Tuesday, October 23, 2012

From the Oregon Cascades to Illinois farm country

Oct. 19-22, Cross Country Trek, mostly on I-80

We finally pulled up stakes (jacks?) last Friday and left Bend for our five day sprint across the country. Apparently, we left just in time as the WeatherBug app on my Droid posted this alert for Bend on Sunday: “Central Oregon is expected to see the first significant snowfall of the season by Monday morning.” Vic made a promise to the Big EZ that it would never be driven in snow, so that is part of the reason why we are not exploring any attractions along the way as we head to the three villes: Nashville, Knoxville, and Asheville. 

Vic carefully planned out our route and stopover places with daytime travel of about 300 miles a day, a little more than our typical 250 miles, so we could arrive in Nashville on day seven. The most direct route from Bend took us through Boise to I-80 in Utah, just east of Ogden.  Not the most scenic drive, but definitely good in terms of the least mountain passes to get to the Nebraska plains—and certainly limited distractions in terms of sightseeing!  You know the scenery leaves something to be desired when the clouds steal the show.

The Bend to Rock Springs, Wyoming leg was a first for me. I had often heard about the desolation of Eastern Oregon, but having seen it firsthand, I can’t say I would be anxious to do a repeat performance.  I am, however, willing to be more open-minded about learning to appreciate desert environments, but ones with more color like in the Southwest hold more possibility for me.

Our destination for day one was to make it to Boise, about 350 miles from Bend. We discovered a Passport America park, Garrity RV Park  just east of Boise in Nampa for the discounted price of $12.  Well, it was a good price, but what a sketchy place. I regret not taking any photos of the eclectic range of RVs that inhabited this park. I told Vic that it looked like it could be an outdoor vintage museum, except most were in complete disrepair with all kinds of homemade add-ons and humble repairs. I actually did not feel safe wandering around the park taking photos for fear that someone might confront me.  Aside from the price, the only other good thing about this place was that we were in the pull through section with a couple other Class A motorhomes, set apart from the perimeter of permanent residents.  I must not have felt too comfortable sleeping here, because I awoke to sounds that made me imagine someone was taking our bikes off our car and maybe even the kayaks. It turned out there was just a group arriving home at 2 in the morning making a bit of noise on their way.  About an hour later, I saw lights flashing across our bed, thinking it was the police, I investigated further only to discover it was a flashing strobe from the nearby airport.  Oh the joys of having such a fertile imagination.

Vic set the alarm for 6:30 and we were off before 8 a.m.—pretty early for us. His next planned stop was supposed to be Tremonton, Utah, but after I discovered that leg was under 300 miles, we agreed to push on to Green River, Wyoming—a whopping 470 mile day, but we figured we could still arrive before sunset—another goal of ours—to avoid driving in the dark. Staying somewhere new required me to investigate parks (we have never stayed at a Flying J or Walmart), but in the interest of keeping expenses to a minimum, we entertained the possibility of boondocking somewhere. In checking RV Park Reviews for the Green River area (no PA parks or Harvest Host sites near here),  I discovered a place to boondock at the Little America Travel Center. The place was a real find!  I went in to the hotel to ask where we could park and they gave us plenty of options all for no cost. We were able to put our slides out and even run our generator as much as needed. The best part was their café which had a cozy little bar on the side where we ate delicious quesadillas and salads while watching Alabama pummel Tennessee.  The bar was full colorful characters, mostly long range truckers and weekend hunters.  In fact, at some point I realized I was the only woman in the place. Funny feeling.

When we retreated back to the motorhome, it was time to watch the Oregon State University football game against the University of Utah—but, alas! The game was broadcast on ESPN2 and all we could get was local channels off our antenna. We settled for listening to the game on the TuneIn Radio app on my phone. The Beavs beat the Utes 21:7 and broke a 105 year record for starting the season 6:0!  Good way to wrap up a long day.

Day three started with a rare treat. I had read about the Little America café’s famous cinnamon rolls and the warning to get in early before they ran out. I walked in just after 7 a.m. only to discover they had four left. My plan was to get two, but when I saw the size of them I settled for one giant roll that filled an aluminum pie plate. I just had to have good coffee with this indulgence, so I fired up the Barista in the motorhome and made myself an Americano and Vic his favorite Mexican hot chocolate. We were off and running on sugar and caffeine before 8 a.m. with another long day ahead. Wiith clear skies ahead and dark threatening skies behind us, we were happy to be following the good weather. 

Again I messed with Vic’s detailed itinerary and convinced him we could probably make it all the way to   North Platte, Nebraska, 514 miles.

