Archive for2006-04 and 05 – West Coast-Trip

Home at last, home at last! But scroll to the bottom to START the trip


We made it! 6,000 miles over five weeks. It was wonderful, but would we do it again? Wellllllllll……… not for awhile. We need to recover.

Our house is dusty but everything, with the exception of our garage refrigerator, did just fine without us. The refrigerator (which wasn’t doing well before we left) died. It’s pretty bad because some frozen meat has thawed but nothing valuable.

Hopefully you have enjoyed this travel blog. If you have any comments, you can email me at We’d especially enjoy hearing from the wonderful people we met along the way.

Last night (Wednesday), we slept like babies. Willow is smiling, and Charlie (our cockatiel) won’t shut up.

Before I sign off, I need to answer a question that’s come up frequently” Where did I find the beautiful sunset photo at the top of the blog? Actually it’s a sunrise, and it was taken from our deck at our place in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

It was wonderful to see the country, but the view from our living room window is pretty nice and it’ll keep us content for some time to come.

home from inside

This is from our living room window. Notice the red-bud is in full-bloom.

Home! There’s nothing like it.

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Davenport Welcomed Us

When we started this adventure, I signed up for an email list (RVing-Moose-Parking) which is especially for Moose members who travel with RVs and want to stay over at lodges. The database they provided me was super. (In return I’ll be writing reviews of the lodges we visited.)

Last night we stopped in Davenport, Iowa, and following the guidelines in the database, we parked behind the lodge where they had installed electric hook-ups for RVs visiting their facility. The lodge itself was large, clean, and not smokey!

We met very nice people, especially Kathy and Wayne who sat next to us. Before long we felt like they were long-time friends who were warm and genuine. The Governor and Past Governor of the lodge also made us feel welcome.

At 5:30 they served enchilada dinners which were fabulous and only $5 for a complete and very filling meal.

Our travels the past five weeks have pointed out that the United States is rich in natural beauty, but more than anything else, we’ve met wonderful, warm, caring people, like the ones in the Davenport Moose lodge.

By about 8:30, we were in our trailer. A fairly severe thunder storm hit the area about 10:00.

It’s now about 10:00 a.m. and we’re somewhere in Illinois. It’s the last day of our trip. I’m feeling nostalgic. What an adventure! We’ll be glad to be home, and we aren’t anxious to travel again for a while, but maybe, just maybe we’ll try a more northerly trip to Yellowstone and into Canada sometime in the future.

And when we do, we’re hoping we can stop in the Davenport Moose lodge. We have left-over tokens redeemable for beverages which we’re saving, just in case.

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Monday and Tuesday on the Road Home

Reluctantly we left Estes Park yesterday morning. The curvy road from Loveland to Estes Park had been rather intimidating when we saw it on the map before visiting the area, but as we drove from the park, we were in awe of the engineering feat and the beauty of the cliffs and crags. This lap of our trip was definitely a highlight, and to think we almost skipped it.

Monday was a long day on the road. John drove well over 500 miles. Much of the time we witnessed a lovely rainbow that stayed ahead of us for quite a while. We didn’t make it to Lincoln, Nebraska, until about 7:30 p.m. When we reached Moose Lodge #175 we were tired and hungry. We met Kathy and Rick. Rick, was working in the kitchen. He made us a couple wonderful hamburgs while his wife, Kathy, quenched our thirst and made us feel welcome. They sure are great host and hostess of a lodge that was definitely the nicest we’ve seen as well as one of the friendliest.

As we were finishing up our meal, a thunderstorm hit. The rain came down in sheets, but Rick fixed me up with an “improvised raincoat” and we spent the rest of the evening in our trailer, safe and dry.

John apparently had fixed the leak which had dampened things a few days earlier. It was perfectly dry and as hard as it rained, that was a test, if there ever was one.

Now we’re in Iowa. We just ate lunch in a rest area. Surprisingly it had free wifi available to travelers. Other states should follow that lead.

The scenery in Nebraska had been flat and boring, but Iowa has a lot of rolling hills.

Tonight we’ll overnight in Davenport (Iowa) at (you guessed it) a Moose lodge. We hope we run into more nice folks. The people who have welcomed us, have truly been one of the best parts of this trip.

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Sunday at Rocky Mountain National Park

John and I had a nice day in the park. It’s incredible.

Unfortunately I came down with a cold. One of those sneezy, stuffy ones that really has knocked me for a loop. I have been toughing it out, but it did put a damper on the day for me.

We took the more southerly roads through the park today. On the advice of park hostess Linda, we went to Sprague Lake and hiked around it. We ran into a little snow, but not enough to justify boots (although I had bought some new warm ones in Estes Park). This area had once been a lodge owned by a gentleman named Sprague. It’s wonderful that the National Park Service is restoring the whole area to it’s untouched state.

Sprague Lake

After our hike, we enjoyed a nice picnic lunch.

The whole area is touristy, but you feel that people who would choose to visit the area love nature.

Here’s a view of Estes Park at the base of the mountains.

