We stopped at Gun Creek Campground on Rend Lake in central Illinois for a week. Our plans originally were for Barry to make calls in southern Illinois and south-eastern Missouri, however, other calls came up and he spent the week between here, St. Louis, Springfield, MO and Mattoon, IL…..lots of miles on the car! This gave me a great opportunity to work on some spreadsheets for the company, it’s called StL Packaging Systems, by the way!
Each day though, the Corgis and I managed to make time for long walks along the lake, in the woods or along the trails. The lake is a Corps of Engineers lake and is banked most of the way around by great big white chunky rocks that are hard to clamber on with 2 little dogs on leashes. There is a little sandy beach they have built near our campground but it has mostly washed down into the water leaving just a muddy-sandy beach in between those big rocks and plantings of some type of bamboo. The trails are paved but wander along until they just stop without warning. There is a large power line cut behind this campground and the Corgis and I hike along that and into the woods where possible. Briars grow wild here and most of our treks ended in thickets too dense to part.
The sun has been out some of the time, it rained heavily one day and knocked more leaves off the trees. They are still beautiful here with lots of bright oranges and yellows left on the maples and persimmons on several trees.
We really love stopping at this campground; full hookups, great views, quiet parking and dark at night! We stop here whenever we are working in southern Illinois, know the good places to eat, and use this campground to recharge our souls. (Notice I recharge in nature? That’s a good thing!). Our next stop will be in Nashville for a Thanksgiving celebration!
After seeing Drew in South Lake Tahoe, our other main purpose of this trip is to attend PackExpo in Las Vegas. Pack Expo is a huge trade show covering every aspect of packaging products before shipping to retail and wholesale buyers. Pack Expo International occurs every other year, in Chicago, at McCormick Place, and alternates with Pack Expo Las Vegas the opposite years. It is always held in big convention centers with lots of space to display all types of machinery. This is one of the big venues for us to get sales leads and reach potential customers; it’s worth the time and sore feet!
We made early reservations outside “The Strip” in Las Vegas at Clark County Shooting Complex. I have read many reviews and blogs about the safety (or lack of) of the hotel RV parks on The Strip. Many had reported burglaries while staying there, both in and outside RV’s; I was not willing to worry about that while parked in the heart of the lights and noise of Las Vegas. The Shooting Complex sits on the north side of Las Vegas, at the foot of the Las Vegas Mountain Range, and outside the hustle and bustle of town. Reviews had mentioned the noise at this campground when shooting occurred; our reservations were from Sunday to Wednesday and we lucked out! The range is closed to the public on Mondays and Tuesdays but open to the local military for practice; this week the range was preparing for a big public shooting event the next weekend and was closed to all! It was so nice and quiet, especially at night, to sit outside and look down on the lights of Las Vegas.
The campground has 80 paved, FHU spots all lined up in a single row, in between the trap and skeet area and the archery range, the outdoor rifle & pistol areas were further north of the campground. There is absolutely zero grass, trees or anything that even resembles green growth anywhere here….it is truly desert….the corgis had a hard time deciding where to go to the bathroom! Cactus grew everywhere around here, big fat round ones, Saguaros, prickly pear, more than I could count as well as Joshua Trees. We also saw so very many Road Runner birds and Jack Rabbits with their long ears! This time of year the weather was amazing, highs in the 80’s and low in the 50’s…..probably the best time of year to visit if you want to enjoy your trip! We would certainly stay here again.
Back to Pack Expo Las Vegas: Barry went the first 2 days alone to work at different booths, I dropped him off and stayed at the coach. I was able to do laundry and clean the coach; being in the West makes everything so dusty. By Tuesday, I was ready to go to the show and see friends and contacts and so very many machines! Every year they build new tasks for robots to complete and this year was an ice cream serving robot. All you had to do was place a cake cone in a holder and select your flavor (vanilla, chocolate, or swirl). The robot arm picked up the cone, rotated around to the ice cream maker and placed it under the correct flavor spout. Another robot arm pushed the button for the correct flavor and the ice cream filled the cone. As it completed filling, the first arm moved the cone in a small circular motion to make a swirl of ice cream on top! It then returned the cone to the original holder for you to pick it up and eat! Such fun!
