More improvements to the Ford.
After heading straight down to FL, my first port of call was in De Leon, where I had fly screens put in the van for the side and back doors. Now I can leave those doors open to have a cool breeze blow through. Made from 'left over' fly screen fabric (fibreglass, I think) and long zips salvaged from old, torn and discarded tents and sleeping bags, they were installed by the lovely lady who made them. A member from another forum who has a van the same as mine.
Next a brief visit with daughter, and on to southern FL, where I had planned to stay a few days. Due to the lack of truck stops, I overnighted in the parking area of the hostel in Florida City, and use their facilities for a nominal charge. Nearby is Homestead, another town which has completely rebuild itself, after much of it was obliterated by hurricane Andrew in 1992.
It was hot on the Sunday. I was in a large empty car park by the library in Homestead FL, parked in the shade of a large tree. The back and side doors open with my new screens and radio tuned to my favourite programmes. I boiled the kettle, and took the opportunity to complete a cross stitch project on which I was working.
The height of luxury and serenity. I spent most of the day there.
After visiting friends on Key West I headed back north. This time I thought I'd see a bit of the west coast.
US1 and 997 took me straight up to the Tamiami Trail - US41 - all the way to Venice from where I took I-75 to Ocala. Next day US27 and Alt 27 (from Williston to Perry) took me into Tallahassee.
The Tamiami Trail, which takes one through the Everglades (albeit not the Everglades NP) is incredibly scenic and interesting. I had on a previous occasion driven the short detour along 94, off the trail. This time I had hoped to see something of Big Cypress, the refuge of the last 120 or so, panthers in FL. Alas, access was on foot only. I believe they do have boat tours, but none were going when I was there.
Alt US27, although almost interstate standard, with a speed limit of 65 for most of the way, is still a lovely and interesting drive. Only in the half dozen or so small towns was the speed slower. These were pretty and small settlements, each with what seemed its own personality... though I only stopped twice. There was no shortage of places to go shopping, especially for locally made products displayed roadside. Quilters would no doubt be very interested in the Quilt Museum in Chiefland. There was a good sprinkling of motels and boutique lodgings. The grass strip between the two roads was a blaze of colour with spring flowers. For the whole distance I saw only a handful of large transports. A most wonderful drive. I felt like turning around, and doing it all again.
Back in northern FL I decided I may as well go see the authorities in Quincy to seek an answer to my puzzle from the way down.
It was officer Troy at the police who told me that in Gadsden County anyone can request an escort for a funeral. If there are cars available, be they police or sheriff, then the request is granted. He assured me that if it had been a military funeral or the funeral of a law enforcement officer there would have been many more cars, as well as motorcycles, and possibly a guard of honour. He also told me that 'in the south' drivers stop as a courtesy, when they see a funeral procession.
Like most folk to whom I speak, Troy was only too happy to spend the time with me, and tell me about the local customs. I find it most interesting how different things are in different regions.
When I entered FL, almost two weeks earlier, I had, as usual, picked up a State map. When the lady heard that I have made quite a number of trips to FL over the last decade or more, she handed me a very interesting brochure - Florida, Been There, Haven't Done That. A great initiative of the tourism authorities in that State.
Last edited by Lifemagician; 06-05-2014 at 11:18 AM.
Georgia and the Carolinas.
Heading north the Citgo at Eatonton seemed a good destination for the first day - a Saturday. US-319 and 441 looked as good as any other route. It turned out to be most pleasant and scenic. A string of small towns, each with interesting architecture and its own personality complimented the plantations along the way. At Ocilla it was time for lunch and use of wifi at the library. Cruising along at a comfortable 55 saw me arriving in Eatonton in time to have dinner, accompanied by a most spectacular sunset. A good section of this trip had been made even more enjoyable whilst listening to Prairie Home Companion.
Next morning's departure was delayed, as I attended to some necessities. When I did depart the Citgo, I was priviledged to have the assistance of the constabulary to get me onto route 16. The obliging officer assured me that I was in for a treat, that is a lovely route. This was not a route to rush. Despite the speed limit of 55, I cruised at a leisurely 45, seeing very little traffic. The historic centres in Sparta and Warrenton probably were the hilights along the way. At one point the route took me through country reminiscent of scenes from Gone With The Wind. Another memorable day on the road. (Pity I had a broken camera.) I-20 Took me to Flying J, just east of Columbia.
My route on the Monday morning was to take me through the Sandhills of the Carolinas along US-1... the Carolina Sandhills NWR and the Sand Hills SP in SC and the Weymouth Woods Sandhills Nature Preserve in NC.. I had been advised to drive through this area to compare it with the sand hills region of NE. Very interesting how different these areas are. Stopped within an hour or two of Raleigh that day, knowing I had to be in Raleigh by lunchtime Tuesday.
