Category Archives: Wyoming

A Curious Thing

We left the Lusk Elks Lodge Tuesday morning around 11am. Before we pulled out, I walked to the Subway sandwich shop on the corner of Main Street. I took a sandwich with me for lunch on the road and we headed south on US85. This highway has light traffic and a smooth surface. It runs south through large cattle ranches. In much of Wyoming, you’re likely to see more antelope than people – as my buddy Jimbo would say, “That ain’t a bad thing.”

Our route took us through Torrington, one of the larger towns in the area with a population of 6,700. As we headed back into ranch land, a curious thing happened. We were in one those areas with little traffic and few people when two motorcycles approached in the oncoming lane. The lead motorcyclist raised his arm and gave a wave as they passed. I wasn’t sure what that was all about.

A few minutes later, my cell phone rang, but Donna couldn’t pick up the call – we had spotty cell service. About 20 minutes later, I stopped in a rest area so Donna could make a salad for her lunch. I checked my voicemail and had a message. It was from my friend and fellow Alpine Coach owner Dave Hobden. He was the motorcyclist waving at me on US85! I could hardly believe it – here we were in a remote area of eastern Wyoming and we pass each other like two ships in the night. He said he recognized our rig from a quarter mile away. He was on a road trip to Rapid City with a friend.

Eventually, US85 bends to the southwest. It was windy – the wind was coming from the southeast so we had a crosswind. It was a steady 20+ mph breeze so it wasn’t too hard to handle. Gusty winds can be a handful, but this was okay. We hit I-25 south and drove a few miles to I-90 east and found our way to Sierra Trading Post on Campstool Road. Sierra Trading Post has a large facility here – it houses their headquarters and fulfillment warehouse as well as a retail store. They have a marked RV and truck parking area with stalls about 90 feet long and they welcome RVers. This was our destination for the day.

We set up in their lot and Donna went shopping. She can spend hours in their store browsing through clothing and trying on clothes, especially when they’re having their annual summer clearance sale! She also checked us in at the fulfillment center – they like to know who’s in their lot and keep contact info. We were the only rig in the RV/truck area. A guy stopped by and talked to me. He was a former full-time RVer and is planning to get back on the road soon. He and his wife had to get off the road after five years to attend to her fathers health issues, but he said they weren’t ready to stop traveling yet. It turned out he was the fulfillment center manager and he told me we were welcome to stay as long as we wanted.

Later, a couple of other rigs pulled in to shop and spend the night. We had a quiet and uneventful night. On Wednesday, I shopped in the retail store and bought lunch at their counter – it’s mainly for employees but they serve the public as well. Most of the cars parked in the two lots are employee vehicles – I don’t know the number, but a lot of people work at the headquarters and warehouse.

We decided to hang out and spend another night. Thursday morning the weather forecast called for a cold front to move into the area and bring high winds – gusts up 50 mph possible by afternoon. I dumped and flushed our tanks at the Sierra Trading Post dump station and we headed out by 9:30am to beat the wind. I had talked to a trucker the night before and he strongly recommended staying on US85 and avoiding I-25. He said due to some construction and low speeds in a couple of towns, the trip might take 15 minutes longer, but he said I-25 was a crap shoot once you get past Loveland. Wrecks, distracted drivers making crazy maneuvers and whatnot were a constant on I-25. We followed his advice after topping up on diesel fuel at the Pilot/Flying J down the road from Sierra Trading Post.

We pulled into the Boulder County Fairgrounds in Longmont, Colorado before noon. We were happy to find open pullthrough sites. They don’t take reservations here – all sites are first-come-first-served and they only have eight pullthrough sites. I paid for five nights but we may extend. We have 50 amp electrical service and fresh water, but no sewer. They have a dump station that we’ll use when we’re ready to leave.

After setting up, I got our DISH satellite dialed in – there is a Moto GP race this weekend and also a Formula One race. I set up the Weber Q grill and Donna took over. She’s becoming quite the grill master. She cooked herbed bone-in chicken thighs and also grilled patty pan squash with onions and peppers. She served it with steamed spinach. Donna’s following a strict diet called Bright Line Eating – so we don’t always have the same meals together. Last night it worked out fine though and the dinner was delicious.

Grilled bone-in chicken thigh, grilled veggies with feta cheese and steamed spinach

High barometric pressure has moved into the area. We can expect mostly clear skies and temperatures reaching 90 degrees. The humidity is low – in the teens. There is some haze over the mountains to the west, but the reports of smoke from wildfires in the west seem to be exaggerated a bit. Typically at this time of year, a passing afternoon/evening shower comes from the mountains in this area, but nothing remarkable is in the forecast.

Deadwood, Spearfish and Lusk

I wrote my last post from the Elks Lodge in Rapid City on Thursday. That night, our friends Mark and Emily Fagan (RoadsLessTraveled) stopped by with their dog, Buddy. We met Mark and Emily five years ago when we were in our first year of full-timing. Since then, our paths have crossed several times and now they’re in Rapid City at the America’s Mailbox campground nearby. The last time we got together was in Mesa, Arizona last March.

Buddy the dog was uncomfortable with Ozark the cat. So we sat outside and talked for a couple of hours. It’s always great to meet up with friends on the road and catch up on things.

