Welcome to the first installment the blog chronicling our travels this winter season. If all goes as expected (and it usually never does…) we hope to post something about every 10 days or so, but that largely depends on where we are and the Wi-Fi connection situation. Most of the time, the Wi-Fi where we stay sucks, or is non-existent. Usually not a big problem as I can use the personal hotspot on my iPhone…but then I have to have some sort of signal from Verizon, usually ‘3 dots’ or more.
I post the blog text and photographs using some really elegant blog software known as WordPress. (You will see their logo at the very bottom of all the posts.) My usual process is to write the text in Microsoft Word, edit, spell-check, then upload it to a WordPress ‘storage’ area. Next, I use Adobe Lightroom to organize and edit all the photographs that you see. I usually start with a 300-400, then cull that down to about 75-100, then cull again to get it to about 25-50, give or take. Before I upload those images, I watermark them with a copyright, then export them into Adobe Photoshop for some post-processing (color and contrast correction, some other ‘tweaking and then file compression), and finally upload them into WordPress ‘storage’ as well. Finally, I put it all together into a chapter, ‘tweak it a bit more, and, finally, post it. Posting it means that an announcement hits Facebook and, for those of you have email subscriptions, the installment is delivered to your email box.
All of this usually takes anywhere from 8-16 hours. But that’s OK…’cuz I love you guys…
Oh, and just one more thing…
Those of you who know me (and for those of you who don’t…) most of what I write here is somewhat the truth. Some of it is truth as I see it. And the rest of it is pretty much BS. Hay, it’s my blog.
OK, no more things.
It took us about 6 easy weeks to prepare for this trip; Dee Dee is very organized and makes lots of lists. So, getting ready to depart is pretty stress-free. Usually. In general, we have to shut the house down for the winter. This includes arming our very extensive security system, which we can monitor from our iPhones; we can view our place using several security cameras around the property. We also have a neighbor kid who keeps an eye on things (he is heavily armed…), as well as a few others who stop by on random occasions.
Just as we were getting ready to leave, my phone rang. It was the great people at the Animal Rescue Shelter in Amargosa, California. This was the place where we got (rescued) Charlie back in 2010, when he was about 4 years old. Anyhow, it turns out that Charlie had another brother who had led a pretty tough life. He had been in and out of shelters (jail) and homes for the past 5 years. Lots of street fights. He had finally ended up in back in Amargosa. Anyhow, the Shelter people needed a place to foster care him for a short time while they tried to find him a new home. Could we please take him for a while?
I explained that we were getting ready to hit the road a while and, regretfully, could not do it. Well, it turns out that “Taco” (that’s his name) is a pretty good independent watch dog and could survive pretty much on his own at our place. Not a bad idea as it would certainly complement our security system. All he needed was a blanket to sleep on, and some food and water.
So, we agreed. They stuck him on a plane and shipped him up to us. After a tearful, bark-ridden reunion with Charlie, and a property orientation (guided by Charlie), we departed, leaving Taco in charge of things. It was a reassuring feeling knowing we had a constant canine presence. The Shelter people agreed to come and get him after a few months, so the whole deal worked out for everyone involved.
After a few days delay getting all this done, once again we were off…after we found Charlie, who decided that running deer through our woods was more exciting than leaving with us…
Day One of our travels ended after about a 225 mile drive to Arlington, Oregon, a little town on the Columbia River. We stayed at tiny RV park run by the City of Arlington. It only had about 10 spots, and shared the area with a grain storage facility. Also, and this was pretty cool, it had its set of train tracks, with its very own freight train that ran back-and-forth about every 15 minutes, sounding a whistle at a near-by intersection. Wahoo! A great way to nod off to no-sleep. Anyhow, we had driven by this place for years and had always wanted to stop (at least I did.) So we did. Once.
Next stop was Caldwell (near Boise), Idaho, where we stopped at the Country Corners RV Park, a place we stayed a couple of years ago. New owners, very friendly and very accommodating.
Still trucking along, our next stop was supposed to be Arco, Idaho, where we were going to spend some time at Craters of the Moon. Well, that got kyboshed when we ran into heavy snow on the way there. We chickened out and discontinued this route. We swung “The Boat” around and headed back down to the freeway (still Highway 84) and high-tailed it for Fort Hall, Idaho (near Blackfoot.)
