Monthly Archives: May 2014

Jordan River Trail

Salt Lake City is a bicycle-friendly place. In addition to designated bike lanes on many of the roads, the city also has a series of paved paths. Some of these paths are multi-use, meaning that some sections are shared with pedestrians or inline skaters.

To the east and north of the city, the Bonneville Shoreline Trail provides a hiking and mountain biking path, currently over 100 miles long. It’s too far from here for me to take the mountain bike on it.

Yesterday, I rolled out of the park on my mountain bike. I rode up the street to a small park, called Cottonwood Park. I found the Jordan River Trail there. This is the multi-use path that Donna rode on Tuesday. Once I was on the path, I came to the narrow, wooden bridge that Donna told me about. It’s just wide enough for a single rider to cross.

Bridge on the Jordan River Trail

Bridge on the Jordan River Trail

As the name implies, the Jordan River Trail runs alongside the Jordan River. As I traveled north, the path mostly stayed on the levee on the east side of the river. It crossed over wooden bridges to the west side in a few sections.

The banks of the river have trees and lush vegetation. It was pleasant riding in the shade of the trees. There were a lot of birds on the trail and in the trees – robins, doves, magpies, finches and mallards in the river. I saw a large turtle sunning himself on a log in the river.

Jordan River Trail on the east bank

Jordan River Trail on the east bank

The trail crossed the river as it ran through the Rose Park Golf Course, then it crossed back again on a wide, wooden bridge.

Along the way, the path crosses a few city streets. Most of the crosswalks are controlled. You stop and push a button on a post and within seconds, the traffic is stopped by stop lights. The traffic is held for about 15 seconds, allowing you to cross safely.

North of the golf course, I came up to a boardwalk over a wetland area. The boardwalk had a sign restricting its use to vehicles under 10,000 pounds and no horses. The boardwalk was well-maintained and easy to cross on my mountain bike. I imagine it would be a little bumpy on a road bike. The boardwalk curved to the right after a quarter of a mile and rejoined pavement.

Boardwalk section on the Jordan River Trail

Boardwalk section on the Jordan River Trail

Another mile or so up the trail, I saw a sign indicating that I was entering the Chevron Section. I’m not sure what the significance of this is. As I rode along, I heard what sounded like off-road machinery. I continued onward and came upon a moto-cross track.

The Jordan River Off-Highway Vehicle State Recreation Area was on the west side of the river. There were several riders circulating on the motocross track. I stopped briefly to watch them fly over the jumps and slide through the turns. The track could’ve used a visit from a water truck – they were kicking up a lot of dust.

Moto-cross by  the river

Moto-cross by the river

Flying Moto-crosser

Flying Moto-crosser

I rode on until the trail became the Legacy Parkway Trail and turned around. The ride back was easier as the wind was in my favor. It seemed like the ride north was on a slight incline, but it must have been the wind. The Jordan River flows to the north along here, so an incline doesn’t make sense. The round trip ride took me about an hour and twenty minutes.

I had visitors last evening. Brett Miller and his wife, Cheri Alguire, came to the park. I last saw them when they visited us at Mission Bay RV Resort in San Diego (see this post). We’ve kept in touch as they prepared to hit the road as full-time RVers. They actually completed the move into their 5th-wheel RV on Monday, but had to leave it at the RV park in southern California on Tuesday to attend a conference here at the Salt Palace.

We drove downtown in their new Ford crew cab to a restaurant called Sala Thai. I love Thai cuisine. We ate family style and ordered pad tai with chicken,  drunken noodles with pork and pad phed with seafood. Served with a bottle of Singha beer, it was delicious. Brett and Cheri unexpectedly picked up the tab! Thanks again!

Brett, Cheri and me at Sala Thai

Brett, Cheri and me at Sala Thai

The warm weather returns today. The weather guessers are calling for a high of 88 degrees. I think I’ll leave the mountain bike in the trailer today. Maybe I’ll take the scooter downtown and kick around.


Coffee Snob

I’m really particular about the coffee I drink. I prefer the bold flavor of dark roasted coffee, such as Italian roast or French roast. One of my favorite coffee beans is harrar, from Ethiopia. It’s been several years since I’ve had harrar though – it’s hard to find.

We converted from grinding our own beans and using a drip coffee maker to the Keurig K-Cup® system a few years ago. Donna did some work for the marketing firm that was promoting the product. They sent us a Keurig coffee maker. Over time, they sent us a few different machines.

We have one in our motorhome. It’s very convenient. It’s clean, doesn’t take much space and it’s a fast way to make a cup of coffee. We usually stock up on K-Cups® at Costco. We buy Kirkland Signature® French roast.

Last week, while we were in Heber City, our K-Cup® supply was dwindling. Heber City doesn’t have a Costco. There is a WalMart there. While shopping at the WalMart, Donna bought some K-Cups® in case we ran out. The selection at WalMart was limited. Donna bought Folgers Gourmet Black Silk® dark roast coffee. Sounds pretty good, right?

My idea of dark roast coffee and Folgers definition do not match. Their coffee is acidic, like most light-roasted coffee. When coffee beans are roasted, many of the starches are converted to sugar. Dark roasting at temperatures near 400 degrees fahrenheit, carmelizes these sugars, giving a sweet, smooth flavor. The dark roasting process also causes the bean to expand, decreasing its density. The result is a lower caffeine content in the brew.

