One more trip to Red Bay

P.O.D. gone, dental work finished, Jeep serviced, taxes done, and we bid adieu to the hectic life in Santa Rosa. It is getting frustrating having our short stays at our former home being consumed by “business” and having to snub so many friends, so once again I have to apologize to all those who we were unable to touch bases with. And so, on toward Red Bay. In the 2 1/2 years we have been on the road, it certainly feels like we have not been able to settle into being actual “recreational wanderers”. Something always comes up, we have appointments we have to get to or places to go, plans change every week and twice on Sundays, and now it looks like this Red Bay road trip is the last “must do” for now. Yee-haw! Let’s do it!


First stop was Sparks, NV at the Sparks Marina RV Park. I dreaded the drive over Hwy. 80 through Truckee and into Reno, but we quickly found that the California drought reached up into the Sierra’s in a big way, not a lot of snow anywhere to be seen except the man-made variety at ski resorts like Borreal. After donating to the local economy at John Ascuaga’s Nugget, we decided to hookup with Hwy. 50 eastbound for a while. We chose to take a roundabout way to catch 50 out of Ely, NV, so we went south and stopped at Walker Lake Sportsman’s Campground for a few nights. It was a National Recreation Area, so the sites were dry-camping at $3 night with the Access Pass. The area was a big nothing; the lake, though it had water, has been steadily shrinking over the past hundred years and has seen the demise of the fish population due to the minerals/salts/and whatever else that are continually increasing in the water content. And don’t blink if you do not want to miss the “town” of Walker Lake. Hawthorne is not much better. In Hawthorne they had at least one RV “park”, Whiskey Flats. It was not particularly pleasing to look at as we drove by it and I would stay at the Sportsman’s Campground over Whiskey Flats any day.


This life is WAY too stressful.

Our campsite at Walker Lake.

So our next stop off we thought we would try Tonopah, NV. We found a Passport America participating RV park, Joy Land RV Park in the PA book, so we punched it in to our GPS and onward and eastward. Unfortunately, Tonopah is a seriously run down town, and Joy Land RV Park fits right in. We pulled into the driveway of the park and it was one of those “aw $hit we’re NOT staying HERE!” moments. They don’t happen very often, but they DO happen. And the worse part was once inside the driveway, there is not enough room to turn a rig with a toad around, so I had to stop and disconnect the Jeep so we could escape cleanly. Whew, we couldn’t get out fast enough.


Ely happened to be next in the queue. Our GPS kind of failed us here in one of its rare miscalculations and we ended up heading east out of town (wrong direction) on Hwy. 50. Once realized, I found a pull out I could use to disconnect the Jeep again. The highway was not quite wide enough to do a U-turn with the toad, but it was open and pretty deserted. Here was where I learned life lesson #947: NEVER operate a bus in reverse without a human standing behind and guiding you, even if it appears wide open. I began a 3-point U-turn with no cars in sight. I crossed to the other shoulder, then reversed to the opposite shoulder. Jeanne was sitting in the Jeep, and I thought, being pretty much the smartest human being in the world (“a legend in my own mind”), “what could go wrong, it is wide open”. So as my rear tires crossed onto the shoulder, they found a dip that was just deep enough to allow the bottom of my rear cap to scrape the gravel shoulder that was sloping up from the dip. Fiberglass does not hold up to the planet Earth very well. Bent my electrical plug for the toad, tore my tow bar cover, and pretty much ruined my day/week/month. One more thing for “the list” of fixes at Red Bay. 


Oops! What a bonehead move.

In Ely, we stayed at the Pioneer Casino/Hotel/RV Park. The Pioneer has a mexican restaurant on site that was not bad eats. Ely also cannot be confused with a megalopolis, not a whole lot to see here. We did take a day trip to the Great Basin Nat’l Park. Most of the inner roads were still closed and the only other thing to check out was the cave tours, which we were disinclined to participate in.


Lots ‘o snow at the Great Basin Nat’l Park…NOT!

Continuing eastbound, we did a one night stopover at a truck stop in front of the Denny’s in Salina, UT. On our way there, just west of Delta, UT, we encountered someone’s shoe tree off the side of the road. Maybe it belonged to Imelda Marcos

A real shoe tree?


