Hay truck in Montana

Dick Estel's Journey of 2002
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June 1, 2002: About a year or so ago, my parents told me they were going to go to Ohio in the summer of 2002, and spend a few months in the area where they grew up, visiting family and friends. Since I would be retired by that time, I decided to go back there also, and spend some time with them visiting relatives. I would then go up through Michigan and across the northern part of the U.S., taking my time and seeing the sights. Although they were going to stay in motels, I planned to take my travel trailer, and stop in campgrounds across the country.

My planned departure time was 8 a.m. on May 29. However, the night before, I discovered a flat tire on the truck, so I had to take the tire to a shop, have it repaired, come back home and replace it, and I did not leave Fresno till 10:30. I didn’t have much breakfast, so I was hungry by11:30 and stopped south of Merced to have some crackers, coke and vegetables. Then I was sleepy so I stopped around Modesto and napped a bit. It seemed to take forever to get past Sacramento. It was hot, about 98 degrees, and the sun was burning my left arm despite the A/C. I was looking forward to turning east on Interstate 80 so the sun would be at my back, but no! The road out of Sacramento goes north and northeast, so I still had the sun on my left side (remember that 99 runs northwest). In Nevada a lot of the trip till I got to Winnemucca (2nd day) was as much north as anything; and the rest northeast.

I saw lots of trains going up Highway 99, over the Sierra, and everywhere I’ve been so far. In the valley, I saw a tractor pulling a railroad car, just like old times with horses pulling barges on the canal, moving along side the track. It looked like it was having a tough time.

Going over the Sierra was a beautiful drive; there's a fair amount of snow left on the higher mountains and a few dirty patches along the road near Donner Summit. Coming down to Nevada was nice, along the Truckee River, which runs east out past Reno quite a ways. One surprising sight was a man riding a bicycle on the freeway. I assume it’s not legal, since I never saw anyone else; just one guy deciding to play “ground squirrel.”

The land turned to treeless desert just past Reno, then I saw a scenic view sign. It turned out to be a view of the first trees east of Reno, but it was a nice scene, with grass, trees and a farm along the river.

I drove till a little after 8, and stopped in Lovelock NV, a small dying town with few lights and a good view of the stars. Weather was still very warm (80 most of the day across Nevada).

I got started early the next morning (May 31), leaving about 7. After the first two or three hours, I figured out that my average speed is about 45 miles per hour, and getting to my original destination of Green River WY today was unrealistic (even if I’d got started as I wanted to Thursday). I drive 60 mph most of the time, slowing down to 55 when the road is rough, or in a strong wind or heavy rain. I stop to eat lunch, use the restroom, and take a nap as needed (I’m retired and I don’t hurry!)

I decided to aim for West Wendover, just inside of Nevada at the Utah line, so I could get there in time to set up and watch game 7 of the National Hockey League conference finals between the Red Wings and Avalanche (that was hardly worth the effort; it was a blowout by the Wings). It was another hot day, but this time I remembered to use the air conditioner in the trailer. I normally camp with no power, or just a generator or 15 amp service, so I am not used to using the A/C (every place I’ve been on this trip has 30 amp service).

Much of Nevada is sage brush and desert-like, but there are nice snowy mountains in several places, not least of which is near Wells, where we camped on our trip to Ohio in 1973.

Getting back on the freeway after a gas stop in mid-Nevada I noticed a bunch of large bugs of some kind on the on-ramp. They were also on the freeway and along the sides, and very thick on some off ramps. I pulled over and opened the door to see what they were, and closed it quickly. They were very large, fat brown grasshoppers!

West Wendover is a town of interesting contrasts – casinos with flashing lights, and roosters crowing next door to the RV park. Coming down the hill toward town it looks like there is a visible line at the Utah border, with salt flats beginning right at the line. The view also includes snow-topped mountains.

Utah Photos

My travel distance for the third day was just under 200 miles, since I was stopping to see Carolyn and Jerry Amicone in Green River WY. Carolyn was a clerk in the Intake section of the welfare department when I first worked there as an eligibility worker. Later when I was a supervisor, she was my lead worker for a while. She met Jerry while traveling, and they were married in 1999. She retired to move to Green River in that year.

They were at church when I got there, so I did a few things in the trailer, then set up my lawn chair on the lawn and had a drink and read the Hockey News. After about a half hour a big wind came up and the sky got dark, so I moved into the trailer. We had about five minutes of hard rain and wind.

The next day I went with them to the Flaming Gorge dam and reservoir, down the river from where they live. It is over the border in northwestern Utah. Although Wyoming along Interstate 80 was much like Nevada (rolling country with sagebrush), just over the first ridge to the south there are tree-covered mountains, beautiful gorges with sandstone strata, and lots of nice views, camping spots, and places to see wildlife. We saw a number of pronghorn antelope (mostly in the sage brush area, which is their natural range), but no other animals.

On Monday morning I decided to stay another day, so while Jerry went to work Carolyn and I hiked up a dirt road/trail area above town where she likes to hike. We saw a cottontail rabbit, four deer, one antelope and a chipmunk, and had a good hike. You get a good view of the town, which is along and above the river below cliffs and buttes.

That evening we went out to dinner at Don Pablo’s, a Mexican restaurant near their home.

It is amazingly dry in Nevada and Wyoming. Carolyn and Jerry mentioned that they have dry skin problems and have to use a good quality lotion. I noticed it when I used my kitchen sponge, and found that it was dry and hard barely an hour later.

I got started about 8:30 Tuesday morning (June 5), planning to go to Potter, Nebraska, which was just about exactly my standard 8-hour distance of 360 miles. As I got closer, I decided to keep going a little farther to Sidney, where the RV park has cable. This time watching hockey was rewarding, as Carolina upset Detroit in overtime to take a one-nothing lead in the Stanley Cup finals.

Driving across Wyoming I saw quite a few antelope, in groups of two to eight. The first half of the drive was through the usual sagebrush country that I’ve grown used to, then just past Rawlings it turned to extensive green fields, with rolling hills and small mountains, plus a few snowy mountains in the distance.

The interesting things I’ve seen on Interstate 80 through Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming include signs saying “I-80 closed when light is flashing; return to Cheyenne” (or whatever the previous town is). Just past the signs were gates that could be closed when the snow blows across the plains and creates a blinding storm.

Approaching Cheyenne, I got into a rainstorm, with some heavy downpour part of the time (requiring full speed windshield wipers), plus one flash of lightning followed very closely by thunder.

I got out of the rain, but it stayed partly cloudy the rest of the way, and I got into very heavy rain for a few miles just before Potter. It looked like I was just staying ahead of the storm, and it sprinkled a little while I was setting up and rained pretty good for about a half hour, then stopped. The country in the east of Wyoming and western Nebraska is dry grassland. This is a very nice campground (Cabela’s) which includes a huge store featuring outdoor sporting goods (hunting and fishing, clothing, etc.) I did not have time to look at the store because I wanted to get set up before the game (and the rain), but will probably check it out tomorrow morning.

June 5, 2002
: Had a cool night, about 49 degrees during the night, but it was mostly clear and warming up fast in the morning. I emptied the holding tanks for the first time on this trip, then went to get gas while still unhitched. I also stopped at the store (hunting, fishing and outdoor per the sign). They have a huge selection, including clothing, and the most dead animals I have ever seen in one place. They are nicely mounted, and some are set up in dioramas, including one that reaches to the ceiling with mountain sheep perched on the side of a mountain. Got a good close-up look at pronghorn antelopes. There must be 100 or more mounted heads, and easily 50 complete stuffed animals, including an elephant.

The RV park is probably the nicest I have seen outside a resort area, with crushed red rock roads and parking areas, and grass in between. Each site has cable, water, sewer and electric, plus a picnic table and barbecue, all included in the basic price. The company has several other stores and parks around the country.

I got away without buying anything at the store, though I was tempted, and got on the road about 9:20. Around milepost 100 I crossed the South Platte River and followed its valley for a long ways (it is near the Interstate most of the rest of the way through Nebraska). From that point on the scenery was green with lots of farming and livestock. At first it included rolling hills with an occasional bluff, then it became mostly flat.

I stopped for lunch at a McDonalds, having not had my weekly allotment of grease. I made one early stop where I napped in the truck for a few minutes, and a number of rest stops.

There was a long slowdown about 25 miles west of Lincoln, at least two miles of one-lane with traffic from 5 to 30 mph, then about 200 yards of actual roadwork. I arrived at Lincoln a little after 7 and am in a very nice park that is too close to the freeway. I had hoped to get farther, but I did not want to drive any more.


June 6, 2002 : This was my longest day in terms of distance, but I stopped earlier than some other days, around 6 p.m. I’m at a very nice campground in Geneseo IL, several miles off the freeway. Before entering Illinois I stopped at the Iowa Welcome Center in Davenport for a view of the Mississippi River.

I got started from Lincoln just after 9, crossing the Missouri River between Omaha and Council Bluffs, Iowa. You don’t get a good look at rivers of any kind zipping across on high bridges at 60 MPH. I had remembered Iowa as being pretty flat, but in fact it was continuously rolling country, with lots of creeks and rivers where you drop down, then climb back up.

This, plus driving a little faster, contributed to a lower gas mileage. I am keeping track of mileage for each tank plus overall:




Overall MPG









Wendover NV




Evanston WY




Rawlings WY




Sidney NE




Lexington NE




Minden IA




Coralville IA





The miles going to Donner of course included a climb of nearly 7000 feet. Nevada and Wyoming had lots of hills; Nebraska was flatter.

Much of the route through Iowa was marked by farmland, mostly corn. On the slopes where it’s a little too steep to plow there are lots of trees, mostly broadleaf.

I saw a row of wind turbines in Wyoming, and also saw two in Nebraska and one in Iowa, but I think they were part of a restaurant/motel complex and maybe just for show or testing.

I got stopped by the Highway Patrol as soon as I entered Illinois. I drove 55 to 60 until yesterday, when I decided to try 65 when the road was smooth (the speed limit was 65 to 75 with no lower limit stated for trucks or trailers). Despite the excellent road across the Mississippi into Illinois, the speed limit here for trailers is 55, something to remember tomorrow. I got a warning only, no ticket.

I expect to arrive at my eastern destination, the KOA campground in Swanton Ohio, tomorrow evening, and will get together with Dad and Mother, who are staying in Holland, OH, on Saturday.

There's no cable TV here so I will have to call my daughter or buy USA Today to see how tonight’s hockey game turns out. After today the rest of the series is on network TV, so I may be able to use the antenna.


June 7, 2002 : Got a little earlier start, about 8:25, and continued across Illinois. It’s flatter than Iowa, but still has a lot of dips and rises through creek and river valleys. There is lots of corn, just about two or three inches tall. The Interstate bypasses Chicago, but there is a tollbooth about 8 miles before the Indiana border which took half an hour to get through. Toll collection is part of it, but the traffic spreads out to six lanes or so, then has to go back to two. There is a major division in the road, so people who paid on the right side are trying to get over to the left division and vice versa. A slow construction project immediately after the division did not help.

After that it was smooth traveling except for a few very short slowdowns for construction all across Indiana. A lot of the countryside bordering the Interstate is hilly and covered with trees, but there are some open, flat areas with farmland also. It cost 60 cents to travel the last few miles in Illinois, and $4.60 to cross Indiana.

