From the Badlands to Kearney, NE

This day saw us travel thru the Badlands National Park and on to Kearney, NE. We had one of our serendipitous encounters on the way to Kearney  as well as washing the undersides of the Ultra Vans along the way.

The Badlands is just that, a barren, bleak, desolate, yet beautiful place just east of Rapid City. You have heard of the Badlands and seen it in movies but to be there gives you a deeper appreciation for anyone who ventures into it.

After our tour thru the Badlands we started out trek to Kearney for the Rally. On the way we had one of our serendipitous meetings. If you’ve been reading our blog for a while you will know that we have the opportunity to meet some interesting and great people. This was no exception.  We stopped after about an hour of driving to have a cup of tea to perk us up for the rest of the trip. We stopped in the small town of Wanblee, SD, population of 725 (salute!). As we were parked on the side of the road a gentleman approached our coaches and asked if we needed help. We told him, know we were just stopping for a cup of tea, he offered to make some for us. We declined as we had just made ours, but being a persistent good Samaritan he invited us into his building to see what he was doing and to meet his wife. Being up for adventure we agreed and went into the building which turns out to be a non profit run by Bob and Mary Epps, Families Working Together (FWT). Mary has been coming to Wanblee since she retires several years ago to help this small community. She finally conned, err, coerced, err, enticed Bob to come out for a while one year and Bob agree and after that year they sold their home in Wisconsin and moved to Wanblee, SD and set up shop. Now they run FWT and help the community support themselves. Mary tells them “you must do it yourselves as Bob and I are just two crazy old people”. Mary and Bob help them help themselves! To find out more go to  Here are our new friends in Wanblee. Keep up the great work Bob and Mary!!!!


Bob and Mary Epps, people help people!

After meeting our new friends we ventured on to Valentine, NE and stopped for the night. The next day we were off on our final leg to Kearney, NE and the Ultra Van National Rally. Nebraska has had a lot of rain this year and remnants of it is still visible in small lakes that aren’t meant to be  lakes. A couple of those “new” lakes stretch across the roads we were traveling. The sign says “water across road 24 miles ahead ” and here’s what we found when we came upon it. Yikes! Go back 24 miles and find another route? Others seemed to be getting thru it so, what the heck, let’s give it a go. Our feet didn’t get wet inside the coach but only barely.


Our view of the Mello coach.


Mello’s view of the Righteous Coach from their rear view mirror.

After we passed thru two of these new lakes we were happy to roll into Kearney RV Park and Campground and a dry pad for RC to rest upon and to see our friends from previous Rallies and to meet new ones at this one. More will come about the Rally and the fun time we had this week but for now I will bid you a good night and sleep tight!

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We Really Weren’t Trying to Set a Record

And I can’t confirm that we did but it sure seemed like were going for one! We visited four National Monuments and private Monuments and Parks in one day. The first site we were to see this day was The Mammoth Site, it boasts the largest concentration of mammoths in the world. It seems that the mammoths were always thirsty and here in South Dakota there were always sink holes that filled with water. These holes had slippery sides because of the soil here and when the mammoth came to get water it would slip into the pool and because of its depth and slippery sides it would not be able to get out. Needless to say its demise would come and it would sink to the bottom and due to the conditions it would be preserved. The photos below depict what remains of these mammoths today.

The Mammoth Site is not unknown among mammoth buffs but it certainly was new to me and both Fran and I really enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone who comes to this area.


Next up was the Wind Cave National Park, one of the longest and most complex caves in the world. Named for the winds at its entrance, this maze of passages is home to “boxwork”, a rare and unique formation seen in one of the pictures below. We couldn’t travel through the cave because the elevators were closed because of flooding this year. We really missed a great adventure but got to see the video of the site.


This is the boxwork on the ceiling of the Wind Cave. Instead of stalactites this is formed on the ceiling.

Then there is Crazy Horse, a non profit foundation that is building a monument to Crazy Horse, thought to be one of the bravest Indians ever. His leadership was key to the winning the battle at Little Bighorn. This photo was used to help carve the monument.

The non profit that is running the campaign to complete Crazy Horse Monument expect to finish his arm and hair in the next 10 years and after that they will start on his horse.


Chief Crazy Horse, or Tasunke Witco was born as a member of the Oglala Lakota Indian tribe.


This photo shows the progress being made at Crazy Horse. You can see Crazy Horse’s head and the end of his finger pointing. The how depicts the space between his chest and his horse’s mane. The hole will be at least 4 times as large as depicted in this picture.

