Idaho

Mountain Lioness lays and chills between my feet and the drivers chair while I drive.

Driving north into Idaho from Ogden Utah I felt glum. I started thinking how nice sitting next to the Gulf of Mexico in a beach bar with an umbrella drink would be. Once you start thinking about being home, the thoughts are perilous. On two previous RV trips I woke up in the morning and just suddenly decided I wanted to be home. At that point the trip is over. You still have to make the drive home, but the trip is over.

I battled strong winds driving to Idaho. One time a strong gust of wind suddenly pushed the rig four feet to the right, over the white line partly into the emergency lane. That sudden movement got my attention and made my heart jump. I slowed down even more so that I would have time to react and control the vehicle if another gust like that occurred. Not long after entering Idaho, the bleak gray skies cleared and blue skies appeared. I realized that I had not seen blue sky for almost a week, no wonder I felt glum. The blue skies brightened my spirit.

Idaho has some interesting geography. Bordering Idaho are six states; Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. The Canadian province of British Columbia also borders the state to the north. Twin Falls Idaho was the destination for the day. Twin Falls was a very nice town. I passed an Urgent Care place on my way to Walmart. My right ear had bothered me almost since I left home. After picking up some more wine in a box (one box of wine is the same as 4 bottles of wine and takes up about the same amount of space, space is at a premium in the coach), and more cat litter, the two essential items on the tour, I decided to drive back to the Urgent Care place.

I lost half the hearing in my right ear 13 years from a freak accident. I also have a hole in the eardrum from scar tissue from a tube that was in the right ear drum for many years. When ear wax builds up, I can’t use normal ear cleaning methods since the cleaning solution can seep into the middle ear and cause further damage. If water gets in behind the wax, the ear can become infected, which happens about twice a year. The only way to clean the ear is to get to an ENT where they use a little vacuum cleaner that goes in the ear and sucks out the wax. ENTs take weeks to get into, and other places don’t have the ear vacuum cleaner. I went in anyhow hoping they could do something, I could tell I was on the verge of another ear infection. The lady at the front desk used to work at an ENT, so she knew exactly what I was talking about. The nurse meticulously cleaned out the ear using some kind of small shovel. She was afraid of hurting me, I told her just to go for it, that the pain now would be worth feeling better once she was done.  What a relief it was to have the ear canal cleaned out. I feel so much better now. I was just kicking myself for not having the wax removed right before I left. I won’t make that mistake again.

This was my second medical issue of the trip. I smashed my new eyeglasses when a gust of wind blew down the heavy metal cover on the electrical hookup in Green River and smashed into my face. Since I am so near-sighted, I brought two pairs of back up eyeglasses. Good thing, since I also bent the nose piece on the first back up pair. I am now on my backup backup eyeglasses.

From Twin Falls I drove to Boise. I really need to learn how to find better places to stay. This time I was in a prime location, right between the Boise Airport and I-84. I could have walked right into the airport from where I was staying. Still, it was a good stopping point on my way to McCall.

I was really looking forward to the drive north on the west side of Idaho. The first stop was the quaint resort town of McCall. The drive was stunning, with high snow covered mountains on both sides, with the Payette River flowing past me along a winding narrow road. Driving next to a river always makes it easy to determine if you are gaining or losing elevation. Since the river was flowing past me from front to rear, I knew I was gaining elevation. I also knew that meant I was heading into a colder weather gain. McCall was very cold, the coldest temperatures I experience on the trip so far. There were still piles of snow there. McCall is a nice little resort town. The RV park was so nice, surrounded by trees and mountains, and was totally quiet, the most peaceful place I have been on the entire tour. I wanted to stay there for another day, but temperatures dipped down into the 20s during the night. There was ice on the hood and windshield of the Sunwapta in morning. I decided to head to lower elevations where the temperatures would stay above freezing. Dealing with the sub-freezing temperatures was getting old. That morning I continued north, but lower in elevation where the temperatures would be 10 degrees warmer.

The drive from McCall was the best of the trip so far. The road out of McCall took me down a deep descent through a canyon. I knew I was heading to lower elevations and warmer temperatures. The drive from McCall was along the Salmon river was just gorgeous, deep down inside a canyon. Everytime I changed sides of the Salmon River, the GPS NAV unit informed me the time zone changed. The time change must have happened 10 times. Somehow Idaho has been split between the Mountain Time and Pacific Time, and the dividing line is the Salmon River as far as i can tell.

