September 10,1980 Day 16 Further North into Nebraska
I headed on north to Agate Fossil Basin National Monument. I was now in mostly rolling hills and grassland. The typography around the basin was not that interesting, but I took the mile trail to the fossils, hoping for some exciting fossils. They hadn't really done too much at this time and it was more like areas of excavations in the ground, something a specialist in the field would probably be excited about but I guess I was looking for more in the mode of creatures from the center of the earth. I was able to take advantage of the running water in the bathroom to wash my hair. A tip for low budget travelers (Martha Stewart wouldn't be much help here). I often run into those faucets that are pressure loaded. You push them on and reach to put your hands under them and they cut off. Very frustrating, especially if you are actually trying to wash up. I had a special washcloth I would carry in a plastic bag so I could stick it in my pocket. Then once it's wet it can be tied around the push down valve and will hold it in place so you will have continuosly running water while you wash your face, shave, wash your hair, etc. Then you just put it back in the plastic bag so you don't get your pants wet and leave without getting chased away for being a vagrant. Of course you have to choose either the cold water or the hot water which is usually cold too but you don't get the luxery of mixing them together.
Next on to Harrison where I sent some postcards from the post office-return address: " Greenvan:USA " A few miles further north I stopped at the Gilbert Baker State Wildlife Management Area in the camping area. The thing I missed the most after my van was robbed in Hartford, Connecticut was my binoculars because I am a birdwatcher and you are really limited without them and this was a good birding area.
52.2 miles for the day, today's expenses $ .50
September 11, 1980 Day 17 Wyoming-My 23rd State this Year
On my way into Wyoming, my 23rd state since I started my greenvan
travels a couple of months ago, I picked up another hitchhiker. This was
an interesting guy. He had been a fireman in some midwest city for
years never doing too much and he started thinking he had never seen
too much. So giving up his steady job and long term home he decided to
become a hobo. But he wasn't a bum. He always found work when he
needed it, his last stint had been rebuilding the fences of a large ranch,
and then he moved on. He was enjoying the life and he was always
welcome back to where he had been before because when he worked he
always did a good job and was reliable. His advice or outlook is to
always do a job so that if you ever went back they would rehire you.
We parted ways as I headed for Fort Laramie Historic Site. I wrote
about an irony a couple days ago and today I ran into another one. How
things are restored like they never were, the government has fixed up
the old fort quite nicely. The little cottages where the officers lived were
nicely painted and looked quite picturesque. They all fronted on a
beautiful parade gorund that had nicely cropped richly green grass. It
might have been rather pleasant ot live here, except for that indian
trouble. But then you look at the pictures. No paint on the ramshackle
old shacks. The parade ground was either dirt dust or mud. No grass in
sight. So here I was in the middle of living history that never was. But it
was a nice place to visit and probably draws more tourists than the
I stopped at Glendo for gas and then crossed I25 and headed for
Esterbrook. Treated myself to a chicken fried burger, fries and coffee
($3.43) at the Esterbrook Cafe. What a nice place. McDonalds for me?
Next into Medicine Bow National Forest and the Laramie Mountains. I
parked along the road and climbed up on a rocky outcrop for a beautiful
view looking east. I talked with a ranger who said that lightning had
started a forest fire earlier but it had been put out, although I could see
some smoldering hummocks of grass growing among the rocks. I parked
in Esterbrook campground for the night. Days were getting shorter and
nights a little chillier but I loved it.
September 12, 1980 Day 18 A Full Day in Medicine Bow National Forest
I drove a short distance from the campground found a spot to do a
painting. It was of the Front Range in the distance and the edge of the
cliff I was on. It looks rather dark and drab, but that is what the day
was like. Compleatly overcast and times when you could see rain
falling in the distance. It was 16x22 and I spent a good part of the day
doing it, or rather thinking about it as I would often take little walking
breaks and look around the area. I took a break later in the afternoon
and went to the Esterbrook Lodge for a cup of coffee. Well worth it on
a day like this. I returned to the campground for another night,
finished the Prewitt Resevoir painting and started a fire with one
match. One of the benefits of being the only one in the campground
was being able to scavenge firewood from all the other camping spots.
