Going West

Day two, and while we knew we had a long way to go, we didn’t want to spend all our time driving. There was going to be stuff to stop and see along the way, and when it was something that caught our eye we wanted to be able to stop. I much prefer traveling this way, though sometimes it makes a mess when you are supposed to be somewhere at a certain date or time.

We were supposed to be somewhere a few times along this trip. The first was Colorado, near Denver. Sue’s niece and nephew had just had a baby, and everyone wanted to see it. Sue and the girls wanted to make cooing noise at it also – I think they practiced sometimes when I wasn’t around.

Colorado is a ways from Milwaukee, especially in a gas guzzleing RV and with two girls. All the more reason to stop sometimes so we could get out and stretch.

Not all the spots were that great.

We got through Iowa and entered Nebraska without any problems, then started looking for somewhere to stay. We’d gone a bit longer into the day than planned, which would happen from time to time, and Sue found a state park for us to stay in. We decided to take a rest day, and took two nights. There were a few things to do in the area, and there was a water park.

In the morning we headed for the Lee G Simmons Safari. They wouldn’t let us through on motorcycles, so we unhooked the trailer from Cliff and took him off-reading. Really, we were the only RV there. Everyone else had jeeps and such, but he did fine.

Of course, we were there for the animals. It wasn’t quite Africa, but there was wildlife roaming around. It was late morning and getting hot, so by “roaming around” I mean “hanging out in the shade.” Smart animals, I think.

And yes, I was aware that the wildlife was against the fence and as far from the road as they could get. I think I would have picked that option too, had I been in their position.

Right around the middle of the safari was a parking area where you could have lunch (we did), and walk to a couple enclosures. One held a bear (black), another had a couple wolves (hiding), and the last some bald eagles. These were apparently rescues who had been injured. I couldn’t tell if they were still hurt, and the staff I asked didn’t know if they would be released once they were strong enough – I got the feeling the answer was “no” but they didn’t spread it around. 

There was also an overlook above an algae filled pond with pelicans and a swan, and some other birds just hanging out. These weren’t confined like the eagles, and I assumed it was because they weren’t as likely to wander off. 

Right after I took that picture, a huge fight broke out between these three. I didn’t hear what they were fighting over, but guessing it was politics. It’s always politics.

We got back in Cliff to head back to the park (and the pool we knew they had, it was quite hot out). The way out was blocked by our first bison jam of the trip (which didn’t happen as often as I thought it would, if I’d been asked to give a number before we’d left). This one wasn’t bad, and we got a nice up close look on the way out.

Back at the state park, we took Cliff directly to the pool, which was actually a full-on water park with slides, lazy river, all that stuff. Everyone got into their swim suit and cooled off.

On the Road For Realz – Too Many Wheels 2016 Trip

Leaving early meant we didn’t have to worry about traffic as we got out of Milwaukee. Sue likes the mornings, so she got to drive the first leg. I slept a little more, since I really think mornings start too early, and are best slept through.

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Cliff got just about 200 miles to a tank of gas. Which meant we had to move 400 miles on each travel day to “earn” a rest day and maintain our 200 mile total average. On this first day, everything worked more or less like Sue and I thought it should, and Wisconsin passed under Cliff’s wheels without incident.

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Sue had found a thing for use to look at along the river. The National River Museum and Aquarium was located in Dubuque, and we decided to stop.

I hadn’t even heard of the place, but it was a rather large complex with a few buildings right on the river (which makes sense I guess).

We had a quick dinner in the parking lot and then headed into the museum. After the day driving, some of the riders were a bit cranky, and I had to learn to deal with it. Actually, I didn’t handle it as well as I probably could have, but I am used to being on my own, so I don’t have a lot of experience with stubborn refusals to do something.

Most of the aquarium was really cool, and there was also information on how the river system across North American supported trade, life, and transport over time. Also, some of the damage we’ve done, usually through ignorance.

Outside there were a couple aviaries and some old steamboats, but we’d arrived late and some of the exhibits were closing even as we were there. Not that it stopped us from walking around where we could (and getting locked out of the buildings but inside the complex once).

Once there wasn’t anything left we could see (and we’d gotten back to the parking lot), we found parking also along the river. The mayflies were crazy (even though it was late June), which made the playground a dangerous place to be. Sue and I still got a bit of a walk in, which I needed.

 

 

First The Party – Too Many Wheels 2016 Trip

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We booked a picnic area in Grant Park, a long thin park not far from our house and along Lake Michigan. It wasn’t the site that we wanted, which one of the roving beer trucks had already claimed. But, that meant there was a beer truck also in the park during our party. So, bonus (if you like beer).

The back up location for us meant we didn’t have a large shelter, which meant Sue was anxious over the weather for the weeks leading up to the day. We didn’t have a plan b for the event, had a cater coming, had invited more than a hundred people (we also had no idea how many were showing up). The good news is that our Ontario trip took up some of those last couple weeks, saving us time to worry, or get anything done.

We wanted Cliff and the RX3 there, so people could see them. He was mostly, but not completely packed, and it meant anyone who did come to the party could see our summer home. We also managed some last minute decorations.

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Sue also had the idea to let people sign Cliff instead of a guest book, and we made sure there were sharpies available.

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What we didn’t do was get someone to focus on taking pictures, so while Sue and I each had a camera we spent way more of our time talking and enjoying ourselves than documenting events. I am not even sad about it, it was a really great day (and the food was amazing). About the only thing that went a little wrong was the beer keg arriving late, but everyone really tried to empty it anyway.

There wasn’t much else to do other than finish packing and get on the road. Sunday the last of our personal stuff and the food went in, and we topped off the water. We spent that night in Cliff, technically on the road even though we were next to the house, and left early in the morning.

What the Plan Was – Too Many Wheels 2016

So, while we didn’t have a plan for Alaska we had worked out a route through the USA – a route which showed how uncommitted to Alaska we probably were. It all started with Alyssa and the National Park Service. It was their 100th anniversary in 2016, so they had decided to give every 4th grader (which Alyssa had just completed) a National Park’s Pass for the summer. These passes are awesome, but they are also $80 a year for non-seniors, and we didn’t want it to go to waste. So, we wanted to see parks, and Sue’s niece and just delivered. All the woman wanted to see the baby, so we had to stop there. And there was the Black Hills, I had friends near there to see – and so on.

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Even this isn’t a perfect picture of the route, since you can see the pin in South Dakota that isn’t linked up. We were going to wander all over, see lots of cool things, and then get to Alaska and do…something.

Since we were going to be gone for months, instead of asking friends to look after the house and cats we decided to find house sitters. Some internet research turned up a few websites, and we decided on one to use. One day at work I threw an ad up, and sent Sue a link so she could review it – but before she even had the chance we had offers. And more offers. And more offers.

We learned that people travel all over, jumping from one house sit to the next. Long stays, like ours, were rare and people wanted those. It was basically somewhere to live for the whole summer, in exchange for looking after our cats and mowing the lawn. It was a good deal. We narrowed down the applicants over time and settled on a retired couple from Virginia. They would arrive on Saturday, the day of our party, and we would leave on Monday morning. So there was a day to settle every one in and take care of any last minute things. Or we hoped, anyway.

We also left 10 days before school started on our return. It would a chance to unpack, return to “real life” and get some school supply shopping in before classes started. So it’s not like we didn’t have a plan at all. We were just a little vague on some of the details. We also didn’t really have a budget. I knew, if we didn’t travel fast, Cliff the RV could be less expensive than the motorcycles – but we would have to travel at a certain speed to get to Alaska at all. So we set a goal of 200 miles average, 50 miles less than I plan on the motorcycles, which made it just possible to make the trip.

Just.

Too Many Wheels 2016

 

We hadn’t been back that long when it was time to start planning for the next trip. Actually, we had been planning for months.

Sue and I had gotten married in January (on the first, if you wanted to know), and for our honeymoon we had decided to go to Alaska. We also decided we would bring Sue’s two girls, Kaylei (12) and Alyssa (10) along with – to make it a Familymoon.

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Since they wouldn’t be up for the 9,000 miles we’d planned to travel on the back of the RX3 (to be honest, the rider seat isn’t all the comfortable. I don’t want to think about the pillion), we would handle most of the big miles in Cliff, our 1984 Winnebago. It’s not large for a Class A RV, 23feet, but it was still much, much larger than I was used to traveling in. I also wasn’t sure about traveling with the kids, since I really do like traveling solo. The thing I love about Sue is that, traveling with her, I don’t feel any of the stress I felt traveling with other partners in the past. She just understood.

We planned to leave not long after school ended, so we would have any much time in the summer as we could before needing to be back for school to start. It was looking like a really long trip, with stops at friends and family along the way, some national parks visits, and all before we arrived in Alaska. Once we got to Alaska we didn’t have much of a plan. Well, we didn’t have a plan at all.

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I told you she just understood.

Also, since we had gotten married on a bitter cold day in January, we hadn’t really had a wedding reception. So, two days before we were supposed to leave we decided to have a party. Since, you know, we wouldn’t have enough to do.