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Zion National Park, Southern Utah

Zion National Park, Southern Utah
In the afternoon we drove over to Zion National Park and again consulted with the rangers. The drive into Zion is as gorgeous as the park itself.  Once in the park a shuttle bus takes visitors down into the main canyon that is now closed to auto traffic due to the impossibility of thousands of cars all fitting onto the one road.  Only visitors headed for the lodge may bring their vehicles. The shuttle has lots of places you can be dropped off to hike or spend time.  It is a looking up experience. 

On our way out of the park we pulled over because we spotted a mountain goat posing atop a high rock formation.  Other cars quickly caught on and pulled over for the show, which lasted a good 15 minutes.  Further along the same road we were treated by seeing a group of mountain goats picking their way nimbly along the rocks right beside the road and jumping in the road at times.  Many pictures and videos were made.  Much fun. A great end to a fantastic day. Again, we are so blessed to have such national treasures.
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
We planned to tour four national parks in Southern Utah before lighting in the Prescott, Arizona area where Frank was set to share his music the following Friday.  First we situated ourselves In a charming, if not remote, campground run by the Lutheran Church. Quite by accident we discovered Lutherwood and loved our stay there - two miles down a gravel road in the beautiful hills of Southwestern Utah.  Deer and cattle were all around us and the stars at night were astounding.

Bryce Canyon is a short drive from Lutherwood.  It is a canyon fairyland that you view from high atop a long mountain ridge.  The park rangers are so helpful at orienting visitors.  We saw the sights, without spending time to hike down in and around the canyon in one full morning.

Redwood National Park

Redwood National Park, Northern California Monday, July 21, 2014.
An easy drive from Crater Lake in Oregon to Redwood National Park in Northern California, we were awed by the height and size of the trees along the highway.   Redwood is actually a cooperative effort between the Federal and State governments and you will see both state and national park rangers throughout your visit.  

Once inside the actual park and walking through it, we were again so grateful for all the people who have put so much effort into, preserving it for posterity.  Lady Bird Johnson was one of these people.  A loop hike named in her honor was an easy hour acquaintance with the giant trees as Frank read a self guided tour booklet while we passed through the forest.  All warnings about bears being active in the area aside, we thoroughly enjoyed the park, including the Visitor Center, situated at the edge of the Pacific Ocean.

Crater Lake National Park

After our difficult lesson on Mt. Rainier the previous day, we did leave the RV at a campground and took the Prius up to Crater Lake the following day.  The drive was beautiful. The lake is enormous.  It was formed by volcanic activity and is the deepest lake in the United States. There is a lodge at the top for those who would like to spend the night. Thanks to people like William Gladstone Steel who campaigned vigorously in the late 1800s to protect Crater Lake, it was made a national park in 1902. 
Long story short, we made it to the top and safely back down in the Prius.  It was breathtaking.  However we learned another important Lesson -  give yourself plenty of time to get down out of a dark forest and back to the campground, especially if it is an isolated, wilderness area.  Enough said about that dark night.

Mt. Rainier, July 19th

That afternoon, Saturday the 19th, anxious to get the "Rainier Experience" we entered the park in the RV, towing our Prius and headed up the narrow, winding mountain roads.  BIG LESSON #1 - first find a campground, then take car into mountains.  When we realized we were not on the road to the Visitor Center, Frank wisely pulled over into one of the small turnouts.  He got out, unloaded the Prius from the tow dolly, carefully turned the RV around on the narrow road and put the Prius back on.  We headed back down the mountain, found the right road to the Visitor Center and proceeded up.  We made it to the top, got our pictures and got off that mountain.  We found another good rest stop near Vancouver, WA and called it a day.  

