Summer Travel Map

Friday, September 28, 2007

“Oregon Sunshine” with sound effects? "Hail", yes.

September 28, 2007
Harrisburg, OR

Thursday was another relaxing day. The weather was typical for Oregon at this time of year: some morning clouds from a marine layer, then sunshine. We didn’t have too much planned other than getting ready for Friday’s departure, and it all went according to plan. I took care of the outside and Geri got the interior ready. I repacked the “garage” (that’s what the back of the Range Rover has turned into, with folding chairs, a mountain bike, the gas fire ring we picked up at Canadian Tire, and a few other odds and ends. I put away the grill and rearranged a few items in the storage bays to see if I liked the placement better. We’re due for a full analysis of what we’re carrying and where we’re carrying it when we get home. I’ll do that before we leave for Alabama in mid-November.

I also took care of a few maintenance items, checking the oil, coolant, and hydraulic levels, and making sure that all the tires were at the right pressure. I also applied lithium lube to the outside door locks, and cleaned up the “poop pipe” fitting (it’s a crappy job but somebody has to do it).

Geri did a huge amount of laundry, with both the machine in the coach and the park’s facilities. She’s got all the clothes done and took care of the sheets and blanket from the bed, too.

Since we’d gotten everything ready for departure, we decided to go out for dinner. I turned to one of our most reliable guides: the Wine Spectator Restaurant Awards list. It’s usually a reasonable bet that a restaurant that’s invested enough in their wine program to submit it for consideration will have reasonably good food as well. We’ve yet to be disappointed. Last night’s selection, Ringside Steak House, was no exception. It was reasonably close to the park, had great steaks and the wine list was robust. We were offered a glass of sparkling wine at the front door, so this was definitely our kind of place.

I had the Porterhouse (no real surprise there) and Geri had a bone-in Filet Mignon, which you don’t see often. Geri ordered a salad, but I was saving myself for steak, so I picked around the edges of hers. We each had a glass of Pinot Noir (we liked the Christopher better than the Robinson) but knew we needed to focus on Cabernet Sauvignon with the entrees. The wine list was on the expensive side, with most everything from France in the $250+ territory, so I knew we weren’t going there on our fixed income. With some searching, I could see that there were some values in the US section. I finally decided on a 1988 Dunn Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, which was wonderful. The server broke the cork in two trying to open it, so she had to go get her manager to complete the job. She decanted the wine using a strainer funnel, so we were fine. I must be getting soft in my old age, since I asked her to bring two extra glasses so that she and her manager could have a taste.

They had a pretty good after-dinner drink selection, and we ended up getting two glasses of Port from producers I’ve never heard of before (and can’t remember now). One was a 1937 and the other a 1940, and both of them were like aged Tawny. This is OK if you’ve ordered Tawny Port but not so much when you’ve ordered a Vintage Port. They were decent, so we didn’t let it ruin our good time.

We got home in time to watch CSI and went to bed happy. Around 3:00 AM, the forecast rain started to fall, although there was a lull when we got up around 6:00 AM. Since we’d done such a good job yesterday, we were in great shape for departure and actually left a few minutes early. The morning’s travel was relatively short, taking us from Fairview, just east of Portland, to Junction City. It mapped out at about 2½ hours and we needed to be there by 10:00 AM, but I wanted to leave a little buffer for traffic. We didn’t run into as much traffic as I expected, though, only some construction around the junction of I-205 with I-5. We ended up rolling into Junction City about 30 minutes early. We had our appointment at Les Schwab Tire to have the tire pressure sensors on the Range Rover upgraded, and we were on the road again around 11:30 AM.

We didn’t have far to go, since the Monaco Service Center in Harrisburg is about 7 miles away. We checked in even though we’re not scheduled to be here until next Tuesday, and it looks like they will have a space for us in their 42 site parking area. If not, we’ll just dry camp here in the staging area. I filled the fresh water tank and dumped the waste before we left Portland, so we can live “off the grid” for over a week if we needed to do so. The service writer said that they may want to get started on Monday afternoon, which is a good thing for our schedule. We’ll just spend the afternoon reading, relaxing, and maybe squeeze in a “power nap”.

