Monday, June 30, 2008

STURGIS (SD) TO TURTLE RIVER STATE PARK (ND): DAY ONE

Photo below: Crossing the Missouri River in South Dakota.

Halfway across South Dakota, the Missouri river marks the change in time zone from Mountain Time to Central Time. For the past week, in Sturgis, South Dakota, we have been on Mountain Daylight Time. By 4:50 am MDT, the sky was sufficiently light that Luna felt it was time for us all to arise. We disagreed, but she persisted for as long as it took to change our minds.

Tonight we are camped less than 10 miles to the east of the Missouri River, at West Whitmore Recreation Area (read our review and view photos here) on Central Time. At 9:15 pm, the sun is just setting, so it will be 10 pm before night falls. In the morning, daylight should arrive an hour (or more) later… maybe there will be no insistent kitty demands until 6 am??

Once you leave far western South Dakota - the Black Hills area - behind, you are a schooner traversing an undulating prairie of tall green grass. On the highway we traveled, settlements were widely spaced and we saw neither people nor vehicles in abundance.

At one point, we came upon several miles of road construction. When we stopped at the flagman, there was one other vehicle stopped, a motorcycle. Ten minutes later, when the pilot car arrived to guide us through the construction, our group had grown to a whopping FOUR vehicles!

Traveling the construction zone, we were surprised to see that the yellow road dividers are installed by hand. Two guys, each with a 5 gallon bucket of adhesive backed dividers, walk the center line. At the specified interval, they peel the backing strip off of the adhesive, toss it onto the road to be blown into the prairie grass, and stick the divider onto the freshly flattened asphalt. Is an anti-littering sensibility something that develops only when population per square mile rises to a number above, say, 5??

Due to the time change, we arrived at our campsite at 5 pm. At 6 pm, when we headed off for a walk, the sun was beginning to lower and light the tall, waving prairie grasses between the campground and the river. Our trail was simply mown out of the grass, a swath 4 feet wide. Pheasants shot up from time to time, and a few hawks circled.

I thought, not for the first time today, that South Dakota must have looked like heaven to pioneer farmers heading west, unaware of the blizzards that would plague them in winter. In summer - or at least this summer - it is lush, lush, lush. Tall green grasses, ponds and standing water, so rare in the west, are abundant and blue. I was ready to become a farmer myself.


Our overnight stop was on the shore of Lake Oahe, a large lake made by damming the Missouri River. We were one of very few campers that didn't have a fishing boat - this is obviously a fisherperson's paradise, with a boat launch ramp and a large, professional-grade stainless steel fish cleaning station.

Still, something about Breakfast at the Bait Shop... well, I guess I'm just not that hungry!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

WRAPPING UP A BUSY WEEK IN STURGIS, SD

Ahhhhhhhhhhh........ It is Saturday night, the end of a long, busy week. We spent all day today wrapping up the loose ends of the transition into our new volunteer job as Membership Coordinators for our Boomer RV group. The Boomerang ends tomorrow, and I think everyone but us is leaving in the morning.

We are staying an extra day to catch up on "normal life" before we head north to meet friends in North Dakota. Our refrigerator is almost bare - a rare occurance in this household - so a trip to the grocery store can't be put off before departure. Laundry, cleaning, all the usual chores are waiting for us to have a bit of time to spare.

Last night, we threw a pizza party, Odel's big project for the week. When he wasn't learning about his new volunteer job, he was selling tickets for the party. By the end of the day on Thursday, he had sold 45 tickets - just about everyone who was still here on Friday night.

Using several 2-for-1 Pizza Hut coupons, we ordered 18 large pizzas in five varieties, quantities determined using a super-secret formula divised by Odel and laboriously calculated each evening prior to the event. He picked up the pizzas at 5:30, and shortly before 6 pm. we were setting up the buffet table (top photo).

I think it was 5:56 pm when the hungry hordes, seated at picnic tables in front of Odel, began pounding the tables and chanting, but Odel held firm while we made ready. Here he is, laying some ground rules (no trampling, and only take two slices on your first pass) as he opens the proceedings.

As you can see, the action was fast and furious! Diners on the left, me and my assistant Elinor on the right. As fast as the boxes were emptied, Elinor and I had made sure the next pizza was ready to go, and Elinor's husband Bob replaced empty boxes with full ones.

Odel's job was to take the tickets he had sold in exchange for a paper plate and a napkin, so he was out of the fray in this photo.

