OK - I do hate "blogs"; who except one's family and closest friends are really interested in a person's diary, their thoughts and ramblings?  But I think that in this case it is the perfect way to keep my students, friends and family up to date on my trip to, participation in, and return from, the CPE Nationals in Sacramento CA.  This trip runs from Sunday May 28, 2006 through (hopefully!) Sunday, June 11th, 2006.

Each day, when possible (when I have access to the internet) I will add to the top of this page my latest notes and experiences.  I hope you enjoy!


Trip to 2006 CPE Nationals in Elk Grove/Sacramento, California

Sunday, May 28, 2006 - Sunday, June 11, 2006

Day 15 (Sunday, June 11)
     This is it!  One way or another I planned on getting home today.  I'm writing this on Monday afternoon, after trying to recover for the good part of the day.
     I thought I was doing a good thing on Saturday night by staying in Moline, IL.  I thought it was closer to Chicago than it was (it was about 120 miles west of the city).  I was still in the Central time zone, so there's an hour lost right there.  And I had planned on getting to bed early, which didn't happen (it never seems to happen!).  Anyway, I got out on the road by 6:20am Central time.  The map program said I had over 900 miles to drive, so I planned on very short and minimal stops during the day to get home as soon as possible.
    I tried as best I could to make up time, but it was  very hard to do.  I could see I'd be getting home around 10pm, so just decided to grin and bear it -- at least I was getting home tonight!  I got gas in Herkimer NY, only 2 hours from home.  I was longing to see my other 2 dogs and sleep in my own bed.
     As for most days when I did mostly traveling without sightseeing, my van took 3 tankfuls of gas, which ends up costing me about $130 a day.
     I pulled into the driveway in New Lebanon at 10:40pm, and had driven 990 miles in approximately 15 hours to finish my journey.
     I greeted the dogs and my parents with happiness, as did Sandy and Buddy.  It's good to be home :-)
     Later tonight I'll add the pictures from the trip home to this blog.  Thank you for reading!!

Day 14 (Saturday, June 10)
     Today was a driving day - after visiting Harold Warp's Pioneer Village in Minden, NE, that is.  I spent too long there, over 3 hours!  There was just so much to see there; they have 26 buildings all chock full of memorabilia (pioneer stuff, automobiles, airplanes, tools, farm machinery, collections, sod house, appliances, one room school, etc!!).  It's hard to explain all the things they had there - their website is www.pioneervillage.org  I have been to museums and displays of antique Americana, but this was simply overwhelming, there was so much!  They also had interesting little factoids posted in various places, such as how Rand McNally originated, and how pop tops for aluminum soda/beer cans were invented.

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     After leaving Minden, I headed East on I-80, which is what I would do for the rest of the day.  I went through Lincoln and Omaha Nebraska.  The weather was dreary all day, overcast and humid, but it only rained for a couple short stretches of road.  The land in Nebraska is all flat and the road straight, so I had to keep varying listening to my book on tape, the radio, and music CD's to keep myself alert.
     Finally I passed into Iowa - I think the welcome sign read "Fields of Opportunities".  I think Nebraska's sign read "Land of Enchantment" (or was that Colorado?? I'll have to look that up sometime...)
     One town listed on an exit sign was Wiota, Iowa.  Here's a town with 6 vowels and only 3 consonants...  Both have I O and A in that order :-)
     I saw a few more dead deer, 2 in a 10 mile stretch, in Iowa.  The speed limit here was 70 - in Nebraska it had been 75.
     I decided to end the day before dark tonight - I am staying at a Motel 6 in Moline, IL, which I just passed into in the last 10 minutes of my drive.  I'm a bit Southwest of Chicago, so with an early start tomorrow should get home by around 7pm!
     I have all my pictures downloaded onto my computer now, but will wait to upload them to this page until I get home, as I don't have a high speed connection here in the hotel.  So, check back on Monday for some awesome Grand Canyon pictures!!

