This will be the final blog for RV Trip 3 and it will cover a lot of distance as we returned home with a stop in Winnipeg first to visit with family. The tricky part about returning in April is dodging weather issues along the path and as you get further north, finding campgrounds that are open. A cold front was dropping down from the North so we stalled in Tucumcari (New Mexico) for two nights which gave us an opportunity to see some more of the Route 66 stops. One of the coolest was the Blue Swallow Motel that had been retro renovated and each room even came with its own garage with wall murals!
The morning we planned to leave Tucumcari a major wind storm was coming in and the recommendation was not to drive RV’s. The storm was supposed to hit at 9 am so we got up very early and left at 7 am so we were able to get ahead of the wind. We had calculated that we needed to do about 350 KMS per day to reach Winnipeg for our timing. We travelled along Highway 54 through the corners of Texas and Oklahoma and reached Liberal Kansas the first day where we saw Dorothy’s House from the Wizard of Oz and the International Pancake Day Hall of Fame.
Our next day was all in Kansas as we went from Liberal through Dodge City and ended up in Salina. Dodge City was a unique place as they process 6,000 cattle per day 6 days a week! Each 1,100 lb. animal yields about 490 lbs. of edible meat. After smelling the area you might be persuaded to become a vegetarian;-) North East from Dodge City was Spearville where they have 162 Wind Turbines. We soon learned to fear wind turbine areas from a driving perspective as their locations mean higher winds which means more challenging/tiring driving conditions in the RV. It was quite interesting seeing the map of the US with the wind turbine production capacity in each state. Further along Highway 56 we had a lunch stop in Pawnee Rock to see the rock formation that rose above the grasslands. In Salina we found a KOA that was open so we stayed there overnight. We didn’t hook up the water as it was going to be 26 F overnight. The KOA had a fun sign by the exit (last slide here).
From Salina we began our Northward bound segment on Highway 81 to finish Kansas and enter Nebraska. One of our stops was in Columbus as they had a park with some exhibits. The first displayed the historical bells from churches and schools in the area. The next paid tribute to Andrew Jackson Higgins who was born in Columbus and invented/produced the “Higgins Boat” which was an extremely critical tool for World War II. The local high school planned this exhibit and even went to the extent to gather sand from each of the 58 countries around the world that had beach invasions using the “Higgins Boat” in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam and that sand was placed under the replica. Lastly was the Freedom Eagle Sculpture which was built from salvaged steel from the World Trade Center buildings to honour veterans and show how we will persevere over terrorism. That evening we found a small RV park and motel that was open in Humphrey NE where again we didn’t hook up due to freezing temperatures overnight. The website photos looked far better than the actual site;-)
We had been actively monitoring the weather and knew a major snow storm was coming to North Dakota and Minnesota so we decided we needed to push to get to Winnipeg in 2 days of driving to avoid the storm. This meant we needed to cover about 500 KMS each day. This is not that far in a car but is more of a challenge with the RV, especially with the winds we had on the day driving from Humphrey to Sisseton South Dakota. We only found one campground that was open and really they just had electricity on (which we wanted for heat) as they had not turned on their water yet for the season. We were also worried we’d get stuck in the mud as the campsites were just thawing out. The following morning we winterized the RV as our next stop would be Sharon’s parent’s driveway in Winnipeg. Our timing worked perfectly to avoid the snow storm and thank goodness for that as it was quite a bad one (Winnipeg didn’t get the storm). Our border crossing was uneventful and we stopped in Emerson to see the RCMP statue before carrying on to Winnipeg.
