Making a Beeline for Oregon

Once we were finished effecting repairs resulting from our tire blowout in Nebraska, we headed for western Colorado to meet up with our friends Robin and Larry from Texas. We were to meet them at Mineral Creek, a national forest campground near Silverton. We had met them for the first time at this same campground two years ago and hit it off so well that they came to visit us briefly while transiting from Montana to Texas earlier this year when we were camp hosting at Flaming Gorge, Utah. We had vowed to meet up again in the fall at Mineral Creek. I guess it was a form of reunion, although delayed by more than two weeks due to the blowout. Being the folks that they are, they waited the two weeks for us to catch up.

 

 

 

 

When we finally got there, we got to meet and share fun times with THEIR friends Linus and Kaye from Michigan. We all share a love for this area of Colorado and we REALLY enjoy jeeping together, which we did over several days. What a great time.

This is a photo of Linus and Kaye heading up the trail.

 

 

 

And this one is of Larry stopping to put on something warmer as we head up to Yankee boy Basin where it was trying to snow.

 

 

This is just another spectacular Jeep trail. Elevation about 10,000 feet;

 

 

After 10 wonderful days spent between Ridgway, Ouray, and Silverton in Colorado, we said goodbye to Robin and Larry, our friends from South Texas, and pointed our rig toward Oregon.

 

 

But not before taking a photo of our beloved area surrounding Ridgway, Colorado, a place we keep returning to. You can see why.

 

 

Linus and Kaye had other commitments and had to leave several days beforehand. We had a wonderful time with them, sharing meals, playing “Sequence” and taking Jeep trips. Having said goodbye to Linus and Kaye earlier, it was now time to say our goodbyes to Robin and Larry. They were headed home, and we were headed…………somewhere.

Our original plan had called for us to arrive in Winchester Bay, Oregon in mid-September AFTER camping in Colorado. But after having our tire blowout in Nebraska, our plans fell apart, or were at least delayed. So, as we waved goodbye to Robin and Larry, we had to decide if it might not be too late for the crabbing season at Winchester Bay in Oregon. After a couple of phone calls, we were told that September and October were great months for crabbing, and that October was better than September.With that information in hand, we made a decision to make a beeline for the Oregon Coast. Covering 1200 miles in 5 days, we arrived at the marina in Winchester Bay on Sunday, October 15th.

 

Our camp at the Winchester Bay Marina.

 

 

Crabbing is addictive. And, although on a lesser scale cost-wise, it can be similar to boating wherein a boat is just a hole in the ocean in which you pour money. Although we had spent time in Winchester Bay last year, our time was spent meeting folks and learning the basics of how to crab. But we did not actually do any crabbing. Having watched others, and having been gifted with several pounds of freshly caught Dungeness Crab, we were hooked, so to speak. We promised ourselves that we would return, and here we were a year later.

There are many different ways to crab. From a boat, or from the shore or dock. With a pole, or with some form of trap on a line or rope. We had none of these things when we arrived. I had been intrigued by the idea of using a fishing pole and a “book” type of trap. Unfortunately, all our fishing poles are for trout fishing and neither the poles or the fishing line were strong enough for crabbing. So, our first order of business was to purchase a suitable heavier duty pole and reel and line. After inquiries, we were told that a “salmon” pole and reel will do, along with line of 15-20 pound test. Nearly $50 later, we had ourselves a Abu Garcia “salmon” rod and reel filled with 17 lb. test fishing line.

The crab trap that is usually used with a fishing pole is referred to as a “book” trap, basically a rectangular wire frame with netting. You hook it to your fishing line and, after baiting it, you cast it out or straight down. As it settles on the bottom where the crab are (crab don’t swim), the trap lays flat, as if an open book. But when you reel it in, the trap closes, as if closing a book, hopefully with one or more crabs trapped inside the closed “book”. We had no “book”-type crab traps. So we bought one at Walmart. Little did we know that, within 24 hours, we would buy two more.

So, now we had our gear. All that remained was to get a license. Yes, you need a license. A shellfish license to be exact. We also needed bait. It turns out that crab love chicken legs. So, we bought a package of drumsticks. And then we bought a bottle of “crab fuel”, a pink concoction that supposedly is an attractant. You pour this liquid into a zip lock bag with your chicken and let it marinate. Hhmmm…good.

With gear, license and marinated bait in hand, we made our first cast from a dock just below our campsite at the marina. Almost immediately, we had fish, er crab, in our trap. We didn’t know that we did, but after about 5 or 10 minutes, it’s always nice to check. So, we reeled our trap in and, what do you know, we had two crabs in our closed ‘book”. This brings us to the next problem.

In Oregon, you can only take male crabs. And even at that, the males have to be of a certain minimum size…at least 5.75 inches as measured across the widest part of the shell using a plastic gauge for the purpose. Of the two crabs we caught, the largest was a female…over 5.75 inches. The other, a male, was too small. Both had to be thrown back. This went on for a couple of hours. We would catch crab, but none were legal.

