August 4: Readington, NJ to Las Vegas, NV
On this, our possibly last trip in the Greyhaven, I must say a huge thank you is in order for my darling husband, John, and all his efforts into making these trips possible. His energy and desire to see new and exciting places, plus his infinite patience with my crankiness, has made these trips doable. As a child, I always dreamed of seeing the National Parks of the United States, and John has made that dream possible. Thank you darling!! And here’s to many more journeys….hopefully in a new motorhome!
We arrived in the blast furnace which is Las Vegas in August sometime around noon. Great flight on United, where we got to use the new WiFi service on our iPads. United has removed most inflight entertainment seat screens and have replaced them with a streaming service over their website. Both of us enjoyed watching “Big Hero 6″. When we landed, the temperature out was a typical 100 degrees. The Petsafe van was waiting for our dogs with air conditioning as soon as we pulled up to the gate. We took the airport shuttle to the car rental center, picked up a brand new Santa Fe, then ate our airport sandwiches after we picked up the pups. We then went to collect the Greyhaven at Camping World, at the very south end of Las Vegas Boulevard. I waited an hour as John faffed with the disorganized service rep to get our motorhome squared away.
We quickly went to a nearby RV resort, Oasis, which was near the South Point Casino Resort. We got a site, hooked up, then spent the next 4 hours trying to cool the rig, our pups and ourselves down. Wearing no clothing, we sprawled out on the bed and floor while the dual air conditioners struggled to bring the temps down in the baking desert sun. Towards nightfall, when the temps outside cooled a bit, we decided to forego food shopping since out refrigerator was still warm inside, and go to eat at the South Point casino buffet. Shrimp and salad and prime rib. Back to our rig, where we tried to get to sleep.
August 5: Las Vegas, NV Hurricane, UT
The dawn brought bright sunshine and quickly rising temps. We needed to get the Greyhaven’s wheels balanced and aligned, so we packed up and drove to the north end of ‘The Strip’ to a wheel alignment place. There, we dropped off the rig for a couple of hours and took the pups in the air conditioned car to visit Red Rocks National Conservation area, about 10 miles to the west of Vegas. I had heard about this place when I was planning our small wedding in 2004. I saw photos of wedding parties at this park with beautiful red rock formations in the background. A helicopter took the bridal party for the wedding at sunset. We spent some time seeing the visitor center and driving slowly on the 13 mile scenic drive. Beautiful red sandstone rocks ringed the u-shaped canyon. We spotted a road runner crossing the road! The alignment place called, so we headed back into Vegas, driving through sprawling housing developments in Summerlin. We slowly realized that this area has become a retiree haven, with thousands of homes built for seniors to live in the warm dry climate. Once we picked up the Greyhaven,, we dropped off the rental car. That was our final responsibility, and we decided to head east towards Utah and St. George, up into higher altitude and lower temperatures. We stopped for lunch at an In-N-Out Burger (YUMMMMMM!!!!) and a brief grocery shop, arriving in Hurricane, UT sometime after 6pm. We selected a KOA and collapsed at our site.
August 6: Hurricane, UT to Jacob Lake, AZ
Once again, we have inadvertantly found ourselves in one of the wildest and remote areas in the United States. In the broiling valley of Vegas, the allure of higher altitudes, pine forests, cool temps and grand scenery has tempted us to run off half cocked without a real plan of travel. I only say this because by midday, when I started looking for suitable campgrounds with hookups, we suddenly found quite far distances between our current position and availability, not to mention, scarce cell signal. We are up on the North Kaibab Plateau, a vast expanse of sprawling mesa tops and mesa cliff faces. We managed to climb up to 5000′ then 6000′, where the air is cooler, but not by much. We stopped to visit Pipe Spring National Monument, a tiny park which commemorated a rare spring in the desert once used by the Kaibab-Paiute indians. The spring is on the indian reservation, and as all of the sad native histories have gone, Mormon settlers moved in, claimed the spring as their own and pushed the indians out. We did not spend much time here, except for some bird watching by the spring pool.
