Best Buddies

Battle of the dinosaurs

Pond at Twin Acres RV Park

Road Trip 2004
   
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Part 1     Part 2     Part 3     Part 4     Part 5     Part 6     Part 7     Part 8     Part 9     Part 10     Part 11
   

Part 1

June 7, 2004 : For the first time I am starting my report BEFORE the trip starts. I will be heading out on a long trip eight days from today – to Ohio, with visits to friends in Oklahoma and Missouri. My six-year old grandson, Mikie, will join me.

Before the big trip there will be a short one, to Mariposa this weekend for my father’s 90th birthday. My sister and her partner from Duluth will be there, as well as both my daughters and their families. We are also including some very long-time family friends. The man’s father and my dad’s father were boyhood pals in Ohio in the early 1900s. We will go out to lunch, then have cake and ice cream at home.

 

June 8: Only three days left to get ready other than Monday, when I will return from Mariposa, finish last minute packing, do last minute laundry, get gas, etc. I try to do as much in advance as possible, but there are certain things that have to wait – can’t take the ice cream to the trailer till the last day, for example.

I decided to get a satellite dish for the trailer, so we will see how that works out. I have set it up a couple of times just for practice, and got it lined up OK. It is on a tripod for “easy” transporting, although the dish/tripod combination is still big and bulky. There are no local channels included, but I have an antenna and there is not much good on now anyway. I mainly want to test it out, and make sure it will work out for fall trips when the hockey games start again.

June 13: Well, today is the big day. Tomorrow is a big day too, and so is Tuesday. But first I had a big day on Thursday, doing as much of the “final getting ready” as I could. I went grocery shopping, and got most things put in the trailer. I had a doctor’s appointment, which fortunately was very quick.

Earlier in the day I noticed an apparent gas leak around my propane tanks. So, grumbling and cussing, I hitched up the trailer and drove it to Suburban Propane south of town to get it looked at. Luckily it was just a loose connection which was quickly fixed for free. The big problem is my parking spot. We have lots of cars in the neighborhood, and someone is always parked in front of my house. For example, when I first brought the trailer home at the beginning of June, there was a car that had been there a week. I found the owner, and he agreed to move it when I went to get the trailer. As soon as he moved out and while I was gone, two other cars parked there, so I had to hunt down the owners, and ask them to move, at a time when there weren’t many places to move to. Over the years, most people have been cheerfully cooperative in moving their cars, and a couple have been grudgingly cooperative. This time, when I went for the propane repair, I asked my neighbor to park there in such a way as to leave no room for another car, so that worked out well.

On Friday I headed for Mariposa, and have been visiting with my parents and my sister and her partner, going out to eat, cooking dinner at home, going for walks, etc. Today is my father’s birthday, and we will go out for lunch – a total of 14 people.

I will head home shortly after breakfast tomorrow, and I will probably have a busy day, doing the things that just can’t be done till the last day. I hope to get started at six a.m. on Tuesday, and go as far as Needles.

 

Part 2

June 14: The party yesterday was a success. We had a great lunch at the Red Fox, then went to the Courthouse Park to take pictures (of the people – lots of shade and benches to sit on). After looking around and visiting there, we went to the house and had ice cream and cake. No one needed supper. Dad was very pleased with the company and the lunch.

 

June 16: Mikie and I have been on the road for two nights – one horribly hot and one very comfortable. We got started around 6:30 Tuesday, and drove to Needles, about 380 miles (a longer day than I like). It was over 100 there and never cooled off. It felt like the gravel of the RV park was giving off heat all night. I turned on the air conditioner a few times during the night, but did not like the noise so turned it off after it cooled down a little. We had it on this morning from when we got up until when we left.

At a rest stop on Highway 99 an auto carrier truck pulled up next to us, filled with old Studebakers. The driver said that a man in Texas is buying over 100 of them to restore several different models – Golden Hawk, etc. The driver was delivering seven of them.

In the RV park, we saw a mother quail with a bunch of babies. They were exploring our camp site when we came back from swimming. Mikie met three kids near his age in the pool, and they had a great time, playing in the water for at least an hour and a half. I got a lot of reading done.

Today’s drive was very nice, through some varied country. We have been on Interstate 40 since going through Barstow, but the California part is fairly monotonous – mostly creosote bush and sage. Today we got up into the piñon and juniper belt just past Kingman AZ, and saw a lot of mountains and various types of plants – mesquite, ocotillo, and others. As we approached Flagstaff, we got up in the Ponderosa pine belt, at 7000 feet and above.

From Flagstaff we dropped down to 5000 feet, and stopped at Meteor Crater RV Park, five miles from the big crater. We checked in, then drove down to see the crater. It is quite impressive – nearly a mile across and 500 feet deep. There is a very nice museum with displays on the early exploration of the crater, as well as related topics. Scientists have now determined that the meteor exploded on impact, but one of the property owners in the early 20th century spent 25 years trying to locate the big iron mass he thought was there for mining purposes. The site has been used for astronaut training, to show them how to recognize impact craters and where material blasted from below the surface spreads out.

Shortly after we got back to the RV park, Mikie spotted a rabbit in the road near us. It came within 20 feet of us, but took off when he tried to approach it. We then saw a half dozen more in the field next to the park.

The weather here is very nice – a good breeze, and probably about 85 before sunset, and high 70s now after dark. No daylight savings time in Arizona, so it was dark at 8:30.

 

June 17: The lack of daylight savings time meant we woke up with bright sun blazing through the windows at 5 a.m. We finally gave up and got up about 6:30, so we got a good start. As we were leaving, we saw one more rabbit.

