Thursday, April 28, 2011

Missoula to Coeur d'Alene

We have completed the final leg of our trip to Coeur d'Alene. Since the Missoula KOA is one of our favorite places to stay, and to work, I've included a photo of our rig there. It's a lovely park, with big, old pines and firs and willows. We enjoyed greeting the employees with whom we've worked and also enjoyed some meals with various ones during our 3 night stay there. But, as it always does, the time to move on arrived, and we said our good-byes.

The weather reports said there would be snow on Lookout Pass, and there was indeed snow, but none on the road. About 100 miles from Missoula we crossed over the pass, headed down and saw the 'Welcome to Idaho' sign just below the summit. Yay! We're almost there!

This is our spot at the Lake Coeur d'Alene Camping Resort. It's one of the largest, yet it took 3 men quite a bit of maneuvering to get our big rig into. We're used to pull-thrus! In the process, just about when we thought we had it right, BigTruk gave up the ghost and shed red fluid all over, a real tragedy for us. We felt like crying! 

Fortunately, we have emergency road service so the next morning we called them and they sent out this tow truck to haul BigTruk to the Ford garage in Coeur d'Alene. In a few hours we had the verdict. BigTruk needs an organ transplant, a rebuilt transmission for only $4500! We are devastated, but we must do what we must do or we won't be going anywhere! God is good to take care of us no matter what happens. We've seen that over and over!
The owners here are so nice. We know we are going to love working with them. The park is still closed for a couple more days and we are the only rig here. It feels kind of lonely, but that will change soon!

This is the view of the eastern end of Lake Coeur d'Alene from the entrance to our campground. It's been a cloudy, darkish day but you can still see the beauty that we will be looking at on a daily basis. Mr. Keith and I are very thankful for what we have, our health, the great people we get to meet, the memories we're building, and the adventures we are able to have.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Rapid City to Missoula

I did not take any photos on our trip from Rapid City to Sheridan because the weather was so bad it took all my energy to keep vigilant on the road. We experienced heavy wind, rain, snow and mud almost all the way. Mr. Keith did well with the 5th wheel. The horizon was in a fog so we missed the lovely scenery we know is throughout Wyoming. We could imagine it, though, as we've been this way many times! In due time we arrived in Sheridan Wyoming. By then the sun was out a little, but it was freezing cold and still blowing furiously. We did have a pretty spot to park at the Sheridan KOA. We had never stopped there before.

The next day was gorgeous, all trace of wind gone. We were so happy about that because we've found that in a heavy wind BigTruk gets about 6 miles per gallon, while in good conditions it gets close to 10. Diesel is always the biggest part of our traveling expense. The most we paid was $4.14 a gallon and BigTruk holds 72 gallons. You can imagine the cost of a fill-up! This view is of the Crazy Mts. in Montana, close to Bozeman. Stunning! I wonder why they are called 'Crazy'. They didn't look all that much different from the other mountain ranges surrounding us.

There is a long trek through very high, rocky mountains to the east of Butte. I say 'rocky' because the rock formations through this region are amazing. Here we are coming down out of the mountains into Butte.

Here is one last photo before we got to Missoula, We're near the cut-off to Anaconda. It's still a beautiful day. We arrived at the Missoula KOA about 1:00 and were greeted by several of the employees with whom we worked for the last 2 summers. Hugs were exchanged! It was almost like coming home! We set up in 60 degree sunshine and actually sweated a little, in contrast to freezing the previous 2 nights. We will be here for 3 or 4 nights, waiting for our campground in Coeur d'Alene to have water turned on and a site readied for us. The last leg of our journey will be short, about 170 miles, and then we'll be settled in for the next 4 months. It's a fantastic life-style!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Our Time in Rapid City

 The Black Hills are our favorite place to be, besides Wenatchee where the kids are. It's with sadness we leave here after 5 days. Gotta get going to the new job in Idaho! The weather is bad today, very windy, not good for our 5th wheel, but we have to go. I didn't take very many photos while here. Seems like all our time was taken up with lunches and dinners with friends we hadn't seen for 2 years. We did take a couple of drives out in the Hills, though. I have to say that this RV park, Happy Holiday, is about the best park we've ever been in. We stayed here all summer in 2008 while we worked at Bear Country USA. The owner is super, and the sites are nice. I would highly recommend it to anyone.

