Eastern Utah
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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Weekend in Monterey

The drive on I-5 from Sacramento was fairly boring, as I-5 always is. I think it looks like moonscape except for when you pass orchards and crops. I turned toward Monterey and the road goes up to the Pacheko Pass in the same nondescript terrain, but when it starts down the mountain things sure change on the western side. Trees, lots of them!

I did pretty well following the directions and getting through the heavy traffic that is always on Highways 1 and 101, and got through Monterey and to Steve's house with no problems. The man from OZ, GPS Lee, finally settled down when he realized I wasn't going to go through the San Francisco Bay area to get there. I suppose if I could drive around Chicago I could - NAH, Chicago drivers are pussycats compared to California drivers. I'm glad I went the way I did.

The birthday party was held at the small park about a block from the house. I took a picture of Liam's cake, a toolbox, and the cupcakes for the rest of us. Each is decorated with "tools" made out of vanilla and dark chocolate - pliers, saw, wrench, etc. Donald really outdid himself again. My son Steve is one of the ultimate "fix-it" men, and his son Liam will no doubt learn from his dad.

I drove down on Saturday morning, and returned on Monday morning. After everyone left Sunday we drove along the beach and into Monterey where we ate at a seafood restaurant. Great meal, and even greater company!

I was extremely tired by the time I got back, and don't want to drive anywhere for a while. I figured out that in about 3-1/2 months I drove 10,000 miles! I can tell that I'm feeling the tiredness more than I ever did before, so it's time to settle down and find a place to live for a while, and become reunited with my belongings! I will be so happy to not have storage fees any more.

Friday, August 26, 2011

A bit of elation and disappointment

I have the transplant date set for Oct. 11. I hated to wait that long, but the Dr. is out most of September, so I don't have a choice. While I was in his office yesterday he performed a small laser procedure that should help me see more clearly in my left eye. Cataract surgery encapsulates a new lens, and the area of encapsulation can often turn cloudy, thus requiring laser removal. I think I have that right. So I am elated to finally have a date set for the surgery.

I've been looking for an apartment/house, and visited a site I have looked at previously, featuring four cabins on an old ranch in the Gold Country. I didn't go to look at them last time because it is so far from Sacramento, but yesterday afternoon decided to take Lady and go for a drive. I was absolutely enchanted with the scenery and terrain, and fell in love with the site of the cabins. I phoned the real estate company which handles the rentals and was told they were all occupied. The web site hadn't been updated, and the agent was thankful that I pointed it out - by the time I got home the information had been corrected.

Even though I was disappointed I realized it is really too far away from Sacramento considering the required visits to the eye surgeon, as well as those to get the tests recommended by the cardiologist. I am looking for something at about half the distance but can't find any rentals except at a large RV park in the area. I was put off by the age limitations for RV's, depending on what type of rental and for how long. I had found a Class C that I might have considered except for the fact that it didn't make the age limit. I think I'll just hold off on the RV search and try to find a 6 month lease on a sticks & bricks rental.

I'm off to Monterey tomorrow, where the temps are at least 30 degrees cooler than in Sacramento - mid 60's. I'm ready for that kind of weather, and have dug out long pants and shirts to wear. The birthday party will begin at about 12:30, and I plan to stay a few days visiting.

I only took one picture last weekend on the camping trip - just after setting up my tent. It was a nice level spot with trees that provided shade during a big part of the day, and right in the path of the moon traveling overhead during the night. As you can see, I didn't put the rain fly on the tent, and I was able to go to sleep looking at the stars. The moon made it look like daylight during the time it was traveling over.

I took a couple of photos on my trip to Gold Country but was really disappointed. I used the digital camera, couldn't see a thing in the crappy screen, and the pictures aren't worth showing. I am soon going to buy a digital camera with a viewfinder.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Weekend camping trip

I spent an enjoyable weekend camping with Jeanne (dau) and Joe (son) and their spouses & kids. Donald's Mom also came along on her first camping trip, and although I'm not sure what she really thought of it she was a very good sport.

I arrived at the campground first and set up my tent. The sites were nearly all empty, but a man and woman nearby were friendly. The man asked if I needed any help setting up my tent and I told him I could probably manage. He came over and helped me anyway, and the tent went up about 50% faster. I appreciated the assistance.

