Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Just Past Albuquerque… Will this Day Never End?

We set our alarms for 6 am. Rise and shine, the early bird gets the worm, etc. etc. etc… George had trouble sleeping and so he got up about 4am and emptied the black and grey tanks, hoping to make the day easier.

At 6am it is 5 degrees—there is nothing that is going to make this day any easier.

In the middle of the night, George realized that he needed to get on the roof of the 5th wheel and not only brush the snow off the slides; but he will need chip off the inch thick ice that is under the snow.  If he doesn't get the ice off the slides, they very likely will not close and if they do close; the ice that is left could easily destroy the slide seals.

So, without any concern for his own life… he climbs up on the snow packed 5th wheel roof.  I am always so concerned that he is going to fall off that roof.  Today it is even worse because I know it is slick up there.  But if I am honest, I am a little concerned that the chipping of the ice will put a hole in the top of the slides.  In the end, there are no holes and he remains upright—cold, but no worse for the wear.

He comes in freezing, but we still feel like the right decision is to continue breaking camp and move forward to warmer climates.

After warming up a little, George heads out to start removing the Styrofoam skirting that he had placed around the bottom of the 5th wheel for insulation.  We made a large pile of the Styrofoam sheets, it is so windy the only real help I can be is to chase Styrofoam sheets.  We were happy to learn there is a single dad staying at the campground that could not afford skirting and so he will be blessed by having this.

In the process of removing the Styrofoam, a piece of the already cracked wheel fender breaks off the Redwood.  That would have made me swear for a week—George however, was frustrated but didn’t lose control.  I love that man!

The freezing temperatures make everything take longer—so George is miserable, but we need to keep pressing forward.  Two hours later we are finally on the road.

I say it a lot, but… it’s all part of our journey.  Stuff takes longer if we wait too long to leave the cold weather.  Stuff will get broke.  Things break if you live in a "sticks-n-bricks" house or a house on wheels.

We decided not to make a campground reservation, that way we are not locked into how far we will travel.   Once we are on the road, I start looking at our options.  I look at Wal-Mart’s, Truck Stops, State Parks and Passports campgrounds.  When we are just planning to stop to sleep, we do not care about scenery or campground amenities.  We found a little campground 30 miles past Albuquerque which we decide would be a good place to stop.  With our Passport membership, it is only $20/night—which is a good price.

Since we have been unsuccessful so far getting propane, we decided we would try once we were on the road.

We stopped at 2 difference truck stops/gas stations to get propane; they both trade out bottles, but do not sell propane by the gallon.

It’s New Year’s Eve and so we are having a hard time even finding places that are open.  (Frankly, we both forgot the date.)

After calling, I found a U-Haul dealer in the middle of Albuquerque that sells propane.  I called the store directly to make sure: “Yes, we absolutely sell propane by the gallon.”

Wanting to make sure our rig will fit in their parking lot, I call the store a 2nd time.  I confirm with the store that they have plenty of room for our RV and tell them we are coming from out of town and want to make sure we will be able to get in their parking lot when we come to get propane today—and I again mention we are on our way.  The guy on the phone just didn’t sound like he had it all together, so we pulled into a Wal-Mart parking lot, unhooked the jeep and drove the jeep across town to the U-Haul store.   We pull into the lane to get the propane; the guy walks out and says… “Yea we have propane, but I’m not certified to fill tanks.”  Are you kidding me!!!  There was not a spiritual thought in my head at this point.  I’m thinking, “Slap, punch or kick?”  This guy is getting one of them!

After deciding you can’t fix “stupid”, we go back to the 5th wheel and head out to Belen for the night.  We’ll try this again tomorrow.

Please, God, let tomorrow be a better day. 

Monday, December 29, 2014

Monument... Freezing... just the start of the challenges

We had planned to leave Monument, Colorado on Monday; but a snow storm forced us to move our departure day to Wednesday. Really, it is only a 2 day delay… what's the big deal?

We spent Monday finishing up errands and getting the RV ready to leave.  It snowed about 7 inches today so we were glad we did not leave today.  The high temperature today is 20 degrees and the low is -8 degrees!