On Friday Donna and I had appointments at the driver’s licensing office nearby. We could’ve changed our information online by scanning a form they gave at our new mail service (Your Best Address), but if we wanted the correct address to appear on our actual license we had to go to the office. This entailed a new application and a $15 fee. I had just paid and renewed my license in June, but there wasn’t any way around it. We paid up and walked out with new driver’s licenses in about 10 minutes.

Saturday morning we heard a lot of activity early – before 7am. The Rapid City Elks Lodge is unique in that it has an 18-hole golf course on the property that’s open to the public. Their restaurant and bar is also open to the public. I haven’t been to any other Elks Lodge that allows the public to have access to the bar unless accompanied by a member in good standing. Anyway, it turned out there was golf tournament there Saturday morning. They were setting up and some foursomes had early tee times.

The parking lot was filling up. I went to our trailer and put traffic cones in the spaces in front of it – if someone parked in front of the trailer, we wouldn’t be able to hook up. We were packed up and hooked up the trailer with no problem by 11am.

We’ve been re-watching the HBO series, Deadwood. This series is set in the town of Deadwood, South Dakota in the 1870s. Some of the characters actually existed – Seth Bullock was the sheriff, Sol Star was his partner in a hardware store, Al Swearingen owned the Gem saloon and casino. But other than that, the account is fictional and greatly embellished. We enjoy watching it and are on the third and final season.

We decided it would be fun to spend a day in Deadwood. I found a likely boondocking spot on Google Earth about six miles from Deadwood outside the Black Hills National Forest on Rochford Road. It was about a 50-mile drive, mostly uphill. We found the spot and it was a huge gravel parking area that was fairly level at one end. No other vehicles were there and no signs were posted. We set up and prepared to get the Spyder out to head back into town. We were at an elevation near 6,000 feet above sea level – our GPS showed 5,965.

At the back of the trailer, I looked at the sky to the southeast. It looked ominous. I checked the Radar Express app and saw we were about to get hit with a thunderstorm. We didn’t unload the Spyder and went back inside instead. About 20 minutes later, the skies opened up and it poured rain. It rained off and on the rest of the afternoon with a few bouts of pea-sized hail. We managed to get outside for a couple of short walks, but it was raining too hard most of the time to do anything. So much for our tour of Deadwood.

On Sunday morning, it looked like wind and rain would continue. We decided to head over to Spearfish. Mark had told me about the Walmart there and said it was a great spot to dry camp overnight. We drove down through the scenic Spearfish Canyon. A marathon event was being held, but lucky for us the runners were in the opposite lane from us going downhill. We dropped about 2,000 feet of elevation and found the Walmart at an elevation of 3,900 feet above sea level. We shopped a bit and hung out while the clouds slowly cleared. About half a dozen RVs overnighted there.

We were in no hurry to leave, so on Sunday morning, we got the Spyder out – it was finally dry outside. We rode into the historic downtown area and parked. We stopped at the visitor center, then took a walk and had a look around. We were mostly reconnoitering for future reference – we think we would like to spend some time here next year.

Centered on Main Street is the Matthews Opera House and Arts Center. This building dates back to 1906. Currently the Opera House hosts live music of all genres, an art gallery and theater.

Matthews Opera House and Art Center

After walking around, we rode the Spyder to the D. C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery. This hatchery was created in 1896 and is located on a beautiful park-like property. They had an underground fish viewing window in a pond where they keep adult fish for educational purposes. These were some of the largest trout I’ve ever seen at any hatchery. We were told some of the fish in the pond were 10 to 12 years old.

Fish viewing

The ponds and raceways are fed with fresh water from the Spearfish Creek which runs adjacent to the property. They had a fish car – a rail car that was used to transport fish across the country for broodstock and for stocking streams and lakes. They would load the car with large stainless steel milk jugs full of fingerlings in fresh water. The fish cars were in use until the late 1930s when trucks took over.

Fish car

We left Spearfish just before noon. Our route took us west into Wyoming on I-90 to Sundance where we left the Interstate and headed south on WY585 to US85. The road surface was smooth and traffic very light on this scenic byway. We drove through cattle ranch land and spotted dozens of antelope along the way. We pulled into the town of Lusk – population about 1,600 – around 3pm and found the Elks Lodge. We’re back up to 5,000 feet above sea level.

The Elks Lodge here is a brick building erected in 1910 that originally served as the high school. Their parking lot is fairly large and level and they welcome Elks members to dry camp. When we pulled in, I saw someone at the front door. I went over to ask about parking and he told me to pick anywhere I wanted. The lodge is only open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday so we had the place to ourselves.

We got the coach and trailer lined up in a level spot and set up. Then we took a walk back into town and found the Stagecoach Museum. The Stagecoach Museum name is a bit of a misnomer as it contains much more than stage coaches. It is a collection of Old West and Wyoming memorabilia.

Much of the stage coach material revolves around the Cheyenne Black Hills Stage and Express Line owned by Russell Thorp. The stage ran a distance of 320 miles from Cheyenne, Wyoming to Deadwood, South Dakota. It started operating in 1876 and was owned by F. D. Yates. Later, Russell Thorp Sr. bought the line. It was interesting to read about the stage and I’ve included a photo with a letter describing the operation from Russell Thorp’s son – click to enlarge and read.

Cheyenne Black Hills stage coach

They had first class?

They also had some oddities on display. For example, fossil remains of a triceratops dinosaur found in Wyoming and a two-headed calf born in the area in 1942.