The party was a roaring success, and Odel's careful calculations paid off - after everyone ate all they wanted, only three pieces were left!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

THE OLD AND THE NEW IN DEADWOOD, SOUTH DAKOTA

Ha, ha, ha! On our way to the Boomerang here in Sturgis, SD, I imagined all sorts of interesting day trips and photo ops, history and hiking, lots of interesting stories and photos, with plenty of relaxed time in the evening to add them to the blog.

HAH!

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Odel and I are taking over one of the volunteer positions for the Boomers, Membership Coordinator. Our plan was to get together with the current Membersip Coordinator, Bob, during our week-long stay here at the rally and transfer the responsibilities from him to us.

We didn't totally realize what we were getting into (understatement). I've loaded three - or is it four - new software programs on the computer, and need to learn each of them... which appears to be only about 1/3 of the job. We are spending a couple hours a day with Bob learning the procedures, and another couple hours a day on "homework" - loading software and data, learning new programs, going over our notes and trying to figure out how we can drain his brain before we go our separate ways at the end of the week.

Reading over the above paragraph, it sounds suspiciously like a complaint... but it isn't! We are having a great time learning all this new "stuff". On our way to Sturgis, I had a few qualms - mostly, that I had lost my "edge" and would not be able to mobilize enough brain cells to get focused and organized again. I guess it is like riding a bicycle - once a detail fanatic, always a detail fanatic. We both are enjoying learning a new "job" again.

When we were in Sacramento, we bought, for a $5 donation to D.A.R.E., a Pizza Hut folder that has 10 coupons for "Buy 1, get 1 Free" deals. We visited the Pizza Hut in Sturgis to see if they would honor the coupons (as the very fine print says, "good at participating dealers"). When the answer was "yes", we volunteered to organize a Pizza Party here at the Boomerang for Friday night. That has been Odel's big project: while I stay at home working on the computer during the Happy Hour socializing, he is in the thick of things selling tickets and signing up Boomers for the party.

Somehow, between our two volunteer jobs, the time we would usually spend hiking and exploring has slipped away. Oh, and we also had to renew our driver's licenses ($8 apiece and 30 minutes or so) and get some minor medical work done... and attended a potluck last night, which takes a bit of preparation...

This morning, we met with Bob at 8 am (now a standing appointment) for a two hour session on our new responsibilities. Odel sold more Pizza Party tickets, we ate lunch - and took off for some leisure time and badly needed exercise. YAY.

Our destination was Deadwood, about 30 minutes away. Although we went there to pick up a good biking/walking trail, Deadwood's claim to fame is this: Deadwood is where Wild Bill Hickok was shot in the back while playing cards, and where he is buried on Mt. Moriah next to Calamity Jane. In the top photo, you can see Odel admiring the memorial statue to the man.

As we were leaving the memorial and heading back to the car, what did we see on the sidewalk coming our way but a touring group riding Segway Personal Transporters, and I took a quick photo. What would Wild Bill have made of that??

Monday, June 23, 2008

BUSY WITH THE BOOMERS IN STURGIS, SOUTH DAKOTA

After another bright and noisy thunderstorm last night, it is a beautiful day at Rush-No-More Campground (read our review here), in the Black Hills near Sturgis, South Dakota.

We had a short drive (50 miles?) from Custer State Park to Rush-No-More, where we have gathered with 40 other rigs for a Boomerang, a week long gathering with friends from our Boomer RV group. This photo of our encampment looks peaceful, but we haven't had a quiet moment since we arrived on Saturday!

Regular readers of this blog have read about the Boomers many times. A sub-species of the larger Escapees RV Club (of which all Boomers are members), our Boomer membership has enriched our full time life in many ways - through "Boomerangs" (camping together for a week or two), an online bulletin board (where those with knowledge share with those of us without!), a members-only website and a monthly newsletter. All of these activities are organized and enabled by volunteers, much appreciated by those of us who are the beneficiaries.

After five years as Boomers, Odel and I are stepping into one of the volunteer positions as Membership Coordinators. Bob Peay, the current coordinator, is ready to "retire" after several years in the position, and his eloquent plea for a successor sounded just right for us. We had been talking to Bob about it by phone and email for several weeks, and it turned out that this week, at the Boomerang, was the best time for us to get together. Consequently, whatever free time we had this week is now filled with re-energizing our brain cells and learning all we need to know before we and Bob go our separate directions. Yikes!

