Posts From USA


On the road again! (Federal Way, USA)

Journal entry for Thursday 5th Jul, 2012 (day 1, miles 20)

After weeks of work preparing ourselves, the vehicle and our house for a 6 month trip we are finally underway.

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Friendly border guards (Rest Area I-29, USA)

Journal entry for Wednesday 18th Jul, 2012 (day 14, miles 2247)

We re-entered the US via highway 59 (into Minnesota) just south of the town of Tolstoi. This crossing does not seem to get a lot of traffic as all US customs lanes were closed when we pulled up. Initially we were questioned in a gruff manner by the guards but after they worked out that we were residents and the vehicle a motorhome things improved. They of course wanted a look inside the vehicle and admitted it was just out of curiosity.

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We need a receipt for accommodation tonight (Summit, USA)

Journal entry for Thursday 19th Jul, 2012 (day 15, miles 2411)

Tomorrow we will apply for South Dakota drivers licenses in the town of Watertown, to meet the documentation requirements we must stay tonight in some form of South Dakota accommodation that will give us a receipt. Hence we picked a commercial campground in the town of Summit about 30 miles north of Watertown.

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Bath day (for the Yellow Beast) (Monson Lake, USA)

Journal entry for Friday 20th Jul, 2012 (day 16, miles 2579)

We got our nice new South Dakota driver licenses this morning, although as we pulled up in front of the address of the Licensing Department it was not obvious we were in the right place. Parked in the street was a National Guard convoy of Hummers and trucks, and the building that was supposed to house the licensing department had National Guard signs all over it.

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Country Roads, take me ... (Grayson, USA)

Journal entry for Friday 7th Sep, 2012 (day 65, miles 9617)

John Denver's song Country Roads kept rolling through my head today as we drove I-79 and then I-64 through West Virginia (though you would hardly call these highways "country roads"). Perfect warm fall weather and beautiful rolling hills with mixed forests as far as the eye can see - I could feel why someone would want to sing about this country.

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Resting; the Nada Tunnel (Lexington, USA)

Journal entry for Saturday 8th Sep, 2012 (day 66, miles 9734)

This morning we were a bit disenchanted with truck stops. We were surrounded by refrigeration units last night and to say it was noisy would be an understatement. A poor nights sleep plus heavy rain put a hold on our plans to venture south of I-64 for some sightseeing in the Red River Gorge area (part of the Daniel Boone National Forest) and we spent much of the morning in a quiet rest area west of Grayson recuperating.

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Just traveling (Mt Vernon, USA)

Journal entry for Sunday 9th Sep, 2012 (day 67, miles 10010)

This morning it was clear that we are now in get there mode. Hence today we simply traveled down I-64 at a leisurely pace but without any effort at sightseeing or exploring off the highway. Our talk was about cleaning the vehicle and other preparation for the GXV visit.

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Getting ship shape (Eureka, USA)

Journal entry for Monday 10th Sep, 2012 (day 68, miles 10132)

From last nights rest area it was a short day into St Louis and a KOA camp ground. We spent the afternoon sorting through and tidying drawers and other storage areas.

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BassPro, fix-ups, upgrades and hospitality (Nixa, USA)

Journal entry for Wednesday 19th Sep, 2012 (day 77, miles 10132)

As per our arrangement with GXV we arrived in Nixa, MO on Wed 12th for what was planned as a week of fixes, and upgrades to the camper. But before making it to the GXV factory we paid the mandatory visit to the Springfield BassPro shop. This is the original and first BassPro store and boy is it impressive. To give a sense of its popularity, the town of Springfield and surrounds has a population of about 400,000 people yet this BassPro store gets approximately 4,000,000 visitors per year. We have been to this store on previous visits but it was only on this occasion that I noticed the ceiling of the store - it has been decorated to portray the underside of the surface of a lake. So as one sits in the cafe looking up one gets a good view of the underside of some ducks, among other things.

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A new map (Rest Area I-44, USA)

Journal entry for Thursday 20th Sep, 2012 (day 78, miles 10473)

You might have noticed, in previous photos of the truck, the world map on the right hand side of the camper box. We had this put on during the construction so that we could discuss with people where we were from, going etc. At the time we chose to have the map land masses "cut out" so that the camper yellow showed through and also to color the land masses a muted grey. As a result some of the smaller land masses got deleted (for example NewFoundland and PEI) and country boundaries were hard to see. Nina was unhappy with this so a new map was called for, and today it was installed. As you will see in future photos of the truck the new map is a traditional rectangular multi-colored map of the world.

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Lovely lake (Elk City SP, USA)

Journal entry for Friday 21st Sep, 2012 (day 79, miles 10603)

Our appointment in Colorado has been put back a day allowing us to have a lazy day. We pulled into Elk City State Park early and spent a pleasant afternoon beside the lake in summer like temperatures. Nina busied herself putting route lines on the new map while I continued the study of my new electrical device (FLEXnet) and tried to work out how our sophisticated charging equipment works.

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Visitors, the plains (Cheney SP, USA)

Journal entry for Saturday 22nd Sep, 2012 (day 80, miles 10757)

This morning we had a rush of visitors curious about the truck. We noticed last night that a number of our fellow campers were looking at us and our yellow truck and were a little surprised that none approached us. But by this morning curiosity had overcome any reluctance and we had more than 20 people drop by over a period of an hour. It is a while since we had such a large group in one place asking us questions. As always the visitors are curious, but polite, and as always we tell our story, show the vehicle and also seek to be polite and friendly. The way we see it; if we did not want visitors we should have chosen a different truck and different color.

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Metal art, Milo(?) crops, and a little bit of 4x4 (Hamilton County SP, USA)

Journal entry for Sunday 23rd Sep, 2012 (day 82, miles 11000)

We are beginning to feel the effects of the time of year. The sun seemed late to rise this morning and the morning air was fresh (could not call it cool/cold yet). We were on the road by 7:30am continuing west through more pretty Kansas country side; though now the land is flat and a little drier than previous days. At Mullinville, KS we passed a fence decorated with metal "art" - it seems to represent the property owners impressions of various people. Throughout the day we passed lots of fields with a low crop with brown tops (photos 4 and 5). A lady at the Wichita Visitors Center suggested it was milo, but I guess we were not convinced, so a bit of internet research revealed that the crop is sorghum and is nicknamed milo.

