Dec 30, 2014

Dec 28 - Vulture Peak hike

GENERAL INFORMATION: (from BLM website) Vulture Peak Trail, seven miles south of Wickenburg, Arizona, is a short but steep trail that takes hikers from the base of Vulture Peak (2,480 feet) to a saddle (3,420 feet) just below the summit in only two miles. From this point, experienced hikers can scramble up an extremely steep and narrow chute to the summit of Vulture Peak itself (3,660 feet). The final ascent is not maintained and should be attempted only by experienced and well-conditioned hikers. Vulture Peak Trail meanders through classic Sonoran Desert landscapes, including dense stands of saguaro, ocotillo, cholla, and other cactus varieties; crosses wide desert washes; and offers dramatic scenic vistas of rugged desert mountain ranges and valleys in all directions.

Congress, AZ
Sun rises in these parts at this time of year about 7:30am. I wanted to be rolling by 10am. A little math here reveals the habits of a slow-starting couple who have grown to really savor mornings with no serious plans or commitments. For me, I use that time to mostly read, sip coffee, and nibble. Whether it’s internet news and commentary, one of the few remaining blogs I still read, or the current book I’m reading… I love those quiet a.m. hours.

Today we decided to hike the Vulture Peak trail. And our objective was only the saddle (see description above) as we need to remind our bodies and minds what hiking is all about again. Recent sedentary habits must be reversed; muscles conditioned and strengthened; and minds re-educated about the joys of getting out and doing physical things.

Even getting to the saddle requires some effort as it’s almost 1000 feet of elevation gain between the trailhead and the objective. The steeper and more challenging climb from the saddle to the top is only 240 feet more in elevation... it looked pretty much straight up. But we decided to go easy and since we’re so close we can always do the summit on a subsequent hike.

Heading south on AZ-89 at 10:15am. The drive to the trailhead can’t be more than 15 or 20 minutes. There are two trailheads for the Vulture Peak trail… the first, suitable for almost any vehicle, is only 4 tenths of a mile off Vulture Mine Road, about 7 miles south of Wickenburg. The second is a little more than a mile further, beyond the first, and is posted as a “4 wheel drive, high clearance only” trail. Since our truck is 4 wheel drive and a quick check below revealed relatively high clearance, I wanted to try getting to the second trailhead… mostly just to do it.

After only a few hundred feet beyond the first trailhead the 4wd trail drops down into a large wash. I stopped at the top of this decline, got out and walked the way ahead to see what we were getting into.

Whether it was the rains of this past wet spell or whatever, the trail was severely washed out. And there was another feature a few feet beyond the washed out portion that would certainly high-center the truck. There was really no decision to make. This was a no-go.

click on image for larger size

I do believe a lighter and much shorter wheelbase vehicle would probably make it by judiciously seeking a best-path and slowly easing around obstacles. Our truck, which actually weighs less than 5 tons (about as much as a modest three bedroom house) and has a 152 inch wheelbase, isn’t in the same category as a Jeep or Razor-type desert-buggy. Being more in the mood for a good hike today instead of retrieving a busted truck from a desert washout anyway, we judiciously returned to the first trailhead and started our hike from there. We needed the walk anyway. Interestingly, during our time in the area I saw only one vehicle traverse that portion of trail that spooked us… and it was a Razor desert-buggy. And there was one Jeep that also declined to give it a go. We never saw even one vehicle in the second 4wd trailhead parking area during our 4 or 5 hours there.

The first two-thirds of the hike to the saddle varies from a little uphill to a lot uphill. Once beyond the second 4wd trailhead there are a dozen or more switchbacks and the trail eventually becomes more about gaining elevation than linear distance. Recommend a very good pair of hiking shoes with aggressive soles that can tackle loose rocks and schluf… and keeping your hands free as you’ll need them to assist in climbing. Dar uses a hiking (or trekking) pole and swears by it. She’s pole-ish. I’ve never gotten into the pole thing. I don’t know why… they just don’t feel right to me.

