Or, you can go to the posting for September 21st (click here) and then click on the Newer Posts button in the lower left and then work upwards from there one posting at a time (there are about 350) by clicking on the Newer Posts button..
Of you go to the first page of the blog and then click on the Older Posts button in the lower right of the long page until you get to the September 2` entry and then reading the page from bottom to top, and then clicking on the Newer Posts button and repeating this until you arrive here.
I also hope to get around to writing up my six expeditions in Alaska and Russia in the 90s, and reconstructed blogs for the first three road trips in 2000, 2001, and 2002.
Finally, I hope to start some serious planning for a trip this year starting next week. My ambitious self tells me that I should do a trip that encompasses the outline of all my trips, that is, from DC to the end of the road in Labrador, across Canada to the Arctic Ocean in Canada and then in Alaska, and then back home again by way of the West Coast, the southwestern states, and finally the southeastern states, which I have not yet visited. I set out to do something like this once before in 2011, but my plans got interrupted so we had to head back home. That having been said, the rational me says that that would probably be overdoing it, and so I will probably settle for something less ambitious but more rational. Of course, what I would really like to do is to head back to Russia to take that long-postponed road trip across Siberia from Vladivostok to Saint Petersburg, but under the present circumstances, I don't think that would be a good idea. I hate torture.
November 10, 2018….Because I am transitioning to use my trip blogs also as my journals, and because these trips do not really end when I pull into my garage, as I did last night, I will be posting my post-trip notes on a separate blog <OTR9X.blogspot.com> so that I do not detract from the OTR9 trip blog itself. I will also use that blog to start the planning for the next road trip, whenever that is to occur. That blog is accessible from the link in the right column, at the top. The only new postings I intend to make on this blog will be the summary of the trip, which I will post in a few days, and the unveiling of Donner’s official portrait, as explained on a link to the right also, although there might be others. The OTR9X blog is public, although some if not all of the postings might not make sense to many.
Two years ago, after the challenges we faced on that journey, i vowed to get me, Donner and the Defender on the road again for another journey, and we did. More important, the journey was a success because we all made it back home safely.
As i drove the last 200 miles back from West Virginia today in foul weather (heavy rain, high winds, and lots of thick fog, but no trucks or dark),i kept thinking about what made thiscp particular journey so great. The one thought that kept coming to me was not the utterly fantastic natural beauty we experienced, or tenting in incredibly beautiful places every night, or the daily challenges we faced, but the people. What great people i met on this journey. And Donner thinks the same about all the dogs he met, more than 100.
I will write up a summary of the trip in the next few days and post it here, right now, i have a lot of unloading to do.
I hope those of you who followed my blog got some vicarious joy from my trip.
Ed and Donner, who is anxious to get home.
After a good night's sleep at our cozy bivouac at the Motel 6 in Columbus, a good decision on my part, the day started off tame enough. When i walked outside to the Defender in my night clothes to check to see if i had left the gas cap off yesterday, which might explain my red "check engine" light staring at me (I did not), i noticed an unususl number of vehicles scattered about the parking lot, and an equally unusual number of men (and maybe women) about, mostly dressed in black, some wearing balaclavas, and some breaking into the vehicles near me. My first thought was that It was cold, but not that cold to warrant balaclavas, let alone break unto vehicles. My next thought was, Ah, so this is how it ends. I could see the headlines of the first page of the local paper - "Man Traveling with his Dog...." - and then the nice obituary in the back of the same paper - "Man Travejing with his Dog....."
Most sensible people would have darted back inside, locked their door, snd called 911 to report suspicious activity. I darted back inside, not to seek refuge, but to get dressed so i could return to the action in progress to have something interesting to report on my blog. After dressing for the occasion, i returned to the Defender, pretending to be loading it. More men dressed in black were now in evidence, and the number of scattered vehicles increased too. But i assumed a sense of relief -or was it fear? - when i spotted the letters P O L I C E on the backs and skeeves of some of the balaclava–clad men (and maybe women), and the letters D E A on others, and then was almost convinced something was going down. Then, when a gentleman in fatigues came up behind me, outfitted in the fanciest get-ready-for-battle body armor and other such regalia, including one of those big firearms usually carried by Arnold Schwarzenegger in his Terminator roles, i was fully convinced something was going on, unless i was catching the tail end of an extended Halloween party. Since i felt safe to be surrounded by such firepower,but curious about what was happening, i decided to use my humor to find out what was going on, so i said to Arnold, I hope you guys aren't after that rot-gut pipe tobacco i bought yesterday. To his credit, he smiled and said something like, Just a little morning incident we are tending to. Instead of tending to the business at hand, he fired (Oops, poor choice of words) some questions atbme about my rig, until his equally outfitted-for-battle supervisor, the one with raw meat stains on his teeth, barked some order to him, which sent Arnold quickly fleeing away my comfort zone into harm's way.
