Monday, April 15, 2024

We Will Be Rolling Again

We got our van back! Continuing our line of communication with the GM dealer this morning, we were informed that the transmission had already been mounted in before 10am and that the mechanic was about to do the finishing underneath. At around 2pm they did a test drive and Kathy showed up at 3pm for giving me a ride to town for the pickup.

After paying our bill, I was still sitting in the van, when the service manager showed up at my window. Great, so I could thank him in person for quick and professional service.

The drive back to camp took just about 1hr. and both Dixie and Bea looked like Happy Campers.

Even though we have booked another night until wednesday in the park, we will be heading out first thing tomorrow morning. Our goal will be reaching Buffalo, NY. 

Friday, April 12, 2024

So Now What?

Weather has not been good. Rain and wind over large parts of the US didn't stop here either. The last night was loud, as the wind played his rough song in the strapping of our solar panels. But at least we didn't have to get up at 6am. It was almost 7:30 when I found Dixie still sleeping on her bed.

Checking the messages on my phone, I found one from the Chevy dealer. He needed authorization "to drop the Tranny pan" to check for metal pieces. I gave authorization to plow ahead with whatever seemed necessary. It confirmed what I already knew, the fluid was burnt, plus that metal shavings were plentiful in the bottom of the transmission. Catastrophic transmission failure!

During the afternoon we got their quote. That was some tough reading! A full replacement of the tranny would amount to $8500 minus $2000 for the core of the old transmission. A hefty bill, no doubt, but it would give me 3 yrs. of warranty or 100,000miles. The good news was that they have that transmission in stock and that they will do it on Monday. That is actually great news, as we really don't want to hang around here longer than necessary.

Tomorrow morning Kathy will come to move our trailer to the next site over as our site was already booked from Saturday. She also dropped by this morning and we got her a short list of groceries to pick up for us.

Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning our angel Kathy will drive us to Columbus to get our van back. We will be eternally thankful for her help.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

When Disaster Strikes....

 An innocent morning after a very quiet night in a State Park almost ended in disaster.

We had been up early to make it all the way to Buffalo, NY. Heading up the I-70, which here in Ohio was of excellent quality, we had stopped for a short and early lunch break at a truck-stop. Getting right back onto I-70 I was accelerating the rig to travel speed, when a terrible scream was heard. And it was NOT coming from another car, but from our transmission.

Yes, and at the same time RPM was revving up without any acceleration. Clearly a transmission issue!

And that's when our ordeal through the rest of the day began. We had made it off of the I-70 onto a lesser highway and parked on the shoulder of the road. The area was full of huge ware houses.

We called several transmission places in the area (thanks Google) but none wanted anything to do with this. So finally I had to call Coachnet, our trusted roadside assistance service. It was them who found a towing company and a Chevy dealership in Columbus which could have time next week (!!!) to look at the problem. One other dealership, I spoke to myself, had a 2 months waiting time (!!!!)

When the tow truck arrived he took the van to the city. Meanwhile, Bea and I waited in the trailer. Police came also inquiring why we were parked in that spot. 

After 2.5hrs. the tow truck was back to pick up the trailer. Meanwhile we had figured out a State Park some 26 miles away in the opposite direction close to Springfield, OH.

One of the challenges of the day turned out to get Dixie into the tow truck. Way to high for her to jump or try to climb. So we lifted her 105pounds of live weight through the truck door. I think that scared her, but there was no other way. Later, after we arrived at the campground we had to lift her out again. But she did OK this time and was obviously enjoying the thick green grass outside.

That's where the tow truck dropped us of. It is very, *correction* no extremely remote and the question how we ever would get back to Columbus for the pickup of our trailer stood between us. 

I was just connecting the power cable to the trailer when I heard a woman's voice from the other side. And it wasn't Bea, as she had taken Dixie for a walk. Peeking around, I saw a black pickup truck and a woman looking somewhat bewildered. 

This person was Kathy and she had thought the tow truck driver had left the trailer without closing the trailer door. After telling her about why we had came with a tow truck she immediately offered her help for both getting things like groceries or driving us to the city to pick up our van again. WOW....we were just stunned about so much helpfulness. 

Fixing the tranny may take anything from 4 - 10 work days, depending on a possible repair or complete replacement. I already tend to prefer a complete replacement, maybe with a rebuilt transmission. But we will let you have an update on this "adventure".

