Slides and Slidouts

We haven’t been doing too much adventuring the past couple of weeks.  The fire on the east side of Glacier Park closed the main road and caused a lot of smoke cover (the Going-to-the-Sun road is currently open and people are allowed to travel sparingly through the east side of the park).  We avoided the area the last several weeks due to the congestion of tourists and low visibility.  Even though we haven’t ventured into the park, other than to jog the bike trail at Apgar a few times, we still have projects around the R.V. to keep us busy.

-Side note – Before we left on this adventure we had some work done on the R.V. to get it in tip-top shape.  One upgrade was our roof, and the other was the bedroom slideout.  We won’t get into the whole problem we’ve had with the dealership where we bought the R.V. and the “repairs” they said they made before we drove it off the lot.  There is still a bitter taste from that whole experience, so we won’t discuss what was SUPPOSED to be done and what were items we “didn’t need to worry about” when we got the R.V.

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Sean hanging out under the living room slide.

We periodically check the outside of the R.V. for any signs of wear and tear or damage, and we noticed recently that underneath the kitchen slide the material was wearing off where the rollers touched the surface.  This is the same problem we had on the bedroom slide we had repaired before we left.  The outer slide floor is particle board with a thin coating.  We’ve noticed many of the newer RV’s have a sheet of fiberglass over this to protect it from any moisture.  If we left it the way it is, the roller would eventually chew up the particle board under the slide and give us even more trouble.  The bedroom slide was fixed by applying a layer of fiberglass sheeting and reinforcing the edges with corner pieces.  Sean did some research and we decided we could take the project on as a DIY.  After all, he brought along most of his tools, they have to get some use.  We found sheets of fiberglass at Home Depot and Sean made a list of all the materials we would need.  http://www.homedepot.com/p/Unbranded-4-ft-x-8-ft-White-090-FRP-Wall-Board-MFTF12IXA480009600/100389836

We decided to do both the kitchen slide and the living room slide.  After we got all the material, we had to trim the pieces to fit (Sherry’s job).  We wanted the fiberglass to fit under the rubber weather striping, but not too close to where the floor lifted to slide.  That slide lifts up on a long plastic or pvc material.  The wood floor literally slides along the material until it is full in.  So, we wanted to make sure that the mechanism wouldn’t be obstructed when it started its sliding and checked several times to see where the lift actually occurred.  Sean wasn’t too worried as the fiberglass board is very thin and shouldn’t cause an obstruction.  The piece fit perfectly and all we had to do was screw it into the bottom of the slide.  THAT was a lot of work.  The sheet is 8 ft. long, so it wanted to bend and fold.  Sherry did her best using both arms and her head to keep it from dipping and holding it in place, while Sean held the other end with his head and put in screws with a drill attachment.  It was a sight to see!  Nevertheless, we got it all secured!  We were very careful to make sure the piece was even and secured along the edges with self tapping wood screws.  We had to use two pieces of fiberglass to fit the width of the entire slide.  The second piece was cut to 4 ft. and was much easier to hold in place.  We still have to caulk and add trim, but the slide moves beautifully in and out over the rollers.  In fact, it seems to slide easier, with much less friction than before.

Speaking of slides…

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Alpine Slide Whitefish, MT

We also had some fun the last week.  Sherry’s friend from high school came to Glacier to hike with her girlfriend, and we were all able to get together.  We have been wanting to go to Whitefish, MT to the ski resort and do the Alpine Slide they have there.  It is like a giant water slide with sleds and no water.  We had a fun time riding the sleds down the hill and then riding the ski lifts up the hill!

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Wheeee!!!

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Here we go!

We also took them to Glacier Distilling Company to have some refreshments.  IMG_2308

IMG_2305We are in love with some of the whiskeys at this particular distillery.  They are not big enough to ship or market nationwide, but when they do, the products will no doubt be popular!  We were incredibly disappointed that our favorite bourbon, Cabin Fever, was completely sold out.  It will be another year or TWO before they have another batch ready to bottle.  We had made up our minds to get several bottles for Christmas presents this year!  Needless to say, we were bummed and some people on our list are not getting presents.  Lol.  (Luckily for us, we have a little left of our own personal bottle that we will cherish.)

We are looking forward to our final weeks here in the Glacier area.  We have several more hikes planned now that the park has reopened the main road.  Our most exciting hike is going to be the Highline trail near Logan Pass.  It is highly rated, so we are excited to try it out.  We have our next several stops after here planned and are looking forward to moving on to what else this country has to offer.  To adventure!

P.S.  We realized that our post about togetherness and tattoos was missing a shout out to the tattoo artist and owner of Dancing Bones Ink in Columbia Falls, MT.  She was so wonderful to us and made us feel so comfortable.  We meant to give a shout out and realized after re-reading the post that we didn’t mention WHO did the tattoos!  So, Barb, thank you so much for your wonderful spirit and artistry!       http://www.dancingbonesinkinc.com/Home.html

 

Two Months, Togetherness and TATTOOS!

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Home Sweet traveling Home.

