Yosemite, Glacier, and an Escapade
  (May 27 to July 9, 2008)

You can click on "photos" to get directly to the first photo page, which has a connector to the second page (if there is one).

May 27: Barstow, California (408 miles)

Route: AZ 202; I-10; I-215; I-15

Campground:  Flying J parking lot

Fuel:  $4.739 at Flying J in Ehrenberg, Arizona

After a nice five week stay in the Phoenix area where we saw 108 and 110 degree temperatures, it was good to be on the road again. We had some great visits with Diane's sister, Carol and husband Kevin, the rest of the Otto family. But it was time to hit the road to start our summer adventures that would take us up through California to visit Yosemite National Park, then up to Sacramento to visit friends before heading to Gillette, Wyoming for the Escapees Escapade. From there we would hook up with our good traveling companions, Norm and Linda Payne, and head up to Glacier National Park followed by several weeks in Canada.

May 28 to June 2: Coarsegold, California (272 miles)

Route: I-15; CA 58; CA 99; CA 41

Campground:  SKP Park Sierra  This is an Escapees co-op park about an hour from Yosemite. We opted to boondock for six days. At only $5 per day to boondock, with the first day free, our camping cost here totaled $25. That helps with the outrageous fuel costs this year.

Fuel:  $4.989 at Flying J in Bakersfield, California

There are still several major national parks we have yet to visit and Yosemite is one of them. Once we made the decision to drive to the Sacramento area to visit some friends it became a no-brainer to stop and visit Yosemite. We got some good advice to visit during the week and stay away from the park on the weekend. That turned out to be great advice as there was very little traffic on the two days we drove into the park.

The first residents in Yosemite Valley were American Indians who inhabited the area as long as 6,000 years ago. They called the area "Ahwahnee", which translates to something like "Place of Gaping Mouth". Very few non-Indians knew of the area prior to 1851. However, the gold discovery in the Sierra Nevada foothills in 1848 brought thousands of people to the area to seek their fortune in gold. These people stole Indian lands and killed many of them which resulted in the Mariposa Indian War.

In the middle of the Civil War, some influential Californians convinced Congress and President Lincoln to grant the area to the state as the country's first public preserve. Yosemite became a national park in 1906 thanks to Teddy Roosevelt, John Muir, and Galen Clark.

Park Sierra is located about an hour from one of the Yosemite entrances, the one on CA 41. Norm had suggested that we turn right at the entrance to visit the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoia trees, but I figured if it was going to be crowded we should go into the valley first and do the grove on the way out. As it turned out, we were in the park for a long time and didn't have time to visit the grove that first day.

We drove the main loop in the park with many stops along the way to look at the waterfalls. The first one we saw was Bridalveil Falls. Thanks to the snow melt, all the falls were flowing with lots of water. It was hard to believe that by end of summer the falls could be bone dry, but we were assured that the water does stop flowing in late summer and fall. We stopped at Yosemite Village to get something to eat and look around the area. Then it was on to the Yosemite Falls, Upper and Lower. We walked in to the lower fall to get a great look at both falls. The Upper Yosemite Fall is the fifth highest fall in the world. As we continued driving the loop, we saw the major sights in the park, including Half Dome and El Capitan.

We opted to visit the Mariposa Grove on another day, and it was a good thing we did because we spent several hours there. The grove is the largest stand of giant sequoias.  It's about a four mile round trip to walk up to the top, and we did it. The views along the way were awesome. Some of these giants are up to 3,000 years old. Some were big enough to drive a car through them. However, they are neither the tallest trees nor the widest trees. But in total volume they are the largest living things known to humans.

Our impressions were that Yosemite had some awesome and beautiful views. We certainly were not disappointed. We were also ecstatic that we were there without the extreme traffic encountered later in the summer. Now we look forward to visiting yet another national park that we have never been to, Glacier National Park. We'll be doing that with Norm and Linda Payne after the upcoming Escapade. They have been there before and will be great tour guides.

June 3 to June 9: Carmichael, California (187 miles)

Route:  CA 41; CA 145; CA 99 US 50; local roads

Campground:  Elks Lodge  This lodge was the biggest one we've seen in our travels. Not only did it have 12 RV sites with water and electric, but it had a huge parking lot that could accommodate many RVs that could boondock.

Fuel:  $4.909 at Flying J in Ripon, California

Late last year I tried to contact my dear friend of 45 years, Bobby Lonie, but couldn't find him. Diane has known him for the past 32 years. He didn't have a computer and his phone was disconnected. I knew he had suffered some health problems so I was concerned. Losing contact with a close friend can be somewhat disconcerting, especially when you can't find the person. Then, out of the blue around last Christmas a card arrived from Bobby telling me that he had retired from his job in New York and moved to Citrus Heights, California to be near his daughter and grandkids. What a relief. I picked up the phone and told him how happy I was that he was doing okay.

