Day 1, Saturday, September 25, Home to Craig’s Castle in Stockton, CA via CA99: 21 miles
I completed my last adventure aboard Big Blue back on August 20th, over five weeks ago. I was more than due for another adventure! We usually head to Denver to visit Allen and Nancy, our son and daughter-in-law about this time of year – actually, we usually head east a bit earlier than late September. My dear Wifey would fly home after the visit, and I planned to continue on alone, bumming around the country for a while.
Big Blue at Mello Truck Repair in Modesto.
During the weeks between adventures, I had to have Big Blue’s generator repaired. It was suddenly smoking near the end of the last trip, and that repair required new glow plugs in the little Kubota three cylinder diesel engine. That required pulling the entire generator set, removing the head, and installing the new glow plugs. In addition, the driver’s half of the windshield cracked during the prior trip, and had to be replaced. And in even more addition, the chassis was due for service, which is required about every 10,000 miles. All that repair and service was not cheap! Nevertheless, all was done in the interim.
The new windshield was installed just days before departure.
I also prepped Big Blue for the Denver trip the prior week or so before our departure. I cleaned her inside and out, shined the “bling”, which includes the bright aluminum wheels and the flashy mud flap. When the day of departure arrived, I loaded groceries, clothing, supplies, etc. for two to three weeks on the road.
Vanity results in a lot of extra work, but I just gotta have the bling bright and shiny!
In my old age, the loading days become harder and more tiring. But I managed, with a few pauses to rest, to get it all done!
We pulled out of the little gated community where we live, and headed north on CA99 to Stockton and Craig’s Castle. We would enjoy dinner there with Craig, Laura, and Craig’s daughter, Breanne.
Big Blue parked for the night at Craig’s Castle in Stockton. We were on the road again!
We enjoyed a lovely evening with family, visiting ’til sometime around 2100 hours. We then bid them good-night and headed to our home on the driveway. It sure was good to be back aboard Big Blue – I very much enjoy my time on board.
Day 2, Sunday, September 26, Stockton, CA to Gridley, CA via I-5, CA99: 114 miles
We slept well on Craig’s driveway. His neighborhood is a lovely, gated and quiet area. For breakfast, Laura made a donut run to Krispy Kreme as well as to Starbucks. I had THREE donuts, which was an absolutely off-diet feast for me, but they sure were good! I don’t do the Starbucks coffee thing, but she went there for some delicious pumpkin muffins with crème cheese filling. I certainly do the muffin thing!
We enjoyed a good visit with Craig, Laura and Breanne. After the donuts and another hour or so of visiting, it was time to bid them all good-bye, and begin the short drive to Gridley where we’d visit with John, my brother-in-law.
(After clicking, click on the ⓘ, then click on “View full size” for even larger photos. Click again for a huge photo.)
As many readers have no doubt read on this site, John’s wife, Gale, my twin sister, passed away in January. John had cared for her for a very long time as that awful Parkinson’s Disease took its toll on her. He is now selling his home in Gridley and will live with his daughter, Jill, and husband, Craig, in Oregon in the summers. He will spend winters in Arizona with his son, Kevin and his wife, Kelly. It sounds like a very practical plan, but the house must sell before he can begin living his new plan.
We arrived in Gridley at 1230. Lavonne headed into the house to visit John, and after I had the coach set up, I joined them. We had a leisurely visit, catching up with one another’s happenings. It wasn’t long before Lavonne and I headed back to the coach to make lunch, as John had already eaten. We then took naps, as old folks often do.
Big Blue parked for the night at John’s place near Gridley.
We returned to the house before dinner time, and Lavonne and John prepared some food we had brought from Craig’s. Breanne made a delicious chicken-cheese-enchilada casserole. They zapped that, and also some chicken thighs that Craig had barbecued. John made a salad, and it all made for a good, quick and easy dinner.
A well fed trio of seniors posed for a family photo after dinner. That’s not Tom Selleck on the left, as many readers may mistakenly think, but just your humble writer, in the center is the lovely Lavonne, and on the right, our pretty darn happy brother-in-law, John.