We planned on stopping at the Arches and Canyonlands Nat’l Parks, but when we pulled into Moab, we discovered it was the end of Spring Break and the beginning of Jeep Safari Week. There were wall-to-wall people and Jeeps and no campsites to be had, paid or boondock. So, as I said “plans change every week and twice on Sundays”, we decided to keep going East and return to the south and southeast area of Utah possibly around Octoberish. But while cruising the area, what we did see, it looks to be a definite must-see area of the country.


Grand Junction, CO was our next break, at the Junction West RV Park. This was an OK park for a few nights, a gravel lot with hookups, small store, nice folks. While here we took the approximate 23 mile drive in the Colorado Nat’l Monument. This was very scenic with good view of the valley floor and lots of unique rock formations. Grand Junction also has a 20-some mile pedestrian/bike path along the Colorado River.


A look down on the valley.

Looks like the set for an old Western movie

Steep cliffs

March, in the Rockies, and yes, we need more suntan lotion.

A rock climbers fantasy.

Jeanne in front of the coke oven formations.

“The mummy” formation.

Montrose, CO we found a rare KOA that was reasonably priced ($29/night) right off the highway. We ventured up to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison Nat’l Park and found the south rim drive had spectacular views that in my opinion rival those of the Grand Canyon. WOW! And the weather in Montrose was running in the high 70’s while we were there, at the end of March no less!


Shorts and a T-shirt? Check out all that snow…

My only opportunity to play in the snow, in March, in the Rockies, c’mon, you’ve got to be kidding me…

Beautiful green Gunnison River.

The rugged outdoors, nothing like it.

Lots of saddle and keyhole views at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison Nat’l Park

My best half in front of the Black Canyon

Gunnison River, could this be the inspiration for Creedence Clearwater Revival’s song “Green River”?

Driving Hwy. 50 through the Rockies was not as bad as I had imagined. Minuscule amount of snow and no real drastic grades, even though we were up in the 10,000-11,000 foot levels, made for easy travels. After our stay in Montrose, we picked a spot on the Blue Mesa Reservoir for a couple of days at the Elk Creek campground, part of the Curecanti Nat’l Recreation Area, just outside of Gunnison, CO. At winter rates of $9/night for a lakeview site with 50A service, it was a definite “go”. Our stay there was a bit on the icy side, the nights got into the 20’s and days not much above 50’s. And the wind was HUGE! I tried a little fishing early in the a.m.’s, but by 10:00 the wind kicked up white caps on the lake. The lake was good for kokanee salmon, rainbow, brown, brook, and mackinaw trout, among other bass and crappie types. I watched as all the fish in the lake broke surface and I heard them laughing at me as I tried my hardest using every lure at my disposal as well as several different baits…I think they are still laughing. Unbeknownst to us, we picked up a stowaway at this stop (more in a bit…).


Fishing the Blue Mesa Reservoir early in the a.m. The scene literally never changed, the fish are still laughing…

The white caps start to rise…

This is where we parted company with good ol’ Hwy. 50. We dropped down southeast on some smaller but still scenic 2-lanes through the towns of Alamosa and Walsenburg to southbound Hwy. 25 into the bustling city of Raton, NM (sarcasm intended). Here we stayed at a “rustic” (read “needs work”) place called Summerlan RV Park. Very nice folks here, the park was OK for a night’s stopover. During our entire time on the road, we have kept our large bag of dried dog food on the floor of our front bathroom which we rarely use. Well, while trying to fall asleep we could hear “the dog’s” eating their dog food. The only problem was the dog food dishes were on the kitchen floor, the dogs were crated about 10’ away. I jumped out of bed and heard that sound emitting from the front bathroom. When I opened the door, I saw the telltale signs of a rodent, a small bit of the paper bag in shreds on the floor. And then I heard the little bugger crunching away from his protected position under the toilet (a big opening below the flush pedal the obvious access point to the food). That about put an end to any chance at a peaceful night’s sleep, I was awake all night listening as our unwanted guest scurried inside the walls.


