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Showing posts from May, 2008

The Great Falls of the Missouri River

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Saturday, May 31, 2008 -- Great Falls, MT

This was a marathon day of exploration. We visited three dams, two waterfalls, the largest freshwater spring in the United States, a tremendous Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center, and still found time to fit in a good bike ride along the Missouri River here in Central Montana.

The best of the day was the visit to the Great Falls of the Missouri. The L&C Gang had been told by the Indians that their travel up the great river would be interrupted by a "great falls". When Lewis found the falls on June 13, 1805 he was in awe and found it hard to describe "this truly magnificent and sublimely grand object". He wrote his description as he stood on an island in the middle of the river just below the falls -- the same island we stood on today.



All along the Lewis & Clark trail, so many sites and features have been inundated by water backed up behind dams. The Great Falls was different. Here, a dam was built just above the fa…

"P" is for Pressure

Friday, May 30, 2008

The pressure is building and I don't think I can stand it much longer! There's an unwritten law that makes it a requirement for fulltimers with blogs (which is almost everybody) to write something relating to their thoughts after having been on the road for a full year. And that time's approaching fast for me. The one's I've read have been so profound, philosophical, passionate, and full of perfundity, I'm having a hard time dealing with the pounding pressure.

That said, I can't explain why I feel this is just a perfunctory task. Will anyone care what I have to say? Who could possibly learn anything from my ponderings? But perhaps, just perhaps, I could produce a product that would be powerful enough to propel people predisposed to this predilection to prognosticate and project their pipe-dreams into the prolepsis and pump new pagathers when non existed prior.

Oh, I don't know. Let me work on it.

Thom

An Open Letter to Critics of Our Lifestyle

Fuel prices are at record levels and people are having to adapt. It can be a hardship and the additional money spent for fuel has to come from somewhere else... food? vacations? entertainment? health care? Often, there's not much one can do but pay the price and get mad... and maybe look for someone to blame.

Recently, I've been criticized for driving around in a motorhome -- "a pig of a vehicle that gets less than 10 m.p.g." Specifically, the criticism was the result of a piece I wrote in my political blog that was hard on the President for not using the patriotic fervor after the 9/11 attacks as a catalyst to make the USA independent of foreign oil, or at least, independent of Middle Eastern oil. The writer thought I was a hypocrite.

Simply put, I think the implication was that I have no right to criticize the President if I choose to drive a vehicle that has poor fuel efficiency.

Let me try to respond.

The motorhome is our home, our house -- our ONLY house. It's N…

Drive to Great Falls

Friday, May 30, 2008 -- Great Falls, MT

I'll tell you what, our drive through the mountains yesterday between Helena and Great Falls in Montana was one of the most spectacular I've done. There are about 30 miles of twisting, winding road where I-15 makes it's way through rows of steep-sided mountains showing off their layers of varying and colorful rock. We heard ourselves exclaiming out loud: "wow", "look at that", "amazing".

This area is near what Lewis & Clark referred to as the Gates of the Mountains -- where the Missouri River cut it's own path through these mountains. The Gang was headed West when they first passed through here, and the "Gates" were greeting them to the Rocky Mountains. We, on the other hand, are headed East. As we drove through this area the "Gates" were closing behind us as we left the Northwest and the mountains. Ahead lies broad, flat plains -- "big sky" country. I'm not sure h…

Yellowstone Park

Friday, May 30, 2008 -- Great Falls, MT

This past Tuesday, while in Bozeman, we got an early start and headed into Yellowstone National Park. Brother Bill was our guide for the day. Our route took us from Bozeman, over to Livingston, then South through a 40 mile long valley formed by the Northward flowing Yellowstone River, to Gardiner, MT near the border with Wyoming. Gardiner was the first public access point to Yellowstone Park and is still billed as the only gate open all year long.

As we started, the weather was rainy with low clouds. But as we neared the Park, the clouds lifted and the rain stopped. It was mostly cloudy the rest of the day, but the sun seemed to understand when we needed a little more light for pictures.

