Travelin Tiger Archive

August 27, Ashland OR to Home

Today we completed the trip, which Ton had started calling Rocks of the West. Some observations:

Two places where we had low expectations really impressed us; Craters of the Moon and Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

The best campground we have ever seen in a National Park was at Capitol Reef National Park.

Monument Valley is spectacular but feels very commercial.

Valley of the Gods is spectacular to see, but very difficult to photograph and convey the grandeur.

The loneliest road in America is lonely but not the loneliest.

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Finals set of pictures can be seen at Rocks of the West Trip.

August 26, El Dorado Hills CA to Ashland OR

Today we began heading home, while it was a travel day, we did make a Costco stop, and visited Caldera Brewery in Ashland. The first time we saw their beer was in Sao Paulo when Ron was working there. Today we visited their brewery which is very impressive, and the beer was pretty good too.

We camped in a county park near Ashland which is on a reservoir near town. Southern Oregon and California are having a severe drought and it showed in the reservoir levels we saw. All of the reservoirs are as low as we have ever seen. Also, Mt. Shasta had no snow cover at all which is the first time we have ever seen it that way.

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August 25, Reno to El Dorado Hills CA

Today was an easy day. We drove over to visit our good friends Pae and Supachai in El Dorado Hills CA. We celebrated Supachai’s birthday. We also took advantage of their hospitality to do some laundry. Thanks for letting us visit.

August 24, Great Basin NP to Reno on the Loneliest Road

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Ron had once read that US 50 thru Nevada was the lonliest road in America. Great Basin is on US 50 so we got to drive it today. To tell the truth it was not that lonely. We probably passed about 100 cars over the 250 miles. There are only three towns on the route and very few structures in between so it is pretty far between people. The road crosses 7 or 8 mountain ranges with passes in the 6500 to 7300 feet, in between are large valleys on average about 30 miles across which are at 6000 feet. It was a pretty interesting drive, but not that lonely.

We planned to stop in Reno for the night at a Casino. It was a parking lot park with no soul, but it turned out to be interesting. We got there early and had time to catch the second half of the Timbers Soccer game which was a disaster, but there was something interesting going on. As we have traveled thru the west in the summer you encounter lots of European tourists in RV’s. Today at the casino we witnessed one of the places where they pick up the RV’s and observed the process of orienting them and having them practice driving the RV’s. It was kind of fun to watch them learn the in’s and out’s of slides, levelers, dumping their tanks, and driving a vehicle which is the size of a commercial truck in Europe. We also noticed that a lot of the campers had colorfully and unconventionally designed bicycles, it turns out that they are heading to Burning Man.

August 23, Capitol Reef NP to Great Basin NP, Nevada

Today we left Utah behind reluctantly. Our target for the day was Great Basin NP which our son Dylan highly recommended. It was a long days drive and we needed to take care of some shopping so we arrived too late to do the cave tours. Surprisingly the Campgrounds were pretty full and we had a tough time finding a spot, so we got a late start exploring the park.

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The park is famous for Caves and Bristlecone Pines. We knew that the Caves were out for the day but hoped to see the Bristlecone Pines. Some of the Bristlecone Pines in the park are over 5000 years old which is pretty incredible. We drove the road from the campground at 7000 feet to over 10,000 feet for the trailhead to the Bristlecone Pine. Unfortunately we realized when we got there we did not have time to do the 5 mile roundtrip so we also missed the Bristlecone’s. I guess we will have to do another trip to Great Basin in the future.

Today we had the most unlevel camp spot ever, despite using every leveling block we had we still had a distinct tilt to the rear of the car. Despite that we slept well.

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August 22, Natural Bridges to Capitol Reef NP, UT

Today was supposed to be a travel day heading west to Great Basin National Park in Nevada. Ton felt sorry for me and let me sleep in so we were late getting going. We were hoping to cover about 300 miles today but ended up covering only about 140 miles due to the scenary and an unexpected stop at Capitol Reef NP.

