Tuesday, April 30, 2013

US Hwy 20: Thunderstorm Hangover

Happy and I had a rough night in Waterloo, as a series of violent thunderstorms rolled over us. Fierce lightning and bone-pounding thunder were followed by heavy rain and hail. We were up most of the night, and the RV park was a mud-bowl again this morning. Strong winds were of concern to me as I hooked up my rig, but we had to get out of that place. Despite being hungover from the night's storms, we hit the road.

US Hwy 20 east of Waterloo continued as a mostly very good four-lane affair. It was a little hairy in spots where roadwork was going on, with lanes narrowing down and requiring close attention in crosswinds. The only real thing of note was the sudden appearance of large farm operations by the roadside. The farther east you go, the more developed the landscape gets. It's a simple as that.

It's also a simple truth that the farther east you go, the older things are. Immediately after crossing the Mississippi River and entering Illinois, you get a feeling that you're in an older, more established countryside. Of all the border crossings I've done, this one struck me as one of the more dramatic.

I pushed east just a few miles to the town of Galena, IL, which I've heard is quite charming. I'm parked in an older, established RV park which promises to present less of a mud problem if the thunderstorms and rain continue. As usual on this road trip, I have the place to myself.

Happy and I took a nap in the shade of our doghouse this afternoon, and I think we're both in better shape for it. I've got a bunch of chores to do tomorrow, looking forward to doing laundry, cleaning up my rig and generally catching up with myself. I plan to stay here a few days, so I should have plenty of time for some proper exploration… Stay tuned!

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Monday, April 29, 2013

US Hwy 20: Waterloo, Iowa & Gas Prices

My plan to explore Waterloo was pretty well thwarted by a series of violent thunderstorms this morning. Poor Happy spent two hours shivering under a blanket, despite my best efforts to console her. When the deluge finally let up, the entire RV park was a giant mud bowl. I now have mud pretty much everywhere in my camper and truck. In case you're keeping score for this road trip, it's "Weather: all -- Me: nil."

When we finally got out for a drive this afternoon, we found that Waterloo is a pretty nice urban-rural sprawl. The Cedar River cuts right through town, and several significant roadways encircle it. There's a huge mall -- actually a cluster of malls -- that must serve the entire region, because they're way too big to be justified by the town itself.

There's a large casino complex, an even bigger water park, and a nice dog park. I was hoping to visit the large John Deere tractor plant, but missed the schedule due to weather. The entire Waterloo universe is surrounded, of course, by endless acres of agricultural fields. It's a nice place, though not very photogenic.

One photo I did take is of this price board at a gas station. I've been intrigued to see that "Super" (89 octane) is cheaper than "Regular" (87 octane).

I think it's because "Super" has 10% ethanol in it and "Regular" doesn't. Is ethanol that much cheaper? Maybe it's because ethanol is subsidized? Who knows?

One thing's for sure: My fuel costs are lower that they used to be with Darth. My new truck, Anakin, gets a bit better mileage, and unleaded is now 20% cheaper than diesel.

I'm going to push east tomorrow, intending to cross the Mississippi River at Dubuque. It looks like the flood dangers have abated for the moment, so I might as well take advantage of the opportunity before I get hammered again by weather and its consequences on this road trip… Stay tuned!

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Sunday, April 28, 2013

US Hwy 20: Iowa Express II

I enjoyed my time in Sioux City, but have to admit that was mostly because the weather was nice. It's an okay little mid-west town, but I didn't take a shine to it. While leaving it pretty early this morning, I crossed the "Mighty Mo" for the last time on this road trip.

Just east of Sioux City, US Hwy 20 becomes a brand new, high speed, four-lane affair that makes the miles melt away. I stopped in Fort Dodge for lunch and had a quick look at the old fort. It's pretty much the same as all the other old forts I've visited, so I didn't stay long. I'd thought about staying in town for the night, but I didn't get a good vibe and there really isn't much there.

Continuing east, I was simply amazed by the road. I have to believe it's some kind of "pork" or "make work" project, because I just can't fathom how the area or traffic can justify it!

