May 1st to May 15th
We celebrated our first day of retirement by sleeping in a little later, then going to IHOP for breakfast. After breakfast we packed up the rig and were on our way. Our first stop was the courthouse in Livingston, TX where we registered to vote, changed the address on our vehicle registrations. We then headed to the DPS office to take our test for our Class C Driver’s License. (Necessary because our rig exceeds 26000#) After passing both a written and on the road exam, we headed to Rainbow’s End where we spent the night.
On Friday we headed to Dallas to spend a few days with Robert. We spent the weekend visiting and catching up on laundry.
Monday we were at the Camping World location in Denton, TX at 8:00AM for the installation of a new A&E Weather Pro Awning and to have the brakes on the rig checked and the oil changed in the generator. We were on our way by noon, heading into Oklahoma. The weather was warm and storms were very active that day, but we always seemed to be away from the activity. We spent the night in Guthrie.
Tuesday we continued north to Salina, KS where we made our westward turn. It has been amazing to see the change in the weather. It is much cooler and the trees here were not full out as they were in Houston. We normally come through here in July and the grain fields are being harvested. This time we saw some grain coming up, but a lot of land hadn’t been planted yet.
One interesting area in central Kansas is called the Post Rock area. The name comes from the fact that trees were not abundant in the area for use as timber, etc. The settlers there discovered that the native stone could be easily cut and used as fence posts. There are still many of those posts in use today and can be seen along the highway. We also saw a herd of buffalo. The weather was cloudy and threatening all day, but fortunately all of the bad weather was to the east of us and we didn’t experience any problems. We spent the night in
Wednesday we arrived in Golden, CO to spend a few days. We have been to Colorado a number of times, but haven’t seen much in this area. We decided this would be the time to see a few things. We set up in Dakota Ridge RV Resort. It is a pretty resort, convenient to town.
Thursday we drove to Boulder for a tour of the Celestial Seasonings plant. The tours are free and very interesting. After a short film, our group donned hairnets and was off to the production area. Celestial Seasonings produces all their teas in this facility. They were producing teas with lemon grass in them that day and the cutting area had a wonderful aroma. The herbs are stored in large bags on pallets until ready for cutting and blending. Of particular interest was the mint room. Peppermint and Spearmint must be stored alone or their oils will infuse the other herbs. When you are taken into the room where the mint is stored, you will immediately notice that your sinuses open up. Some people also experience watery eyes. We then saw the areas where the tea is blended, bagged and packaged. It is then boxed for shipment. They have a robot that picks up the boxes, palletizes and shrink-wraps them for shipment. The robot was made in Japan and can sort, palletize and wrap three kinds of tea at a time. It was very interesting to watch. The tour ended in the gift shop, of course, where you could purchase any of their teas, plus teapots and many other items. They also have a tea tasting room and a café.
We then returned to Golden and visited Lookout Mountain, where the grave of Buffalo Bill Cody is located. The view from the mountain top was fantastic and it was easy to see why he wanted to be buried there. His funeral was the largest in the history of Colorado. There is a very good museum at the site also with many items that belonged to him. The drive to the top of the mountain is quite an experience also.
Thursday evening we went to Heritage Square in Golden to The Good Times Dinner Theater. Sharlene Stanfa who worked in the corporate office of her company had recommended this to Millie. The dinner was very good, served buffet style, with 3 entrees and a terrific salad bar. After dinner, we strolled the Heritage Square area while waiting for show time. The show was a comedy “Who Done in Belle Starr” and was very funny. The cast was great and our seats were first row, nearly on the stage! Our only complaint is that the theater uses chairs instead of seats and they are so close together, they are actually touching. Before heading to the theater that evening, we heard on the news about the horrific tornado that was on the ground in Oklahoma City and called our niece, Christine Greene, who lives there to be sure she and her family were safe. She said the storm had passed about 20 minutes away from where she lives. It is really shaping up to be a bad tornado season.
Friday we drove into Denver. By the way, shorts were put away in Kansas, and jeans and jackets are the order of the day now. The weather on Friday was overcast and chilly. We parked across from the State Capitol and headed inside for a tour. The capitol building is very beautiful. The same architect also designed our Texas capitol building. The building has a beautiful grand staircase and rotunda. Disappointing was the fact that the rotunda was closed for repairs and we were unable to go to the top. Did you know that it is the law in Colorado that no building in the city can block the view of the Rockies from the capitol? The building is constructed of mostly Colorado materials. The exterior of the dome is gold leaf and has to be replaced every 30 years. It contains around 45 ounces of gold. On the interior is a trim of rose onyx that is beautiful. It is the only place you can see this material. It was mined in Colorado, is the only place in the world it has been found, and every scrap of it was used in this building.