6.8 miles for the day, days expense $ .51
September 13, Day 19 Coming Down From the Mountain
It was time to head back south and I took a back route that continued
through the mountains. It turned out to be one of the most beautiful
areas that I would see in the states. I've seen many landscapes that were
spectacular in their grandeur and size. Interesting landforms, volcanic
areas strewn with rocks, many shorelines, but as I came down the
mountain and the valley opened up in a wide expanse the timeing of the
fall colors, a sunny day with some clouds playing across the varied grass,
shrubs, trees and mountains changing into rolling hills the combination of
colors and forms was like a symphony, continually changing as I drove
that went on for some 50 miles until I reached the flatland. I stopped and
had a sandwich on the way down to spend some more time in
observation. When I finally reached highway 287 I had a number of
things that had fallen from the bumpiness of the dirt road. You would not
have wanted to be behind me because this was one of the times I drove
about 20 miles per hour the whole way.
I got some gas in Laramie and then I went to another section of the
Medicine Bow National Forest to paint a picture. It was really windy so I
quit after a while and went and took a shower under the hand pump.
another advantage of traveling off season is that you can get naked and
take a handpump shower and there's nobody around to get upset.
Although at this time of the year it gets to be quite invigorating.
I guess one of the things I learned traveling was to be less judgmental
and more accepting of other peoples behavior. What do you think when
you see someone going around the garbage cans looking for bottles and
cans. Since I was down to about $5 and not sure when my check would
arrive I became one of those persons. Except it was different then.
Instead of ten cents a can you sold the aluminum by weight, much less of
a return. I never saw much reason for a can law since all the cans were
scavenged up years before the law. I even saw a lady driving a cadillac in
southern California with her son stopping behind houses to look for cans.
She must have been burning up as much in gas as she was making.
So I took a break at a Dunkin Donuts, I was back in civilization now,
and then headed down Interstate 25, stopping at every rest area on the
way and if you had been there you might have seen my feet sticking up
out of one of the trash cans along the way. They were big and it was hard
to reach the bottom. I had two gigantic bags full by the time I stopped for
the night at the Fort Collins Rest Area.
Front Range-Medicine Bow National Forest 16x22
Field-Medicine Bow National Forest 12x16
Rolling Hills of Wyoming
September 14, Day 20 Meetup with the Golden Goat
I got an early start hoping to get some more cans. I thought I would have
better prospects along 287. When I reached Longmont I went to Winchells
Donuts-I think this was my first Winchells and they don't measure up to my
standards of a real donut shop. Finally back in Denver I stop on Colfax
Avenue at he Golden Goat. I should explain to my readers, especially the
younger ones what a golden goat is. I haven't been back to Denver in all
these years, and I thought I would because I really liked it, and I don't
know if they have enacted bottle and can laws there or not. But back then
you sold cans for their weight in aluminum, and there were big containers
that you would deposit your cans in that sorted out the aluminum from the
steel and then would weigh them and pay you automatically. I had filled
three of the largest plastic bags I've seen with cans and they had filled up
the back of my van so it was hard to get around. I was looking for the big
payoff. Watching the goat eat my cans, crush them and start showing the
weight I started to worry that this wasn't going to be the key to my
financial problems. Final readout-16.2 pounds for a total of $3.89. This gave
me a total of $7.62. Less than the average days expenses which at that time
was $9.50. I would definitely have to be conservative until I got my check.
This wouldn't be the first time I was in a financial bind. I remember the
year I lived in Florida to surf. After quitting my job at Burger Chef, where I
got the sum of $1.00/hour, looking for a better opportunity which, as hard
as it is to believe, I didn't find, and things got mighty short. (And by the
way, don't give people who work in a fast food place a hard time. They may
work long hours for little pay and not much in the way of advancement. I
was the french fry man. Where do you go from there?) Anyway I could get
two loaves of whole wheat bread from the day old bakery for a quarter. I
could live on a half loaf a day. That comes out to six and a quarter cents a
day. I did have a pound and a half of some funky margarine that I got for
$.30 but it was too disgusting to eat.
I went back to the bookstore and got a little cash for filling in, called my
mother to find out about the check, got some supplies from the Safeway
and then parked around the corner for the night.
September 15-17, 1980 Day 21-23
I will combine these three days I am waiting for my check into one entry. I did sketches in the park near the statehouse, went to the library a couple of times. When I was there I noticed a guy that never took his hand away from his face. Whatever he was doing-looking at magazines, searching for books, one hand was always in front of his face. Later when I was leaving I saw him smoking outside but still with one hand in front of his face. Getting cigarettes out, lighting up and puffing away he was always able to do it while still keeping his hand up. Never figured out why.
A terrific eating spot my bookstore friend turned me onto that was also inexpensive was La Delicious, in walking distance from the store. I ate there at least once every day, but it was so inexpensive and good I usually ate there twice.