Two months?  Where does the time go?  We have already been on the road a couple of months and have acclimated to the lifestyle quite well.  It is hard to imagine that our educator friends head back to school this week.  Sean has been retired for a couple of years and doesn’t feel the back to school rush anymore.  This is Sherry’s first year not working, and we know, “boo-hoo”, but she’s feeling a little anxiety about not getting ready for another school year, or any job for that matter.  89c45d5c84a946a757d6f9067d911c8aWe do feel guilty about having a LONG ‘break’ away from the daily grind of work.  But, then we look around and stop feeling guilty and start feeling lucky!  🙂  Truly though, we wish the best to our friends in education starting back on the amazing path of enlightening youth and changing lives!  Good luck to you all this year!  You’ll surely need it!!  🙂

Now, back to the headline…

Ah, togethernesslow res-8469-2We still love it (no kidding – we would say that even if we weren’t writing this post together).  It is funny to wonder about people’s perceptions when we get the question if we are tired of each other, or ones who are aghast at the thought of spending 24/7 with their significant other.  If you truly love someone and he/she is your best friend, why is it hard to think about spending this much time together?  We aren’t guaranteed tomorrow, so we do as much as we can today.  Be a human DOING, not a human BEING.  We have not spent more than 15-20 minutes apart at a time for 60 consecutive days.   This has been the greatest part about the trip.  Our goal was to spend more time together, and we’ve definitely achieved that goal so far.  Our toughest times are when we talk about what we do after our year long adventure.  We may actually spend time apart!  Say it isn’t so!  It helps that we collaborate so well together.   For example, Sherry is the primary cook while Sean does the dishes… Most of the time.  We do occasionally switch that up, especially when Sean is baking!  This last week he made biscuits, and Sherry made vegan gravy for a nice country breakfast (the secret is using al dente lentils as the “sausage” bits in the gravy).  We cook vegetarian or vegan most of the time, but we have the occasional fish dinner (Sherry makes a killer fish taco with tequila lime sauce!).  Also out of the oven this week were some delicious blueberry scones – mostly vegan (we use real butter – no margarine or fake butter substitutes).   Despite a small galley, we have been able to coordinate cooking and cleaning.  Sherry often has to improvise while chopping vegetables or preparing food items – counter space is sparse in our little home on wheels.

Hi Res-9112-2Hi Res-8711We have also continued to do our photography business as we travel.  The magnetic signs on the truck help pass along the word.  Sean is usually the one behind the camera while Sherry directs people or edits photos.  We just completed engagement photos for a very happy and absolutely adorable couple who got engaged in Whitefish, MT.  We had so much fun with them and being together as we did that shoot.

 

 

When we aren’t out exploring, we have been playing with the dogs, reading, binge watching TV, and enjoying each other’s company.  What is the point of the first few paragraphs?  If you are going to spend a year (or more) in a 37′ RV, make sure the other person is someone you like being around.  😉  Oh, and don’t forget the other ones you love – like two furballs we call Maggie and Bates.

Maggie finding a freshly made bed and the best ray of sun on a chilly morning.

Maggie finding a freshly made bed and the best ray of sun on a chilly morning.

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Bates loves the dog park in Whitefish!

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Bates fetches (sort of) at the dog park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tattoos – One of the bucket list items was to get matching tattoos to commemorate our adventure and life together.  While in MT we found a lovely shop where the owner made us feel very comfortable.  She reminded Sherry of a Shaman she knew in Illinois named Sandy Little Lizard.  She had a very comforting aura.  We knew after an hour talking to her that she would have to be the one that helped us create our little forever piece of body artwork.  Sherry researched a design, and we both discussed the words before we met with the tattoo artist.  The sailboat represents Tadaima, our sailboat where we were married, and the words are from a song we consider ours and that sums up this adventure perfectly…”…and then when we get to the ocean, we’re gonna take a boat to the end of the world…all the way to the end of the world.”  Feel free to let loose a few “Awwww’s” and “How adorable”.

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We have also tried to explore more of the west side of the park while the Going to the Sun road is still closed at Logan Pass.  Several days ago we went into the park to Apgar and ran the bike trail with Bates.  He loved it, but we were saddened to see the signs telling us there was an up to three hour delay just to get to the Pass.  We are still hopeful that the fire will be contained and we will be able to hike the Highline Trail – supposedly one of the best in the park.

Since we couldn’t explore more of Glacier, we decided to look into Hungry Horse Reservoir.  We had seen signs along HWY 2 about the reservoir and dam, but despite staying nearby, we had just overlooked it.  We finally decided it was time to drive back and see what we could see.  One of the main roads, paved, led back to the dam, a 600′ monstrosity holding back a beautiful lake.  The views are incredible and it is only a few miles from where we were staying!  After spending about a half an hour driving, we decided to make a dedicated trip back to the lake.  We had seen some wonderful hiking and swimming areas, and with the weather being so hot and dry, we thought it would be a perfect excursion.

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Not being bird watchers… We think this is a peregrine falcon. Any thoughts?

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The lake wasn’t as cold as others we’d been in but it was very refreshing on a hot day. There were several campers enjoying the water up and down the shore.

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Falcon???

On our return, we drove through the small town of Martin City to see the north end of the lake.  We had noticed several boat ramps and primitive campsites on that side of the lake as well as a few trails.  The road turned to a wide, but rough, dirt road a few miles outside of town.  Traveling along the road, we took the first road to the lake.  That turned out to be a very narrow and even rougher dirt road, but the view at the end was amazing.  We hiked along the lake shore for a mile then sat and enjoyed a quick snack and watched the birds in the area fish.

Sean took several photos of the lake and fishing birds.  He joked that this crazy supermodel kept popping into his shots.  LOL  He was actually frustrated that he hadn’t brought along one of his telephoto lenses to catch the birds fishing.  We saw one dive into the lake, but too far away to see if it caught a fish.

We still have time here in this beautiful part of the country and hope to explore more of the gems hidden here!  We will be heading south soon and have already begun making our plans for stops along the way.  So many of our fellow RV’rs have offered advice and suggestions.  This morning, a neighbor talked to us about several spots in Southern Utah and Arizona.  Since they are along our ‘planned’ course, we will try to add them into our stops.

