, live in the country near there. We arrived at their place at 1430 hours, having stopped for a bit of grocery shopping plus lunch in nearby Yuba City.
This is the First Class section aboard Big Blue. Well, the whole coach is First Class, I’d say. My cute lil’ Trail Buddy seemed to be enjoying the ride. It is a very comfortable way to travel – and the view from those gigantic windows is absolutely First Class.
Click the photos below 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.):
Gale suffers from Parkinson’s Disease, and cannot walk. Her very loving John cares for her full time, and he would have it no other way. My dear sis was over medicated something awful by the doctor she was seeing, and hospice took her off the meds that caused her so many issues. She no longer has hospice care, which was a great help, but they’ll be back if she continues to decline. For now, without the overmedication, she’s doing much better mentally and is much like her old self.
We spent the afternoon visiting and munching on a few snacks. When dinner time rolled around, Lavonne whipped up some delicious barbecued pulled pork over hamburger buns that we had brought along. Gale loves the stuff, and we’ve brought it several times. Along with a salad John provided, we had a very good dinner. We also brought along some fresh strawberries and strawberry cake, and we enjoyed strawberry and cake for dessert. It was delicious.
Our strawberry “shortcake”, made with strawberry cake and, we think, better’n shortcake! mmmmmmm. Delicious!
My cute lil’ Trail Buddy, Lavonne, and I along with Big Blue for the obligatory photo on Gale and John’s driveway out in the country near Gridley.
Lavonne (L), Gale (seated), John, and that handsome Tom Selleck look alike, Dale. Not a bad photo for a bunch of old folks!
We continued visiting ’til 1900 hours, then returned to the coach for the night. We like to let them have their normal evening routine without being in their way, and having Big Blue in the driveway made that possible and very comfortable for us. We love visiting and having our own home in the driveway!
Back at the coach, Lavonne and I whiled away the evening on our computers, as usual. I began this travelogue as she visited her favorite websites – much as we do when we’re at home. Life is good aboard Big Blue!
After blogging away most of the evening, I watched a few YouTube videos before heading to bed around 2330 hours – about an hour after my Trail Buddy had called it a day. It had been a good day.
Day 2, Monday, Sept 21, Gridley, CA to Winnemucca, NV via CA99, CA65, I-80: 326 miles
We were up to greet the new day at our usual 0630, and the night had been pretty cool. I turned on the furnace and water heater first thing. Then we began our day working through the usual morning chores and brewing our first cups of coffee.
After time in the coach, we headed into the house and enjoyed a fairly quick breakfast with Gale – John had eaten earlier. I enjoyed a breakfast sandwich and Lavonne and Gale enjoyed their choices of several available. And soon it was time to thank Gale and John for the overnight stay, and to bid them good-bye. We pulled out of their driveway to continue our trip at 0930 hours.
We would take a round-about drive to Nevada as our usual CA20 was a mess due to construction. I didn’t want to deal with a half dozen (or more) delays as I did during my drive home from Montana in August. We’d head south, backtracking miles of the prior day’s drive ’til we got to I-80 near Rocklin and Roseville. It would add 30 miles or so to the day’s drive, but would eliminate the frustrations and delays along CA20. It would be worth it.
Click to enlarge and read captions:
When we finally reached Donner Summit at 7224 feet elevation, we pulled into the rest area – I needed a break from the long climb. I told my Trail Buddy that if, during my truckin’ days, I had to run Donner, I’d find another job. It is a seemingly endless drive up and over, and a long drive back down – both ways. And in the winter it can be one miserable, snowy drive with closures all too often.
More click fun:
After shooting a few photos and a bit of a rest at the summit, we began the descent from Donner, through and beyond Reno to the town of Fernley where we pulled into a Mickey D’s for lunch. I hadn’t had a McDonald’s meal for months, and was overdue. It seems that most, if not all of their Kalifornistan stores have only the drive through open, and I don’t care for them. I was hankerin’ for a McGriddle with sausage, egg, and cheese. And for a McFlurry. And I also ordered a large coffee. Lavonne wanted a Filet O’ Fish, and we split an order of fries. I thoroughly enjoyed that junk food meal! And we pressed on toward Winnemucca. As I drove I enjoyed the McFlurry and the coffee – I do know how to have a good time!
I hoped that the smoke would thin and fade away, but it never did. During my August trip to Montana and back, I hoped for the same, and never did get out of the smoke. Maybe this trip would be the same.
We arrived at the Winnemucca Walmart at 1630 hours. After setting up the coach for the night, we headed into the store for some groceries and supplies. The afternoon was warm, in the mid 80s, but at over 4000 feet, things cooled off quickly after sundown. The overnight low was predicted to be in the 50s.
This is the home we own in Winnemucca, Nevada. And it’s mobile!
Back at the coach we settled in for the night. We had dinner aboard, always the better choice, I think, and especially after the junk food lunch. After the usual evening chores we settled down, as usual, at the table and our laptops. I edited photos and wrote more travelogue as Lavonne visited her favorite websites.
Lavonne headed to bed about an hour ahead of me, and after the blogging I watched some WWII documentary as I often do. I also enjoyed a couple cool ones before bedtime. I finally hit the sack at 2330 hours and slept well.
Day 3, Tuesday, Sept 22 – the 1st day of autumn, Winnemucca, NV to Tooele, UT via I-80: 337 miles
We were up and about at our usual 0630 and greeted the new day and the newly arrived autumn season. It arrived about 0630 hours, so we awoke to a spanking new season!
We worked through morning chores, including tending the bugs on the giant windshields. We also spent a bit of time on the laptops perusing our usual websites with the day’s first cups of coffee as we got our day started properly. We chose to leave before having breakfast, as we’d have it a few miles into the day’s drive.
