To Denver and Beyond Once Again!

Day 1, Monday, May 17, Home to John’s in Gridley via CA99, I-5: 122 miles

Honestly, I look forward to our adventures aboard Big Blue like a kid looks forward to Christmas – and that’s no exaggeration! The two weeks prior to our departure I kept myself occupied with getting the coach ready for our Beyond adventure.

Here I’m happily washing the coach, preparing for our drive to Denver – and beyond!

I spent three days just washing the outside of the coach; one day just for the roof, and two days washing the rest of it. The wash job was an afternoon chore not that many years ago, but I’m only good for about two hours a day in my old age. And those are two hours of relatively slow motion! I spent a couple days cleaning the interior right proper, too. I also had the carpet cleaned by a pro, a job that was certainly due.

The day before we were scheduled to hit the road, I awoke with that !$#*@!! arrythmia! My regular readers may remember that I’ve dealt with what they call AFib the past few trips. Why it had to start up at that most inopportune time, I couldn’t imagine. When my ol’ heart starts misfiring as it does with arrythmia, I tire very quickly. That day about noon I simply walked down to the coach in our community’s RV lot and plugged into the electricity to cool down the fridge overnight before leaving the following day. Even that little bit of exercise made me pretty tired.

But to make a long story a bit shorter, the morning of Day 1, as I began the job of driving the coach up to the house to begin loading, I discovered that I had rhythm once again! Our son Craig, who lives in nearby Stockton, had just arrived to help us load, as he had volunteered his help when he learned of my problem the day before. (He had brought in a grand meal from Olive Garden to enjoy with us that evening because he wanted to visit before we left the next morning. What a guy!)

I told Craig when he arrived that I had just found my rhythm again, and I could handle the job, but he insisted on staying and helping – we sure appreciate Craig! And we were all delighted that this old man had his rhythm back.

Lavonne sorting and putting her things away for the trip. This loading business, especially for longer trips such as to Denver, is pretty demanding on us old folks – but certainly worth it.

Once the coach was loaded and we turned the house systems off, we finally began our long anticipated adventure at 1100 hours. We planned to drive north to Gridley and visit my brother-in-law, John. We would spend the night in his driveway as we have so many times in the past.

Posted below are several photos of our drive north to Gridley. Click to enlarge, then you can scroll down each photo and click on “View full size” for even larger, and click again for full size photo:

Shortly after we arrived, John joined us for the obligatory photo of Big Blue in John’s driveway. It’s always a pleasure to park for the night there.

The visit would be our first, without other family present, since my dear sis, Gale, passed away in January. We would visit Gale’s grave for the first time, as well. It was not long after we arrived and chatted a while, that John drove us to the cemetery. The gravestone had been completed and installed – a process that took about three months to finish.

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As we stood there at the grave, it all seemed so unfair that my twin sis was gone. She had lived a very righteous life, raising two wonderful children and doing everything that a loving wife and mother could be expected to do. Yet she suffered for the longest time with that awful Parkinson’s Disease, and finally died of it. Life can be very cruel, and I think it certainly was in her case. But we all must move on, and John seems to have done pretty well with all he’s been through with Gale’s illness and passing.

Once back at John’s place, thoughts turned to dinner. We had brought a Papa Murphy’s pizza to cook. John had salad fixins’, and we enjoyed a so-so pizza. It was not up to par, and half of it was thrown out. But the wonderful strawberry cake and fresh strawberries somewhat made up for the pizza. We very much enjoyed our desserts.

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After dinner I cleaned up the kitchen, as that was the least I could do since John and Lavonne prepared dinner. After a bit more visiting with John after dinner, we headed to the coach for the night.

I began updating this travelogue as soon as evening chores were done. Naturally, I took too many photos during the day, and was able to post quite a lot of photos for our relatively short drive. I spent much of the evening doing just what I liked – which was writing and posting photos to the day’s travelogue.

Later in the evening I once again dug out a favorite movie, Driving Miss Daisy, staring Morgan Freeman, Jessica Tandy and Dan Aykroyd. What a great movie it is, and I’ve seen it so many times that I just about have the script memorized.

After a couple cool ones while enjoying the movie, I finally called it a day and headed to bed around midnight. My lil’ Trail Buddy had retired a couple hours earlier, as it had been a pretty busy day.

Day 2, Tuesday, May 18, Gridley to Winnemucca, NV via CA99, CA70, CA65, I-80: 327 miles

We slept well out in the country near Gridley. The night cooled off nicely, and I even turned on the heater for awhile after climbing out of bed about 0630. Lavonne was already up and perusing the ‘net on her tablet.

After morning chores, I joined her with my laptop for a while. But we couldn’t dawdle too much as we had a long drive ahead of us. We eventually joined John in the house where we visited over a breakfast of oatmeal. After eating, I headed back to the coach to ready her for the day’s drive. Once ready, I returned to the house and we bid John good-bye with thanks for the stay.

We pulled out of John’s driveway at 0900 hours, and headed south on CA99 to Yuba City. We drove CA70 and CA65 to I-80 near Rocklin. By doing so, we added 30 miles to the drive, but avoided taking the twisty CA20 into the mountains.

Big Blue passed the 100,000 mile mark soon after we began our drive. We have put more miles on her in the 3½ years we’ve had her than the prior two owners did in twelve years!

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Once we reached Donner Summit at over 7200 feet, we stopped at the rest area. Lavonne made very tasty ham sandwiches for lunch. Soon we began our drive down the other side and on through Reno.

The drive beyond Reno, or more accurately, beyond Fernley, was my favorite kind of driving – light traffic and beautiful, empty country. I was looking forward to the coming days of driving the (mostly) empty I-80 clear to Cheyenne, Wyoming!

We stopped at a Mickey D’s in Fernley, Nevada for a caramel sundae for Lavonne and an Oreo Cookie McFlurry for me. I brewed a mug of coffee in the coach, then continued  our journey.

Photos of our drive beyond Donner Summit to Winnemucca:

We arrived at the Winnemucca Walmart at 1600 hours. The weather was a bit on the warm side, in the low 80s. As soon as we were set up for the night, I took my daily walk around the lot for about 25 minutes.

Back at the coach, we decided that it was warm enough to fire up the generator and run the air conditioner to stay comfy. As early evening cooled off, we were able to stay comfortable by just opening up the coach.

Our evening was as usual aboard Big Blue. We each chose what we wanted for dinner, and that kept it simple. I zapped a frozen dinner. Lavonne warmed some soup.  Simple is good.

I spent much of the evening updating this travelogue. It was about 2130 hours that I finished, then continued watching the movie, Driving Miss Daisy, one of my favorites. I enjoyed a couple cool ones as I watched it to the end. What a great movie it was again!

I called it a day and headed to bed about midnight, where my Trail Buddy headed a couple hours earlier. It had been a long day of driving through entirely too much of Kalifornistan’s crazy traffic.

I looked forward to the next day’s drive when I’d head across Nevada into Utah and Salt Lake City. The majority of the drive would be miles of light traffic and the vast empty desert!

Day 3, Wednesday, May 19, Winnemucca, NV to Salt Lake City, UT via I-80: 358 miles

I nearly always sleep like a log, but for some reason I was awake entirely too often during the night. Even so, I slept the vast majority of seven hours, and had enough rest. I was very much looking forward to the day’s drive.

Once up and about, I headed to the store for a few items, especially a couple bags of ice. The ever troublesome fridge was acting up again, and wouldn’t stay cooled down into the 30s. It reached 51° and that is not safe. So I added the two bags to the interior and that helped – and it also began cooling down a bit before the ice was added, for some unknown reason. I’ve done more projects on that fridge than any single item on the coach and I still don’t have it right. Maybe it’s time for a new fridge, as Lavonne suggested.

We left Winnemucca at 0800, and the drive was wonderfully scenic, the landscape empty, and the traffic light. I loved it.

We stopped about 50 miles into our drive at the small town of Battle Mountain. Fuel was cheaper there according to GasBuddy, the online guide to buying gas and diesel. I filled up at $3.20 per, much more than recent months, but still much cheaper than Kalifornistan prices. We then drove to the nearby Mickey D’s for breakfast. I am addicted to those McGriddles, and Lavonne enjoyed a biscuit breakfast. And we continued east.

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We stopped at a rest area somewhere along the drive, and made lunch in the coach. I do recall that it was at the summit of a long climb. And we continued on toward Utah.

As we approached the SLC area, we drove through a dust storm that we could see a few miles before we reached it. It must have been blowing at 50+ MPH, and I had to slow to maintain control. At the same time a light rain fell so that the dust was made mud, and in a matter of seconds the shiny clean Big Blue was dirty from one end to the other – on just the passenger side as the dust came from that direction. That crazy event was a first for me, and I’ve driven a lot of miles in my day. It was all very strange.

More Click Fun:

We timed our arrival perfectly to join in on the Salt Lake City commute. I’ve driven through SLC’s commute a few times and never experienced anything as bad as Kalifornistan’s, but still it was pretty heavy traffic. We would spend the night at the east end of SLC just before the long climb up I-80 to Park City.

The lot was posted many times throughout, warning  that overnight parking was not permitted. Some signs listed the local tow company that would tow violators, including the price of being “booted”. I’d never seen a sign at any Walmart threatening the boot (a device attached to a wheel that immobilizes), nor so many signs about parking, as I did on that Walmart lot. I knew better; we’d stayed at this Walmart a number of times, and were never bothered. No doubt the city fathers passed their parking ordinance long ago, and most everyone ignores it. Walmart is no doubt required by the city to post the silly signs, but doesn’t enforce it. Nor do the city cops, one of whom drove by us as he cruised the lot during the evening. They doubtless have more to do than to hassle law abiding RVers who are spending money in their town – and bothering no one.

Lavonne and our Granddaughter, Erica, who lives in SLC, made plans to get together that evening. Erica arrived a short while after we were settled in for the night. The two of them usually head out to dinner together, but this time Erica brought something for herself, and brownies to share for dessert. Lavonne and I made our own quick meals, and dinner was a very uncomplicated affair.

Erica, our granddaughter who lives in SLC, joined us for the evening aboard Big Blue, and we had a lovely visit. That’s her very mellow lil’ pooch, Roxie, seated on the left, Erica, Lavonne, and that Tom Selleck look-alike fella. 

We have met Erica several times on our drives through SLC. We always enjoy her bubbly personality and getting updated on her doings. We visited ’til about 2100 hours, when Erica headed back home for the night.

Lavonne and I tended to our usual activities during the evening, mostly on the computers. It was warm during the evening, into the low 80s, and we ran the air conditioners for much of the time. Then, after sunset, things cooled down nicely and we were very comfy with open windows ’til nearly 2200 hours.

We looked forward to the next day when we planned to drive clear across big, empty Wyoming to Cheyenne – about a 430 mile drive, our longest drive of the trip to Denver.

Day 4, Thursday, May 20, SLC to Laramie, WY via I-80: 383 miles

We spent a quiet and restful night in SLC, at the far eastern edge of the city. We were in the foothills of the Wasatch Range, which towered over us. We slept well, and felt we’d make the long drive to Cheyenne just fine. But the day unfolded differently, and we chose to stay in Laramie that night. But wait. I’m getting ahead of myself. Again.