 These are the children, Noah Nathaniel and Madison, of our very dear friends. They've grown so much! We stayed at their place for 2 months when they lived in Nebraska. I loved that they started calling me "Grandma" on their own!

 We had lunch with these 2 good buddies, Dave and Charlie. That's Mr. Keith on the right. Both of these friends work at the Rapid City Rescue Mission.

We had to go to Mt. Rushmore at least! We picked out educational booklets for the granddaughter of our best friends in Washington, and also did a little birthday shopping for our own granddaughter. By the time we got here the snow was mostly gone and it was a beautiful day. We never tire of Mt. Rushmore, and for that matter, of any place in the  gorgeous Black Hills! Bye for now!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Scotts Bluff & Chimney Rock

 I've wanted to see this area of Nebraska for years. We were foiled in our attempts to go through here 5 years ago by bad roads and snow, but we finally made it! Our opinion of Nebraska has changed. It's not just miles and miles of prairie! The Scottsbluff and Gering area is beyond beautiful, and has such history to boot! If you are an Oregon Trail student at all, this is what you'd want to see. I've included lots of pictures here — it was too difficult to choose! Here we are at the entrance to the monument, adjacent to the town of Gering.

 We were delighted to see that we could drive to the very top of the bluffs, 1 1/2 miles. There was a hiking trail, too, but it looked too much of a challenge for these 2 old coots. What a monumental task it must have been to construct this road and 3 tunnels. This is the backside of the monolith you see from the visitor center, Eagle Rock.

 Here I am on the very top of the bluffs. That is a huge cliff behind me, overlooking the towns below. These gorgeous bluffs are sandstone and clay.

 Here's another view looking down onto the towns of Scottsbluff and Gering.
 (Click to enlarge for a better view.)

 From this vantage point we are looking down onto the visitor center and ranger station. You can see the road leading to the top of the bluffs, going through the tunnel in picture #2.

 Back down to lower ground we found the path leading to an actual section of the Oregon Trail. The pioneers passed between two sections of the bluffs, a narrow trail that took them back down towards the Platte River Valley. This is a Conestoga wagon, and the bluff in the background is Eagle Rock, the most photographed and well-known part of Scotts Bluffs.

 Another view of Eagle Rock, with an old Studebaker wagon. It's amazing to think that we were able to drive through a tunnel carved in the backside of this promontory!

 Here is Mr. Keith standing on part of the actual Oregon Trail! In this section the wagons had to follow single file between the outcroppings, thus leaving a clear trail.

 Two old coots on another part of the trail, with Eagle Rock again in the background. We met a friendly couple at this viewpoint who were willing to get us both in the picture while we did the same for them. It's not quite tourist season so we didn't have any crowds to dodge.

 The most famous landmark for Oregon Trail pioneers was Chimney Rock. The gal at the visitor center told us that it was mentioned more than any other marker in the diaries left by travelers. This rocky phenomenon is 20 miles east of Scotts Bluff and is visible from there. I could go much more into the history of these places, but then my blog would be a book! Oddly, there is a small visitor center here, not the extensive facility we found at Scotts Bluff. I like this photo with the old fence and the yucca plants in the foreground.

This is as close as we could get to the rock. I was hoping for a trail leading right up to it, but there was a gully and a fence indicating 'no tresspassing'! I imagine that keeps Chimney Rock in the pristine state it was when all those wagon trains passed by so long ago. I'll never forget the awesome time we had on this day, seeing all this beauty and thinking about the thousands and thousands of hopeful, brave and hardy folks who went this way. Had we lived in that time I wonder if we would have joined them!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Leaving Colorado

 It is with sadness that we leave our spot at the KOA in Strasburg, Colorado, where we've been working for 6 1/2 months. Here we are all hooked up, slides in, hoses disconnected and stowed, and ready to pull out. It was a sunny but windy morning.

