2021 Spring Western Trip

Latest posts on top. Scroll down for earlier posts.

——————————————————

2/28/2021: I did some additional research on Death Valley camping this morning and it appears the national park is now open for camping and there are some other places that we can boondock (free) even if the NP is closed for camping, so the plan at this time is to go to Death Valley. YEA!!

2/26/2021: It is going to be great to be back on the road with our fifth wheel trailer after many months of sitting at home. Jeri is in the middle of getting her covid vaccines and I just recently had cataract surgeries on both eyes and am still in the recovery stage.

I had to replace some of the weather cracked vinyl trim screw covers on the trailer and I had the wheel bearings serviced, along with new brake liners, shoes, etc. I also had the outside of the trailer washed and wax several weeks ago.

I do need to do a couple of things before we leave: 1) check all the roof seams and reseal with Dicor self-leveling sealant if necessary and 2) sanitize the fresh water system (I do this once a year).

In case you do not remember or did not know we use a 2018 Ford Lariat F-350 4×4 Crew Cab SRW SB Powerstroke diesel truck to tow a 2019 Keystone Montana 3121RL fifth wheel trailer. Here are a couple of pictures.

We currently have reservations for six nights at Chatfield State Park just south of Littleton, Colorado starting April 22, 2021 and plan to leave home sometime around the middle of March, depending on how my cataract surgeries are doing.

We originally were planning to work our way to Death Valley National Park, then work our easy through Nevada and spend some time in Utah, but if California still has everything shut down, including campgrounds, we will spend quite a bit of time down in the Big Bend area of south Texas before working our way up to Colorado. New Mexico State parks are still closed for camping, so probably will avoid it as much as possible this trip.

The plan is to bring the trailer home from our storage facility three or four days before we leave to do final system checks, maintenance (to include fresh water tank sanitizing) cleaning and load the groceries, etc.

From the left: Sugar Belle and Faith

2019 Summer Western Trip

July 6, 2019: Yesterday evening we went out for very good Mexican dinners at “Felisa’s Mexican Food & Lounge” (good Margaritas) a mile or so from the KOA we are in. We were planning to go to the “El Azteca Mexican Restaurant” and we actually walked in, but even though it is highly rated Jeri was put off by the bars on the windows and doors and the general look of the place, so we left.

We had a bit of brief rain in the wee hours this morning and our newest rescue pup, sweet little Faith (or Fay Fay) was very restless and her stomach was making noises. Jeri took her outside a couple of times and Faith came and cuddled with me while I tickled her tummy and chest (Faith’s, not Jeri’s 🤪). She finally settled down and went to sleep and seems fine today.

Sugar and Faith (white)

Bent’s Old Fort: Around lunch time Jeri and I drove out to visit Bent’s Old Fort, a national historic site. We have been there a few times over the years. It was built in the 1830s of adobe bricks and heavy log beams and was used for a couple of decades as a fur and buffalo robe trading place and a stopover for those adventurers and business men traveling the Santa Fe Trail. The fort was privately built and owned and while once or twice the military did stop there briefly it was never a military fort. It initially was on the banks of the Arkansas River, but over time the river channel moved south away from the fort. I just simply love this place, everything about it, especially the way it is laid out. If I could afford it, I would love to build a smaller version of it (modernized, of course) to live in.

Some pictures.

The central courtyard.

The dining room.

The adjoining kitchen.

The store.

The main owners (Bent brothers and St. Vrain) had their own rooms. Here is one.

I bought a beautiful handmade coffee mug and a 130 minute video about the fort. I already have a book or two on it from previous visits.

If you want to learn a bit of very interesting Western history, Google it. I highly recommend you do so because it played it big part on the Santa Fe Trail and early Southwestern commerce.

After the visit to the fort we stopped at a excellent Mexican food take-out place, “Delicias Tamal House” and got a half dozen tamales and a burrito verde to take back to the trailer for lunch. The food was excellent, delicious as advertised (4 1/2 star rating on Yelp—I have it a 5).

After lunch a bit of a nap, then while Jeri and the pups finished napping I drove into the Loves gas station in town and filled the F-350 up with diesel fuel and added another 2 1/2 gallons of DEF (Diesel Exhaust Fluid—it prevents the black smelly smoke from the exhaust that diesels are infamous for. LOL).

La Junta is a small modern city with a touch of the old west and some decent restaurants. Also a Koshare museum that we visited several years ago.

Tomorrow morning I will dump all our tanks and we will head west on US-50 to dry camp for a couple of days right beside the Arkansas River in the Rincon Campground (we reserved the site for two nights yesterday). Rincon is just east of Salida, CO. Now that the July 4th holiday is open campsites are opening up.

2019 Summer Western Trip

This will be a very long post as I catch up the past few days.

July 5, 2019: Yesterday we moved from the KOA Lakeside Park in Fort Collins all the way down to the KOA in La Junta, Colorado. We could not stay in Fort Collins because they were booked solid. After hours of searching this was literally the only place in Colorado where we could camp until Sunday through the July 4th holiday weekend. We’ve never seen such full campgrounds out here this time of year.

This is a fairly decent KOA, although it appears they are still doing some improvements and there appear to be at least three to four permanent residents. The staff is friendly and helpful, but the office/store has been inconsistently open; maybe due to it being a holiday weekend. There are several nice rigs here. Very fast Wi-Fi here! This morning I ran some speed tests and was getting 24-30 mbps. About the best free Wi-Fi we have encountered anywhere.

Yesterday evening we met a couple in a huge, 43′ three axle toy hauler fiver with both a rear and side drop down decks.

We drove out north of La Junta and parked alongside the highway with lots of other folks and watched a very nice fireworks display.

Our campsite:

Some fireworks last night:

On the way down here we met one of our sons, Billy, for lunch at the Chili’s on south Kipling Avenue just a short distance from C470. It had a very large parking lot and easy in and out for our rig.

South of Colorado Springs we ran into a brief thunderstorm with some HAIL. It was making some noise hitting the truck, even at low speed, but when I checked later I didn’t find any dents. 😁

Did I mention how hot it is here in La Junta? No? Well, when we arrived here late yesterday afternoon it was 98 degrees. Sure glad we have two 15,000 btu air conditioners on our fiver! They cooled it down pretty well.

Okay, now I will try to get us caught up since my last post.

July 1, 2019: We went to the laser show at the Crazy Horse Memorial last night. It was a bit chilly, but didn’t rain. Small crowd. Good story to the show, but since the mountain is 3/4 mile away some of the pictures the laser displayed were kind of hard to make out detail. We probably would not bother to go again. I do want to stress that the memorial, though far from finished is worth seeing, the facility is beautiful and the food we had was good and reasonably priced. Did I mention the coffee is free?

A couple of pictures:

Today we took a picnic lunch in a cooler and spent most of the day touring Custer State Park. Beautiful place. The Needles road has a couple of very narrow one lane tunnels carved out of the rock. I had to close the outside towing mirrors (a touch of a button) on our big F-350 to fit through them. Beautiful drive though with lots of scenic overlooks.

A picture of one of the road tunnels.

Here is our picnic spot.

After lunch we drove all around what they call the Wildlife Loop Road. We saw a couple of bison, a couple of deer and antelope and Jeri said, “where are all the buffalo.” Then we got off the paved section and drove further in on the gravel Fishermens Flats road to the right of the Wildlife Station Visitor Center. We came upon two herds of 50-80 bison each and spent some time watching them, then turned around and headed back toward the Wildlife Loop road. Suddenly Jeri spotted this HUGE herd of bison up on a hill to our right and they were slowly feeding and moving down toward the gravel road we were on. We moved further along the road until we were stopped by other vehicles waiting for the bison to come down and pass through. Some of us wisely left a few car lengths of gap between our vehicles so the bison could pass through.

And pass through they did!! For the next hour we pretty much just sat there while bison passed through beside, in front of and behind us as they crossed the road and spread out. Lots and lots of mommas and their calves.

And some more.

In the upper part of the above picture a mother bison is nursing her calf right in the middle of the road.

We estimated there were probably somewhere around 1,000 bison that passed by. It was one of the most spectacular wildlife encounters we have ever had. We could only imagine what it was like 160 years ago when tens of thousands of bison would pass by!!! It was AWESOME!! Definitely a big highlight of this summer trip!

I have to leave this with this little video. LOL

July 2, 2019: Dumped tanks and topped up the freshwater tank and headed south and west to Wyoming today. We managed to snag a coveted campsite in the Reno Cove campground of Glendo State Park. While we did not get the really primo site #8 we did score the primo site #4 for one night and had a great view!

We had a 50 amp hookup. A bad thunderstorm moved through and there were tornado warnings for the area, but luckily none developed. We had a nice night, although it did rain a bit more during the night.

We are having trouble finding campsites with our apps and phones down in Colorado because of the impending July 4th holiday weekend. But we will figure something out; we always do. 🤪

July 3, 2019: We left this beautiful campsite around 10:30 this morning and headed on south on I-25 as Jeri frantically searched for someplace to camp. We stopped in Fort Collins, Colorado to try and find something and finally found one night (and one night only) at the KOA Lakeside on the northwest side of Fort Collins. This turned out to be a nice place with very friendly helpful staff. It was full. We spent most of the evening trying to find a campground for the long holiday weekend, with no success. We have been out here before over the 4th of July and have never seen it as hard to find a place than this year! We could stay at some friends’ 5 acre ranchette outside Parker where we have stayed a couple of times, but I am not sure we can maneuver our larger fiver into there driveway from the road.

July 4, 2019: Okay! This morning I found us a campground with openings through the holiday weekend. That’s the good thing. The bad thing: it’s clear down in La Junta, CO. But at this point we have no choice. After many phone calls and searching with our apps this the only thing we can find. Colorado is very busy this holiday! The KOA in La Junta is the only KOA in the entire state with openings!

2019 Summer Western Trip

June 30, 2019: This morning we broke camp at Fish ‘N Fry and made a leisurely trip 50 miles south to the Custer Crazy Horse Campground. Along the way we stopped at a visitor center by a pretty lake.

We checked in at the campground after they guided us back to it and assisted with guidance while I backed the trailer up and into the spot off a loose gravel road. The 4×4 capability of the F-350 came in very handy! Since the sites are so close together they have us two sites for the price of one.

After completing setup we went to the Crazy Horse Monument. $24 for the two of us to get in, but that includes a pass to come back in to the laser light show at night and one more entry over the next two days. This is what it is supposed to look like when finished (not in our lifetime).

This is what it looks like today after 71 years of carving the big granite mountain.

Here are the specs and a comparison to other similar items. When completed this thing will be the largest of its kind in the world.

We had a great lunch of salad and a Native American fry bread taco and were trapped inside the impressively beautiful facility while a heavy rainstorm rolled through.

After returning home (trailer) we napped briefly and finally added another state sticker to our RV camping map.

We now have RV camped in 30 states! Plus Alberta, British Columbia and The Yukon Territory.

Tonight we plan to go to the laser show.

2019 Summer Western Trip

June 29, 2019: Last night we went to the Medora Musical, along with around 2,500 other folks. The musical is a first class operation that is in its 55th season. It started out fantastic with two bull elk on the skyline of the hill behind the stage that we watched after getting into our seats.

The show itself tells the story of Medora in a musical and its many characters. It was pretty expensive, but very worth it. We highly recommend seeing it if you are ever up this way.

Mr. Roosevelt and me.

The show venue. All those empty seats were full by the time the show started. The buildings in the background were on tracks and went to the sides during parts of the show.

This morning we saddled up and left this beautiful National Park and headed south. We did some grocery shopping in Spearfish, SD and visited the new geographical center of the USA that includes Alaska and Hawaii in Belle Fourche.

We are camped tonight at the Fish ‘N Fry campground just a few miles south of Deadwood. After setting up we drove into Deadwood so Jeri could gamble a bit and we had a delicious dinner at the Buffalo Bodega on Main Street. This place is the oldest continuous restaurant in Deadwood. Would you believe over 170 years?!!

Tomorrow we will move about 50 miles south down to Custer, SD where we will spend at least two nights at the Custer Crazy Horse Campground, 4 miles south of the Crazy Horse Monument (still unfinished).

2019 Summer Western Trip

June 27, 2019; 8:15 PM: The sun is starting to set behind the bluffs in our beautiful campsite (#31 that we lucked into) in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park Cottonwood Campground. Roosevelt has a ranch here back in the late 1800s.

Since have our National Senior Pass entry is free and our campsite is $7.00 a night. No hookups at all, so we are boondocking. Good test of the solar system I installed.

We traveled the Enchanted Highway in the way here. It was a beautiful drive, but not as many huge metal sculptures as we expected. Here is a sample.

We visited the Custer House this morning before leaving Fort Abraham Lincoln, but did not have the time to take the tour of the house. Here is a picture of the outside.

George Custer was the commander of the cavalry post before he rode out to infamous glory and death with the 7th Cavalry. Since the infantry post had several Indian attacks I asked a old time uniformed soldier how they kept the cavalry post from being attacked. I was told there were three Gatling Guns stationed on the hills behind the post to protect it.

Here are some pictures of our campsite.

After setting up camp (pretty easy with no hookups) we took a long drive back into the park. Here are a couple of pictures.

So far we have seen a couple of bison, several wild horses and a deer.

We are booked here for two nights. Tomorrow we will go into town and get tickets for the western musical tomorrow night.

Very poor cell signal, so that may have to wait to post this until in town (Medora) tomorrow.

2019 Summer Western Trip

June 27, 2019: We spent the night at the Fort Lincoln State Park near Bismarck, ND. Our campsite is less than stellar. A thunderstorm rolled through again in the wee hours and our campsite has lots of mud puddles. I am not sure why we seem to always get assigned to what seem to be some of the worst campsites, but we have decided that in the future we are not going to accept it. There are plenty of empty very nice campsites here that we could have had.

Our trailer is surrounded by mud puddles—breaking camp is going to be a mess.

Yesterday evening we visited the infantry post on top of the hill. The CCC several years ago rebuilt the blockhouses and foundation corners of many of the buildings. Several skirmishes with the Indians were fought here back in the 1870s.

The view from the infantry post of the cavalry post (Custer House) and Missouri River.

Our campsite

We plan to visit the Custer House this morning before departing for the Enchanted Highway and then spend a night or two at the Theodore Roosevelt National Park at Medora, ND. We have been on the road now for eight days and every stop has been one night. It’s time to spend at least a couple of nights in the same place.

Some more pictures:

Albino bison:

World’s largest gonads. Sorry, I couldn’t resist this. 🤪👀😜

2019 Summer Western Trip

June 26, 2019: Beautiful morning in the 70s so far (high of 86) here at this lovely park in Aberdeen, SD. We were woke up by a fairly brief thunderstorm in the wee hours. Didn’t rain all that much but a couple of strong wind gusts sure rattled the slide toppers.

We are about to break camp and head up US-281 to Jamestown, ND, 102 miles, to see the World’s Biggest Bison. The m pretty excited about it because I like seeing the “world’s largest” of anything. Jeri not so much. LOL. Pictures later.

Here is a picture of the “World’s Largest Bison.”

2019 Western Summer Trip

June 25, 2019: Before leaving the park we visited the keel boat display. It’s in the water and people can go aboard and check out what it was like for the Lewis & Clark folks. Pretty cool.

We traveled up I-29 to US-12 and went west to Aberdeen, SD and are camped at the Wylie Park campground. This is a multi-use Park and is very nice. The first campsite they gave us was sort of crammed in with a bunch of other campers and had a very large mud hole, so we went back to the office and the person working there moved us to another and much nicer campground with a pull thru. Very nice!

The country side coming north and west is rolling farms, pastures and many small lakes beside US-12. The lakes were carved out by glaciers I was told.

We covered around 330 miles today. We got a pretty late start this morning. During a fill up of diesel fuel at a Flying J I bought 5 gallons of Blue Def and put one 2 1/2 gallon container in the Def tank. Strong quartering headwind up I-29 and we were getting 7.5-8.5 mpg. Good thing diesel is relatively low priced right now. 🙂

Our rear roll down shade is messed up and for the life of me I cannot figure out how to adjust it to work properly. I may just buy a new, better quality one from our blind person at home.

