I love that quote -- even more now.
In the last entry I related the story of our abrupt departure from
Silverton, Colorado due to the death of a close family member.
A few minutes before the Hardrock awards brunch last Sunday my
brother called with the sad news that his wife of 45 years had died
during the early morning hours. Although not totally unexpected, we
weren't expecting the bad news as soon as this summer.
Jim and I considered Marge our sister, not just a sister by
marriage. It was obvious from the outpouring of love the family received
before and after the funeral just how much of an impact she had not
only on family members, but also the whole community in which she lived.
One of our last pictures of Marge
(R): Jim took this one
of Bill, Marge, and me in May at our
house in VA.
We didn't know when the funeral would be until we were on the road,
Ohio. We just knew we had to get there as quickly as we could (short of
flying, which we hope we never have to do again because it isn't fun to
fly on a commercial airplane any
We spent the day Sunday preparing for the ~ 1,600-mile trip east with
Cody in the truck. We left the camper at a friend's house in
Silverton and packed what we thought we'd need for a week on the road.
That was difficult because we're used to traveling with everything we
need -- and then some -- in our camper, but hauling it would have slowed us
down too much.
US 160 east of Durango, CO
It was also important that Jim keep his appointment on
Monday morning down in Durango for his third Euflexxa knee injection.
That meant cramming all those miles into two days of travel. By driving
through the night we were able to reach our destination late Tuesday
afternoon, in time to visit with my brother and his two daughters'
families for a while on Tuesday evening and Wednesday.
We were also able to visit with some other relatives before and after the
funeral on Wednesday but everyone who came from out of town left after
that so Bill would have more time alone with his two daughters and their
It was good to see some relatives we hadn't seen for a while;
we just wish the "reunion" could have been longer and under
US 160 in southern CO
Jim and I took three days to get back to Colorado. It was a lot less
stressful driving about 600 miles a day and not 800. We left Ohio on
Thursday morning, giving us time to
visit three of Jim's siblings and their spouses in Illinois that
afternoon and evening. We stayed overnight in Kansas on Friday and returned to Silverton
Needless to say, we're exhausted. Besides the emotional strain of the
funeral, we drove a total of 3,295 miles while we were gone, most of it
in just five days of travel. We are happy to get back safely --
and to be able to sleep in our own bed tonight.
Don't get me wrong. We are very glad we went to Ohio but deeply sorry a
funeral was the reason for the trip. It was important for us to grieve
with our family and offer comfort to Marge's closest remaining
That's the short version of what we've been doing the last week..
Another scene along US 160
In the rest of this entry I'll talk a little more about the trip
(especially things that would be pertinent if we'd been hauling the Cameo), how we
adapted to life without the comfort of our rolling residence, and some
lessons we observed that will hopefully be helpful to us and others in
The photos in this entry are mostly from the miles we drove in
Colorado on the way out and back. I took only a couple pictures in the
other states through which we passed and, for privacy reasons, I usually
don't include family photos on this website.
LIKE A TURTLE WITHOUT ITS SHELL
This road trip felt pretty weird to us in many ways -- not
just the circumstances that took us to Ohio, but also being without our
Let me count the ways . . .
- It's been a long time since we've had to stay overnight in a
motel, sleeping on unfamiliar beds. Figuring out where to stay and
finding decent deals took more effort than it does when we're hunting
for places to stay in transit with the Cameo. Walmart just doesn't
work overnight without an RV! (I'll have a story about that in a little
- We aren't used to having to go inside rest areas or places
of business (gas stations, restaurants, Walmart, etc.) to use the
bathroom in transit -- much simpler, faster, and sanitary to use the bathroom in our
- Although Jim sometimes stops at fast food places like Subway for
lunch when we're traveling in the Cameo, we get most of our food and
eat most of our meals in our camper -- also easier, cheaper,
faster, and more nutritious.
- Ditto for our clothes (drawers and closets full), Cody's stuff,
electronics, tools, etc. We're used to having everything we need with
us in the camper. We had to be very choosy about what we took with us
in the truck. Since I have a PC and wide-screen monitor, I
didn't even have my computer for six days.
I don't even want to think about the packing decisions we
would have to make if we flew somewhere in a plane . . .
Smoke signals? US 160 in southern CO.
The reasons we left the camper in Silverton made sense -- we
could drive 10-15 MPH faster without it, we got better fuel mileage, we
saved a lot of wear and tear on it, and we didn't have to worry about
the maneuvering room at the gas stations we chose for fill-ups.
