I write this post sitting in the parking lot of a repair shop on Washington. I’ll be here until Monday since they are closed on Sunday.
I was heading back out on the highway this morning and a problem arose. It was windy. I have driven in winds before but my trailer has never gone down the road crooked so when that happened I thought it was odd. The winds just weren’t strong enough to make it do that and it just didn’t look right.
Then I saw something that looked like smoke trailing behind me, but my windows were dirty so I wasn’t sure. Finally I saw it WAS smoke so I thought I’d best pull over.
Smoke was billowing out of the passenger side tire on the trailer. I had stopped in the nick of time. It could have caught fire, locked up and caused an accident…any number of things – and all of a bad nature. Wheel bearing is cooked and the wheel is sitting odd:
So, lemons and lemonade and $590 later I’m staying in the trailer in the parking lot since the lot is not secured. I just replaced the battery in the trailer so I should be warm overnight with the furnace running. There’s no shore power so I am boondocking for a few nights and charging the trailer battery from the truck. Even more fun is the trailer is not level; it’s nowhere near level. The ground was already sloped…and it’s up on a jack stand! Yes, I have supports out to keep anything from happening. I’ll be sleeping with my feet downhill (I guess if it rolled over I’d basically end up standing up). Just another part of the adventure.
Oh, the things that happen to me. I usually just shake my head at them in disbelief, smile a little, and go about my day.
So, anyhoo, I left a few days ago to come back over. It was odd leaving; it’s never easy leaving any of the kids and grandkids and it certainly wasn’t any easier after being there a while. I needed to move along and take care of some things. Winter was getting ready to have another go so I needed to scoot while I had the opportunity. I pushed my luck far enough and I’m not much for winter these days. I got into a few rain showers in the mountains on the way over but no issues. From the pictures I saw at Meghan’s house this morning I’m glad I left when I did.
I brought a few extra things with me so I don’t have any extra room be it truck or trailer. I’m constantly moving stuff around on and off the bed, but it’s just a temporary thing. I’m going to find a small storage unit when I get there and put a few things in there to help with the clutter. I did a little rearranging this morning and got a bit more room.
I decided to hang here a few days to let the rains pass. I considered going over to the Oregon coast but not sure yet so it gives me time to ponder. There’s not a way over there without backtracking a bit and I really don’t want to do that. I’d like to avoid Tacoma so I will weigh my options. Thinking back eight years, I actually went over to Astoria and went north. I drove down from Mt. St. Helens and went over through Longview. There’s two really tall bridges along that route. I also remember I got a speeding ticket down in that area too.
Winter on the coast can be stormy so that’s another consideration. I would love to see a storm on the coast. I am not sure if I care to be in the trailer out there during that stuff. It’s pretty vicious. I have seen big surf but nothing like what’s out there.
I don’t really have a major plan yet. I do have things to fall back on so I’ll be fine and I have a place to be. I don’t know how things will unfold but I always have a roof and a meal. Never an issue these days but it’s been a little, shall we say “interesting “ at times. Had a few rough times here and there but always made things work out for the best.
Tuesday I returned from the northwest and another adventure. I went back up to Washington to take care of a few things and hopefully see a few people.
I got up fairly early to get some things done before taking off on this trip. I had to wait for things to thaw and have a little bit more daylight so I ended up leaving a bit later than I usually like to but safety is important. I am leaving a day early to get up there since the weather has been nasty yet unpredictable and I need to be there.
The forecast for the weather was bad and got worse plus the following weekend was going to be bad as well. I just did not feel the need to risk safety to pull the trailer over and back. On the way over the winds were ferocious; there were whitecaps on the Columbia River! I had to cancel my campground reservations due to the weather and it’s more than strange for me these days to stay in a hotel. But I am doing it.
I stopped at a hotel on my way; these days I’d rather make it more leisurely if possible. Staying in a hotel kinda freaks me out more than a bit right now to be honest, but it is getting better already. I got to thinking about it differently, trying to assure myself it’s gonna be okay. The logic I am using is that we were in Europe in all of this at the start. We were careful and avoided touching surfaces in public place with bare hands and were always very conscious of our hands. We were still elbow to elbow with people from all over in Amsterdam and on the trains in Germany and the Netherlands plus all of our flights. We all came back as fit as when we left, and it is because we were cautious.
