Hi, everyone! Did you miss me? I missed talking to y’all!
With Mom sharing the driving, we made good time getting back to Texas, although we stopped to take in some sights and have some fun along the way.
We traveled on August 24 along Interstate 90, which at 3,021 miles, is the longest Interstate in the Country, connecting Washington and Massachusetts. We passed many cattle ranches and hay and corn fields in Washington, and the terrain reminded me quite a bit of Wyoming. Surprisingly, Idaho isn’t the only state known for growing potatoes—Adams County, Washington claims to be the No. 1 Potato Producing County in the Country! Idaho was quite pretty, with its Lake Coeur d’Alene spanning 25 miles. Montana’s rolling hills were home to many cattle ranches, not to mention lots of pronghorn deer grazing in the area. I was amazed at how many times we crossed the Clark Fork River, though at 319 miles in length, it does make sense. And I marveled at seeing the glorious “Our Lady of the Rockies”, a statue of Mother Mary, sitting high on a distant hilltop, arms outstretched, engulfing the area in her protection. After a very long day and watching a magnificent sunset, we stopped for the night at Three Bears Outfitters in Butte, Montana.
We hit the road early on Thursday, traveling down I-15, leading us through Idaho and Utah. The skies were hazy from wildfires still smoldering outside Idaho Falls. We hit Salt Lake City around 4:30, right in time for rush hour, and remained in traffic for about 1.5 hours. Mom did pretty well at the wheel considering she hasn’t even driven a car in that kind of traffic for several years. Meanwhile, Dad suffered a flashback to the nightmare of commuting to New York every day for 10 years! The silver lining: we witnessed another sensational sunset. We finally arrived at the Wal-mart in Richfield, UT, our “campground” for the evening. And a good choice it was, with its easy-on/easy-off the highway locale and nice-sized parking lot.
"Rise and shine", Mom said. Friday was another early morning on the road. We stopped for photo ops in Utah at The San Raphael Swell and Castle Valley, where the Mormons once traversed and settled in their pursuit of Zion. Hard to imagine living in these areas, but now as then, there are many who call these desert lands “home”.
Fortunately, the day's destination was only about 5 hours away.-the Wal-mart in Grand Junction, Colorado, While the drive was short, parking was a nightmare—they were seal coating and had a huge portion of the lot closed down. Dad’s driving skills were tested, but he passed with flying colors and squeezed us in. While Dad met his former work colleague Ben for lunch, Mom got her hair cut. Then the three of us did some food shopping.
After a fitful night’s sleep, we began our Saturday travels with a lovely sunrise (unfortunately, the one photo I have is fuzzy from being taken at 50 miles/hour and it includes bugs on the windshield!). We followed Ben’s suggestion and visited the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. While we couldn’t drive the rig down the Park road beyond the Visitor Center, we were able to watch the film and walk to several viewpoints to take in this awesome sight. The Black Canyon, named for the lack of sunlight it receives, is billed as being “deep, steep, and narrow” and contains some of the oldest rock found in North America. It was pretty cool—I’m glad we stopped to visit!
The scenery along U.S. Highway 50 was just gorgeous! It offered spectacular views of Blue Mesa, Gunnison National Forest, and the Curecanti National Recreation Area. And we saw a really cool mine. But if you are in a rush, it is best you not take this highway. It has windy, steep mountain roads and just one lane of traffic in each direction in most areas. We overnighted at another easily-accessible Wal-mart, this time in Trinidad, Colorado. We did more shopping, bought a rotisserie chicken for dinner, and snuggled up for a good night’s sleep.
On Sunday, we traveled through New Mexico, The Land of Enchantment, though I can’t say I saw anything especially enchanting along our route. Then we entered Texas, and a fine welcome we got: heat and humidity up the ying yang! We pushed ourselves to travel a bit further than we initially planned so we could avoid Dallas/Fort Worth traffic on Monday morning. We ended up staying the night at the Wal-mart in Denton, complete with yet another shopping trip. I’m telling you, these “free” overnight stays are killing my wallet!
We arrived safely back “home” to Escapees Rainbow Park in Livingston, Texas. We were all grateful to stay planted for a week. But alas, there is no rest for the weary. We barely got our jacks down and my parents went on a major cleaning binge! Within the next four days, Dad washed Big Boomer and the rig, waxed both of them, replaced one of the rig’s tires, cleaned all the rig screens, and made a bunch of minor repairs. Mom cleaned every nook, cranny, and crevice inside the rig. Additionally, she laundered the heck out of everything. Every coat, hat, sweatshirt, blanket, pillow, rug, sneaker, and slipper—yes, even my undershorts and shirt—were put through the wringer! I’m lucky she didn’t stick me in there! Fortunately, we didn’t have to rely on the Splendide for all of this laundering (it probably would have exploded from being overused). Escapees has a clean laundry room, and at $1.25/load, it is a real bargain.
While in town we visited the bank, the library, the Dollar Store, Lowe’s, Radio Shack, Wal-mart, Murphy’s Gas Station, O’Reilly’s Auto Parts, Tractor Supply Company, and the butcher counter at the Phillips 66 Gas Station/Market to buy sirloin, rib eye, and New York strip steaks (weird place for a butcher shop, but great beef!). We stopped at the County Clerk’s office to drop off our absentee ballot requests, too. And no visit to Livingston is complete without eating at Joe’s Italian Grill. We gorged ourselves on an 18-inch cheese pizza and calzone stuffed with sausage, ricotta, and mozzarella. To die for! A 5-cheeser dinner, for sure. As you can see, we may only be “home” a few weeks out of the year, but we wholeheartedly support our local business community!
We visited Conroe, expanding our knowledge of nearby Texas towns. About an hour from Livingston, this is a good-sized shopping town, with a different box store on every corner. While there, Mom donated blood at the Regional Medical Center. The place was huge and like a country club, complete with valet parking. We also had breakfast with friends from New Jersey (they were visiting family in the area) at a terrific little place, 105 Café. Good food, huge portions, reasonable prices. Can’t beat these small holes in the wall!
Well, it was fun being home, but we depart from Livingston tomorrow. You see, starting on September 14, my parents will be Santa's elves, working for their second holiday peak season at the Amazon Fulfillment Center in Haslet, TX! (I sure hope it is cooler in those parts of Texas. Since we have been in the State, temperatures have been 90+, with humidity and dew point making it feel at least 10 degrees higher!)
Once we get settled into our RV park, I’ll make good on my promise to provide a financial recap of our Alaskan trip as well as a retrospect of what we would do differently. Until then, Happy Labor Day!