The Columbia River from Reeder Beach on Sauvie Island

The Columbia River from Reeder Beach on Sauvie Island
The Columbia River from Reeder Beach on Sauvie Island

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

08-28 to 08-30-2022 Arrow Rock, Missouri to Zilpo Campground, Kentucky

It is 2AM  and once again I am up because I woke and my mind will not shut down.  We were in bed last night by 8:30, accompanied by a thunderous storm that surrounded us with pouring rain and scary lightning.  Our camp is heavily wooded, with tall trees surrounding the site and branches hanging above the MoHo.  It was hot and steamy before the storm hit, and we had the air conditioner on during our enchilada supper until I started hearing wind and thunder over the drone of the noisy unit.

I turned it off to hear the storm, just in time for the sound of rain on the roof.  It poured for a time, and the wind blew all around us, with a few branches striking the rig, but nothing big.  The scariest moment was the bolt of lightning that struck so close that the light and sound were instantaneous.  Very scary, and good for a shot of adrenalin.  We hoped nothing would strike us or come crashing down on the rig.  The storm didn’t last long but cooled the air enough that we opened all the windows and turned on the Fantastic Fan to enjoy the sounds and the fresh air.

I have been reading about our lightning-induced fire northwest of Grants Pass for the last few days.  A fire that started with a strike and has now grown to more than 10,000 acres because it is burning nearly impossible terrain along the wild and scenic Rogue River.  As I watched our thunderstorm last night here in Kentucky, I was grateful that here the lightning is less likely to start fires.  Everything is wet, damp, green, and lush.  I can imagine that starting a campfire would take some effort even with fire starter and dry wood. 

The humidity is hovering near 100 percent, and even with the somewhat cool air at this early hour, everything seems damp.  The bedding is damp and clingy, and my skin feels dewy.  Mo and I have been laughing a lot the last couple of days, one reason being that we are watching our wrinkly skin smooth out in the humid air.  High humidity takes ten years off an old face!

But I digress.  I am accompanied by the sound of thunder as I write, but the power is still on and the night air is soothing. The rain is pounding on the roof and drowning out the sound of night frogs and insects.

Let me return to Sunday morning when we departed the fresh and lovely Arrow Rock State Park to continue eastward.

Sunday 8-28 2022 Arrow Rock MO to Henderson KY 299 miles

When we woke on Sunday morning, the early light coming through the trees was gorgeous.  Summer rain is so rare in Grants Pass that I forget how refreshing a summer storm can be.  The shades of green and the lushness of the landscape is so different from anything out west.  Even the cool and damp Oregon coast doesn’t have this many shades of lush green. 

Something about the gentleness of our travel days and the beauty of this park reached a deep place for both of us.  We found we were laughing more at silly things.  When Mo woke up, we chatted a bit before getting up and she said something I haven’t heard her say in a long time, if ever.  “I feel elated!  I finally feel like I am really on a vacation, an enjoyable vacation, and I am not stressed anymore and it feels wonderful.”  “Elated” was the perfect word for how we felt as we enjoyed our morning travel preparations and were on the road by 8.

Our side route from Arrow Rock on Highway 41 meandered through this lush landscape, intersecting our eastward route on I-70 toward St Louis in just 12 miles. 

Not long ago, I read a favorite blogger’s story about their time in St Louis.  I was especially enthralled by her description of their visit to Gateway Arch National Park.  I have traveled along I-70 through St Louis, but it has been many years ago, and only remember seeing the arch from a distance. We were close, it was a Sunday morning, how difficult could it be?

I programmed Google Girl to take us directly to the National Park, adjacent to I-70 on the west side of the Mississippi River.  I wasn’t troubled that she wasn’t talking to me, realizing that I had turned up the phone volume but had neglected to go to the actual settings and turn up the media volume. Again, I thought, how hard can it be?  The route goes right by the park and being a National Park I was sure there would be big signs proclaiming the proper exit and pointing to the big parking areas I expect at a national park.

Big Mistake!

There are many highways intersecting by the park, and without google girl’s voice telling me what to do, I managed to miss the right exit and found myself traveling south away from downtown St Louis.  Oops.  Mo said to try the next exit, Arsenal Street.  I pulled off, and we found ourselves in a neighborhood that at any other time we would have loved to visit.  Of course, I have no photos.  I was driving.  And no, Gaelyn, I don’t take photos while driving, although if I were alone as you are, I would be tempted.  But not in a St Louis neighborhood.

Here is a link to the Benton Park neighborhood gallery in St Louis.

St Louis Neighborhoods

The brick buildings were old and historic but the streets were clean and the shops looked interesting and creative.  I crossed over the freeway and found a place to pull over and try to navigate back to the park.  This time Google Girl was speaking properly, and led us to another exit, right downtown, right next to the park.

