October 17th, 2020

Adventure, food, Just things, Outdoors, Road Trip, Uncategorized

Nothing like an amazing cup of coffee in the morning

Boy, what a change in the weather.

I woke up at 2:00 A.M. this morning to intense winds shaking the trailer. It felt as if one corner of the trailer was off the ground at one point. These were the worst winds I have encountered in the trailer so far – no need to do that again. It snowed last night and has been snowing today. The winds have been blowing strong all day but nothing like last night. We are under a winter weather advisory overnight with more snow on the way on into Monday. I have a feeling that the places where I took pictures and the video yesterday are no longer accessible after this. I am glad I got to go!

I ventured out and got the propane topped off this morning to make sure I am prepared for the cold. I have been staying plenty warm and still relying on mainly the electric heater with the furnace as a backup. At night the electric cannot quite keep up so the furnace kicks on to pick up the slack. I still cannot figure out where my electric blanket went so I grabbed the down mattress topper to put underneath me and I am using the down duvet cover from the bottom on top now for extra warmth. I just got two brand new Tempurpedic pillows yesterday to replace my old ones that were worn out (and giving me serious neck issues and bad headaches) so I am sleeping in comfort…if I could only sleep. I hope the pillows will help but that is not the issue completely.

Three days ago I decided to tape up the roof vents to keep the wind and dirt out until my new vent covers showed up (which they did two days ago). The noise of the wind blowing in the gap was very loud and annoying so I had to do something to stop that and reduce my having to clean everything daily. I imagine that the weather is still unsettled for the time being so I will probably have a few days I can sneak in getting them replaced. It should not take very long and looks to be fairly simple to do.

Today I opened up the drains to empty the water system. Tomorrow I hope the weather is better so I can use the air compressor to blow out the water lines. I have the cabinet doors open to keep the lines warm so they won’t freeze. From what I have read I won’t need to add RV antifreeze in the water lines after they are blown out which is good. It is easier than having to flush that stuff out and using air you can do it as needed.

I really like my new Nespresso machine. It is definitely a different way to make coffee. It makes coffee very reminiscent of what I had in Europe and that is what I was exactly what I was hoping for. The crema (foam) in the picture above is about an inch thick (it is just black coffee). The flavor selection of different coffees from around the world is incredible and excellent quality. The machine uses recyclable aluminum pods that spin to make the crema. A barcode on the pod tells the machine how much water to use for the different pods so you can make a shot of espresso all the way up to a 14 oz. cup. It’s a bit spendy for the coffee but the coffee is top-shelf and delicious. I don’t drink that much coffee in a day (no more than a couple of cups max) so it is still reasonable. I actually drink less with this but I am drinking better quality.

Well, I have been awake for a long time now so I am going to bed and hope for sleep. Maybe the tangerine Mike’s Hard Lemonades I drank will give me a good start.

Stay safe everyone.

September 17th, 2020

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

I got up early to get an early start and decided in the interest of hitting the road faster i went and got breakfast and coffee. I usually do not unhook my truck so I can just wake up and get gone but I wanted to run around, and the trailer is not level in this spot if it is hooked up – it kinda goes uphill so the trailer tongue has to be cranked down lower than the hitch on the truck to be level for the fridge to work properly and the shower to drain.

The air quality is not good today – much worse than yesterday and I am starting to cough and wheeze from it so apparently I am leaving at the perfect time. I wish I had longer to stay and drive around but with the air getting unhealthy it’s just as well I leave now.

Luckily, with all my recent trips I have gotten into a pretty good rhythm to getting things done fairly quick both setting up and packing it back up for the road. Nice thing with a trailer is when it is raining hard you just park, open the door and go to bed. Dry and warm. Gotta use the toilet? It’s in your closet (basically in mine it is).

I got everything unhooked and put away then hit the road for the drive back. The winds were not quite as bad as they were on the way down but pulling a trailer still knocks the gas mileage down even with a tailwind. I stop often for gas – when I am at about a half-tank – so I don’t run out again like I did a while back. I got gas for $1.99/gallon in Cheyenne and in the low-$2.00 range most of the rest of the trip. The KOA was only $42/night and that was with full hookups.

Having the dog with me it’s good to let him out to exercise and do what he needs to do, and it gets me out of the truck as well so I stop often for that. He still loves to travel and does pretty good but I have had to put the crate in the back and lock him up in it to keep him from wandering.

