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 3rd, 2020

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

The eyes have it

The dog pictured above is Otto – one of Meghan’s pack.

I have had several things going on lately so actually the timing is working out pretty good for my upcoming getaway. A few new things have come up and it is really beginning to look like the next few months will be busier than I thought so that will mean more travel in my future than I previously planned. I finally got an appointment set up with a hand surgeon in Washington and we will probably be scheduling the surgery at that appointment. I hope to get the other cataract surgery done around the same time, and I will fit in whatever else I need done in that timeframe as well. Busy indeed, but I want to get the stuff done that needs done – there is fun that needs to be had and I’m gonna have it but there are priorities.

Another “summer” draws to a close next week with the Labor Day holiday. This year has really gone by fast, but there really has been quite a lot happen in the first eight months of this year – at least in my life.

Unfortunately some places close down after this holiday, which is too bad since it is usually the best time to travel because school has started and the crowds have gone home. That was always frustrating in Colorado. The weather is still decent in many places, but places like many Forest Service, National Park, and State Park campgrounds will close. As I have said before, though, I usually don’t stay in many campgrounds.

That’s all in a normal year, and this is far beyond a normal year as we previously knew the definition of normal. I don’t really know what to expect in my upcoming travels, but the places I go are usually not where the crowds are anyway so I don’t anticipate much being different. The trips I have made so far since getting back from Europe I have not seen the huge crowds of people out as I would usually see, like my day trip through Yellowstone for instance. It was busy…just not Yellowstone busy.

I always try to avoid being out during long holiday weekends like this one because of the crowds and the stupidity that goes along with them. Too many people that cannot handle their booze and drugs means it’s Amateur Hour on the roadways and it’s just safer to stay home and avoid becoming a statistic. They are also obnoxious and destructive in the forest so they take away from the enjoyment of nature.

So, I felt this was a really good time to go someplace and I just returned from a few days in the woods.

My original thought was to go back to Earthquake Lake so that’s the way I headed. On the way down I was able to fill up the water tank on the trailer at Ennis RV Park in Ennis, MT. I told them I would come by and use their pay dumpstation when I was headed back to the house so they said okay. But, on the way out there was a tray of baked goods. Singing a siren’s song from a shelf by the door was a package of homemade carrot cake. I grabbed it and took it up to pay. I had to have that plus I wanted to make a purchase since they did me a favor. Luckily it was diet carrot cake – there were only two hunks in the plastic wrap so I did not feel so bad.

I took off after a quick stop for a propane refill, some Guinness and a couple of fresh ground burger patties. But, along the way, a Forest Service Road was just luring me in so I turned and found a great spot right next to a river, which I believe is the West Fork Madison because that is the road I took. Since I would rather do some boondocking for a few days it saved me $60 in camping fees plus I did not have to drive quite as far even though I was a bout eight miles in. I would not be using any of the campground facilities so it is pointless for me to stay in a campground anyway, other than there is safety in numbers. More about that later.

A pretty nice site!

Unfortunately there are no trees blocking the road in the site I found, but I only saw two vehicles go by so it’s been fine. It’s bear country for sure so I took all the extra precautions since I had no bear spray. I did see a calling card left by a bear and the Forest Service posted a sign on a tree in the campsite right by the river and along the roads I took.

A Guinness and a recliner – who needs TV?

Stopping here saved me some time, too, so I was able to get in the woods a little faster to find a good spot. I know that weekends are the busiest time and kids are also back in school in some fashion. I have flexibility with when I can go so it’s during the week when I go out to find a spot, and I scored pretty good with this one!

It was pretty cold the first night and when I got up the next morning there was a pretty hard frost on the truck and grass. I adjusted the thermostat a little warmer after that night though since it was a little too cold inside. My trailer is not made for cold weather so I have to be careful. If I want to camp in winter it’s dry-camping only – no water onboard. That also means no showers so that changes my traveling options. But with the weather just getting cold at night and warming up during the day it will be fine. The furnace helps keep the plumbing inside warm, but the valves and graywater tank are outside and that’s where the problems can happen. I will still need to figure out something for winter.

The second and third nights were not as cold outside and the second day was nice, but the third day was pretty warm but a breeze helped. They were all nice days for a short walk to check out other spots along the river.

I did put a few grill marks on those burgers and enjoyed every last bite of one piece of that carrot cake. The Guinness went down smooth like it always does. SPAM (no…don’t you EVEN give me any grief about SPAM; it’s tasty, easy to store, there are many varieties and you can do so much with it), scrambled eggs (with gouda aged 1000 days) and southwestern-style hashbrowns for breakfast was delicious. I thought about cooking my burgers over a campfire but I honestly don’t build many fires anymore since it is just me (not counting the dog).

The main point, however, was to get away & decompress and I was able to do that pretty well. Since the dog is not with me this trip I am able to sleep in and even lie around after I woke up. Sitting out in my lounge chair recliner drinking a few beers by the river and not thinking about anything for a few days was just what I needed to do for me.

I opened up my road atlas for ideas for future trips. I was looking at the Colorado pages since it’s close and I have not been road-tripping there in quite a while. One thing stuck out as I looked at the map: I have been on every major highway in the state between all my trips around Colorado. I was quite shocked to discover that. The last trip through northern CO a few months ago filled in the last blanks on places I have been in CO and those highways at the same time. Of course, along with that, are the countless miles of four-wheeling in the back country and smaller roads I have been on. Pretty surprising. Looking at Washington’s map afterwards it is the same – I have been on most major highways, only lacking a couple.

Before I took this trip I was looking at places to go to get some ideas, but the pandemic has shut many things down. In Theodore Roosevelt NP, which I was hoping to drive over to and stay in for a few days, the campgrounds are shut down for building construction on new toilets. That is actually great planning since the visitation is down all over and it inconveniences fewer people to do it now before visitations ramp back up next year (maybe). Construction projects have to be done in summer in many places due to weather and seasonal staffing available, especially in the northern half of the country.

So be aware that some (but not all) state parks, federal lands, and even city parks are closed down for now or have limited resources and hours so you will have to check where you want to go for restrictions before you go anywhere. Even roads and highways going into some tribal lands are closed for outsiders. This is complicating travel for RV people and car campers, but many private campgrounds are open. There is still the option of boondocking on federal lands (pay attention to the regulations for stay limits, fire regulations, etc.). One city park I checked into was closed for the pandemic.

Road warriors talk about staying in Walmart parking lots and it is popular. Some allow that for one night only, and some don’t allow it at all so you have to ask as you make a purchase (don’t be a cheapskate – they are helping YOU out). There have been a lot of issues with some people “camping” in the parking lots (violence, noise, theft, vandalism, police, etc.) so many Walmarts have put a stop to it. I did it once; I didn’t have any problems, but after reading about it and seeing videos posted I won’t stay in them anymore. I am seeing more and more people living in Walmart lots and my understanding is they get territorial. I don’t need that in my life so I avoid it.

Ironic that I should mention those issues before I wrap this post up. Things were pretty good the first few days of my exile, but that all went straight to hell on Wednesday afternoon. I was getting ready to cook a burger and had an issue with one of the entitled local assholes. Without going into the long story about it the sheriff is now involved and charges will be filed against him. I am okay – no physical violence but it was close.

After this I have decided that I won’t be going into the forest in Montana anymore. With everyone here having a gun and an attitude, the hell with it. I don’t need this BS and will spend my time and money elsewhere where people are treated with respect. I have spent countless days and nights in the National Forests in various places across the country over the decades and never ever had any problems in the forest until now. I honestly felt safer stumbling around the streets of Seattle at night than I now do in the forests in Montana.

I went back to Ennis and stayed at the Ennis RV Village to drink a few beers and calm down. I must say that this was a really nice RV campground – probably the nicest one I have ever stayed in. Even though they had “residents”, there were not dog pens or storage bins everywhere and the place was very clean. The staff was very friendly, welcoming, and helpful. It is in town so it is close in case you need supplies. I am very picky about these places with the experiences I had a few months ago, but after staying the night in this park I would definitely recommend this park.

The view from Ennis RV Park

That’s it for now. Still trying to get over what happened so it’s time for a cocktail.