Denali Diaries…Portland, OR to Pittsburgh, PA

Welcome to Denali Diaries, the timeline of our (Frank and Laurie) adventures and mis-adventures along the highways and byways of the USA in our not so tiny house on wheels, “Miss Denali”..

On July 29th Frank and I signed the papers on the sale of our home and nearly all of our earthly possessions in Portland, Oregon and handed over the keys to a wonderful couple from North Carolina.


We moved ourselves, our few remaining possessions and our two kitties, Goldie and Malu into our new home on wheels, “Denali”, a 35′ fifth wheel trailer.


After settling everything in Portland we hitched up Denali and headed for the open road on Aug 22, 2016.  We were in no hurry to get anywhere nor did we have any “set in stone” destinations in mind as we planned to follow the seasons, fall colors to the north east and then warm weather in the south east to spend the winter months.  We did want to stop and visit friends and family along the way.  Our first family stop was in Shelley, Idaho where we parked in my cousin Gary’s backyard and felt like we were in a five star resort with the stunning views.


Gary took us out fishing on the Snake River where Frank caught a beautiful rainbow trout for dinner.


Time flew too quickly and we were unable to see nearly as many relatives as I had hoped and I do have quite a few of them.  Back on the road, we headed to see my family in Salt Lake.  In between visits and barbeques we took a trip down memory lane and drove over Guardsmans Pass to see if there was any fall color.  It was a bit early on the western side but the eastern side as we dropped down into Midway was alive with color.  I had to stop at a favorite location to review memories of days and people long since passed.  It was a tranquil ride.




I took my flying companion, Lucy out to The Great Salt Lake to do a little flying and the sunset was beautiful.


A week flew by before we knew it and it was time to hitch Denali up for another ride to a new destination.  Next stop Moab, Utah and Arches National Park.  Once we had arrived at our campsite and got settled in, we took a ride into the park to see the sunset from the Windows section.


The next morning I didn’t feel well at all and we hung around the trailer for most of a beautiful day before I dragged myself out of my funk and went out to photograph sunset.


Boy am I glad I did, the photo Gods were smiling on me and all the other lucky folks out that night.


The next day we headed into Moab for breakfast at the Jailhouse Cafe and then off to hike Hunter’s Canyon.  By one mile in we had exhausted most of our water and I was sweating and dragging so we turned back knowing it would not be wise to continue on with so few supplies in the intense heat.


Our stay in Moab was way too short but, we were looking forward to seeing friends in Colorado and the road was calling.  We stopped in Grand Junction and visited with good friends before powering on to Golden where we were going to park it for a week to visit with friends, do some hiking and biking and filling our lungs with that Rocky Mountain air.  However, plans can be changed at a moments notice and Monday morning rolled around with both Frank and I still feeling funky so we took a detour from our plans and headed to urgent care where I had pneumonia and he needed meds too.  With that diagnosis we decided to lay low for a few days to let the drugs take their course and help heal.

In the meantime we did a little sight seeing, taking the incredibly efficient light rail downtown to Union Station.



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Due to our days of forced inactivity we decided to extend our stay and went to Rocky Mountain NP for a quick overnight visit.

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There’s nothing like clean, fresh, thin air to get your heart pumping and we both began to feel much better.  Maybe nature is the cure for what ails us more often than we realize.

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The next morning before heading back to Golden we took a couple of hikes around Sprague Lake and Bear Lake.  There were many other visitors that morning who all seemed to have the same idea of enjoying the tranquility because, even with the number of people, it was very quite and beautiful.

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On our way back to Golden we stopped at a wonderful stone church that has always intrigued me and it proved worth the stop.

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We were a bit concerned about how our kitties were going to handle the new lifestyle but, it turns out we needn’t have worried.  They have settled right in to life on the road and love to explore each new campsite to determine whether or not it has their kitty paw of approval.  They truly are good little campers.


Our next destination was Pittsburgh with overnight stops mapped out along the way to break up the long drive.  Our travels took us through Kansas where Frank gratefully downed a refreshing beer at Capn’ Jack’s in Oakley, KS where we camped after fighting a strong side wind all day.

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A couple of days later as we were approaching Kansas City, MO a warning beep and light came on and the truck instantly powered down.  We managed to pull over to the side of the road on the busy highway where we proceeded to give AAA a mayday call.  Three hours later Phil and Bobby from Santa Fe Towning came to our rescue with two huge tow trucks.

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They not only towed us to a Ford dealer, Phil knew of a campground close by that he said he would gladly drop us off at so we wouldn’t have to park in the dealer’s lot overnight.  We got a site and our road angels got us all dropped off nice and snug in what was to be our home for the next few days as they fixed the truck.  Kudos to AAA, Santa Fe Towing and Phil and Bobby for helping us through a stressful situation.

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All the excitement of the day left me feeling a little bit fragmented.

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But, every cloud has a silver lining and some even have a brilliant orange lining.  We were blessed with power, water, sewer and cable tv while we waited for our truck to be repaired.  Things certainly could have been a lot worse.

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After two and a half down days we decided we would have to pass on St Louis and other stops along the way to Pittsburgh.  So, we simply drove and parked the next few days.  We passed through all kinds of weather along the way with Tex and Denali powering through it without a hiccup.

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Some campgrounds were more like glorified parking lots with amenities while others were beautiful and tranquil providing the ambience of my idea of camping.  We sought the latter out as often as possible.

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And through all our adventures and misadventures we finally made it to Pennsylvania.


First on our agenda was to catch up with our niece, Niki, and her family.  Joey was just a toddler and Gia hadn’t been born the last time we were in Pittsburgh.  What little cuties they are!

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Like a little parakeet I am forever drawn to bright colors and sparkly things and the glass block windows at Big Jim’s in Frank’s boyhood neighborhood drew me like a moth to a flame.

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Lunch at the Oyster Bar in Market Square also includes a stop at PPG Center to get lost in all the glass and reflections.

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So, here we were in the “Burgh” on a Sunday when the Steelers are playing at home and Frank’s cousin Michael happened to have two extra tickets.  What did we do?  We went to the game, of course!!!  We got to see Franco Harris, my fav, taking selfies with fans.


And we got to see the Steelers make touchdown after touchdown, making new records right in front of us, live, with all the energy of a stadium filled with loyal fans.


In the spirit of the game, Frank pulled out his terrible towel and Steelers colors.

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What a perfect end to the first chapter of our road trippin’ adventure.  We have driven 3841 miles across 10 states in 44 days.  We have had some amazing adventures, and a few not so fun misadventures.  We have met some wonderful people, seen some beautiful sights and eaten a little too well.  In other words, we are living our dream along with all the highs and lows that go with it and loving it all the way.

For those who wish to follow along on our excellent adventure simply subscribe to this blog or check back regularly.  Now that we are getting into the swing of RV life, I’ll share our adventures, photo opportunities, life lessons and more.  But for now, we be “Road Trippin!”

*All images captured, processed and creatively enhanced on my iphone 6+