Our Viva!

Indian Lake State Park • Lakeview, OH • JUL 29 - 31, 2015


DAYS 63, 64 and 65

The miles on the trip from Joliet ticked off slowly. We ran into several construction zones, drove past an accident, and traveled roads that were in disrepair.

We were reminded of how many miles we have traveled on this trip when the dashboard message flashed that it was time for an oil change. Better now instead of when we were headed to Florida, but we wished we had been able to wait until our trip was over. Linda called an RV dealership in Dayton and was told it would be a 6 week wait. For an oil change? Why didn’t they just say they didn’t want our business? We got lucky on her second call…a Dodge Ram Promaster dealership in Marysville gave us an appointment for the next day at 9:45.

When we crossed the border into Ohio there was a feeling that we were home, even though Florida is our actual home now. Both of us were born in Ohio and spent more years in Ohio than in any other state, so it will always feel like home. Once a Buckeye, always a Buckeye, OH - IO, Go Bucks! Well, except in winter…then we are true Floridians!

We stopped at Rick’s Dad’s (Dad from here on) apartment for a visit with Dad and his friend, Pat, and then Dad followed us in his car to the campground. He’s 94 years old and still driving and living independently.

We reached the campground just as the skies opened. Dad pulled in beside us after we had backed in, but it was raining so hard that he had to stay in his car for about 20 minutes until it stopped. He then watched how we hooked up the Viva, and we visited awhile before he headed back to his apartment.

We were assigned a nice spot in the campground. It was spacious enough, and was bordered on the rear by a channel that led to the lake. It came with a gravel pad that was level, a picnic table, a fire pit, and a large patch of grass that was perfect for Tybee and Zoe to “visit.”

It was Rick’s birthday, and he always likes to do something at least a little out of the ordinary to mark the day. For example, several times in past years he has gone skydiving on his birthday. There was no big adventure this year, but he did run 4 miles in the afternoon heat and humidity of Indian Lake. He didn’t see any other guys his age running, or any other runners, either, so that counted as something a little out of the ordinary.

We were tired and fell asleep quickly our first night here.

The next morning we headed to Marysville for the oil change. Later we found a grocery store where we stocked up for the family members who would be visiting us at the campground.

We drove back to the lake to meet Dad and Rick’s brother, Don. We found our “family brick” in the walkway that surrounds the old harbor bridge that was recently renovated and rededicated (my brother was known as Skip when he grew up at the lake, hence the name on the brick in the linked photo). They then came out to the campground for lunch, and we were joined by our younger daughter, Brandy, who spent the rest of the day with us.

Later in the day one of Rick’s good friends, Len Miller, stopped by. Rick has known Len since junior high school. They played on the basketball team together throughout school, and also worked together at Hinkles Donuts, both at Indian Lake and in Lima. By coincidence, a few months after we moved to Mount Dora, Len and his wife moved to nearby Tavares. Len was spending a couple of months at the lake to renovate a cottage he owns.

Rick usually has a good time with Len, but not this time. Len brought his cornhole game with him, and beat Rick every game they played. And yes, a little money changed hands.

Friday saw visits from our two daughters and three of our five grandchildren: Mandy with Connor and Darrick, and Brandy with William. Dad was also there, along with sister-in-law Carol and her granddaughter Maya. It was great to see everyone, but we wished the entire family could have been there.

Before the day ended Rick had a visit from Scott MacDonald, another long-time friend. Scott was instrumental (no pun intended) in Rick’s appreciation of a wide variety of music. Scott always seemed to learn of new bands before anyone else. He remains a walking encyclopedia of music.

We enjoyed our time at the lake, especially with family and two good friends. But as has happened so many times during this trip, the time was too short.

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Oasis RV Park • Joliet, IL • JUL 28, 2015

Front row: Jana, Julia
Middle row: Angie, Rob, Linda, Julie
Back row: Rick, Bob, Judi, Josh
Top row: Robby!

DAY 62

Today was the first of several Family Days. It began with a stop to visit Linda’s sister, Judi; our brother-in-law, Bob; our niece, Julie; and their dog, Maddy. Rick saw Judi several years ago when the three sisters got together in Mount Dora (along with Bob’s sister, Marla), but he had not seen Bob or Julie or been to Naperville in many years. Judi was kind enough to make a great vegan lunch for us! They have a lovely back yard, and Tybee and Zoe got to run around off leash.

After a nice visit lasting several hours, we drove to the campground to check-in. Then it was off to nephew Rob’s house to see his family—wife Angie, and children Josh, Jana, Julia and the youngest, Robby. Linda had met everyone except Robby. Rick finally got to meet Angie and all of the kids.

Bob, Judi and Julie soon joined us at Rob and Angie’s house. To celebrate Rick and Linda’s July birthdays, Judi brought a vegan cake. It wasn’t just great for a vegan cake—it was great for ANY cake! Loved it! Robby got to blow out the two candles. If the cake had the appropriate number of candles for Rick and Linda’s combined ages, Robby would be blowing out candles for weeks.

Rob and Angie have a great house, perfect for the kids. They also have a spacious back yard, and Tybee and Zoe got to run around yet again. Zoe loves kids but rarely gets to interact with them in Mount Dora. She was in heaven today!

We had another great visit and hated to say goodbye, but we had already stayed several hours and Rob, Angie and family had just returned from a Florida vacation the night before and had to be tired. Hopefully, not too much time will pass before we see them again, either in Illinois or perhaps in Florida. That goes for Bob, Judi, and Julie, too!

We drove to the Oasis RV Park where Rick brought the blog up to date before calling it a night.

Tomorrow, Ohio!

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Hidden Valley RV Resort • Milton, WI • JUL 27, 2015


DAY 61

No more of these, promise! See the first photo in the link below (not the photo above)…this wasn’t advertised as the “World’s Largest Mouse”—that honor probably goes to a certain mouse in Orlando—but we did see a mouse that required us to take its picture.

The long and winding road back to Florida took us through Wisconsin and near a place that Linda has wanted to see for a long time—Taliesin, a home designed, built, and once occupied by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright. He was a multi-talented, fascinating man, and you probably already know about him. If you don’t, we won’t detail his story here, but you owe it to yourself to do some research. Taliesin was also where Frank Lloyd Wright’s mistress and six other people were murdered, and that is something you should look up as well.

Linda loves architecture, so she has always admired Frank Lloyd Wright. A number of years ago she toured Fallingwater, a house Wright designed in Pennsylvania. Next on her list was Taliesin, and she jumped at the chance to visit it.

We didn’t have time for both of us to take separate tours, and we didn’t want to leave the dogs in the Viva and take the tour together, so Rick stayed with the dogs while Linda took the shuttle bus to Taliesin. No cameras were allowed inside the house, but photos of the exterior and grounds were permitted. Linda was touched by the sense of history, and the genius that was Frank Lloyd Wright. He was above all an artist. Next he was an architect. He wasn’t an engineer, at least not a skilled one. A number of his designs weren’t structurally sound and, like Taliesin, have fallen somewhat into a state of disrepair. In a way, though, that only enhances their beauty as works of art, and not buildings. And to be fair, many of his designs were experimental, or works in progress, meaning they weren’t necessarily meant to stand the test of time from an engineering standpoint. Hey, he was creating unique, artistic structures, not the Great Pyramids!

