Friday, October 19, 2012

Hello from Lexington, NE

Hello from Lexington, NE

Friday evening   October 19, 2012   (Sixth travelogue of this trip).

We got a late start today.  It was really cold and windy.  Of course, it was mostly a head wind out of the north west.  Given the conditions, we resigned ourselves to taking three days to get home.  However, the weather cleared up a bit and we were able to travel a bit over 300 miles.

We are at the Wal Mart in Lexington, NE (map).  We are a bit short of half way, but we should be able to get an earlier start tomorrow and get home on Saturday, as planned.

In an earlier blog, I had mentioned our amazing fortune of finding the Dickison Cemetery (a bit north and east of Nevada, MO).  As I noted, the cemetery is on private property.  With permission, we traveled across a farm field and found the somewhat overgrown cemetery.  We quickly found Pat's grandfather's grandparent's marker (in good condition, considering the stone was over 142 years old).  Below is a picture of the cemetery.

Dickison Cemetery

I also mentioned the wonderful color in Iowa.  Shown below is a tree at Bill and Jeanne's house.  Shortly after the picture was taken, the storms moved in and the tree lost most of the leaves.

Beautiful Tree In Prescott, IA

That is all for now.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Hello from Prescott, IA

Hello from Prescott, IA

Thursday evening   October 18, 2012   (Fifth travelogue of this trip).

Our trip to Prescott was pretty mundane. It was about 250 miles – a drive that we have made several times.

Since we arrived here, we have been on the go most of the time.  Pat has many relatives here and it is always fun to get to see them.  On Sunday we went to the auction at her Uncle's auction facility.  Their whole family participates in the auction and it is always a fun event with a huge variety of items.  This time they even sold two semi-trailers.

We always stay with Bill and Jeanne at their farm.  It is so relaxing and friendly.  Bill has been able to get most of the harvesting done.  In spite of the terrible predictions of the harvest due to the severe drought, Bill has had some fields that had reasonable yield.  To be sure, the crop was damaged, but at least it was not a total loss.

The weather here has been pretty cool and rainy.  At our location, we got over 2 inches in a two day period (nice, slow rain), plus several periods of short storms.  In Branson the weather was a bit better, but there was still very cool nights and some rain.  We had packed mostly warm weather clothes and both of us have had to layer to stay warm.  As I write this, it is in the low 40s with 30 MPH winds and a drizzle – bone chilling cold!

The trees in Missouri were just starting to turn, but here in Iowa, the colors are beautiful.  I will include a photo in the next blog.

Tomorrow we start home.  We take two days to make the trip – about 650 miles.

That is all for now.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Hello from Nevada, MO

Hello from Nevada, MO

Friday morning   October 12, 2012   (Fourth travelogue of this trip).

Our trip here was fairly short – about 150 miles.  Part of the trip was on Missouri 96 which overlays part of the route 66 highway.  We saw several old buildings that were obviously support businesses for the historic route.

Wednesday, I went to an great IHC museum about 5 miles from here.  It is a private collection, but Dan Agee enthusiastically showed me his vast collection of everything IHC including a catalog of all the products they sold many years ago.

When I returned to the bus, we decided to visit a cemetery here in Nevada.  We found the gravestone of Pat's great uncle and his family.

Yesterday, we drove over 200 miles visiting several cemeteries where Pat's ancestors were buried.  The most amazing “find” was the Dickison Cemetery where Pat's grandfather's grandparents were buried.  In preparation for the trip we tried several searches to try to locate the cemetery.  We finally ended up at the Bates county seat (Butler).  Several ladies were very helpful and one found a very old county plat map which showed the cemetery.  We drove out to the area, but could not find it.  We stopped at a farm house and the lady was very helpful.  It should be noted that she has lived in the area 20 years and did not know about the cemetery, in spite of the fact she lived less than a mile from the lo.  She made a couple of calls and found that the location was on private property owned by a 94 year old lady.  Babe Morris gave us permission to drive out in the field and tour the cemetery.  It was very small.  We quickly found the gravestone.  We were absolutely blown away that we found the grave site! 

Now for another amazing story.  We are parked at the Wal Mart in Nevada (map).  In the mid west, Wal Mart has gasoline stations.  Indeed, there is one about 100 feet from our bus.  At the rally, several folks mentioned that Wal Mart fuel prices were lower than any other stations and if you buy a gift card, for the amount of fuel you think you need, you get an additional 10 cents off.  The stations are generally intended for “normal” vehicles and vehicles our size are very difficult to maneuver into and out of the station.  In the early evening I scoped out the situation and developed a plan to get the bus in and out pretty easily.  We waited for the traffic to slow down, unhooked the dolly (car was already off the dolly), and made a run for it.  Now for the amazing part, the posted price was $3.89, while every other station we saw was at least $4.19.  So we got over 90 gallons at $3.79 and that was a savings of at least $.40 per gallon!  But wait, the story gets better!  We looked out the windshield the next morning and noticed that Wal Mart had raised the diesel price to $4.09 over night!  We never get in on that kind of bargain!!!

We had not planned to spend two nights in Nevada, but we decided to take advantage of the opportunity to visit several historical cemeteries.  In a few minutes we will head to Prescott, IA

That is all for now.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Hello from Branson, MO (part two)

Hello from Branson, MO (part two)

Tuesday evening   October 9, 2012   (Third travelogue of this trip).

As noted last time, our Eagle Rally is in Branson.  To be specific, we are in the Branson Lakeside RV Park (map).  We have an Eagle rally at this location every two years.  This rally was extended to seven days this time and that has been great.  It gives us time to relax, and time to do tourist things.

As you could probably tell, the last post was a bit rushed.  I wanted to get some details documented, but we were rushing out the door to see the Gatlin Brothers.  We got half price tickets and the show was good. 

One of the details that I left out of the last post was a mention of the great catered barbeque dinner we had Wednesday evening.  It was a great way to start the rally.

