(April 24 - May 22, 2005)
You can click on "photos"
directly to the first photo page, which has a connector to the second
page (if there is one).
I guess that's a strange name for a travelogue,
but those of you who have been following our travels know that Diane
and I are avid movie fans. Just because we are living the life of
nomads doesn't mean we would give up something we liked to do and have
always done. We still see over 100 movies a year, albeit
sometimes not on the very big screens we became spoiled with when we
lived in Marietta and had over 100 screens from which to choose that
were all within seven miles of our house. More on that
later. In keeping with the chronological format with which I like
to write these travelogues, I'll start from where we last left off.
After taking care of doctors and dentist and
visiting friends and family in the Atlanta area, we left on April 24 to
start our journey out to the Pacific Northwest coast. Our first stop
was the Newmar factory so they could work on our floor to fix a
problem that developed after they installed a new floor last Fall. We
made a quick stop at the Raccoon Valley Escapees RV Park in Tennessee
to visit with Norm and Linda Payne. We shared a meal together and Diane
and Linda got to play several games of Boggle.
Our plan as we traveled north and then west was to
see how many nights we could boondock and avoid camping fees for short
stays. We got as far as Indianapolis and parked it for the night at a
Flying J on the south side. Then it was on to Nappanee to the Newmar
factory where we arrived just in time to get a full hookup site.
The weather was cold and wet for late April, but we were fortunate to
not get there the prior weekend when they had several inches of snow.
While at the factory, we bumped into Roy and
Loretta Nuckoles who we met at the Newmar Fulltimers Rally in
Titusville, Florida. They were there for service on their motorhome, so
we kind of hung out together for the couple of days we were
We also got to visit with Stan and Betty Bober. They live in Mishawaka
and had just gotten home from their winter stay in Florida. They drove
over one day and we went to lunch and had a nice chat and visit.
Once again, we were very pleased with how Newmar treats its
customers. They fixed our floor and also spent an hour working on our
very noisy slideout. Given that the motorhome was almost five years old
they didn't have to do that. We left happy campers to our next stop,
which was the Spartan factory in Charlotte, Michigan.
It was time to think about replacing the six tires on our Dutch Star.
The rule of thumb is that tires should be replaced somewhere in the
five to seven year mark regardless of how the tread looks. That's
because the tires will start to develop dry rot and one does not really
want to experience a blowout. A couple of our tires were starting to
show some wear so it was time to replace them. Although the motorhome
was five years old, the tires were almost six years old. Someone
suggested waiting until we got out to Oregon since they don't have a
sales tax out there. I called Camping World in Oregon and they wanted
$489 for each of our Michelin XZA2 tires. That was a bit high, so I
called some other places. The best I could find was a truck place that
said he could replace the set of six tires for $2400. That sounded
good, except that was for a slightly lesser tire, XZA1s instead of
XZA2s. I decided to call Spartan to see what they could do for me and
they quoted me a set of six XZA2s for $2400 out the door, that is,
including tax. I figured out the cost of diesel fuel for the extra trip
and it came to around 70 bucks. I also wanted them to check out the
alignment and would want them to do any required work. So we went to
Charlotte. The weather remained cold for this time of year.
As is our custom when we go to the Spartan factory, I usually try to
make an appointment for Monday and get there on Friday to park in there
RV parking area. They offer 50-amp hookup, but no water or sewer, which
isn't a problem for us. It allows us to use the weekend to relax and
drive to Lansing to catch up on movies. When we got there we met AJ and
BJ Prudhomme who were scheduled for service the following Tuesday. We
chatted for a bit and asked them if they would like to go to a movie
with us. So we all went to Lansing to see a movie (XXX: State of the
Union, a no-brainer action movie).
Our last travelogue mentioned that we met Darrell and Judy Patterson
who happened to live north of Lansing. We touched base and made plans
to meet for dinner in Lansing at DeLuca's, a very good Italian
restaurant. We asked AJ and BJ if they'd like to join us so we had a
nice dinner with six people.
Darrell and Judy invited us to their place for a visit and dinner. It
was 90 miles north of Charlotte, but it was a nice drive on a cold day
that gave us a chance to see some of central Michigan. We had a very
enjoyable visit with Darrell and Judy who can't wait to retire and get
out on the road.
