Sunday, May 31, 2009

Day tripping around Lander WY

Off to South Pass via #28, 19C and sunny at 8:30. We saw the first snow at about 8000 ft from near South Pass City. 

We had no detailed map of the area so stopped in Atlantic City to look for a map of the local back roads. A nice waitress made a photocopy for us of one they had, wouldn't take any $ for it. She also gave us some tips about where to go in the area, there are lots of back roads.

Willie`s Marker (??) Almost 200 people froze to death here one winter. They started their journey too late in the season, without enough supplies. Heidi had a quick swim in the Sweetwater R, then we were off exploring dirt roads, with great views of the Wind River mountain range. 

We saw so many antelope we lost count. Stopped for a picnic lunch with a view, watched dark clouds dumping rain on the mountains (could have been snow).

It's a somewhat historic area. The Pony Express route went right through here:

A nearby pass made this a popular route for the Oregon Trail:

Red Canyon was spectacular. Elk herds winter here, and the interior road was not yet open for the season, as it's calving season for the elk.

On to Lander for gas, and out to Sinks Canyon. There are some camping areas here, but day use is free for non-campers. Some rain fell but it was still a great place to visit. We saw mountain sheep, huge trout, a small but great interpretive center.

It was a short walk to the Popo Agie River. Lots of water still, but less than the spring peak. The river still disappears underground for a bit now, but flows overland in spring flood stage.

The river disappears underground for a bit, then comes out here, where the big trout hang out:
Re-entry from underground

Then back to our cg for a beer and a sit outside to enjoy that view. Real nice day trip.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Alliance NE to Lander WY

Lots of train noise overnight apparently, as Alliance is a major train maintenance area. It bothered Cathie, but I didn't hear it. Away at 8:40 am, 21C. Another sunny day. 

We saw a number of fields with just bulls in them, yesterday and today. That seems to be a Western thing, we rarely see bulls in Eastern fields unless it's one with a herd of cows.

Yesterday at Broken Bow they gave us what we though was a DVD on the Sandhills drive. It was really a CD self-guided trip, wish we'd know that yesterday. It points out things as you're going that we'd have liked to know. We listened to it all today; it was interesting and would have added to the trip yesterday.

It was a beautiful drive up 385 to Chadron, where we had a Walmart grocery stop then turned west on 20 towards Casper WY. Fort Robinson looked like it would be a good stop. They have tours and camping there. We hadn't planned on stopping though, and it was only 11:30. 

We met an oncoming motorcycle gang:

Soon we stopped at a rest area where a number of these tough-looking bikers were also stopped. Of course our Lab ran around introducing herself to everyone, and got lots of pats. It turned out this was a local group, mostly professionals like doctors etc, doing a run for a hospital charity drive. Appearances can sure be deceiving!

25C at 12:30, nearing Douglas WY. We've seen many antelope and some deer. Douglas claims to be the home of the jackelope, and we did see a huge one on the skyline of a ridge. It looked black. :)) No time for a pic though.

It rained on and off around Casper, and dropped to 23C. Elevation 5490 ft. The North Platte runs through here.

We called ahead for a reservation at Twin Pines park near Lander, as we intend to stay 3 nights. It's been a spectacular drive since we turned on to #287 N.
Arrived at Twin Pines cg in the rain, about 5:25 MT. $18 per night Passport America.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Pioneer Village to Alliance NE

Off at 8:45, 17C, not a cloud in the sky. We went up to #2 again to head west, right to Broken Bow this time. We stopped at their new Tourist Info, and it turned out we were their FIRST Canadians! It's a nice new place, fresh and clean. I'm standing with the artist that did the train wall mural behind us.

The Ogallala Aquifer supplies water to a huge part of the US Southwest

Windmill behind the Tourist Info supplies their water

It got up to 29C at 1:30 MT (Mountain Time already). The road climbed steadily as we headed west on #2, starting about 1800 ft and up to 3600 ft by afternoon. 

Lots of 100-car 3-engine trains full of coal heading one way and empties heading the other.

There's quite a bit of ground water around in places but the grass is pretty sparse on the hills. The land is very sandy, so groundwater tends to drain quickly. 

We couldn't find any "official" picnic areas so finally stopped for our lunch at a scenic pulloff beside Middle Loop river. Of course we came across 2 picnic areas just after the lunch stop. Antelope sightings were pretty common, often in groups of 3 for some reason. In the middle of all this dry land we came across Pelican Lake Golf Course near Hyannis NE, 3700 ft! It's kept green by more Ogallala Aquifer water likely.

Gas is running $2.25 - $2.50 for regular 87 octane. Mid-range 89 is 10 to 15 cents cheaper due to ethanol content.

The afternoon warmed up, reaching 31C at 2:30 MT. We stopped for the night at Sunset Motel & RV Park in Alliance NE. Full hookups, WiFi, indoor pool (we used it, had it all to ourselves), hot tub. $15+tax with our Passport America membership.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

More Village touring and relaxing

It reached a sunny 82F today! 

We toured the PV again today and likely saw most of it. It would take days to really see and digest it all. 

A few sample pictures:
Button craft

Amazing detail carved from nut shells

More miniaturized crafts

A tractor wheel, NOT a miniature

Building was full of buggies of all kinds

Then we just lazed around the site the rest of the day, except for a trip out for gas. Warm and sunny, with nice shade from the canopy of mature trees.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Touring Pioneer Village, Kearney, and Sandhills Scenic Byway

It was only 11C at 7am, but not raining. We stopped at the office and registered for 2 more nights, as it's a pleasant place to camp and we figured it would take us 2 days to see the PV displays.

Apparently there are 50,000 items in 26 buildings, and I don't doubt it! 
An early car. The drive wheel was the middle (5th) wheel at the rear.