Yesterday, the only coffee we had on board was the Folgers. Two cups of that had me jittery. It’s not dark roast. The caffeine content was higher than I’m used to. For me, this stuff wasn’t enjoyable.

I was on a mission yesterday to find dark roast K-Cups®. I looked up Costco and found one about five miles from here. I mapped out the route and rode the scooter there. The Kirkland Signature French roast comes in boxes of 100 cups. I bought two boxes.

The boxes are too big to fit under the seat of the scooter. In anticipation of this, I brought along a plastic bag. I emptied one of the boxes into the plastic bag. Now I could fit 100 K-Cups® under the seat. The other box went into a cloth shopping bag that I hung between my knees. Good to go. This morning, I’m enjoying good coffee!

I took a different route back to the KOA from Costco. I wanted to explore. The route I took wasn’t interesting though – it was mostly industrial. At one point, I was stopped at a railroad crossing. The train was so long and moving so slowly, I shut off the scooter engine and waited. After five minutes, the freight cars on the train began bumping and jolting with loud banging sounds. The train was coming to a stop. I couldn’t see either end of the train.

There were several parallel train tracks at this crossing. A pair of diesel-electric engines sped down one of the tracks in the same direction of the train. A few minutes later the freight cars jolted again. The train started moving back in the direction it came from!

I thought this would be a long wait. The train began to pick up speed. As I looked down the track, I realized what was happening. When they stopped the train, they must have switched to another track. They disconnected cars and split the train. The engines I saw coming by were now connected to the back half of the train, pushing it back the way it came. They were clear of the crossing after a couple of minutes. The logistics of train transport boggles my mind.

Yesterday, the temperature topped out at 92 degrees. We had partly cloudy skies and I heard the rumble of thunder in the distance. It didn’t rain at the KOA, but the wind picked up in the afternoon. I moved Donna’s plants inside and put away the table cloth, before the wind relocated everything.

I practiced guitar inside the coach. I plan to play guitar every day while Donna is away. I’ve been lax about practicing.

Today, they’re calling for partly cloudy skies and cooler temperatures. The high should be in the upper 70s. I have tentative plans to meet up with our friends, Brett Miller and Cheri Alguire for dinner. They’re here for a convention and they’re about to begin the full-time RV lifestyle.

Happy Birthdays

Yesterday was a day of birthdays. It was the birthday for two girls that are near and dear to my heart and I love them both. It was Donna’s birthday and also the birthday of my youngest daughter, Shauna. It also happens to be the birthday of my  friend in Germany, Stefan Hermann.

I don’t think Shauna was able to celebrate her birthday too much. She arrived in Washington, D. C. on Sunday and had her first day as an intern at the Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday. She’s currently a law student at Cal Western School of Law. She finished the school year number 4 in her class of 220 students. The internship will be a feather in her cap when she graduates next year.

Donna started her birthday with a bicycle ride. She rode the bike path along the Jordan River north on the Legacy Trail. She turned around at Bountiful Pond. The ride covered about 27 miles. She spent most of the afternoon packing and preparing for her trip to Phoenix. She’s going to a conference for the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO), where she will present a session on book promotion, called Do’s and Don’ts of Successful Book Promotion. She will return on Sunday.

To celebrate Donna’s birthday, we went out to eat at a restaurant that her sister, Sheila, told her about. It’s an Italian restaurant downtown, near Temple Square, called Cucina Toscana. We walked out to North Temple and caught the light rail at the corner across from the KOA RV park. The light rail cost five dollars for a round trip ticket. The rail cars were clean and comfortable. The ride downtown took eight minutes.

Toast to Donna

Toast to Donna

Cucina Toscana is an upscale restaurant with traditional Italian food. Donna ordered the linguini nere con frutti di mare, which is squid ink pasta, shrimp, calamari, mussels and lobster in wine reduction sauce.

Linguini nere con frutti di mare

Linguini nere con frutti di mare

I had the vitello in saltimbocca, which is veal scallopine topped with aged prosciutto and fresh mozzarella.

Vitello in Saltimbocca

Vitello in Saltimbocca

We both enjoyed our choices. The meals were cooked to perfection and the service was top-notch. In honor of Donna’s birthday, our server brought us a plate of tiramisu for dessert.

Happy birthday to Donna

Happy birthday to Donna

After dinner, we strolled back to the rail stop in front of the Energy Solutions Arena, which is home to the Utah Jazz NBA team. We had a few minutes before our train would arrive. I saw what appeared to be an historic building across the street. I walked over for a closer look. It was the Devereaux House.

Devereaux House

Devereaux House

Rather than rehash the history behind this place, I’ll just add photos of the placards that were placed in front of the house. Click on the photo to enlarge and read the placard if you’re interested.


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This morning, I’ll walk Donna to the light rail. I’ll be on my own for the next four nights. The temperature is forecast to reach 93 degrees today, it’s already 80 degrees at 10am. I’ll have both air conditioners running all day.


Salt Lake City

On Sunday, I enjoyed the Monaco Grand Prix on Dish Network while Donna went out for a bike ride. She battled windy conditions, but enjoyed her ride. In the afternoon, I cleaned the windows, checked tire pressures and packed the trailer in anticipation of Monday’s 50-mile drive.

