Category Archives: Boondocking

Errands and Detours

We left the Casa Grande Elks Lodge early Wednesday morning – we pulled out around 8:30am which is an early start for us. Our first stop was at Speedco where I had the coach motor oil and filter changed and the chassis greased. They also checked the tires and coolant – I knew these were okay – I checked our tires that morning and the coolant was flushed and filled with Fleetguard ES Compleat coolant in Albuquerque. Rather than get on the interstate, I took a shortcut down Trekell Road and intended to hit Sunland Gin Road. However, I forgot that I needed to turn on Jimmy Kerr Road to get to Sunland Gin and ended up out in the desert. So much for shortcuts.

Speedco used to do the service on our coach for under $200. Last year they raised their prices considerably and it cost me nearly $300. This year they raised the price again and I paid $330 – this includes a used oil analysis report that I always pay for. By the way, the report looked good with no worries.

It was nearly 11am by the time we hooked the trailer back up and pulled out of the Speedco lot. Originally I thought we would go to Yuma and I would get fuel before we crossed into California. However, our fuel gauge is unreliable and I wasn’t sure how much fuel we’d burned crossing the mountains plus we had lots of generator run time. So, we backtracked up I-10 to the Pilot/Flying J travel center before we headed west on I-8. We ate lunch in the Flying J parking lot after fueling.

We planned a fairly short day and wanted to run a few errands in Yuma. We made a stop on the way at Dateland (exit 67) to take a break and get a date shake. The travel center at Dateland used to be a gas station and a separate small building with a gift shop and milkshakes. They’ve upgraded it considerably over the past few years and it’s a nice stopping point in I-8 for refreshments and touristy stuff. We saw several Border Patrol vehicles along this stretch of freeway and a few Border Patrol officers stopped for lunch at Dateland. They had one of their rigs with two ATVs on a trailer out front – a Polaris four-seater and a smaller ATV.

Polaris four-seat ATV with Homeland Security badges

Our next stop was at Al’s RV Service and Supply on Fortuna Road in Yuma. I wanted to stop there and buy a bottle of Tank Techs RX – the treatment I use in our holding tanks. Al’s is one of the few RV stores that I find it in and buying it at the store saves the cost of shipping when I buy online. I’d also planned to go to the RV Water Filter Store in Yuma, but I found the filter elements I wanted at Al’s. Then Donna said we should look for a new latch for my closet door. The old one broke and the mirrored door slides open and closed as we drive down the road. I was doubtful, but we found the right latch on a display rack! Then Donna found a rod for the kitchen window shade – it went missing earlier this year when were having work done at RV Renovators. Al’s has almost everything for an RV.

We drove across the overpass to the Pilot/Flying J and I topped up the tank with diesel fuel again. We’d been running the generator and roof air conditioners all afternoon and I wanted to avoid buying fuel in California. I also had our propane tank filled. The gauge showed less than 1/4 tank of propane remaining. It took 30 gallons so we had at least a quarter tank – it holds 42 gallons when filled to 80% of actual capacity.

We made one more stop in Yuma at Walmart to get a few things. It was after 4pm by the time we left Yuma. We decided to stop for the night at our usual stopping point on Ogilby Road where we dry camp on BLM land. Interstate 8 is being rebuilt along large sections between El Centro and Yuma. The exit from westbound I-8 was closed at Ogilby Road. We had to continue a few miles west to the Gray’s Well exit and come back east to get on Ogilby. As we crossed over the freeway I noticed the on-ramp to westbound I-8 from Ogilby was also closed so this would present another detour when we left.

We went to a familiar area where we’ve boondocked before. The area was empty – not an RV in sight. We set up a little closer to the road than usual and called it a day. After dark, another motorhome came past us. The driver was brave to drive deep into the desert at night!

Ogilby Road is usually quiet with few cars passing by. The road runs north where it merges with CA78 and continues all the way to Blythe. This morning, a gaggle of cars came south on Ogilby starting around 5am. I got out of bed at 5:30am and the traffic quit coming by shortly after that. I’m guessing the crew working on the interstate must be camped up the road and were heading out to start an early shift – I can’t think of any other reason for that much traffic on Ogilby Road.

Dawn in the desert

We knew the day would warm quickly and planned to hit the road before it became hot out. Tuesday was in the upper 90s and we expected the same today. To get on I-8 westbound, we had to go east to Sidewinder Road – about five miles, then cross over and head back west. Our plan was to cross the desert early and stop at the Golden Acorn Casino across the Tecate Divide. The Golden Acorn is near Campo at an elevation of about 4,100 feet above sea level and would be much cooler. Our reservation at Mission Bay RV Resort in San Diego starts tomorrow, so we needed a place to spend another night before we arrive there.

Desert sunrise on our coach

The traffic on westbound I-8 across the California desert was very light. Even with the construction zones we made good time. West of El Centro, we were at sea level. We started climbing before we reached Ocotillo, then quickly gained 3,000 feet of elevation. The coach handled the climb easily – we never went below 50mph and the coolant temperature topped out right at 200 degrees for just a short time.

We found the Golden Acorn Casino on the south side of I-8 at exit 61. The parking lot is large, but we were a little confused about where we should park the coach. We came in the truck entrance on the southeast side of the casino and saw what was clearly a truck lot. Then we saw a couple of RVs on the north end of the lot and another on the southwest side. We found a fairly level spot on the northwest end, well away from any parked cars. I think we’ll be fine here for the night. It’s always windy here by the divide. There are wind generators on the mountain tops around the casino and to the east. The temperature is over 80 degrees but the breeze makes it feel cooler.

Our spot at Golden Acorn Casino

Tomorrow we’ll have a short drive – less than 70 miles to Mission Bay. We’ll settle down there for the next two months.

Jake and the Shortcut

Donna rode the Spyder to pick up some groceries before we hit the road Sunday morning.  The traffic was terrible as everyone was exiting Balloon Fiesta Park as well as the RV park. She was trying to go east to Trader Joe’s, but police had closed Alameda and were diverting traffic down San Mateo and onto the I-25 frontage road. She didn’t want to get on I-25 and was able to make a detour back west to Jefferson and south to Paseo del Norte. She ended up at Target on Coors Boulevard. It took her about an hour and a half to get groceries and make it back to the RV lot – but she managed to do it without getting lost.

We hit the road around 11:30am. Our first stop was the Pilot/Flying J travel center. I didn’t need fuel, but I topped up the tank to estimate our generator fuel burn rate – I had topped up before we came into the park. We put about 40 hours on the generator at the balloon fiesta and took on only 18 gallons of fuel – less than half a gallon per hour. This is better than I expected. We had a lot of generator run time in the last two months – 95 hours since August 17th.

