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1814 - Watch out for those geezers in big RVs

In Rinker Buck’s wonderful book Oregon Trail, he offers up a classic lament shared by many others when he complains:

         “Who are all these geezers in their giant motorhomes that are clogging the roadways and causing the rest of us big problems!”

         Well, heck, Rinker, that might have been me!  So stick that in your ear.

         He does have a point.

         He was writing about how big RVs were pulling over to the side of the road and snapping photos of him and his brother when they were riding in their covered wagon on South Pass.

         Buck wrote an excellent book about their 2,000-mile trek, which was the first re-enactment of someone traveling the entire Oregon Trail since 1909. It is truly a fascinating look at the historic trail, which is one of my favorite places. 

But this column is about geezers and motorhomes.

         Nancy and I like to get away from Wyoming winters in late January and drive our 40-foot long diesel pusher toward Las Vegas and places beyond.

         We named our 2005 rig Follow My Nose, which is not about our last name Sniffin, but rather about our penchant to follow our noses when we travel. Our rig is 13 years old and the exterior is horribly faded. But the Freightliner Chassis is amazing. I can fire up that 400 hp Cummins turbocharged engine, engage the Allison automatic transmission and away we go.

         On this trip, we found ourselves driving all the way through Las Vegas during the 4 p.m. rush hour and finally emerging out the south end heading for Kingman, AZ.  We spent the night jammed among 200 semi-trailer trucks at a busy truck stop.  Very loud and smelly. Not sure those professional truckers appreciated our rig parked amongst them. We did not want to go to the trouble of parking in an RV park as we were headed east of Interstate 40 the next day.

         Interstate 80 and Interstate 25 in Wyoming are wonderful roads compared to I-40, which is narrow and bumpy with lots of cracks. It was awful in Arizona, a little better in New Mexico, much better in Texas and wonderful in Oklahoma.

         While passing through Flagstaff, we saw tourist families on the shoulder making snowballs.  Both northern Arizona and northern New Mexico have some impressively high mountains – reminded me of Wyoming.

         We caught up with daughter Shelli Johnson with husband Jerry, sons Wolf, Hayden and Fin in Santa Fe for a quick spring break get-together.    

         We saw the oldest church in the country (1620 or so) and the oldest house next to it. The famous Loretto Chapel with its mysterious stairway was memorable. We ate great Mexican food and saw incredible art.

         Our RV was parked at a fine KOA campground in nearby Bernalillo, which is a little town that features a gigantic Indian casino. There are 25 casinos in New Mexico controlled by Indian tribes.

         Bernalillo is also famous as an outpost for Spanish explorer Coronado, who ventured north in 1540 with 300 soldiers, 1,000 Indians, 1,000 horses and 500 mules.  They compiled a 4,000-mile journey into what later became the United States of America. Coronado’s expedition involved the first visits to many parts of America by Europeans.

         Here is Wyoming, there are tales of a Spanish helmet reportedly found in a cave at the base of Steamboat Mountain near South Pass. The helmet later disappeared. 

Jim Smail of Lander found an old tree on Sioux Pass near South Pass, which had a Spanish-looking cross carved into its trunk.

         Most historians believe the earliest European visitors to Wyoming might have been remnants of a Spanish group just south of Cheyenne around 1720. It was led by Don Pedro de Villasaur, which proved to be a disaster, when two tribes slaughtered them.

         We all know that Yellowstone contains one of the country’s super volcano calderas but a similar one exists in northern New Mexico, called the Valles Caldera. Not far from that site is Los Alamos where the atomic bomb was developed in World War II.

         As our trip continued, we ran into cold, windy weather around Amarillo, TX but at least there were some green grass and fresh crops coming up. It was the first green we had seen for a long time. 

         It was cold and windy in north Texas but nary a snowflake in sight.  But we truly were getting homesick for Wyoming. It was time for this geezer brigade to start heading north.