6-30-15. We’re back!!!

After getting a new tire and getting a rim fixed, we were on the road by noon on Monday.  The younger kids were pushing us to drive all night to get home, but sleeping seemed a little more important to those of us who could drive.  We got home at 3:30pm on Tuesday, greeted by our two cats.  It was a fun reunion for Dan and his dog, Mickey.

It was a great trip all around.  I must say, though, that our beds at home felt especially comfortable the last 2 nights.

We were very appreciative of neighbors and friends who took care of things for us for an entire month.  Also A special thanks to all of those at our home church who took turns praying for our trip and who sent letters for us to read along the way.  I am positive that the tire issues would have been much more of a challenge in Alaska or Canada than they were back out west.  Your prayers were heard as God knew the Carlson’s could only handle so much!

It is now official–Alaska has been crossed off the bucket list.  We will see what’s next on that list and let you know.




Colorado Springs 6-27


We spent the entire weekend with Lori’s Uncle Paul and Aunt Linda, who showed us the sights around Colorado Springs.


Garden of the God’s is a must see – especially the balancing rock formation!

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Colby thought she was seeing the world’s biggest dandelions!  They were really a form of cactus but she’s not telling anyone…

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Uncle Paul is a retired fireman and we got to see a new museum they are putting together.  The kids disappeared upstairs.  We found them trying on all the outfits.


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Ok, it’s fun and we couldn’t resist.


I have ALWAYS wanted one of these.  For a small nominal donation, it was mine!!!


There is still plenty of wildlife to be seen.  Found this guy chomping on some shrubbery.


Paul and Linda threw us a party and we spent the day catching up with some of our cousins, nieces, and fellow fire fighters.


We stopped off at the Goodyear shop to get our tire woes taken care of.  While I was waiting, I decided to go for a little walk.


Pot was legal in plenty of the states we visited, but they had outlets all over Colorado like they were corner markets.  But…  since it’s highly frowned upon by my employer, I decided to keep on walking.


Can’t pass up “Colby Kansas”!!!

Friday 6-26: Now it’s a Carlson vacation!!!


Tire #3!

We are having to drive through lots of construction and hit some debris when traffic was forced down to one lane.

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And yes, it was the back inside tire.  Mitch was able to get it off to the side and we found an exit that let us get over to the old side of the highway so we could get out of the line of traffic.  But this time I had three sets of hands and changed it out on a record 26 minutes.

The only problem was I had used the last good spare yesterday and the only thing I had to replace it with was another bad tire.  But at least it held air for now.


Destination Uncle Paul and Linda’s!

We drove 60 miles to Laramie WY to the nearest Goodyear location but they didn’t have our tires in stock.  We then tried Cheyenne and Denver but apparently they don’t use the same tires out here as they do in the midwest.  So we threw fate to the wind and made a beeline for Colorado Springs, home of Lori’s aunt and uncle Mathies.  They have our tires, but can’t get us in until Monday.  We decided to hang tight here and visit with family while we take in some sights of Colorado Springs.

As a side note:

We spotted a young lady at an intersection holding up a sign that said she was broke down and needed money to get home.  At another intersection was a gentleman holding up a similar sign.  Pulling into a service station was yet another young man with a gas can asking for gas money to get home.


While I was filling up the camper, I watched all three met up at the Walmart parking lot and head off in this pickup, where we followed them out to the interstate.  But they never did get any gas.  Maybe it’s just me…



Thursday 6-25: Heading East

Started the day with yet another bad tire.  Not sure what happened but it either threw a wheel weight or had some other issue that made it start hopping so bad that it shook the entire camper.  Lori timed me, I had it switched out with the newly repaired spare in 28 minutes.


I wasn’t exactly sure which tire was bad so I didn’t want to put it back under the carrier until I was sure I had the right one.  And it was getting hot out…


If you can’t go around the mountain, go through it!

