Friday, May 31, 2013


Odometer 34875

Wednesday May 29th
Trip 236 miles

By our standards today was a long day. We traveled from Hagerman, Idaho to Baker City, Oregon.
We washed the outside of the motorhome and detailed the inside, so it follows that it rained on and off all day.  When we got into Boise and Jeff just couldn't stand the idea of a $10 coupon for Camping World going to waste, so he whined until Joan said we could stop and shop for 15 minutes!  We found CW just off the freeway and Jeff headed to the LED light bulbs.  They are rediculously expensive and a $10 off coupon puts it within the buy range.  Lunch was served in the CW parking lot.  Joan fixed Turkey Reubens and hot soup- Mmmm..
After Boise it was only 35 miles up I-84 to the Oregon border.  We continued up the freeway to Baker City where we wanted to stay for the evening.  Baker City is one of our favorite places to visit, we love the high plains setting and the western feel of the town.  We chose the Oregon Trails West RV park and almost immediately regretted it.  The recent rains had turned the park ito a muddy mess.  Once we were set-up Jeff decided to wash the car so we could go into town.  The car was almost unidentifiable with the muddy water drying on the surface.  Park rules often forbid washing of vehicles and this one was no exception- so I had to drive out of the park and wash the car in an adjacent lot.  I've gotten pretty good at this, using a rinseless wash product and a collapsible bucket, with a microfiber towel.
We cruised Downtown Baker City, but the sprinkles and the temperature ruled out a walk.
Later back at the MH,  I called a former collegue of mine who lives in this area, and we had a long chat, catching up on several months of news.  My friend was out of the area, so a meeting was not possible- we'll see him in the near future I'm sure.

Thursday May 30th
Trip 196 miles 

Not an early start this morning, but we aren't in a big hurry- we have less than 200 miles to our selected destination and we want to poke along today because we are going through some beautiful country and Jeff has a required stop at the Sumpter Valley Railroad.

Before we get to Sumpter, we wind our way up along the Powder River in some stunningly beautiful country.  If it wern't for the harsh winters, this place would capture my heart. (that and proximity to a hardware store).

We climbed a little less than 1000 feet in elevation and about 28 miles out of Baker City on Oregon Route 7 to get to Sumpter, OR and the Sumpter Valley Railroad

From this depot you can ride a vintage steam train around a 5 mile loop of rails first laid in 1897.  Unfortunately for me, the first ride of the season does not start for 2 more days. The early town of Sumter, OR (no "p" as there is in the name today) was named after Fort Sumter North Carolina.  The civil war was fresh in the minds of the citizens as the town was being named.

The Sumpter Valley Railroad was built to haul logs to the mills at Baker City, and the lines extended out as far as Prairie City.  The cars hauled logs in to Baker City, and provisions and supplies back out to Sumpter, Austin and Prairie City.

 Here is one of the passenger cars awaiting restoration.  The exterior looks pretty good, but the interior is still being worked on.
 It reminds me of a different traveling experience than one gets in today's modern cars- I think I would have enjoyed it.

There is no shortage of projects at the rail yard.

 Here is an old EMD diesel electric locomotive that awaits attention.

 This Baldwin 2-8-2 steam locomotive dates back to the 1890s and needs an estimated 1 million dollars worth of restoration to run again.

This 2-8-2 Baldwin is a sister to the first one and is getting new boiler tubes and a hydrostatic test, but should be running within a month, if all goes well.  Every 15 years the boiler has to be inspected at this level of tear-down and repaired.  They didn't tell me how much it was costing, but they did say they could not have done it without grant money.  This engine burns fuel oil and costs about $400 a day in fuel.

This sweetheart is a 1915 Heisler wood burning locomotive that will be running this weekend.  The Heisler is unique in that it has cylinders in an in-line V configuration with a central driveshaft and bevel gears to turn the driven wheels.  This was an excellent engine for logging in this steep terrain.