As we were driving down I-5 this morning, it rained all the way but we could see a large wedge of blue sky following us just to the west. It cleared nicely while we were at the tire shop, but started to cloud up again in the early afternoon. Soon, the sky was almost pitch black and we could hear rumbles of thunder in the distance. A storm passed right by a few miles to the north, with quite a bit of lightning and thunder for 15-20 minutes. As it passed, the trailing edge had a batch of pea-sized hail that fell for 2-3 minutes. Of course, now it’s an hour later and the sun is shining brightly, but we can already see the next batch of storms gathering in the distance. Typical Oregon weather…

Tonight, we decided to head to the local Safeway to pick up dinner. Geri wanted Chicken Pot Pie and I wanted a Rotisserie Chicken, so we compromised on a Roasted Turkey Breast (OK, that's a "married person" compromise). We picked up some sides and headed back home. As we were driving up OR-99E, we saw a rainbow, as showers were moving back in. A little further on, it turned into a relatively rare double rainbow. I wish I was able to grab a photo, but we were camera-free at that moment. When we got back to the coach, the double had disappeared, but the rainbow was still there, so I grabbed a couple of shots:

I even shot a little video:

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Mount Hood Scenic Byway

September 26, 2007
Fairview, OR

First, here are some pictures from the last week or so, for your viewing pleasure:

Today started out pretty cloudy and a bit slowly, but ended up being just fine. Since we wanted to get an early start, I had the alarm set for 7 AM. I could sense the clouds even though the blinds were down (yeah, I'm psychic). That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Anyway, I reset the alarm for 8 AM – much better. We got showered and ready to hit the road. Geri walked the pups while I unloaded the stuff (chairs, mountain bike, etc.) from the back of the Range Rover so we’d have room to take them along. We usually take them when we’re going to be gone for the whole day.

We mapped out the Mount Hood Scenic Byway for today’s trip with a little bit of help from Google and Microsoft Streets & Trips software. We left mid-morning, and it was still pretty cloudy. As we drove east on US-26 along the southern side of Mount Hood, we could see the clear skies in the distance. Before we knew it, the sun was out and by noon, we had a hard time seeing a cloud anywhere.

We climbed up to about 4,500’ and started seeing ski areas, but couldn’t get a good view of the mountain up close. On a hunch, we turned off the main route and headed up the Timberline Highway. We saw a few running streams along the side of the road as we were climbing, indicative of snow melt still in progress. This side trip worked out very well, as we ended up at Timberline Lodge, at about 6,000’ elevation. We had a great view of the mountain from the top of the ski lifts we’d seen down below. The lodge itself was built in the ‘30s during the Depression as a public works project and was actually dedicated by FDR in 1937. This was interesting, since we’d visited the FDR site in New Brunswick several months ago.

After some photos and bio-breaks for everyone, we headed back down the hill. We soon turned north on OR-35 along the eastern flank of the mountain. Along the way, we confirmed the feeling that we’d been on parts of this route before. As we passed one of the numerous “sno-parks” (areas designated for snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and/or cross-country skiing during the winter months), we knew we’d stopped there before. That was on our second “RV Rental Vacation”, circa June 1998. We flew to Portland and rented a Class C motorhome from Cruise America. The highlights of that trip were Mount Saint Helens, Crater Lake, Mount Shasta, and Silver Falls State Park here in Oregon. Somewhere along the way, we traveled south past Mount Hood. It was neat to see semi-familiar places, but even better to remember that trip. I know it was 1998 because Geri bought a small stuffed Yorkie at the Portland Airport when we arrived, as her way of telling me we were getting a dog. We ended up getting Merlin in September of that year, and that stuffed animal became his first “favorite” toy.

Enough of memory lane; back to today. As we left Mount Hood behind, we descended toward the Columbia River Gorge. As it was getting close to lunch (actually after lunch, and we’d passed on breakfast), I started to look for a place for lunch. Since I’m known for skipping meals, I was proud of myself. As we got close to the Columbia River, I spotted signs for the “Riverside Grill”, which sounded good. It turned out to be the restaurant in the local Best Western hotel, so it wasn’t great, but it wasn’t awful either. Geri had a Tuscan sandwich (too much roasted red pepper) and I had a seafood salad (that is, a salad with seafood) which was decent. Imagine my surprise to find Atlantic salmon in Oregon. Sysco delivers formula food everywhere, I suppose.

