Monday, July 10, 2023

Wedding at The Church of Dirt

Our nephew, Jared and his fiancé, Cassie planned their wedding at the Church of Dirt, a beautiful setting near Salt Lake City, Utah.  They described it as rustic with split rail benches and a wooden altar.  Reservations for the venue are made by writing one's date on a rock or piece of wood and placing it in the pile with the other "reservations".  Their wedding plans included a combined ceremony and camping trip reception.

We thought camping sounded like fun, if we could get a deal on an RV.  At our age, we don't tent camp much anymore.  

As soon as we got the invitation, we started looking at the Cruise America Website for a relocation deal.  There were a couple that fit our criteria but the dates didn't match what we needed for the wedding.  We thought we were going to have to give up on the idea when a deal popped up to move an RV from Bozeman, Montana to Phoenix for $39/day.  A quick glance at the map showed that the route would take us right through Salt Lake City.  Perfect!  We would pick it up in Bozeman on July 3rd (they were closed on the 4th) and return it to Phoenix on July 10th.

Monday, July 3, 2023 - Jacksonville to Montana - 2212 miles flying, 130 miles driving

We bought tickets from Jacksonville to Bozeman and then planned to fly standby on the way back.  We had a very early departure out of Jacksonville so we could get to Bozeman before the Cruise America Office closed.  We checked a bag with everything we would need to outfit the RV.  Lucy was a trooper on the trip.  

She was a little hesitant to use the pet rest area in the Detroit airport but finally did after a fashion.  It is a small raised bed with a couple of sprinklers.  One dog peed right on it & then the owner pushed the button to use the sprinklers to rinse it off.  Lucy does not like to get her feet wet so she wouldn't use it after that dog.  The next dog was a little boy dog that ran around the perimeter of the box, lifting his leg and peeing off of the edge onto the floor.  Lucy needed to mark that spot, so she relieved herself on the floor.  Tony got to clean up both sets of pee!

We had a box meal on the Detroit to Bozeman flight.  It was the first meal we've had on a domestic flight in several years.  BJ ordered the Brie Sandwich and Tony ordered the Roast Beef Sandwich.  Tony's turned out to be a prosciutto sandwich and BJ's sandwich had horseradish mustard on it which doesn't go with brie.  We've gotten spoiled to the meals on the European flights!

When we landed in Bozeman, Tony went to pick up our checked luggage while BJ took Lucy out to use some real grass!  We took an Uber to the Cruise America Office.  The Uber driver picked us up in his pick-up truck!

We signed all of the paperwork and drove away in our "new" home for the week.  Since this was a relocation deal to Phoenix, we knew it would be one of their older units that needed to go back to their headquarters to be refurbished, so we weren't surprised that there were stains on the upholstery & the screws were loose in some of the furniture.

Our first stop was at the grocery store to get supplies.  When we were stocking the refrigerator, that's when we found that it didn't work.  We drove back to the Cruise America office and they couldn't fix it.  They advised us to buy a nice cooler and get reimbursed when we turned it in.  We wanted to get on the road, so we just put the ice we had bought into the refrigerator & freezer to keep our food cool.

We had talked to a lady at the airport who said we should go and see Quake Lake, so we decided to head that way. We made one stop on the way for gas.  The scenery on the drive was beautiful!

It was rather chilling to see Quake Lake where an earthquake in 1959 had caused a landslide and 80 million tons of rock blocked the river to form the lake.  It all happened in 20 seconds and crushed 28 people who were camping along the river. You can still see the tops of trees sticking out of the water.

We came upon Beaver Campground, near the lake and were lucky enough to get a spot with hookups for the night.  This is when we discovered that the RV did not come with a hose to hook up to the spigot at the campsite.

BJ and Lucy went for a walk while Tony set up camp.  The signs about bears made us a little nervous, but the only wildlife we saw were the children camping next door who wanted to pet Lucy.

We thought it would be a pleasant temperature for sleeping so we left the windows open.  We had no idea the temperature would drop to the high 40's!  We didn't bring a big enough blanket.  This is when we discovered that the furnace didn't work.  Brrr!

Tuesday, July 4, 2023 - Montana/Idaho/Wyoming - 226 miles driving

The stove worked, so Tony cooked us some freeze dried eggs and bacon for breakfast.  It was surprisingly good!

We packed up & spent a little more time exploring Quake Lake from atop the hill at the Visitors Center. The view of the lake is beautiful.