Friday the men went to Springfield to tour a diesel engine rebuilding facility, have lunch in a very unique diner (Caspers), shopped around at the Grizzly tool store (fabulous) and then went to Byron Pigg's wonderful shop that has all kinds of bus memorabilia and projects.  The women went to a tea room in Ozark.  Some of the ladies then went to do some shopping at an antique mall.  That evening we had a hamburger cookout.  Just a quick note on Caspers.  It is a small quonset hut building that serves great greasy hamburgers and bowls of chili.

Saturday evening we went to a wonderful dinner at the College of the Ozarks.  The school is very unique.  The student pay their way through school by working.  They have a huge dining room that serves wonderful gourmet food.  The meal is prepared and served by the students.

Sunday we had our potluck dinner – always a great feast!

During the days, we relaxed, talked buses and went to restaurants.  I led a couple of roundtables and Pat had a stamping class.

There are 31 coaches at the rally – 26 were Eagles.  The coaches came from 18 states.  As usual, there were some really fabulous Eagles that just make your mouth water.  Given the cost of fuel (over $4 per gallon), that is a great turnout

The weather has not been too bad.  We had a couple of days of rain, but it did not dampen the fun.  It has been quite cool at night.  At least one night got down to 32 degrees!  Fortunately, we are cozy in our bus.

Now, for the highlight of the trip so far:  last night we went to see Mickey Gilley.  It was a wonderful show!!!  He had a terrible fall in 2009 and was paralyzed.   He has recovered quite a bit of his mobility.  His voice remains strong, but his hands are quite deformed and he is no longer able to play the piano.   He puts on a very unique show.  He is talks about his career with lots of humor intermixed with wonderful singing.  He has to do part of the show in a chair, but you really don't notice it.  We had seats in the fourth row (center) and could see his wonderful expressions.  He seems to really enjoy entertaining the audience.  He made sure that he sang all of his 17 number one hits. 

The Mickey Gilley Show

Tomorrow we will say goodby to the group and head to Nevada, MO for some genealogy activity and I will get to see what is supposed to be a wonderful IHC truck collection.

That is all for now.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Hello from Branson, MO

Hello from Branson, MO

Thursday afternoon   October 4, 2012   (Second travelogue of this trip).

Monday we drove a  bit under 400 miles and stayed at a Wal Mart in Iola, KS  Our route took us to Salina, KS and then south on I 135 to just north of Wichita where we turned east and took US 54.  US 54 is a nice road and took us through some rolling hills and great farm land.  In spite of the drought this year, the grass and hay was green.  We could see that the crops had suffered.

On the drive, we hit several small rain storms.  Not a lot of rain – just enough to mess up the bus and car.

Our drive from Iola took us through the towns of Nevada and El Dorado Springs, MO.  Those towns are significant in that they are locations where some of Pat's relatives (several generations removed) are buried.  We will return to the area after the rally and before we head to Iowa.

Tuesday, we arrived in Branson in the early afternoon.  I gave the bus and car a quick wash and we got settled in.  The rally started yesterday and will go for seven days.

That is all of now

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Hello from Colby, KS

Hello from Colby, KS

Sunday evening   September 30, 2012   (First travelogue of this trip).

We are on our last trip of the year in the bus.  We are headed to Branson, MO for the Eagle Bus Rally and then to Iowa to hang out with the relatives.

We really had to scramble to get ready for this trip.  I had quite a few things going on this week, we had a few family things and then Pat went to the Women of Faith event (her birthday gift from the girls).  In addition, Pat had quite a bit of Stampin'Up! things going on.  I had some bus projects that needed to get done.  As a result, we did quite a bit of last minute packing of the bus – something we try to avoid on departure day.  That said, we were able to leave about 11:00 AM and drove a bit over 250 miles.  We needed to get settled in so that we can watch the races tonight.

We are at the Wal Mart in Colby, KS (map).

We are getting pretty good mileage on the bus.  Right now, I show over 10 MPG on this trip.  That is a bit optimistic as I need to put a fuel correction in the computer, but it is well over 9 MPG actual.  We are pulling a much lighter vehicle (PT Cruiser on a tow dolly vs our service truck that weighed over 9K pounds).  The weather on our route was great and we did not need to run the air conditioner and that helps.  Plus, I have slowed down from 68 to 66 MPH.  That does not sound like much, but it can have a significant impact since the wind drag on our big barn door is a square function of the speed.

That is all for now.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Hello from Chugwater, WY

Hello from Chugwater, WY

Sunday Evening   September 16, 2012   (Second travelogue of this trip).

We are back in Chugwater, WY (map).  We left Gillette this morning and made the short trip down here today.  It turns out that Chugwater is about half way between Gillette and Evergreen and is a nice stop as we have mentioned in other blogs.  Tonight we made it in time to have Chugwater Chili at the fun little store on main street.  When we came through last Sunday, they closed before we got to the store.

The rally was interesting.  I did not get my inventory until the second day of the rally and then it was not all that extensive.  Indeed, we missed two $1295 sales because we did not have the product.  The rally itself was pretty small. We were told that it was about 360 coaches.  The other problem is that several vendors skipped this rally in favor of a rally in Missouri.  We heard that some attendees left early. 

We were pretty busy in the booth.  Folks like to talk about the product and had good questions.  My seminar went well and Pat's went very well.  She got several great compliments and the ladies seemed to have a very good time.  She got a couple of nice orders and that is always a plus.

This is our booth at Gillette

Gillette is an interesting place.  They have a huge amount natural resources (oil, natural gas, and coal).  We are told that the economy for the area is very good.  Just across from where we parked, there was a great display of mining equipment that included a drag bucket that was as tall as the bus and an ore truck that was much bigger than the bus.  I would have liked to spend more time, but we needed to leave the facilities by noon (we left closer to 1:00, but they did not call the cops {grin}).

It will be interesting to see if SilverLeaf will ask us to do other rallies.  We hope so as it is fun to do a rally where you don't have to worry about paying the bills.

That is all for now.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Hello from Gillette, WY

Hello from Gillette, WY

Tuesday Evening   September 11, 2012   (First travelogue of this trip).

