Hope on the Horizon

Our previous post alluded to Hope on the Horizon. In fact Hope rode with us as we left Denver on Saturday, May 9, 2020 towards the Pacific Northwest. Our sights, dreams, and Plan C were counting on Hope! Thankfully Colorado lifted its shelter-in-place order that morning. This gave us increased confidence that we were okay to leave. What a relief. After 52 days of sheltering-in-place as part of Colorado’s Stay-Safe-at-Home measures, we were ready to get Plan C on the road with “AZ IF the Truck” towing “Tranquility the Trailer.” Yet, perhaps you are curious: “What was it like to hunker down in Colorado during the interim?”

Our Stay-Safe-At-Home Stage

Beginning on March 20, 2020, two days after arriving in Denver, we noted the number of novel coronavirus, a.k.a. COVID-19, cases were at 15,000 for the United States. Keeping tabs on the cases in Colorado, Idaho, and Washington were important to us over the next seven weeks. We felt reassured knowing that Tranquility the Trailer was safely stored and just chilling with a very full RV storage lot at Dove Valley Storage. Needing to keep our mental and physical health healthy, we walked dozens of miles on the sidewalks in the neighborhood where we were staying. Barb’s home provided more than ample space to hit the pause button. The views from her back windows and deck gave us solace with opportunities to watch different birds, snow falling on the landscape, gorgeous sunrises, rains followed by rainbows, and then spring blooms and green grass. With her large kitchen, we made more involved meals, unlike in the trailer, which limited more elaborate meals. Indeed, we were extremely thankful for Barb’s hospitality during her absence. In return, it was nice to be able to keep tabs on her home for her.

We loved being near an open space from Barb’s deck.
Another snow falls in the Denver area. We ended up with 8 inches.
A stormy sky with moisture to the east sported a full rainbow from the setting sun over the Rocky Mountains to the west behind us.
Near midnight with a full moon over the lake beside Barb’s house. Tomorrow we’ll leave for Idaho and Washington.

Our outings were few, dictated by the governor’s orders. We managed with bandanas and coffee filters, which we slid between the bandana layers for added protection. Thankfully we could shop during early shopping hours designated for 60+ of age or at-risk individuals. Whole Foods was within two blocks and our best place for groceries, with fewer shoppers and better protocols early in the game. In order for Steve’s Mom to stay safer, we shopped and delivered her groceries. For us, some dental care and lab work couldn’t be postponed, so we managed safely with our providers taking extraordinary measures. In April we had a socially-distanced sidewalk visit near Stephanie and Shane’s high-rise apartment building to get some of our mail from them and to have a brief conversation. The weekend before we left Denver, we had them over for a socially-distanced pre-birthday lunch for Stephanie with Shane, her, and us on the deck. On one of our last days in Denver, we ordered takeout from 5 Guys and had lunch with Steve’s Mom, socially-distanced on her driveway. For all of us, it was quite difficult to not have our usual hugs and not be inside one another’s homes. More than anything, we were all trying to keep each other healthy.

Without fabric and sewing machine, we resorted to bandanas and a coffee filter between layers.
We had a socially-distanced pre-birthday lunch for Stephanie on Barb’s deck. Our 2nd time to see them, but still no hugs.
We love you Mom! It’s hard to leave. Still no hugs. We had a meal on her driveway, socially-distanced.

We had numerous phone calls or Zoom sessions with family members and friends. Those were a boost for our psyches, sensing the feeling was mutual. It seemed that we were all needing those connections and time to anchor to loved ones, albeit virtually. We challenged ourselves with a couple of jigsaw puzzles. Projects included scanning family documents and photos. Devouring the news seemed to be an obsession, yet thankfully it wasn’t cable news. We tried to limit news watching until 5pm local news followed by national news and finally PBS NewsHour. Each morning we jumped onto our New York Times, NPR, or Guardian apps to get different news sources. The detriment of this pattern of news binging was the added anxiety as the reports of rising numbers of cases and deaths was relentless. 

We had a family Zoom meeting. Jeremy and Michelle in Pullman. Steph and Shane in Denver. We’re in Grant’s Ranch.
During our 52 days in Colorado, our daily cocktail hour included good chocolate and decaf coffee while watching the news.