From Yellowstone to Mt. Rainier

Driving from Yellowstone to Mt Rainier we were awed by the BIG VIEWS as we followed the Yellowstone River through Montana.  The ranches and horses were so "Montana."  We plugged in another Sherlock Holmes and cruised all day. About 6 p.m. We crossed the Continental Divide just East of Butte at an elevation of 6,393 feet. Montana became very smoky as the day went on due to wildfires at Bitteroot National Forest in Eastern Idaho. We drove late into the evening, hoping to drive out of the thick smoke.  We crisscrossed the Clark Fork River at least 10 times as it wound its way along through a canyon on I90.  About 9:30 we found a nice rest stop as we crossed over into Idaho and spent the night.  

Saturday, July 19th was our 30th day on the road.  After our standard granola/yoghurt breakfast we headed out across the Northern neck of Idaho bound for Mount Rainier National Park in Washington State. A mix of dry prairies spotted with buttes, green corn fields and golden wheat fields ready to harvest set against a bright blue sky scattered with bright white clouds flew past our RV all day.  We saw an impressive number of wind turbine "farms" along our windy route also.
Late in the afternoon we stopped at the Columbia River Overlook. A stark place of high brown cliffs on either side of the wide Columbia. Very strong winds rocked our RV as we pulled away.

We reached Yakima, WA - a fertile area bursting with fruit markets and wonderful local cantelopes, cherries, peaches and apricots.  We bought a bunch and pressed on to Ranier. 

Yellowstone National Park, July 16 - 18

Yellowstone National Park, July 16th through the 18th.
After stopping briefly in Grand Teton National Park we proceeded up John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway to The South Entrance of Yellowstone National Park. This parkway commemorates all the generous contributions and efforts John D. Rockefeller, Jr. made to conservation of wilderness areas and helping establish a National Park system for all people to enjoy. 

This was so exciting! Lifelong dream fulfilled.  We used our America the Beautiful Pass and entered for free.  Yellowstone is a huge park with many different landscapes, from the volcanic geyser areas to the Tower-Roosevelt and Canyon  areas and one of our favorite hangouts, The Lake House Lodge overlooking pristine Yellowstone Lake.  We camped in the Fishing Bridge Campground and as always in a national park, after getting set up we headed for the Visitor's Center to get our Passport stamped and consult with the Rangers for good trip info.

Again pictures can't convey the grandeur of our beautiful country or the camaraderie we encountered everywhere, but here are some of our favorite pictures.  Try to notice the pictures near the end of our stay, as we exited Yellowstone's North Entrance into Montana - Big Country with sage brush and cactus.  Really, we just expected a bunch of cowboys driving a herd of cattle to appear over every hill.  

As we descended down out of the park we did stop to enjoy the Montana scenery.  The Yellowstone River flows through this part of Montana and Guest Ranches and river rafting opportunities are everywhere.  While we were there we witnessed a car coming down roll over onto the driver's side and stop in the road.  This was the second time on our trip we had to call 911.  Frank ran down to see what he could do while I ran up the road to warn drivers to slow down so they wouldn't run into the car and the people trying to help.  Thankfully, the driver wasn't badly hurt and was eventually able to climb out the passenger side.

Grand Teton National Park, July 16

Tetons National Park, July 16th We left our campground in Casper, Wyoming and headed out through the vast short grass prairie spotted with sage brush towards the Tetons. It was 99 miles to any services. Just us and the occasional car. We passed by mile after mile of fences, prairie and power lines with an occasional steer here and there.  Early on it started raining hard and one of our windshield wipers broke. Frank switched the good one to the drivers side and mine was pointed straight out so it wouldn't scratch the windshield. It became our symbol for, " Onward!" The rain finally stopped and we drove for several hours with the vast prairie spread all around us.  

At one point we came to a site named, "Hell's Half Acre," a scenic overlook above a beautiful canyon with steep cliffs of richly striated pink and brown tones.  Then back to the flat prairie.

We reached Bridger-Teton National Forest and stopped at an overlook to enjoy the breathtaking view and take pictures. Pictures really can't capture the majesty of the Tetons, but here they are.

