May 31, 2013

May 15 thru May 31 - The Beginning of an End

Time for a long entry to the blog in an attempt to bring the record up to date. If you're like many readers and find daily minutia and personal triflings boring, you may want to skip this entry. Now that we're more or less settled for the summer I don't plan on posting here often... certainly not daily. Something like every week or two will probably suffice to keep the record current and my writing muscle from turning completely to flab.

When we last heard from our intrepid explorers they had just arrived in Cedar Falls Iowa. Our purpose for stopping there was two-fold: first, we have four good RVing friends from our Rockport Texas days... Andy & Betty, and David & Carol Ann... who live right here in Cedar Falls. We hadn't seen these folks since a year ago this past Winter (we skipped Rockport this year) and since we were driving by it just made sense to stop and see what kind of trouble we, collectively, could get into. Our other reason for stopping there was to visit the Northstar Camper plant. Yes, much to the chagrin of some we're still considering a truck camper for Sabbatical II - the great downsizing.

Andy & Betty offered to have us park in their driveway during our two night stay... and since we're on a very small old age pension (and cheap by nature) we took them up on that very kind offer. Both nights we were there David & Carol Ann joined us to help keep the conversation lively.

We arrived in Cedar Falls Tuesday (the 14th). On the 15th, Wednesday, Dar and I ran down to Northstar where we met with Rex, a grandson of the founder. R.C. Willett Company ("The Truck Camper People"), builders of the highly regarded Northstar campers, have been in the truck camper business for more than 52 years. I'm not sure, but 52 years must put them at the top of the list as the longest-running business in this RV industry niche.

What an enjoyable visit! Rex listened to understand our background and our ideas for the next chapter of our RVing life. He showed us campers in every phase of production, pointed out features and build details that were developed from years of experience, and took us through a series of completed units waiting for shipment. I was a little surprised to learn that many of the units they build are exported to countries all around the world.

In all, Rex spent 3 hours with Dar and me. It was a visit that far exceeded our expectations and gave us a lot more to think about... to consider. But generally, we do believe we're on the right track (for us) in our quest to aggressively downsize for the next chapter.

On Thursday the 16th we bid "adieu" to Andy & Betty and headed into Wisconsin for the first time since last November. Crossing the Mississippi at Dubuque, the drive was uneventful, the weather agreeable, as the anticipation of "coming home" plucked at my emotions. Something full time RVers, those who wander like nomads all the time, don't experience is the emotional high one gets from going home. I've written about this before... there's nothing like the feeling of coming home - unless it's the feeling of leaving again. I think that's one of the reasons we're designing Sabbatical II with two home bases... to double the pleasure... the kick... we get from going home, planning the next exploration, and then leaving again.

Since arriving in Beaver Dam the last two weeks have been a blur. My Dad has been going through some really tough health problems. He's 90 and things are starting to wear out. I'm not going to get into any specifics here, but we've been helping out and spending as much time as we can with him and Mom.

We're currently parked on our RV pad out at the farm outside Beaver Dam. Since we're considering this the end of our first "Sabbatical" (com'on... who ever heard of a 6 year sabbatical??) -- what will go down in history as Sabbatical I, our stay here this year is rather open ended. There's much to be accomplished in the next few months... get our "apartment" here at the farm set up, put the bus-house on the market and, hopefully, pass it on to another couple looking for an exciting RV-based life chapter, and get our next rig ready for the new adventures of Sabbatical II.

I think I need a nap.

May 14, 2013

May 14 - Delivered from Pender

Considering my mental burden, I was able to get a reasonable night's sleep, but was up for the day by 5am... reading over all the documentation I had on these problematic Atwood levelers. Before 7am, I called Newmar to get the location of the Atwood control module... the controller... for the leveling system. There are electronic gizmos scattered all over the place in this motorhome and, since I wasn't sure of it's location, a little help in narrowing down my search could be helpful before I start crawling around in the "basement" playing hide and seek with a little black box.

Newmar says it could be here... or it could be there... and with those two possibilities, it didn't take long for me to find it and make a positive ID. Now it was time for a call to Atwood... and I was dreading the likelihood that I'd get less-than-stellar assistance... a customer service rep named Rajij in Bombay reading from a script... someone who didn't have the knowledge to understand my problem, much less help me. Without the chassis air suspension inflated we were unable to move... we were stranded in Pender. And as nice as Pender is, there was probably no one in town who ever saw an Atwood Levelegs leveling system before... much less having the knowledge to get me on the road again. Without some real assistance from Atwood, my last best hope, there was, in my mind, the real possibility that we might become inadvertent long-term residents of Pender. Our traveling lifestyle might end right here.