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Just wanted to include some shots coming into Salt Lake which is right around 5000 above sea level.  It’s pretty cool to be at such a high elevation and then see this vast open space come out of no where.



Here’s something you don’t get to see every day…

Today we just pretty much drove.  We found a nice little KOA campground to do some laundry and hit the showers.  How’s that for excitement???

For my Gear Heads:

This is my favorite addition to the camper.  It’s called the Scan Guage II, which is basically 48 gauges in one.  It plugs right into your diagnostics port and tells you everything the computer knows about your engine.  It also has everything you can think of as far as mileage, fuel and speed calculations.


It displays four readings at any one time and it’s easy to flip through to find the gauge of your choice.  My four favorite are RPM, Throttle, water temp and average mileage.  This combination gives me the best indication of how hard we were pushing the motor as we were going through the mountains.




Wednesday 6-23: Bodie was a bust

Today we officially start making the trek back home.

We wanted to hit the road first thing in the morning but I was just too afraid to head out without a spare. We packed up and headed to the closest Goodyear we could find. I rolled the tire into the shop and let them know we were trying to get back out on the road. He was short a guy but very was very nice and had it fixed in no time.  He didn’t even charge me for it.

We heard from another camper earlier that there is an abandoned town on the Nevada border called Bodie. According to him, everything was still as they left it over a hundred years ago. That sounded like something we wanted to see so we set the GPS and hit the road.


They aren’t kidding about the west coast drought. Everything is scorched…


The problem with GPS is it picks the shortest route but has absolutely no idea what the road is like.  It put us right through Sonar Pass, which has some gorgeous scenery but the road climbs to over 9000 feet in under 10 miles and is full of cutbacks and hair pin curves.


It might be hard to tell in this picture but that is the road to the lower right coming back at us…


This was a first. The steepest incline I can remember was going through Donners Pass which had a grade of 13%.  I had no idea that 25% inclines even existed!!!  We had no business being there in a motor home…


We made it to Bodie precisely at 6 PM. The Bodie National Park closes precisely at 6 PM. We decided to make the drive out to see if it was worth waiting around for.


Even though we really enjoyed every bump on the 3 mile dirt road, it wasn’t exactly what we had in mind.

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Yes, it was an old abandoned town at one time, but all the buildings looked like they were ether replicas of the originals, or had been rebuilt within the last five years.


I guess this counts more as livestock.  Sheep just hanging out at the side of the road.  Although we did spot the shepherd just around the bend.  Seriously…

Oops – Our uncle in Colorado Springs just let us know that Pikes Peak will be closed this weekend for the annual race event.  But Lori’s still looking forward to hanging out with some of her family there.

It’s 7:00 PM and the temperature is just starting to come down. They are expecting temperatures to hit over 100 up around Reno so we decided to blow this town and go into night driving mode to beat the heat.

Gear Head Update:

In regards to my front end alignment experiment: nailed it!!!

Tuesday 6-23: Dang it!


Started out the day with a flat tire.


Interesting little known fact about the relationship between motor homes and flat tires. It is theoretically impossible for the front tire on an RV to go flat. It has been scientifically proven that it will always be the rear tire that will go flat. And if it’s a dually axle, without fail, it will be the inside tire. Because when you have a flat, the RV gods want to make it as difficult as possible for you.


As luck would have it, the camp host let us know that our spot had just opened up for the second day in a row. We honestly really liked the park and I hate being rushed whenever I have to crawl underneath a 10,000 lb vehicle on jack stands. So we decided to have a down day and let the kids enjoy the beach.

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We’ve really enjoyed watching the kids spend so much time together. They’ve finally gotten to the point where they all have similar interests.


Mitchell putting on his GQ.  He almost looks as good as his Dad…


Look Ma – I’m an orthodontist!!!  Not real happy with Dr. Littlefield (Morton),
the braces keep being an issue for us.

