TRIP 48: May 14-29, 2015 Canyonlands of Utah

May 14: Readington, NJ to Las Vegas, NV

Our long months of hard, constant work have left us really exhausted. We skipped taking a spring break in March because of John’s time commitments, so we decided to get away now, in mid May, as soon as his Rutgers work was completed. We left New Jersey later in the day this time, taking a 5pm flight. We brought the pups with us. As we sat down on the plae, we noticed the pups, in their crates sitting in the hot sun on the tarmac by the luggage ramp!!! We were furious! Th company that handles pets, Petsafe, is supposed to keep them in an air conditioned van till loading time, after all the luggage has loaded. We asked one of the flight attendants to check into it. She promptly asked one of the pilots to go down and check to see if they were ok. We watched him down below check the pups, but he really didn’t do much and they were loaded soon thereafter with the baggage. GRRRRRR.

The flight was ok. We landed in Vegas late, 7:30pm PMT. As soon as we pulled up to the gate, a Petsafe van was immediately there for the pups. As always, it is Newark and its employees that are always the problem. We got our luggage, got on a shuttle to the rental car place, got a nice Chevy Traverse, then headed to pick up the pups in the cargo office. They were there, no worse for wear as always, and happy to see us.We did a quick food shop at the local Wally world, then headed to the Las Vegas RV Resort where the Greyhaven was stored. We started her up, got to our site, then crashed for the night.

 

May 15: Las Vegas, NV to Cedar City, UT

Very slow start today. The time difference and flight left us out of it. We did emails and John caught up with Rutgers work and grading. The weather in Las Vegas was warm and sunny, but very windy. We left the campground around noon, and first went to return the rental car. The layout of the airport and rental car building are really convenient, and large, especially for motorhomes. We then went to a small needlework store in the west part of the city to pick up a scroll frame for my tapestry (to keep in the RV). We then went to a Sears to get some odds and ends, and then decided to get out of Dodge.

 

We never really plan a trip in advance and that opens up the sense of adventure when we finally set out. John had the idea of repeating our Honeymoon in Vegas trip that we took 11 years ago. Heading east and into Utah meant heading up in altitude and up into colder temperatures. Another option was heading south into Arizona and back towards Lake Patagonia where, this time of the year, there would be great birding, and warmer temperatures. We picked east and up, and going to see the canyon National Monuments we were unable to see on our honeymoon trip like Canyonlands, Arches, Rainbow Bridge, and maybe Canyon de Chelly, plus giving us an opportunity to return to Durango, Colorado and Moab, Utah. We headed east on I15 and stopped in St. George Utah for groceries. We made it into Cedar City and the KOA around 8pm, where we crashed after a small meal and walking the pups.

 

May 16:Cedar City to Bryce Canyon City, Bryce Canyon, UT

I awoke to walk the pups early, around 7am, and was greeted by the cooing of an Eurasian collared dove, reminding me of happier times in Sidmouth, in the UK. It was quite chilly out, low 40s. We were not prepared with warm winter coats for this spring mountain weather, but the forecast said it would war m up in the next few days. We left Cedar City around 11 and headed east up the Cedar Canyon Scenic byway Rt. 14. I recalled how we traveled this route with John’s mother and how she sat in the back of our rented Cruise America motorhome in a proper lady’s dress and pearls and high heels. I miss her very much.

 

We climbed up onto the high desert mesas, passing the snow line, and driving through spectacular red rock hoodoo canyon scenery with snow. We stopped for lunch by a mountain lakeside where we birded a bit, had some caprese pasta salad, and walked the pups. I heard a hummingbird zooming through the trees! After, we descended a bit into a farming valley, then arrived at Bryce Canyon village around 4pm. We didn’t recognize the place as much of it has been developed with a new hotel, new reception general store, huge new motels, and a huge sprawling RV campground that pretty much resembled a dirt parking lot with small stumpy trees. We checked in then drove to our site. At 7777′ above sea level, we both felt blah and breathless, so we crashed and napped for a few hours. I ventured over to the Ruby Ripoffs (our happy tongue-in-cheek moniker since our first trip here!) General Store and visitors Lodge/Restaurant, while John stayed in the RV. It wasn’t too bad of a walk, and I managed to spot a Yellow Headed blackbird in the marsh along the way. We had a small meal, then spent the evening catching up on reading and email, and re-creating the Greyhaven website/blog.

 

We have been told RV’s over 25′ in length are no longer allowed on the single lane auto road down the canyon mesa to the viewing areas. Instead, the National Park service has established a shuttle service that stops at points along the route. When we came here 11 years ago, we were allowed to drive down the park auto route in our rental RV (a 29′ Class C) and stop wherever we wished. Now, with the many crowds that are coming to national parks, large RV coaches are probably a nuisance and block the views and the road. I can see their point, but I feel sad that we are being restricted to something we were once free to explore. The crowds are killing our natural wonders, as seen in the many coaches carrying visitors at the general store. Tomorrow, we will check out the shuttle and visitor’s center and stay another night.

