We both tried to sleep in our first morning off, but all those days of 4am wake ups definitely had their impact. Lee was up at 5am, and I laid in bed until 6am and then just gave up and got up. It was probably for the best though, because we needed to leave on Sunday in order to make it to San Antonio for our Christmas Tree job orientation and there was a ton to do. The first thing I did though before getting started was put my wedding ring back on. This is by far the longest it has been off my finger in 27 years of marriage and it felt great having it back on. With my rings on I thought I could face the extremely dirty RV. One great thing about living in an RV is no matter how trashed the place is (and it was the worst it has ever been) it doesn’t take that long to clean it up. I spent the morning working on the Beet Harvest summary post and cleaning, cleaning, cleaning. I felt so great once the floors were done that I just had to text my friend Linda and once most of it was done I had a nice long phone conversation with my friend Cori. Her parents live near San Antonio and we were excited we were all going to get to see each other, but even more excited when I found out that our assignment was in the same town that her parents live in, and where they will be spending most of November and December. Nice!! (Since we get to hire our own help, I’m thinking about hiring Greg to dress up in a Christmas tree suit and stand on the sidewalk with a giant arrow spinning it around, and dancing and stuff. All business is show business. – Lee)
We also spent a couple of hours planning our route south. Originally, I didn’t want to go through Denver, but there really wasn’t a better way that didn’t involve major detours. Open campgrounds were somewhat of an issue (our furnace is still broken so boon docking is off the table until we have the time to get that fixed), so after exploring the options it turned out the simplest and easiest route was the main one. For route planning we use Good Sam Trip Manager to create the route and then I use Ultimate Campgrounds (favorite resource for public campgrounds and BLM land), Passport America (favorite resource for half price one night stays), and All Stays (favorite resource for Walmarts, Cracker Barrels, etc that allow overnight stays) to find places to stop. More often than you would think there are no decent places to stay (especially in off season) around the logical stopping points along the route and you either have to change the route or add days to the trip. Since we have a pretty tight schedule adding days was out of the question, so it took awhile to find the right stopping points. I really like the Good Sam format, but they don’t have all the places you can stay and what I wouldn’t give for one comprehensive source for information.
I exchanged texts with friends and family and caught up with people on social media. I didn’t dive into reading blogs yet though, I’ll have lots of time in the truck for that over the next few days, but I did exchange some email correspondence that was work related with some folks. We are lucky to be living on the road at a time when there are so many ways to communicate with people, but once you get behind it’s a ton of work to get caught back up! What I did not spend much time doing was resting, which surprised me. I thought I would sort of collapse and sleep/rest all day, but we both had energy and a list of chores that needed done. We did reach out to Jen and Kyle (the young couple we met before we started working) and had dinner with them. We had all heard about the restaurant called South 40 , and decided to try it out. The restaurant wasn’t that great (overpriced, with mediocre food and service), but we had a wonderful two hours with them. They shared their night shift experience with us, and we really enjoyed getting to know them better. Such a great young couple and a terrific example of how to happily live on less. We called it an early evening though and once again we were in bed and asleep by 8:30pm. Since we have a longish drive day tomorrow and early night was called for.
Sunday was travel day and we were both awake by 4am. This wasn’t by design, but since we like to get an early start, probably for the best. We finished up our packing up routine and were hitched up and on the road by 8am. We spent another 45 minutes at the local Flying J gassing up and putting air in all the truck and trailer tires. Every one of Lee’s four pressure gauges gives a different reading and it is driving him crazy. He tried to find a place with a certified master gauge for comparison over the weekend, but was unsuccessful so it was “best guess”. Definitely something we will take care of in San Antonio. Anyway, we started out on 2 lane highway with miles and miles of grasslands. We actually passed through the Thunder Basin National Grassland at one point and I have to say this is definitely not my favorite terrain. As a beef lover, I appreciate the need for all of that grazing land, but as landscapes go it is pretty boring.
As a way to kill time, I caught up on reading blogs. I have a pretty strict rule with myself to actually pay attention to the scenery as we drive, but since I was so far behind and the scenery was so boring I broke that rule. It was really wonderful getting caught up with everyone and there were so many great posts, but I thought I would mention two very informative ones here. Jim and Barb did a post on adding an adult dog to their family while on the road that I thought was very interesting and Kelly wrote a fantastic recap of her summer work kamping in Alaska which is packed full of useful data. If either of those topics is of interest to you I definitely recommend checking these posts out. While I was reading we passed into Wyoming and the road got quite a bit rougher for awhile. It’s interesting to me how the same road can have so much variation from state to state. I took a turn driving, and then eventually we ended up at the Douglas KOA. We rarely stay at KOA’s, but as I mentioned our choice of campgrounds was pretty limited. It turned out to be very nice though and I got to use my AARP discount for the very first time. I saved $1.75 and at $35 the campground was on the high side, but practically empty. We got into our extremely level spot, ate, watched some TV and went to bed. We are both trying to stay up later and get back to normal patterns, but were both asleep by 8:30pm.
I did sleep in until 7:20am though and felt very well rested. We took our time getting out and left pretty late (for us) at 9:30am. Lee wasn’t concerned because it was only a 350 mile day and almost all of it was major highway, but less than 20 minutes into the trip we saw huge signs stating we needed to detour because of 65 plus mph winds on I-25 between Douglas and Cheyenne. That was a first, and they didn’t actually provide an alternative route. Cell coverage was poor, but thankfully I had my paper atlas to rely on. When we first started doing this my friend Sue talked about how she marks her route on a paper atlas and I liked the idea. I change marker colors every year and it shows what roads we have been on, so sometimes we can choose an alternate route we haven’t traveled. Occasionally I mark some of the route, before we actually take it and I swear every time I do that something weird happens. This time instead of a relatively simple drive down I-25 we had to travel about 120 miles out of our way on 2 lane highway. The winds on these roads were high and had a severe impact on our gas mileage, (7.2 mpg as opposed to our normal 10mpg), and trucks stops (Outpost Truck Stop in Lusk, WY was pretty sketchy) were few and far between, but we made it to Cheyenne and got back on I-25 by 2:00pm. I took most of driving that section and it wasn’t pleasant driving in those winds. The truck and RV were pretty stable, but the tumbleweeds and other stuff blowing in front of us across the road did not make for relaxing driving.
One nice thing is as soon as we hit Colorado the scenery changed for the better. There were mountains in the distance and it was really pretty. The roads improved as well and thankfully we hit the outskirts of Denver by 3:30pm. No one wants to drive through a major city in rush hour traffic with an RV and although we were cutting it close we were thought we might be OK. We further hedged our bets by taking the outer belt E-470. This was a toll road, but we drove on it anyway even though we didn’t have an EZpass of any kind. We have run into this a couple of times and here is my take on this. If the state does not provide an actual person for me to pay then they will just need to send me a bill which I will happily pay. They have my license plate and from that can easily get my address, and it’s not my fault they have gone to an electronic system. In particular this time I was really glad we made that choice because the traffic on the outer belt was very manageable, and once we went back on I-25 south of Denver it was much more congested. At this point it was after 4pm and we still had to go to Colorado Springs and make it to the campground.
Lee was pretty tired by this point, and although I offered to switch drivers again, he stuck it out. We made it through Colorado Springs and off the freeway at 5:01pm, but then had to drive an additional 20 miles to the campground. Not really sure how that happened. Generally we don’t pick campgrounds that far from the main roads on travel days, but it ended up being kind of cool, because we got to pass Cheyenne Mountain where NORAD is located. We both remembered this location from the movie War Games and it was interesting being so close to it. You can’t get anywhere near it (all roads say official business only), but it was still cool to be so close. (I was hoping to take some time in the morning and do a tour, but they stopped doing tours except for large groups of people who are in some way associated with their mission. Such a bummer. But here are some pictures I found online of the iconic tunnel entrance and the famous door. – Lee)
Several more miles down the road we finally made it to Mountaindale Campground and Cabins. This campground was pretty far out into the country and it was surrounded by beautiful hills. There were deer wandering the campground freely and lots of RV’s in use. Definitely not what we were expecting. Turns out this campground is no longer affiliated with Good Sam and as of Nov 1st goes to seasonal folks only in the winter. Thankfully she had a spot for us as we were exhausted and although I had sticker shock at the $53 per night fee, we paid it. It’s an odd campground. Lots of people living here year round (they had 17 kids for trick or treat night on the premises), but it still looks and feels like a campground. The monthly rate is $495 plus electric which is reasonable, so again not quite sure why the daily rate was so high. Still at this point it was 6pm and we were done in. We were supposed to call our youngest daughter, but texted her and rescheduled because we were both so tired and there was no cell service anyway. (We can call using WiFi but that’s been hit or miss in the past, and I was in no mood to mess with unreliable technology. – Lee) . This day really illustrates why we like to leave early and arrive early at campgrounds, in order to have time to make adjustments. Still, it was a beautiful place and very, very quiet. It was the first campground I have stayed at without any road noise in a really long time.
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