A late spring and some additional snow in the past week or two kept at least one high mountain road pass closed. So instead of making the loop from Mammoth to Norris to Canyon Village to Tower Junction and back to Mammoth, we decided to go as far as Canyon Village,…

Rocks in the Gallatin

Tuesday, May 27, 2008 -- Bozeman, MT

34 years ago, in the Summer of 1974, Dar and I were living in Fairmont, MN as a result of a job transfer to my first sales territory for Duo-Fast Corporation. We'd been married for just two years and were still childless. One day we decided to take a weeks vacation, get in my pickup truck, and head for Yellowstone Park.

I won't belabor the rest of that old story except for one small memory of an experience we had along the Gallatin River on our way to the western entrance to the park. We had stayed the night before in a motel in Bozeman. We got an early start and on our drive south that morning we stopped at a large pull-off between the highway and the river. Large rocks, boulders really, littered the area including a number of them out in the riverbed. For a few minutes we climbed around on the rocks and found it was possible to jump from rock to rock and get onto a large one out in the middle of the river.

It was a mountain-cool sunny summer…

Pompey's Pillar

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Monday, May 26, 2008 (Memorial Day)-- Bozeman, MT

Trying to follow the L&C Gang through Big Sky Country takes a little "doing". More so than any other place they explored, they split up and criss-crossed all over the present State of Montana, especially during their return trip in 1806. Our challenge is trying to visit the important sites while keeping fuel expense under control.

Since the route of our exploration when we leave here will take us north to Great Falls and then east along the Missouri River, we needed to do a long day-trip over to Pompey's Pillar, 170 miles east of Bozeman along the Yellowstone River. We made that trip yesterday, Sunday, with my brother Bill as the tour-guide. The weather was cool, low 50's, mostly cloudy with occasional showers.

I never get tired of mountain vistas, especially when accented by low clouds and variable sunshine. The drive to Pompey's Pillar takes us over Bozeman Pass and then along the Yellowstone River as it runs n…

The Missouri River Headwaters

Sunday, May 25, 2008 -- Bozeman, MT

A little catching up is called for.

This past Friday, Dar and I drove about 25 miles over to the Missouri Headwaters State Park. This is a significant Lewis & Clark site. The gang had spent the winter of 04/05 with the Indians in Fort Mandan, ND. In late March of 1805, they left these winter quarters and continued the journey up the Missouri River. Paddling, portaging, pulling, walking, and climbing their way westward, they finally reached the beginning or source of the Missouri here, where the park is today, in late July. It is here where three mountain streams combine to form the Missouri -- the longest river in the USA.

The three streams are the Gallatin, the Madison, and the Jefferson -- all of them named by L&C for prominent leaders of the day. They camped in this area for a few days to heal-up and explore. The determination was made to continue up the Jefferson, the largest of the three, which flowed in a southwesterly direction. They did…

Still Winter in Bozeman!

Thursday, May 22, 2008 -- Bozeman, MT

The black weather-cloud that was over us in Vancouver has caught up with us again. About 20 miles before arriving in Bozeman yesterday, it started raining and snowing and it hasn't stopped yet. The projected outlook for the next 4 or 5 days includes rain daily. And snow above some elevation that right now seems to be about 20 feet above the bus-house. I actually heard a NOAA weather forecast for some higher elevations around here that called for up to 32" of snow today. We did pick up a couple books on the Global Warming problem so we have something humorous to read while huddled around our little electric heater in the event we're trapped in the bus-house by snow drifts this Memorial Day weekend.

This may be a very short summer for Dar and me. Fall is only a little more than three months away!

Today, brother/professor Bill did accompany us to the Museum of the Rockies -- an incredible facility for this town of only 30,000 people. In t…

Over the Continental Divide

Wednesday, May 21, 2008 -- Bozeman, MT

5:00PM: A longer day driving than usual -- for us. It was 225 miles to our campsite at the Sunrise Campground just outside of Bozeman. The weather held out and we had no precip at all until just 20 miles or so from our destination. Then it started to rain and SNOW!.