 Sadness aside, moving on to a new job in a different part of the country is always exciting. Our travel between jobs is really our vacation, so we take things slowly and enjoy the sights along the way. In this photo we are heading east on Highway 36, shortly to turn north on Highway 71, passing through the high plains of eastern Colorado.

 Oops! A stop for a long, long coal train at the town of Brush, Colorado. Just north of Brush we were stopped in our tracks from continuing up Hwy 71. It was closed for some reason, we thought maybe snow. We found our way back to the freeway, not easy in a big 5th wheel when we don't know the roads or whether we'll get into a spot where we can't turn around! Our detour took us 20 miles out of the way before we got back to Hwy 71 many miles farther north.

 We thought we might run into snow, since the highways farther east were closed, but all we got was wind, and lots of it, very strong. This windmill was one of many just south of the Nebraska border. Mr. Keith did fine at keeping the rig between the lines. My biggest challenge was to keep our two cats calm in the car with me! They did well.

 As we neared Gering and Scottsbluff, Nebraska, we were treated to this sight. I imagine the Oregon Trail pioneers felt even happier to see Scott's Bluff in the distance as they traveled along the Platte River. Our purpose in coming this route was so that we could tour the monument and see parts of the actual Oregon Trail and other historical sights around the area. We'll do that tomorrow and I'll be able to post some close up photos of the Bluff.
 For now, we're settled into a very nice and inexpensive RV park in the south part of Gering, right near the Bluff. The sites are not too close, and they have concrete pads, making leveling very easy.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Good Thoughts!

 With only a week to go before we hook up and pull out of the
Strasburg KOA, we feel a little bit of sadness to be leaving the friends we've made. There is tremendous excitement, too, as always, as we head for new adventures, new sights, and new friends. Last night we  made one last trip to downtown Denver, a truly amazing place, busy as an ant colony! 

God has been so good to us here. Reflecting on His blessings: we were invited to a family gathering at Thanksgiving, a great time with people we had never met prior to that day. They were so good to 'entertain strangers'. The same thing happened at Christmas! A co-worker invited us to her grandma's house with their family, alleviating somewhat our missing our own family. We had a family of 8 staying in the campground for a month. We entertained the children, took them to church, and thoroughly enjoyed them. The day they left we found an envelope taped to our porch, and inside was a large sum of money! We shared with our co-workers who were as amazed as we were at this unexpected gift. One night recently a couple who were here all winter took us to the Olive Garden in Denver for dinner. Another unexpected surprise! There is a lady here who needed a ride to church, so we took her with us. She gave us a lovely, hand-made, framed verse, "In Him we live and move and have our being." Another blessing! I've been giving a co-worker piano lessons all winter. At the conclusion of our last lesson, she gave me a gift and a card, composed and written from her heart. More blessings! We enjoyed a yummy dinner at the local Mexican restaurant with another couple who have been here all winter. We wish we could know them better and longer! And, last night, after our final drive through Denver, we had dinner with a couple who befriended us after we met them at the Thanksgiving dinner we shared together. Especially dear to our hearts are the two girls who were the pizza makers. We grew really close to both of them. Last, but certainly not least, we've been blessed to work for the wonderful owners of this campground, who've made us so welcome and made our time here so much fun and so memorable! We will miss them.

In contrast to the picture above, this is the sight we see from all directions around Strasburg, the high plains view, with the Rockies to the west. We are just now beginning to see some green in the fields and in the trees, a welcome change from the browns and tans of winter. In a week we will head north through Nebraska, spend a few days visiting friends in Rapid City, South Dakota, then on through Wyoming and Montana to our new job in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, where we will experience new adventures and blessings from God!