After 2 hours we found ourselves up on the saddle of the mountain and took a break to absorb and enjoy the views of both the east and west sides of the surrounding valley. Since we were climbing up the west side, those views were old-hat by the time we got to the saddle, but the views of the east side were new… at least from this elevation.

A good number of folks continue on up a much steeper “hand and foot” scramble/climb up an unimproved trail to the top of Vulture Peak. Since we’d already climbed about 1000 feet in elevation, another 240 feet was tempting… and Dar, the energizer bunny on this day, almost convinced me to go. But alas, considering our fatigue from the climb the old man held to our agreement that the saddle was the objective today. We will be back in the next few weeks to make an assault of the summit.

What a great day.

Click here for even more photos from our hike up Vulture Peak.

Not what you'd call an easy walk in the desert.

The trail gets steep and rough.

Composite image looking southeast from the saddle.

Vulture Peak in the background... and Dar.

Teddy Bear Cholla look cute and cuddly... but will reach out and grab you...
and won't let go easily.

Dec 26, 2014

Dec 26 - Experiencing Life at Sun City West

Sun City West, AZ
Can't say I've ever experienced life in a real retirement community until now. My attitude about communities of this type was probably like many other "youngin's":  why would I want to live with so many old people? And there's the fear that if you live with them... you'll rapidly become one of them. No sir, just didn't have any interest in that kind of lifestyle at all.

But a weird thing happened this past week. I'm either softening or actually becoming one of them without realizing it. I'm finding life in a "Sun City" is actually not that bad. I'm finding there are a lot more active (even athletic) folks here than I'd ever have thought. And there are so many recreational opportunities and clubs, groups of people with wide ranging interests (literally, almost anything you can imagine), that if you're so inclined you'd never be bored.

Golf may be a dying sport, in part due to the big and increasing cost of keeping golf courses green in a desert, but there are still plenty of them around to satisfy folks with that weird tendency toward self-flagellation. There are recreation centers with what must be a dozen different racket sport courts. The opportunities to get out and move... to raise your heartbeat above "lazyboy levels" are plentiful. You'll only hasten your decline when you choose not to partake.

There's even a grocery store here that falls in the category of "my kind of place". It has a full service wine and beer bar right smack dab in the middle of the store. Cool.  Offering a large selection of craft beers on tap (along with some unfortunate mundane big brands) and interesting wines, it's the perfect place for a break while your partner does the shopping... or, if shopping alone, a perfect oasis for a respite from the rigors of shopping. This was a first for me. It also gave me hope that the collapse of our civilization may not be as imminent as I thought.

We had a very good holiday here with family. Too much food, a little drink, (but offset with a good vigorous walk), watched a couple movies and actually made one of our own.  If you're into wasting about 6 minutes of your life, you can watch what came out of our attempt to make a Christmas Greetings video for the absent family in the frozen north. [click here]  I hope you all are having a good holiday.

Dec 18, 2014

Dec 18 - Rain and White Legs

Congress AZ
Not sure when this weather pattern will change, or if it’ll change at all this winter, but I’m sitting in the bushouse again today and watching what might be described as a “midwest gully washer”. And today is starting as a replay of yesterday… same thing. This is our 9th day in Arizona and we’ve had some measurable rain on 4 or 5 of those days. The desert needs rain once a year… that’s what the big annual monsoon is supposed to take care of. But the monsoon is over in September... what we're experiencing is not unprecedented, but it's not normal either. In any case, this is shaping up to be an unusually wet December.

Weather patterns often stick around for a while… or an entire season. Whatever it is we’ll deal with it. But it sure would be nice to get a little sun on these lily-white legs one of these days.

Dec 12, 2014

A Seasonal Love Affair

As a Midwest boy, born and bred, I never anticipated this later-in-life attraction for the desert. It’s axiomatic that a person tends to prefer the surroundings that were imprinted on him during childhood, just as your parents religion tends to be yours, and your preferences for food are often right out of your mother’s cookbook. Like it or not, we’re indoctrinated during childhood and neither reason nor reality have much to do with most of our attitudes, preferences, and prejudices.