Estes Park, Colorado

In the morning, we’ll head out. We’ll be driving over 500 miles tomorrow, overnighting in Lincoln, Nebraska. Tuesday we’ll go as far as Davenport, Iowa. Wednesday, we should be home.

This is an area we highly recommend. The beauty of it humbles you.

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Up in the Mountains

After lunch, we headed to Rocky Mountain National Park. What a treasure! I can’t begin to describe the majesty of the mountains. As we went up higher, we ran into deep snow (6′ in some places) on the sholder, but the roads were clear and dry. Quite a few of the areas had opened today.

I’m sure most Americans don’t know what a marvelous country we have. I know until this trip, John and I would could never have understood what treasures abound. We’re in awe.

Here are some of the views we enjoyed today:

Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

Tomorrow we plan to return for the rest of the national park. We met a really nice hostess at the Fall Creek Visitors’ Center. Her name is Linda. She gave us wonderful advice that included coming back tomorrow and bringing a picnic lunch. So that’s what we will do. We want to see the more southerly loop of the east side of the park. Her advice and directions worked perfectly today, so we’re prepared for another great day tomorrow.

The weather was flawless. We had temperatures that were in the mid-60’s with low wind and lots of sun. We couldn’t have asked for anything better. Tomorrow we’ll bring along boots and gloves, since we’ll be in the snow area and we want to take a gentle hike. It’s sure pretty!

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If I had to pick a different place to live, Estes Park, Colorado, would be on my short list. What scenery!

Yesterday we went into town and shopped a little. It’s early in the season, so a lot of things are closed.

The campground is nice. Folks are friendly. Here’s our campsite:

Campsite in Estes Park

We’re planning to head up to Rocky Mountain National Park this afternoon. It’s only five miles.

We’ve seen elk grazing right down town in Estes Park. Hopefully we’ll see other wild life in the Park.

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Estes Park (Colorado) here we come!

We waited around until about 10:00 a.m. and I called the campground again. Reportedly the weather is about 40 degrees and overcast, but not raining (a distinct improvement from 34 degrees and drizzle in Cheyenne). We decided to head toward Estes Park. At least we’ll have full-service hook-ups and can take a long hot shower. It’s near the entrance to the Rocky Mountain National Park.

If we’re forced to stay inside, we’ll practice our music. I feel really “rusty” since I haven’t had a chance to play for the past month! And John needs to get ready for Banjorama which will occur the Saturday after we get home (a week from tomorrow).

We’re on our way. It’s only about 80 miles between Cheyenne and Estes Park but the last 25 or so mile stretch is apparently a challenge.

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Snow Storm

It’s Friday and we’re in Cheyenne, Wyoming, at 8:30 a.m.

We ran into a blizzard yesterday on I-80. Visibility was down to less than 1/4 mile and it was horrid driving. The wipers started building with the wet snow. Huge snowflakes were blinding and it was all mixed with fog.

bad weather

John’s an excellent driver, but the conditions really challenged him. It finally cleared just before we got into Cheyenne.

At the Moose Lodge they let us park next to the building so we have electricity. We’re warm and comfortable.

Our plan for today was to drive the 80 miles from here to Estes Park, which is right outside the Rocky Mountain National Park, and camp at the KOA campground. The last 30 miles before we get to our destination is an extremely curvy road where maximum speeds often are below 30 mph. The forecast says they’re having snow in the Estes Park area. It’s foggy here, but expected to clear later in the day with warmer temperatures anticipated.

I’ve called the campground hoping to get the current conditions. Got an answering machine. I’m waiting for a call-back.

We’re discussing our options. If we skip Rocky Mountain National Park, we’ll have to forfit our $35 deposit, but obviously the approximate 160 miles we’ll drive south off I-80 will cost us so it may be wiser. We’re certainly not in any hurry to face driving conditions like we encountered yesterday. If we go to Estes Park, we’ll have full hook-ups and showers, but since it is supposed to get down into the 20’s we could easily freeze up.

We’ll wait to hear from the campground.

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Wal-Mart Woes

We found a place to stop for the night at a Wal-mart Super Center last night (Wednesday night) in Evanston, Wyoming. They were very willing to let us stay which seemed like a great find. But as evening approached, it seemed that every trucker in the vicinity had made the same discovery. We carefully positioned our RV so we were the last unit in the row, guaranteeing us that we couldn’t be “boxed in” by semis. Quickly we discovered that we hadn’t selected the best spot. We were on the end near a drive and the edge of the Wal-mart property, but right at the edge of the property were railroad tracks and about every 15 minutes a train came through. So we spent the night parked between a running diesel truck and the near constant trains. It was a toss-up which was noisier.

It got down in the low 40’s but we were warm and comfy under our comforter. Most of the night it rained.

