Thursday, June 30, 2011
Tuesday morning we hit the road for Flaming Gorge National Forest Recreation Area. We are set up in a place called Firehole Campground. The close up landscape is small, scrubby plant life and a lot of sandy, desert type soil. The views, however, are pretty spectacular:
View from the recliner inside the camper. View from a short distance away.
We had a lot of fun fitting the camper in a space designed many years ago when campers were not quite so big. We did manage to get squeezed into place though. These sites were set up with a sheltered, partially covered picnic table area.
We munched away on grilled turkey burgers and potato chips. Dessert was a new lite ice cream from Wal-Mart. Small individual portions that are quite tasty and low-cal at 150 calories each. It was a little warm when we arrived, but began to cool down about 8:00 pm. By nightfall it was comfortable for sleeping with just a couple of open windows providing a breeze in the bedroom.
Wednesday morning the sun was shining on the canyon walls to our west and the air and the water were dead calm. It was really spectacular. For the first time on this trip, we sat outside with our coffee looking at the view and letting the dogs run around in our sight at all times. There are not many others camped here. Two sites have tent campers and that is all besides us. I had two inspections to do in nearby towns, so I headed out about 7:30 am. I found a Starbucks in Rock Springs where I could use their internet to take care of e-mail and fill orders from my Internet business.
After the two inspections, I returned to the campground about 3:30. It had been windy and warm all day. Rosie and the puppies had been for two “long” walks, so the puppies were pooped. I still got a glorious reception on my arrival. Doggie love is so special.
The wind is picking up as a I write this and there were a few rain sprinkles. I am grilling pork chops for dinner and we hope to eat outside if the wind calms down (which it should). Tomorrow we head for home. I have an appointment at the Chevy dealer for my last complimentary oil/lube jobs on the truck. I don’t know why, but last year, Chevy sent me a coupon for 4 free oil changes from July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011.
Next Monday is the 4th of July and we are a attending a dinner party at our friends, Joe and Anne’s home. Tuesday morning we hit the road for southern California where we will sit in one place for 8 days while I do some work and we visit family and friends. The blog will continue next week from Three Island Crossing State Park near Glenn’s Ferry, ID.
Saturday, June 25, 2011
We pulled out of Idaho Falls on Thursday morning about 9:00 am after dumping the holding tanks and refilling one empty propane tank. The drive through West Yellowstone (the town, not the park), then north to Bozeman and east toward Columbus was uneventful UNTIL we made our usual off site pullover to let the dogs run and to stretch a little ourselves. During my walk around the truck and rig, I noticed the right rear tire on the truck was very low (40 psi).This is not a good thing. I pulled out the air compressor, fired up the generator and pumped the tire back up to 80 psi. By the time I got the air compressor put away, the pressure was down to 70 psi. I checked Barbie (our GPS) for the nearest Tire Store; 28 miles away in Big Timber, Montana. So, we got back on I-90 and headed east. I angled the right side rear view mirror so I could keep an eye on the tire. It was obviously low, but not flat. We limp into small town tire store where the shop owner takes the tire off the rim, looks at it and says “It toast”. The tire has “separated”, something I had never heard of, but later found to be a not unusual occurrence on tires carrying heavy loads. “I only got one tire that will fit” he says. How much, I say. He checks and says “$215”. Well, this is one of those times when you are a captive customer. I could not go shopping around for tires. So, $215 later, we are heading towards our destination in Columbus, Montana. The only good thing about this situation is there is no sales tax in Montana. We pull into the City Park there about 5: 30 pm, an hour and a half later than expected.
Did I mention the City Park in Columbus is on the edge of the Yellowstone River? Like every river in the country in Spring and early Summer of 2011, the river is fast and rising. We met my brother, Jon and his wife Dawn and set up the camper in what we thought was a great spot. We had my world famous chili for dinner and then it started raining a little bit, then it stopped. We sat around the campfire until about 10:00 pm and called it a night. Waking up Friday morning at 5:30, a look outside reveals puddles of water where there were no puddles the night before. Jon says the river is still rising, causing the ground water in the park to seep out to the surface, sorta like a lot of little “springs” were bubbling up all around us. We relocate to the highest ground in the Park. About 4:00, my brother Ron and his wife arrive in their motor home along with my sister Deloris. Several relatives of Dawn arrive a little later. About 6:30 we are making dinner plans for a communal pot luck. The local police come by and tell us we have 30 minutes to evacuate, they are closing the park because of flood potential from the still rising river. So we go to Plan B; we all head to Jon and Dawn’s house in Billings. She had prearranged for Ron and I to park our big rigs in a commercial contactor friends parking lot near their house. We prepare all the food for our pot luck; ribs, brats, chicken, various salads, etc. and are dining in the back yard. Just as we are finishing up the meal, a huge dark cloud comes overhead; lightning, thunder then a driving hard rain. I got soaked walking the dogs back to the camper; where I waited out the storm with Sammy and Annie. When the rain diminished (not stopped), I left the dogs and headed back to the house. We had a yummy cake and ice cream desert (it was somebody’s birthday).
