Thursday May 3
We are away! We left home this morning about 8:45 after Betty's
8:15 doctor's appointment. I had the car all loaded, took Betty to
her appointment, closed up the house, got the cat, went back to pick
Betty up, and hit the road from there. We arrived about 2:40.
It was very windy the whole trip to Buckeye, AZ, but that was no problem
driving the Saturn. With Motorhomes it can be a problem!
I had better explain a couple of things here, like why we drove the
Saturn to Arizona:
For several years now I have been drooling over Foretravel motorhomes.
Every time we would look at a coach, we would compare each detail with
those of a Foretravel. I like Foretravel's design, they use high
quality components, and they do an excellent job building them. In
short, they have been and still are my standard of comparison.
The company is family owned, and was founded by a mechanical engineer -
Well, early this year we started looking to replace our Gulf Stream
coach. It had a number of fairly serious deficiencies, some having to do
with condition, others with basic design. We looked at a number of
different brands of new and used coaches, always feeling frustrated with
things that were not like I felt they should have been. Included
in the search were a couple of Foretravel coaches, but they were too darn
much money! (Funny how that works with quality products!) Foretravels
are made in Nacogdoches, Texas, and sold only through the company owned
dealers - 6 of them nationwide. One of the six happens to be in Escondido.
I decided to try pursuing a used Foretravel!
I told Brad, a salesman at the Escondido dealership, my basic needs
and desires and he started checking all the inventory in the country.
He came up with several coaches that were almost in our bracket, but they
were always sold when he inquired directly with the listing dealer.
After a couple of weeks we had pretty much ruled out anything in stock
in the country, and I felt my Foretravel dream fading rapidly. One
afternoon Brad called and asked if I would be interested in a 2000 demo
coach for xxxx dollars. I said there was absolutely no way I could
swing anything that high! He suggested that I make a counter-offer
to the company. After telling him that any offer I could make would
be an insult to them and would probably get me thrown off their property,
he convinced me to make them tell me "no", not to say it myself.
I placed an offer on this coach that I felt was really ridiculously
low. Brad gulped a bit when I made it, but said it was the only way to
find out what the bottom price they would take really was. Bottom
line, they came back within my real range (not much over the offer) and
we bought it!
It turns out our timing was perfect (luck, not skill), as the company
had gotten caught by the market downturn, which slowed sales right after
a major expansion expenditure. They needed to liquidate some of the
inventory, and through the end of January they were making the best deals
in their history. Brad commented several times, and I think he meant
it, that we really got a "good deal" He frankly was surprised they
accepted what they did, but it was the president of the company that made
the counter offer.
The coach came from Nacogdoches and we took delivery of it in Arizona.
It has been parked in a campground there ever since, except when we were
out driving it. We kept it here for a couple of reasons involving
getting it up our driveway, and taxes.
We just finished having 13 cubic yards of concrete poured to widen
our driveway. I think I can make the turn at the top of the driveway
with this coach now. Our Gulf Stream was 4 feet shorter (it was 32
feet, the Foretravel is 36), and it made the turn with only a few inches
to spare. We will be taking the coach home after this trip.
Just a few facts about our rig: It is a 2000 Foretravel U270,
36 feet long, and is mostly white with blue trim. It is powered by
a Cummins 8.3 liter turbo diesel rated at 350 HP and has an Allison 6 speed
automatic transmission. Both engine and transmission are electronically
controlled. It has a monocoque chassis. This means that the structure
is a framework distributed around the motorhome instead of everything being
built on two heavy rails down the middle. This provides a much lower
center of gravity, a higher strength to weight ratio, and provides structure
exactly where it is required, and open space where it is needed.
The coach has 4 wheel ABS air disk brakes. I think the one feature
that I like the most is the transmission retarder. I had installed
an exhaust brake on the Gulf Stream to assist in controlling downhill speed.
It was very useful, but not all that powerful. I would not own a
diesel without some form of auxiliary speed control. This retarder
is built by Allison into the output end of the transmission and allows
a variable amount of braking, turning the energy into heat, which is then
dissipated in the transmission cooler. There is a joystick with an
off and 6 on positions. The first position feels to me like it provides
slightly more braking force than the exhaust brake I had. By the
time you reach the 6th position, it feels like you are stepping on the
service brakes about 50% of maximum. I am able to significantly slow
down going down a 7% grade using only the retarder. It is such a
safety factor, I don't know why they are not commonplace. Actually,
I guess I do know - They are not cheap! I have never seen a motorhome
other than a Foretravel with a transmission retarder, and they are standard
on all Foretravels.
A few of the other things I like:
It is a beautiful coach! This is in stark contrast to our Gulf
Stream which I felt ranked well up on the list of the world's ugliest paint
jobs. Getting ready to leave our very first campground with the Foretravel,
I had pulled out of our space and was hooking up our Saturn. A fellow
from several spaces away came over and said "We took a vote and declared
yours to be the prettiest unit in the campground". That really made
It has an 8 bag air suspension system with the bags located at the
very edge of the coach. Most coaches have the bags located well in,
because that is where the frame is. With the airbags and shocks (8
Bilstein shocks) located far out on the coach, there is almost no sway
making turns or being hit by the shock wave from an 18 wheeler. The
leveling when parked is done by a computer controlled system that adjusts
the height of each pair of airbags. It will auto level at the touch
of a button, or allow full manual control.
We have a keyless entry system. One press of a button unlocks
the entry door. Two presses and ALL the compartments are unlocked.
When we leave camp, one press of the LOCK button will lock everything.
It is really handy!
It has "bus type" compartment doors. The doors on the standard
U270 coaches hinge at the top and lift a little higher than 90 degrees.
(Can you say "bumped head"?) One of the "step-ups" by going to the
next higher model coach is that the compartment doors lift parallel to
the side of the coach, like doors on a bus. This coach had an expensive
option of bus style doors.
It came with a washer/dryer! Betty really loves this (so do I).
We have run a number of loads now, and although it can only handle a moderate
size load, it is SO convenient! We are looking forward to using it
on this 2 month trip.
It has very large tanks! The fuel tank has a 148 gallon capacity
and can be filled from either side of the motorhome. The fuel goes
directly into the tank, so there are no filler hoses to back up and spray
you with fuel. The fresh and grey water tanks are over 100 gallons each,
and the black water is over 50 gallons. The propane is 48 gallon.
The tank monitors are viewed on the CRT of the backup monitor, and are
non-contact type, so there is never a problem with "clogged" sensors.
They also read in 1/8 tank increments so it is really easy to keep close
tabs on the tank status.
There is a lot of storage. Betty has access to 6 drawers and
a pantry in the kitchen, and another 6 drawers in the bedroom. The
Gulf Stream had almost no storage that Betty could reach. It's kitchen
drawers were so small that an electric match had to go in the drawer diagonally.
Every drawer in the Foretravel is on full extension slides, and is very
spacious. It is really wonderful. I did have to put handles
on all the drawers, and change the knobs on the lower doors to handles
so Betty could operate them. I was very surprised when I removed
the first knob. They are not hollow, brass plated pot metal: they
are solid brass! There were two large tall wardrobes which is more
than we need, so I converted one of them for our cat. I had a short
door made, and added a shelf so that we have a shirt length hanging wardrobe
on that side with an open area below. Muff's litter box is now in
the back of that open area. That solved a major problem.
I only have one real storage compartment under the motorhome, but it
is 6 feet by 8 1/2 feet by 2 feet high! This compartment goes completely
through the coach (another monocoque chassis advantage) and is accessed
from either side. There is a roller tray that pulls out about 4 feet
each way to allow easy access to all the cargo.
It has a 2000 watt ProSine inverter/charger. This produces a
pure (supposedly better than the power company) sine wave output.
The charger is a 3 stage battery charger with a 100 amp capacity.
There are 2 huge (size 8D) gel cell house batteries with a total capacity
of 450 amp hours. The coach has an 8 kw diesel generator. It is very
well set up electrically.
The lighting is great! It has 11 fluorescent fixtures in the
coach along with several very solidly built swing-out incandescent wall
fixtures with lamp shades, and a couple of bullet type map lights.
All the compartments have fluorescent lighting and the porch light is fluorescent.
Several of the closets have lights in them (but only incandescents).
There are 2 docking lights on each side of the coach for night time parking.
In case you cannot tell, we really love it! I will try to not
rave any (much?) more about it now that you have the facts.
Friday, May 4
Today was a day for minor projects. I started by pulling my 7
foot ladder from the cargo bay and cleaning the front of the motorhome.
On our last trip we were totally plastered with bugs, and although I was
cleaning the front on a daily basis whenever we moved, I still needed to
do some scrubbing. I then applied a product called Protectall.
It is sold for RV use and, as the name implies, is a protectant.
It provides something like a waxed finish, but without the rubbing.
You squirt it on from a spray bottle, then wipe it off. It doesn't
last as long as wax, but goes on about 10 times faster.
We finally received our license and registration a couple of weeks
ago from the DMV after waiting over 10 weeks, and one of my home projects
this time was to make a front plate mounting bracket. Using a pair
of new holes in the motorhome it mounts both the license plate and our
FMCA (Family Motor Coach Assn.) identifying placard. Now it was time
to drill holes in our nice shiny motorhome (ugh!) Oh well, the plate
has to be mounted. I carefully measured (several times) marking the
results on a piece of masking tape on the fiberglass and drilled two holes
through the front of my baby. The plates are well mounted, and if
I ever get rid of the FMCA placard, the license will mount directly on
the new holes in place of the bracket.
When I received my license I wished they had delayed another 99 numbers.
My number is 4RSL901. It would really have been neat to have it use
my initials (RSM). Everybody would have accused me of buying vanity
Now that we are street legal with real license plates, I can concentrate
on the other tasks.
I pulled a panel at the end of an overhead cabinet to see where the
wiring ran for the light over the dinette and the light switch that is
located nearby for the center aisle fluorescent. I need to add a
couple of low switches for these lights so Betty can reach them.
The wiring will be easy. There are already wires from that area that
run into the hollow wall on which I am mounting the switches. I spent
about an hour with my electric drill and a carton knife making a hole in
the wall to fit the switches. It would have been easy except there
is a large mirror on that wall, forcing the switches closer to the edge
of the wall than I like. The hole behind one of the switches was
just fine, the other was in a solid piece of wood. I had to carve
that out for clearance. Tomorrow I'll pull the wires and connect
We went to the local Albertsons this afternoon and stocked up on groceries.
We brought essentially no food with us this trip. Now we are set
for a while.
Tomorrow is our last full day here, in our Arizona home. We leave
Sunday for the Winslow area as an overnight stop en route to Canyon de
Chelly, and finally will really be into our trip.
Saturday, May 5 (El Cinco de Mayo) The main project I needed to finish
today, prior to traveling tomorrow, is the wiring of the lower light switches.
I started first thing, trying to fish a wire from the upper compartment,
down through a hollow wall to the switches. I tried and tried with
no success. Finally I was able to determine there was a stiffener
running across the width inside the wall. No wonder nothing would go thru!
I emptied the pantry and pulled the left wall (inside half of the hollow
wall) loose. This is the first panel I have run into that was not
installed using wood screws. At least it wasn't staples! It
was countersunk finishing nails. I found how the existing wiring
made it past the board - drilled holes. I drilled another hole and
the new wires went in easily. Several wood screws and all was back
together. Betty now has control of two more lights.
Oops! It turns out that Betty has control of more than 2 lights.
The switch for the dinette light also controls my computer table light
and the front center light. They are all obviously fed by the same
wire. At least this will be easy to fix, just embarrassing!
We pull out of our 3 month home in Buckeye tomorrow morning, heading
for Winslow, AZ. At least then I can start writing real "trip" reports.
I hope you weren't too bored by my chatter while here in camp.
So far my pictures on the web page consist of several of our "new"
Foretravel motorhome. As we continue, I hope to post many more of
our sights and adventures
I have tried to compromise between picture size and loading time.
Let me know what you think about the size, sharpness, and loading time.
Sunday, May 6
I was up at 6:15 this morning. Twenty minutes later I had the
wiring goof corrected and now Betty's switch switches only Betty's light!
I went over to the office to send report #1 and to upload the latest
data to the church website and to my website. The office was locked!
They don't open until 10:00 on Sundays now. (Summer hours).
We were not in a hurry to get out anyway, so I took my time doing all the
pre-travel things like dumping the tanks, putting my bike on the bike rack
I made for the back of the Saturn, hooking the Saturn to the motorhome,
and cleaning the windshield. It was now after 10:00 and I got all
my email and website transfers done.
Our trip today was to Winslow, AZ, about 235 miles. It was an
uneventful drive (the best kind!). Highway 17 from Phoenix to Flagstaff
certainly has a lot of grades, both up and down. Of course the ups
win by almost 7000 feet. Our Foretravel handled them just fine.
It really is nice to have a couple of gears to downshift into when needed.
The Gulf Stream had a 4 speed transmission, and I could not downshift to
3rd until I was down to 45 mph. The retarder worked perfectly holding
my speed downhill, also, except one time when I didn't pay close enough
attention and found my speed had built from my normal of 62 to almost 75!
A quick click and we were right back. I watched it a little more
We stopped at the Flying J in Winslow and fueled up. My Silverleaf
gage said I had burned 53.2 gallons since the last fill-up, but I could
only get about 50.5 in the tank.
My Silverleaf is a marvelous instrument! It connects to the data
lines from the electronically controlled engine and transmission and will
display all of the information they contain. This includes a multitude
of temperatures, pressures, flow rates, speeds, distances, and fluid levels.
It also captures and displays "in English" any diagnostic codes that are
produced by the engine or tranny. It provides calculated results
of rolling miles per gallon, total mpg for this tank, total mpg since new,
time to arrive, etc, etc, etc. As I said it is a marvelous gage that
I knew I would install as soon as I had a motorhome with the electronics
needed. The Foretravel does! I will need to go through several
tanks of fuel before I know what type of accuracy to expect. I cannot
fill this tank as repeatedly as I could on the "fill the tank, then fill
the filler tube and spit fuel in your face" Gulf Stream. It was very
repeatable. Putting fuel directly into the top of the tank means a little
difference in the depth of the nozzle will make several gallons of difference.
Also, with the tank running the full width of the motorhome, the exact
level, and which side you fill from will make a difference. I filled
from the right side this time, because that was the pump that was open.
We then drove about 5 more miles to the Homolovi Ruins State Park to
camp for the night. We stopped at the visitor's center to inquire.
Camping is $15 with water and electric or $10 without. We wondered
about the no-hookup rates, as all sites have hookups. The ranger
said it was the lower rate if we did not plug in, so we dry camped.
It was about 4:00 by now, and the visitor's center was open till 5:00,
the ruins till dark.
Signs are not the strong point of this state park! The signs
directing you to the campground are little tiny things, which are easily
enough read if you can spot the sign. We found the campground easily,
but the entrance was a little more difficult. As we approached the
campground there was a large sign pointing right identifying the dump station.
Well, I didn't want to dump, so I continued on to find the campground entrance.
Fortunately I was able to turn around a little over a mile down the road
at one of the ruins. It turns out that the road, in addition to the
large sign for the dump station, also had a small triangle with feet, representing
a tent, apparently telling us it was the campground. I like WORDS,
I don't do pictures very well! (Especially when all the other information
is in words!) We got all settled and unhooked, and headed back to
the visitor's center in the Saturn.
The Homolovi Ruins are the site of some fairly massive city developments
of the 14th century Anasazi Indians. Their descendants are now known
as Hopi Indians. There are 4 sites in the park. A couple of
the sites contained over 1000 rooms as well as multiple common areas.
Many of the residences were 2 and even 3 stories tall. They were
all built as a group with common walls. Each site consisted of only
one or two of these massive buildings. These are not "found" ruins, as
the Hopi tribes have kept track of them since they were built. They
are considered as sacred ground for them.
The state park was created in 1986, and opened to the public in 1993.
The Hopi tribes strongly supported this, as the area was being plundered
for the pottery sherds and other artifacts. (I always thought it was "shards",
and my spell checker doesn't like "sherds", but that is what all the display
labels said.) The Hopi people of today still consider Homolovi, along
with other pre-Columbian sites in the southwest, to be part of their homeland.
They make pilgrimages to these sites to renew the ties of the people to
the land. They tell us the broken pottery and the stones are now
part of the land, and define the trail the Bahana will follow when he returns.
There is not a lot of the ruins you can see. Several excavated
areas still had the walls standing so you could get a good idea of how
they were, but most looked more like piles of rocks. By far the best
views we had were on the computer in the visitor's center. They had
a program which showed the location of each ruin. By clicking your
way through, you could see the layout and a 3d visualization of each ruin
as they think they were in the 14th century. Research is actively
progressing on these sites.
Only two of the ruins are currently open to the public, and only one
of these is handicap accessible. The ranger instructed us to drive
to Homolovi II. There would be 2 walking trails up the hill to the
ruins. The left one of these is wider, and we were to drive up it to the
picnic area, then park. It sure cut out a lot of wheelchair pushing
up hill, and more importantly, holding it back going down! I am not
sure what the group who was resting on a bench thought as we drove on by
We swung back by the motorhome to take my bike off the bike rack.
I had forgotten just how hard it is to get Betty's wheelchair in and out
of the trunk when there is a bike across the back of the car. We
then drove into town.
We were magnetically pulled into the Pizza Hut where we had dinner.
This was right next door to the Walmart, but we didn't even go into Walmart!
That's a first for us. As we left we noticed about 6 or 8 motorhomes
parked around the edges of the Walmart parking lot to stay the night.
We could have saved $10!
Then it was on to the Safeway where we restocked our grocery supplies.
Among other things, I was only going to buy one gallon of milk as we are
limited by space in the refrigerator. The milk was $2.99 a gallon,
with a 2nd gallon free. Now let's see. Do I get one gallon
for $2.99 or two gallons for $2.99. I opted for the two! I
got everything in the fridge just fine, but it will get better when I finish
the old gallon we already had.
Monday, May 7
We slept well last night. It is much cooler here than near Phoenix.
(Everywhere is cooler than Phoenix!) It got down to about 41 last
night. It is a gorgeous day! a slight breeze is blowing and the sky
is clear and blue. It is now about 9:00 and the temperature is 68.
In a little while we will head out toward Canyon de Chelly, a trip
of about 170 miles. We will be meeting Keith and Virgilee Scholl,
and their two dogs Maggie and Honey tonight. We will be dry camping
there for a couple of nights before continuing north.
It is now about 3:00, (make that 4:00, we are on an Indian reservation,
and Arizona does not observe daylight savings time, except for the reservations)
and we are in our spot in Canyon de Chelly (pronounced Canyon de shay).
We were quite surprised that the campground is almost full. We really
had to search for a back-in site that would accommodate us. All the
pull-thru sites were taken. We have a nice site, except there is
no shade. Most of the sites have at least some shade. I hope
the Scholls get here while there is still space!
Our drive here was again, no problem. The roads ranged from beautiful,
freshly blacktopped to regular thump, thump's to random potholes, somewhat
repaired. I liked the new pavement the best!
Well, the Scholls arrived at about 3:30 (4:30 when we change the clocks).