We stopped at Dinosaur Park near Holbrook. In addition to a gift shop and museum, this place has large dinosaur models spread out along a three-mile dirt road. Mikie had a good time, getting his picture taken riding one of them, and just generally admiring them. He could identify quite a few of them before we saw the identifying sign.

We have been around 5000 feet or higher all day, so the temperature has been pretty nice – under 90 degrees. East of Gallup NM we crossed the Continental Divide at 7200 feet. It does not look anything like a divide there; the highway runs east and west through a fairly level valley with red sandstone mesas on the south, and a gentle piñon and juniper covered slope to the north. Most of the drive through New Mexico offered nice scenery – lots of red, white and tan sandstone, and quite a bit of green grass and other small plants west of Albuquerque.

We are in a nice RV park at the western edge of Albuquerque. We didn’t get here till after 5, but we had to add an hour when we entered the Mountain Time Zone at the Arizona-New Mexico border.

 

Part 3

June 18: Today was a nice, restful day. We rebelled against riding in the truck for another day and just stayed here at the park in Albuquerque. We didn’t go anywhere – I got caught up on my Email, did a lot of reading, fixed a nice breakfast and dinner, and watched Mikie in the pool for two or three long sessions. The weather was warm but not unpleasant. Forecast for Amarillo, Enid OK and St. Louis is for scattered thunderstorms, so our dry days may be over for a while. Should be sunny most of the 150 miles yet to go in New Mexico.

 

June 19: Back on the road at 8:30 today, our final day for Interstate 40. New Mexico east of Albuquerque has a lot of almost flat, sometimes rolling country. The higher sections are covered with piñon, juniper, and some light green bush a little smaller than the junipers. There is a lot of green grass or other green ground cover. Around Tucumcari near the eastern edge of the state and the first few miles into Texas there were quite a few mesas, but it soon flattened out for the last 50 miles into Amarillo. It’s very windy here, with scattered thunderstorms predicted throughout the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles.

This park has even more rabbits than Meteor Crater, and they are obviously more used to being around people. They will let Mikie get within about six feet of them, then they hop away about ten feet, leading him on an endless chase throughout the park.

We’re pretty much outside the city, just off US 60, and will follow that road into Enid, where we will make our first stop to visit people. Sandy Martin lived in Fresno and we knew her and her first husband and their two kids well – visited and went camping with them, etc. The kids are now grown and have kids of their own. Both girls also live in Enid.

Since we’re on the western edge of the time zone (having entered central time at the Texas border), it should stay light fairly late. And in northwest Ohio, much farther north and on the western edge of the eastern time zone, daylight will last till well past 9 p.m. We are out of the dryness of Arizona and New Mexico, and into a lot of humidity – I just noticed a big puddle around my drink glass.

 

Part 4

June 21: We got a kind of late start yesterday; we’re not fully adapted to the time change yet, and I did not get up until after 8. Mikie slept till about 9 and got up reluctantly then.

We took US 60 more or less northwest directly toward Enid OK. This was a much more relaxing drive than on the Interstates. On the Interstates I only go about 55 to 58 MPH, so although most of the road today was two-lane, I could travel at my usual speed. Of course, there are reduced speed zones in every town and sometimes traffic lights, but it’s still a better way to go. During much of today’s trip I went two or three miles before meeting or being passed by another vehicle.

The first part of the drive was through dry, flat country with cattle grazing. Then we dropped down into the Canadian River valley, which we followed for a long ways. It was very green here, with lots of good size trees. There are eroded cliffs surrounding the valley, similar to the Colorado Plateau, but soft, small and green.

When we crossed the river the road rose back up to the plains, with lots of sage brush, but it soon turned green again. After entering Oklahoma we went through mostly rolling country, with a lot of brush and small evergreens. It had rained over much of the area from the northern panhandle of Texas all the way to Enid, but we did not have any rain.

Last night was a different story. Around 1 p.m. I woke up to thunder and lightning, and quickly closed the vents. For the next hour or so there was almost constant lightning, loud thunder and hard rain. It stopped for a while, then a smaller thunder storm came through. The fireworks stopped, but the rain continued, and is still falling lightly now at 9:30 a.m. I understand the same thing happened the previous night and morning.

Once we got set up here, I called Sandy, and we were invited over for barbecued hamburgers and hot dogs. Present were Sandy and her husband Troy, Sandy’s daughters Angie and Rachel, Angie’s sons Christian (age 6) and Gavin (2) and Rachel’s daughter Rianna (also 2).

Mikie was very shy at first with so many new people, and had to be coaxed out of the truck. However, within one minute he and Christian were playing, and spent much of the time swimming in the backyard pool.

The last time I saw Angie and Rachel they were about six and four, so there have been a lot of changes and a lot of catching up to do. Rachel does not remember much about their life in California.

Today we are planning to go to Leonardo’s, which has various kinds of things for kids to enjoy. This includes a climbing castle that is three stories high. Also there are apparently some things like we have at the Discovery Center and Metro Museum in Fresno. This is an outdoor attraction, so our plans are obviously subject to change.

 

June 22: It turned out that Leonardo’s is closed on Monday, so the rain made no difference. Instead we went to the Splash Zone, a local water park. We traded the two 2-year olds to a friend of the family for a 6-year old, so everyone was able to have a good time and not be worried about watching little ones. The three six-year olds had a great time, as did Angie and Rachel. Sandy and I formed the old fuddy-duddy club and sat in the shade and watched.