But it is never all work and no play for us. Odel went off with the golfing group this morning, while I get "private time" at home to catch up on email, the blog, and the software installations I need to finish on our computer for our new job. I know that sounds to many of you like a miserable way to spend a sunny morning, I find it wierdly relaxing.

Yesterday morning started with a pancake breakfast at Gretchen and Bob's, an immediate hit with the promise of more to come. We have the traditional social hour get-together every day at 4 pm, where volunteer planners announce activities for the calendar: a pot luck, the golf group, hikes, pickleball, sightseeing trips, a pizza party. It's easy to be busy every day... or just wander around visiting and making new friends... or even DOING NOTHING!

We drove the five miles to Sturgis yesterday to pick up groceries and fill up the Jeep with gasoline - and saw something completely new to us. Check out the fuel prices on this sign: Unleaded for $3.999, E85 for a buck less, $2.999 - and diesel for way, way, more, of course, $4.619.

Since we were in Jules rather than Scoopy, we didn't have to choke on the cost of diesel, but what the heck is E85? We sure liked the price! We didn't see it at our pump, so we asked around to see if we could save several bucks using it, but no such luck.

E85 is a fuel that is 85% ethanol, for use in "flex-fuel" vehicles. Although Scoopy can use biodiesel with no modifications, Jules needs regular, expensive, gasoline. E85 apparently is common in the farm and prairie states, but this is the first time we have seen it.

Back at the campground, I checked my watch to find it was 30 minutes until social hour. Oh, oh! I had a new recipe I wanted to try out on the group: Baked Feta Cheese. While I pre-heated the oven, I threw it together and it came out of the oven right on time. It was simple to make, looked delicious, and the plate was practically licked clean, so it's a keeper.

We wound up the day with a walk, and here is one of the highlights: a foal born on Saturday, hanging out next to mama at a ranch adjoining the campground. He stays close, but every once in a while he takes a few frisky little hops. Achingly darling!

As I write this, the billowing white tops of potential thunderclouds are approaching over the forested mountaintops, a gorgeous sight that usually results in a noisy and wet afternoon, but it looks like the golfers will be able to finish their round. As for me - lunchtime!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

WILD LIFE AND WILD WEATHER IN THE BLACK HILLS OF SOUTH DAKOTA

Driving towards the Black Hills on Thursday, we left the arid sage lands behind and entered a lush, green world of tall prairie grass and trees. What a change! Creeks burble, songbirds warble, and bugs smash on the windshield.

We crammed a lot of excitement into two days at Game Lodge Campground (read our review here) in Custer State Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota. We arrived in early afternoon on Thursday, set up Scoopy and fit in a short (very short) walk before an afternoon thunderstorm left loose.

The rest of the day was a washout - lightening and thunder, with rain alternating between heavy, very heavy, and soaking showers. No leaks in Scoopy this summer to be found and patched - sweet!

On Friday, we had a plan: get up early and be out walking before the afternoon clouds arrived, then drive the Wildlife Loop to see what fauna we could spot. We’d leave a visit to the nearby town of Custer until last, since it could be accomplished if rain returned in the afternoon.

What a beautiful morning! Not a cloud in the clear blue sky, with a slight breeze. We ate breakfast and took off along a paved hiking/biking trail that runs from Game Lodge Campground past the historic Game Lodge (top photo) and the Peter Norbeck Visitor Center, past the little Coolidge General Store, alongside a creek and on to Grace Coolidge Campground - a couple miles of stunning scenery, comfortable wood and stone historical buildings, and BISON!

Yes, two VW sized bison were the first major wildlife we spotted in the park, on what turned out to be a busy day for wildlife sightings. We were back from our walk and out on the 18 mile Wildlife Loop drive before noon, but the clear skies had become congested with puffy white clouds. We spotted, at close range, a large herd of grazing bison, pronghorn antelope, and “wild” donkeys (living in the wild, but so accustomed to visitors handouts that they practically demand them) - while the sky darkened and the wind picked up.

The last half of the loop was a bust for wildlife as our car windows streamed water. As we headed to Custer for lunch and groceries, we encountered this crazy scene left by the storm as it moved east through the town and the park - no, not snow, hail and icy water.

On the way home, a group of Bighorn Sheep caused a small traffic jam as they crossed the road. The afternoon was so dark that the camera flash went off, reflecting in their eyes… kinda’ scary looking!