When we got up this morning, everything seemed to go wrong. Willow wasn’t feeling well. She definitely looked uncomfortable and wasn’t interested in eating. Then John discovered that we had a leak in the living room. It was dripping from a seam in the ceiling. The rug by the door was pretty damp, and my HP all-in-one printer which I’d hauled along so I could do our music club’s newsletter and print or copy anything we needed was wet. John had built a table to cover it but the water ran over the top of the table and down onto the control panel. We dried it up as good as we could, but it’ll have to dry out a lot more before I can use it.

It’s 8:30 a.m. We’re on the road to Cheyenne, Wyoming, with over 300 miles to go. The rain we’d had in Evanston has turned to snow now that we’re at higher elevations. I’d say there’s a half inch of fresh snow. The view is shrouded in fog which isn’t bad in the valleys, but gets pretty thick when we’re higher.

For the past two nights we’ve boondocked so we haven’t had electric power. Hopefully tonight, at the Moose in Cheyenne, we will be able to borrow a little electricity. Even if it’s just enough for a small heater and/or my curling iron, we’ll be happy.

Tomorrow is Friday. We will be at the Rocky Mountain National Park. Hopefully the weather will improve because with overcast conditions like this, there sure won’t be any “views” to enjoy.

There’s a steady stream of semis passing us. (We hold a steady 60 while they push the 75 mph limit.) We’ll be stopping for gas at Rock Springs. Gas prices are down from what we encountered in California where it was $3.20-3.13. Hopefully we’ll be able to fill up for $2.939 /gal. and it should be even lower ($2.869) in Cheyenne. (I check the Flying J website every a.m. for the latest diesel prices.)

I miss the lovely scenery. Right now, the mist and fog makes it pretty hard to see in the distance.

Write more later.

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Over Nighted in Wendover

Last night (Tuesday night) we stopped in Wendover, Nevada. It ended up being a good choice. Wendover is the last chance to gamble in Nevada before crossing into Utah. The town was very RV friendly. A huge parking lot was posted for semi and RV overnight parking. They even had a shuttle that would pick you up at your RV and take you to the half dozen casinos. It wasn’t really quiet for sleeping, but we’ve encountered worse.

We went to two of the casinos — Ate dinner at the Red Garter and we were mesmerized by the Rainbow. The Rainbow was a mind-blowing display of lights. The entire ceiling was reflective. There were areas of burgundies, purples, blues and others with turquoises and greens. It seemed everything was neon. It was actually more gaudy and sensational than anything we encountered in Las Vegas or Reno.

We’re in Utah about an hour west from Salt Lake City. It’s gray and rainy. First bad weather we’ve encountered while driving. Roads are nearly empty and smooth. With this wet weather, we may not spend much time sight-seeing in Salt Lake City. Our plan was to find a parking spot and walk around, but the rain may change that. Our hope is that we’ll drive out of the rain. It appears that it’s brighter to the east so hopefully.

We really have no plans for today and tonight. We’ll play it by ear.

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If it’s Tuesday, it must be Nevada…

Our plan was to stay in Reno for two nights at the KOA park, but things weren’t quite as we’d expected, so we left this morning after only one night.

It’s not that we’re hard to please, but this KOA was one of the more pricey nights on our trip and therefore we expected things to be pleasant. I’d made the reservations a couple of months ago and at that time, I requested that we be placed as close to the casino as possible. One of the reasons I selected the KOA was that they advertised free wifi service.

As it turned out, after we had checked in and set up, we found wifi wasn’t available for us. Our campsite was too far out. Not only was it as from the casinos as possible, we were also beside a noisy road.

It would have been one thing if the park had been full, but it was only about 15-20% occupied, leaving many empty sites in our “price range.”

Apparently they were “saving” those prime spots for longer stays or for folks who just drove-in without a reservation. It was a little maddening to walk ½ mile past vacant sites to ours which was in the back-most corner.

So this morning (Tuesday) we packed up and left. Our destination is Wells, Nevada, where we can stay in a Flying J. It’s supposed to be pretty chilly tonight (low 40’s). When we get to Salt Lake City tomorrow (Wednesday), we will probably resort to boondocking again. We just can’t see paying camping fees when we pull in late and pull out early. Thursday our plan is to stop at a Moose Lodge in Cheyenne, WY.

Moose lodges have been great! Except for the first one (in Brazil, IN) we have met nice folks who really rolled out the welcome mat. Brazil was our first night out, and we hadn’t learned how to break the ice. The best by far was Albuquerque. They even gave us a small gift to remember them by. Bakersfield folks were also welcoming. Wish we could find a lodge tonight, but I don’t think there’s one in the area.

When I wrote yesterday, I was concerned about the weather. As it turned out. In Reno, it was about 80. The early evening was about 65 degrees. We were very comfortable. And we got rid of one blanket when we slept.

After dinner last night, we went “downtown” and checked out the large hotels. Looked like small version of Las Vegas. We finally tried a couple of slot machines, just so we could say we’d done it. Gamblers would have laughed at us agonizing over our penny and nickle bets. At one point I won 16 cents and John hit it big and was ahead 50 cents. We found we could make it last by going from machine to machine. The $3 we spent was “cheap entertainment” and kept us busy for about an hour, but gambling just isn’t our thing. We had enough sight-seeing by about 9:00 so we were back in our place petting the dog.

