Sunday, August 6, 2017

Aug 3, 2017
Today promises a long drive. We have made a pact that the driver drives for 2 hours or when the gas gauge hits one half. We have found this to ease arguments and more that 2 hours driving can cause quite the argument! In practice this works. Today, however, it will not.
Today, we will visit Deb's family roots in South Dakota. I decided that she will navigate and look for lost memories. I didn't want her to drive and look for lost anything! No nice guy here just a preservationist.
The route we took led us onto gravel roads and endless fields of corn. Not to mention, we, also, traveled the entire state of Minnesota and half of South Dakota with endless fields of corn. When not corn, of course, we saw low green stuff. Couldn't tell what green stuff we saw but it did not have the appearance of corn.

We drove through Pickering, Webster, Watertown, Pierpont, and Grenville. Some towns had populations in the 10's. Some had no populations listed on their town sign. All these towns supported the farms that surround them. In Bristol, We stopped at a cemetery that had many of Deb's relatives headstones. She took many, many pictures.
On to the campsite and beer!

I had driven the entire trip, way over my two hour allotment and way over the ½ tank limit. At least a two beer compensation evening coming my way!
Aug 2,2017
We began our day as we always have, we woke up! Hahaha. Well, we did!
Breakfast, pack the vehicle and off to Granite Falls to see Brad Lershen if he is in town. He works for the Prairie Edge Casino which just happens to hold our reservations for this evening. Go figure!

On the way we passed by a road sign announcing "Chaska, Mn). I visited family there sixty years ago. (oh my gosh, did i write that?). We stopped, had lunch and had memories. Then on to Granite Falls. 
The Falls
We had no surprises in our journey and arrived in good time to the casino. We unpacked in a “normal” RV camping area with electric and wireless internet. The casino must have just put this park in because the trees did not reach high enough to block the sun, We counter with a beer. Touche'.
After said beer we took the people mover golf cart to the casino in search of Brad. Finally, a phone call from security found him and back to the campground to drive for a visit. I got directions from Brad, however, I can't read my writing so we got lost right away! Another call to Brad, a request for an address and Google led us to his doorstep. We use Google a lot on this trip. We had a nice visit and back to the campground we went. Our weather, up until now consisted of sun and more sun. The forecast for the evening called for rain. I packed everything into the road box for protection and had another beer.

Night ensued and so did the rain. Not van shaking rain but a good soaking rain. We slept to the tune of(sing along)  “raindrops keep falling on our van”.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

August 1, 2017
We may never have slept last night but, right on time, we left the house at 6am this morning. Two hours to Ludington and we boarded the "Badger" with Brittany in tow. We bought a vest for Brittany so she could be a Service Dog and accompany us on the boat. Otherwise, we had to leave her in the van for the crossing. Not an option.
We had great weather for our crossing, clear, two foot waves. The crossing took 4 hours. When we made our reservations we found out that they didn't have much room left for vehicles. We watched car after car load on the ferry and several tanker trucks load as well. Thankfully, we had arrived early, had our van loaded early and had it offloaded as, maybe, the 10th vehicle! Super!!! When we climbed aboard our van for the remainder of the trip, we found the heat inside overwhelming. We suppose the dog would not have made it if we hadn't gotten her service dog designation.
Our short drive to Onieda casino campground took a detour when we saw the National Railroad Museum. We stopped! I walked, Deb did too. We saw many trains, steamers and electric, hand carts and parts of trains. The high point may have been "Big Boy", a steam engine built to haul coal over a 55 mile mountain pass. The biggest steam engine ever built or should i say 23 of the biggest!
Another notable engine came from England. General Eisenhower used it when he campaigned(war II) in Europe. I may have a picture of the commode he "pooped" in! 
Our trip to the casino campground included a stop to photograph the "Nutmobile". Planters version of the "Oscar Mayer Wiener Wagon.
Onieda campground has 10 sites. Call them large parking spaces for a better description. The sites, though spartan, had power so we had enough for the night. Cost of the site came in at $5. We paid $15 and received a $10 players card. I spent an extra $10 to find out i don't like slot machines.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Travel eve

