Monday, August 3, 2015

2015 Western Trip – Days 8 & 9 - Onward To Cody

These two days were spent traveling from North Platte, NE to Cody, WY with an overnight stop in Douglas, WY.

The Trip
Traveling US-26 gave us a great view of the countryside and the farming/ ranching activities and it was interesting to watch as we headed west to a dryer climate, how things moved from almost total agriculture (corn and soybeans) to a mix of ranching and farming to nearly all ranching.  On the second day of our trip from Douglas to Cody, we spent most of the day driving through the vast dry expanse of northwestern WY – it is a huge and barren land.  

I was surprised when we came upon the Boysen Reservoir and dam which seemed to be in the middle of nowhere.  It is an impoundment of the Wind River and is mostly located on the Wind River Indian Reservation.  We even got to see a BNSF train headed up river below the dam on the main line from Billings, MT to Casper, WY but I wasn't in a position to get a shot of it.

It seems the Wind River becomes the Bighorn River when it exits the canyon near Thermopolis, WY.  Between Thermopolis and Cody, we passed through the small town of Meeteese, which sits on the Greybull River.  We knew nothing about it when we went through but noticed it looked like it would have been a good place to stop.  With a population of 330, it is home to Chocolatier Tim Kellogg who makes and ships his gourmet chocolates to fans around the world.

The Routes
We left North Platte on I-80 and exited at Ogallala, NE to take US-26 on an angle up to I-25 just west of Guernsey, WY.  I thought US-26 was a very good road in NE with good scenery, a good road surface, and four lane some of the way.  When we got into WY, the land looked the same but the road surface was not quite as good, but still fine.  I-25 in WY up to Douglas was a little rough and more typical of what I see in the East.  

On the next day we continued on I-25 to Casper, then took US-20 to Thermopolis then WY-120 to Cody.  These were all good roads except for a few rough spots on WY-120 and the drive down the Wind River Canyon was curvy but I would still recommend this route. 

I tried to add a map here but couldn't figure out how to do it - all I could get was the actual link - any advice appreciated.

The Campgrounds
Like most of what we’ve seen in the west, the Douglas KOA was gravel with a little grass.  Our site was plenty big enough for us without unhooking the car and we were pleased with that.  As we usually find at KOA’s, the folks at the office were friendly, helpful and escorted us to the site – I always appreciate that and would stop-over there again.  

Our next stop was the Ponderosa Campground in Cody, WY and based on my research, it was the best one in town.  It was located downtown and pretty near everything, but still too far for my knees to walk.  This is our site and as you can see we have a nice grassy area next to us for the dogs.

The campground was fine but our end site was right next to the road to Yellowstone so we got lots of traffic noise especially from motorcycles – for you Harley fans, the sound is not all that great when you’re trying to sleep in. I believe every bike in the western US that was not at the Sturgis rally was in Cody – a group of 11 just went by as I was typing this.

Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.


7/31 – 8/1/15 event date

Saturday, August 1, 2015

2015 Western Trip – Day 7 - Bailey Yard

If you’re not a Railfan, you may want to skip this post.

The second day in North Platte, NE, after scrubbing the bugs from the RV front end, we went off to enjoy the reason for stopping in North Platte in the first place – the Bailey Yard.  Since having toy trains as a kid, I’ve been a railroad fan and since we were traveling up and across the country anyway, I routed us thru North Platte, which also allowed us to include Nebraska as a state we have now stayed in.  

This huge Union Pacific yard is the largest of its kind in the country and consists of two classification yards plus repair and service facilities for locomotives and cars.  They have a visitor’s center and the eight story Golden Spike Tower to make viewing the yard easier for visitors.  These shots are from the tower looking west then east then north after the first shot of the tower.

Here are a couple of excerpts about the yard form Wikipedia - It covers a total expanse of 2,850 acres and is over 8 miles in length and 2 miles wide. The yard has 200 separate tracks totaling 315 miles of track, 985 switches, 766 turnouts, and 17 receiving and 16 departure tracks. Union Pacific employs more than 2,600 people in North Platte, most of whom are responsible for the day-to-day operations of Bailey Yard.  An average of 139 trains and over 14,000 railroad cars pass through Bailey Yard every day, and the yard sorts approximately 3,000 cars daily using the yard’s two humps.

The first shot is a car rolling to the right from the hump then a couple shots of the locomotive repair and service facility.

The yard is controlled three ways -by computers, by a person at a large control panel, and by the train crewman on the ground – control means throwing the switches that determine which way the train or components go.  When a train arrives at the yard, the road locomotives are removed and the yard switchers take over the train.  It is then moved over the hump (a 34’ hill that raises the track), where the cars are uncoupled and roll by gravity down the other side where they are switched onto the track that makes up a train of cars going to the same place and in the right order so the last cars come off at the first drop point.  Each car has a tag similar to a bar code and its final destination is put in the computer when it goes on its initial train, then as it passes by readers along the track, this info is used each time it gets humped until it reaches its destination.

