June 17th, 2020

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

Westward ho!

As I am starting this post I have just stopped for gas and am letting the fridge run for a bit on propane to cool off some.

I left late this morning after coffee with Chelsea so I could start to make my way back toward Montana via Colorado. I’m ready to get my Rocky Mountain High on and find some cooler weather. Hell, pretty much any weather would be cooler. It’s like I’m driving on the surface of the sun.

Wasn’t gonna happen without a fight apparently. I-70 across Kansas and eastern Colorado is always notorious for its winds and boring scenery. This stop for gas finds it 101 goddamn degrees. Add to that a horrendous crosswind of about 40 mph. There is absolutely no need for this uninhabitable nonsense and I hate this shit. On top of it this hot weather expanded and loosened that damned weatherstripping again, but this time on the entire top on one side of the trailer. The winds are whipping it around too.

I had to stop to fix it and get gas (currently getting 6 mpg). I could not climb on top but did the next best thing – pulled into the trucker fuel lane and stood on the concrete barrier protecting the pumps. Problem solved. May have to pack a ladder though.

This weatherstripping has been a pain before (when I was moving to Washington in 2012) but there is no fix as far as I know – it expands and contracts with the weather. This piece is now cracked so it looks like I’ll be replacing it when I get back. The other side I replaced around 2014.

I had to pull over in the shade at a rest area near past Hays to fire up the fridge again. I think I’m gonna sit here a bit and let it run longer so I don’t have to stop so frequently. My frozen stuff is thawing out. I might think about a late lunch to take advantage of the time. Last stop had no sshade so I’m taking advantage of this stop.

I have driven this road many many many times and I have never seen it this windy except for once in the early 80s when a really severe thunderstorm was blowing through. I was in my old CJ-5 and had to stop under a bridge for an hour or two late at night (2:00 A.M.) until it blew over. The temperature now says 103 on my truck sitting in the shade. I don’t really remember ever having weather this hot either.

I decided to go ahead and push on. I was just east of the KOA at Wakeeny but it was still fairly early in the day – around 3:45. I still had plenty of daylight to go plus I’m going to gain an hour at Brewster, Kansas. I want to get as far as I can so I can get into the mountains tomorrow at a decent time. It’s getting close to the weekend and I need to get someplace.

I made it to the KOA in Goodland, just shy of the Colorado border. The next one is in Limon and I would have went in if this one in Goodland was full.

I got everything hooked up and did some reorganization in the truck to take stuff from the trailer and put into the truck. I converted the front dinette into my bed and put the rear dinette back into its seating configuration. It is so much more roomy to sit comfortably and feels less cluttered inside. This also means I need to get rid of some things out of the trailer when I get back. Since I am currently traveling solo I don’t need a big bed (and no, I don’t mean the dog).

I cooked some Chinese food for dinner and a shower is the other reward of the day. The winds are still howling but with the other RVs around and some trees and a few buildings it breaks it up a little. It still shakes the trailer though!

Tomorrow the winds should die out and it will be cooler in the morning. I know the afternoon will b e cooler since I plan on getting in the mountains by then!

Time for a few thoughts…

Like I said earlier I have been down this interstate too many times to count. I remember coming out to Colorado as a small kid on family vacations, and many times over the years as an adult. Some years I was driving out this highway three or four times a year. Needless to say the place is in my blood. And my heart.

As a youngster we would pack up the old 1962 Chevy II station wagon with a pallet to stretch out on between the camping gear. Seat belts? Didn’t have them. I was always really excited to go and we would stop at one of the first rest areas and I would pick up a free map that they used to have in a dispenser on a post.

I would get out my trusty magic marker and anxiously follow our route the entire time, using my black highlighter to keep track of our progress.

I remember seeing many of the tourist sight signs even into my adult years. Some of the attractions we stopped to see, such as the World Famous Rock City (now re-opened it looks like), the Walther P. Chrysler boyhood home, The Eisenhower Museum and even the now long gone Indian Burial Pit that, if I remember right, was around Salina.