I was also amazed by the "nothingness" of the area. Dry brown fields as far as the eye can see. There was nothing to see or do -- and no place to stay -- until I got practically across the state to Waterloo. While reviewing my day on the map, I had a funny deja vu and realized I had the same experience in reverse last summer during my US Hwy 30 cross-country road trip: Intending to stop somewhere in the middle of Iowa and not finding any reason or facilities to do so!

Looking back in the record, I found a post entitled "US Hwy 30: Iowa Express" which chronicles a day when I drove from Urbana, IA, 35 miles southeast of where I am now, to Onawa, IA, 35 miles southeast of where I started this morning. The only differences between that day and this -- besides direction of travel -- are the quality of the road and the lack of corn in the fields. You probably don't find that as amusing as I do, but that's what prompted me to title this post "Iowa Express II".

I'm going to stay here in Waterloo, IA, tomorrow to check it out... Stay tuned!

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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Happy: What's Up With Dog Parks?

Hi!... I'm Happy... I'm always Happy... That's why they call me Happy!

I gotta tell ya: So far, I'm really enjoying being co-pilot on The Voyage of Macgellan! The best thing about it is that we cover a lot of ground and there are always new smells everywhere. It's kind of like running the Iditarod, but without doing all that running!

I've already got a lot of things figured out, mostly involving sleeping in the truck, sleeping in the camper, sleeping under the camper and sleeping next to the camper. I also get two good meals a day, just like clock-work. I haven't exactly figured out the snack schedule yet, but they come often enough that I don't think I really need to worry about it.

One thing I haven't completely figured out is dog parks, which Macgellan somehow finds for us to visit practically every day. Sometimes it's a small one in our campground, and other times it's a big one in the town we're in. Here you can see me at a huge dog park in Sioux City. I can't really read the sign, but sometimes I like to pretend I can!

I get a lot of attention at dog parks, especially from the boys. I think that's partly because I'm kinda famous, but mostly because I'm so tall, leggy and cute! I wait patiently to let them have their sniffs, but I move away if they get too frisky. Humans at dog parks are easy marks for me, all I have to do is stand near them and they pat me. I love that!

What I don't understand is that there are always loose dogs at these parks. We weren't allowed to be loose dogs back at my old kennel. Well, a couple of the prima donnas like ChaCha and Teddy got to have the run of the place, but most of us didn't. It can be dangerous to have loose dogs running around, especially if they're not as friendly as they ought to be. So, what's up with that?

Anyway, after all the meeting, greeting and sniffing is out of the way, I mostly just kind of wander around reading my pee mail. It's really fun to see what's going on with everyone in the canine nation. Sometimes I'll visit a little with other dogs, but only if I get good vibes from them.

When they start doing the whole "chasing things" routine, I just go back to my own business. Macgellan explains to people that I don't know how to play because I've never done it. Frankly, I don't even know what "play" means. I've spent my life as a working sled dog, and now I'm a retired pet dog. What other kind of dog is there? A play dog? I don't get it.

So, between all the loose dogs, the chasing things and not knowing what play is, dog parks are a bit of a mystery to me. It's seems strange, then, that I find myself enjoying them so much... Hmmm?

All this thinking is exhausting me. It's time for a nap!

Friday, April 26, 2013

US Hwy 20: Siouxland

The area I'm in is called Siouxland, probably as much out of convenience as any geographical or historical reason. Basically, you've got a modest metropolitan area that sprawls across the point where three states meet. It's called Sioux City in Iowa, South Sioux City in Nebraska, and North Sioux City in South Dakota. Now you know why the folks here just refer to it as Siouxland.

Because the Missouri and Big Sioux Rivers serve as boundary lines between the states, every time you go over a bridge you're in another state. I've tried to pay attention but have lost track. The local folks don't really seem to care about it at all. When North America balkanizes -- which I still predict it will -- these folks better stick together or they're going to go nuts with border crossings!

There isn't a lot to explore around here, but there are a few gems. One is the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center which is a well designed and fairly interactive facility.

I'd say it's excellent for kids and anyone who is unfamiliar with the Voyage of Discovery, but if you've read Undaunted Courage or done any other thorough research you'll mostly find it superficial and repetitive.

That said, however, there is one really excellent aspect of the facility which I particularly appreciate.

Right out front is a very large sculpture of Lewis, Clark and Seaman which gives the dog his proper place of respect.

