West 2018

Wednesday August 1st

Our trip west begins on our 48th anniversary and it is fitting since we have spent so much time traveling!  Ashland, Kentucky and Champaign, Illinois were our first two stops.  We forgot how vast the corn and soybean farming is in the midwestern states...fields stretching as far as one can see on both sides of the highway, thousands of acres...mile after mile...state after state!


We arrived at the Prarie Flower Campground just in time to see up, change and head for the High Trestle Trail.  We parked in Madrid and ate dinner at the Flat Tire Lounge.

Then we road the trail to Woodward, and returned in time to see the blue neon lights.

Since the campground had no water hook ups and we gave up dry camping with our tents, we decided to move on west. We decided to go to Yankton, SD, to avoid bad weather. On our way we saw lots of garage sales.  Why you ask?  Well, it was the Highway 141 Garage Sale, a 100 mile-long garage sale that occurs the first weekend of August every year!

Yankton is quite a metropolis by SD standards.  It is on the Missouri River, hypes Lewis and Clark and has a neat recreation area on a lake named after them.


Interior (SD) was our destination today. It is adjacent to the Badlands NP.  So after we set up camp, we got to drive on the Park Loop Road.  It’s always neat to see the unique landscapes in the Park!


Today we traveled the back roads to our campground in Hill City (SD).  It’s Bike Week in Sturgis and it draws hundreds of thousands (record is 700,000) of motorcyclists from all over the world!  How do the small towns in this region cope with the crowds? Well, some like Hill City close Main Street to everyone but motorcyclists!

We arrived in time to set up camp before a late lunch. Then we headed to Custer  and Rockford to check out the Mickelson Trail parking areas. The first is urban, the second is really, really remote!


Today, we rode the Mickelson Trail. In the morning we rode from Custer north to the Crazy Horse Memorial.  It is really well maintained packed gravel. This part of the trail departed from the highway and was very pretty.

Back in Custer for lunch, Gretchen befriended two of the other kind of bikers!

In the afternoon, we rode the trail south towards Pringle...with pretty spots away from the highway.


Back on the Mickelson Trail today, we started at the Mystic Trailhead.  There were other folks on the trail at this remote spot!  There are three tunnels in this area. First we rode north up hill to see the first tunnel.

The trail went through a beautiful canyon with several trestle bridges, the one below was at least 150 feet above Castle Creek.

We returned to Mystic in time for lunch, then road south uphill to see the other two tunnels.

What is amazing is this 100 mile railroad was built in 1890 using horses, hard human labor, some explosives and primitive tools in just 255 days.  It included 4 tunnels and 100 trestle bridges!

Beautiful day to ride a bicycle!


We decided to tour Custer State Park today, one of the oldest (1919) and largest (72,000 acres) in the nation.  We drove the wildlife loop, a vast prarie grassland where we saw buffalo, burrows, deer and pronghorn.

The State Game Lodge is an impressive place that served as the Calvin Coleridge summer White House in 1927.

The Iron Mountain Road weaves up through  ponderosa pine forests with two tunnels that  frame Mt. Rushmore.

The Needles Highway is spectacular with  views of rock pillars around every corner.

We were so glad we took the tour today. It was a day of eye candy, and we encourage anyone in the area to take the tour.

We ate a piece of rhubarb pie at the Purple Pie Place the other day and it was wonderful! So, we stopped in Custer to buy one for the road!


Today was a long day of driving across Wyoming and Montana. We stopped in Big Timber for the night.

The KOA staff suggested we go to the Timber Bar for dinner.  It was a happening place and we had to wait for a table.  But, the locally sourced burgers were super.  Glad we stopped in Big Timber.

Tomorrow we drive the rest of the way across Montana before dropping into Idaho to our next campground.


We rode the Trail of Hiawatha today!  It is a beautiful bike ride; 15 miles downhill witn  9 tunnels and 7 bridges over a little less than a 1000 foot drop in elevation.

The trip begins and ends with a ride through the 1.66 mile Taft Tunnel.  Riding this unlit, 47 degree F tunnel is quite an experience.

Taft Tunnel west entrance.

The bridges vary in length but they are all quite high!

The trail surface is very rocky, not well maintained at all. Every mile reminded me of why I quit biking on Forest Service roads fifteen years ago!

Is the Hiawatha a great biking experience? You bet!  Would we recommend it to everyone? Absolutely! Would we do it again? No way! 


We rode the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes, from Harrison along the lake toward Plummer.  The area was very hazy due to the wildfires burning in Idaho and Washington but it did not smell like smoke.

After crossing the Chatcolet Bridge, we climbed through a pine forest until we reached the top of the mountain at 13 miles, then we turned around.

It was a beautiful ride, all paved and we really do enjoy riding in 14% humidity!  We not in Virginia anymore!


It was an easy drive to Prosser, WA today. We’re in wine country so we did a wine tasting at Alexander Nicole; the 2011 Washington Winery of the year.  Their wines were really good!

We drove out into the country to find Bill’s Berry Stand, a real bust! But along the way we saw grapes growing to the horizon, orchards everywhere, and acres upon acres oh hop fields!  We’re in a very dry area so all of the crops are irrigated!


