My Solo Wanderings of the West

I took the same route along Hwy 20 through Oregon into Idaho before visiting Craters of the Moon and Yellowstone. I even spent the night in Parma as well. lol. I'm really enjoying remembering that trip while following along here. Thanks for the continued updates, stay safe!
 

kennyj

Explorer
Sorry it took so long to get back to these replies! A combination of taking a break and of working on new updates.
I am back on the road, starting a third year of wanderings. I thought about whether to continue updating the report but I didn’t have to think very hard; all the great replies and comments, and even the lurkers, motivate me to continue updating. I believe I have even been inspired to visit out of the way places because I think it will be a good addition to the thread. So here goes with another chapter!

Started reading your adventures about three weeks ago. An excellent read, hard to put it down. I finally got caught up last night, so imagine my pleasant surprise to log on and find your latest postings this morning ��!
Very well told, with beautiful pictures of this great country.
Already looking forward to the next chapter, keep up the great work!
And subscribed!
I am sure it feels good to be on home turf.
Thanks for taking us along,looking forward to future travels.
Hi Kenny,
I have been following along from the start as well. I'm still really enjoying this. You find interesting places and obscure facts about places that make me want to visit them. The details are concise and enough to tease me into wanting to go without getting boring. I hope to join you on the open road soon. You are my role model for traveling. My mom used to say "It is not what you have, it is whay you do with what you have" You certainlly do a lot more then 99% of the people out there with ultra high end campers.
Take Care
I haven't posted on here for over a year, but I've always enjoyed following this thread. Thank you so much for taking the time to make us all jealous. :)
Thanks Again for taking the time for this update. I've been following along from the beginning.
We all will be waiting until you're back on the road, in the meantime enjoy your time with friends and family
safe travels.
What I value most of all about your updates is your focus on the journey and not the "rig." The experiences we have, the people we meet, and the things we learn are the real reasons we explore. I really appreciate your priorities!
great report!
THIS!

There are a lot of cool rigs (and builds under construction) here on Expo and I'm subscribed to a few. But the bottom line is all you need is a reliable 2wd (not even an AWD!) rig and maybe a low-cost dualsport to enjoy an EPIC adventure.

Love it!
Cbryder, chet, chuppie, crazy joker, Heading out, Smoky, mtnbike28, mdmead; Thank you all for the nice comments and for following along!


Look at that last picture, that's what I miss the most about the Midwest, every thing is green in the spring and summer.
And also hot and humid! Only in the Midwest can you have a day in the low 90s with a heat index of 116! The green is beautiful though.


I love US Routes. US RT 20 runs through where I grew up east of Cleveland Ohio. I cruised back and forth on that road for years, but never going any further than Cleveland and Geneva Ohio. As I got older and became fascinated with road trips, I started to look and see where these US Routes could take me. If I kept going west passed Cleveland on RT 20, I could end up at the Yellow Stone National Park. People travel back and forth on a small section of these great US Routes, and don't realize the great places they can take them.
Yes I believe Rt 20 is the longest road in the US and also goes by the town where I grew up, Valparaiso, Indiana as does Rt 30 which was the original coast to coast route that we knew as the Lincoln Highway. In fact the main street in Valpo is called Lincolnway.
I took the same route along Hwy 20 through Oregon into Idaho before visiting Craters of the Moon and Yellowstone. I even spent the night in Parma as well. lol. I'm really enjoying remembering that trip while following along here. Thanks for the continued updates, stay safe!
The old US Routes have so much more to see along the way. I lived near US 20 for many years and I’ve traveled many bits and pieces of it, so it was fun to cross the country mostly on the one highway. There are other great routes that would be fun to travel across the country, like US 50 and of course the old Rt 66.
Thanks Jim Oaks, kcabpilot, and johnnytravels, for the nice comments!


awesome trip. I am really envious.
How did you find city/local parks to camp in? Is there a database or did you just google the towns you were passing through? Paper information at rest areas?
Thanks justbecause! I have a new app on the iPad that has very complete listings of the city and county parks. It’s called Ultimate Campground Guide and it shows all public camping on a map with color-coded icons for city, county, state, and all the different types of federal campgrounds. Many of the city and county parks are free.


I finally got caught up Kenny. Wish we could of met when you came through Reno on 395 I could of pointed you in some really cool journeys and camping spots up along 395. The Steen Mts are amazing wow thanks for the pics! I was looking at them from HWY 95 headed to Boise earlier this summer and they looked like a really cool place way off in the distance! Will need to head up there to explore!
Whats the plan now for this fall and winter?
One of these times I’m going to be in the area, not early or late when the snow is flying, but in the peak season, and actually get to enjoy all there is to see. I will definitely remember to contact you when that happens.
Read on for my plans for fall and winter…
 

kennyj

Explorer
After 4 weeks in Illinois visiting with family and friends I’ve started my third year of full time travel in the west. The rough plan is to head for southern Colorado, a lot of which I haven’t never seen, then into New Mexico, most of which I’ve never seen, then to end up someplace warm for the winter.

My first year of full-timing seemed about staying off the beaten path and finding dispersed campsites as much as possible. By the second year, starting in 2015, I had my geezer discount card so I was excited about free entry to National Parks and half-priced camping; I ended up visiting at least 18 national parks over 2015-16, spending over a week at Glacier, a week at Zion, and 3 weeks at Death Valley. Yet in roughly 400 days of travel I camped about 250 nights in free or dispersed campsites.

I’ve covered a lot of territory in the west over 6 or 7 years of traveling in my Astro van, and while there are familiar places I really love and would enjoy revisiting, I really want to continue to try to find routes that are new to me and to see new places and things. Maybe this winter I’ll make it down to Baja!

I had a great time in Illinois; got to spend time on the river with my son and daughter-in-law on their houseboat.




Out on the Illinois River, looking at the bluffs of Buffalo Rock State Park.




And got a day of cruising on their recently re-acquired “go-fast” boat, with 700 hp of supercharged big-block-chevy. Great fun! :Eek!:




When I drove back to Galena to visit friends I stayed at the same Corps of Engineer campground where I spent my first night camping back in the first page of this trip report. The weather was hot, so I paid for an electric site to plug in and parked in the most shaded site in the campground.




The view across the Mississippi to Iowa from the campground; the Bellevue lock and dam is on the left, in the distance.




I finished my visiting in Illinois at Mississippi Palisades State Park where I joined more family for a mini-reunion, camping together for a few days. We even got in some badminton play.





The Palisades is known for its high rocky bluffs overlooking the mighty Mississippi. The big park has lots of trails and overlooks.

 

kennyj

Explorer
Leaving the Palisades I headed south along the Mississippi and ended up at Henderson Lake state wildlife area, just across the river from Burlington, Iowa. I visited with a game warden there, he told me that in the flood of 2008 the Mississippi River broke through a nearby levee and flooded this lake and the neighboring small town. When the flood waters receded the small fishing lake was full of 50 pound river fish and the surrounding land was devastated.




He said the area was recovering but that recreation there had really died off. Camping was no longer managed so I could stay free and I was the only camper on a Saturday night.




Sunday morning I continued my river route south, arriving at Nauvoo, Illinois. The town is rich with Mormon history, being one of the early settlements in the 1830s before Brigham Young moved on and established the church in Utah.

The temple is a recent recreation of the original that burned down in the 1840s; it’s an impressive structure in the little town of 1,000.




Being Sunday morning the area was teeming with church-goers. I watched as families waited their turn for a photo-op on the steps of the famous temple.




Across the street is this statue of Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum. Members of the faith must travel from all over to worship at Nauvoo, when I drove through Nauvoo State Park the campground was full of church-goers in their Sunday finest.

 

kennyj

Explorer
This year instead of taking my usual route west through Iowa and Nebraska I mapped a rough course through Missouri and Kansas to end up in southeast Colorado. Kansas is all new to me and I hope to see a lot of new areas in Colorado
I continued south along the river, finally crossing to Missouri at Hannibal.




I spent some time wandering downtown Hannibal. There’s a short section of street with Mark Twain’s boyhood home, and across the street his father’s law office and Becky Thatcher’s home.




At the end of the main street is a park area with this statue of Tom and Huck.




I ended up that afternoon at Mark Twain Lake, a Corps of Engineer project with a bunch of camping areas around the lake.

 

kennyj

Explorer
The next morning I wandered all around Mark Twain Lake, visiting his birthplace in the unremarkable little town of Florida. I then spent the day meandering across Missouri on secondary roads. I passed near the boyhood home of General Pershing which made me chuckle after I referred to the General Patton museum in southern California as the General Pershing museum.
All across Missouri are state fish and wildlife areas that offer free dispersed camping. Many are nothing more than a parking area but this spot along the Missouri River had a couple nice campsites with tables and fire rings. Recent heavy rains had the river muddy and flowing rapidly. It was a great spot for the night; I always love when I get to live in my van down by a river. :)




The next morning I skirted around Kansas City then crossed the Missouri into Kansas and soon passed by Fort Leavenworth and then the formidable United States Penitentiary.




I continued on to Manhattan and another Corps of Engineer site at Tuttle Creek Lake. I was the lone camper in the big loop for non-electric campsites with a site near the lake. I’m really liking the CoE sites, they all offer hot showers and are only $6 night.
I spent a few nights there trying to beat the Midwest heat. There was a swimming beach right across the road, and showers felt good. I put the van’s battery system to the test, parking in the cool shade where I wouldn’t get much sun on the solar panels.




The dam at Tuttle Creek Lake; the water level looks low, but the lake is designed to flood so the low level is normal. After heavy rains the lake fills up to contain floodwaters, protecting downstream areas like Manhattan from flood damage.

 

kennyj

Explorer
Heading south from Manhattan is the Flint Hills scenic route. It really didn’t seem very scenic although there was some interesting looking country beyond the highway.




I arrived at the Tallgrass Prairie National Park area. At the park is an original 19th century farm; the house and all the outbuildings are open for touring.




The farmstead is unique as all the structures were built from Flint Hills stone cut on the property. There’s also a nearby stone schoolhouse.




