July 31-August 9, 2000
Monday, July 31
Roy and Carol, along with granddaughter Amanda, and friends Daryl and Connie, left on Monday at 3 PM to run up to Gillette, WY for the International Coachmen Rally. I-29 straight up to I-90 and west to Gillette was the plan.
Tuesday, August 1
We drove until midnight or so and then grabbed a bit of sleep in a rest area at mile marker 263 in South Dakota before going on into Gillette at daylight. The rest area was brand new and a really nice large area designed to service both directions of travel. We stopped in Wall, SD to see the infamous Wall Drug. They have quite a show there and a small drug store has turned into a big tourist attraction. We were beginning to see quite a lot of motorcycles in the area since it was going to be the start of Sturgis on the 7th. There was no time to see Mt. Rushmore so we went on by and got into Gillette at about 4:30 in the afternoon. Exit 129 leads you right to the Cam-Plex that the folks in Gillette have built.
The Cam-Plex has 1821 campsites on the grounds with 688 full hookups and 953 electric only sites in the Boxelder campground. There are also 90 full and 90 electric only sites in the Windmill campground. There is also additional dry camping areas available and the site had just completed hosting 5400 units at the July 17 - 21, 2000 Great North American RV Rally. A note on the Cam-Plex... the showers were new units in a what essentially were trailer homes that were built into toilet/show facilities. They were clean and well kept. The showers had a push-button arrangement and no shower head adjustments. They were about 27" wide and for a man my size they were a tight fit. The water was hot but there was basically no privacy and you pretty much were back 'in the army' if you know what I mean. I didn't take offense but I can see where some would not like them. I'm sure it was assumed that most units would have their own facilities. You add the five people to the equation (we had five in our unit) and the 6 gallon hot water heater can get pretty short on hot water pretty quickly. My friend Daryl takes cold showers with his disability and that was not an option in these showers.
Our arrival at the rally started with a search for the rally entrance. The signage was terrible to say the least and after several driveways and asking someone where we should go we determined that the entrance we needed was literally the last entrance around a corner and a quarter mile down the road. No one had bothered to put up a responsible sign offering to lead us in. When we got to that entrance there was no one there and in fact the 'greeting/check-in' booth and the volunteers manning it was some distance into the campground. Wonder who thought this one up? We had been in contact with a friend that was at the rally and had saved us a spot next to him so we quickly got parked and hooked up to the excellent facilities. Registration was closed for the day. Rally registration has been open on the 31st for a whopping 1 1/2 hours in the morning and another 1 1/2 hours in the evening. Why wasn't this manned for the whole day? And again on the 1st it was only open for 3 hours and had in fact closed at 3 PM. So here we are parked with no information available on what to do. You've gotta' love it! Why didn't someone have the registration packets in hand and give them to you when you checked in? This was just the beginning of a poorly run rally.
Our friends that had arrived early were able to help us get going and make the opening ceremonies, etc. There were activities for the kids while the opening ceremonies were done. We didn't see but some 20 kids or so there. Was this the Coachmen retirement rally? We weren't laughing... as you'll see.
Wednesday, August 2
On Wednesday there was a 7-9 AM coffee social. Of course you wouldn't know about it if you didn't have a registration packet with the free tickets in it for the social. The vendor booths (such as they were) opened at 8 AM. There was notably not very many vendors in comparison to other such events. A note here: several of the vendors said they had no intention of ever returning to a Coachmen rally since it was a 'rinky dink' operation and the cost for a booth was ridiculously high. I had hoped to see a lot more products available and factory support but was disappointed. I'll try to cover some of the vendors here. There was a flea market area and Pete's Market (Coachmen accessories) was open. There was a display of trailers and motorhomes. It's always interesting to look at new products. I felt that the displays were brief but enjoyable. For some reason there was a new Sportscoach that had a 'breakfast bar' instead of a dining area. Ever try to feed your friends on a breakfast bar facing the wall? I did not hear a single positive comment on that one. Dark wood, poor door hinges, and a bathroom fan from hell marked my memories of the nearly $200,000 Sportscoach. Why wouldn't someone see the light and install something like a Fantastic Fan in these spots. Dealers tell me they end up installing one anyway when the purchaser wants it done.
There were seminars throughout the day on various subjects. Topics on Wednesday covered RV insurance, long term care coverage, Sky Med, Winegard Satellites, RV Care, HWH, Kwikee, and Ford Motor Co. We attended the Winegard seminar and checked out the vendors.
Amanda met a little friend (Kelcy) at one of the child activities and spent some time with her. Kelcy's parents were from the St. Louis area and we spent some time with them. A little aside here... on Thursday there were games for kids and it was labeled for 7-18 year olds. Kelcy's brother is 7, but is small. The lady that was handling the kids games at that time told him he couldn't participate in the games because he was lying to her and he was too young for the games. After telling her that he would be 8 on his next birthday, and Kelcy telling her that he was her brother and he was indeed 7 years old she still was a total ass about it and wouldn't let him play. Kelcy had to get her mother over to get the situation corrected. Where do they get these people? And what difference could it have possibly made if he was younger? Kelcy's parents were just one of the families that we visited with that were very disappointed in the rally.
We met some folks at the rally that did signs (engraving) and we had some name tags made up, along with some other odds and ends of signs for our RV. I found these folks to be extremely nice and quite capable. You can get work done by contacting them on their web page. http://www.signman.net will get you there. These folks do name badges with the Coachmen logo on it. They were nicely done. Had one made for Amanda also.
Wednesday evening we went into town and ate at Humphrey's Bar & Grill. The Wednesday 'special' was pork ribs. Had they served that garbage to the customers in the KC BBQ restaurants that I go to regularly... they would have been out of business in short order. Apparently Humphrey's thinks they've got a good thing. NOT! The appetizers clearly had not been cooked long enough to even heat them up (cold centers). But to impress folks they had a bevy of beers available. Oh boy! As you can also tell... I don't drink either. I'd have been happier going to Taco John's and would have paid a whole lot less!
Leroy Van Dyke & The Auctioneers provided the entertainment for Wednesday night. You wouldn't want to have to pay for it but it wasn't bad entertainment for free. Daryl and I went over to a horse riding group at the corral that was doing barrel races and pole bending. It was much more interesting but was over early. We saw the last couple of songs done by Leroy Van Dyke and took the gals home.
Thursday, August 3
Thursday again had seminars with Blue OX, Winegard, Atwood, Fire and Life Safety, Thetford, Dometic, Gas & Diesel Maintenance, Internet on the Road, Sky Med, Rushmore Shadows Membership Camping, and Battery Maintenance. We attended the Fire and Life Safety and the Internet on the Road seminars.
We attended the Fire and Life Safety seminar in the morning. The Fire and Life Safety seminar was the best seminar we saw or have seen for that matter. I felt that the seminar was an absolute must for all RVers and other folks for that matter. Mac McCoy was more than excellent in his presentation and I genuinely feel that this is a life saver course. For additional information about this seminar and the products that these folks sell you can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. Mac is presented in a page on RV Alliance at http://www.rvalliance.com/fire.php3. These folks have a good program and the products they sell were excellent. Carol and Connie went to the seminar on Friday. They too were impressed.
At 2 PM there was a Dominoes contest. I went to the area designated as the dominoes area. I have been playing dominoes for some 33 years. There are variations. I ask if they had double-six, double-nine or whatever. I don't play anything but double-six. The lady didn't know and had to look to see what they had. I asked what rules they were using and she informed me adamantly that we would play dominoes by 'her' rules. Period. I asked if they were using the basic domino rules and she again reiterated that we would be playing by 'her' rules. I decided that dominoes was not in my game plan for the day. Again... where do they get these people?
The seminar 'Internet on the Road' was a joke. The lady giving the seminar had an attitude and was about as poor at presenting a subject as they come. I'm in the internet business and it was all I could do to keep my mouth shut. She was interested in one thing and that was selling her product line. She had absolutely no idea how to present herself to the people that had attended the seminar and chewed one guy's tail end. She informed us 'she was teaching the seminar' and when she was done he could teach it. We walked out after the first half. The second half was apparently about cellular phones... nothing to do with the Internet and she told the group that they could just 'get out' if they didn't want to hear the second half.
We cruised the vendors and among them we found Jay Shirley. Jay makes those stained glass windows that you see in some of the RV doors and windows. She does an excellent job and has some really nice designs. For more information email her at email@example.com and she'll get back with you. Jay is a full-timer also.
Thursday evening was the optional dinner we had paid for so all of us went up to the main building of the Cam-Plex and had BBQ beef or pork sandwiches with corn, salad, and beans. Tea and water was all there was to drink. Not a $9 dinner but what the heck. We were having fun weren't we? After dinner there was a theme parade that went around the camping area. Later Miss Coachmen Queen was crowned and then there was adult bingo and older youth activity.
Friday, August 4
Friday gave us a golf tournament... but then who plays golf? Apparently not many as there was a call for more to play next time when the awards were given out. Apparently they thought that golf was important enough for awards in front of everyone but the other games, etc. were not that important. I don't play golf... but then that was obvious.
Seminars were available on Reese, Oxygen & Your Health, Towing & Fire Safety, Caravan Trips, Vital Living, Traveling with a Computer & GPS, Fire & Life Safety, Discount Camping, Chassis Maintenance, Gilbert RV Insurance.
