Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Numbers recap of my 2016 Summer trip

I was on the road for 51 days, traveled 4167 miles, through 7 states (AZ, UT, WY, ID, OR, WA, MT). I visited 5 national parks (Grand Canyon, Bryce, Grand Teton, Mt. Rainier, Yellowstone).

I spent $503.40 on campgrounds and RV parks, but camped for free for 22 nights.

Minnie averaged 8.32 mpg, guzzling $1166.43 worth of gas.

The temperatures ranged from the coldest night of 31° in West Yellowstone to 103° daytime high in Boise. I drove through some hotter places, but didn't camp there.

I think the prettiest place was Mt. Rainier. The most surprising was eastern Oregon and eastern Washington, which were hot, dry, windy desert.

Summer is road construction season. Everywhere I went, some percentage of the roads had orange barrels, barricades and road work signs.

All in all, it was a great trip. I learned a few things: paper plates are the way to go; you really can shower with just 6 gallons of hot water; Hanna needs a doggie sweater for those cold nights; good cell phone signal makes every camp more pleasant; a comfortable recliner love seat would be really REALLY nice; I can squeeze my motor home through a lot of narrow busy streets; and camping really is the answer to any question.

Here's a map of stops I made.

Sunday, August 28, 2016


I was awakened at 3:00 a.m. to the cracking sound of thunder and pouring rain. Now I love a good thunder storm when I'm home. I also think rain on my Minnie rooftop is the coziest sound ever. But sitting alone deep in the forest of tall Ponderosa Pines listening to lightning strike after lightning strike around me was a bit disconcerting. I jumped up to roll down my antenna, and Hanna jumped up to tell me she was awakened by the storm, too. I did something I have never, ever done. I took her into bed with me.

The storm calmed a bit over the next hour, but the rain continued to pour. About 5:00, I fell fitfully asleep and slept about an hour. I finally got up to turn up the furnace and make coffee. It was so wet outside, Hanna had to wait to go out until about 8:00, when she and I made a run for a spot fit for her to add to the numerous puddles, and quickly climbed back in the RV.

My plan for that day had been to drive to Blue Ridge Ranger Station and spend a night next to Richard and Dianna's rig before heading back to Mesa on Sunday. But in text conversations with them, I discovered it was very wet and muddy there and the Doppler radar showed promise of continuing stormy weather in the Coconino Forest. We all agreed it was probably wisest for me to head straight down I-17 toward home.

Around 11:00, I caught a break in the weather, and got on the road. After longing for home for the past week, and realizing this was my last morning to break camp and head to my brick house, I had a moment of regret that I wasn't just off to find my next campground. Then I remembered, I could go again whenever I wanted to ... I'm RETIRED!! And that bolstered my resolve to head home. I had no problems and reached the outskirts of metropolitan Phoenix about 1:30. The last 30 miles through town were some of the busiest traffic I had experienced the whole seven weeks of my travels, and I was glad to turn onto my street and see my house ahead. Hanna was very glad to be home, but looked at me expectantly as if to ask when our next journey begins.

I unloaded my leftover food, my clothes (and mountain of laundry!) and a few electronics from Minnie, and then took a long (water gluttony) shower. Hanna's shower will wait until tomorrow.

Final Push Toward Home

After leaving Grand Teton National Park, my sights were set on home, and I began my journey south. After studying the maps and my Allstays app looking for the best route, I decided to go back to Sunrise Campground, where I had spent four nights on my way up. I knew it was a good location and had a cell signal, and I wanted to stay two nights. I had done a lot of driving, and needed a "Zero Day" of rest. In fact, it was on that day of rest that I took a nap and Hanna got herself stuck under the seat again! Little stinker!
My next stop was Maple Bench Campground southeast of Payson, UT. It was a very steep one lane road up to the campground, and before I drove it, I pulled off and parked, and Hanna and I walked it. I didn't want to get into a predicament and have to back down that narrow mountain road. It turned out to be a great location with only one other couple (tenters) in the entire campground. Hanna and I walked the steep road up and down three times and got a really good workout.

The next morning, I headed south again with no particular place in mind, but with my cell phone handy, looking for a signal. I tried three areas on my way, but none of them had a signal. With the campgrounds getting more and more deserted, I wanted to be able to be in touch with someone if necessary. This point was driven home when I drove to Piute State Park south of Richfield. I passed a few fishermen along the road, but when I turned into the campground, it was empty, and I had the dreaded "No Signal" on my iPhone. I drove through anyway just to check it out. I noticed some of the roads were kind of sandy, so I drove around the patches. I could see the road condition was getting worse with no place to turn around, so I put it in reverse and tried to back up the same path I had come in. Suddenly, I couldn't go any farther, and as I gave it a little more gas, I could hear my tires spin... sluggishly. Oh rats! I knew I was in the sand. I hopped out and surveyed the situation, then got out my shovel. After digging around each tire and scraping the sand away, I was finally able to pull forward about five feet. I carefully turned into the weeds, then backed up a bit, then forward again into a non-sandy area. This went on for several minutes, hopping out many times to survey and calculate where I could move to, and finally, Minnie found solid ground and beat a track back to the main road.

I decided to keep driving south to the area where Dale and I had camped outside Bryce Canyon, as I knew we had a weak cell signal there. My Allstays app showed dispersed camping area along a different forest road, and as I drove farther up the hill, my signal got stronger. I found a nice spot on a secluded spur road and set up for two nights.

Hanna and I took a walk up the spur road that evening and found an abandoned child's ATV with a note on it saying anyone was welcome to take it, as the owners were done with it and were buying their daughter a new one. If I'd had any way to bring it home, I might have considered it.
Friday morning, Hanna and I packed up and drove south to Flagstaff and into the Coconino Forest where Dale and I had camped in July. I drove up the same road, and found an empty space just beyond the one he and I had shared, and set up an overnight camp.

Home was just 150 miles south!


When I left Colter Bay Campground, I drove south and took the turnoff toward Jenny Lake Visitor's Center. The entire area is under construction (for upgrades), but there is a good path down to the lake where you can get some good views or take a hike or a boat ride. Nearby fires obscured the view and I was glad Ken and Megan had been here several weeks earlier to get their great photos.
I browsed through the Visitor's Center and headed out to the parking lot. When I opened the door, Hanna didn't come meet me, which was very strange. I called her, and could hear some muffled scratching, but she still didn't come out. Upon my investigation, I found her completely stuck under the driver's seat. She was very glad to see me, but could not move. I tried for about ten minutes to get her out, but to no avail. I was starting to get a bit panicky, and decided I better see if someone could help me.

I found a ranger nearby and explained, through my tears, what had happened. He came right over and worked with me on turning, pushing and pulling, and moving the seat forward and back. Finally, we got her worked into a space where we could squeeze her through and she was in my arms, wiggling and licking. One happy puppy!!

I planned to stuff something under that seat so she couldn't get into such a predicament again, but didn't get to it for 24 hours. Yup, you guessed it. She did it again! The next afternoon as I was taking a nap, she crawled under there and got stuck again. This time, she was turned the opposite way, and I could see how she had made her way to the spot she was in, and I simply pulled her by the hind legs back out.  I immediately stuffed a blanket under there to prevent a third event.

(The above picture was taken on day two. I didn't stop to take her picture the first time, as I was frantically focused on getting her out. The second time, she had to wait while I got out the camera.)

Friday, August 26, 2016

Yellowstone and GrandTetons

I got an early start on Saturday morning because I wanted to try to visit two national parks and also find a camp space that day. On my July visit to the area (with Robin and Ken), I had talked with a ranger about camping in the Teton National Forest. She had pointed out several areas where one was likely to find dispersed camps, and also mentioned that Gros Ventre campground within the southern end of GTNP often had vacancy through the summer, even late in the day on weekends. The campground has 350 spaces. My online research also revealed a second campground near Jackson Lake in GTNP with 350 spaces, and it was a bit cheaper. I figured with 700 spaces in the area, I might find one just for me, and if not, I'd boondock in the forest

As I started down the road, a motor home zipped by me, and I saw his slide was out! I thought it was likely a mistake, and tried to catch up with him to signal him to stop, but before I drew close, he slammed on his brakes and pulled over. I slowed down as I went by him, and could hear the whine of his slide motor, so I knew he was rectifying the dangerous (and gas guzzling) situation. 

I remember my first visit to Yellowstone when I was about 8, and as we drove in to the park Mom read us the book "The Night The Mountain Fell", the story of the 1959 earthquake at West Yellowstone. The road I drove hugged Quake Lake, which had been formed by the landslide.

Smoke drifted over the road from a wildfire nearby causing my eyes to sting. I kept an eye out for any signs that the road was closed, but it must have been farther away than it seemed.

I was expecting bumper to bumper traffic throughout the park, but it wasn't bad at all, and everyone was observing the 45mph speed limit. I stopped at Lower Geyser Basin

and Upper Geyser Basin, where Old Faithful and the Visitor's Center are located.  I timed my arrival at Old Faithful just right, as she went off just about a half hour after I got there.

I stopped at the Visitors Center at West Thumb Grant Village, and then drove on through the southern part of Yellowstone and into Grand Teton National Park. Once there, I headed to Colter Bay Campground, and sure enough they has plenty of available spaces. I perused the small visitors center there before driving into the campground. They assign spaces when you enter since the campground is so large. They gave me a nice space, and after setting up, Hanna and I walked around several loops, making friends along the way as we chatted with several other campers.

Walmart Camping

I drove my longest day on Wednesday, the 17th, logging over 300 miles from Mt. Rainier National Park to Couer d'Alene. That included my tour of the Park. I hadn't planned to drive that far, or that long (nearly 10 hours), but heat wave temperatures in western Washington took away all desire to stop and set up camp anywhere in between those points.

So late that evening, I planned for my first Walmart overnight experience. I arrived at the Hayden Walmart about 8:00p, by which time the temp had dropped into the 80s. There was a designated section in the parking lot for RVs, and there were eight other rigs besides my own in the asphalt jungle. All was well until around 1:00a when teens congregated nearby to talk (loudly) and practice bird whistles. Yes, that's what I said. Bird whistles. Fortunately, they didn't stay long, and things quieted down quickly. I slept well until after 6:00a.

The next two nights I found nice forest service campgrounds, Lodgepole adjacent to Georgetown Lake southeast of Missoula and West Fork southeast of Butte just outside the west entrance of Yellowstone.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Two Mountains

I consulted with my friends, the Bowes, regarding visiting Mt. St. Helens. The volcano looks about 15 miles from their home as the crow flies, but we all know roads don't fly straight. Ted informed me it was about an hour drive to the park, and once there, there is no quick way to get to Mt. Rainier. But I figured I was so close I ought to try it. I put the waypoint I wanted to visit into my Garmin and headed out. Even taking the shortcut route Ted gave me, it was still mid morning by the time I reached Castle Rock, where there is a state run visitor's center. It would be another 50 miles to the National Park, and that meant 50 miles back, as well as backtracking all the way to Mossyrock. I decided to peruse the visitor's center there, forego the journey to the NP, and turn back toward Rainier.

I reached Mt. Rainier National Park entrance about 3:00, and had decided to see if there was any space available within the park campgrounds. Score! There were 3 spaces available in Cougar Rock that would accommodate my Minnie, and I chose the finest one.

I stopped at the Visitor's Center the next morning, as well as several scenic turnouts along the way west. Rainier is a beautiful park; not just the mountain itself, but the winding roads through the lush and pristine forest are spectacular.

That said, the main road through the park was a knuckle biter for me. Narrow, winding, with steep grades, and several places with a drop off to canyons below made me more nervous than I've ever been before driving my motor home. Fortunately, there was surprisingly light traffic and I never met a car coming around a difficult curve. It was worth the harrowing drive, though, and I feel more confident than ever in handling Minnie anywhere she takes me.

I left the park and headed west toward Couer dAlene.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Mossyrock, Washington

Disclaimer: It is so difficult to post a blog entry from my phone and I couldn't edit the pictures after posting them without starting over adding them. I want to credit Robyn with some of the photos I posted here. I think at least 4 or 5 of them are hers and I hope she will forgive me for stealing them. 

Whenever I refer to my friends, the Bowes, I always describe them as the family with quadruplets. They used to live in Arizona, but moved to Mossyrock over 10 years ago and I haven't seen them since. We keep up with each other through blogs and email, but the kids didn't really remember me. Their family has grown to include nine children by now (and may continue to grow if more adoptions are in their future.) So we had lots of catching up to do!

They have a large farm in west central Washington with spectacular views of mountains, trees, lakes and blue sky. We tried to position Minnie where I could see those views out my windows, but we just couldn't get her level, and I ended up in the driveway right by the front door. That was handier anyway, and we could reach a power cord to a nearby outlet there.

We ate dinner on Friday evening in their outdoor gazebo wearing out our jaws talking. Afterwards, we walked down to Swofford Pond, and then drove up the hill to an overlook where we caught this breathtaking sunset over Mayfield Lake.

The Bowes had a previous commitment on Saturday, and I chose to stay home catching up on laundry and reading. But one of the quads (Valerie) who breeds Labradors, had a mother dog giving birth that day. She delivered five puppies fine, but then seemed to be in distress, and Valerie decided to take her to the vet. It turned out she had two more puppies who were having a tough time making their entrance. One finally came on his own (I got to watch it!), but the last little guy had to be delivered by C-section. It was quite an exciting adventure! I didn't do anything except try to stay out of the way, but Valerie assured me she was glad to have me there for moral support. We got the little family home and tucked into their pen and Valerie went to bed. Poor girl had been up all night helping her dog deliver puppies.

