TRIP 51: Winter Ramble in Virginia, Jan.1-5, 2016

Jan 1: Readington, NJ to College Park, MD
The calendar has turned to a brand new year and John and I decided to take a winter trip in our new motorhome to see how we like it. We did have some misgivings from the shakedown trip, especially with the smaller quarters and long list of problems we already have when we picked it up from the Hershey show. The weather so far has been unseasonably warm, thanks in part to a strong El Nino. We have seen temperatures in the 60’s this December, with some trees and plants (cherry trees and daffodils) being fooled into blooming early. Today, the weather was cold and cloudy. We left mid afternoon, headed south towards Washington, DC and stopped at the Cherry Hill RV Park in College Park, MD. It was nightfall when we arrived. We had stopped at a Giant food store to pick up drinks, water, some fried chicken and other items. We had dinner then stayed up a bit watching TV. We could not get the hot water working properly, and decided to leave it til morning.

Jan. 2: College Park, MD
Not a great night sleep. Both dogs squirming around, highway noise, helicopters overhead, the electric heater turning on and off, and just plain insomnia kept me awake. We stayed in the RV park most of the day today, struggling to work out why we had no warm water and why the furnace stopped working during the night. We thought it might be the propane being low. From the experiences of our last motorhome, we could never really trust the dials, especially on the propane tank or the water sensors (fresh and grey). We figured we would top off the propane, which was delivered to the site by a truck, and see if the water heater came on. At the office, we payed for our site and an extra night, then had a bite to eat for lunch and waited till after 2pm when the propane arrived. The tank was really 2/3 full, and did not need much to fill. We tried the water heater, but it still did not work. John had the idea that there must be another bypass valve so that the water could be shut off for winterizing. Looking under the bed, where the water tank was located, then taking the valve off the water heater showed that water was not even getting to the heater. Finally, we decided to check a panel beneath the induction stove top (‘stove’…we do not have a gas powered stove top in this rig). 4 screws later, and we had clear easy access to hot, cold and bypass water to the water heater. Ahhhhhh….a warm shower hit the spot. Even though it was very hot, then very cold, then hot again, it was most welcome. We went out to shop for odds and ends (earplugs!)and have dinner at a local Friday’s. Just simple burgers, and then back to our site where we watched ‘American Sniper’ till 11pm. To sleep.

Jan. 3: College Park, MD to Fredericksburg, VA
The night went better, but we still had no furnace heat by morning. The electric heater and the duvet cover, plus the fleece blankets and 2 warm pups provided great heat. We needed to reset the water heater for it to start working. Also, the furnace heat started working again as the day progressed and it became warmer out. Earplugs did the trick as well. We got up late, left at 11 (the check-out time) and drove to Mount Vernon, George Washington’s birthplace and mansion on the Potomac River, just south of DC.

I visited Mount Vernon with my uncle Stas when I was about 10 or 11. I remember it being a very well-kept manor house and gardens. I remember there were not that many people visiting (I think it was during the summer). A new welcome center, educational center, museum, restaurant, and archives was built since I last was here. We walked the a bit through the well-tended winter gardens and landscaped grounds. Washington once brought a real camel to stay at Mount Vernon during Christmastime for his guests. A real camel was there, named Alladin, in a small enclosure. The trees seemed larger and the main mansion much smaller after all these years.

It was warm in the sunshine as we walked around the grounds before our scheduled brief tour of the main house. We visited Washington’s tomb, then some of the outer buildings. The main tour was crowded with noisy children. Not very pleasant. The tour guides, stationed in each room, were at first very dry and tired, but later on, in the house, were more informed and were able to answer some questions. The old mansion was the same as I remembered it, well preserved and lovingly cared for and restored. I liked the master bedroom and the restored ‘New Room’ (main salon) best.

Afterwards, we browsed the museum and gift store. I recall seeing a braided clip of Washington’s and Martha’s hair in a small mourning locket in the museum, but did not see it in the displays. A bit of shopping, then walk and feed the pups, then we turned southwards. Night was falling fast so we stopped in Fredericksburg in a KOA south of town after picking up Taco Bell for dinner.

Jan 4. Fredericksburg, VA
A deep cold snap has settled in the eastern half of the country. With it, the temperatures have fallen into the 30’s during the day and into the teens at night. We have been spoiled and treated with warm days all December, some even reaching into the high 60’s, but now, winter has arrived with an exclamation point. Once again, we had no heat from our furnace last night, nor did we have warm water. We almost decided to pack it in, but decided one more day to troubleshoot and see if we could fix it. John was not feeling well with a sinus infection, and I still had my own issues. We actually did not get up till 10:30, with the checkout time being 11:00. Some time in the afternoon, the furnace started working again, on and off. Also, the hot water heater started working as well. We watched TV, had some food, and took quick showers.
The temperatures fell all day and by dinner time, flurries were blowing around in the strong north winds. Dinner was bacon and mac n’ sneeze. We had some heat from the furnace, as it came on and shut off intermittently. To bed, with just a single electric heater, and lots of blankets.

Jan. 5: Fredericksburg VA to Readington, NJ
No heat all night. The temps here in Fredericksburg are 17 degrees. The bed was warm with both pups and the duvet, but the coach was freezing…only 47 degrees. We tried recycling the furnace on and off but it only blew cold air. The warm water heater was not working as well. Wrapped up in down blankets for coffee and breakfast before packing it in and heading back home to New Jersey.

TRIP 50: The *NEW* Grey Haven Viper Shakedown Trip, Quakertown, PA Nov. 26-28, 2015

We  picked up our new Greyhaven motorhome, which we have named the Greyhaven Viper, from the Hershey Park Autumn RV Camping Show. Our motorcoach was made for us at the Nexus plant in Indiana and was brought here to be a demo model for others to look at, as well as bringing it closer to NJ so that we did not have to drive all the way out there to Indiana to get it. When we picked it up, we were met by

November 27: Readington, NJ to Green Lane, PA
We decided to take the opportunity of beautiful warm weather to take the Greyhaven Viper, our new rig, out for its inaugural shakedown. Today is Black Friday and most folks are out at the malls trampling one another, or getting over the turkey hangover at home. It is 65 degrees out! After exercising Max in the early morning, I returned home to help John pack the RV. Basically we packed simple food and drinks, including Thanksgiving turkey leftovers, flannel bedding, computers and cameras, a few clothes and of course the pups. I even threw in my fly rod and waders, just in case another opportunity presented itself.
Because one of the front tie rods on a wheel was not attached well, we opted to not travel too far from home. W at least wanted to be away by nightfall, and we found ourselves leaving around 4pm. We did not go far as there were very few campgrounds open. Even though some advertised in the Woodalls and AllStays they were year round, I made a few calls and found all the ones in northern NJ closed. We located one just south of Quakertown, PA, off of Rt. 309 and headed there. We stopped briefly at a Weis grocery to pick up fresh water and drinks, then arrived at the campground sometime around 6pm. I had called ahead to reserve a site and the camp host met us in the camp store to register us.
We got our site, a back-in, and hooked up, set up out satellite dish, then settled in for a relaxing evening. Turkey and fixings warmed in the new microwave, some 2015 Beaujolais Nuveau and a movie. To bed in comfy, cozy flannel, with the two pups.

November 28: Green Lane, PA
Late start today as both of us slept in. I actually did get a really good night sleep. Both pups did fit in our smaller bed, but they were restless in the new environment and kept getting up during the night. We spent a cozy day in our new motorhome getting used to its smaller space. The weather turned cloudy and it began to rain in the afternoon. We began a list of things needing attention, plus things we’d like to change (I have listed some of these on the Nexus Info page.) For lunch, I made soup on our new induction heating cooktop and with my new magnetic cookware. We spent the rest of the day doing relaxing stuff…needlework, computer things (like this new website!) and movies. Dinner was more leftover turkey.

A Gallery Post

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Stay hungry, then eat!

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We’ve moved to a new office

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Spring is in the air

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Reason I love traveling

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Nuts. Walnuts

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A soundcloud post

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TRIP 49: August 4-20, 2015 …And Back Again..with a NEW Grey Haven Nexus!

August 4: Readington, NJ to Las Vegas, NV

On this, our possibly last trip in the 2004 Greyhaven Fleetwood Pace Arrow, 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 16-18: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.

We finally decided on trading in the Fleetwood Pace Arrow for a new 2016 Nexus Viper 26′ motorcoach. We designed it to have a beautiful deep rich brown leather interior with grey wood laminate flooring. We are having our new motorhome custom built and it will be delivered to us in September at the Hershey Park RV Camping Show. Nexus will be driving it there and we will go to pick it up. We rented a small U-Haul truck and packed it full of all our stuff from the old motorhome at the campground. WOW!! Do we have alot of crap here! But it is all stuff we need for a second home…lawn chairs, bedding, clothes, kitchen gadgets…ugh. It is just like moving a house. We spent hours unloading and packing into cardboard boxes. A quick meal, and then to bed exhausted.

In the morning, we handed in our keys to the old Grey Haven in to Nexus, said our good byes, then headed for home in the U-Haul. It was 700 miles back to New Jersey. We had the two dogs crammed in the front cab with us and they were very uncomfortable. By nightfall, we were beyond exhausted, but we kept to a rigorous schedule of changing off driving every hour and stopping to stretch every 2 hours. We finally arrived back home around 3am. We are totally spent, but we are eagerly anticipating exciting new adventures in our new motorcoach!

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.


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.