By the time Jeff got back to the MH, Joan had the generator running (we were alone in the parking lot) and had made BLT sandwiches and chicken sausage gumbo.

After that delicious lunch we set out again for Central Oregon.  About 20 miles further down the road we came to an interpretive site that pointed out the traces of the old raillines from Sumpter to Prairie City.  Some new sections of track have been laid to show how the old lines would have looked.  The terrain was so steep that the only way a loaded train could negotiate it, was to have the train "switchback" up the mountain.  That meant running up forward past a switch, them backing up the next section, throwing the switch and running forward up the next section, in a zig-zag pattern, to gain the elevation they needed.

In the picture below, imagine a train coming up hill on the left track, going past you, throwing the switch and backing up the section of track to your right.

It was now 2 PM and time to make some tracks of our own, if we were going to get some sleep tonight.
We climbed the mile high Dixie Pass and as we came down the west side we were treated to this awe inspiring view of the Strawberry Range with peaks rising to 9,000 feet.

We rolled right through the town of John Day and determined to come back and explore the countryside around here soon.  Just out of John Day we entered my favorite part of this road- the John Day Canyon.
We stopped and took lots of pictures before continuing on ito the delightful little towns of Dayville and Mitchell.  After Mitchell we climbed again- this time to the top of 4,720 foot Ochoco Summit, before making the long descent into Prineville.

We are very grateful that this motorhome is so well put together that it does not even seem to strain at these frequent ups and downs.  We pull most of the passes at 45 miles per hour not because of strain on the engine, but because of the sharp curves.  The engine temperature does not go up significantly, and you are not aware of the weight of the car on behind.  Going downhill with the transmission and exhaust brake working in concert, means not having to touch the foot brake much at all.  Good job Freightliner! 
Here we are all nicely tucked into our space at the Crook County RV Park at the fairgrounds here in Prineville.  We have stayed here before and have always liked this quiet and beautiful park.

Tomorrow should see us in Salem, hopefully mooch-docking at my brother Thane's house for a day or two before we head south to Medford.

Your Traveling Friends

Jeff  and Joan

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Odometer  34443 miles
Trip Meter  297 miles

We left West Yellowstone this morning under cloudy skies heading for Twin Falls, Idaho.  But before I continue, let me do a quick flashback to what we did yesterday.

Joan's brother, Roger and his wife Marcia were nearby, so we arranged to meet with them in West Yellowstone on Sunday evening when we got in, and again on Monday.

Here is a photo Joan took of "downtown" West Yellowstone, a nice little resort community just out side the Yellowstone National Park.
West Yellowstone is mostly tourist driven,  so it stands to reason that it closes down in the winter and blossoms again in the spring.  Most of the shops were open by now, but it was clear that a few were not yet in full swing.  Our worries about the Memorial Day weekend were groundless, we had no trouble at all getting an RV space and this morning a whole herd of us checked out leaving it mostly empty.

It was fantastic seeing Roger and his beautiful wife Marcia, and getting a chance to catch up on all the family news.

For one reason or another we have not seen Roger in a long time, and the reunion of brother and sister was warm and long overdue.

We decided to go to the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center together and the sun broke out from behind the clouds that seem to plague us recently.
Joan snapped this photo of a wolf in the Discovery Center who took an interest in us, Marcia was pretty sure the wolf was looking direcly at her!

The Grizzlies had just been fed and decided to work it off with a little play.  Here brother and sister go at it- but all in fun.

The Center has just added a section dedicated to raptors, and Joan caught this picture of a rescued Bald Eagle.

We wandered around the small town of West Yellowstone, and discovered the Madison Hotel, built in 1912.
They let us look around at the oldest part of the Hotel and the log structure is still sturdy and you can rent one of these rooms

 Trust me, this is the real deal- all the joists and rafters are peeled poles the floor sways and creaks- it's cool!