They got all settled. Keith was concerned that his blinker sounded
different on a right turn than on a left. We discovered there were
no working right rear stop or turn lights on his motorhome. Keith
consulted his manual and found there is a fuse block he had been unaware
of buried in the engine compartment. It showed separate fuses for
right and left rear lights. After much effort removing the cover
in a location that was barely reachable, we found a dead fuse. A
new one fixed it! Whew!
We should sleep well tonight as it is cooling off nicely, but it never
really got that hot. It was one of those days where standing in the
sun was uncomfortable, but in the shade it couldn't be better.
Tuesday, May 8
It got to 37 degrees last night. Tonight we will not leave as
many windows open! It is now 9:00 (yes, the clocks were changed this
morning) and it is 67 out, calm, clear, and beautiful.
I got to thinking about how much information I force fed you about
our motorhome. I hope it wasn't too much. At least now you
know more about Foretravels than the average Foretravel owner. I
promise to ease off.
It is now about 9:00 PM. We had a very busy, but most enjoyable
day today. After a little re-planning to reduce the mileage involved,
we headed off for the Canyon de Chelly visitor's center. We saw a
video of the history of the canyon, along with a school bus load of Navajo
school kids. I pressed the button to start the video for fear that
one of them would press the Navajo language button. I pressed English!
After looking at some of the artifact displays we hit the road toward Monument
Valley, a distance of about 92 miles.
The Monument Valley visitor's center is on Navajo land, and there is
a $3.00 per person fee. There is a very nice observation platform
at the second story level of the building. They have installed a
very workable steel angle iron and expanded metal ramp that winds around
the walls and turns, getting us up with very reasonable slopes. The
views from up there were spectacular! I plan to post samples of the
pictures on the web page.
The visitor's center had a location for displaying Navajo rug weaving
and basket making. No one was active there today. We probably
are not "in season" yet. There were a couple of displays, but mostly
it consisted of an information desk, a couple of tour seller desks, and
a gift shop. We bought a note card with a photo by David Muench which
was just the right size to trim and place in a picture frame in the motorhome.
It will occupy the place of honor until we get a current, correctly sized
picture of our grand daughters, the real reason for the frame. There
are a number of dirt roads available to tour the various natural attractions
in Monument Valley. Some of these are available to drive in personal
cars, but many are only available to the Navajo run tours. Among
others, they offer 1 hour, 2 1/2 hour, half day, and full day tours.
We stopped several times along the road on the way to and from Monument
Valley to photograph the scenery, it was all so breathtaking.
We arrived back near our camp around 4:00. Rather than head back
to camp, we continued on and toured the south rim of Canyon de Chelly.
It is a gorgeous place. There are sheer walls leading down to a flat,
green valley floor, with a river running along it. The Navajo's farm
the valley floor. This area has been shown by archeologists to have been
continually occupied for the last 5000 years. This is longer than
any other area on the Colorado Plateau.
There are tours around the valley floor, either in your own 4 wheel
drive vehicle, or in special tour trucks. You can also get permits
to hike in the valley. In all cases, you must have a licensed Navajo
guide accompany you. As the video earlier pointed out, people live
there. We are going through their back yards. Also there are
dangerous areas in the canyon, including quicksand (whatever that really
We stopped at all the turnouts along the south rim. Some were
several miles off the road, and some had a hike from the parking area to
the canyon rim. Some were wheelchair accessible. The views
were all spectacular (Do I keep using that word?) A couple had signs
near the hike to the rim saying "WARNING 700 foot sheer cliff, control
your children and pets" Once to the edge you could see why they had the
signs. Just about every overlook had views of ancient ruins built
into flaws of the cliffs. It is hard to imagine how anyone got to
or from any of the locations I saw.
The Scholls were a little more level headed and did not drive all day
like we did. They did some relaxing then thoroughly toured the south
rim of the canyon, including hikes to several of the more remote overlooks.
Tomorrow we are planning to start early and see several overlooks on
the north rim of the canyon. We will then get back and break camp
so we can head to Green River, UT for an overnight stop enroute to the
Dinosaur National Monument area.
Our campground tomorrow advertises "modem hookup". I can get
caught up on email again, and get this episode sent.
Wednesday, May 9
We left camp about 7:30 this morning to see a little of the north rim.
I am certainly glad we re-routed our drive yesterday. We were going
to drive the full length of the north rim, stopping along the way, then
proceed a ways beyond the canyon to intersect a highway to the north.
We changed to reduce our overall mileage. The road turned out to
be just about the worst paved road I have ever driven, exceeded possibly
by the roads in Yellowstone Park several years ago. There were potholes,
general bumps, washboard, and sections of gravel over the paving.
There is road construction in progress, so there may be an improvement
We headed out of the campground about 9:30 this morning and had a somewhat
tedious drive to Green River, UT. Our route took us through Moab,
past Arches National Park, and past Canyonlands National Park. We
stopped at a Passport America park where we stayed a couple of years ago.
This is the park that on my first outing with my bicycle, gave me two flat
tires. I pulled over a hundred small, sharp burrs from the tires.
The tubes had about that many holes, also. The two new heavy duty
tubes I got from an auto parts/bicycle/hardware store about a block from
here are still in my bike tires and have had no problem. I don't
think I will ride my bike here this time!
Tomorrow we move to the vicinity of Dinosaur National Monument and
I will head over to the office now. They are supposed to have
modem hookups, and I am beginning to get withdrawal symptoms!
I didn't mention in report #2 that upon entering the campground at
Green River, it was "snowing", actually quite heavily! The Cottonwood
trees picked this afternoon to empty their load of cotton into the breezes.
It was really quite pretty if you didn't have to breath. I am posting
a picture of the cotton "snow" on one of the lawn areas in the campground.
After about 30 or 40 minutes, either the trees were empty or the wind died
down, and the air was clear again.
Thursday, May 10
We left camp about 9:00 this morning, heading for Jenson, UT, near
Dinosaur National Monument and Flaming Gorge.
We had less than 200 miles to go today, but the drive was very interesting.
We drove up highway 191 through Price, UT, and then up a grade that took
us from 5+ thousand feet to 9000 feet in a distance of 10 miles.
Keith has been worrying about this grade for months (I was too dumb to
worry!) As it turned out, it was a piece of cake! They had
a speed limit of 40, and we were able to hold that for much of the climb.
We did get down to 25 for a while. We were the only vehicles going
our direction that we saw the entire distance, so there was no having to
worry about holding up traffic.
It was a beautiful drive! When we first started up the grade,
the right hand side of the road overlooked a valley filled with vivid green
aspen trees, along with a number of more conventional green trees and shrubs.
I wish I could have stopped and taken a picture. Later on, just as
we crested, there was a spectacular view over an equally beautiful valley
to the left. Again there was no place to stop.
We arrived here, in Jenson, at about 1:30 and stopped at another Passport
America park. Passport America is a discount camping outfit with
nearly 700 member campgrounds in USA, Canada, and Mexico. For a $45
annual membership (no initial investment!) you get a 50% discount at the
member parks. It has worked very well for us! We paid $8 last
night plus tax, and 7.75 a night for our 3 nights here (no tax).
These are for full hookup. With the one night for $10 and 2 nights
free, our camping expenses have been very reasonable so far this trip.
Why do I think that will not last?
This is not the most beautiful campground we have used, but is very
adequate. There are few trees, and the ground is not particularly
smooth or level. Some areas have fairly long grass, but ours are
mostly bare. There is a lot of rock in the ground. I had to go pretty
much to the limits of my leveling system, but was able to get the coach
level without using blocks under the tires. It is in a fairly convenient
location for the trips we are going to take over the next couple of days.
We made it about half way here and I thought to myself "Maybe we are
out of the heavy bug area" we had very few windshield splatters,
then we hit it. Many, many splats, including a number of the butterflies
we have been running into so much lately. They leave a bright yellow
At camp, I again got out my folding ladder and bucket and washed the
front of the motorhome. It looks so much better without all the yellow,
red, and black splats, and now we can enjoy it for 3 days before we move
Friday, May 11
Today was our day for the Dinosaur National Monument. We were
here less than 2 years ago, so we still remembered the sights fairly well.
We concentrated on those we were most interested in. We first went
to the "quarry". This is a hillside that is so rich in dino. bones
it is hard to believe. They have enclosed about a 100 foot length
of a 30 foot or so high wall. This was a very active excavation area
until they stopped work on it several years ago to preserve what is left
in its natural form. As you look at this massive expanse of rock
and dirt, there are not very many foot square areas which don't have at
least one bone in or adjacent to it. They encourage touching the
bones, but advise you to not climb the wall! I have touched a 50
million year old bone!
After the quarry, we drove the Tilted Rock drive. It is aptly
named, as everywhere you look, it appears that the earth was sectioned,
then tilted at a significant angle. As we drove, we saw many interesting
geological features, as pointed out in a "driving tour guide book" which
you could buy or borrow. We took it to Split Mountain, an area where
the Green River carved its channel right through the middle of a solid
rock formation. Experts do not know why the river did not divert a little
and take a much easier route. We visited the boat launch area and
a group campground there.
Next we drove on an area of the road which exited the monument over
private land. It is an area of cattle ranches owned by the Chew family,
who have been raising cattle there for well over 100 years. We watched
as a rancher feed his cattle in one area. He was driving a large
diesel tractor with a lift-boom arrangement on the front. It had
huge claws which held one of the large cylindrical bales of hay.
Behind the tractor was a large trailer with fork-lift-like tangs on the
rear. In the trailer was another large bale of hay which was being
bounced around in it while a mechanism pulled hay off the bottom and dropped
it on the ground. When he finished spreading the hay from the trailer,
he lowered the front bale to the ground, backed up a little, drove around
the hay and backed the trailer into it. The rear tangs of the trailer
lifted the hay. The rancher jumped out, cut off the bindings from
the hay and caused the tangs to continue up, dumping the hay into the trailer,
where the spreading process continued. As he drove, the cattle moved hastily
toward him, knowing it was chow time.
After seeing the area, we headed back to Vernal, and their Walmart.
We stocked up on some desperately needed supplies, including several non-sweet
items and some hardware items.
Keith and Virg started the day driving to Vernal (13 miles) and left
the two dogs at a kennel for 2 days. They then explored practically
the same areas we did.
This evening the 4 of us drove back into Vernal, and had a Friday Night
Dinner Out. Just like the old times!
Saturday, May 12
Today was our day to explore Flaming Gorge. We discussed doing
it together, but decided our interests, schedules, and other needs differed
enough to justify touring separately.
We went first to the Flaming Gorge Dam and Visitor's Center.
The dam was build in the early 60's and supplies power to the Intermountain
area. We asked about a dam tour and was told the tour guide was on
his lunch break, but would be running one when he finished. We looked
around the center a little, then went into the auditorium. They have
a TV setup with 5 different films you can watch by pressing the appropriate
button. We started one, narrated by Loni Anderson, describing the
general area and the various recreational activities around. About
half way through, the tour guide poked his head in and invited us to the
tour he was just starting.
We started by walking around the end of the dam. There is a huge
gantry crane parked there. It is capable of rolling across the dam
on rails at each edge of the roadway. They always try to do their
scheduled maintenance in the "off season" as they need to pass traffic
through the crane in one direction at a time.
There are three inlet gates on the lake side of the dam, each of which
is comprised of several sliding plates. The controls on the dam allow
these plates to be raised and lowered to stack the plates at the bottom,
the top, or split. This allows the height of the water entering the
penstocks to be varied. They use this as a temperature control mechanism.
When the lake is warmer, they draw the deeper water, etc. This keeps
the downstream river running at the natural temperatures they would be
if the dam were not there. Some of the fish are very fragile, and
a few degrees temperature change would kill large numbers of them.
Every year, the gates from one of the openings are hoisted out of the
water for de-rusting, inspection, repair, and repainting. This is
what the huge gantry crane does. As there are three of these gates,
each one is serviced every three years.
As we walked, the tour guide kept pointing out features such as the
lasers mounted on the downstream face of the dam, pointing to reflectors
on the canyon walls. These allow the engineers to keep track of the
deflection of the dam as the water loads change. It's scary thinking
that something like a dam deflects isn't it? But everything will
deflect somewhat with any size load.
We then went down to the bottom level of the dam. They have 3
generators, each capable of providing 501,625 kilowatts at about 11,500
volts. Transformers then step that up by over ten times for transmission
over the power lines. The tour was very interesting.
We then drove across the dam to the town of Dutch John, a few miles
past the dam. We filled up the Saturn, and each had a dish of ice
cream. We headed back, crossed the dam again, and back to a fork
in the road a few miles from the dam. We then took highway 44 north..
We drove out to the Red Canyon Visitor Center. It is at the end
of a several mile long side road from 44. I went into the center,
leaving Betty in the car, as she suggested I just pick up a brochure on
the area. As I went in, I saw a life size stuffed brown bear across
from a realistic "Mountain Man". I walked between them to the full
corner of window and almost gasped. There in front of me was a view
that extended probably 100 miles in the distance and several thousand feet
down, and covered an angle of view of at least 180 degrees. Totally
tree covered ranges dropped down to the reservoir, with snow covered ranges
in the distance. It was truly awesome. A few minutes later
I was back with Betty. We then explored a couple of overlooks from
the trail outside.
We then drove the Sheep Creek Canyon Loop. This is a drive that
takes you initially from almost 8000 feet down to about 5000, and winds
through the most beautiful canyon. There are gorgeous trees, beautiful
colors of rock, and amazing rock formations. We drove this canyon
two years ago, and there was no way we were not doing it again!
We continued on into Manilla, a small town which is just short of the
It was a most enjoyable day!
It's now after 11:00 PM! I am spending too much time typing these
things (but you know I won't change).
Tomorrow we head to Rawlings, WY for an overnight stop. We will
actually be retracing a large portion of today's drive.
Sunday, May 13
Happy Mother's Day!
Today was a travel day, hopefully with some rest time at Rawlings.
We started by retracing our steps to the Flaming Gorge Dam, up to 8300
feet, around 10 horseshoe bends (posted 20 to 30 mph) and back down a winding
grade to the dam. We drove this leg separately as Keith needed gas
and I wanted to stop at a store that had hats. I decided that I had
better start protecting my head when outside for periods of time.
I couldn't tell if there was enough room to pull our rig into the parking
lot (and get out again), so I continued on to the dam. I unhooked
the Saturn and ran back about 5 miles to the store. Just as I approached
the store Keith and Virg came along heading to the dam. We had planned
a rest stop in the dam parking lot, so there was no timing problem.
After driving across the dam and going a few miles, the road straightened
out and became more level, so we progressed faster. We were in camp
by 2:30 with the rest of the afternoon to relax.
Tomorrow we head through Casper to Buffalo, WY.
I was going to send this out from Rawlings, as the campground ads stated
"Internet access", but no luck. The girl who registered us said the
owners ex-wife ran off with all the money, and they are doing without a
lot of things right now. Tomorrow's campground is supposed to have
A Side Note: I have received several emails from you (collective
"you") commenting and asking about my pictures. Thanks!
For those who care, here are several technical details:
I shoot the pictures with my Epson 850Z digital camera with a resolution
of 1600 x 1200 pixels.(2.1 mega-pixels) The resulting JPEG files
average about 300KB in size. I take these images and resample them
using my image editing software (Photo Impact 5) to a size of about 320
x 240 pixels. This varies slightly if I do any cropping, but will be close.
I then save the pictures, still as JPEG's (.JPG) files using a lower quality
level of 65%. 75% is the default. This yields files that average
about 15KB, providing about a 20/1 reduction in size, without too seriously
degrading the picture.
Monday, May 14
Today was a 230 mile drive to Buffalo, WY. We got away just after
8:00 and headed north. The road started as 2 lane, and was very smooth,
with only slight turns or grades. The land in Wyoming is largely
flat rangeland. Some of the areas are really pretty. Traffic was
extremely low the whole distance.
Around 1:30 PM we pulled into the same campground where we stayed in
1996 on our Yellowstone/Teton trip. It is a beautiful park with large,
mature trees (Cottonwood, I think), and green lawns. This is the
first "full price" campground for this trip! We have done very well.
We had a relaxing afternoon.
Tomorrow we head to Hardin, Montana.
Tuesday, May 15
We had a short drive of only about 120 miles today. Our plan
was to start around 9:00, drive to the site of the Battle of the Little
Bighorn, several miles short of our destination park, and stop with our
rigs there. We would tour the visitor's center and the battlegrounds,
then move on to camp. By now it would certainly be late enough to
Well, it didn't quite work that way! We got to the monument,
showed our Golden Age and Golden Access cards and immediately saw signs
saying "No pets allowed outside vehicles". Virg asked the lady in
the toll booth if she could take the dogs out just briefly. She was
told "No! If we allowed you to do it, we would have to let everyone
do it". We pulled out and found our campground. This is another
Passport America park and we got all settled in our sites. After
unhooking and getting a couple of things done, we all headed back to the
In 1868 the Indians had been given a large portion of eastern Wyoming
as a reservation with assurances of protection "against the commission
of all depredations by people of the United States." Then in 1874
gold was discovered in the Black Hills, in the heart of the new reservation.
Thousands of people swarmed into the area to seek gold, in violation of
the Ft. Laramie treaty. The army was unsuccessful at keeping them
out. There was an unsuccessful attempt to buy back the Black Hills
region. In retaliation for the intrusions, the Indians started attacking
settlements and travelers. After failing to reach another agreement
with the Indians, troops were sent in to quell the disturbances in 1876,
leading up to the battle here on June 25 and June 26.
In the visitor's center we saw exhibits of the uniforms and equipment
of the 7th Cavalry soldiers. There was a small 3d topographical layout
of the area with lights that showed the progression of the various units
of soldiers and Indians during the 2 days of battle. A lack of communication
plagued the soldiers, and they were up against more Indian warriors than
they expected. Initially, Custer's only concern was that they would
be discovered by the Indians, giving the Indians time to escape the attack.
They were discovered quite early, but the Indians did not leave.
A ferocious two day battle erupted, and as they say, the rest is history!
There was a monument at the site of a mass grave of about 200 soldiers
at the top of Custer Hill where Custer, his two brothers, Tom and Boston,
and his nephew, Autie Reed all fell, along with the final remnants of his
men. There are markers everywhere, noting the sites where the bodies were
found. The officer's bodies were later removed and buried in other
cemeteries. Custer is at West Point.
The final results of the battle were that Chief Sitting Bull and Chief
Crazy Horse prevailed. Lt. Col. George A. Custer (elsewhere called
General) lost everyone in the 5 companies under him, about 210 men.
Major Marcus A. Reno and Captain Frederick W. Benteen lost about half the
100+ men they commanded.
One of the contemporary historians stated "It was not a massacre, It
was a hard fought battle which the Indians won." However, it was
a short lived victory, as the news of the defeat created a great resolve
to end the situation, and led to the ultimate defeat of the Indian tribes.
Wednesday, May 16
We had a longer drive today, about 260 miles to Medora, ND, so we started
about 8:00. The sky was a solid gray overcast. Keith and Virg
fueled up right across the street from the campground while we waited in
camp. As they finished, we pulled out right behind them. The
first 30 miles were on two lane road, highway 74. It was a beautiful
stretch of road, smooth fairly straight, and almost no traffic. It
connected to I-94 and we headed more to the east. We could see storms
several places around us. The sky behind us was dark and was lighter
in front of us.