Over the next week and a half we were very busy in Winnipeg with family functions. Some of the activities included BBQ’ing the Legion Meat Draw win of steaks, visiting Carman Manitoba after dropping our RV off for service in Winkler, going out for dinner with the whole family for Edie’s birthday, setting up and attending the Scholarship Gala in memory of our niece Maya, visiting Kildonan Park, seeing St. Andrew’s church, having lunch at Half Moon Drive-In near the locks in Lockport, drinking beer with Danny at Barley Brothers, and visiting the Royal Canadian Mint with Danny and Janice. We did the tour at the Mint but they wouldn’t let us take any photos of the production areas. Interesting facts about the mint; they produce 15 Million coins per day, they have produced over 52 Billion coins in 30 years for 71 countries, they employ about 300 people, and they stop producing coins (like our penny) when it costs more to make it than the coin is worth (the nickel is next).
Once we left Winnipeg (April 25) we stopped for one night at Sharon’s parents cottage along Falcon Lake with Brian and Susan. The lake was still frozen over but Brian and I were able to clear a tree that had fallen down in the winter. The next day we entered Ontario and did the long drive to Thunder Bay since we knew the KOA was open there. Our favourite section for the drive along the North side of Lake Superior is from Thunder Bay to Sault Ste. Marie so we broke this in to two days, travelling to Wawa on the first day and then on to Sudbury on the second day. It was really interesting seeing the lake at this time of year with ice on some areas and snow along the road. We stopped in Terrace Bay and had lunch by the beach. Once in Wawa we found a really nice renovated motel (Mystic Isle) for the night (since the campgrounds were closed) and had dinner at the Wawa Fireside Dining Room. The following morning we visited Silver Falls and Sandy Beach where Andrew Young Jackson had painted one of his works. They have put up easels and stools in various locations where the Group of Seven Painters had done their works. We were very glad the Motel owner had told us about these out of the way places as we had never seen them before (and we’ve driven this road a huge number of times).
As we headed further south we drove through Lake Superior Provincial Park and we noted several campgrounds that we’ll try to stay in when we head back out west in September for the LTV Rally. We stopped at several scenic lookouts including Theano Point, Pancake Bay, Chippewa Falls (another Group of Seven location) and the halfway point for the Trans-Canada Highway (7821 KMS from Newfoundland to British Columbia). Once we reached Sault Ste. Marie the diesel prices were back in the normal range so that was nice to see (about 20 cents more per L in the north). We continued on to Sudbury and as we arrived major snow flurries were making it hard to see. We checked into a motel and went out for dinner and prayed the snow wouldn’t be too bad. Luckily it stopped a few hours later and the drive back to our home the following day was quite good. We did have lots of wind along Georgian Bay and we stopped for lunch in Wasaga Beach to watch the Kite Boarders enjoying the high winds. Of course they had dry suits on so they could handle the frigid water temperatures.
That concludes our third major trip in our RV with 1 month in southern New Mexico, 2 months in southern Arizona, 1 month in California, and about 1 month of travel to and from. We started out on November 24 2017 and finished on April 29 2018. We covered a total distance of 15,353 KMS. We travelled in 3 countries, 14 different states, and 2 provinces. From our rough tallies we did 354 KMS of hiking, 123 KMS of MTB riding, and 70 KMS of ATV’ing. We took 4,966 photos of which we selected 1,966 for the blog. I am including a map link here for the entire journey captured by our GPS logger (Joel & Sharon RV Trip 3 Map ). This link should take you to the overall map and if you want to see more detail for any area just zoom in or out for the full details. It’s fun now to see how we zig zagged around in the south western states.
Overall this was another great trip for us and we found we really enjoyed the desert environments. The only thing we found was that the swing from night time to day time temperatures was a challenge (anywhere from 40 to 50 degrees F daily). People think of us as snowbirds going south to avoid the snow but the reality is in these south western locations we needed our heater/furnace on overnight for almost the entire time period which was much different than what we experienced on Trip 2 along the gulf coast. We visited 4 of the 5 deserts in North America so we know we have to return to see the 5th. Our trip changed direction when Sharon had to have her eye surgery but she did get phenomenal care in Temecula California. So many areas left to go see and so little time! Until our next journey I wish you all safe travels wherever you may venture.