Another highlight of this Expo was the FedEx Drone display. They are in the testing phase of using drones to deliver packages to a designated spot in your yard. A drone-enabled truck “picks” the correct box out of the truck cargo (of a small dimension) and places it in a loading arm. That arm raises to the roof of the truck and loads it onto the waiting drone. While the truck driver is making a nearby delivery, the drone takes the package directly to your yard and leaves it for you to retrieve. They hope this will help with more rural deliveries to prevent the truck from having to back in or out of tricky driveways, allowing the best use of the truck and driver. There were also tons of machines that form bags and boxes, fill bottles, and inspect all the above to guarantee the consumer only gets what they have purchased…..no metal shavings, etc..
After about 5 hours walking the show, I was beat and ready to head back to the coach. Barry was having dinner with some of our principals and I was on my own. As I left though, I realized that I could not leave without visiting the Strip a bit. I caught the Monorail and headed over to the Flamingo / Caesars stop, wandered through the Flamingo and out onto the Strip.
I crossed the street and waited to watch the water show at the Bellagio — always wonderful!
My next stop was the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace to enjoy the luxury shopping in a beautiful setting. I watched the “Fall of Atlantis” animatronic show with loud sound effects including water and fire. I love beautiful shoes and stopped at every one of them in the indoor mall before I came to Christian Louboutin and attempted to enter. The doors were closed a few people were milling around, maybe waiting for them to open? Someone said, “They have closed the doors to allow Nicholas Cage to shop in private!” Sure enough, Nicolas Cage was inside looking at shoes! As he completed his shopping, he allowed fans to take a photo with him; my youngest son later questioned why I did not take a photo with him? I replied, “He just looked too scruffy to me!” A previous shopping experience in the Forum Shops put me in a store with Michael Jackson! I Love Caesars Palace!!
If only we were rich, I would probably have several pair of incredible shoes in the RV, or maybe even pull a trailer with lots and lots of shoes? No, I would not, but it would be nice to just wear a pair of lovely shoes every now and then!! My feet were completely worn out by now and I returned to the coach, so tired and incredibly happy!
Today we said goodbye to the incomparable beauty of Yosemite NP and headed south and east toward Las Vegas. Snowy mountain tops along the Sierra Nevada said goodbye to summer and hello to fall (whaaat?) and we kept them in our view throughout most of today.
The drive routed us east along a pass between the White Mountains and the Inyo Mountains and through miles and miles of dry, desert lands. Beatty, Nevada, near the Sheep Mountain Range, was just far enough to give us a nice warmer overnight stop before heading further south to Las Vegas. As we drove along, the landscape changed from pine forests to sage brush, then, after we left California and got further into Nevada, the Joshua Tree (a type of Yucca) appeared. They only grow in the Mohave and Sonoran Deserts in this part of the world!!! That is awesome!
As we got closer to Beatty, we began to see burros along the highway. They have wild burros in Nevada and Arizona!!!
We arrived in Beatty, turned at the only stoplight in town(!), and pulled into Death Valley Inn & RV Park. It is about the only nice hotel here and looks decent from the front, with a pool and nice tree plantings. The RV park is next door, all gravel with very small lacy trees planted along each site — and a view of the discarded old mattresses and furniture behind the hotel. It is small, but has 50 amp FHU’s, decent shower house, and very clean laundry house; for only $35 a night, it was a nice stopover in the desert!
After freshly made lasagna and roll and cake (!) at the local diner, KC’s Outpost, we drove out to Death Valley NP. I visited here many years ago with my family for a spring desert bloom, but Barry had never been here. The eastern boundary was only 8 miles outside Beatty, past the ghost town of Rhyolite, along a long straight highway.
Tomorrow we drive a couple of hours to Las Vegas! Our first “big” city in 2 months!!
On Drew’s day off, he and I left Tahoe and drove East over the mountains toward Carson City. The hailstorm earlier in the week had damaged our 10 year old A/C covers on the roof and I was going to buy a new one at an RV parts store. It was a tiny little quonset hut with “stuff” all over outside, including where ever they stored their parts. We loaded it into the car and headed out toward our real destination: Virginia City, Nevada!
