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Running Hot and Cold
tbutler posted a blog entry in Tom and Louise on Tour in North AmericaOur travels have taken a turn for the hot lately. We've been spending most of our time in southwestern Colorado, northeastern New Mexico and northern Arizona. The temperatures we've faced have been moderate to cool. Several weeks ago we decided to visit Louise sister in the Mohave Valley in western Arizona. The elevation is 483 feet alongside the Colorado River. Needless to say the temperature was quite a bit warmer than in the mountains and high elevations we were used to. Temperatures were in the high 90's during the day. We had a nice site at Moon River Resort with a little shade but not too much. We enjoyed three days of visiting. On Saturday we spent the day at Oatman visiting the donkeys that roam the town and doing some shopping before having a fine dinner at the Oatman Hotel. Our next stop was Lake Havasu City. This is where Louise's parents settled when they retired. The state park was almost empty and we had a nice site with a view of the lake. We visited the cemetery where her parents are buried and spent some time around town. In Lake Havasu City, elevation 459 feet, the temperatures at sunrise were 90 degrees and it warmed into the mid 100's. We took the Copper Canyon Sunset Cruise the night before leaving town. The best part was the breeze when the boat was cruising. We left town headed for Williams, Arizona. We had stayed at the Canyon Hotel and RV Park in Williams, elevation 6924 feet, just a week before. Returning, we were delighted to find more moderate temperatures again. We were back to comfortable daytime temperatures in the upper 70's and low 80's. We spent one day in Flagstaff at the Lowell Observatory. The Lowell Observatory was built by Percival Lowell, an astronomer famous for his drawings of the canals on Mars. This is also the observatory where Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto. They have a spectacular program of lectures and tours of the telescopes that are well worth a visit. The next morning we were on our way to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. As busy as the South Rim is, the North Rim is uncrowded and very available. We stayed at the Jacobs Lake Forest Service Campground, elevation 7900 feet which has no hookups but has some nice sites the will accommodate large RV's. We ran the generator morning and evening to charge the batteries and only needed to run the furnace at night. Air conditioning was never needed. We were parked among trees and the daytime temperature was in the high 70's while the nights dipped into the high 40's. We drove to the North Rim one morning and came back after dark. There are many overlooks into the Grand Canyon and you can drive to each one. There were plenty of parking places at each viewpoint. There were never crowds at any place until we reached the visitors center and the lodge. After a day of exploring along the northeastern reaches of the canyon we spent the evening at the Lodge and the viewpoints in that area. It was a little early for dinner but Louise wanted to get dinner at the lodge so we asked and were given a table by one of the big windows overlooking the canyon. Wow, was that a fantastic setting for dinner. Louise had roast duck, I opted for the blackened chicken fettuccine Alfredo. Both dishes were gourmet quality and the service was excellent. Following our meal we made our way to the overlook below the lodge. We enjoyed the view and visited with several of the people who were there. Everyone was quite talkative, maybe the bar above had something to do with it. From there we made our way to the Bright Angel Viewpoint to watch the sun set. We drove back to the park and arrived by 8:00 p.m. On the way back we saw a few cattle near the road (open range) and several deer but none challenged us for a spot on the road. The next day we moved on to Hurricane, UT. We stayed at Sand Hollow State Park, elevation 3040 feet. We're back to warm again. With highs in the upper 80's and nary a tree in sight, the air conditioners are running all day. We are headed for Zion National Park tomorrow morning for a little hiking and exploring, then we'll leave for Las Vegas, elevation 1672 feet, on Friday. Once more into the desert heat. Maybe they will have a cool spell while we are there though the forecast calls for highs near 100.
Advice On The 4 Corners Area National Parks-- May 2015
santacarver posted a question in Destinations/AttractionsI will be traveling thru the 4 corners area national parks in May 2015. Durango, Cortez, Bluff UT. MOAB, Bryce Canyon, north rim AZ. What would road conditions be like for Snow? And will the camping areas be open for Motor homes? I looking for any information I can gleam fro anyone that has been thru these areas or lives in theses areas during this time of year. Thank you in advance. Bruce
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.
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.