Friday, August 5, 2016


Luckily Marci found RV blogs (well, Facebook pages) and we’ve been reading them religiously since April.  So we knew – I MEAN KNEW – that things will go wrong on any RV eventually.  We paid close attention to things that seem common (like tires) and things that are preventable (like fires at gas stations due to leaving the propane refrigerators running or leaving the antenna extended).

Look – we are just not preachy or judgmental.  And we are quick to point out that we are not experts at anything in the RV world.  So don’t take offense, go ahead -run your fridge, don’t check your tires, don’t triple check that your slide will not be dragging something across your floor.  And I promise – some of this WILL happen to us (or anyone who drives thousands of miles with a small home on wheels).

This morning we woke up at the KOA in Wendover, NV (there is a free 24 hour shuttle to the Casino – located about 300 yards away – for the ‘gamin’ camper). After 550 miles the day before, we planned to head across the salt flats in the cool morning.  And then I saw the tire.

As I said above, I’ve been warned.  Not just by all of you, but by two 5th wheel owning co-workers I trust.  CHECK YOUR TIRES.

And I found the right rear (new at the start of the trip) was TOTALLY worn on the ‘outside’.  Remembering the photos of blow-outs on Facebook – I could see me changing a tire in the middle of 100 miles of flat salt and sun. I’ve changed a whole lot of tires in my life – I decided not to wait for Good Sam Road Service (doesn’t seem to be a prompt) and broke open my new ‘bottle jack’ to get ‘er done.


An hour later, covered in dirt, tire-blackened hands, and enough colorful language to hope that my neighbors’ hearing aide battery was dead – I got the spare on.  We quickly threw everything into the truck bed – (thankfully Marci insisted on a triple check – which prevented more RV repairs) and headed for The Tire Factory (whom I HIGHLY recommend ) for a quick repair. They even moved us to the front of the line because our rig blocked their entire parking lot.

Anyway, I learned that the tire was faulty to begin with (nothing wrong with the axle etc), how to actually change an RV tire, and that we could persevere through our first RV repair issue.  I am sure there will be many more – but we choose to look at this as part of the adventure (and it will grow a life of its own as I tell the story over and over the years to come!)

PS This repair only cost $113 and a bit of worry in the 120 miles across the salt flats

Thursday, August 4, 2016

How far is too far?

Tomorrow we will get close to the end of our first BIG trip.  We will have traveled four thousand miles and  seven states.  All in two weeks.
Which begs the question (we have heard debated at several RV stops during the past two weeks); "How far is too far to drive?"

Today I spent twelve hours behind the wheel and drove 550 miles.  And I know that this mileage seems CRAZY to many (it was pretty crazy).  But for those of us who are still working full-time, it is how we can s-q-u-e-e-z-e
extra days into our trip by driving long hours.  
US 140 - between Klamath Falls and Winnemucca, NV
Today we drove US 140 from Crater Lake to Winnemucca and then I-80 to Wendover, NV.  
I am tired and this will be short.  But I am sure that many of you have an ideal distance for a travel day.  Go ahead - SHARE!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

REVIEW: Flowing Lake County Park, Snohomish, WA

Flowing Lake County Park, Snohomish, WA

We bought our new trailer in April and started planning a trip to visit our granddaughter Aniyah immediately.  She is fifteen months old and lives near Seattle, so we knew it was to the Northwest for our first big trip.  The plan was to pick her up and camp for a week.  Unfortunately, as you more seasoned campers know, the northwest is a popular summer destination and with Internet reservations (a blessing and a curse) it isn’t easy to find a spot for five days.  ENTER Flowing Lake County Park.

A small park with mostly tents and small RV’s, we winded our way through small and curvy green roads until we got to the park.  Tall trees, a clear lake, and smiling campers.  Our kind of place!
As this is our first trip, we are still pretty nervous about maneuvering our 36 & ½ foot beast of a home.  And IT WAS TIGHT!  But most of the spots are big and set far apart.  There is next to no noise, 50 amp service, and nice level gravel spots.

A trail winds around the exterior of the park and the lake (probably the real attraction) brings in LOTS of day-time visitors.  With lush green grass, good facilities, and picnic tables scattered about – I can see the attraction.