May 17:Bryce Canyon, UT

The temperatures dipped down into the 30’s last night and we had to pull out our small electric heaters. I did not sleep very well so I was up around 7. After walking the pups, I settled down to start some needlework. The morning dawned with blue skies. Both of us took our leisurely time and we spent lazing about til noon, when we had a small lunch, then set out for the national park. It was a short walk through the campground to the free Bryce Canyon Shuttle, which took us directly to the visitor’s center first. I don’t remember much from our visit 11 years ago, but I did notice the crowds of people, even at this time of the year before the summer crush. We got our cancellation stamp and then waited with many folks for the next shuttle into the park.

The park service runs the 10-15 shuttle, but only goes to the mid point in the park, Bryce Point. Another separate shuttle, which runs only two times per day, goes all the way down to the southernmost point in the park drive, Yovimpa Point. In essence, the park service is limiting crowds to the top half of the park. The vistas and lookouts towards the southern end are much more stunning, and contain special hoodoo formations like Thor’s Hammer and the Natural Arch. We were able to take our motorhome down there 11 years ago, and I felt disappointed at loosing the ability to travel where we wanted.

 

At Bryce Point, our shuttle became snared in bus and car traffic in the tiny parking lot which accessed Bryce Point. It was clear to see that this park has suddenly skyrocketed in popularity and the facilities, as they are now, cannot handle the numerous large vehicles. We got off and enjoyed the spectacular vistas over the red rock hoodoo formations. We boarded the shuttle again and traveled north to the next viewpoint, Inspiration Point. There, we chose to walk the 0.7 mile Rim Trail (all downhill by the way :)) to Sunset Point and the Bryce Canyon Lodge. The lookouts and viewpoints off the Rim Trail were simply stunning. The national park itself sits high on the top of the mesa at 8000′ and allows for viewing of the formations below. There are many hiking and horse trails down from each viewpoint into the hoodoo formations. On our last visit, Christopher and I walked down into the red rock and had a great time exploring the nooks and crannies of the Fairyland Trail. John was not able to join us as he had to stay with Mother. At the lodge, we rested a bit, then took the shuttle back to our campground. We had dinner at Ruby’s tonight (great prime rib!) and then retired for the night doing some reading, writing and needlework.

May 18:Bryce Canyon, to Torrey, UT

I am writing this in a small comfortable campground in the heart of the Utah canyons. It is sundown and it had rained, and yes, snow/hailed, most of our trip today. We woke to an overcast and cold morning. After breaking camp, we started our trip east on the All American Scenic Byway Rt. 12 through the canyons between Bryce and Capital Reef. We had come this way with Mother and Christopher on our very first RV trip and we were hoping to see sights that we remembered. We stopped briefly in Cannonville to collect a cancellation stamp for the Grand Staircase/Escalante National Monument. There were no accessible scenic routes into the monument so we continued on. Past Escalante, the roadway narrowed between red cliffs and we entered the incredible scenic Escalante Canyon. We could not stop since there weren’t many pull outs, but we managed to pause on the ‘Hogback’, a famous mile or two of highway that traverses the knife edge crest of a mesa with very steep sides falling off on both sides of the roadway. Alas, we found it was way past 1pm and we were both starving.

 

We stopped to eat in the tiny town of Boulder. On our Honeymoon trip, we enjoyed a lunch at a restaurant that had dozens of hummingbird feeders just outside the windows which drew in dozens and dozens of different species of hummingbirds. We tried to go to that same restaurant, but could not locate it. We turned around, parked on the side of the road and had a bite to eat at the Burr Trail Lodge Grill. John had a mexican chili dish and I had smoked trout quesidilla with pumpkin apple soup. We inquired about the restaurant with the hummingbird feeders and was told it had closed down last season. Both of us were quite disappointed.

 

Afterwards, we drove on and upwards, cresting Boulder Mountain mesa at 9600′ in pouring sleet and snow. We briefly stopped to feed and walk the pups, then continued down into the town of Torrey and up a few miles to the Capital Reef Visitor’s Center to get a cancellation stamp. It was already 5pm, and the park service was closed due to repaving of the parking lot. We were told a few rangers were a mile or so in the park at a historic house with info and a stamp, so we drove in, parked at a picnic area, then collected our cancellation stamp. The picnic area was along a rive and the trees and surrounding bushes were full of many, many birds. We decided to camp for the night and return tomorrow for the scenic drive along the red rock mesa and some quality birding. We returned to the town of Torrey and got a nice campsite overlooking a field of horses and cattle, and huge mesas in the distance. We walked the pups to the melodious song of a western meadowlark.

May 19:Torrey to Moab, UT

I am writing this entry in a KOA campground in Moab, Utah, a world famous destination for mountain biking, 4×4-ing, Jeep-ing, canyoneering, hiking, and oh, did I mention mountain biking? Our site overlooks the Moab valley on one side, and has towering mesa cliffs on the opposite side.