I finally got my car in for an oil change this afternoon. The yellow "Maint Reqd" light came on somewhere in Montana or Idaho, and I took the owner's manual into the motel room that evening to see what the light was indicating. I drove about 6000 miles from purchase to oil change, so I was about 2k miles overdue. I wish I didn't have that annoying light. I managed to get oil changes done regularly in my Ford truck, and didn't need a light to remind me.

I have thought a lot about it and decided that I will cut back to maybe blogging once a week or whenever I have something to blog about. Since I'm not traveling, and since I'm primarily looking for housing and waiting for medical appointments, there is no reason to bore anyone with uninteresting details. Besides, when I blog about most non-travel-related subjects I seem to draw more criticism for my viewpoints than I really want to deal with.

So until something exciting or at least interesting happens, I'm taking a rest and giving you one as well.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Blind Spot

To answer the comment from Anonymous that I should quit driving before I kill myself and others on the road, I will say I think everyone has a blind spot, and we learn about that when we learn to drive. We make adjustments such as turning our heads to look as well as checking the rear view and side mirrors. I do all this, and usually have no problem at all.

When I began to notice on my last day of driving that I was not able to check this blind spot, I realized it was probably the mirror on the right side that needed adjustment, and did so. I now have a much better view of what is coming up alongside of me. I miss the mirrors on the truck, and I got accustomed to the excellent view I had with those.

So to Anonymous and to anyone else who think I should hang up my keys, I would say . . . nah, I won't say it. I will tell you I think I have the problem solved and will keep alert to see if it happens again. The last thing I want to do is to kill myself or anyone else, so I'm going back to the AAA method of setting the mirrors to eliminate, or at least alleviate the problem of a blind spot.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Sacramento, CA

I left Klamath Falls around 8:00 am and I had the road all to myself, US97 and I-5S, until I reached Redding. From there on the traffic was heavy, and the driving habits of CA drivers came back to me. They sure scare me!

Every time I see Mt. Shasta my heart does funny things, and this was no exception. You may have to click on the pictures to get a glimpse of the mountain from such a distance.

I managed to get pictures from a viewing point along the way, but most aren't on my digital camera and I guess I took them all with the film camera. I need to shoot about 5 more pics and then have it developed. This mountain is so scenic, and there are two large glaciers to be seen from the scenic view point where I stopped. The third picture shows a glacier on the left side just down from the peak, and another one a bit further down on the right.

California does some really nice things with the median strips on the freeways. Here it's planted with oleander, and sometimes there is bottle brush.

I am fortunate to have seen two very beautiful places in two days - Crater Lake and Mt. Shasta. Both look promising as places to camp and explore further. I just don't want to do it by myself.

Yesterday evening we gave Lady a bath to try to get some of the excess fur off of her. She is clean and shiny but still sheds like crazy, and I know there is no cure for that. This morning I drove to the storage unit here and dropped off all the parts to my tent. My boxes arrived from Asheville and they all fit into the storage, but 4 still need to be moved as Jeannie & Donald ran out of room in their van when moving the other boxes. I have quite a task before me to see what I will keep and what I will get rid of out of those boxes.

My granddaughters seemed to have grown so much since I left in May. The younger one turned two in June, and is talking so much more now. She woke up very early this morning and hung out with me and Lady for a long time. I still have 2 more granddaughters to see here in Sac, plus a grandson in Monterey. The California family will be heading for Monterey towards the end of August to celebrate Liam's first birthday.

While I was enroute Jeannie called the eye surgeon for me and had my appointment moved up a whole month. I'm anxious to get the next surgery over with. I've noticed a big change in my eyesight the past few days, and have missed seeing several vehicles on my right - I guess I've developed a blind spot. Nothing serious happened, but I'm warned and uncomfortable with all but very local driving until I get it fixed. Damn, that's one of the things I hate about growing old.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Klamath Falls, OR

I started out from Pendleton this morning and pulled into the Shell station next door to refuel. I was surprised to see a young man by the pump waiting for me to swipe my card so he could pump the gas. He told me that a new Oregon state law (or maybe an initiative that isn't binding?) was for full service at gas stations. He said it was to create more jobs, and to that I say Hallelujia! I always loved fuel stops in NJ as they never went to self service. But after years of pumping my own fuel it feels sort of weird to stand by, so the next time I stopped I told the kid that I was going inside and that I wanted my receipt. When I came back out the tank was full and the receipt was under the windshield wiper. I'm all for providing an alternative for young kids to find employment somewhere other than McDonalds and fast food places, and I don't mind paying a couple cents more at the pump. I'd rather give it to a kid who is working for it than a huge oil company who has been gouging us on the price of gas for a long time.