But my visions of a nice big parking lot were pretty stupid in light of what was actually there.  Of course there is no parking for a motorhome towing a car in tight, downtown St Louis.  We drove past the park, trying to figure out where to go and what to do next.  After being routed around several downtown blocks and one way streets, I gave up and ended up on a road that looked like a bit vacant lot called 9th street.  Again, no photos.

By this time Mo and I were getting a bit short with each other.  Is that an understatement?  Maybe.  Finally, we came to the conclusion that actually visitng the arch wasn’t going to happen.  Once again I programmed Google Girl to get us out of town, and across the Mississippi River.  Mo said, “It’s time for me to drive and you to navigate”.  OK.  Sounds good to me.

Within minutes we were on the bridge crossing the Mississippi River with the shining stainless steel arch behind us.  Here is my only photo of Gateway Arch.  Look closely and you will see in on the right through the bridge supports.

I wrote to Laurel, “Raven and Chickadee”, who is a faithful reader and a truly great writer, and asked if she minded if I shared her post about the Gateway Arch and St Louis.  This is a beautiful read, and maybe if you check it out you will understand why I wanted to visit Gateway Arch in person.

Laurel's Post about Gateway Arch

The drive from St Louis, Missouri to Evansville, Indiana was easy.  The interstate was in good condition and there was little traffic on this late summer Sunday. We crossed the great Ohio River at Evansville and arrived at John James Audubon State Park in Henderson, Kentucky around 3:30 in the afternoon.

It has been 12 years since we camped at this park, but my memories of the magnificent hardwoods throughout the park are what helped me choose this location for our overnight stop on our way east. The campground was nearly empty, but the camp host told us we were lucky to get a spot since the park had been completely full over the weekend. Something about a big hot rod rally.  That explained why we had seen so many restored cars of all kinds traveling on the freeway through Indiana.

Setting up quickly, we turned on the air for Mattie and took the car up the hill to the John James Audubon museum.  We had an hour.  I knew that I wanted to once again remind myself of the history of the place, and view the stunning art on display.  Protected under glass cases are the “elephant folio” books that were printed from engravings, completed in Europe in 1828.  Pictures don’t come close to the beauty of Audubon’s paintings.  Viewing even one page at a time is a delight.  They change the open pages on a regular basis, with only a few actually visible at one time.

The story of Audubon's life and work is wondrous.  His wife Lucy was his treasure and supported his art and work throughout his life.  Rather than attempting to recreate this information (difficult to do with plagiarizing), I am including several links that are worth reading.  Especially if you are a bird person I would highly recommend finding a good cup of coffee and spending some time visiting these links about the double elephant folio.

Sotheby's Article on the Double Elephant Folio

Where did it come from?

Birds of America

Birds of America Auction at 9 million

Monday August 29 Henderson, KY to Salt Lick, KY

The night was hot and humid and we couldn’t turn off the air until 5 in the morning.  It isn’t fun sleeping with the constant noise but is more fun than sleeping in 90 degrees and close to 90 percent humidity.  Welcome to Kentucky! 

The shower house at Audubon State Park is pristine, with huge showers and big wide rain shower heads that deliver all the clean, hot water you could possibly desire for as long as you want.  I sat under that shower for a very long time before returning to cook breakfast while Mo had her turn at the wonderful shower.

The night before, we had scoped out our route, chosen where we wanted to fuel the rig and were ready to continue east.  I wanted to avoid Louisville on I-70, deciding that taking the slightly longer route on the Audubon Parkway would be worth the extra distance.  There was a bit of confusion about whether or not the parkway was a toll road, but some research showed that the toll booths had been removed a few years ago.

We fueled the rig and then attempted to follow the route I had programmed into Google Girl.  She did have a mind of her own, however, and kept trying to take us back north toward I-64.  I still have yet to figure out how to tell that smart-aleck girl to please shut up and do what I ask.  Google Maps is getting more and more infuriating with their constant interference with what I want. “I have a better route, would you like to accept that?” Sometimes she doesn’t even ask and re-routes me without giving me a clue why I am suddenly turning north when I know I am supposed to be going east and southeast. 

After just 24 miles of the smooth, almost traffic-free Audubon Parkway, I finally gave up and let Google Girl lead me back to I-64, crossing through a part of Indiana I never imagined.  All along the highway the forest was thick and green, with huge trees of many varieties and colors covering the hills.  I think maybe in Indiana they call them mountains, but they are gentle and rolling, and more beautiful than I ever imagined. 

As we approached the Ohio River and the boundary between Indiana and Kentucky, we saw signs about toll bridges coming up.  This time traffic was light, and Google Girl actually did a very good job of leading us through the freeway interchanges near downtown Louisville and continuing east on I-64.  The only toll bridge was the one we didn’t need to cross, going back over the Ohio River toward Cincinnatiwide-open.  Smooth Sailing!

