September 17th, 2020

Adventure, food, Just things, Outdoors, Road Trip, Scotty Hilander, Travel

I got up early to get an early start and decided in the interest of hitting the road faster i went and got breakfast and coffee. I usually do not unhook my truck so I can just wake up and get gone but I wanted to run around, and the trailer is not level in this spot if it is hooked up – it kinda goes uphill so the trailer tongue has to be cranked down lower than the hitch on the truck to be level for the fridge to work properly and the shower to drain.

The air quality is not good today – much worse than yesterday and I am starting to cough and wheeze from it so apparently I am leaving at the perfect time. I wish I had longer to stay and drive around but with the air getting unhealthy it’s just as well I leave now.

Luckily, with all my recent trips I have gotten into a pretty good rhythm to getting things done fairly quick both setting up and packing it back up for the road. Nice thing with a trailer is when it is raining hard you just park, open the door and go to bed. Dry and warm. Gotta use the toilet? It’s in your closet (basically in mine it is).

I got everything unhooked and put away then hit the road for the drive back. The winds were not quite as bad as they were on the way down but pulling a trailer still knocks the gas mileage down even with a tailwind. I stop often for gas – when I am at about a half-tank – so I don’t run out again like I did a while back. I got gas for $1.99/gallon in Cheyenne and in the low-$2.00 range most of the rest of the trip. The KOA was only $42/night and that was with full hookups.

Having the dog with me it’s good to let him out to exercise and do what he needs to do, and it gets me out of the truck as well so I stop often for that. He still loves to travel and does pretty good but I have had to put the crate in the back and lock him up in it to keep him from wandering.

All the way back the air quality was really horrible so I had the air conditioning set on recirculate to keep the bad air out. I saw the mountains very little and in some places they are not that far from the interstate. Even getting back to the house the smoke is thicker than I have seen in almost the entire time I have been here. I can’t stop coughing and clearing my throat. It sucks and I hope I do not get sick again, but I am staying inside, keeping the inhaler going and doing whatever else I need to do to to fight it off the best I can. I have not taken many pictures on this trip since there was really nothing to see due to the smoke so I did not bother trying.

It was so fantastic to be back in Colorado once again and revisit some long-ago visited places and memories from the past 40-odd years. I had not thought about those ‘shoestring adventures” of those days in quite a while and as I did I smiled inside and out. I only stayed in free places, I froze my ass off at times and was hungry on occasion, but I had a great time traveling like that. I still travel on a low budget but it is because I want to and because I enjoyed doing it in my 20s. Sure, I have the luxury of a trailer now but that doesn’t mean I have to give up the best and most honest way to travel; one that makes you find your happiness without much money.

So, Colorado…I hope to be back very soon! No need to leave a light on for me.

I know the way very well.

September 16th, 2020

Adventure, Just things, Outdoors, pictures, Road Trip, Scotty Hilander, Travel

I got up today after sleeping like a log for the first time in months and no back or neck pain. The air quality is not real great but not quite to the point of staying inside all day. I think I will probably just stay another night here since everywhere I want to go is the same as far as the air. It’s right at 9 hours back to the house from here so that is a little longer in the trailer because of the winds. I checked the drive time going west and up and it’s 15 hours plus I’d still have to go through SLC, which is the travel version of the movie Groundhog Day. Lots of traffic, every exit is the same and it just goes on and on and on…

I decided to go north to the historic site in WY I saw on the way down that I wanted to check out. It is called the Quebec 01Missile Alert Facility just off of I-25 about a half hour north of Cheyenne. It was not too far away from where I am staying and well-worth it. I decided to go today instead of stopping so I could make some good time Thursday on the way home.

I found this stop just north of Cheyenne, WY very interesting and even a bit unnerving

If you are a history buff or just simply curious about our tendency to want to efficiently kill millions of other people on the planet then you should stop and take the quick and inexpensive tour. It has only been around for a year or so and that is why I had not seen it before.

They take you down into the control center where the keys and codes were.

Perhaps for some of those of us who remember this stuff it will being back memories of the “Red Scare”; those evil Commies, with fallout shelters and “duck and cover” hysteria in the schools, and the planes for Operation Looking Glass overhead 24/7/365. It was interesting to see this place because I love history; I sure as hell don’t love war and seeing this place makes you realize just how fanatical and scary this crazy game of real-life Risk is. One thing so very fascinating about history is when it is actually something from our own lifetimes. It makes it different and many times you get the real story versus what we were told when we were younger. Check out the weapons-count poster. It is just insanity. There is a term for it – Mutually Assured Destruction. Yes, MAD hits the nail on the warhead.

