Thursday, 24 August 2017

Days Twenty Nine/Thirty

We had a later breakfast knowing that time was on our side. We ate after 9am and then did a final pack of absolutely everything before checking out bang on 11am. Our first job was to mail the Mifi device back to the company which meant we needed to know where we could find a FedEx office.

We asked at reception and got told that there was a FedEx drop point in the town. Just follow the road and you'll see the post box. The lady also taped the box for us so it was ready to go. We thanked her and then packed the car and set off.

We then drove in to town and around the town looking for this drop box but couldn't find it. We could find post office ones and UPS but not FedEx. Ann went into the visitor centre and asked. The bloke was fairly vague and then he made Ann sign the visitor book.  We looked were he suggested but to no avail. I had Googled the night before and saw something about a shop in the town that had something to do with FedEx but I couldn't remember the name of it. We eventually did a sweep around and then spotted the shop. It had a small FedEx sign in the window. I went in and dropped of the box. Sorted.

We stopped for gas as it would be cheaper to do it here and then hit the road. We travelled nearly all the way to the airport but stopped just short. Picked up a Subway and then looked for somewhere nice to eat it. I saw a lake nearby so we went to find it. We found it but the down side was we couldn't get near it to sit and eat. Eventually we parked up on the side of the road and ate it there.

We finished the last few miles to the airport, stopping for fuel to top the tank up, before heading to the rental car return. When the lady asked us if everything was ok with the car we mentioned the crap stereo. She gave us $150 off the price.

We handed back the car and then caught the bus to the terminal. Checked in and went through security and then sat and waited. The plane was late in, so we were late leaving. Passed the time by watching the ground crew work out the window.

Eventually we boarded. Sat in the one above scum class section. Got a menu for the meal and metal cutlery. Flight passed by fairly quickly and we managed to pick up time, landing only about five minutes late. Breezed through passport control and collected our cases before having to walk what seemed like 8 miles to the bus station. Eventually got there and boarded the RailAir bus back to Reading. Traffic was great except in Reading itself. Eventually got to the station. Sat in Costa for half an hour before heading to the platform. It was busy with hipsters arriving for the Reading Festival.

Train arrived on time. Got on. It was fairly quiet. Before we knew it we were arriving at Totnes. No one checked our tickets over the entire journey from Reading. Got off, so did the rest of the train. Our cab was nowhere to been seen. We were just about to phone the company when it turned up. As we left the station we saw a lorry nearly plough into a car that just decided to pull out. Within twenty minutes we were pulling up in Ermington.

Nipped out to get some food. Had mashed potato for tea as we always do on our return.

Watched Everton progress in the Europa League.

Now very tired. Been awake for 32 hours. Ann has gone to bed.

States visited - 12

Total states visited - 48

Miles driven - 6214

Total miles driven over four trips - 18600

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Day Twenty Eight

Up at 8.15am despite not wanting to get out of bed. Still knackered from yesterday. Knocked up dad and the three of us went down to breakfast. It was quite busy. I cooked myself a chocolate chip waffle. Went and joined Ann and dad at a table. I found out later in the day that when they first sat down a bloke appeared and said he was sitting there despite there being nothing to indicate this.

At 9.15am, I met dad and Paul in the lobby and Paul drove us to Lincoln airport just down the road. We checked dad in and then said our goodbyes to him. It is an odd feeling to say goodbye to someone who wasn't there at the start of your holiday and isn't there at the end either. We had arrived quite early as the flight wasn't due to take off until 11.15am. Being the loving, caring sons we are, we left him at the airport and drove back to the hotel.

Check out was at 11am and agreed with Paul we would check out then and say our goodbyes as well. We met in the car park and had a natter. I discovered I could start the car using the keyfob from outside the car. By the time we thought about going it was time for dad's plane to take off, so we decided to wait in the hotel car park and see if we could see it.

It eventually took off at about 11.45am. We saw it. Here it is.

Leaving on a jet plane
We hoped he was on board and hadn't been distracted in the airport telling someone about the eclipse.

We said goodbye and set off west on I-80, stopping for some fuel and supplies before we got properly underway.

Then we drove. And kept driving. After 148 miles we made it back to the point we had rejoined the road yesterday after the eclipse. I asked Ann if we could turn off and go back to visit the place we watched it from. She said no. So we kept driving. Eventually we got hungry having been moving for about 3 hours so we stopped.

Headed in to a little town called Cozad which was just off the interstate. Found a little café called The Daily Scoop. Unfortunately they weren't doing food on a Tuesday, but it looked nice so we stayed anyway. Had drinks and homemade biscuits.

Scoop shack
Whilst sitting there Ann found a booklet about the town. We decided to have a wander around when we left the café. Saw some things.


