I'm not often "silent" but I did become more quiet and pensive as we
approached the end of our long journey from Virginia to Alaska and back.
This was the trip of a lifetime for me, realizing one of my big
dreams. It was also one of my mother's dreams but she never got up there
during her lifetime. It's a reminder that we need to do those
things that are important to us while we're still able to do
We're no longer physically able
to climb Denali any more but at least we got to see it in its full
Jim and I are glad we took this trip and only regret that we didn't
do it earlier in our lives. Health and finances permitting, we plan to go
back to Alaska at least one more time because we enjoyed it up there so much.
This entry is focused on our drive from Rapid City,
South Dakota back to our house near Roanoke, Virginia with a stop in
Ohio to attend my brother's wedding. That turned into a nice reunion with
family and some old friends from my childhood.
OUTRUNNING THE STORM
In the last entry I mentioned the cold front and snow approaching
South Dakota from the north on the day we left. We enjoyed sunny days in the 70s and
80s F. -- well above Rapid City's average -- during the 13
days we were there. Our last night was warm but the next one was
predicted to be at or near freezing, with some type of precipitation.
Definitely time to hit the road!
I-90 over the Missouri River in
South Dakota; eastbound lanes are closed for construction.
The good news is that we were able to stay ahead of the wicked cold
front and snow on the first three-day leg to Ohio, although we ran into
some crosswinds and rain that made hauling a 36-foot 5th-wheel coach a
bit of a challenge sometimes.
Here's a summary of our route, daily mileage, and other information
from Rapid City to the Cincinnati area. Although I mention some
things specific to traveling with an RV, other information is also relevant
for folks traveling in passenger vehicles:
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 3
- Ellsworth AFB near Rapid City, South Dakota to Sioux City, Iowa
-- 432 miles in less than 8 hours with three stops (lost one hour
on the clock going from Mountain to Central Time)
- I-90 east to Sioux Falls, SD, then south on I-29
The two rest areas on I-90 where we stopped (MM 111 and 382) have dump
- Traffic light to moderate in rural areas and moderate to heavy in
Sioux Falls, SD and Sioux City, IA. Lots of road work in SD with some
rough spots. It didn't slow us down much since we were averaging only
about 60 MPH anyway.
Eastbound lanes closed on the bridge over the
Missouri River in South Dakota
- Got the least expensive diesel we've seen for a long while at
Sam's Club in Sioux City, IA ($3.89/gallon).
- Rolling terrain
that was obviously affected by this summer's drought. The corn,
sunflowers, and wheat fields were brown or already harvested. Ponds
were low or dried up. The air was dusty in some areas from the wind.
We saw a few burn areas, including one that crossed I-90. Some trees
had pretty gold fall leaves.
overnight next to a grassy area, shown below, at Sam's Club in Sioux City, IA (exit
143 on I-29); some freeway noise there. Another 5th-wheel and a
semi came in after us. As noted, there is a gas station with diesel at
Jim went for a 13-mile bike ride on a nearby bike path, described
below, but came back earlier than planned because of strong wind. I
walked Cody about a mile.
FLYOD'S BLUFF & MONUMENT
Sometimes we're able to find some really nice
bike paths close to the places where we stay overnight when we're in
transit from Point A to Point B (i.e., not a destination campground).
Before this trek back to Virginia, Jim searched
online for possible bike paths where he could ride after a long day's
drive. He discovered that Sioux City had a paved multi-use trail and it
looked like he could ride his bike a short distance from Sam's Club to
reach it. That was one reason we stayed at Sam's Club the first night on the road.
While riding he found this interesting national
historical monument honoring Sergeant Charles Floyd, a prominent member
of the Lewis & Clark Expedition:
Unfortunately, Sergeant Floyd died in this area from what was probably
appendicitis only a few months after the expedition began in 1804. He
was buried on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River:
As the first U.S. soldier to die west of the Mississippi, Floyd was
buried with full honors of war. Captain Clark led the service. Floyd was
the only member of the famous expedition to lose his life during the
two-year trek to Oregon and back.