We are at the Cam-Plex multi-event facility (map) attending an FMCA area rally, representing SilverLeaf electronics (   When we were doing trade shows, we often represented SilverLeaf by purchasing a double booth as shows where they did not attend.   Over the years we got to know the owner of the company very well.  He is a genius at developing electronic equipment for the RV industry and is a wonderful person to work with. 

In the past, we paid the cost of the booth.  After we closed the business, Martin and I talked about our continuing to represent his company.  We reached an agreement where SilverLeaf would pay our costs and offered a commission on sales over an agreed upon amount.  We probably will not get the income, but we have the benefit of attending a trade show where we don't have to worry about how to pay the bills.

We have always enjoyed being vendors at trade shows.  It is fun to interact with the attendees.  You also develop a strong friendship with many of the vendors.  Even though this is a small rally, we have at least one vendor that we are glad to see.

The Cam-Plex is a great facility.  Indeed, the International FMCA rally will be held here next year.  A rally of that size demands top notch facilities.  We did a Fleetwood rally here a couple of years ago and noted then how wonderful the facilities were.

At this rally, I will do a SilverLeaf seminar and Pat will do a rubber stamped greeting card seminar.

The trip here is a bit under 400 miles.  While we could drive that in a day, we try to keep the driving to a more pleasurable number.  As has been the case in the past we stopped in Chugwater, WY.  We have talked about this little town in previous blogs.  Years ago when we belonged to a membership ranch, the ranch outside of Wheatland, WY,  they would pick us up in an Eagle bus (a model perhaps 15 years older than ours) and we would stop in Chugwater to pick up meat for the meals.  There was a great meat market there at the time.  Today Chugwater is a mere shadow of the town we used to know.  It is still fun to park on Main Street and see all the old buildings.  Most are no longer used, but there is something about this little town that makes us feel comfortable. 

That is all for now.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Hello from Pueblo, CO

Hello from Pueblo, CO

Monday morning   September 3, 2012   (First travelogue of this trip).

We wrote a blog about being here on June 4, 2012.  As I noted then, I have been a volunteer corner worker at vintage car races sponsored by RMVR (Rocky Mountain Vintage Racing).  Their website: .

We arrived at the track  Friday afternoon and parked in the same location we did in June - close to the dragstrip return road (map).  If you zoom in on the map, you can see the dragstrip and road race course.  They again had a Friday night drag races.  The drag racing event this time seemed to be much smaller and did not have the great cars that were here in June.  Still, I got to do some cruising of the pit on my bicycle.

I was so proud of myself bringing the bicycle on this weekend trip (did not bring a toad).  It allowed me to get a bit exercise and cruise the pits.  The other benefit was a way of getting to my station.  The track is pretty spread out and it is a long way to most of the corners.  Well, I rode the bike to my station in corner 6 thinking I was pretty smart.  However, as soon as I got on the bike to go to lunch, I found that the rear tire was flat.  Pueblo has a terrible problem with what I found to be “goathead thorns” (information here).  As I researched what the thorns were, I ran into several sites that talked about these thorns causing bicycle flats.  Supposedly I have torn proof tubes, but I guess they don't have a chance against these suckers.  To make matters worse, we tracked some into the bus and they really hurt when you step on them!!!  They even draw blood!!!

Saturday and Sunday I worked on corner 6. Compared to where I worked last time (corner 9) it had much less activity.   Like last time, we did have a car drop a bunch of oil on the track starting at our corner and going into corner 7.  The drivers seemed to heed the debris flag this time and did not have a problem.  We put some oil dry down between races and that took care of the problem.

As I said last time, being a corner worker is a mixed bag.  You are right on the track and get to observe some neat racing, but you are on your feet eight hours a day.  I used my scanner, with headphones, to monitor the control frequency, so I was quite informed about the race and the "inside" information.   Both Saturday and Sunday were hot (95 and 91 degrees).  They really treat the volunteer workers very well.  We wear all white and the racers go out of their way to thank us.   We get to go to the head of the line for a free lunch, and the special Saturday night barbeque.  AND they have a great selection of craft type beer!!!!

Pat likes to come down here.  Not so much for the races, but for the ability to “hide out” and get a lot of Stampin work done.  She has several activities over the next few weeks and this gave her the opportunity to put a big dent in the preparation work.

As we did last time, Sunday night we made the short (500 yard) trip out to the security area and spent the night on a nice flat dirt area overlooking Pueblo.  Awfully dry down here, but still pretty in a strange way.

That is all for now.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

We are very proud!!

Evergreen, CO

Sunday afternoon  August 5, 2012

We are very proud!!

Some of you have followed our daughter Kelly's cancer diagnosis.  She was diagnosed with breast cancer on  March 11, 2011 at the age of 42.  She had a double mastectomy on May 6, 2011.  We documented “The Journey” in several posts on this blog starting here.

Our family watched in horror as we saw how devastating this surgery is.  We witnessed the terrible pain from the original surgery (as well as two subsequent surgeries) and the inability to perform even the most basic functions with her arms (huge muscle damage) including holding her daughters.  We were amazed at her very positive attitude and how diligently she performed her rehabilitation. 

A few months ago she set a goal of completing a triathlon.  Not just any triathlon, but the “Tri for the Cure” which raises funds for breast cancer research  (information here)

Well today, a day short of her 15 month surgery anniversary, she completed the event in 1:54:45.  Her goal was two hours and she beat that!  She participated in the “survivors” wave and folks were so enthusiastic for this group.  When she crossed the line (photo), there was not a dry eye in our group!!!

There were 1971 finishers and her time was just about the middle of those finishers. This is a huge accomplishment, considering that she has never entered a triathlon.  As is the case with everything she does, she put a huge amount of effort (both mental and physical) into her training.  This is even more amazing when you consider that, while her recovery has gone well, she still is not a 100%. 

We are so very glad that her recovery is almost complete and that her husband and daughters have been so supportive.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Hello from Craig, CO

Hello from Craig, CO

Sunday evening:   July 22, 2012   (third travelogue of this trip).

We are at the Hampton Inn in Craig (map).  We stayed here last year on our way out to Salt Lake City.  It is a great place and we have been impressed with Hampton Inns in general. 