The next morning we packed up and continued on our way. We landed in Amarillo, TX, and stayed at the Oasis RV Resort on the west end of town. First order of business was to pick up some simple, old fashioned, mouse traps. For $1.39 I got 4 Tomcat traps. That night, while still hearing our stowaway scoot within the walls, worrying about what he may be gnawing through at any given time, I resorted to my good ol’ standby rodent cure—a dab of peanut butter on the bait holder of the trap. I placed the trap at the foot of the front bathroom toilet and let nature take it’s course. I was awake most of the night listening to the little prowler have his way within my walls, but long after I passed out asleep, Jeanne woke me near sunrise because she heard a noise. I got up, checked the trap, and voila! stowaway captured, sentenced, and executed. CAUTION: GRAPHIC PHOTO TO FOLLOW, PARENTAL DISCRETION IS ADVISED. DEPICTS CRUEL BUT EFFECTIVE METHOD OF EXECUTION. I think my stowaway was a vole, a version of a field mouse. The operative word here is “was”.


Caught, tried, convicted, and executed all in one fell swoop.

Being critter free, it was time to relax. Our first order of business was to hit up The Big Texan Steak Ranch for, what else, a steak dinner. They actually offer a 72 oz. steak dinner where if you eat the whole meal, sides included, within one hour, it is FREE! But I will tell you, 72 oz. of beef is a rather large and intimidating slab of meat. We of course opted for a smaller version for our repast. Very good meal and a reasonable price, I think we paid around $60 for dinner + a pitcher of beer.


Now here is a more manageable meal, the steak is one quarter the size of  the 72 ouncer.

Eat it all, within 1 hour, and it is free.

That is ONE HUGE hunk of meat! Got the meat sweats yet?

A must-try when in Amarillo, TX

Just down the street from our park we stopped off to check out the Cadillac Ranch. This is an example of a good old fashioned acid-trip-gone-wild. Some “arteest” planted a group of Caddies nose down and the public is invited to bring their own spray paint and have their way with the Caddies. It is quite the spectacle for all the highway traffic passing by on Hwy. 40.


The Cadillac Ranch from the highway.

The 60’s live on…

Our trek continued to the area of Checotah, OK where we overnighted at the Checotah/Lake Eufaula KOA. This park was right on the lake, which appeared a little swampy around the edges, maybe due to recent rains and minor flooding (sorry, California). But, again, we were in no-man’s-land, nothing exciting to see.


Lake Eufaula…

…a little swampy

The Graceland RV Park was up next, we had been there before and during an Elvis Week no less. So this time, it was just another overnighter. We managed to find Marlowe’s BBQ restaurant and partook in some pretty good pulled pork. 


BBQ pork, slaw, beans, fried pickles, & an ice cold Blue Moon to wash it all down with…Mmmm!

The sun sets on downtown Memphis.

We rolled into Red Bay, AL, the next day. Yippee-Kayay! We were almost to the end of our must-do/must-go list, just gotta hunker down now and get things done. The estimate from Norris, (I call him the Walmart Greeter of Tiffin) was initially 4-6 weeks before we could get in. Norris is actually the first contact with Tiffin you get while at the service center, he comes to your rig and assesses whether you need a full bay, or maybe can get all your work done in one of the express bays. Folks who choose the express bay get their choice, 1 tech for 6 hours or 2 techs for 3 hours. But then you leave. The campground was full, as usual, upon our initial arrival. In that case, you have a choice of 2 off site campgrounds (subject to availability), the RV dealer across the street has limited spaces for overflow, several water and power only sites behind the service bays, or dry-camping behind the service bays near the RV wash area. We chose to dry-camp on site, but before closing time they got us a water and electric spot. The following morning, after Norris’ visit, we got an assigned site with full hookups. And at this time Norris revised the wait time to 3-4 weeks which was what we had our first time here. I did some time management juggling and got set up for the MH engine service, as well as the accident claim body repair and paint, during my down time waiting for a bay spot. Bay Diesel, here in Red Bay, did my first service on the bus and they are recommended by Tiffin. I was happy with their service that first time, and they get the nod this time as well.  Norris recommended we go to Custom Paint and Auto Body for our accident claim work, and he called them for us. Austin, son of the owner, showed up immediately and arranged to take care of the damage, they could get us in next week. And during the 2 or 3 day repair, he said they have 50A service outside the shop for full-timers like us to stay in the coach during work. Very accomodating. So, here we sit, appointments made, ready to pounce on a moment’s notice, hurry up and wait…

About rvrrat520

Recreational wanderers just livin' the dream while we can still get vertical.
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