The Last Legs Home


After we left Zion National Park, we drove north through Hurricane until we found the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) open area where boon-docking is permitted. It took a bit of time to figure where we were allowed, but we found some other Canadians who assured us it was fine to park across from them. We found the most level spot we could, where we wouldn’t be blocking pathways or encroaching on the privacy of others, then went for a walk to see what was around us before the sun set.

Sun Beginning to Set
Our Site/Our neighbours
Where does this road lead?
A locked gate

A bush beginning to bud
My favourite Shot

The sun went down and we could see millions of stars. We watched a campfire (metal ringed fire-pits were the only amenities) burning up on a hill. We read for a while, and then snuggled under the covers to enjoy the quietest and most peaceful night’s sleep we’d had in years. No noise; no lights.

Salt Lake City

Early the next morning we were on the road heading to Salt Lake City. We could see snow-covered mountains off in the distance, shadows from clouds overhead creating the effect of oil paintings.

These were the only interesting things on the drive.

At 4:00 pm we reached our destination – the KOA in Salt Lake City, after stopping at the local Ford Dealer to get an appointment to have the motorhome issue checked out. Hot showers and great internet connection were much appreciated, but we didn’t have the luxury of quiet darkness for sleeping. There is always a trade-off.

While the motorhome was being thoroughly examined for most of the next day, we toured the mall, had coffee and cinnamon buns, and later lunch, before finding a table in the sun of the courtyard, still waiting to hear from the Ford man.

We arrived at City Creek Centre before the stores opened
Looking down and across the creek from the second floor
The outside Courtyard, with the Mormon Chapel in the background
Mid-morning energy boast
Looking down to the street from the Upper Floor Causeway between the Mall Sections
Children were fascinated with this Infinity Pool
At certain intervals music began to play and the fountains danced

He finally checked in  with the news that they could find nothing wrong other than the flawed spark plug that we’d had replaced in Mesa. With Jim’s permission they would replace all ten spark plugs. We had another couple of hours to kill so we left the mall and walked downtown, ultimately ending up at the IMAX Theatre in the Planetarium, where we watched the 3D movie “Super Dogs.” That was amazing!

At 4:30 the call came: the motorhome was finished and running well. $760 later we were back at the KOA. I have to say that we were impressed with this dealership. They were very courteous; they had an Uber at the door to take us wherever we wanted to go while we waited, at their expense, and another to pick us up downtown to return us to the dealership. They showed us the cracked spark plug, and a few examples of how badly warn and rusted the others were. They explained all the other testing they’d done and how they’d found the problem.

The following day we journeyed to the suburb of Cottonwood to join many other ukulele players, in a small non-denominational church, for a ukulele workshop and concert lead by a master of ukulele, Stuart Fuchs. It was an uplifting and inspiring way to end our stay in Utah.

Stuart Fusch tuning his ukulele
Love is the theme of the Unitarian Universalist Society where the ukulele workshop took place

The next morning we left the KOA.

The Final 1,966 Miles

The last five days were spent just driving, trying to keep ahead of the predicted rain and snow along the way.

Tunnel Through the Mountain near Grand River, Utah

The first night we parked at Western Hills Campground, high on a hill outside Rawlins, Wyoming and were again rocked to sleep by high winds. We had a good breakfast at Cappy’s, a restaurant located part way down the hill.

Western Hills Campground, Rawlins, Wyoming

Back on I-80 the winds were still blowing and the elevation reached 8800 feet. Overhead signs warned that there could be wind gusts of 40 to 60 mph and high profile, light-weight vehicles should turn off. That was us, but where were we to go? We carried on, out of Wyoming and half-way through Nebraska to Lexington, where we found a Walmart that night.

Steep Climb to 8800 feet

At Sleepy Hallow Good Sam Campground, in Oxford Iowa the next night, more high winds, thunder and heavy rain disturbed out sleep. At 6:00 am the roaring winds had me up and dressed, ready to escape what sounded like a tornado, but it settled down enough for us to have breakfast before we left. Getting out of our spot was tricky though. The sites were built along the side of a hill and the narrow, up-hill roads between them were partially washed out in places, requiring a sharp left turn to get onto them. We got stuck in the wet grass beside us. After a couple of tries, Jim managed to get purchase on the gravel and gunned it up the hill. I was so glad to get out of there. It’s a very pretty spot, but the access roads and parking sites need a lot of work. That was our last campground stay.

This will be a pretty Campground in the spring and summer, but the roads need work

We got the rest of the way through Iowa, and all the way through Illinois, still on I-80, and to Elkhart, Indiana the next day. The Cracker Barrel was ours for dinner, the night, and breakfast. We would have gotten further if it hadn’t been for a tanker roll over in Illinois that caused a two-hour delay.

The following day we continued to fight the winds and we decided to turn north at Michigan instead of continuing on to Pennsylvania and New York state, where we usually cross the border at Niagara Falls. We were hoping the winds would be lighter. They weren’t.

Trucks lined up at Border
Flags blowing Straight out at the Enroute Travelers Centre

After we crossed into Canada at Detroit (where we got lost trying to find our way to the bridge) they got even worse! We were ready to stop for the night at Tilbury, west of Toronto, but snowy predictions for the next morning and the continued winds, pushed us on home. We arrived at 9:15 pm. Home was a beautiful sight, even though it was cold!