But my indoctrination to Midwest lush green summers and white frozen winters has faded away in the last few years. Driven by the invention of the wheel and the innovation of putting several of them under your house, adding a motor, and being able to move from one place to another at will, a nomad with a calendar can seek out an optimal environment for living. Perfect all-the-time places only exist in fiction, so to maximize enjoyment one must move once in a while.

Not yet strong or tough enough to sample the desert in the summer, I have fallen in love with her for the winter. The day-long low angle of sunlight and the resulting vistas of popping color, shapes, and shadows; varied landscape reliefs; cool dry air (but warm by Midwest winter standards); unusual interesting plant life; burrowed and sleeping snakes (not a fan of snakes); vast expanses of public lands; and a proper shortage of other people… these are the things I’ve come to love in her.

As so often happens to lovers, the affair is intense but short-lived. Flirtations from other temptresses are noticed… then felt… and eventually lure the fickle nomad to stray. That, and the knowledge that your seasonal desert mistress is going to turn into a hot bitch, too hot to handle, as she does every year, mean it’s time to move on.

But I know, deep down, I’ll be back again. That “feeling” never seems to dissipate completely.

Dec 10, 2014

Dec 9 - Big Tree Weeds and Burgers

This is the post I intended to write last night.


Don't think I mentioned yesterday that we had to stay in "boondocking" at the Escapee Co Op Park in Pahrump. They were full-up. That was OK by us as we're experienced boondockers, it wasn't going to get below freezing, and it netted us another free night. During this four day trip from Sutherlin we stayed in a pay-to-park RV park only once.

Woke to a sunny sky and, after spending more petrodollars on dino juice, we were on the road before 10am. Topping Mountain Springs Summit southeast of Pahrump we dropped down to the Vegas Metroplex and swung onto I-15 intending to exit immediately onto I-215. But nothing doing... they've changed things around this interchange since our last trip and there is now a separate turn for I-215... which I missed. Shit! Now heading north into the area of "the strip", I took an exit with the hope of being able to do a 180 and get back to I-215. I think it was Tropicana Blvd and a 180 we did. Minimal damage except to my orienteering pride.

Steady progress to Boulder City and then across "the bridge" at Hoover Dam. Nothing of note to report as we drove to, then through, Kingman AZ, caught I-40 for 22 miles to where US-93 cuts off to the south toward Wickenburg and Phoenix. A few miles before Wickenburg we turned east on AZ-71 to Congress and then back on AZ-89 to the Escapees Park called North Ranch. This will be our homebase for the next three months.

North Ranch has an Escapees RV Park, but it also has a large community of deeded lot properties. Two good folks from Timber Valley have a couple lots here and, with a proviso, agreed to rent one of those lots to us for the winter. The proviso is that they’re trying to sell the lot we’ll be staying on, and if they do, we’ll have to vacate. Worst case, that means we’ll move over to the RV park which we had intended to stay in this winter anyway. So, for at least a while, we have a nice big lot to bounce around on… and the feeling of being in a more-or-less regular subdivision.

When we arrived at the lot we got out to inspect the RV parking pad and found an oddity: there was a 12 to 15 foot tall tree growing right out of the middle of the pad. Now that’s odd. Why would Bill and Barb put a big tree right in the middle of their RV pad? While we were pondering the situation a couple neighbors pulled up and introduced themselves as Russ and Liz. They were there to chop down that tree, which turned out to be a weed. That’s right, a 12 to 15 foot high “weed”... with a 2” thick base. But a sawzall made short order of the weed, and Russ even hauled it to the plant recycling place on property. Turns out this plant is called “tree tobacco”, is not native to the USA, and actually contains nicotine and other harmful chemicals. Some folks do indeed smoke it too. It also grows so fast it’s being evaluated as feedstock for biofuel production. Hmmm. One neighbor insisted this thing was not there just a couple weeks ago. If that's the case I hope the stump doesn't regenerate and spring up overnight. It could lift and roll the bushouse onto it's side.