On the way over from Lolo, we made a beef roast dinner. The roast, potatoes, onions, carrots, and seasoning were all loaded into our slow cooker, which sits nice and secure in the kitchen sink while we're moving down the road. I've heard of people doing this by running the generator while driving, but we did it today by running the inverter. So, courtesy of some solar power (the solar panels produce electricity while driving down the road) and the Cummins engine alternator, dinner was all prepared when we arrived. The only problem with this procedure is the odor of beef roast wafting through the bus-house while driving... it took all my willpower (not to mention Dar's defen…

Moving to Bozeman

Wednesday, May 21, 2008 -- Lolo, MT

7:30AM -- 45f this morning with partly cloudy skies, and a good chance for rain today.

We're pulling up stakes today and heading to Bozeman, a drive of about 200 miles. My brother Bill is a Professor at Montana State, and we're hoping he'll be our tour guide for a few days. It'll also be a great place to get away from the Memorial Day weekend camping crowds.

Yesterday, Tuesday, we checked out Missoula and visited the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula. Established in 1877, Fort Missoula was intended to serve as a major military outpost for the region, primarily for the protection of a rapidly growing population of settlers. Being an open fort design, it never had walls or stockades.

One of the units stationed here in the late 1800's tested the use of bicycles for military operations -- with the hope that these two-wheeled machines could replace horses in some cases. In one of these tests the regiment rode from Missoula all the way to…

Travelers Rest

Monday, May 19, 2008 -- Lolo Square Dance Center and Campground near Lolo, Montana

Yesterday, Saturday, we boogied out of our one-night stand at Lolo Hot Springs and headed down the road toward Lolo. (All these "Lolo's" are getting confusing.) The distance is only about 25 miles. With that short a distance to go it didn't make sense to take the time to hook up the car behind the bus-house. So Dar took the car, left about 20 minutes ahead of me, with the intention of scouting ahead and checking out the options.

On my way down the mountain I came upon a string of traffic stopped in the road ahead. My first thought was a construction zone. But it's Sunday morning! Then I saw people out of their cars and milling around talking to one another. Hmmm. Maybe it's an accident? As I drew closer to the stopped line of traffic, I could see smoke ahead. Hmmm. It must be an accident. Wait a minute... Dar went ahead of me... I hope she wasn't involved. About then I got a …

Up and Over Lolo Pass

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Saturday, May 17, 2008 -- Lolo Hot Springs RV Park

9pm Note: This entry will be post-published at a later date, as we don't have either internet or cell phone coverage here at Lolo Hot Springs.

Weather was warm, unseasonably warm, and bright blue clear skies. Even at Lolo Pass, the mercury was hitting the upper 70's. The locals were all grumbling: prefer to see the snowpack melt slowly and concern about fires. While there was above average snow in the mountains this past winter, the valleys below and to the east received less than normal precipitation. It's dry.

We left Orofino about 10am. Hwy 12 goes south for a while before turning more eastward at Kooskia. I don't know if it was the fact that it was Saturday morning or if there just isn't that much traffic on this route, but we encountered few cars along the way and even fewer trucks. It's always a concern of mine when driving this big bus-house down narrow two lane roads -- especially in mountainous areas wh…

Warm Sunny Friday Morning

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Friday, May 16, 2008 -- Orofino, ID

8:00am My internal clock and sleep cycles must be driven by daylight. During the winter I have no problem climbing in bed early and sleeping soundly until 8am. But during the summer, with those long hours of brightness, I rarely get to bed before 11pm and as soon as the sun is up, I'm up. This morning I awoke at 5:20am and tried to get back to sleep until giving up and just getting up about 6am. It was just too bright.

We toyed with leaving the Orofino area this morning, a day ahead of our plan, because of the threat of some flooding here and along parts of our route over the mountains. But between the sense of adventure ("You call this a flood!??"), and a desire to spend a little more time on a nice day in the Orofino area, we canned the idea, stay for the day, and will head over the mountains tomorrow. Ain't it fun?