After Linda’s tour, it was on to Hidden Valley RV Resort in Milton. How to describe this place…well, let’s just say it’s the best place we’ve ever stayed! Other campgrounds have had more scenic backgrounds—hard to beat mountains or large mesas. Other campgrounds have been in more exotic locations—like the French Quarter, or just off The Strip in Las Vegas. However, when you put all factors together and assign an overall rating to a campground, none come even close to Hidden Valley RV Resort. Just driving up the lane lets you know this will be someplace special. You want amenities? The list is long and we’re probably overlooking several…a large pool. Softball/baseball field. A huge Frisbee golf course. A paintball area. Basketball court, horseshoes, playground, skateboard park, etc. Dog park? Not a small, enclosed area—instead, there was a huge, grass OFF LEASH area. Zoe ran to her heart’s content and Tybee sniffed here, there and everywhere. There was a golf cart/bike (they rent both) trail that Rick wanted to run, but didn’t have time. The spaces were the largest we have ever seen. Lots of shade trees. Nice fire pit. Two laundries. They recycle—rare on this trip—and they actually pick up trash and recyclables at your campsite. Friendly, friendly staff. They get the highest ratings in every category. We loved this place, and will definitely visit it again when we can stay longer.

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Minneapolis Northwest / Maple Grove KOA • Maple Grove, MN • JUL 26, 2015


DAY 60

It was a great day for driving and the time went by quickly.

In keeping with yesterday’s “world’s largest” theme, we had to stop to take a photo of the “World’s Largest Prairie Chicken” in Rothsay, which by no coincidence is the “Prairie Chicken Capital of Minnesota.” We hope that no one in Rothsay sees the photo that Linda took, because it clearly shows that Rick is feeding the prairie chicken. That is a big no-no.

We checked into the KOA and were assigned a space in direct sun. We asked and received a different space near the back of the campground, this one nestled among large trees providing plenty of shade. It was a bit buggy (mosquitoes), but it was a decent spot for the short time we will be here. We’re heading out extremely early in the morning, to get around Minneapolis before rush hour traffic.

We have a Mount Dora snowbird friend named Arlene. Linda met her when she was doing hikes on the Florida Trails system. Arlene spends her summers up north in Minnesota. Linda knew she lived somewhere around Minneapolis, but wasn’t sure where or even on what side of the city. She called Arlene with the hope that she might be able to come out to see us, if the drive wasn’t too far. Well…Arlene lives just a couple of miles from where we were camping!

Arlene came out and we had a great visit. She brought a special bottle of wine with her, which was so nice. We took a photo before she left, and made plans to get together when she heads south to Mount Dora in the fall.

No dog park at this KOA, so the dogs were a bit antsy today. Zoe needs a run tomorrow, and so does Rick!

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Jamestown Campground • Jamestown, ND • JUL 25, 2015


DAY 59

I had thought about writing the world’s largest blog entry for this stop along the way, but I knew that wasn’t possible. Instead, I will write about the “world’s largest” that we saw along the way.

We saw a sign for the “World’s Largest Metal Sculpture” and we just had to stop.

Down the road we saw the “World’s Largest Cow” standing on a hill. Her name is “Salem Sue,” and of course we had to stop for a photo.

Next we saw a sign advertising “The World’s Largest Sandhill Crane.” We had no idea what he/she would be doing in North Dakota. They might have some here, but we have lots of them in Florida. But we don’t have the “world’s largest,” so again, we had to stop.

And finally, a sign for “The World’s Largest Buffalo.” We thought it should be Bison instead of Buffalo, but who is going to argue with the world’s largest? Not us. But we did stop for a photo.

The campground was full, as almost every campground within 500 miles seems to be right now. Perhaps the Glacier National Park wildfire is a factor. But we had reservations, so we had a space. And what a nice space it was!

We had a pull-through with full hook-ups, a shade tree, and picnic table. We were on the end of the row again, so only one neighbor, and not close as the sites were large. There was a great area to walk the dogs just across the lane. Beyond that area, on the other side of a row of trees and bushes, was a huge (acres) field where it was okay to let the dogs run off leash. Tybee just walked and sniffed, while Zoe raced back and forth until she could run no longer. We took them there two times. We also took them along a narrow pathway lined by the bushes and trees we mentioned earlier. It was about a quarter of a mile one way, and we walked it with the dogs both ways on two occasions. When we were walking back to the Viva the second time, we saw a woman walking towards us leading a black standard poodle. She looked just like Zoe, except her tail was extremely short—which meant she looked exactly like Chloe. She was 14 months old, and had the standard Standard Poodle personality—lots of energy and curiosity! Her name was Gidget, and she was from Washington State.

We saw a Class A nearby that had a sign announcing that the occupants were from Apopka, Florida. That is about twenty miles from us, and we have been there often.

This was a quiet, peaceful campground—greatly enjoyed it!

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Red Trail Campground • Medora, ND • JUL 24, 2015


DAY 58

We got up early to leave Shady Rest behind us as quickly as possible. The drive to Medora, ND, was lovely. Not majestic or grand in the sense of towering monoliths or deep canyons, but instead a scenic byway with rolling countryside and meadows of colorful crops and grasses. We are from rural areas of Ohio, and it was nice to see the North Dakota version of home.

We arrived at the campground around 11:00, thinking we would register and come back later. However, they graciously permitted us to check-in early and go to our site, where we had lunch and rested a bit. Our site was great—shady, level, end of the row, with friendly people all around.

We next headed out to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, which was only six blocks away. We loved this park. It has its own special beauty.

Soon after entering the park we rounded a sharp turn and saw a huge bison on our right, maybe fifty feet off the roadway. He was surrounded on three sides by rock walls, so had he run, his only avenue was towards the road…where we were. There was no place to pull over for a photo, which was probably a good thing for both him and us. Although the park is his habitat, it seemed unusual that he would in a sense trap himself in that small area, with only one exit.

We stopped at several overlooks, and got out of the Viva and took a short hike to the top of one overlook. A breathtaking view of the park!

We didn’t see any more bison as we were driving the park loop. We did see three wild horses, and Linda took several good photos. We saw lots of prairie dogs scampering about and diving into their holes. Some prairie dog daredevils raced across the road just in front of us.

On the drive back to exit the park, Linda was mentioning how she thought we would have seen more bison…when suddenly there was the herd. Traffic was stopped in both directions, and bison were on either side of the road with some walking down the middle between vehicles. We were stopped for maybe five minutes. As traffic started to creep along again, we could hear some of the larger males, just to the side of the road, snorting in what we took to be great anger. We weren’t afraid for us, but we were worried what they could do to the Viva if they decided to do a little head-butting.

