Letters From a Bus
August 2007: Sidetracked
2nd entry for August
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We Drive Through Wyoming and Visit in Ogden, UT

Ogden, UT, Day Three at Century RV Park, Carriage Lane, #80

Monday, August 13, 2007 — We've lived in our bus for three months.

We moved to Cherry Creek State Park on Sunday and on Monday 8/6 we were able to rest and hang out and enjoy our new location.  This park is brand new and still under construction.  I thought it was beautiful and by far the best RV Park we’ve stayed in so far.  It was quiet and private and very pretty.  We couldn't sit outside too much because once again we had thunderstorms but I still enjoyed our location very much.  The rain stopped in the early morning so we took advantage and went with the dogs for a nice long walk over to Cherry Creek Lake.  Our one hour walk was very pretty and very enjoyable both for us and our dogs.  I enjoyed the cool breeze and the comfortable temperatures.

The lake is artificial but it really adds to the area.  They’ve brought in sand and created a beach for children and families. There's a kid's play area and people use the lake for water skiing.  In the early morning no one was on the beach but the ducks and geese.  It was a lovely nature site for them.  There are also man-made bayous and creeks adjacent to the lake with ducks and geese.  We saw hares and I’m sure there is other wildlife also enjoying this park. 

Cherry Creek Lake — 8/6/07 — Denver, CO

Our morning walk from our camp site down to the lake beach and along the perimeter was delightful. We stopped at the beach, where dogs were forbidden, (rightly so) and then walked along the edge over to some side bayous and ponds and then up the hill where we stumbled on a big group picnic area. Geese were cleaning up what humans did not.

After a week in Denver we left on Tuesday for an easy drive north to Cheyenne, WY.  We arrived about noon at AB Camping RV Park.  This privately owned campground is a marvel of efficiency and organization.  The staff is very visible, helpful and friendly.  If I were going to own and operate an RV park I would go back to AB Camping to study their methods!

I reserved a space over the phone a few hours before we arrived.  (They reserved with a CC which is unusual.) When we pulled in a young man in a golf cart met us.  Talking to Dennis through his driver window he asked our name and then hopped into his cart and led us to our campsite, a pull-thru.  Then he leaped out and waved Dennis in and motioned for when he should stop.  (This saved us our usual worry of finding our site and not making a wrong turn while manuevering sixty feet.) We never had to get out of the bus to register and we went up to the office more than an hour later to do the formalities. 

Later we went out to find the post office and grab a bite to eat.  When we got back we noticed a big puddle of water running down the gravel lane.  Then we found we had no water turned on in the bus.  Dennis went to the utilities bay and found our water turned off.  He had left his water control on the dial to fill the tank with water and didn’t turn it to city water (that delivers water as needed).  An attendant saw the overflow leakage and turned it off for us.  After we returned he came by and knocked on our door and asked if we knew the water had been turned off.  We apologized for the trouble and he laughed saying, “It happens all the time.” 

The weather in Cheyenne was beautiful.  There was a stiff breeze and it wasn’t too hot.  We were treated to that classic sky — blue-blue with lots of puffy white clouds.  I think Montana coined the term “Big Sky” but you could apply it equally to Wyoming.  We were parked at the end of the row and we had a little plot of grass under a tree.  We even had flowers in a big round planter. 

Above: Our camp spot at AB Camping.

Left: Blue skies and a beautiful day in Cheyenne as seen from our little plot of grass.

Right: A very cute utility building with knobby wooden poles at AB Camping.

We brought out our chairs and settled down with the dogs to enjoy the beautiful day.  There was little traffic so the dogs found no excuse to bark at passing people and dogs.  Clever me.  I figured out a way to suspend the extended dog leashes so that the dogs wouldn’t get tangled.  I didn’t lock the extension mechanism but left it open so that it would be able to pull out or reel back in as the dog moved about.  I suspended one over the handle by the door of the bus and I suspended the other over a low limb from the tree.  The handle of the leash would pull up off the ground as the dog pulled away and it would drop back to ground as the dog approached.  Also the line would reel in and out.  The dogs were happy and we felt relaxed and content.  I was very proud of my “invention” and wished once more that I’d taken physics. (If the leash can extend, why does the handle pull up?)