But assistance was delivered to this aging stranded man-in-need... this reluctant new Penderite. And that assistance came to me in the form of a guy named Mark... who, while sitting at his desk in Elkhart Indiana with a Levelegs controller just like mine in his hands, gave me the magic formula to get our air suspension re-inflated and deliver us from exile in northeast Nebraska. Unplug this... unplug that... start the motorhome engine... with a short piece of wire as a "jumper", energize the black wire in the first position of plug A... which will energize the relay which will allow the suspension to reinflate. The sound of that relay closing was music to my ears. We were on the road a short time later, clawing at the miles between Pender and Cedar Falls. It was turning out to be a very good day.

May 13, 2013

May 13 - Stranded in Pender

Monday morning. About 8:30am, Edward the Blue Ox tech knocks on the door and says he's taking the tow bar for service. To prepare for him, I'd been working on unlocking the two pins (locking type) that secure it to the receiver (one for the drop adapter and one for the tow bar) but, despite my best efforts, could not get a key into one of them -- it was jammed or corroded or something. He took the whole deal... tow bar and drop adapter together... and went off to do his thing.
In the meantime, we explored little Pender and looked for a store to get a few basic food items for the larder. Most towns of just a thousand people don't have a food store at all, or, if they're lucky, perhaps a C-store/gas station. What we found was Cubbys, a brand spanking new "Community Store". More a small grocery store than C-store on steroids, sure you could get fuel out front, but you could also get fresh meat, a wide range of groceries, and even hot prepared food at the deli.

There are a few things necessary to make a going community, and one of those things is a store... a place to buy the necessities, supplies, without having to run 20 miles to the next, larger, town... leaving your money in that community while yours declines. Yes, I was happy to see this little store and hope the community of Pender, in this Walmart-crazed culture of ours, will support it... will help make it a success.

Back at the bus-house, our tow bar was returned in like-new condition and with an assurance that it's up-to-spec and capable of towing for many more miles. The cost of this inspection and re-conditioning? $25... a real deal by any standard. Especially when they throw in a free night or two in their RV park. I'm glad we came.

Considering it was already afternoon, I arranged an additional night in the RV park so we could get an early start the next morning. We're planning to stop for two nights near Cedar Falls Iowa where we have some RVing friends to see. And since we're right there, we're going to stop at Northstar Campers to see their facility and find out more about these highly-considered truck campers. We're still debating our next rig... class B or class TC? That is the question. If we want to explore without towing anything there aren't many more options than those two. The decision point draws nearer.

Being concerned about our balky jacks, I wanted to get the bus-house ready for travel before we hit the sack for the night. So after dinner we stowed our loose gear, pulled in all but our bedroom slide, and retracted the jacks... and trouble loomed. The jacks retracted but a troublesome jack in the rear failed to send the necessary "I'm retracted" signal to the controller... which means the controller didn't send the signal to the chassis to "air-up" the suspension. So there we sat... despite my best efforts to remedy the situation by cycling the jacks again... unable to move. I called Coachnet, our road-side assistance provider, who couldn't offer much technical help with these particular jacks (Atwood Levelegs). They did offer to dispatch an RV technician but I declined until after I had a shot at talking to someone at Atwood... which would have to happen in the morning.

With all that on my mind, I retired for the night wondering how much sleep I'll be able to get.

May 12, 2013

May 12 - Pampered in Pender

Comfortably parked in the Blue Ox RV Park in Pender, and conveniently attached to full hookups, we had no place to go and no schedule to keep today... a great day for lazing around. It was Mother's Day and Dar had the day off from most normal chores... well, except for a load of laundry, something she doesn't trust me with under any circumstances. Besides whipping up a simple meal for dinner, I did dishes too. Hope the Mother of our children enjoyed her day... near as much as I enjoy having her around every day. And Happy Mothers Day to our Moms up there in Beaver Dam... and to our daughter out in Washington.