We ended our day with Mt. Rushmore and then off to bed in an RV park just outside of Rapid City as we were bushed.


George, Tom, Teddy and Abe.


Fran, Carl and the boys!

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A Very Solumn Day

Today we toured what most Americans call Custer’s Last Stand, which it was, but it is more appropriately known as the Little Bighorn Battlefield.Many brave men died at this battle, both soldiers and natives. This was a battle that was part of a more major campaign to exterminate the Native Americans from the face of the earth. A campaign that has left another dark stain on our history as a country. We cannot change or remove this page in the history books but we can acknowledge it and vow to change ourselves so that we overpower any future government from doing this again.


There is a National Cemetery a the battlefield for those who served from the Little Bighorn battle to the Korean War.


Headstones are scattered throughout the battlefield, over a more that five square mile area, to indicate where the native or soldier fell, but the bodies of the dead were either removed from the battlefield by the natives for appropriate burial or placed in the National Cemetery.


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Our Visit to Glacier National Park

A visit to Glacier National Park is one of those things that you just have to experience. What you’ll see here are some photos of the park and of us but you can never get the majesty, serenity and immenseness of this park by just looking at pictures. As an example the rangers at the park say a glacier is a snow mass that is 25 square miles in size and this park has over one hundred of them. This park is so large that is has to be shared with Canada. This park has over100 glaciers and 130 lakes.


The pond at Mountain Meadow RV Park



Fran and Carl in the swing by the pond at Mountain Meadow RV Park



We had to get up early to get Libby to the kennel and then get to Glacier for our 8 AM bus tour which lasted 8 hours. This shot was taken about 6:30 AM!



Look closely and you’ll see Fran in the first window of the Red Bus.



Yours truly and Fran standing in front of our Red Bus at one of the stops on the all day tour.



One of the many water falls in the park. The clarity of the water was perfect.



Happy Campers!



Our Red Bus driver Rich who not only talked about the park for 8 hours straight but walked with us on the jaunts down trails and up to the waterfalls, explaining things all the way.



One of the many Big Horn Sheep we saw on the Red Bus trip.


Another amazing waterfall.

See, I told you pictures didn’t do the park justice. You have to visit this park at least once in your life and I’ll bet if you do visit you will want to come back see it again. We will! Now it’s onto the next adventure, Little Big Horn Battlefield and Devil’s Tower. More to follow.



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What Never to Leave Home Without

There a lot of things to leave behind when you are traveling in a motorhome. You can leave the kitchen sink, usually your motorhome will have one. You can leave home without 15 changes of clothes, multiple purses, many pairs of shoes, a dozen hats, you can even leave home without a lot of food but there is one thing you cannot leave home without, windshield wipers!

Windshield wipers aren’t high on anyone’s list of things to take along on a trip, usually toothbrushes, soap, toothpaste, deodorant, brush, comb are higher on the list than windshield wipers. I’d venture you’ve never given much thought to insuring you have windshield wipers on your list of must haves. Let me inform you though that you should add them to your list IMMEDIATELY!

I, like you, hadn’t given too much thought to windshield wipers when Fran and I packed up RC for the trip, we didn’t even give them much thought when I was prepping RC mechanically. Sure, I knew we needed them for inclement weather, but it is the first week of September and we were still wearing shorts everyday. Windshield wipers? Who’s gonna need them? Well, of course, we did.

We headed out with Jerry and Patty Mello after appropriate stops for gas and snacks and wound up in Cheney for the night after several hours on the road. That night and the following morning it RAINED! Now the evening wasn’t a problem as we were ensconced in a RV Park called Peaceful Pines and didn’t need them while resting. What we weren’t expecting is that it would continue to rain thru the next morning. Oh well, I had parts of windshield wipers that I had collected with the intent of putting on RC. Intent doesn’t mean it happened, indeed it didn’t. All I needed was a simple reducer for the base of the arm of the windshield wiper, but you can’t find a part for a 50 year old Ultra Van just anywhere. In fact some parts you can’t find at all, which is what I found out when we went on the search for windshield wiper arm reducers for RC the next morning. Nowhere in the Spokane Valley did they have said reducers. Instead after going to three different parts stores we finally have to buy two completely different arms to go on RC and get on the road. Of course, when you buy the appropriate part it seems you won’t need it and it didn’t rain the remainder of the trip to Glacier National Park, just because I bought new parts which I should have purchased back in Tacoma. NEVER LEAVE HOME WITHOUT WINDSHIELD WIPERS if you don’t want it to rain!