All the way back the air quality was really horrible so I had the air conditioning set on recirculate to keep the bad air out. I saw the mountains very little and in some places they are not that far from the interstate. Even getting back to the house the smoke is thicker than I have seen in almost the entire time I have been here. I can’t stop coughing and clearing my throat. It sucks and I hope I do not get sick again, but I am staying inside, keeping the inhaler going and doing whatever else I need to do to to fight it off the best I can. I have not taken many pictures on this trip since there was really nothing to see due to the smoke so I did not bother trying.

It was so fantastic to be back in Colorado once again and revisit some long-ago visited places and memories from the past 40-odd years. I had not thought about those ‘shoestring adventures” of those days in quite a while and as I did I smiled inside and out. I only stayed in free places, I froze my ass off at times and was hungry on occasion, but I had a great time traveling like that. I still travel on a low budget but it is because I want to and because I enjoyed doing it in my 20s. Sure, I have the luxury of a trailer now but that doesn’t mean I have to give up the best and most honest way to travel; one that makes you find your happiness without much money.

So, Colorado…I hope to be back very soon! No need to leave a light on for me.

I know the way very well.

September 3rd, 2020

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

The eyes have it

The dog pictured above is Otto – one of Meghan’s pack.

I have had several things going on lately so actually the timing is working out pretty good for my upcoming getaway. A few new things have come up and it is really beginning to look like the next few months will be busier than I thought so that will mean more travel in my future than I previously planned. I finally got an appointment set up with a hand surgeon in Washington and we will probably be scheduling the surgery at that appointment. I hope to get the other cataract surgery done around the same time, and I will fit in whatever else I need done in that timeframe as well. Busy indeed, but I want to get the stuff done that needs done – there is fun that needs to be had and I’m gonna have it but there are priorities.

Another “summer” draws to a close next week with the Labor Day holiday. This year has really gone by fast, but there really has been quite a lot happen in the first eight months of this year – at least in my life.

Unfortunately some places close down after this holiday, which is too bad since it is usually the best time to travel because school has started and the crowds have gone home. That was always frustrating in Colorado. The weather is still decent in many places, but places like many Forest Service, National Park, and State Park campgrounds will close. As I have said before, though, I usually don’t stay in many campgrounds.

That’s all in a normal year, and this is far beyond a normal year as we previously knew the definition of normal. I don’t really know what to expect in my upcoming travels, but the places I go are usually not where the crowds are anyway so I don’t anticipate much being different. The trips I have made so far since getting back from Europe I have not seen the huge crowds of people out as I would usually see, like my day trip through Yellowstone for instance. It was busy…just not Yellowstone busy.

I always try to avoid being out during long holiday weekends like this one because of the crowds and the stupidity that goes along with them. Too many people that cannot handle their booze and drugs means it’s Amateur Hour on the roadways and it’s just safer to stay home and avoid becoming a statistic. They are also obnoxious and destructive in the forest so they take away from the enjoyment of nature.

So, I felt this was a really good time to go someplace and I just returned from a few days in the woods.

My original thought was to go back to Earthquake Lake so that’s the way I headed. On the way down I was able to fill up the water tank on the trailer at Ennis RV Park in Ennis, MT. I told them I would come by and use their pay dumpstation when I was headed back to the house so they said okay. But, on the way out there was a tray of baked goods. Singing a siren’s song from a shelf by the door was a package of homemade carrot cake. I grabbed it and took it up to pay. I had to have that plus I wanted to make a purchase since they did me a favor. Luckily it was diet carrot cake – there were only two hunks in the plastic wrap so I did not feel so bad.

I took off after a quick stop for a propane refill, some Guinness and a couple of fresh ground burger patties. But, along the way, a Forest Service Road was just luring me in so I turned and found a great spot right next to a river, which I believe is the West Fork Madison because that is the road I took. Since I would rather do some boondocking for a few days it saved me $60 in camping fees plus I did not have to drive quite as far even though I was a bout eight miles in. I would not be using any of the campground facilities so it is pointless for me to stay in a campground anyway, other than there is safety in numbers. More about that later.

A pretty nice site!

Unfortunately there are no trees blocking the road in the site I found, but I only saw two vehicles go by so it’s been fine. It’s bear country for sure so I took all the extra precautions since I had no bear spray. I did see a calling card left by a bear and the Forest Service posted a sign on a tree in the campsite right by the river and along the roads I took.

