Skip navigation

Category Archives: Places

Jeff and I arrived home on Friday evening.  That day was such a blur that I’m not sure what time we got home… perhaps 7 PM?  It rained all day while we were on the road.  After a month in the desert, I had forgotten what rain was like. 

We made two stops along the way on Friday.  We paid a surprise visit to Eric at Atlantic British.  I had never been there… it was cool to finally see AB, and it was great to have a chance to catch up with Eric.  I really wish that we could see more of him, but he and Carlane live far enough away that it is tough for us to get together nearly as often as we’d like.  We also dropped off FINSUP at Cityside on the way home.  Her front differential did not survive the trails of Moab.    

We were exhausted when we got home, so we pretty much just went to bed after dinner and some quality time with the kitties.  Max and Scout seemed stunned to see us… I think they had given up hope that we would ever return!

BTW, thanks for leaving us a yummy homemade spinach lasagna for dinner, Mom.  It really hit the spot!

We set an early alarm for Saturday morning so that we could get to MIT by sunrise for the Great Glass Pumpkin Patch.  Usually I’m there to help with setup for the sale on Friday, but because we were still on the way home, I had to settle for volunteering on Saturday only.  Jeff and I were pretty glazed over and tired, but I’m really glad we made it to the sale.  The sale is the one time of the year that the extended Glass Lab community gets together.

Today was a day of recovery and reorganization.  We took it pretty easy, unloaded a bunch of stuff from the RoVerhauler and started doing load after load of laundry.  Tomorrow I go back to work.  That is going to feel pretty strange after six weeks away.  I am looking forward to getting back to my normal routine, but I could use a couple more days of rest and recovery.  Why do I always feel like I need a vacation to recover from my vacations?  One of these days, I’m going to take some time off to just do nothing and go nowhere.

As we have travelled, Jeff and I have been gradually learning that we prefer visiting fewer places more extensively, as opposed to rushing from place to place just getting a taste of each location. In that vein, we decided to visit just one of Zion National Park or Bryce Canyon National Park on the way from Great Basin National Park in Nevada to Moab, Utah, and Zion won.

Zion had several things in its favor. First, my friend and glassblowing partner, Katie, who has visited and hiked both, highly recommended Zion. Second, geologists that we met in Winnemucca, NV and Baker, NV recommended Zion as more interesting. And third, Zion seemed to have a lot more variety in terms of landscapes and microclimates when compared with Bryce.

I do hope to return to the western US and visit Bryce Canyon National Park some day (not to mention the Grand Canyon), but the pull of Zion and Moab will be tough to overcome, given that our vacation time and dollars are not unlimited, and given how much we have enjoyed visiting them.

One of the treasures that we found in the vicinity of Zion was a little restaurant called the Red Coyote Cafe. By chance, we stopped there for lunch, and based upon how surprisingly wonderful and unique the lunch was, we went back for a breakfast the next day, and a dinner that same evening. The proprietor, Jan, was charming, and she gave us great advice in terms of where to go and what to do in the park.

We are in Moab right now at the Canyonlands RV Park, which is conveniently located across the street from the Moab Brewery. We arrived here after the long drive from Zion on Friday, and we ate dinner at the brewery that evening.

We spent most of Saturday setting up camp, cleaning and organizing the RoVerhauler and exploring some of the charming shops in the town of Moab. We did a self-guided petroglyph tour in the afternoon, using information from a flier that we picked up at the Moab Visitor’s Center, and we had dinner at a great Mexican restaurant, Miguel’s Baja Grill. We happened to be here on the first evening of the 2008 Moab Art Walk, so we hit all nine sites on the art walk after dinner. I managed to restrain myself and only bought one piece, a lovely bracelet. It is made of silver metal and blue and green dichroic glass, and it was quite modestly priced.

On Sunday, we rode a local mountain bike trail in the morning and into the early afternoon, and then we bought tickets for a Colorado River Cruise for the evening, which included dinner. We road the classic Moab beginner’s trail, the Bar M loop. The dinner cruise was nice, but somewhat touristy. The food was hearty and tasty (mmmmm, spicy BBQ pork!), and we met a nice couple from Indiana over dinner. The cruise was very pleasant. The scenery was wonderful, and the view from the river was great. The “sound and light” show was a bit over the top, but interesting and informative nonetheless. The light show might have been a bit more spectacular if not for the brightness of the almost full moon last night, but the moonglow added a beauty of its own to the scenery.

