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Found 22 results

  1. With fond memories of our last convention in Gillette, WY we have jumped at the chance to register for 2018. The facilities were excellent, we enjoyed the various trips offered and had a lovely time. I used the link on the e-mail announcement to get to registration. I looked for a way to access registration here on the website but couldn't find it. I guess it will surface sooner or later. Louise and I are going to try working the welcome committee this time. We're looking forward to welcoming you to Gillette in July!
  2. August 21 was a happy day for eclipse viewers in Riverton, Wyoming. We stayed in the Riverton RV Park, a Good Sam park right in the town of Riverton. Riverton was not exactly on the center line of the eclipse but was well within the band of totality. We were giving up about 8 seconds of totality staying at that location as opposed to setting up at a remote location somewhere. It was nice to be able to get up, walk out the door and set up to observe the eclipse just outside the door of our motor home. At sunrise, there was a veil of thin cirrus clouds moving in from the northwest. The forecast called for occasional smoke from fires in Oregon but we never saw evidence of that on Monday. We were sharing the campground with many other eclipse observers. Telescopes were set up at many sites. It was fun to watch individuals scurrying to set up equipment. I also was scurrying. I carry a small telescope, a Meade 5" scope and a large tripod to support it. I had various camera gear, my still camera is my main tool. I've been experimenting with video and had a GoPro set up and also a regular video camera. Neither of the video efforts were useful. It's a learning process. An event like the total solar eclipse is not a good time to be experimenting. With just 2 minutes and 20 seconds for the show, there is no time to make adjustments or change things in mid stream. So I set those things up and just let them run, hoping for some level of success. There was a film crew in the campground and they had a compliment of complex, high end cameras to document the corona, the outer layer, of the Sun. Similar crews were stationed across the US in a coordinated effort to get something like 90 minutes of continuous video of the corona. There were also observers who had only the solar glasses to view the eclipse. They were relaxed, lawn chairs set up was the extent of their preparation. One couple we met was in a rental RV. They were from Belgium and had made reservations at this RV park in early 2016 as soon as they began taking reservations. As mentioned previously, we paid a premium fee to stay in the park and we were lucky to get a site following a cancellation by someone who had made reservations long ago. As part of our fee, we got a number of perks that aren't part of a normal RV park stay. A pair of solar glasses, a Moon Pie, root beer floats Sunday afternoon and a catered dinner on Monday evening helped give us more for our money and helped build a campground community. The camp owners were out and about visiting with all their guests and we enjoyed many a conversation with them and other guests. The partial phase of the eclipse began at 10:40 a.m. with a shout of "first contact" from someone in the campground. People continued to visit, wandering from location to location, discussing the eclipse, visiting as friends. Every so often, people put on the solar glasses and looked up to check the progress toward the big show. A herd of about 30 cows and calves were bedded down in the shade of some trees just across the fence from the campground. As the eclipse proceeded to about 75% the entire group got up and headed off toward the barn. We all had a good laugh. As the Sun became a thin crescent, my eye was glued to the telescope. It gave me the most precise view of the final moments before totality. As the eclipse became total, I backed away from the telescope and looked up at the eclipsed sun. The view through the telescope might seem to be a better choice but its field of view would contain only the entire Moon or Sun when at lowest power. It works fine for the partial phases but for totality, nothing beats the naked eye or a pair of binoculars. My preference is just the naked eye. Nothing is like just standing in the shadow of the Moon and looking at the amazing corona. After a minute or so, I began snapping pictures with the still camera. I wasn't making adjustments, just taking a number of photos. Looking around I was able to see Venus high overhead. I never was able to see Jupiter or any other stars. I did seem to catch a star or planet in my still photos, I haven't been able to identify it yet. As totality ended a cheer went up across the campground. The thin veil of clouds had moved off as totality began and we were able to see a beautiful total eclipse of the Sun. There followed a period of conversation among all the observers, sharing impressions and feelings about this event. I had a host of equipment to pack away but that could wait. There was a tremendous emotional charge that needed to be savored and shared. Slowly we began packing away our equipment and returning to more normal activities. Before the following partial eclipse some people began leaving the campground. Throughout the afternoon, more RV's made their way out of the campground. In mid-afternoon we left the park in the toad to go in search of eclipse T-shirts. We were amazed to see traffic backed up in Riverton. Cars would move from one traffic light across an intersection into line for the next traffic light. We took back streets to the campground in order to avoid the traffic jam. Later in the afternoon we had a conversation with a fellow camper who had left the campground for home. They got through town and then encountered a traffic back-up several miles out of town and were down to a crawl, 2 mph or so. They decided to turn around and stay overnight to leave on Tuesday. We also left on Tuesday morning. There was no traffic jam in town or on down the road. Traffic was almost certainly a little heavier than normal but on a 80 mile stretch of two lane highway we seldom had more than two or three vehicles behind us. We were never slowed down by slower traffic, plenty of opportunities to pass when we needed to do so. The next total solar eclipse will occur in 2024. That eclipse path crosses from Mexico into the US near Del Rio, Texas and cuts across the country to the northeast, exiting into Canada from Maine. Once again there will be millions of people who will gather to observe the total eclipse of the Sun. We found the remote area of Wyoming to be an easy place to get to the path of the total eclipse. We were far from large cities, the nearest were Salt Lake City and Denver. We were at least a two hour drive from the nearest interstate highway. This made for an area where crowds were manageable. We were pleased with the readiness of the small communities to serve the influx of eclipse watchers. The local merchants were promoting and accommodating eclipse crowds. There were activities in the park, a shuttle was set up to transport people from one location in town to another. Thinking of the next solar eclipse I don't think there will be a place this remote. The population of central Texas, San Antonio, Austin, Temple and Waco are all just off the line of totality so there will be huge crowds headed for west Texas to observe. To the north and east there are no good remote locations, huge population centers will be nearby along the entire eclipse path. Let's hope that some good lessons were learned from this event. Start planning for the next if you didn't get to see this one. Make reservations early and hope for good weather.
  3. Suggestions For Base Camp Near Yellowstone

