Sunday, July 16, 2017

A First For Our Motorhome

Posted from near Mancos, CO
(Click on Pics to Enlarge)

To view pictures not included in this blog post click HERE.

We raised the jacks and left Hermosa, SD on Sunday 7/10 with our next destination being near Mancos, CO (just outside of Mesa Verde NP). This was the first time since we've had our motorhome that we've stayed in Colorado.  We've been RVing in one type of rig or another since 1991, but have never stayed in Colorado in the motorhome. Yep, we finally got to "color in" the map over on the right side of our main blog page.

From Hermosa, SD we traveled south on US79, then west on US18 and finally picked up I-25 just south of Douglas, WY. Although a lot of these roads were 2-lane, the drive was easy and traffic light.

Once we jumped onto I-25 the drive was easy until we hit Denver (at rush hour). I had planned a fuel stop in Aurora (really just a big continuation of Denver on the east side), then we headed south again on I-25 until we overnighted in a Walmart in Monument, CO. If you use Walmarts and are in that area, this was a nice one. Plenty of space and lighting at night. We felt safe with no concerns.

The next day we drove south on I-25 again, exited onto US160 at Walsenburg, then stayed on US160 all of the way to Mancos, CO.

This was the motorhome's first "true" test of mountain driving. Just west of Del Norte we had our first glimpse of snow capped mountains ahead.

The snow shed east of the summit at Wolf Creek Pass was at an altitude of 10230 feet.

Although we didn't catch a picture of the area, our GPS read 10870 feet just a short distance west of the snow shed.

The nice thing about the road in this area was that there was a "passing lane" for slower vehicles (like us) both on the way up to the summit and on the side heading down the mountain.  The motorhome did fine as long as you keep the RPMs in the 2000 range on the way up and your foot off the brake on the way down. We have an exhaust brake and it kept us in 2nd gear at a speed of around 30 MPH on the trek down. I rarely ever touched the foot brake.

You do not want to be heading down these mountains at an excessive speed and lose the coach's brakes.  When you see areas like these along the route you know that you're in for some steep climbs and descents.

The posted speed limits also remind you to keep those speeds down. This was just west of South Fork, CO. Notice the posted truck speed limit.

All in all,  the drive was much easier than I had anticipated. The keys to mountain driving are to keep the RPMs up on the way up the mountain (to prevent engine overheating) and to keep your foot off the service brake pedal coming down the mountain. I had heard that a good rule of thumb is to head down the mountain in the same (or lower) gear than you made the ascent. That proved accurate for us.

If you are ever in this part of Colorado in a motorhome, don't be afraid to travel this route.  The views are beautiful! There are plenty of passing lanes for speedier vehicles to pass. In this picture we haven't broken down, just a quick stop for some pictures.

Thanks for stopping by to take a look!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Wrapping Up Our South Dakota Stay

Posted from Hermosa, SD
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To view additional photos, click on the links below:

Roughlock Falls Trail and D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery
Custer State Park-Cathedral Spires Trail
Custer State Park-Little Devil's Tower Trail
South Dakota Air and Space Museum

We always enjoy returning to our "home" state of South Dakota, but this time we came here with a purpose in mind. It's coming up on the time to renew our South Dakota Driver's Licenses (which we had intended to do online), but had not read the regulations as closely as we should have. Even with an online renewal, the applicant must still have a receipt from a campground, hotel, motel, etc. proving at least a stay of one night sometime during the previous 12 months. You can renew an OL anytime within 6 months before your birthday, but that would have meant no sooner than August for Karen, or October for me. We like South Dakota a lot, just not in the cold winter time.

Since we had been forced to alter our original summer plans by diverting to the East Coast we decided to "swing" back thru South Dakota and get the required paperwork for the OL out of the way.

With that taken care of it was time to explore.  We met up with Dave and Diane, fellow FTers and friends from Palm Creek, when they moved over to the park we're staying in near Hermosa, SD. At their suggestion, we took a day trip up to the Spearfish area and hiked a few trails up that way. We hiked the Roughlock Falls Trail. This was a nice easy hike and a place to eat lunch.

Oh, I forgot to mention that our traveling buddies had lunch there as well.

It was a beautiful day for hiking in a very pretty part of the state.

On the road between Roughlock Falls and Spearfish we stopped (along with a bunch of other folks) for a quick look at Bridal Veil Falls.

I was expecting a bit more, but the falls were easily visible from the roadway, so this stop didn't take too long.

While in Spearfish, we wandered into the D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery.  There is no entrance fee and was actually very interesting (although I'll admit that I know nothing about fish hatcheries).

This was a restored fish transporting railroad car.  Beautifully done woodwork inside.

The fish were certainly transported in style back in the day.

We were given a guided tour of the home of D.C. Booth, the first superintendent of the Hatchery. He and his family occupied the residence from 1905-1933.

On July 4th we decided to not leave the campground. We believed that this area would be flooded with tourists crowding Custer State Park and the nearby Mount Rushmore areas. It turned out well, as a couple on a nearby site hosted a get together for anyone in the campground who wished to attend.

We even had a gentleman provide entertainment on his guitar.

Of course, when RVers get together there's always food. The host made this tasty cake to celebrate the 4th. The vast majority of the folks in attendance were FT RVers.

We love Custer State Park and always make a visit when in the area. We hiked the Cathedral Spires Trail and Little Devil's Tower Trail. I believe that we've now hiked all of the trails in the park.

This was at the end of the Cathedral Spires Trail. A nice hike and the temperatures were at least 10 degrees cooler than our campground in Hermosa.

The Little Devil's Tower Trail is relatively easy until the last climb to the top. A bit of rock scrambling is necessary, but still doable.