Back on the road, I managed to get a cell signal as we climbed up to 7000′ onto the Kaibab Plateau and got ourselves a site at nearby Jacob Lake, the tiny remote gateway to the Grand Canyon North Rim. We entered beautiful pine forests and came to the small village of Jabob Lake. There, we spotted a national park campground near the road but it had no hookups and we were not going to risk a stifling hot night in the motorhome without AC (even though we knew that at this altitude it would probably cool off to a comfortable level in the evening). We arrived at out cute private campground located suprisingly in the national forest and on a national forest access road. We hooked up and spent the rest of the day collapsed. In the evening, we managed to get a cell signal strong enough to stream the 2016 GOP presidential candidate debate. We took the pups for a final walk in the cool, pine scented forests, then off to bed.
August 7: Jacob Lake to Page, AZ
I walked the pups this morning around 5am. The dark skies surrounding the campground were illuminated by stunning flashes of pink lightning without any thunder claps. Returning to the motorhome, I hopped in bed for a couple more hours of nap time, only to be woken by tremendous thunder booms and pattering rain. August here in the desert southwest is called ‘monsoon season’ because of streaming water moisture moving northward over the Baja gulf. Downpours and thunderstorms were forecast for the rest of the day, so we decided to take things slowly and visit the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. After packing up, we drove down the plateau through large areas of old forest fire burns and open grassy plains, coming to the entrance station and then the rim village. Thunder was booming and echoing through the canyons and because of the mists, it seemed we were in a cloud.
We first had a bite to eat (caprese pasta salad!, but without any fresh basil), then walked to the beautiful old log structure which was the lodge. Inside, we walked through the large seating area with leather couches and a big glass bay window overlooking the Grand Canyon vista. And what a spectacular vista!! Although most of the view was obscured by clouds and curtains of rain showers, John and I managed to go outside a sit a bit on the Adirondack chairs on the veranda. I walked down a bit to a promontory and took some photos. The rain showers and lightning were fast approaching, so we did not linger. A quick visit to the gift store and then back to the RV as the skies opened up in a torrential downpour. I managed to get a cell signal so I called ahead to a campground by Lake Powell in Page, Arizona and reserve a site with hookups. We spent the rest of the afternoon wending our way down the plateau along the towering thousand foot Vermillion Cliffs, and then down to the Navajo Bridge crossing of the Colorado River, stopping briefly to get photos of strange rock formations along the highway (horrible driving on my part…almost got stuck in a ditch behind a tractor trailer!) Once in Page, we stopped at the local Wally World and picked up groceries for a chicken stew. The skies opened up into thunder, lightning, and rain as we arrived at out campground and hooked up for the night. I put the stew together in the crock pot to cook for 5 hours, then we had dinner, checked up on email and phone messages, and then watched some news before sleep.
August 8:Page to Chinle, AZ
We have found ourselves traveling through the Navajo Nation and both John and I feel as if we are in a totally different country. We broke camp late and decided to go a mile up the road to visit the Horseshoe Bend of the Colorado River overlook. We were met with hundreds of other tourists and a massive traffic jam with many rental RVs and cars parked along the highway. John decided to skip the walk, which was a long slog up and down a mesa hump with blistering hot red sand for a trail. Along the way, I do not think I heard a single american voice. The mass of visitors were mostly French (Canadian?), German, Indian and Korean. The rim viewpoint was very crowded and I managed to find an open spot on the vertiginous lip. The sheer wall fell away a thousand feet or more to the valley floor and the blue alge-streaked Colorado river below. There even were tiny speck on the river which were floating kayakers. A quick selfie and some pictures, then back to the motorhome.