Monday morning, Donna did her usual job of securing things inside the coach, while I dumped and flushed the holding tanks. While I was disconnecting hoses and power, Donna drove the rental car back to the Heber City airport. I saw a pair of airplanes, flying in formation overhead. They had smoke generators on, I was expecting to see some kind of show, but they only made a couple of passes before landing. It was hard to tell what they were, but the radial engines and long silhouettes seemed like Yak 52s. I forgot to mention the plane that flew above us on Saturday. It was a Pitts biplane practicing aerobatics. Fun to watch!

I learned something about the HWH hydraulic system that operates our jacks and slide-out mechanisms. A guy posted an old service bulletin on the IRV2 forum regarding complaints of false “Jacks Down” alarms while driving. I’ve had this happen a couple of times. It’s operator error. The bulletin advises not to turn off the HWH control panel when the lights indicate jacks are stored. If you turn off the panel, the solenoids close the hydraulic valves. Fluid may still be trapped in the jack rams. The fluid can heat up and expand while driving, moving the ram and triggering the alarm. You’re supposed to leave the panel turned on. It will shut down automatically three to six minutes after the “Jacks Stored” light comes on, allowing all of the fluid to drain from the ram. Good information! I thanked the person posting the service bulletin as it applied to my coach.

Once I had the jacks up and slides in, I did my walk-around inspection while the engine warmed up. I drove over by the airport where Donna was waiting to be picked up. We drove through a residential area. When we reached US40, I was disoriented. I turned right on US40 and quickly realized we were heading southeast, the wrong direction. I glanced at the seven-inch screen on our Rand-McNally RVND7720 GPS and saw an easy way to correct our heading. A couple of 90-degree turns later, we were on our way.

Once we were out of Heber City, US40 begins a long climb. We pulled the grade at 50 – 55mph in the right lane, but had to swing into the center lane of the three-lane highway to maintain momentum past slow-moving trucks. Some heavily loaded tractor trailer rigs could only manage 30 – 35 mph up the grade. We drove past the Jordanelle Reservoir near Park City, then descended to the Junction of I-80 at Silver Creek.

It was another long grade up I-80, finally topping out at 7,025 feet above sea level before we began the descent into Salt Lake City, which is at an elevation 4,226 feet. Nally (our GPS) directed us to the Salt Lake City KOA, near the airport. It seems a little strange to have a large KOA campground in the heart of the city. It’s a matter of convenience for us. We’re right by the airport, with light rail service stopping next to the KOA. Donna has a flight to Phoenix tomorrow morning for a conference. She can take the rail to the airport. The KOA is nicely laid out and well-maintained, as most KOA parks are. We’re packed in tight though.

Site 1012

Site 1012

Salt Lake City is laid out on a grid. Temple Square is the center of the grid. The street numbers indicate the four quadrants from the grid – northwest, northeast, southwest, southeast. We’re located at 1400 West North Temple Street, 14 blocks west of Temple Square. The first street to the north of Temple Square is North Temple. The first to the west is West Temple. The first to the south is South Temple.  A pattern is emerging, but the first street to east is Main Street. From there, each street is numbered with the numbers increasing by 100 for each block. Street blocks in Salt Lake City are larger than in most metropolitan areas. Here, there are seven blocks to the mile instead of the usual 10 blocks per mile.

Salt Lake City is bicycle-friendly, with many bike paths. From here, we can ride on a path along the Jordan River north to Farmington, Utah. There are paths to the west going to the Great Salt Lake. Donna studied the bike path map this morning and took off on her bike. She’s getting more confident in her orienteering skills. Traveling to new places and learning new routes has helped her sense of direction.

Last night, we grilled bacon wrapped tenderloins and veggies. Donna baked a potato to serve with it. The grilled zucchini, mushrooms and onions were so tasty.

Bacon wrapped tenderloin, grilled veggies and baked potato

Bacon wrapped tenderloin, grilled veggies and baked potato

Sadly, my supply of good beer ran out with the last bottle of Dubhe Imperial Black IPA. Ironically, I bought this beer at Cost Plus in Arizona, but it’s brewed by Uinta Brewery right here in Salt Lake City.

Dubhe Imperial Black IPA

Dubhe Imperial Black IPA

There are 10 state-run stores in the greater Salt Lake City area that sell full strength beer, wine and liquor. Grocery stores and markets can only sell watered down beer. I’m in luck though – there’s a state store within walking distance of the KOA.

Today is Donna’s birthday. We’ll celebrate this evening with dinner at her choice of restaurant. We’ll take the light rail, so no need to worry about being within stumbling distance of the park.

Crawfish to Crater

Yesterday, Donna made the two-mile mile trek to rent a car at the Heber City Airport. It wasn’t raining by the time she left at 10:15. We wanted the car so we could go to the Crawfish Festival at the Homestead Resort near Midway, Utah. The weather guessers called for an 80% chance of thundershowers in the afternoon, so we didn’t want to ride the scooter to the event.

Before we left for the festival, I tuned in the Formula One qualifying at Monaco. Monaco is a special race. The course runs through the streets of the principality and is steeped in racing history. The track is so tight and twisty, the drivers have to be very precise. If you don’t qualify on the front two rows, you’re just racing for points, because you won’t be likely to win. Overtaking at Monaco is very difficult.

