Saturday, June 16, 2018

2018-18 Rock Springs to Pinedale Wyoming


Old town, Rock Springs, Wy
playing miniature golf

Rock Springs Wyoming
Kemmerer Wyoming
Pinedale Wyoming

Campground: Sweetwater Events Complex, Rock Springs Wy. $23.80 after 15% discount, regular price $25.00 Full hookups. Rodeo, Fairgrounds type location.

Campground: Foothills Rv Park, Kemmerer WY. $25 fullhookups 50 amp. Basic, grassy sites, some with picnic table. No Shade. Good for an overnight stop.

Campground: Fremont Lake Campground. National Forest, no hookups. Paved road in with a couple big potholes. Campground has new pavement and paved sites on lower loop. Water and pit toilets. $$12 regular, $6 Senior.

I’m in the Rock Springs area for approx. a week. It was originally a coal mining town and railroad town as well. Highway I-80 runs through it which is the original Lincoln Highway, the first official highway going from the east Coast (New York City to California), not as famous as route 66, but still worthy of spending some time touring at least parts of the Lincoln Highway. It was also the crossroads for many of the various wagon train routes bringing settlers out west.

Speaking of coal, it was mined underground until that form of coal mining became too expensive. The town itself is lined with coal tunnels running underneath the town and surrounding area. They eventually mixed sand/concrete in a slurry and pumped it down into the mine tunnels to prevent any more tunnels collapsing, especially since a number of home disappeared after a tunnel collapsed.

the Reliance Mine Tipple

a bit windy for Mr Owl

coal mine workers would separate coal into size categories
the coal would be shaken on screens, creating much dust 

workers in the tipple often could not see their fellow
workers next to them due to the coal dust in the air

I visited the town Art Museum that got it’s start in the local High-school, where the students saved money to purchase art for the schools walls. The paintings were eventually moved into the library/art museum so the whole community could enjoy the art. They have an unusual collection of original art including many regional artists on display, well worth taking the time to explore the collection. I wasn’t permitted to take any pictures, sorry.

I did take one picture in the stairwell, an odd entry to the
Art Museum

the Art Museum can be entered thru the
Library, which would be more appropriate

since the art museum was added to the library
this is the "main" entry to the art museum
a bit funky....

One of the stories told in a large painting is of the Chinese Rebellion. Now the Chinese workers building and repairing the railroads were not rebelling, it was the White Americans and Irish who rebelled against the Chinese. Mainly because the Chinese would work for less money building the railroads. The Chinese had their entire community destroyed, killing mostly men, as there was only one woman in the community at the time this all occurred. I was told some were able to go north a ways to the small settlement of Eden where they had a Chinese temple/church that took them in and protected those that were able to make it there. Just a note, the local history museum had no information on it, but the new Art Museum had as I say a large painting depicting the tragic event. Another large scandalous painting was hidden from view for many years, but is now on display… you’ll have to come to the museum to see it, oh my.

Well on Wednesday I was able to bring my truck into have the new “brake controller” installed. It’s a digital version that lets me see exactly what settings the brake controller is set too. The local Ford, Chevy and Rv dealer owns all of these businesses, and I ended up going the the Ford dealer to have the brake controller installed. Total Cost: $151.00 Very reasonable as they charged me the internet price for the controller and the labor was very reasonable. This controller is designed to use the trailer brakes first when lightly tapping on the brakes, which will be excellent when going down steep grades.

new brake controller with digital readout

Distance Traveled: 90 miles

the Original J.C. Penny in Kemmerer WY

1902, J.C. Penny

Since I didn’t get on the road till mid morning, I only went the 90 miles to the little town of Kemmerer, home of the very first J.C. Penny store and small home of James Cash Penny and family. What a cool find. By the way, the original store is still in operation (actually the third one in this location). I toured the store which has tons of discount and special buys on clothing. I had to buy a couple of items. Original cost: $84.00, I paid after all the discounts: $8.80. What a deal. I saw a few shoppers leave with bags full of stuff. Touring the small house Mr Penny had built, one year after starting business in this little town, was pretty special. It has been faithfully restored and the tours are free. The town is also noted for the fossils found in the area. I was able to go into a very nice store selling much of the fossilized fish, leaves etc. The local Fossil Country Frontier Museum was closed (Mon/Tues/Wed), but one can also go to Fossil Butte National Monument about 13 miles out of town.

the J.C. Penny home built one year after the
opening of the 1st store

Doug in front of J.C. Penny small cottage home

the area is noted for the fossilize plants and fish
found in the quarries 

these are all on display and for sale in the retail store
as the museum wasn't opened the day I went through town

very reasonable prices, should have purchased one

Distance Traveled: 112 miles

Getting to Pinedale along 189 then 191 a short ways was pleasant. No big grades to overcome, lots of wide open spaces, cattle ranches on prairie grass lands often covered with sage. Rivers flowing to capacity. Lots of Prong horn Antelope. Pinedale is 96 miles to the Grand Teton National Park, my next destination, but a million miles from the crowds. Population, 1,800 along with a few moose that live in town as well. They have a couple of parks that boarder the Pine Creek, flowing swiftly from all the winter snow run-off. I toured the CCC ponds and saw one moose this morning.

a small dam used to divert the water to irrigation canals
and the CCC Ponds

CCC ponds, where I saw the Moose 
wonderful crystal clear Mt snow fed rivers

CCC ponds

Images of Fremont Lake, where I am camping this week 
boat dock on Fremont Lake

no hookups, but paved pad and wonderful views

It can be a challenge to find a restaurant with reasonable prices. Most in town start with $10 hamburgers and go up from there. It’s not unusual to pay $15-16 for a salad. The Wrangler Cafe had a good price on a lunch special. And at the Conoco Gas Station, Obo’s market and deli inside has a few good deals. The best being their Seattle’s Best Coffee, small cup for 89c. Don’t tell anyone, but I would have paid double for it…. Awesome good coffee.

One of the visitor center workers told me that a Mother Moose has lived in town for years and a year ago had twins. This year, she and the twins walked through town from the river park, sat down on the Library lawn and stayed there the entire afternoon.

The town is in good shape, catering to the tourist of course as well as the local ranchers and farmers. The growing season doesn’t begin until Fathers day, the middle of June. I talked to a number of locals who say they don’t even plant their flower gardens and put out hanging flower baskets until then as a freeze could ruin the tender plants. It’s a very short growing season.

I’m on one of the glacier created lakes, with the land scoured by those glaciers thousands of years ago, depositing large boulders and rocks everywhere. Fremont Lake is one of those glacier created lakes, 9 miles long, 1 mile wide and 400 feet deep. Lake fishing and fly fishing are very popular around here.

I’ll visit the Mountain Man Museum. The Upper green River rendezvous outside of Daniel Wy is where the hunters and trappers would converge to sell their beaver pelts and furs after the winter hunting season was complete. A time to get to meet up with friends and fellow trappers, telling stories of their adventures before going off again on their lonely trek into the wilderness.

I drove back to Daniel to take a few pictures of an old Motor Court motel, along with the original Daniel post office and gas station. They are all in ruin and won’t be standing all that much longer. When cars became popular and folks started vacationing and traveling far distances, these motels with a carport next to each cabin were very popular. I’ve seen some really nice restored Motor Courts, this isn’t one of them, but does still have that charm of bygone adventures for the first automobile travelers.

the motor court, post office and gas station
Daniel WY

one of the first motor courts, once travel by
car became popular

old motor court, each cabin with a carport

Daniel Wy, old gas station

Winters can be brutal in this area. They tell me this past winter wasn’t too bad, but the previous winter they had temperatures drop below 40 degree. Today, Saturday is will be 70-46 degrees, Sunday 62-44 degrees with thunderstorms.

More photos

Kemmerer WY  (original J.C. Penny store, still in operation, great bargains)

Pinedale WY  (including pics from Daniel WY)

Saturday, June 9, 2018

2018-17 Flaming Gorge Utah to Rock Springs Wyoming


Rock Springs Wyoming
prong horn Antelope 

Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, Utah/Wyoming

Rock Springs Wyoming

Holy Smoking Brakes Batman we’re heading down some pretty long 8% grades today

Campground: Ashley Forest, hwy 191 & Forest Road 217. 8,400 ft elevation, dispersed camping. Many sites available throughout the forest. I was able to pick a spot close to the main highway through the forest with a nice grassy area to turn the camper around in.

