July 7th, 2020

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

I had a COVID-19 test today. I don’t think I need to state how much this pisses me off when I am the one taking precautions.

Out of an abundance of caution it was recommended to get one due to a potential third-level exposure that happened. They handed me a swab, I had to roll the window up, and shove it into my nose until it poked out the back of my skull. I then had to do the other side after I was done sneezing (hence the reason for rolling up the window I assume) and then do the other side before rolling down the window and putting it into the lab tube.

I think everything will be fine as the first-level exposed person tested negative (the initial contact person was a positive). As far as we know the second-level person is negative, too, so that makes us very optimistic along with a local nurse telling us there should be no problems.

In other better news, plans are still underway for a trip (dependent, of course, on my test results). It will have to be a shorter one than originally planned due to some changes in work schedules (not mine!😁 ) so I will have to babysit a little more. I am still going to get away soon (and as much as I can afterwards) and that’s what really matters. Unfortunately the test results can take up to a week so there is a potential of seven days of travel lost.

I had an interesting faux pas for dinner tonight. I made up one batch of stir-fry ramen with canned chicken for one of the kids, then went to make mine. I opened the can for mine and thought “this looks weird” when I dumped it into the wok. Sure enough, I accidentally grabbed and opened a can of pulled pork.

Now before you poo-poo this being in a can, let me remind you where that tuna sandwich came from that you had for lunch (after it left the ocean, of course). And the canned chicken as well. I heated up another can of it last week and slathered it with BBQ sauce on a bun and it was actually pretty good. No, it is NOT Rosedale’s (the best BBQ not only in KC but anywhere) but it will work in a pinch.

Anyhoo, I thought “Oh well, it’s in the wok and it’s almost done so let’s go for it”. Pulled Pork ramen stir-fry. It was good but much more filling than the chicken version. I would eat it again, just a smaller portion and maybe add a little sweet sauce of some sort to cut it a bit.

I got a couple of new updated locks for the side compartments and got those installed for a bit more security. I discovered that the seal on one of my shocks on the rear of the truck has gone bad so I ordered two new ones and will be installing them this Thursday or Friday dependent on when Amazon gets them here. My truck has about 195,000 miles on it and nothing has really ever had to be fixed on it. Shocks are a wear item so they do need replaced. It is a pretty easy repair – loosen two bolts and pop the new shock in, tighten, and repeat for the other side. I cannot really go anywhere until I get it fixed so the timing is good.

I have to admit it’s really nice to get this stuff done on the trailer but I am glad I am about done with the repairs and updates. The updates I don’t mind, but with the repairs being fairly constant it’s wearing thin. The last thing I can think of that’s left is the shower and I am really not ready to tackle that just yet – I want a break from this necessary stuff. Maybe next month I will look into getting it done but for now I am taking a break. I’ll just take a shower outside.

So the next few days will be waiting for the results and doing some vehicle maintenance. But there will be a trip soon afterwards!

June 20th, 2020

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

I decided to do more reorganization today. Okay, I really just wanted another Meday. I’m finding a few things not very practical the way I had it packed, though, so I decided to revisit it once again after coffee and breakfast.

No I don’t have OCD. With limited space you have to really think about convenience – just like spending two weeks in Europe with nothing more than what’s on your back. You can constantly shuffle stuff around or you can look at your workflow and simplify it to move as few things as possible.

After living with the organization I did the last time for this trip I knew I needed to remove/relocate more stuff. I took a few more things out of the trailer (like all the plates and bowls except what I can get by with) and packed them into a rolling tub in the truck bed (it’s just me right now). More space in the trailer for what I actually need but still available if needed. I think I am going to need to go back to a suitcase for keeping clothes organized. It will stay in the truck. I was able to pack things in the bed of the truck more efficiently and it will be more useful as well.

I found the chlorine bleach I had stashed away so I finally got the water tank sanitized again, rinsed, and refilled. This place must be on a well – it is some great-tasting water. Good place for a water fill up!

Changing to the other bed has helped quite a bit, and the packing changes I made earlier will work out best for either bed being set up as a bed or seating area with a table. I think I will set up and take down the front bed/dinette each day for even more space and see how that goes (it’s actually fast and easy compared to the rear dinette). The dog won’t know what to think when he sees it. There’s a lot more room for him to stretch out and it’s less cluttered.

After getting things wrapped back up for what will hopefully be the final time reorganizing. I am now sitting outside in the shade again. I just finished up a bowl of pasta and am rather enjoying doing nothing in particular. Wish I woulda grabbed a couple of beers.

During my breakfast I got a plan figured out for tomorrow to at least get into Wyoming. I just don’t know yet where I’ll end up. I want to boondock away from people so bad but with the furnace acting up I cannot risk it. It has been nice having utilities (“hook ups” really doesn’t sound very good – hahaha) while getting things like organizing and some minor mechanical things worked out without having to worry about how to stay warm/cool. Soon after I get back I will be looking into getting the furnace inspected so I am back to staying dry and warm with clean-burning Strickland propane.

As I was sitting here enjoying just sitting here I was looking up a bird on my birding app and discovered it was a Bullock’s Oriole. I started playing the calls and songs on my app and they all came over to the tree above me to see who the new kid in town was. It was fun and I got to see them closer but they have a chatter that is annoying. I was very careful when looking up!

Everyone in this RV park seems pretty nice. One guy stopped by asking about the trailer then came back over to ask more questions. Unless I have someone traveling with me I am pretty much a loner on the road so when people “pop by” it’s weird if it is more than a hello and a short conversation. I have gotten several questions about the trailer while out on my adventure.