Next I want to thank Bob C. for his comment on Lewiston being in Idaho. I ALWAYS get it mixed up, whether inputting it to the GPS or mapquest, and I usually get some sort of response such as "No Match". There are so many places with Lewis in their names in this part of the country that I just can't keep up with it. And he mentioned that wheat was farmed on the hillsides, and I have a ocuple of photos below showing the wheat fields before and after harvest. The wheat is a beautiful golden color and you can't miss it.

I really like Eastern Oregon. It is stark in appearance, high desert, and beautiful. Here are a couple of photos of what appear to be trees that were purposefully planted, but they are so close together I can't imagine what they are. The photos were taken along I-84, and that is the Columbia River to the right.

By the time I was nearing the end of today's journey I was really sick of all the small towns along US 97. The speed limit is 55, and then you must slow to 45, 35, 30, and often 25. Even after driving 55, 25 seems like a crawl. I was ready to drive non-stop to Sacramento after a while. Then I approached the turn-off to the northern entrance to Crater Lake. I pulled over and called the Klamath Falls Motel 6 to make sure I could get a room this evening, and then headed for Crater Lake.

Don't cry, Texas and Oklahoma, but in the middle of August there is still snow on the ground from last winter! I think the road I was driving on reached about 7682 feet in elevation.

I have never seen anything so gorgeous! It definitely requires a return trip, and I think one of these days or years, there will be a camping trip for my granddaughter and me: Crater Lake, Lake Shasta, and Lassen Volcanic NP for starters.

And FINALLY, (sorry to be so wordy), I have had a number of people comment that I drive too many miles in a day, that I should slow down and enjoy it more, take it easy, etc. Judy and I have discussed this a number of times, and yesterday in an exchange of emails I wrote this to her, and she suggested that I post it to my blog, so here it is. It's just the way I feel now, and I don't expect many RVers to agree, nor do I want them to. Everyone should live and explore in the manner that is comfortable to them. I sure hope Judy wasn't kidding me about posting it!

"I've really enjoyed the scenery - the open vistas and the closed in forests. I love taking pictures but I'm no photographer; I don't see well enough to distinguish birds, although I can see small animals they are usually too quick for me to grab my camera. Long gone are the days when I tried to see and do everything, walk through endless museums, dioramas, etc. and read every memorial board I came across.

This country is incredibly beautiful, even in the areas that look mediocre to begin with and I can drive along and wonder what life was like a hundred or a thousand years ago, who were the Norwegians that came to places that were so tough to live in, and what will happen now that their children are long gone from states like North Dakota. What would it have been like on the Plains when huge buffalo herds roamed there, and what about the Indians who revered and used them. These are the things I think about when driving, and what I enjoy most.

I will have to add that I saw directions today to a museum that I think I would like to visit, and I'll make a note to return to it someday. It is the Museum of the High Desert. Why do I want to see that and not another? I have no idea except that I've always been interested in high desert - but sure wouldn't want to live in one!

Friday, August 12, 2011

A great day on the road again!

Today was a good day, travel-wise. The sun was shining all day, and the only road work I ran into was about 40 miles from my destination. I had a bit of a wait - on the two lane highways they have to make one lane stop and wait until the highway gods decide it's the other side's turn. It works pretty well, especially if you just settle down, turn off the ignition, and be patient. Then it's just a mild irritation.

I left Missoula and the best motel I've stayed in so far at about 8 am. When I checked in the night before and saw the cleanliness and newness of the bathroom, paricularly the tub/shower, I brought in all my supplies for a leisurely shower including the razor and gel for my legs. I have been gaining an hour every other day or so, and my sleep habits haven't quite caught up to the time zone I'm in. That's why I always get an early start, but then I love the early stops as well.

