Category Archives: Grilling

The Sun is Eclipsed by the Moon

We survived the solar eclipse. On Sunday afternoon and evening, a few more people showed up here at the city park in Bayard, Nebraska. An older Monaco Windsor class A motorhome parked next to us in the full hook-up site. A car with Texas plates parked on our passenger side and the lone occupant put up a tent in the park. Later, another car with two guys joined our new friends from Longmont, Colorado, Frazier and Debra, in the last campsite and put up a tent in their site.

The Monaco had three occupants, the elderly owner and his son and daughter. The owner – I didn’t get his name – was 90 years old and bought the Monaco new in 1991. He wanted to see the total eclipse as he figured it was his last opportunity. He also figured that this trip to see the eclipse, then Estes Park in Colorado and a couple of other sites would be his last motorhome adventure with his son and daughter.

The car from Texas on the other side of us was driven by Jesus. He made the trip up from Fort Worth to capture images of the total eclipse. He had a nice telescope that he uses to observe planets and the moon and he planned to use it to make a video and capture photographs of the eclipse. He was a nice guy and just wanted to find a place off the beaten path to take his photos.

Jesus and his telescope

On Monday morning, a few local people turned out at the park to see the eclipse. It was very low key with maybe 20 to 30 people overall. Many brought snacks, drinks and/or lunch and sat in the grass or at the picnic tables in the pavilion.

People in the park

The partial eclipse began at 10:26am local time. You wouldn’t know anything was happening unless you had eclipse glasses and could look into the sun to see the moon begin to cross the sun. It was a slow process and I was surprised to see how little effect it had on the amount of sunlight for the most part. Once the moon had obliterated all but a small sliver of the sun the amount of sun light noticeably decreased and air felt cooler like it does in the evening.

While we were waiting for it to happen, a few people amused us with eclipse parlor tricks. If you can catch shadows just right, you can see the crescent shape of the available sunlight in the shadows.

Sunlight crescents in leaf shadows

Sunlight through a colander shows the crescent shaped sunlight

At 11:49am bam! – the sunlight was gone. We were suddenly in darkness but it wasn’t totally dark. Although it was dark enough where we were for light sensor-activated street lights to turn on after a minute or so, on the horizon in every direction it looked like the sun was rising. This was the edge area of the total eclipse where partial sunlight was still hitting the earth. Cicadas began buzzing with the sounds of evening at mid-day. After about a minute and a half, the sunlight returned quickly. Again, without looking directly into the sun with eclipse glasses, you wouldn’t really know much out of the ordinary was happening.

Jesus in the darkness at 11:49am

In the end it was a fleeting moment in time, but everyone was buzzing about it and I’m glad we were able to experience the total eclipse. I now know that being in an area with 90%+ coverage is meaningless compared to the total eclipse – like I said, up to about 97-98% you wouldn’t know much was happening without looking into the sun with special glasses. In Donna’s words, “It’s the difference between night and day.”

The park soon cleared out and the tent campers packed up and left. Jesus had a long drive ahead to get back to Fort Worth. By 4pm, we were the only ones left at the park. Earlier, before the eclipse, I had ridden the Spyder into town and paid for another night here in Bayard. In the town office I paid $10 – that makes our cost for three nights with 50amp electrical service and fresh water come out to about $3.33/night!

The grocery store in town is small but they have their meats prepared by their own butcher. Donna bought a spatchcocked chicken at the store – I wrote about spatchcock here. It was a small, presumably locally sourced chicken of about three pounds perfectly spatchcocked. I set up the Weber Q and grilled it for dinner.

Grilled spatchcocked chicken

Donna served it with roasted butternut squash and sauteed spinach with garlic. It was delicious – the chicken was tender and juicy.

This morning, Donna is out for a bike ride. We plan to pull out of here by 11am and make the 145 -mile drive to Cheyenne, Wyoming. We plan to stay overnight there at the Sierra Trading Post outlet – we stayed there a year ago. Then we’ll move on to Longmont, Colorado where we hope to get a site at the fairgrounds – they don’t take reservations.

The high temperature today in Cheyenne is supposed to be 78 degrees with clear skies and overnight it will drop into the upper 50s.

Since leaving Iowa we’ve been steadily gaining elevation across the great plains. Bayard, Nebraska sits at an elevation of about 3,900 feet above sea level and we’ll be at 6,000 feet above sea level in Cheyenne. Longmont, Colorado is closer to 5,000 feet above sea level.

 

Four Years Down the Road

I ended my last post as we backtracked to Waukon after the finish of RAGBRAI on Saturday. Team RV There Yet? went our separate ways.

Our destination was southwest of Waukon. I programmed our destination into Nally, our Rand McNally RVND 7720 GPS. She directed us on a route that took us south, then west in a stair-step manner utilizing mostly county roads. I trust the GPS most of the time – there have been a few occasions when I had to override her directions. The thing is, the RVND is an RV-specific unit. I entered our vehicle height, length, weight and other parameters such as how much propane we have on board. When the GPS calculates out route, low clearances or bridge weight limits, etc. are factored into the route.

We hit IA150 at Independence, Iowa and went south to Interstate 380. We were on 380 for about a mile and half and exited at Urbana where we found the Lazy Acres RV Park. The designation 380 for the north-south Interstate that runs from the Waterloo area to Iowa City seemed strange.

Primary Interstates have a one- or two-digit designation with even numbers designating an east-west route and odd numbers indicating a north-south route. Auxiliary interstate highways have a three-digit number with the last two numbers indicating which main Interstate route it’s attached to – in this case I-80. When the first digit is an even number, it means the auxiliary interstate is a loop. When the first digit is an odd number, it means it’s a spur. In this example, I-380 is spur from Interstate 80 to Waterloo.

