Our Chalet Truck Camper

Our Chalet Truck Camper

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

June 25 Nashville through Knoxville and the Great Smoky National Forest

June 25 - Nashville through Knoxville and the Great Smoky National Forest

Today turned into part fun and part travel. Left Nashville at rush hour and got hung up in a traffic jam where a tractor trailer cargo burned. Cab looked okay so somehow the driver must have been able to disconnect. Long, slow inch by inch traveling.

Decided not to stop in Knoxville though it looked like it had a lot to offer. Took I-40 to I-140 to 129 at Alcoa, TN, then 35 at Maryville to 321 to 73 at Townsend to a good Smokey Mountain Travel Center for maps, etc. and into the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

The road we were on was called the Little River Road and snakes up through the
forest following a stream up and down, rounded gentle lush green mountains of very small size compared to the west. I can see where so many of you TCers like this park as we spotted a lot of side roads that looked jeep friendly.

Then you come to the scene below within 100 feet of the scene above

Shock of coming out of the forest and BAM - right into the middle of true honkey tonk in Gatlinburg was awful. We could not find a native artisan for pottery, all reproduction junk. Very disappointed and spent a minimal amount of time in this tourist trap. I'm sure the good local artists are there but just not easily found quickly.

Back to I-40, through Asheville and further on some of the worse concrete roads we've ever driven. Bone jarring to say the least. We had planned on going up 173 through Boone, NC and then onto the Blue Ridge Parkway through Fancy Gap, Meadows of Dan, VA and then over through Danville and from there to near Richmond. However, these older bones just aren't going to take more sightseeing right now. We stayed on I-40 which got even worse for concrete joints and bouncing and are tonight in a campground near Statesville, NC. It was 95F late afternoon, is 91F now and 82F inside with AC. Our fifth week on the road and we have fallen prey to the siren song of air conditioning!! Sorry folks, sitting in a Wal-mart or by the road tonight with generator just wasn't going to cut it. Tomorrow we'll be at my family in VA and will spend 4-5 days visiting and resting up from the road. This trip is pretty well over as we'll head straight back to Maine, ready to plan the next one and getting all our thoughts, notes and photos in order.

Can't say enough on how well the Host Rainier has performed. One broken drawer latch and a screen door slightly out of alignment (don't ask) and that is it for over 7,500 miles. The Ford F-350 has handled all we've thrown at it. The engine/fan noise has not re-occur ed now that we are down out of 8-10,000 feet at high temps and long, slow pulls with a load. We look forward to many more trips but will be rethinking what we were carrying for gear, clothes, food, etc. Rally trips and long travel trips are two different animals!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

June 23-24 Arkansas, Memphis and Nashville

June 23 - OKC through Arkansas

Today was a pure travel day with no sight seeing. Left OKC early and headed into some fairly heavy rain. Welcome temperature of 70F and no trouble driving. We were on I-40 which is a heavy truck traffic route so took a leisurely pace and just drifted along looking at the green fields. Quite a contrast from UT, AZ and NM.

What I don't like about a lot of the states we are going through? Billboards! Hundreds of ugly billboards clutter the side of the highway and obstruct views. Glad the top tier of New England states doesn't allow them anymore.

We frequently buy diesel at the Love's Stations chain and there has always been a pump for diesel on the gas station clearly marked RV fills. Today in Palestine, Arkansas, pulled into a Love's and no diesel with the regular gas pumps. So around the back we went with all the big trucks. Took a long time to get to the pump, even longer to do the paper work inside but..... while Joe filled and papered, I chatted
with some of the road crew for Brad Paisley. They were traveling in four gorgeous big buses with bright graphics and clean as could be. Nice group of guys. Said Brad flew in to concerts but sometimes traveled with them. They asked lots of questions about Bangor, Maine as they are going there relatively soon.

Tonight we are in Village Creek State Park in Arkansas. It is a large park with maybe 100 campsites. There are about 5 people in all in the park. Think gas prices are catching up with everyone? We chose to stay here because we are very tired and needed a quite night with no road noise or big diesels roaring early AM. We're pretty played out and ready to head for home except a few more stops. Tomorrow we go see Elvis and Beale Street,then Nashville, a friend in TN, and then VA to visit family. That last 850 miles back to Maine is going to be a killer!

