We left Port Angeles August 21. Our intention was to visit the National Parks scattered like pearls across the western United States. I have, over the 30 some years Vinni and I have lived together, told her many times of the fantastic places and parks there are in the US, especially the western part. Someday, I’ve said many a time, we should rent a camper and drive around for months on end.
We never did that, but Covid gave us the opportunity to realize this, another of our travel dreams. Canada was closed so we simply couldn’t sail up to Alaska. Instead, we purchased Caprise, a 1979 Monaco Monarch motorhome. She is 24 feet long and has both a shower and toilet, kitchen and sleeping space.
We paid the grand sum of $2800 for her.
Of course, at that price, there were a number of things that needed repairing, such as a new refrigerator and sundry other issues ($4000). Mechanically she was Ok, but there were (gee- I would never have expected) issues that arose.
The tires seemed good on her, but after we drove her a bit around Port Angeles prior to leaving, the rubber started to crack (she had sat too long). That would have been OK, but no one makes tires for those rims anymore, so we had to buy both new tires and new rims – total $2000 (sigh). Tune-up and new exhaust system swallowed another $750 and any number of minor issues ate up the better part of $1000.
But finally the big day arrived and Vinni and I started our Great American Road Trip (for that is, indeed what it has been) by stopping at the local diner and having a true American breakfast – bacon, eggs, hash browns, muffins, juice and coffee/tea.
Properly fortified, we cranked up Caprise and headed east across Washington State. We spent the first couple of days mainly driving, because we had gotten started later in the season than we wanted. Many of the places we planned on visiting were in the north and either closed November 1 or were at high altitudes where we would run into snow and bad weather.
Our first stop was Yellowstone National Park, the first National Park in the world and one of America’s finest. Many say that the best idea ever to come out of the US is National Parks.
But our plan (yes, I know – we have no plan and, by golly, we’re gonna stick to it!) was to start at Glacier National Park. Unfortunately, Glacier closes very early (usually mid-September) due to inclement weather.
It was my intention to drive across Montana into South Dakota to show Vinni Mount Rushmore and the newest National Park – Theodore Roosevelt National Park. But we quickly realized that if we were to see the parks that lie in the Rockies, we would need to skip those outlying ones.
Those, and other sights will simply have to wait for another time (we’re not done vagabonding). At any rate, Yellowstone was a fantastic experience. We’ve managed to see many natural wonders and especially for Vinni, an untold amount of wild animals. Bears, Elk, Coyotes (we actually saw a number of coyotes – which is unusual since they are shy night creatures). A fox walked right between us in one campsite where we were sitting reading. We were so quiet that he didn’t notice us until he was right alongside Vinni – glanced at her and then trotted off into the undergrowth.
We didn’t manage to see any wolves, but Vinni did get one of her dreams fulfilled – a Raccoon. We also saw Mountain Lion tracks and a Bobcat that dashed into the tall grass as we approached.
So what was the biggest adventure? I’d told Vinni about Black Canyon of the Gunnison for years and was afraid I had oversold it – but when we got there, she was floored and told me that I hadn’t oversold it – it was overwhelming for her (and me).
The part of the trip that stays in my mind and that I frequently reflect over is Canyonlands National Park in Utah. The road out to the park is gorgeous beyond belief – each “Aha” is quickly followed by the next “Aha” as the road snakes through the canyons. Nothing boring about the 50-mile drive.
Nothing boring about the Canyonlands – every way you look is a new vista. Each one more fantastic than the last. What has stuck in my mind was the 14-15 mile trek Vinni and I made through the Canyons one day. It was hard. Partially because the terrain fluctuated between 4-6000 feet (lots of climbing), where the air is thinner than Vinni and I are used to (huff and puff). The trek was such that I’m forced to say – I have no words to describe the wondrous beauty of it. We trekked almost the entire 15 miles without seeing a single person. Only at the very end of the trek did we run into other hikers. We hope to go back some day.
Should your travels ever take you near – make the effort and spend some days trekking in this unique area. You’ll not be disappointed.
But we don’t want to talk about what we have already described in our blogs – here are some observations about the western United States.
I remember once seeing a show on American television with the journalist Andy Rooney (some of you may remember him from the show 60 Minutes). He had taken a helicopter and flown across the United States, visiting areas that were impossible to get to other than by helicopter. Naturally, he had many observations and funny stories but one stuck in my mind.