Ashley Forest, dispersed camping

Campground: Sweetwater Events Complex, Rock Springs Wy. $23.80 after discount, regular price $25.00 Full hookups. Rodeo, Fairgrounds type location.

Sweetwater Events Complex

Ending the weekend at Steinaker State Park having met a cool couple, Pauline and Jim. Two full time campers along with their two handsome dogs. After sharing insights about the camping lifestyle, I got them to play Mexican Train. They had never played it before but sure did pick it up quickly. I was in last place (yes Kathy and Ruth-Ann, last Place!) for the entire game, when Pauline said lets play the final hand of 0/0 (the blank tile). And wouldn’t you know it, I was able to move up to 2nd place.

new friends, Pauline and Jim

Distance traveled: 28 miles

Pack it up, hitch up the camper and I was off up the road. And up the road I went. 10 switch backs and many miles of 8 and 10% grades uphill. Needless to say, I was traveling very sloooowly up to the top of Ashley National Forest. To an elevation of 8,400 feet.

Aspen's surrounding my site

many dispersed campsites down forest roads

Temperatures in the 75/56 degree range. I’m using my solar panels and running the generator when needed, like this morning, when I needed to boost the batteries before the sun was able to charge the batteries after using up all the battery power to run the furnace. I also wanted to use the coffee pot and toaster. The generator sure comes in handy.

Generator Note: 

  • The new Champion generator is working well. It starts up easily, using the battery/electric start feature. Running on propane should keep it running cleanly for a good long time. By keeping the generator in the back of the truck with the truck facing towards the front of the camper, (nose to nose) I’m able to dissipate the noise away from the camper. Although it is a bit more noisy than the previous unit I had tried, with the windows currently closed and the radio on, I don’t hear the generator at all.

Aspen trees surround my campsite, with their white bark trunks. The older trees have a crown of green at the tops and some with bare branches having completed their life cycle, new young trees mingle below those tall white trunks. Alpine meadows where I’ve already seen a couple Elk and mule deer. All surrounded by pine covered mountain tops complete the high altitude experience.

1909 keeps coming up when talking about the history of the area as that was when much of the land became available with Government land grants etc. Bringing the settlers west. A little research and one discovers that the Native Peoples lived in the area for 8,000 years and going much further back, the dinosaur populated the region 150 to 200 million years ago. Making modern European settlers going back less than 150 years seem insignificant at first. Until you realize that within that short time, they decimated the wildlife, almost wiping out the Elk, Moose, bear, et-all. Fortunately two presidents, Grover Cleveland and Theodore Roosevelt created the Forest reserve expanding it between 1897 and 1908. Reducing cattle and man’s influence (timber cutting, mining and hunting) and eventually restoring much of the area. Seems like we make many mistakes along the way only to finally restore the natural balance on down the road. (mini history lesson complete)

10 switch backs to the top of Ashley Forest are
just beyond this curve

truck broke down in front of my campsite

RV TIP: As you may know, I occasionally lead a Travel Club and one of the features people enjoy are my Rv Tips. Today’s is one that can be used in an Rv or at home. For anyone trying to clean blinds, which I have a ton of wood blinds in my camper, keeping them clean can be a challenge. I’ve found the easiest way to dust and clean them in minutes.


Step 1: Using a Washing Mitt that is designed to be used for washing a vehicle, I instead spray a light amount of either Endust or Furniture polish on the Mitt. Then I wipe each blind in a straight downward motion doing the front side first.

Stept 2: Now anyone who has blinds knows that a narrow strip of dust remains on the top of each blind blade because it is covered by the next blind. Reverse the blind chord, hold the blind out from the window and once again draw the mitt from the top of the blind down to the bottom on the back side of the blind. You will now have cleaned the little edge of dust that always remains after cleaning the front.