Preparing for Plan C

Before we left Denver, we shopped ahead for groceries and other supplies. We weren’t planning to shop in Moscow, Idaho or Pullman, Washington upon arriving there as we were on a mission to diminish the amount of contact with others during these uncertain times. Surprised at that number of shortages of certain categories in the Denver area stores, we erred on the side of being as prepared as possible before leaving Denver because Moscow and Pullman had fewer stores.

Knowing that we would soon be leaving our beloved state of 10 years, we had one brief outing to higher elevation before we left Colorado. On May 4, we packed a picnic lunch and drove U.S. 285 into the mountains. Once at the summit of Kenosha Pass, we parked so we’d have a view over lunch. Kenosha Pass is where we’ve taken countless hikes and snowshoed. The gold aspen in the autumn and purple and white columbine in the spring are breathtaking. Whenever family or friends came from out-of-state, this was one of our favorite places to take them. It doesn’t take too much of a hike to achieve expansive views of South Park’s valley rimmed with beautiful mountains under sapphire skies.  Thank you Colorful Colorado for the memories!

A last hurrah! We ventured to Kenosha Pass for a truck picnic lunch at one of our favorite hiking and snowshoeing trailheads.

Besides, keeping close track of COVID cases in Colorado, we included Wyoming and Montana, through which we’d drive and stay; and Idaho and Washington, where we’d conclude this trip. Having Colorado plates and in the event that there were checkpoints where we’d need to provide proof of our destination, we had reservation details along with us.

While many campgrounds in those four states were either closed since it was still early in the season or closed due to the pandemic, we needed to plan ahead for our stays. Sometime in mid-March we received an email from KOA corporate that many KOA campgrounds across the U.S. were doing their best to remain open knowing that there were snowbirds on the move to northern states or Canada plus full-time RVers. Although many KOAs had limited service and all but the offices were closed, so no restrooms, laundry facilities, camp stores, pools, cabins. Some KOAs are open year-round, while others are seasonal. This communication from KOA provided a boost for us. We knew that our route would take us along interstates from Denver to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Being acquainted with several KOAs on the route through prior stays, certainly helped. We called ahead to verify that they were open. Then using our KOA app, we reserved for one-night, pull-through spaces in Cheyenne, Wyoming and Buffalo, Wyoming. In Cheyenne, our paperwork was taped to the office door. In Buffalo, Steve had to step into the office for less than two minutes. We knew that the KOA in Deer Lodge, Montana was open, but we planned to call them after our Buffalo stay in case the weather was unfavorable.

Pacific Northwest Bound

Friday, May 8: Last minute shopping, laundry, a trip to the storage unit to grab a few items, taking a load to the trailer (we had taken quite a bit to Barb’s for our extended stay), and top off AZ IF’s (the truck) diesel, made for a full day.

Saturday, May 9: We were up at 6 a.m. to make a final grocery run to Whole Foods, launder linens and towels, clean the house, water plants, and load the truck with the remainder of belongings. At RV storage, we hitched up Tranquility the Trailer and pulled out by 1pm for our 125-mile drive. Arriving at the KOA in Cheyenne, Wyoming with a pull-through site with full hookups was a good call. We opted for a shorter drive that day because we knew we would get a late start and the trailer needed some attention. First, we needed to de-winterize the trailer after having to winterize it when we arrived in Denver during a cold snap. Secondly, we needed to get the fridge and freezer turned on. Next, it was time to move items from the truck to the trailer yet again. Lastly, we were exhausted and needed a good night’s sleep!

It feels like a never-ending story of loading and unloading. Now we’re moving from Barb’s back into the trailer.
We are ready to leave Dove Outdoor Storage in Colorado bound for Idaho.
Leaving the KOA in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Sunday, May 10: Happy Mother’s Day calls came from Stephanie and Shane in Denver and Jeremy and Michelle in Pullman. We were treated to a 300-mile day with sunshine, NO WIND (this is atypical for Wyoming), and Sirius Radio over the many miles. We kept tabs with another full-time couple, Beth and Bruce, who we met just briefly the year prior at Kartchner Caverns State Park in Arizona. We follow one another on Instagram and Facebook plus have exchanged messages. Interestingly, they were spending a couple of nights at the KOA in Buffalo, Wyoming, our destination for the night. A few minutes after we pulled into our site and were situated with our hookups, they came over for a socially-distanced chat. It was great to see them even briefly. Knowing that we had two more big days of driving, we vegged on a movie that evening and hit the hay a bit early.