The Lazy Acres RV Park is geared toward family use but it’s very quiet on weekdays. Even on the weekend, quiet hours are strictly enforced after 10pm. We were assigned to a long pull-through site – it has to be at least 100 feet long. The graveled parking lane is relatively narrow but the site overall is spacious with a large lawn area, picnic table and fire ring.

It was nice to find a quiet place to rest and unwind from all of the RAGBRAI activity that had us packing up and moving every day for an entire week. After we set up, we rode the Spyder about 10 miles into the countryside near the town of VInton where we found Donna’s nephew’s house.

Mark and his wife Jamie have about eight acres and a nice home of about 5,000 square feet – a big change from the 350 square feet we now call home. After the grand tour, Jamie put out some appetizers and then Mark grilled burgers and brats. It was nice to sit and talk with them.

On Sunday, we decided to extend our stay here until Tuesday. We’re in no hurry to be anywhere so an extra day of quiet time was nice. I even got my fishing pole out and fished the pond here. The office had photos of large mouth bass and catfish taken from the pond.

Fishing for fish

I didn’t have much luck. I had several bites, but they were small fish – not even big enough to take the whole bait in. They took nibbles and stole my bait. It was relaxing anyway.

Today we’ll move on a short distance to Amana. We’ll spend two or three nights there. We’ve been told there are interesting historic sites to see and they have a brewery!

The weather forecast calls for 80s there today, cololing to the mid 70s for the rest of the week. Thundershowers are likely on Thursday, so maybe we’ll stay until Friday.

By the way, I neglected to mention that the first day of RAGBRAI, July 23, marked our four-year anniversary on the road. And in case you’re wondering, we feel like we’re just getting started.

 

*Just so you know, if you follow one of my links to Amazon and decide to purchase anything, you pay the same price as usual and  I’ll earn a few pennies for the referral. It’ll go into the beer fund. Thanks!

RAGBRAI – Days 4,5 & 6

I haven’t had a good internet connection for a couple of days, so I’m catching up on the ride now. The day four weather forecast Wednesday morning was not promising. It called for thunderstorms – possibly severe. Looking at the Radar Express app on my smartphone, I could see a line of heavy thunderstorms just west of us and it was moving east. Donna and Jeff Spencer decided to take a day off and not chance riding in what could turn out to be dangerous conditions. Geoff Harrison and Tom decided to go for it. They took off before 6am and hammered eastward to try and outrun the storm. So, team RV There Yet? was split up on Wednesday.

We headed out from Clear Lake before 7am and made a 46-mile drive to Charles City. The bike route for the day was 57.5 miles. We went to a high school that was identified as the main campground. When we arrived there it was chaotic as RVs were trying to exit and enter at the same time while other RVs stopped in the parking area. It turned out the organizers wanted to only have tent campers there. We were told we should go to the KMart parking lot.

Up to this point, the RV camping had been organized pretty well. Trying to accommodate the number of riders and support vehicles of this event in small towns is a logistical nightmare. The crew at KMart wasn’t prepared for the onslaught of RVs. It was every man for himself. We found a level spot that would allow us to exit without too much hassle and had our three rigs lined up.

A fifth-wheel trailer parked next to me and the woman driving it said she was worried about being able to get out in the morning. I told her we planned to leave before 7am and she should have plenty of room to maneuver once we were out. Then she told me one of the crew directing the parking said he might have to put someone lengthwise across our respective bows. This would block us all in. When she told him we needed to able to leave in the morning he said, “Yeah, everyone will leave in the morning.”

What he didn’t seem to understand was not everyone leaves at the same time. That’s why he was still trying to find space for people two hours after we arrived. We put our chairs out in the area in front of our rigs to keep the area clear.

Geoff and Tom rode hard and they made it to Charles City ahead of the storm. I think Donna made the right choice to take the day off though, I don’t think she could safely ride the pace they rode and would have ended up exhausted and possibly caught by high winds, lightning and heavy rain. The number of riders out was way down from the previous days. Where we were parked we only caught the edge of the storm cells. I could see the severe weather around us on the weather radar.

Charles City is called the “Hump Before the Hills.” It was hump day and eastern Iowa gets hilly from there to the Mississippi River. Fred had flank steak marinating in his special sauce and Jeff grilled it – we had corn on the cob to go along with it and enjoyed another great meal together.

Storm moving off to the east

Deb Spencer and I looked at the route laid out for vehicles to get from Charles City to Cresco on Thursday. The route looked fine if you were leaving from the high school, but we were across town at KMart. It would require us to go through the center of town with heavy traffic and cross the bike route which can be difficult as a line of bikes are streaming down the road. We mapped an alternate route which worked out great. We looped around town on US218 and found IA9 that took us all the way to Cresco.

Heading out for day five

We went to the county fairgrounds. When we pulled up at the entrance, the girl directing traffic in the street asked me if I had a reservation. Uh-oh. When I told her “No,” she said I would have to go to the dry camping area. Whew! That’s what we were planning to do anyway.

We’ve figured out that if we leave in the vehicles before 7am, we can reach the day’s destination early enough to be ahead of most of the support vehicles and snag choice camping spots. This worked out great at the fairgrounds as we found a nice level grassy area and parked together. Vehicles kept arriving after us and within 45 minutes, the place was packed and people were pulling in then turning around to find another place for the night.

I got my mountain bike out of the trailer and then pulled out my Orbea road bike. Our plan was to ride to the Iowa Craft Beer tent later and meet up with the rest of the team. I haven’t had my road bike out in a while and I had to change the tube in the front tire – the presta valve was leaking. Deb was going to ride my mountain bike and I would ride my road bike. Then we found out the beer tent was a lot farther away than we thought. We bagged the plan.

When I saw a text from Jeff saying they were about seven miles from town, I rode my mountain bike downtown. I saw Geoff and Tom come by and shortly after that I found Jeff and Donna. I led them to our site – the fairgrounds are fairly large and by then RVs were scattered all over the place. The volunteers were directing riders to the south end of the fairgrounds – we were on the north end.