After our tour of the Capitol, we walked a few blocks over for a tour of the home of Molly Brown. Compared to many, her home was really quite modest in size but was a lovely home. We had a 45-minute tour of the house with a very knowledgeable and interesting guide.
It began to rain shortly after we returned home and in very short order, it was snowing! Saturday morning we woke to 6 inches of snow. It was wet, heavy snow, so we donned our gloves and jackets and headed outside to clear off the slide covers. Dick swept them off while Millie steadied the ladder. We took Missy and Ming out to get their first experience with the white stuff. They were not impressed! We then determined that the roads were in good shape and packed up, leaving around 11:00 and heading north. Although the roads were clear and we did not see any ice, there were many accidents. In one stretch of interstate, heading south towards Denver, the traffic was backed up for several miles with many multiple vehicle accidents in that distance. We drove carefully and had no problems.
In Cheyenne, we again made a westward turn. We began to run into snowstorms. The roads were clear although the snow was 6 to 12 inches or so deep. The mountains were very pretty with the snow and we began to wonder where spring had gone. It felt and looked more like December. Gave us the feeling we needed to get out the tree and get ready for Christmas. We stopped in Rawlins, WY for the night.
Sunday, Mothers Day was cool and sunny. We had breakfast and began to get ready to travel. Millie got the bedroom and big slides in. Then when she hit the button to retract the door side slide, nothing happened. The slide would not come in. Dick tried all the things listed in our manual to do and we couldn’t get the slide in. He walked down to the office to see if there was a repair facility in town that we could contact on Monday. No luck, but the park manager said he would get a couple of helpers and they would see if they and Dick could push the slide in manually so we could get to Salt Lake City and get it working again. With a lot of effort, they did get it in; we locked the travel bars and headed west.
The drive was nice, with sunny, cool weather all the way. We arrived in Salt Lake City and got a space at the KOA for a week. We called a Mobile RV repair service and he said he would be over first thing Monday morning.
On Monday, the repairman arrived and determined we had a problem with the gearbox for the slide. He had to find some parts and would be back later in the day. We did some errands and when he returned, he didn’t have all the parts, but was able to get the slide functioning for us and will finish up in a couple of days when he gets a needed part shipped in.
Tuesday we drove to the Kennecott Copper Mine for a tour. This is the largest man-made excavation in the world and was quite an operation to see. The pit is about a mile wide and nearly a mile deep. The giant trucks used to haul the ore hold 225 tons and the giant shovels used to fill them can do so in 2 shovels full. We toured the visitor’s center exhibits and saw an informative film on the mine and how the copper is extracted from the ore. There are two man-made things on earth that can be seen from space, one is the Great Wall of China and the other is the Kennecott Copper Mine. We also drove out through Provo Canyon, stopping at Bridal Veil Falls.
Wednesday was Dick’s big day. We got up early, packed up and headed over to “Ground Control” to have the MotoSat system installed. It was an all day affair, but the guys were very nice and did a great job. Now Dick has his Internet without having to depend on modem connections offsite, which we have found to be very unhandy. We came back to the KOA, got set back up, had dinner and then headed to the laundry to get that chore done.
Thursday we ran some errands, and then headed into downtown. Our first stop was the Utah State Capitol building, where we took a tour. The building is up on a hill and is very pretty. Our guide was very knowledgeable and we enjoyed the time. This building was not as elaborate as the one in Denver. One striking feature is the columns on the main floor inside which are each carved from one piece of marble and weight 25,000#. They are believed to be the larges solid marble columns in America. We then decided to take the tour of the governor’s mansion. We elected to walk there as we were told it was only a short distance. NOT! We were tired but did enjoy seeing the homes along the way and the beautiful flowers that are blooming now. Spring is just arriving here, the tulips, poppies, iris and lilacs are beautiful. We toured the governor’s mansion, which was built in the early 1900’s and ravaged by fire in the 1990’s. A short in the wiring of the Christmas tree caused a fire that did extensive damage to the house; however, it has been restored and is lovely. The house even has a Texas connection, with the window treatments in the parlor being patterned after some in the Moody Mansion in Galveston. We were unable to take photos inside and construction on the street outside blocked our ability to take an exterior shot, but it is a beautiful home.
We returned home and picked up our mail packet at the office. The Escapees mail service has been flawless! After dinner, we drove down to Temple Square to go to the practice of the Tabernacle Choir. The practice from 8:00 to 9:30 and the public is permitted to attend. Tonight they were recording a CD and there was a large line waiting to get in. As only 40 people were allowed in at a time, we had to stand in line for about 20 minutes and only permitted to stay for about 7 minutes. We did get to hear them do a complete piece and it was wonderful.
MAY 16TH – 31ST
Friday we got up early and left by 8:00 to drive to Golden Spike National Historic Site. It is north of Salt Lake City about 1-1/2 hours. This is the sight of the joining of the Transcontinental Railroad on May 10, 1869. The two reconstructed locomotives, “The Jupiter” and “The 119” were being fired up when we arrived and we headed out to the tracks to watch as they arrived at the site where the spike was driven. These engines are really beautiful, the Jupiter is a wood burner and the 119 is a coal burner. In the summer the engines are brought from the engine house and left for the day at the site of the ceremony and returned to the engine house in the evening. We toured the exhibits and then drove though the driving tours before heading back towards Salt Lake City. One thing, if you should decide you want to go there, Promontory Point is about 30 miles from the closest town with food, etc. so be prepared.
We stopped in Ogden and had a late lunch, then headed to Antelope Island State Park which is located on, of course, Antelope Island which is in the Great Salt Lake. We drove across the causeway and made our first stop at the visitor’s center. We then drove to Buffalo Point. You can get a great view there of the main body of the lake. The island is 15 miles long and 4.5 miles wide. The highest point is Frary Peak, which is 6596 feet above sea level. We then drove south on the island to see if we could catch a look at any of the wildlife there. They have bison, antelope, bighorn sheep, etc. We were nearly to the end of the road when we found the bison herd. This herd was started with 12 animals brought to the island in 1893. They now number about 600. The herd is rounded up every fall and assessed for health and excess animals are sold. We enjoyed watching them and seeing the calves. We then drove to the end of the road to the Fielding Garr Ranch and toured the buildings there. The first section of the house was built in 1864 and added to twice. The ranch was used until the 1950’s when it was given to the state. It is a beautiful site, with large trees and a view of the lake and Watsatch Mountains.
Saturday we slept in a little and then got dressed and headed downtown to Temple Square for a self guided tour. When we arrived and walked past the Tabernacle, we heard music coming from inside. We headed around to the door we had entered Thursday night and discovered that the choir was again recording and there was no line to listen this time. We went inside and listened to them for a while. This time we were also pleased to get to hear the great organ being used, along with the orchestra. The music was inspiring. We then continued our tour of the square. The great temple there took 20 years to build and is beautiful from the outside. Non-Mormons are not permitted inside, however, there is a display in the Visitors Center that shows photos of the interior and details such as hardware, furnishing and etc.
We then did some shopping and headed back to the RV to relax. Tomorrow we will be on the road towards Seattle.
Sunday dawned clear and cool. We hitched up and headed north on I-15. The day stayed cool with the highest temperature about 55. It was also very windy. Where is spring? We stopped for the night in Mountain Home, Idaho. After dinner we finished up the webpage update for the first of the month and got it uploaded, then off to bed.
Monday we continued to Baker City, OR. After checking into the RV park and setting up, we drove to the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. This center is administered by the BLM and is outstanding. The exhibits are very informative and well done. We toured the indoor exhibits and then went outside where we walked down the trail to the bottom of Flagstaff Hill and viewed the tracks of the original trail. The fortitude of the people who make the trip is amazing. We marveled at how much they were required to carry in their very small wagons. We also saw some pretty wild flowers blooming and some prairie dogs along the path.
Tuesday we toured the Oregon Trail Regional Museum in Baker City. This is a very good museum with a lot of items from the area. Of interest was a model of “No Name City”, used in the movie “Paint Your Wagon.” This movie was filmed near here, and after it was finished, the BLM removed all traces of the sets, restoring the area back as it was before the film began. The museum also has an extensive rock and mineral collection, and of particular interest to Millie, a large collection of period clothing.
