September 15th, 2020

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

After a decent night’s sleep I woke up with no alarm (except for this pesky dog). After a filling brunch at Taco John’s – a taco burger, a hardshell and a softshell taco and Potato Olés. It was delicious – I haven’t eaten at a TJ in a few years and it was just as I remember.

The road beckons, but beckons wheezing through a respirator as it is a little smoky this morning. Last night I decided I might to try to head towards Rocky Mountain NP but you now have to reserve an admission time and they are fully booked for over a week out so I am not sure what I will do now. The AirNow website shows some mild smoke in the mountains today but better air quality tomorrow so I may have to do a little planning.

I ended up heading for Estes Park on US 34 out of Loveland anyway. I have not been that way in a few decades so it was mostly new again but there were definitely familiar sights from all those years ago. I used to come here often in the early 80’s. Estes Park was actually fairly busy but I parked to get out for a quick errand – I wanted to pick up my favorite cheese popcorn at a little red-fronted shop I always stop at that has been there for many years. Unfortunately they were closed.

I also stopped at the RMNP Visitor’s Center just to ask about the national park entry reservations. You MUST have a permit that is purchased online at recreation.gov to get in the park between 6 a.m. and 5 p.m (outside those hours it’s open without the permits). The passes allow you in at a certain time only. Today was booked solid and the guy said there may be a few spots open tomorrow at 3:00 p.m. but with the late entry and the smoke I think it will not be worth it. I want to spend the day and come back before dark to avoid animals on the roads. I bet there are other national parks doing this too so be sure to check ahead.

It’s definitely smokier from the wildfires here at the trailer this afternoon than it was this morning. I have been debating on staying here another day because the air is not bad and I have definitely enjoyed sitting outside when it cools down some. I don’t really smell smoke right now so it is pleasant out. I would really love to push on and go west, but it would be a lot of extra driving on short notice and some of it in places I don’t want to go, like back up over Teton Pass again or driving north through Salt Lake City. If I had left here today and went on that would have been better but I would like a different route next time as opposed to backtracking. With the fires I am finding that many roads are closed so its a great time for evaluating your travel plan flexibility. I wanted to go to the Buddhist temple Shambhala in the gorgeous setting of the Rockies but the roads are closed in that area. A second thing I wanted to do that I couldn’t (the first being I couldn’t get into RMNP).

Oh well; at least I did get out for a drive and it brought back so many 40-year-old memories. All those trips from KS to CO I took where I left after work and drove all night to the now-closed Deer Lodge rest area and slept in the car a few hours before pushing on into Denver at sunrise to head into the mountains. Some stretches of I-70 had one radio station on the AM side, and that was for several hours of your drive back in the early 80s.

I would have a bunch of mac & cheese, ramen, canned fruit, and a loaf of bread and Underwood Deviled Chicken Spread loaded in the car, a few clothes and any other basic necessities like a Sterno stove, hot dogs, and a cheap Walmart tent and Coleman sleeping bag. The total trip budget each time, including fuel, was $50-$70 for nine days total and sometimes I even came back with money!

Man, those were such fun and interesting trips and everyone should try it a few times in their lives. There was the trip I locked myself out of my car not once, but twice – one of those times I was in Nederland, Colorado in cut-off Levi’s and no shirt on and it started to sleet. I went and sat in the bar and had a few beverages then I went out into the new sunshine since I figured out a way to take the side rear window out so I could reach the door handle. Another time I was in a truck that rolled on a rough mountain road, teaching me to wear seatbelts and not ride with people drunk or high (at least not them). And who could ever forget Frozen Dead Guy Days? I have slept next to my car on the shoulder of a back road, under my Jeep, in my Jeep, woke up in a rest area with the car running, heat on full blast, and the door wide open…Oh so many, many interesting and fun memories.

So now I need to figure out what to do tomorrow, but more than likely I will just stay here tomorrow night too.

September 14th, 2020

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

I got to the repair shop just after they opened and asked if they could have a look at my brakes. He said “give me a few minutes” to see what he could do. He actually got me right in and had me out by 9:30 or so. A big shoutout to Point S/One Stop in Douglas, WY for really going above and beyond. They have fantastic customer service and helped get me on my way after a very reasonably-priced repair.

Colorado. Damn, I just love this place. Felt like I was back home just crossing the border.

The second day was a short drive but an early morning getting the repairs done. On the way down I stopped at a new historic site I had not seen before. They were closed so I planned on stopping on the way back by since I will have some extra time – another advantage of staying north.

I decided to stay in a KOA near Wellington for a couple of nights. It is not ideal but the closer you get to Denver there are many times no spots open anyplace you would want to stay and they can be expensive. Even though the place I am in is a bit north (just south of the WY border), the thought is to do a few day trips out of here to places fairly close and with decent air quality. It is also closer to drive back to the house on the last day I’m out on this tour so some day trips are the best way to go. I have parked and disconnected the trailer, got it set up and plugged in, then went to Ft. Collins for party favors. Since I got in late last night and I was up early I decided to just sit and relax a bit tonight and ponder my options…while smelling cow poo.

I have several options amongst some of my favorite places. It feels so good to be back here and I am excited to see it all again. If I do get into the central Rockies that will absolutely bring back some memories… both happy and sad. I have some time to kick back, settle in for my Rocky Mountain High, and figure out something for tomorrow.

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.

May 25th, 2020 – Washington in the Rearview Mirror…

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

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.

Along US 2 east of Skykomish, WA
Rider posing for a picture along the Wenatchee River just east of Leavenworth, WA along US 2
Along the Wenatchee River just east of Leavenworth, WA along US 2
West of Republic, WA on eastbound SR20

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.

img_0061
North of Spokane, WA along highway 395

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.

Cabin in Helena National Forest
Stream in Helena National Forest
Old homestead cabin

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.

That’s all for this update. Stay safe!

April 29th, 2020

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

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.