More later!  Enjoy the last of the summer.

Avalanche Lake… and observations on the human condition.

Well, let’s start with a quick update.  Good news – our RV is feeling much better now. No biohazard problems to report! 🙂

After spending the past couple of weeks touring the main areas of Glacier National Park, we think our RV neighbors put it best: the park sometimes feels like a theme or amusement park. There are some high “touristy” areas that are packed with people, the main road through the park can have long lines, and sometimes there are too many cranky/annoying/unmannered children (and parents). We have been hitting the more popular and easily accessible areas of the park recently which probably explains some of the crowding, and no doubt they are popular and crowded because they are absolutely stunning. Don’t get us wrong, we are fine hiking with 20-90 or more of our fellow nature enthusiasts to get to a view like this one:

Gorge along Avalanche Creek.

Gorge along Avalanche Creek.

However, the park does sometimes feel a wee bit crowded and anxiety inducing. Driving along the ‘Going to the Sun Road’ we actually had a guy honk at us because he wanted to go faster… We were doing a hair over the speed limit while going around one of the trickier bends in the road. Go figure, it made the T-Shirt we saw at the gift shop make sense. The short version was, ‘Thanks for speeding around curves and passing on the Going to the Sun Road’.  Yours truly, GNP Paramedics.  Those who have experienced the white-knuckle driving of the Going to the Sun road will understand.  There are some areas where our full-size, extended bed 3500 pick-up feels like it will mash the wall or go over the cliff.

We plan to create another blog post to comment and elaborate about our top tourist “types” later, Types like the “Hurry Up, Get Out of My Way So I can See Something”, or the “The Rules Must Not Apply to Me” tourist. We have a whole list of the people we have categorized along this journey so far, so take it as a fun tongue in cheek commentary. Oh, we did not categorize ourselves. LOL. Humanity is interesting.

Now the fun stuff:  We have had the opportunity to witness a lot of beauty while we’ve been here. The hike to Avalanche Lake is no exception. The trail is very popular and easily accessible from the Going to the Sun Road. In fact, there are several parking areas specifically for this trail. We did have difficulty finding a spot, even on a Tuesday! We consider ourselves pretty athletic people for the most part, but Sherry especially had to stop a few times along this hike.

Sherry 'resting' by the creek along the Avalanche Trail.

Sherry ‘resting’ by the creek along the Avalanche Trail.

low res-8177It is only 2 miles from trailhead to the lake, but it climbs over 500 feet. The trail is very well marked and defined. It passes through some remarkable ‘ecosystems’ and has an amazing stretch near the start where the creek runs through a rocky gorge.

This deer (darling) just walked along the trail feeding.

This deer (darling) just walked along the trail feeding.

Absolutely breathtaking. The upward climb was exhausting at times, but when we saw families and children passing in the other direction, we knew that we might be over-exaggerating the difficulty. The view at the top was remarkable.low res-8174

Waterfalls feeding Avalanche Lake.
Waterfalls feeding Avalanche Lake.

The lake was fed by runoff from Sperry Glacier, most of which dropped into the valley from three waterfalls on high cliffs. We had to sit and soak it all in once we arrived. One of the funniest things, there are tons of chipmunks in the area and none seemed afraid of the people. Unfortunately, too many people ignore the signs about feeding the animals and these little guys have lost all fear of people.

Too many people are feeding these little guys.

Too many people are feeding these little guys.

We had several come right over to the rock we sat on to ‘talk’ with us.

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Avalanche Lake

The lake was spectacular and well worth our little hike.  We stopped across the lake from the falls but could still hear them crashing down the rocky cliffs.

Hard as it is to believe, we keep hearing that these parts of the park, while gorgeous, don’t compare to the harder to access areas.  Over the next few weeks we plan on hitting some of those spots.

Last note.  You can always go to our Lovey Photo website to see more photos of our hikes and travels (the link is below).  In order to save on bandwidth and our storage capacity, we have been uploading photos in low resolution format.  If there are any you see and would like to see in a higher resolution, please let us know.  Sean may do a post later (on a rainy day) about our cameras and the equipment we use both for studio and nature photography.  🙂

http://www.loveyphotography.com/Traveling-Photography/Avalanche-Lake-Glacier-Nationa/i-PXpmQ3c

 

White Water Rafting….

Hello, friends!  Before we start, we want to wish all our friends and family a very happy 4th of July!  Be safe, have fun, and don’t forget that the real meaning of this day is a celebration of freedom and independence!  We appreciate all the men and women in and out of combat who have fought for those freedoms in the past and present!

Well, our time in Glacier continues as we continue to explore as much as this area has to offer.  In our post today, we wanted to hit on just a few things.  First, we had some information in our last post about the stabilizers.  Since writing the posts, our slide out stabilizer’s arrived and we have had them in place for a few days now.  They are very simple with two adjustments.  One to get in range then a screw to snug them up under the slide-out.  We have two on each of our larger slides and can say they work great with the Kingpin Stabilizer.  When our 70+ pound Borzoi/Setter bounces around and jumps down off the chairs, we can barely feel it!  🙂

Over the last week, we have continued to explore Glacier and decided to take advantage of a white water rafting experience.  This was an 8 mile trip, most relatively mild, but enough class 2 and 3 rapids to keep it interesting.  We purchased photos from the rafting company that showed us going through one section of the river, we had the front of the raft.  Thanks to Great Northern for a great afternoon and these fun pictures.

