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.
This adventure started in Anaconda, Montana. Anaconda has a rich and varied history so click on the link to learn more. It is an old town and there are many cool buildings. One interesting thing there is the historic Anaconda Smelter Stack. I thought you could go up to it but apparently not – at least not that I could see. I did stop and snag a few pictures though:
I left Anaconda and took MT-43 – a two-lane road the led me to the southwest corner of the state – an area I had never been to. It was absolutely one of the top drives I have ever taken. Stunning scenery made of the stuff that make the blue highways the best way to travel to really see the country. Interstates get you there in generic fashion but it’s certainly faster. Finding the balance is the key if time is precious, but if you are in no hurry the backroads should be your first choice.
As you can see, the scenery was incredible:
Mountains, grasslands, ranches, rivers, forests, historic sites…the terrain ran the the gamut along this road. I saw some incredible four-wheeling opportunities and it made me think back of all the fun we had and the trips we made off-roading in Big Red back in the forests of Colorado.
I can see taking this road again, especially since I found…
It was here I had a choice to make as far as getting back to the house, but me being me I decided to take the long way. I was pretty close (about 10 miles) to a National Park site I had never been to and wanted to see.
I have a National Parks Passport book so I thought I would see how busy it was and if it wasn’t I would put on the mask and gloves and go inside real quick to get my book stamped. It wasn’t to be since the visitor center was closed. At least the site was open and I could look around.
I did not get out and walk around much. I knew it was going to be several hours on the road on this journey so I really did not have much time to spare. Not to mention bear activity was posted and I have no bear spray. I did drive down below to where the parking area is to hike around on the battlefield. I don’t like to rush like this and want to come back again and see this area at a more leisurely pace. Along with this site there are many more tied in with it around the area as well as a rich history with the Lewis and Clark Expeditions. I am interested in historical things/history and this whole trip ended up being more history than I imagined.
I decided to continue on over to Idaho on MT-43, up Chief Joseph Pass to US 93 then south toward Salmon, Idaho. I have been on this highway before back in 2012 on one of my many road trips, that particular one with my friend Rich. Some of it looked familiar (an uncanny knack I have for remembering places from long ago that I have been to…).
I ventured on down to Salmon, ID…birthplace of Sacajawea. The entire trip down 93 from the pass had several signs about the Lewis and Clark Expedition. I did not stop at all of them – some snuck up on me and I was not going to backtrack.
As with many places out West and in the mountainous areas, if you look closely on some of the hillsides you will see what looks like a narrow road. More than likely those were wagon roads that were later converted into being used for railroad tracks. Some can be hiked on and you will see old trestles, rock walls, and tunnels along these trails. I have driven on some that the current roads were laid on top of the old roadbeds. In Colorado I have hiked through some of the old tunnels and crossed old trestles. It is really interesting to do.
I took ID-28 out of Salmon, heading southeast. Just as you leave town there is a visitor center with beautiful grounds dedicated to Sacajawea. I stopped to just drive through and look – too many people for me. Along this road there were many more signs about the expedition.
It was along this stretch a big dose of reality hit. No, I did not run out of gas. It was this:
My long way just turned in to a longer way. I was planning on cutting through the forest to start heading back north but the road was closed at Tendoy. This fire was going to make the day longer…several hours longer. This meant driving almost down to Idaho Falls then cutting back north. I was already making a long trip in a day, but what else can you do but roll with it? It was either that or backtrack and I’m retired.
I continued to watch the fire as I ventured on south. When I got to the next turn to go in the forest on ID-29 I took it. No closed signs so that was good news, but I called the Ranger Station just to check. She said the road appeared to be open so I went for it. I really did not think I could get through once I got to the top but it was still open so I went down the other side.
Being in he middle of a closed area when there is a forest fire is pretty damn scary. I did it a few years ago to look for campers and it scared the hell out of me. This time was not as scary but still intimidating since I was driving right under the smoke plume as it was blowing east. As you can see by the pictures I was very close – I was surprised they even had that road opened to be honest.
I got through the area and continued on through more beautiful scenery but I think they might have been closing it after I went through. I was heading toward I-15 to go north toward Dillon, then more two-lane adventures and beautiful surroundings heading northeast toward Whitehall.
I ended up driving roughly 470-miles today. Not a lot of driving on a long trip/vacation when you think about it, but it just seems like a lot when you are doing it as a day trip. It is all the same though…and it beats sitting at home!