Right now where we’re driving there are mountains in the distance, but the scrub land on either side of the road is flat and dry looking, interspersed with salt flats. Actually the scenery keeps changing. Sharp and rocky looking mountains in some areas are replaced with more gentle ones. In many areas the mountains on the horizon have snow on them.

I’m a little concerned about Estes Park, Colorado, where we plan to stay for three nights this Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It’s in the Rocky Mountains, and I forgot my snow boots. I keep hoping I won’t need them, but it’s looking more and more like there’ll be snow. The boots were on my list, and I thought I packed them under the bed, but so far I haven’t found them. John has his and we do have a winter jacket and gloves, but when we saw there was two to four feet of snow in the Sierra-Nevada mountains, I realized early May in the mountains still means snow! I’ll worry about that when we come to it.

We’re becoming experts on the condition of roads by state. When we were in California, I-80 was patched, washboard, and horrid. In Nevada, for the most part, I-80 is smooth and newly resurfaced. Traffic is light the day is beautiful. Temps in the mid to high 60’s.

Only about an hour until we reach Wells, NV.


Well, we decided not to stop at Wells. It was a little too early to “call it a day” when we don’t have electricity so we’re heading on down the road to Wendover. Guess it’s right on the border between Nevada and Utah. Since Nevada is kinda wild, and Utah very conservative, it’ll be interesting. We’ll be that much closer to Salt Lake City. Tomorrow, we’ll get up and take off for SLC. If we find it interesting, we’ll hang around for the day.

The temperature is down to 61 degrees. (It was near 70 all day.) Maybe it’ll be slightly warmer when we get down out of these mountains.

The scenery has changed again. This stretch we’re driving through has tree covered mountains. First time today that we’ve seen trees.

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Monday and we’re seeing white!

When I got up this morning in Seaside, CA, it was the start of a beautiful day. The ocean fog hadn’t burned off, so it was probably about 67, but I dressed for hot weather (capris, a sleeveless top, and sandals). By the time we’d reached Sacremento, on our way north and west, it was about 85. I quickly shed the jacket I was wearing and was glad I’d been wise enough to dress for the warm weather.

But right now I’m looking out the window and there’s probably a two foot blanket of snow! We’re headed to Reno on Hwy. 80. The elevation over 7,200 feet. It’s definitely still winter. The outside temperature is 63 degrees, but a short ways back, we passed a lake still covered with ICE!

Somehow I’m not feeling so wise about my choice of dress.

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Last two days (Sat.-Sun.)

A quiet but enjoyable weekend was spent with my family. Sunday night, we had a nice Chinese dinner in celebration of Kris’s up-coming graduation and birthday. (Kristofer is the older of my two grandsons.)

A nice capper to a very enjoyable stay.

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Friday Drive

The Big Sur area was buried in a fog bank, but that didn’t stop us from having a lovely day. Kelly allowed my grandson, Kris, to get off school (he’s a senior and most of his classes have wound down), so there were four of us.

The drive is awesome. Every view south along Hwy. 1 is lovely. We were impressed.

Kelly found a picnic spot for us (below): quiet, with a river flowing beside it.

Picnic Location

We walked through a state park to a small waterfall with a scenic view. Probably one of the prettiest places we’ve seen.

Waterfall view

The bridge below is featured in countless ads (especially for cars). Looks like someplace in Europe.


All in all, it was one of the nicest days we’ve enjoyed. Such fantastic scenery!

We only have two days left before we head home.

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The weather’s definitely not been very cooperative so we’ve had to find “inside stuff” to do.

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Yesterday (Wednesday) we went to the Monterey Aquarium which is considered the best in the world! We spent most of the day. My favorite exhibit displayed jelly fish. They’re beautiful!

jelly fish

Today was the best (weather-wise). John and Kelly have been doing yard work. She really likes having “Dad” around. They went for a long walk this a.m. I should explain that Kelly is a brown belt karate practioner and her husband a black belt. They’re really into physical fitness. Tonight John’s going to attend their sensei (class). I have begged off, because I know I can’t keep up. I have a feeling John’ll be plum tuckered out when he gets home.

Not a lot of music.

Tomorrow we’re going to Big Sur. I have been there before and remember that the drive is awesome. The weather is expected to improve, so I’m sure it’ll be a grand day.

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Sat. and Sun. with Family

Yesterday and today will be spent with the family. I can’t believe how grown my grandsons are. At nearly 18 and 15, they are young men.

My daughter has two very large but well-behaved dogs so Willow is living in the RV where she’s comfy.

We are enjoying this leisurely pace. John says it’s the best sleep he’s had since leaving Michigan.

The couple of times we’ve gone where we had an ocean view, it was lovely. This next week we’ll have lots of time to sight-see. We’ll be here until a week from tomorrow.