The drive through Lewiston, OR was a piece of cake; through Clarkston wasn't quite as easy, and Walla Walla was a mess, but that was mostly because of the GPS and its directions. I do not like the way they announce street names. It might be fine if you are driving around a big city, but when you just want to get through quickly, it seems like following the route signs is much easier. I don't want to look for Court Street, just tell me that it's Route 12 I am following. I gave Lee the Aussie a fit when I left Missoula this morning, and finally had to add a way point to get him to stifle it. US 12 West was 1 block away from my motel but he wanted to route me to the nearest interstate, and after about 10 miles of recalculating I had composed a sizzling letter to Garmin about it. I didn't write it down, of course, so I have forgotten it by now.

Readers of this blog may remember that I drove some miles on US 12 through western Montana, N. Dakota and S. Dakota on my way to NY. I wanted to do more of it on the way back. At least a year ago and it may have been 2 years ago, I was enthralled by the blog of Diana, Life on the Open Road, as she described her travels across US 12. Those who read her know she usually travels with a group, so they have many stops and good fun along the way, and that trip was no exception. I almost veered up to Helena to see the state capitol building that she described. Now I plan to go back and re-read her blog entries for that trip and this time I will be familiar with some of the places she mentions. I plan to drive that route several more times, and next time I hope to stop more often.

A few readers have commented that I drive too many miles and don't take it easy enough. I started off the trip trying to slow down, and I did to a great extent. Two things have speeded me up - I am paying from $40 to $60+ a night for motels, and I am tired of handing out that kind of money. But another reason is my need for a cornea transplant on my right eye. I hope when I'm healed from that I can see much better. It is difficult to drive some times, although I manage to drive in little or no traffic, and follow safe driving practices that everyone should follow - keep to the speed limit, leave plenty of room between you and the vehicle in front of you, and stop when you're tired. I have done very well with it, and maybe next time I will have a camper of some sort so that I don't have the outrageous motel costs.

AND, I have always believed that people should hike their own hike - or in this case drive their own drive. I'm not a museum goer nor a sightseer. There are places I would like to stop at but most of the time lack the incentive without someone to share it with. That's the way I do it, and I'm happy enough with it.

There were lots of pull-outs today, but sometimes there is no scenery when you get there. These were taken from Missoula to Lewiston - a very winding road. I arrived before there was any traffic to speak of and had a really pleasant drive. I wouldn't recommend it for anyone who gets carsick from twisting and turning. You may guess I hate to pass a creek without snapping a picture.

These were taken from Walla Walla down to Pendleton. I am always amazed at Eastern Oregon, as I think rainforest, lush, and green when I hear Pacific Northwest. Eastern Oregon looks like another planet sometimes. The brown hills are probably much like California's - they would be emerald green during the rainy season.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Frustrations today

I have enjoyed the scenery in eastern Montana, which is breathtaking. I couldn't take pictures, though, because there is no pull-out or scenic view space in the whole state that I can see. I planned to see something of Butte today, but after 12 miles of the most beautiful drive I've ever been on, which was tense because of lane closures for road work, I didn't feel like even stopping. It is a larger and more spread out city than I thought it would be, and I am not interested in exploring a fairly good sized city on my own. At the end of the 12 mile road work section, I crossed the Continental Divide at 6393 ft.

I lived in Ireland for 3 years, in a small farming and fishing community at the end of the Beara Peninsula. In a village nearby were the Allihies Copper Mines, closed long ago, but still remembered by the people of the village. Working conditions were terrible as all mines were in those days, and many still are, but the English owners brought in Cornish miners to do the better jobs and also provided them with housing that was probably better at the time than what the native Irish lived in. When the mines closed many of the miners came to Butte, Montana, and their descendants are still here today. I heard many stories when I lived there, and nearly every family I knew had relations that came to Butte. I really wanted to see it, but realize now that it isn't like it was 50 years ago and I probably wouldn't find much to do or see there. I am no longer a museum goer, although I visited scores of museums all over the world in younger days. Besides, it was only 11:30 when I arrived - should have been 10:30 according to my GPS when I started out, but road work took care of that.