But then a couple came around the corner with a boxer dog and all hell broke loose.  Margot went tearing towards the boxer, barking and growling.  She ripped the leash handle off the tree limb.  Dennis had fallen asleep and came awake trying to hang onto the leash cord.  As you know if you’ve used an extended leash, the cord can rip your hand to shreds.  It did.  Dennis got two big cuts on his hand in thanks for trying to save Margot’s foolish neck.  The people stopped while we got the dogs under control (Rudi was merely barking, not charging) and then retreated back from whence they came.  Dennis, startled awake and wounded, was furious with Margot and yanked her onto the bus where he followed to repair his hand.  Oh how I wish Margot were better behaved — less nervous and insecure.  She needs lots more exercise than we are able to give her with this lifestyle.

Dennis fell asleep with Margot on his lap. He is holding the extended leash cord to take the tension off her collar. The owners of the boxer approached on the road behind Dennis and startled us. Margot leaped towards the boxer and Dennis burned his hands pulling on the cord.
I was so proud that I rigged the extended leashes so that the dogs could move about and not get tangled. Margot's green leash handle hangs near the ground by the tree trunk. She is nearby and not putting tension on it. It is slung over a branch and her cord is on an acute angle — the black line across the upper part of the bus. Rudi's red handle is threaded through the bus handle and it hangs near the bus wheel above the ground. Rudi has moved away and is putting tension on it. His cord is on a wide angle — the gray line stretching across the lower part of the bus. — AB Camping, 8/8/07

The folks at AB Camping have made every effort to decorate and landscape and make their campground appealing.  It is clean and immaculate and pretty.  There is a sense of constant vigilence with several young men in golf carts always at the ready. There were signs everywhere reminding dog owners to pick up after their dogs poop — or else! (County Ordinance.) In most campgrounds I see men and women pick up after their little dogs. But rarely or never do we see people pick up after a large dog. Here, over my morning coffee, I was treated to the comedy of watching men and women try to juggle large bags flying in the wind as they squat to pick up after their large dogs. Clearly they had not established a daily habit and had no efficient system. OK, I admit, as one of the virtuous, I got a kick out of this.

AB Camping even has a BBQ food wagon.  For lunch or dinner you go to the window and order baby back ribs or some other beef/pork BBQ delicacy.  You can sit at the picnic table there to eat or take it back to your RV.  It came with beans and applesauce and they also had slices of pie!  Of course we took advantage of this for dinner.

We planned to leave the next morning but we developed a technical problem that delayed us into mid-morning.  After that we lost our momentum and decided to stay for an extra day.  The technical problem was serious but silly — one of the many small things that can go wrong and that take up lots of time to solve.  This time Dennis scrubbed the toilet bowl and caused the ball at the bottom of the bowl to swing down and stay down.  Usually it swings down when you flush and then it swings up again to hold water in the bowl. 

We had to call a Tiffin Motorhome techie to help us and he gave us the wrong directions because he thought we had one brand of"commode" and we had another brand so we couldn’t find the wires and the fuse that he was directing us to find.  He hung up to go find instructions for our brand.  While we waited Dennis went out to buy replacement fuses (20 amp) and then he found our operating instructions and figured out the problem.  There is a tiny lever in the back of the toilet.  To clean, you put it on manual and then return it to auto.  Because Dennis didn’t, he blew a fuse.  He put it on manual, replaced the fuse and put it on auto.  Voila!  The ball swung up and the bowl filled with water.  This lesson cost us two hours of time.  How many other lessons are lurking on our path — waiting for our next mistake?  Many, I fear.