We saw the signs for hundreds of miles but we never did stop at the worlds largest prairie dog. I did stop there as an adult. It’s a giant concrete statue of a prairie dog located amongst an animal freakshow that was a poster child for animal abuse. It is shutdown as well but you can still sneak a peek at the statue through the deterioration of the plywood barrier.

The thing is, I see these things advertised and wonder how long they will remain relevant – or even open for business. Classic restaurants will always be there, like The Cozy Inn in Salina, but how many people these days visit these attractions? Younger generations did not grow up with this stuff so do they or WILL they care? Seems rather sad in a way, but it is just the way it is.

I may have written about this stuff before, but I didn’t go back to check. I thought about it a few days ago as I showed my granddaughter Emery what I did when I was younger and showed her my trip in 2012 to move to Washington that I had highlighted as well. I gave her her very own atlas and highlighter so she could do the same with her trips.

Only this was a yellow one.

June 13th, 2020

Adventure, Just things, Outdoors, Scotty Hilander, Travel, Uncategorized

I woke up to a sunny morning and the birds were going crazy singing their asses off. It was a pretty pleasant morning with a temperature of about 75 but it was still pretty sticky and about the upper end of my comfort level. 

I had some coffee and breakfast and got everything packed up to leave after I stopped at the dump station and had a look at the atlas again.

I went on south towards North Platte to catch eastbound I-80. That is as far as my planning went and I would play it by ear from there. I had a couple of thoughts on when to start heading south to Kansas since that was my final destination.

I made a pit stop at a rest area and saw this cool trailer:

No it is NOT an Airstream even though it looks similar. It can be yours for…gulp…$225,000.00.

I went back-and-forth on my route but eventually decided to go on over to I-29 and head south to get to where I was going. According to Apple Maps it was the fastest route so I took it. I have had enough of the horrible weather and just wanted to get to where I was going.

I went south a little ways and it was so hot and humid you could actually see the air. Yes, you could actually see the air. 

It was also 94°. 

OPPRESSIVE.

I got a little farther south and it ended up being 96° and still humid. As luck would have it, when I stopped for gas a guy walked up and told me there was a piece of trim coming off of the side of the trailer. Around the wheel wells is a channel that covers the edges of the siding and it actually goes up over the top on each side. The rubber trim pops into a channel and it keeps water from getting into the screw holes that secure the trim and siding – a kind of weatherstripping.

This could only mean one thing – I had to lay on the pavement on a 96° day and fix it. I grabbed a throw rug out of my trailer to lay on the ground as insulation as well as to keep my skin from the scorching pavement and from getting dirty. I got it fixed quickly and easily but couldn’t leave quite yet.

The refrigerator in my trailer runs on either propane or 110V shore power. Unfortunately there is no 12V setting on my refrigerator and you can’t run propane while you’re going down the highway. On a hot day like today things started heating up quickly inside the trailer, so I figured while I’m fixing that trim problem I would just fire up the propane refrigerator and then go into the convenience store and wander around a bit so the refrigerator could cool off.

I got back on the road about 30 minutes later and got to the house. I probably won’t have many updates for a few days since I will be holed-up in the air conditioning avoiding the carnivorous insects and passing out from the heat.

It is so damn hot and humid. It is so uncomfortable even into the late evening. It is affecting my allergies and my breathing pretty badly so I do not know how long I can stay. It is in the mid-to-upper 90s and what feels like comparable humidity levels. I need to fix a few things at the house before I head back north though. 

I cannot walk in the grass here, as the chiggers are horrible and they crawl up and get into places like inside your socks and underwear and chew your skin. The oak mites are even worse – they are blown around through the air so they cannot really be sprayed for (unlike chiggers, since they crawl in the grass). They start chewing on whatever they land on looking for oak trees. You cannot see either one of these little bastards so there is really no prevention short of staying out of the grass and, better yet, indoors. If you have never had the pleasure of either one you are very fortunate. So are your nether regions.

