Saturday April 11th… The time had come. I needed to take myself AND my fifth wheel home to a location near where I anticipate spending this summer. In these days of “the virus”, it’s difficult to have firm plans. Prior to the SHTF in March, I committed to working for an RV dealer in Cheyenne from April thru Labor Day. Those plans remain in place – though delayed.
In all honesty, in the middle of this virus and with Idaho having a “stay at home order” in place, I was VERY apprehensive about “hitting the road.” Prior to breaking camp, I did check with the local sheriff to ensure I’m within the law to travel – as ultimately it is for work purposes. With the sheriff’s “blessing” and with a break in the weather (its been a COLD and SNOWY spring) I took to the open road traveled about 600 miles in two stretches – about 375 miles on Saturday (April 11) and another 200 miles or so on Monday the 13th to reach eastern Wyoming.
Since the ski area closed in Mid-March, I had been sheltering in place in Victor for weeks, minimizing visits to the grocery store, and taking advantage of any weather that remotely resembled Spring to go biking, take walks and such. Kayaking was out of the question as even upon my departure on April 11, the Palisades Reservoir was STILL frozen solid!
All the while I was sheltering in place, on the other side of Teton Pass, the virus’ presence was growing. Jackson has been hit hard. Likely due to skiers from big cities in March and then the ultra-rich coming to their 2nd homes after the ski areas closed. I know of other ski towns (Vail, Aspen, Sun Valley) that have been hit hard as well. And… don’t think I haven’t thought about how this will impact the ski industry (and my role as a ski instructor) for next season.
In fact, it was the growing presence of the virus in Jackson over the past few weeks – and the regular travel between there and Victor that concerned me and made me realize that despite few (reported) cases in and near Victor, life was not necessarily as safe as I’d like in Victor.
I was particularly concerned for my own health as I was hit by a significant respiratory illness in mid-February and with a residual cough that lasted through ALL of March, I considered myself at higher risk than normal if I were to contract “the virus.”
By choosing to travel to a location closer to where I’ll be working this summer, I’ve relocated to a county with ZERO cases of “the virus.” And… starting tomorrow – after today’s SNOWSTORM – Spring is expected to arrive and thus the REAL beginning of bicycling and kayaking season! I’m about 2000 ft lower here than in Victor, so warm weather really IS “just around the corner.”
I skied about 70 days this winter, got into really good shape and in an effort to maintain that fitness level, I’ve ridden on my bike 5 days thus far this Spring but I’ve had to train myself to ride with temperatures in the low to mid 40’s each time. According to the weather forecast, those days will be OVER by this weekend! There are two lakes nearby – both are UNfrozen and I fully expect to be in the water (in a kayak) at some point this weekend!
Traveling Across Wyoming During “the virus”
As I set out on my brief journey, I wanted to MINIMIZE the risk of becoming a burden to anyone or any community I traveled through. I realized there were risks to travel but as I noted earlier, I balanced them against my work commitment in Cheyenne and my desire to gain some distance between myself and Jackson due to the virus.
I started out early Saturday morning, it was 38F, mild by local standards, and the wind was calm. Shortly after my journey began, I passed the still frozen Palisades Reservoir and entered Alpine – a town where I’ve often stopped for breakfast and I was amazed to see my favorite diner was OPEN (for inside seating)! If I’d known that, I wouldn’t have eaten breakfast shortly before.
Traveling south through Afton, I saw diesel at 1.99/gallon – the lowest price along my route. Of course, this isn’t really good news, its a sign of a dead economy with no appetite for petroleum products.
I proceeded south and east on U.S. 30 towards Interstate 80. The wind began to pick up (fortunately it was a tail wind!) and the temperature rose into the high 50’s. The signs on I-80 however were warning of snow and icy conditions in just a few hours.
Knowing I had to travel a total of about 375 miles to Rawlins, I buckled down and got on with it. There had been VERY little traffic of any kind from Alpine to I-80. This is not entirely unusual for western Wyoming in the shoulder season, BUT, knowing why there was so little traffic was kind of eerie.