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Santa Fe Trail, Old Bent Fort (La Junta, USA)

Journal entry for Monday 24th Sep, 2012 (day 86, miles 11119)

We saw off the last of Kansas this morning and entered flat dry farming land of drought plagued eastern Colorado. Signs along the road reminded us that we were, and had been since St Louis, pretty much tracing the route of the original Santa Fe Trail the southern most route by which settlers traveled into the West. This trail brought many settlers to what is today New Mexico and was then Mexican territory and eventually precipitated the Mexican-American war. In the hey day of the trail one of the few outposts of supply and security was Bent Fort, a fortified adobe trading post built by the Bent brothers and a son of a French nobleman a few miles from todays town of La Junta. The fort burned down in 1849 but was rebuilt in the mid 1970's as a historic monument and filled with historic artifacts and is today staffed by Park Rangers and volunteers in period costumes. We spent a pleasant, though hot, few hours there enthralled by the fort structure and the old tools and other implements. An interesting point of trivia was a discussion with one of the staff about the word Arkansas, which of course we all now know to pronounce as Ar-kan-saw. However it seems (or at least we were told) that when the state of Arkansas joined the Union its two Senators differed on their pronunciation of the word. One used the now accepted pronunciation of Ar-kan-saw while the other called his state Ar-kan-sas. Soon after statehood was granted the state legislature adopted the Ar-kan-saw pronunciation as the officially correct form. Just to confuse us foreigners apparently many people from Kansas still call it Ar-kan-sas.

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Rob P's shop, Hanagan's Farm and Koshare (La Junta, USA)

Journal entry for Friday 28th Sep, 2012 (day 86, miles 11119)

Our four days in La Junta were like many travel experiences; one arrives in a place with some plans but really little, if any, conception of how events will actually unfold. Our La Junta visit was that type of experience in spades.

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The Rockies (The Crags CG, USA)

Journal entry for Saturday 29th Sep, 2012 (day 87, miles 11311)

The early morning fog had burned off by the time we merged onto I-25 heading north to Colorado Springs. It felt strange to be back in the hustle and bustle of an interstate after so many days on the more relaxed secondary roads of Kansas and Colorado. After shopping and other chores we did a quick tour through the Garden of the Gods Park then joined highway 24 heading into the mountains looking for a place to pull over for the night. However improvised camping spots proved hard to find and before long we found ourselves at the town of Divide at 9000ft. Camping at 9000ft was certainly not part of our plan but there seemed to be no alternative. The nearby state park campground was full so we eventually turned onto a narrow gravel road towards a forest service campground called The Crags at 9600ft.

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Pikes Peak (Colorado Springs, USA)

Journal entry for Sunday 30th Sep, 2012 (day 88, miles 11392)

After a lazy start to the day we alighted from our snug camper to a sunny but cool morning (the truck computer told us it was close to freezing overnight) and spent an hour or so strolling up the road to a trail head, then along part of the trail reaching well over 10,000 ft before returning to the truck to get underway. We were both more than a little surprised how well we were reacting to the altitude. On previous occasions a sudden climb to this kind of level has had the usual side effects of head aches and shortness of breath. The truck was reluctant to start and even with the aid of the new air-intake heater coughed, spluttered and belched smoke for a few minutes before finally settling down.

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The Gold Belt Tour, Phantom, Victor, America Eagles (Victor, USA)

Journal entry for Monday 1st Oct, 2012 (day 89, miles 11493)

The Gold Belt Tour is a linked series of roads connecting the towns of Florence, Canon City, Victor, and Cripple Creek. We had been debating for some days whether we would attempt the Phantom Canyon Road (one of the Gold Belt Tour roads), and today decided in the affirmative. Why the debate? Well the guide book Nina has been reading points out that there are two tunnels along the road (something that is usually an issue for us) that the road is narrow, twisting and unsuitable for long vehicles (over 25ft). The road turned out to be fabulous. It is, as advertised, twisting and in places very narrow. Most of it is an old railway bed and in places where the road runs through cuts in large rocks it has not been widened since its railways days. For miles it runs along a narrow man made ledge on the side of a steep valleys; it was exhilarating.

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The Shelf Road (San Isabel NF, USA)

Journal entry for Tuesday 2nd Oct, 2012 (day 90, miles 11578)

We met the fox in the parking lot of the American Eagles Overlook he was very bold and followed us around while we tried to use the morning light to get some better photos of this amazing hole in the ground. I am not sure we improved on our previous efforts in regard to the open pit but we did get a better look at some of those dump trucks this morning; they make our Mog look small.

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Autumn colors, and Sand Dunes (Sand Dune NP, USA)

Journal entry for Wednesday 3rd Oct, 2012 (day 91, miles 11742)

Although we did not know it at the start, today would be consumed by autumn colors, The Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the Great Sand Dune National Preserve. From our camp in the San Isabel NF (in the Wet Mountains) we passed through the town of Westcliffe (which seemed pretty much closed down for the season) and down highway 69 which travels north-south just east of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. There are many minor roads heading west from 69 into the S de C and eventually we succumbed and started west towards Mosca Pass along CR-580. This country road changed names a number of times as it wound its way west and gradually deteriorated from a two lane black top into a narrow wheel track as it climbed to Mosca Pass at just short of 10,000 ft. Along the way we passed through farmland, open range and wonderful high alpine forest where the Aspens were displaying a wonderful mix of fall colors and providing a breath taking contrast to the dark spruce. We have been captivated by the yellow and orange colors of the Aspens for a number of days now and have been at great pains to capture these vivid colors with our camera, but they continue to prove elusive.