We drove I-40 westbound to exit 89 and got on NM117 south. This took us along the El Malpais National Conservation Area. We traveled through here two years ago. We were pleased to find much of the road had been repaved and was much smoother. We then followed NM36 to Quemado where we hit US60.

On US60, we found a primitive rest area about 8 miles east of the Arizona border and called it a day around 4pm. The rest area was all dirt and gravel with a few covered concrete tables and no facilities, but it was level and overnight parking is allowed. Two other RVs and a tractor/trailer rig pulled in before dark and stayed overnight. There was plenty of room and everyone had their own semi-private space.

We had a quiet evening. I watched football while Donna watched a couple of episodes of 24 on her laptop. I woke up at 5am – a hangover from eight days of rising early for the balloon fiesta. I rolled out of bed at 5:30am and went outside to look at the stars. It was very dark in this secluded area and the stars filled the sky. It was also cold – the elevation was 7,500 feet above sea level and the temperature dropped to 34 degrees overnight.

Our overnight spot just after sunup

We hit the road around 8:45am and gained an hour a few minutes later when we crossed time zones entering Arizona. When we came this way in 2015, I took AZ260 from Show Low to Payson, then down through Phoenix. This time I stayed on US60 – it’s a shorter route and I wanted to do something different. It also allowed us to bypass Phoenix.

The thing is, short cuts are never easy. If they were easy, they wouldn’t be a short cut – they would just be “the way.” This route took us down into the Salt River Canyon – a steep winding descent from about 5,000 feet above sea level to about 3,400 feet.

The south side of the canyon is equally steep with a number of switchbacks – we topped out around 6,000 feet above sea level. This was a good test of the new turbocharger, charge air cooler and engine radiator. We had good power and made the climb easily and the engine coolant temperature never exceeded 193 degrees. I should also mention that having a full functioning turbo also means the Jacobs (Jake) engine compression brake worked flawlessly and made the descents easily controllable. Donna finds peace of mind when she hears the Jake smoothly slow our coach instead of me having to stab the service brakes!

Our route on US60 took us through the mining towns of Globe, Miami and Superior before we turned off at Florence Junction. We stopped and ate lunch in the coach at a park in Florence, but moved on when we couldn’t find a suitable overnight spot. About 45 minutes later, we found ourselves in Casa Grande and set up in the Elks Lodge lot. I wanted to stop in Casa Grande to have the coach serviced – we’re due for an engine oil change and chassis lube. I didn’t have this done along with the other work at Cummins in Albuquerque due to their high rates. I’ll have it done at Speedco in Casa Grande where I usually stop for routine maintenance.

We’re well ahead of schedule to make it to San Diego on Thursday. I want to stop in Yuma to pick a few supplies – tomorrow we’ll decide where to stop next after we have service at Speedco. The temperature here in Casa Grande is 93 degrees today and we expect to see 90s for the next two days before we reach the coast. More generator run time to power the air conditioners!

High Passes and Quiet Night

With the rest of the Hearts A’Fire team heading for home Monday, Donna and I decided to spend one more night at the Hotel Elegante in Colorado Springs. Donna was able to get some laundry done in the hotel while I walked over to the convenience store and bought some drinking water.

On my way to the store, I saw a couple of interesting coaches in the hotel parking lot. They were Prevost custom conversions. I could tell they were entertainer buses – presumably a band traveling through the area had stopped for the night at the hotel. I could tell these were entertainer tour buses by the small lettering on the side indicating they were leased from Roberts Brothers in Springfield, Tennessee – a well-known provider of entertainer buses.

Entertainer tour bus

I wondered who it was, but wasn’t curious enough to find out. At the store, the local newspaper caught my eye. On the front page was a photo from the Labor Day Lift Off balloon event featuring Hearts A’Fire taking off from the park.

Front page of the Gazette

On Tuesday morning, we packed up and headed a few miles north to the Elks Lodge. Our plan was to spend one night dry camping at the lodge so we could use their dump station to flush out our holding tanks and refill the fresh water tank before leaving town. We also used the opportunity to do some grocery shopping and pick up some items Donna had delivered to the Sierra Trading Post store.

While we were at it, we decided to visit Bristol Brewing, a local brewery with an interesting location. They’re in an old schoolhouse. One half of the schoolhouse has boutique shops and a coffee shop/bakery while the other wing houses the brewery and pub.

Shops on the left, Bristol Brewing in the right wing

Red Rocket ale

Donna and I returned to the coach to plan our next move. We enjoyed a stay at Eagle Nest Lake in northern New Mexico last year but decided we wanted to explore new territory this year. Donna wanted to go to Abiquiu (Abbi-cue). We decided to head to Alamosa, Colorado across the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, then south into New Mexico.

Our trip down I-25 started off with a bang. We were driving along and went through an underpass. Just as we went through, a high-cube rental truck passed us on the left. I heard a loud boom – almost like a gun shot. I checked my mirrors and saw gray smoke on the left side of the trailer. I pulled off on the exit ramp and stopped on the shoulder – I thought we had blown a trailer tire. I went to investigate but didn’t find anything amiss. I guess the sound and smoke came from the truck overtaking us.

The turbocharger on our engine was still giving me problems. The engine control module (ECM) was intermittently losing the signal from the manifold pressure sensor. When this would happen, the turbo no longer provided boost pressure and there was a power loss. Also, the Jake brake would quit working whenever we lost the boost. I knew the problem was in the wiring harness at the ECM. I had taped up the harness for better support while we were at the Elks lodge. I checked the harness and repositioned it while we were stopped. This issue would continue to plague us on the trip to New Mexico.

We left I-25 near Walsenburg and headed west on US160. This took us through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains over La Veta Pass at an elevation of 9,426 feet above sea level. Wouldn’t you know it – I lost boost pressure on the climb up the pass and had to gear down to third to pull the grade. There was a Newmar Dutch Star motorhome traveling the same route that must have had engine trouble too – we overtook him on the climb.

We stopped in Alamosa and had a Subway sandwich for lunch. Donna looked up a couple of boondocking opportunities on the route to Abiquiu. Apparently we hadn’t communicated clearly on the route. I intended to head south on US285 from Alamosa into New Mexico. Donna had us heading west on US17 which curves south into New Mexico.

We punched the first boondocking possibility into the GPS and I happily followed the directions. It was near Manassa, Colorado and I felt like it was a bit early to stop and wanted to continue on. The next place Donna had identified was in New Mexico – about five miles across the border near Chama. We programmed that stop and I didn’t give it another thought. When we came through Antonito, I followed SR17 instead of US285 without thinking about it.