Finally, we caught a “legal” male. But not before having lost our Walmart crab trap. It seemed that a $.25 cent clamp had failed, allowing the trap to separate from the fishing line and fall into the water. Gone. Having just landed our first “keeper”, we could not get to our local marina tackle shop (read expensive) quick enough to purchase another book trap. But, on the basis of wanting to be prepared in case we lose another, we bought two…along with a few stronger swivel clamps.

To give you  an idea as to this guys size, he is in a 5-gallon Costco soap bucket.

So, back to crabbing. Lots of crabs caught, one or two at a time due to the relative small size of the trap. All illegal. It was at this point that we began to wonder what all the females were going to do to reproduce if the mature males were the only ones being caught. We decided that the State of Oregon surely had thought of that.

Most of those on the dock with us were using more traditional crab traps which are 24” x 24” cages about 12” tall.. These traps can accommodate many more crab than a book trap. It did not take long for us to decide that we probably should have one of these. And $45 later, we DID have one, along with 50 feet of rope and a very nice bait cage to go INSIDE of the crab trap (cage).

We noticed that those that had these larger more traditional traps were soaking them for several hours, and even over night. Then we read online that these traps are supposed to be checked fairly frequently. Unfortunately, we did not read this until AFTER having soaked the trap overnight, which helped to explain why, the next morning, our trap was empty and our bait was almost entirely gone except the leg bones. We wondered how this could happen. Was someone sneaking out to the dock in the dark of night to steal our crab? Although stranger things have happened, we got our answer when with subsequent catches in our trap, the crab were a bit undersized to be legal, but they were still good eaters. In fact, the size of the holes in the cage are such that smaller crabs can escape, essentially coming and going as they please AFTER eating all of our bait. Such is the reason that you are warned to pull your pots frequently to check for crabs, and also to preserve your bait. Duh!!

Although we started off slow, our success started to ramp up. Unfortunately, a fierce storm hit the Oregon coast, a storm that was almost non-stop for about 72 hours. Constant rain and near hurricane force winds can interfere with a crabber’s best intentions. Oh well, we came to crab. So, we dug out our rain gear and perservered, setting and checking traps in between the worst portions of the storm.

Interestingly, our biggest catches came during the storm. As this is written, we have 15 crabs in the freezer and we’re not done. We are happy campers.

 

And the sunsets here are not bad either…

 

Stay tuned, as we wrap up our time crabbing in Winchester Bay, Oregon.

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Blow’n It In Scotts Bluff, Nebraska

After leaving the Black Hills of South Dakota, we headed south toward the panhandle of Nebraska.

In our 15 months of being on the road, we have met many fellow RVers and heard stories of mechanical ills and the like that they had encountered.. Everything from broken windshields to accidents involving other vehicles to bad batteries, etc. It is a fact of the RV lifestyle that things can and will happen. Although we had not had any misfortunes since becoming full-timers, we knew that someday our time might come and we have tried to be ready and not surprised when that time comes. That time came when we were 36 miles north of Scott’s Bluff on a lonely state highway that crosses thousands and thousands of acres of farm and ranch land.

Without warning from our onboard tire pressure monitor, we had a blowout on our inside rear passenger side tire. It was as if a hand grenade went off, and the damage that was caused was similar to what a grenade will do. In addition to the total destruction of the tire, the blowout exploded a hole through the top of the wheel well, and through the sub-floor below our shower. Above the wheel well, which is nothing more than sandwich of thin aluminum, styrofoam and another layer of thin aluminum, there is a sub-floor of plywood and 2 x 6 inch joists supporting the shower with its own plywood base. Everything EXCEPT the shower and its plywood base was destroyed. The wood pieces in the photo which show screw heads were part of my repair. When I was done, everything was sealed up with thicker pieces of plywood and a thin sheet of steel and then rubberized undercoating.

There was other damage as well. The blowout exploded forward as well as to the rear. The carcass remnants that were shot forward took out the rubber isolator that was part of the tailpipe hanger. This allowed the tailpipe tip and exhaust pipe to be free swaying until the tailpipe went into the blown out tire and rim, passing under the rim, being twisting 90 degrees toward the rear of the coach, and driven into the pavement. It had to be cut off in order to proceed. Fortunately, we were able to drive the coach since the cutoff portion of the tailpipe was AFTER the muffler. Even so, it would not be until arriving in Grand Junction, Colorado where a new tailpipe and hanger were welded on.

Without at least a 10-ton bottle jack, changing out a blown tire and installing a spare tire is just about impossible on a motorhome. Although we DO have a 20-ton jack NOW, we did not at the time. Fortunately, we have road service coverage and were able to make a call to get a tow company to drive the 36 miles and install the spare. Because it was into the evening before the motorhome was drivable once again, we opted to spend the night off the highway in a rancher’s pasture. We thank the Flaretys for their hospitality.