Oh boy! The night before we leave on an epic journey to Portland, Oregon. We have packed as much as we thought we should. We have washed clothes and packed again. We have not thought that we will travel highways for most of the trip. We didn't look at the fact that we will not leave civilization yet we seem to have packed as though we had a Conestoga wagon and will challenge the Oregon trail.
The Oregon trail stretches from St. Louis to Oregon City, Oregon. The web tells me it measures 2,100 miles, or so. By looking at the map, i think we will cover that and a little more. We expect to take 11 days to reach Portland. Then to visit with my daughter and , hopefully, My new grandchild. Then, off to Gunnison, Colorado for a visit with my son and his family. After that a short hope to either Grand Island, Nebraska or Carbondale, Illnois to Witness the eclipse. Why "either", you may ask? Weather!
Then home by the 23rd to 25th.
The plan says we will see Yellowstone Park, Jackson Hole, Devil's Mountain(dah dee dah doe doo), Sturgis, Mt. Rushmore, and more, much, much, more. WE have learned from other trips that you schedule a day at a location then drive a day then sightsee again. That way we actually see something rather than the road passing by.
Oops, see how the time flies? I have to check my packing again and the snack larder and whatever else i have checked several hundred times before!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Portland, Here we come.

Never look directly at the sun!
Many months ago, I made plans to drive to Portland, Oregon to visit my daughter and view the eclipse of the sun on August 21, 2017. Deb would come along if she agreed but i had the need to go.
Deb agreed to go after some discussion. We hatched a plan to drive, visiting family homesteads, national monuments and arriving in time to visit with Sara then to the viewing sight  and drive home.
My daughter, true to form, wanted to give Deb a better reason for driving the thousands of miles than just seeing some "dumb 'ol moon blocking the sun". She announced she would deliver a new individual to this earth around August 11th. Now we had buy-in from Deb to visit Portland!
The Trial Begins.
I have a particular travel style. The day of travel, i stuff clothes in a bag and go! Deb has a completely different idea about travel. She plans!!!
Soon after Sara's announcement, we had lists upon lists of things to do to the camper, items to pack in the camper, clothes to take on the camper, meal plans, and more! I think it appropriate to have a general idea of the trip. I like to know the destination. I like to have a good idea of the route, subject to change at a whim's notice. I even think packing a cooler with munchies will help ease the travel but detailed lists do not sit well with me. It seems to me that serendipity gets lost with too much regimentation.
Thus i cannot participate fully with Deb in list preparation. Also, i become passive/aggressive when asked to participate. I know some people need to have the road laid out for them. I know that a trip of this length, we plan to travel the better part of  the month of August, i had better get some sort of cooperative attitude going or someone will walk home. So i will do my best to smile and look interested. Is this what growing up means?

Friday, August 5, 2016

August 4, 2016

As i left my train i wondered where i would find my family. I had a missed call but no voice mail from my son. He had a 3.5 hour drive from Gunnison, CO with two young passengers, 7 and 5. He and they have traveled this route before so it shouldn't have been a hardship save the 5am wakeup to meet me. I didn't think about it much because i had arrived and would wait for the next scene in the adventure, regardless.It came rather quickly.
Walking down track side towards Union Station i had three familiar creatures jump out at me. One rather tall and good-looking and two miniatures of him short and cute. We hugged and hugged some more then off to the car and Estes Park, Co. We did sightsee in Denver a bit but you can make up the play by play on your own.
Nice cabin at Colorado Cottages in Estes, Co. Small but room enough to work as a base of Operations. We got up at dawn or slightly after to an overcast sky. Temperatures not expected to rise above 70 and cloudy all day. No rain in the forecast, though. I walked to the local gas station for fresh coffee. During my return, I passed a bakery advertising fresh coffee. You know i will visit said bakery tomorrow for coffee and. Dad may not like it but i will play the grandpa card.
After breakfast we packed to visit  Rocky Mountain National Park. I love my grand kids. I do. So i walked away when the tantrums started. I only need to see them in the good times. When the hubbub settled my grandson wore his 'jammies to the park, a fashion statement of the first order!
We packed in the car and drove to the park. I forgot my Senior National Park Pass so had to pay the $20 entrance fee. I didn't, actually forget, i never thought about going so just didn't bring it.
We walked mountain paths and up stream beds to delicate waterfalls. Fortunately for my son, we loaded more popcorn in our mouths than on the floor of his car. We took pictures. Two tired kids and adults later we left the park.
As i finish this entry, the kids have given us a much needed rest by taking a nap. Wait!! head fake, they are in the bedroom plotting. More later.
Aug 3, 2016