    My wife and I are planning a trip to Yellowstone and Teton national parks in August 2012. I am looking for a base camp that is convenient to both. I would like to find someplace quiet and clean with spacious level sites. i don't mind paying a little extra for a quality resort. Any other tips for enjoying the parks would be welcome. Steve and Sherri 2008 American Tradition 42C towing Subaru Forrester
  4. This summer is our 15th summer on the road. We've traveled in every state in the US (except Hawaii) and every province in Canada (except Nunavut). Given that experience, there are still new things to do and see. We left Scottsbluff, NE on August first headed for Denver. We have family, a sister and daughter there and we've stopped there at least once every year. Still, we found something new on this trip. Louise's sister and her husband have now retired and we had a nice visit with them and their family. We've done dinners out with Elaine and Lou before but this year we had the younger generation making suggestions for places to eat. We found ourselves in old Arvada, a ten block area in the center of the old town. The old town area is thriving as an evening hot spot for the younger generation. Bars, restaurants and parks all with music make it a world of pleasant experiences. The Grandview Tavern and Grill has a back yard patio and it made for a relaxing meal and conversation. After enjoying a good meal we spent some time strolling the streets marveling at all the activity. Lou and Elaine took us on a tour of the old town, pointing out points of interest and places with family connections. Our next stop was the Old Arvada Tavern. In Lou's memory, it was a rather drab old bar, a place he hung out while waiting to pick up his son from ball practice. Today it is alive with young people. Downstairs there is a full menu and the place was packed. Our social advisors had directed us to take a right inside the entrance and go through the "telephone booth" to the upstairs. We followed instructions and were welcomed into a world of entertainment. Like many of the bars, this one featured live entertainment on the weekend. The band for this evening was a bluegrass band. They were just warming up and adjusting the sound. We found a vacant table next to the stage. I've never been a big fan of bluegrass but a live performance would be a first. Once the band was warmed up they launched into their performance. Watching the musicians and listening to the music was a real joy. We stayed through the first set then retreated to quieter surroundings at their home for the rest of the evening. After a week and a half in Denver we drove to Sheridan, WY to spend time with our daughter and her boyfriend. Karen works in Westminster near Denver but is dating Brent who is living in Sheridan. The occasion was the Sheridan Rodeo. We settled into Peter D's RV Park for the week on Monday evening. Tuesday morning we explored the town. If we're going to spend a week here and there is going to be a crowd, we had better know our way around town. We found the rodeo arena and got an idea of the schedule. Wednesday evening we purchased tickets to the rodeo and watched the program on our own. I had been to small town rodeo's years ago but this was a much bigger deal. For Louise this was all new. The evening began with the Indian Races. Teams of Native Americans race around the track surrounding the arena. Starting standing on the ground they have to mount their horse, no saddle, ride a loop then change to a new horse, off of one, on the next without assistance. Run one more loop and change to a third horse for the final lap. Pandemonium reigned at each change of the horses. The rider had to do this unassisted. Other team members were charged with managing the horses during the race. Some horses had their own mind how this was all to work. More than one horse ran a lap without a rider. One rider chased the horse all the way around the track then grabbed the next horse and completed the race. Another rider rand several hundred yards holding on the the horse's tail before giving up. After four nights of racing, the team with the best time would claim a $10,000 prize. Other events were pretty much what you can see on TV but far more exciting and amazing when watching it in person. While in Sheridan, waiting for Karen to arrive for the weekend, we played a round of golf at the local golf course. We also toured King's Ropes downtown. This is a western store and more. The Kings have been saddle makers for several generations. They also stock a whole warehouse of ropes that are made on site. You can watch the ropes being made by hand. There are also several workstations for saddle work You can drop off a saddle for repair or restoration or order your own custom saddle. Behind the store is an amazing museum with hundreds of saddles of all kinds, photos, books, guns, spurs, cowboy gear of all kinds and old time photos. You can stand in one place and look from ceiling to floor to see everything on display in that area. We spent an hour and a half in a quick walk through. Karen arrived late Friday so we met her and Brent at The Silver Spur for breakfast. From there we were off to watch the bed races. Teams with specially built beds race down the street for two blocks to a packed house on the sidewalks. Fun is had by everyone. To get front row seats, you have to park your lawn chair on main street Friday afternoon. Following the bed races is the big parade. This is a major parade with horses, cars, floats of all kinds, and audience participation. Watchers and float riders battle with water cannons at various locations along the route. Mars candy magnates live in the area and there is no shortage of Mars candy distributed along the route. Lunch followed ant then I spent several hours at the Native American Pow Wow on the lawn of the Sheridan Inn. Native dancers performed a variety of dances with narration to explain the significance of each dance. We had ordered tickets for the Saturday night finals more than a month before the rodeo. The grandstand was all sold out so we purchased tickets in what we learned was the new stands on the west side of the arena. The rodeo clown labeled this area as the newbee section! We had front row seats, just a fence separating us from the horses and livestock. We were just a few yards from the gates and had a great view of the entire arena. All the participants were pushing their limits for the final performance of the rodeo and the show was spectacular. Sunday was a day to relax and wrap up visits. We slept in then joined Brent's family for a birthday celebration for his sister. We said good bye to Karen then returned to the park for the evening. We would leave Monday morning to return to Denver for another week and a half. On the way south we drove over the Bighorn Mountains enjoying the spectacular scenery on US Hwy 14. We stopped for a few days near Thermopolis, WY, Camping at Boysen State Park. One of the surprises of the trip was our entrance into Thermopolis. The hot springs there has a spectacular travertine terrace visible from the road as you enter the northern end of town. There are several venues offering hot springs for swimming and soaking. The grounds are pleasant to walk, offering great views of the spring and the mineral shelf. Just south of Thermopolis is the Wedding of the Waters. An informational display marks the place where the Wind River changes its name to the Bighorn River. The river was given different names upriver and at the mouth and when it became apparent that it was the same river a compromise arrangement was to use both names for the same river. The Wedding of the Waters marks the location where the name changes. Up stream, the Wind River Canyon is a spectacular sight. At the upper end of the canyon is Boyson Dam and Reservoir. There are numerous campgrounds there, above and below the dam. All campgrounds are dry without electric which made the stay a little uncomfortable with temperatures near 100 during the day. Fortunately, breezes off the lake made for cooler evening temperatures. We stopped in Rawlings on Wednesday night and spent Thursday night at Cummins Rocky Mountain in anticipation of scheduled maintenance on Friday. We were in and out Friday morning and into Dakota Ridge RV Park that afternoon.
  5. Tetons 4