About half way here, the storms caught up with us and we had light
showers and drizzle the rest of the way. At one point we could see
lightning flashing nearby and the winds got quite ferocious. We pulled
off by the side of an offramp and waited about 15 minutes. The wind
dropped a lot and the rain slackened, so we proceeded.
The countryside in Montana is beautiful! Smooth rolling plains
covered with lush green grass. I'm sure that will change as the season
progresses, but right now it's gorgeous! It started to get less green
toward the eastern border. As soon as we crossed into North Dakota,
the terrain changed to a fairly rough contour, with rugged rock outcroppings
and fairly deep canyons. It makes you wonder, after seeing so many
significant changes across state lines, if maybe the lines were originally
determined by the changes in terrain.
We got to the campground in Medora, in the rain, ran into the office
and got all signed up. This is our most expensive camp yet, and we
are here for 3 nights! We followed a young fellow who showed us to
our sites. He said "You can unhook your cars here, then back into
spaces 47 and 48. We got soaked unhooking, then backed into our sites
and waited for the rain to ease off before connecting up to the utilities.
After about an hour, the rain stopped, the sun came out and the rest
of the afternoon was quite pleasant.
We will be here for 3 nights. Keith and Virg and the dogs will
drive up to Williston, about 120 miles from here either tomorrow or Friday.
Keith's mother was born in that area and he has never been there before.
This is the first time in ND for all of us.
Thursday, May 17
Today we relaxed around the motorhome until about 11:00 when we left
to explore the Medora area. We started by exploring the half dozen
streets of the town. It is obviously a tourist town as most of the
businesses are tourist oriented. We went into the visitor's center
of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. This is just a few blocks
from our campground. Before becoming president, Teddy became very interested
in North Dakota and ended up buying several cattle ranches. It was
during this phase of his life that he developed his strong interests in
nature and conservation. The national park is in two sections, about 60
miles apart. We are near the Southern Unit. After the visitor's
center visit, we headed east on the freeway to the next town, Belfield.
We gassed up the Saturn and explored the town (including the local Dairy
Queen). Next we headed back to Medora and drove up to its amphitheater.
During the Summers, they put on a musical play blending Dakota Territory
history with comedy, music, and special acts in a tribute to Teddy Roosevelt.
The theatre is built on a hill side overlooking the Badlands. There
is a whole city set built on the stage area. It all looks very ambitious
for a city with a population of 100!
Back to the TR Nat. Park, we took the loop road through the park.
This took us primarily through the Badlands, an area with breaks, ravines,
plateaus, draws, and coulees, and generally inhospitable terrain.
This area has a lot of coal veins below the surface. It is not
uncommon for these to catch fire by lightning, brush fires, or spontaneous
combustion. These burn often for years. (There is one vein
a number of miles from here that has been burning over a hundred years.)
When coal seams burn near the surface, they bake the surface of sand and
clay and turn it to a composition called scoria. While true scoria
is volcanic in nature, this material is very similar and is much like brick.
You can readily see the reddish color capping many of the bluffs.
We drove past a number of Prairie Dog Towns. They were standing
up, looking around, and chirping (barking?) loudly. Every time I
tried to get a picture of them standing, they would either get down, or
dive into their holes as they heard the noise of our car.
The other wildlife we saw on the drive was bison. We first saw
several on the lawn of the visitor's center at Painted Canyon. On
the drive, we saw more a number of places around the loop. At one
place we were within several feet of a couple of them. They are BIG
animals! A mother crossed the road ahead of us with her calf.
She always kept herself between the calf and us, and watched us very closely
as she crossed, then passed to our right. She was uttering "grunt
warnings" the whole way.
Tomorrow, Keith and Virg head to Williston for the day, Fred and Judy
Pfafman leave from Arkansas for their 2 1/2 day drive, and we have a more
or less free day. Saturday, we head to Keystone, near Rapid City,
SD where we will meet Fred and Judy on Sunday.
Friday, May 18
It's another beautiful morning! Bright, clear skies, temperature
in the high 50's, and no breeze.
I worked hard last night to try and finish up all the reports, pictures,
church website preparation, etc. I want to be able to do everything
needed on-line with one session. This park charges $2 to access the
net (and I am a cheapskate!). It is the first park we have been in
that has a charge. They say the local telco charges them $80 a month per
line, and they have 2 lines dedicated to modem use, so they have a legitimate
reason. It looks like a fairly nice setup. There are two "cubicles"
on the outside of the building, each with a chair and shelf. They
have 110v and telephone connections. I need to get over there before
late afternoon, which is when the mosquitoes are most active! They
will buzz around your head in a swarm; you do not have a chance!
During the day it is fine.
We will probable do some grocery shopping and a little more sightseeing
Well, I finally got #4 sent, but it certainly was not as easy as I
had predicted! I went over to the office and paid my $2, and she
turned on the left hand station. I went out, and after catching the
snap tab of the modem connector on something in my case and breaking it
off (I hate it when that happens!) I managed to get the plug to stay in
the socket. No dial tone! I tried several times, then tried
the right hand station. Still no dial tone! I went into the
office and she turned on both lines. Still nothing on the left, but
I had a dial tone on the right! I tried to connect and it kept trying
the primary number, then the secondary, then the primary, etc. It
kept this up for about 5 minutes then it said the line was busy.
I let it keep trying for about 20 minutes. No change. Finally
I quit. (Yes, I got my $2 back.)
I called AT&T tech support to see if their service on the 800 lines
was out. I was told that since I subscribed more than 30 days ago,
there was no free tech support. He wouldn't even tell me if THEIR
service was broken! I can now call an independent company they contract
with and pay $17 per call. I don't think that will happen.
This afternoon I tried again, changing every setting I could think
of, with exactly the same results. The owner said to come in and
try it with their fax line. It connected the first time, just like
it usually does. I did all my stuff and went out to pay the $2 and
she would not accept it, apologizing several times for all my trouble.
I told her I provided a good meal for a lot of bugs while trying it.
I don't think they are getting their $80 worth per line - on either line!
Did I mention that there are a lot of mosquitoes and little gnat type
biting bugs around here? If I didn't, there are!
We had a very relaxing day today. We never left camp. We
ran a load of clothes in the washer/dryer, I did a few small tasks.
I added a second emitter to our VCR/satellite cupboard. Since there
is a solid wood door over this equipment, Foretravel supplies an infrared
"relay" system. There is a sensor above the cupboard which goes to
a small junction box. Into this box you can plug up to 4 emitters
to drive different pieces of equipment. There was just one for the
VCR originally, and I bought a second for the satellite while home this
last time. I had to remove a panel to get at the junction box.
While I was there, I lifted the cupboard floor panel and checked a possible
route for my satellite dish cable when I run one. I am currently
using the cable TV cable for my dish, but if I connect to cable in a park,
I have to re-connect a bunch of things.
Another small task was to cut off several pieces of threaded rod, grind
the ends smooth (yes, I carry a small "Dremel type" cordless grinder),
and put wing nuts jammed against standard nuts on one end. This made
wing bolts to use in my tripod mount for the satellite dish. The
farther east we go, the more likely I am to need to put the dish away from
the motorhome to find a hole through the tree foliage. I should now
be able to set up the tripod in much less time than the old "wrench" type
Keith, Virg, and the dogs returned from their day's travels around
6:00. They went to Williston and explored. They did not know exactly
where his mother lived, and the town has grown a lot. So they got
a general idea of the location, and did some shopping. On their way
back they drove the scenic road through the TR National Park, Northern
Unit. It was similar to the South Unit, except the features seemed
much larger. The highs and lows of the Badlands were more exaggerated.
We watched some TV, and I did a lot of computer work. A relaxing
Later, Keith came over and we figured how to program the GPS he borrowed
for this trip. It is a Garmin Street Pilot. It is the same
brand, but a larger model than mine. Once I figured how to upload
the data from Street Atlas 8.0 into it, I started liking it a lot more.
They will try it tomorrow and see how it is.
Tomorrow we head for Keystone, SD. I hope there are not the bugs
we have here!
Saturday, May 19
We had a 280 mile drive today. Most of it was though relatively
flat farmland and prairie, on 2 lane road. We finally made it to
I-90 where we drove about 50 miles on freeway (except for 11 miles of it
where construction put all traffic on one side). We stopped in Rapid
City for fuel. This is only the 3rd time this trip we had to fill
up. The downside to having a huge fuel tank is that it took $185
to fill it!
The last few miles (on highway 16A) were on a narrow, winding 2 lane
road. Our rigs barely fit between the shoulder-less right hand edge of
the road, and the double yellow line (when you could see it). We
found our campground, and it is gorgeous! There are lush green lawns
throughout, and lots of trees. We are parked in front of a "forest"
of trees on a hillside just behind us.
The only problem was when I checked the compass to see where to point
the satellite dish, it was directly into that hillside. I got my
inclinometer out (a laminated piece of paper I made that hangs from a paper
clip, and has lines at various angles) and sighted up from the edge of
the road. It showed I should clear the treetops by about 5 degrees.
I set up the dish there and got an excellent signal.
This afternoon/evening was an exciting time! After getting all
settled we decided to take a drive toward Keystone, SD, about 9 miles farther
on hwy 16A. This route is much twistier (is that a word?) and goes
through 3 tunnels which would have been very exciting with our motorhomes.
Mount Rushmore is just a couple miles off this road prior to reaching Keystone.
All three tunnels are aligned to frame the monument when looking through
them. As we got close to Rushmore, we decided to head in and check
They have done a major renovation to the facilities at Mt. Rushmore,
including replacing the old parking lots with parking structures.
There is now an $8 charge to park. One of the tour guides we read
said $8 per person. We decided to go in and find out what it really
is, and if you could enter more than one time for the charge. It
turns out that the $8 is a per car charge for an annual pass (calendar
year). We bought our pass and went on in. The lady at the entrance
gate said there was supposed to be an Air Force band playing in the amphitheater
at 7:30. It was now 6:30. We went to the dining room to see
what they had to offer, it was closed! There was a special party.
It turns out that tonight was the premier showing of brand new film on
the monument, the final piece of the 13 year renovation project.
A lot of dignitaries were invited for the special presentation. We
had sandwiches at the snack bar and went to the amphitheater. I made
a trip back to the car and got everything warm we had there. We had
taken our windbreakers. I got a blanket, a towel, and a small pillow,
and we settled in for an evening's entertainment.
The band was not really the Air Force Band we had envisioned.
It was a 6 piece contemporary pop rock group, officially sanctioned by
a local Air Force Base. Their numbers ranged from very lively classics
to pure cacophony. Their subwoofer was very intense. It would
reach right into you and help you digest your dinner! Most of their
numbers were enjoyable and we had a good time. Next we had about
a half hour of speeches by various people involved in the 13 year renovation,
and specifically the creation of the new movie, which replaces a 16mm film
in use for over 30 years, which was narrated by a very young Burgess Meridith.
We then viewed the new movie, done in HDTV with Dolby surround sound.
It was done by the Discovery (of TV channel fame) people, and was very
good. It gave a brief overview of the conception of the monument, showed
how Gutzon Borglum modeled the faces at 1/12th scale, and showed the work
as it progressed. It then briefly chronicled the lives and accomplishments
of the 4 presidents in the monument, Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and
At the end, the lights gradually brightened on the monument itself,
which is directly over the stage of the amphitheater. The lights
reached full brilliance as the closing number of the film, God Bless America,
finished. It was a wonderful evening!
Sunday, May 20
We had talked of going back to Mt. Rushmore this morning for breakfast
(they are supposed to have a really good $3 breakfast) and to see the monument
with the sun on the carved faces. When we first looked out this morning
it was totally overcast. We decided that it didn't make sense to
go without the sun. About 8:30 the sun was out. There were
only scattered clouds. Our trip was on again. Within half an
hour, it was largely overcast again. By 10:00 it was raining.
It is now 11:10 and it is still raining. We didn't go. Now
we are waiting for Fred and Judy to arrive. Around 8:00 this morning, the
temperature was about 50, within an hour or so it dropped to 36!
It even snowed for a couple of minutes!
The rain stopped just about 1:00, as Fred and Judy arrived! We
helped them get their HiLo trailer in its spot and all set up, we then
had a period of catching up. After a while, Fred pulled out his satellite
dish to set it up. We worked for over an hour, as we could not get
anything. We ran a cable to Keith's dish and still had nothing.
We substituted cables, and finally got a signal. Finally after replacing
all the substitute pieces with Fred's, it worked! We now have three
dishes set up side by side, and everyone's system works!
Fred and Judy have decided to go to Mt. Rushmore tonight, as it is
the only chance they have to see the movie we saw last night. It
doesn't start playing daily until Memorial Day (next week!). We are
planning to all go over again in the morning to try the outing we cancelled
We actually had sunshine for about the last hour, starting around 5:30,
but it is clouding over again. It is supposed to be clear tomorrow.
Fred and Judy returned around 10:30. When they got to the amphitheater,
the seats were covered with snow. They had borrowed extra-heavy jackets
from the Scholls, so were able to endure the climate just fine, and enjoyed
the presentation. They also spent time in the museum.
Monday, May 21
Fred and Judy met us here at 8:00, and we all headed toward Mt. Rushmore
in our Saturn. It was very cold (high 30's) and windy, but the sun
was mostly out. I had figured out from our last trip, that I should
park in the 2nd structure, as the first was much more crowded, and the
wheelchair ramp was on the far side, near the 2nd structure. I carefully
counted entrances and pulled into the parking area on the roof of the 2nd
structure. There in the handicap parking spots were a couple of construction
trucks and a cement mixer. We had to park away from the work, then
snake past the trucks and equipment, rolling over power cords, but it all
We had a very good breakfast there. Their special was chicken
fried steak and country gravy, hash brown potatoes, scrambled eggs, a biscuit,
and a beverage of your choice (except orange juice). The drinks were
re-fillible. I had an extra biscuit in place of the eggs. This
was all for $3.50 (up from the $2.99 listed in the literature).
We toured the museum which showed many photos of the construction,
had replicas of Borglum's 1/12th size models, many artifacts of the construction,
and several TV monitors showing phases of the construction. The most popular
TV presentation (especially with the high-school age school kids there)
was one with a panel of various shots of the mountain. You would select
the area to see, then press a large plunger and that section of the mountain
would be exploded as they blasted the excess material during the construction.
Of course it was accompanied by a very realistic sound.
Another video showed the method Borglum used to transfer the shape
of his scale models to the mountain. He had a large boom at the top
of the mountain (and a proportional one on his model) that swung out over
the work. He would drop a plumb-bob from this boom. He had
measurements on the distance out, the angle, and the length of the plumb-bob
line. This way he was able to transfer, point by point the entire
surface of his sculptures. It took thousands of these measurements
to accomplish his goal. During the initial stages of the construction,
Borglum changed his models many times to accommodate cracks and flaws discovered
on the mountain.
Next we hiked the Presidential Trail. This took us directly below
the sculptures and gave a whole new perspective to the monument.
We left the monument and drove to Hill City, a few miles away.
There is an 1880 Train which runs from Hill City to Keystone. We
located the station and made reservations to ride the 1:30 train tomorrow.
We lunched at a Dairy Queen in Custer.(yes, they have food too!).
Next we headed out the highway to Jewel Cave National Monument.
There was a major forest fire in this area last August which burned over
85 thousand acres. On one day of the fire it had the dubious distinction
of burning the second most acres in a day of any USA fire in history.
We signed up for a cave tour which left in about 15 minutes. Betty
was able to go down the elevator and look out over a rail at the first
stop of the tour. She was then taken back to the lobby as Fred, Judy,
and I proceeded with the rest of the tour. It took us about 1/2 mile
and went up and down over 700 steps! It was listed as a "moderately
strenuous" tour. One of the younger ladies on the tour said that
if this was moderately strenuous, she wondered what a strenuous tour would
be! Jewel Cave has a few very beautiful structures, including a 20
foot long "bacon" strip, but in general it is a very plain, but extensive
cave. There have been over 125 miles of cavern discovered and mapped
to date. Scientists have done some air pressure tests and feel that
only about 3 or 4% of the cave has been found so far. After about 1 1/2
hours, we all staggered out of the elevator and headed back.
On our way back to camp, we saw 2 bison along the road, the first Fred
and Judy had seen this trip. Then we came across about 6 Bighorn
Sheep by the side of the road. There was something that really attracted
them, as they were all pawing the ground and rooting around the same spot.
A few miles later we passed about 6 or 8 wild burros in and around the
road. These animals must have just eaten, as they were not at all
aggressive, but just stood there and looked at us. On our last trip
to this area we ran across some burros that would come right to your car,
and if there was an open window, they put their snouts in as far as possible
looking for a handout.
Keith and Virg were back in camp when we arrived and we all decided
to go out to dinner. The dogs are in a kennel in Rapid City.
We drove to Keystone and "blindly" picked a restaurant. It wasn't
a really good choice as it turned out. For $14.95 we had a "prime
rib" buffet. The food was not that great, and the prime rib was more
like tough roast beef. The other selections were OK. We all
had a good time! It was a good, but an exhausting day!
Tuesday, May 22
Today we all did our own separate things. Keith and Virg headed
out to Spearfish Canyon, a very scenic area quite a few miles from here.
On their way back, they stopped in Rapid City and did six loads of laundry.
Fred and Judy toured a gold mine, and even panned for gold. Fred
has a small bottle containing several flecks of gold he panned. They
then drove through Custer State Park. Here, along with the gorgeous
scenery, they saw numerous bison, and the "wild" burros who force their
noses into any open car windows looking for food.
We headed for Rapid City to do some necessary shopping and to see some
sights on the way. We first stopped at the Mt. Rushmore Black Hills
Gold jewelry factory. Black Hills Gold is a registered trademark,
and can only be made by 8 companies in the Black Hills area.
We asked about a tour and were told that there was one in progress
so that guide would not be available. He then called one of the girls
at the counter over to give us a private tour. It was fascinating!
The designers first draw up the proposed design, which is hand carved from
a hard wax. When everyone is happy with the design, a rubber mold is made
from the wax piece. Now one wax casting is made from this mold for
each piece of jewelry to be made. A large number of these wax castings
are "welded" to short wax posts which are in turn fastened to a larger
center wax post. This makes what they call a tree. There might be
a fifty to a hundred pieces per tree.
The tree is then placed in a container, and "investment" plaster is
poured over everything. This is then put in an oven for 12 hours
and the wax is evaporated out of the plaster. Now there is a very
detailed mold with the cavity exactly matching the wax tree. Liquid
gold is poured into this mold, using vacuum to ensure a complete fill.
After it cools to a certain temperature, it is placed in water, and the
plaster shatters off, leaving a tree, exactly like the wax tree, of solid
gold. This process is the typical investment casting method, and
is also known as "lost wax" casting.
The cast pieces are cut off the tree and are subjected to numerous
hand finishing processes. The characteristic leaves that are a hallmark
of Black Hills Gold are stamped from flat gold sheet. They obtain
their distinctive colors by varying the gold alloy. They are then
shaped by hand in simple dies and are eventually lightly spot welded to
the base material. This is only for handling. Solder paste
is carefully dispensed around the underside of the leaves and the part
is again baked in a high temperature oven to securely attach the leaves.
Now all the veins of the leaves and other details of the piece are
put in by hand. No two pieces are the same, as all the finish detail
is individually hand done. The finished pieces are really beautiful.
Most of the left over pieces from the process are re-melted and used
for their production. They use 60% virgin, and 40% recycled gold.
They are very conscientious about saving the gold scrap! All the
sweeping debris from the floor is sent to the recycler, along with certain
parts left over from the process that are not pure enough for their production.
Our guide told about when they moved into this facility, another gold producer
had been in before them. The took up the old carpeting, burned it,
capturing any gold specs from it, and got enough from the recycler to re-carpet
both the downstairs and the upstairs of their building.
>From there we located the Sam's Club and performed a major shopping
event. As we were proceeding, a man wearing the familiar red Sam's vest
was sitting at a table. He asked if we had converted our membership
card to a combination credit/membership card yet. I said no, and
that I really had no interest in doing so. He said if we would apply,
it would be worth a free dinner for us. We ended up each filling
out a non-invasive form and got two coupons for a Royal Fork Buffet restaurant
about a mile away. We had a very good meal. With the exception
of a piece of carrot cake Betty got that was hard as a brick, all the food
Back at camp, I had to make about 6 or 8 trips from the car to bring
in all the stuff we got! It took another hour to find places for
I am going to try to post this episode tomorrow, using the one Internet
access I have allotted to myself. They charge $2 for a 5 minute access,
so I have not been using it excessively (remember? I am a cheapskate!)
I will try to post the latest pictures, but if they don't show up immediately,
they will within a few days. I seem to be spending a couple of hours
preparing and posting the pictures, and may not have that much time right
Wednesday, May 23
Well, plans do change! I made a number of calls to verify our
spots over the Memorial Day weekend. The places we were planning
on staying were all full! After a bunch of regrouping and more calls,
we decided to extend our stay here for an additional night, then move to
Kadoka for the 3 day weekend. This puts us several days behind our
original plans, and will almost certainly cut off some of what Fred and
Judy were going to have done with us at the end, but we all agreed this
was the best course of action. Fred and Judy said that Mt. Rushmore was
the thing they really wanted to see, and the rest is more to travel with
us and have the camaraderie with us than the specific places we visit.
We should have time for a planning session in Kadoka.
Today the Pfafmans and we made reservations for dinner at the Flying
T Chuckwagon dinner and music show. We left before 3:00 to see the
Chapel in the Hills, near Rapid City. This is a replica of the famous
850 year old Stave Church in Borgund, Norway. It was a very interesting
building with intricate Norwegian carvings inside and outside the church.
The gift shop building had a grass roof. It was a very beautiful
church and surrounding area.
We needed to pick up a couple of things at a hardware store.
We found Hardware Hank, a regional chain, and an excellent hardware store.
Right across the street was a fair size Radio Shack. We picked up
items at both. By now it was too late to go to Sam's Club so Fred
and Judy could buy a couple of things. Oh well, we now have tomorrow
We proceeded to the Flying T, arriving just a few minutes before the
6:00 arrival time. We got the tickets and sat at table B2.
Promptly at 6:25, the owner went through the serving instructions and a
6:30 we all went through the line and assembly line style, received a tin
plate (actually aluminum), our baked potato, roast beef in BBQ sauce (chicken
was an option), delicious baked beans, a baking powder biscuit, chunky
apple sauce, a piece of spice cake, and a tin (Aluminum again) cup of lemonade,
or a cup of cowboy coffee. We all ate exceptionally well, and it
Then came the entertainment. The owner and 3 other members of
the band put on a very good show, mostly of western music and some comedy.
We all had a good time. They time their shows so the patrons can
still make it to Mount Rushmore (only several miles away) in time for the
evening monument lighting ceremony.
Thursday, May 24
As this is an "extra" day here, we slept in late. What is that
I hear? Nothing! THE WIND IS GONE! We have had very high winds
for the last several days. Combined with the cold evening temperatures
it made it VERY cold! Combined with the reasonable daytime temperatures,
it made it quite cool.
After doing a couple of chores, the Pfafmans and we headed out for
Rapid City again to do our Sam's Club shopping. We drove separate
cars as they needed a new TV set and a couple of chairs. Our poor
Saturn will not hold much with 4 people inside, and Betty's wheelchair
in the trunk!
We bought a folding camp chair the other day and Fred and Judy decided
to get a couple also. Their 19" TV/VCR combo that they have been
using in the trailer decided to not work correctly, and is really too large
for the trailer. They got a nice 13" combo set for a really great
price! They got the 2 folding chairs and I added a lounge chair and
a folding table to our inventory.
We left to do our separate things before heading back to camp.
We went a couple of doors down the street to Walmart. We met Fred
and Judy there, but then we each did our own things. We did our shopping
and went back to camp, they arrived about an hour later, after having dinner
out. We have had dinner out the last 3 nights, so ate in tonight.
My main task today was to re-arrange the storage compartment under
the motorhome. I now have a much more usable arrangement. I
also put more things like Gatorade, fruit juice, two camping chairs and
a table in there. It all fit!
Tomorrow we head to Kadoka, SD, which should be only about a 2 1/2
hour drive. We'll leave later than normal, as we don't have anything
planned for the afternoon after getting into camp.
Friday, May 25
Well, I think I mentioned that plans change! We made a whole
32 miles from our starting point today!
Things started out well. We all got our chores done and were
on the road by the agreed upon time of 10:00. We had some initial
up and down grades, and as we were driving through Rapid City approaching
the freeway, Fred called and said he was having transmission problems.
It wouldn't shift out of 1st gear. This somewhat limited the speed
he could drive. We found a place to pull off and check things out.
The oil was full and we couldn't see anything out of the ordinary.
As we looked around there was a large AAMCO Transmission building on a
nearby hill. We all parked our rigs in a dirt area adjacent to their
parking lot for several hours while they looked at his transmission.
They found the governor was stuck. They cleaned it and road tested
it. It failed, then worked OK, then failed again. They pointed
out, as I found out a few years ago on our first motorhome, that the governor
jams as a result of contaminants in the oil, usually from excess wear somewhere.
The bottom line is that Fred and Judy's Suburban is getting the transmission
rebuilt. Of course the shop is closed Sat, Sun, and Mon. They
will try to finish by Tuesday night, but Wednesday for sure (we hope).
There is a nice campground about a mile from the transmission shop,
and we all came here and signed up for 5 nights. I'm not sure whether
to push for a prompt repair on the transmission, or to have it slide a
couple of days. This campground has a policy of "pay for 5, stay 7 nights".
Our next two nights would be free! (Of course they are quite amply
rewarded for the 5!)
This should give us time to finish projects, rest, and anything else
we come up with. We are much closer to all the evils of the city,
such as Walmart, Sam's Club, Menards, a major home improvement center,
Fortunately, the lady at the Kadoka campground was very nice and said
there was no problem canceling, under the circumstances. She already
had my credit card number to guarantee the spaces, and could have held
us to the reservations.
Tonight, Judy made dinner and we all met in our coach to eat.
We were able to seat 3 at the dinette, one at the "computer table", and
two on the couch with TV trays. We had a great dinner and wonderful
fellowship. We could have accommodated a couple more if we really
I am in 7th heaven in this campground with regard to Internet access.
There is a phone jack in the laundry building which is available 24 hours
a day. There is also a telephone there for easy local or 800 number
This afternoon, I got the latest page of pictures uploaded. I
had tried twice at the last campground, but got knocked offline several
times and never got all the files uploaded. At the moment all seems
to work OK, except for some reason the old map is being displayed (somewhat
out of proportion). I'll try to fix that tomorrow.
Saturday, May 26
We started slowly today. We guys sat around and talked till almost
noon. We watched a program called "RV Today" on TNN at noon. We then
headed over to Menards to pick up a few items. I bought a telephone
plug crimper and some plugs. We then headed over to the Toyota agency
to look at trucks. The Tundra is a nice truck, but, boy! do they cost!
(True for all trucks!)
We returned mid-afternoon and I repaired the broken plug on my modem
cord, then Betty and I went out. We found the post office and mailed
a bunch of checks to pay bills. (I spent a while on the phone in the laundry
room calling 1-800 numbers to get balances yesterday!) Next we drove
over to Skyline Drive, a road which follows the ridge of the highest hill
in town. The view from each side is spectacular. There must be 20
radio and TV towers along the drive, as you can see essentially all of
the Rapid City area from up there.
Next we went to the mall. We walked through a food court with
about 20 different brands of food, through a long mall hallway to Target.
We picked up a couple of small things, and unsuccessfully looked for a
couple of others. On our way out we spotted a Fuddruckers hamburger
place on the other side of the parking lot. We haven't eaten at a
Fuddruckers since our year in New Jersey in 1994. Dinner was delicious.
I especially like to pump their hot cheese sauce over the tray of french
fries (more like potato wedges).
As we pulled back into our spot, Fred and Judy invited us to join them
and the Scholls for a salmon Pattie dinner. We declined.
Sunday, May 27
I got up at 6:30 this morning. It was 57 degrees outside.
This is up 20 degrees from a couple days ago. It looks like another
beautiful day! We are planning to drive to the Badlands and Wall
today. We will see if the Pfafmans are interested in joining us.
I finished preparing my picture page last night (only a few pictures
this time). It does seem to be somewhat easier and faster, now that
I have done it several times! I also updated the church webpage,
so should get over and send everything.
It is soooo nice to have a good Internet connection! Number 6,
its pictures, and the church website update went very smoothly.
Several days ago I mentioned stopping at Radio Shack. My purchase
there was a CB SWR meter. SWR is a measure of how well balanced your
CB antenna is to your rig and radio. You tune SWR by physically (or
electrically) changing the length of your antenna until it is tuned well
across all the channels. Before leaving our last camp, I checked
our unit. It was fair on channel 1, bad on channel 20, and horrid
on channel 40! I need to shorten the antenna! We also checked
Fred's; it was quite good, and Keith's; it needs tuning almost as much
This morning I tackled the task of adjusting my antenna. I discovered
my antenna is a "Firestik" brand, a well known one. When doing my
email and web stuff this morning, I also looked up the Firestik website
and copied a couple of documents to my hard drive for more leisurely study.
One of them told how to pull the end cap off the antenna and adjust a screw
in the end that makes the antenna physically longer or shorter.
I removed the antenna and with a fair amount of difficulty, removed
the tight fitting plastic end cap. There was the adjusting screw.
The instructions said to replace the end cap before taking the measurement.
What do they know? Why should I do all the work of putting a simple
plastic cap on and off each time. How could it affect the tuning?
I went through several iterations of adjusting the screw, replacing
the antenna, and re-checking the readings at low, mid, and high channels.
It tuned up quite well. I then figured I would take my final reading
with the end cap on - they did say to do it that way. The readings
were just as bad as when I started! That silly plastic cap really
does affect it!
I made a couple of additional adjustments and measured (with the end
cap on). It is really great now! At channel 19 it is 1.00 (perfect!),
and at the ends it is about 1.3 (very good). Their specs say that
it should tune to less than 2 across the band.
Keith gets the meter next.
Today was the day to do the Badlands National Park, and Wall, SD, home
of Wall Drugs.
The Scholls headed out, and just a couple of minutes later, so did
we with the Pfafmans in our back seat. We drove about 45 miles on
I-90 and entered the park at the far end. We then drove the loop
road through the park heading toward home.
The badlands are an area of desolate looking jagged peaks and valleys
of rock. To look at them you wonder how anyone could make their way
through. They look like my vision of Hell, without the fire. They
are also beautiful, intriguing, and eerie.
There are badlands found throughout the world. The closest ones
to us at home, are in the desert near Agua Caliente State Park, a site
very familiar to the Ramblin Recs, our church RV group who have an annual
campout at Agua Caliente every January.
The Badlands were formed by a series of events including being under
an ocean or sea, for thousands of millennia, then after the water receded,
being acted upon by the severe forces of the weather for additional millions
These badlands are particularly spectacular with the combining of the
lush prairie grasses with the rugged formations. I am including several
pictures I took today for you to see.
About half way through our trek, we pulled into a turnoff and there
were Keith and Virg (and the dogs). They were going the opposite
direction on the loop road. We compared notes for a few minutes and
each headed off in our direction.
When we finished touring the loop road, we exited right at Wall, SD
and proceeded to Wall Drugs. We also met Keith here, toward the end
of our visit. This store became successful partly because they offered
"Free Ice Water" to anyone. They still do. It is now a huge
store, occupying almost a city block. It is comprised of many, many,
separate departments (shops), which apparently operate as independent businesses.
You must check out and pay for any merchandise before leaving one department
for another. This can result in many separate transactions.
We bought several things at not-unreasonable prices. It is a very
interesting place! A tourist trap, but interesting.
Monday, May 28 - Memorial Day!
Today we headed west. We first toured (drove through) Sturgis,
SD. Every year many thousands of Harley riders congregate here for
a motorcycle "convention". Fortunately, this is not the time of year,
or we would not have been able to squeeze down the main drag of town.
It was interesting to see the places we saw in a couple of TV shows we
have watched about the annual Sturgis event.
Next we headed west on highway 14A to Deadwood, SD. This entire
town in on the National Historic Register. Many of the businesses
now are casinos. This is supposedly how they are financing the restoration
of the town.
On to the west we encountered Lead, SD. This is pronounced "Leed".
It is a mining term meaning a low quality peripheral vein of ore which
often "leads" to the main vein. The major employer in Lead is the
Homestake Gold Mine.
We went into the Visitor's Center and I took the mine tour. This
gold mine has been in continuous operation since 1876, and is the world's
oldest continuously operated gold mine, currently producing about 200,000
ounces of gold annually. That's only about 1 ingot a day, but that
ingot is worth about a quarter of a million dollars! George Hearst,
father of publisher William Randolph Hearst, amassed his fortune with his
early investment in this mine, which is located on one of the richest gold
veins ever discovered. They used to refine their gold to 99.99% purity,
but lately have been only producing about 80% pure gold, and letting other
refiners do the final stages. Unfortunately, the mine's history is
about to end. They are ceasing operations at the end of this year.
I had an interesting experience: At the tour desk, there was
a couple of our general age, with a man obviously a generation older, who
was wearing a Foretravel jacket. I struck up a conversation.
He is on his fourth Foretravel. The couple with him (his daughter
and her husband) are on their second. There are 4 Foretravels in
the family. Her brother and her sister also each have one.
I had read a similar story in the latest Foretravel newsletter. I
asked if they were the ones written about. They were.
The tour was a "surface tour" and did not go down into any of the mine
shafts. It consisted of a bus ride around their many buildings around
town. We got off several times and went into facilities.
The first stop was the "lift house" where the massive reels feed the
cables to the elevators that bring the workers and the ore up from 5000
feet down the tubes (That's about a MILE folks!) There is another
lift house at the 5000 foot level that operates the elevators that go down
the last 3000 feet, to the 8000 foot level. The reels are really
massive! I would guess they are about 20 feet in diameter and are
tapered. I took a while to figure out why they need tapered reels,
but then realized that a mile of that cable must weigh a LOT! Therefore
they have a smaller diameter as they start lifting, and increase it as
the weight decreases as more cable is wound on the drum.
We then stopped at a couple of locations where the ore is crushed,
ground, lifted, and moved. Then we drove by the processing buildings
where the cyanide loaded water is cleaned using special microbes, developed
by the mine's scientists. The first set of microbes converts the
cyanide into ammonia and another compound that escapes me right now.
These are still not clean enough to put back into the environment, so they
have a different microbe which cleans these chemicals into pure water.
To test the final output, they pass it through a fish aquarium. If
any of the cyanide, or the ammonia get into here, some of the fish will
die. They claim that to date, no fish have ever been killed.
We stopped and saw a display of the tools they used in earlier times.
There were jack hammers and their bits, cars which carted the ore, and
one which allowed the workers to load a bucket at ground level, then dump
it into a transport car, and a small locomotive which ran on compressed
air that towed a number of these cars.
We did not get to see the refinery. This is the high security
area with the razor wire, security cameras, guard houses, etc. All
employees must pass a stringent background examination. Each day
they must shower and put on a mine supplied set of clothes. At night,
they again shower and return the clothes. When the work outfit is
damaged or worn out, it is burned, with the ashes sent to the recovery
unit. They extract about $500,000 worth of gold from the clothes,
their ashes, and the shower traps each year.
We next drove through Spearfish Canyon, a really beautiful, deep canyon
with a stream running along the road most of the way. Keith and Virg
drove this last week and I posted one of his gorgeous pictures then.
We really enjoyed our drive.
We had light rain and distant thunder during part of the canyon drive.
It rained off and on during our drive back to camp where we found it had
rained quite hard for a short while. Later this evening we had a
thunder shower that lasted for about 15 minutes.
Tuesday, May 29
Fred, Keith, and I drove over to the transmission shop this morning.
They are still saying late tonight or early tomorrow for completion.
We're just about outa' here!
Betty and I drove over to Mt. Rushmore this morning. I am certainly
glad that this was not the only opportunity to see the monument this trip!
We drove much of the way in fog, and never saw the monument. The
best we could see was a faint image of the base of the foothills below
the monument. Actually the purpose of our re-visit was to see Borglund's
studio, which did not open until this last weekend. The studio is
just off the end of the "remote" parking lot (the free one).
The studio contains the 1/12 scale model Borglund used to create the
full size sculptures. It also has samples of the tools used along
with a number of photos of the mountain before and during the construction
process. We listened to a talk by the ranger about the initial inspiration
for a monument in the area to encourage tourism in South Dakota.
Later the plans came together and Borglund was hired to do the job.
The ranger said the original goal seems to have been met. There were
no South Dakotans at the talk.
On our way back, we stopped at a Perkins coffee shop and had a late
Fred just reported that his car is off the rack and has been road tested.
There is one adjustment that needs to be made, but the car should be ready
by 6:00 (their quitting time).
It is now almost 7:00 and the Pfafman's car is back and all hooked
up to the trailer! We are heading to Mitchell in the morning, a drive
of about 290 miles.
I think I will send this tonight, as I haven't checked to see what
my access is in the next park or two.
Wednesday, May 30
It rained quit a bit during the night, but looked like it might be
clearing as we got ready to leave. Today's destination was Mitchell,
SD, a distance of about 275 miles.
We pulled out right on schedule at 8:00. Before long we caught
up with the storm band that had just crossed us. Most of today's
drive was in intermittent drizzle to steady light rain. We had rather
severe winds in a couple of areas, but fortunately, they were not constant.
The ceiling was low and solid overcast all the way. I think we pretty
much drove out from under it by the time we reached Mitchell. About
half way, we crossed another time zone and lost an hour. We are now
on Central daylight time.
Our campground here is nestled among many large trees and is very pretty.
Our bill here was almost exactly 1/2 what we were paying at our last campground
(the most expensive we have ever used at $30 + change per night).
We all had dinner in our coach, thanks to the skillful cooking of Judy
Thursday, May 31
We all toured Mitchell today separately, but ended up seeing basically
the same things. We first went to Cabela's, who claim to be the world's
largest outdoor outfitter. It was a huge store specializing in clothes
and equipment for hunters, fishermen, hikers, campers, and boaters.
The rear of the store is most impressive! It is a huge wilderness
scene including a wall of rock with a waterfall, and a stream at the bottom.
This whole area is filled with life size animals including a moose, a bear,
mountain goats, numerous deer, and all sorts of waterfowl. Keith
has been dealing with these people for years by mail order, and was really
happy to be able to go in person.