We spent the day yesterday exploring Capital Reef National Park, which we had missed while visiting with Mother. The park extends for 40 or so miles along a steep red-rock mesa. It is accessible by an narrow auto route with an unpaved dirt road continuing on into the wilds all the way down to the Burr Trail to Boulder. We arrived early hoping to do some birding at the picnic area, but were met with hoards of school kids on a field trip, with all the parking areas full of cars and buses. We had to continue up the road to the campground to park. Not a problem though as there was a large parking area. I walked back along the Fremont river trail to the historic Gifford house where there was a bake shop in the gift store, and bought some freshly made cinnamon buns and pies. Back to the motorhome for a quick breakfast. We then took a short stroll along the Fremont river trail and did some quality birding. We spotted a beautiful American Dipper in the middle of the rushing stream, bobbing up and down, and hunting insects. We saw a brilliant Indigo Bunting and a Yellow-breasted Chat.

 

Back at the motorhome, we drove onto the scenic roadway and traveled down the valley beneath the towering mesa cliffs. Soon, the weather began to close in and the skies began to darken. We rode down to the end of the paved bit, and had difficulty turning around as the park service was repaving the turn out. We took photos of the wildflowers and the cliffs, then headed back up the valley. We stopped for lunch by a scenic butte and rock formation, all the while listening to the patter of rain and the echo of thunder down the canyons. Once done, we decided to head on to Moab. We stopped briefly at the Petroglyphs on the side of the mesa walls for some quick photos (the wind had risen and it had become quite chilly). We spent the next few hours traveling through stunning colorful canyons, then into flat vast desert. We stopped at Green River for some groceries and called ahead to the KOA in Moab to reserve a site. I had a feeling that all areas near Moab were going to be crowded, and sure enough, when we drove down the main drag, the town and most surrounding campgrounds looked packed.

 

We found our KOA campground 4 miles south of the main town and got a fabulous site below the stunning red cliffs of the mesa. It was late in the day so we had dinner and relaxed. Toward nightfall, the temperatures dropped and during the night, I had to get up and put on the heat. Reading the Moab visitors guides, I found that this time of the year, April through May as well as September through October, are the high seasons especially for the outdoorsey and athlete types, because of cool temps in the 70’s during the day. What this means is that we have to plan ahead and book campgrounds as we travel, and be aware that most natural wonders will be very crowded. We booked our site for three nights, hoping to relax and take our time visiting the area sites.

 

May 20:Moab, UT

Very slow, lazy start today, and that, I think, was not a bad thing. I suspected that the two big national parks in the Moab area were very crowded and that the crush to get in happened in the morning. So, we decided to kick back, write our posts, relax and do laundry. After lunch, we made our way into town, which we found to be quite empty. We walked our pups and were able to bring them into a few stores like the bookstore and a pet store. All of us, pups included, had an ice cream cone (both Daisy and Shelby gulping theirs down!) We then drove north of town and into Canyonlands National Park. The park is situated on the top of a mesa and is called the Island in The Sky. After stopping at the small visitors center for our cancellation stamp, we visited the main highlights of the scenic drive. First was the Mesa Arch, which required a ‘short’ 0.7 mile hike to the rim. It was nice and cool and breezy out, and the sun was behind clouds most of the time so the hike was not too bad. The arch was a spectacular stone portal overlooking the vast and steep canyon walls hundreds of feet down to the bottom. We spotted a rare White-throated Swift and a Black-tailed Gnatcatcher on our walk. We traveled on to see the ‘Upheaval Dome’, a strange geological formation where a large salt mound is pushing itself up through what looks like the caldera of a volcano or a meteorite crater. That hike, only 0.3 miles, was a killer. Lots of steps up to the rim overlook. I encouraged John to make it up and, slowly, he did. By this time, we were pooped and the sun was starting to set. We drove down to the Grand Overlook way at the southern end of the mesa where we caught the sunset shining down into the canyons. We had our diner there with the best view on the planet! By the time we left the park, it was dark and the stars had come out. Back to our KOA campsite and to bed.

May 21: Moab, UT HAPPY BIRTHDAY CAROLINE!!!

Happy happy 48th birthday to me! And what a great day spent canyoneering in Arches National Park. The day dawned overcast, but it felt strangely humid, even in the desert. I got some supplies from the camp store and made a giant spanish omlette with bacon for lunch. We left our campground after 2pm and drove into town, stopping at a few auto parts stores because we had lost a lug nut on one of our wheel caps and it was making an annoying clunking sound. No one had the part, but John managed to get a monster wrench and tightened the two remaining nuts. The nut itself is in metric and needs to be special ordered. Well, not on this trip, unless we find a truck store that has some. We then drove into Arches National Park, stopping at the visitor’s center for our cancellation stamp. The park itself was crowded, even this late in the day. We managed to visit a few arches like Double Arch and the Windows. There were many people climbing about the arches and they were loud and noisy, which kind of spoiled the atmosphere. John managed to hike up with me to see them closer, but stayed in the RV for the rest of the visit. We then continued on to the far end of the park and the Devil’s Garden, skipping the famous Delicate Arch because ,again, of parking lot repaving. At the Devil’s Garden, I went for a short walk to photograph Pine Tree arch and Tunnel arch, which were spectacular, especially in the slanted sun of late afternoon.

We took our time exiting the park, allowing for some great photography with the light, then headed back into town for my birthday celebration. We tried a Mexican restaurant first, but the wait was 45 minutes, so decided to go to Pasta Jays. Yum!! Great pasta dish of fetuccini, tomato, artichoke hearts, and shrimp for me, chicken for John. Great garlic bread too! We headed back to our campsite where we split a fabulous lemon birthday cupcake John had bought in town. All in all, a very, very happy birthday with great food, and great scenery! It is the start of Memorial Day weekend tomorrow, and because we have been distracted by all our travels, we failed to plan ahead. Our KOA campground is completely full, as well as ALL the other campgrounds in the Moab area. Bummer. So, we are heading out and southwards, to Durango Colorado, where I managed to call ahead and get a site near town. No worries though as we will be staying for the weekend. Looking forward to seeing that nice western town again.

May 22-25: Durango, CO

It is monday, Memorial day. It has rained heavily during the night and it is cold. John has spent the last three days in the hospital here. Saturday night, he developed severe abdominal cramps which he recognized as the early signs of a bowel obstruction. We had traveled from Moab and arrived at our campsite in Bayfield, CO, but he soon started to turn for the worse. We waited a few hours but the pain did not subside, so I called 911. An ambulance arrived at the campground within 5 minutes and he was brought to Mercy Regional Medical Center, which was about 18 miles away. quickly disconnected the RV and followed slowly. John was given fluids after a lengthy search for an IV site. The docs had to use ultrasound to locate a good vein after about four sticks by various nurses. He started to get nauseous and then the pain spiked. He was given meds and was about to be released but the nausea came back so he decided to stay the night. An NG tube was not needed this time as I think we caught it very early.

 

The hospital actually had 4 RV sites out front in the parking lot, 2 with electric hookup. I was totally exhausted by this time, but I drove back to the campground, gathered our electrical cable and connections and came back, where I set up camp in the parking lot. The security guards unlocked the electrical box, I put the legs down and the slides out, walked the pups, then crashed. I did not sleep well. In the morning, I made some coffee then ventured in to see where John was. He was put in a room in the same wing that was adjacent to the parking lot where I was parked. He looked OK but still pale and weak. He was on NPO, no food liquid or otherwise. I was pooped so I returned to the RV for some sleep. Later in the day, I unhooked and drove to the KOA just 1 mile up the road to dump tanks and reserve a site for 2 nights, it being the holiday weekend, just in case John was let go. Back in the parking lot, I briefly stopped in to see John again, then returned to my camp in the parking lot to sleep.

 

The next day John looked and felt better. A doctor had come to see him and started him on light food as tolerated. The hospital is brand new and is even more impressive than the one in Bothell, Washington. All patient rooms are private, with a shower and pull out bed for a guest. They are sound proof and very quiet. The ward is triangular shaped, as we found when John started walking laps around the nurse’s station and med room in the center. Outside, there a several waterfalls and many sculptures, a rose garden and even a circular meditation labyrinth. The hospital I think is roman catholic, but the religious aspects are very subtle. I spent some time with John watching TV, then spent another night in the parking lot. He was released yesterday after getting a solid breakfast and getting re-checked by the doctor. No pain and no nausea, just tired. We moved to the KOA site, where we both collapsed and slept til nightfall. John had a little bit of stew I had made in the slow cooker, and we just headed back to bed. It looks like we will be returning to the Las Vegas area today, since it is about 570 miles away. We are going to try and stay close to big towns with medical centers just in case. John is feeling like a cold is coming on…ugh.

May 25-27: Durango, CO-Flagstaff, AZ-Las Vegas, NV

We are now is hot Las Vegas, after traveling about 600+ miles in the past 2 days. We camped in Flagstaff, then set off in the morning for Las Vegas. The point was to keep within close proximity to major hospitals in case John’s symptoms returned. He is feeling better but, alas, I am feeling wiped out. Yesterday, we took the pups to a Banfield Pet Hospital in a PetSmart in Henderson for their medical clearance check-up for the flight home. We then set up camp at Sam’s Town KOA on Boulder Blvd. As we traveled, we noticed a significant ‘thunking’ sound around the front right wheel. Upon further inspection, we discovered that the frame of the motorhome has rusted through on the support beam. It has actually sheared and is not connected! That means the rest of the stress is being placed on the other 3 beams and any twisting of the coach going over bumps is stressing those points. We have checked into the KOA campgroung til friday, when we leave for home, and we are going to visit some RV repair places tomorrow. As we are leaving the motorhome here for a few months, we will try and have the repair place fix the issues, then store it til we return.


TRIP 47: Jan 7-15, 2015 Heading to Warmer Climes (Seattle to Las Vegas)

January 7: Readington, NJ to Issaquah, WA

We decided to take a short winter break on the advice of John’s doctor. Both of us have been battling sinus problems since summer, John most of all, and Dr. Scher said a week or two away in a warm, dry climate just might do wonders for persistent sinus infections. (I think he actually meant a trip to the tropical islands, but that was overlooked). Though the fall was not too bad weatherwise, this first week of 2015 has ushered in some bitter Arctic vortex cold, causing the temperatures to plummet to zero and below with wind chills. I was reluctant to go because it meant leaving the pups and my horse Max for a week. Being the ever-worrying type, it meant leaving Shelby and Daisy in the care of Christopher, who is staying home, and Max in the care of Rhi at Lane’s End farm. Well, we had to go, if for health reasons, than for repositioning the RV in a different spot to explore other areas.

We left frigid New Jersey yesterday at the ungodly hour of 6:30am. A 2 hour stop in Denver, plus a 2 hour delay due to deicing, brought us into Seattle around 3pm exhausted and frazzled. The Greyhaven started just fine. It being winter time, and being at a higher latitude than NJ, the evening was closing in, and even though we had plans to try and drive off to Ellensburg, we stopped for groceries in Issaquah and wilted fast. A small RV park was 5 miles away, so after getting the basic supplies, we headed there and crashed for the night.

January 8: Issaquah, WA to Pendelton, OR

I awoke to a surreal view of a frost laden empty RV park, with low grey overcast morning skies, and rolling high desert hills in the distance hidden in mist. Yesterday, we spent a leisurely morning getting our act together, i.e. rising late, faffing with one of the stabilizing legs which froze in the extended position. We left the campground around noon and backtracked into Issaquah Village to visit a needlework shop.

‘Threadbare Street’ is a very rare find, in my opinion. Needlework shops, other than the huge box stores, have vanished in the U.S., taking with them hard to find books and supplies that can now only be found online and especially only in the U.K. The owner was very knowledgeable and pleasant. I immediately picked up a 28″ stretch roll frame, a cross-stitch kit from England of a Christmas Robin, several books and needles. Her shop was full of many different kinds of threads, hand-painted needlepoint canvases, kits, books and supplies. I was in heaven.

Alas, I couldn’t linger too long. I stopped by a bakery next door to pick up some goodies. I met John in the RV parked in the Staples parking lot just down the street. We had soup in bread bowls for lunch, then headed out and eastward, up and over the misty Snoqualmie Pass, then onward into the night. The journey was one of heavy fog and misty rain into the enclosing darkness. We managed to do about 250 miles and reach Pendelton, Oregon (home of the famous Pendelton wool mills, the company that makes the blankets). We stopped for the night in Wild Horse Casino, in an RV park empty except for a hand full of rigs. It was 8pm when we stopped, so we had a quick bite of dinner (swedish meatballs!) and then went immediately to bed.

 

January 9: Pendelton, OR to Mountain Home, ID
Today was a long 270 miles through dense fog and freezing mists which clung to the roadside sage bushes and cottontree branches. Rolling high desert prairie and sparse rural farmland was our scenery as we traversed eastern Oregon and into Idaho. We stopped for lunch near Baker City, OR and I had a traditional ‘astronaut’s breakfast’ of steak and eggs. Yum! When it grew dark, we stopped to stretch our legs at a Walmart near Meridian, Idaho and do some odds and ends shopping. We thought we could at least make it to Twin Falls, but we noticed we had lost an hour as we entered Idaho with the change to Mountain Time, so we decided to stop and set up camp sooner at a deserted KOA in Mountain Home. Dinner and then some crafts (I am getting back into knitting! Thank you darling John for showing me how to cast on again!) and then early to bed.

 

January 10: Mountain Home, ID to Ely, NV

The journey today took us from the foggy rolling hills of Idaho and into the high desert of Nevada. The mists cleared and for most of the day were able to drive in clear, if overcast conditions. I was not familiar with what exactly ‘high desert’ meant till today, when we drove through 350 miles of vast open sagebrush- covered valleys nestled in snow-dusted mountain ranges. Our elevation was around 6100′, and I could feel myself trying to catch my breath every now and then. The only living things we spotted were red-tailed hawks, a northern harrier, scattered black angus cattle in the far distance, as well as horses. The only trees visible were conifers which covered distant hillsides.
Towards nightfall, we decided to stop in Ely and found a small casino/RV park ($15 for the night with free margaritas!). Set up and relaxed with some knitting, e-mailing, and reading. Tomorrow, we should be in Las Vegas, where the temperature at this moment is in the 60’s.