Our trip today started with the climb out of Salt Lake on I-80 to Park City and then on US-40 through Utah into Colorado.  Even though we have taken this route several times, we enjoy the varied scenery and the small towns.  The road itself is in good condition and fairly easy to drive. 

Last night was very special.  Lynn, one of Pat's downline, obtained tickets to a special presentation of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  The special guest performer was Katherine Jenkins.  She has an unbelievable voice (described as mezzo-soprano) and is also known for her great performance on Dancing With The Stars.  Our seats were perhaps 20 rows back and almost in the center of the stage.

The concert was held in the Mormon Conference Center.  The auditorium is indescribable.  The stage is huge and it seats 21,000 people (most of the seats were filled).  It is reported to be the largest theater style auditorium ever built (reference).  The photo below was taken from a newspaper review of the first night's concert (here)You can see the huge array of pipes for the pipe organ, the choir and the vast number of members of the orchestra.  The acoustics of the auditorium are fantastic.  Without question, the performance was amazing.

Tomorrow we will continue our drive on US-40 to Empire where we will intersect with I-70 and then home.  It is a bit less than 200 miles.

That is all for this trip.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Hello from Salt Lake City, UT

Hello from Salt Lake City, UT

Saturday evening:   July 21, 2012   (second travelogue of this trip).

We are at the Marriott at City Creek (map).  This is my third stay here with Pat and she has stayed here several other times for the Stampin' Up! convention.  The other two times I was here, we had corner rooms and that was great since they were constructing the City Creek shopping mall.  This time we have a room facing north which overlooks Temple Square and some of City Creek.

City Creek is essentially complete.  It is an amazing place.  It spans almost three city blocks and has two areas where the roof can be retracted when the weather permits.  There are two anchor stores; Nordstrom and Macy's.  Most of the retail spaces are leased and the stores are generally upscale establishments.  Even during the week the stores are pretty crowded and folks are carrying lots of shopping bags.  The food court has many unique restaurants and it is crowded as well.

Pat has been going non-stop since the convention started on Wednesday.  This is the last day and it is probably just as well, as she is half dead {grin}.  The attendance is about the same as last year: 3400.  That is about half of the attendance from a few years ago, but the enthusiasm of the demonstrators is still very high.  One of the major activities of the conventions is what they call “swapping”.  Most of the demonstrators make a large number of cards that they swap with other folks (to get ideas).  I attended a swapping session on a ship and it was like a feeding frenzy at the zoo {big grin}.   At conventions it is much lower key.  I have attached a photo of Pat swapping with lady that she sees at every event.  Pat had been working on her swaps, but got behind.  So we spent Tuesday night working together to get her swaps ready.  She ended up with about 150 swaps.

Pat and BJ swapping cards

Thursday was my seventieth birthday.  I knew that Pat would be tied up, so I made arrangements to visit a good friend and fellow bus nut.  Kent and I have been good friends for several years and he has helped me obtain some major parts for the bus.  Kent has been fighting a significant bout with cancer.  I was glad to see that he is doing OK thanks to some very advanced medication. 

We took his 1957 Crown bus on a little ride and it was really fun.  He bought the bus in 1981 and has done some major and amazing work on the bus.  He converted from a mid-engine configuration to a modern engine in a fabricated rear engine compartment.

It is always fun to visit Kent and it was great to share my birthday with him.  I have included a photo of Kent and I in front of his bus.

Kent and I in front of his '57 Crown

Last night we went to the Cheesecake Factory for dinner.  It is located in the City Creek complex.  The waiting time was over 45 minutes, but the food was great.  We shared a dinner and a piece of fabulous cheesecake and it was just the right amount of food.  While we waited outside, we had great people watching.  In addition, we watched some neat cars pull up the the valet parking stand including a very stealthy Ferrari.

That is all for now.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Hello from Green River, UT

Hello from Green River, UT

Monday evening:   July 16, 2012   (First travelogue of this trip).

We are at the River Terrace Inn in Green River Utah (map).  We are on our way to Salt Lake City for Pat's Stampin' Up! convention.  We are driving the PT Cruiser on this trip.  We drove about 330 miles today – mostly on I-70.  It is a very scenic drive and enjoyable drive.

We left Denver about 9:00 AM and got here about 3:00 PM.  We have stopped here many times in the past. Indeed, when I was a kid, my folks would stop in Green River when we drove to California.  I guess it has become a long standing tradition. 

Our room overlooks the Green River and we had dinner in the adjoining Tamarisk Restaurant this evening – again a ritual.  They have good food and the dining room overlooks the river.

I often talk about the reason for this blog – to document our travels.   We started the blog in January, 2008 (before the blog we documented our travels in emails to our family).  I often go back to past posts to recall details as I plan our trips.  This past few weeks, I had a bunch of  fun reading old posts and recalling all of the fun times we have had in our travels.  If you have followed our blog for any time, you will note that I generally include the location in the title.  This makes finding selected posts easier.  There is a search engine, but using the “blog archive” feature is generally sufficient to hone in on the blog I am looking for.

Tomorrow we will travel on US 6 through Price, UT to Provo and then north on I-15 north to Salt Lake.  The drive is less than 200 miles.  We will get a fairly early start so that we can  check in early to avoid the rush when all the demonstrators arrive.

That is all for now.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Hello from Evergreen, CO

Hello from Evergreen, CO

Subtitled:  Ten Grandkids!

Sunday evening   July 8, 2012   (Second travelogue of this trip).

We have been home since 1:00 PM on Thursday.  I have stayed in “vacation mode” for the past few days (AKA being lazy). 

This family vacation was a bit different from past ones.  We all took it pretty easy and did not try to cram a bunch of activity into the week.  Pat and I were the most laid back of the group.  I got to catch up on a lot of reading and Pat got to have a lot of special time with the grandkids (to be clear, we both enjoyed our time with all the family members).

It was so fun to have Irina, Matthias and Viktor with us.  Viktor is so friendly and even though he had no idea what we were saying, he found fun ways to communicate with us.  Pat and I got to spend a lot of time talking to Matthias about the medical practice in Germany vs the US. 

