Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

Archive for the category “Travelin’ Man”

Voss Park Campground

Not much info is available online for Voss Park Campground, and what’s there is out of date, including the park’s own website. Best to go check it out personally, when possible, before financially committing!

Intense research last night and this morning as to my camping options to avoid the brunt of the current heat wave produced the affordable option of Voss Park, a large city park in the tiny town of Butterfield, Minnesota.

An aside: The town of Butterfield exists today only because of a poultry processing plant in town, Butterfield Foods. It suffered controversy earlier this year after Read more…

Michigania

The roof is up on the Intrepid, not for camping but to let the fabric dry completely. Of necessity, I had packed up wet in Illinois, and it’s best to not let the fabric sit folded and enclosed damp for too long. After sitting out all night to dry, I lowered the roof right after taking this shot.

Much of Michigan is it’s own world, it seems, if one can mentally survive the crawling frustrations of circumnavigating the south end of Lake Michigan via Illinois and Indiana. Once you escape the molasses grip of those and cut northward in Michigan, it’s suddenly a robust automotive invigoration. On six lanes, divided, surrounded by thick forests of towering trees, one is free to barrel along at 70 MPH for miles and miles. A fair number of folks pooped along at my pace, which today was above my usual fuel-conserving 65 top end. But the massive traffic snarls earlier had also badly snarled my schedule, and relatives were expecting me in some timely fashion. The law enforcement community was doing a nice if not lucrative business along the way.

The roads near the shoreline are simply hard-pack sand, one lane wide. Yes, everything really is this green.

US-31 itself is down to 55 MPH and has stoplights in towns, but this is not abused, and breezing through is still pleasant. Once you hit your desired crossroad toward shore, a dirt turnoff is presented and it’s sand from there on in. Sand, sometimes rocky or with a hint of dirt, is all there is. It’s packed to a pavement-like firmness. The shore in “my ” area rises in Read more…

Chain o’ Lakes State Park

“Ahhhh, west and wewaxation at wast!” ~Elmer Fudd

Made it! After a time-consuming tour of the campgrounds to find the right combo of traits and availability for two weeks, I opted for a site with electrical power and cool shade. There was exactly one site without that hookup (at a cheaper rate), but it looked to me as if I’d be battling very limited daily spans of solar if I took it, particularly in light of the Chicago area’s predilection for “Chicago sunny weather” (grey overcast). True, the cost is a choker ($145/week at the discounted Senior Rate), but oh well…   That cool shade ought to come in handy less than a week from now, as the daily temperatures climb from the current low 70s up over 90 degrees. Chain o’ Lakes is in Spring Grove, Illinois. Given the boggy terrain, the major crop production here in the growing season is mosquitoes.

I actually stayed two nights at the Petro Truck Stop in Rochelle, wallowing in Read more…

Rochelle, Illinois

My GPS led me through a web of country roads to get here, and I have to say, the farther south and west you go in Illinois, the more the dense forests and hilly terrain make the trip appealing. Somewhere along the way were jillions of local cars and pickups jammed beside the road for a late afternoon food fight of some kind in town, and the north end of the same town offered a Civil War reenactment this weekend. And we suburbanites think meeting at a sports bar and grille is hot stuff. Whoop-de-do.

Not sure how long I’ll be here: the showers and laundry at this Petro truck stop have a certain appeal. It might be exciting when the time comes to head for the Chain-O-Lakes State Park, since unlike last year at this time, not very many sites remain unreserved, and the unreserved sites always tend to be a challenge to use – which is why they remain open. I’m winging it this year, but who wants to camp on a pronounced slope where even 4WD won’t get you out if it rains? Adventure!

Jefferson City, Missouri

It’s not all glamour and beautiful city parks when on commute. I stopped by the Binder State Park on the outskirts of Jefferson City to inquire about vacancies, but this being a Friday at about 4 PM, they were booked and waiting for the last camper to show up. So I made my way to a Walmart some 5 miles distant and set up camp, such as I do. I napped and at 7:30, there was a knock on the Intrepid’s door. Opening it revealed the husband of the Binder Camp host I’d talked to. It seems that the last camper, who had pleaded on the phone earlier, failed to actually show up to claim his spot, and this guy had driven the distance specifically to let me know and invite me out for the last campsite! Incredible! I’d apparently mentioned Walmart as my next destination, and he had hunted me down. Now that’s customer service. Alas, being 7:30 PM with only a brief overnight to stay, it wasn’t worth breaking camp to move back out there and lose 20 bucks to boot. It had been a whim to stop by in the first place. Amazing story, though, don’t you think?

From here on, it’s Walmarts and truck stops, so the frequent pace of posts may stutter a bit, barring more mini-adventures of which I hope there are none!

