Saturday, June 30, 2007
6/29 (Day 21): Now that we have re-entered Kansas on our homestretch leg to Overland Park, it does feel a little like The Wizard of Oz. But instead of flying monkey’s, we saw the ‘World’s Largest Prairie Dog’ weighing in at 8,000 lbs and measuring 18 feet in length at Prairie Dog Town. Sorry to say though, this giant prairie dog wasn’t what we expected (see below). More than just prairie dogs, the four decade old animal farm housed live rattlesnakes, coyotes, wild boars, badgers, and a fifteen pound giant Flemish rabbit, among other animals. The Innes skateboarding team (far right), a bunch of delinquent minors bussed from Oceanside, California, joined us in the fun but got their jollies from harassing the geese and wild boars.
(As you can see, we fell for the ‘World’s Largest’ marketing gimmick: hook, line, and sinker. )
6/29: Too many Winnie the Pooh DVD repeats? Mosquito contracted West Nile symptoms? Perhaps all the microwaved corn dogs and chicken nuggets have now exerted a toll? Or maybe it’s just one too many 400 mile drives? Irrespective of the cause, there are no worries now that we are just a short 175 mile jaunt from Salina to our home base Mecca.
I think it was Vince Lombardi who said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all,” but as far as I’m concerned fatigue just makes me sleepy. When I get back from the trip, I’m recommending Winnebago design a pillow feature right into the steering wheel. Fortunately the screaming kids and caffeinated beverages prevented me from driving the Beast straight off a cliff.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
6/28: We stumbled upon this Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center in Woodland Park just on the outskirts of Colorado Springs despite it not being an official location on the Wade Slome agenda. Nevertheless, it earned a top approval rating on the Whitney & Hayley satisfaction gauge (Mom & Dad too). Contributing to the kids’ entertainment value was the fossil excavation activity and dinosaur book story time.
Interestingly, over forty different types of dinosaurs have been discovered in Colorado, including one of the earliest on record in the U.S. over 130 years ago. Colorado is also home to five major dinosaur museums including this one.
Unlike Robin, I was not a History major and museums like this help me appreciate what temporary tourists us humans have been on this planet. If you believe that the ‘Big Bang’ happened 14 billion years ago, and dinosaurs were here a few hundred million years ago, then it makes the last 200 thousand years of modern human existence feel like an insignificant blurb or headline in the whole scheme of things. Alrighty then, so there is my philosophical soliloquy.
6/28 (Day 20): On our way back home to the heartland, we had a chance to meet up with some of our buddies in Denver. The Schipfers (Above: Christine, Dan [en route], James, Abby) are well acquainted with the Slome clan since they still live in Fairway, KS and were on vacation visiting family in the area. The Tomlinson’s (Below: Alison, Gregg, Remy, Augie [in crib sleeping]), friends through Wade’s work, treated us to a great shish kabob dinner. Alison had to cut out for a while to a ‘neighborhood watch’ meeting, but we assured her that we were not running a mobile ‘meth’ lab through our RV. Thanks for the hospitality!
Patch-meter: I’m not sure whether I’ve completely grown out of puberty yet because, at this point, I had higher expectations for my masculine growth. Instead of a dark, thick, grizzly patch I’ve established more of a fuzzy smudge on my chin. I’m still not losing the faith though– there are still three days left on our trip.
6/27 (Day 19): Whitney was definitely fired up to hit “Santa’s Workshop”, a smaller and redder version of Six Flags found west of Colorado Springs just off the path to Pike’s Peak. Life’s good for a five year old when you can go to the North Pole in a t-shirt and sandals, and then also see Santa during the month of June (a full 181 days before the big present collection day). When we finally reached Santa’s house, Whitney was quite uncharacteristically gun-shy. She looked like a deer in headlights when asked “What do you want for Christmas?” Perhaps this was merely a reaction to Santa’s appearance; he looked more like a retired truck driver than Mr. Claus. Whitney gracefully recovered by gaining valuable information – his favorite cookie is peanut butter, chocolate, oatmeal. I quickly reminded Whitney, that Santa also loves Double Stuff Oreos: the cookie of choice at the Slome household over the last few years. Regardless of cookie choice, Santa will be a happy camper come December 25th. After getting our fill of junk food and nauseating thrills at the fifty year old park, we navigated back to the Lone Duck campground in a nick of time before a massive hailstorm hit. We have a few things on the agenda tomorrow as we head to Denver. As usual, the Slomes will check in later…
6/27: No. What you are viewing is NOT part of a ‘Fear Factor’ insect ingestion challenge. Rather, what you are observing is the multi-day accumulation of bug guts on the Beast’s death-shield. The average observer would be repulsed by such a sight (Robin included), while not fully appreciating the survival benefits of this creature-feature. What would one do if stranded in an RV for an extended period of time, with fully-depleted food resources? No problem, the Beast is fully functional as a George Foreman grill; it’s completely stocked with a near endless supply of protein. The preparation options are almost infinite as well. If you like it sushi-style, then no problem, just scrape a freshy off the windshield. If you like a crispier variety, then just pull one off the “barbie” from the hot engine grill. Although not quite the five-star meal like the dinner previously highlighted in our blog, our grill of goodies serves as security blanket in the event of an emergency.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Monday, June 25, 2007
6/24: A few days have passed since we last spoke about our potty issues in the “Beast”, so plug your noses again. In order to honor a previous pledge to a friend, I feel obligated to share the joy of my daily ritual…RV waste removal. (This one’s for you Kenny G.)