The weather continued to be pretty good.  The evenings were cool (down to 44 degrees one night) and the days were not too hot.  We only ran the AC in the bus one day.  We did have a bit of rain and some pretty good winds at times but it would be hard to complain about the weather considering all the terrible hot weather and flooding in other parts of the country.

The terrible drought in Colorado forced cancellation of many fireworks shows on the fourth.  That included both the Dillon and Frisco shows.

Now, lets talk about 10 grandkids.  Those of you know us, know that we have 8 “natural” grandkids.  However, we claim and love two additional grandkids:  Austin (the Jeute's have legal guardianship) and Viktor (we consider Irina and Matthias as part of our family).  I have attached a photo of that wonderful group taken at our campground.

Our ten very special grandkids!

That is all for this trip.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Hello from Dillon, CO

Hello from Dillon, CO

Saturday Afternoon   June 30, 2012   (First travelogue of this trip).

We are the Heaton Bay Campground (map).  This campground is located between Dillon and Frisco on the shores of Dillon Reservoir.   We are having our annual family vacation.  This year is special in that we have our extended family ('81/'82 German exchange daughter and her family). 

Irina and Matthias and their three year old son Viktor flew to Denver on Thursday 6/21.  We met them at the airport and had a quick reunion before taking them to their hotel.  The next day we met them at the Cruise America RV rental facility so that they could rent a 25 foot motorhome.  They have been camping at a few locations before joining us here on Thursday.  We will be here until 7/5.  After they leave here, they will be doing some additional camping in the Crested Butte/Taylor Reservoir area.

We have kept in close contact with Irina and her family over the years.  We have been fortunate to have all of her family visit us.  Irina has made several return visits.  Pat and I have also visited Irina several times.  In 2004 Irina and Matthias joined our family vacation in Ouray, CO.  On the way, Matthias proposed to Irina on Monarch Pass!!!!  In 2005 we traveled to Karlsrhue, Germany to attend their wedding (Kelly, Damon and Madison also got to attend the wedding).

We arrived here Thursday afternoon (6/28).  Kelly, Lisa and Irina and their families will be here the full time and Judy and family will be here part of the time.

This campground was decimated by the pine bark beetle a few years ago, but it is showing signs of new growth.  It is surrounded by beautiful mountains on all sides.  The campground is at about 9100 feet, so the days are much cooler than the terribly hot weather in Denver and the evenings are chilly (lower 40s).  I have attached a photo of the bus in the campground.  The photo does not do justice to beautiful mountains in the background.

Bus at Heaton Bay Campground

So far, we have mostly been relaxing and having fun with the kids and grandkids.

That is all for now.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Hello from Pueblo, CO

Hello from Pueblo, CO

Monday  morning  June 4, 2012   (Fourth travelogue of this trip).

The last post had us in Brush Colorado headed to Pueblo down CO 71.  That was an interesting two lane road.  Parts of it were picturesque rolling farm land and parts were pretty barren.  The road itself was a mixed bag.  It was easy to drive, but quite rough in a few segments.  Never-the-less, it saved us driving through the middle of Denver and Colorado Springs. 

We stopped at the Wal Mart in Pueblo to pick up some supplies and it was not a fun experience.  We took the main entrance and there were cars going ever which way.  When we tried to get to the open areas of parking, we could not get pass a couple of vehicles and we partly blocked traffic for several minutes.   Fortunately the owner on one vehicle came back and moved his vehicle and that allowed us to get out of the traffic.  If the driver had not returned to his car, we would have had to unhook the “toad”.  That would have been a huge deal with the tow dolly and a car with a dead battery (you have to leave the key in the accessory position and that takes a toll on the battery).  While Pat did the shopping, I walked the area and found a very easy exit route.  As they say, “we got the heck out of Dodge”.

We arrived at the track late afternoon and parked close to the dragstrip return road (map).  If you zoom in on the map, you can see the dragstrip and road race course.  That proved interesting, since they had a Friday night drag event.  We got to see a lot of neat cars and I got to walk the pits to “rubber neck”.  When we went to bed, we were concerned that the cars going down the return road would keep us awake, but we went to sleep quite quickly.

Saturday and Sunday I worked as a  volunteer “corner worker” on corner 9.  That is a fairly “active” corner with several people overshooting the corner.  There were two of us at the corner and we were kept pretty busy displaying the yellow flag.  Sunday they seemed to have a better handle on the corner.  We did have a car drop a bunch of oil on the track going into our corner.  That got interesting.  I was displaying the debris flag and telling the cars how to avoid the trail of oil.  I watched a car ignore my direction then quickly spin right at the apex of the our corner {grin}.

Being a corner worker is a mixed bag.  You are right on the track and get to observe some neat racing, but you are on your feet eight hours a day.  I used my scanner, with headphones, to monitor the control frequency, so I was quite informed about the race and the "inside" information.  Saturday, we had terrible dust storms and a bit of rain.  Sunday was hot (91 degrees).  They really treat the volunteer workers very well.  We wear all white and the racers go out of their way to thank us.   We get to go to the head of the line for a free lunch, and the special Saturday night barbeque  (catered by Bennetts Barbeque).

I have attended races here before, but this is my favorite event.  It is the Trans-Am Invitational which brings out both the neat vintage cars, as well as the “big-bore” cars which include Corvettes, Mustangs, Can-Am, etc.  In addition there are “exhibition”  vehicles.  At this race, there were older Indy Cars and some very high performance Porsches.  A typical lap time for a fast vintage car (such as a BMW 2002) is about 1:45 (one minute fourty five seconds), the Indy cars were doing it in 1:34 and a very fast, modern Porsche did a 1:31 lap. 

While I was working the corner, Pat “holed up” in the bus and had a great time.  She got some Stampin' Up!  work done, did some reading, and caught up on recorded TV shows.  Unfortunately, reading is a bit of a problem for her right now.  We had hoped that her new glasses that had been prescribed for her cataract surgery would really improve her vision.  It has not, and she is having a hard time reading.  We have a doctor appointment this afternoon to see what is going on.

Now lets talk about our Internet connection while we are on the road.  We have discontinued our HughesNet satellite service – both at home and on the bus.  The satellite speed has degraded quite significantly over the past few years.  At times it was slower than a good dial up connection.  At home we use Comcast cable and it really is very fast.  About a year ago we got a Verizon air card as a backup to the satellite and for when we travel without the bus.  We also reasoned that we could use the air card in place of the satellite in the bus, and also use other wifi networks at times (like our relatives in Iowa).  We also have internet via our iPhones as well.  We understand that their will be situations where we do not have cell signal, but we will have to face that problem when it occurs.

Recently we upgraded the air card to a Verizon 4G LTE unit.  It turns out that creates all kinds of problems, many of which are Verizon based.  That is strange, since the card is a Verizon branded product.  It turns out that the major issue is that the software has a hard time dealing with a 4G modem when only 2G or 3G is available.

I spent several hours over a few days trying to get things sorted out so that we can get online.  First I tried to connect the air card directly via our computer and that resulted in huge problems that are well documented on the Internet.  I finally gave up and started working on getting the air card connected to our Cradlepoint router.  In order to do that, I needed to update the firmware for both the router and the interface with the air card.  That is fun to do when you have to download the firmware with a very sporadic connection.  In any case, I finally got the connection working and we have networked access to our email and the Internet, albeit a bit slow at times.

Now, back to this trip.  Yesterday was our shortest drive that we can recall – about 500 yards {grin}.  It turns out that we had to vacate the track area so they could lock it up Sunday night and I did not want to drive back to Evergreen last night.  I had checked with the track folks and they said we could park just outside the locked gates.  Worked out very well. 

In a few minutes we will head home.

That is all now for this trip.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Hello from Brush, CO

Hello from Brush, CO

Friday morning  June 1, 2012   (Third travelogue of this trip).

We are at the Shell truck stop in Brush Colorado (map).  Wednesday night we stayed at another Shell truck stop in York Nebraska. 

It is impossible to detail all of the activity that took place in Iowa.  Pat's brother Jeff and his wife Julie were there for a few days as was our daughter Lisa and her family.  We all went to the auction on Sunday (5/27) and had a great time.  Monday night we had a mini-family reunion at Pat's cousin's (Danny and Terri) house.  It was great weather for the picnic and we really got a chance to visit with some relatives that we don't get to spend as much time as we would like.

Saturday night we went out to eat at a favorite restaurant – Pizza Ranch in Creston.  After dinner we toured Creston to see the huge amount of damage that a tornado caused a few weeks ago.  The hospital and college had major damage and many houses, apartment buildings and businesses were extensively damaged.  Many will have to be torn down.

Pat and Jeanne did quite a few family things while Bill and I did some farming.  For two days I ran the hay baler.  This baler produces the 6 foot round (1600-1800 pound) bales.  During the two days, I made over 60 bales!  This part of Iowa is quite hilly and a couple of the bales rolled down the hills or followed me as I tried to close the rear door and start back on the windrow.  I think I took about 10 years off of Bill's life, but he did not yell at me {grin}.  We also did some other repair work.  Kind of felt like a real farmer (yeah, right). 

As usual, the meals were fantastic.  We ate out a couple of times, but most of the meals were home cooking with great Iowa pork and beef.  Lisa's husband Dan even introduced the Iowa folks to his great green chili.

Wednesday we reluctantly left Iowa and headed towards Colorado.  We had planned a three day drive to Pueblo.  We ran into some pretty good rain after we left Prescott and decided to cut the day a bit short and stop in York Nebraska.  Yesterday we drove a bit over 350 miles and ended here in Brush. 

From here we will take Colorado 71 south almost all the way to Pueblo.   It will probably not be the best highway, but we will avoid all of the traffic on I 25 through Denver and Colorado Springs.  Besides, we like to get off the interstate highways once in a while.

We are heading to Pueblo so that I can serve as a volunteer at a major vintage car event      ( ).  I used to attend these races with a good friend and really missed the events.  I decided to volunteer as a “corner worker”.  In preparation I attended a two day “Crash and Burn” training class in March and did some training at a drivers training class at Pikes Peak International Raceway in April.  I really enjoy this kind of racing and being a corner worker puts you right in the middle of the activity.  I listen to the race control radio channel with my scanner and that really adds to the experience.  Besides, they desperately need volunteers.

That is all for now.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Hello from Prescott, Iowa

Hello from Prescott, Iowa

Tuesday evening  May 22, 2012   (Second travelogue of this trip).

Thursday morning we left North Platte about 10:00 and got to Corning about 4:30.  That was just in time to temporarily park the bus and join Pat's cousin so that we could go Jeanne's mom's nursing home annual barbeque.  After the barbeque we drove the bus over the Bill and Jeanne's farm where we parked in our “reserved” spot (map) .

I thought I would go back and discuss the wind that we encountered both days of our travel.  We have only been in worse conditions one other time (they closed the highway to high profile vehicles that time).  The wind was so bad that it blew our rather heavy engine door open twice.  That is not a big deal, but it really got our attention.  In addition, one of our clearance light covers blew off while I was fueling (and getting sandblasted!).

Thankfully, the bus handles pretty well in the wind.  It was a south wind and each time we went by a hill, underpass, or trees, I had to quickly adjust the steering wheel of the change in wind velocity.  Passing semis was a bit of a challenge, but I did not feel at risk.

The car and tow dolly seemed to do well.  I am not completely happy with the wheel strap system, so I have ordered a couple of pieces of hardware that should make securing the car quite a bit easier.  The tow dolly has surge disc brakes and that makes quite a difference in the braking.  Of course, we are getting better mileage since we are pulling a light car vs the heavy service truck (9600 pound).  We are fortunate to have a very powerful engine in the bus, so it is hard to tell the difference in performance, but the improvement in mileage is welcome.  I have attached a picture of the bus/car combination.

