Memorial of an Old Friend

Memories of an Old Friend
September, 2016

“But fate ordains that dearest friends must part.”

It’s taken me some time to process the loss of a dear old friend and to get to the point where I can write about the tragic ordeal. We spent so much time and did so many things together. We spent many weeks, months, in the great outdoors. We made long hikes in the desert. We climbed small mountains. We were together in Alaska and the Far North all the way to the Arctic Ocean. We've driven from coast to coast. We’ve weathered storms and incessantly hot sun. The years passed. And as our life together matured, so did the comfort and flexibility of our “fit”... perhaps more weathered and worn, but more relaxed and comfortable too. An old friend who seemed to mold to the surroundings, was liked by nearly everyone. An old friend who I’d like to think probably saved my life over the years. At least, I’d like to think that.

The loss itself was bad enough. But the fact that I was instrumental in th…

New Theme for an Old Blog

What could that mean?

Is it possible there's a glowing ember of life here at the Sabbatical Journal?

Let's gently blow on it and see what happens.

Last Post for a While

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The Evolution of a blog. 

In the beginning, 2006, I gave birth to this blog with two objectives in mind: first, to serve as an easy means to keep family and friends informed about our whereabouts and activities, and second, as a permanent record of our travels for our own purposes… a personal journal.  Ten years have now passed and while these two objectives are still valid and important to us, I've re-evaluated the means to achieve them.

Keeping family and friends up-to-date:  Regardless of one's opinion about Facebook or Google+, the reality is that most of the people we want to reach in our "family and friends" category are looking at their Facebook pages every day... multipl…

New Video

Dar, in particular, has waited a long time for this. I finally got around to finishing the video recap of our trip to Alaska and the Far North. It's up on YouTube... here's a direct link.  Don't expect too much. It's a compilation of short clips from our almost three months up there... so it's quick and jumpy, but it works for us and produces many warm memories.

Wisconsin to Oregon, 2016

Between September 11 and September 27 we traveled between Wisconsin and Oregon. For those unfamiliar with our travel and living pattern, we consider Wisconsin our summer homebase, and Oregon is becoming our rest-of-the-year homebase. So for the past few years we’ve worn a pretty good path between the Midwest and the Northwest. It’s the journey, not the destination, that we focus on… so we look for new routes between here and there. And, as shunpikers, we prefer trading Interstate highways for more sedate state and county roads.

The general route for the first part of the trip this year, oh, roughly between Wisconsin and Montana, is to follow US-12. We did depart from this plan at times, but that was the basic path. The back-half of the trip was still unplanned, except for my desire to do the Beartooth Highway again.

In Wisconsin on sideroads and backroads, we followed WI-33 up and through the Kickapoo River Valley in Western Wisconsin. Stopped for lunch in Wonewoc where we found the…

A Good Old-Fashioned Garage Raisin'

Breathing life back into the old blog, we’ll make an attempt here to bring it up to date before the end of the year. Let’s see… when we last heard from anybody at Dar and Thom’s RV Sabbatical Journal the new garage at the farm was just getting started. And my eyes (both of ‘em) were healing from cataract surgery.

But there was a garage to be built. There’s no doubt things started getting a bit more frantic as all the materials for the garage were delivered in early August. Piles of materials… wood, shingles, trusses, garage door parts, windows, sheathing and siding, and much much more… were scattered around the yard in strategic locations to make access easier and yet leave room for working and maneuvering. Rain predicted for later in the delivery day made the first effort one of getting it all protected from water damage.

The following day we were on the slab and nailing walls together. During the week, the core of the crew was Dar’s brother Dennis, Dar, and me. On weekends and a few…

One of our Summer Projects

Just in case someone thinks we've been resting and relaxing here at the farm this summer, here's a glimpse of a summer project we've been working on.

Blackwaters break.

Taking a break. There comes a time... every once in a while... you just gotta take a break.

Where’d You Get Them Peepers?

Well, it turns out this is the year. Tests and measurements of the worst eye indicated it’s time to get on with it. Wasting no time, I signed up for the next date open on the surgery calendar… about a week out. One eye would be done and the other a couple weeks later. There was a 3 day period of prep, a series of eye-drops that needed to be installed in the target eye, and the wait.

I arrived bright and early on a Tuesday and reported to surgery, my trusty patient advocate and moral support at my side. Mustering up courage and my best game-day face, I struggled to keep things light by bantering with the staff and joking around a bit to keep my mind off the chamber of horrors in the next room. It was fine. I’m going to get through this.