This took us over the San Juan Mountains into New Mexico. We had to climb up to La Manga Pass – this was the steepest grade we have ever encountered. Luckily our turbocharger was cooperating and I had the power needed for the climb. La Manga Pass tops out at 10,230 feet above sea level. We wouldn’t have made it without turbo boost. After a short descent we climbed Cumbres Pass at an elevation of 10,022 feet above sea level.

From there, it was downhill into New Mexico and we found a paved pull-out that was level and stopped there. It’s a mile and half from the small town of Chama across from a paved landing strip. It’s in beautiful surroundings and there’s very little traffic on SR17. We’re at an elevation of 7,966 feet above sea level.

Donna went out for a walk. She didn’t to go far, but she heard a train whistle and saw a sign for the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad indicating it was one mile away so she kept walking. She took a few photos along the way – they’re at the bottom of this post. The Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad runs on narrow gauge tracks between Chama and Antonito. This historic railroad still uses coal-fired steam-powered engines. The track runs just to the west of our boondocking spot. We heard the train pass by, but it doesn’t run at night. This place is so peaceful and quiet – a welcome respite from the time recently spent in cities. I took a couple of photos before sunset – I stood on our door steps for these shots.

Door step view

I watched the US Open Tennis tournament on TV – I’ve been following it – while Donna prepared cod in parchment paper with asparagus, butter, tarragon and fresh squeezed orange juice. Just because were boondocking doesn’t mean we can’t eat well!

Cod cooked in parchment paper with asparagus, tarragon, butter and fresh squeezed orange juice

Today we’ll move on down to Abiquiu. The weather forecast looks good with highs in the 80s and cool nights in the upper 50s. We may have a stray thunder shower or two, but no big storms expected.

Here are photos from Donna’s walk…

Rio Chama River

Check out the sign!

Chama train station

Narrow gauge railroad track

Labor Lift Off 2017

I’m writing this post Monday morning – Labor Day – after a labor-intensive weekend crewing for our friends and their hot air balloon, the Hearts A’Fire. We expected Brad and Jessica Rice to arrive at the Hotel Elegante in Colorado Springs Friday afternoon. Around 6pm, Donna and I took a short walk around the property and ran into Jeff and Katie – other friends and also crew members for Hearts A’Fire. Little did we know Brad was already onsite but his wife Jessica was driving up separately with their kids and fellow crew member Darin. Jessica came in much later than expected – I think it was after 9pm.

We already made plans for the crew to head out at 5:45am Saturday morning to Memorial Park where the Labor Day Lift Off hot air balloon event takes place. I had my alarm set for 4:50am – or so I thought. I got distracted while I was setting the alarm and instead of setting it for Saturday morning I had it set for everyday except Saturday. Luckily my internal clock woke me and I checked my watch next to the bed at 5:10am. I scrambled and managed to down a cup of coffee and meet up with the crew on time.

We needed the early start as we had to put a sponsor banner on the balloon envelope and we were scheduled to take off early.

Banner attached

It was a Hare and Hound event and we were the hare. The way it works is this – the three commercial Rainbow Ryders balloons take off first with their huge baskets holding a dozen or more paying customers. Then Hearts A’Fire would take off. The task was to set the balloon down somewhere with the rest of the balloons following. After lift off, getting the chase vehicle out of the park is always interesting. Aaron and I walked in front of the truck and tried to keep spectators clear along the paved path. Most people were oblivious as they took photos or watched balloons inflating. We managed to keep it clear enough and got out of there.

Balloons inflating as we were exiting

When Brad set the balloon down, we unfurled a large X on the ground. Brad waited a few minutes to give the other balloon pilots a chance to see where he landed, then took off again. The object was for the other balloonists to drop a bean bag and try to hit the X we set out. The closest bean bag wins a prize.

Brad continued to fly southeast and then found a high school football field to land in. There was a scoreboard and goal posts that created an obstacle. Brad cleared them by a few feet and was actually close enough to touch the upright on the goal post as they floated past. The landing was perfect – the basket stuck on contact with the grass.

The balloon was deflated and we had it packed up in no time. Sounds easy, but it entails some work and bit of heavy lifting. We went back to the park where Jessica had staked out space for our breakfast tailgate party.

Aaron, Darin and Katie cooking breakfast burrito fixings

We packed up and were back at the hotel by noon. Donna and I stay in our motorhome on the hotel property while the rest of the crew has rooms in the hotel. I had recorded the Formula One Qualifying from Monza, Italy – or so I thought. I kicked back and started the replay. After a minute and half, the qualifying session was red-flagged due to heavy rain. The next three hours were delay after delay. My recording ended without seeing any qualifying. I was half snoozing on the sofa anyway.

At 5:30pm, we were headed back to Memorial Park. They had a glow scheduled for Saturday evening. A glow is a static display of the balloons. We inflated just before sunset. Once it was dark out, the balloons glow like lampshades when the pilot hits the burner.

The park is about to fill with balloons and people again

There were quite a few people that must have hung out at the park all afternoon when we arrived. Soon the park was packed with balloons and people.

Inflated at twilight

Time to glow

By the time we were packed up again it was after 9pm and I was worn out. To tell the truth, I don’t enjoy static displays or glows so much. It’s the same work as a flight without the satisfaction of a launch, chase and recovery.

When I got home I found Donna had a small party happening in the coach. Jessica, Melissa, Katie and her husband Jeff were enjoying wine and conversation. I poured myself a dram of Glenfiddich Single Malt Scotch. Later, Brad’s brother Eric and his girlfriend Brittney joined us. I was exhausted but it was after 11pm by the time I got to bed.

Sunday morning my alarm worked fine and I was up at 4:50am so we could do it again. The weather was great for flying with the exception of wind direction. The wind was taking the balloons due south. The preferred flight path is southeast or even easterly.

Chasing Hearts A’Fire as it heads south

I was navigating in the chase vehicle. Colorado Springs isn’t the easiest place to navigate as many roads are dead ends or loops. Also, road names change in a seemingly haphazard fashion only to revert back to the original name in another area. On Saturday, I was able to navigate our way to keep us in sight of the balloon and put us in place just in time for the landing.

Sunday didn’t work as well. We had communication issues as we weren’t receiving all of Brad’s transmissions from the balloon. The balloon was heading south so I found a route that would position us ahead of him. Then we lost sight of the balloon. This was the first time I can think of when we didn’t have a clue where the balloon went. Finally we were able to reach Brad by cell phone and found out he was north of us and had landed in a soccer field. Luckily, Eric was nearby at the time and Eric and Russ were able to secure the basket at the landing site.

We found them and proceeded to pack the gear and head back to the park for another round of tailgating with breakfast burritos and beer.