I opted to continue on to Missoula, where I am in a very nice and comfortable room. I walked to the local Albertsons supermarket about a block and a half away to replenish beer and breakfast supplies. I hadn't gotten out of the parking lot coming back when I realized I should have driven. By the way, I have thought about stopping in Butte on several cross-country trips, but the Mountain Directory West always scared me off with the information about the steep grades. Now that I've driven the east to west direction, it am glad I never tried it with my 5th wheel. I could have managed it, but if there was road work narrowing the lanes it would have been 12 miles of hell!

Speaking of driving, I have been shocked by what has happened to my gas mileage, and I am attributing it to ethanol added to the fuel, at least for now and until a couple of regular tankfuls yields an improvement. I was getting 28-1/2 mpg, which dropped to 22-1/2 after the first tankful of the ethanol stuff although I didn't think about that being the cause. At the last fill-up my mpg was slightly less than 20, and that won't do. I would love comments from anyone who has experienced the same thing, as well as those who think it is for a different reason.

Tomorrow I will aim for Pendleton, Oregon, and look forward to being off the interstate for a while. I will hopefully be able to take some time to see Crater Lake on the way to Sacramento. I had thought about trying Yellowstone again, but heard that the traffic has been bumper to bumper, and I don't like that kind of driving at all.

I have learned my lesson and will never again travel in summer during the tourist season. Short trips aren't bad, but driving coast to coast is not my preference. I salute all the brave folks, especially the solos (men and women) who can do it.

Lady has enjoyed the day. Two different families came up and wanted to pet her at rest area stops. We just came back from a little walk around the motel in Missoula, and it looks like a nice little town. A rushing creek runs by one side of the property, and the water tumbling over boulders reminds me of Gatlinburg, TN.

Finally, I walked to the nearby corner to Five Guys for a burger. I have never been in a Five Guys before, and thought this one was pretty gimmicky the way they route you around to place your order. I brought the burger back to the motel and will have to say I've eaten better burgers before. I prefer them cooked on the grill at home, but it was passable and i won't go to bed hungry tonight. I sure enjoyed last night's meal at Perkins with Sandie and Jim about a thousand times better! Thanks S & J, for the wonderful meal and the great company.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Visit with Sandie and Jim

The day began ok, and I got on the road at 8:30. Before I even got out of town the traffic was stopped as only one lane was available and it required the pilot car to escort the vehicles. I sat there for 30 full minutes waiting for our turn.

Into North Dakota there was another stretch of road work, in which the entire road bed in both directions was torn up, resulting in a very long wait followed by what seemed to be an endless trip over dirt and gravel.

After what turned out to be a tiring travel day, I got to visit with Sandie and Jim

The Dixons are a delightful couple, and I immediately felt like we were old friends. Most RVers know that feeling very well. They took me to dinner at Perkins, and we sat and talked long after the meal was finished. I hope to see them again in future travels.

I have decided that Montana is definitely one of my favorite states. There is something different you notice about the sky from the moment you cross the border. Of course, the downside is all the road work, but I have found that to be in every state I've traveled this year. Glad to see people with jobs though, and I wonder what most of them will do when the construction season ends.

I'm very tired this evening and will probably go to sleep early. I may stop at Butte, MT tomorrow which would be a short day and I am in need of a short day right now.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Wizard of OZ

This morning I thought I would try an Aussie voice on my GPS and see how I like it. I had Karen or Lee to choose from, so I selected Lee. He's not bad at all - I was afraid he would sound like the Geico Gecko, which I couldn't have stood for one minute! The only thing I noticed is that when he says "recalculate", he has a sort of disgusted tone to his voice. Like if I didn't get into so many difficulties he wouldn't have to recalculate. The rest of the problems I can probably attribute to Garmin itself.

I'm on US 12 in SD and a section of the highway was closed, requiring me to detour approx. 15 miles south before turning east for maybe 30 miles, and then north again. During that detour he recalculated at least every mile telling me to turn on roads that weren't even detectable, or were gravel/dirt roads. Of course I ignored him. His pronunciation is very understandable, even when he told me to "turn right on Montaner Avenue".

Another thing I love about this part of the country, there is no problem finding lots of good country music on the radio. I've been singing along most of the day, and when Lee was recalculating I would just tell him to "stuff it".