Rex, one of our camp buddies in Wyoming, lives in Scott’s Bluff. We knew that he had also agreed to be a camp host and was not due to be back at home quite yet.

Being the pranksters that we are, we thought we would park in front of his house ( we had his address), take a photo and text it to him with the message “Guess where we are?”. It was not going to be out of our way since we were heading for Colorado anyway. Although we knew our friend was still working as a camp host up at our former campground in Wyoming, what we did not know was that he would arrive home the same day this photo was taken. It all worked out. He received the photo and then drove to the RV park where we were staying.

Ultimately, although unplanned, we got to know the Scotts Bluff area and the history that includes the bluff itself being a key landmark for pioneers heading west on the Oregon Trail. We were able to tour the area in between repairs,  and also had visits with our friend Rex at his home and over dinner at a great mexican restaurant. In all, we wound up spending two weeks in the area at a city-owned RV park in Gering, which is a suburb of Scotts Bluff. This allowed us to make repairs.

Through all this, we got a great education regarding date codes on RV tires. When we bought our motorhome about 18 months ago, the dealer indicated that they had put “new’ tires on. And we don’t doubt that the Goodyears that they installed were new to them. AND, we had put over 10,000 miles on them prior to the blowout. Nevertheless, when it dawned on us to check the date codes on the Goodyears, we were shocked to find that they had been manufactured in 2008. The tires were over 9 years old. When it comes to RV tires, the rule of thumb is 5-8 years. So, even though the tires had lots of tread and had good looking sidewalls, they were just too old. And in light of not knowing for sure what the cause of the blowout was, we no longer had any confidence in the Goodyears. Before we left Scotts Bluff, we had a complete new set of Cooper Roadmasters with date codes indicating they were manufactured in June of 2017.

 

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From Northwestern Wyoming to the Black Hills

Although we had a wonderful time spending a significant portion of the summer in northwestern Wyoming, we also had the devastaion and loss of having lost Bogie, our pet and companion. Certainly, the last couple of weeks there was because we were having such a hard time leaving him behind. Ultimately, as hard as it was, we realized it was time to move on.

Looking back, it was hard to believe that we rolled into Lander, Wyoming on July 1st, staying there for a total of 5 days including celebrating the 4th of July there, and then moved past Dubois up into the Absaroka Mountains about 30 miles east of Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks, spending about 5 weeks at Falls Campground which we used as our base for exploring the greater area of that part of Wyoming. From that camp, we traveled down the mountain to Jackson Hole and the town of Jackson. We kayaked a few times on Jackson Lake in the Tetons and otherwise sought out Jeep trails and the abundant wildlife that is there, including Bison, Moose, Antelope and, of course bears. Before we were done, we had had close encounters with a black bear and a Grizzly. Nothing dangerous. Just a photo shoot.

This “Grizz” was just out for a walk when we encountered him on an open plain near Towgotee Pass. We were no more than 50 yards from him

One of the joys included in our travels are the people we meet and, in some cases, develop relationships with. Such was the case while camping at Falls Campground, where we met Doug, Rex and Richard and Justin.

Doug is a former Marine and airline pilot who lives in northeastern Kansas.This is Doug with his sidekick Hank. Hank is on the right. 🙂

Rex is an agronomist who has lived most of his 71 years in Scott’s Bluff, Nebraska. Richard was our camp host. He’s from South Carolina and has been traveling to this area as a camp host for the summer for the past nine years. Justin is the local Forest Service Ranger and district supervisor. We spent many hours together just hanging out, sharing meals and circling around campfires.

Once we left that area, we headed east from Yellowstone to Cody, Wyoming where we spent five days exploring the area and visiting the William F. Cody Center of the West Museums. I say “museums” plural because there are five museums under one roof. This is a must see when in Cody.

 

Among the five museums under one roof,  the Cody Firearms Museum was a hands down favorite. More than 7.000 guns on display, covering several large rooms. It is a signicant historical display of weapons that goes way beyond guns that tamed the west.

 

 

We had a few day trips, including traveling the Chief Joseph Highway and the famous Beartooth Highway (known as America’s Highway) up into Red lodge, Montana.

 

 

In fact, while we were traveling Beartooth, we ran across these guys at 11,000 feet.

From Cody, we continued east up into the Bighorn Mountains where we boondocked on top for a night before heading further east down off the Bighorns, arriving in Sheridan, Wyoming. Since Sheridan was such a short drive from our boondock, we continued south on Interstate 90 to Buffalo, Wyoming. Interestingly, this was our first Interstate travel in about 5 months. We DO NOT miss driving on Interstates, but sometimes it quickly gets us from here to there.

Our destination once heading east across northern Wyoming, was to be the Black Hills of South Dakota. We had not been there before. Just prior to crossing into South Dakota, Interstate 90 took us to the turnoff for Devils Tower, which is in the extreme northeastern corner of Wyoming.

