Bill and Kit’s 2012 Excellent Adventure-Journal #12

Latitude: Wherever ••• Longitude: Who Cares

 Bill and Kit’s 2012 Excellent Adventure-Journal #12

A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles

Tim Cahill

Wednesday, April 4, 2012:  Today is a major milestone…..I have finally reached Medicare age and can officially start boring everyone I meet with all my aches, pains and ailments…..YEA!!!!

Being the birthday boy I was able to choose to do anything I wanted.  Being a bit too old to successfully accomplish what I really wanted I settled on my next choices:

Spending the day with my good friend and Navy buddy, Larry…..

And his dog, Lena…..

At the cabin on the Little Sioux River…..

Where we fired a few of Larry’s handguns…..

And I could asses my expert marksmanship by viewing the many rounds that found their mark on this previously un-penetrated whiskey sign.

Followed by driving a tractor about a real honest-to-goodness farm…..

Before joining up with Kit and Janice for an incredible meal followed by a festive Birthday Cake…..

What a great day…..turning 65 years old wasn’t too bad after all!

Kit has been working hard to knit an Afghan for Janice the past month or so and was able to present it to her during our stay.

The little pooch by her side is a miniature Dachshund named Levi……don’t they both look comfortable, and warm?

Last year Larry had a herd of sheep and it was lambing season during our visit.  So the frustrated farm boy in me was thrilled to get in and “help”.  However, this year he didn’t bother as the sheep market was shrinking.   Which makes sense as sheep are made of wool, and they stay outdoors most of the time, and it rains in Iowa.  Jeez……even I could have predicted that!

Not having any sheep chores to step into, so to speak, I was able to get better acquainted with his donkey and mules.

One mule in particular took a liking to me…..his name is Custer.

I think we really connected on some kinda Jackass level.  Kit thinks Custer and I share a family resemblance.

Larry’s farm has been in his family for many generations.  Years ago, when farming was the main family enterprise, they had a farmhand that lived in an apartment above the garage.

The apartment is still there, however no one has lived in it for many years.  Larry has plans this summer to tear it down and build a larger garage.

Also scattered about the farm fields were vehicles of yesteryear that had been put to pasture as they were replaced by more modern implements.  Since the price of scrape iron has risen, Larry has decided to cut up and truck to the scrap dealer much of this old iron.  Spotting an opportunity to pick up an authentic farm wagon of my own, I asked Larry about buying one from him for the scrap price it would otherwise bring.  Larry thought that a wagon that would fit my personality was this old horse drawn Manure Spreader.

Not sure how to haul a fully intact manure spreader to Maine, and not sure how it would be received by my neighbors, I decided to ask for just the wheels.

So this summer, when Larry salvages the wagon, he has promised to keep the wheels for me which I will pick up next year.

Thursday, April 5, 2012:  Up and on the road at 0950 under sunny skies and a temperature of 53 degrees.  Jumped on IA-3 then over to US-71 traveling north through Spencer, Iowa and past many fields being prepared for the upcoming growing season.

The US Corn Belt has enjoyed a boom with the development of ethanol which is added to petroleum fuels.  A large portion of the corn crop is harvested and sent to huge grain bins.

The crop is then stored until needed at one of the many ethanol plants that dot the landscape.

Around these parts ethanol, also known as E-85 for its 85% Grain Alcohol and 15% Gasoline blend, sells for a full dollar a gallon less than regular gasoline.  Unfortunately one needs a Flex-Fuel engine to burn ethanol and our truck does not have that capability.  However studies have shown that the lower “energy level” of E-85 which results in an approximate 25% decrease in fuel mileage offsets any potential economic gain.  The main benefit remains the lessening of dependence on imported oil.  Most gas pumps in this area dispense E-85 and often from a common nozzle requiring the motorist to be careful as they select the grade on the pump.  More modern service stations have a separate island for E-85, much as is done with diesel fuel.

At 1330 we motor across the Minnesota state line and make our way to Shetek Lake State Park near the town of Currie for the evening.  The park has just opened for the season and there are no other campers.  The park ranger was kind enough to put us in the Camp Host site so we could have full hook up’s which would otherwise not be available.

After a walk about the grounds and a nice meal, we settle in for the night.

Thursday, April 5, 2012:  We make a decision to stay an additional evening at this nice campground on the shore of Lake Shetek.  This early in the season there are only four employees in the park and we have met them all.  They have gone above and beyond to make us feel welcome and comfortable.  In fact they even opened the historic Koch Cabin for our enjoyment.

As the story goes, the Koch family were German immigrants that had staked a claim in 1859 for this land where they farmed and built their family home.  All was well until an altercation with the Dakota Indian tribe ended their lives.  Their remains rest at a grave marker nearby and the cabin has been restored with period furnishings.

Within the state park there is an island in Lake Shetek that is connected by a causeway built by the CCC in the 1930’s.