The next order of business was to drive into town to one of two Maverik gas stations where diesel sold for just $2.20 per. I filled up with 66 gallons and felt pretty pleased with myself. I save a lot of fuel money by shopping online for price. I also have a credit card that rewards me 5%, credited every month, on gas and diesel – and not for just a short period of time. I’ve been getting that 5% reward for years. Interested? It’s the Pen Fed Cash Reward card.
After fueling, we drove the short distance to I-80 and continued east toward wherever we would wind up, as we weren’t sure. We wanted to meet our granddaughter in Salt Lake City, but she didn’t get back to us in time to set a date. We thought we’d meet her at Salt Lake City’s Parley Ave. Walmart, so that was a possible destination for the day. As things turned out, we wound up at Tooele, Utah’s Walmart. It was a shorter distance, not quite to Salt Lake City. And I’m ahead of myself already.
We pulled into the Valmy Rest Area some 40 miles east of Winnemucca for breakfast aboard Dale’s Diner. The place was closed, as were most Nevada rest areas, but there was plenty of room to park outside the gate, and we did. We had oatmeal for breakfast, then took a few minutes to peruse the ‘net a bit before continuing.
The drive was ideal except for the smoke which was still everywhere along the drive. Many photos I took were pretty poor because of it. I was beginning to think that we’d never drive out of it, but time would tell.
We stopped at a Mickey D’s in Wendover, Nevada for some treats. I really went off the diet there, ordering a snack size McFlurry which is soft serve ice cream with Oreo cookies mixed in, and since pumpkin pies were again in season (!), I had to have one. Lavonne wanted a caramel sundae, and I brought that back to the coach, too. We enjoyed the treats as we continued east.
Very soon after leaving Wendover, NV we crossed the state line into Utah, and lost an hour as we did so. The next hundred miles, and more, was mostly salt flats. We enjoyed a good tail wind most of the time, and that’s always welcome.
More to click:
As we drove across the salt flats we decided to stop for the night in Tooele (Too-el-ah), Utah. Their welcoming Walmart is about 10 miles out of our way, but we’ve stayed there before and liked it. Tooele is about 40 miles from the east side of SLC where we’d have stayed to see our granddaughter, and since we hadn’t heard from her, we chose the closer stop for the night.
When we arrived, I set up the coach for the night. It was in the mid 80s when we arrived, and we ran the air conditioners ’til after sundown. I took my daily walk around the area soon after arriving, and I discovered we were very near a Panda Express. Uh-oh.
So, come dinner time, I headed to Panda and brought my favorite meal to the coach along with an order of Mexican food from a nearby Mexican restaurant for Lavonne. We enjoyed the delicious and fattening food, and promised to behave the next day. I’m pretty forgiving of myself on these coach trips. After all, even though we haven’t worked for over 18 years, we can still call these trips a vacation! A vacation from what, I’m not sure, perhaps it was a vacation from good eating, but that was good enough for me.
We spent most of the evening as usual, clacking away on the laptops. We were blessed with a brief but blustery rain squall which I had hoped for since we had seen a lot of threatening clouds before sunset. We loved the short rain as we rarely see any rain this time of year back home.
The evening of Day 3 unfolded as usual. After the blogging, I watched more WWII documentary as I enjoyed a couple cool ones before retiring about 2330.
Day 4, Wed., Sept. 23, Tooele, UT to Rock Springs, WY via I-80: 210 miles
I managed to save myself a considerable amount of work for Day 4. This day’s travelogue appears with few photos because in the evening when I began editing photos, my old mind failed me once again. I was distracted during the process of uploading the photos from the camera to the laptop, and before properly saving them to the laptop, I deleted them, never to be recovered. So… I had none of my photos to edit or to post for the day, but there were a very few I posted that Lavonne took with her iPhone. I had only to write a rather abbreviated report of the drive, as it’s pretty dry stuff without photos.
Our drive began at 0830 when we drove across Salt Lake City to a Walmart where our granddaughter, Erica, would meet us for coffee in the coach. We arrived there about 0915 and a few minutes later she joined us. We had a lovely visit with her, and of course took a few photos of our little gathering, all but one of which were deleted.
Erica with her sweet little Roxy, a most gentle and lovable lil’ pooch. We don’t see Erica nearly enough, and when we do, it’s always a very warm and loving time together.
Our visit lasted ‘til nearly 1100 hours, when she had to head to work and we continued east toward Denver where we’d visit with Erica’s parents for the weekend.
We resumed our drive by heading up the long climb to Parley’s Summit on I-80 to the Park City area. We continued the drive through the beautiful Coalville area and on into Wyoming. Shortly after crossing the state line, we pulled into Wyoming’s “Information Center” which included a rest area with a RV dump. I dumped the tanks and filled the fresh water tank, and were good ‘til we’d arrive at the Cherry Creek State Park in Denver on Friday.
The drive was helped along through Wyoming with a good, strong tailwind which I love as it saves fuel. We pulled into the Rock Springs, Wyoming Walmart lot a few minutes before 1600 hours. It was a lovely mid 70s day in Rock Springs. As soon as we settled in, I took my daily walk around the lot.
We spent the afternoon and evening aboard Big Blue as usual, plus we played a game of Dominoes as we enjoyed a margarita with the game. We’ve never had a table game along before, but it was a nice way to spend an hour or so.
We ate dinner aboard, too, which we enjoyed – especially after the prior night’s pig-out. The ‘net was painfully slow in Rock Springs, and I wrote this blog on a document to post the next day in the next location. Usually a slow ‘net speeds up after commute hours, but by 0800 it was still so slow as to be useless.
Our evening aboard was comfy, and we retired at our usual times. The outside temps dropped into the mid-40s overnight, but we stayed warm in the coach.