We happened to hit Pender on a weekend so we have to wait until Monday morning for the Blue Ox tech to check out the tow bar. Once again, we were the only ones in the place last night. We're obviously not following the RV crowds around these days.

Yesterdays brisk wind abated overnight and we got down to 27f early this morning. And how's this for contrasts... Monday, tomorrow, highs should be well into the 80s... and Tuesday, they're saying well into the 90s. Welcome to Spring in the Midwest.

May 11, 2013

May 11 - Blown to Pender

Dar and I were the only ones in the Kearney Cabelas truck and rv lot last night (Friday)... no trucks or refrigerated trailers that can drone on all night long. What we did have was the sound of the railroad as we were camped right across the road from a UP mainline through here... and it's one of the busiest sections of track I've seen. Often there'd be two trains going by at the same time, and at least once, I saw three. Yes, there are three sets of rails and if one had time between trains to feel those ribbons of steel, I'll bet they'd be hot. But the cool night meant mostly closed windows in the bus-house and we slept fine. Don't think either of us were awakened by steel wheels on steel rails all night.

As the rising sun sliced in through the windows of a rocking bus-house Saturday morning it became obvious that the issue today was going to be wind. Area wide predictions were for 20 plus mph winds and gusts to over 30. Since this was a day of mostly two lane roads, it might be a long one.

Most of the time driving the bus-house is a manageable task, but it does demand your attention. Whether it's wind, or uneven road surfaces, or the "wakes" that other large vehicles throw-off as they punch a big hole through the air... these can, and do, conspire to shove our slab-sided camper one way or the other and make it necessary to input small steering corrections to compensate. These things are happening all the time. If your attention is diverted for a few seconds, the need for a small steering correction can grow rapidly to a big steering correction. And remember that we're driving an 8-1/2 foot wide vehicle down a lane that might be just 10 or 11 feet wide -- not much wiggle-room. It's important for the driver to keep his/her mind on his/her job.

Windy days, especially with a direct side-wind, mean there won't be much spare time. Not only does the wind blow and gust at varying intensity, but any obstacles on the windward side of the road... a barn, a small woodlot, a billboard, a cut through a hill... these things can momentarily block the wind. When the driver already has a steering correction built-in to compensate for the wind... and that wind suddenly stops... the vehicle begins to head for the side of the road. The skillful driver will then compensate by steering in the opposite direction to straighten the vehicle and keep it in the lane of traffic. But then, as you emerge from behind the hill or woodlot, the wind hits you with full force again... sending the vehicle the opposite way and with the wind. Once again, a steering correction is called for. It can get challenging.

Despite it all, and the reality that the wind was every bit as strong as they predicted, we made it to Pender Nebraska, our objective. A small town by almost anyone's standards, only 1,000 people live here. As it's only 35 miles from Sioux City, I'm guessing that some of those Penderites probably work up in the "big city" and come back out to the country to sleep. For sure, we're part of a small group of RVers who actually want to go to Pender.

And the reason is... Pender is the home of Blue Ox Corporation. They're the folks that make the towing gear we use to pull our car, or toad, along behind us wherever we go. It's rather important that you have faith... confidence... in this device. It would not be a good day if you lost the toad along the way. Besides being "toad-less", it'd be very expensive. We've all heard stories of it happening... and some of them may actually be true. But Dar and I are big into NOT worrying... and having good safe towing gear is important.

If you stop by and park in their very nice RV park (no-charge for customers), Blue Ox offers to go over your tow bar and evaluate it from a safety and capability standpoint. They clean it up, tighten it up, lube it up, inspect and replace any components that are wearing, and get it back to you with the assurance that it meets their specs. If the tow bar has gone beyond it's safe life, they'll make you a deal on a replacement. It's insurance. It's peace-of-mind.

And that's why we're in Pender for a couple days.