We went back to the campground and hooked up. We later took the dogs for a long walk downtown. It was just after seven o’clock, and virtually all of the businesses in town were closed. We thought that was odd for a tourist town on a Friday night. We ran into a young woman who was sitting in front of a closed general store. She told us that the town puts on the “Medora Musical,” an outdoor theatre show, every night at 7:30, all summer long. Many of the town’s residents are either in the show as cast members, or provide some supporting role. We only had one night in town, but the show would have been fun to see.

We saw some historic buildings and unique architecture. And, as we have said before—but probably won’t say again this trip—for a few minutes we could imagine ourselves living in this small town. We loved the feel of it. But as vegans in a beef community, we probably wouldn’t survive very long!

Our site in the campground had a light pole on it, which did wake us up a couple of times. Also, there was no dog park. Otherwise, no complaints—this was a great campground.

The next morning, before departing, Rick spotted another Trend (sister of the Viva, see previous blog entries) across the campground. Finally, the other floor plan! He talked to the young guy who was camping in it with his family. They were from Minnesota, and they didn’t own the Trend, they had rented it. They loved it, and were now thinking about buying one.

As we were leaving, we saw a huge 5th-wheel packing up to go. We waved at the couple, and about twenty miles down the road they waved at us as they whizzed by in the passing lane.

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Shady Rest RV Park • Glasgow, MT • JUL 23, 2015


DAY 57

If you were a Seinfeld fan, you’ll remember the episode where Jerry and George met with NBC executives to pitch an idea for a sitcom, and George kept saying it was “a show about nothing!” Well, today’s blog entry is a trip about nothing!

No outstanding scenery, no cool little towns, nothing. 398 miles of nothing. And then we pulled into the campground…

We practically needed a shoehorn to squeeze the Viva into a small space between two trees. Couldn’t put out the awning—didn’t need it as it was an overcast, nothing day. Could barely open the doors.

Was advised by the manager that the dogs weren’t allowed to relieve themselves on the grass. What grass?

No pool, no cable TV, no dog park. Nothing. Wait, there was Wi-Fi. Password should have been “nothing.”

Today was the most mileage in one day, so all we were looking for was a place to sleep. Nothing more. Nothing!

The only photo from this trip is above. Nothing else. Nothing!

West Glacier KOA • West Glacier, MT • JUL 20 - 22, 2015


DAYS 54, 55 and 56

Broken record—Route 89 again. When we sat down to write this, neither of us could remember much of anything that stood out on the road to Glacier National Park. It was a pretty drive, like all of 89 has been. We talked about the white crosses in a previous post. We did see one roadside memorial that had 9 white crosses—not sure if that reflected one accident or several.

We were more than pleasantly surprised when we arrived at West Glacier KOA. It was by far the best campground we have visited. It’s large, but doesn’t feel crowded at all. We had a roomy space with grass, a shade tree, a picnic table, and a nice fire ring with two benches. We enjoyed a campfire our first night. The dog park nearby was somewhat small but extremely well kept. There was a huge grass area for additional on-leash walking just beyond the dog park. Highly recommend this KOA if you’re at Glacier.

Linda took the 17-passenger Red Bus Going To The Sun Road Tour on our first full day. The weather was absolutely beautiful. There were three people being picked up here—Linda and another couple. The woman had on a Florida Gators shirt. Linda asked if they were from Florida. They were, saying there were from a small town called Mount Dora. What are the odds! Our paths may have even crossed back home at one time or another.

Linda was a single (Rick stayed behind to watch the dogs, and had a ticket for the tour the next day), so she got to choose her seat. She selected up front, next to the driver. Not only did she have a great view, she was also mostly out of the wind. The top and sides of the bus roll back to allow for better viewing and photography, but it also adds to the wind. The people in the back had blankets in the morning, but Linda enjoyed the heater and windshield in the front.

On her tour she saw incredible mountain and forest scenery, numerous waterfalls, four of the five glaciers in the park, and two sheep. The remaining wildlife had taken another day off. Her driver, Glenn, was very informative and entertaining.

The bus stopped for on-your-own lunch in St. Mary where Linda bought a Glacier National Park hat. The wind had really whipped up, to the point that she needed a hat even in the front of the bus.

The bus returned to the campground around 4:45 p.m. Rick and the dogs had walked to the office and were waiting for her. It was a long, but most enjoyable day.

We woke up to rain the next morning, and it looked like Rick’s weather for his tour would not be nearly as nice as what Linda had. However, when Linda walked Rick down to the tour bus, the rain had stopped and the skies were clearing.

Rick had a different bus driver, Ken Perry. Ken is from Palm Coast, Florida. He knew of Mount Dora, but had never been there. We talked for a few minutes, and it was obvious that Ken was very knowledgeable and would have given a great tour. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be. On Ken’s tour the previous day, he and a passenger noticed smoke in the distance (it had to have been just after Linda’s tour passed, because no one on her bus saw it). Ken called in one of the first wildfire reports. After he dropped off his passengers, he heard the wildfire was spreading, so he returned and helped in the evacuation of hotel guests and campers. Because the winds were fierce in the afternoon, the wildfire spread quickly. Overnight it had involved around a thousand acres. The Going To The Sun Road was closed, so that tour was canceled. Ken said his company was offering another tour in a different part of the park not threatened by the wildfire, or we could choose to get a refund. Rick chose the refund, because the main reason we came to Glacier was the Going To The Sun Road tour. Remarkably, this was the only event or destination on our entire western trip that was cancelled.

As disappointed as we were (especially Rick, since Linda already had her tour) of much, much great importance was the wildfire itself, and its threat to this beautiful park, to wildlife, and to residents, workers and tourists. Ken feared it would get much worse due to the high winds.

When we checked the news, we found that Ken was right. The wildfire had doubled in size overnight, involving over two thousand acres, and it was still spreading. Several campgrounds had been evacuated and rangers were in the bush searching for hikers who were unaware of the fire.

With Rick’s tour scrubbed, we spent the day at the campground. Linda caught up the laundry while Rick washed bugs off the Viva, checked the oil and the air pressure in the tires, and otherwise got the Viva ready to begin the long trek home in the morning. He also found time to take Zoe for a two mile run, watching for bears the entire time.

We’re already planning another trip next year, to California and up the coast to Washington State. Perhaps we’ll go through Montana on the way back so that Rick can finally do the Going To The Sun Road tour.

Before going to bed, we checked the news and learned that the wildfire was still out of control. A historic cabin had burned down. The KOA on the east side of the park (where we first considered staying) had been evacuated during the day—over 600 campers—and was in the direct path of the fire. Hopefully, winds and weather will change.

As we selected what pictures to use from the ones that Linda took on her tour, it crossed her mind that some of the beautiful areas that she captured in photos might have already been lost to the fire. That was unsettling to her, and sad.

Obviously, it started out as a great time here, but the fire has put a somber mood on everything. We’re hoping that the news is better in the morning.

Click for this trip’s highlight PHOTOS (8 total)

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Dick's RV Park • Great Falls, MT • JUL 19, 2015


DAY 53

Not many highlights, PART TWO

We left Livingston and followed Route 89 (our old friend) on the way to our next stop, Dick’s RV Park in Great Falls, Montana.