Happy Mother’s Day from Wyoming! Diane’s behind the wheel and taking calls via Bluetooth from our children.
We had a pull through site at the KOA in Buffalo, Wyoming. We’ve stayed here four different times.
We were very pleased to see fulltime RVers Bruce and Beth. We all follow each other on Instagram and Facebook.

Monday, May 11: We were up early.  We had 427 miles to cover to get to Deer Lodge, Montana. The forecast called for potential snow near Livingston, which we’ve experienced on the pass between Livingston and Bozeman before. No thank you. We kept our fingers, toes, and eyes crossed. Fortunately, there was just a dusting of snow. As we traveled along I-25 and then I-90, we called the KOA in Deer Lodge to request redeeming our KOA ValueKard points and that we didn’t see how to do this through the KOA app. It was then that we learned that redemption had to be done in person and the city of Deer Lodge was having water issues, so there would be no water hookup. Bummer! Because we opted not to add more water to our fresh water tank in Buffalo, we had to conserve water for one more night and morning. Gulp! Once we arrived in Deer Lodge late that afternoon, we were greeted by winds and gloomy skies. Only one other RV was in the campground. The KOA owner was cheerful, welcomed us, and apologized for the water issues.

Steve’s behind the wheel from Livingston, Montana.
As we travel I-90, it’s not uncommon in May to have snow on the pass between Livingston and Bozeman.
We spent the night at the KOA in Deer Lodge, Montana. There was only one other rig. It was a blustery night, so early to bed.

Tuesday, May 12: We were up early again. Although, without much water in the tank, there were no showers to take nor dishes to wash. Off to tackle another 330 miles on the last consecutive day of driving. Through the western part of Montana and across the panhandle of Idaho we appreciated the valleys, the open spaces, Clark Fork River, and the ranches. We traversed the mountain passes of the northern Rocky mountains and descended into Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. It was there that we exited I-90 to take route 95 south along the western Idaho border. The beauty of the forests thick with Douglas Fir, Lodgepole Pine, Engelmann Spruce, et al gave way to the rolling Palouse Hills the further south we drove. It was with great relief that we pulled into the Rambler RV Park near Moscow, Idaho. We could be here for an open-ended period of time based on our pre-arrangement with the owner. It was a fairly nondescript park with some sites serving as a longer-term situation for some RV owners. Unfortunately, the water quality of our water hookup was not the best. We paid a brief visit to see Jeremy and Michelle and to fill our water containers to add water to our fresh water tank.

We’re driving across the panhandle of Idaho. The clouds seem to cling and sift through the tall trees.
1,200 miles from Denver, we arrived at the Rambler RV Park in Moscow, Idaho. It’s only 10 miles from Jeremy and Michelle in Pullman, Washington.
The by-product of needing fresh water for our tank was seeing Jeremy and Michelle, socially-distanced and masked.

Wednesday, May 13: Over breakfast, Steve developed a Google maps route from the list of 15 rental properties that Diane created. In the afternoon, we set off for Pullman to drive the route, make notes, and take photos. En route to one of our final drive-bys, we noted a For Rent sign on a lawn. This address wasn’t on our list. We noted the contact number and Steve called it later. Bingo! We had an appointment for the next day for a walk-through with the owner.

We’re up early and can’t wait to drive past homes for rent in Pullman today.
View of Rambler RV Park and Tranquility the Trailer on the far side.
We noticed this place for rent, which actually wasn’t on our list yet.

Thursday, May 14: We met Jo, the owner, to walk through the condo. Within 15 minutes, we sensed that this would be a good fit for us. She had two other parties scheduled for a visit and noted that she would make a decision in the next day or two. We asked for an application. As soon as we were back at the trailer, we completed the application and sent it to her. We put out calls/texts to family and friends who would be references. Thankfully the application was easy to share via email, so no need to arrange another appointment. Plan C seemed to be unfolding at the speed of lightning…or was it the Speed of Sanity?