A Guinness and a recliner – who needs TV?

Stopping here saved me some time, too, so I was able to get in the woods a little faster to find a good spot. I know that weekends are the busiest time and kids are also back in school in some fashion. I have flexibility with when I can go so it’s during the week when I go out to find a spot, and I scored pretty good with this one!

It was pretty cold the first night and when I got up the next morning there was a pretty hard frost on the truck and grass. I adjusted the thermostat a little warmer after that night though since it was a little too cold inside. My trailer is not made for cold weather so I have to be careful. If I want to camp in winter it’s dry-camping only – no water onboard. That also means no showers so that changes my traveling options. But with the weather just getting cold at night and warming up during the day it will be fine. The furnace helps keep the plumbing inside warm, but the valves and graywater tank are outside and that’s where the problems can happen. I will still need to figure out something for winter.

The second and third nights were not as cold outside and the second day was nice, but the third day was pretty warm but a breeze helped. They were all nice days for a short walk to check out other spots along the river.

I did put a few grill marks on those burgers and enjoyed every last bite of one piece of that carrot cake. The Guinness went down smooth like it always does. SPAM (no…don’t you EVEN give me any grief about SPAM; it’s tasty, easy to store, there are many varieties and you can do so much with it), scrambled eggs (with gouda aged 1000 days) and southwestern-style hashbrowns for breakfast was delicious. I thought about cooking my burgers over a campfire but I honestly don’t build many fires anymore since it is just me (not counting the dog).

The main point, however, was to get away & decompress and I was able to do that pretty well. Since the dog is not with me this trip I am able to sleep in and even lie around after I woke up. Sitting out in my lounge chair recliner drinking a few beers by the river and not thinking about anything for a few days was just what I needed to do for me.

I opened up my road atlas for ideas for future trips. I was looking at the Colorado pages since it’s close and I have not been road-tripping there in quite a while. One thing stuck out as I looked at the map: I have been on every major highway in the state between all my trips around Colorado. I was quite shocked to discover that. The last trip through northern CO a few months ago filled in the last blanks on places I have been in CO and those highways at the same time. Of course, along with that, are the countless miles of four-wheeling in the back country and smaller roads I have been on. Pretty surprising. Looking at Washington’s map afterwards it is the same – I have been on most major highways, only lacking a couple.

Before I took this trip I was looking at places to go to get some ideas, but the pandemic has shut many things down. In Theodore Roosevelt NP, which I was hoping to drive over to and stay in for a few days, the campgrounds are shut down for building construction on new toilets. That is actually great planning since the visitation is down all over and it inconveniences fewer people to do it now before visitations ramp back up next year (maybe). Construction projects have to be done in summer in many places due to weather and seasonal staffing available, especially in the northern half of the country.

So be aware that some (but not all) state parks, federal lands, and even city parks are closed down for now or have limited resources and hours so you will have to check where you want to go for restrictions before you go anywhere. Even roads and highways going into some tribal lands are closed for outsiders. This is complicating travel for RV people and car campers, but many private campgrounds are open. There is still the option of boondocking on federal lands (pay attention to the regulations for stay limits, fire regulations, etc.). One city park I checked into was closed for the pandemic.

Road warriors talk about staying in Walmart parking lots and it is popular. Some allow that for one night only, and some don’t allow it at all so you have to ask as you make a purchase (don’t be a cheapskate – they are helping YOU out). There have been a lot of issues with some people “camping” in the parking lots (violence, noise, theft, vandalism, police, etc.) so many Walmarts have put a stop to it. I did it once; I didn’t have any problems, but after reading about it and seeing videos posted I won’t stay in them anymore. I am seeing more and more people living in Walmart lots and my understanding is they get territorial. I don’t need that in my life so I avoid it.

Ironic that I should mention those issues before I wrap this post up. Things were pretty good the first few days of my exile, but that all went straight to hell on Wednesday afternoon. I was getting ready to cook a burger and had an issue with one of the entitled local assholes. Without going into the long story about it the sheriff is now involved and charges will be filed against him. I am okay – no physical violence but it was close.

After this I have decided that I won’t be going into the forest in Montana anymore. With everyone here having a gun and an attitude, the hell with it. I don’t need this BS and will spend my time and money elsewhere where people are treated with respect. I have spent countless days and nights in the National Forests in various places across the country over the decades and never ever had any problems in the forest until now. I honestly felt safer stumbling around the streets of Seattle at night than I now do in the forests in Montana.