Speaking of fun... here's the latest hydrograph from NOAA for the Clearwater at Orofino. Click on the thumbnail f…

"God Willing and the Creek Don't Rise"

Thursday, May 15, 2008 -- Clearwater Crossing RV Park in Orofino, ID

10pm. Did I mention this morning that we're parked right on the banks of the Clearwater Creek here in Orofino, and that we're probably just 10 or 12 feet above the level of the water? Due to warm temperatures, the snow pack in the mountains east of here is melting fast and the river is rising. This past winter's snows were heavier than normal and the temps the past few days have been warmer than normal -- not a great combination if you live close to a creek or river in these parts. The NOAA hydrograph link I included in this mornings post has a forecast for the next few days -- by Sunday the river here in Orofino should be at "major stage", which is higher than it's been for many years. Major stage is about 10 feet higher than the river is right now, and it'd be real close to coming over the banks here at the RV park. As of now, that crest isn't predicted until Sunday. Did I mention t…

Mountain Streams

Thursday, May 15, 2008 -- Clearwater Crossing RV Park in Orofino, ID

A short drive over to Orofino from Lewiston yesterday, only about 50 miles. But the drive was along the fast-flowing Clearwater River and around every bend in the road is a new visual treat. I don't know what it is but I feel at home amidst these steep hills and mountain streams.

At least this time of year the Clearwater is no lazy slow calm river. The weather is warming quickly -- predicted highs in the 80's this weekend -- and the above-average mountain snow-pack is melting fast. Where we're parked in Orofino, at the Clearwater Crossing RV Park, the bus-house is right alongside and about 12 feet above the river. But by Sunday or Monday they're predicting it'll rise by another 8 feet or so. We're keeping an eye on it as the bus-house is not seaworthy. Here's a link to the river guage here in Orofino: Link to NOAA Hydrograph

Today we're on the L&C hunt, checking out historic sites in …

Chasing the L&C Gang up the Hill

Tuesday, May 13, 2008 -- Hells Gate State Park near Lewiston, ID

So here we are in Idaho, in hot pursuit of the Lewis & Clark Corps of Discovery (about 202 years too late) as they head back east to report their findings to President Thomas Jefferson. The trail may be cooling, but our intrepid explorers are still able to find evidence of their passing.

The route today was down Hwy 12 from where it leaves the Columbia River near Wallula, WA. and heads east past Walla Walla (what a great name for a town)... (and what great onions they grow!) through the large rolling hills of Eastern Washington. We ended our travels today at Hells Gate State Park just south of Lewiston, ID. right along the banks of the Snake River. I was a little disappointed to find the Corp of Discovery didn't stay at this park despite it having full hookups and flush toilets -- but who's to say what mountain men of the early 19th century wanted!

But we're finding this park has it's problems too. Firs…

Wallula Gap

Tuesday, May 13, 2008 -- Umatilla Marina & RV Park, Umatilla, OR

This past Sunday our intrepid explorers set off upstream along the Columbia to check out a few Lewis & Clark sites between here and where it joins the Snake River at Pasco, WA. The Corps of Discovery traveled through this area in October 1805 on their way to the Pacific Ocean, and again in April 1806 on their way back east. The weather was partly cloudy but the wind was just howling -- 25 - 30 mph with gusts up to 40 or more.

Of particular interest is the geology of the area. In the big bend area of the Columbia River (where the river, which comes down from central Washington from the Northwest, makes a turn before flowing West, through the Gorge, and on to the Pacific) there's a gap in the high basalt buttes through which the River flows. This gap, known as the Wallula Gap, is only a mile wide and the surrounding steep-walled basalt cliffs are a thousand feet high. As the glaciers of the last ice age melted ab…

From Rain Forest to Desert

Sunday, May 11, 2008 -- Umatilla, OR

It was an easy drive over to Umatilla from The Dalles area yesterday -- almost ideal driving conditions. We used I-84 despite a preference for less intense roadways. With staying almost two months in Vancouver, Dar hasn't driven the bus-house since early March and she was eager to get back into the saddle. The trip was a little over 125 miles. We're parked right along the Columbia River at the Umatilla Marina & RV Park.