We all got in the Jeep and drove up to Devil's Tower for the morning. It was about 60 miles to the Tower and we had a nice trip. There were already lots of motorcycles around the Tower. We viewed the historical material but it was quite hot and a walk up to the tower along the trail was not looking like fun. We had to get back for the seminar on Towing & Fire Safety along with Amanda's crafts she was signed up for. The crafts were a nice thing for the kids to get involved with.
Daryl and I drove over to the local Cummins/Onan dealer and picked up some oil and some Power Service diesel additive. Got us out of the rally for a bit.
Friday evening was the Coachmen's Wild West Show. The idea was to have skits from the various groups. Well, that was a bust to say the least. There were a couple of nice skits of appropriate length (3-5 minutes) and then came the Judge Judi take off. It lasted forever... or so it seemed. People started walking out and you think they would have taken the hint. Not so. Carol and I left and apparently the first Judge Judi finally ended and then they started another one... with over half of the crowd leaving at that time. Well... so much for advance planning. A couple we picked up and took back to the campground adamantly indicated that they were displeased with the whole rally and it was one of the worst they had ever attended. Fewer vendors... less organized.
We went back to the motorhome and cut some zzzzs so we could get ready for an early departure. We planed to leave shortly after noon.
Saturday, August 5
We got up and did some cleanup around the unit getting ready to leave. Went down to the local grocery and picked up some donuts for Amanda... she's always good for some of these. Got a few other things while we were there. Showed some folks the sewer solution that we use. They were impressed.
Note: In all fairness... throughout the rally there were craft areas open for children and adults. There were seminars on various subjects. There were also games and entertainment for kids. The vendors (such as they were) were available with their products and support, although several of them left early for whatever reason. There was also a flea market, auction, and scrapbook display. There was also a daily door prize of which nearly a third were not picked up by the time that I had left.
Packed up the rig and left about 1:30 for Casper to visit Daryl's sister and
her husband. It's only a 2 1/2 hour drive and we had a nice run. We
arrived in Casper and we just parked the rig on the street at Daryl's sister's
place. It was in a subdivision that seemed to have quite a few rigs parked
on the street. Another one didn't make much difference and it was a
dead-end. Joel had fixed some BBQ ribs and we had one heck of a nice
dinner. We had finally reached rib heaven. The trip was already
beginning to look up. We had had a long day and turned in early. The
next day was going to be a trip up into the mountains.
Sunday, August 6
We got up early Sunday and had a nice breakfast with sausage and eggs. It was great! Sharon and Joel got together a nice picnic lunch and we headed out to Casper Mountain and Muddy Mountain (elev 8255). The paved road ends after Casper Mountain and we were on to adventure on six miles of gravel road. The road had a bit of a washboard feature that wasn't fun. The campground was at 8412 ft. according to the GPS that Joel was carrying. Muddy Mountain has one heck of a nice campground, although primitive, for several campers. It is only accessible during a brief time of the summer. Winter comes early. We took a walk down through the pines and to the beaver pond. The walk finally came back to the main road. We ran into a large area with wild red raspberries in it. They were great and we spent some time picking them and taste testing them. <grin> We had some watermelon back at the picnic site and then drove down to the South Rotary Park and walked up to the Garden Creek Waterfall. We were all pretty tired by then and went back to town for a quiet evening and an early trip to bed. I planned to leave by 7 or so the next morning for our trip to Minden, NE.
Monday, August 7
We were up and on the road by a little after 7 AM. We drove down I-25 to US 26 and east to Ogallala, NE. We stopped in Bridgeport at the Community Building and parked to have lunch. We went to the dairy bar across the street and finished lunch with a little ice cream treat. Interstate 80 was a nightmare to say the least. The right hand lane was washboard and rough. There was a lot of work needed here. We stopped in Minden, NE and stayed at the Pioneer Village Campground. We got the last full hookup and parked as close to the restroom as you can get without being in it. We ate dinner at the Pioneer Village Restaurant. Our friends Jack and Dorothy Torrens had already arrived and gotten an electric/water site. They had also seen the Pioneer Village Museum by the time we arrived. We enjoyed their company and they left early the next morning to head on to Fall's City, NE.
Tuesday, August 8
We got up early and had breakfast in the RV. We then went on to Pioneer Village Museum and paid the $7/each to get in. Kids are $3.50. The displays at Pioneer Village are an excellent example of early life in America. It is a don't miss location and I highly recommend it. We stopped at the CO-OP and fueled up, heading home south into Kansas. We went across US Highway 36 to St Joseph and south on I-29 into home. Highway 36 sports numerous highway rest areas/picnic areas that are really nice. We stopped every hour or so and had something to eat when we felt like it. Had some ice cream at DQ in Belleville, KS and visited the Wal-Mart in Marysville, KS. We drove on through to St Joseph on one of the best highways that we had traveled on during the trip. We were home just after dark and tired to boot. There was a lot of clean-up to do the next day...
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