Wednesday, June 30, 2004

What a day!! Today was Wednesday. I remember Wednesdays before we took to the road ... I would do some computer work, maybe visit a client or two, then watch West Wing at night and that was the highlight of my day. Well! Today we started out with some rather mundane stuff by getting 3 new tires put on the motorhome, then getting an oil change and lube job done. That cost some money but it's really good stuff, makes us feel safe. All that was done by noon. Then ... then ... !!! we visited Mount Rushmore, the premier site memorializing democracy. Something we have seen photos of all our lives but have never seen in person. After Mount Rushmore, we visited the Crazy Horse memorial ... even more awesome, still in process, and memorializing the cost that we exacted from the native people for this country of ours. Then, we drove thru Custer State Park and saw hundreds of buffalo/bison. I LOVE buffalo. The buffalo is my spirit animal - it watches over us. It feels like buffalo are ancient, almost mythical beasts. And today we say them in the flesh! It is impossible to put to words how moving were our experiences of today. So, here are some photos: Mount Rushmore from a distance: Yep, we really were there! The four presidents are 1)George Washington representing the birth of our nation, 2)Thomas Jefferson representing the expansion of our nation 3)Abraham Lincoln representing the protection of our nation from falling apart in civil war and 4)Teddy Roosevelt representing the development of our nation. As you drive around, you get to the backside of Mt. Rushmore where you see George Washington in profile: On to Crazy Horse: What an incredible story, the Lakota people (part of the Sioux nation) wanted to memorialize their people and they sought out the sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski to create the massive statue. He started in 1947 and died in 1982. Since then, 7 of his 10 children carry on in his place and his wife runs the show. What a testament to the native american people and those working to remember them. Several times larger than Mt. Rushmore, this is NOT a government project. It is all privately funded. We gave our part today with the $18 admission fee! Here's a model of what it will look like when complete. Then, on to buffalo (or bison) country!! This was all in Custer State Park. We were so excited when we saw this one, apparently holding up his tree: Then, just around the next bend, we saw ... Odie was fearless, he saw these beasts and barked and bounced off the windows, "Let me at 'em, I'll bite their horns off, let me at 'em" One buffalo didn't take too kindly to all the barking and started to charge the car. From then on, we muzzled Odie: Whadday think? Next time we take Odie to the groomer, should we ask for a 'Buffalo Cut'? Another song comes to mind ... 'Oh give me a home where the buffalo roam, where the deer and the antelope play ...' We did see deer and antelope as well, but only got this one photo: Then, just the drive itself was SO cool it made us giddy. Here's just one of the tunnels we went thru: It's hard to see here, but that's a view of Mt. Rushmore thru the tunnel: Here's another view of a tunnel with what they call a 'pigtail bridge'. It's a pigtail because the road does a very tight curve - see the bridge up above and the road below? This could be enough beauty, fun, and amazing sights to last the rest of the year ... but, we're on to Devil's Tower tomorrow!! And, it's going to be a full moon!! I asked Jim, "How do we do this? That's just too cool that we'll be there on a full moon." He said, "Planning"