Our trip today took us through more of the vast Navajo nation and through various terrain. Open sage-covered desert, grassy plains and red rock mesas, and through tiny native villages comprised of small homes, corrals with horses, traditional round hogan structures here and there. We drove southward to Chinle, where we arrived after hours for the Canyon de Chelly National Park visitor center. We really wanted to visit this park so we decided to dry camp at the park campground, right behind the visitor center. No hookups, but nice wide sites. Towards evening, a thunderstorm moved into the area and we enjoyed dinner with thunder, lightning, and a downpour. Our evening was disturbed a couple of times by local natives coming into our campsite and knocking on our door to try and sell us some rick drawings or carvings. I felt a bit unsettled since we were in a remote area, and even though the campground had a host and security. We ended the day early, going to bed around 9pm, with some windows open for the cool night air. Unfortunately, the area was full of feral dogs and we hear their yipping far into the night.
August 9:Chinle, AZ to Durango, CO
After breakfast and breaking camp, we drove up to the park visitor’s center where we got a map, our cancellation stamp, and spoke with a native Navajo jewelry artist, Ted Henry. Apparently back in 1950, Ansel Adams came through this area and did some black and white photography of the local canyon and its native inhabitants. He managed to photograph Ted’s mother and his baby brother in a papoose. Ted stumbled on it in a book of Adam’s works 40 years later!! He now makes beautiful jewelry with various precious stone inlay on one side, and a silver engraved image of that photograph with his mother and baby brother on the other side. John bought one of his pendants for me and Ted said he would make it then ship it to us in NJ. We spent the next few hours touring the South Rim drive, stopping way at the very end first, having lunch, then taking the short walk to the Spider Rock overlook. The canyon floor is about 800′ below with sheer red sandstone vertical walls. The Spider Rock is an enormous thin spire of rock thrusting up from the valley floor. Across the valley, we could see the ruins of a well-constructed Anasazi Pueblo beneath the arched amphitheater overhang. We took photos, then moved on to a few more overlooks, one looking at the spot where Ansel Adams photographed Ted’s mom next to their corn field on the canyon floor. The canyon had a river running through it, trees, bushes, and quite a few plots of crops.
We then headed eastward, out and over the Navajo nation, traversing a very steep highway over a mesa at Luckachukai. The narrow and very winding road took us up to 9000′ and into totally different ecosystem, with pine forests carpeted with ferns. Quite a few locals were up in the area enjoying picnics on this sunday afternoon. Over to the other side and back down to the valley floor, we spotted the enormous tower of Shiprock. The highway was incredibly bumpy and rough and for 2 hours our brains were rattled to bits. Ugh. Once in Farmington, we stopped at a Wally world for groceries and a sitz bath (we are both having issues :() and gassing up, we drove till nightfall and into Colorado. We did not stop to eat as both of us are not feeling to well stomach-wise. I called ahead and got a site at the Durango Riverside RV park, 12 miles north of downtown on the San Juan scenic byway up to Silverton. We arrived in the dark, picked up our camp info packet, set up at our site, and collapsed, happy to finally stop being shaken around. A bit to eat, though I had a stomach ache, then crashed.
August 10:Durango to Ridgway, CO
Rough night last night with a stomach ache. Not sure if it was just the stress of the bumpy roads or food. I got up at 5am and walked the pups. I made coffee and watched the dawn light spread over the campground. The campground was located right on the Animas River, but I did not see anyone fishing. John got up around 8 and we took our time leaving. The journey today took us up the Mosel Pass and into the historic mining town of Silverton, where we stopped for a burger lunch at the Brown Bear Cafe. John walked the pups afterwards and I went to an outdoor equipment store to get a fishing license.