Here I must pause to reflect not on a silly problem but on a tragic accident. My friend Dyanne and her husband spend half the year in their bus. She wrote to tell me about full-timers, Karen and Gary Swaim, who lost their home and business, a motorhome, in an instant due to a fire. Their story is here: www.swaimquest.com   There is an index when you get to the site and you click on information about the fire. I was horrified and moved to tears when I read their journal. They aren't sure what caused it but Dennis says an electric fire that starts in the engine can spread quickly and you can't necessarily prevent or predict such an event. As a result I've made a mental evacuation list and we plan to put in more and larger fire extinguishers in our bus. LIST — If one smells smoke while traveling: Put on shoes. Take purse and jacket and dogs (already on leashes) and remove from bus. Tie dogs to something. Return and unplug LaCie backup disk from my computer and grab Dennis's laptop and remove these. Meanwhile Dennis tries to put out the fire. I pray this possibility will never come to pass.

Here's a little problem that those of you in your sixties may relate to:  Dennis and I have difficulty seeing small things.  Dennis found the commode fuse and we both held it up in a good light and peered at it to see if the tiny wire was broken and black.  We concluded it was.

In fact, while I’m on the subject of sight, I’ve noticed another odd thing that happens to me on the bus.  I see apparitions that aren’t there.  No, I don’t think I’m going crazy — not yet.  I believe it’s because of all the windows and the constantly changing scenery outside the windows and the always-unaccustomed patterns of light and shadow.  I usually interpret these as parts of a person — a head or shoulder but also various animals or a plant or furniture. For example this morning I pulled back the windshield curtains on the driver's side. The slide face has two hooks and Dennis's hat hangs from the top hook. I thought I saw a large wall clock. I think I should take up painting again because I get lots of great images — but it’s only for a flash until I readjust my impression and see the shadow or curtain or chair or reflection in the window.  It doesn’t frighten me but it is very odd and new.  Never used to happen to me in my home.  Perhaps it's the glaucoma. Three times a day I walk around with smeery vision in my left eye for half an hour after I put in a drop of Azopt. Anyway, I’m trying to take advantage of this phenomenon on a spiritual, awareness level. Why a grandfather clock?

In Cheyenne, the GPS on our Honda also went on the fritz.  We found a Honda dealer and a technician took a look.  He opened the disk drive and took out the disk.  It has a scratch worn around the outside edge.  We decided it is the disk drive causing the problem and we can’t have that fixed until we can stay in town somewhere long enough to order a new one and have it installed.  So we decided to wait until we got to Ogden to see about it.  Meanwhile, we have no handy maps and friendly voice to guide us around a strange town.  How soon we get used to these conveniences — and how soon they become necessities!  With the help of an old fashioned paper map I played the role of the GPS voice guide and got us to Capitol City Stadium on Pershing Blvd where we took in a late afternoon movie, our first since Huntsville almost three months ago.  We saw “Hairspray” with John Travolta and this was a fun diversion. What with one thing and another, we really didn't see the tourist locations in Cheyenne. Next time.

A dun colored flat plateau with blue skies and puffy white clouds took up most of the I-80 scenery in southern Wyoming.
This couple passed us on a motorcycle pulling their camping supplies. Dennis said the driver was taking it easy on cruise control. (Speed limit 75 but we hold to 62-64.) She was reading a book. How nonchalant! Rudi didn't like the jouncy rough roads so he got on my lap. I ride with my feet up on the dashboard and knees bent. Rudi hooks his head over my knees and stares out the window. After a very bad bump he gives Dennis an accusing look.
On Thursday we made an easy drive on I-80 westward across Wyoming.  The sky retained that amazing blue and we went through a few scenic gorges but most of the landscape was high chaparral and looked fairly desolate.  It was flat with dun and soft green colors.  It is very empty.  In terms of density, Wyoming ranks 50th in population.  We saw a sign for the town of Buford that claimed to be the smallest town in the USA with a population of 1 — one person.  This was food for thought.  What if someone else wants to live there?  I glimpsed a gift shop and fuel station as we flashed by. Supposedly the proprietor can’t even be married or his/her claim to fame will be ruined.  I worried about that as we drove along....