Seattle’s Pike Market is an hour away, as are the Snoqualmie Falls.  The Cascade Mountains loom to the east and nature trails abound (I did a twelve mile walk on the Centennial Trail one day). 
We spent a week here.  The rangers were lovely and the experience top notch. 

Not to mention – our fantastic granddaughter!

·       Large level spaces with big gathering areas around fire pits
·       Clean
·       FRIENDLY!
·       Well kept

·       If you don’t like crowds, avoid the lake during the heat of the day

·       I know this will make me seem like a lush, but alcohol is “strictly prohibited” in the park.  P-L-E-A-S-E… I get that they don‘t want rowdies – but I say deal with those who cause a problem, don’t punish everyone else.  It would have been nice to sip a Washington Pinot by the campfire in the evening.


RECOMMENDED?  Absolutely, come re-charge your self here!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

REVIEW: Tall Chief RV Park, Fall City, WA

Tall Chief RV Park, Fall City, WA

Located just west of the Seattle/Tacoma area, at the base of the Cascade Mountains off I-90, this is a lush respite.  The entire landscape is a palette of greens – which change as the sun meanders lazily across the summer sky.

The park is situated behind a series of stunning homes – all gated.  And the entrance to Tall Chief is also protected (not sure from whom) by a guard shack and a gate.  Each guest is granted an access code for after-hours use.  I checked in (forgetting my Good Sam’s Discount until after the transaction was complete) and heard a phrase I would grow accustomed to, “I can’t help you, but they might be able to do something for you in the business office, during business hours”.  Who camps during business hours?

Then I learned that we were to drive around the park and pick out a site, write down the number, and come back to the guard shack.  We also had to list each guest who may be coming to visit (this was substantial as our daughter was bringing our granddaughter for the week and my wife’ sister, father, and family were also coming for the day).  Oh well….

We did get a shady spot and got everything settled before Aniyah (our 15 month old bundle of joy) arrived for dinner. Bliss…

One frustration was the appearance of a gaggle of kids who wanted to watch and insert themselves in every step of our set up.  They stayed about an hour (and many hours in the following days) with little oversight from their mom (who with a baby and another on the way was overwhelmed).  Did make us nervous though – not all campers have good intentions…

We grew to appreciate this little band of kiddos. We cooked them hot dogs and potato salad (which they devoured with big smiles and polite “thank-yous”). They live full-time in a small trailer – can’t be easy.

We stayed two days, swam in the gorgeous pool, washed in the clean laundry, and walked around the place a bit.  There were a few frustrations (listed below), but not a bad place overall…


  • GREEN!
  • Clean
  • Large and easy to navigate
  • Great Pool


  • Now I know why some RV parks limit guests to rigs ten years old or less
  • Sites are muddy


  • The highest electrical is 30 AMP.  And it went out in the late afternoon (luckily we have an expensive surge protector – because all sorts of alarms went off and our electronics would have been fried).  When I asked about this at the guard shack – they apologized and said “Too many air conditioners – you can talk to the business office during business hours.”

WORTH COMING BACK?  There are better options nearby – but the pool is VERY nice

RECCOMENDED?  In a pinch or if you don’t need electrical in the summer

Friday, July 29, 2016



First, and it may seem petty, but it can't have been a boon to business or a 'must read' by the local chamber of commerce when International Best Selling Author Jon Krakauer writes an expose about your town and the high number of rapes which occur there...(by the way, a very important book - Start by Believing)

But - trust me Jim and Mary's has nothing to do with all of that, and it is a great stopover.

The experience starts as you pull in.  FLOWERS everywhere!  These folks understand the term "oasis" and how nice it is to see beauty after a long drive.

The office is tidy and the clerk even greeted me by name (she said there was only one other reservation and mine was the only 36 footer left).  With a smile and speedy efficiency, I was checked in.

The sites are almost all shady (nice on the Montana plains) and easy to get in and out of.
We took a quick walk around the property and found it absolutely lovely.  The buildings are very clean and well-maintained.  Our neighbors were all quiet.  We had a great (but quick) stay.

Out before 7:00 am and on to the Tall Chief Campground in Fall City, WA.


  • Friendly
  • Clean
  • Flowers EVERYWHERE


  • Will fill up fast

  • Nothing we saw...



Tuesday, July 26, 2016

BOONDOCKING (Or, free camping in super-center parking lots)

We started our first serious long-distance trip a few days ago.  Because this is the 21st Century, and information is freely available to EVERYONE, we availed ourselves of free advice (and apps) to work our way to the Pacific Northwest from Colorado.

We were so anxious to leave (this is a reunion trip with our granddaughter) that we took off late Friday afternoon (like mid-rush hour).  Originally, we planned to take I-25 to I-90 and travel west to the Seattle area.  But because we left a day early, Marci suggested we detour through Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.  WHY NOT!?!?!?!?

Our new goal was Riverton Wyoming (350 miles away). 

Those of you who travel all the time will smile – but we needed a quick alternate place to sleep for the night.  ENTER the “rvparky” app and WAL-MART!  Yup, we stayed free of charge in a large parking lot.

Actually, we stayed at Wal-Mart Riverton AND Wal-Mart Bozeman.  Kudos to Wal-Mart for welcoming weary travelers and making cross-country travel easier. (note: we were careful to shop at each store to ensure they continue to have a profit incentive to welcome other travelers)

We pulled into the Riverton Wal-Mart at 2:10 AM.  And there were at least ten other campers (some looked like they had been there a LONG time) and a few diesel trucks.  Please remember – this was not only our first night at Wal-Mart, but our first night BOONDOCKING anywhere.

We nervously picked out a “spot”, pushed out our bedroom slide, and went to sleep to the drone of a diesel tractor engine a few feet away.

WOW!  What a great experience!  We got a few hours of sleep, felt safe, and didn’t have to pay a dime.  If you haven’t tried it and are wondering…DO IT!

I hesitate to rate Wal-Marts (or Cabelas - or Cracker Barrel – who also allow free stop overs).  But – THERE IS A DIFFERENCE…

This is a BOONDOCKING SCALE (not to be compared with ratings of parks where we pay to stay):

4 Stars – Easy access, huge open parking lot, 24 hour store, “camper friendly”

3 Stars – Tight parking lot, “urban lot” (many concrete “islands and dividers” – not wide open), many campers (close to Yellowstone?), and very clean.  Don’t use the Exxon near the Wal-Mart if you have a long rig (there are truck stops west of town, or east over the pass).

We are now totally comfortable using this method and will continue to do it!

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Butt of travel jokes

“Who would name a town Butt?”

“It is an odd name…”

And so, while travelling across Montana on I-90, we passed through this picturesque and surprisingly large town named after either a roast, the remainder of a smoked cigarette or at worst a derriere. Naturally, I was enthralled.

Perhaps the nexus for being the Butt of Montana, is that the area is home to the largest Superfund site in America (for those who don’t know – this directs government funding to help clean up toxic disaster areas).  This is due to the toxic wastes and heavy metals from copper mining.  Evidence of large scale mining is visible as you travel through town. There is even a relatively famous sludge pit with acid from a mining accident.

A second thought was that this unfortunate address was due to racial tensions (there is even a museum dedicated to the mistreatment of Chinese laborers) or even the organized labor unrest (check out the movie Butt, America).
I know that I was surprised to learn that the World Museum of Mining is in Butt – and that no town can be un-redeeming with a joint like the Silver Bow Brewery Malt House (a good place to tell Butt jokes, I’d bet).

We also noticed a massive white statue (which from a distance we were sure was a Storm Trooper from Star Wars).  Turns out, it is actually (no joke) Our Lady of the Rockies – the third largest statue in the United States.  People leave messages inside the Mother Mary replica – in hopes of miracles for their unfortunate loved ones.

Finally, there is a mountain with a large ‘M’ on it.  I guess that isn’t crazy Bozeman also has a mountain with a large M – and so does Golden, Colorado….).

Excuse me a sec – my wife is hollering something at me…

Yes, dear?

You don’t say.  How embarrassing…

Well, I guess the town in named Butte after all.