Before swimming we went to an all you can eat buffet pizza place, which was the perfect choice with so many different tastes in pizza.

After we got back from the water park, the boys played in the backyard pool and I showed pictures of the girls in their young California days on my laptop. We said our goodbyes and got gas and groceries, and got things ready for leaving in the morning.

It rained most of the night and I was afraid I would have to hitch up and empty the holding tanks in the rain, but it stopped by 5 a.m. We got started at nine, continuing on US 60 into Missouri. I think there is a song with the line “the green rolling hills of Oklahoma,” and that is where we were today. The countryside was also covered with many trees, mostly oak of some kind.

We stopped for the night in Monett, about 15 miles west of Springfield. Tomorrow we will take US 60 into Springfield, then head for St. Louis on Interstate 44, a drive of around 260 miles.

 

Part 5

June 24: We had a nice drive yesterday, arriving in the St. Louis area around 4 p.m. Most of our trip was through rolling, tree-covered country, with lots of small towns along the way. All but the first 35 miles or so was on freeways. We picked up I 44 in Springfield, and took I 260 and MO 360 to an RV park in St. Charles, a historic old town about 30 miles east of St. Louis. Our friends here had told us about a park about two miles from their house, but it turned out to be closed, and this one, 20 miles away, seems to be the closest available except for a couple of junky parks where people live in their cars.

Once we had set up and done laundry and fixed supper, I did not feel up to a 50 mile round trip, and our friends, Darryl and Eydie, just returned yesterday from a week in Mexico, so they did not need visitors. We called them, and made arrangements to go over there this morning.

We have known Eydie since she and my daughter, Teri, were in YMCA Indian Maidens together when they were eight or so, and they had become reacquainted when Darryl and Teri were both in Indian Guides with their sons a dozen years ago. (Their son Kenny is the same age as my older grandson, about 20.) Darryl’s job took them to the Bay Area, and then to St. Louis two years ago. They have a grandson ten months younger than Mikie, and the two have been friends since they were babies, so they had a great time seeing each other again.

There is a pond on the grounds of their apartment complex, and we went down there to feed the fish and turtles. Mikie loved this, since we never see turtles in the waters of central California. He and Zack held their bug nets under the water and caught a few of the fish, which they immediately released.

In the afternoon Darryl, Eydie, Mikie, Zack and I went into downtown St. Louis and went up in the Gateway Arch. It is very impressive – 620 feet high with a nice view east into Illinois and the Mississippi River, and west into downtown. We also drove by the Rams stadium, Bush Stadium, and the Savvis Center, where the St. Louis Blues hockey team plays. When we got home, Zack’s mother Samantha and her boyfriend Vito came over and we had pizza. I left about 8, but Mikie stayed there to spend the night with Zack.

The weather has been clear all the time in Missouri, with the temperature in the high 80s today. Tonight where were some thunderclouds to the east, and it is quite windy, with a slight possibility of rain and thunderstorms.

In my last report I had trouble putting a 2 at the beginning of gas prices, and erroneously told you that gas was $1.27 in Paso Robles. The last gas I bought in California was $2.19, which is lower than it has been for a while, but once I crossed the Arizona border, there was a big improvement. I did pay $2.02 at Meteor Crater, but everywhere else it has been less than $2, and as low as $1.69 in Oklahoma. It seems to be around $1.80 here.

 

June 27: We had a fantastic time in St. Louis. On Friday Eydie, the kids and I went to Grant’s Farm, which is owned by Anhauser-Busch; it’s where they breed and train the Clydesdale horses. There is a tram ride through the property, which has various animals in a 160 acre enclosure – a zebra, various kinds of deer, ostriches and others. There is a petting zoo where the kids fed goats from milk bottles; then we saw a bird show. We finished up by looking at an iguana, elephants, Galapagos tortoises, kangaroos, camels, and a few other animals.

That night we went out to dinner at a great barbecue place. Luckily, I have some leftovers, which will be tonight’s dinner.

On Saturday we went to the Mills apartment around 11, and sat around the pool while the boys went swimming. Then while Daryl assembled his new barbecue and fixed hamburgers, Sam and Vito took Mikie to the pond (Zack needed a rest). Mikie caught and released 17 fish.

Eydie took the boys to a roller skating birthday party, while I went back to the RV park to get things ready to go for today. I did laundry, emptied the holding tanks, vacuumed the trailer and truck, and took a shower. Mikie was hesitant about roller skating, but it turned out he only need a couple of turns around the rink with Eydie, then he skated on his own the rest of the time.

They brought him over to the park and we said our goodbyes, and got to bed too late again.

We got started this morning about 9:30, taking I-70 east into Illinois, then Indiana. We are camped at a KOA place in Greenfield, a few miles off the freeway and about 20 miles east of Indianapolis. Tomorrow we will arrive in Ohio for a week, so tonight I called everyone there and got our calendar partly arranged. The countryside in Illinois and Indiana is mostly rolling green hills with lots of trees, mixed with farmland (mostly corn and soybeans).

 

June 28: We left Greenfield this morning and headed up Indiana 9, then picked up I-69 to US 24. We followed this road east into Ohio and the area I am familiar with, Fulton and Lucas Counties. Ohio 295 took us to Ohio 64, and the park we are in is just a half mile from the junction. It’s the same place I stayed two years ago, Twin Acres, officially in the town of Whitehouse.

Just after we got to Ohio we had a short, heavy rainstorm. We stopped at a little cafe and nearly drowned going in. I went back out to get dry shirts for us, and it had already stopped raining.

