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 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.