Sunday, June 29, 2008

For the Inquisitive, FAQ

Greetings, Friends and Lurkers

We know you are out there and we are glad that you are! Reading, enjoying, and laughing, huh?
A number of you have commented directly on the blog (thank-you) and some have mentioned the blog during phone calls or in emails.

I wish that there were an easy way to post a guest book on the blog – maybe there is, we just don’t know how

Thought I would take some of the questions we’ve gotten recently and post responses here. Please let us know when you have other questions or comments.

For those of you with us from the beginning, you know that we are driving a Roadtrek 210 Popular – the vehicle measures 21’ 10’ plus an additional three feet or so for the rear mounted spare tire and the hitch that holds our two bicycles. It is a van conversion – a 2007 Chevy chassis built up, down and out (giving it, by us at times, a not-so-pretty nickname of “the fat van’) with a lovely interior and functional water, electrical, cooking, heating/ac, and generator.
If interested in pictures of it, go to the official Roadtrek site and look up the 210 Popular model. In addition to floor plan diagrams, they have a good video view of the inside.

Yes. It has a small bathroom with toilet and a shower (the latter we plan to use but haven’t yet because we have had nice shower facilities in the campgrounds all but one night so far).

We have been eating mostly on board. Our indoor kitchen consists of a 2-burner propane stove, a 4-cubic foot refrig with small freezer, a microwave/convection oven, sink, and prep area as well as drawers and cupboards which hold at least one weeks worth of food .
We have been food shopping every few days to stock up on fresh produce and dairy.
We also enjoy eating out when there is an inviting place…we ate local trout at the Legion Lake Lodge at Custer State Park, SD and wonderful Bumbleberry Pie ala mode in the town of Custer (they serve 700 pies a day during summer season)at the Purple Pie Place. Any chance I wouldn’t stop there?

We did anticipate the expense. As noted previously,we have paid from $389.9 to $419.9.
At the beginning of the trip, driving across the plains, we were averaging about 14.5 mpg. That has dropped to approx. 13 mpg as we have driven out of the plains into the hills and also we are making many more short trips.

PART 2 – Coming Soon

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Ascent


after four hours in the cave!
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Spe- Whating?

So what was the next challenge? I really liked Wind Cave, SD, one of the lesser known Natl Parks. The basic tours, one of which we went on, is guided through walkways and paths, sometimes uneven, and with lots of steps (~ 400). We saw some lovely cave formations called boxwork and popcorn. This is a long cave (4th longest in the world), pretty safe, and with no bats or snakes. Also none of the forms we often associate with caves -- stalactites or stalagmites.
But the tour consisted of 40 of us being guided through and we sat on stone benches to listen to the naturalist's explanations. Somewhat like a theme-park attraction.

I noticed another more advanced tour. Its description follows:

"The Wind Cave Crawling Tour is a way for visitors to explore the cave away from developed trails. During this 4-hour tour visitors will be introduced to basic and safe caving. Park staff asks that you wear old clothes and gloves for this tour because much of the trip involves crawling. Long pants, long-sleeved shirts and sturdy, lace-up boots or shoes with non-slip soles are also required. Wind Cave will provide participants with hard hats, lights and knee pads. This tour is limited to 10 people and the minimum age is 16. Wind Cave requires a release form be signed for participants under 17. Please don’t bring jewelry, watches or other valuables on this tour."

I was attracted but anxious. Did I really want to do this? Could I? I mused that what would be tested would be my comfort level rather than my safety. Reasonably comfortable with my decision, Alan and I met our group on Friday afternoon and they were all younger than us and I was the only female! What was I getting myself into?

We were told that approx 1000 people tour the cave on any given day but only ten do it at this level.

Graded very strenuous -- it was challenging with much crawling, both on belly and back, through some very small passageways (~10 inches), and climbing as well.
I gasped when I saw some of the smaller squeezes or higher narrow climbs, wondering can I, how will I do this?
We were led into some large cave rooms,sat on the rocks, and saw some wonderful cave features not seen anywhere else.
We had a great guide, Scott, and a energetic and helpful group.
I was fatigued by the end of it -- and more willing to admit it than the guys. Having faced both physical and mental challenges, I was also exhilarated. More spelunking anyone?

Bison Herd


Amazing sight!
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Who Recommends?

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A famous local!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Badlands to the Black Hills, SD

We met a lovely couple of Road Trekkies at the KOA Campground in the Badlands. We chatted, compared rigs, and discussed the next stops on our trip.
They said they had just been to our intended destination, Custer State Park and added that it had hailed there each of the three days they were there.

On the 90-mile drive to Custer, we passed Rapid City, through Keystone, and visited Mt Rushmore (more about that in my next entry).

The last section of road into the area was the incredibly scenic and curvy Iron Mountain Road. Through one-lane stone tunnels (honk when you enter so no one comes in – you hope -- the other side) and over wooden pigtail bridges.

It was raining hard as we approached the Stockade Lake Campground at Custer State Park and started hailing as we were pulling up to our site. Big and loud hail stones. Glad we were forewarned!