Even though we had seen many photos of this National Monument in the past, we were not prepared for what we saw when, after turning a corner on a country back road, we were suddenly face-to-face with it. Rising 1257 feet above anything around it, it was just awe inspiring. We spent two days in the campground just below the tower, using the time to relax and explore the area within the National Monument boundary. Because of the sheer vertical nature of the Tower, we wondered if anyone climbed it, or whether folks are even allowed to climb it. We asked a Ranger who said “Oh yes, about 5,000 people a year In fact, there are about 200 people here to climb right now.” WOW!!

From Devils Tower, we continued on backroads crossing into South Dakota. Although we spent some re-supply time in Spearfish, South Dakota, we took the exit just south of town that took us up into the Black Hills and Deadwood, South Dakota where we spent a couple of days. Deadwood, and the adjacent Lead (pronounced LEED) are both historic gold rush towns well worth exploring, which we did in “spades”.

The Black Hills are an isolated range of mountains running north to south about 60 miles and east to west about 40 miles. At the north end are Spearfish, Deadwood, Lead, and Sturgis, all unique with their own glorious histories and stories to be preserved.

 

 

At the southern end of the Black Hills is Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse and Custer State Park and Rapid City. Before leaving this area, we would visit each of these places and otherwise drive the backroads through the Black Hills.

 

 

Relating to Mt. Rushmore, although seeing this Monument in person is awe inspiring, the Visitor Center with its extensive focus on the engineering and labor that it took the sculptor and his team to literally blast and carve what we see today is amazing and well worth spending some time pouring over all that is there. Well worth the visit.

 

We totally enjoyed our time in this area of South Dakota. Lots to see and do. We’ll be back

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Wyoming Political Statement

Sign posted in area of “Open Range” along Chief Joseph Scenic Highway between Red Lodge, Montana and Cody, Wyoming…

 

 

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Bogie – R.I.P.

Bogie Selfie

On Friday, July 28, 2017, we lost Bogie, our best friend. There were three of us on this on-the-road, full-time adventure. Now there are two, and our hearts are broken.

Bogie came to us about 12 years ago, and was probably about 3 years old even then. He was always more than a companion. And he was always with us. When we had our business, he was our shop dog and customer greeter. He even had his own fan club. People would come into our showroom and we would ask “Can we help you?” Often times, the response would be “Oh, we just came to see Bogie”. Not exactly good for business, but he more than made up for it in what he gave us and others.

When we went anywhere locally, he was always on the center arm rest riding with us. When we traveled on longer trips, whether in the motorhome or in the car, he was with us. And for more than a year since we have become “full-timers”, he has been with us traveling to Glacier National Park, to the Pacific Northwest, to Southern Arizona, to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. He’s even floated on inner tubes with us down the Dechutes River in Bend, Oregon.

Several months ago, Bogie began having labored breathing and fluid build-up in his lungs. He was diagnosed with a heart murmer and an enlarged liver, consistent with old age. Medications were prescribed which were helpful in dramatically improving his quality of life. But we were warned that we were only buying him some time. A few weeks ago, he took a turn for the worse. He would eat less frequently and was dramatically losing weight.

Even so, since being in the Teton and Yellowstone area, we would take him for day trips here and there and he would insist on either looking out the windshield or sticking his nose and entire head out the open side window, taking in the fresh air, and let the wind blow his hair back. He always seemed to enjoy that.

 

Ultimately, time caught up with our dear friend. Part of our decision to stay here for a few weeks was because we knew we would ultimately leave here without him.

On a recent day trip into the back country, somewhat close to our camp, we came upon a spot that overlooked one of the most beautiful valleys we have ever seen in all of our travels.

We know it’s crazy, but Bogie’s final resting place is in this spot. With all due respect to veterinarians, we just could not turn Bogie over to a Vet that we did not know to be disposed of by whatever means they utilize. So, on Saturday, Bogie was buried high in the Absaroka Mountains of Wyoming, just outside of Grand Teton National Park. A beautiful and wild spot worthy of Bogie.

 

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High Country Camping in Wyoming – A Cure for Procrastination

As this post is being written, we are about 10 days into a 16 day stay in a national forest campground in northwestern Wyoming in close proximity to both Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. There are many ways to approach Yellowstone and the Tetons. We have come into the area on Highway 26, approaching from the east due to our decision to stay awhile in Lander, Wyoming which was the subject of our last post and the place where we spent the 4th of July. We still have great memories of our time spent there.

Having several campgrounds to choose from, we were looking for one that was fairly close to the highway. As is often the case, roads into many otherwise beautiful areas and campgrounds can be fairly challenging. Maybe not for our Jeep, but certainly a bit of a problem sometimes for a 37 foot motorhome. For this reason, we almost always use our Jeep to check out areas before driving the motorhome into a situation that might prove problematic.