    From the album Vista

    Another shot of the Tetons.
  6. Tetons 3

    From the album Vista

    A shot of the Grand Tetons from inside Teton National Park, WY.
  7. Tetons 2

    From the album Vista

    Another Shot of the Grand Tetons from inside Teton National Park, WY.
  8. Tetons 1

    From the album Vista

    A hazy summer shot of the Grand Teton Mountain Range, WY. The coolest looking mountains in the United States!
  9. Teton Park 3

    From the album Vista

    A shot of the Clan at Teton National Park, WY.
  10. Teton Park 2

    From the album Vista

    A good shot of our Winnebago Vista 30B, the 'White Whale' at Teton National Park, WY. If you look close, you can see Lola, our Great Dane in the Driver's Seat!
  11. Teton Park 1

    From the album Vista

    A shot from inside Teton National Park, WY.
  12. Old Faithful

    From the album Vista

    A shot of Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park, WY.
  13. Lola At The Devil's Tower KOA

    From the album Vista

    Lola lounging at the Devil's Tower KOA, WY.
  14. Entrance To The Devil's Tower KOA shop

    From the album Vista

    The sign above the entrance to the Devil's Tower KOA Gift Shop, WY.
  15. Devil's Tower 1

    From the album Vista

    A view of Devil's Tower from the Devil's Tower KOA, WY.
  16. Clan At The Continental Divide