Next we went to the Corn Palace. This is a large building which
is entirely decorated with corn and other vegetation. There are murals
made from corn cobs which have been sawed in half and framed with milo,
a millet-like spray. There are husks of various types covering some
of the features. Inside is a basketball court used by the local high
school, and now containing a gift shop during the summer months.
The exterior of the building is stripped clean every year and recovered.
The murals are changed each time. There were workmen stripping one
of the columns today in preparation for the re-covering process.
There are also a number of corn murals inside, but these are only changed
every ten years.
Across the street is a large doll museum. We went in and saw
about 5000 dolls on display. These ranged from antique wax dolls
to contemporary ones like Barbie and friends, with every conceivable type
in between. The displays were all set up as scenes with the dolls
being the characters. There was a very large display which was split in
two. All the president's wives were there in their fine dresses,
along with many of the presidents. There were many presidents and wives
attending this affair who lived during drastically different times!
The neatest thing I saw was a carousel of about 3 foot diameter, with
10 horses and riders and a couple of stationary swans with riders.
It was rotating, the horses going up and down, and they were playing typical
Next we went to Walmart (where else?) and did a fairly major shopping.
Dinner was again prepared by Virg and Judy, with Keith doing the barbecued
hamburgers. Again we ate over here.
Fred and Judy are leaving us tomorrow! They just got here!
Of course we did stay 11 nights in the Keystone/Rapid City area, didn't
we? They will leave with us in the morning, and after about 65 miles
will turn south on I-29 and we will continue east. They are hoping
to stop at Branson Saturday night and see a show. Their drive home
Sunday will only be about 3 hours.
Friday, June 1
Wow! June already!
We left camp slightly ahead of our 9:00 schedule heading for Adrian,
MN. We tried numerous times to get Judy to call her boss, quit on the spot,
then (with Fred, of course) continue on with us, but we were not successful.
Fred and Judy turned off at I-29 as they had planned (sob,sob!) and are
The Scholls and we parked at a city park campground in Adrian on a
huge green lawn area under nice shade trees. It threatened to rain
much of the way here, but I only saw a few drops. The wind was predicted
for this afternoon, but was not noticeable on the drive.
After getting settled and having lunch, we each headed off to Pipestone
National Monument. This is a location where the Indians have been
quarrying a very specific type of rock for centuries. The rock is
a layer, which was clay millions of years ago, usually only a few inches
thick, which is very uniform and quite soft. It ranges from a spotted
red to a uniform brick color. It can be drilled, filed, and shaped
using simple tools. It is the material that ceremonial pipes (aka:
peace pipes) have been made from for centuries. There are several
quarries at the monument where pipestone can be obtained. Only Native
Americans are allowed to mine it, and then only using hand tools.
At the visitor's center there were several artisans making various
trinkets from pipestone. Mostly they use files to shape and decorate
it. There is also a gift shop which just happens to sell many items
made from pipestone. We watched an 18 minute slide show describing
the history of the area, and of pipestone in general. We then hiked
a 3/4 mile trail which took us past several quarry areas, waterfalls, a
stream, a lake, and many beautiful rock formations. The main trail
was all wheelchair accessible (sort of). Some of the trail was fairly
steep for short sections, there were areas where we barely fit between
large rocks, and places where the trail twisted from tilt left to tilt
right. There were a couple of side loops which involved climbing
steps to get better views, etc.
The drive to Pipestone was about 40 miles. We kept driving into
a darker and darker area of sky. It finally started to sprinkle,
then rain, then we were plastered with a deluge! I only saw one lightning
flash, but the wind and the rain really battered us (fortunately we were
in the Saturn!). We were parked under trees the last couple of nights
and the birds had "decorated" the car rather extensively. This storm
cleaned up the hood, roof, trunk, and left side fairly well, but did not
touch the right side at all. The right windows did not even get wet!
We had a very strong wind from the left for the entire duration of the
storm. Happily, we got no more than a few drops while we were at
We just called ahead to a Passport America park in Le Sueur.
They had been full over the Memorial day weekend, and we are now at another
weekend. I guess that says we are about a week behind our initial
schedule, doesn't it? They had space for us for the nights we wanted,
Saturday through Tuesday. We head there tomorrow, a trip of a little
under 150 miles, and will do all our Minneapolis things from that campground.
Saturday, June 2
We had a smooth drive here to just south of Le Sueur. It is a
nice camp, but nothing special. There are a lot of trees and grass,
muddy roads and insects. The full hookup area was full, so we are
in a water & electric section. There is a dump station we can
use on our way out. Today is for rest and relaxation, so nothing
I have Internet access here, so I have just finished my page of pictures,
and will try to send this, the pictures, and the latest church web page
Sunday, June 3
We decided to do our Minneapolis things today, as the traffic should
be better on a Sunday than during the week.
We left around 10:00 this morning and headed to the "big city", a distance
of about 55 miles. Once in the area, we picked our way from road
to road to find Saint Anthony Falls, Lock, and Dam, on the Mississippi
River. We found the lock and the Stone Arch Bridge right where they
were supposed to be.
The Stone Arch Bridge is a very old railway bridge, built in 1883,
which is now for pedestrian traffic, along with an occasional "trolley"
bus, and emergency vehicles. It is a series of arches crossing the
Mississippi River. There is one section which has been cut out and
replaced with a steel bridge section where the bridge passes over the exitway
from the upper lock. Along side the bridge, away from the river are
excavations of the ruins of early flour mills. These are the newest
ruins I have seen. The ruins are being excavated to form Mill Ruins Park.
This area is the historic milling district, and includes large buildings
which were the birthplaces of General Mills and Pillsbury.
We went up the elevator to the observation room for the upper lock.
When we arrived, the water level in the lock was approaching full.
After a few minutes, and a couple of announcements over the outside PA
system (which we could not understand), the upper gates opened. Four
kayaks which had been waiting about a quarter mile up-river, paddled in
and the gates closed. The water level dropped slowly a total of about 50
feet, the lower gates opened and we assume the kayaks paddled out.
We could not see them do this as the water level was so much lower now.
Next we decided to check out the view from the Stone Arch Bridge.
We drove up a steep driveway out of the lock parking lot and turned right
into the bridge parking area. We went out the bridge to the center
of the lock exit, and saw a tourist river boat was in the lock, along with
a small outboard fishing boat and a canoe. We watched the superstructure
of the tour boat drop out of sight and finally the lower gates opened.
The small boats putted and paddled out first, finally followed by the tour
boat. I was very surprised to see that it was not a paddle wheel
driven boat, but had a river tug (named "Ugh the Tug") attached to the
rear powering it.
The falls were right alongside the lock. They had long since
been "sanitized" and were now entirely man-made. The water flows
over what appears to be a long tube crossing the river. The water
level is higher than normal and there was a lot of spray as the water hit
the lower part of the river. When the wind swung around a little,
we got a lot of genuine Mississippi River Spray! It is a very picturesque
Next we drove several miles to the Mall of America, the nation's largest
combined retail and entertainment center. It is huge! We parked
in a 4 story parking structure and entered near Bloomingdale's. There
is a large section, occupying the entire 4 stories which is a theme park,
called Camp Snoopy. From any floor you can look in and see all the
amusement rides in action. They have put a lot of attractions in
a relatively small area. The mall itself has several major anchor stores
and over 520 small specialty stores. We looked around a bit and are
satisfied that we have now seen it. I looked at the mall directory
and did not find any stores I felt I just had to see, so we left.
Our next stop was almost back to the campground. We took off
at Le Sueur, followed what seemed like miles of back country farming roads,
and finally located an antique sawmill, the Geldner Sawmill. This
mill was very instrumental in the early history of the area, providing
lumber to pioneers for miles around to assist them in building their farmsteads.
The mill advertises tours every Sunday and holiday, May through September.
On the second Sunday of each month, June through September, they operate
the mill. Oh, well, this being only the first Sunday, we will settle
for a static tour. Unfortunately, once we found the mill, it was
all locked up, with no one around. I took several pictures through
the windows and a grill covering the front of the mill. Inside is
very little. There are a couple of large timbers with wheels bolted
on them, and a large saw blade on a shaft. Out of sight to the left
is the boiler and steam engine that drive the saw.
At least we were successful in finding it and seeing the outside of
Monday, June 4
Happy Birthday, Dad, you would have been 102 today!
We headed about 35 miles away today to New Ulm, MN. New Ulm was
settled by a group of German immigrants. The idea for the city was
formed by a group in Germany who sent representatives over to find a suitable
site in 1853. In 1857 the city was incorporated. Over the years the
city weathered several disasters, including a couple of massive Indian
raids, grasshopper infestations, and a cyclone.
The city was originally laid out with areas for many parks, areas for
governmental headquarters, and a precise street layout. It was so
well planned that the same layout survives today. There are many,
many parks in the city which now has a population of about 14,000.
The first thing we did as we reached town was to try and find the Glockenspiel.
This is a 45 foot high tower with a number of bells (up to 595 lbs. each),
a 4 sided clock tower, and a number of figures which are animated during
performances. Performances are at 12:00, 3:00 and 5:00. As it was
approaching noon, we were doing this first. We drove the full length
of town, seeing signs for half a dozen separate parks, but nothing about
the Glockenspiel or the park within which it is located. I finally
agreed to ask, and was promptly given directions.
We waited for about ten minutes and the clock started to strike.
First it chimed the hour followed by the familiar Westminster chime tune.
Then a door opened and a rotary table moved out displaying about a dozen
3 foot high animated figures. For almost ten minutes we enjoyed a
concert of the carillon bells.
Next we drove around the city, stopping at several of the parks, and
then at the city museum. We thoroughly toured the 3 story museum,
which, among other things, chronicled the history of New Ulm, and Ulm,
Germany, its sister city.
This evening, while relaxing in the motorhome, I finished building
a small relay box to add to Betty's lift. Using the remote control
with her lift is necessary with the "inside the coach" installation, as
it is almost impossible to reach the switch on the power head. The
remote has a lot of electrical resistance and slows the lift down significantly.
This relay box does all the switching right at the head, and allows the
remote to work without electrical loss. It will also pave the way
for a future addition of limit switches.
Tuesday, June 5
It started raining very lightly last evening, and by the time we went
to bed it was raining quite steadily. It rained all night and stopped
this morning. It is overcast and all is wet, but it is not raining.
It looks like a lazy day today. The tour of the wool blanket factory
we had planned for today is not available, as they are in the middle of
their June sale, and cannot spend the time giving tours.
We did a couple loads of wash, cleaned up a couple of things and generally
puttzed around the motorhome today. The sun has not come out and
it has looked like imminent rain all day long, but only lightly drizzled
a couple of times.
Tomorrow we break camp here and head north about 265 miles to Cass
Wednesday, June 6
We got up to gloomy, but dry skies and prepared to travel. As
these sites are water and electric only, we need to stop at the dump station
on the way out. My first time out of the motorhome this morning,
I managed to pick up some very black mud on my shoes and tracked it through
the motorhome! Rats!
This campground was pretty, but didn't really have a lot going for
it. We had a lot of mud, in spite of being parked on grass, and the
thin layer of gravel on the roads, the restrooms and showers were filthy,
and we had poorer (in actions, not finance) neighbors than in any other
park so far. One thing we were impressed with was his dump station.
He had a hose permanently attached, which made it very simple to connect
dump, and leave. No need to pull out our own hoses, then clean them,
then put them away again. His hose attached to a fitting on a vent
pipe, so was protected and handy.
Our drive was about 265 miles north through Minneapolis (via the outer
loop) to Cass Lake. It was overcast the whole way and except for
the city area, was a good drive. I remember now why I don't like
to drive in big cities like Minneapolis and Escondido - traffic!
We both stopped for fuel at a TA travel center north of Minneapolis.
This was not quite as painful as last time - only $135 (83 gallons)!
At least we don't do it often. Our last fill up was in Rapid City,
(before Fred and Judy joined us).
Minnesota has a LOT of lakes! The last half of our trip was almost
solid with lakeside resorts! I don't know where they get all the
people to support that many resorts. This one has very few transients,
mostly long term rigs ranging from small travel trailers to large park
models (small mobile homes). I guess some people park their rigs
for the season and come and go as they can.
We had rain this evening, but it is supposed to be clearing and dry
the next couple of days.
Thursday, June 7
The Weather Channel shows the rain has passed and is now in Wisconsin.
It should be clearing shortly!
Today we head to Itasca State Park to see the start of the Mississippi
We drove the approximately 50 miles and entered the park. We
changed the order of doing things as we wanted to take the boat tour at
1:00, and it was about 11:30. Doing the loop road with any stops
would have made it too close for comfort. We decided to drive up
to the headwaters, and later duplicate that portion of the drive.
We parked, walked a short distance, and there was a small stream leaving
Lake Itasca. It was the mighty Mississippi! I walked across
a log across the river and Betty and I crossed a small footbridge a couple
of times which crossed the river. At its start, the Mississippi is
about 10 feet wide and 2 feet deep. It certainly develops a lot by
the time it goes a couple hundred miles to Minneapolis! In all, the
river drops about 1475 feet as it travels 2552 miles to its exit in the
Gulf of Mexico. It also gets a LOT wider!
We then drove back and arrived at the boat about 15 minutes early.
At this time of the year, the boat runs once a day, at 1:00 if there are
10 or more passengers. The capacity is 60+ passengers. We had
14, so it was a go!
The boat, the Chester Charles, had a 2 "man" crew - a fairly young
girl and an older man. They both are licensed and certified pilots,
and he is her grandfather. He has been running the tour boat on the
lake for 17 years. She has been helping on the lake for 10 years and has
been licensed for 3. The boat is named after his father.
The 1 1/2 hour tour concentrates on the wildlife and vegetation of
the lake. It works its way up the lake to the headwaters rather leisurely,
then back to the dock pretty much at flank speed (6 or 7 knots).
On our way up we saw a number of loons on the lake. They have named
them all and can tell them apart (sort of). Loons are very territorial
and the same birds can usually be found in the same areas of the lake.
We also saw blue heron.
After a lot of help from the girl, we spotted a Golden Eagle in a tree
on the shore.
It was a very enjoyable tour. Just as we were docking, it started
to sprinkle lightly. As soon as we were in the car, it started to
pour! I am glad the timing was as it was, as the only place they
have for wheelchairs is on the back deck. It is the only passenger
place on the boat without a cover!
We then took the loop road around the park. It ran along Lake
Itasca, Elk Lake, Beaver Lake, Mary Lake, and a couple of others.
There were a number of turnoffs and parking lots for specific features
along the road.
When we came into the park, there was active construction taking place.
On our drive to the headwaters and back, we drove a stretch where there
was paving on one side, and dirt on the other. About two and a half
hours later when we did the loop road, it was totally paved! We drove
on road that was steaming from the rain on the hot asphalt! I figure
the road construction crews learn to "work quick", as their season is so
On our way back from the park, we explored the cities of Bemidji and
Back at the campground, it was slowly clearing, with much blue sky
already showing. We are far enough north here that the sun sets late
(9:12) and rises early (5:22). I noticed the sky was still somewhat
light at 10:30 last night and again at 4:30 this morning. I was wondering
if it stayed light all night, but then realized that these times were not
that much after sunset and before sunrise. Maybe I can wake up at
about 1:00 or 1:30 tomorrow morning to see!
Friday, June 8
What is that terribly bright stuff? Oh, it's the sun! I'd
almost forgotten what it looked like!
It is bright and clear this morning, with only a very thin, very high
layer of mackerel textured clouds visible through the branches of the many
red pine trees. The trees here are quite dense. We were very
fortunate that the direction to the Direct TV satellite lined up exactly
with the road. If it didn't, there was no way we could have gotten a signal!
If we had Dish TV we wouldn't have gotten it as their satellite is about
10 to 15 degrees to the west.
Today, Keith, Betty and I went to Grand Rapids to tour a paper mill.
After driving the 50 miles to get there, we located the tour office and
went in. In spite of this having been listed as a "wheelchair accessible"
tour, the first thing they said to Betty was "Of course you will not be
able to go inside, but we have a videotape."
We watched the tape which gave a brief history of the Blandin Paper
Mill. It then did a brief factory tour. The men who did the explaining
and the tour are retired former employees of the mill with 30+ years of
service. After the videotape, Betty stayed in the room, while Keith and
I went across the street into the mill with our guide.
We wore safety glasses and headphones attached to a small receiver.
Using these, the tour guide could talk to us in the noisy factory.
Not only was it noisy, it was hot and humid!
We headed toward the "wet" end of the paper mill. As we approached,
the guide said "It looks like the mill is down". Sure enough, as
we approached the output end, we could see what looked like strips of toilet
paper littering the floor all along the drying section of the mill.
At the outlet end there was a narrow strip, 6 to 8 inches wide flowing
off a large roll near the end. It appeared to be gathering on the
floor, but mostly was going down through the floor. Every so often,
an operator would manipulate some switches and buttons and the paper strip
would fly up, along a guide toward the next roller. Every once in
a while it would catch and start feeding through. They were having
problems getting it to attach to the take-up roll. Finally they got
it flowing all the way through. At this point the operator switched
something, and the paper strip widened out to the full width of the rolls.
They were back in business. I later asked the guide how often the
flow broke down, and he said it varies from a couple times a day to several
days without a break.
We were then taken around some of the rest of the factory. We
saw the machine that places a clay based glaze on the paper, then the machine
that finishes the paper to the desired level of gloss. There were
also re-winders, slitters, and roll handling equipment. The finished
rolls were lowered to a lower level on a series of devices that roll the
paper into a notch, then the notch moves to roll it down another level.
We didn't see the wrapping machines, except in the videotape, but the rolls
are then wrapped in kraft paper, labeled, and shipped.
It was a very interesting tour, but I think Betty felt very cheated!
Unfortunately, I was not able to get any pictures, as photography was
I am going over to the office to send this and the pictures, as I don't
expect to have and Internet connection for the next several days.
(I hope I can exist!)
Saturday, June 9
There are very few campgrounds in far northern Minnesota. We
chose a municipal park in Warroad, MN as being the handiest to tour a hockey
stick company in Warroad, and the Polaris Company in Roseau, about 25 miles
We drove about 140 miles from Cass Lake (Thanks for the suggestion,
Betty) to Warroad and followed the signs to the campground. Getting
to the office, we were driving down a road with cars and boat trailers
parked solidly on each side and met a pickup pulling a boat coming the
other way. There was no way these two vehicles would fit between the parked
ones! Fortunately, the boat towing truck backed to a wide spot and we got
by. Then a motorhome towing a boat turned in toward us, and didn't budge.
Keith pulled into the empty "U" shaped parking lot for the municipal swimming
pool. The two of us sat there until the motorhome passed, then we
pulled out and continued.
We really didn't like what we saw! It was a very muddy, buggy,
wet campground, with tightly squeezed in spaces used almost exclusively
by fishermen. There were very few vacancies. After driving
once around looking for suitable sites, hoping we would not get stuck as
we drove through some very sloppy mud bogs in the road, we decided we could
do better - almost anywhere! We looked in the campground guide and
found a private camp about 35 miles back in Baudette. We went to
a pay phone and reserved a couple of sites and headed here.