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Dunes, colors and a cook-up (Near Chama, USA)

Journal entry for Thursday 4th Oct, 2012 (day 92, miles 11855)

A few more photos of the Dunes and then a lengthy stop in Alamosa for laundry and then we were on our way through Southern Colorado towards New Mexico. The drive along 17 from Antonito towards Chama New Mexico took us through La Manga Pass and Cumbres Pass (both just over 10,000') and presented a wonderful display of Golden Aspen and other fall colors.

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Our arrival at the Balloon Fiesta !! (Albuquerque, USA)

Journal entry for Friday 5th Oct, 2012 (day 93, miles 12019)

Heading down I-25 from Santa Fe to Albuquerque we were conscious of how little we knew about the Balloon Fiesta we were headed to. We had camping reservations but no idea where the campground was, we had an offer of a driveway camping spot but no address, and we had a contact at the Fiesta itself but no arrangements for meeting. But luck and the internet came to our aid. Some directions from the Fiesta website got us onto the main entrance to the Fiesta grounds, which immediately turned into an entrance line for the RV parking area (a campground without facilities). We had only been in the line a few minutes when the SUV in front stopped and our contact Scott got out and strolled back to chat to us.

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Balloon Fiesta Day 1, Glow (Albuquerque, USA)

Journal entry for Saturday 6th Oct, 2012 (day 94, miles 12019)

I could say "our first day at the fiesta dawned to great excitement" - but in fact we were up and going, and excited, well before dawn. Thank to Scott's hospitality we were in one of the VIP hospitality tents having breakfast at least an hour before dawn hoping (like thousands of other people) that the wind would subside so that the first mass launch of the fiesta would take place. Unfortunately the wind remained and the launch was cancelled.

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Balloon Fiesta Day 2 - Mass launch (Albuquerque, USA)

Journal entry for Sunday 7th Oct, 2012 (day 95, miles 12019)

This morning we knew a little more about the routine. Up just before 5:00am, onto a free shuttle bus for the 10 minute trip to the launch field, grab a seat in the hospitality tent, get some coffee and a snack and wait for the activity to start. This morning the weather gods smiled on the event and the wind was light. In waining darkness the Dawn Patrol launched (about 10 balloons that go up in advance of the mass launch to sample the flying conditions). With the Dawn patrol in the air serious action started, with many other balloons beginning the filling process, canopies inflating and their burners lighting the morning sky.

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Balloon fiesta - Our final sessions (Chaco Canyon, USA)

Journal entry for Tuesday 9th Oct, 2012 (day 97, miles 12019)

Monday and Tuesday are typically lower key days at the festival. The only event is the morning session (no evening display) and the format is a little different. The balloons divide themselves into two groups; those that want to compete and those that don't. The non-competitors launch from the fiesta field from dawn onwards (until about 8:00am). From 8:00am on-wards the field is closed to all balloon launches, vehicles and the public and is set up with a series of targets for competition. The competitor balloons choose a launch site at least 1 mile from the field and then attempt to fly to the field and drop a marker onto one of the targets.

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Chaco (Durango, USA)

Journal entry for Wednesday 10th Oct, 2012 (day 98, miles 12357)

We started our brief exploration of Chaco Canyon and ruins with the usual visitor center film. This one was a bit disappointing; too much mysticism and not enough history. Though to be fair not much is really known about the people of Chaco. Some deductions from the ruins they left, a few artifacts and references in the oral histories of a number of South West tribes. However one look at the size, scope and nature of the ruins in Chaco canyon and it is evident that they were a prosperous, well organized and skilled people. The ruins on display in the canyon are called "great houses", they are large D shaped complexes with hundreds of rooms, built over succeeding generations but according to the original plan. Current archeological theory is that these buildings are ceremonial rather than domestic. Why and how did this thriving culture fall or depart; seems there is no answer to that question.

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Laundry, chores and a chance to spread out (Haviland Lake, USA)

Journal entry for Thursday 11th Oct, 2012 (day 99, miles 12392)

A house with a laundry and space to spread out captivated us this morning so that we did not get going until the morning was almost done. A few more shopping chores and a chance meeting with another Unimog owner and Rosie and her friends from Texas and we were really late getting underway. As a result we got only as far as Haviland Lake Campground; only about 30 miles for the day.

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First signs of winter (Lizard Head Pass, USA)

Journal entry for Friday 12th Oct, 2012 (day 100, miles 12560)

Overnight the weather turned and today we have been traveling in a mix of rain, light hail and a few snow flurries. Higher on the mountains there is a lot of fresh snow. We saw very few bright yellow Aspens today; their leaves are now mostly brown or gone. It is amazing how things have changed in a week; though of course we have moved more into the heart of the Rockies and should expect that fall/winter is more advanced here.

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Cold start, warm finish (Bushy Basin Rim, USA)

Journal entry for Saturday 13th Oct, 2012 (day 101, miles 12711)

Our first touch of winter continued overnight. This morning there was a light dusting of snow on the ground and the temperature was 27°F. As we dropped down out of the mountains to the town of Dolores (SW Colorado) the scenery confirmed the approaching winter, the remaining leaves are deep red colors, the Aspens are mostly bare, and temperature stayed in the low 30s. Along the way the countryside changed from mountains to sandstone canyons. From Dolores a short drive took us to Hovenweep National Monument were we walked around the rim of a small canyon and looked at the ruins of stone buildings from the 1200's. The people that built these are the descendants of the people of Chaco. While at Hovenweep the sun made an appearance and the temperature climbed into the 50s.

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Gooseberry Rd (Mormon Pasture, USA)

Journal entry for Sunday 14th Oct, 2012 (day 102, miles 12784)

Today was spent "trying out" the truck. Our first experiment was actually to get down off our ridge top camp. The short, steep, narrow descent to highway 95 proved to be a non event but re-enforced one of yesterdays lessons; namely - over rough roads one must travel slowly. Our first stop for the day was a valley called Comb Wash were we encountered some narrow sandy trails, and a small creek crossing. The truck handled all the small obstacles without raising a sweat.