But to get back to the beginning of my day - I left St. Cloud at 7:30 am in anticipation of driving a fairly long day. I was ready for it, and my energy never flagged. I reached my planned destination at 11:30 am so I just drove on, not knowing if I would have to drive to Miles City, MT to find a place that allowed Lady. Luck was certainly with me, because in Mobridge, SD there are several motels to choose from - the first one didn't look very good, but the second, the "Mo Rest Motel", an older style where you park in front of your room, looked ok enough to investigate. I was greeted by a really nice young lady who quickly assured me that pets are ok, and I checked in. The room is very attractive, with a microwave and fridge, although I am going to go next door to the Last Chance Bar & Grill for my dinner. I took Lady for a good walk and we are back at the room, both happy as clams. It just goes to show you that you can't judge a book by its cover - this place is a gem in disguise. I'm even sitting in a recliner as I type this blog.

All y'all in Texas don't read this paragraph! When I arrived at the room yesterday in St. Cloud it was too cool to even turn on the A/C. While I was watching TV last night I even turned on the heat for about 5 minutes to get rid of the chill, and did the same thing this morning when getting out of the shower. It's probably about 74 degrees this afternoon, and you can just tell that the days & nights are getting cooler - winter can't be far off in the Northern Plains.

I love this area of the country and feel at home in a place where they refer to soft drinks as "pop". From Ohio to Minnesota it's pop and not "soda" which I always thought was just a liquid some folks added to Scotch (at least those who couldn't have appreciated the exquisite taste of plain Scotch whiskey).

I think I am about at the halfway point from where I started from to where I'm headed, and the driving should definitely be easier in the West. I noticed this trip that I was getting really tired after driving about 200 or so miles, and was surprised that today I really could have driven farther - even another 100-150 miles - but I was happy enough to find a place to stop and relax after 360 miles. I'm really sorry that I can stop and see all the wonderful folks I've "met" through the RVing and blogging community. I can only hope that our paths will cross in the next couple of years, and I appreciate all the offers of hospitality along the way.

Monday, August 8, 2011

St. Cloud MN

Some travel days are good, and some aren't so good, but when you keep going in circles first thing because you can't find where you are supposed to detour, it sort of sets the tone for the entire day.

First thing that bugged me was the new male voice on the GPS - Jack. Where in the world does Garmin get these voices, or what computer program puts the sounds together. He kept telling me to get onto Wisconsin "Wendy-nine". It dawned on me that he was saying twenty-nine, and a hundred or so miles later he said to drive "wendy-nine" miles and then keep right. There are some other ridiculous pronunciations but this one struck me as being totally off the wall.

I have always avoided driving anywhere near Minneapolis-St. Paul, but the bypass around it was easy as pie to follow. Traffic was heavy, but maintained a steady speed. I finally arrived at the motel in St. Cloud. Again, the directions given by the Garmin were really bad so I just followed signs to the motel 6 exit. Then when I arrived to find this is probably the worst motel I've stayed in for a long time, that took the cake for the day. The room is ok, and the front desk was friendly, but she put me in the middle of the long corridor and I ended up having to bring Lady past the office. I hate doing that, and she acted like she'd never gone through a door before.

I'm changing my route a bit after reading Rod's blog, I'm determined not to go anywhere near Sturgis. I love the bikers that flood into Washington DC for Memorial Day every year, but it seems like they would be concentrated in a smaller area. I lived in Northern VA so maybe I just don't know how and where they spent their time when they weren't down by "The Wall". It was always an awesome sight to see the thousands of bikes heading towards DC from their various staging areas.

I am so hungry this afternoon I will have to go out to eat somewhere. I've avoided it by bringing a lot of food along, but I'm running low on the stuff that is filling. I think there is a supermarket within walking distance - well, a pretty long walk but I need that - so I will just leave Lady in the room while I go shopping.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Jack is On, and Jill is Gone!

This morning my brother helped me to reset the voice on my Garmin GPS. As you know, I was being driven crazy by the female voice, and Bill found out that there are two American voices - Jack and Jill. We switched to Jack and so far he is doing pretty well.

But back to last Thursday when I left Hammond, Indiana. It didn't take long to get around Chicago and north to Milwaukee. The toll booths are aggravating, and if I traveled often in this area I would certainly get an iPass. But I didn't even run into traffic or road work until I got close to Milwaukee, and I made my way pretty well. Of course, Jill kept saying "Recalculating" but I managed to ignore her and refused to drive through the middle of Chicago.