Tuesday, we took the morning caravan tour. In addition to the naturalist leading, there was only one other car with us. The four stops we made on the Wildlife Loop rewarded us with incredible sightings – prairie dogs, pronghorns, a 13-striped ground squirrel, burros, many area plants and birds, the largest Ponderosa Pine in the area (and we learned firsthand that the Ponderosa Pine bark smells strongly of vanilla). Sounds good, huh? But I was also pining to see some bison. We spotted some scat in the road and then saw a buffalo moving through the forest. I thought, as did the naturalist, that maybe that would be all we saw that day. We drove towards the last stop and just before we arrived, turning a corner, we encountered a herd of approx 500 bison. We saw them, heard their deep humming growl, and watched as the babies nursed.
Well, that’s what we came for…

That’s enough of our itinerary for now. I plan to share our observations of Mt Rushmore and Crazy Horse soon.
My computer connection is slow and spotty so I won't try to respond to emails or post photos now.

As far as mood… ten days in and this is all still feeling like a vacation. I’m wondering if/when that will change. And how.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Notch Trail, Badlands Nat Park


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Going down is even harder than climbing up!

The Good about the Badlands is Bad

We have been enjoying our stay here. With moderate temps, running into the low 80s during the day and cooling at night. Lush greens with lots of wildflowers.
But yesterday, while on a Park Ranger/naturalist led prairie walk, we were informed that this was not normal for this time of year. Like in many MidWestern areas, the Badlands have received an inordinate amount of rain over the last month. Usually by this point in the season there would have been days hitting over the 100 degree mark.
The ranger reported that those living in the area have sighted wildflowers that they have never before seen in the region and that the tall sweet clover most years only grows to half or one third its height now.
They speculate that the rain caused additional erosion equal to 500 years!

But we reveled in being outdoors and hiking another trail (the Notch) marked moderate to strenuous. A lot of ledge walking, worth it for the view.

But a trail not recommended for those afraid of heights and LADDERS! One of a number of trials that I usually avoid.
Pictures next...

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Riding the Great Jackaloupe


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And What Did Alan Do There?

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Wall Drugs
Wall, SD

Sioux Falls

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Houses of Oak Park, IL





These all are in a few block radius of the Frank Lloyd Wright Museum.
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GAS - having driven over 1700 miles and getting just over 14 1/2 MPG, we are very conscious of gas prices. Still a little cheaper than when we left home. Have paid a range between 389.9 and 419.9.

RV Campgrounds - Many (most?) campgrounds are like parking lots, some with more trees and separation than others. We are in the midst of many bus-sized big rigs. Also many pop-ups, which are quite cute, practical, and economical.
At least many of the buses hold large families. With 2-3 kids, bicycles for the whole family, and some musical instruments (seen/heard a guitar and a keyboard).
Finding a few vans similar to ours. And like the communities that often form around various vehicles (Harley's, Volvo's, etc), we gravitate towards the other Road Trek-ites.

RVers - We and many of our friends have said -- we are not the RVing type. As boaters, we have always enjoyed entering a town via its waterway and chatting with the other boaters. Although we have had some short but sweet contact with our fellow travelers, we have not yet found anyone we wanted to share a meal with or just sit around and chat with for awhile.

BATHROOMS -- in my free time, maybe I'll write a sociology treatise on women's campground bathrooms. How they are designed, the best times to find an empty shower stall, and how much paraphernalia females bring in for their morning ritual.

COMMUNICATION - Well, as you can see we do have internet capacity here. This campground has free wifi. We also have an aircard which can help us hook up in some places which don't.

Phone calls are also interesting...we have no cell phone coverage here but Alan is talking on the phone right now -- via Skype. An online service that Alan registered for and downloaded before we left (with help from our friend, Josh). With an internet connection and a headset, we can call any phone. Also, if we call another registered Skype user with the right equipment, we can talk with video. We might be trying that out soon.

Please let us know if you have any comments or questions.
If you are not sure how to post...scroll down our past postings to the one marked, Comments Please.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


So I forgot...on the drive across South Dakota we made 3 stops.
First, the falls that give the city of Sioux Falls its name, which are right in the city. We were there at 8 AM. Mostly deserted, very pretty in the bright low angle morning light - has a paved bicycle path that runs around the whole city. We just took time for a short stroll. Also went past the stockyards- what a stink and there weren't even any animals there.
The Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD just off I-90. An over hyped building decorated both inside and out with corn. We were told by our daughter it would be a disappointment but because we were told, it wasn't - just a goof. Turns out its been around since forever - another roadside attraction.
And lastly, Kadoka, a very depressed and depressing midwest farm town where we stopped for groceries. The midwest's version of a post-industrial upstate NY town.
(Barbara's note: I stopped in the Jackson Co Library on the main street of Kadoka. The male librarian didn't look up or speak when I entered. The place smelled of cigarette smoke. The best feature was the wood-draw card catalog).