The conversation went on too long – I could tell what his political leanings were when he started spouting out bullshit. Then the questions about being retired – “…you must be doing well”. “You got something going on you’re not telling.”. You get the drift. I wasn’t having it. When this stuff came up I decided I had enough and went to have supper and finish the water system. He said he’d be back later so I avoided that situation.

As far as politics and religion, mind your own damn business and keep it to yourself. Quit forcing your beliefs and dictator on others, and just like my financial situation, none of it is any of your concern. I could see through this guy’s BS from the start and hoped he would cut it short. He didn’t so I did. I don’t want to be an a-hole but I am not putting up with it.

Mysteriously the carbon monoxide detector went off again but neither furnace nor fridge were running on propane. However the propane water heat was on and the widow above it was open since I had just flushed the system and was heating water for a shower. I am thinking it may have sucked the fumes in through the window, at least perhaps this time. I cannot remember if the window was closed or anything was running that first time but I think the first time it went off it may have been the same as today. The second time I am not sure. I will still get everything checked thoroughly when I get back.

Last bit of housekeeping was, well, housekeeping. Sweeping out the floor and shaking the rugs. The Scotty is clean and ready to go to the next spot tomorrow.

I have been able to sit out in my little courtyard the past couple of days, safe in knowing that just two spaces east of my spot is an honest-to-goodness member of the Zombie Outbreak Tactical Response Team.

No, Seriously.

I. Don’t. Know. I. Just. Don’t Know. This country is truly going insane

I don’t really know what else to say right now…

June 18th, 2020

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

Gee, it’s good to be back home again…

I woke up after a pretty lousy night’s sleep, got coffee and breakfast. I woke up at 4 A.M. with a bad headache after tossing and turning all night. I should have put on my eye mask last night because the neighbors left their outdoor LED string of lights on all night and it shone right into my eyes through the back window. Pretty disrespectful to those around you. I like the peace and quiet and the light disturbs that.

The winds were supposed to be gone this morning but the trailer is shaking from the winds even more than last night. Gusts up to 45 currently on the NOAA webpage. I want to push on into Colorado since there are some thunderstorms being forecast for this area. It looks like the winds are not as intense around Limon and showers there without thunderstorms. These winds are problematic when you pull a trailer as it can knock them right over so therein lies some hesitation. But I really don’t want to sit here where I am for 2-3 more days – I am trying to have a vacation and this is not where I want to spend it!

I filled the water tank so I can boondock – I only like to stay in these parks if necessary (fill water tank, electricity for air conditioning or heat). I usually do not haul much water with me because of the weight but it may help stabilize the trailer a little with the winds. A few times I was towing after I got the trailer I had water onboard and the trailer would sway back and forth because the tank is not baffled and the water would slosh around. Pretty scary.

The electricity thing is also why I am not sure about replacing the microwave. I can get by without it pretty good (just like my forefathers did in the 1960s). I have used old-school reheating methods and it works out okay for me. I am retired and am not in a hurry so I just don’t know if I will replace it (at least for the time being). I have a propane stove to heat up food anytime I want (like the breakfast burrito I made a few days ago that is today’s breakfast) so it works fine and not needing electricity gives me freedom. The only real necessity is fuel and dump station facilities.

Once I got into Colorado the winds died down just like the forecasts predicted that I saw for a few cities along my route. The temperatures were a perfect 60-70 degrees. I was not sure which way I was going of the three or four I was considering. When I got to the E-470 north I swerved over and went for it. This partucular version was that I was going to head to Fort Collins and then head west through Poudre Canyon. It was a really beautiful drive.

Driving through Poudre Canyon in Colorado
Poudre Canyon, Colorado

The morning I woke up when I stayed the night in the Stapleton City Park it was a bit cold so I fired up the furnace to knock the chill off. After a few minutes the carbon monoxide detector went off. I mean it went crazy and kept getting crazier. I had to turn it off – it was a very elevated reading. I was standing there making my coffee and that’s when it went off. Scared the bejeezus outta me. And of course I turned off the thermostat and left the premises immediately and ventilated the trailer thoroughly.

I tell this tale as it appears it is still a problem. I couldn’t boondock in some dispersed camping areas of the forest tonight since it was already down in the low 50s in the afternoon (and that is when I found the very few spots open. I stopped for a leg-stretching and thought I would test it. I took it apart to have a look at it a few days ago and found nothing. This test failed as well. A night without heat would be a bad night. I just really don’t enjoy that nonsense these days.

I decided to go on to Steamboat Springs after not really seeing anywhere in Walden. I called the KOA (it seems to be working out okay but it has been out of necessity too – the air conditioner because of the heat, and luckily I have my little electric space heater for the cool nights). I do think I am really going to need to think about a generator.

I got to the KOA and got all set up, went for a quick walk and fixed some food. It hit the spot after eating snack stuff all day (mostly healthy). Frozen (well, mostly…) garlic chicken with veggies. Fried it up like stir-fry in some olive oil and a little Parm on top. I think you hear me.

Tomorrow I will be off to Craig, CO for two nights at the KOA there (their Rewards Kard has actually almost paid for itself in a very short time – no plug intended or implied). I want to take a two-day stop and try to enjoy something other than driving all the live long day. I also want to get the furnace looked at in hopes that I can boondock in the forest for a night or two. I will make something work. Still got a full water tank and a cylinder and a half of propane so I have the means if I can get that figured out.

And plenty of toilet paper.

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 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.