Once parked and more or less settled, I treated my sweetie to dinner out. We tried the only sit-down restaurant of note in little Congress… Nichols West. For a Tuesday night it was moderately busy. We both tried one of their burgers and mine, a Bistro Burger with caramelized onions, bacon, goat cheese, and arugula was the best hamburger I’ve ever had. Or, it might have been the best hamburger I’ve had in a long time. Or, it might just have been the mix of a completed trip, a beautiful woman, a craft IPA, and just enough road fatigue to produce the perfect receptive atmosphere. In any case, I’ll be going back for a second shot at that burger… to see if it’s as good as I remember.

Dec 9, 2014

Dec 9 - Arrived in Congress

Just a quick note...  we arrived at the Escapees Park in Congress today.  We're "home" for the winter.  I'm beat... and I'll write more tomorrow.  Time for an IPA, a burger, and a long winter's nap.


Dec 8, 2014

Dec 8 - Sunny Skies and Buzz Strips

Looking back, and then ahead, at the weather situation, it appears the weather gods have smiled on us again. Last weeks news was the large rain/snow/wind event that hit almost all of California before spreading eastward. About everyone knows how much those poor souls in that forsaken state need rain, but when they get it, the hills which were laid bare by the massive fires of this past summer, start sliding away. My god... drought, fire, rain, slides... what have they done to deserve all this?

Well anyway, once that storm passed we took off from Sutherlin. And the "going" has been pretty good. But now we're hearing about the second big storm setting it's sites on the Golden State... one that's supposed to hit them Thursday or Friday. We waddled our way through between storms... almost perfectly timed. By accident, let me assure you.

Tonight we're at the Escapees Coop Park in Pahrump NV after a very agreeable drive from Hawthorne, a distance of about 280 miles.

If I reach way down to the lower reaches of my grumble bag, the only negative I can come up with from the day are Nevada's highway buzz strips -- those noise making strips down the middle and sides of the highway. Admittedly a good idea in most applications, but Nevada gets them so close that there's very little room for driftage, windage, or momentary error. From experience I can tell you that at least some motorhome driver's nerves are frayed after a couple hundred miles of periodic electric-shock-like buzzes from simply drifting a few inches too far to the right, over and over again. OK, I'm done grumbling.

Enjoyed the day immensely. Tomorrow we should be at our destination in Arizona.

Notice the "buzz strips" center and right.

Dec 7, 2014

Dec 7 - A Mellow Nevada Day

Good nights sleep last night, in the Susanville Walmart parking lot. Between truckers and RVers there were only three rigs, and everyone was well behaved. It got a tad cool (high 20s) but had enough battery left this morning to heat the place up without arousing Ginny the Genny.

On the road a little after 9am again, and this being Sunday traffic was on the light side. At Reno we got on I-80. Clearly, regulars on I-80 are NOT church-going people or there'd be a lot less of 'em on a Sunday morning.

At Fernley, a brief stop to top off the wing-tanks of the bushouse. Then US-50 to Fallon where we found US-95 aiming south-southeast. Some might say it's a boring drive but we, both of us, just love those vast expanses of space with minimal interference from homo-sapiens. Here, it's possible to top a "rise" and look down and ahead for 20 miles or more... the thin ribbon of a highway fades to a thread... and... and, once in a while, there's not a car or truck on that 20 mile stretch ahead... not one... and you think "wow... there are still places in this overcrowded world where you can have a solo experience like this". Cool.

This was planned to be a short day. About 220 miles. The highway hugs the shore of a sad dwindling Walker Lake for about 20 miles just north of Hawthorne NV. Once a bustling and popular destination lake for fishing and recreation, the level has declined over 150 feet in the last hundred years... in part due to agricultural irrigation upstream. There's no outlet for this lake. Water comes in and stays or evaporates or soaks into the land. This was somewhat manageable as long as there was an abundance of inflow. When that stops, the lake drops and it becomes a polluted saline sea. The fish are gone (too saline and loaded with dissolved solids) and so are the people who came for the fish.