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Photos taken by staff at Great Northern Rafting

We also wanted to say another thanks to our guide, Maria.  She was not only informative, but absolutely hilarious as we made the way down the river.

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Photos taken by staff at Great Northern Rafting

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Photos taken by staff at Great Northern Rafting

What a fantastic experience!  One of the best parts of the trip was when we saw a bear come down to the river’s edge.

Our first bear sighting!

We had one of our little point and shoot cameras with us in an underwater case and couldn’t get the best photo, but here is the little guy.

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It was a beautiful day with crystal clear water.

We have found so many fun spots to stop and visit here.  One of Sean’s favorites, so far, has been Glacier Distilling.  OK, we both highly recommend it: http://glacierdistilling.com/home/.  One of our favorite whiskeys from Glacier is Cabin Fever… In fact, we think it tastes so much like Christmas we are getting several bottles to share with friends and family when we see them in a few months.  😉

For more photos of our white water adventure, visit our website at the following link: http://www.loveyphotography.com/Traveling-Photography/White-Water-Rafting-July-1-201/

Have a wonderful 4th of July!!!

The Whiskey Barn tasting room at Glacier.

The Whiskey Barn tasting room at Glacier.

Our First Month…. and Glacier National Park

low res-7983Today marks a big milestone for us on our travels… Wow, milestone, travels… get it?  Well, today is our thirtieth day since moving into the RV.  One month ago we were leaving a very cold and rainy St. Louis and heading west.  Over the last few weeks, we have both remarked on how fast time is passing.  We plan to be on the road for a year and then make a decision where to settle down.  However, since leaving we have met several couples who had the same or similar plans, and have decided to keep going.  Who knows what the future will hold.  For now, all of us, pups included, have adjusted well and are loving seeing this country, meeting new people and making new friends.

So, the lesson for the day on RV life is stabilizers.  We don’t mean the type already on the RV, but supplemental ones to hold things like the kingpin and any slide outs you may have.  We did run across a lot of information about this as we were researching life on the road;  however, like the WIFI hotspot, it fell into the ‘let’s wait and see’ category.  Since leaving we have met and talked to several people who have had a variety of additional stabilizers on their RV’s.  Nobody had a negative word to say about them and constantly went over the many benefits.  Slide out supports help stabilize and take weight off the mechanism, especially if the slides will be out for an extended period.  Kingpin stabilizers help in overall stability and greatly reduce any ‘shake’ in a 5th wheel.  We have noticed some motion when we move around, especially when Bates (our big red dog) decides to jump on the bed.  So, we decided to look into the kingpin stabilizer when we arrived at Glacier.  It didn’t hurt that our new neighbors/friends had one on their 5th wheel and had positive comments about it.

We found a stabilizer at a local RV store, about the same price as you could find on Amazon, so we bought it.  After nearly two full days, we can attest that it greatly reduces any motion.  We also ordered slide-out stabilizers (found those cheaper on Amazon) and will put them in place when they arrive tomorrow.

King Pin Stabilizer.

King Pin Stabilizer… Oh, Sherry also had to have a garden so we bought a cherry tomato plant.

I mentioned earlier that today was our one month ‘anniversary’.  To celebrate, we headed into Glacier NP and drove along the ‘Going to the Sun’ road.  A truly breathtaking drive and white-knuckled in some areas when driving a large pickup.  There are plenty of turnoff areas on both sides of Logan Pass to stop and admire the scenery.

Sherry standing near some rapids on the West side of the pass.

Sherry standing near some rapids on the West side of the pass.

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Our goal was Logan Pass, and we made it.  However, we should have followed the advice of our neighbors and left early as the small parking area was full when we arrived. Fortunately, we were able to park nearby and hike a trail following a creek up to some remaining snow (mini glaciers,

LOL).  We loved it, the temps have been in the low 100’s and upper 90’s but when we hiked it was breezy and in the upper 60’s.  Just for fun we threw snowballs at each other to say that we had a snowball fight at the end of June!  We plan on returning to the pass in the next few weeks and really exploring.  For now,  follow the link at the end of this blog to our website to view the photos we took on the drive to the pass and then leaving through St. Mary.

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Piegan Pass trail and SNOW!

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After we left the park, we followed an outside route that ran between Glacier NP and Lewis and Clark National Forest.   We stopped at a little town outside of the park that had a sign about “award winning huckleberry pie”. We’ve already tried the pie from one place because we were told that we couldn’t pass up trying all the different ways they use huckleberries around here.  We bought some huckleberry licorice too which is very good!  But we digress – we stopped at the little shop that had the award winning sign and bought two pieces of pie.  They were actually more delicious than the first pie we tried!  We will now have to make comparisons for all huckleberry pie in the area. It is a great responsibility, but we will do it for the good of all!

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World’s Best Huckleberry pie location!

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Largest Purple Spoon…

They also had the “World’s Largest Purple Spoon”, and you know we had to get a picture of that!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life on the road after one month?  We’ve hit most of our early revelations we covered in earlier blogs.  Even as ‘non-material’ people, we realized how much ‘stuff’ one collects in a sedentary life.  More important, we realized that time together and memories collected as a couple are so much more important than stuff collected.  Overall, our first month has been beautiful, fun, and relaxing.  We have also realized that you cannot be scared of taking risks and saying “let’s see what happens”.  We have many more months to come that will hopefully be just as amazing!

We’ve been asked if we are sick of traveling yet, tired of being in a little box, or tired of each other… Nope, because our life isn’t in the box.  We find it wherever we are staying, the people we meet, and this beautiful country we call home.  We love being with each other and have already started talking about whether we want to do this for more than a year.  (We still want to start a family, and even though the pioneers found a way to keep babies in covered wagons across the country, a foundation and secured to the ground place to call home would be nice.)  Yes, it has only been a month, yes we know problems may arise, but it has already been more than we expected.  Here’s to the next 11 months… or more!