Joan and Roger didn't get any farther than the 2nd story balcony that faced the street.  The wicker furniture was comfortable and inviting.  We sat and remenisced until we thought they would throw us out- besides it was getting chilly. (the high for today was only in the 50's)

Back to today-

We headed out the west side of  West Yellowstone on highway 20 which goes south and a little west down towards Ashton, Rexburg, and Idaho Falls. We descended from an elevation of 6,666 ft. at the town of West Yellowstone and crossed the continental divide for the third time in the past week.   When we got to the outskirts of Idaho Falls we pulled off the highway and fixed a quick lunch and got back on the road. We were breathing easier at the elevation of  4,700 ft. The clouds were intermittantly letting go with rain, sometimes heavy, but mostly just misting us, and even some periods of dry.  Joan and I passed the time remarking on the beautiful scenery and singing along with the sattelite radio tuned to Love Songs- Michael Buble, Frank Sinatra, Celine Dion...

Pocatello held the promise of a Starbucks- so my CIO (Chief Information Officer) got on the iPad and found one not far from exit 61. What should have been a quick on-and-off was complicated by construction- but we finally made it to the store and found a place to park.   For our guilty pleasure, we both got a tall mocha for the road, and it didn't disappoint- Mmm!  We also found some K-cups of  DECAF Pikes Place coffee- Score!  Us decaffers have to strike when we can.  We have found House Blend decaf at Wal-Mart, but never any of the other decaf  K-cups put out by Starbucks. 

It was raining lightly all the time we were in Pocatello, and rained for about the next half hour as we motored west towards Twin Falls.  We looked over on lthe American Falls reservior and I asked my CIO why they call it "American Falls" and she obliged me by checking on Wikipedia.  There were falls there on the Snake river, which went away when the American Falls Dam was built in 1925 for hydro power.  What is interesting is that what also went away was the town of American Falls.  It was the first city in the US to be completely relocated.

Joan found a Passport America RV park on the west side of Twin Falls a little less than 150 miles west of Pocatello.  The skies started to show signs of light and before we'd gone 50 miles the sun broke through.  The rest of the way to Hagerman, ID, was sunny, and we enjoyed watching the temperature read-out on the dash climb from 57 to 64 degrees.  

We arrived at the High Adventure River Tours RV Park (H.A.R.T) and found a beautiful spot with full hook-ups which means we'll do laundry tonight.  We both got after the bus with hose and brush to loosen the grime that has accumulated over the past week. We were not huffing and puffing at the 2, 953 ft elevation here.    By 6:30 Joan had dinner on the table and we could sit back and relax.
Tomorrow we will head for Baker City, OR.  Our first time back in Oregon since November 2 of last year.  Seven months and 10,195 miles ago!

Your Traveling Friends,

Jeff and Joan

Sunday, May 26, 2013


Odometer 34146
Trip 330 miles

Saturday May 26th

I'm actually cheating here- combining our stop in Cody on Saturday into This night at West Yellowstone.
We left Sheridan Saturday morning, and headed over highway 14 to Cody.
Almost immediately I notice that the adjustments to my driver's side mirror actually worked!  There are four small spring tabs on the glass part of the mirror that are supposed to lightly  touch the shell of the mirror.  Mine were not touching, so I bent them outwards to see if that would help.  Apparently it did!   It stopped fluttering at highway speeds. Why didn't I do this a thousand miles ago?

On with the story-  this part of Wyoming is gorgeous! (pun intended)

This is the falls on Shell Creek and it reminded us of the Upper Rogue Gorge near our homeport of Medford, OR  There is a nice network of trails and viewpoints, and we walked them all, snapping one fabulous picture after the other.

It seemed like there was some eye-catching scenery every where we looked.  The scenery was so attractive that I realized I was not watching my gauges and the car in the rear view monitor like I should be.  I'd come out of my revierie and realize I had not scanned my dash is the last 15 minutes, because my eyes were darting from one breathtaking scene to another.

