26. Packing in More Fun

Only a few days left in Colorado, but a lot more fun…

Wonderful lunch with my Sister and her family on the rooftop deck at The Rio in downtown Boulder!

Turns out that the inside-brewer from a pizza joint near my parent’s house launched a standalone craft brewery and restaurant at Collision in Longmont. We liked the guy when he was just working at the pizza place, and it was so much fun to see him doing such a great job. They have one of the best views of the Flatirons, a terrific beer menu, vegan lunch options, and a real local success story. Yum-tastic!

We loved the open air farmer’s market at Boulder County Fairgrounds in Longmont! The band playing Jimmy Buffett and Neil Young was a lot of fun, and we left with an armload of picked-that-day veggies. Awesome!

25. We Sold Our Van!

Nice guy in Estes Park was interested, so we drove up there and made the deal. (Back over the hill to Estes!) We enjoyed meeting him and his girlfriend and finding a surprising array of intersections between the four of us. Connections to Cornell, to Virginia, to Florida, to the project we our bound to undertake in the PNW. It was good closure to wrap up our time with our Astro with such a nice couple.

Then we went to The Barrel to celebrate Vanny getting a new custodian. May she ride another 100,000 miles for them as she did for us!

24. Solving the Power Problem

After about 3000 successful miles – including up and down 6% grade roads in West Virginia – real mountains were more than we could reasonably expect our friendly neighborhood Chevy Astro to handle.

We considered many upgrades to the van but finally decided that there wasn’t anything wrong with it that replacement wouldn’t fix. Besides, it seemed sensible to have four-wheel drive for the work we plan to do in WA.

After shopping a variety of 4×4 trucks, we chose the Toyota Tundra SR5 double cab longbox as the best option for us to tow and road trip comfortably and still use to do work when we get to Washington.

381 horsepower
401 lb-ft torque
Tow capacity 10,200 lbs

Oh. Yeah.

Taking photos for craigslist…
Getting inspections required for sale in Colorado
First time hooking up the new truck to our rig!

Our first test ride was to get coffee, of course! (Thanks Red Frog!)

23. Finding our Limits

Driving through Nebraska to Wray, CO took us to 3566 feet, and arriving in Longmont was a climb to 4984 feet. In Wray we new there was a problem but by Longmont it was clear we couldn’t put off addressing it. We considered several options to bolster the horsepower the van could deliver, but couldn’t really know our limit before driving it.

The final test for the van was driving up to Estes Park, CO (7522 feet). We did make it up – barely. Some steep grades were 55mph where the max the Astro could drive was 35mph. Not safe. Had to make some choices.

The last hurrah of our time with the Astro Van.
We love going back to Estes Park

Although the ride up did not give us any good news about our tow vehicle, it is 45 minutes of sharp cliffs and beautiful views. The town was busy with tourist traffic, but we know a little back lot to park which was almost empty and allowed us to park up and enjoy the afternoon.

Had a beautiful vegan takeout lunch, too, from Himalayan Curry and Kabob on W. Elkhorn. Thanks #happycow !

22. The Front Range

And there in the blue air I saw for the first time, far off, the great snowy tops of the Rocky Mountains.

Jack Kerouac

One of the joys of an extended family visit is being able to pal along with the normal activities of the day. We have sought and found “Americana” all through our trip, but you just can’t beat watching the local kids play baseball. Below is a shot from my nephew’s baseball game. So glad I was there to make that memory.

Sitting in camp chairs with my Mom and Sister, chatting and having snacks, was such a perfect moment.

We’ve always enjoyed Longmont. It is historic and offers a lot of unique home-grown flavor. Having been so many times, we don’t feel the urgency to spend our visit doing tourist stuff, and can just relax and enjoy being in a lovely place with family. One of the don’t-miss stops is Long’s Peak Pub. Lunch with Mom means saying hello to my old friend Teddy.

Thanks @longspeakpub !

21. Colorado changes

Arriving in Wray, Colorado after driving through Nebraska found us in a suddenly and dramatically different environment.

After threading the needle past tornadoes through Missouri and Kansas and Nebraska, we crossed our second time change (Mountain Time! Exciting!) and arrived safely at the Hitch’n Post in Wray, Colorado.

The Wray Hitch’n Post was a perfect spot to stop and set up for a nice easy ride into Longmont the next day.

