Monday, August 8, 2016
So, if you are interested, here's an album of pictures from the whole trip:
Saturday, August 6, 2016
I got home around 8:00 last night! It was a long day of driving, but it was worth it because I got to have dinner with my friend Kathy in Front Royal before I drove the last 50 miles!
Columbus, Ohio is a bit like the modern equivalent if Chimney Rock, after you get past Columbus, the corn, the flat & the prairie are over! It was a nice change in scenery, but the curves and the narrow road made things exciting! West Virginia is the same rude awakening! As much as the flat cornfields aren't much to look at, it's really easy to just the cruise and go!
I wasn't too happy about getting home late in the day, but it ended up working out! Last night I did the bare minimum of unpacking - removed my bike, emptied the fridge so I could disconect the battery, and got my iPad pretty much. Then this morning I gave my house a good cleaning before trashing it will all the stuff from the RV. And, since I wasn't feeling rushed to unpack I made a point of putting everything away as I brought it in from the RV. I've already gotten all the dishes washed and most of the laundry done! I also too advantage of the fact that my home refrigerator is empty and gave it deep cleaning!
I'm now trying to get all my pictures into one file on my computer so I can post a slide show. Having a separate camera and not just using my phone means there are more pictures!
Thursday, August 4, 2016
One long day of driving across the flat cornfields deserves a day to play right? I hope so because today I didn't drive very far, but I had a lot of fun!
I drove about 200 miles (long boring miles...) to Dayton, Ohio. I crossed my final time zone line less than hour after leaving Kickapoo so that kind threw things off, even though I'd been trying to switch over as soon as I woke up knowing it was coming.
My first stop in Ohio was Huffman Prarie Visitor center which is part of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park and got me a stamp in my passport book! I didn't spend long there - there wasn't much to see and I didn't have a lot of time. I did learn about the North Country National Scenic Trail, which is going to be a bit like the Appalachian Trail when it's finished. It goes from Burlington, VT to North Daktoa via Ohio, Michican, Wisconsin and Minnesota. I also learned about the Buckeye Trail, which is a long distance trail here in Ohio. Parts of the Buckeye and North Country trails are paved for biking. In fact, I was riding on the Buckeye Trail, which is also the North Country Trail later when I was riding the Little Miami Scenic Trail.
Next I made my way over to John Bryan State Park to get a campsite for the night, and after that I went into Yellow Springs to ride my bike on the Little Miami Scenic Trail - which is in the Rail Trail Hall of Fame! When I was in high school we lived in Cincinnati and I've been on the portion of the trail near Cincinnati and Loveland, but I hadn't been out here. I rode from Yellow Springs to Xenia. It was very nice - it was paved! And smooth! And flat! Mostly, there were a few gentle hills but it was mostly flat! I was zooming along! Did 20 miles in and hour and forty-five minutes! I think that the fastest I've ever gone! (Not that it's about speed but I was on a schedule today...)
After my bike ride I met my friend Ashley at Young's Jersey Dairy for dinner, ice cream, goat petting and catching up! Ashley and I worked together for 4 years, she was an ESOL teacher and she recently moved to Beavercreek, Oh. It was great to see her here and catch up, even though it's only been a few weeks. I'm looking forward to coming back to the area and seeing her again!
This is also a bit of trip down memory lane for me. Summer of 1997 when I was admin staff at Camp Joy, Mike McGinty, who was in his first year as summer camp director brought the admin team here, to John Bryan State Park for a camping trip and we went to Young's Dairy for ice cream, and listened to Bare Naked Ladies If I had a million dollars at least a million times. That was a great bonding trip, we had so much fun together!
Hard to believe that tonight is my last night on the road. Tomorrow I'll be home!
Wednesday, August 3, 2016
I had to get serious about driving or it was going to take weeks to get home and I have some commitments next week, so today's focus was driving. No stopping to play, just driving. Well...
Woke up to thick fog! Wow! It's so dry out west that having enough moisture in the air for fog was something new! The fog burned off the lake fairly quickly, but as I was driving it was lingering in the valleys!
I was gong along great until about 11, that's when I saw the sign "Amana Colonies, next two exits". My Dad and I had had a conversation about the Amana Colonies and I was pretty sure it was because it was a NPS site and I could get a passport stamp. Without stopping to check my information I got off at the exit and followed the signs to the visitor center, which was about 10 minutes from the highway. I figured it would be a good lunch stop and maybe I could get in some steps. When I got there it sure didn't look like a NPS site - the town was a bunch of shops and resteraunts. Hmmm... I parked at the Visitor Center and got out my passport book. Amana Colonies was not one of the two NPS sites in Iowa. I'd headed here on a total wild goose chase! Oh well, the town looked interesting, I'd walk for a bit. The Amana Colonists were groups of Germans who settled in the area and joined forces to pool resources so they could save money and send for relatives back in Germany (I think, I didn't read the whole sign, it was hot!) There wasn't a whole lot to see, I did find a vidialla onion peppercorn dressing that is similar to one we got in Sisters, OR last summer, so that was good!