Although the Redwood 5th wheel is much warmer than the Montana we had previously, it is still freezing.  We really need to get propane; but Colorado Heights Resort will not fill propane tanks if it is below 20 degrees.  George took the propane tank to Big R store to get propane; however, their valve is frozen because of the temperature.  After calling around, there is no place in Monument to get propane this week.

We cannot leave on Tuesday because the snow has continued and the high is only 2 degrees… Seriously!  We turned our furnace down to 50 degrees so we can save as much propane as possible.  We are using the electric heaters to keep the RV a reasonable temperature.  We have on sweaters, but it is a movie day so we just stay wrapped up in our blankets and are content. The lesson we learned… if we even think we are going to need propane we push forward to get it.  Do not wait and hope it will be easy to get at the next stop.  We should have gone into Colorado Springs and got propane.  Yes, it would have been a pain.  It would have been inconvenient and out of our way—but it would have been easy compared to what we experienced the next several days.


Friday, July 11, 2014

Grand Coulee Dam is a Must See

Today we went to the Grand Coulee Dam. It was SO interesting. 

We had toured the Hoover Dam before September 11—when they were still allowing tours.

Grand Coulee Dam is one of the largest concrete structures in the world.  It is as high as the Washington Monument.  It is the country's largest hydroelectric project; it generates more power than a million locomotives.

We were able to take a guided tour of the Dam.  They took us by van to the top of the spillway and we were able to stop and take some great pictures.

It supplies enough power to continuously supply the needs of two cities the size of Seattle!
It is truly a sight to behold.  We were able to take a guided tour to the top of the dam.  We were also able to see the working generators and pumps.  It was a really interesting tour.   I thought it was interesting, George thought it was fabulous.  He understands and loves the mechanics and technology of this amazing structure.

As it started to get dusk, we set up lawn chairs to watch a laser light show on the dam.  It was a perfect temperature.  The area we were sitting in had grass for the kids to run around. We had a perfect view of the upcoming show.

After dark we set up our lawn chairs on the grass park area just below the visitor center and watched a laser light show on the spillway.

It has been SO hot here.  Today was a lovely day, we are all happy it is a little cooler today than it has been.  We really enjoyed this day with family.

Seeing the sunset over the spillway, I am reminded of our God's greatness.  It is not only OVER the man made structure;  the sunset is what brings beauty to this moment.  Our God is Great.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Hanging Out with Marty and His Family in Moses Lake, WA

We pulled into Moses Lake, WA about 2pm. We plan to stay at Marty, Lisa's brothers’ house.

Originally we had planned to get here on 7/9, but in an effort to stay in front of several tornado storms we made it across northern US much faster than we expected.  Even after a couple of rest days along the way, we both feel really tired and are anxious to just sit and visit for a week or so.  We are going to be here until 7/15 when we have reservations in Lake Easton, WA.

Marty had put in a 50 amp outlet and he has a really wide and long driveway, so there is plenty of room for us to park.  In fact he has 2 other campers and a boat on the side of the driveway.

It has been more than 5 years since we have seen Marty and his family so we are all excited to spend some extended time together. 

We have never had the luxury of a long visit with him, because in the past we had limited vacation time.  Again, we feel so blessed to have a lifestyle that is allowing us to spend time with family.

They have 5 chickens that they are raising for eggs.  They are Barred Rock Bantam chickens.  They will lay brown eggs and the best part… they do not need a roaster—which is great for those us of parked near the chicken coop.

They are really pretty birds and greet us whenever we come out of the 5th wheel.
They also have a white rabbit named Strawberry.  She is perfectly white.  She is in her cage and honestly not as interactive as the chickens.

They have a dog named Koda.  The dog is 75% timber wolf and 25% I have no idea—after they said wolf I did not hear another word.

They have 3 cats that are both inside and outside.  Because George is horribly allergic to cats we realize we only be able to be in the house a limited amount.  As our visit went on George’s allergies were bad enough that we kept him out of the house as much as possible.  Every time he was in the house for any length of time he had an allergy attack.   Marty, Ree and the kids have been very gracious to hang out with us in our RV—so George does not get sick.