On Sunday afternoon, I watched the Formula One race then snoozed while watching the US Open tennis tournament. The rest of the diehards were at the pool with the kids and Donna went to find them. It was hot out – mid-90s. We had the generator and air conditioners running all afternoon.

I joined everyone at the pool around 5:30pm, then Donna and I walked to Bada Japanese Restaurant for a sushi dinner. When we came home, Donna went out to rejoin the party but I was whipped. I was out by 10pm and slept like a rock until the alarm woke me at 4:50am.

Today the weather didn’t cooperate. The winds aloft were moving too fast for ballooning. Also, a lot of smoke blew into the area from forest fires in the northwest. We ended up with static display only. There were a couple of highlights though – well maybe the first encounter wasn’t really a highlight.

After we arrived at our assigned spot, Brad and the rest of the crew walked down to the pilots’ briefing about a quarter mile away. I hung out back at the truck and trailer. Just before sunup, a guy came by pushing a wheelchair and stopped about 15 feet away from me. He lifted what appeared to be a girl about six years old or so out of the wheelchair. I saw him manipulating her legs, then he knelt down and set her gently on the ground and began manipulating her arms. That’s when I realized this was a mannequin – a doll – not a real girl. After about 10 minutes, he lifted the doll back into the wheelchair and wheeled it away through the crowd. Weird – no, it was creepy!

During a static display, four or more crew members station themselves around the basket to keep weight on it in case the wind tips it or it begins to lift. While I was holding the basket, a small group of Asian people approached me. Most of them apparently didn’t speak English. One girl and guy started asking me about a balloon ride. I referred then to the Rainbow Ryders commercial balloons – affectionately called the cattle cars. They came back twice more asking me about getting into the basket, they wanted two of their party to get in – the communication was poor, but I got the gist of it.

I told them to ask the pilot, Brad if they could get in the basket. I heard Brad tell them to come back in 10 minutes before we deflated the balloon. They came back. Most of the group lined up with cameras in front of the balloon. Then a young guy in dressy clothes and a girl in a white dress stood in front of the basket. The guy handed her flowers the got down on one knee. He produced a small jewelry box and ring and proposed to her while the rest of their group took photos with the Hearts A’Fire balloon in the background. Then they both climbed into the basket for more photos. You never know what you might see at these events!

We packed up and Jessica dropped Donna and I off back at our rig by 9:30am. We said our goodbyes. They all have to make the five- or six-hour drive back to Albuquerque. I think we’ll stay put for another day – we can hang at the pool and use the hotel laundry. Tomorrow we’ll go to the Elks Lodge and plan our route into New Mexico. Starting tomorrow the weather is supposed to cool dramatically – they’re calling for a high in the mid 60s!

Always Trouble in Threes

It seems like there’s always something that needs doing when your house is on wheels. In reality, there was always something that needed doing when we lived in a sticks-and-bricks house too. Then there’s the old adage about trouble coming in threes. It might fit here.

A few days ago Donna opened one of the overhead cabinets in our living room. The doors are rectangular with the horizontal dimension being the longest. The doors have struts on either end that are spring loaded and through clever geometry they hold the door in the closed position. But when you raise the door open, the spring-loaded strut goes over-center and now it props the door open.

Well, when Donna opened the cabinet door one of the struts popped off. The pivot on the strut arm connects to the mounting tab with a small rivet. The rivet had worn through and popped off. The door wouldn’t stay open as only one strut didn’t have enough force to keep it open. Luckily I keep pop-rivets and a rivet tool on hand. Rivets are handy in many situations such as times when you can’t get to the back side of a fastener to put a nut on a bolt or when clearance is limited, which was the case here.

I unscrewed the other end of the strut and took it off the cabinet. Then I knocked the remains of the old rivet out with a punch and screwed the strut back in place. From there, it was simple matter of inserting the correct size pop-rivet and using the tool to pull the rivet mandrel until it popped off and the rivet was swaged in place.

Proper size pop-rivet in place in the pivot

Installation complete

Every tool box should should have an assortment of pop-rivets and an installation tool. I bought my tool at Harbor Freight. It has four interchangeable heads to accommodate various size rivets. It was inexpensive – I think I paid $20 or $30 for it and it’s come in handy many times.

We pulled out of our site at the Boulder County Fairgrounds around 9:30am Thursday morning – checkout time is 10am. Driving a big rig through this RV park is interesting to say the least. The roadways are narrow with tight turns and the trees need trimming. I managed to circumnavigate the park, exit and cross the street where I made a loop through the fairgrounds arena lot and lined up with the RV park dump station. We were on our way by 10am.

Driving east on the Diagonal Highway (CO119), I noticed we had a problem. My Jacobs Engineering Engine Compression (Jake) brake wasn’t working. Then I noticed the Engine Maitenance light – equivalent to a Check Engine light on a car – was illuminated. It wasn’t flashing so I wasn’t too worried about it. Once we got on I-25, I realized I had no turbocharger boost. So, we were down on power and I had no Jake brake.

I pulled over and shut off the engine. I restarted and the light stayed on. I interrogated the system and found a Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC) of 102 2. I didn’t know what that meant but felt no harm was being done and we were okay to proceed – albeit down on power and relying on service brakes only. We ran the gauntlet through Denver and continued south on our way to Colorado Springs.

South of Denver, past Castle Rock, it becomes hilly. We were mostly climbing but had a few downgrades. I had to approach the downgrades like I would in our old gasoline-powered coach – watch my speed and be careful not to overheat the service brakes. On the climbs, I did my best to keep the RPMs up and managed to maintain at least 55mph. As the hills became steeper, the turbocharger suddenly started working. We had power and the Jake brake was back in business too. The failure of both components was obviously related.

It couldn’t have started working at a better time. We crossed the summit north of Monument at 7,352 feet above sea level, then descended to Colorado Springs at an elevation of about 6,000 feet above sea level. Having the turbo boost for the climb to the summit and the Jake brake coming down was a relief. We found the Hotel Elegante and parked in the same spot we occupied last year.

Our dry camp at Hotel Elegante

Donna checked us in and found the rate was more reasonable than last year. Dry camping was $15/night and included the hotel amenities – like the swimming pool, laundry room and rest rooms.

I looked up the DTC 102 2 and found it meant there was an erratic signal from the intake manifold pressure sensor. With an implausible signal, the Engine Control Module (ECM) opened the wastegate on the Holset Turbocharger to bleed off all boost and we were running without turbo boost – this also disabled the Jake brake. Apparently we have a poor electrical connection somewhere between the pressure sensor and the ECM. This will probably be very difficult to find – especially since it’s intermittent and decided to start working fine again. I’ll start digging around – we’ll need all the boost we can get and the Jake brake too as we cross mountain ranges into New Mexico next week.