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Greetings from South Dakota Yep we made it to Badlands National Park. We were supposed to be in Rapid City by now, but when we pulled into the Visitor Center at Badlands, Jim noticed that one of our tires looked low. When you live in a home on wheels, you pay attention to those wheels!! He checks the air pressure all the time, so he knew they were all good yesterday. He got out the pressure gauge and checked the one that looked low and it was fine, so he checked the one beside it (our rear tires are dual) and it was EMPTY. He crawled underneath and saw where it was torn up. SO ... we aren't going to drive on that. That's why we have Good Sam Emergency Road Service! We've already used it 2 other times with this RV - we wouldn't be without it. BUT, our cell phones had NO service here. Makes it hard to call. He asked in the Visitor Center to use their phone and was able to place the call, but the nearest service place was 2-3 hours away. Oh well. Here's where we started today - the 'Cowboy Trail' in Valentine. You can see our rig with the yellow kayak in the background: Here's one of the road hazards in this part of the country, the farm equipment that can only travel 10 mph: I'm just so fascinated with the wide open spaces here. You can see the road for miles and miles and miles. I can't help but break into song, Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above, Don't fence me in. Let me ride through the wide open country that I love, Don't fence me in. For the complete lyrics, click here. Then, we pulled off the Interstate towards the Badlands National Park: You don't see anything like this in Florida! Odie was a little cautious! And, here we are in the Visitor Center parking lot waiting for Good Sam Emergency Road Service. I've been in worse situations!! Jim is mounting the external cell phone antenna on the roof of the RV in hopes of getting enough signal to communicate with the road service folks. It worked!! Cool! We visited the visitor center ... I love Buffalos! (Jim tells me to call them American Bison ... I prefer Buffalo!) Then Odie and I explored a little and enjoyed the sunflowers: Then Jim and I cooked dinner, had a glass of wine, fired up the generator and raised the satellite dish to get on the Internet for a while - geez, Life IS Good! Now the road service guy, Joel, is here and we'll be on our way soon!
Leaving Valentine I am really sorry to be leaving Valentine, Nebraska! I can't put my finger exactly on why, but I LIKE this place! It's a small town. Everyone waves as they pass by, even the guy driving the garbage truck. You gotta love an RV park named 'Wacky West'! And, it's so conveniently located. The grocery store (IGA) is right across the street, and right on the same property is a movie theatre. We've been wanting to see 'Day After Tomorrow' since it came out over a month ago. Well, it was playing here - and we actually stayed up late enough to see it! Then, passing right by the back side of the RV park is the 'Cowboy Trail'. Where they took an abandoned railroad track and made a trail out of it. Hey, Emily, this trail's not even in the 'Rails-to-Trails' book you gave us and it's pretty cool. We really do have to check out some more of them. I didn't take my camera with us when we went walking this morning ... darn! AND, there are rivers for kayaking and waterfalls for viewing - lots of canoe and kayak outfitters around. I'd like to come back here someday. But, time to go now. We have a big day ahead crossing into South Dakota and visiting the Badlands Nat'l Park. Facts and Stats: Current Park: Wacky West, Valentine, Nebraska Site cost per night: $10 (w Passport America) Nights at last camp: 1 Travel time: 4.5 hours Miles: 242 Weather: Gorgeous, clear and sunny, 68 degrees

Monday, June 28, 2004

We're still in Nebraska - it's a big state! We started out the day at Prairie Oasis RV Park, and our 'Campground Computer Hero' magic was still with us! Jim started chatting with the owner - mainly about how good the wine was - and showed him the photos on our weblog from yesterday. Turns out he needs a website, so he's paying me to build him one. Cool! I've only just started it, but you can see my progress here. As we traveled north today, we left the fields of corn and entered the 'high plains'. Still no sign of mountains, but we did see hills. Still some corn and hay rolls in the early day, but notice the hills behind. Pretty horses: If any of you out there remember the TV show "Big Valley" with Barbara Stanwyck, I'm sure it must have been filmed around here somewhere!?! We're at about 3,000 feet elevation here: So, we made it to "Wacky West RV Park" about 5:30. It's in Valentine, Nebraska.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

"Odie, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore ..." Actually, you couldn't prove it from the scenery! Kansas was endless wheatfields and endless cornfields. Nebraska is endless cornfields and endless wheatfields: Here's Odie in his favorite spot - the passenger seat - when I'm somewhere else. 'Dog is our copilot' We're so excited to be traveling West now. Mountains aren't too far away! We made it as far as Highway 80 a ways west of Lincoln, Nebraska. Here, I was able to get a closer photo of the cornfields. and a tractor: and an antique wagon: Have I mentioned how sociable RV Parks can be? When we pulled into this one, we noticed another motorhome with a Datastorm dish. We just had to go knock on his door and say hi. Turns out he's from Miami and he travels the country going to Harley Davidson events. If you look at the Datastorm map right now (cuz it'll change tomorrow) you'll see that our number (787) is on top of his number (446). But if you click on Detail view down at the bottom by the numbers, you can see that we're right next to each other. Then, walking back to our motorhome and passing by the office, we got to talking to the park owners and their new puppy! Come to find out he's a scuba diver from his navy days and he told us about diving in a cave in Midway. Then he asked "Do you like wine" .. uh, "is the Pope a Catholic?" I think is the correct response! He said "we just made some Pinot Noir, would you like a bottle?" Wow! It was DELICIOUS! And pretty too. It's all gone now. g'night! Facts and Stats: Current Park: Prairie Oasis, Henderson, Nebraska Site cost per night: $12 (w Passport America) Nights at last camp: 2 Travel time: 4 hours Miles: 224 Weather: Gorgeous, blue skies 70 degrees Last Gas Price: $1.779
We have a plan Ahhh, this has been a pleasant, relaxing 2days. We read a lot of the literature that we picked up a the rally. We got out our maps and RV Park directories, and we've put together a plan. We signed up for the RV Life on Wheels conference that is located in Moscow, Idaho starting on July 11. That gives us 14 days to go 1600 miles. The places we want to see along the way are Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse, Grand Teton Nat'l Park and Yellowstone Nat'l park. We could probably stay 2 weeks at any one of those places! But this conference is something we'd really like to do and it is scheduled in a way that we CAN do it ... so - here we go!! More later