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On the road outside of the east entrance of Glacier. Colors in photo are what they appear in life.

Check out all the rest of our photos from our recent Glacier visits!  http://www.loveyphotography.com/Traveling-Photography/Glacier-National-Park-Late-Jun/

 

Moving West!!! OK, and North!!!

We loved our stay in Wall, but it was soon time for us to pack up and head North and West.  For the next several months we plan on staying around Glacier National Park and exploring as much as possible.  This has been one of our ‘Bucket List’ items since we began planning our 1 year adventure.  We want to hike as much of the park as possible, visit the glaciers (before they melt) swim in some of the mountain lakes (Sean will swim, too cold for Sherry), see Grizzlies in their native habitat (from a very healthy distance)…  Anyway, lots and lots for us to do!

In the meantime, we have to get there.  Well, we think we have already established our caution in choosing routes (yes, we can all call it fear, well, healthy respect at least).  Our comfort level in packing up everything and driving has definitely increased over the last few weeks.  We have our checklists and routines, believe me, those help a lot!  Since hitting the road, we have seen one class A that looked like it had cut a corner too close, one 5th wheel pulling out of an RV park with wheel locks in place, boy, did that make a lot of noise.  We know all won’t be perfect, but the two of us are doing our best to keep our condo on wheels in good working order. Which brings us to preventative maintenance. One of our new RV friends suggested using liquid dishwasher soap in our holding tanks before we hit the road.  She said with a little water in the tanks, the driving action will help the soap clean sensors.  We tried it going from Wall to Hardin, MT and it seemed to work.  In Hardin, we stayed at Grandview RV Park for a few nights.  The owner was great and gave us a packet of ‘Happy Camper’ organic cleaner for holding tanks.  This seems to work at least as well as the dishwasher soap.

Back to our travels!  We left Wall and stayed on HWY 90 all the way to Hardin.  Just outside of that iconic little town of Sturgis, SD. you can get off the highway and take a two lane road that cuts off about an hour of travel time…. We stayed on 90 to Hardin.  This was a gorgeous drive; the only issue was when we ran through some severe storms just outside of Rapid City.  We are getting used to driving in the rain, so even that wasn’t a big deal.

Gorgeous view our first night at Grandview.

Gorgeous view our first night at Grandview.

Sean was eager to stay in Hardin because he wanted to visit the Little Bighorn Battlefield and Museum.  Don’t forget, former history teacher, current history geek! 🙂  This is a national park, so we were able to make use of our NP pass to enter.  Parking is rather limited, but there are a number of walking paths and a very nice museum.  The museum is near the base of Last Stand Hill with a paved walking path leading up to the markers.

The stones mark the locations where the bodies of Custer and his final soldiers were found on Last Stand Hill.

The stones mark the locations where the bodies of Custer and his final soldiers were found on Last Stand Hill.

The museum, while nice, was rather small for the artifacts on display.  The day we visited was busy, so we elected to skip the movie and self-tour the museum and nearby grounds.  We found everything to be well marked and, like a number of locations, there was an audio tour visitors could login to through personal phones.  Pretty cool!  OH, we can’t comment on it because neither of us elected to listen.  We preferred a quiet walk and reading the signage.

One marker commemorating soldier at the Battle of Little Bighorn.

One marker commemorating the soldiers who fell at the Battle of Little Bighorn.  The cemetery itself was used for any veterans and spouses up until the 1970s.

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This sculpture is located in a memorial to the Native Americans from several different nations who joined the battle.

The view from the top of Last Stand Hill was amazing and if you let yourself think about it, a little eerie.  With a little imagination, you could visualize what it must have looked like a little over 100 years ago.

One of the panels in the Native American Memorial.

One of the panels in the Native American Memorial.

After leaving the park, we stopped at the ‘Trading Post’ and enjoyed Bison Burgers and Indian bread with honey.  Not on our bucket list, but delicious!!!

From Hardin, we headed to Deer Lodge, yes still on HWY 90.  This was another lovely drive with gorgeous weather.  In Deer Lodge we stayed at Indian Creek RV.  Another place we highly recommend.  The staff was so helpful, large spacious lots, and a wonderful view of the mountains.

We were awed to see SNOW in June.  LOL.

We were awed to see SNOW in June. LOL.

Deer Lodge is between Anaconda and Drummond, MT. on Highway 90 OR the more scenic HWY 1.  One day of our stay we drove to Drummond and hopped on highway 1 for the ‘loop’.  We had been advised on several stops to make along the way.   Phillipsburg is a small town about a third of the way along the loop.  One of our neighbors at the RV park told us about a place in the town where we could ‘mine’, actually pan, for Sapphires.  We were both interested, call it curious, but had no idea how much we would enjoy panning for sapphires.

We had a blast panning for saphires!!

We had a blast panning for sapphires!!

Montana Gems is an unassuming shop at the beginning of Main Street.  We drove past it once, sure it wasn’t what we were looking for, but then stopped and went in.  Basically, you can buy a bag of rocks and clay and the proprietors will show you how to pan for sapphires.  There are a number of ‘bags’ for sale, we chose to go with clay from the mine that hadn’t been checked.  If you have kiddos, they also sell bags with stones that have been already planted for a surefire ‘discovery’.

Sherry getting her hands dirty.

Sherry getting her hands dirty.

There's Sapphires in them thar hills!!!

