November 28, 2021

(More Than) Idaho in Our Rear View Mirror (Part 2 of 2)

I find it intriguing how every expedition takes on a personality of its own.  On this particular trip, the bothersome issues we had with our GPS unit, the hot spot in the truck, one of the sensors on our tire pressure monitoring system and our portable generator definitely added a level of frustration to our travels.  On the other hand, discovering the exceptional beauty of Idaho’s parks, mountains, lakes and rivers made for excellent explorations of the natural world that were, somehow, both soothing and exciting.  Focusing on the many positive aspects of the trip makes it memorable for all the right reasons.

In my previous post, I spoke of enjoying the amazing campsites and beautiful bike trails that resulted in a most enjoyable and fun-filled adventure in Idaho.  But wait!  There’s more – plenty more!

A common theme among RVers is the pure pleasure of camping with family and friends or meeting up with them on the road.  These connections never fail to enrich our travels and it’s rare that a trip goes by during which Alan and I don’t have plans to meet up with someone, somewhere along the line.  It doesn’t matter where, and it doesn’t matter what we do.  It’s all about simply being together and enjoying each other’s company.

On our way west, we stopped in Colorado to visit our friend Peg and her delightful family.  The friendship Peg and I share dates back to first grade.  (That always sounds better to my ears than saying we’ve known each other for nearly 60 years.  That just makes me feel old.)  We never fail to make the most of our in-person get-togethers, and a wonderful evening full of laughter and lively conversation at Peg’s home in Colorado underscored that fact.  Peg and her two sisters live in Colorado; their three brothers live up and down the east coast.  Despite the distances between them, this clan is one of the most closely connected families I’ve known.  In fact, even if you’re not family, you’re family.  Maybe that’s why it always feels like home whenever – and wherever – we get together.

Another place, another time - me, Kyra and Alan with Peg and her dog Ollie

While we were camping in Hells Canyon on the Oregon/Idaho border, friends Kevin, Maddison and their adorable young son Thatcher traveled from their home in Oregon to hang out with us at Woodhead Park.  (Coincidentally, these guys also have a dog named Ollie, but their Ollie didn't make the trip with them.)  We first met when Kevin, then an Inside Sales Rep for Outdoors RV Manufacturing, was our guide when Alan and I stopped at ORV for a factory tour back in 2017.  For whatever reason (and I don’t think any of us has ever really figured out exactly what it was) we just hit it off and have remained in touch ever since, even though Kevin has moved on from ORV.  When you live on opposite sides of the country and you can only get together every few years, there’s a LOT of catching up to do!  (Ask Peg – we’ve been playing “catch up at meet ups” for years.)  Conversation that day at Woodhead Park was a fast and furious attempt to ask and answer a million questions and share funny and heartwarming stories from everyday life.  Exchanging texts, emails and photos is always wonderful, but there’s nothing like throwing your arms around someone for a hug and reveling in the pleasure of simply spending time together.  It never fails – any time we manage to meet up with friends or family on the road, our bonds deepen and our trip’s enjoyment factor skyrockets.  Road trip memories are priceless, as are the relationships we celebrate along the way.

Alan and me with Maddison, Thatcher and Kevin ~ Alan, that shirt has got to go!

Our westernmost excursion of this epic journey was a quick dip into eastern Oregon for a brief appointment at the Outdoors RV factory service department.  Living in the northeast, but having traveled to the west coast to purchase our ORV travel trailer, left us without a local dealership to handle our repair and maintenance needs.  Alan takes care of the regular maintenance, but there are some repairs that he prefers to leave to RV service technicians, and we don’t really trust any of the RV dealers’ service departments in our area.   (Oops!  Did I say that?)  So, we tend to rely on the ORV factory service department.  Apparently, that’s okay with them because they continue to allow us to schedule appointments when we head to the Pacific Northwest and always welcome us with open arms.  During this visit, our second, the pros at ORV tackled our wish list quickly and efficiently and sent us on our way in perfect condition.  Our visits to the ORV factory remain the best auto, boat or RV service appointments we’ve ever experienced.  Integrity, professionalism, courtesy, knowledge, skill – the staff at ORV exhibits all these traits.  Imagine that - a company that appreciates its customers and focuses on providing them with excellent service!  Outdoors RV has earned our allegiance, and Alan and I remain extremely appreciative of the quality of their products and the company's attention to our needs. 

Overnighting in the parking lot at Outdoors RV Manufacturing in La Grande, Oregon

After our service appointment at ORV we turned the truck and trailer around and headed east from Oregon.  Turning for home prompts mixed emotions for me.  It signals the beginning of the end, even when there is another week and a half left in our journey, and that always makes me a little sad.  Even as I acknowledge the disappointment, my thoughts turn to the pleasure of settling in at home and seeing our kids and our son’s fiancĂ©e.  Because traveling the road home can be bittersweet, I try to plan as many stellar stops as possible - whether campgrounds or attractions.

