Luinil - Traveling with the Blue Star


April 2016 — New Camper Van
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Copyright © 2017 Larrie Easterly

Ann and I have been thinking about getting a slightly larger camper van. The Sportsmobile that we currently have is just a bit to small for us. While looking at the Sportsmobile forum about a van that would meet our needs popped up for sale. We had actually seen this same van at a campout in Jackson, WY several years ago and liked it. The only issue was that it was in Georgia.

We contacted the owners and talked about the van. The owners wife mentioned that the reason they were selling it was that her husbands lymphoma had come back. They really did not want to sell it but did not have the time to use it.

Several days later Eric, the person who originally owned the van and did the camper conversion, called me and let me know that the current owner was a really nice guy but his lymphoma was back and they did not have the time to use the van. Two weeks later found me on a plane to Georgia to pick up the van and drive it home.

The Wednesday 6:30 A.M. flight to Atlanta went by quickly and the owner picked me up at the airport and drove me back to his house. We talked easily on the 45 minute drive back to his house. We talked easily about our adventures, health issues, family expectations, children, etc. I explained how I sing the word HU, an ancient name for God, to help me cope with troubled times.

Blue Ridge Lake

Blue Ridge Lake — Photo Galley

Once we got to his house we looked over the van and he showed me its camping features. As we were doing the paperwork his 12 year old son came home from school. I asked him to count the money to double check my count. His eyes got real wide when he saw the pile of $100 dollar bills on the table. He kept asking his mom and dad if he could have a couple of them.

After all the paperwork was done I got in the van and headed for the grocery store. After stocking up on food for the trip it was time to head north to spend the night at the Morganton Point Recreation Area on Blue Ridge Lake in the Chattahoochee National Forest. It had been a long day. It was time for dinner and then bed.

The trip home was designed to take seven days driving about six hours a day and spending the night at developed campgrounds. Campground requirements were that they be a short drive from the freeway interchanges, were on a body of water and that they have showers. Using a combination of Apple Maps, the Ultimate Campground app and the Truck and RV Fuel Stations app it was possible to meet these requirements. The drive home went as planned except for one night.

Crab Orchard Lake

Crab Orchard Lake — Photo Galley

Thursday morning it was on to Tennessee to visit Eric. He gave me more information about the van and showed me some of the things he did when he built out the interior. After spending a couple of hours with Eric (thank you for your time) it was time to head west towards Blue Heron Campground on Crab Orchard Lake in Crainville IL. The campground is on the edge of the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Reserve. The camp host was surprised that I stopped there. They usually only get local fishermen, not people on cross country road trips. She was surprised to learn that the campground listed in the campground app.

Friday it was on to Nebraska City and the Riverview Marina and Campground on the banks of the Missouri River. While Lewis and Clark did not sleep at the park they did pass by its location. If you do not believe me you can stop there and read the sign.

The plan for Saturday night was to be at the Vedauwoo USFS Campground east of Laramie, WY. Unfortunately the campground was not yet open for the season so it was on to Laramie. The night was spent at the Petro truck stop parking lot. The Iron Skillet restaurant is right next to the truck stop and has a great buffet with five kinds of meat, a large salad bar, lots of veggies, and good looking deserts. Total cost for all you can eat was $14.00 plus drinks. The food was really good. One of the nice things about truck stops is that they have showers. In talking with one of the attendants he recommended tanking a shower before 8:00 A.M. This would allow me to miss the trucker rush. The cost of the shower was $13.00 and included towels. The showers were clean and well maintained.

Sunday morning came early. It was on to Willard Bay State Park, on the Great Salt Lake in Perry UT. This was the most hazardous portion of the trip. The winds in Wyoming are strong and were pushing the van around. Electronic reader boards along Interstate 80 give information on wind gust speed. On Sunday the gusts were over 50 MPH and it was snowing. There was about three inches of snow on the road with more snow blowing horizontally. The driving conditions were treacherous.

Montana Snow

Montana Snow Storm — Photo Galley

All was going well. Learning to drive in New York with similar conditions helped immensely. That is until a sustained gust of wind hit as the van was entering a corner and pushed the it sideways across the snow covered road onto the edge of the breakdown lane. The van was now aiming for the end of the guardrail instead of the road. Struggling to regain control was not helping and realized that I would not be able to bring the van back onto the road. It looked like the van would be skewered by the rapidly approaching guardrail. I felt myself relax, for the impact, as the guardrail got closer and closer. I remember saying to the Mahanta, my inner spiritual guide, “this is not going to be good.” Just then the outside tires slid off the pavement onto the gravel under the snow giving me traction and control again. Narrowly missing the guardrail I got back onto the road with the van still sliding sideways. Carefully bringing the van out of the skid I headed it down the road. Thankfully there were no other vehicles around when this happened. After that there was more snow and wind to work my way through. The snow finely ended as the elevation dropped. That just left the wind and the gusts to deal with for the rest of the way across Wyoming. The winds seemed to die as soon as the Utah border was reached. Was glad to reach the park and spend the late afternoon in the sunshine instead of snow.

Monday it was time to head north. The winds picked up again in northern Utah and all across Idaho. Driving the van into the wind was much better than driving with a constant cross wind. A heavy rainstorm south of Twin Falls kept me focused on the road for about 50 miles. The wipers were on high speed to get at least a glimpse of where the road was. Monday night was spent at Farewell Bend State Park. The park is located in Oregon on the Snake River about 30 miles from the Idaho border.

Tuesday morning dawned sunny and cold. A great day to drive home on familiar roads through the Blue Mountains and along the Columbia River.

There were lots of trucks throughout the trip with very few cars, except within cities. Driving through Boise I decided I would much rather be in the company of trucks that personal vehicles. Trucker are more predictable that car drivers.

Statistics Canton, GA to Oregon City, OR 2,705 miles per Apple Maps Canton, GA to Oregon City, OR 2,738 actual miles Used 208 gallons of gas at an average price of $2.29/gal Highest price paid for gas $3.24/gal in Oregon City Lowest price paid $1.96/gal in Tennessee Best MPG = 15.51 Worst MPG = 11.19 Average MPG = 13.15

Past Travels
282 feet below sea level

282 feet below sea level

Summer Lake Hot Springs

Summer Lake Hot Springs

Twin Rocks

Twin Rocks