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Beef Basin Rd (Bushy Basin Rim, USA)

Journal entry for Monday 15th Oct, 2012 (day 103, miles 12875)

The second leg of our forest route continued North towards highway 211 and Canyonland. After a short climb out of our camp site the road traveled for a couple of hours along the rim of a number of canyons through low Juniper forests affording us great views of red sandstone cliffs, rocks valleys and Canyonland to the North.

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Moki Dugway (Page, USA)

Journal entry for Tuesday 16th Oct, 2012 (day 104, miles 13098)

Our route from Blanding was south on 261 towards Monument Valley. Along the way we came across two spectacular but unexpected sights. The first was the (to us) oddly names Moki Dugway. This is a roadway carved into a sandstone escarpment that connects the highland plateau of the canyon land region with the lower lands of the northern Arizona Navajo Indian lands of Monument Valley. The next interesting sight was the descriptively named Gooseneck State Park. At this spot there is an overlook which gives incredible views of the twisting course of the San Jaun river before it finds its way into Lake Powell.

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Antelope Canyon (South of Flagstaff, USA)

Journal entry for Wednesday 17th Oct, 2012 (day 105, miles 13305)

Antelope Canyon can only be visited as part of a tour. This is partly a restriction imposed by the local Navajos who I am sure want to get revenue from visitors to the Canyon. But it is also a safety precaution as the Canyons are prone to flash flooding from distant rain falls. For example in 1997 11 visitors died when the Canyon suddenly flooded.

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On the road again (Mobile, USA)

Journal entry for Wednesday 19th Dec, 2012 (day 168, miles 16753)

We are on the road again. As you can see from the date and miles on this entry we have spent the last 2 months and about 3,000 miles off the web visiting family and generally attending to business and chores. It has been great to spend some time with our sons, but not so great to have a bunch of chores requiring attention. However today that is over and we are back into travel mode heading for southern AZ and then CA and Mexico.

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The Sonora Desert, and cacti (Organ Pipes NM, USA)

Journal entry for Thursday 20th Dec, 2012 (day 169, miles 16861)

On the short drive south to Organ Pipes National Monument today we saw much evidence of our proximity to the Mexican border. The few small towns we passed through had many establishments offering Mexican auto insurance, many other signs were in Spanish, and in the space of 80 miles we passed two Border Patrol checkpoints.

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Checkpoints and a day in the desert (Sentinel Rest Area, USA)

Journal entry for Friday 21st Dec, 2012 (day 170, miles 16982)

We might be back on the road, but there is not much to report as things are going to be a bit quiet for the next few days as we travel slowly to CA. So for example today we got a relaxed start (that is late) to the day, spent some time talking to Duane and Kim (RVers from Minnesota) and finally got moving by about 11:30.

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RV Parks and casino-ing (Paradise Casino,Yuma, USA)

Journal entry for Saturday 22nd Dec, 2012 (day 171, miles 17072)

Another late start and warm sunny desert weather saw us heading west along I-8 towards Yuma, and boy what an eye opener Yuma turned out to be. This town must be the RV capital of the world. There are RV parks, mobile home parks, and RV sales yards everywhere. There is even a large RV salvage (wreckers) yard packed full of RVs in all stages of destruction and decay. It is also a town with a strong hispanic influence, lots of spanish signs on motels and restaurants.

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The Imperial Valley (La Mesa, USA)

Journal entry for Sunday 23rd Dec, 2012 (day 172, miles 17,253)

A quiet night in the casino's gravel parking lot was followed by a bright but cool morning. A few 18-wheel trucks had joined the scattering of RV's over night but they were far enough away from us not to cause any noise disturbance; a nice change from rest areas.

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Snow in Mexico (Calexico, USA)

Journal entry for Saturday 12th Jan, 2013 (day 192, miles 19795)

Three longish days of driving have carried us from Ciudad Constitucion in mid Baja to Calexico, California and while long driving days usually mean "nothing to say" that is not entirely the case here. If nothing else we managed to capture some photos on each of these days that are shared below, had conversations with every military checkpoint on the Baja and at the end of this period an interesting day along the US-Mexico border.

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Leaving Mexico - again (Yuma, USA)

Journal entry for Sunday 13th Jan, 2013 (day 192, miles 19879)

The main event and/or interest feature of today was relinquishing our Mexican Tourist cards and returning the vehicle temporary import papers to the Mexican Banjercito.

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Tires rotated in freezing weather (Sentinel Rest Area, USA)

Journal entry for Monday 14th Jan, 2013 (day 195, miles 19977)

Before leaving Yuma this morning we stopped by a local tire shop and had them rotate the tires/wheels on the truck. I had also wanted them to reverse the tires on the two front wheels (that is take the tire off the rim turn it over and remount it) but the manager was not prepared to do that. He pointed out that to do as I asked he would have to disassemble the wheels (the truck has two-piece wheels and the two halves are sealed together with rubber O-rings) and without new O-rings (which he did not have) the reassembled wheel might leak. So we settled for a simply rotation. I stood in the workshop area for about an hour and a half rugged up like the workers while a freezing wind whistled past.

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An evening with friends near Tucson (Tucson, USA)

Journal entry for Tuesday 15th Jan, 2013 (day 195, miles 19977)

Today was simply a driving day. We were on our way to Tucson to spend an evening with some friends from Gig Harbor who were escaping the wet weather of Washington and getting in a bit of golf. Though with the current cold snap in Arizona the golf appears to have been put on hold.

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A visit to Quartzsite - amazing!! (Quartzsite, USA)

Journal entry for Tuesday 22nd Jan, 2013 (day 202, miles 20391)

From Tucson we spent 3 nights with our son and fiance; in Phoenix and then headed west along Hwy 10 towards the town of Quartzsite. We have heard from many people over the years about the RV "get-together" that happens in Quartzsite every winter but have never really understood what it was. Sometimes the description sounds like an RV Show other times it sounds like 300,000 people "dry camping" with their RVs in the desert. So we decided to drop in to that town and have a look for ourselves.

