So I’ve been gone for a few weeks as we have been on vacation 🙂 It’s a long post, get that coffee or iced tea. (Those of you who are family, sorry but you are obligated to read the whole thing…there may be a test at the end.)
Well back in January we decided to head out and explore more of the Great Northwest. Where we erred was, in doing our first trip in July. And to make matters more complicated the holiday weekend of July 4th. I guess once you retire you forget you can go at any time. You don’t HAVE to go during one of the busiest weekends of the year when you have an extra day off. Our itinerary would include heading north thru Oregon into Herminston and checking out the desert area of Oregon…but before that could happen you have to prepare.
A lot of work goes into a camping trip. It’s not just about throwing a few hotdogs and hamburgers into an ice chest and rolling up a sleeping bag. We’re just not that type of campers. I truly admire the true “outdoorsmen”. The ones that can pop up a tent, unroll a bag and cook up some basic grub over a camp fire with wood they collected in the forest. Seriously, who does this?
Despite the fact that camping has changed dramatically in the last 25 years (more on that later), I am really starting to enjoy it again!
You know how they say things happen in 3’s (or in our case 5’s)?
The first thing we had to do was prep the trailer, this is basically making sure the fresh water tank is ready, the gray and black water tanks are empty. So we start running the water…holy cripes what is that smell?! All joking aside, it smelled like someone was conducting a sulfur experiment and all the water running and flushing in the world wasn’t helping any. Time to deploy the killer of all things bad – bleach. A good soaking and a couple of rinses later and smell was gone….this was issue 1 of 3.
After all that rinsing our gray water tanks were now pretty full. Fortunately for us we had an old house on our property that had a septic system. Hubby spent many hours first just trying to find the darn thing and then making sure it was useable. Yay we can! So time to hook up our new rig set up which allows us to have the truck, our motorcycle for sight seeing and our camper.
We pull the trailer down to the end of the property to dumb our tanks. The hoses barely fit but fit they did.. *crunch*…um what was that sound? “@#$&%!!” That would be hubby now cursing and me with a big question look on my face “what happened?!” “I just stepped on my glasses!” “How on earth did you do that?” “I put them on the ground here because….well I just did ok?” “Um..ok..still not sure why but let me see if I can fix them. Omg Derek these are your prescription sunglasses! Why did you leave them on the ground?” Well that conversation went on for about another 15 minutes and needless to say we couldn’t fix them…this was issue 2 of 3.
So we get everything packed up, food, clothes, tools, dvd’s etc and head out for the great adventure. 1 hour into our trip and I realize I have forgotten to pack our summer clothes and just as unicorns poop rainbows an ungodly heat wave hits the NW. “@#$%&!” And that would be me…this was issue 3 of 3.
Now that we have those issues behind us, we can now enjoy our vacation…right?
Day 1 (June 28th)
We arrive in Herminston Oregon. It was like getting out of the truck and into a furnace that was cranked up to incinerate bones. What’s worse is we still have to set up a bit before it gets dark. It is 102 degrees outside. Then we get inside and have few moments of utter panic as we cannot get the trailer AC to work and the temp inside the trailer is 98 degrees. We’ve never had to use it before and since we don’t have a 30amp breaker at our house with a proper plug there was no way to test it before we left. But after 15-20 of fiddling with it and finding the manual to the thing it’s up and running. Hallelujah and pass the cheese and when we get home install 30 amp breaker!
Around 2am the lightning started that had to be close because of how loud the thunder was. We had to jump up and cover the motorcycle, darn weather.com never said anything about thunderstorms, and to also bring in the awning and my plants. The lightning was massive streaks in the sky. Just an awesome display of nature! And after we busted our butts getting everything secure the rains hit…all 30 seconds and 100 drops of it. Lol figures. But for over an hour we had a wonderful show that was worth getting up for.
We get up at 7am to continue our trip and it’s already 84 degrees outside. We’re off to Wallace Idaho. I sure hope it is as quaint as I remember it.
Day 2 (June 29th)
Uneventful trip this go around, but in a very good way! Park is situated in the back of this old mining town. (For those that have seen the movie Dante’s Peak with Pierce Bronson this the town that blew up because it was on a volcano in the movie.) Many of the original brick buildings remain making the streets very pleasant to stroll up and down.
What was very interesting to see was the back alley that has all the electrical for the town running through it. Numerous transformers (no not the robots), wires, poles etc.
One thing to note, if you have the app on your phone, or tablet or other device called The Urban Spoon – Trust it! If you don’t have it, get it. It’s a great app that helps you find places to eat and often times includes pictures of the menu and food, reviews from folks that have eaten there and directions for getting there. We found one place while walking thru the town that looked quite interesting. A little BBQ joint called the Smoke House BBQ and Saloon. The US gave it a 50% rating and we thought, oh come on, smells wonderful let’s give it a shot. Worse dinner ever hahaha. That’ll teach us.
