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.

August 25th, 2020

Adventure, food, Just things, Outdoors, Uncategorized

This post is about doing some good things in the world along with an update. It’s not going to be preachy -0 just some interesting things I have come across.

Today I came across a short interview with Chef José Andrés that I found very interesting. He is doing some great work to help feed people and keep restaurants in business in disaster areas all over the world with his incredible organization World Central Kitchen.

I first saw him on the travel shows hosted by my favorite travel host Anthony Bourdain. Chef Andr̩s is so passionate about food Рgood, simple food Рthat he makes you want to try it all. WCK helps out so not just people in disaster areas can eat, but he outsources much of the cooking to local restaurants to help keep their doors open and keep their staff employed. It is a pretty impressive organization.

In the last paragraph of the article the interviewer asks “Talk to me about the power of travel to open hearts and minds.

Chef Andrés: “It is important for us to travel, to meet people who seem different from us. You realize that they aren’t that different. We are all together on this planet, and we need to be working together more. It’s not going to happen overnight, but we have an amazing opportunity to get to know who we are and where we live. To look at things through another lens and appreciate the beauty of the planet we have.”

This takes what I have previously said about travel and elevates it to a whole other level…an important level. A level we need to think about more.

Be sure to read the whole article I linked to and check out the link to WCK as well; it is a short article and will only take a few minutes. There are opportunities all over; one opportunity is they are looking for volunteers to help feed firefighters battling the wildfires in California. Of course you can donate money as well as time.

I really didn’t go to a lot of concerts in the days before the T-virus (last one was Riverside in Seattle in June 2019) but I know how important it is for bands to tour to make money and that is not happening right now. The music I listen to is not very commercially popular as opposed to mainstream radio-play music so these bands live hand-to-mouth constantly, and some even have regular jobs to supplement their incomes to just be able to play and create their music. This means that all but the biggest acts are struggling along with the venues they play in – from Irish pubs to your local bar and theater.

I have been trying to support some of my favorite bands by buying CDs and DVDs directly from them (and not through Apple Music, Amazon, etc.). I want the bands I enjoy listening to to get as much of the money as possible from my purchases. I have received CDs and DVDs from bands in England (IQ, Marillion) and Norway (Green Carnation) so far and plan to do more to support them and other acts I enjoy listening to. And, since I cannot see them live (which I do buy tickets to these tours when possible) having a concert DVD gives me a chance to see them “live”. Many of the bands I listen to never even make it here to the US so it’s either a DVD or I schedule my next Europe trip to see them…we almost did on our first trip over!

Another way to support your favorite acts is on the Bandcamp website. The website was giving up their revenue share portion on Fridays so it would go straight to the artists (not sure if they are still doing that or not). That’s a fantastic gesture to help support indie artists and I have taken advantage of that to help even more. Stop by and check it out and you might discover some new music by some new artists. I have seen free music, music for set prices, and even name your own price on some artist pages as well as some great deals buying collections (Porcupine Tree, Silent Island, Black Hill, Tacoma Narrows Bridge Disaster). Just support them directly however you can! And yes…I know you may not have heard of any of these bands or probably think they have weird names.

I have seen articles where many of the museums around the world are in trouble and many may close or never reopen. That is so sad to hear as our history is so important for future generations to see where we have been. I purchased an annual museum pass to help out museums in Ireland. I will be going back soon (hopefully) so I can use it to get in to places, plus it supports my ancestral castle as well.

My Interagency Pass – some mistakenly call it the National Parks Pass – is a great deal and it supports all Federal Lands. If you want to support a particular National Wildlife Refuge, National Park or National Forest then purchase one at that particular place they get to keep 80% of the money on that Refuge, Park or Forest! Pick your favorite place and buy it there and not at an outdoor retailer (not to mention any names); that money all goes into a general fund.

Free admission to all Federal lands for a year…not a bad deal at all. And a Senior Pass is $80 for a lifetime card with 50% discounts for campgrounds on top of free entry with the card if you are over 62. A little hint – buy it early in the month and it expires at the end of the same month the following year; it’s basically a free month! Just remember the pass has to stay with the owner – you loan it you can lose it.

