Highlights of 2019 Travels

Tuesday December 31st 2019

Happy New Year

Today is a good time to look back on this years travels. I spent the first four and a half months of the year in Florida before rushing across the country to New Mexico in late May. I slowed down and worked my way north through Utah and Idaho to Oregon and Washington for the summer. During the fall I came south along the east side of the Cascades and Sierra Nevada mountain ranges to Las Vegas for the winter. The Rambling Road Trip made it to the Pacific Ocean in 2019.

I traveled about 9,000 miles, stayed a night to more than a month in twelve states. I traveled through two more states for a total of fourteen states visited in 2019. Most of my nights were spent in Florida, Nevada and Oregon.

A monthly breakout of my year follows. I tried to include some of the images I’ve posted during the year that represent the things I saw. Each picture should be clickable to see a bigger version.

January

2019 began in the Tampa Bay area of Florida. It was followed by a move to Central Florida with a couple of visits to Disney.

February

The month of February was spent in northern Florida and southeast Georgia. It ended with my first visit to the Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park.

March

March started in the southern part of Florida in the Big Cypress National Preserve on the northern side of the Everglades National Park. I got my Spring Training Baseball fix in the Sarasota area and I ended the month at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground.

April

I spent two weeks in April waiting for a rocket launch on Florida’s space coast followed by a few weeks in the greater Jacksonville area.

May

I made one more visit to the Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park before starting across the country. The trip west involved many stops and starts with a couple of course changes to avoid severe weather along the way. The Memorial Day weekend was in the Albuquerque New Mexico area. The month ended at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah.

June

During June I moved on from Bryce Canyon to two additional stops in Utah followed by a stop in Idaho before getting to Oregon. The end of the month was spent at the confluence of the Snake and Columbia Rivers in south central Washington State.

July

After the fourth of July week in the Tri Cities of south central Washington, I moved to the Columbia River Gorge for about a week followed by a week in the Corvallis area of Willamette valley. The end of the month was spent in Gold Hill south of Grants Pass Oregon and included a day trip to Crater Lake National Park.

August

August was along the Pacific coast. It started with a stay near the Redwoods National Park in the northwest corner of California followed by four weeks in the Coos Bay area along the Oregon coast.

September

After spending the Labor Day weekend back in the Corvallis area, I returned to the Oregon Coast in Astoria at the Columbia river mouth. As fall arrived I moved inland back through the Columbia River Gorge the south toward Bend Oregon. The end of the month found me in the Reno Nevada area.

October

After two weeks in the Reno Nevada area I moved south to Pahrump Nevada for another couple of weeks. The month ended with my arrival in Las Vegas for a four month stay.

November

During the first full month of my stay in Las Vegas, the big event was the Aviation Nation Air Show at Nellis Air Force base.

December

I overloaded on Christmas decoration viewing during December in Las Vegas

Another Exercise in Travel Planning

Monday December 30th 2019

The sun was back today without a lot of wind. The temperature made it into the upper half of the fifties which is about normal for this time of year. It was a great day.

Today was the start of the eleven month lead time for my next Florida winter reservation. Last night I checked to see how many sites were going to be available. There were sufficient sites available that I didn’t think I needed to get up at 5AM Pacific Time to join the race to get the available sites. Right after breakfast this morning I got online and was able to book two weeks starting on the 30th of November at Lake Louisa State Park in Clermont Florida. I even got a good site I’ve been on before. The rush for sites in Lake Louisa State Park hasn’t started yet. My next Florida reservation needs to be make on the 14th of January.

I was in travel research and planning mode for the rest of the day. My first mission of the day was to determine where I was going to be over Labor day. I had a choice of three methods of figure it out. The obvious method is to plan all my stops forward from my last completed reservation at the beginning of July. I could also do the reverse and plan from my next known stop after Labor Day which is October 25th in the Florida Keys. Each approach has about the same amount of unknowns to fill in. The approach I chose was to just pick a location I want to visit over Labor Day then fill in the gaps. Unfortunately, there is a lot of country out there.

The three candidates for the Labor Day weekend are the Santa Fe New Mexico area, the Amarillo Texas area or the Oklahoma City Oklahoma area. First I determined there were enough interesting things to do in each area. That takes a lot of internet searches which lead to more searches. The good news is they all have plenty of interesting things to see and do. That’s also the bad news. To try and narrow it down, I started to research RV parks in each area. The bottom line is that the approach failed. I want to stop for a few days in each area.