After we got set up at the park, I saw and briefly talked to Jeff, who was my neighbor here in 2002. Most of the people here are locals who leave their trailers here the year around, and come out on weekends.

We walked out to the pond, and Mikie spent an hour or so trying without success to net the little fish, which he reports are much faster than Missouri fish.

 

Part 6

June 30: Yesterday we went to the Fulton Union Cemetery, where many of my grandparents and other relatives are buried. It was Mikie’s first encounter with the idea of people being buried in the ground, and he was interested in the fact that some of his grandparents were right there where we were standing.

In the afternoon we went to Devil’s Lake, MI to visit my cousin Nancy and husband Harry. Also present were her grandchildren, Clara, age 8, and Lucas, age 5. After work their mother Melody arrived. We went out in their pontoon boat twice, and the kids went swimming. Mikie had a great time playing with his 3rd cousins, and we ended up spending the night, since it was getting late by the time supper was over.

We left there around 10:30 this morning and made a stop at a Wal-Mart in Adrian MI, so that Mikie could do something about the $20 bill burning a hole in his pocket. I did some grocery shopping there also, and we returned to Ohio, and went to see my mother’s cousin Emily Brown and her friend Marilyn. Emily had a stroke a few months ago, but is able to get around their large property on an electric cart. She said she is feeling fairly good, but can’t raise her left arm.

They have a pond on the property, and we made several trips to it and around it. This meant great excitement for Mikie, since we saw frogs on each visit. He also did some bug hunting.

We stopped in Delta on our way back and ate at a Subway, then he tried to catch fish with a net in the pond here at the park. No luck, but he enjoyed it.

 

July 2, 2004 : Some of our activities yesterday were Mikie’s favorite of the whole trip. More about that in a minute, but our first activity was meeting my dad’s cousin, Bill Vaughan, for breakfast in Whitehouse (just a mile away). Afterward we went to his house (also in Whitehouse), and had a very quick visit with his wife Jeanne who was on her way to a doctor’s appointment. We walked down to a lake that is open to residents of the development, and Mikie again tried to catch fish without success.

After leaving Bill’s, we did our laundry at Whitehouse, dropped it off at the trailer, and headed for the Butterfly House.

This is a double-size greenhouse with screening inside, all kinds of plants and flowers that butterflies like, and 500 to 600 butterflies from around the world. You can wander around and look, but not touch (although the butterflies are allowed to land on you). Mikie enjoyed it so much we have to go back. He wanted so bad to have a butterfly land on him, and after a half hour or more it finally happened, several times. It was really impressive to see so many butterflies flitting around, and there were always several dozen sitting on plants or brick planters that could be examined carefully.

In the evening we had dinner with Rob and Annette Snyder. She is a distant cousin. My dad and mother and I visited them in 2002. They have since moved to a place in the country with a pond. Their son Jacob, age 5, had already sent an Email invitation to Mikie to go frog hunting, so he was pumped up about that. They managed to catch one large frog, who was sentenced to spend the evening in the bottom of a big garbage can where he could be watched. He actually managed to jump out once, but was quickly recaptured (he was released when we were ready to leave). They almost caught several others, including a bigger one that was in Mikie’s net briefly but managed to slip out.

The boys also enjoyed swimming along with Helena who is almost ten, and 3-year old Kate. Mark, who just turned one, had to watch from the sidelines. We had a good dinner and really enjoyed renewing our friendship.

On Friday we visited dad’s cousin Aletha Vaughan in Swanton and went out to a nice Mexican restaurant in Swanton. It won Mikie’s approval because it had corn dogs on the menu. In the afternoon we visited another cousin, Alfreda Pfleghar, in Maumee.

We came home, ate KFC, and Mikie spent a couple of hours swimming. About nine we went into Swanton and went to the fireworks show. As soon as the fireworks started Mikie wanted to leave because he hates the loud noise, but we were able to sit in the truck and watch from the parking lot with the noise minimized. We then drove north of town and stopped by a corn field, where we could still see the fireworks but hear almost no noise. We got there just in time for the grand finale, and also made a quick escape, avoiding the traffic jam when the show ended.

 

Part 7

July 4: Yesterday we had a semi-official Watkins family reunion at Brian OH. We got together with several of my mother’s cousins on her mother’s side, as well as their children and grandchildren, about 25 people in all. There were five boys age six to nine, and they got along well and had a good time playing together. I gathered some new information to add to the family genealogy file, and we had a great dinner.

Today we went to the Vaughan breakfast, which starts at 8 a.m. (They are my father’s cousins.) Due to the passing of time, deaths, illness, and other obligations, only one true Vaughan (Aletha) was there, and only five of us in all – old friends Chet and Dorothy Sedowski, plus Mikie and I.

Then we went to Oak Openings Regional Park, an area where the original trees and shrubs have been preserved, and went on a hike. There are many miles of well-marked trails, divided into sections of various length. Our choice was a 1.7 mile loop trail through the woods and past an area of sand dunes.

We had to make another visit to the Butterfly House, which I think is Mikie’s favorite part of the trip. This time I took my camera and got a lot of nice close-ups of the butterflies. We were there about an hour and a half.

This evening I was talking for the first time with the couple camped next to us, and discovered that they are relatives – she is the daughter of one of the Vaughans. Their grandson and Mikie had already been catching frogs together at the pond, and then did some bike riding.

