Saturday, May 28, 2016



Marci and I are both Colorado natives-  so a State Park on the eastern plains does not motivate us to hasten packing the camper to get there as quick as we can. But we were able to cobble five days off and this was the only joint with availability for a long trip on short notice.

The park has an abundance of camp sites.  Loops with 50 amp service, and others leaning towards the more rustic. We are located in the “Inlet loop” (with 50 amps) and are about 20 yards from the lake.  All of the sites are drive through with curving gravel driveways.  They each have a picnic table (with wind shelter) and fire pit.  The sites are far apart with broad grassy fields surrounding laid back RV’ers. 


During the weekend there were plenty of folks fishing along the water’s edge.  I only saw a few
caught – but there are teeming schools swimming among the submerged trees – I know this because they jump at a rate of 2-3 a minute in the evening.  And when I say jump – I’m talking Bruce Jenner (pre-Caitlin) style.  Well over a foot of fish coming out of the water and returning with a loud slap and splash.


There are also huge white birds (White Pelican) drifting by the shore in perfect concert – each move like a Fourth of July Regatta. 

Now, I think that you can tell a lot about a place by paying attention to the little things.  I notice that the informational boards outside the “camping center” are cracked from overexposure to the sun. The parking lots (designed to handle 700% more vehicles than actually visit) have weeds poking through the cracks. Marci and I are both wondering why more people don’t visit?

I walk the trail leading south from the lake and impressed by the vision some overachieving state planner had when laying out the extensive network.  Miles of level gravel walkway – winding around the inlets crated by an unnatural body of water. It strikes me that there are no signs of use.  The dirt is soft under my feet – each crackle a reminder that no one has walked this stretch for at least a year.  I see an occasional track from a government RTV – but even these look as if they were left months ago – perhaps during the obligatory annual fall inspection.

I relish museums!  They are like quaint collections of keepsakes that someone thought other people would find fascinating long enough to induce them to buy a custom t-shirt, or a highly polished cedar knick-knack.  North Sterling State Park boasts a Visitors Center and a Marina (only open on weekends and holidays during off season). The Visitor’s Center – attended by a pleasant woman who’d likely worked here seven years – but never once glanced in the two display cases, was a cute one-room
affair.  With large mounted Walleye and Carp, plastic framed amateure bird photos, and an instructive poster about snakes (apparently – round-pupiled snakes are not dangerous, slowly
retreat from those with a “cat-eye”), I was enthralled.   There were several (ok, two) fossils of undetermined age or species, three degrading rattles from a cat-eyed snake, and a piece of carved driftwood (it was definitely carved – but I’m not sure into what).  But the most impressive, was a homemade shadow box of used fishing lures.  The plexi-glass cover bore the marks of an unconventional (or perhaps unskilled) artist whom had probably been collecting rusty lures for a decade before an acquaintance suggested a display case 59 minutes into ‘Happy Hour’.  


It was also telling, on our third full day, when we first encountered the entrance station – “staffed”.

Welcome to North Sterling Lake State Park”, the cheerful, seasoned, round-cheeked attendant said, reciting the park’s entire formal name – as if she were a recent graduate of the new state park employee orientation.

Hi there.  We were wondering if we could get a copy of the park rules?”

Her brow furrowed, as if she was running through the possibilities of which mandate we were hoping to violate (or more likely already had).

Wryly, “Boating, or camping?”

Rules matter at this park.

Umm, camping.”

Fine”, she said, a little disappointment evident in her voice.

That was when I noticed the second employee (must be peak hours – though there was not another vehicle in sight for miles).  She lifted her head from the table in front of her. As if it was worth a gander at someone who actually asked for a copy of the rules.  Her seventeen-year-old hazel eyes perused our truck and each of us before she plopped her head back on her arms.  I noticed that her mascara was a little smeared – and traces of makeup remained from an earlier soiree.  Perhaps prom went late last night?

And while on the subject of rules, the camp host (a group- camp hosts I mean - I strongly recommend to an aspiring sociologist for field work or even a doctoral thesis) made his presence known early. I can only imagine the conversation in their trailer before he whipped his state issued golf cart around the bend to direct that we move the front left tire off the grass adjacent to our site.

That’s it. I’m gonna go issue a warning!”

Are you sure, dear?  It isn’t really that big a thing.”

Maude, there has to be order.  The State of Colorado has entrusted me to enforce the rules (glancing at his framed 8x10 certificate, signifying 2016 Camp Host Class completion).  I will not let them down.”

And after years of similar conversations, Maude answers, “Whatever you think is best, dear.”

RATING: *** (Three stars)

·       Beautiful views
·       Abundant spacious sites
·       Pay showers
·       Swim beach
·       Great trails
·       Sunset and stargazing areas
·       Plenty of facilities

·       Camp site not filthy, but some small trash and the fire-pit a bit dirty
·       Bathrooms not nasty – but not clean either
·       Prairie dog holes (be cautious)
·       Snakes (watched one being removed from a neighbors camp site – just remember, they were here first!)