Day 13 (Friday, June 9)
     Today I started out in the mountains - at around 6000 feet.  I forgot to mention yesterday that while negotiating all those mountain passes, I saw numerous state parks and access to trailheads.  Wow, you could really get lost out here being the outdoorsperson!
     I went through some big Colorado towns:Vail (8200'), Breckenridge, and Steamboat Springs, to name a few.  Just east of Vail Route I-70 went through Vail Pass Summit, 10,603 feet high, and there was a gorgeous rest area and scenic area at the summit.  With snow all around (not just on the peaks, on the sloping hills, too, and at 11am probably only around 55 degrees, it was beautiful.  There had been some sort of bicycling accident, there were numerous EMS vehicles there.  It looked like 2 people getting attention.  There was a trial/bike path that paralleled the road for miles either side of the summit, and I had seen lots and lots of folks bicycling it on the way to the summit.

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    Route 70 winds skillfully between and around the mountains, making the toll on a vehicle not that great at all.  In one case they put a tunnel through the largest mountain (not sure the name); it's the Johnson Tunnel, completed in 1979. It was at least a mile long, I think, and well lit :-)
     Going east to Denver, the road kept going up and down in elevation, uphill, downhill, uphill, downhill...
     I took Route 25 North to get to I-80.  With the Rocky Mountains on the west it was a very scenic view - and I can say I went through some of them!
     I passed into Wyoming, including the city of Cheyenne.  Then came Nebraska.
     I took a slight detour North to Scott's Bluff National Park near the end of the day.  It's the site of the Scott's Bluff National Monument where pioneer travelers passed through on their trip to the west coast while negotiating the Oregon Trail.  The site was impressive, nice views.  However, I had hoped to see ruts left from wagon tracks (they said some were still visible), but didn't see any close up. I think I saw some from the view from the top of the bluff, but I will see when I download the pictures into my computer (not enough time last night).

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     I just about caught up to my itinerary by driving until 11pm last night; I ended up in Kearney for the night.  Now I'm in the Central Time Zone, so am getting closer to home!

Day 12 (Thursday, June 8)
     Wow, day 12!  Since today was pretty much the last sightseeing day, other than a possible stop or two in the midwest, I'm starting to get anxious to get closer to home.  The past 2 days I've not really traveled that much closer to home, just "meandered" around Arizona and New Mexico.
     Today I started out a little later - I needed to sleep in this morning since I was pretty tired from the past day's late night drive.  I got going around 9:30.  First I went to 4 corners - 4 states meet at a point (Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico).  This was on an indian reservation, and they waived the $3 entrance fee because the bathrooms were out of order.  They must've had about 50 porta potties there!  When I was there, around 10:30, the skies were dreary and it was threatening rain.  But there were still about 20 cars there.  It was a raised monument with concrete slab etched with the point where the 4 states met plus lots of other state seals and text; you could go up and stand anywhere on it and get your picture taken.


     I heard on the radio while leaving that "on this day in history" WGY in Schenectady NY in 1929 (I think) had the first ever TV broadcast.  It was neat to hear about WGY and Schenectady from 4 corners...
     I entered Colorado, on my way to Mesa Verde.  It was at an elevation of 7000 feet, and there was wonderful scenery within the park on the drive up to this elevation.  I stayed 4 hours, longer than planned - I was fascinated by the ruins and excavation sites.  Plus, it took awhile just to drive around from spot to spot.  I envied the folks who paid (and it was probably not cheap to do so) to take the strenuous hiking tour down to see the cave dwellings close up - it included ladders and steep inclines/declines.  During my time here the skies turned clear and the views became gorgeous.

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     Finally, around 5pm I left Mesa Verde.  I headed North on Route 550 from Durango towards Grand Junction and eventually I-70.  I was going into ski country now, going through the San Juan Mountains.  The rain was gone, and the sky was partly cloudy now.  I got out at a scenic rest stop at Molas Pass, an elevation of 10,970 feet!  Colder weather and snow-capped mountains were around us.  Not long after that we had to descend -- and it happened quickly.  I've never seen so many switchbacks, and at most times there was no guard rail and very little edge to the road.  I kept it in low gear to save my brakes and took my time :-)

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     Coming around one turn suddenly there was a small town in the valley between mountains -- it was Silverton.  They were nestled nicely into the valley; I didn't get a picture because there was nowhere to stop to get one, but it was very idyllic.  Another 20 or so switchbacks and there was another similar town called Ouray.  Same type of approach, but this time they were also known for their hot springs.  After Ouray the roads straightened up and flattened out, and the speed limit went up to 60.  By now it was after 8pm, so I stopped at McDonalds when getting to Montrose to feed myself and the dogs.  While there it started pouring rain and thunder/lightning in the distance, and there across the parking lot was a Quality Inn hotel. So, I decided to stay here overnight!