In our present location, the campground was just off the highway and, much to our surprise, had a loop, “Loop A”, that included electric at each site and water in close proximity, along with restrooms. Using our Senior Pass, we are in for $10 per day. You can’t beat this kind of deal, especially with an electrical hook-up. So, we decided to stay the entire 16 days that is allowed in national forests in this part of the country.

Located on Highway 26, we are about halfway between Dubois, Wyoming and Moran Junction in Grand Teton National Park. We are pretty much in high country, with the Continental Divide and Towgotee Pass no too far up the road, both of which are around 9600 feet. Our elevation here at the campground is 8,500 feet, which explains the early morning and evening cool temps and daytime temps that are in the low 80s.

We have used our camp as a base for taking day trips into the national parks. Although we have about a 30 mile drive just to get TOO the Grand Tetons, it’s such a spectacular drive that we have not minded. By comparison, a national forest campground in Grand Teton, with electrical hook-up can be well over $55 per day. Even with our Senior Pass, the cost would be $37.50 per day. Not so bad if your a Senior who is on vacation, but for full-timers, $37.50 per day is a bit much for just electric and community water. Even if we CAN afford it, we’d rather spend our money in other ways.

Even though we have visited the Tetons previously on a few occasions, we are always surprised at how these mountains and peaks rise so dramatically above the valley which is Jackson Hole. And approaching these mountains as we have this time from the east, causes us to climb down from a high pass in which, after many sweeping right and left hand curves of the road, we are suddenly and shockingly looking at the Tetons straight on without warning. Just spectacular.

We haven’t even scratched the surface of the wildlife that is here, and we’ve already seen a grizzly bear, a herd of buffalo, an elk and several antelope. And that’s BEFORE heading into Yellowstone where we’re sure to see more.

 

 

PROJECTS

I guess I’ve always been a procastinator. Anything that can be done today certainly can be put off until later. A great example of this has to do with the front brake on my bicycle. For some time now, the front brake has not fully engaged when I squeeze the lever on the handle bar. I had initially analyzed that the cable down near the brake pads needed adjusting. This is a simple fix. You just use a crescent wrench to loosen the nut, stretch the cable with a pair of pliers and simultaneously tighten the nut. It takes all of one minute, maybe less. Knowing this, why did it take until today to finely get around to it after putting up with less than full braking for at least several months?

Staying in one place for a length of time is not only a great way to wind down from traveling from place-to-place. It’s also a chance to catch up on projects that invariably pile up when on the road like adjusting my brakes. Sharon’s bike has also been in need of a new bicycle chain since her old one broke when we were in Quartzsite. That was back in early March. And, although I had ordered a new one right away, we have been traveling around with the bikes on the bike rack behind the motorhome since then. It’s now July. Time to put the new chain on.

And then, there is the Fantastic Fan in the bathroom. Several months ago, the fan quit working. A quick check of the fuse at the time revealed that the fuse was fine. Then procrastination set in. I rationalized that having the roof vent open was enough. No need for a fan. Today, it gets fixed. Using my multimeter (volt meter), I tested whether I had current at the wall switch. I did. Next, I tested whether current was flowng through the fuse. It was. Then I tested for current through the 3-speed switch. There was current. That left only the wires going to the motor. I quickly figured out that the ground wire from the motor was loose and not making contact sufficiently to allow the motor to run. After tightening the wire, the fan works perfectly. The whole process, including unscrewing the screen frame for access to everything, took all of a few minutes. So why did we put up with an in-operating fan literally for months? Procrastination.

I’m happy to report that I’ve resolved the above mentioned “projects” and have added new ones to my list. I’m thinking I’ll get to those…soon. Maybe tomorrow. 🙂

Happy Trails from Wyoming!

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4th of July in Lander, Wyoming

We never intended to wind up in Lander, Wyoming. Since leaving Flaming Gorge in Utah, we were heading north on US Highway 191 toward the Tetons and Yellowstone. After camping with Linda and Ken, our road buddies that we met in Bend, Oregon last year, we caravaned with them, boondocking at Walmart in Rock Springs, Wyoming. In fact, we boondocked there for a couple of days, all of us being cheapskates. Free camping is free camping.

And besides, it was time to re-supply there anyway. After some good times, shared dinners, and extremely competitive games of “Sequence”, it was finally time to part company. They to Pueblo, Colorado, and us to the Tetons.

Even though we were underway, at one of our rest breaks I took a look at our map and saw that we had a choice about which side of the Wind River Mountain Range we wanted to travel. Regardless, both routes would lead us to the Tetons and Yellowstone National Park. We had been on 191 all the way to Jackson, Wyoming in the past. So, it was an easy decision to turn on Highway 28 and head around the south end of the Wind River Range toward Lander.