Route 89 has been our friend, but it has not been a friend to everyone. Like probably most people who travels our nation’s highways, we have noticed the occasional memorial on the side of the road, marking the spot where someone has died in an accident. In Montana they use white crosses, and we have never seen so many markers noting fatal accidents. We would see a sharp curve ahead and predict we’d also see a white cross or two, and we were almost always correct. We also saw white crosses on long, perfectly straight stretches of highway. Linda did a web search using her phone and found that Montana has been using the white crosses across the state for about 60 years. The project was designed to make people slow down, and also to not drink and drive. Judging by the number of crosses, many people sadly did not get the message. Quite a few spots had several separate crosses, meaning people had died there in accidents at different times. We saw one spot that had four attached crosses, meaning four people died in just one crash. We definitely got the message.

We stopped at a couple of Historical Markers, then found a great little park in White Sulphur Springs to eat lunch and let the dogs stretch their legs. We again marveled at the beauty that is Montana. If it didn’t get so darn cold and wasn’t so remote, we could live here, too. Well, probably not, but it is a pretty state.

On the drive through Great Falls we saw a number of casinos. Rick, despite being a ramblin’ gamblin’ man, has never set foot in a casino. Linda encouraged him to go, but no dice (pun intended). He did think about making a quick stop just to give them the $20 he would have lost, but he quickly thought better of it.

We had never heard of the Mariana UFO Incident that occurred in Great Falls in 1950. Per Wikipedia, Nick Mariana, the general manager of the local minor league baseball team, saw two “bright, silvery spheres” move rapidly over the city’s empty baseball stadium. His secretary also witnessed the event. Mariana used his camera to film the objects. It was regarded as one of the first great UFO incidents in the U.S. (all of this again per Wikipedia). This was after the Roswell Incident (see our blog entry and research Roswell if you’re not familiar). We believe, we believe! And though not a topic for this blog, someday you might read about the strange event that happened to us when we lived in the country outside Johnstown.

Dick’s RV Park is showing its age and has few amenities—no cable, which Rick found very disappointing. Although we have rarely watched TV this trip, the final round of the rain-delayed British Open will be on ESPN early Monday morning, and he could have watched the finish before we left. And the Wi-Fi—again, spotty at best. We need to look for a better Wi-Fi solution to bring you these wonderful blog updates, because we just can’t rely on campground Wi-Fi.

This campground did have a nice dog park which Tybee and Zoe loved, and it offered a nice sized, level lot with a shade tree and a picnic table. But best of all, it was quiet and peaceful. Just what we needed!

Tomorrow, Glacier National Park.

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Paradise Valley KOA • Livingston, MT • JUL 18, 2015


DAY 52

Not many highlights, PART ONE

We entered Montana before exiting Yellowstone National Park. Many people think that Yellowstone is entirely in Wyoming, but its western border is in Idaho and its northern border is in Montana.

We added the Montana state sticker to the “state map” on the back of the Viva, and made the drive to Livingston, Montana, and the Paradise Valley KOA.

Montana is a beautiful state. Different from what we’ve seen before, with more open meadows. The vegetation was a deep green, which didn’t come to mind when thinking of Montana.

The KOA had a decent dog park. Our site seemed to be somewhat of an afterthought, as though it were added to squeeze in one more space. Our hookups were on our neighbor’s space to the left, and our picnic table and pad were real close to our neighbors on the right. The people on our left sat outside in lawn chairs, and we could have joined in the conversation. The father next door was playing ball with his young son, with a baseball. We kept waiting for the ball to dent the side of the Viva, but fortunately that didn’t happen. The campground had lots of kids who buzzed around on recumbent bikes. Later, people were out and about until well after “quiet time.” Normally we don’t care too much about noise, but we were looking for a quiet, peaceful place, and this wasn’t it. Factor in no cable and spotty Wi-Fi at best, and this stay was just…okay. But the upside was that we were not at a destination, we were just en route to the next stop, so it was just another night on the road.

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Fishing Bridge RV Park • Yellowstone National Park, WY • JUL 15 - 17, 2015


DAYS 49, 50 and 51

It was raining when we got up Wednesday morning, and still raining when we unhooked and left Grand Teton National Park and headed for Yellowstone, the world’s first national park. The rain soon stopped, but skies remained overcast.

It was a short trip (18 miles) to the South Entrance of Yellowstone, and traffic was light until we arrived at the entrance—then it slowed to a stop. It took about 15 minutes to get through the ranger checkpoint.

We don’t know what the rest of Yellowstone National Park will offer, but the drive to the campground didn’t yield the awe-inspiring scenes that we have found driving into the other parks we have visited so far. We passed through long stretches of pine forests—which we do when driving in Ocala National Forest in Florida. We did see the Snake River and Lewis River, and also Lewis Falls—a waterfall with a 29’ drop, but there was nothing close to what we felt when we saw The Tetons, or the Mesa Verde, or the towering rock formations we have seen so many places.

We went past Yellowstone Lake (it’s huge) and eventually arrived at our campground. We had a back-in as opposed to a pull-through, and the spaces here are small and tight. Yellowstone is a prime destination for millions of visitors a season, including RVers. To accommodate as many people as possible, the RV lots are, as stated, small and tight. No picnic tables, grills, fire rings, etc. And of course no pool, cable TV, Wi-Fi or even cell phone service. How those pioneers got along we’ll never know! But we had a pine tree behind us and a woods across the lane in front of us, so it wasn’t all bad. The laundry was a short walk, and the camp store was just beyond that.

We walked the dogs down to Fishing Bridge but didn’t stay long as storm clouds moved in. We made it back to the Viva minutes before the rain started. It then rained on and off for the next several hours.

Speaking of the Viva…Winnebago Industries makes the Itasca Viva and the Winnebago Trend. They are essentially the same, with only minor differences in decor and exterior graphics (if you’ve been reading all of our blog entries from this western trip, we already told you this). We saw a Trend at the campground in New Orleans, but since then we hadn’t seen a Trend or Viva anywhere. Then the day before we left Colter Bay Village, we saw a Trend owned by a young couple from Oklahoma. As we were checking in at Fishing Bridge RV Park, another Trend pulled up. They didn’t have reservations and the campground was full, so they drove off. Rick later took a walk around our loop and saw a Trend with Utah plates. So after not seeing any Trends/Vivas since the second day of our trip, we have seen three Trends in two days. Still waiting for our first Viva sighting. Trends/Vivas have two different floor plans, and all four of the Trends we have seen on this trip have had the same floor plan we have. We made the popular choice in floor plans, it seems. Regarding the Trend vs. Viva—well, our theory is that Trend people are likely a little more conservative. After all, the Viva’s name actually includes an exclamation point after it—VIVA! That seemed to fit us better than Trend! Wait, scratch that last sentence because Trend does not have an exclamation point after it.

Linda took an all-day bus tour of Yellowstone on Thursday while Rick swept, scrubbed the floors, and did general cleaning of the Viva inside and out. He took the dogs for a long walk, and later ran Zoe two miles. He also started working on his novel again. With all of the things to see and do, and all of the miles and different campgrounds, he hasn’t had time to focus on writing. The end of the trip is coming into view now, so he chose today to kickstart his writing. Again…

Rick took the all-day bus tour on Friday while Linda did some cleaning, made a batch of Joe’s Oat Patties (the world’s greatest vegan burgers).

