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Showing posts from June, 2012

June 30 - T Roosevelt National Park and Medora

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Friday was our first day exploring the south unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. First off, we stopped down at the visitor center for orientation -- the requisite film on the Park and a walk through the exhibits. The Park Service also has Roosevelt's first cabin, known as the Maltese Cross cabin, right here on the grounds of the visitor center. It's of log construction, built to Roosevelt's specifications, which make it bit more civilized than most of the other prairie cabins of the day... a very livable three room structure with a loft, wooden floors, and a high peaked roof. A ranger-guided tour got us inside.

Following orientation we meandered through the 36 mile scenic drive around the south unit of the Park... a marvelous confrontation with the North Dakota Badlands. It was a very warm day, intense sun and all, which probably kept the wildlife less active than otherwise. But we did see a bunch of bison, wild (feral) horses, prairie dogs, and a few pronghorns. Bo…

June 28 - Miles City to Medora

From Miles City we had a choice of two routes to Medora ND and the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The first, the shorter of the two options, was I-94.  The other was US-12 to Bowman ND, then north on US-85 to I-94 where we'd have to backtrack to the west a few miles before arriving in Medora. Any guesses what we chose?

Once again, US-12 didn't disappoint. We went through Plevina MT and Baker MT before crossing the ND border. The next town was Marmarth... the largest city in Slope County North Dakota. By the looks of things, the population of Marmarth has declined further since the 2010 count of 136 people... and this is the largest community in the entire county. Didn't see a soul out as we passed through, and the few commercial buildings looked abandoned and boarded up.

After turning north on US-85 we passed through Amidon, the county seat of Slope County. Notable for being the third least populous county seat in the nation, the 2010 census counted 20 people who claim …

June 27 - Historic US-12 Through Montana

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It was a big day for us... driving more than 360 miles. But that figure only begins to tell the full story of our drive today.

For the record, our route was a simple one... old US-12 from Helena eastward. For those who've forgotten, US-12 is a nearly 2,500 mile route that runs from downtown Detroit to the Pacific Ocean in the State of Washington at Aberdeen. Over the years it's been supplanted by I-90 and I-94 for much of it's length, but significant stretches of it are still ride-able and badged as US-12.


The first third, or so, of our day was positively enjoyable. Very little traffic and a fine road that took us through scenic Montana. Of particular note was a stretch through the Helena National Forest along Deep Creek... simply spectacular. It was slow-going, with twists and tight turns, but an absolute delight. We'll do that stretch again, and perhaps stay along the creek when we have our smaller rig... someday.

But near the town of Checkerboard things ground to a…

June 26 - Montana State Capitol

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This is our 24th visit to a State Capitol Building, and I've got to say... it's beginning to feel a lot like the experience you have when looking for a new house with a real estate agent... after five or six... or ten... they all start to look alike. But we can't stop now... we're almost half way through the list of 50.

"Buck up, old boy... you can do it!"

Unlike many States, this is the only building Montana ever designated as the State Capitol. Admitted to the Union in 1889, they did the right thing by initially meeting at the old territorial capitol, at hotels, at bars... wherever there was a space large enough to get a quorum and conduct the business of State. Some might feel that's the way it should have stayed, but about 1896 a group of legislators felt it was time to create a decent Capitol... a Capitol that would stand up well to the Capitols of surrounding States... a building the people of Montana could feel proud of... a central place you coul…

June 26 - A Hot Time in the Capital City

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Locals here in Montana are telling us it's much warmer than normal for this time of year. And the wind has been a strange bugger too, although I can't say if that's normal or not.  As you picked up in yesterdays post, a fire got started in the hills northwest of Helena yesterday. Driven by 40+ mph winds out of the west northwest, it blackened the skies and burned more than 1400 acres before the winds died down last night and firefighters were able to get a grip on the beast. The latest reports are that 5 homes have burned and many other outbuildings as well.

This fire is very close to our RV Park... at it's nearest, it was only 1.6 miles away. We could see the flames from our camp... could see mature trees give up the fight and explode into flame from bottom to top. And, as I said last night, suddenly the wind shifted. Within just a few minutes it changed from blowing hard out of the northwest to blowing hard out of the south. I'd never seen anything like it befo…

June 25 - From Trout Creek to a Capital Fire

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It was a slow, easy morning, this. And we didn't get rolling out of Trout Creek until just after 10am. We accomplished a lot during our short stay at this marvelous little campground/RV park... including a little laundry, a few words in, and a few more out. The bright clear morning just begged to have a motorhome running down the road splitting the scenery, and that's exactly what happened. We continued our journey eastward (for the most part) and along the Clark Fork River toward Missoula.

It's over a hundred miles to Missoula. We arrived about noon, found some reasonably priced diesel fuel (3.66), found lunch at a Montana Wheat Store, and dropped into the congested zoo known as Bretz RV, one of the big RV dealers in this part of the world. I really don't feel like carrying-on about it... but... why dealers in the RV industry find it so necessary to pack every square inch of their sales lots, their parking lots, the road outside their stores, and the gravel field ac…

June 24 - Goodbye Spokane... Hello Montana

The last couple days have been a blur. Yes, a blur... but an enjoyable blur. It's an overused cliché', but time really does fly by when you're having fun.