When you think about what caused the lake to form and see the evidence of the landslide, it is daunting.

Since we were so close, we wanted to visit Moose Creek Ranch in Idaho where we had gone on our first Dude Ranch Adventure.  We drove through Driggs and reminisced about the Pot Luck Supper & Show where the proprietors of the ranch had taken us and then forgot to pick us up!  We stopped at the Ace Hardware and bought a hose for the RV.

On the way to Victor, Idaho, we went through two towns that were gearing up for their 4th of July parades.  We skirted through just ahead of the lead float and waved at all of the spectators. 

At the ranch, we found that Kelly & Roxanne were no longer the owners.  In fact, the ranch had been sold twice since we were there in 1991.  We walked around the grounds and talked to Hannah who was "minding the store" while everyone was at the parade.

We stopped in Jackson Hole for lunch.  We wandered though the square with its impressive antler arches and found the Jackson Drug Company that had outdoor seating for us and Lucy.  Lucy got into a scuffle with the dog at the next table but neither was hurt.

Lucy found a friend on the way back to the RV.

We decided to make our way south toward Bear Lake.  We passed through Afton, Wyoming which had an equally impressive display of antlers!

We stopped for the night at the KOA in Montpelier, Idaho.  Once again it was a cold night. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2023 - Idaho/Utah - 64 miles driving

It was bath day and we were pleased to find that the water heater worked!  The shower was nice and warm, but the furnace still didn't work so it was CCOOLLDD stepping out of the shower.

BJ wanted to do a hike to see the Wind Caves near Logan, Utah.  We got the last parking spot at the trailhead because the end of the parking lot was flooded and nobody else wanted to park there.  We were able to back into the spot and climb out the front doors of the RV.

BJ and Lucy headed up the trail to the cave.  It was a 4 mile round trip with an elevation gain of 1095 feet.  There was a little shade, but much of it was in the sun.  

It was too hot and strenuous for 14 year old Lucy who has congestive heart failure, so she had to be carried most of the way.  

There were stunning views along the trail.

 It was beautiful and cool inside the cave.

While BJ was hiking, Tony did some sleuthing in the RV and discovered the fuse box was missing some fuses. He pulled the fuse for the water heater & put it in one of the empty slots and voila, the refrigerator started working!

When BJ got back from her hike, we drove straight to the AutoZone and bought enough fuses to fill all of the empty slots.  Now everything worked!

We spent the night at the Traveland RV Park in Logan beside another RV with folks from Florida.  We played Farkle to entertain ourselves. Tony won.

Thursday, July 6, 2023 - Utah - 110 miles driving

We went to the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.  The visitor's center had some interesting and informative displays. The most interesting thing we learned is that in ancient times, dragonflies had wingspans of 25 inches!
We decided to take the Self-guided Auto Tour Route which is a 12 mile loop through the heart of the refuge.  It was a long slow drive, but we saw lots of birds.

We picked  Antelope Island as our destination for the night.  We got a spot with hook-ups at Bridger Bay Campground with a view of Salt Lake.

BJ wanted to take the 5 mile Lakeside Loop hike, but got confused and missed the trail.  She thought she saw a bison, but it turned out to be a rusty piece of metal.  

She walked about a mile along the shore in the heat, accompanied by brine flies before turning back and going to Buffalo Grill.  The brine flies do not bite, in fact they do not even have mouths to feed with. They just move in a cloud with you as you walk through them.

Buffalo Grill is more of a snack bar than a restaurant.  BJ picked up a couple of bags of chips and then  took a short cut through fields of brush to get back to the RV.

We enjoyed a glass of wine and watched the sunset over Salt Lake.

Friday, July 7, 2023 - Wedding Day - Utah - 123 miles driving

BJ found the Lakeside Loop trail and took a morning hike.  

It was much cooler in the morning.  The trail was mostly in the hills instead of along the lake though, explaining why it was difficult to find the night before.

As we were leaving Bridger Bay Campground, we saw some California Big Horn Sheep.

We stopped at the visitors center to learn more about the island.  The island's namesake animals are actually Pronghorns, not Antelopes and they can run up to 70 miles per hour!  Bisons can run up to 40 miles per hour.  Big Horn Sheep can do 20 miles per hour.

There was a neat bird house outside the Visitors Center.

We drove the length of the island and saw a few bison.

We took our time driving to Salt Lake City and checked in at the Hampton Inn.  We learned, after we planned the trip, that dogs are prohibited from Cottonwood Canyon so we rented Lucy a hotel room.

We showered and headed up the canyon for the wedding, leaving Lucy on the hotel bed, watching TV.

Driving up Cottonwood Canyon in a 30 foot RV was a harrowing experience!  There were places where the mountain dropped off on the right and there was no guard rail.  There was one turn that was so sharp, the RV could not make it without doing a 3 point turn.  

By the time we got to the Empire Pass trailhead Tony was pretty shaken up.  We thought we were going to have to park in a construction lot across the road and worried about them locking the gate with the RV inside.  Thankfully a spot opened up in the trailhead parking and Tony was able to back the RV in.

The wedding was beautiful and the setting was perfect!

The Church of Dirt is a neat place where reservations are made by writing your wedding date on a rock or piece of wood and putting it in the pile next to the "church".

After the wedding, we had a wonderful meal at Eight Settlers Restaurant & Distillery.  BJ tried one of their smoked cocktails.

After dinner, we enjoyed some of the delicious chocolate peanut butter wedding cake that one of the bride's friends had made.

After dinner, we headed back to Lucy's hotel room to spend the night.  We were really glad that we didn't have to make that drive up the mountain to the campsite after dark!

Saturday, July 8, 2023 - Reception Day - Utah - 50 miles driving

Our other nephew, Jon invited BJ to go on a hike with his family to Doughnut Falls.  It was advertised to be an easy 3 mile hike.  The first part of the hike was easy.

Then we came to a section where we needed to hold onto a rope and rappel down a few rocks. 

After that, we needed to cross the waterfall and pick up the trail on the other side. 

BJ made it partially across the waterfall and decided to turn back. Shortly after, the rest of the family turned back as well, except for BJ's nephew, Jon, who says he made it to the top and that it was even more treacherous.

We encountered lots of little ground squirrels on the trail.  The kids enjoyed chasing them.

The call came that the family needed help setting up the pavilion for the reception, so we headed to Spruces Campground to help get things ready.

We went back to the Hampton Inn (a.k.a. Lucy's hotel) to get ready for the reception.  We left Lucy at the hotel watching TV again.

The reception was a blast!  We met lots of our nephew's friends and heard the story of how he met his fiancé on a hike.

Sunday, July 9, 2023 - Utah/Arizona - 700 miles, 12 hours driving

Sunday, we showered and got on the road for the long trip to Phoenix.  The RV would need to be turned in as soon as the Cruise America office opened so that we could try for an early flight home.

This scenery on this leg of the journey changed as we went from the mountains to the desert.

It was a long hot drive and the RV air conditioner could not keep up with the heat.  When we got to Phoenix at 7PM, it was still 104 degrees.

We had a spot at the Southern Palms Mobile Home & RV Park around the corner from the Cruise America Office.  There wasn't much ambiance, but we weren't planning to go outside in the heat anyway.  We plugged in the RV and set the A/C to max and played Farkle.

Monday, July 10, 2023 - Phoenix to Jacksonville 2484 miles flying

We woke up early and got to Cruise America before they opened.  As soon as they opened the gate, we drove in & waited for the office to open.  They gave us credit for the fuses & hose we had purchased and returned our deposit.

We called an Uber to take us back to the airport.  Our Uber drive was a PE teacher trying to make some extra money during his summer off.  He was driving a rental Tesla.

We had decided to take an 11:30AM flight back to Jacksonville through Detroit, but when we looked at the availability, it had gone to zero so we decided to try for the 10:30AM flight through Atlanta.  We checked our bag on the Atlanta flight and headed to the gate.

The Atlanta flight went out full so we went to the gate for the Detroit flight.  As we were waiting, we were looking at other alternatives.  We thought there might be a Southwest flight we could try for, but when we looked up, we saw that we had been given seats on the flight to Detroit!

Lucy got to try her luck at the Pet Relief station in Detroit again.  She was much more successful this time.  

We got seats on the Detroit to Jacksonville flight and were happy to be on our way home.

As we were leaving the airport in Jacksonville, BJ commented to a policeman that it was good to be home.  He responded, "Welcome to Fort Lauderdale." which caused us to hesitate for a minute!

The total cost of the trip was around $1150.  
RV Rental $39/day plus insurance - $376.75
Fuel - $473.69
RV Parks - $245.77
RV Repair - $42.08

Traveling together & enjoying a beautiful wedding & time with family - PRICELESS!

Miles flown:  4696
Miles driven 1403

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