After a night to think, I decided it would be the safest to get a new set of tires for the truck. So off to Wal-Mart where I got a great deal on good tires. I put the new tire purchased in Big Timber on as the new spare. My old spare had never been used, but was 7 years old. So now I have a $215 spare tire. We had lunch in the camper and went to Jon’s house to visit a bit and take the annual group photo.
Saying our goodbyes until next year, we headed down the back highways towards Cody, WY. We set up at the Buffalo Bill State Park on a reservoir. What a beautiful setting (considering no trees to note). I took a couple of pictures from inside the camper looking out.
After a fine meal of linguine with Rosie’s famous meat spaghetti sauce, we took the pooches for a walk. We are settling in for the night. We will be here until Tuesday. I have a work appointment in Cody on Monday at 9:00 am; other than that it is relaxation time We are really liking the idea of spending a lot more time in the camper.
Monday, June 20, 2011
Tuesday evening I went to the office at the campground to check on the likelihood of the river cresting into the campground overnight. I was assured if that were a probability, the Sheriff’s Department would already have come by to evacuate all of us. That was a relief. While I was in the office a man came in seeking help with a cell phone. He spoke with a distinct German accent (how would I know that), so I asked him where he lived in Germany. He says, Heilbronn; and I about fell over. I was stationed in a small army base in Heilbronn for 30 months from 1962 to 1965. So I pumped him for information about the current status of my old army base (or Caserne as it is called in French). He said it had closed long ago. He and his wife and another couple had flown into Denver and were on a circle tour of the Tetons, Yellowstone, the Black Hills and the Badlands. An interesting small world story. How unique is it to run into a German from the town I was stationed in back in the ‘60’s here in a small town campground in Wyoming.
When we rose to a beautiful day Wednesday morning the river had risen a few more inches. Not close to getting into the campground, but I wondered what the next few days would bring. We hitched up and got on the road about 9:00 am headed for Hebgen Reservoir in Montana. We entered Teton National Park from the south and then into Yellowstone Park.
There is still snow on the ground in mid-June. Le Grande Teton
We pulled into a turnout in Yellowstone Park and had a leisurely lunch. We let the puppies run in the woods nearby. They love all the smells that only dogs can smell; running around with their noses close to the ground. You gotta wonder what they are thinking when they stop and take a deep sniff at some particular spot. Anyway, we sat on a fallen tree and did a little sniffing of the forest air ourselves.
Arrived at the Lonsomehurst Campground at Hebgen Lake about 3:00 in the afternoon. Lo and Behold; a minor miracle occurred. One of the four sites that have electricity was available; and it was large enough for our 34’ rig. Oh Joy. This means satellite TV is in our immediate future (some roughing it campers we are). After we got all settled in we went for a walk around the campground and discovered our friend from last year was also here, camped in the same spot he had in 2010.
Thursday morning we took a day trip further back into the woods along the lakeshore. Let the dogs out to run loose when we found an open area with no one around. On the way back to the site, we turned a bend in the road and there was a mama black bear with a little bear cub walking on the road. Mama got between us and the cub until the cub could get into the woods. I am glad we were in the truck. Unfortunately, we had not brought the camera along so missed an opportunity for a really cute picture.
That evening we had a spectacular moonrise over the lake.
Our daughter Michelle arrived about 4:30 in the afternoon. She was on the downhill side of a national book signing tour promoting her recent book, “Pit Stops”; a story about a cross country trip she took in 2009 with a rescued pit bull dog to bring about a general awareness of the myths and misconceptions of the Pit Bull breeds. She had left California several weeks earlier and driven across the south to Florida, up the east coast to Baltimore (where the Mayor of Baltimore bought one of her books), and back across the mid-west catching up with us here. She will have a book signing event at the Animal Shelter in Idaho Falls on Saturday. You can follow her blog about her travels at www.pitstopsbook.com .