We're at an RV park in Hawthorne tonight. With our early arrival we thought we'd pop for hook-ups, relax, warm up, and prepare a proper home cooked meal. We also got out for an hour or two this afternoon to explore the area. Besides the evaporating lake, the Hawthorne Army Depot (the area's largest employer) has been in decline for years too. This is a lovely area but so many economic factors seemed stacked against it. For all the negatives the town appears to have done a good job at keeping the wolf at bay. The downtown commercial area has clearly seen better days, but it remains neat and clean... not at all trashy. I hope they find a way to make it work.

Dec 6, 2014

Dec 6 - Began Trip South for Winter

While many RVers have already been at their southwest snow-bird destinations for weeks, maybe even months, we just can’t seem to get the hang of this “get there early” routine. I’m a born and dyed in the wool procrastinator… and a card carrying member of the International Institute of Not Doing Much (IINDM).  I try to always find the upside of not doing something. And in this case, not leaving in September or October like those many others, netted us some true high quality time with family and friends one side or the other of the 45th parallel.

But this morning’s predawn bright moon motivated me to kick my last few preparation tasks into high gear, and get ‘em done. Even a balky motorhome stabilizer couldn’t alter the momentum; we were on our way by 9am. This trip is planned to be a quick one… the primary goal is to get the bushouse relocated to Arizona for the winter months. For the first time, we’re taking two rigs with us: the bushouse to “live” in and the truck/camper to explore with. A side benefit, and one of the reasons we planned it this way, is it gets the bushouse out on the road in a serious way… the first long distance run in over a year. I mean, there’s diesel fuel in the tank that’s over a year old, which really should be used soon or ? could it go bad??

But despite all our abuse by lack of use, the good old bushouse ran like a trooper today. Climbing hills like one of TR’s rough riders, it felt the same as when it was new… almost 8 years ago. It’s an amazing machine and one I’ll be sorry to part with (whenever that time comes).

We took I-5 south into California, swung around the south side of Mt. Shasta on CA-89, to CA-44 near Lassen NP, to CA-36 into Susanville. Found an out-of-the-way spot at the local Walmart and settled in for a quick overnight. Tomorrow’s plan is for only 220 miles… about a hundred fewer than today.

It feels great to be back on the road.  Here are a few photos from our day.

I-5 and Mt. Shasta

Yes Folks... that's snow.

On the brakes while dropping into Susanville. 

Nov 16, 2014

Nov 16 - Pre-Holiday Jottings

Two weeks since my last update to the Journal. On the Verizon/Millenicom issue, our internet service seems to be the same as it was under Millenicom and we've had no interruptions or glitches. Other than the few additional dollars we'll be parting with each month and our preference for dealing with a smaller business than the V-giant, we've come to grips with the situation. Since our usage is usually in the 12 to 15 GB range each month, I don't think we could have done better for the same level of coverage. Internet connectivity for nomads and wanderers is one of those areas where we pay more for less than those living in a fixed location. Could probably get unlimited blazingly-fast internet for half the price if we were chained to a house.

In early November we spent a weekend with our son/family near Seattle and then a week keeping an eye on the grandkids in the Portland area during a week they had early release from school. Somehow during that time we picked up a bug. Was it a good ol' rhino-virus severe cold or a mild case of some flu? Can't answer that definitively. But we were both down and out for nearly two weeks. Certainly better now... almost back to normal.

On the "homebase" front, we're finding the Timber Valley SKP community in Sutherlin very much to our liking. After 7 years of wandering without anything remotely like a homebase, it feels like a luxury. Especially with our new-found interest in small campers, we can leave the big camper here while we explore with the little guy... no added expense or hassle. On top of that we have a small storage building and a wonderful group of like-minded people to make it all interesting. Home when we want... away when we want... big camper... little camper... the flexibility and freedom is very agreeable.