May 10, 2013

May 10 - Sidney to Kearney Nebraska

From Cabelas store to Cabelas store...  one time zone to the next... into that gray area between "The West" and "The Midwest"... we continued our eastward trek today. If we didn't officially cross into the Midwest today, we certainly will tomorrow. I've written about this before but there is a north-south demarcation between West and Midwest out here that runs from the Canadian border and into Texas. In the West you're a rancher; in the Midwest you're a farmer.  In the West you attend rodeos; in the Midwest it's tractor-pulls and county fairs. In the West you wear a cowboy hat; in the Midwest it's a seed-corn sponsored baseball cap. These days everybody drives pickup trucks, even soccer Moms who used to drive mini-vans. But in the West, you'd probably have a horse or two besides. The demarcation line wavers some and is wider in some spots than others. But it clearly runs right through the part of the country we're crossing today and tomorrow.  In Texas the line jumps to the eastern border of the state and is clearly defined. It seems everybody in Texas thinks they live in The West... even middle level bankers in Houston who have never seen a long horn steer. They live in subdivisions of little "ranchettes' and they greet you with a big "howdy" even if it comes out with an eastern accent.

Our drive was a tad over 200 miles today. The late start was due to a morning walk followed by a good breakfast at a Perkins restaurant... and the fact that I had to return the new GPS I got yesterday. After about 2 hours of use it just locked up and wouldn't respond to anything (remind you of some cherished one in your life?). I'm hoping it was a rare failure of the electronics so I just exchanged the frozen one for a new one. zippideedoodah.

Unsettled weather out this way is easing and we had mostly sunny skies today. There was one short patch where we drove through a small shower even though we could see sun all around on all sides.  Must have been one dark cloud over the top of the bus-house.

We're settled in for the night at another Cabelas store... this one in Kearney. When we hit the road again tomorrow morning we'll be pretty much off the Interstate Highway system for the rest of our trip back to Wisconsin. Destination tomorrow is the little town of Pender Nebraska.

May 9, 2013

May 9 - Good Bye Wyoming... we'll be back.

This will be a quick note to the record that we left Cheyenne this morning and ran a whole hundred miles (and 1600 feet elevation... down) to Sidney Nebraska. We're camped (well, moochdocked really...) at Cabelas in Sidney... their corporate headquarters. They have a full hookup RV campground ($$) here too, but we, being old timers on a fixed income, decided to rough it tonight and go without any connection to the civilized world at all.  So here we sit and here we'll sleep... as the world spins on it's axis until old Sol rises on the eastern horizon tomorrow morning.

Just because we're "moochdocking" doesn't mean we didn't drop any money at all in Cabelas coffers. We had lunch at their lunch counter and then wandered around the store until two items jumped into our arms... a new pair of shoes for Dar and a heck of a deal on a new GPS for Thom. Staying here for free can get expensive.

Tomorrow, we move eastward again... ever closer to the Midwest. And lower elevation is already moderating the night-time temps. Bring on the warmth!  Why, a couple days from now there's talk about a low overnight temp of 61f somewhere down the trail.  We're ready.

May 8, 2013

May 8 - Wyoming State Capitol

This morning we made the jaunt a few miles north to downtown Cheyenne and the State Capitol of Wyoming. Cheyenne is not a big town, although relative to most other clusterings of people in Wyoming, it can feel that way. With a population of only 60,000 hearty folks, getting around town is easy and quick. Our camp on the south end of town is less than 3 miles from the heart of town and the Capitol Building. We probably could have walked if we were ambitious.

Parking was easy-to-find right on one of the streets that run alongside the Capitol grounds. Upon entering through the main front doors at the top of the portico steps we were confronted by the lack of a security checkpoint, no x-ray machines, nor any walk-through metal detectors. No sir, the State Police have a desk in the rotunda on the first floor and that’s about it. Clearly the good citizens of Wyoming don’t feel the need to over-do the security thing... and retain the sense of liberty one gets by just going in whenever one feels like it... no questions... no hassles.

We had wondered why Cheyenne is the Capital City of Wyoming... what with it being in the extreme southeast corner of the State. Many other States we’ve visited have taken pains to locate their Capital in a central spot, as close to the middle of the State as possible. So how did Cheyenne become the Capital?

Cheyenne was born in 1867 in the path of the rapidly expanding transcontinental railroad. Union Pacific crews arrived as they laid the tracks westward. Cheyenne soon laid claim to a higher status than older settlements like Fort Laramie, Fort Bridger, and the mining town of South Pass City -- changing Cheyenne from a village to a city in a matter of months. The seat of the new Territorial Government was established in Cheyenne in 1869. Apparently, no one’s felt a need to challenge that decision since.

One can also speculate that there was very little population throughout the rest of the Wyoming Territory and that Cheyenne’s proximity to Denver and it’s relative closeness by train to Omaha and other population centers to the east also played a role.

The building was built between 1886 and 1890, prior to statehood for Wyoming (1890), and expanded again in 1916 when the two large wings for the legislative chambers were added. Between 1974 and 1980 the building was extensively renovated.

What we saw today impressed us as stately and fitting for this big but wild western state. Surprisingly, it’s the original Capitol... so they got it right the first time. Many other states have moved their State Houses multiple times, or they were built too small or in the wrong place, or they burned down. But Wyoming got it right and it’s still in daily use by the Governor, Secretary of State, Treasurer, and Auditor, in addition to the legislative chambers. That fact alone puts it in rare company among other states.

The building is in the traditional style... modeled after the US Capitol in Washington DC. A central rotunda sits beneath a large dome and two adjoining wings contain the House and Senate Chambers. The impressive dome is 146 feet hight and is covered in sheets of copper. But in 1900 it was decided to gild the copper with 24k gold to help maintain a bright, fresh, un-tarnished look. It’s been gilded 4 more times since then, the last in 2010. The exterior is various shades of sandstone, much of which came from quarries in Wyoming. The interior floors are a “checkerboard” of both white marble from Italy and black marble from Wyoming. Many of the black tiles contain imperfections which are actually fossils. The impressive staircases, doorways, and doors are cherry.

Popping into the House Chamber for a look, we were impressed with the good-looking desks used by the representatives... oak with marble tops. Surprisingly, these are relatively new having been commissioned and installed in 2001. Before that time the lawmakers used army-issued metal desks. They served their purpose for near a hundred years.

Overall, we liked the place. This being our 30th state capitol, we’ve found a few along the way we really didn’t like (good old Florida tops the list), but most are reasonably impressive and seem to serve both the symbolic and functional reasons they were built. Wyoming fits right in there. Those Territorial leaders who commissioned this building had foresight... they did a good job. The building still works today and appears to be poised to go on doing it’s job for the foreseeable future.

After our visit we sought out and found a brewpub... a near-tradition for us on Capitol visitation days.  We had an enjoyable time at Shadows Brewery and Grill in the old Union Station building... despite their lack of the most important craft beer a brewpub can make... IPA. Life isn't easy all the time.

More photos in our online photo album...[click here]

Took me a while to figure out that "Crook" is the County he represents...
 and not his profession.

May 7, 2013

May 7 - Why the Rush?

A few days ago I promised to say more about why we've hurried our pace and are making this mad dash back to the Midwest. At our current rate, after factoring in this short breather in Cheyenne and a couple stops we're planning in Nebraska and Iowa, it looks like we'll be back at our Wisconsin home base around the 16th or 17th... about two weeks after leaving the Northwest. The initial plan to take a month for this travel leg clearly went up in smoke.

So what happened? To put it simply and directly... we're anxious to get on with "Sabbatical II - The Great Downsizing". We've talked and deliberated, pondered and imagined, thought about this and thought about that... analysis paralysis, some would say. Enough already! It's time for action.

We have already taken a few steps toward that next chapter. Our space at our daughter and SIL's place (dubbed "the flat") is now set up and ready for our occasional occupancy. In Wisconsin one of Dar's first projects is to set up "the apartment" out at the farm house, which will serve as our occasional Wisconsin home base. Between the Midwest and the Northwest, and our involvement with family in each, we spend almost half our time. In another month or two, we'll have non-RV quarters in both locations.

During our long drives the past few days Sabbatical II has been a vigorous topic of conversation. We're not ready yet to say which small camper type we're choosing... only that it'll be really small and will surprise some folks. But let me say this... despite all the free advice out there (and some rather expensive advice :) as well) that purports to help people with making the leap to fulltiming -- there are more ways to be a traveler/explorer than dragging a giant overloaded RV around with you wherever you go. We've had six terrific and enjoyable years with the bus-house and we wouldn't trade those years for anything, even a sure-bet claim to a silver mine in the San Pedro Mountains of central Nevada. Our next chapter will be an evolution, not a revolution.

And on top of all that, we have our four parents, all in their 80's or 90's, that we try to help out in many ways during our time in Wisconsin. Whether it's home repairs, mowing or helping with yard work, or offering transportation services, we love assisting the ones that nurtured and raised us during another, way-back long-ago, chapter.

