And the road goes on forever...

Saturday, July 31, 2010

July 31, Cross Country

We wake to a dewy morning full of fog from our stay at a Nebraska state recreation wayside. It was hot and humid the day before and was devoid of any campers, save us, and by nightfall all the fisherman had left as well. However, we did hear the close-by freeway all night. But with lush green lawn and more than adequate space in a convenient location, it was a nice boondocking spot. Had we come a month later we probably could have harvested a couple ears of corn growing right next door too.

Nebraska takes a long time to traverse at nearly 400 miles. The more arid open cattle ranches and dry western portions level out to the Midwest namesake of field after field of nothing but corn and large hay bales as I-80 follows the Platte River closely. Leaving the freeway at Lincoln, the capital, we make our way for Missouri, first hitting just the southern tip portion of Iowa where we cross the broad expanse of the Missouri River.

For all its beauty and pristine cleanliness, neat and tidy farms and gorgeous homes, courteous drivers, and great highways and pavement, Missouri is not an RV friendly state. There has been no boondocking, few RV parks and also surprisingly, few WalMarts for dry camping. So tonight we are in a Good Sam RV park at $29 called Cottonwood located near Columbia. That is palatable since we needed to take on water, dump, be able to do laundry (which takes a sewer and water hookup), and soak up our first WIFI since leaving SLC. A fair trade I would say. When the Duske’s roll in to stay at a park we really get our money’s worth.

Tomorrow—after traversing the dreaded St. Louis, MO freeway system (thank God it’s Sunday!), on through southern Illinois and hopefully somewhere into West Virginia. I have heard it is mountainous—maybe that means some national forest boondocking? We may not have internet again until next week about Tuesday or so when we expect to arrive at Marc's sister's place.

Day One of Travel; July 29, Laramie Boondock

I have figured out the secret to a great boondocking spot. If you can leave your window blinds up all night, you’re good to go! Tonight we are atop the Medicine Bow National Forest Mountains just east of Laramie. I had remembered we boondocked here before, probably back about 2000 because I remember the two cats we had that went out and scratched on a wooden rail fence are no longer alive. I had Marc turn off at exit 323 (Happy Jack Road), cross over I-80 and take the spur highway saying “campgrounds”. Actually, we didn’t need to go so far as to find a campground; what I remember from our long ago boondocking spot has changed substantially but the split rail fence is still there. Instead of a dirt track leading down to a rough parking area, it has now been built up and paved and a pay station has been installed since this is a national forest trailhead. Regardless, we are at the far end of the pavement area, numerous cops and sheriffs have driven by and no one has bothered us so I think we’re fine. With previously made-this-morning crab brushetta awaiting us for dinner and some Chardonnay on the side, life is very relaxed at this moment. But of course I have no internet so will have to wait to post this.

Without mishap we have made 371 miles today; most of it uphill. We do have some trailer tires starting to show excessive and rapid sheering however so Marc plans to rotate a couple of them to see if that buys some time. Early morning I know we face the twenty mile long downgrade into Cheyenne, WY and then basically flat ground after that. Goodbye west; goodbye our ability to find great boondocking like this. I’ve been told it simply doesn’t exist in the Midwest or east. We shall see.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Biggest Man-Made Hole in the World

It happens to sit right here just west of Salt Lake City in among the hillsides known as Bingham Canyon and has been a mining site since 1863. By 1906 with the advent of steam shovels, the pit really took shape under ownership of the Utah Copper Company. During its long history, this mine has produced more copper ore (18.1 million tons) than any other in the world. It is now owned by Kennecott, a subsidiary company of the giant global mining titan, Rio Tinto. Today we took a quick visit where we were able to view dioramas and exhibits and watch a video on its history and development after gazing over the edge into its abyss.