I spent Thursday night at my brother and sister-in-law's house, and also had a nice visit with my niece, Julie. We left Friday morning for Bark River Campground, where their motorhome is parked and stored when they aren't using it - about 50 miles or so from their home. It is a very attractive campground with many amenities, and naturally there were lots of people there for the weekend. The motorhome is parked pretty well away from the bulk of campers, and in a roomy spot with another RV only to one side of them. They have a Newmar Kountry Club MH and it is beautiful and spacious.

On Saturday Julie and her daughter, Ashley, came up to spend the day. Lady was happy to see Ashley, who is the person who kept her company when I was here the last time and went down to Chicago for the day. The weekend was over too quickly and it was time to pack up and leave this morning. I drove only about 175 miles today and stopped at 1:30 - I'll try to leave early tomorrow morning and drive a longer day.

I feel very fortunate being able to spend a few days with my brother and his family, both going to New York and well as returning from. I had never been to Milwaukee before, and only saw them at a wedding now and then. Their hospitality has been incredible, and I'm almost embarrassed at how well I've been treated, and how Wilma (my s-i-l) has waited on me, done all the cooking, etc. Of course we talked a lot about various types of rigs, and how nice it would be if we could travel together one of these days if I ever can get another one.

So now I have quite a ways to go and don't really know how I will drive it, but will just decide whenever I feel like it. Everything is subject to change, as we know.

I am spending the night in Rothschild, WI and will be heading towards Duluth, MN tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A visit with Judy and Emma

I had a wonderful visit and lunch with Judy today, and Lady and I finally got to meet Emma. Emma is exuberant and Lady was worn out just watching her. This picture doesn't quite capture the exuberance however:

Here is a photo of both:

Judy and I spent several hours talking non-stop, just like old friends. She is even more interesting in person than comes across in her blog, and anyone who reads her blog, Travels with Emma, will understand in a hearbeat that she is one of the most interesting bloggers out there. Her knowledge of birds and wildlife habitat, plus expert photographic skills, make the blog a daily treat for many people, and I was so glad to finally meet her. Thanks so much Judy, for your hospitality.

I wish I'd taken more pictures, and I did take some on my old film camera so maybe I can post them when I get the film developed, although I'm at the beginning of the roll right now. I hope to get some good shots of scenery in the next few weeks.

I'm back at the motel in Hammond this evening because I just didn't want to fight the Chicago traffic in the afternoon, so I will leave between 9:00 and 10:00 tomorrow morning. I have made several trips to the car to take things out as well as to bring items into the room. I needed to go back but I couldn't find my keys anywhere. I used my spare set of keys to check a couple of times, and then I found them, IN THE IGNITION, with the door UNLOCKED! How irresponsible is that? I had been looking at the odometers and recording my ending mileage, and somehow forgot to take them out of the ignition.

Regarding my allowing the fuel tank to get so low, I realize I need to quickly get used to the gauge on the Highlander. My truck gauge was accurate for the most part, but when it read close to Empty, it still had somewhere around 10 gallons left. I never took the chance though, and always made sure to fuel up a couple times a day when traveling. With this vehicle I'm finding the gauge is pretty accurate, so I'm going to have to pay closer attention and not let it get much below 1/2.

I filled up at a Speedway station, for $3.79/gal. regular, and they had diesel for $3.89/gal. I've never seen them so close in price. One problem with yesterday's portion of the trip is that it was mostly on turnpikes, Ohio & Indiana, which have travel plazas rather than the usual rest area, but they also have gas stations mainly for the brands I don't buy. I guess you can get off at an exit, which would require paying the toll, and then getting back on and getting a new toll ticket. There really isn't anything close enough to the turnpike to be able to see the stations though, and I like to get off at a station that is one of my preferred brands, is close and on the right, and easy to get back to the on-ramp.

I enjoyed driving through the Indiana countryside today, and it was nice to have a break from interstates. So that's it for now.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

What a beginning to the day!