Day 11 (Wednesday, June 7)
     I headed out around 7am to see the rest of the Grand Canyon.  Arizona never goes to daylight savings time, so it was like still being on Pacific time.  The day was cloudy and threatening rain (it had rained briefly overnight), and as the morning went on it got colder and quite windy.  There were awesome views at every spot, including Moran Point, my favorite other than the North Rim (this was a close second by comparison).  I took Sandy for a walk on about a 3/4 mile loop of the rim trail


     I need to look up sometime where the final scene from the movie "Thelma and Louise" was filmed.  I was only on park roads at the grand canyon, my guess is that there's a road on the west side that leads you up to the rim.
     They had indian ruins at Tusayon - it was very interesting.
     I left the Grand Canyon, and went south on 89 to pick up Route 40E.  I stopped at Sunset crater, a volcano that erupted in the year 1180.

     I saw a billboard as I approached Winslow AZ - "Standing on a Corner in Winslow AZ" - a take on the Eagles song from the 70's!  I also was on Old Historic Route 66 for awhile (I guess it doesn't really exist any more) while on 180 on the way to the Petrified Forest National Park.
     I think mostly because I had just been to the Grand Canyon, I wasn't that impressed with the petrified forest.  What can beat the Grand Canyon, anyway?  The other issue was that I got poured on while going around the first exhibit, and then was threatened to get rained on again every other time I got out of the car.  There were thunderstorms around, too, so while I had planned on taking the dog(s) on some of the short loop hikes (they are allowed at this park), they ended up staying in the car.  There was one loop called Crystal Forest, which of course I visited - it was petrified trees with quartz crystals embedded in them.  Later, I saw more Badlands, very similar to those in South Dakota.   Near the end of the park was another indian ruins and excavation site, this one larger, of the Puerco Pueblo indians.

     The Painted Desert, which afforded awesome views near the end of Petrified Forest NP, was much Badlands, but the color was truly red-tinted.

     I went on Route 40 East to New Mexico, then turned north on Route 491 towards the 4 corners.  I ended up (finally, at 10pm!) finding a hotel room in Farmington NM for the night.

Day 10 (Tuesday, June 6)
     I'm writing this from a campground at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, so you won't be reading it until probably Wednesday night.
     Today was a fun day -- although another squelcher, it got up to about 100 degrees in some areas.  I left St. George around 7:45am, went east on Route 9 through Zion National Park.  There were some gorgeous views here, although I balked at the $20 entrance fee as I was only going to be in the park about an hour.  But, the mile long tunnel made the price worth paying.  I always liked tunnels, but the second I got into this one I was plunged into almost total darkness, even with my headlights on -- it was scary!  I felt like I was on a ride in an amusement park :-)  After I realized my headlights were indeed working, after about 10 seconds I got some night vision back.  Every 1/10 mile or so (maybe more often) there was an opening in the side for light to pass through (thank goodness!), and sometimes it also afforded an awesome view, although I couldn't stop because the road was narrow and there was no pullover area. 

     I ended up back in Arizona after turning south on Route 89A towards the North rim of the Grand Canyon.  On the way there was a rise in elevation to 6700 ft, and a fantastic overlook called La Fevre, it was a view of the Vermilion Cliffs.

     On Route 67 South now, elevation went up to 6700 feet.  By the time I entered Grand Canyon Park we were at 8725 feet.  I paid $30 instead of the $25 fee to upgrade to a year's pass for all National parks (this included a credit from the Zion National Park from this morning).  I planned to visit 2 more national parks in the next few days, so figured this was a good deal.
     The North Rim ... Awesome!  I was there around midday, and it was hot and high up, and I didn't bring water from the car.  I had to pace myself going back from the 1/4 mile (guess) walk from the vista, which was a steep incline, but it was still worth it


    I exited and headed towards the south rim, but had to go North first to get back to the main road.  The south rim is 10 miles away, but 215 miles drive on the road.
     I went through the Vermilion Cliffs closeup now on Route 89 East, and there were more awesome views.  I'll upload them when I can.

     Turning South on 89, I went through the Painted Desert and Navaho Indian Nation.  Then, I turned westward into the South rim of Grand Canyon.  It got a bit late to do more than go to the first overlook (which, again, was awesome),
 so I drove to a campground in the park, where my doggies and I are now relaxing as the temperature cools down nicely.  It's supposed to get down to 40 degrees overnight so should be good sleeping weather.

Day nine (Monday, June 5)
     I left the hotel room in Rancho Cordova (about 10 minutes east of Sacramento) at little after 8am, I had to get my oil changed and there was a Jiffy Lube nearby that didn't open until 8am.  So, my long driving day didn't start until 9am.
     I traveled south on Route 99 to Bakersfield before heading east on routes 58 and then 15 towards the north rim of the Grand Canyon (where I'll visit on Tuesday).  I stopped for gas in Fresno, and the gas was $3.39/gallon!!  However, later I'd find an even more outrageous price (and had no choice, I wanted to gas up before hitting the desert area, didn't know when the next stop might be) in Baker.  This is in the "high desert", the Mojave Desert, just west of the Nevada border.  The price here was $3.69/gallon!

     Oh, and the heat...as soon as I started driving east on Route 58 the temperature rose, and the scenery turned to mountainous and desert.  The temperature in this area was 102.  I passed just north of Edwards Air Force Base, and while I didn't see anything, took a picture anyway :-)  This was a fire zone danger area - I passed by several fire trucks and lots of smoke as they had just put one out, and about an hour later saw a thin line of fire off near an exit.  It was just so hot and dry outside, the fires just flare up.

     I saw a road in the area named Zzyzx Rd.  How'd you like to live there?
     When I stopped in Baker to buy gas for an absorbidant amount, the temperature gage on a sign outside said 110...
     Not long after Route 15 went up in elevation from under 2000 feet to 4000 feet in about 15 miles.  I had my A/C on, and about halfway through noticed my car's temp gauge was up a little bit; hoping everything was ok, for the next 10 miles I alternated between turning the AC on and off (it got hot in the car quickly with it off, even with the windows open).  This did the trick of keeping the temp just above the center line, which is usually where it steadily stays.  As soon as we were done climbing I turned the AC on full and the temp held steady at the center line.  I checked the fluid level the next morning and barely an ounce was gone, so I guess this was totally normal.  Lots of people in that stretch had their windows open on their cars, so they were either crazy or were being nice to their cars, too.  I saw some cars on the side of the road in this area, presumably overheated.
     I passed into Nevada, and went through Las Vegas around 5:30pm.  Not a gambler, and not being at night, it wasn't that big of a deal.  I think at night it probably looks impressive.
     I went through a corner of Arizona on my way to the southern corner of Utah, where I planned to stay the night.  I passed through the Virgin River Canyon on I-15, which was beautiful - it was 7pm, so the setting sun cast a red glow on some of the mountains and valleys.

     I stopped in St. George Utah, now on Mountain time, to spend the night.

Day eight (Sunday, June 4)
    Well, this was it!  The last day.  Again, it was unbearably hot (high was above 90 again), but at least today there was a breeze to help you feel cooler when outside.  I had to run Snooker first thing today in the building -- there were no contacts, one 2 jump combo, and 3 curved tunnels close to each other (#3, 5, and 6 which was in the middle, and was only 8' long!).  Sandy was the second dog in (the 8" class ran first today in my rotation).  I planned a conservative course as I didn't know how fast she would be on day 3.  She ended up being fast and excited, so we had no problem; I did a 5, 6, and 3 in the opening, and made it to the table before the whistle blew.  I ran Budd y about 20 dogs later; I must've miscued him because after the first red jump he took another red jump out to the side.  Oh well!
     I had to wait about 3 hours before my next run, standard.  So, I had 3 hours to think about my blunder with Buddy :-)  Sandy was first dog on the line in std, so we had to wait awhile while they got set up.  She handled it well, I had wet her down as usual - we ran fine and got a Q. So did Buddy.
     Last class was Colors, one course had the teeter, and the other had no contacts at all but a nasty approach to the weave poles; I opted for the teeter course.  I probably should've run the no-contacts course with Sandy, as it took her at least 7 seconds to do the teeter, I think it was hot and she didn't want to move her feet!  Earlier in Std she slowed way down on top of the dogwalk, I think that was hot on her feet too.  She just barely made time, but all that counts is that she got the Q.  Buddy, on the other hand, had another wandering/distracted moment, then missed the weave pole entry; he ended up 4 seconds over time.
     I figured there must have been some dogs that ran clean all weekend, so we were out of it for HIT.
     About an hour later they were done calculating the results:

         Sandy got 4th place in Jackpot and 2nd place in Snooker!

         Sandy took high scoring All American, a nice glass plaque etched with the event date and award!

        Sandy also took 5th place in 12" games (overall for all 6 games, all levels combined for the 12" class, probably about 50 dogs in this class)

        There were 4 perfect weekends; 3 went to veteran dogs.

     I am very happy with how Sandy did - not bad for an 11-1/2 year old dog!  Despite the one non-Q, she really did run perfectly all weekend for me, no bobbles at all.  Buddy ran nice most of the weekend, just had a few oops moments.  But, he did his weave poles every time (other than the missed entry in Colors), which for him is awesome.

     I'm heading out tomorrow morning on my trip back home.  I'm going through the Grand Canyon, and will probably only be posting updates sporadically, but I'll continue my notes as often as I can on the trip home.

Day seven (Saturday, June 3)
     Another hot day - it got up to 93 today.  It wasn't as windy as yesterday, so I felt the heat more today.  My dogs did really well despite the heat.  In fact, I think they ran faster than yesterday!  I made sure to wet them and keep them out of the sun before each run, and Sandy wore a terricloth coat I soaked down before each run.  Plus, they had fans on them in the crating area in between runs.
     They ran Standard around 10am -- both ran clean, under time.  There were 2 dogwalks and no A-frame to perform, which made Sandy happy!  Second to run was Jumpers, around noontime, inside.  By now it was hot and stagnant air inside - the jumpers course was nice and flowing, with a serpentine at the start which required turning the dog away from 2 tunnels.  Both dogs ran this course nicely - and I thought Sandy ran this course faster than standard.  However, she came in 2 seconds over time, and you have to be clean in Level C, so she got her first NQ.  Buddy was just a fraction of a second under time.  You pretty much have to run clean at the nationals, so Sandy's shot at HIT was probably gone.
     Last in the day (and we were in the last group) was Jackpot.  It was traditional, with the difference being you needed only 20 points in the opening and could start the gamble before the whistle blew.  I did that with both dogs, as it was hot and the end of a long day, no need to keep them out there any longer than necessary!  Sandy got the gamble and Q, but I miscued Buddy slightly (not sure just what I did, I have to wait to look at the video to see what happened) and he didn't get the gamble.  Now each of my dogs is 5 for 6.  Oh well... they both ran very nicely for me today!

