USA by Van

I will travel the USA for the next 2 / 3 years and will use this blog to share my campervan conversion and also my planning and adventures.

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Grand Junction / Fruita, CO

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I spent 5 days on the western slope of Colorado, my last Colorado outing  before heading south for the winter.  The Grand Junction / Fruita area is high desert with a green oasis  along the Colorado River given irrigation.   Grand Junction is the biggest city in the western slope area and provides a great jumping off point for many activities.  Fruita is a smaller town located close to the Utah border and is known for access to fantastic mountain biking trails.  The bike shop in Fruita is the place to stop for trail information.

Sometimes it is easy to forget Colorado’s beauty as we get caught up in day to day activities.  However, the drive from Colorado Springs to Grand Junction presented itself in a way that awoke the senses.  The day before my drive, it snowed heavily in the Central Mountains.  When topping Wilkerson Pass, the view of the snow covered peaks (as shown in the above picture) was spectacular.

While the turning of the aspens had come and gone, the cottonwood, scrub oak, and other various trees were in full colors.  The drive along the Eagle River and the Colorado River and through Glenwood Canyon brought a smile.  Sorry, silly me did not stop for pictures.

I mountain biked on various trails located near the Kokopelli’s parking area.

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The trails run on a plateau above the Colorado River with some serious vistas.

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I also mountain biked in the book cliff area to the north of Grand Junction and Fruita.  Plenty of trails to ride in this area also.

 

 

A shout out to my friends from Grand Junction, Jan and Sherryl.  I had a great time with them fishing on the Gunnison River, hiking in the Colorado Monument area and just hanging out.

 

Looking forward to the next 4 months on the road.

Viva la loca!

 

Stand Up Paddle Board and Visitors

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I pulled the trigger on an inflatable stand up paddle board (SUPB) purchase.  I did a test assembly in my garage.  I can’t wait to get into the water.  This will add a whole new dimension to my travel fun.

I decided on a hybrid SUPB which allows either stand up paddling or you can sit down (more like kayaking) and paddle.  It comes with two sets of paddles one for each position.  A view of the board with a hard back seat, grandson included:

 

I had visitors (my nephew Rob and friends) from Ohio last week.  The weather was not fantastic while they were here but they made the best of it.  We stopped at Tony’s Bar one night and had fun with a trivia contest and pool.

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I am enjoying September and October in Colorado.  In a couple of weeks, I will leave for 4 months of out-of-state travel.  This will include, Arizona, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

I have a set agenda for the travel to Florida.  My route back to Colorado in February is still up in the air.

 

Eleven Mile Canyon – Nice!

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I enjoy Colorado this time of year.  The days are usually warm and the nights are cool.  Fewer people are in the back country, providing more elbow room.

Eleven Mile Canyon is located near Lake George, CO.  It sits downstream from the dam which creates Eleven Mile Reservoir.   The canyon provides great fishing, excellent camping spots, and some hiking.  Cycling is limited to the access road, which is a nice 8 mile ride along the river with some great views.  I spent five days enjoying the area.

Access road with tunnels:

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A number of designated campgrounds are available along the access road.  I camped at the Spillway Campground, which is the last campground on the road.  There were only two other campers. We were spread out, allowing some good alone time.

Camping Spot:

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The fishing was tough given low water conditions and the wind.  The wind was at a constant 20 mph with gust much more.  I learned a lot by talking with and watching other fisherman and adjusted my fishing technique / rigging to what the river allowed.   I landed my share of fish but hooked even more (nice way of saying that a number of fish got away).

Some might say that I have too much time on my hands but I wrote a little poem about the fishing conditions.  Picture included:

A Quandary,  by yours truly:

 

The Eleven Mile hawk swoops

Fisherman still try

Proudly, cuss and mend

But retreat, bye and bye

 

The river is now mine alone

Rigging is set and true

Do I roll a cast

Or enjoy another brew

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I did a hike on the overlook trail.  Pretty much a straight up hike over rocks.  The view up and downstream was amazing.  Upstream you can see the dam and the lake behind.  the aspens are turning and provide a nice backdrop.

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Section of trail – up and through:

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Aspen colors:

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Shout Out:

A shout out to Nancy from Jackson Center, Ohio who works with my sister.  I’m told she is enjoying my blog / travels.

 

 

 

Deckers, CO – Fishing the South Platte

 

IMG_1943I spent 6 days at Lone Rock Campground just north of Deckers, CO.  The campground sits on the South Platte river.  It is a forest service campground and one can make reservations for a site.   I am guessing that around 30 sites are available.  The campground is normally full from mid spring until the second week of September (especially on the weekends).

The village of Deckers has a small grocery, a fly shop, and a restaurant.   You can get the necessities needed for camping and fishing.  The hours for the grocery and fly shop vary by day but in general close around 5 to 6 pm.

My campsite:

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This section of river is below the Cheeseman Reservoir which feeds into the Cheeseman Canyon.  The Wigwam Club is located between the canyon and the campsite.  It is an exclusive private fishing club.  The club stocks monster fish into the river and the fish migrate up / down river.  This provides great fishing in the canyon and from the campground down river for many miles.

Cheeseman Canyon (fishing with Dan):

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What a great time.  I caught my share of fish, hiked back to the canyon area for one day of fishing with my son-in-law (Dan), pedaled my bicycle toward Buffalo Creek (whew, what a climb), met many really nice people and spent each night around a campfire.

