Home Sweet Home

We left Colorado on Friday morning intending to drive two hours to a campground in Utah. After that our plan was to spend some time visiting Zion and Bryce. Well, once we hit the Utah border something happened. It was like we were a horse heading to the barn. Being that close to home made us anxious to see kids, grandkids, and friends. We arrived at home on Saturday afternoon after 10 months on the road!

Here’s a few facts:
Miles driven:
12/26/2015:

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10/29/2015:

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That’s 23,341 miles!

States visited on our trip on 12/26/15:

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States visited on our trip as of 10/29/16:
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As you can see we still have some states to visit and we also want to go back to Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico. We have no intention of going to the mid-west states that we missed! We don’t plan on going out for another long trip but will do the the rest of the states by going out a few months at a time.

Random blessings:
Our car is 17 years old and had lots of miles on it when we left. I’m sure some of you thought we were crazy! We wondered if we were crazy. But we did not have a single problem with our car! We did get the oil changed a few times and we bought new tires in North Dakota. But to drive that many miles and have no mechanical issues was such an incredible blessing.

We had no health issues! Neither of us even caught a cold. That was pretty amazing since we were in so many places touching hand rails and such that thousands of others had touched before us. And think of all the public bathrooms we used! It truly seems like a miracle. Of course, there was the broken wrist but the worst part of that was that John had to wash the dishes for seven weeks! He does so much while we are traveling (emptying the poop tank for one) that I really did feel bad about the dishes. But he never complained.

We were so blessed to find so many beautiful places to camp. Many of them were found in my research but we went to others that fellow travelers told us about. We so appreciated those recommendations. Not once were we disappointed and some of them turned out to be among our favorites.

This many sound funny but we were so, so blessed by Walmart! We love Sam Walton! And here’s why:

They are everywhere! In most parts of the country, Walmart Supercenters are the norm, not the exception (unlike Orange County, Ca). In case you don’t know the difference between a regular Walmart and a Supercenter, the Supercenter also includes a full grocery store. Emphasis on full.

Another very helpful thing to us rv’ers is a big parking lot. We were always able to find parking for our rig. And they have an auto center. We would leave our car to get the oil changed while we went into the store to do our shopping. And it’s one-stop shopping. And every store is set up the same so we know where everything is.

A typical shopping trip might include groceries, rv toilet paper (very important), fishing tackle and bait, propane, pocket knife (when “someone” looses theirs), winter gloves (when “someone” looses theirs), shorts (when you realize you didn’t bring enough), mosquito spray, toilet plunger (to pull the dent out of rear quarter panel of tow vehicle when “someone” leans against it).

We were blessed to see the best of this great country! In this current political climate, it’s easy to be discouraged at the condition of our country. And there is much to be discouraged about. But this is an incredibly beautiful country. God has blessed us with such creativity in our physical world. And we met so many kind people. It seems that on the media we only see the meanness of people but we met a lot of genuinely nice people!

Some things I personally won’t miss about traveling:

Always having to think about where we were going to stay next. This responsibility was mine and it was a little stressful. Because we wanted flexibility, we never made reservations more than a week or so ahead. But it always seemed to work out and we were never without a place to stay. Thank you, Jesus.

Doing laundry. Most independent rv parks have laundry facilities. But we preferred staying in state parks, most of which do not have laundry facilities. We were just always having to think about where we would do laundry. And I think doing laundry in public facilities is disgusting. Have you ever had to clean someone else’s lint left in the dryer? Gross!

Doing the blog. I didn’t hate doing it but I’m glad this is my last post (until we go back out again). Since this blog is for others but also for us as a record of our journey, I felt the pressure to keep it going but often I just wanted to quit. So glad to not think about it for awhile! And by the way, thanks to Travis for setting up the blog for me. Couldn’t have done it myself!

And now the question you are all asking yourselves. “How did the two of you get along?” “How is it being with your spouse 24/7?” Here’s the answer: One of the key things is having common interests. We have a lot of common things that we like doing! That is critical. (Although I never want to go to another fort in my life.) Another thing that I think is key is that when we do get frustrated with each other (and we did) neither of us stays mad for very long. Did we bicker? Yes. Did we get bugged by one another? Yes. I think my talking got to John sometimes. It turns out than when I’m driving I talk to other drivers a lot. And I make comments about everything. Who knew? But on our last night we told each other that we wouldn’t have wanted to do this with anyone else!

