2012  HIKING, CYCLING,

& RV TRAVEL ADVENTURES

 

   
 
Runtrails' Web Journal
 
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   THE FIRST LEG OF OUR SUMMER TRIP:
ROANOKE, VA TO COLORADO SPRINGS, CO
+ A SERENDIPITOUS FIND IN COLUMBIA, MO

TUESDAY, MAY 15

 
"When everything's coming your way, you're in the wrong lane!"
~ bumper snicker
 
 
We have arrived safely in Colorado Springs, CO after four days of driving through eight states, covering 1,582 miles hauling our Cameo 5th-wheel coach. Fortunately, no one was driving toward us in the wrong lane! In fact, we didn't even see any accidents the whole way.

I like to include trip notes on our website for the benefit of other RVers. Much of the information is also relevant for folks traveling by car.

I didn't take all that many pictures along the way this time because we've covered this route so often before. I-64 through Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky looked much like it did when I took the photos that are in the May 10, 2011 journal entry. This year those states looked even more summery, since spring arrived about three weeks early in the East.

Most of the pictures in this entry are from a lovely park with a lake in Columbia, MO that Jim found during a bike ride from the WalMart where we parked Saturday night.


Stephens Lake Park, Columbia, MO  (5-14-12)

He knew I'd enjoy it so he showed it to Cody and me on Sunday morning during a walk before we hit the road again.

It's one of those serendipitous finds I enjoy when we travel.

OUR ROUTE

Last year we used I-64 through Missouri in order to detour around areas of flooding on I-40 to get to Texas. We passed through areas with flooded fields in Indiana and Illinois where water had recently receded from the freeway; fields were still under water and looked like huge lakes. It was amazing.

This year those fields are back to normal, or even ahead of themselves. Some of the corn  is already a foot tall in mid-May and other crops are coming up like they are supposed to. We knew where the flooding was located last year but if we hadn't seen it then, we wouldn't have known when we drove through there on Sunday. That's a good thing.

When we crossed the Ohio River from Louisville, KY to Indiana, the river was full but not overflowing like last year.


Rainy morning :  crossing the Ohio River on the I-64 bridge in Louisville, KY  (5-13-12)

The Mighty Mississippi in St. Louis was at a normal stage, too.

We continued on I-64 through Indiana and Illinois to the western side of St. Louis, then followed I-70 through Missouri, Kansas, and eastern Colorado. We cut southwest to Colorado Springs on US 24 at Limon, CO.

Streams farther west in Missouri, Kansas, and Colorado were lower but every state through which we passed except western Kansas and eastern Colorado was very green. Apparently spring didn't arrive as early at the higher elevations in Kansas and Colorado as in states farther east; not many crops have been planted there yet.

Most of this route from Virginia to Kansas is pretty in the spring, summer, and fall when the leaves are out and wildflowers are blooming.


Field of wildflowers along the path at Stephens Lake Park in Columbia, MO  (5-14-12)

The terrain on I-64 through Virginia and West Virginia is mountainous and curvy, with elevations up to about 2,800 feet. Even that high, the dogwoods and other flowering trees are past their blooming season early this year.

I-64 rolls through the middle of Kentucky and southern Indiana and Illinois. I prefer this freeway through Indiana and Illinois because it is much more rural than I-70, which tracks farther north through larger urban areas with more traffic and less interesting scenery.

I-70 through Missouri and Kansas is also rather hilly:


I-70 somewhere in Missouri; looks like summertime here, too.   (5-14-12)

The prairie flattens out more in western Kansas and eastern Colorado where Midwest becomes the Plains. As we approached Colorado Springs we could see Pike's Peak and other mountains in the Rockies looming ahead, rising sharply above the Plains.

Yay! We love mountains!

ROAD & TRAFFIC CONDITIONS

It's spring, therefore there is a lot of road construction on the interstate highway system through the middle of the country.

As much as road work sometimes slows us down, what annoys us even more -- especially when hauling a camper -- are bumpy sections of freeways that clearly need to be repaired. We ran into some of both on this trek west.

Above and below:  winding path through Stephens Lake Park.
What a great place for an early morning walk!

Each state except the miles we drove in western Virginia had some road construction.

Because we drove the first two days through the more populated eastern states on Saturday and Sunday we had fewer slowdowns there. Even though we were sometimes down to one lane westbound on I-64 through West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois road crews weren't working and traffic moved above the posted speed limit.

  • Virginia -- no construction on I-64, no rough spots, minimal traffic.
  • West Virginia -- major road/bridge work continues on the west side of Charleston; some road work is also being done near Huntington. Where I-64 runs contiguously with I-77 north-south the road surface remains rough for RVs halfway between Beckley and Charleston. We had two tolls of $2.50 each on that section. You'd think the road would be better where you have to pay a toll! Traffic was much lighter on I-64 where it was by itself, heavier where it ran with I-77 and through Charleston.
  • Kentucky -- construction on I-64 near Mt. Sterling. No rough spots. Minimal traffic except the few miles through Lexington where it joins I-75.
  • Indiana -- some construction, no bad rough spots, minimal traffic on Sunday.
  • Illinois -- traffic noticeably heavier than other states to that point, especially as we approached Mt. Vernon and St. Louis. Major construction and one-way north and southbound on several miles where I-64 joins I-57; traffic was stop and go through there, even on a Sunday.
  • St. Louis -- I know it's not a state, but it straddles both Illinois and Missouri and it was somewhat of a mess on Sunday. We followed I-64 around the southern side of the metro area to I-70 on the west side of town because we like the more rural atmosphere. There were a couple of bumpy miles through a construction zone on I-64 near the river, however.


Stephens Lake Park  (5-14-12)

We stayed in Columbia, MO on Sunday night. On Monday and Tuesday we drove through the rest of Missouri, Kansas, and Colorado. Since those were work days we ran into heavier traffic through the cities. We did our best to avoid them during rush hour(s).

  • Missouri -- I-70 mostly smooth. Two short construction zones westbound about MM 71 and 44. Westbound traffic moved well through Kansas City on I-70 and I-670 but eastbound traffic from Kansas was backed up several miles at lunchtime due to construction on that side. Wouldn't want to be going that way during morning rush hour!
  • Kansas -- I-70 runs contiguously with a toll road for about 32 miles between Kansas City and Topeka. Our toll was $4.25 (fee depends on how many axles you have). Traffic was light outside those cities and moved well. There were four construction areas westbound for four to twelve miles each where new concrete is being laid. One-lane traffic moved well but the rest area was blocked off westbound at MM 225. Of course, that's the rest area where I planned to stop to go to the bathroom! Since we had the camper and our own bathroom, we just pulled off at the next exit.
  • Colorado -- I-70 to Limon was rough in some places. Traffic was moderate. We followed US 24 to Colorado Springs. The eastern half of that two-lane road is pretty rough for an RV but it's a great shortcut to the Springs. No construction, just slow going through several small towns. Traffic on US 24 was very light today until we got close to the city.

REST AREAS & OTHER STOPS

Almost every rest area was open through these eight states, although we didn't stop at most of them. These are the ones that were closed going westbound:

  • Welcome center in West Virginia on I-64 near the Virginia border
  • Rest area at MM 109 on I-64 in KY
  • Two rest areas in KS on I-70 where road work had them blocked (MM 225 and the last one before the CO border)

It looks like most or almost all of the rest areas on I-70 through KS have free dump stations, which is very nice. However . . . we stopped at the one at MM 186 and had to go the wrong way on a one-way loop to get access to the sewer on the correct side of the camper. Somebody screwed up. It worked out only because there were so few people in the rest area. Our advice is to use another rest area to dump.

Stephens Lake Park, Columbia, MO

Jim loves to stop at Steak 'N Shake restaurants for lunch or supper when we're traveling. On this trip he stopped at two where we know there is room to maneuver the Cameo -- exit 20B at Barboursville, WV on I-64 and exit 53B in Frankfort, KY on I-64 (across from a WalMart parking lot).

Besides rest areas and Steak 'N Shake, our only other stops during the daytime were for fuel.

DIESEL PRICES & STATIONS

In general the cheapest gasoline AND diesel we saw through these eight states was in Missouri. The best prices in Missouri were at Murphy's stations (WalMart). The highest prices were in West Virginia. Prices I could see at the pump or on signs ranged from $3.67/gallon in Missouri to $4.21 in West Virginia.

Our average cost was $3.76/gallon for diesel on this trip. Although that is historically high, it's lower than we expected as recently as a month ago when folks were predicting gas prices to reach $4 or $5 per gallon. Diesel prices are higher than gasoline in most states.

We enjoyed the bridging across one end of the lake.  (5-14-12)

 

Jim has a love-hate relationship with Flying J (which is now owned by or merged with Pilot) but since FJ stations usually have plenty of maneuvering room, separate RV lanes, and a card for 3 cents off/gallon for RVs, we often use them on our trips with or without the Cameo. We also bought diesel at Murphy's (WalMart), Love's, and a couple local stations.

Some of the things that drive us crazy at gas stations when we're hauling the camper are pumps that turn off at $100, having to go inside sometimes to use our credit card and/or get the receipt, misleading prices on the signs, and tight maneuvering areas.

Fueling up is the least fun part of traveling for us.

Gazebos on scenic Stephens Lake  (5-14-12)

We averaged about 12 MPG over the four days of travel, getting better mileage where the terrain was flatter.

We were careful to keep our camper weight as low as possible. E.g., we started out with only about 30 gallons of fresh water and dumped gray water along the way. We also waited to stock up on heavy supplies like canned goods and dog food that we'll get in Montana. That way we don't have to haul them as far. In addition, there is no sales tax in MT. Prices for everything will be higher in both Canada and Alaska

OVERNIGHT STOPS

We spent three nights on the road before reaching the USAF Academy campground in Colorado Springs.

Saturday night: Stayed overnight at the Walmart at exit 53B, Frankfort, KY. It’s north of I-64 3/10ths of a mile, then left on Leonardwood Rd. The entrance to WM is about ¼ mile farther. There is a Steak 'N Shake across the road. There are numerous businesses on this curving road, including Lowe’s. There is no Sam’s Club in Frankfort (we prefer Sam's because it closes overnight).

We parked between the entrances and the garden area. There weren’t any available spots near grass at either end of the store. Traffic was heavy through the parking lot all evening. When Jim went inside about 7:30 PM he was surprised to see a bunch of kids in prom dresses and tuxedoes inside the store! Maybe they were in there because it was raining lightly and they couldn’t hang out anywhere outside before the dance.  

We had strong phone and WiFi signals but Jim’s choices of TV stations was somewhat limited.

Sunday night:  Parked at Sam’s Club at exit 128A on the east side of Columbia, MO overnight. There are two ways in. We missed the first entrance to the road the store is on (Conley, first light right south of the freeway) but got there OK at the next light.  


Our parking spot at Sam's Club in Columbia, MO  (5-13-12)

Sam’s is in a large shopping area with IHOP, Lowe’s, Staples, Steak 'N Shake, and small stores. We parked in the middle of a row out from the garden area, near IHOP. There is a WalMart nearby on the same side of the street. Jim saw it did during his bike ride and preferred it because of the islands we could park next to (instead of the middle of a row) but we were already situated at Sam's and he didn’t want to move. We were able to get free WiFi from Lowe’s, using Internet Explorer to get online; we usually use Firefox for our browser. 

A couple other RVs came in after us. Jim checked inside and employees said “RVs park here overnight all the time.” The store closed at 6 PM on Sunday so it was pretty quiet after that. Traffic wasn’t nearly as heavy as at the WalMart in Frankfort.

Jim went out for a 30-minute bike ride before supper. He went south and found a neighborhood with little traffic. He also discovered a bike path through a park with a beautiful lake (Stephens Lake Park). There were lots of people enjoying the water and grass. What a great find!

Early the next morning we both went out for a 2-mile/45-minute walk with Cody to see the park and lake. We saw only a few people and the lake was interesting with all the mist rising above the water in the cool morning air. It was a very nice way to start our day!


Waterfall at Stephens Lake Park in Columbia, MO   (5-14-12)

Monday night:  Overnight at WalMart at exit 159, Hays, KS. We parked far out from the garden center with the truck/front cap facing the hot sun to the west and our large windows facing north and east. With less sun coming into the windows we were able to use our Fantastic Fan to keep the camper cooler and didn't have to run the AC. Several other RVs and semis parked near us overnight.

Cody and I went for a walk around the area about 8 PM when it was cooler. There wasn't any good place for Jim to ride his bike. We had good phone, MiFi, and TV connections.

Since we were on the far western side of the time zone it didn’t get dark till about 9 PM. Next month we'll have to get used to sleeping when it's light for about 20 hours a day!

Next entry:  two weeks in Colorado Springs, our first "staging area" for Alaska

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the ultra Lab

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© 2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

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