Golden and Platteville Colorado July 11 - 14th

Arrived at  Platteville, Colorado, United Methodist Church. Situated North of Denver  and surrounded by a mixture of industry and farms, this church is Pastored by our old friend, Mark Heiss.  We were youth leaders at the Golden, CO UMC in the early 80s where Mark was pastoring the Youth.  He was one of the groomsmen at our wedding there in 1983 and it was great to see him again and catch up and meet his wife, Heidi. Mark helped us get our RV set up behind the church and showed us where we could use a real shower and washer/dryer. 

That Sunday Frank led worship for the Golden UMC at an outside service at lovely Lions Park along Clear Creek.  Clear Creek has been developed into an awesome public recreation area. It was a beautiful day and the park was full of people. After a delicious potluck lunch we all enjoyed listening to Frank as he shared his music.

The next day was a concert back at Platteville UMC, preceded by a BBQ rib dinner with cornbread and all the fixins. Mark Heiss is a man of many talents.  As well as being a true Pastor, he builds mandolins.  Each mandolin is a slow project, lovingly and patiently constructed.  The concert was well attended and made all the better by Mark joining Frank in the last five songs.  They rocked!  If you want a handmade mandolin by Mark, check out http://www.bouldermandolin.com

Thursday, July 10th - Off to Colorado

Day 21, Thursday, July 10, 2014. Took a left out of our campground, like the gps said... Sign said, "Pavement ends in 1,000 feet." Hmmm ...  Narrow access road between highway and pasture for 6 miles. Washboard dirt road rattling the RV. Patience. Saw deer grazing along with herd of cattle.

Made it to Ft. Collins, Colorado.  Found Panera, used wifi to locate a campground in Loveland for the night. We joined Passport America in order to save money on camping. Working well so far.

Set up at campground and headed out to see Rocky Mountain National Park near Estes Park.  Winding canyon road alongside The Big Thompson River that flooded so badly last September.  Devastation all along.  Cabins whose foundations had been washed away and were hanging in space over the now quieter river. Much cleanup and reconstruction still in process.  Signs on cabins thanking the "Hardhat Angels."  These people have been through a lot.

Entered National Park for free thanks to my Senior Pass.  Love it.  Pictures don't begin to convey how beautiful the park is.  It's a must see.

Wednesday, July 9th - Wyoming and Fort Laramie

Day 20, Wednesday, July 9, 2014. Off to Cheyenne, Wyoming.  Seeing more big sky feeling, rolling high country, ranches, cattle, horses.  Pulled over for a quick lunch in the RV along the prairie.  Visited Ft. Laramie National Historical Site just past the North Platte River.  Great restoration work and exhibits.  Frank and I had Sasparilla and Birch Beer in the saloon...very fun to talk to the very knowledgable bartender. Wonderful stop. Back on highway - speed limit is 80 mph! Not us. First 100 degree day. Thankful for air conditioning. 
Late in the day - first sight of the Rockies in the distance!

Tuesday, July 8th - Badlands SD

Day 19 , Tuesday, July 8, 2014 - took in Badlands Nation Park and Buffalo Gap National Grasslands.  National Park Service Visitor Centers have been a pleasure to explore. Often they have a great short video about the site and small museum type exhibit.  National Park employees are gracious, friendly and genuinely want to make your visit rich. The rock formations in the Badlands are awe inspiring and can be enjoyed on foot in places, with caution to be mindful of the rattlesnakes.  However, a ranger told a worried visitor that the snakes in The Badlands are the least agressive type and only 1 in every 5 million visitors have actually been bitten. Comforting.
The whole drive, including The Buffalo Gap National Grasslands covered 200 miles and took the better part of a day.  The grasslands were lush green and waving in the soft winds.  Bright yellow wild flowers and purple clover lined the highways. A local man told us the grassy part of the Badlands hadn't been this lush green in over 50 years. We are feeling very blessed.