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The last leg (John Wilke Rest Area, USA)

Journal entry for Wednesday 23rd Jan, 2013 (day 200, miles 20554)

The last leg - on our way back to Gig Harbor. During our stay in Phoenix and Quartzsite we worked on our applications for Russian Visas with the assistance of a visa agency. We finalized the paper work this morning and so our first stop today was the little town of Blythe, CA where we hoped to Fedex/UPS the paper work to that agency. Blythe turned into a bit of a mad-cap affair. On the door of the UPS office was a sign saying they are only open 2 hours a day - 1 in the morning and 1 in the afternoon. We found a Fedex agent but their collection had already happened for the day. Finally at ACE Hardware (who it seems do small items only) we got the days UPS pickup.

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Death Valley in the rain (Death Valley, USA)

Journal entry for Thursday 24th Jan, 2013 (day 204, miles 20760)

Grey sky and light rain greeted us this morning as we set out north to cross the Mojave on our way to Death Valley Junction. It felt strange to see this part of the country in the rain. Fresh mud, pools of standing water and evidence of water running over the roadway was a constant sight. There was even water running beside the road as we descended to our nights camp at Furnace Creek near the Death Valley visitors center.

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Bad Water - below the sea (Death Valley, USA)

Journal entry for Friday 25th Jan, 2013 (day 205, miles 20869)

Our day started with the almost obligatory trip to the visitors center and the orientation film; which we would both classify as one of the better ones we have seen. Bad Water - the lowest point in the valley at -260 ft was next on the agenda and where, with a smattering of other visitors, we walked out a short way onto the vast salt pan. We were somewhat surprised by the texture of the surface of the pan as we expected it to be smooth perhaps with small ridges around where water had pooled. But it was actually a chaotic pattern of small salt uplifts (protrusions less than 1 foot high) mixed with mud.

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Scotty's Castle? (Hawthorne, USA)

Journal entry for Saturday 26th Jan, 2013 (day 206, miles 21081)

The weather was improved this morning so we decided to do a little more exploring before leaving the valley. First on our agenda was the Race Track, a dried mud pan where large boulders move across the surface of the pan under the influence of some force that is not understood. However this objective was abandoned when we realized that it would require 50 miles of very rough road. We consoled ourselves with a visit to the Ubehebe Crater (formed about 2000 years ago by a steam explosion resulting from hot magma interacting with ground water) before heading onto Scotty's Castle.

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Casino Dinner! (Reno, USA)

Journal entry for Sunday 27th Jan, 2013 (day 207, miles 21233)

The weather was clear but cold as we left Hawthorne and traveled beside Walker Lake this morning but before long we were again driving through snow covered country side and as we entered Fallon snow started to fall. On into Reno the snow persisted and we started to worry about road condition in the mountains and our chances of getting over to I-5.

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Lassen Forest - Playing in the snow (Yreka, USA)

Journal entry for Monday 28th Jan, 2013 (day 208, miles 21489)

Today was simply over the mountains to I-5. As it turned out the weather was good, with no new snow and hence no problems with chains and closed roads. The trip was through the beautiful Ponderosas of Lassen National Forest. Along the way we took the opportunity to play a bit in the snow to see whether we could get the truck bogged. I am glad to report we did not. Maybe we simply did not try hard enough.

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A travel day (Portland, USA)

Journal entry for Tuesday 29th Jan, 2013 (day 209, miles 21827)

Nothing exciting happened today. We simply traveled along I-5 with the goal of making Portland before the day ended.

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Vehicle Service - all day (Portland, USA)

Journal entry for Wednesday 30th Jan, 2013 (day 210, miles 21827)

We were up this morning at 5:30 am in order to get to McCoy Freightliner by 6:00am in order to have the truck serviced in advance of shipping to Russia. When we called McCoy about a week ago we were told that they don't take bookings, it is first come first served and we are open from 6:00am until 11:00 pm. Since we wanted to get finished in a day we decided to try and be first. That worked out as we were indeed the first customers of the day. The bit of the story we had not anticipated was that while the office is open from 6:00am the mechanics/technicians don't arrive until 7:00am (or later). Anyway about that time activity started on the yellow truck.

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Repairs in a parking lot (Chehalis, USA)

Journal entry for Thursday 31st Jan, 2013 (day 211, miles 20554)

So what to do with the day, that was our big question this morning, given that we were a day a head of schedule. The answer turned out to be spend almost the entire day in a Home Depot parking lot doing some repairs to the camper cabinets. Over the last week or so we have been like the walking wounded so today seemed like an opportune day to fix some things.

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Peoria (Peoria, USA)

Journal entry for Saturday 10th Jun, 2017 (day 88, miles 76272)

No much to report about today. It is still hot and windy as we pushed through the farm lands of Illinois.

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Grassland and Museum (Angostura Reservoir, USA)

Journal entry for Tuesday 13th Jun, 2017 (day 90, miles 77177)

More nice weather and a change of scenery today. We are now in the grasslands. The change in scenery happened quite quickly as all of a sudden we noticed that we were traveling amidst rolling grass covered hills that stretch as far as the eye can see in every direction.

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Black Hills (Sheridan, USA)

Journal entry for Wednesday 14th Jun, 2017 (day 91, miles 77441)

We could not help but notice that Angostura Reservoir had a number of really nice campgrounds - spacious and well maintained. A few photos below don't really do the place justice. Once underway we headed north and west through the little town of Hot Springs SD and then into Wyoming through the town of Newcastle. This route took us through the picturesque Black Hills. I show my age by admitting that I cannot think of the name "Black Hills" without hearing Doris Day as Calamity Jane singing "The Black Hills of Dakota" in my head.

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Bear day (Custer State Forest CG, USA)

Journal entry for Thursday 15th Jun, 2017 (day 92, miles 77671)

Today promised to be a scenic day and did not disappoint. The first leg out of Sheridan took us to Dayton and then west along Alt14 and a spectacular climb through the Big Horn National Forest before an equally spectacular descent to Lovell. There after a brief interlude following the Sidon Canal and we arrived in Powell MT. The final stretch of the day was Highway 296 also known as Chief Joseph Scenic Byway which connects with the Highway 212 (The Beartooth Highway) at the North Eastern entrance of Yellowstone National Park.