I don’t remember much after getting to the operating room. I climbed on the table, positioned myself where they wanted me, an injection of a drug cocktail including versed, my personal amnesiatic of choice, and I was in la-la land. Vague memories of 70…


Medical advancements can be divided into two separate but overlapping categories: those that improve the quality of life and those that extend the quantity, or length, of life. IOLs, Intra-Ocular Lens implants fall clearly in the former. After installation they function like the originals with no needed care or anti-rejection drugs or anything. They truly improve the quality of life with virtually no negatives at all for most people. And they haven’t been around for very long. Someone born just 50 years prior to me would’ve been largely out of luck. Other than increasingly powerful correction with decreasing results, they would have slowly lost this incredibly important human sense. Adaptation was the only remedy.

Here’s an unfortunate fact. I’m not very strong when it comes to medical procedures of almost any kind. I’ve passed out from blood draws and other needle sticks. Donating blood is a worthy cause that I’ve done, but a few times the ordeal ended with me on the floor... even af…

Me and My Eyes

New eyes. Well, at least new lenses. The original lenses, the ones that came with this body, were rapidly becoming a problem (cataracts), and my big hope as we drove into Wisconsin this year was that I’d be able to have them replaced during our visit this year.

Beaver Dam was (is?) our hometown. We both grew up here. But like so many kids who grew up in small towns, we couldn’t wait to get out into the bigger world beyond the borders of our little town. For some, like me, who weren’t particularly “popular” in high school, that desire to get away was probably also driven by a chance to start over, to hit the reset button.

Fast forward through most of our working years… which were coming to an end while we lived in Geneva Illinois. This is when, after a long period of soul-searching and deliberation, we decided to chuck it all and hit the road as full time RVers. That’s a story for another time. At any rate, we needed an official place to get mail, file taxes, and other such administri…

Into Wisconsin and our Summer Home - Day 10

Thursday, May 12
Our last traveling day for this leg of our travels.  Usually looking for new routes we hadn't taken before, we took IA-3 from the Cedar Falls/Waterloo area to Dubuque. Now we're back to our original stomping grounds.

And first on the agenda, now that we're "home", is a stop for lunch in Potosi WI, at the famous Potosi Brewing Company. Enjoyable, as always. We learned that they have a penchant for hiring brewmasters named Steve. They're on their third one.

Learned that Dar's Mom and Dad, our hosts for the summer, were having visitors tonight. Bill and Nancy who spend the summers in the UP of Michigan would be stopping by and spending the night. On our way into town we stopped for a few dinner supplies, and arrived at our summer home about 4pm.

This trip from Oregon to Wisconsin was 10 days (9 nights on the road).  It was 2,473 miles. The F350 used 199.8 gallons of gas ($436), got 12.4 mpg. We camped for 5 nights, motels for 4 nights…

Into Iowa - Day 9

Wednesday, May 11
When a couple travelers (us for example) travel from west to east across the continental United States, one runs the risk of getting under a nasty dark cloud and then following it all the way to your destination. Weather generally moves from west to east too. It's just the way it is.

Much quieter morning after the fireworks last night. Continued on US-30 into Iowa, crossing the Missouri River between Blair NE and Missouri Valley IA. Mostly cloudy all day today... that dark cloud mentioned in the preceding paragraph.

Just east of Ames, picked up US-65 north to US-20 east. Not much to report about the drive today. It is Iowa after all. Oh... we did stop in Carroll IA for lunch at a Culvers.

We have some friends who live in Cedar Falls IA so we thought that'd be a good place to stop for the night. Weather was still "iffy" (that same cloud) so a motel seemed like the right choice once again. Attempts to reach our friends were eventually rewarded with a …

Through Nebraska, Stormy Night - Day 8

Tuesday, May 10
A nice quiet morning, partly sunny. No wind. A long day today as we follow US-30 east, through North Platte, Lexington, Kearney, and Grand Island. The temperature was climbing as the day wore on, and could only be described as "hot" when we stopped in Central City for an ice cream cone. A little further on, near Columbus, we checked out some possible camps, none of which was agreeable to us. Tired, hot, a dearth of camping possibilities, and increasingly threatening weather prompted us to "call an audible" and check into a Days Inn on the east side of Columbus.

Weather continued to deteriorate, heavy weather warnings were issued, and between watching out the window and keeping an eye on the weather radar we entertained ourselves until things settled down late in the evening. Nature provided entertainment is usually preferable to what's on the tube these days. Decided our decision to motel it tonight was the right choice.

Scottsbluff National Monument - Day 7

Monday, May 9
Woke in Scottsbluff at Riverside CG, a very nice city park along the North Platte. The sun was shining and it looked like a good day. We've noticed high water all along the North Platte as we've followed it east, the result of strong snow melt and some heavy rains higher in the hills. But here in Scottsbluff, the water is so high, and rising, that it's predicted to go into flood stage any day now. In all likelihood, Riverside CG will be closed in a day or two until the river subsides.

