Tuesday, August 23 Lakeview to Elko 334 miles
The unscheduled extra night we spent on the road in Lakeview, Oregon, wasn’t all bad. As I wrote last, we had a beautiful day returning to a beloved Oregon location, at Hart Mountain. After a somewhat restless night of worrying, we had coffee and a minimal breakfast before driving a mile back down the road to Max’s Garage.
After dropping off the MoHo, with no idea how long the repair might take, we decided to find a coin-operated car wash and clean up the dusty Tracker. The many miles of dirt roads had left their mark. The coin wash turned out to be credit card only and we were shocked to see the minimum charge was $7. We were even more shocked to later see that the charge on the card was actually $10. For five minutes of a wash-it-yourself wand! For now, at least, the Tracker is shiny.
The check engine light decided that we didn’t have enough to worry about and came on after our return from Hart Mountain. After calling around a bit, I was pointed to Hall’s Auto, the local Ford Dealer. There a charming young woman brought out her trusty tester and in a few minutes had the problem identified and the ugly light turned off. We knew it should be something simple since Mo had only recently replaced the O2 unit. Sure enough, it was probably a gas cap improperly tightened. Such great service, and all completely free.
We drove back into town (not a very big town for sure) and found a local eatery where we had a truly delicious breakfast. We had no clue how long the repair might take. You can imagine our surprise when only an hour later we received the call. “Would you like to come and pick up your RV?”
Ray replaced the serpentine AC fan belt and the fan clutch, telling us that the belt was stretched and quite worn. The charge was for parts and $100 bucks labor for a bill less than $300. We were on the road by 11:30, once again driving up the Warner Peak highway, but this time we decided to not take any chances and unhooked the car and drove separately. Everything seemed to be doing just fine.
Not many miles east of the tiny community of Adel, there is a notorious long grade rising from the valley floor to the high desert plateaus of the Sheldon NWR. You can see that grade from a long way off, and it was an easy decision to once again unhook the Tracker and drive the grade separately. No problems, no overheating on the long ten percent grade.By afternoon, as we approached Winnemucca, the temperatures were rising to the triple digits, hovering between 100 and 101 F. Still no problems towing the car and the air conditioner was running as it should. Fueling up in Winnemucca for a mere $4.35 per gallon for regular gas, we continued east on Interstate 80 toward Elko.
Our first sign of trouble hit just east of town as we ascended the long, steep grade to the Golconda Summit, at 5118 feet elevation. The temperature gauge started climbing, and in terror I watched it go from normal to high and then very high and then redlining and check gauge lights coming on. There was nowhere to pull off the highway, and with my heart in my mouth, I prayed for relief. Thankfully, the gauge started dropping slowly at last, but it didn’t happen immediately. The outside temperature was between 100 and 103 and we were still pulling the car.
As we continued east, only slightly relieved, we were ready for the next long summit about 40 miles west of Elko. We unhooked the car and Mo drove the MoHo and I followed in the Tracker all the way to Elko. She said it only heated to about 3/4 to the maximum at one point. Mo made sure the AC was off, and the heater was on full blast to increase the flow of air to the engine. She opened all the windows. The temperature outside was steady at 100F until we reached Elko at 7PM.
We decided that we can probably manage the overheating problem with diligence. The MoHo has never been prone to overheating, even when towing the Tracker on steep grades. However, we have never driven the MoHo in triple-digit temperatures on any of our cross-country trips. We may also have more weight than usual, attempting to stock up on extra food, water, and clothing for the long trip. As we continue traveling through the rest of Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming we will be keeping a close eye on the temperature gauge. We also plan to travel as early in the day as possible and will unhook for steep uphill climbs. With a little luck and care, we should get through the mountainous states without any more mishaps.
Wednesday, August 24 Elko to Evanston 322 miles
Mo and I were both a bit stressed last night as we settled into our site at the Iron Horse RV Park in Elko. The stress of driving in the heat and watching the gauge every moment on every grade was taxing. Mo set up the rig and I took Mattie for a short walk. I thought we had camped at this park in the past and was surprised to realize that I was picturing the New Frontier Park in Elko. Finally, it made sense that nothing looked familiar.
The park was decent enough but very crowded. It might have been a bit nicer before they added so many park models to every available space. It was clear that this park was used by homesteaders, many with big trucks with construction company logos and solid outdoor furniture around their camping rigs. We settled in for the night, closing up all the blinds as darkness approached. Our fix for the evening was another visit with Carrie and the series Homeland. Nothing like a good episode of “Homeland” to take our mind off our troubles. Dinner was another reheated special that I cooked up in advance and we fell into bed exhausted.
This morning the skies were streaked with summer clouds, the kind you rarely see along the west coast. I could feel the effects of Continental air masses working their magic with monsoon moisture working its way north from the southwest. We were on the road by 8, with outside temps in the low 60s and at least 80 miles to go before any kind of grade to be reckoned with.
I discovered a great little website called,, “Flattest Route.com”. Plugging a beginning and ending point on a highway will yield some helpful graphs of elevation change along the route and maximum and minimum grade percentages. Pretty cool. It worked great, and a few miles east of Wells, Nevada, we knew to expect a moderately steep grade. It was hard to decide what to do, but with the cool temperatures, we decided to keep the Tracker connected. The grades were steep but not long and we had no problem with overheating. What a relief.
We traveled the rest of I-80 to the Utah border without any mishaps, fueled at the Pilot in Wendover, and continued east toward Salt Lake City. As we crossed the salt flats around what is left of the shrinking Great Salt Lake, I was reminded of how incredible the landscapes out west are. Each with a deep creation story that takes years of study to understand.
I have traveled I-80 through Salt Lake enough times to know how horrendous the city traffic can be on the interstates that intersect through the area. I know that the part of I-80 east of Salt Lake City is a notorious steep climb. Mo and I have done it twice now, both in the old baby MoHo and back in 2012 in this rig on our way to Colorado. Neither of us remembers any problems with overheating, but it wasn’t terribly hot, and the rig was 10 years younger. We checked the maps and decided that taking an alternate route up the Wasatch Range on I-84 would be the smart thing to do.
Reviewing the maps showed that route north and east on 84 would only add 12 minutes to our trip. Small price to pay for a bit less stress. Still, with temps rising into the 80s and not knowing for sure what we were facing on the highway, we decided to be safe and unhook the MoHo. Piece of cake! Despite the terrible construction, the route wasn’t difficult and Mo said the rig temperature needle didn’t budge going up the moderately steep, short grades.
Near the Wyoming state line, we hooked up the Tracker just in time to go through the border check station, where ALL boats, including kayaks and canoes, were required to stop. Luck would have it that a huge black cloud decided to dump some heavy rain on us as we rolled into the check station. Even though we had no plans to kayak in Wyoming, we had to be checked. We were told that if we wanted to kayak in the state of Wyoming, there would be a $30. permit fee for each kayak. I am curious is this will be the case throughout the country as we travel through each state. We already paid our $28. permit fees for the state of Oregon.
A few miles later, in the town of Evanston, Wyoming, we drove into the Phillips RV Park. I looked at all the photos of the park when I made the reservation, thinking at the time that it couldn’t really be as nice as the photos portrayed. Nice thing about it, it was! The park is lovely, with big old trees and nice spacing between the rigs, something you rarely see in private parks anymore. It was only 4PM our time, but with the time zone change to mountain time we shifted to 5 PM. Time to feed Mattie!
Tomorrow is going to be a long day, with 10 to 11 hours of driving, so Mo and I dumped the tanks before we settled into the MoHo for an relaxing evening. I took Mattie for a nice walk on the soft, green grass.
The showers are just across from our site number 1, and we both enjoyed a great shower. It felt great to stand under plenty of hot water for as long as I wanted. The park has been family owned and operated since 1936. The Phillips family has owned, managed, and operated Phillips RV Park by themselves for the past 80+ years. The park has changed over the decades, but according to the history on the back of the park map, most of the RV park upgrades occurred in the last decade. It is a truly lovely park and I would recommend it.
The pre-made spaghetti sauce has thawed and I made a great super of spaghetti and a fresh salad, accompanied by a nice bottle of our favorite everyday red. Even though trains pass near the park, the sounds aren’t intrusive and we slept well. We both both around 4:30 AM, knowing we wanted to get on the road early but also knowing that we want to enjoy a bit of quiet time before departing. Rushing aorund in the morning isn’t something either of us enjoy. Breakfast cookies that I made before leaving are still in good supply and the coffee is fresh and great. I am writing, Mo is checking mail, the morning skies are still dark but the sun will rise soon. It is going to be a good day.
Thursday August 25 Evanston to Ogalalla Nebraska 534 miles
We woke early, waiting for a bit of daylight to unhook the power and get on the road for a long day of driving. Trying to write about this day on Friday morning is close to impossible. It is somewhat of a blur. I drove for 3 hours, Mo drove for a couple of hours, I drove again, and Mo finished the day at Lake Ogalalla State Recreation Area in the Nebraska panhandle.
I gave up and moved to the bed for some much needed full body rest for an hour or so while Mo drove. I-80 through Wyoming was in good shape, and even the extensive construction zones weren’t difficult. Long stretches of the highway were reduced to one lane from a four lane freeway to a two lane road with oncoming traffic separated by cones. But the lanes weren’t narrow and the pavement wasn’t rough. We laughed a lot about “80 on the 80”, but in the construction zones the limit was 65 mph. We are used to construction zones limited to 45 mph. There was only one area where a slowdown occured on the steeper grades approaching Laramie.
From Evanston to Laramie the grades weren’t extremely long or steep, and with the outside temperature varying between 59F and 72F, the MoHo temperature gauge never budged. We rolled out of Laramie with a big sigh, until a long, steep grade east of town surprised us. It was scary but the gauge never budged and we breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that we were at last beyond the western mountain ranges.
Fueling three times during the long day wasn’t difficult at Flying J stations close to the freeway where we could use our RV Adventure card for a nice discount. In Utah and Wyoming the advertised prices for regular fuel are deceptive because these states have 85 octane regular. Who uses 85 octane for anything? Mid-grade fuel is considerably more expensive, but much less than we anticipated when we planned this trip.
Our last fuel stop in Big Springs, Nebraska was a delightful surprise, wtih regular fuel at 87 octane and $3.50 per gallon. Yay. Hopefully no more 85 octane fuel to worry about as we continue toward the east coast.
We arrived in Ogallala just before 6 PM, after a bit of a circular kerfuffle trying to follow the written directions I had saved from our reservation email. The directions aren’t clear and without an actual address, google attempted to send us to a visitor center for Lake McConaughy. A phone call was a bit confusing since the person answering really didn’t understand how to communicate to us about where to go from the freeway. I finally asked for the exact address of the center and sure enough, google was sending us to the correct location.
The visitor center for Lake McConaughy is huge and gorgeous, with many interesting displays that we had no interest in viewing. The outside temperature was in the high 90’s and we were reasonably exhausted. After a lot of confusion, we discovered that Lake Ogalalla where I had a reservation is on the east side of the dam that creates the vast Lake McConaughy. There are several campgrounds around the perimeter of the big lake but only two on lake Ogalalla. The East Campground, where we had a reservation, has 87 electric plus RV sites. We still have not figured out what the “plus” means. There is no water at the site, no sewer or dump staion on site or anywhere nearby, and a very distant shower house. There is water available in the campground at a few spigots, but I somehow assumed we had water at the site. Good thing Mo filled our water tank at the park in Evanston.