Tomorrow we will hitch up and head west, but will only go a short distance, to Fort Wayne IN, to visit Jim & Meredyth Nott (she’s mother’s cousin). We saw them at the reunion yesterday, but they wanted to have us visit, and Mikie will be able to play with their grandsons, age 7 and 9, again.

 

July 6: Monday’s trip was a record shorty, only 82 miles to Fort Wayne. We got there a little before noon central time, and had lunch with Jim and Meredyth. Then we went to the home of their son Greg, wife Tami and their sons Graham and Andy. Mikie had played with them at the gathering in Bryan Saturday, and they had a good time together.

We had a delicious barbecued chicken dinner, with food furnished by Meredyth and cooking by Greg. We got back about 7:30. Their street is narrow but there are no cars parked on the street, and their driveway is long and wide, so I was able to back the trailer in and we spent the night there.

We had breakfast with them, then Jim & Meredyth left for a doctor’s appointment, and we got ready to leave. I was just finishing the last few tasks before pulling out when I realized we had left laundry in their dryer, and it was now locked in their house. We had no choice but to wait for their return, and since they had two appointments, we had a four hour delay. At least I got a lot of reading done, and Mikie caught and played with a toad, which he released before we left.

I had hoped to get to Peoria IL, and in fact we got within 30 miles, but drove until nearly 7 p.m. RV parks on Highway 24 through Indiana, Illinois and Missouri are scarce, so we kept going till we got to one at El Paso IL (230 miles of driving, starting around 12:30 p.m.) Today I could find no parks listed in any of the towns near the planned end of my journey, so we ended up heading south on a state highway to I-70, and staying at a park in Odessa MO, only 30 miles or so from Kansas City. I drove 357 miles, the longest since day one, and we did not get here till nearly 8 p.m. Tomorrow I plan to leave late and stop early.

Other than the apparent unwillingness to entertain traveling campers, this stretch of the Midwest was very enjoyable. We crossed the Mississippi River into Missouri today, and later crossed the Missouri, and drove through miles of corn and soybeans (these, along with some wheat, are also the major crops in the area of Ohio we were in).

It is hard to believe there is a need for as much corn and soybeans as we have seen (much of the corn is field corn, used for animal food). I noticed that the sections of crop in Indiana were much larger than those in Ohio. In Illinois we went through some areas where hay was being harvested, but the landscape soon returned to corn and beans. A lot of the country through all these states consisted of rolling hills, with lots of trees in some places. In the last part of Missouri we drove through, the fields were broken by small creeks and drainages in the hills.

Gas prices everywhere are lower than when I left California. My usual fate is to buy gas for $1.85 (wow “only” $1.85), then drive down the road a half mile and see a station selling it for $1.79. Today I had the record low price, $1.69 at Wal-Mart in Moberly MO. Another station in town had it for the same price. Overall, gas is lower in Missouri than any other state except Oklahoma.

 

Part 8

July 8: We had a short pleasant drive today, ending up in the hottest, most humid location yet, Salina KS. We got a deliberately late start and only drove 214 miles, arriving about 3:30. This park has strange hours, 4:30 to 8, so we found our spot and did laundry, while Mikie asked several times why the pool wasn’t open. The manager wisely opened the pool as soon as she arrived, even before opening the office, and Mikie and I both cooled off for a while.

It’s just getting dark at 9:15, as we get nearer to the western edge of the time zone. It makes it hard for Mikie to go to sleep, although he has adjusted to the time change pretty well now.

 

July 9: We had an exciting night – hard winds, thunder and lightning, and some pretty good rain. When I felt the trailer rocking, I got up and took down the awning, and later put things I had left outside into the truck. The bikes had already blown over, and one of Mikie’s bug boxes was gone, so I did not want to leave anything out. After the winds died down, the thunder and lightning and rain began. It lasted an hour or so, then got quiet, then we had another session. When we got up in the morning we found that a huge tree had fallen across one of the roads in the camp. It was rotted inside and a third of the way around the outside, and had no signs of burning, so I am sure the wind took it down.

We continued on across Kansas to Hays, where we stopped at the Sternberg Museum of Natural History. It has a nice dinosaur display, as well as historical material relating to the region. Mikie especially liked the Children’s Discovery Center, where the rule is, you can touch anything there, get it down from the shelf, and play with it (live animals excepted). The items available included a couple hundred plastic dinosaurs, lizards, snakes, turtles, and other animals of all kinds, as well as mounted butterflies, fossils, pelts, etc.

We ended the day at Colby, and tomorrow will head into Colorado. People say that Kansas is flat, but the part we’ve been through is not. The first half or so had rolling, tree-covered hills, while the western part is more open and more “western” looking, but still pretty green. The last few miles were kind of flat, but not as flat as the San Joaquin Valley or northwest Ohio.

July 10: We did not see corn in Kansas until the last few miles yesterday, but went by a lot of it today. The land is still not really flat, but it is more open, with fewer trees, in the western part of the state. We entered Colorado, which on the eastern side is just like Kansas, but we soon saw some sagebrush, indicating we are truly in the west. We drove through a lot of grassland with cattle grazing. At Limon we found ourselves back on US 24, as we headed southwest to Colorado Springs, then east to Manitou Springs. We’ll stay here tonight and tomorrow, do some sight seeing tomorrow, then head for Denver on Monday. This area is right at the edge of the mountains, and very scenic, although the RV park is the most difficult to get into I have ever seen. They have managed to fit about 50% more spaces into the available land than is reasonable.