Later, I was dialing the satellite TV in when I noticed our house batteries were low – below 12 volts! I try to never let them go below 12.2-volts or 50% capacity as this will shorten their service life. It was puzzling. I had the inverter on since about 9:30am, but we can usually run the inverter for 14 hours or more without having to recharge. I started the generator to recharge the batteries. I let it run for a couple of hours before we went to bed.

This morning, I was up at 6am. I found our house batteries down to 12-volts again. I started the generator and saw it was only charging the battery bank at a rate of 50 amps. I would have expected to see a full 100 amp charge for the depleted batteries. I went out to check the battery bank and found we have a couple of corroded connections that are causing excessive resistance. I’ll have to find a shop with new cable end connectors and repair it ASAP. That was strike three.

We expect our friends Brad and Jessica Rice and family to arrive later this afternoon. We’re looking forward to seeing them again and also to a weekend of hot air balloon fun at the Labor Day Lift-Off! The forecast looks great for the weekend – temperatures in the mid to upper 80s in the afternoons – the mornings will be cool with temperatures in the low 70s – perfect for ballooning with clear skies and winds under 10mph.

 

***UPDATE – I just rechecked my house battery bank. The batteries weren’t discharged excessively. A loose connector was causing a voltage drop and that was what I was reading. I tightened all connectors and it’s reading 12.5V and when I turned on the generator it hit them with a 100 amp charge. All is good.

Onward to Colorado

It took us a little longer than expected to pack up and head out of Bayard, Nebraska. It was after 10am by the time Donna returned from her bike ride. We pulled out at 11:30am Tuesday morning, but we only had about 150 miles to go to Cheyenne. We followed back roads and stayed off I-80. Our route took us along US26 to Torrington, Wyoming, then we headed down US85 to Cheyenne.

We found the Sierra Trading Post without any trouble and parked in their dedicated RV/Truck lot. I checked in at the warehouse office – all they ask for is a name and contact phone number in case they need to reach us for any reason and we were good to go. There were a few other RVs in the lot when we arrived.

Donna and I walked to their outlet store and shopped around. I didn’t find anything interesting and left after about half an hour. Donna stayed and tried on clothes – that stretched into two hours. Later Donna walked to the Walmart Super Center about a mile away to pick up a few items. I hung out and read a book. By 5pm, we were the only RV left in the lot. There was more train traffic overnight than we remembered from last year, but we both slept well.

On Wednesday morning, I pulled up to their dump station and dumped and flushed our tanks, then we were off to Colorado. We hit I-80 west for a few miles then turned south on I-25. Traffic was light. I stopped at the Pilot/Flying J Travel Center at exit 7 in Wyoming to top up our tank then had the coach and trailer washed at the Blue Beacon there. The coach was dirty from the dusty trip across Iowa and the thunder showers in Nebraska. We only took 40 gallons of fuel, but I wanted to top up the tank to get us through Colorado. There aren’t very many Pilot/Flying J truck stops in Colorado and most of them are in the Denver area where I would prefer not to pull off the interstate.

Our destination was the Boulder County Fairgrounds in Longmont, Colorado. They have 92 RV sites there. Eight are long pull-throughs. Several other sites in the park are also pull-throughs, but they are too short for our rig. The sites ringing the outer boundaries of the park are very short back-in sites. All sites are first-come first – serve, no reservations. Stays are limited to 14 days per year.

When we arrived, we found the check-in process to be a little confusing. I parked in a large dirt lot across from the “office.” The office was un-manned and had a sign in front directing us to find a site, then pay at the automated kiosk. I walked into the park to see if any of the eight long pull-throughs were open. Meanwhile Donna found a park ranger who suggested we use site 1 – the longest pull-through they had. It was open! We paid for five nights using a credit card at the automated kiosk and we set up in site 1 in no time.

The longest site at the fairgrounds

I lived here in Longmont 40 years ago, but I don’t recognize the place today. These fairgrounds didn’t exist then and highway 119 – the Diagonal Highway between Longmont and Boulder – is unrecognizable. Back in the day, it was a rural two-lane highway through the countryside. It passed by a small village called Niwot. Today it’s a divided four-lane highway with shopping centers lining the highway through Longmont. Suburban sprawl lines the roadway with some farmland through Niwot all the way to Boulder.

We rode the Spyder to Bicycle Village in Boulder where Donna picked up her participant packet for the Venus de Miles women’s century ride. She raised over $500 for the charity event being held this Saturday. In her packet was a $20 gift certificate from the bike shop. She ended up buying a new pair of bicycle shoes – they were on clearance and with her gift certificate she paid $80 for a pair of $180 Pearl Izumi shoes. I’ll install the cleats on them today.

While we were out, I stopped at the Whole Foods Wine and Spirit shop. I splurged on a bottle of Balvenie Double Wood single malt Scotch whisky. This is a real goody that I’ll reserve for special occasions.

We were hit by a few drops of rain on the way back, but avoided any real rainfall. We had a quiet evening and I think we’ll enjoy our stay here. It’s remarkably quiet to say we’re right in the city. I think we’ll end up extending our stay by a couple of days to a full week. It’s $25 per day for electric and water – no sewer hookup, but there’s a dump station here.

The forecast calls for mostly sunny skies with highs in the upper 80s for the next week. There’s always a chance of a thunderstorm at this time of year. Typically you’ll see clouds building over the Rocky Mountains to the west all afternoon before they push east, sometimes bringing thundershowers with them before the blow east over the plains. Longmont is northeast of Boulder which sits at the foot of the Rockies. Boulder is at an elevation of about 5,700 feet above sea level. The Flatirons tower over Boulder at a height of 8,000+ feet above sea level. The mountains are spectacular.

Today Donna has a lunch date with a friend in Loveland – about 27 miles north of here. She’ll ride the Spyder there. I think I’ll take a walk to the mall about a mile from here. I need to stop at the bank and I’ll take a look around. Maybe later we’ll head over to Left Hand Brewing which is nearby. They brew some really fine beer there.

The RV Friendliest Town

We pulled out of Kearney RV Park and Campground a little past 10am Friday morning – a little later than I hoped, but not a big deal. We headed west on I-80 and found the road surface to be smooth and the driving was easy. We had a headwind but it was only 5-10 mph and we barely felt it.

We made a detour at North Platte, Nebraska – we wanted to visit the Golden Spike Tower. The Golden Spike Tower is a viewing tower eight stories high overlooking the largest rail yard in the world – Union Pacific’s Bailey Yard. Bailey Yard is where Union Pacific performs maintenance on locomotives and train cars 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

We entered the tower building which is also somewhat of a Union Pacific museum and gift shop and we bought tickets to go up to the viewing platforms on the seventh and eight floors. Wouldn’t you know it – when we went to elevators there was a malfunction and the elevator was shut down.