People were very willing to share information regarding the river, their rig set-ups, the flies they were using.  One gentleman even provided some of his flies so that I could get on fish.

It is really fun to watch a skilled fly-fisher person. The way they cast, the way they read the river, and the way they determine what rig-set up and flies to use.   Given I started fly fishing in earnest just 9 months ago, I have a long way to go.

I met a fellow fisher-person (Sherryl) on the river who was camping two sites from mine.  Her boyfriend is not a big fisherman so she came by herself and had family members stopping in on various days to fish.  We had an awesome time fishing together (both about the same skill level) and just hanging out.

Sherryl on the River:

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I finally set up my shower cabana as I was at the same site for 6 days.  The solar shower and cabana work like a charm.  Nothing like a warm / hot shower after cycling or fishing all day.IMG_1956

A shout out to Rob, Dean, and Sherryl for celebrating my birthday with me.  Rob and Dean camped one night at Lone Rock after a “killer” backpacking trip in the Southern San Juan’s.  They wanted to catch a few fish before heading back to reality.  We had a really fun night sharing stories and belly laughs around the campfire.

Next morning after fishing with the gang:

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Balloon Fest – Colorado Springs

IMG_1887Every Labor Day weekend, Colorado Springs hosts a hot air balloon fest.  In the mornings (weather permitting), there are mass balloon lift offs.  In the evenings, there are balloon glows, which is where the balloons are tied down and the burners are ignited.

Attended the glow on Saturday night.  Some pics are:

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Colorado Camping

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Weekend camping trip with Ian and Ryan (3 generations).  We drove to a ghost town called Winfield.  It is situated at the headwaters of Clear Creek.  The road back to Winfield is located between Buena Vista and Leadville and the road follows the creek to the town.

Dispersed camping is available in an open meadow near the town.  The road to Winfield is dirt, gravel, and washboard texture.  The van made the drive without problems.  Ryan’s Toyota 4 runner ate up the road.

We saw some mountain sheep during the drive:

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Ian was ready to hit the road with suit case packed.  He also found sleeping on the floor versus the bed (in the van) more comfortable:

More pics of camp life and hiking:

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Scotts Bluff National Monument

Scotts Bluff is a natural landmark used by travelers in the old days.  The North Platte river runs near the bluffs.  A pass through the bluffs allowed easier travel.  Scotts Bluff National Monument is located near the pass.  The Oregon Trail, as well as other trails heading west, passed through this area.

The National Monument is worth a stop, about 3 hours to view, hike and take in the visitor center.  The Monument has the only road in Nebraska with a tunnel (it has three).

The tunnel road takes you from the visitor center to the top of the bluff.  There are a number of trails to hike both at the visitor center and at the top of the bluff.

Some pics are:

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Pass through the bluffs:

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View from top of bluff:

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Views of tunnel road from bottom and top:

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Oregon Trail Path:

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Total Eclipse – Lake Minatare, Nebraska

 

I spent 5 days at the lake, 3 before the eclipse and 2 after.  Really nice location in the belt for the total eclipse.  The state park at the lake is set up for “connection camping” and primitive camping.  For the primitive camping, you can park right on the beach areas of the campgrounds.

A number of sites are set up for reservations, the others are first come first serve.  I spent my days riding bicycle, swimming, hiking and relaxing.  I moved the vehicle only one time to get gas, ice and supplies.  Neighbor campers let me try their inflatable paddle boards.  Nice!  I will have one of these soon.

Some pics of the camp area, beach, and so forth:

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The lake has a full size lighthouse:

There were awesome sunsets each night across the lake.  I am getting good at sunset watching.  A couple more months and I will move into the pro ranks.

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The total eclipse was spectacular.  In the pictures below you will see a view of before the darkness and after the darkness, both shot from the same location.  The whole horizon (360 degrees) blew up in color.  What more can I say.

People getting ready:

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Picture before total eclipse:

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Picture of same location during total eclipse:

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Picture of eclipse of sun:

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Ohio – Family and Friends

As Guy Clark sings in the song “Old Friends”

“Old Friends they shine like diamonds
Old Friends you can always call
Old Friends Lord you can’t buy ’em
You know it’s Old Friends after all”

The song applies well to both friends and family.  I visited Ohio for my nephew’s wedding and decided to take two weeks for such.  This allowed me to have some time to visit friends I have not seen for a while.

My graduating high school class donated a bench to the local park.  14 members of the class came to the dedication and went for drinks after.

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Went to Cleveland to see Lyle Lovett with some “old friends”

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The hometown had a festival called little Nashville.  Main Street was shut down and a number of stages were set up for bands.  I saw family and friends that night.  We had after party also.

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More pictures from the visit follow, including the garter belt I caught at the wedding:

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Helena MT – Part 2

I had a great 6 weeks in Montana and Helena specifically.  I met many great people and had a fantastic time.  If I was offered the possibility of “do overs”, I would pass on the option as everything was awesome.  If I was offered the possibility of an “add on”, I would have added more fishing.

Some Montana wrap up pictures:

The sky the night before the earthquake.  Foretelling?

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Montana single track – Trout Creek

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Van Life – Pretty tough

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One Wild Van Camper:

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And finally, yes, “van down by the river”:

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