Day 5, Thursday, Sept. 24, Rock Springs, WY to Cheyenne, WY via I-80: 260 miles
Our night was cozy and restful and we were one of several RVers in the lot overnight. Having set the clocks ahead one hour to be accurate in the Mountain Time Zone, we awoke to an unusually dark morning around 0630. But the sun rose at its usual time even though we weren’t on our usual time.
We woke up to what was a Walmart RV Park the morning of Day 5. WallyDocking is a popular way to travel. Click to enlarge.
The ‘net was still very slow, and never did improve while we were there. I began the day’s travelogue by continuing to write on a document which I would upload at a later time and a more accommodating place. A check of the online AT&T coverage map (the page took five minutes to load!), which our Consumer Cellular uses, showed most of the length of I-80 in Wyoming to be “off net”, or using another carrier’s network. Even so, we’ve had much better service over the years in Wyoming. My hunch was that we’d find much better coverage in Rawlins, where we’d be stopping to fuel up at the local Walmart during the day’s drive.
After the usual morning aboard the coach, we pulled out of the Rock Springs Walmart lot at 0800 and continued east on I-80 toward Cheyenne, where we planned to spend the night. The one redeeming grace of I-80 in Wyoming instead of taking U.S. Highways is that it’s pretty lightly traveled. It seems that the traffic is mostly commercial vehicles simply driving through Wyoming to get somewhere else – just as we were doing.
More click fun!
Within an hour after we left Rock Springs, we pulled into a rest area and whipped up breakfast at yet another Dale’s Diner we found there. Our choice was toaster waffles and sugar free syrup. mmmmm. It was not exactly gourmet dining, but it was quick and tasty. We chased the waffles with fresh fruit. And we continued east.
I had shopped online earlier for the best diesel prices, and found it to sell at Rawlins’ Walmart store for just $2.10 per. I had to have some! Long before we got there, that annoying, flashing warning on the dash board lit up to tell me I was low on fuel. As mentioned often in the past, it warned me that I had over 20 gallons of fuel left at a quarter tank. Twenty gallons was good for over 150 miles! I hate that very unnecessary light.
I drove for miles, and the gauge showed I had only a sixteenth of a tank left when we arrived at Rawlins. In fact, I pumped on 75 gallons of the stuff, which meant I still had 15+ gallons on board – which was actually a sixth of a tank. At any rate, I was very pleased with my purchase, and we continued eastbound.
Big Blue getting her diesel fix at Rawlins, Wyoming’s Walmart gas station. At only $2.10 per, I was very pleased to have room for 75 gallons of the stuff.
We stopped at a rest area for lunch about 50 miles before Cheyenne, our planned stop for the night. We whipped up sandwiches for a quick and easy lunch. We would arrive in Cheyenne earlier than we usually land for the night, and planned to get some shopping done.
More to click and enjoy (and good stuff to read on this collection):
We arrived at the Livingston Avenue Walmart in Cheyenne about 1430 hours. It was a warm 85° day in Cheyenne, and once Big Blue was set up for the night, we headed into the store for the shopping we had to do. We each grabbed a cart and split the list between us.
We made pretty good time shopping, and were soon back at the coach where we found it to be uncomfortably warm. I had left some windows open, hoping that would keep the coach cool enough, but it certainly didn’t. I fired up the generator and we ran the air conditioners the rest of the afternoon to stay comfortable.
After putting the groceries away, we both sat at our computers most of the remaining afternoon. We found that the Walmart wifi, even way out in the distant part of the lot where we were parked, worked just fine. It uploaded these travelogue photos very quickly, and we were very pleased with it.
Big Blue at one of two Cheyenne, Wyoming Walmarts for the night. That’s the Walmart gas station behind her, and it sold diesel for even less than the Rawlins store did – it was just $2.08.
Our evening was as usual, and we spent the entire time aboard. I didn’t take my usual walk as Cheyenne is over 6000′, and I tire so quickly at that altitude that just the shopping was my day’s walk. (However, having checked the elevation of Rock Springs, where I did walk the day before, was also over 6000 feet.)
After a quiet and relaxing evening, Lavonne called it a day and headed for bed shortly after 2200 hours. I continued watching a DVD movie I’d seen only once, titled Flyboys. It was “inspired” by a true story about the short, insane lives of WWI fighter pilots and their flying crates of wood and canvas. Those pilots didn’t even use parachutes! I continued watching ’til bedtime which was the usual 2330. It had been a good day and the following day we’d arrive at Cherry Creek State Park near Allen and Nancy’s where we’d visit for the weekend!
Day 6, Friday, Sept 25, Cheyenne, WY to Cherry Creek State Park in Aurora (Denver), CO via I-80, I-25, I-70, I-225: 121 miles
We enjoyed a restful, comfortable night at our vacation home in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Although there was an interstate highway on one side of the Walmart and a railroad on the other, they didn’t disturb us. The occasional passing train never sounded a horn as they rumbled by.
We were up and about a bit after 0630 hours, looking forward to the relatively short drive to Cherry Creek State Park. We had always parked at the kids’ home where there was plenty of room for Big Blue in their driveway. It was an ideal arrangement, but they sold their lovely home and its sprawling property since our last visit. They moved to a new home which is on a much smaller property. We cannot park anywhere near their home as their HOA is much too sophisticated to allow RVs. So…
We’d park for the weekend, about eight miles from their home, in one of Cherry Creek Park’s many RV spaces with full hookups. We reserved the most remote space we could find, but would still have a neighboring RV across the road from us. I don’t like such places and haven’t stayed at one in years. I was hopeful that we wouldn’t be near any yappy dogs, screaming kids, or loud music. We would soon find out.
This is an online photo of one of the RV spaces at Cherry Creek State Park. I was hopeful that ours would be similar. (Photo courtesy of Tripadvisor.)