We rode the Sacagawea Trail Loop today, twenty miles starting in Richland.  It is a beautiful setting as the route hugs both sides of the Columbia River. The only problem was the signage.  It was the worst of any trail we have ridden. We were constantly trying to determine if we were on the trail after every unmarked intersection or bridge crossing!

Note the haze from the wild fire smoke.
After cleaning up and washing the car and clothes, we headed to 14 Hands Winery for a tasting.  We like their red blends and the tasting was a treat, since all the wines were reserve ones only sold at the winery or via their wine club.


We drove in the haze through the Yakima valley and the rugged landscape to the north on our way to Seattle.  We got settled in our campground, then Greg came and picked us up.  We went on a walk in Bothell, picked up dinner and went back to eat at the camper.  Looking forward to spending a few days with you Greg!


Today we went to the botanical gardens at the University of Washington including the Japanese Garden.

After lunch at Belle Epicurean we drove around some of the posh neighborhoods bordering Lake Washington before heading to Kubota Gardens. The 20 acre gardens were developed by a Japanese immigrant and eventually acquired by the city for a public park!

After Gretchen and Greg got their steps for the day, we headed back to his apartment for Happy hour. We were glad Greg gave up drinking for he had an excellent bottle of wine on the shelf which we loved!   

Dinner at The Cottage in Bothell ended our day; a fun day exploring many new ( for Gretchen and me) parts of Seattle!




Family Fun

Thursday, July 19th

It will be a weekend of family fun as Kelley and Katie are coming to Lynchburg with the grandkids! Kelley and Maggie are arriving tonight.


It was a very early start today! Grandma is taking Maggie on her first train ride to Charlottesville. They had a great time and we heard all about it when we picked them up at the station!

Maggie wanted to go up on a mountain so we drove home via the Blue Ridge Parkway. We stopped at Humpback Rocks and Maggie learned what it was like to live in the mountains in the 1890s.

We drove south on the Parkway stopping at overlooks before arriving at Devil’s Backbone for lunch.

Katie, Audrey and Henry drove to the Burg tonight after she got off of work.


After breakfast we went to the City Market and took a hike around downtown. AND...Henry got to Pokémon!

After lunch we drove out River Road so Maggie, Audrey and Henry could see the big trestle the train goes on over the James River.

Then we headed to Otter Creek for a short hike and a chance for the kids to play in the creek!


Alas, time for everyone to depart for home.

We had a wonderful visit this weekend!  Thanks K and K for coming to Lynchburg.  We appreciate your efforts.  It’s always a joy to see you Kelley, Katie, Henry, Maggie and Audrey!!  XOXOXO


Summer Days

Sunday July 1st

We met David in Danville this afternoon to bring Audrey and Henry to Lynchburg for summer vacation!


We went to SML in time to have lunch at VISA. Then we put the motorboat in the water and headed out onto the lake.  We anchored in a cove and everyone got in the water.  The kids were hungry after swimming and needed a snack!

Henry tried fishing...successfully!

Henry had some luck fishing and Audrey decided she needed a fishing rod too!


We went to Saunders Orchard this morning to get peaches and stopped for lunch on the way home.  Otherwise, it was a chill day. EXCEPT, Audrey was helping Grandpa water plants and she got stung by a wasp!  It appears they were trying to build a nest in the screen porch steps.


It’s the Fourth of July and we’re headed to the lake.  However, there is not much action at the sail club since they moved the games to this coming weekend during family camp. We motored up the Blackwater to a cove for a swim before heading to the Benders.

Audrey and Henry had a great time playing with their cousins, William, Benjamin, Hunter and Grady.  And Audrey caught several fish with her new pink rod!

We enjoyed a great Fourth of July dinner, hamburgers and hot dogs with all the fixings.  Then Josh set off fire works with a little help from the kids!

We had a wonderful family get together today.  Thanks Jenny and Jeff.  Great to see you Janelle, Jessica and Josh!


Remember that wasp bite?  Well Audrey’s arm became red and swollen to the point Grandma thought she should see a doctor.

Katie got an appointment with the pediatrician this afternoon so we had to cut vacation short by a day.  Grandma took the kids back to Hillsborough in time to go to the doctors.  Audrey did have cellulitis and needed antibiotics which put her on the road to recovery!

Great having you guys with us this week Audrey and Henry.  Grandma and Grandpa love you lots!


Mini Shakedown Trip

Friday, June 15

We are headed to Titusville, PA, to ride several bike trails and to test everything in our new camper. Our first night is in the Wrights Orchard Station Campground near Altoona, PA.  We could not believe where our GPS was telling us to turn; into a rental storage facility!  However, hidden behind the storage buildings was a beautiful little campground with perfectly level sites and groomed grass and flowers everywhere.


