Westward Ho!

Just 2 more days left here on Carolina Beach before I bring in the slides, unhook the water and sewer hoses, unplug the electric and ‘wheels-up.’ It’s been a great month – especially spending quality time with some great friends. And let me say right here and now a great, big THANK YOU to Laura, JoDell, Beth, Eloise and Janet & Bob. You are the best friends in the entire world! And to top off the month, I got to spend this past weekend with Sean – Son #2 – playing a little golf and meeting his lovely girlfriend, Nicki.

But I’m ready to get movin’ again. I have a noon meeting with my property manager (why can’t renters just be nice people and do what they’re suppose to do?) so with a late start, am planning to make it as far as Mt. Airy, NC on Thursday. Have a reservation at the Mayberry Campground. Yep, Mt. Airy is the home of Andy Griffin and is the town that the fictional Mayberry is based upon. I’m going to spend a few days with my family in southern Illinois before heading northwest to the Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, Custer State Park and finally, driving into Cody, WY for my summer work/camp position.

Thought I would list my route – in case you are along the way and want me to stop in and say ‘hey’ or know of someplace special I should stop…

NC – I-40, I-77
VA – I-77, I-81
TN – I-40, I-24
IL – I-24, I-57, I-74, I-80
IA, NE – I-80
NE, SD – I-29
SD, WY – I-90
WY – I-90, Hwy 16, Hwy 20

I have always loved maps, figuring out how to get from Point A to Point B, and ‘taking the road less traveled.’ But I have realized that I can’t just do that anymore when you’re driving a 29′ big box that acts as a kite in high winds. While sitting on the floor, 2 Atlas and state maps spread out around me, laying out the route I want to take, I realized that #1 – I really didn’t want to take Winnie over Michigan’s Machinaw Bridge – even though I was invited and would have loved to see friends in Michigan and upstate Wisconsin.

The bridge is beautiful and joins lower Michigan to the Upper Peninsula where Lake’s Michigan and Huron meet. Last summer I drove this same route in my PT Cruiser. It was a beautiful day and I had the top down, so not a lot of surface for wind resistance. Even on a beautiful day my little Cruiser was really being buffeted around on the bridge. When I stopped for lunch in St, Ignace on the other side, I jokingly asked my waitress if anyone had ever been blown off the bridge and her answer was – at least once a year! Not a good choice in my RV unless I want to park and wait for a calm, windless day – which are few and far between in that area.

Then there was the #2 portion of the route that I choose to not even try attempt in Winnie. Pick up any atlas and look how I-90 takes a traveler from Rapid City, SD into Wyoming. Now find Cody on the map. You will see a nice little short-cut on US 14/Alt 14 that goes from I-90 at Ranchester directly into Cody. Perfect – right? NOT!

Last time I was in a Camping World, the lady at the register, when she learned I was heading West, said I really must buy a copy of the “Mountain Directory West for Truckers, RV and Motorhome Drivers.” The subtitle to this little book is “Locations and Descriptions of over 400 Mountain Passes and Steep Grades in 11 Western States.” On the atlas US 14/Alt. 14 look like a nice, little roads that would cut a lot of time off my trip. Then you look up this route in the Mountain Directory and learn this ‘little shortcut’ via Alt. 14 is known by locals as the “OH MY GOD HILL!!” and just plain old Granite Pass (elv. 9033) and Shell Canyon on US. 14.

The written description is enough to make one gasp! A posted 10% grade for 10 miles down OMGH and then an additional 9 miles of 5-7% grades with many 20-25-30 mph switchback curves. And this is open range country, often with livestock on the roads. In boldface, the books says “All trucks, RV’s and vehicles with trailers must stop and read sign at turnout ahead where US 14 splits. US Alt. 14 has turnouts for trucks and RV’s to check breaks, 3 runaway truck ramps, turnouts to cool breaks–10% downgrade for 10 miles –sharp curves—3600′ drop in elevation in 10 miles. (Sign doesn’t mention the 4 miles of 8% grade after the 10 miles of 10%)”

After reading this I very quickly decided it was going to be worth every extra minute it takes to take I-25 back down to Casper and travel back up to Cody on the fairly flat US 20! I emailed my boss Ron at the Yellowstone Inn and told him what I had been planning and he said don’t be such a whimp! He re-routed me from I-90 through Buffalo onto Hwy 16, up and over the Bighorn Mountains through Powder River Pass. A little less ‘exciting’ than the OMGH and a nice, big road with places to pass and pull over and take pictures! The things you need to learn when driving an RV! But you could bet I wouldn’t miss driving the ‘Oh My God Hill’ if I still had my little convertible!

Well, now that the sun is up and shinning, it’s time to get on my bike and peddle to the local Food Lion for one last grocery-run before I leave. Borrowed JoDell’s car yesterday and spent time at the laundromat. Still trying to decide where I will store my bike during the trip – either inside or bungie’d and locked to the roof ladder.

Until the next time somewhere along the road West….take care of each other.

ReAnn

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