I made my way to  Clarkston Washington, my 10th state so far of the trip. Situated along the confluence of the Clearwater and Snake Rivers, Clarkston is just over the border from Idaho in Washington. Confluence, that is a fancy word, I like using the word. The headwaters of the Snake River headwaters are in Tetons and Yellowstone National Parks on the western side of the continental divide. I remember taking a rafting trip in the Tetons when I was a kid with my family. The Snake River then flows into Idaho, turns south, and then west across the state, then north in Idaho again. Then the Snake river turns west into Washington and confluences (I made that word up) with the Columbia River where it flows out to the Pacific Ocean.

The Snake River flows through Hells Canyon, the deepest river canyon in the United States at 7993 feet, deeper than even the Grand Canyon. Hells Canyon is where Evil Knievel tried to jump the canyon with a rocket powered motorcycle. He failed. As I remember his attempt, his safety parachute deployed by accident during the jump preventing him making the jump. Some other idiot successfully completed the stunt later using a similar contraption. His name is not important, he is just an idiot.

The weather in Clarkson was cold and raining, but at least the temperature was above freezing. After 10 days of dealing with sub freezing temps, not having to deal with freezing temperatures was a relief.

I am now at my ultimate destination, Couer d’alene Idaho, located in the northern part of Idaho along the Spokane River. This is the town I think I might want to live here during the summer. I felt elated cycling into the downtown area of CDA. The town was everything I hoped it would be. The town is very nice and the area is very pretty. While having an early afternoon dinner in town, I became emotional to the point where my eyes starting tearing up. I looked outside and saw a tree that was just now blooming, spring is just arriving in CDA. I told the bartender that the pollen from the trees was making my eyes tear up. That was not true. The feelings I was experiencing were not the ones I expected.

Peter, Paul, and Mary link below

This Land is Your Land

A Tale of Two Utahs (Part 2 of 2)

The Sunwapta covered by snow in northern Utah

For the third straight day I left early in the morning. From Green River I headed north towards Salt Lake City. The area heading out of Green River is where the landscape started to gradually change from desert to mountains. While fiddling around with the 450 stations on the SiriusXM Radio, and checking the GPS NAV screen, I looked up and snow-capped mountains suddenly appeared in my view. Chills went through out my body. I was finally entering the mountains. A desert was still west of me, the great basin laying between the Sierra Nevada mountains on the west and the Wasatch Mountains on the east. After entering Provo, I turned northeast and drove up into the mountains. I was near Park City Utah, the site of the 2002 Winter Olympics. The US winter Olympic team still trains in Park City.

Mother Nature always bats last.

A late winter storm forced me to hunker down for three days. The storm produced high winds, rain, snow, and my favorite weather term, a wintry mix. There was not much I could do except wait for the storm to pass. I read parts of the operators manual that I had not read before about operating the coach in sub-freezing temperature. The concern about the frigid temperatures is for frozen water pipes, and efficiently heating the coach. The heat pump doesn’t work below 40 degrees and you can burn through the propane fuel quickly using the propane furnace. Fortunately, I bought a space heater a week earlier because the heat pump made so much noise I could hardly sleep.

The second morning of my layover I woke up to an astonishing sight. I opened the blackout shade and saw snow falling heavily. A white blanket of snow covered the ground. I went outside and saw the coach was also covered in several inches of snow. Large snowflakes were falling all around me. I felt like I was in the scene from the movie Edward Scissorhands where Johnny Depp was cutting an ice sculpture and Winowa Ryder was dancing in the ice/snowflakes. The scene was surrealistic. I thought we might get a few snow flurries, but I didn’t expect waking up and seeing a snow covered landscape. The following week was the beginning of May. As I walked around the Sunwapta, I chuckled when I remembered the name of the paint scheme for this coach from the brochure. “Arctic Silver” is the name some marketing genius gave the paint scheme. The name was prophetic. I thought the colors of the rig looked good with the white snow.

I belong to a Facebook group for the type of RV I have. People in the group post questions about the RV and photos from their travels. I posted a request in the group asking for cold weather tips for a Florida boy. Many group members responded with great cold weather tips and suggestions. I survived my first experience with snow and sub-freezing temperatures just fine thanks to their help. This FB group is wonderful. Many times I’ve seen the group quickly respond with advice and help.

The Mountain View RV Park was first class, easily the nicest park I stayed in so far this trip. The park was so nice I almost didn’t want to leave. On the fourth day, I became restless. There was a letup from the storms for that day. Another storm system with even colder temperatures and more snow was heading my way over the next three days. I decided to drive down to a lower elevation in Ogden Utah. The temperatures would be about 10 degrees warmer and Ogden was less likely to get as much snow. Ogden was what first sparked my interest in coming to Utah. Ogden was on a list of one of the top 25 places to retire in America. I know I would not want to live in Utah in the winter, but I thought this western state might be a nice place in the summer to live. However, winter seems to extend into May here as far as I can tell.