Golden Spike Tower

We didn’t let that stop us. We climbed the stairs to the seventh floor which has an open-air viewing deck. My photos below cannot convey the scale of the operation. I’ve never seen so many locomotives and train cars in one place before. There are 49 tracks for the westbound trains and 65 for the east bound – counting the tracks into and out of maintenance facilities there are 200 separate train tracks totaling 315 miles of track on the 2,850-acre yard.

They have a hump for each direction – the westbound hump is a mound 20 feet high and the eastbound hump is 34 feet high. A locomotive pushes a train of cars up the hump and then, at the top, the cars are separated and roll down via gravity into a bowl which has several tracks. The cars are switched to the proper track to join a train being assembled.

The locomotive maintenance building is the size of three football fields and services about 750 locomotives per month. A modern diesel/electric locomotive is a complex piece of machinery. Maintenance and repair requires skilled technicians – diesel mechanics, electricians, hydraulic specialists and so on – more than 2,600 people are employed here. Again, my photos do not do justice to the scale of the operation.

Click photos to enlarge

The sand towers fill a hopper in the front of the locomotive with sand. All locomotives have a sand reservoir and a pneumatic system to spray the sand on the tracks ahead of the drive wheels in case of loss of traction.

More than 10,000 train cars pass through the facility daily. They service about 750 locomotives per month and change about 10,000 wheels per year on the cars they service. We went up to the eighth floor which is an enclosed platform with a docent and displays. We found the tour to be interesting and a worthwhile diversion.

We ate lunch in the coach, then continued on our way west. I stopped for fuel at the Pilot/Flying J Travel Center in Big Springs (exit 107). We had plenty of fuel but since I wasn’t sure where we would end up for the next few days, I wanted to have the tank topped up.

We continued west to Sidney, Nebraska – home of Cabela’s. We found their store just north of I-80. Unlike most Cabela’s stores, this one had a full service RV campground. They also had the usual dedicated RV and truck parking area. We went inside to see if we were okay to stay the night in the parking area – no problem.

We kicked around in the air-conditioned store for awhile looking at clothing and outdoor gear and sitting at the cafe. It was hot out. Around 4pm I went back to the coach and fired up the generator to start the air conditioners. We had an uneventful night there and hit the road around 9am Saturday morning.

We headed north toward Bridgeport, Nebraska and into the track of the total eclipse of the sun. This event has brought people out of the woodwork and into campgrounds all across the solar eclipse track. Most campgrounds are full and we heard about a few farmers opening up their pastures for dry camping – at $30 to $40/night! We also heard about some full service RV parks gouging with rates as high as $150/night for the weekend through Tuesday, August 22nd.

We didn’t want to end up in a farmer’s field – it would likely be crowded, noisy and if it rained, it could turn into a mud hole. There was no way I would spend the crazy campground rates we were hearing about. Donna had done some research and we thought we had a couple of viable options that wouldn’t cost much if anything and keep us away from the crowds. We decided to take the first good option we found.

It boiled down to two places we wanted to check out. First, there’s a city park in a small town called Bayard. The city maintains three RV sites with 50amp electrical hook-ups and fresh water. The first two nights are free, then it’s just $10/night. Now that’s an RV friendly town – the best I’ve ever found!

Our second option was the Kiowa Wildlife Management Area. There is a large, level gravel lot there perfect for dry camping in a big rig. The upside there would be a quiet place without much light pollution. The downside is dry camping with projected high temperatures in the 90s – meaning our generator would be running most of the time.

We stopped in Bayard first and were surprised to find the RV sites at the park empty! I unloaded the Spyder and backed our trailer into a site. I could hardly believe it – 50 amp electrical service and fresh water free for the weekend! We decided a bird in the hand was worth it – why move on to the unknown at Kiowa WMA and risk losing the site at Bayard. We set up and stayed put.

Free 50 amp service and fresh water!

We’re set!

Park across from our site

Nice view

The temperature reached the mid-90s and I was happy to have both air conditioners running. Another class C RV with a couple and their young son from Longmont, Colorado showed up. They had a campsite at the Chimney Rock Campground nearby. They said the premium full hook-up sites there were going for $150/night and they paid $30/night for a dry camping spot. They said it was crowded and noisy with generators running all around them 24 hours a day. They asked us to hold a site here while they went back to Chimney Rock and gathered their gear. They are happier in this location.

A police cruiser came through the park several times patrolling in the afternoon and evening. Everyone in town is very friendly and local traffic waves at us as they pass – not that there’s much in the way of traffic in this town of 1,200 residents. Bayard, Nebraska has to be the most RV friendly town you’ll ever find!

In the afternoon, Donna and I rode the Spyder over to Gering – a town about 20 miles from Bayard. They had a car show there, but it was a little different than most of the car shows I’ve seen. It had the usual classic cars from the 50s and muscle cars from the 60s, but it also had a category for rat rods. One of the rat rods had passed us on I-80 on our way to Sidney and we saw it the show. It looked like something out of Mad Max – The Road Warrior!

It started out with an old truck chassis and body and went crazy from there. It had a Cadillac 472 cubic inch V8 mounted mid-chassis with a GM 400 Turbo Hydramatic transmission mated to a Jaguar independent rear suspension. It looked like a death trap to me.

Rat Rod

The evening cooled down and we sat outside and read. Another group showed up – a car with three people from Lakewood, Colorado. They planned to tent camp here to view the eclipse. That’s going to be tough as there are no public toilet facilities. They set up a tent in the park grass.

This morning, lawn sprinklers are running in the park, soaking their tent. They’re not here – their car is gone and we have no idea what became of them. We plan to hang out today – Donna wants to go for a bike ride. I’ll probably explore a bit then we’ll sit tight for tomorrow’s eclipse.

We may extend another night here before we move on to Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Overnighting near Omaha

Donna here, standing in for Mike. He woke up feeling pretty good this morning, but the good feeling didn’t last. He’s resting again.

We’ve been parked at Ameristar Casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa these last two nights. It’s a nice, clean casino and hotel with several restaurants. The casino itself is housed on a real riverboat.

Ameristar Casino, Council Bluffs, Iowa

As it turns out, there’s a bike path that goes right by here. Lucky me! On the first day, I walked the path about 2 miles to the pedestrian bridge that goes over the Missouri into Omaha. The border between Iowa and Nebraska is in the middle of the river.

Then yesterday, I went out for bike ride that took me north along the river on the Iowa side to the Lewis & Clark Monument – quite a climb but worth it for the views.

View from Lewis & Clark Monument

There’s a fence at the monument lookout that is covered with padlocks. Upon closer inspection, I noticed that some had been engraved with names. I posted a photo to Facebook and my friends told me that people do this all over the world as a symbol of their love. Apparently there’s a movie called Love Locks. Have you seen it?

Love locks on the fence

I enjoyed the downhill ride from the monument to the pedestrian bridge and crossed over into Nebraska for some Omaha sightseeing.

My destination was Old Market, Omaha’s most historic area. I had to get off my bike when I arrived as the streets are cobblestone, making for bumpy ride. I locked up my bike and walked around for about 45 minutes, exploring the many shops and restaurants.

Old Market Passageway

Then I wandered into Upstream Brewing for a Boom! Chocolaka milk stout. If I had wanted, I could have had it served over vanilla ice cream as a milk stout float. Yes, really.

Boom! Chocolaka milk stout

I snapped this photo on the way back over the bridge from Omaha to Council Bluffs.

My bike in two states at the same time!

We’re going to try to snag a site today at Walnut Creek Recreation Area in Papillion which is just southwest of Omaha. I chose this park for its easy access to miles of bike paths and to Prairie Lane Park where the locals play pickleball. It’s a first-come, first-serve park so hopefully, we’ll get lucky since it’s Monday.

Speaking of cycling, I had a blast doing the ride across Iowa. I was afraid I hadn’t trained enough. I mean, how do you train to ride 60 miles a day except to ride 60 miles a day? I got in about 650 miles over the 7 weeks leading up to the ride. It was enough. My legs were tired by the end of every day but felt just fine each morning.

Call me crazy, but I just signed up to ride a century (100 miles) in Longmont, CO on August 26. It’s a benefit ride to raise money for scholarships that go to high-achieving students from low-income families. If you feel so inclined to support me (I committed to raising $250 by August 13), click here. Thank you!

When we get to Walnut Creek, Mike will unload the Spyder and I’ll go get some groceries. I have not been grocery shopping in 18 days and our cupboards are bare!

 

 

 

 

The Road to RAGBRAI

Our last full day in Sioux Falls was Thursday. I had a busy schedule – first up I rode the Spyder to Madison – 50 miles away. I went west on SD42 and knew I had turn north on SD19 – 456th Street. It was about 20 miles to the first turn. I hadn’t gone more than 10 miles when I crossed 467th Street. I thought, “How can this be? I have more than 10 miles before I reach 456th, but that’s only 10 blocks away.” Then it dawned on me. Outside of the city, the farmland is divided into sections. Each section is 640 acres – a square mile. Each numbered street is a mile apart – there are no subdivisions and city blocks.

Heading north on SD19, I missed a turn and had to ride about three miles of gravel road before I got back on track. In Madison, I visited the office of our mail service and found our registrations and license tabs had arrived. That was a relief – I did’t want to continue to drive on expired plates.

After I got home, Donna and I took turns going out on the Spyder and shopping – we were stocking up for the next 10 days as we cross Iowa. I also organized the trailer and made it ready for travel. Thursday evening we took a walk through the RV park and got a taste of what we’re heading for. A converted bus with 10 bicycles on the roof was in the park. This is a support vehicle for a team of RAGBRAI riders. We talked with the owner – he came from Richmond, Virginia and is participating in his 10th RAGBRAI. The bus was outfitted with seats and storage spaces for 10 riders,  large quantities of beer, water and sports drinks and they were installing USB ports so the riders can charge their devices. The owner is a Blue Oyster Cult fan and the bus has Agents of Fortune stenciled on the side – that was Blue Oyster Cult’s biggest selling album in the ’70s.

Blue Oyster Cult themed support bus

Friday morning we woke up to rain. I deviated from my normal routine and hadn’t removed the windshield cover the day before travel. So I had to store a wet cover in the trailer. I didn’t want to roll it up and store it in a basement compartment like I usually do because it would likely mildew.

We had a short drive of 77 miles to Orange City, Iowa. As we traveled south out of Sioux Falls, we passed by Lennox. I had relatives in the Sioux Falls area – mostly great uncles and aunts – brothers and sisters of my grandfather on my dad’s side of the family. When I was 10 years old, I spent a week on my great uncle Hank’s farm near Lennox. Our route then took us through Canton where my great uncle Ed was sheriff. I spent a week with him and Aunt Sadie on the same trip when I stayed on the farm.

Donna commented on the rolling hills of northern Iowa. The bike ride across Iowa may not be as flat as we envisioned. We came into Orange City from the north. As we rolled through town, we saw preparations underway for the start of RAGBRAI. We didn’t see the turn for the RV parking and had to make a loop around a section of land – once we passed through town we were immediately into farmland on a dirt road.

Our friend and organizer of our team, Jeff Spencer, phoned us. He was at a high school parking lot that was a designated RV area. He gave us directions and we found him along with a volunteer named Brian who was in charge of the parking area. It was a large, fairly level concrete lot. We were the first RV to arrive there. Brian directed us to park diagonally with our front pointed toward the exit. He was planning ahead for the rush of vehicles trying to leave the lot all at once Sunday morning.

RAGBRAI is an acronym for the (Des Moines) Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa. This event was conceived by two columnists that wrote for the Register in 1973. It has grown to huge proportions. There are 8,500 riders registered along with 1,500 RV permits issued for the 45th event. We’re told some sections of the ride will have more than 10,000 riders as unregistered bicyclists join in. Not all of the support RVs are registered – many will dry camp along the streets. The registration sticker for a support vehicle allows access to designated RV camps.

Our support vehicle pass

There are two routes published for each day. One route is for the bicyclists that will take them on roads closed to vehicular traffic. The other route is for support vehicles to get to the destination city for the that day.

As the day wore on, more RVs pulled into the parking lot. Around 5:30pm, the rest of Team RV There Yet? arrived. It was three people in a class C coach – Tom, his father-in-law Fred and another Geoff. Tom and Fred are from Elkhart, Indiana and Geoff is from Austin, Texas. Fred will drive their RV while Tom and Geoff ride. Jeff Spencer will ride and his wife Deb will drive their truck and fifth-wheel RV. Of course I’m driving our coach and Donna will ride.

Team RV There Yet?

Some of the support vehicles are a hoot. I took a few photos of the rigs here.

Several riders are supported by this bus

Short bus put together with a heavy duty diesel drive train

There are several conventional RVs – we’re on the far end

It was hot and humid out. We set up chairs between our coach and Tom’s where the breeze kept us reasonably cool and visited for a while.