Loon Island has a hiking trail that circles the shoreline that Kit and I enjoyed walking.

This was a real treat as Kit seldom accompanies me on my outdoor excursions.

After a very pleasant walk we returned to the campsite and enjoyed a quiet afternoon, dinner and a glass of wine as the sun set over Lake Shetek closing another great day.

Saturday, April 7, 2012:  Up, got dressed, ate breakfast and hit the road at 0900.  Today is a special day as we will finally get to Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota which is just south of the twin cities and the home of my father and his friend Henrietta.

Since there are no Interstates that go from here to there, we decide to stay on the back roads…..yea, I know, big surprise.  So we choose CR-38 which meanders through the western Minnesota countryside.

We soon moved over to CR-11 heading north before taking US-14 near the town of Tracy, MN and heading east.  Being farming country, the roads are laid out in a north-south-east-west grid…..it is virtually impossible to head due northeast toward the twin cities, unless one engages in some agricultural driving.

While enjoying the countryside along the state highway we came to the small town of Walnut Grove, Minnesota and notice it is the home of Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Since we couldn’t agree on what books this famous American author penned we stopped at the visitor’s center.

They weren’t technically open for the season yet but the ladies cleaning and dusting took a break and visited with us for a few minutes.  We were surprised that Laura Ingalls Wilder was born in Pepin, Wisconsin…..the birthplace of Kit’s mother, Charlotte.  However, Laura spent her formative years in the small prairie town of Walnut Grove, Minnesota.  Oh, and the books are “The Little House (insert location here)” series.

Back on the road we traveled through the towns of Lamberton (Population 824) and Cobdon (Population 36), before pulling into the metropolis of Sleepy Eye, Minnesota (Population 3,599).

Since it was noon we pulled over for lunch which we enjoyed in the trailer while watching the world of Sleepy Eye move past our dinette window.

After a restful stop, we jumped on US-15 heading north and trundled through the towns of Klossner, Winthrop, Gaylord and the village of Henderson which is located on the Minnesota River.

From here we continued north on US-169 through Belle Plaine, Shakopee and on into Savage, Minnesota where we planned to stay for the night.  Locating the Town and Country RV Park by mid-afternoon, we quickly disconnected the trailer and settled in for a few days stay.

Within the hour we drove over to Inver Grove Heights to visit my father in his nice room at an assisted living facility.

Where Henrietta, a close family friend was visiting as well.

After a nice visit, we went over to Henrietta’s house to drop off the package we had picked up for her in Colorado.  We spent some time getting reacquainted with Gracie and Baby, then enjoyed a nice home cooked meal.  Here is a photo of the little rascal, Gracie.

Back at the campground, we turned in early to prepare for a very busy couple of days.

Sunday, April 8, 2012 through Sunday, April 15, 2012-The Twin Cities area of Minnesota:  The eight days we spent in this area were busy and extremely enjoyable.  In addition to taking care of some family business for my father we enjoyed visiting with the many folks that live in the area.

My father lives in a very nice assisted living facility a short distance from Henrietta and has adapted quite well.  I made it a point to spend a few hours with him most every day.  Being as he was a WWII Navy veteran, I thoroughly enjoyed hearing his stories of serving in the South Pacific during that critical time in our nation’s history.  In addition, he was able to relate stories from his childhood growing up during the depression.  He is in the process of updating a chronology of his life and I am anxiously waiting to receive this family heirloom.

Dad retired from 3M Corporation where he worked on cutting edge technology after a military career of working on the earliest computers.  As such, he is very comfortable with technology so I was pleased that I was able to set him up with a new laptop.

During the time that dad and i visited and reminisced, Kit and Henrietta spent time together shopping and going out to lunch.

On April 9th it was Kit’s birthday, and as such it was her turn to do whatever she wanted.  So a full day of shopping was in store (pun intended) for us.  First it was to The Container Store which is a big box (pun intended) store that sells small boxes.  Following that we made a pilgrimage to the Land’s End Inlet store, then out to dinner where she enjoyed a birthday Strawberry Daiquiri.

I wanted to light the straw on fire and sing happy birthday but she thought that might ruin the mood.

After dinner, and much to my pleasant surprise, Kit wanted to stop by REI to pick up a new sunhat.

Looks pretty good for sixtysomething years old, eh?

One treat that Henrietta set me up with while we were visiting the big city was to have dinner with a bunny.  This is something that has been on my “Private Bucket List” ever since I was a young teen reading the articles in Hugh Heffner’s literary periodical.   However an even bigger surprise was in store for me when we arrived.

Not quite what I suspected but still a treat anyway as Kit and I were able to share Easter Dinner with my father for the first time in many a year.

Even though this area of Minnesota is a very large metropolitan area the surrounding Twin Cities communities still have a small town feel and Inver Grove Heights is no exception.  There are many parks that attract wildlife such as these Mallards.

And with the advent of an early spring, the flowering trees were bursting with color.