We were then off onto the Million Dollar Highway Rt. 550 up through Red Mountain Pass at 11,000′. Twisting and winding roadway, up to the pass and then down into Ouray, with no railings and sheer drop offs on one side, proved a very harrowing and stressful drive. Ouray was also a very scenic quaint mining town, dubbed the ‘Switzerland of America’. We did not stop though, as our goal was to get to Ridgway Reservoir and get a full hook up campsite. Once there, we were lucky to get one of the last ones at the Pa-Co-Chu-Puk Campground. It was pretty much the farthest from the Uncompaghre River fishing area, and I kind of had a mini melt down. The stress of the drive and the last few days of being shaken like a bean in a can took its toll. Nothing that a quick nap couldn’t fix though, so I slept for three hours, joined by John. After 6, I went for a walk to check out the location of the laundry and see the fishing ponds and river. Our site was closer to both than I thought, so I grabbed my rod and did some very much needed fly fishing time, catching 7 reasonably small rainbows on various flies (beetle, ant, BWO) until it grew too dark to see. A low flying night hawk was my final call, so I headed back to our site, made a small dinner, and spent the evening watching some TV. On the news, we heard that the Animas river was contaminated last week by a chemical spill from the King Gold mine in Silverton. I was wondering why it looked so yellow in color and why there were no fishermen or rafters on it. The news called it an environmental disaster and it seemed it has impacted all the way down to Farmington and the famous San Juan river. I feel very lucky to be up here way above the spill area and in a different watershed. We are here for a couple of days of relaxing and fishing before we push off for other adventures.
August 11-12:Ridgway Reservoir State Park, Ridgway, CO
Another day in Rainbow Trout Paradise. I fished all morning and well into the afternoon, getting a sunburn, catching quite a few fish and keeping two 12″ rainbows for dinner. Not knowing anything about cleaning and fileting trout as I never have kept or killed any, I went online and onto Youtube to watch a few videos. I felt a bit sad about taking their lives, but realized my fishing license fee paid for them to be raised in a hatchery and stocked, and if I wasn’t going to eat them, then a hungry great blue heron was! There was a fish cleaning station by one pond where I cleaned them and de-boned them as best as I could. I returned to the RV where I found John deep in his work on software. We packed up and took a brief visit up the valley to Ouray where I walked around town a bit while John stayed with the motorhome. I picked up groceries and we returned to the campground where I baked up those trout filets with some smoked paprika, salt and pepper, peas and rice. YUM!!! They turned out fabulous!!! Afterwards, I returned to try fishing the Uncompaghre river, a cold, deep fast flowing river where all fish were to be returned after being caught on artificial lures only. I caught 2 rainbows and enjoyed watching other fishermen high stick nymphing, a technique to catch the very large fish that lurk on the bottom. Lightning and thunder quickly moved into the area and I had to retreat back to camp before the skies opened in downpours and crashing thunder.
August 12:Ridgway to Glenwood Springs, CO
Got up bright and early and headed out to fish for a few hours before departing. I kept only to the river and caught several large, fat, fighting rainbows, much different from the pond fish. These had been caught and released to grow bigger on flies and grasshoppers. Wow! What a thrill!! I had a Belted Kingfisher dive bomb me at one point, kackling with laughter. I fished up and down the river on both sides, and reluctantly had to leave around 10:30. So sad to have to depart. We left Ridgway and traveled north up through Montrose and then up to Grand Junction where we spent the afternoon visiting Colorado National Monument.
Basically, the park was a 20 mile scenic drive along the soaring mesa cliffs above Grand Junction. The route was a very hard, draining drive laced with many switchbacks and sharp hairpin turns up and the along the mesa, which afforded spectacular views of the canyons dropping off into the valley below. We stopped at a few laybys. At one overlook, a dumbfounded tourist asked us how we were going to turn our motorhome around because the tunnel allowed only 10’6″ clearance. Duh. We had to explain that was the clearance at the edges, not down the road centerline. 4 tunnels in all and we did not have any problem. Great photo opportunities. A quick cancellation stamp in the visitor center and a short video on the geology in the area and we were on our way. One last stop at the AAA office in Grand Junction (plus a small candy store next door!) and we turned the Greyhaven eastward. We drove on I-70 for a few hours on very rough road surface till we were too pooped to continue. We stopped for the night in Glenwood Springs at the Glenwood Canyon RV resort, where we stayed a few years ago. I made tacos for dinner, then we both collapsed for the night.