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The Saga of 605 Begins or RC’s New Cousin Will Finally Come to Life!

Before I show you this week’s saga of picking up UV 605 from Joshua Tree, CA and towing it to it’s new home in Albany, Oregon let me begin by telling you a little of 605’s history. It begins back in 1973 when the Ultra Van company finally closed it’s doors. The story has it that Dave Peterson offered Ultra Van 605, the body only, to an employee in lieu of his last paycheck. The employee accepted and with 3 friends and a trailer came back, picked up the body by hand, placed it on the trailer, strapped it down and drove away.

UV 605 soon passed to its 2nd owner, George Truman, who equipped it with a drive train, suspension and steering components. After about 20 years and now not being able to see the project to completion Mr. Truman sold the project to Jim Craig who then sold it to Roy Nakamura with one caveat, that was that Roy could store it at Jim’s home until he was able to get the project started. It has sat at Jim’s place for about 25 years until the Nakamura family finally decided to sell it this year. In stepped Jerry and Patty Mello of Albany, Oregon to eagerly buy 605 which they promptly name Max and accept the caretaker responsibilities for some future owner. I’m sure you are asking why they named their coach Max, well they already own UV 333 which is named Mini so it seemed appropriate that they name the new one Max because it is one foot longer!

Jerry and Patty have big plans for Max, the only Ultra Van never officially sold by the Ultra Van corporation. New, modern drive train, completely rebuilt suspension and steering components and new interior. While the interior scheme hasn’t be divulged to me yet, you can be assured that it will be functional, efficient and eye  popping. Personally I hope it will be a retro theme in keeping with its year of birth, 1973 but only time will tell.

Now for the saga/trip from Albany to Joshua Tree with a side trip to Nevada City, CA and return, bringing RC’s new cousin home to it’s new caretakers. A few weeks ago Jerry Mello told me he had bought Max. After congratulating him, I volunteered to help him pick it up and the trip turned out to be quite an adventure. Jerry was originally going to borrow a truck and flat tow Max home staying in hotels along the way. As he was talking to a friend in Albany about the project the friend not only volunteered his truck, a 2015 GMC dually, but himself as well, welcome to the party George Rollins! Then Jerry started calculating costs and realized it would be much less expensive to bring Mini, UV 333, as our rolling hotel and dining hall.

So, once the logistics were ironed out the itinerary and dates were set, a call was made to Christy Barden of Nevada City, CA, owner of UV 603, to see if we could stop by and do some research on his coach as it was the same series and style as Jerry’s new coach. Christy not only invited us to stop by but said if we got there on June 2nd we were welcome to attend his annual barn party. Always up for a party we made plans to drive from Albany straight thru to Nevada City (501.8 miles). Only stopping for lunch and essential old men breaks we made it to Christy’s in just a little over 11 hours.

While not really a part of this adventure I felt is was significant to include the following picture of the Lake Shasta area as a reminder to be careful with fires while out in nature, thanks for your indulgence.

This is the remnants of a fire along I-5 along Lake Shasta, not the Paradise fire.

We spent a little while with Christy then he went out dancing (this man is in his 80s) and we went to bed! The next morning we caught up on Christy’s evening and he caught up with ours, his was more exciting and we did a lot of research on UV 603. We also helped Christy prepare for the barn party and he even allowed the three of us to be his official parking detail, what fun! At the end of the party we helped break down the tables and chairs and generally cleaned up for 125 party goers.

Christy’s big barn, UV 333 is shown for size!

This is what we set up for party, this is only half of the chairs and tables.

This is the job newbies to Christy’s barn party get!

As evening fell, the four of us spent an hour plus talking Ultra Vans on Christy’s back porch. We then said our good nights and toddled off to bed because we had a early start the next day for what was to turn out to be a 13 hour drive to Joshua Tree, CA (551.9 miles). We’re gluttons for punishment! It was late evening when we arrived at the Craig’s house so we spent some time chatting and catching up on each others activities since the last time we were together and then we set up our bunks for the time we would be there. Jim and Marlene offered their Bounder motor home for sleeping arrangements and I took them up on it as I had been sleeping on the twin dinette bed and they offered a queen mattress! Thanks Jim and Marlene!!!!!!!