We took our time in Cheyenne as we had only about 120 miles to drive, and our check-in time wasn’t ’til 1300 hours. We had a leisurely breakfast before beginning our drive. It was about 1000 hours when we pulled out of Cheyenne and headed west a few miles, back to I-25. We turned south there and began a rough drive along a very neglected interstate that I’d bet was as bad or worse than any in Kalifornistan. Colorado seemed to be in decline if their I-25 was any indication.
I drove in the smoother left lane to take this photo of the beat-up right lane. Some sections of I-25 have been neglected for far too long.
Click to enlarge and read captions:
As we approached the worst of the Denver metro area traffic, we turned onto E470, a toll highway that bypassed Denver and had a small fraction of the I-25 traffic we’d been fighting to that point. It was much like driving I-80 in Wyoming in that it was pretty empty. Some miles later, we headed west a short distance on I-70 before continuing south on I-225 for a few miles to the turn off for Cherry Creek State Park.
We found the park roads very easy to negotiate. First we parked at the office for the campground, and checked in. We had already paid for the space for three nights, and to that we had to cough up another $11 per day for a so-called Vehicle Pass, $33 total, for the only vehicle we had. The fact that said vehicle would be parked and off the roads the entire time mattered not a whit. Not a bad racket to be into, and as a government run state park, they doubtless had lots of practice pulling such stunts.
So the cost of our space totaled $52 per night – more than I’ve ever paid for any parking. But the place seemed so sparsely populated that maybe it would be worth it.
Here are a few photos of our lovely space. Just click to enlarge:
The park has several entrances, and when one does find the right one, our space was about as far back in the campground as it could be. It was pretty frustrating for Allen to find us, but he persevered and finally parked behind the coach for a visit. Nancy sells real estate and had an appointment to keep, so she was unable to join us.
We talked about timing our visits since we were about eight miles from their home. Allen invited us for the evening, and Lavonne was eager to go. I did not wish to go anywhere that evening as I’d been driving through enough traffic for one day. I wasn’t sure just how often I’d be visiting them as the new arrangement was such a hassle compared to the good ol’ days when we could park in their driveway.
Lavonne and I had agreed earlier that if she wanted to spend the next couple of days with them, that would be a grand idea. After lunch I spent some time visiting with Allen while Lavonne packed her things. When her things were ready, Allen and I loaded them into his car. When she was ready, they left for the night, and I stayed put. When we could park at their home, Lavonne would spend the nights in their home and I’d stay in the coach. We were both happy to do so as she prefers a “real” house and facilities while I love living aboard Big Blue. As strange as our visiting arrangements may seem, it worked well for us. I am always happier aboard the coach!
After Lavonne and Allen left, I kept pretty busy writing and posting photos, etc. I also took my daily walk around the park and found it to be a very nice place all ’round. There’s plenty of room for everyone, the place seems well run, and it is quiet. Quiet is very important to this ol’ geezer!
The lovely park provides a beautiful landscape and quiet solitude while walking. It’s good they built so few RV spaces for the size of the place as that makes the place seem quite rural. (Photo courtesy campsitephotos.com )
After my walk I returned to the coach for the evening. My day wound down as usual except that my ‘lil Trail Buddy was missing. She would enjoy very much spending time with the kids in their lovely new home. I didn’t mind being alone a bit – I like solitude. All was well for both of us.
I just whipped up a sandwich for dinner as I was not hungry, an unusual condition for me. I edited photos and blogged for some time, then began watching a science documentary I streamed from Curiosity Stream. I enjoyed a couple cool ones later in the evening, and retired at my usual 2330 hours.
Day 7, Saturday, Sept 26, time with family
I was up at the usual 0630 to begin the new day. I would be picked up later by Allen to spend the day at their home – and to see it for the first time. During the morning I zapped a diet breakfast sandwich which I chased with a fresh mandarin. After a few chores around the coach, I took my daily walk around the very nice campground.
Allen picked me up sometime around 1100 hours and drove me to their place where I greeted my dear Lavonne, and our daughter-in-law, Nancy. As usual when we get together, eating was my major activity of the day. For lunch I made a delicious sandwich with the great fixins’ Nancy set out for us.
We visited the afternoon away while playing a new game they introduced us to, called Rummikub (pronounced rummy cube). It is a numbers game that requires more strategic thinking than I could muster without more practice, and we played for about three hours or so. I’m usually not much into table games, but Rummikub is very demanding, and it was fun working up a proper strategy to win the game. I enjoyed it enough to be thinking about buying a set to play at home. (Back home, a Rummikub game arrived from Nancy as she saw we really enjoyed it. What a sweetie!)
Game time as we whiled away much of the afternoon playing Rummikub. It was a very challenging game.
While it was in the 80s outside, the house was too cool for this ol’ heart patient who struggles to stay warm even in the low 70s. So I asked to borrow a sweatshirt, and then the laughs began. Nancy grabbed one of hers, and I gladly struggled to get it on to get warm. I didn’t pay any attention to the printing on it, but Nancy grabbed the camera and shot a few photos of my struggles getting into a slightly too small shirt with the altogether wrong sentiments printed on it. For further persecution and some laughs for my dear readers, I promised Nancy to be a good sport and would post them to my site…
…so please click to enlarge and read the captions and enjoy a chuckle on me:
We continued playing Rummikub through most of the afternoon with a short TV break for a while as we all watched the SCOTUS nomination on TV. Then we were back playing the game along with a few margaritas served up by Nancy. They were delicious!
Nancy provided the margaritas as we played the afternoon away.
Soon dinnertime rolled around. Allen is always ready to fire up the grill when we visit, and he did another masterful job of grilling steaks for us. Nancy’s mom, Norma, joined us for dinner and we always enjoy her company.