At 9am, eastern, my 18 passenger, turbo prop lifted off the tarmac at Blacker airport. I arrived in Chicago Midway at 9am central, just like the airline promised. A short 15 minute walk to the "L" train and my "Chicago" segment began.
I wanted to take the “L” to Wrigleyville and purchase a Cubs jersey however, the train ran slow due to ongoing construction both on the track and off. I had imagined(the ony word i can think of here) that my Denver bound train left Union Station at 5pm. When reality struck and my departure time moved up to 2pm, I lost 3 whole leisurely sightseeing hours. I felt I won't have enough time to lunch with my brother, Ben, so cut my "L" ride short. After I returned downtown, I found that two stores on State street had the jersey I wanted(Go Cubs). Unfortunately, for me, the cost of $125 fell outside my team support budget. So I bought a cheaper style jersey(go cubs) and went to Ebay. $60 later, I had my Ernie Banks, #14, old school jersey(Go CUBS).
Lunch with my brother, Ben, at The Berghoff Bar. (old school) came next on the itinerary. Thence to Union Station to board my train west. My heart fluttered, briefly, as I searched for my ticket. I had securely stowed the ticket in a pocket in my backpack. Naturally, I missed that "special" pocket several times until I unloaded the entire “pack” and found said pocket. Phew, I travel disaster avoided!
At precisely 2pm, my Iron Horse left Union Station bound for Denver, Colorado and points in-between and beyond. I found my window side, coach seat comfortable. My 15 hour trip demanded comfort. Comfort, shmufort... 15 hours 
We galloped through Illinois watching the corn grow, literally, more corn then i thought ever existed, just miles and miles and miles of corn. I have thought about all the boxes of cereal in the grocery store aisles and wondered how we could grow so much corn. Now I know.
We made several stops in Illinois and finally reached the 'Ol Man River, himself. Brown, wide and just keeping rolling along. On into Iowa and more corn. Occasionally, a break for cattle and some low growing green stuff but mostly corn.
Our train had this configuration, Two diesel engines. one baggage car, one sleeper car for the crew. It occurred to me when I saw this that the crew embarked in Chicago and served for the whole trip unlike airlines that can trade out staff after their shift time expires. Following the sleeper,three coach cars, the observation car which had the snack commissary in it, a dining car and three sleeper cars. I passed my time with ebooks, and movies, sometimes walking to the observation car crammed full of  travelers passing time like myself.
After we left Osceola, Iowa I felt a bump and we stopped. Dead! 2 hours later we heard that someone had abandoned a pick-up truck on the railroad crossing. I think i heard that while they tried to remove it someone got hurt. Bad enough to go to the hospital. Two hours lost messed up our timetable big time!
On to Omaha which I assumed would be a larger station. Not so much. I expected a grand station and got a track siding. Oh well. We arrived in Omaha at 1:30 am.

The train is quiet and comfortable. Cooler in the evening hours when the sun doesn't warm the car.  Sweaters and blankets for all to ward off the cool and to sleep if sleep can come. Sleep comes in fits and starts for me. I don't sleep well in a halfway reclining position. I expected this and got it.
Dawn appeared on the eastern horizon. Not a spectacle from a moving train with nothing but Colorado scrub to give it texture. The corn fields we left behind in Nebraska. We entertained ourselves with  viewing cattle farming, feed lots and gas wells. Soon we saw small towns growing in frequency on track side. Then the towns connected and soon the The Mile High City appeared on the horizon. Two hours late and excited with anticipations, i disembarked to hunt down my son and grand kids for our two day adventure.