Inside there's a special diorama just for Seaman, in which he is ostensibly examining -- with great concentration -- a rare rodent species held captive in a cage.

To make the display truly special, you can push a button which makes the dog's head bob and tail wag while he barks at the rodent. I loved it so much I pushed the button twice!

Nearby is the Sergeant Floyd River Museum which is housed in a river survey and inspection boat of that name. The boat is interesting to explore, and the interior is fairly crammed with informative exhibits and artifacts about the river and all its aspects. It's better inside than it looks outside.

By the way, the name of Sergeant Floyd plays a major role in the area. The only member of the Voyage of Discovery to die is buried here, on a bluff that also bears his name. Floyd is also eponymous for a river, a boulevard, a monument and various other local features.

The downtown area is tidy, but uninspiring. Mostly vintage brick buildings with a few modern additions, it is sparse in layout and seems to be equally sparse in economic vitality. Worth a look for those who are so inclined is the Sioux City Museum. Worth a visit for anyone with a sweet tooth is Old Tyme Palmer Candy.

I've had a good day exploring the area, made all the better by sunshine, warm temperature and soft breezes. I'm going to stay another day, mostly to catch up with myself but perhaps to do some more looking around… Stay tuned!

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

US Hwy 20: NE NE

The minimalist title of this post about Northeastern Nebraska is apt. Unlike northwestern Nebraska which at least had interesting geology and landscapes to make the long straight road and sparse civilization more bearable, northeastern Nebraska has nothing.

I took a ridiculous number of photos to try to capture this nothingness, and have settled on these two as being the best depictions. Even these don't really do it justice.

In case you think I'm being unfair in my description, I offer this evidence of good humor by three towns who have branded themselves "The Middle of Nowhere."

Obviously it's not technically accurate to say that there's nothing and it's nowhere. Various degrees of grassland merged into pasture, then cropland. The towns had their basic commerce, and a few had substantial looking agro-facilities.

Nevertheless, the basic description holds: There's nothing here that warrants exploration, perhaps not even a visit. Unless you're like me, however, and you are fascinated simply by seeing where and how people live. No matter how much of this country I see, I never tire of being informed by the fundamental realities of other people. For anyone who thinks he or she knows what's best or right for everyone else, I suggest you take a road trip like this and see exactly who everyone else is. How would you like them to tell you what's best or right for you?

I had planned to do the run in two stints, but there really wasn't any place -- or reason -- to stop along the way. A couple of the very small towns offer free overnight parking in their town park, but that's about it. Even the very few purported RV establishments were closed, with one of them looking like it hadn't been open for quite some time.

As a result, I pushed on and have made it to the Sioux City area in the farthest northeast corner of the state. On the banks of the Missouri River, I expect to stay here for a couple of days before crossing into Iowa… Stay tuned!

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

US Hwy 20: Northwestern Nebraska

When I woke up yesterday morning and let my co-pilot dog out, I saw three inches of new snow on the ground in Chadron, NE. In less time than it took for me to clip Happy to her outdoor tether, I decided to call it a "snow day" then got back in bed.

The snow cleared considerably during the day and I went into town for a bit, but there's even less going on there when the weather is bad. I remained the only person in the RV park for another night, which remained clear and very cold. The sun was out this morning, so I packed up and hit the road.

Over the course of its first two hundred miles across northwestern Nebraska, US Hwy 20 has passed from rugged mountains to cross the edge of the huge and desolate Sand Hills. North America's largest system of sand dunes normally underlies a grassy pastoral scene, but for me it was more of a snowscape. The road is always two-lanes, generally straight, and occasionally trafficked by large trucks.

The rest of the time, it is a "lonesome road" with miles and miles of rolling grass/sand/snow hills. It's a very pretty drive, and on a clear day with little wind it was a pleasant, relaxing endeavor.

Every fifteen miles or so, the road passes through a small town, each with a posted population of 20-120 people. A few houses, an auto center, a what-not shop and a silo comprise the entire establishment in every case. I stopped in the fifth town called Merriman for lunch, and had a very satisfactory complement of -- you guessed it -- a bowl of soup and a BLT on rye toast!