Dinner was served up by Allen and Nancy, and it was a real feast! That’s (L-R) Norma, Nancy, Allen, Dale, and Lavonne. Click to enlarge.
Allen offered up rib eye steaks and filet mignons, and I loved the thick, juicy filet he grilled just right for me. I like ’em rare with a warm center, and that’s just what he prepared. Nancy whipped up “twice baked potatoes” and asparagus, and they were also perfect. It was a great meal and we surely enjoyed it.
As mentioned in prior posts, my kitchen talent is limited to unskilled labor, which I’m very good at. So I began collecting the dishes and worked through them in the kitchen, rinsing and putting them in the dishwasher. I also washed the pans and utensils, etc. It was the least I could do, and it was my pleasure to save the gals at least that much work.
After dinner, it was time for Allen to drive me back to the coach for the night. I bid everyone goodnight, kissed and hugged my Trail Buddy goodnight, and joined Allen in the car for the drive. It had been a very fun day with family, and also a day of wonderful feasts.
Back aboard Big Blue, my evening unfolded as usual. I updated this travelogue, enjoyed a couple of my cool ones and caught up on my comics and email. I called it a day and headed to bed at the usual 2330 hours. It had been a wonderful day with family.
Day 8, Sunday, Sept 27, another fun day with family
I slept well, as usual, and was up and at ’em a bit before 0700 hours. A change in weather was predicted, and it surely had cooled down. I dug out a portable electric radiator heater from the closet and turned it on the prior evening and ran it all night to help keep the coach tolerable. The overnight low was in the 40s. Since we were paying for the park’s electricity, I figured to save a bit of propane, and it worked pretty well the entire morning.
The weather was much cooler on Day 8, with a small chance of rain. I checked our planned route’s weather thinking perhaps the cooler weather would lead to wintry weather, but all seemed fine. It seemed that summer would be holding on for at least the next week. Denver had a winter like snow storm just a couple of weeks earlier, and we didn’t want to deal with such weather.
The day’s plan was similar to the prior day, except that I’d be absolutely sure to bring my own sweatshirt, one that didn’t label me Crazy Woman. And perhaps I’d even take a coat along to the kids’ place!
Meanwhile, I wanted to take my morning walk around the much cooler park. It was in the 40s out there, and I had to bundle up. I really do have a hard time staying warm, probably because of my heart issues and less then average circulation. I brought along a warm coat and long johns for the trip, because I knew this time of year I might need them. I donned the winter wear, and headed out on my walk. It was cold, for sure, but I got in my 25 minute walk.
Bundled up for the wintry walk. Next to me is the electric radiator that kept the coach above 70° even when outside temps were in the 40s. I like saving propane!
During my walk I noticed a number of folks packing up and leaving the park. The next day would be Monday, and I reckoned that many had to head home to face the new week. There were others coming into the park as well, and the neighbor closest to me left and was replaced during the day.
It was a bit after noon when Allen came by to pick me up. We headed back to the house where the four of us would repeat the prior day. Nancy prepared some wonderful tacos for lunch with finely seasoned beef from the steaks of the prior evening. I don’t know what magic she worked for that beef to taste so wonderful, but it was the finest taco meat I’d every tasted. Nancy has an unfair advantage over most people when it comes to Mexican cuisine. She was born and raised in New Mexico by her Mexican parents and she learned southwestern cooking first hand from the experts.
When dinner rolled around, Allen prepared grilled chicken thighs, and blackened them to perfection, just as I love them. They were prepared (seasoned) by Nancy so they were unusually flavorful. Allen had grilled an extra eight of them for me to take home. mmmm. They’d be delicious for a long time as I froze four of them, and put four in the fridge for meals on the road.
The rest of the day was much like the prior day. We again played Rummikub for a long time, and I actually won one round myself.
Allen drove us back to the coach at 1930 hours. We noticed that it had rained a bit as we pulled out of their place, and it again rained a small amount later that evening. The next day we’d be heading west to Oregon!
Our evening unfolded as usual. Lavonne got settled back in the coach after spending the prior couple of days at Allen and Nancy’s. I spent most of my evening on the laptop, naturally, updating this travelogue and watching more Curiosity Stream documentary. The current subject was “Are We Alone?” The thinking of those who study such things seems to be that we cannot be alone, although the likelihood is that up to a billion civilizations exist or did exist in our galaxy. Myself, I prefer to think about RVing and visiting family and cleaning up the dishes – such things are so much more down to earth – and much less speculative. I could say the same about the couple of vodka collins’ I enjoyed as I watched.
Lavonne went to bed a bit after 2200 hours. I joined her at 2330 hours, as usual, and slept well.
Day 8, Monday, Sept 28, Aurora, CO to Rawlins, WY via I-225, E470, I-25, US287, I-80: 242 miles
When I awoke around 0630 hours and stepped out of the bedroom, Lavonne was already at the table on her laptop. Outside it was in the 40s, and granted, the heater kept that section of the coach around 64 degrees overnight, but it was cold to me – yet it hadn’t occurred to her to turn up the heat because she was comfortable. She sat in her PJs, busy on the ‘puter and her usual cheerful self. I turned the heater up at once and wondered how in the world she could be so much tougher than me!
I had a busy morning since we’d be heading for Oregon. After morning chores and some time on the laptop, I began getting the coach ready for the day’s drive. I cleaned the massive windshields first. Then I loaded on fresh water and dumped the holding tanks. Before we left, we whipped up breakfast. I zapped a breakfast sandwich and had a couple small mandarin oranges for dessert. After making a large travel mug of coffee, we were finally ready and pulled out of the park at 1000 hours.
Driving out of Cherry Creek State Park in Colorado. We very much enjoyed the solitude and quiet in the sparsely populated camping area where we stayed. We planned to be back!