There are so many small things we can do that help. You don’t have to be a philanthropist to donate (I’m certainly not wealthy) but even just a few dollars here and there to support something near and dear to you makes a difference!

I get bronchitis just looking at this sunrise…

Earlier I mentioned wildfires but some relief is here!

Rain!!! We are finally getting some rain as I type this post. It has been months since we had any real rain here and this will do wonders to clear the air up some and help put out some of the fires in the area. Before the rains we had some hellacious winds – probably 50+ mph – and I am sure those did not help firefighter efforts, but there is rain falling and that will. I had to park my truck next to my trailer to keep the trailer from getting blown over and the wind ripped the top of the chicken coop off. Then Auntie Em flew by…

I’m thinking that, along with helping get some of the fires under control, this rain might help open up some other possibilities for my upcoming adventure. I guess I need to look at some fire info to see what is open and closed before I decide to go someplace and even see if I can get anywhere. I have been checking the pandemic outbreak maps and some places I wanted to go I will certainly be avoiding.

I started working on a new song for my ongoing opus called The Neverending Suite (which is currently just shy of 19 minutes long). I got the lyrics completed a few days ago (well, for now as far as I know). I have had a lot on my mind and it came flying out through my fingertips; most of it in about 30 minutes, and I decided to add another verse two days later when it wandered into my thoughts. Next step is to take a few music ideas I have and put the two together. It’s never an easy task as I tend to want to add a lot of layers for texturing, but I am getting a little more disciplined about doing that. It’s been a while since I have put a song together but when it’s time to write it just happens, not to mention there has been a lot of time to think about a lot of things.

Earlier this year I started reworking the last section I recorded last year but got sidetracked with life, Europe, a pandemic, and moving. It’s not like I have not had the time; I just have not been in the songwriting frame of mind lately. The reworking ended up being a bit more complicated than I thought it would be but I will probably be getting back on it soon so I can get this new part of the song to tie in after it. It’s good therapy too.

It’s been some time since I have heard the song so I think I will have a listen to it and close out this post.

August 23rd, 2020

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

First things first.

It was two years ago today I lost my Dad to bladder cancer. I miss both him and my mom quite a lot and I think about them every day. To those of you reading this blog – PLEASE get regular check-ups and see your doctors about ANYTHING going on with you that isn’t normal. I am vigilant about getting check-ups. I don’t want to get sick and I owe it to my friends and family…and you owe it to yours.

Okay, now on to better things.

I am getting ready for another road trip that I hope to make very soon – I just have to fit it in with other things going on but it is a priority. I really need to get away pretty badly and get some cooler weather with better air to breathe…and I also need a change of scenery for a little while to get my head in a better place. I do have some ideas for a few places but nothing certain yet (and I would not tell you anyhoo!). With much of the West on fire locating some clean air someplace close may be a bit of a challenge but I will find a spot.

Along these same lines it is looking like, unfortunately, my trip to upper New England and the Atlantic Provinces this Fall may have to be put on hold due to the T-virus. I wanted to go into eastern Canada when I got over there but the border is really looking like it will be staying closed for quite some time. Add to that the fact that the pandemic is nowhere near under control – and won’t be for the foreseeable future. Even though I stay in my trailer and avoid people I think it is best that my travel plans be more confined to a smaller footprint to minimize my exposure and stay closer to my own doctors just in case. I was really trying to be optimistic about it, and am not giving up completely on the idea, but there is also the reality of what is happening.

I got an e-mail a few days back telling me how many airline miles I have so just for grins I looked up where I could get to and the prices using miles. On one flight I can go to Dublin for free but it is on an airline I don’t care to fly on, plus it is a layover flight. If I buy a few miles (which is cheaper than a ticket) I can fly non-stop back to Dublin. I can also go through Iceland again and stay there a few days if I buy a few miles more on top of the non-stop. Hot damn! But, I am nowhere near ready to get back on a plane yet (at least not without a lot of sedation). The places to go are pretty limited since most countries are closed to U.S. tourists. In Ireland right now you have to quarantine for 14 days after arrival or the penalties are pretty stiff. Hell, I have been quarantined so many times and for so many weeks that is not a problem. I will keep an eye on the pandemic and flights and see how things progress. If a great deal comes up and there are no cancellation or change fees I might book one foir the future. I said “might”.