Yesterday I received a message from California Bob Rowland. He invited us to stop in and say hi as we’re heading toward Reno next week. (FYI Bob is a super nice guy who often drives across country to attend the Evart festival in Michigan. He always introduces super great tunes – like “The Gale.”) We’d like to visit them. We’ll see.

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Thurs.-Fri. in California

We’re in California!

Last night we over-nighted in Bakersfield, CA, at the Moose Lodge. Again, nice folks who were very welcoming. Unfortunately they didn’t have anything going on where we could get food, so we walked (too far) to a Taco Bell. We were back in our trailer for a quiet evening of TV and relaxing. Went to bed about 10:15.

This morning, bright and early, (6:30) we were awake and soon packed and back on the road. We’re now about 100 miles south of Seaside, where my daughter lives.

She’s a little panicky about our RV fitting in her driveway, but one way or the other, we’re here and we’ll just have to find a way. (All along she’s said there is room, but now that it’s for real, I think she’s concerned.)

The temperature here is only about 60 and isn’t expected to get any warmer today. But at least, for right now, the sun is out.

John’s impressed with the vineyards. Miles and miles of grapes growing is heaven to him.

We’ve stuck closely to our schedule and we’re arriving about when we said we would. When we get to my daughter’s we’ll have driven over 2,900!

My advice to anyone doing this is to get a GPS. I use Microsoft Streets and Trips with GPS and it has been a God-send. The setup I use requires a laptop, but it was something like $80, which sure has been worth it!

I have a camera full of photos so I should download them and post a few. I’ll see if I can do it before we arrive.

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Tues.-Wed. in Vegas

We got here (at Vegas) yesterday and decided to take a walking tour.

It’s really a jaunt from hotel to hotel. I believe we walked more than at the Grand Canyon. Saw a million slot machines but didn’t spend a penny in one. (We’re definitely not gamblers.)

Circus Circus (we stayed in their RV Park)

Harrahs (just one of the many lovely hotels)

Last night we went to the Freemont Experience which is a phenominal light-show. There were talented street acts. Certainly quite an experience. The “hands” photo below was actually projected many feet above us using millions of lights. Quite impressive.

Freemont Experience Light Show

We’re going out to dinner tonight. Won’t be doing much more walking. We’re pooped!!

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Grand and Glorious

Some places just don’t live up to their hype, but the Grand Canyon is much more than we’d imagined.

After the sunrise service, we returned to the trailer for breakfast. By mid-morning we’d boarded a shuttle bus to head to the east most area where we took photos galore.

The east end of the Grand Canyon

This evening we want to go view the sunset from the west most end of the park.

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“Grand” Canyon

We’re here at the Grand Canyon and it’s Easter Morning.

At 5:45 we were at the Easter sunrise service. It was lovely. A native American flute provided much of the music. Very appropriate.

Sunrise at the Grand Canyon
The sunrise service

Sunrise at the Grand Canyon

Sunrise at the Grand Canyon

Sunrise at the Grand Canyon

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Unfriendly Flagstaff

Never, never again. When pulling a trailer in Flagstaff, we encountered all kinds of problems. There’s a town ordinance against over night parking. If you’re a semi, they have “auto parks” but RVers are just NOT welcome.

We had planned to stay in Winslow, Arizona, and we would have been much better off, but it was early and we figured we were good to go, so we continued on. Next city is Flagstaff. We wasted an hour or so trying to find someplace to just stop, fix a meal, and stay until morning.

Finally we gave up and drove on up the road to a rest area on Hwy 40. Would have been ok, except that a semi parked immediately next to us, ran his engine all night. It was really loud. John said, not as bad as the Flying J the night before, but I felt it was much worse.

While in Flagstaff, we encountered an extreme dip in the temperature (45-50) coupled with winds of 35-40 mph. It was bitter cold. Right now it’s 43 degrees, but at least the wind has died down. It’s currently 8:35 a.m. We may have a problem when we get to our campground (Xanterra). I just re-read our reservation request and it says we can’t check in until 4:00.

We should be at the Grand Canyon National Park in a few minutes. I’ll write more later.

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We’ll be “Petrified”

We left Albuquerque about 9:00 and stopped for gas. Got on the road west at about 10:00. We should pass into Arizona in about an hour. It’s a little past 11:00. We’re now 130 miles from the Petrified Forest National Park which will be our next stop.

The scenery has been fantastic. Flat topped mountains all around us. Road is new and really smooth. Traffic light to moderate. Temperature about 65 degrees.

I’ll have to post some “scenic” photos as soon as I get a chance to take them out of my camera. Right now I don’t want to divert my attention from the beautiful scenery.

I’ll write more later.


The Petrified Forest was really interesting. We stayed several hours and found it really mesmerizing. I took a gazillion photos. Here’s one:

Petrified Forest

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Moose Lesson

When I head back to Saginaw, I plan to report to our Moose Lodge that the friendliest Moose Center in the nation has to be in Albuquerque, NM. The folks were warm and receptive. We felt like we belonged from the minute we walked in the door. By the time we left, everyone knew we were “the folks from Michigan.” We kidded that we’d heard about their Thursday night hamburgs and that’s why we were visiting. The hamburgs really were great. But the people…. no way to explain how the welcome one receives makes a difference.