Monday, July 7th - Mt Rushmore and Crazy Horse

Day 18 Monday, July 7, 2014 -drove Prius up into The Black Hills to Mount Rushmore National Monument. Wow! Expectations exceeded.  Impressive facilities and beautiful walk through the woods at base of mountain with spectacular views of the sculpture. From here drove by Crazy Horse and then to Jewel Cave, which had just closed. Drove home through Custer State Park - simply serene - switch backs through canyons, green meadows, tall pines, small lakes and winding streams.  Any one of these places could take a day to enjoy. We will have to come back.

Sunday, July 6th - Crossing South Dakota

South Dakota,- Sunday, July 6th, 2014 was a bright morning.  Our RV park neighbors, George and Barbara came over to meet us and talk about how far we were from Maine.  A very nice couple in their 70s, they stood outside and gave us great RVing advice from their 27 years of experience. As the temperatures began to rise George commented that he was feeling a bit dizzy, which was unusual for him. Within a minute or two of sitting down on our camper steps he lost consciousness. We all rallied around him and couldn't revive him.  After we called 911 he began to come back.  The ambulance crew showed up within minutes and he was off to be checked out. Thankfully George was fine, just affected by the heat.  Reality check for us all.
Frank and I headed West on I 90. Along the way we stopped at the Lewis & Clark National Historical Site.  Perched on a hilltop overlooking the Missouri River it was a huge treat. Great views and interesting displays. Wonderful place to stop in RV for lunch.

Drove all afternoon with ribbon of road stretching into infinity, vast vistas, endless prairie dotted with bunches of cattle, occasional ponds with shade trees.  Camera can't capture vastness and beauty of it all.  Arrived at Hermosa, South Dakota campground about 6 pm.  Nice RV park, amid prairie, cattle lowing, horses whinnying... Beautiful Western sunset. 

Driving across IN, IA, SD

Driving across Indiana and Iowa to South Dakota - driving days - Leaving Lawrenceburg in the Southeast corner of Indiana we drove diagonally across most of Indiana to arrive at Amana Colonies just West of Davenport, Iowa. We passed several sections of modern windmills, miles long all day.  Amana Colonies is a popular tourist destination built around arts and crafts and German heritage.  This day we started listening to an audio book our son and daughter-in-law, Andy and Lori Marston had left with us, "Around the World in 80 Days" by Jules Verne.  It really made the day of driving enjoyable.  We had a nice Fourth of July in large RV campground surrounded by cornfields.  Fireworks show in nearby field supplied by, we were told, " two doctors and a lawyer."  :)
Early next day in a light rain left campground headed for South Dakota.  Due to previous week of very heavy rain many roads and bridges were not passable and fields were under water. Sun came out midday and we enjoyed a lovely day of farms, green fields of corn and soy and those beautiful, giant windmills. 

Once in Iowa we saw even more "windmill farms" stretching along corridors for miles.  We stopped at one rest stop that was dedicated to wind energy education and had one blade of a giant windmill standing over 300 feet tall outside. Inside were displays explaining the history of windmills and their contributions to energy in the Midwest.  Very interesting and well done.

This day we finished listening to "Around the World in 80 Days."  Interestingly, while we were driving through Council Bluffs, Iowa alongside some train tracks, the story told of the main characters traveling through Council Bluffs, Iowa by rail. Go figure!

Scenery began to change to more grazing land and sage colored trees and bushes. Made it to Plankinton, South Dakota RV Park. 

Indiana, June 30th - July 3rd

Indiana, June 30th - July 3rd.  Spent these four days parked under a large maple tree next to another old cemetery behind St. John's Lutheran ELC Church in Lawrenceburg, IN, a rural farming community with a strong German heritage. Our old friend and former Mainer, Pastor Matthew Voyer and his wife, Heather and their son, Toby hosted us.  Rural Indiana is beautiful and we were treated to outstanding firefly shows every evening. Thursday evening after a delicious church cookout we all gathered in the Sanctuary for a rich time of song and story by Frank.  Again many close connections were made and we hope to return.  Thank you all!