With our research from the previous night, we determined that fueling in Winchester, just west of Lexington, was our best bet.  There was a Kroger station there and a big Kroger store.  Kroger is the owner of the Fred Meyer grocery store where I shop in Grants Pass, and we have a rewards card that saves us at least 3 cents per gallon and sometimes a lot more depending on what I have spent at the store. 

Google Girl told us where to exit, but then she got very confused and led us in circles in tiny neighborhoods and short streets, ending in an alley that was supposed to be Kroger.  Once again, Mo and I were struggling to not snap at each other…not always succeeding.  There was nowhere to go, nowhere to park on the tiny streets.  I finally found a parking lot, and shut google girl down completely, deleting our entire planned route and asking where the heck was the Kroger store.  Of course.  The route opened up and sure enough took us down the main highway to the big store.  It is located on a hill, and there is a Speedway station right where we thought we were supposed to find a Kroger station. 

I pulled in thinking maybe this Fred Meyer/Kroger store used the Speedway stations the same way Albertson’s does back home.  We fueled, but the Freddie’s card didn’t work, so we got no discount.  Driving around the station to park in the Kroger parking lot, we saw the giant Kroger station just around the corner.  Sheesh!!

There was plenty of room to park the MoHo, and I braved the heat and humidity to go shopping for some fresh food to add to our stash of homemade frozen stuff.  I was surprised to find so little produce in the store.  It was a huge store, but I did manage to get a couple of packaged salads, and some fruit and yogurt.  Thinking about it later, I realized that most produce in the US comes from the west, California especially, and even in all this farm country they must have to truck it in from a long distance.  The packaged salads I bought were two bucks more than what I buy at home.  If people who live in Kentucky eat a lot of produce, it must come from their own gardens and farm stands.  We only saw one produce stand throughout the day, one lonely farm stand among the miles and miles of corn, soybeans, and some tobacco.  Big Corporate Farms have taken over the country.

The drive from the interstate to Zilpo Campground on Cave Run Lake was a bit narrow and winding.  We chose to unhook the MoHoTracker, hoping that would help with curves and steep grades.  When we arrived at our site, there were a couple of pitty-type dogs running loose, and I kept Mattie indoors while we set up.  The owners were two sites down from us and did keep them on a leash most of the time. Most of the loops in the campground were empty, and only a very few had a tiny view of the lake thanks to the thick forest.

After setting up, we took the Tracker to explore the area, hoping to find a kayak launch or a place where we could access the water.  The official beach was closed, and the camp store was closed.  When I talked to the camp host he said that was because they closed after Labor Day, and it was almost Labor Day.  Continuing toward the boat launch past the entrance to the beach, we found a huge parking lot, a nice boat ramp, and best of all it was nearly empty of people.

Finally, Mattie had a place to run.  I have seen Mattie get excited on beaches, but this level of excitement was terrific to watch.  She was so happy she actually ran into the water, something she has done only rarely.  It was only knee-deep for her, but she did it over and over, running in circles and doing what dog people call "the zoomies".  

Mo and I debated putting the kayaks in for an early evening paddle, but the combination of 95F temperatures on the open water and looming thunderheads made the thought less than inviting.  

We returned to the MoHo for supper and settled in just in time for the rain to begin.  We had no signal to speak of, except now and then a tiny one bar would come in, enough to at least text my daughters to let them know where we were.

The thunder and lightning began shortly after we settled in for bed, enough that we could turn off the air conditioner and listen to the storm.  Tomorrow we will cross Kentucky, Indiana, West Virginia, and Virginia.  Many more miles to go before we reach Jersey City and our campground across from Manhattan and New York City.  

Sunday, August 28, 2022

08-27-2022 Lincoln NE to Arrow Rock MO 299 miles

I laughed when I looked at the blog this morning, seeing all the silly mistakes I made. Writing when worn out can be a bit strange. I shouldn’t be worn out tonight, but somehow I am. Last night was a quiet and early evening, with only a couple of short walks with Mattie before we settled in to read. Neither of us felt much like watching any tv and I still had the rest of the blog to finish.

It was 11:30 when I finally finished doing photos and writing. Someone mentioned in a previous comment or email that they were impressed with my ability to keep up with my writing while we were traveling. I really have no choice. The words are rolling around in my head and won’t let me sleep until they are written down. It is the same tonight. I would love to just go to sleep, even though it is only 6:30 Central Time, but if I did that, the day would slip away in another blur.

It was a really good day.

It began early, but not too early. Traveling through different time zones I become acutely aware of the difference location makes within a time zone in the rising and setting of the sun. It was after 7 when the skies were light enough for me to go wandering through the Camp-A-Way RV park to take some photos. Mo said no one will really care what it was like 15 years ago, but somehow I do. Things change everywhere, in cities I once knew, in neighborhoods and suburbs, and in the world in general. But the shifts in a place I haven’t seen or even thought about over the years can be a bit shocking.

