About Us

Chris and Dennis are traveling around the country seeing the sights and occasionally volunteering at select locations. We avoid the interstate as much as we can and tend to stop for squirrels and shiny objects.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Campers–Lincoln Rock State Park

fred_marmotWhen I was fresh out of boot camp a wise old chief petty officer once told me, “Take it slow and keep a steady strain.” At the time I had no clue what he meant as I had just begun sweeping grass clippings off a sidewalk. Come to think of it, I still have no idea what he was talking about yet his words have obviously stuck with me for upwards of 40 years!

When we first arrived, spring break was beginning to wind down with the older kids headed back to school leaving the parents busy in an almost futile attempt to keep the younger ones contained yet entertained. I believe one prime example would be the one group who seemed to take hourly walks around the park. This special train consisted of two pre-school aged children obviously making their first forray into bike riding struggling to balance on the training wheels followed by at least a couple of adults voicing their encouragement minute by minute (I'm pretty sure there was an alterior motive behind this as I for one can recall the difficulty of carrying the bike AND the tired kid back to camp). The older siblings, while not getting the hands-on encouragement were shouted at all the same with such phrases as “Watch for traffic.” or “Keep off the grass.” and even the “Stop pushing your sister/brother over!” Being situated in the middle of the park as we are, we can easily observe the goings on and silently cheer for the obvious underdogs.

I think I still owe Chris on a lost bet or two of who would crash first. Next time I think I'll bet more on the parents.

Thursdays and Fridays are definitely the fun days with out of towners rushing into the park and around the loops so they can hopefully be the first to the popular sites. Since our full hook-up spots fill first and are guarenteed to provide the most entertainment, that's where you can usually find us just in case someone “needs our help”. For people watchers like us, there is not much that beats an arrival day at a campground. There is no end to the different ways people can bash their heads, splash themselves with the output of their grey and black tanks, or break a folding chair. Add sharp tools like an ax or hatchet and I am amazed we don't have an ambulance on standby. Recently, we did have one very talented camper who beat the odds and managed to accomplish all three goals and by only the slimmest of margins avoided the fourth. Quickly.

I guess what first caught our eye was the blur going past our window. Looking down the road the blur resolved into a very large combination of 5th wheel trailer towed behind one of those super large diesel powered dually pickups – you've probably seen similar, the trailer has a garage or party room in the rear and usually has a severe weather type name like Typhoon or Tsunami painted in large swooping letters. The camper had obviously been here before, knew exactly what site he wanted, and by golly no one was going to pass him along the way. Pretty inspiring if you discount the narrow, one way road and complete lack of traffic.

Making a beeline to one of the prettiest sites overlooking the rest of the campground our camper whipped into the pull-thru and arrived with the groaning of stressed steel and a loud thump the overcompressed hitch. What caught my eye first off was what appeared to me to be sort of a backwards order on the steps to set up. Usually it consists of leveling, slides, and then hookups but what our guy did was to hookup his sewer hose first thing. Not sure if there may have been an emergency need to dump the tanks or not but right after hookup he pulled his front gray tank valve.

All could have proceeded without incident except for what happened next. The guy went back to the truck and began moving back and forth to I guess find the most level parking spot. Of course while doing this, he unknowingly disconnected the sewer hose from the dump pipe. Fortunately, the tank had emptied itself in the time it took him to begin his maneuvering. No harm, no foul odors, and the driver is still without a clue of what happened.

After a good dozen back and forths on the site he must have found a spot he was happy with as he commenced to set jacks and unhitch. There is something to be said for automatic levelers for this was the one procedure we observed where things actually progressed normally. I apologize up front for the visuals to follow, you can shut your eyes if you need to.

Okay, what we have now is a 5th wheel trailer that is level (this is assumed as Chris and I both saw a thumbs up). Connected to the trailer is a sewer hose with the other end laying beside a closed dump pipe. Our camper goes to the front of the trailer and hits the side twice. Unseen by us was the guy's wife who had entered the trailer and was waiting for just such a signal to put out the forward slides. Once done, the guy went around the trailer and was out of our sight but I'm pretty sure he was getting the patio slide out. For a brief moment I thought he was not going to put the off-side slide out until he completed the hookups but out they came while we watched.