I can’t believe how much reading I’ve done. Usually with Mikie around he demands a lot of attention, but he has spent so much time swimming that I’ve been able to keep an eye on him and read to my heart’s content. He is a very good swimmer, so he doesn’t need much supervision.

I am re-reading all the Tony Hillerman books in chronological order, and have finished all those I brought along. I don’t have the latest one, but my plan is that by the time I finish the ones I have, it will be out in paperback. I have also read two or three Elmore Leonard books, and have now got a good start on Edmund Morris’ biography of Theodore Roosevelt, “Theodore Rex” (700 pages of fine print). It is extremely interesting and very will written so it holds my attention.

  

Part 9 

 

July 12: Zebulon Pike never made it to the top of the peak that bears his name, but Mikie and I did yesterday. We took advantage of the idea of a fellow from Wisconsin who went to the top on a mule in the 1890s. He thought there must be a better way, and established the cog railroad that takes visitors to the top in an hour.

The ride goes up a canyon with a lively stream running down, and past an old trapper’s cabin and a power house.

The view from the top is expansive, but not really as good as some of the vista points in the Sierra, that let you see the high peaks a bit closer. Most of the nearby mountains are not that spectacular, although the Sangre de Christos in the far distance are dramatic. The more spectacular peaks of Colorado are seen from Denver, where we are right now.

We saw quite a few marmots on the trip up and down and at the summit, which was a first for Mikie.

Yesterday afternoon we drove south on Colorado 115 then west on US 50 to Cañon City, and took the train ride into Royal Gorge (the Arkansas River). The train goes under the famous suspension bridge (highest in the world) for a 24 mile round trip. I splurged on first class tickets, which got us a nice table in an uncrowded dining car, a buffet lunch, and champagne (sparkling cider for Mikie). It was a pleasant and relaxing trip, although I would not call it spectacular. Perhaps the view from the bridge fits that description, but that will have to wait for another day.

Today we drove about 80 miles to Denver and are staying in a state park with full RV hookups. After we got set up, we drove over to visit Judy Meadows Scarano, an old friend I had not seen for over 25 years. She was an eligibility supervisor at the welfare department when I started working there in 1976, but I had known her for several years before that. We went out to eat, then sat by the pool catching up on over two decades worth of news while Mikie swam and played with another young boy.

We will go back tomorrow and go to downtown Denver to the Pepsi Center (the holy grail for Mikie, where the Colorado Avalanche hockey team plays), and also see some other sites.

 

July 14: Our trip to downtown Denver was all we could hope for. At the Pepsi Center, there were two shops open, selling jerseys, T-Shirts, etc, for the Avalanche and other Denver sports teams. The rest of the building was closed and off limits, but Judy has a special way of getting people to do what she wants them to, and talked a security guard into letting us in. He took Mikie and I into the hallway that goes to the locker room, then out into the arena. There was no ice, but it was still impressive, and Mikie was enthralled.

We ate at a McDonalds in the downtown area, then took a free tram ride down the 6th Street Mall to the capitol; then went back to Judy’s for more swimming. Judy’s friend Fred was kind enough to drive us and be our tour guide, which was really helpful, since driving around a strange city, even with someone who knows the way around, is not a pleasant challenge.

Judy’s two adult sons came by for a while, then we headed back to our camp and got ready for another day of travel.

Today we drove west from Denver on Interstate 70. The road takes you up from Denver’s mile high to just over 10,000 feet at the Eisenhower Tunnel, about a half mile run under the mountain. There were some spectacular views along the way – snow dotted peaks and trees covered with green plants and evergreens.

We followed the Eagle River as we dropped down in elevation, and by the time it joined the Colorado, we were clearly in the southwest. We saw quite a few cliffs and hills of red and white sandstone, and we have a good view of mountains all around us here at Grand Junction, 30 miles from the Utah Border.

 

Part 10 

July 16: We had a short drive yesterday to Moab, UT (actually our RV park is about 10 miles north of town on US 191). After we got into Utah, we took Utah highway 128 into Moab, following a scenic route that mostly parallels the Colorado River. My friend and former colleague Clayton Walker took this route last year, and his description covers it well (keep in mind that he was traveling the opposite direction, away from Moab):

The route follows the Colorado River in an E by NE direction for about 40 miles and then cuts N for about 30 miles where it joins I-70. For approximately the first 20 miles out of Moab, there is nothing but the river and deep canyon walls. Then for the next 20 miles the canyon widens to a river plain with several working and/or guest ranches. Fisher Towers (geological formation as well as a working ranch) is located about 24 miles from Moab. This area has been used for over 100 western movies and many commercials. This small area of the river plain has monumental red rock spires, desert floors, valley grasslands, and a panoramic view of the La Sal Mountain Range (what more could a cowboy movie ask for?).

About 40 miles from Moab, SR 128 turns north and leaves the Colorado River taking us through rolling grass lands, most of it working ranches. As it was still morning, we came across several deer from nearby mountains feeding in the grasslands and the first of many prairie antelope or pronghorn that we would see on the trip.

I kept a good eye out, but did not see any antelope, but the canyon and rock formations were indeed spectacular.

After we got set up, we took state route 313 up to Dead Horse Point State Park, then made a quick trip into Canyonlands National Park. Since I had been to Canyonlands two years ago, I did not feel I missed much by making the visit a quick one (especially as it was late in the day). Clayton visited the state park last year, and again I will call on his description:

Dead Horse Point State Park towers 2,000 feet above the Colorado River providing breathtaking panoramas of sculptured pinnacles and buttes.

