OFF TO BUFFALO: Kicking off the Trip of a Lifetime
Part 1 of 5
A Motor Home Trip – By Kathy Maass
This is part one of a five part series that describes the cross-country trip made by Kathy and Dit Maass to attend the annual Family Motor Coach Association rally. Enjoy reading about Kathy’s trip of a lifetime. Kathy is an Oregon retiree and can be reached at email@example.com
When we made our decision to go on this trip, we were still living in Oregon – it was early 2003 and along with 2 other couples, we began discussing a trip across country to Buffalo, NY where we would attend an annual Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) rally. We’d travel with long time friends, John and Pat Partridge and Ray and Sandy Baker. John and Pat had made a similar trip before and had seen some sights they wanted to see again; they also were to represent our motor home group (FMCA Pacers Northwest) at the rally – so there was purpose as well as pleasure built into the schedule; we needed to be in the holding area positioned to enter the fair grounds there in Buffalo by mid July.
We met a couple times to do a bit of preplanning. John likes to travel as economically as possible, using Elk’s Lodge accommodations, the parking lots at Sam’s Club and Walmart stores, and Passport America Campgrounds (which are ½ the published price for members). We all wanted to see the countryside and some places of interest along the way; this meant we would make an effort to map our route often on secondary roads. We did not want to plan out the entire trip before leaving, but we did want a general idea of states we would cross and about how long we’d take getting from point A to point B so we decided we’d set our direction and review maps every couple of days along the way to identify next couple places to stop and about when we wanted to get to those points of destination.
We all agreed we wanted to keep cost down, the travel agenda loose (not stress ourselves out with a tightly planned pre-arranged schedule of campsites), identify some of the sights to see, and be flexible and willing to all stop when anyone of the group wanted additional sight seeing. As for meals, we agreed to gather for dinner daily, alternating the cooking between the 3 of us on those nights we ate in camp. We wanted to maintain flexibility, take care of ourselves, and above all – HAVE FUN!
I’d gotten AAA Maps and Travel Guide Books for each of the states between home and the state of our farthest destination to help me identify some of the spots between OR and NY that I would like to see. Collectively, the six of us identified the Amana Colonies, Amish country, Harry London’s Chocolate factory, the Great Falls, a stop at a friend’s home in Minot, ND. This didn’t include the medical clinic and veterinary hospitals, Canadian border incident or natural disasters we couldn’t plan for, but did ultimately experience.
Since Dit and I were leaving town early to spend time with family in UT, we chose a rendezvous location and date to kick off this trip: Fishing Bridge RV Park in Yellowstone National Park on June 16. Our caravan line-up would lead off with John and Pat in the front in their 38 ft blue Mountain Aire motor home. John would drive and Pat would ride as co-pilot with her map on her lap and her CB and walkie-talkie close by. Since we were
the only couple that had not made a trip of this magnitude in our motor home before, Dit and I would pull into the middle in our 38 ft Riata diesel pusher; my map in my lap and walkie-talkie nearby. Bakers were riding shotgun in their beautiful Dutch Star rig. Each of us towed a car behind the rig. John’s rig has a Jet Navy plane on the back of it under-scribed with “WHALES FOREVER” – a proud Navy retiree – and a bicycle strapped to the ladder – we followed that plane for more than 6,000 miles.
Looking back, for a trip of this magnitude, I compare preparations to that of planning a small household move with a few additional requirements. We filled our water, diesel, and propane and gas tanks and ensured the holding tanks were empty. When you plan to stay in parking lots, you know that there will be times when you won’t have utility hook-ups. Although you have all the comforts of home on the interior, you need to be prepared to camp independent of electricity, water and the sewer hook-up facilities. Our two little dogs (Heidi, the mini-Pomeranian, and Fritzie, the mini-Dachshund) were traveling with us so that meant including all their essentials – bedding, food, leashes, dishes, any meds, vet records, etc. Other things to consider were passports (since we would cross into Canada to head home on a more northern route than we used going east), our own medical information, any household supplies for routine living – don’t forget to make arrangements for the house you are leaving (yard maintenance) and to plan for mail forwarding through the U.S.Mail or a provider service. We were fully loaded and pumped to go!
At this point, you may want to take out a map and follow along. I’ll try to touch on the highlights, as I see them and include a few lessons learned along the way. Having enjoyed our time in UT, Dit and I gassed up on diesel at the Sinclair station in Park City, UT for $1.41/gal (compare that to today’s prices) and headed east on I-80 towards Rocky Springs, WY – and it was a glorious sunny day. In the early afternoon we pulled into the Highland Trail RV Park located just ¾ mile south of Boulder, WY on hwy191, at 7500 ft alt. With full hook-ups and a beautiful open view overlooking the herd of wild horses at play in the lush green fields we faced, we knew this RV Park was a good omen to our trip and it would be just a 2 ½ hour ride to the entrance of Yellowstone the next day to meet our friends.
The date of rendezvous had arrived and we headed north on hwy 191 past a llama ranch towards Pinedale, WY and the lush scenic green pastures, grazing antelopes and snow covered mountain peaks. This Alpine-like setting is dotted with brown farmsteads. Sitting high above the line of traffic, we looked up and into the eyes of a young cowboy as he sat astride the biggest horse I’d ever seen. The cattle drive that was underway was a site to behold as young cowboys and cowgirls worked the herd towards their desired location (just like in the movies), encouraging the cows to cross the road that nestles between the Snake River on the left and the Gross Verde range of hills on the right. The cowboy approached our rig, which we had stopped in awe and slowly backed his horse up ahead of our rig as he motioned with his hand for us to slowly drive through the herd.
Continuing down the road, north of Jackson Hole, we saw our first free ranging buffalo and snapped pictures of them as well as of the Teton Glacier with its snow-topped majestic beauty. We paid the $20 entrance fee to travel through Teton National Park and continued north enjoying the beauty of deep crevices cut through rock cliffs as the Lewis River Canyon ran along our right. Fire-singed forests that were experiencing
new growth of sprouting trees along this part of the route and we bought diesel for $1.82/gal as we entered Yellowstone Park.
Being the first to arrive at Fishing Bridge RV Park, I prepared dinner to share with our friends and looked forward to using this as our first home base from which we ventured out to enjoy the sights of Yellowstone Park over the next 2 days. Yellowstone National Park is a must see: sights include Old Faithful that gushes toward the sky, Fountain Paint Pot, Firehole Falls, White Dome Geyser, and the lush beauty of the area. Venturing out into the nearby areas you’ll easily find Buffalo Ford, Lower Falls, Artist Point, picnic areas, Mt Washington (10,243 ft elev) buffalo, Mammoth Hot Springs, Norris Junction and more. Our exploring those 2 days was just the beginning and this area in and around Yellowstone Park is a MUST SEE!
This trip was already proving to be an experience of a lifetime and it had just begun.