On Sunday morning, we went to church, and heard a great message by their pastor. Then that afternoon, Ted got out their pontoon boat and we went out on Mayfield Lake. It was a blast, and even Hanna seemed to enjoy it! After a couple hours of trying to throw the boys off the inner tube, (Ted did get a couple of them) we tied up to some trees, and barbecued hamburgers and hot dogs right on the back of the boat! Okay, Ted did the barbecuing, but I sure helped do the eating!

Their oldest daughter, Lydia is married and lives about 15 miles away. I hadn't had a chance to see her and really wanted to, as she is the only one of the kids who remembers me. So I decided to stay one more day so we could get together with her and her husband. On Monday morning, Robyn and I did a little sight seeing around Mossyrock, driving through a beautiful park (with a campground!), viewing the dam, stopping at a tulip farm nursery, and last but not least, a blueberry stand! That evening, the Bowes took dinner over to Richie and Lydia's farm, and we sat outside eating barbecued chicken and blueberry cobbler while watching all the baby animals frolic and gambol around in the fields.

The next morning, I said my goodbyes and backed my Minnie down the driveway, and headed her out on the road.

Please visit Robyn's blog post for more details and lots of fantastic pictures.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Champoeg State Park and Fun in Portland

A few months ago, I made a reservation for four days at Champoeg (pronounced shampoo-ey) State Park because of its proximity to my friend Alice.

On Google maps, it looked about 3-4 miles from Alice's condo in Wilsonville, but in actuality, it was 10 miles. But my sweet friend drove over every day to pick my up so we could do fun things together, and I could meet all of her friends.

On rainy Monday, we went downtown to stroll around the shops, and most importantly, to get some famous Voodoo doughnuts. Their reputation precedes them, and they definitely live up to the hype. The line is always out the door and down the street. I got six, and ate every one of them!
(Settle down, it was over the course of three days.)

We also stopped into Powell's Book Store, which is about a square city block of new and used books. I found a good quality used copy of something I had been looking for.

On Tuesday, the clouds began to clear, and we drove to Silverton and then on to Silver Falls State Park, and took the trail down to the falls. Beautiful falls, and the trail circles around behind them. Yes, we saw the backside of water!

We made an online reservation that evening to do a Segway tour on Wednesday. It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day... perfect for rolling around on two wheels. Within the first 20 minutes, we crossed two bridges and took a spiral ramp down off one of them! It was quite the adventure!  But the tour was great; we learned a lot about the city, and had a really fun time on the Segways.

On Thursday, my last day, we drove up to Multnomah Falls. I have seen many pictures of them, but have never been there. They were spectacular, but with hundreds of people jockeying for space on the trails and view points, it was very difficult to truly enjoy them. We visited two others that were close, and though the waterfalls are not quite as magnificent, I think we enjoyed them more because there were very few people around. We stopped by her daughter Alicia's on our way home to say hi to her family.

That evening, we enjoyed happy hour at the golf course country club where Alice lives (and plays golf) and had our final chat before saying our goodbyes for now.

We had hoped Glenda would be able to join us, but a family member needed her at home, so our GAD About was just an AD About this year. Hopefully next summer, we can get our "G" back with us.

I left Portland on Friday morning with Mossyrock, WA on my GPS. I was looking forward to spending the weekend with long-time friends, the Bowes

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Camping by the Deschutes River

I studied my AllStays app, looking for a campground near Burns, Oregon. My main objective was altitude... I wanted to be at least 4000-4500 ft, because I was far enough inland, I knew it could be warm.

I remembered RVSue had traveled through Oregon last year, and decided to take a look at her blog. Sure enough, I found a post about a lovely campground just north of Burns in the Mulheur Forest called Idlewild, so I headed there. There were plenty of empty spaces, but no cell phone signal. I picked a spot and set up for one night.

The next day I moved on toward Bend and made my way southwest into the Willamette Forest, to Big River Campground. I had been keeping an eye on my cell phone all the way and was excited to see a good signal in the campground. I knew I could settle in for three days and enjoy some walks along the Deschutes River, Kindle reads and lots of Netflix. And that's just what I did.

The first couple of evenings, I had some noisy neighbors, but fortunately they quieted down before 10:00 campground curfew.

On Sunday morning, I headed north to Champoeg (pronounced shampoo-ey) State Park, where I had a reservation for five days. I had plans to spend the week visiting and sight seeing with Alice.