Another item from the website and the email that was misleading was the SRA entry fee. It was listed at $8.00 for out of state vehicles and the ranger charged me $12. When I asked why it was 12 instead of 8 she said it was because we were out of state. Still haven’t figured this one out. Also, she “did us a favor” by not making us pay an addition $12.00 for the Tracker, insisting that we remain parked and not drive it around.
Ogallala Lake is a small quiet lagoon at 320 acres, with water cooled by the deep waters of Lake McConaughy on the other side of the dam. It is well known for rainbow trout and for kayaking thanks to protection from the winds by the huge dam. I originally planned this stop thinking we would arrive early in the day after camping east of Laramie the previous night. I had hoped for a little bit of paddling to break up the long trip of driving, driving, driving.
After our long day, we had no interest in taking down the boats and attempting to launch in murky water with slimy rocks. I had no desire to do my normal kayak exit rolling into that icky looking water.
The campsite was spacious, the view was lovely and the park was uncrowded. There was a nasty smell, created by an aeration site near the dam to disperse the deeper waters of the lake to the surface. The smell was tolerable, and overnight seemed to dissipate.
We had another simple spaghetti supper, finished the last half of the bottle of red wine, and watched anpother episode o Homeland via the phone mirrored to the TV. The verizon signal was great, and I uploaded photos without a hitch, and we both are using our laptops this morning with the hot spot without incident.
We slept well, and with a reasonably short day of only 277 miles ahead of us, plan to visit the center on our way out this morning. More to come.
Later: We enjoyed our leisurely morning knowing that when we arrived in Lincoln it would be hot and no doubt humid. It was better to spend the extra time of our day camped by a quiet, peaceful lake than in a crowded city campground on a hot afternoon. Leaving around ten gave us plenty of time to stop in at the Visitor Center for more information about the area where we chose to spend a few hours of our travel time.
Both of us realized that some of our frustration yesterday evening was simply because we were so very tired. Especially after our visit to the center, and a conversation with the ranger, we realized that our frustrations were also because we were completely new to the area. In retrospect, as we were once on the road heading east, we were happy that we had spent the time at the lake and at the visitor center learning about one of the wonders of the State of Nebraska.
The Lake McConaughy Visitor Center was spectacular, with interesting, interactive displays, gorgeous murals, and lovely views toward the huge lake.
Once on the road, traveling was as simple as it could possibly be. The MoHo ran perfectly, with outside temperatures staying in the 80’s to mid 90’s and no hills to climb. Nebraska is mostly flat, and the only grades we encountered were crossing the overpasses. Traffic was light until we approached Lincoln and even then wasn’t particularly difficult. The winds were noticible but not unmanageable.
When Mo took over driving, I searched for a Pilot or Flying J and found one right on the highway at milepost 300. That was a bit soon for us, so I continued looking on the Pilot website and found another one at milepost 312 on the turnoff for Grand Island. Funny part was that the station was nowhere to be found on the Gas Buddy app. Seems as though the Bosselman companies have merged with Pilot/Flying J and our rewards card works there as well. Confusing. Then Mo realized that the only fuel available wasn’t regular 87 octane fuel, but what is called 88 15, which has 15 percent ethanol instead of the maxium ten percent allowed in California and Oregon. I had to research the fuel because Mo was worried about all that ethanol in the MoHo, but we had no choice. Maybe because Nebraska grows all that corn and wants a lot of ethanol in their gasoline? The only thing I could find out is that it tends to accumulate moisture in cold weather if left sitting too long. Traveling as we are, I don’t think that will be much of a problem.
We are settled in at the Camp-A Way RV Park in Lincoln. I have some thoughts about this place that will have to wait until the next blog post. I am too worn to write another sentence. Instead, I will insert one last photo of the many I took at the visitor center Magical imaginations of the magnificent wildlife on the Nebraska prairies and waterways.