The view out the trailer window… Not in Florida anymore!
The Hitch’n Post is a gravel lot, but there is a little patch of trees like a garden space. Power, water, and pets allowed – so nice.

Crossing Colorado from Wray to Longmont was an easy ride although we’ve noticed reduced horsepower in the van above 4000ft asl. We pulled into my sister’s neighborhood on a crystal clear day that started a wonderful visit.

A week at her house and two weeks at my parent’s house was another unexpected highpoint of the trip. When we began, the planned route didn’t even touch Colorado!

We did some work-work, some maintenance/repairs on our rig, and eventually dealt with our power problem, but mostly we enjoyed a rare extended visit.

The pictured balloon greeted us on our first morning in CO, just as we stepped out my sister’s front door. Amazing.

20. Nebraska… Wow!

Of all the states between Florida and Washington State … I would not have expected to enjoy Nebraska so much.

We liked Route 34 through Nebraska as much as Route 36 through Kansas.

For goodness sakes… forget about Rt70!

A real #stickandrudder pro right off our three o’clock. Showing off the low altitude #skills

Threading the needle through Nebraska … we feel so lucky we didn’t get hit like so many people throughout the Midwest

First time we pulled off the road because of a storm, though. 

Thanks to the city of Cambridge Nebraska for the convenient, clean (and free!) RV park right off Rt34!

Nebraska is a land of green rolling hills cut by rail lines and punctuated by alien-looking, somewhat scary, enormous and tightly clustered wind-mills

19. Kansas – Not what we were told (so nice!)

All we heard about Kansas was that it was flat, straight, boring and seemed to last forever. That may be true of Route 70, but if you get off the highway and take Rt 36 then Kansas offers a diversity of small towns and beautiful countryside.

MARYSVILLE, KS – “Marysville has always been known as Black Squirrel City. The folklore was that in the early 1900’s a carnival came to town, and the carnival brought two Black Squirrels – one male and one female, and a small boy let them out and they’ve been here ever since.”

Every small town along Rt36 in Kansas had some fun Americana. None of these small town mainstreets had a chain store or chain restaurant – never mind a big box store. It was wonderful seeing Ma’s Diner and Jack’s Auto Repair and all the historic family businesses. This is what it used to be like everywhere.

Rocky Pond Campground in Belleville, KS is a pretty, clean, well administered park and a great stop if you’re cruising rt36

A pretty afternoon when we pulled up and a lovely sunrise to start our drive to Nebraska

18. Historic, nostalgic Missouri

Finally crossed the Mississippi river (exciting!) into Missouri and stayed over at the Mark Twain Cave Campground.

Mark Twain was born in Missouri, just a bit West, but lived in Hannibal as a boy. There’s a lot of fun historic sites right near the river, and also this very nice campground.

It is fun to wander around in a new park. There was a guided motorcycle tour group parked near us (very cool), and we got in a little nature hike… Past where the gravel ends…

We took route 36 across Missouri and it was *so* much more fun than rt70. Oh. Man. #getoffthehighway #seeamerica

St. Joseph c.1890

St Joseph Missouri was where Kindra’s dad was born and lived to the time he entered the Marines and went to Korea. St. Joes was also the beginning of the Pony Express line that ran to Sacramento, CA. It was a nostalgic, historic stop on Main Street for us. (photo c. 1890)

There are sculptures and historic markers all through Missouri and along Route 36. It was all amazing Americana and made me wish they had taught more about the Pony Express when I was in grade school.

17. Illinois – Waiting out Tornadoes

Percival Springs Airport (2T2) has its own RV park and was our home for the several days we waited in Illinois for tornados to pass through Missouri and Kansas and Nebraska.

They host helicopter medical services and a 2000 foot grass strip most suited to STOL operations.

The cafe is nice and the folks who run the place are really friendly and helpful.

The field is close to Effingham restaurants and shops (including Menards!) and we wouldn’t stay anywhere else in the area. We were 140 miles East of Saint Louis and tensely watched the weather radar and waited for a safe time to sprint for Missouri. (at 50 mph…)

Sunset our first night at Percival Springs Airport in Effingham, IL

Sunsets and sunrises and a stunning, glowing, orange/ red moonrise were all part of enjoying our stay at Percival Springs Airport in Watson, IL. Our visit was also good timing to appreciate the flowering landscaping that RV host Bill had worked so hard on.