Before you go away: Kudos and praise to "Shark Tooth" towing Service. Super nice and cautious driver and operator!

Kudos also to! I am convinced it is the very best roadside assistance service there is available. Great timely follow-up, great service making tons of necessary phone calls on behalf of their clients and no discussions about when it comes to get you to safe and fitting locations. We have used Coachnet already twice on this trip and both times they did not disappoint.

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

The Longest 40 Miles Of My Life...?

This morning I had a plan. Rather than stressing around to find a suitable Walmart for the night, I consulted the map. I was actually looking for a State Park in Ohio, fitting at a good days driving distance of 400 miles.

A little ways off Dayton, OH I discovered "Hueston Woods State Park. I told co-pilot Bea about it and then we went on the road. First destination was St.Louis. Bea found an excellent byway - I-270. We followed that Interstate and we never saw anything of the city. that is - other than lots of traffic. Once back on the I-70 we approached Indianapolis. The I-70 through IN is absolutely horrible. Patches on top of patches makes you jolt in your seat. It was a nightmare!

Meanwhile, Bea had located the OH State Park on the map and found that if we by-passed Indianapolis on the south side we would "run directly towards the State Park" which also would save us 10 miles of driving in total rather than following I-70 for later making some 20 miles straight to the south of it.

That sounded great to my ears, so we went for it. Total estimated time to the State Park was supposed to be around 2hrs. Great! But I was kind of getting tired too.

First part of the "shortcut" was I-465 - with tons of bad behaving traffic. The next turnoff was I-74 which was followed by Hwy 44, which led through every little forgotten town on the way. If you think the n"44" would cross these poor towns in a straight line , you are dead wrong. Nope, the town crossings ran in a ZIG-ZAG pattern. Hopelessly parked vehicles blocked intersections and it was like it was all planned that way by town council to make visitors enjoy the huge old churches, the boarded-up stores and private residences sporting couches and fridges on the front porch. One of thos featured a sign "CONDEMNED" in prominent yellow letters on the front door.

I was around that time that I asked Bea how many more miles we still had to do to reach camping haven in Ohio.

Her answer: 40miles.  OK, 40miles seemed like a lot to me and I just moaned. After a long time of continued driving and maneuvering our rig along now very narrow country roads (with sharp curves and deep steep valleys) I asked again:  "22miles", she said. WHAT? ANOTHER 22miles?

The procedure and disappointment repeated itself at 13 miles, then at 7 miles, then 4miles, and finally 2miles. During the entire drive the area got more and more remote looking. Confusing for me was also the fact that the GPS girl at the windshield had a different route than the Google map girl on Bea's phone. Sometimes they shouted at each other. 

But, yes, we finally made it to the park. There were more rigs in there than I had expected for a regular Tuesday.

Maybe they weren't the longest 40 miles of my life, but I dubbed them "Rubber-miles". 

The park is quite large, sites are electric with no water and there are lots of hiking trails, one of which I went to explore with Dixie. It lead down a slope to a small river.

Range burns in Kansas

Green fields make us forget the desert

A delightful contrast to the horrible feedlots in Texas and Oklahoma

The Mississippi

Springtime along the highways

One of several town along Hwy 44

Old Farm House

The narrow road straight ahead marks the state line between Indiana and Ohio

Monday, April 8, 2024

Just An Eclipse

Finally it's April 8, the day so many strange things are supposed to happen. We've all hear the wildest conspiracy theories, from "sudden ruptures", appearances of Jesus and "extreme human suffering" to "sickness" caused by the solar eclipse. People who spread these theories have an agenda rooted in the fear psychology and fanatic "christian" beliefs.

It is all a big hype! I have seen solar eclipses, even though partial ones only, before and it always was and will always be a natural occurrence happening between Earth, Moon and Sun. For thousands of years these things have been happening, but of course, when it happens in the US, the whole country goes crazy. It is more than ridiculous.

We had just passed from Kansas into Missouri when I looked at the fuel gage and found out we could need a fill-up. Right then I also saw a fuel station turn up on the left side of the highway. A good fit. The clock showed 1:50pm and a stop now would give us an opportunity to experience the few minutes the eclipse would last. However, we were still outside the path of a 100% eclipse. Yet the light turned a touch darker, almost like the sun would shine through a cloud. Bea calls this "metallic". And yes, the light seemed unnatural, but it didn't get dark.