All of the research in the previous paragraph took more than three hours of research. I took a break for food and a little exercise before returning to travel research. This time I’ve started looking at the trip by distance. I like to travel two hundred miles plus or minus about fifty miles on each travel day. Ideally I want to stay for a week or more at most of my stops. If I need to cover additional distance I’ll stop for a single night between major stops. Between the beginning of July and the end of October I have to cover more than 2800 miles. Most of the summer I want to tour along the first 800 miles, so the bulk of the travel will be in the 45 days after Labor Day.

Today’s research has given me more clarity on 2020 travels. I think about it overnight before making a few more commitments. Clearly I can’t see it all and will have to return another year to many of the areas I will be traveling through this year. The good news is the second time I visit an area, I have a better idea about roads to travel and places to stay.

Random Sunday Activities

Sunday December 29th 2019

The day started with a little bit of sun. As the day went by the clouds increased and the sun disappeared for the day. Yesterday’s wind was gone, but the temperature was still stuck in the forties.

I watched the early NFL game on TV. In this area I had the choice of the Chargers vs. the Chiefs or the Packers vs. the Lions. The game I really wanted to watch was the Dolphins vs. the Patriots wasn’t on in this market. I started watching the Chargers vs Chiefs game, but I got frustrated with the announcers quickly. To build up the significance and drama associated with their game, they took absolute delight in reporting every negative nuance of the Patriots performance against the Dolphins. The Patriots scoring drives were never reported, just the Dolphins. Listening to them I thought the Pats were down by thirty points by half time. It’s a good thing I was reading the score crawl at the bottom of the screen. I switched at half time and watched the second half of the Packers vs. Lions game.

Mystic Falls Park Atrium inside Sam’s Town Casino.

To get away from football I drove over to Sam’s Town Casino after the first NFL games were over. I had some idea of seeing a movie, but I wasn’t really considering how busy the theater would be on a Sunday afternoon between Christmas and New Years.
The line for tickets was close to one hundred feet long and the next showing of the Star Wars movie I was interested in was over an hour away. The idea of watching a movie went from an interesting idea to a bad idea in an instant. I spent a half an hour watching the families bowling in the basement bowling alley. It was interesting to see the school kids that need two hands to roll the ball down the alley getting better results than the Dads throwing the ball down the alley at the speed of sound.

Animated fawn in the Mystic Falls Park

With the heavy cloud cover it was dark by sunset at 4:30PM. I didn’t get an evening walk around the RV park. There was no sunset to gawk at. It makes for a long evening inside watching TV.

A Sunny and Cold Day

Saturday December 28th 2019

I woke up this morning to a very chilly RV home. The overnight temperature was in the thirties outside. I turned on the heat and went back to bed for a little while. It was a bright sunny day so the solar gain helped warm the RV. The outside temperature never got above fifty today. Adding to the outside discomfort was a strong wind out of the north.

Palm trees taking the north wind under a bright blue sky.

The early part of the day was dedicated to chores around the RV. It had been a while since I dumped the holding tanks and the gray tank was getting close to full. Dumping the tanks became a priority so I could take a shower without fear of a tank overflow. That task was accomplished as soon as my neighbors on that side went out. It is easier to stay focused on the task a hand without their little dog asking for continuous attention. The Yorkie mix is fun to play with, but is a persistent little thing.

It is very easy to know when my drivers side neighbors are leaving. They start the truck five minutes or more before they leave and every interaction with the truck using their key fobs results in a honk of the horn. It isn’t annoying as much now that I know the behavior, but the late night interaction when I’m trying to get to sleep is a bit rude. The lady of the RV has a second shift job at one of the area chain restaurants. The truck leaves to pick her up about 11PM and returns half an hour or so later. Then the dog gets a ride in the truck over to the dog run area before they call it a night. Last night it was particularly noticeable.

The above paragraph is an indicator of life in the close quarters of this RV park. Everybody has their own space as indicated by gravel strips or white lines on the paved surface. The park RV staff makes sure you understand the boundaries when they assist you to park. I haven’t seen or heard any instances of disagreements, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn they exist. Most of the places people stay for long terms in the winter are similar. The price and availability reflect the tight spaces. I prefer the more open space in public parks, but they are usually limited to a two week stay. Last winter in Florida I moved between public parks most of the winter. Next winter in Florida I will be doing something similar. That is why I need to get up before 5AM many morning this winter to make reservations for next winter. The competition for the limited number of sites is fierce. Monday morning is my next early morning.