When I entered Ohio I left the Interstate before the first Ohio tollbooth and went down two-lane state highways to Swanton, then south a few miles to the KOA. My space has no sewer connection, so I will have to move; and I may try to find another campground. This one is nice but there is no modem connection, and KOAs are all overpriced. Every other camp I’ve stayed in was cheaper and nicer than the KOAs, or offered more services.

Since it was after 7 when I got in, Dad and Mother and I decided to wait till tomorrow to get together. The place they are staying is 20 miles away or so, in Holland OH.

June 8, 2002 : Dad and Mother came over around 10, and we went to look at another campground about three miles away, near Whitehouse. It seemed nice, lots of shade and they had monthly and weekly rates, so I signed up for the month and moved over there.

About 90% of the people here at the campground are locals, here for the summer. Nearly all of them are from the Toledo area and spend their weekends here. Most are young and still working. Saturday was busy and noisy and smoky, with people coming and going all day, dozens of kids of all ages, and lots of campfires, even in the daytime. There was a luau and pig roast, with a DJ playing loud music till 11 p.m., but it got quiet immediately after that. (Weekdays proved to be quiet and peaceful.)

I watched the hockey game with very fuzzy reception, but since I had to get up early, I went to bed after the first overtime. The games start at 8 p.m. eastern time, so it was nearly 11 when the first OT got under way. I got up to go to the bathroom and turned on the TV just as the 2nd OT ended; then got up again in time to turn it on and see the winning goal. If San Jose or LA were in the finals, their home games at 7 would start at10 p.m. here, so it would be hard to watch even the regular games!

June 9, 2002 : I got up at 6:30 so I could make it to the Vaughan Breakfast at 8. The Vaughan siblings (Dad’s cousins on his mother’s side) and whoever else is around and wants to come gather for breakfast at 8 a.m. every Sunday, and no excuses for being late are accepted. We had a nice gathering with Ralph and Doris Jean Vaughan, Aletha Schmidt, Dad and Mother and I.

I spent most of the day at Dad and Mother’s motel, and went out for dinner at a Mexican restaurant. It was good, although they need some help with their salsa recipe.

After I got back to the park, I got acquainted with several of my neighbors. Everyone is very friendly; it’s like being at the bluegrass festival with less organized activity and no picking in the camp area.

June 12, 2002 : For the next month or so, this report will probably slow down, get boring, and seem repetitious. On Monday, June 10, I went over to Dad and Mother’s about noon. Dad and I went to get their car washed, and Mother fixed dinner at the motel. We watched the hockey game (at least I watched and Dad sort of watched).

The next day I went to the nearby town of Whitehouse to do laundry, and Dad and Mother came over in the afternoon. I fixed dinner. After they left I read, watched TV, and got acquainted with some neighbors across the way who have a little artificial pond with one tiny turtle, two big frogs, and a bunch of little frogs. They are all captured from the surrounding area, and the big frogs at least could leave if they wanted, but seem happy and well fed there; they have been in the pond about six weeks. There are plenty of bugs in this country for them to eat.

June 13, 2002 : Yesterday we toured cemeteries, looking for ancestors. We went to three different cemeteries, places where Mother and Dad have been before, and knew who was buried where. Only one of them has disappeared, moved or else we couldn’t find it. At Kline Cemetery we saw the headstone of John Lumby Clifton and wife Elizabeth Burnham, the first of the Cliftons to come to America. At Ayers Cemetery we saw the headstone of Carl (aka Karl and Charles) Gashe, the first in the Gashe line, as well as his son George and spouse Catherine Honeburger. George Gasche and John L. Clifton are the grandfathers of my father’s mother, Mabel Clifton Estel. (Click here for more genealogy connections.)

Aletha Vaughan Schmidt went with us. She is a daughter of Grandma Mabel’s sister, Marjorie.

Today is Dad’s birthday (88). We are going out to dinner, along with some of his cousins, Alfreda, Jeanette, and Spike, all children of Grandpa Frank Estel’s brother, John.


June 14, 2002 : I washed the truck yesterday at a do-it-yourself place (they won’t allow washing at the RV park). It came out OK, but not great, since I was working under the (water) gun to try and get it done before time ran out.

Had a good time at dinner. We went to a place that gives the birthday person a cake, plus a % off his dinner based on age – pretty good deal for an 88-year old.

This morning I went to Oak Openings, a large regional park where they have preserved the original woods environment that once covered all this area. It is predominantly oak forest, although there are maples, ash, and many other species of trees and bushes. There are also several areas of pine and other evergreens that are not native to the area. I went on a short loop trail that goes through deep woods, fields of ferns, and into an open area of small sand dunes. The entire park is about 3,600 acres, and has a 17-mile hiking trail that winds around the outer edge of the park. There are separate trails for horses and bikes, so it is very pleasant walking. There are also a number of other short loop trails, about one to three miles long.

Later today we went to a graduation reception for Zack Kemp, one of Bill Vaughan ’s grandsons.

Temperatures: I have always been interested in weather, and make a note of temperatures at various times and locations (skip this if your interest in weather is limited to “do I need an umbrella today?”)

Central valley May 30, about 98 degrees.

June 4, rain west of Cheyenne, sometimes hard. Temperature 58 most of day, but down to 51 at the summit east of Laramie; up to 54 at the bottom of the hill; then 49 on entering rainy area; 62 in eastern Wyoming; 53 in the rain in western Nebraska (very hard rain west of Potter; light rain after setting up camp at Sidney NE).

Sidney NE (western edge of the state): June 4, 9 p.m. 51 degrees; June 5, 1:30 a.m. 47 degrees

June 9, Twin Acres Camp near Whitehouse OH, 85 degrees at 4 p.m.

June 14, 11:15 a.m. 69 degrees.

June 15, 2 a.m. 65 degrees; 6:30 a.m. 65 inside trailer; 3 p.m. 72 degrees outside.

June 16, 7 a.m. 56 degrees; 11 a.m. 68 degrees.


Time zone changes: An interesting aspect of travel is the time zone changes. When you drive, you have a chance to get accustomed to the change. The second night I camped in eastern Nevada within a few feet of Utah, where Mountain Time begins. In the morning I switched my watch, truck clock and my mind to Mountain, and did not notice the change. I spent three nights in Wyoming, and the first day back on the road, I was still in MDT in western Nebraska.

When I crossed into Central Time in the middle of Nebraska, it was suddenly an hour later, and it did not seem that I had made much progress for the day. Getting used to the changes has been no problem, but there is a psychological effect when it’s suddenly an hour later.

I entered Eastern time at the Indiana/Ohio border, barely an hour before my trip ended, so that adjustment was no problem. The worst part has been the hockey games starting at 8 p.m. instead of 5. This was only a problem in the game that went into three overtimes…it was around 11:30 when the first OT period ended, and I could not stay awake.


June 16, 2002 : Yesterday we had another high school graduation reception, for Ralph and Doris Jean Vaughan ’s granddaughter Lindsey. She plays softball and has a scholarship at a college in Adrian MI. I believe her high school team won a state championship. I told her if they are not nice to her in Michigan, we have a good program at Fresno State.

We had the Vaughan breakfast this morning. We went to Charlie’s Restaurant, not far from here, because the regular place (Valleywood Country Club) did not have their normal menu for today. We had a bigger group than last week - Ralph and Doris Jean Vaughan, Aletha Schmidt, Bill Vaughan, Chet and Dorothy Sedowski (not related), Dad and Mother and I.

Today we went to the Brown family reunion. One of Mother’s dad’s sisters, Winona Mason, married Lloyd Brown, and they had thirteen children (of which 12 grew to adulthood), so it has grown to be a fairly large family. There were probably 50 to 60 people there, of which I had previously met only four or five. There was a lot of food and I enjoyed talking to various relatives of different degrees. Nine of the twelve Brown children are still living, ranging in age from 66 to 91, and all were at the reunion.


The Commodore Connection:

June 17, 2002 : For a number of years I have been in charge of exchange newsletters for a computer club, the Fresno Commodore User Group. We had received a newsletter from the Toledo, OH, group off and on, but that group had seemingly disappeared. Then one day I got a copy of their newsletter, with a message from the new editor, Rob Snyder. He mentioned that the club was using his mailing address, in Metamora OH. This got my attention, since this is where my mother grew up. (Metamora is about 30 miles west of Toledo.)

Eventually Rob began sending the newsletter by Email, and by return Email, I started asking him about his background, to see if my mother knew his family. Questions like “what was your mother’s maiden name, and your wife’s mother’s maiden name,” eventually elicited the response that his wife Annette Snyder was descended from the Smiths of Raab’s Corners. I asked Mother if she knew this family, and she said that we are distantly related.

Additional inquiries revealed that my mother and Annette are both descended from Gardner B. Mason (1829 to 1897). Gardner’s first wife died shortly after giving birth to their only child. This child grew up, married Sylvester Smith, and started a long and widespread family of descendents, of which Annette is one.

Gardner remarried, and had several more children, one of whom is my great grandfather. My genealogy program says that Annette and I are half 3rd cousin once removed.

Today we visited Rob and Annette, and their three children. They proved to be the kind of people you are glad to discover are related to you; nice and friendly and helpful in filling in blanks in the genealogical record. The kids are cute, smart and polite. We had dinner there, watched Helena (age 7) and Jacob (age 3) set up their model zoo, and enjoyed seeing 1 year old Catherine try to take a few steps.

Rob’s Commodore set-up includes a C128-D, two 1581’s, two 1571’s, hard drive, CD-ROM player, and a C64 that can be switched in. He also has an Amiga and an SX64. Annette has an Apple laptop to round out the collection.


June 20, 2002 : On June 18 we visited more relatives, Marion and Evelyn Lehman. She is the daughter of my maternal grandmother’s brother, John Clifton. We had dinner there, and enjoyed the view of fields and woods from their house. One of their daughters, Janet, and her husband stopped by while we were there. I added some more names of Marion’s ancestors to my genealogy.

Yesterday I went for another hike in Oak Openings. Most of this was through evergreen forest, which is non-native. In one area they have thinned the trees, and it was sunny and warm, but most of the walk was through deep shady woods.

Then I went to Keene Cemetery and took pictures of the headstones of George and Laura (Blake) Richardson (parents of my mother’s maternal grandmother, Tillie Watkins); and Richard and Camilla (Eddy) Blake, Laura’s grandparents.

I also washed my truck again. So far there's been no rain, just the usual layer of dust that seems to be universal.

Dad and Mother came over in the late afternoon and I fixed dinner for us.

Today we had dinner at the home of Don and Margaret (Biehl) Porter. Margaret was Mother’s childhood playmate. They lived within half a mile of each other south of Metamora. Margaret still lives in the same house, originally occupied by her grandparents.


June 21, 2002 : Today was a quiet day; I went to Dad and Mother’s motel and did laundry; then we went out to dinner. There is a very good Mexican restaurant across the highway from where they stay. The cooking is a little different from what we’re used to in California, but still quite acceptable.


Rest Stops: A cross-country trip gives the opportunity to study rest stops. Most states have nicer ones than California, and they are much more frequent in most states. Most of them have separate rest stops on each side of the freeway, but there are other approaches also. Some rest stops are one-side – you exit, and cross over or under the freeway to the other side (assuming you’re not already on that side).

In addition to standard rest stops, Wyoming has what they call “parking areas,” which are like rest stops with no facilities, except maybe a trash can. These seem to be used mostly by trucks, but they make perfectly good rest stops for those of us who tow our bathroom behind us.

In Iowa, a number of rest stops were closed, so you had to take that into consideration when the sign said “rest stop one mile; next stop 42 miles.” It might turn out to be 84 miles! In one place (don’t remember which state) the sign said “primitive rest area,” which meant porta-potties. The really good rest stops have information about the area, maps (both posted on a bulletin board and available for the public), and clean flush toilets. More of them meet these criteria than not.


June 24, 2002 : Yesterday we went to see my cousin Nancy and her husband, Harry Teets at Devil’s Lake in Michigan, about 50 miles away. They have a very nice house with direct access to the lake. We had dinner there, then went out on their boat for a tour around the lake. It is surrounded by very nice homes, probably in the neighborhood of 700 houses or so right on the lake, plus a second row behind some of them. They get a nice breeze on their side of the lake, but on the other side, trees block the wind, so we had to go faster to create our own wind. It was about 90 degrees, but nice on the lake, and air-conditioned in the house. The lake is relatively shallow; there are a couple of sandbars where people anchor and play in the water; it’s shallow enough for kids to stand up and have their heads above water. The average depth is 15 feet, and the deepest point about 65 feet.

Today we went to the Fulton County History Museum. It has several rooms set up with old artifacts, such as a Victorian era parlor. They also have the county genealogical society records there, including a map showing all the land ownership in 1890-1910. Dad’s grandfather, John F. Estel is listed, as is Frank Merrill, Roy’s father. Dad was looking at old tax records, which also has information on the Estel farm.

After that we stopped by Dad’s cousin, John (Spike) and Marilyn Estel’s. I got their genealogical records up to date. John’s father is my grandfather Frank Estel’s brother.


June 26, 2002 : Yesterday we went to visit my mother’s only two cousins on her father’s side that we had not yet seen (we have not yet seen any of the cousins on her mother’s side; most are scattered across the country, although a few live in this area). These we visited were Donelda and Nina, two sisters whose mother was my grandfather George Mason’s sister. They, the nine Browns, and my mother and Aunt June are the only ones still living of more than 50 grandchildren of Charles and Emily (Bell) Mason. My mother had not seen these two cousins since before she got married in 1938, so there was a lot of catching up to do.

Then we went to Berkey Cemetery, and photographed the headstones of my great, great, grandfather Gardner B. Mason, his wife Sarah Potter, his first wife, Harriet van Orman, his parents, Ira Mason and Saphrona Baker, and Sarah’s mother Abigail Lewis. Actually there is no headstone for Sarah but we believe she is buried next to Gardner.

We had dinner at a Bob Evans, a very nice chain restaurant.

It had started raining when we were visiting the cousins, and kept it up off and on through dinner. About the time I left Dad and Mother’s motel to come home, it started raining hard and kept it up for about two hours, so overall we got the best rain since I have been here, one that was badly needed for the corn and soybeans.

Today I went for my third, longest, and probably last walk in the woods at Oak Openings. I covered a little over three miles, on a trail that has lots of information on the various kinds of trees; informational signs have been placed by the local Boy Scouts.


June 29, 2002 : After my hike Wednesday I did some chores around camp - checking wheel lug torque, opening and checking out a ramp I bought to load the generator, housecleaning, etc.

Thursday was a lazy day; I went over to the motel and just stayed around there reading and talking; and went out for dinner at a nice restaurant.

Friday we went to Waterville and Grand Rapids OH. These are towns opposite each other on the Maumee River, where early settlers in this area first came. The Erie & Ohio Canal, which went from Toledo to Cincinnati then into Indiana, runs along the river part of the way. One of the metroparks by the river has an old canal boat, a working lock, and other historical items. There is a low dam across the river, about six feet high, but probably 300 feet or more across. There is no spillway; the water flows over the dam all the way across. Large birds stand in the water just below the dam waiting patiently for a fish to be washed over.

We had dinner at a restaurant in Waterville, then came back to my trailer. I had made salsa, and introduced the local residents to California recipe salsa, although it was not really anything new; salsa is now the most popular condiment in America This is partly, as Jerry Seinfeld says, because we love to say “Salsa!”

Today was laundry day, after which we went to a few stores without finding what I was looking for. Mother fixed dinner at the motel. I came home early to try and rest up for the Vaughan Breakfast ( 8 a.m. sharp), which will be followed by a 50 mile drive into Michigan.


The Merrill/Estel Connection: When my grandfather was young (8 or 10), his father had a farm north of Ai (it’s not on the map, but it’s a little bit north of Swanton). Across the road was the Frank Merrill farm, and grandpa’s best friend was their son, Roy Merrill. This friendship continued into their adulthood, even though Roy, his wife, and their two young sons moved to Florida, then to California, in the mid 1920’s.

When my father, then age 21, and his parents first came to Californiain 1935, they stayed with my grandfather’s cousins in Pasadena (that family had moved to California around 1910). During their stay in Pasadena, they traveled up to Mariposa, about 80 miles from Fresno in the Sierra foothills, to visit Roy and his family.

A few months later, Roy stopped to visit them in Pasadena. He was on his way to Long Beach to look at equipment for a sawmill he wanted to start. He told my Dad and grandpa he would give them jobs in the mill if he got it going.

Although my Dad and his parents returned to Ohio for the winter for several years, they came back to stay in 1938, along with Dad’s new wife. They had already helped Roy construct the mill, and this marked the beginning of their permanent stay in California, and the reason I grew up in Mariposa.

(Click here for more about the mill.)

Although Roy, his wife, and their youngest son are gone, the families remain close. Dad and Mother visit back and forth with the other son and his wife; and their daughter watches Dad and Mother’s house while they are gone. Another of Roy’s granddaughters is one of the leading real estate agents in Fresno, and recently helped Dad and Mother sell my grandparents house on West Avenue.

Back here in Ohio, we have driven by the old Merrill ranch, the house where their two sons were born, and visited Roy’s parents’ grave.


What it’s Like in Ohio: Probably the most striking thing is the massive display of greenery everywhere. Since summer rain is normal, something grows everywhere unless it is cut down. There is grass along all the roadsides outside cities and towns, and it is regularly mowed, either by the adjacent property owner, or in many locations, by the government. This is true pretty much everywhere east of the Central Time Zone line that runs through Nebraska, as well as northern plains states. In some areas they even bale the cuttings. Everyone who has more than a tiny lot has a riding mower (usually a small tractor) and mows along the road by their yards.

Most of this part of northwest Ohio was heavily wooded swamp land before the arrival of European settlers. Would-be farmers drained the swamp, cut trees and brush, and turned it into farmland. Since the native trees were largely huge, straight oaks, they turned them into barns and houses, and oak timber is still a small but viable commercial crop.

The land is as flat as California's San Joaquin Valley; in other words, a few dips and rises, but mostly level. Unlike the west side of the valley, where you can see for several miles across the farm land, the view here is broken by patches of woods. Most early day property owners retained a section of woods, where they could harvest lumber and firewood. If farmland is left untended, the native plants, bushes and trees begin to grow, and in twenty years it will revert to woodland.

There are quite a few pines and other evergreens, but they are not native to this area (they grow naturally not too far north in Michigan).

From descriptions posted by the Boy Scouts, these are the principle trees in the Ohio woods:

Black oak: Dark bark, prickly lobes on the leaves

White oak: Whitish gray bark, rounded lobes

Pin oak: Smooth bark, small leaves with deep lobes

Scarlet oak: Like black oak but leaves are smooth instead of having a dusty/sticky covering

Bur Oak: Large leaves, lobes not deep

Red Pine (AKA Scotch)

White pine: Both similar in general appearance to Ponderosa. One has 5 needles and one has 3; don’t remember which

Hemlock: Fine, lacey needles

All the oaks are tall and straight, and don’t branch till about 40 feet up. The black oak is clearly different from the California Black Oak, although the leaves are similar.

There are a few open, uncultivated, unmowed areas. These are knee deep with grass and other plants. It’s always green when I have been here, but folks say it does dry up in the fall.

Except for the central residential areas (and probably inner-city Toledo, which I have avoided), residential lots are typically large. Even in towns, most lots are much bigger than what is usual in Fresno. There are no fences between the front yards, and back fences tend to be chain link or decorative, not private. This gives many residential areas the appearance of a large park.

In the country, lots are even bigger, often with 20 or more good size trees, surrounded by lawns. Some lots may have a few acres of thick woods behind the area that is maintained as a yard. Most houses are set back from the road (even many in town), some of them completely hidden by woods that front on the road. Many homes in the country have ponds, which they stock with fish and use for swimming. These are dug out, and sometimes the bank is lined with pea gravel, but often it is just natural.

Country houses fall into two categories. First is the old farmhouse, usually of wood “clapboard” construction with the boards running horizontally. They are nearly always white or gray, although some are light brown and a few have become more adventurous. Some are made of a type of large brick (the size of cement blocks, but with a “ripply” surface), usually painted white or gray. Many have been enlarged and/or modernized inside.

Newer houses may be of wood, brick or stone. I have yet to see a house with a stucco exterior finish as is normal in California. Many, even the more modest houses, are two story, and some newer homes are downright fancy with stone or brickwork and several dormer windows in the attic. Nearly all houses have cellars.

There is usually a road every mile throughout the country, though some will come to a dead end at a cross road. They are mostly straight and quite narrow; some have no shoulder at all, and few have a shoulder wider than two or three feet. Unless the road drops off directly into the ditch, there is often room to pull off in the well-mowed grass area. Most of the roads are in good condition.

Towns are much closer together than in rural California; it is hard to drive ten miles on any main road without coming to at least a village with a few stores and houses. In my normal travels, visiting relatives, and touring cemeteries in two counties, we have been in Delta, Swanton, Metamora, Assumption, Berkey, Whitehouse, Waseuon, Pettisville, Winnimeg, Perrysburg, and Waterville. Holland, where my Dad and Mother are staying, along with Sylvania and Maumee, are large suburbs of Toledo, although they are incorporated towns in their own right. There are over 80 counties in Ohio (compared to 56 in California), so they are considerably smaller than most western counties.

Smoking is still allowed in restaurants. In some places, the non-smoking section is simply the row of tables next to the smoking section. I suggested that we should sit in the smoking section; that way there would be at least one smoking table with no smokers.

Traffic lights are suspended from wires across the middle of the intersections instead of being on posts at the corners or on an arm sticking out from posts. The position of the light, in the middle instead of the edge of the intersection, can be confusing. They are also too high, and hard to see when you’re close.

The main crops are corn, soybeans, and wheat, and from my observation, the acreage devoted to each ranks in the order I have listed them. Planting in some areas was delayed by unusually wet and cold weather during May, and when I arrived the corn was two or three inches tall, and the beans were just coming up. The corn is now knee high or more in most areas, and the beans are eight inches or more. Wheat is planted in the fall; it was tall but fully green when I arrived, and now is turning or completely brown. Harvesting will begin early in July. The wheat is cut and run through a combine that separates the grain from the chaff, which is left on the ground, then later baled as straw.

There is a 15-mile stretch of the old Wabash Cannonball railroad route that has been paved across Lucas County for use as a bike lane.