We got gas and a cylinder of 7gal of propane. By the time we had finished, the eclipse moment was over. Not a big deal, as I say. Full sun shine returned and we headed off towards St.Louis.

We haven't made it all the way to St.Louis. At Columbia we found parking at a Sam's Club and a Walmart nearby. It was less than 400miles today, but we are not in a hurry. The east coast is supposed to suffer through a storm this coming weekend, and we are not eager to get hit by it.

Sunday, April 7, 2024

At Cheney Lake State Park

It certainly turned out to be the haven from the storm we have been looking for. Yesterday, the wind was so powerful, it was basically impossible to be outside. Lucky for us, the wind was hitting the trailer from the front, which made for less movements. Yet, Dixie jumped up a couple of times when the gusts became too strong. 

This morning the wind had died down and we took a great walk down to the lake shore. Birds were feeding in the shallow water along the shore and Dixie had a great time doing here dog-like discoveries. Very few people were out this early, though some campers were preparing their departure. There was a lot of spring in the air.

By late morning the wind has increased again to around 25mph - not too bad but not good enough for driving down the highway. Besides, we found that we had deserved a couple of days relaxing in a nice place.

The park features 29 miles of asphalt roads and parking areas; a park office; 2 marinas; 223 reservable electrical hookup sites with water; over 400 primitive camp sites; 4 trailer dump stations; 6 boat ramps with 22 launching lanes; 4 courtesy docks; 2 fish cleaning stations; 7 modern pit toilets; 9 shower houses; 1 shelter with restrooms; 2 large group shelters; 2 medium group shelters; 29 small picnic shelters; a large shelter and a restroom; 3 nature trails including a 5 mile bicycle/walking trail; and 9 modern cabins.

Tomorrow, we will be getting back on the road heading towards St.Louis, MO.

Friday, April 5, 2024

Today, we Did Only 156 Miles

 It was already breezy when we got up this morning, so initially we expected to stay put in the city park until the high winds of Kansas would die down towards Monday morning.

But things took a different turn. The day wasn't going to be too windy, or so it seemed, so it was me who finally decided to get going farther east towards Kansas City.

At a quarter to nine we left Meade getting back onto Hwy 54 east.

However, it didn't take long that the wind picked up, way more than what I had expected. And after a short stop at a Walmart, we were bound to Cheney Lake State Park, which is west of Wichita. A quick phone call to the park confirmed that space would be available. Also their rates are really reasonable. The friendly young woman in the office advised us a site in one of several camp loops. The park is actually quite beautiful and is located along the huge Cheney Lake. 

We have a spot between some Pine trees, well protected from the wind which will blow very hard tomorrow and through Sunday. So we will stay here for 3 nights.

Cheney Lake

After setting up camp we took a nice walk down to the water. At the old boat ramp Dixie stepped out into shallow water and started drinking a lot of water. It was fun to watch her enjoy nature. And of course, she loves rolling in the soft grass everywhere.

Great camp site!

We have been very lucky to get this site with maximum privacy. The park has several dump stations and water spigots can be found on the electric sites as well. Down by the water's edge we also saw a number of dry camping sites. We paid $80 for 3 nights which also includes the Kansas vehicle permit of $5/day. 

So, we will be happy campers until Monday morning!

I am the travelin' dog

Somewhat More Of Nothing And Oh We Had A Flat Tire

After an extremely quiet night in the Juniper country of Santa Rosa, NM (It was also extremely dark outside) we woke up to a clear blue sky and some low temps. I quickly found out that our batteries needed a charge so I started the generator. 

The question this morning was whether we should stay in the State Park or move on to a State Park in Kansas. 

We were still talking about it after emptying the waste water at the dump station.

The upcoming storm would blow here in New Mexico for at least 3 days, while it seemed more like 2 days in Kansas.

So finally we decided to move on to a State Park in Kansas.

Rolling down the I-40 towards Tucumcari, we suddenly got into a full stop and line-up. Checking on Google, Bea found that we had a construction area ahead of us, but that there also was a stalled vehicle, which obviously had caused the full stop on the highway.