The wind picked up in the evening and we had gusts up to 30 mph overnight. Today is windy with thunderstorms moving in this afternoon. I have a theory that all of the smoke from the wildfires out west are collecting moisture in the particulates – like seeding clouds – and the result is higher than normal rainfall across the area. We’re going to move on to Cheyenne and hope it isn’t too windy or stormy.

 

 

 

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.

Back to South Dakota

We pulled out of the Broadus, Montana city park around 10am Sunday. Our route had us continue down US212 where we traversed the northeast corner of Wyoming before we reached South Dakota. We saw several antelope in the fields along the roadside this time – I expected to see them the day before but didn’t.

We drove through the town of Belle Fourche, South Dakota which has the distinction of being near the designated geographic center of the United States of America. This designation was  bestowed by the US Coast and Geodetic Survey in 1959 – after Alaska and Hawaii were admitted to the union. The geographic center of the 48 contiguous states is Lebanon, Kansas.

We drove through town on US 85 next to a truck pulling a fifth-wheel trailer which had a cargo trailer attached to it – you don’t see that very often! We turned southeast at SD34 while the trailer pulling a trailer went straight down US85. We hit I-90 at Whitewood west of Sturgis. A little while later, the trailer pulling a trailer passed us at about 70mph. He must have taken US85 due south and got on I-90 west of Spearfish. Ours was definitely the shorter, faster route.

We pulled into the Elks Lodge in Rapid City around 1:30pm. I parked in the front lot while we figured out how to set up. This is a very nice lodge – one of the largest and cleanest lodges we’ve visited. This is the first lodge we’ve been to where the bar is open to the public. This is due to the golf course on the lodge property which is also open to the public. The RV lot is for Elks members only.

We dropped the trailer in the main parking lot and backed the coach into site four. We have 50amp electric service and fresh water, no sewer hook up. We paid for four nights and shouldn’t have any worries about sewer. The 50 amp electric service was needed – we had to run the generator on the road to power the front roof air conditioner. Once hooked up, we ran both roof A/Cs – it was 100 degrees outside! The average high temperature in July for Rapid City is 85 degrees – we were in for a few days with highs above average.

We had a problem with one of the basement compartment doors over the last couple of days on the road. The door popped open a few times. I adjusted the plate the latch attaches to, but it still wasn’t very secure. On Monday, I found an Ace Hardware store and bought a flat brass bar one-inch wide. I had them cut a three-inch section. I glued this flat bar to the latch plate effectively extending the height of the plate. The door latches securely now and shouldn’t be a problem down the road. While I was out, I picked up a few groceries.

Meanwhile, Donna was out for a bike ride in the 90 degree heat. She planned a route looking at a map and headed out for a 24-mile ride. Little did she know her route included some steep climbs! She got through it though.

I went online Monday and found the local Department of Public Safety (DPS) licensing office. I found out they take appointments for driver’s license exams and renewals. Donna lost her driver’s license back in November in San Diego – she figures it must have slipped out of the slot in her purse when she pulled her cell phone out. I scheduled an appointment at the DPS office a few miles from the lodge for 10am Tuesday morning. They advise arriving 10 minutes prior to the appointment time.

We walked into the DPS office 12 minutes before 10am. They had a sign telling us to take a number after we completed the application paperwork. Donna had already completed the application so she took a number. Then I saw another sign telling us to notify a clerk if we had an appointment. Donna told a woman at the counter she had an appointment and gave her name. She was told that she would be next in line.

We sat down to wait and within two minutes Donna’s name was called. The woman at the counter entered Donna’s application in her computer terminal, took her photograph and printed her new driver’s license in less than ten minutes! I’ve never experienced such efficiency at a government agency.

We were back on the Spyder and on the road a couple of minutes past 10am. We headed up US16 and turned off at 16A. We were headed to Mount Rushmore. We visited the monument in 2013 when we first hit the road as full-timers (post).

Once we got through the tourist town of Keystone, we hit a traffic jam trying to enter the monument. There was a crew painting new road lettering and arrows and they had a lane closed. This confused the traffic as it was forced to converge into two lanes from three – the two lanes that are for entry to the monument. Through traffic had to go around the crew, then get out of the entry lane at the entrance and get back on the highway. We baked in the sun for 20 minutes trying to enter.

When we were here before, we paid the $10 fee to park and were planning to show our National Parks pass inside but there was no entrance fee. This time I showed my National Parks pass and was told the pass doesn’t do anything for me at the monument – everyone has to pay for a parking permit to enter the monument. So I paid $10 again. We walked through the monument viewing area. We both thought the famous sculptures looked like they had been cleaned since our last visit.

Donna in front of the state flags display

At the viewing pavillion

We didn’t stay long. We went back to Keystone for lunch at Peggy’s Cafe. We were disappointed in the food quality – not on our recommended list. I wanted to take the scenic drive down Needles Highway again but realized that would mean we had to fight our way through the traffic jam at the monument again.

I decided to ride the Spyder down 16A to SD87 and we could come up the Needles Highway from the bottom. This route took us through Custer State Park. At the park entrance there was a sign advising a fee for a park pass to use any of the parks facilities – through traffic on the highway didn’t need a pass. So I carried on without stopping.

At the turn-off to Needles Highway we were stopped and an agent told us we had to purchase a pass to enter the highway, even if we didn’t plan to stop. I didn’t recall paying anything four years ago when we drove down the highway. I paid $10 for a pass.