Marty has such a good memory that he remembers things I do not—so it has been fun to sit around and talk about growing up.  He and I have always had a different relationship than the other siblings because he is almost exactly 10 years younger than I am.  When mom and dad brought him home from the hospital, they put his little bassinet in my room.  I would carry him around—he was my "real life" baby doll.  I do not carry him around anymore.  It is really exciting to see the man that he has become. 

They have worked hard, made hard decisions and sacrifices and now they have purchased a house and land out in the country—perfect for them.


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

From South Dakota to Montana

Today was a travel day. We drove about 6 hours from the Black Hills of South Dakota to Montana.  It was a beautiful drive.  We really enjoyed the short time that we were able to spend in South Dakota, but we need to move forward toward Washington.

The drive was an easy, uneventful trip.  Again, we love our new additional fuel tank which allows us to go almost a full day without stopping for fuel.

Because this is July 4th weekend, we were concerned about finding a place to stay on our way.  Holiday weeks have been our only real challenge to find Coast to Coast or Resorts of Distinction campgrounds.  We had an idea how far we want to travel each leg of this trip—and so I worked to find campgrounds to would fit our travel.  We were less interested in the campground than we were in the location.  We just wanted sites that would be easy to get to from the interstate.

After we left Indiana we stayed one (awful) night in a truck stop parking lot, we spent another at a campground near Rapid City, South Dakota.  Tonight we stayed just past Billings, Montana at a very small campground "Old West" in Reed Point, MT.  When I called to get a spot the owner did not think she had a spot available, but she worked her magic and assured us that she would make sure we had a place when we pulled in.  She saved her final (and largest) site for us—so we did not have to unhook the truck or the jeep AND she gave it to us for the Passport America rate.  What a blessing.

We made smoothies for dinner and settled in to catch up on some of the TV shows we had recorded.

About 8:30 we heard a knock at our door.  We opened the door and greeted a "new friend". She pointed to a picture of our rig she had seen on one of the RV forums.  She and her husband were reading one of the blog entries I had made and they were discussing they had seen us this week on the road.  Then they realized we were sitting about 4 sites down from them.  She came in and we had a nice visit--as if we had been friends for a long time.  What a great life.  We continue to meet people along our journey with similar goals and dreams.


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Custer State Park… The Animals are So Close you Can See Them Breathe

Since we started traveling, we generally do not have long sight-seeing days. Partly because we do not need to cram everything into one long day—we can take our time and really enjoy each moment and each sight.  We also tend to have shorter days because I (Lisa) still have a lot of days that I struggle with pain.  It seems like the longer my day, the more pain I will have at the end of the day and often the next day.

Since we are only in the Black Hills and Badland area for two days, we felt like we wanted to see every possible sight we could.

Today started out cloudy and with strong winds.  But, we will not be deterred.  We started at Custer State Park.  We were really excited about the possibility of seeing wildlife throughout the park.  Custer Park has wildlife roaming throughout the park.

Within a couple of miles we saw a herd of Buffalo "hanging out" beside and IN the middle of the road.  Signs throughout the park say “Wildlife are dangerous, do not approach”—they do not tell you what to do when they approach you!


The buffalo were roaming around totally unfazed by the cars on the road and those parked beside the road.  Several of the buffalo were within a foot of our jeep.

We could easily hear their heavy breathing and snorting.

Those buffalo acted as if they were out for a day of “people watching”.

Who was watching who???

About 2 miles down the road we see another herd of Buffalo. These buffalo were within a couple of feet of the road, but none were on the road.

This group had huge bulls and we saw several momma and babies.  I was so excited; I could have set for hours watching them.  It is thrilling to have the opportunity to be so close to these massive animals.

As we drive through the park we see antelope and deer.   There was also a group of Burros.  Several of the burros were walking down the road, mostly because there were people along the road tempting them with bread and treats.   I found myself getting so angry about people feeding these animals.  There are signs throughout the park saying NOT to feed wildlife.  The deer in the Royal Gorge area were dying of malnutrition because people would feed them bread and so they didn't want to eat their normal diet.

Before today, I had never seen a burro in the wild.
We both love any opportunity to wildlife—so this was a great day.