At least the restaurant location was fabulous, though. We were outside on the deck, overlooking the river and the day was superb, so we took our time with lunch. Geri ordered a burger, no bun and no fries, “to go” for the pups. Well, I don’t think anyone working there had every heard of such a thing before. We had several of the wait staff go to check on it for us before it finally arrived. I cut it up for them and they wolfed it down in the parking lot before we got back on the road.

We crossed the river into Washington and took WA-14 west along the river to Vancouver (WA) before we hopped back over to Oregon and the park.

Since we’d had a good lunch mid-afternoon, we didn’t plan a full dinner. Instead, we dusted off some quick stuff from the freezer (we choose not to call it “fast food”). Geri had a package of soup and I had a couple of Chimichangas (with Tacorral sauce, of course). It was just enough, coupled with a nice Argentinean Malbec from Norton.

Tomorrow, it’s supposed to start raining in the afternoon, so we’ll use the morning to pack up the outside stuff (grill, chairs) and the afternoon to get the inside stuff in order for travel. We’re heading out early on Friday, since we have to be in Junction City by 10:00.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Relaxation and wine, who could ask for more?

September 25, 2007
Fairview, OR

We thought about things and decided to change our plans for the Portland area just a bit. Sunday and Monday turned into relaxation days, with me catching up on bills, web forums, emails, etc. and Geri watching some “chick flicks” she’d been saving. It was good to decompress a bit and get organized. I started planning our route back to Arizona, since we’re planning to take the “non-Interstate” route, and began to dust off the “things we gotta do when we get back” list. We did a little shopping, taking advantage of the lack of a sales tax in Oregon.

Today, we did some wine touring. The main area of the Willamette Valley is to the southwest of Portland, and we’re parked to the east of the city, so we weren’t as well positioned as we could have been, but we had a nice day anyway. We left after the morning rush, so we were able to head west through Portland to Beaverton, then south to the wine area. Since we didn’t have a lot of time (OK, we didn’t get the earliest start ever recorded – and we decided to leave the pups home), it was more of a focused affair. We decided we’d better get some lunch, so we found a local eatery (The Penguin Café) in beautiful downtown Carlton (2 stop signs; no traffic lights) where we had sandwiches. They had home-made milkshakes, which I’d have loved, but I couldn’t see that as being a precursor to a wine tasting. Geri had a root beer float with no negative effect, so maybe I was being too cautious.

We visited the Carlton Winemakers Studio, which is a shared facility used by about 10 different brands. This worked out well, since we were able to get 2 flights of 3 wines each from 5 different winemakers. We started with the Pinot Noirs and then shifted to the Syrahs. We had our own little voting session and chose the consensus “winner” from each flight. We picked up a bottle of each to take home with us. We picked up an Andrew Rich 2004 Vin de Tabula Rasa Syrah blend and a Lumpkin Family 2005 Lazy River Vineyard Pinot Noir.

As it was starting to get late, we decided to choose one additional winery for a stop on the way home. This wasn’t as much of a compromise as it seems because a) we’ll be in Harrisburg next week, and about as far away from “wine country” as we are now, so we’re not done “wining”; and b) Geri’s making a pot of sauce with pork cutlets for dinner. Thus motivated, we thought about stopping at Domaine Drouhin, one of the “big names” in Oregon Pinot. Then I read in the planning notes that they’re only open Wednesday – Sunday for tasting. Then I realized that Archery Summit, one of the most highly-rated (along with Beaux Frères and Bergström) Pinot producers, was right next door. Woo-hoo!

We had a wonderful tasting of three Pinots, two of which are not in general release (this means that they’re only sold to their “wine club”). As a bonus, they were pouring a limited bottling of a single clone from their Renegade Ridge vineyard, from the 2000 vintage. It was interesting to compare it to the finished (i.e., blended) version from 2005. We ended up buying two bottles, both from the 2005 vintage. The first is the Looney Vineyard Ribbon Ridge Pinot Noir and the second is the Renegade Ridge Estate Dundee Hills Pinot Noir. Both will require some cellaring, which should be fine since we have just a tiny bit of space in the “cellar” at home.