Donner, whom i had loaded into the Defender, was a witness to the bringing down of the perp in a peaceful manner. And so, all the balaclava-clad men and women got into their vehicles and exited the scene, leaving me behind with Donner and my rot-gut pipe tobacco.
And so, we moved eastward on our journey, but only after a stop at Petsmart for some treats for Donner and a resupply stop at the nearby Walmart for our last days. What would we do without Walmart?
After resuppling, i had to make a decision. Do i head for DC today, or do i stop in between at one of two cabins i knew of in West Virginia for a final layover before the final leg home, and if the latter, which one, Cheat River Lodge in Elkins , or the other one near Frostburg in western Marylsnd.
I will pass on explaining the rationale of my decision to select the Cheat River cabin, where i last stayed in 1995 with a Russian friend when we attended a Land Rover rally in my new Defender. I called the lodge, and the owner, Roxy, said they had a cabin available and that dogs were permittef. She owns a black German shepherd herself who does search and rescue work. I reserved a cabin for two nights to give me one whole day to get through some of my post-trip writings before i get home. Knowing how those back roads of West Virginia can be problematic, i punched Cheat River Lodge into both My Garmin and Google Maps.
The trip from Columbus Ohio eastward was not partcilsfly memorable driving on the interstates. In fact, the main reason i do not like the stretch of highway from Kansas to DC is that it is all interstate, usually crowded, especially with trucks, and so there is simply no time or opportunity to enjoy the drive. But when the road today turned into meandering US 50,the same road i abandoned 2000 miles back near Ely Nevada to take in the Grand Canyon and that could take me almost to my front door, the drive turned into gently rollings hills with trees decked out in their beautiful late-fall wardrobe. I had forgotten how beautiful this part of the country is. In fact, get off the interstates and travel the back roads and every place in the country has its own unique beauty. The next time i travel across this beautiful land of ours, I will take route. 50 or 64 the whole way and enjoy the entire ride.
Dark set in right on cue, at 530. There was no enjoyment driving in the dark the rest of the way to Cheat River. In fact, that drive, especially the last five miles to my canin, has now moved into the number 1 place on my list of "challenging" drives not only on this trip but ever, and it had some tough competition.
Eventually, after my Garmin and Google Maps led me astray, i found my cabin for the night. My God, what a setting it is. A fantastic log cabin situated at the end of a remote dirt road amidst a forest of poplar trees right on the river' edge. I would have sent this posting last night, however, I spent a good deal of time enjoying some wine while sitting in the hot tub on the partially covered deck outside, staring at the star-filled heavens above in the cold night air. If I had tried to imagine a perfect setting for ending this fantastic journey, I never would have come up with anything like this. In retrospect, what I should have done is rented this place for 50 days and written a best– seller novel about a fictitious journey of a man on the road with his dog and Defender. If any reader of this blog lives within 250 miles of this place, you should add at least one long stay here to your bucket list. It is really quite nice.
Ed and Donner, from a fantastic oasis in West Virginia.
- to do list for when i get home
- review of this trip, i.e., what to do or not to do for next trip
- summary of trip
- rationalize my own life, i.e., apply lessons learned from this trip
Drove from Terre Haute to Indianapolis. East drive in good weather.
Decided to visit my lovely ex-wife, Connie, who lived just two miles from where I closed the loop on this trip. Symbolic. My intended-one-hour visit morphed into three, so, after restocking from Connie's cupboard and pantry, we got on our way, deciding to forfeit my ritual visit to James Dean's hometown of Fairmount.
Decided to make time on the road and head to Columbus instead of camping in John Bryan State Park, where we camped on Day 2. Making time on the road is more important now than another night of tenting. Driving I-70 in the day was a charm compared to last night. Even driving it in the dark for two hours was welcome.
Ended up at a convenient Motel 6 in Columbus. Donner went right for the big dog bed they put out for him and did not move the entire night.
Tomorrow, we can go straight home to DC, or i can hang out for two days at one of two cabins in West Virginia i like to unwind from my trips. I will decide in the morning. This will give true meaning to my playing, Take Me Hime, Country Road.
Ed and Donner
My pesky check engine light came on during the drive today. I looked closely to make sure it did not say CHUCK ENGINE, as happened on OTR-8 on the Alaska highway. Lucky me that this happened 420 miles from home and not 5000 like in 2016.
The 455 mile drive from Perry Lake, Kansas, to Indiana was terrible. Heavy rain the whole time, accompanied by high winds. Truck after truck after truck on the highway, too, worse at night. Hit the rush hour in St. Louis right on target. Then, night fell at 530 and i still had five hours to go in the dark. All this on a strange road with road construction zones reducing traffic to one lane running for 10 or more miles. oh, and a windshield wiper that nevervworked so hard before that it would frequently stop in mid cycle for a few seconds, and then carry on. The supposed-six hour trip took 12 hours. Worst drive of my life. I guess this is the price i have to pay to reenter civilization.Had i suspected this, i would have split the trip into two.
Decided to camp in a motel in Terre Haute tonight to make time tomorrow on the road.
Photo is of Donner (behind the two black containers) eating his dinner, which i made for him on the road in heavy rain.
On my way to Terre Haute now. Weather has been just foul for almost 200 miles so far. See photo. Another day, another challenge. Need to decide in two hours where to bivouac tonight.
The 345-mile drive to the Topeka area was actually quite pleasant. Interstate 70 from Denver eastward is a straight shot. And driving through Kansas is actually quite a contrast to many other drives. The rest stops are quite nice, and marked well in advance so you can plan, there are a sufficient number of services at occasional exits, and the scenery, albeit agricultural farmland for the most part, is quite pleading. I have taken this route three or four times already and do not remember that it was so pleasant.
Our goal for the night was to reach Perry Kake, just north of Topeka, where Erde and I spent a memorable evening back in 2014, the only campers in the park and perhaps on the lake. That may be because we actually couldn't find the campground, and bivouacked in a lovely spot right on the lake that I think was supposed to be a picnic area.
As I got closer to Topeka, I checked the weather for tomorrow and there is a 100% chance of rain in the morning just about the time we will be getting up. I debated whether to for go camping out tonight because of the rain tomorrow and checked the availability of a room in a nearby Motel 6. But then I tossed aside my plans to spend the evening in the motel by choosing the more difficult path, which is what I'm generally disposed to do, so we headed to Perry Lake, hoping to find the camp this time since we still have some daylight with us.
Both Garmin and Google Maps directed me into the same area that I drove into four years ago and I still couldn't find the park. The first sign told me that I was entering the park. Then, 2 miles up the winding park road, without having seen any signs of a campground, another side announced – you are now leaving the park. I drove on and passed the same bivouac spot where Erde and I camped alone four years ago and saw that that spot was obliterated over for some reason. So, we drove on into the park or whatever it is we are in.
Just as the sun set I came to a wonderful verdant peninsula with a huge picnic pavilion. Since there was no sign of any civilian life anywhere in any direction, I parked the Defender right next to the pavilion, and set up camp. This way, when the rain does come, I will have the pavilion to flee to, to help me break camp in a way so that nothing gets wet, including Donner.
The setting of this site is absolutely idyllic. Perry Lake, a reservoir actually, managed by the Army Corps of Engineers, surrounds us in about 260°. There are no sounds whatsoever. It is total silence here, except for a few ducks who happened by. Right now, millions and millions of stars are shining brightly above us, despite Topeka's presence only 20 miles or so to the south. Around the lake on the other side I can see only a dozen lights. We are completely alone here and have the entire park to ourselves. Only one vehicle passed through the park in the three hours we have been here so far, and I don't expect anyone will be visiting for the rest of the night. If I wanted to create a setting for the last night of this trip as a memorable one, this is precisely the setting I would describe. To get a feeling for where we are, I am showing the geographical coordinates below.
Tomorrow, I hope the break camp before the rains come and head to Indiana, where after 45 days, we will finally close the loop on this trip. That is, if all goes well. And Tuesday, I hope to have lunch somewhere off interstate 70 with my ex-wife, Connie, who lives not far from Indianapolis.
Ed and Donner from lovely, peaceful, empty Perry Lake in Kansas.