June 24 - Memphis to Nashville

The drive into Memphis was not fun. The roads are broken up, dirty, lots of litter and very impatient drivers. Sorry those of you who live in that part of TN, but the parts we saw would not draw us back. Got to Graceland about 10:00AM and it was already 94F degrees. The fee to enter the parking lot was $8.00. At least they didn't charge us the $10.00 for an RV. Walked into the area to buy tickets and were told it would be an HOUR before we got to the head of the line. $27.00 for a
walk around the outside of Graceland, $32.00 for a quick tour of the inside, $68 for a full tour and that is per person. We'll spend money when it is something we really want but we looked at each other and said no way! There were people from all over the world waiting to get in. Bless them and I hope they enjoyed it. Bought an Elvis magnet for our travel board, post cards to send home and left. Cheap? Maybe but
that $136 dollars will buy diesel to see a lot more interesting things, a lot less crowded and maybe cooler.

Back on I-40 which had even heavier truck traffic today. As soon as we could we moved over to the Natchez Trace and followed it up to Nashville. Interesting history to the Trace but after the views out west, this became routine really quickly.

We took fellow RV.NET member JerBear's advice and are in Two Rivers RV Park in Nashville tonight. We had a great steak dinner at Sante Fe Steak house and tomorrow will take a quick van tour into Nashville to see some of the sights and country star's homes on a drive by.

Next is Knoxville and into VA to my family. We're then headed home to Maine as quickly as we can. Cool, foggy weather calls.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

June 22 Oklahoma City Zoo, Gardens, Memorial

Can we have some of that cooler TX canyon weather back? Another sunny, bright, hot, dry day in the Midwest. Our cool, foggy days home in Maine are going to seem unnatural! Awakened this morning to the noise of about a dozen diesel engines firing off in big RV busses. This was a rally group headed on to their next destination with toy haulers, motorcycle haulers, car carriers, etc. etc. Made quite a spectacle
pulling out - lot more noise and flash than a group of us TCs leaving.

We are camped close to the Oklahoma Zoo and went there early morning. Walked all the trails, looked at lots of hot animal and took the little tram back from the furthest reaches of the paths. Watched one of the grizzly for a long time and thought of our truck camper friend, Farctic Ox and his bear spray. He bought bear spray to carry while camping back in the wilderness areas of Yellowstone. Sorry Ted - this guy charges, you will die of fright long before you can get the bear spray in action.

We were going to the Omniplex to see a seven story tall theater screen presentation on violent weather tracking but decided to stay outside. Next drove into town to the Myriad Botanical Gardens and Crystal Bridge. Downtown OK City is pretty deserted on Sundays and we were able to just park on the street. Again, long walks up and through this tropical hothouse shaped like a tube. Can you say sweat? Today at
least we had all the hats, water, sunscreen, etc. etc. and used it all. I think people in the western part of the US have to stay waterlogged to survive.

Mid afternoon we drove over to the OK City National Memorial for the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing in 1995. A lot of people around and you could hear a leaf fall. Even the children were strangely silent. Two arches to enter the grounds, reflecting pool in the middle, and sculpted chairs for each person who died - all 168of them.

We spent several hours inside the museum looking at actual artifacts, film, photos, TV reports from the time, etc. It is a very sobering experience but the fact that the museum exists, to me, shows the freedom our country has to survive and endure. If you get a chance to go, do so.

Tonight once it cools down from the current 93F degrees, we'll load the TC back on the truck and get ready to head for Memphis tomorrow to see Elvis. Another truck camper friend, JerBear and Paula, gave us name of a good RV park within walking distance to Graceland!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

June 21 - Palo Duro mud to Oklahoma City, OK

Rained hard last night and we were quite restless from the heat, wild winds, lightning and thunder. Tired as we were, we did sleep some but woke wondering what the six flash flood road crossings would look like. The ranger said that four wheel would get us through fine and that only one guy camped with a travel trailer near us was likely to get stuck.