Since John and Lavonne whipped up our good dinner, the least I could do was clean up afterwards, and I did. Then, after an hour or so of visiting, Lavonne and I returned to the coach for the night. We got after the usual evening chores, meaning showers and such.
Apparently, I was dozing at the computer while working on this blog – sometime around 2130 hours or so. It must have been then that my dear Wifey headed for bed. When I discovered she’d gone to bed, it meant that I was dozing when she came to tell me good-night. That happens often at home and on the road.
I continued editing photos and writing this travelogue ’til around 2230 or so. I had poured a cool one earlier, and enjoyed it along with some silliness on YouTube ’til nearly midnight when I headed to bed.
Day 3, Monday, Sept 27, Gridley, CA to Fernley, NV via CA99, CA70, CA65, I-80: 203 miles
I rolled out of bed around the usual 0630 to find Wifey seated at the dinette enjoying her cup of coffee, and perusing the ‘net. It was all of 65° and she was just fine while I was about to shiver. I turned on the furnace and water heater, then climbed back into bed ’til things warmed up.
Once up and around and after morning chores, I joined her at the dinette for about an hour or so. When we were ready for breakfast, we joined John in the house. He had already eaten breakfast, as he’s an early riser. Lavonne and I made ourselves quick meals of toast and/or cereal and milk. We visited during that time, and when I was done, I headed out to the coach to get her set up for the day’s drive.
When all was ready to go, I went into the house and bid John good-bye with thanks for the nice stay. We then climbed aboard Big Blue and headed for Nevada about 0930.
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Our plans changed for this trip in deference to our advancing age. We used to drive about 400 miles many days on our trips, then cut it back to 300 miles, with the occasional 400 mile day. But lately we’ve found we prefer about 200 to 300 miles in a day, so we’ve changed our usual Denver trip from five days to six. That eliminates most of the one-day drives of over 300 miles.
To that end, our second night, after spending the first night at John’s in Gridley, would be spent in Fernley, Nevada – a 200 mile drive. We have usually driven to Winnemucca, Nevada, a 300 mile drive. We liked the shorter day’s drive.
We stopped for lunch at Donner Summit, which sits at something over 7200 feet. We took our sweet time there as we had only 70 some miles left to Fernley.
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(Rant warning for next two paragraphs!)
I was very pleased that I was able to avoid fueling in Kalifornistan after my last trip which was to Minnesota. I fueled up the last day of that trip in Dayton, Nevada on US50. From there I was able to drive home, then drive clear to Fernley, Nevada this day before needing more fuel. As an example, fuel at home now sells between $4.10 and $4.60 per gallon. In contrast, I just added 20 gallons at $3.96 per in Fernley. I needed those 20 gallons to reach Battle Mountain, Nevada where I planned to fill up the 90 gallon tank for just $3.46 per. The outrageous price for fuel in Kalifornistan makes such planning very worthwhile. Kalifornistan adds over $1.06 in taxes per gallon of diesel – the highest of all 50 states.
We arrived at Fernley’s Walmart lot at 1450 hours, having driven just 203 miles. Some of those miles were pretty tough driving. Climbing to Donner Summit is always a hassle. The traffic up the hill is often very heavy, although not so bad that day. The roads in Kalifornistan beat up Big Blue and rattle our teeth much of the time. But the views as we cross the Sierra Mountains are always lovely, and once in Nevada, the roads are much better – in fact, all the states we’ll drive through, no matter what state, have better roads and highways than our home state. That is worse than pathetic considering the outrageous taxes we pay – it should be criminal.
We had a wonderful tail wind much of the drive, and that helps fuel mileage and makes for a quieter drive.
Once settled on the Walmart lot in Fernley, I headed into the store for my daily walk and picked up a few items we needed. While the tail wind was great for our drive, the wind continued in Fernley. It was probably 20 to 30 MPH, and didn’t diminish much ’til almost 2100 hours.
Parked on Fernley’s Walmart lot for the night. And again, very near a sign stating that no overnight parking is allowed. This is not unusual. The city Nazis, assuming control over Walmart’s property, require such signs to be posted. Having never stayed at the Fernley Walmart, we called as we were en route, and were told they do allow overnight RV parking. Walmart doesn’t enforce what is not their rule, and the local constabulary certainly has better things to do than to hassle law abiding citizens who are spending money in their town.