We were getting our first glimpse of real mountains again and the Big Horn Mountains were an up-lifing sight.

Until we realized that we have to climb over these things and they are pretty tall.

We paused at the top and made ourselves a picnic lunch, which we ate indoors because the temperature at this elevation was 49 degrees!

We stopped briefly in Greybull which is on the west side of the Big Horn Mts and got an ice cream cone and a frosty root beer from the local A&W-  Then on into Cody for the night.  We fueled up and then checked into the Yellowstone Inn and RV park.
Being the Memorial Day Holiday weekend, we were a little spooked that we would not be able to get in without a reservation, but it turns out they had plenty of room and we got in with our Passport discount!

Sunday May 27th

We got up early and were on the trail by 9:15 this morning, leaving the Yellowstone Inn and RV and heading west on Hwy 14 following the North Fork of the Shoshone river up into the Absaroka Wilderness area that is the east gateway to Yellowstone National Park.  We wanted to leave plenty of time for stops, as we would be passing through Yellowstone Park today.
The Senior Pass did it's thing and we got free admittance into the park, and headed up Hwy 14 to Sylvan Lake at nearly 8,500 feet of elevation, before dropping down to Yellowstone Lake at around 7000 feet.  I stopped at a nice turnout on the lake where I sereptitiously spread a few of my father's ashes on the forest floor near the lake.  For those that do not know, my father was a USFS ranger in these parts back in the 50's and 60's.  My father died June of 2011 at the age of 92, after 34 years of retirement. 

We got a good view of the snow capped Rockies rising above the lake as we skirted around the north end of the lake, heading for the visitor's center and the geysers.

We stopped at the Visitor's center and decided to see if we could catch the eruption of Old Faithful, before we made lunch.

We were in luck, because just as we arrived at the viewing area, the geyser erupted!
This happens on average every 90 minutes, so we were very lucky to just walk up and see it without a wait!

Joan was getting bummed about not seeing any wildlife, and our luck changed as soon as we left the Visitor's Center.
This herd of bison tromped up the road right at us- pretty cool!

We tried to see more of the geysers, but the parking areas were too full for our combined bus and car- so we decided to head for the RV park and come back in the car.
Again, we were fortunate and found plenty of room at the Grizzley RV park in West Yellowstone and by 3 PM we were set up in our space.

At about 5:30 Joan's brother, Roger, texted us that they were in town and we arranged a meeting at a local restaurant.  We hung out in the lounge getting to know Roger and his beautiful wife Marcia.  Before long we adjourned back to the RV, where we talked until 10:30.
Tomorrow we are looking forward to a lot of catching up.

Your Traveling Friends

Jeff and Joan

Friday, May 24, 2013

Across Wyoming

Odometer  33816
Trip 274 miles

Another day, another interesting start.  We were low on propane, and had a half of a tank of fuel in the motorhome.  We did get kind of an early start for us, jacks up and moving by 9:15 AM - that's good.  The Heartland RV park had propane, so knowing how difficult the last several fill-ups have been, we didn't even price- check.  Joan Googled diesel prices and we got a hit on the Pilot on I-90, which is strange, because we've never found them to be low priced.  They are easy to get into with a big rig, so we chanced it.  We got to the exit and cruised into the Pilot only to find the price on the high side- but we have a discount club card so we pulled in.  The pump scanned both cards and we didn't get the discount- typical.  The clerk was no help and we left thinking why don't we ever learn?
So much for our early start, we are finally full of fuels and on our way to Sheridan, WY. I-90 isn't just the most direct way- it's the only way so I tough it out.  I really don't like freeway travel.

Before we have gone very far we came to the town of Sturgis, and just had to take the exit and roll through the down town.

Both of us were glad we were here in the off- season.  We'd never have gotten this close in August!
It was now 11:30- we stopped at Taco John's and got a couple tacos so we wouldn't have to stop later for lunch.  Back on the Interstate, we rolled through Sundance and  Moorcroft and when we get to Wyodak we start seeing coal trains and soon the Wyodak Mine.

