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.

September 13th, 2020

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

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.

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 25th, 2020

Adventure, food, Just things, Outdoors, Uncategorized

This post is about doing some good things in the world along with an update. It’s not going to be preachy -0 just some interesting things I have come across.

Today I came across a short interview with Chef José Andrés that I found very interesting. He is doing some great work to help feed people and keep restaurants in business in disaster areas all over the world with his incredible organization World Central Kitchen.

I first saw him on the travel shows hosted by my favorite travel host Anthony Bourdain. Chef Andrés is so passionate about food – good, simple food – that he makes you want to try it all. WCK helps out so not just people in disaster areas can eat, but he outsources much of the cooking to local restaurants to help keep their doors open and keep their staff employed. It is a pretty impressive organization.

In the last paragraph of the article the interviewer asks “Talk to me about the power of travel to open hearts and minds.

Chef Andrés: “It is important for us to travel, to meet people who seem different from us. You realize that they aren’t that different. We are all together on this planet, and we need to be working together more. It’s not going to happen overnight, but we have an amazing opportunity to get to know who we are and where we live. To look at things through another lens and appreciate the beauty of the planet we have.”

This takes what I have previously said about travel and elevates it to a whole other level…an important level. A level we need to think about more.

Be sure to read the whole article I linked to and check out the link to WCK as well; it is a short article and will only take a few minutes. There are opportunities all over; one opportunity is they are looking for volunteers to help feed firefighters battling the wildfires in California. Of course you can donate money as well as time.

I really didn’t go to a lot of concerts in the days before the T-virus (last one was Riverside in Seattle in June 2019) but I know how important it is for bands to tour to make money and that is not happening right now. The music I listen to is not very commercially popular as opposed to mainstream radio-play music so these bands live hand-to-mouth constantly, and some even have regular jobs to supplement their incomes to just be able to play and create their music. This means that all but the biggest acts are struggling along with the venues they play in – from Irish pubs to your local bar and theater.

I have been trying to support some of my favorite bands by buying CDs and DVDs directly from them (and not through Apple Music, Amazon, etc.). I want the bands I enjoy listening to to get as much of the money as possible from my purchases. I have received CDs and DVDs from bands in England (IQ, Marillion) and Norway (Green Carnation) so far and plan to do more to support them and other acts I enjoy listening to. And, since I cannot see them live (which I do buy tickets to these tours when possible) having a concert DVD gives me a chance to see them “live”. Many of the bands I listen to never even make it here to the US so it’s either a DVD or I schedule my next Europe trip to see them…we almost did on our first trip over!

Another way to support your favorite acts is on the Bandcamp website. The website was giving up their revenue share portion on Fridays so it would go straight to the artists (not sure if they are still doing that or not). That’s a fantastic gesture to help support indie artists and I have taken advantage of that to help even more. Stop by and check it out and you might discover some new music by some new artists. I have seen free music, music for set prices, and even name your own price on some artist pages as well as some great deals buying collections (Porcupine Tree, Silent Island, Black Hill, Tacoma Narrows Bridge Disaster). Just support them directly however you can! And yes…I know you may not have heard of any of these bands or probably think they have weird names.

I have seen articles where many of the museums around the world are in trouble and many may close or never reopen. That is so sad to hear as our history is so important for future generations to see where we have been. I purchased an annual museum pass to help out museums in Ireland. I will be going back soon (hopefully) so I can use it to get in to places, plus it supports my ancestral castle as well.

My Interagency Pass – some mistakenly call it the National Parks Pass – is a great deal and it supports all Federal Lands. If you want to support a particular National Wildlife Refuge, National Park or National Forest then purchase one at that particular place they get to keep 80% of the money on that Refuge, Park or Forest! Pick your favorite place and buy it there and not at an outdoor retailer (not to mention any names); that money all goes into a general fund.

Free admission to all Federal lands for a year…not a bad deal at all. And a Senior Pass is $80 for a lifetime card with 50% discounts for campgrounds on top of free entry with the card if you are over 62. A little hint – buy it early in the month and it expires at the end of the same month the following year; it’s basically a free month! Just remember the pass has to stay with the owner – you loan it you can lose it.

There are so many small things we can do that help. You don’t have to be a philanthropist to donate (I’m certainly not wealthy) but even just a few dollars here and there to support something near and dear to you makes a difference!

I get bronchitis just looking at this sunrise…

Earlier I mentioned wildfires but some relief is here!

Rain!!! We are finally getting some rain as I type this post. It has been months since we had any real rain here and this will do wonders to clear the air up some and help put out some of the fires in the area. Before the rains we had some hellacious winds – probably 50+ mph – and I am sure those did not help firefighter efforts, but there is rain falling and that will. I had to park my truck next to my trailer to keep the trailer from getting blown over and the wind ripped the top of the chicken coop off. Then Auntie Em flew by…

I’m thinking that, along with helping get some of the fires under control, this rain might help open up some other possibilities for my upcoming adventure. I guess I need to look at some fire info to see what is open and closed before I decide to go someplace and even see if I can get anywhere. I have been checking the pandemic outbreak maps and some places I wanted to go I will certainly be avoiding.

I started working on a new song for my ongoing opus called The Neverending Suite (which is currently just shy of 19 minutes long). I got the lyrics completed a few days ago (well, for now as far as I know). I have had a lot on my mind and it came flying out through my fingertips; most of it in about 30 minutes, and I decided to add another verse two days later when it wandered into my thoughts. Next step is to take a few music ideas I have and put the two together. It’s never an easy task as I tend to want to add a lot of layers for texturing, but I am getting a little more disciplined about doing that. It’s been a while since I have put a song together but when it’s time to write it just happens, not to mention there has been a lot of time to think about a lot of things.

Earlier this year I started reworking the last section I recorded last year but got sidetracked with life, Europe, a pandemic, and moving. It’s not like I have not had the time; I just have not been in the songwriting frame of mind lately. The reworking ended up being a bit more complicated than I thought it would be but I will probably be getting back on it soon so I can get this new part of the song to tie in after it. It’s good therapy too.

It’s been some time since I have heard the song so I think I will have a listen to it and close out this post.

August 17th, 2020

Adventure, Just things, Outdoors, pictures, Road Trip, Travel, Uncategorized

A sign I saw today…

Today it was another road trip!

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:

Anaconda Smelter Stack
Anaconda Smelter Stack

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…

Can you ever have too much???

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…).

One of many interpretive signs along US 93

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!