Needles Highway is very scenic – and it’s slow. The road is narrow and full of twists and turns. There are six tunnels – some a as narrow as eight feet seven inches. I don’t know how the tour buses which are eight feet six inches wide manage to get through, but they do.

I didn’t stop to take photos at the Cathedral Spires which are granite columns – needle like – towering along a section of road. I thought we would come back down the highway and I would get pictures then. We went all the way to Sylvan Lake before stopping to stretch our legs.

Sylvan Lake

We were hot and the route was longer than I anticipated. We didn’t have enough fuel to back-track down the highway. We cooled off in the shade and Donna even put her feet in the lake.

Donna cooling off in Sylvan Lake

We exited the highway at the top end and rode back to Rapid City. We had put in about 110 miles and spent four hours on the Spyder. We had enough sightseeing for one day – we were getting saddle sore.

We ended the day with grilled green chile turkey burgers cooked on the Weber Q for dinner and some leftover red potato salad.

Green chile turkey burger

I opened an IPA called Total Domination from Ninkasi Brewing in Eugene, Oregon.

Ninkasi Total Domination

We’re thinking about going to a barbeque and rodeo later today – it depends on the weather. For the last three days, a thunder shower developed in the late afternoon. Usually it blows through quickly but we had a considerable amount of rain along with high winds, thunder and lightning last night.

Tomorrow we’ll head east and probably make an overnight stop near Chamberlain before we check in for a week in Sioux Falls.

Back Roads to Greeley

After four nights in the Sierra Trading Post lot, we pulled out yesterday. We’ve been dry-camped for six nights straight and were getting a little concerned about our fresh water supply. We didn’t plan to dry camp this long and didn’t make water conservation a priority at first. Having said that, our time on the road has made water conservation habitual. We use much less water than we ever did when we were in a sticks-and-bricks home. We can usually make our fresh water tank last a week if we try.

Our first stop was the Pilot/Flying J travel center two miles down Campstool Road. We put about 30 hours on the generator while we were off the grid, plus we traveled over 300 miles since I last filled the tank. After fueling up, I drove us past the I-80 on-ramp and continued down Campstool Road. We were headed for Greeley, Colorado and I wanted to hit US85 for the drive south instead of taking I-80 to I-25. I didn’t activate Nally – our Rand-McNally RV GPS – until I was well down the road so she wouldn’t direct me onto the interstate.

I made a mistake though. I missed a turn and drove too far down the road. When Nally was activated, I was directed east and crossed the state line into Colorado at Hereford – well east of our intended route. Oh well, we just went with the flow and enjoyed the high plains grassland. There were large ranches and a few clusters of huge new homes. I surmised the homes were recently built during the oil boom which is now in more of bust cycle. Obviously some people in the Cheyenne area are doing well judging by the homes and this – I saw a cowboy park his Ferrari F360 at Sierra Trading Post.

Ferrari F360 Modena in the Sierra Trading Post lot

Ferrari F360 Modena in the Sierra Trading Post lot

Our route had us zig-zagging down quiet county roads. In the first 40 miles of our drive, we only saw four other vehicles. Some of the road surfaces were horrible and Ozark the cat lost her breakfast in her crate. She’s only been carsick a couple of times and it’s always been when we were pounding down a rough road. We also encountered a stoppage at a road construction site which had traffic following a pilot car down a single lane for about three miles. We weren’t held up too long though.

We arrived at the Greeley RV Park around 12:30pm. The check-in was very efficient – they had taken our information over the phone when I reserved the site and they knew our rig was long. They had a pull-through site for us and the woman told me to pull as far forward as possible and not to worry if our trailer extended a couple of feet past the rear of the site.

The sites here are relatively narrow, but we were easily lined up in the level gravel site. I hooked up our power, water and sewer and dumped the holding tanks. I’ll need to refill our fresh water tank – but first I needed to do some research. I saw a warning posted in the park office stating that the nitrate level of the water supply was higher than the 10ppm federally mandated maximum. The water here has a nitrate level of 11.3ppm.

Nitrates can seep into ground water from a few sources. It can be due to runoff from decomposing plants or chemical fertilizers or it can come from excessive amounts of livestock manure. Once nitrate is in the groundwater, it’s very difficult to remove it. It takes a special filtration process – our sediment filter and activated carbon filtration doesn’t remove it. The good news is, this level of nitrate isn’t especially dangerous unless it’s ingested by a baby under six months old. This is due to the bacteria in an infants digestive tract that can convert nitrate into nitrite and interfere with it’s ability to carry oxygen in the bloodstream. After about six months of age, acids form in the digestive system and nitrite is no longer formed.

I unloaded the Spyder and put an orange warning cone at the rear of the trailer which is hanging into the road.

Trailer extends past the rear of the site

Trailer extends past the rear of the site

The trailer shouldn’t be a problem – we saw a few sites with cars parked in the rear that also extend past the rear site border. Donna and I hopped on the Spyder and rode into town to take a look at the grocery store. King Soopers is the grocery chain in the area, they’re an affiliate of Kroger. The King Soopers here in Greeley is a large, well-stocked store and the prices look reasonable.

It was unusually humid here yesterday and the temperature reached the upper 80s. Thankfully we have a 50 amp service and ran both roof air conditioners. Today we expect the temperature to reach the upper 80s again but the humidity won’t be a factor – the forecast calls for a more normal level below 20%. There’s also a 20% chance of a thundershower this afternoon. I told Donna that when I lived in Longmont about 20 miles south of here, we had a thundershower just about every afternoon in August. The clouds would build over the Rocky Mountains to the west, then arrive over town around 5pm. It would pour down rain with lightning and thunder for about 15 minutes before it blew out east over the plains. Within 20 minutes, everything would be dry with clear skies. I’m wondering if we can expect the same pattern here.

 

*Just so you know, if you follow one of my links to Amazon and decide to make a purchase, you pay the same price as usual and  I’ll earn a few pennies for the referral. It’ll go into the beer fund. Thanks!

Christmas in August

A cold front was pushing down from the north on Friday. After exploring a few options, we decided the best bet was to stay put and hunker down for the day. The wind picked up in the afternoon, but most of the thunderstorm activity was to the south of us – we could see lightning and hear the thunder but we only had one squall here at Sierra Trading Post.

It was good day to kick back and read a book, so that’s what I did. Satelite TV reception was spotty in the afternoon due to the heavy storm clouds blocking the southern sky. The temperature dropped dramatically.

Screenshot of weather conditions on my smartphone at 7:46pm

Screenshot of weather conditions on my smartphone at 7:46pm

I couldn’t think of anything better to do, so I opened a bottle of Flanders Black Ale that I picked up when I visited the Deschutes Brewery. This is a limited release – you won’t find it in stores. It’s a bourbon barrel-aged black ale with brett bacteria.

Black Flanders Ale

Flanders Black Ale

It was strong at 10.5% ABV with very complex flavors and a sour finish. I thought it was delicious. I poured a taster for Donna and she agreed. It was also expensive at about a dollar an ounce! When the storm clouds thinned out, we watched some coverage of the Rio Olympics.

We rose to sunny skies Saturday morning. It was still cool out but the forecast called for temperatures in the 70s by the afternoon. We wanted to get out so we rode the Spyder downtown to the depot at the south end of Capitol Avenue. They have a farmers’ market there on Saturdays from 7am to 1pm beginning on the first weekend of August and running through the first weekend in October.

Farmers' market

Farmers’ market

It was a fairly large market with local produce sourced from Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska.

Depot plaza

Depot plaza

The entrance to the depot plaza which is the site for the market has sculptures of cowboy boots flanking either side.

Boot on the right

Boot on the right

Another boot on the left

Another boot on the left

We walked through the marketplace and Donna bought fennel and squash while I bought coarse grain habanero mustard – we sampled it and it was very tasty while not overly hot.

There was an art exhibit in the train depot that houses a gift shop and museum. The fee to enter the museum was $8 – we passed on it. We also checked out the Accomplice brew pub but it was too early to sample brews.

As we headed back to the Spyder, we saw a western wear shop called The Wrangler which is also a Boot Barn store. Donna’s been wanting me to buy cowboy boots to wear with jeans when we go out. When I’m not wearing flip-flops, I usually wear running shoes or cross-trainers.

I humored her and we went inside for a look. I haven’t worn cowboy boots since I was a kid. I posted about those cowboy boots here. For some reason, I imagined cowboy boots would be uncomfortable to wear. After browsing around for a while, I found a pair I liked and tried them on. They were a little tight around my forefoot and a little loose at the heel. I looked for a different size. I tried a larger boot, but it was loose. That’s when a store clerk came over to offer assistance.

I told him how the first boot fit. He told me that it sounded like a perfect fit – they should always feel a little tight behind the ball of your foot and have a little space at the heel. He said the leather would stretch and conform to my forefoot after walking in them and breaking them in. They were actually quite comfortable. The brand name was Ariat.

Donna made it Christmas in August and bought the boots for me. I also picked up some leather conditioner.

On the way back to the Spyder, we stopped at a used book store and found a couple of books for a dollar each. Donna asked the guy there for a recommendation for lunch. He told us we should go back toward the depot and try The Albany restaurant. It’s been family-owned since 1942. We dropped our stuff in the Spyder trunk and I donned my new cowboy boots to start the break-in process.

My new Ariat boots

My new Ariat boots

We had a nice lunch and the service was good. After we came home, Donna went for a walk. She ended up walking a few miles east, then came back and stopped at the coach before walking west to pick up a few things at Walmart, logging a total of 6.6 miles for the day. I watched the qualifying for this weekend’s Moto GP race in the Czech Republic.

Today’s weather looks good – clear skies with the temperature expected to reach the low 80s and not as windy as the previous few days. We’ll hang out here at Sierra Trading Post one more night before we move on to Colorado tomorrow.

Sierra Trading Post

We had a late start leaving Laramie – we pulled out of the Cavalryman’s parking lot around 11am. Our route took us east on I-80 for about nine miles up a steep grade. We were at an elevation of about 7,200 feet above sea level in Laramie. By the time we pulled off I-80 at Happy Jack Road (WY210), we were over 8,600 feet above sea level.

The terrain changed drastically as we climbed into the Laramie range of the Rocky Mountains. We were surrounded by coniferous forest now instead of the high plains grassland and sage brush as we drove through the Happy Jack Recreation Area.