The winter plan at this point is to spend some time with our Northwest family during the next week or so, including Thanksgiving. We'll be back in Sutherlin for a few days and then head south toward Arizona in early December. We're taking both the bushouse, which will be parked and serve as our homebase for a few months, and the truck camper, which we'll use for exploring a few of those more remote places we've been talking about.

This could be interesting.

Oct 30, 2014

Oct 30 - Millenicom Verizon Dilemma

Perhaps "dilemma" isn't the right word, as I don't feel as if we really have any option here. A week or so ago we found out that our internet service provider, Millenicom, was effectively "out of business"... accounts taken over by Verizon. For those that don't know, Millenicom was a bulk re-seller of Verizon broadband, and offered considerably more bang for the buck. When with Verizon we paid $60/month for 5GB of data. Millenicom offered 20GB for the same $60 (which recently jumped to $90). And as i-connected devices have multiplied in our lives, we're using an increasingly larger chunk of that 20GB.

While there are a number of options for mobile internet service, there aren't many good options... at least as far as I'm concerned. Verizon, I'm told, has the most geographic coverage... the most built-out system... compared to competitors ATT, Sprint, T Mobile, et. al. As we travel around we've found that to be the case. Since we've become so dependent on being connected our options boil down to either crawling back to Verizon or drastically reducing our dependence on the internet. At this point, I'm not willing to do the latter. But I'm getting closer.

Some of those reading this are in the same predicament. Verizon has informed Millenicom customers of a number to call for more information and to be set up in their system for billing. Those making contact with V are reporting varying stories, but it looks like the end result will be that we'll be able to keep a 20GB plan for a few more shekels than we've most recently sent to Millenicom. The big problem for me is the reported wait times... up to two hours of listening to bad music and V commercials while waiting to talk with someone. I'm not sure I'll be able to jump this hurdle. I'm not good with lines, waits, or anyone messing with me. And this feels like the big V is messing with me.

Best information I have is that I have until the 8th of November to resolve this.


later in the day addendum:   got V on the phone after waiting on hold for about 15 minutes; did our business, changed over account, set up on V, questions, answers.  Bottom line is this:  will have 20GB for $100 with no contract;  Not happy about the price or the amount of data we're using, but good to know we won't have a break in service.

Now we've got to do a little soul-searching about how much data we're really willing to pay for, and how we can crunch down our demand for data with an eye toward getting the cost down.  It's just stupid for us to kill as much time as we do online. In so many ways it really is just a time waster.

Oct 6, 2014

Oct 6 - Back at Home in Sutherlin

Along the Columbia, s. of the Walulla Gap
We left Cabelas in Post Falls ID without dropping a dime in the store. I know... that doesn't show much gratitude for the free RV parking they offer, but over the years I've spent a lot of bucks with this good company. They probably didn't even notice.

The drive into the Portland area on Friday, the 3rd, was the best of the 5 drives this trip. The route was I-90 to US-395 to the Pasco - Kennewick (Tri-Cities) area where we caught US-12 as it bends around to the east side, across the Snake River and along the Columbia, and down through what's called the Wallula Gap. This narrow opening in the high surrounding rocky hills is what plugged up with ice during the last glacial retreat, creating a giant lake that spread across eastern Washington and into western Montana. When the ice dam let loose... as it did numerous times, the biblical flood of water was so great... of such a proportion... that it literally carved out what we now see as the Columbia River Gorge. Yes, the Wallula Gap is certainly a place to see.

When we reached Umatilla OR, we crossed back over to the Washington side of the river, and took WA-14 the rest of the way into the Portland area. Most people go through the Gorge on the Oregon side, on I-84. A more relaxed and often more spectacular drive can be had by driving down the WA side on 14. That day, the sun was bright, the wind light, and the views?... well,... just the best.

We arrived at our daughter and SIL's place mid-afternoon. The first order of business was hugging the grandkids... and then on to unloading the trailer. Much of what we brought was staying right there. Then, good time catching up with everyone, dinner at a new Chinese restaurant, and more talking until some of us were getting a bit "noddy". Sleep came easily and quickly.

