Saturday, April 28, 2012


Our good luck with fuel purchases continued through Idaho and into Montana, where there were even more decisions to make.  Never have I seen the diesel choices we were offered in Butte, Montana, and no zip code needed.  And I was glad that the ‘backup’ Visa card was working as well.


The scenery was nice, and the cross-winds only got tricky a couple of times as we got closer to the border.


Hailey was laid back and enjoying the ride as usual.P4243045P4243043P4243050

A final fill of the tank at Shelby, and we were ready to make a run for the border.  There was zero line-up, and the questions were straightforward.  I admitted that my canned beverage allowance might have been stretched a bit (!), and right on cue, Hailey did her little performance on the passenger side headrest designed to distract even the most dedicated customs officer!  It worked, and we managed get away without the thumb screws or waterboarding, or even sleep deprivation.P4243054

It was starting to get dark, and with those thoughts of sleep deprivation still fresh in my mind, I decided that it was not worth trying to get anywhere in particular that night.  On a secondary road, there was a decent parking lot that looked like it would be a quiet spot – if you don’t mind a lot of bird calls.  Which reminds me – how is it that you can be rolling down the highway at the speed limit with all four windows down part way to stay cool, and the radio playing, and still hear a Meadowlark (I think?) just as loud and clear as if you had been stopped?  You certainly don’t hear any other bird calls at highway speed.  Several times I wanted to check and make sure Hailey had not hidden one in the cab, or see if one was hitching a ride north with us. 


Morning was bright and sunny and warm as we pulled out, drawn towards Lethbridge, Alberta, or LA as they call it down here, thinking of my first double-double at Tim Horton’s in about 5 months!P4253058

  Curiously, the smoke was making little swirls as I watched it in the mirror.  And it was coming from the rear wheels of the rig!  Whoa, not good at all.  I pulled off quickly onto a side road, and as I did so, I could see that the rear tire had an unusual wobble – also not very good.  I made a mental note then and there that it is always a good idea to check the lug nuts on a wheel that has been recently replaced.


I drove it up on blocks to have a look, and was pleased to see that at least a fire extinguisher was not going to be needed.  Then I grabbed the wheel and threw it in the back of the truck.  Hey!  Aren’t you supposed to need tools for this sort of thing?  Apparently not, in this case.


I was in marginal cell coverage, but managed to contact a new shop in Lethbridge – Back Country RV Service who said to bring it right in.  So, off we went on three wheels taking it very slow and checking for any overheating in the remaining tire on that side.  Sixty km later we were at the shop where it was quickly determined what I already knew – that a wheel bearing had failed.  I have no idea why, as I had them all re-packed last fall before departure, and check often for any unusual heat in the tires or hubs.  Obviously, it could have been much worse if the wheel had come off and bounced into traffic, or if it was dark and I had not noticed – until the remaining tire gave out and blew up!  Even so, the axle was damaged, and I got the bad news that one would have to be shipped from the factory in Indiana.  Not really wanting to camp in an industrial area of Lethbridge for two weeks, important stuff was packed into the truck, and off we went on the final leg of the trip home, albeit making slightly better mileage.


Sounds like a good excuse for another road trip in a couple of weeks!  The folks at the shop were very nice and helpful, so we hope to be able to write glowing reviews when the work is done …  Keeping our fingers crossed.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Rolling, Rollin’, Rollin’ …

What can I say?  Well, not much, I’m afraid.

Traveling northbound, I have not been in a rush, so when I spotted the lakeshore campsites at Upper Pahranagat Lake National Wildlife Refuge just north of Vegas, I pulled in even though it was only shortly after noon.  I had hoped and expected that similar diversions would slow my spring migration north, but it has not worked out that way.  I have been sticking to highway 93 up through Nevada in order to avoid the traffic and pace of the I-15.  While very scenic and wide open, there have not been many tempting places to overnight, or longer.  Same thing for photos.  P4233007

Lots of nice country, but somewhat repetitious.  So, instead of being tempted to stop early and camp, the days have been somewhat longer, only stopping when darkness is imminent.  And driving slow and easy seems to be saving fuel! 

North of Ely, I checked out a side road that had some campgrounds on it, but it was getting up into the 7000’ elevation range and pretty close to the snow line, P4223002

and the pavement ran out, so I carried on in the lower elevation valley, eventually stopping at a historic Pony Express crossing.  P4233004

Even this area was pleasantly cool at night, and in the morning, I reluctantly searched for some jeans in the closet, thinking this would be the end of the shorts for a while.  But I was wrong, and before I had moved the rig, I could tell it was going to be much too warm for the long pants yet!

I stopped for a bite in Wells, Nv, and topped off the tank again.

I see that in this section in northern Nevada, they have fenced the highway to keep the critters off the highway; then like home in Banff, have built wildlife overpasses.


I don’t know who is copying who here, but they also are using these wildlife ‘jump-outs’, designed to allow animals to jump over the fence in one direction only.P4233011

Speaking of fuel, either I am on a lucky streak, or things are different in Nevada and the north country, but my last three fills have all taken place at the pump, not one of which asked for a zip code.  I had a bit of an unusual experience while fuelling up in Arco, ID. ( Arco is in Idaho, right Al?)

I pulled into the first station in town and was just putting the nozzle into the tank when staff from the station came running out yelling.  At first I didn’t know what was wrong.  Then they said, “If you are filling up with diesel, just wait a moment as we are lowering the price by 10 cents a gallon.”!  So I stood by the pump and watched the price go down, while the guy with a long pole changed the price on the overhead sign!  Now that’s what I call service!  Bring on the gas price wars!


I guess you could say that I’m Alberta Bound! (Gordon Lightfoot)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

What Happens in Vegas …

Sorry, can’t tell you anything Winking smile.


Well, maybe a few details …

My sister and her husband were in Vegas, so my next stop was down there to visit with them – the second time we have met up this winter down south!

They were staying way out on the south end of the Strip at the South Point, so that’s where I headed.  Very nice hotel/casino equestrian center, but I think they have a few things to work out!  I ‘Google-earthed’ the place (is this new verb in the dictionary yet?) to see where there might be RV parking.  There was a huge parking lot out behind, and I could see semi-trucks and RV’s in the image, so thought this must be the place.  But when I got there, I found it to be all blocked off, evidently for some special event or other.  I parked on the street back there and made the long walk to the front where I asked the valet parking attendants where to go.  They called security and right away a very nice security officer shows up, gives me a ride back to my rig, and escorts me personally to another nicer lot across the street.  CIMG7754

He assures me I can park there for an undetermined period,and even said it would not be a problem if I unhooked to go for fuel etc.  He just said to leave a phone # on the rig if I was away and there was a problem so that they could contact me.  But, on the night before I was planning to leave anyway, I found an photocopied note taped to the door (from Security!), saying that ‘unhooked trailers’ were not permitted and considered to be abandoned!  Not sure it that applied to RV’s or only semi-trailers, though?  It went on to say that ‘Camping and sleeping’ in your vehicle was not permitted!

I guess that is why all the other RV’s were ‘levelled’ and had the curtains pulled, slides out, and chairs outside!!  I did not have a chance to talk to others to see if they got the note as well?  The only signs in the parking lot said that ‘idling’ and agricultural animals were prohibited.  I guess the idling semis didn’t read that sign either.

When I was trying to locate my sister, my Iphone found a toll-free number for the hotel, so I called it, to save me walking inside.  I was informed that they were not registered, even though I found out later that they were.  I used the same number to call the room one day, but when I called it again on the third day, I was informed that they could not connect to rooms from that number – ha ha!  O well, no big deal.

Because of the ‘Vegas rule’, I cannot post any photos of the bikini + chaps girls from Gilley's Saloon, Dance Hall & Bar-B-Que.  You will just have to go online and see for yourself.  I refuse to divulge if I met any girls from Sweden, or if I did or did not in fact boost the truck belonging to the girl who operates the mechanical bull, upon leaving one night.

I can say that it was pretty darn warm in Vegas though, and I had to get Hailey used to being misted with water to stay cool.

On the way out of town I Gas-buddy (another new verb-to-be) the cheapest fuel, then because of the usual zip-code fiasco, my fuel calculation begins.  I take the number of litres the truck says we have used, convert that to US gallons, then multiply it by the diesel price on the pump, then I go inside and ask for that exact amount, not rounded up or down.  This often takes a little while, but I am not in a hurry and I figure if I spend 15 minutes parked at the pump, walking back and forth to stand in the Slurpee line, that is the price the station is willing to pay for the inconvenience of their pumps.

I got a surprise phone call early that morning; the usual “Can we speak with Mr. ____”.  I always ask who is calling before saying if Mr.____ is or is not available.  Turns out it was Mastercard security inquiring if I have in fact made a surprising number of electronic purchases online in the last little while!  Nope!  So my card was unceremoniously reduced to useless plastic, after all that time spent memorizing the number!  While this would have been quite inconvenient had I had another 3 months on the road, as it turns out the new card should arrive at home shortly before I do.  In the meantime, Visa has stepped in to do it’s part supporting the economy of the US.  Incidentally, the last use of my card was at a parking machine at the airport in Vegas.  Maybe there was a skimmer there?

The map and I decided that we would get off interstate 15 at the earliest opportunity, which is highway 93, which incidentally terminates in my former hometown of Jasper Alberta.  With temps in the 90’s, having all the windows down sometimes does not do it.  Sadly, we had to resort to the A/C quite a few times during the past week.  Only an hour or so north, we saw a National Wildlife Refuge campsite at Upper Pahranagat lake.  All the campsites are waterfront, and there is an amazing variety of waterfowl and shorebirds.  Lots of bats come out at sunset, to thin out the bug population.  Right now, from the camper window as I type, I can see dabbling ducks, diving ducks, wading shorebirds, Canada geese, a muskrat feeding about 50 feet away, and a variety of songbirds and a lizard in the nearby poplar tree.  There are plentiful shade trees, but I still managed to find satellite coverage between them.

And it is FREE!  The one disadvantage though is that it is really close to the highway.  Traffic is down significantly at night, but it is pretty much constant during the day.

Since departing Vegas, it becomes legal to post photos again.


Even though Hailey is outside on her leash, I think we had better get on the road before one of the inhabitants of the shallow end of the wildlife gene pool falls victim to her patience and cunning.

And, very unusual for me, this brings my blog right up to date.  I will publish online before packing up the satellite dish for moving.  So, if there are any other bloggers or readers camped here, you’d better come over right away and say hello, because an hour from now we’ll have the A/C on northbound, till sadly we don’t need it anymore!

And I’d better take some photos today, or there won’t be a post for a while!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Westward Ho!

Heading west from Page there are basically two choices – through Utah and Kanab, or south past Lees Ferry and Jacob lake via Arizona.  Since our main destination included Zion NP, and coming in from the east is not a good choice pulling a trailer because on top of the $25 park entry fee, there is a $15 additional surcharge for oversize vehicles going through the tunnel, we opted for the more southerly route.
From Lees Ferry, it is about an almost 5000’ vertical climb up to Jacob Lake, at the junction of the (still closed) road to the north rim of the Grand Canyon.  The big Duramax/Allison team did it in fine style without even breaking a sweat, and without even wrecking the fuel consumption rate.  What a change, though, as there were numerous patches of snow at that almost 8000’ elevation, and trees!  Lots of trees.  Tall trees.  More trees than I have seen in several months!
There were some tempting, but cool looking camp spots up there and some still-closed forestry campgrounds, but we coasted on down till we were once again on the treeless plain.
Pulling off on Winter road, a non-descript spot by a cattle-guard was a good spot to spend the night. It was windy that evening, but calm by morning and we considered spending another night to unwind from the stress of all the relaxation around Page, but it was not a cat-friendly spot with lots of nasty little burrs.
In the morning as packing progressed, I left a bottle of water on the floor by the door that I had meant to have in the truck.  As soon as I got thirsty, I remembered it, but did not go back to recover it.  After the long grade down into Hurricane and a stop sign at the bottom, I pulled into a parking lot to consult the map, and checked on the water.  Much to my surprise, it was still standing where I had left it!
I guess my driving strategy of no fast starts, stops or violent manoeuvres of any kind to conserve fuel and brakes is working well.  I had word that my previous BLM camp spot, Mosquito Cove, on the doorstep of Zion had been damaged by floods in 2010 and not re-openend, so we cruised sadly by without stopping.  I dropped the rig roadside in Springdale, and made a late afternoon foray into Zion park to get a map of hiking trails, etc.  I managed to find a nice quiet, secluded spot to park in Virgin, and had planned to spend a couple days knocking off some more hikes in Zion – maybe even a repeat of Angels landing, but it was not to be.  The weather turned to wind and rain, and despite a couple of days there, it had not improved much.
Reluctantly, we pulled up stakes and headed into Nevada (! Not Utah, thanks to Al of the Bayfield Bunch)and Valley of Fire State Park.  (I'm sure it used to be in Utah - maybe they've moved it - tectonic plates and all!)
 CIMG7744 I knew that some friends from home were there, and managed to get a campsite directly across from them.  But one night in a paying campground was enough for me, so the next day, I led them out to one of my favourite boondocking spots nearby at Stewart’s Point on Lake Mead.  This is off the North Shore Road leading up from Henderson and Las Vegas.  There is an entry gate on the south end, but last time I was here, not on the north end.  I see now that a fancy new entry facility has been built on the north end, but it is not yet in operation.
From the campsite on Lake Mead, a number of trips back into Valley of Fire were undertaken to do some hikes and to enjoy the unique red-rock scenery.
After a day trip one day, I was returning to camp at Stewart’s Point and saw a large four engine plane doing circuits over the lake.  As I got closer, I could see several individuals parachuting from the plane into the water, followed by other packages also dropped from above.  I assume it was a military para-troop exercise from nearby Nellis AFB.
In the photo below,you can see that the plane just dropped something by parachute, visible to the right.  Two boats were standing by at the drop zone, but my impression of the exercise was that the paratroopers landed in the water, inflated a boat, then motored off in it.  I think the other boats were just there as for safety and as observers.  It was about a mile away, so hard to see the details.image
Much to my surprise, the same thing was performed well after dark the next night!