WY210 took us through a section of Medicine Bow National Forest before we came through the Curt Gowdy State Park area at Granite Lake. This is beautiful country with stunning views of forest, open meadows and huge rock formations. WY210 – also known as Happy Jack Road and the Sand Creek Massacre Trail – is a relatively narrow, two-lane road through this area. I was wishing for a turnout so I could stop and take a few photos, but it never materialized.

East of Curt Gowdy State Park, we dropped down to an elevation of about 6,400 feet above sea level and we were in high plains grassland again. We saw a few antelope which favor this terrain over forest.

By the way, the Curt Gowdy State Park is named after a Wyoming native. Curt Gowdy was born in Green River and grew up in Cheyenne. He was the announcer for the Boston Red Sox in the 1950s and moved on to national television sports announcing first for ABC in 1960, then NBC in 1965. He covered many different sporting events and was called “the broadcaster of everything.” His career continued into the mid-1980s.

The detour from I-80 onto WY210 added about 10 miles to our trip but was well worth it. The scenery was spectacular. We eventually rejoined I-80 a few miles west of Cheyenne near the junction of I-25. Our destination was the Sierra Trading Post outlet and fulfillment center in Cheyenne. They have a large parking lot with RV and truck parking in marked stalls 100 feet long.

We checked in with the woman at the counter in the fulfillment center. She took down our information – name, coach description and plate number and an emergency phone contact. She said the information would be passed on to security and the lot is patrolled 24/7. We were welcome to stay through the weekend if we wanted, no charge.

Donna and I then walked over to the outlet store and saw a few things we would want to purchase before we leave. We could see heavy clouds to the southwest and we had a few raindrops on the windshield earlier. We came back to the coach for lunch. Donna wanted to go back to the outlet and shop. I needed to get the Spyder out and ride over to Petco – about four miles away – to get cat food. We were nearly out of cat food and Ozark likes the brand I find at Petco.

I knew I was taking a chance of getting caught out in a thunderstorm, but I quickly unloaded the Spyder and headed out around 1:30pm. Donna went back to the Sierra Trading Post outlet. I didn’t waste any time at Petco and returned just as a few raindrops were falling. I loaded the Spyder back in the trailer and came inside before the skies opened up.

We had a massive thunderstorm approaching. I had to pull the living room slide back in as the wind really kicked up. By 3pm, it was raining hard and there were lightning strikes all around us. Donna was still in the outlet. I sent her a text telling her to stay in the store until the storm passed. She was happy to do that as she was in her element trying on clothes and shoes.

The storm finally moved on to the east around 5pm – but Donna didn’t finish shopping until 6pm! I had the living room slide back out by then. Donna reheated some jambalaya she made in the crockpot two days ago and we watched TV until bedtime.

This morning, it’s cloudy and the high temperature is only supposed to reach 66 degrees. Another thunderstorm is predicted for the afternoon. We’re undecided at this point on whether we should stay put or move on. We have to hit an RV park soon – I’ll need to refill the fresh water and dump our tanks. Either way, I’ll hit the outlet and pick up a couple of shirts and shorts I saw yesterday that were real bargains.

The Virginian

Although we enjoyed the relative solitude of dispersed camping on public land, we decided to pull out from Rim Lake Wednesday morning. The weather forecast called for rain and that could leave us in a position of having to drive a large, heavy rig down muddy dirt roads.

We thought it would be best to move on to Laramie. Instead of droning along I-80 for 100 miles, we opted to take US30 through Medicine Bow. This route added about 25 miles to the trip but it was more interesting and easy driving. Traffic was so light on US30, we only saw a handful of cars during the first 60 miles before we stopped in Medicine Bow.

I know I’m dating myself, but I asked Donna if she remembered the old western serial from the ’60s called The Virginian. The setting for the show was Medicine Bow in the late 1800s. We pulled into a large parking lot by a small general store and Donna made lunch for us. Medicine Bow has a population of about 300 people. It has the Virginian Hotel and RV park, a store, two bars, an ice cream shop and a museum.

Medicine Bow Museum

Medicine Bow Museum

We walked across the street to the museum after lunch. There’s an old log cabin in front – the actual museum is in a house toward the rear of the property. Donna spied what appeared to be an early RV – it was actually sheepherders quarters.

Sheep herders mobile quarters

Sheepherders mobile quarters

Sheep ranching came to Wyoming in the mid-1800s. Beef prices were at an all-time high then, so investing in a sheep ranch was risky. However, sheep produced wool, mutton and lamb meat. The high demand for wool during the civil war made sheep ranching profitable. For the next 100 years, Basque immigrants were brought in to tend to the sheep. This was a lonely and hard job. The sheepherders would move with the flock, keeping them on fresh grazing land. They lived in tiny portable housing with no running water or electricity. In the early years, there was friction between cattle ranchers and sheep ranchers – mostly over grazing rights on public land.

In the 1980s, ranchers were having a hard time finding Basque immigrants willing to do the job. They turned to South America where sheepherders from Chile or Peru were willing to emigrate and take the job. A New York Times article from 2009 stated that sheepherders still lived in very primitive conditions and worked 24/7 for a monthly pay of $750. They didn’t have much in the way of expenses though – food was provided and they had shelter, although most were still without running water or electricity. The current situation is mostly unchanged save for the decline in numbers of sheep on the range.

The museum itself is a self-guided step back in time. The house has every room filled with artifacts and trinkets from the late 1800s to the 1960s. Donna found high-quality dress leather shoes from a century ago and remarked on how small the women must have been. The shoes and boots were tiny as was a dress on a mannequin that must have had an 18-inch waist.