Traveling up (or down) the Columbia, you experience the most dramatic change in geography as anywhere in the world. In just a few miles you move from the rain forest (80 inches of rain or more per year) of the Cascades to the high desert (8 inches of rain per year) of Eastern Oregon and Washington... from dense forest with trees larger than most people have ever seen to barren hillsides with little more than sporadic grass and brush. You can literally see the line along the opposite bank near The Dalles -- there is dense f…

Upriver Along the Columbia

Saturday, May 10, 2008 -- Memaloose State Park near The Dalles, OR

Today we're heading upriver again, about 125 miles to Umatilla, OR., a town of about 5,000 people on the south shore of the Columbia where it begins it's big bend toward the northwest and into Washington. There are some good Lewis & Clark points-of-interest in this area as they spent a few days in this area preparing for the run downriver to the ocean.

Winds are light on our back, skies overcast, no rain in the forecast -- almost ideal driving conditions.

T

Exploring the East End of the Columbia Gorge

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Friday, May 09, 2008 -- Memaloose State Park near The Dalles, OR.

We explored all day yesterday. By the time we got back to the bus-house, enjoyed a little wine, and had dinner, I was too tired to write anything that would make sense to anybody. We did have a meeting of the board of directors before retiring for the evening and decided that we'd stay here at least one more day. That took a little pressure off the guy trying to document our travels -- he can do it in this morning.

I've always heard how windy it can be in the Columbia Gorge, but it wasn't until the last few days that I've experienced it to this extent. Locals say it's been a windier than normal spring, but a brisk westerly wind is part of the environment here. Trees that grow in the direct path of the wind have their branches predominantly on the down-wind side of their trunks. Apparently, any branches that do get started on the up-wind side are bent and twisted by the constant wind and never have a ch…

The Third "Hook" Day

Wednesday, May 7, 2008 -- Memaloose State Park near The Dalles Oregon

No one was moving quickly this morning -- or anxious to get the bus-house on the road. But eventually, after more coffee than either of us needed, things started to come together and we had everything in travel-ready condition by a little after 11am. Daughter Andrea brought Ryan and Evan over to make sure our "grandkids" tank was topped off. I was just going through the motions, like in a daze, you know?

After we were all set to go, in a typical display of procrastination, I proposed we should all have lunch together! Yeah, that's it, lunch! We've got to eat something anyway. We've got to keep our nourishment up. So off we went to Burgerville (a wonderful local fast food chain) and stretched out our time together a bit more.

By 1pm, we just couldn't delay any more. Now we had the clock pushing us too. So we hooked up the toad, shed a few tears, waved, and blew the air-horns a few times... and …

Where Has the Time Gone?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008 -- Vancouver, WA

The past two wonderful months have evaporated faster than a puddle in the hot Arizona sun. But tomorrow, Wednesday, we're heading out, leaving our Vancouver Family behind. It'll be a sad day, with emotions raging and tearing at us -- after just two months there are roots developing that won't be easily pulled. On the one hand, we started this sabbatical project for the purpose of seeing and experiencing North America, and we've only just begun. There's so much more to see and do. On the other hand, we have two of the greatest grandkids ever (who have the greatest parents ever), and we know they'll have changed so much by the time we see them again. For two months, we've become part of their regular lives and now we're leaving. Will they understand? Will they remember us? The next time we visit will we be able to pick up where we've left off? I'm sure we will, but there's that lingering doubt.

Tomorrow, we&…

Project Day

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Friday, May 2, 2008 -- Vancouver, WA

We had a nice day Thursday, yesterday. Since we're getting down to the last few days, we took advantage of the weather and finished up a few projects around the ol' bus-house.

First, we installed the windshield sunscreen that we'd ordered a few weeks ago. When we're parked facing unshaded sun, especially in the summer, that big windshield allows a lot of solar heat energy to come into the bus-house and heat things up. This sunscreen will reduce the heat-gain. It's made of a heavy woven poly fabric that blocks 90% of the incoming sun's rays. Because solar rays don't produce heat until they hit something, it's important for this material to be on the outside of the bus-house -- so the heat says outside. In addition to reducing heat-gain, it helps reduce damage to fabrics, plastic, and leather interior surfaces.

The process of installing the sunscreen isn't easy due to it's size. After borrowing a second ladder fr…