What we found was pure Heaven by comparison! Large grass areas
with many shade trees and a lot of space between units. There are
fewer bugs, and they don't seem to be anxious to bite. (I have mosquito
bites three layers deep in places from the last several days!) The
cost here was about the same as Warroad Muni! We can spend the next
several days here without problem, even if it means more driving in the
cars! This will also make our drive to International Falls about
35 miles shorter!
Keith and I tried to do our best to eradicate the local bug population
with our windshields, but I don't think it had much effect! I now
need to wash the front of the motorhome before they set solid!
We are camping as far north as we get this trip. The Canadian
border is interesting. It is a straight line from Washington to western
Minnesota, then it projects about 20 miles north for a few miles, then
continues to drop southeastward. The area that projects is mostly
water. The land at the north-west corner is in USA, and is the northernmost
point of the contiguous states, but is only accessible by water, or through
Canada. We are now about a quarter mile from the border just where
it drops from that projection.
I may be able to talk the owner into using his only phone line to get
my email, but not much else. I think I will wait a little, as I got
on this morning before we left and loaded the changes to the church webpage,
as well as doing my email.
Well, it's about an hour or so later, and the front of the motorhome
looks MUCH better! I didn't get all the bugs off, but all that's
left are a few very small portions that are very stubborn (even more so
than I am).
Sunday, June 10
We slept in this morning. It was almost 8:30 before I got up.
The Weather Channel showed scattered AM thunderstorms today, but after
a little rain overnight, it is bright and sunny here, with scattered clouds.
It looks like another warm, pleasant day. It is already 71 here at
10:00 AM. We actually had to use the air conditioning last night
for a while.
Late this morning, we got in the car and did some exploring.
First, we explored this park. It adjoins a marina on the edge
of the Rainy River. A couple of hundred yards across the river is
Canada. This river is an outlet from The Lake of the Woods, a very
large lake in USA and Canada. It is the same lake we would have been
on in Warroad. We then drove north on the highway which went several
miles before dead ending in a resort area, again, just across the river
from Canada. We saw a number of small structures I first thought
were carnival booths, but on closer examination decided they are ice fishing
houses to be dragged onto the ice in the winter. There must have
been a hundred of them! On our way up the road, we stopped and watched
a crop duster spraying a large field for a couple of minutes.
Next we headed for the town of Baudette, about 8 miles from camp.
We explored this town of a little over a thousand population, then took
the road to the bridge into Canada. We cleared customs and looked
around the Canadian town of Rainy River. It is a very small town.
At least here they use English, unlike when I used to take business trips
After about an hour, we headed back, cleared US Customs, and finished
exploring Baudette. We went out to the Baudette International Airport
(no kidding!) It is a small airport with about a dozen airplanes
parked, including several float or amphibious ones. Off to the side
were about 6 or 7 pairs of floats waiting to be attached to planes.
We stopped at their semi-super market and did a few days shopping.
This is a nice area.
Tomorrow we head first to Warroad to tour the Christian Brother's,
makers of hockey sticks, then on to Roseau to the Polaris factory for a
tour. They make ATV's among other things, and were the makers of Keith's
Monday, June 11
The Weather Channel predicted all of Minnesota to be in a "red alert"
area, meaning strong T-storms with a possibility of tornadic activity.
The day dawned fairly dark and with occasional drizzle.
We headed out to our two tours. As we drove, the ceiling started
lifting and it got less dark. We arrived in Warroad and found Christian
Brothers, the hockey stick manufacturers. I went into the office
to check on the tour and a gentleman there said the tours were at 10:30,
or 10:15. We were a little early so went in a little after 10:00,
as the workers were on break. Shortly a young fellow (nowadays late
30's to early 40's is young!) came and took us on our tour. It was
just Betty, Keith, and me.
I got a real kick out of our tour guide. First, he sounded just
like the comics do when they mimic a Minnesota accent. There were
a lot of "eh?"s, and out was a very strong oot.
The company makes a number of "stock" sticks, but has a real niche
in the custom market. They supply both blades and whole sticks.
The blades are about the bottom foot of the stick. There is a rectangular
stub, about 3/4 x 1 that presses into a hollow aluminum or composition
shank. By heating the end of the shank, the blade slips right in.
After it cools, the blade is tight.
The custom blades are for both NHL players and college players.
They usually have their own specific preferences and order custom blades
to their specs.
They have several machines set up to do specific operations on their
stock sticks, the ones they sell to the retail stores, however most of
the operations for the stock sticks, and almost all the ones for the custom
ones are hand done with very little tooling. They have reasonable
tooling to do the initial cutting and gluing operations, but then it becomes
a matter of operator craftsmanship to match a template and provide the
quality of the product.
There is a lot of effort getting the shape of the blade, the thickness
and taper, and then the curve of the blade just right. All the custom
blades have a template for the outline shape of the blade, and that is
cut fairly well on a large pattern router.
The blade is hand manipulated in a large dual belt sander that puts
the taper on the blade. If it is held just right, the taper is correct,
but a slight misalignment can make the top thicker than the bottom.
The curves are done by placing the blade in a steamer for a couple
of minutes. The operator then hand manipulates it between a couple
of stationary rollers, matching a standard blade for that particular customer.
They have a couple of 4 position curving machines that can be used on the
They can control the stiffness of the handles on the full stick models
by laminating fiberglass strips of varying thickness on two sides of the
handle. The thickness determines the stiffness.
When the blade is fully formed and curved, whether a removable blade,
or a full stick, it gets a fiberglass "sock" pulled over the blade and
a little ways up the handle. This is pulled tight and a coating of
Urethane is applied over it. Finally, after all finish sanding, the
entire blade is dipped in Urethane, and the stick, if any, is dipped in
paint. Custom silk screening and decals are applied if appropriate.
It turns out that the gentleman I first met, who gave me instructions
on the tour was the senior Mr. Christian (Rodger), a member of the '60
Olympic hockey team. I don't know about his brother. He has
two sons. One had taken over the operation of the factory, until
a snowmobile accident a couple years ago. He was paralyzed and is
in a wheelchair now. His brother is now running the operation, with
his father's help. Both brothers were in the plant today.
It was a very interesting tour, and they make a high quality product.
It was hard for me however, after so many years working with automation
of manufacturing processes, to see so many repeat operations, which each
required such a high level of skill to make a good part, and at a very
high labor content.
We then drove to Roseau (we determined the pronunciation is row-sew),
and found the Polaris Manufacturing Company. We just beat out a busload
of about 40 high school age kids who came for a tour. We got onto
the "headphone" tour, where we wore radio phones so we could easily hear
everything the tour guide said. There were enough phones after the
six of us who came separately got theirs that about 9 or 10 of the youth
came along on our tour. The other tour was strictly shout and be
This plant was an example of contrast when compared with the Christian
Brothers. The first station we visited was the robot welding station.
Here an operator places about a dozen parts consisting of main rails, several
elaborately formed sheet metal pieces and several tubular members in a
jig. When ready, she presses a button, the jig rotates into the welding
chamber, and the other jig rotates out. There is a completely welded
chassis in the jig. The welder can weld a complete frame every 4
minutes. They have 4 of these robot welders.
They have overhead conveyors which move the major parts from operation
to operation throughout the plant. This plant builds 4 and 6 wheel
ATV's and snowmobiles. There are quite a few models of these products.
The plant operates on the JIT principle (Just in Time). There
are never more than the parts needed for the immediate operations sitting
around the factory. All deliveries are scheduled to arrive just in
advance of the assembly times for those parts. This eliminates the
need to provide much more space to store parts at each operation and the
need to have large warehouses. It also greatly minimizes the investment
needed to pay for all the additional partially completed parts.
We saw individual fabrication processes such as the welding, cleaning,
and painting operations. Most parts are first painted with a black
paint, then finished with a powder coat. There are special cases
where powder coating is used for both the primary and final finish.
I had never seen powder coating taking place before. Here racks
of parts came into a booth on an overhead conveyor, through a number of
fixed nozzles emitting a gray powder (black after fusing). In addition,
the operators had hand guns they used to ensure total coverage. The
powder guns are charged with one polarity, and the work the other.
This way the powder is attracted to the work and sticks in place until
the baking operation, where it is fused into a very tough, attractive black
finish. As we looked into the open end of the tunnel, the powder dust was
just swirling around in the cavity before being removed by the exhaust
fans. The powder is like a chalk dust, only gray in this case. They
have a wide variety of colors to use as needed. All the excess black
powder can be re-used, but the colors cannot.
Next we saw the assembly lines. The ATV line is the only "permanent"
line. It makes ATV's year round. Another line builds small
quantity items, and another builds snowmobiles during the summer months
and ATV's during the winter, so the dealers can stock up by the beginning
of the proper season.
The dedicated line has the most "toys" as our guide called them.
One example is a 4 headed power wrench that bolts and torques all 4 lug
nuts at a time. Other lines, due to the variety of products use a
standard, single head, power torque wrench. There are some 4500 parts
on each ATV. It takes about 4 1/2 hours to build one. At the
end of the line, gasoline is put in each unit, they are put on an in-line
dyno, and run through a quick test to verify that the performance is up
to spec, and that everything works.
After final inspection, the ATV is placed on a re-usable steel pallet
and covered with a large shrink wrap bag. It now is taken to shipping
by fork lift where a semi truck can haul 18 units.
As cameras were not allowed at either company, I have no pictures from
Today was a most interesting day!
Tuesday, June 12
We broke camp and headed to Hibbing, MN today. Pretty much the
entire route was on 2 lane country roads. At one point our route
turned from hwys. 71 to 65 to 217 in less than a mile. We missed
the 217 turn! I quickly discovered my GPS counting miles UP from
a waypoint, it is supposed to count DOWN until you reach it, then count
down to the next one. We quickly discovered our error, but the road
was narrow with very little shoulder! How would we ba able to turn
around? After not even being able to find a "wide spot in the road",
we stopped half on the road and evaluated the situation. We found
that if we just stayed on highway 65 for another 50 or 60 miles it would
take us to 169, to the west of Hibbing. We decided to do that.
Highway 65 was a very interesting road! We would be driving at
about 55 mph on clear, straight, and level road, and there would be a sign
for a 15 mph turn! We would slow way down, make a very sharp right
angle turn, then have straight road again for a while. We made at
least a dozen of these turns with posted speeds of from 10 to 20 mph.
I sure love my retarder!
We finally found our campground, parked, and collapsed! That
was a very tiring road to drive. As it turned out, it was only a
couple miles longer than the original route, and we got several miles of
divided road at the end of the drive.
The campground is a good place to park for a couple of days, but is
not spectacular. It is a combination RV and mobile home park with
the units pretty much scattered about. They are currently adding
a number of sites so there is a section with freshly cleared trees, and
skip loaders and back hoes working around. There are very few trees
in the campground, but it is surrounded by forest. This is in contrast
to a lot of campgrounds where the only trees are in the campground.
There don't seem to be nearly as many mosquitoes here. The ones
at the last campground were not biting when we arrived, but they certainly
were by the time we left!
This afternoon we drove around town, and out to the Hull-Rust-Mahoning
mine. This is the largest open pit iron mine in the world.
It has been in operation for over a century, and is still being worked.
We hiked down a trail past the largest "pickup" truck I have ever seen!
It was one of the "small" ore hauling trucks. The tires on this truck
were only 10 feet in diameter. The large trucks have 12 foot tires.
I walked under the fenders and could see the huge Detroit Diesel engine.
I was able to climb up a stairway to the cab. The driver is a long
On our way back we stopped at the "Bus Origin" museum. It is
a Greyhound history museum, and as we expected it was closed. It
was almost 6:00. We may go back.
Wednesday, June 13
It rained last night and again briefly this morning. When it
stopped, I took the opportunity to go out and clean the "pre-softened"
bugs on the front of the motorhome. They were really dense, averaging
about an inch or so apart! To my delight (if there is such a thing
while cleaning dead bugs) they washed off fairly easily.
Betty and I then went exploring. We drove to half a dozen nearby
towns. We tried to find the overlook for a couple of mines in the town
of Mountain Iron. We found the entrances, but in spite of a sign
saying "OPEN 9:00 to DUSK", the gate was locked. We drove into the
Minntac (US Steel) headquarters. Part way in we could see a guard
shack ahead. An illuminated sign above announced there would be blasting
today. We later found they close the overlooks when they blast.
They blast about once a week, and loosen about a million tons of rock!
In our explorations, we found a large hill (Minnesota, as a rule doesn't
have hills!) with a couple of mine trucks and other equipment on display.
It turned out to be a place called Mineview in the Sky. Built as
an observation location for pit foremen while the nearby portions of the
mine were active, it now serves the same function for visitors. There
were two mine trucks here, one the 240 ton model (larger than yesterday's
170 ton one) and a smaller 100 ton one.
The large truck is 44 feet long, 24 feet wide, and 22 feet high.
It weighs 300,000 pounds. It's tires are about 12 feet in diameter
(except for the front tires which were nearly flat!). I am not sure
what size engine the large truck has, but the "small" 100 ton model has
a 1000 hp engine.
We have decided to "trim" some of our trip, due to time constraints.
We really need to get home before it is time to leave for our next trip!
We will no longer be heading to Michigan or Wisconsin. They will
have to wait for a later trip.
I think I will try getting this episode sent in the morning.
I have an Internet connection here, and we pull out Friday morning.
Thursday, June 14
We are still here in Hibbing, MN. Last night this entire area
was in the "severe thunderstorm" area on the Weather Channel. It
started raining around 9:00. By 10:30 there was lightning almost
continuously until around 4:00 AM. At times it just poured, other
times the rain was light.
This morning I looked out the window, and there under several inches
of water was my electric cord, including where the 50 amp cord plugged
into the 30 amp adaptor, and where that adaptor plugged into my 30 amp
extension cord. I carefully pulled the cord out until the connectors
were on the "dry" ground. All during this, everything worked just
fine - no sparks, smoke, or anything.
Today, we headed to Duluth and Lake Superior in the Saturn.
We first went past the Minntac mine overlook, and it was open - no
blasting today! We drove up and had a good view of some of the mine
and operations areas. At the overlook was a large 3 compartment wooden
container. One compartment had raw iron ore at about 50% iron, the
next had taconite, stones with about 30% iron, and the third had processed
taconite pellets (balls, about 1/2 inch in diameter) with about 65% iron.
The container said "Help Yourself". I have samples of the two forms
of taconite. The raw ore was too much like mud! When the natural
ore was running out near the end of WW II, the scientists started developing
ways of getting the iron from the lower grade products, namely taconite.
Through a series of crushing and magnetic separation processes it is converted
into the balls. Originally, the raw ore was suitable to put directly into
the blast furnaces, but not the taconite. The balls processed from
the taconite can be used directly in the furnaces.
We found Skyline Parkway in Duluth and followed it for a number of
miles. It overlooks the city and the harbor, along with Lake Superior.
We drove a ways north of the city and were able to get within several feet
of the edge of the lake.
We then went back to town and by a process of trial and error (lots
of turn-arounds) found the street that crossed a unique lift bridge connecting
a long skinny island to the mainland. The bridge, called the Aerial
Lift Bridge, has a huge frame structure going up at each end, and connecting
them high up. The roadway is on a beam structure which is raised
and lowered on this outer framework. We got in line to cross the
bridge just as the light turned from red to green. The bridge had
just come down.
On the island which is just several hundred feet wide and a couple
of miles long are a Coast Guard installation, an Army installation, a couple
of marinas, and many private homes, along with several businesses - most
of which are marine supply and other boat related ones. We drove
back to the bridge end of the island on "the other road". There are
only two running lengthwise on the island. As we got to the end I
noticed the bridge was up. We watched two vessels pass under, the
bridge lower, and the traffic start up again. I made the mistake
of coming out to the main road too close to the bridge, and the traffic
on the island was backed up past our street waiting to cross the bridge.
Finally the last car passed, but now the oncoming traffic was up to us.
A left turn half a block from us held up traffic long enough and we made
it onto the road and off the island.
We found another section of the Skyline Parkway to drive, then meandered
Toward the end of the day's driving, I started hearing a squeal from
the Saturn brakes. I didn't like that! It's not that brakes
don't squeal, it's that it had never squealed and just started. Back
in Hibbing I located a mechanic in a small greasy shop who said he could
look at it around 9:00 tomorrow. I guess our departure from here
is delayed until the car is squared away!
Back at camp Keith and I discussed the various possibilities and how
we would handle them.
I was working on this write-up, watching the Weather Channel when Betty
asked if we could have air conditioning for a short while. It was
getting quite stuffy and somewhat muggy. I turned on the air - nothing
happened! I then looked at our power panel and saw that we had no power.
The TV was running off the inverter from the batteries.
I did some checking and the campground lights were all on. I
went out and found the camp's breaker was tripped in our hookup stanchion.
I flipped that and the air came on immediately. I went back in and
saw that the inverter now had 2 red lights, FAULT, and WARNING. Nothing
on it worked. This meant that I had nothing recharging the batteries as
we used power from them. All the 12 volt items (including ALL our
lights) were strictly battery power. I tried everything I could figure
out to reset the unit in case it was only a power spike that made the controlling
computer jump program, but was unsuccessful. I guess we operate from
battery power, and recharge only as we drive until we stop at the Foretravel
factory in Nacogdoches, TX.
Friday, June 15
Keith followed me over to the mechanic this morning to leave the car,
and brought me back to camp. We did some of the tasks preparing to
leave if we could. Around 10:00 we headed back to see if he had a
diagnosis and time estimate yet. He had pulled all the wheels and
inspected everything. There was nothing wrong! The squealing was
a buildup of dust in the rear brakes, not a totally worn out brake shoe
as I had feared.
I happily gave him $20 and headed back to camp! We are leaving
We decided to make it a short day, as we wouldn't be able to get away
until at least 11:00. We drove about 140 miles to Hinckley, MN, about
50 miles north of the twin cities. We are staying in a several hundred
space casino RV park. It is the first time I know of that we have
stayed in a park rated 10,10,10 by Trailer Life! There are nice level
blacktop pads and blacktop roads. Everything else is grass.
There are a lot of mature trees around the edges of the park, and very
young ones between spaces. It is a great overnight stop. There
is a shuttle bus that runs about every 20 minutes (It seems more like 5!)
to take people over to the casino. We just seem to have forgotten
to go. Oh well!
Betty and I had a brief planning session, estimating our next couple
of weeks activities. The Scholls and we will probably head our separate
ways after tomorrow's camp. We will head to the Winnebago factory
in Forest City, Iowa to tour their factory, while Scholls head to Moscow,
IA to have a problem with their HWH levelers corrected by the factory.
I made several calls from camp. Talking to Foretravel, I made
the earliest reservation they had, on June 27 for my service items.
The man I talked to told me the inverter probably got a power spike, and
to try setting the switch on the inverter to BYPASS for about 10 minutes,
then back to ON. I tried that and the inverter works! Now,
would that have been so hard to put in the manual?
We will work our way south and spend a couple of nights at Branson,
then spend a couple of days at Fred and Judy's place on Greer's Ferry Lake
in Higden, AR. From there we take a couple of days to get to the
Foretravel factory in time for our service appointment.
Tomorrow we have another short drive to Faribault, MN. Betty
will at least get to go to the retail shop of the wool company she so wanted
to tour. On our way north in Minnesota a couple of weeks ago, we
tried to get a tour there, but they were having their Spring sale, and
had no time for tours. Now we are going to be there on a Saturday - no
tours then either!