The monster windshields had to be cleaned. That dust/rain storm of Day 3 really made a mess of them – and much of the coach. It’s worth it; the view from those huge windows is awesome.

As soon as we pulled out of the lot at 0800 hours, we drove directly onto I-80 and the long climb up to Parley’s Summit, a 2400 foot climb from SLC. Once at the summit, we continued on into Wyoming, about a 75 mile drive.

Climbing to Parley’s Summit and Park City – and the beautiful Coalville area.

The farther we drove, the windier it got, and we fought the wind virtually the entire drive. There were gusts to over 40 MPH from the southwest. That wind was sometimes a tailwind, but all to often it wanted to blow us into the westbound lanes. The constant struggle to stay in my own lane was very tiring. Other than the wind and the fatigue, it was a lovely drive.

En route to Wyoming, we passed through the Coalville area in Utah. That section is beautiful with ranches and livestock all along the drive. I always shoot way too many photos through that area.

Beyond Coalville lies Echo Reservoir. We often stop at the rest area there for breakfast on our drives to Colorado, and we did so again.


We were welcomed into Wyoming – and its seemingly eternal winds. A sign was posted urging caution in wind gusts to 40+ MPH – and they weren’t kidding.

Wyoming greets travelers with a “Welcome Center” that is a very nice rest area – with RV dumping. We discovered the dump site last trip, and pulled in again this trip. I dumped the tanks, but there was a sign posted that they were out of water. I believe it was due to some construction going on at the dump site. So, needing to fill up with fresh water, we planned to stop at a Love’s Travel Plaza.

They weren’t kidding!

We continued east to a Love’s station in Wamsutter, WY, about a 160 mile drive. We fought the wind the entire way, naturally. When we got there, I pulled into the Love’s dump site where water is offered. I simply added enough to see us to Colorado where we’d be at an RV site with all the water we wanted.

I pulled into a Love’s parking area after the water fill, and we took time for lunch. Lavonne whipped up another tasty ham and cheese sandwich for each of us. And we continued on.

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I’d have to fill up with diesel that night or the next morning. As we drove we came upon a very old looking truck stop advertising diesel for $3 per gallon – the cheapest we’d seen this trip. I pulled right in, and proceeded to fill up.

The place was a dive. We’d been there maybe three years ago, and didn’t like it then. But for the price, we put up with it. They didn’t have pay at the pump so I had to walk into the cruddy store area. A sign was posted on the door “NO FACE MASKS ALLOWED”. That was a good clue as to the owner’s mentality, I guessed. I left my credit card, went back and pumped on 75 gallons to fill the tank. The pump area, and especially the nozzle handle and hose were just filthy, and the lot itself was full of potholes. After filling, I returned to the store and paid the grumpy clerk who I thought might be the owner. I was happy to pull out of that joint with a full tank of cheap diesel, and I guess it was worth it. Maybe not.

We were bushed. Laramie was not far down the road, about 50 miles short of Cheyenne. We’d stayed there before, and we decided to stay again.

We pulled into the Laramie, Wyoming Walmart at 1700 hours, and were plumb wore out. I set Big Blue up for our stay, then took my daily walk around the wind-blown lot.

Big Blue at the Laramie Walmart lot for the night. It was a pretty rural area.

Once back at the coach, I took care of evening chores, which means I took my shower and began my dinner. I zapped a sweet potato and then zapped a can of creamed corn. Yep, that’s a strange combination, but occasionally it just seems right. I put some of the corn over the tater as a sort of gravy, and ate my fill. Perhaps it’s more than strange – maybe weird is more fitting. Lavonne made herself another sandwich. 

After cleaning up the kitchen, I began editing photos and updating this travelogue. I had taken so many photos during the drive that I’d guess less than half made the cut.

After the travelogue work… er, play, I was ready to finish watching the movie The Proposal with Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds. It is a very funny and entertaining movie. I enjoyed a cool one along with the movie, naturally.

I retired about midnight; my Trail Buddy had done the same a couple hours earlier. It had been a trying day with all the wind, but a day on the road aboard Big Blue, nonetheless, and I was having a grand time.

Day 5, Laramie, WY to Cherry Creek Park near Denver, CO via I-80, I-25, E-470, I-70, I-225, CO83: 163 miles

Day 5 dawned cloudy and cool. It was the day we’d arrive at Cherry Creek State Park near Denver to spend the weekend with our son Allen, and his wife, Nancy. We don’t see them near often enough, but when we do, we have a wonderful time.

The Walmart RV Park on the morning of Day 5. Thanks, Mr. Sam, and Walmart. We sure do appreciate the many clean and safe places to park.

We continued east on I-80 to Cheyenne a few minutes before 0800 hours. The drive included the long climb up Sherman Summit. A Lincoln memorial sits atop the summit which is the highest point on all of I-80 at 8,640 feet. Once over the summit, we drove through fog nearly to Colorado. We turned onto I-25 South at Cheyenne and headed toward Denver. It was windy again, as predicted.

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We turned onto toll highway E-470 as we neared Denver, and while that costs a few extra bucks, it saves much of the hassle of driving through the mad traffic of Denver. It’s well worth it to us. Incidentally, there are no toll booths or stops along E-470. We turned onto it like any other highway, and magically, a few weeks later, a bill would arrive at our mailbox. They simply photograph our license plate and automatically bill us. That’s quite a big money saver by not having to employ all those toll takers.

We arrived at Cherry Creek State Park’s RV park at 1135 hours. After driving around lost in the park for a while, we finally found the park office to check in. Once that was done, it was a short drive through the RV park to our space at the far end of one of many loops of RV parking. The place is beautiful and the spaces are far apart. It is a very lovely place to park a RV if one must stay in a RV park.

I set the coach up as soon as we found our space. We were parked at the far end of the loop with one motor home just across the street from us. There must have been 70 yards or more between our site and others nearest to us.

A while after we were set up, Allen arrived with the traditional Chik-fil-A sandwiches he always brings us on the first day of our visits. We visited over lunch, then Allen and I loaded Lavonne’s belongings into his car. She would stay with them at their home for the weekend while I would stay in the coach. That’s a strange arrangement, I suppose, but Lavonne has always preferred to stay in their house while I prefer the coach. Choice is good.

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They soon left for Allen and Nancy’s home, and I would stay at the coach for the evening to catch up on my photo editing, writing and relaxing. I would join them the next day and again Sunday. Allen has to taxi me back and forth for my visits with them, and he doesn’t seem to mind.

Both Allen and Nancy love to cook, and Allen is the original chef for my most favored chicken of all, blackened thighs. Nancy marinates them in a special way, and Allen blackens them perfectly on the grill. They are delicious and I was hoping I’d get some during our visit. I told Allen when he met us at our RV space that I was hoping to take a dozen with me when I left. Maybe that’d do the trick – I hoped so.

After Lavonne and Allen left, I took my walk around our section of the lovely RV park. The place could accommodate a lot more RV spaces, but keeping it sparsely populated adds to the rural atmosphere. Crowds of people would surely ruin it.

My evening was quiet and pleasant. I made a sandwich for dinner, and just enjoyed the comforts of Big Blue.

Incidentally, the fridge troubles seemed to have lessened the past few days. I removed and replaced the thermistor from its attachment to a cooling fin in the fridge compartment. Perhaps the contact wasn’t proper, and that movement helped. Whatever the reason, the fridge was in the very low 40s, and sometimes high 30s. The freezer stayed below 0°, and that was where it should be.

I spent some evening time trying to plan the Beyond portion of my adventure when I would go bummin’ around the country.

I’ve driven to Pittsburg, KS several times from our visits with Allen and Nancy. Pittsburg is the home of the famous chicken restaurants, Chicken Mary’s and Chicken Annie’s. Both serve wonderful fried chicken, but perhaps it was time to head into another state. At the time of this writing, I just didn’t know where I’d go, and that in itself is a part of the adventure of these bummin’ trips around the country.

I thoroughly enjoyed the evening, and when I headed for bed around midnight, I slept very well.

Day 6, Saturday, May 22, at rest in Colorado.

I awoke to a flat calm morning, for a change. It was cool to this wimp at 50° outside, but I stayed warm and cozy in the coach. After morning chores, I took my walk around our RV camping area which is a small portion of the park. Cherry Creek State Park is over 3000 acres, much more ground than this old man would ever cover.

Day 6 was spent almost entirely at the kids’ home in Denver. Theirs is a lovely home in a gated community. We spent the day eating, it seemed. My goodness! I munched and snacked when we weren’t having a meal. And we enjoyed a couple margaritas in the afternoon. They served spaghetti and meatballs, pizza, chicken wings, ice cream, and more.

We also spent a lot of time playing Rummikub, pronounced Rummy Cube. We had learned the game back in September during our visit then. It is a numbers game requiring a lot of strategy to compete. I am pleased to report I won one game, but Allen and Nancy won all the others. Lavonne came close to winning one game. We played the game literally all afternoon.

The day was a grand time with family. So far as the eating was concerned, it was too grand. Sometime after 1900 hours, Allen and Nancy drove me home. I don’t have any photos from our day as we agreed we’d do photos the next day.

Back in our little home on wheels for the evening, I began planning the rest of my Beyond adventure. I figured that I’d continue on to Iowa and perhaps into Wisconsin. Why Wisconsin? Like the rest of the country I’ve traveled, I don’t know a soul there. But I’ve been there only once in my life and that was during my Continental Loop, way back in 2005. Back then I entered Wisconsin for just a few moments, having crossed the Mississippi River from Iowa. I then returned across the river having visited only for the sake of saying I’d been there.

After the planning, I settled down to watch a nature documentary on Curiosity Stream, enjoyed a cool one, and finally went to bed about midnight. It had been a lovely and restful day with family.

Day 7, May 23, Sunday, another day with family in Colorado:

I was up and around at 0630. I slept very well in my cozy home on wheels. After morning chores, I continued my planning session.

The big planning session.

I would head into Nebraska and Iowa from Colorado, just to see more of the heartland. I love the plains states and all the farming that feeds the nation. I also enjoy driving through the many small towns. After Iowa and Wisconsin, I would begin  my return toward home through Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, etc.

Day 7 would be my last day to be parked on the lovely grounds of Cherry Creek State Park near Denver. Allen would pick me up at 1100 hours and take me to their home for the day. Again, I’d spend it with family, no doubt overeating and being beat regularly at the game of Rummikub.

Our time together was splendid, as usual. Soon after Allen and I arrived, it was lunch time. Nancy and I had talked a bit about how we make egg salad and how much I like it. Sure enough, she had prepared it for lunch, and she served a huge sandwich just brimming with the good stuff. Naturally, it was very tasty and I thoroughly enjoyed lunch.

Then it was time for Rummikub. We played it all afternoon, and I am pleased to report I won a game. I was shellacked the rest of the afternoon, of course, which is normal.

We paused during this hotly contested game of Rummikub for this fine photo of our gathering. Click to enlarge.

A big treat awaited me for dinner. As I have often bragged about on these pages, Allen makes absolutely delicious blackened chicken thighs. They are my absolute favorite way of cooking chicken. Frankly, they have surpassed fried chicken, a lifelong favorite of mine. I enjoyed two of them, hot off the grill along with salad. And the biggest treat was that he had grilled eight more for me! I donated one to Nancy for her mother, Norma, who also loves those blackened thighs, but wasn’t able to join us this trip. I was very pleased to take the remaining seven thighs back to the coach for the trip.

Around 1830 hours Nancy drove me back to the park. I bid my dear Lavonne good-bye, and wouldn’t see her ’til I returned home from my bummin’ around the country. She would fly home later in the week. Bummin’ just isn’t her thing. I thanked Allen for our lovely visit and their very kind hospitality.

Nancy dropped me off at the coach about 1900 hours. I thanked her, too, for our lovely stay and all the fun and eats. Our visits with Allen and Nancy are always great fun, and we’d likely visit again in September.

Back aboard Big Blue, I worked through the evening chores, and settled in for the night. I updated this travelogue, then spent  the evening watching more documentaries on Curiosity Stream. I watched a history piece about Ellis Island, the small island in New York Harbor where over 12 million immigrants first landed. It was a very interesting history that has largely been forgotten in our age.

As usual, I readied for bed as midnight approached, and spent a very restful last night – ’til our next visit – at Cherry Creek State Park.

Day 8, Monday, May 24, Denver, CO to North Platte, NE via I-70, E-470, I-76, I-80: 268 miles

I rolled out of my cozy bed about 0630 with one thought on my mind, and that was to get the coach ready for the day’s grand adventure. We were connected to city water and electricity. After morning chores, I disconnected them, then powered in the slides, raised the jacks, and was ready to hit the road.

I would enjoy the entire day simply driving through the beautiful Colorado and Nebraska countryside. Such driving is one of my greatest pleasures, and it had been too long since my last bummin’ adventure.

The snow covered Rocky Mountains photographed as I drove out of the park.

I had to deal with Denver metro traffic for some miles, but eventually found open roads. Once beyond Denver, the drive was through beautiful country, much of it farmland.

I was so impressed with the plentiful greenness of Colorado and Nebraska. Living in dried out, parched Kalifornistan, I appreciated the drive perhaps more than most people. I had just read a news article about the record dryness of Kalifornistan and the Southwest states. The fear of wildfires was great – 2021 may be even worse than the record fire season of last year. But I digress…

After leaving the Denver area, I ran into a bit of fog along I-76. It was refreshing.

I stopped for breakfast at a beautiful rest area along I-76 in Colorado. The place was lush green and very inviting.

For breakfast I zapped a Jimmy Dean’s breakfast sandwich, added a couple lil’ mandarin oranges, and for a change didn’t overeat. The two days at the kids’ place was pure gluttony on my part. I had to climb back on the diet wagon.

As I drove through the Ogallala, Nebraska area, I saw the cheapest diesel price I’d seen so far the entire trip. It was just $2.88 per, and although I had a bit over a half tank, I pulled in and topped off. I’d be good for another 700 miles or more, if need be. Back home, diesel was selling for over $4 per at some stations. Why the huge difference? I’m pretty sure it’s the people we elect!

Click for a few photos of God’s Country:

When lunch time approached, I pulled into another rest area, I think. It’s sad to admit I really don’t recall where I stopped. I sure do miss my memory. But I remember that I whipped up a chicken salad sandwich and added a couple more mandarin oranges.

I reached the Nebraska town of North Platte at about 1630 hours. I had lost another hour during the day’s drive as I entered the Central Time Zone. I pulled into an empty portion of the local Walmart lot, and set up for the night. I needed to buy some groceries and a few other items before continuing, but decided the shopping could wait ’til morning when the place wouldn’t be so busy.

Parked for the night at North Platte’s Walmart store. Home again!

I took my daily walk of about 25 minutes around the lot first thing. I walked along nearby streets as well, just to look the area over a bit.

There was a Chinese restaurant nearby, as well as a Mongolian Bar-B-Q restaurant. Both are usually very tempting, but they couldn’t interest me; I had my mind on one of the seven blackened chicken thighs, cooked to perfection by Allen and Nancy. I would enjoy one of those delights for sure! Along with a bowl of creamed corn and two more lil’ mandarins, I had what I considered a very excellent dinner.

I spent most of the evening editing photos and updating this travelogue. I also had to make some changes to my plan to drive to Le Mars, Iowa the next day. It was nearly 400 miles away, and I really didn’t want to drive that far. So, the next day’s destination would likely be Norfolk, Nebraska – just 236 miles away. The drive would be on back roads the entire day, just what I like.

After clacking away on the laptop, I watched the rest of the Ellis Island documentary on Curiosity Stream. Then I found a documentary about the Amish and watched that ’til bedtime. It had been another lovely day and evening aboard Big Blue.

Day 9, Tuesday, North Platte, NE to Norfolk, NE via US83, NE92, NE70, NE22, US281, NE91, US81: 238 miles

I was up and around at my usual 0630. Once morning chores were done, I headed into the store for some supplies and groceries. I’ve learned that the earlier in the morning one shops at Walmart, the less crowded it is. I was back at the coach a few minutes after 0800.

The forecast for Norfolk, my destination for the day, was for a high of 84°, a bit warmer than I’ve encountered yet this trip. I had been looking for some rain and even better, thunder storms, but I’d seen precious little rain and even less thunder. I was pretty sure I’d see some wild weather during my tour of the country, and Nebraska should be a good place to find it.

It seemed appropriate as I left North Platte, that I’d cross the North Platte River. And I did.

I pulled out of North Platte at 0845, and continued east. I was in for a treat – the day’s drive would be all two lane roads, and as green a country as one could hope for.

A strange thing I noticed about Nebraska farmland highways was that there are precious few places to pull off the road. I drove miles and miles of beautiful country, but saw only one shoulder of the road large enough to pull over and stop – except in the towns. Nor did I see a single passing lane. Of course, the traffic was so light that one wouldn’t likely need a passing lane.

What a great start to the day’s drive. No traffic and lush, green countryside everywhere.

The drive was drop-dead gorgeous. The sky was blue, the countryside was green and generally, with a few glaring exceptions, the roads were good. I didn’t turn the air conditioner on the entire drive, but it was up to the mid 80s, as predicted, at my destination of Norfolk.

I pulled into a store’s large parking lot in the little town of Arnold for breakfast. I zapped a breakfast sandwich there, and added a couple little mandarins for dessert.

As I drove through all that green, empty, farm country, with more cattle than people, I envied them. It looked like a great way to live.

I stopped in a very small town, whose name I have forgotten, for lunch. It had a hard-to-find shoulder on which to pull over and park. I zapped a bowl of soup, toasted a couple pieces of bread, then peeled a small banana for dessert. And I continued the lovely drive.

Click to enlarge and read the captions:

When at home, I often recall drives like this one, imagining the peace and contentment I find when out in God’s Country. I enjoyed many miles free of traffic, with green beauty all around me the entire day.

More click fun:

It was good that I changed the destination to shorten the day’s drive. I was ready to call it a day when I reached Norfolk. As soon as I arrived and set up Big Blue for the night, I walked over to the store and bought a few things. I’m not a beer drinker, but I’ve greatly enjoyed Stella Artois beer a few times when we visit Allen and Nancy. I spent over nine dollars for a six pack of the stuff. When I began my photo editing and writing, I enjoyed a couple of them. I’ve never paid such a price for a six pack, and I won’t likely again, but the stuff is delicious.

Back in the coach, I noticed that the fridge was warming up again. I am so frustrated with that thing! I walked back into the store and bought four, six pound bags of ice and put them into the fridge to help it out. It didn’t warm any more, but it didn’t cool much, either. I’m thinking that the mother board that controls the fridge is the culprit. Maybe that’s the next fix.

Parked for the night at Norfolk, Nebraska’s Walmart lot.

When that fridge nonsense was settled, I took my daily walk around the lot. I don’t believe I’ve seen a larger Walmart lot – it was huge. Back at the coach, I began editing photos and writing this travelogue – and enjoying the Stella Artois beer.

For dinner, I zapped a blackened chicken thigh, again. And I had creamed corn again, too. That’s a hard meal to beat, and I’d be tempted to have it again the next night!

And my evening unfolded as usual. Once this travelogue was up to date, I finished watching a streaming documentary about the Amish, enjoying a cool one along with it. I headed to bed at midnight and slept well.

Day 10, Wednesday, May 26, Norfolk, NE to Independence, IA via US81, US20: 312 miles

I was pleasantly surprised that it was a quiet night because several trucks were parked in the lot. There was one reefer among them, but it sat silent all night, apparently empty or loaded with dry freight. I awoke to sunshine and a bit of a breeze.

After morning chores I tackled the windshields. I had collected hundreds of miles  of bugs on them, and they had to be cleaned. I also checked oil and water in both diesels – the big Caterpillar and the little generator. All was well.

The fridge had decided to cooperate. It was just 40° and the freezer was down to -3°. I was relieved. For the moment. And then I wanted to hit the road for the day’s 300+ mile drive. I pulled out of Norfolk, Nebraska’s Walmart lot at 0830.

The drive would be on only two highways, a bit easier to record than the seven or so different highways of the prior day.

Another beautiful start to the day’s drive – but the roads would be pretty rough – for a while.

Someone’s beautiful home near Norfolk, Nebraska.

I drove on US81 for only a few miles, through Norfolk and out into the country. It was a four lane highway ’til well out of town, then it narrowed to just two lanes. And it deteriorated quickly to a glorified goat trail. It was an old concrete highway with joints between each individual slab that created that infernal thump-thump-thump that drives people nuts very quickly.

More click fun:

Fortunately, I soon turned onto US20 which I would drive the rest of the day. It also began as a glorified, concrete goat trail, and it was just awful for too many miles. Then suddenly it was relatively new asphalt, smooth as a baby’s bottom for several miles. It would eventually become much like an interstate, with two lanes in each direction, separated by a large median.

I shot way too many photos, most of them of farmland and farm buildings. I was amazed at the thousands of acres of newly sprouted corn that I drove by – especially in Iowa. I checked the ag stats for Iowa, and corn is their largest and most valuable crop, and Iowa produces more corn than any other state.

Big Blue parked at the Subway in Laurel, Nebraska.

I stopped in the small town of Laurel, Nebraska for breakfast. Having checked my navigator for restaurants, the little town had a Subway shop. For a fast food stop along my route that was near enough for breakfast, that Subway was about my only choice. I parked Big Blue in their tiny lot, walked in and ordered my breakfast – and lunch. It was a foot long teriyaki chicken sandwich with lots of veggies, and it was very good. I ate in the coach on their lot and very much enjoyed it. I’d been eating too many of my own breakfasts.


Eventually I drove across the Missouri River, into Iowa. The entire drive was through nothing but farmland. There were several small towns, and all were clearly farm related. I was in my element – exactly the kind of drive I daydream about when overdue for one of my adventures.

More to click:

Somewhere in Iowa, I took a ramp off the four lane US20, crossed the junction to an on ramp, and parked on the shoulder for lunch. Finding a place to pull off was still a challenge as there were no rest areas and few towns with large parking lots to park. I ate the other half of my foot-long Subway sandwich, which stayed fresh in the fridge during the drive. And I continued on.

I arrived at the Walmart near Independence, Iowa at 1600 hours. The main part of town was a couple miles to the north, while Walmart was very near US20. After 300+ miles, it was good to settle in for the evening.

As usual, the first thing after setting up Big Blue for the night was to take my daily walk. I discovered a Chinese buffet just next door. Uh-oh. I doubted that I could resist.

Parked for the night at Independence, Iowa’s Walmart lot.

After my walk, I edited photos, which included a couple more of those delicious Stella Artois beers. Then came evening chores. And then I headed to the buffet. I ordered white rice with vegetables to go. Back at the coach, I zapped a blackened chicken thigh, cut it up. and added it to the rice and vegetables. To that I added my delicious Panda teriyaki sauce. I made myself a teriyaki bowl, and it was delicious. It was also a very large serving and I enjoyed every bite. I would have to climb back onto my diet wagon the next day!

Then it was time to write the daily update to this travelogue. For me, it’s a pleasure to edit photos and write of my day’s journey – and I don’t know what else I would do with my time each evening!

After the travelogue update, I returned to Curiosity Stream and tried to watch a documentary about modern airliners. I kept dozing off watching it, and after awaking from my last doze at 2330 hours, I finally trotted off to bed. I slept very well, indeed.

Day 11, Thursday, Independence, IA to Fairmont, MN via US20, IA187, IA3, IA13, US18, WI30, I-90: 305 miles

My day began by awakening with AFib – my heart had lost its rhythm. It’s one of those things I deal with from time to time, but I can’t seem to shake it for good. I take medication for it, and in time my rhythm will return. Usually it lasts a week or so, and it has gone away in just a day. I tire more easily when AFib is “on”, because my heart beats are less efficient.

Nevertheless, I began my day with optimism and was looking forward to crossing the mighty Mississippi River into Wisconsin. That was my destination for this adventure.

I worked through the morning chores and was intent on getting the drive underway. I pulled out of Independence, Iowa at 0730, the earliest start for me so far this trip.

I drove through rain and wind almost the entire day. I had the lights and wipers on constantly, ’til near the end of the drive. The wind was a welcome tailwind some of the time, and an awful crosswind for too much of the drive.


The highlight of the day was crossing the Mississippi River into Wisconsin, then driving north along the east bank of the mighty river from Prairie du Chien to La Crosse, Wisconsin. That entire 60 mile drive was through constant rain and wind, the wind trying to push me into oncoming traffic.

Click for larger photos and captions:

I was welcomed into Wisconsin soon after I crossed the Mississippi River.

From La Crosse, my eastward trek was complete. I turned west, crossed back over the Mighty Mississippi River into Minnesota, and was soon on I-90. After considering spending the night at Albert Lea’s Walmart, I chose to continue on to Fairmont, Minnesota’s Walmart, another 60 miles.

More to click:

Somewhere along the drive, I pulled over and made lunch. I enjoyed a smoked turkey sandwich with lettuce, onions, and tomatoes. I also stopped at a Love’s Travel Plaza in the town of St. Charles, Minnesota and filled the propane tank – the indicator lights showed empty. I’d surely need plenty of propane to keep warm during the Minnesota portion of my adventure!

At a Love’s Travel Plaza, this poor guy pumped on propane as I watched from the window. I had no desire to stand around chatting with him as I usually do. The rain was pouring and the wind was howling, and it was cold!

As I neared the end of my drive, the rain stopped while the wind continued. It sprinkled from time to time during the evening, and the wind continued to blow endlessly in Fairmont, Minnesota. And, it was cold! As I wrote this it was in the mid 40s outside, headed to a predicted low overnight of 39°. I wasn’t much impressed with Minnesota’s springtime weather!

Once set up for the night at the Fairmont, Minnesota Walmart lot, I walked through the rain and wind to the store. I walked a couple laps around the interior for the day’s exercise, then bought a few items I needed. The store was warm and comfy while the wind howled outside.

Big Blue parked for the night in the cold and windy parking lot of Fairmont, Minnesota’s Walmart store.

For dinner, I zapped another of Allen and Nancy’s delicious blackened chicken thighs, leaving me just three of the seven I began with. I also zapped a can of cream corn. I considered it a grand dinner. Again.

I watched part of a documentary on Curiosity Stream, and when bedtime approached, I saved it to finish watching another night. I was in bed a few minutes before midnight, and slept very well.

Day 12, Friday, May 28, Fairmont, MN to Rapid City, SD via I-90: 454 miles

Yes, indeed. 454 miles was a very long drive for an old geezer. The main reason I drove so far on Day 12 was that there was no Walmart between Fairmont and Rapid City. There was a time I could cover those miles easily, but it was a long haul at age 77. And I’m ahead of myself already…

The Fairmont, Minnesota night temperature outside dropped to 39° overnight, but I had the heater set at 66° in the bedroom, so it seemed usual to me. After I got up and finished getting ready for the day, I walked outside. It was miserably cold and windy, at least to this Kalifornistanian wimp. As usual, I bumped the tires, checked the oil, etc., and hurried back inside. I’d never be tough enough to be a Minnesotan.

I began the long drive at 0730, as I did the prior day. I guess that I just want to begin driving early when there’s nothing else to be doing. I simply drove back onto the nearby I-90 and continued west toward Oregon.

It was another beautiful start to a day of driving. No traffic, no crowds, and miles and miles of I-90 and the beautiful green scenery.

The remaining miles of I-90 in Minnesota were pretty rough. I dealt with those infernal concrete slabs and uneven joints between them. Thump – thump – thump. I was hoping for a better ride once in South Dakota, and I was not disappointed. The vast majority of the drive through South Dakota was very smooth on what appeared to be a reddish asphalt.

I stopped at a Minnesota rest area near the state line of South Dakota to whip up breakfast. I decided on oatmeal with banana, a relatively low calorie start to the day.


In South Dakota the ride was much improved, as mentioned above. But the thousands of signs for tourist traps… er, attractions, couldn’t be missed. There must have been over a hundred billboards advertising  Wall Drug. It’s a store in Wall, South Dakota that must be pretty special to tourists. And there were many signs for Reptile Gardens, a zoo of sorts, I guess, also near the Badlands, which I drove by. I was not interested in any of those touristy things, but apparently they do a bang up business from the passing tourists on I-90.

I did stop at one place, that being a McDonald’s where I bought an Oreo Cookie McFlurry. Now, that’s my kind of tourist attraction! And I enjoyed it for probably 50 miles.

I also stopped at a rest area about 1300 hours and made lunch. I enjoyed some split pea soup and toast. And a couple of lil’ mandarin oranges for dessert. Also, I checked the navigator for restaurants at my destination of Rapid City, and found that there was a Golden Corral Buffet right next to Walmart. Uh-oh. I probably wouldn’t be able to resist.

I pulled into a gas station at the oddly named town of Presho, South Dakota to fill up with diesel. I believe it was the only station in the tiny town. I pumped two cycles that stopped at $100 each, and almost had a fill up. I could have added another five to ten gallons, probably, but didn’t bother. Their price was $3 per, and that was a good price, it seemed, in South Dakota.

Less than 10 miles from Rapid City, I pulled into a Love’s Travel Plaza to dump the holding tanks and load fresh water. The place was very busy, as it was the Friday afternoon before Memorial Day. Once that chore was done, I wouldn’t have to worry about dumping again ’til Tuesday. By that time, the traffic in such places would be back to normal.

I arrived at Rapid City’s Walmart at 1700 hours. I was back in the Mountain Time Zone, one hour later than home time. I adjusted the clocks accordingly. And then I set up the coach for the night, and worked through evening chores.

Big Blue at the Rapid City Walmart store for the night.

Nope. I couldn’t resist the Golden Corral Buffet that was right next to the coach. I walked over and picked out a very good meal including “Bourbon Chicken” which was delicious, but a bit spicy for my taste. And I added mashed taters and country gravy, some coleslaw, and deep fried shrimp. I took the pig-out meal back to the coach where I enjoyed a massive dinner, at least by my diet standards. They sold the food to go by the pound, and it weighed two pounds! I would surely be wearing those pounds in the morning when I weighed!

And then it was time to edit photos and write this travelogue. I think I included even more photos than usual, probably because I had been driving through such scenic country.

After the writing, I watched more documentary as I enjoyed a cool one. It was a usual evening aboard, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Day 13, Saturday, May 29, Rapid City, S.D. to Billings, MT via I-90, SD34, US212: 316 miles

I enjoyed a quiet and restful night in Rapid City. It was cool and breezy, probably all night, but I was warm in the coach. I worked through the morning chores, made Big Blue ready for the road, and headed off on my new day of adventure at 0730. It seemed that starting so early was becoming a habit.

Yep! Another beautiful start to my very scenic drive to Billings, Montana. Note the heavy Montana Memorial Day weekend traffic.

The day’s drive would likely be the most scenic drive of my entire adventure. I could drive all the way on I-90, which itself is very scenic, and is a drive of 372 miles. Or I could take US212, a shortcut of just 316 miles, and I would see absolutely spectacular scenery. However, US212 is also very remote and desolate. If one needed services of most any kind, it could be a long wait. And there are many miles where there is no phone service. So a risk is involved, especially for an old man like me. But I have driven US212 twice in the past, and to me, it’s worth a bit of a risk.

Here is a link to a map of the area. The lower alternate route is I-90, the long way to Billings, Montana. The upper route is US212, the route I drove.

The US212 short cut begins in South Dakota, clips just the northeast corner of Wyoming for a few miles, then the main portion of the drive is in Big Sky Country, Montana.

I stopped at a gas station in the small town of Belle Fourche, South Dakota, where SD34 meets US212. I topped off the diesel even though I had ¾ of a tank. If I were to have any problem along the drive, I’d want to have it with a full tank! While at the station, I whipped up a breakfast of toasted waffles and a couple mandarin oranges.

While still in South Dakota, I passed the Black Hills National Cemetery, a beautiful and hallowed place.

The cemetery is located just east of Sturgis, SD, the Mecca for motorcyclists. While I’ve had motorcycles most of  my adult life, I’ve never understood the madness of Sturgis and its wild partying. But I did drive through it, and even took a photo:

I didn’t see much in the town to photograph, but then I only passed through on the interstate. Here, at least, is the name STURGIS, emblazoned on a nearby hillside.

Here is a preview of the vastness and the beauty of the US212 drive through South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana.

Soon I crossed the state line into Wyoming, and drove just a few miles through the northeast corner of the state, and on into Montana.


Once in Montana, I looked long and hard for some Pronghorn. They are plentiful in the area, but unless they’re very near the road, they are very difficult to photograph as they’re not that easy to see at a distance.

I did find a couple Pronghorn near the road to shoot (with the camera), but that was about it for the day. There are many of them in the area, but just not so visible.

Here are many of the photos I took of the spectacular scenery. I’ll let the photos do the talking – they say in one photo what I couldn’t say in many words, and even they don’t do the area justice:

Click to enlarge:

Eventually, I reached the small town of Broadus, a bit over halfway through the US212 drive, and pulled into a rest area. I made a chicken salad sandwich with lettuce, onion and tomato. I also zapped a corn on the cob. It was one of five that I’d been carrying around in the fridge for almost two weeks, and was still good. For dessert I  had a banana and a small mandarin orange. And I continued on.

Somewhere between the town of Broadus and merging back onto I-90, I came across the incredible name – I would guess that BAAXUWUAASHE is a word in the Crow language. I drove miles through a Crow Nation Reservation. Crow Agency is a place, designated by the Census Bureau. It is also where the Crow Nation offices and other tribe related governmental offices are located.

Once back on I-90, which I drove a bit over 60 miles to reach Billings, the views were still very scenic. The traffic was very light, too – at least by my Kalifornistan standards. Perhaps it was busy for Montana, and if so, well… it was the Memorial Day Weekend!


I arrived at the Main Street Walmart in Billings at 1545. I settled in for the night first thing. There was a Panda Express in the shopping center, and I knew I was going to overeat once again.

Big Blue at the Main Street Walmart in Billings, Montana for the night.

After taking my walk, I settled down to just a Panda Bowl of white rice and orange chicken, which is their smallest order. I also got three small teriyaki sauces. I mixed the rice and teriyaki, had the orange chicken on the side, and zapped another of Allen and Nancy’s blackened chicken thighs. I also had a couple of mandarin oranges. Again. It was a grand meal.

Some time after dinner, I walked into the store for ice cream. And then my pig-out day was over. I would climb back on the diet wagon the next day!

I spent much of the evening editing photos and writing this travelogue. I didn’t get started watching documentaries ’til after 2200 hours. Naturally, I enjoyed a double cool one as I watched. I became very sleepy, and after dozing more than watching, I called it a day and headed to bed a few minutes after midnight.

Day 14, Sunday, May 30, Billings, MT to Butte, MT via I-90: 224 miles

I slept well, as usual, while the outside temps fell to 46° in Billings. I’m sure that’s very mild by Montana standards, but to me, a couple days before June, it seemed pretty cool. In Butte, Montana, the day’s destination, the high for Monday was predicted to be 73°, while at home the predicted high was to be 105°. I was in the right place!

Day 14 would not be an early departure day. I had some things to do. After morning chores, I headed into the store for some grocery shopping, and I had a new experience while there!

I’ve seen a lot of information about the coming autonomous cars, robots, etc., but never saw any actually working. But while in the bread aisle, along came a floor washing machine, which, if one shops early, can be seen operating up and down the aisles, with a person driving it. But the one I saw coming up the bread aisle toward me was driving itself!

Walmart is introducing Auto Cleaner floor-cleaning robots.
Here’s a photo, courtesy of Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, of an autonomous (robot) floor scrubber at work in a Walmart store.

The machine was very cautious, stopping for me ’til I moved out of its way. The darn thing passed by me two or three times in different aisles. I asked a couple of busy employees what they thought about it, and neither were fond of it. I think I’ve seen it all, now.

After the shopping, I tended the bug collection on the huge windshields, which somehow grow even larger when it’s time to wash ’em. For breakfast, I zapped a frozen Great Value Breakfast Bowl that I figured I’d try. I added a slice of toast and a banana. And then it was time to begin the day’s drive.

I shot 107 photos because the scenic drive was so spectacular. I certainly cannot post that many, so these will be the best of them. I won’t caption them, but they were all taken between Billings and Butte, Montana along I-90. They are generally posted in sequence as they were taken.

Click to enlarge, then you can scroll down each photo and click on “View full size” for even larger, and click again for full size photo:

I stopped for lunch at a rest area in the small town of, I think, Springhill Park. I made a sandwich of turkey slices, with tomatoes, onions and lettuce. Soon I was on my way again, to Butte, and I kept shooting photos of the lovely drive.

Here are more of them to click and enjoy:

Has this many photos become photo overload? Not to worry… Just a couple more left. Perhaps I shouldn’t post so many at once, but in years to come, I will surely enjoy reliving this drive through Montana.

Click for the day’s last two photos of gorgeous Montana:

I arrived in Butte at 1530, and pulled into a very crowded lot on that Sunday before Memorial Day. I didn’t set up the coach for the night, because I wanted to scout out more parking during my walk.

Sure enough, during my walk I discovered another parking lot that I didn’t see when I first pulled in. It was nearly empty, with plenty of room.

My walk, at over 5500 feet, was pretty demanding for this old man. As regular readers have likely read, I’m not only old, but I’m a heart patient to boot. Walking at 5500 feet isn’t all that hard for me, but it tires me out pretty quickly. Nevertheless, I walked for my usual 25 minutes. After the walk I returned to the coach to begin my photo editing and writing.

Big Blue parked at Butte, Montana’s Walmart at over 5500 feet. 

And then, having just settled down, I had a thirst for more of that fancy Stella Artois beer that our son, Allen, got me hooked on. So, I walked into the store and bought another six-pack of the stuff. I enjoyed two of them as I edited photos, and it was well worth the extra walk.

After editing so many photos, it was time for evening chores. I showered, then zapped the second-to-last blackened chicken thigh Allen and Nancy gave me. That chicken is so addictive! I also zapped a sweet potato and an ear of corn, and enjoyed a very good dinner.

After K.P., I commenced clacking away on the laptop again. When I finally finished editing so many photos and had this travelogue up to date, I watched more documentary on Curiosity Stream. A cool one accompanied the viewing, of course. After dozing off too many times, this tired, old man headed for bed at midnight. It had been a very pleasant day.

Day 15, Memorial Day, Monday, May 31, Butte, MT to Smelterville, ID via I-90: 249 miles

I was up and at ’em at my usual 0630. I read that the low in Butte overnight was to be about 34°, but it was actually 42°. The morning was sunny, calm and pleasant.

I worked through the morning chores, then walked into the store for a couple of grocery items. And a couple I didn’t need, no doubt. Back at the coach, I readied her for the day’s travel. The day would wind up in Idaho, at a town named Smelterville.

Smelterville is a small town of 600-some souls. It was so-named back in 1929 because it had a smelter for the local mines. It’s history is not pretty, as it was named a Superfund site for cleanup back in the 1980s. I’d never heard of the place, although I’ve driven by it at least twice on prior RV travels. But it had a Walmart, so I knew I’d have a safe place to park. But I am already ahead of myself…

I began the day’s drive at 0800 hours in high spirits. I am always delighted to be bummin’ around the country, and I knew the day’s drive would be another very scenic one.

I love Montana, but only during the late spring and summer months. I spent one winter there as a high school sophomore with my grandmother, when she decided to live there near one of her sons, my Uncle Carrol. One winter in Stevensville, Montana was enough Montana winter for a lifetime.

It was a very scenic start of the day’s drive. Click!

Montana is free of many of the issues that plague Kalifornistan because  of its large population. There are seven people per square mile in Montana, while there are 253 people per square mile in Kalifornistan. There. That explains it for me. I suppose climate is a major reason for the differences.

Here are more photos of the scenic Montana drive. Click for larger photos and captions:

I stopped for breakfast in the small town of Deer Lodge, Montana. I hadn’t had a McGriddle for several days, something I don’t allow myself at home, but enjoy occasionally while bummin’ the country. I was also due for more fuel. I bought the McGriddle with sausage, egg, and cheese, added a small banana and a lil’ mandarin orange, and enjoyed them in the coach. Then I pulled into a gas station right next to the Mickey D’s, and filled up for $3.10 per, well over a dollar less than back home. Yes, I certainly enjoyed that McGriddle fix – they ought to designate those things a controlled substance! And I continued the day’s drive.

Enjoy a few more photos of the day’s scenic drive. Just click!

I arrived at Smelterville, Idaho’s Walmart store about 1300 hours, the earliest arrival so far this trip, as I recall. I enjoyed better than average fuel economy on the day’s drive as I dropped from over 5500 feet in Butte to about 2200 feet elevation in Smelterville. From Lookout Pass, at the Idaho state line, it was downhill almost all the way.

Once set up for the night, at only about 1330 hours, I planned to take my daily walk. But, I just felt lazy. It was pretty warm, too, at about 84° that afternoon. I chose instead to take a nap since it was so early in the afternoon. I napped for an hour, and felt refreshed afterward. I was still dealing with the current issue of AFib, too, and perhaps a nap was the best choice.

Big Blue set up for the night at Smelterville, Idaho’s Walmart store.

I spent most of the afternoon editing photos and updating this travelogue. I ran the air conditioner two or three times for an hour or so, as it became too warm in the coach to be comfy. Each time I shut it off, I opened the coach up thinking it was cool enough outside. Then I’d have to turn it on again a while later. What a difference from a few days ago!

I would find it much warmer in Kennewick, WA the next day. The forecast there was for 102°, and I wasn’t looking forward to that kind of heat. I would take my sweet time getting there, and if I didn’t arrive ’til after dark, that would be fine.

I zapped the last blackened chicken thigh and a can of creamed corn for dinner. I added a couple mandarin oranges for dessert. I sure enjoyed that chicken while it lasted!

I hate to admit I dug out the movie The Proposal. I had watched it once already this trip, but I chuckled my way through most of it again, and would finish watching the next night. I guess I’m just very easily entertained.

During the late afternoon, a rather rude RVer parked his big Class A high dollar coach facing mine, windshield to windshield, and fired up his generator. The generators are usually mounted at the front of diesel coaches, and that made his rather loud generator just outside my windshield. So, I moved to another part of the lot. Some people!

This day, Memorial Day, I want to acknowledge the sacrifice of our many military heroes who gave all in our defense. May God bless them and their families for paying the ultimate price for our freedom. We wouldn’t be free without them. I appreciate all those who have served this wonderful country in the military. 

When midnight rolled around, I crawled into bed. There were a couple of reefers not far off, but far enough that I could sleep in spite of them. And I slept well.

Day 16, Tuesday, June 1, Smelterville, ID to Kennewick, WA via I-90, US395: 209 miles

When  I was up and about that first morning in June, I would take my sweet time going anywhere and doing anything. I wanted to arrive late at Kennewick where it was to be so hot that afternoon. If I arrived after dark, that would be just fine!

To that end, I took my sweet time around the coach. I dawdled ’till it was time to whip up breakfast. I simply made some oatmeal and added a sliced banana. And I had a mandarin orange for dessert.

A peek at life aboard Big Blue. Here I am on the 2nd day of my third week of the trip, preparing breakfast.

The dawdling included cleaning the massive windshields again. I believe I had cleaned them three times in three days, and that job may continue daily the rest of the trip. The weather was certainly much warmer, and very well may continue the rest of the trip. The bugs tend to commit suicide against my windshields more in hot weather, unfortunately.

I also took my daily walk around the Walmart lot, and a lap or so inside the store. After 25 minutes, I figured that I’d dawdled enough, and prepped the coach for the day’s drive. I pulled out of Smelterville, ID at 1015 and continued west.

I drove over the Fourth of July Summit in Idaho. As I did so, I was treated to some huge loads working their way up the east bound side, and managed a few good shots. Click to enlarge and read the captions:

I scheduled a stop at a Love’s Travel Plaza in the town of Post Falls, Idaho. I needed to dump the holding tanks and fill the fresh water tank. I called ahead to  be sure they had a RV dump, and, as usual, they did.

A lovely Idaho home off in the wide open distance. Such sights would diminish greatly as I entered Washington, and on home. I imagine living in such a place would be heaven on earth – ’til winter came along. (Click to enlarge.)

Along the drive I stopped at a rest area to shop for diesel on the ‘net. I found a station on the Washington state line, in Idaho, selling the stuff for $3.03. I had checked Washington prices and they were higher, likely due to taxes, in the $3.20s range. I had room to pump on only 26 gallons, but for the difference, it would be worth it.

The weather warmed up as I drove. By noon or so, I reckoned it was hot everywhere. Traffic increased to downright heavy as I approached Spokane and drove through it. I missed Montana already!

Someone’s day was ruined in the Spokane area. I had no details, but that car was badly damaged. (Click to enlarge.)

Where’s all the beautiful landscape I’d enjoyed so much?! I encountered this brown and ugly landscape somewhere west of Spokane, and from prior travels, I knew I’d be seeing a lot more of it.

I planned to kill time so as to arrive at miserably hot Kennewick, WA late in the day – the later the better. About 1330 I pulled into a rest area to do the killing. It was fairly comfortable up to about 1445 when I had to fire up the generator and front room air conditioner to stay cool.

According to my outdoor thermometer, it reached the mid 90s in the rest area. That was at something over 2000 feet elevation, and I figured it would be at least the predicted 102° in Kennewick at just 400 feet. But if I had to run the air conditioner at the rest area, I might as well continue my drive and run it at Kennewick. And I was getting bored just killing time.

It was 1600 hours as I left the rest area and continued on to Kennewick. I had killed 2½ hours. Perhaps I’d find another time killing stop as I drove the remaining 100 miles or so.

I eventually reached the turn off to US395 which took me south toward Kennewick. That highway passes some awful dry and barren land that looks much like parched Kalifornistan. But there are areas with irrigation, and those areas are very green and productive.

A bit beyond half way down US395 there was a sign for a rest area that I didn’t recall from prior trips. It occurred to me that it was an opportunity to kill a bit more time by pulling in and taking my shower. It was around 1730, which was my usual shower time. I would have that chore done, and I would arrive later at Kennewick. And I did exactly that.

That rest area also had a RV dump. Of course I’d find that after just having paid to dump a few hours earlier! I hoped I could remember that place for future trips.


From the rest area, I continued on down US395 ’til I reached civilization again near Kennewick. I crossed the Columbia River in that area, and continued on to my turn off. After a few miles driving through the city to the Walmart store, I pulled  in at 1840 hours. It was still pretty hot, as expected, and my outside window thermometer on the shady side of the coach read 90°. I ran the air conditioner for hours to stay comfy.

Jacks down for the night at Kennewick, Washington’s Walmart store.

After setting up the coach for the night, I walked to a nearby Thai restaurant for dinner. I ordered a non-spicy chicken, vegetable, and rice dish to go. It was probably more like Chinese than Thai.

Back at the coach I enjoyed a Chinese food pig-out, including some peanut sauce I also ordered mixed into the bowl. It was quite good, but not any threat to Panda Express.

And then it was time to edit photos and to update this travelogue. The update took less time than usual as I had already updated earlier, but still, I edited and wrote ’til 2145 hours.

I was able to turn off the air conditioners about 2130, and be comfy with just the windows of the coach open. It was still near 80° outside, but that was tolerable. 

It was finally time to continue watching The Proposal, and to enjoy a good, cold one. It had been a long day. I watched the movie to the end, when it was nearing midnight.

I had the air conditioners off when I retired, but a few minutes later, I just had to turn the bedroom unit back on. It was just too warm to sleep. When I did, I dropped off to sleep easily. About an hour later, I awoke and turned the air off. I slept well.

Day 17, Wednesday, June 2, Kennewick, WA to Keizer, OR via I-82, I-84, I-205, I-5: 249 miles

I was up and at ’em at my usual 0630. The day would find me traveling to visit my ol’ high school buddy, Al, and his wife, Betty. I hadn’t seen them since last June, almost a year ago. But first things first…

I had a number of things to get done that morning. First, I had to turn the rear of the coach into the very warm morning sun as it was shining on the broad side of the coach, making it very warm inside.

I also had to shop for a few groceries. And those monster windshields needed cleaning for the fourth time in four days. When I had all that behind me, it was time to update this travelogue.

It was also time for breakfast, which was a Jimmy Dean’s Egg’wich, a tiny banana, and a mandarin orange. And then I set Big Blue up for the day’s drive to Al and Betty’s home in Keizer, Oregon. I pulled out of Kennewick at 0940.

The drive began with a climb out of Kennewick through more bland, dry, and not very scenic country. Kennewick is known for short, hot summers and very cold winters. It is contrary to my preconception of Washington as a lovely, green place to live – which, I believe, describes most of the state.

The highlight of the day’s drive would be the stunningly beautiful Columbia River Gorge. The Gorge would also be the longest part of the drive.

I’ll post the photos in a large gallery here, and the photos will show the beauty of the place much better than I could describe it.


I stopped in the little town of Cascade Locks, Oregon for lunch. I simply took the town’s offramp from I-84, then found a wide shoulder area and parked. I zapped a frozen sweet and sour chicken meal, added a slice of bread and jelly, a banana, and that was my quick and easy lunch. I continued westbound.

The drive down I-205 and I-5 to Keizer was pure urban traffic, sometimes slowed and sometimes at the limit. After the Gorge drive, nothing about the city driving seemed photogenic enough to shoot.

I arrived at Al and Betty’s home in Keizer, Oregon a few minutes after 1500 hours. Their home is on a rather small cul-de-sac with little room to turn around and back into their driveway. So, as usual there, I backed down the last block leading to their place, and easily backed into their driveway.

Big Blue backed into Al and Betty’s driveway and secured by their fence. 

Al guided me into my spot, and it was good to be done with the drive – that city traffic was not pleasant after all the wide open country I’d driven. I sure missed Montana!

It was great to greet and hug Al and Betty after almost a year since my visit last June. Al and I go waaaay beck to high school in 1957 when he was a mighty senior and I was about the smallest freshman.

We headed into their lovely home to visit a while and begin to catch up on each other’s happenings. After a brief visit, I went out to the coach and set her up for a couple days’ stay.

Al was recently diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis. He is now on oxygen and has seemingly done real well handling his much less active lifestyle. His passion is carving wood, and he can work in his shop creating the excellent carvings he is noted for. Betty is a can-do person, and she is a big help to Al.

Here is a photo from 2016 of Al and I. This is a nice display of some of Al’s carvings when I went to an art show with him. He’s an accomplished artist, with a masters degree in art education. He taught art in public schools for many years. That big salmon between Al and I was just completed by Al for me. I had commissioned that big salmon which was a smaller copy of one I had caught some years earlier. (Click photo to enlarge, then click again for full size.)

After our visit, I spent some of the afternoon in the coach editing photos and updating this travelogue. I also zapped a dinner while in the coach, having asked Betty, who loves to cook for people, not to worry about dinner for me.

After dinner in the coach, I offered to make margaritas for them. Al thought that sounded good, while Betty declined. I mixed a couple of margaritas in the coach for Al and I, and returned to the house with them. We continued our warm visit, and it was good to spend time with Al and Betty, especially since I hadn’t seen them for almost a year. It was about 2000 hours when I bid them goodnight, and headed to the coach.

I’m very happy to report that the arrythmia that kicked in the prior Thursday finally departed once again! Yep – as I shopped at Walmart earlier, before leaving Kennewick, I felt a bit dizzy, which I’ve experienced before as my heart kicks back into rhythm. Then, immediately after the bit of dizziness, my heartbeat was regular again. Now, if it would just stay in rhythm, I would be very pleased!

I began watching the movie, The Help, starring Emma Stone and Viola Davis. I find it very entertaining and moving, and have seen it a couple times in the past. As midnight approached, I paused the movie ’til the next night, and headed for bed. It had been a fine day and I looked forward to another with Al and Betty the next day.

Day 18, Thursday, June 3, at rest in Keizer, Oregon with Al and Betty

It was quite a change of pace to not hop out of bed with someplace to go. Day 18 would be a refreshing day of rest, and I was probably due for such a day. However, it wouldn’t be entirely restful; I had to do some housecleaning, and perhaps even wash the coach.

I did get some housecleaning done, but as for washing the coach, that sounded like too much work for a “day off”.

The day was very restful and laid back. I spent much of the day just visiting with Al and Betty. Al and I planned to head to my one and only favorite restaurant, the only one I ever visit nowadays, McGrath’s Fish House in nearby Salem. They have the absolute best coconut shrimp and clam chowder I’ve ever tasted. And I could say the same for their margaritas. Equally as important, the place is quiet.

I spent the day doing not much of anything but visiting on and off with Al and Betty. It was good to have a whole day to take it easy. I did fret over the !#$%@&!! fridge! I woke up that morning to find the fridge at 38° and the freezer at -5°, very good temps, indeed. But during the day they gradually warmed ’til the fridge reached almost 48° as the freezer was about 0°. I did everything I could think of, including switching from 110 AC current, since I was plugged into electricity during my stay, back to propane, which I’m usually on during my trips. I was nearly convinced that the fridge needed a new circuit board.

Al and I headed to McGraths around 1600 hours. The meal was the usual delight, and we had a grand time. I even had a second margarita. For dessert, Al picked up the tab; he wouldn’t even let me pay the tip! And, having eaten so early, we certainly missed the crowd. 

MCGRATH'S FISH HOUSE, Salem - Restaurant Reviews, Photos & Reservations - TripadvisorMcGrath’s Fish House in Salem, Oregon – if you ever get a chance to eat here, don’t pass it up! They also have locations in Medford, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington.

Back at Al and Betty’s, it was time for an edible dessert. Betty served us a bowl of ice cream with broken Oreos scattered over the top. It’s surprising how much those cookies add to a bowl of ice cream. We visited ’til about 2000 hours when I bid them goodnight, with much thanks for their hospitality. 

When I returned to the coach, I updated this travelogue and posted just one photo. When I was done, I watched the rest of the movie, The Help. Then I began watching the movie, The Green Mile, which I have watched often and find it one of those movies I can watch over and over. I poured a cool one, sat back and began watching the show. I didn’t get far into the movie because I dozed off, as usual. It must have been a good snooze, because I awoke at nearly midnight. I turned off the computer, and headed to bed. It had been a lovely day and a grand evening.

Day 19, Friday, June 4, Keizer, OR to La Pine, OR via I-5, OR58, US97: 182 miles

Once through the morning chores, I began setting up the coach for the day’s drive. When that was done, I headed into the house to visit with Al and Betty.

I had told Betty to not worry about breakfast for me. But once we began visiting, I remembered a wonderful cinnamon roll that she served up the day before, and asked her for one for my breakfast. Of course I could have one! In no time Betty brought Al and I each a cinnamon roll, hot and buttered and delicious. And that took care of breakfast.

When the rolls were gone, and we’d had a nice visit, it was time to bid my oldest friend, Al, and his lovely wife, Betty, good-bye. It was tough to see Al dealing with that awful pulmonary fibrosis. But he seemed to have a positive attitude about it, and Betty was a great help for him. I thanked them for the lovely visit and their warm hospitality. I assured them I’d see them again later in the summer, and headed to the coach.