Around 2:45pm, we drove up highway 113 through Midway and found the Homestead Resort. Going to a crawfish festival in the shadow of the Wasatch Range in Utah seemed a little bit strange to me. They had tents, a stage, serving and dining tables all set up on a large grass lawn, next to the crater. I’ll tell you more about the crater later.

People enjoying the food and music outdoors

People enjoying the food and music outdoors

We found a table under cover. It hadn’t rained yet, but we didn’t want to chance sitting at a table without cover. There was a man, sitting alone at the table and he welcomed us to join him. His name was Jeff Bradley. He’s from Boulder, Colorado. Jeff told us he was staying at the resort with his wife, Marta, while she completed her SCUBA certification. He said many people come here to complete the deep-water dive portion of the certification in the crater. Marta would join us later, after her session was finished for the day.

The Homestead Crater is often mistaken for a caldera. It’s a dome 55 feet high and 400 feet across the base. This dome was formed by a geothermal hot spring over the course of 10,000 years. As the hot, mineral-rich water bubbled up through the surface of the earth, it left mineral deposits. Over time, these deposits piled up like an ant hill and created the dome, formed of travertine. Inside the dome, there is a pool of warm water, 65 feet deep. The water temperature stays at 90-96 degrees year ’round, as 135,000 gallons of water flows through the pool inside every day.

Originally, the pool could only be accessed by rappelling down through opening at the top of the 55-foot dome. In the 1990s, a tunnel 110 feet long was blasted through the north side of the dome. A wooden deck was built and the pool was opened to the public 1996.

SCUBA certification has a deep-water requirement. In many areas, people dive in lakes to obtain certification. However, many lakes are frozen or very cold for most of the year. That’s why the 90-degree water of the crater is so appealing for SCUBA certification. People also come just to soak in the warm, mineral-laden water.

Donna and I walked in the tunnel to the deck to look at the pool.

People floating in the Crater pool

People floating in the crater pool

Donna at the top of the Crater

Donna at the top of the Homestead Crater

View to the northwest from the top of the dome

View to the northwest from the top of the dome

We enjoyed a beer while we talked with Jeff. Beer is a sore subject in Utah. Jeff is used to the micro-brew scene in Boulder. In Utah, there are micro-breweries, but the strange alcohol laws require watered down brew to be served in most places. The beer was what we used to call 3.2 beer. Beer in the US used to state the alcohol content as a percentage of weight (ABW). Nowadays, alcohol content is stated as a percentage of volume (ABV). The Utah beer is 4% ABV, which is equivalent to 3.2% ABW.

A band started playing on the stage as Donna went to fill a couple of plates of food for us.

Bandstand at Homestead Resort

Bandstand at Homestead Resort

Gumbo and crawfish

Gumbo and crawfish

While we ate, we found out that Jeff is an author. He wrote travel books about his home state of Tennessee. Currently he is a fundraising writer. He and Donna talked about publishing and the state of the industry. Jeff was also interested in hearing about our nomadic lifestyle.

Another couple, Dean and Becky joined our table. They live in Salt Lake City, but also have a house on the ridge above Midway. Dean is originally from Anchorage, Alaska. We exchanged a few Alaskan stories. I used to travel there a couple of times a year for business and fishing in the ’90s. Dean plans to retire next year. He wants to buy an RV, probably a travel trailer, to make trips to Alaska. Dean and Becky are going on a trip to Peru 10 days from now. It sounds like a real adventure. They’ve hired a guide and will climb Machu Picchu.

Becky is a school teacher. Her friend and fellow teacher, Carmen, joined us with her son, Michael. She is from Louisiana and knew how to handle the crawfish. Basically, we pulled the tails off and peeled them. There isn’t much meat there, but it’s fun and they were tasty.

Jeff is hidden behind Donna, Dean, Becky, Carmine and her son Mike sit across the table

Jeff is hidden behind Donna, Dean, Becky, Carmen and her son Michael sit across the table

We quickly filled a bucket with crawfish shells

We quickly filled a bucket with crawfish shells

Carmen is a member of a club for Louisianans living in Utah. I wasn’t expecting to hear that! While we were eating, another Louisianan stopped by our table. I didn’t get his name, but he graduated from high school with Carmen. Small world. No one could answer the question – why a crawfish festival in Midway, Utah? We found out this was the third annual event though.

After a couple of hours, the party was going strong. Donna and I went for a walk. We saw a canoe filled with live crawfish crawling around. By the way, Jeff and I both agreed that these were called crawdads when we were kids.

A boatload of live crawfish

A boatload of live crawfish

They also had BBQ chicken thighs and andouille sausage on the grill and pots of seafood gumbo and chicken gumbo.

Grilling chicken and sausage

Grilling chicken and sausage

Crawfish ready to serve

Crawfish ready to serve

The threat of rain never materialized. By 5pm, the sun was shining and it warmed up nicely.

Donna and I climbed the steep stairway to the top of the crater. The view was great. The pictures from the top of the crater are at the beginning of this post. On the way the back down the steps, I took a picture of the serving tent.

Food tent at the festival

Food tent at the festival

I’m posting this late today, because I watched the Formula One race from Monaco this morning while Donna was out for her bike ride.

