Route 66 and Grand Canyon Road Trip Part Three

June 01, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Sunday May 16th, 2021 Day 9 (351 miles today)

Well, I lost a sock doing laundry last night, but it was still in the dryer when I went back this morning to look for it! Happy day! Awoke in Woody Mountain to a glorious day. We were saddened to see that our neighbors Jim and Patty packed it up last night and left sometime in the middle of the night. Assume that there was an issue with one of the kids, as they were booked through the 19th at this campground. We wish them well in their travels.

 

Mel has developed a nagging cough that we think may have something to do with the elevation. So we are re-thinking our plans. Either way, its Grand Canyon Day and we are beyond excited. It’s been a long tough trip out here but so so worth it. Fairly early start today, we want to try an grab one of the few RV parking spaces in the 1st lot near the visitors center as we think this will position us nicely for good views while working the wheelchair. We took Rt 64 up from I40 into the South Rim Entrance (North rim just opened yesterday we hear). Small traffic back up (10 mins) getting into the park, but we got to utilize. our annual pass for entry the 2nd time this trip (Petrified Forest and Painted Desert too). We arrived to the lot to find a few open RV spots so we were pumped. This made a world of difference. Next option would have been the next park in area up the road, which would require a shuttle to any sights. (Turns out most of the shuttles weren’t running so this could have been a big issue!)

 

Well we wheeled right up the South Rim and oh my goodness. Tough to take it all in with the tear stained eyes. Very emotional experience for all of us, so we just took it in for a little bit. Once we composed ourselves, we took a little jaunt down the accessible South Rim trail where we found some beautiful spots to shoot some pics and appreciate the beauty and magnitude of this view.


 


 

We made our way to the conservancy shop for some postcards, then found a picnic table to relax. KD ran back to the RV and whipped up a quick lunch for us and we ate in the beautiful sun.

 

Over lunch we decided to give up our GC Campers Village reservation tonight in hopes of getting a little ahead of the driving. So we packed it up after three hours in the park and began our trek back east. Boo! The driving is still very windy, KD took the wheel to give Scott a little break and we made a push to get back to Gallup NM, USA RV Park for the night (again). Nothing great here, but the place worked for us and there really isn’t much else in the area. Looking forward to campfire night again soon! Likely wont have lower elevation until after Albuquerque, so that will be some time tomorrow.

Easy check-in at USA RV Park, just about the same spot we were in two nights ago! Did a little mapping out tonight, and it looks like we could retrace our exact steps home and be back Sunday evening. Was hoping for a Saturday arrival but that will require some serious pushing. Speaking of that, we were talking to a fellow traveler the other day who was headed East. He asked how bad our head winds were and I mentioned that I hadn’t really noticed, other than the crosswinds we have been experiencing since Texas. Now, on our return East, I am noticing that we had tremendous headwinds headed West. Bob (our newly renamed RV - “Bucket ‘O Bolts” would shake rattle and roll over 70-75. When cruise control worked, 72 was actually a pretty decent ride. Now that we are headed East, I couldn’t believe it when I looked down at the speedometer today and it read 85! She was driving like a dream (minus cruise control of course). The tail wind we have now is really pushing us along very nicely. Maybe we can try for a few more miles each day in hopes of knocking off a day? Since the ride was so smooth today, we are going to see if Mel will try the bed in the back while traveling. When Karen had the wheel today, I went in back for a few mins and it wasn’t too bad. We’ll see how it goes. Early to bed tonight, let’s get after it tomorrow.


 

Trying to retrace some of Dad's steps:

 

NOPE:

Grand Canyon Camper Village
549 Camper Village Lane
Tusayan, AZ 86023

YEP:
USA RV Park
2925 W Historic Hwy 66
Gallup, NM 87301

So nice we did it twice!

 

Monday May 17th, 2021 Day 10 (517 Miles!)

 

With the tough cough Mel has acquired we wanted to put some miles behind us in search of some lower elevation. Fueled up and hit the open road. We encountered some pretty crazy weather in Albuquerque, which included a tornado warning. The winds really started to pick up (more than the usual in these parts) and Bob wasn’t taking too kindly to it so we pulled off for a short break to check the weather. Pulled into a Walgreens lot and the winds really started to pick up quickly, flying tumbleweeds everywhere! Got out to run inside for some cough medicine and the side door to Bob fly open and crushed the door stop, chalk another injury up to Bob! Tornado warning quickly expired but the t-storm stayed up for a bit. Looks like we had a short window so we hit the road. Wasn’t too bad until the hail started up! I’d say pea sized but it was hitting hard! Rolling across the pavement when it hit, was a little worried it’d break the windshield but Bob actually took this one pretty well. Slowed down substantially and it  passed, but I had those dark stormy skies in the rear view all afternoon.