All would have been perfect but for one minor miscalculation. You see, the posts guarding the services area stick up about 42 inches from the ground. The bottom of the guy's rear slide sits at 38 inches from the ground (we measured it afterwards). Wouldn't have been so bad except apparently he had gone inside to run slide rather than have his wife do it while he watched. Only after the very loud “kee-runch!” did the slide stop coming out. The damage must have looked much worse than it was as he did manage to get the slide all the way back in.

Not letting a little thing like structural damage get in the way our camper went back to the patio side to set up all the little sundry things we carry to make our camping comfortable. Chris and I were just about ready to move on for some fresher entertainment when we saw the guy come around the trailer carrying a chair.

You know, the neat thing about 5th wheels is that you can stoop and walk under the front end by the hitch and shorten the number of steps it takes to get around the trailer. There are two problems with doing so however; bumping your head and, if you are really tall, the lower back strain from stooping. Our camper was tall and I believe he had a prior back injury. At least that's my assumption because he was really slow in picking himself up off the ground after slamming his head on the hitch. I'm sure it was the distance and wind that prevented us from hearing what he was saying.

Rubbing his head the guy took the chair over to his wet bay and sat down. I'm not sure if he was running through a mental checklist or what but he sat there for a good 5 minutes occasionally rubbing and shaking his head. Time passed and the camper began finishing his hookups – first electrical, followed by fresh water. Note, he still doesn't notice the unconnected sewer hose.

He pulled the black valve. Out came a brown torrent with the full force of a only totally topped off tank can provide. This tragedy could have been mitigated and been a minor clean-up if only the guy had kept calm. That and maybe not become entangled in his folding chair. All he had to do was reach over and close the valve; ignoring the splash back effect the flopping hose spewing I don't what to know.

Third time's the charm I guess.

This was all within 30 to 45 minutes of his arrival and while Chris and I would have loved to stick around to see what else might have happened, we are volunteers and need to report spills such as this as soon as possible. That and quickly become busy doing something very important somewhere else.

A side note here. Did you know you can tell an experienced camper from one just beginning by their ability to distinguish black and gray water just by catching a whiff?

Whoever did do the cleanup while we were busy with important stuff elsewhere did a good job. When we returned to clean the fire ring and pick up litter two days later you couldn't tell what all had occurred there. Our park has an outstanding staff!

campfireSee you next time. Take it slow and keep a steady strain.

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Journey Back–East Wenatchee

donkey1We have been traveling in company with my sister and brother-in-law; on their first adventure in their new to them, 2007 Winnebago Journey. Way out of character for Chris and I, we actually had sat down and planned our trip back north; surfing the forums for suggested routes and things to do. We had plenty of time so the need for running on the interstate never materialized and looking back we've all come to the conclusion taking highway 95 was probably the best decision we could have ever made. Excellent roads, light traffic, and either touching or in very close proximity to all the folksy Americana you can ask for in one trip. Our last blog entry is a fine example of what I'm talking about and if memory serves (it does, I looked it up) we left our readers in Oatman with the donkeys.
IMG_20170321_115400801Picking up from our last entry, I would be doing a disservice if I didn't mention Moon River RV Resort in Fort Mojave. The park had just changed hands and there was talk of the planned improvements. At the time of our visit it was still gravel, close sites but with good room to maneuver. Having the standard amenities, Moon River makes for a good, quiet, overnight stopping place. At the time of this writing, I could not recommend it for any long-term stays.
From Fort Mojave we continued north and again had a short travel day. It just so happened our next stay was to be in Pahrump, Nevada at the Wine Ridge RV Resort. This planned two day stop allowed us to thoroughly check the rigs for anything that may have rattled loose after being parked for such an extended period and gave us time to see the area a bit better; popping into some of the nearby attractions easier. IMG_20170321_120617694_TOPThat was the plan, what actually happened was we spent a good amount of time indoors avoiding the results of a cold front that had come through. No worries, being next door to a winery did have its advantages.
IMG_20170322_154225807Before we could even try to find some of the neat places to go in Pahrump, it was time for us to leave with our longest, and what could be considered our most boring leg ahead of us to Winnemucca. Over 470 miles. Seven driving hours which makes for close to ten on-the-road hours. IMG_20170321_120942453Of course the cold front that had plagued us during our stay wasn't quite done shaking things up with and generated several storm and flood watches. All reported constantly by the Garmin along our route. These alerts, which consisted of heart stopping beeping and with minimal information, quickly became a thing to dread and ultimately to despise as each alert while along our route was well ahead of us in distance. By the time we reached an area of one of the watches, the storm had already passed; usually only leaving a damp stretch of pavement.
Arriving in Winnemucca in the early evening we could finally see the sad results of a flood warning with some side road closures and flooded fields. Get your notepad ready, if you are ever in this neat little town, stay just a bit outside at the New Frontier RV park. The park is brand spanking new with paved and gravel sites generously spaced apart. The “club house” has tons of room with an attached mini market/store, a TV room fit for any superbowl party, and from what we could see, a steam line for snacks and such during the season. Of course, being Nevada there is the obligatory casino and grill next door.
IMG_20170326_150007Still on highway 95 but soon switching over to OR-78 our next destination is one I've mentioned several times before – Crystal Crane Hot Springs. This was our original reason for taking 95 before finding out how nice a road it was as offered the shortest, most direct route to our most favorite stop. We had actually made reservations early on so we were able to park in two of the three full-hookup sites with a very short walk to the springs. While the pond is free with unlimited access if you are in an RV spot or cabin, for a small fee you can book one of the huge private hot tubs which is what Chris and I did this time round. You see, spring break was in full swing there and we really couldn't see ourselves getting caught up in one of the numerous spontaneous water fights. After all the road time, the quiet soak was just what the doctor ordered.
We got to spend two very relaxing days at Crystal Crane and our brother-in-law Randy has become a convert; swearing they'll be coming back in the very near future.
IMG_20170329_145809416While our next planned destination was Prosser Washington to revisit the tasting rooms, we had a day to kill before arriving so we opted to take to the hills and come into Pendleton Oregon via the back way. What a simply stunning drive and while sure, there were a couple of grades and lots of curvey roads just north of John Day, it was nothing we hadn't seen before nor was it overly difficult. Four hours took us from the scrub desert of Crane, through the mountain meadows of Sylvie Valley Ranch and the high timber of Battle Mountain to the high plateau grasslands of Pendleton and the tribal lands of the Umatilla. It is really hard to pass up on the all you can eat buffets and senior specials at the Wild Horse Casino - nor having a shuttle bus at our beck and call from the RV park to the casino or the cultural center.
IMG_20170331_150338875Wine Country RV in Prosser is quickly becoming another favorite of ours. Not due to the proximity of several tasting rooms but really in large part due to the friendliness and professionalism of the staff and of course the part itself. Wide, long pull thrus with 50amp full hookups, grass patios with picnic tables and ample room between even the tightest sites. We could have easily gone directly to our next hosting gig from Pendleton but this park deserves a visit; even when it took us 20 miles out of our way.
Okay, I'll admit it, the wine wasn't bad either.

That's it, we've been sitting at Lincoln Rock State Park for the past week picking up our campground hosting duties like last year and just trying to keep warm. Seems this year we may have come north just a bit too soon.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Touristy Stuff and a Departure - Yuma

CastleDomeOur stay in “Canada's Southern Most City” wouldn’t be complete without hitting some of the tourist sights in the area. So much to see and do in a short time so buckle up, this ride makes frequent stops and detours.

As a trading and transit hub, the Yuma area is rich in history and diverse in culture. Any visit here can be quickly filled with the quirky, the oddball, the normal, and endless combinations of all three with little or no effort on the part of the visitor. So we’ve found out for ourselves this winter season along with the fact one visit is simply not enough if we wish to see it all.




MardiGrasStPattyWhat happens when you get a bunch of 'seniors' in one place with temperatures in the 80's? We've found the usual result is just about any excuse for a party. What has me puzzled is “Where did these people come from?” “How did they get here?” and what have they done with all the serious parents and grandparents we knew as we were growing up. Prime example: we are no where near New Orleans but someone in the park heard “Fat”, another heard “Tuesday”. They put the two together and a park-wide Mardi Gras was formed. Last week one of the residents mentioned how much he enjoyed corned beef and cabbage. You guessed it, St. Patty’s Day party followed shortly after.

PDesertbarrel_and_skullIn the “normal” category; a day trip the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge, Lake Martinez and the Painted Desert Trail. Starting at the visitor center we met a fellow volunteer host who was trying out camping in the desert for the first time. A hard worker for sure, the center was clean and well kept with perhaps the exception of some pretty old and beaten up mounted animal displays. Outside, the rains of January and February had yielded an explosion of blossoms in plants, bushes, cactus and of course weeds.

tortoiseA pleasant surprise was the desert tortoise habitats around the perimeter of the visitor center building. I couldn’t tell you the difference between a tortoise and turtle on the best of days but I can definitely tell the difference from a rounded boulder and something that isn’t a rounded boulder. Especially true when the not boulder blinks. I know it was a desert tortoise because there was a placard proclaiming that very fact.


flowerbushflowercactusA short distance down the road from the center is the Painted Desert Nature Trail, a 1.3 mile trail from gullies to ridgelines and back again, featuring the variegated colors and terrain of the seared land. After the hike in the overly warm temps I could swear there had been mistake in the length of the trail with someone reversing the numbers!


CastleDome2Later in the week brought us a a touch of oddball mixed with historical in a visit to Castle Dome, a recreated mining town featuring abandoned buildings and artifacts dating back to the late 1800's.

CastleDome3Similar to many towns of the west, this ghost town of silver mines showcases items not only of mining endeavors but the simple, everyday things used to make a living and life out in the desert. We all found it amazing people seemingly dropped everything and walked away when it no longer remained profitable.


CloudMuseumFor a touch of quirky blended with historical the Cloud Museum, just outside of Bard California, fills the bill. IMG_20170314_143249939Covering over 2 acres the museum , as noted by the Model T Ford Club of America, “probably the largest collection of Model Ts in the world; each and every one lovingly returned to running condition by Johnny Cloud. No idle boast as Johnny will gladly start up any of the vehicles despite the dilapidated, rusty, exterior.

Though mostly known for the vehicles, there is also an eclectic collection of period tools ranging from industrial applications to those commonly found in the home in years gone by. Mr. Cloud is usually less than a shout away and seems to have a sixth sense if you have a question regarding any of the exhibits or artifacts.IMG_20170314_144517567

IMG_20170320_150056790Oatman1For truly oddball we recalled information from our travels down here last year describing another mining town where the tools of the prospectors left to fend for themselves are now in charge. I speak of the donkeys of Oatman and while they are considered wild because no one owns them they are demonstrably quite civilized in their behavior. This calm demeanor could be their personality but I’m thinking a good portion of their considerable patience results from waiting for the next opportunity to part tourists from purchased carrots and feed pellets. The cost to the donkey? Enduring camera flashes and an occasional scratch behind an ear.

Oatman2Located on old route 66 which is also the main street of Oatman, the donkeys can be found wandering outside and in some cases inside the shops filled with local artwork, curiosities and sundry trinkets in this quaint assortment of Americana.

Our own role as tourists has come to the end for we are now slowly wending our way back north. We are hoping to drag a bit of the summer with us as we come. We’ll have to see.