Tomorrow we’re moving to the KOA in Salt Lake City. Dean and Becky gave us a few tips on restaurants and entertainment in the area.

*Here’s a link for more information about the Homestead Crater.

Rain, Rain

I’ll open today’s post by giving thanks to all those who have served our country. My thoughts go out to those who have sacrificed in the name of freedom.

In yesterday’s post, I mentioned Donna’s bike ride on Thursday. She told me how quiet the roads were and how she enjoyed riding through the countryside with the snow-covered Wasatch mountains as a backdrop. Here are a couple of photos she took while she was out.

Wild flowers, cattle and irrigation

Wild flowers, horses, cattle and irrigation

Pond, geese and grass

Pond, geese and grass

Yesterday, after posting to the blog, I went out for a walk. I walked up 6th street to highway 113, then I walked east to Main Street. The housing in this area is an interesting mix. There are newer looking duplexes on 6th, then older homes on the streets east of there. Some of the houses are obviously rental units with unkempt yards, while others are nicely maintained.

The corner of 6th and hwy 113

The corner of 600 West and hwy 113

On highway 113, I saw this old mansion for sale. The sign said it had 21 rooms and nine bathrooms! It also boasted of upgraded electrical installation and modern heating. The asking price was $749,000.

For sale - 21 rooms with nine baths

For sale – 21 rooms with nine baths

I spent about an hour strolling through the town. The sky was overcast all morning. By 2pm, a light rain started to fall. The rain was intermittent and light, so we decided to walk down to the old Heber train station. We bought tickets for the Wild West Days train ride.

The train took us south, out through the countryside. The rain made it impossible to capture an image through the windows – besides, I forgot my Samsung Galaxy back in our coach. As we rolled along, we saw huge houses on horse farms. We rolled along in the old train over the Provo River and made a stop on the tracks at a point marked “Charleston.”

The engineer unhooked the locomotive and switched it to an adjacent track. He drove past the passenger cars and switched it back onto the main track. Once on the main track, he hooked up to the train cars again, on the opposite end, to pull us back to the station. The train robbery entertainment was geared towards the kids on board. Most of the passengers were young families with children. It was an entertaining ride and we enjoyed the scenery. But it wasn’t worth the $15 ticket price.

We walked back to our coach in the rain. Of course, as soon as we got inside it stopped raining. It was only a brief break in the precipitation though. I had the TV on and watched two documentaries about the late Formula One driver, Ayrton Senna. Later, Donna and I watched two more episodes from the first season of Lost.

Cloudy sunset over the Wasatch range

Cloudy sunset over the Wasatch range

This morning we woke to the sound of rain on our roof. Donna bought tickets for a Crawfish Festival in a town nearby called Midway. She’s picking up a rental car this morning. The forecast calls for more rain this afternoon, making the scooter impractical for transportation to the festival.

Heber City Honor System

While Donna was out on her bicycle, I walked into town yesterday. I walked to the shopping center at the junction of US40 and US189, a little over a mile from here. I stopped at the Chase Bank and made a deposit for Donna, then walked to WalMart to buy ground beef. I’d mentioned to Donna that I had a hankering for spaghetti with meat sauce. She said she would make beef ragu if I picked up a pound of ground beef.

I followed a different route back to the fairground. I wanted to explore. The route I chose turned out to be a dead end, but I was able to continue through a field. I came to the old Heber City train station. I looked around at some of the old trains there. The track ends on the north side of the station. I don’t know how far south the track runs.

Heber Station

Heber Station

They had posters advertising the “Wild West Days” event, May 23 – 26. Donna had read something about it online the night before. One of the activities is a train ride in an old western train. The 45-minute ride includes entertainment in the form of a train robbery. We will probably buy tickets and take the ride this afternoon, unless the weather prevents us from walking to the station.

The thunder showers forecast for yesterday afternoon never materialized. Now the weather guessers are calling for thunder showers this afternoon. It’s cool, overcast and cloudy this morning. I’m more inclined to believe the forecast today than yesterday. We had fine weather yesterday, except for the afternoon wind.

Dirt lot with water, electricity and sewer

Dirt lot with water, electricity and sewer

When we pulled in here, there was only one RV in the lot. It looks like he’s been here for awhile. We had our choice of 149 sites to choose from. The east end of the lot looked to be drier and more level. Yesterday, a truck pulling an Airstream travel trailer pulled in. He drove around the lot a couple of times, looking the place over. He must have come to the same conclusion as me as he picked a spot near us.

They’re an older couple from Tennessee. His name is Ted. He introduced himself and told me it was his first visit to this site. They’re here for a square dance event. This site is convenient for them and he liked the price! Although we don’t have any amenities here, it’s hard to beat having a full hook-up site for $15/night. By the way, we’re staying here on the honor system. There’s a locked wooden box on the gate and we just drop our payment (cash or check) into the slot. The caretaker swings by every evening to collect the “rent.”

We’ll stay here for the weekend, then move to Salt Lake City on Monday. Donna can get a couple more training rides in. There’s great bicycling around here on quiet roads. I haven’t taken the scooter out yet. I’ll get it out tomorrow and explore.