We knew we would be out west this year so I started looking at the possibility of going into California on our way to Gillette, Wyoming for the Escapees Escapade (for non-RVers, that's a big RV rally). We knew we were going to spend at least a month in the Phoenix area to visit with Diane's sister but, if you look at a map, it is very clear that the shortest route from Phoenix to Gillette is definitely not up through the Sacramento, California area. Using my Street Atlas mapping software, I found out that it would be about an extra 930 miles to go through California to get to Wyoming. With fuel prices escalating rapidly, we had to figure whether that was doable this year. Using our mpg average of about 7.5, it came to about another 124 gallons of diesel fuel. Of course, when I was doing all the computing, the diesel prices were still under $4/gallon. By the time we made the trip, they were pushing $5/gallon. But that didn't matter. We wanted to see Bobby again.

Helping us to make the decision to go that route was the fact that we had never been to Yosemite National Park, and it was on the way to Sacramento. Also, it turned out that he lived in the same area as several other friends of ours whom we hadn't seen for some time. So it became a kind of no-brainer that we would go up through Sacramento. We surely couldn't have flown there for the same cost as driving the motorhome, so it looked like a deal to us.

We stayed in the area for a week that went by very quickly and enjoyed every minute of it. Not only did we get to visit with Bobby a few times, we got to visit with other friends.

Jim and Patty Hammond were fulltime RVers who started out about the same time we did in 2000. They stayed on the road for about two and a half years and then settled in a Sun City community in Lincoln. The last time we saw them was in 2005 as we were heading south after having spent the summer touring the Oregon and Washington coasts.

We met Mike Desch and Linda Oddo back in 2001 at the Life on Wheels Conference in Idaho. The last time we saw them was in the winter of 2006 in the desert in Quartzsite, Arizona. They live in the Auburn and Grass Valley areas and also have a motorhome.

Those two couples came down to the Elks Lodge to check out the new paint job on our motorhome and then we all went to Garcia's for lunch. A lunch that turned out to be about three hours. What a great time we had talking about old times and catching up on what everyone has been doing.

I knew Baldwin Bobe from my job at IBM. He was a manager in Palo Alto and I worked in Atlanta. I interfaced with some of the people in his department and we got to visit a couple of times when he and his wife, Jan, lived in Fremont. Then I found out that they had moved to Roseville, which is in the Sacramento area. What a bang for the buck to be able to visit everyone within a reasonable distance from where we were staying for the week.

Due to different schedules, we had to work around when we could visit and also get in a round of golf. One day we had lunch with the Bobes and then dinner with the Hammonds. The Bobes gave us a tour of Roseville, and the Hammonds had a Wii on which we had fun playing the bowling game.

We got to reconnect with Bobby's daughter, Lee Anne Plante, and meet her very nice husband, Chris and two lovely kids, Elijah and Emma. Lee Anne is one of twins. Her brother, Colby, lives in Laughlin, Nevada. When they were young we had some barbecues together. We figured that we hadn't seen her since around 1980 when she was just a little girl and they visited us when we lived in Coral Springs, Florida. They were very gracious to have Diane and I over for a rib barbecue.

I did get to play a round of golf with Bobby and Jim at the Woodcreek Golf Club. Bobby and I were golf buddies back in the 60s and 70s and we had some great matches. This time we didn't put any money on the game, but we had a friendly match for bragging rights. We ended up tied for the match. It was like old times. I was so relieved to find him healthy and happy.

Bobby was the drummer in a professional rock band back when bands played in clubs five or six nights a week. They started out as four kids from New Jersey known as The Argoes. After changes in the band, it ended up as three guys known as the Goodtimes III. In total, the band was together for more than 25 years. Bobby is the only one left from the Goodtimes III. I have many fond memories provided by that group, as does Diane after I met her in 1976. The Goodtimes even gave us a wedding present by playing a set of music at our reception. For us, it was a huge treat.

I know this got to be a bit nostalgic, but these travelogs also represent a sort of travel diary for us to look back on down the road. 

As it turned out, Gustav was making his way north to hook up with us for the drive to Gillette and was coming to the Sacramento area. He pulled into a Walmart where we met him. We took the light rail into Sacramento to tour the capitol building. It was a nice tour, but we didn't get to see Governor Schwartzenegger. Gustav was moving on to Lake Tahoe and we made plans to meet in Nevada for the drive to Gillette.

The California Constitutional Convention was held in Monterey in 1849 at which time the site of the state capital was chosen to be Pueblo de San Jose. However, by law it could be moved elsewhere. The capitol building was a two-story adobe hotel measuring 60 x 40 feet. The upper story housed the Assembly and the lower story housed the Senate. None of the members liked the accommodations and wanted the capital moved. San Jose remained the capital from 1849 to 1851. It was then moved to Vallejo where it remained from 1852 to 1853. Once again, the members did not like their accommodations and requested that the capital be moved. It was moved to Benicia from 1853 to 1854. Although the capitol was a roomy, two-story brick building, it proved inadequate to house all the people required to run the state government.

At about this time a proposal came from the City of Sacramento offering free use of the County Courthouse, rooms for state officers, fireproof vaults, and no charge for moving all the furniture from Benicia to Sacramento. A building site for a permanent capitol was offered and accepted and an act was passed making Sacramento the permanent capital of California.