We just finished taking a tour of the condo that we noticed yesterday. We like it!
Feeling a cause to celebrate, Steve took us through Dutch Brothers Coffee drive-thru in Moscow. First coffee purchased since March 14!
The view was beautiful between Moscow and the RV park with the green crops on the Palouse and the stormy sky.

There WAS Hope on the Horizon! Plus, We Moved During a Pandemic!

In our next post, we will share what happened on May 15 and a bit of our journey on what it’s like to get situated into a new home and new community during a pandemic after full-time RVing for 22 months! It’s definitely been interesting! Stay tuned!

Stay healthy. Be well.

Diane and Steve

Living Life at the Speed of Sanity

 

An Interlude Period, April 16-July 31, 2019

After we concluded our extensive Family & Friends Tour in mid-April, we reached for the Interlude button. As mentioned in a prior post, we were experiencing some travel fatigue and in retrospect kept our pace going at a fairly quick tempo. This Interlude coincided with an emotionally tough time as two of our dear friends, married nearly 51 years, passed away just nine weeks apart. John and Karen were frequent travel, camping, hiking, skiing/snowshoeing, and biking buddies over our 21-year friendship. In retrospect, our grief was compounded by the pace we were keeping. It seemed appropriate to collect ourselves and our thoughts. 

Our Interlude lasted through July. In May we spent nearly two weeks between Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park, Montana and Bruneau Dunes State Park, Idaho, which provided quiet time soaking up sunsets and looking at the starlit nights.

Dusk Advances at Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park, Montana, May 11, 2019
Upward Trek, Bruneau Dunes State Park, May 15, 2019

From Idaho we had a lovely place to land at son Jeremy’s and daughter-in-love Michelle’s home in Pullman, Washington for two weeks in late May-early June. Our trailer fit perfectly on their driveway, but our stay was in their comfy guest quarters.

With Jeremy and Michelle, there was nothing quite like binging on TV series, sipping coffee, taking turns cooking, going on hikes or walks, sharing of our recent book reads, and partaking in ice cream bars.

Celebrating our 43rd Anniversary with Jeremy & Michelle in Washington, May 29, 2019

We hadn’t kept up with our usual activity level, so our bodies needed to get re-charged. The steep hills of Pullman were the place to do it. One can’t walk in Pullman without some inclines that really work the legs and joints. The locals earn their “Cougar calves!” It was quite refreshing, step-by-step, to kick into gear. We walked to coffee shops, Washington State University’s library, or the public library where we conducted our work. [Work for us is researching for future stays, how-to’s with the trailer, photo editing, writing, genealogy, record keeping, paying bills, dealing with virtual mail, etc.] After our time in Pullman, Jeremy and Michelle joined us for a weekend at our campsite at Heyburn State Park in Idaho. It was lovely! We count our blessings!

We had many conversations over our miles of hikes during a week’s stay at Heyburn State Park, Idaho and another week near Lolo, Montana. The Coeur d’Alene, Lolo, and Nez-Perce Clearwater National Forests bathed us in peace and beauty. During this time, we agreed that our 2019-20 winter should focus on one main region. We have decided to stay in the Southwest, primarily Arizona. In retrospect, last winter and spring had us moving quickly across the Southern tier of states from California to Virginia. Our intention this year is to slow the pace! Thankfully we acquired most of the reservations in one planning session!

Magnificent views from a hike at Heyburn State Park, Idaho, June 1, 2019
Bicycling the Trail of the Coeur D’Alenes, Idaho, June 5, 2019

In early April, we recognized that we desperately needed to just park ourselves in home base territory near Denver for several weeks this summer. This approach gave us the time we desired with our daughter Stephanie, son-in-love, Shane, Steve’s mother, other family, and a few friends. Several months out we reserved campsites for three weeks. Staying at Chatfield State Park and Golden Gate Canyon State Park, we could schedule nine appointments: doctor, dental, eye, and truck in the Denver area plus enjoy full hookups! We also pined for recliners after having comfy ones in our home for years. Our birthday present to each other took care of our comfort!