This distance tied with our longest day last year as we made a similar run across I-94 from Oregon to Michigan. The only glitch was we forgot about the time change to CST so arriving at 7:00 p.m. put us about twenty minutes past sunset. Our overnight plan here was to stay at the one of two Passport America parks—the other had closed Oct. 15.  The RV Park Review site had mixed ratings of this place but since we had set a new low at the last PA park, this place looked great—and it was—$17 for a nice pull through in a well-maintained park. Plus as we rolled into the Holiday RV Park in North Platte, I saw a neon sign for a place called the Whiskey Creek Café—a name that called to my tired and thirsty self even though I had the laudable goal of not eating out at all on this cross country run. (Whoops did last night count?)  I convinced him we would benefit from the half mile walk to the café and getting a break from the motorhome after such a long day. The place had a wood fire grill and was well-known for its BBQ so we broke our sometime vegan lifestyle and tried the pulled pork with an Oktoberfest beer at the bar while watching the SF Giants tie up the playoff series against the Cardinals. One of my weaknesses is a penchant for finding local spots that have character and serve good fare and this place did not disappoint. We rarely patronize any chain restaurants. Consistency is overrated when the décor and menu is the same whether you are in Seattle or Memphis.

Day four, Monday, took us from North Platte, Nebraska to Kansas City, Missouri, a mere 390 miles! We had stayed at a Passport America park before in KC-Platte City, Basswood RV Resort, last April when we were traveling to South Dakota to establish our residency, and we thought it was a good stop for under $20, so we made this place our destination. We arrived well before sunset and were surprised to experience warm and humid weather—the high had been 82 and the low 68, with 85% humidity. After wearing warm socks and layered clothing the past few weeks, we had to adjust and even ran the air conditioners well into the night.  Part of my hot flashes also could have come from watching the last of the three Presidential debates, but I try to keep politics out of my blog commentary. After the debate, we switched over to the Giants game excited to find them ahead 7:0 in the bottom of the 7th. (Vic is originally from San Francisco and was even able to attend game one of their World Series two years ago.) Go Giants and defeat those Tigers—uh-oh, my Michigan relatives will be all over me for rooting for SF.

On another topic altogether, the price of diesel has been a bit of a concern on this trip. Once we made the decision to spend our winter in Florida again, we knew we were in for another big fuel expense but this is the first time we have had to pay more than $4 a gallon for diesel.  I use the Gas Buddy app to seek out the best prices but sometimes we don’t like having to venture too far off the interstate or we don’t like going to stations that may have lesser quality diesel or fuel that has been sitting in the tanks awhile. We like busy, cheap truck stops with easy in and out access the best.  Most of the interstate stations in Nebraska were advertising prices in the $.4.25 range, but we managed to find one with diesel for $4.13 and yesterday in Missouri we found a Shell truck stop with diesel for $3.89—yay!  What I have to keep reminding myself is how seldom we need to fill up once we get to Florida and do some monthly stays. We have a 100 gallon tank and Vic rarely lets the needle fall below the 1/4 level, so it is a little unnerving to be pumping out $250 worth of gas on almost a daily basis.  (See why we should be eating beans and rice.)

Speaking of beans and rice, I had this great idea of making a rich vegetable soup with lentils in my crockpot while going down the road. I guess we need to understand our electrical limits better as having it on without the generator blew out the GFCI plug and may have permanently shorted out the crockpot. We do sometimes run the generator going down the road for an hour or so to give it regular use, but I wouldn't want to run it all day, so I guess that nixes my cooking while going down the road plan. (Has anyone else out there tried such a thing?)

As I write, we have just crossed the Mississippi River near St. Louis, so we are officially on what we Westerners consider the East Coast. In keeping with my random need to alter Vic’s carefully laid out itinerary to Nashville, we are now headed to Newton, Illinois. This diversion from his route is an unplanned stop to visit with our cherished motorhome friends Mike and BJ and Steve and Diane whom we met over a year ago in a tiny little campground in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. It is apple and pear harvest time at Mike and BJ’s farm and Vic, for sure, cannot resist the lure of a homemade pie.


  1. Say hi to Mike and BJ and Steve and Diane from us...

    1. Wish you were here to join us around the campfire tonight!

  2. Your trip sounds like the one we made when we bought our Phaeton in OR and brought it back to the east coast in a week's time. We were glad for the boring roads that kept us on the straight and narrow, although it was a close call sightseeing-wise on a couple of occasions. We had some reasonably long days and some extra-long days when a 2-3 hour freeway closure threw our planned itinerary out the window :-))

    1. I need to go back and read your blog--had no idea you bought your Phaeton in Oregon. Yes, this quick trip cross country was not ideal, but we sure enjoyed our extra month in Oregon. We are still striving to seek a balance between wide open itineraries and planned ones.


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