Sunday, June 29, 2008

More rain!

Day 4, June 29, 2008

Iowa does NOT need more rain! After a day of driving through flooded areas, it is now dumping more water on the rain-soaked and river-swollen state. Fortunately, I’m off the road and parked at an RV park just north of Mount Pleasant, Iowa. One minute it was bright outside, and then the sky turned really dark and the rain came down. No thunder or lightning, just rain.

It was a fascinating day! First I had about a 100-mile drive to southeastern Nebraska and a short 36 mile drive to Nebraska City where I was able to cross the Missouri River into Iowa. Then I went across southern Iowa on highways 2 and 34. Most amazing was the amount of flooded land. Hardest hit will be the farmers because many fields are flooded and those that aren't are too soggy for farming.

There was so much to look at and so many interesting towns to go through. I had intended to drive about half-way across Iowa, but I was always eager to see what was ahead that I just kept on driving. Of course I made quite a few stops and took the ‘business route’ through the larger towns.

It was a great driving day; cloudy day and relatively cool. When I was not interested in the surrounding countryside and charming towns, I enjoyed the fluffy white clouds.

Since the bridge at Burlington, Iowa, is washed out, I’ll need to go north to I-80 to cross the Mississippi River into Illinois. That will be tomorrow’s drive.

Tomorrow I’ll get most of the way across Illinois.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

I’m a grateful person

Day 3, June 28, 2008

Each person can focus on problems or on the good things. Personally I choose to look on the bright side of things, I’m a card-carrying optimist.

Once I read, “Optimism is infectious and inspiring, but a lot of people don't want to deal with optimism because they have to work hard to achieve it. Pessimism is easy: just sit around and mope.”

This evening’s entries into my Gratitude Journal:

  1. Yesterday evening, after planning today’s driving route, I got a great night’s sleep.
  2. I was surprised by some turkeys as I was leaving Scott Lake – a Tom who was strutting his stuff, two hens and about 10 youngsters.
  3. My route – north on 83 and east on 36 – was scenic, the highway was smooth, and practically empty.
  4. When I checked the weather band, I heard that Liberal, Kansas, was hit by golf-ball-size hail and lots of rain last night.
  5. There was a Dairy Queen along the way.

So why was I grateful about Liberal’s storm? When I planned my route at Clayton, it was a toss-up between the highway that would take me to Liberal (where I would probably stay at B&B RV Park) or through Elkhart (the route I took). I’m grateful I chose Elkhart.

Today I drove through numerous small Kansas towns, and I enjoy reading the ‘welcome’ billboards. Selden says it is the 'home the world-famous livestock auctioneer'; Kensington says ‘biggest town for its size.'

Yesterday I noticed that wheat was being harvested. That’s not unusual. But what was unusual was that the wheat was so short. My recollection is that wheat grows much taller. Curious minds need to find out – so I asked a local. Turns out scientists have created plants with shorter stalks as a way to cut back on water use.

The ‘ag report’ on the radio talked about crop prices, fertilizers, tractor sales, crop dusting via airplanes, and of course the weather. Yes, I do enjoy the Midwest.

This evening I’m in Marysville, Kansas. None of my RV directories had any listed for this town, so I was considering ‘dry camping’ at Walmart. When I got there, I went in to buy some supplies and asked at customer service if there were any RV parks in town – thought I should do that before asking permission to stay in their lot. Here I learned about the city park; and that’s where I’m. I’m plugged into electricity – and there is no charge!

Tomorrow I have a short drive east in Kansas, through a small part of Nebraska and will cross the Missouri River at Nebraska City. Yes, I’ve checked with highway/bridge closures and it looks OK. Then I’ll stay south in Iowa; on highways 2 and 34.

Friday, June 27, 2008

One day closer!

Day 2, June 27, 2008

You don't take a trip, a trip takes you," wrote John Steinbeck in his road trip book Travels With Charley.

And so it is, I think, that no matter how I plan a trip, at some point in the journey the trip itself establishes a momentum of its own. If I am willing, it can take me along for a magic carpet ride that I could never have imagined when I set out.

I woke early as usual today, full of anticipation and excitement; eager to get on my way. My route on Highway 56 took me into Oklahoma for 50 miles and then into Kansas at Elkhart. When I connected with Highway 83, the road took me straight north to Scott Lake. It was an easy, relaxing drive through and around very small- to medium-sized towns.