We again avoided much of the rotten traffic of Denver by heading for the E470 toll road. The E470 has no toll booths; they simply photograph vehicles and send a bill – and save millions of dollars every year! (For the relative short distances the two times we drove on E470, we received a bill about a month later for something over $18. It wasn’t cheap, but for the few times we use it to avoid the worst of Denver, it was worth it to us.) We would retrace our route to I-80 except that we’d cut the corner by taking US287 from Fort Collins, CO to Laramie, WY and miss Cheyenne altogether. The drive still climbed to over 8000 feet, similar to the 8,640 foot Sherman Summit on I-80 which we’d also miss. The wind was an issue all day; it was a very strong headwind from the west, up to, I’d say, 40 MPH or more. When one drives in Wyoming, wind should be expected – it is a very windy state. I believe Wyoming is an old Indian name that means Wind.
US287, once out of Ft. Collins, is a very scenic drive. It’s a two lane highway with many passing lanes as it passes over what I believe are the Laramie Mountains. The summit is around 8,050 feet according to the Garmin navigator.
Here are some photos of the beauty of US287 over the Laramie Mountains. Click to enlarge:
Once over the summit, we drove on to Laramie, WY and I-80. We took the ramp to west bound I-80 and drove a few miles to a parking area, which is essentially parking only, with no restrooms as the rest areas have. We had lunch there, and I enjoyed one of Allen’s delicious chicken thighs. I just can’t get over the flavor of those blackened, skin-on thighs. I also had a slice of bread and an apple. What a delicious lunch it was. Blackened chicken thighs aren’t a favorite of Lavonne, so she enjoyed cheese and crackers. It’s good she isn’t interested in my chicken – all the more for me!
More click fun:
We arrived at the Rawlins, WY Walmart store a few minutes before 1600 hours. We were early enough for me to head into the store for some grocery shopping, and I did. It was pretty small for a Walmart, and it was very well stocked – but with fewer choices.
After shopping and putting away the groceries, I began editing photos and deleting many. When dinnertime rolled around, I couldn’t get those black chicken thighs off my mind, so I had another for dinner with some creamed corn. I enjoyed that thigh as much as any so far – I’m not likely to tire of them at all. I had four in the fridge for this trip that are now down to two. And four in the freezer to be saved ’til we were back home.
After chores and dinner were done, I settled down with my Trail Buddy at the table and we spent the evening on the computers. To help keep warm, I pulled the curtain to close off the cockpit from the living room, and brought the slide back in. That made for a smaller room to heat, and it helped. I wore my long johns, sweat shirt and robe most of the evening to keep warm. I’m such a wimp – I couldn’t possibly survive in cold country. I barely get by at home in the winter, it seems – but at least I have a hot tub there!
When I called it a day and headed to bed about 2330, it was mid 40s outside. I was surprised; perhaps the night wouldn’t be so cold. I set the bedroom at 65° and the living room at 63° overnight. Whatever the outdoor temps might be, we’d be cozy in Big Blue.
Day 10, Tuesday, Sept 29, Rawlins, WY to Ogden, UT via I-80, I-84: 207 miles
We awoke to a cool, but tolerable 40° in Rawlins and were part of what looked like the local Walmart RV Park. There were several RVs that joined us, along with a big rig or two. The night was quiet and restful and we slept well.
We worked through the morning chores, then sat at our laptops to catch up with the news, the comics, and our email, etc. We took time for breakfast, too, before leaving.
As we began the day’s drive a few minutes after 0900 hours, we simply drove across the parking lot to Walmart’s gas station where they were selling diesel for just $2.09 per. We had stopped there just five days earlier to fuel up en route to Denver. We didn’t need fuel yet, but they had the best price I knew of and I couldn’t pass up the bargain.
And then we continued west to Oregon to visit our niece, Jill, and hubby, Craig. I’d just received an email from Jill telling us the weather was predicted to be fine, and that smoke conditions were improved for our visit. Great! We were hoping for the good news that Oregon hadn’t burnt away completely.
Our drive through Wyoming was, naturally, windy. I’d read forecasts of lighter winds, but of course that didn’t stop the infernal wind. Such driving is very tiring, and it took its toll on me, and more than usual for some reason. I’d been at mile high and higher elevation for days, and I suspected that was why.
This crane mounted flag attests to the predictable Wyoming wind we dealt with – and it blew virtually all day long.
Wyoming is very scenic in a primitive sort of way. There are many formations along the drive that are very dramatic if only because they’re so large and the country so wide open and very, very empty. I shot a number of photos of the scenery, as I always do, and will post them as a gallery without captions – the photos can speak for themselves much better than I…
…so please click and enjoy:
How do they do it?! Less than an hour before driving by this Love’s station, selling diesel for $2.60 per, I had filled up for just $2.09 per at Walmart. Of course truckers don’t pay anywhere near the posted price, but those who simply pull in and gas or fuel up their cars, RVs, etc. are paying waaaay too much. It is good to sell gas and diesel near the major highways where people are willing to pay more for the convenience – but for me, it is not good to buy there!
The wind continued its attempts to blow Big Blue off the road, and I was just getting pretty darn tired of it. When we saw the Little America signs advertising those “famous” 75¢ soft ice cream cones, we thought that was a pretty good opportunity for lunch and to rest a bit. And so we pulled into the place and parked.
We whipped up our lunches first. I enjoyed a meat loaf sandwich and an apple while my Trail Buddy zapped an enchilada and cheese frozen meal. It was actually just half of an enchilada meal as she always gets two meals out of one small frozen dinner. And then it was time for our ice cream cones.
Click to enlarge and read the captions of our Little America visit:
We walked into the restaurant and ordered one each, then headed back to the coach to enjoy them. We were right – Little America was a restful stop and we enjoyed it. We rarely stop there as it is quite the tourist attraction with too many people and much activity. And we continued our drive.