 

January 11: Ely, NV to Las Vegas, NV

A very long journey yesterday took us through 380 miles of the high desert of the Great Basin. We left Ely and stopped at the Great Basin National Park just 50 miles south, where we learned that the Great Basin is the only high altitude desert in North America (above 6000′), and that it encompasses all of the state of Nevada, stretching from the Salt Lake in Utah up to Boise, out west to Lassen volcanic NP and south past Las Vegas, where the desert becomes the Mojave (low elevation, different flora and fauna). It is a basin, in the sense, that all the water within it remains in it through underground aquifers. However, it really is a dome of volcanic activity. The California plate, which is sliding beneath the North American plate, is pushing this basin upwards, like the dome of a rising loaf of bread. Thus, this is the reason why we noticed many hot springs in the area. Also, it is the reason I noticed the curvature of the horizon dipping downward as we drove over the open expanse, giving it an illusion of falling away, though we never really felt any downhill movement.

We had a bite to eat for lunch before pushing off. We noticed we were very low on gas, and decided to push on the next 80 or so miles to Pinoche, a small creepy mining town set on a hillside, where we gased up at an unmanned 24 hour gas station. We continued on into the night, down Rt. 93, to Interstate 15…and civilization. A very dark, unlit intersection made us miss the entrance ramp to the interstate, so we faffed a bit more till we got on it in a few miles. The nav system took us into downtown Las Vegas as we tried to get to out RV park adjacent to the Sam’s Town Casino on Boulder Boulevard on the eastern edge of town. Out of the blue, I suddenly felt dizzy and nauseous and had a panic attack. John managed to get us to the RV park and registered safely. We parked in out spot, and after I managed to come to, we went into the casino for a nice steak dinner. Back to our motorhome, where we crashed early.

 

January 12: Las Vegas, NV

We have arrived…..finally…..in warm, dry weather! A lazy day today. We had lunch at the Sam’s Town buffet (tacos!). Afterwards, we unhooked and did a quick gas up and shopping trip for some essentials. Walmart is directly across the street! Back to camp to relax in the warm temperatures. We went to see ‘The Imitation Game’ at the Sam’s Cineplex, thoroughly enjoying it. Back to our campsite to do some knitting and reading.

 

January 13-14: Las Vegas, NV

‘Camping’ in the middle of a large metropolitan area, we have found, is not all that bad. No, it is not like being out in the wilds, in the forests or near a lake shore, with a great view, solitude, being close to nature. But, camping adjacent to a casino, especially with hookups, has quite a few positives. We are in a major RV owner area here out west. Like Phoenix and Tuscon, Las Vegas is a snowbird destination for many people living in the northern states, as well as up across the border in Canada. Here in the RV park, there are many license plates from British Columbia, Oregon, Minnesota, Ohio, and North Dakota. The desert here provides warm days during the winter, with temperatures in the comfortable 60’s. Night time does bring a cool down, and we have had to use our propane heat to keep warm.

A site here at Sam’s Town KOA is $34 a night. Today, we did laundry in a spotless laundry room, and I did some housekeeping in the Greyhaven. We tried the buffet in the casino for lunch…an enormous spread of all kinds of food (Pizza, pasta, fresh cut meats, Chinese, Mexican, salads, desserts) all-you-can-eat for $11.99, but discounted with a casino card to $7.99. If this is not enough, there is a fabulous steakhouse, a TGIFriday’s, a Mexican Cantina, Dunkin’Doughnuts, Subway, and a few other resturants in the Casino. In the evening, after a day of lazing about, knitting, writing, and catching up on our vitamin D, we went to see “Interstellar” in the 18 cinema Cineplex….wow! Great movie!

Tomorrow, we plan to have out motorhome washed and detailed (finally!) at the site. It is in horrible condition, covered with grime from the last 10 trips, and is the worst looking in the entire RV park. Everyone’s coach here is spotless, and kept that way. John just checked out flight status back to NJ and found we have been upgraded to ‘smug class’ (i.e. First class) due to his mileage. I am looking forward to returning and getting back to our pups, getting back to my horse Maximus and playing with him, getting back to our home and all the small craft business projects I have in mind, but I am not looking forward to returning to the dry cold temperatures. It is in the 30’s in Flemington as I write this, however, a January thaw is forecast to start this coming weekend.

 

January 15: Las Vegas, NV to Readington, NJ

Yesterday, we had our coach washed and detailed at the site, something we haven’t had done in quite a few years.  It was in horrific condition, and filthy after many many miles on highways. Afterwards, we moved our location from Sam’s Town KOA to Las Vegas RV Resort, a mile down the road, but securing a storage site till we come back in March for Spring Break. Later in the day, John had Enterprise drop off a small car and in the evening, we went out to ‘The Strip’.

We really wanted to visit some new casinos, but they were really spaced out so we narrowed it down to the southern end of the Strip. We passed Circus Circus, the casino/RV park once owned by KOA and where we stayed the first time we visited here with Mother and Christopher and when we got married. The KOA campground was no longer there, and a new casino was being built on the site. We decided to try Excalibur, a new family oriented casino with a medieval theme. We meandered about, just checking out the huge arcade, the laser maze, the eateries. The Excalibur was connected to the Luxor, the casino shaped like a black pyramid, and continuing on, was connected to Mandalay Bay, at the very southern end of the Strip.

