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Motor Homing and Family Visits
tbutler posted a blog entry in Tom and Louise on Tour in North AmericaWhen last you heard from us we were winding up a huge tour of the National Parks in the Four Corners area. We arrived in Las Vegas for an extended stay. Actually, it was planned as a departure point. We stayed at a park in Henderson, a southeastern suburb of Las Vegas. The rates were good and the security was by all accounts very good so we felt comfortable leaving our coach there while flying to St. Louis to be with family for the big 50 birthday party. Las Vegas RV Resort turned out to be an excellent choice. In early September, the park is mostly empty but the staff is on duty taking care of the park. During the winter this must be quite a busy park but for now, it provided easy access to the Las Vegas area and the good security we wanted. There is a gate house with someone on duty 24/7. We spent several days out on the town. I had a Euro recliner that was part of the original coach equipment. It was showing its age and I had been considering replacing it. I figured a larger city like Las Vegas would provide a good selection of furniture stores. A little internet browsing and we picked several stores to visit. The first had recliners, the big puffy kind, not exactly what I needed. The second store had one that looked good and it was on sale but, they didn't have it in stock. It would be several weeks, we weren't staying that long. On the way to the car, we walked past a tent sale for the same store. We decided to take a look and found a nice chair and ottoman combo that fit our needs. These were clearance items so I figured what we were looking at was the item on sale. It looked to be in good condition so we caught a salesperson between corralling children playing on the furniture and put in our request. Over to the register, provide all the information and we get directions for picking up our, new in the carton, chair. It was half the price of the one we had looked at in the main store and was quite similar. I'm in it now! I put the old chair out on the street in the RV park with a note attached, "Free to a good home." The next morning it was gone! We did the obligatory run through some of the big casinos on The Strip. It really isn't as exciting as it was when I was young. They even charge for parking these days. We drove out to Hoover Dam one day. We've done the dam tour before and I'd recommend it to everyone who is interested in taking a look at this amazing piece of engineering and construction. This time we took the walk across the Mike O'Callaghan - Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. This is the amazing engineering project that allows US Hwy 93 to bypass the dam. The views of the dam and the canyon from the walkway are spectacular and unlike a helicopter ride, you can linger and take all the pictures you want. There is a great array of informational panels and displays about the project. We flew Southwest Airlines from Las Vegas to St. Louis on Thursday, September 8. Friday we attended a practice marching band performance at our oldest grandson's school. He has found his calling in marching band and we enjoy the seeing the performances. Saturday we pitched in and helped get everything cleaned up and ready for the big birthday party. We had several people in the family turning 50, my youngest sister and our oldest son-in-law were both celebrating. I myself had just turned 70 but nothing was said about me being one of the celebrants. About an hour before the party my brother and his wife who are living in Kentucky arrived. There was a decorated table with my name on it and a sign that said, "70 Rocks!" My grandchildren had picked out some special rocks to anchor the sign, rocks that we had brought them from our travels. Our oldest daughter and her husband hosted the event using their garage, driveway and patio to entertain the crowd. We had great weather, a musician had been hired for the night, there were plenty of snacks, beverages, and several campfires with chairs set up around. We had a very enjoyable evening visiting with family and friends. Sunday we slept in then went to an RV Show with the other two birthday celebrants who are both into RV's now. My oldest daughter and her husband have a nice travel trailer that they have been using for some nice family trips. My younger sister and her husband have a Class B that he used for commuting to work across the state for years. The RV Show had a good display of trailers and motor homes all on a shopping center parking lot. In previous years the venue was indoors but for various reasons they moved outdoors, more appropriate I thought. It is fun to look at the state of the industry even if we weren't shopping. Monday morning we were on our way back to Las Vegas. Tuesday we had an appointment at Freightliner in North Las Vegas, to look at a few chassis problems. They were short handed and didn't think they could do more than look at any problems. So we left there disappointed. We