Without a doubt this summer will be a busy one in Wisconsin. We just want to get on with it.

May 6, 2013

May 6 - Little America to Cheyenne Wyoming

Up until a few years ago I had an iron stomach.  I could eat anything, drink anything, whenever I wanted and in any quantity I wanted... and I'd sleep like a baby. No stomach distress or effects from acid and gas or any of all that fun stuff others grumbled about.  It was something I took for granted and didn't really appreciate... until it was gone.  The iron in my stomach must have rusted with age.

Starting a few years ago I noticed my abilities in this area started to fade.  More problems with falling asleep because of the gas or acid or reflux or whatever rolling around in there and making me uncomfortable.  Tums (or equivalent) help, but when I eat late, eat larger quantities, or eat the "wrong" foods,  getting things to quiet down so I can get some sleep can be a problem.

While I did briefly mention having dinner in the restaurant at Little America last night, I didn't mention that my selection was something most Midwest boys have a weakness for... hot turkey open faced sandwich on hearty white bread accompanied by mashed potatoes and the whole thing smothered in gravy. Oh yum yum.

And I couldn't stop eating it. In retrospect I should have mentally divided it in half, eaten only one half and taken the other half with me for lunch today. That would have been the right thing to do.  But there I was, at 7pm, munching the whole thing down in one sitting. The food was good... no, it was excellent. The result a couple hours later was not. Together, me and my rusted stomach, finally got things settled down about 2am and, by that time, the slumber was really needed.

We (well, Dar...) popped up about 7:30am and started the process of getting us on the road. Moving a little slower I joined her a few minutes later.  About 9:30am we were rolling and headed east again. The route was easy to remember... I-80 all the way to Cheyenne.  Dar drove the first leg and I filled in the rest of the day.

Besides all the spectacular scenery along the way, we ran the bus-house up to I-80's highest elevation along it's coast to coast run... 8,700 feet between Laramie and Cheyenne. Still a good bit of snow up there but the road was in good shape and the bus-house purred along like it was born in the Alps. Total miles today: 280.

We settled in at AB Campground and RV Park on the south side of Cheyenne.  The guy that owns the park was very friendly and helpful and made sure we got into a site that met our needs... level (remember, jack problems?) and facing east or north to keep the intense noon and afternoon sun off our picture window windshield. There aren't a lot of RV parks that get even average reviews in Cheyenne... this one sounded like the best bet for us. And it's a great location for our purpose.

Our goal is to take a break here... about the half-way point on the trek back to Wisconsin... and to see the Wyoming State Capitol.  And there's always plenty of chores and writing and photos to get caught up on.

May 5, 2013

May 5 - Declo Idaho to Little America Wyoming

We're parked in front of the restaurant at Little America Wyoming, having just dined and settled-in for a night of parking lot bliss on the budget plan. Older folks like us need to be watching our pennys... putting up with a little discomfort (no electricity... no water... no dump...) so we can eat a good meal in a solid restaurant once in a while in lieu of rent. Actually, we're quite comfortable and quite happy tonight.

We left Declo about 9:30am. Our route took us to Pocotello where we caught I-15 South to US-30 East. Spectacular scenery along the way took our minds off the sometimes menacing and swirling mountain winds. US-30 follows the route of the Oregon Trail -- where, 160 years ago, emigrants plod along, at 12 miles per day, through South Pass on their way to Fort Mills near what is now Pocotello. Even though we were moving in the opposite direction I could almost see the hope and weariness in the faces of those early pioneers as they trod westward.

Little America is an odd place.  Really a wide spot in I-80, it's a truck stop, convenience store, restaurant, and a hotel/motel... and some residence units for the folks that work here. All those things together wouldn't be that unusual, but when you add the fact that they've somehow, along the way, convinced the Federal Government that they need their own official Post Office... zip code 82929.... for a place with just a few (maybe 10 or 20??) permanent residents, well that strikes me as a tad odd.

Regardless, we're happy to be here for one night. Tomorrow we trek eastward again, another long day for us, as we make our way to Cheyenne Wyoming. Stay tuned for more...

May 4, 2013

May 4 - Still in Declo

That's right... still in Declo Idaho tonight. We woke this morning to threatening skies and high wind warnings along the route of our next leg. So, we did what any rational, schedule-shunner would do... nothing. We paid for another night and stayed right here.