I'd checked the map and learned that I could take US6 back to 80 and not have to retrace my steps to get back, making my little detour a little less off route. I also found a nice county park to have lunch in!
I'd told myself I'd spend an hour exploring the Amana Colonies, but with lunch it took a bit longer. So, now I really had to focus on driving. That is, until I saw the sign for the Herbert Hoover Presidential National Historic Site. From having just looked at the passport book, I knew this was in fact one of the two NPS sites in Iowa. I couldn't resist.
Luckily this visitor center is maybe a mile from the highway. I was able to get in,meet my stamp, learn a few things about Hoover (he was the 1st President born west of the Mississippi! (By 50 miles!) And his VP was the First Native American VP. ) He also had a Rapidan Camp in Shenandoah National Park, and I've been there several times. I also got a picture of his birthplace house! This would have been a nicer hour stop if I hadn't already stopped at the Amana Colonies. Oh well, maybe next time!
I really did spend the rest of the day driving and it wasn't much fun. Illionis is so flat and boring.
I drove so much today I had to get fuel twice! And both times were frustrating. It's because of biodiesel. Biodiesel is made of corn I believe, which is a great thing, we have a lot of corn growing in the US and to be able to use it power vehicles is awesome. However, Mercedes says "don't put biodiesel in your Sprinter." It has a different firing point that Ultra-low sulphur diesel and will leave soot in the engine which will eventually destroy the engine. So, I try to avoid it. If I don't have a choice I'll use it, but I try to find brands that don't have biodiesel. Today I was totally unsuccessful. This morning I went to a BP - theirs is usually not biodiesel, and the pump wasn't marked as being biodiesel, but she couldn't sell it to me because someone spilled pop on the keyboard and fried the circuit. My fuel light was on at this point so I had to go to the other fuel station and get bio. The next stop I visited 5 gas stations. 2 didn't have diesel at all and the 3 that did were all bio. So I put it in again. This is more of a problem here in the Midwest so hopefully my next refuel will be basic ultra low sulphur!
I'm camping tonight at Kickapoo State Recreation Area. This is my 3rd time at this park and I really enjoy it! The campground is big and the sites are big! $20 a night for an electric site! And, I have excellent cell signal! First time since Kansas that I've had LTE signal in the campground! There's not that many people here tonight, it's quiet except for the crickets!
Tuesday, August 2, 2016
The Rails-To-Trails Conservancy recently published a guidebook to all the Rail-Trail Hall of Fame trails and that has helped me discovery some trails that I want to ride! One of them, The Wabash Trace Nature Trail was right outside Council Bluffs, Iowa, just off I-80!
It was about 200 miles from Ft. Kearny to the trailhead. It was all flat Nebraska farm land! I wonder if part of why Nebraska wasn't quite so boring this time was because I broke it down better? Last time I did it all at once, just drove straight through. Nebraska does have some nice state parks so maybe next time I'll slow down even more!
I got to the trailhead at noon. It was very easy to find, even though I missed the exit I wanted because of construction! I was able to get off at the next exit and take a different route in. Go google maps! I did discover later that I could have stayed on 80 and avoided the whole I-29 and construction stuff!
There was a picnic table at the trailhead park so I ate lunch then got my bike all ready to go! Dad had looked up the trail online and read some negative reviews and I was concerned because it was the middle of the day and it was hot! Not as hot as Nebraska had been, but still 80s/90s. Well, I was in luck, the trail was almost entirely in the shade! How they got those trees to grow right over the train tracks I'll never know, but it was shady and cool with only a few spots of full sun!
The trail was also in excellent condition! Smooth crushed stone & hard packed dirt! Perfect for riding! So,e of the road crossings were dirt roads and had deep loose gravel, but it was short! There wasn't much scenery, just a green tunnel, but occasionally the trees would open up to rolling Iowa farm country
The trail also wasn't flat! I sort of expected it to be because most rail trails are, but Iowa isn't flat so why would the trail be? It was a perfect mix of up and down - the trail climbed for the first 5 miles, then went down for the second 5 miles. I turned around just as it was going up again! The climb was steady but gentle - enough to get a work out but not so much that I was hating life! And it was enough of a grade that the downhill was fun! I could coast a lot!
