Grand Canyon, AZ to Caldwell, ID

Friday, May 9, 2008 - We left the Grand Canyon and, less that three hours later, we arrived at Wahweap campground at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. As we left the registration office, we were greeted by one of the resident critters, the nemesis of Wyle E. Coyote, the nimble Roadrunner.

New and renovated sections have been added since we were here two years ago and the price has skyrocketed from $33 to $43 for a full-hookup site - a 30% increase in two years. But the new sites are nice, although close together, with a full concrete parking pad. We have a nice view of Lake Powell until a large motorhome pulls into the adjacent site. What looks like a large wide pad is actually two sites that share a common utility island.

Our neighbor across the street travels in style. I don't mean his big motorhome - I'm referring to his gorgeous hot rod. If you look carefully at the photo, you can see that he tows a large trailer which carries his hot rod. There may be an auto show in town this weekend because, as we entered Glen Canyon National Park, we saw another beautifully restored antique car.

Lake Powell has managed to maintain its level since our last visit but it remains 104 feet below its full level. The bleached area on the canyon walls and the exposed area on the back of Glen Canyon Dam show the magnitude of the reduced lake level.

Saturday, May 10, 2008 - As I suspected, there was an auto show today right here in the Glen Canyon NRA, less than a mile from our campsite. So we hopped onto our bikes and rode down to the marina area and saw some beautiful cars. If you need something to haul your toys from one show to another, you might want to get one of these. If you prefer to play on the water and cannot afford one of these, then you can rent one for only $12,000 a week. And that doesn't include the fuel to run two 220 HP engines. Hey, it sleeps twelve.

Back at the campground, Carol took this panorama of Lake Powell. She panned the camera, taking six overlapping photos. Then, using a program called AutoStitch, these six photos were merged into one panoramic photo. Click on the photo above to see a larger version and use the horizontal scroll bar to view the entire photo. Lake Powell is a houseboater's paradise. When I win the lottery, I will come back here with the grand kids, rent a houseboat for at least a week, and explore Lake Powell.

Sunday, May 11, 2008 - We left Lake Powell and headed for Salt Lake City, UT. Actually, we are going to the FamCamp at Hill Air Force Base which is about 25 miles north of Salt Lake City. To break this long trip into two legs, we stopped at Beaver Canyon RV Park in Beaver, UT. Each site had a rustic shelter covering the picnic table and the park owner (or an enthusiastic permanent camper) really expanded the basic design on one site. The RV park was next door to a small farm and Carol went to say "hello" to one of the neighbors.

Monday, May 12, 2008 - We are moving north too soon. We left Lake Powell wearing shorts and two days later, we run into this mess. As I watch the temperature fall and the snow begins to stick on the ground, I am wondering, at what point do I pull over and wait it out because I don't want to be on the road, especially while towing, when the road begins to freeze. Fortunately, the temperature stopped falling at 36 degrees and we were soon out of the rain and snowfall and arrived at Hill Air Force Base at the base of the Wasatch Mountain Range. The view is pretty impressive..

Friday, May 16, 2008 - There hasn't been much to report since the last update. We have been doing little more than basic housekeeping chores and just taking it easy. We did have dinner at the Red Lobster last night to celebrate the receipt of my first Social Security check. We are also trying to save on gas since the price of diesel is $4.35 a gallon and climbing. I have arbitrarily set a fuel budget of $25 a day and we are a little above that right now.

Our original plan was to head north from here and, after a few stops along the way, arrive at Great Falls, Montana to pick up the Lewis & Clark Trail and follow it west. Well, that's about to change. First, a little background. We are seriously considering going fulltime next year. If we do, we want to get another RV, something more suitable for the rigors of fulltime use. We were going to attend the Tampa, FL RV Supershow next January and pick out our future RV. That was the plan. But last month, we met some friends of ours that have been fulltiming for seven years in their Hitchhiker fifthwheel. They gave us the guided tour and we concluded that, for the money, the Hitchhiker was a good choice for a fulltime RV.