    From the album Vista

    The Clan posing at one of the many Continental Divide markers along our route!
  17. We left Wounded Knee with a desire to return on another day. Early morning on Sunday and a holiday weekend as well are not the best time to visit most any site. Driving on west we passed through the town of Pine Ridge the largest community of the Pine Ridge Reservation. Entering town it looks to be a pretty typical community. As we turned south and left town we saw the underbelly of the community. It was a sad site to see many older native Americans living in poverty, I have added a link for the American Indian Relief Council for those who would like to join us in holding out a helping hand to those in need. A short distance south of town we entered Nebraska. This is a state which never held much interest for me until I discovered some of the interesting and amazing features of the state. Several years ago we took our grandsons on a tour through Nebraska and South Dakota. We visited the State Museum on the campus of Nebraska University in Lincoln, Nebraska. The state has numerous paleontology sites and this museum administers all of them. We visited several sites with the boys, Ashfall Fossil Beds with the most amazing collection of fossilized rhinoceroses you will ever see. The other site was the Trailside Museum of Natural History at Fort Robinson State Park. The latter has some amazing mammoth skeletons as well as some interesting history from the American Indian Wars. We have driven US Hwy 20 across northern Nebraska and enjoyed the relaxed trip through the Great Plains. This time we would drive Nebraska Highway 87 and 71 to I-80 and then on to Cheyenne, Wyoming. One of the newly discovered surprises was the scenery of the Nebraska Sandhills around Scottsbluff. We made a pass through the area but will definitely return to see more of the scenery here on another trip. The weathered sandstone hills and cliffs are beautiful and deserve some additional scrutiny and photography. This route connects to I-80 just a few miles east of Cheyenne which was our destination for the day. We stopped to fill the diesel tank before reaching the campground. I put 112 gallons of diesel in our 127 gallon tank, by my records the emptiest it has ever been! The RV park we had selected for the night was AB Camping and RV Park just south of I-80 and east of I-25. As we pulled into the park we could smell the barbeque. This wasn't just a fellow camper preparing a meal, this was real restaurant BBQ. We were parked by their restaurant. We registered, parked and returned to the restaurant for a fine BBQ meal. We enjoyed a quiet evening and then left mid-morning for the Denver area. I inquired about a place where I could wash the motor home as we had been driving for several days on wet roads. We had no luck so had to roll into the next park looking pretty ragged and dirty. The toad really looked terrible. We arrived at South Park in Englewood, Colorado about 2:00 in the afternoon. The office was closed on Labor Day but our parking assignment was posted on the office door. We pulled the sheet and unhooked the toad. South Park wasn't our first choice, it is on the south side of Denver and everyone we know lives on the north side of town. Staying in this park meant that we would drive across town each time we visited family. For this reason we planned to stay here only six nights before moving to another park. When we made reservations this was the only park we could find with a site and then only for the six nights. Fortunately, our preferred park, Dakota Ridge, had space available starting on the seventh night through the remainder of the length of our stay. I found out later that we were not only looking for a site in a large city on the end of a holiday weekend but there was also a PGA Golf Tournament in town. It ended the day we were able to move to Dakota Ridge so I believe that the golf tournament may have played a roll in the scarcity of campsites available the first week of September. One of the pluses that we didn't expect with South Park is that they allow washing vehicles. The toad went to a car wash but I spent Wednesday morning washing the motor home. It was a quick wash but made a huge difference in its appearance. So we left South Park on Sunday morning with a clean motor home and a clean toad. At Dakota Ridge we have additional elevation and a view of some of the hogback ridges that make up the Front Range of the Rockies. We also have a little more wind and we've had our first snowflakes of the fall. The furnace has had several nights of heavy duty work as temperatures hovered just above freezing. Today the temperature was in the low 80's. The forecast indicates that we will have fair weather and warm temperatures until our departure on Wednesday.
  18. As of our last post we had just entered Colorado as the heavy rain and flooding occurred. We stayed for a week and got a first hand look at some of the damage. What we saw in the Denver/Arvada area was minor compared to the real damage which occurred in the mountains and out on the plains as the flood waters continued to disperse. There are towns in the mountains which have no road access to the outside world and likely won't have until sometime next spring or summer. Countless roads washed out and many bridges were destroyed. At the time we left the death toll was still uncertain. Many people lost their lives and huge numbers of people lost their homes. Leaving Denver we headed north to I-80 at Cheyenne. The trip was delayed as we ran into stop and go traffic for miles as we approached the bridge over the Big Thompson River. Traffic was slowed, a giant gaper block, everyone wanted to see the rushing waters of the Big Thompson. Once clear of this traffic we were on I-80 westbound in no time at all. We made a stop in Laramie for diesel and then drove on stopping at a rest area near Fort Fred Steele. It was late enough in the day that we decided to stop for the night here. In the morning I learned that circumstances would change our planned trip to Olympia, Washington to mid October so we now were headed for a family commitment in California in about a week and a half. That gave us a little time to enjoy exploring some new territory. We talked it over and decided to head into west-central Wyoming and take a look at the area around Lander. We drove a short distance into Rawlings, picked up propane to make sure we would have enough for cold nights at altitude. From there, the road northwest to Lander passes through some very scenic lands in the Great Divide Basin. The Great Divide separates water going to the Atlantic from water going to the Pacific Ocean. Here in central Wyoming, the Great Divide divides into two, then rejoins south of I-80 into a single divide again. Between the two routes of the divide is an area where waters flow into a basin with no exit. It would be similar to the Great Salt Lake basin except that there is little rainfall here and no large lake exists here. We decided to stay at Twin Pines Campground south of Lander. This proved to be a good choice and then a bad choice. We were 7 miles from Lander and spent several days in town and exploring Sinks Canyon State Park nearby. In Sinks Canyon State Park, the Middle Popo Agie River disappears underground as it flows into a cave. At high water, some water flows overland but most of the year the river goes underground. Several thousand feet down the canyon, water from the river bubbles back to the surface and then continues to flow on the surface from there on. This is not a terribly uncommon occurrence, it happens in areas with Karst topography, typified by caves and sinkholes. We hiked the north canyon wall to a viewpoint that gave us an overview of the valley. The second day in the canyon we drove up and over the north canyon wall and across the mountains back to our campsite. The scenery was spectacular as the road took us past a number of mountain lakes and over several mountain ridges. Once again, we stumbled on a unique event without any prior knowledge or planning. We drove into Lander on Friday morning and saw a banner stretched across the main street, "Welcome to the One Shot Antelope Hunt." The hunt would be Saturday morning, the opening of antelope hunting season. This event started in the late 1930's as a challenge between Wyoming and Colorado. Each state would field a team of three hunters. Each hunter would get one round of ammunition for their antelope hunt. Hunting parties would be made of one hunter from each team accompanied by a guide. The team that bagged the most antelope or in the case of a tie did it in the least amount of time would be declared the winner. Over time, the number of teams increased. This year there would be eight teams. Participants are by invitation only. There is a museum in town, past shooters include astronauts, a who's who of actors, particularly the cowboy genre of actors, politicians (former VP Cheney was in this year's group of participants), and other famous people. We saw several teams touring Sinks Canyon State Park after they sighted in their guns that morning in a remote area of the park. There weren't a lot of events open to the public but we enjoyed learning about this unique event. We enjoyed a look at South Pass City on Sunday afternoon. This is a gold rush town that like many turned into ghost town once the gold mine became non-productive. The mine enjoyed several periods of development, starting in 1868 and finally ending in 1954 with the closing of the Carissa Mine. South Pass City was turned over to the State of Wyoming and has been preserved in its early 1900's condition. Returning to our park I prepared the car for our anticipated morning departure. Monday morning I was up picking up e-mail, taking care of computer tasks as the coming days may not have internet coverage. I looked up from the computer and out our front window I saw smoke. This was not light gray smoke, it was not a distant cloud of smoke, this was a boiling black cloud of smoke and it was right in front of our motor home! I jumped up and looked out the drivers side window to see a neighboring motor home on fire. The fire was coming from the front engine compartment of a Georgie Boy that was in site 20. We were in site 18 and site 19 between us was empty. I picked up my phone and called 911. The call took 4 minutes. During that time the couple in the coach had bailed out the emergency exit window of the motor home. Both were elderly with obvious limitations in their physical abilities but they did make it out safely. Their pets, a cat and a dog, unfortunately did not escape. The Lander fire department is at least seven miles away and it is a volunteer fire department. It was 22 minutes from the time I made the phone call until I started taking pictures of the fire department at work. Those were the longest 22 minutes I have ever known. After my phone call, Louise and I set about getting our slides in and preparing to move from our site. As I went out to pull the electric, water and sewer connections the heat from the fire was so intense that I decided we should abandon our attempt to move for our own safety. I could have driven off with utilities attached and perhaps I should have but we didn't. We got out of our own coach, Considering the propane tank and gas tank on the coach, I didn't want to delay getting away from the area. I have since imagined a number of scenarios which would have allowed us to get out of the way but of course none of that saved us at the time. Louise and I talked this over several days later, could of, should have, would have, is a game that can be played forever and it still haunts me but at least I'm sleeping a little better now. I assisted in getting the woman into a fifth wheel on the far end of the park as she was feeling faint and near collapsing. We watched the fire from a distance and worried about our own coach. When the fire department started putting water on the flames their entire coach was involved in flames. The coach was completely destroyed down to the frame. Their Jeep which was parked in front of the coach had nothing left but the metal components. All this took just 22 minutes from the time I noticed the fire. It took another 20 minutes for the fire department to put out the last of the flames, and a few minutes more to pack up and leave. From beginning to end it was less than an hour. It was a truly frightening event for all involved. Our coach sustained some secondary damage. Despite the fact that we got our slide-outs in as soon as we could, there were still numerous burn holes in the canvas covers. Embers from the fire rained down on the roof leaving little burn marks like a cigarette left on the sink in a motel room on the roof of the coach. Of greatest concern is heat damage to the entire port side wall of the coach. The fiberglass wall is warped just enough to make every vertical rib in the coach wall visible. We've had all this documented by an adjuster from our insurance company, now the repair work begins. So we've now seen flood and fire, what is next? I don't know but I would advise you to leave if you see us coming into a park near you! In the Peanuts comic strip there was a character named Pigpen. Pigpen was always unwashed, grungy looking, and everywhere he went he had this black cloud of dust and dirt following. That is how I'm feeling right now.
  19. Our oldest grandchild turned 13 today. Ryan was born almost exactly a year after my retirement and almost exactly one year before we went full time in our motor home. I mention this because his age so nearly parallels significant changes in our lives. From the day we purchased our first motor home in 2001, we were FMCA members. In our 12 years of FMCA membership we have attended five rallies, Hutchinson, KS in 2002; Redmond, OR in 2004, St. Paul, MN in 2008, Bowling Green, OH in 2009 and now the 50th anniversary celebration in Gillette, WY. We have been planning on this FMCA Rally celebrating 50 years since FMAC became an organization promoting motor home ownership and enjoyment. We were enticed to attend by the fact that Monaco International planned to have a pre-rally on the same site where FMCA would hold their rally one week later. The opportunity to stay at the rally site for two weeks with full hookups while attending two rallies was too good to pass up. You may notice a certain erratic nature to our rally attendance. We attend when our planned travels make it convenient to get to the location of the rally. Sometimes we build our travels around a rally site. In this case, our plans changed several times before the rally but everything has worked out. The rally for Monaco International began on Wednesday, June 12 but we arrived on the early arrival date, June 10, driving in from a 11 day stay in Denver. We soon found out that the predominant weather pattern in Gillette was strong afternoon winds with storms. The first few days of the rally there was a water truck soaking down the grounds to reduce dust. After several storms the water truck never reappeared. We learned to keep our awnings in when we left the coach. After a night listening to the pennants for a soda pop company flapping in the wind, we dropped the tape separating one row of campsites from the next to the ground. That made for much quieter nights. There were sessions on a variety of topics, one popular session dealt with the latest changes in ownership of the Monaco family of companies which had occurred only a few days before the rally. Mike Snell, CEO of Monaco, took us through a brief history of Monaco from its bankruptcy and subsequent purchase by Navistar in 2009 to its recent purchase by Associated Specialty Vehicles (ASV). Change continues as Monaco moves manufacturing facilities to new locations and closes other facilities. Future directions for Monaco were discussed and many questions answered. It was too soon after the recent purchase to answer all questions. Sunday and Monday were designated gap days, days between the two rallies. A picnic Sunday afternoon and walking tours of downtown Gillette on Monday gave rally attendees ways to stay busy and learn more about the community. Monday afternoon we noticed the parking and meeting signs changed with FMCA's signs now in place. Motor homes were rolling in at a steady rate and the excitement of FMCA was building as the Dealer exhibits began to fill with new coaches. When I attend a FMCA Convention I try to take care of many of my needed purchases with the vendors. I also plan to have some repairs done by the suppliers who provide some of the accessories in our motor home. I was frustrated on several of these quests as some vendors were not represented at the rally. Likewise, several key suppliers, a common awning company, the manufacturer for our inverter, and a satellite dish manufacturing company were either not present at all or not offering any service on site. I guess it is a sign of the times, still it is disappointing. We did find out what a Cam-Plex is. The facility is a multi-use complex built by Cameron County. The facilities for large gatherings of RV's are quite nice. There are some sites with full hook-ups, others with water and electric and many sites with only electric which is much better than many facilities where we have been for rallies in the past. I would give the Gillette community a big A+ for the facilities and the community support for the rally. We enjoyed the coal mine tour, the bison ranch tour and a couple of rounds of golf on very nice golf courses.
  20. We have just completed our trek across country from Missouri to California. We've done this trip many times since we have grandchildren in both states. The quickest route is to travel I-70 west to Denver then jog north on I-25 to Cheyenne, Wyoming where we pick up I-80 on to California. This trip we decided to take a different route. We planned to visit friends in Yankton, South Dakota so it seemed that going north into Iowa and then west to Sioux City, Iowa would be a nice change. Interstate 70 across Missouri is always a race track, loaded with trucks and lots of auto traffic. Avoiding the interstate tangle of Kansas City was another plus. So we decided to drive north on US 61 and US 281 and I-380 to Waterloo, Iowa. That was the first leg of our trip. US 61 is four lane from I-70 almost all the way to the Iowa border. The road surface is fair to good and traffic is light. US 281 is good surface and four lane most of its distance. The only heavy traffic we encountered was on I-380 from Iowa City to Waterloo. This may not be consistently busy, it was Friday afternoon about 4:00 p.m. when we passed through Iowa City. We arrived at the Wal-Mart just off US 20 in Waterloo about 5:00 p.m. I spent an hour or more working on replacing our water pump. When we unhooked and switched to the water pump preparing to leave my daughters home, the water pump wouldn't work. I found a blown fuse, replaced it and it blew again. Calling ShurFlo I found that we would have to send in the old pump to get warranty service. I wasn't ready to do without a pump for a week while we waited for a replacement so picked up another matching pump at a local dealer before we left town. Now I'll return the defective pump for an exchange and have a spare on hand. Saturday morning we drove west on US 20 through central Iowa. Traffic was very light and the highway was excellent. About 100 miles from Sioux City the four lane pavement gives way to the old two lane highway which wanders from town to town, up hill and down dale. That part of the trip was slower but still comfortable travel with very light traffic. On our way, our friends from Yankton, South Dakota called to let us know that I-29 was still flooded by the Missouri River and was closed south of Sioux City. We laughed, if we were on our regular route to their home, we would have been searching for a route around the flooding. As it was, we would not be affected at all by that closure. We took I-29 north from Sioux City to US 50. The final ten miles of I-29 was littered with orange barrels and two way traffic which slowed our travel before we arrived at Junction City and US 50. We spent two days with our friends, sharing our summer experiences. They took us to the Gavin Point Dam on the Missouri River to see the water being discharged from the dam. We marveled at the 90,000,000 cubic feet per second discharge from the dam which was considerably smaller than the 160,000,000 cubic feet per second discharge that was occurring in May and June of this year. The force of water is a spectacle not to be missed, whether from a dam, waterfall, rapids, or waves on a shore, water is awesome. Of course that force is also threatening as the people downstream from the dam learned this spring. We enjoyed dining out at a nearby restaurant overlooking the Missouri River. We went bowling one evening which gave me a chance to try out my new knees. I didn't have my ball or shoes so bowled using a spare ball loaned to me by my friend. By the end of the evening it felt like my own ball! I was back to bowling my average. That was reassuring to everyone as the four of us are a bowling team in the winter in south Texas. By the end of the evening I was ready to get off my feet and ice down my knees. With the recommendation of a neighbor we found a welder to fix part of our towing linkage. One of the two brackets that link the car to the tow bar had developed a crack. The welder was able to clean up the crack and put a good weld on the crack. It is holding well and should get us home for the winter. Then I'll have to pursue a replacement. Leaving Yankton, we drove south on US 81 to US 20 in Nebraska. This is the same highway we were on in Iowa. Right away we experienced several sections of road repair. We were beginning to question our decision when the repairs stopped and we traveled many miles before encountering more repairs. There is very little traffic on US 20 in Nebraska, the road surface is generally good and travel is surprisingly fast. The towns are small and widely scattered so you travel many miles before the next town. Most of these small towns don't even have a stop sign so you can keep on rolling. After miles of crop and pasture lands we reached western Nebraska which has beautiful scenery of sand hills. These are ancient sand dunes, now supporting grasses and trees. As US 20 continues into Wyoming, there are more rocks and mountains. The scenery is beautiful. We encountered a few showers but arrived in Casper, Wyoming before dark. The Wal-Mart parking lot, our overnight stop, is packed with RV's, many are on the way to or from Yellowstone we suspect. US 20 joins I-25 about 50 miles before reaching Casper. Wyoming 220 from Casper south to Rawlins, Wyoming gets us back to I-80 and our normal route west. Rain hit us again on I-80 in western Wyoming and eastern Utah. Louise and I are sharing driving duties. I simply can't sit in the drivers seat for an extended time. I set the timer at 2 hours and when it goes off I look for a spot to pull over so we can change drivers. Louise takes the wheel for an hour then looks for a stopping place. While she drives I have my legs propped up on pillows on the passenger seat leg rest. That coupled with wearing the surgical stockings from the hospital keep my swelling in check. Louise drives the approach to Salt Lake City until we reach the Park City area where the slopes become steeper and the curves tighter. I'll get us through the city and to our fuel stop at Lake Point, Utah. From there Louise drives to our next overnight stop. Near Knolls, Utah is a wonderful rest stop which we have used frequently. Most of the truck parking is on a slope but there are a few nearly level spots at the western end of the west bound rest stop. The rest stop is well off the highway and high above the highway so there is no highway noise. A truck pulls in next to us late in the evening and immediately shuts his engine down. We both sleep well tonight. Thursday morning we are up and away about 8:00 a.m. We've been making really good time and our scheduled arrival in San Andreas, California is assured. We're stopping for fuel as we travel west because the fuel keeps getting more expensive as we travel. We'll grab some more fuel in Winnemucca, Nevada and then head on to Fernley where we leave I-80 for the short cut to Carson City, Nevada. We find the Wal-Mart posted "No Overnight Parking." This is a change, we have stayed there many times before. We continue on south on US 395 to Hwy 88 which will become California Hwy 88. This will take us over the Sierra Nevada. It is now late and we're not going to tackle that highway at night so we find a wide area along a river and park for the night. We are alone and it is quiet. I bookmark this spot in the GPS for future use. Friday morning Louise fixes a fine hot breakfast and we're on our way. Only 90 miles to Gold Strike Village in San Andreas, California. These 90 miles are real mountain driving. We're on two lane roads, plenty of turn-outs and lots of tight turns. The engine brake gets a workout on the down slopes and the engine has lots of exercise on the climbs. We arrive in Jackson, California just before noon. Louise wants a grocery stop so we make our way to the Safeway in Jackson. After shopping and eating lunch we are into our campground by 2:30 p.m. Saturday morning we are watching our five year old granddaughter play soccer. It's just too much fun to be missed. It makes the whole trip worthwhile. We'll be here for a month enjoying both the 5 year old and our 3 year old granddaughters. More soccer games, reading books, babysitting, and just being grandparents. The girls want to know what the scars on my knees are. They trace the line of the scar on my right knee and talk about stitches. I laugh and tell them they used staples. Ewww! Wait until I get the x-rays on disk. They should arrive in the mail next week. That will keep the girls entertained for five minutes.