After a night’s sleep it is now Tuesday, June 4th and we have a ton of work to do on this very unique vehicle to get it ready to tow back to Albany. We are awake at 6 AM and Jerry, better know as the slave driver, starts giving assignments. After a couple hours of work Marlene invites in to breakfast and, if you know Marlene, you know it was a feast. After breakfast it was back to work packing wheel bearings, changing tires and wheels, adjusting brakes, unloading dozens of boxes and sorting contents for repacking once the coach is readied for it’s trip home. A lunch break was taken sometime during the day and then back to work rebuilding the air bag suspension, a brake cable that broke and following up on other Mello dictates. Evening comes and dinner is consumed with great gusto as it is one of Marlene’s great feasts again. After about an hour on the patio watching the stars and drinking tea we stumbled off to bed with visions of much more to do the next day. This day’s work was done in 94 degree heat!

Here it sits, waiting for us to work our magic.

The front looks blunt compared to Mini and RC but is has some streamlining down low that you can’t see in this picture.

The squared off back allows for much more headroom.

This is looking forward without seats, etc. The engine is amidship on the left.

While it’s hard to show all the details of the work I thought it would suffice to show the workers doing the details;

This is the Boss pretending to work.

This is George repairing the air bag suspension.

This is Carl not pretending at all!

Wednesday, the 5th of June did not disappoint as there was much to do. We skipped Marlene’s breakfast and started working at around 6:30 AM, hopefully to get enough work done early so that we could stop early and miss some of the late day heat. It was not to be as we had to go get parts and some gas to start the coach once we were finished work. This extended our work day well into the evening giving us over 13 hours of work so we could take off for Albany on the 6th. Today’s heat topped out at 96 degrees.

Well, it’s now the 6th of June and we get up early to attach the tow bar and set up the tow lights so we can hit the road. This accomplished we said our goodbyes to Jim and Marlene, hooked up the coach to George’s GMC and hit the road, for about 2 minutes. It seems that Max wasn’t ready to track correctly behind the truck. With about 20 minutes of adjustment to the alignment of the wheels we were off again. This time without stops except for food and rest stops. We made it to Modesto, CA before stopping for the night (411.1 miles).

The 7th of June arrives with us skipping an early breakfast so that we could get beyond the morning rush hour traffic into Sacramento. We made it thru Sacramento and stopped in Woodland, a few miles north for breakfast and then it’s back on the road. We are determined to put some miles on today so we forgo lunch with the exception of nuts for protein, water for hydration and popcorn chips just because they were there. The photo below was our next stop at a last rest area in California. We were really making good time.

George’s GMC is morphing into an Ultra Van. Just what George wanted!

We now head over the Siskiyous on our way to the final gas stop in Medford. Once at Medford we feel a sense of renewed energy and make the decision to push on to home in Albany. It’s a long slog but we all want a real bed for the night. (590.4 miles)

Welcome home hugs from the wives, a late dinner and a cold beer awaited us! Also a nice, comfortable bed. Mission accomplished except for the unpacking and rearranging of the Mello garage which will take place after several hours of sleep. The picture below will attest to the fact that we did accomplish that task.

MIni and Max ensconced in their humble abode.

I am now on an AMTRAK train headed for Sumner and my just reward of a cup of hot tea and biscotti. Thanks for inviting me along on this adventure Jerry. I look forward to your tales of resurrection of the great 605 Max, or is it Maxine?

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Northwest Econo Run and Canada Visit

Here it is April, 2019 and we’re getting out for another season of Ultra Vanning!

Our first outing for the year will be the Pacific Northwest Econo Run, an event put on by the various Corvair clubs in the Pacific Northwest. This years event is hosted by the Inland Corvair Club out of Spokane, WA. The event is conducted in Leavenworth, WA with an Econo Run to Lake Chelan area. We are all excited to participate and meet old and new friends during the weekend. Here are a couple of pics of the area and RC at the start of the event. We won nothing but we did get the best gas mileage ever at 18.4 miles per gallon.

Getting gassed at the start of the NW Econo Run.

Heading up a hill to Lake Chelan.

Downtown Leavenworth



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Here Comes Our 19th Nervous Breakdown

I’m sure you all have been wondering when this post would happen, well at least I hope you have been. While I was chairing the UVMCC National Rally I really didn’t have time to post to the blog and then we started our trek back home and got busy with making sure RC was ship shape enough to make it home. What? Ship shape? What was wrong? Well let me tell you.