Chanute, Kansas

Yesterday was a mini-adventure day, the first order of the day being a shower. Turns out, the swimming pool in the Meade City Park doesn’t open on Thursdays until 12:30, but given the heat and apparent absence of alternatives in town, I waited. With a high of 89 the previous day, it was time. When I went over, I found A] that their shower is a cold-water rinse-off shower, and B] it is currently inoperative. Non-optimal! Fortunately, the lady behind the counter running a small herd of teenage girls there to “assist” (hang out) suggested the Meade Truck stop at the other end of town, which panned out just fine. At $8 and change, it is not a deluxe shower, but did just fine. Being built for use by semis, the station also had a real air pump, (as opposed to coin-operated air vend pumps which top out at car tire pressures).

By two o’clock, I began the day’s 280-mile, five-hour drive, which is longer than the usual. That varied from utter flatness to rolling hills, a crosswind dropping fuel mileage to 14.8 from the previous day’s 16.5. The Ford’s 6.4L Navistar diesel of that vintage has a penchant for gradually increasing overall fuel mileage the second day into a long, high-speed run, and holding the better figures for a couple of days no matter what the driving conditions are. Once returned to urban or suburban areas for awhile, fuel mileage eventually eases back down to “normal” levels. Odd. It is apparently happiest at full gallop, which might be related to its elaborate emissions system.

The only oddity of the trip was near the end, as I was being followed by a Read more…

Meade, Kansas

The young man of this couple was playing the harmonica outside of a truck stop in Tucumcari, New Mexico. I found this example of busking to be deeply disturbing, principally because I’ve had a small blues harmonica for many years, and can’t play it worth the spit I put into it. He was playing his great. Dang.

The dinosuar museum in Tucumcari that I’d hoped to visit is closed on Mondays, so I pressed onward for Kansas. Route 54 is the best and quickest way to get to Meade, Kansas, and along the way, the terrain change was interesting. It cuts through the corner of upper Texas, and the other thing besides the 75 MPH speed limit on a two-lane road that was notable was the utter flatness of the terrain. Talk about big sky! You can see as far as the atmospherics allow. Ranch entrances were here and there, but no ranch houses were in sight. Texas-sized ranch acreage, I guess. There’s some kind of weird vibe in such rural areas of Texas, something which Read more…

Tucumcari, New Mexico

The Rio Puerco Bridge on Historic Route 66.

Today was a novel day. I got a few miles in on what is now cited as Historic Route 66. Many exits on I-40 have signage to that effect, but most often, the start of the route itself is nowhere to be found. Without having pre-prepped routing independently, I either wound up on wrong choices or kept getting shunted back to the Interstate. Whatever. The Rio Puerco bridge you see above came to be in 1934 and became a late alignment of Route 66 in 1937. (Parts of Route 66 changed continually since its start in the 1920s as various pavements were upgraded to handle the traffic. In some cases, paved roads replaced dirt roads.)

Looks like a single lane bridge by today’s standards, doesn’t it?

This bridge is one of the longest single span steel truss bridges (250 feet) built in New Mexico, the result of an effort to avoid using a center truss in the river bed. The Rio Puerco is one of those rivers that had (has?) floods violent enough to cause bad erosion, and it had a penchant for collapsing every Read more…

Bluewater, New Mexico

That little red & white camper behind the blue semi is the Mighty Intrepid. The semi left a half-hour later.

Day one brings the Bowlin’s Bluewater Outpost Travel Center. That’s along I-40, and I gotta say, the scenic views along I-40 in both eastern Arizona and western New Mexico, well, there’s just nothing like them. The red dirt in Arizona goes as far as the eye can see, and in New Mexico shifts to a light tan color. Flat-topped formations with a layer of boulders on top like icing, which spills down at the edges. It’s several hours of wow.

This outpost is jammed during the day, offering a Dairy Queen and all the baubles you could think of. At night, it’s all cleared out. There’s a very busy set of railroad tracks in back of me next to Route 122, a divided four-lane that stands out as a peculiarity in the middle of nowhere like this. Turns out, it’s the original Route 66, so I plan to take it eastward until it merges with the Interstate. Most of my daily drives are no more than four hours, so the slower pace of 66 should be just fine. It’s about the trip as much as arriving back in Illinois, thus I’ve been plugging along at 65 MPH instead of the 75 MPH speed limit. Saves a couple of miles per gallon, which has been between 14-15 so far. Driving here always ruins me for the flat cornfields of Illinois that come later!

Sea Change or See Change?

Fire on Mingus Mountain! It’s a controlled burn, of course.

Well, it began to get just too cold on Mingus, so I repaired down to the area just south of Cottonwood, along the same spur where I’d camped before. But this time, I found a lone pull-off at the beginning of the road and managed to avoid the mass of RVers clustered together in the two main camping areas.

It’s not quite as lonesome as I’ve made it seem here, but nobody was close, so it was quiet.

Being lower in elevation, Cottonwood was experiencing highs of about 70 degrees, so life was pretty good up until Thursday, when a heat wave moved back in. But it was all for naught, since Thursday was Read more…

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