Wednesday was not a good day. When we started packing up, we discovered our batteries were dead and we couldn’t get the slide-outs in. We had been having problems with the power in the front half of the RV and feel now that the power we were plugged into was probably not 30 amps and we were pulling off our batteries. Dick finally ran an extension cord to the site next to us and we were able to get the rooms in. We were finally off!
The weather was beautiful and we were enjoying our drive. After lunch, Dick decided he would like to be passenger for a while and let Millie take the wheel. After a couple of hours on I-84, a truck pulled up beside us and motioned Mille to pull over. We had a blow out on the trailer and the tire was shredded. Neither of us had even felt it! After calling the road service and getting the tire changed, we found an RV park in Hood River, WA and stopped for the night, Millie’s nerves were a little frazzled.
Thursday we packed up and were on the road again. We stopped in Portland, OR and got a replacement tire. We dropped the RV in the Wal-Mart parking lot and while Dick went after the tire, Mille did some shopping. After Dick returned with the tire, he had the Wal-Mart folks to change the oil in the truck. We grabbed a bite of lunch while that was being accomplished, then went next door and got our grocery shopping done.
After stowing the groceries, we headed into Washington and up I-5 to Mount Rainier. We had made reservations at Mounthaven RV Park, just ½ mile from the park entrance. As we pulled into the park, our greeting committee was a heard of about 6 deer. The owner, Craig, pulled up on his little golf cart and took us to our site. It was beautiful, the trees were huge and the site was clean and ample sized. For the first time in many years, we had a campfire, cooking hot dogs and enjoying the evening.
Friday we headed to Mount St. Helen’s to see this famous volcano. Nothing can prepare you for seeing the awesome destruction caused by that eruption on 1980. We stopped at the Washington State Visitors Center and toured the exhibits there, the headed into the park, going first to Johnson’s Ridge which gives you the only unobstructed view of the crater and the lava dome in the center. We toured the exhibits in the center, and then went into the theater for the film presentation. After the film is over, the screen rises, a large curtain behind it rises and you are sitting there looking out a huge bank of windows at the crater. What a feeling, it really gave you goosebumps! We then headed outside, took photos and looked at the crater. Our next stop was the Clearwater Creek Visitors Center where we toured the exhibits and saw the beautiful green lake. We also enjoyed a presentation by one of the ranges on the return of plants and animals to the region.
Saturday we headed to Elbe, WA to ride on the Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad. The trip was about 1-1/2 hours and was enjoyable. We rode on the open car and enjoyed the scenery. We saw a view of the great mountain and also saw two herds of elk. The train runs from Elbe to Mineral, with a short stop at Mineral Lake. The lake area was crowded with campers and anglers. On the way back to Elbe, the skies began to cloud up. We drove back to Mounthaven and had lunch, then drove up the Mt. Rainier National Park.
We stopped at Longmire Visitors center and toured the museum there. Then we headed for Paradise, which is located on the mountain. The higher in elevation we drove, the cloudier it became, until we could hardly see the road. We decided that it would be pointless to try going farther, as we wouldn’t be able to see anything in that pea soup, so we turned around and headed back down.
Sunday morning we woke up to rain, so we just hung out at home, Dick worked on his computer and Millie on a craft project. Millie put potatoes in the toaster oven to bake and we got ready to grill a couple of steaks, when the power went out. Dick fired up the generator so we could finish the potatoes. We discovered that the fuel was low on the generator, so Dick headed into Ashford to get some gas. When he finally returned, he said that the power was off all the way past Ashford; he had to go to Elbe to get gas. Shortly after he returned, the power was restored.
Monday was Memorial Day and the sun was shining, so we headed back up to Paradise. It was really beautiful, with deep snow at Paradise, but Mount Rainier kept his summit wrapped in clouds. We understand that it is not uncommon for the top to be obscured by clouds, the mountain makes it’s on weather. We had packed a picnic, so we ate and watched kids play in the snow and watched to mountain to see it perhaps he would show us his top, but it was not to be. After lunch, we drove to the Stevens Canyon entrance,, stopping to take a hike down to Stevens Creek. It was an easy hike down and a steep hike back up!
After turning around at the Stevens Canyon ranger station, we stopped to see the Grove of the Patriarchs. A short hike from the parking area takes you to an island in the Ohanapecosh River that contains a grove of very old, very large trees. Most of the trees are estimated to have been 500 years old when Columbus arrived on our shores. We were awed by them. One tree was so big around; Dick estimated it was about 40’ around.
After returning to the parking area, we headed out of the park by the Stevens Canyon gate and drove back to Mounthaven by way of Morton.
Tuesday it was time to pack up and head out. Craig drove around on his little golf cart and thanked those who were leaving and wished them safe journeys. If you ever go to Mt. Rainer, we highly recommend Mounthaven. Craig and Joan are great hosts and have a lovely little park with RV sites and also cabins. We headed up Rt 7 towards Tacoma. As we rounded a curve, there in front of us, with his head nearly completely showing was Mt. Rainier! No place to pull off and get a photo. The day was beautiful, and after a wrong turn and having to backtrack, we arrived at the Escapees Evergreen Coho Resort in Chimacum, WA on the Olympic Peninsula. It is really a beautiful park and our site is large and very clean.
Wednesday we drove to Port Angeles. Where we booked our passage on the passenger ferry to Vancouver, BC for Thursday. We then had lunch and headed to Olympia National Park. We stopped at the Visitors Center, looked at the exhibits there and talked to one of the rangers who gave us a brief overview of what parts of the park we should be sure to see. We then made the scenic Hurricane Ridge drive. The visitor’s center there is at 5000’. The temperature dropped about 13 degrees on the drive up. We enjoyed seeing the Olympic Mountain range and also a small herd of deer in the meadow there. There was still a lot of snow on the ground and no hiking trails open. We also saw this fellow, who we are not sure what he is. (Wolf, coyote, fox?) We drove back down the mountain and stopped at Safeway to pick up groceries, then headed back to the RV Park.
Thursday we were up early and headed to Port Angeles to catch the Victoria Express ferry to Victoria, BC. The day was cool and sunny, the trip over was smooth, just too cold to be out on the deck. After an hour, we docked in the inner harbor of Victoria. We boarded a Grey Line bus that took us to the Butchart Gardens. We spent two hours touring these beautiful gardens. Mr. And Mrs. Burchart began planting these gardens to beautify an abandoned quarry. They are magnificent and not to be missed if you are in the area. We enjoyed strolling the paths and looking at all the flowers and plants.
After lunch, we boarded the bus for the return trip to the city. We then walked through the downtown area. We wandered through the Parliament Building, which was very nice. Actually, much plainer than the state capitols we have toured this month. We looked through some of the shops, then parked ourselves on a bench for a while to enjoy watching the harbor. After having dinner at a restaurant overlooking the harbor, we walked along the waterway, going back to the ferry dock. The trip back was a little rougher, but still enjoyable.
Friday was down time, we slept in a little, then after breakfast decided to drive into Port Townsend to get haircuts. Dick was able to get his cut but Millie couldn’t get hers done. She browsed in a great quilt shop while waiting for Dick. We came back home and spent the rest of the day relaxing. After dinner, we headed to the laundry room and got that chore done for the week.
Saturday we headed back to Olympic National Park. Our first stop was Rialto Beach. It was our first look at the Pacific Ocean. What an experience. This area is very wild and beautiful. We enjoyed walking along the beach and seeing the big waves. This area has some beautiful rocky formations. The beach is also different from what we are used to, it was some sand and lots of smooth pebbles with many large trees strewn on the beach.
We then drove to Hoh Rain Forest. This area has many huge trees and it quite inspiring to see. Most of the trees have moss or lichens on them. We walked the Hall of Mosses Trail and enjoyed seeing the many big trees and the other plants in the area. The forest is also home to a species of elk known as Roosevelt Elk (named for President Teddy Roosevelt). This brochure says that they are quite shy and that visitors will most likely not get a chance to see one. We did see elk tracks along the trail. As we were heading out of area, we saw a car stopped on the road and then saw 2 of the elk! As Dick was getting ready to get a photo of them, Millie noticed a herd of them in the trees beside the road, so we were excited to get to see so many. We also saw this little outhouse near the entrance to the park that we thought was pretty neat. Note the moss growing on the roof, and on the left side of the roof is growing a little pine tree, right out of the roof!
We drove back to Port Angeles, enjoyed a good dinner in a restaurant there and then back home.
Our first month of full timing is over and it has certainly been interesting. We are enjoying our new life and are ready for more adventures. We will be heading to Alaska next month. Come join us. (We will be posting more photos on the album page than just the ones we are linking you to in the journals, jump over there and take a look.)