The weather back here has been great.  Warm in the day and quite cool in the evening.   There has been no recent rain, so the humidity is low.  The lack of rain is not good for the newly planted crops.  Bill finished up the last of the beans on Friday.

Pat and Jeanne have been working on Jeanne's mom's house to get it ready to rent to her nephew and his wife.  Bill and I have been getting some work done on some vehicles.  We installed a new roof air conditioner on Joel and Nikki's motorhome and we have been working on the AC in Bill's semi truck.  That AC is acting very strange according to my gauges and we will have to continue to sort out what is going on.

Sunday we went to the auction at Pat's uncle's facility.  It was not a huge auction, but I did manage to buy a few tools (pretty good bargains).  They have another auction next Sunday that sounds like it will have some pretty neat stuff.  We always enjoy the auctions!!!

That is all for now.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Hello from North Platte Nebraska

Hello from North Platte Nebraska

Thursday morning   May 17, 2012   (First travelogue of this trip).

We are at our “normal” stop on our way to visit the relatives in Iowa – the Wal Mart parking lot in North Platte (map).  We left Evergreen a bit after noon yesterday and got here about 7:00 local time.  That probably seems like a slow trip for some of you (about 300 miles).  However, I decided to drive a bit slower (set cruise on 66 MPH) – partly to save fuel and partly because I was not all that confident about the tow dolly tire situation (more on that later).  We also stopped several times to check on the tow dolly.  Lastly we had to slow down quite a bit during some huge dust storms and high winds that we encountered in eastern Colorado.

We need to step back and apologize to our readers for not posting in the past few months.  As we have said many times, our intent for this blog is to document our travels, focusing on our bus travels.  As a side note, these blogs have been a wonderful “diary” that allows us to relive some of our wonderful experiences.

During our absence from posting, we have had a kind of tough few months.  Each of our daughters have had some pretty significant health issues, Judy has documented the fact that the are in foreclosure on their house, and we have closed the RV Safety Systems business.  In addition, Pat had to have cataract surgery last month.  We can only hope that our extended family has better days ahead of us.

Closing the business has been quite traumatic.  As some of you recall, the business was based on a fire detection system that I developed.  That product was well received and has proven very reliable.  We developed a second system for a marketing partner and that product passed every test that the customer devised including some actual vehicle fires.  The second project has languished and will probably not become a reality.  Our original product had reasonable sales, but the profit did not cover the debt incurred for development and marketing costs.

Part of the huge marketing costs involved trade shows.  That said, those shows were a great experience and involved a lot of amazing travels in our bus. 

Now that we are no longer traveling for business, we will be posting less frequently.  We hope that you will check in occasionally, or opt for the email notification of posts.

Now, what about this tow dolly situation?  Tow dollies are  not at the top of my list for bringing our own transportation.  We have always towed “four down” using a tow bar.  We have towed our Commando, Durango and the Service Truck over the years and consider that to be the best option.  My plan was to finish the Durango engine rebuild and bring it on this trip.  I got the engine running and it runs well, but my diagnostic software is showing intermittent sensor problems that keep me from getting my emissions test and license plates.

So, our only alternative was to bring the PT Cruiser.  It can't be towed with all four wheels on the ground because to the automatic transmission.  I would have to install a special pump to circulate the transmission fluid and I really don't like that approach.  So the only alternative is a tow dolly.  I found a great used unit made by the Acme Tow Dolly company.  I will try to post a picture of the bus/car combination next time.

That is all for now.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Hello from Evergreen, CO

Hello from Evergreen, CO

Tuesday morning   January 24, 2012   (fourth travelogue of this trip).

Before we get started, I did “wash” the last post by pasting my word processing work in a text editor and then pasting the text editor document in the blog.  It did seem to solve the word spacing problem.  Not a big effort, I just have to remember to do it.

In our last post, I talked about leaving San Antonio on Sunday and taking a leisurely drive home.  Well, that did not happen.  Sunday our GPS program took us on a route that had very few towns with reasonable hotel options.   We finally made a course change in Paducah, TX and headed west so that we could connect with I 27.  We ended up stopping in Plainview, TX at a Holiday Inn Express.  That put us a bit less than half way home (about 450 miles that day).  We ended up crashing after having a great Mexican dinner at a local restaurant.

Monday we left the hotel about 8:00 AM and arrived in Raton, NM about noon (with one hour time change).  The weather was great, but there were some indications that it would snow today (hasn't really started).  We ate lunch and made the decision to drive the rest of the way home on Monday.

We really could not have asked for better traveling weather on Monday.  The same could not be said of Sunday.  We fought terrible high winds most of the day.  At times we could not see more than 100 feet in front of us due to blowing dust. 

We had noted that our route on US 87 in NM took us through Des Moines.  We had hoped to have lunch there to say that we had spent some time in Des Moines, NM.  Turns out the town is very small and like most of the towns in the area, it is slowly becoming a ghost town.

The vast amounts of blowing dust conjured up pictures of the terrible “Dust Bowl” that took occurred in the 1930's.  While the terrible dust bowl conditions existed in a large area of the US and some of Canada, the major impact was on the Oklahoma and Texas panhandle area – right were we were. 

There are lots of good reference on this terrible period.  Here it the Wiki link:

I have often wanted to read John Steinbeck's “The Grapes of Wrath”.  The  excerpts I have seen suggest he vividly portrayed the tragedy and suffering of that era.  What we saw was very scary.  The farmers had really tilled the soil to the point is was very finely divided.  That coupled with the terrible drought they have suffered the past couple of years make you wonder if the conditions might be conducive to a repeat.

We do not have any plans for travel until May.  You never know when that will change.  As a result, our posts will not be frequent for the next few months.  You can check in once in a while or sign up for the email option.

That is all for now.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Hello again from San Antonio, TX

Hello again from San Antonio, TX

Saturday evening   January 21, 2012   (third travelogue of this trip).

First, I would like to acknowledge that some of you get these blogs via email.  Those email versions have a word spacing problem (often, several words are run together).  The word spacing looks fine on the Internet version of the blog.  It looks like “Word” type programs contribute to the problem.  I type this blog in an “Open Source” version of Word, and then paste it into the blog.  I will try an intermediate step of pasting it in a basic text edit program to see if I can “wash” some of the control characters that may be causing the problem.