Jeff Spencer, Ozark the Cat, Tom, Donna, Geoff, Deb and Fred

After a while, we walked over to Los Tupilanes – a Mexican restaurant next to the high school. The food was surprisingly good. This city of about 6,200 people will be hopping this weekend as its population triples. This is the first time Orange City has been on the RAGBRAI route – the route changes every year. Everyone in town seems excited to be the starting point of the event and I’m sure the local businesses are happy about the inflow of visitors.

Over the past 44 years, RAGBRAI has passed through 780 Iowa towns and spent the night in 125 overnight towns. It has been in all of Iowa’s 99 counties.

Today the Expo with vendors starts at noon. I’ll go to the support vehicle driver’s safety meeting at 4pm. It’s going to be another hot day – the temperature should reach the low 90s. Tomorrow is expected to be a little cooler. I plan to head out early – be on the road as close to 7am as I can. The route is about 63 miles and will end in Spencer, Iowa. Right now I have good internet connectivity. That may change in the coming days. Even if we have a good signal, I’m guessing cell towers may become overloaded. I’ll post updates when I can.

 

Corvette Caravan

Donna braved the heat in Rapid City, South Dakota – not to mention the hills – and went out on her bicycle again on Wednesday. While she was out I caught up on maintenance – I was past due to change the diesel fuel filter on our coach. Although we had only traveled about 7,000 miles since I last changed it, I try to keep to a 12-month interval on this filter. Our coach uses a Fleetguard FS1022 fuel filter which has about a two-quart capacity. A filter element of this size is surely capable of much more than 7,000 miles provided it hasn’t been subjected to heavily contaminated fuel, but the filter media also degrades with time.

Filter last changed 06-16

I was only a few weeks overdue. Changing the fuel filter is a messy affair. No matter how hard I try to keep everything contained, a few dribbles of diesel fuel always hit the ground – and my hands. So, I’m always mindful of where I do this job. I used a plastic catch pan and several paper towels and kept all but a few drops off of the ground. The residual fuel is put in an old oil container and recycled at an auto parts store. I write the month/year of the change on the filter canister so I don’t have to try and remember it or look it up in my log. The writing is a bit shaky – it’s not easy writing freehand on a curved surface.

New filter – good ’til 07-18

We thought about heading out to Hart Ranch for a barbecue and rodeo in the late afternoon, but by 3pm thundershowers were developing. We went into the Elks Lodge at 4pm for happy hour and rain drops started falling as we went in. Soon there was heavy rain and lightning. The weather vacillated between sunshine and gloom with periods of rain over the next hour and a half. We dined at the bar in the lodge.

A little sunlight on the clouds before the next thunder shower

Later we watched a couple more episodes of Homeland – we don’t have all of season six on our hard drive and soon will be in the dark on this series.

Thursday morning I was awakened early by our neighbor hooking up his fifth-wheel trailer and preparing to leave at 6am. At this point I just got out of bed. After wasting a bit of time on the web, I started prepping to leave. I took the Weber Q to the trailer and a few other odds and ends we had out – being mindful of noise for our other neighbors.

Donna got up and fixed a nice breakfast of eggs and leftover steak – lovely. We had everything buttoned up and left around 9:30am. I need to mention one glitch. Somehow I didn’t receive the usual renewal notice from South Dakota for our registrations and license tabs. It slipped my mind and only occurred to me when I made the appointment for Donna’s driver’s license. I renewed online but don’t have the new tabs yet and we’re expired as of June 30th!

As we were hooking up the trailer we saw a Rapid City Police car make a traffic stop right outside the exit from the lodge lot. We crossed our fingers that he would be done and gone before we left – I have a receipt for payment of the fees, but the fact is, we’re on expired registrations and plates.

He left before we pulled out. Apparently he was working Jolly Lane. He had just pulled over another speeder as we turned out of the lot onto Jolly Lane. Luckily he was focused on his traffic stop and we had no worries about our expired plates – we just need to get to the campground in Sioux Falls where we will receive our new tabs and registrations.

Our route took us east on I-90. I had originally thought about stopping somewhere near Chamberlain – about halfway between Rapid City and Sioux Falls near the Missouri River- but we changed the plan. We were headed for the Cabela’s lot in Mitchell, South Dakota.

We last visited Mitchell in 2013 when we arranged our wills with our attorney there. I wrote about establishing a domicile state here – we are all-in with South Dakota.

I noticed something interesting on the drive. I started to see Corvettes heading westbound – I would notice them approaching and realized many of them seemed to be caravaning. There would be groups of three to a dozen Corvettes heading west on I-90 – with an occasional single car.

Donna was engrossed in her laptop and didn’t see them. I finally mentioned it after seeing at least 100 Corvettes – mostly newer models, but some vintage – go by. I was a Corvette geek at one time – I had a 1965 big block roadster and a 1972 LT-1 T-Top. She looked it up online and found the Black Hills Corvette Rally. It starts in Sioux Falls and caravans to Spearfish, South Dakota. It started as a small event in 1971 and is now a big-time Corvette rally. Over 400 participate and I’m sure I saw more than 200 of them as they came past over the next few hours.

We stopped in Murdo at the Pilot/Flying J for fuel and lunch. I topped up our tank with 68 gallons of diesel fuel – pure diesel fuel. This is likely the last of pure petroleum diesel we’ll see for a while. We’re headed into the corn belt and all we’re likely to find is B20 diesel – 20% biodiesel mixed with petroleum. I’m not happy about that for a few reasons – but I’ll get into that in another post.

We found the new Cabela’s in Mitchell south of I-90 – my how Mitchell has grown! They have a large RV lot on the southeast side of the store and the directions for RV parking from Spruce Street off exit 332 are well-marked. When we arrived, we found a couple dozen or more RV stalls of at least 70′ in length. There was only one other RV when we arrived at 3:45pm – an Airstream trailer with no vehicle or signs of people. The sites all have a slope to them, nothing too drastic. I didn’t want to put the jacks down in the hot asphalt, so we just used a couple of 2″ wood pads under the front tires to reach a reasonably level attitude. We lost another hour on the road as we’re in the Central Time Zone now.

Later we walked a few hundred yards to El Columpio – a Mexican restaurant. It was surprisingly good and the prices were great. They even had Mexican cervesas (beer). When we returned there were a few more RVs in the lot. In my last post I mentioned a fifth-wheel trailer pulling a cargo trailer – well, this time we saw a motorhome pulling a travel trailer! I’m not sure what the story is, but  we saw what appeared to be a couple with an older woman sitting outside. I’m guessing the couple have the motorhome and the travel trailer is a mother-in-law unit.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that

This morning we have cool temperatures in the 60s with a breeze blowing in from the east. We’ll be bucking headwinds again today but we only have about 70 miles to go. We’ll check in at Tower RV Park in Sioux Falls where we’ll spend the next week.