I’m excited about heading into Idaho. The rugged landscape in Idaho has some of the largest unspoiled areas in the United States. You can only drive east or west across the state in the southern and northern parts of the state. Most of Idaho one can only drive north or south. I was not sure I would make the journey all the way to Idaho. This northwest state seemed so far away when I started. I’ve driven about 3500 miles so for. Coeur d’Alene Idaho is my ultimate destination on this trip. CDA is the town I think I might want to move to in the summer.

Another classic Mormon Tabernacle Choir performance, link below.

Hallelujah Chorus

A Tale of Two Utahs (Part 1 of 2)

Double Arch in Arches National Park Utah

Watching the subtle transition from desert to mountains as I drove from southern Utah to northern Utah was fascinating. Southern Utah is a desert with canyons. Northern Utah is a landscape dominated by the Wasatch Mountain Range. While the grandeur of the canyons was magnificent, I felt excited to finally be entering mountains.

Note: The Utah blog post got so long that I split the post into two. Utah felt like two different lands to me. The south, with the canyons and desert, and the north, with the mountains and abundant water.

My foray into Utah got off to a shaky start. The drive from the Grand Canyon was spectacular. The east entrance to the Grand Canyon is a beautiful drive, much nicer than the southern entrance. The first part of the drive the canyon was visible from the road. The road continues east and leads away from the northeast direction of the canyon. The rest of road was a beautiful drive through a forest.

After reaching Cameron I refueled. I am careful to refuel where the gas stations look new and modern, especially out west where refueling opportunities are not as frequent as other parts of the country. Trying to prevent getting a bad load of diesel, I also look for locations where the fuel station looks like a lot of pumping of fuel occurs. After refueling I turned north towards Utah. My destination was Monument Valley, a small area just north of the Arizona/Utah border. The area is famous for being a filming location for many western Hollywood movies.

The RV campground in Monument Valley was right off the main highway at mile marker 3 according to Google Maps. The site was so remote that there was no cell signal so I couldn’t check the on-line map. The place was brand new so it didn’t show up on my RV NAV system. I couldn’t find the park. I went off on several side roads, even stopping at an Indian Reservation to ask for directions. I did see one RV place on the side of the road, but it was just a red dirt field. I thought there was no way could this be the RV park I saw in the internet. I passed this field three times before stopping, and sure enough, the red dirt field was the place I found through Google Maps that boasted about its deluxe sites and fabulous views. This was a painful lesson about not believing everything you read on the internet.

The campground had no office, no facilities, the place was just a series of closely spaced sites. The place was brand new. I think I might have been the first customer. Taken aback by the desolate grounds, I didn’t want to stay here. Tired from a long day of driving, and near the end of the day, I decided to stay. I also was meeting the couple from Germany here. We had met each other the day before at the Grand Canyon campground, and I didn’t want to not be here when they arrived. I met the owner of the campground, and he said, “Well, are you impressed.” I said nothing. He was a nice guy and worked hard to get his campground up and running. Probably within a few years, the campground will return to being a red dirt field, a field with a lot of pipes, plumbing, and electrical wires covered by more red dirt from 70 mile an hour wind storms. After all, the high winds over millions of years carved out the incredible spires and rock formations of Monument Valley. I’m pretty sure that no traces of the campground will be around after just a few years.

Forty dollars for just for a hook up for water, electricity and sewage was way overpriced. Worse than that, was this fine red dirt blowing fiercely from the southwest. A fine layer of red dirt was getting into my RV and covering the outside. I closed up the RV to prevent more dirt from getting into the coach, but the outside was still being pummeled by the windswept red dirt. Luckily the wind tapered down a few hours later. I spent a lot of time cleaning up from that fiasco. The effect of the dirt on the heat pump and other parts of the coach exposed to the outside especially concerned me. I didn’t run the heat pump that night. I planned to drive the next day and hopefully blow whatever dirt was on the outside of the coach away. I cleaned all the parts I could reach including the slide mechanism rails and gears. Everything is now working okay.

The couple from Germany did arrive. We were they only guests here. The Germans were eight months into a 10 month world-wide tour. They had been to Africa, New Zealand, Fuji, among other places. They also had a six year old son traveling with them. Now they were touring the western USA in a rented RV. We had interesting discussions about the differences between Germans and Americans. They were very interested in what my thoughts were about Germans. They made a very nice dinner for us for the second night in a row, and this night we did have the spectacular Monument Valley at sunset as a backdrop for dinner. Not too many restaurants have that kind of scenery.