And the sauce and cutlets were absolutely wonderful, as expected. We had a nice dinner at home, and have quite a bit of sauce left over for future meals. Geri found some fresh-made linguini at a local market, which went great with the meal along with a simple 2005 Chianti.

That’s it for today. Tomorrow, we’ll try to get the Mount Hood trip in, which is “iffy” because the weather’s supposed to change for the worse soon.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Post-rally Relaxation

September 22, 2007
Fairview, Oregon

We had a great time at the Rally in Salem. This rally is an annual event sponsored by Monaco Coach Corporation, the manufacturers of our motorhome brand. They have rallies on the east coast and the west coast, and a couple of years ago decided to combine the rallies for all their brands (they manufacture four main brands of motorhome) into one big one. We think it’s been pretty successful, although some people seem to think that the owners of the different brands don’t like to mingle. This year’s rally was fairly well attended (given fuel prices and the general economic situation) with about 500 coaches attending. About 25-30 new coaches were sold over 4 days, which is pretty good as well.

In addition to catching up with our friends Wayne and Eva Gilbert (and their Yorkie, Abby), we “hung out” with two other couples that came up from Harrisburg with them. Vicki Jones and Casey Clemmons have been full-timing for years and are rally veterans, and Kees and Trudi Hotting are originally from the Netherlands and learning a lot about motorhoming in the US, and how to operate and maintain their relatively new coach.

I was also able to catch up with several people who “hang out” on some of the motorhome- and travel-based Internet groups to which I belong, some of whom I’d never met in person before. It’s always nice to put a face to a name, especially with people you only know online. I caught up with John Fraser, who I’d met at the Indio rally last January, and Stan Kurzet, who I’d met at the Monaco Service Center last March. In addition, I met Chuck and Mary Boros, Bob Rea, Dave Ostrander, and Dave Rudisill. I also got to spend a few minutes with Roger Berke, who moderates a Yahoo group on our heating systems.

The vendor attendance was a little sparse (although I’ve heard it was better than some other recent rallies), but we were able to get pretty much everything we needed (bags for the central vacuum, a new cover for the tow bar to replace the one that got chewed up trying to back into Dave Thompson’s driveway up north, a dimmer switch I can install for “mood lighting” in the dinette, a set of water filters, etc.). Bill Adams was there selling satellite internet systems and, as usual, was a great help in resolving a problem we’d been having over the last couple of weeks getting a signal.

The evenings were fun, with cocktail hour and salad bar from 5:00-6:00, dinner from 6:00-7:30, and entertainment from 7:30-9:00-ish. The opening night musical group was OK but the focus on “oldies” wasn’t quite our stuff. The comedian on the second night was the same guy as last year, as was some of his material, but he was OK, too. Lee Greenwood was on the last night, and he was much better than expected, with a repertoire that wasn’t completely “countrified” and a show that moved right along. The food was good every night, as long as you set your expectations for being part of a 1,200 person group getting food in the space of 20-25 minutes. The wines were all plonk, but we brought wine from the coach for dinner anyway.

The rally wrapped up on Thursday night and we had to vacate by noon on Friday. We did a lot of packing up Thursday afternoon, so we had a relaxing morning on Friday. We said “so long” to Wayne and Eva mid-morning; they were headed to the Oregon Coast for a while. We decided to spend the next week in the Portland area, so we headed north on I-5, took the I-205 loop to the east side, and stopped in Fairview, about 5 miles east on I-84. All told, it was only a little over an hour’s drive, quite different than our cross-country journey. We thought about staying 3-4 nights and then heading toward the coast ourselves, but we decided that we need to relax for a while and there’s plenty to do around here. We’ll stay for a week, heading back to the Eugene/Harrisburg area on Friday. We have an appointment at Les Schwab Tire in Junction City on Friday morning to get a tire monitor sensor replaced, then at Pacific Power in Coburg on Monday to have the engine software updated before we hit Monaco on Tuesday for a couple of maintenance items. We’ll see if we can check into the (free) Monaco campground on Friday afternoon; if not, we’ll dry camp or check into a local park.