Wyodak is the 30th largest producer of coal in the US, established in 1950 on the site of the former Peerless Mine, which was established in 1918. Whereas Peerless was a subsurface mine, Wyodak prefers the open pit.

We rolled through Gillette without stopping, hoping to get to Sheridan and our RV park by early afternoon.
As we get close to Buffalo, we get to see something that excites us more that we would have guessed.

Mountains!  Real big, snow capped mountains!  We are in the West again.

We got to Peter D's RV park at 4 in the afternoon, and got checked in.

Joan just wanted to set-up and relax, so I got busy cleaning the bugs off the front cap and windshield, lubing the automatic step, deploying and drying the awnings, poking and prodding at the driver's side mirror to see if I could find a way to tighten it up a bit (I couldn't).

Across the driveway from us we have two horses for companions.
The weather has been fabulous today- full sun and temps in the mid 70s.  Tomorrow should be similar weather-wise.   A good accompaniment to our travels to Cody.

Your Traveling Friends

Jeff and Joan 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Mt Rushmore and Crazy Horse

Odometer unchanged at 33542 miles
Trip meter- 0

This time change thing is getting to me. As we traveled east, we lost an hour each time we crossed a time zone. This is good, because Joan is a night owl and Jeff is a lark. By the time we got to Florida, Jeff was staying up until midnight and actually going to sleep at 9 or 9:30 west coast time. Now it's reversing itself and to get to bed at midnight is like- well- midnight. My body is not liking this...

At 6:30 this morning, we are thinking it must be 8:30 and our eyes pop open- no use fighting it, we got up and got ready to go to Mount Rushmore. We are in a very small hamlet called Hermosa about 12 miles south of Rapid City and about 20 miles east of the monument, so we took state highway 40 over to Keystone which is the gateway city (town) to the Monument.

We turned onto route 244 which goes up to the mountains. As we got close we started getting teasing little glimpses of the huge carvings.

The entrance way to the viewing area has changed a lot since I was last here in the 70s.  Back then you just drove into a big parking lot and walked over to the viewing area,  Now you pay an $11 "parking fee" and get to park in the partially underground parking structure.  I say parking fee in quotes, because it means I don't get in on my Senior Pass.  (they explained that technically there is no entrance fee- it's all a parking fee)

After parking and passing through the portal seen above, you are now on an avenue of the flags.

Each cloumn in the avenue leading up to the viewing platform has the name of one of the 50 states and it's state flag flying.  Oregon is on the second column on the right in this photo and our blue and gold flag hangs above the inscription.  (each column has 4 states- one on each face of the column)

Here is the money shot.

We couldn't help mugging it up like all the other tourists around us- so here we are- proof these photos weren't clipped from Google Images!

We got an unexpected surprise as we headed out on the road towards our next destination.

The road south wraps around to where you get a great profile view of Washington!

From Mount Rushmore we continued south on Route 16 another 17 miles to the Crazy Horse Memorial.

This memorial is a private not-for-profit that uses the entrance fees and profit from souvenirs and food sales to fund the work.

And what a project this is.  Started in 1948 by sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski, the work continued after his death in 1982, carried on by 6 of his 10 children.  It is not readily apparent how much work has taken place, until you see the succession of photos taken over the years.  The best estimates are that over 8 million tons of granite have been removed from the mountain so far.

No one is predicting when the 60 story high sculpture will be finished, but it is now a near-certainty that it will be finished.  Cas, Korczak's oldest son, who started drilling on the mountain with his father at a very young age,  is now the Mountain Foreman, and is 55 years old.  65 years of work since it's inception, the family has secured private funding to assure that it will be completed.  This place will also be the campus for the Indian University of North America, and host the Indian Museum of North America.

Joan and I got a chuckle out of this box of blasing scrap that was yours for a donation to the cause.  You can bet we loaded up the motorhome with some granite.