That said, though, I sprayed the hell out of everything with industrial disinfectant the moment I walked in the door to both my hotels last week. Sure, it is a pain in the ass the first time for certain but worth the trouble sanitizing everything in the room. They can say whatever they want but I do it myself and I know it is done. Not saying anything about anyone in particular, but it is for MY peace of mind.
It’s a big jump for me personally. I want to go back to Europe as soon as I possibly can, but I gotta get past some of these phobias to be able to go and be comfortable and have fun. That way when things get a little better I can face it and go without hesitation. My dream trip is I want to go for 6-8 weeks. Many places are closed to US passports right now, so it’s either wait or cut back on the time and maybe get to go earlier to fewer places. Finding someone to be able to go with for that long may be tough, too, but I could piece it together with a few people meeting up in different places. That might be kinda fun to do but someone for the duration would be cool too. I got an e-mail today for cheap airfares to Finland. In January. Just imagine how damn cold that would be…
So no big plans while I was there. Saw one friend the day after I got in to drop off some hot sauce for him to try. We stood about 20 feet apart in his driveway. Almost all my friends are quarantining out of caution so I did not see anyone and I do respect that. Otherwise I just kicked back relaxing and taking a few drives based around my appointments. That was the plan.
Meghan ended up going over to a place south of Tacoma for some dog-related things. We decided it would be best for us to follow each other back given the possible road issues so we met up in Ellensburg and went on to Coeur d’Alene for a night in a hotel. Beyond there hotels are few and fart apart, cell service is spotty for quite a while and there are a couple of mountain passes to be concerned about.
We got up the next day and left. It is a real good thing we stopped when we did, though. A few spots were pretty nasty and we would have been driving through there as darkness fell. We have been through there enough to know the roads pretty well and when to not take chances.
We got back to the house and it was time to take care of a few things in the trailer. I was pretty concerned about my new Nespresso machine freezing after the heater shut off and things froze. Luckily I emptied the water before I left and it is working fine. The extreme cold stretched out a few of my canned goods but everything else seems to be okay – no fluids anywhere. With winter in the neighborhood I will have to be leaving here a little earlier than what we had originally thought. The electricity I need to be hooked up to for heat and keeping the battery charged is needed to keep the horse trough (and the hose to fill it) thawed out. Meghan won’t be working as much so it all works out good other than I will really miss seeing everyone here.
With all of this going on I am now in the stages of thinking about wrapping things up to leave. It’s a bit odd to think of after being here helping out for the last five months. I didn’t want to be here in winter; I lived in a house for six years at 10,500 feet with seven months of winter (one storm alone five FEET accumulated at that house – not including the gale-force winds), and after that it was a house at 8400 feet for ten years and snow often. I have had enough winter. I am no longer a fan of the snow like that after dealing with it living in the mountains for many years. If I want to drive to see the snow that is one thing, but I don’t want it coming to me. I certainly won’t miss these winds either!
I am not quite sure where I am going for the next few weeks yet but know where I am going after that. I have appointments next month I have to be at but I have the time to go someplace now if I want. This time of year is tough with the possibilities of weather challenges, and the pandemic adds another dimension. I was thinking of a few places to go but the ‘rona is really making me consider my options differently and more closely.
I’ll be heading over to get a few things from storage before I take off. With the trailer being only 15 feet long it is very limiting so I have to choose what I need to take very carefully while realizing I won’t have access to my storage unit for a while. I really don’t like not having my stuff scattered states away but for now it’s best to leave my storage here. Extra clothing this time of year is important and that takes up extra space. Luckily I have had the time to shake things down as far as needs vs. wants. One big thing was realizing that I will have to make more frequent trips for groceries. Not that I will have to go daily, but limits such as there’s only room for one box of pasta and not two without giving up room for something else. It’s been an adjustment (along with no freezer space for prepped meals) as I usually have well-stocked shelves.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
That’s it for now. Still trying to get over what happened so it’s time for a cocktail.