CROSSING THE COUNTRY
On Monday we got our six new tires and a minor adjustment on the
alignment and made plans to hit the road on Tuesday. It was another
overcast and cold day when we hit the road. We actually drove through
some snow flurries as we exited Michigan. We got as far as the Flying J
in LaSalle, Illinois and parked for the night. It was here that I
decided it might be worth it to sign up for Flying J's WiFi network
given that we would be hopping from Flying J to Flying J as we headed
west along the I-80 corridor. I do love my high speed access when I can
It was time to get caught up on laundry and other things around the
motorhome, so we decided to stay at the Amana Colonies campground in
Iowa for three nights. By now the weather had turned quite nice, even
beautiful on some days, sunny and warm. We had been to the Amana
Colonies before, back in 2001, so we didn't do much touring this time.
But we did go to the Ronneburg Restaurant to eat some delicious
schnitzel and I had to get some good German draft beer.
By the following weekend we were in Des Moine, Iowa and parked at a
Flying J for two nights. I bookmark movie theaters in the areas where
we know we would stay and there was a great mall not far from the
Flying J. That gave us the opportunity to catch two new movies we
to see, Kingdom of Heaven and Crash, both of which we thought were very
good. This turned out to be a profitable stay. I like to call ahead to
see if a theater takes credit cards and refills the popcorn. So I
called two theaters on Thursday from the Amana Colonies. One
theater, the one that sounded really great (Century 20) didn't allow
contact with a person, but had an option on their voice mail to leave a
message for the manager who would call back within 24 hours. No
call on Friday so I called again. No response. So when we
got to the Flying J and parked, we drove over to the Jordan Creek Mall
(WHAT A SUPER MALL) and a manager was standing there when we
arrived. I told him we were very disappointed that no one
returned our call and I wondered why we shouldn't give our movie money
to the competitor (a Carmike theater). Well, he apologized
profusely and said he would check into it because someone should have
returned the call. And....you guessed it. He gave us free
passes for four movies each. So we saw the two movies we wanted
to see that opened that weekend, and will use the other passes in Salt
Next it was on to Kearney, Nebraska where we parked at the Cabela's
outdoor supply store. We had forgotten that our RV friend, Liane, had
told us that there was a train track across the road that was very busy
and noisy. We were along US 30 and the tracks that paralleled US 30
were a main east-west railway. However, not much bothers us at night
and we slept pretty good, even with the constant train traffic.
We did, however, move to a Hampton Inn for one night. Why, you ask,
would we do that. Well, I learned that I managed to lose the 250,000
Hilton points I accumulated when I was working. When I called to ask
why the points were gone, I was told that one has to stay at least one
night every 12 months to keep the account active. I hadn't done that
since I stopped traveling on business. A supervisor said he would
reinstate the account and give back half the points after two stays and
the other half after three more stays. That would be five nights to
make up for the five years there was no activity on the account. Fair
enough. So we have a year to do this. Of course, Diane doesn't mind.
She is more of a bath person than a shower person, so she totally
enjoyed soaking in a tub.
Back in 2001, as we made our way back east, we went under the
Great Platte River Road Archway Monument and vowed to stop and visit
it one day. We were back so we went to the monument to visit the museum
that contained items from the pioneers who traveled to the west. Upon
entering the monument we were
greeted by Crazy Meek the Mountain Man. He played the role to the hilt
and was quite amusing. Details on the monument can be found at http://www.archway.org/default.php
The monument was very well done inside and we spent 1 1/2 hours reading
the stories and listening to the self guided tour recording. We saw the
following on a sign inside the monument:
ON THE ROAD
"Informality is the password, snobbery is taboo, every man is your
neighbor, and all are bound together by an almost unbelievably powerful
tie - the dust of the open road."
