Glacier, and an Escapade
You can click on "photos"
directly to the first photo page, which has a connector to the second
page (if there is one).
(May 27 to July 9, 2008)
May 27: Barstow, California (408 miles)
202; I-10; I-215; I-15
J parking lot
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
28 to June 2: Coarsegold, California (272 miles)
I-15; CA 58; CA 99; CA 41
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.
at Flying J in Bakersfield, California
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
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.
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.
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
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)
CA 41; CA 145; CA 99 US 50;
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
Verdi, Nevada (116 miles)
Casino parking lot
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
June 11 to June 12:
Ely, Nevada (331 miles)
I-80; US 50
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.
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
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
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
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
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)
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,
today, Friday, June 13, ranks right up there with one of the worst days
We were only driving about three hours from Ely, Nevada to Delta, Utah
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
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
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
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
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
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
June 16 to June 19:
Lehi, Utah (110 miles)
US 190; I-45; US 79; TX
95; TX 29
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
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
were there. Even though it was only a rehearsal and some songs
repeated, the sound was awesome. Beautiful.
Rawlins, Wyoming (310 miles)
I-15; I-215; I-80
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
June 21 to
Buffalo, Wyoming (233 miles)
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)
I-80; UT 59
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)
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
look like they were going off right above our heads. Never seen
anything like that before. It was awesome. Better than
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
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)
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.
6: Great Falls, Montana (229 miles)
at Flying J in Great Falls
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)
I-15; WY 44; US 89
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.
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
Until next time, safe
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Roaming America with Rich &
Diane Emond -
All Rights Reserved