More South Dakota

Writing on Sunday morning.
Arrived in the Badlands Friday. Pretty spectacular. The Badland buttes are striated rock formations in various angular shapes and forms inc. magnificent spires and towers. Others look like large sand castles.

Both of us were feeling tired from all the driving this week and thought we might just stay in the campground yesterday -- and we are both so glad that we didn't.
We took a morning hike, our initiation into being active again. I thought that the 4-mile loop, rated moderate, would be fine. I hadn't noticed that there was a shorter piece rated STRENUOUS that one must hike, actually climb up and for me, slide down, to get to and from the loop. And then there was the warning sign...Beware Rattlesnakes.

The hike was fun and a bit challenging. The moderate part was beautiful,flat and in open sun. And although there were many folks at the trailhead, we saw no one else for most of the trip, except for one young man. And just as my energy was beginning to flag, we saw the same guy coming around the other side. He had just run the loop! From Brooklyn (what's new?), he was on break from medical school. A few more folks were coming in as we were leaving. A little concerned for those walking in without water bottles (sort of like the people who start at the Grand Canyon trail in flip-flops). And no rattlesnakes.

Prairie dogs (sign...Caution: Prairie Dogs Have the Plague...??) and a few deer sighted from the van. Flora (lots of wildflowers), no fauna, on the trail.

And tourists that we are, we couldn't pass up those enticing Wall Drug signs. We wanted to drive the incredible road through the park which was on the route to Wall.
Obviously, like the Corn Palace, a hokey tourist attraction...with much to buy.
We only purchased comestibles...lunch and ice cream.
What I did like about both places is their history as ventures of early entrepreneurs.

We are staying here in a KOA campground (this will be the third night) with full-hookups and tomorrow onto Custer State Park, which will be more primitive with no hookups inc no electric (so we will run our frig on propane).

Friday, June 20, 2008

South Dakota

So here we are in the Badlands, an area of south western South Dakota that also contains Mt. Rushmore, Crazyhorse memorial, Custer State Park with a herd of Bison, Mammoth Hot Springs and, of course, Wall Drug.
We are in a KOA campground just south of Badlands national park. Drove thru a small section of the park to get here - WOW spectacular sandstone towers, spires and mounds some with windows reminding us of sand castles but on a very grand scale.
The plan is to spend 3 nights here and explore the area. Maybe even take a day not to move at all.
Good to be sitting still and catch up with ourselves. 1000 plus miles of the plains in 2 ½ days has been a bit much.
Campground quite comfy with a pool, hot tub, laundry, wi-fi, cable tv etc. along a river with enormous cottonwood trees shedding their fluff.
Being on the road still feels odd and somewhat surreal - its like a vacation but...
We met one coupe in a smaller rv than ours who have no permanent home and have been on the road for 6 years - hard to imagine.
Will try to get some pictures up in the next few days - our on the road tech skills still need some work.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

We're On the Road Again

Third day.
Camping in a Wisconsin State Park, approx. 30 miles from Madison.

It's been 5-state day (from Ohio, where we spent last night, through Indiana, into Michigan, then Illinois -- with a lovely stop in Oak Park, area of Frank Lloyd Wright museum and homes he designed -- into Wisconsin.)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

"The Time To Hesitate is Through"

Hesitation...I guess I did. I started this just before we left and here it is Wednesday, the third day of travel.

We couldn't have left much sooner than we did -- we had a family wedding to attend the last week home.
And then we did postpone a day to feel more relaxed.
Why rush -- to begin a long uncharted journey?

The last month has been hectic and emotional.
So many good-byes...with clients, friends, and family.
Mostly a combo of tough and touching; individually and cumulatively.
And also saying good-bye to our house (which will happily be occupied and taken care of over the year) and our long-term office (the closing is supposed to happen SOON).
Letting go of daily routines and place.
Exciting and scary and a bit surreal.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Pre-Trip Mood

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Not Quite Famous

Our blog got mentioned in the current issue of the Live Your Road Trip Dream enewsletter. The enewsletter is a great resource for those of us getting out on the road (and as you may remember, the author's book, Live Your Road Trip Dream, introduced us to Class B RV's).
Check it out at:

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Tongue Twister for the Day

What is the total of techno-toys that two non-techies take on a trip across country in their (Road)Trek? Too Much!



* 1 GPS






*SPOT - Emergency Service

*And the on-board entertainment



and all the discs that go with them
inc some old movies

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


So what is wrong with our new Roadtrek RV?Not a lot but it took all day.I spent all of yesterday driving to a little town near Syracuse that sold us our RV and services it. And because the place is in the middle of nowhere, 5 hours in the shop watching, helping and learning from the excellent mechanic Dan who shared his knowledge and opinions gracefully. In the meantime Jamie at the counter got answers to a number of my questions by repeatedly calling directly to Roadtrek in Canada. A day well spent with most of the annoying things taken care of.The biggest being a broken waste disposal hose which broke after only one use -- hope that problem is solved or could mean a lot of shit -- literally. Having used the trek only once over night and even then not all of the systems (they are many and complicated) I/we are a little nervous about how it all will work. Oh well , part of the adventure.