- Frank E. Brimmer, writer
Frank Brimmer would most assuredly be a full-time RVer. We finished our
visit by having some fine buffalo stew in their
As we continued to move west we thought we would stop in North Platte
at the Flying J and also spend another night in a Hampton Inn. But it
turned out the Flying J was small and tight, and it was a misty
overcast day, and there was a lot of traffic in the truck lot, so we
decided to keep driving and go to the huge Cabela's in Sidney,
Nebraska. This must be the largest Cabela's at 85,000 square feet of
store. The one in Mitchell, South Dakota is 80,000 square feet. This
Cabela's had a campground, but when we found out it was $20 for just
water and electric, we decided we would just boondock in the RV/truck
lot, which was quite large. There was a Wal-Mart within walking
distance and a Mexican restaurant across the road, both of which we
After two nice days in the Cabela's parking lot, we continued on our
journey west with the next stop planned to be the Flying J in Rawlins,
Wyoming. It was very disappointing at how inadequate the RV parking was
at this Flying J. The truck lot was very busy and small, so we
continued on to the Flying J in Rock Springs. We remembered staying at
the Wal-Mart in Rock Springs in 2001 when we were traveling with John
and Libby Veach and they needed a day to get some work done on their
motorhome. The Flying J in Rock Springs was also kind of small with no
RV parking, but I wanted to use the WiFi access and I had driven as far
as I wanted to drive for the day. So we parked in with the trucks for a
night. As I mentioned earlier, we are good sleepers and not much
bothers us. We both slept soundly.
When we visited the Orofino, Idaho area in 2001, we stopped at the Slim
Slider factory to get slide trays installed. Unfortunately, one of them
had a problem with the locking mechanism and I always figured we'd stop
by the factory to get it fixed if we were ever again in the area. This
was our opportunity to do that. It's a bit longer to Salem, Oregon via
that route, but we loved the area and camping in the Bureau of Land
Management park along the Clearwater River. Normally we would have cut
north and gone through Montana to get there, but when we learned that
our four year old granddaughter, Ashley, would be in Salt Lake City at
the time we decided to spend time there. So on we went to Salt Lake
City. We thought we would boondock for a couple of nights at the Flying
J in Draper, which is south of Salt Lake City and closer to where
Ashley was staying in West Jordan. However, we couldn't find the Flying
J as we passed by, so we pulled into the Camping World and called. It
turned out that this Flying J was just a gas station, not a truck stop.
So we went into Camping World to ask if we could boondock in their
parking lot behind the store and they said no problem.
For the most part, we drove across the country on highways US 6 and US
30, both of which kind of parallel I-80. We usually drive a mix of
interstates (blue roads) and US and state highways (red roads). I don't
have anything against driving the interstates, although many full-time
RVers seem to pride themselves for not driving on them.
Actually, there are some interstates I have loved driving on, such as
I-80 through Wyoming where you get to totally experience the vastness
of the wide open spaces. We were blessed with good weather pretty much
all the way across the country.
We got the motorhome parked out of the way and facing the snow covered
mountains which gave us a spectacular view. Then we called Ashley's dad
to see if we could pick her up and take her to dinner, but he ended up
driving her over. Ashley was happy to see us. She hadn't ever seen us
in our motorhome away from Atlanta, so it was new to her. We had a nice
visit with her. Well, as nice as it can be with a chatty four year
Our plan was to do stuff by ourselves and take Ashley out a couple of
days. Our friend George Brosius in Wisconsin told us that we really
needed to drive through Provo Canyon, so Diane and I decided to do that
on Sunday. What a gorgeous drive. I can see why truckers take that
route to get around Salt Lake City. The road is very good and the
scenery is fantastic. We stopped to take some photos of Bridal Veil
Falls and then continued on to Heber City. I saw on my Street Atlas
mapping software that it was possible to take some back roads through
the mountains to get back to Draper. We cut off the main road in Heber
City and took SR 113 to the west looking to connect with SR 224 (it was
actually 222). Well, we got as far as the Wasatch State Park area and
the road was closed from there on. A guy at the campground booth told
us the road wouldn't open before June 15 due to all the snow. There was
still six feet of snow on that road at the higher elevations. It was
still a great ride and we noticed that the town of Midway was designed
to be a
Swiss Village. Diane and I figured out that this was where the money
was coming when we saw some beautiful homes and Swiss chalets that were
most definitely not inexpensive. A new resort, the Zermatt Resort
and Spa was being built with an opening date of 2006. As we drove back
through Midway we saw people sitting on a porch and figured it was a
restaurant, so we u-turned and went back to eat lunch. It was the
Mountain House Grill and we both had a platter of delicious brats.
While at the Camping World I checked the Hilton website for
deals that might be around for inexpensive rooms at the Hampton Inns.
