Visiting Friends & Family in the Midwest

Blue-Mesa-Clouds-2As of this writing, we are in Itasca State Park, Minnesota. We have covered a lot of territory (1500 miles) since our last post. From Ouray, Colorado, we stopped for a week at the Blue Mesa Recreational Ranch, near Gunnison, Colorado. This RV resort is just across the highway from the Blue Mesa Reservoir on the Gunnison River. The resort offers sweeping vista views of the lake and of the surrounding rolling hills, mesas and sage barrens.

A highlight of our stay at Blue Mesa featured a scenic loop drive to Crested Butte and back to Blue Mesa along Scenic Byway 12 through Kebler Pass and highways 133, 92 and 50. We very much enjoyed the views of mountain valleys and aspen forests along the way.

We had several days of thunderstorms and rain during our stay at Blue Mesa. We enjoyed watching the storms roll in across the mesas, trailing gray veils of rain and spitting lightning. Later, we enjoyed listening to the rain on our trailer roof. The dogs were less than impressed by the lightning and thunder, though, hunkering down in the bedroom until the storm had passed by.

We also took another scenic drive down to the historic mining town of Lake City, Colorado. Lake City is a stop on the Alpine Loop which runs over the Cinnamon and Engineer Passes to Silverton and Ouray. Jasmine and Pepper enjoyed a break there to play in the stream.

On the way back from Lake City, we took a side road up and over Blue Mesa, an area of rolling meadows and sage barrens. Somewhere along the way we picked up a small sharp rock in the tire of our Toyota Tundra pickup. By the time we got back to Gunnison, the rock had drilled in, a slow leak had developed and our tire was well on the way to going flat. We changed out the tire and got the tire fixed the next day.

From Blue Mesa, we moved on to Eleven Mile State Park, near Lake George, Colorado. We passed over the Continental Divide via the Monarch Pass.

We stayed for six nights at the Rocky Ridge Campground in Eleven Mile State Park. The main attraction of this state park is the Eleven Mile Reservoir, a popular location for boating and fishing. Highlights of our stay included day trips to nearby Eleven Mile Canyon, historic mining towns of Cripple Creek and Victor, and a trip to Castle Rock to meet up with Kim’s cousin, Robin.

Jasmine had a small accident during our drive to Eleven Mile SP. We had stopped for a break at a town along the way and Jasmine tripped on her leash getting out of the truck, taking a tumble and tearing a toenail on her right front paw. I bandaged up her foot and we moved on to the campground where we setup camp and then inquired at the park office regarding a nearby animal hospital or vet. Since this was Labor Day weekend, we were concerned about finding an animal hospital that was open. Fortunately, a vet in Woodland Park was open and could see Jasmine. The vet cleaned up Jasmine’s paw, bandaged it and gave us antibiotics and pain medication for her.

We returned a few days later for a followup visit and the vet removed the bandage, declaring the nail was healing and was reattached. Unfortunately, Jasmine tore her nail again a few days later while we were visiting with Kim’s cousin, Robin, at Castle Rock, necessitating a trip to another vet. This time, the vet removed the damaged nail and re-bandaged Jasmine’s paw. Jasmine is now doing well and her paw is healing nicely.

I returned to Victor one afternoon to photograph some of the grand old Victorian-era buildings in the downtown area, as well as some of the nearby mining ruins. I find while Cripple Creek is the better known mining town, Victor offers more photo opportunities than Cripple Creek – many more of the original buildings have been preserved in Victor, where Cripple Creek has rebuilt with modern casinos and other tourist attractions.

From Eleven Mile State Park, we moved on through Nebraska towards Iowa. We had originally planned for one stop in Nebraska, but then reconsidered as that would resulted in two very long and exhausting driving days. We instead opted for two overnight stops and booked reservations at the Sleepy Sunflower RV Park in Ogallala, Nebraska and the Grand Island KOA in Doniphan, Nebraska. To accommodate our new schedule, we cut our stay at Eleven Mile SP short and departed after six nights, instead of the seven we had reserved.

The drive went well until the second day when we got a flat tire near North Platte, Nebraska. All had been going well until I heard a muffled boom and the tire pressure monitor sensor alarm went off. About the same time, Kim called me on the Walkie to let me know that something was flapping off of the trailer tire. I pulled over to the side of the interstate and checked the tire. There was a nasty gash in the sidewall of the driver side front trailer tire, but only a small puncture through the inner plies. Attempting to change the tire on the narrow shoulder of the busy interstate would have been dangerous, so I kept the emergency flashers on and drove slowly on to the next exit – about 2 miles. Using the trailer hydraulic leveling jacks, I was able to change out the tire while Kim drove into the nearby town to pick up some lunch. Shortly thereafter, we were back on the road and arrived at the Grand Island KOA without further incident.

From Grand Island KOA, we moved on to Missouri Valley, Iowa. We pulled into a truck stop in Missouri Valley and were met there by long-time friends from college, Vince and Becky Orr. We had all kept in touch through the years by email and Facebook, but it had been at least 27 years since we had all been together. Vince and Becky escorted us out to a camping site at their gun club shooting range, near Logan, Iowa.

Vince and Becky are members of the Nebraska Territorial Rangers (NTR) gun club. The NTR club stages old west cowboy action shooting events where members dress up in cowboy/old west period costume and have shooting competitions using mostly historic black powder weapons.

The NTR shooting range, Gunfire in the Hills, is located on a lovely forested site in the rolling farmland of the Loess Hills of western Iowa. The shooting range has many old west building facades to add interest and atmosphere to the events. A grassy field across from the range provides camping – about ten sites have 30 amp electrical hookups.

We camped for two nights at the NTR site and Vince and Becky joined us with their own fifth wheel. One evening, the Orrs treated us to dinner at a local biker bar, the Twisted Tail – great barbecue. We all fixed breakfast the next morning and Vince grilled Iowa rib-eye steaks that evening. We also visited Vince & Becky’s home, near Missouri Valley – very nice house on large wooded acreage – we took a jeep drive through the woodlands.

We very much enjoyed visiting and catching up with our friends and hope to visit again whenever we are in the area. Oh, and when the Zombie Apocalypse starts, we’re making our way back here to the Orrs & the NTRangers!

From Missouri Vally and the NTR club campsite, we moved on to Ankeny, Iowa. We camped for five nights at the Prairie Flower South Campground at Saylorville, Iowa. While there, we were able to spend time with my family – my mom, sister and brother-in-law – Marta, Shirley, and Craig, respectively. Craig and Shirley were only available the first night of our stay and were traveling to Denver the next morning. We’ll catch up with them again for camping in about a week.

We enjoyed just spending time with my mom & to have some of her wonderful cinnamon rolls. One evening, we drove to Ames, Iowa, for pizza at the Great Plains Sauce and Dough Company. Great Plains was one of my favorite pizza places from college days and the quality of the pizza is as good as remembered – great to see that some things haven’t changed!

During our stay, we also met up with Kim’s cousins, Tom and Cherie Bell. As an early birthday present for Kim, Mom treated us to an evening of wine, food and music at the Snus Hill Winery and invited Tom and Cherie to join us. We had a great time and enjoyed the music of the Brian Holtz Band. Tom and Cherie joined us the next day for dinner at our campsite. Again, it was great spending time with family. We look forward to another visit as we swing through Iowa again in a few weeks time.

From Ankeny, we moved on to Minnesota, spending one night at the Minneapolis NW KOA and then on to Itasca State Park. Kim’s family and many of her family friends are from the Bemidji and Park Rapids area of Minnesota. While here, we are spending much time with Kim’s uncle, Tom and another family friend, Barb.

We have been enjoying the local sights, visiting family landmarks, such as a nice cabin on a nearby lake where many summers vacations were spent, and dinners at local restaurants. We’ve enjoyed seeing Tom feeding the wild deer and turkeys in his front yard. We’ve visited the Headwaters of the Mississippi River flowing out of Lake Itasca and have seen the Paul Bunyan and Babe, the Blue Ox, statues at Bemidji. The trees are just starting to show fall colors.

We still have a few days left to enjoy this area before moving on to Two Harbors, Minnesota. Until next time…

8 thoughts on “Visiting Friends & Family in the Midwest

  1. Hello – we were camped across from you at 11 Mile St. Park(site 11). we enjoy reading about your travels & will look forward to more email updates.
    We are back home in Tyler TX now. We had to come home early due to Nick’s mom(age 96) hurting her back. She is much better now and we hope to go camping for a few weeks in October here in Texas. We will be visiting Inks Lake St Park and our grandkids will join us over the Columbus Day weekend. It is just now beginning to cool off in Texas(below 90). Hopefully in October we will see more pleasant temperatures – with only a high of 80-82…☺
    Safe travels to you.(no more flat tires). Maybe we will see on the road – Texas has some great state parks (best experienced in the fall, winter or spring).
    Nick & Yvonne

    • Hi Nick and Yvonne,
      Good to hear from you two. Glad you like Jerry’s postings on our travels. Also glad to hear your mom is better Nick. We hope you have fun on your upcoming camping in Texas. Sometime we’d like to get to Texas, but seem to have an ever-growing list of places we want to go to.
      Safe travels to you both as well and maybe we can hook up with you guys some time.
      Kim and Jerry

    • Hi Nick & Yvonne, Great to hear from you. Enjoyed meeting you at Eleven Mile SP & thanks for the suggestions on places to visit. Good to hear your mom is doing better – It’s tough seeing family members aging. Sounds like you’ve got some great camping plans – enjoy! Would like to check out the Texas parks – maybe our paths will cross again somewhere on the road. Take care & safe travels, too. 🙂

  2. Love your posts! Sorry to hear of Jasmine’s foot injury, but glad it’s healing!
    We are headed up to Silent Valley in a couple of weeks, for 3 weeks. Driving up to Seattle area to visit family and visit a few wineries and cheese factories on the way home. Planning to be at S.V. the month of Dec. Hope to see you, Kim, Pepper and Jasmine.
    Margo and Dave Bailey

    • Hi Margo and Dave. Glad you are enjoying Jerry’s post. We will be at S.V. the month of December as well. So, that’ll be good timing to see both of you and look forward to spending time with you guys.

      Kim, Jerry, Jasmine, Pepper

    • Hi Margo & Dave, Good to hear from you. Glad to hear you are enjoying the posts. Jasmine thanks you for your concern – she’s doing well! Have a great trip. We are planning to be in SV in December – look forward to seeing then. Cheers! Jerry, Kim, Jasmine & Pepper

  3. JI remember going to Cripple Creek and Victor in 1953 with my sister, mom, and our 4 cousins from Clio, Iowa and their parents in my uncles old 2 wheel drive pickup, but I think it had “granny” floor shift of course. .

    We kids traveled in the back of a pickup truck with stock rack and tarp cover, Hanging over the edge on the road that was a lot different that I imagine the road you traveled this time. SA hail storm came up and Raymond found a tunnel for us to wait out the storm. Noisy and windy. A special scarf blew out.

    Our Grandma and Aunt and children were in Colorado Springs. Could see Pikes Peak from their kitchen window.
    Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak with snow in summer were other highlights.

    All meals were cooked over campfires with camp coffee, iron skillets. On the way home we got lost on the Boca Raton Mesa in a tremendous lightning and rain storm.

    One breakfast was cooked under a bill board out side of Lincoln. The Capital was visible at a distance.

    WHAT A DIFFERENT journey than yours. The sights are just as spectacular. So glad to be along on your virtual tour

    • Thanks, Mom! Sounds like you had a wonderful trip back then – great memories & thanks for sharing. Many things have changed – the roads have certainly improved – still, great places to visit…

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