I finally got everything packed into the car this morning and left a little before 8:30. After driving several miles I noticed the light that warns the fuel tank is low. Of course there wasn't an exit ramp or a gas station in sight, so I touched the vehicle on the screen, then selected fuel, and lo and behold, it gave me a list of stations nearby. Of course when you are in unfamiliar territory you really can't tell which is closest, and I think the one that said "4.9 miles" was the distance to the exit ramp.

I followed the directions given by the Garmin and seemed to be way out in the northeastern PA countryside. The needle on the gauge seemed to be moving ominously toward Empty, and in checking the entire route (by touching the top center of the screen) I could have cried. There were a number of turns and a number of miles. After driving about 10 miles the GPS announced that I should turn left. I was coming up to an intersection and had the red light. Before my eyes a horse and buggy came whizzing across the intersection - I couldn't estimate the speed, but that horsey was bookin' !

Now I'm really on empty but the car hasn't stopped yet, when I turned my head to the right and there was a fuel station - but not the one I selected. I turned in there pretty quickly and filled the tank. While I was fueling up I noticed an Amish man with the beard and hat filling a gas can from one of the pumps. I speculated on what he was going to be using it for, but figured it had to be some sort of machinery. When he had it filled he walked across the road to it but I didn't see his horse and buggy in sight. The property seemed to be some sort of small mfg plant, so maybe he worked there and was the "gofer", and that was why he was getting fuel. Oh well, I finally got my tank filled and was on my way back to the Interstate.

Traffic wasn't all that bad going west today, but the tolls are pretty steep to drive over a road with many work areas, lane closures, etc. It could have been much worse, but I'm sure sick of road construction, and it is everywhere.

I noted that many trucks are now pulling 3 trailers, which I really don't like the idea of, and I wonder what the effect is on the roadway. I don't like passing them for one thing. The speed for cars on both Ohio & Indiana turnpikes is 70 for cars and 65 for trucks. Enforcement must be in place because most all the trucks weren't going over 65. I eventually slowed down to 65/66 when I thought about my fuel mileage.

Now I'm at the Motel 6 in Hammond, Indiana, and to get here from I-80 was quite an accomplishment and involved a detour. I had just about come to the conclusion that I was a "has-been" when it comes to driving in big city traffic, but maybe I have a few more good trips left. I can't say I like it, but I followed directions and made it without incident. I haven't decided what route I will take to Milwaukee, but I hope I can find something that isn't too close to the Chicago suburbs.

The new Garmin is better than I thought, except I still don't like the voice. I notice she tends to leave the endings off words, such as "Tur left", and when it comes to an exit such as 6-A/B, she tends to stress the "A", so it sounds like "6 Abie". She generally drives me crazy, and I dislike the way she says "recalculating" the worst.

Ah, I should complain. I've driven nearly 800 stressful miles and it hasn't been all that bad. I'm going visiting tomorrow, so I may just come back to this Motel 6 and leave for Milwaukee on Thursday morning.

Oh by the way, as I pulled into the motel parking lot the yellow low fuel warning light came on. Now I have to scramble to find a gas station in the morning.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Barkeyville, PA

I decided to brave Scranton/Wilkes Barre and come across Pennsylvania rather than going through upstate NY. I would have loved the New York route, but after a lot of searching I couldn't find suitable lodging that would accept Lady. (That is, suitable to me, by the way). I'm sort of glad to be where I am, because I would have traveled just under 500 miles today going the other way, whereas it's been about 370 miles. It's a good thing too, because the in last 50 or so miles I really became tired, and my eyesight got a bit blurry off and on.

My son and grandsons washed my car and packed it up yesterday afternoon. Everything fit that I wanted to bring, although I did leave a couple of items there until next time. I'll probably come back in early spring 2012, and I'm going to really pack light. Only having tentative plans and not really knowing what would work I brought way too much stuff. I can't believe, after all the traveling I've done in my life and how I've learned to travel light, that I still make the mistake now and then.

My niece, Katy, came by to visit for a couple of hours yesterday. She lives in NYC but is spending the week house-dog-cat sitting nearby, so was able to drop in. She and my granddaughter are a joy to be with, and I find I get so energized when they are around. All in all, it has been a wonderful time for me since I arrived in a semi-catatonic state at the end of May. My health has improved, and I just loved being with Mike and his family.

Now on to whatever is next.