“It is amazing how many places we don’t live in the United States”. In other words – this country is still empty.
And so it is. We drove across many areas that were truly empty. The open range, miles and miles of open country with cattle just wandering, no fences. We did see cowboys riding the range, rounding up strays – we kept waiting to see Clint Eastwood or John Wayne. Our cell phones didn’t work much of the time – no antennas out here – not enough population to support the infrastructure. Several times, we had no reception for a couple of DAYS – driving 400 miles per day.
But you’d think that would change when you drove into a town –in many smaller towns it didn’t. They were all still on landlines. My brother’s house has almost no cell phone reception; he still has a landline and uses his cell to call via the internet.
We found virtually nothing but friendly people. Americans are generally very friendly, open and eager to help. We can’t complain.
Strange to us as we live in Denmark. There are guns everywhere. Not just the rifles and shotguns in the racks in the cabs of the pickup trucks, but also people carrying a pistol. In Grand Tetons, I saw a family get out of their car at a viewpoint parking lot. As they got out, the father reached down under his seat, pulled out a (looked like a 9mm Beretta), semiautomatic pistol and stuck it in his belt behind his back. He then draped his shirt over it so it wasn’t easily visible. They enjoyed the view and got back in their car to drive on. The father pulled the gun out and put it back under his seat.
I’m no stranger to guns and I’m not afraid of guns (I am sometimes afraid of the person carrying the gun). But I wonder; Ok, I can perhaps understand his wanting to carry a gun and keeping it under the seat in the car. But why did he feel the need to carry it on his person when he got out to enjoy the view? Seems like overkill.
We’ve also seen a number of signs like the below: No firearms allowed in the store. There are also signs (Walmart f.eks) that say: “Please do not openly carry firearms in this store. If you are carrying a firearm, please cover it with your jacket or shirt”.
Oh – Ok, I’ll make sure my .50 cal. pistol is not visible.
Well, this is the United States and this is normal over here – who am I to criticize? Vinni was more shocked than I was.
My childhood friend Wayne offered to lend me a pistol or two for our trip to Alaska – “just in case you run into bears or the like”. I said no, while I don’t have a problem with guns, I really don’t feel the need to carry one.
So much for guns. As we have noted in our blogs, the motorhomes and trailers people vacation in are HUGE by our European standards. These things are just enormous, 45 to 48 foot trailers, motorhomes the size of city buses.
As my brother says, “Why leave it home when you can take it with you?” You never see anything like this in Europe –the roads simply aren’t big enough to haul or drive something like that. The campgrounds don’t have spaces that size either. Caprise, our motorhome is 24 feet. In Europe, she would be one of the really big ones. Over here, she’s is usually the smallest one in the campground.
But she has served our purpose admirably and we have been more than happy with her and satisfied, even though she probably will end up costing us some money when we sell her.
Vinni and talked the other evening and we agreed – even though it may have been an expensive trip (7.5 miles to the gallon of gas! We drove over 7000 miles – you figure it out). The trip has been worth every single penny. We will probably never have the opportunity to do this again.
What price can you set on the trip of a lifetime?
Now we are back in Port Angeles reunited with Capri. We both almost cried. She looked so forlorn, dirty and neglected. The winter has been hard on her and it hurt all the way down in our souls to see her looking so pitiful.
We’ll have a separate blog about it, but rest assured, after a couple of weeks of intense elbow grease, she is beginning to look like herself again.
Amazing, you can almost feel her regaining her pride in herself. I know many will say we’re crazy, but we can feel her welcoming us once again, now that we have shown her the proper care, respect and cleaning.
Spring is coming, Capri is on the hard getting bottom painted and soon (May 1st or thereabouts) we will head north.
North to Alaska!!!!! Hot damn – can’t wait!
As a funny aside note: the other day I got a jury duty notice in the mail. Jury duty??????????????? I mean how the hell did they find me? They found me on the Washington State driver’s license rolls, of course. Thankfully, when I opened it and read it, one of the first sentences was a question: Are you an American citizen? Since I could truthfully say “no”, I was excused. Phew! Otherwise, I was beginning to think I would have to go to the courthouse and convince a judge that I was leaving and therefore could not do jury duty.
This is Saturday morning, April 30. We will take in our lines and set sail on Wednesday May 4, early in the morning.
Both Vinni and I are simply itching to go – it is impossible to describe our desire to be back on the water.