June 10: Verdi, Nevada (116 miles)

Route: I-80

Campground:  Boomtown Casino parking lot

This was an overnight stop.

I-80 is as bad, or worse, than any road we ever saw on the way to, or from, or in Alaska. Anyone who uses the bad roads as an excuse for not wanting to drive their rig to Alaska should never drive I-80. With all the taxes Californians pay, you would think they would do a better job of maintaining a major road. Everything shook in the motorhome. Maybe they will eventually get the road repaired.

We did love the Donner Pass though. We stopped at the vista to get a snack and take some pictures of Donner Lake down below with the mountains in the background, some with snow still on the top.

Gustav joined us here and we traveled together to Gillette, Wyoming for the Escapade. After a nice meal catching up on his travels we fed some coins into a slot machine and then called it a night. We were winning enough to keep us entertained at a two cent slot for more than an hour. Then it all went away, as usual.
Someday, Diane and I will win a few bucks in the slots. But it was fun.

June 11 to June 12: Ely, Nevada (331 miles)

Route:  I-80; US 50

Campground: Prospector Hotel & Casino RV Park  This was a small RV park attached to the hotel. It was a dirt lot with hookups. Good for a short stay.

Fuel:  $4.909 at TA in Reno, Nevada

US 50 is known as the "Loneliest Road in America". There is absolutely nothing on this stretch of road, and one could drive for a long time without seeing another vehicle. This part of Nevada has many basins, including the Great Basin National Park. We drove over several summits with names like Drumm Summit, Pinto Summit, Connors Summit, and Little Antelope Summit with heights ranging from 6,348 feet to 7,539 feet. It was a fun drive with a beauty that is different than oceans and mountains. The wide open space was awe inspiring to drive through.

We settled into the campground and then went out to find a place to eat and check out the town. In the heart of downtown Ely is the Hotel Nevada and Gambling Hall. It was the idea of Early Ray Miller who was an East Ely businessman. He owned the Utah Portland Cement Company and he wanted to promote the building of a large hotel. Miller obtained the financial backing and foundation work started in 1928. The hotel was completed in 1929. The construction included four feet of cement between the floors which made it the first fire-proof building in Nevada. At the time, it was also the tallest building in Nevada at six stories high. Some of the well known people who have stayed at the hotel include Lyndon B. Johnson, Mickey Rooney, Jimmy Steward, Ingrid Bergman, Evel Knievel, and Stephen King. Wayne Newton credits his start in show business by entertaining when he was 16 years old in the Hotel Nevada in Ely.

We had one day to tour the area and there were two places we wanted to visit, The Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historic Park and the Great Basin National Park.

From 1870 to 1876 Willow Creek Basin was a major stopover for freighters that used the road to travel from Pioche, Nevada to the railroad town of Toano, Nevada. While looking for oxen that were grazing in the area some men discovered silver ore. That resulted in the creation of the Ward Mining District. The Martin & White Company invested money in 1875 to extract the ore and built furnaces for melting ores.

The ovens are 30' high and 27' in diameter at the base and shaped like a beehive. This shape reflected the heat back into the center of the oven reducing heat loss. Each oven held approximately 35 cords of wood and that produced about 1,750 bushels of charcoal. It took 9-11 days to complete the process.

After the ovens no longer served a purpose, they sheltered prospectors during foul weather, and had a reputation as a hideout for stagecoach bandits.

After touring the ovens, Gustav, Diane and I drove to the Great Basin National Park. It was created in 1986 and consists of sagebrush covered valleys and narrow mountain ranges. It's called a basin because the streams and rivers in the area find no outlet to the sea. The water collects in shallow salt lakes, marshes, and mud flats where it evaporates in the dry desert air. There are actually several basins that are all separated by mountain ranges running parallel north and south.

The Great Basin is centered on Nevada but stretches from California's Sierra Nevada Range on the west to the Wasatch Mountains in Utah on the east. The national park protects the South Snake Range near the Utah border east of Ely, Nevada, which is where we were staying for a couple of days.

We stopped at the visitor center to get some information and then did the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive. We kept climbing until we got to the end of the road which was above the 10,000 foot level. Along the way, and on the way down, we stopped a few times to take in the beauty that surrounded us. At the top we found some snow and, of course, had to make a few snowballs. We pretty much coasted down the road to the bottom and then back to Ely for a nice dinner.

June 13 to June 15: Delta, Utah (152 miles)

Route: US 50

Campground:  Antelope Valley RV Park  Antelope Valley is our home park for Coast to Coast which entitled us to a week's stay at no cost.

I have never been superstitious, but today, Friday, June 13, ranks right up there with one of the worst days we've had.

We were only driving about three hours from Ely, Nevada to Delta, Utah so I told Gustav no rush, we'll head out between 10 and 11 in the morning. That gave me lots of time to go up the road to the Chevron station to get my USA Today and take my laptop into the hotel/casino to use their wifi and do email. So about 9:15 I headed out. I crossed the gravel in the campground and get to the asphalt of the hotel and felt something funny from the passenger right side of the Honda. FLAT TIRE. Grrrr. So I changed the tire and go get my paper and look for air to put in the spare which was four pounds too low. Two gas stations, two air hoses, none worked. So now I have to get out the air hose and use the motorhome to put air in the tire.

Next, we pull out of the space and hook up the car. No lights to the Honda. Checked the fuses. No problem. I should learn to do that last.  Then I remembered Norm showed me how to check the voltages. So I got my meter and asked Diane to work the directional signals. I pulled the connector out of the motorhome and checked for voltage in the socket. No problem. Signals working fine at that point. I plugged the connector back in and asked Diane to again work the signals so I can check for voltage on the male plug that goes to the car. No problem. There was voltage. That seemed to indicate the problem was in the car and I was stuck as I have no clue what the guy did who wired it other than the wires went under the car to the rear and there is a diode, or diodes. Since US 50 is the Loneliest Road in America, I decided to drive without lights to the Honda until we got to Delta.

We arrived at the Antelope Valley CG in Delta, unhooked the car and I went to move it. Nothing. DEAD. Good old Gustav had a small portable battery charger that got the car started. Something drained the battery. The funny thing is that just yesterday Gustav said he has a setup that goes from the motorhome to his Honda to keep the Honda battery charged. I told him I know of no one who does that and we have never had a problem with the Brake Buddy draining the car battery in the eight years we've been on the road. The battery is very old. Actually, I don't remember ever buying a new one, so maybe it's eight years old. Is that possible? If not, then it's at least 4-5 years old.

So now I have to find a Sam's Club to get the tire fixed per the tire repair contract. I was sure Walmart wouldn't touch it given they almost always argue with me that they won't rotate my tires because we bought them at Sam's Club. The guy in Michigan lied to me when I specifically asked him if Walmart would rotate the tires if we bought the tires from Sam's Club and the tire protection program.   He said no problem. He also said the contract is in effect even if we drop Sam's Club, which we did.  I will really be annoyed if they tell me we have to join up again to get the tire fixed or replaced.

Oh, and when I went to hook up the sewer hose and used the collapsible hose I bought from Camping World at the Tampa show, it had a slit in it. GOOD THING I was only dumping the gray water tank so Diane could do laundry. What a smelly mess if I had tried to dump the black tank. UGH. Or as Liane says, ick, ick, ick.

What a day. Any one thing on any one day would have been easier to deal with. Gustav helped me fix the collapsible hose given he had some tools to cut off the bad part. After we got all set up he came over with some ice coffee and ice cream to ease the annoyances of the day. Nice guy.

Gustav is a big rodeo fan and found out there was one in town, so he went to that and then out for a few beers at a local bar.

I decided to test the connection from the motorhome to the car again and this time I found that there was a ground problem with the male plug going to the car. Gustav and I drove into town and found an auto supply store that had the plugs. I bought the set that had the male and female plugs. Gustav is pretty handy and likes to tinker with stuff like this so he helped me connect the new plug to the cable from the motorhome. We tested it and it worked fine. I should mention that he also wanted to replace the female plug, but I insisted that everything was working now and I'll keep the new one as a spare. I should have changed the plug on the car as well as you will see later.

We stayed in Delta through the weekend to catch up on laundry and so I could watch the final two rounds of the US Open, which ended in a tie requiring a playoff round the next day. Then it was on to Cabela's near Salt Lake City on Monday. We got there in time to get the dish up to watch the end of the Open. Gustav had a friend arriving Monday night who would travel with him to Wyoming and the Escapade.

June 16 to June 19: Lehi, Utah (110 miles)

Route: US 190; I-45; US 79;  TX 95; TX 29

Campground:  Cabela's parking lot

Fuel:  $4.709 at Flying J in Nephi, Utah

We had a nice, uneventful drive to Utah and parked at the Cabela's in Lehi, which is south of Salt Lake City. There was a "no overnight parking" sign on the light poles, so Diane went in to ask the store manger if we could park there. He told her the signs were there to appease the people who lived in the houses up on the hill above the Cabela's but he had no problem with us parking there and told Diane we could stay as long as we wanted. I know that some RV purists get bent out of shape about RVers parking in store parking lots rather than campgrounds, but we have no problem with that if we have permission from the store owner or management. We are self contained and do not always require hookups. We usually buy something from the store, especially if it is a Walmart lot.

Gustav's friend, Michelle Wonicker, was to arrive late that evening after an overnight delay in Dallas so we told him we would meet her in the morning. She is from Naples, Florida and we hit it off from the get-go. Diane and I had been to Salt Lake City before so we told Gustav we would meet him and Michelle later in the day for dinner after we went to see a couple of movies.