Gas prices seem to fluctuate with more purpose than in Fresno. Prices go down early in the week, and up as the weekend nears. Gas at one Shell station was 148.9 on Friday, 147.9 on Sunday morning, 146.9 on Sunday evening, and 144.9 on Monday morning. Most nearby stations were the same.

Ohio Photos

June 30, 2002 : We had a fun day today, visiting my second cousin Nancy Dzierzawski (pronounced just like it’s spelled, as long as you speak Polish). She and her two sons, in their early 30’s, are the kind of relaxed, informal, fun-loving people I like to be around. She shares my enthusiasm for genealogy and has collected much more information than I, so we shared information and computer files. They live on Wampler's Lake in Michigan, so we had another Sunday boat ride, with a very nice breeze, following a good dinner.

July 1, 2002: I got my oil changed today; stopped by at Dad and Mother’s for a while, then did some shopping. They are attending a funeral this afternoon; the widow of one of the late Brown siblings. I have started getting ready for my departure next Sunday.


July 2, 2002 : Dad and I went to the barber shop to get haircuts this morning. This is only my 3rd haircut in 28 years that has not been done at Esquire Barber Shop on West Avenue in Fresno.

In the evening we went out to dinner with Dad’s cousins, Jeanette and Alfreda.


July 3, 2002 : I saw fireflies for the first time on this trip last night. I have always been here in late July, and stayed with people who lived next to cornfields, which the fireflies seem to like, so I have been used to seeing lots of them. Someone in the camp mentioned seeing a massive amount of fireflies the night before in the cornfield next to their house, and I was complaining about the lack of them here in the woods. Only a minute later one flew right over my head, and in the next half hour I saw a couple dozen more.

Yesterday we went out to eat with some of the Browns: Emily, her friend Marilyn who lives with her, and two of her sisters and their husbands. Afterward we went to Keith and Ruth Brown Shelt’s for ice cream with home grown raspberries.


July 4, 2002 : Today we went to Aletha Vaughan’s in Swanton, then over to her son Bobby’s to watch the 4th of July parade. His house is on Main Street, right on the parade route (it’s all residential where he lives). Then we had lunch at Aletha’s, and came back here. Dad and Mother left about 4:30, and I continued to get ready for my departure this Sunday.

We had a quick thundershower today (I knew we would since I washed the truck yesterday). Just as we drove into the camp the wind blew up a big cloud of dust, then it rained about 10 minutes. I was able to wipe off the truck with some wet towels and dry it and get it pretty clean.


July 6, 2002 : Friday was a day to finish getting ready to go. I went to Dad and Mother’s motel and did laundry, then we went out to lunch at Ventura's, a Mexican restaurant recommended by the people at camp. The food was good, but we agreed we still like Don Pablo’s better. It has a better menu and better salsa (but not great), and less smoke in the non-smoking area.

Friday evening I sat around with the people I have made friends with at camp. They had been participating in a horseshoe tournament from 11 to 6, so they did not stay up very late.

This morning we headed for Angola, Indiana, about a 75-mile drive, for Phil Nott’s wedding to Karina Vice. It was very nice; a full bore all-out fancy wedding followed by a buffet dinner at a lodge in a nearby state park. Phil is a deputy sheriff and lots of his co-workers were there, a few in uniform, so everyone was well behaved. I got to see a number of Watkins cousins and 2nd cousins, as well as Greg and Tami Nott’s two little sons.

More fun with time zones: When we left for the wedding Saturday, we debated when to leave, and finally dashed off at 10 a.m. for a 1 p.m. wedding 80 miles away. We wanted to stop and eat after we got there, so went into a restaurant about 11:45 Ohio time. It was jam packed, and as we were discussing going someplace else Dad said, “you know, it’s a quarter to one in Indiana.”

I was unhappy with myself because I had not thought of the time difference; and we agreed there was no time to eat, and left for the church. A nearly empty parking lot immediately told us something was not right, so I asked one of the guys going into the church what time it was. His reply: 11 a.m. Of course, I know very well that it gets earlier going west, not later, but standing in the crowded, smoky, restaurant, with an annoying woman telling us to shut the door because of the air conditioning, our brains were not functioning well.

We went to a different, nicer, un-crowded restaurant, had a good lunch, and still got to the church over a half hour early. We discussed whether all of Indiana was on central time (my opinion), but Mother thought some was on eastern time. Asking our relatives who live there was fruitless; they were not sure either.

Later I consulted the Rand McNally atlas, which shows that all but a small corner in the northwest part of the state is eastern time. Apparently the residents of the northeastern part are not aware of this, and I will swear that northeast Indiana was on central time when I last visited in the 1970’s.


July 7, 2002 : I went to the Vaughan breakfast this morning, then came back and got ready to go. Dad and Mother came back with me to say goodbye. I got started about 10:30, and headed for Devil’s Lake in Michigan, where I had a nice but short visit with my cousin’s daughter Molly and her husband David.

It is a tradition that all of Grandma Mason's granddaughters, and now great granddaughters, great great and so forth, have their picture taken in her old baby dress, which dates back to about 1890. I picked up the dress to take it to Oregon so we can get a picture of my cousin Don’s granddaughter.

From Devil’s Lake I followed US 223 then 127. The latter is freeway most of the way to where I am tonight, a few miles east of Mt. Pleasant. The non-freeway part was four lane, so I had pretty good roads most of the way. There was very heavy traffic on the southbound side, apparently people returning home from a holiday weekend in northern Michigan. At times the traffic was bunching up and people were having to slow down, but northbound it was clear sailing all the way.

The weather was hot and sunny, 90 degrees most of the day on the truck thermometer. I stopped for lunch at a McDonald’s in Mason MI.

Southern Michigan is fairly hilly, but north of Lansing it flattens out again. There are more woods, and the crops are mostly soybeans and wheat, with not as much corn as Ohio.

The last two miles of local road to this camp are horrible dusty washboard gravel, some of it requiring speeds of less than 10 miles per hour to keep from shaking the truck and trailer apart, and a top speed of 15 mph. Needless to say I won’t be back here. After Twin Acres this camp leaves a lot to be desired, although I have a little more privacy – no one on either side of me for 100 feet or more, and no one in front or behind. I get sand in my shoes and my trailer instead of little rocks, and the mosquitoes are numerous and vicious. The woman who runs the registration office is not actually rude, but she will never be asked to enter, much less win, a Miss Congeniality contest.


July 8, 2002 : I crossed the Mackinac Bridge, the world’s third longest suspension bridge, at Mackinaw City and arrived in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in gloomy rain. It started raining a couple of hours before, and rained off and on all but the last hour or so of my trip, which ended today at the Big Cedar Campground in Germfask, MI (on MI 77 north of US 2). This is a very nice camp, and in keeping with how things work is the cheapest one yet.

I went through a lot of flat farm country in northern central Michigan, north of Clare, and also a lot of hilly areas. For a long time there were no visible fields with crops and no barns, then I saw a few, with some corn and grain. There were a few oil wells in the middle of cornfields. North of Clare there were a lot of evergreens and aspens, although I still saw some stretches that were primarily oak (even a little in the UP). Most of the UP is level or gently rolling, with lots of evergreens, mostly not very tall. I saw very few trucks on US 223, I-75 or across the UP, except for log trucks. These contain pine logs cut short and loaded crosswise, mostly not very big around (no doubt headed for the paper mills).

Weather early in the day was in the mid 80’s, then dropped as low as 74 at the Cheboygan cutoff in the rain. It’s cloudy with a lot of sunshine now, but humid enough to work up a pretty good sweat if you do anything physical (which I try to avoid).

I've been sending sections of this report via email every few days to a number of friends and relatives, but could not send anything today. This camp has a modem hook-up but I could not dial out on it. Every camp I stayed at west of the Mississippi had hookups, and none of them on the east have until I got here. Actually the first place I stayed at may or may not have; the office was closed when I arrived and when I left. But so far there were three with on the west and four without on the east.

You know you’re in the north and/or the western side of the time zone when it’s 9:15 and the sun has not yet gone down (this location is both). At 10:15 it was still so light that the only visible sky objects were Venus and Arcturus; and there was a little light in the sky yet at 11.


July 9, 2002 : Big Cedar Camp at Germfask had a service I have never encountered before – set your garbage out in front of your camp in a bag and they pick it up. The “garbage men” were two little boys about 6 and 10 who went around with their wagon.

Today’s drive took me through some of the best scenery since the Sierra Nevada. From Germfask MI I followed MI 77 north to 28, and then 28 and US 41 to Baraga where I took MI 38 to Ontonagon. Munising was my favorite spot, with a nice harbor on the southern side of Lake Superior, and Grand Island offshore just a little ways. I had views of the lake several times throughout the day, and will follow it for a few miles tomorrow on MI 64 before heading south to pick up US 2 into Duluth.

Rocks have been scarce since I left Utah – big rocks, that is. From Nebraska on there have been no places where the road had to be cut through hills, but I went through some today, and there is indeed rock under all those trees. I even saw a couple of rocky hills, but with trees and bushes growing thick all over them.

Most of the scenery was woods with a lot of swampy-looking areas and lakes, mostly flat the first half of the drive. I went by some small cornfields and saw a couple of barns, and the last half of the drive was mostly hilly, and mostly through evergreens. The town and campground are on a large river that is brown with clay due to the recent rains (hard rain the last two days – glad I missed that!)

It was sunny but cool – 64 at Munising, and up to 73 inland at Champion. It was warm when I first got here, but cooled off quickly. It was in the low 70s with a good breeze around 6:30, but now at 9 it is in the 60s and not quite as windy.

Finally got a phone hookup for the computer here. It cost $2 but runs right into my trailer and gives me unlimited use.

It was 59 at 9:30 p.m. at River Pines Campground in Ontonagon, then 48 at 4 a.m., and 72 at 11 a.m.


Wildlife and Death: I saw quite a few pronghorn antelope in Utah and Wyoming, and one sheep. In Ohio we had squirrels all over the campground. They call them gray squirrels, but they are a little on the reddish side – not as red as the little almond eaters that infest Fresno, but not as gray as the ones in the Sierra. There are obviously a lot of raccoons in Ohio, all dead. Every day I would see two or three newly killed ones along the roads, but never saw a live one. I saw a few live woodchucks (I think they are the same thing as marmots), and quite a few rabbits. They are small, apparently cotton-tails, a slightly mottled brown in color.

There are lots of deer in this country, and people continually warn you about them when driving – deer vs. car encounters are very frequent. However, I saw only one live deer in Ohio, and she was minding her own business and having lunch in the woods where she belonged. I did see three dead ones along the roads in Ohio and Michigan.

Michigan Photos     Wisconsin Photos

July 11, 2002 : I had another scenic drive across the last part of upper Michigan, northern Wisconsin, and into Minnesota.

I arrived at Linda and Anne’s in rural Duluth in mid-afternoon, after one wrong turn that took me down a dead end road where there was no place to turn around. I had to back up over the sidewalk onto the grass in a public park. It was good practice for maneuvering my trailer into place in Linda’s yard, which is big but not big in terms of trailer parking.

Their home is on a gravel road, with the nearest neighbors about a quarter mile away in each direction. The opposite side of the main road is public land, and it is all wooded, so it is very private and “real country living.” They mow paths into the woods, but if they don’t mow for a year, the growth is chest high. There are a lot of maple trees, from which they make prize-winning syrup.

When I unhitched the trailer I discovered that the part that holds the leveler bar chain had come loose, slipped and was bent. Fortunately I was able to find a replacement at an RV supply here. I’m glad it happened as I arrived at a fairly large city (85,000); might be hard to find these parts in North Dakota or northern Montana. (Actually I ended up going to a large RV repair shop in Minot ND, for an unrelated matter; and they would probably have been able to help me with this type of problem also.)

On my trip to get the part, I also went to the waterfront on Lake Superior/St. Louis River and went through a museum run by the Army Corps of Engineers. I washed my truck in the afternoon, since they say they need rain (it’s wet and green and seems to be plenty watery to me).


July 12, 2002 : Today Linda and I took a walk through their property to a pond in the southeast corner. Most of the way is a mowed path, then it turns to an open strip that used to be drivable with a 4-wheel drive vehicle. Since they have not kept it mowed and cut, it has waist high bushes and plants. It is all very green and damp and nice to look at, with no stickers and no worry about rattlesnakes.


Tent Caterpillar Report: Northern Minnesota has been attacked by forest tent caterpillars for the second year in a row. They eat most or all the leaves on the broadleaf trees, gather in huge messy gobs on porches, sidewalks, walls, etc., and generally make themselves hated. Eventually they spin cocoons all over the place.

At the time I arrived they had finished most of their eating. This year’s infestation was not as bad as last year.

This year: Linda and Anne had to sweep them off the porch regularly during their prime time. They did not eat nearly as much as last year, leaving most trees with some leaves or at least parts of leaves (many of the trees leaf out again, but with smaller leaves).

Last year: You could not step out the door without stepping on caterpillars. Linda and Anne had to hose off the porch regularly. They ate so many leaves it looked like fall in June. At their peak, you could hear a sound like gently falling rain, which was really gently falling caterpillar poop. No pictures will be placed on line, although Linda and Anne have photographic proof.


July 14, 2002 : Yesterday Linda, Anne and I drove up the north shore of Lake Superior. It is beautiful scenic country. We stopped at Gooseberry Falls, where a river makes a couple of 20- to 25-foot drops, and also at Palisade Head. This is a high cliff above the lake where people (not me) climb. There were climbers there when we stopped. It is pretty much straight up and down, and probably about 100 feet high or so. Then we went on to a state park, and walked around a little. The Baptism River flows into the lake here, and there was a wedding going on at the sandbar between lake and river.

We ate lunch at a nice restaurant with a beautiful view of the lake, and stopped for one of the famous pies from Betty’s Pies at Two Harbors.

This morning I had more problems with the trailer. A small water leak which could have been ignored turned into a big one when I tried to mess with the plumbing. We were able to temporarily fix the big leak, but there is a medium leak whenever the water pump is on. I need to turn it off except for when I am actually using water.

Nevertheless, I got started in mid-morning, and after going through Duluth, headed west on US 2, which I plan to follow most of the way to the western states.

Tonight I wanted to stay at a non-commercial campground, so I headed down a road off US 2 at a sign that said "Leech Lake Camp,” in the Chippewa National Forest. After three miles, I noticed a clear spot beside the road, so I decided to go for a private and primitive camping experience. There is a road on the other side of the main road that leads in to a tiny cemetery. The flies and mosquitoes are terrible here, but I was able to sit outside for several hours after spraying myself a couple of times. However, if I went out to the road or up the road on the other side, huge flies attacked me in great numbers. So I stayed near the trailer, and now as it gets dark at 8:35 I am inside.

The woods around me include the ever-present white oak, black oak and maple, plus some pines, a few firs of some kind, what is probably a spruce, and some trees I think are basswoods. There are many low bushes, and in the “clearing” lots of grass and broadleaf plants.

Today’s scenery included a lot of flat land with many evergreens, the usual mixed broadleaf and conifer woods, and a fair amount of farmland, which seems to be mostly hay. I passed through Grand Rapids and will be going through Bemidji tomorrow. I crossed the Missouri River, which is a small, meandering stream up here a few miles below where it starts.

Minnesota Photos

July 15, 2002 : I got an early start today, around 9, probably in a hurry to get away from the flies and mosquitoes. The woods soon gave way to the prairies, although there are still wooded sections, much like Ohio. I saw wheat, corn, some possible soybeans, and what I think were either potatoes or sugar beats. The land is mostly level, although the valleys of streams are fairly deep; even a little creek may have a valley 50 feet across at the top. It was a fairly straight, smooth, uneventful trip, about 230 miles to a camp on Devil’s Lake, a huge natural lake in the mostly flat country of North Dakota. The camp is about five miles off the highway, on a good but dusty gravel road. No stream is marked on the map; apparently the lake collects water from small runoff channels. It’s hot and slightly humid, but there is a very strong breeze.

Road and Weather Report: The roads through Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and now North Dakota have been mostly very good – smooth and wide, and usually with very little traffic. Michigan has a specialty I call Michigan Roller Coaster – concrete road sections with some other material in between, probably to allow expansion in cold weather. This road construction creates a constant “WHUMP! WHUMP-WHUMP!” With a trailer you get an added “BOUNCE! BOUNCE-BOUNCE!” Other states have some seams in the roads, but none are as bad as Michigan. Fortunately there was not much of it, even in Michigan, and most of the road surface has been good to excellent.

From Bemidji MN on, US 2 was a four-lane divided road (not freeway). There were only a couple of construction areas, and these did not slow me down; just switched over to two-lane road for a few miles each time.

Weather has been good, with no rain since I entered Superior WI on July 10. Nights were cold and cool in Duluth, below 50 one night, but around 60 the next day. Highs were around 80. When I left the woods at 9 a.m. today it was about 76, then moved slowly up, with mid-80’s most of the day, and 90 by the time I reached North Dakota.


July 16, 2002 : I headed west on US 2 as far as Minot ND, then went south on US 83 and west on ND 23 to New Town. The scenery turned more and more to open country, with trees mainly along waterways. There are lots of flat stretches, but lots of rolling country too. There are quite a few ponds and marshy areas. It’s all green and very scenic, although the flatland gets repetitious, like driving through the San Joaquin Valley for 150 miles. Weather was warm, 84 to 90 and it’s real hot in the trailer right now at 7:15.

I stopped at George’s RV Repair in Minot, and they were able to fix the water leak with a minimum of fuss, time and cost. The plastic tubing had become brittle and cracked. The land sloped up at the back where I was parked at Linda’s, so I may have hit the ground backing up; however, I did not notice the leak till the last night I was there. In any case, it is fixed, and I was there less than two hours total.

I am parked (I won’t say camped) next to a little city park in New Town. I plan to stay here unless someone chases me out, which seems unlikely. I have seen no sign of law enforcement, and nearly everything was closed by 5 or 6. Even the first restaurant I went to closed at 5, but I got a pizza at another place. Everyone I have dealt with has been very friendly; people you meet in the street often say hello.

When I get home I need to be locked in my room and watched closely. As if messing with the water hose was not stupid enough, I locked my keys in the truck tonight. I went to a gas station (which was closed), and the young man there opened the door for me. He said there was no locksmith in town, but he knew someone to call, and that someone showed up about 15 minutes later and quickly got the door open. So far I have luck on my side, which is helpful when your brain shuts down.

Trying to keep the trailer clean, if I spot a bit of lint or crud on the carpet, I pick it up and put it in the wastebasket. When I did that tonight, I found I had blood on my fingers and on the carpet. After repeating this experience, I realized the crud I was trying to pick up was some kind of bug, apparently some slow-moving mosquitoes. I picked up the rest of them with the Shop-Vac, and was able to get the blood off the carpet with a wet cloth (it was just a very tiny spot, of course, about as much as a mosquito can hold).


July 17, 2002 : The storm started with a gentle rain. I got up and closed the vents, and went back to bed. Soon the rain stopped, and I thought that was it. Then the real storm began. I got up and stepped outside and watched the light show – big lightning flashes that lit up half the sky, with big horizontal bolts, and thunder nearly non-stop. When the rain started again, the drops were much bigger. Then it got harder…and harder again. There were several thunder crashes that sounded very close and shook the trailer. It rained enough to wash the dust from the Devils Lake road off the truck and trailer. When I started to wake up around 7, there was a little bit more rain and thunder, just a brief encore.

I did not get chased out, so I left on my own around 8:30, driving through more rolling farmland. Trees became more and more scarce except along waterways. Some of the smaller drainage valleys had brush that looked a lot like chaparral. My trip took me across a narrow section of Lake Sacagawea, a huge lake on the Missouri, formed by Garrison Dam. I followed ND 23 to US 85, which took me back to US 2 near Williston SD.

Here I took a side trip to Fort Union, the site of a fur trading post established by John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company in the 1800’s. The parking lot was in Montana, but the fort itself is in North Dakota, overlooking the Missouri River valley, not far from where the Yellowstone River comes in.

North Dakota Photos

The rest of my trip today continued parallel to the Missouri; sometimes high up on the north side, sometimes down in the upper flood plain. I stopped at Wolf Point, which is about 30 miles downstream from Fort Peck Dam. The weather is hot, but there is a nice breeze, and it’s pleasant to sit in the shade, or in the trailer with the cooler going.

I’ve seen quite a few oil wells in ND and Montana. Saw a crop duster plane today working on a field which was uneven in both directions (NS/EW); quite a challenge to fly low and parallel over land like that. A lot of the county roads off the highway in Minnesota, ND and Montana are gravel.


Montana is big: Nearly every state I have been in, except California, has mileposts to mark every mile along state and federal highways. If the first one is number one, then the count goes up, and you know how far you have driven across the state. If the first number is a large one, then it’s a countdown – how many miles until the highway you are on reaches the other side of the state.

Nevada and Wyoming both reach counts above 300. Indiana and Iowa are a little smaller, and Nebraska just barely goes over the 400 mark. Entering Montana, the first milepost was number 664. To put it another way, I entered Montana around 1:30 on July 17; I will have to drive another 60 miles on July 19 to reach the halfway mark. Of course, the road is not straight, but the state is still mighty wide.


July 18, 2002 : Today I really felt like I am back in the west, with the appearance of sagebrush along the roadside, and a browner look to the wild grasses. There is a lot of green, cultivated land, probably irrigated. The Missouri River turned southwest, and the road turned northwest then west to follow the Milk River most of the day. Tomorrow I will go through Fresno, a town too small to be listed in the Rand McNally Atlas population chart. However, there is a Fresno Dam on the Milk River, with the Fresno Reservoir and Fresno Recreation Area.

I also saw real mountains for the first time, apparently the Bears Paw Mountains, northeast of the Missouri Breaks.

I am in a campground about 10 miles east of Havre. The couple that operate it are from Santa Rosa, CA. It was very hot today, close to 100, and there is not a tree anywhere on the grounds. However, the air conditioning is working, and it’s cool enough to sit out right now, as long as the bugs cooperate.

(After looking around, I have to report that there are two trees – both about 18 inches tall and both dead.)

I have mentioned that the roads are generally good – however, they are narrow with not much shoulder. I’ve seen lots of things I wanted to photograph, but there was no place to pull off. On roads with a shoulder wide enough to get off, it’s usually not a good idea (for example, on the major interstates, where traffic is whizzing by at 75 mph).


