Saturday, July 26, 2014

Blow Out!

We finally got our truck back...Tuesday, a day later than promised...and left Winnemuca Wednesday morning.  Fifteen miles from Fernley, NV, where we were going to spend the night, we heard a loud pop.  Jack looked in the side view mirror and saw pieces of a tire flying all over...we had a blow out on the fifth wheel!  Fortunately, Jack's a great driver and was able to safely bring us to a stop on the side of the interstate.

I'd never experienced a blow out before and it was scary, especially every time a semi whooshed by and rocked us, but I managed to maintain my calm.  We have roadside assistance and just needed to call them...but for that we needed a cell phone signal...touch and go in the middle of nowhere Nevada.  Switching between both our cell phones, on two different carriers, we were able to make the them our exact location proved a little more difficult...but CoachNet Roadside Assistance came through, got a tow truck out to change the tire and we were on our way within 90 minutes.

We found a place to stay in Fernley, Fernley RV Park, and bought a new spare tire.  At the $16 Passport America rate, Fernley RV Park was great for an overnight stay...paved roads, flat cement sites and patios, and cable (although they were upgrading and the cable wasn't available the night we were there).  We were tired and stressed and sick of being prisoners of the RV, so we went out to eat...something we never do on an overnight stay. The Black Bear Diner is a chain and the food was okay, though a bit expensive for what it was.  It filled our need (and our stomachs), but we're not likely to visit another one.

Got on our way quickly the next morning and headed to Vacaville.  We were both nervous the entire trip...worried about the possibility of another blow out...but we made it without incident. As we crossed the California border, Jack confessed that he's never made it through Nevada without a flat tire and swore we'll never set wheel in Nevada again!  We've learned that the made-in-China Goodyear Marathons, standard equipment on most trailers, are an accident waiting to happen and will be shopping for four new tires before we get back on the road.

We are now happily settled in Vacaville, California for the next month and looking forward to great visits with Jack's children, grandchildren and siblings.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Stuck in the Desert...

As we left Salt Lake City and headed out of Utah, I got my first look at the famed salt flats.  I'm not sure what I expected but it just looks like snow on the side of the road. Kind of cool!

Campsite at Iron Horse
We crossed into Nevada and spent the night in the Iron Horse RV Resort. Don't know why Elko is so expensive...maybe it's the casinos... but it is and we paid way more for a site for one night than I like.  It's a very nice park, big sites, patios, grass, cable, but the amenities are a half mile up the road at the Hilton Garden Inn...a bit inconvenient and not worth the money.  We'll pass by Elko next time.

We had originally planned to make our next stop in Winnemuca, Nevada but decided, instead, to drive straight through to Fernley, near the Nevada/California border. It was straight I-80 and would be an easy drive...except for those awful, bumpy roads.

Nevada Landscape

We got on the road Friday morning about ten and pulled off the interstate two hours later for gas and lunch when Jack noticed the truck was idling extremely roughly.  It was troubling at first and became a real concern when the mechanical error light came on. Jack wanted to have it checked immediately and I trust his judgement, so we found a campground nearby, got a site for the night, unhitched and Jack left with the truck to find the local Ford dealer.  Their diagnosis was a bad injector that needed to be replaced. Repair estimate...$993...and they wouldn't be able to do the work until Monday morning! we are, stuck guessed it...Winnemuca, Nevada...with no transportation!

On the plus side, the campground, Hi-Desert RV Park, gave us all four nights at the Passport America rate, despite their policy that only allows two nights at that rate.  It's a mostly gravel campground, level pull thru sites, no shade, but great cable and a very nice, cheap laundry.  If the truck is ready as promised, we'll be leaving here on Tuesday...with clean laundry!

I hate automotive repairs!

Salt Lake City,Utah...

Our trek to California brought us across the top corner of Utah and right through Salt Lake City, so we decided to stop for a couple of days and see a little of the area. There is too much to see in such a short time and it will definitely require a return visit, as will other areas of Utah that we didn't get near. Entering Utah from Wyoming brings such a change in landscape...for the better, with rolling green hills and countryside.

We spent those days at the Salt Lake City KOA. KOAs are more expensive than most campgrounds, but this one was worth it.  Paved roads, paved sites with concrete parking pads and patios, grass, enough trees for shade, but not intrusive and lots of amenities. Think it will be our campground of choice when we return.