What better way to spend your morning, than cleaning out the crapper (debate still exists whether Thomas Crapper [1836-1910] - invented the flushing toilet, but his patent for the ‘symphonic flush’ remains uncontested). Diaper duty for Whitney, and now Hayley did little to prepare me for the vital soil cleansing duties needed for our RV adventure. The precision of a surgeon is required, as can be seen from my protective gear. From the layman’s view the mechanics appear straightforward, but the reality is that one false move can prove lethal. Behind the curtains of the brown hose (appropriately colored and shown above), lies pulleys, pumps, valves, black and grey water meters, sewage caps and more. Fortunately the nervous adrenaline along with the brisk stench, which acts as a smelling salt, has kept me on my ‘A’ game - thus preventing any major misstep from occurring. You can ask Robin about the infamous Day Three incident offline. After all is said and done, and the sweet gurgling sound of expulsion is heard, I then know my mission has been accomplished.
I’m now pooped out from talking about this subject, so if you want any more details you can contact me when I get back. There you go Ken, my obligation has now been fulfilled.
6/24: Hole, sweet hole. Now we experienced how life would be for the Flinstones in Bedrock. ‘Hole N” The Rock’ pretty much sums it up. Some neurotic guy named Albert Christensen, a jack of all trades (miner, taxidermist, accountant, artist, barber, chef), decided to hand-chip a 5,000 square foot home (14 rooms) inside a rock and operate a diner out of his kitchen. The project took 20 years and he only lived in it for five before he died in 1957 at the age of fifty-four. Today, besides the living hole area, Hole N” the Rock is also home to an eclectic set of attractions including a trading post, petting zoo, FDR memorial, tin statues, souvenir shops, and more.
(One of the rooms in the Christensen’s hole-home).
GUZZLE-METER: $1787.07. With three days of heavy driving, quenching the thirst of the “Beast” has been a costly proposition.
Sunday, June 24, 2007
6/23: God bless America. Where else can you gamble at a casino and fill up your gas guzzling vehicle at the same time? Maybe Vegas, but one would be hard pressed to find the quad-fecta of casino/gas station/carwash/fast food services in one spot - even in ‘Sin City’. I can just hear it now, “Dude, I need to fill up. My tank is on empty.” “No problem bud, I’m feeling lucky tonight. I’ll fill ‘er up as soon as I clean house on the black jack tables!” The cross-selling opportunities are virtually endless. Just imagine, get blackjack and receive 10% off your next sub. Or fill your tank up with ten or more gallons and get a free pull on our slot machine.
Montana was littered with these Casino/Gas stations but Robin kept a short leash on my wallet. My proposal of Whitney and Hayley grabbing an ice cream at Sunny Subs while I nourish my poker fix didn’t fly. I guess next time I’ll just have to do it the old fashion way, I’ll just have to fill my gas tank before I drive to the casino.
Friday, June 22, 2007
6/22: In order to acclimate Whitney’s transition to her new home on wheels, we thought it would be a bright idea to bring along a pet companion. What better pet(s) than Sea Monkeys (related to Brine Shrimp)? Whitney’s world came tumbling down like a house of cards when Daddy mistakenly executed the recommended oxygenation process (blowing bubbles into the aquarium with a straw). The only problem was that Daddy had just finished stuffing his fat face with Wheat Thins, and in the process accidentally spewed half chewed cracker floaties into the Sea Monkey surroundings. Oops. It wasn’t a pretty sight to watch at that point – the poor little monkeys proceeded to gorge themselves to a gluttonous death. Given the circumstances, the girls handled it fairly well, as seen by the ornate burial ceremony shown below. Carefully hand picked flowers, rocks, and leaves were laid at the Sea Monkey cemetery (Hayley's right foot).
6/22: Although initially unplanned, we found a diamond in the rough at Flathead Lake on our way to Missoula, Montana. Longtime family friends of Robin (and her parents) annually migrate to this oasis for the months of June through October. Jim & Marilyn Magnussen, Dan & Linda Jenkins were kind enough to give us the grand tour around this stunningly gorgeous community. Flathead Lake, which is named after the Flathead Indians from the region, is actually the largest freshwater lake in the western United States measuring about thirty miles long.