We continued on US30/287 and saw dark clouds and rainfall to the southwest. I think we made the right choice to move on. We hit a few stray rain drops, but not much – the road remained dry.

We drove through Laramie south of I-80 past the fairgrounds to the Cavalryman Steakhouse. They have a large parking lot in back and Donna heard that they would allow overnight parking. We pulled in and parked around 2:30pm. The steakhouse doesn’t open until 4pm. We saw people going in and out of the building though, so we walked over toward it. A guy came out and got in his car. He drove up to us and told us they would open for dinner at 4pm. We asked about overnight parking in our rig and he said we were fine right where we parked. He was one of the managers.

Awhile later, Donna received an e-mail from Kathy Crabtree – we met Kathy and her husband Ray in San Diego last year and hooked up with them again this year in Portland. They were on their way from Portland to Ohio in their car and were eastbound on I-80 about an hour out of Laramie. Donna replied and told them where we were. The stopped by the steakhouse about an hour later and we chatted for about twenty minutes before they had to continue their road trip. They had reservations at a motel in North Platte, Nebraska another 270 miles east on I-80. Cars on this part of I-80 travel at 80mph – so they had another three and half hours of driving time.

We went to the Cavalryman Steakhouse for dinner around 5pm. They were well staffed and the service was great. Donna had a prime rib dinner while I had an open-face steak sandwich with garlic mashed potatoes. The food was excellent.

Today we’ll move another 50 miles east to Cheyenne as we inch our way to Colorado. We may spend a couple of days in Cheyenne so we can get some shopping done, then we plan to go to Greeley, Colorado from there.

Across the Divide

On Monday morning, Donna saw that UPS tracking indicated the delivery of her new laptop would arrive by 8pm. I was hoping it would be well before before 8pm because the Sweetwater Fairgrounds office closes at 5pm and they would take the delivery.

I went to the office and told them we expected a delivery and asked when UPS usually delivers – I was told between noon and 3pm. I paid for another night here to be sure we could get her laptop. I then made a run to town on the Spyder to pay for the diagnostic fee and retrieve her bad hard drive and also pick up a few necessities.

Around 4pm, I asked Donna to check the status of her laptop delivery – the woman in the office said she would call me when UPS delivered, but I hadn’t heard from her. The UPS tracking showed “Delivered and handed to local resident Adams.” What?

I went to the fairground office and the office manager Erika said that UPS dropped everything back in their shop since they delivered some large boxes. She led me back to the workshop area and there it was – Donna’s new laptop. I have to say, the office staff at Sweetwater Fairgrounds and Events Complex are some of the nicest people you’ll ever encounter.

Fairgrounds building

Fairgrounds building

They do a great job of keeping the area around the events center clean and well-landscaped.

Nice Flowers by the office

Nice flowers by the office

More flowers honoring the sheriff's department

More flowers honoring the sheriff’s department

However, the RV area is nothing more than a large gravel lot with 1200 hook-ups. The caretaker doesn’t seem to do much. Donna and I slept poorly most nights as we had issues with barking dogs early in the morning and long-term residents heading out to their workaday lives. The barking dogs were especially bothersome. A couple in a site near us had three dogs and it seems that they thought it was okay to just let the dogs out in the morning around 6am to do their business. The dogs would bark constantly as they ran around loose for what seemed like an eternity. Then the caretaker’s dogs would join in the barkfest.

Donna spent most of Monday evening getting her laptop configured. Of course this meant using a lot of data on our Verizon plan, but what can you do? I have to mention that Verizon’s coverage is incredible – it’s rare for us not to have a usable Internet connection.

Donna defrosted some grass-fed lamb rib chops we bought from the rancher in Portland and made lamb chops with a red wine, rosemary and garlic pan sauce. As usual, I’m dining first-class.

Lamb chops with red wine, rosemary and garlic pan sauce

Lamb chops with red wine, rosemary and garlic pan sauce

We were watching the Rio Olympics on TV when dogs started barking non-stop near our coach after 9pm. I looked out the window and sure enough, our neighbor with the three dogs had let them out. I walked over to his site and knocked on the door. He and his wife were totally oblivious to the barking dogs running loose. It wasn’t a pleasant exchange.

We got a late start Tuesday morning. It was 11am by the time we pulled out. I had to circle back before we left the grounds when I realized I left our jack pads behind. Our first stop was the Pilot/Flying J at I-80. We took on 45 gallons of fuel at $2.42/gallon. I wanted to have a full tank as we weren’t sure of where we’ll stop for the night and how much generator run-time we might have in the next couple of days.

We stopped at the Love’s travel center in Wamsutter for lunch. It was a crowded truck stop with back-in spaces. I had to jockey back-and-forth a few times to get us into a parking lane, but no harm done. Over lunch, Donna and I discussed our options for the night. We decided to hit a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) site south of Rawlins at Teton Reservoir.

Heading eastward on I-80 we crossed the continental divide twice. The continental divide is a hydrological divide where watersheds drain either westward to the Pacific Ocean or eastward to the Gulf of Mexico or Atlantic. In southern Wyoming we encountered the Great Divide Basin. This is a region where none of the water falling to the ground drains into any ocean. We were at 7,000 feet above sea level at that point.