Yesterday I saw a sign that had a phone number for “stump grinding”. I am not sure I want to know what that is about.

Or, do I?

Check back in a few days!

June 12th, 2020

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

After an eight-hour nap I woke up at a leisurely pace this morning, thinking how strange it was to not have a dog sitting on me and staring me down first thing in the morning. I also thought about how nice it was too – I was able to lay around for a few minutes after waking up and not be rushed. I saw people out walking their dogs last night and it made me miss my little furry cohort but I left him with Meghan for this trip. Among other reasons he has to get a rattlesnake booster shot (yeah, weird, eh?) during the time I would be gone. He will get a chance to hit the road again soon.

First things first. Coffee and some breakfast. A delicious, eye-opening cup of Sumatra dark roast and a breakfast burrito. I unfortunately neglected to bring cheese, but I had Spam (hey, don’t judge me…it’s easy and delicious), potatoes O’Brien, eggs (of course) and another new hot sauce from Culinary Tours that I discovered recently called peri-peri that hails from Central Africa. Heat and a delicious smokiness that is soooo delicious and actually not that hot. (I also discovered the magic of Chohula hot sauce on Mexican food recently as well. Another new favorite.)

After securing everything in the trailer for the road I have some personal business that I need to attend to here in Douglas so the timing of this adventure has actually turned out good. And no, I am not in trouble.

I got to Douglas to take care of my personal stuff and that ended up not working out very well unfortunately. But, since I was coming by this way anyway, I thought I would stop and give it a try. It just means I have to do things by mail when I get home.

I decided to head east into Nebraska. I had no particular plan except going to the easternmost part of the Nebraska National Forest in the central part of the state. Yes, seriously, there is a National Forest and Grasslands in Nebraska. More on that in a minute.

The drive throughout most of Wyoming actually sucked due to the road conditions. The interstate was filled with little hills that made the road like a roller coaster. Little to no maintenance ever appeared to have been done on many roads. Most sections looked as though they had been there since they were first built and not touched since. Pretty inexcusable and I will leave it at that.

Other than the wagon trail conditions of the highways, there were some beautiful areas I drove through. The area around Shawnee has a lot of family history on my mom’s side that we explored a few years ago.

Near Shawnee, WY

I went on to Lusk and headed east toward Chadron, all new territory for me and I had no idea what to expect. It was quite varied terrain for much of the trip, with beautiful rolling hills, vast grasslands and several miles of highway construction that was two lanes of gravel. I guess they’re at least making progress.

Near Lusk, WY

Around Chadron I came across my first section of the National Forest as I drove along US 20. It was a very beautiful area that kind of reminds me of parts of Colorado, South Dakota or Montana. Remember, this is Nebraska. Rolling grassy hills, lots of trees – a very nice drive.

Sorry about the bugs on the windshield!

At this point I knew where I wanted to end up but no plan on how. I decided to go south after seeing a sign for a point of interest that I had forgotten about but wanted to see…

Carhenge.

Yep, down south of where I was and close to Alliance was Carhenge. Well, the adventure took a right turn and I was kind of excited that I was going. I wanted to see it ever since I heard of it but was not going to make a special trip. Simnce I was in the area I thought I would take advantage of it though.

Carhenge – Alliance, NE
Cadillacs, Willys, and Gremlins, oh my at Carhenge – Alliance, NE

The story behind it is in this link. This may not be for everybody, but there were actually quite a few people there to have a look and take pictures. One family there was rather interesting. The family stayed in the minivan while the mom got out ran up took pictures and then she got back in the van and they left. you could tell they were just bagging sites and not having a vacation.

I took another look at the trusty road atlas and figured out a way to head east for the national forest and camp for the night.

I came across a place called Fort Robinson nestled amongst the cliffs and the sand hills. It had been turned into a state park. They have a campground there that I could’ve stayed in but it was still relatively early and I got such a late start on the road in the morning I was trying to get as far as I could so I took a few pictures and went on.

Fort Robinson, NE

I took a drive up a Forest Road which almost turned out to be a really bad decision. Being nestled in the sand hills of Central Nebraska (which were quite beautiful by the way).

Near Thedford, NE

The road was basically sand. It was OK for a truck, jeep, ATV, etc., but not pulling a trailer which I soon found out was a bad thing. I got up the hill and immediately tried to find a place to turn around but couldn’t turn around because of the soft sand. Eventually I was able to find a spot and do a 27 point turn to get out of there.

I got back to the highway and went over to the recreation area of the national forest. I was not impressed with the campsites as they were basically on top of each other. There were none to be had anyway being a Friday night so I went back out towards the highway for a look at the atlas for a back up idea.

I decided to backtrack 15 miles and head south on US 83 toward North Platte Nebraska.

The Sandhills – south of Thedford, NE

I got about 30 miles outside of North Platte and saw a sign for a campground in a little town called Stapleton. I pulled in to the town and saw a sign but it looked like it led down into a residential area and was made of gravel. It really didn’t look much like a road to a campground in a town so I thought maybe the sign meant the next road turn right.

The next road didn’t look much better but up ahead a block I saw another blue sign for camping. This time it happened to be in the city park. It was $15 a night and I had electricity and water, and there was a sewer dump station for the morning before leaving. Perfect! I’ll take it!

Camping in the city park – Stapleton, NE

I have stayed in one or two city parks before and they are actually a pretty good value plus you can really help support the local economy. I will be looking for more of those in my travels. I have my trailer so I am fairly self-contained. No need for a bathroom but given the miserable weather conditions the electricity is great for the A/C. I am going to need to get a generator soon so I won’t need to rely on campgrounds. I can boondock and take a shower outside.

I got dinner and sat to relax. It was hot and so humid that the A/C didn’t seem to keep up. I went to bed and tossed and turned for a bit but eventually I got a decent night’s sleep.

June 11th, 2020

Adventure, food, Just things, Outdoors, Scotty Hilander, Travel, Uncategorized

I am typing this before calling it a night in a KOA in Douglas, WY, the smell of campfires being sucked in through the trailer windows by one of the new super duper fans I installed. I told you a road trip was coming up!

It was a fairly uneventful drive down from MT (more on that in a bit). The temps were a bit warm – hottest I saw was about 84 degrees Farenheit. Not sweltering, but you have to understand I am still getting used to the different, drier climate in the Rocky Mountain area as opposed to the PNW. I had the A/C cranking!

I did not bother taking pictures because I have posted pictures of this route before and not much has really changed. There is some pretty scenery along the way but much of it’s just miles and miles of miles and miles, especially souther MT and all of WY.

So…about the “fairly uneventful drive”…

I made a pit stop on an off-ramp to get more water (I also check the hitch, chains, tires, etc. each time I stop, too). I decided to go ahead and make a reservation at the KOA so I could flush the water lines and do some system checks – water heater (with the new switch I installed), propane heat on the water heater, 12 volt water pump, and anything else that needed a once-over. i also put some water in the water tank so I can boondock it for a day or two if I want.

So there I am jetting down I-25, and I get through Casper. I am about four miles from the exit and my truck died on the interstate. I pulled over and called the KOA to see if they could suggest anyone local to call for some assistance. They asked if I had AAA but I don’t (might oughta think about that I guess…).

Ended up one of the guys from the KOA came out to help…with a gas can. Yep. I am a dumbass. I got through Casper and looked at the gas gauge and it was a real “uh-oh” moment (okay, that not REALLY what I said). I was too far out of Casper to go back – gee, I would hate to run out – so I went onwards hoping for the best. That didn’t work out very well. I am usually more careful than that.