Even the privy was built of stone and was a 3-holer with a kid-size seat.




I had hoped to camp in the area so I could return the next day and do some of the hikes at Tallgrass Prairie. Nearby Cottonwood Springs had a couple possibilities of city park camping but one was closed and the other was very unappealing, and with a storm moving in I decided to continue traveling.
The old downtown of Cottonwood with its brick paved streets and stately old courthouse:




I turned on US 50 and started heading west. There was supposed to be city park camping in Newton, but there was a fair going on at the park. It was getting late so I gave up on finding a campsite and ended up at Walmart for the night. First overnight at a Walmart in 8 months!




Next stop/next update, Dodge City, Kansas and Boot Hill.

 

SDSteve

New member
Glad you are back at it! Your pictures remind me of a trip when I was a youngster. My grandfather was from Keokuk, so I took a trip out that way with him. Thanks for all the reports.
 

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chet6.7

Explorer
Good to see you back on the road.
The pictures of the Ill. and Miss. rivers brought back a memory...hot and humid with no AC.
Tagging along,if you had a double decker bus we could all come.
 

gt500

New member
So glad to see you have decided to post up a 3rd chapter. I've followed for the last two years and love your updates. My list of places to see is growing with each update.
 

Canyon Eagle

New member
Howdy Kenny!

Have followed along on your first two treks too, so am thrilled to see you on the road again! I’ve roamed around quite a bit over the years. I started out tent camping, until my aging bones protested. Then I had an Aliner pop-up trailer for several years, but got tired of towing. Then I had a pop-up truck camper, until my arthritis got worse and I couldn’t pop it up any more. My 89 year old mom is having more health issues now so I am staying closer to home. But some day I will be back out there, and when I do I will be trekking in a van, you betcha! Thank you for sharing your travels, you are my inspiration!

Enjoy every minute, be safe!

Lori
Eugene, OR
 

kennyj

Explorer
Hi everybody, and thanks for checking in on chapter 3!
In the next few days I hope to be posting a few updates to keep from getting too far behind. Today's update will get me through the plains states and finally back in the mountains!


Dodge City is a really interesting town with a ton of early American history. Scattered around town are bronze statues of notable historic figures, like this one of Wyatt Earp.




This one was Doc Holliday seated at the gambling table. A few times I saw tourists taking a break seated at the table in the bronze chairs. In the distance behind Doc is the main building of the Boot Hill Museum.




The museum sounded like a total tourist trap but all the reviews on line were really good. It was $11 to get in and I found it was very informative and totally entertaining. The tour starts with a walk up on Boot Hill and a graveyard and the first exhibition building. Then down to the recreated Front Street, the museum exhibits continued all the way through behind the storefronts.




Some of the storefronts were actual businesses, like this General Store.




And the Long Branch Saloon served real drinks. I missed the stage show by this dance-hall-girl…




but the piano player was there to entertain. Also on site were a number of original structures from around Dodge City like an old schoolhouse, some historic homes, and a church/chapel, all open for viewing. I had a great time visiting the Boot Hill museum.




I spent the night north of Dodge City at Ford Lake, a Kansas state wildlife area with a nice free camping area that was completely deserted that Saturday night.



 

kennyj

Explorer
The next day I continued west from Dodge City, through Garden City, then to the small town of Holcomb, Kansas which I instantly recognized as the site of the brutal murders of the Clutter family in the 1950s. Looking online I easily found directions to the Clutter house.
The house is actually right at the edge of town, at the end of a treed lane; respecting the no trespassing signs I took this picture from a public street. From what I read online, over the decades the house has been mostly unoccupied with people saying the house is haunted by the ghost of the popular teenage daughter Nancy.




In town this city park is dedicated to the Clutters. I read that when Truman Capote was researching for his book In Cold Blood that he lived among residents of Holcomb for four years.




Continuing west on US 50 I decided to stop at Hamilton Lake, another state wildlife area. It was not so much a lake as a big marshy area, but it was remote and quiet.




I parked in a clearing in a field to spend the night.




The next day it was only a few miles to the Colorado border.




In a few more miles I came to a sign for Amache, the location of a WW2 Japanese internment camp. The site is mostly undeveloped, with only streets and few ruins remaining, but there is an interpretive display that was quite informative.

 

kennyj

Explorer
I drove through the flat plains of southeast Colorado, mostly agricultural and ranching. When I reached La Junta I turned south to head out to the Comanche National Grasslands area. Turning off highway 109 I headed out over a long gravel road.




This is Vogel Canyon. Because of the flowing springs and natural shelter it was a popular stop on the Santa Fe Trail. There were even ruts said to be original tracks of the wagon trail.




Heading further into the Grasslands I drove out to Picketwire Canyon. The long gravel drive ends with about 5 miles of dirt road leading to the trailheads and a small free camping area.




It was starting to look like pretty wild country. I meant to stay there and camp but I could see thunderstorms in the distance and the gate at the road in had warned of the road closing and gate being locked in case of rain.




I decided not to risk staying and bugged back to Vogel Canyon. All around me on the plains were thunderclouds and lightning.



 
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