I've been Roadtreking to Idaho… slow and easy.
Day 1 started off frantically with final packing, almost forgetting Her Majesty’s food dish and dog food. She is a bit picky and will be discombobulated for a few days, out of her routine, so it’s a good thing I remembered. It isn’t your run of the mill chow, you know. She is special. She is unique. She is high maintenance.
I found out from a Latino friend the other day, that the name Ruka in Spanish means vieja or “old lady”. Used like bikers do when they refer to their girl friends as “hey dis is my old lady- keep your mitts off her”. I like it!
Hit the road about 7:30 and had to get gas so went to the neighborhood pump, put my credit card in and it kept saying, “authorizing” forever. So I went in and he couldn’t fix it. It finally said, see attendant so at least no one is going to fill up on my dollar. I left and got on I-70. Realized a back window was open and rattling so had to stop and close it. Then got gas at a place that wasn’t broken. Diesel is cheaper than regular right now! Go figure. BTW- I get 21 MPH in Olga- better than my Ford Flex.
I was going to drive all the way up to 36 and take the road less traveled across northern KS but my friend Shari suggested I stop and see the Garden of Eden in Lucas, KS which is closer to I-70 and so I did. Wow. If you get a chance, it is strange and weird and I loved it. This old man made all sorts of sculptures and a mausoleum out of concrete around his home in the late 1800-early 1900’s purposefully for a tourist attraction. It now supports this little town. Having been abandoned for a while, a philanthropic group came and restored the place and then donated it back to the town. (See how nice people can be?) His first wife died and she is interned there. He married a 20 yr old at the age of 81 and fathered 2 kids. He died and is interned in the mausoleum, above wifey numero uno, with a glass topped casket made out of…. yes, concrete. He read up on embalming and thus was, but the glass cracked a few years ago and moisture and other suspicious and damaging organisms got in and now his face is dried and cracked like pottery. What an image for my first day….
Right after Lucas and the dried up old dead guy, and the gorgeous rolling Flint Hills, I hit the flats and the oil derricks. I really like western KS and don’t know why everyone crabs about it. The sky was brilliant blue with those puffy cotton balls and the fields are all up and green. I like the openness of the plains; maybe it reminds me of when I was a kid in Illinois. It doesn’t get much flatter than that. Makes me feel huge and tiny at the same time.
Of course, I am not a fan of the constant strong winds that make me grip the wheel and make swear words come out of my mouth when a particularly strong gust attacks us. Olga is almost ten feet tall and it can feel like you are trying to drive a sailboat.
Her Royal Majesty of the High Maintenance and Discombobulation was antsy after a day in the car (even though she got to leave her mark at several rest stops and the entire downtown of Lucas which is about one block) so I decided to call it a day about 4:30. But we crossed the time zone so now it’s really 3:30. We are in Goodland, KS, just east of the CO border. You can see Goodland from the highway and if you watch closely, you will spot the world’s largest VAN GOGH, the one of the sunflowers, which is very appropriate for KS as it is the sunflower state. It is many feet high and on an easel that faces the highway about a half mile out. I have seen it a few times as I passed by on the highway, but I am so very lucky, I am going to get a close up tomorrow morning! Life is really good.
This KOA, is wonderful! Quiet with a huge 3 acre pasture for you know who to run and sniff and try to find things to kill. Clean and no kids or beer drinking pot bellied tobacco chewing men who play bad music too loud and have mullets. YAY!
Better go, a robin is yelling at me and I think it wants a snack. So do I. Ciao.
Day 2- Polish, Pancakes, Prairie Dogs and Pronghorns
Did I mention how nice the KOA was? Mr. Tkacz (pronounced The-Koch) gave me a nice spot on the leeward side of a shed, although the wind died down later. Alicia, his wife, made a stack of pancakes and sausage for breakfast. However, I was itching to leave and forgot to pay, so Richard came over and politely mentioned it. OMG I was so embarrassed! But they were very sweet and I ended up getting their story. They came from Poland to Chicago in 1980 and loved it. But they found this place for sale, bought it and moved way out yonder. They are very lonely, though, and shopping is a mere 200 miles away in Denver. And since there is nothing in Goodland, campers only stop for one night then move on.
This morning was a chilly 42. I never put the heat on, just added a blanket and slept pretty well for the first night. I learned from the vet that dogs run about 107, so Miss Hot Box Canine functioned as my space heater. She sleeps on the floor during tick season, though!
We went for a walk down the road to the World’s Largest Van Gogh. I stood there and wondered – what’s this man’s story? Why paint something so gigantic? Did Mr. Crossland, the creator, also construct the easel? How was this south facing homage painted to keep from fading, lo these many years? The Rotary Club put up a nice little sign, giving them credit for the 5000 brick side walk, and benches, but not one shred of info about the darned thing, except the artist’s name!