This was our site in 2007 at Camp-A-Way RV park

Mo and I stayed in Camp-A-Way RV Park with the baby MoHo in 2007, when I was teaching Basic Soil Survey in Lincoln, Nebraska, where a National Soil Survey Center housed training classes for people throughout the country. Mo spent days exploring while I taught, and I returned home in the evening after classes. At that time the park was delightful, clean, and comfortable, with huge grassy slopes covered with deep, lush green grass. Sadly Mo discovered later that the lovely grass had a hidden enemy and it took her weeks to get rid of the chiggers that attacked her while sitting on that grass.

I barely recognized the park when we drove in, and this morning walking around in the early light, I could see why. The park has evolved into a fun place for kids and families to camp, and enjoy campfires and many kinds of water games, kids activities, and the swimming pool. In addition, more than 25 new big rig pull-through sites have been created on the big meadow where Mo relaxed with Abby so many years ago. It is a decent place to stay, with good services, and a great location for being close to Lincoln, but definitely is a bit too crowded for our taste. It reminds me of what I imagine a Jellystone Park will be. Sadly, we have reservations for one of those parks somewhere on the east coast where we couldn’t find anything else. As I said, great parks for kids and families.

As we motored south from Lincoln this morning, I was a bit sad that I was driving, because I couldn’t take pictures. People who don’t know Nebraska think of it as flat and featureless, but Eastern Nebraska near its boundary with Iowa and the Missouri River is anything but. I would have loved to have taken photos of the rolling, green landscape. It is so lush and clean, with well-kept farms spread about in the distance and crops growing thick and strong. Yes, corn, soybeans, and more corn and soybeans, but with the trees between the fields, the rolling hills, and small ponds and waterways dissecting the landscape, it is beautiful.

Lied Lodge, Nebraska City, Nebraska

I loved coming to Lincoln to teach as well as to learn. One year I participated in special training for the job I hoped to have someday. (Two years later I took that promotion). We were housed at a beautiful venue called Lied Lodge, an Arbor Day Farm, surrounded by a lush landscape and magnificent botanical forests with dozens of varieties of hardwood trees. As I drove quietly through the landscape this morning, I was filled with memories and with gratitude for all the amazing people I worked with, some of whom became lifelong friends. I would never choose to live in the Midwest, but if I had to make the choice, I would choose Lincoln. The university brings in great people, and the city is clean and eco-conscious, bisected by extensive bike trails.

That is me on the right teaching new soil scientists Basic Soil Survey skills near Lincoln, Nebraska in 2009

It would not be fun for me to be a vegetarian in Lincoln, with some of the best steak houses I have ever experienced. I so loved going out to eat with my co-workers when we were in Lincoln. Nothing quite as good as Nebraska beef. We drove by the Saturday Market this morning, with people setting up canopies in the Haymarket District. It was probably the best Farmer’s Market I ever enjoyed, putting Eugene and Portland to shame.

It always amazes me how quickly a landscape changes at political boundaries. I guess those boundaries do sometimes have physical reasons for being where they are. In the case of Nebraska and Iowa, it is the Missouri River. Once we crossed the river we immediately left behind the gently rolling landscape for a wide, very flat alluvial plain, almost featureless except for a few bluffs above the higher river terrace to the east. We weren’t in Iowa for long, however, within just a few miles traveling I-29 south, we crossed into Missouri. The featureless plain disappeared once we again crossed the Missouri River and traveled into the green rolling hills of Missouri farm country. The absolute heart of America. Lush with crops that were riper than what we saw in Nebraska, the huge fields with small signs naming the crops were interspersed with hardwood forests thick with so many varieties of trees we couldn’t name them all.

We stopped for a short snack lunch at Casey’s Truck Stop, switched drivers, and continued south. Our destination was east of Kansas City, and google girl tried to route us right through the city. I wasn’t interested in doing that and re-navigated for a different route that was only 12 minutes longer yet avoided the busy interstates. Highway 36 and Highway 41 were uncrowded roads with smooth pavement and very few people. Dotted with farms and an occasional tiny community, it was probably the easiest driving of our trip so far.

When we arrived at our location, Arrow Rock State Historic Site, we knew that we were about an hour too early to check in to the campground. Instead, we thought we might try to see the small town that has been so lovingly preserved by the Arrow Rock Historic Society. What we didn’t realize is that the extremely narrow streets had no room for parking a motorhome, even a small one, much less a motorhome towing a car. An attempt to drive up one street ended in a big problem when we discovered that even though the street wasn’t blocked, it was separated from Main Street by a very deep, rocky drainage ditch. Even a car might have a hard time getting across that ditch. We unhooked the Tracker, backed down the narrow road, and decided to try to find some other location to park the MoHo and visit the town with the baby car.