Even knowing all that, I was envious of every RVer I saw on this
trip! The camper is just so darn handy and it's truly a part of
us after we've spent so much time traveling and living in it. For us,
traveling several days without it was much more complicated.
It's been a good learning experience, though.
We've talked several
times previously about how much less wear and tear we'd have
on the camper if we temporarily stored it somewhere out West each time
we go back to our house in Virginia in the spring and fall. If we
that this fall we've learned some things from this excursion that will
make it easier.
WALMART JUST ISN'T THE SAME WITHOUT AN RV
If you've read any of our travel entries over the past few years, you
know Jim and I often stay at a Walmart or Sam's Club parking lot
overnight when we're in transit between camping destinations. Many of
their stores are convenient to freeway exits, most have large parking lots
and allow RVs to park overnight, and they are handy for picking up items we need to buy.
Staying overnight at a Walmart parking lot in a passenger vehicle
isn't the same.
We never intended to stay overnight at Walmart on this trip. We knew
we'd have to stay in motels for several nights.
Lake at Ridgeway State Park
between Montrose and Silverton, CO
Nor did we intend to drive almost all night on Monday, our first night
on the road to Ohio. But it took so long to get through the mountains of
southern Colorado on two-lane roads before reaching I-25 and I-70 that
we felt we had no other choice.
By Monday afternoon we knew the funeral was going to be on Wednesday afternoon.
We wanted to reach my brother's house in Ohio by Tuesday
evening so we could visit longer. That meant driving about 780 miles on Monday and 780 on Tuesday.
did the math when we reached the Colorado-Kansas border at 7 PM and
determined we'd have to drive all night to get to Ohio by the next
afternoon. We also had to factor in that we'd be losing two hours going this direction, from Mountain to Eastern DLS Time.
We didn't have time to stop for several hours in a motel
Ugh. The only good thing about this plan was saving money on a motel
room that night.
View of snowy peaks along the
Continental Divide west of Denver
We were both pretty zonked by 2:30 AM and decided to pull into a Walmart
on the eastern side of Kansas City, MO.
There were several RVs and semis in the nether-reaches of the parking
lot. We looked for a safe place to park out of the truck delivery lane
and entrances to the doors, then went inside one at a time to use the
bathroom and wash our faces.
Cody was asleep in the back seat and Jim was able to doze in the
driver's seat for a
little while but I was too uncomfortable in the passenger seat, too wired from the
caffeine I drank to stay awake so I could help drive, and a little paranoid
about all the activity around us.
My legs cramped because I couldn't stretch out or lie down. The parking
lot was noisy even with earplugs -- what were all those
people doing there at 3 AM on a Tuesday??? It was too bright; you can't draw
the shades in a pick-up truck like you can do in an RV.
Sleep for me was a futile endeavor.
I-70 west of Denver
In addition, it was still hot in the middle of the night. The Midwest, Plains, and East were in a heat wave all week with 100+
F. temperatures. It didn't cool off much that night, either. We had
to keep the windows down to let in what little breeze there was; that's
where my paranoia came from.
After spending two months at elevation in
the Rockies this summer we just aren't acclimated to heat like that so
the whole trip was a challenge in that regard.
Add in the humidity east
of the Mississippi . . . and you can imagine how happy we were to
get back to Silverton today! (75 F. on a summer day in Silverton is
considered a heat wave.)
We were back on the freeway in about an hour that night and reached our destination
at 5:30 PM on Tuesday. Although we weren't thrilled with the budget
motel we chose, at least we had a cool, dark, quiet room, a door
we could lock, a microwave and refrigerator, TV and WiFi, and a
reasonably comfortable bed to sleep in the next two nights.
Almost as good as a night at Walmart in our RV!
PACKING FOR A WEEK
We haven't used suitcases for many years. The closest thing we have
to suitcases in the camper are several rather small canvas duffel
bags from Leadville and ATY races.
That's one of the things that made packing for this trip a
challenge. How do we each pack a week's worth of clothes into one or
two small duffel bags, especially when one outfit has to be dressy
enough for a funeral?
It wasn't easy.
It helped that we knew the weather forecast for the middle of the
country predicted hot temperatures all week; we didn't have to take any
bulky clothes with us, mostly shorts, lightweight convertible pants
with zip-off legs, and t-shirts.
We didn't want to bother with doing
laundry while we were gone so we took a week's worth of clothing and got most of it
in two duffel bags each. A backpack held all of our toiletries.