Lunch in Raleigh with our colleague, Foy, was at an amazing Italian place where they served a delicious lasagna. Great food, great ambiance, great company! That evening was another event I will never forget. When I arrived at the venue of the Toastmasters Club I had wanted to attend, I was told that all of the speakers and the person to run the meeting - the Toastmaster - could not make it. They did not know what to do, whether to have a meeting at all. I assured them that if they needed a Toastmaster to run the meeting, I would be only too happy to assist. Which is what I did, improvising all the way without knowing so much as the attendees' names. By the end of the meeting all the members were so pleased, not only with how well the meeting had run, but also with how much they had learned. I was thrilled, because I too had learned so much from them.
Surprises abound on my travels. I went to bed that night, wondering what the rest of my trip will hold.
Continuing without a camera and computer.
I was now faced with getting my camera to Casio in Dover NJ, and getting to LL Bean in Freeport ME. With Memorial Weekend looming, I realised I was not going to make it to both before then. I ended up not making it to either before the weekend.
The customer lady centre at Casio was extremely obliging in accommodating my needs. Instead of having to wait the three to four working days to find out if the camera was repairable, they agreed to have the information for me the same day, so long as I brought it in early. I was to bring it in early on the Wednesday after the long weekend. In view of what was about to happen, I was glad I did not arrange it for the Friday before the weekend.
The old US highways took me west and north, well clear of Richmond, until I took a wrong turn somewhere north of Charlottesville. I wandered for a little while through some wonderful country over the most interesting local roads, making sure I kept heading in the right direction. Couldn't check the map, there was no where to pull over on these narrow roads. At no time did I come past a business or shop... let alone a shopping centre or mall. Eventually US33 took me to I-81 and I-80.
On the morning of 24th I headed for a nearby McDonald's to check my email, only to find the computer would not turn on. Actually it would not open windows. It stopped on the safe mode screen. Nothing I did could change it. I was not far from Wilkes Barre, where I hoped I would be able to get onto a library computer. With the holiday weekend now started, I knew there was little chance of getting it fixed for three days. It was the gent at the library in Wyoming PA who sent me to a local computer shop... with recommendation. That store was closed on this Saturday of a long weekend.
On the way back to the library - where use of the computers was unlimited - I saw an AT&T store, and figured I'd better top up my account. If I was not going to be able to keep in contact with email, I'd better have a working phone. One of the sales folk at the AT&T store said her uncle was in the computer business, and called him up. He advised I go to one of the stores... which I did. After a couple of hours it was clear I was going to have to leave my computer.
It was like cutting off my right arm!
A month (almost) lost.
Now without computer and camera I lost all interest in recording my travels. Here's briefly what happened during that month..
Memorial Weekend saw me drive on up through Upstate NY, VT, NH and ME. Then it was down to NJ for the camera and back to Wilkes-Barre for the computer.... which never did get fixed there. They appeared not even to know what to do. The computer guy in St Paul MN took a couple of days to get it going again, sufficiently for me to at least check email and look at the forum. (Three weeks later glc was able to get it back to virtually how it was before all this.)
Heading west on I-80 through NJ, I once again saw huge clouds of thick black smoke billowing above the freeway up ahead. When we finally approached the affected area, there was a car carrier on fire in the east bound lanes. The carrier and the cars were all well and truly destroyed, though it appeared the prime mover had been detached. Lots of firemen and police standing around, helpless to do anything about it. The east bound section was closed. But what surprised me most is the number of motorists on the west bound lanes who stopped to look and take photos. They stopped in the middle of the road, on the shoulders, and on the exit ramp with total disregard for other road users.
The next great event was the Grandslam of The Moth, in St Paul. This event took place at the Fitzgerald Theatre - home of Prairie Home Companion. It was an outstanding night, with unbelievably great story tellers - including professionals - and a huge diversity of stories. Some were heartwrenching, others were hilarious. The scoring was very close, as would be expected with ten previous winners. (Now I am the envy of friends for having stood on the stage where Garrison Keilor stood, and using his dressing room. The green room was two flights of stairs down, way out of my reach.)
One bright light in early June was that my dashcam had arrived in St Paul. Now I had something to play around with, see how it works, what it can do, etc. Having being assured that it is quite easy, and having not only the manual, but also my dear friend's 'extra' instructions to help me, I decided to use it the day I drove the Semineo - Alcova Scenic Backway. It ended up recording that, and the rest of the day - more than three and a half hours, in 45 min blocks. (I didn't know how to switch it off.)
However, there was an incident that day, with a truck. I did not realise until later that evening, at dinner, that I had it all on video. When I showed it to truckers eating there, they urged me to contact the company, and report it. Maybe all these toys are good for something. The scenic drive video is fantastic.... albeit a bit long.
Soon it was time to head back to Boston, where two little girls are eagerly waiting for their great adventure to begin. On the way though, I swung down through Joplin where the amazing glc got my computer running normally again. Found missing files. Re-installed lost programs. Fixed everything the others could not or would not fix.
Again it gave me an opportunity to look at the progress of Joplin's recovery. Most business is back to normal, and housing keeps being built. The school is due to open for the new school year, and the new hospital has a large banner on it announcing that it will open in March 2015 - almost four years after the tornado.
And the show continues
Lost or not, happy to see the tale back in print.
It happens every now and then. And when it does, it is momentous. It is when I read a post which mentions something of which I have never heard. Something so remote, I can hardly keep my mind off it.
So it was some time ago when our colleague AZBuck responded to a question. The route mentioned was US-287 north, in WY. The description went on to mention that this traversed the Great Divide Basin, a unique geographical feature. The splitting of the Continental Divide forming a huge basin desert high up in the Rockies.
This I had to see and explore.... albeit without a camera.
Armed with all the information I had gathered, including topographical maps, and the advice of the various BLM offices, to stay on the numbered roads (county and BLM roads) and keep an eye on the weather, I headed out. Sad to say, other than US-287 and the road in to Bairoil - all sealed - it was difficult to access much more. That did not deter me.
I had been told of other attractions in the area, especially scenic routes, by the BLM offices in Pinedale, Rock Springs and Rawlins. Wonderful people those rangers. When they hear what you want to do, and why, they come up with all sorts of extra features one has never heard of. Such a wealth of information.
To the west of the basin, just off US-191 there is White Mountain and Boar's Tusk, both on county road 17. It is not possible to drive up to either. There are trails; however the ever shifiting sands make reaching Boar's Tusk in particular, challenging. I drove as far as Boar's Tusk and took the short side trip to White Mountain. Unfortunately the walk would have been too far. It was late in the day, and if I had not been able to get back to the car, I would have been in real trouble. But, I vow to return.
Not far along CR 17 is the turn off to CR 18 to Superior, a living ghost town. The drive there was again, over a maintained gravel road. In places well maintained, in others leaving a bit to be desired. But no fear of getting stuck or wrecking the vehicle.
The challenge of this road was... well, let's say, Moki Dugway could be kindergarten stuff.. If there had been a vehicle coming the other way, I am not sure what I would have done. Especially if it had been a heavy vehicle. Still, with adrenalin pumping and the dashcam recording every moment, it was an exhilarating experience. Every minute of the almost hour and every inch of that 15 mile trek.
Superior was a surprise. The main street with the old buildings of almost a century ago, and the remains of those which did not stand the test of time. At the end of the street and town there is a church, which I was told is used for Christmas, Easter and other important feastdays and events. But not regularly.
The one new building is the administration centre, set well back off the road, behind a cyclone wire fence. The gate was open, and having driven a road without rest areas, I was looking for some convenience in town. None was obvious, and the person whom I asked was not aware of any. I called in at the post office, but it was unattended. The administration building however, was open and manned (or should I say, womanned).
"Of course! First door on your left." That door was in a corridor lined with photos and trophies of the history, of the towns. There was Superior, the larger of the two towns, and South Superior, the present town. When the mines were in full production there was a population of 5000-6000 residents. There was a two storey high school, a court house and all the other facilities of a community of that size. Then, in the early sixties the mines started to close down, and by 1968 after the last mine closed the population of the two towns shrunk to a mere 75 residents.
Superior vanished off the map. It was then decided that South Superior would take on the name of Superior, and that is what it is today. There is a Town Hall and a Fire Brigade, and a variety of small business along the main street. However, none looked like they were open on this mid-week day. The main street is paved and the town is connected to I-80 by 7 miles of highway 371.
I spent some time reading and looking at the old photos and trophies. All seemed to be from the very late 19th century, through to the early 1960s. The trophies covered all normal sporting and school activities, as well as mine safety competitions, to keep miners up to date on safety issues in a fun and competitive way.
Having expressed my delight at the display, I was told that the first door on the right is a museum, and I was welcome to browse it as well. Here was a gathering of memorabilia which transported me back to the middle of last century. There were mining implements and the high school principal's chair. There was a large stack of school year books and children's toys, including home made toys from the '30s. There was the 1910, 1920 and 1930 census, all neatly handwritten in the most perfect script.
Think about it..... how many could even imagine handwriting all that information for up to 6000 residents. Yet these have endured where maybe modern methods may not endure.