I got my check the 17th and after cashing it I bought some oil paints, food supplies and gas and did my laundry, preparing to leave the next day. Another thing I did was to go to the YMCA to get a shower (50 cents with soap and a towel) and shave etc. Back then, especially in the more urban areas the Y provided a much needed service for the homeless and lower economic status individuals. They charged a very affordable amount and were very friendly about it. But as I traveled around and tried to use this service in other places they either refused to allow me to take a shower or asked for a full days rental fee. Usually about $12 to $15. This certainly kept the riffraft out, like me and a bunch of other people who could have really used the service. So I think just calling this institution the Y is appropriate and leave the Christian bit out because it mainly serves the middle to upper-middle class as an exercise and recreation place. I would like to mention an exception that I went to on another trip in upstate Indiana, where when I asked the custodian/supervisor there if they had a shower program he said no but to just go ahead and use the facilities-no charge. There are still considerate people who aren't mouthpieces for corporate structures.
Anyway I was all set to leave the next day with a total of $385.03 after my replenishment expenses of the day.
September 18, 1980 Day 24 West and Over the Continental Divide
I added a quart of oil to the van and then had breakfast at Las Delicious
once again. There was a book sale at the library that I went to with my
bookstore friend to see if there were any books he could use. After the
sale I headed out interstate 70, it sometimes being the only available
route and couldn't be avoided. My van was overheating so I stopped to
let it cool off. I think the radiator is going, it usually heats up going uphill
and then cools on the way down. I reached Dillon and stopped at a
shopping center and got candles and a sundae. Then I parked at a lake in
Dillon for about a half hour. I went about 60 more miles and found a
place by the Eagle River on route 6 to park for the night. I've crossed the
continental divide and am seeing more of the Rockies. 131.9 miles for the
September 19, 1980 Day 25 Road to Almost Nowhere and Back
I parked along the road in Glenwood Canyon a couple of places, the second being a rest area where I hiked up 1.12 miles to Hanging Lake and Spouting Rock. After returning to the van I went on into Glenwood Springs for lunch and I got a book on gem sites, figuring I would find some good spots for rockhounding in Utah.
Then I went south from route 6 looking for 330, a road that the map showed going through the National Forest and I was ready for some backwoods exploration. However I don't know whether I found it or not. I got off on some road that I followed for miles, through numerous gates, and it bacame more difficult to figure out where I was as I kept coming to turnoffs and forks that were unmarked jand a lot more numerous than I expected. After about 40 miles and no sign yet of whether I was anywhere near I was supposed to be I decided to head back and take the main route west. I stopped at a creek and had a bucket shower, then headed back to 6. I stopped at the Rifle 7-11 for a snack and then after about 25 more miles I parked on a side road for the night.
September 20, 1980 Day 26 Colorado National Monument
After getting up I hiked up the mountain where I was parked. After I got back I drove into Palisades and had breakfast at the Palisades Cafe. I have been eating one meal out more as I get away from donut shops but I usually can do this pretty cheaply. Today it was almost 11 when I got to town but it is often later as I will explore where I am in the morning before moving on. So what I look for is a place that serves breakfast all day and has a number of specials. And in the course of the day I can usually find a place that I can get a complete breakfast with coffee for $3 or less. And if you haven't read the rules of the road from earlier entries-no fast food places. I like local, and if it is not always the best I can live with that, because part of the reason for eating at these places is to get away from mass marketed everwhere you go the same.
I got to Grand Junction after noon and went to the store to get supplies. I would be going into an area where there didn't look like there would be much of a population. Then I parked up town about 6th street and walked up to first and back. Then drove to a couple of book stores and finally left Grand Junction about 2:30.
I was headed for Colorado National Monument, which I had never heard of before seeing it on my map.It proved to have some real interesting landforms and I took a couple of photos of the area. I did look for some rocks but didn't find anyting interesting. After reaching Glade Park I turned right and ended up at the Mud Springs National Campground and parked for the night.
September 21, 1980 Day 27 Rockhounding in Utah and Hounded by a Big Rock
Today I got to Utah for the first time and my first stop was at a viewpoint on I70. I pretty much had to take the interstate through much of this part of the state, veering off onto the side roads whenever I could. Following the directions of my trusty rockhounding book I looked for my first spot near Cisco off of 128. Now if you have never used these guide books you may not ralize how sketchy they are. It sounds pretty straightforward when you read it and look at the maps but once you get out in the middle of a big nowhere it becomes pretty difuse. I bet that the person who makes these maps couldn't follow them after a few years of being away from the location. So it became a pretty hit and miss thing for me with a lot of walking and scratching my head. But it was one of the neatest things I experienced. Although I had seen a good bit of the midwest, this was the first time I felt I was surrounded by the real west. Nobody for miles, some of the roughest terrain I had seen, dry and forbidding, under the relentless rays of the sun as I wandered around in a completely new and fantastic environment.
