Updated on July 29, 1999.
We actually lived on our lot six nights before June began, but this page seems to be the appropriate month to start the tales of our new leased lot at the Jojoba Hills SKP Resort.
From the start the weather was nice, and the quiet at night was deafening. Once in a while you can hear the coyotes yipping in the distance, but they fit in with the high desert scene.
We have already been asked by friends why we bought into Jojoba Hills; did this represent our hidden desire to start nesting and have a "real" home again.
We already have a home, we have been living in it for the last fourteen months. It is our Automate fifth-wheel trailer. We now have a place in Aguanga with a tremendous view where we park that home for a month or two at a time, especially when the weather cooperates with that idea. We plan to take our home around and park in other places as well.
This place where we park is an Escapees Co-op Park (you can click on it to read my comments about that kind of arrangement). We want to be members because it has some of the best people around and a great set of amenities for Alice and me.
I decided to start a new, on-going report on Jojoba Hills SKP Resort. That way I can update it as I snap some new pictures and new things happen there. In it I also tell you about the hard life we lead at Jojoba Hills.
Most of this visit at Jojoba Hills was involved with getting settled in, learning some of the rules of the park, and meeting our new neighbors and friends. We found the Home Base in Murietta and bought a patio table and chairs. That allowed us to eat out under the awning several times. I had a chance to take the truck in for a front brake job. We spent one Saturday morning doing garage sales, and found a $2 phone. It just took a while to determine that the reason it would not work was the cord.
We had a phone installed to the site, and I changed my Internet Service Provider from Netcom to Earthlink. The local calls from the park are in Hemet where Earthlink has a POP. Netcom is in Temecula which is a toll call. Guess who wins.
The driving reason for getting the phone line was to work on the About.com project. We started getting instructions from the Guide mentor, and I started to work on the web page. As I read more and more of the instructions and did more and more of the physical work of getting the page together, it became obvious that much of the effort was going to involve searching the web for good links. There were articles to write for the page, but that appeared to be secondary to the links.
Alice and I had nearly finished the first draft of the page to be posted to the training site when we sat back and reconsidered what we were doing. So long as we sat in Jojoba Hills, we had the connection to the Internet, and I was burning 4 to 6 hours a day of time on it. But when we were traveling we would be able to get on for just email maybe three times a week, and that would not be enough to adequately support the site. We decided we had retired, and to do a good job at About.com meant we went back to work!
So we resigned from the training. I plan to devote my available Internet time to maintaining this site. In addition, I will be writing some articles for a new magazine, RV Companion, and continuing to work on fiction, possibly even my novel.
With that load off our chests, we contacted my sister Janet in Palm Springs and invited ourselves over to see them the Saturday before we were due to pull out. We took the short way: up CA371 through Anza and then east on CA74 to Palm Desert. It was only 45 miles, but the last eleven was about as winding as you can find. The first part of the drive was warm, the last part was hot as we dropped from over 4,000 feet down to near sea level.
We had a great time visiting with Michael and Janet, and I worked with them to figure out what computing systems to purchase for their office. It is amazing how the computing power goes up and the prices keep falling.
We decided to stay the night and sleep in their air conditioned house. The next morning we had breakfast and started back up the hill. The temperature dropped 20 degrees in the climb to the top, but it was still hot up there. It was hell down below.
Sunday afternoon we started preparing to travel. We finished cleaning out the basement of the trailer and resorted all our worldly possessions into what we would take, what we would store, and what we would give away. There was a large pile to give away, and Ramona from next door guided me down to the storeroom where next fall's flea market goods are being gathered. We added about eight sacks of clothes and other stuff.
I also gave all but four of our VHS movie tapes to the park. Since we have not been watching any of them, this will put them to better use. And when we are there we can always go down and borrow them out of the library for an evening of entertainment.
We went down to the lodge for the Sunday evening BBQ/potluck and said goodbye to many of our new friends. Then it was back to the trailer where we finally finished getting everything mostly sorted and stored away. I put up the awnings and did some final arranging. Then it was to bed for our last evening at Jojoba Hills and the Palomar Mountains for the next three and a half months.
Monday morning dawned bright and warm. Alice and I showered and finished rigging the trailer for travel. We did our last sort through the things in the shed and added a few more items to the boxes in the trailer. Then we dumped the holding tanks and buttoned down the hatches.
I went by Stan's place to ask about coverage at Fun Days for Jojoba Hills. Ron and Barbara, the couple who were planning to represent the Park, had just been informed of a medical problem, and they were no longer sure of their schedule. A little later, Ron came by and asked that we transport the materials to Escanaba for them. If they can make it, we will have the stuff waiting for them. Otherwise, they will locate some other Jojobian to take responsibility.
