Chuck Across America!
Could there possibly be a better way to see the fall colors and to promote the mission of American Forests than to do an epic cross-country trip in the ChuckWagon™, my rigged out 37’ RV?
The answer is there no!, there ISN'T a better way, so climb aboard my home-on-wheels as we travel this great land from Salt Lake to Florida, capturing the beauty that is Fall.
Saturday Oct. 15, we're on the Blue Ridge Parkway...scroll down.
The journey across the country started on Oct. 8, a couple of days late because of a mean boy named Matthew. I can the you that the only thing worse than the Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore arriving in your town during a weather event is his LEAVING town because it’s too dangerous to stay. Yeah, well, welcome to Melbourne FL, where I call home or I should say, where my house is. There was no way I could travel out West until I made sure my humble abode did not get blown away during hurricane Matthew. The news was good the morning after Matt passed Florida so it was off to Salt Lake to pick up the RV and start the ride East.
A couple of things before we leave. First is, 90% of my images on the trip are shot using a DJI Phantom 4 drone that I affectionately call SEYMOUR. I am a licenses drone pilot holding a Part 107 certification.
And the second thing is Rule#1 on the ChuckWagon is no #2. :-)
Let's get the journey started!
DAY 1 Saturday
Salt Lake to Rainbow Reservoir (RON)
We got a late start on Saturday after flying across the country and although we wanted to get to Colorado the first day, we only made it to Rainbow Reservoir. What a ‘drag’ it was to watch the sunset and the sunrise from this gorgeous area. We have no set schedule as we traverse the country driving with your bedroom, bathroom and kitchen makes that easy. We linger where the pictures are good and then when darkness comes, we stay the night wherever we find a place to park.
Day 2 Sunday
Dinosaur, CO to Dominquez Canyon Wilderness Study Area
After a spectacular sunrise over the reservoir, it was off to Colorado where our first waypoint was the very tiny town of Dinosaur. From there a right hand turn put us the Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Highway heading down to Fruita, Grand Junction and then the Dominquez Canyon Wilderness Study Area.
Not many trees along this route and with jet lag, we decided to set the parking break just outside the Dominquez. We also made a major change to our routing for Day 3.
Day 3 Monday
Paonia, CO to Marble, CO. to Carbondale
Originally, the plan was to head to southern Colorado but my trusty assistant showed me a picture of Maroon Bells near Aspen and that was all it took for us decide to change the plan and head east and then north towards Aspen.
One of the best parts about driving cross country is visiting small town America. Meet Paonia, a cute little town in the center of western Colorado on the West Elk Loop. We were lucky to have an old man come up to us while we gassed up just outside of town for it was he who directed us to the stunning area of Marble, CO where the above picture was taken. The way to Marble takes you through the McClure Pass which is afford you some of the most iconic views or the Rockies. We spent a lot of time shooting and hanging out at the top of the world here. It was an easy drive to Marble and soon after we turned off the highway, we saw this gorgeous Alpine lake. As I flew SEYMOUR over the lake, I had no idea that just above it was Milton Falls only seeing it as I watched the video I just shot. It was late, we were hungry so we went to the only restaurant for miles, the Goovin BBQ. The guys there told us about Marble Falls, a bit further down the road but since the sun was down pretty far, and the rain was falling, we decided to head up to Carbondale, about an hour away, stay for the night, and then come back and re-shoot Milton Falls and grab some new footage of Marble Falls.
Day 4 Tuesday
Carbondale, CO to Marble, CO to Leadville, CO
Carbondale is a great little town. We found a nice out-of-the-way place to park for the night and then caught the new Beatles movie at the cute little movie theater on the Main St.
We were up before the sunrise and started heading back down to Marble to shoot the waterfalls. The rain was clearing so there was great fog, mist and some low hanging clouds in the pass to Redstone making fro some dramatic vistas. With limited time to do the country, you're always worried about making the wrong decision and wasting precious time. It was big deal to head back to Marble instead of pressing on east but the pictures and the footage of the falls proved the wisdom of spending the time to go back down to Marble. After that, it was our goal to make Maroon Bells but the weather just didn't cooperate and after a quick drive around Aspen, we made our way up the mountain heading towards Vail. Problem was there were warning signs for vehicles over 35' to not take the mountain route and the ChuckWagon weighs in at 37'. We had no choice but to turn around and head back to, CARBONDALE on our way to Salida. We were only half -joking at this point that we would never get out of Colorado. It was a long drive around but we finally made Leadville, home to a 125yo bar, the Pastime and after a quick dinner there, we made our way south to Salida parking on the side of the road somewhere halfway there.
Day 5 Wednesday
Salida to Garden City, Kansas
First things first, it's pronounced Sah Lie Dah, not Sah Lee Dah, ok?
Did you know Salida is the surfing capital of Colorado? No kidding, they actually surf in the river that runs through town. We know this because as we drove through in the early morning, we got a call from a reporter from The Mountain Mail who saw the RV and thought we'd make a good story. You know the news can be slow in these small towns.
Good times as we took John flying and then back in the RV to show him how we uses it as a mobile photo finishing studio.
From Salida, the weather turned gray and we made our way to Canon City, )pronounced 'canyon' ) home to the big Royal Gorge. You won;t see any pix of it from SEYMOUR as the town requires a $100,000 depot before any drones get anywhere near the bridge.
At this point, we are very far behind in our cross-country trip so after a quick dinner, we made tracks fro Garden City Kansas.
We really did wonder if we were ever getting out of Colorado but after spending so much time exploring it, it wouldn't have been a bad thing if al we did on the trip was drive around what has become one of my most favorite states.
Day 6 Thursday
Garden City Kansas to Joplin Missouri
I will never get back the week of my life I spent driving through Kansas today.
I'm sorry I don't mean to hate on Kansas but I truly hate Kansas. It's just a horrid, horrid state. I think I've hated Kansas ever since I saw that dreadful movie for the first time back when I was about 4. Kansas scared me then and I've never forgotten that fear.
We took the southern route through Kansas which took us through Dodge City, Wichita and then thank goodness into Joplin, Missouri.
The weather the entire day was gray and dreary so the best I could do were pictures of windmills. Yup, old and new but other than that, not a picture to be taken.
After a quick dinner, we made our way to Polar Bluffs in the eastern part of Missouri but a change was a coming.
Because of the weather forecast, we will head out of Missouri but we're not quite sure if we'll go north to Lexington or straight across to Asheville.