For my gear heads:

Every evening for dinner, we have been watching episodes of Monk. The kids have been delighted to point out that I have a lot of the same characteristics as Monk. I don’t like clutter and I want everything in its place. And if something bugs me, I can’t get it out of my head until I do something about it.

In this case, it’s the front end alignment. The camper started pulling to the right after hitting a huge sink hole in the Yukon. When looking at it from the front, I could see the driver side wheel was leaning in which explained the pull. Since all the tools were out and I had the time, I decided to give it shot. My grandpa always said I could tear up a steel wedge if I thought I could make it work better.


The camber adjustment is on the top of the upper ball joint. I had to eyeball it, but I moved the wheel out about 1-2 degrees which should counteract the pull. I made sure to mark its location before moving it in case it’s totally hosed and I need to put it back. Won’t know how I did until tomorrow…


Monday 6-22: Google It…


Destination San Fransisco  San Jose!!!


Lori and I spent quite a bit of time plotting out a plan of attack for our visit to San Fransisco.  But you can’t really buzz around town very easy in a 33′ motor home.  After all was said and done, by the time we paid for parking and road the rail in to catch a cable car, it was going to be well over $200 just getting in and out of the city.  As we drove that morning, Lori and I both decided that there really wasn’t that much we wanted to do with the kids in San Fransisco, so we took the bypass and headed for San Jose.


At the top of Mitch’s list was to visit Apple Headquarters and check out the corporate gift store.  It’s the only single location you can buy authentic Apple wear.

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We found a spot to hide the camper not too far away.  The area was overrun with younger “20 something” professionals either walking or riding Apple bikes.  They traveled in groups clutching their Mac Book Pros and we noticed they were all laughing and smiling.  And almost all of them were either white or Asian decent, which there just happened to be a crowd outside of headquarters protesting that very fact…


If you went to the movie theater to watch the Steve Jobs autobiography staring Adam Kutcher you would recognize the main corporate entrance.



The Apple store had just closed the week before for remodeling.  There was a stream of visitors taking selfies in front of the corporate offices and I’ll have to say it was in poor form that Apple didn’t make any alternate accommodations for any of us.


Mitch had read about In and Out Burger so we decided to try it out for lunch.  There are only three items on the menu:  Burger, Cheese Burger, or Double Cheese Burger.  The place was packed so we had to eat outside where a nice local young man wanted to have a casual conversation about bears and racism.  Yeah, that’s a nice neutral topic to talk about…


The Googleplex was something more up my alley…

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There were Google bikes stashed everywhere so we all took our turns taking rides and getting snapshots of ourselves on them.

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The complex was expansive and the architecture of all the buildings were very modern.  They had contracted services all over the complex, like this mobile hairdresser, that they provide free to their employees.  To be honest, I didn’t see a lot of people taking them up on it.


This was at the center of the courtyard.  I don’t know what it is, but since it was Google I guess it’s something pretty cool…


We continued heading south looking for a good spot on the ocean.  Traffic around here is insane.  It literally took us two hours to go less than 30 miles.  I lost count of how many people had pulled out in front of me.  In one case there was no way for me to stop in time and I had to run off the shoulder of the road to avoid an older lady that pulled onto the highway without even looking.  Right after I took this shot, we watched a three car pileup right in front of us.  I decided to put the camera away and concentrate on my driving.

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In the end, we found a great little spot off the Santa Cruz coastline.  Nick was the bravest one to hit the water.  If you don’t know, the west coast ocean hovers right around 50 degrees.  The rest of us decided to watch from afar.


Colby decided to just “get her feet wet”.  It wasn’t long before the next huge wave changed her mind for her.


That evening we watched a sea otter play in front of us right off the beach.

After our day was done, I was just ready to get the heck out of dodge.  The crazy traffic, terrible drivers, and wacko’s walking around talking to themselves was worse than my last family reunion.  The state park campground was full but the host let us know as we were leaving that a last minute cancellation opened up a spot for us.  It had been a long day so we decided to spend the night there and head out first thing in the morning.