If you had peeked through a keyhole Saturday morning you would have seen 4 people in a queen sized bed. That'd be Dar, 2 grandkids, and me... talking, watching short videos, and horsing around. Of course, we miss these times when we're traveling, but what's that they say about absence?  Something about making the heart grow fonder?

By 11am we were back on the road, heading toward Sutherlin. For the three hour drive we reminisced our trip, talked about the future, and felt good about "going home". There's nothing like the feeling of going home... unless it's the feeling of leaving again on another excursion.

So, how'd the old bushouse make it through the hotter-than-normal Oregon summer? Overall, pretty darned good I'd say. The battery in the car was dead, but the batteries in the bushouse were in tip-top shape... kept that way by the 400 watt solar system. It's a lengthy process to re-commission a camper after returning... especially one in a deep state of mothballs. But system by system, things woke up, fired up, filled up, and lit up. She did good.

Some may remember we caught a mouse a day before leaving last June in one of my always set "tell-tale" mouse traps. This could have been a sign of trouble and we did fear what we'd find when returning. But ultimately there was nothing to worry about. Not a single varmint in any of the dozen or so traps we set. Clean as a whistle.

The past day or two we've also been slowly unpacking and cleaning and doing laundry and reconnecting with friends around the Park.

It's good to be home.

But I can't wait to leave again.


Oct 2, 2014

Oct 2 - Into Idaho with a stop at a tire shop

Yesterday we left Red Shale CG about 8am with promising skies giving us some hope that it'd be a better day. And a better day it was. While we still had the incessant head wind, sun lifted spirits as we moved across Montana.

We stopped at Little Bighorn National Battlefield Monument for a brief refresher in the history of the "white man's" confiscation of the culture and way-of-life of the native American Indian. How can we not be ashamed of what we did to these people? I hope that'd I'd have had the guts to fight back like they did.

Little noteworthy after that as we moved west with our sights set on Bozeman.

One of my brothers lives in Bozeman and we wanted to stop by... spend a little time with him and see the new house he just bought and moved in to. Since it's all so new and he's had so little time to get things unpacked, etc., we stayed in our little camper on the street in front of his house. It all worked out great... this camper gives us great sleeps... and we had a nice time connecting up with him again. Thanks Bro.

This morning Dar woke me from a deep sleep a little after 8am. Yikes... what'dya say there boy... let's get moving. On the road a little after 9am, early fluid exchange, and we're heading west once again.

A little east of Butte we stopped at a rest area where a regular inspection of the equipment revealed a chunk of rubber had liberated itself from one of the old U-Haul trailer tires.  I don't recall if I'd mentioned that this trailer, according to the mfrs. tag on the side, is 32 years old. Judging by visual condition of the tires, they may have been 32 years old too.  What a poor excuse for a rental trailer!  I accept some of the blame for this situation as I didn't do as thorough an inspection before I rented it as I should have.

Regardless, I now had a slowly disintegrating tire (although it still held air), and some quick decisions to make.  First off... call U-Haul roadside assistance and ask them what we should do. We're near Butte and could take care of the situation proactively, or... or... we could wait for the inevitable blow-out further down the line in more inaccessible location that would cost them even more.

In an encouraging sign of reasonableness, they agreed to connect us up with a tire guy in Butte... which we did... and after about 3 hours (there goes the schedule...) we were back on our way west with two new tires, two freshly re-packed wheel bearings, and a little more confidence in an old trailer.

With the delay, we decided to drop anchor near Post Falls ID and Spokane WA... at a Cabelas store again. Tonight we're nestled among the semi-trucks, nice and warm, and looking forward to a shorter drive tomorrow into the Portland area... and one of our other "homes-away-from-home".

G'night All.

Travelers know it's advisable to stop once in a while and
wash the dust from the road from your throat.

Sep 30, 2014

Sept 30 - Another Month Fades... Falling Leaves and Cooler Air on our way West

Sign on trailer seems to indicate at least
it knows where we're going.
Motivated by a ticking deadline to get the rental trailer returned before additional charges are tacked on an already hefty bill for a 32 year old well-used trailer, we bid adieu to family in Beaver Dam and hit the road about 8am on Monday. With the exception of a few showers as we traversed Minnesota, we had reasonable weather for enjoyable travel.