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Yellowstone (Avon, USA)

Journal entry for Friday 16th Jun, 2017 (day 93, miles 77956)

Yellowstone National Park really is a scenic treasures. Even on a grey wet day like today the animals, the mountains and the rivers make it a feast for the soul. This morning we crossed the Northern part of the park from the junction with 212 to the Northern Entrance and while we were really only transiting on our way to Bozeman we could not help but want to stop and take photos. As you can see the animals conspired to feed our temptation.

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Friends near Eureka (Eureka, USA)

Journal entry for Saturday 17th Jun, 2017 (day 94, miles 78556)

We passed through a lot of interesting scenic country today as we made our way to Rexford MT (near Eureka) to visit our friends. It is pretty clear that had we not been so close to the end of this journey we would have spent more time traversing this interesting route.

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Finished - 5 years around the world (Gig Harbor, USA)

Journal entry for Sunday 18th Jun, 2017 (day 95, miles 78736)

After breakfast coffee and a heartfelt goodbye to out friends Ken and Ivy we hit the road towards our house Washington thinking that we would spread the 500+ miles remaining over two days. But as often happens at the end of a journey the heading for home syndrome hit us and we drove throughout the day arriving at our house just before midnight. A total of 18 hours and 500+ miles representing an exceptionally long day in our truck. The early part of our route from Eureka to Libby, Bonners Ferry to Sand Point was really pretty and we noted it for future explorations. But in truth today was a "get home" day. It was also a day of mixed emotions as it brings to an end almost 5 years of traveling around the world in our big yellow beast. And we are not sure at this point when or where our next travels will be. We were last at our house in WA with the yellow truck in January 2013 just before we shipped to Vladivostok, Russia.

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Overland Expo West 2018 (Fort Tuthill County Park, Flagstaff, USA)

Journal entry for Saturday 19th May, 2018 (day 1043, miles 82,852)

We missed Overland Expo West last year and so this year we were excited to see it at the (to us) new venue of Fort Tuthill County Park. And we were not disappointed. The crowd seemed huge and there was a vast increase in the number of exhibitors. Particularly noteable for us was the number of new providers of large overland vehicles. In fact there were so many and the vehicles are so large that our yellow Unimog seemed decidedly small.

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Mount Rainier (Crow Lake Way Trailhead Hwy 12, USA)

Journal entry for Friday 28th Sep, 2018 (day 1, miles 143)

Todays goal was to try for some good photos of Mount Rainier, we were optomistic as the weather was great so we decided that Sunrie Visitor Center would be the best spot as we would not be in position until afternoon. That proved to be a less than ideal choice as by the time we got there the sun was over the top of the mountain making for poor light. Still the drive along Hwy 410 and along the Sunrise entrance road was enjoyable.

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An easy day on Hwy 12 (Benton City, USA)

Journal entry for Saturday 29th Sep, 2018 (day 2, miles 267)

The outside temperature this morning was 37°F emphasisiing the fact that we spent the night in the mountains and at altitude. Stopped in Yakima for a while to get some supplies and communicate with family and a bit of exercise on the Yakima Green Way, a very extensive walking and bicycle trail system.

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Farm country (Alpowa Summit Rest Area, USA)

Journal entry for Sunday 30th Sep, 2018 (day 3, miles 402)

Today we got a good dose of Washington farm country. Lots of fields of straw colored growth, some just stuble having been recently harvested, some tall and swaying and about to be harvested (we assume). Quaint little towns some of which seem to be caught in a bit of a time warp, except for all the modern pickup trucks. Really a pleasant day and a salutory reminder of the scope of farming.

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The Clearwater (Five Mile Creek Hwy 12, USA)

Journal entry for Monday 1st Oct, 2018 (day 4, miles 482)

We stopped for a long while in Lewiston this morning. The town has a nice skate park and walking trail beside the river. We took advantage of this facility, and the fine sunny weather, to undertake our daily exercises. I am on a regime of strengthening and stretching from my physical therapist and Nina is aiming to achieve her Apple Watch goal of 10,000 steps every day.

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Exploring around Orofino (Knife Edge River Access Hwy 12, USA)

Journal entry for Tuesday 2nd Oct, 2018 (day 5, miles 596)

We spent the day exploring the area south of Orofino along Idaho Highways 13 and 14 before starting the trek along Highway 12 towards Lolo Pass. The day was wet with light rain and this discouraged photos and encouraged an early stop.

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Lolo Pass (KOA Missoula, USA)

Journal entry for Wednesday 3rd Oct, 2018 (day 6, miles 708)

We had some business to take care of so we set off early towards Lolo pass with the goal of getting to Missoula, a campground, wifi and enough time to "take care of business". The day turned out to be sunny which made the drive up Hwy 12 to Lolo Pass quite picturesque. There were long sections of new pavement which made driving very pleasant. But this was offset by a number of delays due to single lane sections where road crews were at work.

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A rude awakening (Suba, USA)

Journal entry for Thursday 4th Oct, 2018 (day 7, miles 799)

As the reader will deduce from the photos, today brought grey skies and rain. After dithering around in Missoula for a long time we eventually got a late start heading south along Hwy 93. Fall colors were out in force but the lack of nice light and water on the lens reduced the opportunity for nice photos to zero.

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First snows (Near Ennis, USA)

Journal entry for Friday 5th Oct, 2018 (day 8, miles 972)

This morning was a real treat. From our overnight spot we climbed steeply to Lost Trail Pass and were delighted to find ourselves amongst fresh snow, quite a few inches of the nice fluffy white stuff. Despite having lived in the US (a place where snow is not uncommon) for 20 years we still have the typical Australian reaction to this "exotic" stuff. After Lost Trail the road towards Wisdom, MT climbed a little higher to Chief Joseph Pass before dropping out of the mountains and eventually the Big Hole Battlefield Memorial, and the cafe in Wisdom.