 There were single lane tunnels along the roads.

After being in awe at all of the wildlife, we start through the Needles area of Custer State Park. It reminded us a little of Garden of the Gods--only with tan/brown rocks instead of the red rocks of Garden of the Gods.

The day was still windy and chilly, but we had packed a picnic and we were both determined to have our picnic.  George pulled a picnic table into the sun and we enjoyed a beautiful picnic beside this lake.

We drove through Deadwood on the way back to the RV.

We also drove through Sturgis.  We were anxious to get home, so we didn’t stop in Deadwood or in Sturgis—but we were glad to have seen both.  Sturgis seemed to be primarily made up of bars, t-shirt stores and motorcycle shops.


Friday, June 27, 2014

Iowa-80 Truck Stop… It’s Quite a Site to See

We got an early start and had planned a longer day than normal today. Generally we only travel a couple of hours and then stop for at least a few days.  But we are trying to move out of Iowa—the weather forecast is tornadoes.  The weather maps use red as a color to denote severe weather and very likely tornadoes.  The forecast for the entire state Iowa has been painted red and we just do not want to get caught in this nasty weather.  So far today we have had great travel weather, so we decided to keep moving.  I realized we might be able to make it to Walcott, IA—the home of the Iowa I-80 Truck Stop.  We had seen this truck stop on the travel channel and had always thought it would be fun to see.  I will admit I was a little excited about the idea of staying in this ginormous truck stop.  (Just to say we had done it)

We checked with Steve, as a truck driver, he has been a great resource for us through our travel.  He thought it would be a safe place for the night and a fun place to see.

We pulled into the truck stop, not sure what to expect.  We were too long for the RV parking area and so we moved to the semi-truck parking area.  The truck stop has 900 semi-truck parking spaces!  In addition, they have 250 car parking spots and extra spaces set aside for RV's and buses.

Fun information: The truck stop has a 300-seat restaurant, a gift store, a Super Truck Showroom.  There is a dentist, a barber shop, a chiropractor.  There is a workout room, laundry facilities and trucker’s TV lounge.  There is a 60-seat movie theatre!  They have a Verizon store kiosk and 24 private showers.  There is a Food Court that has a Wendy’s, Dairy Queen, Orange Julius, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and a Caribou Coffee.  They have a convenience store, a custom embroidery and vinyl shop.  There are 10 gas islands, 16 diesel lanes, a fuel center, a 7-bay truck service center, a 3-bay Truckomat truck wash.  There is a CAT Scale, a Dogomat Pet Wash and a large Trucking Museum.  I feel like I should finish with… and a partridge in a pear tree.

Anyway… we parked in the back of the lot.  Some, less than friendly, truck drivers have blocked into stops in the past at truck stops and so we want to give trucks plenty of space and not be in "their area".  When we parked we were clear away from any trucks.

We took 2 spaces, so we could open our slides.   I felt very comfortable here—we were out of the way, it was not too loud because there were only a couple of trucks even near us and the weather was mild so it would not be too hot.
We went into the truck stop and explored all of the little shopping areas and restaurants.  We settled on the buffet, mostly because I was too tired to make a decision and there were good salad choices.  The food was average, not great.

We walked back to the RV and see that the parking lot is quickly filling up.  Now there are trucks all around the RV—but still plenty of spaces.  We put up the satellite dish and watch a little TV before settling in for a quick night sleep.

About midnight the truck stop came ALIVE!!!  Suddenly trucks were pulling in and out (it felt like they were driving right through our living room).  The loud air brakes feel like they are going every few minutes.  I was up and down all night long.  I could not say how many rotations of trucks were around us through the night.  By the time we got up to move forward for our next day… I felt exhausted.  I regularly hear of people primarily staying at Wal-Marts and truck stops while full-timing.  I assure George this is not in our future.  In fact, I cannot image he is going to have ANY luck getting me to do this again.

In the end… I am glad we did it—so we can say we did.  It is a crazy big truck stop and so I recommend everyone go see it.  But, stay at a nearby campground or expect to feel like you are sleeping in the middle of a 4 lane highway.
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