I got into the trailer, went through a few things I wanted to check, got the hot water flowing for a shower before bed, and I was ready to eat. I whipped up some stir-fry chicken with some vegan organic Hokkien noodles, canned chicken, garlic powder, chili flakes and soy sauce. A Fat Tire Ale, a plate and chopsticks later and I was quite full and my taste buds happy. It turned out pretty good for a quick meal.

I am getting better with the chopsticks but have had to really just start over with them after my surgery last year (I tried left hand but that is a no-go…very right handed!). I’m still having weakness issues with that hand, and my left hand has some problems that I have to have surgery to repair. It really sucks but I make do for now. Makes it hard to play guitar though.

I still have to get a wok for stir-fry. I am looking at a Taylor & Ng Natural Nonstick flat-bottom wok, either a 12″ or 14″. I can use it for many things in the trailer so I can cut down on some kitchen gear I haul around. I still need to get that ordered. Maybe I will do that while I am out on my adventure.

It was nice to get a shower in after sweating bullets getting set up. However, the repair on my shower did not hold up so I will have to do what I did not really want to do – take the whole toilet/shower apart and fix it. Looking at it I guess it may not be too bad to fix – not as bad as I thought originally – just a bit daunting at first glance. I did a temporary fix to keep it from leaking but when I get back to MT I have to take care of it. Only one way to know how to do something and that is to just go for it. I learned that lesson well my first solo trip out in a boat heading to Protection Island in a storm with water splashing up over the wheelhouse!

All in all a pretty average day. Tomorrow will be more travel and I will be taking some roads I have not been on yet. I don’t plan on a driving marathon while I am out. I am enjoying traveling much more that way.

Check back tomorrow!

June 10th, 2020

Adventure, Just things, Outdoors, Scotty Hilander, Travel, Uncategorized

Today while running some errands I saw a couple of interesting things so, of course, I had to take a couple of pictures.

I saw this sign on the men’s room door at the local Food Co-op. Sausages on sale? I think I will buy mine in another part of the store, thank you. And I don’t want to hear about the buns, either.
As you can see, these lights spell out “Bah Humbug”. Could they still be called “Christmas lights”? I just don’t know…

Anyhoo, these gave me a laugh and thought I would pass them along.

I am getting ready to take a road trip pretty soon, hence the reason I was out today. I ran one of my propane tanks out of gas because it was leaking. I ended up using it to heat my trailer and run the refrigerator to get it empty since it was not safe to use on the grill with the flame so close. As usual, my whereabouts on this next adventure will be posted after the fact along with any pictures and tales from the road. I have had the trusty, and very-well-worn, road atlas out and am looking at getting WAY off the beaten path to see many new things and places.

This Fall things are looking like they just might line up so I will be able to make it to Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire – states 48, 49 and 50 – the Final Three to visit and that list is complete. This is pretty preliminary in the process of “planning” but it is looking like it could work out this year. Going in the Fall I would get to see the colors and I am sure that would be spectacular. Of course there are so many variables in life that you never know what will come up (just like I intended to do this trip a couple of times before and life took some turns). That is the nice thing about not planning anything – no big disappointments.

One disappointment about things being shut down from the ‘rona is that I was planning on getting a tattoo sleeve started when we got back from Europe. I want to start adding on around the ink I got in Dublin and really get serious about it. I really wish I would have gotten more done when I was there but I didn’t – the one I got was actually a last-minute decision on the last day in Dublin so there wasn’t time. Next trip I will be planning that part out more and will come back with (hopefully) several new tats from all the places I visit.

I do think of getting back to Ireland sooner rather than later but I know it will still be a little while yet. After all, we were just there a mere four months ago but I still think about Ireland pretty much daily. Maybe there is an Irish woman who would want to import me to Ireland…that would be awesome!

Sláinte!