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Plans Derailed Again!


Day 13 – Tues.

We didn’t travel far today. We arrived in Cody at ten this morning, where we stopped for gas. We had intended to keep on going to Yellowstone, but we saw the Buffalo Bill Historic Museum and it looked pretty interesting. Bronze statues are everywhere in Wyoming it seems, and the path into the museum is no exception. I snapped pictures of conversing cowboys on horseback, a wolf howling at the moon and Buffalo Bill himself. We decided not to pay the $15 each to go into the museum, but looked around the gift shop. We were amused at the notice going into the building that listed the things that would have to be checked at the museum entrance. The list included firearms. You know you’re in redneck country when …

From the museum we went across the road to the Visitors’ Centre and learned of all the things that could be seen in the town, including a rodeo at night. I’d never seen a rodeo and thought I’d like to. We decided to stay. We found a cheap campground at the edge of town, the Gateway Motel and RV Park. It was full hook-up and that’s about it, but that’s all we needed. We unloaded the bike and went to the Walmart, almost next door, to pick up a few odds and ends that we’d needed, and after depositing them back at the RV, we rode downtown to see the sights.

We went to the Irma Hotel for Iced Tea. The Irma was Buffalo Bill’s Hotel back in the day. It still has much of the original decor and atmosphere, but commercialization has made it disappointing. We wandered through a few shops. I saw lots of beautiful clothing but too expensive for my budget. We purchased tickets for dinner and a “cowboy show” at the Cody Cattle Company, and for the rodeo. We toured the Old West Miniature Village and Museum. By then the temperature had reached 98 degrees Fahrenheit according to one sign, 94 by another. Whichever, it was HOT! Time for a DQ treat.

When we got back on the bike it was sputtering and backfiring, so we left it at the campground and walked the half mile from there to our evening venues. The “chuck wagon” buffet consisted of Caesar salad, beans, beef, chicken, baked potatoes, coleslaw, corn bread, applesauce and brownies for dessert. I thought it was good; Jim wasn’t impressed. He was, however, very impressed with the music. It was good old cowboy music, performed by the Martin Family. It included singing, yodeling, and some amazing guitar and mandolin picking by Jim & Jeanne’s son, Ryan Martin. It was a great hour of entertainment.

From there we walked a little further up the road to the Cody Night Rodeo. I enjoyed watching the bucking horse riding competition, until Jim told me how they got the horses to buck (if you don’t know, don’t ask). The calf roping competition had me silently cheering for the calf. I did enjoy watching the barrel races. A few competitors were very, very young, but managed their horses well. The clowns added some comic relief. So now I’ve seen a rodeo. I don’t think I’ll need to see another.

Tomorrow we WILL get to Yellowstone! Stay tuned.

Addendum:

Jim and Jeanne Martin of the Rockin M Wranglers have performed together for audiences all around the US for over 18 years. Their son Ryan Martin has joined them for their current seven-days-a-week gig at The Cody Cattle Company.

Moments That Take our Breath Away


Day 12 – Monday
We did sit outside on the KOA deck and watched Close Encounters. Once the sun went down the temperature dropped by about thirty degrees, I think. By the time the movie was over I was shivering uncontrollably. We were both cold enough to turn on the furnace before getting into bed!

Today was sunny and warm again, without being too hot. We left Devil’s Tower with the intentions of heading southwest, towards San Francisco. But after looking at the map and seeing that it would be only about 100 kilometres longer to go northwest to Yellowstone first, we both agreed that it would be a shame to miss it when we were that close, so we changed our route.

We took I-90 to Gillette and on to Buffalo. We thought we might reach Cody tonight, close to Yellowstone, but somewhere between Gillette and Buffalo the transmission made a few hiccups, which concerned Jim. To be safe, we stopped in Buffalo to have it checked. The young fellow checked the fluid and said it was good, but the transmission probably needed servicing, maybe even a flush. He could do the general service for about $150 (but might not get to it today). He suggested we go to Sheridan to a transmission specialist. Because the hills were already starting to slow us down, we’d planned to take the more southerly route to Cody, the one with the lowest grade climb. Going through Sheridan was just the opposite. We debated what to do and drove past the exit to Sheridan. It turned out to be the right choice. We had no more issues with the transmission even during the climb through the high hills of Wyoming. Perhaps it just needed a cool down. We did have to take the hills very slowly though as our motor home isn’t a powerful one. As a result, we’ve stopped for the night in Grey Bull, an hour or so short of Cody. Soon after we were set up in our site, another motor home pulling a big bike trailer parked next to us. Jim got talking to them and learned that they had taken the more northerly route, through Sheridan. The driver said, “I’ll never do that again! I overheated my engine a couple of times!” This confirmed the wisdom of our decision.

Despite the slow drive, the hills were breathtaking; blue/grey and pink rock, high peaks, deep canyons. I thought of the sign that Jim’s daughter had given us and wished I’d brought it with us for the RV: “Life isn’t about the number of breaths we take, but the moments that take our breath away.” We are certainly experiencing many of those moments on this trip. We are truly blessed.