Our good friends Jimmy and Julianne... what can I say? They not only made space for us at the property where they're house-sitting this summer... they offered a 15 amp circuit for the bus-house batteries, they fed us, made camp fires for us, had adult beverages available, sparked both thought-provoking conversation and enjoyable nonsense, and had a parade of their friends pop up here and there to spice things up even more. We did a rails-to-trails bike ride and fueled it with the biggest hotdog I've ever seen. We had some alone-time for our work but really enjoyed the together-time around the campfire every night. It was a wonderful visit. Thanks so much you two.  We'll see you somewhere in the Southwest this next winter.

But the journey calls. And we didn't want to wear out our welcome. I think it was Be…

June 21 - Over the Cascades... and the Monashees too

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Anticipating a big travel day, we had the big wheels turning by 8:10am. Deteriorating weather would catch up with us if we tarried too long and both Dar and I wanted the full effect of white snow-capped peaks against a blue-sky background during the drive today.

At Newhalem we were camped at 500 feet of elevation. There are two passes along WA-20 as we cross the top of the Cascades... Rainy Pass, 4,875' and Washington Pass, 5,476'.  They're about 35 miles down (or is it "up") the road and about 5 miles apart. So I guess we got some climbin' to do!

The bus-house was functioning as it should and made easy work of the task. We ran into patches of snow alongside the road at 3,500' and before we reached either summit it was a complete heavy few-feet-thick snow pack. But the temps were mild, the sun working hard, and water running everywhere... drips to trickles to torrents. And light traffic made being here all the more enjoyable.

On the way down the PAC brak…

June 20 - North Cascades National Park

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This is going to be an unusual report. I'm going to write about North Cascades National Park without our ever actually being there. We were close... made it to the visitor center... camped in the Park Service campground... could see mountains inside the Park boundaries... but never actually stepped a foot inside. You see, there's a several mile wide buffer along WA-20 that is not part of the National Park... I'm guessing an accommodation to the Seattle Light power utility that owns three dams along the Skagit River which the highway follows through the mountains. We consider this two night stop our "survey course" of the place, and fully intend to get back here to explore with more vigor in the future.

The Park's purpose is to preserve the wilderness and to provide back country hiking and backpacking opportunities for the public. It's very remote. Technically, there is one little unpaved road about 10 miles south of camp that takes jeepers to a trail he…

June 19 - Into the American Alps

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This morning, Tuesday June 19, we found a hole in the clouds, danced around a few rain showers, hooked up the toad, and headed into the mountains. The past few weeks have been much wetter than "normal" (whatever normal is...). In fact, the weather guy on TV said we had the full month of June's "normal" precipitation... the FULL months worth... by the 10th. And the rain continues.

The route today took us north on I-5 to Arlington where we caught WA-530 through Darrington and up to WA-20, which took us all the way to Newhalem. Once we got off the I-5 racetrack the drive was relaxed and agreeable... quite the contrast with the craziness of the big cities and three or four lanes of concrete full of traffic going 80 mph. We were ready for the change.

Other than knowing we have to cross the Cascade Mountain Range as we head east, I'm not very familiar with the lay-of-the-land in this part of Washington... and was a little surprised to find the elevation of Newha…

June 18 - Our Northwest Visit

Since my posts have been sparse the past few weeks, I really should bring the record up-to-date. My last post really wasn't very informative... maybe this will help.

We spent a total of just over a month in the Northwest, weaving ourselves into the life-fabric of our "west-coast" family. Our daughter and son-in-law, our two grand-sons, our son and daughter-in-law, and all kind of extended family, friends, pets, and more... they all reside out here in the great Northwest.  And we love these Northwest visits almost as much as we love our nomadic lifestyle these days. We get involved with home improvement projects, repairs, kid-sitting, running errands, more kid-sitting, taking kids to school, picking kids up from school, parties, shopping, and so many other things it just boggles my mind.  We wouldn't have it any other way. 

Some years we only get out here for a month... one time in a year.  The last 12 months we've been here twice... last fall and now this spring. …

June 13 - Willy in my Head

The month has evaporated... like a puddle in the desert... and it's time to get back "on the road again".  It certainly doesn't feel like we've been here a full month already, but the calendar doesn't lie. And at the risk of repeating myself for about the 8th time... there's both pain and joy in leaving. It's sooo hard to say good-bye to family... but it's sooo exciting to think about what might be around the next bend or over the next hill as we explore places we've not been before.

The plan at this point is to move up to an RV park not far from JT and Kaytlyn's new home near Kirkland, WA. (Seattle area). We're staying for the weekend and helping them with a couple projects. It'll also give us a little more time with these two. They both work full-time and weekends are about the only time we can really spend good quality time together.

Monday, if the weather gods cooperate, we'll then point the nose of the bus-house east, and …

June 8 - Well, This is a First

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In an effort to stay somewhat close to the run-away technology train... I've recently taken delivery of a small tablet computer (or "device" as some call it). It's a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0... a little 7 inch tablet running the Android operating system. Unwilling, up to this point, to unwrap my fingers from a $500 bill for a real IPad (remember, I'm the guy who still owns, uses, and loves a "flip-phone"), I jumped at the first full-featured tablet for under $250 that came along. The little Tab is getting reasonably good reviews from the technology press and I reasoned that if I didn't make the move now I might be forever relegated to the ancient laptop (remember the abacus?) for the rest of my life.  And, for now anyway, I'm still resisting the tempting dixie cup of Apple Kool-Aid.

But I should add that in composing this post I'm not using the integral screen keyboard ubiquitous to all tablets out there... I mean, that's one of the thi…