Trains: For the last few years, when you’ve seen trains, you’ve asked, “Where is the caboose?” I’ve located several of them on my trip so far: Green River WY, Swanton OH, Wauseon OH, Glasgow MT, Shelby MT, West Glacier MT, and O'brien OR; and somewhere I can’t recall (so I guess that one’s lost again). Most of the time the highway I’m on is near a railroad track, and it is a rare day when I don’t see a train or two. One just went by here, and three or four went by where I camped last night.

In Ohio we saw trainloads of coal going in both directions…apparently Colorado and Wyoming coal is needed in Pennsylvania and vice versa. In the Duluth area you see hopper cars carrying taconite, which is best explained as the last dregs of iron ore from the Iron Ranges put into pellet form for further processing. A lot of it is also loaded on ships at the Duluth/Superior harbor. In Wyoming a lot of the trains were completely made up of stock cars.


July 19, 2002 : Mountains at last! I’ve been in Montana (which means “mountain” in Spanish) three times, without finding very many mountains. Today as I left Cut Bank in a light rain, a row of snow-covered, or maybe glacier covered, mountains rose up out of the prairie, misty through the rain but lit by the sun.

It was nice weather all day, about 73 when I left Havre, and never over 80. I had rain off and on for about 10 miles, nothing too bad. US 2 takes a wide arc to the south around Glacier Park, but goes through the mountains, along two branches of the Flathead River on the western side. Although the mountains from a distance looked as rugged as the Sierra crest, up close they have a gentler look – there is a lot of green on the slopes, and not much open rock. What there is looks like it’s volcanic, not granite.

I arrived in the town of West Glacier, just a mile from Going-to-the-Sun Road, which goes through the park, and paid for two nights at a large RV park in the forest. It’s covered with aspen, pine, cedar and hemlock, with thick woods on the edges, and trees and bushes separating each camp site. There is a group here from the University of Georgia, camping together in tents on a big grassy area next to the playground. Like most RV parks, this one has cabins for rent, and they were all full when I got here.

My grandson Johnny and I wanted to drive through Glacier Park on our way back from Banff in 1998, but the road is too narrow and steep; they don’t allow vehicles over 21 feet in length. So tomorrow I will leave the trailer behind and drive into the park for the day. Pictures will go on line when possible, but it’s hard to do much uploading. At RV parks, everyone who wants to connect has to share the same line, so they don’t like you to be using it very long at a time. And of course, not all parks have a connection available.

Fresno MT proved to be a bust – a grain elevator and three mobile homes (I’m guessing; there was no sign, and no mileage sign outside the previous town). At least there was a sign for the Fresno Dam.

Water: Despite the sales of bottled water, Fresno has very good water. This is not universally true. The water at Twin Acres in Ohio was undrinkable. It had a strong sulfur taste. I used it for washing, and brought drinking water in bottles from Dad and Mother’s motel. When I left Ohio, I still had a third of a tank from wherever I filled up (I think in western Nebraska), but I wanted to dump that and fill up at my first stop. Experience taught me to taste the water before doing so, and it was rusty-tasting (this was at Mt. Pleasant MI). Fortunately there was good water at my next stop, in Germfask, MI. Since then the water has been mostly good, although there is some water with a slight “off” taste. I notice a lot of residue in my glass after I have a glass of water and it sits a while. I suspect it might be from Devils Lake. The water here at Glacier is perfect, so I may empty and refill the tank. At least I will fill some water bottles.


School Sports Championship Signs: Nearly every town in Ohio, Michigan, and many in other states I’ve been in have signs at the city limits bragging on their local sports team’s championship record (example: Muskegon – home of the Wildcats, 1999 Bantam State Hockey Champions). This example is made up, but it’s typical. Usually it is for a high school team.


July 21, 2002 : One of the places on my “where to go list” has been Glacier National Park. I almost made it in 1998, and yesterday I finally went there. Neither my words nor my pictures can do it justice – I highly recommend a visit. It is a land of glacier carved valleys, spectacular mountains, thick forests, and water running out of the mountain everywhere, including some nice waterfalls.

There are very few glaciers remaining (down to 30 from over 100 in the 19th century), but there is a lot of snow left. This area had 250% of normal precipitation this winter, and over six feet of snow in some areas in two big storms after May 15. The road through the park is kind of the Tioga Pass road of this area – buried in huge snowdrifts, plowed and opened in sections as weather permits. The final part of the road has only been open a little more than three weeks, the second latest opening in history.

The rule against vehicles over 21 feet is a good one. Most of the road is OK, narrow and winding but nothing that unusual. About 10 miles of it is what they call an engineering masterpiece – hacked out of and tacked onto steep, almost vertical cliffs of sedimentary rock. There are lots of places to pull over and enjoy the view, since driving while looking is very dangerous.

For a truly spectacular sight, stop at Sun Point. Don’t be misled by the great view from the parking lot. Take the trail from the southeast corner of the main parking lot, go left when it forks, and up on a little hill. This is less than a quarter mile, and gives you a view of some of the most dramatic peaks, with a beautiful lake in the foreground. Large, deep glacial lakes, filling space left when the glaciers melted, mark each end of the Going-to-the-Sun Road. On the west side, the road from one end to the other of McDonald Lake is nearly 10 miles.

I turned back at Sun Point, only about 15 miles from the eastern side of the park, since I knew the lake on that side was essentially the last main attraction. If I had gone all the way through, I would have gone around the park on US 2 again, an extra 37 miles, instead of back over that road.

Today I went on a hike guided by a ranger-naturalist, through some old-growth forest, and across and along McDonald Creek, which runs into the western lake.

I did not take a lot of pictures, instead relying on the pros by buying a book and some postcards.

I reaped another of the rewards for reaching my advanced age, buying a Golden Age passport. For $10 it gives me lifetime entrance to all national parks, and discounts on camping. The minimum cost for entering Glacier was $10 for a seven-day pass, so every park visit from now on is gravy.


July 23, 2002: I left US 2 yesterday, probably for good, and came south on US 93 to Missoula MT. I will stay here again tonight. It’s pretty nice; the park is about ten miles from town, with views of tree-covered mountains in all directions. I went into town this morning and got my oil changed and did some shopping. I also went to the US Forest Service Smoke Jumper Base visitor center.

Last May at the bluegrass festival in Parkfield there were a couple of bands from Montana. I asked the players if there were any festivals in Montana in July, hoping I might be in the right place at the right time. Ivan “Uncle Slosh” Rosenberg, the dobro player, told me that there is bluegrass every Tuesday night at the Top Hat in Missoula, so that is where I will be tonight.


July 24, 2002 : Last night’s bluegrass excursion was interesting and enjoyable. The Top Hat seems like a typical Montana dive (don’t think moose heads and cowboy hats, but mostly young people in shorts and T-shirts, lots of beer signs on the wall, smoke, talking, and four pool tables constantly busy). The jam session prior to the “official” band was actually more enjoyable than the scheduled group. Ivan “Uncle Slosh” Rosenberg, who directed me to the Top Hat when I talked to him at Parkfield, was there. He said he’s told a lot of people about Tuesdays at the Top Hat, but I’m the first to actually show up. He played with a changing group of about ten people. As always at jam sessions, there were people there who had never been there before, including a young couple from Portland who both sang very well. And as usual, everyone jumped in and played like they had rehearsed for hours.

The official band did not start playing till 10:40. Unlike the jam session, they used a sound system, so up close was too loud, and back a ways there was too much noise from patrons. The sound system was not very good either. I didn't stay for their entire set, but all in all I was glad I went, especially for the jam session.

I enjoyed another scenic drive today, part of it declared so by the United States government. Not far out of Missoula, on south US 93, I turned off on US 12, which followed Lolo Creek up to a 5,000-foot pass that marks the Montana/Idaho border. Give or take a couple of hours, I left Montana a full week after I entered it. US 12 for much of its length more or less parallels the journey of Louis and Clark, which will have its 200th anniversary next year.

Montana Photos

After descending from the pass, the road followed a Wild and Scenic River corridor along the Lochsa River. This is joined by the Selway River, and then runs into the Clearwater. This route is Louis & Clark’s Northwest Passage, with the Clearwater running into the Snake at Lewiston ID. If you follow the Snake, it of course runs into the Columbia, and if you follow that, you arrive at the Pacific Ocean, and you’ve discovered the west.

The Wild & Scenic section ran through a heavily forested canyon, with many cedar trees (different from the Incense Cedars in the Sierra), as well as pine, fir and possibly hemlock. There were many lively small creeks running into the river, especially on the south side, opposite the road. At one place, I saw a dead tree snag with what was obviously a large nest on top of it (made mostly from sticks). The canyon then opened up a little, with some volcanic rock in the canyon walls and river bed, then granite, then more volcanic rock approaching Lewiston.

I am camped at Hells Gate State Park, right on the banks of the Snake, with Washington across the river. We had a brief thunderstorm, with more thunder than storm, right after I got here. This is a lot farther south than where I’ve been, and it is getting dark a little after nine - too dark to read outside, but still light enough to walk around. Also I am on Mountain Time, but I think this area may actually be on Pacific. For sure it will be Pacific when I cross the river tomorrow.

Idaho Photos          Washington Photos

July 25, 2002 : The river here is wide and smooth, and before I left, I asked the clerk at the campground store which way the water flowed. After she told me, her coworker asked her, “Does it always flow that way?”

I crossed the Snake River to Clarkston WA, then followed the river for a short distance after it turned west. The highway left the river and climbed up a pass, then went through sections of volcanic rock with sage brush, and lots of farmland, mostly wheat. As I went through Walla Walla WA, I noticed quite a few grape vineyards, and a little ways beyond there were signs for wine tasting.

I left US 12 on US 730, which immediately began following the Columbia River. This led to Interstate 84, when took me west for about 70 miles to The Dalles (pronounced DALZ).

This was some of the most unpleasant driving of the entire trip, with a strong headwind coming up the Columbia. The truck kept shifting down, even on level sections, and I finally took it out of overdrive. I suspected that my mileage would suffer, and so it did. My mileage today was 10.47 mpg, third lowest day on the trip (the others were days when I drove fast). Overall mileage is 12.38, including non-towing miles, with over 6,000 total.

Finally I turned south on US 197, and stopped at a very nice park in the tiny wheat farming town of Dufur. It is still windy here, but was not so bad driving the 12 miles from the Interstate to here.

There is a sizable forest fire northwest of here. After I arrived, between 5 and 6 p.m. the sky nearly filled with smoke, the sun turned into a bright red ball that you could almost look at, and ashes drifted down. I later learned that the fire grew from 200 to 5,200 acres in a short period this afternoon. I could smell the smoke strongly when I turned off the Interstate, but it seemed to stay high here at the camp and there is no detectable smoke odor. The sky is nearly clear now, and the smoke has blown off to the west and northwest. There is another fire south of here, but I don’t think we’re getting smoke from that one; the wind is from the opposite direction.


July 26, 2002: Today’s scenery fell into two main classifications: First, rolling hills covered with wheat (slope permitting), sage brush and juniper, marked with gorges and gullies, and one truly spectacular river crossing, the Crooked River, running through a 300-foot deep gorge with vertical walls. Second, after passing through Bend, Oregon, heavily forested mountains, featuring mainly ponderosa pine.