Some fast facts:
*Taken out annually: 300,000 tons of copper, 500,000 ounces of gold, 4 million ounces of silver, 30 million pounds of molybdenum, 1 million tons of sulfuric acid
*The mine is 2.5 miles across and ¾ of a mile deep and by 2015 will be another 500 feet deeper than now
*It contains 500 miles of roadway
*In order to produce the copper, 55,000,000 tons of ore must be processed. For every ton of ore removed, another two ton of overburden must be removed to gain access to the ore
*The mine uses 11 giant electric shovels, with the newest costing $20 million and weighing 3.2 million pounds
*70 gigantic haulage trucks carry up to 320 tons per trip and each one of them costs $3.5 million. The fleet travels 10,000 miles per day at an average speed of 13 mpg. Water trucks spread up to a million gallons of water daily on the roads to mitigate dust and keep the roadbeds solid.

It was really quite impressive to see; a sight not to be missed if you are in the area.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Reviewing Utah

Since we didn’t have internet connection on our trip to our Utah training I thought I would backtrack a bit and post some photos of our trip. Although we didn’t sightsee or leave the main route of travel, we did cover some new and beautiful country, especially as I-15 converged on the Virgin River Gorge shortly after leaving Nevada across the very northern tip of Arizona just west of St. George, UT. As always with windshield shots, excuse the bugs on the windows.

That night’s boondocking was marvelous off one of the marked “Ranch Road no services” exits where we found one of our favorite spots to stay, a DOT gravel pit. This one being particularly large and private offered a quiet night’s stay with picturesque views.

Farther north along I-15 the next morning we saw three pilot cars warning of “wide load” and as we crested the grade and started down, we saw the reason. It was likely one of the largest loads we have ever seen transported along a highway, using a pull/push two semi’s to get the job done and more pilot cars and even a police car with flashing lights. Just look at all those tires to support the tremendous weight of whatever this thing was!

I-15 through this section of central Utah is much like I-5 through Oregon in that it undulates through a series of grades of about 6%, slowing us down going up and down, so we wouldn’t get rolling too fast with our heavy load. Several times I smelled the brakes on the Freightliner. At times however, it would flatten out into scenic valleys and experimental sections where Utah is trying out a new speed limit. Yes, you read that right: 80. Keep in mind that there is no truck speed limit here either. Wow, that’s a scary thought. It does leave one to wonder in this age of dwindling oil resources what the legislature is thinking allowing those kinds of speeds. Most vehicles experience a loss of at least 1/4 the fuel economy over a slower speed if they go 80, to say nothing of the devastation left in the wake of wrecks at that speed.

Finally; our home in Salt Lake City; right in a convenient location downtown, the KOA. This is a busy park full of families on their summertime travels with kids in tow; lots of construction workers and rows of old single wide trailers of permanent residents. Occasionally, the massive upper end diesel pushers arrive, but they are in the minority here amidst the popups, travel trailers, rental Class C’s and the ubiquitous fifth wheels belonging to the construction workers. Our spot has been nice but is only available on a monthly basis with no refunds, so by staying a little over two weeks we come out on the losing end of this deal. In this section, WIFI is included, but at a meager 1400 mb a day which precluded at home computer study and testing, forcing us into the local library. We really have to do something about our internet situation! Marc even had some time this weekend to do a little repair to our steps.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Headed East

We think we got our final marching orders this past Thursday (they had changed on us a couple of times) and next week we expect to be headed out—all the way east to Virginia Beach, Virginia! Virginia Beach is a large city to us but sits on the Chesapeake Bay amidst lots of historical sites of interest of America’s history.

This past week was a blur of blistered feet, in-field training, and immersion in our online computer testing which we finally completed Friday; necessary for us to pass before our in-field testing which comes up Monday. If we get past that hurdle, we will be on our way as bonafide gas survey technicians.

More as we know it.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Assumptions: Guilty?

I am as guilty as any about making assumptions of a place. I admit, since the early 1980’s, I have driven through Salt Lake City only on the seemingly never-ending freeway construction projects, looking askance at the endless hillside subdivisions in a narrow strip following I-15 south or north for mile after congested mile. I never really realized that the valley they call Salt Lake is as narrow east-west as it is, for all its burgeoning population. Yes, having never really veered too far from the freeway, I hated this place.