Virginia City is the site of the discovery of gold and silver in 1859 at the Comstock Lode and Brunswick Ledge. They have retained the “Old West / Wild West” feel of the area by retaining the old storefronts and wooden sidewalks while making it a popular tourist destination.
Gambling continues to be a major source of income in Nevada and Virginia City is no different. Gaming houses and saloons line the streets with current opportunities to gamble and historical references also.
Virginia City is set in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, has a tough uphill climb in and out, and is hot, dry and dusty most of the time. Of course, I found the local cemetery and made Drew walk up and down and all around it. It is unlike any other cemetery I have seen with little fenced plots barely under the soil and clinging tightly to the side of the hill. Gravel, sagebrush, and knurled trees were the only vegetation in the cemetery and horse droppings were everywhere. Most of the grave sites are organized by social/fraternal/civic groups: Masons, Jewish, Catholic, firemen, etc.. Many of the gravestones note the state or country of origin of the deceased, very few of the deceased were actually born in Virginia City.
While we were at the cemetery, Drew pointed to a rather new house below us. A small herd of wild horses were wandering around the end of the street there! We returned to the car and headed in that direction, and, right at the end of a street, there they were!
We got back in the car to head back to Carson City and came by this herd just hanging out by St. Mary’s Art Center!
Heading back down the windy road, we passed through the town of Gold Hill with skeletons of old mining equipment along the way. We passed an active mine, Comstock Mining Company, tucked back into the hills.
We had such a very good day on the dry side of Lake Tahoe!
While in South Lake Tahoe, we both had different days to explore the area. One day, Barry and Drew left to go trout fishing. They went south of Carson Pass to fish in mountain streams still open — the rivers in Tahoe were already closed for the season. The cooler mountain air and cold water were great for Barry and he enjoyed the chance to have some Dad/son time and practice his fly casting.
While the guys were fishing, I took the Corgis to the Upper Truckee River nearby to hike a bit……these Corgis love the water and after that initial cold shock, I had a hard time keeping them Out of the water!
Another day we drove all around the lake to show Barry the sites along the way. Our first stop was in Tahoma to explore the Hellman-Ehrmann Mansion. I.W. Hellman bought about 2,000 acres on the lake for his vacation home and built the mansion in 1903, using mainly local materials. Isaiah W. Hellman founded the Farmers and Merchants Bank of California as well as the University of Southern California! He named the property Pine Lodge and boated most of the visitors to the property.
We drove all the way around the lake, visited Tahoe City for lunch, and returned back through Cave Rock (remember the tunnel that our Garmin routed us around?).
Later that night, as we returned to the coach, there was a visitor at the campground. Seems like the management here would go to greater lengths to prevent bears from dumpster diving; as the month passed and the campground cleared out, the easy access dumpsters were re-located away from all the parking sites.
This entire trip from Missouri west has had 2 main purposes: Pack Expo in Las Vegas and to visit our son, Drew, in South Lake Tahoe. Today we realized the visit with Drew!!!! We headed southwest on U.S. 50 from Fallon early in the morning; it is labelled one of the “Loneliest Highways in America” and we could see why. There is very little traffic on this road and not much to see…….until we got closer to Carson City and headed south toward Gardnerville. This long lush valley is full of huge cattle ranches with green grass and herds of cattle along the eastern foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. It was refreshing to be in so much green-ness for a change!
Along this trip, Barry & I have worried and planned the route carefully, to the point that we bought a Garmin RV 660 at Cabela’s and down-loaded the www.lowclearances.com product. (Here is the link if you want to get it: http://www.lowclearances.com/amember/go.php?r=4611&i=l0 ) We have been specifically worried about a tunnel at Cave Rock just before South Lake Tahoe that may be less than 13’9″ (our RV is 12’9″ but we want to give ourselves as much room as possible). So, our Garmin with the uploaded clearance info routed us south on U.S. 395 to Hwy. 88 in Gardnerville toward Carson Pass, then east on Hwy. 89 over Luther Pass to Myers and north on U.S. 50 (again) to our campground in Tahoe! Whew!!! Altogether it was not bad driving, but Barry is Super Nervous about mountain passes, both up and down, and his anxiety is obvious as I drive. The RV handles both up and down hills just fine!
