Monthly Archives: June 2014

Brutal Ironman in Coeur d’Alene

Yesterday, the day started early for the athletes in the Ironman competition. The morning air was chilly – about 52 degrees when they started the 2.4-mile swim in Lake Coeur d’Alene. The bigger challenge was the wind and choppy water as they headed out.

Donna and I followed the morning action online from the comfort of our coach. I was following the split times for two of the athletes – my friend, Allen Hutchinson from Michigan and a woman I met in the RV park. Her name is Angela Smith. She’s a 42-year-old fitness consultant from Oregon. After talking to Angela and her husband on Saturday afternoon, I learned that her goals for the race were much like Allen’s – they both hoped to finish in 11 and a half hours if everything went well.

While I posted to the blog and had another tab open to follow the race, Donna went out on her bike. She rode over to the Prairie Trail. I gave her bad directions and she ended up on a short trail going to Bluegrass Park. She turned around and rode south. At the Centennial Junction, she rode west past Post Falls toward the Idaho/Washington border. Parts of the trail run along the Spokane River. She took a couple of photos of the river along the route.

View upriver as Donna rode west

View upriver as Donna rode west

A downriver view from the Centennial Trail

A downriver view from the Centennial Trail

Meanwhile, out on the race course, Allen completed the swim in just under an hour and 16 minutes. Angela came out of the lake four minutes behind him. Their transition times to the bicycle were similar, so Allen had a four-minute lead. I wanted to go down to the course for the bicycle race and was waiting for Donna to return.

At the second split, Angela cut into Allen’s lead and was trailing by two minutes. Allen opened the gap again after that and led by five minutes. They weren’t really racing each other – it was just me comparing their times. Allen is in the men’s 40-44 age category while Angela races in the women’s 40-44 group.

As Donna rode back on the Centennial Trail, she met up with a couple from Washington riding on the trail. She rode with them and talked for awhile about RV life – they just purchased an Airstream and plan to retire in a few years. Donna missed the Prairie Trail turn and ended up downtown at the Ironman course. She called me on her cell phone and told me she was at the course on 4th Street.

I jumped on  my mountain bike and rode down 4th Street to the course. I was bucking a headwind all the way down. I could only imagine how tough the race must be, climbing into the wind on the west side of the lake.

I found Donna and we watched the competitors. Apparently, we had just missed seeing Allen on the the bike course and it would be a couple of hours before we would see him head out on the run course. We rode up the street and stopped for lunch at a bar/cafe I had noticed on my way down. We dined at a table outside on the sidewalk.

I received a text message from Allen’s wife, Crystal, telling us she was in front of the Visitor Center with her daughters. We rode over to the Visitor Center and found them. Riding along the race course was difficult. We had to thread our way through the crowd. At some points, we had no choice but to get off our bikes and walk.

The split times showed Allen reaching the run transition area about six minutes ahead of Angela. He was on the bike for six hours and four minutes, averaging 18.4 miles per hour over 112 tough miles.

We saw Allen approach as he started the 26.2-mile marathon run. We cheered and he high-fived Donna and Crystal as he ran past us.

Allen begins the third leg of the Ironman, a marathon run

Allen begins the third leg of the Ironman, a marathon run

I looked for Angela to run past. Later, I found out she was in and out of the run transition quicker than Allen and wasn’t six minutes behind him. She was only about three minutes behind and I missed seeing the start of her run.

Donna and I rode home on the Prairie Trail. We showered and took care of a few things. I continued to monitor the split times. At the second split of the run, Allen had opened up a 10-minute gap on Angela.

It started raining. We sat inside the coach and debated whether we should take a taxi downtown for the race finish or wait to see if the rain would pass. I checked the race progress and saw we had plenty of time. The rain moved on after 20 minutes or so. We ate leftover lentil and sausage stew before riding back downtown on the scooter.

Before we left, I checked the split times again. At the 19.8-mile mark, Allen’s lead over Angela had evaporated. It was an interesting way to follow the race. When I saw Allen’s speed drop on the bike through a sector, Angela’s speed did likewise. I could imagine the hill they were climbing. Angela had overtaken Allen during the run and now was three minutes in front of him.

Parking the scooter downtown was easy. We walked down near the finish area on Sherman. I sent a text to Crystal to find out where they were. The were standing 50 feet away from us!

We cheered the competitors as they passed. Some were obviously happy, savoring the moment as the end was in sight. Others were clearly struggling, concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other to reach the finish line. A few kicked it into high gear and sprinted to the finish!

After awhile, I saw Angela run past. Her total time at the finish was 12:17. A short while later, Allen came by and finished in 12:31.

We walked past the finish line to the area where the athletes are given refreshments and space blankets to ward off the chill. While we waited for Allen, I saw Angela and congratulated her.

