Go Left, Young Man

We skim the surface at Devil’s Tower, Deadwood, Southern Wyoming, Northeastern Colorado and finally hit pay dirt at Moab, Utah after a rainstorm.

I’ve been Madame Navigator for this trip. I read maps very well and have a good sense of direction. I can also memorize landmarks even if I’ve only been there once so it’s not easy for me to get lost. Because of this, Marty drives the rig and I’m happy to let him do it. What if we encounter a kerfuffle along the highway? I trust him to handle the kerfuffle. So, Marty has been Monsieur Pilot. This is a good division of labor but it has not made for an abundance of good will. For one, Marty will ask me for the same clarification over and over after I have already told him. This gets me frustrated and then I get tense and my voice broadcasts this irritation loud and clear when I answer. After many failures I have figured out what sequence he needs the direction to be in. Destination, followed by mileage, followed by direction of turn. Repeated twice in a loud voice. Sometimes this works, sometimes this doesn’t. But we muddle through.

Preamble: I’m shorting you on the description of our trip from Black Hills to Arches because as it turns out Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park are in a word – spectacular. Don’t miss it. Don’t even be late.

Wednesday Sept 2nd

The day before we leave Connor Battlefield State Historic Site in Ranchester WY it’s hot and windy. At dusk it goes from clear to thick-with-smoke in about 5 minutes. There’s a wildfire someplace very close. Because I’m bored I say let’s go find it. We’ve got the headlights on because the smoke is so thick and we chase the fire trucks but don’t catch them. We don’t find where it’s coming from and by the time we get back to camp the smoke is already gone.

Thursday Sept 3rd

We leave Ranchester and head to a Forest Service camp that’s close to Devil’s Tower and the Black Hills. We go to Devil’s Tower as it’s still early enough in the day. Amazing.

We got inspired to re-watch Close Encounters because of this.

Friday Sept 4th

Deadwood today is really the same Deadwood as it was in the beginning. A modernized version of the original camp without the gold mining. All Gambling. Eating. Drinking. I didn’t see whore houses. Maybe they’re there. Maybe they aren’t.

Supposedly the place where Jack McCall shot and killed Wild Bill Hickok.

Saturday Sept 5th

Saturday is re-supply day. We buy groceries and meds. Then we stay in camp and read and surf the web because it’s hot. We do research on campgrounds where we are headed. As the day cools I reorganize our stuff. We have so much stuff we are not using.

Sunday Sept 6th

Bad, cold, rainy weather is coming tomorrow. Supposed to get down to 26 and snow. We head south to Ryan campground near Saratoga WY which is our first stop on the way to Utah. We’re racing ahead of the storm. We can see it in the rearview mirror almost so we better hurry.

Monday Sept 7th

I really like the beautiful country south of Saratoga. There’s a sweet little town called Encampment WY. Their Trading Post – filling station, grocery store, bakery smells nice. I could live here.

Further on we pass over the continental divide.

Near Encampment, Wyoming.

Our next camp on the way to Utah is Cobbetts Lake campground outside of Cedaredge, CO but it’s a long, long uphill grind and we smell the motor over heating so we stop and turn around. Luckily we’re self-sufficient so we can stay anywhere we feel safe and can turn the rig around. It’s getting late and we find a flat area next to a creek pullout in a sandstone canyon near I-70 and Grand Junction. That night a man pulls up, frantic. He’s running out of gas and his cell phone has no bars. He doesn’t know what to do. We pull out the paper map to prove that to continue driving up the road is fruitless. He should turn around and go back. Old fashioned still works and actually works better sometimes.

Tuesday Sept 8th

The day the camping world stood still.

I make a big mistake. We drive through a lot of rain to get to Moab and when we arrive it’s dry. We pull into our spectacular first-choice camp site Goose Island on the Colorado River just outside of Moab but it’s full so we go on to the next but it’s too far and we don’t want a repeat of yesterday, so we go back to the first camp. We see a spot that seems to be empty and the guy next door says, “Those people packed up this morning. It was raining and I think they left early.” So even though there’s a receipt for the previous campers still attached to the post we pull in. Marty is leery. He says since it’s raining and we can’t do anything anyway let’s stay and do stuff in the trailer in case they come back. We have a quiet afternoon and even make dinner but at 7 p.m. here they come in their painted up rental van and we have to leave.

Where to go? We drive south mulling over our non-existent options. Up ahead there’s a KOA. Shoot! Those guys are usually very, very expensive and they’re probably full but we pull in anyway not expecting them to have an opening but they have one and it’s $110! Teeth grinding. Hair pulling. Banging of heads.

We take it. What can we do?

It’s getting dark and there’s the looming certainty of not finding anything else. Bad Renee. It was me that advocated moving into the people’s site. I was going on this rationale: every Forest Service camp we have been in so far ALWAYS has sites that people reserve and then don’t show up or they leave early. What I didn’t take into consideration was that this Moab is a very popular place. I should have known by all the traffic. Lesson learned.

Wednesday Sept 9th

We get up early at KOA and go back to Goose Island to look at all the reserved tags. Who is leaving today? We ask someone, “Are you leaving today?” We find two camps that are leaving and we take one. Badda bing! Problem solved! Now we have a base. We can unhitch and go sightseeing. Thank ya, Jesus!

That afternoon the Gods of Travel reward our “suffering” with a spectacular drive through Arches. It rains off and on today which is beyond welcome to me.

Jenga of the Gods
This Court House rivals the best that Monument Valley has to offer.
I claim the Magic of Three!
The Fiery Furnace.
Zoom in to see teeny, tiny people under the arch.
Cold me in Arches works as a mask, too.
I love monochromatic and Canyonlands National Park is definitely that.
Speechless.
There are no words for this.
There are no words for this either. Amazing. Gorgeous Planet Earth. Our Home.

Great Falls to Sheridan and Some Points in Between

Wednesday August 26th

We leave YS and head to Livingston MT. Livingston has the caché as the place where the story by Norman MacLean called “A River Runs Through It” was set. We are disappointed. LV is a nothing little town on I-90. The only thing good I can say about it is they have a good taco stand that reminds us of California. So, we keep driving towards Great Falls. On the way to GF we stop outside of White Sulphur Springs to camp and there is wind and it threatens to rain but it doesn’t.

me by Sulphur Springs
Our camp at a closed weigh station near White Sulphur Springs, MT.

As I gaze out on to the Great Plains, the short grass prairie, I think about the early peoples:  the indigenous peoples, the trappers, the explorers, the emigrants. These people were tough. The unpredictable weather. The unreliable water sources. The exposure to the elements. We also stay in a different camp almost every night. When we stop, I’m so relieved to not be in motion and set up housekeeping. Did emigrant women feel the way I feel? How about the fleeing Nez Perce? How would you like to be hunting and cooking with the U.S. Cavalry hot on your heels?

thunder jack
Thunder Jack welcomes you to the Shields which is near White Sulphur Springs. Nice sculpture.

Thursday August 27th

The terrible, awful, very bad, no good day.

We make it to Great Falls. It is also nothing special. It has a big ugly refinery. Too bad. It could have been nice. We argue about communication, where to go next and if he’s still interested in researching a new place to live. We try to visit the CM Russell Museum but it’s closed due to Covid. We try to find the Great Falls water fall but turns out the vandals dammed the river and wrecked the falls. The trailer hampers our efforts to travel any road we feel like. So, we give up. We move down the road feeling disgruntled and cranky as we head towards Havre and on to the seriously wide open spaces.

great falls before
Great Falls before dam. I wish there was something to give perspective on how big it actually was.

great falls ryan dam
Not-So-Great Falls after Ryan Dam. So sad.

Enroute we would have liked to stop in Fort Benton, MT for the night but can’t find anything that is not crazy expensive and stupid. Read RV park(ing) lot.

ft benton 2
The Missouri River in Fort Benton. Fort Benton was grand central for all sorts of western high junks and shenanigans.

We go on to the half-horse town of Big Sandy, MT and stop for the night at their Rest Area which is in between the town and the railroad tracks. Teddy barks at 2:30 a.m. and we have to get up and let him out. Damn dog. Now I can’t get back to sleep.

Friday August 28th

We leave Big Sandy and head toward Havre. If I’d known this area was so historic I would have paid more attention. I have been reading “Wolf Willow” by Wallace Stegner. It’s about where he grew up in southern Saskatchewan, Canada so close to the border and in between chapters of memoir he gives the history of this area. Stegner is such a great writer. He really brings it alive.

eastern MT
This is very boring if you don’t know anything about it. Look for ghosts. It’s rich in history.

The Upper Missouri Breaks National Monument is a disappointment. You can’t get there from here. Literally. We are told we would have to make an hour and a half drive to Judith Landing to get on a boat to float down the river to really see The Breaks.

Again, and again we cross the trail of Chief Joseph trying to escape with his people to the safety of Canada or Lewis and Clark as they explored for the Northwest Passage. Bears Paw Mountains. Milk River. Chinook. Harlem.

appaloosa horse
Did I say I love the Appaloosa? This horse looks modern but it’s one of the originals.

chief joseph
Chief Joseph was a very brave man.

bear paw battlefield
The Bears Paw Battlefield near Chinook, MT where, 20 miles from Canada and safety, Joseph and his band make their last stand before giving in to the Cavalry to Fight No More Forever.

lewis and clark mtg flathead CM Russell
I love this painting by Charlie Russell depicting a meeting of the Flathead tribe with Lewis and Clark expedition. L & C are over on the right side minimized. FHs are front and center, majestic, flamboyant.

We are so tired from not sleeping last night. We accidentally find a camp at Antelope Creek which is an American Prairie Reserve camp site.  It has hook-ups and a dump station. It’s in the middle of NO where! Thank you, Jesus! They have thought of everything. We loved all the Exhibits. We saw deer and sage hens and prairie duggers (dogs). Quiet. Spacious.

antelope creek trailer
Antelope Creek American Prairie Reserve looks like nothing but it isn’t.

Saturday August 29th

Moving on we drive past the Little Rocky Mountains and come into Billings. I’m sorry for anyone who reads this that loves Billings but my honest opinion is Billings is toxic. It’s mostly oil refinery. The people look beleaguered. I would be if I lived there. We get outta this Dodge asap and since it’s getting late and near dusk we camp at 7th ranch near the Little Big Horn.  There’s a decent thunderstorm which is nice for viewing out the trailer window.

Sunday August 30th

The Battle of the Little Bighorn Memorial is such a sad place. People! Why do (some) white people think they need to do whatever they want, break promises and then force other people to do things they don’t want to do? What do they think will happen? Completely lacking in imagination. Does this sound familiar? It’s still happening. Good ole family tradition.

indigenous memorial
This is the indigenous People’s Memorial to their fallen Warriors.

 

last stand hill
Last Stand Hill. What was going on in the soldier’s minds as the whole world rode down upon them?

We drive into Sheridan and there’s a cold windy rain. We hunker down next to a creek at a wayside. We’re in for the night. Rev up the generator and binge watch The Sopranos.

Monday August 31st

I do a little research now that we have internet access and I find a great camp in Ranchester 10 miles north of Sheridan.  We decide to stay for a few days. We’re the only ones there.

connor battlefield
The view out the door of our camp at Connor Battlefield Historic Site in Ranchester, WY

Tuesday Sept 1st

The day is bright and sunny, warming up. We drive into Sheridan and go to Kings Saddlery. KS is a store that I’ve mail ordered ropes from when I was learning to rope. I buy some very nice gloves. A (cow)girl, no matter how old, cannot have too many gloves. I want to buy Marty a bull whip but he won’t accept the pricey gift.

Wednesday Sept 2nd

Camp day. Beginning to write my piece for Grit on “No Post Hole Fencing” and catching up on blog posts.

What I’ve learned in the month that we’ve been traveling”

I can now cut Marty’s hair well enough to get by.

I can now take a cold shower without dying. I just wait until my scalp starts to hurt and I know it’s time to quit.

I know how many gigs it takes to watch a Sopranos episode. (>1 per day. Anymore and run the risk of running out before end of cycle and having bad ole throttling.)

I know how to budget my gas, food, laundry, camping fees to keep within my budget.

I know where the line is where I am in danger of going over and infuriating Marty into sullenness. I don’t cross it. Yea, I stay far back from it.

I know what I want to do with my future: Live near Bozeman in the summer, write, and live near Tucson in the winter and also write. I’d like to start doing this next spring

I don’t do well not knowing where I’m going to sleep that night.

Green and wide open spaces are important to me. I think I knew this before but I settled a lot for the opposite before.

Yellowstone: Mostly Good, Sometimes Bad but Absolutely, Never, Ever Ugly

Even blighted by the haze of distant California fires, YS is still amazing.

We come into YS by the west entrance. This turns out to be the worst entrance to come in to. Big ole traffic jam backed up almost into town. We’re not in a hurry but it’s a bit annoying. I play a game looking at all the license plates. They’re from all over!

Once into the park I really enjoy wading in the YS river at Nez Perce ford. I feel whatever kinship a white lady who loves appaloosa horses can feel. Maybe what I see and experience here wading in the river is not that much different than what the fleeing Nez Perce saw and felt. It’s a bit of wishful thinking.

Our camp site is in Bridge Bay campground. Welcome to suburbia. Actually, I think suburbia is quieter. After 6 days at McCrae Bridge forest service campground this is a bit of a shock. It’s made better because as we enter we see two elk grazing like they own the place. Which they do.

me YS river 4
Me on the banks of the Yellowstone River.

Based on our experience so far of all the crowded roadways we posit that the best time to go anywhere to avoid the inevitable crowds is to get up really early or go really late.

So to test the theory that evening after dinner we head for West Thumb Hot Springs on the Lake. The theory is correct. Hardly anyone is there. Also, on the way there’s a big male elk right by the side of the road who bugles as we slowly drive by. Cool, you elk person, cool. Coming back from the Hot Springs we see his harem. Yellowstone is going to be good for wildlife. (silent yay!)

infinity pool 2
The Infinity Pool at West Thumb drains into Yellowstone Lake.

buf
Hey Mr. Buff, you’re a rock star, go play!

buffalo on road
Hey! I’m walkin’ here!

me buffalo valley
Lucky bison in Hayden Valley. Sweet digs. Water, dust baths, food galore.

Sunday, August 23rd: We get up at 6 am. Campground is quiet. We head for Old Faithful but the road to OF is closed. What? We learn later there is a wildfire. Bummer! To get there now we’ll have to drive way out of our way and surely get stuck in crowds upon arrival. Change of plan! We go north to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. On the way more bison and Teddy awakes to the realization that these might be giant wild pigs and he must have them! He goes crazy barking from the safety of the back of the pickup. Oh, Teddy, you dog, you! Old faithful dog habits.

The upper and lower falls are absolutely amazing. I am so glad we got up early because almost no one is there. And in some places no one IS there! So nice to have beautiful places to ourselves.

GC YS 2
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Pictures absolutely do not do it justice.

After GC we head further north to Mammoth Hot Springs which is also incredible. Wish it was not so hazy! Darn that California. We’ve had enough of you! At lunch time we are starving but Mammoth is too crowded so we go to Gardiner, Montana at the north entrance. We get a breakfast sandwich at a roadside food vendor who is clearly from Russia.

me perfect bonsai
Mammoth Hot Springs: there’s a perfect bonsai in this picture. Can you find it?

perfect bonsai captured
If you couldn’t find it..here it is. This is for real.

mammoth hot 13
Where on Earth would anyone see anything like this besides here?

Back “home” we have a Big Nice Afternoon Nap. Walking the dogs at dusk we see the most wonderful great horned owl in a tree at the edge of the forest.

Monday August 24th 2020

Getting up early really does the trick. Up at 6 am again and everyone else is still asleep. The road is all ours again. It takes a while to get over to the geyser basin areas because of the long detour. The fire is not under control yet but we are assured it will be because it’s near Old Faithful. We stop at Middle Geyser Basin because I’ve been dying to see the Grand Prismatic Spring. The air is still quite nippy at this early hour and there is so much steam that it obscures the beautiful colors. I would not have thought of this but it’s still amazing in a different way. The tourists dilemma: go early and miss the crowds and get steam. Go late and get crowds and colors. Hmmmmm, I guess I’ll take steam. We are in the Time of Covid.

boilingStreamIntoRiver
Boiling water cascades into the Firehole River at Grand Prismatic Spring.

GrandPrisSpringOverView
Later that day we’re lucky to see Grand Prismatic Spring from a lookout.

We move on to Old Faithful hoping beyond hope that it is not already crammed with tourists. But it isn’t and we get a front row seat to watch the show. Oh, Happy Day! Then we wait. And wait. And wait. We have not been able to research so we have no idea when “thar she blows!”. We overhear some people talking. They say they’ve been waiting an hour already so we figure it must be soon and, yes, pretty soon we see boiling water coming out of the vent. Then quiet. Then more bubbling. Quiet again. Finally, after many cycles of bubbling and quiet there it goes! Looks like it goes about 5 stories in the air but, there again, there’s so much steam because of the cold air it’s hard to see the plume.

OldFaithful 1

Yet, as we walk away, I think of the Peggy Lee song “Is That All There Is?” OF is kind of a let down compared to other sights we have already seen.

Technology aside: It’s been interesting not having cell or internet service. I say to Marty I might be getting too used to being irresponsible because I sort of don’t care. There are some bills we can’t let slide. Sigh. I would like to be totally irresponsible. But it puts a hamper on certain things because we can’t research stuff before we go. Can’t get driving distances. We have to get used to doing things the old fashioned way. Guess and gosh. Rule of thumb. SWAG. Be OK with not knowing everything. With not being a walking encyclopedia. Weather forecast? Who knows? Look at the sky. Prepare for any eventuality.

Tuesday August 25th

This is our last full day. I want to check out Blacktail Plateau because that’s where the first wolves were released in 1995. I also want to check out Lamar Valley in the northwest corner of Yellowstone because word has it this is where the fewest tourists go and where the most wildlife is.

As we leave the area and are driving through Hayden Valley we see people congregating on the side of the road looking at something. We pull over and get out the binocs. Way off in the distance is… A LONE WOLF! Oh My God! Oh My God! Some guy standing near says oh, no, it’s a coyote. (wet blanket! crepe hanger!) But it’s not a coyote, dude. We’ve seen enough coyotes at the ranch to know the difference. Sure, and b’gosh, it has the distinctive characteristics of a gray wolf. The characteristic smooth trot. The rounded ears. The shorter snout and heavier body. It goes over the hill at a walk and we drive on. Do we even need to go to Blacktail now?

Because….

The Blacktail Plateau drive turns out to be a wasted hour on a one-way gravel road. Nothing there but my imagination. But no matter. Soon after we finish with that we are rewarded by big herds of buffalo and antelope in the Lamar Valley. Marty gets a great shot of a big bull buff right by the side of the road.

Buf head M
Some times you really feel like you need a bath and a spa day!

Now the question is shall we go back the way we came or continue on? Going back the way we came seems so boring. Going forward seems such a long way.  But the potential for adventure overcomes the need for ease. We decide to continue on as I start singing “We may never pass this way again”. And, boy, are we glad we kept going. Spectacular mountains and high jinks on the highway. There’s a lone cowgirl pushing a large herd of cattle right down the middle of the road. They seem to know where they’re going but, do they? We never find out. Further on we encounter the Clark’s Fork. Who knew these things existed?  When we stay on the beaten path we miss the most amazing things.

Clarks Fork M
Clarks Fork. Looks like the overleap where Butch and Sundance took their plunge.

Further on we find that Cody, Wyoming is nothing to write home about but the tacos from the taco truck are fine and good and remind us of California.  South of Cody we follow the Buffalo Bill River and the Reservoir of the same name and everything changes. Here is some really bizarre scenery: The Holy City. It’s called the Holy City because some people think these rock formations resemble a silhouette of the ancient city of Jerusalem. Near Wapiti on U.S. Highway 14. So weird. So weird.

Holy CIty M 2
The Holy City rock formation outside of Cody going to east YS entrance. This is for real, too.

Now we are back in Yellowstone and getting into the mindset of leaving in the morning but YS isn’t done yet. As we drive into the camp we find two bull elks play fighting right next to our trailer! I pity the poor people who had their camp chairs ground to dust by elk who don’t give a rat’s arse what they do or where they go. Take that camp chair. We didn’t like you anyway.

Elk fight M
It’s my party and I’ll butt heads if I want to.

Then it rains which puts to rest our worry that the stupid people next to us will play music until well past curfew again tonight. So, because of the nice rain, we get a good night’s sleep and in the morning it’s time to go. Goodbye Yellowstone. You were amazing!

 

I Will Fight No More Forever

We finally gave up on getting all the things that are malfunctioning on the trailer fixed. Irritating. Brand new 2020 trailer. The sensors that tell us how much grey, black and fresh water that is in the holding tanks don’t work. They indicate full when we just emptied them. The fridge door handle broke within 3 days. Toscano’s in Los Banos, where we bought it, wanted us to hold off our trip for 3 weeks so they could fix it. I don’t think so! Then when we got to Oregon the slide began sliding in and out cattywhompus.

Here you go. Here’s the truth of RVing. It’s like living in a house except you’re on wheels. There’s always something broke that needs to be fixed. Get used to it. It really bothered me at first because I wanted everything to work perfectly. I get really frustrated and annoyed when things don’t work. I am an inpatient person and when things don’t work I get mad. I learned this from my dad and I’ve been fighting it my whole life and I’m still fighting it. At this advanced age I’m starting to win the fight more than I lose it. So, these 3 things can wait until we get somewhere where we can stay a long time because in this time of covid not only does it take forever to get parts but every body is buying RVs and travelling so it take weeks to get a repair appt.

So, there you have it. Cultivate patience and figure out workarounds. Duck tape the fridge door handle, guestimate what’s in the holding tanks, push on the slide with all your might to get it to slide out right.

******

We made it to Yellowstone! We’re not staying in the park just yet. We found a fantastic Forest Service campground and we’re staying there until our reservation is ready at Bridge Bay on Yellowstone Lake. This campground is near enough in proximity that we took a scouting expedition the other day. Yellowstone is crazy crowded! OMG. At one geyser cars were backed out into the highway waiting for parking spots. This dog don’t hunt! We hope that we can get up way early or visit the heavily visited spots very late at night to avoid crowds. Some people are wearing masks. Many people are not. The narrow walkways make it impossible to distance oneself.

***************

We found a potential new home area. Bozeman, Montana. The area is gorgeous. The people seem relaxed. The town is actually smaller than Madera but it has everything and more! Why didn’t Madera have anything? Was it because it was so close to Fresno? Was it because the population was, on the whole, poor? Anyway, Bozeman has everything and more. I would never be bored when getting takeout! Many, many great restaurants. Cute downtown! So much wide open space. Horses galore! We would probably live here in the summer. Winters are brutal.

me wading nez perce river 2
I’m wading in the Nez Perce River with Sam and Teddy. This is in Yellowstone.

Sidebar: I have to write a little about this river. In the Nez Perce Indian Wars Chief Joseph led a band of old men, women and children and 2,000 (two thousand!) horses through this area. They started in eastern Oregon and went through Idaho and Montana to escape being incarcerated onto a reservation by the U.S. Government who was sick of them resisting being moved. The government tried to make them go by force. The men defending them successfully ran interference for a long time making it possible for Chief Joseph’s group to make it almost all the way to Canada and freedom. They would have made it but they ran out of food and winter was setting in. Chief Joseph said, “I will fight no more forever.” Can you imagine 2,000 horses grazing nearby and drinking from this stream? I can.

gallatin river 2
A river runs through it. In this case it’s the Gallatin River between Yellowstone and Bozeman.

bozeman trail 3
The dirt road in the middle of the hill on the right is the actual Bozeman Trail that the settlers used.

madison river 2
The Madison River inside Yellowstone.

bozeman trail 2
A Bozeman Trail vista. They don’t call it Big Sky for nothing.

A Whole New Experience

snake-river-sunset-near-burley-idahoThe Snake River near Burley, Idaho

We had a terrible night’s sleep at a rest stop outside of Ontario, OR. Don’t camp at a freeway rest stop unless you’re a heavy sleeper or have industrial strength ear plugs. The one ton next to us hauling a giant RV kept his dad-blasted motor idling all night long! Marty said oh he looks like he’s getting ready to pull away but NO he was not ready to pull away at all. I was about to get out of my sleepless bed and egg his windshield at daybreak and then he ups and pulls way. Jerk! Miscreant! A-hole! Marty said that’s not good for his motor. I said did he fall asleep and forget to turn it off? In any case, suffering on our part, so word to the wise… don’t stay at a rest stop. Excuse me, restless stop!

******

The regions that we drove through between Ontario, OR and Jerome, ID grow a LOT of corn and onions! Holy smokes! As a matter of fact, I almost thought I was transported back to dear old Ioway for a minute because of the corn. Not so much the onions, of course, because in Iowa they grow soybeans and alfalfa in addition to the corn. In close proximity to the Snake River there are rolling green hills covered with corn (or onions) as far as the eye can see. The only difference is there is irrigation equipment in every field. Giant circular sprinklers. I wanted to jump out and run underneath them to cool off.

As we drove by I was inspired to cook something regional for dinner.

Idaho Camp-style Onion Burgers

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For Two

Ingredients

½ large Walla Walla onion or any other sweet onion, diced

Avocado oil for the iron pan or any oil you prefer

½ lb hamburger seasoned with salt and pepper

Grandma Sycamore’s Homemade white bread* or any hamburger bun that you prefer

Slow saute diced onions in avocado oil until soft. They can brown a bit just try not to burn them. Fold the cooked onions into the raw hamburger until thoroughly mixed. Form into patties and grill until done the way you like it. Make your sandwich with cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickle, mustard, mayonnaise or any condiment you desire.

*The bread merchandiser at WalMart in Jerome, ID told us that this is the #1 selling sandwich bread in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

Tomorrow night we’ll be near Yellowstone.  McCrae Bridge Campground, as a matter of fact. Then Henry’s Lake and then the Big YS! All this preparation. All this planning. Money spent. Stress upon stress. I’m not sure I’ll believe it but I can tell you one thing: it will be a dream come true. The last time I was there I was 10 years old. All I can remember from that time were the bears snuffling past the tent at night and my dad throwing away the trout he caught in Yellowstone Lake. Liver flukes, he said. It will be whole new experience.

To Tell the Truth

sam blue basinSam gazes at the Blue Basin area in the John Day Fossil Beds near Mt. Vernon, OR.

Let me see now. We’ve been on the road for how long? I start the journey from the time we leave Oakhurst on the 30th of July which makes it 14 days.

Only 2 weeks. It seems so much longer and I’m going to guess that’s because we’ve had so many changes. Time flies when you’re having fun? Nuh-uh. I know I’ve been giving the impression that it’s been more fun than a barrel of monkeys but that would not be true. Time to reveal the truth.

It’s been long periods of work punctuated by short periods of having fun. The biggest job was to buy a new pick up and sell the old one. This was actually premeditated from before we left California. Marty really felt that the ½ ton F150 was not going to make it all the way pulling the weight up steep inclines. We are going to Yellowstone which sits at 7,000 feet give or take after all.

But he didn’t want to pay California sales tax on the purchase price so he had this idea we would buy the new pick up in Oregon where they don’t charge sales tax. It became obvious that it was the right plan as we started to make even small elevation climbs. We chose to go to Oregon on 101 and I am so glad. We would have never made it over the 4,200 ft Siskiyou Pass at the border of California and Oregon.

But when we finally made it to Oregon there weren’t any pickups that were right. Luckily, just across the border from Portland in Woodland, Washington we found an ex-government pick up – I’m going to guess Fire Department because of the red color – and it’s been great. Comfy. Everything works. Pulls like a sunnuvabuck. The guy gave us a good price and a transit permit and didn’t charge us sales tax because we were from out of state. We will register it in Ontario, Oregon on Friday.

But we can’t sell the ½ ton. Why the heck not? Three quarters of the way up the coast Marty admits he forgot to bring the pink slip. It’s packed in the box truck back in Madera.

I can’t believe it.

*******

So what’s the plan now, Stan?

He says he’ll store it – and pay for it himself – and we will come back at some point later in time to get it. So, we store it in Prineville, Oregon on the way to Boise. See what I’m saying? Long periods of work punctuated by short periods of having fun.

*******

Truth be told it’s a challenge to figure out where to camp. The length and fragility of the trailer restricts us to certain places. A much smaller trailer would have worked better to navigate BLM or Forest Service gravel or even dirt roads to find free, off grid camping spots. The trailer functions best when it’s level and doesn’t go over bumps very well at all.

Also, we now have a longer pick up which adds to the difficulty in turning the whole rig around. We’re not proficient (yet) with turning in a tight radius. We don’t want to punch out a tail light. We’re also not proficient (yet) with backing in anything but a straight line. These two things impact where we camp.

I think one of the reasons it seems like we’ve been on the road for a longer time than 2 weeks is that we’ve been doing so much and staying in so many different places. I think, “Just like the emigrants.” What we’re they doing? About 5 miles an hour? Maybe 20 miles a day? Can you imagine taking that long to go cross country? I can’t.

 

Walk Like an Emigrant

bierstadt emigrants

This is probably going to happen over and over again but right now while we’re camping on the banks of the Columbia River near the Oregon Trail as well as the route that Lewis and Clark used while looking for the Northwest Passage I keep getting flashes of what being an emigrant might have been like.

Be prepared to eat less fresh food.

Be prepared to not have clean clothes all the time. And, as a corollary to that, be prepared to kind of stink because you, yourself, get dirty and don’t bathe as much as you would at home.

Be prepared to buy bottled drinking water because you can’t find a water vending machine much less a working one. They didn’t have LifeStraws way back when.

Realize how lucky you are to have the weather forecast for you. I can easily see how the Donner party got caught in their disastrous situation. We’ve been lucky to have great weather so far.

Be prepared to deal with wild animals such as bears and bison that don’t care about what you care about. They go where they want and do what they want. Don’t think you can dissuade them reliably. Definitely educate yourselves about how you should be around them and then don’t cross the line. And DON’T put your child in front of a bull Roosevelt elk and then tell them to say cheese. I saw someone do this on the Northern California coast. The child emerged unscathed but it might not have been so. The child might have been impaled or lobbed into the next county.

Be prepared to deal with less than sanitary conditions. This does not mean you have to live in squalor. But realize you may not get to a laundromat whenever you want. Hand washing your undies and hanging them on a bush to dry is not a big deal.

Postscript

Highway 30 aka the Lincoln Highway – all you Marshalltonians can get on Hwy 30 and come see me in Hood River.

Hwy 30

I am remarkably comfortable with being unproductive.

If you want to get in a trailer with someone who is opposite of you (me neatnik vs. him clutter) be prepared to communicate and have patience.

Blueberry, Chia Breakfast Pudding

chia pudding

Like my Eggs in a Nest this recipe is good for camping but also for home. It’s kind of like oatmeal, but not, and it’s easy, too. I’m a lazy camper. I come out here to relax and whomping up a big gourmet meal that is not easy at home is really not easy out here so I don’t even try. Also, the fewer dishes dirtied the better. Water can be in short supply.

For 2

1 C full fat unsweetened coconut milk

1 t liquid stevia or sugar

1 t vanilla

½ c blueberries

¾ c chia seeds

Whole berries for fun (raspberry, more blueberries, whatever you wish)

In a blender process the coconut milk, sweetener and vanilla until it starts to thicken. Add the blueberries and process until mixed. Fold in the chia seeds. Divide the mixture between 2 cups, cover and keep cool over night or up to 3 days before serving.

Nobody Waits. Everybody Leaves.

sunset 5

We’re on a cliff at the Samuel Boardman State Recreation Area on the southern Oregon coast. Such a breathtaking area. We’re waiting for the sun to set. As we wait people in cars show up. They all stay a couple minutes and then get back in their cars and leave. What’s the big hurry, people? We will never pass this way again.

The guy from the white van says, with outstretched arms, if you stand here you can feel the warm air rising from the cliff. The people in the sports car don’t even get out of their car. A girl comes up from lower down on the cliff with a dog who looks up at her and wags his tail as they walk away. If you wait for it you get the sunset. Nobody waits for it. They’re apparently satisfied with a portion. This is the difference between the photographer and the person who take pictures. The photographer or, if you want to go that far, the artist has patience to wait for the Big Moment. To be there in case the Big Moment happens. Maybe the ordinary person has no faith that the Big Moment will come. Maybe the ordinary person is in too big of a hurry. Has too many commitments.

Who decides who waits for the Big Moment? Who decides if you are an artist or an ordinary person? Only you. No one else. Give yourself permission to wait for the Big Moment. To not hurry away before the Big Moment arrives. Stay and see if it comes.

Far below us the beach looks littered with whale bones. The surf is a faint and rhythmic rumble.

Eggs in a Nest

A Recipe for On the Road or Anytime

(ingredients are per person; add additional ingredients as needed

1 Egg per person

¼ cup shredded mozzarella

Handful of chopped fresh spinach

Tablespoon of parmesan cheese

¼ avocado chopped

Crack egg(s) into hot iron skillet seasoned with olive oil. Turn heat down to medium. Sprinkle mozzarella around egg to make a “nest”. Add chopped spinach and chopped avocado on top of nest. Sprinkle parmesan on the whole thing. Let mozzarella get crispy but not burnt around the edges. If you don’t want your eggs runny cover them with a lid and let steam for a couple minutes. Serve with Gochuchang sauce or hot sauce if you want or just enjoy as is.

 

Fuurther

7.25.2020

One Cat, Two Dogs and Two Old Goats

2 dogs 2 old goats
Where’s the cat? Hiding in the trailer!

Can you say, “Learning experience!” I am so glad we didn’t light out on the road immediately because we would have had a much more frustrating time and difficulty repairing things. We’re still here in Oakhurst getting used to things.

#1 Throttling. No, it’s not what I want to do to Marty after he’s told me that story about “Bert and me” for the hundredth time! Throttling is what the internet provider does when too many people are surfing the web in any given location so everybody can have a little bit of internet and no one is shut out. It’s extremely frustrating because I’m used to the delicious speed of cable and because I believed them when they told us that our plan was “Unlimited”. Riiiiight! Unlimited, yes, but not fast. All the time. We stream too many movies!  Anyway, now we know. Luckily, we are happy to get up early while everybody else is still sleeping. Then it’s fine. By the way, we love our Verizon JetPack mobile hotspot. We’ll see how it works when we’re out in the boonies.

#2 Dog Needs. Dogs have needs! Who knew? Just joking, actually. We know dogs have needs but we’ve been used to having it easy because back at our Madera home we had a big fenced back yard where they could run free. We never needed to take them for walks. We also had a large dog pen where they could sleep at night. They never slept in the house. Here we have to keep them in our trailer because the durn High Sierra RV Park managers have a rule stating that dogs must be in the unit at night.  Marty went to the trouble to build a really nice, roomy cage in the back up the pick-up but that doesn’t work here unfortunately. At O’Dark Hundred Teddy bounds at the screened door to be let out to pee so Marty put in a metal screen.

#3 Trailer add-ons. We bought a trailer with bunk beds so we would have more space to store stuff. When you plan to be gone for a long time and will be in remote areas far from services you need to have tools and materials! Think of us as the Kilchers on wheels! We added these handy-dandy little battery operated lights so we could see what we forgot we had and subsequently need that’s stored in The Cave.

#4 Breakage. The fridge door handle broke almost right away. So annoying! We had to open it with a paint scraper to depress the latch. But it’s under warranty, right? Right! And yet… Ha! Turns out it’s extremely hard to get replacement parts from the manufacturer because of COVID*. Too many people aren’t working. So, we’re going to have to fix it ourselves. Want to go on the road in your own RV? Be Handy!

*I’m getting really, really annoyed with this COVID thing!

O, Pioneers!

With apologies to Willa Cather

7.16.2020

640px-Conestoga_wagon_on_Oregon_Trail_-_NARA_-_286056_crop

Here we are packing up to hit the road in our beautiful new trailer and all of a sudden it hits me. We have too much stuff! And this is after we have purged and stored and purged again. I tell you I was sorry to see that oak chest of drawers sell for $20 bucks! I had it for 42 years and it was solid. It even had my daughter’s pencil scribbles on it that I couldn’t stand to sand off. Sentimental. Wrenching in a way. Yet, I have other things from my daughter’s childhood which I will never let go. Smaller things.

For example, the oak dresser had to go. Sometimes you just have to say goodbye when you’re envisioning a new life with less baggage.

And still, as the “Conestoga wagon” gets packed, it seems we have too much stuff. I tried to find a picture of the trail of debris that might have been seen when settlers were going west, driving their team of oxen, and they would realize that they weren’t going to get through that rain swollen stream with Gramma’s piano in the wagon. Out goes Gramma’s piano. Maybe an Indian riding past will tinkle the keys before the piano succumbs to the elements.

I found this bit in a textbook:

https://historycollection.com/10-eye-opening-details-about-life-on-the-oregon-trail/3/

“As is human nature, however, many people simply packed too much. Understandably, people found it hard to leave behind either valuable possessions or items with sentimental value. Most would soon learn the error of their ways. As the journey progressed and both the people and the oxen or horses started to tire, possessions would start to be shed. In fact, this was so common that there was even a term for abandoned possessions on the Trail. They were known as ‘leeverites’, taken from the fact that the travelers had to “leave ‘er right here”. In some instances, whole piles of leeverites sprang up along the length of the trail.”

So we have our own pile of leeverites. Some went to Goodwill, some went to Disabled American Veterans, some went to ReStore and some went to the dump. The stuff that was too important, the stuff we wanted to keep, went into the big box truck that Marty, in his infinite wisdom, had kept all along. The rest was designated as necessary to the functioning of the trailer. It still seems like too much.

I confide in you that my mother never went anywhere because she said, “I can’t go until I get the attic organized.” She said this for years and she never went anywhere. I became a person who loves to shuck things, probably in reaction to her inability to let things go. I think you know where I’m going with this so I’ll just come right out and say it: What is holding you back from doing what you want?