Tomorrow we head north into North Dakota to see the World’s Largest Bison!! Stay tuned.

2019 Western Summer Trip

June 25, 2019: First, my apologies for not posting the past few days, but we have traveled over 1,500 miles since leaving home on the 20th and we have not always had good cell signal at some campgrounds. So this is to kind of get caught up. I will do better going forward.

We spent last night at the Lewis & Clark State Park near Onawa, Iowa after driving about 320 miles from Long Branch State Park in Macon, Missouri via highways US-36 to St. Joseph, MO and north on I-29. I-29 skirts along the Missouri River and we saw MASSIVE flooding. Tens of thousands of acres are still underwater and many exits were closed because the roads they lead to are still underwater, even though the flood waters have receded several feet. Sad!

This is a very nice state park and we are parked beside a lake. A thunderstorm rolled through around 4:30 this morning. When we arrived at the park, with no reservation of course, the sign said the campground is full, but we saw lots of empty campsites with reserved signs dated from one to a few days in the future. We talked to another camper and he said the campground hosts here are too lazy to keep the sites updated as to vacancy, so they just put up the full sign even though it is currently half empty. So we just used a site that was marked reserved for a couple of days from now and paid our $16 for an electric only site.

Today we will continue north on I-29, then head off northwest to Jamestown, North Dakota to see the “World’s Largest Bison”, but it’s over 400 miles, so will get there tomorrow. And we will get to add another state sticker to our map! Yeay!!!!

June 23-24, 2019: After a short run of less than 200 miles we arrived in Macon, Missouri and set up camp in the Long Branch State Park. Monte and Kathy Ashmore (I went all through grade and high school with Monte) live in Macon and they took us on a tour of their home and Macon and took us out for a very good Mexican dinner. They visited with us at our trailer until after 10:00 PM and we had a very enjoyable evening with them.

Long Branch State Park is very nice, but I forgot to take a picture of our campsite. Before leaving the park we dumped our two gray water tanks at the campground’s dump and left the park at 9:45 AM.

June 22, 2019: We traveled several miles on highway MO-8, one of the hilliest and curviest roads we’ve ever been on and finally found a campsite at the Meramac Spring Country Store Campground. It was an okay place for $32 for a full hookup site that we only used electric. Earlier in the afternoon we sat out a bad rain storm in a church parking lot in the country. Our truck and trailer continue to do well with no problems, except for a minor issue with the rear roll down blind that some rough roads shook loose and the bathroom power vent that will not open.

June 21, 2019: Nice drive through the country today. We camped at the Lucky Lady Casino (Caruthersville, MO) right beside a very full, flood stage Mississippi River and the casino’s campground was on the river side of the levee!! A pretty nice campground with four campers using it. Jeri actually walked out of the casino around $30 ahead and that about covered the camping fee. She got “trapped” in the casino when she went to pay for our site by a big rainstorm. LOL

I took this picture out one of our trailer windows.

June 20, 2019: We hooked up and left the house a few minutes after 8:00 this morning. We stopped at the Flying J in St. Augustine to top up our diesel fuel and I finally hit the CAT Scales with our fully loaded rig to get our real weights. Simple, quick process with their app and all our weights are easily with max axle weights by several hundred pounds. Our total rig, truck and trailer came in a bit over 22,000 pounds. We traveled I-95, I-10 and I-75 to Tifton, Georgia before heading off on non-interstates to Albany and Columbus, Georgia, then into Alabama. Drove through some rain and after over 400 miles we camped at the Scenic Drive RV Campground just south of I-20 east of Birmingham, AL. One little mishap—we missed the kind of hidden entrance to the RV campground and I made a poorly executed u-turn at a wide spot in the road with our big rig. I knocked of one of the rear jack snap pads. I discovered it missing when we were setting up, so unhooked the truck and drove the short ways to find it. I put it back in the next morning as we were breaking camp.

It is GREAT to be on the road to more new RV adventures!!