Thursday, August 29, 2013

"You can't camp here" and now Gypsies?

Two more days and we’d be back home. Today’s agenda, more pavement, this time in Illinois and Indiana. We had varied from our planned route a a bit over the last couple of days and now had to figure out were we would spend the night. We decided to to head for Independence Dam State Park in Ohio not far from Fort Wayne, Indiana. It took us a little longer to get there planned and after we entered the park we couldn’t find any signs for the campground area, eventually we found a ranger who told that a campground in the process of being built there but it was not open yet. (Don't believe everything you read!) We looked at the map and he gave us some ideas for other options, 45 minutes later arrived at our last overnight stop of the trip at Mary Jane Thurston State Park in McClure Ohio.  This park has a tiny campground area with sites right on the Maumee River. Sometimes when we pull into a campground the Shasta draws a lot of attention and sometimes we draw stares as if the gypsies have pulled into town. This time no stares, no one at all, but the only other occupied site has a homebuilt gypsy Vardo trailer sitting on it! Unfortunately we didn’t meet Paolo Garbanzo and his troop, they arrived late after we had gone to bed and we hit the road early before they were up but we certainly admired their trailer. I've seen a few of these rigs and have been impressed, they seem typically used by folks who cover a lot of miles which makes what we do seem more reasonable. On our last day on the road crossed the rest of Ohio, the corner of Pennsylvania by Lake Erie, and lastly headed into New York and to our home near Buffalo.  The end of a great trip!  

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Crossing an ocean of Corn

Drove straight through the last of bit Colorado and most of Nebraska the next day. We did make a brief stop for lunch at the Archway museum hoping to pick up a Lincoln Highway anniversary t-shirt, but the event proved so popular they were gone. Stopped for the night just west of Omaha at Eugene T. Mahoney State Park, didn’t do much more than eat dinner in the dark and sleep at Mahoney. Found that there is a Air & Space Museum right next to the park, if traveling through the area again this could be good sightseeing stop. The next day we crossed Iowa, again with the goal of covering as many miles as possible. We did decide to stay off the Interstate and take a smaller road Route 34 all the way to Illinois. Most of these two days were spent driving past corn crops (now two feet taller), at some point we passed a small radio station and tuned in to see what they were broadcasting, it was the farm report. We ended up spending the night at Jubilee College State Park near Peoria where we had stayed on the drive west. The campground hosts were surprised to see us again and almost in disbelief hat we had been all the way to Utah and back. The kids liked Jubilee a because the campsites and showers were inhabited by a large population really tiny frogs, enough frogs to be entertaining and not quite to the point of being gross. I’m still wondering why Jubilee is so large yet had so few guests both times that we were there, reading online it sounds like the park has been closed at times due to state budget cuts. If you area traveling through the area we found it to be a good place to the park for a night or two. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The longest day..

Continuing east through Colorado on I-70 the elevation gain is significant as you approach the continental divide and the Eisenhower-Johnson tunnel. Our Chrysler Pacifica usually does a fine job pulling the Shasta but it was in this stretch that I saw the engine temperature gauge soar higher than I had ever seen before. In need of letting the car cool down we stopped in the small town of Frisco and had some ice cream, this town has a good thing going with Breckenridge just down the road and both a summer and winter tourist season. After taking a break the car did fine for the rest of the day but this stretch of road was definitely the toughest of the entire trip. Late in day after passing though Denver when we encountered serious thunderstorms in the very flat eastern part of the state, it was pretty scary with spectacular lightening visible all around us and torrential rain. We stopped briefly at a Target at the eastern edge of Denver's suburbs to stock up on food supplies then a a few hours later we stopped for the night as planned at North Sterling State Park just as the storms finished up.