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Ton really loves Utah. She thinks it is the most beautiful state in the United States. So today every time we had to make a decision about picking the road that was going to allow us to go fast or the road that was going to be pretty, we ended up on the pretty one. Today the pretty road was Utah 95 which was marked as a scenic highway and it lived up to it’s billing. If you ever have a chance give it a drive as every curve on the road seemed to open up a new stunning vista, with a lot of diversity in formations, color, and size.

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As we were driving we noticed that one of our options passed thru Capitol Reef National Park. As we drove up to the park the sun was finally out and the colors were spectacular. Interestingly since we have been in Utah it has generally been overcast with occasional rain showers and has caused Ton problems with her pictures. We decided to do the 20 mile scenic drive with a thought of then heading further west. Well three hours and two dirt scenic roads later we pulled into a spotless campground at the park for the night. Since we stopped a little earlier than normal we had some time to socialize. Out neighbor was a German driving a Fiat based camper he had shipped over two years ago. He spends 6 months here and then flys home for a while. Sounds like a plan for me. Later a couple of folks came by to check out Scout and we gave them the quick tour. Everywhere we go we get tons of positive comments. I was pleased to hear from our German neighbor that he thought Scout would be great in Europe, not too big, but capable of going anywhere.


August 21, Monument Valley UT to Natural Bridges NM UT

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Today was a fun day for us. We drove the 17 mile Monument Valley road. Ron was talking about how Scout allowed us to explore back roads that we would not be able to do in our Sprinter when we were passed by Hyundai Elantra rental car! Anyway the drive is everything we expected it to be, and the formations in Monument Valley are among the more picturesque we have seen in a short area.

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In the morning as we were packing up for the day our neighbor came over and told us that we really needed to also visit the Valley of the Gods. It is a 17 mile gravel road maintained by the Bureau of Land Management, and I enjoyed it more than Monument Valley. The mountains and land forms are not as picturesque as Monument Valley but I think overall are just as spectacular. We stopped about half way and had a picnic with stunning scenary for 360 degrees.

By the time we had finished those two drives we had to make a decision whether to return to Monument Valley for the night or to push west until we were tired, ultimately we decided to go west and as we were driving we saw signs for Natural Bridges National Monument so we decided to make that the target for the night. I am glad we did as it was a clean facility that made a really favorable first impression. The campground was small and spotless and we got a really pretty site. The three natural bridges were impressive.

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August 20, Montrose CO to Monument Valley, UT

We started out by returning to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison to take the road down into the canyon. We had skipped this road the previous day because it was late, and it looked like it was going to rain. The road into the canyon is paved the whole way but quite steep at 16 degrees. (A steep grade on an interstate is considered to be 6 degrees.) It turned out not to be too bad and Scout had no problems. The bottom was quite beautiful. The road comes out at the entrance to the 5 mile diversion tunnel that was built to move water from the Gunnison to the valley for farming. From the base of the canyon it is fun to look up to the top and imagine the early explorers who came down to see what was at the bottom. Those were men. After another trip along the rim road we headed out towards Monument Valley.

This time we took the San Juan Scenic byway thru Ouray and Silverton. Our original plan was to stop and walk around Silverton, but when we got to the visitors center the hostesses were the most unfriendly we had ever run into in a visitors center, apparently they were having some sort of dispute with the manager and had no time to help us. We decided to skip Silverton. The scenic byway ends in Durango, and the change in scenary is incredible. Up to Durango you are driving in the Rockies with trees and a very green environment, and within ten miles you are in high Desert brown and red without trees and large vistas with Rocky outcroppings.

We arrived at Monument Valley late, but headed over to the visitors center for sunset. We were a little disappointed because there were thunder storms in the area so Ton did not get the pictures she was hoping for, but some of them are still nice.

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August 19, Aspen CO to Montrose CO

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Today we drove the West Elk Scenic Highways to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. We had to hustle out of Aspen in the morning to beat the bicycle race. We drove along the Elk Scenic Highway passing a bunch of State Troopers and support vehicles for the race.