Chillaxin’ in our new zero gravity recliners, June 28, 2019

Our bucket list for many years has included an extended stay in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) in Colorado. We were thinking, “Wouldn’t it be awesome to nab as many hikes as possible?” Yes! Watching the calendar, we scheduled six months in advance and scored two weeks in July. It’s VERY competitive to reserve campsites. Interestingly, we weren’t permitted to have both weeks in the same campsite or campground. What worked out nicely is having the first week in Moraine Campground and the second week in Glacier Basin Campground. We’ll share more details in another post about this truly memorable time in RMNP for it was one of our most enjoyed times together. The bonus was having Stephanie and Shane join us for two days over the Fourth of July. It was fantastic to cook over the campfire, hike, laugh, and express awe together over the stunning scenery! Again, we count our blessings!

Hiking with Stephanie & Shane, RMNP, July 4, 2019

From the Front Range, we launched into other parts of Colorado where in years’ past we have spent little to no time. Outside of Poncha Springs at Monarch Spur RV Park, we were situated for hikes on the Monarch Crest Trail and along the Arkansas River Headwaters Recreation Area. We hit Salida for coffee shops, ice cream, and pizza. The trailer had regular maintenance done in Poncha Springs.

Monarch Pass Trailhead, Colorado, July 22, 2019

Then off we went to the Durango area with a two-night stay at Junction Creek Campground located in the San Juan National Forest, specifically to be positioned to meet up with our New York nephew. Lo and behold, he concluded one day early an immense goal of having summited all 58 of Colorado’s 14ers (peaks at least 14,000’ in elevation) that took him 13 years of carefully-planned summer vacations. Thankfully we could celebrate him and his accomplishment over breakfast at the Durango Diner.

Celebrating in Durango with nephew J.R., July 25, 2019

From Durango we took the San Juan Scenic Highway from Durango to Ouray with a stop for coffee in Silverton. The views were spectacular! We arrived in Grand Junction, another area with which we weren’t familiar. We stayed at Junction West RV Park out towards Fruita. Something that we love to do is go scouting for future places to camp on public lands. One day took us on the gorgeous Grand Mesa Scenic Byway. While Diane was there as a child with her family to camp and fish, it felt like new territory to both of us. We filed away on a list numerous campgrounds as well as dispersed campsites in the National Forest as future possibilities.

Molas Lake, Molas Pass Summit, San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway, Colorado, July 26, 2019
Atop Grand Mesa with its many lakes and vistas, July 28, 2019

While in Grand Junction, we observed the end of our Year One and the beginning of Year Two of Life at the Speed of Sanity.

Dinner out on Day 365 of Year One, July 28, 2019
We begin Year Two with Palisade Peaches from Palisade, Colorado, July 29, 2019

From Grand Junction, we moved southeast to the Basalt area. Our stay was at Little Maud Campground in the White River National Forest near Ruedi Reservoir. Over the three days, we had several jaunts. One evening we took a scenic drive from Carbondale up to quaint Marble, known for its world-class marble that’s been used for such structures as the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. A neighbor at the campground raved about the local hot spot for dinner in Marble. This was Slow Groovin’ BBQ and boy, it didn’t disappoint! Sitting at the bar, we had conversations with several locals. There’s nothing quite like getting acquainted with an area through the eyes of other folks.

Slow Groovin’ BBQ, Marble, Colorado, July 30, 2019

Besides having lunch and visits with Steve’s cousin and her family, we took in scenic drives and hiked to an overlook of the Hunter-Frying Pan Wilderness. Steve’s cousins took us to lunch at one of their favorite places in Woody Creek, the iconic Woody Creek Tavern, which Hunter S. Thompson (American journalist, author, and founder of the gonzo journalism movement) frequented (understatement). Actually, the Woody Creek Tavern is legendary because of him.

Iconic Woody Creek Tavern with Hunter S. Thompson’s Corner, July 31, 2019

Lastly, spending a serene evening at the Maroon Bells, 12 miles from Aspen, hiking the Scenic Loop Trail, watching a mama bear and cub, and witnessing a dramatic color scheme as the sky moved to dusk seemed to tie the knot on having concluded our Interlude.

44 years after our backpacking trip to the Maroon Bells Area, we return for an evening hike, July 31, 2019

We are counting our blessings for the Interlude that provided us some breathing room and achieving more clarity. This precious period of time launched us gently into a path that has taken us through parts of Utah, Idaho, Montana and now our annual Midwest trip to visit family.

 

Northwest Trek

It’s Day #129 of our Speed of Sanity Full-time RVing journey! And, it’s time to get everyone up to speed on our Northwest trek that began on Saturday, October 13 and continued through Monday, November 19. We spent those five weeks in parts of Idaho, Montana, Washington, and Oregon.

As mid-October approached in the Denver area and the truck issues were resolved, it was necessary to “get out of Dodge” with a winter storm approaching from the north. Overnight on October 12 while at Chatfield State Park in Littleton, Colorado, we slept in the trailer with it already hitched. We simply needed to batten down the hatches at dawn, retract the dinette slide-out, and hit the road just as the sun was rising. Needless to say, it was a relief to head west on I-70, get through the Eisenhower Tunnel, over Vail Pass, and beyond Glenwood Springs, knowing that we escaped the arriving snow and cold snap.

Vernal. Utah
We stayed in Vernal, Utah at the Fossil Valley RV Park on October 13 and 14. Vernal is not far from the Colorado border. We managed to arrive with plenty of time to set-up camp and walk to dinner. Once the campground manager learned that we were not considering a visit to Dinosaur National Monument as we’d toured it several years ago, he gave us some great options. Instead we were intrigued by petroglyphs in the area and the prospect of driving on a rugged mountain road.

Heading through Dry Fork Canyon, the McConkie Ranch Petroglyphs are on the National Register and a Utah Historic Site. The signage provided: “This is considered to be the type site of the Classic Vernal Style rock art, characterized by elaborately decorated anthropomorphic figures. This style may be affiliated with the Fremont Culture and probably dates to the period A.D. 1 to 1200.” The parking lot and the petroglyphs are on private land, so it was important to respect our surroundings. A path took us up towards the canyon walls where we followed it about ½ mile, stopping to appreciate dozens of petroglyph figures and scenes created on the rock face. In our era, we have social media and seemingly instant communication with one another. Standing before the images and considering a distinctly different time and culture, we were in awe. Whether they were creating family portraits, depicting their hunting quests, celebrating the passage of seasons, or providing a warning of dangers in the canyon, this was their way of recording and sharing information.

McConkie Ranch Petroglyphs near Vernal, Utah

With our picnic lunch packed, we drove onwards to shake, rattle, and roll our way over rugged Red Cloud Loop Road. It was even more so due to the logging trucks that relied on it. There were large logging operations that were evident. Deep ruts and exposed rocks made it perfect for the pick-up! We wound our way through pine forests and beautiful stands of aspen. We enjoyed a picnic lunch with a view of clouds enveloping mountains as they blew through the valley below and snowflakes dotting our windshield.

Idaho Falls, Idaho
On October 15, we left Vernal for Idaho Falls. There we stayed for three nights at the Snake River RV Park. Idaho Falls had an inviting Greenbelt along the Snake River with tree-lined, paved trails on either side of the river. We walked to and from the RV park twice using the Greenbelt in order to spend time in the public library and also a coffee shop. Families were out for walks, folks were biking, skateboarding, or rollerblading, and photographers were using the river and falls as the backdrop for outdoor portraits. The falls were the centerpiece with their thundering sound and sprays of water. The Japanese garden at the south end caught our eyes as a quiet space to appreciate silent reflection.

Japanese Garden, Idaho Falls, Idaho

The public library was large with a very busy circulation desk and the hustle-bustle of children/youth programming. As a former librarian assistant in an elementary school, I really appreciated the variety of programs offered and the cheerful voices of the kids selecting books. We were spoiled at La Vanilla Bean Patisserie with dark-roasted coffee, delicious panini sandwiches, and a chocolate brownie for two that will forever stick with us! It was a quiet place to sit with laptops open for a couple of hours.