One of Thursday’s highlights was Lance Armstrong riding the course. A couple of NASCAR racers were on the ride as well – Jimmie Johnson and another that I can’t remember now. I saw a Featherlite Coach built on a Prevost XLII chassis in the fairgrounds. It was decorated with University of Iowa Hawkeye logos and the license plate was Coach1. I thought it was maybe an Iowa Hawkeyes football coach, so I introduced myself and inquired. It turns out he was a fan, not a coach. His license plate was a reference to his number one coach.

When I mentioned his XLII double slide chassis, he asked if I was a Prevost owner – he said only a Prevost guy would recognize the difference between an XL and an XLII. I told him I was an RV geek – I knew the XLII didn’t have the visible rivets of an XL.

Featherlite Vantare on an Prevost XLII chassis

There are more school buses converted to bicycle support vehicles than I ever imagined. We seem to have gotten into a rhythm with other RV support vehicles that make an early start and arrive at the next destination around the same time as us. But I still see a schoolie here and there that I haven’t seen before.

Colorful schoolie from Georgia

The temperature was cooler on Thursday and everyone enjoyed a great ride. Well, almost everyone. Jeff and Donna witnessed a crash involving three riders just ahead of them. The riders were down and police on site called for an an ambulance. We’ve seen a few crashes – it can happen in a heartbeat when riders are in a pack and someone gets distracted.

This morning we were up and ready to roll at the usual time.

Team RV There Yet? day six

We’ve been driving on two-lane highways through rural farmland all week and today was no different. We encountered some rolling hills, but when we arrived at the fairgrounds in Waukon our elevation was about the same as when were in Cresco and Charles City before that – about 1,300 feet above sea level. Once again we snagged primo parking with an easy exit plan for tomorrow.

Primo parking spot

We were able to track the progress of the riders through instant messaging. When Donna and Jeff left Postville – the last town before Waukon – Deb, Fred and I headed out on our bicycles. Our plan was to meet them at the craft beer tent – we figured it was about 5-7 miles away and we should arrive around the same time a Jeff and Donna. Tom and Geoff were ahead of them.

I rode my Orbea road bike, Deb took my Specialized mountain bike and Fred rode his Trek hybrid. Our route shortcutted the final leg of the riders course and had rolling hills. It was also longer than we expected – about eight miles. We made it there and managed to meet up with everyone.

It was warm out and everyone wanted a spot in the shade.

Shade tree

Tom, Fred, Jeff, Deb and Donna in our shady spot

I had a cup of Des Moines IPA,Donna had a hefeweizen – she also had a bacon and blue cheese bratwurst. The ride back was a little harder – it had more uphill sections than downhill and we were riding into a headwind.

Tomorrow is the final day of RAGBRAI XLV – it’s also has the most hills on this year’s course. I have a couple more pictures to upload, but my internet connection is so poor I’m giving up and hoping I can get this post published. After Donna completes the course tomorrow we’ll be on the road – so I won’t post again until Sunday at the earliest.

 

 

Back to South Dakota

We pulled out of the Broadus, Montana city park around 10am Sunday. Our route had us continue down US212 where we traversed the northeast corner of Wyoming before we reached South Dakota. We saw several antelope in the fields along the roadside this time – I expected to see them the day before but didn’t.

We drove through the town of Belle Fourche, South Dakota which has the distinction of being near the designated geographic center of the United States of America. This designation was  bestowed by the US Coast and Geodetic Survey in 1959 – after Alaska and Hawaii were admitted to the union. The geographic center of the 48 contiguous states is Lebanon, Kansas.

We drove through town on US 85 next to a truck pulling a fifth-wheel trailer which had a cargo trailer attached to it – you don’t see that very often! We turned southeast at SD34 while the trailer pulling a trailer went straight down US85. We hit I-90 at Whitewood west of Sturgis. A little while later, the trailer pulling a trailer passed us at about 70mph. He must have taken US85 due south and got on I-90 west of Spearfish. Ours was definitely the shorter, faster route.

We pulled into the Elks Lodge in Rapid City around 1:30pm. I parked in the front lot while we figured out how to set up. This is a very nice lodge – one of the largest and cleanest lodges we’ve visited. This is the first lodge we’ve been to where the bar is open to the public. This is due to the golf course on the lodge property which is also open to the public. The RV lot is for Elks members only.

We dropped the trailer in the main parking lot and backed the coach into site four. We have 50amp electric service and fresh water, no sewer hook up. We paid for four nights and shouldn’t have any worries about sewer. The 50 amp electric service was needed – we had to run the generator on the road to power the front roof air conditioner. Once hooked up, we ran both roof A/Cs – it was 100 degrees outside! The average high temperature in July for Rapid City is 85 degrees – we were in for a few days with highs above average.

We had a problem with one of the basement compartment doors over the last couple of days on the road. The door popped open a few times. I adjusted the plate the latch attaches to, but it still wasn’t very secure. On Monday, I found an Ace Hardware store and bought a flat brass bar one-inch wide. I had them cut a three-inch section. I glued this flat bar to the latch plate effectively extending the height of the plate. The door latches securely now and shouldn’t be a problem down the road. While I was out, I picked up a few groceries.

Meanwhile, Donna was out for a bike ride in the 90 degree heat. She planned a route looking at a map and headed out for a 24-mile ride. Little did she know her route included some steep climbs! She got through it though.

I went online Monday and found the local Department of Public Safety (DPS) licensing office. I found out they take appointments for driver’s license exams and renewals. Donna lost her driver’s license back in November in San Diego – she figures it must have slipped out of the slot in her purse when she pulled her cell phone out. I scheduled an appointment at the DPS office a few miles from the lodge for 10am Tuesday morning. They advise arriving 10 minutes prior to the appointment time.

We walked into the DPS office 12 minutes before 10am. They had a sign telling us to take a number after we completed the application paperwork. Donna had already completed the application so she took a number. Then I saw another sign telling us to notify a clerk if we had an appointment. Donna told a woman at the counter she had an appointment and gave her name. She was told that she would be next in line.

We sat down to wait and within two minutes Donna’s name was called. The woman at the counter entered Donna’s application in her computer terminal, took her photograph and printed her new driver’s license in less than ten minutes! I’ve never experienced such efficiency at a government agency.

We were back on the Spyder and on the road a couple of minutes past 10am. We headed up US16 and turned off at 16A. We were headed to Mount Rushmore. We visited the monument in 2013 when we first hit the road as full-timers (post).

Once we got through the tourist town of Keystone, we hit a traffic jam trying to enter the monument. There was a crew painting new road lettering and arrows and they had a lane closed. This confused the traffic as it was forced to converge into two lanes from three – the two lanes that are for entry to the monument. Through traffic had to go around the crew, then get out of the entry lane at the entrance and get back on the highway. We baked in the sun for 20 minutes trying to enter.

When we were here before, we paid the $10 fee to park and were planning to show our National Parks pass inside but there was no entrance fee. This time I showed my National Parks pass and was told the pass doesn’t do anything for me at the monument – everyone has to pay for a parking permit to enter the monument. So I paid $10 again. We walked through the monument viewing area. We both thought the famous sculptures looked like they had been cleaned since our last visit.

Donna in front of the state flags display

At the viewing pavillion

We didn’t stay long. We went back to Keystone for lunch at Peggy’s Cafe. We were disappointed in the food quality – not on our recommended list. I wanted to take the scenic drive down Needles Highway again but realized that would mean we had to fight our way through the traffic jam at the monument again.

I decided to ride the Spyder down 16A to SD87 and we could come up the Needles Highway from the bottom. This route took us through Custer State Park. At the park entrance there was a sign advising a fee for a park pass to use any of the parks facilities – through traffic on the highway didn’t need a pass. So I carried on without stopping.

At the turn-off to Needles Highway we were stopped and an agent told us we had to purchase a pass to enter the highway, even if we didn’t plan to stop. I didn’t recall paying anything four years ago when we drove down the highway. I paid $10 for a pass.

Needles Highway is very scenic – and it’s slow. The road is narrow and full of twists and turns. There are six tunnels – some a as narrow as eight feet seven inches. I don’t know how the tour buses which are eight feet six inches wide manage to get through, but they do.

I didn’t stop to take photos at the Cathedral Spires which are granite columns – needle like – towering along a section of road. I thought we would come back down the highway and I would get pictures then. We went all the way to Sylvan Lake before stopping to stretch our legs.

Sylvan Lake

We were hot and the route was longer than I anticipated. We didn’t have enough fuel to back-track down the highway. We cooled off in the shade and Donna even put her feet in the lake.

Donna cooling off in Sylvan Lake

We exited the highway at the top end and rode back to Rapid City. We had put in about 110 miles and spent four hours on the Spyder. We had enough sightseeing for one day – we were getting saddle sore.

We ended the day with grilled green chile turkey burgers cooked on the Weber Q for dinner and some leftover red potato salad.

Green chile turkey burger

I opened an IPA called Total Domination from Ninkasi Brewing in Eugene, Oregon.

Ninkasi Total Domination

We’re thinking about going to a barbeque and rodeo later today – it depends on the weather. For the last three days, a thunder shower developed in the late afternoon. Usually it blows through quickly but we had a considerable amount of rain along with high winds, thunder and lightning last night.

Tomorrow we’ll head east and probably make an overnight stop near Chamberlain before we check in for a week in Sioux Falls.

The Rude Crew

Life on the road isn’t always fun and games and sightseeing. We had a couple of reminders of this while we were staying in Winthrop. For one thing, sometimes things quit working or need maintenance – just like in a sticks-and-bricks home.

While we were in Winthrop, our toilet starting acting up. We have a Thetford Aria II electrically operated toilet. I can’t find an actual technical description or schematic of the operating system, but looking at the parts list, here’s how I think it works.

When you push the flush button it sends a signal to the control module (CM). The CM activates a solenoid that opens and allows water to flow through an impeller inside a plastic housing. At the same time, water is added to the toilet bowl. The impeller spins and operates a mechanism that opens the blade valve in the bottom of the bowl. The bowl empties and the first solenoid closes while a second solenoid opens, reversing the flow through the impeller and closing the valve. More water is added to the bowl and the flushing sequence is finished.

Last week, the toilet would add water to the bowl when the flush button was pressed, but it wouldn’t always open the blade valve. It took several presses before the toilet would actually flush. I tried to look at it while it operated and see what was going on, but the back of the toilet where the operating mechanism is was too close to the bathroom wall for me to be able to see. I saw a couple of drops of water come from somewhere in the back when a flush was attempted. I felt around and thought the water was coming from the impeller housing. I tried tightening the bolts on the housing, but I couldn’t get a wrench on all of the bolts.

So, I had to remove the toilet and turn it sideways to see what was going on. Of course I had to disconnect the water supply to do that so I couldn’t flush and observe. I tightened the impeller housing bolts and while I was at it, I decided to tighten the seat and lid mounts. To do this I had to reach inside the back and feel for the little lever on the plastic mounting nuts. In the process of doing this I felt something strange – the open end of a plastic hose. I put my head down on the floor and peered upward with a flashlight and found a hose had come off a plastic barb. This was my water leak and maybe it was impeding flow through the impeller.

I reconnected the hose and put everything back together. The toilet flushed fine and no leak! Job done! I don’t know how the hose came off, but if we have trouble again I know where to look.

Over the long holiday weekend, the Pine Near RV Park was overflowing with people. There were tents pitched all around and even people camping in regular vehicles. It wasn’t too bad during the day as most people were out and about. The evenings got a little noisy.

We enjoyed dining outdoors at the picnic table and watching the antics of some of the kids. Donna made a jerk marinade for shrimp which I grilled for Sunday night’s dinner. She served it with an orzo, spinach, tomato and feta salad with basil vinaigrette.

Shrimp with orzo salad

Park overflowing – the Bounder and tents on the right turned out to be a problem.

Sunday night a group of people about 100 feet away from us got rowdy. This group appeared to be friends and extended family with three generations together. They were housed in a Fleetwood Bounder Classic motorhome – which we assumed belonged to the grandparents – tents and a rental cabin. They had a number of little kids and young adults.

After dark the little kids were inside and a group of about a dozen thirty-somethings sat outside around a table where they were drinking and playing some kind of game. They were hooting and hollering and one of them would break out with loud, shrill laughter. A little before 11pm Donna went over and politely asked them if the could keep it down. They seemed okay.

But it didn’t end. If anything they got louder. After 1am, I’d had enough. I went over and asked them to stop the noisy partying. They were obviously intoxicated and told me they were camping and having fun. I told them they weren’t out camping in a secluded area, they were sitting in the middle of a hundred people trying to sleep. They told me if I didn’t like it, I should leave! They kept at it until well after 2am. I’ve never encountered such a thoughtless and rude crew in an RV park before.

Monday morning while we were preparing to hit the road, Donna had a conversation with Anna, the owner of Pine Near RV Park. She told Anna we enjoyed our week in the park until Sunday night. She said it was the worst night she’d ever had in an RV park in our entire four years on the road.

Anna said we should have called her – she keeps her cell phone on her nightstand and comes out when there’s a complaint. She lives onsite and she usually sleeps with her window open. But she was up the night before dealing with a loud group on the other end of the park and slept right through the noise we were complaining about.

Rude crew Bounder

If you see the Bounder pictured above in the RV park, you might want to consider staying somewhere else. I had to remind myself that these were not RV people. They were “camping out” in tents and rental cabins. They were clueless about RV etiquette and obviously had no sense at all. Anna said she would deal with them and apologized for the unacceptable behavior.

We pulled out of Winthrop before 10am – both of us feeling the effects of a near sleepless night. We avoided the traffic on WA20 by taking the Twisp – Winthrop Eastside Road. Our route took us down WA153 along the Methow River to Pateros where the Methow reaches the Columbia River.

From there we took US97 across the Columbia River to WA17 through Bridgeport onto WA174 past the Chief Joseph Dam and the Grand Coulee Dam and onto US2. This highway took us east and we stopped at a rest area east of Creston – one of the very few rest areas found on US2. We ate lunch at a picnic table at the rest area and met a guy touring on a motorcycle. He had ridden his Indian motorcycle from Allen Park, Michigan where he left a week before. He was headed for the coast.

When we got back on the road, I noticed something strange. My ScanGuage D was displaying erratic coolant temperature readings. As I accelerated out of the rest area, the reading shot up to 220 degrees – I doubted if this was a true reading as we had parked for at least 20 minutes I would have expected to see a temperature of around 170 degrees. An over-temp alarm sounded, then the temperature reading went down to 170. Then it jumped back up to 215, then 220 and an alarm sounded before it went back down to 180 and then it read normal temperatures between 180 and 190 for the rest of the way. I’ll have to inspect the wiring or maybe I have a sensor malfunctioning.

We made a stop for fuel after crossing into Idaho on I-90. While I was fueling up, Donna called the Coeur d’Alene Elks Lodge to see if they had an open site. They did. The camp host told her we should take exit 11 and come up Ramsey Road. The usual way is to take exit 12 and go up US95. He said US95 was a traffic snarl and coming in from Ramsey to the west was a better option. His route worked great. We dropped the trailer and backed into site 23.

Coeur d’Alene Elks site 23

Several rigs came in after us but there’s still a few open sites. In the evening, I saw on Facebook that my friend Gary Stemple is here. We plan to hook up this afternoon for a Fourth of July boat ride on the lake.

It was blissfully quiet all night and Donna and I woke up well-rested. She’s out on the bike trail taking a ride to Spokane and back this morning. Wherever you are, I hope you have safe and happy Independence Day!

Winthrop Discoveries

We did some sight seeing on Thursday afternoon. We rode the Spyder out East Chewuch Road past the Pearrygin Lake turn-off, then crossed over the river to West Chewuch Road. We continued north past Boulder Creek and Eightmile Creek until we found the aptly named Falls Creek.

Falls Creek flows from the west and empties into the Chewuch River. There’s a trailhead on the west side of the road north of the bridge over the creek. About a quarter mile up the trail there’s a waterfall. It’s an easy hike with the trail partially paved.

View of the falls from the trail

Here’s a closer view with spray hanging in the air

It was warm out – the temperature was in the upper 80s. Near the falls it was much cooler as spray from falls evaporated and cooled the air.

Falls Creek downstream of the waterfall

There’s another waterfall higher up trail, but you need to be prepared to scramble up a steep climb. We didn’t wear appropriate shoes for such a climb. We started up the trail but it was too steep and slippery, so we gave it up figuring it wasn’t worth risking a fall.

Later Donna prepared wild Alaskan sockeye salmon. She simply salted and peppered the filet, added sliced lemon and I grilled it on a cedar plank. The plank had been soaked in water for a couple of hours.

Cedar planked salmon

I grilled the salmon at about 350 degrees for 17 minutes or so – it reached an internal temperature of 130 degrees before I removed the fish from the plank.

Donna served it with grilled fresh garlic scapes and sauteed kale and garlic. It was a tasty dish.

Dinner is served

The evenings cool quickly and our picnic table in site 11 is shaded by a large tree – so we dined outdoors.

Friday was another warm day – upper 80s again. Once again we headed out on the Spyder leaving Pine Near RV Park around 11am. We headed southeast from town out Twin Lakes Road then west on Patterson Lake Road. Our destination was Sun Mountain Lodge – a resort overlooking the Methow Valley. The views are spectacular.

Lower Methow Valley from Sun Mountain Lodge

Upper Methow Valley from Sun Mountain Lodge – snow on the peak on the left

North end of Patterson Lake from Sun Mountain Lodge

We had lunch on the outdoor deck at the Wolf Creek Bar and Grill in the lodge. It was shaded and pleasant outside. The lodge has a great taxidermy display that came from the estate of a local resident after he passed away.

On the way back into the valley from the lodge we stopped at the Winthrop National Fish Hatchery.

We met a docent that gave us a tour and told us about the history of the place. He and his wife are full-time RVers and workcamp at the fishery. They work 20 hours a week – five four-hour days and live in their motorhome with full hookups at the hatchery for four months during the summer.

Click on the photos to enlarge and read the placards

This hatchery doesn’t allow as much access to the fish runs as the hatchery we visited in Branson, Missouri. It does have a viewing area where we saw large Chinook salmon that had returned to their birth place after a few years at sea. It’s amazing that they can make the 600-mile fresh water journey upstream to reach the hatchery from the Pacific Ocean. Over 1100 salmon returned in June. After the fish spawn, they are allocated to two Native American tribes in the area.

The tour included a cup of fish food for each of us to take to a holding pond where we fed the trout in the pond. There were some large trout along with hundreds of smaller fish.

After we returned, Donna braved the heat and went out on her bicycle – she put in 16 miles out Wolf Creek Road.

For dinner, Donna had marinated a pork tenderloin with her mojo marinade sauce. I grilled it along with two ears of corn on the cob still in the husks. I soaked the corn for about 20 minutes and removed the cornsilk before I put it on the grill. I grilled the pork tenderloin and corn for about 22 minutes at about 350 degrees – turning the tenderloin.

The grill thermometer is an upgrade from our old Weber Q – we love the Q2200

Donna fixed an Asian chopped salad for a side with the pork and corn.

Once again we dined outdoors in the shade.

Donna found pickleball in Winthrop! She found a schedule for open play at the skating rink where they play on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Too bad we didn’t know earlier, we would’ve played. We had to settle for Saturday only.

The skating rink is an outdoor affair with a large, smooth and level concrete pad next to a large clubhouse. It has pickleball courts lined out for up to six courts. We assumed it was an indoor rink and didn’t know until we arrived and saw the nets being set up outside. We climbed back on the Spyder and made a quick run home for hats and sunglasses.

They had three courts set up when we returned a few minutes after 9am. The fee for drop-in play was $3/person. We met some really nice people and played until noon. Now we know – next time we’re here I’ll play as much as possible.

The Pine Near RV Park is filled to capacity with people enjoying a four-day holiday weekend. There are more families with kids than I’ve ever seen here. It’s a little rambunctious in the evenings. It gets dark so late that the kids are still running around after 10pm. By 11pm the park is quiet though.

Today I’ll start prepping for the road. We’ll pull out of here tomorrow and head east to Coeur d’Alene where we’re hoping to find a spot at the Elks Lodge. They don’t take reservations so we have a back-up plan as well.

 

Lainey’s Graduation and Party

We drove with my daughter Alana to the Xfinity Arena in Everett Thursday evening for the Arlington High School graduation ceremony. It was hard for me to believe my granddaughter, Lainey, was graduating from high school. Every year seems to whiz by faster and faster.

They had 350 students graduating – the ceremony lasted a little over two hours. Afterwards we made our way through the crowds and met up on a street corner to shoot a few photos. I had my camera bag and my trusty Canon 10D – I haven’t used this camera in a few years. I mostly just point and shoot with my smartphone. We were able to shoot the pictures before the rain started falling again.

Lainey and Alana

By the time we finished up with photos and headed out, it was after 10pm. We met up at Buffalo Wild Wings at Smokey Point and had a few beers and food. We didn’t get home until after midnight – I don’t stay up that late usually.

The rain moved out of the area Friday afternoon. Things were looking promising for the graduation party on Saturday. Donna was able to get a bicycle ride in, then we took Alana’s car and shopped at WinCo Foods.

Saturday morning we stayed dry and the weather forecast called for zero percent chance of rain. Everyone got busy preparing for the party at LuAnn’s house. I grilled marinated chicken thighs on the Traeger that was then chopped into pollo asado taco meat. I had to make three batches as the grill wasn’t nearly large enough for the amount of chicken I grilled. Meanwhile Alana and Shauna were grilling marinated beef at Luann’s house.

I pulled the last of the chicken off the grill and we walked over to LuAnn’s house a little past 2pm. The house was all decorated for the party.

Props for selfie photos

The dining room table was made into a large taco bar with tortillas, meats, beans, rice and all the fixings.

Taco bar

There was enough food to feed an army. I don’t know for sure how many people came – people filtered in and out all afternoon. I think there had to be at least 40. We hardly made a dent in all the food – lots of leftovers were sent home with guests.

Backyard party

Remember that zero percent chance of rain forecast? Well, this is western Washington in June. I don’t think there’s ever a zero percent chance of rain here at this time of year. A few raindrops started falling. Looking at the Radar Express app on my phone, I could see a large area of precipitation to the south of us.

Zero percent chance of rain!

When the rain started to come down steadily,a couple of EZup canopies were quickly deployed.

Party on under the canopy

After lots of food and too much beer, we called it a night and headed back to our coach. I was done in.

It rained again this morning but the weather guessers say no rain this afternoon. We’ll see.

All Together in Arlington

We’ve had a mixed bag of weather the first half of this week. It’s been relatively chilly – highs in the low 60s – and rain showers off and on with brief periods of sunshine.

My daughters are all here now. My middle daughter, Jamie, left with her family from the Corpus Christi, Texas area Saturday night at 10:30pm local time. They pushed through the night and ended up stopping at a hotel only once before they made it here to Arlington, Washington early Tuesday morning. Their trip was more than 2,300 miles!

On Tuesday evening, we got together at LuAnn and Jerry’s house and had beer and pizza. LuAnn is my ex-wife and mother of our daughters. Jerry is her husband. We all get along very well.

Later that night, Alana, Jamie and LuAnn picked up my youngest daughter, Shauna, who flew in from Washington D.C. So we’re all together again for the first time since May of 2015 in San Diego for Shauna’s graduation from law school.

Wednesday was breezy and cold. I ran the heat pumps in the coach several times during the day. The girls went out to get their nails done and do some shopping. In the afternoon, Donna ran into town and over the hill to the Safeway grocery store. She bought a few things and loaded them in a backpack and walked back. She likes to do this whenever she can as a way to to combine exercise and an errand.

When she got back, she made turkey burger patties with green chiles and cumin spice. I grilled 16 patties on the Weber Q – two sets of six and one batch of four. We all sat on the lawn and talked and ate. The breeze made it feel much cooler than the actual temperature of about 62 degrees.

After burgers on the lawn

We decided to move over to Luann and Jerry’s place – a couple of blocks away – as they had gas heaters in the backyard. We sat and talked over a few beers and the kids played badminton – Donna joined in a game as well.

Some of the extended family – Alana and Kevin facing the camera with our graduating granddaughter, Lainey on the right next to Donna

Jennalee, Donna, Gabi, Shauna and Jerry

When we arrived here last Saturday, there were a few packages waiting for us. Donna had ordered a bathing suit and I had three folding Spyderco knives. In the last eight months, I’ve ordered seven Spyderco locking blade folding knives.

One of the knives I ordered is a diminutive Spyderco Dragonfly – a small knife with a blade length of 2.25″ that weighs less than and ounce and a half! I bought this knife for Donna as she had difficulty handling some of the larger knives.

Donna has been carrying the knife every day in her pocket or clipped to her shorts and has found it to be very useful. The blade is very sharp and made of VG10 steel – so it’s durable too. Before, when she needed to open a package – whether it was a cardboard box or plastic wrapper – she would retrieve scissors. Now she just reaches for her knife and says she doesn’t know what she did without it!

Spyderco knives

Collecting knives is a lot less expensive than say high-end watches or cars (something I’ve done previously) and they don’t take much space. My assortment of knives is somewhat eclectic at this point.  Pictured above are the seven Spydercos.

I’ve gone for a variety of blade steels, handles, scale material and locking type. From left to right is a Paramiltary 2 with CPM S30V balde and G10 scales with a compression lock for one-hand operation. Then there’s a Manix 2 LW with a CTS XHP blade and Fiberglass Reinforced Co-Polymer (FRCP) scales. Next is a Manix 2 LW with CTS BD1 steel and FRCP scales – the Manix knives have a caged ball bearing lock. Next is a Tenacious with 8Cr13Mov steel and G10 scales and a frame lock. Then there’s a Delica 4 with VG10 blade and Fiberglass Reinforced Nylon (FRN) scales. Next up is a Chaparral with CTS XHP steel and carbon fiber scales and last is Donna’s Dragonfly with VG10 steel and FRN scales. The last three all have back lock mechanisms.

If I continue to collect Spyderco knives, I need to decide on a direction. Do I continue to find different types or do I focus on something more specific? One guy on a forum started collecting a year ago and now has 23 versions of the Paramilitary 2 – all with different blade and/or scale combinations.

Tonight our granddaughter Lainey graduates from Arlington High School. The graduation is thankfully indoors at an arena in Everett. It’s raining out and under 60 degrees as I type this. The forecast calls for rain to continue through Friday. Hopefully the weather guessers have it right for Saturday – they call for warmer temperatures and only a 10% chance of rain. Lainey’s graduation party is planned for Saturday in LuAnn and Jerry’s backyard.

 

Pine Cone and a Sleepy Squirrel

Donna hiked and found Coarsegold Creek on Saturday morning. Coarsegold Creek runs along the west side of the Escapees Park of the Sierras property. In addition to the developed RV sites, they have an additional 40 acres undeveloped that is left in its natural state. When Donna was coming back to our site from her hike, she found what appeared to be an odd looking fruit that fell from a tree. After some research, we agreed that it was an immature Ponderosa pine cone.

Immature Ponderosa pine cone

Ponderosa pines are sometimes called yellow pine. The seeds are in the cones and take about 16 months to mature. The trees flower from April to June and the cones mature and fall from the tree in August or September of the following year. When they’re immature, they look like a solid mass. Once mature and ready to shed seeds, they have the familiar woody petal shape that’s somewhat prickly.

After lunch on Saturday, we took the Spyder for a ride up to Oakhurst. Oakhurst is a small town with around 13,000 residents about 13 miles from the RV park – it’s about halfway to the entrance to Yosemite National Park. We rode up a grade to an elevation of about 3,000 feet before we dropped a few hundred feet into the small valley where Oakhurst is located. This area was once known as Fresno Flats. The Fresno River runs through it.

We stopped at the Southgate Brewing Company for a cold one. Donna had a pecan brown ale that she thought was amazing – she said it tasted like a pecan pie! I tried a pale ale and it was quite good. We’ll go back and try out their menu sometime.

Saturday evening Donna prepared lemon-butter chicken for dinner. She pounded chicken breasts flat, then lined them with prosciutto and rolled them. She sautéed them in butter and they were very tasty.

Lemon-butter chicken

Sunday morning we went down to the temporary pickleball court here in the park. We met Joe and Melinda there and played several games. It was a fun time, but nothing here in the park is flat – including the pickleball court. The court is lined out on a parking area near the dry camping zone where we parked our trailer. It slopes from one end to the other and has a slight dip in the center. This made it interesting to say the least.

When we came back to our site, we found a squirrel on the deck railing eating the Ponderosa pine cone.

Who knew squirrels like immature Ponderosa pine cones?

Sunday evening I grilled a simple meal. I roasted two ears of corn in the husks and also grilled Aidell’s chicken-apple sausages. Donna sauteed apple slices and onions with fresh garlic and rosemary to serve over the sausage. Simple but delicious.

Chicken-apple sausage with corn-on-the-cob

Melinda told me about pickleball in Fresno. She was going with Joe Monday morning and sent me directions. I rode the Spyder there – about 30 miles and arrived around 8:45am. I played for a few hours. They had four pickleball courts set up on a couple tennis courts at Rotary East Park. Donna stayed home to work on a project.

Pickleball at Rotary East Park

By the time I left around noon, it was hot – in the 90s. I stopped for a plate of rolled tacos before I headed home. The ride back was hot and dry and I felt overheated. By the time I got home, I was a little shaky and nauseous – I think I was dehydrated. Sitting in the shade with a couple of bottles of water helped. Then we came inside and Donna fired up the air conditioners. I read for a while and took a short nap. I’m feeling better now.

The squirrel that ate the pine cone likes to hang out on our deck. He laid out spread eagle on the railing and napped for half an hour or so. It was comical. I couldn’t get a sharp photo – I had to shoot through a window so I wouldn’t scare him away.

Napping squirrel

I saw sad news on the internet today. Nicky Haden succumbed to injuries sustained when he was hit by a car while bicycling with a group near Rimini, Italy – I wrote about it in my last post. Nicky was 35 years old. I followed his motorcylce road racing career since he was in his teens. I unexpectedly ran into him once back in 2004 in Barcelona, Spain. He was known as the Kentucky Kid and always maintained a positive attitude and a quick smile. He will be missed. I extend my condolences to his family and fiance, Jackie.

Tomorrow we plan to play pickleball here in the morning. Wednesday we’ll leave here early and ride up to Yosemite National Park to see the sights. The weather will remain very warm this week – I’ll be sure to bring plenty of water.

 

 

 

 

 

A Chance Encounter

Our three-night stay in Hemet passed quickly. Tuesday morning I went outside around 9:30am and was surprised to hear people on the pickleball courts.I didn’t think enough people were in the park to play pickleball. When we stayed here before, most of the snowbirds pulled out in April and the pickleball activity was finished. We planned on heading down to Sun City (Menifee) around 11:30am to visit my step-dad, Ken, so I didn’t go to the pickleball courts.

Also, it was pretty windy and cool. The temperature never went above 65 degrees for our entire stay here – about 20 degrees below average for this time of year. We rode the Spyder to Sun City and arrived at Ken’s place around noon. His cleaning lady was there, so we sat in his TV room and talked until she finished her deep cleaning of the house. She had been at it since 7:15am and spent five and half hours cleaning.

We drove in Ken’s car to a Chinese restaurant for lunch. Ken generously bought our lunches and we enjoyed talking while we dined. We headed back to Hemet around 2pm. On the way back, we made a stop at WinCo foods to pick up a few items. When we stayed here before, we always shopped at Stater Brothers – I didn’t know at the time what a great supermarket WinCo is. I found a 22-ounce bomber bottle of Stone Tangerine Express IPA for $4.12 – bargain!

Donna planned to have her friend, Connie Kippycash, join us for dinner on Tuesday evening. Unfortunately Connie was suffering from a sinus infection and had to cancel. So we just relaxed and had leftovers for dinner. It looked like rain was imminent, so maybe it was best to relax indoors.

Wednesday morning Donna and I hit the pickleball courts. There was only one other player so we played a couple of games where we rotated through a two-on-one game. After about an hour, another player arrived and we played a couple of doubles games. They were older and the level of play had me holding back. It was fun nonetheless.

Wednesday evening I grilled herbed boneless, skinless chicken thighs on the Weber Q.  When I was younger, I always preferred the white breast meat. Nowadays I find the dark thigh meat to be juicier, tender and more appealing. Donna served it with a medley of roasted baby squash with feta cheese and quinoa.

Grilled chicken thighs with baby squash and quinoa

This morning I need to pack a few things in the trailer – the grill and grill stand, a few chairs and the Spyder. We’re not in any hurry. Our drive will take us north through San Bernardino and over Cajon Pass. We plan to stop at the Elks Lodge in Palmdale – about 100 miles from here. Tomorrow morning we’ll continue north to Coarsegold in the Sierra Nevada foothills near Yosemite National Park.

I don’t want to delay our departure here too long – the Elks Lodge is first come – first served. I made a reservation at the Escapees Park of the Sierras campground yesterday. We’ll stay for one week. At first, the woman on the phone told me they didn’t have any sites available for a rig of our size. Then she had me hold for a couple of minutes and told me she had one site, but we would have to drop the trailer away from the site. She asked me if I wanted to do that. I told her it wasn’t ideal, but we’d take it.

After I gave her my check-in information, she asked me if I write a blog. I said yes. She said you just went to Hemet, right? And you’re an avid pickleball player and your wife is Donna. I was stunned. I laughed out loud when she told me she had been following this blog for quite a while. We plan to get together for pickleball after we arrive. I was so surprised at the chance encounter that I failed to ask her what her name is!

After three cool, cloudy days, today we have abundant sunshine. The temperature should reach 80 degrees today and the next week in Coarsegold should be in the upper 80s. Sounds good to me!