In our search, we happened on the driveway to the visitor center, 1/4 mile beyond where we had turned in for the town. The parking lot was huge, and with temps in the high 90s and humidity to match, we turned on the generator so that Mattie could wait safely in the rig while we attempted to learn more about this town we were trying to visit.

The heat was intense, as was the chill air-conditioned air of the Visitor Center. Speaking with the head person at the desk, she told us it shouldn’t be a problem for us to check in early at the campground. After checking on the guests from the previous night, she gave us the go-ahead to go to the park early and set up camp.

This worked out perfectly, and within minutes, another 1/4 mile down the road, we found our site, hooked up the rig, and turned on the air conditioner. Mattie could wait for us in a nice cool spot while we drove back in the car to explore the historic town.

From the Missouri State Parks brochure: “The town of Arrow Rock was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1963. An integral part of this historic town is Arrow Rock State Historic Site, with a visitor center museum that tells about Arrow Rock and the historic “Boone’s Lick Country”. Once a thriving riverport, the town is dotted with architectural treasures from the past. Limestone gutters of carefully carved blocks line the main street, marking the toil of earlier generations. Wooden sidewalks and overhead canopies still line storefronts, recalling an aura of times long past.”

We enjoyed walking a bit of the town, despite the heat.

The ice cream shop was a favorite, owned by a young man and his wife who relocated from Northern California after losing their home to fire 4 years ago. He was friendly and talkative and I enjoyed hearing his story. It is always interesting to me why people choose to uproot their lives for such a big change. He told me they love the 4 seasons and enjoy not having to evacuate their home over and over again due to fire. They love the green. However, as I would, they miss the mountains and the ocean. Still, he seemed happy. When they first came to Arrow Rock the business was a pizza place, but COVID changed that and after being closed for some time, they re-opened as an ice cream shop with truly delicious homemade ice cream.

We explored a few more of the shops before getting back in the car to find some of the other historic sites in town.

The Big Spring was especially lovely.

We drove to the old ferry crossing but discovered that the walk to the Missouri River was over a mile and the bugs were thick in the air. I was completely worn out from the heat and my legs were refusing to work properly, so we gave up and headed home to the campground.

It is now 1 AM. The heat and humidity wore us out and after a quick supper, Mo and I were in bed and actually asleep by 7:30. The air conditioner was going full blast to keep the inside at 78 degrees or so, but the noise kept us from hearing the amazing night sounds that I am hearing now.

I woke at 12:30 and discovered that the night air was a blessed 76 degrees, warmer than the MoHo which was struggling to remain at a reasonable sleeping temperature. Opening the windows, turning on the Fantastic Fan overhead, and shutting down the air conditioner was wonderful. I stepped outside and saw stars and the Milky Way and was serenaded by the many sounds of crickets, frogs, and other night creatures in the darkness. Magical. I wish I could stay out there for a bit, but am not a fan of all those bugs that make those wonderful sounds.

Tomorrow we will cross Missouri, camping once again at a favorite park in Henderson, Kentucky, where we camped on our cross-country trip in 2014. I am expecting hot, humid weather all the way to Delaware. Hopefully, the nights may cool down even a little bit as we continue east.

Friday, August 26, 2022

08-26-2022 East to Nebraska

Tuesday, August 23 Lakeview to Elko 334 miles

The unscheduled extra night we spent on the road in Lakeview, Oregon, wasn’t all bad. As I wrote last, we had a beautiful day returning to a beloved Oregon location, at Hart Mountain. After a somewhat restless night of worrying, we had coffee and a minimal breakfast before driving a mile back down the road to Max’s Garage.

After dropping off the MoHo, with no idea how long the repair might take, we decided to find a coin-operated car wash and clean up the dusty Tracker. The many miles of dirt roads had left their mark. The coin wash turned out to be credit card only and we were shocked to see the minimum charge was $7. We were even more shocked to later see that the charge on the card was actually $10. For five minutes of a wash-it-yourself wand! For now, at least, the Tracker is shiny.

The check engine light decided that we didn’t have enough to worry about and came on after our return from Hart Mountain. After calling around a bit, I was pointed to Hall’s Auto, the local Ford Dealer. There a charming young woman brought out her trusty tester and in a few minutes had the problem identified and the ugly light turned off. We knew it should be something simple since Mo had only recently replaced the O2 unit. Sure enough, it was probably a gas cap improperly tightened. Such great service, and all completely free.

We drove back into town (not a very big town for sure) and found a local eatery where we had a truly delicious breakfast. We had no clue how long the repair might take. You can imagine our surprise when only an hour later we received the call. “Would you like to come and pick up your RV?”

