July 25th, 2018
Driving Interstate 84 From Portland to Baker City, OR
This was about 290 miles to the A-Frame RV Park. Pretty small park. We didn’t call ahead until on the road so the only pull through we could get was a water and electric site, halfway into the parking lot facing the propane tank. It was a long drive. We filled up at a large Travel America truck stop, next to a Love’s, just leaving Portland so we didn’t need a fuel stop. We must have stopped for lunch somewhere but I do not recall it. What I do recall was our only encounter with an officer of the law in four years of full-timing, other than border crossing folks. Everybody has to talk to them so they don’t count.
After I-84 turns away from the Columbia River, it heads east and slightly south toward Pendleton, OR. It might have been a good idea, on that 90° day, to stop at the Burger King or Denny’s, or Wal-Mart and watch the people, something long enough to let the engine cool off a while. Perhaps the Wildhorse Resort and Casino in Mission, a few miles further east, if that floats your boat, would have been interesting. But we plowed ahead and started climbing, and climbing, thinking we peaked, and kept climbing, until the engine temperature hit the red mark which causes an immediate upshift in gears and slowdown. Luckily, one of many pullouts was available at the same time so we pulled over and turned off the engine.
A few minutes later a very cool, black Dodge Charger pulled in behind us. I couldn’t see inside his tinted window to see if this was somebody with a gun or a tourist stopping for the view. Turned out to be a dude with a gun approaching us. A very dapper state patrol officer met me as I opened our door and politely asked if we were having trouble, wondering if we had overheated. Upon answering in the affirmative, “Yes. Hit the red zone, just cooling off for a while”, I asked how his day was going. “Trying to keep cool”. As he walked away I asked him to keep an eye on me. Then that very sleek looking Charger kicked up dust and took off. Love that car. I know cops drive a lot of Chargers but this one was completely stealthy. So watch it going up Deadman’s Pass.
It was about seven miles or so to the top of Deadman’s Pass. It was steeper going down, another bump near La Grande, and then a fairly straight run to Baker City. But let’s go back to I-84 on the Columbia River.
A lot of these are pretty similar. The supreme editor prohibits picture taking while driving but I figured a way to snap my eyelids and connect my brain to the camera. I took about thirty million shots. Here’s a few more.
Must be a windy area ahead.
There’s that Airstream again.
I think we’re getting to the end of the river view here.
Maybe this one’s out of sequence. Do you care?
And that’s it. Southeast on the straight, open road.
After the nasty climb up Deadman’s Pass, we spent the night in A-Frame RV Park in Baker City. The park name is obviously from the office building. It was good enough for an overnight stay.
Baker City, OR to Picabo, ID
On the road again. Another 264 miles to a gem of an RV park. We are taking a bit of a side trip to check out Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho. I first heard about this place when researching our big trip west in 1998 and it led me to watch the ridiculous Ted Danson movie, ‘Pontiac Moon’. The plot went something like this: his wife, Mary Steenburger, hadn’t left her house in seven years after losing an unborn child in a car accident. It’s the summer of 1969 and Ted decides he has to take his son on a trip to this park, which was called something else in the movie, and arrive the day of the moon landing. They are driving from a small town in California and Ted comes up with a route that will put just the right mileage on his 1949 Pontiac Superchief when it arrives at the park, to equal the distance to the moon. It gets complicated – Mary follows them, Ted has an accident, and the whole movie has long since gone off the rails. But I like road trip movies. I like road trips. No kidding.
Anyway, the choices for staying in an RV park near Craters of the Moon were slim. There is an RV park in the National Monument, but it has no hookups and we wanted electric, at a minimum. The other two that showed up in our searches were in Bellevue, at least ten miles out of our way north (and ten back), and in Arco, about twenty miles east, past the park. But then Google kept showing me Picabo Angler when I searched for RV parks in the area. I looked it up in RV Park Reviews and it was real, with good reviews, Andrea called up along the way and reserved a spot. It is thirty-two miles west of the park on US 20. Perfect.
I liked that farming pattern.
We finally arrived at check-in for the park, Picabo Angler convenience store and gas station, across the main road from the park. There must be some big fishing nearby – could the name of the place be a clue? Half the store was devoted to serious fishing equipment with big signs touting their guide service. The guy ahead of me on line was booking a trip.
Once registered for the RV park, we crossed the road and entered, passing a big sign for Picabo Angler and Silver Creek RV Park. Why don’t they add the RV park to their Google listing? Each site is a beautiful pull-thru with full hookups, just one row of about a dozen sites. Ours was a hundred twenty feet long. All sites have nicely manicured grass and face a large sheep and llama farm.