We stayed in Green River, Wyoming at Tex’s Travel Camp.  This campground was OK.  There wasn’t a lot of space and the nearby freeway was noisy.  But the wind didn’t encourage one to want to sit outside anyway.  The worst part was no Internet.  Our router runs off of a cell phone card.  Apparently there are not enough cell phone towers around Green River and cell phones get priority over routers.

In a few places the plateau yielded to high stratified cliffs.
Above left: Dennis sets up at Tex's Travel Camp. We share our little patch of lawn and tree with the neighbor's hookups. Above right: Forward on our patch of ground we share a picnic table placed by the road next to the garbage bin but not near the camp stove. No thank you. Left: I'm up with the dawn and get to see the sunrise and Right: the garbage collection truck.

We went into the town of Green River to eat and found a big old western type of restaurant attached to the Red Feather Inn.  The Krazy Moose Restaurant (with attached bar) has large interior rooms with wood walls, no windows, booths and tables.  Wood table carvings, a moose head and the skin of some large animal decorate the walls.  Fake fir trees and Christmas decorations were still up.  Might as well.  They needed the extra ambience provided by the strings of Christmas lights.  While we sat in a no-smoking booth and ate hamburgers in splendid late-afternoon isolation, we listened to a meeting being conducted behind a sliding door that separated half of the room.  Female voices of the proprietor and staff were discussing methods for handling the Sunday brunch rush.  I never knew it was so complicated….

Towards the end of our meal I was overcome with allergies and a sneezing fit.  The belief that you can separate smokers and non-smokers from one room to another is a game of semantics not grounded in reality.  Our very pretty young waitress noticed my discomfort and agreed with me that the smell of smoke was bad and that she didn’t like the exposure either.  Turned out she is a college student (where?) and she said that her Wyoming campus volunteered to be a non-smoking environment.  She said she wants to be an FBI law enforcement agent!  Oh my.  Well, we left her a good tip.

At the Utah Welcome Center we parked to go in for maps and tourist info. I took this photo when we came out because I thought it was funny to se all those cars piled up next to our bus. (Mitsubishi autos) 8/10/07

On Friday we made another short and easy drive down the awesome Weber Canyon to Ogden, Utah.  Dennis grew up on the slopes of Ben Lomond, on a farm in Pleasant View above Ogden.  We are in Century Mobile Homes & RV Park off of I-84 & I—15 at 21st St. (Hwy 104 or Wilson Lane).  It’s the only RV Park anywhere near town (Ogden) and it is far from ideal.  It is just below the freeway, which is clogged up at the exit by construction.  It is located next to a cement plant and there is the smell of tar every morning because it is also next to an asphalt plant.  It is a large park and there are a lot of mobile homes and RVs crammed into it. 

We paid for a week and then drove to our assigned site: #3 on Century Lane.  We found ourselves facing the camp dump with dumpster lids open behind a white fence.  Towering over our bus was a red neon sign advertising the camp.  I was not pleased: noisy, smelly, crowded, and an ugly view.

After getting situated we called Dennis’s older sister, Lila Shaw.  Lila and her husband, Blair, lived on a farm in the beautiful valley of Liberty just above Ogden.  They raised three boys and two girls.  They were married for 63 years!  Lila lost Blair last January and that is when we were last here in a very different, cold and snowy Ogden.  Lila, 85, lives in a mobile home in nearby Roy so we hopped into the Honda and went over to see her.  She is one of my favorite people because she is so lively and funny and sincere.  She is a short bundle of energy but tends to be stout and has back problems.  Now she is enrolled in a class for exercises in a pool and she says she feels much better.  She’s lost weight too.