Fairground to Fairground

Yesterday was a moving day. We took our time and had a leisurely morning. Since we were dry camped, I didn’t have to prepare much for travel.

We knew there was a fish fry scheduled at a grassy park in the fairgrounds where we stayed overnight. At 11am, we walked over there to see what it was all about. It turned out to be a private affair for employees of Conoco-Phillips. The guys preparing the fish gave us a sample of catfish, deep-fried with a corn meal coating. It was delicious.

We pulled out of the fairgrounds around 11:30am. Our first stop was only 10 miles up US6 at Helper, Utah. Helper is a small, authentic old west town, about 120 miles southeast of Salt Lake City. Helper is located at the mouth of Price Canyon, alongside the Price River. This is the east side of the Wasatch Plateau. Back in the day, trains traveling westward toward Salt Lake City had to climb the grade up the plateau. The Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad (D&RGW) stationed “helper” engines at the train terminal here to help the trains climb the grade. That’s how the town got its name.

On April 21, 1897, Butch Cassidy robbed the Pleasant Valley Coal Company in nearby Castle Gate. It’s said that Butch spent time in Helper before and after his famous string of robberies. Today, Amtrak provides service to the train depot in Helper. The California Zephyr stops here daily, in both directions between Chicago, Illinois and Emeryville, California.

We walked through the three or four blocks of downtown and stopped at the Rock Eatery for lunch. If you ever get to Helper, you must try the rock chips. They are thinly sliced, fresh potato chips with an amazing seasoned salt. Light, crispy and delightful. Nothing in a bag comes close.

Rock Eatery on the right

Rock Eatery in the two-story building

We left Helper around 12:45 and drove a few miles up US6. At the junction of US6 and US191, we entered Indian Canyon on US191. This route is off the beaten path, but we wanted to check out a few things along the way. I was sure it would be a scenic drive. The highway climbs up the steep canyon with grades up to 8%. At times we were in third gear, cruising up the grade under 40 mph, holding easily at 1900 rpm. I didn’t push the engine too hard, so the coolant temperature never reached 200 degrees on the guage.



We topped out at the Indian Canyon summit at 9,114 feet above sea level. Helper was well below us at 5,800 feet. Donna shot a few photos of the windshield view. There were several tractor/trailer rigs pulling double tanker trailers. This steep, twisty grade had to be a handful with that load. As we climbed, we soon found out why the trucks were here. Oil is being pumped out of the ground in the area. They don’t have any pipelines – the crude oil is pumped into storage tanks, then transferred to tanker trucks for transport to refineries.

Crude oil pump and storage tank alongside US191

Crude oil pump and storage tank alongside US191

We saw a couple of ranches at the head of the canyon. I imagine it’s a tough way to raise cattle with the high elevation and steep canyon walls.

Cattle ranch at Indian Canyon

Cattle ranch at Indian Canyon

We passed through the Ashley National Forest and descended toward Duchesne. There was a long 8% downgrade. I had the Jake brake on stage 2 (high) and still had to use the brake pedal for a couple of curves. This is the longest downhill run of that steepness that I’ve ever driven.

Duchesne is situated at an elevation of 5,500 feet above sea level. We turned west on US40 there and proceeded to climb and descend a series of ridges that took us back up around 7,500 feet above sea level and back down to 5,500 feet.

We pulled off at a scenic overlook on the north side of the highway, about four miles west of Duchesne at Starvation Reservoir. The parking lot is a large loop, ideal for big rigs. We stretched our legs and looked around. I took a photo of a placard detailing some of the history of the area. It’s hard to imagine exploration of this rugged land at the time of the American Revolution in the east.

History from 1776

History from 1776 – click to enlarge

Starvation Reservoir view

Starvation Reservoir view

US40 continued to climb and fall, finally topping out at 8,020 feet above sea level at Daniels Canyon. Along the way we passed Strawberry Reservoir and saw a few areas that looked promising for an overnight dry camp. That was one of the reasons for taking this route – to scope out spots for overnight stops in the future.

Here are some shots Donna took through the windshield.

Dropping down to Strawberry Reservoir

Dropping down to Strawberry Reservoir – Snow on the peaks ahead

US40 at Strawberry Reservoir

US40 at Strawberry Reservoir

We made our way to Heber City and found the Wasatch County Fairgrounds RV lot. There was a moment of confusion though. The lot has 150 full hook-up sites in what is basically a dirt parking lot surrounded by a chain link fence. I couldn’t see where to enter the lot and the road we were told to take was an obvious dead end.

I held station at the intersection, trying to figure out the best way in. Donna got on her cell phone and called the caretaker of the lot. He told us to proceed down the dead end road and we would see the entrance. I pulled forward across the intersection and saw an open gate immediately on my right. No way could I make that turn into the park. I continued down the road thinking I was really in a bad spot with no way to turn around. At the far end of the fence, we found another open gate. I backed up about 50 feet, swung wide to the left and made the turn into the gate. Whew! Disaster avoided.

We’re currently hooked up with 30 amp service, water and sewer. Like I said, it’s basically a dirt parking lot with hook-ups near an industrial park surrounded by housing. The longer range view of the mountains in the Uinta National Forest is spectacular though. Donna is looking forward to biking in the area and will head out this morning.