We're ba-ack!

We spent the first two nights following our ORV appointment back in Idaho at Cottonwood Park Campground near Bruneau.  Cottonwood is another Idaho Power Campground, this one on the Bruneau Arm of the C. J. Stryker Reservoir, and we truly enjoyed our stay at the waterfront site I had successfully snagged.  We’ve had wonderful luck with power company campgrounds in western states – an opportunity that seems to be sorely lacking back east.  Following Cottonwood, we planned to spend two nights in the Ogden, Utah, area, meeting up with Chris, a fellow blogger, and visiting the Golden Spike National Historic Park.  However . . .

The day we left Idaho for Utah, I pulled up the weather to find that the intermountain region was due to get its first major snow storm of the season, potentially dropping 6 to 12 inches of snow throughout Wyoming on the very days we planned to travel through that state.  It had been cold enough for the snow to stick around for a while and we really didn't want to get stuck somewhere on Interstate 80 in the middle of Wyoming when we had reservations in place further east.  Alan and I hemmed and hawed about it but, ultimately, ended up making the difficult decision to skip Ogden and push all the way from Idaho through Wyoming and into Nebraska.  The snow was forecast to stop before it hit Nebraska, but Nebraska's forecast was for high winds and gusts close enough to a rollover risk that we didn't want to chance that either.  So, we pushed on all the way through Nebraska and landed in Omaha.  As it turned out, Interstate 80 in Wyoming was, indeed, shut down in a few places within 24 hours of our passing through there, so a good call on our part.  With a nod to George Strait, we hurried, and we did make Cheyenne.

The Lake Cunningham Campground in Omaha was a lucky find.  Despite being difficult to locate in the dark (the sign wasn’t lit - bonus points to Alan for spotting the Park road), this campground was a gem!  Built by the Army Corps of Engineers and managed by the city of Omaha, it turned out to be a well-designed and well-maintained facility.  Close enough to the city for access to goods and services, but just far enough outside of it that the traffic noise was limited, the campground felt like our own little hideaway.  We spent a delightful two days there, celebrating our escape from the storm and exploring Omaha while we waited to catch up with our reservations down the line.

We were happy campers at Lake Cunningham!

Following our unexpected visit to Omaha, we continued our journey east to Indiana Dunes National Park.  Until our arrival in Indiana, we hadn’t yet claimed the privilege of coloring in any additional states on our travel map during this trip.  Indiana had somehow eluded us during our six prior cross-country camping trips.  Not this time!  Our stay at Dunewood Campground in Indiana Dunes National Park allowed us to finally pull out our crayons and color it in.

On our way to everywhere!

Despite achieving that special milestone, I have to admit that Alan and I were somewhat disappointed with this National Park.  The Park is located near the industrial area of Gary, Indiana, and composed of disparate sections of Park-owned lands mixed in among privately owned property.  (In my humble opinion, that format works well in Acadia National Park; here, not so much.)  Despite the fact that Indiana Dunes had been granted National Park status two years ago, some of the signs still said, “Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.”  You know I’m a huge fan of our National Parks but, really . . .

What's with that?!

A couple of roads were closed due to construction during our visit which made it impossible to access two sections of the National Park.  (Several attempts to detour around the construction were unsuccessful, but at least we gave it our best shot.)  Mt. Baldy, a prominent dune over 100 feet high, is quite visible in the easternmost section.  Actually, when you enter the parking area you pull almost directly up to the dune.  But climbing on Mt. Baldy is prohibited and access to the beach there is via a steep trail.  The National Park Service even recommends that you don’t carry anything like a cooler due to the difficulty of the return climb.  The most popular beach access area (the name of which I can’t even remember) was rather uninviting with grass growing up in the parking lot.  So disappointing!

Apparently, a lot of people don't agree with this rule.

On the other hand and despite overcast skies, Alan and I definitely enjoyed our visit to Indiana Dunes State Park, located adjacent to one of the National Park sections.  Our daughter, Kyra, had visited Indiana Dunes a couple of months before we did.  When she told us that she enjoyed the State Park more than the National Park, we were a bit skeptical.  I have to admit, though, that she was absolutely right.  The State Park had a large, well-used parking area, a beautiful old stone pavilion that housed a restaurant and snack bar, plenty of restrooms, convenient outdoor showers for summertime guests and an observation tower for bird watching.  Plus, you can actually climb all over the dunes there.  Both the beach and the dunes are easily accessible from the parking area, and the campground in the State Park was lovely.  Alan and I were happy to visit yet one more National Park on our bucket list but we have no plans to return.  Like Kyra, we would highly recommend a stop at Indiana Dunes State Park if you’re ever in that neck of the woods.