We actually considered staying an extra day just because of these folks.

The perks here included electric hookups and a convenient faucet. Can’t ask for more!

We did have one slight problem. Our RV battery leaked acid and it sprayed along the side of our unit. The paint was affected, but we have cleaned it up and a little paint should make it like new.

It is hot here in Albuquerque and the big news is a fire north from here.

It seemed that quite a few of the folks we met were Native American Indians, or of Mexican descent. All were long-time Albuquerque residents. All were welcoming, nice folks.

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Flying J “Flops”

The worst Flying J we’ve ever experienced was the one in Amarillo, TX, on Hwy. 40. We just left there and vowed, never again. Rest rooms in disarray, pre-pay at the pumps, cramped and hard to maneuver. When we tried to get back on, there was gridlock with the semis coming in. What a mess! The only good thing was we paid $2.579 for a gallon and it’s now $2.699.

As we approach New Mexico, it’s a gradual but consistent up-hill grade. We’re at about 3,940 ft. elevation and climbing. Not only that but there’s a fierce wind, so we’re getting lousy m.p.g.

We’d like to stop and have lunch but it’s 86 degrees, and there’s not a shade tree to be seen.

…..little later….

We found a “rest area.” Consisted of three or four picnic tables. No restrooms, no trees, nothing. Had a quick bite to eat in the trailer and resumed our trip.

We’re now in New Mexico. The scenery has changed considerably. Totally different country.

We were surprised at the hills in the area of Branson, MO, but this area has flat topped mountains all around us. Temperature is 88. Elevation about 4,250 ft.

Traffic is comparatively light.

I’m hoping that in the Albuquerque area, I’ll be able to use my cell phone again to go on line. Lots to catch up on. I need to post these entries to my blog and monitor my sales site. (

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Texas Hold ’em

“Texas Hold ’em” has new meaning. We have noticed that in Oklahoma and now Texas, there are very few rest areas. So we’re playing Texas Hold ’em as we drive along.

Last night we stayed in Sayre, OK, and for me, despite the truck noise, it was a great night’s sleep. Cooled off nicely overnight and in fact, before morning we had a blanket over us.

Nothing special planned today. We’ll get to a Moose Lodge in Albuquerque tonight. I think they even have electricity. Great! Nothing but wide expansive ranches around here. Temperature is only 78 degrees but it’s 10:00 in the a.m.

I am finding that cellphone reception isn’t great. Thanks to my Wilson trucker antenna, I did get an important call from my mother’s nursing home a short while ago. Mom was taken to the hospital last night because they were concerned about a urinary problem. She’s back at her nursing home and will be going to the doctor today. (Mom has Alzheimer’s and I have power of attorney and am responsible for her care and needs.) Hope it’s nothing too serious.

Gas prices just continue to rise. It always seems that the station we passed up ends up having had lower prices than the one where we gas up. Oh, well.. It’s just a gamble, and we aren’t very good at gambling.

Twenty more miles and we’ll be in Amarillo, TX.

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92 degrees Near Yukon (Oklahoma)

Gas prices have been horrid.

We’re now on Hwy. 40 which will take us across the country. Traffic is moderate but gas prices are frightening. We just filled up at $2.529 for diesel (not the worst price we’ve paid).

We spent a couple of hours with Bob and Pauline Bedard. They have to be two of the nicest folks I’ve ever met. Sure wish they lived closer. Pauline and I share a love for hand crafts (crocheting, etc.) She even gave us a lovely crocheted doily. Hours of painstaking work. It is perfect!

Bob and Pauline Bedard

Bob gave us a tour of his hammer workshop where he makes quality hammers for playing the dulcimer. The smell of the wood was grand.

Lunch couldn’t have been better: taco salad (with Pauline’s special dressing), ice tea flavored with home grown mint, hot Texas toast, and freshly baked blueberry pie. It was hard to stop and I’m still full.

They’re the kind of people you immediately like and feel at home with. I’m so glad we stopped.

We’re a tad behind schedule. We want to be at Sayre, OK, for the night and Sayre is about 115 miles west. John wants to be at our destination each night before dark (no night driving) and it’s 7:00 p.m. right now. Only good thing about being a little late, is that the temperature might drop a tad. Tonight, without power, we can’t run the air conditioner, and with it being 90+ we sure won’t be cold.

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We Got “Tanked”

Here it is Wednesday, and we’re in Oklahoma on a toll road, about to get to Bob Bedard’s house. He invited us for lunch but we won’t be there until about 2:30 so we’ll be eating a bit later than usual, but we’ll survive.

Yesterday, in Branson, was a fun experience. We hit a bunch of gift shops, a dulcimer store, and then in the evening went to a dinner/theater to see “Magnificant Seven” variety show. It was very impressive from vocal/dancing cast of five men and five women plus an eight piece on stage band.

