Pat has been busy brainstorming,  planning our itinerary (I just drive the bus and dump the poop tank while contributing to the contents along the way), making reservations, etc.  after Denver.  The plan includes two weeks at Yellowstone, a brief stop to view the eclipse (without spending a lot of time for a 3-hour event), a dash (as much as we dash anywhere) across North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and New York, and a visit with our kids in Baltimore for Thanksgiving.   Each of the balloons below represents between a few days to three weeks in one spot.

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Courtesy of  Good Sam’s Trip Planner

Since we’re all about warm temperatures, we have to get out of Baltimore before things get chilly, so our next phase for winter 2017-18 is to head down I-95 to Florida where we’ll meet up with my brother Jerry and his wife Beth for a month in an RV resort down the road from Disney World in Orlando.  We plan on spending the entire month of December there, and then moving up to the Florida Panhandle for another month along the gulf coast.  We’re also hoping that close proximity to Disney World will act as a kid magnet, and get our two busy kids to drop things for a bit and spend a week or so with us.

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We’ve got a lot of relatives to visit after that so we’re going to meet up with friends for Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and then cut North to ultimately wind up in Maine at the height of Summer 2018.

Those northern states get cold pretty early, so we’ll have to do what we can do to visit and then scoot south before the winter winds start to blow.

But for Now, Thanks a Lot, Hiram.

We left Denver after the wedding festivities wound down, and headed up to our operating base of Rapid City, South Dakota.  It’s too much for one day’s travel, so we split it up by staying for three nights at Scottsbluff, Nebraska (#2 on the map above).   People think of Nebraska as plains, and the eastern half is just that.   But Western Nebraska has some hills rising up out of the plains, and they acted as landmarks for settlers moving westward along the Oregon Trail in the middle 1800’s.   The town is named for Hiram Scott, a Rocky Mountain fur trapper who didn’t do anything remarkable except die in the area after taking sick while travelling and making his way into the area – one historian said by crawling and swimming courtesy of the North Platte River that runs through town – after his fellows got tired of dragging him around.  His body was never found but the area eventually bore his name.

The town of Scottsbluff is like many plains towns in the area, focused on agro and the other businesses that keep the state moving, but there is a national park here called, appropriately, the Scotts Bluff National Monument. The NPS took the actual topographic feature known as Scotts Bluff and built a road to the top of the hill.  From that point it’s possible to view the path of the Oregon Trail, and see what the settlers saw as they stopped for provisions on their way west.   The pass through Scotts Bluff is known as Robidoux Pass, named after the family who operated a trading post at the site.   The story was related to me by a local American Indian scholar I met that Antoine and Joseph Robidoux so disliked the settlers, who were not very friendly – many of them were early Mormons who were not known for their bonhomie except amongst themselves – and haggled incessantly for everything they wanted to buy as they passed through the area, that they eventually moved their trading post south off the trail so that their only customers would be the local Indian tribes.  These folks paid the asking price for whatever they bought and got along just fine with the Robidoux family when they weren’t on the war path.

It’s unlikely that those settlers would have been able to do what we did, go to the top of the bluff and have a look at the country to the west of Scotts Bluff, since they didn’t have the luxury of stopping for a breather.  They had to keep moving in order to get through the Rockies before the snow flew.   But since we had the time, we drove to the top of the bluff, had a good look at the area, and Pat walked the trail back down to the park headquarters while I drove down to meet her.

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Scotts Bluff.  I took this picture while standing on the Oregon Trail (Robidoux Pass) and looking North.  The settlers would have moved through here with this feature to their North.
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View from the top of the bluff to the north, towards the town of Scotts Bluff.  Pat decided to take the walking trail down (just visible to the left through a man-sized tunnel from the other side of the bluff.
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Typical settler’s wagon.  This is NOT a “Conestoga,” which was out of the price range of most settlers as they cost about $1000.  This one ran about $200, much less sturdy but affordable.  And it had the luxury of being much lighter for fording creeks and hauling up and down mountains.  This particular wagon was built and owned by the Studebaker family, who moved west along with the other settlers, and later transferred their blacksmithing knowledge into making cars.
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A true Conestoga heavy freight wagon.  Took 6-8 oxen to pull one of these (that’s on top of the grand you had to pay to own one).
On Friday, July 28th, we got back on the road and made the final leg up to Rapid City, SD, where we’ll have just short of a week to take care of financial and medical business before moving northward to visit the national parks and heading East.