If you have been following our blog, you may recall that we looked at a Hitchhiker Discover America on April 30 at Beaudry RV in Tucson, AZ and really liked what we saw. We were turned off by the whole Beaudry RV experience and their asking price was way too high. Since then, we have discovered DG Recreational Vehicles in Caldwell, Idaho and they have a killer price on a Hitchhiker Discover America - 25% off their list price. So, we are going up there to take a look. This time next week, we may be owners of a new RV and deeply in debt. And I mean deep - since our current truck will not tow this larger, heavier fifthwheel, we will also need a new truck.

A few days after our Beaudry RV visit, we stopped by Tucson Dodge and looked around. We found a Ram 3500 Big Horn Edition that we liked and, later that day, back at the campground, we talked to the owner of Dodge truck that was almost identical to the one we saw. He told us that he bought his for $13,000 less than the MSRP. Yeah, right! How big was that fish that got away? He gave us a business card for Dave Smith Motors and I sent them an email describing the truck I wanted. The very next day, I had an offer of over $9,000 below MSRP which included manufacturer's rebates and dealer discounts. And I didn't even qualify for the $2,000 Owner Loyalty rebate. Imagine a deal like that via email. Let's see what he offers me for my Chevy as a trade-in. In fact, both deals depend on what I get for my trade-ins. Stay tuned.

Monday, May 19, 2008 - We left Hill AFB this morning and headed for Boise, Idaho. We stopped for lunch at Shoshone Falls near Twin Falls, Idaho. These falls are a lot bigger that I thought they would be - 36 feet higher than Niagara Falls and 900 feet wide. I had no trouble navigating my RV down the steep, narrow, winding road that leads from the rim of the gorge down to one of the six RV/bus parking spaces by the falls.

After leaving Shoshone Falls, we arrived at Three Island Crossing State Park. This is one of the prettiest state parks that I have visited. Located along the bank of the Snake River, the park has a lot of well-manicured green grass and huge, stately cottonwood trees. Sites are spaced far apart and are level and angled for easy back-in. A beautiful place.

Idaho sure is nice to senior citizens (I are one now). Although Shoshone Falls is a city park, it honors the National Parks Senior Pass. And Three Island Crossing State Park offers camping sites at half price to seniors 62 years or older. Getting old does have its advantages.

Monday, May 26, 2008 - This past week has been a blur. We arrived in Caldwell, Idaho last Tuesday where we had made arrangements to look at an RV. After signing up for a week's stay at the Ambassador RV Park, we went to DG RV and looked at a Hitchhiker Discover America and really liked what we saw. Since this RV is too heavy to tow with our Chevy 2500, we also began shopping for a truck with more towing capacity.

After several days of soul-searching, we decided to purchase the Hitchhiker and took delivery on Thursday. I can't say enough about what a pleasure it was to deal with Darwin, the owner and sole salesman for DG Recreation Vehicles. If you are in the market for a Hitchhiker or a good used RV, I highly recommend this place. And if you don't believe me, go to the Nu-Wa owners forum and search for "DG RV" and "Darwin".

Unlike my experience at DG RV, I had to deal with the typical car dealer at Peterson's Stampede Dodge. I won't bore you with the details but imagine your worst new or used car dealer experience. But they had the vehicle I wanted for what I consider a good price. So I took delivery of my new truck Saturday. I could have gotten a little better deal from Dave Smith Motors in Kellogg, Idaho, but they only have 4-wheel drive trucks which adds almost $3,000 to the sticker price.

One of the neat things about living in an RV is when you buy a new home - you just park the old one and the new one alongside each other. It makes moving so much easier. We spent four days moving stuff from the old RV to the new one, installing additional shelving (women can never have enough storage), and cleaning the old RV. In the process, we discovered a bunch of stuff that we no longer needed and either tossed it into the trash or gave it away. When you live in less than 400 square feet, you can't afford to accumulate stuff that you never or rarely use.

Tueday, May 27, 2008 - DG RV came to the RV park this morning and took the old RV to their lot. I was unable to do that because the hitch will not be installed in my truck until Thursday. The RV park was kind enough to let me keep both RVs in the park, without additional charge, while moving from one to the other. But, once that was done, I didn't want to ask for additional time while awaiting to have my hitch installed. So DG RV offered to pick it up today.

