Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Learning as we Travel

Last Wednesday morning, that is a week ago Wednesday, we left Sidney, Nebraska, and drove to Cheyenne, Wyoming. We had an appointment at the Jolley Roger RV Service Center at 12:30 to have them connect the wires of our US Gear in the Jeep.  We did not get it working before we left Fresno. We thought the ‘break-away’ was working, but found it was not holding the brake on in the Jeep for longer than about 5 seconds – not long enough. After checking everything for about 1 1/2 hours, and still not getting it to work, our technician called US Gear and the conclusion was it was a faulty controller box next to the brake peddle in the Jeep. We ordered the part. It was coming from Denver and would arrive by 2 p.m. the next day. We were parked in back of the Service Center for the night at $20 a night.
We were able to stay one more day after the US Gear finally worked perfectly. Cheyenne Frontier Days started on Friday and the RV lot was booked for something like $56 a night.  We left Friday morning. We had checked the weather in Boise, Idaho, and discovered they were in a heat wave and it would be 106 degrees when we would be there. So we shook to “Jell-O” and departed for Montana instead of Idaho.
Our first stop was a real find, Kaycee, Wyoming. We stayed at a little PassPort America park with the friendliest owner. She lives in a log cabin in front and is on the Chamber of Commerce of Kaycee. She told us not to miss the Chris LeDoux park in the middle of the very small town.  Not being rodeo followers, we had not heard of Chris LeDoux. His wife had this lovely park constructed in his honor following his death in 2005. W found a nano geocache in the fence at this park. It was very hard to find and we almost gave up; persistence won out.

From Kaycee our next stop was Billings and the Moose Lodge. As we were driving to Billings we saw the historic park, Pompey’s Pillar. This was a landmark on Lewis and Clark’s Corp of Discovery, one of our favorite parts of history. Tom is also reading Stephan Ambrose’ Undaunted Courage so this was a must see park.  We visited the gift shop, the very nice small museum and took the walk to the pillar where William Clark wrote his name. We decided the steps were too much for my knee so we took lots of pictures.

We wanted to refill a couple of prescriptions at a local CVS Pharmacy while in Wyoming and discovered there are no CVS’s in Wyoming, Idaho, Washington or Oregon. Our medical plan uses CVS so that meant we had better get all our Meds through August while in Montana. We got one prescription filled but CVS did not have 90 pills so we knew we would have to made another stop in Montana.

We wanted to visit our friends, the Steindorfs, in a little town called Charlo. We called and left a message and drove to River Edge Casino RV park. This was on the river’s edge, but hardly a casino like we’ve stayed at before. We didn’t see any gambling, only a small restaurant that was overpriced.
We fixed dinner and drove around to the Natural Pier Bridge.
Later that evening, Betty Steindorf called and we made plans to drive to Charlo. This is on the Flathead Reservation. Jim Steindorf’s father was a homesteader and got 40 acres in 1910, his aunt got 40 acres, and the family has added another 20 acres over the years. This is such an interesting area formed by glaciers eons ago. So there are what are called pot holes (small ponds). They are throughout the valley and Jim and Betty have 2 on their property. Jim’s brother farms this land, his sister has a trailer she stays in when she visits, there are several houses on the property that family members stay in when they visit. Betty has a great garden.
We had some delicious meals prepared with vegetables from the garden. We went on a drive around the area with Jim giving us the history of 100 years of his family living here. We drove up to MacDonald Lake; it was quite low as water was being released for the farms in the valley. Jim and Betty posed for me very near an area their family has picnics.
The next day we drove up to Polson to buy some of the famous sweet cherries. We got 12 pounds for $22. We shared with Betty and Jim. Boy oh boy are they delicious! 
We also visited the museum that Jim volunteers at. It houses so much local Indian history, we only scratched the surface of the information on display. A highlight of our day was our visit to Charlo High School. We drove around to the back side of the school where all shops are. We found the shop teacher, Stan Asthley. He is the woodshop, metal shop, and drafting teacher. He is also a SkillsUSA Advisor. He showed us his projects that were at the Nationals in Kansas City.
Our next stop was Coeur D'Alene, Idaho, Elks RV park. This is a very nice 50 amp and water hookup for $18 a night. Thursday,we just hung out in the RV in the morning as we were just plain pooped after a pretty busy week.  Later that afternoon we went to Fred Myers to do some shopping and to get a discount card. We also received our registration for the Jeep in Fresno so Jennifer took the paperwork to our credit union to change the loan from Wells Fargo to EECU. We were able to FAX the paperwork that EECU needed right from the Customer Service desk at Fred Myers. Pretty amazing this technology.
Saturday we drove about 40 miles north to Sandpoint on Lake Pend Oreille  pronounced “Ponderay”. In fact the police car has Ponderay Police Department on the side of their cars. We read about a very interesting museum that should not be missed. It was quite a ride through the woods for about 6 miles, well worth it. It is called the Bird Aviation Museum & Invention Center. This museum is worth it to plan your trip around this stop. There were a lot of airplanes, cars, military information like a lot of other aviation museums we have been in, but the difference was the relation to Dr. Forrest Morton Bird. He either flew, drove, improved, fixed, or invented something related to that display. We were personally given a tour by a neighbor/docent who was a WWII pilot. His granddaughter and her husband were visiting from Seattle and we were invited to join their personal tour. We toured the Invention Center and saw many inventions and inventors’ projects. We then went through the area featuring Dr. Bird’s inventions: the respirator that replaced the iron lung, the infant/preemie respirator that has saved thousands of babies. the G-force pressure suit for pilots, the oxygen anesthesia mixing devices used in surgery.