During lunch with a few locals, I had a nice change of pace. Whereas I am normally asked by complete strangers if I can "fix the internet" -- which almost always amounts to me being a "genius" by unplugging and replugging the router -- this time I was asked for advice about how to manage content on a Kindle. Apparently the world has more or less figured out how to restart their internet routers, and I have been promoted(?) to eBook advisor. As long as they don't start asking me to program their phones, my status as "genius" is probably safe!

After lunch, I drove through a few more towns and stopped in Valentine, NE. Although this is a significant town along this upper rim of Nebraska, there's very little here. I expect to take advantage of a sunny afternoon, to bundle up against the cold while I give Happy a good walk, then pop into town to see what the nightlife is like. My expectations are decidedly low, bolstered only by the sight of a sports bar a few blocks away.

As you can see, I am continuing my string of being the only rig in the RV park. At least the manager was here to check me in, unlike in Chadron when I didn't see a soul in the park for three days!

If the weather holds -- and I don't unexpectedly find something significant to see or do here -- I will continue to push east across the vast northeast of Nebraska tomorrow… Stay tuned!

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Sunday, April 21, 2013

US Hwy 20: Chadron, Nebraska

The first thing you'll notice about my visit to Chadron, NE, is that I'm continuing my pattern of being nearly the only rig in the RV park. The other two rigs that are here aren't even occupied, being parked here for the winter. (Have I mentioned that I'm doing this trip a little early in the season?)

The place is so empty that the owners aren't even here and the office is closed. I've self-registered, kind of on the honor system. The power and water are on, and I've been able to dump my waste tanks now that they're unfrozen. The restroom, shower room and laundry are all clean and tidy, and the internet is even pretty good. Color me happy!

Speaking of Happy, she's in heaven too. With nobody around, she's been able to go berserk as a free-running, loose dog. After three solid days of sleeping in the truck and rig, even she's ready for some exercise!

The highway frontage road in Chadron isn't very appealing, mostly gas stations, fast food and a few motels. The "main" street downtown has preserved a bit of it's old-town feel, but with a Wal-Mart less than a mile away there's not much going on. It's sparse even for a Sunday morning, but there's a movie theater with an afternoon matinee, so I might just take advantage of that.

There are at least a dozen bars in the few square blocks of downtown, plus an assortment of small shops and other specialty stores/offices. One novelty is a pair of plaque at the small Blaine Hotel, commemorating a 1,000-mile horse race from Chadron to Chicago in 1893.

Happy and I had to smile at the fact it took horses 14 days to do the run over the plains in summer, compared to the 10 days she and her pack mates did a longer run from Anchorage to Nome in the Alaskan winter. To quote the Hapster: "Dogs rule, horses drool!"

My favorite establishment in town sports this signage out front, testimony to the fact that you've got to diversify if you're going to make it in a small competitive environment.

I'm taking advantage of pleasant weather this afternoon to sort out my rig, do some chores, play with Happy and generally take a break.

It's really nice here in Chadron, but the forecast is for some more weather to roll in tomorrow, so I'm going to continue moving east tomorrow… Stay tuned!

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US Hwy 20: Nicely Into Nebraska

Everything seemed to change the instant I crossed into the northwestern corner of Nebraska. First of all, the road itself changed from "fair" to downright perfect!

Even more noticeable was the stunning, still rugged yet appealing landscape. Blue skies, puffy clouds and only a gentle breeze rounded out conditions for a beautiful, peaceful drive.

It was also nice to be descending, more than a thousand feet overall. The temperature climbed into the 50s, a perfect match for the setting on my cruise control!

Rolling out onto flatter ground, the landscape and sky competed for most photogenic. Who wins?

I'm not sure why, but this is one of my favorite shots of the day. Perhaps it's the "scenery spumoni" aspect of it: Road, signs, grassland, buttes, sky, clouds and ever-present coal train rolling along. Whatever the reason, it's an example of why I just love driving these old, two-land US Highways!

I think you can see why -- after my week in Wyoming -- it was such a pleasure and relief to have this experience driving into Nebraska. I stopped mid-afternoon at a little RV park in Chadron, set up camp and enjoyed a pleasant evening. I've got some sorting out to do with my rig, and I'll check out the town… Stay tuned!

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US Hwy 20: Lusk Lunch, Light & Look

While planning my drive yesterday morning, I discovered that Lusk, WY, is the most populous town in the least populous county of the least populous state in the country. That alone, as you might imagine, was enough to get me to plan and make a stop there.