Today, we started exploring Arches National Park. What spectacular scenery! And so accessible too! The roads are great, there are lots of pull-offs for photo opportunities, and numerous trails for those who want to get up close. We visited Balanced Rock, the North and South Window Arches, Double Arch and Delicate Arch. We skipped the Garden of Eden and the Devil’s Garden because we were sun-weary and hungry. I really hope that we will be able to make the time to visit those spots before we must head home. We met a nice couple, Lynn and Allison from North Carolina, on the trail to Delicate Arch. I hope that they will be in touch… they are planning to visit Zion next year, and we have some tips for them.

Registration for the Land Rover National Rally begins tomorrow afternoon at 4 PM. Rover people have been trickling into town over the past couple of days. Jeff has run into several people that he knows from other rallies, and we have met many new people as well.

In the morning, before rally registration opens, Jeff and I are planning to launch the kayak in the Colorado River. We spotted a public boat launch from the river cruise last night. We dragged the kayak and associated gear all the way here from MA, so we want to use it. We found the perfect spot from which to launch the kayak near Zion, but unfortunately, it was already late in the afternoon on the day before we were planning an early morning departure, so we’ll have to leave that spot for our next trip out.

We picked up the RoVerhauler from Cashman Cat about an hour or two ago. We are planning to leave Reno for Black Rock City early tomorrow morning. I have my fingers crossed that we make it in to Burning Man by mid day tomorrow and back out again under our own power.

The RoVerhauler may need to go back in to Cashman Cat when we return from Burning Man. They addressed the transmission linkage problem, put in a new air filter and restored the drive train, but we still may have a low power issue. Jeff or I will write up more details about the repairs soon, but I’m too tired to concentrate on that right now.

Too tired, and too angry. I’m sitting here in my hotel room in the west tower of John Ascuaga’s Nugget, overlooking a giant parking lot that is less than 1/3 full and has AMPLE space for the RoVerhauler. There is another parking lot at the other end of the property, on the other side of the Nugget parking garage, that is *totally* *empty*. They say that we cannot park there because that is the valet parking overflow lot, but let me repeat: that lot is TOTALLY EMPTY. The Nugget is not allowing us to park the RoVerhauler in either of the adjacent parking lots. They told us to park in a small “RV lot” under the bridge on the other side of Victorian Ave., but when we pulled into a pair of front-to-back “pull through” spaces in that lot, our tow dolly was blocking the aisle… the spaces were not long enough for the RoVerhauler and the dolly.

We ended up putting the RoVerhauler in a lot that was across the street from there that appears to have some overflow parking from the rib-fest, but that is not a Nugget lot. The night staff here at the Nugget, both at the front desk and at the security phone number, have been pleasant, but totally unable to deal with the situation and unable or unwilling to escalate it to a manager who has the authority to say that it is OK to park in either of the verboten lots.

Grrrrr. It just does not make sense. They are turning someone who had been a loyal customer into someone who will speak ill of their facility and who will not stay here again. Oh, well… too bad. For the RV-ers among you, be forewarned and do not count on the Nugget to be an RV friendly facility.

Well, enough ranting. Back to our regularly scheduled program. 🙂 We are unlikely to be able to post again between tomorrow morning and Labor Day, but will let you know how the RoVerhauler performs once we are back “on the grid”.

Here I sit in the RoVerhauler in the Winnemucca RV Park, enjoying the cool, dry evening desert air. This is a delightful place… lovely pool and gardens, nice people, a beautiful setting with big sky and lovely mountains in the distance. I’m feeling great; however, the RoVerhauler is not too happy right now.

What is wrong with her? Well, for one thing, her driveshaft has been removed so that she could be towed in here by a big rig tow truck. We have a new buddy, Leland, from A-1 Towing. He dropped the drive shaft in a rest area about 20 miles out of town to tow her to the local Freightliner shop yesterday evening and to the Winnemucca RV Park this morning.

She needed to be towed primarily due to a problem with her shift linkage. The transmission seems to work just fine once she is in gear, but it has been getting harder and harder to get her into a given gear. I suspect that this is due to a mechanical problem with the linkage, and I am hoping that it is not something more serious. If this was her only problem, we might have been able to fix it ourselves.

In additon, we seem to have lost the flywheel cover somewhere along the road. Jeff noticed that oil was dripping out from under her when we stopped at a rest area on what we thought was our final stretch of road before Reno. Little did we know… We had a brief panic during which we thought that the bottom fell off the transmission, but a mechanic who happened to stop by the rest area took a peak and reassured us that the problem was not that drastic.