We ate out most every day, often with Henrietta and even on one occasion with my dad.  One of the nice local places we enjoyed was the Cahill Diner which is within walking distance of Henrietta’s home and owned by one of her friends.  The food was good and plentiful, as evident by the Cajun Omelet I enjoyed.

Kit has some relatives in the area as well.  On one occasion we met up with Kit’s aunt for a nice meal at The Olive Garden.

Aunt Vi, a self-described “tough old swede” is 93 and lives independently at a nice senior housing complex west of the city.  Fortunately her oldest son David lives nearby and was able to join us as well.

We had an enjoyable meal and a great time catching up on family news.

On our last evening in the area, we enjoyed the sunset over the western mountains as we counted our blessings and reminisced about our great stay in this part of the country.

Last fall when we made an urgent car trip out here, my dad was critically ill.  It is with great joy and relief that he has mostly recovered and at 88 years old appears to be doing very well.  It is tough being so far from him and my mother in Arizona but those are the cards we were dealt and everyone is making the best of it.  Fortunately we have some incredible relatives and friends in both areas to be our ears and eyes and to help watch over mom and dad…..we love you and appreciate you all very much!

Monday, April 16, 2012:  Woke up and had a nice breakfast as we discussed the next phase of our trip.  Last year we headed north and hugged the northern shore of Lake Superior and through Canada as we meandered our way home.  On this trip we would like to explore the southern shore of that same lake by heading easterly.  However, Kit’s cousin Billy lives a short distance to the north and they were available to spend some time with us so at 1100 we hit the road on US-13 toward Blaine, Minnesota.  It is cloudy and cold with temperatures in the mid 30’s.

After an unplanned but very rewarding detour through an older part of Minneapolis and Hiawatha Falls Park we made it to Billy’s dooryard where we snugged into his driveway for the night.

Billy and Char have been gracious to us in the past and this time was no exception.  Being fellow RV’rs they know the value of a flat spot to park and an available electrical source, both of which they provided.

Another frequent visitor to their home is a red fox that, like us, comes a begging on occasion.

Foxy’s consistent arrival makes a lot more sense when I noticed Billy tossing some chicken over the fence.  The critter grabbed it and high tailed itself back into the weeds.

After a pleasant visit we all decided to go out to dinner at one of their favorite restaurants, Keys Café and Bakery where we had a great meal and literally shut the place down as the cleaning crew was doing their thing.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012:  Up to an incredible sunrise……well, at least some of us are.

After Kit woke from her slumber, we made our way into the house for a nice breakfast complete with freshly baked cinnamon rolls and more great conversation.

At around noon we said our goodbyes and hit the road, crossing over into Wisconsin traveling northeast toward the shore of Lake Superior.  We spent the afternoon paralleling the shoreline as much as possible.

Getting late and tired, we started looking for our next camping opportunity.  There are plenty of state and municipal campgrounds in this area, as well as many commercial campgrounds.  However most do not open until May 1st so finding an appropriate spot could be a challenge over the next few days.

Well, road magic was once again with us as we entered the Chippewa Indian Reservation and came upon the Bad River Casino.  Pulling in, we noticed a number of back in parking spots anchored by electrical boxes and water spigots.  Parking in one of these spots I went inside to inquire what it would cost…..turns out the camping is free!

And, even though they have not turned the water on to the sites yet, a very nice American Indian gentleman came out and turned on the electricity for us…..now that’s service!

Stay tuned……our travels are beginning to come to an end for this year and you don’t want to miss what’s next!

Kit’s Corner:  Our travels through Iowa and Minnesota have allowed us to spend time with our old friends, Larry & Janice as well as much needed time with our relatives.  With friends and family scattered all over the US, we are incredibly fortunate to be able to spend some of our retirement years reconnecting with people we hadn’t seen in many years.  We are thankful they have all opened their hearts and homes (driveways) to us and welcomed us into their lives for a short time.  We love each and every one of the people we have visited with during our last four trips around the country.

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Bill and Kit’s 2012 Excellent Adventure-Journal #11

Latitude: Wherever ••• Longitude: Who Cares

 Bill and Kit’s 2012 Excellent Adventure-Journal #11

 Not all those who wander are lost

J. R. R. Tolkien

Tuesday, March 27, 2012:  Up and on the road at 0955…..leaving Bryce Canyon National Park under mostly sunny skies and a temperature of 31 degrees.  After three great days exploring this magnificent park we vow to return soon.  At this rate we will have to live to 103 to see and/or return to all the incredible places the US has to offer.  Wonder why some folks fly across the pond to tour foreign countries and ignore the sights in their own backyard?

As we meandered our way through the campground we spotted this colorful bird in a pine tree.

My crude bird ID skill combined with the phone app iBird leads me to believe it may be a Stellar Jay.  I hope if I’m wrong, that my bird expert friends David or Dewey will set me straight.