·       Officious Camp Host (c'mon, just be nice)
·       NEVER open your awning in a campground located a scant few miles from wind-farms!



Thursday, May 26, 2016

5th Wheel Worries

It is five thirty in the morning.

I am smiling as I sit by the fireplace sipping freshly brewed coffee as I watch my “neighbors” stumbling to the port-a-pot with obvious aches from a cold night of sleeping on the ground.

“Suckers.” I say to no one, because Marci is still asleep and I am hidden behind smoked glass windows.

Vladimir Ashkenazy’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor mingles with the chirping of the morning birds.  

What a life.

Yesterday we embarked on our first “real” trip with the camper.  We drove two hours east to North Sterling Lake State Park (because we are just too damn scared to go over the mountains yet).  Naturally, I did not make a single left turn (ok, I did – but not before I made sure my adult diaper was secure).

Most of us have fond memories of road trips.  Hours of humming tires on smooth roads – with breaks for carbohydrate laden snacks and Mountain Dew. Pulling a fifteen thousand pound fifth wheel trailer does not provide the same experience.
“Is there room to change lanes?”

“I think so.”

“What do you mean, you think so?”

“Well, I can see the truck behind you and it looks pretty far back.”

Luckily, we are about the slowest vehicle on the road. (There was a purple haired lady with two fluffy dogs in an Oldsmobile I passed – but it was on an empty stretch so I can’t gloat).

And then there are bridges and overpasses.  

Your entire driving life you have probably never even bothered to look closely at one. When you pull an expensive thirteen foot high home under one you will notice dings and scrapes on the underside from being whacked by an unsuspecting driver just like me.

Supposedly, there are maps which will warn you about where these dangers lurk – but of course, we forgot to buy one.  Maybe that is why there are two air conditioners on top…?

Anyway, we made it.  And after setting up (likely forgetting 68% of what we learned in orientation) we put life on pause and settled in for five days of relaxation.

What a life.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Starting the Dream

“Slow down!”

“I am going slow.” I bark, reducing my speed from seven miles per hour to three.

“You’re making me nervous.”

“I’m doing the best I can, there are cars trying to get around me.”

“They can wait.”

“Stop yelling…”

“I’m not yelling, I’m nervous.”

And so it goes.

We are heading out for our first road trip since buying a 36 foot fifth wheel.  On the sales lot, the “coach” held the promise of serenity. Dark shiny polished wood, faux tile floors, luxurious leather recliners and a king sized pillow top mattress. Clearly this was designed to remedy whatever 21st Century malady ails you. Visions of quiet morning sunrises with freshly brewed coffee swim in your head as you sign the bundle of documents needed to take possession.  The week and a half needed to install a hitch capable of towing 20,000 pounds (and the propane generator I insisted on to “camp” in style when there are no 50 amp services available) seem to drag on forever.

And finally the day arrives. 

“Good afternoon sir, how may I help you?”

“I’m here to pick up my trailer.” I proudly beam, feeling this should impress the pudgy acne faced boy, who must have been told to expect us (we did receive our Good Sam Elite Membership cards just days before…)

“So, you have already completed orientation?” He asks, clearly more amused than impressed.
“Uh, no…” tumbles my sheepish response.

And for the next two hours we are guided through switches, control panels, gadgets, hoses, and “Never, do this - before you do that’s”.

“Can we still return this?”

The mechanic chuckles as if he has heard this many times before. “Ah, you’ll get used to it.  This stuff is easy.”

I swallow my plea to reconsider.

And before you know it, the truck is attached and we are heading out of the lot.  Which naturally has VERY wide driveways to accommodate idiots (like me) who have been driving 6 foot vehicles at high speeds for thirty years and suddenly believe they can manage the equivalent of a semi-truck.
My confidence does not increase when I look in my extended rear view mirrors and see two mechanic’s leaning into to one another and watching me.  I can only presume that they have placed a wager on how long it will be before they see me in the collision repair center.

I will NEVER forget my first left hand turn. Neither will the lady in the Honda I almost ran over.

But alas, we got our “rig” to its assigned spot in the storage lot and rush home to choke down a muscle relaxant with a shot of tequila.

And They're Off!

Aniyah at 1 year old
A few weeks ago - the nest finally emptied (fingers crossed).  Our youngest daughter, Kiana, and precious granddaughter, Aniyah, moved to Tacoma, Washington to start their own adventure.

"What are we going to do, Matt?" Marci asked, bottom lip in full quiver.

"Um, buy a fifth-wheel, what do you think?!?!"

And so we did.  A (very mildly) used 2013 Palomino Columbus - which although a screaming deal, is WAY fancier than we ever hoped to own.

We are too young to retire, but blessed to have good jobs and the ability to travel around a bit in preparation for hitting the road for months when we both pull the plug.  And so - here is our blog.  A bit about everything, from reviews, to interesting things we see and do - to just musings about things on our mind.

We called the blog "Two if by Land" and that is because we named our rig, "The Paul RV-er".

Hope you enjoy!

The maiden voyage of the Paul RV-er