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A little vehicle trouble (Suga City, USA)

Journal entry for Saturday 6th Oct, 2018 (day 9, miles 1153)

This morning our Webasto diesel heater would not start so we had to rely on the generator and a small electric heater to get our little house up to a comfortable temperature. To my surprise we also had difficulty getting the truck engine to start. Both these small problems were more than a little surprising as we were not at a particularly high altitude (only about 6,500 ft) and it was not particularly cold (33°F). Throughout the mornings travel both these problems persisted in a minor form. Both the heater and engine would start but would generate blue smoke for a while until full warmed up. Eventually in West Yellowstone I added some diesel anti-gel treatment to both tanks and we decided to bypass Yellowstone and the Tetons and head south towards Idaho Falls looking for lower altitude and slightly warmer temperatures until we were convinced the anti-gel treatment had done its job.

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Farms, Fog and Mountains (Grand Tetons, USA)

Journal entry for Sunday 7th Oct, 2018 (day 10, miles 1249)

We got off to a good start this morning. The heater, generator and truck all started as they should, and the sun was out providing very good light as we drove east through farm country. Near the town of Driggs we ran into a very dense and extended patch of fog which had largely dissipated by the time we stopped for some exercise on the walking/cycle trail at Victor. Then over Teton Pass to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

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Perfect photo weather (East Entrance Yellowstone, USA)

Journal entry for Monday 8th Oct, 2018 (day 11, miles 1449)

The day started bright and sunny, with no clouds, so we were up somewhat earlier than usual to take advantage of the great photo opportunities. This theme continued throughout the day and we spent more time on the road than would be usual for us as we wanted to cover our targeted areas of both the Tetons and Yellowstone while the good weather lasted.

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Shoshone Canyon (KOA Billings, USA)

Journal entry for Tuesday 9th Oct, 2018 (day 12, miles 1619)

It was cold outside this morning, 24°F at 8:00 when we finally decided to get out of bed. But the diesel heater worked all night so we were comfortable inside our yellow box. And thanks to that same diesel heater I was able to warm the engine and get it started first try. I am now quite confused about the cause of the isses we have had with the truck engine and diesel heater.

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Business/lazy day (KOA Billings, USA)

Journal entry for Wednesday 10th Oct, 2018 (day 13, miles 1636)

As you can see we spent an additional day in the Billings KOA. Sometimes it is just nice to hang around and do nothing. Particularly when there are nice facilities.

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Big Horn Canyon (Fort Smith, USA)

Journal entry for Thursday 11th Oct, 2018 (day 14, miles 1766)

As the title says, today we visited the northern end of Big Horn Canyon. Our route took us through miles of grass lands and Crow Indian Reservation before finishing in the small town of Fort Smith. At this time of year the town is gearing up for for fishing. There are many fishing lodges around the town and drift boats on trails were very common.

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More grass lands (Devils Tower, USA)

Journal entry for Friday 12th Oct, 2018 (day 15, miles 2021)

Today turned out to be a long distance day by our standards, over 200 miles. But bad weather is forecast for the next few days and we wanted to be at a campground while it (the weather) descended on us. Also the roads today were good, travel easy and the grass lands scenery interesting without being spectacular. Thus we made it to Devils Tower late in the day to find, fortunately that the KOA was open for a few more days. We also arrived just in time to get a few photos of the Tower before the sun was gone.

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A snowy day in camp (Devils Tower, USA)

Journal entry for Saturday 13th Oct, 2018 (day 16, miles 2021)

The forecast bad weather arrived over night and by mid morning the temperature was below freezing an snow was falling. That's how the day continued.

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Mail pickup (Rapid City, USA)

Journal entry for Sunday 14th Oct, 2018 (day 17, miles 2140)

It was cold this morning, 20°F, and still snowing lightly. Overnight our diesel heater had (again) stopped working and this time I could not get it restarted. Fortunately we are in a campground with electricty so we can still heat the camper and truck engine or maybe we would be here another day. Putting aside the vehicle troubles the morning was really pretty. About an inch of snow covering most everything yet clouds high enough that we could see the Devil's Tower also with a light snow cover. We quite enjoyed our stay at Devil's Tower KOA.

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Prairie dogs (Badlands NP, USA)

Journal entry for Monday 15th Oct, 2018 (day 18, miles 2227)

In order to give the mail service time to deliver the parcel we are waiting for, we decided to pay a visit to the Badlands National Park, spend a night there and try again for the mail tomorrow. So, after the usual round of grocery shopping chores, we headed east towards the famous town of Wall, SD and the Northern Entrance to The Badlands National Park.

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Successful mail pickup (Rapid City, USA)

Journal entry for Tuesday 16th Oct, 2018 (day 19, miles 2351)

We spent this morning completing our exploration of the Badlands finally exiting the park through the town of Interior, SD before heading back to Americas Mailbox and that long awaited parcel. In case your curiousity is aroused the parcel contained a supply of mint flavoured chocolates that Nina and I use as an after dinner treat.

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Blackhills (Hot Springs, USA)

Journal entry for Wednesday 17th Oct, 2018 (day 20, miles 2446)

Our excursion to the Badlands a couple of days ago had the unfortunate side effect of getting our truck very muddy as the road to Sage Creek is gravel, or in our case mud, as a result of the recent snow. So this morning we had intended to visit a local Rapid City Truck Wash to cleanup. However when we pulled into the entrance we noted 3 or 4 animal carrier tractor trailers ahead of us, and in short order one of the truck attendants informed us that our wait would be at least 4 hours. So much for cleaning the truck.

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Blackhills (Hot Springs, USA)

Journal entry for Thursday 18th Oct, 2018 (day 21, miles 2468)

We decided to spend an extra day in the Hot Springs area. We are a little ahead of schedule for our visit next week with Rob Pickering and I am not feeling well, I have a cold. And the town of Hot Springs seems to deserve a little more attention than we have so far given it. So after a relaxed morning we spent a few hours in the town enjoying the walking paths beside the river.