If you ever find yourself wondering what a particular bird is, then the application iBird Pro is a handy reference.  It is available for either iPhones of Droid machines at a nominal price.

Following state highway UT-12 we connected to US-89 and began to make our way northerly.

Interstate 70 is a few miles to the west and basically parallels US-89 but, as has been our modus operandi, we prefer to stay on the back roads.  In fact we feel silly if anyone spots us on any major turnpikes…..wonder why?

Yea, I know that the truck registration will likely expire before we return home.  That’s the beauty of a Veterans Plate…..most cops are Vets!  However one fella asked when spotting the license plate…..”What’s a Maine Backward Veteran?”  Tried to convince him that everywhere I drove was in reverse.  I think he actually believed it!?!?

On the narrow two lane back roads that we prefer, Kit is a valuable asset.  Constantly looking about for any potential road hazard and she also frequently “helps” Lucy with the navigation chores.  Here is a photo of Kit on vigilant watch.

Hope we don’t get stopped by the Homeland Security folks as I think she is knitting an Afghan.

It’s a good thing that Kit is constantly scanning the road ahead as occasionally whole mountains will jump up in front of our intended path of travel.

Now you may be questioning our sanity, traveling as we are north into what is sure to be colder weather…..especially considering that our home on wheels can essentially be pulled anywhere.  Well we have promised to do a favor for a dear friend and that requires us to visit northern Colorado.  So it was either up and over the Rockies via the Vail Pass or more northerly toward Cheyenne, Wyoming.  Considering the projected weather forecast for snow and ice at elevations above 10,000 feet we stayed on the west side of the mountains to ensure safe passage.

We traveled through many small towns…..such as Panguitch, Circleville, Junction, Marysville and Gunnison before fighting our way through Salt Lake City traffic to Hill Air Force Base in Layton, Utah.  Since it was after 1600, we decided to pull in for the evening at the campground where we selected a site next to an interesting family from Texas.  These nice folks were living, traveling and homeschooling their two boys in a nice large fifth wheel trailer.

The father, an Air Force sergeant was in the bomb disposal business and frequently was called upon to travel to various bases to ply his trade.  On one assignment he and his family (sans trailer) lived on the Puerto Rican island of Culebra.  He was there to help clean up a defunct Navy bombing range on the nearby island of Viegues that I had previously spent many a day offshore helping to deposit lead on.  Even though their family disagreed with this couples way of life, we believe they are living an ideal existence, well….maybe except for the unexploded ordnance handling business.  They keep an online journal as well and we intend to follow their travels and exploits.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012:  Today is a down day.  Spent it dumping tanks, sanitizing the fresh water system, tightening up loose screws and hinges, doing laundry, and otherwise relaxing.  Hill Air Force Base sits in the shadow of the Wasatch Mountains and is home to the Worldwide Logistics Group, supplying everything from aircraft to staples to forces throughout the world.

The campground is across the street from the USAF gym and next door to a very nice walking track.  With I-pods in place we walked many a lap in the 65 degree sun before settling in for a good nights sleep.

Thursday, March 29, 2012:  Up and on the road at shortly after 0900 under partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the low 40’s.  Choosing US-84 we headed east up into the mountains.

Soon we were bumping up against the clouds with steep mountain peaks on either side.

Hooking up with I-80 we spent the majority of the day staring at high elevation pointy roads.

Interrupted only by the sporadic mountain which the highway engineers decided to punch a tunnel through.

At 1040 we crossed over into Wyoming and pulled into the welcome station where we were met by this fellow.

The sign sez the critter is a Bison…..not sure how it differs from a Buffalo, but either way it’s a big mother.  Yea, you read right…..the sign also said it was expecting and was planning a natural childbirth.  Her name is “Quasimodo”…..well, that’s what I named her anyway.  Yea I know it’s cruel and I should be ashamed of myself but it is very near Easter after all.  On closer examination (of the photo…..not the Bison) I notice a beard and horns……maybe the critter is a big father instead, which would be an animal husbandry miracle.

I’m much better with smaller animals, those with similar sized brains as mine…..like this little fella who was flitting about.

Kit quickly looked it up on iBird and believes it to be a Magpie.  Again, please tell us if we are mistaken.  The Magpie was striking as it took flight…..not in the “bombardment” sense but in appearance.

The stark black and white bird was incredible looking as the wings were almost translucent flashing in the morning sun.

At 1426, and again at 1630 we crossed the Continental Divide…..not sure how that happens unless we were going in circles!

Stopped for a break at a state rest area in the middle of nowhere.  It has been windy all day and as I climbed out of the truck a valuable Wal*Mart bag took to the wind with Kit in hot pursuit.  A hundred yards away she tackled the errant bag as it was slowed by a snow fence and triumphantly raised her arm in the traditional Wal*Mart victory salute.

Thanks to Kit, another beautiful and pristine environment was saved from the scourge of Witches Knickers!

It is 1840 and after a very long, and obviously boring day, we pull into Cheyenne, Wyoming. Where we locate Warren Air Force Base and make our way to their sparsely populated campground for the evening.

Friday, March 30, 2012-Cheyenne, Wyoming:  Decided to take another day off the road so we could make contact with folks in northern Colorado that we wanted to see.

While on base, we decided to take a look around.  Warren Air Force base is home to the 90th Missile Wing responsible for the many ICBM sites spread about Wyoming, Nebraska and Colorado.  It is the oldest active Air Force base and was originally established by the US Army in 1867 to help protect settlers and workers in the area.  Interesting…..didn’t know that the ICBM even existed in the 1800’s.

Anyway, the base is designated a National Historic Landmark and most of the early buildings have been restored.  It also houses a very rare facility on an active US military installation……a cemetery.

The base, back in the 1800 was very remote so any personnel that expired were interred within the facility.  Although the cemetery is not in use today, it is still being kept up by base personnel and is listed as a historical landmark as well.

Every once in a while, I notice an object that seems out of place and, therefore humorous…..well, at least to me.  Such was the case at the gate to the cemetery.

Not sure if this was for incoming or outgoing mail, but then again, does it really matter?  Talk about trying to communicate with the dead.

Another unique feature of this cemetery is a separate enclosed area containing nine headstones marking the final resting place of WWII prisoners of war.  This base was one of many remote POW detention camps and some prisoners expired during their stay.  After VE day, the base personnel offered to exhume these folks but there was nowhere for them to return home to so they remained on US soil.

These are being kept up as well and receive the same dignity and attention as the US graves.

We also noticed that scampering about the base is a rather large herd of Antelope playing at home, on the range, without the deer…..guess they’re mad at them.

The buck seemed to be a bit agitated that I was getting a bit close to his posse.

Not wanting to take the bull by the horns, I slowly backed off and went about my business.

That evening, over dinner, we enjoyed a nice sunset over the flat plains of Wyoming.

There is little ambient light in the area of Warren AFB that we are camping in, which makes for spectacular star gazing.  While in Tucson, Dewey told me of a phone app called Google Sky which I have used many times since.  The app is inexpensive to download and much easier to understand and use then a traditional star wheel…..I highly recommend it!

Saturday, March 31, 2012:  Woke to an unseasonably warm morning with temperatures projected to be in the mid 70’s.  Last time we were in this area at this time of the year it was very cold, however Wyoming as much of the rest of the US is experiencing a winter that wasn’t.

Hit the road at 1000 and found our way onto US-25 which took us south toward Colorado where we crossed the state line a half hour later.  Nearing noontime we pulled off in Fort Collins at a nice rest area for lunch and to contact an acquaintance of our dear friend Henrietta.  There are some items she would like picked up and delivered to her home in Minnesota, and since we are in the area and in a week should be in Minnesota, we volunteered to transport them.  With the packages safely aboard we continued south toward the Denver suburb of Aurora for the evening.  Locating Cherry Creek State Park, we selected a nice full hook up site on the edge of a meadow and within walking distance of the reservoir.

After settling in, we made some calls to see if we could visit some friends and relatives that had relocated to the Denver Area.

As it turns out, and much to our disappointment, Kit’s nephew, Josh and his family are staying a few weeks at their condo in Florida so we will not be able to visit with them this trip.

However, the daughter of our old Navy friends Janice and Larry is available and invited us over for dinner.  Off we head a few miles to the east and have an incredible visit with Lora, Gary, Billy and Sarah.

The last time we saw Lora she was six years old and running the streets of Virginia Beach with our daughter Suzie.  Laura is a former Army medic and currently a nurse working in radiology.  Gary, a retired Navy submariner and diver, has had an interesting military career…..spending part of the time piloting a Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle.

After a very enjoyable meal and lots of conversation we returned to or camper for the evening.

Sunday, April 1, 2012:  WOW…..what a difference a day makes!  Woke to this incredible sight!!

There is a truck and trailer in there under all that snow…..it’s also April 1st, funny how stuff like that happens on that specific day of the year?!?!

It is actually warm and sunny so we decided to take another down day.  Kit spent the afternoon reading and knitting while I took off on my bike to explore this 4,000 acre state park.

The park features 35 miles of multi-use trails that wind through the woods and around the 880 acre reservoir, which on this, a warm weekend day, had plenty of activity.

The lake is a man made reservoir, one of many that surround the city of Denver.  Most are filled by large underground aqueducts that gravity feed snowmelt from high up in the Rocky Mountains.  The lakes are used for drinking water, firefighting, recreation and to minimize flooding from any rapid snowmelt.

Came upon these two Canadian visitors enjoying the sun and water as well.

Wonder where their Touque’s and Speedo’s are?

This park in Denver’s back yard also features a model airplane field with an archery range close by…..must be an unusual sporting event in the making.  There is also a gun range in a more isolated portion of the park.

Returning from my bike ride, and finding Kit snoozing in her lounge chair in the shade, I quietly put the bike away.  Then pulling out a few of my kites I made my way to the adjacent meadow to try the winds.  Now generally the best flying wind is near the ocean…..strong and consistent.  However due to the relatively flat terrain in this area I was able to enjoy a few hours of quality flying.

This is one of my newer kites.  It is a very lite, dual line delta and is fast and responsive…..flies kinda like a bumblebee on steroids!  What a blast!

All and all…..a great stay in the Denver area, our only regret was the inability to see Josh, Cindy and Calista.

Monday, April 2, 2012:  Pulled out of Cherry Creek State Park around 1000 under cloudy skies and temperatures in the 30’s…..yep, yesterday topped out at 79 degrees!  In addition there was a very strong wind coming out of the north.  Fortunately we were headed mainly east so other than a bit of buffeting, there should be little effect on our travels.

Wanting to stay off the Interstates, we pieced together a variety of US Highways, County Roads and Farm Roads to make our way toward Iowa.  We were on US-70 heading east for about an hour before deciding to take CR-36 which soon turned to dirt.

As you can see, the road was fairly smooth and we motored along without trouble for the next hour or so…..albeit trailing a large smoke screen worthy of a politician.

Frankly, this road was far more interesting than any Interstate.  First there were the cattle yards…..another interesting political metaphor.

Followed by farmers getting their fields ready for the April 11th planting.

Why April 11th?  Well apparently in this part of the country any farmer that tempts fate by planting early will not be reimbursed by Government Crop Insurance if their efforts fail.

Intersecting US-36 we continued east toward Anton, population 20, and jumped on CO-385 known as The High Plains Highway.  We soon wandered into Nebraska, and the Central Time Zone.  At 1945, dragging our keesters, we decided to pull off and stay the night at Johnson Lake State Park in Byers, Nebraska.  The campground was empty and the water was turned off, however there were no closed signed so we picked a spot next to the water and settled in for the night.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012:  Up early and departed the campground under cloudy skies and a temperature of 42 degrees.  The wind is still strong from the north, our direction of travel, so poor fuel economy is expected.

Johnson Lake State Park looks like a great place to spend a few days in warmer weather.  The lake is large and there are many homes and camps on the shore.  We never did see anyone so we left a note with a check for $10.00…..hope that covers the stay.

Stopped to fuel up in the small town of Bethel, Nebraska.  We pulled into a service station that thoughtfully memorialized the creatures that gave their lives so we could bounce about the US in a 10 MPG vehicle.

Within a half hour we crossed the Platte River and decided to hook up with I-80 to make better time.  Shortly before noon, and tiring of the interstate boredom we moved over to US-30, continuing east and pulled over in Columbus, Nebraska where we treated ourselves to lunch at Dairy Queen.

On the road and after a few hours we reached the town of Norfolk, Nebraska.  We traveled down the center of town on Johnny Carson Boulevard and pulled into a nice town park for a break.  Stretching our legs, we discovered a brand new municipal campground had been developed adjacent to the park.  In talking to the workmen we discovered that today was their official opening, though there were no campers yet.  Fighting the temptation to stay and become known as the first ever to register, we motored on toward a rendezvous with our old Navy friends in Iowa.

We spent the afternoon meandering through Nebraska farm country on US-20 before crossing the Missouri River around 1630 and then meandering through Iowa farm country on US-59.

In order to humor myself, I decided to change the language of the truck’s Driver Information Center to Spanish.  I then began to be informed of the vehicles, Odometro, Viaja, Radio Combust, Consumo Prom and Combust Consumido…..amazing the things that entertain the retiree mind!

Fortunately, before experimenting any more with the truck’s many options, we arrived in Cherokee, Iowa where we accepted the kind offer to Farmyard Surf at my buddy Larry’s family farmstead.

Stay tuned for the Adventures of the City Kid and The Iowa Farm Boy!  Coming soon to an inbox near you!!

Kit’s Corner:  We love wandering through the mountains and farmlands in the West/Midwest.  It seems with every turn we make, we discover new and interesting things to explore and often meet real interesting people to chat with.  I can’t imagine traveling any other way, at least for us.  We miss some of the big city offerings (at least I do), but we find crazy things along the countryside to investigate.  We were bummed to miss Josh, Cindy and Calista.  It’s been 3 years since we’ve seen them.  Next time, for sure.  We enjoyed our visit with Lora, Gary and kids.  We hadn’t seen Lora in nearly 40 years so had lots of things to catch up on.  It was good to meet Gary and the kids for the first time and what a hoot with Sarah, who seems to be a clone of Lora when she was younger.

Bill and Kit’s 2012 Excellent Adventure-Journal #10

Latitude: Wherever ••• Longitude: Who Cares

  In God’s wildness lies the hope of the world

 John Muir

Friday, March 23, 2012:  We reluctantly leave The Desert Eagle RV Park at Nellis Air Force Base and, more importantly we leave the hometown of our youngest, Suzie, her husband Kevin and our two special little guys, Jack and Tucker.

It is sunny and 69 degrees as we head north out of Las Vegas on I-15.

Within an hour we cross back into the Mountain Time Zone and enter the state of Utah, where we decided to pull off the road at Cedar City for fuel and lunch.

Back on the road and tiring of I-15 we move over to UT-20 and started climbing into the mountains as we make our way through the Dixie National Forest.

Transferring over to US-89 and then onto UT-12 we topped out at 7,920 feet before finding our way to Bryce Canyon National Park.

Flashing our senior pass we motored through the gate and found the only campground open this time of the year was Loop A of the North facility.  Being sparsely populated, we were able to select a nice secluded site for the next few days.

Yep…..that’s snow in the background, the current temperature is 59 degrees but the overnights have been below freezing and a few spring storms have recently cycled through.

As in most National Park camping facilities, there are no hookups.  However we will be fine in our cozy little camper.  Besides…..we have the benefit of The Bill and Kit Power and Light Company if the batteries should run low.

 

Saturday, March 24, 2012 through Monday, March 26, 2012-Bryce Canyon National Park:  Over the three days we spent here, most mornings were clear and cool with temperatures in the 40’s, and the afternoons were relatively warm and pleasant.  There were many birds and critters about, most too quick for me to capture on my camera.

Out for my usual morning amble about a newly arrived at campground, I ran into this unusual and surprising sight a short distance away.

This “trailer” was sitting in a campsite behind a Ford pickup.  It was either the most unusual camper in the world or someone has a real beef with the National Park Service!  Turns out this front nose of an authentic military jet was a static display used at air shows.  Colonel Steve, the gentleman that owned the jet bound trailer, was between shows and decided to spend a few days in the park.

The fuselage is the front of an F-4 phantom from the Vietnam days.  The canopy opens and folks can climb up, sit in one of the two seats, feel what it’s like to sit at the controls of a high performance jet and have their picture taken.  Although the fuselage is not outfitted as a camper, Steve has thought of making it into one.  While on the road he sleeps in his truck mounted camper.  Oh, and Colonel Steve is retired Air Force…..he just thinks the graphics of the Blue Angels team made for better photography.

Bryce Canyon is the upper “step” of the Grand Staircase of the Colorado Plateau.  It is followed by Zion National Park and The Grand Canyon, which is the bottom step.  Ironically, the visitor’s center of Zion National Park is situated in a canyon and the ones in Bryce Canyon and The Grand Canyon are located on their rims.  After making a few trips to each of these three jewels of the National Park system I can honestly say that my favorite is whichever I happen to be visiting at the moment.  They are all incredible, individually unique and worthy of repeated visits!

On the first morning at altitude I learned an important lesson about the physics of differential pressure.  Apparently when one opens a container of Yoplait Strawberry-Banana Yogurt at an elevation of 8,000 feet that was purchased at a store down at 2,000 feet…..a very colorful and somewhat messy surprise awaits.  Yea…..Kit wasn’t impressed.

This is our second visit to Bryce Canyon National Park, the first being four years ago which was too short and we vowed to return and explore this remarkable region further.  After a quick stop at the visitor’s center for information and maps we drove the 36 mile park road to get a feel for the park.

There are many turn offs and spurs that lead to overlooks featuring views of the incredible topography of this unique National Park…..such as this sight:

And this one:

Also this one:

And yet, another:

These fantastic geologic formations are called Fin’s, Spires, and my favorite formation, hoodoos, also called Fairy Rocks.  Hoodoos are tall thin towers of rock formed by the effect of rain and wind erosion on soft sedimentary rock.  Normally all the soft rock material would be eroded away at the same rate, however in some areas there is an overlying deposit of harder “cap-rock” that prevents this.

The erosion first creates “Fin’s:

And after a few seasons of vertical cracking caused by freezing, the fins deteriorate further and form either hoodoos which are flat topped, or spires which are kinda pointy.

This erosion process is ongoing and the terrain changes from year to year.  The red color comes from minerals trapped millions of years ago in the sedimentary layers of stone.  And, where hoodoos have little color there is less of these minerals.

Occasionally during the rocks transformation from a fin to a hoodoo a unique formation evolves called a window.

These penetrations through a fin of stone usually frame a spectacular image worthy of Mother Nature’s work.  Windows that reach the ground before the top falls in are known as Natural Bridges

A misnomer because flowing water had little to do with the formations development…..rather it was the usual forces of erosion caused by wind and rain on the softest portions of the stone.

One of the most photographed formations in the park is Thor’s Hammer……wonder how much longer before this pinnacle meets the same fate as new Hampshire’s Man in the Mountain formation did a few years back?

Note the shadow cast by Thor’s Hammer on the below canyon wall……a lot of photography, at least for me, is just pure dumb luck!