I also discovered that Lusk has the only stoplight for almost 150 miles of US Hwy 20, from where I turned off the interstate in Douglas, WY, to my destination for the day in Chadron, NE.

During my lunch, I inquired broadly about what there is to see and do in town.

First is a redwood water tower dating from 1886, a charming little artifact of the town's progression from cattle-town, to railroad-town, to oil-town.

There's still some cattle here, the trains still run through here, and they're doing a little oil fracking nearby. But, the town is mostly going the way of so many little towns like it: Local commerce dwindles as it moves to big box stores in newer towns on the interstate, young people move away to seek broader opportunities of their own choosing, and everything else just winds down in the process.

There's also the "Stagecoach Museum" that's housed in the old armory building.

The name is a little misleading, because there's only one stagecoach. Mostly it's a somewhat overwhelming collection of local memorabilia, arranged in semi-thematic groupings, piles or clumps.

There's not a lot of documentation, so you can get the gist of the town's heritage more than it's actual history. For a fee of only two bucks, however, it's well worth the visit for a mid-day break.

My visit was greatly enhanced by a woman named Rose, whose name tag says "curator" but who describes herself as more of a "caretaker." The first thing she said when we met at the door was, "You should bring your dog in! I love dogs and they are always welcome here."

Perhaps she saw the dog hair that is now a constant feature of my clothing. Maybe she's psychic. Who knows? Either way, I got Happy from the truck and the three of us toured the facility.

The highlight, of course, was the single stagecoach on display. It's actually quite special, and worthy of having the museum named for it: It's the only remaining authentic stagecoach from the famous 1880's Cheyenne-Deadwood route, the one Doris Day sang about in Calamity Jane.

I confessed to Rose that I'm more interested in stories than stuff, and she happily accommodated me with and oral history of the town, as well as her own. We had a very pleasant hour together, and I greatly appreciated her time and hospitality. Happy waited patiently throughout, often moving into position for prolonged pats from Rose!

In my next post, I'll bring you up to date on my drive into Nebraska... Stay tuned!

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Saturday, April 20, 2013

US Hwy 20: Farewell Wyoming

An ominous snow-sky was rolling into Casper this morning, confirming my decision to move east ahead of it. Frankly, I've had enough troubles in Wyoming and really didn't want to get stuck again.

East of Casper, US Hwy 20 is subsumed into I-25, along with US 26 and US 87. This is another example of routes "pinching" together in a place where there's no earthly reason to build more than one road. Looking east was very pleasant across the rolling, snow-covered landscape. The road itself was clear, dry, lightly travelled and in pretty good shape after a hard winter.

About a hour east, US Hwy 20 regains its independence as a two-lane route toward the border. The scenery remained nice, and it was a good drive for about an hour to the town of Lusk, WY, where I stopped for lunch. (Note: I've got a great story about Lusk which I'll post later today or tomorrow!)

Heading east from Lusk, the terrain starts to change and drop to a lower altitude. There's still some snow in spots, but the land becomes noticeably greener and more inviting.

Thirty minutes later, I crossed the border into Nebraska and everything immediately changed for the better… Stay tuned!

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Friday, April 19, 2013

Happy: Making Up For Lost Time

Hi!... I'm Happy... I'm always Happy... That's why they call me Happy!

For some reason, we had a short drive today: Only about three hours. That didn't give me enough time to get my full dose of daytime sleep, so I've made other arrangements here in Casper, WY.

After a nice walk around the park, I've stretched out in the sun and am making up for lost time!

US Hwy 20: Back On Track!

The weather was perfect when I pulled out of Lander, WY, this morning: crisp not freezing, clear not snowing, calm not blowing. Plus, the scenery was lovely as I headed north toward the mountains.

About a half-hour into the drive, the wind kicked up for no apparent reason -- a perfect cross-wind from the left -- and I caught this actual tumbleweed crossing my path.

Considering how close it is to the front of my truck at 55mph, you might think I ran over it. Nope, it blew across in plenty of time for me to miss it with room to spare!

A half-hour after that, I entered the little town of Shoshoni, WY, and was thrilled to see signage that I was finally rejoining US Hwy 20 going east. Hurray!