I left Washington nearly two weeks ago. It was a beautiful drive over and I did it in two days for a leisurely trip through northeastern Washington to see a few areas that I had not been to before.
As I drove through some of the areas I saw a few places I had, indeed, been to after all in all the miles and years of past travel. It was still a beautiful drive; slower but much more scenic than I-90.
I had hoped to find a Forest Service road to camp along since I had the trailer with me but I found no roads to do so (it is called “dispersed camping” and is free; be sure to check local regulations, as each forest – even within a state – is different). That meant I would be driving further than I wanted to so I could find a spot. It also cut back on my sightseeing since I was forced to go on. Ironically, that spot ended up being the same KOA in Spokane I just happened to stay at on my way to Washington.
I got up the next day and went on to my destination in Montana to get settled in. With restrictions and closures in place that I was unsure of it was really the best thing to do. I was only a half-day drive away anyhoo and I will get plenty of chances to explore soon. I have been around Montana in the past but am anxious to explore more of the mountains and forests while I am here. Having the trailer I can keep to myself and avoid crowds. The big tourist areas I have already been to and don’t need really to do much more than drive through them.
Traveling with the ‘rona has its challenges, but luckily I have my trailer to travel with and all the comforts of home are with me. Traveling here…that was the easy part. Gas pumps and gloves and stops to rest on the on-ramps to the highway. Montana has had one of the lowest infection rates reported, and from my trips to get supplies it looks like nothing has ever changed here. Crowded stores with people walking the wrong way down one-way aisles, and very few wearing masks. I cannot get the hell out of the stores fast enough and a few I will not go in again because of the lack of concern selfish people have for others and safety. I’ll be going to either the local market or food co-op to shop from now on.
Honestly, it has been very difficult for me to adjust after not only dodging the ‘rona on our Europe trip, but also while living in Washington where infections were high and I was quarantined for the best part of the last three months and cooked all my meals at home – no dining out since I got back to Washington. With all of that happening I have had an extremely hard time letting go of my newly-acquired covid-inflicted OCD. I am in a high-risk group so I take this very seriously, but at the same time I am trying to do better and temper some of that behavior now that I am in an area with lower risk.
I did get out for a much-needed mental health drive through the forest a few days ago and it did wonders for helping to clear my head. I saw some places I had not been before and drove about 40 miles on Forest Service roads. It was a pretty healing day I must say, and it was so good to be in the forest again.
I’ll be getting out more soon. I have to get new tires on the truck this week before I do any further exploring and I will definitely be getting the trailer out quite a bit this year. It has been an exciting year in many ways so far but I am really looking forward to more excitement and travels. I am really ready to start to finally enjoy this retirement thing.
While doing the various things one does when getting ready to move a lot goes on in your mind – that constantly-changing mental checklist of things like shutting off your utilities, thinking about the logistics of getting from A to B, and changing insurance agents just to name a few. And then there are the other things like the insomnia. Most of you have moved at one point or another in your lives so you probably understand. I don’t stress about it much these days; this will be my 15th address change since 2012. It’s just another move to me.
However, one thing currently stands out well above the rest while getting ready to leave – the inability to see family and the friends I have made here the last 7 ½ years in person before I leave. And that’s the part that really sucks. With the ‘rona quarantine there will be no hugs, handshakes or tears; the tears will still be there, but it’s more out of frustration than from leaving. We all know that once we are able to do so we will be seeing each other again. I still plan on traveling as much as I can when I can and when it is safe to do so. With the internet it is easy to keep in touch several different ways so we will still keep in contact with each other.
Sometimes it is not easy to move away no matter how badly you want (or need) to leave, and other times it’s no big deal. I was numb and emotionless leaving Colorado that cool, dark, rainy morning. Heading off into a new life had me preoccupied and I was not thinking about leaving a place that made me fall in love with the outdoors and the awe-inspiring beauty of the mountains.
There is the excitement and “that new car smell” of going to a new place with new people and experiences, be it for work or just because you want a change in your life. Some people deal with the uncertainties, and even embrace them. There are the others who dread it and decide to stay in their safe place and that is fine. Me, personally, I thrive on that unknown. I want and crave those new experiences and it is only one reason why I love travel so much.
