Home, Sweet Home

Home —  It’s been three weeks to the day and I’ve arrived back where I began.  On this trip I drove close to 6000 miles as I traveled through 12 states.

I want to thank everyone for your support and interest in my road trip.  I appreciate your comments (keep ’em coming!), and as I was traveling alone, I really enjoyed having you along for the ride!

As I expected, by the time I left Utah I was ready to come home.  When I punched home into the Garmin it said I would arrive by 8:15pm.  Given the time-zone change that translated into 13 hours without stops.   I didn’t think about that, I just decided that 8pm wasn’t that late, and that I’d rather come home to late-night traffic than arrive in Friday afternoon traffic.  So my last day of driving was a long one.   I made it home just before 11pm having pulled out of the RV park near the Utah border at 8:30am (Mountain).

The trip was a complete success.  I suffered no major problems or breakdowns.   This was a great time of year to do a trip like this.  I might have left a few days earlier but otherwise the timing was perfect.  The Garmin only seriously messed up once. The camper performed flawlessly and I used every system including the propane heater (many times) and the 110VAC air conditioner (twice).

Except for the service engine light which went on and off almost every day, the truck was great.  For a vehicle which mostly sat around doing nothing for the last decade, it enthusiastically started every time I turned the key.   The ride was a bit noisy, but otherwise was very comfortable.   The air conditioner worked the entire trip, and I was very glad I had it repaired before leaving.  Discount Tire provided a free rotation and balance when I passed through Colorado Springs.

Except for the short thunderstorm in New Mexico, the weather was great the entire trip.  I had a little bit of rain at the start, and used the wipers for short intervals a couple of times.  There was a bit of snow in the shadows at Beartooth Pass, and nothing yet in Colorado, even at Independence Pass.

The only thing I wish I had done before leaving was to upgrade the sound system in the truck.  Lacking a CD player I tried to use a cheap bluetooth speaker with my phone.  That didn’t work as well as I had hoped in terms of both sound and ergonomics.

Buying a month of cell/data service from AT&T turned out to be a very smart thing to do.  It wasn’t flawless, but having internet access more often than not gave me a lot of more options in terms of deciding where I would go next.

I never used my boat’s high-gain wifi antenna.  In my fiberglass camper I was always able to get the RV park’s signal using the WiFi in the computer or phone.

Twice I stayed overnight in Walmart parking lots, both times as my other lodging options didn’t pan out.  I’m grateful to the company for providing me that option.

Most of the pictures in this blog were taken with my Canon G11.  I brought my big Nikon, but it wasn’t working well.  The exposures were never right and were always changing.  I finally gave up using it after I decided it was the camera body that was broken, and not the glass.

For us analytical types, here are the final stats:

Miles traveled today: 770 (a record)
Total Miles Traveled: 5837
Total Days:  22
Average Miles per day: 265 (including 3 non-travel days).

Average Lodging: $14.16
Total Lodging $297.40
Total Fuel: $1,139  (averaged very close to 12 mpg)
Total Fuel:  490 gallons
Total Trip: $1436
Average Cost per day: $65.30

I’m quite pleased that my trip costs were under $500 per week. Hotels alone would have cost more than that if I’d driven my car.

Here’s what I paid for regular unleaded in each state.  As you can see, more than once I paid less than $2 gallon.   The spike was at the south entrance to Yellowstone.



Here thar be dinosaurs

Snowville, UT —  Not having done any research I would have expected to find dinosaurs in, well, the town of Dinosaur, CO which I passed through after spending the night near Rangely.  Had I turned East on I-40 I might have found some at the Dinosaur National Monument Canyon area Visitor Center.  I instead  went west towards Jensen UT and Salt Lake City.   I only went dinosaur hunting after discovering that the Dinosaur National Monument Visitor Center  was only a few miles off the main highway.  Dinosaurs weren’t on my itinerary — it’s that kind of trip.

NatMonumentSignHad I done any research I wouldn’t have been disappointed by the visitor center because I would have known that the quarry was where they keep the dinosaurs.   All they really have at the visitor center is a 12 minute movie and a gift shop.

Leaving the visitor center in search of dino’s I went on a walk along the “Fossil Discovery Trail”.  Here are a few of the things I discovered on the discovery trail.

Interesting mix of new and old petroglyphs

This next discovery took a bit to find.  I had to walk up a narrow rock ledge until I could go no further.  Knowing that there had to be something there I looked for several minutes trying to find the “white arrow”  which you can see at the lower, left edge of my discovered backbone in the picture above.   The white arrows are, apparently, what palaeontologist look for when dino hunting.

The discovery below was actually right in front of me, but was hard to see in the rock.  It’s a bit easier to see in this picture because I’ve centered my find, and adjusted the contrast a bit to make it easier to spot.  The tell-tale white arrow has almost completely faded over the last 150 million years.  It’s above the far left edge of the fossil pointing down.

Can you spot the dinosaur fossil?
Can you spot the dinosaur fossil?

While on my discovery walk I also spotted a building up on top of a ridge. It looked like another visitor center.  I hiked up there hoping to see at least a bit more than what I saw in the first visitor center.  Having not done any research I honestly wasn’t prepared for what I was about to see.

The building on top of the ridge wasn’t another visitor center containing the usual fossil displays, it was a building which covered the entire quarry — a rock wall containing thousands of fossils.  Way cool!

Am I alone in thinking that you go down into quarries, not up into buildings?

quarry1When the Rockies were formed, it pushed this bit of ground up to the 60 degree angle you see here.  Before then the dinosaurs collected and died here in large quantities at what used to be a river.


From the two pictures above you can get a sense of the size of the building.  It’s not small. Click on the picture below for a closer look at one section.  The density of fossilized bones is amazing.

A closer look at one section
A closer look at one section

This sign helps explain the quarry and building

exhibitSignBeing an obedient guy,  I did as I was instructed…

boneTouchI did eventually find a real dinosaur.

Moving on, I made a family-related stop in Salt Lake City before heading north in search of a bit of family history.  Some of my relatives were well known in the early days of Utah’s state history.

I found it!

IMG_2591(I know what you’re thinking.  It should read Damn Cutler.)

Here’s the dam, what you can see of it.  It’s not large, and access was blocked.  I fully expected black helicopters to appear after I got my camera out and started taking pictures of a dam and powerhouse.  On the other side of the dam is Cutler Reservoir.  Here’s a link to better pictures, and a bit of info about the dam.


Miles traveled today: 393
Total Miles Traveled: 5067
Average Miles per day: 241

Next stop:  Home