After a week-long detour, I've only missed a couple hundred miles of my intended route!

From Shoshoni, it's a hundred-mile, straight shot to Casper. For the first half the landscape was completely barren, but approaching Casper there was ample evidence of recent snow. Considering how bad the weather has been here, the road conditions are quite good overall.

Nevertheless, the area is pretty much a mess: That slushy, dirty yuck you get after snowstorms, road sanding, etc. The forecast is for another storm to move through over the weekend. Considering both of these factors, I'm going to just spent the rest of the day and night here… Stay tuned!

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Happy: Happyday Inn Express, Lander, WY

Hi I'm Happy!... I'm always Happy!... Today I'm at a Happyday Inn Express!

I could tell that Macgellan had a hard day on the road, but I don't really know why. I slept just fine all day in my co-pilot seat!

Anyway, we've checked into a really nice dog house for the night. It's in Lander, Wyoming, and it's called the Happyday Inn Express! (No, wait, Macgellan says that's wrong. It's called the Holiday Inn Express... My bad.)

While we were checking in, the boss lady said I'm really sweet and gave me a cookie. Then she asked if she could take a photo with me, and of course I said yes!

It's a pretty good shot, though I'm not exactly looking at the camera like I normally do. You see, I was a bit distracted -- and a little distressed even -- by this big door that kept sliding open and closed all on its own. I don't really like things like that, so I had to keep my eye on it to make sure it wasn't evil.

Anyway, we're all settled in. Macgellan brought in my bed so I'm comfy on the floor. It's shedding season, you know, and I'm a thoughtful dog hotel guest. No big bed for me tonight!

US Hwy 20 -- Detour: South Pass -- Continental Divide -- Wyoming

I finally got out of Rock Springs this morning! It was still cold (about 20 degrees) but the sky was blue and the winds were calm. After five days of road closures in the area, the Wyoming highway website listed my route as generally good, with just a few slick areas to watch out for. So, I packed up my rig and hit the road, enjoying some nice Wyoming scenery as I drove north.

Heading up the west side of South Pass, I heard a noise that didn't sound good, followed soon after by a moderate, whirring vibration. I knew it was trouble when I looked in my rear view mirror and saw bits of rubber spraying out the side of my camper.

You guessed it, what every trailer hauler dreams of: A blown out tire! In this case, I had pulled barely off a narrow, two lane highway, with trucks blowing by at 65mph. I was at 7,000 feet, in 15 degrees of cold with 20-30 mph winds. Lovely!

All you can do is take it one step at a time, and within an hour I'd mounted the spare and was on my way again.

I was rewarded with pretty views going up to the pass, and stunning snowscapes on my way down.

I pulled into the town of Lander mid-afternoon, only about 50 miles from being back on track. I found a tire store where helpful folks replaced my tire, remounted it and checked the others for condition, pressure and lug torque. There's a little bit of damage to the wheel fender -- and some black marks to clean -- but no damage to the hub, axle, brakes or underbody. I consider myself lucky!

The road east to Casper is still pretty iffy, plus I'm tired from the drive and ordeal. So, I decided to stop here in Lander for the night, and am giving myself a break at my old home away from home: The Holiday Inn Express! There's more to that story... Stay tuned!

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Monday, April 15, 2013

US Hwy 20 -- Detour: "What Do I Get If I Win?"

One of the most important things I've ever learned (Thanks JW) is to ask myself a very important question any time I'm making plans: "What do I get if I win?"

I don't know about you, but sometimes I can get so focused on tackling whatever challenge is right in front of me that I don't look carefully enough at what I'd be facing after it if I'm successful.

Another way of looking at this was made clear to me once (Thanks KDG) by the question: "Now that you've succeeded in bashing your head through the wall of your prison cell, what are you going to do in the cell next door?"... Good question!

I've asked myself both of these questions this morning, and I've profited greatly from the process. Bottom line: I'm staying put for a couple of days.

We had snow flurries overnight, continuing this morning, and predicted for the next couple of day. The roads and passes are described in marginal terms, but definitely not good, pretty or fun.

I'm sure I could make it out of Rock Springs if I had to, but what would I get "if I win" and make it to some other location like Casper? Answer: More of the same. Then what?