It turned out we could get a room up in Salt Lake City for a good price
on a Sunday night, so we jumped at that opportunity and booked it. That
now gave us two nights of the five needed to recoup my Hilton points.
Of course, Diane absolutely loved soaking in a hot bath for a long
time. When we got back from our Provo Canyon ride, we grabbed some
clean clothes and headed to the Hilton Inn for the night.
Ashley likes to go to the movies and we always take grandkids to
appropriate movies when we are in Atlanta. Unfortunately, there
wasn't much of a choice the week we were in Salt Lake City. The
only PG rated movie was Kicking and Screaming with Will Ferrell, so we
picked Ashley up and took her to see that movie. It would have been
better if Madagascar, the animated movie, came out that week, but we
were a week early. I'm always hesitant to take any kid to a movie who
is less than five or six years old, but Ashley had proven to be a good
movie goer. Not this time. Kicking and Screaming didn't really
hold her attention, so she was fidgety and had multiple potty breaks.
When the movie was over we asked her if she wanted to go home or to the
motorhome. Silly question. She loves to be in the motorhome. So we went
there and Diane made dinner and then Ashley's father came to pick her
We had the next couple of days to ourselves to visit Salt Lake City.
Based on what folks told us, the big draw was Temple Square, home of
the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints, aka, the Mormon
Church. It's a beautiful 35 acre piece of property in downtown Salt
Lake City. Our first stop was in the North Visitor's Center where we
watched a short film about how Joseph Smith founded the church. We
wanted to stay longer to look at the artwork, but a half hour organ
recital was about to begin across the street in the huge (1.2 million
square feet) Conference Center. Inside the Conference Center was a
21,000 seat theater. It was the largest theater I have ever been in. It
was huge. There weren't very many people there so we had our choice of
seats. The organ was very impressive with over 7,000 pipes. But it
wasn't the largest organ in Temple Square. The organ in the Tabernacle
has more than 11,000 pipes. The brochure said the daily noon organ
recitals were held in the tabernacle, but it was closed for
renovations. A lady came on stage and talked briefly about the organs
and then told us what she was going to play. The pieces ranged from
Bach to a Sousa march. I love the sound of a big organ and the sound in
the theater was grand.
After the recital, we joined a tour of the Conference Center. There is
a four acre roof on top of the building, including a two acre meadow.
Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and gave a good tour. While on
the tour, we met Bruce and Neeva Freeman from Conroe, Texas.
We ended up walking over to the Lion House for lunch and had a nice
visit. They were on a six-week trip to Oregon and Washington to visit
family and friends. We hope to hear from them again and to cross paths
It was now May 19. This date is significant for a couple of reasons.
First, it was our fifth anniversary as full-time RVers, so we are now
in our sixth year of our nomadic lifestyle. Second, it was the date
that the final Star Wars movie opened.
Where have the past 28 years gone since that May day in 1977 when the
original Star Wars movie opened? I ws just a kid. Well, not really, but
it seems that way. It opened only a few weeks before Diane and I got
married in June 1977. Has it been that long? The years seem to have
flown by. I guess we are now getting "old".
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 is 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. This is where we took Ashley to see a movie. We got
there early, so we had lunch first. We could choose from pizza, a
deli, a Chinese place, standard movie snacks, hamburgers, etc.
Oh, and did I mention that the screens are BIG.
I asked at the ticket office about Star Wars starting on Thursday
because I wanted to see that on the biggest possible screen. So
the guy at the ticket window said many of the prime times were being
sold out and they would be showing the movie 24 hours on
Thursday. I can't remember when I pre-purchased tickets
for a movie, maybe for one of the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) movies, but
when he told me the noon show on Thursday was already about half sold
out, I decided to buy tickets for that show. They also have a
MEGA screen (60x80) and he offered that one. I told him we had
seen a LOTR movie in Orlando on such a screen and we were a bit
disappointed. So we decided on "normal" BIG screen theater.
Well, the final Star Wars movie was FANTASTIC. We saw the 12:10pm
show on opening day, May 19. It was showing on eight screens in the
megaplex right across from the campground, Quail Run RV Park where we
moved into this morning. We got to the theater at 11:10 and there
was already a long line to get in. It seems like most of the
folks out here pre-purchase their tickets because the ticket lines were
very short. Shows were all sold out or nearly sold out.
Lots of kids in Star Wars costumes. Lots of light sabers.
Several grown women (in their 20s) with Princess Leia hairdos. It
was a happening. Lots of cheering when the previews
started. Extreme cheering when the 20th Century Fox logo and
theme started. I know, for me, that logo and theme has always
represented Star Wars from the time of the first movie. Lots of
hooting and hollering when the movie started with the writing moving up
the screen. Then it was quiet the rest of the movie as folks just
soaked it all in.
The scenes showing Anakin's descent to the Dark Side and turning into
Darth Vader were EXCELLENT. The bridge between this movie and the
original Star Wars movie was EXCELLENT.
This is a must see multiple times movie. And it begs to be seen
on the biggest screen you can see it on. I know not everyone
agrees with me, but it's such a waste to wait to rent a movie like this
to watch on a small screen.
And the previews were all pretty great for upcoming movies, including a
first good look at "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and
the Wardrobe". That looks like a movie that will grab me like the
Lord of the Rings movies. I may have another seven-movie
franchise that will hold my interest. Let's see, if they make a
movie every three years, I'd be almost 80 when the last one comes
out. I should live so long. I used to joke that I need to live
enough to see the last Star Wars movie. I guess now I need to
live much longer.
We learned from the local newspaper that the Megaplex 17 was the number
one theater in the country for number of tickets sold. It was just
coincidence that we were part of that number. The only reason it wasn't
the number one theater in the country for revenue was because they
didn't rip people off for the price of tickets. We paid $5.50 for our
tickets for a matinee showing. Plus our normal $9.75, or so, for
popcorn and soda. We
also learned that Chewbacca was at the theater on Wednesday evening as
people lined up to see the first showing at 12:01 AM Thursday. The
paper said that all 17 theaters were sold out, about 5000 tickets, days
in advance. Had I known Chewbacca was going to be there we would have
gone there just to get a photo. We did get to see Darth Vader in
Atlanta when Empire Strikes Back debuted.
So as we head west to tour the Pacific Northwest, this was definitely a
highlight. We do much more than just see the scenery and visit museums.
We try to do what we always enjoyed doing when we lived in a "stick"
We had nothing planned for the Friday we were in Salt Lake City, so we
decided to go back to Temple Square to see what we didn't see on our
prior visit. We didn't hang around too long the first day because I'm
not one to get caught in a big city's rush hour traffic, which wasn't
very much fun on I-15 going into, and out of, the city. We wanted to
view the artwork in the North Visitor Center and check the Family
Research Center to do some genealogy research. I was able to find some
information about one of my grandmothers and some uncles, but not much
else. You really need some data to take it any further and I don't have
much information about my family. I'm only second generation American.
One grandmother came from what is today's Slovakia; the other
grandmother came from French Canada. Diane was able to find very
Ashley had never been on a plane or a train. She had her very first
plane ride when she flew from Atlanta to Salt Lake City. As we were
driving her home from the movies we saw a train and Ashley said "I love
She didn't know that if the weather was good we planned to take her for
a ride on the Heber Valley Railroad that goes through Provo Canyon out
of Heber City. It was a three hour roundtrip. We didn't tell Ashley
where we were going, so she very was surprised when we pulled into the
station told her that was what we were going to do. She loved walking
up to the huge engine and then getting aboard the train. Of course,
being four years old, she was more enthralled with the outbound trip
and less excited about it on the way back. And, naturally, she slept in
the car all the way home. We had a great day and then said good-bye to
Ashley and told her we would see her again in Georgia when it's time
With one day left in Salt Lake City, we just lounged around and then
walked across the street to Jordan Commons to have a meal at Spaghetti
Mama's. We were very pleased with the meal and thought the prices were
great given that you get bread sticks and dip, a salad, and dessert
with the meal.
We had six weeks to get from the Spartan factory in Michigan to the
first of two RV rallies in Salem, Oregon and we were a little more than
half way timewise. There was still Idaho, Washington, and northern
traverse. My initial plan was to wait until after the RV rallies to put
up this travelogue, but it's getting longer than I expected. So I'm
going to end this travelogue in Utah and then put up another one before
we start our tour of the Oregon coast.
Until next time, safe travels.....