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After a couple of hours of driving we arrived at the sign for the North Rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP. The drive in was on some county roads with the last 6 miles on dirt roads. As we got near the park entrance there was still nothing that would hint at how spectacular the views were. The Canyon is only about a half mile wide but varies between 1500 and 2000 feet deep. At the bottom is the Gunnison River which rips along at a pretty good rate. The North Rim is pretty lightly visited so the overlooks were pretty basic, and you could approach the rim of the Canyon with almost no protection. Ton got over her fear of heights and got some good pictures. After spending a couple of hours at the North Rim we went back to the Elk Scenic Highway and headed to the more developed South Rim. The last 30 miles of the Elk follows the Black Canyon and reminded Ton of the Pacific Coast Highway near Big Sur if you change the Pacific Ocean to the River and Mountains of Colorado.

When we got near the South Rim we decided we needed to stock up with some food, and Diesel Exhaust Fluid in Montrose. We also needed good internet so we decided to stay in a campground in town. When we checked in the guy told us this valley only averaged 7” of rain per year. When we were done checking in we headed out to the visitors center at the South Rim, and of course it rained. So we drove the rim road and headed back to town. By the time we got to town it was raining buckets! They probably got 1” of their 7” of rain for the year.

August 18, Rocky Mt, NP to Aspen CO

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We got up early and headed to the Trail Ridge. The bulk of this road is above the tree line and the top of the pass is over 11,000 feet. The visitors center at the top is very nice and completely off the grid. They get their electricity from a generator, and water from a dam near by. Most winters it is buried to its’ roof in snow. Ton went to the store where interestingly most of the staff was college students from China, (and one from Macedonia) who were there working on their English.

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After completing the Trail we decided to push on southwest towards Gunnison. Ton suggested we take the Rocky Mountain Scenic Byway. The last 40 miles may have been more spectacular than the National Park with multiple 14,000 foot mountains and signs every couple of miles forbiding vehciles over 35 feet. The peak of the drive was Independence Pass here slightly over 12,000 feet and was our third time passing the Continental Divide today. Our origninal plan was to push on past Aspen after doing a drive thru to see how the other half lives. But when we got to Aspen we discovered that the only road out of town going west was closed for a couple of hours, after wandering around Aspen a couple of times looking for an escape to the west we decided to double back to Difficult Campground a Forest Service Campground we had passed coming into Aspen where we got the final spot for the night.


August 17, Warren AFB to Rocky Mt. NP, Colorado

Today we started heading west again and stopped at Rocky Mountain National Park. The drive from Ft. Collins to the park was bumper to bumper the entire 30 miles so Ron was pessimistic by the time we arrived at the park about getting a campsite. Rocky Mountain NP is only about an hour from the Denver Metro area so it is well loved, but there were plenty of campsites. We arrived in the early afternoon and decided to save the highlight of the park the Trail Ridge for tomorrow. We headed over to Bear Lake and despite signs every couple miles saying that the parking lot was full we pressed on. When we got there a Ranger stopped us and asked several questions about Scout and how it handled on the highway, it was the first Tiger she had seen, she then asked the important question which was how long we were and when I told her just over 20 feet she waved us on and told us to enjoy our day as we would fit in the parking lot.

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Later we attended a Ranger talk and turned in early with plans to get up and head over the hill to the Alpine road.

August 16, Ellsworth AFB, SD to Warren AFB, WY

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Today the highlight of the day was Custer State Park in SD. Ton noted that we were only 30 miles from the park and it had some spectacular views and animals to view.

Enroute to the park and we did a drive by Mt. Rushmore but decided not to stop as we got a couple of pictures from the highway and the whole thing felt a little too Disneyland for us. On the way out though we saw a mom and baby mountain goat right by the road.