Finally, I’d like to share this chapter from the Psalms I read part way into our trip. This was a song sung by pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem.
Psalm 121

I lift up my eyes to the mountains-
Where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord,
The Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip-
He who watches over you will not slumber;
Indeed, He who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you-
The Lord is the shade at your right hand;
The sun will not harm you by day,
Nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm-
He will watch over your life;

The Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

And this sunset from our last night traveling home, seemed like the final blessing:
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We hope this blog has served as an inspiration to the readers! We know camping (even in an rv) is not for everyone. But there are other ways to get out and see this great country. And if this adventure seems like something you’d like to do, then do it! I’d like to encourage young people to save for something like this even if you, like us, can’t do this until retirement. Most of all, I hope our own kids will be inspired. We will try to leave some money for you to do this. 😂

Grand Junction, Colorado

We just spent a few days near Grand Junction in a beautiful state park. Our campsite was steps from the Colorado River:
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Took a day trip up to Grand Mesa, the tallest flat top mountain in the world:
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The next day went to Colorado National Monument:
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The tiny bit of Colorado we saw is beautiful but there is much more to see. We will be back!

It’s a love/hate relationship

We traveled from South Dakota to Colorado. We love the scenery in Colorado but hate traveling through the mega elevation changes!
On our way to Colorado we stopped at Wind Cave National Park. In the museum saw the sculls and horns of these two bucks who fought and got their horns locked and couldn’t get them unlocked. They died. Moral to the story: don’t fight.
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Went on a cave tour:

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Travel in Colorado. We don’t like interstates so choose a more rural route. The road was two lanes, very curvey, and had huge elevation changes. The road was called Peak to Peak. It should have been called Peak to Peak to Peak to ….. When we arrived at our destination it was about 9000 ft elevation. It was a very stressful drive with a trailer and a 17 year old vehicle. Needless to say, getting over the Rockies was stressful!
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After traveling narrow streets through Black Hawk and Central City and up steep hills (think San Francisco), we arrived at a beautiful campground on the top of a mountain:

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Sunrise at the campground:
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We loved the cute towns of Black Hawk and Central City. The campground gave us coupons for free play at some of the little casinos in the towns. Didn’t spend a dime of our money and came away with $120 of the casinos’ money. Woopee!
After the traumatic travel on the country road, we headed to the interstate. Even that had an elevation of over 11000 feet. Yikes!
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Our plan is to drive through Colorado and Utah taking time to visit sites close to our route. But we will be back at a later time to visit the rest of these two beautiful states. We are loving the places we are seeing now but getting excited to be home!

Mt. Rushmore and Custer State Park

We were talking the other day about how each state we come to seems better than the last. We had no idea that we would love the Dakotas so much!
On the way to Custer we spent a few nights in Spearfish, SD.
Hike to falls:
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Fishing:
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Beautiful scenery along the drive:
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Camping in Custer State Park:
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Drive to Mt. Rushmore:
In the second tunnel you can see the faces in the distance:
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Night pictures of Mt. Rushmore:
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It was a moving experience to see how these four great men in our history have been honored. Yes, they had their flaws but were men of integrity who each, in their own way, fought for the people. It’s hard to imagine that either of our two presidential candidates would ever be worthy of such honor.
The quaint town of Keystone and surrounding area:
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Wild life we saw in Custer State Park:
Pronghorn antelope:
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Bison. They have so many bison babies born every year that the state rounds up all the bison each September. The ones behind the fence will be auctioned off. Think bison burger. The ones in front of the fence are free.
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Wild burros hang out on the road hoping for treats. We gave up part of our lunch.
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Wild turkeys:
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Deer:
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A ranch just outside the state park had some long horn cattle. We never even saw cattle with horns this long in Texas.
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A drive along the Needles Highway includes narrow tunnels, granite spires and “the needle”.

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Fishing at a beautiful lake:
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Stopped for lunch at a cool restaurant in the town of Custer. Individual televisions at each booth. Great. Now I can yell at the tv in a restaurant too.
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Theodore Roosevelt National Park

We didn’t know where we were going to stay between Fargo, North Dakota and mt Rushmore in South Dakota. A couple we talked to at Itasca told us we had to go to Theodore Roosevelt National Park which was about half way. So we took their advice. I do not know how this place was not on my trip planning radar! It is one of the highlights of our trip.

But first, the trip across North Dakota:
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Theodore Roosevelt grew up in New York but went hunting in North Dakota. When his wife died shortly after childbirth and his mother died of typhoid in the same house on the same day, he went back to North Dakota to grieve. Later he became president and started the US Forest Service. When the National Park Service was established, this national park was established in his memory.

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Prairie Dogs in the front and wild turkeys in the background:
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Hike. Yes, that is snow from the day before:
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A snowball fight is about to happen:
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On our way to another hike:
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Came upon this old guy laying on the trail. Just had to wait until he decided to move:
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More prairie dogs:
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Bison at the entrance to our campground:
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You will need to zoom in, but there are prairie dogs, wild horses and bison in this pic:
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On to Mt Rushmore and Custer State Park.

Itasca State Park

We have seen more fall color! Here’s some pics from our travels from Wild River State Park. We followed the Great River Highway along the Mississippi:
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Itasca State Park:
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An old fire watch tower:
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Yes, we went to the top:
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The headwaters of the Mississippi. John is standing on the rocks between Lake Itasca and the beginning of the Mississippi. It said in the visitors center that it takes three months for a drop of water to makes its way from this spot to the Gulf of Mexico. I wonder how they know that. Did they send a rubber ducky down the river?
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Now heading west to the Dakotas!

Fall Color

We left the Wisconsin Dells and headed towards Minnesota. We knew the route we were taking but not where we were staying. No worries. We spent two nights at two different casinos. Casinos usually provide free overnight camping in their parking lots. It’s a great option when Walmarts are not available.
Stopped at a National Park Visitor Center and took a hike along the Mississippi:
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We never knew that the drive in Iowa along the Mississippi would be so beautiful:
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After staying at the casinos we had no idea where we would stay next. We stopped at a view point on our route and met an older couple who lived in the area. I asked them about the best places to see fall color and they told us about a road to Wild River State Park. So we veered off our course following the Mississippi and headed to the St Croix River and the Wild River State Park. It was such a beautiful place:
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So now back to our route towards the headwaters of the Mississippi. Thank you, Lord, for letting us experience such beauty!
Oh. And one more blessing after months of HOT weather:
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Wisconsin Dells

We spent several days camping at Devils Lake State Park. Originally we were just going to spend a couple days there but it rained for several days and so we stayed longer than planned so we could explore the area in nicer weather. That’s the beauty of taking a longer trip with no particular schedule.
Campground:
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We drove in to the town of Wisconsin Dells on a drizzly afternoon. It’s a total tourist trap. Remember Myrtle Beach?
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Hike to Parfrey Glen. It was a trail until it wasn’t a trail. Had to walk on rocks through the river. It was muddy and slippery. But so beautiful:
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A boat ride on the Wisconsin River to Witches Gulch:
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Some fall color:
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Urban Camping in the Windy City

We had never been to Chicago so we really wanted to see it. The problem is that camping near a big city is always challenging. Our choices were to stay at least 40 miles outside the city and drive ourselves in everyday (scary) and pay high prices for parking, or stay close to the city in a trucking lot. Of course, we choose the truck lot! It was a 10 minute uber drive from the center of the city. We were one of only 3 RVs there amongst at least several hundred truck trailers and buses. Not only that but there was no electricity or water. But we did have trucks coming in at all hours to pick up the trailers, the train tracks right behind us and the flight path of an airport above us. It was great! Seriously. You know what they say about location, location, location.
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We’ve had better happy hour spots. John literally had to kick an old juice jug full of urine out of the way before we parked. But there was 24 hour security and we never felt unsafe.
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Random pics of the city:
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Door County, Wisconsin

Our next stop in Wisconsin was Door County, recommended by the Brushwylers. Loved it!
We stayed at Penninsula State Park:
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The town of Fish Creek:
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Door County is know for growing cherries, apples, and grapes. And the cheese!!!! Grapes in the foreground, apples in the background:
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Sister Bay. One of the attractions is a Swedish restaurant that has grass growing on the roof which the goats eat. Yes, real goats.
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Ephraim:
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Ellison Bay:
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County parks:
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A little fall color:
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And a few pics from Sheboygan where we are staying for a few days before heading to Chicago:
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It is hard to believe that we have been traveling for almost 9 months and we will be home in just 2 more months! As we travel west we both are getting anxious to get home but each day when we set out to see new things, our zeal for the adventure returns. We are hoping to get through Minnesota and the Dakotas before the weather turns cold although we wouldn’t mind the excitement of a mild snow storm. If you’ve been following our map it is clear that we will only be hitting the eastern half of the country on this trip. But that is ok since we can hit the remaining states later from California. So for now, the journey continues!