Last year I had to stop near the area, driving through a tornado warning, hail and 70 mph winds, coming back from Utah. Exhausted and frazzled, I pulled over in Stratton, which isn’t even a blip on the map, on the CO side. It was a gas station, right next to the highway, no wind block, with about 10 RV spots. I hunkered down and figured, if a tornado hits, oh well. I woke in the not so dead of night, rocking and rolling with screaming winds, raining lions and pit bulls and I rolled over and went back to sleep. I just love Tylenol PM!
I passed Stratton, gladly, but stopped in Seibert, which is a teeny town with gigantic, brilliant white grain elevators. Even bigger than the Van Gogh. Photo op. They are COOP run and every time I see the logo, I think of Grandpa Killion, who worked at one in Richmond, MO and always wore his coveralls. Leaving town, I ran over a couple of honest to god tumbleweeds. I felt almost as bad as running over a squirrel. Okay, NOT- I never feel bad running over a squirrel.
Now we hit Prairie Dog country- those cute little comics that ranchers detest so much. Then the Pronghorns started to show up in the grasslands. They are not antelope but that’s what everyone calls them; like bison, which aren’t related to buffalo. (I do think buzzards really are vultures, though.) Lots of beeves, horses and hawks.
Once, I managed to tear myself away from texting (KIDDING!) to see another RT going the other direction. Hail comrade!
It was flat, flat, flat until I got a bit closer to Denver, where the land began to gently roll, just as the mountains came into view. Wheat in Wheatland, cows and the town of Bovina. Agate. Kiowa. I love the way some of the names tell you about the area. Then came another wind farm; hundreds as far as I could see like the one in Ellsworth County in Kansas yesterday. This one had a POINT OF INTEREST and I thought, photo op. So I turned off and there was a deep Pepto Bismol-colored lighthouse in the middle of nowhere! The Tower Museum. SEE SIX STATES! Of course I had to go in. But how? It was a jumble of old buildings, cobbled together in a long line over many years. Junk everywhere, but oddly neat. Rocks of all kinds and old glass bottles, farm machines and such. I had to knock on the house door, way at the end and an older, grizzled man said he’d meet me at the museum in two shakes. He did and opened the door to his many dusty treasures. $1.00 to get in and if you can identify 3 out of these 10 antique tools pictured here, why he’ll refund your dollar! I gave him 5 and said thanks for opening up on a Sunday.
Jerry ‘s been there 46 years and very passionate about his millions of goodies. He kept quizzing me on bizarre, old inventions. Just one more! Like glasses for roosters so they can’t see the hens. A petrified Walrus private part used as a club by Native Americans, a finger stretcher for gloves and a bottle corker. He had 22 small, low ceilinged rooms crammed with amazing, odd and junky, wonderful items. More arrowheads than I have ever seen. Dinosaur bones. Taxidermy two-headed calves, over 50,000 glass bottles of all shapes and colors, plus rocks, locks, tools, books, combs, pictures, civil war items, guns, clothes, and more. I climbed the tower stairs- the farther up the older, creakier and steeper. I don’t know if I saw the six states, but it was grand!
Onward ho, to Cheyenne, where we parked at another, not so great but decent rv park. I am looking forward to BLM or parks soon! The good things here? Saw a Bullock’s Oriole this morning- a new bird for me and there is a BBQ shack right in the campground with some pretty good pulled pork.
Day 3. Change of no plan
Since there is no plan, how can it be changed? Last night I poured over my many maps and books and thought I would shoot over to Fossil Monument in western Wy. There is a little town with a few RV parks and a lot of BLM land for boondocking.
I packed up around 7:30 and went through downtown Cheyenne which is nice, but not a big wow. Went and saw the capitol building and there are some great sculptures around it. Got on I-80 and made it about 30 or so miles to a rest stop before Laramie. It was just in Medicine Bow National Forest and I was excited to see trees again. It was so gorgeous, I drove about 20 miles into that part of the park and Ruka and I got out and went for a short hike up some rocks for a splendid view! Not a soul but us! Ruka anointed many rocks and investigated several holes, some of which I am sure were badger, and luckily did not get her nose mangled like she did a few weeks ago by a pissed raccoon.
Then to the outskirts of Laramie (I think the entire town is an outskirt, actually) gassed up and cleaned the very large insect collection off the windshield. Made a sandwich and fixed a little snacky poo for her royal pickiness that she didn’t eat then looked at the map. I decided to take a scenic route as I am sick of super highways. So backtracked a tad onto 130 with the intention of stopping overnight at a nice little campground on a river in Saratoga which isn’t anywhere near my original destination. I even left a message on their machine to see if I could get a spot on the river.
Well. The drive is, indeed, without a doubt, intensely scenic, fabulous and magnificent. It took me up over the Snowy Range where I stopped at Libby Flats, at the top of the pass. I think it was over 11,000 feet. SNOW!!!!! I was a little worried, but it was warm and all the roads are great. Ruka is half husky and went nuts! The view was stunning and the wind nearly blew me, and the rest of the gawkers off the platform, though. Must have been 70 mph. Kept my hat! Lost my favorite ball cap in Utah- lesson learned.
I made it almost down the pass and into Saratoga, but my keen eyeballs spotted a Medicine Bow campground sign and thought what the hey, check it out. Until about 30 seconds ago, for a few hours I was the only person in the whole place. 3 cars just arrived. Boo. Oh well, maybe the bears will go bother the other people! I am surrounded by a little creek that is overflowing from snowmelt and sounds lovely. Many of the trees have the Pine Beetle infestation, which is a shame, but it isn’t as pervasive as I’ve seen in Colorado. They are managing it by cutting swaths to prevent the spread. It is very pretty; most of the trees are okay. I love a forest!
There are no water or electric hookups, so I just ran my generator to make tea and recharge my phone and laptop so I could write. It’s supposed to be 39 tonight, so I’m glad I have my organic space heater who needs a last walk. We Roadtrekkers call it GLAMPING. Ciao!
Day 4- SOLO!
Turns out, I WAS the only person in the campground. People came in, looked and left. I guess I had the best spot, back in the trees. It got pretty chilly, but warmed quickly next morning. I have a generator with an inverter so put it on for the microwave for soup and hot tea for supper. Very relaxing.
Up at dawn and did some birding around the area and hit the road. Made it about 5 miles or so to the ranger station where Amanda told me about the gas station in the middle of nowhere, just down the road with good breakfast, and about a nice campground just around the corner. Around the corner we went and WOW! Super gorgeous with good sized Brush Creek. Sat and had coffee and hung out for an hour. Then on to The Place where Gary made me a good hot breakfast and topped off my propane.
Still on Scenic Route 130 and went to Saratoga which was a cute little town. Picked up a t-shirt and some o dat delish Huckleberry Jam!
Had to get back on I-80, yuk. Zillions of trucks. Stopped in Green River for the night at a god awful RV park, but only a block to the river which was gorgeous. Ruka and I took many walks last evening and one more run down to the water at about 6 this morning.
Day 5- OH JOYOUS DAY!
Got going really early to get the heck out of that RV park. Did I mention Skip? My talky neighbor who just got a little cute camper? I did not want to spend my morning trying to extract myself from his august presence so I skedaddled.
Back on I-Crappy for only about 10 minutes YES! Then jumped on 372 . Now we are only in high desert. Pronghorns aplenty, but nary a tree or shrub over 5 feet tall. Went to the Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge and it was pretty. Right on the Green River again but in the middle of nothing. Took a dirt road and let Ruka out to run! She started to take off after a Pronghorn, but I yelled and she stopped. I think it was just for show, she knows she can’t catch em. Down by the river were 4 fly fishermen from Utah, in the river and bonding. While I was there, they even caught about 4 trout but were releasing them. It was quite the bucolic scene and I took a few shots of them.
Back to the road and on to Fossil Butte National Monument- finally! It was fantastic! The people have been collecting there for over a hundred years. Fossils found here are in museums all across the globe. Some folks made their living collecting and selling. The visitor’s center was very cool, with lots of specimens and a very helpful information lady. I ended up going a couple miles up the road to a trail that went up one of the buttes. Got geared up- 2 cameras, cell phone (camera) Ruka and leash, water and binoculars. They had a spring water tap so I filled my water bottle with it. The hike was incredible- first real one of the trip. It was steep but went in and out of woods and rocks. Lots of birds and I think I got a couple of good shots. I have seen quite a few “Lifers” on this trip, birds that I have never seen before. The coolest one today was the Green Tailed Towhee up on that hike.
Back to the van after a view I won’t forget, and filled up my big water jug with spring water. It should last me a few days. Got my sweaty shirt changed, my hat off to dry and my gear stowed!
Drove into Utah for about a half hour and up the west side of Bear Lake where I am now camped at a mom and pop, very pretty and very quiet campground with real grass, trees and a great view of the lake. Ruka doesn’t even have to be on the leash and loves it. She is snoozing in the shade. I am on the north end in a tiny town that is not touristy. I had a great day and am now in IDAHO!!!!! Took a few days, but worth every minute. The weather had been perfect, 70’s and sunny.