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.

Sunday, February 28, 2016


Feb 28
We returned to Traverse City by January 21. Here's why...
The last entry noted that we had a campsite in the Animal Kingdom which we enjoyed much. The next morning we left the camp ground and drove to the Kingdom parking lot. Then board a tram for the front gate to the Kingdom. It all seemed De'ja' Vu. We spent several hours walking around in 55 degree weather with no sun feeling like we were here before and not enjoying a thing. We constantly asked each other if we had been here but couldn't remember when it might have been. Finally, we gave up the uncomfortable weather and the cold and the familiarity and drove south to Key West. A matter of 5 hours.
We arrived on a key short of Key West in hopes of finding a reasonably priced campsite for the evening. "When you are in the Keys, there is no reasonable", said our host for that evening. $102. We got a bargain sinc e we were firt put in a site with no electric. When we moved to the other availabel site it backed on tot he water and we should have paid for the "view" at $125. But is was her mistake.
From the to Key West and a walk around the town plus a hot dog i couldn't eat.. Did i tell you i got ill right out of St. Petersburg and couldn't eat a thing? Well the hot dog didn't work either and that was three days after i developed symptoms. Brittany wore her uniform and enjoyed the visit to the Sloppy Joe's.
  We left Key West after a two hour walk. Then drove to Ocalla, Fla. home to Nancy's brother and, hoped for, warmer weather. No such luck! Still no sun and cold. I continued to cough and hack up stuff and not want to do a thing 'cept sleep... and cough, etc. We met up with Nancy.
Her Brother's place is beautiful with 5 Acres or Oak hung with Spanish Moss, which we found out kills the oak eventually. Pretty but lethal. Again, no sun and cool temps. Great hospitality but i was fading fast. We spent two nights there than saw a break in the weather and headed for home as fast as our vehicle could take us. We drove, as we had done from the beginning two hours on, two hours off. We stopped in hotels for the trip. It just made it more comfortable. We were on a mission. 
During our drive home the worst weather we encountered was rain. Cold rain. Otherwise, an uneventful trip until Cadillac, Mi. 45 minutes, in good weather to home and a soft bed to recoup.
Two hours later we arrived home and i slept. The doctor said i might have had viral pneumonia and i still feel the effects today. Though i feel a million times better  after medication.
We didn't find what we expected but had a good time finding what we got. Pictures here

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Jan 8th...
Starting over. I had a post ready to go and lost the internet connection. I hoped my save of the file would make it a draft and i would have it once internet returned. No such luck. So i will start with today and catch up this evening.
We awoke in Fort Myers with a decision to make. We could head south for 5  hours and visit Key West or head north 3 hours and visit Animal Kingdom. We have a Christmas gift for the Kingdom. Deb, checked the weather and the Keys' had a forecast of Thundershowers for the next three days. Not so Orlando.
Due to my infirmity, revealed in the next post, i opted for Orlando and, more importantly, Deb decided Orlando too. I fell asleep in the master bedroom only to wake upon approach to the campgrounds.
Fort Wilderness offers 2600 campsites with electric, water and cable hookups. I did not see but one or two empty sites in our 300 level sit but i did not see any vacant levels.
In our camp level i saw pricey, i mean pricey, motorhomes. I can only guess but we certainly can guess $150K for some of the larger models. They seem permanently placed on their sites. I think that they must purchase the site or at least lease the site for the winter. At $102 a day, i don't see them staying long term. Though if you can afford a $150k motorhome...
We settled in for the night taking comfort in the knowledge that we may have a small home, but we could look down our haughty noses at the ones in tent! ha!
We had dinner at Davey Crockett's place where i had my first meal of substance in three days.It stayed down.
sleep tight.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Jan 2...
Another day of rest but we ain't complaining. Our hostess, Chris, drove us to some of the tourist sites around here. I have pictures but haven't downloaded them to my computer to post here so that will wait another post. I, usually, post the day after, thus today is day. While i watch the Detroit Tigers go down in flames to my Chicago Bears I will post photos. We plan to leave on Tuesday for parts south.
But today...(Sunday) football

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Jan 1, 2016….
At last, a day free from travel. Our hosts. Mark and Christine, started their day by dressing in orange and driving into Tampa to watch Tennessee win… big! Mark hails from Memphis.