Not having done our homework, we were surprised that Wyoming Highway 28 followed the routes of the Oregon, Mormon and California Trails, not to mention passing in close proximity to South Pass City and Atlantic City, both known for gold and outlaws. Butch Cassidy is probably the most famous of the outlaws that ventured to the area. In his case, he was captured by the Lander Sheriff and eventually sent to prison. South Pass itself was the route that allowed the pioneers to get over the mountains as they headed west. This area also marked the “Parting of the Ways”, a junction on the original Oregon Trail whereby those heading to Oregon went one way, while another trail led to Utah and California.

Lander, Wyoming turned out to be a very pleasant surprise to us. When you think of Wyoming, you think of cowboys and a “country” way of life. That’s Lander. Cowboy hats, big buckles, plaid shirts, Wrangler jeans, and boots are the uniform of the day.

The town has a lot of pioneer history, with many of its 7500 residents being direct descendants of those who came here either by covered wagon, on horseback, or on foot. This region is also home to the Arapaho and Shoshone indian tribes, both of whom share the Wind River Reservation just north of lander.

All in all, we spent 5 days in Lander, including the 4th of July. The first three days, we camped along the Po Po Agie (pronounced Po PoAshue) River as it passes through the Lander City Park. You can camp in the City Park for free for a maximum of 3 days. On the 4th, we attended a rodeo, and watched the town’s 4th of July parade sitting in our lawn chairs along the sidewalk on Main St. Later that evening, we watched one of the best fireworks displays we’ve ever seen from the top of a hill overlooking the town. Rather than having one professionally produced fireworks “show” at a single location, we were entertained by spectacular fireworks launched by individuals and groups throughout the town and entire valley. Starting at about 9:00 p.m., which is sunset in these parts, the “show” lasted until well past midnight.

There are two museums in Lander, both on the same property. One is the Pioneer Museum, and the other is the Museum of the American West. Both are well worth a visit. One really cool aspect is the “town” that has been recreated outside the Museums, with actual restored buildings. Everything from a Mercantile Store to a newspaper office to a livery stable, as well as an authentic pioneer church and homesteader’s cabin are all on site.

While here, we drove the city looking at the various neighborhoods. We like to do that as we travel. And we love grabbing brochures of the homes that are for sale. It kind of gives you a feel for the pride and economics of the area. We found most of the neighborhoods to be high on pride of ownership. And home prices were quite reasonable. You can find million dollar homes anywhere. But, we found nice homes in nice neighborhoods for $150,00-$300,000.

Lander is not near anywhere. If one needs a big city, it’s probably Salt Lake or Denver, both of which are several hundred miles distant. Perhaps, in a sense, that’s a good thing. We talked with many residents of Lander and all of them loved living here. From the young couple who’s families moved here from San Diego, to “Noni” (short for Winona) who has lived here since 1942, they say Lander has all they need and is a great place to live and raise a family or to retire.

 

We felt that during our short time here. Everyone we met was warm and friendly and welcoming. And you can’t beat the beautiful scenery of the area, including the snow-capped Wind River Range as a backdrop to the town. We’ll be back.

 

 

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First Weeks Workcamping at Flaming Gorge or… “We Ain’t Paying for That @#$%ing Wall”

I promise not to give our readers frequent reports about this “experience” over the entire summer. But maybe occasional updates, starting with this one because the first few weeks is kind of like jumping into the deep end of the pool for the first time.

Our name badges say “Camp Host”. Believe me, we are far more than camp hosts. “Host”ing is a very small part of this workcamping experience so far. Let’s just say we have a whole new appreciation for Mexican migrant workers. If we’re not mowing lawns, we’re fertilizing lawns and killing weeds. Or using a weed-eater. We joke that we fertilize the plants so that they will grow so that we can spray them so that they will die.

So what else do we do here? What do our other duties include? The quick answer is we do whatever needs doing. There are six of us looking after the park, which has 47 designated sites, plus a over-flow area, as well as a vehicle storage area. Two  are the resident managers. They live here year round in a log home that has the RV Park office attached to it. Then there are two other couples, ourselves included. We each live in our own RV on a site that is provided near the office.

Plus, we get paid. We each work a 40 hour week with 2 days off. Our “off” days are Wednesday and Thursday. Although we had not planned or needed to work while on the road as full-timers, we chose this opportunity because, for four months, it allows us to substantially enhance our savings account by nearly doubling our normal income with little to no expenses.

Photo above right is of Doug and Caroline, the resident managers. The photo at right is of our other “camp host”couple, Pris and Stan.

It’s interesting how life experiences can benefit you when it comes to managing something like a RV Park. Having been IN the business world as employees and  managers, and then owning a retail business for 13 years, has certainly prepared us for the good, the bad and the ugly of customer service.  Fortunately, RV Parks generally are made up of “happy campers”. Generally.

All of our eff0rts initially have been geared toward getting ready for the summer season , and for the recently passed Memorial Day weekend. As this is written, Memorial Day was the best to date. The park was full.  And reservations continue pouring in . We’ve been amazed so far, as to the number of folks that reserve for the entire summer.

