We left Custer South Dakota in late September and have made our way through Nebraska and Missouri to visit family in three separate locations. Soon we are starting our migration to southeast Texas although we have not decided upon a winter home. We have discussed spending time in the Alabama Gulf Shores area, depending on recent hurricane damage, and maybe moving to Florida from there. Our plan is to repeat last years travel patterns which is moving from spot to spot with perhaps a monthly stay at times.
The 850 plus mile journey from Custer South Dakota took us through scenic roads beginning with US 385 south out of Custer, across Nebraska Highway 2 through the Sandhills. Then a short jump over to Lincoln Nebraska on I-80 then on to Kansas City Missouri via I-29. I’ll note that I-80 veers off towards Omaha at Lincoln and one can jump back on the Highway 2 truck route (in Lincoln) over to I-29, saving mileage which is what we did.
Our first stop on this colorful fall journey was the Nebraska State Park at Chadron constructed in 1921 adjacent to a National forest. We had no problem finding a spot for a large rig on their reservation system. The “forest” might not be typical to what most understand to be a forest, but heck, any large groups of trees in Nebraska must surely be called a forest. These trees were originally replanted by man and have be impacted by fire. Definitely add the stop to your list if you are in the area. The scenic view at the end of a forest road reaches as far as the Black Hills.
Sunny and dry is how I’ll describe western Nebraska this early fall. We are lucky to be traveling this time of year as we are having the opportunity to view the fall tree colors for many miles. When the leaves start to drop from the trees, we leave to our next destination. Our dog Wyatt even needed some shade. I used an old table cloth with clips to span his dog run. We can block his view as well should there be other dogs or people nearby he sometimes likes to call over with a bark. This dog pens is relatively light weight and fits in our front basement inside the original cardboard box. Don’t underestimate which height to buy, especially if you have a jumper like we do. Wyatt’s pen is 30″ tall. Folding the pen and storing it for travel added maybe two minutes to preparing on move day.
Nebraska Highway 2 runs between Alliance Nebraska and Grand Island before merging with I-80. In this part of the country you have to be concerned with wind while towing. Our fifth wheel and dually truck did great. I felt Highway 2 was not as windy as I-80, perhaps as it’s surrounded by sand mounds. At Alliance we checked off a must visit place on Karen’s list which was Carhenge. We took a day drive from Chadron to visit the place although we discovered plenty of room for an RV in the parking lot and the roads to the site are way easy to drive. There is no problem bringing the RV if you want to stop along your route.
I’ll throw in another RV tip. When we select a park to stay in I take a photo with my cell phone of the computer screen with the park map and sometimes a view of the roads leading into the park. Once we arrive I can refer to the photo to find our camping spot. This lowers the stress upon arrival. I also look at the street view in Google Earth for the signs and buildings we should be seeing when approaching the turn into the park so as not to miss it.
Nebraska claims the trip through the Sandhills along Highway 2 to be among America’s most scenic routes and it proved to be remarkable. Although I’d say once you have driven through it once there is no reason to make a special trip. At one point during the drive we gained elevation and could see across the landscape. The terrain reminded me of the dimples on a golf ball.
Finding a camping spot along Nebraska Highway 2 can be challenging. For the first time I wondered if our trucks 32 gallon fuel tank would be enough between gas stations. I called ahead to Victoria Springs State Park to make sure the nearby gas station was still open but decided to refuel in Alliance to make sure. I’ve been thinking of replacing our trucks stock fuel tank with a 50 gallon tank or maybe hauling around 10 gallons of diesel in jugs or adding an axillary tank to the bed of the truck. I need more experience or advice before making the decision. When we finish the days drive I prefer to have 100 miles of range left in the tank. Turned out to be a none issue on this trip. We target drives of 200 miles which is well within our approximate 320 mile fuel capacity. The problem can be how far one needs to drive to refuel for the next leg of the trip. I suppose having higher fuel capacity would also cut down on another step in the move-day process which is refueling prior to hauling the trailer. I’ll also add that it’s far less stressful to refuel with the trailer attached after 14 months in this fulltime RV lifestyle.
Our next stop would be Pawnee State Park, Lincoln Nebraska. What is most important about this stop is it was our first of two walk-in spots ever. This means we were not able to make reservations as available spots were first come first serve. We tend to travel on Sundays and Wednesdays which help a lot with finding a spot upon arrival. By Thursday evening we expected to see folks starting into the area from surrounding big cities which is usually the case. Then more arrive on Friday and Saturday. Every now and then we might even leave on a Monday, rather than Sunday, just to avoid the lines at the sewer dump station.
I’ve got a very good friend who lives in Florida. We had worked together in Missouri before Bill retired and moved. His grandfather migrated from Germany to the Nebraska City area. His grandfather was born just before the civil war and was buried in the area. Bill described the hometown and the cemetery where family was buried. Well, we decided to take the 50 mile road trip to pay a visit. Cemeteries make good places for the dog to run and we enjoy the changing tree colors in the fall. As is normally the case, we found unexpected sites of interest.
We took photos of all Bill’s kinfolks’ markers as well as the front of a bank his grandfather built and emailed those to Bill. Took a photo of a state marker regarding a famous tree as well. Later we heard back from Bill who commented we had discovered the Arbor Day tree.
Bill passed along a wonderful story. I had no idea Arbor Day originated in Nebraska City. Bill’s grandad and others replanted the trees in the area which had been destroyed by Buffalo herds. Every year it was usual for everyone to get together and plant trees as just something they did in the area. Later this would become National Arbor Day.
From Nebraska we went to see family near Kansas City in the north, then central Missouri (Warsaw area) and landed in southern Missouri at Carthage were we had stayed in the past.
Running through the center of Missouri is the Katy Trail which is an old series of train tracks converted to crush limestone paths suitable for bike riding, riding and hiking. I should write more about the Katy trail for those not from the Midwest. It’s worth researching. Off the trail in Windsor Missouri (where we visited family) was a wonderful city park with Halloween decorations along the roadway which appeared to be created by local businesses. Off the trail were small cabins to rent for those on the trail. We stayed in Warsaw Missouri on Truman Lake in an RV park.
Time to move south for the next five or more months.