After Las Vegas our next stop would be the Newmar 2017 International Rally …… but first, we had to leave Las Vegas and head East, quickly!! As Pack Expo ended on Wednesday, I packed up the coach, met Barry on Interstate 15, hooked up the car and headed north-east toward Interstate 70 at the Utah border. We drove until sunset, stopping along the road to boondock somewhere along the way in Utah for the night.
Next morning, we rose early, grabbed breakfast and determined to drive as far as possible.
We passed so many places to stop and explore but had to ignore each place with our goal in mind.
Crossing Colorado and the Rocky Mountains would be brutal, but we kept driving.
Side Note: Int. 70 across Colorado is Horrible, rough and broken in so very many places, Aunt Betty, Barry, the dogs, and I were just beat up driving it.
We drove over 1,400 miles, but finally made it to Sedalia in 3 days; memo to self: don’t do that again! Side note: We actually lost one of the big Newmar hub caps somewhere in Colorado and had to buy a new one when we got to the Rally!
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!
Before we left this beautiful area, I wanted to take the dogs out, alone, back into the mountains to breathe the mountain air and fill my soul. Drew recommended I drive out to the Blue Lakes off Highway 88 (Carson Pass Highway), along Hope Valley Road.
This road follows the West Fork of the Carson River through a wonderful valley and past a few mountain homes finally giving away to complete wilderness. It’s a 2 lane highway past running water, lots of trees, and along a cut between Markleeville Peak, The Nipple, and Jeff Davis Peak.
We reached the end of the road at the Blue Lakes and drove along Lower Blue Lake. The land here is made up gigantic smooth rocks with trees growing up through the cracks, it’s a great place for Corgis to run around!
The wind has twisted most of the trees out here over the years.
Back to those Corgis….. they loved running around on the large flat mountain rocks, chasing each other and barking as much as they wanted! In the photo just above, you can see a tree and a bunch of bushes growing at the water’s edge and Zeplyn running along the top of the rock. Well, the Corgis are not accustomed to big smooth rocks that drop of suddenly — sure enough, first Ratchet fell down into those bushes, then, while I was trying to figure out how to get him back up and out, Zeplyn slid down there too! Now I had 2 dogs scrambling around on the branches just above that water and about 4’ below me trying to figure out how to get back out. Zeplyn is still young enough (he’s only 8 years old) and was able to claw his way back up the rock and onto the top. Ratchet is 11 and a bit heavier; no way was he going to scramble up that rock! I finally figured out how to approach it from the tree side, coax Ratchet over to me by climbing over the branches, and carry him back to the upper side of the rocks! Whew!!!!
We returned to the car and headed back to Tahoe, snow was coming! We are leaving tomorrow and I’ve got some packing to do!
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 left Broken Bow and headed to Sydney, Nebraska to stay the night at the only Cabela’s campground anywhere! Sydney was the site of the beginning of Cabela’s business, and they have a monster property there with a campground, horse corrals, and a store with everything!
The next day we began the real drive across the prairie and headed toward Colorado! If you have ever driven in snow country, then highway closures are nothing new to you; but to us, they serve as a reminder of the power of Mother Nature! At most of the exit ramps, were signs warning of the closure of the interstate ahead — Get Off The Highway Now kind of signs!
After miles and miles of prairie, we crossed into:
We continued on I-80 westward until we came to Cheyenne and headed south towards Fort Collins, Colorado to spend a few days near the Rocky Mountains! Horsetooth Reservoir Campground is west of Fort Collins, nestled in the foothills of the Rockies and is a county park property. We had 50 amp electrical service only at our dusty campsite, but had a lovely view of the reservoir and surrounding mountains outside the coach. South Bay site #17 had big shady trees that helped keep the coach cooler in the hot summer heat, but none of the amenities — WiFi, cell service, water or sewer. It did have frequent mule deer visitors though and delightful views of water, mountains and sky!
On the first day, while Barry worked, I took advantage of the proximity to the mountains and headed west toward Estes Park. I had been this way once before, on a trip here with Barry & Tyler about 15 years ago and remembered the upward drive through Big Thompson Canyon and into Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). It is still a fantastic drive between narrow canyons and alongside the Big Thompson River, winding higher and higher into the mountains. I was going to try out my back-packing skills for the first time, hiking at elevation with a loaded backpack; I left the highway and followed McGraw Ranch Road up and then down to Cow Creek Trailhead, just inside the boundary of RMNP. I hoisted my pack on my back and headed off to test my skills on the North Boundary Trail. After only hiking about 1/3 mile, I turned and retraced my steps back to my car, thoroughly disappointed with myself. But I did learn! I could do this, if I worked at acclimating to elevation without my backpack, I might be able to try again.
I left this area and headed over to Estes Park to explore the little touristy town a bit. It is the “end” of summer and lat-minute tourists and traffic crowded the town……..time to leave!
After leaving Estes Park to return down Big Thompson Canyon and back to Barry, I chanced to find a little pull-out park alongside the river, Sleepy Hollow Park, and stopped to see the water! I love the sound and feel and smell of running mountain water and will take every possible chance to get close. No other cars were parked in the small lot, the map marked trails nearby, a few picnic tables dotted the grassy area: Perfect!!
After I finished filming a video of the running water, I noticed some movement in the bushes at the turn of the river. As I watched, a black bear and her two cubs popped out of the bushes and began working their way along the river toward me!!! For the next 15 minutes, I watched the three of them move along the rocky areas above the river, looking for berries to eat along the way. She kept an eye on me as I backed up to lean against a tree and stayed still as they scrambled along the rocks; I made sure the car was unlocked and I could make a speedy retreat, if necessary!