We decided to avoid the interstates today and enjoy the scenery.  Well, let’s just say that western PA has lots of narrow, hilly, winding roads that get your GPS confused! But we did see many small towns and lots of beautiful scenery before we reached the Oil Creek Family Campground. The campground was packed with folks, mostly from the region.  Gretchen took one look at the bathrooms and said she was not stepping foot in one again!  The bathrooms here definitely make the list of the worst 5 we have ever encountered!  Thank goodness our Mini has a full bathroom!


After a leisurely start we rode the Oil Creek and the Queen City trails to Titusville; beautiful tree canopied paved trails! On the way back we stopped at the Drake Museum, the site of the first oil well in the world.  

The museum has a working replica of Drake’s well that pumps oil from the spot 69.5 feet beneath the earth on the exact spot of the original well!  (They recycle the oil pumped). The interesting tidbit is that Drake’s financial backers had sent him a letter to halt funding for his drilling days before he hit oil...but he had not received it! Oh, and the layer he hit oil in was so small, had he drilled two feet to the left he would have missed it. So luck was on Drake’s side, he drilled the first successful oil well in the world and the oil boom in western Pennsylvania was initiated!  Note: although many people became wealthy from oil revenues, Drake died a pauper.

We loved the museum, well done and very educational!  Total miles today - 25 miles.


Another day, another beautiful ride on the Sandy Creek Trail.  We found the access parking lot at the Belmar Bridge, a 1,385’ span high above the Allegheny River a little south of Franklin. 

First, we rode the paved, tree canopied trail east along Sandy Creek as it gently climbs to the terminus at Van.  Along the way we passed through a tunnel!

Sandy Creek is a pretty meandering stream through a forested area with few signs of civilization on the eastern end.

After returning to the bridge, we rode past quite a few mansions along the Allegheny River to the trail's end 5 miles down river.  Today we logged 25 miles upon returning to our car.

Thunderstorms were in the forecast but we rode under blue skies.  However, by the time we returned to Franklin, the clouds darkened and it rained so hard we could barely see to drive on our way back to our campground!


Today we planned to ride the Allegheny River Trail north from Emlenton about 15 miles.  Two tunnels are on this section, the Rockland (2868’) and the Kennerdell (3350’).

We met these folks from Pittsburgh at the Rockland Tunnel and shortly thereafter, we became a trail work crew.  A storm last night blew trees down across the trail about 10 miles from where we started.  We cleared room to pass around two trees but a huge tulip poplar centered on the pavement halted our progress.  So we never got to the Kennerdell Tunnel.  We logged 21 miles today and the scenery was beautiful!

After our ride we visited Foxburg, the only town we saw in the region with some upscale amenities.  It must be the place where the people who own mansions along the river hang out on weekends!

Our last stop was at the Kennerdell Overlook. The tunnel goes under the mountain eliminating the trip around the oxbow in the river. In the photo below, we were standing on the land between the oxbow in the river.


Eastward ho, driving across PA on Interstate 80 to see Priscilla and Phil was our destination today.  

We arrived at their new house with the grand view late afternoon and Phil gave us a tour before Priscilla got home from work.  Your house is spectacular guys!  We are so happy you made your retirement dream come true.


We had a great time hanging out with Priscilla and Phil.  Thursday we went for a hike in the state game lands and Susie and Jim joined us for dinner. Great seeing you guys.  Friday we hung out with Phil while Priscilla worked and met Sue Byerly for lunch!  Great seeing you Sue!  Saturday Stephanie came in the morning so we got to see Natalie again and meet Luke for the first time.  What a treat!  Thanks Stephanie.  And thank your Priscilla and Phil for you hospitality and friendship! BTW, I still think your homestead needs a name!

In the afternoon we drove to Harpers Ferry to our campsite in the KOA.


We met Sally in Frederick for brunch at the White Rabbit Gastropub to celebrate her 65th birthday!  We all ordered the same thing, the item that convinced Sally to choose the restaurant...Fried Green Benedict. Imagine a biscuit with a fried green tomato, topped with poached eggs and hollandaise sauce with a sprinkle of savory salt. It was great! Happy birthday Sally!

After lunch we drove to Thurmont to see if Pryors Orchards market was open for the season.  It was with a very limited selection so Gwen and Sally will have to return in a few weeks when the peaches arrive!

Next stop was Cunningham Falls State Park.  We all remembered being at the falls decades ago so we decided stop and see if it was as we remembered.  After hiking the trail (total 1.5 miles) to the falls, we all agreed our memories failed us!  

Great seeing you Sally and spending the day hanging out!  See you soon.


We stayed in Harpers Ferry today since we are stopping at our RV dealer to have a few things fixed tomorrow.  However, it was easy to pass the time between touring the battlefield and visiting Charles Town.


Warren fixed the leak in our toilet and he fixed the brake problem we've had with the Aliner and now with the Mini.  It was the brake controller.  The new one he installed seems to work beautifully; it's like driving another camper/vehicle combination!

We had a great shakedown trip.  We love the Mini, it is very comfortable and not too big to tow with ease.  We had some great bike rides, enjoyed our visits with Priscilla, Phil and Sally plus Warren fixed the few problems we encountered with the Mini.  Oh, and the best part was that the toilet leak was discovered when I was in the bathroom!