But the greatest surprise of all was the adding machine. Key in the numbers and pull the handle and it would print the entry on the tape as well as keep a running total. That machine was identical to the one I used at work back in the mid fifties. It is the only one I have ever seen since. I could not take my eyes of it, and kept thinking how many kids today would even know what it is, let alone know how to use it. Or have the patience to do all that work to get the total, of whatever was being added.
Happy to see you still having so much fun Lifey. Ive been busy with some other stuff and havnt been able to drop in as much. After reading your latest reports, i am getting very keen for another trip. Looking forward to your next instalment.
I too am enjoying your report Lifey, keep it coming !
Some roads and routes which I came across by chance, or which were suggested to me along the way were a pleasure to drive, even if not particularly scenic. Others were designated scenic routes of which I could not get enough. Randomly, as I recall .....
US-2 across MT. Always enjoyable. Have driven it quite a few times now... never tire of it. Further south, off US-191 was the sign to Zortman. Last time I had to pass this by. The road from the south is a good gravel road, whereas the road from the east is paved for all but the last mile. I went in from the south, for no particular reason, and exited on the paved road. This decision was to be a blessing. By the time I left Zortman, the skies had opened up and it was coming down in buckets full. Glad I was on a sealed road.
Zortman is a tiny gold town, with a store, motel, auto repair shop, RV park and camping - though I got the impression that they were mostly owned by the one person. There was fuel available, but I did not bother to check at what price.
Recently there was a post from a member who was travelling from Big Sky MT, another place of which I had not heard. Always heard of Big Sky State... but not an actual place. So of course, I had to check that out as well.
The helpful young man at the visitor centre, right on the highway, assured me it would be a lovely drive all the way up with wonderful views - worthwhile even if one could not hike. He was not wrong. A fair way up the mountain I came to a spot I was not sure which way to go. But there was a gent speaking with a lady in her car... parked right there in the middle of the road. When they finished, he came to talk to me. At first I thought he was some sort of gate keeper.
JT, as he is known, is the maintenance come many other tasks, at the Big Sky Resort, and suggested I follow him, and he would show me some of the great sites up the top. He insisted that I had to see the lodge. It was almost a miniature of the Yellowstone Lodge. A magnificent place. He showed me the routes to take to get the best views of Lone Mountain and the surroundings.
When I got to Summit Rd, off Beehive Dr. I decided to drive along it. At the start there was a large sign - Your new home is HERE. There was an open gate and I continued along Summit Dr, past the few houses which had been built there. The views both across the mountains and the town below were breathtaking. On the other hand, I could not help wondering how future building along these roads would affect the views afforded now. When I got to the end of the road, and the bottom, the gate was shut, and I wondered if I would have to go all the way back up, to get out. Miraculously it opened as I approached. :-)
Right there by the gate were two young black footed prairie dogs playing. (And still, I did not have a camera.)
Back at the visitor centre I thanked the young man for the great information he had imparted, allowing for such a wonderful experience.
It was, while in Jackson that I decided to camp at one of the BLM campsites nearby. Having noted that as well as directions, I had the co-ordinates for the site, I put them into my gps. Figured you can't get much more accurate than co-ordinates.
From Jackson, 13 miles to Wilson, turn left onto the Falls road, another few miles and then right onto Mosquito Creek Road. 7.5 miles to the campground. Now that should have alerted me. Who would want to stay anywhere near Mosquito Creek? I turned onto this dirt road - not unusual going into a campground. It was by a creek / river. Soon there were significant potholes. Obviously not regularly or well maintained. I continued. Nowhere to turn around. This narrow, one car wide road started to climb.... and climb. No railings and the river way, way below me. I saw a couple pitching their tent in the bush by the river, but could not see how they got there. When I came to a very small patch beside the road where I could pull off, I stopped to assess where I was. I had gone not one mile, at a speed of some 5 mph. At that rate I had another 90 minutes to go. Visions of the Chretiens flashed before me.
Years ago there was a TV show about travelling in outback Australia. The presenter always emphasised, when in trouble - breakdown, flat tyre, whatever - stop, put on the kettle and have a cuppa, before making any decisions. Since it was now 7pm, I figured it was time for dinner. Having eaten, I assessed the situation. I wanted to get off this road before dark. I again looked at my maps. I looked at the instructions. How could the co-ordinates be so far out. The spot I was looking for was south of Jackson right by US-191. The gps had sent me west and then south west, onto an unmaintained bush track.
Ever so carefully, conscious of the steep drop, I turned around and headed to the campground I was seeking. Years ago I might have looked on this as a slight diversion, another leg of the adventure. This time I looked at 26 miles and $6.50 worth of fuel, wasted. Arrived at the lovely BLM campground around 9.30pm, just after dark.
Last edited by Lifemagician; 07-02-2014 at 06:19 PM.