Ray replaced the serpentine AC fan belt and the fan clutch, telling us that the belt was stretched and quite worn. The charge was for parts and $100 bucks labor for a bill less than $300. We were on the road by 11:30, once again driving up the Warner Peak highway, but this time we decided to not take any chances and unhooked the car and drove separately. Everything seemed to be doing just fine.

Not many miles east of the tiny community of Adel, there is a notorious long grade rising from the valley floor to the high desert plateaus of the Sheldon NWR. You can see that grade from a long way off, and it was an easy decision to once again unhook the Tracker and drive the grade separately. No problems, no overheating on the long ten percent grade.By afternoon, as we approached Winnemucca, the temperatures were rising to the triple digits, hovering between 100 and 101 F. Still no problems towing the car and the air conditioner was running as it should. Fueling up in Winnemucca for a mere $4.35 per gallon for regular gas, we continued east on Interstate 80 toward Elko.

Our first sign of trouble hit just east of town as we ascended the long, steep grade to the Golconda Summit, at 5118 feet elevation. The temperature gauge started climbing, and in terror I watched it go from normal to high and then very high and then redlining and check gauge lights coming on. There was nowhere to pull off the highway, and with my heart in my mouth, I prayed for relief. Thankfully, the gauge started dropping slowly at last, but it didn’t happen immediately. The outside temperature was between 100 and 103 and we were still pulling the car.

As we continued east, only slightly relieved, we were ready for the next long summit about 40 miles west of Elko. We unhooked the car and Mo drove the MoHo and I followed in the Tracker all the way to Elko. She said it only heated to about 3/4 to the maximum at one point. Mo made sure the AC was off, and the heater was on full blast to increase the flow of air to the engine. She opened all the windows. The temperature outside was steady at 100F until we reached Elko at 7PM.

We decided that we can probably manage the overheating problem with diligence. The MoHo has never been prone to overheating, even when towing the Tracker on steep grades. However, we have never driven the MoHo in triple-digit temperatures on any of our cross-country trips. We may also have more weight than usual, attempting to stock up on extra food, water, and clothing for the long trip. As we continue traveling through the rest of Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming we will be keeping a close eye on the temperature gauge. We also plan to travel as early in the day as possible and will unhook for steep uphill climbs. With a little luck and care, we should get through the mountainous states without any more mishaps.

Wednesday, August 24 Elko to Evanston 322 miles

Mo and I were both a bit stressed last night as we settled into our site at the Iron Horse RV Park in Elko. The stress of driving in the heat and watching the gauge every moment on every grade was taxing. Mo set up the rig and I took Mattie for a short walk. I thought we had camped at this park in the past and was surprised to realize that I was picturing the New Frontier Park in Elko. Finally, it made sense that nothing looked familiar.

The park was decent enough but very crowded. It might have been a bit nicer before they added so many park models to every available space. It was clear that this park was used by homesteaders, many with big trucks with construction company logos and solid outdoor furniture around their camping rigs. We settled in for the night, closing up all the blinds as darkness approached. Our fix for the evening was another visit with Carrie and the series Homeland. Nothing like a good episode of “Homeland” to take our mind off our troubles. Dinner was another reheated special that I cooked up in advance and we fell into bed exhausted.

This morning the skies were streaked with summer clouds, the kind you rarely see along the west coast. I could feel the effects of Continental air masses working their magic with monsoon moisture working its way north from the southwest. We were on the road by 8, with outside temps in the low 60s and at least 80 miles to go before any kind of grade to be reckoned with.

I discovered a great little website called,, “Flattest”. Plugging a beginning and ending point on a highway will yield some helpful graphs of elevation change along the route and maximum and minimum grade percentages. Pretty cool. It worked great, and a few miles east of Wells, Nevada, we knew to expect a moderately steep grade. It was hard to decide what to do, but with the cool temperatures, we decided to keep the Tracker connected. The grades were steep but not long and we had no problem with overheating. What a relief.

We traveled the rest of I-80 to the Utah border without any mishaps, fueled at the Pilot in Wendover, and continued east toward Salt Lake City. As we crossed the salt flats around what is left of the shrinking Great Salt Lake, I was reminded of how incredible the landscapes out west are. Each with a deep creation story that takes years of study to understand.

I have traveled I-80 through Salt Lake enough times to know how horrendous the city traffic can be on the interstates that intersect through the area. I know that the part of I-80 east of Salt Lake City is a notorious steep climb. Mo and I have done it twice now, both in the old baby MoHo and back in 2012 in this rig on our way to Colorado. Neither of us remembers any problems with overheating, but it wasn’t terribly hot, and the rig was 10 years younger. We checked the maps and decided that taking an alternate route up the Wasatch Range on I-84 would be the smart thing to do.