Stuff you might not know about Kansas:

· State song is Home on the Range

· State tree is the Cottonwood

· State flower is the native sunflower – though I’ve yet to see one

· State bird is the meadowlark

· State animal is the American buffalo, or bison

· State insect is the honeybee

· The western part of the state is referred to the “Golden Prairie”

· Dwight Eisenhower, Bob Dole and Amelia Earhart called Kansas ‘home’

Scott Lake State Park, Kansas

After driving 250 miles through flat country – wheat, corn, alfalfa, and some unrecognizable crops – the trees, green grass and spring-fed lake of Scott Lake were a surprise and welcome sight. Jeremiah II hums right along with nary a complaint. It was hot today – 103 degrees. Thank goodness for air conditioning and well-tinted windows.

After a quick sandwich, I walked over to the campground host to pay for the night. $23.20 and worth every penny.

The host asked if I’d like to join another camping family for a tour of the Steele House (normally only open on weekends). So in spite of the midday heat, I got my camera and a bottle of water and walked a mile to it. Mr. and Mrs. Steele built the house and outbuildings by hand in the late 1800s.

As I write this, Cat is at the window watching a baby rabbit enjoy the grasses and clover. Birds are serenading me. It is 9 p.m. and still light outside.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Midwest, here I come!

Day 1; 2008 Midwest Trip, June 26 through July 29

It was noon on Thursday before Cat and I started up Jeremiah the Second and headed north.

What a project getting loaded! I was not able to pick up the motorhome from Rocky Mountain RV until Wednesday.

Service writer Jayne Fairchild, Service Supervisor Bob Franklin, and the technicians managed to tackle everything on my “fix-it” list. Reading through the completed service order let me know how challenging a couple of the items were. For instance, on the shake-down trip (Grand Canyon, Moab, Phoenix and Prescott) I discovered that the sensors on one of the waste tanks did not work. From the service report: “Removed sensors…set new ones…filled tank but nothing worked. Drained tank and tested again… didn’t work. Called factory; tested for continuity…tried two other things…noticed that the plug that comes from back to board had a smashed pin. Changed pin…tested again…it worked!” And the best part – everything was covered by warranty!

I’m now settled in at Clayton Lake State Park, 12 miles north of the town of Clayton, NM. It was a 270-mile trip, but once I got through the Santa Fe area, the Interstate was lightly traveled. Then when I turned on Highway 56, I practically had the last 70 miles to myself. I got the last site with electricity. (there are only 7 sites with electricity. No Internet service and my phone is on extended network. Because of this, Clayton would not be a good volunteer site.

After a couple of hours on electricity, I decided to move to an empty parking lot along the lake. There was a nice breeze off the lake, and it was quieter. Since it had cooled off, there was no need to stay hooked up to electricity. This will allow me to just start driving in the morning – nothing to unhook or remove.

It is time for my celebratory Night One Champagne. Then I’ll read and go to bed early. Tomorrow I’ll drive through the panhandle corner of Oklahoma and then be in Kansas.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Grand Canyon, Arches and Canyonlands National Parks

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

We’re off to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

The lure of three of our national parks and a chance to caravan with a few other WIT (Winnebago-Itasca Travelers) friends – for the inaugural trip in Jeremiah the Second – my friend Hilda, Cat and I loaded up the motorhome and headed northwest.

Hilda is pleasant company (that means she sees the bright side and makes the best of all things) and it was nice to have a navigator. Of course, we took the scenic route (mostly two-lane roads) in order to go through Navajo and Hopi lands. First overnight stop was Second Mesa, Arizona – the heart of Hopi country. We parked at the undeveloped, and thankfully level, picnic-campground at the combination museum/gift shop/motel/restaurant. No water/electricity and no charge. In the morning we had delicious blue corn pancakes in the restaurant.

The next day we continued on to the North Rim via Vermillion Cliffs and Marble Canyon. The drive was awesome. Before we got to the dam, it was a “Kodak moment” – here’s Jeremiah the Second with the colorful cliffs in the background.

When we got to the dam at Marble Canyon, I pulled into a scenic overlook. Once I was committed I realized the only exit was the way I had come in. Oops! Fortunately there was a spot to try to turn around – by going back and forth several times. Hilda hopped out to assist. Whew! We did get turned around, parked and walked out on the old bridge road.