A view of Lake Michigan from the dunes at Indiana Dunes State Park

Our 9,700+ mile trip rapidly came to a close, but not before we spent a night at Cook Forest State Park in Pennsylvania.  Cook Forest had been on our bucket list for an odd sort of reason.  It was here in 2018 that the Outdoors RV East Coast Owners Rally was held for the very first time.  Alan and I missed it due to a major construction project at a rental property, and we were extremely disappointed that we couldn’t attend.  So, we thought it would be fun to visit there three years after the fact – at least we could say that we had been to Cook Forest.  Our friend, Jim, the organizer of that inaugural Rally, had recommended a couple of specific campsites for our stay.  Grateful for the advice, we reserved one of them and ended up loving it.  (Thanks, again, Jim!)  Our brief stay at Cook Forest didn’t make up for missing the Rally there, but it was fun to see the place where it all started.  Attendance at the East Coast Rally has increased over the intervening years - a testament to the camaraderie present among this like-minded group of outdoor enthusiasts who love their rigs.

Leaving Cook Forest State Park

Alan and I arrived home in the middle of October with barely enough time for Alan to winterize the boat and the RV before nighttime temps below freezing became common.  Neither one of us would enjoy full-timing in the RV; we both prefer coming back to the home in the mountains that we love and the company of our family and friends.  (Our kids and all but one of our siblings are local.)  An extended trip of four to six weeks seems to be the sweet spot for us – although we certainly won’t turn down opportunities for trips of shorter durations.  Fall is both a sad and exciting time for me.  I’m always reluctant to put the RV to bed for the winter knowing that our RV travel days for the year are over.  Yet, my thoughts have already turned to next year’s travels and the adventures that await.  It’s a bittersweet season, indeed.

The next post up will be a special treat – an interview with Jim, a Campground Host we met on our travels through Idaho!  Come learn about Jim’s camping history, how he got into hosting and what he won’t travel without when he’s RVing.  I hope you’ll join us!



  1. Your detailed posts always bring back a momentary twinge of sadness for not owning an RV any longer. It was a real highlight of our memories, but we knew it was time to back into a camp site for the last time a few years ago.

    BTW, we stayed at the Lake Cunningham campground site while visiting a friend in Omaha. Your report agrees with ours: worth finding and experiencing.

    1. Bob, Alan and I know that the day will come for us somewhere down the line to hang up the keys to the RV for the last time, too. Hopefully, it will be many years and many adventures from now. We're trying to fit in our long trips and far away bucket list items sooner rather than later just in case the time comes before we expect it.

      It's a treat to mention a campground and find out that someone we know is actually familiar with it! After coming off two very full days of driving (and having spent the prior night in a truck parking area with a truck full of mooing cattle), Lake Cunningham was like an oasis in the desert. We'd camp there again in a heartbeat!

  2. Delightful, as always! But unspeakably disheartening is the starkness of the blank that is Texas on your map. You must put it on your agenda (or, more correctly, agendum). Our ads are truthful: "It's a whole 'nother country."

    1. Rest assured, Mike, that we do, in fact, have the great state of Texas under our travel belts. We have friends in the Dallas area and we attended an adoption conference in Houston years ago. It's not colored in on our travel map only because we have not camped there in our RV. We've driven through the Panhandle with our RV in tow, but the family rule is that we have to sleep in a state in the RV before it can be added to the rainbow. There are currently two trips on the drawing board that will include your beloved home state. (After all, you and Sandy are on our bucket list, too!) One is a loop of the southern states that will bring us to eastern Texas sometime next year. The other is a loop of several states in the southwest. It's on that southwestern trip that we plan to more fully explore Texas and really do the state justice. Don't worry - we'll be sure to bring our passports!

    2. What a relief! And you must let us know your Texas travel plans so, hopefully, we will be more than just cyber friends.

    3. You can count on it, Mike!!!

  3. We completely agree with your assessment of Indiana Dunes! We loved our two visits to Indiana Dunes State Park. And Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore was fine...but we really didn't think it deserved national park status, either.

    As you said, meeting up with family and friends along the way has been a highlight of our travels. You've covered a lot of territory in your adventures! You will love Texas (the state parks are fantastic!) and I hope you'll make your way to Florida again, or at least North Florida. :-)

    1. It's such a rare occasion when we're disappointed by a National Park but, sadly, Indiana Dunes did disappoint. At least we got to color in Indiana!

      Alan keeps track of our trailer miles and I just looked at his spreadsheet. We put just over 41,000 miles on our first travel trailer, a Jayco. (Our son and his fiancee are now the proud owners of that one. It's heartwarming to see him camping in the same trailer he took his first cross-country trip in back when he was 13.) We have nearly 26,000 miles on the Creek Side already. It's mind boggling! Laurel, I'm sure we'll be returning to Florida at some point. We hear that some very nice RVers live there! Wink, wink.


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