While in Idaho Falls, we used our Idaho Benchmark Recreation and Landscape Atlas to locate a short hike about 20 minutes away. The hike took us to a viewpoint that gave us a vista of the Snake River valley with advancing autumn colors.

Helena and Bozeman, Montana
Again we awoke early with the trailer situated to easily hitch and go on October 18. We headed north for a full-day’s drive along the eastern side of Idaho to Helena, Montana. We treated ourselves to a Quality Inn hotel stay since the trailer had an 8am appointment at D&D RV Center. Having stayed at this hotel last spring, we knew that it had an ample parking lot that could accommodate 53’ of truck + trailer.

We were spoiled with a hotel stay in Helena, Montana.

Tranquility, the trailer, had a 6-month check-up at our request. We were planning to be in Montana anyway, so thought it would be helpful to have a once-over of critical systems, especially since we’re using it as a full-time abode. It was great to see all of the D&D RV folks. As it turned out, it was determined that we needed to add an extension to the hitch to give us a more level ride. Otherwise, we were good to go!

Off to Bozeman we went to spend time with our friends, Karen and John. The first three days the trailer sat on their driveway with an electric hookup. It was a real treat to sleep inside a house for three nights! The four of us walked in CROP Walk, an ecumenical charity walk to raise funds to help with hunger relief in the U.S. and the world. As always, Karen and John made our stay just like being at home.

Craters of the Moon National Preserve and Monument, Idaho
The morning of October 22, Karen and John hitched up their Lance trailer alongside ours in their driveway. Off the four of us went to Craters of the Moon National Preserve and Monument to camp for four nights. This national park is roughly 20 miles west of Arco, Idaho. We could write a volume just on Craters of the Moon. Suffice it to say that going in October was perfect. The temps were moderate to chilly. It was a bit windy on several of our hikes. But, we escaped the extreme heat that sometimes is unpleasant during summer. The ancient lava flows with their blacks, blues, and terra-cotta oranges were magnificent. Cinder cones, spatter cones, lava flows, and more! It was almost a moon-like landscape.

Each day brought new adventures with a variety of hikes. The last day will likely remain quite memorable as we entered lava flows, which were also considered caves. In order to visit the caves, we had to be cleared by the park ranger to protect bats from the white-nose syndrome, which sadly is the demise of thousands of bats across the country. Careful footing, head lamps, and the buddy system are important for entering the lava flow caves. It was fascinating to see what was actually beneath the crust above where we had been walking.

Indian Tunnel Cave, Craters of the Moon NP

Once done with our hikes, it was good to return to cozy abodes, share in meals, and play dice and domino games! One evening we headed to Arco for dinner at Pickle’s Place, a legendary eatery that includes the Atomic Burger that matches the acclaim of the community. In 1955, Arco was the first nuclear-powered city in the world. The Idaho National Laboratory employs many people from the area. Alas, a return to the area would likely include a tour of the lab! Having lived roughly a mile from Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois and Steve having worked briefly as a software consultant at Argonne Lab in Lemont, Illinois, it would be interesting to check out this lab!

Wildhorse Casino, Pendleton, Oregon
Yes, RVs may stay for free in the parking lot of the Wildhorse Casino. Due to the length of this post, I will not go into great detail. It was well-lit and secure. RVs were permitted to have their slide-out rooms extended. There were no hook-ups, so we dry-camped. The casino had a fast-food breakfast restaurant where we purchased breakfasts. Free coffee was on tap in the casino. Yes, we dropped $5 in the slots. No, we didn’t come away with one penny. We stayed two nights between our Craters of the Moon stay and our Pullman, Washington stay. Then we returned to Wildhorse Casino’s lot between Pullman and our Portland, Oregon leg.

Wildhorse Casino, Pendleton, Oregon

Many free stays can be experienced at some casinos, Walmarts, Cabela’s, Cracker Barrel Restaurants, etc. It is not a given that they offer parking lot dry-camping. Therefore, it’s important to check with staff before assuming. Absolutely no dumping of the gray or black water is permitted!