On top of that, we had been suffering for two days with awful, and I mean AWFUL black smoke pouring out of the exhaust. At first we thought it was just that the RoVerhauler was not tuned for altitude. The problem seemed to start on I-80 right outside of Cheyenne, WY, and it got worse over time. We also experienced a significant loss of power going up hill, especially on long climbs. I thought we’d be reduced to about 45 MPH uphill, but we were lucky to get 16 MPH on some of the steepest summits, with a long line of unfortunate vehicles trapped behind us in some of the construction zones.

Our current guesses are either that a stuck fuel injector is dumping too much fuel into the engine (Boston Freightliner had warned us that one injector was ailing, but said that we could deal with that when we returned home from our trip), or that we are having a problem with the turbocharger, which would be a real bummer because they are expensive and we have a brand new one (approximately 2 weeks old, installed by Boston Freightliner).

The black exhaust smoke was so bad that a police officer pulled us over yesterday to see what was going on. Jeff explained that the Rockies had been rough on us and that we had taken in the RV in Elko that afternoon, but the mechanic could not diagnose the problem without tearing into it, and unfortunately the problem was not something obvious. The mechanic had said that we had a decent chance of making it into Reno and having the problem worked on there.

The officer warned us of Nevada’s “no visible emissions” law and told us that there were no guarantees that we would not get stopped again, but he allowed us to continue on our way since we had a mechanical problem. He was quite polite and treated us well, even thought Jeff told him that we were on our way to Burning Man (we have both heard stories of police harassment of burners on the road, but my 4 years and Jeff’s 5 of coming out here, neither of us have experienced that).

One bit of advice: if you ever break down in one of these small towns, don’t do it on a Friday. We’re stuck here in Winnemucca at least until Monday morning. Despite our best efforts, we could not find a mechanic to look at the RoVerhauler over the weekend. We are planning to check in with Speedy, the mechanic recommended by our RV park… his shop opens at 8:30 AM on Monday… at which time, if things had gone as planned, we would already have been setting up camp on the playa at Burning Man. 😦

The Rocky Mountains really gave us a challenge. It took a vast amount of strength and endurance to get this far. Even if the RoVerhauler had been working properly, it still would have taken a lot of energy, but with the problems we were having, the drive was significantly more challenging and draining than it should have been. Even though we slept in places that might have allowed for wifi access, we did not even have the bandwidth left to write about what was happening. Please accept my apologies for the delay in posting and the flurry of posts tonight.

What can we do? We are stuck here. We must be patient. If we are lucky, the RoVerhauler will be repaired on Monday or Tuesday, and we can hit the playa on Tuesday or Wednesday. If we are less lucky and an obscure part needs to be brought in or something, the RoVerhauler may be stuck here longer. If that turns out to be the case, we may just buy a tent here in Winnemucca and throw that and our food and water into FINSUP and hit the playa without our beloved rig. We’ll see what makes sense come Monday.

BTW, I have to give huge props to Liz and John Wells, the owners of the Winnemucca RV Park. They have been great. They have given us a warm welcome and made us feel right at home. They have done wonders for our spirit with their advice and friendliness. I would gladly stay here again, although I hope that next time it is by choice!

Anyway, Jeff and I are exhausted but recovering, and the support we have received from friends back home, burners we have met on the road or here in Winnemucca, and the locals as well have given us the hope that we will get through this and make it to Burning Man.

roverhauler  011.jpg

Michelle recovering from the ordeal

This turn of events has forced us to slow down, which those of you who know us know is not entirely a bad thing. There are many less pleasant places we could be stuck.

roverhauler  012.jpg

The view from the pool, Winnemucca RV Park

Well, I was hoping to post more pictures tonight (I have taken TONS of them), but Jeff seems to have fallen asleep while I have written this, and I do not yet know how to post them, so once again, I’m promising photos “some time soon”. I’m off to meet the Sandman myself momentarily… I can barely keep my eyes open. Good night! [We’re back-posting photos to the blog as we can–Jeff]

roverhauler  010.jpg

We found the RoVerhauler in an ad in a copy of RV Trader that we bought on a lark during our Christmas visit to Chicago last year, and we purchased her from her previous owner in Higganum, CT in February. He told us that he had bought her from a buddy of his who had bought her in an estate auction. Unfortunately, we do not have any of the original documentation that came with the vehicle.