There’s Sapphires in them thar hills!!!

We can’t tell you how relaxing and FUN this was for us. We spent well over an hour panning, and by the end of our pile of rock and clay, we found several large stones and a bunch of small ones.  Hmmm, now we need to figure out what to do with them.  😉

After our panning experience, we continued our drive down the loop.  The drive transitioned quickly from relatively flat valley to a winding steep climb into the mountains.- opening up to Georgetown Lake and then Silver Lake.  The view was so spectacular; we had to stop for several photos.

Georgetown Lake

Georgetown Lake

Silver Lake

Silver Lake

As we continued our drive, we came to several signs leading off the road to Twin Lakes.  We decided to see what we could find and quickly went from paved to, well, let’s just call it ‘rough’ roads.  We were both glad we had our big 4WD truck with lots and lots of clearance.  The road we took was called Twin Lakes Road; we are both glad we took it.  After all, part of our adventure is about going to places most people would never find.  We drove for several miles and stopped along the creek to read about the old log sluice that brought water into town.  It was one of the longest wood sluices in use.  Imagine that!.  The water was absolutely clear.

Along Twin Lakes Road.

Along Twin Lakes Road.

We finished the loop in Anaconda where we didn’t take any photos of the large stack from the copper smelting plant… Our amazingly clear day had suddenly turned on us, and we were in the middle of a torrential misting.

Our last day in Deer Lodge we visited the Grant Kohrs Ranch: a national historic site dedicated to preserving the history of large cattle ranches.  One of our neighbors at the RV park was working at the ranch as a volunteer with her husband.

Grant Kohrs.

Grant Kohrs.

The tour of the grounds and house were well done and definitely worth the time.  We walked through the various outbuildings and sampled coffee from the chuck wagon.

Somebody channeling her inner cowgirl.

Somebody channeling her inner cowgirl.

View from the ranch.

View from the ranch.

Not quite thick enough to float a horseshoe, but pretty darn close.

Our time in Deer Lodge was fun, relaxing, and a good sample of what we want to get out of our adventure.  Yes, we did some touristy stuff, but we also challenged ourselves to go a little further off the beaten path.  We are now about a month into our journey and even more excited about what we will do and see in the future.  Earlier today we were talking about how we have been in each others back pocket 24/7 for the last month.  We joked that so many people had been amazed that a couple could consider spending that kind of time together. Hmmm, we are amazed that there are couples who wouldn’t jump at the chance to spend that time with their best friend and spouse.  🙂

More to come!  One month down and 11 (at least) more to go.

If you would like to see more photos of our Westward journey, please visit our photography website at the following link:  http://www.loveyphotography.com/Traveling-Photography/Heading-Westward/

 

Prairie Dog

Prairie Dog

Last of the Badlands and Moving On

As we look back on our time in South Dakota, we can’t help but think that we needed even more time to explore.  In our original plans, we anticipated staying a few more weeks but in late January, we were contacted about a Workamping opportunity that we just couldn’t pass up.

That said, we did get in three trips to the Badlands, hiked several trails, ate several pounds of bison (not bad for a couple of vegetarians), saw Crazy Horse, Mt. Rushmore… and still worked in two laundry days and condo on wheels cleaning days.

Pinnacle Entrace

Pinnacle Entrance

In each of our posts, we want to hold true to our intent of documenting life on the road as well as share some of the beautiful places we visit.  This post, we wanted to talk about people we have met, both in RV parks and residents of some of the areas we visit.  We wanted to take time as we traveled to go to places that aren’t highly traveled, meet people and have great conversation as we make friends across the country.  Sherry is definitely more gregarious than Sean, he freely admits to lingering shyness, but we both have met and talked to some wonderful people.

A feathered friend helping to mark the trail we were walking.

A feathered friend helping to mark the trail we were walking.

We are both amazed at the number of ‘full-timers’ we have already met.  At one of our stops, the owners of the RV park had been on the road for four years before buying the park and ‘settling’ down.  We have met others who have been doing this for just a few months to several years.  One thing everyone has in common is a willingness to chat about experiences, share advice, and discuss a common awe of the beautiful places we have seen.

We saw this near the fossil trail.

We saw this near the fossil trail.

At one of our stops, in Montana, one of our neighbors was a retired school district administrator and her husband a retired air force pilot.  We met while doing laundry and talked about our ‘past lives’ as well as future plans.  ‘Sue’ was hilarious.  She loved Bates and came over one afternoon while we were grilling some fish and played with him while we ate and chatted.  She then brought over some ice cream and blackberry pie!  Yum!!  OH, we went jogging the next day – we could write a whole post about altitude and trying to breath while jogging and other extraneous activities, but maybe another time.. 🙂  Another neighbor, at that park, was there working as a volunteer in a local National Park with her husband.

Bison along the Sage Rim Road.

Bison along the Sage Rim Road.

He was also a retired educator.  Speaking of which, we have met more teachers and retired school administrators in the last month than I think you could see in a staff meeting in a school!  Too funny!!  There must be a need for an educator to get back to nature after retiring or leaving the profession.  It must have something to do with the quiet and tranquility.  We have had a chance to talk to people from all corners of the country, including a few from ‘back home’ in St. Louis and Illinois, small world/country.

Sherry looking over the Badlands.

Sherry looking over the Badlands.

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Sean, with a new friend.

Meeting all these people has definitely been a highlight of our travels and, we hope, will continue to be as rewarding as it has been already.

Sherry makes friends every where she goes.

Sherry makes friends every where she goes.