Back at home, the weather radio showed a Severe Thunderstorm Watch for the rest of the afternoon. and a Severe Thunderstorm Warning blared around 5 pm, as the rain picked up and the lightening and thunder returned. For us, it was a display of nature’s wildness admired from the cozy interior of Scoopy - but we sure felt sorry for the many families camped around us in tents and tent trailers!

Saturday morning we packed up for the short drive to Rush-No-More Campground and a week spent relaxing with our Boomer RV group. As I write this, the setting sun is casting long shadows across the grass and trees while the crickets chirp. Today is the longest day of the year and here, in the Black Hills, it feels like summer vacation.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

RAWLINS, WYOMING TO LUSK, WYOMING

Another driving day today, not quite as long as yesterday. From Rawlins, we went a short distance on I-80, then headed northeast on a smooth, scenic state highway with great views - but smashed so many bugs on the windshield that I didn't get any good photos! A few more miles on another interstate (I-25), including the usual summertime road construction... then we left the interstates behind for the rest of our trip to Sturgis, SD.

We checked in to BJ's Campground (read our review here) in Lusk, Wyoming around 2:30 pm, set up, and set out on a walk. Lusk is small (population 1,500), tidy, and friendly - drivers waved, walkers (two besides us) said hello.

As I write this, we are under a Severe Thunderstorm Watch until midnight. The sky is completely filled with dark clouds, and we've been watching lightning for an hour or so. The weather radio blares occasionally, but the brunt of the thunderstorms have gone north and south of us.

Tomorrow we have a short drive to Custer State Park for two nights, staying at a favorite campground. If you don't see anything on the blog, don't be surprised - I'm not sure what kind of Verizon service we will have there.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH, TO RAWLINS, WYOMING

Another early (for us) start this morning, leaving the noise, congestion, heat and pollution (the last two days of our stay were in the air quality "red zone") of Salt Lake City behind us. Our first 20 miles were on urban freeways constricted by road work, then a 3,000 foot climb to the summit through more construction.

It was with a huge sigh of relief that we left it all behind and crossed the state line into Wyoming. The traffic thinned, the road improved, and we began to make time.

We had planned what we consider a long driving day - 300 miles - from Salt Lake City to Rawlins, Wyoming. This part of interstate 80 traverses long stretches of sage-covered basins with not much in the way of towns. The road is good, with little traffic. Rather infrequent rest areas are augmented by "parking areas" - a rest area without restrooms. Works fine for those of us who carry our own!

I took both of the top photos at our lunch stop, a parking area with a wonderful "big sky" view of rangelands and snowy mountains in the far distance.

After a fill up at Flying J in Rawlins (diesel for $4.609/gallon, the cheapest we have encounted since we left Sacramento), our day ended at RV World Campground, just off the interstate. Although Odel and I aren't too impressed with the place (and didn't expect anything different), Luna loves it. Right outside our door she found her heart's delight, a basin of dust - a very fine, yellow dust. Oh, boy - she had a good, long, grind-it-in-to-the-skin roll.

And there was something for Odel and me, too: a hilariously bad miniature golf course. For $1 each (I can't believe they actually charge for it!), we got way more than our money’s worth of laughs. You can see a photo of the "course" on our campground review, here.

Monday, June 16, 2008

UTAH OLYMPIC PARK: WE CONQUER THE MOUNTAIN

Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! With a forecast of 90 degrees for Salt Lake City today, we jumped in the Jeep and headed up into the mountains seeking out lower temperatures at higher elevation. We found not only refreshingly cooler temperatures, but something totally unexpected: the Utah Olympic Park.

What could be more fun than stumbling on a terrific spot you didn't even know existed? The Utah Olympic Park was one of the sites of the 2002 Winter Olympics, now an Olympic training center (for athletes and wannabes) and summer fun spot for non-athletes.

Aside from touring the inspiring museum, watching future olympians train, and hiking to the top of the mountain, we non-athletes can enjoy some thrills of our own: a 70 mph bobsled ride on a wheeled bobsled on the Olympic track, one of two lengths of ziplines, or the Alpine Slide.

We started with a self-guided walking tour, a long climb from the museum at the bottom of the mountain to the start of the bobsled track and the ski jumps at the top. We had the walk to ourselves - most visitors to the park come for the thrills, not the exercise!

