Note: I "always" have Sharon review these reports before going out, but this report is why I put the 'always' in double quotes.


So I was talking to my sister Shirley the other year and learned that neither she nor husband Jerry Lewis had ever been to

Grand Teton National Park ...

... or Yellowstone National Park.

Sacrilege! So we made a loose plan for us to drive our trailer to Salt Lake City, pick them up after they fly in from Kansas City, and tour the GTs and Yellowstone.

April 2004

From past experience, we have found that they and we are perfectly compatible travel companions. Except for my sister. She is double extra compatible. And Jerry's about one and a half. We expect great fun.

The Plan

Shirley doesn't like to be away from her cats and quilts for more than about two weeks at a time, so that was our rough trip duration limit. In the end, we decided we'd leave home Wed Sep 9, the morning after my fantasy football draft, pick them up at SLC airport on Fri Sep 11, drive to the Tetons Sat Sep 12, spend two nights in the Tetons, enjoying a Snake River rafting trip (not white water), then drive to Yellowstone on Mon Sep 14, camping at Fishing Bridge RV Park near the center of the park, and do day trips from our camp. Then we'd drive back to SLC on Sun Sep 20, depositing them at the airport on Mon Sep 21 for their return flight to Kansas City. Sharon and I would leave after converting the trailer back to travel mode, and drive home, arriving on Sat 26 at the latest, and would wing it, choosing an interesting path home, to be determined later.

These reports, each covering from one to three day periods, are divided into three parts:

Part 1. Before we pick up Jerry and Shirley
Part 2. All four of us together
Part 3. After we drop Jerry and Shirley off at Salt Lake City Airport



Day 1. Wednesday Sep 9, 2009. Day 1. San Jose to Winnemucca, Nevada.

[Click for full size image]
Map of our first two driving days

We leave home at about 5:30am. I was excited last night about the trip, and remember 3:15 on the clock before drifting off. I drive most of the time, but Sharon gives me about an hour, twice a day to ride, or should I say sleep, shotgun, while she drives. We have her drive flat roads, and I do the mountains and tight roads.

As we leave home, the trip mileage (re-zeroable odometer) says 1.5, since I filled the tank the day before, and the regular odometer says 116,578 miles.

Our gas tank level indicators failed a few months ago in such a manner that they are accurate till you get to half a tank, at which point they stay until you run out of gas, or keeping your eye on the miles since the last fillup and knowing your approximate mpg, you fill the tank before calculating that you will run out.

This is a very desirable objective.

I drive till we get to Tracy, about an hour from home. My 2 hours of sleep have caught up with me. Sharon takes over and drives to Sacramento, about another hour away. We hit rush hour traffic, and stop and go our way to the point where every working person turns east onto Highway 50, while we continue north on Interstate 5. After getting clear, she pulls off the freeway and into an empty Boston Market parking lot, where I resume driving.

We stop for lunch about 11:30. Sharon fixes me a roast beef sandwich while she has egg salad. Low fat fig newtons for dessert for me. We read our books. I have discovered a western author named Robert B. Parker who writes a little in the style of Zane Grey while Sharon reads some trash like Theodore Roosevelt's biography or something. What is she thinking?

We stop for gas a little before noon at a Shell station near Donner Pass Road. This is the stomping ground of my first ever snow ski trip to Lake Tahoe, and also of a party by some people called Donner a few years earlier.

Brother in law Jerry ordered and had sent to my house a gasoline additive which improves his gas mileage 10-15% or so, and he has been using it for years. I'm going to do two tanks without it, then two tanks with it to compare. My first tank and this new tank are without it. The first tank got 8.40 mpg, and that's excellent for pulling the trailer. We drive 55 maximum, all the time, no matter what. In California it's the law for vehicles pulling trailers, but not so in any of the other states we'll visit. With us, we've just discovered the world is more enjoyable at 55 than at 65 or 70, and the increase in mpg is incredible. Like from 6.5 up to 8.0, an improvement of 23 percent!

We hit the Nevada state line a little after noon, fighting a bit of a crosswind. By 12:45, we pass Virginia Street in downtown Reno, on I-80, zipping through the city, and on towards Winnemucca, a great name for a town if there ever was one.

I used to be a gambler-for-fun, and I'd always set a limit of $50 or $100 or whatever, and try to stop when I reached it. But I found a much better way. I roll the window down, throw out a twenty-dollar bill, and say "Not this time, suckers." Heh heh, guess I showed them.

Which reminds me. A cowboy rides up to a bar, and ties his horse to a hitching rail, goes inside and has a drink. Meantime, a group of rowdy cowboys, headed by a huge fellow ride into town and tie up at the same hitching rail. The big guy gets a can of paint, and proceeds to paint the first guy's horse from head to hoof, then goes inside. When the first cowboy finishes his drink, he comes outside and discovers the new color of his horse. He storms back inside. "Who painted my horse?" he bellows. The big cowboy stands up to his full height and says, "I did. What are you going to do about it?" The first guy says, " Uh, it's ready for the second coat."

We visited the San Jose Library, Edenvale branch near our home, before leaving and checked out six books-on-CD. We are trying the first one, about the relationship between a man and his dog. We keep waiting for it to get interesting, but it just makes me sleepy.

At about two o'clock, I pull off the freeway at the turnoff to Jessup, Sharon takes over, and I drift off to sleep. About three o'clock we change drivers again, near Ryepatch Reservoir, and I take over. We can listen to our book-on-CD only when we're both awake, and we have each decided we like driving when the other person is asleep better than when the other person is awake because WE DON'T HAVE TO LISTEN TO THE STUPID DOG STORY. Time to try a different book.

We try "Chill of Night" by John Lutz, a whodunit and it's excellent. 13 CDs! We make it to Winnemucca about four o'clock, and fill up the gas tank first. We get an astounding 10.9 mpg, and I can't believe it. How did I mess this up? I don't know. Did we really get that? We WERE going downhill much of the way from Donner Pass down to Reno, then on the flat from there to Winnemucca pretty much. Hmmm.

We hit a Walmart and do some food shopping, then drive over to Winnemucca RV Park, where we have stayed before. They claim to have Wi-Fi at our site, and I can get my iPhone to see it, but not my 4.5 year old Mac Powerbook (laptop). What's up with that. Action item: Look into buying some kind of USB booster, if that's what I need, after talking to the Macintosh people.

No Wi-fi, but cable TV is excellent. Spaghetti for dinner. Mamma Mia! (The exclamation, not the musical)


Day 2. Thursday Sep 10, 2009. Day 2. Winnemucca, NV to Salt Lake City.

We're up leisurely and as I'm taking the trash to the trash bin, I notice a couple of fellows talking near one's pickup, with a short bed. He's hooked up to a humongous trailer, and I thought you couldn't do that, because if you turned a sharp corner, the corner of the trailer and the corner of the pickup would impact each other. I asked him, and he said, "The secret's the Super Glide." He explained how the hitch has a sensor which, when you begin to turn a corner, the trailer slides backwards on greased rails to allow more room to make the corner, then as you straighten out, it slides forward again to be over the rear axle, where it's supposed to be "all" the time. He said the really high-end hitches are $3000 but this one's about $1000. That's what I paid for my regular hitch in 1989, but that included installation.

He also had a new Dodge diesel pickup. He said in the mountains, he gets 6-8 mpg and on the flat 10-12 mpg both while pulling the trailer. Without the trailer, on the flat, he gets about 18. Diesel fuel.

Fantastic. So THAT'S how they do it.

We hit the road about 9 am. I am now on the third tank, so I followed the prescription for the fuel additive, called QMI. We drive by Hi Desert RV Park. Action Item: Call them and ask if they have on-site Wi-Fi. We may try this RV park next time.

We like to drive a while, then take a breakfast break. We do this about 11:30. Since I forgot to stop our newspaper, I call the SJ Mercury News and cancel our paper during our vacation. Sharon taught a summer college course, and needs to access the internet to enter her students' grades, but when she tries, they need a password. Which they never gave her. And the IT guy is gone till Monday. So nothing to do till then.

After breakfast, Sharon drives for about an hour, then we change back at Old Victory Highway, which goes to Elburz. We're enjoying our CD book.

We're on a divided four lane highway. Suddenly a chipmunk darts from our left into the fast lane, also to our left. He stops in the middle of the left lane, and a car zooms over him about 70 mph. He flattens, then jumps up and zips on across, just missing our wheels. Sharon says he looks like a lizard. It's excitement day for the chipmunks.

We stop for lunch at Summit Rest Stop, near Pequop Summit. When we finish, and Sharon is making use of the rest room, a caravan of vehicles pulls in, supporting and advertising some kind of green fuel. There is a tanker and a vehicle on a trailer, being pulled by a truck, a van and this rig. I figure altogether, they are getting about 0.5 mpg.

We continue on, reaching the summit at 6967 feet.

At about 3:30 we hit West Wendover, NV, and gas up. We get about 9.4 mpg using the first tank with QMI additive, but the 10+ mpg we got without the QMI throws me, and I can draw no conclusions yet.

We head out of the Pilot station, then stop about an hour later so I can get a rest. Sharon takes us on down the road about an hour and a quarter. We are deep into Utah. We are headed for the Salt Lake City North Temple KOA, and we arrive about 6 pm. The Utah State Fair is advertised to be "right next door," but in regular language, that turns out to mean about a half-mile.

It's $80 for two nights with my Triple-A card. We'll pay tonight's rate, then starting tomorrow and while we're together with Jerry and Shirley, we'll share RV Park, Fuel and general grocery costs.

The site is ever so slightly angled, left to right, so I back the trailer up onto an angle block till the bubble on the trailer shows that it's level, left to right. If we are just stopping over for a night, we don't unhitch, but since we're going to the airport tomorrow, we unhitch tonight.

It's Mountain Time in Utah and for the rest of our time in Wyoming, not Pacific Time, so we lost an hour. I am here int time, though to see the first NFL football game of the season, as Pittsburgh wins 13-10 in a hard fought game.

We talk about going to the state fair tomorrow, since Jerry and Shirley don't get in until late afternoon. Excellent Wi-Fi and cable. This is the nicest KOA I can recall

G'night. More in Report 2.

Next Report
Yellowstone Reports
Family Trips