Monday, June 29, 2009

Lake Tahoe

Now I understand why this area is so popular. The lake is beautiful. We drove all the way around it today -- about 72 miles. The trees here are amazing, and the air smells of pine. Maybe that's how the makers of Pine-Sol got the idea. The Zephyr Cove Resort RV Park is in a national forest, but is run by Aramark, the big company that operates a lot of facilities in national parks. Maybe that's why this is the most expensive campground we've stated in so far. The campground is laid out around the big trees, which makes for a really nice campground, but with some rather tight spaces for a big trailer. But we got through with no dents or dings. Getting out will be easy since our site is right across from the exit. No pictures today. Hey, I'm retired!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

What Rocks!

We're finally at a campground with decent wifi, but they charge $2/day. We're in Ely, NV on the way to the Reno area. But I digress. I've attached a few pictures of the Moab area, and there's a story to go with them. We drove to Dead Horse Point State Park, which is on top of a mesa. In one of the pictures you can see the view from up there. You may notice the dirt road near the Colorado River down in the canyon below the cliffs. More on that in a moment.
We then went into the northern access of Canyonlands National Park, and in the visitor center I noticed a topographical map that showed the very dirt road we had seen from the other park. I asked the ranger if that road was accessible from where we were and he asked what kind of vehicle we were driving. (That should have been a clue!). When I told him it was a 4x4 truck, he said "no problem" and gave me directions to the road.
I should have realized that we were viewing the road from a vantage point at least 1000 feet up, which meant the road down might be a bit of a challenge. But your intrepid traveler is not to be swayed by warning signs indicating an extremely steep, harrowingly narrow and rough unpaved road. I figured, the ranger said we could do it, and the US National Park Service would never suggest something dangerous, so on we went.
In one of the pictures, if you look closely, you'll see a small crossover sedan about to descend a series of steep switchbacks on that unpaved road. He got about halfway down and pulled over. We passed him and continued. He may still be there, for all I know. That was actually one of the better parts of the road. I would have been more comfortable on a mule. Anyway, the"road" continued through dry river beds, over big rocks, and through some incredible scenery, for about 30 miles. It finally led us back to Moab. I'm glad we did it, but if I had only known what it was going to be like, we probably would have elected to stay on the pavement.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

We're in Utah

Moab, Utah, to be precise. The drive across the Rockies on I-70 is jaw-dropping spectacular. I've been as far as the Loveland Pass tunnel previously, but the drive to Vail and beyond takes you through absolutely awesome mountains. We stopped at a rest area at Vail Pass, and I got a little short of breath walking up a hill to the facility. When we drove away, I realized why. The rest area was at 10,660 ft. Not much oxygen up there.

Moab is located right next to Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park. We're not really desert people, but the rock formations here are amazing, and so far we've just seen them from the highway. We'll do some exploring tomorrow and maybe Tuesday. Pictures from here will have to wait because this campground has very slow wi fi.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Steamboat Springs

If I were a skier, this is a place I'd spend winters. The town is great too -- its really a year-round haven for all kind of sports, especially the kind of sports who can afford multi-million dollar vacation homes. But I digress. The real reason we are here is participate in the Big Dig. No, its not another version of the big tunnel project in Boston, but its a participation activity in which the participants get to push dirt around with a bulldozer, or dig a ditch with a big excavator. (Hey, don't knock it until you try it. Its a lot of fun.)

Anyway, after watching similar equipment move dirt outside my office window for most of a year, my staff at MCM thought a gift certificate to Dig This, in Steamboat Springs, would be an appropriate retirement gift. Or maybe they were hoping I'd find a new career. Dig This is the brainchild of a New Zealander who had a lot of fun using this type of equipment when he was building his own home. He thought "heck mate, if I'm having so much fun, why not set up a sort of theme park with earth moving equipment." (I'm not sure New Zealanders say 'mate', but NZ is close enough to Australia that I thought it seemed appropriate.) So he did. Dig This was even featured on the CBS News show Sunday Morning a while back.

So this morning Penny and I got to dig ditches at Dig This. Funny, she wouldn't do this kind of work at home, but maybe we need a bigger piece of equipment. It was a lot of fun. Maybe I will start a new career.

And the waterfall picture is Fish Creek Falls, just outside of Steamboat, as the locals call it.
We move to Denver tomorrow to visit friends. Then its off to Arches National Park in Utah.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Yellowstone & Grand Tetons

We finally found a campground with good wi fi. The two national parks we visited in Wyoming were just as spectacular as they were in 1970. In Yellowstone, Old Faithful did what he was supposed to do, and did it in a big way. That may have been due to all of the rain water seeping down to his hot spot. The Grand Tetons really look like the Swiss Alps. They rise from the prairie almost like a wall. There are about 24 mountains higher than 10,000 feet in the park. The three big ones are in the 12-13,000+ foot range.

The downside, aside from all of the rain, was the road construction in Grand Teton NP. Since our campground was in the National Forest just north of the park, we needed to go through it, and it's 30-minute delay, a couple of times a day just to explore and to shop for groceries. In places, there was only a single lane, with it's required flag men, and in other places the road was two lanes, but with no pavement at all. The rain made for an interesting surface. Unfortunately, most campgrounds don't permit vehicle washing on their grounds, so we have a very dirty truck and trailer. The truck fits right in with the working pick ups in this area, but the trailer really needs a bath.

When we registered at the campground the attendant was kind enough to tell us that a grizzly was seen in the area, so we should be careful with our food and garbage. The second night there, a ranger came by to warn us that a grizzly had been seen IN the campground. I wonder if grizzly bears like cats.

Anyway, we departed Wyoming without meeting the bear and are now in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Part of the drive here was through the most desolate country I've ever seen. High desert range, with no towns for about 100 miles. We finally got to a little cow town called Bagg, CO, which was good because we REALLY needed to get some diesel.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Images for the Previous Post

We finally have good wi fi so here are the images discussed last time.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009


Since the pass between Cody and Yellowstone was closed due to snow (some can be seen on the mountains beyond the Cody campground in one of the photos), we stayed in Cody an extra day and visited the Buffalo Bill Cody Museum, which is actually several museums in one. Too much for one visit, but what we saw was interesting.

We then decided to travel a bit east and south to approach Grand Tetons National Park from the east. Spectacular drive through the Wind River Canyon. The drive is a bit too far for one day, so we camped in Dubois (pronounced Doo-boys, not Doo-bwaa), Wyoming, a real cow town, nestled between snow-capped mountains and “painted badlands” on the other. Our campsite is right next to the Wind River, and the area is known for big horn sheep, deer, elk, and bears. We’ve seen a few deer and some prong horns, but no bears. The campground office has a photo taken a month ago at a nearby campground of a huge grizzly track in front of the bath house. All I’ve seen on the banks of the river here are dear tracks, and hopefully it will stay that way. I definitely look around whenever I step out of the trailer. The campground is called Longhorn Motel and RV Park, and to complement the name, they have a small herd of longhorn cattle in a corral out front. At least they did this morning. The cattle are gone now, maybe en route to Burger King.

People here are extremely friendly, even when the find out we’re from New Jersey.

By the way, the cats have completely adjusted to life on the road. The kitten did some exploring on the top of the kitchen cabinet, and as I write this, Comet is attempting to push the laptop off the table, but I think that means a complete adjustment.

Although this entry is dated 6/9, I have no idea when I’ll actually post it. The WiFi at this campground didn’t connect last night, but did this morning. This afternoon, it’s down again, possibly gone the way of the longhorn cattle. Since the campground in the Tetons doesn’t have WiFi, it may be most of a week before I get this entry on the blog. Whoopee, the WiFi just came on line, so hopefully I can upload the images mentioned above before it drops out again. No luck. 15 minutes uploading one image and then it crashed beforeit finished. The pictures will have to wait until we get a better connection.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Still in Cody

Snowstorm in Yellowstone has forced a minor change of plans. We've cancelled our reservation in the park and will stay another night here. Then we'll head south toward Teton NP. We'll be staying in the National Forest between Teton NP and Yellowstone NP.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Cody, Wyoming


We’re at campground in Cody, WY and the WiFi connection keeps disconnecting. We found an RV dealer in Powell, WY who looked at our landing gear and decided the problem is in the motor and not the gear box. He didn’t have one in stock, and it’s been ordered with priority delivery. We’re hoping it will be delivered today. If it is, we’ll leave this campground, bring the trailer to Powell (about 20 miles) have the motor installed, and return to this campground until Sunday.