Because of erosion from the Missouri River and for other reasons, Floyd's
remains were exhumed at least twice before this memorial was built in
his honor. The monument was dedicated in 1901.
I like these photos of the setting sun that Jim took from the memorial
on the bluff:
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 4
- Sioux City, IA to Bloomington, IL -- 505 miles in 9 hours
with four stops (all in Central Time)
to I-640 north of Omaha, I-80 to east side of Quad Cities, IA/IL,
south on I-74 through IL. There are three ways around or through the
Quad Cities (Davenport et al). We prefer the route that goes around
the north and east side.
but much less than yesterday. None slowed us down very much. We drove
60-64 MPH most of the day. Terrain was rolling through IA, then
flatter in IL. Traffic was moderate all day and heavier in the cities
we drove through. We miss the scant traffic we've had much of the
Rest stops: MM 78 on I-29 north of Omaha (had a dump station), MM 120
on I-80 in IA (didn’t see a dump station), and MM 29 on I-74 in IL
(dump station closed). We saw a sign for a dump station at MM 236 on
I-80 in IA but didn’t stop there. We saw a really nice rest area going
SE on I-74 in IL at MM 62. It was farther off the road than usual and
had a wooden bridge leading to a trail in the woods.
Windmills and wheat fields in Iowa
Diesel: 1) Pilot, exit 201 on I-80 east of Des Moines. At $3.91/gallon
with our Flying J RV fuel card and Master Card, it was the least
expensive we saw in Iowa today. 2) Walmart/Murphy's at exit 160 on
I-74/I-55 in Bloomington, IL. Price was a terrific $3.79/gallon
with Walmart gift card we got inside the store = 10 cents or more off
per gallon (sign said $3.98/gallon). Except for Walmart, fuel at most
stations was higher in IL than IA or SD.
I was surprised by how many RVs we saw heading west today – all kinds,
and heading into the winter storm! I wonder if some of them are new
ones being taken from manufacturers in northern Indiana to points farther west?
A minivan went around us twice with the tag LABSCAB. Love it! Our
truck and Honda Odyssey are "Lab cabs," too.
Above and below: mile after mile of grains,
through Iowa, flatter in Illinois.
The farther east we drove, the more green the grass = less drought in
this area than farther west. There was more orange and red leaf color
as we travel east, too (not just yellow/gold). Saw lots of corn in
both IA and IL, some harvested, some not. Also saw many combines
working today, probably because the cold front is due tomorrow (we're
staying a day ahead of the coldest temperatures).
Some streams are very low; others like the Mississippi River look
like they are at “full pond.”
Above and below: crossing the Mighty
Mississippi in the Quad Cities area
Parked overnight at
Walmart at exit 160 on I-74/I-55 in Bloomington, IL. As noted, this
location has gas and diesel at the lowest price around if you use the
store credit or shopping card.
We parked just beyond the fuel station along a grassy median on the
garden/tire repair side of the store (quiet because it's 1/2 mile from
the freeway and minimal store traffic right next to us). Several
semi-trucks and one other RV parked nearby overnight.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 5
Bloomington, IL to
a state park campground east of Cincinnati, OH --
322 miles in less
than 7 hours with two rest stops (no fuel stops). Lost one hour going
from Central to Eastern Time.
Illinois and Indiana to Cincinnati;
south, I-71 north, I-471 south, I-275 east and north to US 32 east.
Traffic moderate to heavy the whole way. Road fairly smooth until
Cincinnati, where all the roads were rough. Some road construction but
it didn’t slow us down much since we were already going slower than
most everyone else. We saw very few RVs today.
Above and below: colorful fall leaves
through IL yesterday and today
Terrain mostly flat until we got closer to Cincinnati, which is hilly.
Saw colorful leaves in Illinois and Indiana but hard to see them (or
take photos) in the rain we had today. Less leaf color in southern
Ohio, where it's earlier in the season.