In southeastern Washington and north central Oregon, most of the wheat is grown on hilly lands. This creates some interesting patterns, as they plant as far up on slopes as possible; then the growth changes to wild grass or sage brush. In Oregon at least, they are doing “no till” planting – the land is not plowed. This allows four passes over the land, including planting and fertilizing, instead of seven, a significant savings in time and money.

I came down Highway 197, which then joins 97. This is the volcano road. From I-84 a few miles outside of The Dalles, from Dufur, and from several places along the highway to the south, there was a good view of Mt. Hood. Since it rises over 11,000 feet, it dominates the landscape. Traveling throughout the day, I had views of a number of the Cascade range volcanoes and other peaks.

My destination was Diamond Lake and its RV camp, about 20 miles from Crater Lake. I’ll stay here two nights, visiting the park tomorrow. This is a large camp with lots of trees, nearly all lodgepole pine. The lake is a large natural lake, about two miles across, but is suffering from an algae growth, common in this area, which prevents swimming, water skiing or any other contact with the water. The warning notice advises that the drinking water in the camps comes from wells and is safe.

It’s cool here – elevation 5,280, and 62 degrees at 8 p.m. I’m thinking of putting on another shirt inside the trailer, something I’ve done maybe twice on the entire trip.

There is a square dance festival going on at the nearby resort, so I’ve been treated to the sight of several couples in full square dance regalia on their way to tonight’s event.

I set a new record low for mileage, 9.57 MPG. Lots of up and down hill driving, climbing over a 2,500-foot pass, then a 3,500-foot pass, then a 5,900-foot pass. Lots of driving with overdrive off.

There are about 16 fires in Oregon. The nearest one last night was probably about 18 miles from me. I was 15 miles south of The Dalles, and the fire caused evacuations three miles SW of that town. Driving down US 97, I came to the town of Maupin, on the Deschutes River. There was a fire above town, probably a mile or two from any buildings. Actually the area closest to town was already burned over, with smoke rising in two or three “hot spots,” with heavy smoke further away. This fire has now grown to 20,000 acres.

There is one fire about 20 miles from here, and another around the same distance in the opposite direction. There is a fire about seven miles from my cousin’s house, where I’m going Sunday, near O’Brien, about 5 miles from the California Border on US 199.

A group of fire fighters had to take cover under their shelters yesterday, (according to the next day’s paper, the need to use shelters was disputed; two nearby crews walked to safety). In the “shelter” crew, two had burns and a number of others were treated for symptoms of smoke inhalation – all minor. There is one fire in a steep canyon that is too dangerous to attempt to stop it, so they’re concentrating on other fires.

July 27, 2002
: Since I have neglected temperature reports for some time, I’ll start with that. Mostly it has been warm. Wednesday it hit 100 in parts of Idaho. It was cool when I left the Snake River area Thursday morning, about 72 degrees, but got up to the mid-80’s during the day. Friday was about the same. Here at Diamond Lake I recorded the following:

Fri 7/26,10:30 p.m. 55

Sat 7/27, 4:15 a.m. 41

Sat 7/27, 8:00 a.m. 45 (57 inside the trailer)

Sat 7/27, 9:15 a.m. 53

Sun 7/28, 6:30 a.m. 38

I wore long pants and a flannel shirt when I left this morning, but took the shirt off after the first stop or two at Crater Lake. It was windy in some places. I would have been comfortable in shorts most of the day, but did not change till I got back. Now at 6 p.m. Saturday it’s getting pretty cool outside (72 degrees).

The RV park is occupied by about five golden mantle ground squirrels per human camper. They look like chipmunks and race around doing Chip & Dale imitations, posing for photos, and looking for food. When I toast muffins, I set the toaster outside, since it always sets off the smoke alarm. Sometimes it’s on a folding table, but if I’m in a place for a short time, I just put it on the trailer steps. This morning I set the toaster outside with muffins still sticking up, as I have done often. When I went out to put them down, a squirrel had made off with half the muffin.

My visit to Crater Lake was all I expected and more. A great deal is made of how blue the lake is, and indeed that is one if its striking features. I took the 34 mile rim drive all the way around. The lake is not always visible, but when it is, each view offers something different. There is a place where you can see Mt.Shasta, over a hundred miles away, and there are good views of Klamath Lake and the Klamath Valley.

The elevation at the lake surface is above 6,000, and the highest vista point accessible by road is 7,900. It is the deepest lake in the US (nearly 2,000 feet), and one of the deepest in the world. The only direct access to the water is by a one-mile trail that descends 700 feet. Boat tours around the lake are available.


July 29, 2002: I left Diamond Lake yesterday morning late, and drove to Cave Junction, on US 199 between Grant’s Pass OR and Crescent City CA. After setting up in an RV park just south of town, I drove down the road 10 miles to O'Brien to visit my cousin Don and his wife Diana. They live up a dirt road about a mile off the highway. I stayed there for dinner, then came back to the camp for the night.

The big topic of conversation at their house and here in the camp is the fire situation, with two large fires west of here. Depending on who you talk to today, O'Brien has already been evacuated, and this area is under 48 hour notice. No one seems to be able to explain what that means. Does it mean get out within 48 hours? Or some time in the next 48 hours we’ll be asked to evacuate? Information posted at the local US Forest Service office is at least a day old, which in a fire evacuation situation is not very helpful. Apparently the meaning is, when you get the notice, you have 48 hours to evacuate. This time period was later shortened to 12 hours, but the fire was eventually controlled, with limited evacuations required at the north end, in Agness on the Rogue River.

Right now no one is making any effort to get out of here. Don is scheduled to come by tomorrow after work (early afternoon), so we’ll decide what is next after he stops by.


July 30, 2002 : Don came by right after noon and we went to a local meat market/deli and got sausage sandwiches, which we ate in his shop in Cave Junction, where he has a refrigerator stocked with beer. We drove around looking at the property he owns in town, then headed for his brother John’s house in Tekilma, about five miles away. Just out of town we met John (Herbie J) so we stopped and talked for a minute; he was on his way to the dentist.

Next I got my truck and we headed for O'Brien. No one at the store/post office/gas station had evacuated, so we went on to Don’s. We took a ride up the ridge on his property and walked around, trying to get a view of the smoke. Places that used to have a view have grown up since he thinned the area, so there weren’t many vista points. We did not see anything alarming, just smoke over the hills to the west.

That evening Don, Diana, their son-in-law Kin and I went out to dinner at a Mexican restaurant. Afterward, we drove up US 199 about two miles north of Cave Junction where we could see a red glow in the sky through a gap in the hills. We could also see a little tiny red glow on the ground, possibly a smoldering log that flared up and died down in the wind. The night before Kin had been able to see flames from that spot, but in both cases the actual fire was at least two ridges away.

Due to the unsettled situation, I decided to leave the next morning (today), so we said our goodbyes and they returned to their still unevacuated mountain. The official word by this time was that all of the Illinois Valley (from Selma to O'Brien along US 199) was on 24-hour evacuation notice. According to the campground manager, this means be ready to go whenever they tell you to.

I was going to go south on US 199 through Crescent City, but that highway has been closed at the California border since Sunday, so instead I went back north to Grant’s Pass and down Interstate 5. Starting at Medford there was smoke all around, and it was smoky all the way to Redding, CA. The smoke no doubt comes from fires northeast of Medford as well as the Cave Junction fires. I was unable to see any view of Mt.Shasta, which is usually visible just after you enter California, and off and on throughout the drive to Redding and beyond.

I am in a campground at Orland, about 270 miles from home, so I will be home late tomorrow afternoon. I am ready for this trip to be over.

Oregon Photos

August 1, 2002
: It is hard to motivate myself to finish this, since there are now many distractions that did not exist on the road. I’ve got a lot of work to do unloading the truck and trailer, a bunch of work to do in the yard and house, a trip to Mariposa to see my parents, going back to work (two days a week), and another camping trip (our annual week in the Sierras). However, I will do this and a concluding chapter to make a nice round twenty.

I got an early start yesterday, 7 a.m., only the second time I started that early on the whole trip, and arrived home about 3 p.m. My daughter Teri and grandson Mikie came over right after that, and in the evening her husband Tim and my other grandson Johnny came over. We went out to dinner, along with his girlfriend Brittany.

I did not do much unloading last night; just brought in the T-shirts I had got for all of them on my trip, and the few things I needed for the night. The trailer is hooked up and the refrigerator is working, so there is no rush. Plus some things will stay in there for the next trip.

A few statistics:

Total miles driven: 7,239

Total gallons of gas purchased: 541.5

Average cost of gas per gallon: $1.49

Average mileage: 12.29 MPG

Best and worst mileage on a tank: 13.36 and 9.57

Longest time in one state other than Ohio: 7 days in Montana

Total campgrounds stayed in: 20


Travel is supposed to be educational. Here’s what I learned:

Two months is too long for me to be away from home.

One month is way too long to spend in one place on a trip like this.

People have some very different ways of doing things from place to place, but the people are very much the same in general philosophy, dress and attitude.

There are way more nice and friendly people than the other kind.

You can find casino gambling in virtually every state.

Trees are not fairly distributed throughout the United States.

I can live much more simply than I normally do at home (but I don’t want to all the time).

Even in two months you can’t see everything along the way that you’d like to.

People in small towns often say hello when you meet on the street. People along quiet country highways often wave.

Interstates are fine if you want to see trucks. To see America, use state and US highways. Most of the time, they go right through the middle of every town and village.

Californians must have dirty butts. Outside of California, the public restrooms rarely have toilet seat covers.

Prairie dogs run and hop when they cross the road, just like…well, prairie dogs.

To all the people I visited, met for the first time, or spent time with on my trip, my thanks for adding to my enjoyment of the experience. At Twin Acres Campground in Ohio, I looked for a place to park my trailer and spend my nights, and instead found a community.

2021 Update: As might be expected, many of the older relatives I visited have passed on. I saw most of them again on a visit in 2004. When I went back in 2014 most were gone, but the young and lively Snyder family had added three more boys. The three older kids are adults, and even Mark, who was new in 2004, is now 18. The younger boys, Luke and Dominic, are 13 and 11.

I spoke with Aletha Vaughan Schmidt within the last year, and she is still going strong at 98. At that time Marion Lehman was 100 and still doing a little work on the farm. Although I've lost touch with many of them, I know that about half the various cousins we saw in 2002 have died, as have my parents and all the Merrill family of their generation. Johnny and his girlfriend have been married since 2008 and provided me with two great grandsons, now 6 and 8. Somehow, I myself have reached the age of 82.


Utah Photos     Ohio Photos     Michigan Photos     Wisconsin Photos     Minnesota Photos

North Dakota Photos     Montana Photos     Idaho Photos     Washington Photos     Oregon Photos


Red rock canyons in Wasatch
NE of Salt Lake
Tower Rock, along Sheep
Creek Loop near Flaming Gorge
Fields and trees off I-80 in central Iowa

The Snyders: Helena, Annette holding Catherine, Jacob (front) and Rob

Helena and Jacob
busy in the sand box

Rob and Catherine with his Commodore set-up
Entrance to Twin Acres
RV Park, Whitehouse OH
My trailer at Twin Acres Highly decorated permanent
RV setup at Twin Acres
Jeff & Sue Seeman, my
neighbors at Twin Acres
Dennis, the neighbor across the road Oaks & ferns in Oak Openings Regional Park
Path in Oak Openings Rural Fulton County Farmland in Fulton County OH
Barn at Airport & Albon Roads, Fulton County White oak leaves near Mt. Pleasant MI Mackinac Bridge through rain
covered windshield,
Harry & Nancy Teets on
their party boat, June 2002
Ron and Nancy (Brockhoff) Dzierzawski Barn at Ontonagon MI
Bay at Munising; Grand Island MI Chequamegon Bay, Apostle Islands WI Farm land from Apostle scenic vista area
Linda & Anne on porch of
their home in Duluth MN
The maple sugar processing area Linda & Anne's house
Draw bridge at Duluth Harbor North Shore, Lake Superior Shovel Point, Lake Superior
The not so mighty beginnings of
the Mississippi River in Minnesota
Devil's Lake, ND at sunset Missouri River bluffs,
Northwestern North Dakota 
Hay truck in Montana Entrance to Glacier National Park Heaven's Peak, Glacier National Park
McDonald Lake & Glacier Park peaks Mission Valley & St. Ignatius MT Burned area in Bitterroot Mountains
of Idaho, just west of Montana state line
Bridge over Lochsa River
at Split Creek Trailhead
My trailer by the Lochsa River Homes above Snake River in
Washington (seen from Idaho)
US 12 in eastern Washington
(the route of Lewis & Clark)
Wheat fields above Dayton WA
Columbia River along US 730
Smoke from Sheldon Ridge
Fire near The Dalles
Mt. Hood from Dufur OR Downtown Dufur
Wheat growth patterns by US 197 Gorge of the Deschutes River
from US 197 at Highway 216
Crooked River Gorge
Entrance to Crater Lake National Park Diamond Peak, Diamond Lake, Red Cone,
Three Sisters, Mt. Thielsen, pumice desert
Crater Lake from junction of
Rim Road
and north entrance road
Another view from Rim Road Phantom Ship from Sun Gap Another view of Phantom Ship
Madrone trunk, southern Oregon Fog in the Illinois Valley, from
Don & Diana Hall home, Oregon
Don & Diana on their property
Flaming Gorge Reservoir Fresno Commodore Group Cabela's
Holland OH Whitehouse OH Toledo OH
Merrill's Mill Glacier National Park Crater Lake National Park
Duluth Missoula Dufur
Green River WY Devil’s Lake MI Minot ND
Diamond Lake Deschutes River Cave Junction OR


Fog in the   Illinois  Valley , from Don & Diana Hall home,   Oregon

Travel Reports
Before 2002     2002     2003     2004     2005     2006     2007     2008     2009     2010     2011

2012     2013     2014     2015     2016     2017     2018    2019     2020     2021     2022     2023     Other

Before 2002
Early Trips Later Trips
Camping Trips Backpacking Trips
Early Stargazer Rock Camps 1961 Monterey Jazz Festival
Bluegrass Odyssey
Multi-Year Compilations
Fresno Area Canal Walks Clovis Trail Walks
Journey of 2002 (Ohio & Back) Logandale & Utah Parks 2002
Arizona & Bluegrass on the River 2003 Grand Canyon & Logandale Bluegrass 2003
Parkfield & Huck Finn 2003 Early Frog Camps (2003-2005)
Paso Robles & Parkfield 2004 Road Trip 2004 (Ohio & Back)
Bullhead City Bluegrass, Mesa, Superstition Bluegrass 2004 Bluegrass in the Foothills 2004
Arizona-Southern California 2005 Huck Finn Bluegrass 2005
Morro Bay 2005 Stargazer Rock Camp 2005
Parkfield Bluegrass 2005    
Huck Finn Bluegrass 2006 Las Vegas Commodore Expo 2006
Rock Creek Non-Camp Stargazer Rock Camp 2006
Parkfield Bluegrass 2006 Oregon 2006
Bluegrass in the Foothills 2006    
Bullhead City, Bakersfield, Joshua Tree 2007 Frog Camp 2007
Eastern Sierra Journey 2007 Las Vegas Commodore Expo 2007
Stargazer Rock Camp 2007 Roundup #1
(Mother Lode; Kings Canyon, Yosemite)
Bluegrass in the Foothills 2007    
Nevada-Arizona Hockey & Bluegrass 2008 Parkfield Bluegrass 2008
Frog Camp 2008 Las Vegas Commodore Expo 2008
Stargazer Rock Camp 2008 Bluegrass in the Foothills 2008
Hobbs Grove Festival 2008     
Roundup 2009
Las Vegas, Mariposa, Table Mountain, Orange County
Frog Camp 2009 Southern Journey 2009
Parkfield Bluegrass 2009 Stargazer Rock Camp 2009
Bluegrass Tour 2009
Brown Barn, Plymouth, Hobbs Grove   
Hensley Lake Camp
Mojave National Preserve & Havasu Bluegrass Roundup 2010
Hensley Reservoir, Mojave Preserve 2 & 3
Parkfield Bluegrass 2010 Lake Almanor & Mt. Lassen 2010
Las Vegas Expo Summergrass
   Brown Barn, Watsonville & Hobbs Grove
Roundup 2011
Mariposa, Hensley, Table Mountain
Frog Camp 2011
Parkfield Bluegrass 2011 Frank, Pat, Dick & Ted's Excellent Adventure
Northern Coast Journey 2011 Las Vegas Commodore Expo 2011
Good Old Fashioned Bluegrass Festival Chilkoot & Stargazer Rock Camp
Kings River & Brown Barn Bluegrass Festivals Hensley Camp 2011
Parkfield Bluegrass 2012 Four Squaw Leap Hikes
Northern Coast Journey 2012 Las Vegas Commodore Expo 2012
Stargazer Rock Camp 2012 Bluegrass in the Foothills 2012
A 3-Event Weekend
Farmer's Market, Kings River Bluegrass, Antique Fair
2012 Las Vegas CAN AM Hockey Challenge
Fall Hikes
Finegold Trail; Bower Cave
Into Los Gatos Canyon
Silver Stick Tournament - Canada Sierra Foothills - Winter 2013
Finegold Trailhead, Hensley Lake, San Joaquin Gorge
Death Valley - Alabama Hills - Whitney Portal Sierra Foothills - Spring 2013
San Joaquin Gorge Hike, Big Creek Drive
Parkfield Bluegrass 2013 Shaver Crossing Station & Big Creek
Lake Almanor & Caribou Crossroads Mono Hot Springs
Good Old Fashioned Bluegrass Festival A Wedding in Duluth
Sequoia Park Hiking Roundup 2013
Kings River Bluegrass, Buena Vista Peak Hike, Hensley Lake Camp, North Fork Mono Museum, White Rock Road, Hockey in Denver
2014 Winter Hikes
Millerton South Bay Trail, Clovis Trail, Hite's Cove Trail
San Joaquin Gorge Campout
Colorado Springs Hockey Tournament Lake Havasu Bluegrass
2014 Spring Hikes
Stockton Creek Preserve, San Joaquin River Trail, San Joaquin Gorge, Millerton Lake, Sycamore Creek, Buena Vista Peak Again
NORCAL Hockey Playoffs and Santa Cruz Visit
Greeley Hill Road Trip Parkfield Bluegrass 2014
Journey of 2014 Journey of 2014 Photos
Nelder Grove Hikes 2014 Sentinel Dome Hike
2014 Fall & Winter Hikes
San Joaquin River Trail South & North, Red Rock Canyon Nevada, San Joaquin South Again
California Flat Campout
Snow Day with the  Upshaw's   
Rambler Hikes 2015 Part 1 Rambler Hikes 2015 Part 2
Adventures of 2015 - February to May
(Goofy Smith Flat, Coast Redwoods & Big Sur, Pine Flat, Finegold Trail, Edison Point Trail, Nelder Grove)
Adventures of 2015 - June to December
(Lewis Creek Trail, Kaiser Pass, Kaiser Pass Again, Taft Point, Kings River Bluegrass, Shaver Logging Road, San Joaquin River Trail, Lewis S Eaton Trail, San Joaquin River Gorge, Thanksgiving at the Gorge)
Lake Tahoe & Virginia City Parkfield Bluegrass 2015
Colorado Springs Cousin Convention 2015 Las Vegas Commodore Expo 2015
Stargazer Rock Camp 2015 Grand Canyon & Arches National Parks
Adventures of 2016 Part 1 Rambler Hikes 2016 Page 1
Adventures of 2016 Part 2 Rambler Hikes 2016 Page 2
Adventures of 2016 Part 3 Rambler Hikes 2016 Page 3
Adventures of 2016 Part 4 A Pennsylvania Adventure
Adventures of 2016 Part 5 Parkfield Bluegrass 2016
Adventures of 2016 Part 6 Las Vegas Commodore Expo 2016
Adventures of 2016 Part 7 Stargazer Rock Camp 2016
Adventures of 2017 Part 1 Rambler Hikes 2017 Page 1
Adventures of 2017 Part 2 Rambler Hikes 2017 Page 2
Adventures of 2017 Part 3 Rambler Hikes 2017 Page 3
Adventures of 2017 Part 4 Hiking and Hockey
Adventures of 2017 Part 5 Lake Almanor
Adventures of 2017 Part 6 Northern California Redwood Hike
Parkfield Bluegrass 2017 Stargazer Rock Camp 2017
Travel Blog 2017 (an experiment) Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks
Adventures of 2018 Part 1 Rambler Hikes 2018 Page 1
Adventures of 2018 Part 2 Rambler Hikes 2018 Page 2
Adventures of 2018 Part 3 Rambler Hikes 2018 Page 3
Adventures of 2018 Part 4 Parkfield Bluegrass 2018
Adventures of 2018 Part 5 Northern California Journey 2018
Adventures of 2018 Part 6
Adventures of 2019 Part 1 Rambler Hikes 2019 Page 1
Adventures of 2019 Part 2 Rambler Hikes 2019 Page 2
Utah National Parks Rambler Hikes 2019 Page 3
Adventures of 2019 Part 3 Parkfield Bluegrass 2019
Adventures of 2019 Part 4 Adventures of 2019 Part 5
Adventures of 2020 Part 1 Adventures of 2020 Part 5
Adventures of 2020 Part 2 Adventures of 2020 Part 6
Adventures of 2020 Part 3 Adventures of 2020 Part 7
Adventures of 2020 Part 4 Rambler Hikes 2020 Page 1
Adventures of 2021 Part 1 Adventures of 2021 Part 5
Adventures of 2021 Part 2
Adventures of 2021 Part 3 Rambler Hikes 2021 Page 1
Adventures of 2021 Part 4 Rambler Hikes 2021 Page 2
Adventures of 2022 Part 1 Rambler Hikes 2022 Page 1
Adventures of 2022 Part 2 Rambler Hikes 2022 Page 2
Adventures of 2022 Part 3 Rambler Hikes 2022 Page 3
Adventures of 2022 Part 4 Utah Parks
Adventures of 2023 Page 1 Rambler Hikes 2023 Page 1
Adventures of 2023 Page 2 Rambler Hikes 2023 Page 2
Dinosaur National Monument
Fresno Area Canal Walks Clovis Trail Walks
Butch's Blog Walker Family Trips
Parkfield Earthquake Kim & Morgan Brown Trips & Photos
Travel Report Menu Estel Home Page
Photo Albums Slide Shows
Laurie Lewis' High Sierra Hikes Email


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Updated September 15, 2021