We went on several hikes while visiting the Badlands.  Most of the trails were well marked and easy to follow.  The blue bird in a photo above is perched on one of the red trail markers common in the park.  We saw that while walking to Saddleback trail.

One of the neatest things about hiking the trails, is noting how rapidly the scenery can change.  high res-7322We started one hike on rocky, barren looking land, rounded an outcropping and found ourselves staring out over a prairie field, walked less than a mile and down a short hill and were back into barren rocky land.  In addition to the bird, we saw several prairie dogs, no; several hundred prairie dogs, a coyote, bighorn sheep and bison (on the hoof, not the bun).

All in all, we truly enjoyed our stay.  Would we return, yes!  We still have more we would like to visit in the area.

For more photos of the Badlands, visit our photography page: http://www.loveyphotography.com/Traveling-Photography/Badlands-SD/

Badlands Trip 1

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The variety of colors was impressive and beautiful.

One of the places we were excited to see during our stay in South Dakota was the Badlands.  In fact, during our time here we would go into the badlands several times to hike and explore.  It is such a starkly beautiful area, even when we went back to the same places we would find something new.  From flowering cactus plants to animals such as Bighorn, Bison, and one coyote we saw across a plain.

Sean near Sage Rim Road.

Sean near Sage Rim Road.

On our first trip, we decided to follow the 240 loop.  This stretch of paved two lane highway has one entry near Wall, SD, the Pinnacle entry.  The second is further east near the newly opened Minuteman II Museum.  Also at that entry is a genuine sod home from the turn of the last century.  We highly recommend this drive as a way to see many of the various landscapes found in this region. Start from either end, but be sure to drive the whole loop.  There are numerous pull-offs along the way, and always something to see.  We also highly recommend the visitors center.  They have a nice, short introductory movie, and a pretty good museum.

We had been looking at maps of the Northern Badlands for several months.  Now that we were here, we decided to drive the Northern loop, stopping occasionally for photo opportunities, and also to plan for our next trip.  This has been an unusually wet spring and early summer in this part of the country.  When we arrived there were flash flood warnings as well as a threat of more rain, so we weren’t sure if some parts of the park would be accessible.  We drove in from Wall through the Pinnacle entrance which was less than 10 miles from the I-90 exit.  At the entry we picked up an annual Federal Park pass.  Normal entry fees would have been $15.00 for a one week pass.  We thought it would be very worthwhile and pay for itself as we plan on hitting numerous Federal Parks over the next twelve months.

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A spectacular view from one of the vantage points along the loop.

Entering through the Pinnacle area is deceiving. As you drive up, you are surrounded by grassy plains with occasional glimpses of rocky spires in the distance.  Within a few minutes we began to see the great variety and awe inspiring features of this part of our country.  Stretching off to our right was a huge ravine, with vast crevasses.  A dirt road, Sage Creek Rim Road, weaved along the edge of the ravine for a few miles.  This road lead to Prairie Dog Town and an opportunity to see some of the Buffalo found in the Badlands.  Unfortunately, on this day, the road was closed due to the previous day’s heavy rains.  We did park at the blockade and walked to the edge of the ravine.  Good thing the road was closed, it was a slippery mess!  Definitely not a drive to take when there is a hundred foot plus drop a few feet to the left.  Despite some weather warnings, we had light puffy clouds in a blue sky.  A gorgeous day for our first trip in the Badlands.

We spent the next few hours driving slowly along the route and stopped at nearly every view point.  There was so much to see! After making our way through the park, we decided to stop at the Sod Home just a short drive from the entry to the park.

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An original sod home and homestead.

This is an original sod home built in the early 1900’s and little changed from that time.  Walking through the house, we both commented about how fortunate we are in our little home on wheels.  It is amazing what a century does to one’s perspective. 🙂  Other than the home and  being able to see the layout of a Homestead, there wasn’t much more to justify the entry fee.  It is a privately run site.

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A rare white Prairie Dog.

Well, nothing much but the white Prairie Dogs found on the property.  These were Sherry’s favorites.  She had even read about them before our trip, so this stop was a must!  In case it doesn’t become apparent in our posts.  Sherry loves Prairie Dogs, and Bears, and Bison….and horses, and dogs, and badgers…you’re starting to get the picture right? 🙂

The writing on this sign jumped at both of us.  It rankled Sherry a bit more than Sean, perhaps the English Teacher in her.

The writing on this sign at the homestead jumped at both of us. It rankled Sherry a bit more than Sean, perhaps the English Teacher in her.

We didn’t spend long at the Homestead, and decided we would see the Minuteman Museum.  It was by the HWY 90 onramp and we thought it would be a nice quick stop.  It was. The site just opened, and they haven’t completed the set-up for the exhibits.  There was actually very little to see when we were there.  At $0 though, the price was perfect.

 

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If you would like to see more photos of our Badlands adventure, go to our photography business webpage at:

http://www.loveyphotography.com/Traveling-Photography

Click on the Badlands gallery to the view the pictures from this stop.

Crazy Horse

Crazy Horse Monument.  This was taken from the 'arm' of the monument.

Crazy Horse Monument. This was taken from the ‘arm’ of the monument. To get a sense of scale, you can see the heads of some other climbers in the lower right corner of the photo.

We have had a wonderful couple of days!  Back in St. Louis, at our garage sale of all places, we learned that this Saturday and Sunday were two of only four days in the year that allows visitors at Crazy Horse a chance to walk to the top!  How lucky are we?!  They call it the Volksmarch, and we got a medal like they give out in marathons.