That’s us. The Cruise America RV on the right was carrying a family from Denmark across the US West. Very nice family. We spoke with them for a while.
Baaaaaaaah. White llama in the back.
And the black llama.
That’s us again.
The Park is right on the road to Craters of the Moon coming from the west. Beautiful setting and convenient. Highly recommended.
It’s thirty-two miles to Craters of the Moon. The plan is to get there by 11AM, park in the visitor center lot, detach the jeep, and check out the campground and the park to see if it’s worth staying overnight and exploring more deep into the day. I could tell by zooming in on Google maps that the parking lot had room for the 42′ Odyssey. I only use satellite mode. You gotta love Google maps if you’re an RVer. I use it all the time to see if we can fit in Wal-Mart lots and non-truckstop gas stations, and look for possible large pullouts for rest stops in the middle of nowhere.
The parking lot did have RV spaces but not many. In fact, we got the last one. First we went into the gift shop, one at a time as we brought Luna out to walk around. When Andrea went in, I sat down on a bench in the shade and tried to listen in on a ranger talk about twenty yards away. He was mostly out of my hearing range but I heard a few words about the origin of the park. At the end of his talk, this guy, in the green shirt,
raised his hand, loud enough so I could hear him speak, interjected that what was just presented is just a theory. He went on…Several scientists with PHD’s have formulated another theory that the world is only ~~~so many years old – I didn’t get the number but that’s when I started losing him. I got to wondering if he was armed. People that retarded – and, yes, shoot me for using that term – need to just shut up. Yeah, first amendment and all that but do not poison the minds of young children with total bullshit. When he was done proving to the group what an asshole he is, the ranger proceeded, “For the other 99 percent of us, let’s now take a look at some of the million year old samples in the exhibit.” Right on, young man.
The picture of the idiot, who kind of looks like Peyton Manning (sorry big boy), is out in the parking lot after he accosted a seminar attendee whom he thought might believe his lunacy. The guy kept trying to walk away while six-thousand-year-old-earth-theory-man keeps spouting off about several scientists with PHD’s can’t be ignored. But he can. The other guy walked away as shit-for-brains kept talking to himself. Should I ask a ranger to check him for weapons? As much as I loathe the stupidity of imbeciles like him, I also have concerns that they have gun rights and cults have been known to arm themselves.
What is wrong with these people? They make me lose my sense of acceptance. To each his own? When they are teaching impressionable children that science is wrong? Should we have truth police? Maybe all our national parks and monuments that protect eons old patches of earth which provide insight into the evolution (may I use that word?) of our planet, should have additional plaques and informational boards that state outright that any theory that places the age of the earth under four and a half billion years is false and we should speak up loudly to dispute absurd claims to the extreme contrary. And then provide the argument with evidence from the local environment of the park.
That guy both creeped me out and pissed me off. Count to ten…
Andrea came out of the gift shop – empty-handed? No. What are the chances of that? She got me a t-shirt! Yay! We detached the Jeep and took the seven mile loop drive. The entire park is just a moonscape of dried up black lava. It is not the result of a volcano, rather just a bubbling up of the stuff when the local plates were shifting and pushed the molten mess out of a few cracks in the surface.
First we drove through the campground and found it to be totally unwelcoming on a warm day, all sites sitting on the same black lava. Hot, hot, hot. No thanks. Knowing we were not going to stay, we knew we now had to expedite the tour.
Planet of the apes dude, no? Otherwise, eh.
That’s Andrea in the middle, red top, below the pink and green couple. The woman in green looked to be about ninety. She was draped head to toe in that thing. Looked like she was used to these kinds of hills.
We skipped a couple of other stops on the drive. One was the cave section but I was told by a ranger that they involve quite a bit of scrambling (that’s a term used in hiking for climbing over rocks, usually on hands and knees). Not in the cards with the way my stenosis has been acting up, or getting worse. It was all kind of like what it’s going to look like after Dumbo gets in a war with somebody:
The path that curved up and around, rather steeply at the top, led to a cone not all that interesting. The best I could come up with was the somewhat colorful inner wall.
On the road again. We drove through Arco, ID, whose welcome to Arco sign also includes the boast, “First Atomic Lighted City”. We wondered if the three-headed pan handler had also been so energized. About 20 miles east of Arco, the source of all that atomic energy can be found. We passed Idaho National Laboratory (INL) where everything you wanted to know about nuclear energy is known. Though you can’t miss the complex to our left – well, you can because I didn’t aim the camera that way – they seem to be playing it very cool in terms of road signs.