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Campground Computer Heroes! What fun! We're actually living up to our name here. The person parked in the next site is excited that he has Wi-Fi access from our Satellite Dish. He's been going thru eBay withdrawals - he's all better now. And the folks several sites down got to talking with us last night about how their computer's hard drive crashed. They were able to get another one installed, but it is completely blank and therefore does them no good. They really miss using it for their GPS and mapping software that helps them get to where they're going. They had their CD with the XP operating system on it, but, unfortunately, they did not have the laptop's recovery CD with all the drivers and software on it. Hey, no problem! Jim brought their computer to our motorhome and hooked it up to the Internet so he could download all the drivers they needed. Then he installed the GPS software and left them with a computer that said, "OK, go a 5 miles down Highway 50, then take a left on 96 ...." Pretty cool. It's such a pleasant place, we're going to stay here another night. Facts and Stats: Current Park: Spring Lake RV Resort Site cost per night: $18 Nights at last camp: 6 (at rally) Travel time: 1 hour Miles: 35 Weather: Gorgeous! Blue Skies 76 degrees

Friday, June 25, 2004

Last Day of Rally Yesterday was the last day of the rally. Jim and I stayed away from the main fairgrounds and just did our WiFi support in the tent by our Motorhome. Thought you might like to see a photo of the 'gang'. Jim also spent some time installing the new 'Braking System' we bought for the Honda. It's a big expense, (almost $1,000) but we do feel better with it in place. What it does is to press down on the brakes in the Honda when it's being towed. Whenever the brakes are pressed in the motorhome, the Honda brakes as well. Some states required it by law. Florida is not one of them, and we know plenty of people who tow without it, but since we are headed toward the mountains now. It feels good to have it. And ... we got a 'show special' from Blue Ox who is the manufacturer. For the last night of the rally, they had their headline act of Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers. They put on a great show. The last time I saw them was almost 25 years ago! It was when I lived in Tahoe and they played one of the casinos in Reno. Remember that Melinda!?!? Then, the grand finale was some spectacular fireworks: We have to leave the rally site today, but we're not going to go far. We need to find a park with full hookups, water, electric and sewer, so we can clean up. Today will be our 7th day without water or sewer hookup - and we made it! We've really learned how to conserve. We've taken a couple showers, but they've been real quick 'navy' type showers (y'know: get wet, turn water off and soap up, rinse off, done). We only wash dishes once a day and we do that kinda like a navy shower too. Get the dishes all wet, then wash them with the water off. Use a plastic wash basin while you rinse, so the ones on the bottom don't need much water by the time you get to them. Then we take the rinse water from the basin and toss it outside to avoid filling up the holding tank. And, lastly, we use the porta potties whenever practical. The coach and the car are really dirty though, and I'd love to luxuriate in a hot shower while I wash my hair. Then, we have to get out the maps and see 'where do we want to go from here??'. Later

Thursday, June 24, 2004

A Day in the 'Neighborhood' I thought you might like to see a photo of our cozy neighborhood of thousands of RVs! You might be wondering how we got these pictures that almost look like aerial shots?!?! Here's Mike, the crazy guy who asked for the ladder on top of our RV. He's part of our Coach Connect team, so we trusted him not to sue us if he fell! We went in to the main Rally yesterday at the Kansas State Fairgrounds to see a seminar and visit the booths. We were able to drive in rather than take the shuttle bus because we have exhibitor passes. The booths were really fun. I can assure you that entrepreneurs and inventors are alive and well in this country. And a lot of them are RVers! Here's a booth with all sorts of little ingenious gadgets, from velcro to wrap around your hoses to little plastic handles for your water bottles. I wanted one of each - they all had such practical uses in our RV lifestyle. And here's another clever one - to keep the bedspread from falling on the floor. I wouldn't want this one though because I tend to get out of bed by scooting off the bottom.