This afternoon and evening, after I dried off from my late morning shower, was dedicated to watching the College Football Playoff games on TV. Between the two games I got out for a walk around the RV park. The sunset was beautiful. I took a couple of pictures, but didn’t wait for the deep color to develop. It was getting cold for the way I was dressed.

Taking Advantage of the Return to Nice Weather

Friday December 27th 2019

Thursday’s light rain continued well into the night. This morning things dried out and brightened up rapidly. The sun managed to get the high temperature into the upper half of the fifties. It was an overall nice day even if I thought it was Saturday most of the day.

The highlight of my day was the couple of hours I spent walking through the Clark County Wetlands Park. It was necessary to stay on the cement pathways. The gravel paths were spongy to downright muddy from the half an inch of rain that fell yesterday. You don’t need to leave the cement pathways to see a lot of good sights and the wide open spaces around the park let you see the snow capped mountains that surround the valley.

The ducks, coots and turtles posed for many pictures. Of course, they didn’t know they were posing. For the most part they aren’t particularly bothered by all the people in the park. The land birds are more skittish. The gambel’s quail and road runners I’ve encountered in the park haven’t stayed in one place long enough to get a picture.

Walking around the RV park this evening, I saw proof that the Christmas holiday is over. Many people have started to take their decorations down. My favorite Reindeer Snoopy blow up has been deflated. I’ll miss seeing him on my walks.

Surrounded by Real Winter

Thursday December 26th 2019

I was surrounded by real winter today. A light rain fell off and on all day. It was accompanied by a strong wind. The temperature was in the lower half of the forties all day. Even when it wasn’t raining it was very uncomfortable outside.

View to the south. The cloud cover and precipitation are a little below the peak which is around 3,000 feet.

The Las Vegas valley was surrounded by real winter. The light rain in the valley at the lower altitudes was snow at the higher areas at the edge of the valley and outside the valley. Interstate 15 to California was closed two or three times during the day because of snow in the pass. The road over the hump to Pahrump Nevada was also closed by the snow. Interstate 40 southeast of the Las Vegas was also impacted by the snow at the higher elevation. I didn’t hear about difficulties on Interstate 15 north of Las Vegas in Utah probably because the storm hasn’t got there yet. In general, if you wanted to leave Las Vegas today, the weather had its own ideas.

I stayed inside and worked on travel research and planning most of the day. I’m beginning to think about the summers of 2021 and 2022. If I head for the Dakotas one of those years, I can defer northeast Wyoming until that year’s exploration. Then I have more time in southern Wyoming, Colorado and northern New Mexico this summer. As will any planning activity this is a game of trade offs and what if scenarios. I didn’t make a lot of progress today, but I did explore a few new ideas.

Tomorrow’s weather is predicted to be sunny with the temperature in the mid to upper fifties. I’m looking forward to getting back outdoors in the wetlands park or another area nearer to nature.

A Lazy Christmas Day

Tuesday December 25th 2019

Merry Christmas

Today’s weather wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t good. It was a mostly cloudy day with a high temperature in the low fifties.

The RV park was very slow and quiet this morning. There weren’t as many people out walking around the park this morning. The poor dogs must have been asked to delay their morning trips to the dog run. It may be that people were away, but there were plenty of cars parked in front of the RVs.

After a lazy first third of the day, I set out to find my Christmas dinner. My plan was to visit the same casino buffet that I went to for Thanksgiving dinner. The streets in Las Vegas were not very busy. Traffic was slower than an average day. Things were looking positive for an opportunity to have a nice leisurely meal until I got to Boulder Station Casino. Everyone and all of their kin were there.

The bigger non strip casinos in Las Vegas are entertainment destinations for the citizens of the area. Most have a movie theater or a bowling ally to go with the hotel casino, some have both. Boulder Station has a multi screen Regal movie theater which was very busy. The machines and tables in the casino were also well populated. Worst of all, from my perspective, the line for the buffet was long. It was about as long a wait as I had for Thanksgiving dinner. Except today, I wasn’t in the mood to wait. I came home and cooked a pork chop with a little fried rice and vegetable medley.