We were shooting for Amarillo today but seemed to be making good time so we pushed a little extra. Starting to see some familiar sights we passed on the way out, but we had forgotten about Potter Texas. Oh my..... will research this now. BRB. Sounds like this is the HolTex cattle hide processing plant. But another article describes the communities east of Amarillo being choked with fecal dust from nearby feed lots. (Fun fact, cattle outnumber the people in the panhandle 40-1. Made me wonder Cow Tipping Fake or Really Fake? 

Ok back on track, check this out:

“Though Brorman grazes 80 or so cattle on his land in Hereford, Deaf Smith’s county seat, the animals he’s currently staring down aren’t his. They’re held by Southwest Feedyard, one of the oldest cattle feedlots in the county. This place holds 45,000 head of cattle in bare-dirt pens for months at a time, fattening the animals on flaked corn before sending them to slaughter. It’s part of a vast constellation of feeding operations that dot the western Panhandle, which accounts for one-fifth of the entire U.S. beef supply. If you’ve ever eaten a hamburger, there’s a good chance the meat came from here”

"Something in the Air" Texas Observer

Well that explains that, holy smokes, it nausea inducing! Worse than the paper-mill stench we would encounter on our trips to Sea Island, just outside Jacksonville I believe?

Made it Shamrock Texas, the Texas Route 66 RV Park where we were checked in by Crystal and John, a married couple who owns this little roadside gem. Crystal, 60’s in jeans and checkered shirt long hair in a pony tail, and her husband John, boots, jeans, plaid shirt, long hair in a pony tail. Very very nice couple, chatted about the prospects of a good looking summer for them, and of course the weather. Crystal and Jim were keeping a close eye on this storm behind us, but weren’t too concerned. They did point out the newly renovated and/or created tornado/storm shelters as part of my RV park orientation. Two below ground and one above. Considering those traveling in Bob, and our site location, she suggested the above ground shelter should our phones emit the tornado warning. Oh my! Well we were guided to our site and we quickly set up for the night. I went and shot some photos with the new tripod, some long exposures of I-40 and RV park sign. Lightning all around us is quite impressive. The storm rolled though, presumably the same one from Albuquerque, and thank goodness it seems to be just missing us. Quite a light show and some thunder, and then a little rain. Radar indicated that this system should be past us by 3am or so, hoping for another good day of driving and making up some time. Oh, while out shooting photos, I chatted John up a little more. He said they haven’t had to use the shelters yet, but probably could have this time last year when a tornado came though. No damage here but worth noting that they do happen and it best to be prepared. He said just a few chairs and lights in each shelter, which they redid last year. Pretty clear that these are close to new. See pics! Might ask for a quick tour in the morning if John isn’t too busy. I get the impression he’s be psyched to show them off.

Hillbilly speedbump count is 1 today, been missing these little fellas!

Nothing to do outside in this weather so to bed it is. Golly the rain is coming down now with great thunder.  I said to Karen “Open up the rear shade in the bedroom to see the rain pouring off the billboard outside” I hear a louder than usual “click” of something, assuming the shade is going up but wait, there’s an emerg... “Wait, don’t pop open the emergency escape window!” Crisis averted in time, there’s two latches on the rear escape window.

The rain is really coming down.

 

Texas Route 66 RV Park
15580 I-40
Shamrock, TX 79079

 

 

Tuesday May 18th, 2021 Day 11 (sol 10.68) 421 miles today.

 

We must have needed the rest because we all slept in a little bit at Crystal and Johns! A little behind but that’s ok, got some fuel and hit the road. 1st goal marker today is a BBQ joint Karen found in The Book. This one has been knocking it out of the park for good, staple Route 66 food. “Road Food” by Jane and Michael Stern. Crushing it!

Three hours to Van’s BBQ in Shawnee Missouri, a local road gave a little glimpse into Shawnee days, and it ain’t much. Seems to be a theme on a lot of our side ventures and its kind of sad. This pandemic seems to have hurt a lot of these businesses and one can only imagine how people are managing.

