Our Travels

Our retirement began February 3rd, 2006. This is an account of our travels. We hope you enjoy them. You can click on any of the pictures to enlarge the picture. Please leave a comment for us...we love to read them.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Retirement Trip Map

This is a map that shows our route and stops along our three month retirement trip. Every number is one of our stops. Hopefully next year when we go out on the road again, we will be able to include more states (as far southeast as Florida). You can get a larger view of the map by clicking on the map.


Friday, April 28, 2006

Installment #16 - Last Retirement Trip Installment


Our outing at brother Dick and Cindy’s home included a trip to DuBois - 100 miles from Riverton along Wyoming’s back roads. We saw a lot of deer and antelope (picture). We stopped at one of the oil wells so Tony could get a closer look at the mechanics of the machine (picture). One of the "cabins" Dick went to appraise was quite an experience - high in the mountains, a winding road to get to it on snow packed roads - it probably will appraise for over a million dollars. No expense was spared when they built this "vacation home" (2 pictures). It had small antlers as cabinet door handles, all beds were made out of logs, fox skin rug on the floor, and on and on.

Although Cindy fed us very well, Dick & Cindy broke our tradition of "steak" for dinner. We did get acquainted with Larry & Patty (friends of Dick & Cindy). Larry & Patty promised us steak on Saturday if we would stay that long. Larry is owner of Wind River Honey (Tony liked this honey enough that we bought a jug of it). Conversations about honey bees were very interesting – 7 semi trucks go to California near Sacramento to pollinate the almonds and then to Royal City, Washington, to pollinate the apples. A 2-ton truck is used to offload bees and take them to the orchards.

On Day 81 (April 27th) we left Riverton heading home. It may appear that we were anxious to get home since we made the trip in two days. As we were driving, we began making lists of what needed to be done at home – the longer the list became, the longer we drove. We stopped for the night at the Butte, Montana, Wal-Mart. The only other time we drove this far was Day 1, when we were leaving Moscow on February 6th. Day 82 we drove another 400 miles to arrive in Moscow on Friday afternoon, April 28th.

According to our map calculations, we have travelled over 9700 miles with over 300 stops. This includes the motorhome, our car, and riding with others on various excursions (averaging 118 miles per day, 3.5 stops per day). We covered 11 states; spent two nights in rest stops, three in small towns, one in a Casino parking lot, 28 in RV parks, 33 with friends and relatives, and 14 nights in 14 different Wal-Mart parking lots.

Thank you once again for all your phone calls and emails during our trip. We have had a wonderful retirement trip and look forward to doing a similar excursion, seeing more of the USA, at another time. We’re now anxious to see family and friends in the Moscow area after our nearly twelve weeks away from home.

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Monday, April 24, 2006

Installment #15 - Retirement Trip


Gradually we have been moving north and west towards home. Stayed on Judy and Larry Mann’s ranch in Alliance a little longer to learn more about herding cattle, fixing sprinkler systems for the irrigation circles and much more. Attended an open house for Callan Ackerman’s new business recently opened in Alliance, attended Kathie’s 50th birthday party, and spent more time with Uncle Jean and Maxine.

Next we moved on to Scottsbluff to see Uncle Leo and Zetta and friend Pam Schnell. After leaving Scottsbluff, we stopped in Cheyenne to see the "Big Boy", one of the largest steam engines ever built (one of eight). Weather was so windy, again. Interstate 80 is one of the highways that often gets closed during severe weather conditions.

Laramie, Wyoming, was our next stop to see the two nephews who live there, Michael and Nick. Michael had time to show us around Laramie the next morning before we left for Green River, Wyoming, to brother Jim’s. In Green River Jim and his family continued the tradition of serving steak to us!

We took a four hour tour of the Solvay mine (where Jim works)http://www.solvaychemicals.us/products.htm). Straight down 1600 feet into a vast Trona mine (an ore used in manufacture of glass – a valuable commodity). We were able to get a good look at the "long wall" – the business end of everything. We were first decked out in proper gear – helmet, safety boots, safety belt with breathing aparatus, and safety lamp attached to helmet (picture). What a sight we were.

