July 25th, 2020

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

Comet NEOWISE, just below the Big Dipper
This one is not zoomed in as much so it is clearer and was taken later in the evening

As you can see, I was able to get a few pictures of NEOWISE a few nights ago as it was scooting across the Big Sky of Montana. I took these with my iPhone and it did a decent job of it.

We had some pretty good rain here a few days ago, and much to my relief there were no longer any water leaks on the back window. It was getting rather frustrating but it looks to finally be patched until I can get the weatherstripping to do it correctly. I will be able to scrape all the sealant off the outside of the trailer I globbed on between storms to try to fix it. I also got the fenderwell patched up and sealed again so hopefully that is fixed. I will still be applying the sealant I have left (good ol’ FlexSeal!) to use it up and really make sure it is covered good.

I ordered a new sewer hose storage tube to mount under the trailer but it hangs too low to put it there. I am really afraid it will be dragged off in a low spot in the road so I just attached it to the top of the bumper. Usually the hoses are stored in the bumper but it is a tight fit. One of them will not fit at all and the other two only go in a certain way. I got tired of fighting them so problem solved.

I am really wanting to go someplace but just cannot get away yet. I am still getting medical appointments taken care of and that is the first priority. With the pandemic getting worse I have to really think about what is necessary and what can wait. My hand really hurts and is causing me issues so I would really like to get it taken care of but we will see what happens with that. My other appointments are more important so I have a full plate with medical stuff – nothing serious…just things needing taken care of and checked.

Speaking of travel it is really looking like getting back to Europe will be quite a ways off by the looks of the pandemic and travel restrictions. I am so glad I got to go twice in the last two years and that Jim, Chelsea, Angie and I got to see and do so much in so many different cities and countries. It will probably never be the same again – the restaurants, the Irish pubs, the interesting experiences on public transit, and the sights….everything. The whole experience both times was mind-opening and amazing. The best experience for me of all the travel we did was all of the wonderful, friendly and helpful people we met everywhere we went and that is one thing I hope will stay the same. I cannot wait to go back at some point when it is safe to do so but it will be some time before I will even get on a domestic flight let alone a transatlantic/transpacific one.

I am happy for now just being retired and being able to travel around here domestically when I can and see places I haven’t seen. I cannot wait to get into Canada more when the border opens back up but I think that may not even happen this year. Between the road trips I am looking at doing and my medical stuff I really have plenty to keep me busy for a while. It is a bit of a bummer that now I am able to go I can’t.

I have been considering a few things and I came to the conclusion that with the pandemic escalating even worse I am rethinking my plan to relocate completely to Colorado. All of my doctors are in Washington and if something happens they know my history; I have had a few things of concern and that relationship is very important given the recent family history. I really do not want to start over with new doctors and surgeons and I may even wait to get my hand fixed during a trip back there. I also have all of the great friends I made there the last eight years and it is really a smarter financial move in several ways. Plus I really grew to love the ocean up there and still want to spend time traveling more along the West Coast. And, honestly, I do miss all of that. I still plan on spending a lot of time in the mountains in CO and visiting family in KS.

After I got my ink done on my wrist in Dublin I really got excited and wanted to start getting a tattoo sleeve around it (wish I woulda got more over in Europe). I was getting several ideas together and was planning on doing that when we got back (and on a return to Europe). Then the ‘rona hit so everything shut down, and even if they were still open it was not worth the risk anyhoo. I have not even had a haircut in many months and it has been quite a long time since my hair was this long so I am looking a bit rough. A haircut is just not worth the risk to me (never liked them anyway), and if I am going to be sitting that close to someone I am getting a tattoo and not a haircut.

That’s about it for today’s short update.

June 23rd, 2020 – Trip Wrap-up and Takeaways

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

This was taken at the house in Kansas about 11:30 P.M. one night

I got up and made some eggs for breakfast then packed up to go. My spot had no sewer hook up so I had to hit the dump station to empty the tanks before the “flush rush” (my word) happened. It worked out as it got me out on the road quicker, but the time I saved was eaten up with being caught in road construction delays. This was the same beautiful and winding road I was on a few weeks ago when I went out exploring. Conveniently this same road took me right past my storage unit and I needed to unload a few things and grab a few other things like my Ninja blender to use at the house.

Takeaways

I have been on many roads on this adventure and on some of the more remote ones they would sometimes post the distance to the next fuel stop. Given the way things are these days I would no longer trust these signs and get a fuel stop taken in if in doubt. I learned that the places they refer to on these signs may or may NOT even be in business due to the ‘rona and/or economy. I learned to never trust these 100% or you may end up stranded and tuning up the banjo.

I would say that approximately half to two-thirds of the roads I traveled on this adventure I had never been on before that I was aware of. The more I travel I find that there are many roads I will see familiar things on that I remember seeing sometimes decades earlier. I have been a lot of places as a kid on family vacations and as an adult and working on the road doing stage lighting. Many of the towns are now dying off. I drove through towns full of empty buildings, some closed for many years and some closed more recently. There are so many places I had been to before over the years and now when I return to them while driving in an area they are just no longer there. These things can be sad but they are also a part of the experience of travel.

Some places I visited I would like to return to, others I have been there…done that and won’t return to. Of course there are some places I have no desire to go to at all. There are a lot of things to see in this world and I want to see more. Currently I will not fly or use public transit so driving all over the country and Canada (when possible) will fill the need nicely.

I would also add that, given the current ongoing pandemic and the resurgence of even more cases, I was only one of very few people wearing a mask anywhere I went the last few weeks (and I really try to avoid gong in stores any more than I have to). I even got the stinkeye in a few places when I HAD to go in for something. The lack of concern not just about themselves, but of other human beings, is just unbelievable, stupid and selfish.

I was able to find a few issues with the trailer on this trip so they have either been taken care of or on my radar to get taken care of. I hope the water heater is an easy fix but I don’t have much confidence in that; I will stay optimistic though. And there is the cracked shower pan that is needing to be pulled out and fixed. Guess I will be learning about fiberglass soon!

I did fall into my groove with trailer travel pretty nicely on this trip. I really got comfortable with the routine pretty quickly once I got a few things moved around to make my life easier. I cut back on my driving marathons on this trip but I need to work on that a little bit more still. I did notice it was much more enjoyable, but since I am not working I am no longer on a strict timetable and that frees me up. It also allows more time for stopping to smell the roses.

The trailer gets a lot of looks driving down the highway and I do get asked about it when I stop on my journeys. I had so much fun on this trip I cannot wait to go again. My daughters are all talking about getting RVs of some sort and we would have so much fun meeting up in different places and hanging out. I am trying to get some friends to give it a try, too. Perhaps one day I (or we) can do a “caravan” trip in Europe. That would be so much fun.

Wrapping up, this trip actually felt like retirement. Again, I had so much fun on this trip now that I am getting things fixed and a routine together. I added an extra day on the way to Kansas and about five extra days heading back to Montana.

It’ll be a little while before I can get back out on a long trip like that again, but it won’t be too long until the next shorter one. Living in this area there are many interesting places close by so it makes it easy to get away. I am just happy to go sit in the forest for a few days.

Stay tuned for more adventures!

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 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!