We pulled off I-80 at Rawlins and headed for the BLM site. On the way, we passed a sign for Rim Lake which also turned out to be BLM public land. The road we were on turned to gravel five miles before Teton Lake and I stopped in a turn-out. I was leery of continuing to Teton Reservoir. The road surface looked okay at that point, but there was no guarantee of its condition further on and being able to turn around. We made a several-point turn-around and came back to the Rim Lake turn-off.

It was a gravel/dirt road that took us a couple of miles to the small lake. On the way, we spied a few pronghorn antelope. That’s Wyoming – you’re likely to see more pronghorns than people in many areas. This is not a bad thing.

We found a level spot that I can easily exit from and we set up for the night.

Our quiet space

Our quiet space

Our Rim Lake view

Rim Lake view

A few cars and pickup trucks came through the area in the afternoon but didn’t stay long. Three bicyclists rode in around 7pm and set up tents for an overnight stop. They were far enough away from us that we couldn’t hear them. We heard a pack of coyotes howling after dark and the gusty winds woke me a few times in the night. But it’s nice to be away from it all and only waking to the sounds of nature instead barking dogs and vehicles early in the morning.

The weather forecast for today looks good – sunny and mid 80s. We’re debating about moving to Teton Reservoir and staying overnight there. I’d like to check it out, but there’s a 50% chance of rain by tomorrow and we’ll be five miles down a dirt road that could become muddy. Also, it’s not likely that we would have internet at Teton Reservoir. Our other option is to head to Laramie where we won’t have any worries about mud. We’re in no hurry, so we’ll decide later this morning.

 

 

 

 

Blues ‘n Brews

Our highlight for the weekend was the Sweetwater Blues ‘n Brews Festival held in Bunning Park here in Rock Springs, Wyoming. This was the 10th anniversary of the event. We rode down to Bunning Park on the Spyder around 2:30pm. The festival started at noon and was scheduled to run until 10pm. There were six blues bands in the line-up with each band performing for about an hour and a half.

Blues 'N Brews line-up

Blues ‘n Brews line-up

We parked in the free parking lot next to the park off Elk Street, only a few miles from the Sweetwater Events Complex where we’re staying (map). Nothing in Rock Springs is more than a few miles away!

The first thing we did was sign Donna up for the Designated Driver program. This entitled her to free admission and a goody bag with a T-shirt and a few other items. I paid the $5 entry fee and bought five beer tickets for $20.

There were 11 kiosks under portable canopies – each had three or four different beers from brewers in Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon and Goose Island Brewing in Chicago. I don’t know why I see so many Goose Island beers in the northwest – they obviously have a good distribution network here. The beer isn’t anything special in my opinion. I had one bartender tell me Goose Island beer is made with Northwest-sourced ingredients. Well, most craft brews will have some Cascade, Centennial or Magnum hops – all sourced from Washington, Oregon or Idaho.

When we arrived, the David Gerald Band was on stage. David Gerald hails from Detroit, Michigan. He’s a real blues-rocker and his band sounded great.

David Gerald Band

David Gerald Band

Next up was the Andy T and Nick Nixon Band. Andy T is a guitarist originally from southern California. He teamed up with vocalist/guitarist Nick Nixon to front the band in Nashville, Tennessee. However, Nick Nixon was under the weather and couldn’t come with the band. A vocalist/guitarist from Mississippi filled in for Nick Nixon – I don’t recall his full name – he was Zach something or other..

I was blown away at how tight they were able to perform with a replacement singer/guitarist. The stand-in was the front man singing and directing the band and he happened to be a first-class guitar player as well. A couple of songs were improvisations – they made it up as they went along and it was great.

Andy T in the center and a stand-in at the mic

Andy T in the center and a stand-in at the mic

All six bands tour the country and come from different areas. It’s impressive how a town with a population of 24,000 people well off the beaten path can put together an event such as this. By the way, the nearest “big city” is Salt Lake City, 180 miles away.

It was warm and sunny out. After a few hours of music and beer, it was time to go home. I rode on the passenger seat of the Spyder for the first time. Designated Driver Donna chauffeured me home and did a fine job of it.

Back at home, I watched the first weekend of pre-season NFL football. I had to stay up until 10pm to catch the kick-off of the Chargers game.

Sunday was a low-key day. I watched the Moto GP race from Austria and it was a good one. Donna rode the Spyder to town for groceries. It was a little windy, but otherwise a fine day. We grilled hot Italian sausages and Donna made sandwiches on hoagie rolls smothered in peppers and onions. Yum!

I should give you an update on our damage claim from the encounter with the suicidal buck in Idaho. A claims adjuster from Allied Insurance (a Nationwide Insurance company) phoned me on Friday. We discussed the accident and the damage. Our current travel makes it difficult to get an inspection and estimate done. The adjuster was very accommodating – we plan to have the coach inspected when we reach Colorado Springs at the end of the month. He’ll call me on Monday, August 29th to make the arrangements.

I’m doing some research to see where we should have the work done. It won’t be a simple patch job. I’ve read so many horror stories about this type of repair that I’m preparing for a drawn-out, painful ordeal. Hopefully we won’t be sharing a horror story, but I think it’ll take weeks to get the work done. We’ll see.

Today we expect Donna’s new laptop to arrive. I have to go to Sweetwater Technology Services to pick up her dead hard drive and pay for the diagnostic work. I’ll extend our stay here at the fairgrounds for one more night, then we’ll head east.