We had made reservations for the sunset - eagle watching – dessert cruise on the lake. It was so nice and relaxing and for $23 for seniors, we thought it was a wonderful way to end our Idaho travels.

We left Idaho and continued on to Washington. We are staying in Monroe at the Fairgrounds. We are catching up; laundry, sleep, shopping. We had hoped to see our niece, Paige and family, but they were leaving town for a wedding. That is one nice thing about being a fulltime RV’er, we can always come back. Maybe next month…………

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Have you heard of DeWitt NE

Well, the first we heard of DeWitt Nebraska was when the folks in Wilber Nebraska said that the best fireworks around was 7 miles south in the little (population +-600) town of DeWitt. Their celebration was on the Saturday after Independence Day. We had planned to stay through the weekend at the American Legion Park anyway. A really nice 50 amp spot for just $16 a night.


The celebration in DeWitt was pretty good: a car show, community pulled pork or BBQ chicken dinner, parade and of course the small town parade.


We thought this was so ‘mid-west’, this young man with his  girlfriend riding on his tractor in the Independence Day Parade – now that’s love.


Then came the fireworks. While we waited we sat next to a sweet older couple and we talked about how they grew up in this part of Nebraska, no electricity, a snow tunnel to the outhouse, how she grows the biggest and most beautiful Hollyhocks in Wilber. 


Then we watched the best fireworks so far this year in Nebraska.

We were told about DeWitt’s most famous product that unfortunately is now produced in China, Vise Grips.  We drove over the next day to see the plant. This is a town of 600 that employed 300 in the Vise Grip plant. Tom checked his Vise Grips and they said, Made in DeWitt Nebraska. What do your Vise Grips say?

We left Wilber and drove west, not on I-80, the interstate, but on the Lincoln Highway, Hwy 30.  This is an easy driving 2 lane road through the heart of Nebraska. Corn Fields, long Union Pacific trains hauling coal. small towns only a block or so long and lots of grain elevators.


We stayed 3 nights in Kearney at the Buffalo County Fairgrounds.  We love the staff here and the fairgrounds have 50 amp power, water, and a convenient dump for $15 a night. This was the fairgrounds where we stayed over Memorial Day 4 years ago in the massive Exhibition Center.

Then the unimaginable happened, a tornado completely destroyed the Exhibition Center.


This is the beautiful Center today. The picture below is from the same vantage point as the one above. Quite a change.


From Kearney we again drove along the Lincoln Highway to North Platt. We stayed at the Buffalo Bill Cody State Recreational Area. A really nice park right on a small river, 50 amp, and water for $15 a night.


When we first arrived, the small park was about 1/2 full. Tom noticed this ‘camper’ and just had to take a picture. Later that weekend there was not an empty space.


Yep, no kidding this is how it was used for the whole time we were there. 4 guys were living in this. They would drag a picnic table to the back, step on the bench, step up to the table and go in the back door.

There was a field of flowers behind us and there were tons of fireflies every evening.

We went caching at the Buffalo Bill Scout Ranch on the 13th and got our Geocache Souvenir for that one. We went back the next day, got another cache and toured Buffalo Bill’s house and huge barn.

The heart with the hole in it at the peak of the barn was Annie Oakley’s trademark and notice the gun stock eaves at the roof of the barn.  This was a very nicely done museum and very educational.


We later went to the Union Pacific Bailey Yard and watched the trains being made up at this ‘Hump’ facility.  There were 2 humps at one end of the yard and a smaller hump at the other end. The statistics are mind boggling. The yard is 8 miles long with 315 miles of tracks. 12,000 railroad cars are handled each and every day and 9,000 locomotives are serviced each month. 125 trains are handled each day. The cars are pushed up to the top of the hump, separated from the previous car, and shoved down the other side of the hump – weighed – braked and joined to a car on one of the 30 tracks on the other side of the hump, making up a train.


Couldn’t resist a picture of DA Toad, that black top rolls back and is our sunroof.

Then we were on to Sidney along the Lincoln again where we stayed two nights at the fairgrounds for $10 a night and $3 to dump. While there we saw the cute movie, Despicable Me 2. This is a town of 6,000 so the Fox Theater’s shows were at either 7 or 9:30. There were 2 shows, Despicable Me and Lone Ranger. I think the other 10 people saw the Lone Ranger. We also visited the Sidney Museum while there. This was once a very important Fort protecting the building of the Transcontinental RR in the 1860’s. The fort was no longer needed in the early 1900’s and all but 3 buildings were sold. Today it is the headquarters for Cabela’s. There is no unemployment and Cabela’s is actually bringing in families from India to work here. Apparently not a lot of young people want to live in the lonely middle of West Nebraska.

Finally, today we moved to Cheyenne, WY, to have the US Gear Brake Assist fixed. We had it installed in Fresno, the brake-away worked, but the brake-assist did not. It was a faulty control module. We have ordered the module and it will arrive tomorrow and will be installed at Jolley Roger RV Service. We are very happy with the troubleshooting and professionalism of this staff. We are staying in their lot at $20, pricey for 30 amp, but handy.

We will continue west through Idaho, Washington then Oregon for the FMCA NW Rally and our Golden Spike train excursion rally. Mom and my sister, Janet, will join us for the train ride as it is almost on my birthday. COOL.

And this is long enough; thanks for sticking with it.