Too soon, they turned and made their way up the rocky incline and further away, I returned to my car and left, with a smile on my face from ear-to-ear! I had seen bears in the wild!!!
After we left Lee’s Summit, Missouri, we headed north, past St. Joseph and the Iowa border, then turned west and wound our way to Greenwood, Nebraska. Pine Grove RV Campground is a decent park, with gravelly old paved roads, lots of steep speed bumps, and gravel parking sites but no patio space, just grass and an old picnic table. The grass was a bit hairy and tracked inside every time we took the dogs out. The WiFi was weak, but they had an AT&T tower nearby to boost that signal. We had full hook ups, but low water pressure, and a great view across a huge soybean field facing west. This park has a small pool, shuffleboard and tennis courts, playground for kids, and, more importantly, fenced dog parks! The corgis had a great time running free, barking just to bark, and getting much need exercise. After the eclipse, we were happy to enjoy the evening sunsets out the front of the coach.
Barry had appointments east in Omaha on Tuesday and west in York on Wednesday…..so we really were working here!
I did enjoy the old cemetery at Trinity Lutheran Church during the eclipse on Monday. My grandma used to like to walk around the cemetery in our town, checking all the graves to see if anyone had died that she had missed, looking to make sure Grandpa’s grave had fresh flowers, etc. and I, also, like to walk around cemeteries. This one is an old German cemetery with graves dating in the mid-to-late-1800’s.
I am related to the Schmidt family on my father’s side; my great-grandparents immigrated to the USA before my grandparents were born. I like to check old cemeteries for any of the names in any of my family trees, and I found these graves, just not people in my tree!
We ran into Omaha and across the Missouri River to Council Bluffs, Iowa on Tuesday evening to the Bass Pro Shop there. It is in a big casino complex at the intersection of I-80 and I-29 and had some public outcry and controversy when they built the overpass into the complex.
These pieces of “art” grace both sides of the overpass (2 on the North and 2 on the South), weigh 70,000 pounds, shoot 60′ into the sky, and cost an estimated $3,000,000 dollars. They are titled “Odyssey” and were designed by renowned metal sculpture artist, Albert Paley. We are familiar with his work from a piece at the entrance to the St. Louis Zoo; titled “Animals Always”, it is perfect for that site! https://www.stlzoo.org/about/blog/2015/09/02/public-art-contributes-our-zoos-charm These pieces, however, tower over the overpass and the highway in a crazy, Edward Scissorhands-like presence that is almost overwhelming.
The next day, Barry & I drove west to York, Nebraska to make a business call and I had such a wonderful day! We stopped after the call in Lincoln to see the University of Nebraska stadium.
After that stop, I dropped Barry off at the coach for a little exploring time on my own. Now I had time to visit the Holy Family Shrine overlooking the Platte River valley. It was modeled after Fay Jones’ Cooper Chapel in Arkansas as a place of meditation, reflection and prayer just off I-80, and stands as a welcoming refuge from the hustle and bustle of travel.
Leaving the Shrine I took a different road back to the coach and found this funny lighthouse on the bank of the Platte River.
All in all, this is an interesting place to visit; big cities nearby, yet a rural setting for the campground. We would probably stay here again when working in eastern Nebraska!
By now, you have probably heard every possible story about the “Great American Eclipse of 2017”; but not mine! We were parked about 20 miles outside the line of totality and felt that we just HAD to drive down to experience the eclipse in totality. We were parked in Greenwood, Nebraska at Pine Grove RV Park, just off I-80, and in-between Lincoln & Omaha.
So, about 9:00 AM on Monday, August 21, we drove into the little town of Waverly to have breakfast at Honey Creek restaurant. After a filling breakfast, we set our sights south and started driving. I followed a line of cars down a country highway until we came to a gravel road with a Lutheran church sign pointing east. I turned onto that little road, bumped about a mile and then came to South 162nd Street (out in the middle of nowhere and that’s the best name they could come up with?), turned and drove south another bumpy mile before pulling into the parking lot at Trinity Lutheran Church at 10:45. No one else was there, except the lovely old cemetery souls behind the church.
I parked the car for the best angle at the sun, opened the sunroof, laid our seats back, and tried out the eclipse glasses……
It was fun to just sit there, windows down, wind blowing steadily, talking and waiting. About noon, we started to notice a change along the edge of the sun…..just like a little notch on the western edge…….another car pulled into the parking lot, a mom and three teenaged daughters. They got out folding chairs, a small cooler, put on their eclipse glasses, and waited. The girls decided they would throw frisbee around while they waited; the only sound now was a few birds and shrieking girls. A look up showed that more of the sun was notched out now, but you really could not tell that something big was about to happen. A third car pulled up and parked behind us, a man got out, leaned on the hood and donned his eclipse glasses and looked up. By 12:56, the sun was now a definite crescent shape and we all kept our eyes toward the sky.
At precisely 13:03, the moon completely passed in front of the sun. And the clouds tried to cover it, drat!!!! But, noticeably, the birds had stopped singing (as well as the teenagers!)…….and the earth, though not dark as night, was definitely darker.
All too soon, it was over……..the sun returned to it’s shiny self, the new moon was invisible in the sky. But, we had witnessed a Total Solar Eclipse! It was not a life-changing moment; I think those are reserved for the birth of a child or something that certainly marks a moment in time that was not the same the moment before. But this moment was such an unbelievable experience, it made me reflect on the glory of God. And now the birds began to fly and sing again, the teenagers started the frisbee again, and Barry started looking at emails. But for about 5 minutes in time, everyone joined together and just looked up……no fighting or arguing or working or playing…….just looking up at the sun…….magical.