Star Wars
(April 24 - May 22, 2005)

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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. UGH!!!

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 there.  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.

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 find it.

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 wanted 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. 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 Lake City.

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

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:

"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 cafeteria.

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 visited.

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 old.  :-)

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 any 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 up.

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 B
ruce 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 again.

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 long 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" house.

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 little, also.

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 trains". 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 for Halloween.

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 Oregon to 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.....

Copyright © 2005, Roaming America with Rich & Diane Emond - All Rights Reserved

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