As you know, we get to see movies in lots of movie theaters around the country, but the absolute best one we've seen so far has been here south of Salt Lake City.  It's a place called Megaplex 17 in the Jordan Commons.  We found out it used to be a high school that was gutted and turned into the megaplex and adjoining restaurants.  What makes this megaplex so different is that it is designed sort of like you are walking along a street with buildings on the sides.  It's not that it has "only" 17 screens.  It's that it is like a food court in a mall that is surrounded by "buildings" and "streets" with theaters.  One can choose from a selection of pizza, a deli, a Chinese place, standard movie snacks, hamburgers, etc.  Oh, and did I mention that the screens are BIG. We paid $5.50 for our tickets for a matinee showing. Plus our normal $9.75, or so, for popcorn and soda.

We wanted to see "The Incredible Hulk" and "You Don't Mess With the Zohan", but we wanted to be sure to see "The Incredible Hulk" on the biggest screen available, which we did. We liked this version much better than the last one. We weren't planning to the Zohan movie unless it would be a #2 movie linked to another movie we wanted to see. We were glad we saw it because parts of it were a riot. It provided some out loud laughing in some scenes.

Gustav and Michelle were running a little late so we waited until they arrived and then went to eat at Spaghetti Mama's where Diane and I had eaten before and thought it was good food and a price performer. We had a nice meal as we got to chat more with Michelle. They toured the Mormon area and enjoyed their day.

Diane and I suggested that the Provo Canyon drive was worth doing so we spent one day driving that route and stopping in Midway for lunch at the Mountain House Grill. We remembered the platter of brats we had in 2005, but they were no longer on the menu. We still had a nice lunch sitting outside on the patio of the restaurant.

On the way back we took route 92 which was closed when we were here in 2005. It goes over the mountain and comes out right at the Cabela's as it wound its way through the American Forks Canyon and the Mount Timpangos Wilderness and the Uinta National Forest. The Timpanogos Cave National Monument is located in the area, but we didn't stop at the caves. The ride through the mountain was very scenic as we stopped a few times to take pictures.

Gustav and Michelle had learned that the Mormon Tabernacle Choir practiced on Thursday evenings and it was free, so we went with them to watch.  What a treat.  I've always wanted to hear the choir in person.  They were practicing in their huge 21,000 seat conference center auditorium with a gigantic stage and marvelous sound system.  We heard a short organ recital in it back in 2005 when we were there.  Even though it was only a rehearsal and some songs were repeated, the sound was awesome.  Beautiful.

June 20: Rawlins, Wyoming (310 miles)

Route: I-15; I-215; I-80 

Campground:  Flying J parking lot

Fuel:  $4.509 at Flying J in Rawlins

Just an overnight stop.

Once again, the lights were not working to the car as we prepared to leave Cabela's. This time it was the female plug on the car that was the problem. Gustav had wanted to also change that plug when we changed the one coming from the motorhome, but I insisted that I would just hold onto the new plug since everything seemed to be working. So we changed the plug and then all was fine with the lights, hopefully for good.

June 21 to June 23: Buffalo, Wyoming (233 miles)

Route: I-25

Campground:  Indian Campground  This campground advertises large pullthru sites with shade trees. It should probably say "cottonwood" trees. It was a nice campground with nice sites. Due to the trees it was not possible to use the satellite dish. However, if the entire front row of sites was turned around such that the rigs faced the other way, then all those sites would have access to the southern sky.

Now for the cottonwood trees. We didn't know anything about these trees other than we had heard the name. Well, let me tell you that you do not want to be around cottonwood trees in the spring when they are shedding those little balls of cotton. This is especially true if there is any rain because it makes them stick. These little cotton balls were floating around like it was snowing. And they stuck. The motorhomes were a mess after three days of this stuff and they were not easy to remove. As I write this travelog several weeks removed from our stay in Buffalo, we still have tufts of these cotton balls on our awnings. We are now very familiar with cottonwood trees. Ugh. Our friends, Norm and Linda Payne, stayed in this campground several years ago, but it was summer and the trees had already done their thing so they didn't have a problem. However, they did run into these trees during their travels one year in Texas and agreed it was no fun getting the motorhome cleaned up. Oh well, it's part of the lifestyle we lead and we just deal with it and roll on.

One of the places we wanted to see was Crazy Woman Canyon, which is a drive through the Big Horn Mountains. The drive is along a narrow, dirt road that climbed and dipped and climbed again as it wound its way through the canyon. We stopped several times to take photos and then found a place to eat a picnic lunch. It was at the entrance to the Crazy Woman Ranch and just under a sign that had the name of the ranch. Gustav and I couldn't resist taking a picture of Diane and Michelle under the sign. After lunch we continued along the road until it crested a hill onto higher ground where we could see for a long distance. Then it was back to Gillette for dinner. Great day.

Another day we drove up to Sheridan and ended up stopping at a Walmart to pick up a few things. We also went to visit the Fort Phil Kearny State Historic Site, which is also a National Historic Landmark. It was named for a popular Union general who was killed in the Civil War. The fort was established in July 1866 at the forks of the Big and Little Piney Creeks. It was along the Bozeman Trail and its mission, along with two other forts along the trail, Forts Reno and C.F. Smith, was three-fold: to protect travelers on the trail; to prevent inter-tribal warfare among Native Americans in the area; and to draw attention to Indian forces opposed to westward expansion by Euro-Americans. Fort Phil Kearney was the largest of the stockade fortifications and existed for two years.

During those two years, the fort was the focal point of a violent war between the U.S. Army and the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho Indians who were opposed to intrusion into their hunting grounds on the Northern Plains. These were the last of the great hunting grounds. The fort was closed in 1868 after the Union Pacific Railroad reached a point to the west where travelers could bypass the forts. Soon after it was closed the fort was burned by the Cheyenne.

June 24: Gillette, Wyoming (74 miles)

Route: I-80; UT 59

Campground:  Walmart parking lot

Just an overnight stop before going into the Cam-Plex.

After we parked the rig out of the way in the parking lot, Diane and I decided to do a dry run to the Cam-Plex. There was a lot of construction on Route 59 so we wanted to see if there were any surprises along the way for when we would go there tomorrow. We found a Home Depot on the way to the Cam-Plex that would provide a much better meeting place for hooking up with the other two
rigs that were arriving the next day. We were hooking up with
Norm and Linda Payne, and Don and Gloria Martin to go to the Escapade. They were coming in from Indiana and had been traveling across the country at a fairly rapid pace, moreso than they would normally travel. New fulltime RVers from Germany, Peter and Christiane Ermke, were also traveling with them, but would not be attending the Escapade. They had to get to Oregon to register their brand new 2008 Dutch Star they picked up in Indiana. Diane and I, and Gustav were all excited to see their new rig. Given that the rest of us had to get into the Cam-Plex and get parked, the Ermkes opted to spend an extra day in North Dakota and drive to Gillette the next day.

After checking the route to the Cam-Plex, Diane and I went through one of the campgrounds on the property to see if we could find Mark Nemeth. He was driving his motorhome up from Livingston and would already be there getting ready for the Escapees Boot Camp. We found his rig and stopped in to say hi. He brought along some of his home brew and we sipped a glass as we chatted about his trip up and plans for the Escapade. We have known Mark since before we were RVers and his website helped us a lot in getting ready to join other fulltimers.


June 25 to July 4: Escapees Escapade in Gillette, Wyoming (4 miles)

Route: I-80

Campground:  Cam-Plex This is a great facility for a large rally. There are 1,700 full hookup sites for RVs as well as multiple buildings in which to conduct seminars and hold large sessions for the attendees. The Escapade had 1,017 RVs plus vendors attending.

It was finally time to head to the Escapade. We, along with Gustav and Michelle, drove over to the Home Depot to await the arrival of the other two motorhomes. Our excitement grew as we saw them make the turn coming up the road to the Home Depot. It's hard to explain the kind of excitement we feel when we are about to hook up with friends whom we hadn't seen for many months. After hugs and hellos, the four motorhomes headed over to the Cam-Plex which was just a couple of miles away. We found out we would be parking in the Boxelder Campground. The parking crew was great and got us four sites side by side.

The Escapade was scheduled to start on Sunday, June 29, but if people signed up for one of the pre-Escapade events it allowed them to park a few days early. All four couples signed up for one of the Head Out Programs (HOPs), specifically, the Devils Tower and Coal Mine Tour. Ours was scheduled for the day after our arrival. We had full hookup sites, which is not common at RV rallies. After getting set up, we went to register and then later on we went to a meeting of folks attending the first HOP to get our tickets.

There were two buses going to Devils Tower and we thought we would all get on the same bus. However, for whatever reason, they had pre assigned people to bus #1 or bus #2 based on an alphabetic listing of who was going on the HOP. That process split us up into two couples on each of the buses. We later found out that the folks who coordinated the same HOP the next day didn't force people onto a specific bus and, therefore, did not break up folks who wanted to travel together. After some discussion with the folks putting us on the buses, we realized it was a no-win situation and they didn't have the ability to deviate from the process they set up. Oh well.

It was about an hour's drive to Devils Tower, which lies in the Black Hills area. I think just about everyone who has watched a western movie has seen this rock formation. It rises 1,267 feet above the Belle Fourche River. The tower was once hidden below the surface of the earth until erosion slowly stripped away the softer rock layers. It is known as Bears Lodge by several northern plains tribes and is a sacred site of worship for many American Indians. President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed it as America's first national monument on September 24, 1906. Today, it draws many visitors from around the world.

There were several trails in the area, including one that goes around the monument. We all walked this 1.3 mile trail with many stops for photos and just taking in the views. Along the way, I happened to notice many motorcycle riders who had Swiss flags on their vests. I approached a few to chat and found out they were a Harley-Davidson club from various locations around Switzerland, but mostly from the Zurich and Basel area, who were on a three week vacation to the USA. They all rented Harleys and were touring some of the western states. I enjoy chatting with foreigners. I asked them if they knew where Wollerau was which made a couple of them wonder how I would know such a small town. I told them that a friend of mine lived there and we were there last summer visiting with him and his family.

We were all back at the bus as instructed where we expected to be picked up and taken to a picnic area for lunch. Now here is where the story got interesting. It seems that the caterers got their signals mixed up and thought the meal they were supposed to prepare was for the next day, not this one. How wonderful. So now they had to scramble to make food for two busloads of people. Bus #1 showed up and we were taken to a picnic area where we did enjoy a decent lunch. What we did not know at the time was that bus #2 was waiting on us to finish our lunch so food could be transferred from our bus to that bus. What a mess. The result was that the bus #2 folks waited almost two hours for their bus to arrive to pick them up, take them to lunch, and then to the coal mine for a tour. Another adventure.

Our next stop was a tour of the Eagle Butte Coal mine in Gillette. This was not a deep mine in the ground, but an above ground strip mine due to the coal being so close to the surface. We learned that the U.S. is the world leader in coal production at about one billion tons per year. The U.S. owns about 28% of the world's coal. That means that we are as rich in coal as the Mideast countries are rich in oil. China has about 12% of the world's coal. Wyoming has about 40% of U.S. coal reserves. It also has the largest trucks weighing up to 240 tons with a payload up to 400 tons and costing about $2.5M each. They hold 1,000 gallons of fuel and they don't talk about miles per gallon but, rather, gallons per hour. The trucks use about 40 gallons of fuel PER HOUR. The tires were 11 to 13 feet tall and cost $35,000 each. The coal trains travel through the silos at a constant speed of .6 mph and take about two hours to load. Each train car holds about 120 tons of coal, and each train has 115 to 150 cars making the length of the train about 1.5 miles.

We got to get up close to a couple of the huge trucks and then the bus took us out to a ledge where we could see the mine in operation. We got to see trucks passing us on the road and they dwarfed the bus. The mine works 24/7/365 as the 600 workers work 12 hour shifts to keep the mine in operation. The workers are paid between $18.50 and $28.25 per hour and are non-union. It was very interesting to be up close to a coal mining operation.

That was the end of our HOP as the bus took us back to the Cam-Plex. We knew bus #2 was behind us because they were just entering the mine as we were leaving. By now we figured the Ermkes should have arrived in Gillette, so we drove over to the Home Depot to see if they were there. As it turned out, they had arrived only 15 minutes before we got there. It was nice to see them again and to get a tour of their new Dutch Star. Gustav had never actually met the Ermkes before although they had communicated. I'm sure they enjoyed talking in their native tongue. We were there long enough for the Paynes and Martins to arrive and we all chatted a bit longer before making plans to meet for dinner on Friday which was also Diane's birthday. We would have two birthday celebrations during the Escapade as Gloria's birthday was on the following Monday.

This Escapade was a special one to celebrate the 30th birthday of the club. It was started by Joe and Kay Peterson back in 1978 along with about 24 other RVers who wanted to stay in touch with each other. They had no idea it would grow into the RV club that it is today. The most recent membership number is over 101000. Not bad for a club that had wondered if they would ever get 100 RVers to sign up for the newsletter. Today the club has RV parks around the country plus a mail forwarding service used by more than 10,000 families.

The Escapade officially ended on July 3, but the club gave everyone in attendance a gift of an extra day at the club's expense to celebrate the Fourth of July in Gillette. There was a parade in town where the Escapees float won second prize, free hotdogs, and a fireworks display that was truly awesome.
It was so wide open such that we could see fireworks 360 degrees as neighborhoods were shooting them off, especially the hood right across the road from the campground we were in at the CamPlex.  We took our chairs to an open spot to better see the fireworks not knowing that we were about 100 yards from ground zero.  That made them look like they were going off right above our heads.  Never seen anything like that before.  It was awesome.  Better than Disney World, and I love Illuminations at Epcot.  Mark came over to eat with us earlier and then stayed with us for the fireworks.

It was a great Escapade, the best one we've attended. Norm's sister, Gloria, even won one of the evening prizes. It sure seemed like everyone had a great time. But then the time came to say our good-byes. We would be heading out for the next 9-10 weeks to travel in Canada with Norm and Linda. Don and Gloria would make their way home to Kokomo, Indiana. Gustav would take Michelle to Casper to catch a plane back to Naples, Florida after which Gustav would continue his tour of the west and northwest. It's always a bit sad to say good-bye to folks we like and have spent time with, but it makes the reconnecting all that more sweet when we next meet.

July 5: Billings, Montana (237 miles)

Route: I-90

Campground:  Walmart parking lot

Fuel:  $4.389 at Flying J in Billings

An overnight stop on the way to Glacier National Park.

We stopped at the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument which has been a longtime desire of mine. We couldn't find any place to park the motorhomes in the small parking area inside the monument so we drove down to the casino and unhooked the Payne's car to ride through the battlefield. Linda wasn't feeling well today and decided to stay at the motorhome and rest. So Norm, Diane, and I drove back up the hill to the visitor center to get started with our tour.

Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer rode into history as a legend and a hero. In fact, he was a brash and arrogant man. In the end, he totally underestimated the size and fighting power of the Lakota and Cheyenne forces at Little Big Horn. The battle was one of the last armed conflicts of the Northern Plains Indians to preserve their ancestral way of life. On two hot days in June 1876 in the valley of the Little Big Horn River more than 260 soldiers met their fate at the hands of several thousand Lakota and Cheyenne warriors. It was only the latest encounter in a conflict that was more than a hundred years old that began with the arrival of the first Europeans in North America.

Treaty after treaty with the Indians was broken by the white man to continually take away Indian land and subjugate them to reservations. The problems reached a peak in the decade following the Civil War when settlers resumed their march to the west. These settlers had no understanding of the Indian way of life and and showed no regard for the sanctity of hunting grounds or terms of treaties. When gold was discovered in the Black Hills in 1874 in the heart of the new Indian reservation the news spread quickly and resulted in thousands of gold seekers coming to the region to make their fortunes. This was all in violation of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868. The army tried to keep the prospectors out, but to no avail. Attempts by the U.S. Government to buy the Black Hills were not successful. Many Lakota and Cheyenne warriors started attacking these new and unwanted settlers. After the Indians refused to heed a warning by the government to return to the reservation by January 31, 1876, the army was called in to enforce the order. This led to the campaign of 1876.

It was this campaign that led to the demise of Custer and his men. He had command of the 7th Cavalry of about 600 men and was ordered by General Alfred H. Terry to go up the Rosebud Creek and approach the Little Bighorn from the south. Terry would join Col. John Gibbon's force back up the Yellowstone and Bighorn rivers to approach from the north. On June 25, Custer's force located the Indian camp. He divided his force into three battalions. The split forces were severely outnumbered by the Lakota and Cheyenne warriors with two of the forces retreating to higher ground. No one knew where Custer had gone, but gunfire in the area indicated they were under attack. By the time ammunition could be distributed the firing had stopped and nothing could be seen of Custer and his men. His precise movements could never be determined. However, accounts by Indians who were in the battle told how his command was surrounded and destroyed in fierce fighting. The result was that many stories were written about the battle and Custer became a legend.

July 6: Great Falls, Montana (229 miles)

Route: US 87

Campground:  Walmart parking lot

Fuel:  $4.429 at Flying J in Great Falls

An overnight stop, but Diane and I unhooked the car and went to see a couple of movies (Hancock; Wall-E).

July 7 to July 9: St. Mary, Montana (160 miles)

Route:  I-15; WY 44; US 89

Campground:  Johnson's of St. Mary   This campground was up on a hill with some sites near the office and the rest further up a steep hill. Norm and Linda had been here before and determined that the sites way up on the hill were not only tight, but not very level. So we opted for just a water and electric site down on the lower level. The place was packed when we got there except for the two side by side sites that were reserved. We got the rigs parked without any trouble although we were surrounded by Airstream trailers. They disappeared a couple of days later and then we had the entire lower level to ourselves.

Diane and I had never been to Glacier National Park and this was a great opportunity to visit it since it was on our way to Calgary. Plus, the Paynes had been here twice before and would be great tour guides.

In 1891, the Great Northern Railway reached the southern border of what was to become Glacier National Park. They advertised the area to the public to get them to use the railway and stay at hotels the railroad company built. In 1900, the US Congress designated the area as a forest preserve thanks to the lobbying of the railroad company. Finally, continued efforts by the railroad and others to protect the region resulted in a bill which designated the region from a forest preserve to a national park. President William Howard Taft signed the bill into law in 1910 and the Glacier National Park was born. Work then started on the 53 mile long Going-to-the-Sun road and was completed in 1932 with a formal dedication on July 15, 1933.

Bordering the park is the Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada. In 1932, the governments of Canada and the U.S. linked the two parks as the world's first International Peace Park. We thought we would drive up to Waterton Lakes one day to visit the town and part of the park. That is, until we found out that our park passes were only good in Glacier National Park and we would have to pay $25 to visit Waterton Lakes. So we passed on that. If Canada and the U.S. truly want an "International Peace Park" then the two governments should honor each other's national park passes with a reciprocal agreement for these two national parks that border each other.

Worse yet was the fact that we were told by the nice folks in the Canada visitor center in Glacier that the Canadian national parks pass was also not valid in Waterton Lakes National Park. We were told that they "do their own thing". Given that we will be touring Canadian national parks over the summer and planned to purchase a Canadian national parks pass, we would have purchased a pass at that time to visit Waterton Lakes and then other parks. I guess we don't understand the politics of it all, but we weren't willing to part with an extra $25 to see Waterton. We figure it was their loss because we wanted to visit the town, which is inside the park, to have lunch and visit the shops. So maybe they lost more than $25. However, we will purchase a Canadian pass to visit Banff, Lake Louise, and Jasper.

That's it for now. We'll be heading to Calgary for the Calgary Stampede and then tour the Canadian Rockies. The plan is to then drive up to Dawson Creek and drive part of the Alaska Highway to Watson Lake and return via the Cassiar Highway to, hopefully, see some grizzly bears in Hyder. Then it's down to Vancouver for a visit before we go back to the east.

Until next time, safe travels.....

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