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Going into Custer State Park on the Needles Highway we saw a sign saying low/narrow tunnel, 10’6” high and 9’ wide. I told Ton we were going to test the accuracy of Marks height measurement, we made the tunnel easy, but later came upon another tunnel surrounded by cars taking pictures of the entrance. This one was marked 12’ high and 8’6’ wide. We pulled in the mirrors and squeezed thru. Today was one of the days when the Tiger concept really proved itself.

As we drove thru the park we spotted a lot of Pronghorns which in South Dakota have a little different coloring than the ones we saw in Oregon earlier. Later we saw some “wild burros” that were pretty much tame and great beggars. The scene with the Burros walking right up to cars and sticking there noses in to get food reminded me of old pictures you saw of Yellowstone with Bears begging by cars. I guess that is the difference between National Parks, and State Parks. As we were leaving the park Ton commented that we did not see the large Bison herd that is resident in the park. Just as she finished saying that we came around a corner and ran into a herd of about 100 Bison using the same road to move from one pasture to another. After about twenty minutes of integrating ourselves into the Bison herd they finally got to where they were going and left the road. Happily Ton got some nice closeups of Bison as we moved with the herd.

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August 15, Badlands NP, SD

Today was our furthest point east on this trip. Ron has always wanted to see the Badlands NP. But before that we had quite a storm last night. Wind gusts around 40 mph and rain and lighting. We got a little concerned when the loudspeakers on the airforce base came on and told all personnel to take cover from lightning and severe weather. Ton says I slept through most of the storm but I was really awake and listening to the storm.

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On the way to Badlands the signs for Wall Drug started popping up, and I asked Ton if she wanted to visit Wall Drug. To my surprise she said she had no idea what it was. Ton like many people who have adobted the US often knows more than natives about the country so I am always surprised when she does not know something about the country. So we stopped and I had a cup of coffee while Ton explored Wall Drug.

I know I am starting to sound like a broken record, but I am not sure we realize how spectacular the National Park System is. Badlands was 25 miles of spectacular other worldly formations carved by wind and water. I am not sure our pictures are going to do it justice. It was definately worth the 1300 mile trip to see. I hope the other parks live up to the Badlands.

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Please Check out some of the pictures of the trip at Western Trip

August 14, Cody WY to Ellsworth AFB SD

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Today we started out with plans to drive 8 hours to the Badlands NP. But enroute our youngest son Dylan called and convinced us to swing by and see the Devels Tower National Monument. This was the first national monument ever created. It is a 800 foot rock that sticks straight up in the air with what appears to be columns. We walked the base of the rock which takes about 45 minutes. A very impressive feature but very crowded today with people scrambling all over the rocks. For me it took away from the experience as it is a place that deserves some quiet contemplation. Especially since there are signs all over saying that climbing on the loose rocks requires a climbing permit, and I doubt the park service is issuing permits to 4 year olds.

After the stop we decided to stop short and ended up at Ellsworth AFB. When we got there the normal RV park was full but he said there was an overflow lot a couple of miles away. So tonight we are parked in an old parking lot with two other RV’s at the end of the runway in an abandoned part of the base. We do have a great view of B1 and B52 bombers landing and taking off.

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August 13, Cody WY

Today was spent at the Wild Bill Western Museum. This museum is a revelation and is actually five museums in one. There is of course a museum dedicated to Wild Bill Cody which is the original museum. The second museum is dedicated to the plains Indians. The third museum is a large collection of western art. The fourth museum is a firearm museum which is supposed to be one of the largest in the US. Finally there is a museum showing the natural environment of the high plains and mountains of the areas.

What is amazing is that in a city of less than 10,000 a museum of this quality can exist. This museum is truly outstanding in all the wings and it is easy to spend 6 or 8 hours in it. Ton and I spent the whole day in it, and actually had to cut it short at the end. We were both impressed and learned a tremendous amount. If you are anywhere near Yellowstone plan a trip to Cody to see this fascinating museum.

A sample of plains indian art.

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August 12, Craters of the Moon NM to Cody WY

Today was primarily a driving day with a goal of getting east. The route was US 20 to Idaho Falls and then on to Yellowstone NP. We went thru the park without stopping, but did get to see a bunch of Bison on the way.