Reviewing the maps showed that route north and east on 84 would only add 12 minutes to our trip. Small price to pay for a bit less stress. Still, with temps rising into the 80s and not knowing for sure what we were facing on the highway, we decided to be safe and unhook the MoHo. Piece of cake! Despite the terrible construction, the route wasn’t difficult and Mo said the rig temperature needle didn’t budge going up the moderately steep, short grades.

Near the Wyoming state line, we hooked up the Tracker just in time to go through the border check station, where ALL boats, including kayaks and canoes, were required to stop. Luck would have it that a huge black cloud decided to dump some heavy rain on us as we rolled into the check station. Even though we had no plans to kayak in Wyoming, we had to be checked. We were told that if we wanted to kayak in the state of Wyoming, there would be a $30. permit fee for each kayak.  I am curious is this will be the case throughout the country as we travel through each state.  We already paid our $28. permit fees for the state of Oregon.

A few miles later, in the town of Evanston, Wyoming, we drove into the Phillips RV Park.  I looked at all the photos of the park when I made the reservation, thinking at the time that it couldn’t really be as nice as the photos portrayed.  Nice thing about it, it was!  The park is lovely, with big old trees and nice spacing between the rigs, something you rarely see in private parks anymore. It was only 4PM our time, but with the time zone change to mountain time we shifted to 5 PM.  Time to feed Mattie!

Tomorrow is going to be a long day, with 10 to 11 hours of driving, so Mo and I dumped the tanks before we settled into the MoHo for an relaxing evening. I took Mattie for a nice walk on the soft, green grass. 

The showers are just across from our site number 1, and we both enjoyed a great shower. It felt great to stand under plenty of hot water for as long as I wanted. The  park has been family owned and operated since 1936. The Phillips family has owned, managed, and operated Phillips RV Park by themselves for the past 80+ years. The park has changed over the decades, but according to the history on the back of the park map, most of the RV park upgrades occurred in the last decade.  It is a truly lovely park and I would recommend it.

The pre-made spaghetti sauce has thawed and I made a great super of spaghetti and a fresh salad, accompanied by a nice bottle of our favorite everyday red.  Even though trains pass near the park, the sounds aren’t intrusive and we slept well.  We both both around 4:30 AM, knowing we wanted to get on the road early but also knowing that we want to enjoy a bit of quiet time before departing.  Rushing aorund in the morning isn’t something either of us enjoy.  Breakfast cookies that I made before leaving are still in good supply and the coffee is fresh and great.  I am writing, Mo is checking mail, the morning skies are still dark but the sun will rise soon.  It is going to be a good day.

Thursday August 25 Evanston to Ogalalla Nebraska 534 miles

We woke early, waiting for a bit of daylight to unhook the power and get on the road for a long day of driving.  Trying to write about this day on Friday morning is close to impossible.  It is somewhat of a blur.  I drove for 3 hours, Mo drove for a couple of hours, I drove again, and Mo finished the day at Lake Ogalalla State Recreation Area in the Nebraska panhandle. 

I gave up and moved to the bed for some much needed full body rest for an hour or so while Mo drove.  I-80 through Wyoming was in good shape, and even the extensive construction zones weren’t difficult.  Long stretches of the highway were reduced to one lane from a four lane freeway to a two lane road  with oncoming traffic separated by cones.  But the lanes weren’t narrow and the pavement wasn’t rough. We laughed a lot about “80 on the 80”, but in the construction zones the limit was 65 mph.  We are used to construction zones limited to 45 mph.  There was only one area where a slowdown occured on the steeper grades approaching Laramie.

From Evanston to Laramie the grades weren’t extremely long or steep, and with the outside temperature varying between 59F and 72F, the MoHo temperature gauge never budged. We rolled out of Laramie with a big sigh, until a long, steep grade east of town surprised us.  It was scary but the gauge never budged and we breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that we were at last beyond the western mountain ranges.

Fueling three times during the long day wasn’t difficult at Flying J stations close to the freeway where we could use our RV Adventure card for a nice discount.  In Utah and Wyoming the advertised prices for regular fuel are deceptive because these states have 85 octane regular.  Who uses 85 octane for anything?  Mid-grade fuel is considerably more expensive, but much less than we anticipated when we planned this trip.

Our last fuel stop in Big Springs, Nebraska was a delightful surprise, wtih regular fuel at 87 octane and $3.50 per gallon.  Yay.  Hopefully no more 85 octane fuel to worry about as we continue toward the east coast.

We arrived in Ogallala just before 6 PM, after a bit of a circular kerfuffle trying to follow the written directions I had saved from our reservation email.  The directions aren’t clear  and without an actual address, google attempted to send us to a visitor center for Lake McConaughy.  A phone call  was a bit confusing since the person answering really didn’t understand how to communicate to us about where to go from the freeway.  I finally asked for the exact address of the center and sure enough, google was sending us to the correct location.

The visitor center for Lake McConaughy is huge and gorgeous, with many interesting displays that we had no interest in viewing.  The outside temperature was in the high 90’s and we were reasonably exhausted.  After a lot of confusion, we discovered that Lake Ogalalla where I had a reservation is on the east side of the dam that creates the vast Lake McConaughy.  There are several campgrounds around the perimeter of the big lake but only two on lake Ogalalla. The East Campground, where we had a reservation, has 87 electric plus RV sites.  We still have not figured out what the “plus” means. There is no water at the site, no sewer or dump staion on site or anywhere nearby, and a very distant shower house. There is water available in the campground at a few spigots, but I somehow assumed we had water at the site.  Good thing Mo filled our water tank at the park in Evanston.

Another item from the website and the email that was misleading was the SRA entry fee.  It was listed at $8.00 for out of state vehicles and the ranger charged me $12.  When I asked why it was 12 instead of 8 she said it was because we were out of state.  Still haven’t figured this one out.  Also, she “did us a favor” by not making us pay  an addition $12.00 for the Tracker, insisting that we remain parked and not drive it around.

Ogallala Lake is a small quiet lagoon at 320 acres, with water cooled by the deep waters of Lake McConaughy on the other side of the dam.  It is well known for rainbow trout and for kayaking thanks to protection from the winds by the huge dam.  I originally planned this stop thinking we would arrive early in the day after camping east of Laramie the previous night.  I had hoped for a little bit of paddling to break up the long trip of driving, driving, driving.

After our long day, we had no interest in taking down the boats and attempting to launch in murky  water with slimy rocks.  I had no desire to do my normal kayak exit rolling into that icky looking water.

The campsite was spacious, the view was lovely and the park was uncrowded.  There was a nasty smell, created by an aeration site near the dam to disperse the deeper waters of the lake to the surface.  The smell was tolerable, and overnight seemed to dissipate.

We had another simple spaghetti supper, finished the last half of the bottle of red wine, and watched another episode of Homeland via the phone mirrored to the TV.  The verizon signal was great, and I uploaded photos without a hitch, and we both are using our laptops this morning with the hot spot without incident.

We slept well, and with a reasonably short day of only 277 miles ahead of us, plan to visit the center on our way out this morning.  More to come.

Later:  We enjoyed our leisurely morning knowing that when we arrived in Lincoln it would be hot and no doubt humid.  It was better to spend the extra time of our day camped by a quiet, peaceful lake than in a crowded city campground on a hot afternoon. Leaving around ten gave us plenty of time to stop in at the Visitor Center for more information about the area where we chose to spend a few hours of our travel time.

Both of us realized that some of our frustration yesterday evening was simply because we were so very tired.  Especially after our visit to the center, and a conversation with the ranger, we realized that our frustrations were also because we were completely new to the area.  In retrospect, as we were once on the road heading east, we were happy that we had spent the time at the lake and at the visitor center learning about one of the wonders of the State of Nebraska.

The Lake McConaughy Visitor Center was spectacular, with interesting, interactive displays, gorgeous murals, and lovely views toward the huge lake. 

Once on the road, traveling was as simple as it could possibly be.  The MoHo ran perfectly, with outside temperatures staying in the 80’s to mid 90’s and no hills to climb.  Nebraska is mostly flat, and the only grades we encountered were crossing the overpasses. Traffic was light until we approached Lincoln and even then wasn’t particularly difficult.  The winds were noticible but not unmanageable. 

When Mo took over driving, I searched for a Pilot or Flying J and found one right on the highway at milepost 300.  That was a bit soon for us, so I continued looking on the Pilot website and found another one at milepost 312 on the turnoff for Grand Island.  Funny part was that the station was nowhere to be found on the Gas Buddy app. Seems as though the Bosselman companies have merged with Pilot/Flying J and our rewards card works there as well.  Confusing.  Then Mo realized that the only fuel available wasn’t  regular 87 octane fuel, but what is called 88 15, which has 15 percent ethanol instead of the maxium ten percent allowed in California and Oregon.  I had to research the fuel because Mo was worried about all that ethanol in the MoHo, but we had no choice.  Maybe because Nebraska grows all that corn and wants a lot of ethanol in their gasoline?  The only thing I could find out is that it tends to accumulate moisture in cold weather if left sitting too long.  Traveling as we are, I don’t think that will be much of a problem.

We are settled in at the Camp-A Way RV Park in Lincoln.  I have some thoughts about this place that will have to wait until the next blog post.  I am too worn to write another sentence. Instead, I will insert one last photo of the many I took at the visitor center  Magical imaginations of the magnificent wildlife on the Nebraska prairies and waterways.