Pullman, Washington
From October 27 until November 5, we were in Pullman, Washington. Our son, Jeremy, and daughter-in-love, Michelle, live there. The first six nights we stayed at Pullman’s City Campground with full hook-ups. It was a perfect location with a sidewalk that took us to downtown. Pullman is located in the Palouse Region with its many hills. We had a good workout each time we walked to and from their home and the Washington State Campus.

We attended two exhibition games on campus: women’s and men’s basketball. It was great fun to watch the WSU Cougs football games on TV and see them advance! We had enjoyable outings, shared in meals, played many games, and soaked up every possible minute with Jeremy and Michelle.

We hiked at Idler’s Rest and the college’s arboretum, both with good hills. Once our six days were up at the campground, we moved the trailer to the kids’ driveway. As with our daughter and son-in-love in Denver, it was quite difficult to bade farewell until next time!

Idler’s Rest Hike with Jeremy and Michelle

Portland, Oregon
We visited Portland in 2011 so we were acquainted with its lay of the land along the Willamette Valley. Given the short-notice of this visit, we were relieved to obtain reservations. We had an “island” stay (wink-wink) for four nights beginning November 7. The Jantzen Beach RV Park is located on Hayden Island, which is in the Columbia River between Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington. As it turned out, we had a perfect location for accessing the bus and light rail plus I-5 when we needed it.

The highlights while in Portland were time with family and friends! We had two dinner outings with our niece, Mary, and her guy, Tyler. One afternoon we visited a hometown friend of mine, Susan, and her husband, Mike. Time went too fast with all of them though!

We hiked through Hoyt Arboretum in Washington Park. At a couple of vantage points, we were treated to views of Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Rainier. The trees were magnificent and the variety of species quite enjoyable. It took us back a bit to the beauty of Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois.  

Hoyt Arboretum in Washington Park, Portland, Oregon

A visit to Portland isn’t complete without a stop to browse at Powell’s Books, which claims to be the world’s largest independent bookstore. Since we purged our household of dozens of books earlier this year, we weren’t up for spending top dollar for a new book. Instead we both came away with one used book each. Once we’re done with the books, we’ll donate them to a library.

Roseburg, Oregon
On November 11, we had a one-night stay at Twin Rivers Vacation Park in rural Roseburg. We selected this spot since it was just a 15 minute drive to the home of our Iowa State University college friends, DeWaine and Laura. Of course, our friends provided fantastic hospitality with grilled elk and veggie shish kabobs and ended with yummy ice cream from a local dairy. It had been 13 years since we last saw DeWaine and Laura. In fact, we stayed with them a couple of nights when Steve embarked on his 2005 cross-country bicycle ride. Now, the goal is to see them more often!

Harris Beach State Park, Brookings, Oregon
What can we say? It was ¼ mile from the beach and the Pacific Coast! Again, timing was perfect. We were there from November 12 for a week. Because we were after the high-season, we were able to reserve for a campsite about two weeks out. The campground was never at capacity, but if we return, we’ll still opt to get reservations. We were tucked back into a Douglas Fir forest. It was beautiful, but the downside was having tree sap drip on the truck and trailer for a week. Next time, we’ll select a site away from the trees! Putting that aside, we focused on beach strolls, beautiful sunsets, sea breezes, and watching the antics of seagulls.

A Cherry on Top Sunset, Harris Beach State Park, Brookings, Oregon

On two days we drove to the Giant Redwoods south of Brookings both in Oregon and California. These giants are up to 300 feet tall, seeming to touch the sky! Suffice it to say, “We felt quite small!”

Steve among the Redwood Giants

The week along the coast gave us a reprieve from an oft-times busier pace that we were keeping. It was quite nice to just “be” and make up the days as we went. Although the reality of the tragedies to the south with the wildfires in Paradise and Malifu, California, were heavy on our hearts. The resulting air quality warnings in California were to impact our next travels. Once we completed the Northwest, our plans were to head to the greater San Francisco area. That my friends will be for the next post when we’ll give you details! (We are in California, so we made it, but with a delay).

Thank you for bearing with me on this lengthy post. Believe it or not, we have difficulty finding the time to write posts. I post roughly once a week on Instagram (@speedofsanity), which if you’re so inclined you may also follow.

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Happy Trails!

Diane