Monday, August 26, 2013

More highway and Green River, Utah

Continuing home our first nightly stop was Green River State Park, right off I-70. Hard to believe we were still in Utah, as this campground looked more like those we are used to back East complete with trees, grass, and a river. Definitely a good stop for those traveling through, our neighbors at the next site were from Toronto area and were on a tour similar to ours. The campground was fairly empty but there was a large group of kids that were prepping for a week long guided canoe trip starting from the park. The leaders were having them run laps in the park which made for some good entertainment. When traveling through this part of the country be sure to stop at the occasional rest area as the scenic view above is not at a national park it’s just on the side the road! Sometimes the rest areas are also good for photo-ops that can remind you that your vintage trailer is not even close to being the largest vehicles on the road. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Cove Fort - a.k.a. an 1867 motel

On our first day headed back east we were looking for a place to get off the road to make lunch, we stopped at Cove Fort near the junction of I-15 and I-70 in Utah. We decided to take one of their tours which made this quick stop into nice history lesson. Cove Fort was built by the Mormons in 1867 as a safe place to stop overnight when traveling though this region. The construction of the fort is quite unique as is built using volcanic rock and limestone. To me the outside looked somewhat familiar to early forts back east, but once inside the courtyard you find something quite different. It's more like a family home with a bunch of attached motel rooms, just circa late 1800's! Quite a few important guests stayed there including Brigham Young. Near their modern visitors center we also found that they had the most impressive hollyhock garden that we've ever seen. If you're passing through the area you will find this a welcome break in the day.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Bryce Canyon National Park - Utah

Working out of our campsite at Zion we also made a day trip to Bryce Canyon National Park. It is amazing to me how different the landscape is at these parks in Utah. I felt like we had visited several different planets, each with it's own type of terrain. We didn't see this park at sunrise or sunset which are claimed to be the most spectacular, but it was still one of the highlights of our trip. At Bryce we wanted to hike down into the canyon to to experience the hoodoos up close, but given the July heat and our time constraints we pretty much kept to the paved trails at the rim.

Here's a travel trip that I wish we knew about during our visit.. since there are no showers at the Watchman campground in Zion, take your towel and soap so you can use the showers near the campground at Bryce. Also if they let you, drive into the park instead of parking outside the main entrance and taking the shuttle, this will save time and you won't have to carry as much stuff around with you.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Coral Pink Sand Dunes in southwestern Utah

While staying at Zion we made side trip to check out the Coral Pink Sand Dunes. The photo's don't do this area justice and the kids talk about this as being one of their favorite places on the trip. The sand is super fine and very very pink. I've been to White Sands in New Mexico and this is an interesting contrast. Definitely worth a quick trip. Also worth a stop is the Thunderbird Restaurant which is about halfway between the Dunes and Zion.  This would have been a good photo-op with the Shasta but unfortunately it was having a much deserved rest back at the campground.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Driving on to Zion!

After a few days at Arches we spent another full day driving west, this time headed to Zion National Park. For this we kept on Interstate highways for time efficiency and easier roads, but we still saw some nice scenery. Along the way we also saw a group of about 20 Smart Cars traveling east, different yet similar to group of Model A's that we saw earlier in the trip. Looking it up later I'm pretty sure that they were heading to the Smart Car National Convention in Denver. At a gas station along the way we thought it is funny that they were selling used license plates from a variety of states that looked like you could just buy them and attach them to your car.  We also saw the thermometer hit 104 F, making it our hottest day so far, later we heard that it had been 112 at some places in the park. Our last stop along the way was to stock up on groceries at a nice supermarket in Cedar City. Watchman Campground at Zion is just inside the southwest entrance and adjacent to the visitors center making for easy access to the shuttle busses. The landscape at Zion is just spectacular. At Arches we felt like we were camping on Mars, but here it was like we were camping in some famous 19th century American landscape painting that is too perfect to be real. We also took in several ranger naturalist programs at a small amphitheater just steps from our campsite, and a great one about hummingbirds one evening at Zion Lodge. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Arches National Park, Utah!

Crossing into Utah we soon got off the Interstate again and headed for Arches National Park via Route 128. We spotted a few old trailers passing through Cisco, but everyone in the family agreed that it didn't look like someplace we were supposed to be. (According to our kids we've found ourselves in several places that don't look like someplace we should be lately). According to Wikipedia, Cisco is a ghost town in which scenes for Thelma and Louise and a few other movies were shot.

Once we were a bit further south the scenery really began to change and it was obvious we were someplace unlike anywhere we have been before. If you have the option to drive south on route 128, it's worth it and its an easy drive with a trailer in tow. You might also consider camping at one of the first-come first-served BLM campsites along this road. After a number of stops for sightseeing along the Colorado River we arrived in Moab and entered the National Park. Devils Garden campground is at the end of the scenic drive so you get to see a lot just in getting to the campsite. The campground itself was minimal, but it's just spectacular being there and it puts you in the middle of everything. We didn't see any other vintage trailers, but the Tab trailer on the site across the road looked right at home with its orange trim. Oh.. and yes Utah in mid July is hot, 101 F on the thermometer had all of us drinking more water each day than we thought possible.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Through the Rocky Mountains

Heading west out of the Denver area we traveled on I-70 through the Rocky Mountains, yes - through them. This was a much anticipated portion of the trip, as we knew that it was here where we would experience the steepest grades and multiple tunnels. The largest tunnel was the Eisenhower Tunnel which is over a mile and a half long. Forty years old this year, it's ten years younger than our Shasta. We found the grade climbing up to the tunnel was not too difficult, but after we exited we proceeded down a 7% grade for seven miles which left us wondering what the return trip heading back east would be like. Later in the day we drove through the amazing Glenwood Canyon, which had incredible rock walls and some impressive highway engineering. As we closed in on the state border we were glad that both the car and trailer did well through a fairly intense day of driving.

Highest Paved Road in North America

Next stop was Colorado where we spent a week with family staying in a house in the mountains instead of camping.  We had a great time just spending time together and doing all sorts of sightseeing.  One road-trip item worth mentioning here on the blog was the drive up the highest paved road in North America to the summit of Mt. Evans. Just west of Denver off of I-70 this 14 mile scenic drive is a bit scary but worth checking out, it's one of the few places you can drive to a destination that is over 14,000 feet above sea level. Be sure to stop and check out the Bristlecone Pines along the way and to leave the trailer at the bottom!  

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Lincoln Highway Centennial

Continuing west we kept off the Interstate traveling for a good part of the day on a section of the old Lincoln Highway. Shortly after crossing the Mississippi and entering Nebraska we caught up with a dozen or so Model A Fords who were likely traveling to the Lincoln Highway Centennial at the Great Platte River Road Archway. Over the next 10 miles you could feel the history as we represented the progress of the late 50's and early 60's as we passed the 1930's vehicles with our trailer. I was also aware that a group of TIn Can Tourists was traveling some of this same stretch of the Lincoln Highway in route to the Centennial, but I couldn't get our itinerary line up with theirs so we were a couple of days ahead of them. You can read about their tour at Cool McCool's Garage. Later in the day we had a great conversation with nice guy with a very cool hot rod in Grand Rapids, NE while stopped for lunch at a supermarket parking lot. Our stop for the night was at Lake Maloney State Recreation Area in North Platte, "just park and camp anywhere you want". 

3 Days, 6 States, and 2 American Pickers

The first day of the trip we left Buffalo, NY and headed west. Quickly passing through the corner of Pennsylvania, then heading across Ohio. Watch out for that 90 degree left turn on I-80 in Cleveland!  At the end of the day we ended up once again at Pokagon State Park which is just over the border into Indiana. Pokagon is a 6 hour drive for us and is in just the right place for the first night when we are traveling west. That night we had 3 to 4 inches of rain which drove some the nearby tent campers to pack up their stuff and head home and reminded us of one of the reasons we started shopping for a trailer in the first place. Based on experience in our previous trip west we we decided to avoid the Chicago area traffic so the next day we drove south to Fort Wayne and then crossed Indiana and Illinois via US 24 which worked out extremely well, we also got see a few small towns along the way instead of just pavement. We stayed at Jubilee College State Park just west of Peoria that second night. Jubilee has a large campground but was pretty empty early in the week. From there we headed north a to Davenport, Iowa were we stopped to check out the Antique Archeology shop which is just off I-80. The shop was closed for filming, but we did get to see Mike and Frank drive out of the parking lot in their van while filming an episode of American Pickers. I was hoping to get a few photos of our Shasta in front of their shop, but there was an RV was blocking the alley, turned out it belonged to the film crew. Later that day we made camp at Prairie Rose State Park in western Iowa, the same place where we had stayed on our 2010 trip.