The drive from the east entrance of Yellowstone to Cody was quite beautiful with some interesting mountain and rock formations. Appartently this drive was Teddy Roosevelts favorite in the west.

When we arrived in Cody we decided to stay for two nights, so we can spend some time in the Buffalo Bill Western Museum here which is supposed to be quite good. Tonight we went downtown and had dinner in the Irma Hotel, which was built by Buffalo Bill, and watched a reencactment of a gunfight featuring who else, but Buffalo Bill. As you can tell Buffalo Bill Cody is a big deal in Cody Wyoming.

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August 11. Mt. Home ID to Craters of the Moon NM

Craters of the Moon was a delight. The geological features are fascinating, the Rangers were knowledgeable and friendly, and the campground was very nice.

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Today for us was a short 3 hour drive from Mt. Home Air Force Base to the Craters of the Moon National Monument. The National Monument is in Southern Idaho at the base of the Pioneer Mountains. The genesis of the monument is the hot spot that is currently under Yellowstone NP. About 11 to 15 million years ago the hot spot was under the current Craters of the Moon. This is one of the few continental hot spots in the world where magma comes within a few miles of the earth’s surface. Most of these hot spots are under the oceans. The hot spot is relatively fixed, but the crust of the earth is moving a couple of inches a year. So 11 million years ago the hot spot was about 200 miles west of the current location in Idaho with all of the resulting volcanic activity that we currently see at Yellowstone.

There has been volcanic activity as recently 2000 years ago due to weak spots in the earths crust. As a result you can see many types of lava on what appears to be a very desolate area, that supports a great deal of life as we learned. At night we attended two Ranger talks, one that focused on the geology and the fauna of the park, and the other on the wildlife resident in the area. They were both fascinating. The Ranger on the second talk managed to even attract a bat which landed on her shoulder during the talk, and a large male mule deal with a very large set of antlers who did a walk buy during her talk.

The only down side was a Roadtrek 190 who pulled into the space between us and a nice German couple. The people inside never exited their vehicle, but turned on a large obnoxious generator and proceeded to run it for 6 consecutive hours 10 feet from Scout. Ton and I retired inside the vehicle rather than eating outside. The German couple did not have that option and ended up packing and moving to another site.

Besides the generator this was a great day.

August 10, Burns OR to Mt. Home Idaho

Today we planned to do the Steens Mountain Loop on our way to Idaho. When we went out to Steens Mountain in June the loop was closed due to snow so we settled for staying in a nice campground on the mountain. This time we made it around and the drive was great. It is about a 50 mile gravel loop where you climb from about 3500 feet to 9800 feet at the summit. It is the highest road in Oregon. Steens is a fault block mountain which makes it different than most of the mountains in Oregon which are volcanic. One side of the mountain is pretty wet by Eastern Oregon standards, resulting in Malheur Lake and the wildlife reguge there. The other in the rain shadow is the driest in Oregon with only 6” of rain per year. The dry side is called the Alvord Playa and is reminiscent of the Bonneville Salt Flats.

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After leaving Steens we bit off a long drive to Mountain Home Idaho. This is what happens when you let the destination drive your day. As a result of forgetting about the time change we didn’t arrive at the campground until after 7pm, a ten hour day. We are going to try to slow down a little for the rest of the trip and limit the driving hours per day to something a little more comfortable.

August 9, On the Road Headed East

After a two month break due to work commitments we are heading out towards Bad Lands National Park. Our plan for today was to pick up Scout at Larry’s where she was getting some modifications done to the AC system and head over to Steens Mountain for the night. Today everything took a lot longer than we thought so at 6pm we were in Burns with another 60 miles to go to the base of the mountain. So we decided to stop in a commercial park in Burns. This had the side benefit of allowing Ron to watch the Timbers.

Tomorrow we well head over to Steens Mountain and then head east into Idaho.

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