I walked around the grounds a little then drove back to the trailer after another run to Ft. Collins for treats. While out picking up a few things I spulrged on a Good Times Guacamole Bacon Burger with Wild Fries. I’m such a rebel; Wild Fries and I EVEN had a Dr. Pepper to go with it. Yep, that’s right…a full-course COMBO meal. It’s been about 10 years since I had eaten at a Good Times and oh man it was soooo good. Not the kind of stuff I eat often these days but if I get a need for it I will buy it. It is getting a little smokier in the area. When I get back at the trailer it’s inside for a bit to avoid that bad air and hopefully it will clear out later.

It’s really been a good trip despite the air quality issues and the brake repair – you just gotta deal and move on. It’s done. Even though it is definitely not what many would call a fancy place (three of five stars) the campground was reasonable (about $43.00/night w/full hookups) and I made a few side trips to see some things. Mainly, I got to relax & unwind and that was really the focus of this trip.

I just saw an article titled “9 Unique National Parks You’ve probably Never Been To”. I just had to know, and I was surprised to find out that I have been to five of them. There are so many National Parks I want to see that I would have thought the entire list would be those places. That was kinda cool.

Tonight is just a kick back night, pop one open and the smoke has calmed down a bit. I can enjoy sitting outside relaxing on this final night out on this trip. The entire state of CO is under a fire ban so no campfires to sit around to ponder the universe and perhaps think about how to fix the crap in your life that needs fixing. Tomorrow is a bit of a drive and I don’t want to be starting on the road very late if possible so I guess it is just as well that I call the game a little early.

September 15th, 2020

Adventure, Just things, Outdoors, Road Trip, Scotty Hilander, Travel

After a decent night’s sleep I woke up with no alarm (except for this pesky dog). After a filling brunch at Taco John’s – a taco burger, a hardshell and a softshell taco and Potato Olés. It was delicious – I haven’t eaten at a TJ in a few years and it was just as I remember.

The road beckons, but beckons wheezing through a respirator as it is a little smoky this morning. Last night I decided I might to try to head towards Rocky Mountain NP but you now have to reserve an admission time and they are fully booked for over a week out so I am not sure what I will do now. The AirNow website shows some mild smoke in the mountains today but better air quality tomorrow so I may have to do a little planning.

I ended up heading for Estes Park on US 34 out of Loveland anyway. I have not been that way in a few decades so it was mostly new again but there were definitely familiar sights from all those years ago. I used to come here often in the early 80’s. Estes Park was actually fairly busy but I parked to get out for a quick errand – I wanted to pick up my favorite cheese popcorn at a little red-fronted shop I always stop at that has been there for many years. Unfortunately they were closed.

I also stopped at the RMNP Visitor’s Center just to ask about the national park entry reservations. You MUST have a permit that is purchased online at recreation.gov to get in the park between 6 a.m. and 5 p.m (outside those hours it’s open without the permits). The passes allow you in at a certain time only. Today was booked solid and the guy said there may be a few spots open tomorrow at 3:00 p.m. but with the late entry and the smoke I think it will not be worth it. I want to spend the day and come back before dark to avoid animals on the roads. I bet there are other national parks doing this too so be sure to check ahead.

It’s definitely smokier from the wildfires here at the trailer this afternoon than it was this morning. I have been debating on staying here another day because the air is not bad and I have definitely enjoyed sitting outside when it cools down some. I don’t really smell smoke right now so it is pleasant out. I would really love to push on and go west, but it would be a lot of extra driving on short notice and some of it in places I don’t want to go, like back up over Teton Pass again or driving north through Salt Lake City. If I had left here today and went on that would have been better but I would like a different route next time as opposed to backtracking. With the fires I am finding that many roads are closed so its a great time for evaluating your travel plan flexibility. I wanted to go to the Buddhist temple Shambhala in the gorgeous setting of the Rockies but the roads are closed in that area. A second thing I wanted to do that I couldn’t (the first being I couldn’t get into RMNP).

Oh well; at least I did get out for a drive and it brought back so many 40-year-old memories. All those trips from KS to CO I took where I left after work and drove all night to the now-closed Deer Lodge rest area and slept in the car a few hours before pushing on into Denver at sunrise to head into the mountains. Some stretches of I-70 had one radio station on the AM side, and that was for several hours of your drive back in the early 80s.

I would have a bunch of mac & cheese, ramen, canned fruit, and a loaf of bread and Underwood Deviled Chicken Spread loaded in the car, a few clothes and any other basic necessities like a Sterno stove, hot dogs, and a cheap Walmart tent and Coleman sleeping bag. The total trip budget each time, including fuel, was $50-$70 for nine days total and sometimes I even came back with money!

Man, those were such fun and interesting trips and everyone should try it a few times in their lives. There was the trip I locked myself out of my car not once, but twice – one of those times I was in Nederland, Colorado in cut-off Levi’s and no shirt on and it started to sleet. I went and sat in the bar and had a few beverages then I went out into the new sunshine since I figured out a way to take the side rear window out so I could reach the door handle. Another time I was in a truck that rolled on a rough mountain road, teaching me to wear seatbelts and not ride with people drunk or high (at least not them). And who could ever forget Frozen Dead Guy Days? I have slept next to my car on the shoulder of a back road, under my Jeep, in my Jeep, woke up in a rest area with the car running, heat on full blast, and the door wide open…Oh so many, many interesting and fun memories.

So now I need to figure out what to do tomorrow, but more than likely I will just stay here tomorrow night too.

September 14th, 2020

Adventure, Just things, Outdoors, Road Trip, Scotty Hilander, Travel

I got to the repair shop just after they opened and asked if they could have a look at my brakes. He said “give me a few minutes” to see what he could do. He actually got me right in and had me out by 9:30 or so. A big shoutout to Point S/One Stop in Douglas, WY for really going above and beyond. They have fantastic customer service and helped get me on my way after a very reasonably-priced repair.

Colorado. Damn, I just love this place. Felt like I was back home just crossing the border.

The second day was a short drive but an early morning getting the repairs done. On the way down I stopped at a new historic site I had not seen before. They were closed so I planned on stopping on the way back by since I will have some extra time – another advantage of staying north.

I decided to stay in a KOA near Wellington for a couple of nights. It is not ideal but the closer you get to Denver there are many times no spots open anyplace you would want to stay and they can be expensive. Even though the place I am in is a bit north (just south of the WY border), the thought is to do a few day trips out of here to places fairly close and with decent air quality. It is also closer to drive back to the house on the last day I’m out on this tour so some day trips are the best way to go. I have parked and disconnected the trailer, got it set up and plugged in, then went to Ft. Collins for party favors. Since I got in late last night and I was up early I decided to just sit and relax a bit tonight and ponder my options…while smelling cow poo.

I have several options amongst some of my favorite places. It feels so good to be back here and I am excited to see it all again. If I do get into the central Rockies that will absolutely bring back some memories… both happy and sad. I have some time to kick back, settle in for my Rocky Mountain High, and figure out something for tomorrow.

September 13th, 2020

Adventure, Just things, Road Trip, Scotty Hilander, Travel

It has been really nice lately to be able to get away more often. So nice, in fact, I am out right now to get away for a few days. I had thought about going someplace a little farther than where I stopped, but as usual there’s a story behind that.

I was debating for several days about a hotel or taking the trailer. I had to replace a part on the truck and it is running much better now so I felt better about taking the trailer. The part I replaced is called a Mass Airflow Sensor (No, it’s nothing to do with the Catholic converter…😂 ) and feeds the computer info on incoming airflow to the engine. The things I had read about symptoms summed up what was going on with the truck so I took a chance and replaced it. Taking it out for a test drive it felt like it was running better. The only way to know was to hook up the trailer.

I went back and forth and finally I voted for the confines of my bubble also because I have the dog with me and it is better for him too. Plus it is cheaper since I can cook my own meals since I already have groceries.

The trip south out of Montana was, unsurprisingly, windy as heck and it seems it usually blows at you no matter if you are going north or south. I ended up getting 9.1 mpg on the way down on I-90/I-25 fighting the headwinds. I left around noon on Sunday and drove to the KOA in Douglas, WY for another night’s stay there. The hosts are very nice and helpful so I certainly do not mind giving them a shout-out. As I pulled in to find my spot, though, trouble was a-brewin’…

The truck brakes were grinding. REALLY grinding.

I took it to the car wash a few days prior to leaving and washed out the brakes really good. With all the gravel roads I have been on recently they were pretty dirty and powering them clean seemed to really help. Sometimes you can get a rock stuck in the brakes so I was thinking it may be that. But, driving down on the highway wore them down even more.

Since they were grinding that bad when I arrived I knew the priority was to get them fixed immediately (before even thinking of leaving), so I made a plan to be up early Monday morning and go to a 5-star shop that I found on Yelp (my usual business review guide).

Since I arrived late (8:30 p.m. or so) and it’s an early up tomorrow I am headed to bed.