Now, back to our normally scheduled program.  Thursday I traveled west on I 10 to Boerne, TX to finish a fire suppression system installation.  The customer wanted to install a second system triggered by a “safety switch”.  I had done some of the installation on the system when we worked on the coach in CO in September.  It took all day to finish the install, but I took my time and “spruced up” the original install.    The weather was in the high 70s and sunny.  That made the install pretty pleasant.

Yesterday it was cool and very overcast.  It was foggy most of the day and it seemed to me to be a misting rain, although the weather folks did not report that.  By afternoon, it cleared up a bit.  I took a long walk on the River Walk.  It really goes on for many miles.  Our hotel is on a “U” shaped channel of the river.  I walked about a mile to the main river.  The River Walk is lined with all kinds of restaurants, including many well known chains.  There are also many large hotels on the River Walk. 
All of the River Walk is located below ground level.  Both sides of the river have walking paths and wonderful landscaping.  It is just plain beautiful.

Just down from our hotel on a branch of the River Walk is the River Center Mall.  It is as large as any mall in the Denver area with dozens of stores, including many well know chains.  It also has a fairly large food court that has served our food needs many times this week. 

I have been enjoying my quiet time during this trip.  I had a bunch of computer email digests to read, did a bit of tax record preparation, and generally just goofed off.  To top it all off, the Barrett-Jackson multi-day classic car auction has been on the Speed channel several hours each day.  They are selling over 1300 vehicles this year – many for over $100,000, some for much more.  They even have a fantasy bid contest that I have been playing with.  Update:  we just came back from dinner and they were auctioning off a '48 Tucker and it went for $2,650,000!!

Last night Pat and I, along with one of her downline, went to eat at Luciano's on the River Walk.  It was a great Italian restaurant.  They had great Crème Brulee that Pat had scoped out a couple of days ago {grin}. 

Pat's Leadership Convention ended yesterday.  Obviously, she had a ball.  Today is a lower-key regional convention.  As usual she thoroughly enjoyed both of the events.

Tomorrow we will start home.  We will probably take a leisurely 3 days to drive the 1000 miles.  Looks like we could hit some snow.

That is all for now.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Hello from San Antonio, TX

Wednesday afternoon January 18, 2012 (second travelogue of this trip).

Monday we drove from Dumas, TX to San Angelo, TX – about 370 miles. We again stayed at a Hampton Inn (this chain has become a favorite of ours). Tuesday we drove a bit over 200 miles and got to San Antonio about noon. That gave us the afternoon to walk around the area.

Our hotel room overlooks the famous River Walk. River Walk is described on one website as follows:

The San Antonio River Walk is a public park, open 365 days a year. It is a network of walkways along the banks of the San Antonio River, one story beneath approximately 5 miles of downtown San Antonio.  Lined by bars, shops and restaurants, the River Walk is an important part of the city's urban fabric and a tourist attraction in its own right.
The River Walk winds and loops under bridges as two parallel sidewalks, lined with restaurants, shops, hotels and more. It connects the major tourist draws from the Alamo to Rivercenter Mall,  Arneson River Theatre and La Villita,  the San Antonio Museum of Art, and the Pearl Brewery.
The photos below show the River Walk. Since it is January, the trees are not leafed out, but it is still beautiful and peaceful.

View of the River Walk from our balcony

View of our hotel from the RiverWalk

Yesterday it was almost 80 degrees and we ate lunch at an outside table beside the river. It was gorgeous. There are many signs asking you not to feed the birds and other animals. Obviously folks have ignored the signs, as a couple of beautiful ducks walked right up to us and waited for us to offer part of our lunch (we obeyed the signs).

After lunch, we walked to the Alamo. It is well restored, but not at all what we pictured. It is not a fort as most folks think. It started as a mission in the 1700s and slowly changed so that it had a military basis including a hospital. The grounds are well kept with beautiful trees, shrubbery, and flowers. It is only a couple of blocks from the hotel and right in the middle of downtown San Antonio.

Pat's activities started today, but we were able to get away for lunch. She has her Manager's Reception tonight, so I will have to have pizza and beer on the River {grin}.

Tomorrow I will travel about 30 miles back up I 10 to finish installing a special auxiliary fire suppression system on a customer's motorhome.

That is all for now.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Hello from Dumas, TX

Hello from Dumas, TX

Sunday evening January 15, 2012 (First travelogue of this trip).

Well, it has been a long stretch since I last posted. As I have mentioned many times, most of the posts in this blog detail our travels. We have not traveled much in the past few months.

We did make a short trip to Dillon, CO between Christmas and New Years. We stayed two nights at our daughter Kelly's family's townhouse. They have a wonderful arrangement for their place. It is leased year round by Climax Molybdenum (not sure that is their name today). They house selected employee families there while the employee looks for permanent housing or finishes a temporary assignment. For the last two years, the unit was vacant during the holidays. So, they get to use their great townhouse and still collect rent!

We were surprised at how little snow Dillon had. Last year, they had a huge amount by Christmas. We had planned a lot of activities, but ended up just being lazy and enjoying ourselves.

Now, let's talk about this trip. Pat has a Stampin'Up convention in San Antonio and I have an installation to finish up in the same area. We are traveling in the PT Cruiser. I had hoped to get the Durango engine back in and broken in, but it is taking a lot longer than I had hoped.

We left Denver early this morning and had a pretty uneventful drive – avoiding any bad weather. We drove south on I 25 to Raton, NM and then traveled on US 87 to Dumas. I had forgotten that US 87 is a pretty good road. They are finishing up making it a four lane highway. The construction was not bad and the traffic was very sparse.

We watched the outside temperature climb to almost 70 degrees. With the sun load, we had to run the air conditioner for a while. We arrived at the Hampton Inn mid-afternoon.

We drove just short of 400 miles today and have about 550 miles to go. We will make one more stop before we arrive in San Antonio.

That is all for now.