While we were looking for Allen, I overheard one of the professional triathletes comment on how tough the day was. He said it was the toughest conditions he’d ever faced in Coeur d’Alene. The choppy water, cold temperatures and high winds all took a toll. It made the run brutal, as so much energy had already been spent.

We finally found Allen. It was remarkable how normal he looked. You wouldn’t think he just completed a twelve and a half hour event that pushed him to the limit. We congratulated him and talked briefly. I  didn’t want to hold him up for too long. I’m sure he has a post-race routine he follows.

We came home and I watched the Moto GP race in Assen that I had recorded. Later, we watched another episode of The Americans.

This morning I heard that 20% of the entrants (about 500 people) failed to finish in the 17-hour time limit.

Today, we have blue skies and a warm weather forecast. Summery weather is forecast for the coming week. Hooray!


Ironman Campout

The rain eased up yesterday. We still had mostly cloudy skies and the threat of rain in the morning. I took a walk around the campground. The place is completely full – many of the inhabitants are here for the Ironman competition.

Some are competitors. Others are spectators and supporters. Some of the competitors staying here at the RV park aren’t typical RVers. They’re camping out in tents or pop-up trailers. This isn’t what we’re used to seeing in RV parks.

Tent camping in the RV park

Tent camping in the RV park

Triathletes from Canada camping here

Triathletes from Canada camping here

Pop-up trailers

Pop-up trailers

Coeur d’Alene is a resort destination. Many accommodations are priced higher than comparable hotels in other cities. During events like Ironman, they jack up the prices. I think that’s why a number of competitors choose to camp out.

As our site began to dry, I got my mountain bike out and went for a ride.

Our site drying

Our site drying

I rode out Kathleen Avenue and entered the Prairie Trail. I headed south, toward Lake Coeur d’Alene and City Park. I wanted see how things were shaping up for today’s competition.

Intersection of Prairie Trail and Centennial Trail

Intersection of Prairie Trail and Centennial Trail

Mouth of the Spokane River at Lake Couer d'Alene

Mouth of the Spokane River at Lake Coeur d’Alene

There were more bikes on the trail than before, some were competitors loosening up before staging their bikes in the transition area. Their bikes are locked up overnight in the transition area. As the competitors complete the 2.4-mile swim, they jog to the transition area, retrieve their gear and get on their bikes to begin the 112-mile bike race.

Staging gear at City Park

Staging gear at City Park

The 2.4-mile swim takes place in Lake Coeur d’Alene. The water temperature is 62 degrees. This is warmer than usual, but still plenty cold.

City Park was bustling with activity Saturday afternoon. Competitors were staging gear. Spectators were roaming around and visiting the vendors.

Crowd at City Park

Crowd at City Park

I rode back home on Government Way. The ride took a little over an hour. Later, Donna and I walked to Safeway. She bought an Italian chicken sausage to add to the lentil stew she had in the slow cooker all day. It was last night’s dinner and it was delicious.

Lentil and sausage stew

Lentil and sausage stew

This morning, I woke up early.  I tracked Allen Hutchinson’s progress in the race. There was a glitch in his swim time. They had him at the swim turnaround in less than 18 minutes. I don’t think this is possible. The next 1.2 miles of the swim took almost 56 minutes – the timing splits didn’t make sense. Altogether, his swim time was 1:15:49. I heard the cold water was choppy this morning. Allen’s time for the swim was 10 or 11 minutes longer than his target. He’s off to a good start on the bike. The bicycle course is tough and the wind this morning will make it even tougher. Donna and I will head down to City Park to cheer him on as he passes by.


Dodging Showers

It’s Saturday morning. I’m behind on my posts, so I’ll catch up on the last two days. Not that there’s much to say except that rain really hampers our activities.

It rained on and off on Thursday so Donna and I spent most of the day indoors. We walked in the park during breaks in the showers. Donna decided to make blueberry muffins from scratch. She doesn’t bake very often, but when she does, the results are outstanding. She gave a few of the muffins to the couple that manage the RV park. The guy made a point of stopping by our site to tell us that they were the best blueberry muffins he’s ever had. He said, “The blueberries exploded in my mouth!”

During one dry break in the weather, we walked down the road to the Safeway store. Donna needed some fresh produce and I picked up locally brewed Outlaw IPA. On our walk to the store, we passed an old VW bus that’s set up as a shaved ice kiosk. The windy, rainy weather had pulled the banner off the front. The VW looks to be driveable, but it’s been parked in the lot since we arrived. They were busy on Wednesday when the sun was shining.

Hawaiian Lion Shave Ice

Hawaiian Lion Shave Ice

We had street tacos for dinner on Thursday. Donna reheated some leftover pork tenderloin, sliced and drizzled with mojo garlic sauce and served it with shredded cabbage and avocado on corn tortillas. It really paired well with the Outlaw IPA. After dinner, Donna made her famous black bean brownies.

Taco plate

Taco plate

New neighbors pulled in Thursday evening. Three rigs lined up next to us. It appears to be a family reunion. There are two 5th wheel trailers with Alberta, Canada plates and a smaller travel trailer with Idaho plates sandwiched between them. It seems as though Grandpa and Grandma have the smaller travel trailer. The big 5th wheel trailer next to us is a Raptor triple axle toy hauler pulled by a big Ram 3500 dually truck. The woman who drove it in was supremely confident in her driving skills and jockeyed it through really tight quarters. I was impressed.

The rain returned with a vengeance on Thursday night. I was awakened several times in the night by rain drumming on the roof. We were out of bed by 8am. The rain had let up. I suggested a quick walk to the Broken Egg restaurant down the street for breakfast. I wanted to get out of the coach while we could. Donna was game and we headed out. The  Broken Egg serves breakfast and lunch until 2pm daily. The breakfast portions are huge and very tasty.

It started raining on our walk back. Again, we had a day of variable and unpredictable weather. Actually, it was somewhat predictable. We knew it would rain – we just weren’t sure when or how hard it would rain. It rained off and on throughout the day without really drying out in-between.

Our plan was to grill chicken kabobs and have the Hutchinson family join us for dinner. I kicked back inside and read a book, keeping an eye on the weather. Donna spent a few hours writing her monthly organizing newsletter which included suggestions for rainy day organizing projects.

Around 3pm, I sent a message to Allen Hutchinson, telling him that we needed a Plan B. The weather wasn’t conducive to grilling and dining outdoors. We decided to meet at the Fish Market on Kathleen Avenue at 5:15pm.

Our timing was impeccable. It wasn’t raining as Donna and I walked to the restaurant. We arrived at the same time as the Hutchinsons. The restaurant wasn’t crowded and we put our orders in. They serve great seafood in sort of a fast-food fashion. You order at one counter and pay. When the meal is ready, you pick it up at another counter. As we placed our orders, a long line of patrons formed behind us. We just beat the dinner crowd. I had the daily special – sushi maki (spider roll) and a poki plate (ahi tuna). Donna had a steamer platter – two pounds of steamed mussels and clams in a garlic beer broth. The food was great. Allen, his wife Crystal, and daughters Gwen and Elsa had a variety of sushi and poki along with steaming bowls of miso soup. For dessert, Donna brought along some black bean brownies for the Hutchinsons to take back to their hotel.

Allen, Crystal, Elsa, Gwen and Donna enjoying dinner at the Fish Market

Allen, Crystal, Elsa, Gwen and Donna enjoying dinner at the Fish Market

Allen and I worked together in Michigan. He and his family are here in Coeur d’Alene for the Ironman Trialthlon this weekend. Allen is an Ironman. This will be his third full-distance triathlon – 2.4 miles swimming, 112 miles bicycling and a 26.2-mile marathon run – all in one day! We saw his first triathlon in Lake Placid, New York where he finished in an astonishing 11 hours and 40 minutes. He finished before I could reach the finish line to congratulate him! I’ll be sure to be at the finish line this time.

One of the beauties of living a nomadic lifestyle is the ability to plan routes and layovers to meet up with friends and family around the country. We’re excited to witness another Ironman event and grateful for the opportunity to cheer for Allen and visit with his family.

Today, the weather looks to be variable again, but much drier than the past two days. Tomorrow should be clear for the race and warmer weather is predicted for the coming week. I want to get out on my bike and ride down to City Park to see how the Ironman course is shaping up.

Coeur d’Alene City Park

We went out and explored yesterday. Donna rode her bicycle down to Lake Coeur d’Alene in the morning. She rode east along the lake on the Centennial Trail to the end. On her way to the lake, she rode down Government Way and found a few stores she was looking for – a FedEx store and a Natural Grocers store – both within easy walking distance.

After she returned, I unloaded my mountain bike. We had lunch together, then I headed out. I followed her route down Government Way to the Coeur d’Alene City Park. Preparations for this weekend’s Ironman competition were already underway. They had the transition area with bike racks set up and fencing all around it. Vendors were setting up canopies and tents.

Vendors setting up for the Ironman

Vendors setting up for the Ironman

There were signs along the road advising of closure on Sunday for the event. City Park is well maintained and beautiful. It also has a beach area on the lake with a lifeguard on duty. People were enjoying the nice weather, sunning on the beach and swimming in the lake.

View to the west at the City Park beach

View to the west at the City Park beach

The Centennial Bike Trail runs along the beach, then follows the Spokane River which empties into Lake Coeur d’Alene.

Beach view from the bike trail

Beach view from the bike trail

I rode up the bike trail past another park and more beach areas on the Spokane River. I had left my water bottle on the kitchen counter in the coach and was riding without water. Luckily, there were a number of parks along the way with drinking water fountains.

At Riverstone Park, the trail turns north and leaves the river. The Centennial Trail is mostly paved, but there were parallel sections of gravel and dirt tracks for mountain bikes. At I-90, the Centennial Trail turns west toward Spokane. The route north becomes the Prairie Trail. I followed the Prairie Trail north to Kathleen Avenue.

There was another bike path along Kathleen Avenue that brought me back to Government Way. The ride was a little over an hour and I really enjoyed it.

Later, I scootered Donna over to the FedEx store. She had documents that needed to be scanned and she also shipped our EMS – PT50C off to Progressive Industries. I like to have protection against power surges and bad pedestal wiring, the EMS – PT50C gives me peace of mind. I’ll have to go without it for a couple of weeks before I have an address for them to ship it back to us.

While Donna was at FedEx, I went to the bank and then stopped at The Fish Market on Kathleen Avenue. The Fish Market is a seafood restaurant and fish monger. They had a good price on Copper River sockeye salmon, but I spied fresh king salmon in the cooler. I couldn’t resist – I paid the premium price for the king salmon.

I soaked a cedar plank and grilled the salmon for dinner. Donna served it with a side dish of pierogies sauteed with onions, red pepper and broccoli from the natural food store. We sat outside and dined at the picnic table.

Dining al fresco

Dining al fresco

Fresh cedar planked king salmon

Fresh cedar planked king salmon

My friend and former colleague, Allen Hutchinson, arrived in Coeur d’Alene with his family last evening. He will compete in the Ironman Triathlon on Sunday. We’re looking forward to visiting with him and his family, and cheering for him on Sunday.

This is the second time we’ll see him at an Ironman event. He competed in Lake Placid when we were there last summer.

We had a rain shower this morning. The forecast calls for passing showers through tomorrow afternoon. Saturday looks good, but we may have showers again on Sunday.



High Voltage

We slept in and had a leisurely morning yesterday before we pulled out of the 50,000 Silver $ RV Park. We drove west on I-90 and climbed up over Lookout Pass. The climb wasn’t bad. I took it easy and climbed in fourth gear at 45-50 mph.

The challenge on I-90 is the road construction. The day before, west of Missoula, they were painting stripes on the new surface. Only one lane was open. They had plastic stanchions on my right along the center stripe to keep vehicles from driving on the fresh paint. There was a concrete barrier on the left. It was tight. Our coach is eight and a half feet wide (102″). I didn’t have much room for error. We made it through without hitting anything, but it wasn’t a pleasant drive.

Coming over Lookout Pass yesterday, as soon as we hit the Idaho border, the road surface deteriorated. The steep descent down the west side of the pass was rough and uneven. I had the Jake brake on the high setting and kept our speed at 50mph.

West of Wallace, Idaho, a light rain began. Of course, I just spent hours cleaning the coach and wheels. The coach was already dusty from going through construction zones during Monday’s drive on MT200. The drizzling rain made a mess of the exterior.

We had another pass to cross before we reached Coeur d’Alene – 4th of July Pass. Again, I took it easy and climbed in fourth gear and used the Jake brake to control the descent. The engine temperature stayed cool and pulled us past semi tractor-trailer rigs as we climbed.

We programmed Tamarack RV Park as our destination in Nally (our GPS). Nally has been super-reliable and I rarely question her directions. This was a rare case where I knew something wasn’t right. She took us into a private road with narrow residential streets. I could see on the screen that the road we were on was a dead end.

I quit listening to her directions and looked at the map on the screen. I made a turn at the next intersection, which looked like it would connect to a major road. Donna phoned the RV park for directions. We weren’t far off. For some reason, the GPS was taking us to the back of the park where there isn’t a way to enter.

Once I got out of the private residential development, I was on Kathleen Avenue. I could see the road we should have been on, a quarter mile to the west. We turned south on Government Way and found the park entrance.

The Tamarack RV Park has nice, paved roads. But there are many trees and tight quarters. We’re in one of the largest pull-through sites here. It took a lot of jockeying back and forth to get the trailer lined up and position the coach where I wanted it.

As I began to set up, I plugged our Progressive Industries Electrical Management System (PT50C) into the pedestal. It registered an error and showed 255 volts! I saw a park maintenance man and called him over. He had me plug into a couple of other pedestals. It registered the same fault every time. He told me the last pedestal I tried was wired to a different circuit.

This made me think the PT50C might be the problem. I checked the power pedestal with a multi-meter and found 122 volts on each leg of the 50 amp circuit. My PT50C was the problem. I think it was damaged by the over-voltage occurrence at the 50,000 Silver $ Park.

I plugged us straight into the power pedestal without the PT50C and continued setting up. Donna made our site comfortable with the mat, chairs and flower pots on the table cloth-covered picnic table. She also added decorative lights along the edge of our site.

Donna relaxing at Tamarack RV park

Donna relaxing at Tamarack RV Park

Last night, I grilled chicken breasts with strawberries. Donna drizzled the chicken and strawberries with a balsamic reduction and served it with a side of mixed grains – red and gold quinoa, brown rice, amaranth and wild rice.

Grilled chicken and strawberries

Grilled chicken and strawberries

There are lots of trees in Tamarack RV Park – pines, firs and spruce. I don’t see any tamaracks though. The trees are blocking the Dish Network satellite signal. I’ll have to rely on the park’s cable TV. I hope I can tune in the Moto GP race this weekend.

Lots of trees here

Lots of trees here

This morning, I placed a call to Progressive Industries and told them about the problem with my PT50C. They told me that an internal component fried, causing the 255-volt reading. They said to ship the unit to them with a note describing the issue. They will replace the circuit board and reseal the unit and ship it back to me. No charge. Now that’s good customer service.

Donna is out riding on the Northern Idaho Centennial Trail. When she returns, I think I’ll get my bike out.

Say No to Missoula

We got an early start and pulled out of Dick’s RV Park in Great Falls around 9am. Our plan for the day was to head over to the WalMart in Missoula. We could resupply there and spend the night.

We stayed on MT200, which took us west, then southwest to Missoula. We drove through the plains which became rolling hills with spacious cattle ranches. Donna snapped picture after picture, but it’s hard to capture the scenic beauty as you’re rolling along.

Windshield view as we head toward the Helena National Forest

Windshield view as we headed toward the Helena National Forest

The terrain changed when we entered the Helena National Forest. The hills became mountains and the open pasture became Lodgepole pine forest. We crossed the Continental Divide at Rogers Pass. The elevation was 5,610 feet above sea level. From the little town of Vaughn all the way over the pass, we saw very few cars on the road. We would drive for 15 minutes or so without seeing a car before one would pass by. This was an easier route than going down I-15 to Helena, then crossing MacDonald and Mullan Passes on US12.

MT200 followed the Blackfoot River as we descended. We stopped in a town called Lincoln to stretch our legs and grab a snack. Donna bought a huckleberry milkshake and declared it delicious.

From Lincoln, the road continued along the Blackfoot River. We saw bicyclists heading uphill toward Lincoln. It appeared to be some kind of bicycle tour group. We saw a couple of stations with water and whatnot on tables for the riders.

We hit I-90 and Nally (our Rand McNally RVND7720 GPS) directed us to the WalMart on Mullan Road. The store was very busy and the parking lot was nearly full. We had a problem. As we entered the parking lot, Donna saw a sign that read “No Overnight Parking Per City Ordinance.”

I have to vent. WalMart made a corporate decision to encourage business from RVers on the road. Their policy is to allow overnight RV parking in their parking lots. I don’t understand why a city government has to interfere with a marketing decision that doesn’t harm the community. I’m guessing that an RV park owner convinced someone on the city council to create such an ordinance. This is the last time I’ll spend any money in Missoula. End of rant.

This stymied our plans. Donna went into WalMart to stock up on groceries while I looked for an alternative place for the night and bought two six-inch Subway sandwiches for our lunch. It took over an hour for Donna to complete her shopping. We rolled west on I-90 around 2:30pm.

Montana allows overnight parking in rest areas. I thought we could stay at a rest area near St. Regis. We came to a rest area about 30 miles west of Missoula. This rest area had a campground alongside. It was posted “No Overnight Camping” in the parking area and the campground was not for big rigs. We pulled on through and continued west on I-90.

We saw several billboards for a tourist trap called Lincoln’s 50,000 Silver $ Bar and Gift Shop. Donna happened to notice that one of the billboards also stated “Free RV Park.” It sounded interesting. We pulled off I-90 at exit 16 (16 miles east of the Idaho border). When we entered their large, open paved lot, there was a sign for RV parking behind the bar-restaurant.

It looked a little sketchy back there. It was unpaved and wooded. I parked on the pavement by a couple of semi tractor-trailer rigs to scope it out. Donna and I walked past the dirt lot behind the bar-restaurant and saw a small campground.

Free campsites

Free campsites

While we were walking back to the free campsite area, we saw a truck pull a fifth-wheel trailer into the site. The driver obviously had camped here before. He knew exactly where he wanted to park and pulled into a site from a dirt road at the back of the area. We were happy to discover that there were primitive pull-through sites that would easily fit our rig.

Donna picked out a fairly level site and claimed it. I walked back to our rig and drove around the back, following the route the fifth-wheel took and pulled into the site. While I was leveling the coach and putting the slides out, a guy from a site a few hundred feet away came over. He told Donna that some sites have 30-amp electrical service and we were in one of them! A free site with electrical service. This is what you call serendipity.

Free site!

Free site!

I was glad I had our Progressive Industries Portable Electrical Management System. I hooked up the 30-amp adapter and plugged it in. It cut off the power twice and threw a code for high voltage. I saw 127 volts on the display, but it must have surged even higher to cause the unit to interrupt power. Without the high voltage protection, it could have damaged the microwave oven, the TV or air conditioners. The voltage settled down to 122 volts and was fine for the rest of the stay. We were able to run the air conditioner and watch TV without burning fuel in the generator. Sweet!

The sites are intended for overnight use by customers of the bar-restaurant (which also has a casino – I think every bar in Montana is a casino). We walked to the bar and had a cold one shortly after arriving.

Lincoln’s 50,000 Silver $ Bar originally opened in Alberton, Montana in 1951. Gerry and Marie Lincoln built a bar and named it Cherry Springs after the small creek on their property. At that time, silver dollars were common. In October of 1952, Gerry cut a hole in the bar top, hammered a silver dollar in the hole and inscribed his and Marie’s name below it.

This started something that quickly caught on. By December of 1953, more than 2,000 people had placed a silver dollar in the bar top and had their name inscribed. They changed the name of the bar to Lincoln’s 2,000 Silver $ Bar. The name changed many times as the collection grew. The bar relocated a couple of times over the years as interstate construction began. The present location at exit 16 was built in 1976. It has a gas station, motel, restaurant, gift shop, bar and casino on several acres of land.

Today, the are more than 64,000 silver dollars mounted in the bar – 10,623 of which are real silver dollars. The rest are Eisenhower “sandwich” dollars that have copper cores.

I took a couple of photos, but the lighting was poor and the shots aren’t clear. The entire bar top is filled with silver dollars. The walls are full of boards with silver dollars mounted in them.

Silver dollars mounted on boards

Silver dollars mounted on boards

Silver dollars through out the bar

Silver dollars throughout the bar

I don’t need fuel, but I think I’ll top up the tank at their station as a thank you for the free campsite. We’ll continue on to Coeur d’Alene this morning.


Up Early

Maybe it’s a case of wanderlust. I don’t know. I woke up at 4:30am. An hour and a half later, I got out of bed. This isn’t my usual routine. Lately I’ve been sleeping in. Donna is usually the first one up while I linger in bed.

Yesterday, while Donna went for a bike ride, I finished my clean-up job on the coach. I polished the wheels, replaced the lug nut covers and treated the tire sidewalls with 303 Aerospace. It’s looking good!

Looking good!

Looking good!

Later, I scootered Donna over to Barnes and Noble. She worked on her book project again at the Starbucks there, utilizing the free wifi and enjoying a latte. I intended to go to a self-serve car wash to wash the scooter. I forgot to bring microfiber cloths along to dry the scooter though, so I scrapped that plan.

I came back to the RV park and organized the trailer and loaded the scooter. The trailer is set to go. When Donna returned, I grilled a pork tenderloin that she had marinated earlier. Paired with a Lagunitas IPA, it was scrumptious.

Pork tenderloin with sweet potato and broccoli

Pork tenderloin with sweet potato and broccoli

This morning, I’ll dump and flush the tanks, then it will be time to kick the tires and light the fires. We’ll head west on MT200 to Missoula. I know there’s some road construction on MT200, but I think it’s the best route for us.

The alternative is I-15 to Helena, then I-90. I think MT200 will be more scenic and we won’t have to climb Mullan Pass and McDonald Pass. I’m ready to say goodbye to the ubiquitous prairie dogs and cottontail rabbits in Great Falls. It’s time to move on!

Summer Solstice

Yesterday was the summer solstice. It marks the day with the longest period of sunlight. It would be more correct to call it the northern solstice, as it’s the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere. The southern hemisphere enjoys a summer solstice between December 20-23, depending on how the calendar falls in a given year.

We enjoyed a beautiful midsummer day. There were few clouds in the sky and the temperature reached a comfortable high of 74 degrees. More of the same is forecast for today and tomorrow.

Donna took advantage of the agreeable weather with a bike bike. She rode south on Fox Farm Road, along the Missouri River. She found a route she really enjoyed and put in 23 miles.

While Donna was out riding, I went to the office and paid $10 for the privilege of washing our rig. I started on the roof and then did the cargo trailer. I used Rain-X car wash with carnauba on the roof and trailer. I used NAPA (Mac’s) car wash on the rest of the coach. The Rain-X car wash left fewer water spots than the NAPA product. Next time I’ll use Rain-X on the entire coach. I spent over three hours washing the coach and cleaning all of the glass. It was 3pm by the time I finished and had some lunch. I was too whipped to do the wheels.

I scootered Donna over to Barnes and Noble, which is a mile from here. After being cooped up in our coach all week, she wanted to get some work done in fresh surroundings. She took advantage of the free wifi at the Starbucks inside Barnes and Noble. I came home and kicked back inside with the Formula One qualifying I recorded for Sunday’s race in Austria. It was great to see Filipe Massa take the pole position. Later, Donna walked home.

Last evening, a couple from Australia, Dave and Meredith, pulled into the site next to us. They flew from Australia to Washington State and bought a Ford truck and fifth wheel trailer. They plan to tour the USA and Canada over the next 12 months. What an adventuresome couple. This is their first RV experience and they’ve jumped into the deep end!

We chatted with them for a while. Dave wanted to buy beer, so I rode with him in his truck and showed him where the store was. I picked up a six-pack of IPA as well. Donna and I enjoyed happy hour snacks and drinks outdoors.

Donna enjoying happy hour

Donna enjoying happy hour

Today, after I watch the Formula One race, I’ll polish the wheels, put on the new lug nut covers and treat the rubber with 303 Aerospace Protectant. This is a great product to protect against UV degradation. I use it on the tire sidewalls and the lens covers on our coach. Some headlight lens covers can be damaged by UV rays and turn yellow.

New lug nut covers go on today

New lug nut covers go on today

I also need to organize the cargo trailer and prepare for travel. Tomorrow morning, we’ll pull out of Great Falls. We’re heading for Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, which is nearly 400 miles away. We’ll break the trip into two days, stopping in Missoula, Montana. We’ll probably stay overnight at the WalMart there.

Last week I neglected to post a photo of a great meal Donna prepared. She has the convection oven down and is getting the induction cooking down as well.

Cornish hen and roasted potatoes

Cornish hen and roasted potatoes

I don’t know if I’ll post again before we reach Couer d’Alene.

Blow Out

Thursday’s weather was running behind schedule. The forecast called for clearing around midday. It rained all morning and well into the afternoon. The RV lifestyle isn’t all fun and games and sightseeing. We’ve been cooped up in roughly 300 square feet of living space for five days. We finally had a break around 3pm and rode the scooter over to the Holiday Inn to pick up Donna’s race packet.

A beak from the rain

A break from the rain

When we returned, I changed the inner tube in her rear tire, removed the aerobars (they’re not allowed in mass start races), and then I cleaned and lubed the chain. Everything looked good – she was all set for the Friday morning start.

On Friday morning, we were up at 7am. Donna had her pre-race meal while I had a cup of yogurt and coffee. I checked her tire pressures and set the front tire at 115psi and the rear at 120psi. We rode our bikes three miles to the Broadwater Bay Park to check in for the race. We arrived at the park at 8:30am, half an hour before the scheduled start.

We learned that the actual start/finish line was another mile upriver on Lower River Road. After a short riders’ briefing in the parking lot, everyone rode to the start/finish area. I was a feeling a little out of place, tagging along on my mountain bike. I wanted to see the start and see Donna off. The field for the 40k bicycle race was small – only eight riders. Three were women and Donna was the only woman in her age category. All she had to do was finish the race to win her age group and qualify for the National Senior Olympics next summer.

It was shaping up to be a beautiful day with plenty of sunshine and just a light wind though the race director warned of high winds up on top of the Eden climb. Right at the start of the race, the wind picked up along the river. I rode back to our coach, battling fierce wind across the Central Avenue Bridge and back up the trail to the RV park. I could only imagine how tough the wind would be on top of the hill.

Once I reached our coach, I locked up my bike in the trailer and got on the scooter. I was about a mile out of the park when I realized that I left the bike lock back at our site. Donna and I planned to have lunch after the race and I would need to lock up her bike. I turned around and retrieved the lock.

When I reached the start/finish line, it was already after 10am. I rode up the race course, expecting to find Donna riding back toward the finish line. After I made the climb up the first big hill on Eden Road, an oncoming pickup truck slowed and the driver frantically waved at me out the window. He stopped in the road. I turned around to see what he needed.

He said, “Do you have a tire pump?” I thought, why would you stop me and ask a question like that? I told him I didn’t have a pump. He said, “Your wife has a flat tire and no pump.” I told him we didn’t need a pump and asked how far away she was. He told me she was about four miles down the road.

I blasted off on the scooter, riding 70mph. Another oncoming pickup truck was waving at me as it approached. I blew on by without stopping. A few minutes later, I saw Donna on the side of the road. She said, “Did you get my message? My tire blew. I don’t know if it’s fixable.” I didn’t get the messages because I was riding the scooter.

Her front tire was flat and I could see part of the tire had come off the rim. I pulled the wheel off the bike and removed the inner tube. I installed a new tube and reseated the tire. I didn’t need a tire pump because we had an Innovations air chuck with CO2 cartridges to fill the tire in a situation like this. I filled the tire with a 16 gram CO2 cartridge. The tire inflated and then, after a few seconds, the tire bead blew off the rim. It blew off in the same place as before. I looked at the bead. It was damaged and wouldn’t seat in the groove of the rim. We were out of options. If I had received Donna’s message while I was still back at the coach, I could have brought the entire front wheel from my road bike.

That was it, race over. Donna was an official DNF (did not finish). One of the race staff volunteers put Donna’s bike in his truck – it was the same guy who flagged me down and asked if I had a pump. He gave her a ride back to the RV park.

Her race was over, but her goal of qualifying for the National Senior Olympics may still be attainable. We’re looking at a couple of options. Since our home state of South Dakota doesn’t offer a qualifying bicycle road race event, there are two ways for Donna to qualify. The Montana event would have qualified her without question. Now it seems we have to find another qualifier in another state (Washington is a possibility) or she has to complete two races and petition for inclusion. She’s already completed one of the two required by racing in the Tour de Mesa back in April.

After Donna returned to the park, we rode the scooter over to MacKenzie River Pizza for lunch. I think I was more bummed about the tire failure than Donna was. I should have changed her tires. They were old, but the modern tire compounds wear like iron. They looked decent, until the bead failed. I guess I need to treat them like RV tires – replace them based on age, not visual cues.

After lunch, we rode over to the Big Horn Outdoor store, which was recommended to us for high-end road bike gear. I bought new tires for Donna – Continental GP4000 S tires to be specific. These tires are hand-made in Germany and it’s reflected in the pricing!

New hand-made tires

New hand-made tires

We stopped back at the park and dropped off her tires. Then we went to the grocery store to stock up. Did I mention the weather? It was a partly cloudy, but dry day. We had a load of groceries to scooter back to the park. I think it was the biggest load ever.

After we returned, I installed the new tires on Donna’s bike. No issues, the bead seated with no problem. I still can’t get my head around the tire failure. I put a new tube in that tire last Sunday. Donna rode over 40 miles since then. How does the bead suddenly fail and the tire blow off the rim? I’ve changed hundreds if not thousands of bicycle tires and tubes over the last 35 years. I don’t recall ever seeing a failure like this.

Last night, I grilled Jamaican jerk chicken. Donna served it over brown rice with mango salsa and broccoli on the side. We were able to dine al fresco at the picnic table. Hurray!

Jamaican jerk chicken with mango salsa

Jamaican jerk chicken with mango salsa

Today, we have blue skies and a fair weather forecast for the coming days. Donna is planning to go out for a bike ride. I want to wash the coach and polish the wheels. We’ll pull out of Great Falls on Monday.


Tamale Tuesday

This morning I awoke to the sound of raindrops drumming on the roof of our coach – the same sound I heard yesterday and the day before that. The north and east ends of Dick’s RV Park are giant mud puddles. I’m happy to be in the drier southwest corner, even though we’re closer to the road noise.

On Tuesday afternoon, we had a break in the rain. The forecast called for about an hour lull in the rain showers. Donna went for a walk while it was dry out. I checked our batteries and puttered around. We had about 60 or 70 gallons of fresh water on board. I dumped the tank and refilled it with 100 gallons of the city water here in the park. Great Falls has great water! Much better than the water we’ve been carrying from the desert. When Donna returned, she told me she saw a tamale vendor on the street corner across the 6th Street bridge.

The next bout of rain showers hadn’t arrived yet, so I hustled over to check out the tamales. There was a trailer set up as a kitchen in the church parking lot at 6th Street and 10th Avenue. It had a sign that said “Electric City Concessions” on the side. Electric City is the nickname given to Great Falls, due to having the first hydroelectric generating plant on the Missouri River here.

They offered homemade tamales wrapped in corn husks. Two dollars each, six for $8.50 or $16.00 for a dozen. Tamales are a traditional Mesoamerican dish made from masa ( a corn based starchy dough). In  Mexico, tamales are made with different fillings and can be eaten for breakfast (usually with a sweet filling) or dinner. The masa is wrapped with corn husks or leaves and steamed.

I bought half a dozen tamales. These were savory with a ground pork filling. I brought them back to the coach and split them with Donna. They were fairly small, so three each was about right for lunch. Electric City Concessions sets up every Tuesday at the church (Tamale Tuesday). We won’t have another opportunity to buy them as we’ll be leaving Great Falls next Monday.

Yesterday, it  rained all day with only a brief break in the evening. Donna and I took a short walk through the park during the break. We avoided the muddy north side. Last night, Donna prepared fish tacos for dinner – one of my favorites.

I’m trying to use the RV park’s wifi as much as possible. With the rain and the park fairly full, their wifi is unreliable. Being inside all day means we are burning through our data allotment. Eight days into our cycle, we’ve used 59% of our current plan. I can raise our allotment and probably will before the cycle ends.

The rain is supposed clear up around noon today. I need to change the rear inner tube on Donna’s bike. I’ll also clean and lube the chain in preparation for tomorrow’s race. At some point, we need to scooter over to the Holiday Inn to pick up her race packet. We may have a shower or two this evening, but we should have clear, blue skies for tomorrow’s race.