Day six (Friday, June 2)
     Check in for the nationals was early; I had to be on the road by 6:15 as it took 1/2 hour to get to the show site.  It was going to be a hot day, and I had put a crate, mat, and electric cords in a spot just inside the arena next to a power outlet last night, so was prepared.  The only thing I forgot was the string cheese, which I realized halfway to the site was in my refrigerator in the hotel room.  Oh well! 
     They had it set up similar to the USDAA Championships, with 6 groups.  Whatever group you were in you had all your dogs in, and only walked/ran with that group.  There were 3 runs today (std, wildcard, and fullhouse) in 4 rings, standard was in 2 rings at once.
     I ran wildcard first; Buddy wandered around a bit in between obstacles, I think he was out of sorts (he was more normal for his other runs today).  Sandy ran nicely, I thought pretty fast.  Both dogs did a tough little jump sequence nicely (which most people handled as a wrap, but I brought my dogs around the other way to give them a smoother path).  It was around 10am, and already hot out.  I just made time with both dogs, and suspect the times were set a little tighter than on a normal trial weekend, which makes sense.
     Next was standard; a nice course with several tricky sections.   It was now noon, and very hot, although luckily a breeze kept the heat manageable.  Both Sandy and Buddy ran clean, and again not much under time (Sandy about 2 sec under, and Buddy 8). I was pleased with both runs.
     Last, about 1/2 hour after standard, in the covered indoor dirt ring, we ran fullhouse.  Both dogs ran nicely, got enough points, and got to the table in time, so 2 more Q's.
     I was back to the hotel room by 4pm, and am going to catch up on sleep tonight :-)

Day five (Thursday, June 1)
After a short night, I got up early and was on the road by 6:30am.  I had forgotten about one more time change, from Mountain to Pacific time zones, and was pleased that it would mean I would get into the Sacramento area in time for check in, which was from 4-7pm.
     I saw more flat land, fields and cattle farms, with mountains in the far distance, in the morning.   I guessed the fields were potatoes, as that's what Idaho is famous for!

     I passed into Nevada, and the first town was Jackpot - fitting, as I was going to a CPE trial!  It was a gambling town, as seemed to be many others in Nevada, likeWells and later Reno and Sparks (Nevada seems to have cornered the market on gambling towns).  I was travelling on Route 93 South on the way to re-connecting with I-80.  The speed limit was 70 mph, and this wasn't a divided highway; every time a truck went in the other direction there was quite a wake behind him!  It was also windy, I believe the elevation was quite high.  And, it was hot too.
     A rest area not far into Nevada was apparently closed; but what I noticed was the sign at it saying "use of firearms at this area prohibited" - as if people would have to be told which rest areas they are permitted in ??!  Needless to say, I wasn't about to stop at any of these rest areas even if they were open!  And, about 1/4 mile after this closed rest area was another road sign, "report highway shootings by dialing...".  Yikes!  That's the result of all of these gambling towns, I guess.
     The landscape was flat, with craggy (bushes/dirt/rocks), straight roads, mountains at right (west) and ahead (south).  At a rest stop after reconnecting with I-80 westbound, I let the dogs out.  It was very hot, stifling, and Sandy didn't even want to walk, I guess her feet hurt from the hot ground/dirt.  The mountains in the distance didn't really look any higher than my current elevation.  It felt like we were on top of the world, there were several small towns for about a 60 mile stretch, in between there was desolate landscape with mountains in the distance.
     The other interesting thing about Nevada was that there were even mini-casinos at the rest stops!  Also, I saw 2 prisons in this area - I guess the high isolated region lent itself well to this.
     I went through Donner Summit into California - striking scenery here.

    Then I descended to 2000 feet in the next 10 miles or so, and then onward to Sacramento.  Unfortunately, however, I arrived just east of Sacramento on Thursday afternoon at 5pm, right in rush hour!  I got to the show site by 6:30, and was settled in my hotel room by 8pm.

Day three (Tuesday, May 30)
     I'm putting this in on Wednesday, as I have a story to tell about Tuesday and the reason I couldn't get online to post my trip update.  So, therefore, I am posting Tuesday above Wednesday.
     The day started off fine, I left the Kennebec South Dakota campground at 6:45am.  I enjoyed hearing the interesting mix of music played on local radio stations (many old tunes, some I've never heard before, mixed with current stuff, but mostly old country tunes).  I saw billboards for places I wish I could go to visit but had no time to on this trip, like: De Smet (a huge Laura Ingalls Wilder museum and homestead), the Badlands, and the Black Hills.  Well, I decided to go through the Badlands after seeing the amazing view in the distance.  It was well worth it, amazing red jagged rock formations rising up out of the prairie. I was glad I took the extra 2 hours or so to take this detour!   I'll put pictures up from my digital camera when I have time either Thursday or Friday night.

     I next visited Mt. Rushmore, and the friend that told me that she wasn't that impressed with it was right.  Mainly, she said it wouldn't take long to see-- I skipped the parking part and drove by twice to get a picture, then stopped about a mile later on to get a profile view photo.  The roads in the area were very hilly, switchbacks and such, and I could smell the brakes/melted rubber after getting to the bottom of one hill!     After leaving Mt. Rushmore area, the rain started coming down. I had planned on going to Custer State Park, just south, next to see Buffalo, and started on the road.  It was 20 miles, and not open to trucks or RV's, and there were numerous notices of the road being closed in winter, no winter maintenance, etc.  It had an extremely steep grade, plus several 180 degree turns to 1 way tunnels!  About 7 miles into it, with more than 10 to go and it still pouring out, plus I smelled that my brakes were already heating up, I decided to quit the attempt and continue on westward.  I was disappointed at not getting to see Buffalo.

     Driving into Wyoming I was greeted with a big road sign reading "Wyoming Welcomes You".  They also have a 75 mph speed limit on I-90, as well as 65 mph on main state roads (like our local Route 20, 22, etc)
     I was on my way to Devil's Tower now, another slight detour I had planned into the trip.  It was worth seeing, very impressive, although a bit off the beaten path.  I was thrilled to see dozens of Prairie Dogs, and got several pictures - they are so cute!

     In this area (near the Big Horn Mountain range) all the roads have signs noting closures if the light is flashing due to winter conditions, and barriers/gates that can drop down to block the road entrance.  I'm guessing the roads are closed often in the winter.
     There was a storm that I kept trying to get West of (that I first experienced at Mr. Rushmore), that was obvious to predict as you could see at least 50 miles in each direction and the sky was very telling as to where it was storming/sunny/etc.  Also of note, as well as the rock formations (like at the Badlands) being reddish in color, the roadways had a good deal of red tint to them as well -- I guess they mix the dirt in with the macadam?
     Now, the harrowing end to my Tuesday: I was behind schedule, and was trying to get as far as possible before overnighting - I drove past Sheridan, decided to go a little farther, not realizing at the time that I was next going through the Big Horn Mountains.  This would've been fine, except that about halfway up the steep grade my  van's temperature gage started rising (it was a very scenic drive, btw, but I wasn't concentrating on that at the time!). 


 Despite my best efforts to not overuse the engine, turn the heat on, etc, it kept climbing.  I turned the heat up a notch, which brought the needled down a bit, then it started to go up again, then I cranked the heat some more.  Finally I had no more options, and watched the needle get very close to the top, and I thought I was close to the summit of the road but wasn't sure.  I then saw a sign for a visitor's center, just as the engine light came on.  I limped into the parking lot at 7:45pm, it had closed for the night.  I walked and fed the dogs while I waited for the engine to cool off.  The pay phone inside was busted, and I was at 8200 ft, no cell phone signal, yikes!  I checked the water level, and thought it was ok -- I didn't check the radiator itself, just the side reservoir.  After almost an hour I tried again, the temperature almost immediately rose.  I almost turned back to the visitor's center to spend the night and wait for the workers to come in in the morning (and knew it would be a cold night, that high up, it was already pretty cold!), and saw a sign for lodge/resort 1/2 mile ahead.  Again I limped there.  They had rooms, and accepted dogs!  The lady there said they had maintenance people that could look at the van in the morning -- as we were in the middle of nowhere, at the summit, there was no town for at least 15 miles, so this was welcome news!
     Still, I went to bed with not much hope of being able to continue on my trip.  After thinking about it, I was sure the problem was either a bad temperature sensor or busted fan, and thought either this would take a day or more to fix, or wouldn't be possible since I wasn't in a town.  Thoughts swirled through my head of how I was going to get home, get the dogs and my stuff into a rental vehicle, etc!
     BTW, the room was very nice, the air crisp and cold, and satellite TV in the room.  It was called Bear Lodge Resort, and the only negative thing was no phones in the room (plus no cell phone service up there) - I didn't even bother to bring my computer into the room!


