Blog Archive

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Life from the road - Our adventures to the Lewis and Clark Trail

and everything we discovered along the way!  
A very special guest post by Bert Henderson

Great Falls Portage is a National Historic Landmark, in Great Falls, MT

First there were red lights..then blue lights, and not those blue lights indicating a special at K-Mart.

The red lights were the fire trucks answering an alarm at the “Flying J” where our traveling companions Ken and Karla and we were spending the night outside of Memphis, TN. The blue lights were from the police cars that had arrived to Quell two out-of-love teenagers breaking up, and that break-up included the involvement of ALL of their friends..along with their loud, obscene voices and screeching tires. All of this gave us the start of a very exciting evening right in front of our two coaches – better than the movies. This kind of excitement was not planned for when we started our journey.

Heading out for the Lewis & Clark Trail

Carol at Botanical Gardens, St. Louis, MO
When Carol, Ken, Karla and I decided to sign up for a 43 day RV caravan that followed the Lewis and Clark trail along the mighty Missouri River—we had no idea what to expect. The tour began in St. Charles, Missouri (MO), and ended in Warrenton, Oregon (OR). Neither Carol nor I had ever been in the northwestern part of America. What I didn’t realize was there are many steps necessary in planning for that kind of long journey. Also, in addition to the 43 days traveling in the caravan, it did not include the three day trip to reach the rendezvous point in St. Charles, MO, and then two weeks or more traveling back home from Warrenton, OR.

The RV caravan tour company we chose was Adventure Caravans. This company was very helpful by providing us with printed brochures with itineraries; driving directions including driver’s logs; deciding what clothes to take and other assorted items that we’d need for the trip including food, pots and pans, and our daily essentials, including toilet articles.

In addition to the travel logistics, the tour company provided plans in advance such as which RV Parks you’ll be booked in, and what you’ll see along the way, and where you’ll go when you arrive in a city. The tour company also provided for luxury motor coaches to see the local sights, made arrangements with tour guides, made restaurant reservations, prepaid for your RV parks, attractions, and in general, took care of all of our needs, so all we had to do is drive to a destination and enjoy the trip.

Stern Wheeler, Bismark, ND

A “wagon master” is assigned as the tour leader to go in front of all the coaches and make sure that everyone takes the correct roads and completes each day’s drive by arriving at the pre-arranged RV park on time. By having a drivers’ meeting every evening before a travel day, the wagon master made sure the RV drivers had some familiarity with the driver’s log, road maps, bad roads, speed traps, and where to buy fuel. He also was responsible for having everyone arrive on time for the bus tours, boat trips, and train rides in each city. As the representatives of Adventure Caravan, the wagon master and his wife set the tone for the trip to assist and help the RV drivers overcome any travel difficulties that might occur. On this trip, we were very fortunate to have a familiar wagon master, one of Ken & Karla’s favorites, Bobby and Marcia Hanbury.

The caravan also has a “tail-gunner” who is the mechanic and assists those who have mechanical problems. He and his wife (Bill and Carol Hamilton) are the last to leave the RV Park each travel day and the last to arrive at the new or destination RV Park.

Bert at Missouri River, Dillon MT
Preparing for the Trip

Prior to the trip, we purchased a decent camera to record our endeavors and provide pictures for this article in this post. I also had to get my amateur radio (HAM) license so I could legally use a more powerful radio to communicate while driving my coach. Citizen’s Band (CB) radios have a very limited range (line of sight) – especially in the mountainous terrain which we could encounter. The only time I used my CB radio was when we arrived at the destination RV Park during the caravan so the wagon master can communicate and park us in each RV Park. I was one of four licensed HAM operators on the trip. Most of the coaches in the group only had CB radios.

St. Joe Lewis and Clark statue
Other things we had to consider in preparation for the trip was how much food to bring us while we were traveling  -- being ever mindful of the refrigerator in the coach not being as large as the one in our home. I had my coach serviced, as usual, with additional work done to the suspension. I also purchased spare parts including extra oil, fluids, hoses, filters, cleaners, tools, and an auxiliary inventory of equipment.

Before the trip began, the tour company had a wonderful orientation dinner in St. Joe, Missouri, for the 39 people who comprised our caravan of 21 RVs. We all introduced ourselves and told why we decided to be part of the caravan.

Heading for Home

At the farewell dinner in Warrenton, Oregon, each coach occupant had to tell the funniest and the most memorable moment of the trip was for them. For Carol and me, being first time caravaners, we were overwhelmed with the beauty of the scenery we saw at every turn, and especially at the crest of every mountain. We all appreciated the camaraderie of the other caravaners.

Marsha, Bob, Carol and Ken at Multnoma Falls, Portland, OR

On the way back home, we had an opportunity to see the Grand Canyon, the Petrified Forest, and the Painted Desert. After a restful stopover in Grove, Oklahoma, for Ken and Karla to visit family, we traveled north to Pender, Nebraska, to get factory work done on my tow-bar before we turned south and headed home.

Our travels made the shape of a figure eight across the U.S. and after riding almost 10,000 miles, we arrived home to unload and clean our coach. That took two days before we could take the RV in for its much needed service including lube, oil, filter, and minor repairs. Returning from the service center, we sadly put Leo (the name we gave to our RV) to bed in the storage yard and began planning for our next trip. 

Bert and Carol Henderson are 20+ year residents of Homosassa, FL, and 50+ year Florida residents. Bert is retired from the University of Florida and Carol, a Registered Nurse, is retired from Omni Home Health Card in Homosassa. You can reach Bert and Carol at Photos by Bert and Carol Henderson. Article originally published in Citrus County Life Magazine

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