Canada 9, 1st July 2006

In the morning I pulled back on the road, then after only 100 yards there was a turn off to National Forest Campsite. I explored around a touch. There was only one RV there and I stopped to chat. He was the camp host. Is it free here I asked, there is no mention of fees, and there's no one here? So far he said, it's free, it only opened yesterday, but they will be posting fees soon. He said it's a long drag up here from Ogden and we worked out it was a climb of around 4,000 ft.

He pointed to an oil trail on the ground - he had blown up his transmission. Turns out he had pulled a living trailer up behind his small RV, he had never climbed so high before, I suspect he came up much too fast. I didn't say anything but I also suspect he knows that now! With a bit of luck he has only burst an oil pipe.

I'd always thought of Utah being mostly desert, with fantastic scenery, such as the famous parks Canyonlands, Arches, Valley of the Gods, Bryce Canyon, etc etc, but what was this I was finding as I descended to Ogden?

A green valley with background mountains.

Even a rushing stream

and a lake surrounded by green fields.

Then a waterfall even.

I might expect this sort of thing in British Colombia, but Utah? Utah is the second driest state in the whole of the USA.

I phoned Tom Rathke and found his house without problem, in Layton near Salt Lake City. I had hoped to call by Tom a couple of years ago, but had not managed to get there. Today he had only just returned home, he had been out flying dozens of passengers in a 240, 2 flights of around 10 people each, making a change of passengers after 30 minutes.

I'd been hearing a not very serious sounding rattle from the engine, Tom suggested I take it round to Dave's Auto Fixit to have it checked out. They had a listen, had a guess at the problem, a leaking air pipe, and I booked it in next day, 8 am.

Meanwhile Kim, Tom's wife, had decided salmon for dinner. It was delicious. Probably the best dinner I have had since arriving in the USA, and even for some time before that. I parked in their drive for the night.

At the garage they did a full check around, and told me the alternator bearings were finished, the pulley bearings were not good, and suggested replacement of the drive belt while they had everything apart. About $500 total. I said Ok.

Then they said they had checked the engine oil, it was very dirty. I had just checked the oil level, the oil actually was so-so. They said it was 1500 miles past the time for oil change. Well that was according to the sticker. Tim had made an oil change since then but they weren't to know that. They said they could do an oil change for $58. I said just across the street they are advertising oil change for $23, you can read it from here. He said that's different oil, we can do it for $28. Thinking $28 was a whole lot better than $58, and not too far adrift from $23, I said OK to that too.

I was in urgent need of laundry, I had run out of underclothes! There was no laundry near the garage, I phoned Kim who had already offered to put my things through her washer, and said help! She despatched Tom to collect me, and my laundry, from the garage. I whiled away the morning with non urgent emails, took a little lunch with the Rathkes, and Kim took me to the garage to collect my van. It was now working perfectly, total cost was $625.

Kim suggested I take a look at Antelope Island, in the Salt Lake, so I drove along the 7 mile causeway. Wow! Now finally I had seen the Salt Lake. Actually it was not very special but I'm glad I've seen it.

At the entry box I found the entrance fee was $9. Camping was posted at $12. I said is that extra to the entrance? She said no it's one or the other. Now I reckon that $9 entrance is a bit steep, but to pay, effectively, $3 for camping on top of that, including entry for tomorrow, is a bit of a no brainer. So that's were I am now, I've driven around, had a look at an old farm, watched some bison

and some deer, and found a full bag of dirty washing that would have fitted in the machine with the second load that Kim made for me. Grrr!

I thought about floating but decided no - I've already floated in the Dead Sea. Because of the high salt content you float higher, you can do silly things like lift your leg in the air while floating on your back.

I'm at the campsite.

I've been pondering my onward route. It's 750 miles to Eugene Oregon and the obvious route is not very interesting, but I think I've found an acceptable variation without too much freeway.

There's no traffic problem for this lady and her 3 babies.

Driving off the causeway I noticed a balloon drawn on the road surface.

Backing up a little I could see the story. Stick man dropping out of the basket head first into the jaws of some fearsome water monster being watched by passenger. Pilot of course is in the centre of the basket, more concerned with regaining control of distorted shape balloon, climbing steeply after loss of passengers weight, he's not concerned with subsequent external events.

Whilst looking for a connection I drove round a new estate, lots of very nice large houses, I was very impressed with the prosperity of the area, there are really lots of nice houses all around.

I'd noticed a mention of Hill Aerospace Museum and luckily saw a sign to it. This a replica of a Wright Burgess plane, with a replica of the original Wright plane above.

Of course there were lots of military craft too, too many even to get inside the huge hangars. They claim probably the largest collection of vintage military craft in the US. Inside there was a Blackbird, this is the incredibly fast stealth aircraft, one record being London to New York in 1 hour 40 minutes. I had no idea it was so big - almost no wingspan but it's huge.

I tucked myself into a piece of National Forest for the night.

It turned out those bushes on either side were handy. There was constant traffic up and down the gravel road alongside. ATV's (all terrain vehicles - quads in English English), motor bikes, pickups, cars, living trailers, animal trailers. I didn't see a push bike, just about everything else except an artic (a semeye in American). But all produced rolling dust clouds past the van - I was parallel to the road, and shielded by those bushes.

There's a lot of fruit grown in this valley. I have bought cherries and raspberries (very cheaply) from a roadside stall which made a good finish to my dinner, corn on the cob to start, main course sweet and sour chicken, bought frozen, and cooked in the frying pan (skillet).

I might give up on American translations and leave you to figure out other stuff like degrees centigrade, metres, bonnets, boots, windscreens, etc etc.

Later - it's 10 pm, it's just come on to rain heavily. I think, with evil laughter, that'll cut down on those ATV's driving up and down. I might get a quiet night. Except of course, my roof is plastic so the rain rattles on it. Maybe the biter is bit.

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