Day four (Wednesday, May 31)
     Good news!  The maintenance guy (who used to live in Montpelier VT until 4 years ago!), found that the only problem with my van was that the radiator coolant was just about empty.  No clue why it was drained so completely -- sure, I did some demanding driving on Tuesday, but still, to drain a whole radiator without a leak present?  Anyway, I now carry 2 containers of radiator coolant, plus (of course) water. 
     Interesting side story: there was an old Aussie/BC mix there named Gus, who was a neat dog, really friendly.  He once fended off a bear that was trying to attack one of the family members.  The owner also told me that some local folks (a town about 20 miles away) hold dog agility trials, and she would like to get involved with it too.  Even at 8200 feet you can play agility :-)
     I saw some nice scenery going down Big Horn Mountain (and my van temperature held nice and steady while I held my breath and watched it).

     I traveled West across the state to Yellowstone National Park.  I had lost a couple of hours, but decided that since I had planned my route to take me through the park, it would take too much effort to change the route now, so I decided to visit the park.  I'm glad I did, even though I ended up spending 2 hours there than I planned to (mainly because it took awhile to get from one section of the park to another).  One thing I was thrilled to see, especially since I didn't yesterday, was lots of buffalo (called "Clinton" ? Bison), in one case blocking the road.  I have some really close up pictures of them (all from the safety of my car).   I felt bad for my dogs, as I was pretty sure they weren't allowed in the park (even on leash), so they had to stay in the crates in the car for about 4-1/2 hours.  Luckily it wasn't a hot day, so that wasn't a worry for me.

     I passed through the Teton National park next, and was treated to more awesome views.  Again, I'll post some on here when I get a chance.   Also I saw the Snake River, winding back and forth (and which, for some reason, I passed over several times later tonight while driving!)

     Now I am getting back to I-80 (I'm to the north right now, am heading south to pick it up tomorrow morning).  I went through Teton Pass, Route 22 west over the border from Wyoming to Idaho.  The car behaved very well through this steep grade up, over, and back down the other side.  After a lot of driving to find a hotel (somehow I never found the section of Idaho Falls where the hotels were located, so went to the next major town, Pocatello), I'm finally in for the night!  Tomorrow I finish the trip and can rest for 3 days and just run my dogs in agility :-)

Day two (Monday, May 29)
     I started out at 6:30 am to make up for the previous day's late start.   Today I went through the states of Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, and South Dakota.  I finished up at a KOA (with wireless internet, that's how I'm uploading this!) in Kennebec.  I took I-80 all the way to Sioux City, Iowa, where I turned north on Route 29, then West on I-90 (because tomorrow I am going to see Mt. Rushmore and Yellowstone Park).
     I traveled an incredible 914 miles today!  It helped that I had an extra hour with the time change to central time in the Chicago area, just about 1/2 hour after starting out this morning.
     Along the way today I experienced the following:
  -- a small Iowa farm town (I needed gas, so got off at the exit and drove across the railroad tracks, between narrow streets with cross streets with stop signs, all lined with small 50's or older looking shops and buildings -- no McDonald's or WalMart here!

  -- way too many dead deer on the side of the road - I counted at least 6, plus a couple that had been run over a few too many times
  -- not enough time to check it out, but I at least drove the "Lewis and Clark highway", Route 29, which follows the Missouri River.  About 1/2 hour East of Kennebec, there was a rest stop with scenic overlook, which looked down at the Missouri River and it's bridges, and there was a plaque commemorating Lewis and Clark, too.

  -- lots of beef cattle!
  -- 75 mph speed limit in South Dakota, when there wasn't construction slowing it back down again
  -- billboards all over Route 29 and I-90 in South Dakota, for the tourists, in 50's style, way too many to look at while driving!

Day one (Sunday, May 28)
    After getting a late start from New Lebanon (which I knew would happen on Saturday night, as 11pm came and I wasn't near ready to leave first thing in the morning!), I had an uneventful first day of driving.  With the late start, my planned overnight stop at a state park campground just south of Chicago (in Indiana) was changed to a stay in a Red Roof Inn about an hour east of there, in Elkhart Indiana.
     I travelled through the states of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and lastly into Indiana.  I went 746 miles.
     Nothing unusual to point out in terms of scenery/sightseeing, as it was all familiar to me from past trips.