Since we took the same tour to the same spots a day apart, we’ll summarize our experiences instead of essentially saying the same things twice.

The 41 passenger bus picked us up at the campground office at 9:30 a.m., and dropped us off around 6:30 p.m. The hours in between we spent driving the inner loop of Yellowstone and making many stops at geothermal sites, waterfalls, etc. The longest stop was to see Old Faithful, as no trip to Yellowstone would be complete without seeing the world’s most famous geyser.

The hot springs, geysers, thermal pools, mud pits, etc., are unlike anything we have ever seen. You are literally just feet away from boiling water coming out of the ground, and the sounds of the steam escaping is other-worldly.

Rick shot video of Old Faithful which we can’t upload because of no/slow Wi-Fi. We’ll let the photos we took on the tours speak for themselves.

We didn’t see many animals—perhaps because there are so many people everywhere. Linda did have one great sighting, though. When the bus pulled into the campground to let her off, there was a bison standing next to the office. Check out the photo.

We were glad to be on the tour having someone else drive, as finding parking spots for the Viva would have been close to impossible. It was also so much easier to see all the sights without having to keep eyes on the road. There are drop-offs here, like every place we’ve been.

Not long after Rick got back to the Viva after his bus tour, a pickup truck pulled up to our site. It was a surprise visit from our friends, Steve and Jan. Linda and Jan went to school together and have known each other forever (Rick suspects that they attended a one room schoolhouse). Jan and Linda are part of the “Mount Vernon Gang,” a small group of classmates who have stayed in touch through the years and go on an annual trip together. We knew that Steve and Jan were visiting Yellowstone, but with no cell service we couldn’t get in touch with them. They came to our campground—which is huge—and asked for our site number, but the office couldn’t give it out for privacy reasons. They did tell them our loop, and said if you know them you’ll be able to find them—which they did. It was such a great surprise! We talked for awhile and took a walk through the woods. They were staying north of Yellowstone and had a long drive through the park ahead of them, so the visit wasn’t a long one, but it was so nice of them to make the effort to find us.

We liked Yellowstone more after our bus tours, and it got even better on our own drive toward the north exit of the park. The scenery was much better than our drive into Yellowstone. The elevations were much higher, the landscape more varied and more beautiful. We saw more wildlife—bisons and elk especially. Just when we thought we were going to spend three days at Yellowstone without seeing a single bear, our luck changed. A small black bear—had to be a juvenile—was frolicking in bushes right next to the roadway. He was truly in the bushes, so we didn’t get great photos, but you can clearly see him, and see how close he was to the road and to us.

We were in for one last surprise. As we were driving out of the park, the road was closed due to construction. We took a detour that led us into Gardiner, a town on the northern border of Yellowstone. We came to a four-way stop, and there was a pickup truck at the stop sign to our right. It was Steve and Jan! They were staying in Gardiner and were about to go into the park for the day. We pulled into a nearby parking lot and had another impromptu visit. What are the odds!

Not sure if we’ll ever return to Yellowstone National Park because it is so crowded, but we were glad that we were able to see it this time. It truly is a national treasure.

Click for this trip’s highlight PHOTOS (8 total)

Click for ALL of this trip’s PHOTOS (47 total)

Colter Bay Village RV Park • Grand Teton National Park, WY • JUL 12 - 14, 2015


DAYS 46, 47 and 48

A short Sunday drive—56 miles total—from Jackson to our campground in Grand Teton National Park, and that included a stop at the RV home of our friends, Keith and Nancy (see previous blog entry for the intro to Keith and Nancy).

Keith had said that we would be amazed once we got on the other side of the mountains outside Jackson. Well, he was right. We went from mountains to MOUNTAINS—The Tetons! This is another occasion where words can’t properly describe. Towering, imposing, snow-capped, majestic mountains. The Tetons. We’re going to enjoy our stay here.

Keith and Nancy have a sweet 32’ Itasca Sunrise Class A motorhome. Stepping from our little Viva into their rig was like going from a one room apartment to a mansion. As Keith pointed out, though, our respective rigs serve different purposes. Our Viva is designed to keep us on the go from sight to sight, and site to site, with great fuel mileage and easy maneuverability. Keith and Nancy live in their Class A full-time and most of the time it’s parked in one spot. They couldn’t do what we’re doing in their rig, and we couldn’t live in one spot in our Viva. Still, their world is a nice one!

We then drove to the campground to check in and get hooked up on our site. We rested a bit, then Keith and Nancy came up to give us their inside tour of Grand Teton National Park. They brought their van and were gracious enough to let Tybee and Zoe ride along. Cameras at the ready, we went bear hunting and elk hunting, but no luck. Keith took us where people rarely go, bouncing along unpaved backroads, but the wildlife must take Sundays off. After a two hour tour, we went back to our campsite and talked awhile, then it was time to crash. It wasn’t a day filled with exertional hikes, and we didn’t drive very far, but 46 days on the road have a cumulative effect.

Early the next morning (our first full day), Rick took the dogs for a walk. Down by Jackson Lake he saw the light on The Tetons and knew he had to go grab his camera, quickly. He got back in time to capture a great reflection in the water. It was one of the best photos of the trip so far. It was the right place at the right time with perfect lighting and calm water.

We then set out at eight to meet Keith and Nancy. We took two hour hikes—Linda and Nancy went first while Rick and Keith stayed with the dogs. While on their hike, Linda and Nancy stopped at the Visitors Center in the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve. It was a serene setting with a meditation room and another room with benches where visitors can view outdoor scenes of nature in Grand Teton National Park. It was like being in an art gallery. Linda said it was the prettiest Visitors Center she had ever seen. Then it was the guys’ turn. The hikes were uphill but not difficult, and the scenery of course was lovely.

After the hikes and lunch (Keith and Nancy tried some of our vegan Tofurkey sandwiches), the Goudys led the way in their car while we followed in the Viva. We made multiple stops and were lucky enough to see a large moose up close and personal. We also stopped at the Chapel of the Transfiguration, an old church that still holds regular services. There was a large window behind the pulpit with a beautiful view of the Grand Teton, the most majestic of all the Tetons.

By late afternoon we were tired, and threatening skies were setting in. We got back to the campground just as the rain started. No thunder or lightning, just a steady rain well into the evening.

Rick got up early Tuesday morning and took the dogs for a short walk. He saw low hanging clouds over The Tetons, so he hurried back to drop off the dogs and get his camera. He literally ran back to the lake, hoping that the moment hadn’t passed. To his surprise, he encountered a moment he hadn’t expected. He caught a flash of movement on the left—it was a fox, who took no notice of him. Rick was able to snap several photos before the fox sauntered into the woods. We didn’t know it at the time, but that was the first of several animal encounters we would have today. After the fox was gone, Rick did get photos of The Tetons with the low hanging clouds.

When we said goodbye to the Goudys yesterday, the plan was for us to do laundry and cleaning in the morning, then they would drive up in the afternoon to get together one last time. We listened to the radio last night (no internet, no TV) and heard that afternoon rains were in the forecast again. The morning was beautiful, so we made a quick change of plans. We didn’t want to be doing laundry and cleaning during the last nice weather here, so we disconnected and headed out in the Viva.

We took the Scenic Drive to Jenny Lake. It’s a single lane, one way road with woods on both sides and a 25 mph speed limit. About a mile into the drive we saw cars pulled over and people with cameras—clearly some animal was in viewfinder range. We pulled over, too, and then we saw it—a small black bear in the woods to our left. He/she was moving away from us in the trees, but we were able to get several photos.

We stopped again at the Chapel of the Transfiguration. After letting the dogs out for a few moments, we ate lunch. Rick was looking out the side window when he grabbed his camera. Another fox was meandering through the field just yards away. We’ll include a couple of photos of this fox—one in which he is clearly visible, and the other where he is a bit harder to find as he blends into his background well.

We called the Goudys and told them of our change in plans. We drove to their site and spent about an hour, talking and saying goodbye. We took a couple of photos of their Class A. Keith had dressed up for a meeting in the morning and was still wearing his cool Western clothes, so we captured that as well. Keith and Nancy are so lucky to summer in The Tetons, and they are such great ambassadors not only for the National Park, but for Jackson as well.

On our way back we missed a turn and drove well east of the road we had intended to take. It was a good thing we made that mistake, for it led to another great wildlife sighting, this one a little disconcerting. We saw traffic stopped ahead, and a herd of what we thought were cows crossing the road. As we got closer, we saw they were bison, scores of them, on both sides of the road and some walking on the road, between the cars. Linda immediately feared that one of them might ram the Viva—that sort of thing does happen. She went to Zoe to keep her quiet while Rick took several dozen photos. The bison were 10 feet from the Viva as they went past. We weren’t afraid of them, but we were afraid of what they could have done to our Viva!

We eventually got on the right road and headed back to go down the Scenic Drive again, looking for another bear sighting. Didn’t happen this time. Still, it was a beautiful drive.

The forecast was wrong and it didn’t rain, but we were still glad that we had the opportunity to drive throughout the park one last time, while still getting a chance to see Keith and Nancy. Truly a special day.

There is supposed to be working Wi-Fi at the Laundromat, so if all goes well we will update our travels through Grand Teton National Park tonight.

Tomorrow, it’s off to Yellowstone!

Click for this trip’s highlight PHOTOS (8 total)

Click for ALL of this trip’s PHOTOS (52 total)

Virginian R.V. Resort • Jackson, WY • JUL 10 - 11, 2015


DAYS 44 and 45

Before hitting the road this morning, Rick ran four miles. He actually hoped to see a bear (and Linda probably was hoping a bear would see him), but no luck.

Broken record—took Route 89 again! Rained on the way, so we pulled over for gas and lunch, not necessarily in that order.

Of the several thousand photos we have taken/will take on this trip, perhaps the best photo was the one we didn’t take. We rounded a curve on Route 89 (have we mentioned that 89 has curves?) and had our first view of the Snake River. There was low fog/mist on the mountains in the background. The river was flowing rapidly with some whitewater. Trees and green vegetation formed the borders on the left and right. It was just a majestic view, and seconds later it was gone as there was no place to pull over for a photo.

We arrived in Jackson and found it to be a cool little town. It’s a resort area, which we always love. It’s full of history, which is good, too. We got to the campground, which is set below the mountains with beautiful views. We were so glad we changed our Montpelier reservations to spend the two days here.

After hooking up the Viva, walking the dogs, and relaxing a bit, Linda set off to check out the downtown area on foot. We have friends—Keith and Nancy Goudy—who live and work in the area, Keith at Indians of the Greater Yellowstone Museum and Nancy at Grand Teton National Park. We worked with Keith for years in Ohio, and were active with him in the “Save The Whales” campaign in the late ’80s—although not even close to being as active as Keith. More than anyone we know personally, Keith has volunteered for so many great causes over the years. He is such an inspiration. He picked a perfect partner in Nancy, for she, too, has been a great volunteer.

While Linda was gone, a van pulled up next to the Viva and it was Keith. It was so nice to see him again—it had been around ten years. After visiting awhile, Keith then went downtown to find Linda and give her a ride back to the campground. First, though, they watched the daily gunfight reenactment in the center of town. There was a sudden rainstorm, but the gunfight went on anyway. When differences need to be settled, they need to be settled. Linda also got to see the archway on the town square that is made of elk antlers. No elk were harmed—they shed the antlers, and Boy Scouts then gather them to add to the arch.

They came back to the Viva to get Rick, then we all went to The Virginian, the tavern attached to the campground, and Nancy joined us there. Good times with good friends. Keith and Nancy looked great, like they hadn’t aged a bit. They are full-time RVers and loving it. They come up here to work in the summers, and winter in Arizona. Sounds like a nice life!

The next morning Linda walked downtown again, this time to go to the Farmer’s Market, and to get a tour of the museum where Keith works. The museum was conveniently located next to a small organic restaurant and vegan bakery.

Rick walked the dogs and found a trail on the mountainside. When Linda came back, they took both dogs for a walk on the trail. It was great trail, but narrow with weeds and overgrowth on both sides—and full of burs, which the dogs obligingly “gathered” as many as they could. Rick then took Zoe for a 3.5 mile run to the downtown area and back.

We went downtown to meet Keith after he finished work. The museum had an amazing collection of Native American artifacts—take the tour if you ever get a chance. Jackson is famous for several local bars and hotels, which Keith took us through. We then ordered vegan pizzas from the organic restaurant, which we took back to the Viva and had with some tasty local beers. Another great visit with Keith, and he left with plans for us to get together once we move on to our next campground in Grand Teton National Park.

It was a quick two days, but we really enjoyed our stay here!

Click for ALL of this trip’s PHOTOS (19 total)

Montpelier Creek KOA • Montpelier, ID • JUL 9, 2015


DAY 43

First, a Happy 66th Birthday to Linda! She spent it traveling, which is her favorite thing to do!

Her second favorite thing to do is to go to Trader Joe’s, which she did today as we were leaving Salt Lake City. She also got to stop in Logan, Utah, at Cafe Ibis to buy some of their world famous coffee.

(Rick is looking at Linda’s list of favorite things to do and his name doesn’t appear once)

We drove our old friend Route 89 again, and Route 89 wouldn’t be Route 89 without steep ascents, steep descents, and hairpin curves. As evidenced by this post, we survived this trip as well.

A bonus for taking scenic byways is the opportunity to go through a lot of little towns. It’s a part of America that we otherwise wouldn’t have seen. Our one recurring question when traveling through these towns is: where do these people buy their groceries? Seriously! We drive for miles and miles and not see a single store. We occasionally see a Walmart, which is sad because they have driven all of the smaller local stores (grocery, hardware, etc.) out of business. For the “privilege” of paying lower prices, people have to drive long distances to buy cheaply made foreign products from a corporation that doesn’t pay its American employees a living wage. End of rant, we’re on vacation.