Friday morning I drove up to Bozeman, Montana for a work assignment that took most of the day. I got back to the site about 6:00 pm, just in time to grill up salmon for Rosie and Michelle, with a couple of turkey bratwurst for myself. It was starting to drizzle a little, so we all spent a quiet night inside the camper.
Saturday morning I set up the tripod for a family photo.
During this trip Rosie and I continued our ongoing conversation about the possibility of taking a couple of years and going “full time” in the camping lifestyle. We are not getting any younger, but we are currently in pretty good health. We really love traveling around the country seeing beautiful places and meeting new friends. So now might be the time to take the plunge. We did not come to a final decision on full timing, but we did decide to go on a trial run by taking 6 months and “going south” for the winter. So, sometime in October, we will close up the house, hitch up the camper and head in a generally southerly direction. So be warned all of our family and friends in California, we may be stopping in for a visit sometime over the winter months.
We head back home this morning (Saturday) for Michelle’s book signing event and a party we are having for her at our house Sunday evening. Next Thursday we are back on the road headed to Columbus, Montana for a gathering with two of my brothers and their families. I will be back at the blogosphere in one week.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
We are wondering if summer will ever arrive in 2011. June 12th and it is raining and cool when we hook up and head towards West Yellowstone, Montana. We travel in a steady rain into the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park. From that point the rain tapers off until about halfway through Yellowstone it stops and it is just a cloudy grey overcast. Hardly any animals in sight through the park; only a few bison. We were shocked to see Yellowstone Lake is still frozen solid. There is still substantial snow above 7,000 feet; sometimes 8’ high on the sides of the road. Our destination today is Cody, Wyoming. We set up for one night in a decent RV Park on the east side of town. There is a small lake across the highway, so we took the pooches over there and let them run free for a bit. Set up the DirectTV dish and had it working in less than 10 minutes. We are getting better at this process of satellite TV.
Monday morning I fill up with diesel ($3.99 gal.) and head into downtown Cody for my work assignment; an inspection on a company that sells custom made rifles and films hunting video productions in the US and internationally. Back to the campsite to hook up by 10:00 am. Started chatting with a nice couple from Pennsylvania. He is a retired Army guy and they have been all over the world. They were actually living in Berlin when the wall came down in 1989. We meet the most interesting folks in campgrounds. On the road by 11:00 am headed for Dubois, WY. Stopped at Wal-Mart in Riverton to stock up on a few special items for our daughter when she meets up with us on Thursday. Arrived at our campground near Dubois about 4:00 pm. Settled in at a great site in a lot of trees near a river. The river is very high. The house across the river has put sandbags between their house and the river. The water is over the bank slightly, but it would need to rise 18 to 24 inches (my casual observation) to get over into the campground. This is a very nice place. Rosie thinks it is “spiritual” here.
Full hookups, cable TV, Wifi and cell phone service. How good can it get for campers? Dinner was linguini with meat sauce and garlic toasted French bread. Yummy! The only rain today was a short shower just east of here. It did rain during the night, waking us up about 4:00 am. I rose at 5:45 am, started the coffee and took the puppies out for their morning communing with nature (potty call). As we finished breakfast we looked over at Sammy and Annie and this is the look we got:
This is the “So when are going for a walk, mom and pop?” look. After a nice journey along the river, we returned and I got dressed for my assignment in Dubois. I was doing an insurance inspection on a camp for Developmentally Challenged Teens. It is located on a nearby mountain top and was very interesting to see.
One of the camp counselors had carved this eagle from a tree stump last year. This is the view from the camp. This job took about an hour and a half. On the way back to the camper, I stopped at Daylight Donuts (a local favorite) for a “pine cone”; think apple fritter, but 3 times the normal size. Yum. Yes, I got something for Rosie, too! Filled up with diesel at $4.12 per gal.
We will stay put here for one more night before heading to a forest service campground on Hebgen Lake in Montana. That is about 12 miles west of the town of West Yellowstone. Now that I have finished this blogging task, I need to get on to writing my work reports. Will write more in a few days.