Pony Express Station
Unfortunately the Pony Express Station was moved to here from somewhere else which was a little disappointing as we thought it was stood in its original position. We then saw a marker for the 100th meridian, which the railroad company wanted to reach and celebrated doing so.

100 degrees west
We then got going again and drove the last 115 miles to Ogallala. We changed time zones back to mountain time. When we arrived the sat nav took us to a place but we couldn't see the Holiday Inn Express we were staying in. I looked on Google Maps and found it on the other side of the freeway. We drove over and parked up. Got all the stuff from the car bagged up and went in. The woman said she had no record of our booking. You may think this was odd but it made some sense to us. I'll explain.

When Ann booked the hotel months ago, she booked the Holiday Inn Express in Ogallala. Then not long before we flew out, she had an email saying that the hotel was no longer part of Holiday Inn Express chain but as the booking was with the hotel and paid for we would be still be ok to stay there. We could of course cancel if we wanted. We didn't cancel. The only thing was they didn't say what the hotel was now called but we presumed it would still look a bit like a Holiday Inn.

To make things more complicated, unbeknown to us Holiday Inn Express have just built a brand new hotel in Ogallala. So the sat nav took us to the right hotel, we just didn't know it. Then the Holiday Inn which we thought just still had the signs on it was the new one.

We drove back to the old one which is now called The Lonesome Dove Lodge. Went in and checked we were booked in. We were. Hoorah.

Checked in and lugged everything in with us ready to sort out before driving to the airport tomorrow.

Couldn't find anywhere we wanted to eat so headed to Walmart. Ann got a sandwich and I got some milk to take back and use on the last of the cereal we have lugged around the USA.

Headed back and ate in our room. Now going to sleep and will pack everything up in the morning before setting off at 11am back to Denver.

States visited - 12

Tiredness rating - 1000

Monday, 21 August 2017

Day Twenty Seven

Up early. Very early. 5.20am to be precise. Woke up to thunder storms out the window. Initial plan was to be ready by 6am, but we had notification whilst getting ready that it had been revised to 6.15pm. Got ready, went downstairs, got in car. Lincoln itself was liable to be in cloud so we needed to drive west. Not as far as we thought last night, but we still needed to get away from the mass of cloud which would be over eastern Nebraska.

Our first target was Grand Island, roughly ninety miles west along I-80. We drove and kept going, only stopping briefly at a rest stop so Paul could triple check he had his camera. He did. We took both cars in case one broke down or something, so we could still get somewhere. Highlight of the first part of the trip was seeing camels looking out the back of a lorry.

We reached the travel plaza at Grand Island and grabbed some breakfast and used the facilities. More studies were done of the meteorological maps and a decision had to be made. Continue west on the Interstate or head a little north and hit Highway 2. We chose the latter and got on Highway 2. The good news about this was we got to go though the outskirts of Hazard. Anyone who knows their 90s soft rock trivia will know that is town that Richard Marx sang about in the hit(?) of the same name. Had it on the iPod ready and pressed play as we passed the town.

And here it is to save you looking

We stopped again at Custer's Last Stop in Ansley. Again we used the facilities and got some supplies and some final double checking happened. We then headed south on Highway 183 hoping to find a nice gravel track to head up and park up. We passed lots of people parked at the side of various roads. Eventually we headed up Cumro Road and pulled into Road 451.

It was a perfect spot. We could see other people down the road but we had our own piece of Nebraska to view this event. And the sky was perfect. Lovely blue sky with just a hint of whispy cirrus. Paul and Helen's trusty work on the various maps got us to the ultimate spot to witness it. We parked up and set ourselves up. Sun cream was needed as it was getting toasty, cameras were prepared and drinks were guzzled. And we waited.

I inflated our orange chairs and stuffed them back into the car so they didn't blow away. We kept the cars running so the air con would keep them cool enabling us to dart in and out when necessary. We also posed for a team photograph.

Eclipse Stalkers
And then just as predicted the moon moved into the top right corner of the sun and it began. We looked at it. Took some photos. Gradually it got further over. An old woman pulled up in a truck and dad took it upon himself to go and chat with her. Then a man turned up in another truck. Neither of them seemed fussed about the eclipse. Eventually when dad let them, they left.

We could start to make moon shaped shadows on the floor using our fingers.

Can you see moons the where the fingers cross?
The moment grew gradually ever closer. The tension was palpable. Our view was fabulous.

And then we got ourselves set as we counted down the last couple of minutes. The temperature dropped, the light changed to an almost silver quality. The cries of here comes the shadow erupted and as I turned ungracefully in my orange chair I could see the darkness coming. The next two and a half minutes were just incredible. From the cows automatically leaving as if it was the end of the day, to the crickets starting to chirp, to the spectacular aurora and light that was on display. I tried to cram in as much as I could into the time. I took photos of it, filmed it, took photos of people watching it, took a photo of a donkey watching it and managed to watch it myself. Here is some of that stuff.

Blurry onlookers

Aurora and Mercury

And then a sliver of light started to appear and I took one last shot. I am so glad I waited until the last possible second.

The money shot
And then as the sliver got bigger the light came back almost instantly. The cows didn't. We stood around generally in astonishment for a while and gradually watched it disappear away. We gave it a good half hour before we packed up and headed south towards I-80.

We stopped at the Travel Plaza at Elm Creek for lunch. As we sat an old man in dirty clothes came and started talking to us. Ann let out an 'Oh, god!' as he did. I don't think she realised it had left her brain and made its way to her mouth. He spoke mostly about nothing. Then just as he was about to walk off, dad started a new line of chat thus encouraging him to sit down at the table with us. It was a little awkward as we were trying to eat, so weren't saying much and he had nothing to say. Eventually he left. Then just as we were about to leave a man saw my NASA t shirt and started chatting. He was not as strange as the first guy. He had driven up from Texas and managed to find a backyard to camp in on HomeAway as all the motels were charging massive prices. We were lucky we booked months ago as our two nights is less than the price of one night booked now.

We eventually got back into the car park. I tried to watch the second half of Man City v Everton, but poor signal and annoying websites prevented that. Eventually we left and drove the 164 miles back to Lincoln. Traffic was heavy but moved at a decent speed for most of the way. We did see one accident and one car perpendicular to the road which was odd.

Made it back and then relaxed for a while, catching up with the eclipse gossip from across the country.

Headed out for dinner at 7.30pm. Paul and Helen wanted to introduce dad to Applebee's, their favourite restaurant of choice. The service was a little bit better than IHOP the night before, but still not up to the usual USA standard. To be fair, everywhere is very busy due to the celestial event. As we left the restaurant we were greeted with another thunderstorm in the distance.

Tomorrow we head back past where we were today as we make the return trip to Denver. Just two days left. Very sad but what a great way to finish the trip.

States visited - 12

Eclipses seen - 1

Camel watch - high

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Day Twenty Six

Was planning to have a swim at 6am before breakfast at 7.15am but didn't wake up until nearly 6.30am so didn't bother. Had breakfast though.

We were in the car and underway by 8.30am heading south on I-29. We stopped for gas on the way and then turned off the interstate at Sioux City, passing briefly into Iowa before going in to Nebraska and took Highway 77 southwards towards Lincoln. Passed through the town of Wahoo. Wahoo!

Arrived at the hotel in Lincoln just after 12pm and then sat and waited in the car park. Then another white SUV arrived with Paul and Helen in it. Said hello. We couldn't check in until 3pm so had time to fill. I practised taking photos of the sun ready for tomorrow.

Almost in the middle!
We then drove to Subway for lunch. Followed that by going to the world's busiest Walmart in order to buy some inflatable chairs ready for sitting in tomorrow. Headed back to the hotel and although we were early they let us check in. We all did and dumped our stuff in our rooms. I tried out the inflatable chairs unsuccessfully.

We reconvened and headed out to here

When we got there we thought it was very quiet. That's because it is shut on a Sunday. Dad decided to climb in the car outside the museum as a protest.

We tried to leave him there
We sat in the car and decided what to do next. In the end we went to downtown Lincoln and stopped in here

Ate ice cream. It was nice. Had a quick look around downtown Lincoln. Saw the old station. There was a big train outside it.

Big unit

Old station
We then headed back to the hotel and had a late afternoon swim. There were annoying people in there taking up the pool. Managed to get rid of some of them.

We met again at 7.15pm and headed out to IHOP for dinner. Took a while to get seated. Took even longer to get our order taken. Took even longer for the food to arrive. It did eventually and we ate it.

We then headed to for a five way golf tournament. When we arrived the building lights were on but the course was in darkness and we thought the worst. However it was dark as no one was playing on it. We went in and clubbed up and they turned the lights on.

They kept making announcements about it was shutting in forty minutes, thirty minutes, etc. Had to rush a little bit to catch up some time before relaxing a little on the last two holes.

The battle for second place was heating up and Paul needed a good hole to help his cause.

He stuck it in the hole following the initial rim job leaving him only four behind dad going into the last. Dad then did this.

This opened the door slightly for Paul until this happened.

That meant he only made up one shot on the last.

Scores were:

Knightley RJ - 50
Knightley WR - 54
Knightley RP - 57
Rossington - 60
Roffe- 66

As we left we realised we were the only people left in the entire place. Oh well. The closing messages must have been aimed at us.

We headed back to the hotel and then had a quick team meeting regarding tomorrow. There is cloud about but still uncertainty about exactly where it will be at the crucial time. Plan is to be ready to leave the hotel at 6am. Best get to bed fairly sharpish.

States visited - 12

Total states visited - 48

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Day Twenty Five

Today was a day that had two main purposes. One was to get us closer to Lincoln in Nebraska, the other we'll get to in a minute.

We decided on a later breakfast as we had no activities planned for the day and our journey wasn't quite as long as yesterday. The only down side to a later breakfast is that everyone else goes then as well. We ended up sitting on the settee in the lobby as all the tables were full.

We set off just after 11am and within five minutes we had achieved our second objective as we crossed into Minnesota which meant we have now been in every contiguous state in the USA. Only Hawaii and Alaska are left.

We drove for a while in Minnesota before crossing back over the border into North Dakota and joining I-29 south.

We kept driving, crossing back into South Dakota and eventually stopped in Watertown for lunch. We visited a for lunch.

We got back on I-29 and cracked on south eventually reaching Sioux Falls just after 3.30pm.

We checked in and hung around for a while before heading out later on.

We went to a Barnes and Noble bookshop as Ann had run out of things to read. Books were bought. We then nipped into Walgreens before we took dad to his first drive in restaurant, Sonic. Food was great although his meal was apparently 7000kcal or something like that. Ann said she wanted to try their frozen custard for dessert until she found out it was about 2000kcal for one serving.

We headed back for a earlier night as we want to get up and moving in the morning in case the traffic is heavy. It's all the TV channels have been saying, the traffic will be really bad due to people traveling to see the eclipse on Monday.

States visited - 10

Total states visited - 48

Friday, 18 August 2017

Day Twenty Four

Utter terrible news to start. The swimming pool didn't open until 8am so no chance for a go on the waterslide.

We had breakfast at 7.30am and were ready to leave by 8.50am. Our first stop was just across the interstate from where we were staying -

Although there are some different things there we were only really interested in seeing the dinosaurs. There were lots of rocks and crystals at the start before we got to the dinosaurs. Most of the exhibits were just casts of bones as opposed to real ones.


Another dinosaur
There was one real thing we did see, although it is still being prepared to be displayed, which was a real triceratops skull discovered in Montana.

Real dino
We gave ourselves an hour to look around and it was plenty of time. We were back in the car with a magnet by 10am. Then we hit the road, I-94 to be exact and headed east across North Dakota. We drove for three hours stopping only briefly to use a rest stop.

We ended up in Subway in Jamestown for lunch. We then fuelled up and then got back on I-94 completing another 90 miles east to Fargo. We also lost an hour due to crossing time zones back into central time. During the afternoon we also found out that Bruce Forsyth had died. Good game, good game.

When we got to Fargo we went straight to  as it shut at 5pm and due to the hour loss it was now 4pm.

Luckily an hour was plenty of time to look around the exhibits. There were planes and a helicopter.


Big Drone
Blue Plane
The museum shop was disappointing as there were no magnets. Tragedy. We left and headed to the hotel and checked in before heading out to the Fargo Visitor Centre. There wasn't much there but Ann wanted to see the wood chipper they had.

He doesn't look chipper
It was the one from the film 'Fargo'. Hence the interest. The good news was there was a magnet with the chipper on it.

We left the centre and nipped over to IHOP to give dad his first taste of pancake heaven. I think he is a convert.

Our final activity for the day was the third round of the triway golf tournament. We played here

First task was to choose which of the two courses to play. We based it on not at lot as both seemed quite busy. Luckily we didn't have to wait at any hole so played non stop. Ann made a very bright start to the round.

Dad didn't quite have the magic from the previous two rounds.

And shots like this on the back nine didn't help his cause.

The final scores were:

Knightley RJ - 49
Knightley WR - 58
Roffe - 65

We then headed back to the hotel and settled in for the night.

States visited - 9

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Day Twenty Three

Breakfast at 8.30am and then a leisurely morning until we left at just before 11am.

We set off, stopping for fuel in the US bike capital, Sturgis, before heading northwards. Roads were pretty empty apart from one interesting set of roadwork where we sat still for what seemed like half an hour before we eventually got to move.

I pulled over at 12.55pm in order to make Ann drive. The only reason for this was Everton were kicking off at 1pm Mountain Time. Had problems with 4G so only got to listen as the picture kept freezing but eventually got it to work.

We crossed into North Dakota for the first time ever shortly before stopping for lunch at Subway in Bowman. Managed to watch the final twenty minutes of the game whilst we sat inside.

With the game finished I could get back to driving and we headed north to I-94 before then following it east to Dickinson.

Checked in and had some rest time before heading out for dinner at Country Kitchen. Food was good as was the old fashioned chocolate milkshake.

Back now for an early night before a busy day tomorrow hopefully starting with an early morning swim as there is a waterslide with the pool!

States visited - 9

Total states visited - 47