Taking Cody with us presented some challenges, too, mostly where to
carry things while we were driving. He needs two-thirds of the back
seat, which folds down for a wide platform between the seat
backs, to have enough room to lie down comfortably and move around. He
did fine in that space the whole way out and back.
Interesting cloud patterns over the CO mountains
We had to carry most
of our things in the bed of the truck. That required protecting
everything from being
blown out at freeway speeds and getting wet if it rained.
Luckily, we were
already prepared for this because we plan to leave the camper out West this fall
for several weeks when we go back to our house in Virginia -- and
we may have even more stuff to haul in the truck then.
This summer we
brought along six large, sturdy gray plastic boxes with lids. We used
four of them on our trek to Ohio this week. They held our duffel bags
with clothes, the backpack with toiletries, our spare shoes,
non-perishable foods like cereal and coffee, utensils, paper plates and
bowls, Cody's stuff, and other items that didn't need to be in the truck
Approaching the Eisenhower Tunnel on I-70
rode very well in the truck bed with duct tape securing the lids. We
kept Jim's laptop, the cooler, a small safe, dressier clothes on hangers for the
funeral, and other items in the back seat with Cody.
We knew ahead of time that security would be an issue with the boxes in
the back of the truck but we didn't have much choice since we don't have
a lockable cover for the bed. Only one of us could go into a rest area
bathroom or store at a time, and at night we had to either take the boxes
inside the motel with us or put them inside the truck to avoid potential
That wasn't too bad
with only four boxes, since we marked them and knew which ones we needed
inside and which ones could stay out in the truck overnight, but if we have
more than four it'll be a real hassle.
As frugal as we are --
and being used to camping inexpensively in our RV when we travel
-- it nearly killed us to see how much it costs for a decent motel
room for three of the five nights we were gone. And that was at the best
discount rate we could get (military/government were usually better
than senior, AAA, or other discounts). We didn't try internet coupons or other methods
of finding discounts.
You can tell it's been a while since we booked a motel room. Despite
the lousy economy and fewer travelers, rates keep going up.
Changeable Colorado weather on
I-70 this afternoon
We got off pretty light financially in this regard, though. We drove through the first night, spent two nights near my brother's
house in a Motel 6 in Ohio, stayed with one of Jim's sisters and her
husband in Illinois the fourth night, and stayed in a nice Super 8 in
western Kansas the fifth night.
The Super 8 was much nicer than the Motel 6. We don't know if that is
typical of those two chains but we will probably patronize Super 8 again
in the future, when necessary. Although the room at Super 8 cost nearly twice as
much (partly because of the $10 nonrefundable fee to keep Cody in our
room) it was worth it to have nicer accommodations.
OUR ROUTE EAST: SILVERTON TO CINCINNATI
Driving anywhere fast from Silverton in far southwestern Colorado
isn't possible. There are too many scenic but slow mountain roads to the
north and south (you can't go due east or west from town unless you have 4WD).
Just about the same can be said for leaving from Durango, sixty miles
south -- mountains in every direction, although the roads are all
We absolutely had to go to Jim's orthopedic appointment last Monday
morning. He needed the third and final Euflexxa injection in
his bum knee and couldn't wait another week for it (the two types of visco-supplementation
we are familiar with have to be injected in six- to seven-day intervals).
We left Silverton at 7:40 AM, fully packed and ready to
roll, had time to stop at Walmart, Subway, and a gas station in Durango before
Jim's 10 AM appointment, and left the doctor's office at 10:20 AM.
US 160 in southern Colorado
The first, and slowest, leg of our journey was US 160 from Durango
east through Pagosa Springs and Alamosa, CO to I-25. This is a
smooth, scenic route through mountains and national forest land but it
took us longer than we expected -- four hours to drive 240 miles
(plus another 90 minutes to drive 60 miles from Silverton to Durango
earlier in the morning).
This is a good road for RVs, as long as you have time to negotiate
the two-lane road. The high point at the Continental Divide is 10,829
feet. The grade up and down to it is pretty gradual.
We took I-25 from Walsenburg (exit 50) to US 24 (exit 135) at
Colorado Springs. US 24 is a good tangent to reach I-70 east
at Limon, CO but traffic was slow through southeastern Colorado
Springs because of the traffic lights. Once out of town traffic moved
faster. The last part of US 24 before we reached I-70 had very rough
pavement. Go slowly there in an RV.
We followed I-70 east through Kansas and Missouri. There is a
virtually unavoidable 32-mile section of the freeway between Topeka and
Kansas City that charges a toll of $2.50 for passenger vehicles. We paid
it going back to Colorado, too.
Kansas wheat field
We took I-64 west of St. Louis to Louisville, KY.
There was plenty of road
construction through Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana on I-70 and
during the night, but the roads were pretty smooth.
We followed I-71 north to Cincinnati. This hilly section of
freeway is scenic with lots of trees and rock walls but the pavement was
so rough we were glad we weren't pulling the 5th-wheel. Even at 60 MPH
the camper would have bounced a lot. Beware if you travel this section
of I-71 in an RV.
We ran into lots of construction in Cincinnati during rush hour
Tuesday afternoon on I-75 and I-275 North. We stayed on the
eastern side of metro Cincinnati until leaving Thursday morning.
OUR ROUTE WEST: CINCINNATI TO SILVERTON
We made two major changes in our route on the return trip, staying
farther north both times.
The first was from Cincinnati to Springfield, IL to visit some of
Jim's relatives. We traveled the same route from the west side of St.
Louis to Limon, CO, then drove a more northerly route to return to
Silverton (not Durango).
Thursday we negotiated our way through Cincinnati via I-275 south and west,
I-471 north, I-75 north, and I-74 west. We took I-465 around the
southern side of Indianapolis. Because of major construction between
exits 9-12 we couldn't go west on I-74 at the usual exit. We had to take
a confusing detour that just might have given us a heart attack if we'd
tried to do it with the camper in tow! Travelers beware.
We took I-74 to Champaign, IL, then got on I-72 to
Springfield, IL. The pavement on all these freeways was fine,
although there were some construction zones that had some bumps. This
route goes through more cities and less forest and farm land, making it
less interesting to me than I-64.
After our visit with Jim's relatives in Springfield we got on I-55
south to I-70 west on Friday morning. There was a lot of construction on I-55 both
south and northbound.
Traffic on I-70 through the
We took I-270 across the north side of St. Louis and
reconnected with I-70 west of town in Missouri.
In Kansas City
we took I-670 straight through the middle of town; it's
shorter than staying on I-70.
We continued on I-70 west through Kansas and most of Colorado,
including straight through Denver. We got into a lot more traffic in
metro Denver than we expected on a Saturday but it probably would have
taken longer to drive around the city on one of the other freeways.
I-70 was mostly smooth through Colorado until we got to
the area around Vail Pass. The pavement was the worst on either side of bridges
and through a ten-mile construction area. We don't remember the road
being that bumpy when we pulled the Cameo through there a month ago.
The construction we encountered in June in the Glenwood Canyon area
is finished now. Traffic still moves slowly through there because of the
numerous curves and distractingly beautiful scenery along the Colorado
River, which is still full and moving fast.
We got off I-70 at exit 37 on the eastern side of Grand Junction, CO
to reach US 50 to Montrose -- the same route we took last
month on our way to Silverton. In Montrose we got on US 550 south
through Ouray to Silverton.
Construction continues on the
Million Dollar Hwy. where the mountainside eroded.
The pavement on these roads is mostly smooth. The scenery is
drop-dead gorgeous heading south to the San Juan Mountains.
RV drivers need to take the Million Dollar Highway slowly between
Ouray and Silverton; it is very narrow, with steep drop-offs that
aren't as scary to me in the truck as they are when we're hauling the
DIESEL FUEL PRICES
Our truck uses diesel; I didn't pay attention to gasoline prices
on this trip.
The cheapest diesel prices in the seven states through which we drove
on this trip were in Missouri,
where we stopped at Murphy's stations at Walmart stores. Murphy's
still has its 10-cent discount on each
gallon of gas or diesel with a Walmart gift card. The only downside for
us was having to go inside the store to put money into
the card each time we needed fuel.
Considering the fuel tank in our truck
holds 34 gallons, I considered it worth my while to go inside and get
the card. I usually either needed to use the bathroom or thought of
something else to buy anyway.
Some folks, including Jim, think saving
$3 isn't worth the effort. My argument is that it all adds up,
especially on a trip this long. YMMV.
Even at other, more expensive gas
stations the prices averaged less in Missouri than in Colorado,
Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky (only a few miles there), and Ohio.
The terrain along I-70 looks
different near Grand Junction, CO.
The next cheapest diesel was generally
at traditional "truck stops" like Flying J or Pilot (which are now the
same company). We have a card for 3 cents off per gallon there. It's
marketed as a card for RVers but we used it with just the truck. It's
not a credit card and there is no fee for it. We recommend RVers get it.