We browsed the shops and casino, and finally settled on having a bite to eat at RiRa, an Irish themed pub. We both had fish and chips, then called it an early night since it was very loud and crowded. Back at the RV resort, we packed for the flight home.

Today, our flight was at 1pm. We got the Greyhaven emptied of water and put to sleep in a storage space in the same RV park by 10am. We then returned the rental car back to a brand new rental car center new the airport (very impressed! Just liek Seattle, with a free bus shuttle back to the airport and all terminals). Another thing I was very impressed with was the new airport itself. I was here aboutt 6 years ago and it was totally rebuilt with huge, spacious new terminals, tramways between terminals, new restaurants and shops, and a comfortable lounge. I suddenly did not feel all that well, and we boarded the flight for home for a 4 hour flight with me feeling ill. The flight was OK, and I did feel better as we went. We arrived back in NJ to temperatures in the low 20’s. No snow, but bitter cold. Christopher picked us up and we got home around 11pm. Back to our pups who were jumping up and down with joy when we walked through the door! Happy to be back! 

 

TRIP 47: Heading to Warmer Climes

 

Trip 46: Vancouver Aug. 20-29, 2014

August 20: Readington, NJ to Anacortes, WA

Ahhhh….a final summer fling out west to decompress, relax, and enjoy our two pups. Today was filled with long hours of traveling. Getting up at 4 to get to the airport early so that we could check the pups in always takes the most out of me. As with every trip, the folks at PetSafe were good, but they were delayed and slow, taking a good hour to check the pups in. We were able to spend an hour in the United lounge before boarding. I took advantage of the one last seat in first class to upgrade…thank you sweetie! The flight was 5 hours, and I think I slept through most of it. Once in Seattle, we picked up the rental car, then the pups, then the Greyhaven.  We headed north towards Burlington, slogging for a few hours through I-5 traffic, and stopped briefly at a Haggen food store for some groceries, then went to the Swanomish Casino/RV park to crash for the evening. Some reading and news, then to bed.

 

August 21: Anacortes, WA to Burnaby, BC

Faffing day. Shopping for supplies is a necessary evil, but it does eat into the day, and ultimately vacationing. Stops included Home Depot for coax cable, and wood dowels for a larger needlepoint frame for my tapestry work. Then, on to Haggen market for groceries, fresh sushi, and goodies. The weather here in the northwest is cool with temps in the low 70’s and it is often overcast. The forecast calls for similar conditions for the next few weeks. Our generator fuel line is leaking a small amount of gas. Since we are not really using it much, we decided to leave it for now and head north, and later perhaps get it repaired on the way back to Seattle.

 

We headed north after lunch, and crossed into Canada after a good 45 minute wait at the border crossing. We proceeded to our campground in Burnaby, just 20 minutes east of Vancouver city center and located near a scenic lake. Parking in the narrow hedge-lined site required some skill and backing, but John managed to guide the rig perfectly. Crashed. Walked the pups and then did not have enough energy to make dinner. So, we had a cold meal of thai noodles and bread. To bed early.

 

August 22 Burnaby, BC

John is not feeling well today…decompression sickness, or perhaps a sinus infection? We decided to rent a car and see a few sites without worrying about the Greyhaven and parking in the city. I took a cab from the campground to a local Enterprise in Burnaby.  Back to the RV park to have some lunch, fresh shrimp and oriental salad. We then ventured into Vancouver, heading first to the ‘jewel in the crown’ Stanley Park. Touted as one of the finest city parks in North America, it is a sprawling peninsula situated in the heart of the city and boasts many different ecosystems and attractions. There are huge redwood trees, deep northwest pine forests, a small rainforest area, an aquarium, beaches, all ringed by a fabulous cycling/jogging/rollerblading trail. John wanted to see the collection of Northwest nations totem poles.so we took a scenic route around the park, and then got stuck in some local traffic. We cut through some side streets and got to see the neighborhood of The northwest part of the city. Very trendy, lots of little stores and a variety of cafes and restaurants of different ethnic foods, many quaint apartment and condo towers.

 

Back in the park, we finally came to the totem poles, located in the easternmost tip and overlooking the Vancouver Convention center and the cruise ship docks. There were two large cruise ships there, a Holland America and a monster Norwegian Cruiselines. We took some photos of the carved poles, and walked around a bit. There were many folks about, bicycling, rollerblading, running, visiting. The city seems to be populated by very fit, thin, healthy athletic folks. The only fatties were the tourists.


We then headed into downtown Vancouver to the inner harbor area and the famous Granville Island Market. The island is located beneath a main interstate and bridge and is also a very famous spot in the city to visit. Filled with many tiny shops, galleries, restaurants, studios, and the Market, it is a miniature city within the city. The streets are cobblestone and there are the remnants of a cablecar track in the roadways. Because John was beginning to wilt, we headed straight for the Market. Filled to the brim with 100 little stalls and shops selling a vast variety of fresh foodstuffs, we walked about gazing at all the delicious goodies and produce. Salivating, we gawped at artisan cheeses, cases loaded with German meats and sausages, Italian mini pastries, Indian curries and spices, savory and sweet pot pies, veggies and fruits of all different kinds, candies and hand made chocolates, and Northwest smoked salmon and fish. We stepped outside to walk by the marina. A wooden boat show was being held with quite a few antique wood yachts and sailboats on display. Wilting, we quickly purchased some tomatoes stuffed with arugula and mozzarella and some fresh brie ravioli for dinner and headed back to the RV park. There, we enjoyed the fresh foods along with fresh French bread. To bed early.

 

August 23 Burnaby to Vancouver Island, Nanimo, BC

John was feeling better today so we decided to head out of the city area and west and over to Vancouver Island. We were lazy getting going so we arrived at the Horseshoe Bay BC ferry terminal too late to take the noon sailing. We took the pups into the little village and had lunch at Toll’s fish n’ chips. We were able to get a seat on the patio and tie the pups to the iron railing. We ate rather quickly because the next sailing was at 2:30pm and we needed to return to our motorhome for boarding. Once on board, we tried to take the pups up with us onto the passenger deck but were told they were not allowed there. We returned them to the RV and spent the rest of the trip reading and doing computer work in the seating area.

The weather was cool and breezy, but very hazy so we did not get a great view of the surrounding scenery. Once in Nanaimo, we headed a short 10 km to the Living Forest RV park, a scenic campground we had stayed at in 2007 on a winter trip to this area. The first site we were assigned to proved to be too narrow and had too many noisy neighbors. While walking the pups, i managed to spot a vacant site in a quiet area with a great view over the bay. I quickly called the office and found out that it was available, so we switched sites. We parked head in, allowing us a fabulous view over the bay. Dinner was British ‘bangers’, savory onion gravy and roasted potatoes. YUM! Relaxed into the evening doing some needlework and computer programming.

 

August 24 Vancouver Island, Nanimo, BC

Relaxed for the day in this beautiful campground. Cool sunny weather has been with us all this trip. In the afternoon, we took the pups for a long walk to a drug store near the entrance of the RV park. There, we mailed a birthday card for Maggie’s birthday, picked up some bottles of water, and had a bite to eat at Tim Horton’s. We returned to our campsite where we enjoyed the afternoon and had a dinner of British bangers and roasted potatoes.

 

August 25 Vancouver Island, Nanimo, BC to Saanish, BC

Another beautiful sunny cool day. We spent most of the afternoon visiting Butchart Gardens. We were able to bring the pups with us! They were a big hit with the crowds of people. We were stopped often with cooing and adoring people wanting to pet them and asking all sorts of questions. Both Daisy and Shelby soon became accustomed to all the attention and walked with us without barking or shying. We stopped at one point to feed them ice cream cones and really drew a crowd of onlookers. The gardens were more spectacular that I remembered them for our last trip back in 2007. Back then, we visited during spring break. It was cool then and there were not as many flowers displayed then. This time, there were many many blooms out, especially dahlias and roses. Also, we noticed many topiary sculptures placed here and there in the landscape. Afterwards, we decided to find a campsite along the shoreline. Nearby was the Beachcomber resort in Saanish, so we headed there. Very narrow campsites along the rocky beach, but a neighboring camper helped us park. Watched the sun set across the waters. To bed early.

 

August 26 Saanish, BC to Port Townsend, WA

We arose early to try and catch the 10:30am ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles, USA, but arrived to find the ferry already full for sailing. We had till 1:30pm to walk around so we took the pups on a stroll through the harbor and into downtown along Government St. near all the souvineer shops. They were well behaved once more and drew in lots of people wanting to pet them. I visited a few stores and of course Munroe books. While walking back to the ferry dock, we passed the seaplane terminal. A restaurant was located there called the Flying Otter (de Havilland Otters are the workhorse airplanes of the seaplane fleet)and they were offering fish and chips. I managed to get some take away for John and myself. We returned to the ferry waiting line and had lunch.

Boarding was at 2:30pm. A few of the border guards remarked on a woman driving such a huge rig! The crossing was a little under 2 hours and the seas became rolling as we approached Port Angeles. Finally, back in the USA. We drove an hour or so east to Port Townsend, another of our favorite camping spots, and got a site on the shoreline with a great view of the bay from the Point Hudson Marina and Campground. We enjoyed a fabulous dinner of scallops and salmon at the Marina Grill right next to our campsite.

 

August 27: Port Townsend, WA
We managed to move our site today to one closer to the beach without an obstructed view. We spent the day relaxing in Port Townsend. I made omlettes and Irish bacon for lunch, did some laundry, needlework, pup walking and napping. Later in the day, I ventured into town for a stroll. Dinner was at the small restaurant nearby.

August 28: Port Townsend to Renton, WA

 

TRIP 46: Vancouver, British Columbuia