At the end of a long walk, at top of the bobsled track, we talked with two of the sled drivers. After listening to them describe the toll the wild ride takes on their bodies, I decided that was not the thrill for me - I'd like to keep my spine intact. A photo op in the bobsled (top) was enough for us.

From there, we walked over to experience the view from the top of the Olympic ski jumps. I almost threw up just taking the photo!

Here I am getting in touch with my inner athlete. Why don't they ever look like this??

The ski lift that serves the jumps also serves the new Xtreme Zipline, billed as The World's Steepest Zipline, attaining speeds up to 50 mph. We walked the few steps over to watch a few of the zippers, but neither of us felt inclined to participate.

A few steps more brought us to the top of the Quicksilver Alpine Slide. Their description: "This European-style alpine slide is the first of its kind in North America. The state-of-the-art steel track allows riders to weave down a narrow course with 18 turns that concludes at the base of the K-64 ski jump. Riders on the Quicksilver can experience the same thrill as a luge, skeleton, or bobsled athlete." Oh - I thought that looked like fun.

Tickets are sold at the bottom of the hill, not the top. As we walked back down the mountain, the bobsleds had started running. Our path ran right next to the steep, slick, banked track, and we were able to stand within just a couple of feet as the sleds went screaming past. Wild!

The lighted timing boards marked the time, and an announcer announced the time and speed at each of the turns, just as if we were watching the winter Olympics. Great entertainment - and only the two of us there to see it.

Back at the bottom of the hill, we bought our tickets. This time, we hopped on the ski lift and had a relaxing ride up, up, up to the top. There we settled onto tiny "sleds", each with a lever that allows the rider to control (somewhat) the speed of the sled: push forward for more speed, pull back to brake.

I took this photo while I waited for the red light on the right side to turn green, which meant Odel had passed some critical point on the track. I pushed my lever forward and started sliding, kinda' slow at first so I pushed forward with more force. Wham - I took off!

The turns are sharply banked, and I chickened out on the speed, as did Odel... so we bought two more tickets and headed back to the top again. This time we both sped along with little braking. My soundtrack was a combination of screaming, squealing and laughing like crazy - what a blast. You can see Odel's big grin at the end of the ride, and the little sled!

At the bottom of the run, we chatted with a woman from Colorado Springs who was waiting for her kids to finish sliding and zipping. She told us that Keystone, South Dakota, where we will be in less than a week, has an alpine slide that she thought was even more fun. I'm ready to check it out.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

MINGLING WITH THE MORMONS IN HOT SALT LAKE CITY

Wells, Nevada to Salt Lake City, Utah:
Day 3 of our run to Sturgis, South Dakota for the Boomerang...

Crossing the Great Salt Lake on Interstate 80 west of Salt Lake City.

We left Beverly Hills RV Ranch, our "private campground" near Wells, Nevada, quite early for us... a bit before 9 am. We would lose an hour when we crossed the time zone at the Utah state line - and a heat wave was forecast for Salt Lake City. We wanted to get settled into our new spot before the afternoon heat arrived.

Site W27 at the Salt Lake City KOA

After the wide open spaces of Nevada, it was a shock to be back in an urban RV park, especially a completely full RV park. This KOA (read our review here) is huge, and every site was full on Saturday night - full of vacationing families with kids, dogs, and extra vehicles. The sites are unusually large for a commercial RV park, and landscaped with trees and grass, but the park feels big and crowded to us.

Luna explores her "porch".

One amenity we all appreciate is the picnic table. We set up Luna's crate so she could be outdoors while we worked - or any other time she wants to be outdoors when we don't.

The day was as hot as forecast - 90 degrees. After setting up, we explored our neighborhood on foot for an hour or so, until we were too hot to enjoy it. The KOA is in a light commercial area adjacent to the state fairgrounds - lots of big asphalt parking lots, aging strip malls, car washes, generally unappealing.

By the time we got back, hot and unimpressed with our first experience of Salt Lake City, we both had the same thought: "If we hadn't already paid for three days, I'd be ready to leave tomorrow." We spent the remainder of the day parked in front of the TV, watching Tiger Woods limp through the U.S. Open and work his magic on the back 9.

We were up early this morning to get out and explore downtown SLC before the heat of the day. We drove to Library Square, where we parked and began a walking tour.

The award-winning SLC Public Library building.

Of course the library wasn't open at 8:30 on Sunday morning, but we wandered through the garden and park. No one was around, everything was clean and manicured, very appealing.