We, Nancy, Deb, Don and Brittany walked the white beach and drank beer...

Saw some wondrous creatures...

Let Nancy introduce us to a unique motel. It actually lets weekly efficiency apartments!

Then we drank more beer and watched teams that showed up to play(just sayin')....

Friday, January 1, 2016

Dec 31….
The day started before day break, 6AM. After the repair we took off to make up for a lost travel day. We hit rain and road flooding and pressed probably too far into the night before we, finally, pulled into a rest area on I10 and packed it in.
During the ride to our rest stop, Deb drove through two(2) states all by herself! She traverse the southern end of Mississippi and Alabama. Make sure you congratulate her on such a masterful feat. She thinks very highly of herself for this accomplishment.

As we passed through Mobile, Alabama we drove through The George Wallace tunnel. Very cool.
This morning off we shot with a goal of Treasure Island, FL. So far so good.
Short story short. We drove I10 to I75 to Treasure Island, encountered traffic as befits a large town, parked at our destination on Treasure Island, drank the offered beer, walked to Wa-ti-ki bar, drank beer, watched the first half of “the game” and never felt my head hit the pillow all before 10:30pm, local.
Happy New Year!

Dec 29 ---
 Today we awoke in the shed of Skelly’s Auto and truck repair. Our adventure began last night.
We tried to find diamonds to cover the cost of our trip and came up short…way short. When we attempted to leave the parking lot and head for our campsite the Roadtrek(hence named “Thang”) had a hard time starting. Finally, white smoke and a little cajoling, Thang started and we camped.
The next morning Thang started without incident and we motored to Shreveport, La.  Shreveport has nothing of interest if you ask Google but I saw many cool buildings so I asked Deb to drive around town before heading south. During our city tour Thang coughed and wheezed through town. It almost stalled several times and just didn’t “feel” right. We turned on to 47 south and off to Baton Rouge, La.
Thang ran good on the flat road but given a little incline felt like it worked a little too hard. 2 miles north of Opelousas, La we lost power and got off, turned into a parking lot before Thang gave up the ghost. Deb called AAA and two hours later our tow truck arrived.
I have a picture of Thang on the hook but I wish I had a picture of this tow truck interior. The steering wheel had no cover just the metal wheel. The door panels hung on the door… no screws or attachments inside the vehicle and the dashboard had holes where grills, radios and other items should reside. The dash lights didn’t work  so I don’t know if the instruments worked and the headlights glowed like parking lights rather than running lights. However, with all that said, the tow truck dragged Thang and not vice-versa.
20 miles south of Opelousas, in Lafayette, we unhooked and set up camp for the night at Stelley’s truck and auto repair. We had a covered car port with electricity…all the comforts of home. 7am awaits us to determine the damage and repair to get back on the road.
Dec. 30…7:00am. We told our story to the proper personnel and, now, await the verdict. This place has several motorhomes of various descriptions, including one late model Roadtrek.

It took 3 hours to free up a mechanic to work on Thang. I would have preferred an earlier assault on our vehicle but we didn’t have a reservation. Who knew? The mechanic attached a computer to the 23 year old diagnostic port and found nothing! With such an old vehicle he did not expect much. So it came down to knowledge and problem solving. Eventually he found a failed coolant sensor that indicated an operation temp of 33 below zero. To help correct the problem the sensor told the carburetor to dump fuel  to the engine and heat up. When our mechanic pulled the spark plugs they looked as black and sooted as Santa after Christmas deliveries down the chimney.  A total of 8 hours at the shop and $425 later we drove on down the road, cheap if you consider a burned up engine or spending the New Year’s weekend in Lafayette.
Drive on!
More pictures later.