We had one thunder shower this evening. For the last two days
we have been in a "red zone". This indicated possible severe storms
and possible tornado conditions. Tonight we are in an "isolated severe
storm" area. It looks like we are out of any problem areas for the
next several days.
Saturday, June 16
We had an easy 140 mile drive to Faribault today. I was worried
as we pulled in, as the park looked very full. The lady in the office
said something to Keith and left for a couple of minutes. When she
came back, she said "They are willing to give them up", and we got a couple
of spaces. It turns out that there is a high school graduation party
group here for the weekend (including parents). They had reserved
a number of spaces and someone did not show up. When confronted with
"Pay for them or I give them to someone else" they said to give them to
us. We almost didn't get in!
The biggest problem with the park is that it is full, and that the
primary meeting place for the large group is next door, immediately out
our left side. There really has not been a problem, but they did
stay in their campfire ring talking until almost midnight.
Betty and I drove over to the Fairbo Wool Company and she got to go
through the store quite thoroughly. We even bought a couple of the
lesser priced items.
Keith and Virg came over and we said our good byes tonight. They
will leave around 9:00 for a 200 mile drive. We have less than 100,
so will leave later.
We have tentatively scheduled the rest of our trip. If all goes
as expected, we should arrive home on Monday, July 9.
Sunday, June 17
Happy Father's Day!
I went over to the rec hall around 9:00 for coffee and donuts and the
special Father's Day drawing, while Keith was getting ready to leave. Neither
Keith nor I won anything. They drew about 10 names for calendars,
mugs, a hat, 4 free rounds on their micro-golf course, a soft sided attaché
case, and finally 2 free night's camping. When they drew that one,
she said to draw another, that they would give him a hat. It turned
out the winner was already a seasonal camper!
I headed back just as Keith and Virg pulled out heading for the dump
station. (The spots we just barely got last night were water and
electric only.) I then helped him hook up his Subaru and we said
our final good byes. They left! (Boo hoo!)
We will do a couple of things around here and then head out.
We got all ready, pulled out and dumped, hooked up the Saturn and left.
We were away about 11:15. We went to the truck stop we had already
scoped out and put in about $125 of diesel fuel. As I was paying
at the counter, the lady behind me got a real kick out of my bill.
She laughed and said "Mine took $8.00! I'm so glad I can bring happiness
From there, we headed back to the wool store. They open at 12:00
on Sundays, and we were there before then. After picking up a couple
of things Betty decided she should have gotten, we headed to Clear Lake.
We had a very smooth, uneventful drive to our camp. It is an
OK campground, but nothing special. At $15 for full hookup pull through
50 amp sites, it doesn't have to be. Checkout time is 2:00, so we
should have no problem at all doing the Winnebago tour, then leaving for
Monday, June 18
We got up early this morning and headed to the Winnebago Industries
headquarters in Forest City, IA. We arrived before 8:00 and went
into their visitor center. I signed up for the factory tour at 9:00
then we looked around. They had posters featuring many of the manufacturing
steps, samples of the various structural elements of their motorhomes,
pamphlets on all their models, etc. They had an open chassis of a
current class A motorhome, less any floor, walls, etc. They also
had a 1969 Winnebago Indian motorhome. At 22 feet it is smaller than
almost anything you can buy in a class A motorhome today, but it had all
the elements in it.
We saw a movie on the manufacturing processes, I parked Betty in the
visitors center and along with about 30 other people I got on a bus.
We were taken over to the factory. They have many buildings, one
(Big Bertha), the motorhome assembly building, is 60 acres under one roof
(That's 2.5 million square feet!).
We were driven around among the various buildings as the tour driver
described the operations that take place in each. There was a building
for the rotary molding of the tanks. They place a powdered plastic
in a mold, heat it, and rotate it. The powder melts and forms a plastic
object with a uniform wall thickness to match the mold. This way
the tanks have no seams and are an exact fit for each motorhome.
Another area does all the aluminum extruding for the many structural and
trim items. We passed the loading dock where there were dozens of
pallets loaded with huge aluminum billets ready for the extrusion presses.
Our first stop was the wall assembly area. The wall is a lamination
of the outer fiberglass skin, thin plywood, polystyrene insulation with
the aluminum frame set into it, and a mixture of steel sheet and thin plywood
sheets with the wall paper or laminate on it.
They first laminate the polystyrene, the outer luan plywood, and the
outer fiberglass panel. Then it passes through a huge automatic router
that cuts out the insulation so the aluminum frame can drop in. Any
electrical wiring is also set into the insulation. Then it comes
to the part we saw. This panel is rolled down a wide roller conveyer.
The wood panels with the final wall finish on one side are fed through
a glue dispensing machine and hand placed on the wall. The sheet
metal panels are laid in place. If there is wiring, a hole is cut
and the wire pulled out through it, then taped flat on the wall.
Now the complete panel is fed through a roller that presses everything
in place and sets the glue. The sheet metal panels that were put
in the walls are for anchoring appliances and cabinets. The wall
panels that come down the line seem to be a random mix of various models.
(I am very sure it is NOT random, but it looks that way.)
Our next stop was on the other side of the same building. Here
we could see all 7 assembly lines running the length of the building, side
by side. A bare chassis, which has all the structural frame members in
place is driven into the end of the line. Here tanks are installed,
wiring harnesses, plumbing "harnesses", etc. Then a floor assembly,
built elsewhere is brought in on a huge overhead crane, and after all the
mastic is put on the frame members, it is lowered into place and attached.
Next the carpeting and flooring is installed. This was what we could
see. After this, the interior walls are lowered into place, then the outside
walls, followed by the roof. If there are slideouts, these are installed.
Placing the front and rear end caps completes the major assembly.
This is followed by a lot of detail work.
Each assembly line seemed to consist of a mix of at least several of
their models "randomly" interspersed. The major portion of each line
had the vehicles attached to a very slowly moving chain in the floor which
pulled them through all the assembly stations. As you looked down
the line you could see people measuring to mount mirrors, fitting water
heaters, doing some outside wiring, walking around the roofs fitting items.
It looked very disorganized, but I am sure that each person had a specific
job on each model motorhome as they came by.
Another line, which we did not see is the LeSharo line (which is located
in the cabinet shop building). This is a small motorhome built on
a VW chassis. They used to receive the chassis with a cab and frame
rails with rear wheels. They then cut off the frame just behind the
cab and welded their own on, shipping the excess back for reuse.
Now they receive them as 2 cab assemblies on the same frame, one facing
each way, with only about a foot between them. It is a mechanized
Pushmepullyou. There is now no waste. They cut them apart and
add their own frames, then complete the building process.
It was a very interesting tour. The factory is immense, and their
production rates are also. They produce about 250 motorhomes a week.
That is more than Foretravel produces in a YEAR! It is going to be
very interesting now to tour the Foretravel factory!
We got back to camp and were on the road by about 11:30 with a drive
of a little over 200 miles today. It was very windy and even though
the Foretravel handles the wind very well, it is not a relaxing way to
drive. It is not an economical way either, as it was a very strong headwind!
All went well except for one little thing! About 2 miles from
camp we were looking to turn left on highway 69. We passed a sign
announcing the junction of 69, went about a block and turned left on the
road. Big Mistake! It quickly turned into a gravel road with
no more roads off it. We drove a mile or two looking for a place to turn
around and finally came to a gravel driveway. I unhooked the Saturn,
turned both vehicles around, rehooked and went back. One more block
after we had turned we found the real highway 69. The rest was easy.
We are now in Eagleville, MO. This campground has a brand new
$800 payphone which has a modem jack on it. They are very proud of
it, so I think I will try it out sending this episode and a few pictures.
Tuesday, June 19
We spent a somewhat noisy night here at Eagleville, MO. Around
11:00 we had a very active "light show" out the windshield. The clouds
were lighting up at least once a second. Occasionally we could see
an actual lightning bolt, both cloud to cloud and cloud to Earth (or is
that Earth to cloud?). It was distant enough that for a while we
could not hear the thunder. After a while, we could hear occasional
Sometime after midnight, the sky lit up, we had thunder all around
us and we had a torrent of rain. After several cells passed by, things
quieted down. This morning, we had several additional cells pass
us. I guess we will wait in camp and see what they are doing.
A cold front is nearing Kansas City right now, which is on today's path,
and is causing all the T-storms.
We watched the radar images and decided to head out. We got away
a little before 9:00 and headed south. After about an hour, we started
getting some light rain, and we could see that we were catching up with
the front. We drove right through one cell with fairly heavy rain
for a couple of minutes. We skirted several others, but had no problems.
By the time we reached Kansas City, we were totally out of it.
As we reached our campground location near Bolivar, MO, we saw a campground
sign, but saw it was the wrong campground. We went on by to see if
there was another sign. There wasn't. After turning around
in an Advocates for Christ parking lot, we headed back to the "wrong" campground.
After checking in, I asked about the other camp. He said the owner
was just letting it go in anticipation of being bought out for a road widening
project. It turns out it is just down the road from here. (It
is $2 cheaper here!)
I added oil to the motorhome engine for the first time since we bought
it. We have put over 5000 miles on it, and it took 2 quarts. Not
too bad! The Gulf Stream took a quart every 400 miles!
We decided to explore Bolivar. On our way out we passed a billboard
for Lambert's Cafe. Betty had read an article on them in one of the
RV magazines. They are the "home of the throwed rolls" (their grammar,
We drove around Bolivar. It is a much larger town than we had
expected. The population is about 6000, but the town is immense!
As we entered town we passed 3 building supply places, and later saw 2
more. On our way back to camp, we looked up the billboard again to
see if Lambert's is in Bolivar. It turned out to be 8 miles south
of Springfield. What the heck! We headed there, a distance
of about 40 miles.
We found it, put in our name, and were called in about a half hour.
As we were being led to our table, we saw a fellow hollering "Hot Rolls!"
As people raised their hands, he tossed rolls to them. He was good!
He came around quite frequently as we ate. Sometimes he had to toss
sidearm to clear half a dozen booths and not hit the items hanging from
above. Not too many rolls went on the floor.
All the meals come with "pass arounds". We had no clue what that
meant. People wander around with pans of items and pass them out on request.
They included fried okra, fried potatoes and onions, black eyed peas, tomatoes
and macaroni, and sorghum molasses, and of course, the throwed rolls!
The food was delicious, but the quantities were totally excessive!
We brought 3 tinfoil wrapped packages home. The rolls were right
out of the oven and really good! My only problem was that I had a
tendency to mash the rolls as I caught them.
The biggest surprise was when we got our check. It listed only
my meal. I called the waiter over to point out the error. He
said it is a policy of Lambert's that people who come "in their own chairs"
eat free! I really like that policy! Our total dinner bill
was $12 and change (plus tip).
We headed back to camp, stopping for gas on the way home. It
was dark by the time we pulled into camp. To our delight, there were
fireflies all around the large lawn area where we are parked. They
are so much fun to watch!
Tomorrow we head to Branson (about 30 miles farther than we drove tonight).
We will be there for 2 nights, then move on to Fred and Judy's.
Wednesday June 20
Once again, we woke up to thunder. We had several storms pass
through, then had a general rain. I had been trying to figure out
how I would leave my spot. We were parked on an open expanse of grass
which had a number of sites terraced on it and the utilities installed.
I really did not have a good clear path to the road heading out.
The owner had said to just go on the road the other way, as it loops around.
I checked that out in the car, and did not like the tree branches hanging
over it. I decided to leave on the road going the "wrong" way, then
turn back onto the grass area down below and make a sweeping "U" turn to
head back out.
This was a mistake!
I headed out, got on the road just fine, made a sweeping right turn
to get turned around. As I started up a gentle slope on the grassy
area, my wheels started to spin. I was stuck in the mud! (The
grass under my rear wheels was long since torn up.)
For the second time in several days, I got out, this time in the rain,
and unhooked the Saturn. I was then able to back down to the road
and get the motorhome turned around. I then re-hooked and we left.
Sorry about the torn up grass, Mr. Campground Owner!
Our drive to Branson was un-eventful. We fairly quickly drove
out from under the rain. Our campground is a Passport America park
(the same one Fred and Judy used for their stop in Branson when they went
home). This is only the 2nd park I have stayed in where they offer
phone jacks at the site. I paid the extra $2 a day. They also
have cable TV, so I won't mess with the dish here.
Betty is now going through a mound of information on the various shows.
We plan to see a couple.
It is now around 9:00 PM. We went on a dinner-cruise-show tonight
on the Showboat Branson Belle. This is a very impressive boat (ship?).
It was built in 1995 right on the shore of Tabletop Lake in a temporary
shipyard. When they launched it, they wanted to lubricate the skids with
a non-polluting lubricant. They used bananas!
The boat is 278 feet long by 78 feet wide, and weighs 2,500,000 pounds.
It has 3 Detroit Diesel 480 volt gensets to power all the lights, air conditioning,
show power, and propulsion. It is propelled by 2 24 foot diameter
stern paddle wheels, each driven by a 400 hp electric motor through a 35.4
to 1 planetary gearbox. It also has a 350 hp thruster on the bow
and the stern.
Our table was on the 3rd balcony which gave us a good, but somewhat
awkward view of the stage. There was a Dixieland band playing before
dinner. During dinner, there was an emcee who entertained us with his banter,
and the band now played old big-band numbers. Our dinner was prime
rib and trimmings and was very good.
After dinner the main show started. This consisted of the emcee,
the band, a 4 member singing and dancing group, a Russian couple who did
exhibition dancing, and a comedian. It was a very enjoyable show,
dinner, and cruise.
We now have tickets for tomorrow evening at the Presleys' Country Jubilee.
Thursday, June 21
Happy 1st day of Summer!
Once again we awoke to the sound of thunder and rain. It's our
(least) favorite cold front for the 5th time! It crossed us in Eagleville,
we drove through it; it crossed us in Bolivar, we drove through it; it
is crossing us again here! No! It WILL be gone by the time
we leave here!
We left most of the day today open to explore, relax, etc. before our
After doing a load of laundry and puttering around the motorhome a
little, we headed out. First we explored the Tabletop lake and dam
area. We went through the visitor center (and gift shop). We
then drove around Branson a bit.
We decided to have a late lunch/early dinner and went back to Lamberts
Cafe. It was soooo good, and it will be a long time before we are
back here. We each ordered their shrimp dinner. I caught several
rolls before the dinners came. The dinners consisted of 8 huge, very
delicious fried shrimp, and our choice of 2 vegetables. After managing
to finish my shrimp, the waitress came back and asked if I would like more!
Again, we received a check for only my dinner with the same explanation.
I like that place!
We came back to the motorhome and barely had time to quickly relax,
clean up, and head back out to our show. The Presleys' Theater was
the first one on highway 76, which is now 76 Music Boulevard. That
road is now packed with theaters, restaurants, gift shops, etc.
We had a really good time at the show. The Presley family has
been running the show since the theater opened in 1957. There are
3 original members still doing the show, with about 11 family members appearing,
along with a number of "non-family". They put on a good mix of comedy,
county music, gospel music, and pop music. We really enjoyed the
Friday, June 22
We left Branson a little before 9:00 and had a smooth drive to Higden,
AR. We pulled into our parking area just below the road at Fred and Judy's
house just around noon.
After getting all set up and chatting with Fred for a while (Judy was
still at work) Fred said he needed to go to North Little Rock either this
afternoon or tomorrow. We decided to all go this afternoon.
It was a setup!
After about a 45 or 50 minute drive, Fred directed me to an RV place.
I asked "Fred, did you buy a motorhome?" He answered that he needed
to pick up some supplies.
The next thing I knew, I had been lead to a 32 foot Holiday Rambler
Vacationer class A motorhome with a tag in the window "SOLD Pfafman".
They bought a motorhome!
It is a "brand new" 1999 model on a Ford chassis with the V10 engine.
Having never been sold it comes with a brand new warranty. It has
3000 miles on the odometer, and is beautiful! They pick it up next
Friday, trading in their Hi-Lo trailer.
Fred says that Judy blames me! I never told them to buy it -
don't blame me!
Saturday, June 23
The project today was to wire their Honda lights for towing behind
their new motorhome. We drove to the nearest Radio Shack (about a
30 minute drive) to pick up some diode bridges. We spent the next
several hours tapping into the tail light wiring and running wires to the
front of the car. Fred will complete the installation of the connector
and its bracket after getting the towbar baseplate installed.
We are almost as excited about their new vehicle as they are!
We all went out to dinner this evening and had a great meal.
Tomorrow morning we head out on our first leg toward Nacogdoches, stopping
Sunday, June 24
We got ready to leave this morning, turning the motorhome around at
the end of their street and stopping across the street from their house.
I then offered Judy (who was in her beautiful dress ready for church) the
opportunity to hook up the Saturn as part of her training course for motorhome
ownership. She decided to just watch this time.
We stopped in Texarkana. This city is in both Arkansas and Texas.
We are on the AR side. We are in the Four States Fairground.
They advertise an overnight RV stop with full hookups. They are Good
Sam and even take credit cards.
We are just staying in the motorhome getting caught up on things, such
as these reports and the pictures. We have a fairly short drive to
Nacogdoches tomorrow to have several items on the motorhome fixed at the
factory. We also want to take a factory tour. Our appointment
is on Wednesday, but they said if we get there early, we may be taken early.
I finally broke out the printer and printed a copy of my "squawk list"
It is quite hot here, in the 90's, so the air conditioning is getting
a good workout. It will be really nice to get the dash air working
again. I have much better control of it while driving than I do the
roof air running from the generator, although that does a good job of keeping
Monday, June 25
It's another beautiful morning! The temperature is up to 78 already
at 8:00 AM. We should have about a 3 hour drive to Nacogdoches.
It shouldn't take very long to get ready, as I didn't even unhook the Saturn
last night. I just need to dump and disconnect. I am overdue
on sending out this report, but there is no place here at the fairgrounds
to connect. Hopefully Foretravel will let me use a phone line somewhere.
I figure the Scholls should be home about now. I hope Fred contacts
them before they get this email, so I don't "spill the beans" about the
new motorhome (even though I have Fred's permission to do so).
It is now about 9:15 PM. We had an easy drive to Nacogdoches,
TX and found the Foretravel factory without a problem. Unfortunately
the service department said it did not look promising to get taken prior
to our Wednesday morning appointment. We are camped in their "campground".
This is an area in the back parking lot where they have about 30 spaces
with 50 amp electric and water. There are 2 dump stations, and even
a laundry facility. Staying here is free. We will stay here
tonight, tomorrow, and probably Wednesday nights. Hopefully they
will be done so we can leave Thursday morning.
They offer their factory tours at 3:45 each day. We were in plenty
of time to do it today, so we did.
Most of the tour group rode in a new U270 from the main office to the
factory area. Betty and I followed and then joined them. The
tour took us through the cabinet shop and the main assembly line.
There was a chassis pretty much as it comes from their chassis shop,
which builds everything having to do with the frame and running gear. Foretravel
is unique with their monocoque chassis. They build it from the ground
up. They had started the wiring and propane plumbing on this unit,
but needed to do almost everything else.
We saw basement floor frame assemblies ready to be filled with foam
insulation and laminated with fiberglass sheets on both sides. We
saw wall panels being prepared for the lamination process, as well as finished
walls and a roof ready to go on a coach that had the interior walls and
We saw a coach completed on the outside except for the windshield and
outside accessories, then one that was totally completed outside that was
getting the finishing details inside. As their yearly production
is only about 200 units, their weekly production is about 4 coaches.
