Friday, June 28, 2013

2013 Western Trip Summary - Day 34

Honey, I'm Home!!!!  My five week journey has come to an end.  I was on the road for 34 days, traveled thru 15 different states, and logged almost 6,600 miles.  I had a very good time.  I saw some great aspects of this country that I had never experienced.  I got to travel at my own pace, stop when I wanted, and change my route and itinerary as needed.  But it sure feels good to be HOME!

My trip is all chronicled in the previous blog entries so I won’t attempt to repeat or summarize.  But I will outline some observations and high points.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Waukee, IA - Day 30

At Kearney, the land was flat and mostly under cultivation in corn.  I can see where the University of Nebraska football team, The Cornhuskers, get their name.  I stayed overnight at the Fort Kearny State Recreation Park. It was a nice state park campground with 6 small ponds for fishing.  Next to the campground was Historic Fort Kearny.   The fort is all but gone, but there is a small museum and one building left from the 1848 fort.  The fort was built to protect the travelers on the Oregon and Mormon trails, which followed the Platte River west.  Once the railroad was built in 1869, the fort’s importance was diminished and by 1871 is was abandoned.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sandhills Nebraska - Day 27 and 28

I left the Black Hills and proceeded south to the western panhandle of Nebraska.  Before I left South Dakota, I stopped in Hot Springs to see the Mammoth Site.  In 1980’s, a developer who was putting in a housing project unearthed some large bones.  He got some scientists involved and determined they were mammoth skeleton bones.  They proceeded to do an archaeological dig and discovered numerous mammoth skeletons. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Custer City, SD - Day 25 and 26

I left Sheridan and continued my eastward trek to the Black Hills of South Dakota.  I enjoyed Wyoming and now it was time to see some new terrain.  I stopped in Deadwood to check it out and see what it had to offer.  Deadwood was established 1876 once the US government had taken the Black Hills away from the Sioux.  Deadwood sits in a gulch and was the center of the Black Hills gold rush craze which began in the 1870’s.  It was a rough and rowdy mining town with lots of saloons, opium dens, and brothels.  Wild Bill Hickok was killed there after being in town for less than 3 months. Once the gold rush was over, it focused on general mining but suffered a steady decline.  The brothels were finally shut down in 1980 and gaming was tried in the late 80's as a way to revitalize the area. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Custer Battlefield National Monument - Day 23

I left Cody and drove west across the Big Horn Basin.  Its 47miles of nothing but rolling scrub land interrupted by gullies that sits between the Abrasoka Range and the Big Horn Mountain Range.  I saw some prong horns along the way but that was about it. I stopped at a historic maker for the Bridger Trail.  Jim Bridger led wagon trains north to Montana in the 1864 time frame.  He took the route through the Big Horn Basin as an alternative to the  more easterly Bozeman Trail.  His trail wasn’t used that much due to lack of reliable water.  But today, almost 150 yrs later, you can still see the ruts left by the wagon wheels.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Cody, WY - Day 20 and 21

I left Yellowstone  looking forward to getting back to some civilization.  I went out the northeast entrance and planned to take a northerly route over the Beartooth Scenic Byway to Red Lodge, Montana and then turn south back to Cody.  The Beartooth Byway tops out at a little over 10,000 ft.  The northern section to Red Lodge had just opened.  I started out climbing up to Beartooth Lake.  It was a beautiful sunny day.  There were some ups and downs and I noticed my antilock mechanism on my front brakes was kicking in every so often around the corners.  I‘m not sure if there was some gravel in the road or if my brake pad were glazing from over heating.  But with more climbing to go and more downhills, I decided to turn back and take the easier route into Cody over the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Yellowstone National Park - Day 18 and 19

The only advance reservations I made for this trip were at Moraine Park in Rocky Mountain National Park and at Canyon Village in Yellowstone.  It was a good move.  Canyon Village is central to the park and is one of five campgrounds (there are 12 in the park) that offers full services like flush toilets, laundry, showers, and a dump station.  It has no hookups but does allows generators.  The campground had only been opened for 10 days and it was full each day that I was there!  The sites are set out in loops and are fairly close together.  The largest RV they can accommodate is about a 30 footer. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Yellowstone National Park - Day 16 and 17

The next stop of the Rocky Mountain Ramble was Yellowstone National Park.  Driving north from Grand Teton, its a short 20 miles up the road.  I came in at the southern entrance and for the next 22 miles there is not a lot.  The scenery is pristine coniferous forest with streams and ponds.  It reminded me of northern NH and northwestern ME.  I turned west at the West Thumb junction and did the Old Faithful to Madison loop.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Grand Teton National Park - Day 14 and 15

The jagged Teton Range sprang up abruptly on the horizon.  Very different from the Rocky's in Colorado.  I'll let the pictures do the talking.  The mountains dominate the landscape.

I stayed at Colter Bay Village Campground (not the RV park) in the National Park.  I can say I was very disappointed in the campground.  Especially since its in the National Park.  Sites were just pull-offs on the side of loop roads.  The bathrooms looked (and smelled) like they hadn't been cleaned in weeks.  It costs $21 per night and you have to pay for showers ($3.75).  The truck stops I've stayed at along the way were nicer.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Laramie and Lander Wyoming - Day 12 and 13

I said goodbye to Colorado and made my way north to Wyoming.  Rocky Mountain National Park had been spectacular and now it was time to more on.  Wyoming gave me a new landscape to marvel at.  It has pateau's, mesa’s, and canyons.

You see large jagged mountain ridges and sharp peaked mountains.  It has lots of wide open vista’s with little sign of development.  The terrain is rugged and rocky with scrub and sagebrush.  The terrain strata goes from green rolling hills, pale sandstones, jagged red rock cliffs and white capped mountains.  Livestock dots the landscape.  Ranching is a key occupation.  You don’t see any farms or cultivated land.  Its too rocky and the growing season is short.  It’s still at a pretty high elevation of 7,200 ft

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Rocky Mountain National Park - Trail Ridge Road

I drove the Trail Ridge Road today.  Its the highest road in the US at over 12,000 ft.  I did the first 20 miles to the Alpine Visitor Center and then retraced my route.  All I can say is that it is spectacular.  I happened to have a good day on which the road was opened (it gets closed for any bad weather, which happens a lot). Temps were low 50's at the high elevations and 70's down at 8,100 ft.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Rocky Mountain National Park - Day 7 and 8

I made it across the high plains and the Rocky’s appeared on the horizon the morning of Day 7.  From 30 miles away, purple mountains majesty rose above the fruited plain.  As I got closer, they just got more spectacular.  I had an extra day before I could check into RMNP, so I decided to take a easy day checking out the Sheplers store in Denver, re-supplying some food, and washing the van.  My overnight stay was the parking lot at Sam’s Club in Loveland, CO. said it was ok as did the manager when I checked with the store.  Another freebie boon dock that was nice and quiet.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Abilene, KS - Day 5 and 6

I left Independence a day early due to a another bad weather forecast (more tornado, hail, and severe thunderstorm watches) and I had seen everything I came for.  When I left it was pouring.  There were blinding downpours all the way to Topeka.  It was pretty bad.  I heard that 3-4 inches of rain fell and there was some flash flooding along some creeks and rivers.