We met a nice couple in the site next to us, Rob and Karen, also full timers...from Charlotte, NC! They have the same exact truck as ours, only theirs is blue.  We joked that we should trade as theirs would match our fifth wheel and our dark red would match theirs.  We enjoyed talking to them.  As we were going out the first afternoon, Rob noticed a screechy sound as we started the truck.  Jack investigated and discovered that our serpentine belt was going bad and went off to the Ford place to get it replaced.  I know it's important to keep the truck maintained and in good repair, but I hate these necessary, but expensive, automotive costs.

Once the truck was in good running order, we went off to explore Salt lake City.  We only had one day (having used the other for truck repairs) so we visited Temple Square.  It's quiet and peaceful and beautifully landscaped and maintained.  The center piece, of course, is the amazing looking Mormon Temple which is closed to outsiders.  One must be a member of the Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints to enter.  We did see the Mormon Tabernacle, home to the famed Choir.

Across from Temple Square is an open air mall, Creek City Center.  We wandered over, walked around and had a snack.  It's beautiful...has a retractable skylight roof, a skybridge, waterfalls, fountains, and, of course, a creek. It's also houses the Center City station of TRAX, the public transportation system.  I wish we'd had more than an hour and a half to explore...and I wish I'd taken pictures.  Something to revisit next time we are in the area.

Temple Square
Click to Enlarge

Wyoming and an Old West Prison...

Oil Rig
Bad Roads!
After the all beauty of South Dakota, Wyoming was a bit of a disappointment to me.  We used it primarily as a pass through on our way to California and will return to see Yellowstone and Devil's Tower when we visit the states to the north.  Still, I was hoping for beautiful scenery on our drive.  There was some very pretty scenery but, overall, the landscape is a bit desolate looking...mostly dedicated to oil and mining.

At an I-80 exit...we stopped for gas
Endless Highway...
Our first stop was just an overnight in Casper, Wyoming. We stayed a Casper East RV Park. It's right in the city, with an awkward entrance, lots of gravel and little to no grass or shade. The pull thru was barely long enough to hold both our fifth wheel and truck without unhitching, but we made it.  The roads are quite wide and forgiving if your truck or car sticks out a bit.  It served our purposes and we would stop there again if need be.

Some of the Pretty Spots
We hit Rawlins next and decided to stop for a couple of days to rest and do laundry.  RV World Campground is right off the highway, reasonably priced, has a decent laundry and very nice staff, who hand out dog treats and Andre Mints on your arrival.  The pull thru sites are gravel and very close together but, again, met our needs.  We saw the super moon, got the laundry done and visited a prison.

Super Moon
There isn't much in Rawlins, but their main attraction is the Wyoming Frontier Prison and we decided to visit. The old wild west prison opened in 1901 and was in use until 1981. It started out with no electricity, no running water and little heat and housed both men and women until 1909. Butch Cassidy was one of its inmates.  It is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Life in those times was harsh and could be cruel.  We saw cells, dungeons, solitary confinement, a gallows and a gas chamber.  We also saw beautiful paintings on the cafeteria walls, done by an inmate who was disabled and not able to participate in the usual prison work.  An oasis of beauty in an otherwise grey and grizzly environment.

More Endless Highway...
The Middle of Nowhere...
We left Rawlins and had a one night stopover in Fort Bridger RV Camp in Fort Bridger, Wyoming. It's a very small campground, hard to find...we drove past it twice.  Sites are grass and reasonably level.  Most are back-ins, but they did have a long pull thru for us. It is quiet and peaceful...if you don't count the police banging on someone's door that evening...with mostly long term campers, and they have cable.  It would have been okay for a one night stop had it not been for the mosquitoes. There were hundreds, ready to attack the minute you stepped into the grass. We left there itching like crazy!  We'll try somewhere else next time.

Crossing the Continental Divide
We crossed the Continental Divide while driving through Wyoming...elevation 7120 feet above sea level.  It felt like we were above the clouds...and we were above some of them! Unfortunately, the high altitude affected me and I have been short of breath the whole time we have been in these high altitudes.

Looking forward to getting back to sea level!

Wyoming Frontier Prison
Click to Enlarge

Notice the smiley faces painted on the wall...

Cafeteria paintings done by a prisoner...

Gallows (left) and Gas Chamber (right)

From there, it was on to Utah.