had a Wednesday appointment at Cummins in North Las Vegas and went there to see if we could get in early for engine maintenance. They were booked so we ended up at Walmart for the night and got in early the next day. Wednesday we departed North Las Vegas about 1:00 p.m., temperatures still near 100, and headed into cooler weather in northern Nevada. US Hwy 95 along the western border of Nevada is a common route when we leave Northern California on our way south to Texas. This was the first time we'd traveled that route headed north. It does make the scenery a little different. We covered a little over 300 miles that afternoon and settled in for the night in a "dispersed camping" area alongside Walker Lake. Temperatures were in the 60's overnight and by morning, the coach was nice and cool. A little more than 200 miles through the Sierra Nevada on California Hwy 88 to Jackson and on to Valley Springs to our youngest daughter's home. We've been here two weeks now, temperatures in the low to mid 90's are a little warmer than desired but a cool front has come through and they have dropped into the 70's into the afternoon and 50's at night. That's more comfortable. It never (hardly ever) rains when we are here in the fall and this fall is no exception. We stock our wine rack while here in California. We have a favorite winery nearby and we will take several cases of their wine with us as we return to Texas. There is also a liquor chain here, BEVMO (Beverages and More). They have periodic 5 cent wine sales. Buy one bottle at regular price and the second bottle is 5 cents. We enjoy a variety of wines and this gives us a chance to spend a little more than normal on a bottle of wine and still keep it on budget. So we'll look a little like bootleggers as we head for Texas. It's all legal! The motor home makes a great truck. Our two youngest granddaughters live in Valley Springs and their schools year-round schedule has them on vacation for the next two weeks. That is our mission, to keep the girls busy while they are on vacation. Their mother will be on vacation next week and we'll all head north to their "OHO," their Oregon House. Several years ago they purchased a house on the banks of the Umqua River in western Oregon. The whole family loves to fish and the river is in their back yard. The house is on a good sized hilll, well above river level so anything resembling normal flooding will be no problem for them. We'll spend a week there then depart for Texas as the family returns to California and back to work and school.
On to Las Vegas!
tbutler posted a blog entry in Tom and Louise on Tour in North AmericaPicking up the story where I left off with the previous entry, we are on a trip from Western Oregon to our winter home in the southern tip of Texas. As I write this we have been at home for three weeks. Returning home means a flurry of activities which have now started to normalize. I'm back to writing... Leaving the Susanville area we continued south toward Reno, Nevada. Once across the California line the 55 MPH speed limit for vehicles which are towing is behind us. The speed limit rises to the regular speed limit for other vehicles. It doesn't sound like much but getting the speedometer up to 62 or 63 is significant when you are driving all day and on a trip of 2400 miles. At least it sounds and looks as if you are going faster. Counting utility poles goes just a bit faster! We take US 85 south through Nevada. We're through Reno in the early morning and a short jaunt east on I-80 to Fernley to US 95 South. A check with the Gas Buddy app takes us to a service station with diesel at 3.699 which looks really good after purchasing fuel in California and Oregon. Even Seven Feathers Casino in Oregon had diesel at $3.919. It is the 18th of October at this point and the fuel prices are dropping fast everywhere but on the west coast. The traffic is really light south of Fernley and there are long stretches of flat straight road that allows faster traffic to easily pass. We cruise on with the occasional slow section through a town. Towns are few and far between on this section of highway so it is generally easy traveling, just keep it between the lines. Cruise control is my standard mode of travel in situations like this. Death Valley lies just to our west and we see highways that lead into the National Park. Our first RV trip west in 2002 we spent three weeks exploring Death Valley and we still have fond memories of that trip and the time in Death Valley. We are talking about our rate of travel and possible stopping points as we travel along. As sunset is approaching we are near Las Vegas. I'm thinking that Las Vegas would be a good stop, we just need to find a good place to stop. Louise starts checking with campgrounds for rates and availability of campsites. We spent last night in a rest area and the truck noise has me wishing for a nice quiet RV park for Saturday night. In our quest for our first choice of campgrounds we took a wrong turn and ended up taking a tour of part of southern Las Vegas. While turning around