Rain stopped as we left the campsite. First crossing was not bad, just mainly dirty water running over the road. Then came the second one -

Doesn't look like much does it? It was about 8-10 inches of red ooze much thicker as you approached the flowing water than once you were in it. We debated putting the Ford into four wheel drive (hubs) but could see tracks where others had already passed. Man could you hear the mud hitting up under the truck! Was sort of fun sliding through all that mud especially knowing that there were several heavy pieces of equipment nearby that could get you out if you went in to the stream bed. We didn't and the next four crossings were about like the second one.

No place to wash it off so we drove on up to Route 40 and crossed into Oklahoma. We were very disappointed in never finding a Texas tourist information center on Route 40. That is a big road and most states have centers on entry points. We might have stayed longer in Texas if we had found more info. Texas is a vast land.

Oklahoma has a beautiful, new center right as you enter with gracious women very familiar with all parts of the state. We came away loaded with places to go and see along our route. We'd planned a one day stay in Oklahoma City but after reading, we decided to make it two nights.

Headed to the Stockyard District in OK City and found a truck wash to get pounds of dried, hard red mud off. Poor Joe didn't know the ulterior motive of going to this area of OK City was a Navajo jewelry store. Ever since coming west I'd wanted an unusual piece as a memory. Got it! As a payback to his patience, we went across the road to the Cattleman's Steakhouse. I fully expected to have to shell out for a fillet mignon but we werent' really that hungry so had steak hamburgers. Inexpensive payback.

We're at Two Fountains RV Park outside OK City on the north side. We are close to the Omniplex where there is a model train exhibit and the Science Museum and Zoo. Truck and TC have achieved saucer separation so we will tour for two days or however long we can stand this 90++ heat. The main purpose in stopping here is to go to the Alfred P. Murrah National Memorial and Museum. Have to see how long we hold out in the expected 93-95F heat.

Truck and Host cleaned up nice didn't they? We're parked on a concrete pad in amongst half million dollar buses with toy haulers. We think we are prettier and a lot more nimble! Don't think they would have made it through the mud but of course, they never would have been down to that spot to start with!

June 20 - Santa Fe via Tucumcari, NM to Palo Duro Canyon, TX

Today started out to be a travel day but we really meandered along. The absolute best part of being retired is not having a schedule. As Joe says, if we see a sign that says "World's Largest Ball of Twine" and decide to go see it, we do.

Santa Fe proved as busy in the AM as last evening and the RV slots were full. Rather than raise the stress level of trying to find a parking place, we hit the road east to play with finding and driving parts of Route 66. We'd bought a small book on Route 66 years ago and had pre marked a DeLorme route map. Well reality and maps/books vary widely! Route 66 often ends up as a private dirt road leading off into what looks like endless desert.

Or you find that it has become only I-40. We decided to abandon the hunt for the moment and take Route 40 to Tucumcari, NM to the MesaLand Community College's Dinosaur Museum. It proved to be a small but well presented exhibit and a good stop
from hunting for Route 66.

Leaving Tucumcari, we again drove parts of Route 66 which in this part of NM, was beside I-40. For the most part it was a pretty good road but disintegrated after a while near San Jon into a white shell like rutted gravel path. It was still marked Route 66 but got so bad the fun was gone. Most of the old service stations and buildings are abandoned and quickly going back to nature. We backtracked to the last
I-40 entry point, dieseled up for $4.59 which was the least we'd seen for a while (Love's Truck Stop) and continued east into Texas.

At Vega, Texas, on a whim, we headed south down 385 towards Hereford, TX. This route is wide open spaces, huge ranches and 25% of the beef in the US. Hereford calls itself the beef capital of the US and it probably is. Every where you look, are huge herds of cattle, feed lots, corn and what looked like wheat fields. The farms/ranches are spread out by multiple miles and at many points you can see the
horizon. Texans don't fool around with wimpy speed limits so this relative small road was 65mph. We were driving about 60-62 and were passed constantly but every pickup that went by, slowed, waved and gave us a thumbs up. Friendly folk in a beautiful land. The RV.NET fellow's warning about not following a cattle truck came true. I thought it was for the odor. It is, but also for the fluids that trail the transport trucks. YUK!

We were headed for Palo Duro Canyon State Park near Canyon, TX in hopes that there would be an opening for an overnight camp. We got the last spot!! and it was at the end of all the roads, way back as far as you can get into the canyon at Mesquite Camp Area. This canyon is a much softer, greener, gentler canyon than most we saw in Utah. Very quite with owls and coyotes as night noise. Nice small museum with a lot of western artifacts. We hope to see the resident live longhorn cattle on the way out.

There is another Truck Camper here, a Lance 1161 on a Dodge. They are from Illinois and were also touring the west. Had a nice time talking and gave them the list of fall rallies

Black rain clouds threatening. You cross six river crossings on the park road coming down to the campsite. Yesterday, there was a lot of rain and the TX DOT had to come and dig out the mud from the road to let campers out. The flood gauge is in feet. Wonder what tomorrow will look like? A bit of rain will be most welcome and maybe force a down day if we cannot get out of here? Ranger said at least the danger of
fire was down.

Only in the mid 80s for temperature today and we must be getting used to it and the dryness as we were able to easily hike a bit in the park this afternoon. Tomorrow we will head on into Oklahoma.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

June 19 - Cortez CO to Santa Fe NM

June 19 - Cortez, CO to Santa Fe, NM

Today was basically a travel day. We decided to take the southern route since we do get to see mountains in New England and have seen a lot already here in the west. We don't have deserts in Maine. Left Cortez, CO on Route 160 and hit a lot of construction headed east. One delay was over a half hour so we just read and relaxed. Out west they "chip seal" roads, meaning lay down a thick bed of tar and then spread red or gray chips of rock over the top. It gets swept and probably rolled (though we don't know about that). Hard, smooth surface but bet it throws rocks for a long time. We already have one crack in the F350 windshield, fortunately down low under the wiper blade area.

Truck ran well today except the last 20 minutes or so. It had been from cooler Cortez, up through mountains, down to valleys, through a lot of heat. The Santa Fe entry hills at 95F degrees in slow traffic brought out the whine again. As suggested, it just might be a fan kicking into high and not bad diesel. We do know what that tank of good diesel did maybe it is a combination.

Finally turned onto 84 and were almost alone again, driving through beautiful Colorado mountains, lush, deep valleys with lots of cattle and horses. Why don't we ever see anyone riding these horses? We've seen thousands and not one rider except a horse tourist trail ride in Bryce Canyon. Stopped for lunch beside a beautiful CO Fish and Wildlife lake near Chromo. Almost hit a pretty good size deer as we were leaving but managed to stop. He turned right around and crossed in front of us again!

We passed through tiny dots on the map such as Chromo, Chama and Brazos where there is a post office and a general store and that is that. We drove up a couple of boondock roads in the Carson National Forest and bet we were miles and miles from any other human. Saw elk, deer and lots of beautiful black/white birds with long tails - a different type of partridge maybe?

Reprovisioned in Espanola, NM at (where else) a Wal-Mart. Never far from them are we but it is an easy quick place to replace items used like milk and paper products.

We passed in and out of many Indian reservation lands. By the time we got to Santa Fe it was 5PM local and very busy traffic. Tired from just driving with not a lot of stops for walking, we decided to try to go into downtown Santa Fe, park and walk around. No way!! as we didn't know the hidden town parking lots for RVs. We did drive through the narrow streets with the town square and big cathedral and all the

Tomorrow we'll go back and park in the pay lot behind the cathedral and walk around a bit. Then on east headed for Amarillo, Texas.

We are about toured out and need either a couple of down days or to just stop touring and head east to Oklahoma City. We keep watching the weather and know we are going into rain but hopefully not into flooding or violent thunderstorms. Good to have that NOAA weather radio along. Tonight the sky in Santa Fe is just beautiful.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

June 18 - Monument Valley and Mesa Verde National Park

Last night we just missed taking the moonlight jeep ride out into Monument Valley. Today we drove through a lot of it. Joe thinks he saw John Wayne disappearing in a trail of dust over the horizon.

We went up 163 through vast endless stretches of land, passing through tiny towns like Halcita and Mexican Hat. Most of this land is part of s Navajo Indian Reservation which encompasses parts of four states. We decided to play pure tourist and stop in Four Corners and stand so that you touched four states at once. The Navajo very wisely charge $3 a head to enter and then have 40-50 booths set up with native crafts mostly beautiful silver and turquoise jewelry. Can you say Christmas presents? Joe got bored with my trying to decide which ones to buy and had a fry bread hamburger. Man looked quite content.

Truck still felt sluggish this morning but not the problems of overdrive hang like the few times yesterday. On the off chance that we got a bad batch of diesel, we ran it almost dry. Filled up at the Ute Mountain station which was handling a lot of big rigs so we figured the diesel would be fresh. YES!!! It was like giving the truck a shot of adrenaline. We did stop at the Cortez Ford dealer to try to get an oil and filter change but they told us it would be next Monday before they could touch it. Gave us the name of Big O's Tire Center. They took us in immediately including a valve stem replacement that had been worrying Joe. Transmission fluid was fine and the young manager told us in this altitude and on long pulls with a load, his diesel would also kick into high overdrive and sound like a whine. Going up a lot of mountain roads today, not one hint of a problem so it probably was bad diesel.

The snow we can see out the camper window. looks really good right now. We are still in Cortez, CO which is the foothill of the Rockies and there is still snow on top.

It was 94F outside and about 85F inside the truck camper when we set up for the night. I think we'll run the AC all night tonight. We both really pushed the walking today and my legs are cramping even though we both forced water. For you who live in the west, my floppy sun hat is off to you for being active outdoors. Guess you do eventually get used to it.

Mesa Verde National Park with the Indian cliff dwellings of 1000 to 600 years ago was our adventure for the day. I'd seen photos as a child and always wanted to see them. We did not take the escorted ranger climb down to the biggest set of ruins as you still cannot get up into it (of course). I did not think in 90+ heat I was ready to climb ladders down a cliff - and back up. Smart huh? This park is set up so you can see most of the dwellings from the opposite side of the canyon. The Visitor Center had many pots and artifacts from the dwellings plus a display of silver/turquoise jewelry from the late 1800s that were stunning. Going into and out of the park is an adventure also as it is 28 miles one way from the route 160 entry to the end of the park. It is long climbs, very steep turns and lots of slow going on switchbacks. So glad the Ford likes it's new diesel and performed perfectly.

If you are ever in Cortez, stop for lunch or supper at "Tequila's". It is local, not a chain and great Mexican food at a reasonable price. We were too hot and tired to even think about fixing supper tonight in the TC. Recommendation came from the workers at Big O's. And yes - Tequila's does serve good margaritas. Over our supper we discussed where to head next. Do we stay in CO and head up into the mountains to see even taller peaks where it will be cooler and greener and then up to I-70 to head east via St.Louis, MO, Lexington, KY, Charleston, WV and to Richmond, VA for family? Or do we drop down to the desert and hotter climates to Santa Fe, NM and to Route 40 to head east through Amarillo, Texas, Okalahoma City for the memorial, Little Rock, AK over to Memphis, TN to visit Elvis, up to Nashville for BBQ, Knoxville and then over to near Richmond VA to visit family and then the slog up the coast to Maine?

Decision tomorrow morning!

June 17 Grand Canyon and Monument Valley

June 17 - North Rim of Grand Canyon and Monument Valley

Up early to head for the north rim of the Grand Canyon. Our instinct was to skip the south rim and the crowds and glad we did. The road into the north rim is over 40 miles long and vast stretches of it still show thousands of acres of forest fire damage. This was a fire in 2000 and parts of the forest look like it happened yesterday. We saw one memorial to a firefighter who died. I also kept wondering how
many animals died in that blaze. The undergrowth is slowly coming back unlike the Yellowstone fire damage of 1988 where the new trees are thick and probably 10 feet tall.

Very few people at north rim when we got there. Parked the TC next to an Earthroamer but never caught up with the owners. Those things are massive and I can only imagine the fuel cost. Our Host truck camper looked dwarfed.

Knew we were not going to walk down a long trail into the canyon as it was already hot and we are just not agile enough anymore to come back up. Down I could probably do. Up I doubted so didn't try. Make these trips when you are YOUNG folks. Since we thought we were going to take a short hike, didn't take the pack with water, etc. Really dumb, BAD move as we ended up walking a couple of miles and were quite
dehydrated and hot when we got back to the TC. We walked out to Bright Angel Point and spent about two hours in all on that short, steep trail just in awe of the canyon. I kept thinking of the pioneers who had crossed the great plains, pulled wagons over mountains and probably thought they were home free for getting west. Wrong! Here suddenly is this massive canyon in the way that they had to go around.

No way to describe the light, the depth or the sheer size of the Grand Canyon. It is truly awesome. After drinking about a gallon of water each and cooling down some, we walked back to the Lodge, had another drink and sat out on a stone veranda and just looked at the canyon.

Finally on towards Monument Valley to see if John Wayne was still riding around making movies.

But??? what is that noise? We didn't like a transmission noise so called our Ford dealer in Maine. After describing the noise, he basically said it was okay but to stop at a local dealer if we wanted and have them do a courtesy inspection. Of course we wanted since we get back into some pretty remote areas. Basically it sounds
like it is going into overdrive beyond tow haul and has to be kicked out to get the whining noise to stop. We think it is totally associated with tow haul since no noise ever when not using tow haul. It has now happened three times, mostly after a very steep, long grade in hot temps at 6,500 to 8,000 feet altitude. No warning lights or error messages come on. Detoured to Page, AZ to a dealer but they couldn't take a look for days. We'll call ahead to an Albuquerque Ford place and make an appointment for a look see plus an oil change. 2005 F-350,3.0 Powerstroke engine if anyone has a clue. Did stop at Glen Canyon Dam in Page while there so not a wasted stop.

From Page, took 98 to 160 to 163 in Monument Valley. The sight distances are vast.

Tonight we are in a Navajo campground which blessedly has electricity for air conditioning. It was 97 in the TC when we opened her up. Got to get a MaxAir vent cover but it was so hot today, doubt the vent while driving would really help any. It's now down to 80 in the TC so we will be able to sleep. Tomorrow we are thinking of taking a jeep tour with a guide out into the valley - this time with hats, water,
sun screen, etc. etc.

Monday, June 16, 2008

June 16 - Zion Kolob Canyons and Zion National Park

June 16 - Zion Kolob Canyons and Zion National Park

The western heat hit with a vengeance today, at least for these thick blooded northeastern bodies. We're not used to 100 degrees, low humidity and the type of weather than just sucks all the moisture out of your body. Really enjoyed reading Silversands narrative of the cool and fog at Recompense in Maine.

Started the day tow-hauling up the passes of Zion's Kolob Canyon south of Cedar City. We started down the Timber Creek Overlook trail but quickly returned to the TC as it was way too steep for our level of hiking.

Down I-15, to 17 to 9. We stopped at Colpits Wash and walked a ways in to see Grafton, a ghost town. Couple coming out said not to keep going as there wasn't much left to see! On to the Zion Canyon entrance and then into South Campground as there were spaces available. Figured it would be full if we didn't take a space early morning. Took a long time to pick out one that had some shade, was relatively level and felt like it might get a breeze. There were a suprising number of sites available at that time. Very picturesque place to camp with tall peaks all around.

Walked to the Visitor Center with Joe carrying the waist pack full of water, sunscreen, bug spray, etc. etc. Boarded the free shuttle bus and started up the road to the top of Zion that can be reached by road. At each shuttle stop we got out and walked at least part of the hike paths - until we got to the one that went straight up. Teenage boys were RUNNING up it. Ah - youth! No way were we going to try that one. By this time the temperature was hovering around 98-101F and we were wilting fast. At each stop we would refill our big water bottles but there wasn't really a way to keep up with the sweat output. On the way down, stopped at Zion Lodge and enjoyed seeing the old buildings and photos - plus two huge ice teas.

By the time we had ridden the shuttle down, walked to the campground and found the Truck Camper was 99F inside, we were just plain wiped out. We had not enjoyed Zion as we have all the other parks we have been to. It was just too crowded, hot and hot. Yes we could have run the generator for two hours in the evening for some AC but everyone around us were in tents and it didn't seem fair. We decided to push 0n to somewhere we could either run the generator longer or get power. The campground was full when we left and some lucky person benefited by our leaving.

The tunnel going out the east side of Zion is an real engineering work especially since it was built in the early '30s. Trucks, RVs etc are restricted in height and have to be let through in a line one way down the middle of the tunnel. $15 gets you two trips through in a week. We lucked out and were atvthe end of the line so after we were through, could drive slowly since no one was behind us. They close the tunnel to one side at a time. The East end of Zion (for us) was much more interesting than the main part of the park. Great folds of rock that looked like running water, swirls of waves and just fields of folded lava - and no crowds.

A camper in SD had told us if we were ever in Kanab, UT to go to Houston's Trail's End Restaurant. They are the ones who have mobile kitchens to serve meals to the army of firefighters when a big fire is fought. The waitress had on a gun belt with holsters for order pads. Too hot to be hungry but we split a very spicy order of nachos and a piece of homemade chocolate cream pie - and about another quart of water apiece. Recommend a stop there if you are nearby.

We're in a tiny campground called the RV Corral in Kanab. We're probably not true TCers or we would be back sweating at Zion. AC has been running for an hour and it is 82F inside and 92F outside. What a blessed 10 degree difference!

Next to us is a beautiful brand new Arctic Fox, Silver Fox Edition that the couple has just taken delivery of. They are headed back to AZ where it is 112F at their home. Invited them up to New England to get cool. They gave us great local info on the north rim of the Grand Canyon, Four Corners, Monument Valley and a brand new RV park at a casino in Sky City, NM. We've never been to a western casino so just might stop there.

Tomorrow North Rim and the start of our turn eastward. After the crowds at Zion, we're skipping the south rim. Lots of campers have told us if you go to the north, you can bypass the south. Might regret it but we'll see.

Bryce Canyon and Cedar Break Parks

June 15 - Bryce National Park and Cedar Break National Monument

Today was a rock day - pink, red, white, blue, cracked, whole, crumbling, covered in some snow, tall, short and solid. We're still on East Coast body time so were the first people in the door at Bryce Canyon National Park Visitor Center this morning. Got good ranger advice as always on the best way to see the park since we weren't
spending a week there.

First stop was jaw dropping even after all the geology we've seen. We walked the rim trail from Sunrise Point to Sunset Point to Inspiration Point to Bryce Point about a two mile hike in all. This is the rim of the Bryce Amphitheater and probably the most dramatic views in the park. Took the park shuttle bus back to Sunrise and the TC as we were really tired. Sunrise Point is the introduction to the Hoo Doo rock
formations that stick up like sharp fingers in a azillion colors but mostly red. This is all at an elevation of about 7,200 - 7,500 feet and these sea level lungs took a beating. Joe carried the pack with water, sunscreen, dry socks, etc. etc. and we used them all.

We then drove the main park road to Rainbow Point, about 18 miles one way stopping at every view point along the way. I kept thinking of Farctic Ox and Cheryl who hike DOWN into the canyon. Power to you Ted! Glad we got going earlier since it was a bit cooler but the later in the day it got the more tour buses showed up and this isn't even high tourist season yet. We are seeing few TCs in the last couple of days but are seeing more and more of the rental C size RVs.

As we left the park, we could see a huge smoke cloud coming from what looked like the Dixie Forest east of us where we had passed the day before. Long lines of fire trucks, pickups filled with men and tanker trucks passed as we went west. Hope it is small and put out quickly. We learned a lot about the role that fire plays in these huge forests and for the most part it is beneficial but really ugly to view plus
the loss of wildlife.

Route 12 out of Bryce, down 89, over to a road we wanted to take called Fish Hatchery Road but it was closed due to a bridge being out. We took Route 14 up to Cedar Brakes National Monument, climbing and climbing and finally getting there and being at 10,300 feet. Crystal clear, beautiful scenery in a small park. Eight years ago the cedars were devastated by a borer beetle and vast stands are dead standing
timber. I shudder to think what a fire through there would look like.

Made a lot of people mad going downhill to Cedar City since we were in tow haul and not pushing the speed limit. Out west there are a lot of places to pull over for faster traffic and we used them as often as possible. Ford performed well, TC is a great home to be carrying around with you. We needed to reprovision so we are in the parking lot at Cedar city Walmart tonight with maybe 20 other RVs, using wi-fi
that's just out there. Tomorrow we head for Zion National Park and will try to camp there overnight.

It's hot, we're both tired, altitude got me a bit today but the TC is comfortable and we want to keep going on this trip. North Rim of the Grand Canyon calls! We understand from some of the RVs around us that it is snow clear and open. We'll see.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

June 13 - Canyonlands and Natural Bridges

June 13 - Canyonlands National Park to Hanksville, UT

No bad luck today on a Friday the 13th. Clear, sunny, about 75F degrees most of the day with only a bit of low 80s. Sure can tell the difference in dry climate in the west as we went through a lot of water and iced tea today, much more than in New England at the same temps. No wonder all the warning signs at trailheads say to take a gallon of water a person per day.

From Moab we went north to Canyonlands National Park and glad we did. I figured you seen one canyon you seen them all. Not! This is a wild, unforgiving land and reading the information signs on how the early ranchers survived was interesting. The Indians colonized and abandoned this land many times over thousands of years as the climate changed. We almost had this park to ourselves as most people go over to Arches and never see Canyonlands. We hiked some of the trails around Shafer Canyon Viewpoint and Buck Canyon overlook. From Shafer you could see part of a 110 mile jeep trail that our truck camper friends who Jeep must live for.

We also listened to a Ranger at the Green River overlook talk about how the canyons were formed and why they are still eroding. You know, when you don't have to learn this stuff for tests, it's pretty interesting.

Backtracked through Moab to dump the tanks and take on a bit of water. Then south from Moab headed down Route 191 again, a scenic byway in Utah. Towns are very few and very far between on 191 so decided to diesel up. $5.09 a gallon in Blanding, UT but they do have to get it there and it really is the middle of just about nowhere. Near Blanding we cut over onto Route 95, again a scenic byway and went to Natural
Bridges National Monument. This is a very small park and showcases three rock Bridges carved out by river activity. I skipped going down to the one where you had to climb down ladders at three different levels. Just about got run over by an 82 year old woman hiking along - you go girl! Made it to the other two and one of them was a painful hike but worth it.

Unfortunately both the campground for Natural Bridges and the BLM site nearby were full. We tried to talk the ranger into just letting us park but he said no as the BLM site was being harmed with too many people. So on we went north, through miles and miles of incredible bright red rock canyons in Glen Canyon. Every time you turned a corner the landscape changed and looked just like all those western movies we watched as kids.

This is open stock range land but never saw any cattle, only a lot of jackrabbits. We crossed the Dirty Devil River right where it and the Colorado River empty into Lake Powell. Got passed a lot by pickups hauling Skidoos and pulling huge power boats headed for the lake.

Sort of dumb not to just stop somewhere on open range land for the night but if you haven't been out west, it's hard to explain the feeling of being alone on the range. We're used to forests and trees and a more closed in feeling. Decided to come up to Hanksville, UT closer to Capital Reef National Park which we are going to tour
tomorrow. There are a lot of petroglyphs there, plus more info on geology and early man in this part of the west. $10 campground with clean hot showers next to a restaurant where Joe had a really good broiled trout for supper.

Tomorrow - on to Capital Reef and towards Bryce.