This is the entrance to the library. What looks like a reflection on the glass surface is actually a continuation of the wall you see on the far right of the photo. I pressed my nose up to the door, peering inside at the huge, sunlit foyer. Too bad it was closed!

Then we were off and walking. Salt Lake City is laid out on a grid of exceptionally wide streets. Looking north up State Street, we could see the State Capitol building way up at the top of a hill. We set that as our goal, which would take us through the deserted downtown and past Temple Square - the site of the Mormon Tabernacle and the historical buildings of SLC's Mormon founders.

Odel demonstrates the Pedestrian Flag.

I have a pet peeve about walking in Sacramento: cars rule! Here in Salt Lake City, they use an aid we have seen in other places, the "pedestrian visibility flag". Crosswalks are frequent on these wide downtown streets. On each end of the crosswalk, a bucket holds a handful of bright orange flags. Pick one up, step out into the crosswalk, and cars yield to pedestrians, even in the busy downtown area. We like that! Drop your flag in the bucket on the other side, and off you go, unscathed.

The photos ops in Salt Lake City are unlimited -it is a scenic, clean city with great views and substantial buildings. I'll spare you the City/County building, the Mormon Temple, the Tabernacle, the historical this and historical that. We passed parks and gardens large and small, heading steadily up, up, up to the capitol building.

I couldn't resist this shot, since I recently took an almost identical one in the Capitol of California in Sacramento. The painting in the top of the dome is of blue sky and clouds, and the murals around the dome depict the history of the founding of SLC.

The entire building appears to be marble, inside and out. The floor and walls inside are smooth, light gray marble. I couldn't help but think how easy it would be to hose the whole thing down when it needed cleaning!

Remember that I mentioned that the capitol is on top of a hill? Great views in all directions, including the snow-capped Wasatch Mountains to the east.

We retraced our steps, made a quick stop at the grocery store, and are now watching Tiger struggle painfully through the last day of the U.S. Open. I can hardly bear to watch as he grimaces in pain every time he tees off, especially when the commentators show his shot in slow-mo, drawing circles and arrows to show us all exactly when the injured knee torques and hyper-extends. Ouch, ouch, ouch!

Friday, June 13, 2008

MOTORING ACROSS NEVADA

Just as planned, with no surprises or problems, we left Cal Expo RV park Thursday morning and hit the road for our summer travels. As always, I felt a few pangs of sadness leaving friends and family - we had enjoyed a lot of really fun activities including my niece Claire's high-school graduation party, my Dad's zip line ride, a visit from our RV'ing friends Mary and Elaine, dinners out with friends, movies. When my friend Becky stopped by for a last minute hug, I got teary-eyed.

My "homesickness" faded away quickly as we got underway. In no time, Luna was settled on my lap, the satellite radio was tuned in to a favorite show, and the scenery and temperature were beginning to improve.

The drive through the Sierra over Donner Pass is a bit of a challenge for Scoopy - a steady climb, steep in parts, that seems it will never end. Odel was on top of his driving game, though, and we passed the big semis without getting stuck behind them in the slow lane as they crawl up the grade.

Soon it was all downhill, alongside the Truckee River. Say good-bye to the lovely scenery - after coming down from the Sierra and passing through Reno, the flora changes to scrub, the trees disappear, and the arid miles roll past with a monotonous regularity.

Our target at the end of a 250 mile day was Rye Patch Reservoir (read our review here) between Lovelock and Winnemucca, Nevada. We hadn't been there before, but the distance was right and the image of water in this arid land was very appealing.

What a great stop! This photo is the view from our huge, shady campsite on the bank of the Humboldt River, which was dammed upstream in 1935 to make Rye Patch Reservoir. $10 a night, no hookups, just lovely, spacious sites, huge cottonwood trees and great views. We aren't avid birders, but enjoyed watching the Herons (Great Blues and small Greens) and the huge American White Pelicans with their showy black wing tips.

We stayed at Rye Patch unusually late this morning, taking advantage of the walking opportunity since we had planned tonight's stop in a casino parking lot. Fifty miles up the road, in Winnemucca, we stopped for fuel at Flying J and saw this interesting RV in a fueling station nearby: the Farmer's Insurance Mobile Claims Center.