Vans Pig Stand is a group of 5 restaurants in the Oklahoma City area with its original on E Highland St in Shawnee. On approach we had a quick fear of the restaurant not being open, as it wan’t much to look at from the outside. Luckily there were a few cars parked out back so we slid Bob off the secondary road and rolled Mel into good old piece of Oklahoma’s best. (IMO). We were greeted by Keith, a portly fellow with a happy toothless grin and an eagerness to get us some good grub. “Sit anywhere you’d like, order at the counter and I’ll bring it to ya”. Mel not being a fan of spicy food caught Keiths ear and they hit it off. He finally talked her into the Vanized Potato, basically a twice baked with bacon and lots of butter. Karen went with the pork sandwich and a side of beans, and Scott went with a two meat platter (some chicken for Mel) pork, beans and slaw, which was some of the best I’ve ever had, slightly sweet, and very creamy. All absolutely delicious with a fine selection of sauces. North Carolina vinegar was good as was the sweet and smoky. We got a rib on the side also, which was delicious. Keith let us know he was going on a two hr break so we slipped him a 20 which he really seemed to appreciate. He wished us well on our journey, he seems like a great guy. I couldn’t help but notice how good Karen’s sandwich looked, there was a little part of me that was thinking of grabbing couple more ribs, but that buttery roll, piled with delicious moist pulled pork and some sauce. Yea, Ill grab a sandwich. It’s only $6.05. This’d be $15 back home. Big jug of sweet tea and I’m surprised I’m alive to blog tonight. Chatted up a fellow who came in and sat with his wife. I overheard him saying hello to friend who was seated across the restaurant. I heard them both talking about the fact that no one wants to work these days, and finding help has become a real challenge.  I asked what he did and he said he operated/owned the Sonic next door. Said he could easily hire the next nine people that came in the door. He spoke of how great business has been (surprisingly) but he’s had issues with his team and getting the job done with so few workers. Very interesting perspective. He politely asked about our journey and wished a safe ride back east. Very kind souls around, but all seem to be hurting a little, in some form or fashion.


 

 

With our sodas and teas refilled and hit the road, for a 3 and 1/2 trip to the Big Red Barn RV Park, another gem we found on a list of ‘best of’s’ for RV sites down Rt 66. We could have easily done another hour north to Springfield but this campground looked great and we called in a reservation and paid up. No worries, with some good planning the next few days, we might be home by Saturday. It fun getting off the road and chatting up some locals though. So much to see and do but its a tough balance with getting the RV back on time and getting back to wor...

A few road thoughts on the ride to Red Barn, I’m reminded of the show American pickers. It’s truly amazing the stuff that folks collect and surround themselves with. What a great show, and it seems that their visits are limitless, in each part of this country. Seeing lots of trucks and store fronts with ‘Hobby Lobby’, need to look this place up BRB. Ahhh, more home goods and arts & crafts. Not model trains, rockets and models. Oh well.

Arrived to the Big Red Barn RV park, office was closed but an envelope awaited us on the front door. When I spoke with Kim making the reservation, she made it sound like she was really squeezing us in and had to double check to be sure she had an opening. Thankfully she did. Upon arrival, all of the sites up front were vacant (sites 1-8) We got site 8 and its very nice with our own fire pit and full hook ups. Seems that the vacationer and multi-day folks are kept in the back. Parked on a gravel site and decided we’d empty the tanks. No problems encountered at all and it went very smoothly. Had an ok fire in the pit but the free wood on site wasn’t great. Soggy birch and a little wet made for a smokey fire, but we’re happy that we’re back in some not-too-dry-you-can’t-have-a-fire campgrounds.

IMG_4149.HEICIMG_4149.HEIC

Looks like we may be waking up to some rain the morning. We’re in search of fuel, propane, and oil change and a Walmart visit. Propane looks to be available here at the Big Red barn but may be only filling 20lb tanks. Not sure they can hook directly to our RV. We’ll ask in the morning. Don’t want to run out of propane as that’s our heat. Looks to be a low of 66 tonight so we should be ok. Got 1/4 tank left but want to be ahead of it. Oil change should be interesting...maybe while Mel hits a Walmart I’ll work on that situation. Knock on wood, cruise control worked all day today so I didn’t want to give up the wheel. KD will take over for a bit tomorrow though. This Ford issue (advanced traction system) seems to be ok for now. Will likely hold off on that visit. If it gets bad again, we may try for the battery disconnect/reset first.

Looking for Indianapolis tomorrow, let’s see how we do, Walmart and oil change may interrupt that a bit.

Big Red Barn RV Park
13625 Elm Road
Carthage, MO 64836

 

Wednesday May 19, 2021 Day 12  (413 miles)

 

Fairly uneventful day of driving Bob. Plan was to gas up the propane but we had already loaded everyone up for the day so it didn’t make sense to unload again. Our first McDonald’s breakfast and a full fuel up. Next stop was Walmart in Sullivan, Missouri for some essentials. This was also a good time to try and get the oil change done. Visited a number of places in Sullivan, but many were too busy or didn’t have a bay big enough. Express Valvoline did the trick. Even though their bay wasn’t tall enough, they said they'd do it outside for an extra $20. Turns out they did it right in line but it wasn’t easy. Bob seems pretty low to the ground and Clyde’s gut wasn’t cooperating on the crawler, which he quickly ditched for a little more gut to frame clearance. Still got dirty as hell but he got it done in no time.

12 feet.. IMG_4161.HEICIMG_4161.HEIC

Clearly went above and beyond, and I appreciated his effort.  He helped back me out of line and off I went to grab the ladies, whom I had dropped off at Walmart to grab some things. Back on the highway, 44 to 70 east today. We landed just west of Terre Haute and Indianapolis at another KOA, this one in Casey, Illinois. Small park and very few people here. It seems the campground is just plopped down between huge farm fields. Soybean and corn, apparently. Kathy and Glenn are the site hosts and it seems we interrupted their dinner with our arrival, grilled cheese and tomato soup. Kathy gave me the scoop and Glenn led us to our site, number 16. The campground is soaking wet but we managed to get a smokey fire going which of course always seems to directly find Mel. Just some light snacks and drinks before calling it a day. A nice couple from Falmouth MA saw us pull in and they swung by to say hello, Sally and Mike on a little road trip to Kansas City and Indianapolis following some race car action. I got to talking about Bob and Mike said “they’re all like that, somethings wrong if you aren’t finding screws everywhere!”

 

KOA Casey
1248 E 1250th Rd
Casey, IL 62420




 

Thursday May 20th, 2021 day 13 (Sol 12.62) 420 miles today.

 

Woke up to a significant gnat situation at this farm/campground. The entire left side of Bob is covered in these gnats and they’re swarming right next to the drivers door. Glenn hooked us up with propane, left the ladies with the gnats for ten minutes while we accomplished that task. All good. As I was paying for the propane, I couldn’t help but notice a printed guide to local attractions. Interestingly, Casey, Illinois happens to be home to a significant number of “worlds largest” awards and titles:

In search of big things...

 

After a quick breakfast, we took a spin and opted for some photos of the worlds largest rocking chair, worlds largest wind chime, world largest barber pole, and the worlds largest mailbox!! Hysterical!

 

Onwards! Some fuel and the highway! Long day of driving back northeast, KD took over for a bit as we passed through Indianapolis, Columbus and Akron today. I’m glad the hillbilly speedbump count is no longer a factor, lot of work counting those little fellas! She did a stellar job of getting to White House Chicken in Baberton, OH, another ‘Road Food’ gem.

Once again, nothing much to look at from the outside, but I’m starting to think that the worse it looks, the better the food is! I ran in ahead for a quick advance team assessment. Stair up the front door indicate some accessibility issues so I inquired about wheelchair access. Hostess said “I’ll meet you out back, come in through the kitchen”. Okey Dokey! Went out, grabbed Mel and Karen and around back we go. Not sketchy at all! I pushed the temporary ramp into placed and started backing into the kitchen when I got a ‘whoa whoa, you can’t come in here!!’ I had clearly interrupted a chicken coating session lol, but a quick grab of the manager and we were permitted to proceed. We may have observed some significant fried chicken trade secrets! Into the mostly quiet restaurant we go and settled at a good table in the main dining room? Anyways, we all opted for the regular white plate which was a breast and full wing, along with three sides. We all needed some green in our lives today so green beans for everyone, fries, mashed, applesauce, hot rice and (after a lengthy discussion about vinegar based vs creamy) cole slaw, which was vinegar based and a little sweet, but not how we normally like our slaw. Lol! Delicious chicken, hot rice was interesting, basically a small bowl of hot sauce with some rice in it. Maybe to dunk some of the chicken? Undecided on that side.... Abbey was great and made sure we had a great dinner. Sweet tea pretty good. After the fiasco of our entry, we were advised to please use the side door, which was actually much more accessible. Was able to pull Bob right in the back lot so it work out well.

Onwards to another KOA, tonight in Streetsboro Ohio. It was past closing time for our arrival, the loss of an hour again headed back east has us a little later than usual. But on 1st glance, this appears to be a 5 star operation. When I called and let them know we’d be in after hours, they happily offered to drop two bundles of purchased wood at our site. Found our slip for the night and backed Bob in. There appears to be a mix of overnighters and folks set up for the summer with full gardens in front of their rigs. Saw a few ponds on the way in, can’t wait to see what the place looks like in the morning. Recent reviews talked about significant mud issues and RV’s getting stuck but a few days of warm temps and dry air have really helped things, apparently. Appears to be the best KOA of the trip so far! Plan for breakfast at the site tomorrow, easy roll onto Syracuse. Going to hit a Whole Foods for a repeat of our shrimp dinner for our last supper tomorrow. I think we have a good campground picked out. Cuban cigar rounded out the night nicely by the fire!

Streetsboro/Cleveland KOA Holiday
187 OH-303
Streetsboro, OH 44241

 



 


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