The wind seemed calmer during our ice cream stop, but it must have been due to all the sheltering buildings and trees. Once back on the highway it seemed to continue blowing as much as ever. I began considering a shorter drive for the day, and figured we could stop at Evanston, Wyoming’s Walmart for the night. And why not?! I’d had it fighting the wind, and we had 200 miles behind us. We pulled into Walmart at 1440 hours.
The place was a truck stop! At the far end of the lot from the store at least eight semis were parked. After scouting the lot for the most level, quiet place away from entrance and exit traffic, we settled in near the trucks. Ugh. And beyond the trucks was a railroad that may have been a rail yard. We often heard rumbling locomotives slowly pass. Fortunately, there were no locomotives blowing their horns. All things considered, I thought we might be in for a less than perfect night.
Parked at Evanston’s Walmart for the night. Maybe we should have kept driving – ?
To add boredom to the mix, we had only a 3G signal on our cell network, which meant we could not get online – at least with our phones’ hot spots. I’ve driven across Wyoming for years, and never had so many areas without 4G and/or LTE coverage. Had I known we’d have no internet, I’d likely have kept driving.
We had only an AM/FM/XM radio to listen to. Without our beloved ‘net, we had no home news, no website to update, no comics, no weather reports, no email, nothing. I couldn’t even use my iPhone at the self-checkout register using “Walmart Pay” which reads the QR code and automatically charges my credit card. I did learn, though, how dependent we have become on the ‘net. I had even removed the TVs in the coach because virtually everything can be watched online these days.
So, we who have been spoiled rotten by the ‘net, made the best of a ‘net-less situation. Lavonne had her tablet to play word games. I simply edited and saved the day’s photos to post later. I wrote the travelogue for the day on a document. And I had my DVDs to watch. We managed evening chores including dinner, as usual. Things weren’t really so bad.
Lavonne whipped up margaritas to help us through our imagined trials. They were delicious, having been blended with strawberry flavored mix. It was nearly as sweet as soda pop, but much more enjoyable.
We tried to listen on the radio to the first presidential debate of the campaigns. Both sides talked over each other and the moderator continually. I told Lavonne it was more like a couple of school kids fighting over which dad could whip the other. We finally turned it off in disgust. It was awful.
I finished watching the WWI movie Fly Boys which, unlike most movies I have on board, I’d seen only once. Then I began watching one of my favorite movies ever, Driving Miss Daisy. I enjoyed a couple cool ones as I began the – what?? – perhaps 25th viewing of that wonderful movie.
Lavonne retired earlier than usual. I followed a couple hours later, about my usual bedtime of 2330. And I hoped it would be a restful and quiet night near the Walmart Truck Stop and Rail Yard.
Day 11, Wednesday, Sept 30, Evanston, WY to Jerome, ID via I-80, I-84: 258 miles
My fears of a “less than perfect night” were unfounded. We slept very well at the Walmart Truck Stop and Rail Yard in Evanston, Wyoming. Lavonne, having retired so early, was up very early – before 0400. I slept ‘til a bit after 0600 and began my day.
We decided to leave the wilderness of 3G as soon as we were able to head down the road to discover some 4G coverage where we could again get online and catch up with the world. We left Evanston at 0730 hours.
Welcome to Utah – Life Elevated!
Once in Utah, just a few miles from Evanston, we were back in civilization, or put another way, back on 4G or LTE coverage. A bit after 0800, we pulled into the first rest area we found, after just a 32 mile drive, and resumed our ‘net lives. It’s sad, yes, but true; we must have our online access!
I hate to admit that we were like thirsty horses at the water trough – but we were. We had email! News! Weather! My web site! Comics! Yep – we were back in civilized country and we were happy campers. Once caught up with the world, we made breakfast, too. I had waffles; Lavonne had cereal. And after breakfast we continued lapping up news, etc. We left a bit after 1000 hours, having spent well over two hours there.
Soon after we left the rest area we reached the junction of I-84 and took it west toward Idaho. The scenery along that highway was positively stunning. I believe the first couple of photos are in what’s called Weber Canyon. The drive through much of Utah was beautiful. I couldn’t possibly describe the place, so let the following uncaptioned photos tell the story. I-84 was truly a beautiful drive through Utah.
I-84 eventually reached Idaho, and we continued on to the Walmart in Jerome, Idaho. About 70 miles before Jerome we stopped at a rest area for lunch. We whipped up simple sandwiches along with some fruit, and continued. There was a lot of farming to entertain this ol’ country boy along I-84 in Idaho. I find the irrigation systems very interesting.
We had been blessed with clear air and blue skies during much of our adventure. According to weather reports, back home the smoke was heavy over our area, and we were very weary of it when we left. We also enjoyed beautiful weather during the day’s drive, marred only by some wind during portions of it.
We arrived at the Jerome Walmart a few minutes before 1600 hours. After setting up the coach for our stay, I headed to the store to buy a few things we needed and couldn’t find in Evanston’s Walmart. After about a half hour, when the groceries were put away, I took my regular walk around the Walmart property.
Big Blue at the Jerome, Idaho Walmart for the night.
We spent the afternoon in the coach. I edited photos and wrote this travelogue and Lavonne spent much time on her laptop, too. It was warm, and we ran the air conditioners to stay comfy. After sundown, things cooled down nicely outside.
We ate aboard the coach, as we had almost always done this trip, except when visiting family. I had to have another of Allen’s blackened chicken thighs. I baked, actually zapped, a red potato in the microwave, too. Lavonne zapped another frozen meal. We ate well, and we ate inexpensively.
Lavonne headed to bed early again, just after 2100 hours. I finished writing this travelogue, then poured a couple cool ones and watched more of Driving Miss Daisy. How can someone watch the same movie over and over and still find it entertaining? I once was told that’s what a classic movie or book is – something that’s enjoyable over and over.