For me, Amanda stole the show.. She was a multi-talented 18-year-old, who could belt ’em out like the best of the professionals. The costuming was great, dancing up to speed, band “right on” and the vocals super. We were impressed.

Today we left Branson about 9:00 and found an RV salvage place at exit 22 on Hwy. 44. They had a rebuilt hot water heater, so we got it and John installed it there, where he could ask questions, if needed.

That stop delayed us so I hope Bob understands. (I have kept him advised by email and called him when we crossed into Oklahoma.)

Temperature is 83 with a little haze and some fluffy clouds. No rain is predicted.

When we leave Bob Bedard’s, we’ll still have 250 miles to go before we stop tonight, so we want to be back on the road at about 4:00. (It’s 2:03 right now.)

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America’s Best Campground

Billing themselves as “America’s Best Campground” really sets them up for failure, but this “ABC” Campground” (here in Branson, MO) is really nice. The bathrooms are super clean but available by door code only. (More of a nusiance, than security.) The availability of wireless internet and cable TV really speaks well for the place, and “escorts” when you’re coming in and looking for your site is a nice feature. Each site has a graveled level spot for an RV with a paved patio at the “front door.”

The campground is only about 1/4 full, but it’s early in the season. I’m sure at peak times, the place is packed.

We were eligible for a couple discounts and ended up paying about $25 nightly, which isn’t bad.

We took it easy today. After setting up, we just lazed around.

John took out the water heater. The tank is split from end to end. I think it’ll have to be replaced, but he’s optimistically hoping we can find a welder who can make it water tight again. Since the heating part of the unit is still functional, he may be right. We’ll see tomorrow. We did find a “salvage” RV place nearby and might resort to picking up a whole replacement unit there.

Tonight we were going to leave after dark to see the “lights” of Branson, but John’s asleep, and I’m in no mood to leave our cozy place.

Weatherwise today was perfect!! Daytime highs were in the mid 70’s. Tomorrow’s predictions are expected to be higher than today. Moving from tempterature zone to temperature zone requires multiple layers both in dressing and sleeping. We’ve switched from our down comforter to a lighter weight one for tonight’s sleeping. It should be about 50 instead of about 30 tonight.

Pizza and wine made a lovely dinner.

We might go see a “show” tomorrow, but all the good deals require the purchase of tickets in advance, here at our campground, and we aren’t sure what we want to see. We will probably drive to Branson without tickets and figure out what we want to do when it’s too late.

We really aren’t into viewing shows anyway. We love to perform, but being part of an audience isn’t as appealing. Seems like the thing to do when in Branson, but we may just sight-see.

Tomorrow’s our only full day here, then leave early Wednesday…. and on our way West.

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A day ago Brazil now Cuba!!

Hi all,

We just left Rick Thum’s workshop and we’re headin’ to Branson, MO.

Yesterday we enjoyed Rick’s hospitality. He gave us a really interesting tour of his workshop. I’ll post photos, as soon as I have a chance. Quite an operation!

(Note: For those of you who aren’t familiar with Rick Thum, he’s the supplier of instruments I sell on He’s been one of my workshop leaders since I started doing workshops at Evart 11 years ago.)

Rick’s workshop was a marvel of planning and forethought. He has really created an efficient operation. The attention to detail is impressive. The results show. Her’s a photo of Rick hard at work:

Rick hard at work.

After the tour, he invited us to his home. He’d suggested that we stay there, with him and his lovely wife, but since we have Willow (our dog) with us and we are comfortable in our place, we declined his invitation. The house is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen! On second thought, it was THE most beautiful. What a place! A marvelous view, wonderful hardwood floors, huge spacious windows, decorating that is perfect, and wonderful touches like a church pipe organ. It is over 5,000 square feet and just perfect!

Toward the front door/entry was just as impressive:

Not so humble bath area:

It’s not totally complete, but truly impressive!

For dinner, the four of us went to a Mexican restaurant where we enjoyed a pitcher of margarettas and great fajiatas.

We were back at the fifthwheel about 8:30.

But our evening didn’t end then.

We were all set to hook up to electricity and water, but unfortunately the best laid plans didn’t work out. Out hot water tank, which we hadn’t used since last fall, had ruptured over the winter. (Yes, John had carefully winterized it, but something apparently didn’t drain, and the tank has a major hole.) We will wait until we get to Branson to see about getting it fixed or replacing the tank. We’re not going to let it affect our trip. Just a small glitch. At least at Branson, we will have wonderful facilities at the ABC campground, so we can shower there, until it’s fixed.

Oh, and about the title to this posting.. We just stopped at a gas station and the on-ramp we took said “To Cuba.” You never can tell where this trip will take us.

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Sad morning

Just found out that a dear, sweet friend, Mary Lou Orthey, and passed away this a.m. Words cannot express my sorrow. I found her to be one of the most beautiful and charming people I have ever known. Losing her takes the shine off a beautiful day!