Stayed all weekend
at East Fork State Park campground near Batavia, OH (see below)
CAMPING AT EAST FORK
This is the second time we've camped in this
nice state park, the best option we've found near my brother's home.
was quick on Friday afternoon because we’d already paid our three-night
fee online. We got a sticker for our windshield, dumped, got water, and
found our site. It’s a back-in with 50-amp electricity but no water or
We have lots of thick
green grass for Cody, a concrete pad, a picnic table and fire pit, a
bathroom nearby, and shade trees on the east and west sides of our
Our site is listed as 80 feet long but the pavement is only about 50
feet long. We have to pull the truck under the front cap or park
perpendicular to it. We could have parked the truck in the site across
from us. There is a CG host and only two other RVs in our loop of about
This is a very nice campground with about 400 sites in numerous loop,
plus some cabins in the woods (one of the cabins is shown above).
There is a beach for swimming and a boat launch at the end of the road
past the camping sites.
When we weren't visiting with relatives and friends during the weekend we went for
bike rides and walks in the park and on nearby rural roads. With so few people
in the area this time of the year we didn't have to worry about traffic.
CRUISE ON THE OHIO RIVER
For the sake of
privacy I write very little on this website about family activities but I
want to include a little bit of generic information here about my brother's wedding this
weekend. I'm so thrilled that he found true love again at the age of 70
after losing his first wife of 46 years to cancer. They had a wonderful
life together -- and he will have another wonderful life with his
These pictures are
from his wedding reception Sunday on the
Ohio River in Cincinnati. Guests were treated to a dinner cruise on a riverboat:
Cincy skyline from the riverboat before it got dark
I loved all the
colorful lights reflecting in the water later in the evening:
Congratulations, big brother! We hope you two have many happy years
This is another good life lesson -- you're never too old to fall
in love again.
MONDAY, OCTOBER 8:
END OF THE ROAD (TEMPORARILY)
Our long Alaska journey ended this
afternoon when we arrived back at our house in Virginia.
We drove 409 miles on this final leg
of our journey from Ohio in
about 8˝ hours with stops for fuel at exit 185 on I-64 in KY, a lunch
break at Steak 'N Shake at exit 20B on I-64 in WV, and the rest area
just inside VA on I-64.
Traffic was heaviest
in Charleston, WV and the segment of
I-64 where it runs concurrently with I-77 from Charleston to Beckley,
WV. That was also the most mountainous and bumpy section.
We prefer to continue traveling east on I-64 after Beckley rather than
taking I-77 south to I-81 because I-64 has much less truck traffic and
the pavement is smoother.
There is a toll on I-77. We
paid twice at $2.50 each for the number of axles we have. Passenger
vehicle tolls are less.
Rock River in Quad Cities, IL area (from Oct. 4)
We got diesel at the Flying J
at Catlettsburg exit 185 in KY, where we’ve stopped many times. The RV
lanes were busy so Jim went to the inside L. car lane and was able to
pull out forward OK with the camper. Price was $4.06/gallon even with
our Flying J/Pilot discount card for RVs. Fuel prices we saw in WV were
even higher, as usual. They are generally lower in KY and VA.
the whole way today was hilly to mountainous through Kentucky, West
Virginia, and southwestern Virginia. It's a beautiful drive in
every season. Elevations get up to about 4,600 feet along the way. Most
leaves are still green at the lower elevations but are more colorful
higher on the slopes.
Temperatures were cool (40s-50s F.) and it rained off and on through
WV and VA.
back to our house about 4 PM. Fortunately there was a break in the rain
for about an hour while we were backing the RV into our yard and
carrying in some of the stuff from the camper. Later it rained more.
I'd like to say we are glad to be back home but
. . . we're only relieved we got back to our house safely. It's
been a long five months since we left. Our minds and heart are still out
there on the road.
Our real home is in our roving residence, wherever it is
parked, not this house.
That's just a small sample of the weeds I have to
pull every time we come back in the fall.
Meanwhile, we'll make the most of our time at
the house. We have lots of work to do in the yard and woods (downed
trees from high winds in June plus the usual high weeds in the flower
beds), cleaning, de-cluttering, and some work on the house to prepare it
for sale in the spring, and our most fun project this fall --
getting a new puppy soon!
Next up: a series of entries with observations about our
grand adventure to Alaska and tips for other travelers (with or without
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the ultra Lab
© 2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil