Posts Tagged With: Road trip

Backroads Across America: Yeah, South Dakota!

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATo be honest, Tuesday’s drive, 320 miles across the fairly flat farmlands of northern Iowa, was uneventful. We were not tempted to pull off and explore. The two Misses rivers on either side of Iowa were beautiful, though.

As we left North Sioux City in southeastern South Dakota this morning, the landscape quickly became more engaging. A walk along the Missouri River led to a meeting with a fisherman who had bagged a 29-pound big head carp, aka Asian carp.

Then we saw a bridge across the river. It led to Nebraska. So we drove across and found the Gavins Point Dam (above) built by the Army Corps of Engineers. We drove across the dam, back to South Dakota, to explore more backroads leading to our campground in Kennebec.

The rolling hills of southeastern South Dakota (top photo) are cattle country. We passed many trucks with cattle carriers heading for market. Lots of livestock, many with calves, roamed the rolling hills.

As Sue prepares our pasta and salad dinner, the skies are turning mostly blue, just in time for our visit to the Badlands and Black Hills.

After nearly two weeks of cool, wet weather, warm and dry have returned!

 

 

 

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Backroads Across America: Stuff It, Chicago!

FullSizeRenderIMG_0469Finally, we are warm and dry, after a wild, wet, windy ride through the Chicago area. Illinois became the second state (the other was Mississippi) that we drove through without spending the night. We started the day in northwestern Indiana, in the eastern time zone. We soon gained an hour; Indiana’s northwest corner is in the central zone.

Our drive around Chicago took its toll, in more ways than one. Six times we had to pull off the road to pay a $3.60 toll. As an armchair quarterback, I hereby proclaim, “Take these quarters and stuff them!” to Chicago. It will be a lifetime before I return to this place. Our son Chris warned us too.

I know, I know, it is such a great city. Well, you can have it!

By early evening, we arrived in Dubuque, Iowa, a much more welcoming progressive bastion on the Mississippi River, a stone’s throw from Wisconsin and Illinois.

After a hair-raising, 300-mile drive, I had Canadian Club in a bar. Sue enjoyed a glass of wine. Tasty Greek salads followed.

Then we took a short walk to our hotel room. Yep, we decided not to battle the 40s, rain and wind, to set up the trailer. I have to admit, the full-water-pressure shower was great. The king bed is not bad either.

Tomorrow? We will return to the backroads and our beloved wee trailer!

 

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Backroads Across America: Going With the Flow

All of a sudden the ill winds are flowing all around us.  The threat of extreme weather has blocked much of our westward path…and northward and southward paths too!  We intended to take the better part of a week driving around the coast of Michigan and continuing into Wisconsin, taking in the sights along the banks of Lake Huron and Lake Michigan.  


Predictions of snow to the north, flooding to the south and rainy, windy thunderstorms to the west had us rethinking our route.  Shifting our minds (and our truck) westward towards Chicago, we discovered a great little local lunch hangout in Ligonier, Indiana.  All was not lost!  Four and a half out of five stars on my Google map app.  The fish really was as good as advertised!

 But then, Google maps let me down, directing us to a “closed for the season” RV park over an hour from where we were supposed to be!  How could that happen?  Surely it couldn’t have been operator error?


But this trip is all about “going with the flow,” so after a few tense miles, we ended up at the Last Resort RV Park.  Really, that is the name (I wouldn’t make it up) and it was sort of our last resort today.


A staff member checked us in and told us we could take whichever site looked good…but warned us away from #72 where the male and female geese were nesting with their little ones. Apparently, he can be a tad bit aggressive.  No problem…we’ll go with the flow!

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Backroads Across America: Big Plusses to Going Small

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Notes from the backroads, week six

We have continued pull one of the smallest trailers, often less than half the size of other RVs. Even after all this time, we feel we have everything we need and we have not even come close to strangling each other.

There are advantages to going small:

–We can fit in virtually any campsite. We don’t require pull-throughs. Plus, back-in sites give me a chance to entertain other campers when I try to avoid backing into Sue as she signals directions.
–We don’t need a full-size pickup truck.
–We are more mobile in urban areas and parking is easier.
–We have less floor to clean.
–Drivers of huge pickups love asking me “So, how does that Tacoma tow a trailer?” I am tempted to answer, “You know, size can be deceiving.” (I would love to hear other suggestions.)
–Our RV storage cost is lower and our pickup and trailer cost less than the monsters.
–We are forced to bring less stuff.
–We have no room to bring along other people or dogs.

Speaking of dogs, it seems like everyone brings dog(s) in their RV. Often multiple dogs. We have seen up to four. Most are well-behaved. (Dogs, that is).

Pet peeves. Barking dogs, cigarette smoke from neighbors, people who share their music and TV with the campground (many RVs have outdoor televisions.). Park staff who use all the washing machines. Luckily, these have been rare happenings on this trip.

Roughing it?

RVers have come to expect the amenities of a fancy resort. We have stayed at many parks with swimming pools. One had a bowling alley. Two had cafes and offered food delivery to your RV. Many pick up your trash. RV and truck washing can be arranged.

RVers also expect laundry rooms and will quickly complain if the wi-fi signal is weak. Putt-putt golf. Fishing ponds and boat rentals. Convenience stores. Propane service. Walking trails. Cable TV, even HD. Table and chairs, with a grill. Dog-walking parks. Playgrounds. Bike rentals. Horseshoes.

Our place in Tucson had a pub. So far, no parks offered happy hour. One did prohibit alcohol. Good luck with that!

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Backroads Across America: USA’s Biggest Home

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It is the Gilded Age and you have become one of the world’s richest people by means of the shipping and railroad industries. What do you do with your riches? If you are George Vanderbilt, you spend 1889-1895 building America’s biggest house near Asheville, North Carolina.

The Biltmore Estate, by the numbers: 255 rooms, 2.4 million cubic feet of interior space, 135,280 square feet, nearly 8,000 acres. A brick kiln on the construction site produced 32,000 bricks a day.

It is a house beyond imagination, even for HGTV addicts accustomed to the expensive whims of home buyers.

We were among throngs who visited today (yearly visits total 1.2 million). The gardens, especially the azaleas, were spectacular. We enjoyed about two hours walking many of the informal trails. The self-guided house tour was fascinating, but we missed getting a feel for how the family lived. It was dark and felt stiff. Exceptions were the 22,000-volume library and the billiard room. The enormous indoor swimming pool was impressive.

They put us in the old horse barn for lunch. We ate in a stall next to the trough. I should point out that it had been tastefully cleaned up and decorated. It is one of 15 restaurants on the property.

Is the tour worth the $60 admission? If you cannot secure a private invitation from George Vanderbilt’s great-grandson, who owns the property and lives in the area, then we think it is a place for the ages, not to be missed when you come to Asheville.

 

 

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Backroads Across America: These Stores Fit the Bill

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe wish we had 99 cents for every one of these stores we have seen since Texas. Virtually every town has had at least one, usually both. In some places, they are two of very few businesses still open. In larger places, retail activity has moved from downtown to places like…(drumroll?) Walmart.

 

 

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Backroads Across America: Crossover Hookups!?

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Notes from the road

Cowboy bar: Get on your motorcycle, drive to Bandera, Texas, in the Hill Country just north of San Antonio. The 11th Street Cowboy Bar is not to be missed.

Backroads? Have we been true to our blog title? Mostly. We found it tough in Arizona and New Mexico. There aren’t as many roads and some go nowhere, which might be interesting, but the rest of our title is “across America,” after all. From Texas on, we have mostly stuck to our non-plan. Texas calls backroads “farm roads” or “ranch roads.” In the Hill Country, there are many deep dips, with markers showing how deep the water running across is…the marks go up to five feet!

Lonely path: We have usually tried to avoid cities, leading us through the middle of the southern states with some long, lonely stretches. We found ourselves hoping for a small town to break up the monotony. The ones we found were often Twilight Zone-like deserted. An RV from Oregon was not a common sight, let me tell you.

State parks: They are great, of course, and we have lucked out by getting some amazing sites. In RV parks, you see license plates from all over North America. In state parks, you rarely see a vehicle from out of state. But, like I mentioned a while back, RV parks are often more convenient. Plus, the swimming pools don’t have alligators.

 Language, accent. Well, this is a sensitive matter. How do I phrase this? Since Texas, when I ask where something is in a store, I usually hear enthusiastic, friendly replies. Couldn’t be nicer. I think. You see, sometimes I am not sure, if you know what I mean. I smile, say thanks, and continue my search.

Crossover hookups?! OK, RVers, what are they? The guy at our RV park in the Texas Hill Country explained that our sewer line was on the usual side, but the water and electric hookups were in the other side of the site. Are you kidding? Nope. He said our lines would reach. He was right, of course, but it was a challenge stringing them under the trailer. Our next door neighbor called it “backwards plumbing.”

 

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Backroads Across America: It’s the East Coast!

Cross country, coast to coast, backroads across America — whatever you call it, we have alas made it to the East Coast!

The Mt. Pleasant KOA (photos above), just east of Charleston, SC, is our home for the next three nights. We will have to cope with 80 degrees and low humidity. This is yet another lakeside campground where you put your toes in the water at risk, although we have looked carefully at all the logs on our walks around the swamps, and none moved.

We spent the last three nights in Georgia state parks and were most impressed. They rival the facilities in our home state of Oregon, except they have even more space per campsite.

Driving on backroads across the middle of Georgia? It was gorgeous: Lush green landscape, thick forests, rolling hills and some beautiful ranches, farms and homes.

We have logged about 4,500  miles in the Tacoma and Rockwood. Coming up on four weeks. So, how is the RV life? Sue says it is “the best way to experience the country.”

 

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Backroads Across America: Hello Ol’ Man River

Two traveling days have taken us from the Texas Hill Country to the banks of the Mississippi River, just across from Natchez, Mississippi.

We have ambled along backroads lined with lush green grass, forests (even some pines) and rainbows of wildflowers. The beauty of the Hill Country continued through most of eastern Texas. Today, in Louisiana, it was more of the same colors without the hills.

We missed the picnic areas and rest stops of Texas today and settled for lunch in the trailer parked at a gas station. We passed no picnic or rest areas across Louisiana.

This is our third straight RV park next to water. In the Hill Country, it was the Guadalupe River.  Sue found a fantastic spot last night on Lake Livingston in eastern Texas. We walked along a wonderful path next to the Mississippi tonight after dinner.

Quite a river, indeed. I think we’ll settle here for a spell.

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Backroads Across America: Texas’ Tallest Peak

Texas’ Guadalupe Mountains National Park commanded our attention today.

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