August 13:Glenwood Springs, CO to Hey, KS
Reluctantly, we turned out rig eastward today to begin the long, long journey home to New Jersey. Uneventful, extreme drive today for 500 miles, mostly through vast empty farmland stretching hundreds of miles in all directions, with the occasional grain silo marking each tiny farming community. We switched off regularly, every hour or so, exercising the pups as well as ourselves. We stopped in Kansas somewhere for a steak dinner and some coffee, watching a beautiful thunderstorm with flashes of pink lightning in the distance, finally stopping in Fort Hay and making use of free camping in the Walmart parking lot. Doing this kind of dry camping has been on John’s bucket lost for a very long time, and we finally checked the box off! We asked the store manager first before setting up in an area where there were other campers, some 5th wheelers, and a couple of Class As. One guy had his generator on, a no-no according to unwritten Wally World parking lot camping etiquite. We put the bedroom slide out and crashed for the night with only the bathroom fan on for air.
August 14:Hey, KS to Columbia, MO
A hot, stuffy night left us both reeling in the morning. I was so out of it, not even the 2 large cups of coffee from the Subway in Walmart helped clear the cobwebs. Another long stretch of driving all day brought us through Kansas, through Kansas City and into Missouri, stopping for a coffee break and some shopping in Topeka. John bought me a beautiful bowl of Polish Pottery. By nightfall, pooped again, we stopped in Columbia, MO and found a campground through getting lost. Neither the GPS nor the new Woodall’s from AAA had the correct directions, but we followed the tiny road signs and found it. Crashed.
August 15:Columbia, MO to Joliet, IL
Close to 400 miles of shake, rattle and roll today. Hot, humid weather did not help. We passed through St. Louis, and the now famous Ferguson area where there were riots not long ago. The area looked very run down, with abandoned, boarded up houses everywhere. It looked like the ruins of Detroit. We tried our best to visit the huge silver arch at the waterfront, but every way we tried to go, we could not get close due to the national park construction on new facilities. No parking anywhere for our rig, so we gave up and headed north east into Illinois, stopping very close to Chicago in Joliet. There, we camped in the Hollywood Casino campground, a very spacious and grassy campground for only $28. We had dinner in the casino at the First Cut Steakhouse, citrus scallops for me and cedar-plank salmon. We did a bit of gambling on the slots, then returned last to crash. Pooped once again. Tomorrow, we plan on heading to Elkhart, Indiana, to visit some RV dealers in our search for a smaller, shorter rig.
August 16-8:Elkhart, In
We arrived in Elkhart very late in the day Sunday. Because of the horrendous road conditions, traffic, and the time change back to east coast time, we arrived too late to visit the RV Museum. We did get a site at the Elkhart Campground, which was full of huge rigs and sparkling new Tiffin, Allegro and Newell coaches. John said most of them were probably here to get their new coaches fixed or tweaked. Next to our site was a Nexus Viper, a 29′ Class B+ combo which we were considering buying. John and I got to talking with the owners who invited us to see the inside. It was spacious and new, with most of the special upgrades we were considering like a hard-side shower, a slide out queen size bed, and a dinette table. To bed very late after reading.
In the morning, we were dragging. Don’t know if it is the heat or long drives, but both of us were exhausted and we did not get going till noon. We visited the Nexus factory and spent all of the day there trying to get a feel for the 27′ and the 29′ Viper coach. We test drove a 29′ and, being made of steel construction and on a Ford F450 chassis, we thought the ride was good,, with little creaking and banging, unlike our rig on these rough roads. We did not commit to anything, but decided to spend an evening thinking things over. I felt that the 29′ had lots of room, but was too much inner room, with an awkward L-shaped kitchen and useless couch. The 27′ was tight but cozy, with just enough comfortable room with the slides out. After a dinner of Thai peanut satay chicken skewers and jasmine rice, we crashed.Tomorrow we will meet up with the salesperson.