If I had notjust come from the fantastic settings where I spent the last 42 days, the drive from Glenwood Canyon to Denver would have been extraordinary. Interstate 70 weaves in an out of the Rockies, canyons, rivers, on what has to be one of the prettiest drives in the country. But also, one of the most treacherous drive. Just as we were leaving Glenwood Canyon, I the light rain changed to a light snow. As we drove out to Denver cover 138 miles away, the snow intensified. By about Mile 30, it was getting serious. For one long stretch, it was almost blizzard-like conditions. Welcome to I-70 at this time of year here. As soon as I had the opportunity, i pulled the Defender off at an exit, locked the differentials and put the vehicle in lo gear, and the road, with Its twists and turns, I ascents and decents, was a lot easier to take.
I stopped off in Denver for a couple of hours to visit a college and grad school class, Bob Kolesik, and his wife Dorothy. At one time, I figured out that on trips like this I come within 250 miles of probably 85% of the population of the United States, so it really isn't going out of my way to visit old friends.
I got on the road to Goodland Kansas at 3:30. Originally, I had planned to stay at the Goodland KOA, but it closed on October 31. If I cannot find another campground near there, or depending upon the weather, I will probably stay at a Motel 6 which is right off the highway. The adventurous part of this trip has ended, at least the part that I can control.
The drive from Denver to Goodland Kansas is a pretty straight shot. So, I did not mind driving half of it in the dark. When we arrived at 7:30, there were no other campgrounds that I could see, so I checked into a Motel 6 for the first time. While the accommodations are modest, it more than served my purpose. The good news is that I don't have to call around and ask Motel 6 if they take pets because they always do. Needless to say, Donner made himself right at home on the nice big dog bed they provided in the room for him. In fact, it was the only bed, and Donnertreated it like it is alone.
It saddens me to think that this trip is coming to an end. However, I think it's time to put the tent away, make my way home, and reflect on how I should change my life as a result of this experience over the last 44 days. I think it's changed already.
By the way, this leg of the trip is the worst part of all my trips, traveling from Denver to home. Not only am I inclined to make haste to get home, but the scenery is far less interesting than everything I've experienced up until now. And I will encounter more cities over the next four days than I have on the entire previous 43 days. Many of the camps are closed. And the weather usually is worse than in the rest of the country. However, I have no choice but to move on, and I will tent where I can, but seek bivouac in refuge in cozier, more convenient places if that is consistent with my goal of getting us home safely and quickly.
Ed and Donner from Kansas
An hour after leaving the park, we jumped onto I-70, the last road that will take us home. Fortunately, no incident like 2016 happened this time.
Since i got a late start, i was not confident we would make it to Denver today, so at 4, i started looking for a place to bivouac for the night. Chris, my tenting neighbor at Arches recommended Glenwood Canyon, tenting on the Colorado River. When we pulled in there at 430, clouds were forming, a wind was picking up, and the temperature was getting colder. Add to that the time i heeded to do my laundry tonight and my desire to put in a full day of driving on the road tomorrow, and si i opted for a camper's rustic cabin for the night, only $10 more thar the campsite on the Colorado River i was planning to get.
Tomorrow, i have to decide whether to see some friends and then stay in Denver overnight, or make it as far east as i can on the road. If i do the latter, i will be home in one week. the truth is, as fantastic as this journey was - still is - it is tine to bring it to a fast end.
Ed and Donner, sound asleep in the nice big dog bed he thinks that they put out for him here.
Below...it almost looks man made, doesn't it?
As soon as we left the lodge, we passed Bears Ears National Monument, the one Trump wants to scale back. This entire highway 191 is just one national treasure after another. Hundreds of miles of awesome beauty.
Although i was not optimistic that i would find a site at the Arches campground, i drove the 18 miles through the surreal park to see. Although the sign at the entrance said "campground full," i found one site (17) open, so i settled in, and was rewarded for my persistence.
You can look up yourself what Arches is all about, so i will not spend time trying to describe it anymore than to say that it is a huge collection of the strangest rock formations i ever saw. Imagine a shape, and you will find it here. You can easily identify many of the shapes with persons, places or things. At times, some of them are so representative of man-made objects that you think they were made by man. Besides the rock formations, the valley itself is a marvel to behold.
What a view from out campsite. Just when i thought i could not do better. At night, we traded the marvelous high desert view for a brilliant display of millions and millions of heavenly bodies.
My site neighbor, Chris, the consummate tent traveller, invited a few of his fellow travelers to his site in the evening for a big fire and some wine. Donner and i graciously accepted. For perhaps what may be our last night of tenting, it was quite a treat. Paul and Kim from the Netherlands told us about their three-month journey over here; Nurissa from Tennessee explained how she is using this trip to forge a plan for a future life of adventure; LeeAnn explained how she has been living and plans to live permanently traveling on the road. A great gathering of fellow travelers to share stories and friendship in a beautiful setting.
Tomorrow, finally, we get on the road home.
Ed and Donner from Arches camp in Moab Utah
Tomorrow i will head for 70 and on at its end, home. I think.
So, losting and photos for day 41 coming later. On my way towards Denver now,
I woke up again at seven, which seems to be set in my brain as the time to get up regardless of the appearance of dawn.
Last night Donner slept very peacefully. Prior to his incident last week, his sleeping pattern was quite heavy, with belabored breathing. I had no idea that that was a symptom of his malady and that he was suffering pain. Now I know. He is recovering marvelously, although he still has a slight ways to go. I am following the regimen that Dr. Lisa prescribed for medications religiously, because I want to get this dog well again fast
I closed up the Grand Canyon camp this morning, took a well-deserved shower, and got on the road at about 11 o'clock. As I was passing the only two viewpoints that I could visit, I couldn't resist stopping for at least a few minutes, and we did. I think would be fair to say that the most common expression at the Grand Canyon that people use is something like, I just can't get enough of this. I'm sure some people come here and just stare at the majestic beauty unfolding before the eyes for hours. How thrilled I am that I decided to come down here at the last moment. And how thrilled I am that I was incorrectly told that the north rim was closed for the season, when in fact it was closed only for that day because of snow. Otherwise, I would have explored the north room, and gotten on my way home. It actually closed for the season today.
My intention for today was to travel in the direction of Moab by way of Route 89, taking us through the north rim and Lake Jacob area. But in the interest of making time on a more speedy highway, when I came to the intersection of 89 and 160, I turned right and took the latter highway. I was amp,y rewarded for my impromptu decision. The scenery was just terrific. At one one long stretch, these rock monoliths would suddenly appear in the strangest configurations. Where I could not take a photograph, I save the coordinates on my GPS so that I can look at them later on Google Earth.
Shortly before 5 PM, realizing that I would be arriving at Moab in the dark, and after getting a good feel for the road I would be driving on in the dark, I started searching my GPS for campgrounds down the road. There were none that were going to show up before sundown, which I estimated loomed in just minutes. The closest camp was 44 miles away. So, just as the sun set, I pulled off at a gas station, conveniently located at that very spot. I asked the clerk about nearby campgrounds, and the clerk confirmed that the closest was 44 miles away. I then asked if there were any motels in the area that happened to take pets. She pointed to the motel adjacent to the gas station. I drove over to that motel, the Recapture Lodge, and the amicable proprietor, Jim, outfitted in his Halloween finest, gladly admitted Donner and me to his absolutely marvelous lodge. What stroke of luck that we happened to be here exactly when we were. Jim confirmed for me that it was a good thing that I did not plan to drive the remainder of Route 191 to Moab in the dark, because of the presence of horses and cows from the open range on the road. He told me that last year they had to euthanize 17 horses that had been hit by vehicles. The horses, by the way, are not wild horses, but feral horses, abandoned by their owners to survive on their own in this harsh territory. Nice people, huh.
Setting up camp in this lovely setting we are in tonight took only 30 minutes to go through the entire routine for the evening. Donner made himself right at home, of course. I can only imagine that he was thinking to himself, now, this is more my style. I don't have the heart to tell him tonight that we have not seen the last of our tent on the trip.
Donner quickly moved on after he sensed so other creatures nearby in the dark, and he was right, horses.
Railroad track nearby. Remind me to write up the story of the closest call in my life on a railroad track. The stupidest move of my life.
The road beckons. Gotta go.
I think Donner has just reached his goal of meeting 100 new dogs on this trip, thanks to the many wonderful dog owners who let their equally wonderful dogs play with him. Only four did not. Poor dogs.
"Donner will never play with another dog in his life." DC Dog Shrink.
"Donner will get used to a life without playing with other dogs." DC Dog trainer.
"The only way to understand what is going on in a dog's mind is to be a dog yourself, or to be Caesar Milan." Ed Mulrenin.