Prices I saw the last six days ranged from a whopping $4.39/gallon
in touristy Ouray, CO down to $3.64 at the Murphy's/Walmart in Blue
Springs, MO. I think that $3.64/gallon is the least we've paid during
our summer trip, which began in early May.
Our fuel mileage throughout the trip
averaged about 20 MPG. With the camper in tow, driving only 60-62 MPH, it would have been about
As noted earlier in this entry, it was
pleasant to just pull into any station we chose and not have to
worry about whether we could get the Cameo in and out. Still, I would have preferred to have it
MISCELLANEOUS TRIP OBSERVATIONS
- Other than the heat and humidity we weren't accustomed to, the
weather was generally good during our trip. We outran most of the rain
and lightning in a huge storm heading for Colorado Springs the first
day. The clouds were so low and dark that we couldn't even see the top
Peak from I-70, and that sucker towers 7,000+ feet over the city! We
heard later about a nasty hail storm in Denver that damaged buildings
and planes at the airport.
We dodged that bullet last Monday -- a nasty storm
near Colorado Springs.
- We ran into road construction in every state from Monday to
Saturday. Because of the heat and daytime traffic, some crews were
working through the night in Kansas and Missouri when we drove
- I was asleep in the western half of Illinois on I-64 going
eastbound on Tuesday. Jim could see where the fields had been badly
flooded when we drove through there in the other direction in May.
Some muddy areas remain and some corn crops are very short compared to
the 4-7 foot stalks we saw in Kansas and Missouri.
- When we got to the
Wabash-Little Wabash Rivers in eastern Illinois some of the fields
were still under water. Wow.
- On the return trip, time flew by more quickly for me when I wasn't
driving because I was engrossed reading Jim's copy of Seal Team
Six. It's a great read. Only problem was that I finished it in so
few hours that I was wanting more but didn't have anything else as
absorbing to read when we were driving through the less interesting
terrain in Kansas and eastern Colorado. I dug out the very tedious book
How the Mind Works and continued wading through it but it's not
as fast a read as a good autobiography or novel.
View of the San Juan Mtns. going
south on US 550 toward Ouray, CO today
- All of the rest areas we passed in CO, KS, MO, IL, and IN were
open both eastbound and westbound. Some of them are very inviting, with
lots of trees, grass, and covered picnic areas. Most of the rest area
restrooms we entered were clean (but not as nice as using the bathroom
in our Cameo).
- On the return today we could tell that there is less snow on all
the peaks near the Continental Divide than when we drove through there
a month ago . . . but still more than usual for mid-July. The
snow is beautiful. Creeks and rivers are still running high from the
snowmelt and monsoon thunderstorms. Colorado needs the rain, just not
the hail, lightning, and flooding.
- It was a relief in many ways to get back to Colorado, not just
because we missed our home on wheels so much but also because of the
more laid-back lifestyle and comfortable weather out West.
Urbanization and humidity are equally oppressive to us.
Silverton seems like one of our homes, as much time as we've spent
here in recent summers. It was very good to get back today, even
if it's for only one more day.
We knew we were getting close to Silverton when we stopped in Montrose this
afternoon to get some perishables at Walmart. On the way out who should
we see but our ultra running friend Jean-Jacques d-Aquin -- the
only person we know in Montrose! How lucky was that?
Unfortunately he DNF'd at Hardrock again. He wondered why we weren't
at the awards brunch; now he knows.
Red Mountain between Ouray and
We talked for only a few minutes because we were anxious to get back
to Silverton. We got down there a little after 6 PM. All was well with
the Cameo, although it was plenty hot and stuffy inside. We opened the door and
windows so the bedroom could cool down before we went to bed. The
refrigerator and freezer didn't stay quite cold enough while we were
gone but none of the food spoiled.
We could tell from the dirt splashed up on the tires and Big Foot
feet (our leveling system)
that it rained hard at least once while we were gone.
Our friend Roy confirmed that, too. He drove by this evening to see if we were
back yet. He kindly came by the camper periodically to check on it while
we were gone. He told us more about a plane crash we heard about briefly
on the radio. Apparently a little Cessna went down near Silverton during
a storm and at least one person died. Much of Colorado has had ten days
of monsoon weather and more recent unseasonable heat. That oughta melt a
bunch more snow in the mountains.
At least we are better acclimated to the heat now than most of the
folks who live in Silverton!
We'll be in Silverton just one more day. On Monday we'll head to the
USAF Academy in Colorado Springs.
Next entry: Scenes from two hikes on Kendall Mountain
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the Ultra Lab
© 2011 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil