Westward Ho! Part 1

Before the Trip

If you’ve read some of my older posts, you know that Al & I have been looking into buying some sort of motorhome for our retirement. In December, we purchased a new-to-us 2011 Damon Tuscany 42 foot diesel-pusher motorhome.

We had a couple short weekend trips in the spring to make sure we knew how things worked. Well, really, to make sure Al knew how everything worked since he’s the technical guy in this relationship.

In mid-June, we set out with Ozzy for a 3 week adventure with South Dakota, Wyoming and Alberta being the main destinations. For Ozzy, it would be his first trip into the USA. For us, it was a new kind of road trip — we’ve never spent this much time in any sort of RV before.

This is the first in a series of blogs about the experience.

Day 1 – Home to Ashley, Indiana

We were up early to start our 3-week adventure. Both of our weekend trips had been rainy weekends so it didn’t surprise us when we started this trip in the rain.  Plus, the 10-day forecast didn’t look promising for our route.

We left home around 6:00 a.m.  The drive to Sarnia was uneventful, and traffic was reasonably light through Toronto and the rest of the way.

Since it was our first trip across the border using our new Nexus cards, in the RV and with Ozzy, we were a bit anxious.  However, the traffic at the border was light, and the lines were clearly marked.  Once Al presented our Nexus cards, the questions from the customs agent were minimum, and we were on our way again.

Our first stop in the US was at a Walmart Superstore in Burton, Michigan for some groceries.  On the cautious side crossing the border, we had not brought any meat, vegetables or fruit with us.  Walmart is not my favourite place to buy groceries, but we knew their parking lot would be able to handle our 42-foot motorhome with the Ford F150 being “toad”.  We parked at the very back of the lot with a couple tractor trailers and 5th wheels.  It wasn’t a warm day, so we felt okay about leaving Ozzy in the RV by himself.  The Walmart had a Subway shop, so we had a sub for lunch sitting in the RV.

Our next stop was for fuel in DeWitt, Michigan.  There was a bit of confusion as we pulled into the pumps in the wrong direction.  Luckily, the diesel lanes were empty, so Al was able to maneuver around and get us fuel.  I have to keep reminding myself that diesel is fuel and not gas. A bit of sticker shock on the cost of filling up the tank but we knew this wasn’t going to be a cheap trip.

Since we stayed on major highways all day, the scenery was okay but nothing spectacular.  The first few days of our trip were planned to be travel days, so that was to be expected.

Around 4:00 p.m., we pulled into our home for the night – Hartland Winery in Ashley, IN.  We had booked this boondocking spot through an organization called Harvest Hosts.  Harvest Hosts has about 1,000 sites across the US and Canada where you can park at wineries, breweries, farms and golf courses for a night. 

Vines at Hartland Winery

I can’t say enough good things about Hartland Winery.  The wine was good, and staff were more than friendly.  The place was hopping when we first arrived.  After a bit, the place emptied out a bit, and they invited us to bring Ozzy in.  He was hit.  Everyone wanted to meet and greet the pup (he’s 10!), and he was surprisingly mostly disinterested.  There was another dog that came in, and Ozzy was all excited about her – and usually, he is disinterested in other dogs.  We were really beginning to wonder if aliens had replaced our dog when he finally lay down under our table.

Ozzy at Hartland Winery

After our day of travel, neither of us felt like cooking, so we had a local diner deliver dinner to as at the winery.  The weekend special is broasted chicken, so that’s what we ordered.  It was fun to be able to sit in the winery drinking wine and eating our ordered in dinner.  Thankfully we had dishes in the RV since the diner didn’t send any, but, then, we didn’t ask for any either.

It was a rainy night at the winery, but very quiet.  After the staff left for the night, I don’t think I heard a car until sometime after daylight.

Day 2 – Ashley, Indiana to Peoria, Illinois

The day of travel was very uneventful.  We saw lots of flat land, wind turbines and large silo complexes.

We parked at the Bass Pro in East Peoria for the night.  The Bass Pro is right on the Illinois River, and there is a paved walkway great for walking Ozzy.  It turned out that the Tailgates N’ Tallboys music festival was going on across the river at the Peoria Riverfront Park.  I don’t listen to much country music, but the music was pretty good considering we were across the river from the venue.  If I read the line-up right, we were hearing Brett Eldredge when we took Ozzy out for walk along the path on our side of the river. 

Ozzy at Bass Pro
View along the Walkway in East Peoria
Locks on the Fence Along the River — not sure why

Day 3 – Peoria, Illinois to Lincoln, Nebraska

It was another uneventful day of travel.  More rain – day 3 of rain!

We had a reservation at a cute little campsite call Camp A Way in Lincoln, Nebraska.  Nice big lot.  We had a chat with a retiree who was work camping.  He and his wife had a 2012 Thor Tuscany which is a year newer than our 2011 Damon Tuscany. 

Parked at Camp A Way

If you’re not familiar with the term, work camping enables people to live in their RV for free or low cost camping in exchange for doing work around a RV park; sometimes they get paid as well.

Day 4 – Lincoln, Nebraska to Nenzel, Nebraska

The drive through central Nebraska was less flat than the journey through Illinois.  At the Fort Niobrara Wildlife Refuge, we had a very minor traffic slowdown as there was water over the road from flooding.  There had been a lot of flooding across North America this spring, and it wasn’t the first signs of flooding that we had seen on our trip.

Flooding

Our home for the night was another Harvest Host winery.  This one was the Niobrara Valley Vineyards just after we crossed into Mountain Time.  The hosts were getting ready to head out for a business trip but still took the time to give us a wine tasting.  Officially, they were closed, so we were the only people in the tasting room, also the only people spending the night.  They have a very large level mowed field near the tasting room where we were able to park the RV for the night. 

Parked at Niobrara Valley Vineyards

This winery has a 1-mile driveway, so it was a great place to walk Ozzy.  On one side of the driveway was a herd of cows and calves; on the other, a couple bulls.  Although behind a fence, the bulls are very intimidating.  Ozzy thought he should go visit, but we quickly put a stop to that.

Vines and Driveway, Niobrara Valley Vineyards
Intimidating Bull

I hope you enjoyed reading about this first part of our trip. Part 2 will be posted soon so come back to read more.

Safe travels!

Vanessa

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