The drive the next day to Moab Utah was incredible. The entire 180 mile drive could have been a National Park. Huge dramatic red bluffs rose on both sides, enveloping me the entire way. I had no reservations in Moab, but was not too concerned because there were four or five RV parks there. That was a mistake. Moab was far more popular than I realized. Vehicles and people mobbed the tiny small town. I stopped at a nice RV park in the middle of Moab, and the clerk was kind of rude to me when I asked about a spot. She must have thought I was some out of town yahoo who didn’t realize where I was and that it was so popular. Well, I was that yahoo, all the way from Florida. The next place I stopped the woman was very kind. I was kind of stressed from the place I stayed the previous night, and the thought of not getting a place this evening left me frazzled. She was very kind to me, and said she had one night available, Thursday night, before the busy weekend. I took the one night. I was grateful for a place to stay.

Now I could rest and go to Arches National Park the next day after a good nights sleep. I knew that not having a plan would cause problems with getting a place to stay in the more popular places, but I didn’t realize that Moab was so popular. The small town had way too many people and cars. The small town was totally over run with two constant lines of vehicles, one in each direction on the one street in the town. Like many nice places, too many people go there and ruin the place. Or as Yogi Berra said, “No one goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.” That is how I felt about Moab. I was glad to get out of there.

The next morning when I woke up, I felt rejuvenated and excited about going to Arches National Park. I was kind of proud of my shiny new year-long National Park Pass that I paid $80 for at the entrance to the Grand Canyon National Park. The entrance to Arches National Park was just a mile away from the campground. A free National Park weekend was occurring this weekend where admittance to all National Parks in America was free, so I didn’t even get to use my stupid $80 National Park Pass. Wanting to seeing this park was the reason I came into southeast Utah. The exercise bicycle at the YMCA I work out has a video screen of beautiful places around the world to watch while you pedal away in place in a boring gym. Monument Valley and Arches were among the videos available on the exercise bicycle. I wanted to see the red stone arches I saw on the exercise bicycle video screen.

The Sunwapta easily climbed a steep narrow road entering the park. I’m so happy I got a diesel powered RV. The drive out to the end of the park disappointed me. The scenery was wonderful, but I didn’t see any arches. I thought maybe you had to hike to see arches. I looked at the park map, and saw I needed to take two side roads showing landmarks that seemed to show there would be arches there. Go figure, one should actually look at the $80 map I could have gotten for free. On the return trip, I found a road that had some of the many arches in the park. Although I started early in the morning, parking was now an issue, especially for a small RV. I just happened to get lucky as a RV pulled away from a parking spot, and I was able to ease the Sunwapta into a tight parking spot. I walked up a short trail to some arches, like the one shown in the picture above. I know what you are thinking, don’t be so lazy and get out and hike. Laziness has nothing to do with it, I would very much like to get out and hike. I just don’t like to leave the cats alone in the RV for long. That is the trade-off with bringing the cats. Having the cats along is worth the limitation for me.

After leaving Arches National Park I drove though Canyonlands NP, just 30 minutes away. Canyonlands NP was not as spectacular as Arches NP, but there weren’t many people there. The scenery was still incredible. On the way back some car passed me and I saw the passenger flip me the bird, the person probably thinking I was some fat old RV guy from Florida, uh, no comment there. The rude gesture didn’t even bother me at first, I was so chilled from the scenery I saw that day. When I got to the main road, the car containing the idiot was still there waiting to turn onto the main road. So even after passing me I still caught up to him. I thought about ramming his car with my RV and then realized I still have something like 216 payments left on the RV. I’ve been binge watching “The Sopranos” on my tablet this trip, having downloaded the last 3 seasons before I left. I will attribute my malicious thoughts to watching too many episodes of that show.

Arches and Canyonlands National Parks were full of places named like Lands of the Gods, Island in the Sky, the Garden of Eden and with good reason. The vistas were surrealistic. Filming for some of the scenes from the original Star Trek series took place here. I did feel like I was in a different world.

Although the canyons were beautiful, I was canyoned out and tired of the desert. I was ready for green landscapes, filled with trees and mountains. The incredible sheer rock bluffs canyons started to remind me of churches in Italy. Once you have seen one, you have seem them all.