I have certainly had more new, different and amazing experiences than I ever dreamed I would have in my life living in the Midwest, and I have had even more after moving to Colorado and then Washington. I won’t list them here as they are already written about, starting with the first blog entry I posted in 2012 (so by all means go back to Day 1 and have a look!). And the stories in these posts are just since 2012…there are countless other stories from a lot of other experiences before that and some of those are probably best left on a dusty shelf.
Some may look at these experiences and say “Boy, you’re so lucky”, while others say “WTF are you doing? I couldn’t do that.”. It’s not about luck. It’s about what YOU choose to do with your life. And if you say “I couldn’t do that” then no…you couldn’t handle it but it is because you don’t WANT it bad enough and prefer to play the game of life safe. That is all well and good since we all get to live the life we choose. I choose differently.
The lifestyle I have had since moving to WA is certainly not for everyone, and I could safely say it not for most people. It is not an easy lifestyle and there have been tough times without a doubt – a few extremely tough times. In the 80s I did some freelance stagelighting gigs getting work wherever and whenever I could find it. Just as it was then, it is sure not about getting rich…working in the outdoors is more about the freedom and experiences and a true passion for your job. You give up a “home” and security but the amount of freedom is amazing and worth the trade-off.
At one of the outdoor jobs I have had the last few years I heard someone say “we get paid in sunsets” and to me that is how it should be. It’s not about the money but unfortunately it is what matters in the world. When you make a decision to get into this type of career you should fully understand the sacrifices you have to make to do what you love and be flexible enough to make it happen. For me it was not that difficult to “roll with it” since I had already lost my job and my house. I chose a new path, got rid of pretty much everything I owned, and hit the road for a new adventure. I didn’t let it get me down and I still don’t. Life marches onward whether you want to play or not so make it what YOU want.
It is exciting to think about this move and potentially ending up back in the place I love most (well, second to Ireland) – Colorado. With some variables to ponder in the future that may be later rather than sooner…but I will get back there. It is not that I dislike Washington, but I have never really felt that “magic” like I do in Colorado. I like the forests in the Rockies better because of the openness and not feeling “closed-in” when I go for a hike in the woods.
So now is the time to not look back at the latest fork in the trail but to instead look forward and head for the Rockies.
Yeah, it’s another big move for me and now my furry sidekick. I put in my notice with the landlord today and will be heading to Montana for a while. After that, possibly/probably back to Colorado to be more centrally located between all of my family.
Part of my being able to retire was I could travel and not have to pay rent anyplace (yes, I know it still costs to do that). I could take my time and see new places and things and revisit some old favorites (which is one of the big reasons I want to go back to Colorado). It meant I could save quite a bit of money actually. Travel can be expensive but I tend to live cheap and would rather stay in a campsite out in the forest than in a campground.
I actually considered moving back to Colorado a few years ago when my mom died. I considered moving there to be closer to my dad. I didn’t end up doing it since he seemed to be doing okay, but then he got sick, too.
I have blogged about the magic of Colorado before. I have missed it quite a bit and the very few times I have been back in the last 7 ½ years since I left brought back some great memories and made me realize how much I do miss being there. I will be able to visit family more and take care of things at the house when I can get back there. It’s a little frustrating I cannot go take care of some of it now but it’s okay. Things are not pressing at this time so it’s all good – hence the “possibly/probably” I mentioned earlier.
It finally rained today so I can see and breathe once again. Instead of yellow my truck is back to the white it was when it left the factory. The dog had fewer eye boogers today and my allergies were a little better…until I started to clean the house and kicked up the pollen. I made sure to work in small sections toward the air purifier I have so it could suck in the bad air. It helped tremendously to keep some of the dust and dirt down. Then I had to vacuum the couch, recliner, and rugs and wash the bedding to get rid of those pesky allergens.
In closing I will definitely miss Washington, however Colorado and the Rocky Mountains are where I feel most at home. In the time I have been up here I have met a lot of people, made some lifelong friends, got to do some incredible things and have amazing experiences the whole time starting on the very first day I moved up here. There has been the good but there has also been some agonizing heartbreak and pain, a motorcycle wreck, two surgeries, deeply personal loss, a couple of really shitty “human” beings and 13 addresses. It’s a bit sad for me to think about leaving…but it’s what I need to do. It has been great up here all in all but it’s time for a new and different road to travel to some new adventures.