RV trip 2017 begins

Back in mid-August my wife and I took our second RV trip out west. The first was in 2014 and was really fun -- and a lot of driving. This year's trip would be shorter but would also involve much driving: our goal was Colorado. (Since we live in the St. Louis area it takes a few days to get to Colorado unless you're a mindless driving machine.)

It took quite a bit of planning to get the route correct, especially since The Eclipse would be occurring during the trip. Learning months and months ago that totality would be visible only a few miles from our home was so exciting; my disappointment in realizing that our trip would take us away from home at that exact time was equally strong.


So our travels had to take us west but also put us in a place that would experience totality at the correct time on the 21st. That place ended up being Alliance, Nebraska.

That's where I'll start this photo journal, skipping the first two days and one night of travel. That's not to say that the first two days were not interesting or worth talking about, it's just that I took no photos. Here are some of the highlights of those days:
  • We cut across Missouri not via Interstate 70, but further north using highway 36. This was a great choice, as 70 is heavily traveled, contains many trucks and almost as many billboards, and is rather boring. Highway 36 on the other hand had very few vehicles on it, went through some very pretty central Missouri country, and had nary an advertisement for fireworks, adult entertainment stops, or anything else. So great!
  • The winner of the "most bugs per mile" award for the trip went to highway 29 north of St. Joseph MO. We were on this stretch in the evening and the windshield wipers were getting a real workout. I don't think that grasshoppers fly around at night so maybe the largest we saw were mantises? Seeing them in the headlights just before they hit (or were blown aside) was getting hypnotic.
  • Nebraska is a good place to chase tornados, which I was reminded of at 2 AM that first night when a huge storm passed over the RV park. Very strong winds and bending trees made me wonder what the tornado warning alarm would sound like, and where exactly we would go in an RV park. If you live where strong summer storms are common you know that they always talk about "the hook" in radar images. I was on my phone looking for a hook and was convinced I saw one nearby. Not a restful first night.
  • Interstate 80 is the main route across Nebraska, but we headed north to highway 2 halfway to Alliance. This was another great choice, as the part of Nebraska we saw was so different: very rugged ranch land. A bit bleak but beautiful. Not flat at all, as you think Nebraska might be. Really no place to stop to take photos, but I said "what a view!" more times than I could count. 
Okay, so let's talk about Alliance. Population 8,500 or so. No towns anywhere close. One road back to I-80 -- that will be key later. A great remote place to view a total solar eclipse, right? Yes, until the NPR story ran about Alliance being a great place to view the eclipse. Luckily I had already booked an RV spot prior to that -- which was a bit difficult anyway even in June -- as I learned when we arrived that they were expecting 20,000 people for the eclipse.

We didn't see much of the town as the trailer park/RV park was on the east side of town very near highway 2. This was not the nicest place we've ever parked our RV:

This house (behind the car) had a mean looking (and sounding) dog in the front yard:

Luckily we were not the only RV here...

...and it turns out that the couple who own it have been full-time living in this RV for several years, after years of RVing around the country. In fact Ron is an author of several RV books. Very nice people and it was nice to experience the eclipse with somebody else.

Not a great eclipse photo by any measure, but I love the lens flares!

We had about 2 and a half minutes of totality, and when the corona was first visible we heard a huge cheer -- probably from the crowd at nearby Carhenge.

Of all of the places that Ron and Sandy have visited and all of the things they've seen, this was their first total eclipse, and pure chance put us RV newbies in place to experience it with them in the middle of "nowhere". 

After totality passed, we had to leave Alliance in order to make it to our Colorado campsite that night. A 5-hour drive for which we had a 2-hour or so allowance for post-eclipse traffic. Plenty of time to make it back to I-80 and westward again, right?

Take a look at the map:

Highway 385 south out of Alliance was at a standstill, with more cars being added every minute -- it took us probably 45 minutes just to make it from the RV park to this highway. I should point out that our phones were useless in Alliance -- too many visitors were overwhelming the cell towers. 

With the only two visible options being south (packed) and north (open) I went north instead of south.

Some facts and occurrences during this "shortcut":
  • If you look at the entire loop from Alliance of 385 north to 2 west to 71 south, there is only a single town with a gas station that whole way, and the tank was nowhere near full. Yes I filled up (40+ gallons). (RVs get about 8 or 9 MPG in case you were wondering)
  • Even though this "shortcut" took a couple of hours, at least we were moving. 
  • On 2 going west we saw dozens of bee hive boxes in a field just off the highway (yay!), then sadly drove through the bee traffic that was crossing the highway (oh no!) 
  • There was some really pretty country seen again, especially on highway 71. Not flat or boring at all. 
  • Scottsbluff is the big city in the area, and the bluffs that give the town its name are worth seeing (but not as appreciated after a few hours of driving and 5+ still to go). Wish we could have stopped.
There was still a bit of a traffic slowdown as we neared I-80, but 90% of those vehicles were going past I-80, so once on the interstate things were pretty much wide open.

Although the day (third day of driving) was not yet over, I'm going to stop at this point and pick it up in the next post.  Photos will increase from now on I promise.

If we had stayed home and watched the eclipse from down south a bit we would have still been stuck in traffic for a while I'm sure. So the adventure of seeing it in Alliance was surely better, right?


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Salty Pumpkin Studio  – (September 26, 2017 at 5:47 AM)  

Sounds like a great trip so far. I didn't know Nebraska isn't all flat land.

outlawgardener  – (September 26, 2017 at 9:21 AM)  

Sounds like you had lots of buggy fun so far!

Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)  – (September 29, 2017 at 10:58 AM)  

Awesome post. You describe your trip so well, I feel like I was along for the ride.

Not surprised about the post-eclipse traffic. Friends of ours were in Kentucky and it was no different.

I-80 is "our" freeway. It's only three minutes from our house!

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