After exiting Canyonlands NP, I made my way to Green River on I-70. Green River is famous for being where Wesley Powell started his expedition that eventually led him to the Colorado River and into the Grand Canyon. They were the first explorers of the region and floated all the way down to and through the Grand Canyon from there. Where I stayed in Green River was another scary park, just a field, with permanent residents screaming at each other. I was grateful however for this park, as it was a good stopping point before heading north towards Salt Lake City.

Salt Lake City of course is famous for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Here is a classic song performed by them.

Theme from The Magnificent Seven

The Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon

Well here it is, the big enchilada, The Grand Canyon. There is not much else to say about the Grand Canyon that has not already been said. After all, The Grand Canyon is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Except perhaps that most people don’t experience The Grand Canyon drinking wine out of a box in a RV park with two cats like I did.

The size of the Grand Canyon is almost beyond comprehension. To fathom the enormous volume and vast expansive depth of the canyon one has to see the vistas with their own eyes. The canyon is one mile deep, 18 miles wide at its broadest, and 277 miles long. The landscape is stunning and left me breathless. Or maybe the biking at 7000 feet above sea level was what left me breathless. I had to remember to put down the camera, and live in the moment, soaking in the panoramic views.

To fully appreciate the canyon, one must hike down to the canyon floor. Most folks don’t get much further than the visitor center and the first canyon viewpoint. The main visitor center reminded me of Clearwater Beach Florida, with people driving around slowly in parking lots looking for parking spaces that don’t exist. I felt as if I was the only person there speaking English. People from around the world were here to see the Grand Canyon. In the campground I helped a family from Germany set up their RV. They rented a RV and this was their first night in their coach. Their English was good, much better than my German. My mastery of the German language came from my cycling trips to Austria and Switzerland, and consisted of only two sentences. The first sentence was “Groses Bier bitte”, or large beer please. The second was “Eine weitere Bitte”, one more please. Those sentences were the only two I needed to get through both biking tours.

Near the west end of the park I saw trail mules in their corral. People who are too lazy to hike down into the canyons ride the mules instead. The mules all looked pretty chilled out to me. Carrying Joe and Jenny Tourist down into and back out of the canyon requires a laid back animal. My excuse for not hiking down into the Grand Canyon was that I don’t like to leave the cats unattended in the RV for more than a few hours. I am now wondering what the cost of the mule trip would have been.

I remember my mother reading a book to me called Brighty of the Grand Canyon, the story of a real life burro who lived in the Grand Canyon. My parents took my family to the north rim of the Grand Canyon when I was 12 years old. I remember being in awe of the Grand Canyon back then just as I am now. I am wondering if my mother is now looking down on me from heaven and smiling as I experience the Grand Canyon again 48 years later.

For those of you who are curious, here is link describing the Grand Canyon and the other six natural wonders of the world.

Seven Natural Wonders of the World

The Sedona Vortex

Driving through the red sandstone formations of Sedona Arizona

My eyes watered from emotion stirred by driving beneath the towering spires and sheer red rock bluffs of Sedona. The extraordinary experience I had in Sedona went far beyond my expectations. The scenery in Sedona was not what I expected. I thought I was going to see a bunch of red rocks in a desert. Instead of a flat desert floor filled with red rocks, I descended a narrow winding road for an hour into a deep canyon. My RV barely fit on the road. Several times I stopped to let cars pass me. I wanted to take my time during this drive. When I finally reached the canyon floor, steep canyon walls rose dramatically on both sides.

Sedona is famous for being one of the places in the world with vortices. A vortex is believed to be a special spot on the earth where energy is either entering into the earth or projecting out of the earth’s plane. Vortexes (or vortices) are found at sacred sites throughout the world – the Great Pyramid in Egypt, Machu Picchu in Peru, Bali, Stonehenge, Ayers Rock in Australia, etc. It is believed that the vortex energy moves in a spiral, moving up or down.

Well I don’t really know about the vortex and the effects, but I can tell you this. While driving down to the canyon floor, I felt the sensation I was floating down into canyon, not that I was just driving the RV. While in the canyon, I began to feel a sense of inner peace and calm. A deep feeling of tranquility enveloped me that I have not felt in a long time. While I don’t know whether the vortex phenomenon exists, I can tell you that I felt wonderful at Sedona. An hour after driving out of Sedona, the feelings of peace and tranquility dissipated. By the way, the cats slept through the entire drive.

I started this day in Winslow AZ, drove through Sedona, and I’m now in Prescott at the nicest campground I’ve been in so far this trip. The Point of Rocks Campground is very quiet, peaceful, and yes, surrounded by large rocks. I’m hoping to see a lot of stars this evening. I going to rest and regroup here for a few days before continuing on with the trip.

Enya – Orinoco Flow