This interior photo shows one wing of the inside of the 1.6 million dollar visitors center.  There are displays, snacks, a restaurant, and of course a gift shop.

The weather cooperated with us today.  It was a little chilly and breezy, but in did finally get up to the 70s this afternoon and we got some sun from mid morning to mid afternoon.  It's still 59 degrees tonight as I write this- but the wind has really started to howl.  Tomorrow high of 77 and mostly sunny!

We hit the road again tomorrow and hope to overnight in Sheridan, Wyoming, on our way to Yellowstone.

Your Traveling Friends

Jeff and Joan

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Badlands of South Dakota

Odometer 33542
Trip miles 293 miles

We really hoped that today would be sunny, but it just didn't happen. Every time I woke up last night, I heard rain on on the roof, when we woke up at 7:45-rain on the roof. By the time we finished breakfast, the rain had finally slacked off and I took the opportunity to get out and un-hook our utilities and get ready to roll.

We were surprised that there was no welcome center when we crossed over into South Dakota from Minnesota, and as we approached Chamberlain, more or less half way across SD we saw a sign for the welcome center at the next exit- we went for it- and good thing we did.

The Welcome Center was a beautiful building on a high bluff above the Missouri River.

  While we were in the Welcome Center we started a conversation with another couple who were looking at the same display we were.  Turns out that Joanne and Gary are from Bothell, Washington, travelling in a Winnebago, going towards Mt. Rushmore, they own a Goldwing... the more we talked, the more we realized we had in common!  As we talked it was revealed that Joanne and Joan had similar medical histories...Hmmm.

We left the Welcome Center and returned to I-90 west, crossing over the Missouri River.  The terrain has turned into steep ups and downs.  We climbed onto a high grassland only to plunge into a deep ravine, and repeat.  As we neared Murdo, we were looking for a place to pull over and fix lunch.  Murdo is home to the "World Famous Pioneer Auto Show".  We parked across the street in a large parking lot and made soup and sandwiches while Joan and I debated going to the museum.  By the end of lunch we had decided that today was already full enough and we'd see the museum next time through.

As we left Murdo we crossed over into Mountain Time and gained an hour of time.

Another 60 miles down I-90 we took exit 131 towards the Badlands National Park.  Gotta love the Senior Pass- we saved $15 and got free admission to the park- thanks Uncle Sam!

Right away we came to the Big Badlands Overlook and the views were spectacular.

Someone at Adroit, please tell Kristen that we are getting good use out of the windbreakers that we got at Jeff's retirement party!  Kristen was worried they wouldn't be heavy enough, but they worked great for this 57 degree day- as a matter of fact- I think we've used them in just about every state we have visited.
We could have spent a full day here and we were really dissappointed that we didn't get even a glimmer of sun, which would have put some color and depth into the vistas.

We exited the Badlands Park onto highway 240 which took us to the now famous Wall, SD and Wall Drug.

There is no way you can miss the signs for Wall Drug on the highway.  400 miles away we started seeing the first of them.  Wall Drug is more than just a pharmacy- in reality it is a mini-mall with a little bit of everything, however, all the shops in the mall are under the same ownership.  Wall Drug manages to attract some 2 million customers a year to this small town.  It's a real hoot and is not to be missed!

We left Wall with still more than 60 miles to go to our final destination, the Heartland RV Park in Hermosa, SD.  Even though we had gained an extra hour today we still didn't get into our RV spot until a little after 6 PM.  This park accepts the  Passport America 50% discount and, it's only 20 miles from Mt. Rushmore, where we plan to visit tomorrow.

The weather forecast calls for some morning fog, but otherwise sunny and maybe low 70s - Allright!

Another good note- the crack on the windshield did not grow at all today, but it is still 10" long... When we get back to Oregon we'll deal with that issue- hope Thane has some space in his shop for us.

Your Traveling Friends

Joan and Jeff