We passed Bear Lake, which lies in both Utah and Idaho. The water was the most amazingly brilliant shades of blue. Oh, if we had only been towing our boat!

Rick promised Linda he would take her to Paris on her birthday. She was only slightly disappointed that it was Paris, Idaho, and not Paris, France. Okay, more than “only slightly,” but since Rick writes the blog updates, he can term it as he wishes.

We arrived at the Montpelier Creek KOA to spend three quiet, relaxing days before embarking on the next leg of our trip. Well, as has happened before on this journey, the best laid plans of mice and men (and Linda and two dogs. Not sure how those mice got in the Viva)… When we pulled in, the manager came out to tell us the campground was full. We had reservations, though, so there was a spot for us. However, almost all of the rest of the campground was filled with families there for a tri-state girls softball tournament. We’re used to kids at a campground, but not almost all kids in a campground. Plus, our site was on the drive where everyone pulls in (and rigs were still pulling in well after 10:00 that night), and across from the restrooms, playground, laundry, and pool. So much for a quiet, relaxing stay!

We changed plans and decided to spend just one night and head on to Jackson, Wyoming. We would like to return to this KOA someday, because it is actually a great park. The owner told us it’s usually very peaceful. It has a great dog park—the best we’ve found so far—a heated pool, laundry, basketball court, walking trail, a lovely stream, etc.

We bought firewood and had an enjoyable evening watching all the rigs go by. Once again, an overnight rain woke us up. At least it wasn’t a thunderstorm like the night before in Salt Lake City.

Click for ALL of this trip’s PHOTOS (13 total)

Salt Lake City KOA • Salt Lake City, UT • JUL 7 - 8, 2015


DAYS 41 and 42

Neither of us had ever been to Salt Lake City, so we had no idea what to expect, from either the city or the lake—other than we knew it was salty.

The first stop was Antelope Island, AKA the Great Salt Lake State Park. It was at the end of a long causeway, which also gave us our first view of the Great Salt Lake. Nothing like we expected. It was huge, no surprise, but the edges looked marshy and dirty, and there was a pungent smell everywhere. Think sulphur, dead fish, muck, etc. But beyond the edges, the lake was pretty. We drove most of the island, and made several stops. Rick took a trail to the top of the island (it seems that everywhere out here has high elevations and steep drop-offs, even this island!). It was a rather strenuous climb, but the view was worth it.

We were amazed at the number of spiders here. Thousands, probably tens of thousands. There were small scrub bushes everywhere, and you couldn’t walk between them because you’d walk into a web occupied by a large, nasty-looking spider. We like spiders and never kill them, but we also prefer not to have close encounters of the “on your clothing or body” kind.

Rick dipped his toes into the Great Salt Lake. And although he thinks he can walk on water, he found he couldn’t walk on salt water. He might have been able to float, but he didn’t give that a try. But to get to the water he had to walk through a band of black sand. As he stepped on that sand, swarms of black bugs flew into the air. RAID!

Linda took a tour of the Fielding Garr Ranch, which was established on the island in the late 1840s. She loves to go through historical buildings.

We saw several bison herds, and a couple of bisons up close. Very close! They are large, imposing animals that you don’t want to anger. They can also run very fast. We didn’t push our luck by getting too close.

We stayed at the Salt Lake City KOA, one of the largest campgrounds we have visited. We were assigned a spot, but when we pulled in we saw the space two lots down was vacant. Linda remembered it as the site advertised on the website. It was the last site on the row, so there would be only one rig next to us, and it had a nice privacy hedge, along with an outdoor table and chairs, glider, and fire pit. Linda called the office to see if we could switch, and they said no problem.

There was a small dog park which the dogs enjoyed, but there was also a trail beyond the border of the campground where we walked them several times. They loved it.

On the second day (our only full day here), Linda took the shuttle to see downtown Salt Lake City and Mission Square. She toured a number of buildings and talked with several Mormon missionaries. A high-ranking member of the church had died recently and his funeral was to be held in the Tabernacle, so she able to go inside there but the noon organ recital was changed to another building. She was still able to get there in time to hear it. Beautiful.

We enjoyed a nice campfire our second night. Things then got a bit rough—overnight we experienced our worst storm ever in the Viva. Heavy, heavy rain, high winds, thunder, and lighting that lit up the sky. The Viva rocked in the wind. The next morning we saw that the metal glider had blown over.

Click for this trip’s highlight PHOTOS (6 total)

Click for ALL of this trip’s PHOTOS (25 total)

Springville / Provo KOA • Springville, UT • JUL 6, 2015


DAY 40

Every day can’t be wonderful, and every campground can’t be outstanding.

This was meant to be just a stop along the way, to get us closer to our next destination without pushing ourselves too hard. So we weren’t expecting much, and that’s what this campground delivered—not much!

Advertised: Wi-Fi
Reality: no Wi-Fi.
Wi-Fi is important to us on the road. Otherwise, how could we keep providing these scintillating updates? Well, the Wi-Fi signal here was so weak we couldn’t do anything on the web.

Advertised: cable TV
Reality: no cable TV
We haven’t watched much TV on this trip—often we hook up the cable when we arrive and never turn on the TVs. But with no Wi-FI, cable TV would have been nice. It wasn’t working.

Advertised: heated pool
Reality: pool was closed for maintenance
You’re probably getting our drift by now.

Add a “dog park” that had no grass, just pea gravel (pee gravel?) and a bunch of poop that lazy dog parents didn’t pick up, and this place felt like walking in a giant cat litter box. Well, we’ve never actually walked in a giant cat litter box, but we imagine it would be like this dog park. As the signs say everywhere we go, please scoop if your dog poops.

We have three pictures, all of the Viva. No highlights!

Click for ALL of this trip’s PHOTOS (3 total)

Portal RV Resort • Moab, UT • JUL 2 - 5, 2015


DAYS 36, 37, 38 and 39
(A bit of a departure on this blog entry—we were in the same campground for four nights, but went different places during the day. There will be highlight pictures for each day)

DAY 36
On our way to Moab we drove through The Needles in Canyonlands National Park. It was a long drive in the middle of nowhere, but scenic as usual out here. We stopped at Newspaper Rock and saw the petroglyphs—fascinating. One of the images was the peace symbol—not sure if that was an original image or was added by a vandal sometime from the 1960s on. Either way, we felt a kinship with the person who drew it.

We arrived at Portal RV Resort in Moab where we had reserved a deluxe site with pergola, patio table, pool and spa access across from the site, and a great dog park nearby. We couldn’t have asked for anything more in a site…except for SHADE! We were in direct sun, and the sun was angry that day. We knew our poor refrigerator wouldn’t stand a chance. With heavy hearts we went to the office and asked for a shaded site in the campground part of the park, as opposed to the resort part. We ended up with a decent site with plenty of shade, but no amenities other than another nice dog park.

Click for DAY 36 highlight PHOTOS (9 total)

DAY 37
We drove to the end of Arches National Park and then back, with many stops in between. Both of us hiked to Delicate Arch, three miles roundtrip. Rick went first and made the mistake of failing to tell Linda that the trail was rated as “strenuous.” After Linda did her hike, she looked up the description in the brochure, which she then pointed out to Rick. It read as follows: “Take at least 2 quarts of water per person. Open slick rock with some exposure to heights and no shade. The first half mile is a well-defined trail. Upon reaching the slick rock, follow the rock cairns. The trail climbs steadily and levels out toward the top of the rock face. Elevation change of 480 feet. Just before you get to Delicate Arch the trail traverses a rock ledge for 200 yards.” The trail was strenuous, and for a while after our hikes our relationship was tenuous. But Linda was a real trouper and actually loved the challenging hike—but just wished she knew in advance what she was facing—98 degrees, no shade, slick rock, cliffs, etc. She had someone take her picture to prove to Rick that she made it all the way.

We also hiked to Sand Dunes Arch and Broken Arch. Rick looked for Arch Griffin but couldn’t find him. He did see two guys wearing Ohio State shirts and exchanged OH-IO greetings. Go Bucks!

We stopped at the Visitors Center on the way out of the park and bought “Utah Rocks” t-shirts that display all five Utah National Parks.

The dogs made multiple visits to the Dog Park and we easily went to sleep during the thunderstorm that moved in at bedtime.

Click for DAY 37 highlight PHOTOS (9 total)

DAY 38
We celebrated the 4th of July with a return visit to Arches National Park. We didn’t spend quite as much time as the day before because it was so crowded—and parking was at a premium. Still, we drove the length of the park again, and made the stops that we had missed on our first tour. We both hiked to Double Arch, Windows (North and South) and Turret Arch. We walked up to the base of Balanced Rock, and marveled at Courthouse Towers. Nature is so amazing.

After we left the park we drove along the Colorado River and watched rafts shoot the rapids—or what passes for rapids at this time of year. We went to the town of Castle Valley, which turned out to be a collection of houses and a Mormon Church. For some reason we thought it was an artsy little town. Maybe an artist lives there, but that’s about it.

On the way back we stopped at Castle Creek Winery for a free wine tasting consisting of 3 tiny pours (we never appreciated Maggie’s Attic as much as at that moment! Love you, Jerome!). But the wine was good and we did buy a couple of bottles because we’re suckers for anyone who gives us free wine.

Moab had fireworks scheduled at 10:00 p.m., but another thunderstorm moved in. We thought the fireworks would be cancelled, but the rain stopped for about ten minutes and they crammed all of the show into that small break in the weather. We got to see it from the campgrounds, so our 4th was complete.

Click for DAY 38 highlight PHOTOS (13 total)

DAY 39
Rick and Zoe started the day with a four mile trail run. Zoe is becoming such a good runner—she stays right beside Rick the entire run, and is not distracted by anything. Well, after the first hundred yards or so. At the start of a run, she is so excited that she jumps more than runs, but she quickly settles down and enjoys the rest of the way.

We went back to Canyonlands National Park, but this time we went to the Island In The Sky section. Once again, so much beauty (and variety) that words seem inadequate. Arches, rivers, canyons, and cliffs with sheer drop-offs. Rick took a long rim trail and walked to the edge multiple times. Unlike the Grand Canyon, Zion and Bryce, where people took CRAZY chances, Rick was closer to the edge than anyone he saw on his hike. Not as many people come here compared to the other park, so the number of daredevils is lower.

Mesa Arch was nice—but how do you compare arches, especially after you’ve been to Arches National Park? The canyons and cliffs and drop-offs were nice, but how do you rate and compare? We stopped trying and just tried to soak it all in.

One site/sight that was unlike anything we have seen anywhere else was Upheaval Dome at Island In The Sky. It was a huge—repeat, huge—hole in the ground. It is a mystery as to how it was formed. There are several theories, the two most prominent being erosion over millions of years (not my theory) and the aftermath of a meteor strike (my theory). There are brilliant colors on the side wall, and we didn’t see those colors elsewhere in the park, or anywhere else. Has to be the result of a meteor.

We made a stop at Dead Horse Point State Park. How it got its name is a tragic story. Cowboys used to herd wild horses onto the narrow point. They would close the gate, pick the best horses, and then set the others free. One year for unknown reasons, after selecting the best horses, they left with the gate closed and the other horses trapped. The horses could look down from the high cliffs and see the Colorado River, but they couldn’t get to it, or to any water, and they all soon died. And ever since, that has been Dead Horse Point.

Two side notes…first, when we were driving through Island In The Sky, it seemed like every stop we would run into the same family. After seeing them several times, we talked to them and learned they were from California. We saw them another time or two, then we were off to Dead Horse State Park, which is really off the beaten path. While there, we ran into them once again! Not sure if we were stalking them or they were stalking us, but it was funny how often we saw them. Also at Dead Horse State Park, we met a couple on the path who said hello, and the woman then remarked that Rick looked familiar. He told her that we were camped next to them at Portal RV Resort. She had seen Zoe and Rick running early that morning, and had said hello and remarked how well-behaved Zoe was (she obviously didn’t know Zoe well!). When Rick told her she had seen him running that morning, she immediately mentioned “the beautiful black poodle.” That dog gets all the compliments.

This was a great stop on our western journey. We loved each day, and each day presented its own special beauty.

Click for DAY 39 highlight PHOTOS (17 total)

Blue Mountain RV Park • Blanding, UT • JUL 1, 2015


DAY 35

We left Thousand Lakes RV Park early in the morning with the hope that the Scenic Drive in Capitol Reef National Park would be open today (see yesterday’s comment about sealing the road). Well, it was still barricaded, so that Scenic Drive won’t be happening this trip.

We were only a little disappointed, because we had driven to the end of the park yesterday and it was very pretty, and we would be driving through it again today.

And what a day today turned out to be. Scenic 12 from Bryce Canyon National Park is in the top 10 list of most scenic drives in the country. Well, we were on Scenic 95 today, and if it isn’t on that list, it should be. We found it to be even more breathtakingly beautiful than Scenic 12, and the variety of different sights was just amazing.

We drove through the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and found striations and colors and patterns in rock walls that we had never seen before. We stopped for lunch at Hog Spring Picnic Area—we didn’t see any hogs, and being vegans, we didn’t eat any, either. We crossed the Dirty Devil River and the Colorado River, both on bridges suspended high above the waters. We saw stretches of rock and dirt that looked like it belonged on another planet.

We had the road virtually to ourselves, and there were no houses, businesses, or any buildings for miles and miles. It would be most unfortunate to have a mechanical breakdown out there, with no one around and no cell service.

We did stop for something cold to drink and a bag of ice in a little town named Hanksville. The guy checking out ahead of us was from Orlando. Again, small world.

We went to Natural Bridges National Monument and drove the nine mile loop. We saw all three natural bridges and walked out to the observation areas for photos.

After 195 miles, we reached today’s campground, Blue Mountain RV Park in Blanding, Utah. We were able to pick our own site—a back-in with a nice patch of grass and two shade trees. Aside from a strong wi-fi signal, there were no amenities here. They didn’t even sell ice. But all we really wanted was a place to rest to get ready for another big day tomorrow.

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