 

Dead Horse Point is a peninsula of rock atop sheer sandstone cliffs. The peninsula is connected to the mesa by a narrow strip of land called the neck. It got its name around the turn of the century because the point was used as a corral for wild mustangs roaming the mesa top. Cowboys rounded up these horses, herded them across the neck of land and onto the point. The neck, which is only 30 yards wide, was then fenced off with branches and brush. This created a natural corral surrounded by deep chasms, affording no escape. Cowboys chose the horses they wanted, and let the others go free. One time, for reasons unknown, horses were left corralled on the waterless point where they died of thirst within view of the Colorado River, 2000 feet below.

 

The only place to stop is at the view point overlooking the river below, although there are hiking trails around the edge of the mesa. There is also an interpretive center located in the park.

Today we went to Arches National Park. I had been there also, so I chose areas that I thought would most interest Mikie (meaning areas where we were most likely to see lizards).

We made the short hike to a view of Delicate Arch, but did not take the longer hike to the arch itself. We then went to the Devil’s Garden trail head and hiked in as far as Landscape Arch and Wall Arch, about a two-mile round trip. A side trip to Pine Tree Arch and a wrong fork added a good half mile to the total hike. Most of the time it was sunny and hot, but a cloud covered the sun for a while on the way out, and also encouraged lizards to come out in the open, so Mikie saw four of them.

We finished our Arches visit with the short half mile hike to Double Arch, then came back to the RV park to shower and change for dinner. We drove into Moab and ate at a nice Mexican restaurant. My dinner was served on a plate about 14 inches in diameter, and needless to say, I have a box of leftovers in the refrigerator.

Tomorrow we will start the home stretch of our journey, heading west on I-70 and then US 50. There is a fire near Carson City NV, but the roads are currently open, and I have a phone number for Nevada highway information.

  

July 17: We had a fairly short drive today, less than 250 miles, and stopped earlier than usual. We are in Delta UT, on US 50 west of I-15, and hope to take 50 all the way to Sacramento. We stopped first at McDonalds and ate, then came to the RV park, where we rested, read, rode bikes, ate ice cream and watched TV.

We have been fairly lucky with weather throughout the trip. We’ve had short stretches of rain while driving, usually not over ten minutes. We had a hard rain today (windshield wipers on full), but it was over quickly. We had a few drops of rain while in camp at Moab, and again here today, and lots of evenings when it rained for a short time. It’s pretty cloudy now, but it seems wherever we go, the forecast is scattered thunderstorms, so we miss them as often as we get them. We had a little thunder and lightning and a few drops of rain in camp today.

Gas prices are moving back up, starting in western Colorado. Some of the places I’ve been are remote, so prices would be high anyway, but under $2 gas seems to be a thing of the past.

 

July 18: Today was by far the worst travel day of my life. A ten-minute pounding rain with thunder and lightening was bad enough. This was followed by a dust storm during which visibility got down to half a painted dash in the road for a few hundred feet (like the worst Fresno fog). These would probably not have seemed so bad if we had not started off the day by hitting a cow about 40 miles west of Delta.

I saw the cow heading for the road and started slowing down and blowing my horn. The cow turned back, then at the last minute went in front of me. Fortunately I had slowed to about 20 MPH by this time, but even so my hood was crumpled up and the grill was broken. However, there was no damage to the radiator, no leaking, and we were able to drive away (the cow walked away, but has to have sore ribs at the very least). As we continued our drive, my temperature gauge stayed where it has been for 50,000 miles, and there were no problems, so I will at least be able to deal with the aftermath from home. Things could have been much worse. (Click here for photos of the damage)

The rain and dust came during the last hour of our record long 410 mile day, but we made it safely to Fallon NV, and will be home tomorrow, a final day’s drive of about 325 miles.

Today’s events cannot overshadow the great times we have had, and having Mikie as a traveling companion made the journey twice as much fun. I will end this report here, anticipating nothing out of the ordinary for our final day.

 

Part 11 (Postscript)

August 10: I have a few more things to say after all. We had planned to come over the Sierra from Fallon on US 50, but after the accident I wanted to make the trip as fast as possible, so we took a short jog up to Interstate 80. Like all the highways over these mountains, it’s a beautiful scenic drive. From Sacramento we took I-5 south to Stockton, then moved over to state 99. Although I have made the trip across from I-5 to 99 a number of times, I managed to take the wrong off ramp, and drove around in a couple of big circles in the industrial area before getting across town to find 99.

As we got closer to home, Mikie’s excitement level reached new heights, and he was virtually bouncing up and down as we approached my house, where his mother was waiting. I was glad to be home too, but I knew I still had a lot of work ahead – unloading and cleaning the trailer, and taking care of the truck.

My son-in-law came over after work and we ordered pizza while we caught up on things we hadn’t discussed on the phone. Then they gathered up plastic dinosaurs and other stuff and headed home, and I started going through five weeks of mail.

I got the estimate for the truck the next day, and it’s in the shop now. It costs about $3500 to hit a cow, fortunately mostly covered by insurance. I’m driving a 2004 Dodge 4-door pickup (yeah, it’s got a hemi), which is costing me only $5 a day above what insurance pays, but I don’t really like it as well as my Ford.

With my truck in the shop, I am facing a camping trip this weekend without the trailer, probably at Huntington Lake. It will be like a journey into the past, and I know I’ll forget something since I’m used to packing for trailer camping.

Despite the troubles at the end, we had a great trip, and Mikie still talks about it, thinking of something new to tell his mother every day or two. Although several times during the trip he said "let's turn around and go home," about half way through he asked me, "Where are we going next year?" I knew then that the plan to take him along was a success.