Right by the trailhead park there's an ice cream place, the Tasty Treet! They were a bit like a Dairy Queen with chocolate and vanilla soft serve and shakes and sundaes and stuff. The lady in front of me got a chocolate cone and it looked really good so I got the same...it was very tasty! And only cost a $1!
Back at the van I got a shower (love that I can just clean up wherever I am!) and then went over to a Hy-Vee grocery store. I'd never heard of Hy-Vee so I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was a great store! One of the best I've been in! I only needed 2 things but I spent awhile looking around.
Then it was back on 80 headed to Lake Anita State Park. I camped here three years ago on my way to Colorado and I'd been looking forward to coming back. It's a lovely campground, right on a small lake. When I was here before it was right before July 4th and the place was packed, tonight, not so much! Over half the sites were available. I drove around twice picking my site. One thing they do here, which is really annoying, is they put the picnic table right smack in the middle of the site, so in order to get into the site you have to park your vehicle, get out and drag the picnic table out of the way. Picnic tables are heavy and hard to move. But, I got it moved and backed into my site!
I used the convection over for dinner again tonight and it didn't set off the smoke alarm! YAY! After dinner I took my bike out to ride the 5 mile loop around the lake! It was a lovely ride! This lake is so nice! I stopped at the top of the hill where I had better signal for the phone (I'm seriously over having awesome signal during the day when I don't have time or interest in email/Facebook/etc and then having none in the campground, all summer it's been like that!).
I sat at the picnic table and blogged and chatted with my neighbor while the sun set! It's gotten nice and cool too!
Monday, August 1, 2016
As I mentioned yesterday there was some confusion about the where I was going today, my goal was Chimney Rock, which I learned about in The Ten Best of Everything National Parks book, there was also Scotts Bluff National Mounment which seemed to be a bit of a mystery. Since the monument was just a few miles from the campground I went there first thing to check it out.
Wow! What a neat spot! Scotts Bluff is a huge collection of bluffs and badlands (like in South Dakota) that just rises up out of nowhere! It's all flat and then there's the bluff! It's long and high! And the wagon trains on the Oregon, California and Mormon Trails all went over it, as did the Pony Express. Well, at first they had to go around it until they built a passage over Mitchell Pass! This was the first scenery change the pioneers had seen in months and it signaled that their journal, from Independance, MO was 1/3 over.
You can drive to the top of bluff and it's really neat to see all the flat that surrounds it! The road up is only a mile, but it's twisty and has 3 tunnels. Large vehicles are prohibited, but the Ranger at the entrance station said my van would be fine. They have a free shuttle that will take you up, but the Ranger seemed to be encouraging me to drive myself up, so I did.
At the top there are two short trails to take you out to viewpoints. There's a third trail that leads down to the visitor center but it's closed in the middle because of a rock slide. I was glad I was here early (they open at 8, I wasn't sure but came out early) because it was already hot, however the low angle of the sun made taking pictures to the east really hard! After I checked out all the views I headed back down to the visitor center.
Next I checked out the visitor center and got the all important passport stamp! The video and exhibits were very informative! Not only was the bluff important to the pioneers, but it has a lot of geological significance. All told I spent an hour and half here , before getting fuel and moving on down the road.
My next stop was Chimney Rock, which is about 30 miles away. You can almost see Scotts Bluff from Chimney Rock! There isn't as much to do at Chimney Rock, it's mostly just a visitor center and you can view the rock. There are numerous signs warning of rattlesnakes and cautioning everyone to stay on the sidewalk, so you just look at the rock from afar and check out the exhibits. Chimney rock also has geological significance, it was an old volcano! They had a neat map on the will of all the historic trails and it seems they just built the highway right over the old trail - I-80 and US26 were both pretty much the route of the Oregon Trail.
Chimney Rock is further east than Scotts Bluff so the pioneers saw it first and it was a signal that the prairie was just about over. This was good news and bad. The good news is that they'd made it a really long way and had a lot of celebrating to do. The bad news was that the terrian was changing and the mountains presented their own challenges. It was a moment of victory and fear of what's coming. Having driven across the county I can really relate to what the pioneers must have felt at that moment, granted I'm traveling in luxury, but even at 70 mph, the prairie is long!
After Chimney Rock it was time to get serious about driving. I wasn't sure where I was going to end up tonight, but it had to further east than where I was. I headed down 26 for almost 100 more miles of nothing. I got on I-80 at Ogallala and it was actually a relief! The US route is nice because you see more, but the interstate is easier driving. I crossed into central time and lost an hour! Ugh! Traveling east!
I decided to call it a day in Kearny, NE, which is the site of Ft. Kearny, a stop on the Oregon Trail! I didn't stop at the State Historic Park with the fort, I just continued on to the state recreation area that has a campground. The campground has 110 sites and maybe 40 are filled! It's only minutes from I-80, has electric hook ups, is only $20 a night and it's very nice! The sites are spaced out, almost all on small lakes (although the lakes do have an "aroma") that are part of the North Platte River's marshy area. There are also huge trees providing lots of shade! It's a big park so after dinner I got my bike to explore. I have a cell signal so I was able to update my blog! It was actually rather nice to sit outside! There was a breeze and some clouds that cooled things off!
Around 7:45 the gal from the pay kiosk came around to tell everyone there was severe weather to our west and it was expected here in about an hour. She said it was high winds and rain but no tornadoes. I've been keeping an eye out but so far nothing is coming (it's now 9pm). There are clouds off to the southwest but the sun just went down in a blaze of glory and now the crickets and frogs are getting going! The breeze that was so nice has even died down. Some rain would be nice, I haven't had a rainy day since July 2 in Salina, KS!
Sunday, July 31, 2016
When I bought my new book I took it right over to the passport station and stamped it, the book is arranged by region and then state so I had a list of all the National Parks in Wyoming and discovered there was only one I hadn't been to, Ft. Laramie. Hmmmm...where was Ft. Laramie?
Surprisingly, it was right on route! I was planning to take US26 all the way across Wyoming into Nebraska to get to 80. I was planning on stopping at Chimney Rock - it was mentioned in the Top Ten National Parks book and looked interesting as a quickie stop. Ft. Laramie was 50 miles from Scottsbluff!
I left Colter Bay a bit after 8 this morning and started driving east! I had a hard time getting out of the Tetons since I kept stopping for more pictures! There was no smoke today and the first 20 or some miles of US26 climbed high to get over Togwotee Pass (9658 ft) and had views the whole way up that I had to stop to look at since I was heading east! After the pass it was all downhill - elevation and scenery. It quickly turned to desert and wide open nothingness.
I stopped for lunch at Boysen State Park. It appears that the state park goes around a lake, probably a reservoir, but I just stopped at the picnic area that was along 26 and sat at the one table that was under a cover. It was almost 100 degrees!
I was very surprised by Caspar - it's a huge city! Biggest city I've seen since Colorado Springs! After Caspar, 26 joined up I-25. It was really more of the same, just 4 lanes instead of two. And the speed limit was 80 rather than 70 (although I was still going 70). Finally I reached the turn off where 26 goes east and 30 miles later reached Ft. Laramie.
Ft. Laramie was really neat! It's the meeting place of three historic trails - The Oregon Trail, The California Trail, The Mormon Pioneer Trail and the Pony Express came through! It was a major stopping spot for all the pioneers! Most of the stuff on display was about the officers and military installment of the fort, I was more interested in the pioneers, but it was still a good stop to walk around (yes it was 100 degrees and the sun was blazing!) and got my passport stamped! Now I've got them all for Wyoming!
Most of the road I've been driving was part of the Oregon Trail. I can't even imagine making this trip in a wagon. And not only that, the pioneers didn't even ride in the wagons, they packed the wagons with their supplies and walked! Just walking around the fort today I was thinking about what it would be like to walk across the desert! And I thought it was long and slow to drive!
It was 4:30 when I left Ft. Laramie and it was so hot I decided I'd rather keep driving the 50 miles to Scottsbluff rather than stop at one of the overnight options that were closer. I found a lovely campground in a city park - Riverside Park. There were plenty of sites available and the ones that were filled seemed like normal campground people, not many permants, a mix of RVs and trailers, even some tenters. I got a water/electric site for $20 and settled right in!
Since I had electric I decided to use my convection oven for the first time ever to heat up dinner. This involved pre-heating the oven then cooking. Took me a few tried but I managed to get the over preheating! Since it had never been used for this purpose there was some dust on the heating element that had to burn off as well as some crumbs in the microwave that burned a bit. This was apparently enough for the smoke dectector to think something was on fire! I had the sliding door open and was standing right there and head this beeping...it wasn't the oven...oh! The smoke dectector! Ha! Well, I'm glad it works!
After dinner I took a walk on the walking path I'd found near the campground. It had gotten cloudy and the wind kicked up which cooled things off and made it very nice outside! The one path lead to a nice paved bike path that went along the North Platte River! The bike path wasn't very long though so I was glad I was just walking!