We skim the surface at Devil’s Tower, Deadwood, Southern Wyoming, Northeastern Colorado and finally hit pay dirt at Moab, Utah after a rainstorm.
I’ve been Madame Navigator for this trip. I read maps very well and have a good sense of direction. I can also memorize landmarks even if I’ve only been there once so it’s not easy for me to get lost. Because of this, Marty drives the rig and I’m happy to let him do it. What if we encounter a kerfuffle along the highway? I trust him to handle the kerfuffle. So, Marty has been Monsieur Pilot. This is a good division of labor but it has not made for an abundance of good will. For one, Marty will ask me for the same clarification over and over after I have already told him. This gets me frustrated and then I get tense and my voice broadcasts this irritation loud and clear when I answer. After many failures I have figured out what sequence he needs the direction to be in. Destination, followed by mileage, followed by direction of turn. Repeated twice in a loud voice. Sometimes this works, sometimes this doesn’t. But we muddle through.
Preamble: I’m shorting you on the description of our trip from Black Hills to Arches because as it turns out Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park are in a word – spectacular. Don’t miss it. Don’t even be late.
Wednesday Sept 2nd
The day before we leave Connor Battlefield State Historic Site in Ranchester WY it’s hot and windy. At dusk it goes from clear to thick-with-smoke in about 5 minutes. There’s a wildfire someplace very close. Because I’m bored I say let’s go find it. We’ve got the headlights on because the smoke is so thick and we chase the fire trucks but don’t catch them. We don’t find where it’s coming from and by the time we get back to camp the smoke is already gone.
Thursday Sept 3rd
We leave Ranchester and head to a Forest Service camp that’s close to Devil’s Tower and the Black Hills. We go to Devil’s Tower as it’s still early enough in the day. Amazing.
Friday Sept 4th
Deadwood today is really the same Deadwood as it was in the beginning. A modernized version of the original camp without the gold mining. All Gambling. Eating. Drinking. I didn’t see whore houses. Maybe they’re there. Maybe they aren’t.
Saturday Sept 5th
Saturday is re-supply day. We buy groceries and meds. Then we stay in camp and read and surf the web because it’s hot. We do research on campgrounds where we are headed. As the day cools I reorganize our stuff. We have so much stuff we are not using.
Sunday Sept 6th
Bad, cold, rainy weather is coming tomorrow. Supposed to get down to 26 and snow. We head south to Ryan campground near Saratoga WY which is our first stop on the way to Utah. We’re racing ahead of the storm. We can see it in the rearview mirror almost so we better hurry.
Monday Sept 7th
I really like the beautiful country south of Saratoga. There’s a sweet little town called Encampment WY. Their Trading Post – filling station, grocery store, bakery smells nice. I could live here.
Further on we pass over the continental divide.
Our next camp on the way to Utah is Cobbetts Lake campground outside of Cedaredge, CO but it’s a long, long uphill grind and we smell the motor over heating so we stop and turn around. Luckily we’re self-sufficient so we can stay anywhere we feel safe and can turn the rig around. It’s getting late and we find a flat area next to a creek pullout in a sandstone canyon near I-70 and Grand Junction. That night a man pulls up, frantic. He’s running out of gas and his cell phone has no bars. He doesn’t know what to do. We pull out the paper map to prove that to continue driving up the road is fruitless. He should turn around and go back. Old fashioned still works and actually works better sometimes.
Tuesday Sept 8th
The day the camping world stood still.
I make a big mistake. We drive through a lot of rain to get to Moab and when we arrive it’s dry. We pull into our spectacular first-choice camp site Goose Island on the Colorado River just outside of Moab but it’s full so we go on to the next but it’s too far and we don’t want a repeat of yesterday, so we go back to the first camp. We see a spot that seems to be empty and the guy next door says, “Those people packed up this morning. It was raining and I think they left early.” So even though there’s a receipt for the previous campers still attached to the post we pull in. Marty is leery. He says since it’s raining and we can’t do anything anyway let’s stay and do stuff in the trailer in case they come back. We have a quiet afternoon and even make dinner but at 7 p.m. here they come in their painted up rental van and we have to leave.
Where to go? We drive south mulling over our non-existent options. Up ahead there’s a KOA. Shoot! Those guys are usually very, very expensive and they’re probably full but we pull in anyway not expecting them to have an opening but they have one and it’s $110! Teeth grinding. Hair pulling. Banging of heads.
We take it. What can we do?
It’s getting dark and there’s the looming certainty of not finding anything else. Bad Renee. It was me that advocated moving into the people’s site. I was going on this rationale: every Forest Service camp we have been in so far ALWAYS has sites that people reserve and then don’t show up or they leave early. What I didn’t take into consideration was that this Moab is a very popular place. I should have known by all the traffic. Lesson learned.
Wednesday Sept 9th
We get up early at KOA and go back to Goose Island to look at all the reserved tags. Who is leaving today? We ask someone, “Are you leaving today?” We find two camps that are leaving and we take one. Badda bing! Problem solved! Now we have a base. We can unhitch and go sightseeing. Thank ya, Jesus!
That afternoon the Gods of Travel reward our “suffering” with a spectacular drive through Arches. It rains off and on today which is beyond welcome to me.