We thought we’d missed seeing other friends, Paul and Dorna Kuhn, who were staying in Washington along the Columbia River and are heading south on Monday. Much to our surprise, when we checked in, we found that they had moved to this park a few days earlier! We caught up with Paul last night and Dorna today. She’s participating in the “Race/Walk for a Cure” event in Portland tomorrow, and they’ll head out on Monday.

Last night, we both had a hankering for beef, so we found the local Wild Oats gourmet grocery and picked up a few things. I got the grill out and we had a nice home-cooked meal. We thought about eating outside, but it was actually getting too cool. I guess fall’s here!

Today, we had a chance to sleep in, take our time getting going, and decompress. We walked the pups a few times, stopping in to spend a few minutes chatting with Paul. In the early afternoon, we headed for Portland, where we’d read about the Portland Saturday Market, a weekly craft sale encompassing a couple of blocks in the Old Town district. We had a snack, poked around in the stalls, compared it to open-air markets in NYC, and checked it off. We then headed to a neighborhood (Sellwood) about 5 miles south of downtown, right along the river. We had a late lunch at the Muddy Rudder Public House. It’s owned by a long-time friend of Paul Say’s (Melisa’s significant other), and Melisa recommended that we stop there if we were in the area. We’re really glad we did, as it’s a neat place with good food, beer, and atmosphere. We chatted for a bit with Jim, the owner, who’s a nice guy. He’s really got a nice place.

With a late lunch, we were able to avoid a heavy dinner, so we’re starting to get back to normal. Tomorrow, weather permitting, we’re thinking of a day trip along the Mount Hood Scenic Byway/Loop.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Westward, Ho!

September 17, 2007
Salem, Oregon

Well, we’ve made the trek cross-country once again, ending up here in Salem, OR. To recap since the last update (we were Internet-challenged for a good part of the last week), we spent several days in Grand Junction, Colorado. After doing some touring on Sunday, Monday was a planned “catch up day”. We needed to do some shopping and relaxing. Well, things don’t always work out as planned, of course. On Monday, Merlin’s itching problem got worse, so we scheduled time at a local vet to have him looked at. Maya Lynn’s been itching as well, but not as bad as Merlin. In general, he checked out OK, with the usual conclusion that he’s suffering from an undetermined allergy. It could be climate, could be food, could be environmental, etc. He got a dose of antibiotics and prednisone and they sent us on our way. We did get our shopping done, though, so we were ready to hit the road on Tuesday as planned.

The weather continued to be quite nice, so we had a good drive on Tuesday, leaving Grand Junction early in the morning and heading west on I-70 and soon crossing into Utah. We used a shortcut near Salina (we’re not in Kansas any more; this was Salina, Utah), heading north on US-50/89 and UT-28 until we connected with I-15 near Nephi, just south of Salt Lake City. We continued north on I-15 until it merged with, and then split from, I-84. We headed west on I-84 into Idaho, and ended the day after almost 570 miles, boondocking near Jerome, ID, for the night. It being September 11th, I was struck by how similar the weather was for me on “September 11th” (clear skies and roads). For some reason, we weren’t able to get a Hughes-Net signal from the satellite; we’ll have to keep an eye on this, as I just had to replace the wireless network router. Hopefully, everything’s OK and we were just in a bad spot.

On Friday, we put in another long day on the road, covering 434 miles and ending up in Bend, Oregon. We stayed in a nice park, Crown Villa, which has extra wide, pine-shaded sites. Each site is done with pavers in an area about 70’ long by 30’ wide, quite large for RV parks. Of course, the park is slated to be torn out for a housing development at some point. They got a reprieve this year because of the poor housing market, but who knows what will happen in the future.

We spent three nights in Bend, but we didn’t plan to do much local touring. Instead, we spent a day cleaning the inside of the coach and the rest of the time relaxing and taking care of any remaining shopping. Geri was able to get her hair and nails done (not without a struggle, but I’ll let her post on that). We found a nice upscale organic market (they advertised dry-aged steaks but didn’t have any, but the wet ones were tasty) and picked up a few things, so that was good.

Unfortunately, the canine problems continued, this time with Maya Lynn. She must have gotten into something that upset her tummy, because she yakked (a technical term) all over the coach while we were shopping. Fortunately, most of it was on the tile (good thing we changed from carpet to tile!) so clean-up was relatively easy, but we had to watch her closely for a good 24 hours. By the next day, she was taking water and starting to eat, and by the next evening she was ravenous, and her normal, alert, bark-at-everything-that-goes-by self. We’re watching her intake and output still, though.

On Saturday, we left Bend for the three hour drive over to Salem. It was another beautiful day for driving, at least until we crossed the Cascades. We followed US-20 and OR-22, back roads all the way, and started to pick up the clouds on the western side of the mountains. This is pretty normal, since the mountains tend to wring the water out of the moister Pacific air. Actually, the Bend area is considered “high desert”. We made plans to catch up with Wayne and Eva Gilbert, friends we’d met at a rally almost two years ago, so we stopped in Salem to meet up with them. They’re attending the rally with us, but unfortunately their coach is still at the service center, about an hour away. They are staying at a local hotel until their coach is ready (hopefully, today). We parked at a commuter lot and had dinner with them at a local Vietnamese restaurant (beef soup with tripe – yum!). Since the lot had “No Overnight Parking” signs posted, we drove over to the rally site, the Oregon State Fairgrounds, around sunset. There were about 30 coaches boondocking in the staging area, so we pulled into line and called it a night.

On Sunday, the parking for coaches at the rally was scheduled to start at 8:00 AM. Wayne and Eva had made arrangements to park together with two other couples, so we pulled out of line at 6:30 AM and waited for them to arrive. They came in about 7:15 and we got back in line for parking. We were in and all set up by around 9:00 AM, so that was great. It was a pretty gloomy day, with some showers, but we didn’t have much planned anyway. Geri and Eva made a Costco run, and we ate outside buffet-style with the other couples before calling it an early night.

Today was another relatively quiet day for us, since the rally activities start officially tomorrow. We walked around a bit and spoke to some of the other attendees. We met Chuck and Mary Boros, members of the Monaco-oriented Yahoo groups we participate in; I’m sure we’ll meet some other members over the next few days. Wayne headed for the service center to pick up his coach, and Geri and Eva went off exploring and signing up for things that require same. Geri picked up a rental scooter to help her get around (we left hers in Arizona, since we didn’t know we’d be “rallying” when we left in April), and made arrangements for a wash and wax for the coach while we’re here (mobile services have great rally prices). The festivities start at 5:00 PM with cocktails and snacks, and the weather’s been better (cooler and breezy but some sun and no rain). There seems to be plans for dinner, so I’ve had a chance to blog for a while, catch up with Dave Thompson on the phone, etc. so I’ve had an easy day.

Tomorrow, we’ll be up early to sign up for services from the various vendors (we’ll aim to be in line at 7:00 AM – ouch! I’ll take the camera around and get some photos, too.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Driving the “Million Dollar Highway”

September 9, 2007
Grand Junction, CO

Today’s adventure involved a short drive south from Grand Junction. We got a later start than we expected, but still had a nice drive. We headed south on US-50 to US-550. US-550 travels through high desert and mesas that look like the beginning of the Grand Canyon. This is actually true, since the Colorado River runs right through. The highway cuts into a valley that narrows significantly at the end, in the little town of Ouray. From Ouray to Silverton, the route is referred to as the “Million Dollar Highway” (nobody’s sure if that relates to the cost to build it or the value of the silver ore that it helped carry out). We’d originally planned to travel all the way to Durango, but made the u-turn at Silverton instead.

The weather wasn’t exactly cooperating today, but it could have been a lot worse. It was sunny and warm but a little hazy when we started out, but clouds started gathering on the horizon as we drove south. We had a few sprinkles of rain as we drove over the mountains, and temperatures dropped from the mid-80s to a low of 53°F. We climbed from ~4,500 feet to just over 11,000 feet at the summit. It would have been nice to have had a bit less cloud cover from a photo perspective, but the scenery was great just the same.

We made some notes about locations and campgrounds for a future visit, and did get a few pictures, posted at:

Tomorrow, we’ll do a little shopping and try to find a local vet who can give us something to help Merlin and Maya Lynn. They’ve had some pretty bad itching spells, and we need to nip it in the bud before it gets any worse.

And, no trip would be complete without some technology problems, right? Tonight, the wireless router bit the dust. Well, the “wireless” part did anyway. It works fine when you’re plugged into it, but not as a WiFi device. So, tomorrow’s excursion will include finding a Best Buy or similar outlet for a new router. I thought about bringing a spare, but who knows how long one will last and if technology will pass you by while you’re hauling one more thing around with you. What a pain; at least we’re relatively near civilization. I suppose I could figure out how to run a couple of Cat-5 cables from the rear of the coach to the front…

On Tuesday, we leave for Oregon. We’ll stop overnight in southern Idaho and then spend a few days in Bend before we go to the upcoming Rally in Salem.

Friday, September 7, 2007

A Short Travel Day

September 7, 2007
Strasburg, CO

Today's agenda was simple: hit the road early and cruise down I-70 heading west. I love it when a plan comes together. We left Salina generally on time and rolled into Strasburg, Colorado, a bit early, having picked up an hour as we moved into the Mountain Time Zone. The drive was uneventful, with sunny skies, although there was a cross- or head-wind most of the day. We found our park with no problems. It's a classic roadside campground in a small town. Highway on one side and train tracks on the other. We've had quieter spots in truck stops, I'm sure. We'll survive for one night, though.

I just took the dogs out for their last "walk" and dropped off the trash at the nearest dumpster, and it's cooling off outside. Today's temperatures were "only" in the low 80s, and it's supposed to be cooler in the next few days.

Tomorrow's plan is to continue on for 5-6 hours to Grand Junction, where we're planning to stay for a few days to tour the area. It'll be interesting to see how the weather plays out, as Sunday and Monday aren't supposed to be particularly nice in the Denver area. It will also be nice to have a change of scenery, as we've been driving through flat plains or rolling hills for 3 days now. Tomorrow, we start climbing some hills as we cross the Rockies.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’…

September 6, 2007
Salina, Kansas

Well, we’re on the road again. First, let me catch up on the last few days…

On Tuesday, we buckled down and got some stuff done for a change. Geri did a whole series of loads of laundry and I got the coach ready for departure. The tricky part was adding oil to the transmission, which I’d never done before. Apparently, you need to add the oil (it’s a special synthetic developed and marketed – i.e., “overpriced” – by Allison for their transmissions) through the dipstick tube. I bought a funnel with a flexible plastic tube and a valve that allows more precise measurement, and everything went OK. The transmission has an internal sensor that tells you how low the level is, and it was down 3 quarts. I had a gallon (you can’t buy it by the quart, just gallons or barrels) of the Transynd on hand, so I’ll have to replenish the supply while we’re in sales-tax-free-Oregon later in the month.

Late in the morning, we stopped by to visit Mom again before we left. She was doing OK and in reasonably good spirits, but noticeably weaker than when we visited earlier. She’s struggling with memory issues, and now has difficulty completing sentences and thoughts. At least she’s accepting the assisted living facility, so that’s a good thing.

We hit the road around 2:00, heading for Illinois. We cut across to I-65 and headed north to I-24 in Nashville (we bypassed “Big Jim’s Boobie Bungalow”, another interesting roadside attraction). We rolled into the Flying J truck stop in Oak Grove, Kentucky around 7 PM and settled in for the night. The parking area was pretty full, so we were happy to get a good spot on the end of a row with less noise.

Yesterday, we rolled out around 7 AM and continued up I-24 to I-57. When we got to I-64, we headed west but then took US-51 north to Vandalia, then local routes over to Litchfield. This route cut out quite a bit of time and miles as opposed to the Interstate across to St. Louis and north to Litchfield.

We caught up with Geri’s son, Mike, and his fiancée, Susan, for dinner at their house. Susan’s mother, Mary, joined us as well. We grilled some filets and corn on the cob, and Mike and Geri made potato salad. With a starter salad and Susan’s neat dessert, we were well fed. After a bit of wine, we sat outside (it cooled off) for a while and then retired to the coach for Al-tinis, which got us all ready for a good night’s sleep.