As with most trails in this area which elevate the hiker, the views from the top are always worth the hikes to get there.

Another great place to visit is the South Dakota Air and Space Museum located just east of Rapid City in Box Elder. The museum is located just outside of the gate to Ellsworth Air Force Base and contains plane exhibits on the outside and a nice collection within.  Again, the museum tour is totally free.

We decided to take an optional bus tour of the Minuteman missile silo located on the base. The tour lasts a bit over an hour and costs $9 per adult. We enjoyed the tour (which winds thru the AF base and takes everyone to a missile silo). The tour guide (retired AF) was very knowledgeable about the base and the history of the ICBM program.

This site was a training launch facility. The difference from this and a regular silo was the entrance. On a "regular" silo, entrance would have been made thru the hatch in front of this vehicle which transported the warhead and the guidance system for that particular missile.

This view is from inside the silo looking back up at the entrance ladder leading to the surface.

This is a look at the Minuteman II ICBM missile (located at the museum) which was positioned in the silo.

The exhibits inside the museum were very interesting and well presented. Here's a photo of the entire US Air Force in 1910, along with a Wright Brothers airplane.

We'll be packing up and leaving South Dakota on Monday morning. Heading to Colorado, with our first stop for a couple of weeks near Mesa Verde National Park. Hopefully, the higher elevation will also bring cooler temperatures in Colorado. It was 101 degrees in Hermosa, SD today.

As always, thanks for stopping by to take a look!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

It Wasn't Pretty, But We Made It

Posted from Hermosa, SD

After making an unscheduled trip to the East Coast to be with my Mom while she underwent surgery and recovered enough to be able to return home, we had to make a decision on how to continue with our plans for the rest of the summer.

We recently found out that although we had decided to renew our South Dakota Operator's Licenses online, we still needed to have a receipt (for each of us) from a campground, motel, hotel, etc. to prove that we had visited the state within the previous 12 months.  You are allowed to renew licenses in SD six months prior to your birthday. Karen's birthday is in February and mine is in April. Because we really have no desire to return to SD in the winter months, we've decided to head back thru SD on our "swing" west and pick up the necessary paperwork to comply with the renewal regulations.

We knew that we'd be doing "overnighters" only, but the trip turned out to be worse than anticipated.We left the Bull Run Campground in Centreville, VA on June 22. We drove to Triadelphia, WV the first day with the intention of staying at the Walmart.  This is a very nice overnight (usually) as this Walmart has a section dedicated just for RVs, and is separate from the rest of the car parking. There are also signs indicating "No trucks". Well, we arrived and yes, every single spot was occupied by a truck. Fortunately, there is a Cabela's at the same exit (which we had previously stayed), so we wandered over there.  Because of the upcoming 4th of July holiday most of the parking lots were roped off for special events.  Karen went inside to ask for permission to overnight  and we were directed to the Bus Parking area.  Parking spaces were long, so we were good up to this point.

The next day we traveled from Triadelphia, WV to the Walmart lot in Crawfordsville, IN.  It rained almost all day.

The rain was bad enough, but as we passed Dayton, OH on I70, the overhead sign boards were indicating that I70 W/B was CLOSED due to a truck accident. Great. Heavy rain and not familiar with the detour roads. We have a CB radio in the rig just for situations like this. We listened to the detour route the large trucks were taking (Route 40), so off we went behind a long (but slowly moving) line of trucks. As we slowed at a 4-way stop in an intersection, the driver's side windshield wiper decided it had enough. The entire wiper arm flew off and was gone.

I have spare wiper blades, so when we pulled into our fuel stop at Eaton, OH, I installed a new wiper blade while pumping fuel. Still raining, I used the wipers sparingly until we reached our stopover for the night at the Walmart in Crawfordsville, IN.

The next day went well until we reached our stop for the evening at the Walmart in Coralville, IA. This Walmart is a bit tricky to enter as there are low horizontal bars which block the entrances off of the main street. (BTW we use to locate these overnight stops.) I was busy watching for the entrance to the lot and dodging exiting cars when I allowed the passenger's side mirror to strike a sign on the right side of the road. The sign was barely dented, but the passenger's side mirror snapped off the mounting arm and was held on by the wiring.

The mirror glass was also broken. It took a bit of work to trace the wiring inside the front cap and finally clip it to be able to remove the entire mirror head. That's going to be expensive I thought. I found out the next day how much I really miss having a passenger's side mirror! We did a lot of driving in the right lane to our next overnight stop in a "real" campground in Welcome, MN.

Fortunately, this was the end of our "adventures".  We had to wait until Monday to contact the Ramco factory (manufacturer of the mirror).  A new mirror from the factory costs $368. They indicated that they had "factory seconds" for $200.  I asked how bad the "blem" was and the call taker indicated very minor.

We arrived in Hermosa, SD on Tuesday 6/27.  We are planning on staying until July 10th, at which time we will attempt to return to our pre-planned summer stays in CO and NM.

One of the best things to happen in the last week is that we met up with old friends Dave and Diane and had a chance to eat some pizza and catch up. Ironically, they moved to the same CG we are staying in and are parked right beside us now.  The replacement mirror came in on Friday and Dave and Karen assisted me with the replacement.  It actually went much easier than anticipated and the "blem" was a very small contact point on the lower edge of the mirror.  Definitely not noticeable by looking at the mirror.  We are happy again!

If this blog sounds like I'm ranting and crying about our last few days traveling across the country, it really isn't meant to be.  It's just part of the Fulltiming lifestyle. We've found that no matter how bad things seem to be, they really are not that bad.  No one was injured during any of this adventure and hopefully we are back on track again for the rest of the summer.