We got to Grand Junction, Colorado the day before the day before (two days) our Rally was to start so we stayed over night and headed out on Thursday. We headed out on Hwy. 50 towards Creede and I remarked to Fran that these folks in Colorado wanted to make us feel like we were in the old west as the road was like a wash board with great big, stomach churning lifts and falls. A few moments after this comment we hit two huge ones. The first one lifted us to the top of the spring throw and when we hit the second (within 25′ of the first) we bottomed out very hard and I thought I blew a tire. We moved from the “slow” lane to the passing lane and then within a foot of the ditch in the middle of the road. I managed to regain control of RC and move it back across the road and off to the side. I said to Fran, “no problem, I just blew a tire. I’ll change it and we’ll get back on the road”. After getting out of RC and going to the drivers side I could easily see that the tire wasn’t blown. I went to the front of the coach, got down on my hands and knees and couldn’t get low enough so I got down on my stomach and realized I had broken the A arm! This my friends was a catastrophic situation. The driver’s side front wheel turns independently of the rest of the steering wheel and not in the same way as the other front wheel. Here’s what it looked like.

The next 6 hours we spent on the side of the road getting a tow truck that could tow us back to Grand Junction. We found a fabrication shop in Grand Junction that was willing to “look at” RC and determine if they could help. We got back to their shop 20 minutes after they were to close, but they stayed til we got there and when they heard my tale of woe, i.e., that I was chairing the Rally and had to get to Creede for the beginning of it because I had all the “stuff” for the Rally, they drove us to the airport to pick up a rental car and kept the shop open until we unloaded RC and filled up the Nissan Sentra that we had rented. With their help we finally go to the Rally in Creede at 11 PM. The following morning the Rally went on without a hitch, except that RC was in a shop back in Grand Junction. I got a call from them by mid-afternoon and they had already repaired the coach. What a great crew at DW Metalworks. I hope I never have to use them again but if I’m ever in Grand Junction I can assure you I will drop by and drop off a pie or cake or something nice for their efforts.

Those in the Ultra Van Club know how serious of a situation this was as they don’t make the A arms for these vehicles anymore and they are cast out of aluminum so not just anyone can weld them. The Lord was really looking out for us on this trip and in this instance specifically. Here are some photos of the repair.

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From the Flaming Gorge to Fruita

Relatively easy day today we just felt with 1,700 foot chasms, dinosaurs and an 8,300 foot pass to climb (we started at 6,000 feet).

The 1,700 feet chasm was actually Flaming Gorge Lake which is 91 miles long and is spectacular from 1,700 feet up which is where we were. What a great morning jaunt before heading to Colorado. Take a look at some of the trees, especially the one with the lighting strike down it, the one in the second picture.

After leaving the Gorge we went thru Vernal, Utah and then on to the Dinosaur National Monument and got “up close and personal” with a Stegasaurus. This monument is in an area that houses the remains of multitudes of fossilized dinosaurs.


After this and lunch we finished the day by driving over Douglas Pass at over 8,200 feet and then down the other side to an elevation of 4,445 feet! What a feat for RC and what a drop as well. Now in Grand Junction for the night and in Creede tomorrow for the National Rally.


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No the Flaming Gorge Isn’t on FIRE!

We started the day in Idaho and ended up in its neighbor to the south (Utah) but had to go thru Wyoming to achieve this goal. Huh, you say. Yes, you see The Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area is south of Green River, WY which is east of Utah, oh, never mind, just look it up on the map. It is beautiful and will have to come back someday when we can spend more time and explore. But as for this trip it is just an over night stay with the quaking aspen rustling in a gentle breeze. No picture because you can’t see them rustle.

On our way here we did stop in Kemmerer, WY for gas and saw the 1st JC Penney store which is now an antique store but has some old memorabilia from back in the day, here are a couple of pics.

Also in Kemmerer we started talking about Libby’s sore leg. She was playing with a dog in a park in Pendleton and afterward started limping. Just as we finished the Riverside Vet Clinic appeared in front of us, WE STOPPED! I went in and the Doc was between patients and could see Libby immediately and it turns out she pulled her right rear ACL! This means surgery when we get back home. The Doc assured us she would be ok til then just no chasing balls or squirrels.

Until the next post we will leave you with a sad RC as it sits crying it’s eyes out because the space on either side of it was supposed to be occupied by Bella and Mini but both had to cancel leaving us as the lone NW reps.


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