IMG_1969 IMG_1972 The hike was a little brutal, but we blame it on the lack of exercise we’ve had lately, and the change in altitude…and we’re sticking to that story!  🙂

But really, the hike was wonderful – over 4 miles through the Black Hills around the monument.  We literally walked around the mountain as we worked our way up to the top.

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You can see the tunnel and what will be the ‘arm’. If you look closely, you can also see the rough outline of the horses head beneath the hand.

The scenery was breathtaking with occasional glimpses of the face on the hill peering out through the trees.  We were so fortunate as the day before the area had seen heavy rain and storms.  For us, it was clear with occasional puffy white clouds.  A gorgeous day.

Learning the history and being up close to the work in progress was a humbling experience.  The closer we got to the top of the mountain, the more amazed we were at the sheer scale of the project.  The time and energy put into such a piece of artwork is awe-inspiring.  We would later learn that, when finished, this will be the largest work of it’s type in the world.  For another perspective, the heads on Mt. Rushmore would fit in the area behind the face on the image above.

Photo taken by a coupe we met while hiking to Crazy Horse Monument.

Photo taken by a couple we met while hiking to Crazy Horse Monument.

We met some really nice people as we trekked together.  Once nice couple took our photo, and then spent some time telling us about many of the local spots to see.

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The artist’s scale rendition of what the final work will resemble.

This hike and exploration of the visitors center took us nearly the whole day.  We can’t wait to see Mt. Rushmore!

FEAR and WHAT IF?

TIme left:  2 Weeks, 14 days, 336 hours, 20160 minutes, 1209600 seconds.

However you count it, we don’t have much time before we head out on this crazy adventure!!  While it is exciting and fun to think about, there are definitely some fears that wake us up at night.  A few rational and many irrational.  Yes, we know, fear should never hold you back from doing something.  We are going through with our plan no matter what, but it isn’t without some trepidation.   We are human, after all. So, as a cathartic release, here is our top ten list of worries and concerns (A little shout out to David Letterman):

10.  Breaking down.  What if we damage the R.V.?  What if we get in an accident?  We’ve sold our house, stored our possessions, and pretty much walked away from “normal” life.  What if our new plan somehow gets damaged beyond repair?  What if it burns to the ground?  One of our favorite shows of all time is British Top Gear.  Watch the episodes where they make fun of the caravans, especially where they set fire to the ‘caravan’.

 

 

 

9.  Bugs and other creepy crawlies.  Sherry has an irrational fear of ticks.  Silly and weird, but a fear nonetheless.  The idea of Lyme disease, or any of the diseases listed at the CDC (http://www.cdc.gov/ticks/diseases/) keep Sherry awake at night.  Not to mention spiders.  The idea of waking up in the middle of the night with a spider hanging over the bed is the topic of Sherry’s night terrors.  A Native American Shaman once told her that she had those dreams because the spider was her totem animal.  Totem animal or not, they still give her the heebie-jeebies.  And don’t even talk about scorpions!

8. Storms. Back in 2011 Sherry had a house that was hit by a tornado.  The house wasn’t too damaged – it needed a new roof, but the outside damage was crazy.  A 60ft. Pin Oak uprooted in the backyard and took out a shed, and her neighbors’ houses were severely damaged – one completely crushed by a tree.  No one was injured, but it was still scary, and ever since Sherry has had anxiety during storms.  Living in the Midwest it is not uncommon to hear tornado sirens several times each month, but we have basements to hide in.  Where do you seek shelter in an R.V. park or campground?  On the flip-side, we do hear Oz is nice this time of year.

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Picture from KSDK News Channel 5 St. Louis

7.  Low Bridges.  OK, sort of back to the wreck thing, but we realized on our last trip that we both duck in our seats when going under bridges.

6.  Never finding another job.  Sean is retired, but that doesn’t mean he never wants to work again (or does he)???  He’s a young guy.  He isn’t completely out of the workforce yet.  What if he can’t get another fulfilling job in the future?  Sherry resigned from a tenured teaching position in an affluent St. Louis community.  She fears that she will not find another comparable teaching job again.  On the other hand, there might be the perfect job waiting for them just to arrive!  🙂

5. Our Dogs:  We love our pets.  For months we worried about how Maggie would handle travel.  No worries about her, now we are just concerned that Bates wont stop growing…  How big do Irish Setter/Borzoi/Brontosaurs get?   There are many campsites in Southern Florida where we want to stay that say they won’t take pets over 30lbs.  Bates might have to go on a diet! March 2015 Destin-4770March 2015 Destin-4780

4. Baking: Sean loves to bake but has been terribly disappointed with the oven in the RV.  He has spent a lot of time checking into different options.  We will have a pizza stone in the oven and try it out next weekend.

3. Our Health:  We are both young(ish) and fit. We don’t really think about getting ill.  More and more it has been a fear while on the road.  Sherry says that if she gets the stomach flu, we are checking into a hotel.  The R.V. bathroom just doesn’t cut it for that type of illness.  lol.

2.  Cliffs and Mushrooms:  This one is primarily Sean’s fear.  If he gets too annoying during the trip, Sherry is going to find a nice cliff or some mushrooms from which to accidentally push him or get him to eat.  Kidding!!!

1. And our number 1 fear????  Zombies.  Well, we have our vet to thank for this one. 🙂  When we took the pups in for their shots she asked if we had seen the movie The Hills Have Eyes.  We’ve never seen it, and we’re sure that’s a good thing!

Well, all kidding aside we are just excited to get started.  On each of our practice trips we’ve told each other, ‘Hey, this is great.’  The fear is normal, and we will probably come up against some scary moments, but we are sure they will be overshadowed by the awe-inspiring ones.