This is a shot south from the tower.

From the Bailey Yard we went over to Cody Park to check out the rail equipment on display and found a Union pacific Challenger steam locomotive and a EMD DDA40X.  The 4-6-6-4 wheel arrangement, Challenger was one of the largest of the steam locomotives being bested by Union Pacific's 4-8-8-4 Big Boy.  The DDA40X is one of a group of 6600 hp locomotives that had two diesel engines and are the most powerful ever made.

The Challenger.

This is the view forward from the Challenger engineers seat - he couldn't see much.

The DDA40X and it's cab.

Even Bev and Pat seemed to enjoy seeing and learning a little of how a RR does it’s job.

Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them. 

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.


7/30/15 event date

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

2015 Western Trip – Days 4-6 - Kansas City & North Platte

My favorite part about blogging has been the people I’ve met electronically and then in person and the friendships this has led to.  Dave and Jackie Scott are one of those couples, having met them when they drove all the way from Kansas City to attend our 2012 blogger party, returning in 13 and 14.  Since our route for this trip took us thru KC, a meet up was a must, so we had lunch a place called Jazz, along with their friends and fellow RVers, Dan & Jackie.  Left to right are me, Jackie, Dan, Pat, Jackie, Bev, Dave.

We stopped that night at the KOA in Salina, KS which was a typical early generation KOA and hasn’t been updated much.  Like the other places so far it was okay to spend a night or two and very convenient to the interstate and fuel places at exit 252.  One nice thing was that it was cooler and much less humid than Columbia, MO the previous days.  From there, we headed up US-83 which was a very nice four-lane road that gave us a fine view of Kansas farming – mostly corn and soybeans.  We then drove I-80 into North Platte, NE and found it to be another road in good condition.

We stayed at the Holiday RV Park (pretty much our only option) and it was another older grass and gravel campground and was a little tight for our rig.  But we managed to get in and out and it had an excellent cable TV and WiFi.  The first full day we did a few chores on the RV, drove around North Platte and had breakfast at Penny’s Dinner – reminded me a little of Waffle House, with a good short order cook being the key to the operation.

I had the best breakfast of the three called the Sunrise Skillet, composed of vegetables, hash browns, meat (ham for me), with cheese and eggs on top.  It was very good and I took about half of it home.

After that we drove by the Buffalo Bill Cody Ranch – here are some excepts about it from Wikipedia – “In 1883, in the area of North Platte, Nebraska, Cody founded "Buffalo Bill's Wild West", a circus-like attraction that toured annually.”  “In 1893, Cody changed the title to "Buffalo Bill's Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World". The show began with a parade on horseback, with participants from horse-culture groups that included US and other military, cowboys, American Indians, and performers from all over the world in their best attire.”  “With his profits, Cody purchased a 4,000-acre (16 km2) ranch near North Platte, Nebraska, in 1886. Scout's Rest Ranch included an eighteen-room mansion and a large barn for winter storage of the show's livestock.”  “Buffalo Bill located Scouts Rest Ranch at North Platte because it allowed him to move his Wild West Show by train or by wagon across the United States relatively quickly.” 

Buffalo Bill later was instrumental in founding Cody, WY and we’ll have more on that when we get there.

Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.


7/27 – 7/29/15 event dates

Sunday, July 26, 2015

2015 Western Trip – On The Road – Days 1-3

We are finally underway for our big trip to the Pacific Northwest and hopefully this will be the dream trip I’ve been awaiting.  We’ve had all of the known coach issues taken care of, the basement area reorganized, and the RV chassis, the car, and me serviced.  The coach and car were all fine but I had a couple of issues requiring attention, so I’m hoping for a non-eventful trip – except for the positive ones.  The house sitter is in place and someone is lined up to tend to the grounds so we can hopefully not have to worry about things at home – this may be the part of traveling I like best and it makes me somewhat envious of the full timers.

Our plan is to spend a total of 73 days as we angle from home up to Washington, spend several weeks in the Northwest, then drop down to the middle of the country (Colorado) and head back home – I know, I know, this is not enough time to do the area justice but it is all I could get committed from my girls.  In addition to seeing the sights and eating good food, we hope to meet up with several blogger buddies during our adventure.

The first day we drove to Paducah, KY (311 miles) and spent the night at Fern Lake Campground which was an older park ran by a nice couple who live on site.  It is just grass and gravel, not a destination park but a good place to stop for the night.  They had pull thru’s that fit us and were about a half mile from the I-24 and a Pilot truck stop.  I would stop here again for a night or two.