I called it a day at my usual time and headed to bed. It had been a good day.
Day 12, Thursday, Oct 1, Jerome, ID to Ontario, OR via I-84: 169 miles
I was up around my usual 0630 hours, and found my cute ‘lil Trail Buddy already perusing the ‘net. She’d had a less than perfect night, dealing with a “restless foot”. It’s a nerve issue, according to the neurologist, related to her major back surgery of several years ago. It’s a strange ailment, but is very real and bothersome.
We planned to drive just 170 miles on Day 12, the first day of October, to Ontario, OR. We checked the weather there, and we would be driving back into smoke. The high was predicted to be 81° and a mild day. We dawdled away much of the morning in the coach as we didn’t want to arrive for our night’s stay too early.
Our dawdling included Lavonne’s time consuming effort to get a prescription at Walmart from Kaiser, our health insurance company. Walmart had to deal with Kaiser’s slow answering, and after nearly two hours in the store, she walked out with her Rx. Meanwhile, I took the time to wash the windshields plus a project or two around the coach. There are always projects.
We finally pulled out of Jerome, Idaho a few minutes after 1100 hours, and headed to Ontario, Oregon, just over the Snake River from Idaho. We had to dump our tanks, load on fresh water, and also fuel up during the drive. We got it all done!
We stopped at a rest area 70 miles from our destination and had lunch at a Dale’s Diner while parked with the big boys of the road. I whipped up one of my giant turkey sandwiches with enough veggies included to have made a decent salad. Lavonne zapped another frozen dinner. It was a crusted fish dinner, and for a change, she ate all of it. And we continued west on I-84.
We found a Dale’s Diner along I-84 at a rest area among the big boys of the road. It was the usual; we had to do all our own work, but the price was right.
We still had the dumping and the fueling to do. I knew I wanted to fuel at the low price station in Nampa, Idaho I’d fueled at twice in the past few months, so I told the navigator to take me there, and it did.
Fueling up at Conrad and Bischoff, a station owned by what I think is an oil distributor because of the storage tanks, trucks, and large yard. Their prices are hard to beat, and I filled up at $2.28 per.
While at Conrad and Bischoff, Lavonne went into their office to ask if there were any RV dump sites in the area. They gave us the address to the Sage Travel Plaza in nearby Caldwell, Idaho which was along our drive. I plugged that address into the Garmin navigator, and it directed us there.
For $10 we dumped the holding tanks and filled up with fresh water at the Sage Plaza. We were done with those chores! The next stop was just down I-84 a few miles, across the Snake River, at the Ontario, Oregon Walmart.
We arrived at Ontario at 1615 hours. We had a dinner “out” planned for that evening. Lavonne is a big fan of Taco Time, a relatively small chain of Mexican fast food restaurants. She first got started waaay back in 1982 or so in Lewiston, Idaho. Since leaving there years ago, she seldom finds a Taco Time to buy her favorite, the Taco Time crispy meat burrito.
Well! There was a Taco Time nearby, just a short walking distance from where we parked, and so she looked forward to a couple of those burritos for dinner. There was also a Panda Express nearby for me. We agreed during the drive that we’d have those favorites for dinner – along with margaritas!
Big Blue, parked “illegally” for the night at the Ontario, Oregon Walmart. We’ve parked many, many times where such signs are posted and rarely enforced.
The above photo is another of many examples of local tyrants passing city ordinances forbidding one supposedly free entity (namely Walmart), from inviting another supposedly free entity (namely me), to simply park for the night on what is the first entity’s supposedly private property. Naturally, the local police have more pressing things to do than to badger perfectly harmless RVers who are spending money in their town. Walmart stores generally ignore these signs when required by the city Nazis to post them. Walmart is certainly more qualified to make such decisions about their parking policy than the local city council. Ok, rant over. And thanks for indulging me, I feel better having ranted.
After getting settled for the night, I began editing photos and writing this travelogue. Shortly after 1800 hours, my blogging started and evening chores done, I headed to Taco Time to pick up the order Lavonne phoned in earlier.
Nothing was said about Taco Time having only a drive up window open when Lavonne placed her order. So when I arrived, I discovered that big secret when I reached the locked doors. I walked around to the drive-up area where a friendly fellow allowed me to walk ahead of him to the window. I paid for the phoned in order, then waited about 10 minutes at their front door for the order.
With Lavonne’s order in hand I walked to the nearby Panda Express. I walked in and was handed my online order at once – it was all ready and waiting for me.
Back at the coach, Lavonne and I enjoyed our fast food dinners while at home and safe.
Lavonne was very pleased to have found a Taco Time near us, an old favorite of hers from years ago. I loved that Panda teriyaki chicken, orange chicken, and white rice drenched with teriyaki sauce. mmmmm. Panda is one of my favorite meals.
Our evening unfolded as usual after our dinner “out”. Lavonne retired early again, having taken meds for her restless foot issue. I finished watching Driving Miss Daisy while enjoying a couple cool ones.
I called it a day and went to bed at my usual 2330 hours. We would visit Jill and Craig at their cabin in an Oregon forest the next day!
Day 13, Friday, Oct 2, Ontario, OR to La Pine, OR via I-84, US20, US97: 291 miles
We slept well, although illegally, there in the Ontario, Oregon Walmart lot. We’ve spent so many nights next to those silly No Overnight Parking signs over the years that the thrill of getting away with something is gone.
We would drive almost 300 miles to Jill and Craig’s little A-frame cabin in the woods and spend a couple nights there having a grand time. Jill makes wonderful margaritas and Craig just might be trying to kill me with his great cooking – and what a way it would be to go! But I’m ahead of myself again.