While Odel filled Scoopy (gulp, gulp, gulp), I talked to the driver of the bus. He is on the way to Chico, California, to help at the site of the wildfire there. When he arrives, the bus becomes a claims office and food center; they also provide free phone service to whoever needs it, Farmer's client or not. The driver works for Farmer's, doing driving and maintenance. His wife is off at another crisis in their OTHER Mobile Claims Center. It was an interesting conversation with a guy who obviously enjoys helping to bring relief to disaster areas.

Our day ended, not in a casino parking lot as planned, but at the Beverly Hills RV Ranch (read our review here). The first time we traveled I-80 through Nevada, four years ago, we spent a night here. Since then, we remembered the park but not where it was located!

Well, it is just west of Wells, Nevada, about halfway from last night's stop (Rye Patch) to tomorrow night's stop (Salt Lake City). Hmmmm, let's see... drive on to West Wendover, NV, another 60 miles, and drycamp for free on the asphalt of a casino's Truck/RV parking lot, or pay $15 for FHU on grass with a gorgeous view and no neighbors? For us, no contest, so here we are for the night. Tomorrow, on to Salt Lake City.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

EXPERIENCING THE ZIP LINE

Upon reading in the Sacramento Bee newspaper about a "zip line" not far from his home, my Dad (80+, way to go, Daddy) decided he wanted a zip line ride for Father's Day.

As it happened, Odel and I have been here in Sacramento for the past month, and my sister Sydney and her husband, Frank, came up for a short visit from Bisbee, Arizona. We all will have departed by Father's Day, so we set the adventure for last Friday.

The zip line at Moaning Cavern, in the gold country along Highway 49, is a double line, so two people can zip side by side, or race. My sister Sydney was game for a ride, too, so they both suited up in the zip shack. My mom, my bro-in-law Frank, and I stayed on the ground with our cameras ready.

I have a new camera which takes pretty decent videos, so decided to try to capture the ride. In the video, Daddy is on the left, Sydney is on the right. You can see how she "cannon balled" so that she was able to zoom past him!

video

Thursday, June 5, 2008

SOUTH DAKOTA, HERE WE COME!

Five years ago this month, during our first year of fulltiming, we visited South Dakota, our adopted "home" state, to register our vehicles, get driver's licenses, open a bank account, visit our mail service company - and sightsee. Neither of us had ever been to South Dakota.

It turned out to be a pretty great place to call home, when you don't have to be there in winter... oh, and when you know where the tornado shelter is!

We need to return this year to renew our driver's licenses, which coincides with an Escapees Boomers rally to be held in Sturgis (of wild motorcycle rally fame) beginning June 21st. Two nights ago, we pulled out books, maps and the computer and began planning our trip from Sacramento to Sturgis.

If all goes well, we will be leaving Sacramento on June 12th, which gives us ten days to travel 1,390 miles to Sturgis (at a cost of around $830 if we pay an average of $5/gallon for our diesel fuel).

Our first two nights will be spent drycamping in Nevada, at Rye Patch State Recreation Area and at the West Wendover Truck and RV Lot, right on the NV/UT border (I know, you're green with envy). Our third day of driving will end in Salt Lake City, where we will stay three nights at a "Camp VIP", the Salt Lake City KOA.

We rarely use KOA campgrounds (too expensive and frequently too run down), but this particular KOA is highly rated by other campers, the location is good and, after several long driving days, we'll be ready for some luxuries (like unlimited hot water, my favorite). You'll be able to read our nitpicking opinion when we post our review after our stay.

Two more days of driving through Utah and Wyoming, with overnights in Rawlins (we'll pick whichever campground looks best when we get there) and at the Douglas City Park in Douglas, Wyoming, will put us in Custer State Park in South Dakota - the site of our exciting FIRST drycamping (no hookups) experience five years ago. We have a reservation for two nights in our favorite of the several campgrounds there.

From Custer State Park, it is a short hop up to Sturgis, SD, and Rush No More Campground, where we will meet up with 30 or so Boomer rigs for an 8 day rally. Sightseeing, hiking, socializing and plenty of time to kick back and relax - I hope!

These photos all were taken on our trip five years ago. Mount Rushmore turned out to be much smaller than I imagined, and the Black Hills to be much more interesting than I imagined.

We saw bison several times, in both North and South Dakota, frequently much closer than in the photo. The bottom photo shows part of Badlands National Park, which came as a huge surprise to us as we drove west from Sioux Falls to the Black Hills - I had never even HEARD of Badlands National Park.

Travel - what an education!