I’ll write more about the trip, when I have time to digest this.

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In Brazil

This first day, we only went 390 miles and we’re over-nighting in Brazil, Indiana, at a Moose Lodge.

We’d hoped for the availability of an electric outlet, but that didn’t work out. They do have an empty level grassy lot adjacent to their parking lot so there’s lots of room for us.

The only person we’ve talked to (a lady Moose hauling out the trash) was pleasant. We probably won’t spend much time in the lodge. We went in to use the restrooms but the place is a blue haze of cigarette smoke, probably because they had a bingo this afternoon. With my allergies, going in there just isn’t a good idea.

We had dinner downtown which is within walking distance. Nothing fancy just a little hamburg joint with about a dozen stools at a lunch bar. Kind of a throw back to the 50’s.

It’s 6:20, the TVs on (running off batteries); my cellphone and digital connection seem to be working fine. We tried the furnace out and it came on.

This first day hasn’t been very exciting, but at least we’ve started our journey. Can’t say we’ve seen any glorious scenery, but we can now brag that our trip included an excursion to Brazil! Wow!

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California, Here We Come!

9:18 a.m. we left our house and we’re officially on our way.

Our destination tonight is a Moose Lodge in Brazil, IN. Never having taken advantage of a Moose Lodge’s hospitality, this will be a first. As I mentioned in a previous post, we plan to do a lot of “boondocking” (free camping).

There’s a dusting of snow on the ground here (Lansing) area. But the sun’s out and there’s barely a cloud in the sky.

…And miles to go before we sleep.

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Day after tomorrow..

After weeks of planning, the day after tomorrow, we’ll take off on our great adventure.

John laughs at me because when we ride, I’m “wired.” I’m generally holding my laptop which is outfitted with a GPS (Streets and Trips) with the sensor suction cupped to the windshield. The laptop is plugged into an inverter so I always have power. I have my cellphone in one of the computer’s USB ports with a data cable which allows me to get my email wirelessly. (A Wilson trucker antenna assures that I have maximum cellphone reception.) This whole setup is great, but I’m always in danger of hanging myself when I get out of the vehicle. The maze of wires is rather daunting. It’s been known to take me several minutes to “escape.”

Today we’ll try to finish up our packing. We’ll polish up all the details tomorrow.

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Getting Ready

John and I will be heading out in a few days. We’ll have Willow, our long-coat chihuahua; Charlie, our cockatiel; and our musical instruments. We’ll be driving across the country with many stops along the way. We’ll spend more than a week with my daughter, Kelly, and her beautiful family in California. Our return trip will again be punctuated with lots of sight-seeing.

We’re staying at some nice RV parks (in Branson, Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, and Reno). You can find their websites in the “Links” area on the right side of this page. But we’ll also be boondocking quite a few of the nights. (Boondocking is when you camp for free. It’s often done in parking lots, rest areas, etc.)

We can’t see paying camping fees when we’ll be pulling in after dark and hitting the road at dawn. At those times, we’ll pull into places that allow overnight parking: Walmart, Moose Lodges, or as a last resort, Flying J Truck Stops. (Flying J’s are popular with long-haul truckers who run their big rigs all night so they are horribly noisy.)

We are planning to travel 6,000 miles over five weeks. We’ll take Hwy40 for the most part as we head west and Hwy80 as we come back. We plan to stop at Branson (2 days), Petrified Forest Nat’l Park in AZ, Grand Canyon (3 days), Las Vegas (2 days), and stay 10 days in the Monterey, CA, area parked in my daughter’s driveway.

our trip

Our more northerly return trip will be by way of Reno, NV (2 days), Salt Lake City, Rocky Mountain Nat’l Park (3 days), and then home by way of Lincoln, NE; Davenport and on home to Michigan.

Our vehicle is a 2003 charcoal gray GMC 3/4 ton Duramax diesel. We’ll be pulling our ten-year-old 28-foot Jayco fifthwheel with a dining room/living room slide. Our set up may not be “top of the line” but it has beautiful oak interrior and provides a wonderful home away from home.

Our on-the-road-home

I’ll post lots of pictures and keep this blog as a diary.

If you recognize us from our rig with Michigan plates, or because we’re playing our hammered dulcimer music, with our little black and white dog and bird, please say “Hi.”

Packing is a pain. I sure don’t want to forget anything critical. I am an over-organizer. I make lists and then lists of my lists. Plus I double-check them. But I have been known to forget and leave my list at home. I hope we’ll be well-prepared. We purchased Microsoft Streets and Trips with GPS so we can find our way; added a Wilson Trucker cell phone antenna so we can stay in touch; and I have it all figured out so I can wirelessly email and go on line whenever we get a signal. Unfortunately I’ve discovered Verizon coverage isn’t solid from coast to coast, but we’ll get by.

Lots of last minute stuff to do: today Willow had her vacinations updated, tomorrow John gets new truck tires. We hope the weather improves ’cause it’s rainy and cold, but rain or shine, we’ll be hitting the road April 8th.

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