But we did NOT just sit around and get caught up on writing or photos or anything else. No indeed.  We packed a few snacks and a couple jugs of water in the car and headed off to explore The City of Rocks National Reserve about an hour south of our camp. As it's getting late, and I still have a few things on my list of "to-do's" before traveling tomorrow, I'll write more about our day in the next few.

May 3, 2013

May 3 - LaGrande to Declo Idaho

This was one of those days when the driving was easy... but the stopping was hard. Like yesterday, when we got close to our planned destination, Glenns Ferry Idaho, it was still early and we had plenty of poop left in the energy tank. So we pressed on. We got to talking... "you know, we're just looking for a place to overnight. Why don't we just stay at a Walmart?" and  "that makes sense, why don't you find a few alternatives along the way."

But the towns out this way are small and the Walmarts follow suite. The two we researched that permitted overnight parking turned out to be relatively small stores with small crowded busy parking lots. We also needed a level place to park as our jacks (levelers) are acting up again and I'm loosing trust in our ability to retract them in the morning. (We've been lucky with the balky things up to now and I'm just trying to keep from having a major problem before we get back to the Midwest -- I have this phobia about letting an "expert" RV tech at the local RV dealer try to figure out a system on my dime.)  And, for whatever reason, most Walmart parking lots are far from level... far more tilt than would be required to keep rain water away from the store.

So, the Walmarts were rejected by the Overnight Venue Approval Committee (OVAC)... as was a Loves truckstop. In each case we kept moving eastward until we found a veritable oasis in the desert... the Village of Trees RV Park... which we spotted as we sped by on I-86. Each of us glanced at the other, then the clock, then each other again. Yes sir, right then and there OVAC approved the idea and we had found our "somewhat more than free" home for the night.

As of this writing we'll be moving again in the morning. The way it looks now even last nights revised estimate of transit time from the Northwest to the Midwest ("20 or 25 days" - down from 30) will likely be way off the mark too. At our current pace we'd make it in less than 10 days. I'm sure we'll slow down eventually... but when remains uncertain at this time. And if you'll remember from last night's post, we have good reasons (which I will write about when I can take a breather...) for keeping the big wheels turning.

Practicing for the cannonball run....

p.s.: some recent photos have been uploaded to our online albums... check them out if you'd like.

May 2, 2013

May 2 - Good-bye Northwest... Heading East

We never tire of the drive through the Gorge
After 6 weeks in the great Pacific Northwest we bid adieu to family and pointed the bus-house nose eastward as we now set our sites on Wisconsin and the Midwest.  We're not going to set any records or race to get there, but we are going to move with a little more alacrity than normal. In fact, I'd go so far as to say this time we're thinking more about the destination than the journey. We're going to be on Interstate highways more than normal;  will drive between 200 and 300 miles each travel day;  and there'll be fewer play and explore days than we usually do. Instead of the previously planned 30 days we may make the trip in something like 20 or 25. Hard to explain, but we've got a few things going on that make us feel like we need to be back sooner than June 1, our up-to-now planned arrival time. During the next couple weeks I'll get into a few of those reasons.

When we set off this morning (about 10:30am local time) I had an easy 165 mile day planned. But it turned into a great day for travel, things were running smoothly, traffic was light and manageable, and we would have arrived at our original destination about 1:30pm... much earlier than felt right.  So the decision was made to continue on. When, a couple hours later, we finally decided to throw out the anchor just outside La Grande Oregon we had covered 272 miles.

We're at Eagles Hot Lake RV Park, where we've stayed a couple different times in the past. Those past visits were for a few days each and we did some extensive exploring of the area. This time we're here for just this one night and will continue on tomorrow... probably chewing off another 200 plus miles before stopping somewhere between Boise and Pocotello Idaho.

Traveling conditions were positively ideal today. At times localized mountain winds played with the bus-house but nothing we haven't handled many times before.  Full sun skies and warm temps made for easy driving most of the time.

We, Dar and I, had some good conversation during the day today and I think we've made some real progress on plans for Sabbatical II.  But more on that at another time.

Horsing around with the Grandkids.

Beyond Branson; Pondering Future Travel

This past Tuesday, we moved from Branson to a very nice Corps of Engineer’s Park on Wappapello Lake.  We’re in the Redman Creek CG. This fac...