It lasted about 30 minutes before an old crappy minivan had been pushed out of the way.

We got through New Mexico, then just sideswiping Texas and Oklahoma before passing into Kansas.

The entire drive can be called uneventful, even boring as the only thing you'll see are endless flats, first still some semi-desert, then morphing into cattle country and finally greener pastures in Kansas. 

The Texas feedlots with thousands of cows, kept in throngs, with little room for the animals to even move around, are among the most depressing sights I have ever seen. And the overpowering stench permeating the entire area all the way into towns...

At around noon we stopped at a Loves truck-stop for lunch. After lunch I did an inspection around the trailer. To my surprise I discovered a flat tire on the passenger side.

Running my hand around the tire I discovered a screw embedded in the tire.

I pulled out my 12V air pump and brought 50 PSI back into the tire. Meanwhile, Bea had found a tire shop online, located barely 0.2 mile away in walking distance.

 I drove the rig over to their shop and was admitted right a way into their shop. Within the next 20 minutes the two young fellas had taken off the wheel, got it repaired and mounted again. $20 later we were leaving their shop with a working tire again. Talk about being in luck when it could have turned out into a costly affair if it would have happened along the open highway. Now, I do have a spare tire, but just changing a trailer wheel on a narrow highway shoulder would have taken easily one hour and been a hazardous undertaking.

We had lost some travel time today and found out that the Kansas State Park we had thought of reaching today would be too far out yet. And again it proved so valuable to have Internet connection on-the-go. Bea found out that the Kansas City of Meade was sporting a city park which also serves as a free (!!!) campground. It is located just east of the city and it really is beautiful with its decade-old cotton trees. There is potable water and even a free dump station.

Pulling into the city park I noticed a light green Mercedes Sprinter with a German license plate. 2 people were outside and I waved at them going by. We found a camp site not far from that sprinter.

The owners turned out to be Hermann and Ursula Rall from Bavaria, both some real world travelers who have been all the way to Mongolia, most European countries, Canada, USA, Central and South America. Needless to say we quickly found ourselves in wide-spread conversations with them - in German. If you want to check out their website:

So, thanks for traveling along with us through this blog, there is more to come, so stay put.

Thursday, April 4, 2024

150 Miles Of Nothing

The morning ran up with a clear blue sky and after shaking off the chill of this high elevation, we got into the van and pushed onwards - down to Las Cruces, NM.
The latest plan was to climb over the St.Augustin Pass for so to descend down into the valley towards White Sands Nat'l Monument. While the climb the opposite way a few years ago proved almost disastrous for our van, the climb from Las Cruces is much shorter and didn't amount to any problems. At this time I also need to stress that I got the original 3:43 rear differential of the Chevy van replaced with the 4:11 which has proven to be much better for towing. The van is now even sporting a slightly better fuel mileage.
Starting on the climb to St.Augustin  Pass

From the top of St.Augustin Pass

Despite a busy parking lot at the White Sands we pulled in for a little break. That proved to be a mistake, as some private cars blocked the outlet for the parked RVs. And besides, the parking lot is not adequate to accommodate a huge number of visitors. But eventually we got out of there again and continued to the Walmart in Alamogordo, where we ate lunch in the parking lot.
Sierra Blanca with White Sands

The plan now was to get onto Hwy 54 which eventually reaches Santa Rosa at the I-40.
From Ruidoso the 54 passes through a number of very small towns and villages. Most of these places are obviously suffering a slow death. 

Businesses along their Main Streets are abandoned and boarded up. One gas station was completely out of gasoline, the only other charged prime amounts for gas.

Some parts of the road is actually part of famous Rte. 66 and buildings with their characteristic signs from the 50s would be worth more time to explore.
Route 66

In between the towns and villages the 54 leads through a vast landscape of nothingness. 
For quite some time we could enjoy the view of the snow-covered Sierra Blanca. What a great sight!

Your Choice

After well 8 hrs on the road, we arrived at Santa Rosa around 4pm. 6 miles north of town lies the Santa Rosa Lake State Park. We found out that their primitive camp sites, at $10 would be the right for us. With its Juniper covered area the park is beautiful and offers lots of hiking and of course, boating on the lake. To my great pleasure is ATVing prohibited. So no disturbing noise from those guys.

Santa Rosa Lake