Takes only minutes to clean all your blinds. When done, toss the mitt in the wash for your next cleaning. Oh, you can also do a quick dusting on your furniture with the mitt in hand before tossing it in the wash.

deep into the forest along dirt/clay roads

I’ve taken a few tours through the forest, including a rather long route on a clay based dirt road. It was surprisingly a smooth ride, albeit a very dusty one. I was in search of Spirit lake. I had a couple of maps of the area, but none provided distance nor were there any mile markers showing the distance to each lake or destination in the forest. Without the use of my GPS, as there is no cell phone coverage up here, I ended up driving for many miles back deep into the forest. Seeing large meadows with spring flowers in bloom, snow capped mountains in the distance but that’s about it. No wildlife or lakes, though I’m sure they were down any number of dirt roads leading off in various directions from the main dirt/clay route I was on. Not wanting to go any further, I finally turned around and returned to the campsite. I did go to one of the large visitor centers overlooking Flaming Gorge, only to find out the two new Volunteers had only been there for two days and had been left alone to do their best. Oddly it is very quite up here during the week. The lodge closest to the Visitor center is only partially open and won’t have full service until another couple of weeks and here we are into June already.

Again, their brochures for the area are very poorly written and definitely need to be edited or completely rewritten.

Distance Traveled: 88 miles.

My last day in Ashley Forest, I decided to drive back into Vernal. After lunch and a few errands, I headed on back up the 10 switchbacks leading to the top of Ashley Forest. But my travels would be delayed as a large semi-tanker truck overturned on one of those switchbacks. A few hours later, as I was permitted to get back up into the forest, I passed the truck, lying on it’s side, right at one of the sharp switchbacks. When they say 25 mph, they really mean it. Tried to get a picture, but this is all I caught….

Leaving Ashley Forest

The next day I headed out down off the mountain meadows and forests in the opposite direction heading towards the Wyoming boarder. More steep grades as I navigated all those switchbacks and curving routes descending down the famous Flaming Gorge pass.

My view as I waited for the truck brakes to cool off

Holly smoking brakes, I thought I smelled burning rubber. A line of vehicles and trucks following behind me as I’m slowly descending the gorge. Shifting down into 3rd gear and tapping the brakes lightly as I continue my downward decent. After pulling off at a wayside stop, I noticed one of the front brakes was Smoking. Okay, deep breaths. Calming thoughts, need to have the brakes checked once I get into a town…. Wait a while to let them cool off a bit, I make it to the bottom of the mountain, crossed the dam, wound my way along what I’m sure was a scenic view of the dam and overflow, but with the narrow road appearing to be hugging the rock cliff, somehow suspended and attached to that solid stone wall, I hardly had the opportunity to enjoy any “stunning” views.

Once again climbing up the other side of the gorge and being welcomed by my voice activated GPS into Wyoming, I again stopped at a pull-out and checked on the brakes…. Deciding to test the trailer brakes manually…. Hmmm, appears I have no brakes, or seems they aren’t doing anything. Ohhhh kay, I guess something must be wrong with the trailer brakes, no wonder the truck brakes were smoking, heart skips a beat thinking how I’d just come down miles of dangerous steep grades off of a mountain without any Frickin Da### brakes on the trailer! I check the trailer wire connections to the truck, they’re ok. I check the trailer brake device in the truck and discover that somehow both knob settings have been turned all the way off. How that occurred is beyond my brain cells at the moment. I readjust them, backing up, pulling forward in the relatively small space I have on the side of the road testing them until they are finally working as best as can be for the duration of my journey today. A deep sigh of relief as I continue my journey into Wyoming.

  • side note:  After arriving in Rock Springs Wy, I've made an appt. to have a new brake controller installed in the truck.  It has a digital readout to easily verify brake settings.

snow fences, I don't think I need to be here in the winter time

top of plateau, wide open spaces, big skies

thanks for making my morning drive even
more exciting 

Well if that isn’t enough excitement for one day, I don’t know what is. The scenery as I continue to climb to the top of the mesa plateau overlooking the Flaming Gorge area is the hallmark for the phrase “wide open spaces”. Vast fields of sage and grasses cover this rugged land. Deep ravines and snow fences appear on the sides of the roadway with signs indicating drifting snow could be in the area. A pronghorn antelope checks me out as I drive by. Up a head, I see something in the roadway…. A grizzly bear is loping across the road, turns to look at me as I of course stop to hopefully get a picture. Success, and oh by the way, yes I stopped in the middle of the road, as there was no traffic in either direction. This is a little used highway. And darn it, I wanted that picture.

Have a great day everyone, I hope your week ISN’T quiet as eventful as mine has been.

More photos: