The Great Motorhome Story, Part 3

Back to part 2

So, I head out of town, back the way I came. I noticed on the map as I was looking over it, a tantalizing location labeled “Golden Spike National Historic Site.” I have no clue when I’m going to be in Utah again, and I have no clue if I’ll be near here. I can’t be within 100 miles of the place where the railroads met to create the first American Transcontinental Railroad. It’s only about fifty miles out the way so I head for it.

Come to find out that it was only about ten miles away from where I broke down originally. I could have walked there if I really wanted too. I drive back up through Ogden. Take the “quicker” way to the park. Pass a Rocket Test Center of some sort.

And into the park. And it’s very small building.

Yes, it looks just like the pictures, minus the “crowd” and the Locomotives.

So, heading out of the Park, the GPS keeps trying to get me to turn on to this dirt road towards Elko, Nevada. At best guess it’s at least 30 miles long. It’s on the map even. I’m in a 4×4 that doesn’t belong to me. I resist temptation and take the slightly longer and smoother route. I get caught up in the middle of a cattle drive, which hasn’t happened to me for many years.

I traveled through scenic mountains,

A Ghost Town,

And finally, that night, somewhere in Idaho a scenic sunset.

I finally arrived home the next day. Put about 1000 miles on the rental.

But the story is not over, on to part 4

The Great Motorhome Story, Part 2

Back to Part One

So my motorhome is broken down about 80 miles north of Ogden, Utah. This is what I see:

That’s where I came from.

This is the way I wanted to go. Yes, that sign says Elko, and means Elko, Nevada.

And this is what I saw to the West. The East was the highway and a hill blocking my view of anything useful. I am literally in the middle of nowhere.

So after taking the dog for a bit of a walk again, I check for cell phone reception. Hurrah! I have some on BOTH phones. The bad part, due to the constant transfer from one cell tower to another, both are down to two bars of battery. I call the AAA for Motorhome people (the name escapes me at this point) and start talking to them. I’m trying to explain where I am, but they can not find Snowville Utah in their system, because there are no towing companies there. They can’t find the corner of the two highways I’m on. They’re asking me to describe where I am and if there are any landmarks nearby. (See above)

After a few minutes of this, I get them GPS coordinates which finally work. I had to translate them myself so that they could insert into their system. The lady says “OK, We’ll find a Tow Company and get them out too you.” After an hour, she calls back and tells me “The repair shop in Snowville is not answering their phone, they must be closed for the weekend.”

I was like “Ok, I’m trying to head to Ogden Utah. Is there anybody there?” They lady starts getting really excited, she says “Oh! I didn’t realize you were near Ogden.” Well, I’m not, but I mentioned Ogden at least three times in our original conversation as the maps I had showed nothing between Snowville and Ogden.

Two hours later a tow truck shows up. He drove 80 miles from North Ogden. He hooks the motorhome up, disconnects the drive line, we get the dog into the cab of the tow truck and start heading into town. We chat about all kinds of things, how Triple AAA is trying to screw their company over and wants them to paint ALL their trucks Yellow. About the Winter Olympics held in Ogden and how their company was the official Tow Trucks. His time in Iraq, and the fact that he did 85 combat (parachute) jumps as an Army Engineer. Anything to pass the time.

As it’s Saturday, the odds of any shops being open is extremely low. He decides to take me by the house of a guy he works with who can repair the motorhome. We get there, and the guy is a grizzled old biker dude. Sober for ten years, telling his kid to watch the drinking, ticked off at the guy who “stole” his old pickup truck.

We get the motorhome half apart, and get a new belt on. This takes about three hours. I finally get back on the road, but just as I hit the highway and start getting up to speed, smoke starts pouring out the back. It’s mostly white, but there is some black. There is no shoulder on the highway for me to pull over so I nurse it to another exit. The engine dies as I’m coasting down it, luckily it’s empty of cars but I honk the horn as I run a red stop sign and pull into a Village Inn Parking lot.

At this time the motorhome is still smoking and I’m afraid that it’s on fire. I bail out, grab the dog, grab the checkbook, laptop and camera and start walking to attempt to find a place to either get it towed too or repaired. Again, Saturday. Nobody is open except for Midas Muffler and they want nothing to do with it.

I contact the RV Triple A people again, they send another tow truck from a different company with the thought of towing me to a campground. As I was able to keep the family in the loop, I find that my cousin had a friend who had just moved to Ogden two weeks before. The tow truck driver drops me off in front of his house.

Now, I’m sure Ogden is a nice town if you live there. But as a visitor, on foot, it is hideous. There is a grocery store across the street, Dominos pizza, and a Chinese place. The “downtown” area is about 1/2 mile away. But at least I was able to piggy back on someone’s Wi-Fi access, and I was able to run an electric cable from the house so that I could keep the fridge going (too late for the food in it,) and charge the laptop and cell phones.

The next day, Sunday, I get a bit restless and decide to explore what I can. By this time I’m thinking I’m going to buy a used car as I couldn’t find a car rental place that would allow me to drive to Portland. I find the Ogden Dinosaur Park, which is not open on Saturday OR Sunday. I find a single history sign telling about how this road used to be a toll road.

(Take through the fence of the park since it was closed)

I start walking and find that Ogden is a dead town on the weekend. Even McDonalds is closed on Saturday. I manage to find a small hole in the wall Mexican place advertising that they’ve been in business for 14 years. I figure if they’ve been around that long the food must be good. So with three tacos and a drink in hand, I keep walking down the road. I end up throwing away full taco and they are the nastiest things I’ve ever tasted.

I end up walking miles, from twentieth street down to sixtieth. Not a single used car dealership is open. Not a single fast food place it open. The auto parts store I found was closing at 3pm. I walk back to the motorhome and start searching the Internet again.

Finally, I find a Hertz rental place in Ogden. Apparently I was in “North Ogden” which is a TOTALLY different town which was why I didn’t find anything when looking before. I reserve a Chevy Impala for the next day, and make arrangements to leave the motorhome where it is for later.

Picking up the car, I find they’ve given me a Jeep Comanche instead of the Impala I wanted. I was a tiny bit mad about that, as the Impala got better gas mileage. But the Jeep had more cargo room which I exploited to the fullest.

During this time, one of my high school friends that I had not talked to in years let me know via Facebook that he was in Ogden! Woo Hoo! So I went down the road to Hill Aerospace Museum, before meeting up with him for lunch. The museum is OK. It had a few planes (and helicopters) that I’d never seen in person before. But compared to Boeing Field Museum of Flight in Seattle and the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in McMinnville, it wasn’t that impressive to me.

On to part 3

The Great Motorhome Story, Part 1

In early May of this year, my dear mother had a simple proposal for me. “Would you like my old motorhome? I’m getting a new one.”

A bit leery, I said sure. It’s older, but in pretty good shape. She’s driven it all over Oregon with few to no problems. As I was unemployed at the time, I suddenly had visions of simply driving around Oregon, taking pictures for my Photoblog. I’d stay within 400 or so miles of home so as to be quickly available for any jobs.

I got the motorhome, did a few small maintenance jobs on it. A couple of weeks later the subject of a family reunion in Texas came up. As I now had the motorhome, and was still unemployed, I figured I’d drive down. Even doubling my estimate for gas usage based on mileage, doing so was cheaper then airplane tickets, car rental, dog sitter, and hotel rooms.

So a plan was born. I’d drive the motorhome down to Texas. My wife would fly in and then we’d swing through LA for a trip to Disney Land. I’d get to see large portions of the country I’ve never seen, she’d get to go to Disney Land and we’d have a great trip.

Itineraries were created, maps were procured. Food and necessities packed. CB Radio to talk to truckers. Maps to grocery stores and Free Wi-Fi hot spots were printed out and organized in a 3 Ring Binder. Lists of Camp Grounds along each stop, and a secondary list of Walmarts, Targets and KMarts that allowed RV over nighters. Oh, and Triple A like insurance for the Motorhome purchased just in case. The day of the trip rolls around and I’m off along I-84.

The route was roughly, Portland to Boise. Boise to Salt Lake, Salt Lake to Roswell (with a 30 mile side trip to a cemetery where some of my ancestors are buried,) and then across the state of Texas to San Antonio. I would drive back to Del Rio Texas, pick up my wife and mother there, go to the reunion, then go Phoenix, LA, San Francisco, Portland. Had 14 whole days scheduled for the trip with 300-400 miles each day.

It’s been a few years since I’d drive I-84. The weather was awesome. Saw two bald eagles sitting on an island in the Columbia River. Viewed the Maryhill Museum of Art and the replica of Stonehenge. Counted windmills and trains. Stopped at every single “Oregon History Sign” I saw.

I enjoyed the drive so much that I totally blew by my first scheduled stop in La Grande Oregon. Took the back road to Union, Oregon, a place I had stayed a couple of days several years ago and thoroughly enjoyed. Took lots of pictures at every stop. Took the dog for a couple of walks to get her calmed down from the all the noises in the motorhome.

Ended up crossing visting the Ghost Town of Lime, Oregon. Drove across the Idaho Border, got caught in traffic in Nampa Idaho, and finally drove into Twin Falls, Idaho about 9PM. I decided to stay at the truck stop, but off a road so that my much smaller motorhome didn’t get run over by an 18 Wheeler.

At this time the radiator belt had been squeaking pretty hard. The Chevy dealer in Boise was closed when I had gone through. So I hoped that I could find one in Twin Falls, or any kind of repair shop. At the truck stop I asked several different people about options in town. Two just didn’t know, and two had both recently moved into town and had no clue where anything was. They also did not seem to have a local phone book, and I couldn’t bring myself to pay $9.99 for a 30 second Google Search.

So, not worrying about it, I went to sleep.

Only to be woken up at 4:30 am as Truckers started their engines up and got ready to hit the road. I reluctantly got up, and got ready myself. Not thinking much of it, I didn’t notice at the time that the Motorhome didn’t start up with it’s customary squealing, but I was still mindful of the need to get the belt looked at and replaced. I drove through Twin Falls, generally heading East. Found very, very little in the way of garages or repair shops so decided to keep driving until I saw something.

A couple of hours down the road, the only thing I saw were small gas stations with quick stores. The one I stopped at said that the nearest repair place they new of was in Pocatello which was the wrong direction for Salt Lake City. I kept going, took the southern road to Salt Lake City. About this time the motorhome started stuttering a bit. Again, I didn’t think much of it, even though I’ve experienced this exact problem before.

About 100 miles north of Ogden I know that I’m in trouble. The batteries are both wearing down, and I had turned the radio and fridge off to save electricity. Right outside the bump in the road town of Snowville, Utah the motorhome engine dies. I’ve got just enough momentum to get it stopped on the highway exit.

Part Two

Taking a Trip to Texas

Taking a Trip to Texas

As of Friday, April 9th, 2010 I shall be on the road to Langtry Texas for a family reunion of sorts. I’m not 100% sure of the family connection of most people attending will be, but I’m very much looking forward to the trip itself.

I’ve been on two long trips like this before, once from Portland through BC to Edmonton Calgary then back down around through Yellowstone and then to Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and home up I-5. The other trip was a straight shot from Fort Wayne Indiana to Portland.

This trip will be from Portland, east along I-84 all the way to Twin Falls, Idaho. I’ll head south towards to Salt Lake City, Utah and then cut south east through the mountains and Colorado. I’ll hit Albuquerque, New Mexico (being 100% sure to take that left turn,) then stop in Roswell New Mexico for a bit of UFO Tourism. Afterwards I’m taking another detour to San Antonio, Texas to visit the Alamo and “world famous” River Walk and most likely some famous Texas Barbecue. And hopefully at the end of a week, end up in Del Rio, Texas which is the nearest city of size near Langtry.

The return trip will head west to Phoenix, Arizona. At that point we’ll see how the weather is. I’ll either head north to Las Vegas from there, or go further west and pick of Los Angeles and travel the I-5 corridor again if there is too much snow around the Lake Tahoe area.

To keep costs down, the vehicle of choice is a 1984 Class A Winnebago. I just took it on a 100 mile short trip to get a feel for driving it, it’s got a new CB radio with access to the NOAA weather channels, and road maps of everywhere I need to be.

I’ll be camping at Truck Stops and Walmarts, or if desperate, actual real campgrounds.

Other points of interest I’m hoping to see are the ghost town of Lime Oregon, historic Union Oregon (I stayed in the restored hotel about ten years ago and enjoyed it a lot,) and if I’m not running too far behind, Arches National Park in Utah. Plus whatever other sites I might happen to see along the way. Hopefully I’ll be able to get lots of pictures and be able to upload them.

I’ll have my computer, and my list of RSS job feeds so I can keep job searching when I stop. In the off chance I do get a job interview and have to be back soon, I’ll be able to park the motor home, fly home to go to the interview then go back and continue my travels. Since I haven’t had an actual face to face interview in over two months, despite sending out at least a dozen resumes a week, I don’t see that being a problem though.

Overall, I’m excited about this adventure. I’ll really looking forward to it and hope to have a great time despite the roughly 4500 miles in two weeks I’ll be driving all together.