I had decided not to go to the really big name spots in Utah- the National Parks because they weren't in my budget and hopefully sometime I would get to them. (Years later on another trip I did get an Eagle Pass and went to a good number of national Parks that trip, but not to any in Utah.) The roads were hardly roads but my van was fairly high and I handled pretty difficult terrain ok, until the dirt track I was on narrowed to hardly the width of the vehicle and a jutting rock gashed my right front tire. I changed it ok but this put a crimp in my plans for the next few days because if another tire went while I was out here I could have a very difficult time of it. I left this area and went to a spot called Yellowcat Flats and looked for rocks there, so far not finding anything too interesting. Finally I went to a rest area and Utah information center on 70 for the night.
I was not taking the time to paint pictures now because there was so much to see and hopefully I wanted to return for much more extended trips in the future where I would stay in the same areas for a longer period of time and paint a lot of paintings. That still hasn't happened. But I did take a photo at one of the spots I went to today.
September 22, 1980 Day 28 Hand Building a Rock Road to Get Out of a Predicament
I got up early for a second day of rockhounding, a little nervous because
now I had no spare and would be in a pickle if I got another flat, but I
didn't want to retreat just yet. So using my handy guidebook I headed
south off of I70 into the, for me, unexplored territory of the Utah wilds.
What was a road and what was just where somebody had driven were
hard to distinguish, and because of the road often turning sandy I tried to
keep up my speed and power through. This proved to be disastrous when
the road I was following crossed a dry river bed, and since the road met at
an angle it was hard to tell which leg to continue on. Both legs looked the
same and when I chose the wrong leg and tried to power through I ended
50 feet up a very sandy dry river bed up to my axles. Every time I jacked
the van up and put rugs from my van under the wheels to try to get
enough traction to start moving I merely ripped my rugs to shreds. The
day was warming up quite a bit and I had plenty of water, but there
weren't going to be any tow trucks coming by and most likely no one else
for possibly months, so I had to figure out what to do. Well I looked
around and realized I had plenty of rocks and I started collecting them in
my bucket and built a road starting underneath my wheels and going all
the way back to the real road. The rocks I was supposed to find here were
geodes, often looking like mud from the outside but when split open
would contain crystals. Having had no luck finding any in exasperation
while building my road I picked up an unimpressive rock and said to
myself "I guess this is a geode," and threw and smashed it against a large
bolder neaby. And when it cracked open bang, there was my first and only
geode. Finally after moving what must of been a couple of tons of rocks I
was able to get out of my predicament and continue on to the right spot.
I returned to I70 and went into Green River, got a taco, and then
headed for a spot off of 24 again below the interstate to look for grape
agate. This again was a hit and miss thing starting from where I thought
the map meant in widening circles until I hit paydirt. Grape agate was
easier to identify that a lot of the stuff because true to its name it looked
like small bunches of grapes and was somewhat purple in color.
It was getting dark so I returned to I70 and stopped of at a view area for
the night. First day a flat, second day stuck in the sand for several hours-
rockhounding had its pitfalls.
September 23,1980 Day 29 More of the Desert Activity and Finally A Real Meal
I didn't let the problems of the last two days deter me from getting lost
several times looking for more spots as I worked my way west along I70. I
finally found what may have been the right spot near Salina where I was
supposed to find wonderstone. Still not sure what that is but I found
something and that was better than nothing. The spot I was in was along a
road that had a cliff on one side that had numerous places that had been
undercut in a attempt to find something by persons that were less cautious
than me because you could see where a number of the ledges had collapsed
and would have crushed anyone underneath them. Another drawback was
my lack of tools. After having my tools stolen last summer I only had a
miniature hammer that fit in my van tool box. So after picking up some stuff
to add to my collection of questionable value minerals I headed into
Richfield where I got a couple of quarts of oil and filled up on gas before
After a quick stop at a rock shop to get more of an idea what I was looking
for I stopped along route 4 by a creek and got a bath and shampoo since I
had accumulated a good portion of grit and dust the last few days. Feeling
much better, I tried to find the road to Milford from I15 but being
unsuccessful I went to the Ponderosa Cafe in Beaver and got a real meal for
the first time in several days-a cheesburger, fries and coffee $2.62. I parked
a few miles away at a dead end on old route 91 for the night.
194.9 miles for the day, my average daily expense was up to $11.68
September 24, 1980 Day 30 A Day of Major Contrasts
My first stop was a blue agate area near by, but found nothing of note.
Another stop at a rock shop and then look for red agate south of Summit. I
gathered a couple hundred pounds of rocks over the last few days that I
carried with me for thousands of miles. Most of them ended up in a ditch
next to the cabin I lived in down in Norfolk, Virginia when I had to depart
quickly and didn't have room for everthing. Anyway this was the end of my
rock collecting on this leg of the trip.
I went to Cedar City and sent a postcard and then on to St Georges
where I was somewhat back in civilization stopping at Doug's Donuts, not a
24 hour place so it didn't qualify as an A-1 spot. I was somewhat nervous
here because a group of people traveling in another van were interested in
my flat tire for its wheel which they had damaged on their own vehicle and
wheels were hard to come by out there. They even offered to buy it but I
was loath to travel all over the country with no spare. And the hopelessness
of their situation prompted my full attention on my spare which was
hanging from the back of my van and could easily disappear while I drank
my coffee. They struck me as desert pirates and I hastily continued on
down the road.
I followed the interstate part of the way but got off of it when I got into
Nevada. With a short trip through the northwest corner of Arizona this was
the 26th state I had been to since I started traveling during the summer. It
was dark as I traveled through the mountains and the sky was clear and
the stars were bright. I had been pretty much out in the sticks since
leaving Denver and I guess that helped set the stage for the amazing sight
I was about to see. As I rounded the bend coming down off the mountain I
started seeing lights at the edge of the desert, and as I came around the
bend there were more and more, spreading out for miles lighting up the sky
almost like day. thousands and thousands of them spreading out further
and further. I guess they call Paris the city of lights and although I have
been there too, Las Vegas to me is the city of lights.
I parked on Casino Center Road and started making my rounds of the
casinos. I was never much of a gambler and I stuck to playing the nickel
slots, mainly interested in the atmosphere and seeing as many different
places as I could. Also I was interested in the late night cheap meal deals
that they offered. I think the steak and eggs for $1.30 started at 2 am. The
lights warmed up the chill fall night as I walked from one spot to another.
They must have people whose full time job is to go around and replace all
the burnt out bulbs. After a long night of sightseeing and loosing $16.30 on
the slots I headed on west and stopped on a side road off of I15 at 4:15 in
the morning for the rest of the night.
September 25, 1980 Day 31 More Car Trouble but I Reach My Destination
I got up after a few hours sleep and realized that it was time to push on
to my west coast stopover. Not actually the coast but everybody back east
usually refers to California anywhere near the coast as the coast. The van
was covered on the inside with dust and grit. If you slapped the rug or the
bed or the seat you would raise a cloud of this fine dust. I had put 5632.6
miles on the van to reach this point from the beginning of part two and I
needed to do a total tuneup and overhaul of the van-oil change, lube,
I noticed something interesting as I was leaving Vegas along the
interstate. On both sides of the road there was a band of something shiny
and glittering in the light of various colors. My curiosity got the best of me
and I stopped and walked off the side of the road into the desert. It was
broken glass. It must of taken thousands of bottles thrown from passing
cars, breaking up over the years to form this band that went on for at least
a few miles, as wide as the arm could throw from a passing car, and with
the passing of time was ground up into small bits.
One other thing happened as I was going across the desert, my engine
started stumbling and seemed to be stalling out. Then it picked up again
and seemed to be fine. I found out a couple of days later as it died just as I
was pulling up to a Pep Boys to get my car parts and I had to work on it
right there because it wouldn't start again-the end of the points had
melted together and the arm had broken off. The point gap is usually a fine
adjustment that you need to make when tuning up the engine and here it
had run for a couple of hundred miles plus with the broken arm making the
necessary spark to fire the cylinders, and then to wait to break down at a
very convenient location.
Anyway I made it to my stop in Claremont that evening about 6:30
putting a total of 5864 miles on the van getting from practically the east
coast to the west. After about a two week layover in Claremont to do my
maintenance and visit with relatives I will head into LA and then follow the
coast north for part three of my odessy of sightseeing, photography and
End of Part A Next Will be the West Coast Trip Before I Head Back East