I did pass a couple of other 5th wheel travelers. I’m sure they knew their options for where to camp were limited. All state parks (for camping) are closed in Wyoming, the two national parks are closed (Yellowstone would be anyway in mid-April), and of course, the only businesses open are gas stations and grocery stores. Each state has its own rules and limitations, and I knew I was traveling in the LEAST restricted states in the nation. I know that farther east, some states are actually guarding their borders. Utah has also started to stop people at the border to advise travelers of rules and limitations.
Once I reached I-80, I set the cruise control to 70mph (the speed limit is 80), as I do have good tires (Goodyear Endurance G rated), but I had not yet checked the tire pressure or done a torque check.
Side note on an important safety check before you set out for the Spring…
I always stop by a tire store (Les Schwab is my #1 choice) to have them check pressure and torque check the lugs to ensure I’m “good to go.” Naturally that was not an option this time. I must take this opportunity to also note that MOST trailers come with tires that are truly NOT road-worthy. They’re often called “china-bombs” for GOOD reason. When I’m working with a client, I always recommend these tires be junked before traveling and replace with a better quality tire – even if they’re brand new!!
Life on I-80…
I-80 was MOSTLY truck traffic. Thank God for that as its truckers who are transporting vital food and provisions across the nation. The state of Wyoming was facilitating their jobs as the electronic signs pointed out where truck parking was allowed (they DO need to sleep!) and where bathrooms and food can be found.
It was absolutely surreal traveling at this time. Had I not had good reasons to relocate, I would have been happy to stay put. Every traveler seemed to look more serious as they headed down the road. I stayed focused upon driving safely, staying out of the truckers’ ways and remaining sharp on what turned out to be a 7-hour drive with only 1 stop to refuel.
Wyoming is clearly one of the more “open” states in the nation – but realize, where NYC has 27,000 people per square mile, Wyoming has FIVE. There’s a darn good reason why things are different here! Further, people here ARE taking things seriously. I see social distancing commonplace – even with minimal presence of the virus in this region.
By the time I was approaching Rawlins, the wind was picking up to a level where I knew it was time to get off the road. I’ve actually traveled into Rawlins in the past and seen an 18-wheeler blown over! Arriving at my planned 2-night stay, I was glad to be off the road and set up camp for the two nights. The campground had 2 other campers registered – and about 100+ sites were empty. They did tell me that should I opt to stay the summer, they’ve reduced their monthly rates for this summer – I wonder if this will become a trend nationwide.
I elected to stay two nights as the forecast called for snow and temperatures plummeting to near 10F Saturday night and remaining only near 20F on Sunday – remember this is MID-APRIL!!
I stayed at the Red Desert Rose Campground (formerly RV World). It’s a good place, clean laundry, full hookups, reasonable fees, and friendly, helpful staff. Rawlins itself is a small town. It has an excellent burger restaurant downtown called Bucks Sports Grill. I enjoy a visit there when I’m in town – but unfortunately not this time. All restaurants (as in most places) were takeout only.
I did (briefly) leave my camper on Sunday (after attending an online Easter Sunday Service) to buy some provisions at Walmart and City Market (Krogers.) As always, I wore a mask while inside and avoided other people. Both visits were brief and then back to the Red Desert Rose.
On Monday, dawn broke and it was about 7F outside! This is NOT normal for mid-April in Southern Wyoming! I had some challenges with my Lippert landing gear but thanks to a video posted by some folks who had a similar issue, I worked through it. It was the second coldest weather I’d ever broken camp in – the temperature was right about 20F as I prepared for part 2 of my journey. Breaking camp at temperatures like this has all kinds of challenges including water in my hose had frozen and it took a while to get all the ice out of it in order to fill the fresh water tank.
Part 2 talks about where I headed to AND what I experienced along the way AND what its like where I am now. As always, I welcome hearing from YOU – use the space below. Click HERE for the continuing journey!
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