A few miles down the road we arced off US 26 to US 20. Had we stayed on 26, it would have led us to ATOMIC CITY! But we continued to the booming metropolis of Idaho Falls, home of many of the nuclear scientists working up the road. Next time someone says they are from Idaho Falls, give them some space if they have a glowing personality. And, there’s a good chance you’re talking to somebody much smarter than you.
About thirty miles east of the big city, the Snake River meets up with US 20 at the Clark Hill Rest Area. On hindsight, I wish we had stopped there. I immediately saw large nests and bald eagles on telephone poles. No looking through binoculars to identify them. These were the real thing – three on one pole! I started slowing down each time I spotted an abnormality on a pole in the distance. Lots of nests, more eagles. A bit further down the road I slowed enough to stare an owl down. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture.
We finally arrived at Palisades RV Park, another we had called while on the road and another where we got the last site. Not exactly a site. It was in the “overflow” area. It was ok for overnight and though the lady was overly nice and accommodating, she still charged us full price, $45. For that, despite her being so nice, I’d recommend staying at one of the other RV parks. I don’t get mad (well, sometimes), I get even.
We got to the river just as the evening mosquito hatch was in full swing. We were breathing them in as we nearly ran back to the campsite. Perhaps the location is not the most ideal. No eagles to be seen either. We hid inside the rest of the night. Mosquitos suck!
Happy Birthday to me. For this birthday, same as the year I graduated high school, and for those who are guessing, MLK and RFK were killed that year, I treated myself to a somewhat scenic route and a night at The Longhorn Ranch Lodge and RV Park, right on the Wind River. Did you see the movie? The setting, though in winter, would have been fairly close to the Longhorn, but on, perhaps, the Shoshone or Wind River Reservation. However, like a lot of westerns, it wasn’t shot there. Rather, it was filmed mostly in Park City, Utah. The snow is real though. (We haven’t seen it yet. I looked it up. We’ll wait for it on HBO.)
Anyway, the route I selected to get us home in two stops from Palisades RV Park has us going a bit further on US 20 until it intersects with US 89. We take 89 to US 191, but instead of going south on 191 toward the ever-popular Rock Springs, WY on I-80, a shorter route, we head north toward Moran, passing through Jackson and Grand Teton National Park. At Moran, head southeast on US 26 again to Dubois. One night in Dubois, one in Rawlins, and then high tail it back to Colorado Heights in Monument. You ever wonder where that expression, “high tail it” comes from? Well, if you know, good for you. For others, look it up, keep wondering, or remain oblivious.
Sorry. That’s all I got. You can see the dam beyond. But the main reason we stopped was because we had a FaceTime call coming in from Bree and Patrick and the cutest grandkids on the planet. Reception was so-so, cutting the call short. Osprey swooped around from the cliffs to our left. More Bald Eagles nested on telephone poles. Worth a stop, call or not.
Alpine, Idaho. Who ever heard of that? If you go back to a post about The Fountain of Youth RV Park on the Salton Sea in California, you’ll recall that I thought it was THE depository for witness protection folks. Having travelled through 98% of the states (sorry, North Dakota, still no reason to visit though you are probably number one on the list), the Secret Service can drop Rick Gates off just about anywhere and he can get lost in the system immediately. Now, if I had a choice, after I release the Pee-Pee tapes, I’d start a new life in San Diego. It’s all about climate.
We had lunch there, one of our few, truly beautiful lunch stops. Come on, I know you’ve got lunch stop envy. We listened to rafting groups go by as we had PBJs.
A few miles south of Jackson, a major highway renovation project on US 89 provided me with my first birthday present. The road is in terrible shape. The speed limit drops to 45 but it should be about 20. The vibration on that shitty road was so bad, I got present number 1 – the compressor for the front end air conditioner/heater stopped working. WTF? Did a wire get jolted off? I don’t know. It’s on my to-do list.
Navigating Jackson is fun, at 42′. Streets are tight, but they get out of your way. What a tourist shit-show! If you’re going to visit the Tetons and you hate crowds, avoid Jackson. Book a year in advance and stay in the park or anyplace away from Jackson. But that’s just me. I want the money in my pocket to stay there.
If you haven’t been, the Tetons and Yellowstone should be on your bucket list. Book one or two of the lodges at least a year in advance. You can fly into Jackson but look into Bozeman also. Yellowstone is huge, like bigger than Rhode Island, so don’t expect to see it all in three days. If you’ve got some adventure in your bones, and more days, rent an RV in Denver and take the route up 26 to Moran.
Speaking of, at Moran, we head southeast on US 26. Some of that drive is mind blowing. The mountains to the northeast are spectacular. When the road finally straightened out and the speed limit allowed us to get moving, I received birthday gift number two, WHAM! A rock smacked the windshield, passenger side and up pretty high. Scared the shit out of both of us and created a spider crack about two inches in diameter. Calming down, we proceeded to the Longhorn RV park.