Lila took us out to dinner and led us down 1900 W, a broad boulevard to Main St. in Layton where she introduced us to my new favorite restaurant, McGrath’s Fish House.  I had a delicious trout dinner and this is the best seafood I’ve had since St. Augustine, FL.  McGrath’s had ambience and excellent food and I loved it.  I want to go back!
Our Allegro Bus under camp sign & facing the dumps.
Dinner at McGrath's Fish House with Dennis's sister, Lila Shaw. Lila's daughter, Myrna, lives with her husband, Roger Pettengill in San Jose, CA very near our homebase and we see them often and also Lila when she comes to visit. Layton, UT, 8/10/07
On Saturday I woke early as usual and sat, as usual, in my passenger chair with a cup of coffee to survey the new morning scene through the windshield.  My view that morning was of the dumps and I resolved that this could not go on all week.  Later, we drove around the park and discovered some pretty sites towards the back, away from the entrance highway.  The sites are located near permanent mobile homes and feature cement pads, lawns, picnic tables and lovely tall trees.  This is more like a neighborhood situated between paved roads, Surrey and Carriage Lanes.  I went to speak to management and asked if someone might be leaving and if so, if we could move.  Amber was agreeable and asked us to wait until after the checkout deadline of eleven.  We did and then made another exploratory excursion.  #80 was empty, a very desirable location.  We spoke to Amber, paid an extra dollar per day for the luxury of a cement pad and moved the bus.  The location is a bit quieter and much prettier. 

NOTE: Don't forget to click on Window Views, above, for a visual summary of our bedroom and windshield views at each campsite.

This was my view over coffee at site #3 for our first morning at Century RV. Ogden, UT 8/11/07 We moved to site #80 at the far end of the park. Trees and lawn are a big improvement. Ogden, UT 8/11/07

In the afternoon we drove up Ogden Canyon towards Huntsville to visit Dennis’s oldest son, Bart, who lives up the canyon in a fifth wheel with his wife, Char, during the summer months.  They are parked next to a mobile home owned by Char’s parents in a mountain campground where many people stay all summer.  It is located six miles past Pineview Reservoir where we saw Anderson Cove Campground, a spacious park with level sites by the lake.  Up Hwy 39, Bart is situated at S 10450 E in a private campground, Ogden Eagles Aerie 2472.  As a member, Bart tells us that the cost to park there for the summer is $800 or probably less than ten dollars a day — quite a bargain.  We spent the afternoon sitting under the shade provided by a tree and the awning from Bart’s fifth wheel.  It was very hot but sometimes we got a refreshing breeze to cool us off. 

We sat in lawn chairs visiting with Bart and Char, her mom, and Susan’s grandson, nine-year-old Jacob.  Some girlfriends of Char also dropped by with their children and joined us briefly.  I brought the dogs and after they settled in I let Jay throw a ball in the meadow for first Rudi and then Margot.  After that Margot had to be kept on a leash but I let Rudi stay free.  With the tennis ball firmly clamped in his mouth he retired to his shady lair under the fifth wheel.

Later we all walked down the dirt lanes between RVs to a little stream that turned out to be the South Fork Ogden River. It descends from the Causey Reservoir, through Weber County Memorial Park above and all the way westward down to the Pineview Reservoir. Some well-placed stones created a bit of a beach and pool where a few children were playing.  Back on leashes, I let Rudi and Margot go in and they got to cool off with a nice refreshing swim.  I cooled off by wading in after them.  That was great but unfortunately the hours of sitting outside in the heat caught up with me and I came home at five with a bad headache.  I settled for a fruit juice dinner and went to bed.

Apparitions: I looked out the window, saw this, and thought, "Wow. Big Ben." Nope. It's a cement plant in the distance. That's a raised trash bin lid in the foreground.
Bart and Char in front of their fifth wheel at Ogden Eagles Trailer Park. Below: Char's mom, Susan, and Bart standing in front of his black truck and the fifth wheel. That's our gray Honda parked to the right. 8/11/07
Char's nephew, Jay, gives Rudi a ball and they become best buddies. Mother and daughter — the two couples are camped on the edge of a meadow.
Two girlfriends drop by with their kids to visit Char. After they leave, we walk down the campground roads to look at the creek.
This pretty creek flows down to the resevoir. The girls say they are digging in the mud for worms — to go fishing? Their dad suggests they make a sand castle. Rudi, Margot and I wade out into the pool beyond the log. Jay helps me to walk Rudi back to camp. Below: Some of the sites have a permanent look with decorations such as these carvings. Ogden Eagles Trailer Park, Huntsville, UT, 8/11/07
Saturday, August 11, 2007 was the 38th birthday of my son, Jeff Parry. I called and talked to him on Friday and I hoped he would receive my card by Saturday. His dad planned to take him out to lunch on Sunday in Santa Cruz together with his brother Chris. I was thinking about Jeff all day Saturday. Jeff's birthday coincides with the Perseid meteor showers. These "typically fast and bright meteors radiate from a point in the constellation Perseus" and can always be seen around 8/11-13. http://www.earthsky.org/article/2007-meteors   Jeff always makes a point of seeing them on his birthday. I decided I would do the same.

I woke Sunday morning about two and snuck out of our bedroom and into our living area with my robe and slippers. Leaving the dogs in the bedroom I closed both the bedroom and the kitchen sliding doors. My goal was not to disturb the dogs who would surely bark and raise the dead if they heard me. Remember that comedy routine? "Slowly I crept, step-by-step..." That was me. The latch on the bus door pulls out. It is heavy and makes a loud clunk. I've never tried to open it quietly before. I sat on the steps and experimented and somehow succeeded in getting the door open without waking the dogs. It was a warm night and dark with no moon. I felt nearly invisible in my long black robe. Stepping carefully so as not to disturb so much as one crackling leaf, I walked out to the road and stared up at patches of sky through the trees. Finally I settled on the picnic table near our bus and watched and waited. It was too bad this night landed at a time when we are in a city next to freeway lights. But I could see lots of stars so despite my smeery vision I felt hopeful. I stayed out until 3:00 AM and I managed to see two faint and one distinct shooting stars. I felt very successful — not only for seeing the meteors but for having ventured outside to attempt to see them! I used to get up and go out into my private moonlit garden quite often. But I haven't tried to do so in a campground. I'm a scardy-cat.

On Sunday day we rested and hung out around the bus. Sunday evening Dennis's nephew, Kevin Christianson, drove up from Salt Lake City to see us. He is the son of Dennis's sister, Marian Schwary. He came to see our bus and then we went out to dinner.

Speaking of meteors, for me Kevin is like a shining light. You know how it is when you meet a stranger and you connect immediately because you seem to be on the same wave length? I've met Kevin only three times but he is one of my favorite people. He is about the same age as my son. It is such a treat to be able to spend time with this smart, witty and talented young man.

Kevin works as a computer programmer by day and as an entertainer by night. He styles himself as a musical ch@meleon and he plays piano and sings in a variety of venues around Salt Lake City. (He also plays ukulele, blues harmonica and accordion.) http://www.pianomanslc.com  

But I love Kevin because we have a similar sense of humor and sensibilities. Although he has survived some very tough blows, he retains a delightfully lighthearted and irreverent outlook on life. He is warmhearted and we shared a lot of laughs. He gives us energy and he makes me feel young and clever. What more could one ask for from a dinner companion? We had a lovely evening.

The Pianoman spent Sunday morning entertaining at a private party and Sunday afternoon laying down a laminate hardwood floor in his kitchen. In the evening he drove half an hour to meet us, see our bus and then go out to dinner. He looks like he's ready to relax. 11/12/07 Ogden, UT
On Monday we plan to be tourists. We will meet Bart and Char here at our bus and then the four of us will drive north to Brigham City and then up the Logan Canyon to Bear Lake. At the lake, Kevin tells us that we must try the local speciality — a raspberry shake. We must also buy raspberry jam. I look forward to it.
Elsa Walton, Carriage Lane, #80, Century Mobile Homes & RV Park, Ogden, UT, Monday, August 13, 2007