I pulled out of their driveway a few minutes before 0900 hours, heading to La Pine, Oregon to spend a couple of nights at Jill and Craig’s place, The Little Cabin in the Woods.

La Pine, Oregon is a very snowy place in the winters. They average nearly eight feet of precipitation per year, most of it snow, and we never visit there in the winters, so I was excited to be heading their way! Although it was June, the weather guessers predicted I’d see nights into the 30s during my visit.

I had scheduled two stops that morning. First, I stopped at a Walmart a few miles down the interstate for some groceries I needed. I also was about out of drinking/coffee water. So I filled the empty water containers at Walmart’s purified water dispenser, as I wrote about earlier in this travelogue.

Photos from my drive down I-5. Just click:

Next, a few more miles down the interstate, I pulled into a Love’s Travel Plaza to dump the holding tanks and fill the fresh water tank. With that done, I was good ’til I got home.

The day’s drive would take me up into the Cascade Mountains on OR58, a wonderful, smooth, scenic state highway. I shot entirely too many photos, as usual, as the scenery was so beautiful.

Click for beautiful scenery along OR58 and La Pine, Oregon:

I planned to have a Mickey D’s lunch in the small town of Oakridge, about half way into the drive along OR58. The navigator showed one in that town, but if there had been one, it was gone. There was, however, a Dairy Queen, so I pulled into their RV parking area. I walked in and ordered a fish sandwich and a Blizzard, which is like a McDonald’s McFlurry. I enjoyed that very good fishwich in the coach, and once underway, enjoyed the Blizzard for miles.

I turned north when I reached US97, which took me into La Pine. I arrived at Jill and Craig’s place about 1430 hours. They were both at work, so I just backed Big Blue into her parking space very near their cabin, and set up for a stay of a couple of nights.

Big Blue tucked away in the woods next to Jill and Craig’s little cabin. (Click to enlarge.)

When they arrived home from work, we began a lovely visit. I hadn’t visited them at their home since October, but we had seen them at her dad’s home in Gridley in March. Soon the margaritas were passed around, and we had a lovely evening together, some of it spent on their very scenic and peaceful front porch.

Cheers! It was party time at The Little Cabin in the Woods. That’s Jill (L), then that Tom Selleck look alike, and Craig, enjoying the good times.

I asked Jill and Craig to not bother with dinner for me, as I had plenty in the coach, and they had just finished a hard week of school jobs. But those irresistible peanut butter/pretzel nuggets about made a meal for me, anyway. Craig poured a bowl of them for us, twice, and I surely had much more than my fair share. Even so, just before I headed back to the coach for the night a bit after 1900, Craig offered me a bowl of rice with his own secret sauce and a delicious rib and a chicken leg mixed into it. I was surprised how quickly he put it together – he said they were leftovers. I took it to the coach with me, and it was a delicious dinner.

I worked a bit on this travelogue, but was just too tired to stay with it. I continued watching The Green Mile ’til bedtime, and finally trotted off to bed at midnight. It had been a wonderful day of traveling through beautiful Oregon, and spending time with family. I am a very blessed guy to be doing just what I love to do.

Day 20, Saturday, June 5, at rest with family in La Pine, OR

I slept well out in the woods near La Pine. I was up at my usual 0630, or actually a few minutes later. I checked the outside temperature as I turned on the heaters. It was just 36°! That was the coldest morning so far this trip, and I’d been in Wisconsin and Minnesota, fer cryin’ out loud! I crawled back into bed a few minutes as things warmed up for this Central Valley tenderfoot.

It was the weekend, and for a retired ol’ geezer like me, whose every day is a Saturday, it doesn’t mean much. But for Jill and Craig, it was one of only two days off per week. Jill wanted a slow, easy start to her day while Craig wanted to get to work on his many projects around their two acres of grounds. I was fine with that, and I wanted to just lollygag around the coach for the first few hours, updating this travelogue.

Sometime after 1000 hours, Jill visited me in the coach to ask if I wanted some eggs and pancakes. She would call it brunch, and I’d call it lunch, and we both agreed that sometime around noon we’d have just that. I suggested she just toast my toaster waffles instead of making pancakes, and she liked that idea. So, sometime around 1130, Craig joined us on the front porch for our brunch/lunch. We had a nice visit and enjoyed a good meal.

A reader asked in the comment section (below) what I mean when I mention editing photos for this blog. That was an interesting question, so let me answer here. My camera is set to take photos 4608 pixels wide by 3456 pixels high. Also, they are 300 DPI, or dots per inch. Those dots per inch means that a printer will print 300 dots per inch when printing, which is far more than necessary for seeing the photo on a computer screen. Just 72 DPI works fine for a screen, and makes for a much smaller photo to process and store. The raw photos from my camera are huge photos, much bigger than needed for my site. The reason I take them so large is so that I can crop as necessary for the best photo. Here is an example of a raw photo except that I have reduced its size for use here:

This is the raw, unedited photo I edited and used in the photo gallery (above) of the bridge along OR58. I made the mistake here of including a portion of my navigator in the photo. You’ll see that in the gallery above, the bridge is the full photo and the navigator is gone. I simply cropped the portion I wanted from the larger photo. I also made a minor edit in the coloring, and sharpened it a bit. The raw photo and the edited photo in the gallery are both the same size because the original was so large I could resize even a portion of it to the size I like to use when posting to the site. That smaller size is 1500 pixels the longest way, and the shortest side, usually the height, is correspondingly smaller to maintain the aspect ratio.

Here is the completely edited photo:

And that is an example of photo editing. I hope that explanation is clear and that it makes sense.

During the afternoon Jill and I walked a couple of long blocks to an acre lot they purchased some time ago. She explained that perhaps her dad, my brother-in-law, John, would move a RV trailer onto the lot and live close to them during the summers. They plan to install a septic tank, drill a well, and wire in electricity to the lot.

Jill tried out a new drink on me, at least it was new to me. It was something called a Moscow Mule. It was made with ginger beer, something also new to me, gin, and lime juice. And mint. I tried to get around the mint, but just couldn’t. I asked Jill to strain out the mint if she could, and she got most of it. It was served in copper cups to keep it as cold as possible. Ummm, uhhh… well. I believe I’ll stay with the margaritas.

When dinnertime rolled around, Craig barbecued black thighs for ol’ Uncle Dale – they know that is my favorite food. These were made with teriyaki sauce and were delicious. We also had white rice with teriyaki sauce and a salad. It was a splendid meal, and I certainly enjoyed it. Jill also gave me some leftover chicken and rice for lunch the next day.

My delicious dinner of teriyaki blackened chicken thighs, white rice with teriyaki, and salad. mmmmmmmm. Good!

We visited ’til sometime after 1900 hours when I bid Jill and Craig goodnight and headed to the coach. It had been a lovely day together. It was very cool in La Pine that evening. At the time of this writing, it was just 47°, on the way to a low of 32° overnight. In June?! I could never live in La Pine, it is just too cold for this old sissy.

I spent the evening as usual. I watched more of The Green Mile, dozing off from time to time. I gave up trying to stay awake and was in bed a few minutes before midnight. It had been a lovely day with family.

Day 21, Sunday, June 6, La Pine, OR to Gridley, CA via US92, I-5, CA162, CA99: 361 miles

I awoke in La Pine to a freezing 30° outside. That just seemed nuts to me! After all, it was June and just a couple weeks ’til summer. But so it is in La Pine, and again, I just couldn’t live in country that is so cold!

I definitely turned on the heaters when I first awoke, then headed back to bed while things warmed up. I had set the bedroom at 66° overnight, but that certainly wasn’t comfortable to me when I got up.

When things were more comfortable, I got after the morning chores with some enthusiasm because I was going to be back on the road! It would be a long day, too, as I would drive to Gridley, about 360 miles away.

Day 21 would complete three weeks on the road. I so enjoyed those days of visiting friends and relatives while bummin’ around the country in comfort aboard Big Blue. I would arrive back home to my Honey the following day, Day 22, and I was about ready to be home.

When chores were done, I went into the house and visited with Jill and Craig for a few minutes before leaving. I thanked them for allowing their crazy uncle to stay for a couple nights, and for feeding him so well. I had enjoyed a lovely stay, except for the Arctic weather, and was grateful. They would possibly visit John in Gridley in July, and to me, that sounded like another opportunity to get together. I bid them good-bye with hugs, and set off on the 22nd day of my adventure. I planned to be home the next day.

First thing, I had to fuel up before leaving La Pine. I pulled into The Towne Pump gas station and pumped on 72 gallons of diesel to fill the tank. And I was on my way!

One of my favorite drives is US97 from Weed, Kalifornistan to La Pine – or vice versa – about a 180 mile drive. And I began that very drive, happy to be on the road again. It is a very beautiful drive. I shot waaay too many photos and spent a lot of time editing them that evening.

I stopped for breakfast about an hour into my drive, at a gas station parking area in a small town, perhaps it was Chemult, about 35 miles south of La Pine. I simply zapped a bowl of milk, added oatmeal, a bit of syrup, and sliced a banana into it when it was done.


The drive down US97 skirts the shore of beautiful Klamath Lake, and then on into the city of Klamath Falls. There seems to be water everywhere in that area, and it appears to be a very productive farming area.

Klamath Lake is one of the highlights of the drive. It is a beautiful body of water, and it was there I took what I think was the best photo of the entire adventure.

Editor’s Choice – First Place photo of the entire trip:

Click to enlarge.
Beautiful Klamath Lake with Mt. Shasta in the background. A reader, Sandy Aerts, wrote in a comment below (that has since disappeared):
“As I clicked to this picture, the first 3 words out of my mouth were, “Oh…My…God!!” I’m literally at a loss for other words. GREAT JOB, DALE!”

Her comment, and  my own appreciation of my good luck with the photo, made me think that this photo deserves to be posted alone, and not buried in a gallery with other photos. The photo captures the blues of sky, lake, and distant hills. I was curious about the blue hills in the background, and found this explanation on the ‘net:

“The sky is blue because the air in the atmosphere scatters blue light. But when we look at a distant object such as a mountain range we can also see the blue light scattered in the air. This is what gives distant mountains their blue colour.” 

US97 is lightly traveled by Kalifornistan standards, and there are many passing lanes provided. It is relatively straight, and all in all, makes a very nice presentation of Oregon’s beauty.

Around 1300 hours, I pulled into a parking area for lunch. Jill and Craig had given me a bowl of rice and a teriyaki blackened chicken thigh, and that was my lunch. It was a mighty special lunch. And I continued on.

More scenic photos to click:

US97 eventually merged onto I-5 in the town of Weed, Kalifornistan. The two lane drive was over for a while as I joined the stampede known as I-5. Fortunately, the drive was on a Sunday, so the truck traffic was considerably reduced.

The 30° I woke up too was long forgotten as I drove down I-5 in 80°+ weather. I ran the dash air conditioner much of the afternoon. It would soon be much hotter in the Central Valley.

I arrived at John’s place outside Gridley at 1700 hours. I was pretty whipped from the day’s long drive. Once set up, John and I headed into the house for dinner. He bought a couple chicken burritos with salad at a local Mexican deli. They made for very good dinners. We visited during our dinner, but soon after I headed back to the coach – I had quite a lot of editing and writing to get done.

Big Blue back on John’s driveway on Day 21, the same spot she found herself the afternoon of Day 1.

Once the travelogue was up to date, I kicked back to watch the rest of The Green Mile. John wanted me to take a couple pieces of a lemon cake he had, and wouldn’t let me decline. In fact, he thought I should take two pieces. I’m easily talked into such foolishness, so I figured I’d take a second piece for the next day. Naturally, I ate both during the evening. Some things never change.

I enjoyed a cool one during the evening, as well. It was near midnight when I headed to bed. I slept very well after the long day.

Day 22, Monday, June 7, Gridley to home via CA99, I-5: 122 miles

The first day of my fourth week on the road would be the last day of this adventure. I was ready to be home. I’d been thinking of that first hug when I greeted my dear Wifey back home. I’d been thinking of a good, hot, long soak in the hot tub, and also a good, hot, long, wasteful shower with all the hot water I wanted. Yep. Those are a few of the things I miss after such a long road trip.

But back to reality… I was up and around at my usual time of 0630. It was good to wake up to the high 50s instead of below freezing as it was in La Pine the morning before.

Day 22 would be a long one. First, the drive home of just 120 miles or so, and then I’d be unloading the coach. After so many days, that would be a big job.

After I was up for a while, I headed to the house to see John and have a breakfast of Cheerios and toast with peanut butter and honey. I was waaaay off my diet, and was enjoying the last day of my dietary holiday, because beginning the next day, I’d be back to eating like an old heart patient ought to eat.

John and I visited over breakfast, discussing the coming changes he was dealing with. He had listed the house and his immediate future was up in the air. Someone could buy it at any time, and he’d have to begin the big project of an estate sale. He planned to sell nearly everything to the bare walls, and move to his kids to live. He planned to live with his son in Arizona during the winters, and near his daughter in La Pine, Oregon in the summers.

After breakfast and our visit, I readied the coach for the relatively short drive home. I bid John good-bye with thanks for the hospitality, and pulled out of his driveway – perhaps for the last time – at 0830.


I certainly was back in Kalifornistan! The drive home was through the heaviest traffic and on the worst roads since I’d left this third world country. And the fuel prices were the highest I’d seen since I left.

I arrived home at 1100 hours, and was very pleased to pull up to our house after 22 days away. I gave my dear Lavonne a big hug, and it was so good to be back home. We visited for a few minutes in the house as we talked of the trip and the goings on around our little senior community. Soon enough it was time to unload the coach, a mighty big job for an old man.

Big Blue in front of our house as I unloaded our stuff from the long trip. She ran flawlessly the entire drive.

It was 1500 hours when I parked Big Blue in her oversized car port. I had cleared her of all our stuff, then dumped her holding tanks and filled her fresh water tank. Those hours included a break for lunch, and a couple more breaks just to rest a few minutes. But finally the work was done and I was back home with my Honey!


The 22 day trip covered 4,940 miles according to the Garmin navigator. I drove through 14 states including Kalifornistan, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon.

I spent three nights at Cherry Creek State Park’s RV park, five nights parked in friends’ and families‘  driveways, and 13 nights at 13 different Walmart lots.

Big Blue covered those 4940 miles using about 583 gallons of fuel for an overall average of 8.5 MPG. She ran flawlessly, and I was very proud of her. She kept me warm and dry in the cold and rain and cool during the days of hot weather. I prepared most meals aboard in her compact kitchen. The view all through the adventure was magnificent through her huge windshields. I slept well in her queen size bed and had a hot, quick but thorough shower every evening in her efficient little bathroom. All components and appliances worked just fine except, of course, the fridge which tried my patience regularly. In spite of the fridge issues, no food was spoiled during the entire trip. I can’t imagine a form of travel that I would prefer over the comforts and efficiencies of a modern motor home.

And now, I look forward to the next adventure aboard Big Blue, and wonder where she will take me, or possibly, us, next. Life is good with Big Blue!

Here is an approximate map of the Wisconsin Adventure:

About FishWisher

Over the years I have posted many exciting fishing and boating stories here, but now in my seventies, it was time to sell the boat and find less demanding pastimes. All the fishing stories are still here! I will now post my travels aboard the motorhome and other activities. I hope y'all will still enjoy the fishing and boating adventures and perhaps peek in on my post-boating activities on occasion. Thanks for dropping in and I hope you enjoy your visit.
This entry was posted in Travel: Allen's, Travel: Gale & John, Travel: Interstate Adventure!. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to To Denver and Beyond Once Again!

  1. Sandy Aerts says:

    So glad you’re going to hit Wisconsin. Do you know about where? If your into football, you should check out Lambeau Field, home of the Packers.

  2. FishWisher says:

    Hi Sandy –

    It’s good to hear from you again. But, no – I’m not what you’d call a football fan. You know me – I don’t go where crowds go. I like the wide open country where beef critters outnumber the people! And that’s exactly where I am now – I love it here in farm country. I’m in Nebraska today and Iowa tomorrow and I’d live here if my dear Wifey would join me. Well… maybe not in the winter.

    Thanks for the visit. I hope all is well with you and yours.


  3. Sandy Aerts says:

    Jim and I noticed in our travel to Arkansas and Louisiana that people are now painting their barns white, which is really nice to see. Apparently white is cheaper than red. However, WI has so many abandoned barns after other people buy the land/house. Some we’ve noticed that now steel roofs are being put on them. A wise decision if using it.

    Just a note on this; our temps have been a total roller coaster! Today we have heat on. It’s only 47º outside and raining. Yesterday in the 60’s, the day before in the 70’s and the day before that, 80’s! Tonight in the northern part of our county they are at this time, calling for 33º tonight, but that could go down by evening weather news. No wonder we have the saying, “if you don’t like the weather, stick around a day.”

    Enjoying your blog, as always.

    Safe travels,

    • FishWisher says:

      Hi, Sandy –

      There’s just something about the rural look of red barns and other farm structures painted red with white trim that I find so pleasing to the eye. I can’t say I’ve seen many white ones, but as you said, that may be the coming trend.

      This is the time of year for weather extremes, I guess. In Fairmont, MN last night it was 39° and my drive so far this morning I’ve had the heater on high to keep comfy. At home, they’re predicting 102° for Monday. Of course those locations are a great distance from each other, and I would gladly settle for something about in the middle. I’m heading for Oregon now, and I’m hoping for some nice, mild weather.

      Thanks for the visit and your kind words.


  4. Sandy Aerts says:

    Hi Dale-
    I loved the snow packed mountain pictures and the scenery! I’m surprised you’re still traveling. I’m thinking this is probably the longest trip since I’ve been reading your blog.
    I do have 2 questions…WHY do you call California Kal etc.?? Number 2…what of the pictures do you edit? Just deciding which ones are going to be shown, or cleaning them up? My need to know brain wants to know. LOL I often question things, as you’ve probably know by now.
    I’m so happy that your irregular heart beat corrected itself. I can’t imagine living with something like that.
    Two days ago Jim and I had our 14th anniversary and 19 years together. Nothing like you and your wife, but for me, the longest in my almost 72 years of being with someone.
    I noticed that the picture with your buddy, you had a fuller face. I’m sure your heart doctor wants you at the weight you are due to your heart issues, but this is ONLY my opinion…better with a fuller face. Jim is trying to lose weight as he’s over 200. At one point when he was so sick, he was down below his 185 high school weight. Everyone thought he was too thin. So now, he’s trying again, but without being sick. LOL I don’t see it happening despite being so active during the summer months because he loves his food too much. 🙂
    I, somehow, have lost some 6.5#s. Don’t know why as nothing in my life has changed. I’m now finding I have to “hitch up” my jeans when I wear them.
    Safe travels on your way home. God be with you!


    • FishWisher says:

      Hi Sandy –
      I call our pathetic state Kalifornistan because it sounds like the third world country it has become. You know, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, etc. Maybe they’re not all poor, third world, but that’s my notion. Kalifornistan fits right in, it seems.
      I posted an answer to the photo editing on today’s post (6-5), and showed a pretty good example. I edit size, content, color, sharpness, etc., as necessary.
      Congratulations to you and Jim on your anniversary. It is good to find the right person, eh? It took me quite a long time, for sure.
      As for my thinner face, I’d never want to go back to the fuller one. I am so happy to have lost that weight, and am keeping it off. I’m one of those who has no choice because of my heart history. In my forties, as a runner, I weighted 150 and now weigh 155 at this advanced age. I have been as high as the 220s, and that’s when the heart surgery came along back in ’95. I also have eight stents to keep those heart arteries open and flowing.
      It occurred to me that maybe your weight loss is due to more activity now that it’s springtime and almost summer? If it keeps up, be sure to find out why!
      Thanks for your kind words.

  5. Sandy Aerts says:

    Good afternoon Dale!
    Your explanation for the editing made TOTAL SENSE to me! I used to get Kim Komando news letters in the beginning of my computer career and as the years went on, she would occasionally talk/write about RAW photo editing. (If I recall, she even wrote a book on it and taking pictures, etc.) If ever I send a picture to a friend, I hope that my email will let me bring it down to Med., and that’s just my Cannon Power Shot which I have set to 2048×1536. My niece set it there when her Uncle Jim went to Australia and they got a new SD card.
    I had to laugh on your explanation of your word for CAL. Then I laughed again when you said how cold it was in La Pine what with the mention of WI and MN! It was the “fer’ cryin’ out loud!I” It was just too funny for me. (I’m easily tickled by other people’s slang that even I use, but isn’t used today by the “youngins”.) I take it that they DO NOT grow a garden! Not enough summer time.
    The other thing…the Moscow Mule drink! We have one bar in our town that is the ‘go to’ place for outdoor music and fun in the summer and fall. Since you explained it, I will now have to try one! It’ll probably set me back 3 pints of beer, LOL but since I love mint…sounds delicious!
    Sat. we reached 99.1º here. That’s according to our digital on the N. side of our brick house. Can’t remember when it’s been that hot. Toady in the mid 90’s. At the end of the week, on the downside of that roller coaster we’ve been on. LOL
    O.K., enough of my blathering.
    Once again, safe travels and St. Christopher be with on your last leg of your ‘bummin’.


  6. Sandy Aerts says:

    Afternoon Dale!
    I was SHOCKED, to say the least, of you posting what I had said about Mt. Shasta and that photo. I simply said just as I saw it here, with me alone in my living room and Jim in the basement stripping wire for copper. LOL Ya, it brings in a bit of extra pocket money for him, yet he’s here if I need him. It also keeps him occupied when he doesn’t have VFW or Legion meetings or other meetings. 🙂
    We haven’t had heat like we’ve been having since 1988, the year I moved back to here, my
    home town, and have been here since. Thirty two years. NEVER did I think when I moved back, I’d stay. But I have. Love small town living.
    Keep up the wonderful pictures as you travel and St. Christopher always be with you and Wifey when traveling.


  7. Pingback: To Oregon and Beyond! | FishWisher's Home Page

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