I finally got myself a wok last week. It’s an old-school carbon steel one that had to be seasoned so I did that yesterday. It took a little time as you have to boil water in it, scrub the hell out of it to get the protective coating off, rinse and dry. Then, to season it you have to rub oil in it and heat it up on the bottom and all the sides. It is tough to do that part on a regular stove so it looks like I will need to get me a wok burner. I have not tried to cook in it yet but I am going to try it on my stove first. If that works then I may not worry about it, but I don’t know if it will work though. You have to get a wok really hot to cook in it correctly so the wok burner may be the best option. I have used a non-stick one a few times but I am really anxious to try mine out! It is pretty bulky to keep in the trailer but I will find room. It is an easy way to eat healthier and you can cook so much faster.

Speaking of space, A few weeks ago I got a new 3-way coffee maker to save a little space in the trailer. It takes the K-cups, but also makes tea in a basket (loose leaf) and has another basket for ground coffee as well. Seemed like a good idea, but only on paper (or the phony reviews on Amazon). It is definitely not the quality of a Keurig and I am going to send it back. It has had some issues working correctly and I am not gonna fight with it anymore. I will go back to my French press and kettle. It works and it’s much more gratifying to make it that way anyway. Plus they are not as polluting as the K-cups and I do like shopping for fresh beans of different new coffees to try.

Not much else exciting happening at the moment. I have been holed up in the trailer due to the air quality warnings the past several days and I am pretty much over this nonsense.

Soon. I will be going someplace soon…

August 13th, 2020

Adventure, Just things, Outdoors, pictures, Road Trip, Travel, Uncategorized

Heading south out of Livingston, MT toward Yellowstone NP – a beautiful drive!

Another day…another road trip.

I got another late start today, but it kind of hit me at the last minute to go for a drive late this morning. Actually, that is usually the case so I can’t lie. I could not sit in the trailer again. The fires are picking up and the air has gotten worse. I needed to get away and see some scenery.

I wasn’t sure where yet when I started the truck but I ended up stopping a few miles down the road and looked at the atlas before I got to the highway. I decided to go east this time. I thought about going to Billings and then taking the scenic route back through the central part of the state. I needed to be back by a 6:30 P.M. or so. As I drove along eastbound on I-90 I thought about it more and that meant going to Billings plus the route back might be a hurried trip to get back in time so I stopped in Livingston to reassess my “plan”.

I decided, instead, to go south and do the northern road in Yellowstone NP, entering through Gardiner and exiting through West Yellowstone, then heading north on 191 the way I have driven several times lately. I decided on this route because of time constraints plus it is usually the least busy part of the park. It is also a great drive with mountains, meadows and the incredible terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs.

I went through the Gardiner entrance, which is the classic entrance with the arch.

Original entrance to Yellowstone through Gardiner was through the arch

I remember man years ago driving through this arch to go in and out of the park, but they have re-routed the road now and it is off to the side. I, for one, think this should have been left alone. For one, it was the traditional, original entrance. It is history; leave it the hell alone. If memory serves me right, it looks to me like they re-routed the road to go through more downtown shopping than it used to since you have to go around a loop to now go through it. This should have never been allowed to happen.

The area around Mammoth encompasses not only the terrace hot springs, but also lots of touristy shopping, food, and the Park HQ. It was very busy, but honestly I think I have seen it busier in the past. Needless to say I did not stop though. Not going into crowds for one, but I am just wanting scenery from the privacy and socially-distant interior of my truck; I have done all this stuff a time or two in the past anyway.

It’s amazing how when you drive in this entrance you start going up, then down. It has not been that long ago that they realized that the park is actually a giant caldera of an ancient volcano.