As incredible as the rock formations were, there was a lot more to keep our interest.  First off, at one of the overlooks, a pair of Raven were posing, much as models would.  They were very used to folks gawking as I was able to get within about six feet to capture the following photo.

His and/or her partner was a short distance away and didn’t appear to be very happy.

I guess I should of offered them a few dollars…..what do I know, there were no hand lettered signs or a tin can or anything!

 

Bryce Canyon, as other area National Parks, were on the Union Pacific Railroads sights for a destination stop.  So in 1924, the railroad folks built track to the park, constructed a lodge and started selling tickets.

The rail lines are long gone but the lodge, and surrounding cottages are still accommodating guests.

The lodge was built with local timbers and stone, try to do that in a National Park today, and the roofs feature a unique shingling pattern.

Oh by the way, that roof is dead flat…..the wavy look is an optical illusion created by how the shingle courses were laid down.  Pretty cool, huh?

One of the days Kit wanted some quiet time…..which is my signal to go away and play.  Since I had read that the two must-do’s while at Bryce Canyon National Park was to view the hoodoos under a full moon and the other being hiking to the bottom of the canyon to walk amongst them.  Since a full moon was another week and a half away, that will have to wait until our next visit.  However, with a whole day to myself a nice long hike was in the making.

Stopping at the visitor’s center for more detailed maps and consultation with the very knowledgeable ranger, I mapped out a nice route that linked three of Bryce Canyon’s premier hikes into a loop trek of about eight miles…..and best of all, I could depart from our campsite!

So at 0915, with pack, food, water and trekking poles I started off.  The Rim Trail passed about 50 yards from the campsite and it connected with one of the below the rim paths called The Queens Garden Trail.

I began to understand the attraction of hiking in this canyon as I dropped below the rim and became eye-to-eye with the formations.

The path meandered through this incredible landscape as it descended some 600 feet over patches of snow and ice.

As I reached the cool canyon floor the Queens Garden Trail intersected with the Peekaboo Trail.

From this unique vantage point the fins and hoodoo’s soared above my head…..making me appreciate the relative insignificance of man when in nature.

Veering off on the Peekaboo Trail the path rose and fell in elevation…..

…..as it looped around the famous Cathedral Formation.

And through narrow canyon passages.

Where the trail could not go around, over or under a particular fin…..a tunnel had been carved.

The following formation was shown earlier in the journal…..however it takes on a whole different look from this perspective.

At midday, the sun reached into the canyon depths, the temperature rose rapidly and the formations seemed to glow.

Along the trail there were many window’s…..this particular arrowhead shaped one caught my eye and camera.

By midafternoon, I was climbing out of the canyon by way of the Navajo Trail.

Once on top, I retraced my steps on the Rim Trail back to the campsite and spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing and reflecting on the day.  The overall elevation loss and gain on this hike was reported to be 1,631 feet, much of which came from the rise and fall of the Peekaboo Trail on the canyon floor.  By comparison, most of my favorite trails back home feature more elevation change but are summit treks so the gain all comes in the beginning.  The hikes in Bryce Canyon require you to start at the highest elevation and descend, which of course means that at the end of the day, when you are likely the most fatigued, you have to climb back up to the canyon rim.  However it is all well worth it.  It is my opinion to truly experience the magic of Bryce canyon; one must make the trek to the bottom and pause frequently to take it all in.

On the final morning, we woke to a blanket of new fallen snow and bright blue skies.

The accumulation was less than two inches…..however with the wind blowing, drifts reached 5 inches or more!  Fortunately with four wheel drive we were not camp bound so off to the visitor’s center once more to take a leisurely look at the films and displays.

Since a few photos of the canyon with the fresh snowfall and blue sky as accents seemed appropriate…..we drove some of the park road and stopped at selected overlooks.

Like other National Parks we have enjoyed, Bryce takes on a different appearance depending on the time of day and the season of the year.

I bet today would be a great choice to trek down into the canyon and walk among the hoodoos, fins and spires.

However the Rangers are advising against it as the snowfall combined with the overnight temperatures have made some of the trails a bit treacherous.

Back at our campsite we visited with an interesting neighbor.  Dan, a retired HVAC engineer from Colorado, is traveling in a nifty rig.

A one ton Dodge sporting a Lance camper, pulling a flatbed trailer housing a modified jeep and a BMW off road capable motorcycle…..now that guy has his priorities straight!

Well tomorrow we head east, or maybe north, or maybe north east…..time will tell!

Kit’s Corner:  We had a real nice and relaxing time in Bryce Canyon.  Well, I should clarify; I had a nice relaxing time.  Bill is always up and outdoors doing something, anything.  He can’t be cooped up in the trailer during the daylight hours; it drives him (and me) nuts.  So, I take the time to read, knit, play on the computer, get my little bit of housework done and fix dinner.  This system works well for us as it gives us both time to do the things we enjoy.