The RV park were we stayed is on the Shoshone/Bannock Reservation, adjacent to a casino (slots only) and a pretty good size hotel…all of this seemingly in the middle of almost nowhere. The RV park as good one – clean, quiet and empty. When we pulled in it was still snowing pretty good, but it abated pretty quickly after that.
We spent the next 6 days there, the first of which we drove about 60 miles back up to Arco, ID, gateway to Craters of the Moon National Monument. This is a very cool, visually rich, environment. And cold, very cold. We spent some time in the Visitors Center, and then walked the single trail that was open, as they were in the process of closing most of the place up for the winter. We also took a look at the campground – a good one, but older and designed mainly for tent campers.
Craters of the Moon is a place worthy of more time visiting and we would definitely go back again…when it’s a tad warmer.
The rest of our time in the area was spent up in Blackfoot, where we visited Dee Dee’s niece, Jennifer, her husband, Nick (here comes da Judge…) and their two delightful girls, Sami and Shea. Charlie loves these kids and they love him right back. Anyhow, they put up with our several visits and showed us a great time. Terrific folks and easy to be around. Bob and Nick played a round at the Blackfoot Golf Course (had to wait for the frost to melt off the greens). Dee Dee and Charlie entertained The Girls. Lots of fun.
November 9 found us in Wells, Nevada. Cold, snowy, but with clear roads all the way from Fort Hall. Not much in Wells to speak of. The folks at the Angel Lake RV Park were very friendly and helpful. We used their showers instead of ours and were impressed. Eternal hot water and great pressure.
Next day we made the relatively short drive (175 miles) down Highway 93 to Ely, Nevada. The day before they had over 14” of snow and the roads were still somewhat clogged. We stayed at a KOA about 3 miles south of town. The road in was a bit of a challenge, but we made it in OK. The maintenance guy had to go ahead of us to snowplow spot clear.
The lady in the KOA office told us about a local casino that would pick you up in a shuttle, and their restaurant supposedly (and it really did) had a great prime rib dinner, so we decided to go for it. They picked us up in a stretch LIMO and were super nice. Dinner was really pretty good (for casino food) and, because of this, I decided that I needed to contribute $75 to their Gamblers Relief Fund. Interestingly there are only two “live” blackjack tables in the entire town of Ely; all the rest of the casinos are entirely slots. Something to do with Nevada and Federal gaming laws. The upside of this downside was that we won ‘BIG’ on a slot machine.
We stayed in Ely for 2 days, waiting for the road going West, Highway 6, to clear of snow. The first night there the temperature dropped to 3 degrees. It was so cold that our propane regulators froze up, so we had no gas heat. We had to depend on the two 1500 watt electric heaters we carry, which could barely keep up. The next morning we drove into town and picked up another (third) heater, as well as some 60 watt light bulbs that we rigged up to warm the 2 gas regulators and keep them from freezing up. That night, we had a heat wave – it got clear up to 6 degrees! Everything worked like a charm. We had wonderful gas heat again.
After our 2 days in Ely, we headed down Highway 6 – a magnificent, scenic drive. And lonely. I swear, and no BS, that we saw less than 10 cars over the 150 miles that we drove on this road. And no services…hell, there was almost nothing but scenery. Delightful.
We finally hit Tonopah (a town that you want to pass through as quickly as possible), where we connected up with Highway 95, that took us through Goldfield (a really cool old mining town…Neil Miller would go ape in this place; it’s a visual smorgasbord.) From there it was just a short 65 mile jaunt down the hill to Beatty, Nevada, where we stayed at one of our favorite places, the Beatty RV Park…”always $25 per nite,” and it really has been for years. We have stopped there at least 5 times before and always enjoyed the hospitality of our kind host, Mike.
We spent a couple of days in Beatty where we visited their great candy store (at the Beatty Nut and Candy Company); we stocked up on sugar and “Really Good” beef jerky. We had a beer and local bar where we encountered their local bar dog, a not-so-friendly-critter…had some junk yard stuff in him. While we were still there sucking down $3.50 Miller Lites, some guy came by and gave Dee Dee a bird; I guess he did not want it anymore and figured that she did. Anyhow, the bird sat on her should for a minute or so, and before we even had time to give it a name, it flew away. Must have been the cat scent he detected on Dee Dee. Oh well, we stifled our grief and moved on.
While based in Beatty, we drove over Daylight Pass, into Death Valley – a “Magical Place,” if you allow it to be; we estimated that this was at least our 20th visit, starting in about 1976 – we love it! We headed out to Stove Pipe Wells, where we were Campground Hosts for 3 months in late 2010. Here we ran into Phil, the current host and a really cool guy. Mello, laid back and friendly…a perfect combination of traits for this job. We had a great visit and he comp’ed us a couple of camping nights (“Professional Courtesy” among present and former Stove Pipe hosts.)
So, we returned to Beatty and the next morning (it’s now Saturday, November 14th) and headed for Stove Pipe (quite a thrill going over and down Daylight Pass in an RV) where we dry-camped for 2 days. Very quiet (as usual), and it almost emptied out on Sunday. (The previous 4 days were more crowded than usual as this was when about 10,000 members of the “Death Valley 49’ers” convene each year…fortunately mainly in the Furnace Creek area, about 35 miles away.)
While at Stove Pipe dry camping, we decided to see if we could go for 2 days without running our generator. We made it about a day and a half, and then the inverter managed to suck enough juice out of our 4 big-ass house batteries and all the AC (meaning the refrigerator and TV) shut down…right in the middle of the ‘Chick-Flick’ movie we were watching. So, we woos’d out and fired the sucker up, for about an hour, to recharge the batteries.
One good/bad thing about our RV is that it has a full-size residential refrigerator; good if you are tethered to 50 amp power in an RV park, but not-so-good when you are dry camping. We do have a 100 watt solar panel our roof which usually provides enough juice to allow the batteries (powering the inverter) to keep up with the refer, but if the sun is not shining – which it was not at this time – the batteries drain more quickly.
Not that running our generator is a big deal, it was just a matter of ‘pride.’ Anyhow all of this was important to us, but probably not you…
Day One at Stove Pipe was magnificent. Day Two was not so good, sorta. The day started off with Dee Dee taking Charlie out into the desert for his morning constitutional. So, he pees, and then, you know. Then, he USUALLY just sticks with Dee Dee and they walk back together. But this time he makes a trotting bee-line back to the RV and waits by the door. Then, about 30 seconds later this big-ass coyote heads out across the same stretch of desert from whence Charlie has just crossed. Charlie proved, once again that he has great critter sense. Conflict avoided.
Next, starting in the afternoon, we has sustained 40 – 50 MPH winds, and the usual accompanying dust; this lasted for the next 36 hours, which a bit unusual, and the wind usually comes in fast and leave fast, the entire event lasting only an hour or 2. It was blowing so hard that night that, about midnight, we had to get up and pull in the slides. Not a big deal, really, just a minor annoyance. But, the animals were kind of freaked out by all the noise.
On Monday, November 16th, we bid goodbye to our new friend, Phil, and headed off to Furnace Creek, where we would be for the next 2 weeks. Here we met our crazy friend, Gary, and his even crazier brother, John. We have been enjoying the relative quiet (almost all of the 10,000 ‘49’ers have departed). We also made our ritual first-day trip to the Furnace Creek bar and had a few beers. What fun!
So far, we have spent some time showing Gary and John a few of the more popular ‘tourist’ sights (Zabriskie Point, Dante’s View, Bad Water, Artist’s Drive, etc.) We also drove up Highway 190, out of the park to check out Slab City, a possible dry-camping place. Turns out it has great access and is pretty large-RV friendly. Might be a place to stop and hang out at some point. Tomorrow we head out to see some more subtle places in the Valley; we have all chipped in to rent a jeep and intend to do a lot of off-roading.
Whew! That’s enough (actually, waaaay more than enough) for now. Hope you enjoyed the prose and the pics. The next installment should show up in about 2 weeks.
Over n’ out for now – we are off to spend more time in this Magical Place…