Next we’ll be moving into Yellowstone NP and Grand Tetons NP, and it’s unlikely that we’ll have internet service at all for a week or more. (How uncivilized!) Then we’ll be heading to Colorado to play with a bulldozer and visit friends in Denver.

Penny and I were in this part of Wyoming in 1970, and frankly I’d forgotten how incredibly, indescribably beautiful the landscape is. Coming across the Big Horn Range we encountered heavy fog, rain, and a little snow. But in the breaks of clear weather, the views of the mountains and canyons were breathtaking, No pictures though because it’s difficult to drive on those winding mountain roads and take pictures at the same time.

I’ve been reflecting some on the differences between our trip in 1970 and now. In 1970 we looked for campgrounds with bathrooms and showers. Not necessarily flush (for the first) or hot (for the second). On this trip, those two items (flush and hot) are absolute necessities and we look for campgrounds with WiFi and cable TV. How times have changed in 39 years.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Black Hills

We spent 4 days in the wifiless campground in the Black Hills, home of Mount Rushmore. We were very close to the big heads, but didn't go see them. Penny and I visited here in 1970, and we figured the carvings haven't changed very much in the ensuing years. Spectacular mountains (they are definitely mountains by eastern standards) here. Really pretty country. There are several national parks and monuments here as well as a great state park with 1500 buffalos (Buffaloes?) wandering around. They have lots of signs warning visitors not to approach the wildlife, but what do you do when a buffalo wanders into your campground? (See the photo somewhere in this post).

The parks have a bunch of single-lane tunnels, not designed for trailers the size of ours. But the truck did fit. I measured the width of the truck and found that it was 9 feet wide with the mirrors folded in. No problem in a 8' 4" wide tunnel, but I did drive slow. We had to stop for a cattle drive on one road, and somewhere else there was a pack of wild burros causing a donkey-jam.

When we were here in 1970, we visited Wind Cave National Park, which has its own herd of buffaloes (buffalos?) wandering around. (Not in the cave--above it.) At that time, we took a spelunking tour in an undeveloped part of the cave. We had to wear hard hats and lamps, and crawled through narrow passages for about 4 hours. No way would we fit in those passages now, so we took a more civilized one-hour tour over a nicely paved path with handrails.

More trouble with the camper. Without getting too technical, the trailer has two propane tanks, one on each side. When one is used up, we switch to the other one, and have the first one refilled.
We had an empty tank filled by the dealer when the trailer was in for service before we left home, so when the opposite tank ran low on gas, we switched to the other one. Uh oh, that side no longer worked. So when we arrived at the Black Hills campground, I tried to isolate the probem (is it a bad tank or bad regulator?) by moving the tank that worked to the other side. After that, neither side worked. The temperature was in the 40s that night, and the propane is what gives us heat, not to mention cooking, hot water, and refrigeration when we're on the road. The next morning Penny said it was like sleeping in a tent with wheels.

I called our dealer and they offered no help at all, other to suggest that I tighten the connections to the tanks. Anyway, we found an RV technician who makes housecalls, and he immediately knew what the problem was. It's something Forest River supposedly has known about, but because its not a safety issue didn't do a recall. They installed in a bunch of trailers defective hoses that connect the tank to the regulator. We replaced the hoses and now all is fine. Which is good because we're now in Wyoming where its raining and in the low 40s.

Tomorrow, we'll be on the road to Cody, Wyoming to see if the Forest River dealer there can fix our landing gear. BTW, most of the folks we've talked to at the campgrounds relate a myriad of mechanical problems with their RVs. I guess houses just weren't designed to drive down the interstate at 70mph and not have things bounce loose.

The Actual Falls in Soux Falls

The falls are in a park (Falls Park...not very original) near downtown. The rock in the area is pink quartzite, so there's a lot of pink in the road pavement and buildings.
It rained pretty steadily while we were there, so sightseeing was limited. The falls were originally used as a hydroelectric plant and the plant itself is now a cafe, so we had lunch there. It was an electrifying experience.
By the way, I still haven't figured out how to position the photos in the blog. You may have noticed.
If you've been wondering about the gap in the delivery of these posts, the campground in the Black Hills had a Wi-Fi problem. It didn't work.