Our neighbors, Ralph and Marlaine, invited us over for flap-jacks and orange juice then stood around while we finished prepping to go. I showed Marlaine how easy it was to hitch up a fifth-wheel trailer. Then our other neighbors, Tom and Bobbie, came over to see us off. Stan stopped by to say goodbye. All of a sudden, we were having trouble leaving home again. It took an extra half an hour to get away.
But we finally pulled out and headed down CA79 from the Jojoba Hills SKP Resort, headed for Las Vegas. And boy did we pick a scorcher of a day to travel. By the time we reached I-15 the temperature had climbed into the low 90s, and I had turned on the air conditioner. By the time we reached Riverside on I-215, the smog was cutting visibility to half a mile and the temperature was over 100. I watched the tranny, turbo, and radiator temperature gauges carefully as we started up the grade out of San Bernadino, holding my speed in check when they started to climb.
Then we hit the proverbial southern California traffic snarl halfway up the grade. I turned the air conditioner off. It took an extra hour to get over the top and through Victorville. The temperature was 108 when we reached the top, and there were stalled cars littering the side of the freeway all the way. Four lanes of traffic were funneled down into one to allow room for resurfacing the freeway. Maybe travel on the weekend is best, at least in that part of the country. What a price we pay for progress and smooth roads.
We pulled off I-15 in Barstow to get a fast-food sandwich. Then it was back on the road, headed for Baker and the real test.
Our truck has a sensor recording the outside temperature. It seems to be pretty accurate so long as we are moving along; sitting still it records the temperature of the heated metal top of the cab. As we came down the slope into Baker, the sensor showed an outside temperature of 111. This was not the hottest Baker has been, but it was hot enough, especially if you have a truck pulling a heavy trailer up the 16 miles of grade to the east of Baker.
The elevation in Baker is 920 feet. Halloren Pass is over 4,000. It is a long hard climb, and the big test is to keep your vehicle cool on the way up. I spent a good part of the time in 2nd gear tootling along at 30 mph. When the vehicle temperatures would allow it, I turned the air conditioner on. Otherwise, Alice would have revolted right there on the road. There were a couple of cars and RVs that whizzed by me going up that were parked along the side of the road a little further on up.
Finally, we were on the more level stretch into Las Vegas. A few miles west of Las Vegas we took NV146 over to Henderson where we caught the I-515 freeway north to near the Thousand Trails Park. We checked in and found a camping site with a little shade. I was exhausted from the drive of 299 miles, setting up, and the heat by the time we could go inside and cool down.
After relaxing a bit and cooling the trailer down (the temperature outside was still 108), we headed over to Boulder Station for supper and a little fun. After a fine Mexican dinner we each paid some dues to the casino then went back home. Before going to bed I checked for email and got a confirmation from Bev about what to write for RVCompanion.
Tuesday morning was a chance to relax and catch up on small chores. Wolf was happy to get out of the truck and stroll around.
Shortly before noon we headed off to CampingWorld. It was our last chance to catch up for several months. We found a number of things that had been on our list, including a small folding table for Alice, an awning tie-down, leg snaps for the front support legs of the trailer (now listed in RV Products), a solar powered refrigerator fan (hope it helps), a folding rake, and trailer wheel covers. There was enough to make it worthwhile to rejoin the President's Club.
Then we went back to Boulder Station for lunch and to go to the movies. We saw "Star Wars, Episode 1," and the computer graphics was marvelous. Totally amazing. After that it was back to the trailer to get ready for the next day's travel.
The trailer air conditioner ran all night, trying to keep the trailer cool enough to sleep. It was 99 when we went to bed the night before, and the next morning it had only gotten down to 89. We scurried around and left the campground about 8:30am.
We continued up I-515 to intersect I-15. Co-Pilot kept wanting to save us about four miles by going along city streets, but I made a command decision and stuck to the freeway.
North and east of Las Vegas you go through high desert lands like to the south of the city. There are patches of Joshua Trees and yucca. The road had a few grades but nothing too strenuous for the truck. We made good time to the Arizona border where a sign announced we had entered the Mountain Time Zone.
Alice and I argued whether we should set our clocks forward or not. She said Arizona did not participate in Daylight Savings Time, and so the time had not changed. I took the position that in 26 miles we would be in Utah where the time had changed. We compromised: she did her thing, and I did mine. But in the end, Utah won out and then everyone was back on the same time.
St. George looked like a prosperous little city, all nice and green for a desert town. We found out later that they have had over 800% of their expected rainfall for the month of June, all 1.36" of it. No wonder they looked green.
As we drove on into Utah, we started climbing, and by the time we reached Cedar City we were into even greener pastures and hillsides. The temperature had moderated and was becoming livable. There were some mountains around with bits of snow left on top.
We pulled into the United Campground just south of Beaver, Utah about 2:30 in the afternoon. The sky was cloudy with some rain falling in the hills. A breeze was blowing from the southwest, but it was moderate in temperature. The lady at the store checked us in and then led us to our assigned spot.
As a part of setting up, I installed the leg snaps. It took a couple of times before I read the instructions and did it right. But now that I have them, they are great. My buddies in the Diablo Caravaners were right.
I spent some time working on one of the articles for RVCompanion. Later that night we watched the first game of the NBA playoffs, then it was to bed. It was already past 10 when the game was over. Moving east sure confuses the clocks.
We awoke to cool winds and the sound of thunder in the distance. We were in the Mountain Time Zone, and 7am came an hour earlier. The sun was not beating down on us. What a relief.
We had a leisurely breakfast and rigged for travel. We hit the road about 8:45 and continued north on I-15.
In Utah along I-15 you drive for miles and miles through large green valleys with substantial mountains on each side of you. There are changes in elevation, but they are sometimes so imperceptible that you hardly notice except when your rig speeds up or slows down.
In Nephi we found a Flying J and refilled the tanks. Another period with the trailer in tow and we got 12.9 mpg. The additive still seems to be doing its job.
It was a pleasant drive all the way into Provo. We stopped at a TGI Friday Restaurant and tried out one of our tried and true memories, the TGIF wrappers. But they had changed, or maybe we had changed. They just were not the same as back when we were working in San Ramon.
The drive into Salt Lake City became more and more harried as we got into the continual construction that seems to grip the Salt Lake City freeways. We took I-215 to bypass a goodly portion of it and continued north.
The northern sky was becoming more and more ominous with towering thunderheads. But by the time we had checked in at the Golden Spike Campgound in Brigham City, the clouds were dissipating and were no problem as we set up.
We planned to stay for three days while visiting Alice's brother and sister-in-law, Chuck and Dorothy. So I set up the sewer hose using the PVC-pipe sewer hose support I had put together back in Sutherlin. It worked very well, and I decided to write a short article about sewer supports.
We visited with Chuck and Dorothy in Brigham City, going out to supper at the Maddox Restaurant Thursday night. It served excellent food, and we ate too much again. I talked with a neighbor in the campground who had had the buffalo steak. He said it was outstanding.
The next day we went to lunch in Ogden. We had a chance to do some shopping at Wal-Marts, and didn't find anything to buy. When we went for supper at their place, I had a chance to take a picture of the mountains directly out their back patio.
Saturday Alice washed clothes and I worked on the web page and prepared an upload. In the evening we went to say goodbye to Chuck and Dorothy, and I uploaded the new web pages and emailed the first article off to RV Companion.
We were packed and rolling by 8:40am, quite an accomplishment for the two of us, heading towards Wyoming and a stop to see Flaming Gorge. The traffic was light on a clear, cool Sunday morning and we made good time down I-15. We turned onto I-84 just past Ogden and headed towards the mountains.
There was one stretch of I-84 where they were working on the road and they brought us down to a single lane, with concrete bunkers on each side. It was a bit nerve-racking, but I just held it to the center and cruised on down the road. After about five miles we got the second lane back and then it was smooth sailing.
The valleys were all green and well-maintained. The mountains were a mixture of green foliage and rock. When radio reception gave out, I turned on a CD of classical guitar and we tooled along. Wolf kept trying to sit on the computer on the center console, so there was an occasional pushing match.
After turning east on I-80 we climbed up through the pass towards Wyoming, and the land became more arid and the rock cliffs and faces more stark. Then past Evanston the road mostly leveled out, and we pulled a steady 55mph on I-80 heading towards Green River.
In the distant south we could see snow-topped mountains, the Uintas. We took a rest stop at a pull-over, and I tried to get them into perspective in a photo. I also captured the small clouds that were beginning to appear. By the time we reached our camp an hour later, those clouds had grown to thunderhead size.
We stayed at Tex's RV Park in Jamestown, just east of Green River. It was recommended by Chuck. We had a back-in spot with little leeway on placing the trailer. But with Alice's help, I guided the rig into great position. The 2m radio ran out of power during the process, so we had to resort to some of our previous hand waving and shouting. We immediately started recharging the radios.
The park was $22 a night with tax and Good Sam discount. It's a bit high but nice. It does have a computer phone jack at the laundry room. It borders on the Green River, which was running quite high. Our site had a nice grassy area and shade; it was very nice.
Later in the day we went to shop for groceries and to refuel the truck. We also got directions from the office on the best route to take to see Flaming Gorge.
On Tuesday we took a 180 mile trip around Flaming Gorge. Take a look at our Flaming Gorge Travelogue for details and some nice pictures.
Later Tuesday evening, I collected email and we had supper. There were some good messages concerning the webpage, including a couple of corrections. I worked on the corrections and finally snoozed off. I finally got up to go to bed so we could head out the next morning.
We were slow getting moving the next morning. Both of us were tired from the travels of the day before. But once we were started we had breakfast and quickly packed up. We were on the road by 8:50am headed for Casper, 246 miles away.
We climbed at a slow rate out of Rock Springs towards the first Continental Divide on I-80. There are two such divides; in between there is something of a basin where the water flows to neither ocean. But the land is arid and flat, so there is no large salt lake. Once over the divide we moved along at a smooth pace, passing only two vehicles on the way to Rawlins. There were lots of vehicles on the road, but at 58mph we were almost the slowest on the road.
There were a few puffs of clouds in the sky, and as we approached the shadow of one of them, we noticed that it was moving ahead of us at almost the same speed we were traveling, maybe 10mph less. Careful inspection of the short grass on either side of the freeway showed there was a strong tailwind blowing, though we hardly noticed it as we drove along.
I pulled off at the Flying J Truck Stop just west of Rawlins to fuel up, and then I found out how strongly the wind was blowing. And that wind must have helped. When Alice figured the mileage for the last segment, it was 19 mpg, which meant we had been getting almost 17 mpg towing the trailer. The only bad news was that I needed so little diesel; it cost only $1.019.
After finding our way through Rawlins (I thoroughly screwed up and missed an exit), we headed north on US287. Now the wind was from our left, but the truck and trailer tracked along quite nicely with little effect from the wind.
Traveling across the middle of Wyoming is awesome, with wide valleys surrounded by mountains. The plains were arid but green, and the shadows of the clouds racing over the mountains and grasslands changed the greens in the distance from dark to light and back.
The road curved around a long mountain chain and headed east. The plains became more and more grassy, and we occasionally saw pronghorn antelope in the distance. We stopped at a viewpoint along the road and had lunch, leftover italian. The wind was still blowing strongly. The valley was surrounded by smallish, rounded granite mountains.
Just down the road we drove by Martin's Cove, where over one hundred Mormon pioneers pulling handcarts had frozen 150 years ago. We saw Devil's Gate which looked like the first freeway roadcut through the granite mountains surrounding the valley but was really cut by the river that flowed through it. Then we drove past Independence Rock where many pioneers had carved their names into the granite face while camped next to the Sweetwater River.
Twenty miles further it was over the edge of the high plateau and down past Alcova Lake into the valley of the North Platt and on into Casper. It was obvious that the river was running high, but it was not flooding. We pulled into the Campground at Fort Caspar about 2:45pm, ready to stop for the day.
The campground is nice but has no shade trees. There is grass between the campground and the river which flows around it. The sites are easily wide enough for triple slides, and we quickly set up. Then I took a nap and let Alice talk to the neighbors. Later in the evening we went to the Fireside Restaurant suggested by the owner and pigged out. I had a buffalo steak, which was tasty and expensive.
Wednesday we sat around the campground and caught up on things. We walked down to Fort Caspar and took some pictures. We also found out there was a Mountaineer Rendevous scheduled for the weekend, so we extended our stay for another three days. In the evening we went to Adam's Rib for supper, but 27 young people came in just before us and there was only one waitress. We went to Denny's instead and I had a great hamburger.
Thursday we took life easy again. Late afternoon we met our neighbors, Larry and Joan Angove, and they suggested we join them for supper at Jose's. We had a great time; it was Joan's birthday. They are planning on retiring at the end of the next school year, and are starting to prepare, so there was a lot to talk about.
Friday we drove back to Devil's Gate and Independence Rock and heard about the Martin's Cove incident. Then we drove back along the Oregon Trail -- almost 50 miles of dirt road. We now have a much greater appreciation of the struggles of the early pioneers. I collected email and learned that the first article was accepted for RV Companion. That evening was finally a night at home, watching the Spurs take game five and win the NBA championship. I did some more writing and worked on the webpage.
Saturday was cleanup day and the Rendevous. The Angove's pulled out early in the morning headed for Devil's Tower, so we may see them there. I started a new travelogue page on Our Wyoming Trip Back in Time and later rechecked the Internet and uploaded the new webpages. Alice did the laundry. Then it was time to prepare for the next day's drive and head to bed.
When we awoke in Casper, the weather was mild with a few remains of clouds from the previous night in the sky. We rigged for traveling and I programmed the Co-Pilot for the trip to Devil's Tower. Soon we were underway.
We had to go across town to I-25, and the first thing Co-Pilot did was take us down a street that said No Trucks. We both were a little apprehensive, but we perservered. Soon we were on an industrial highway heading up the hill in the right direction. Passing a Conoco station with diesel, I pulled in to fill up. The price was only $1.039.
We continued up the hill and then the pilot (not the Co-Pilot) goofed and we had to do a U-turn and come back to our proper turn. Finally, there was I-25 and we were headed north. Co-Pilot had again found the best route to our first destination.
The drive up I-25 was through rolling green hills of Wyoming, with occasional mountains in the distance. We finally crossed Crazy Woman Creek and drove on into Buffalo. Again, Co-Pilot pre-empted the highway signs and sent us on a cutoff to I-90. We drove by the Deer Creek Campground which we had enjoyed last year and we soon headed back south and east on I-90.
As you go east from Buffalo the land becomes more arid, with more gravel and rock showing on the hills. We stopped at the rest stop at the Powder River crossing and read about the Battle of Dull Knife. Wolf enjoyed the grass and weeds.
Later we stopped at a rest stop for lunch. The stop was quite full, and a couple of RVs who came in after us had to leave because there was no room. I read up on the geology we were passing through, and it told of the clinker hills around Gillette where coal veins in shale and sand had burned sometime in the past and produced the red cap of slag you would occasionally see.
Just before Moorcroft, we turned northeast on WY14. The land became a little more hilly, and we went by the Keystone Reservoir. We got a glimpse of Devil's Tower in the distance. Then, turning north on WY24 we drove in and out of the small canyons of lush green pastures until we came over the rise and down into the valley of the Belle Fourche (pronounced Bell Foosh) River. Devil's Tower stands directly over the river at that point.
We stayed at the KOA at the entrance to the park. After checking, we found we could have fit into a spot in the National Park campground, but it would have been a dry camp. We were pleased to have the facilities. The KOA also provided a phone hookup so I could collect email. It was a beautifully manicured park.
Shortly after arriving and setting up, a rain storm hit us. It blew the satellite dish over a couple of times until I tied it to the awning. It cooled the air down into the 50s. The next morning with some of the clouds lingering from the evening, it made the pictures of the tower look somewhat different. I especially liked this one.
This was our second trip to Devil's Tower, and we knew what pictures we wanted this time. We spent some extra time around the prairie dog town, and I took a number of pictures of the dogs. This was the only one with a couple together.
This time as we came around the corner, the tower was framed with a cloud. It made a great sight, not one you see so often unless you spend a lot of time there. I took many more pictures of the tower, but they all look like a large column of rock going up into the sky from different angles. There is no need boring you with those.
However, this time I did get a chance to see the ladders used many years ago during the early visits to Devil's Tower. These ladders were simply tree trunks. You can see one of them in the picture to the left. It is in the leftside dark crevasse. I believe the trunk is about a foot in diameter, so that gives you some idea how big the columns are on the side of the tower.
About the only flowers blooming this time of year were the thistles. This was a pretty one on the shadow side of the mountain.
We came back from our walk around the tower and had a nice supper, just taking it easy with the sun setting in the west. We had to travel on into South Dakota the next morning.
We got up early, rigged for travel, and drove around to dump the holding tanks. We took our last look at Devil's Tower in the rear view mirrors as we started our 315 mile drive to Chamberlain, SD.
As you leave Wyoming and then the Black Hills area, the land flattens out. You drive by the Bad Lands for many miles, but you cannot really tell that they are there except for the road signs.
Chamberlain is near the Missouri River on I-90. We stopped at a fairly new campground and set up. Shortly afterward, a rainstorm blew through. It provided water enough for me to wash the front of the trailer. We took some picture of the receding clouds, but all clouds are beginning to look the same now.
The drive from Chamberlain, SD, to Jackson, MN was 222 miles, all on I-90. There is not much to say about the stretch from the Missouri River to south-central Minnesota. The land was mostly flat, and there were only a few streams.
The drive was fairly easy, with a slight tail-wind. There were stretches where the freeway was being repaired, and others where it needed to be repaired. At least it was mostly cloudy so it remained cool.
This was the last day of June, the end of the quarter. So it was necessary for me to download the status of our portfolio that evening. At the same time, we picked up the email, a total of 24 messages. Among the messages was the announcement that David Schaetzel had been appointed VP of Engineering at my former company; I was very proud for him. He is a good friend and a good choice for the job. It was a good way to end the month.