we were on several side streets and passed the pawn shop that is featured on Pawn Stars. We also briefly followed a truck painted with advertising for the Machine Gun Experience. We passed another campground that advertised overnight RV sites and ended up spending the night there. We had water and electric and a good nights sleep. In the early morning we paid for our stay, checked out and continued on our way. Before we left Las Vegas we fueled up at a nearby station which had diesel at $3.659 per gallon. Because we are anticipating less expensive fuel around Phoenix we take on just enough fuel to get us to Phoenix with fuel to run the generator. Highway 95 continues south into California. US 93 takes us on across the Colorado River at Hoover Dam. The new bridge that bypasses the dam is a spectacular engineering project. We've crossed the dam many times while the bridge across the canyon was being constructed. Our last few trips have been over the bridge which is an equally spectacular trip. Large vehicles are instructed to drive the center lanes, presumably to avoid strong winds which frequent the canyon. From the Hoover Dam we continue on US 93 to Kingman, Arizona. Here we join I-40 for a little more than 20 miles before US 93 turns south directly toward Phoenix. The desert scenery is spectacular along the way. Part of the route is designated Joshua Tree Forest Parkway of Arizona. Saguaro cactus are common sights along the southern part of this route. Once in Phoenix we used Gas Buddy to find a station with the lowest cost diesel in the area. It was a small station but the pumps were accessible so we pulled in and filled the tank, 95 gallons at $3.259, the least expensive fuel of the entire trip. To get to the station we were on city streets for about 2 miles south of I-10 and then the return to I-10 was about 5 miles to the east. The distance was almost exactly the same, we simply went south then east while the interstate went east and then turned south toward Tucson. Approaching Tucson we saw dust clouds as a storm whipped the area. We pulled off the highway briefly to let the fury of the storm pass then continued on in Tucson. We pulled into Wal-Mart on the north side of Tucson and spent Sunday night there after receiving permission for our stay. Up to this point we have been fortunate to have very comfortable temperatures for traveling and with clouds we've had one of our better trips. When it gets really hot we turn on the roof air conditioners to keep the interior comfortable. On this trip we're using the vent air and occasionally the dash air conditioner. Overnight temperatures have been comfortable with only a little light duty from the heater. Even in Las Vegas and Tucson we found the overnight temperatures comfortable.
Eastward Ho! U.S. 50 California to Colorado
tbutler posted a blog entry in Tom and Louise on Tour in North AmericaAfter our stay in California, we set out on our way east to St. Louis, Missouri. We’ve made this trip many times. The default trip going either way is to travel to I-80 east to eastern Nebraska where we pick up I-29 south to Kansas City and then I-70 to St. Louis. When we make this trip we are usually on a schedule so time is important and the interstate fills the bill. We’ve detoured several times, to visit friends, to see the Grand Tetons. We sometimes stop in Denver to visit relatives so the trip isn’t always exactly the same. This time we decided to take our time, traveling fewer miles per day and take a route which is not fast but has scenery we haven’t seen before. We departed on Sunday afternoon headed up California Highway 88 into the Sierra Nevada Mountains. In Carson City, Nevada we turned east on US 50, known as the loneliest highway in the US. It wasn’t lonely as we left Carson City. We parked at Wal-Mart for the evening in Fallon, NV. Fallon is home of the US Navy Top Gun training center. Leaving Fallon on Monday morning the road narrowed to two lanes with little shoulder. The scattering of houses and buildings soon disappeared. We drove for miles across the desert. There were other cars and a few trucks, and only an occasional small town. Historical markers, the Pony Express ran through this area. Imagine a man in the 1800’s riding a horse through this area. Even today it doesn’t look that friendly for one man or for the horse. The road rolled ever onward. For miles it was straight making only occasional slight turns to weave the way between the block faulted mountains that give the area the name, basin and range. We pulled over at a wide spot overlooking the community of Austin. Here the road began an assault into the Toiyabe Mountains and Bob Scott’s Summit which was 7205 feet, a climb of about 1000 feet from the floor of the basin. After we cleared the Toiyabe Mountains, the road once again straightened out and continued weaving between mountains. In places the desert was noticeably green and we saw water standing in low spots along the road. Then suddenly there was a car approaching flashing its headlights. Over the hill came a highway patrol car with