Thermal feature – one of countless natural wonders in Yellowstone

That means when you go up and them come back down you have actually entered the volcano. As you drive along you will see signs for various natural and thermal features and to stay on the trail or you can die. Even this lake had a small fumarole on the right side of it (but it is out of camera range):

I did not see many animals along the way. Other than touristas, I only saw one deer and a few bighorn sheep and that was about it. No bear, moose, antelope or even bison.

There are a lot of beautiful meadows in Yellowstone, mountains, and rivers along with the animals and geysers.

Classic Yellowstone, a classic among America’s National Parks

The trip north out of West Yellowstone is one to really avoid right now. There are MANY miles of road construction going on along the roads in the extreme NW corner of the park on 191. I took 191 this time because I was going to make a stop along the way but it took me about THREE HOURS just to get through the construction so I could not make the stop I wanted to make after all.

A better alternative (at least for now) is to go 287 through Hebgen Lake area and Earthquake Lake toward Ennis. I wrote about this route a few months ago and it is quite spectacular. In fact, it really is a much more beautiful, varied, and interesting drive than 191; I would recommend this route as opposed to 191, which goes on the outskirts of Big Sky and follows a river through the canyons – pretty but all the same. Whenever I am down that way I will take the 287 route from now on.

So that was today’s adventure. Not too far away and plenty of scenery. There were a lot of people out, but not the usual Yellowstone craziness.

See you next time!

August 10th, 2020

Adventure, Just things, Outdoors, pictures, Travel, Uncategorized

Northbound I-15 between Butte and Helena

Today I went on a road trip. I really had the need to get away for a few hundred miles so I did. I have been cooped up for a week trying to get over this damn cold/respiratory infection I got. I am feeling better, although not 100%, but I am not sitting around another day. The air quality still sucks but I turned on the recirculate function in the truck to keep the nasties out.

I went toward Butte. I just wanted to drive, but eventually you will end up someplace and that was the first place I ended up. I masked up, put on my gloves, went and looked at some travel trailers – just to see what is out there and what’s new. They are certainly different than mine, but mine has everything I need.

I didn’t go into the city center. It is a historic area but I’m not stopping in anywhere to see anything inside so I didn’t feel the need to go. Yeah, I can drive around and look at things but I have seen lots of historic mining towns in Colorado and other areas so no need to stop. They are all pretty much the same, but maybe some other time or if I am with someone who has never been there.

In Butte there is a giant strip mine called the Berkeley Pit. I remember years ago driving through and stopping to see it. It is one big polluted toxic hole in the planet. How fortunate you can pay to see a place so poisonous that birds land on the water in the pit and they die. Click on the link to find out some amazing facts, but one thing they mention is that they have mined, yes MINED, copper out of JUST THE WATER! No, humans are not bad for the planet…

I decided to drive up to Helena via I-15. It wasn’t that far and it was a nice drive through the mountains. I poked around there for a little and decided to head back out. I was going to backtrack about 20 miles or so and take a scenic route that I took a month or so ago.

I did see some signs along I-15 that were a little bothersome. The first one I saw was for the Merry Widow Health Mine. With a name like that how can you resist that? I fought off temptation and saw another sign or two. Finally, a fourth sign I saw offered clarification…it said they were RADON MINES!! What in the actual hell are people thinking? IT’S RADIOACTIVE GAS!!! They are touting health benefits but I am not going to buy that BS. It causes lung cancer! I’ll put up with pain and use my other natural remedies.

It took more than a few miles to get past the shock of what I just saw. I got to my turn for the scenic route out of Boulder, MT and it was a beautiful day to drive it. As I drove along enjoying the scenery a message popped up on my watch. It was from a stargazing app I have and it wanted to remind me of some celestial happening. I was shocked yet again…

Is this asstronomy?

Last time I took this drive I saw a historic church that I wanted to stop at but figured I would the next time and this was the next time. I love history and I appreciate architecture of the building regardless of what it signifies; I see it as an interesting and beautiful building.

It was so good to get out of the trailer for the day. I still hope to get out WITH the trailer soon, but just a day-long drive in the mountains is what I need sometimes. This was one of those times. I continued on and got back to my trailer. It’s suppertime and I think it will be pasta tonight.