I plan to walk to the shopping center in town, about a mile from here. I’ll take care of some banking and pick up a few items we need. The weather guessers are calling for thunder showers this afternoon.

Here are a few photos of an old train displayed across the street from our site.





Unexpected Finds

Donna and I rode the scooter to the City Market in Fruita on Monday. She stocked up on groceries – mostly produce. We had a full load of goods when we rode home. Afterwards, I rode to the Liquor Barn and replenished my beer and vodka supply. I don’t want to deal with it while we’re traveling through Utah. The alcoholic beverage laws in Utah are so restrictive, and it’s expensive there. I spent most of the afternoon getting the trailer squared away and loading everything in it.

I was up early Tuesday morning. Donna had set an alarm for 7am. However, someone in the RV park fired up his Harley (equipped with straight pipes) and let it run for five minutes at 6:15am. Really considerate. I got up at 6:30am. I’d already dumped and flushed the holding tanks the night before. We had everything buttoned up and fired up the engine a little before 8am.

We made a five-mile loop through the area before pulling into Diesel Services, Inc (DSI) – right across the street from the RV park. I did this to get the transmission temperature up before they drained the fluid. Hot automatic transmission fluid (ATF) drains faster and more completely than cold fluid.

I dropped our trailer in their lot and then went inside. The service manager, David, had me back our coach in front of one of the service bays. The shop was full of commercial equipment being worked on. So Andrew, the mechanic assigned to the job, had to work on our coach on the ground in front of the service bay.

Old ATF filters removed from transmission

Old ATF filters removed from transmission

Andrew rolled under the coach on a creeper and recorded the serial number of the transmission. He did this to ensure that the right filters would be installed. DSI gets the filters from an Allison wholesale distributor nearby. He drained the fluid and removed the old filters. Andrew didn’t mind me watching him work and we talked as he went about his business. He told me the old fluid looked and felt like the TranSynd® synthetic fluid. The old filters looked good – there was no visible sign of debris. In the future, I’ll have fluid analysis performed to ensure that the fluid is good and no contaminates are present. Certain contaminates can indicate failure of various components.

The new filter kit included the filters, cover gaskets and new O-rings. Andrew did a thorough job of removing the old gaskets and cleaning the sealing surface. Once the new filters were installed and drain plug replaced, he began pumping TranSynd® ATF into the transmission. This led to a moment of confusion. The filter kit indicated that 16 quarts (four gallons) were required to refill the transmission. The Allison wholesale distributor said to put 17 quarts in. Overfilling the transmission would not be good. If it’s overfilled, the ATF gets aerated and foams, reducing its ability to lubricate and cool the transmission. Once overfilled, the drain plug would have to be removed and replaced before too much expensive ATF is drained out.

Andrew cleans the filter covers and preps for installation

Andrew cleans the filter covers and preps for installation

Andrew pumped four gallons of fluid into the transmission. We waited a few minutes for it to reach the sump, then I started the engine. At high idle, I put the transmission into gear and cycled it between drive, neutral and reverse to pump fluid throughout the transmission. Checking the ATF level can be a bit tricky. The dipstick is marked for checking cold and has another mark for checking when hot (the fluid expands with heat). The dipstick showed the fluid level to be inbetween the two marks. This seemed about right to me. Andrew and David agreed. The transmission was neither cold nor completely up to operating temperature. I paid the bill, including $42 for an extra gallon of TranSynd® ATF to take with me.

We stopped at the visitor center in Fruita, parked the coach and walked to El Tapatio for lunch. Then we drove west on I-70 into Utah. We stopped at the visitor center in Utah near Thompson Springs about an hour later. This is a nice stop. The center has attendants who can answer questions and they gave us a Utah road map. There are hiking trails leading off into the hills behind the center.

While we were stopped, I checked the ATF level, now that it was fully up to temperature. The level was low. I added about a quart of TranSynd® and we got back on the road. Our next stop was at Green River. Our plan was to check out a boondocking spot there, just outside of town. It sounded good – within walking distance to restaurants and a brewery.

When we pulled into the parking area, which looked to be an old, out-of-business gas station, the lot was fairly level. However, it was right next to the highway and railroad tracks. It was also totally exposed and the wind was blowing hard. To cap it off, there was a construction crew across the street with heavy dirt-moving equipment. It smelled like they uncovered a tar pit. We decided to move on northbound on US6. Before we moved, I checked the ATF again. Still low. I added another quart, bringing the total volume to 18 quarts. The transmission level is now at the full mark. I confirmed the ATF level by checking it electronically. The Allison shifter is electronic and it can check the fluid level through sensors. Apparently, we had a very good drain of the ATF. It’s always hard to tell how much fluid is still in the transmission before refilling.

The driving was tiring. We battled gusty wind all day. The wind was coming from the west, shifting to the south at times. On I-70, it was mostly headwind. On US6, it was a cross wind, occasionally shifting to a tailwind. I was tired by the time we reached Price.

We were planning to go to the only RV park we could find in Price, but then we saw a sign for fairgrounds which we decided to follow. We stopped at the RV dump station next to a ball field. Donna called the fairground office and obtained permission to camp overnight. The woman told her that from where we were, we just needed to continue on down the road to the fairgrounds. We drove out of the dump station, east on Fairground Road. We soon found ourselves back in town. Apparently, we were supposed to go the other way on Fairground Road. I turned around in a large parking lot and drove back the way we came. When we got to the fairgrounds, Donna phoned again to clarify where it would be permissible to park. The woman in the office was very nice. She gave us directions and told us we would be fine for one night – no charge. She gave Donna her cell phone number and told her to call if we encountered any problems.

We found a level spot in front of the grandstands. Ours is the only vehicle parked in this area. The restrooms are open. They have running water and are clean. There’s even free public wifi! Off to the west of us, there’s a motocross track. A couple of guys were riding on the track when we arrived, but they left a little while later.

After we set  up, we took a stroll. We found another motorhome back in a dirt lot, hidden by a large metal barn. We didn’t see anyone around though. This morning, I saw it pull out.

Today, we’ll move to Heber City. There’s another county fairgrounds in Heber City that has full hook-ups for $15/night. Nice! Our plan is to stay there for five nights before heading to Salt Lake City where we have reservations at a KOA campground.

Clean Machines

I rode the scooter into Grand Junction on Saturday. I went to a self-serve car wash and washed our scooter. This works well. I bring along a few microfiber cloths and wipe down the scooter after I power wash it. The car wash had a soft water rinse, so there weren’t too many water spots to deal with.

While I was out, I  stopped at the Liquor Barn. I found a potato vodka made in Idaho. It’s called Blue Ice. They market it as “Handcrafted American Potato Vodka – made from Idaho russet potatoes.” It’s priced right, so I thought I’d try it. It makes a great martini. This is my new standard. I think I’ll stock up before we head back to Utah.

Donna spent the afternoon preparing for a video shoot. We shot a demo video of the Reliable Steamboy PRO T3 steam mop. We use this steam mop on the wood floors in our motorhome. It’s also perfect for tile or linoleum and can even clean grout and freshen up carpets. The video we shot will be sent to Reliable’s PR firm for review. Ultimately, the video will be used in Camping World’s online catalog. We have a couple more products to demo, but we’ll see how this one works out before we produce another video.

After we finished the video, I checked the lug nuts on the cargo trailer. I’ve written about this before. Trailer lug nuts need to be checked periodically. I don’t know why, but they have a way of loosening. I set my torque wrench to 100 ft-lbs and checked the tightness of the lug nuts. Three out of 10 nuts moved slightly before the torque wrench clicked. If you tow a trailer, please check your lug nuts.

We both had a late lunch, so Saturday evening, we just snacked. Donna set out an hors d’oeuvres plate with sun-dried tomato and basil hummus that she made along with veggies and shrimp cocktail.

Saturday night snack

Saturday night snack dinner

Yesterday, the forecast called for the temperature to reach the upper 80s by late afternoon. Donna went out for a bike ride early to beat the heat. She intended to ride 30 miles, but ended up riding out to Highline Lake State Park. She checked out the campground there, then rode back home. The round trip was about 45 miles and she really enjoyed it.

While she was out, I decided to wash our coach and trailer. I saw a guy washing his coach the day before and talked to him. I thought I remembered seeing a sign in the office that prohibited washing in the park. Many RV parks prohibit washing your coach, trailer or vehicle on site. He told me they will allow you to wash on site if you buy a $10 wash ticket. Ten bucks for the privilege of washing my own coach! I paid the fee and got started a little before 10am.

I used a soft bristle washing brush on an extendable handle to reach the top of the coach. I washed the entire coach and our cargo trailer. Then I got the ladder out and did the windows. Donna found a new product from Brillo called a bug scrubber. This is a sponge-like pad that’s intended for use on windshield glass. It works like charm. The bugs came off the glass easily with the scrubber. It’s a new favorite product. I detest the usual battle trying to remove the bug remains and smearing the glass. It took about three hours to finish the entire wash job. Our coach is looking good!

Afterwards. I relaxed and read for awhile. By the time Donna returned from her bicycle ride, I was watching the Moto GP race from Le Mans, France that I’d recorded. A few years ago, Donna and I attended the Moto GP race at Indianapolis. Moto GP is the premier series worldwide for motorcycle road racing. There are two other GP classes that serve as feeders for Moto GP – Moto 2 and Moto 3. While we were at Indy, I told Donna to watch a kid in the Moto 2 class, Marc Marquez. This kid was fast. He made the most daring overtaking maneuvers.

Last year, Marc Marquez graduated to the Moto GP class, riding for Honda. He won the championship in his rookie year, becoming the youngest Moto GP World Champion in history. This season, after five races, Marc Marquez qualified on pole all five times. He’s won all five races. He’s only 21 years old and he’s destined to smash all of the records. So far, the only rider that’s been able to even stay close to him is nine-time champion, Valentino Rossi.

Last evening Donna prepared pork tenderloin, dry-rubbed with fajita spices. I blackened the tenderloin on the grill. It was superb! Donna also made a red potato and egg salad to serve on the side, which was a real treat.

Pork Tenderloin with southwestern rub.

Pork Tenderloin with fajita spice rub

Today will be another warm day. I have a few errands to run, then I need to pack the trailer. I want to have the trailer packed and the holding tanks dumped by the end of the day. If I have everything done, we can pull out early tomorrow morning. The first stop will be at DSI to have our transmission serviced. Then we’ll head west, back into Utah.