“You can’t miss it!” That comment usually means I’ll miss it. In this case, it took a couple stops to inquire the whereabouts of the National Park Campground. My assigned campsite was anything but level and it took several attempts at leveling with boards. But at $9 a night – no hookups – it was a bargain.

First order of business was to hike to the overlook at the Lodge. The view is very different from the South Rim.

Yes, indeed! The Grand Canyon is a very big and deep collection of canyons. And no photograph can do this justice. From my vantage point on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, my eyes see a panorama of beauty; my camera just shows a small rectangular portion.

Hilda and I hiked quite a bit on the well-trod trails. On Day 3, Mary and Jack Harris took us along on a driving trip on park roads to several overlooks.

The nights at the North Rim were cold – got down to 39-degrees one night. That’s when I discovered that Jeremiah II’s furnace would not work! I could run the generator two hours each morning and two hours each evening, enabling us to run a portable electric heater in the morning to take the chill off. After three days, we headed north to Moab, Utah. North to warmer nights and hot days!

Wow! Amazing!

Miles and miles of arches and canyons; graceful sandstone patterns; numerous shades of reddish brown; sun-baked rock; twisted juniper; curving, convoluted smooth walls sloping upward; canyons with steep drop-offs – Arches and Canyonlands national parks.

With every turn in the park roads and from every overlook area the beauty of the areas amazed me. Again we rode with Mary and Jack, first to Arches National Park. And it is a good thing to see this by car because it is a 46-mile roundtrip. Hilda and I hiked at several stops along the way.

Too bad I slept through my one-and-only geology class. Interpretative signs along the way talked about the various formations – Paradox, Honaker trail, Cutler, Moenkopi, Chinle, Kayenta, Morrison, Cedar Mountain, and Carmel; and Wingate, Navajo, Dakota and Entrada Sandstone; and Moncos Shale – all Greek to me!

The nearby snow-topped La Sal Mountain range was quite a contrast to the hot, sandy and arid park.

I appreciated a quote by John Wesley Powell (Cañons of the Colorado)

“Wherever we look there is but a wilderness of rocks…ten thousand strangely carved forms in every direction, and beyond them mountains blending with clouds.”

Later I saw this quote by Edward Abbey (Desert Solitaire)

“If Delicate Arch has any significance it lies … in the power of the odd and unexpected to startle the senses and surprise the mind into a reawakened awareness of the wonderful – that which is full of wonder.”

The road trip through Arches ended with a delicious lunch at a local brewery. Not only was the food tasty, but the interior of the restaurant was a delight.

On to Canyonlands National Park. The park, 527 square miles of gorgeous desert canyons, rough trails and spsectacular red rock formations, consists of three districts. We toured the one called Island in the Sky.

Our RV park was conveniently located to both Arches and Canyonlands, enabling us to easily tour both parks. What a contrast! While the sites at Arches were from ground level up, most everything at Canyonlands was from road-level down. Here the driving tour totaled 36 miles on roads that formed a “Y”. One branch of the Y led to Grand View Point; the other to Upheaval Dome.

Canyonlands remains remote and undeveloped. This park is also a geologists’ delight. “The bare rock and deep canyons reveal millions of years of geologic history,” says the park’s road guide. As we drove down the road, in the distance it just looked like a huge flat, dry mesa. Then you get to an overlook and look down – whooo!

We took the hike to Mesa Arch Trailhead – a half-mile loop. The arch is perched at the top of a cliff.

What a trip! Jeremiah II was easy to drive and gave us both a comfortable ride and deluxe lodging. The sofa makes into a bed for Hilda while I felt like the queen of Sheeba in my queen-sized bed.

On the last morning, Hilda rode back to Albuquerque with camping friends Betty and Frank Mason. The Harris’ and I headed southeast to Flagstaff where we spent the night. The next day I drove south to the Phoenix area and parked at the Tempe Elks Lodge for three nights.

Tonight (Sunday, June 8) I’m camped at Cave Creek Regional Park. It is just north of the Phoenix Metro area. This is the park where I’ll be a volunteer this coming winter. I’ve chosen site #9 and took pictures of Jeremiah II.

I also took a photo of the new Visitor Center complex being built at the park. I’ve been “hired” to get the center up and running this late fall.

That’s it for now. Tomorrow I’ll drive to Prescott, Arizona.