lights flashing. But wait, he was weaving all over the road, into our lane and back to his lane. I slowed and he pulled up alongside us to tell us we had to pull completely off the road. He informed us there was a wide load coming toward us. I slowly pulled to the side, putting our right wheels in the ditch to get clear of the pavement. Louise grabbed the camera and handed it to me. Two more highway patrol cars appeared followed by the mandatory wide load escort vehicle and finally the load appeared. It was a dump bed from a mine truck. If it were driven down the center of the road it would have completely filled the road. The truck hauling the load must have been doing 60 MPH. It was gone in no time. I thought about the mountain roads we had traversed and wondered if they had to go that far. I guess US 50 was the highway to use for this trip, there were few vehicles to be cleared from the road and we hadn’t seen any overpass on the route. Soon after the wide load passed, it began to rain. It was cloudy and cool and we were crossing the vast span of desert. We realized how lucky we were to have such mild weather. The rain lasted for half an hour and we met several trucks. Of course the toad was stuck to our tail and all the spray we generated was sprayed onto the toad. I hate when that happens. In the desert, rain makes mud and the toad looked horrible by the time we parked for the night. We stopped in Ely, Nevada and stayed at the Valley View RV Park. Ely is the site of one gigantic copper pit mine. The tailings were visible as we drove into town. Now those in tune with mining know that there are copper ores in other countries and mining in those countries costs less than in the US for a number of reasons. Anyway, Ely’s main source of employment has dried up and it is easy to tell by driving through town. We spent a quiet night and slept well. For the first time since we left California we had internet access and our phones worked! I think that those who live in the heavily populated areas of the country would be amazed at how little of the modern electronic communications has touched the remote areas of the US. Even in Fallon, we had marginal phone service and I learned that many of the apps which I have are useless if we don’t have 3G service. Our hot spot was useless and we were totally out of touch for most of the day. From Ely we climb over another mountain range and then descend as we travel the remaining 70 miles of Nevada before entering Utah. US 50 joins I-15 for seven miles and then we’re back on US 50. About 70 miles into Utah we come to the town of Delta. Here we find beautiful farmland. Vast fields of hay and crops and a thriving farming community. We encounter I-70 next, now we are on the fast road. I-70 in Utah runs just north of the canyons, Zion, Bryce, Capital Reef, Canyonlands NP and Arches NP. As such, I-70 has spectacular scenery and numerous scenic areas. We spent the night at the Sand Bench viewpoint. The sunset photography was wonderful. In the morning we drove on stopping at several other scenic view areas. In Colorado we decided to continue our slower trip and diverted to US 50 at Grand Junction. We went up and over Monarch Pass at 11,000+ feet and down into the Arkansas River valley. We spent the night at an RV Park near Salida. We are in the mountain time zone and losing an hour but not losing that hour at night, we get plenty of sleep and wake up late. We pass the Royal Gorge area which has been destroyed by fire. The bridge is still there and will reopen sometime in the future. There is still a zip line in operation and all the Arkansas River float trip operators seem to be doing well. Colorado highway 115 takes us into Colorado Springs and US 24 takes us to Limon, Colorado and onto I-70 for the remaining trip back to St. Louis.
Nevada Bill 405- Time To Make Noise
mcbrian posted a topic in Laws and Legislative ActionIt looks like Nevada is trying to make Rvers pay for a sticker if you stay more than 31 days. What is interesting is that at the end of the story is an interview that state that Laughlin tried something similar and the story went national due to RVers and they still haven't recovered. Snowbirds could have to pay more if Nevada lawmakers vote to require visitors to get seasonal decal, ID card LAUGHLIN; Young retirees and seniors alike who call Nevada their home away from home could soon be paying a premium for the privilege of temporarily residing in the Silver State if proponents of Assembly Bill 405 have their way. Currently, any individual 10 years of age or older who resides in Nevada for a period of 31 or more consecutive days is required to obtain a "seasonal" identification card, although it's doubtful that most snowbirds are even aware of that requirement. For more of this story, click on or type the URL below: http://www.mohavedailynews.com/articles/2013/05/23/news/local/doc519dc1169fa8d292345545.txt
Trying a Different Route Pays Off
tbutler posted a blog entry in Tom and Louise on Tour in North AmericaWe 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.