The campground has new owners and they’ve made some good changes, adding a few camping cabins and a Pub/Grill.
My heart broke however, when I found that the one place I just adored was no longer in business. I guess I will only have one absolutely, perfectly baked, lavishly frosted, tender and delicious cinnamon roll in my lifetime. Ah but the memories still make my mouth water.
Bit of a snafu (for those that don’t know this word it’s a military acronym. I’ll let you look it up on your own *smile*) when we left, the tract on the main slide came loose, but having a hubby who’s very handy in these matters makes all better quickly. We are off to Garrison Montana…why? Well it’s a nice half way point to stop before heading into Yellowstone. Don’t like to drive more than 6 hours a day max. So we’ll drive 4 hours to Garrison and then another 4 the next day to Yellowstone.
Day 3 (June 30th)
Garrison Montana. What a beautiful area! Found a lovely campground along the Blackfoot River. (Note to those that are planning to go camping but haven’t experienced it. Always, and I do mean always, carry bug spray and use it generously. If you don’t, the next day you may wake up and look like you have the pox.) The campground was all grassy and had a great view of the ‘big Montana sky’ and hills. The camp site had a few wild kitties running around and I think I now know why our Ranch Kitty adopted us. I cannot seem to control myself when I see a wild kitty and promptly call out in a high sing song voice “Kitty Kiiiitttty!” which I have found out in cat tongue means “I have tuuunnaa!!” Now we have 2 wild kitties following us on our camp walk. Derek just looks at me and shakes his head. (Don’t roll your eyes at me mister who stoops down to pet and love on them.)
We get up early because we’re off to Yellowstone. I’m in the trailer getting it prepped for today’s travels… “Denise…can you come out here please?” I figure he needs help with something so hop right out and he’s pointing to the motorcycle in the back of the truck that is covered in kitty footprints. Seems the wild kitties decided to sleep in the seat of the motorcycle. Quick check inside the truck to make sure no kitties are in there and we’re off!
Day 4 (July 1st – July 8th)
We arrive at the Rocky Mountain RV campground around 1:30 in the afternoon. We made our reservations back in January and boy am I glad. They reserved a prime spot for us and I mean it was perfect!! The back of our site overlooked Yellowstone River, we only had another camper on one side of us and the hillside and overlook on the other side. Magnificent! Being as the day is half done, we decide to take our time setting up, it’s 95 degrees again but here it’s a very dry heat.
The next day we head on in to the monument. Thank goodness we found our cooling gear.
Sidebar – allow me to elaborate on cooling gear. We ride a big Goldwing motorcycle on our trips. While riding on the back of a motorcycle you are exposed to all the elements. On this particular trip – heat. Now some of you may be thinking “wait a minute you’re on a motorcycle it’s like having the AC on all the time!” Um..no. You’re exposed to the radiant heat come up from the asphalt (100+ degrees at time) and the air that’s flowing around you while you drive is 95+ degrees so it’s like having 1,000 hair dryers pointing at you on a high heat setting. Not exactly refreshing. So we wear cooling gear. This consists of a neck wrap that is filled with dehydrated silicon beads. We soak them for about 30 minutes and they expand and fill with water. We also have vests that are similar. We put the vests on while they are soaking wet and then put our breeze jackets over them. This creates a cooling sensation while the water evaporates while we’re driving. It can mean the difference between a horrible trip and a wonderful one.
We now continue with our regularly scheduled posting…
We decide to head to the Ol’ Faithful geyser. And while he was about 30 minutes late in erupting it was impressive!! He used to go off like clock work about every hour, but with earthquakes opening fissures underground it takes longer for the pressure to build.
We then ran into a bison, almost literally. These creatures are massive and they know they own the park. They will walk right out in front of you and slowly saunter across the street, or stop and look around. You never, ever honk at them or get our of your car and ‘shoo’ them. This is their home and you’re driving through their living room, so their rules. Later we found a small herd, and one made it’s way across the river.
The elk here, we only saw the females, are also brazen. Here is a picture where they come into a small community and lay on the grass, even go so far as to walk up the steps of some buildings. We drove by one very up close. The top of my head comes to their shoulders on some of the bigger females. (I’m 5’ 7 1/2” btw)
On the way back to our campsite we came to a spot in the road where many were stopped and pulled over. We couldn’t because there just wasn’t enough room, so going by at a snails pace we see it…a grizzly bear!
Here let me zoom in a bit…
The next day we decided to hit some of the ‘pools’. It seriously impresses me when we stop along the side of the road in a small pull-out and there by edge is a pool of boiling water. You can feel the heat coming off it and it’s very small, no bigger than 3 feet in diameter! As we continue up we get to the bigger pools. Some look so beautifully blue and deep and refreshing, only to find out that their temperatures could cook boiled eggs (which is what a lot of these pools and geysers smell like).
There are also mud pots. These are formed when sulfuric acid dissolves the rock and water pools into the mixture.
It’s really interesting the topography of this park. You’ll be going through hills with scraggly trees, wide rivers and then come out to a huge open plateau.
On July 4th we opted to hang out at the campsite. Even with cooling gear, getting on and off the bike, shedding and donning helmets and jackets wears one out. So a lazy day it was. Went into the small town of Gardiner (very touristy but adorable) and did a bit of shopping. Evening arrives and that’s when the fireworks start on the west side of town. The main show started around 9:30 pm. Then another show on the north side of town started. These went on till midnight! I just adore a good firework show, but that long of one and I was beat.
July 5th we had planned on heading back into the park to see the Yellowstone Grand Canyon. Mother nature had other plans. A large summer storm has arrived. Lots and lots of rain, thunder and lightning. Looks like another relaxing day of reading is ahead 🙂 Well the rain, lightning and thunder started at 6am and as of 6pm has not let up one bit. The temperature outside at 6pm is 60 degrees. 36 degrees cooler than yesterday! I figure this is a good evening to bake pizza.
Unfortunately the rain did not let up until we left on the 8th. We did get one other morning which was great and we headed off to Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon. A much smaller version of Arizona’s of course, but just beautiful. This drive we saw breathtaking vista’s.
Then you can hike down trails to see the canyon.
We started back because we noticed the clouds coming back over and sure enough because we “need” to get back is when a black bear would run across the road, stopping traffic. To make matters worse, people started jumping out of their cars to get a picture snarling up traffic even more. Lucky for me my hubby has some mad motorcycle skills and I can take pictures while on the back of the bike.
The temperature on this ride started out about 86 when we left and as we climbed higher in the mountains it is a wonderful 75. Also in Montana they do not have a helmet law. While it’s been proven that wearing one A) can keep you alive if you crash it also B) keeps your head cooler in the sun. I already mentioned our cooling gear and all this brings me to some of the smiles and light head shakes from the Harley riders. Now I’m not going to get into which is better Harleys or Goldwings but suffice to say I know there were some that looked down on our safety ‘antics’. But we got the last laugh. As we started down the mountain I mentioned those clouds…well the temp dropped from 75, to 60 to 50 to 42 degrees in about 7 minutes. Then the hail started. I wish I could have gotten a picture but I was afraid of ruining my camera. Hail is over 1/4 of an inch and we are wearing leather gloves and our breeze coats which have shoulder, elbow and back armor and this hail HURTS!! We both have our face guards down and now the hail is coating road and very thick I might add. Derek and I keep yelling “ouch!” “Ow! that one got my knee!” and then I got a case of the giggles at the absurdity of it all. And look there are the Harley riders..no coats, no helmets and no gloves. They are getting pummeled! They all had to stop and get to the side of the road and hide under the trees. Who’s laughing at the safety riders now huh?
Side note – Uno is a fun a game while camping. However Uno after a martini or two is a GREAT game! The next morning our sides and face still hurt from laughing so much. Who knew?
July 8th – we pack up and head to Garryowen Montana and 7th Ranch RV Park to tour Custer’s Last Stand. I am not a big US history buff, but I must say this was a very interesting park to visit. We took the bus tour which gave us just a wonderful tour.
I then became fascinated with some small signs they had by various plants explaining what they were and how they were used by the Indians. I even bought a book going into more detail – Edible and Medicinal Plants of the West by Gregory L. Tilford. Just a wonderful book.
July 11th we started heading home and while we had planned to take a couple of side trips we were just exhausted from the heat, and tired of it. We got to Missoula and stayed at Jellystone RV park and what a cute place. More geared to those with kids of course, but a really nice park! The next night we got to Pasco Washington and to the KOA camp site. All our camp sites up till now have been mainly Good Sam or other privately owned sites. There is a difference between GS and KOA. GS does not allow modified, homemade or van conversions. They don’t want debilitated vehicles. KOA’s have a more lenient policy which why we got parked next to what I am calling The Beast.
I wish the picture showed the whole image. This thing was leaking water from 4 different points. Their sewer hose did not have a fitting but rather was just stuffed down as far as they could stuff it. A giant cardboard box was under the front end and soaked from all the leaks. Then, our site, had a dead tree. We walked the park and our site was the only one with a dead tree. Why they didn’t just cut it out is beyond me. Then I worried why it was dead and looking at the leaks from next door again. We opted to sit inside our trailer and watch a video rather than sit outside and look at the beast.
We got home on the 13th and happy to be home! My garden went nuts in the 16 days we were gone and all my lettuce bolted as did my dill. But got the first zucchini of the year and had it for dinner. Ranch Kitty was happy to see us as well.
And now, some more random vacation photos.