Imagine my surprise upon walking many of its streets during my training that my dislike faded and maybe I’ve even moved on to having an appreciation of its flavor. On the boulevards the traffic is medium to heavy, but not overly burdensome. If one hits the freeways at off hours or early in the a.m. as I do, there is no traffic problem. The older established neighborhoods in the better areas are filled with beautiful and original homes, shaded by very tall mature shade trees, broad lawns and sprawling footprints. Many are one story homes on spacious lots. The streets on these interior subdivisions are quiet; sometimes winding, always tree-shaded, and entirely pleasant to walk. There is topography to the landscape. Walking down certain streets I have often thought this past week: I could live here. I love it how subdivisions used to be built with individual homes, not the cookie cutter four floor plans now offered by builders that create symmetry so boring and bland that it screams “new and homogeneous”. Always looming closely is the magnificent view of the towering Wasatch Mountains; amazing to me too that so many in a large city would enjoy such a fabulous mountain view from their windows. And the shopping! There is virtually every retailer here a person could possibly hope for.

I’m guessing that will be one of the biggest advantages of my new job. A chance to get an up close and personal look at actual neighborhoods in a community and really experience how life there might be. Wonderful! Bring it on! So far, I am really enjoying this.

(I wish I had some pictures to go with this blog. It really isn’t appropriate on my job that I carry my full size digital camera with all the other equipment I must pack so, alas, no pictures. I am considering purchasing a cheap, very small, slim digital which will fit unobtrusively into my pocket so I can provide photos of what I experience out there walking the streets daily. It won’t have the quality of my Olympus for blog work but might be better than nothing.)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

No Time!

I have not forgotten you but am suffering from the malady of exhaustion! We arrived safely in Salt Lake City after a couple night’s of boondocking; one a new spot for us with superb views that proved very quiet and peaceful despite being off I-15. And blessedly, the temperature had dropped from the previous night’s 104 near Las Vegas to a manageable 85 since we were at nearly 6500 feet.

Both Marc and I are struggling to get our bodies back into shape for the walking we’ve been doing; Marc is likely doing more than I but we’re both probably averaging at least four miles a day. Marc is working with his trainer in Park City and I am working with a different trainer on the far western side of SLC. It has been very tiring and hot, making it difficult to face all the studying we must do at night after work. Although the work isn’t hard, it is exact; with two large manuals of stuff we must learn for tests.

I may not get the chance to blog again from this location. We will spend the entire weekend purchasing some needed items specific to this job and studying! Come Monday at 4:30 a.m. we will be up getting ready to get back at it!

Thursday, July 8, 2010


A friend called me a restless soul the other day in an email to me; bolstering my spirits. The word “itinerant” also comes to mind. (a person who travels from place to place with no fixed home). I feel as though we are at a crossroads that sometimes I would rather not have faced. Yes, we thankfully and mercifully finally have a job, but on the other hand we have to leave what we just wanted to build: a life in Yuma on our own property amongst friends. So now we will be back to supporting two places but on much reduced income from what we used to enjoy.

I keep saying I don’t have the answer and I don’t. I seem to go from pillar to post (as the saying goes) battered by the headwinds of a terrible economy, to the point where I have lost track of myself. What do I want? I was so inured to the dejection of the days that I didn’t even dare to hope, so I can’t honestly say what I want. What an age to be lost in life, eh? I thought this only happened to teenagers.

So it is with misgivings that I leave Yuma and take back to the road. Our cat is going to be hating life; cooped up all day in the RV by himself in (worse yet!) an RV park where he can’t roam nor even set foot outside without being leashed. He loves our lot here so much it will almost be like animal abuse to yank him away. He lies under the palms; he lazily chases lizards; he goes out as he pleases. Our time will be regimented; show up at this time, leave at that time, go home and then arise and do it all again the next day. The saving grace may be the lure of the road; the sights unseen that beg to be seen. We won’t know until we try. Wish us well; we’re on our way!