Nice place. Spacious sites, some back-in sites right on the Wind River. Negative – some family reunion was going on so there was no peace.
Before calling it a day, Andrea came in and asked why water was flowing out of our outside electric compartment. DOH!
That L-joint is part of the moving rack of wires and plumbing from the bedroom to the rear bathroom. One of the brackets in the immovable section broke and the L-joint started moving too much. That olive-green thing is a bowl. I didn’t uncover all this until we got back. In the meantime, the solution was to turn the water off and open a couple of faucets to relieve the pressure. Turn the internal pump on when necessary – “ok, I need to flush now.” Only one more night to go.
Dubois to Western Hills Campground, Rawlins, WY
This is a 198 mile drive. The scenery is what you might think of in a western movie but perhaps a bit more rolling hills. In my mind it is quite beautiful. Sorry, I failed to take a picture. About 40 miles down the road on US 26, you have to bear right onto US 287 toward Lander. It was another 70 miles or so to our rest stop, named Sweetwater Station. Have you seen ‘Once Upon a Time In The West’? One of my favorite movies of all time, set in Kansas as the railroads moved west, filmed in Spain and Monument Valley, starring Henry Fonda as the villain, Charles Bronson, the vengeful hero, Jason Robards, the likeable bandit, and Claudia Cardinale as the love interest. The first scene (Google “Once Upon a Time In The West Opening Scene”) lasts about fifteen minutes and includes two old time western actors, Jack Elam and Woody Strode (first African American professional football player, turned actor), and one of the great exchanges in a western. Elam, Strode, and another toothless bad guy, with their three horses, approach Bronson who just got off a train.
Bronson: “And Frank?” (Referring to Fonda)
Elam: “Frank sent us.”
Bronson: “Which one’s my horse?”
Elam: “Well…looks like we’re… (turns around and smiles at his buddies)..looks like we’re shy one horse.”
Bronson: (shakes his head) “You brought two too many.”
The bad guys get a look of terror in their faces and then all hell breaks loose. Watch it on you-tube. Oh, the movie’s all about the future train stop, Sweetwater.
Rawlins is a truck-stop/oil refinery town along I-80. The campground is a little bit west of the US 287 intersection but it is great for an overnighter. The lady running the place is really nice. The RV park is nothing more than a gravel parking lot with a variety of hookup combinations, mostly pull throughs. All we needed was electric but got a full because of our length (with the jeep).
Last leg, 279 miles. This is a long one for us. Avoiding the construction mess in Cheyenne, we take US 267 south at Laramie. That takes us through Fort Collins, a tight drive through the college town, and eventually to I-25 south. At 200 miles, outside Longmont, we rest and I finally get what I’ve been craving for days – two McDonald’s cheeseburgers (no mustard, please – New Yorkers don’t put mustard on hamburgers – and I prefer to pull the pickles out and eat them separately. Shoot me.)
On the road again. Just have to negotiate Denver traffic. One moment of indecision – the RV GPS, loaded with our weight, width and height, wants to route me around the city on 225. The warning message is 11′ bridge! What? I’ve driven this a hundred times. Keep following the other trucks. A mile or so before we get to the football stadium, signs indicate that trucks should stay in the middle lanes. Oh yeah! A couple of overpasses by the stadium are arced and very low at the far left and right. Been awhile. No problem.
Finally. Back at Colorado Heights Camping and RV Resort. Our second favorite site, C29, is available. However, the owner jacked up electric rates to $8 a day. This would be a nice park if it wasn’t right on Monument Hill near the top, elevation 7,343′. Northbound traffic is flooring it. Trucks roar. Southbound, trucks use engine braking which is also very loud. The noise is incessant. Some say they get used to it. White noise. At night, when you go out and look at the stars, it’s always there. This past weekend (Aug 11-12-13) was the peak of the Perseids. We went out the first two nights. Saw at least 10, a couple of real long ones, accompanied by the drone of never ending traffic. That’s no way to look at the stars.
Anyway, that’s it for travels this summer. We’re here to see the kids as much as possible. And get some repairs done on Odyssey. By the way, I replaced the L-joint but had to buy a $45 crimping tool for the job. I hate plumbing problems.
Have a good rest of the summer. If we take any good day trips, I’ll be in touch. Otherwise, looks like Gold Canyon, AZ will be the next destination in October.
If anyone has a question about any of the places we’ve visited, or you’d like to discuss politics, religion, or the meaning of life, email me at email@example.com.
One more thing – Dr Ford, the shot was not effective.