Indiana, June 29th

Indiana, June 29th.  Arrived at McGrawsville, IN United Methodist Church. Beautiful old country church surrounded by cornfields on three sides, grain and feed store on the fourth side.  Many expansions on this friendly and growing church.  Treated to a great  community supper before Frank and singer-songwriter friend, Aaron J. Robinson's concert.  Frank and Aaron met at a Gospel Music Assoc. singer-songwriter conference in 2009.   Both Frank and Aaron had songs in the semi-finals and Aaron went on to the finals. Aaron and his author (Mercy Rising), wife, Amber, live in Indianapolis. It was a good crowd and lively evening. Thank you, Assoc. Pastor Kenny Cole for such a warm welcome and great evening. Hope to be back!

Akron, OH Area June 24-27

After settling in at our campground we visited Cuyahoga Valley National Park near Akron.  We spent an enjoyable afternoon walking along a small part of The Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail.  When the canal was active men would hitch mules up and walk them along to help pull the canal boats down the canal.  Very nice small museum exhibit.  See the pix of canal on one side of tow path and river on other side at this point on the path.  See Frank standing in the remains of one of the locks.  We highly recommend this park.
Debbie purchased her America The Beautiful NP pass and now gets big discounts at National Parks.
Friday the 27th Frank played his music and shared his story at Grace Church's Celebrate Recovery meeting in Akron (Fairlawn).  Well attended, well received, and the audience connected strongly with the message and music.

Niagra Falls, NY June 22

Sunday June 22nd
Arrived at First Baptist Church, Niagra Falls, NY.  Beautiful old brick church just a few blocks from the falls.  In it's hay day it had one thousand members but now down to just a faithful few.   We enjoyed a wonderful service.  The concert at 2pm was lightly attended  but was much appreciated and resulted in invitations to several other churches. 
Since this church is in an aging part of town it is frequently visited by the homeless.  We met a man named Jimmy who was from Detroit and had walked from Buffalo to Niagra Falls with everything he owned in a plastic bag.  He was extremely tired and hungry.  After sharing some food with him we continued to pack up.  After a while we watched Jimmy walk away and wished we could have helped him more.
After leaving the church we found a beautiful campground along The New York Amish Trail.  We enjoyed two days in Randolph, NY.  We recommend the area for peace and quiet.

Chester, VT June 20

If you've never been to Chester, Vermont you have to make the trip!

We arrived in Chester around 5:15 pm -quaint town amid rolling hills and mountains in full bloom - lush bounty of vibrant green ferns lined the highways. Beautiful old red brick church, First Baptist Church, on Main Street right next to a very old cemetery with a low stone wall around it.  We parked our camper right behind the church next to the cemetery under a canopy of shade trees.  Quiet, peaceful, idyllic temperature and breezes. Warm welcome from Pastor Tom Charlton. Strung an electric cord from the church to the camper and we were all set up.  

Frank's concert started at 7 pm to 30 or so people at their Friday night Coffeehouse. Warm, friendly crowd and Frank's music and message well received. Generous church. Afterwards off to The Inn Victoria just down Main Street to chat with old friends and owners, Dan & Penny Cote and their grown daughter, Rachel and a few other folks. Next morning back for a luscious breakfast served on China & crystal, again sharing conversation with inn guests.  Great time swapping travel stories.  Blessed time in Chester.  Thanks Penny and Dan for connecting us with this wonderful church.  Off to Niagara Falls!

Ready To Roll

Captain's Log, Star Date June 20, 2014 about noon...

Off we go!  Headed out of Portland, Maine in our 1999 Shasta Cheyenne RV.  That means we drive it, not pull it.  Behind it we're towing our Toyota Prius for day tripping.  You have to know that 'Trekkies' that we are, we immediately started referring to the RV as the 'Mother Ship' and the Prius as the 'Shuttle' or 'Pod.'  Even though fifteen years old, the RV only had 37,000 miles on it and was kept in excellent condition by the previous owners.

After researching RVs for a couple of years and talking with people who had experience we felt we had found just the vehicle for our trip - our home on wheels for the summer.  Here are several pics of our RV.