Before we officially christened her “RoVerhauler”, I often referred to her as “The FrankenTruck”, because she looks like a cross between an old school firetruck and a cab-over camper. I even considered mounting giant bolts on the cab to complete the Frankenstein look! She is definitely eye-catching, in a kind of steam-punk (or, more accurately, diesel-punk) way.

Ms. RoVerhauler has a 1972 Ford C8000 chassis. She kind of looks like an old school fire truck, but she has a dump truck bed and a cab-over. She was repowered in the recent past with a rebuild Caterpillar 3208 diesel engine. She has an Allison automatic transmission. The camper body has one name on it, ‘Jac-Kir’, centered above the windshield.

As much as she looks like an RV conversion, she was originally built as an RV. That is what the original owner told us, and we have found no clues that indicate otherwise. The story we got was that the RoVerhauler was built by a Nascar driver to pull his car transporter and provide infield support. We have been unable to verify that story, but are hoping to come across someone who has heard of ‘Jac-Kir’ or recognizes this vehicle from the 1970s. We’d love to learn about its original owner and early history, whether or not the Nascar story turns out to be true.

Google searches have turned up no information about ‘Jac-Kir’, nor did a post to RV.net. We visited the RV Hall of Fame earlier today (Day 3), with the hope of finding out about ‘Jac-Kir’ in their research library (if I recall correctly, they have 20,000 volumes!) or from the staff. We had a great time speaking with Al Hesselbart, their historian, but he had not heard of this brand or maker. He was very interested in seeing the vehicle, so we gave him an impromptu tour in the parking lot. He speculated that the RoVerhauler may have been a one-of-a-kind or one-of-a-half dozen. He said he was going to do some research on our behalf.

I must say that the RV Hall of Fame is worth the visit, and not just because we got a personal tour from Al. They were open from 9 AM to 5 PM, and I could have stayed the entire day exploring their collection, if not for our schedule and the need to get back on the road to Nevada. If you are interested in RVs, vehicles in general, American culture, history, manufacturing or design, there is something there to capture your imagination. Next visit, I will allow more time to explore. We might be able to stop there again on our way home, but our schedule from Moab back to MA is pretty tight.

As I sit here writing, I can hear the crickets chirping. The cool evening air is chilling my skin, and my hair is still slightly damp from the swimming pool and showering. Rather than spending another night in a Flying J truck stop parking lot, Jeff and I decided to treat ourselves to a night in a campground. We wanted to be able to plug in to use the microwave and to have a quiet spot to work on the generator.

Quite by chance, we found Eby’s Pines Campground here in Bristol, Indiana (near Elkhart). It is a charming place. I would stop here again in a heartbeat, especially during the summer months when the swimming pools are open.

The staff here is very friendly. The grounds are pretty, clean and well kept. There are numerous trees on the site, and it is nice and quiet. We asked for a shady pull-through spot that was off to the side, so that early morning work on the RV would not bother any neighbors, and that is exactly what we got.

We are rather road-weary, so the generator will have to wait until tomorrow…

roverhauler  005.jpg

Michelle posting her entry to the blog the following morning

Our Itinerary:

Week 1: on the road from New England to Reno; stops in Elkhart, Indiana (RV Hall of Fame) and Cheyenne, Wyoming; provisioning in Reno and a bit of relaxing too. We’ll be staying at the trailer park where we first set eyes on each other three years ago… how romantic!

Week 2: Burning Man! Need I say more? Burn, baby, burn!

Week 3: Back to Reno in time for the Patagonia outlet sale on Labor Day, a late lunch at the giant Rib-fest at the Nugget, a detailing at the Mission Car Wash, and a couple of days of R&R (rest and recovery) before we hit the road for Moab.

Week 4 (and the latter half of week 3): Wending our way to Moab via the Canyonlands, Bryce, Zion, etc., whatever catches our fancy. We have no set plan, other than an arrival date in Moab.

Along the way, we’ll be looking for places to drop the kayak, mountain bike, hike; seeking hot tubs, wineries, swimming pools, glass studios, etc., looking to meet new people, make connections, have fun and get away from it all.

Week 5: The 60th anniversary of Land Rover at the National Rally in Moab. Off -road driving, mountain biking, hanging with friends, relaxing.

Week 6: The marathon in reverse: Moab to Massachusetts. Possibly a brief micro-visit my brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephews in Chicago or my buddy Bill and his family in Ohio. Back home just in time for the Great Glass Pumpkin Patch at MIT.

And then we rest! (Yeah, right…)