Back in our days of having a hobby farm and owning and operating a Kabota tractor, little did we imagine that we would be sitting on a Kabota once again. This time, a commercial grade lawn mower.

For whatever reason, I have become the designated mower, which I actually love. In addition to the many pine, cedar, spruce and aspen trees, a genuinely large lawn area contributes to the beauty of Pine Forest RV Park. All told, the park is about 14 acres, most of which is made up of  lawn area. That’s lots of cutting.  In our case, that’s weekly during the season, usually taking two days. But regardless of whoever does the lawn mowing, we all enjoy being outdoors and are continually amazed at the views and beauty that is here. YIKES! Watch out for that tree!

Being affiliated with Flaming Gorge Resort, with its condos and motel, the RV Park shares a fairly sophisticated computer software system for managing reservations. Fortunately, we are fairly computer savvy. Even so, in this first weeks here, we have spent a fair amount of time learning how the software helps us manage who’s in, who has departed, who is on their way, who’s paid and who has not. Oh, and how to accommodate those without reservations. We don’t like to turn anyone away. And, of course, when it comes to cleaning bathrooms, showers and laundry, it’s usually all hands on deck. This is really not a big deal because the facilities are in first class condition and are always kept meticulously clean.

And then there is the wildlife. Deer come into the Park everyday. And we have Big Horn sheep here.  There was a time the sheep had all but disappeared in this area of Utah. But a few years ago, Big Horns were re-introduced and are now thriving.

Fishing and hunting are very popular here, as well. Because many of our customers fish for Kokanee Salmon on the lake, we don’t have to. We sometimes are given a portion of their catch. A few even filet them BEFORE giving them to us. Here’s a photo of our first gifted Kokanee, ready for the grill.

And we were even given an opportunity to go on a big game hunt. As you can see in the photo to the left, it didn’t take us long to bring home a trophy. Actually, this little guy was brought to us by “Tuna”, the park manager’s cat. She frequently brings her “catch”  to them, everything from baby bunnies to humming birds, all still alive and unharmed.

Believe it or not, we had a storm roll in almost immediately after beginning our first week. It was hard to believe that as we approached June, we received 10 inches of snow while the storm passed through. After the initial snowfall, the sun broke out and we had some of our regular visitors come by. This is “Momma” dear and one of her fawns from last year. We can identify her because she has a notch in her left ear which we suspect came from a tag that may have been torn off. In any event, she comes by nearly everyday for pieces of apple. She appears to be “with child” this season as well. That’s me feeding them pieces of apple.

 

One of the things we really enjoy is the interaction with guests as we go about our duties throughout the park. You know, just as a “camp host” might do. The popularity of Pine Forest RV Park by folks from Utah and neighboring states is quite evident as summer approaches. But even in the off season, folks arrive literally from all over the world, our most recent visitors a young couple from Germany on a 22 day whirl wind tour of  “the West”. And then there was the marathoner from Brazil on her way to a competition  near Yellowstone. And today in the park we have Canadians from British Columbia, as well as from Quebec.

So, that’s about it for now. Although the work can be hard for us flatlanders, we’re still loving it here. As with everything, it’s just a matter of getting into a routine. We can already tell it’s getting a bit easier.

 

Stay tuned. Our next post will be a walk back in time.

 

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Settling In

We arrived at our summer home on May 11th. Officially, we start “work” on Monday, May 15th. Since agreeing last Fall to come back for some summer workcamping, we had always planned to arrive a few days early. It’s a good thing, because after our Delicate Arch hike in Moab, we arrived here with aches and pains in our lower extremities needing some recuperative time. Getting old can do that to you. Particularly, when strenuous exercise has not been at the top of your list of priorities.

We’ll be one of three couples hosting and co-managing Pine Forest RV Park for the next 4 four months. The Park is part of and immediately adjacent to Flaming Gorge Resort here in northeastern Utah. Flaming Gorge Resort is a destination. It is not necessarily on the way to anywhere. You have to want to come here. But once you arrive, oh the beauty and variety of things to do. Or just kick back and do nothing. Cloud watching is very popular here.

Generally speaking, Flaming Gorge Resort is located between Rock Springs, Wyoming and Vernal, Utah, approximately 250 miles east of Salt Lake City. The Resort itself is located at the southern end of Flaming Gorge Reservoir, a lake that extends northward into Wyoming. The lake is about 90 miles in length and is the result of the damming of the Green River. Fishing float trips below the dam down the Green River are extremely popular, and just one of the services provided by the Resort.

This is high country. Our elevation here at the Park is 7,000 feet. The tops of the surrounding mountains are between 9,000 and 10,000 feet. It is SO beautiful here.

Even when it snows, it is beautiful. This photo was taken when we were here last November. Although the surrounding mountains may have snow on the ground late into spring, snowfall here in the Park is usually gone within a day or two.

 

 

This is what it looks like now in the RV Park.

 

No sooner had I written the sentence above, along with posting the photo of “springtime” here, and it began to snow. And it’s been snowing off and on for two days. It’s snowing as I write this, and is forecast to snow until about 5:00 a.m. tomorrow. This, as June is fast approaching.

This snow “event” has covered a wide area that is including Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah. And it has caught a lot of people off guard, not the least of which has been some folks that have arrived in the Park intending to stay a day or two but are now waiting for better driving conditions. We’re like the Eagle’s classic “Hotel California”. You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

So, we’re almost wrapping up this our first week of workcamping. Lots of things to learn. Stay tuned.

 

 

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Foto Friday

How about a “Foto Friday”? Since we have been on the road, I cannot even count the number of photos we have taken, many of which don’t make it into blog posts due to space considerations. So, maybe we’ll occasionally post random photos as posts of their own.

First and foremost is a photo of Delicate Arch in Arches National Park in Moab, Utah. What is significant about this photo for us personally, is that it was taken by me to mark my successful completion of this “moderate” hike which, although only 3 miles roundtrip, is fairly steep going and coming. Believe me, although seeing the arch firsthand is worth it, many people who attempted the hike on the day we went, did not complete it. The other significance is that you will notice that there are no other people in the photo. This is extremely rare without being at the Arch either at sunrise or at sunset, as most serious photographers will be. This photo was taken midday, at a time when hundreds of folks were in the immediate area. In fact, just moments before this photo was taken, a junior high school gaggle of students and teachers formed up for a group shot under the arch. Just after they were finished, and seconds before others could get into the field of view, I shot the photo.

The next photo is of a mural on the wall backing up the indoor pool and spa at Sky Ute Casino and Resort in Ignacio, Colorado. The pool and spa was one of the amenities we had available to us while staying in the Resort’s RV Park. The mural is actually much larger than the photo shows, extending both right and left probably twice in length of what is shown. The mural depicts a Southern Ute “hunting” party as it crosses a meandering river at the bottom of a valley ringed by mountains. The mural was constructed from actual photos.

The photo below is of a metal building that we came across while out driving the various county roads surrounding Durango, Colorado, something we really enjoy doing.

The building intrigued us and, frankly, has got us thinking about a combination RV garage and small apartment. So much so, that we are in contact with the owner who is providing us particulars regarding this 1800 sq. ft. structure. The photo doesn’t do it justice. The slanting roof with a southern exposure, is perfect for a solar installation, and the height of the building would provide a spacious loft area. Who knows?

 

 

This next photo is of one of the several “goosenecks” that are encompassed by Goosenecks State Park, located between Bluff, Utah and Monument Valley.

 

One of the places we visited was Petrified Forest National Park in northern Arizona, a park that was separately the subject of  one of our recent blog posts. Outside the northern entrance to the park, is a small memorial to the original path of “Old Route 66” as it passed through the area. This relic is on permanent display along with other memorabilia, including a vintage Cadillac grill marking the memorials entrance.

And speaking of Route 66, we have consistently come across preserved examples of the unique and distinctive forms of commerce that travelers experienced all along the “Mother Road”. This photo is of a portion of the Wigwam Motel. The motel consists of concrete “Teepees”, each of which served as a motel room. Although not shown in this photo, the motel’s “office” is actually a vintage gas station situated up front “on the boulevarde”. Back in the day, outside the “office”, as well outside of each “room”, one might find the latest makes and models of automobiles traveling the highway. Today, examples of those same vintage cars are parked in the same places. To see it in person is like opening a time capsule.

 

When you are on the road, you meet a lot of other nomads. This photo is of a lovely couple we met while at a roadside rest stop in Utah. Pastor John, a former postmaster in several areas of Washington state now, along with his wife, form a pastoral team that travels to small towns throughout the west filling in until the particular community finds a permanent pastor. Their most recent pastoral duties were completed after 23 months. Now they are on the road again awaiting their next assignment.

This is a current photo of one of our first and still favorite fishing spots in Colorado. It is Haviland Lake, part of a state park north of Durango. We have camped and fished there on many occasions. It does not have large fish, just pan size. But the sheer beauty of the surrounding bluffs, aspens and wildlife is awe inspiring. You eventually don’t care if you catch anything. You just kick back and take it all in, your cares and concerns fading fast.

We still cannot get out of our heads how beautiful it was on the day we drove over Molas Pass recently. We have probably driven over this pass 50 times over the last 30 years during different seasons, and we still marvel. Part of the “Million Dollar Highway”, this Pass is 11,000 feet in elevation. Those mountains in the photo are near or above 14,ooo feet.

 

 

Sometimes, the most pretty flowers grow in the least expected places. Maybe there is a message there. This flower was growing next to a petrified log in a most arid area in Petrified Forest N.P.

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