Just across the river to the south is Scotts Bluff National Monument. Serving as a landmark for thousands of years for early Americans, and then for emigrants as they walked to new lives in the West, this series of tall sandstone bluffs dominates the surrounding flat land. Mitchell Pass on the Old Oregon Trail runs directly between Scotts Bluff to the north and South Bluff to the south. A trail follows this historic route through the pass. It's possible for smaller vehicles …

Into Nebraska - Day 6

May 8 Sunday
After a quick nearly all carb breakfast, we were on the road again by 9:30. The Baymont motel in Casper was comfortable and preferable for us. Camping in near freezing conditions with the little camper takes some effort and at this point in my life, taking advantage of a motel once in a while is a viable option.

South (east) on I-25 for 90 miles to x92, for US-26. To Guernsey.  Checked out Oregon Trail Ruts Monument and Register Wall -- two places where real evidence remains from the passage of the emigrants. Quite impressive.

Continued down to Fort Laramie (the town) and stopped at Fort Laramie (the fort). During our visit there the sky darkened and a huge T-storm gathered to the south, eventually chased us out. As we drove east on US-26, I thought we'd outrun it, as radar indicated it was heading north. And we kept outrunning it until we got to Scottsbluff, checked the radar, and it looked like we were out of harms way. But don't get too comfortable, as it kept …

South Pass Wyoming - Day 5

May 7 Saturday
The rain that messed with us yesterday wasn't falling as we left Jackson, but it looked like it could at any minute. We made the quick run down to Hoback Junction south of town, to regain our trail, then made the turn onto route 189/191 which carried us toward the east and south. Initially, the road follows the Hoback River through the spectacular Hoback Canyon. This is the land of the original mountain men. Men like Jim Bridger, Jedediah Smith, and Bill Sublette lived and worked in these mountains during the early 1800s. It was a unique time, sandwiched between discovery and the arrival of emigrants, that lasted about 30 years.

Off to the east and below the threatening clouds were the snow-covered Gros Ventre Mountains; to the west, the Snake River Mountains. Whether a day is clear or cloudy, the mountains are rewarding. I don't know why, but they just do something for me.

On our way south toward Farson there is an interim summit that made us ascend into the lo…

Jackson Wyoming Overnight - Day 4

May 6
Rained during the night. Woke to an overcast sky and the promise of more precipitation. Broke camp during a lull and rolled out the gate at Craters of the Moon National Monument before 9am.

Uneventful drive to Idaho Falls, where we fueled and filled-in a few desired grocery items at an Albertsons store that was experiencing a widespread electrical and refrigeration problem. All freezers and coolers were wearing sheets of plastic and people were scurrying about trying to solve the problem.

Out of town on Hwy 26. Stopped at Palisades Dam on the Snake for a look see. As we sat there we were hit by a burst of very high wind and heavy driving rain. Waited out the heaviest. But slow going against the storm for a while. At Hoback Junction, due to weather, time of day, slim prospects for resources around South Pass, we decided to go the 20 miles into Jackson and call it a day. Room at Pony Express Motel at corner of WY22 and US26. Beer and lunner at Snake River Brewing. We'd spent s…

Craters of the Moon National Monument - Day 3

May 5
Dawn broke early over our camp at Silver Creek. Unfortunately, we slept through dawn and awoke at the break of, maybe, 8am. A fine morning. From camp, in most directions, there were no physical artifacts or evidence to suggest that anyone had ever been here before. I could see the snow capped Sawtooth Range dominating to the north. There was Silver Creek some 20 feet from the camper, riffling as it rushed by. There were miles of prairie between the two. But nary a structure or road or power line or anything that wasn't natural. From this point, this may have been the same scene I would have seen 100 or 200 years ago. Who knows?

Drove through Carey and made our way to Craters of the Moon NM. A brief stop at the Visitor Center was cut short by a swarm of kids from a local high school. Got campsite then went exploring. A series of short hikes... one to top of a cinder cone, another to a feature called tree molds - where hot lava inundates areas of standing and fallen trees, cov…

Into Idaho - Day 2

May 4
After a fine sleep at Clyde Holliday State Park, we were up and moving by a little after 9. It's beginning to look like the weather will push us to some degree as a system is forming that's going to turn the whole western USA into a shitstorm for a few days over the weekend. With our motivation thus heightened, moving becomes a higher priority.

We're aiming for the Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho. Neither of us have visited this place in the past and it's right along an east/west route segment we've likewise not taken before. So the decision was made to set course, without haste, for CRMO.

The route used US-26 from John Day to Ontario, I-84 through Boise to Mountain Home, then US-20 up and over to Carey ID. A bit bedraggled from the longish 300+ mile drive, we found an agreeable camp along a creek on BLM land about 8 miles south of Carey.

Tomorrow, which the weather gods have predicted will still be mostly sunny and nice, the plan is to explore…