When dinner time rolled around, I zapped a piece of that great chicken that Craig sent along with us. I also zapped a potato and added some country gravy I mixed at home. Such fare makes up one of my favorite dinners. Yep, I was raised on meat and ‘taters and still love ’em.
After dinner, I began writing the day’s travelogue which took a couple of hours. I always edit the day’s photos first, as that helps me recall the drive. At the end of the day, the drive is usually a hodge-podge of thoughts and images, and the photos tend to organize them in my mind as I write. When the travelogue was complete, I published it online.
We enjoyed a nice sunset that night, reflected here in the clouds above. Those green neon looking things in the lower right are electric vehicle charging stations.
My dear wifey headed to bed about 2200 hours. I continued watching YouTube ’til almost midnight. YouTube has my number. It knows what I like to watch and keeps suggesting new clips for me – and I watch a lot of them. It can be a real entertaining way to pass time.
Day 4, Tuesday, September 28, Fernley, NV to Elko, NV via I-80: 255 miles
I was up around 0630, as usual, and again found my dear Lavonne already seated at the dinette. It was a cool morning again, too, and I turned on the water heater and furnace, then went back to bed ’til it was warm enough for me. I get cold easily, and she is the opposite. Perhaps it’s the heart issues I’ve dealt with that explain my need for more warmth.
Once up and around, our morning unfolded as usual. It was a cool morning at 45°, at least it was cool to us Central Valley types. We made breakfast before the day’s drive, and took our time getting around. It was 0915 when we pulled out of the Walmart lot and continued our trek east.
What a great way to begin the day! This is a brand new section of I-80, with fresh asphalt as smooth as a baby’s bottom – and absolutely no traffic!
We needed to fuel up and fill the propane tank during our drive. As mentioned in the prior day’s entry, I planned to fuel up in Battle Mountain, Nevada. That worked as planned and the price was the relatively low $3.46 – the best price we’d seen so far. I was pleased.
The propane fill up waited ’til we reached our destination because I kept forgetting to do it. In Elko we pulled into a Conoco station and pumped 19.6 gallons into our net 20 gallon tank. Yes, we really needed propane – more than I knew!
The drive from Fernley to Elko is entirely rural desert. It is a lovely, lightly traveled drive, and I loved it! The day was mostly sunny with some scattered clouds. The eastbound traffic blew by us all day with the speed limit at 80 MPH while we cruised at 58 MPH. We were blessed with a brisk tail wind much of the drive, and we always welcome that push.
Fueling at Battle Mountain at the best price we’d seen so far.
After fueling up in Battle Mountain, we pulled into a Mickey D’s for lunch. It was a spur of the moment decision, as I really needed to watch my eating; I added five pounds during the August trip to Minnesota, and haven’t lost it. I cannot afford to add another five pounds again! Nevertheless, I ordered for the first time, a Deluxe Crispy Chicken Sandwich, and loved it – no matter the calories. We shared an order of fries, and I also enjoyed an Oreo McFlurry for dessert. That McFlurry lasted for miles as we continued the drive. Lavonne enjoyed a caramel sundae. And I promised to behave the rest of the trip – well, as much as a visit with the kids and more bummin’ around the country would permit.
We arrived at the Elko, Nevada Walmart at 1600 hours. It wasn’t the best night to visit Elko with the overnight low forecast to be just 25°. Perhaps we ran into their first cold snap of the season – certainly not something I would do intentionally. But we knew that Big Blue would keep us comfortable.
Jacks down for the night at Elko, Nevada’s Walmart store.
I took my walk around the store first thing after I set up the coach for the night. Lavonne was napping while I walked. Back at the coach, I edited the day’s photos. Dinner followed, and it was more of those wonderful meatloaf sandwiches that I requested of Lavonne. I rarely have beef, and when I do, I really enjoy it.
And then it was time to begin the day’s blog entry. As the writing was completed around 1930 hours, it was already just 43° outdoors – something I just can’t appreciate. It’s a good thing we had a full propane tank for such a night! Yes, I am a sissy when it comes to cold. I spent the entire evening wearing my heavy terrycloth robe to stay comfortable.
My dear Wifey headed to bed around 2130, and I stayed up to watch more silliness on YouTube. Actually a lot of that content isn’t silly, but heartwarming. There are many videos about animals in every imaginable circumstance, and I’m a real softy for them. I called it a day at my usual midnight, and headed to bed. The following day would be another fine day of driving through wide open country. Well, ’til we reached Salt Lake City, which would be our destination.
Day 5, Wednesday, September 29, Elko, NV to Salt Lake City, UT via I-80: 235 miles
The night in Elko was pretty cool, again, for this softy from the Central Valley. The window gauge showed 30° outside, but Big Blue kept us nice and warm. We awoke about the same time, but after turning up the furnace and the water heater, I headed back to bed for a while. The cool morning didn’t bother my dear Wifey as she is almost the opposite of me in the cold. She’s tough!
We woke up to some pretty fancy neighbors; click to enlarge:
Again, we weren’t in a big hurry to hit the road, but by 0815 we pulled out of Elko. We planned to have breakfast after a few miles, around 0900. The day was, again, bright and sunny and a perfect day to drive through the desert with very little traffic.
What a great way to start the day!
There’s not a lot to report when driving all day through the empty desert. But I sure enjoyed the views, desolate as they were. I enjoyed the thousands of acres of emptiness and the independence one feels on the open road.
We prepared all three meals of the day in the coach. Having a kitchen with all the necessities along on the ride makes road trips a lot less expensive. And having one’s own bath and bedroom along is a big plus, too. Our travel expense is usually just the cost of Big Blue, not to say she’s a cheap ride, but she’s sure a lot cheaper than motels each night, and buying every meal in a restaurant.
As we crossed the state line into Utah, at Wendover, we lost an hour. It’s hard to miss the state line with all the casinos and such there to tempt Utah residents. Wendover is a very small Reno, and it certainly appears that the casinos and restaurants attract a lot of Utah gamblers.
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We planned to drive to Park City, Utah as we left that morning. However, when checking the weather, it was to be pretty cold, with chances of rain and snow. Snow!? Good grief! It wasn’t even October, yet. So we shortened our drive by about 18 miles, choosing instead to stay at the Walmart at the far east end of Salt Lake City where we’ve stayed several times.
It’s a steep drive up I-80 from Salt Lake City to Park City, and the weather can be noticeably colder at Park City’s 7000′ elevation. Salt Lake City is something around 4300 feet.
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We arrived at our destination at 1515 hours. It was colder, at just 58°, by far than we’re used to this time of year at home. The overnight low was predicted to be 41° while in Park City it was to be 24°. Our choice was a good one! Yes, I do get preoccupied with cold weather!
When I had the coach set up for the night, I headed into Walmart for my daily walk. My Trail Buddy took a nap. It was a sunny afternoon in Salt Lake City even though it was cool.
Jacks down at Salt Lake City for the night.
We had dinner aboard, as mentioned earlier. After dinner and evening chores, we settled back into the little dinette which serves as our couch, easy chair, dining room, and writing desk. While we have a good sized couch aboard, we rarely use it.
Our evening unfolded as usual. I finally headed to bed at midnight, and slept well – with a warm quilt over us to stay warm. I dreamed of my hot tub back home, and the coming hot tub season. If I lived in Wyoming, I’d have to live in a hot tub!
Day 6, Thursday, Salt Lake City, UT to Laramie, WY via I-80: 382 miles
We awoke to a cool morning, naturally. Lavonne was at the dinette when I rolled out of bed around 0615 and turned on the water heater and turned up the heater – the 64° in the living area didn’t bother her a bit. I went back to bed while the heaters did their things.
We were about to embark on the trip’s longest driving day of something around 380 miles. We didn’t putz around that morning as we wanted to get the long drive under way. No, 380 miles isn’t far for younger folks, but in our late 70s, it’s quite a marathon. Heck, back in my younger days, I drove over a thousand miles in a day’s drive when necessary. But these aren’t my younger days, and such a marathon will never again be necessary!
We began the steep pull up Parley’s grade, or Parley’s Canyon, within a mile of leaving the Walmart lot – hardly enough time to get Big Blue warmed up properly for the long climb.
All went well, but there was quite a lot of traffic around 0830 as we headed uphill. Once over the summit, the views through the Coalville area were beautiful. We continued on to Echo Reservoir where we usually stop for breakfast aboard the coach on these trips.
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Echo reservoir provides irrigation for the area, and this time of year it is drawn down pretty low. But by springtime and summer, it will likely be near full and ready for another growing season.
We entered Wyoming and just a couple miles later we pulled into the Wyoming Information Center. We were interested only in the RV dump stations there, and dumped the tanks and loaded fresh water. And the fee was just right – free! I would have a new experience there…
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Wyoming hosts more pronghorn “antelope” than any other state. Actually, they are not antelope nor are they in the antelope family. The pronghorn is the only surviving member of the Antilocapridae family and it has been in North America for over a million years! They are also the fastest land animal in the western hemisphere. They are hard to see in the scrubby landscapes they like, but I always try to get a good photo of them. This trip I succeeded.
I was bound and determined to fuel up in Laramie, Wyoming where, according to Gas Buddy online, diesel was “just” $3.19 – the lowest price by far I’d seen in months. But I’d be nearly draining the fuel tank to get that far. I arrived at the Maverik station with the fuel gauge showing only about 1/32nd of a tank. As it turned out, I still had 10 gallons onboard. I pumped on just under 80 gallons, filling it to the cap. I was pleased that the price was still “just” $3.19 – sometimes the price goes up overnight. Nearby, also in Laramie, a Sinclair station was selling the stuff for $3.79!
Once filled up, it was just a five mile drive to the local Walmart store where we would spend the night. We pulled in at 1730 hours, and we were bushed from the long drive.
Parked for the night at Laramie, Wyoming’s Walmart lot. It was good to be “home” again.
Once we were set up for the night, we headed into the store for some shopping. I also took my daily walk. I had on a sweatshirt and a very warm winter jacket. It was cold outside (by my sissy standards).
We ate dinner in the coach, although I was tempted by the Subway shop inside Walmart. Instead, I zapped a frozen turkey, dressing, and sweet potato meal, and was very satisfied with that and a corn on the cob.
We spent our evening as usual. After our tiring day, we would certainly appreciate the shortest drive of the trip the following day – just 160 miles or so to Denver. We surely looked forward to a fun weekend with the kids!
Day 7, Friday, October 1, Laramie, WY to Denver, CO via I-80, I-25, E470, I-70, I-225: 166 miles
I was up at 0610 and greeted my dear Wifey as she sat at the dinette in the cold, enjoying her coffee and perusing the ‘net. I turned up the furnace and, for once, stayed up instead of taking a sissy’s retreat back to bed ’til things warmed up.
I fired up the generator for about a half hour to refresh the bank of house batteries a bit after a long, cold night. After morning chores, I also enjoyed the day’s first cup of coffee as I joined her at my laptop to catch up with the outside world.
We wanted to hit the road for the last day of our trip to Denver. A few minutes before 0800, we continued east on I-80 to Cheyenne. There was some very scenic countryside along our drive, and I shot too many photos, as usual.
Soon after we continued east on I-80, we began the long, steep Sherman’s grade up the Laramie Mountains.
Near Sherman Summit, Happy Jack Road, also known as WY210, also winds up in Cheyenne via a two lane, scenic road through the Wyoming countryside. I should take that road someday – but not that day.
Sherman Summit, the highest point along all of I-80.
At Cheyenne, we turned south toward Denver on I-25. When we reached the city of Fort Collins, Colorado along I-25, we stopped at their Walmart store for breakfast aboard the coach. Lavonne made herself some oatmeal.
After I went into the store to buy some groceries that we needed, which included forbidden peanut butter, Lavonne made some toast with peanut butter and honey for me, and another slice with peanut butter and jam. We never have peanut butter around the house, because I can’t leave it alone until it’s gone. But occasionally, on our adventures aboard Big Blue, we’ll allow a small jar of the forbidden food.
As if to demonstrate the peanut butter issue I have, as I wrote this, I remembered the darn peanut butter, and had to make myself a slice of toast with the forbidden food and honey. And a half glass of milk, another food I seldom allow myself. But peanut butter and honey on toast demands milk!
As usual, the traffic got heavier the nearer we got to Denver. When we reached the toll highway, E-470, we took it toward Aurora, where Cherry Creek State Park is located. The traffic was relatively light along the toll road, which is half the reason we take it. If I take E-470 again when I leave (I’m not sure where I’ll head when I begin the bummin’ portion of this adventure), I’ll use the toll road again. And then a month or so later we’ll receive a bill from Colorado for around $20 for the tolls. To us, it’s worth a $20 toll to miss the madding traffic of Denver proper.
When we arrived at Cherry Creek State Park, we drove to the registration building to sign in. We then continued on through the lovely park to our RV space. The spaces are quite far apart and we are not cheek by jowl with other RVs as many RV parks are designed.
Big Blue parked for the weekend on our beautiful, wide open space.
I really don’t like RV parks. I consider them an unnecessary expense when one has a self contained RV (our three nights at the RV park was a bit over $150.) But many RVers seem to find them necessary for overnight parking. To each his own, I suppose.
We always parked on the kids’ driveway ’til our trip last May. Then Allen and Nancy sold their home and bought another where there is no large driveway, and their highbrow HOA doesn’t allow RVs anyway. So now we have to deal with a RV park.
Allen met us after we were set up in the park. He brought along our lunches from Chik-fil-A, a tradition of several years. We all love Chick-fil-A’s sandwiches and they make a quick and convenient meal.
After lunch, we loaded Lavonne’s things into Allen’s car, and they headed home. I stayed at the coach for the day, and would visit them on Saturday and Sunday, while spending nights aboard the coach. I always prefer to stay in the coach on such visits, and Lavonne prefers staying at their house. Choice is good.
I took my daily walk around our section of the RV park after Allen and Lavonne left. I spent a quiet afternoon aboard, and very much enjoyed myself and the lazy afternoon and evening. Much of my time was spent editing photos and writing this blog. I’m one who likes solitude, and I had a very pleasant day.
Another view of our large, uncrowded space. If I must stay in a RV park, this one would be hard to beat.
During the evening I zapped a frozen meal for dinner. I included an ear of corn and a salad, too. I watched Curiosity Stream online, and a documentary of the University of Texas tower shooting of 1966. It was the first mass shooting in a public space. The shooter wounded 43 and killed 16 people.
My evening was quiet and very peaceful. Cherry Creek State Park and its very rural ambiance is a lovely place to camp. Well… that is, if camping means carpeting, a full modern kitchen, air conditioning, a furnace and all the comforts of Big Blue. Without this cozy little home on wheels, I wouldn’t be found in a “camp” ground.
I finally called it a day around midnight. I set the thermostat for 64°, left a night light on in the bathroom, and headed to my queen sized bed – my camping included all the comforts of home. I have to wonder why they call this camping and why an RV park is called a campground.
Day 8, Saturday, October 2, at rest in Denver with the kids
I was up a few minutes after 0600 and turned up the heat, then returned to bed ’til the place warmed up to my liking. Once up for the day, I worked through the morning chores. Allen would pick me up around noon, so I had ’til then to just take it easy. It was a lovely way to begin my second week on the road.
It was pill day as well as a day of rest. Some of us old folks have to sort those pills every week or two in our ongoing effort to keep body and soul together. I like to do it every two weeks as it’s a pretty big job. Note the electric heater that saves propane.
I still didn’t know just where I’d go bummin’ around when it was time to head for home. Figuring that out seemed a good way to spend my morning. I may simply go into Oregon to visit my oldest friend, and high school roommate, Al, in Keizer. And I may yet add a drive through some northern states to my itinerary. But I don’t want to deal with cold weather. Even in mild weather I struggle to keep warm.
Yep. Yet another view of our space to show how well spaced the RVs are from one another in the RV park.