Tuesday, December 31, 2013

12/31/13:
Year-end summary:
- 168 free nights, 194 paid (and, yes, we're missing some days somewhere)
- about 8000 miles RV, 4000 jeep
- 600 generator hours

We have had a full year of traveling again. We started the year in Las Cruces, New Mexico and then spent January, February and March in Arizona. That’s where we traded motorhomes. By that time we were getting antsy to move on (and it was getting warm in Arizona and the rattlesnakes were coming around).  We saw the London Bridge at Lake Havasu City, Arizona and the wild burros in the tiny town of Oatman. We stopped at Hoover Dam (huge),  Las Vegas (wasn’t impressed), Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada (beautiful place) before getting in to California. California has a lot of rules and regulations; they even have a stopping area at their state border to go through. We stayed on the east side of the state and thought we’d be able to go through some of the national parks on the way up north; not realizing that there’s still snow in the mountains and the roads on the east side were still closed.  We were in California, who was thinking of snow?!   April was spent in northwest Arizona, Nevada and California. Desert Valley National Park is in southern California/western Nevada and I thought if there’s snow in the California mountains, maybe we could go through Death Valley instead since we were going north near it. The day we talked about driving to Death Valley it was suppose to get over 100 degrees there, and this was about the middle of April. Wow. We were able to go to Lassen Volcanic National Park in California. It has volcanic rock and lots of underground caves.

May 1st we got in Oregon and went to Crater Lake. There, again, was snow and lots of it!. The road to the visitor center was open and about a mile past there. When there isn’t snow, you can drive all around the lake. We also stopped at Collier Memorial State Park which has a logging museum there, which was interesting. From there we spent some time with my brother and his wife, Terry and Karen, in Winchester, Oregon and then had some work done on our RV. We drove to the Oregon coast from there and saw the beach and some lighthouses and sea lions. We went to Ainsworth State Park near Portland and hiked to waterfalls.  We moved on in to Washington state and stopped at Mount St. Helen’s. That was really interesting. On Memorial Day we were in Seattle, taking a tour of the Boeing plant and trying to find the Market Place. We were driving our jeep, not our RV, but still had a hard time getting to where we wanted to go. It was late afternoon and started to rain. We walked blocks trying to find it and finally found out we were 2 blocks off and that being Memorial Day most of the shops weren’t even open. We did not try again and were actually happy to get out of town. (We’re not big-city people.) On to northern Idaho which was beautiful the end of May. It was really nice to see all of the greenery after being in the desert for months.

June 1st took us to Montana and Glacier National Park.  Again, not all of the roads were open due to snow, so we couldn’t drive all the way through and ended up going to both west and east entrances. It’s a beautiful national park. We hiked to waterfalls, got to see some mountain goats through the binoculars up on the mountains. Before getting to Dickinson, we stopped at Cottonwood Campground at Theodore Roosevelt National Park north of Medora. We’ve always enjoyed camping there, but this time was really different. There was so much tall grass all over because it had been raining so much. They found 3 rattlesnakes in the campground that weekend. The campground was overfull, some were camped in just the parking lot area. We had somebody who came over with firewood and was going to use the fire pit in our site since we weren’t using it. Really?  We found out the next day he had been kicked out by the ranger. It was kind of eye-opening to the things happening in the Dickinson and surrounding area.

After getting to Dickinson, things changed and we ended up parking at the St. Alexius parking lot in Bismarck for almost 2 weeks while my stepmother was in the hospital. She passed away from a stroke and we spent most of July in Dickinson, parked at North Park Campground, spending time with family and Dad. Got to see lots of relatives. The last week of July we were at Star Lake in Minnesota, parked at Curt’s sister and brother-in-law’s (Verna and Arland) cabin. We had some windy days there, but the calm days we fished and relaxed and saw more relatives. It was gorgeous there.

August 2nd we got to Korene and Jason’s (and Calissa and Alaina) in Cottage Grove. Dean and Valerie flew in and we got to spend a week with them, playing with the girls and hiking. We spent a night with my brother and his wife (Dennis and Betty) and their family. They hadn’t met Valerie yet. We went to William O’Brien State Park, which is near the Cities and Korene and family were able to spend the weekend with us. From there we went to Duluth, Two Harbors, Tettegouche State Park, Gooseberry Falls State Park, Split Rock Lighthouse State Park and came back to Korene’s house for Labor Day weekend via Wisconsin way.

September took us through southern Minnesota (Lanesboro), into Fort Dodge and Anita, Iowa. We’d been watching the weather basically from Minnesota on, trying to stay away from storms. We went in to Nebraska just a short ways because of storms and flooding and went south into Kansas. We’d never been in Kansas before, and all we knew about it was that it was in Tornado Alley and they grew wheat. It was very windy in Kansas and there were lots and lots of wind generators. We were in Ellis, KS for about a week at a city campground as we had our mail sent to the post office. I liked that little town, and did lots of walking around and geocaching. We spent a weekend at a campground in Russell, KS and didn’t even open up the slides on our RV, it blew so bad.  What we saw of western Colorado was no better. There were high wind warnings going to Aurora (Denver) and then we had a snow storm coming. We made it from Aurora to Rifle, Colorado through sun, rain and snow, and thankfully back to sun. It wasn’t icy, thank goodness, but nevertheless it was as much snow as I needed for the year! That was in the middle of October. From there we started sight-seeing and hiking in national parks.  Colorado National Park at Grand Junction, Colorado, Arches and Canyonlands National Parks at Moab, Utah, Mesa Verde National Park at Cortez, Colorado. We saw lots of red rock, arches, canyons, hills, petroglyphs and pueblo dwellings. We went to Four Corners monument, where the four states of Arizona, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico meet, to the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona and along the famous Route 66.

November brought us to the Grand Canyon National Park for more hiking and pictures and to Flagstaff for solar panels. We stayed at Williams and walked through the historic Route 66 part of town. At Prescott Valley and Gila Bend Curt worked on the solar.  We went south to Yuma on December 1st, basically to see what the town was like since we’d heard a lot about it from other full time RVers. It’s next to the Mexican border and lots of people go to Los Algadones next door for medical and shopping. We just weren’t that brave. Going into California is the Imperial Sand Dunes, and that’s what we had pictured a desert would be like. Sand dunes for miles, and then it flattened out to the graveling/sandy desert with bushes that we’re used to now. We also were able to see the US/Mexican border fence. Slab City and Salvation Mountain are places I wanted to go to; some people say it’s interesting, some say it’s a trash dump. People boondock there, some year-round. There is no water, sewer, trash, etc. It’s not a town, but it is near the town of Niland, by the Salton Sea. If we hadn’t boondocked before and seen so many different types of camping/living situations, we probably would have thought Slab City was ugly and unsafe. But we’ve driven by and through many towns that look worse. There’s so many southern towns that are in bad shape. Salvation Mountain is a project that Leonard Knight started with cement, junk and a dirt hill. After that one fell down, he changed to dirt and straw, making adobe, and adding paint to it. It’s very religious, with a cross on top, and God is Love, scriptures,  trees, flowers, etc. painted all over it. It’s 50 feet high x 150 feet wide. They estimate he’s got over 100,000 gallons of paint on and inside of it. He lived in a 1939 truck until 2001 when he went to a nursing home. He had no electricity, gas, running water, phone, heating or air conditioning. We went to the Salton Sea, boondocking on BLM land, and Curt was able to finish hooking up the solar and batteries. From there to Borrego Springs, boondocking on BLM land, we’re going to see if we can put the sun to work!  We spent Christmas there and then went to an RV park in Oasis, CA to dump tanks and get water, wash clothes, bake, etc.  We tried video chatting with all of the kids the day after Christmas, but our internet was so slow we couldn’t get it to work decent. We were able to see them off and on though, and that was fun. On New Years Eve we got to Joshua Tree National Park, camping on BLM land outside of the south entrance.

We got to see lots of family this year, got to some national parks, but also spent time just setting still. We have been to all of the lower 48 states now; not all within the last 2 years, some were before, but they were with our previous motorhome, so we're counting that. We'll get to Alaska some time, but if we could just drive it to Hawaii!

Happy 2014 to everyone!

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