I went back to Ennis and stayed at the Ennis RV Village to drink a few beers and calm down. I must say that this was a really nice RV campground – probably the nicest one I have ever stayed in. Even though they had “residents”, there were not dog pens or storage bins everywhere and the place was very clean. The staff was very friendly, welcoming, and helpful. It is in town so it is close in case you need supplies. I am very picky about these places with the experiences I had a few months ago, but after staying the night in this park I would definitely recommend this park.

The view from Ennis RV Park

That’s it for now. Still trying to get over what happened so it’s time for a cocktail.

August 23rd, 2020

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

First things first.

It was two years ago today I lost my Dad to bladder cancer. I miss both him and my mom quite a lot and I think about them every day. To those of you reading this blog – PLEASE get regular check-ups and see your doctors about ANYTHING going on with you that isn’t normal. I am vigilant about getting check-ups. I don’t want to get sick and I owe it to my friends and family…and you owe it to yours.

Okay, now on to better things.

I am getting ready for another road trip that I hope to make very soon – I just have to fit it in with other things going on but it is a priority. I really need to get away pretty badly and get some cooler weather with better air to breathe…and I also need a change of scenery for a little while to get my head in a better place. I do have some ideas for a few places but nothing certain yet (and I would not tell you anyhoo!). With much of the West on fire locating some clean air someplace close may be a bit of a challenge but I will find a spot.

Along these same lines it is looking like, unfortunately, my trip to upper New England and the Atlantic Provinces this Fall may have to be put on hold due to the T-virus. I wanted to go into eastern Canada when I got over there but the border is really looking like it will be staying closed for quite some time. Add to that the fact that the pandemic is nowhere near under control – and won’t be for the foreseeable future. Even though I stay in my trailer and avoid people I think it is best that my travel plans be more confined to a smaller footprint to minimize my exposure and stay closer to my own doctors just in case. I was really trying to be optimistic about it, and am not giving up completely on the idea, but there is also the reality of what is happening.

I got an e-mail a few days back telling me how many airline miles I have so just for grins I looked up where I could get to and the prices using miles. On one flight I can go to Dublin for free but it is on an airline I don’t care to fly on, plus it is a layover flight. If I buy a few miles (which is cheaper than a ticket) I can fly non-stop back to Dublin. I can also go through Iceland again and stay there a few days if I buy a few miles more on top of the non-stop. Hot damn! But, I am nowhere near ready to get back on a plane yet (at least not without a lot of sedation). The places to go are pretty limited since most countries are closed to U.S. tourists. In Ireland right now you have to quarantine for 14 days after arrival or the penalties are pretty stiff. Hell, I have been quarantined so many times and for so many weeks that is not a problem. I will keep an eye on the pandemic and flights and see how things progress. If a great deal comes up and there are no cancellation or change fees I might book one foir the future. I said “might”.

I finally got myself a wok last week. It’s an old-school carbon steel one that had to be seasoned so I did that yesterday. It took a little time as you have to boil water in it, scrub the hell out of it to get the protective coating off, rinse and dry. Then, to season it you have to rub oil in it and heat it up on the bottom and all the sides. It is tough to do that part on a regular stove so it looks like I will need to get me a wok burner. I have not tried to cook in it yet but I am going to try it on my stove first. If that works then I may not worry about it, but I don’t know if it will work though. You have to get a wok really hot to cook in it correctly so the wok burner may be the best option. I have used a non-stick one a few times but I am really anxious to try mine out! It is pretty bulky to keep in the trailer but I will find room. It is an easy way to eat healthier and you can cook so much faster.

Speaking of space, A few weeks ago I got a new 3-way coffee maker to save a little space in the trailer. It takes the K-cups, but also makes tea in a basket (loose leaf) and has another basket for ground coffee as well. Seemed like a good idea, but only on paper (or the phony reviews on Amazon). It is definitely not the quality of a Keurig and I am going to send it back. It has had some issues working correctly and I am not gonna fight with it anymore. I will go back to my French press and kettle. It works and it’s much more gratifying to make it that way anyway. Plus they are not as polluting as the K-cups and I do like shopping for fresh beans of different new coffees to try.

Not much else exciting happening at the moment. I have been holed up in the trailer due to the air quality warnings the past several days and I am pretty much over this nonsense.

Soon. I will be going someplace soon…

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.