Thursday, May 29, 2008 - The RV dealer installed a nice Reese hitch in my truck this morning along with a Prism brake controller and a 7-pin RV connector in the bed of the truck. Now I am all set up for towing. Darwin, the owner of the dealership, gave me one of the company trucks as a "loaner" while the work was done on my truck. How many RV dealers would have done that?

After the hitch was installed. I went a few blocks down the street to Total Truck and had them "Trick My Truck." Actually, I had a Roll N' Lock bedcover, window rain deflectors, and a hood bug shield installed . I had these items installed on my Chevy and I really liked the way the truck looked. The lockable bedcover latches to the tailgate and provides good security for items in the bed (like almost $100 worth of diesel fuel). The bedcover also keeps out the rain (when I am not towing) and covers up that ugly hitch and other junk I carry around in the bed.

Friday, May 30, 2008 - Back over to the RV dealer this morning for the installation of an awning and a sunscreen. On the way back home, we went to the local truck stop to weight the truck and RV. I had weighed the truck and RV when they were both empty. Now I wanted to see what they weighed after they were loaded with all our "stuff." To get a separate reading for each vehicle, it is necessary to unhitch the RV from the truck. While I was doing all this, there was a semi waiting his turn behind me. I got in a hurry and got careless and forgot to drop the tailgate before pulling out from underneath the trailer. This was the result. It doesn't look like much, but the repair estimate was over $1,200. That is the price I have to pay for my carelessness and lack of good judgement. When I hitch and unhitch, I must always use a checklist.

Saturday, May 31, 2008 - One of the neat things about the RV lifestyle is the opportunity to meet new and interesting people as we travel across the country. This evening was a good example. The RV park advertised a bluegrass event in the clubhouse. Many of the places we camp at have these events where campers in the park get together and display their musical talents. Usually, the quality is mediocre at best but fun is had by one and all. But this evening, the performers must have played professionally at some point in their careers - they were that good. With no rehearsal, they played well together. The gentleman on the guitar and the lady on the mandolin were extraordinary. We sat there in comfortable overstuffed chairs for almost 3 hours listening to their music.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008 - The new tailgate for the truck was installed today and all that remains to complete the repairs is to install a piece that attaches to the the tailgate and latches to the end of the bed cover.

We are still hanging around this place until I receive my license plates and registration for the new truck and RV. Since I am here in Idaho and will be registering my vehicles in Virginia, it hasn't been easy. Part of the problem has been getting the Manufacturer's Statement of Origin (MOS). This is the vehicle's title. I promptly received the MOS for the RV but the Dodge dealer would not deliver the MOS until 10 business days after purchase. That's two weeks. My temporary tags are good for 30 days. That leaves a little over two weeks to send all the paperwork to my daughter, Jenny, back in Virginia and for her to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and title and register the vehicles, and then send me the license plates and registration. If all goes well, that should be no problem. But we are dealing with a government bureaucracy, the DMV. One of the requirements prior to registration is a state vehicle inspection. Now, how can I do that? I won't be back in Virginia until late September.

Thursday, June 5, 2008 - We went to the Dodge dealer today to receive a new passenger-side seat belt assembly. The seat belt, once it is latched, won't release when the passenger leans forward to get a glass from the cup holder. Carol has to unlatch the seat belt in that case. Since the warehouse sent an assembly for the driver's side, the dealer installed a new one obtained from a vehicle in his inventory. We also got the finance department to release the MSO a day early and we went to a nearby FedEx and sent all the required paperwork to our daughter.

As we were leaving to return to the RV park, the seat belt problem returned. So, back to the Dodge dealer. To make a long story short, it was operator error. Carol, when she puts on her seat belt, often pulls the belt out until it is fully extended. According to the technician (and the Owner's Manual), this will activate the Automatic Locking Retractors Mode on any of the passenger's seats, which explains why my seat belt never exhibited this problem. This mode is designed to hold child car seats securely in place. Oh, well, who would have thought that the seat belts were smarter than the occupants.