--Dick Estel

Photos
(Photos open in a new window)

Mother & Dad at his 90th birthday lunch Mikie at Meteor Crater, AZ The Crater
Mother & Dad at his 90th birthday lunch Mikie at Meteor Crater, AZ The Crater
 
A dinosaur attack? Battle of the dinosaurs Angie, Sandy & Rachel
A dinosaur attack? Battle of the dinosaurs Angie, Sandy & Rachel
 
Mikie & Zack at the top of the arch Gateway Arch Bush Stadium & downtown St. Louis from the arch
Mikie & Zack at the top of the arch Gateway Arch Bush Stadium & downtown St. Louis from the arch
 
Best buddies Mikie, Edie & Zack at the pond 4th of July Parade in Swanton OH
Best buddies Mikie, Edie & Zack at the pond 4th of July Parade in Swanton OH
 
Soy beans next to old barn in Ohio Pond at Twin Acres RV Park Mikie, Jacob, and the frog
Soy beans next to old barn in Ohio Pond at Twin Acres RV Park Mikie, Jacob, and the frog
 
Jacob, Mikie & Helena - dessert time Breakfast with Mikie, Lucas & Clara Family Reunion at Bryan OH
Jacob, Mikie & Helena - dessert time Breakfast with Mikie, Lucas & Clara Family Reunion at Bryan OH
 
Cousins Mikie Liddle, Graham Nott, Levi & Josiah Makula, Andy Nott Mikie & cousin Justin Andy, Mikie & Graham, enjoying Greg's barbecue
Cousins Mikie Liddle, Graham Nott, Levi & Josiah Makula, Andy Nott Mikie & cousin Justin Andy, Mikie & Graham, enjoying Greg's barbecue
 
Tree knocked down by storm in Kansas RV Park Bridge over Royal Gorge   View from the top of Pike's Peak
Tree knocked down by storm in Kansas RV Park Bridge over Royal Gorge   View from the top of Pike's Peak
 
State capitol in Denver Dick & Mikie at the top of Pike's Peak Denver & Rockies from our RV Park in Colorado
State capitol in Denver Dick & Mikie at the top of Pike's Peak Denver & Rockies from our RV Park in Colorado
 
Mikie in front of the Pepsi Center in Denver (home of the Colorado Avalanche) Standing where his hero, goalie Patrick Roy, won a Stanley Cup Colorado River along Highway 128
Mikie in front of the Pepsi Center in Denver (home of the Colorado Avalanche) Standing where his hero, goalie Patrick Roy, won a Stanley Cup Colorado River along Highway 128
 
In Canyonlands National Park The Monitor & the Merrimac, near Canyonlands At Dead Horse Point, overlooking Colorado River
In Canyonlands National Park The Monitor & the Merrimac, near Canyonlands At Dead Horse Point, overlooking Colorado River
 
The Three Gossips, Arches National Park Courthouse Rock in Arches Landscape Arch, world's longest
The Three Gossips, Arches National Park Courthouse Rock in Arches Landscape Arch, world's longest
 
Double Arch Sand & sandstone & Mikie Mikie in pursuit of lizards
Double Arch Sand & sandstone & Mikie Mikie in pursuit of lizards
 
In the Butterfly House Another Butterfly House scene More butterflies
In the Butterfly House
  
  The black line is our 2009 journey; red is 2004  
  The black line is our 2009 journey; red is 2004; green is a trip my parents took  
     
Related Links
Meteor Crater More Meteor Crater Dinosaur Park
Grant's Farm Gateway Arch Butterfly House
Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Devil's Lake MI Sternberg Museum
Royal Gorge Pike's Peak Cog Railway Pike's Peak
Royal Gorge Railway Eisenhower Tunnel Johnson Tunnel
Canyonlands Park Dead Horse Point Moab UT
Arches National Park   Links to More Photos Slide Shows
 
Courthouse Rock in Arches

Jacob, Mikie & Helena - dessert time

Mikie, Edie & Zack at the pond

 
Travel Reports
   
Before 2002     2002     2003     2004     2005     2006     2007     2008

2009    2010    2011    2012     2013     2014     2015     2016     2017     Other

   
Before 2002
Early Trips Later Trips
Camping Trips Backpacking Trips
1961 Monterey Jazz Festival Bluegrass Odyssey
   
Multi-Year Compilations
Fresno Area Canal Walks Clovis Trail Walks
   
2002
Journey of 2002 (Ohio & Back) Logandale & Utah Parks 2002
   
2003
Arizona & Bluegrass on the River 2003 Grand Canyon & Logandale Bluegrass 2003
Parkfield & Huck Finn 2003 Early Frog Camps (2003-2005)
   
2004
Paso Robles & Parkfield 2004 Road Trip 2004 (Ohio & Back)
Bullhead City Bluegrass, Mesa, Superstition Bluegrass 2004 Bluegrass in the Foothills 2004
   
2005
Arizona-Southern California 2005 Huck Finn Bluegrass 2005
Morro Bay 2005 Stargazer Rock Camp 2005
Parkfield Bluegrass 2005    
   
2006
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    
   
2007
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    
   
2008
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     
   
2009
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
2010
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
   
2011
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
    
2012 
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
  
2013
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
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   
 
2015
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
  
2016
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
     
2017
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)
Other
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Butch's Blog Walker Family Trips
Parkfield Earthquake Kim & Morgan Brown Trips & Photos
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Updated July 17, 2017