We arrived safely in Tahoe at Tahoe Valley RV Resort & Campground and found our site #109; it was a 30 amp site about 15′ from each neighbor with storage campers behind us. That would not do. I went back to the office and complained that I had paid for a Premium Site and expected such and we were moved to site #431 which was Not a Premium site, but had 50 amp FHU’s with lots of space. I’m not sure about the “Resort” label here; they do have a pool, but closed it after Labor Day, tennis and basketball courts, a playground, and big shelters for group meetings, but everything looks tired and worn out. The roads throughout are terrible, rough and poorly marked; the edges of the road were not well defined and, with the heavy pine needles everywhere, everyone drove off the roads frequently. The staff were worthless. Sadly, it is one of the few FHU campgrounds in South Lake…..sigh….
Everything was unpacked and we jumped out to explore! This is Barry’s first visit to Lake Tahoe and the route in did not bring us by the Lake; we headed toward the famous views of Emerald Bay.
We met Drew for dinner with lots of hugs and kisses all around and made plans for our 2 week stay! Fishing, hiking, sight-seeing, just hanging out together!!! It is So Very Good to see our middle son; it’s been at least 2 years since we were together!
We dropped Drew off for work and headed back to the coach to get some work done before dinner……..3 hours later, this happened:
It slowed and stopped, then began again……
It started up 3 times, with progressively larger sizes of hail each time…..pea-sized, dime-sized, then quarter-sized! Our A/C shrouds on the roof were original to the coach and very brittle; the hail beat them up very badly. RV Parts: 2 new shrouds = $400……
Tomorrow we are going to drive around the Lake and sight-see all along the way! Hopefully the weather won’t repeat the hail!
We continued our westward travels, left Ft. Collins, CO, spent a couple of nights in Rawlins, WY, and then moved to McKinnon, WY for Labor Day weekend. We stayed at the Red Desert Rose Campground in Rawlins, this was our first experience at a “western” campground; dry, dusty, treeless! They have a fenced dog park, but it had very little grass. There is sagebrush all around town, I kept my eyes open for wildlife, but to no avail. The staff here were ever so nice. Although the sites were all gravel pull-through’s, we did have full hookups and took this time to catch up on laundry and and life! From the middle of June, Barry has been working a ton, both here in the RV and traveling around each area making lots of calls; this is our first stop to just settle down and catch our breath. Rawlins is an interesting old town, lots of cowboy references and old “Mom & Pop” type motels; it is the first exit off I-80 to Jackson, WY and further on to Yellowstone NP, it is also a shipping location for cattle and some historical sites are here also.
I made reservations earlier this spring for a campsite on Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming for Labor Day, this was our next destination. My parents were NP Rangers at Dinosaur NM just south of Flaming Gorge in the early 1990’s and we have not been back to this area since that time; I could not wait to relive some of those memories! We pulled into Buckboard Campground on Friday and prepared for a weekend of sight-seeing. This is a State Park Campground, again, dry and dusty with very few trees and little clam-shell covered picnic areas. We had a 50 amp, electric only site that was not very level but had a little look at the reservoir from the front. There was also a full hookup private RV park nearer the water for only a few dollars more; I would have rather parked there had I known in advance. We also found the Lucerne Campground further south on Flaming Gorge that will be our first choice the next time we visit this area.
Saturday was the start of the College Football Season (notice that is all caps?!!) and we spent the entire day watching all the games we could possibly see! But, in the afternoon, I needed a project and took that time to work on the bathroom backsplash. (Refer to my post RV Life, April ’17 –http://corgishopperblog.com/2017/04/27/rv-life-april-17/ ) I had found a product called Smart Tiles online, purchased them at Home Depot, and decided to apply them today. All-in-all, it was an easy finish to this project; I used my math skills (whaaat?!!) and lots of measuring before cutting, but ended up with great results, can’t wait to finish the rest of the coach with it!
Sunday was going to be all about traveling around Flaming Gorge……..please enjoy these photos that brought back so many memories for me!
So many more photos and memories from this area!!! It was so good to be back!