Saturday, June 7, 2008 - The nearby airport hosted a modest air and car show and the admission was free. Since high school, the '57 Chevy has been one of my favorites. One of my classmates had a candy-apple red convertible and we all used to drool with envy when he arrived each morning at the high school parking lot. This canard-wing, pusher-propeller aircraft is an unusual and eye-catching design.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008 - Another reason we are still hanging around this place is I have to have at least 500 miles on the new truck before I can tow anything. In big, bold letters, the Owner's Manual tells me this. With the mileage I get around town and the current diesel fuel prices, that requires almost $200 worth of fuel. It has gotten to the point where I think about the cost of fuel just to drive to Wal-Mart and back, which is 5 miles away. For example, I got 12.5 MPG on my last tank of fuel driving mostly around town. Diesel fuel is $4.739 today. To go to Wal-Mart and back requires almost $4.00 worth of fuel.

RVers are adapting various stratagies to deal with the rising fuel prices. The most common seems to be driving less often, for shorter distances, and staying in one location longer. Some folks save money in other areas to be able to cover their increased fuel costs. Usually this means finding free or low cost camping options, such as BLM land, casinos, fairgrounds, etc. Unfortunately, some are giving up the lifestyle entirely.

Friday, June 13, 2008 - We drove to Horseshoe Bend, Idaho this afternoon and took a train ride up the Payette River. The river was placid in most areas as shown in the photo at left. But, at frequent intervals, Class II and III rapids would appear and this is what makes this river a big attraction for rafters. Further upstream, the gradient becomes steeper and the river flow becomes faster, resulting in some impressive rapids. Although the rafters seemed to avoid this stretch, these water craft were all over the place. They are similar to kayaks but about half the length.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008 - Our daughter back in Virginia Beach had no trouble registering our new truck and RV and we received the license plates and registration cards today. Nothing is keeping us here in this area now, but since our rent in the RV park is paid up until June 27, we will stick around until then.

One problem facing us is where will we stay over the 4th of July holiday. We are currently trying to make reservations for Hells Gate State Park in Lewiston, Idaho, but the reservation system is not working. Each time we call, they tell us to call back in the afternoon or tomorrow. We have been playing this game for 5 days now.

Normally, we don't make reservations. This gives us a lot of flexibility when it comes to making decisions about when and where we go. This has worked well for us except when holiday weekends arrive. Then, we usually make reservations in those situations.

Thursday, June 19, 2008 - The reservation system is still not working and they tell us that calling the campground directly will not get us reservations because the campground uses the same reservation system. Carol found a telephone number for the park visitor center. She called them and explained the problem with the reservation system. The park employee was surprised that we were not given the telephone number of the campground. She gave us the number, Carol called the campground directly, and we got the last site available. Geez.

Sunday, June 22, 2008 - We drove to Idaho City today. The brochures described it as an old mining town but I found it to be highly overrated. But the scenery during the drive was quite pretty. It was a beautiful, warm day, perfect for being out on the water. Irrigation dams along the Boise River have created several nice lakes, such as Lucky Peak Lake pictured at left. Just upstream is Arrowrock Dam. When this dam was built in 1915, it was the tallest concrete dam in the world.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008 - The photo at right shows a small portion of the Snake River Canyon, the scene of a catastrophic flood about 14,500 years ago when ancient Lake Bonneville overflowed near Red Rock Pass, Idaho and washed away a natural dam. The Bonneville Flood may have lasted only a few days but its peak flow down through the Snake River Canyon is estimated to be three times the average flow of the Amazon River, the world's largest river. Great Salt Lake in Utah is part of the remains of Lake Bonneville.

Further along the Snake River Canyon we saw where birds have built nests by digging holes in the canyon wall.

Tomorrow, we finally leave the Caldwell area where we have been for over a month while we purchased a new RV and truck and then waited while the title was delivered. Then we had to send the necessary paperwork back to our daughter in Virginia and wait for the new license plates and registration. Now we are ready to resume our original trip and pick up the Lewis and Clark trail in Lewiston, Idaho.

Caldwell, ID to Great Falls, MT