The consensus weather prediction is for the current weather system to have cleared the region by Wednesday or Thursday. After that, mostly sunny, warmer and dry with light winds... Perfect!

So, I'm going to fire up the coffee pot, set up "world headquarters of me right now" and put my head down into a few projects for a couple of days. I've always got plenty on my plate, and here's a chance to get after it for a while. Color me happy!

Speaking of Happy, she's in her element! Cold, windy and snowing... What more could a sled dog want? I keep asking her if she wants to come inside and sleep on the bed, but she demurs and does her little happy dance instead. She doesn't care what's next... She's Happy in the moment!

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Sunday, April 14, 2013

US Hwy 20 -- Detour: Marooned In Rock Springs

I'm still in Rock Springs, WY, because of weather. You can see in this photo that it's a beautiful sunny day. What you can't see is that it's cold -- in the 20's -- and the wind has been blowing a gale all day. At one point, even the interstate was closed due to wind. It takes a lot to do that!

What you can also see is that mine is the only rig in this campground. It's a modest affair, with little ambiance but satisfactory amenities. Kind of a desert oasis.

I've got power and heat but not water, so it's a little "winter camping" for me. Happy is very content, preferring to be outside in the wind and cold which are nothing to her considering her history and roots.

Rock Springs is a small, modern community that surrounds a pretty meager little historic district. The sprawl has the usual assortment of chain restaurants, home stores, etc. I took advantage of the local multi-plex cinema to see "42" and strongly recommend it.

I rewarded Happy for her patience by taking her to the best dog park we've ever been to, a large open space complete with a pond for dogs who care for swimming. Happy took a drink from it, but otherwise wasn't interested.

The good news, then, is that we're safely settled in a spot with ample facilities. The bad news is that we don't know when we'll be able to get out of here. The weather -- high, gusty winds mostly -- may let up tomorrow or Tuesday. Then again, there's plenty of talk about snow, freezing rain, etc.

So, I'll check all the weather and road conditions in the morning and decide if we're good to go. Otherwise, we'll make the most of another day marooned in Rock Springs... Stay tuned!

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Saturday, April 13, 2013

US Hwy 20 -- Detour: Now We're Way Off Course, BooBoo!

The US Hwy 20 Voyage of Macgellan is now officially off course. Way off course: About 200 miles southwest of my intended route!

I got out of Idaho Falls okay this morning, taking the US Hwy 26 route heading east. It was windy, but the road was dry and I could safely hold a moderate speed. Heading up the valley toward the border, the sky closed in and then it started to rain. The roads got pretty wet, with just a dusting of snow on the hillsides.

Once over the border, conditions confirmed my decision to avoid going north through Jackson and the high pass, choosing instead to turn southeast on US Hwy 191 (the yellow line in my previous map post). Along that route, big flakes of snow started falling and the road got a little slushy, but there was no accumulation or ice. I had no trouble at a modest speed, and I remain impressed by how well my new rig handles in poor conditions.

Dropping down a bit to the high plains again, the snow and rain stopped. The roads were dry and in good shape, but the wind -- and very dynamic sky! -- kept me quite entertained.

My plan for the day had been to stop in Farson, WY, where the most direct highway turns northeast to take me back to my intended course west of Casper. When I pulled into that little crossroads town, I saw a warning sign that flashed: "Severe winds on South Pass… Advise no light trailers."

I considered spending the night there as planned, hoping for better conditions tomorrow. A very informative conversation with Mike in the cafe convinced me that the road would remain impassable for me through tomorrow and beyond. He looked at my rig and said, "That pass won't be okay for you this week. I think you better go south and try to get east on the Interstate." 'Nuff said!

So, I drove another 40 miles south in high, gusty but manageable winds, to Rock Springs, WY, and have camped just off I-80. That means I am now all the way down on the green route shown in my previous map post. At least I gave it a shot, right?

The park I'm in is actually one that I stayed in last summer on my way west on US Hwy 30. That confirms I am now way off course and will probably have to retrace part of a previous route east, hoping to turn north and regain US Hwy 20 in Casper.

That may be wishful thinking, as it is currently blowing sleet and snow sideways, with a forecast for worse tomorrow. In fact, with the Dakotas getting hammered, I may be stuck far off my route for a while… Stay tuned!

Click here to see exactly where I am posting this from on Google Maps.