Our Epic 2022 West Coast Journey comes to an end
You may recall in last week’s blog, we had driven through Northern Idaho, then turned south with a stop for breakfast in McCall, Idaho. The mountain town would be the last cool temperature spot on our journey.
July 14, 2022 – The heat kept building as we drove south along Highway 55 towards Boise, ID. In Boise we connected with Interstate 84 and skirted along the famous Snake River towards Mountain Home, Glenn’s Ferry, and Twin Falls.
We’re having a tropical heatwave
We had expected temperatures to be warm since it was the beginning of July. But a nationwide heatwave had blanketed the country and there was nowhere to go to escape the near 100-degree temperatures.
The AC unit in the dashboard was cranked on all the way as we drove. Without rooftop air conditioning, the van interior heated up every time we stopped for gas or food.
At this point we seriously questioned our decision to make the run to southern Idaho. With no relief from the heat in our immediate future, the enjoyment of the trip started to wane.
Mile after mile we struggled to keep the girls and ourselves cool in the van while the sun’s heat reflected off the asphalt and baked the landscape. The only way to stay moderately comfortable was to keep driving and running the van’s AC. We prayed the AC would keep running!
Evel’s Snake River jump fell short
Passing the Twin Falls area, we found some diversion from our worries about the weather when we passed the turnoff for the famous Evel Knievel Snake River Jump Site. If it hadn’t been so blasted hot, we would have taken the off ramp to look around the famous site.
If you were too young to remember, this is the place where, on September 8, 1974, the famous daredevil and stuntman Evel Knievel attempted one his most daring motorcycle jumps.
A quick internet search showed the steep hill and concrete foundations for his take off ramp were still located at the site. A large monument and plaque to honor him and his legacy is still there as well.
Evel holds the Guinness World Record for the most broken bones in one lifetime! That’s an achievement we all could strive for! lol
Both of us reminisced about all the 1970s-style media hype and publicity that always surrounded Knievel every time he attempted to jump his motorcycle. All of America, and the world, too, would watch his stunts on TV. Kim brags to this day about meeting Evel’s son at a radio station she worked at in Madison, WI.
More Knievel Trivia
For the ill-fated jump, Knievel was strapped into his X-2 Skycycle, which looked more like a rocket than motorcycle and launched up a near vertical ramp.
Knievel famously failed to make it across Snake River when the X-2 Skycycle’s parachute deployed on takeoff. That stopped his trajectory and he crashed onto the tall cliffs above the river. He lived to brag about it. Knievel died in 2007.
In 2016, 54-year-old stuntman Eddie Braun did what Evel failed to do. Braun successfully soared 2,000 feet across the Snake River.
No relief from the heat on the street
Evening came and temperatures were still in the upper 90s. We stopped for the day in Eden, Idaho, a very small-town northeast of Twin Falls. We called ahead and made reservations for one night at the Anderson Camp.
Thankfully, they had a lot of mature trees lining the campsites which provided some welcoming shade, including several cherry trees that were loaded with bright red cherries, ripe for the picking.
We quickly set up camp and plugged in so we could run our Zero Breeze portable air cooler unit and try to knock down some of the heat inside the van.
It did cool down a tiny bit overnight. At least it was a “dry heat!”
The Mom-and-Pop campground tucked off I-86 has a waterslide, a gas station, convenience store, a couple cabins, tent camping spots, and full hook up RV sites. Check them out at: www.andersencamp.com.
From this camp, it’s a short trip north up Highway 75/26/93 to the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve. Continue north on Highway 75 and you will pass through famous Sundance, Idaho, before reaching the beautiful Sawtooth National Recreation Area.
July 15, 2022 –With a full day of driving ahead we wanted to hit the road as soon as possible to take advantage of the lower temperatures while we had them.
A quick breakfast of hard-boiled eggs, rustic bread and strong coffee and we were on our way again.
Continuing on Interstate 86 east we eventually connected with I-15 in Pocatello, Idaho. That would lead us back north into Montana and I-90 east.
Yes, we have to stop again!
Problem with having senior dogs onboard, (not to mention being a little older ourselves) we have to stop more often to relieve everyone’s bladders. A smaller gas tank in the van also makes stops for fuel happen more often as well.
If everything goes as hoped, we can accomplish filling the tank and draining the bladders during the same stop. Most of the time it doesn’t work out.
Add in meal breaks and photo ops, and we end up making numerous little stops along our route. Usually that’s the fun part of the journey.
We had been driving for a while on that Friday and the need to stop arose.
The next rest area was in Lima, Montana at the Lima Rest Area. The town is just north of the Idaho border and surrounded by open ranch land. The tiny community was built next to the on and off ramps of the freeway.
There are some funky old western style buildings there, including The Homestead Café and Cabins, Ralph’s Convenience Store and Exxon, the Mountain View Motel and RV Park and the Peat Motel and Steakhouse. There’s supposed to be a Great Northern Railway Historical Marker somewhere around, but we didn’t spot it.
Painted rock find
The rest area is modern and clean. A well-maintained log cabin building is near the parking area. While we were parked in front of the cabin, Kim spotted a bright purple painted rock resting on the cabin’s window frame.
Someone painted it and added a message on both sides. It was obviously left for another person to find and then share again. Kim brought the rock home and plans to set it out since the painted rocks trend is popular in our home area as well.
Storm clouds were forming ahead of us as we continued north
At the I-15/I-90 interchange we stopped in the town of Rocker, MT, to top off with fuel at the Pilot Travel Plaza and Lucky Lil’s Casino.
Here we traded seats and Kim took over driving for a while.
We didn’t know it at the time, but the next section of highway ahead was going to be a difficult one.
Difficult driving conditions
We were headed up and over Homestake Pass on I-90. Storm clouds were closing in and the winds were fierce through the mountains.
The rain stayed to the north of us, and the sun lit up the towering thunderhead clouds and rainfall in a magnificent way.
Kim took us all the way to our next stop in Livingston, MT.
While she calmed her driving nerves and fed the girls, JK headed into the Albertsons grocery store in search hot food to go.
Coming up empty handed, we drove to the same McDonald’s, where we had stopped during our way west more than a week prior, and got dinner.
Resting rattlesnakes, next 100 miles
The plan was to drive to the next I-90 rest area, park overnight and get some sleep.
That plan came to a screeching halt as we pulled into the rest stop and spotted the “Rattlesnake Area, Stay on Sidewalk” sign.
Needless to say, we didn’t park or even slow down long enough to think about the obvious question, “Wouldn’t the snakes be on the walkways, too?”
We raced back onto the Interstate in a flash.
The next rest area featured the same rattlesnake “advisory” sign, and again we drove back onto the Interstate without stopping.
Apparently fears of a rattlesnake slithering and rattling itself up into the van while we slept pushed us to keep driving and driving into the night.
Midnight at the oasis
We finally pulled off the highway around Midnight in Sheridan, Wyoming at the Information Center and Rest Area, just up a hill from the I-90, on East 5th Street.
There were quite a few other campers, van lifers, car travelers, and truckers taking advantage of the two levels of parking. And, most importantly, there were no “Beware of Rattlesnakes” signs!
July 16, 2022 – Morning found the Information Center open and staffed, offering fresh brewed coffee for sleepy-eyed travelers.
A walkway wraps around the visitor building and offered a panoramic view of the rolling hills, mountains, the Big Horn National Forest, and the town of Sheridan.
Checking the weather on the phone showed another hot temperature day of driving was facing us. We got back on I-90 for a final push towards Minnesota and home.
Caution: This van stops at all bakeries
Somehow our van knows where all the good food is and takes us right to it every time. This happened again in Gillette, WY.
We just so happened to be craving some breakfast pastries and our van found them on Gillette Ave. in the downtown area. Amazing, isn’t it?
Oh, that long-loved, old fashion, sweet bakery aroma hit our noses the moment we walked through the door of Breanna’s Bakery.
How do you choose from all the fresh baked goods? You don’t. We bought way more than we should have, agreeing we’d save some for later during the long drive home.
Kim took advantage of Gillette’s strong Wi-Fi signal to do some real estate work, then we filled up on strong coffee and fuel and were back on our way again.
Where coal comes from
This is coal territory, and signs of mining and the fossil fuel energy business was all around. The coal rich Powder River Basin is here.
Long unit trains of coal were rolling on tracks that cut through the towns and countryside.
Large coal mining facilities with covered conveyers and tall storage bins passed by the highway as we drove.
Solitary oil pumping rigs, their walking beams slowly moving up and down, dotted the landscape.
Temperatures were getting back up into the 90s when we spotted our first Wall Drug roadside sign along I-90.
Soon we would only have to drive across South Dakota and we would hit “home soil.” Except for a fuel stop or two, we kept plugging along eastbound.
No matter how much a person loves to travel, long road trips can be draining.
Add excessive heat and worry about our girls staying safe and comfortable, and the final push towards home was long and stressful.
We know we would have been in a much better frame of mind if it wasn’t for the excessive heat.
Finally, the state line…or is it?
Dusk was just beginning to set when we crossed into Minnesota and spotted the iconic “Welcome to Minnesota” monument at the Beaver Creek Travel Center and Rest Area on I-90.
The funny thing is, come to find out, the large “Welcome to Minnesota” sign isn’t in Minnesota at all. It’s in Valley Springs, South Dakota, 1.36-miles shy of the official state line!
We had to wonder if Minnesota has to pay South Dakota rent for having their sign in their state.
Summer in the Midwest means road construction. We drove in the darkness through several “Cone Zones” before getting to our freeway exit and turning the “Pineapple Princess” towards home.
That’s a wrap!
This completes up the recap of our epic, July 2022 cross-country, seven state, west coast van journey.
Thanks for coming along and joining us during the past several weeks.
It’s been incredibly fun to share our adventures with you!
Where will we go next? Subscribe to this blog to find out and never miss a single trip!
Also, subscribe to our JK and Kim in the Camper YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCcimpqqW-OlaK4zW2T8LF-g
Watch all our #travel, #vanlife and RV videos there. We’ll be uploading more videos as the months go on.
Follow us on Facebook and Instagram, too!
We’ll share a new travel destination next week!
JK and Kim!