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Cow country (Hawk Springs SRA, USA)

Journal entry for Friday 19th Oct, 2018 (day 22, miles 2656)

We made another visit to Hot Springs this morning before getting on our way. Nina wanted a few more photos and the town offered a good trail for her daily walk. Thereafter we spent a pleasant day driving through miles and miles of open grass lands.

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A little hiccup and feed lots (Garden City, USA)

Journal entry for Saturday 27th Oct, 2018 (day 30, miles 3346)

We had a bit of a hiccup this morning. We stayed in the parking lot at Terry Lee Ent. last night and headed east this morning. But a little way into our drive we discovered that our new exhaust system needed a bit of adjustment. So back to La Junta where Rob was waiting to spend a couple of hours of his Saturday getting us ship-shape.

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Farm country and fall colors (Elk City SRA, USA)

Journal entry for Sunday 28th Oct, 2018 (day 31, miles 3698)

We had a little McDonalds fiasco this morning. We rarely eat at the "Golden Arches" but this morning as we approached Dodge City we decided we would take breakfast at one of those eastablishments. Thus once in Dodge we found a place to park, ordered our desired nourishmet at the new fangled electronic boards that McDonalds now have, and sat down waiting for the delivery of our food and drink. Within a few minutes a young lady came to our table to inform us that "the expresso machine was not working would standard coffee be OK rather than the expresso I had ordered". yeh, sure. A few minutes later she came back with "oh, and by the way the iceream machine is also not working so we cannot make the chocolate shake you ordered". At that point we cancelled the entire order and left. On the way out I noticed that the store advertised "mobile ordering" using your smart phone. I wondered how the McDonalds app would have handled this situation, certainly their fancy electrtonic order board was not aware that expresso coffee and icecream while on the menu were not available.

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A visit with GXV (Springfield, USA)

Journal entry for Monday 29th Oct, 2018 (day 32, miles 3860)

As you can see this morning we were still obsessed by the lake and the birds. Why ? We could not work out an answer to that question.

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Tyler Bend (Buffalo River NP, USA)

Journal entry for Tuesday 30th Oct, 2018 (day 33, miles 3979)

After running down the KOA checklist for departing campers we took a few "last" photos of Springfield KOA and then hit the road south. For those that have not been to this part of the world, south of Springfield there are a series of popular lakes and the town of Branson. Branson is like a small Las Vegas with a varierty of entertainment and shows and to ensure that visitors get to know the choices available to them the highway is lined with large billboards advertising the various artists that are performing in the town. However, we have been to Branson on previous visits so this time we just continued on through the town.

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Rain ! (Little Rock, USA)

Journal entry for Wednesday 31st Oct, 2018 (day 34, miles 4081)

Overnight the rain continued with some really heavy bouts and that's how the day continued as well. Thus once underway we made steady progress to the KOA on the Northern side of Little Rock, AR thinking or was it hoping that tomorrow would deliver better weather so that we could visit the President Clinton Library.

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Rain ! (Little Rock, USA)

Journal entry for Thursday 1st Nov, 2018 (day 35, miles 4081)

Rain again, is that a ryhme? In any case we spent the day lazing inside our camper out of the rain. Certainly not a day that encouraged sightseeing.

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Clinton Presidential Center (Village Creek SP, USA)

Journal entry for Friday 2nd Nov, 2018 (day 36, miles 4196)

We spent the morning at the Clinton Presidential Center in downtown Little Rock. The approach was easy for our not-so nimble vehicle and parking was easy as the Center has a large lot adjacent to the entrance. We also noticed that there is an RV park on the northern side of the river right opposite the Center. Had we stayed there we would have been able to visit the Center via a pedestrian bridge. Something to keep in mind for next time.

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I40 Tennessee (Natches Trace SP, USA)

Journal entry for Saturday 3rd Nov, 2018 (day 37, miles 4382)

Not long after getting underway this morning we came upon a police officer who had closed the road we wanted to take; seems there was a marathon underway and we needed to detour around the town of Wynne to avoid it. This caused us a bit of navigational confusion for a while, but eventually we found our way on to AR64 as required. By midday we were racing along the I40 northern bypass of Memphis surrounded by trucks and Saturday shopping traffic. Not our favourite style of travel.

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Overland Expo Prep I (Crossville, USA)

Journal entry for Sunday 4th Nov, 2018 (day 38, miles 4619)

The next few days are going to be a bit boring for you readers as it is time I started preparing for the sessions I am presenting at Overland Expo. That means we are looking for campgrounds with wifi so that we can spend a couple of days stationary while I work.

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Overland Expo Prep II (Crossville, USA)

Journal entry for Monday 5th Nov, 2018 (day 39, miles 4619)

Spent a second night at Crossville KOA, the Overland Expo work continues. Note the campground mascots, according to the staff there are 20-30 of these little guys living in the campground and surrounding properties

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Within reach of Overland Expo (Townsend, USA)

Journal entry for Tuesday 6th Nov, 2018 (day 39, miles 4703)

Today we headed to a KOA at Townsend, TN. We wanted to spend the last couple of nights before Overland Expo at a place within easy reach of the Overland venue. Townsend seemed to fit the bill, an interesting tourist town on the north side of the Smoky Mountains.

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Tourist heaven and autumn colors (Cherokee, USA)

Journal entry for Wednesday 7th Nov, 2018 (day 40, miles 4781)

Overnight we looked a little more carefully at the map and the location of the Overland venue and decided that we were a bit too far away from the venue and in any case we needed to collect some groceries before the event. Thus a we changed our plans and decided to move.

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Overland Expo East 2018 (REEB Ranch, USA)

Journal entry for Friday 9th Nov, 2018 (day 41, miles 4857)

The Overland Expo event was noticeably smaller in terms of attendies than its western sibling, however it still managed to be inspiring and we came away from the event even more enthused about our planned trip to Australia next year (more of this in a future post). The presentations (and books) by Elspeth Beard and Simon and lisa Thomas (see below for links).

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