This is in contrast to Winnebago which pushes out 250 a week! We
only saw a few operations underway, as the tour is after the end of first
shift, and the second shift crew is much reduced. What we did see
was careful fitting of items and apparent attention to details. In
the Winnie factory, it was much more a mass production environment with
operations appearing to be rushed.
After the assembly operations, we saw a number of coaches in the final
detailing stages, after paint. Some were straight production coaches,
and some were almost totally custom. Foretravel will build just about
any details you want. They will customize the floor plan, customize
the paint, provide custom interior materials, etc. They have made
a number of changes on the 2002 models which they will introduce at the
FMCA rally in Redmond, OR, our next trip, in August.
Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and friendly. At the end
of the tour he offered to take us to one of the other areas tomorrow.
He said to just give him a call and he thought he could make the time.
When I asked him his name he said "Toby Fore - as in Foretravel"
He had apparently introduced himself on the ride over in the motorhome.
Foretravel is a family owned and run company. He is part of the family.
I would really like to see the chassis plant. I hope he will
be able to show us (or just me) that.
I was told that the laundry house has a phone jack for internet access.
I will now go try it.
Tuesday, June 26
We are still in Nacogdoches, TX, at the Foretravel factory.
First, I need to apologize to any Texans (or others) who may have picked
up on the missing "G" in all my previous references to Nacogdoches - Sorry.
Toby Fore was good to his promise this morning, and took me on a private
tour of the chassis assembly area and the fiberglassing area. The
chassis assembly area is still a stage later than I thought it would be.
They start with a bare monocoque chassis built by the metal shop and put
in the front and rear suspension, the engine and transmission, all the
basement bay dividers, fuel tank, propane, etc. They also install
the majority of the plumbing and many of the electrical harnesses.
The chassis assembly is a 4 day process. I saw examples of the day
1, day 2, and day 3 chassis. The wheels and tires don't go on until about
day 3. The hubs and brakes on these things are HUGE!
The fiberglassing department was also very interesting. There
are many, many molds for the various body trim parts. With a couple
of exceptions, all their fiberglass is hand layed-up using glass cloth
and mat, with steel, high density foam, and wood as inserts according to
the needs. The very large parts, such as the front and rear end caps
and the engine door are filled with the required inserts, hand layed-up
over them and in corner areas, then finished using a chop-gun. All
the fiberglass is started with a generous layer of gel-coat before any
of the other processes begin.
They keep the molds for all the previous motorhomes they have built,
each with a part already in them. This way not only can they build
parts for any units in the field, they already have one ready to ship.
In addition, the part in the mold protects the mold from damage.
If there is collision damage to an area which cannot be repaired in place,
they will lay up the fiberglass in only the area of the mold where they
need a section, then cut out the corresponding section of the damaged area
and glass in the replacement.
It was a very interesting tour, and I really appreciate Toby taking
the time to show it to me!
In the afternoon, I ran a load of wash in one of their washers and
dryers. When I first saw them in the laundry room I did not pay attention,
and had decided to feed the quarters to get caught up on the wash.
I found the machines were not coin operated; they were free!
A very nice touch.
I then went out to get my hair cut, mail some letters, and pick up
a roll of Betty's pictures from Walmart. Betty told me to check at
the office to see if we might be taken in early. Of course I forgot.
When I got back about 3:30 she told me someone had come to see if we could
bring it into the service bay now (3:00). I went over and they told
me to bring it, which I did. Shortly the technician came by apologizing
that he had not realized how close to quitting time it was, and that we
should come back at 7:30 per our original appointment. I did get
to go through the list of problems and questions I had without impacting
Wednesday, June 27
One year till Medicare!
We secured things in the motorhome and drove over to service bay #3
(They have 22!)
The technician started doing various things from my list. He
replaced a missing screw and re-caulked around the radiator where the Escondido
techs had worked prior to delivery. That's doing the most minor item
first! He added a second muffler on my generator exhaust. It
helped, but not as much as I had hoped. He found a bad connection
in my dash air conditioning system and that is all working now. The
upholstery fellows are working on a couple of minor problems. Unfortunately,
everyone stopped work and is attending a meeting right now. I don't
know if they will start again before lunch. It's now 11:30.
It is now almost 8:00 PM and we are back in our camping spot (since
about 5:00), to return at 7:30 tomorrow.
A lot was accomplished today! I had a list of 8 items, hoping
to get 4 of them fixed, and advice on the balance. As of now, 6 are
completed, 1 is in progress, and the decision on the 8th has been made.
Actually, a 9th item was added when the technician said air hissing with
a certain combination of setting the parking brake and having my foot on
the service brakes was not normal. He replaced a shuttle valve to
One of my squawks was that the kitchen "day/night" shade did not stay
up. Unlike all the others which stay where you put them, this pulls with
a couple of strings like Venetian blinds. To hold it you pull the
string to the side and hope a little clip holds. Ours often did not!
The fellow doing the interior items said he could try another like I have
(bad idea), or he could install a "tension type". That is exactly
what I wanted. I now have a push/pull type just like all the others
I love so much.
He also called in a man from the upholstery department to look at the
brittle vinyl on the head area of my lounge chair. He took the chair
and is re-upholstering the head pillow. That chair is still out,
and should be done tomorrow morning.
The thing that took soooooo long was the deliberations on my inverter.
It is a 2000 watt inverter and is supposed to handle the microwave oven
at about 1100 watts without a problem. Except it doesn't! It
will run the microwave for 5 to 30 seconds, turn off the microwave, then
about 5 seconds later, turn off the inverter. A whole stream of technicians,
diagnostic guys, and repair supervisors tried it, took various measurements
at various places, held confabs , and finally concluded at the very end
of the day that they will replace it with a 2500 watt unit in the morning.
I like that! They only used the 2000 w unit in a few rigs, and don't
have any in stock. I will have to pay a small difference charge,
but I was going to ask about doing that even if they did have a 2000 available.
Hopefully we can get away before noon tomorrow and have 4 1/2 days
to get to Prescott, AZ, where we will visit our good friends Betty and
Thursday, June 28
After some waiting for the inverter to be brought in from their on-site
warehouse, it was installed and checked out. It all works fine now.
Now the only thing remaining is to get my lounge chair back.
Asking around I found it was done, but could not be picked up until someone
generated and transmitted some paperwork! Finally, we got it back,
settled accounts, and were on the road by about noon.
Things were going fine so we continued on and managed to make it to
just west of Abilene, a trip of about 350 miles. Not too bad for
a late start! We didn't get into camp until about 7:00. That's
just about the latest we have arrived at a campground.
One added "benefit" to this camp is the view we were able to get of
some cargo aircraft. It seems this park is on late final for Dyess
Air Force Base. We had a number of C-130's fly within a couple of
wingspans of right over us at about 300 feet. I wish I had thought
to take my camera out and snap a couple of them. Later in the evening
they seemed to be accompanied by some jets (heard but not seen).
They ceased operations a little before midnight. Of course, we also
had our obligatory train tracks nearby with several "whistle crossings".
Parked across from us is a 5th wheel (huge), and the most impressive
tow vehicle I have seen! I went across and talked to the two fellows
there. The owner said he looked at the "mid" sized tow vehicles, but balked
at the $50k plus cost. He bought this used full size semi tractor
and outfitted it for less than $20k. It has no problem pulling his
trailer, even in the mountains.
Friday, June 29
Actually, we slept very well, in spite of the airplanes and trains.
We were going to get as early a start as we could without setting an alarm.
I didn't wake up until about 7:00.
Today was our longest scheduled driving day, about 400 miles to Tucumcari,
NM. We had an uneventful drive and arrived in camp about 2:00, after
getting back one of our time zone hours.
We went out to dinner tonight. About half way back out to the
car, a distance of about 10 feet, it started pouring! By the time
we got in the car, we were soaked!
Back at camp it had stopped raining, so I decided to get even wetter.
I got out my ladder, hooked up my every day hose to my spare drinking water
hose and washed the front of the motorhome with real water! I have
always used a bucket before, but as we came in the manager said I could
do as I want, "Wash it if you like". I think that was a hint!
Actually, I have been very pleased how well the coach has stayed looking
clean. I have washed the front many times to remove the bugs, but
the only other washing I have done is the right rear panel behind the axle,
which got filthy when I got stuck in the mud. I did the left rear
tonight, along with the rear, as high as I could reach without the ladder.
Things are looking pretty good now, at least until tomorrow's drive.
Tomorrow we head to Grants, NM, a drive of about 250 miles.
Saturday, June 30
Our drive of about 250 miles was an easy one today, and we arrived
in Grants, NM shortly after 1:00. After getting settled, we headed
out to explore the towns of Milan and Grants. Our park is actually
in Milan, in spite of the listings of it in Grants. We got to explore
yet another stretch of Route 66. Some areas are totally modern, while
others look like time has stood still.
We stopped at a New Mexico Visitor's Center and saw a movie about the
nearby attractions. There are many! We also picked up a handful
of brochures for possible use on a future Ramblin Recs (our church RV group)
trip. We stopped for a light dinner on our way back.
It is now about 6:00 and it is looking like we will have our nightly
thundershower. The sky has pretty much clouded over with cumulus,
some very grey. I have seen lightning in the distance in several
directions already, and it is raining not too far to the north.
I have Internet access here also, and will try to get my pictures put
together and sent tonight, along with the church web page updates.
As we are in the middle of our "sprint for home" mode, there is not
too much to report. We will be visiting the Wilkisons and our son
David and his family. As a result, this will probably be the last
report until we reach home on July 9. I will then send a report that
wraps everything up.
Sunday, July 1
We are in Grants, NM, planning to head to Williams, AZ today.
It is a drive of about 275 miles.
The trains were VERY loud last night. I was awakened several
times by very loud whistles that sounded like they were about to come into
We were away before 8:00 and had a smooth drive. The New Mexico
roads are really quite good, probably as good as we have had this trip.
In Arizona, we could see a couple of large thunderheads sitting over the
San Francisco Peaks, just out of Flagstaff, miles before we reached them.
Near Flagstaff, it started to rain, and continued for about half an hour.
We stopped in a rest stop just west of Flag' and decided that if Point
of Rocks campground had a space, that we would continue on to Prescott,
bypassing our stop in Williams. They had an opening in the space
next to the one we were assigned the following 3 nights.
We were in camp by 1:00 after the additional hour of time change we
had entering AZ.
Shortly after getting set up in our 1 night spot, the manager came
over and said he had just had a cancellation, and that we could stay in
this spot the whole 4 days. Great! I called the Wilkisons to
let them know of our early arrival, and left a message on their answering
Sunday, July 1 through Wednesday, July 4
We had a very enjoyable visit with Betty and Gene. We went over
on Sunday, picked up a couple of pizzas and started to catch up since the
On Tuesday, I met Gene at the RC flying field and "helped" him fly
a relatively new electric plane. That is so much fun!
The rest of our visit consisted of eating, talking, showing each other
pictures, touring the Prescott area, and a little work on Gene and Betty's
It was a very good visit. We always thoroughly enjoy visiting
Thursday, July 5
We had a long drive today! We drove 388 miles to Boron, CA.
At approximately 11:30 AM today, our motorhome entered California for the
first time since we took delivery on January 30!
We had our first rain of the day after crossing into California.
When we arrived in Boron, the motorhome and the car were both absolutely
filthy! You could not see through the windows of the Saturn, and the lower
part of the motorhome was a dirty grey instead of the normal bright white.
We had not had this problem during the trip, as everywhere we had rain,
they frequently had rain. This kept the roads fairly well washed
off. Today was the first rain here in a long time, and the road spray
was literally made of mud and grease.
The campground in Boron is a mobile home park with spaces for RV's.
We were directed to a space in the center of the park between a mobile
home and an older, non-descript motorhome. I looked at the motorhome
again and saw it was a Foretravel! From 1976 to about 1986 they made
the FTX model (ForeTravel ten). 1976 was their tenth year of building
motorhomes. The model FTX was the ground breaker in such areas as
providing built in TV's, VCR's, icemakers, and several other "necessities
of life". They already had a reputation for building top quality
I went over to the office to send and receive my email. As I
was doing that, the owner asked if I knew anything about computers.
I foolishly told her I could usually figure things out. She has been
trying literally for months to get a decent copy of a 60 year old, 3 page
adoption certificate of her husband's. It was a copy done with the
photocopy technology of the late '30's, and had turned to almost a chocolate
brown background with black printing. None of the copy shops she
had tried could do it. Their machines could not be set light enough.
She had a Canon printer for which she had bought a "scanning cartridge".
I showed her the difference between "grayscale" and "black and white",
led her through setting up for "black and white", and adjusting the threshold
for a very light print. It scanned beautifully. We were lucky,
as the threshold adjustment had only 7 positions, and the second to lightest
produced a solid black image. The lightest setting was perfect!
I headed back to the motorhome over an hour after I had left for a two
Friday, July 6
Today we head to Atascadero to Dave and Carolyn's (and Kylie and Rebecca's),
not to mention the dog, the cats, and the goats.
It is also Carolyn's birthday. Happy Birthday, Carolyn!
I took another look at our (previously) beautiful motorhome and decided
I could not show it to the kids for the first time looking like that!
I got the bucket and the rags out and washed the front and the passenger
side (That's the only side they will see, isn't it?) We then got
underway for a 215 mile trip.
As we were driving through the town of Mojave, we came to a total stop
in backed up traffic. There was a freight train stopped with the
locomotives just into the highway. There were men walking around
on the outside catwalks of the locomotives. Finally the train started
to move. It never got over about 5 mph, and I thought it would never
get through. Finally the 91st car passed us and shortly cleared the
highway and we were on our way again. I do seem to be having problems
with trains this trip, don't I?
We had a little rain (Oh no!), but a later check at a rest stop showed
the wash job was still holding. The last 50 miles were in light rain
again, and when we arrived at the kids', the coach was FILTHY again!
Oh well, it has to be less dirty than if I had not washed it!
About a minute after arriving in front of the house, Carolyn and the
girls arrived home, after picking Reba up from school. David and
Carolyn have two daughters, Kylie and Rebecca (we call her Reba).
I managed to fit the 4 foot longer motorhome pretty much into the same
spot where we have always parked in front of their garage. I now
have less clearance and have to do things more carefully, but it all fits.
Once again I bucket-washed the right side of the motorhome. It did
wash somewhat easier than this morning. I then washed the Saturn.
I even used a hose for that! It was as dirty as I have ever seen
it. The light green was a very dark grey, and the windows were even
more opaque than this morning.
Carolyn's folks, Art and Sally are "in town" for the weekend, and had
us all over to dinner at their berry farm in Paso Robles (along with Carolyn's
brother and family, who currently run the farm).
Saturday, July 7 through Monday, July 9
We enjoyed our time with the kids and grand-kids. We celebrated
Carolyn's birthday, Mother's day, my birthday and Father's day. It's
been a while since we have seen them! We did some projects around
the house, and generally just enjoyed them.
I had a special treat while there! David had an evaluation unit
of a wireless network system. By plugging a card into my computer,
I had high speed Internet service IN MY MOTORHOME!
Monday, July 9
We headed for home today at about 8:30. We took our time and
made several rest stops. Things were just going too well!
Bang! Flop-flop-floppity-jiggle, etc. My left front tire was
in shreds! We were near Lake Elsinore, about an hour from home. I
pulled into a narrow median between the freeway (I-15) and an on-ramp and
surveyed the damage. The tire was crossways on the rim. After
checking for any damage (none but a little wear on the decals where they
run inside the fender cutout), I slowly pulled across the on-ramp to the
right side and stopped. The tire was now completely off the rim and ended
up under the motorhome just behind the fender opening.
I had no more than stopped the engine when a CHP officer pulled up
behind me and asked "What's going on?" I told him and showed him.
He offered any assistance he could, but I assured him I had things under
control. What a lie!
Actually, after about 4 or 5 calls on my cell phone, I located the
correct tire in Fontana and they should be here any time now (about 2 hours
after it blew). It is currently 5:47, they left the shop right around
5:00 and it is about 35 miles in slightly post-peak traffic.
A huge truck with all sorts of tire servicing paraphernalia pulled
up just alongside and in front of me. In about 40 minutes he had
the motorhome jacked up, the wheel off, the new tire on it, and the wheel
back on the motorhome. After signing my life away on a credit card
receipt (over $500 including overtime labor!) we were on our way again.
Somehow, I think you are in a better position to find a good buy on tires
when you are not stuck at the side of the road at quitting time!
I feel very fortunate that I found the tire at all within driving range,
and that they were willing to work overtime to fix it for me! There
certainly are disadvantages to not carrying a spare, but this is very common
on vehicles with very large tires that cannot be changed without special
We are now home! The last hour was very smooth and uneventful.
It was getting dark as we arrived, but the motorhome went up my new wider
driveway just fine and even made the turn at the top! Its good to
be home again!
Here are some of the statistics about our trip:
We were gone a total of 68 days, including 3 in Buckeye, AZ after driving
there in the Saturn, before leaving in the motorhome. We spent 42
days traveling with the Scholls, 13 days with the Pfafmans (and the Scholls),
and 26 days traveling alone. Of these days, we enjoyed all or part
of 68 of them.
We stayed in 13 states, including CA, AZ, UT, WY, MT, ND, SD, MN, IA,
MO, AR, TX, and NM. Three of these, ND, MN, and IA were the first
time for us.
We drove a total of 6827 miles in the motorhome, and an additional
3591 in the Saturn.
We used 823.7 gallons of diesel fuel in 10 fillups for an average of
about 8.3 mpg, and an average of 683 miles between fillups. Our maximum
distance between fillups was 968 miles. I still had about 1/4 tank
left, but I get very nervous when the gauge reads EMPTY even though I know
there is plenty.
These numbers do not make any allowance for the fuel used in 33.4 hours
of running the diesel generator. Our mileage is running within a
mpg of what we got in the Gulf Stream, and the distance per tank is about
2 1/2 times as far.
We stayed in 30 different campgrounds which ranged from mediocre to
outstanding, with rates from free to $30 per night (There was only a little
correlation between price and quality!). Many of our nights were
in Passport America parks which generally go for 50% of the regular rate.
We also stayed in the Pfafmans' driveway for 2 nights and Dave and Carolyn's
I received 307 email messages during our trip, (Thank you!) consisting
of 186 valid, individual messages, 70 from mail lists I belong to, and
51 junk mail. I sent out 14 trip reports from the road, plus this
15th one from home in addition to many individual messages. I posted
103 pictures on my website as we went, plus a map of our progress which
was updated numerous times.
We probably had more rain and more bugs on this trip than on any previous
one. I think we also had more road construction, but fewer delays.
Most of the construction areas consisted of narrowing to one lane, slowing
down, and possibly sharing the road with the opposite direction traffic.
I think during motorhome driving, we were halted by a flagman only once.
Thank you for coming along with us on our trip. I enjoy documenting
our trips for our own future reference as well as sharing with our family
and good friends, and am happy I could include you. I will be removing
the names I added for the Scholls and the Pfafmans (unless otherwise requested)
from my list for any future trips, but I am glad I was able to include
you for this trip.
Till next time with love,
Dick and Betty