North Central US Trip Spring/Summer 2001

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 - it shows! 
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 my day! 
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 plates! 
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 them up. 
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 closely afterward. 
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 them. 
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 is). 
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 in sight. 
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 Flaming Gorge. 
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 splat. 
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 again. 
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 Utah/Wyoming line. 
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 access also. 
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 check in. 
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 monument. 
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 today. 
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 bolts took.   
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 day. 
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 it out. 
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 T. Roosevelt. 
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 this morning. 
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 worked. 
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 was excellent! 
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 it all. 
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 away. 
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 here also. 
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 was good! 
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, etc. 
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 tried! 
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 access.   
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 as mine! 
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 of years. 
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 lunch/early dinner. 
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 and Virg. 
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 carousel music. 
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 heading home. 
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 the monument. 
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 is planned! 
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 updates tomorrow. 
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 area! 
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 it. 
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 Lake, MN. 

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 River. 
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 short! 
On our way back from the park, we explored the cities of Bemidji and Cass Lake. 
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 prohibited. 
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 away. 
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 to Quebec! 
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 ATV. 
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.  Not good! 
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 stock blades. 
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 heard. 
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 the tours. 
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 ways up! 
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 home. 
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 after all! 
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 to others!   
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 Eagleville, MO. 
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 thunder.   
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, not mine). 
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 8:00 show. 
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 show. 
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 at Texarkana. 
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" for Foretravel. 
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 us cool. 
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 appliances in. 
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 our work. 
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 correct that. 
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 Gene Wilkison. 
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 the campground. 
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 machine. 
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 last time. 
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 computer. 
It was a very good visit.  We always thoroughly enjoy visiting here! 

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 motorhomes. 
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 minute job! 
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 equipment. 
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 for 3. 
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