Many early autos and flight attempts

This "soddy" was surprisingly comfortable inside, not damp.

We went around for 2 hours, and were tired enough to call it a day. Back to the site for email and laundry.

After a good soup and sandwich lunch at the PV restaurant we headed to the Kearney Walmart. We had a Net10 US phone from a previous trip, and wanted to reactivate it with a new time card. We got the new phone card, then the poor clerk spent about ½ hr on a store phone struggling to reactivate our phone, with limited success. We never were able to make calls to Canada, in spite of many later  calls to Net10 support. There has to be a better way for us to get basic US phone service on trips.
(2017 note: Koodo Prepaid works well with US add-ons!)

In the late afternoon we headed up to hwy 2, to have a look at the Sandhills Scenic Byway. We drove a section from hwy 10 west to Broken Bow, then back down #21, past a HUGE beef feed lot, which really stunk of cow (no surprise there). Then onto #40 back to Kearney, and on to our Minden camp. 

The Sandhills area was nice rolling grassy hills, lots of cattle and horses, very pastoral settings:

We saw a work train along #2, with backhoes on top of the cars, unloading new rail ties:

The backhoes could move themselves along the cars and even move from one car to the next. 

Instead of a regular train engine, the work train was pulled by a large truck, with adapters to ride the rails.
The sun came out about 3pm, making it a nicer drive. It got up to 20C today.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Avoca Iowa to Pioneer Village, Minden NE

A quiet night, we slept well. Oatmeal for breakfast again. Away at 8:40 CDT, 16C with light rain.  Rain stopped about 20 minutes later.

Good stop at the Nebraska Tourist Info in Omaha. Many buildings looked  tornado-proofed, likely real useful in this area. Easy I80 traveling again, partly due to the absence of construction workers. Lots of signs about lane closures and slowdowns, but not today!

We stopped about 2:30 at Pioneer Village (PV) in Minden NE, about 13 mi south of I80 near Kearney NE. They have a campground, motel and restaurant there as well as the Pioneer Village. 

A full-hookup campsite was the equivalent of about $30 Cdn/night, with WiFi. Camping included 1 admission to the PV exhibits too, with free entry next day for both of us. All in all, very reasonable. We just took it easy this aft, some rain around. 

We did drive in to see the Archway over I80. $10 each to go in so we didn't, as it was almost closing time. 
I80 runs right under the Archway

The bearded ones

Monday, May 25, 2009

Davenport to Avoca Iowa

14C at 6am. Why are we awake so early (7am Eastern)! 

A gorgeous sky this morning. Oatmeal for breakfast. We're trying to pace ourselves better this trip, so more breakfasts at the cg. Nice slow start, away at 8:50, 15C.

Another nice clear day, and another tailwind. We've had more-or-less a tailwind since Lansing MI, totally unheard of for us on western trips! What a difference that makes to the driving, so much easier and quieter. 

The I80 drive is pleasant, not spectacular. It seems very similar to our 2005 route via hwy 24 which parallels I80 further south. Lots of the typical large power-generating windmills. In one service center interchange there was just one large windmill, it looked like a local project to provide power for the businesses there.

We stopped for the night at a rustic cg right in town in Avoca IA. Self-serve, $14 incl tax for w/e. Passport America too, but seemed the same charge as the self-serve price. No WiFi. One other camper was there when we arrived; later a large motorhome stopped too. 

The Avoca town cemetery was bedecked with many large flags, we assume for Memorial Day. 

A small but steady number of cars drove slowly through, paying their respects. Quite moving really. The Americans seem to treat Memorial Day much more seriously than we treat similar holidays in Canada. It's not just a free day to go camping. There are lots of community activities to involve the whole family. A friend tells us that even some of the churches close, because there are many special events.

2017 note: it seems like the little teardrop trailers are getting quite popular these days, but they were pretty rare in 2009 when we saw this home-built (?) one along the way:

Sunday, May 24, 2009

MI to Davenport Iowa, and a close shave from an airplane

15C at 8am. It rained for a bit this morning. Swans on the lake. 22C at 10 am.

Our water heater wasn't working last night. It would start on gas but would shut off within a minute or two. Lucky I didn't burn it out! The problem was that I had bypassed the water heater as part of winterization but forgot to open it up again for our trip, so there was no water in the heater tank. 

There must be a good sensor in there that shut the burners off before they damaged the tank. In the morning I opened the valves to fill the tank, and all worked ok. In fact, since then the gas burner has started up better than before. 

$1.90 toll on a short section of I94 to I80. This is the first time we've cut across the bottom of the lake, and it worked well. It saved some distance when heading west. We expected to brush by Chicago and I guess we did, but really didn't see any city or any significant traffic today. It would have been tougher because of all the construction, but being Sunday AND Memorial Day weekend, no construction workers were present.

We did almost get sideswiped by an airplane on the highway! 

The U-haul truck shown here with the airplane fuselage in tow passed us. When he pulled back over in front of us I think he forgot about the trailer! It was a near miss, good thing our brakes work well.

Good lunch stop at a Dennie's from their seniors menu. 80F at 1pm CDT. The fields are getting bigger. We stopped and changed into shorts. A Walmart stop later too.

We had to try 3 times for a cg tonight. We think we found the sign for our first try, but there was no cg there (we think now we didn't go quite far enough out that road). We got back on I80 for a few miles, turned off to another cg, only to see a sign that they were closed. Back on I80 again, crossed the Mississippi into Iowa to a nice cg near Davenport.

Interstate RV Park is only ½ mile off I80, nicely treed and pretty quiet. It's a Good Sam park, so we signed up again, $12 for a “new” member. $34 included full hookups and WiFi, and a 1 yr Good Sam membership.