Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Slowly Heading for Home

We left Boise and started heading south with the intention of avoiding as much mountainous country as possible.  We were concerned about the thermostat in the rig and didn't want to push it.  Even going over moderate inclines the temperature gauge shot up so we tried not to push it too hard.  

Driving thru Utah we saw lots of farms and thousands of hay bales along the way.
Our GPS  'Betty'  got confused a few times.
Surprised at the name of the town considering it was  very hot outside.

The road seemed endless.......

Now that's a steer, or is it a cow?

Heading into Salt Lake City we saw what looked like a haze and thought it might be some type of pollution.  As we got closer you could see the smoke up in the mountains and we realized there was a fire going on.

In Utah and Nevada we saw the beautiful red rocks these areas are known for.

And homes built up in the hills.

We stopped in Las Vegas for a few days to see my sister, Sandy, and decided to get the rig checked out again at a Cummins Service Center there.  

Vegas in the distance.
The traffic in this city is unbelievable.

We made an appointment and got the rig into the shop.  They checked it out and said our radiator and thermostat were bad and needed to be replaced.  Because our rig is 11 years old they had to go through the manufacturer, Tiffin, to get a new radiator.  Imagine our surprise when Tiffin told them it would take 45-60 days to get the new radiator to us.  Wow! That really put a crimp in our plans.  The Cummins place tried to find a radiator shop that might be able to replace or rebuild it but had no luck.  After several days the Captain suggested they empty out the radiator and put some cleaner into it to see what would happen.  They drained it and filled it with distilled water and a solution and let it run for a few hours and then drained it again.  They completed the process a second time and noticed a green fluid coming out of the radiator.  According to them, coolant for diesel engines should  be red, not green.  Nothing was leaking out so they refilled the radiator with the correct coolant and we decided to try and get home.    

While we were in Vegas we visited my sister and in the evening we went to a show.  We saw the Beatles show LOVE by Cirque du Soleil at the Mirage and it was fabulous.  The second night we went to Absinthe at Caesars Palace.  Save your money.  It was in a tent outside the casino, the chairs were old kitchen chairs crowded together, and it was very uncomfortable.  The acrobatic acts were quite good but the rest of the show was not. We would never watch it again or recommend it to anyone.  

The next day we were on the road heading further south to Arizona and then across to New Mexico and Texas.  

A beautiful sunset in Nevada.
Continuing south we touched on a part of California.

Arizona was very dry and the highway we were on wasn't the best.

Permafrost in Arizona?

Traveling through a barren desert.

I guess when you are young and there is nothing around for miles you find other things to do. 

Finally a bridge....

and water ....

and crops.  We knew we were back in civilization.
Going through a checkpoint near the Mexican border.  

We stayed in an RV park one night in a town called Dateland.  Well named.

We continued driving, the rig was behaving, and we just wanted to get closer to home in case it started giving us problems.  

Our days consisted of driving, staying in RV parks for the night, and stopping to fill up the tank.

Can you believe these diesel prices?

Made it to New Mexico and there were long stretches of open land that are prone to heavy dust storms at times.  Signs along the interstate were displayed every few miles to tell you what to do if you got caught in one. 

We made it through the state without any adverse conditions which was a relief.  Little did we know what was coming....

Driving through El Paso with the wall in front and Ciudad Juarez on the other side.

We stopped for the night in several different towns in Texas and were surprised to see where it had rained overnight in this very dry climate.

Another surprise was heavy fog we ran into while driving.
We also ran into some rainstorms that seemed to travel with us.

About halfway through Texas we stopped at a beautiful RV Park situated on the South Llano River outside the town of Junction.

From the park you could see the bridge going over the river into the town of Junction.

We went to bed that night as it started raining.  As the night continued so did the rain and it poured and poured and poured.  Several times I got up and looked outside to see if there was any excess water because we were sitting so close to the river and the rain just kept on coming down.  At 4:00 AM, the Captain got up and we looked out together and used a flashlight to check out the park.  We could still see the gravel road we came in on and the grass and trees that were between us and the river.  We were nervous but went back to bed thinking everything still looked okay.  A half hour later someone banged on our door and told us to get out NOW because the river was overflowing.  We threw on some clothes and headed for the door. When we opened the door of the rig water was already up to the first step.  Within minutes it was raising up higher.  

When we got outside there were flashing emergency vehicle lights everywhere.  The power had gone out in the area so it was pitch dark except for the emergency lights which were reflecting off the rising waters making it look like a psychedelic scene.  We had not unhooked our car because we were planning on leaving the next morning so we had to first unhook it.  Once that was done I backed it up onto the road behind us but I went too far and backed into a power pedestal.  That pushed the bikes attached to the back of the car into the rear door lift giving it a few dents in the process.  

I drove the car to higher ground and then went back to help the Captain. He couldn't drive forward because there was a large piece of wood wedged under one front tire and the water was rising fast.  An emergency worker tried to get him to back up but his rear tires kept sinking in mud and spinning.  The tow bar on the back of the rig was also getting caught in the mud.  I yelled he can't go backwards so the emergency person working with us had the Captain go forward and back several times turning the rig until his front wheels were on gravel and he was able to drive the rig out. The rig that had been parked to the left of us had already moved but they had a golf cart that was caught on some rocks from a fire pit and wouldn't move.  The man was partially disabled and couldn't get it out so the Captain waded in to help and I joined him.  Between the two men lifting the cart and me pushing and steering we were able to get it to higher ground.  We then got into the rig and car and left to get out of the way.  We drove to the interstate and a gas station that was a short distance away and had electrical power. We sat there until it got light outside so we could check our vehicles.    While we sat there we saw emergency vehicles continually driving to the RV park to help.

After it was light out and we made sure our vehicles were okay we left the area.  Crossing over the bridge on the interstate I took pictures of what the river looked like now. 

The bridge in the distance was the one I had taken a picture of earlier when we got to the park.  Right past that bridge was where the RV park had been.  If you compare this picture with the one before that I took while in the park you can see how the river had enlarged. 

They estimate 45 people were in the park at the time but they don't know for sure because the owner's building was also destroyed so there are no accessible records.  There were several rigs there for the night that were just passing through like us and we were the lucky ones.  I know the one rig parked to the left of us and one or two rigs parked on the right side of us got out.  

Many of the remaining RVs were trailers or fifth-wheelers  and the owners were longer term residents who were hired to work on the oil lines in the area. They were also parked closer to the river and they didn't have much of a chance. Nineteen people were pulled from the river including a woman who had climbed out of her trailer window and was found 23 miles downstream clinging to debris.  Another woman was found downstream clutching her dog in her arms and hanging onto a tree. She and her dog were airlifted by helicopter out of the river.  Unfortunately, four people didn't get out in time and were lost in the river.  They have found three of the bodies and are still searching for the fourth.

The pictures below show the aftermath of the flood.  Many more lives would have been lost if it hadn't been for the emergency personnel.  The owners of the park had bought it a year ago and put a lot of time and money into renovating it.  They lost everything.  The last time the river had flooded like this was in 1980.  

After we left the gas station we drove to Magnolia, Texas, northwest of Houston, and stopped for three days to see our good friends, Ian and Annette.  By this time our nerves were frazzled and we needed a break. We spent three quiet days with them and just rested knowing how lucky we were and saddened for the other people in the park who didn't make it out.

Gracious guests and good friends, Ian and Annette.

And now we are home.  It was a long trip, many miles and beautiful things to see.  We are glad we went but I think both of us are also glad to be home with the pups and back to our community and family and friends.  Peace!

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