A special thanks to Linda Jenkins for providing an urgently needed diaper. Hayley appreciated the dry diaper for her wet tush, and Mom & Dad appreciated the end of her irritated screams.
(Spectacular view from the Jenkins’ backyard - accompanied by their dog ‘Diamond’)
6/21: The Guzzle-meter has gotten a little stale, so I’ve decided to track an alternative element of the Slome adventure – my “soul patch”. Apollo Anton Ono, eat your heart out! You can determine the fate of Wade’s facial hair via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or a blog posting (if you have a Google account). As you can see the “soul patch” is in its transitional phase right now, but when it comes in it’s going to look great (so I say). Robin, on the other hand despises facial hair on me. Previous attempts of growing a beard or goatee have failed miserably as Robin has either threatened retaliation with unshaven leg-hair or simply worn me down into submission with relentless protests. Now you can seal the fate of Wade’s facial fur for the remaining nine days of our trip with a simple Survivor-like vote. The tribe can elect the fuzz to stay or vote it off the “Beast”.
6/21: Banff National Park is named for the Canadian Pacific Railway station, which in turn was named after the Banffshire region in Scotland. The valet guy at the Banff Springs Hotel has taken this to an extreme with his attire. Curious what’s in his purse too?
On our last day in Canada, we cruised through downtown Banff (akin to a Vail or Aspen I suppose), took a gondola up to the top of Mount Sulfur for some more impressive views, then ended up at the Banff Hot Springs. The hot springs were a little disappointing since the spring water is pumped into something that looks like my community pool (I was expecting something like stone formed personal hot tubs nestled in to the mountain side). I’m still not convinced that it’s just smoke and mirrors with some genius marketing. Betcha they’re just pumping in warm hose water and charging $20 a head.
Marathon trek tomorrow, some 450 odd miles. NoDoze and Mountain Dew should do the trick.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
The photo above is the Slome gang hanging out at Lake Louise (named after Princess Louise Caroline Alberta [1848-1939] – daughter of Queen Victoria of England). The remarkable emerald coloring of the lake is a result of light-absorbing silt deposited primarily by the Lefroy glacier. The silt soaks up all colors of the spectrum except for emerald green & blue. We truly lucked out with the weather since Lake Louise is often frozen from November to June and June weather is hit or miss (it rained all of last week).
(View from Banff Springs Hotel – not Overland Park, Kansas)
The Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) was instrumental in Banff's rapidly expanding tourism industry in the late 1800s around the time of the original transcontinental railroad. CPR built the renowned Banff Springs Hotel and Chateau Lake Louise, and focused on tourists through extensive advertising. William Cornelius Van Horne, the head of CPR, gets most of the credit for Banff and is known for his famous quote, “Since we can’t export the scenery, we’ll have to import the tourists.”
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Flying high were the Slomes on Day 11 (mentally and physically) as we reached the halfway point of our trip. After being cooped up for a day due to rain, Mother Nature accommodated us with some splendid weather this morning before our long drive to Canada. Us adrenaline junkies took advantage of the conditions and jumped on a Glacier Heli Tour of the park. We didn’t require the use of sanitation bags, but the thought crossed our minds when we were being thrown around like rag dolls at 10,000 feet. Regardless, the spectacular views made up for any queasiness we experienced.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
6/18: A picture tells a thousands words, and the neon fixtures in the windows say it all (RARE, ODD, UNUSUAL). Not only do they provide insights into the Slome family and their RV Trip, but also about our day in Glacier Park, Montana.
1) RARE was the fact we were not traveling cross-state to another campground or pushing to squeeze in an additional attraction. We were relegated to indoor activities largely due to suboptimal weather conditions, but refueling with some R&R definitely did the trick.
2) ODD was Robin’s behavior. Cabin fever? Stir crazy? Or just plain lost her marbles? We’re still trying to find the answer after watching her psychedelic animal puppet show. And after observing this behavior personally for the last fifteen years, I’m still trying to interpret this conduct?
3) UNUSUAL was this smiling grizzly bear we found at the Wildlife Museum in Coram, Montana (just on the Glacier Park border). Don’t let that smile fool you. Those vicious claws can tear apart a pepperoni & sausage pizza and devour a strawberry shortcake ice cream bar in the blink of an eye. We witnessed it firsthand today.
Next stop, Banff Canada…(weather permitting we might squeeze in another excursion).
Monday, June 18, 2007
6/17: The day started off grandly. Robin let me sleep in, then the kids greeted me with a “Happy Fathers Day” hug, handed me a card, and gave me the ceremonial dad’s day clothes and breakfast bear claw. After a warm embrace from Robin, she nonchalantly delivered my worst nightmare in a short but sweet fashion, “By the way Wade, the toilet’s backed up.” Inwardly panicked, outwardly calm, I tried to calculate my alternatives. Without getting into graphic detail, I decided to take the problem head on (no pun intended). With surgical gloves and coat-hanger in hand, I came to an unsuccessful resolution. The backup plan: outsource the problem to someone else as the Slomes usually do. Unfortunately Sunday mornings on a holiday are not the best days to find hired help. The best I could do was find an on-call handyman two towns away who charged $125/hr + costs for travel time (that could be a time consuming and costly answer). Terror was beginning to set in. Time was ticking and the smell was building. What to do? Try your retired veteran RV neighbor who retired twenty years ago and lives in his coach – surely he’ll have an answer. “I’ve never seen that in my life,” he casually commented. Wonderful, I thought. “Have you tried a stick?” he suggested. Aha! It was genius - a simple but elegant solution. My high school Physics course confirmed that not only would I get a better grip but also better leverage in dealing with the issue at hand. His words of wisdom worked, and I was once again a happy father. The lesson to be learned: “stick”-to-it-iveness really does work.
Our plumbing delay did cut our Lewis & Clark tour short. The “Gates of the Mountains” in Montana is a small slice of Meriwether Lewis’ and William Clark’s 8,000 mile trip from St. Louis to the Pacific and back (1804-1806). Thomas Jefferson commissioned the men to explore the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase to see if there was a waterway to the Pacific Ocean.
6/16: Originally, M&W Repair told us, “We’re closed for the weekend and the earliest we can get the part is Monday.” My family vacation sob story, and my sniveling about non-refundable campground payments didn’t gain much traction with the main foreman. After a heated discussion with the rental company, M B Thomas Winnebago signed off on Plan B which was to grease the wheels a bit with the almighty greenback. So when discussions subsequently changed to: “Think you guys can work with us on elevated rates to fix this by tomorrow?”, their response was “Let’s see what we can do.” To make a long story short, we got a call at 10:30 a.m. Saturday after our 6:00 p.m. Friday drop-off and the Beast was returned fully functional (for the time being…). The moral as we all know: “Money talks and B.S. walks.”
Once we got our wheels back, we headed farther north to the state capital, Helena (“Queen of the Rockies”). Pronounced HEL-e-na, the former He-LAY-na pronunciation was voted down because it sounded too feminine to the masculine miners. The city’s glory days were in the late 1800s frequented as a large gold mining town – at one point more millionaires per capita lived in Helena than any city in the world. Today the population of the state capital stands at a mere 26,000. As we viewed from our train car tour, not much remains of the town other than some very cool-looking Victorian homes, some historic brick buildings in the rundown downtown area, a couple mine shafts, and an extravagant state capitol building. Lewis & Clark get a lot of play time in the area too, as about one-fourth of their exploration took place in what is now Montana. Weather permitting, we may check out a piece of the expedition tomorrow.
Friday, June 15, 2007
“Things that were hard to bear are sweet to remember”
-Seneca - Roman philosopher, mid-1st century AD
6/15: The Beast has suffered a bum wheel – literally. It started off so innocently. Robin: “Wade, aren’t you worried about the smoking back wheels? I don’t think that’s normal. ” Wade: “Nahh, it’s fine. The brakes are just a little tired from all the mountain driving we’ve done… don’t worry.” Famous last words.
Little did we know that we were undergoing a serious rear Axle Seal Differential problem (but of course), dumping quarts of oil through the South Dakota and Wyoming mountains. If untreated, we realized that the rear wheels could grind to a halt or worse yet result in the loss of brake power (gulp). Fortunately, Andrew from Yellowstone Park Service Stations (legs shown in above photo) filled up our injured vehicle with some 80/W90 Heavy Differential Lube and we limped our way to Bozeman, Montana (~135 miles) - leaving a nice grease slick souvenir for those we left behind. We did our best to ignore the incessant well-intentioned warnings from ongoing drivers and those nature observers covering their mouths from the foul smoke. Needless to say, we’re alive and in one piece living large at the Best Western Gran Tree with our new “Beast-Lite” or “Beast-ette” (See below). The good Lord willing, M & W Repair will be able to fix the Beast tomorrow and we will be back on our trail? As always, pending WiFi accessibility, we will keep you posted…
Sweet wheels, but we have not found the shower or queen sized bed yet on the Chevy Envoy??
P.S. A belated birthday greeting from the Slomes to our good fellow friend and blog follower Denny Sullivan in Fullerton, CA!
***Guzzle-meter: $897.72 (Hey, at least I get bonus points on my credit card)