Today, we had some showers in the morning, and got on the road a few minutes later than planned at about 6:45 AM. We headed down I-55 toward St. Louis, and actually passed Mike going the other way (he started work around 5:30 and was on the way back from his first run). He suggested a route around St. Louis (I-270 to MO-370) and we were on I-70 before we knew it. We followed I-70 through Kansas City and ended up in Salina for the night around 4 PM. We had reserved a space at a park along the highway, so we’re at least able to relax a bit tonight. That is, assuming the weather cooperates: they’re predicting strong thunderstorms and/or 2” hail and/or tornados and/or flooding. Yikes! It’s been booming out there as I’ve been composing this, and the pups are already hiding under the bed. Hopefully, we’ll just get wet.

Tomorrow, we’ll head for Denver, stopping for the night just east of the city. On Saturday, we’ll continue on to Grand Junction where we’ll spend a couple of days before moving on to Oregon.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Back in the heat

September 3, 2007
Albertville, AL

We left Connecticut on schedule (7 AM!) last Friday morning, just as Alicia was packing for college. She’s started attending Eastern Connecticut University and, like all these new beginnings, it’s an emotional time for everyone involved. We know she’ll do well and make everyone proud of her!

Our route took us south on I-91 to Hartford and then west on I-84 to Scranton, PA. At that point, we turned south on I-81 for the long ride through Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia. We ran into rain in Virginia, some of it pretty heavy. This was pretty much of a guarantee, since Al and I had washed the coach and Range Rover on Thursday! We made a couple of stops on the drive, for fuel in Carlisle, PA, and for rest stops as needed, and achieved our first night’s goal of Fort Chiswell, VA around 8 PM. We’d planned to overnight at a truck stop (Flying J) that we’d stayed at before, and it was a good call. We topped off the fuel tank and pulled out back in the truck parking area, which was only ¼ full. We found a spot away from anyone else and pulled in so we didn’t even have to disconnect the car. We heated some leftover pizza in the microwave and called it a night. It was nice and cool outside when we walked the pups for the last time.

Saturday, we got off to an early start. I got up at 4:30 and got everything ready to leave, walked the pups, and grabbed a couple of coffees. We were on the road by 5:00, which is really too early. We continued on I-81 to I-40 through Knoxville where we picked up I-75 south to I-24 through Chattanooga. We then went southwest on US-72 to Huntsville. From there, it was a short hop along I-565 to I-65. We were headed to visit our friends Linda and Wendell at their place on Lewis Smith Lake, so we exited I-65 at US-278 and were parked by 2:00. The heat was building during the day, so we had to start the generator to run the roof air for the last couple of hours of the drive. They had reserved a spot for us at a local membership park (we were fortunate that they were able to talk their way through that!), and we spent the afternoon and evening with them at their place. We relaxed with Al-tinis and then took a short boat ride. It was nice out on the water, and the threatening thunderstorms just didn’t materialize. We visited with some of their neighbors for a bit and stayed for a nice steak dinner before heading back to the coach (it’s only about 4½ miles) where we called it an early night.

Yesterday (Sunday) was also a warm day, in the lower 90s, as we made the 2-hour drive over to Rick and Annette’s house in Albertville, arriving right around Noon. This was Alyson’s first weekend back from college, so it was good to see her, too. We went over to see Mom for a bit and she’s doing OK in the assisted-living facility. She’s weaker and less coherent than the last time we were here, but definitely beginning to settle into her new surroundings. They’ve been fiddling with her medications to fine tune things, and that’s obviously helping. It was good to get over there to visit now, so we’ll know our way around when we’re back here at Thanksgiving. After a short nap, we had a nice dinner of pork ribs and sauerkraut with a Shiraz and a Cabernet Sauvignon, and were able to call it another early night. I think I’m just about caught up on sleep.

Today was a relaxing day, also in the 90s. We did some grocery shopping this morning and had a noontime lunch to allow Alyson to head back to school in the early afternoon. She had a ~5 hour drive back to Mobile and needed to be back for classes tomorrow morning. We’ll have a light dinner later. The plan for tomorrow is pretty simple: we’ll visit with Mom in the morning and head out in the early afternoon. We’ll drive about 4 hours tomorrow and then finish up the trip into southwestern Illinois to visit with Geri’s son, Mike, on Wednesday night.