My objective is 500 miles each day, give or take, so we could complete the journey to the PNW in 5 days... even allowing some time for a little factor-fudge (the no sugar added type).

Not a lot to report from Monday's drive... all Interstate all the time... and no stopping for anything other than the normal fluid-exchanges. We pulled into Cabelas in Mitchell SD about 5pm (and almost exactly 500 miles), found a little nearby joint for dinner, and settled down for the night. During the night strong east winds jostled the little camper, but we got a good night sleep.

This morning, Tuesday we woke to more wind, a little rain, and we hustled to get moving by 8am. Once again, a day of Interstate Highways and little else, but the weather was the thorn in our big toe all day. The early tail wind turned into a head wind with a vengeance, rain, heavy at times, low clouds and low visibility, the normal heavy truck traffic... even gaining an hour didn't do much to lift my spirits. But despite all that we did eek out nearly 480 miles and we're in a nice camp with improving weather. Things are looking up.

A word about the camp:  we stayed at Red Shale NFS CG in the Custer National Forest not far from Ashland MT on our way to Wisconsin in July. Since it happened to be in the right spot at the right time during our return trip too, we took advantage of the situation.  In case you forgot, here's what you get... a very un-congested small but rustic facility, it has three things going for it in my book:  few other campers (tonight, only one), a strong Verizon 4G signal, and it's absolutely free of charge. What's not to like.

Cabelas in Mitchell

crossing the Missouri

camp at Red Shale

Sep 24, 2014


Now that we're almost ready to head back to our Pacific NW home, I've reached deep down and mustered up the motivation to finish my backlog of posts from our trip to Wisconsin in June and July. They're done.

The main effort this week is to get everything ready to head back west again early next week. This will be a quicker trip... we'll be moving with alacrity... whoever he is. Don't want to incur any overage charges on the U-Haul Trailer.

Itchin' to get back on the road.

Aug 11, 2014

Aug 11 - Notes from the North

When we last heard from our Intrepid Explorers they were heading north to Door County in Wisconsin. It was just for a weekend... which turned out quite agreeable. We ate too much, picked a bucket-load of really ripe tart cherries (a local specialty), patronized a couple trendy local restaurants, and tried to work off all that food with a good hike along the lakeshore bluffs. Evening campfires were a must.

After a few days back in Beaver Dam to resupply we were again heading north. This time the destination was a small NFS campground at Colwell Lake in the Hiawatha National Forest. Dar's family has made camping here a tradition that's nearing a continuous 20 year run. The lake itself is small... about 80 or 100 acres... but large enough for fishing and water-skiing.  And water-ski they do, with several among them veteran bare-foot water-skiers. Here again, the nightly campfires are a highlight. And, of course, we ate too much, drank too much, and had a great time. I did have a moment of catharsis when I realized I was the oldest of the 20 or so people around the campfire one night. I got over it.

Cell phone and internet availability are spotty at best at Colwell Lake... so, other than a couple quick trips into Munising, we were "in the dark" for much of the week. Being away from all things electronic for a few days ain't all bad. You learn to adapt, find other things to do, read, and think a little differently than when you're a slave to the hand-held gizmo.

From there Dar and I headed over to our favorite Camp S... a private facility near Michigamme. Here, we hope to spend a few quiet days working and getting caught up again on photos and posts to the blogs.

A few pics from our week... (more can be seen by clicking on our Photo Albums tab above)

Trumpeter Swans at Seney Wildlife Refuge

Pictured Rocks Natl. Lakeshore and Lake Superior

Seem to find these wherever we go.

Breakwater in Grand Marais


Beyond Branson; Pondering Future Travel

This past Tuesday, we moved from Branson to a very nice Corps of Engineer’s Park on Wappapello Lake.  We’re in the Redman Creek CG. This fac...