The second day, we drove to Columbia, MO (302 miles) and skirted the SW of St. Louis by going up I-55.  I only like to drive two days in a row so we took an off day in Columbia, MO, staying at Cottonwoods RV Park which was another good place for a night or two but not a place for an extended stay.  After setting up, we went out, drove around a little, and decided to give the White Castle drive through a try for supper as we’d always heard of them.  Our opinion - if Krystal ever decides to expand into this area, White Castle will be history, but now I can say I’ve eaten them.

The next morning, we headed downtown to a small farmers market and had breakfast at the Ozark Mountain Biscuit food truck where my large sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit was delicious and well worth the $6 cost as were the deep fried pimento cheese balls.  I forgot my camera so here are a few shots from the web – I would definitely go back.

For dinner, Bev and Pat brought home supper from Buckingham Smokehouse Bar-B-Q as it was recommended by the campground check-in person.  Unfortunately, like most restaurant BBQ, everything was overcooked and dry requiring lots of sauce to be decent - to some folks BBQ is all about the sauce so they would have enjoyed this.  To me, BBQ is all about the meat and I'm spoiled by the stuff I make at home. 

We're off tomorrow to points further west and I'll check in again when we have something worthy of a post.

Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.


7/24 - 7/26/15 event dates

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Hofer’s Visit In 2015

As has occurred the past few years, the Hofer clan, consisting of brothers Stu and Meakin and their wives Sandy and Sam, visited Almost Heaven South for a couple of nights this week.  And as in previous years, the event was about good food, good wine, and great visiting.

We provided the food and drinks for the first part of the visit consisting of Smothered Pork Chops with mashed potatoes and fried okra for the first supper, Kennedy Quiche for the first breakfast and Caribbean Holiday Shrimp for snacking while we lounged around on the dock during the afternoon.  Since they were all repeat dishes, I didn’t take any shots and I forgot to take the camera to the dock.

However, once the Hofer’s took over the kitchen, I made sure I got some shots beginning with our second supper meal.

They served a delicious meal of filet of beef with Marchand de Vin sauce and topped with a Bernaise sauce sided with mashed potatoes and stuffed baked tomatoes.  

We washed it down with a very nice Cote du Rhone red wine and ended the meal with ice cream topped with cherry sauce.

All I can say is these folks can cook and we always look forward to turning the kitchen over to them and eating the fruits of their effort.  And to make it even better, Sandy is the consummate cleaner upper so we got a great meal and a clean kitchen by not doing anything but tell them where they can find things in the kitchen – I’m not sure it gets much better than that.

They also decided to whip up breakfast the final morning and we had scrambled eggs with spinach and the left over Caribbean shrimp, Nueske’s bacon, imported from Wisconsin, fresh fruit, and Mimosa’s.

As always, I had an excellent time and so enjoyed spending a piece of my life engaging with these four very different personalities.  Thanks guys for the great visit and I can hardly wait until next time and am hopeful we’ll see you before another year passes by.

Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.


7/15/15 - 7/17/15 event dates

Sunday, July 5, 2015

A Tennessee Summer Meal

This is one of our favorite summertime meals, all from local farmers – no garden for me this year.

I thought I should post the recipes for you non-Southerners J

Fried Okra
Sliced okra
S&P to taste
Crisco for frying (no substitute)
Fry until golden brown, turning often

Fried Corn
Corn, cut from the cob
S&P to taste
Butter for frying
Cook until warmer through, turning often

Green beans
Beans of your choice, this was a mixture
Country ham hocks
Chopped onion and garlic
S&P to taste
Water to cover
Cook until beans are soft – Bev used the pressure cooker

Watermelon for dessert

It was delicious and the previous night we had boiled new potatoes, corn on the cob, and green beans.  It’s not gourmet, but plain ole food is darned hard to beat – we may eat some meat tomorrow.

Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.


7/5/15 event date

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Almost Heaven South & Mobile Photos

Kathy and her three daughters are here from Texas for their annual visit and she decided to take some photos to show her friends back home where she goes every year, so I decided to put them on here as well.

This first shot is while she is laying in bed in the downstairs sun room which is the bottom left of the second shot.

Than she walked around the yard and got some of the house and plant life.

She went up on the neighbors hill and shot this one of the whole place then the second one through the trees at the road.

One of the things she wanted the Texans to see was what real trees look like - of course the folks from California Redwood Country might say the same thing about ours.

This shot is of the Mobile Almost Heaven South - it's being prepped for our upcoming trip.  So far it has gotten a power surge protector, an upgraded fan in the bathroom and several little odds and ends items fixed on the coach and the front end was aligned.  What remains is having the chassis and generator serviced this week then start packing up.

As you can see by the tracks in the rocks, the driveway is not quite wide enough.

And finally, she got this shot of our cove and wished she had a ski boat to tackle the glassy water.

Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.


6/28/15 event date