Day 76, Jim, Kathie and son Cody took us on a long ride around parts of Wyoming that most people don’t know exist after Jim and Tony looked over the railroad switching yard in Green River (picture). Some of the sights we saw on our long ride were "teapot and sugar bowl" rocks, lots of wild horses (picture), deer and antelope running close together, sheep herder and petroglyphs. Tony was amazed by the performance of Jim’s Ford Explorer after going places we’d be nervous in taking our ATV, and even more amazed by the performance on our Day 77 trip. Sharon was very glad he had a GPS on Day 77. Jim drove to the top of a very scenic area (where tiger creat rock can be found – used for Indian arrowheads) and after some on-foot exploring he chose to try to get back a different way – which gave us a chance to see more antelope, some eagles, and prairie dogs – as well as some edges of mountains that didn’t look as if we should go down – but we went down anyway.

Brother Dick & Cindy stopped overnight at Jim & Kathie’s for a dinner party. Tony surprised Sharon with an early anniversary rose and box of chocolates after dinner (picture).
Niece Brittany is now just 18 days away from high school graduation. Lots of preparations are in the making for this occasion (pictures, announcements, prom dress, etc.) Nephew Cody entertained us with kite flying and making funnel cakes on the last day in Green River.

Our next scheduled stop will be at Dick & Cindy’s in Riverton, Wyoming. Maybe we started back home a little early. Evidently it snowed last night (Sunday), because South Pass still had snow in places across he road. When we stopped for lunch at the bottom just 30 miles from Riverton, the snow plow came by. Snow was higher than some of the snow fences in places.

Thanks to everyone along the route for making our "retirement trip" so much fun. And…since you all were so eager to show us a good time….we will be back. We just don’t know when.

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Thursday, April 13, 2006

Installment #14 - Retirement Trip


While we're still visiting relatives and friends in Alliance, Nebraska, I thought you might like to hear a few stories of some of the not-so-good moments. For instance even before we left the house in February we had everything prepared - the RV was at the end of the driveway near the street, the tow dolly was hitched onto the back, the car was firmly strapped and chained onto the tow dolly and everything we thought we would need was loaded. We jumped aboard eager to go south to get away from the bitter weather that morning, I put the RV in 'drive' and noticed a reluctance for the rig to roll, jumped out and walked down to the car at the back, opened the door as far as it would go and noticed the parking brake was still on, squeezed one hand through the door, released the brake and the whole thing started to roll towards the street. I'd obviously left the RV engine running and in 'drive'. I did fortunately manage to get on board again and stop everything but couldn't help but wonder if we were really meant to go on this trip.

Back to current events: Since we are almost totally surrounded by long coal trains (125 cards each), it seemed a good idea to Tony to tour the rail yards. Tony and Archie were shown around by the yard superintendant. They saw the control room, the storage yards, and car maintenance sheds. Some of the main facts that emerged are: each car carries 240 tons of coal; maximum number of cars per train is 150; maximum train length is 8000 feet; maximum tract speed is 65 mph; five locomotives (four pulling, and one pushing), all controlled by only two engineers (engine drivers) in the front engine. Every feature and facet of a train’s journel is controlled by a master controller in Fort Worth (approximately 1000 miles away). Average frequency of trains in the Alliance area is one every 20 minutes. The train yard draws most of its staff from Alliance and nearby towns. Railroad is now recruiting 400 more personnel.

Last Saturday there was a large derailment where 28 cars fell off the track because of a fractured rail. We went to see the clean-up operation just outside of town. We photographed mangled rail card that had been detached from their axles and wheels (axles and wheels were stacked together beside the road)(picture). Apparently the coal dust that these trains carry can not be left alone for any length of time due to spontaneous combustion, so 4,200 tons of coal had to be picked up immediately.

We are still visiting friends and relatives and still eating steak nearly every day and enjoying 85 degree daytime temperatures.

Sharon spent an evening with seven other classmates from high school.

We spent time at the Alliance cemetery – they have a kiosk that enables you to look up names and find the exact location of friends or relative’s graves. Visited car henge ouside of Alliance. (picture). And...no visit to car henge is complete without a visit to the "rest area" just up the road (picture).

We went to a machinery auction. Tony had never heard a live auctioneer. Sharon took a ride on an ATV driven by 3 year old second cousin Coulter (picture). We rounded up cattle on 4-wheelers and moved them through two gates to another field (no horses any more for the local ranchers).

Had a tour of a mission store (similar to a thrift store). We learned amazing things about the "thrift store" business….all the clothes that were unsaleable were bundled and put in basement waiting the next shipment out…700 bundles (about 80 pounds each) were down in the basement – 1400 pairs of jeans – because they put a pair of jeans at the top and bottom of each bundle.

Took aunt and uncle Jean and Maxine over to Scottsbluf, Nebraska, to see another aunt and uncle, Leo and Zetta. We will return to Scottsbluff next Sunday for another visit.

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Sunday, April 02, 2006

Installment #13 - Retirement Trip


Continued drive up through Kansas and into Nebraska, saw lots of cabooses on people’s land, hundreds of semi cabs (artic tractor units) just south of Council Bluffs, Iowa on Interstate 29, stopped just inside Omaha to look at Doorly Zoo (largest glass doom covering a man-made desert). After spending the evening with cousin Jary & Dee and his extended family (Jennifer, Sarah & Kate and Allison & Olivia), we started our trek for Alliance, NE (Sharon’s home town). Rainy and windy most of the morning. Headwinds were as high as 52 miles per hour and we couldn’t muster speeds much in excess of 40 mph.

We decided to stop in Broken Bow NE early in the afternoon because of the high winds. Spent the night on a street in Broken Bow with an east/west train track and crossing just two blocks behind us. Trains came through either east or west every 15 minutes all through the night, blowing their horn, to alert the traffic. Next morning we travelled on to Alliance beside the railroad track. Usually trains were 100-125 cars long, mostly coal trains….trains travelling west were empty, trains travelling east were full.

More visiting of relatives in Alliance – Jean & Maxine, Judy & Larry. Calving season for Judy & Larry – went out to ride around the baby calves in Larry’s pickup…one set of twins that we saw….four ATVs have replaced the horses they used to use for herding cattle. Picture of Nebraska sunset.

Day 58 we headed farther north for Uncle Bob & Bernadine’s in Hermosa South Dakota (arrived in time to see about a dozen head of white tail deer cross through their yard). Left the motorhome at Judy & Larry’s ranch. Went to Keystone where cousin Mary & Dallas have three tourist shops (not open yet for the season). On to Otho, the town purchased by Mary & Dallas to see all the renovation they have done for MTN (Meeting the Need) (http://www.meetingtheneed.org/) Corporation they began for disabled population.

Day 59 breakfast entertainment was the turkeys in the back yard that Bob feeds (must have been a dozen turkeys in the back yard). Drove up to Mt. Rushmore (http://www.blackhillsbadlands.com/go.asp?ID=322&utm_source=Google&utm_medium=PPC&utm_term=MtRushmore&utm_campaign=Spring06) to take pictures We’ve tried to show in the pictures of Mt. Rushmore how Borglum (the sculptor) scooped out the presidents’ eyes and very effectively created the glint or pupil by originally using large timbers pushed end-on into the mountain. We then drove on over to Crazy Horse monument (http://www.crazyhorsememorial.org/) to see if much progress had been made in the last five years (not much in five years). Mary took us to the Etta mine (picture) and to the Keystone cemetery where Harry Hardin was buried (his picture with his donkey on a tombstone is the prospector used by Landstrom’s Black Hills Gold Jewelry for all their advertising – the prospector died with no money but huge stone was erected by Landstrom’s when he died). Mary & Dallas met us in Hill City later and treated us to dinner – Over a 100 year old hotel made into a restaurant – all they serve is steak, potatotes and salad (only choice is how big the steak will be and how it should be cooked).

Tony and Bob spent the next morning shooting every gun and rifle that Bob had at a target in Bob’s back yard. Dinner with Bob & Bernadine, cousin Roberta & Jerry and daughter Callie. Later over to Roberta’s to come face to face with Callie holding a pet snake in her room (her room was decorated to look like a scene from the Harry Potter books).

Day 61 we headed again for Alliance after waking up to an inch of snow in South Dakota and "blizzard like" conditions reported in Alliance. By the time we got back to motorhome there was a pile of snow in front of the motorhome that had slid off, but roads were fine for the drive. Almost got Tony to a bull sale, but unfortunately it was called off because of the weather.

Next few days we will stay in Alliance and Scottsbluff visiting more relatives and friends and then head to Wyoming (pointed in the homeward direction). Probably won’t be doing much more sight seeing, so emails will be less frequent. We hope everyone has enjoyed our tales of our trip. Thanks again for all the calls and emails we have received along the way.

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